Friday, December 13, 2013

Will New Condoms Make a Difference?

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has been working on a project to encourage the development of a new type of condom. Their goal is to bring about a condom revolution which would reduce the barriers to using them. The Gates foundation has said that there hasn't been a significant innovation in condom design in more than 50 years and it's time.

I love that the Gates foundation is concerned about this and is willing to put a large amount of money into it. We do need innovations in STI prevention. But while some of the proposals that have received a first round of funding are interesting, I think others of them are going in the wrong direction.

An article on Co.Exist explains some of the front-runners. I like the one that is made from a shape-shifting elastomer. The article says "the concept calls for elastomeric (elastic) materials that shape-shift when exposed to body temperature "thereby improving tactility and enhancing sensitivity." I don't know exactly what this would be made of. My concern there is that it would take a very long time to get this material all the way through testing for safety and effectiveness into design, more testing, and onto the market. But hey, people having been having sex for millenia and will be for millenia more so it's not like we don't have the time. What I like about this idea is that it address both sensation and fit - the two biggest issues for people who actually do use condoms.

There is one that is made of a material designed to tighten gently during use. That confuses me. Most people who complain about condoms say that tightness is not good - that it reduces sensation and can lead to breakage. The claim here is that the tightening will enhance sensation and fit. I'm not sure that would be true.

There is another design that aims to tackle the problem of cumbersome application. The package would be broken open and slipped onto the penis in one motion. I can tell you this right now - this will not work. It simply will not work. If, by some miracle, it did work, it won't get any traction on the market. This has been tried a few times in slightly different ways. In the attempts that I've seen - condoms that were actually on the market for a short time, one of which still is, I believe - the supposed easier application was actually more difficult than the traditional application. When you see their training videos on wooden penises, these things look amazing. But when you try to put it on a real penis, you realize that you are dealing with two completely different things. A real penis is soft and fleshy, it's connected to a body that can be in various positions, it does not hold still, and it's usually girthier than a wooden demo model. Besides just simply not working well, the whole idea is just wrong-headed. People do not forego using condoms because they are difficult to put on. They don't use them because they don't like the way they feel, they don't happen to have one with them, their partner won't agree to using one, they think they don't need one because they think they aren't at risk for STI's,or they can't afford them. True, some condom failure can be attributed to putting them on wrong or having trouble putting them on, but I'm concerned that these new applications would actually increase that problem, not decrease it.

The other problem that will go along with all of these newfangled condoms is the cost. Some of them are great ideas. I cannot imagine, however, with the materials and the new engineering that needs to go into them, that you'll be able to get any of these condoms for less than $3 a piece. At this point in our culture in North America, most people will not pay $3 for a condom, even if they can afford it. You can build the most amazing condom in the world, but if it costs ten times as much as the regular ones, it's not going to be used. This is the way with the 'Female Condom'. This is actually an amazing device and many people who use it quite like it. However, few people try it or continue to use it because it costs anywhere from $3 to $6 per condom.

So yes, I am glad that the Gates foundation is doing this. If nothing else, it brings media attention to an issue that's really important. But I think of all the reasons I listed above, these new condoms address only one of the main issues that cause people not to use condoms - that they don't feel good. In my opinion, this is actually one of the lesser issues. I've spent a lot of time with condoms, talking about condoms, talking to people about when, how, why they do or don't use them. The way they feel comes up a lot. But what comes up most is that most people who are in any sort of long-termish relationship don't think they need to use condoms. In fact, they are actually insulted by the idea. A condom symbolizes trust, or lack thereof. To use condoms with a steady partner is to say 'I am sleeping around' or 'I think you are sleeping around'. We, at least in North America, still believe that condoms are only for people who have lots of sex with lots of people. We believe that you use condoms until you've 'gotten serious' and then you graduate to other types of birth control because you don't need to worry about disease anymore. But condoms are one of the cheapest and most effective forms of birth control around. It is also accessible, easy to use and does not cause the kinds of side effects that hormonal methods can.

If we want to increase the use of condoms, I think we need only three things. First, we need to address that attitude. We need to work on reinforcing the idea that condoms are not a trust issue, they are a health issue. Second, we just need more options for thin condoms in more sizes and more options for non-latex condoms. Many times a week, someone comes into the store looking for bigger condoms or tighter condoms. I show them what we have but I explain that because the current regulations on condoms includes standards for size, even the biggest of the big is only going to be a few millimetres wider or longer. We need condoms like 'They Fit' to be available everywhere in the world, not just Europe. Third, we need all of these options to be affordable and available. Not-for-profits have to be able to get these things for little or no cost and have them available at a wide variety of locations so people can get them when they need them and can get them free if they can't pay for them.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It Might be Fun to Have Sex In or Under the Eiffel Tower, but Certainly Not with It.

From the "What were they thinking?" sex toy files comes a new toy I just got a flyer for. The 'La Tour Est Folle'. So I guess these guys were brainstorming and thinking 'What's hot?' "Oh, French things are hot, Paris is hot. Paris is the City of Love." Yep, I agree. Paris is very romantic. So sure, you might want to come up with some sort of French themed, romantic toy. I get that. But this?

This is most certainly not it.

This came to me from a distributor of very fine toys that I trust implicitly. So I'm sure this toy is actually very good quality. But really? I don't care how great the quality is, I don't want to fuck the Eiffel Tower. And I am someone who doesn't generally have a problem with the shape of sex toys. I don't care if it looks like an inch worm with beady eyes. Will it get me off? Great - let's go! But the Eiffel tower? Who wants to fuck the Eiffel Tower? The shape doesn't even look inviting. At least they had the decency to change the top of it so it's not pointy like the real tower. But it still has those four big pedestal ends. What are you supposed to do with that?

Nope, I don't care if this has the best vibe in the world, I'm not doing it! Literally! But I might pick one up for my budding collection of somewhat strange vibrators.

This is an epic toy fail in my books.

Sex Scenes Cut Again?

Evan Rachel Wood has gone on a totally awesome tirade about the MPAA demanding that a scene of a male actor going down on her be cut from the movie Charlie Countryman. The scene does not appear in the final cut of the movie and Wood says that's because the MPAA was going to give the movie the dreaded NC-17 rating unless the scene was cut.

In a series of tweets, she said this:
After seeing the new cut of Charlie Countryman, I would like to share my disappointment with the MPAA, who thought it was necessary to censor a woman's sexuality once again. The scene where the two main characters make "love" was altered because someone felt that seeing a man give a woman oral sex made people "uncomfortable," but the scenes in which people are murdered by having their heads blown off remained intact and unaltered.
This is a symptom of a society that wants to shame women and put them down for enjoying sex, especially when (gasp) the man isn't getting off as well! It's hard for me to believe that had the roles been reversed it still would have been cut or had the female character been raped it would have been cut. It's time for people to grow up. Accept that women are sexual beings. Accept that some men like pleasuring women. Accept that women don't have to just be fucked and say thank you. We are allowed and entitled to enjoy ourselves. It's time we put our foot down. Thanks for listening.

I want to track her down and give her a high five and a hug. If we would just do exactly what she says and start seeing that in movies, more and more women would realize that their sexuality - their sexual pleasure - is beautiful and they have a right to it and to enjoy it.

Now the writer of the movie is backing away from this, saying that he doesn't know exactly what was filmed because it was a closed set and he was not involved with discussions with the MPAA. I haven't seen any comment from the director and producer who would have been the ones to have that discussion.

But given the MPAA's history with censorship of female pleasure, it's easy to believe that Wood is right. There have been many examples where depictions of female sexual pleasure have earned movies NC-17 ratings - or been cut in order to avoid them. Watch the movie 'This Film is Not Yet Rated' for many examples of that.

Wood points out the confounding question of why female pleasure in a consensual act is deemed obscene or too much for anyone who is not an adult but it's okay to show someone getting their heads blown off. We are far more comfortable with violence than we are with sex. I watched the trailer for Charlie Countryman and the trailer actually shows that scene. There is a man with a gun standing over a man bent over a table at a restaurant and his head is blown off and scattered all over the table! That is in the trailer! Brains all over a dinner table! This is something that, hopefully, is quite a rare occurrence in real life and most of us are not likely to ever see. It is, in real life, horrific, and should be considered obscene. But a guy going down on a woman is something many of us will actually experience and most of us would have quite enjoyed. AND - and this is the most important and about it - it hurts no one unlike gun violence. And yet we are still not okay with depicting that in a movie.

Speaking of Masturbation - an Interview on Adamant Eve

I had the pleasure of being interview by Lisa Pruden of Adamant Eve last month about women and masturbation. The interview aired last Friday.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A look back at Taboo

Now that it's been a full two weeks since we finished up the Alberta Taboo shows, I have some time to reflect on the good, bad and ugly of them.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Taboo Sex Shows. They are an enormous amount of work fopr us and they occupy our mind space for a good fix to six weeks every year. On the other hand, they are a lot of fun. They are a chance to meet up with old friends and introduce ourselves to lots of new people. There is a lot of energy on the busy nights. That's contagious.

It's nice that we get to be a welcoming space that sells safe quality toys. We do a lot of educating at Taboo about toys, safety and health. Many of the people we get to talk to there have never heard of toxic toys.

I think that the shows are very important, particularly for Alberta because there really isn't any other public event that's focused just on sex and sexuality. This is the one chance that people who are not connected to other smaller or private groups have to go out and explore - and it may just be the opportunity they need to connect to those groups. I also like that we even have a large scale public sex-themed event. There are places where that would never happen. I'm so glad that we are not one of them.

Taboo gives people who love to dress up sexy or love to perform burlesque or love to beat or be beaten and explain that to people a place where it's okay to do those things. It's okay to be overtly sexual there. In so many other places, we get judged for doing that. I like that we have that kind of environment there.

This year, I was also pleased to see the entertainment get cranked up yet another notch. When the show started out, the only entertainment on the mainstage was fashion shows and a demonstarting of the bondage bed sheets. This year, there was an awesome MC who did intermittent drag performances. There was burlesque, pole dancing, a male exotic dance revue, belly dance, and performances by one of my favorite local groups, The Dirrty show. There really was something interesting to watch pretty much all the time. Both the Edmonton and Calgary show had much bigger name celebrity appearances than ever had before. While Ron Jeremy and Carmen Electra are not my cup of tea, they are names that most people recognize and would stop in to see and get a picture with. Jessica O'Reilly was also a great addition. I'm always a wee bit wary of 'sex experts' but Jess really knows what she's talking about. She's inclusive, sex-positive, and well informed. And she's a lot of fun to watch. Her seminars were great and they were always packed. They definitely need to invite Jess back next year.

So those things are all great - what's my problem? There are just a few things that I long for at Taboo. First, I really wish that the Taboo shows were getting bigger rather than smaller. Every year, a number of my friends come up to me and say 'Is it just me, or is it smaller this year?' And the answer is yes - it's smaller this year - every year. When the event becomes so small that it barely fills one hall, it feels like there's just not much to do there and people get bored.

I do have a problem with the heteronormative standpoint of a lot of the advertising, entertainment, and vendors. Many people tell me that they don't see a reflection of themselves and their interests there and that makes them somewhat uncomfortable. To our credit though, Edmontonians are awesomely comfortable with themselves and I see so many people there just letting their freak flag fly - whatever color that flag might be. However, a little more gayness, a little more queerness to the event would go such a long way.

I would love to see much bigger name entertainment. I would like to see Dita Von Teese or Pamela Anderson, Tristan Taormino or Jenna Jameson, Evan Stone or James Deen. A big big name would bring a lot of people out. These are all people who perform and speak all over North America. They would be great entertainment and a great draw.

I would also love to see the return of the beautiful decorations. Once upon a time, about 8 years ago, you would walk into Taboo through a narrow doorway through curtains. There was a sense of mystery as to what was on the other side. Once you entered, you would see red and black balloons everywhere, plush curtains, and big beautiful banners from sponsors. It wasn't all that much, it just made the big warehouse space feel cozier and more romantic. You felt like you were at an event. Now that is all gone. I'm told it's because sponsorship is down and sponsors brought in those things. They really need to bring that back. I loved feeling like I was in a special place where very cool things were likely to happen. It just doesn't feel like that anymore.

But, even with its drawbacks, Taboo still provides a lot of opportunities that we as retailers and people as attendees and customers would not get anywhere else. It's still worth checking out.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nymphomia Finally Coming

Lars Von Trier's much talked about movie Nymphomania is finally set to hit select theatres in December. Shia Labeouf made entertainment headlines everywhere when he announced last year that he would be having live, non-simulated sex on camera for the film. As one might have expected, however, this turned out not to be the case. The director made a statement that all live sex would be performed by body doubles who are porn actors.

This completely baffles me, but I won't get into that here as I covered the topic in this article in VUE's Sex Issue last year. None of this is new.

What is new is that promo posters for Nymphomania have been released. Each of the actors in the film, and there are many, posed for a portrait in which they were to show their 'orgasm' face. The results are mixed. Some of the people, mostly the women, I'd have to say, really do like the picture was taken while they were in the throes of sexual passion.

Others? Not so much.

You can see the whole set of posters here. Whether Trier is successful in showing the face of ecstasy in this series or not, her certainly has piqued my interest. I want to know who these people are and how they relate to each other. Will it be a great movie? Who knows? But, given his past track-record, Nymphomania, will at the very least be interesting, thought-provoking and potentially bizarre and disturbing.

Toys in Vegas - Why Not?

It seems hotels on the Las Vegas strip want to get into the sex toy business. An ordinance is being prepared that would change the zoning to allow hotels on Las Vegas Boulevard South to devote a small section of their hotel gift shops to adult toys and novelties. It seemed a wee bit strange to me that you can't sell sex toys in hotels in Vegas. If you can't sell sex stuff there, where in the hell can you? When I was at the Rio Hotel last year, they had a whole shop devoted to the Chippendales and there were most certainly adult toys and novelties in there. But then I realized that although I didn't notice it, that was likely an age restricted store. Anyone of any age can shop in a hotel gift shop and that is probably why they are not allowed to have sex toys out in plain view. But, as the lawyer for Cesar's resort argued, Las Vegas has become THE destination for bachelor parties and stagettes. People want to buy their penis sippy cups and blowup dolls there, not bring them with. As it stands, they have to venture quite a ways off the strip to find an adult store. If you're going there for one or two nights, you don't have a lot of time to do that. I'm sure the hotels realize they're missing out on a pretty good source of revenue by not being able to sell that stuff. The AVN website laments that actual adult retailers will lose a lot of business if this is allowed to happen but I doubt that's true. Most of those people wouldn't take the time to seek out and go to an adult store of the strip anyway.

I happen to despise Las Vegas - just my opinion. I don't enjoy the atmosphere at all. However, there are at least four major adult trade events that happen there every year. I am likely to find myself in Las Vegas again in the not too distant future. Maybe this ordinance will inspire the hotels to do something fun with their gifts shops or to even open a really cool adult store in a hotel or on the strip. I would enjoy checking that out next time I'm trapped there for business.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Yet Another Movie About 'Porn Addiction' Disappoints (warning - Movie Spoilers)

I went to see the movie Don Jon last night. I was really looking forward to this one because I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an under-rated and excellent actor and I LOVE Scarlett Johansson. I want very much for her to be my girlfriend - but of course that would involve actually meeting her first. Plus, the movie is about porn and sex - two things about which I am infinitely interested. Sadly, it left me disappointed and not just a little angry. I actually felt like I wanted to barf at the end and I will get to why.

But first, there were some good things about the movie. The way it approaches the whole issue of objectification - both sexual and non - is pretty interesting. It's a theme that comes up in several ways and a few of them, unlike most of the movie, are pretty subtle. Jon and his friends are stereotypical womanizers. They go to bars and talk about women based on the way they are dressed - 'look at white shorts over there!' and rate them on a number scale based on their appearance. Jon looks for 8's,9's and 10's where his friend admits that he can't get an 8 but he'll settle for a 4 because they try harder. It's rather disgusting and it's meant to be. This behavior is not portrayed as admirable. Jon takes these women home, has sex with them, and then never sees them again. He claims that he enjoys sex but not as much as he likes watching porn because sex with these women is boring, he rarely gets what he really wants, and he has to do things that he doesn't really like doing. He can lose himself with porn where that never happens with a live woman. This treatment of objectification is rather heavy-handed and judgemental. I don't like what they're doing either but neither do I enjoy the heavy dose of judgement placed on them for it. What's interesting is where objectification comes up in other ways. Jon's eventual girlfriend Barbara is shown assessing him with her girlfriends, mainly on the basis of his looks and his ability to earn money. This is not condemned as severely but it's a nice twist that it's presented. She does it too - just in a different way. In fact, Jon's mother does it too - viewing Jon mostly in terms of his ability to give her grandchildren and thinking that only a wife and kids will give his life meaning. I enjoyed that more subtle take on the different ways we objectify people.

At first, the movie seems quite sympathetic to Jon's porn habit. He explains pretty clearly why he's into it and it makes a lot of sense. It even compares his love of porn to Barbara's love of sappy, romantic comedies. I liked that a lot. Both are idealizations. Both are fantasies. Both could be viewed as unhealthy if you really look at it and both could be viewed as harmless. So what's the real difference? One of my favorite moments is when Barbara, in an attempt to explain why porn is different than romantic comedies, states that they gives awards for movies. Don spits right back, 'They give awards for porn too!'.

Here comes the spoiler part - if you still want to see this movie, you probably don't want to read the rest of this.

There are definitely some things to like about this movie and some things to think about. HOWEVER! With most of the themes, it is extremely heavy-handed and obvious. I told my partner on the way home that I felt a headache coming on from being beaten across the head with a two by four all night. You can predict most of the eventual outcomes before the action gets started. It doesn't take time to delve deeper into the issues, instead choosing to rely on cheesy movie shorthand such as narration, repetition, and obvious foreshadowing to get the point across. Worst of all, although it starts out looking like it is sympathetic to Jon and his interest in porn, that is a red herring. In the end we do find out that Jon's porn habit really is hurting him and is symptomatic of his inability to connect with real live people. The only way he will have a fulfilling relationship is to give up the porn and connect with a real person. And guess what? He does! He meets THE ONE and stops watching porn. Gag me!

Had they chosen to end this differently and not tie it up in such a neat bow, I could have liked it. But to have him have one amazing sexual experience and decide that's what life is all about and he's not going to watch porn anymore is cheap, easy, and horribly stereotypical and judgemental. It just makes it come down to that same old trope that we always hear that porn is ALWAYS objectification and ALWAYS bad for you and anyone in a good sexual relationship wouldn't and shouldn't want to watch it. I think that is flat out dangerous. It can make people think that there is something wrong with them or their relationship if they still masturbate and/or watch porn. We are all sexual people. Some of us have very high sex drives. And some of us really enjoy watching people have sex and/or having sex with ourselves. None of those interests or needs disappear just because we're in a good relationship. This idea conflates two things that are quite separate and lays blame for instincts and actions which natural and blameless.

I really wanted Jon to keep watching porn and to keep having his amazing sex. That is entirely possible and it's what many people do. I also wanted to know if his new girlfriend would have a cow if she caught him watching porn. That would have been interesting.

With a much lighter hand and less of a propensity to tie things up quickly, this could have been a very interesting and challenging movie. Instead, it added another movie to the pile that tells us there's only one way to find sexual happiness and that doesn't include watching porn.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Passionate Produce

I met a bazillion people while I was at CatalystCon in Los Angeles last week (okay, maybe it was closer to 50 or 60, but it felt like a bazillion) and they were all doing something cool. Someone particularly cool was Kristen who is starting up a project called PassionateProduce. It is, in just a few words, KickStarter for Kinsters. Kristen herself and many of her creative kinky friends are interested in doing all kinds of creative projects from videos, to art projects, to books, even making sex toys, that would be perfect for KickStarter. The only problem is, the worry that KickStarter (or IndieGoGo or what have you) will freak out because of the decidedly NSFW nature of their project or that the people who use those sites just won't get them. PassionateProduce is meant specifically for creative projects that have a kinky side to them.

The site is in a beta test right now. If you are interested in getting a project funded or in supporting creative perverts, you can ask to be on their beta test list. They will send you information about how to join the site and find out about opportunities. It's at

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Public Masturbation is Legal in Sweden

A judge in Sweden has declared a 65-year-old man who masturbated on a public beach not guilty of sexual assault. The prosecutor on the case commented that people could reasonably assume that it is now legal for people to masturbate on the beach but said that it could also be considered disorderly conduct. I agree with him being acquitted of sexual assault. He didn't do it directly in front of anyone. He did not actually force anyone to watch or to participate. I don't think that this constitutes sexual assault because there was no contact. I am also the first to advocate for sexual rights and freedom of expression. However, this goes just too damn far for me. I would hope that he would be charged and convicted of something other than sexual assault - such as lewd or disorderly conduct or public indecency. He didn't touch anyone or physically force anyone to watch, but he did it in a place in plain view of other people who, I'm sure, did not head to the beach to watch some guy masturbate. They were there to get some sun, have a swim, relax. They didn't sign on for a peep show.

There have been a few instances where I've been asked to have a display table for my company or to do a party or presentation in places that would normally be public places. I always refuse unless the place will be closed to the public or it will be very clearly marked that the event contains adult information and content or specifically that there will be toys there. I am not ashamed of what I do and I don't think there is anything wrong with sex or toys at all. But I know that is my view and not necessarily everyone else's. Some people just do not want to look at sex toys - or they don't want to do that in that place at that time. I don't think anyone should be forced to see sex toys and hear people talking about them unless they've consented by going into a place in which they know they will see those things.

For the same reason, I don't think it's cool to masturbate on the beach. You shouldn't have to watch someone masturbate unless you knew that could happen at a particular place and agreed you were cool with it by going in there. I know we all have needs and I'm okay with getting your groove on in public places but you've got to be respectful and discreet about it. Go out in the water and get a good distance from everyone or go to the bathroom and lock yourself in a cubicle. I don't really have a problem with that. You're being discreet - you're not actually doing it in front of anyone. But hanging it out right out there in front of everyone and going for it? Not cool.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ew, ew, ew, ew, eeeeewwwww!

I was just watching a dumb 'reality' show on Slice called 'Lost and Sold'. It's about people who buy other people's junk that gets left behind in airports or can't be delivered by shipping companies. The only reason I watched it is because the promo said 'Rob and Kathleen get excited about a box full of sex toys and bondage gear'. I thought 'this is up my alley'. The box was sealed up - the auction people won't show anyone the contents of bags and trunks and such because what's the fun in that? People bid on them because they are gambling that there will be something good in them that they can sell. So this couple bought this medium sized trunk for $320 - just on the description that it was full of sex toys. I was wondering what was going on in their heads because if that is actually just somebody's personal trunk of goodies, you don't want that. Who in the world would want that? But they were excited about it and bought it for a good chunk of change. They got it home and busted it open and it was, in fact, somebody's personal trunk of goodies. They were pretty serious goodies - quite high end. There was a harness, a ball gag, some paddles, a bull whip, some latex wear and some sex toys in it. I thought bummer for them, they just blew $320 because all of that stuff is used. Not only can they not sell it, they shouldn't be using it themselves either. You can't really clean latex and leather to the point where you should be using some random's old gear. The only thing that was in there that could have potentially been cleaned and sold was the bull whip. Those aren't cheap.

But these two clearly do not know thing one about sex toys so they took the trunk to a fetish shop. They said the name of the shop but I have absolutely no idea where it is. The woman there bought everything in that trunk except for a sex toy that was not in the package! She did say she couldn't use the ball in the gag but that could be taken out and replaced. She told them it was worth $1000. Now I have say that they didn't actually say that she was buying it, but it sounded very much like she was planning on buying it from them and selling it in her store! How alarming is this? Ew! Ew, ew, ew! She hasn't the slightest clue where that stuff came from, how it's been used, who owned it, what happened to it - nothing. Even if she does understand how to clean these things properly, still ew! I doubt very much that she's going to tell her customers that those items are used - of course not because then who would buy them because - ew! I hope I'm misinterpreting this and she was just telling them what it was worth retail. They did walk out of the store with bags so perhaps those were the items they brought in. But even so - ew! They probably shouldn't be using that stuff.

Now I understand a little better why some people who come into my store ask a lot of questions about whether the products are brand new. That always struck me as odd. Of course they are! We would never sell toys - any kind of toys - that have been used before. I'm a big believer in reusing and recycling, but not when it comes to sex toys. But perhaps people who have run into merchants who think it's perfectly fine and that's why they are so concerned.

I have the heebie jeebies now. That's just not cool in any way. I am all into toys but I'm into brand new ones who's history I know completely. If someone holds up a big trunk at an auction and says it's pre-owned and full of sex toys, the proper response is to let that go to the landfill.

I do feel very bad for the people that lost it though. That was a pretty sweet trunk of stuff if it belonged to you originally. They probably spent a good $1500 to $2000 on that stuff. I hope they never see that show too - how infuriating and uncomfortable to watch someone else raid your personal trunk of goodies. Heart-breaking.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's a Lot Easier Than Taking Off Your Arm

The other day, my partner yelled at me from his desk 'Honey, you have to see this! They made a bed just for you!'. I went to look and yes, indeed, it is a bed made to deal with the problem I have been complaining about for years - When you cuddle up with your honey in bed, where the heck do you put your other arm? When you're trying to spoon, no matter how you try to position yourself, you've always got that arm on the side you're laying on that just doesn't work. I like to be the big spoon so I end up dealing with this all the time. You try to put that arm around your sweetie, but then it usually goes numb or sweetie gets sick of lying on it. You can put it sort of in front of your head but then you can't get as close to your little spoon. If you put it under your head, again, it goes numb. I've often told my partner that I wish I could detach my arm like a mannequin. I would take it off every night, prop it up in the corner of the bedroom and then just put it back on in the morning. (no disrespect to anyone with a prosthetic arm - I'm sure it's no picnic). Well Mehdi Mojtabavi thought off an easier way to deal with this whole spooning problem. Here it is.

Is this brilliant or what? The top and bottom portions of the mattress have slats so your arm and/or shoulder can drop in lower where is will be protected from going numb. I know you're thinking what I was thinking, how can you put a sheet on that thing? It comes with a sheet that's made specifically for it! The sheet is made of a stretchable cotton that pushes into the slats when they're in use and then snaps back when it needs to lie flat.

Mojtabavi actually won a red dot design award for this mattress. However, due to the major financial issues associated with actually getting something made and onto the market, he has never mass produced it. He is looking for partners or investors to make that possible. When it happens, I want to be the first to get one!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Now that's Creativity

I've always thought the penis-shaped caked pan was a waste because you'll only use it once. But then I saw this 'One Woman's Struggle To Reuse her Penis-Shaped Cake Pan' and I've changed my mind. This is my favorite.

The Annabel Chong Story

The other day, I watched the documentary 'Sex: The Annabel Chong Story'. It has stayed with me over the past few days and I've felt the need to write about it, but I wasn't sure exactly what it was that was catching me about it. Today I think it has finally crystallized for me.

So first things first. This documentary is actually quite old. It was released in 1999. This just happened to be the first I had heard of it. I happened upon it through some web surfing - someone had mentioned it on a message board. I was familiar with Annabel Chong. She became a huge name in the mid '90's when she set out to make a world record for having sex with the largest number of men at one time. She starred in a movie called 'The World's Biggest Gang Bang' in which she participated in 251 sex acts in 10 hours. This story became a big deal even in the mainstream and Chong was on all kinds of talk shows. The story was particularly hot amongst anti-porn feminists and that's why I knew about it. (sidebar - I was a part of this movement for a short time, having been convinced that all pornography was exploitive of women before I had ever even had the opportunity to look at porn). I had not known about the documentary about Chong but when I found out about it, I wanted to watch it because of what a massive story this had been at the time. She was the subject of much debate and much derision, most of which took place without her presence. I wanted to find out more about who she actually was and how she came to do this thing that became so emblematic of trash porn.

Watching the film didn't answer any of that for me and actually made me feel that I knew even less about her than I did before. It's a confusing and troubling documentary made even more so by the fact that it is poorly made and it's obvious that the film-making had some biases and agendas in the production, although it's not entirely clear what they are.

For the first part of the movie, Annabel, who I will refer to by her real name, Grace Quek, from this point on. Is portrayed as a well-educated, bright, thoughtful young woman from a traditional Singaporean family. She is very sexually inquisitive and adventurous. She appears, at first, to have a lot of comfort, pride, and interest in her body and her sexuality. She says that she got into doing porn because she had fucked everyone there was to fuck at college and she was bored. She figured she might as well get paid to fuck some new people. There are clips of her in anthropology classes talking openly about her involvement in porn and quite eloquently about her perspective on female sexuality both in North America and Singapore. She explains that she feels her involvement in porn is a feminist act because she wants to show that women are sexual, and can be aggressively sexual, not just passive victims. This all seemed very real and convincing to me. I absolutely believe that there are women who participate in porn for these very reasons, are complete knowing agents in what they do, and are not victims in any way.

But that becomes troublesome in Grace's case during the course of the film for two reasons. First, although she talks a lot about her own empowerment and seeing herself as a dominant and strong sexual women, she still portrays herself as a bimbo in the movie clips and particularly in the TV talk show clips we see. Annabel is, of course, her porn persona and not her real self. But if she wants to portray an image of strong female sexuality, why does she act like a giggling airhead on these TV shows? On one clip for a promotion of the upcoming gang bang production, the producer of the video literally parades her around in front of the camera, telling her to take off her clothes and show her ass. She does all of this with a smile and a giggle and not a word. This certainly doesn't challenge any prevailing notions of female sexuality. Perhaps in her mind, it is empowering to her, but it doesn't come off that way in public. I don't know if this indicates that all of her talk is just her own rationalization or if she did that because she couldn't conceive of another way to behave, having never seen it modeled before, or if she was directed to do that. And this is the problem with the film - it doesn't give us any real insight into this.

The second troublesome thing about the film is that it paints this picture of Grace as a likeable, smart women, very much in control of herself and then suddenly turns the tables. After the filming of the gang bang is shown, the film then begins to portray all the darker sides of her life. Grace struggles with money - she was never paid for the gang bang video which went on to become one of the best selling porn videos of all time. She reveals that she was gang-raped in London. She is shown cutting her arms with a knife and explaining that she feels so much pain she needs to let it out. Her mother finds out about her involvement in porn and Grace cries and cries and begs her to forgive her. It's sad and disturbing. It's also extremely confusing because the film-maker does not keep a strict timeline on these events. We do not know when any of these things happened. We are led to believe that they all happened after the gang bang video. Yet when you research Grace's life, you find that she was actually raped in 1992, before she started doing porn. The suggestion that her porn career and this rape are related is quite obvious. But we don't hear from Grace herself if she believes they are connected. We only hear Grace say that she thinks porn is liberating and fun - then we see her fall to pieces talking about her rape and then cutting herself. It feels manipulative and disrespectful.

Whatever the point of view of the film, it is pretty clear that Grace was, in some respects, a victim of the porn industry. No matter who's idea the gang bang and all the publicity were and no matter how positive she felt about it, it's obvious from looking at the clips of how the event played out and how the film was made, that Grace had very little control over the whole thing. The fact that she was never actually paid the money she was promised for the video is evidence enough itself that she was not in control. I think that had this all happened 15 years later, it might have been quite different. The porn industry has changed quite a bit - mostly due to the available technology. Many women now are producing their own videos and have complete control over their own websites and careers. They are able to do this because it is so much cheaper to make videos now and so much easier to distribute them via the internet. I think that if Grace had the interest and the wherewithal to take control of her own career she would be able to do that with the technology and opportunities that are available now. She would not have needed to be dependent on these men who were clearly out just to profit from her. That would have been dependent on her being able to see that fact and wanting to do the work herself, but at least it would have been possible. Because, at that point in time, it was extremely difficult for a woman to make videos and get them promoted and sold without a fair bit of money and access to a stream of distribution, it really didn't matter one iota how she saw herself and whether she viewed her involvement as empowering. The people who owned the resources were still calling the shots about what got done and how, and most of them were not the least bit interested in showing empowered strong women. This is a complex and interesting question but the film does not explore it at all. It seems that the film-maker is interested only in portraying Grace as a victim - much like the people he portrays as her victimizers.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sensational Story of Big Balls has a Hidden Sad Side

I caught this story on my facebook news feed today. Man has 132 pounds scrotum removed when kind-hearted doctor agrees to do it for free. I wondered at first if this was a joke story because it leans heavily to the sensational but it does appear to be true. It's pretty clear that the daily mail just really wants to run a story about a man with 132 pound scrotum - complete with lots and lots of pictures - but two things strike me about this story and make me very sad.

First, this poor guy had to suffer with this condition for five years because he could not afford a surgery to fix it. This is a fine commentary on how the US health care system just doesn't work. How in the world could this guy not have some sort of insurance that would cover this? This is not exactly a cosmetic procedure. His balls weighed 132 pounds! He could barely walk. He was suffering all kinds of skin problems and massive pain because of this. At one point, he was considering auctioning his scrotum to get money to pay for the surgery. How messed up is this? In spite of how funny some people seem to think this is, it's a very serious health problem. He should have been able to get treatment for it.

The second sad thing is the article states that Mr. Warren claimed to be unhappy about the results of the surgery because his penis was just an inch long. According to the article, he said that he felt he would never be able to have a relationship with a woman. That makes me just want to go find this guy and give him a great big hug - and then a slap upside the head. We are so focused on penises in this culture that we just can't seem to wrap our head around a happy, healthy, fun sex life that doesn't include a ginormous cock.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a ginormous cock. If you happen to have one or you happen to love someone who has one, that's just great. That ginormous cock will be a part of your sex life and well it should be. But if you don't have one and/or you happen to love someone who doesn't have one, we seem to think that sex is either over or diminished and the best way to solve that is to try to figure out how to get that ginormous cock.

I work with a lot of people who have troubles with erections for a variety of medical reasons. I also work with a lot of medical professionals who deal with these people. Now I love these medical folk and I'm happy that they do what they do but I have definitely seen that when dealing with a man who doesn't get erections, their response is to try to get him to have erections. Almost always, the first suggestion is Viagra and then some other drug if that doesn't work. If that doesn't work, they talk about injections and possibly even implants. And it is actually a ladder like that - I have never talked to a man who has had a bunch of different options laid out for him to choose from. They are usually given a drug first. If that drug doesn't work, then other drug options are discussed. If that doesn't work, then implants and injections are discussed. If that doesn't work, they come to me for a pump and a ring. I think it would be so much more efficient to talk to him about all of the options and the pros and cons of all of them and then let him choose what he'd like to try first.

Even when that is done, what is rarely discussed is the idea that it's really okay if you don't have erections. There are a bazillion ways to have sex and a hundred bazillion ways to be physically close to someone. Only a very few of those involve an erect penis. It's disheartening and endlessly frustrating to me that most men believe that their sex life is over if they don't get erections and that a lot of the medical establishment perpetuates that idea. I've seen first hand how not true that is from people for whom a ginormous erect cock is not and never will be possible and/or for whom it's not even desirable. From my vantage point as a toy person who works with the full spectrum of human sexual expression, I've seen people having all kinds of sex and most of it is highly satisfying and not lacking in any way. I've met men with spinal cord injuries who have partial erections or none at all and still experience ejaculation and orgasm - and feel fully able to give their partners pleasure in all kinds of ways. I've met transmen with a wide range genital realities who use every part of their bodies, including their brains and sometimes toys, to experience great sex. I've met a lot of people who have decided that penis in vagina sex is not what they want - either because they don't want to risk pregnancy or infection, or because they have more than one partner, or because they just don't like it - and they find all kinds of ways to have amazing sex. I have also seen a lot of people who love and/or have sex with a male identified person who does not have a ginormous cock or ginormous erections who are very happy and very sexually satisfied.

So why, why, why, is there still this predominant idea that if you can't get an erection, you're not a real man and you can't have real sex? Mr. Warren, there are a lot of people in this world and I guarantee you that there are women who will love both who you are as a person and what you have to offer in bed. You just need to widen your perspective a little and be confident in what you've got and how you can use it.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Soup for Sluts

Where can I get some of this? It's cheap, fast and easy! I bet it's tasty too!

Ads for Sex Exhibit totally Miss the Point

I saw a facebook post this morning about some ads for the Vancouver World of Science's Sex Exhibit that had been taken out of buses. The ads that I saw looked like this.

When I first saw this, I thought it was another case of people needlessly getting their shorts in a knot about something sexual. They are pretty harmless, silly ads. Yes, they are a wee bit racy but they are funny. I thought the objection is probably about kids seeing these and getting 'bad thoughts' in their little heads, or asking uncomfortable questions. I don't think kids under 13 are really going to understand them and kids over that age already get it and are probably just going to laugh or ignore it. What's the big deal?

But then I looked into this a little more. The exhibit is actually not for adults. It is designed specifically for adolescents aged 12 and up. It is a sex education exhibit. I thought, judging by the ads, that it was geared to adults - that it was about detailed interesting science-y things about sex. Now I haven't seen the exhibit but I've read the page on the Science World website and it says clearly that this was designed to help answer questions that all kids have. It is not explicit in any way and addresses basic questions about bodies and sex.

So here's my issue. The ads do not at all suggest that. I saw these ads and thought it was a bitch that I'm not in Vancouver because I'd really like to go see that. It seemed like it was an adult-appropriate exhibit about new discoveries, and the science and sociology of sex. I would have been surprised and rather pissed to walk into an 8th grade level sex education exhibit. The ad is not hitting the market they are looking for. I think they want to get the attention of the adults who will be the one taking their kids. But if I saw that as a parent, I would think I should be leaving my kids at home. Totally sending the wrong message.

Then there's this.

This was the one that no one seemed to have a problem with and that made it into the buses (or bus shelters, I'm not sure). This, to me, is far worse. What in the world is funny about a drug messing up your memory and causing you to miss taking that drug which might cause you to have and unintended pregnancy. That is simply not funny. It's not that it's funny and I shouldn't laugh, it's that it's just not funny. It's also stating something that is supposed to be interpreted as fact when the truth is much more complex than that. It's hard to tell from the ads exactly what it is that's being advertised until you read the very bottom about the exhibit. Only then would you get that it's an attempt at a joke. It's not funny to the hundreds of thousands of women who take birth control pills who have never heard of such a thing and might read that and think 'What? What does that mean? Is that true? WTF?'. What do they mean by this? Don't take birth control pills because they'll make you forgetful and then you'll get pregnant? It's confusing and it totally misses the mark. And again, it is not an effective ad for the exhibit. I am not a humorless loser - I do think the first two are funny. But this is not funny.

As if that's not bad enough, then there's this.

I don't understand a world where people have a problem with a picture of a box of tissues with the word ejaculation on it but they don't have a problem with an ad that suggests that female health professionals 'treat' their patients by having sex with them. I can't even imagine what the people at Vancouver World of Science were thinking when they allowed this to be produced. It is offensive to women and to all health care professionals. And it is offensive simply in the name of making a cheap joke that's not very funny. They could have easily used that same tag line about orgasm easing pain and made a really funny ad about not needing the aspirin anymore or 'let's have sex honey, I have a headache'. Why do you have to use a tired, sexist and offensive trope about female nurses and physicians to do it.

So I guess my tune on this changed pretty fast. I don't think those first two ads should have been banned just because they're racy, but I do think that they are misguided and ineffective. I also think that Vancouver World of Science should know that the video is sexist and offensive.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

From Childless Women to Opt-Back-In Moms - Our Obsession with Women and Their Choices

It seems every time I opened my facebook or turned on the radio last week, I was hearing something about women who choose not to have kids. First it was the Time cover story and then it was the UK 'research' that purports to show that women who choose to remain childless are smarter than women who have kids. It was everywhere. I couldn't get away from it. Besides the fact that I object to childless women like me being talked about as if we are some sort of newly discovered species that need to put under a microscope and studied, there's something else that really bugs me about these articles. Not one of them looks at this 'phenomenon' as anything other than a personal choice and not one of them steps outside of the lens of western middle class (predominantly white) privilege. They all talk about this as if it's a global trend and we should be concerned about declining birth rates. It's not and we shouldn't. The reason why it's not a global trend is because the women who are making the choice not to have children are women who are able to make a choice. Logic might seem to dictate that it would be women who have money, family support, supportive spouses, and lots of resources who would make the choice to have children. It's actually often the opposite. Many women don't actively make a choice to have or not have children. The choice is never in their hands in the first place. Women who are in relationships in which they have very little control or in which they are being abused; women who are from cultures in which women are expected to have children and to be the primary caretakers of those children, women who are poor and dependent on a partner and that partner's desires and/or have no access to birth control. These are women who may not have the luxury of making the choice to have or not to have children. The choice not to have children is actually often a choice that comes out of privilege and opportunity. I don't believe that women who choose not to have children are smarter, I think they have more choices available to them in general.

On the other side of the equation, these articles don't look at why the ones who choose to be childless might be making that choice. It's framed only as a personal lifestyle choice. In spite of the cult of motherhood we've created in middle class western society, mothers are still given nowhere near the amount of support they actually need to raise their children. Affordable child care is the biggest issue. Moms who want or need to work face a huge problem in finding child care that they trust that they can afford. We've lost community in our culture so much that many women don't have a solid support network of family and friends to provide some babysitting help when things just need to get done or when they are really stressed and need a break. Many also don't have that network of women who help them learn how to be mothers - they are expected somehow to just manage on their own. On top of that, that very same cult of motherhood places a huge expectation on parents to do everything right for their kids. Everywhere you look, there is something telling you what you must do in order to raise your children right. Given all of this, is it any wonder that lots of women who can make a choice not to have children do just that? From where I sit, it doesn't look terribly appealing.

In the midst of all of this 'smart women aren't having babies' craze, I read an article about how the 'opt-out' generation is finding out that they can't opt back in. This article was about the 'movement' of professional women who decided to quit their jobs and careers and stay home with their children. They were very vocal and created a craze of media in their wake. Now, it seems, one of the most vocal of them is changing her tune. After getting divorced, she returned to the work force and found that 11 years away, it was extremely difficult to get back in. The article read like a cautionary tale for women who might make that choice to stay home with their kids - there are grave consequences that you couldn't possibly understand right now, don't make the same mistake these women did. But the problem with this article is exactly the same as all the 'smart childless women' articles. They talk about this all as if it's just about personal choice. And yet when you read the story, it's pretty clear that the reason this becomes a problem is not because women are making the wrong choices, but because there is no support available for them to be free to make a real choice.

The story of Sheila O'Donnell which is covered extensively in the Times article really exemplifies this. While reading it, it was pretty clear to me that this wasn't a case of her having made the wrong choice, it was a case of her not feeling that she had any choices. First of all, by her telling, her husband was a terrible partner. She was working full-time and yet the job of finding and coordinating child care and of taking care of the household fell almost 100% on her shoulders. This is the case for a lot of women. Housework and child care is still not shared equally. This means that many women who work outside the home have two full-time jobs, not one. It would make sense that she would decide not working was easier, since she could afford it. Next, the childcare, even for someone with a good income, was still an issue. Reliable and affordable child care is difficult for most women and means that many of them decide not to work outside the home even when they really need to or want to.

The story goes on to talk about what happened to O'Donnell when her marriage fell apart. She was left without a home and had to move into a much more modest house with her three children and needed to get a job in order to support them. The story does not say why this was the case. The picture that is painted of her married life leads us to believe that her husband was well off and they had a lot of assets together. What is wrong with the legal system and divorce laws that she wouldn't be getting enough child support in that situation to allow her a little better standard of living?

The story then goes on to talk about how O'Donnell and most of the other 22 women in the story really struggled to find decent jobs and opportunities for advancement once they returned to work after raising children for many years. This again, is framed as the consequence of personal choice. The issues of pay equity, the lack of opportunities for women in corporate jobs, the lack of support for women who wish to work part-time or job share while they raise their children, inadequate child care forcing women to quit their jobs, and the unequal treatment of women in the work force are not addressed. Instead, women are advised to be very strategic if they decide to leave the work force - make sure they keep their contacts, volunteer, and keep up their skills. So ya, it's all our fault.

I'm sick to death of these stories and I don't want to see one more that does not look at this 'choices' from a larger perspective. Instead of cautioning women to be careful about their choices or telling women that they are stupid if they have kids, maybe we should be looking at ways we can even out the playing field so that women can make choices more freely.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Two Heros for the Week

In my regular facebooking this week, two things were sent my way that really grabbed my attention. The first is a video of singer, artist, rock star, Amanda Palmer telling the Daily Mail, in song, exactly what she thinks of them. Click here for the link. It's NSFW and it's freakin' awesome!!! This is my introduction to Ms. Palmer but I will definitely be seeking out more of her music. So what happened was, she did a show at a festival in Glastonbury and the Daily Mail reviewed it. Except that the Daily Mail article didn't review her show or her music, they just reviewed her boob. Seems that her boob made an unexpected appearance at the show and this is what they chose to focus on. I love the way she totally takes them on. She really nails the issue - that most women in the public eye are not taken seriously for their art or politics or whatever contribution they make. Instead, they are assessed according to their bodies and their appearance. Ms. Palmer, I bow down both to your bravado and your talent.

The second things that caught my eye - and since it's been all over the web now, you've probably seen it - was a commercial made by a company called HelloFlo. HelloFlo sends women a care package of menstrual supplies exactly when they need it every month. They created this awesome commercial about a girl who became the Camp Gyno because of her comfort and knowledge of all things period related. Sure, it's hilarious but what strikes me about it is the direct approach. There is no blue liquid or short white shorts in this video. They call it what it is. They show actual packaged tampons and talk about cramps. No euphemisms, just what it is. How refreshing is that?

The idea behind HelloFlo is pretty brilliant but they don't ship to Canada. If you're looking for a period reminder service, download iPeriod. It's an app for iPhone that will keep track of your cycle and let you know when to expect your next one. It's easy and even kind of fun! The one thing to watch though is that the makers of iPeriod seem to think the rhythm method works. You will also get a reminder of when your fertile time is. This will not be correct! It's based only on dates. IPeriod does let you make any notes you want so you if you are charting your cycle, you can use it to keep track of your temperature, cervical mucous, and other such things. It just won't collect that for you and tell you when you are really ovulating.

Creepiest Parade Swag Ever!

I just happened across this story on Jezebel. It seems that a Right to Life group at the North Dakota State Fair thought that the best way to attract some attention at the parade would be to give away goodie bags....with tiny little plush fetus dolls in children! WTF? The fact that these 'dolls' even exist boggles my mind. These things are nasty looking! No matter what that group says, no one could possibly actually think these things are cute or fun to play with. They exist solely to make women feel guilty about thinking about having an abortion or having had one.

What blows me away about this is that this group thinks it's appropriate to give this creep little plush thing to kids and yet I absolutely certain that if you polled the members of that group, most of them would say that talking to young children about where babies actually come from is inappropriate. This is something I've never understood. They talk to kids about abortion - which in my opinion is a fairly grown-up topic - but they will not talk to them about all the things they need to know in order to not ever need one. How can these kids even understand what a fetus and an abortion is without all the background info about how fetuses are created in the first place? A child under 10 doesn't really have the life experience and knowledge to really get what abortion means and what those little dolls are all about. But they put them in their little goody bags and then force parents to have to answer some difficult and uncomfortable questions about what the hell that ugly thing is and what it's doing in their goody bag. How does this make any sense at all?

If I had kids at that parade, I would have taken that goody bag right back to them and told them what they could do with it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Poster Campaign Reminds Us the Victim Blaming is Alive and Well

Heavy sigh. I am so disheartened by this that I barely even have the will to write about it. But I feel I must. Some posters have surfaced in downtown Edmonton and on the U of A Campus that say 'Just because you regret a one night stand doesn't mean it wasn't consensual. Lying about sexual assault = a crime. Don't be that girl'. There is another one that says 'Women who drink are responsible for their own actions especially when sex is involved. Double standards. Don't be that girl.' In case you're not getting the reference, this is a response to the public awareness campaign called 'don't be that guy'. It's a series of posters that says things like 'Just because she's drunk doesn't mean she said yes. Sex without consent = Sexual Assault. Don't be that guy' and 'Just because you gave her a ride home doesn't mean you can help yourself. Sex with consent = Sexual Assault. Don't be that guy.' It's a brilliant campaign that for once, finally, puts the onus for preventing sexual assault on the people that do it, not on the victims of it. It is an education on what does and does not constitute consent. Of course, some people got angry about it because they still want to blame women for supposedly putting themselves in situations where they could be raped and they still want to justify their actions or their friends actions or whatever.

So I'm not actually surprised by the posters. I knew there were some people who really got their shorts in a knot over this campaign and I expected a response. But whether I expected it or not, it still makes me angry and sad. Why oh why oh why are we so married to the idea that women routinely lie about being assaulted? Yes, it has certainly happened but it is so very rare as to be absolutely inconsequential and yet we talk as if one instance indicates that this is a common thing. Worse still is the people who claim that being falsely accused of rape is just as bad or worse than being raped. First, why do we have to take sides? Both things are bad. Cannot they not both be bad? Secondly, I don't agree. While I do think it would be awful to be falsely accused and to potentially lose your job and your credibility over it, those are probably the worst things that could happen. The very worst would be to go to jail for it but since our record in Canada of convicting actual sex offenders is so pitiful, I seriously doubt that this really ever happens. It is highly unlikely. For victims however, there are serious lifelong effects including - physical injuries, nightmares, PTSD, loss of trust, fear, damage to relationships, loss of relationships, loss of reputation and credibility from other who find out or when incidents go public and the person is blamed or not believed, loss of jobs, loss of income, depression, suicide. A sexual assault never leaves you. You can heal from it but you will never be the same. It is a life sentence. I'm not saying it is necessarily worse that being falsely accused but those who say that seem to think that the effects of being sexually assaulted are limited to the assault alone and one just gets over it. That's not what happens. Ever.

Some people are saying that the poster about false reports is no big deal. It's just saying that false reports are bad and you shouldn't do it. But it is a big deal. Why? Because this poster sends the message that there are some women - perhaps lots of women - who just willy nilly go to the police and charge a guy with rape because they had a one night stand and then felt bad about it later. They make it sound as if this is an easy, simple thing that women do just to calm their own conscious when they choose to have sex that they later regret. If we have people telling us this all the time and we come to believe it, we are much less likely to believe a woman who reports a sexual assault - particularly if it wasn't a 'forcible rape' (I hate that term for many reason but it is a term that is commonly used in these arguments). Instead of just believing her, taking the report and investigating it, we are much more likely to wonder first if maybe she's just making the whole thing up. This should never ever be a question. Any complaint of sexual assault should be taken seriously. Instead what often happens is women are questioned about what they were doing and how they contributed to the situation. Putting posters like this all over town just makes people think that this is an acceptable way to respond - that women do this all the time so instead of helping them first, we should question them first.

The other poster is, if possible, even worse. That one says that women are responsible for their own action when they drink. I agree 100%. I am responsible for my own actions. If I get drunk and pass out and miss work the next day, that is totally my fault. If I get so drunk that I tell off my best friend and she never talks to me again, that is 100% my fault. If I get drunk and drive home, get into an accident and kill someone, that is 100% my fault. However, if someone else sees me passed out and takes the opportunity to assault me - how in the world is that my fault? It's my fault I was drunk. I got drunk. But I did not assault myself. The person who assaulted me did it and that is that person's responsibility. I still cannot understand why this is so unclear to people. Why do we excuse violent and aggressive behavior? Why do we take it as such an expected norm in our society that we decide to blame the victims of it? Getting drunk and passing out does not cause sexual assault. People who take advantage of people who get drunk and pass out does. In most situations if a women, or man for that matter, gets drunk and passes out at a party, most people at that party will take care of the person - put her to bed, find someone who can take him home and put him to bed, or stay with her until she wakes up to make sure she doesn't throw up and choke. That's what the vast majority of people will do. This is normal behavior. Only a very few will use that situation to hurt the person. So why then, if that happens, is that the person's fault. When you see someone drunk and incapacitated, you have some choices about what to do and if you choose to hurt them, it's your choice.

I think our confusion or trouble with this stems from two things. 1. We want so very much to think that nothing bad will ever happen to us that we want to believe we can control every situation and keep things from happening to us. So when we see a situation where a woman was assaulted when she was drunk and passed out we say 'well that would never happen to me because I wouldn't get drunk and pass out like that'. We look for the thing that person did wrong so that we can convince ourselves that we can keep it from happening to us. 2. Our culture wants to control women's behavior. We don't want women being overly sexual or overly aggressive or overly independent. We don't want them to drink or have random sex with hot guys. We want them to behave themselves. So when something bad happens to a woman who was doing something we don't like, we blame her instead of the person who was doing the bad thing. We use these examples to try to scare women into behaving - don't get drunk because you'll get raped.

Contrary to what some people are saying, these posters are not harmless. They exemplify and perpetuate a belief system that harms all of us - that keeps us from believing and supporting victims of sexual violence. They help to keep offenders on the street by denying and excusing their behavior. They stir up anger against people who are doing their best to help educate about the realities of sexual violence and worst of all, they turn that anger against victims.

The only possible good that could come out of this is that it may cause some people who have had similar thoughts and beliefs to see these blatant victim blaming statements, hear the response, and really question their position. Maybe a few minds could change.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I know you love 'em, but you really don't need a PAP test every year.

I was delighted to get a link to this article from the Canadian Women's Health Network today. It explains pretty clearly why we need PAP tests, who needs them and when we need them. It also explains clearly that a PAP test is not in any way, shape or form a test for any STI and that those need to be done separately. Awesome! Great article! So glad I found it. My question is, why don't I know this already? Why don't doctors explain this stuff to us? I have run into some women - often friends of mine - who have fabulous doctors who explain everything to them and give them lots of options and choices around their sexual health care. Sadly, I've never had this. This is what I've had - tell me if any of this sounds familiar to you.

Somewhere in and around 1994, I had a doctor prescribe antihistamines for me for nasty nasty summer allergies. I later found out from a friend who worked at Planned Parenthood (now Options for Sexual Health) that those antihistamines could interfere with the effectiveness of the birth control pills that doctor had already prescribed for me. When I asked the doctor about this she said 'Oh'. No really, that's all she said.

In 2002, now with a completely different doctor, I got a call saying that my PAP test came back abnormal and that I needed another. That came back abnormal as well and the doctor called me in to discuss. I looked at the lab result and it said clearly - HPV effect. I asked if I had HPV. The doctor laughed and said 'no, no, no, of course not'. As if it was completely absurd that a nice girl like me could have HPV. I was not in the least offended by the idea, I just wanted to know if I had it. I called the STI centre and the info nurse said 'Oh yes, if you have that result, you only got it because you have HPV.' Nice. So they sent me for a colposcopy. I was, I think justifiably so, terrified. They were looking for cancer! Neither my doctor nor anyone at the colposcopy clinic would or perhaps could answer my questions about exactly what the procedure would involve, what I would find out, what might happen after that or how long it would take to get results. So I freaked out for almost a month before this appointment happened. When I got to the clinic for my appointment, they handed me a lovely brochure that answered every single one of my questions! Might have been nice to have that earlier! The procedure took about a nanosecond, involved a slight pinch, and the tech took the sample, looked at it right there in the room with me and told me there were no cancer cells. Would have been so nice to know that I was going to get results on the spot! Why doesn't anyone explain any of this to you? And doctors outright lying about what your results mean? What's up with that?

Now, just recently, about a month ago, I finally found a new doctor - I hadn't been to see a doctor since a year after that whole mess. She told me I didn't need a PAP test because I have never been pregnant. That seemed bizarro to me so I explained that I have had an abnormal result and a colposcopy several years before and would really like to just check. She did the PAP test but said that it was highly unusual for someone who has never had sex to have an abnormal PAP. She assumed that because I'm 43 and never been pregnant, I don't have sex. How can we even try to have the honest and open communication that's required for good sexual health with huge assumptions like that going on?

I include the timeline to be clear that this is not something that used to happen. This is my experience over almost 20 years with three different doctors.

So what's my point in all of this over-sharing? My point is that I agree with the author of the CWHN article - women do have a lot of misconceptions about what a PAP test is, when they need it, and when they are and are not being tested for STI's. I believe that responsibility lays squarely at the feet of the doctors. They need to do a much better job of asking the right questions, not making assumptions, and informing women of what tests they can get, what tests they need and why, what those tests will tell them, and what they are and are not being tested for. However, since I have little faith in most doctors to do this, until such time as it actually starts happening, it's really up to us to find the information ourselves and insist that our doctors, even if they might think we don't need them, give us the care and testing we believe we need.

Friday, May 24, 2013

That's What I Said! Vaseline is Nasty!

I ran across this article on yesterday. It's a report on a small study in Los Angeles that looked at the products women use vaginally. The two things they looked at were petroleum jelly (aka vaseline) and douches. Turns out, I've been right all along, these things are nasty. The women in the study who used petroleum jelly inside the vagina were more than twice as likely to have bacterial vaginosis as women who did not. Bacterial Vaginosis is not that big a deal in and of itself. It happens when the ph balance of the vagina is upset and becomes more acidic than alkaline. Women may not notice that at all but they may notice feeling dryer and somewhat itchy. The big problem is that bacterial vaginosis is basically an unhealthy vaginal environment and that means that it doesn't produce natural and healthy bacteria in the same way and it may allow the growth of bacteria that cause infections. Women who get yeast infections and urinary tract infections easily will have some major issues with that.

What blows my mind about the study is that 45% of the women said that they use douches. I shake my head and sigh. I want to believe that we have moved far away from the 1970's Summer's Eve commercials that made women feel like their beautiful vulvas and vaginas are smelly stinkholes that must be sanitized. I know that these products still exist and I know that marketing exists but somehow I just thought that most women understand now that they don't need to 'freshen' their ladyparts. They really do clean and freshen themselves. There are multitudes of organisms living in there that keep it ship shape, when left to their own devices. But I guess I was wrong. It seems a lot of women don't know that. We are all to susceptible to the social influence and shaming that goes along with these products. The problem is, as this study shows, the use of douches actually increases the chance of infection. It upsets the ph balance and destroys those healthy bacteria. The study found more incidence of bacterial vaginosis among women who use douches too.

The good news in this little study was that women who use personal lubricants did not have an increased incidence of bacterial vaginosis. As I have been saying for many years, lubes are good. Well, not all lubes are good, there are some nasty ones. But most water-based and silicone lubricants are gentle and safe. They are the best choice for vaginal moisturizing or for using during partner and solo sex play.

All of this just really makes me wonder why this knowledge isn't more common. They teach hygiene in grade school. We learn the basics of taking care of our health. Why isn't this information included? Even in sex education classes, they don't talk about this. Somehow we just expect women to know what to do. It would be perfectly natural and extremely helpful to take a few minutes out of the 'The Day Suzy Got Her Period' class to explain what you should and should not put inside your vagina. So many young girls are so self-conscious that they worry excessively that they are dirty and smelly - and they see a lot of ads around them that reinforce that belief. Why can't we just take some time to explain that the inside of the vagina is not smelly and does not need to be cleaned, no matter what you see in Seventeen magazine? We just need to know that our vaginas will take care of themselves and all we need to do is wash and rinse the outside - the vulva and surrounding area - with a gentle body soap. We don't need feminine wash and wipes, just plain soap.

Sadly, we seem to be so afraid of women's bodies that we won't sit the girls down and give them the information they really need about taking care of themselves.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Another Installment of the 'What Were They Thinking?' Files

Now I have literally seen everything. Koko, my lovely right-hand woman at the store, alerted me to a website for the CockPipe.

No, we are not making this up. This appears to be all too real. If you don't believe me, check out the site for a video of this toy in action.

So in case you haven't quite sorted it out, this is a cockring with a hashpipe attached to it. You slip it onto your favorite penis and smoke pot and pole at the same time.

I am all for anyone's right to do whatever the hell it is they please but I'm pretty sure this one was created by somebody who had smoked far too much.

You would have to be stoned to allow someone to put a pipe and a lighter that close to your pubes - perhaps shaving is a prerequisite.

The other problem with this thing is that although it says that the sleeve and ring are silicone, I'm pretty sure it's not 100% silicone. It's probably a TPR based silicone. That's a bit of an issue because TPR is not, as they claim, heat resistant. That sucker will melt if that lighter gets anywhere near it and probably just from the heat of the pipe itself. A melted mess of TPR is not good at any time but it's particularly not good when it's strapped to your penis.

Cute idea to think about when your stoned but perhaps not the smartest idea in practice.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Undateables Are Not Undateable After All

I found a show on Slice that's actually good! It's called 'The Undateables'. Because of the name, I didn't look at it for the longest time. I thought it was yet another mean-spirited reality dating show. But I finally took a peek and it's actually a show from the U.K. that looks at people who have a diverse array of physical and developmental disabilities and are using dating services to help them find companions. I highly recommend taking a look. What's so interesting and great about the show is that everyone on it is treated with the utmost respect. There is no pity or condescension. They are all treated as fully capable adults who just happen to have some particular challenges. There is no game show aspect to it either. The show just follows them and talks to them and their friends, families, and prospective dates as they go about their adventures in the dating scene. After watching a couple episodes, and sadly, there are only four episodes on the site currently, a few things struck me.

First, its remarkable and wonderful that there are dating agencies in the UK specifically for people with developmental disabilities and also dating agencies that have no barriers or problems with accepting clients who have physical and developmental disabilities. I'm sure this is probably the case here but I've never actually looked into it. It's so lovely to watch people who understand that pretty much everyone has a need to connect with other people in emotionally and physically intimate ways and that doesn't change just because you might have some challenges. In some ways the match-making places might just be the perfect place because the ones who actually get to know someone and specifically choose someone can talk with a prospective date about the person's challenges beforehand so they are aware. I would imagine this would take a lot of pressure off. Two of the young men that were profiled have Tourette's syndrome. I would think it might make it easier if you knew that your date was already aware and you didn't have to wonder when to tell or if something was going to happen before you got a chance to tell, or if they are going to up and leave once they find out.

The other thing that really struck me was that the principles of what works well for dating and what makes dating difficult seem to be universal, regardless of whatever abilities or disabilities a person might have. What I saw is that the two main things are confidence and communication and they go together. The people who were confident about who they were, usually felt pretty comfortable talking with anyone, and starting up and carrying on conversations. That put the other person at ease and made the dates go pretty well. One of the men featured has a type of fibromatosis that causes large benign tumors. It has left him severely scarred and disfigured, particularly on the face and head. It took quite some time for the dating agency to find him someone but when they did, the date went quite well. This seemed to be because this guy is sweet and funny and very charming. His date was quite taken with him. Some of the others just did not have the confidence to really immerse themselves in the date and engage with the person and it did not go well. The dates were awkward and short. Where a disability can really get in the way is when it hampers the person's ability to communicate. That makes it very difficult to talk and be social. But there were several people who had communication issues and who had learned some tools to get past it and were doing just fine.

I think watching this can give anyone, disability or not, some ideas about how to be successful in the dating. At first glance it looks like the people on the show couldn't ever find someone because there's something wrong with them. But that's actually not it at all. If they can get past the most difficult part, which is the most difficult part for anyone, just knowing where to go to find someone who might be interested in you that you might also be interested in, the playing field gets leveled pretty quickly. Looks and physical abilities start to dissolve and it comes down to personality and compatibility. I've seen this many times with friends and people I've worked with. One young guy that I met was a perfect example. He used a wheelchair because of a spinal chord injury. He told me that once he got used to how things needed to be 'the chair actually improved my game'. He was a hot guy who was charming, funny and confident. The chair didn't slow him down at all.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A New Dawn in our Understanding Kink and Mental Health

Big news! The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - or the DSM as it's more commonly known - will change the way kink is defined in terms of mental health. The current version lists any type of sexual interest and activity that is not solely focused on people and their genitals as paraphilias. This allows for the claim that people who have such interests may be mentally ill when really, they are probably completely normal healthy people who just happen to get turned on by feet, or diapers, or balloons, or whatever the case may be. The DSM-5, which is coming out in May, still defines those things as paraphilias but then contains a new category - of paraphilic disorders. Paraphilias are things happily and healthily and consensually enjoyed by those who participate. A paraphilic disorder is a paraphilia which causes distress or harm to the person who is practicing it or to others. I know, that's still really open to interpretation but this is a great move. It is a statement by the most influential mental health professionals in North America that kinky sex and BDSM is not, in and of itself, unhealthy. Just like any other activity or interest, it's only unhealthy if it's hurting the person who does it or other people involved. This will be of great help to those who find themselves unfairly persecuted because of their sexual interests like people who lose their jobs when bosses or co-workers find out they're kinky or parents who lose custody or visitation rights - and yes, this does happen. Now, anyone who tries to use someone's sexual interests against them will not necessarily have the support of the DSM, they will have to show that there is actual harm.

The best step, I think, would have been for the concept of paraphilia to have been left out entirely as it's clear from the explanation above that if the paraphilia isn't causing any distress to anyone, it's no big deal and doesn't need to be discussed and if the paraphilia is causing distress, there's an underlying issue completely unrelated to the paraphilia as evidenced by the fact that lots of people have paraphilias and have no problems with them. In the case of a paraphilic disorder, it's much more likely that the person has some other issue such as obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, coping issues, stress, that are expressing themselves around the fetish or kink. It's not the kink that's the issue, it's the thing that's driving the distressing expression of the kink that's the issue. So this new categorization isn't perfect, to be sure, but at least it's a step forward in the recognition that lots of people have kinks, lots of people are into BDSM, and they are not, because of this, sick, weird, mentally ill, dangerous or abnormal. I think we should call it a small victory for now.

Here's an article with more information.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Hero for the Day

I had a story in my news feed this morning about a high school student who is protesting a presentation at her school by abstinence crusader Pam Stenzel. This young woman, Katelyn Campbell, who's age is not listed but couldn't be older than 17 or 18, has shown not only the wisdom to detect the false information in Stenzel's presentations and the violation of student's rights by forcing them to attend a blatantly religious themed assembly, but also the guts to stand up and say no in spite of mounting consequences to her academic life. She deserves a huge round of applause and all the support she needs to see herself vindicated.

So for some background on this, Pam Stenzel is an abstinence 'educator' of the absolute worst order. She travels the US giving speeches to all kinds of groups of kids but mostly high schools, teaching them about all the bad things that will happen to you if you have sex. Her presentations are riddled with inaccurate information. She says that condoms are not effective in preventing pregnancies and STI's and that abortion causes depression and suicidal thoughts. She says that abortions are painful and cause bulimia. Her presentations are chockful of gender stereotypes - she places both the blame and the responsibility for sexual activity almost solely on girls. She tells girls that they are devaluing and debasing themselves if they have sex and says that if their mothers give them birth control, it means they hate them. She says that a girl is ten times more likely to get an STI if she's on birth control. There is also a large dose of Christian Fundamentalism along with all of the other stuff. If you don't believe me, and if you don't mind throwing up in your mouth a little, take a look at this clip of one of her presentations.

I love that this crowd doesn't think she's funny - even though she's trying to make jokes. If that doesn't bother you, check this out!

Notice how its really just the girls who need to stop having sex and confess to their husbands what they've done.

Ok, so it doesn't take a genius to realize that this stuff is harmful. In fact, if you look at any recent research, you'll see that it's been irrefutably proven that this kind of 'education' is not effective in delaying the age of first sexual activity, reducing numbers of pregnancies, or preventing STI's. But I still applaud Katelyn for pointing it out and for standing up for all of the people in her school who were made to feel uncomfortable, ashamed, or downright terrified by Pam and her crazy shitshow. Katelyn refused to go to the presentation and started a protest against it. Her principal threatened to call the college she had been accepted to and tell them that she was a 'bad character' and a 'backstabber'. In a beautiful little response, Wellesley College tweeted yesterday afternoon that Katelyn need not be concerned about her spot for next year. Glad to see that they support her right to protest.

It's not so much that Katelyn needed to win this and actually stop the presentation from happening. It's just that students should, and really do need to, have both sides of the story. Students should be made aware of the fact that Stenzel has been roundly criticized for giving misinformation and they should know the actual facts as opposed to what she says. They should have resources so that they can sit in that room and judge fairly for themselves whether they agree with her or not. And they should have the right to choose not to attend the presentation. The fact that none of those things were available and that the school would attempt to force their students to listen to someone berating and scaring them and offer them no alternative information is baffling and scary to me. They should have at least allowed and welcomed Katelyn's protest and allowed her to give out her information - letting the students decide for themselves. But that's exactly what this boils down to. Katelyn's principal and Pam Stenzel and their ilk want to tell teenagers what to do. The last thing in the world they want is for them to think for themselves. They want them to blindly follow where they lead them and meekly do what they are told. But is that the kind of education we really want? What do we get when we teach our children to sit back, listen and obey? We get a generation of blind followers. Is that what we want? Or do we want a generation of thinkers, questioners, innovators and leaders like Katelyn?