Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why Aren't We More Concerned About Rentboy?

I've certainly seen a lot of things in my newsfeed about the raid on Rentboy but I didn't take the time to look at what actually happened until the last few days. Now I'm wondering why we haven't heard so much more about this?

If you haven't heard about it yet, here's the deal: on August 25th, the US Federal Government raided the offices of, a website that advertising escort services, mainly for gay men. They arrested seven staff people and seized $1.4 million dollars from rentboy's bank accounts. I have had difficulty - even after reading the actual report from the attorney responsible for the investigation and raid - exactly what it is they are charging rentboy with. It appears that it has to do with trading money across state lines for the purposes of something that could be illegal.

I don't know a lot about this yet. After a lot of reading, I still feel woefully uninformed about what is really going on here. But it's clear that there are two very serious questions that need to be answered.

1. Does the department of homeland security - that's right folks, it was the department of homeland security that conducted this raid - have the actual legal right to be involved with this and to charge these people? In the United States, prostitution is a state matter. It is, technically, illegal in the USA but each state has it's own specific legislation that deals with it. In a few places, it is legal under very specific circumstances. So if this is not a federal matter, why is a federal body involved in it? By my limiting understanding, it would seem that each state should be looking at charging and prosecuting individual advertisers on rentboy is they are conducting their activities in their state. It seems that the 'trading money across state lines' is their excuse to get involved where they have no business whatsoever.

2. Doesn't the department of homeland security have anything better to do? This raid took quite a bit of time and energy to investigate and execute and now they are spending even more time prosecuting each of these individuals. This is the same department that is responsible for investigating and preventing terrorist activity, for taking down organized crime related to the drug trade and arms dealing. Why on earth are they spending their time investigating people who are having consensual sex? The issue of whether what they are doing is technically illegal or not is really beside the point in my mind. Even if it is illegal, aren't there bigger fish to fry? Who are they keeping safe by taking down this website? What harm is being done? Why is this a priority for them when there are so many more serious matters that do involved people's actual safety at hand?

There is no real reason to shut rent boy down. They pose little if any danger to public safety. They are not, as far as is apparent on the outside, committing any crime of any real consequence. They are being targeted because they deal in sex - gay sex no less.

The owners and staff of rentboy plan to defend themselves, but with the seizure of pretty much all their assets, they have very little resources with which to do so. This is another huge abuse of power on the part of the federal government. They have no real proof that the monies they seized were actual gained as the result of a commission of a crime - at least a crime that the federal government has any business prosecuting, and yet they use their power to just take all their money and hold it indefinitely. I would venture to say that they do this specifically because they know it will make it almost impossible for them to get proper legal support.

I just wrote an article for my column on how government - both American and Canadian - use their influence to dissuade banks from working with sex-related businesses. Here's a case where they've gone one step further, bypassed the banks, and just taken the money themselves.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Just When I Thought I'd Seen Everything - There's the Ovipositor

What's fun about sex and sex toys is that you've never really seen or heard of everything. Thee will always be something that's new to you.

Last week, I ran across something that was new to me - the Ovipositor.

If the picture is not doing it for you, let me explain. This is a toy that simulates the experience of an alien laying eggs inside your body. Yes, you read that right - this is a thing. I'm actually not all that surprised by this. There are lots of people that are interested in science fiction and the idea of aliens. Some people have sexual fantasies about this. Why wouldn't they? It makes a lot of sense to me that some people would find the idea of sex with an alien creature exciting. It's the ultimate in the unknown - which is erotic to a lot of us.

But when I first saw this picture, I was a little concerned. My first thought whenever I see supposedly weird toys is not whether it's weird or disgusting or whatever some people might say about it - it's whether the toy is good quality and safe. This looked decidedly unsafe to me. I was concerned about what those eggs are made of, what the slimy substance that appears to be all over them is made of, what the egg-layer itself is made of, and where the heck people are putting those eggs!

But I read a review of the ovipositor and then went over to the site of the people that make it, Primal Hardware. I can't say for sure because I've never had one of these toys in my hands, but from everything I read, it seems like they know what they are doing. The toy is made from 100% silicone so it will be durable and easy to wash. I don't know how easy it is to get down into the bottom of that tube to wash it, but the material itself is washable and body-safe. The eggs are made from unflavored gelatin. The toy comes with an egg mold so you can make your own eggs. The gelatin, if you make it with no sugar and no coloring in it, should be safe to put inside the body. It dissolves quickly in body heat so it will just disappear. Now I honestly don't know about any health issues of putting that much gelatin in your anus or vagina and letting it dissolve. I doubt that it would cause any serious issues. They do say on the site that you can also make the eggs out of ice. That's probably not a great idea. It wouldn't cause serious damage but that's a pretty large ice cube directly against sensitive tissue. That could be very uncomfortable and could cause a bit of a an ice burn.

So, given that the toy seems mostly safe, or safeish, why not? If you have a fantasy of having an alien lay eggs inside of you, you're going to have a pretty tough time making that a reality. This is probably the closest you're ever going to get. And if this is exciting for you, this toy is probably pretty cool.

You won't find an Ovipositor on the shelf in your local sex shop though, you'll have to get it on-line.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Surprise, Surprise - well, not really.

So it has finally come out that Josh Duggar has been up to all kinds of sexual shenagins that he's been hoping to hide. This should be a surprise to no one. How many time have we seen the most vocal advocates of family values turn out to be guilty of the very things they are condemning others for?

Just a quick update if you haven't read my previous post about this dude. Josh Duggar is the oldest son of the Duggar family featured on the TLC show '19 Kids and Counting'. Until recently, he worked for the Family Research Council as an advocate and lobbyist for 'Family Values' policies in government (translation: he got paid to spread hatred against gay and trans people). He lost his job when it was revealed that he molested as least three girls when he was a teenager.

Now it seems that Josh has been caught up in the whole Ashley Madison scandal. Someone anonymously exposed account information that appears to show that he, until pretty darn recently, had an Ashley Madison account. Oh, by the way, Josh Duggar is married and has four children (I think it's four, I may have lost count). So ya, while he was preaching about family values in public, he was looking for hookups in private. It has also come to light that he may have had an OKCupid too.

Today, Josh published, and then quickly deleted, a statement saying that he cheated on his wife, is addicted to porn and is the biggest hypocrite ever and he is very sorry.

Okay - so first of all, let me just get this out of the way. It is entirely possible that none of this is true. There are people gunning for this guy and it is incredibly easy to set him up in this way. A child could create a fake account and hack their website to put up that statement. It does all seem just a little too perfect.

HOWEVER - even if this is not true, it's apparent from his previous actions that Josh Duggar has a lot of problems - particularly around sex.

This leads me to what I really want to say about this. I do not feel sorry for this guy and I do not excuse anything he has done, but it's not at all difficult to understand why he does these things.

We have seen time and time again, that attempts to subvert, ignore, repress, and condemn people's natural sexual inclinations simply does not work. People are sexual beings. Most of us have an urge to explore our sexuality and to connect with ourselves and others in a sexual way. This is a part of who we are as human beings. It's important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it contributes to us surviving as a species. It is not bad, abnormal, unnatural or sinful to have sexual thoughts and feelings and to want to act on that.

What is bad an unnatural is our culture's belief that sex is inherently evil and dangerous. When we try to keep people from exploring and expressing their natural sexual inclinations, good never results. What results is guilt and shame about things which people have very little control over. Then, sadly, what often also results is acting out in ways that hurt other people. It's quite obvious to me that if someone is denied any reasonable and harmless outlet for understanding and expressing their sexual feelings - ie. if they are not allowed to touch their own bodies or masturbate, if they are not allowed to look at porn or even to search for answers to their questions on the internet, if they are not allowed to ask their parents or anyone else in their life anything about sexuality, if they are not allowed to even look at, never mind touch, another human being in any sort of sexual or even affectionate way unless they are married to that person - something has to give somewhere. What happens is people do what they are naturally inclined to do, and then they LIE ABOUT IT! That's where the damage comes in - it's not from the questions or urges themselves, it's from doing them in a covert and underhanded way. That's what hurts people.

Think about it. If Josh Duggar had not been kept under a rock and actually taught the basics about sex and relationships, if he had not been pressured by his parents not to ever even touch another person until he was engaged to them, had he actually been allowed to do a little bit of questioning and experimenting before he got married and immediately started on a huge family, would any of this have happened? We can't know for sure that he wouldn't have molested those girls. But I have to venture to guess that had he been in a more open environment where he had been offered some information, validation of his feelings, and some sexual outlets - there's a good chance that he wouldn't have done what he did. There's also a high likelihood that if he did, it wouldn't have been covered up to the extent that it was and his sisters would have been able to actually talk about it and get some help.

See it's not the sex that does not the damage, it's the guilt and shame about it.

I have no respect for Josh Duggar but I do have to feel a bad for people like him who grow up feeling ashamed of their sexuality. Sadly, for many of them, this is where that can lead.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Sad Attempt to Turn People Against Planned Parenthood

Within the last two days, I've had three videos cross my path that claim to show 'hidden camera' footage that proves that Planned Parenthood is actually run by Satanists who want to corrupt your daughters and sell babies for science. I am being very glib about it because it's the only way I can even approach this without losing my mind. These videos are all done by an organization called Live Action who's sole purpose, it seems, is to shut down Planned Parenthood. These three videos are just a small sampling of the hidden camera setups they've done at offices across America.

I'll tackle the third one first because it's easier. This is a video that someone in a facebook group posted. It's a meeting between a 15 year old girl and a nurse or counsellor at a planned parenthood office. There is no context for what the meeting was about as the video clearly starts in the middle of a conversation. We have no idea why the girl is there although it seems that it's for renewal of birth control or advice about birth control. She tells the counsellor that her boyfriend wants to do some other 'sex stuff' like '50 shades of grey stuff'. She asks the counsellor what that is. The counsellor is pretty obviously out of her depth with this question and doesn't handle it well but she does her best to explain what it is and talks about safe words etc. Live Action is notorious for editing videos so it's pretty hard to tell whether we're seeing the whole interview or only pieces of it. Live Action's claim is that Planned Parenthood is counselling your children to tie up and beat each other and teaching girls that abuse is okay. The interview isn't great. The counsellor doesn't handle it well, at least from what we can see, because she really should be asking the girl more about how this came up, how she feels about it, and how to talk to her boyfriend about it. It's not good that she didn't do those things, but what she does is not terrible. She just lets the girl know that these are things people do and she doesn't shame her or scare her about it. She's being very open and accepting about it. She does not tell the girl to do it. She tells her to read the book to understand what's in it. Some people are freaking out about that but really, if her boyfriend told her he wants to do some things he read in a book, shouldn't she read the book?

Live Action's site is littered with other videos, that show counsellors allegedly telling teenagers to do depraved and perverted things. Most of them are very short clips, many just a few seconds long, that don't give you any perspective on what led to the mention of kinky sex and how it was being dealt with. Live Action thinks, apparently, that just saying the word bondage or fetish in an interview is akin to child abuse.

The second two videos are much worse. These were meetings that were setup with Planned Parenthood executives by people claiming to be representatives of organizations that use fetal tissue for medical research. Donation of fetal tissue is legal in America. Under very specific circumstances, and with written informed consent of the donor, Planned Parenthood gives tissue from aborted fetuses to medical research facilities. Extremely important research into the causes and potential cures diseases like Parkinson's and ALS, among other research, is conducted using this tissue.

Live Action, however, would like people to believe that Planned Parenthood is selling fetuses for a profit. The videos are clearly very heavily edited. The cuts in them are obvious. What results is something that looks very much like these two people are negotiating a price for aborted fetuses. They are not. What they are doing is explaining to the person the process for donation. Where compensation is discussed, it is in relation to compensation for Planned Parenthood's costs for providing the donation. This makes perfect sense that they would ask for this. They are a not-for-profit organization that does not have money to spare. There are costs incurred in keeping the paperwork required for the consents and donations, for storing the tissue, for delivering it to the research facility or accommodating their coming in to retrieve it. If the research group has money to pay for this, they certainly should.

There are a million reasons why it makes no sense that they would actually be selling fetuses. These are only a few:
- the directors of planned parenthood centres know that this is illegal. They have enough trouble with scrutiny of the work they do, why would they ever risk this?
- the price that is mentioned in the videos is very small - $30 to $70 per sample in one and $50 to $100 in another. This hardly amount to a money-making scheme. If they were actually selling them, they would be asking a lot more.
- it's pretty obvious that what Live Action and their cohorts would like us to believe is that Planned Parenthood wants and encourages people to have abortions because they make money selling the fetuses. This is patently ridiculous. The total cost of all the services needed to provide an abortion is much larger than $30 to $100. There is no possible way this could be a money-making venture for them.

This makes me so angry because Planned Parenthoods do good work. They provide much needed information and access to birth control that helps millions of people, particularly young people, manage their own sexual health and prevent STI's and unplanned pregnancies. They provide accessible and safe abortion services - helping to limit the numbers of women who have no other choice but to carry a pregnancy to term when they don't want to - and reducing the harm and even deaths from unsafe abortions. They are keeping people healthy and alive!!!!! These are important things. AND the people who work for them don't make a lot of money and put up with an enormous amount of stress and abuse. These are people to be admired. But this group and others like it make up lies to make people believe that they are evil. I feel so very sad for the workers and directors who have been caught in these awful traps.

Planned Parenthood is responding to the fetal tissue donation videos. They have done some press releases explaining the issue and making it clear that they do not, under any circumstance, sell any human tissue. I'm glad they are responding to it - as it's a terrible claim for these people to make. I do hope that one of the women in the videos sues them for slander.

Friday, June 19, 2015

I'm All For Sex Education in Schools but This is Going too Far

I just came across a story about a teacher who took her junior high aged students to a sex shop for a sex ed class. Yep, that's right. The director of the Gaia Democratic private school in Minneapolis took a group of 12 students to Smitten Kitten adult toy boutique on a field trip. Wow, I wish I had had sex ed like that.

There no warning to parents, no note home, no permission slip - just kids coming home and saying 'hey Mom, guess what I learned in school today?'. Not surprisingly, a bunch of the parents are pretty pissed. I just can't imagine what this teacher was thinking when she decided this would be a good idea. As a store owner, what I truly can't grasp is what the owner of the store was thinking when she let this happen.

Don't get me wrong. I actually love the attitude. I love that both this teacher and store owner thought it would be a good for the kids to see some toys and learn a bit about sexual pleasure. Smitten Kitten is a store much like the Tickle Trunk. It sells quality products and focuses on sexual health and education over sensationalism and sales. I too believe that it is perfectly reasonable, and actually helpful, for teenagers to be exposed to this kind of thing. In a perfect world, I'd have junior and senior high school field trips through my store too.

HOWEVER, we don't live in that perfect world. We live in a world that thinks that sex is too shocking, scary, and inappropriate for teenagers and young adults and that sex toys and porn are dirty and will corrupt them. We live in a world that seeks to shelter and protect kids rather than education and prepare them. Both of these women know this and they had to have known touring them through a dildo store would not go down well. Didn't they?

If I had a teacher come to me and say that she'd like to bring her class to tour my shop I would say, 'So would I, but sadly, that can't happen.'

It's not just the fact that parents will freak the fuck out - and they have. It's that it's actually illegal in most places in North America to do this. In Minneapolis, there are ordinances against exposing anyone under 18 to sexually explicit material and allowing minors into stores that sell adult merchandise. Owner of the store, Jennifer Pritchett, has brought a shitstorm down on herself. Whereas noone seemed to have any sort of issue with Smitten Kitten before - and it's been in business for more than 10 years - now the city wants her to make a bunch of changes to her store in order to bring it into compliance with the ordinances. She was existing quietly and peacefully before and now she's got eyes on her that could make her business life miserable.

I know I sound like a total chicken shit in saying that she shouldn't have allowed this, even though it was probably a good thing to do, because she's going to suffer consequences for it. Shouldn't I, of all people, applaud her for doing this because she thinks it's right? No, for two reasons. First of all, as much as I don't agree with parents who want to 'protect' their kids from all things sexual, I do think they should, at the very least, be aware of what's going on in the school as much as possible, so they can be prepared to talk to their kids about it. I don't think it was fair to the kids or the parents to bring the kids in there without their knowledge and permission. Pritchett is quoted as saying that she leaves it up to parents or guardians to decide if they think it's appropriate for their kids to be in there - but it sounds like the parents didn't even know. She should have checked that there was some additional oversight on this plan and that parents knew, before she agreed.

Second, she could end up losing her business license over this. This is why I don't do it. Stores like the Smitten Kitten and The Tickle Trunk (and Good for Her and Come As You and Venus Envy etc) provide a very real and important service to their communities. They provide a place where people can get accurate, inclusive, information about sex and pleasure and can find safe things to play with. They are a part of the sexual health of their communities. If they lose their business licenses, the community loses that very important resource. I do think that people under 18 need good resources but if I allow them into my store and I lose my business license because of it, I can't be a resource to anyone at all anymore. I don't agree with it, but if I want to provide any kind of service at all, I have to comply with it.

This teacher is also the director of the school so its possible that her job might be secure. I am pretty sure that if a teacher in Edmonton did something like this, they would be on probation so fast it would make your head spin. There is a vocal minority of parents in Edmonton that are so freaked out about sex that I wouldn't be surprised if lawsuits would be launched over something like this.

I hope Pritchett doesn't have any more problems resulting from this, that people just relax and realize no harm was actually done and can just trust her not to do it again. And then, a long, long time into the future when the effects of better sex education have had time to affect an entire generation, we will be allowed to welcome teenagers into our progressive, sex-positive shops.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Doc Johnson goes Hollywood

Here I am binge-watching House of Lies after work and lo and behold, who is Galweather Stern's new client? None other than Doc Johnson. For those of you who only buy top quality toys from great stores who know their stuff, like mine, you may never have heard of Doc Johnson, so I'll fill you in. Doc Johnson is one of the oldest and biggest makers of sex toys in the world. Check out their website and you'll see thousand and thousands of different items.

I was shocked to see that the show actually uses them and names them, instead of making up a fictional toy company, they were actually working with a real one. I wonder how much Doc Johnson paid to get this storyline.

The story is pretty cool - although I haven't watched the end yet so I won't give any spoilers. In the show, the pod is brought in to help them come up with a new marketing strategy. What's interesting is to watch the reactions of each of them to working with this client. It's also fun to watch them tour the factory. I have never seen some of these things being made and it looks like those shots actually came from inside the factory, not from a sound stage.

But here's the thing. Doc Johnson kinda sucks. One of the main reasons I don't buy their stuff is that they lie (more on that later). And in this episode, they are lying. I did learn tonight that Doc Johnson actually does make some of its products in the USA. I didn't know that. In the show, the head of Doc Johnson (played by Adam Brody), says that he's trying to carry on the legacy of his father who had a commitment to doing business in America. What the show leaves out, is that this commitment is quite new - they haven't been manufacturing in the USA all that long. What they also leave out is that not all of their products are made in the USA. A lot of the dildos are, but most of their vibrators are still made in China. During their tour of the factory the 'owner' says that they make better products than their competitors but they are getting killed on price because everybody else makes cheap stuff in China. Hmmmmmm He also goes on to list some of the fine materials that they use, some of which are not real things, like hypoallergenic rubber.

Yep, typical Doc Johnson. We carry just one Doc Johnson product. It's a very simple plastic vibrator. I won't carry anything else they make, and this is why:

1. They produce a lot of shitty stuff - a LOT. There are so many products that it's almost impossible to sort them all out. While they have upped their game in terms of quality over the last ten years and started producing quite a few 100% silicone toys, they have kept on producing all of their awful jelly rubber dildos.

2. They participate in the rampant racism and sexism that is a big part of the old school sex toy industry. They have an inordinate number of 'big black cock' toys. The way they package, name, and market most of their 'lifelike' masturbation toys (ie. toys that are modeled on the vulvas of real women, or look like they were) is questionable at best. They are certainly not the only company to do this. California Exotics does it too and we carry some of their toys. Cal Exotics, however, has toned it down considerably over the last few years. Doc Johnson is changing the packaging and marketing on some of their older toys but much more slowly, it seems.

3. They tell stories that aren't 100% true. This show is only one example of it, but I've seen it many times. They call a product silicone but fail to mention that it's not 100% silicone. They call something sil-a-gel because they know that sounds like silicone, when really it's just another blended rubber. I once sat in on a seminar where the head of Doc Johnson strongly implied that the Rabbit used in the famous Sex and the City episode was made by Doc Johnson. It wasn't! You can see the packaging on the show - it's Vibratex!

4. They have questionable business practices. Back in the wonderful years when all of the small new companies that were making wonderful, quality products, were just getting their foot in the door, there was this beautiful thing called the AVN Sex Toy Expo. I was lucky enough to attend once when it was at its height. The second time I attended, I found out that a coup was afoot. Certain companies, who call themselves 'founders' - because apparently they founded the AVN show - decided the AVN (adult video news) was not meeting their needs - and it seems their needs were to control everything and be the stars of the show. So they decided to take their toys and make their own show. This devastated the AVN. Those four companies represented a huge portion of their exhibitor revenue. Not only that, but a lot of other companies pulled out of the AVN for fear of pissing off the founders. Then, the founders limited access to their show - cherry-picking only the companies that they had a good relationships and that they felt were not a threat to them. There is such a thing as just producing a great product, doing good marketing, and letting the customer decide - but Doc Johnson chose not to play that way.

It's funny to watch them on this show acting like they make the best product and they just can't get a break because everyone keeps undercutting them. In real life, it's the other way around. Doc Johnson has a strangle-hold on the sex toy market in North America and they are bound and determined to keep it.

Well, I guess it's appropriate that they chose to market this story on a show called 'House of Lies'.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

19 Kids and Questioning Why This Show Was Ever on TV

So TLC has finally (finally!) announced that they are taking 19 Kids and Counting off TV. I have been waiting for the day they would make that long overdue decision.

Why? Because the parents featured in this show, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, are scary scary people who should not have a national forum to spout their ridiculousness and hatred.

I admit it, I have watched this show. I've seen quite a bit of actually. I'm a fan of bad reality TV. When I first saw it, I thought that, although they made a lot of decisions I wouldn't make, and I didn't relate to their conservative religious outlook, it was harmless. I thought that they were teaching their multitudes of children some decent values about work ethics and giving back to friends and family. It seemed a bit freakish but no big deal. After watching for awhile though I realized there is something pretty twisted going on. Jim Bob Duggar is all smiles and happy-go-lucky poppa but he rules that family with an iron fist. What he says goes - right down to dictating how his wife and children dress and how they do their hair. The gender roles are very clear and very strictly enforced. The girls stay in the house and clean, cook, do laundry and take care of the kids. The boys - well, I'm not sure what the boys do. I do know that when the boys reach 18ish, they are given support to start their own businesses so that they'll be able to get a wife and have kids. The girls, not so much. They stay there until some guy (seems like any guy if recent developments are any indication) of similar mind, asks them to marry.

The children have no opportunities to learn anything or meet anyone that their parents have not expressly vetted beforehand. Dancing is prohibited. Expression of any 'negative' emotion if frowned upon. Physical contact is strictly controlled. Hugs, even between parents and children, are limited to 'side hugs' because you can't take the risk of pressing genitals together (but you don't say specifically, that that's why you side hug). Modest dress is enforced - necklines are high and shoulders are never bare. Skirts and pants must come past the knee. The Duggars believe that showing your body to anyone who is not your legal spouse, is 'defrauding'. Defrauding is provoking sexual desire that cannot be righteously fulfilled. They never expressly say it, but it's pretty clear that females defraud men, not the other way around. The Duggars do not date, they court. Courting involves getting to know someone with the intention of marrying them. They are not allowed to ever be alone or to even have private phone calls or messages with someone they are courting. Their parents look s at their text messages and listen in on their phone calls and skype sessions. This takes place even if the courting person is well over 18. They cannot have any physical contact when they are courting. When they get engaged, they are allowed to hold hands. They must have an escort on every date until they are legally married. They do not kiss until they are legally married. The first time they kiss at their wedding, hundreds of people watch them do it.

All this is disturbing enough but hey, everybody has their own beliefs and values. However, when they expect everyone else to hold their values and work actively to prevent the religious freedom and human rights of others, then I've got a problem. And that's exactly what the Duggars do. They are active supports of Rick Santorum, who is a notorious homophobe. They have contributed financially and lent their enormous celebrity cred to his bid for the republican nomination. They have been vocal in their opposition to marriage equality. Michelle Duggar recorded a robocall asking people in Arkansas to vote AGAINST an ordinance that would prohibit businesses from discriminating against people based on gender and sexual orientation. In the recording she essentially called transwomen sexual predators dressed up as men and said that the ordinance would expose people's children to dangerous child molesters in public bathrooms. Their oldest son, Josh, was the director of the Family Research Council - a high-profile lobby group that actively campaigns against gay rights. These people spew hatred and ignorance and they have been active in trying to convince others that gays and trans people should not be treated as human beings like any other human beings.

There have been petitions to TLC to take these people off the air because of their nasty hatred - all of which is thinly veiled on their tv show but is apparent to anyone who wants to see it. TLC had, until recently refused to budge.

It was only when the fact that their oldest son, Josh, had molested at least five children when he was a teenager, became widely public knowledge, that TLC relented and pulled the show. It seems it's okay to actively hate people but when it becomes knowledge that someone in your family molested children, that's a bridge too far.

And that's the thing, it's not really the child abuse that caused them to pull it. If that was the case, the Duggars never would have gotten the show in the first place. Josh's abusive past has been essentially public knowledge for close to 10 years. When I first watched the show, I did some reading on the family and my tiny little google search produced a number of articles and blog posts about this issue. Josh's crimes were reported to the police. There is a record of that. A lot of people found out about it. It's pretty clear that very little, other than praying for forgiveness, was ever done for him or the victims of his abuse, but it was reported.

I found out about this from a quick google search. It's hard to believe that TLC was not aware of it. So it's not the abuse that makes them not want to associate with the Duggars because they probably knew, tt's the fact this is now an embarrassing, horrifying public scandal that makes them look bad.

It's sort of the same thing as the Duck Dynasty debacle. There's no way they didn't know that guy was a homophobic jackass. That was okay with them as long as they could edit that part out of their show. It was only when he actually said it out loud to the media where it could not be contained and controlled that it was a problem.

It's truly awful that it had to come to this for them to take these people off the air, but I am glad they are off the air. These are not people to look to as role models. It's sad that this is what becomes celebrity in our culture.

Let me be clear about the sexual abuse issue. I think there are a lot of reasons that Josh might have done what he did. That guy grew up in a household that was seriously messed up about sex and gender roles. He would have never ever had the chance to talk to anyone about his sexual feelings, to express any feelings at all really, or to learn what appropriate boundaries are. The Duggars are disciples of a guy who has also had accusations of child sexual abuse against. Who knows what happened to Josh before he molested those children. I am not going to demonize a 14 year old child. The problems here are that he grew up in a situation in which something like this was more likely to happen and that it happened in a household where it is not okay to talk about the fact that it happened. Sure, they reported it, but it looks like they reported it to someone that they knew would do next to nothing about it, and that it was never taken seriously. In everything the Duggars have said about this issue, they have not once mentioned any type of support or help offered to the victims of Josh's actions. Did the Duggar girls get any counselling? I doubt it. The Duggar way of thinking is a victim-blaming mentality. Women are told, very clearly, that their bodies are temptations to men and it is their job not to defraud them. I cannot imagine that the girls would have received anything other than a perfunctory apology and a suggestion that they forgive and trust God.

My guess would be that, with the numbers of people who watch this show and who will follow this story, there will be a lot of people who will reach out to the Duggar girls to give them some actual help and support. I hope that happens and I hope that they are not so controlled by Jim Bob and Michelle that they will not be able to find out about and accept that help. There have to be some very serious emotional scars among all of those children. I hope somehow they can find some help to heal.

It's so depressing that so many of these types of stories end this way. How many times have we found out that these supposed heroes of family values are hiding some pretty awful things behind the facade they put on for the camera?

I am not the least bit surprised by any of this. I am very sad for all of those children. It's a horrible thing to deal with sexual abuse in your family. I think it's that much more horrible when a TV network and your parents have made you unwitting celebrities. Not only do they have to deal with the abuse they've suffered, they have to deal with the media's response to it and the fact that the entire country knows about it. There will be a public record of this for a long, long time, meaning there will be triggers for them everywhere for who knows how many years. TLC didn't commit the crimes against these children but they made it so much worse by making them public figures. They knew what this family was about and they chose to ignore it and put them on TV anyway. Given that this is not the first time something like this has happened, it's unlikely that it will be the last.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Delving into SMUTFest

SMUTFest, Edmonton's very own queer, sex-positive porn festival, enters it's second year this summer. I am writing a column for VUE about what it's like to produce a piece of sexy film-making for SMUTFest. When I asked its amazing producers, Prairie Oyster Entertainment, for a comment for the column, they responded with so much beautiful insight about sex, relationships, art, and porn, that I couldn't fit it all in.

I would love for everyone to hear what they have to say, so here it is. The creators of SMUTFest on making queer, consensual, sex-positive, body-positive porn.

Kristina: You know, obviously we can't speak to each person's individual motives, but I really think that SMUTfest let's people be super vulnerable about themselves. So much of the porn people have easy access to is full of people that are the mainstream, that is thin, able-bodied, white, hetero, cisgender, and the festival allows people that aren't part of those demographics to take up space. Even for folks who don't submit but attend the festival, it can be really huge to see someone that looks like them or has similar desires, etc. on a big screen, and then get turned on by it! Add in exhibitionism from some of the people, I'm sure, and it adds another sexy element to the whole thing. Another thing that we hoped to provide last year, and of course again this year, is a safer space for marginalized identities to literally just have a safer space to present themselves and their sexuality however they want to, without judgement (or ratings), just celebration. And we had a lot of feedback after SMUTfest'14 that it was one of the only spaces people have felt so comfortable being in, and I think that for those who attended last year, they probably want to have that again, and I hope that the word is passing that that is our number 1 concern when organizing this festival each year.

The thought of filming something sexual is still kind of nerve-wracking for folks, though, but I'd say that the thing we hear the most is that people say they aren't going to submit a film because they don't have a fancy camera, or don't have experience filming anything. But that's the whole point of SMUTfest! It's grassrootsy, we encourage folks to mess around with their phones and take videos! And I think that's what sets us apart from other adult film/porn festivals. If someone wants to submit a 3 minute long video off their phone of themselves dry humping pillows and getting off from it (which is a super common masturbatory practice), then we welcome it with open arms! We are looking for SMUT, but to everyone, that can mean really different things! It can be intimate, it can be raunchy, it can be fucking loud, or no sound at all, it can be "artistic" or not at all, it can be of one person, or 9. As long as it's consensual, and not demeaning towards certain groups of people, we want folks to just get out there and make SMUT happen!

kiyl: As Kristina mentioned, motives for creating amateur porn are going to differ from person to person, for sure. Themes that have been coming up for me a lot lately, and I feel were underlying themes when we initially started this work, are community and connection. SMUTfest started as an initiative to connect and celebrate our various communities in a way that we felt was not getting the space it deserved. Publicly celebrating bodies and sex and sexuality, especially of woman and non-binary people, can be super political, and it doesn't necessarily need to be public, either. Even giving yourself the permission to celebrate your sexual identities and pleasures in the privacy of your own home can be huge for some people. There is still a lot shame and embarrassment around sex and bodes, especially those of women and non-binary people. having the space and medium to unapologeticly share our experiences and identities and desires in this respect can be incredibly powerful and inspire connections we may have never other wise considered.

In respect to getting started with this work, i've been involved in a lot of conversations lately about porn and art and legitimacy and (most importantly) accessibility. funny enough, i am writing this from an artist residency in Toronto, which i think is hilarious because all of the content i submitted to get here was smut that i shot on my iPhone and edited in iMovie or on a free photo editing program. what i feel makes the work i am involved in "legitimate" isn't a super fancy camera, or artistic angles and lighting, or even smooth editing and sound that makes sense - it is the fact that it is an authentic, unapologetic representation of what those involved take pleasure in.

What's unique about doing all of this work in the context of SMUTfest, is that it also offers a space for us to get into some of these deeper political conversations that inevitably come up when we are working with bodies. From conversations around consent, which is mandatory, to what it means to be intersectional and inclusive, to the ways we can use our work to actively subvert the systems that seek to exploit. I realize that this might not be a partially sexy component of creating pornography, amateur or other wise, but it is necessary, for me at least, in creating pornography that I know I can feel good about.

SMUTFest 2015 takes place on July 18. Tickets are available at The Traveling Tickle Trunk. It's not too late to submit your art to SMUTFest. Find out more here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why We Need Masturbation Month

In case you haven't heard, it is International Masturbation Month. This is the time that we focus on the benefits, joys, and many wonders of self-pleasure. Why, you might ask, do we need to have an entire month dedicated to this?

This is why. I've been talking about masturbation a lot lately. I mean A LOT! I've delivered a bunch of workshops and sessions over the past two months and I've written a metric fuck-ton about masturbation. Every time - every single time - I start talking about masturbation, the first thing I'm asked is something of this nature. 'Yes, but how much is too much?' 'When does masturbating become unhealthy?' 'Is it possible to get addicted to masturbating?'

Why are we so hung up on this? Why is it that as soon as we start talking about loving our own bodies and having fun, we wonder if it's really okay?

Yes, I have no doubt that there are some people who masturbate too much. There are always a few people that do anything too much, so there are going to be some people who masturbate too much. Some people are compulsive, or have a rough life and have a hard time coping, and so they will find something that helps them feel better and will ease their anxieties - and yes, they very well might become dependent, in a way, on that thing. Masturbation could become one of those things.

But seriously, how many people is that really? We have no idea because we don't have any reliable research on this. I stress 'reliable' here. There is a lot of 'research' which consists either of anecdotes or case studies of single people, and theories of how the brain becomes 'rewired' due to the influx of chemicals that happen during pleasure and orgasm. What we don't have is large-scale studies that assess how many people in Canada, or North America might actually be masturbating so much that it's unhealthy. If there were significant number of people who jerked off so much that they couldn't maintain relationships and couldn't keep a job, wouldn't we be seeing a lot of evidence of this? The fact that I've never once - not one single time - in my entire 15 years of working with sexual health, met or worked with someone who would define themselves as having a problem with masturbation really leads me to believe that this is not an epidemic. I have no doubt that it happens - I just don't believe that it's terribly common.

So, if this is actually something that just happens because there are a few people who have trouble coping and masturbation is what they turn to - why in the hell are we so obsessed with it? Why is our first question about this wonderful thing centered on whether it will get out of control?

I truly believe that it is because we cannot reconcile ourselves with the idea of pleasure for pleasure's sake. There is some deeply ingrained in us that says that it is not okay to simply enjoy sexual pleasure just because it's fun and it feels good I would go so far as to say that we have this problem with any kind of pleasure, but I think it runs particularly deep when it comes to sexual pleasure.

Even when I talk about masturbation, I often talk about the health benefits in an effort to convince people that there is a reason we should do it. We shouldn't need a reason. Masturbation hurts no one. It is entirely safe and harmless sex. So there should be no hesitation and no need to have a reason to do it. The reason should be 'because I like it'.

We need to get over this. We need to look at those few people who have an unhealthy or dangerous reliance on masturbation as people with a coping problem - and help them accordingly. Help them deal with the real issues in their life that are causing them to need a compulsive outlet. Then stop warning everybody else about the dangers of doing something that is probably going to be incredible healthy, adaptive, beautiful, and FUN for them. When we talk about masturbation, the worry about compulsivity and addiction should be one of the last things we discuss, not the first.

Monday, April 27, 2015

From the Really Weird Sex Files - Funeral Strippers and Dildo Urns

Last night, my partner looked up from his nightly web news reading and said 'Hey, did you hear they're cracking down on strippers at funerals in China?' No, indeed I had not heard that. In fact, I didn't know that strippers at funerals was even a thing. Apparently it is.

We looked into it a little and found that yes, in some rural areas in China and Taiwan, live entertainment at funerals is very popular and sometimes that live entertainment includes women who dance with next to no clothing on. Anthropologist Mark Moskowitz made a whole documentary about it. He says that he never saw anyone dancing naked in Taiwan but he believes that's because he was filming and the Taiwanese government has made it illegal to get completely naked. Everyone he spoke to about the phenomenon said that they had certainly seen entertainers get down to their birthday suits at funerals.

If you belong to North American culture like me, it sounds really weird. We are pretty somber about death and we get twisted about combining death with any kind of pleasure or enjoyment, and REALLY skeeved out about relating sex and death. In fact, when I first heard it, I thought it was one of the funniest and strangest things I had ever encountered

In a way though, it might make some sense. Moskowitz says that there are many reasons people hire strippers for funerals. One is that they want the funeral to be successful, to be a great event, to show that the person who died was loved and that the family could put on a popular event. Live entertainment, particularly that including exotic dancers makes for a loud, fun party. Another reason is that funerals are often viewed more as a celebration of a person's life than a grieving of their absence. What not have a party? Another, and this made a lot of sense to me, is that the person who died might have been someone who enjoyed that sort of thing in life, so why not have it at their final party? This made me think that perhaps I should have strippers at my partner's funeral (should he outlive me). People might be scandalized at first but somehow I think they would get it.

Believe it or not, this was not the weirdest sex related thing I came across this weekend. Not by a longshot actually.

The strangest thing I found (and please, let's not discuss how I found this) is a dildo with a small urn inside into which you can put the ashes of your loved one who has passed on. No, I am not making this up. This is the brainchild of Dutch designer Mark Sturkenboom. It's part of a keepsake box that holds memories. It includes a built in fragrance bottle and atomizer, a place for a ring, a drawer for small mementos, and a plug in for an ipod and speakers to play music. It also includes a plastic dildo with a removable gold urn. You can place your loved ones ashes inside the urn, fit it back into the dildo and....well, you get the picture.

There's not much that confuses me when it comes to sex, but I have to admit, I'm baffled by this. I certainly wouldn't judge anyone who felt like they really wanted to jack off with the ashes of their loved one, but I have to admit I don't understand it.

It's not like these are exactly flying off the shelf though. 21 Grams (yep, that's the name, not morbid at all, right?). Is a one-off design. You can't just pick it up on Amazon. You have to contact the designer and have him make you one. I think I'll pass.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Porn in Schools?

Denmark is pretty darn liberal when it comes to sex and sex education. But apparently even for them, there's a line that can't be crossed. That line is porn. Danish professor Christian Graugaard caused a furor when he suggested, during an appearance on public television, that children in grade eight and nine should be taught about pornography. It seems porn is just too much.

I've seen several articles about this (it got a lot of play because some pretty salacious titles could be applied to it) and the comments on all of them include a lot of panicked posts about how completely inappropriate, ridiculous, unfeasible, and even illegal it is to show porn to children in schools. What on Earth would they show them? How would the choose what to show? How would this affect the children? They'll be traumatized! That's sexual abuse!

We just really cannot handle this idea.

But here's the thing. I don't think Prof. Graugaard is really proposing that children spend hours in the classroom watching porn. I don't think he's actually talking about showing porn in classrooms at all. What he said to the guardian website is this "“My proposal is to critically discuss pornography with 8th and 9th graders [age 15 – the legal age of consent in Denmark – and 16 respectively] as part of a sensible didactic strategy, carried out by trained teachers.” You don't have to show pornography, or you can show only small bits that are not particularly explicit, or examples of the principles you are taking about, in non sexual films. The idea is to give kids some tools they can use to critically examine the stuff they are watching. You can teach them to ask questions about it such as:
Do I know where and how this was filmed and under what circumstances? Is there anything that shows me that the sex I'm looking at is consensual? Why might they be choosing to portray these particular sex acts or to be in these positions? Do the performers look comfortable and happy doing what they're doing? What are the difference between what's happening here and what sex with a person in real life might be like? How many other people are probably in the room that I cannot see (how many cameras etc.)? Might these people be getting direction on what to do? What types of bodies do you see represented most? What might be the reason for that?

All of those things can be discussed without ever showing any porn at all. There's also some great documentaries about porn that show some scenes of setup before filming begins. That could be used to help students think critically about what kind of instruction and prep is given to people that you don't actually see when you watch it.

Most of this is basic media literacy stuff. These are important skills for kids to have so that they think about the things that they see and don't believe things are real when they're not. It's the same idea for any kind of tv or film as it is for porn. This is just applying it to something a little different. It makes a heck of a lot of sense if you slow down and think about it. But as soon as you mention the word 'porn' people lose their ability to think rationally.

I hope they do this so that they can provide a model for Canadian schools to do it too. If we can get past the teachers and parents who will freak out when we say the word 'porn'.

Monday, March 23, 2015

When Photoshop Gets Out of Control

I noticed this magazine cover at someone's house awhile ago and it made me do a double-take.

If you don't see it yet, take another look. Do the people who created this magazine cover actually expect us to believe that Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting actually looks like this? Look at how small her rib cage and waist are in comparison to her bust! If it is real, her upper-body is twisted in a very strange direction that no human would ever do in real life. It's pretty obvious that they've just taken a big section out of her left side. Why? Why? Why? This woman is gorgeous - even by conventional standards of beauty and she's pretty thin as standards of thinness go as well. Yet they've still felt the need to make her even thinner. Are we not allowed to have actual women with their actual bodies on the covers of magazines?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blogger Backs Down on Adult Content

A few weeks ago, sex bloggers everywhere were freaking out over google's announcement that they were going to block any blog that had 'sexually explicit pictures' from coming up in searches. They claimed the move was an attempt to keep under-agers from accessing pornographic content through blogger. They probably thought they were being reasonable because they were not threatening to shut anyone down, just to block them from searches. That though, essentially shuts down the majority of traffic that a blog would get. It would mean that any search for anything, even the exact name of the blog or the person who writes it, would not come up in a search. The only way anyone would be able to access these blogs would be if they were invited by the site itself or if they new the exact url. That's just not the way that most people access content on the web.

There was a huge outcry about it and google actually backed down. Sort of. They issued this statement.

Hello everyone,

This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy. We’ve had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. So rather than implement this change, we’ve decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.

Blog owners should continue to mark any blogs containing sexually explicit content as “adult” so that they can be placed behind an “adult content” warning page.

Bloggers whose content is consistent with this and other policies do not need to make any changes to their blogs.

Thank you for your continued feedback.

The Blogger Team

What this means is that they will not block the sites from searches. Anyone who posts any kind of sexual content is asked to tag it with an adult content warning, but it has always been this way (you would have come through an adult content warning to get to this page).

What is unclear to me is what they mean by 'step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn'. What, exactly, is commercial porn. Does this mean that people are making money from the blogs directly? Does that apply to bloggers who make porn for sale but also have a blog or only to people who sell the porn or link to it through their blog? And what exactly is their issue with commercial porn? Why is it distinct from 'sexually explicit content to express their identities'?

This has always been the problem with the question of porn and sexually explicit content. How do you distinguish between the two? How can you draw a line and say 'that's porn' and 'that's just someone expressing themselves'. There is no reasonable way to do that.

And why do it anyway? What does google have to gain from this? Are they doing this to show that they are not in the porn business, that they want to protect children and teens from inadvertently accessing porn through their sites, or do they just want to cover their butts in case some parent gets upset that their kid saw naked people on blogger? The web is absolutely teeming with nudity and sex. Kids will find it whether they are actively looking for it or not. Does it really matter where they found it?

I was at a college presentation last week and a sociology professor made an excellent point about this fear of porn and attempt to keep kids away from it. She said that in addition to being a great place to get porn, the internet is also an amazing place to learn about sex in general and get answers to questions that you don't want to ask other people or that they won't answer for you. However, because all schools and a lot of parents have blocks on their networks, many kids cannot access any site that has any sexual content or not. Use of this potentially great resource is severely curtailed for a lot of kids because we are afraid of them finding porn.

As well, because of policies like the one google attempted to put in place, adults who have every right in the world to watch and read whatever they want, and could really benefit from the diverse range on information and support available on some of these blogs, might not be able to get find it - again because we are so scared of kids finding porn.

I have always felt a better way to deal with this is to talk to children and teens openly about the kinds of things they might find on the internet and help them to develop skills to understand and critically analyze what they see. I think it's up to not only parents, but also schools to do this. Simply trying to block stuff isn't going to work because there will never be a way to block every possible access without severely limiting the kinds of things adults can share and find on the internet.

I'm glad google listened to their users and backed off this idea. I would love to see them let go of the porn paranoia completely.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Movie Suggestions

Looking for a good movie for your Valentine's plans? I've got another list of non-traditional 'romance movies' to consider. I'm not your typical romantic and I tend toward things that are just a little off the beaten track. Here are my suggestions of movies that I think are romantic, but don't follow the mold of most romantic movies.

On Gold Pond - this is an oldie but a goodie. Featuring two of my absolute favorite actresses - Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda. This movie gives us a glimpse of what true love might look like when it gets very old. It's lovely to see two older adults still very much in love and connected to each other - all the while being painfully aware of each other's faults It's also an interesting look at difficult child/parent relationships - how we can hold love, frustration, anger, and disappointment with our parents all at the same time. Be warned, it's a tearjerker!

Phildelphia - okay - this is not a romantic movie. But it is an excellent one and it does show a lot of love - mostly between Tom Hank's main character and his partner, played by Antonio Banderas. While the main plot of the movie deals with discrimination in the workplace, the movie also shows two people in love living with the knowledge that one of them is going to die.

Shortbus - again, maybe not a romantic movie, but there is so much awesome love in this film! The love comes in all kinds of forms but I was particularly struck by the depiction of a couple who love each very much, trying to find a way to deal with one partner's very serious depression and its effect on their relationship.

Love and Other Drugs - I thought this movie was going to be a behind-the-scenes look at how the pharmaceutical industry works and was, at first, disappointed to find out it's really a love story. But the love story turned out to be really great. Anne Hathaway plays a woman living with early onset Parkinson's Disease. Jake Gyllenhal plays the man that was supposed to be a one-night stand and ended up falling for her charms. The movie follows his struggle in falling for someone who has a serious illness and his attempts to save her when she has no interest in being saved. It's an unexpected treatment of the subject that I really enjoyed. PLUS there is A LOT of nudity!

All right, so I admint, looking at the above films, that perhaps this is a pretty heavy list for Valentine's Day. I admit it, I like sad, depressing movies. But if that's not your thing, here are some other non-traditional suggestions that are not sad and depressing.

My Best Friend's Wedding - here ya go! A mainstream romantic comedy. I'm not a big fan of Julia Roberts' rom-coms but I have always loved this one. This movie has an unexpected twist and lets us know that you don't always get what you want, and you don't always get the prince, and you don't always live happily ever after - and yet, that might be just fine. It also shows that the love of a true friend can be just as important as that of a lover.

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. These are some of my favorite movies ever! If you have never seen these movies, you must go watch them now. Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke star as two people from opposite side of the globe who meet by chance on a train and decide to spend a day together. It is a devastatingly sweet and bitter romance as they fall head over heels in a short period of time and decide whether they will meet again or not. The romance between them feels very real as it doesn't rely on all of the typical Hollywood tropes. Instead, the two share stories and pieces of themselves and truly connect with each other.

Before Sunset takes place nine years later (both in story time and in real time, by the way) when they meet again and look at what has happened in their lives and how it might have been different. It is absolutely beautiful. The real-time walk through the streets of Paris doesn't hurt either.

There is a third installment to this series that came out two years ago but it is not as well done and while it's worth a watch, I don't recommend it for Valentine's Day.

I know that one of the biggest, supposedly romantic movies to hit theatres this year comes out today, but, given what I know from the book it's based on, these ones are a better bet for more realistic, heartfelt, and satisfying romance.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Another Crowd-Funding Campaign Gets It Completely Wrong

I ran across another crowd-funded campaign that seeks to increase the number of people who use condoms. Yet again, this group claims that one of the main reasons that women don't use condoms is because it's embarrassing to buy them. The solution, condoms in funky, easy to open packages, that will be accessible from places women go, like the beauty salon (because women never go into drugstores).

I was very skeptical when I saw the first video for loveability condoms because it seemed to be saying that it's just the packaging and the fact that condoms are so damned hard to open that keeps women from using them. But then I read the whole site and watched the founder's Ted talk and changed my mind a bit. I do like her idea of putting condoms in protective tins. When you're carrying stuff around in your purse, it gets DESTROYED. We all know that. So the tin is a good idea. But this is not new. The market is filled with all kinds of condom carriers, some supposedly specifically designed for women. ONE brand condoms packages their condoms with ends that flip off and make a little tin big enough for two condoms and a pack of lube. So yes, good idea, but it's not revolutionary. I also like her idea of putting condoms in places that you typically don't see them. This company is planning to have these condoms carried at spas, hair salons, and shoe stores. I'm not a fan of the obvious gender stereotyping and I'm not sure exactly how they plan to get these places to carry a product that's completely outside their industry, but I like the idea. I think it's cool to consider having condoms in more places and outside of the typical places we think of. I think this could lead to us seeing them as more of just an everyday item, like your shampoo.

So yes, there are some good ideas here and there's certainly nothing wrong with these condoms as far as I can see. However, I think this company, like so many others, is aiming at the wrong solution. I have worked with sexuality for about 13 years now. I have spent years talking to people about how to use condoms and why they do or don't use them. Rarely, certainly never, but rarely, do people tell me that they don't use condoms because they are embarrassed to buy them. Most people know that if they are embarrassed, they can go to Safeway or WalMart and use the self-checkout, get a friend to buy them, or buy them on-line. If they really want to buy condoms, they're going to do it. I am all for increasing access to condoms but I think this is only a small part of the issue. These are the reasons people, and particularly women who have sex with men, tell me they don't use condoms.

1. I just never think of it until I need it so I never have them around.
2. I'm embarrassed to bring it up. When do you bring up something like that? Especially if I don't have a condom and I'm hoping my partner does.
3. I'm afraid my partner will think I'm a slut if I have condoms in my purse.
4. If I ask to use a condom, they will think I have an STI.
5. If I ask to use a condom, they will think I think they have an STI.
6. If I've been with the person for awhile, I don't need to use condoms.
7. If I've been with the person for awhile and I ask to use condoms, they'll think I don't trust them.
8. If I've been with the person for awhile and I want to use condoms, they'll think I'm sleeping around.
9. I didn't think I needed to.
10. I've had sex with this person without a condom before, why start now?

These are the most common things that I hear. Rarely do I hear 'I don't like the packaging, it's not pretty enough' or 'The condom case in the store squeaked when I opened it and that embarassed me' (watch the loveability video and you'll see where this comes from).

A condom is not just a condom. It's a symbol. It's a symbol of trust or lack therof. It's a symbol of sexual availability or sexual promiscuity, or lack thereof. I don't believe it should be, but in North American culture, it often is. This is the problem that needs to be tackled. These are the attitudes and beliefs that we need to work on changing. That is what will get more women to use condoms.

The loveability condoms are very nice. I love the packaging and I love the idea and the earnestness of the people who are making them. They will be great for the few people who really care about what their condoms look like. But these are people who are already pretty cool with using condoms. Will it increase the number of women who actually use them? Definitely not.

Please Don't Buy This - Ever!

I have had some questions about a product I wrote about on the blog way back in 2012. It's called the Secret Ceres.

This is a stone that is supposed to tighten and 'rejuvenate' the vagina. When I first heard about it, it was because KoKo (our assistant manager as the store here) had stumbled across it and pointed it out to me. I thought it was a fringe thing that I would write about but never hear of again. I was wrong.

Apparently, the makers of this thing have been marketing the hell out of it. The site claims that it's been in Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Jolie. I don't know if that's true because I can't find the articles. But I know that people are somehow finding out about this thing because they're asking me about it.

It's very hard to understand exactly what this thing is. The site claims that it is infused with healing herbs but it does not say which. Regardless of what's actually in it, I would still say to stay the hell away from this thing. The site says that it helps to naturally slough off dead cell inside the vaginal lining. The thing is, the vagina does that all on it's own. It doesn't need any help. In fact, putting something weird in there could interfere with it's ability to naturlaly kill bacteria and other organisms that aren't supposed to be in there. The site does say that it helps to restore the natural ph of the vagina. That is legit. That is important. But does this actually do that? I doubt it. The PH of the vagina usually only changes as a result of other things that we put into our vaginas and into our bodies in general. I would guess that this causes more problems than it solves.

Whether it could possibly have some value or not, no one actually needs this products. Our vaginas do just fine on their own. I think there are much better ways you can spend $120.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Exact Kind of People You Want Teaching Your Kids Banned from Teaching Sex Ed.

Wow! I just read an article about two people in California who teach sex education classes in schools being banned because of the things that they do outside of their work. I am generally against firing teachers for things that happen in their lives outside of the classroom (unless they are molesting children or something of that nature) but this, in particular, is ridiculous. One of these people (names are not given in the article) teaches classes at Good Vibrations sex toy store in Berkeley. The other attended CatalystCon - a biannual conference that covers all manner of topics related to sex. This person described themselves as a pleasure activist on twitter.

This is completely ridiculous. Good Vibrations is THE original sex-positive, women-friendly sex toy store. Even though ownership has changed, a lot of their educators remain the same. Their education has always been progressive, positive, responsible, inclusive, and above all, accurate. Their education department is staffed by such notable people as Carol Queen and Charlie Glickman. Carol freakin' Queen and Charlie freakin' Glickman!!! These people are recognized as leaders in their field and respected by sex educators worldwide! If this person is getting their education from the people at GoodVibes, the schools should be thanking their lucky stars that they managed to score such a well-connected and well-educated sex ed teacher.

CatalystCon is hands down the most amazing sex conference I've ever been to. This is a gathering of leaders in all areas related to progressive sexuality. It is not a 'porn conference' as the article states - although I wouldn't have a problem with that either. It is a sexuality conference. It covers everything including porn. When I went, I attended sessions on sexuality and disability, the pros and cons of circumcision, body positivity, sex toy safety, anal pleasure and health, educating educators, and feminist pornography among others.

Every person I have met through Good Vibes and CatalystCon has been devoted to the concept of sex-positive education. These are communities that believe deeply in fostering love of self, respect for others, and positive healthy sexuality. These are good things people!!!! The educators who were fired are not named but I'm willing to bet that I've met them. I would very much expect that they have the same attitude on sex ed as all the others I've met in these communities.

These are also rational, professional, respectful people who understand boundaries. They, I'm sure, would know what's appropriate for the classroom and what's not. Notice how the article does not say that they discussed sex toys, good vibes store, or pornography in detail in their classes. Note also, that the article does not say that they were any complaints about what actually happened in the classrooms. The complaints were only about what these people did outside of the classroom. Even if these activities were actually harmful, which they aren't, they don't affect the students in any way. It's exactly the same thing as a teacher who drinks or smokes pot at home. As long as they aren't doing that in the classroom or talking to the kids about it, it doesn't affect them. That's their life and their business.

It baffles me why people would have a problem with any of this. It's based on a bias about sex that is completely unfounded and never explored. Some person somehow finds one of these educators tweets that uses a swear word and says that they've been to a sex conference, and they totally lose their mind. They don't bother to find out what that conference is all about. They just assume that the educator is out to corrupt their kids and teach them how to make porn and use sex toys. It's a kneejerk response that's rooted in a fear of sex.

Given what I've been doing for the last year, this upsets me in particular. I've been involved in action to bar a biased sex-negative group from delivering sex education in our schools in Edmonton. This group presents abstinence only fear-based information that is not medically accurate. They attempt to scare young people away from having sex by exaggerating the risks and ignoring information on how to truly take care of your health. They do not include abortion information and they ignore even the existence of gay, lesbian, bixsexual and genderqueer students. THIS is the kind of 'education' that is allowed in schools and yet people who have a vast background in sexuality, actually really know and understand sex, are inclusive of all people, and want to help people love themselves and their potential partners, and inappropriate educators. It blows my mind.

I have asked if there is any sort of protest or action going on in support of these educators but haven't heard back yet. If I do, I will post.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Worst Name of a Sex Toy Ever

There's a new toy out has arguably the worst name for a sex toy ever thought up. It's called the 'Womanizer'. I haven't actually seen the toy yet, so it may actually be a good product. It's unlikely based on the idea. It has a tiny plastic hole/tube at the bottom of it that it supposed to 'suck' on the clitoris. It might works, who knows?

But the name and packaging are hilarious. They are clearly not paying the marketing person enough.