Thursday, December 18, 2014

'Reality' TV Out of Touch with Reality

The TV network A and E has announced that it's developing a new show called '8 minutes' in which a christian pastor tries to convince sex workers to leave sex work. The Daily Mail quotes A and E executive producer Tom Forman as saying 'This is one of those great shows that was actually happening whether anybody was shooting it or not." The Daily Mail article and A and E's press about the show describe the pastor, Kevin Brown, a former vice cop, as a compassionate savior, noting that he started his mission because he didn't want to spend his life putting girls in jail for prostitution, he wanted to help them. Brown formed a mission group that reaches out to young women in the sex trade and offers them them help and resources to get out of 'the life'. It sounds both heartwarming and gut-wrenching with a little touch of sex thrown in - exactly what reality tv show producers are looking for.

But when you think about the premise, it's actually pretty scary and more than just a little creepy. How do Brown and his group get in touch with these young sex workers? They go through back page ads for sex workers and contact them. They pose as potential clients, set up a meeting, and then when the person shows up, they say that they don't want sex, they want to help. Yes, apparently, they really do this.

Doing this in the first place is all kinds of wrong. It's deceptive and hurtful. That person is trying to work and they are interrupting their life and their work time to push their agenda without consent. Although this is never discussed in the media about the show or in the short clip I watched, I am pretty certain they don't give the person the money they had agreed to during the initial contact. So they've just taken this person's time and offered nothing in return.

Then there's the scarier aspect of this. First of all, I would be pretty pissed if I was one of those people lured to a meeting under false pretenses. Do any of them ever get violent or try to steal money from these 'outreach workers'? I wouldn't blame them for considering it. It's not safe for the mission people to be doing this. Even more of a concern is that it's not safe for the workers. Who's to say that everyone on this mission team is really there to help? It's exactly the kind of thing that attracts abusers. The chance to be alone in a hotel room with someone you see as young and vulnerable? If one of those mission workers abuses or assaults one of those sex workers, will the mission team, or anyone else believe them if they report it? 'But that guy's on the mission team, we know that he didn't go there for sex, you have to be lying because you're angry that you didn't get any money'. The whole thing is misguided, disrespectful and dangerous.

But then there's the whole added layer of putting this on television. There is no way that people are told beforehand that they will be filmed. To do that would destroy the entire premise of the setup. That means they are filming people without their permission. This is unethical and may even be illegal, but I'm sure A and E has their legal ducks in a row and is somehow covering their butts on that. Do they air the show without the person's permission? I would guess that they do in some cases. Why would people give their permission to have something like that on television? In the clip that I saw, the person's face was blurred out. This may be how they get around the need for consent, but it doesn't make it better to simply blur a person's face. That person still did not know that they were going into an intervention, and they didn't know that there was a camera when they chose to say whatever they said in that room. Whether you can see their face and know their name or not, putting that on television could still be psychologically harmful to that person. It's also not all that difficult to identify someone based on their location, their body and body language and mannerisms, and their voice (which did not sound as if it had been altered). That could be dangerous to the people being filmed. Anyway you slice this, it's disrespectful and unethical at best and dangerous and illegal at worst.

The main problem here is that while these people claim that all they want to do is help young girls have a better life, they are actually not seeing these people as people at all. Their focus is on their own beliefs and their own mission and what they believe is right and wrong. They haven't considered the realities for people who work in this way and what they might actually need. They are assuming that sex workers cannot make decisions for themselves - that they are in such a dire situation that the only way they will be able to get help is if some savior drops out of the blue and whisks them off to a better life. In reality people who do sex work are like everyone else. They have other parts of their life that happen when they are not working, even if they are actually being trafficked or controlled by someone else. They read magazines and newspapers, look at billboards, surf the internet just like anyone else. The respectful way to run a mission like this is to put information about your ministry and your services in places where sex workers might see them. Make your information as broadly accessible as possible and people will see it or be able to find it if they are looking. Then they can make the choice to contact someone for help if they want it. I know that the people in this group will probably say that the sex workers they 'help' are essentially prisoners of pimps who control everything they do. Therefore they can't make a phone call or meet with someone without being monitored. That's why they do this in such a covert way. I would argue that this is much more our perception of sex work that it is a reality. Certainly, this happens for some people but for the majority of people who work through print ads, that's not going to be the case. And again, it's making the assumption that this is the case for every single person they contact, without knowing anything about that person and their life. It's assuming that every person with an ad on that page is a helpless victim who wants to be saved.

I have a lot of problems with a lot of the reality stuff that A and E airs. Way back when it started, it was such a great network, with lots of classic movies and theatre and shows like Biography. Now it runs Intervention and Hoarders 24/7. Those are bad enough, but with this, they've really sunk to a new low. There is a petition asking A and E to abandon their plans to broadcast this show. If you think it's as scary as I do, you might want to sign it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Robot Handjobs

I came across this video from Huffington Post about Robot Handjobs. I was pretty excited about it - it's the kind of thing that excites me. but then they showed the robot hand job and it doesn't seem like anything special. It's a robotic arm with a tenga sleeve attached to it. It looks incredibly cumbersome. There's a lot of stuff and it looks kind of difficult to control. I don't have a penis to use this on, so perhaps I'm wrong, but I'm guessing just using the Tenga or finding someone else to use it on you would be less difficult, far less expensive, and much less noisy. The upside is that all of this experimentation has to lead to a really functional fun robot toy sometime. Doesn't it?

There are dangers of course, as seen here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

2014 Unusual Sex Toys Gift Guide

I wasn't able to find the on-line version of this column that was printed in VUE Weekly last week. So I'm reprinting here.

It’s that time of year again. Time for my annual list of unique and unusual sex themed gift ideas for that hard-to-buy-for pervert on your Christmas list. Here are my top picks for 2014.
Foria Lubricant. There are a lot of personal lubricants on the market but this one is definitely stands out. Foria contains cannabis oil. That’s right, it’s pot lube. The makers of Foria claim that it aids in relaxation during sex and contributes to stronger, more intense orgasms. It sounds amazing, but sadly, you can only buy Foria if you live in California and have a medical marijuana prescription.
Cartoon sex toy vibrators. For those who enjoy adult toys that look like children’s toys, check out this line of cartoon vibrators. These look like giant Lego people with elongated heads (I’ll leave it up to your imagine as to what the elongated head is for). Choose from circus clown, Japanese girl, policewoman, fireman or chef. You can collect the whole set! I would suggest avoiding Japenese girl and policewoman, though, as they look like they’ve got some rather pointed, pokey, plastic hair. Do choose carefully as the website notes that due to hygiene concerns, they do not accept returns.
Teddy Love. If the pervert on your list prefers plushies to plastic toys, you’re in luck. Teddy Love is a soft, huggable Teddy Bear that goes down on you! His cute little nose and tongue vibrate. Settings for the vibrators are in his ears. Grab Teddy’s ears and go! If that isn’t creepy enough for you, consider the instructions for using Teddy Love on guys. “You can flip Teddy Love upside down and the nose can go around the anus and the tongue can touch the taint. “
Light saber inspired flogger. For the kinky geek, or the geeky kinkster, this beautiful leather flogger has a handle that looks just like a light saber from Star Wars – non-functioning unfortunately. You could even pair this with the Light Saber inspired acrylic cane.
Famous Figure Butt Plugs. If they’re more into anal play than vibrators, check out Here you can find a selection of butt plugs in the shape of famous people who seem like the perfect fit for a butt toy. Choose from Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, late Westboro Baptist leader Fred Phelps, or Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Luxury Pasties. For the perv with expensive taste, our friends at Coco de Mer in London have a new line of latex pasties at only for $71 a pair. Why so much for latex pasties? Because they’re made by Coco de Mer.
Pearl Royalle. Finally, if $71 pasties are not luxurious enough for that special someone, consider the Pearl Royalle by Australian jewelry designer Colin Burns. Deemed the most expensive vibrator in the world, this toy is solid platinum and is embellished with over 1,000 white diamonds, royal blue sapphires, pearls and pink diamonds. You may need a payment plan for this one. The price tag on the Pearl Royalle is a cool $1 million.

More Shame About Guys and Toys

There's a video that's been making the rounds, and was passed on to me by one of my facebook friends, called 'Men Try Sex Toys for The First Time'. It's done by buzzfeed. I'm not entirely sure if the guys in the video are actors or not, or if perhaps they're just people that work at buzzfeed. Their reactions and comments are just a little too polished for me to believe this is entirely real. However, the video is supposed to be funny but mostly it just annoyed me.

I will admit that a lot of it is funny. I particularly like the guy who sticks his finger in the fleshlight while turning up his nose and saying it's gross and he doesn't understand it and then suddenly stops and says 'okay, maybe I get it now'.

There are some positive reactions. Two of the men are pretty pumped about their experience. I love the guy who says 'It was awesome!' But several of them are extremely negative about the idea of using the toys and about the experience. Even some of them who enjoyed it say that they would never do it again or felt wrong about it.

I certainly don't think everyone has to use toys and I do fully support everyone's right to like or dislike anything they want. If these guys honestly did not enjoy the toy, that's perfectly fine. What I'm so tired of is this pervasive idea that men should feel guilty or shameful about using sex toys - and that mens' awkwardness and shame about it is hilarious.

We seem to have come far enough in our culture now to accept that most men masturbate and that that's normal and expected. But somehow we haven't come so far as to be so accept or be open to the idea of them really really enjoying it. It seems to me that we're okay with it only insofar as it's a necessary thing that guys do when they're stressed out and/or don't have someone else to have sex with. It's all right if they kind of need to do it, but not all right if they're doing it just because it feels great and they just want to. Indeed there are a lot of people around who think that a man who has a partner should never want or need to masturbate. If that's what we believe, then of course the idea of men buying something meant for them to use alone, being completely unashamed and open about that purchase, and saying clearly and openly that it's fucking awesome, is hard to handle.

But my world is filled with guys like that. Because I own a sex shop, I see men every single day who are looking for something new and fun that feels different and cool. Certainly we get men in store who have some shame about it and are hesitant to talk to us. But we also get a lot of guys who have no shame or hesitance whatsoever. They play with themselves. They like it. They're not afraid to admit it. They want a fun toy to make their solo play time even more fun.

If we stopped framing male sexuality and masturbation through this lens of guilt and shame, I think we would see fewer and fewer of those guys who are hesitant and ashamed when they come in and so many more of the second variety. We can make jokes and funny videos but the guilt, shame and awkwardness doesn't need to be the payoff of the joke. The guy who looks at the autoblow and says 'I cannot wait to use this' is hilarious. Somebody like that who's eager to have a good time is really funny, but the joke isn't really on him, it isn't at his expense, it's just about appreciating his enthusiasm.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How do You Like Your Eggs?

There has been a lot, and I mean a LOT written about Apple and Facebook's announcement that they are including egg freezing in their health care packages. I don't understand why this has become such a major news story, but certainly almost every blog I follow has been writing about it. I figure I shouldn't buck the trend.

I don't really give a wit about Apple and Facebook and their employee benefits. I don't work for them. I think most of the women that work for them probably make enough money that they could figure out how to pay for this procedure on their own if they really wanted to. For women who are making minimum wage, this is something that is never, ever going to happen.

But how many women want to do this anyway and why is it even an option. Some of the discussion on this has pointed out how this gives women more options in terms of managing their fertility and their family planning decisions. I would beg to differ that it really doesn't. The press on it makes it sound as if this is a simple thing to do, if you have the money. It's not simple at all. Harvesting ovas for freezing is a long and invasive procedure which involves the use of hormones with major side effects. Long-term side effects for these procedures aren't really known but most women who take these hormones suffer, in the very least, from major mood swings, anger, and depression. Bloating and weight gain are pretty common as well. This is only the first part of the procedure and is the only thing that anyone seem to want to talk about in relation to this.

The second part of the procedure is actually using those ova to get pregnant. Invitro-fertilization also involves a long process of hormone therapy with major side effects. The success rate for IVF is abysmal. Depending on the statistics you look at, about 30% of first time IVF treatments result in a pregnancy. That success rate varies with age and drops dramatically as the woman gets older.

I fervently believe in women's rights to have access to these options if they want them but I think we need to tell women the truth about them. And the truth is that they are invasive, difficult, and not highly successful. We seem to be selling women the idea that they can get pregnant any time they want to because we can freeze eggs and we can do IVF but that's just not the case. Many women undergo these procedures and do not get pregnant.

IVF and egg freezing are not the only way to manage fertility. Most women never learn how their reproductive cycle works in the first place. If we actually taught this to young women in school, they would have a much better understanding of how to get pregnant and how not to get pregnant. They would understand more fully what happens to their bodies as they age and be more aware of when their chances of getting pregnant will begin to decrease due to age and start to make some decisions based on that.

The other piece of this discussion, which no one seems to be talking about, is the larger issue of making the workplace fair for women who want to have children. We do have maternity benefits in Canada but that only goes so far. Many women fear losing their place in the promotion line, or even losing a position they love, because they took a year of for parental leave. In this country, it is illegal to fire someone because they are pregnant or because they were off on maternity leave and yet I know so many women who's employers found creative ways to do it anyway. Many people I know arrived back at work to find that their 'job description had changed' or the 'company had down-sized' or that they had otherwise been worked out of a job. These are the choices women have to make which may make them reconsider getting pregnant until the time comes that they run out of time. Then, they may find themselves with fertility issues that they weren't expecting. Freezing eggs isn't really going to prevent this problem. Making workplaces more inclusive and supportive to young mothers is the only solution to that problem.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why is There an App for That?

Last month, I heard about an app called 'Good2Go' which describes itself as an app to ensure you have consent for sex and/or are able to consent to sex. It is confusing and bizarre. What you are supposed to do, I think, is tell the app that you want to have sex with someone (I think you are supposed to enter who it is). Then you give your phone to that person and they key in whether they consent, don't consent, or want to talk about it first and give you back the phone. The video for the app shows this happening but I don't understand why you wouldn't be able to communicate to that person on their phone by the app. Anyway, that's the least of the problems here. If the object of your affection consents, you then ask them if they are sober? They key in how much they've had to drink and the app will tell both of you if they are able to consent. Then there is some sort of weird confirmation or registration thing that I don't understand. If all the hurdles are clear, then you are 'Good2Go' and you can get busy.

There are clearly a LOT of problems with this whole idea but my first thought was 'What the hell happened to talking?'. If you need an app to ask someone to have sex, make sure they consent, and make sure they are sober enough to consent, then perhaps you don't have the social skills required to engage in any sort of relationship, sexual or otherwise. And consent is not one simple yes or no question. Consent is actually about constantly being in tune with and checking in with the person you are with to make sure they are into it, turned on, physically comfortable, and having fun. The app says all over it that consent has to be ongoing and can be withdrawn at any time but the very existence of this stupid thing really negates that idea. If you said you were Good2Go, doesn't that mean that everything that happens after that is perfectly fine? If consent can be withdrawn at any time, what use does the app serve in the first place. People complain that the idea of asking for consent on a ongoing basis is unnatural and legalistic. If you are of that opinion, then this certainly doesn't help - this is about as unnatural and legalistic as you can get. A real conversation about consent simply does not happen this way. It's about talking about what you would like to do, finding out what the person you're with is into, agreeing on the stuff you want to do, and then paying attention and noticing if any of you seems uncomfortable, not into it, hesitant or anything other that totally turned on and into it. Very rarely does a consensual sexual act sounds like 'I would like to have sex with you, do you consent to that?' 'Yes, I consent to have sex with you.' It is usually totally hot, more things like 'I really want to kiss your lips right now.' 'I want to put my hand in your panties and see how wet you are.' 'What makes you hot? Tell me what turns you on? What do you want me to do to you?' These are the kinds of things people really say during sex and those are real examples of asking for consent. As long as the response is heard and respected, that's consensual sex. It's not one question, it's a lot of things and it's supposed to be, and often is, an organic part of a sexual encounter.

We have created this bizarre concept that sex is about getting something from someone. All you have to do is make sure that you had permission to take that thing and everything's okay. This is what we seem to be teaching our young people about sex. 'Be sure you have permission.' 'Always get consent'. Yes, it's important, actually vital, to have consent. But it's not about just getting what you want and making sure the other person said yes some how. It's about having a mutual interaction - knowing what they want and ensuring that all parties are getting what they want out of it. It's an ongoing, engaged, relational thing, not a case of yes you can have it or no you can't.

We have so much technology that allows us to communicate with each other. If we actually think that clicking a button on a smartphone app is the right, or sufficient way to invite someone into an intimate sexual encounter, then our technology isn't helping us communicate at all. Perhaps it's make us less able to actually talk to each other.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Suspicious Money Dealings

Earlier this spring, there were several reports of American bank Chase closing the personal accounts of several porn actresses. There was a major backlash against Chase, and rightly so, but now it's becoming clear that the issue is a lot bigger than just them. Yesterday, the Third Party Payments Processor Association filed a brief accusing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation of unfairly targeted industries for moral reasons.

It seems that in 2011, the FDIC published a list of 'high-risk' industries that they deemed worthy of increased scrutiny. Many of the industries on the list are completely legel, including pornography. The TPPPA says that not long after this, the FDIC began pressuring banks to end relationships with processors who process payments for merchants in the porn industry. Apparently, it didn't end there. TPPPA and some of the banks allege that FDIC put enormous pressure on banks not to work with both processors and merchants related to the porn industry, threatening them with the highest level of scrutiny possible.

If this doesn't scare the pants off of anyone involved in banking and any industry that relies on payment processing, it should. Pornography is not the only legal industry on their list, they also targeted dating services and drug paraphernalia. What's happening here is that this arm of the federal government is deciding that it doesn't think people should be engaged in certain things - based on nothing other than a moral opposition and completely wrong-headed assumption that these industries are related to illegal activities. The truly scary thing about it is that they are not dealing with that belief or concern through any legal means. They are not simply watching the activities of those industries for anything that looks like illegal activity. They are, without any proof, trying to wholesale destroy those industries by cutting off their access to banking and payment services. If a company cannot process credit cards - particularly one that operates only on-line, they are done. Period. End of sentence. So without having to bother with any such pesky things as actual real investigations, evidence, and criminal charges, they are just choking off merchants that they don't like.

Even if you are not a fan porn and bongs, this should scare you. What's to say that the FDIC won't decide that they are suspicious of art dealers, drugstores, women's clothing retailers? They could target anyone they want this way, simply because they have a moral opposition to the industry. This is a gross and disgusting abuse of power and violation of the rights of business owners and of individuals to spend their money how they choose.

Of course, things in Canada are quite a bit different but as a retailer in the industry, I've had my share of issues with banks and merchant service organizations. When I first started, I called about seven different merchant processors before I found one that would work with me. All the others said that they would not work with any merchant in any adult related industry whatsoever. They classified my business, which sells adult toys in a retail environment, in the same category that they put strip clubs and massage parlors. Although I think restrictions against those businesses is unfair anyway, I think it's particularly unfair to put my business in the same category. I sell products, not services. There is very clear documentation of what I sell and what has changed hands. It's much more similar to a sporting goods store than it is a strip club. But, in the eyes of many of the banks in this country, anything to do with sex is risky and they don't want to touch it. In one case, I actually had a bank tell me that it wasn't because the industry was high risk, it was because they felt working with adult toy stores would tarnish their reputation.

Several years ago, I switched to a new bank (I won't name this banks, so as not to be petty - but part of me does feel they should be outed for this). The bank itself was eager for my business and happy to have me on board. They wanted me to switch my merchant account to their payment processor (mainly so they could get the revenue, but also because they thought I would get lower transaction fees). The processor called to set up the account and was unaware of what my retail business was. When I told him, there was a looooooooong pause in the conversation. Then he told me that they cannot work with a business such as mine.

So yes, this stuff happens here in Canada, just on a smaller scale. These are decisions that are made by each financial institution themselves, not directives that are coming from a federal agency. However, with the federal government we have in Canada at the moment, I don't think it's all unreasonable to think that something similar could happen here. I'm happy to see the complaint about the FDIC exposing these underhanded tactics that I'm sure they felt they could easily get away with. We need to be vigilant about this kind of thing. Access to basic banking services is actually a right in our country, not a privilege and we need to stand up for that right.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Music to Masturbate By

There is a lot of music out there that makes veiled references, or not so veiled references to sex. But did you ever notice how many popular songs out there talk about the Greatest Love of All? No - not that song, I'm talking about masturbation. At first, you might think there aren't any, but that's because they often sound like they're about something else. Here's my list of my favorite tunes about spanking the monkey.

She-Bop by Cyndi Lauper - This is first on my list because I adored this song as a teenager. I was very naive and completely unaware of what the song was actually about. I just liked the beat. But if you actually read the lyrics, there's no mistaking that she's talking about jilling off.
We-hell-I see them every night in tight blue jeans -
In the pages of a blue boy magazine
Hey I've been thinking of a new sensation
I'm picking up - good vibration -
Oop - she bop

Do I wanna go out with a lion's roar
Huh, yea, I wanna go south n get me some more
Hey, they say that a stitch in time saves nine
They say I better stop - or I'll go blind
Oop - she bop - she bop

I Touch Myself - the Divinyls - This one is not veiled at all. They put it all out there. "I don't want anybody else. When I think about you, I touch myself.' Great fun song - made even more famous for being in the Austin Powers movie.

Darling Nikki - Prince - also not subtle at all. This song is not really about masturbation. It's about much much more than that but it's opens with Nikki masturbating in a hotel lobby. This song blew my poor little 13 year old head wide open. I knew that it was dirty and I loved it.

I Don't Need a Man - PussyCat Dolls - this is not just about masturbation but they do reference it. "I don’t need a man to make me feel good I get off doing my thin. I don’t need a ring around my finger to make me feel complete. So let me break it down I can get off when you ain’t around"

The Faucet - the Wyrd Sisters - this is probably one not too many are familiar with. The Wyrd sisters are an obscure folk group that I adored in my early 20's. This gem of a song is not kidding around either "My sexual preference is my bathtub faucet." It's hard to find now but if you can get your hands on it, it's well worth a listen.

Fingers - Pink - “When it’s late at night and you’re fast asleep, I let my fingers do the walking. I press record I become a fiend and no one else is watching. I let my fingers do the walking” Pretty clear there.

You and Your Hand - Pink - yay Pink! Okay, this song isn't really about masturbation but she does tell the guy that's hitting on her that it's all he's gonna get. "Keep your drink just give me the money. It's just you and your hand tonight."

Feelin' Love - Paula Cole - she doesn't explicitly mention masturbation in this song but it's clear that this is a super-hot masturbation fantasy about someone she is super-horny for 'You make me feel like a sticky pistol leaning into her stamen. You make me feel like Mr. Sunshine himself. You make me feel like splendor in the grass where we're rolling. You make me feel like the Amazon's running between my thighs." God, I love this song!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sticky the Movie: The Full Story

I just completed an article for Vue Weekly about an awesome new documentary that will hopefully be coming your way soon (no pun intended). Sticky the Movie addresses the touchy subject of masturbation. Film-maker Nicholas Tana shared a lot of great information with me about making the movie but only a small part of it could be included in the VUE article. Below is all of his answers to my questions. This is unedited - just exactly what he told me. I'm hoping that the movie will be complete and ready for a screening here next year.

How did you get involved in making this movie?

Originally, the idea to make a documentary on masturbation started as a joke. I had been kidding with a girlfriend of mine about funny documentary ideas, and the idea for a mockumentary on masturbation came up, in a matter of speaking, and after I started doing some research for a mockumentary, I realized that there was tons of fodder for a serious documentary. The word itself - masturbation - has been thought to derive from two older latin words that essentially translate to mean: “to disturb with the hand” or “to rape with the hand.” I thought that alone was amazing that our actual medical dictionary term could have such derisive origins. Even today, there are groups of people who believe that masturbation can deplete the body of essential life energy. A cancer study in 2009 conducted in Cambridge indicated that for some men masturbation could increase the risk of prostate cancer. Even though a cancer study in 2004 in the United States indicated that masturbation could in fact help to prevent prostate cancer. So it’s truly a sticky subject.

Why did you want to make a movie about masturbation? What is the viewpoint or purpose of the movie?

The film asks the question, why is something that most everybody does, so difficult to talk about. and goes on to seek the answers through interviews with authors, sex educators, porn stars, celebrated figures, and ordinary people. Societal opinions of masturbation have varied throughout the ages with extreme polarity, at one point in history, Victorian nursemaids in England would masturbate the children they cared for to relax them and get them to sleep, yet at the same time, masturbation was associated with hair loss and insanity. Sticky: a documentary on masturbation, explores this controversy in an attempt to better understand why there has been all this mixed reaction to such a common fundamental sexual act. The controversy surrounding masturbation is evident in the extremely different terms used throughout history to describe masturbation. Throughout the ages, it has been called both self-love and self-pollution, self-pleasure and self-abuse, this “whacky” is explored from a psychological, medical, business, and moral perspective.

How long has it been in production? What are next steps? How long do you have to go?

We’ve been in production for about eight years now. However, the actual time spent making the documentary would likely be condensed into several years. While at first, we managed to raise 85% of the budget within the first year of making the film, the economy tanked in 2009, and really adversely affected our ability to raise the rest of the money. I spent the next few years trying to raise the money through corporate sponsors or investors, and while many liked the film, people were a still skeptical about jumping on board because the documentary market really collapsed. While the subject matter is perfect for some brands, sex toy companies, energy drinks, etc., other companies wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. However, people have volunteered to help me finish this film because they understand it’s potential impact and value on the world. I managed to get a new editor, Johann Martinez, who works on a comedy horror web-series I created called Hell’s Kitty, to join the team on deferred pay, and to help me finish the documentary. A sex therapist and educator from New York City, Michael Demarco, has also joined the team and helped in our social media, and has even arranged for some east coast interviews. Now we are about three months away from finishing the edits. We pretty much have most of our interviews done now, although we’d like to interview someone from both cancer studies I mentioned earlier that were done related to the effects of masturbation on the prostate in men. We hope to hit the festival circuit with the film in 2015, and to even do a college “SAFER THAN SAFE SEX” Tour that same year.

What is the most surprising or memorable thing that happened while you were doing your research for the movie?

This is a tough question to answer because there were so many surprising moments. The crew was surprised when Nina Hartley answered the door to her place naked. I remember watching Nina Hartley masturbate and thinking this is my job right now. I make movies and I’m getting paid to watch this legendary porn star masturbate on camera. We even had a woman demonstrate how she could make herself orgasm by breathing. That got so loud our cameraman had to cover his ears. The primatologist telling us how bonobo monkeys increase their vaginal secretions when they mastuburbate, and that this could have had a hand in human evolution was pretty surprising, too. One day our small crew were on a porn set, and another day we were at a Catholic church with a priest telling us that masturbation is an absolute sin. We really got around making this film.

How have people reacted when you've told them you're making this film or when you've asked them to contribute?

Mostly, people laugh; while others, blush and refuse to shake my hand. Those that recognize the value of this film, eagerly want to participate because they realize that we are making history. There has never been a feature documentary made quite like this. We’ve gathered over sixty interviews with everyone from porn stars to psychiatrists, to religious figures, to even the former Surgeon General. Those that don’t understand what we are doing, want nothing to do with the film for fear that it might get them into trouble. The reactions are very extreme. I love movies like that when they have the potential to really shake things up a bit.

For example, it was nearly impossible getting teachers to interview. I had to rely on a friend and my cousin. The same was true for an Islamic imam. I had to get a good friend’s dad who is Muslim to conduct that interview. When I tried to get my Alma mater, Arizona State University, to lend me social media interns, they refused to post a listing about my request on the school job listing board. Even though the trailer on our website is PG, and I’ve had a Harvard Gender Studies teacher email me to request a copy of this film for their class. When I asked the decision makers at ASU's honor's college, why they refused to post my listing, they simply wrote back to me stating that they would not post anything about my film leaving me to guess at the reason. This is why I’m making this film. When an educational facility, ironically one that has been named Playboy’s campus for several years, is too afraid to post something about a film that addresses a fundamental natural part of sexuality, I think anything that we can do to stimulate conversation is a good thing.

Why is it important to you to have this movie produced and available to the public?

The United States has had more sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies than any other modern nation in the world. I’m convinced that this is because we don’t talk to our children about sex. This film is sure to get people talking. In fact, one of the grade school teachers interviewed in the film reveals how a student of hers asked her once, if they could get herpes from masturbating. Clearly there are questions that need to be answered. I've read statistics that state that two of the biggest problems leading to martial problems are arguments about finance and sex. I figure this film in it's own way is addresses half of the problem.

You've got some fairly big celebrity names in the trailer, how did you get them involved in the film?

I wrote them or contacted their media relations people. When I told them what I hoped to accomplish with educating people about a subject that touches us all, literally, they were on board to help with the task. Larry Flynt has always liked to push the boundaries of sexuality and what makes people uncomfortable and so his involvement didn’t quite surprise me. I admire him for giving us a chance as a indie. documentary team, because at the time we had barely a trailer, not the one you see today on Janeane Garofalo is someone I met at an event and we both shared the Catholic upbringing, and she liked what I was doing with the film, and decided to give me an interview. Most of the higher profile people really liked what we were doing and wanted to give us a hand in making history with a ground breaking film that gets people thinking about why we both love and fear sex, and this is no more evident than when it comes to sex with ourselves.

Though do not have a release date set yet but we hope to finish the film in the next four months and hit the festivals for 2015. If you like and support what we are doing, please send positive encouraging comments to our Youtube videos, subscribe to our channel, give us thumbs up on our videos, like us on Facebook, and follow us on twitter. This all helps us to convince distributors to get this film out there for everyone to see. You can access all of our social media on our website:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Masturbation in the Movies - (or possibly at the Movies)

In honor of Mssturbation Month, I present a list of my favorite movie masturbation scenes. To be clear - these are masturbation scenes from mainstream movies, not from porn. There are a lot of fantastic masturbation scenes in porn movies but they are far too numerous to mention here.

So here we go:

1. Nine and Half Weeks.
This is one of my favorite movies. Sure, it's twisted and flawed, but I love the portrayal of a woman confronted with sexual desires she's never experienced before. Elizabeth (played by Kim Basinger) is at work, reviewing slides for an upcoming art show. Alone in the dark room, staring at these images, she is overcome by eroticism and thoughts of her hot new lover and pleasures herself right then and there. She is so involved in herself, it is extremely hot.

2. Pleasantville.
A family goes back in time to an era where everything was easy and life was lived in black and white. But when Betty (Joan Allen) opens herself up to the possibility of pleasure and begins touching herself in the bathtub, her world turns to vibrant color.

3. Black Swan.
One of the most twisted, fucked up masturbation scenes ever. Not because of the masturbation scene but because it's almost impossible to figure out what's real and what's not. And it's Natalie Portman fantasizing about Mila Kunis and that's pretty hot.

4. Not Another Teen Movie.
The depiction of masturbation in this movie is kind of negative so I'm not a huge fan of that. But the opening scene with Janey masturbating while watching the teen movie 'She's All That' is hilarious. I only wish the amazing rotating vibrator she plays with was real.

5. Slums of Beverly Hills.
This story of sexual awakening is a lot more realistic than most. In one scene, Vivian discovers her cousin's vibrator.

6. The To Do List.
Lots of sex in this movie too, but there is a pretty realistic scene where Brandy crosses masturbation off her list. I like that this movie featured a young woman getting a lot of action solely in the name of self-discovery. Usually only guys are allowed to do that in movies. And even though her final goal was that one particular guy, she realized that perhaps sex and love aren't the same after all. And that's not a bad thing.

7. The Secretary
One of my all time favorite movies about a young woman coming to understand that her natural sexual inclinations might not be typical. There is a lot of sex and sexual innuendo in this one but there is a double jerk-off scenes where her boss comes on her back and she runs off the bathroom to get herself off. There's a few other choice self-love snippets as well. Oh ya, and it's Maggie Gyllenhaal - enough said.

These are my favorites because they feature female masturbation which is much more rare than depictions of male masturbation. They are mostly positive depictions as well - with the possible exception of Not Another Teen Movie. That movie takes a fun, humorous approach though. At one point, Janey openly admits to someone that she masturbates to 'She's All That'.

Other notable movies featuring great masturbation scenes are:
FastTimes At Ridgemont High (I considered this sex education when I saw it at 12 years old)
Shame (takes a bit of a troublesome approach to sex addiction but come on, Michael Fassbender in the shower?)
ShortBus (there's a whole lot of sex in this movie and some interesting scenes of masturbation, mutual masturbation, and being watched while masturbating)
But I'm a Cheerleader
Private Parts (Howard Stern is not my favorite, but getting someone off over the radio through the bass on the speaker is pretty awesome)

Some TV Shows Worth Mentioning:
Mad Men - Betty Draper discovers the washing machine.
Sex and the City - Charlotte discovers the Rabbit and Samantha breaks her wand
Friends - Monica thinks she's caught Chandler masturbating to Shark Attack. I loved this episode because when Monica walks in on him getting off and thinks he was watching Shark Attack (he had quickly changed the channel from the porn he had on), she doesn't freak out. She gets him a shark video for them to watch together.

For a bonus treat, check out this cute little movie masturbation mashup on HuffPo.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Don't Get Your Birth Control Information from Cosmo

I found this little gem on the cosmo website today. Don't ask me why I was on the Cosmo website - it's complicated, I don't want to talk about it.

The author of the article claims to want to help women make decisions about birth control because there just isn't enough information out there. That's true. There isn't enough accurate information about birth control that helps women make decisions that work well for them. This article doesn't provide that either. The 'article' is just a list of all the different types of contraceptives out there and their failure rates. It contains only a one sentence description of the method, a picture, a pithy joke or two, and the failure rate.

There's two problems with doing things this way. First, just listing the failure rate and putting them almost in a descending list of most effective to least, implies that one is actually better than the other simply because of the effectiveness rate. There are a lot of other considerations though - such as whether it's even available to you, if the way it must be used fits your life and your needs, if there are side effects, if the method is contra-indicated for any health issues you might have, and whether you can afford it or not. It is true that hormonal contraceptives have the highest effectiveness rates of all the methods. It is also true that they have the greatest number of side effects and the most serious side effects of all the methods. Pregnancy is not the only thing to consider when making a choice.

Second, the author has chosen to use typical use rates of failure. That is mentioned only on one method so it's a little confusing as to whether it's typical use just for that method or for all. But it is for all. She might have thought she was giving the real info by doing that - after all, condoms are said to be 95 to 98% effective but that is only if they are used properly every time. A typical failure rate, though, is an aggregated statistic. It combines all the people that use the method. It includes people who are trying it for the first time and people who've used it for a long time. It includes people who read the instructions before they used it and people who didn't. It includes people who asked questions or practiced and people who didn't. So yes, overall, the failure rate is what is printed in Cosmo's little list there, but what she doesn't say is that an individual can greatly increase the effectiveness rate by making sure s/he understands the method, practicing, and taking care to use it properly. The effectiveness rate for almost every method, particular things like condoms and fertility awareness, usually increases for each person the longer they use it. The author really needed to include the perfect use rate because, if you are careful to use them perfectly, they can be as effective as the perfect use rate.

The author also includes the cervical cap in her list. In Canada, this is pretty much non-existent now. I've had several calls over the last few years from women trying to find the jelly that goes with cervical caps. They have had a cap for awhile but can't get the jelly. This is because doctors here are just not fitting these devices anymore. I'm not sure why this is but I suspect that it's because they've fallen from favor as more effective and easier to use methods have become available. I'm not saying that's necessarily a good thing - they have been good choices for some. But whether they are, or not, you're going to have a hard time finding them here. Unless things are very different in the USA, putting them on that list is a complete waste of time.

If you want accurate, comprehensive, information on birth control, check out the BedsiderInsider. It has all the same stuff but it explains it all - including a really good list of pros and cons for each method and stories of the experiences of people who used them.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Take the Porn-Related Erectile Dysfunction Test and You'll Fail. I Guarantee It.

A few days ago, a lovely colleague of mine alerted me to this post on the Global News site about a new condition called 'porn-related erectile dysfunction'. This is by no means the first time I've encountered these types of arguments about internet porn but this is the first time I've heard this term. The doctor who participated in this discussion claims that young men who watch a lot of internet porn find that they can no longer get it up with a real person. He calls this 'porn-related erectile dysfunction'. There was also a man involved in this discussion who says the he was addicted to internet porn and has this dysfunction. It sounds distressing when you hear them talk about it but the concept raises a heck of a lot of questions.

I wanted to get to the bottom of it so I went to the site Your Brain on Porn - which is the mother of all sites when it comes to this whole movement about brain chemistry and pornography. I wanted to understand their definitions and their research to see if there really is any validity to these claims. I wanted to look at this site page by page and do a detailed analysis of the complex issues involved. I would still like to do that. But when I got the first page about 'porn-related erectile dysfunction' wherein you can learn if you have this problem, my blood pressure became dangerously high and my brain almost exploded.

So, said detailed analysis of the whole idea and this 'brain on porn' movement will have to wait. For this post, I offer only an analysis for the test for 'porn-related erectile dysfunction'.

The site goes through a lot of information, resources and advice for men (as they only consider that men could have this problem) who think they have this issue. The first step is to test yourself to see if you really do have it. Here is the test:

"Once you have ruled out organic causes, try this simple test to isolate porn-induced ED from performance anxiety-induced ED.

On one occasion masturbate to your favorite porn (or simply imagine it).
On another masturbate with no porn/porn fantasy. That is, no recalling of porn.

Compare the quality of your erection and the time it took to climax (if you can). A healthy young man should have no trouble attaining a full erection and masturbating to orgasm without porn or porn fantasy.

If you have a strong erection in #1, but erectile dysfunction in #2, then you have porn-induced ED.
If #2 is strong and solid, but you have trouble with a real partner, then you have anxiety-induced ED.
If you have problems during both 1 and 2, you may have progressive porn-induced ED, or an organic problem. When in doubt, see a good urologist."

Do we see any problems here? There are some obvious ones such as the fact that the test is incredibly subjective and vague. They don't explain exactly what constitutes ED. Is it not getting hard at all? Is it getting only somewhat hard? Is it getting hard but losing your erection? Is it getting hard but not as hard as you think you should be? That's not explained here. So how is a guy supposed to know that what happening to him is ED? The definitions and description of the test are vague but the diagnosis is totally conclusive. If you have this experience, you have porn-induced ED. There is no equivocation there. It makes it sound as if these very complex issues can be boiled down to a simple definitive diagnosis. That's just not the way it is.

But my biggest concern about this 'test' is that it belies a complete lack of understanding as to how sexual arousal actually works. The author of this test is telling men to actively TRY not to think of porn or a porn fantasy when they masturbate. This is almost impossible. Our brains are a key part of our sexual desire, arousal, and response. We get more turned on, more stimulated, more excited, when our brains are focused on something sexually exciting to us. That brain excitement triggers body excitement which then triggers more brain excitement and it creates one big cycle of yum! That's how it's supposed to be. It is not only normal, but actually almost impossible, to have absorbing exciting sex, without having some kind of sexual imagery in your head. Now I'm not saying that imagery has to come from porn. For a lot of people it doesn't. It could be as simple as getting visual pictures of the last time you did this very thing, or other fantasies you've had about your partner, or someone else. The point is that for most of the time, when we have any kind of sex, including masturbation, our brain is filled with sexual images. It will be natural for someone who's seen any porn at all, to have flashes of imagery go through their brain. If that person is trying not to have those thoughts, every time one comes in, they would be acutely aware of it and trying to dismiss it and focus on something else.

What happens when we actively try to control what goes on in our head during sex, or allow ourselves to become distracted by non-sexual thoughts? You guessed it, we lose our hard-on. I'm not necessarily speaking literally. It might be that you don't totally lose the hard-on but that everything just slows down and it's harder to get off. Some people actually do lose their hard-on because they've disrupted that yum cycle. People without penises lose their figurative hard-on - their train just jumps off the track and often can't get back on. Men are actually taught to think about something they don't find sexy in the least if they are really turned on and not able to have sex or masturbate or if they want to slow down and take longer. It's a running joke we've all heard. (Austin Powers repeatedly thinking 'Margeret Thatcher naked on a cold day' comes to mind). I talk to women in my female orgasm workshops about this very thing. We work on techniques to allow yourself to stay focused on sexy yum thoughts instead of getting distracted by non-sexual things that take you out of the game. The more yum, in the moment thoughts you have, the more into it you'll be and likely the more able to feel pleasure and maybe have an orgasm. The more non-sexy thoughts you have, the more likely you won't get much out of it.

This 'test' is actually directing men to do something that, by its very nature, will make them less able to stay hard and masturbate to orgasm. It's not so much that they can't get hard if they aren't watching porn or thinking about porn, it's that they can't do it when they are focusing all of their mental energy on not thinking about porn. Very few people could. Add to this the fact that if you are trying to test yourself for function, you're naturally going to be pre-occupied and nervous and that will affect your response too. So if this is the definitive test as to whether you have 'porn-induced erectile dysfunction', I guess most of us have it. I know I certainly do.

There is a lot of other troublesome stuff here such as the completely heternormative view of sex; the covert and insidious shaming of men for their sexual desire; the insistence that there are 'real' types of sex and 'non-real' types of sex; and the heavy emphasis on the idea of dysfunction in the first place. But for now, this is all I can bare to even look at. The rest of it will have to come later (no pun intended). Until then, go take that test and see if you can pass it. At the very least, you'll have fun failing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What Sex Positive Really Means

I've run into a few blog posts and articles in the last week or so that use the term 'sex-positive' in a way I haven't heard before. This article in the New Statesman is an example. They use the term to refer to people who thinks that absolutely any expression or representation of sexuality, regardless of what is portrays or how it was produced, is a good thing. They use the term to describe a philosophy or a a type of person who attempts to negate or shut down any discussion of or concern about equality, feminism, or exploitation, saying that such concerns are actually anti-feminist and anti-woman because they negate women's choices around their sexuality. This hurts my heart.

I get it. There is a fundamental problem in the way that we talk about sexuality that these blogs and articles are trying to address. But the problem is not sex-positivity. The sex-positive movement is actually the answer and the problem they are identifying has little or nothing to do with it. This is a tough issue to unpack. So tough that it took me well over a week to decide to try to take it on. But I'm going to try because my heart is hurting and I think it's important. To make this attempt, I'm going to go back to what the term 'sex-positive' actually means and how it started.

That term has actually been around for quite some time. It started as a way to describe an attitude about sex and sexuality that was in complete opposition to prevailing cultural attitudes which viewed sex as sinful, harmful, dangerous, and uncontrollable. This attitude teaches that there are only certain acceptable ways and reasons to have sex and that it is only for certain people at certain times (ie. mainly be heterosexual people who are married to each other and having sex for the purpose of procreation). The sex positive philosophy, on the other hand, views sex as natural, normal, and healthy. Those who espouse a sex-positive view of sexuality believe that individuals have the ability, and even the right, to make responsible decisions about sexual expression and activity. They believe that the negative view of sexuality does harm because it contradicts people's natural inclinations. This leads to shame, self-harm, and broader social problems. A sex positive attitude holds that sexual activity is not and cannot be, by its very nature, harmful and dangerous, as long as everyone involved freely and knowingly consents. It is dangerous, harmful and wrong, only because our society has decided it is so.

Sex positive feminism has a lot of roots but really took shape during the feminist porn wars in the 1980's. Some people who identified as feminists during that time tended to equate the sexual exploitation of women with sex in general. Some even stated openly that they felt that all sex with men (and sometimes any kind of sex) was by definition abusive and exploitive - that there was no way it could not be. These were generally the ones who were very involved in anti-porn campaigns.

In response to this, many other women, who also considered themselves feminists, pointed out that sex and exploitation are no synonymous and that by demonizing all forms of sexual expression, we actually shame and hurt women rather than help them. They felt that the sex negative view vilified female sexuality just as patriarchy does. They wanted to help women love and accept their bodies and their sexuality. These women were often involved in the production of various types of porn in which women freely chose to participate, were given total control over how they participated and were treated fairly. Carol Queen, a sexual health educator, teacher, writer, activist, speaker, film-maker and all around amazing woman, was the first of this group to use the term 'sex-positive' in this way. She continues to advocate for women's sexual rights to this day and is joined by a lot of other amazing people who do the same.

This movement is actually the exact opposite of what these blogs and articles refer to as 'sex-positive'. They are talking about people who are trying to take the message of 'sex-positive' feminism and use it for their own gain. They tell women that their bodies are beautiful and sex is natural and here, let me use yours to get something for myself. This is a use of sexuality and of a supposed positive message mainly for financial gain. And this is where the difference lies for me. If there is money involved, a fair share of it must go to the person who's image is used to make it. In the case of actual sex-positive feminist porn, this is the case. Everyone involved in the production of that material, including and especially the actors and actresses, are paid fairly and equitably. This is why I do not consider the 'girls gone wild' industry to be sex-positive in any way. The women in those films are not paid anything. Not anything! They are given nothing but a thank you and t-shirt for baring their bodies on film. The producers of those films have made millions. They use the message to make women feel okay about participating but then they turn around and use them for their own profit. That is not sex-positive, it's exploitive.

The key here is agency. A sex-positive philosophy holds that every person must make their own decisions about what is right and not right for them when it comes to sex. In any sex-positive porn, actors and actresses are given complete control over what they do. Scenes are usually played out in a less scripted way, based on what the actors have said they would like to do and do pressure is placed to do things that were not originally agreed upon. That is not the case with some other types of porn. Sex-positive feminists have actually been major advocates for changes to the production of porn that does not represent or treat women fairly.

The people who are claiming that sex-positive feminism hurts us because it shuts down conversations about the ethics sex work. This could not be further from the truth. The sex positive feminists have been on the forefront of pushing for open discussion on all forms of sex work. They simply want us to include the voices of the women who actually do it. They want us to look at the issue from a broad and inclusive perspective. They want us to not to vilify something and call for its abolition simply because sex is involved. They want us to advocate for the rights, protection and fair treatment of the women who engage in sex work. They want women to have the choice to do sex work safely if they wish, and to express themselves sexually in any way they chose. Isn't that what feminism is all about?

We need sex positive feminism because we need to recognize that women are sexual beings. Women's sexuality is diverse. The sexual likes and interests of some women might even make us uncomfortable. But we have to allow for all expressions. Our criticism belongs with those who would use another person's sexuality for their own profit without regard to fair treatment of that person - not with women themselves. This is what sex positive feminism ask for. We desperately need it to help guide us in these discussions.

- dedicated to all those sex-positive women who have changed my attitude, and my life - but especially to Carol Queen

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Method for Preventing Pregnancy, HIV and Herpes Looks Promising

This morning, I read about a new idea for contraception that looks pretty amazing. It's a ring that delivers levonorgestrel, a hormone that is used in many birth control pills, and tenofovir, an anti-viral drug. It is placed in the vagina in the same way that a diaphragm or female condom is, and can be left in place for up to 90 days. During that time, it delivers a steady dose of the two drugs. Researchers have just developed what they believe will be a workable delivery system. The ring now needs to go through clinical trials.

This gives me so much hope. For more than 20 years, small groups - mostly not-for-profits, have been working hard to fund research into developing an effective microbicide, some sort of device or compound that can be used relatively inconspicuously that can help reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Many different ideas have come forward but none of them have made it to market, mainly because there is just not enough money to take them all the way from development to trial and approval. You see, the drug companies aren't interested in microbicides because they would benefit mainly poor women in developing countries. If this new ring is approved, it would be the first effective option for STI prevention that doesn't involve condoms. I am all for condoms but the simple fact is that many women are in situations where they are just not able to use them. Condoms also cannot completely prevent the transmission of herpes. This would be an amazing step forward.

My cynical side won't let me get too excited about it though. There are still far too many hurdles. First, there is a long way to go. This device hasn't even made it to the first round of trials. As it goes through trials, there are a lot of concerns to be addressed such as whether the doses are correct, if there are unexpected side effects, and if it is truly effective. Once those things have been addressed, there is the major issue of getting it produced and onto market. The article from Science Daily does not mention the involvement of a drug company. If there is no pharmaceutical to take it on, there will have to be government involvement to fund the large amount of money it takes to mass produce such a product. That is highly unlikely. If a drug company does take it on, they will want to get their investment back. That means that the ring will be costly. That could potentially put it out of reach of the women who need it most.

There is a long way to go, but I take comfort in the fact that at least someone is working on this and has put enough effort into it to get this far. Perhaps one day we will see an effective alternative to condoms.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Silly Stats for V-Day

Happy V-Day everyone!

One of my distributors send us all this infographic on Valentine's Day stats. I have no idea where these were gleaned from and what survey it's quoting, so I cannot verify how accurate any of these things are. However, it's Valentine's Day and I'm happy and I think it's appropriate to share something silly and fun.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Can Underwear Prevent Rape?

I just ran across this little article today about a woman who has started a kickstarter campaign to produce a line of 'consent panties'. The panties are in various styles and they bear pro-consent message like 'ask me first', 'talk to me', and 'consent is bootyful'. Her line was inspired by a on-line prank last year that led people to believe that Victoria's Secret had put out a line of consent panties. Amulya Sanagavarapu thought it should be real.

Will consent panties actually do anything to prevent sexual assault? Probably not directly, no. But it can't hurt to have these kinds of messages around to encourage people to think about and talk about what consent really means. I'd wear them.

Contrast this idea with an indiegogo campaign that was in the news a few months ago. This group wants money to produce a line of anti-rape jogging shorts and pants. They claim that the material is impossible to tear or cut, even with a knife. The short and pants are form-fitting and outfitted with a mechanism that locks them so they cannot be pulled down or taken off, except by the person wearing them. There are numerous videos that show how they work and even show someone trying to cut them with a knife. These pants are indestructible! It's brilliant, right? Not! This idea just feeds off of all the myths we carry about sexual assault - that it's perpetrated mostly be strangers, that rape is almost always violent, that sexual assault is just about whether a penis goes into a vagina. It completely ignores the other ways assaults can happen and the terror that someone who is being assaulted goes through. My partner made an excellent point after viewing the video with the knife. He said 'If someone is trying to tear your pants apart with a knife, you've got a very serious situation going on there and you're going to get hurt, whether or not they can get those pants off.' He's right. The pants will do absolutely nothing to prevent an assault like that. It's already happening. And I think most people when threatened with a knife would take the pants off themselves rather than risk getting seriously injured or killed. I know I would.

So no, I don't think either of these is a solution to actually prevent rape but the first one has a far better chance of doing some actual good. Those panties at least will get people talking about the realities of consent and sexual assault rather than keep them bogged down in myths.

Monday, January 27, 2014

No, There is No Anti-Freeze in Your Lube

The other day, the lovely Koko let me know that she'd had a customer in who had told her she had thrown out her lube because she saw on 'The Doctors', that there is anti-freeze in the lube she was using. Aaarrrrggghhh! It drives me crazy when people who have a platform on TV use it to spread misinformation that freaks people out. This is not true. There are no lubes that are made with anti-freeze in them because anti-freeze itself is actually toxic.

Here's how this idea got started. The ingredient used in anti-freeze is ethylene glycol. It is fairly toxic and not really something humans should consume or put in their bodies. The ingredient that is commonly used in lubes is propylene glycol. This is used in many types of foods and consumer products. It is toxic, but, as with almost anything, only in high concentrations and large amounts. Propylene glycol has been studied quite extensively and there has never been any proven link to any serious adverse side effects when consumed in small doses.

But Brenda, you might say, propylene glycol IS used in anti-freeze. That's true, it is used in a number of industrial applications. But there are three important things to note about that. First, propylene glycol has replaced ethylene glycol in a lot of industrial products exactly because it is not toxic like ethylene glycol is. Second, the amount used in these products are much higher concentrations than in lubes and other consumer products so the effect of its presence is not the same. Three, just because propylene glycol is used in anti-freeze does not mean it IS anti-freeze. It can also be made in a variety of ways from a variety of different materials so not all forms of it are alike.

All that being said, I'm not saying that propylene glycol is necessarily your friend. It is not toxic in the levels in which it is present in consumer products and it is concerned safe to use inside the body. However, although there's not a lot of research on this, anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that propylene glycol is one of the ingredients in lubes that tends to change the ph level in the vagina. This can lead to yeast infections in women who are quite prone and it can also interfere with the health and motility of sperm. This is not to say that you should use it as a contraceptive, it just might be a problem for women who want to get pregnant. Some women seem to find that because of that ph thing, lubes with propylene glycol leave them feeling itchy and dry, which can itself lead to other problems like bacterial infections.

So no, it is definitely not anti-freeze, but it's also not necessarily the best thing in the world. Some women seem to have a lot of trouble with it. The good news is, there are many lubricants that don't contain propylene glycol. It's not present in any 100% silicone lube. Sliquid H20, Sliquid Organics, Slippery Stuff and Wet Naturals do not contain propylene glycol.

I found this nice little youtube video that clearly and simply explains the whole anti-freeze issue.

Friday, January 17, 2014

It's a Shame There's So Much Shame

One of lovely facebook friends posted an article this morning that caught my eye. It's an opinion piece about an opinion piece about a review of male sex toys. Confused? Okay, what happened was, a guy named David Corvucci got a bunch of Tenga masturbators and wrote of review of his experiences of them. Then a woman name Erin Gloria Ryan, wrote some rather nasty things about it on Jezebel. Then a guy named Brian Moylan blasted her on Nerve There's so much here that I don't even know where to start but I know that I can try to start by saying that I read all three pieces. It is a HUGE peeve of mine in these days with so much information available to us that people never bother to read it. They see a headline, get their shorts in knot and lose it all over the internet. I didn't want to be one of those. So I went back to the Jezebel piece and read that and then back to the original piece and read that. I do have to say that I think Moylan is somewhat misinterpreting both pieces.

There's a lot of stuff in all three of these but what strikes me is the incredible amount of shame and judgement in all three of these posts. According to Corvucci, he did not get the toys to review because he loves toys and he wanted to give a real review of them, he did it as a joke. The whole tone of the post is very dismissive of any man who would actually use such things. Many times he states that he's curious and he wants to use them because, after all, Tenga was nice enough to send him over $200 worth of toys, but he is scared that trying them will turn him into one of 'those guys'. The kind of guys that fucks Japanese sex toys in closets. The kind of guys that 'brings a girl home and before she even has her bra off, asks her what kind of lube she likes'. The kind of guy that firefighters would laugh about when they find his toys in his burned out apartment. Some of what Corvucci has to say is pretty funny. His descriptions of the toys as seen through the eyes of someone who has never used or even seen such a thing before is quite priceless. But it relies heavily on the idea that using these toys constitutes some sort of perversion. His trepidation about become a pervert is the central joke. I find that whole notion offensive and just sad. What the hell is wrong with fucking a Japanese sex toy? Those toys are really cool! Most human beings masturbate. Corvucci says many times that he masturbates at least once a day. So why is that normal but using a device to do it is not?

Then Erin Gloria Ryan puts in her two cents on Jezebel. That very short post is so poorly written (this is reason why I rarely read Jezebel anymore) that it's hard to understand exactly what her point is. But it seems apparent that she too thinks that men who fuck Japanese sex toys are perverts and 'chair-sniffers'. She berates Corvucci for doing it even as he berated himself. I can't for the life of me understand why she felt this was necessary. Corvucci's piece was just a humor piece about his experience with some toys. He wasn't making a political statement. Why she picked this post to comment on is beyond me, other than perhaps she's desperate for something to write about. Why bother to pick this out and further hammer on the idea that male masturbation is perverse and disgusting?

So that's kind of Brian Moylan's point. He takes Ryan on for criticizing Corvucci. He also talks about the shame that Corvucci heaps upon himself and asks where this comes from. He explains clearly and simply why a man would want to use a Tenga FlipHole rather than just his hand - because it fucking rocks. He says the orgasms that come from using a Flip Hole are far more intense than when he uses his hand. If you knew that was possible why in the world wouldn't you do it? This is how I feel about my toys. I use it because it does something that I cannot do without it and that something is something that I like very very much.

Moylan makes an important point about this whole thing. Had the writer of the original post been a woman using toys built for women, Erin Gloria Ryan and many like her would have been quite upset if someone had written a post about how depraved that woman is for using toys, called her a chair-sniffer and told her to just use her hand. Although there is still a lot of shame directed at woman around masturbation, we have made some movement and it's much more normalized and acceptable for women to use vibrators. Many people would be upset about someone shaming a woman for using a vibrator. But it still seems pretty acceptable to make fun of a man for using a sex toy. However, there may be some hope on the horizon. The comments on Ryan's post almost uniformly slam her for being so negative and judgemental. It's great to see that kind of feedback. Why is it okay to make fun of men's sexuality? She should be called out for that.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

All I Want for Christmas Is a Nintendo DS Full of Porn

There was an awesome story that broke just after Christmas about an 8-year-old boy in Virginia who opened up his brand-new Nintendo 3DS only to find that some content had already been pre-loaded for him. There were 12 porn pictures on it! I know a lot of parents would take me to task for this, but I happen to think that's hilarious! Were they looking at the thing with him when the pictures were discovered or did he go to his parents and 'fess up after he found them. Eight is a little young to be bogarting porn so he probably told them. Imagine their surprise! And how to explain this? How exactly did those pictures get there? Well, it turns out that Wal-Mart, where the toy was purchased, is none too picky about putting returned merchandise back on the shelves. Apparently, they don't bother to check it before they do so. It's fascinating to me that someone would buy the things, put their porn on it, and then decide they don't want it and return it, porn and all. Just fascinating. So of course there's an outraged cry from parents that Wal-Mart needs to sort it stuff out so that their kids aren't similarly irreparably damaged by looking at naked people. I think they should choose to look at it as a bonus. Those pictures were free! If you don't want them, delete them. I just hope the porn wasn't pictures of people who never consented to have them passed around. That's pretty skeezy.

What I find really amusing about this is that the Adult Video News predicted it when the Nintendo 3DS came out. In 2011 they ran a story about a Japanese bikini model who had prepared a package of 3D photos of herself specifically for the 3DS. They said that the device, which allows people to see 3D images without wearing glasses, is perfectly suited for porn, and that, were it not so expensive to make the content, there would be loads of it available. Pornographers have always been among to first to adopt new technology - seems like at least a few people figured out the potential of this one pretty quick.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Top 5 Misconceptions About the Sex Toy Industry

I decided to write this post after spending 3 hours last night poring over on-line toy catalogues looking at possibilities for new products to bring into the store. After three hours, countless different companies, and approximately 2000 products, I came up with a list of 8 I would look at. Sigh. There's so much out there and yet there's just not much out there. People who don't work in this industry are under a lot of false impressions about what is actually out there for sex toys and what they can really do. Here are the top 5 things I am asked about that just really do not exist in the toy industry.

1. Sex dolls. It never ceases to amaze me how often I am asked about blow up dolls. People usually want them for gags for a party of stag but even then, they would like a doll that is somewhat realistic and fun looking - perhaps with real hair etc. I have to tell you, this doesn't really exist. There are a lot of blow-up dolls for sure but they are cheap and nasty. The boxes show pictures of voluptuous women in seductive poses like this:

But when you blow it up, you get this:
mmm, sexy! I don't deny that some might find this really hot, but for most people, that's not what you would be anticipating by the picture on the box. But hey, what can you expect for $25?

The soft rubber types of dolls that you sometimes see in movies don't really exist. The only option for soft rubber dolls is to just get a part of the body - the boobs or butt, etc, or to buy one of the silicone 'real dolls'. Those will set you back at least $1000.

2. Vibrating Panties. This type of toy does exist but it's not the kind of thing people think it is. Thanks to the movie The Ugly Truth, people think that there are pretty lace panties out there with tiny vibrators in exactly the right spot that are operated by a remote control with all kinds of customizable speeds and settings. There isn't. The only remote control panties that exist right now are not particularly pretty and they come with very large, cumbersome bullets that usually have just one speed. It's a cute idea but it doesn't do the types of things you'd really like it to do. The only decent remote control toys out there - that have a good range, don't eat up their battery life in 20 minutes, and are quality, reliable toys - don't come with panties and are larger than most people would like to put in their panties. I always suggest the We Vibe 3 or 4 for this purpose because it stays in place and can be worn under clothes. It doesn't come with panties, but it doesn't need them. Panties can just go over top. Or you can go without completely.

3. Computer controlled anything. I'm not sure where people are getting this from but there is definitely an idea out there that there are remote computer controlled vibrators. I have been asked many times for 'the toy' that you can control with your computer by the internet. It doesn't exist. I think it will but it doesn't yet. I also think that when it does, it will end up being a big disappointment. What we do have so far are toys that connect to your computer and receive input from specifically designed porn movies that make them move in sync with the movie. There is also a toy that vibrates when your cell phone is called and keeps vibrating until you hang up - as long as its within range of your phone. There is a toy that can be controlled by your Nintendo Wii remote. There is a company that's developing underwear with vibrating sensors in it that can be controlled by an app on a cell phone from anywhere in the world - not directly in range of the underwear. That's not on the market yet though. As far as technology has come, the computer controlled or wifi connected thing just hasn't happened yet.

4. Large condoms. I know, you'd think this would be a cinch, but it's not. In Canada, the standards for approving condoms include some fairly strict regulations on the size which greatly restricts the range of sizes that can be produced. Most large size condoms are, at the very most, 5mm longer or wider than the standard. That's not a lot. We seem to be under the impression that there are condoms in every size and shape but sadly, it's just not true. There is a company that makes condoms in 99 different sizes but they aren't approved for sale in Canada.

5. This isn't really a specific product thing but it is a common misconception that I wanted to include. It's the idea that because a product has been advertised a lot or endorsed by a particular 'sex expert' it's really great. Many many times I've had to explain why we don't carry a product that has had a lot of hype or been featured on a television show. Anyone can pay for advertising. It doesn't mean their product is good. What some people fail to realize is that when you see Laura Berman or Dr. Oz or Sue Johanson promoting something, they have been paid to do that. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say that some celebrities accept a promotional contract because they've checked out the product and believe it's good. But I know that is not the case for most because some of the products they endorse are terrible. Dr. Oz had a prolonging spray featured on his show. Prolonging sprays are just numbing agents that might work to delay ejaculation but only because the guy can't really feel anything. Laura Berman has an entire toy line that are direct copies of other toys produced by the company that makes her line. There is nothing special about those toys. The Magic Banana has been in all kinds of magazines and promoted by many celebrities as the best kegel exerciser ever. But the Magic Banana is just a piece of plastic rope inside a plastic tube. It's not really effective at all. The Hello Touch by Jimmy Jane was one of the most talked about toys of 2013 and yet that toy is basic, cumbersome and fragile. It's certainly not the best toy of its kind on the market. Hype is never a good indicator of whether a toy is good or not. You can only get that information from toy retailers and bloggers who really spend a lot of time playing with and testing toys.

All this is not to say that there are no good toys on the market. There absolutely are. And now is a great time for toys. New, innovative companies are coming on board and bringing in new materials, motors, and designs that are making toys so much better than they used to be. However, those toys are the exceptions. The vast majority of products produced in the industry are just slight variations on things that have been around for decades. As it stands now, these things are just not around. But I have hope that one of those brave new companies will turn their attention to these things that people are really looking for.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Two Awesome Transgender Women Put Katie in Her Place

One of my lovely friends just posted a link to this interview on the Katie Couric show with Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera. This is an interview with a trans woman like you have never seen on talk TV. Usually, when you see a trans woman being interviewed on a show like this, the focus is all on how hard it was for her growing up and what kind of surgeries she went through. It's all about 'understanding what it's like to be trans'. Well, Carrera and Cox were having none of that and they explained why in a beautiful and elegant way.

The interview with Carrera starts off about her modeling career and how well she's doing and then drifts into talking about when she knew she was trans. Then Couric just outright asks her if she's had surgery on her private parts. I think a lot of people who go on shows like this think that they are obligated to answer the hosts questions. After all, they brought her on there because she's trans. That's probably what Couric is going to ask her. But to her credit, Carrera flat out tells her that it's private and she doesn't want to talk about it. Couric tries to make it seem as though she accepts that but comes back with the old 'but people want to understand' excuse. Carrera beautifully counters by saying that these things have been discussed so many times before and there's no need to do that anymore, that she would rather show people that being a trans woman is not just about the transition, there is life after that. I get that people are curious and confused and I do think it's okay but I think that what Carrera did is exactly how that should be addressed. It's okay if you don't get it. You don't have to get it. You just have to see her as a beautiful, strong, smart woman like any other beautiful smart strong woman. You absolutely do not need to know what surgeries she's had and what's going on in her panties to be able to do that. That's what she said, but in a much nicer way than I did.

Then Laverne Cox came on and really laid the smack down. But she's so confident and sweet and awesome that it doesn't feel like a smack down. When Couric asked her how she felt about talking about her transition she said that just talking about trans women's bodies objectifies them and it focuses attention on the wrong thing. She's right. Trans women don't need people to feel comfortable with their genitals, they need people to just be comfortable with the fact that they exist and they are just people like anyone else. Cox then explained the case of a trans woman who was beaten to death by some men who found out she was trans after they cat-called her. She said that this kind of violence is common for trans women and that's what we need to be talking about - not genitals. Boo-ya! I wish I could hug her.

Score another one for seeing trans folk on TV just being people like anyone else. Sadly, we rarely see it. Too often still, the trans person (or character on a TV show) is there specifically to be portrayed as different or worse even, as the butt of a joke. But if we saw more trans folk just being themselves, I think life would become so much easier and less dangerous and scary, not just for trans people but for all of us. When we understand that people are just people, we don't need to be scared or threatened by the way they dress or express their gender.

Cox rocks and she will be in Edmonton on March 8th at the University of Alberta. I don't have details of time and place yet but we'll put it on the Tickle Trunk calendar as soon as I do.