Thursday, June 30, 2011

When love is more destructive than sex.



When I was 19, I had casual sex with a much older man for no good reason. I kind of regret it, but it didn't really hurt me; it was just sort of awkward and embarrassing. I thought it would be fun and it wasn't fun; but whatever, I could say the same thing about the Transformers movie. It wasn't coerced or painful, and a day later I was over it.

When I was 15, I fell in love with an older man. It was a huge fucking mess. He never had much connection with me except for sex, but I missed classes to be with him, got reported as a missing person when I was with him, my parents filed a restraining order against him, they tried to charge him with statutory rape, and the drama built to the one and only time in my life when I've threatened suicide. Basically, any kind of up that can be fucked, was.

I thought of these two men when I read that 51-year-old Doug Hutchinson married a 16-year-old, and I realized exactly why I was horrified.

I don't think an older person having sex with a teenager is that bad. It's kind of icky to me, but if it's consensual and legal, you have the right to be icky.

I think an older person saying "I love you" to a teenager is horrifically wrong.

Of course there's a special place in Hell for people who do this intentionally just to get some of that hot teenager sex, but I think it's wrong even if it's true. Because what a teenager thinks of as "love" is very rarely the same thing an adult means by that word. I might only be speaking for white suburban middle-class girls here, but at least in my experience, teenage love is stupid. It's idealized, over-dramatic, volatile, impractical, and often destructive. When two teenagers fall in love, they may do stupid things, but they really didn't know any better. An adult should know better.

I don't think it's always about sex, either. I think the experience of being idealized by someone, having them treat you like you're Edward Cullen and you're made of unicorn kisses and it's so cool that you have a car, can be an even bigger draw for adults who aren't very good at coping with other adults--or are so narcissistic that they don't see why they should have to.

When I was a teenager, I thought True Love conquered all. I thought if it was really True maybe it would last forever and we'd get married and have babies and a house of our own. I wanted to be by my True Love's side all the time, damn the damage to the rest of my life--in fact, I even thought the damage was sort of romantic, because it meant I was sacrificing for Love. I thought that True Love means thinking that your Lover is perfect and worshipping them. And if he asked me to do things I didn't want to (rarely sexual, more often in terms of disrupting my studies and friendships), saying "no" wouldn't be very Loving, would it?

I slept on his floor. We'd have sex, and he told me he wasn't comfortable sharing a bed, so I slept on the wooden floor next to his bed, like a dog. I don't want to make him out to be a complete monster here; I could have gone out and slept on the couch, but I preferred the floor. At 15, that was my idea of Love.

It took me quite a few years, and getting burned rather badly, and a whole lot of learning and thinking, to get to the point where I could be cool about love. To go from saying "I love you so much I'd jump in front of a train for you" to saying "I love you so much that I trust you to get off the goddamn tracks." To be able to argue with someone--and not back down, and maybe not ever completely resolve it--and still love them. To be able to say "no, I don't want to do this" (and I'm not just talking about sex acts; I'm also talking about "can you take the day off Tuesday to help me out?") and know that real love, if not True Love, is when they say "well, that's a bummer for me, but I understand you have a life too."

When I read about Doug Hutchinson marrying a 16-year-old, I don't worry that it's "gross" or that they're in different "leagues" or even that they won't have much to talk about over the dinner table. I worry that she's sleeping on his floor.



(Metaphorically. You guys.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The problem with porn.



Porn could be so good. It could be so simple. There's lots of sexy people in this world having hot sex just for the fun of it. Find some people who already do hot things together, pay them to sign model releases, and point a camera at them. Hooray, you've made porn!

Unfortunately, most porn doesn't seem to work this way. I think the fundamental problem with porn is that it didn't evolve out of the sex world, but out of the film world. As a result, porn producers generally cast performers as individuals rather than as couples (or groups), and they contrive scenarios rather than capturing scenarios that already happen. I've seen porn casting calls; they ask if you're willing to have anal sex, not if you enjoy anal sex. (For a variety of reasons, 98% of them fucked up, anal pays more.) Most porn seems to be desperately--often unsuccessfully--attempting to manufacture sexiness when there's so much sexiness in the world already.

I don't think it's inherently wrong to pay someone to have sex, but when pay is the only reason they're agreeing to the sex, a can of worms pops open. And it only gets wormier when there's a stigma attached that performing in porn marks someone for life as... um, a porn performer, but for some reason that's icky and bad. I'm not going to claim that all porn performers are drug addicts or trafficked women or whatever--for some of them it's conscious iconoclasm and for many more it's just a job--but they're definitely at risk of financial exploitation and sexual coercion. I'm not ready to declare that conventionally made porn is always wrong, but it's... wormy.

And frankly, it's often just ugly. When people are having sex that doesn't turn them on with partners whom they're not attracted to, it shows. Not only is it no fun to watch, but it's the worst role model imaginable. When you watch porn and you're not experienced in real sex, it's easy to come away with the impression that sex isn't supposed to feel good, that hollow moans and joyless pounding are how normal people do it.

The last time I had sex with Rowdy, he pulled my hair, bit me hard enough to leave a bruise, held me down while he fucked me... and at the end we were kissing and giggling. I wish I could see something like this in porn. What I'd like to see isn't sweet soft sex necessarily, but sex with humanity, sex where people are being rough because they both get off on it.

Some "amateur" porn already fits what I'd like porn to be, and things like RedTube and alt-porn are advancing that as well. Not always as well as I'd like it--the porn producer idea of "amateur porn" often seems to be "amateur women"--but there's definitely real sex getting put on video out there. But you know who really does this well? Comstock Films. What they do isn't just amateur porn but documentary porn, and it's awesome.

I don't think people consume porn like movies. It's a running joke that you don't watch it for the story and you often don't even watch it the whole way though. So why is porn made like movies? If porn doesn't need plots or drama (and based on the few "dramatic" porn films I've seen, it really, really doesn't), then porn doesn't need actors. It just needs fuckers. And people already do that for fun.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How a sex blog becomes a sexual justice blog.



I'm overjoyed about the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, and somewhat overeager about what it might mean for the rest of the country.

Which is weird, because I'm dating a man and not planning to get married. I am the opposite of someone who should care about this. I can't claim "well, I just love justice," because although I'd hope I'm not anti-justice, I don't follow other forms of justice all that closely. Sexual justice does matter more to me.

The funny thing is, I didn't start a sex blog because I cared about sexual justice. I started The Pervocracy, honestly, just because I had a general LiveJournal (now long since abandoned) and my friends told me they were uncomfortable with me posting about my sex life. Since I have a congenital inability to think something and not say it, I started a blog just to talk about my sex life. The first posts are all "I gave my boyfriend a blowjob today" and "my crotch: let me tell you about it." My first post on feminism wasn't til I had been blogging for four months. Funny thing is, I started caring about sexual justice because I had a sex blog.

Back when I had an OkCupid account, my hardest of hard limits was anyone who said they disapproved of homosexuality. There were other opinions that might make me realize we had irreconcilable political differences, but that was the only one that just made me angry. Because how dare someone think that he had the right to pursue the relationship he wanted, and have no empathy for other people who wanted the same thing. Being celibate and opposed to others' relationships would still be bitter and nasty, but at least it would be consistent!

So the more love and joy I got out of heterosexual relationships, the more I resolved myself to value all relationships. The more freedom I felt in expressing my (rather conflicted and inconsistent) gender, the more I wanted everyone to be able to do the same. The more I came to accept my own body, the less I could tolerate shaming anyone's body. The more I came to appreciate just how good sex can be, the angrier I got when sex was cheapened into a commodity or perverted into a weapon.

I think everyone should care about sexual justice, of course. But in the course of writing this blog, I've realized that if you care about sex, you have to care about sexual justice. It's my belief that if you enjoy wonderful, joyful, mutually enthusiastic sex, the kind where you end it just grinning at each other and feeling perfectly fit against each other's skins--you have the obligation to defend that kind of joy in the world.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My boobs want to be free.



It's getting to be hot out these days. Swimming weather, sunbathing weather, Frisbee weather. Lots of guys running around shirtless. They look so carefree, their burns and tans, abs and guts, open to the sun and the wind.

Me? I gotta wear a shirt. I got shame on my chest.

The frustrating thing is that this isn't even a legal issue, not really. Female toplessness is legal in a lot of places in the US (although not where I live), and I'd be meeting the letter of the law with a couple of Band-aids. But I have a gut feeling that if I go anywhere that there are people--and particularly anywhere there are children--nobody's going to be too happy about my Band-aids. The enforcement is social; women just don't go around topless in the US.

It bothers me because it's unequal, but it also bothers me in its implications: that my body is inherently sexual, and a man's body isn't. It feels like men are being viewed through the first-person lens of "it's nice to feel the sun on my skin, and I don't mean anything by it" and women are being viewed through the distinctly third-person lens of "it's inappropriate for me, a heterosexual man, to see her sexy parts." It ignores the experiences of people who are turned on by male chests and somehow manage to contain themselves when they see one.

And hell yes, it does bother me that it's unequal. I don't want to gloss over that. I don't know how we can act like gender equality is a big deal in this country, then turn around and claim that the same body part that's innocuous on men is obscene on women. That's glaring discrimination in the plainest form: treating one group differently from another for no reason but custom.

Like many taboos, the boobie taboo is self-perpetuating. You never see breasts in public, so it really is shocking and attention-grabbing when someone walks by you on the sidewalk and WHOA DOES SHE HAVE HER BAZOOMS OUT? Whereas someone walks by you on the sidewalk and she's got her hair out, and you don't register this at all, not because hair isn't sexy but because you see a bazillion bareheaded women a day.

This is a sex blog, but this isn't really a sex issue. Or shouldn't be. I don't want to do stripteases in public, to caress my breasts or twirl tassels on my nipples. I just want to be able to go "whoof, it's hot out" and peel off my shirt. This isn't about my breasts; it's about my chest.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A small request.



An open letter to everyone I've engaged in BDSM with:

Please do not, in social situations or even vanilla sex, just come out and whomp me.

Don't hit me because I said something "bratty" and it would be funny. Don't hit me because we're joking about what a totally kinky kinkster I am. Don't hit me to show that you're the UberDom and you don't take sass. Don't hit me because my butt is just sticking out there, like right out there, and it's just too tempting.

And for the love of God don't hit me because you think I'd like it.

There are people who are okay with this sort of thing, who really are in bottom mode all the time, and I've got no problem with that. And there are other people who aren't physically enjoying it, but are in D/s relationships where they've agreed to take it. But neither of these covers everyone in BDSM. There are a lot more people--and I'm one of them--whose reaction being casually whomped is "well, it didn't hurt that bad, and I don't want to bring everyone down by making a big deal out of it, and I don't want people to be afraid to play with me because I'm too touchy, and I guess it was kinda funny... but ugh."

Hitting's kind of a big deal, you know? We're aware of that in BDSM-land, so we talk real big about consent and negotiation--we know that consent is the difference between What It Is That We Do and kidnapping, assault, and rape. The problem is, then we get comfy with it. Once you've crossed the social boundaries and gotten used to the feeling of striking another person who does not hit back, you can get to feeling a little too casual about it.

Please don't. I like to be hit--when I'm in bottom mode, when I'm ready for it. Enjoying being hit is a psychological and physical challenge. It's not something you can just toss at me. When I get hit in the context of casual conversation or horsing around or making out, I feel exactly the same as a normal person who just got hit. Scared, pissed off, and just plain hurt.

I'm not talking here about strangers in the community; that really would be straight up assault. I'm talking about people that I like, people that I've played with or slept with, people that I did give my consent to some BDSM activities with. I've gotten in habits like sitting with my back to the wall so I can't be grabbed from behind, or not wanting to walk up stairs ahead of certain people. It's a little bit of a playful "ha ha, gotta keep 'em from gettin' to me, I'm so wily!"... and a little bit of a "I'm quite seriously trying to protect myself from unwanted pain." There are moments when I've really felt like I was in a situation where I couldn't avoid being hurt or predict when it was going to happen. Not in the fun way.

It's easy to understand why you can't do a full scene with someone without negotiating--obviously you can't tie someone to a chair or beat them bloody without a little "you're sure you're cool with this?" first. But just because a playful slap isn't Big Important Deal BDSM doesn't mean that it's not BDSM. Even a playful slap requires consent.

If you want to hit someone in a terrifying, edge-of-real-danger, intensely sensual and perverse way, negotiate it and get their consent. If you want to casually dope-slap someone for being a totally goofy little dingus.... negotiate it and get their consent.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Peggle and the Smurfette Principle.



I've been playing Peggle lately, because I'm easily amused by bright shiny colors and cheerful dink dink sounds that make it sound like I'm doing something very important and successful when I'm barely even interacting with the game. And I know this isn't exactly on the "children starving in the streets" level of importance, but I couldn't help noticing there was something funny about the cast of characters.

In Peggle, you play as one of ten cutesy cartoon critters. There's Jimmy Lightning, the surfer-dude beaver! Master Hu, the wise owl! Claude, the inexplicably French lobster! ...And Tula, the female flower! All of the characters have a different silly quirk, and her quirk is "female!"

The total, then, is nine male characters and one female character. (One character is an alien and is arguably alien-gendered. Eight males and one female, anyway.) This is what TvTropes would call the Smurfette Principle: For any series not aimed solely at females, odds are high that only one female will be in the regular cast.

The implications of the Smurfette Principle are numerous and pretty smurfing offensive:
-Men are the default gender, and women are a variation
-It's normal for there to be more men than women in a group that is doing something interesting
-Men have a variety of personalities; women don't
-Women won't mind playing a male character, but men would be embarrassed or unwilling to play as female
-If a game had a lot of female characters, it would be a "girl game," and those are widely known for being condescending and technically incompetent

The tricky part is: I don't think the Peggle dev team were trying to say any of the things above. I do not suspect them of hating women or participating in some grand conspiracy against women. I'm sure they were just trying to design a cute little ensemble of cartoon animals, and this is what came to mind. (It may not have helped that the Peggle dev team consisted of... nine men and one woman.)

This is what's meant by "ingrained sexism"--not hatred of women, but unintentional disregard. It's not a problem of thinking women are inferior so much as it is a problem of forgetting to think about women at all. It's pretty benign when it comes to cartoon videogame characters; not so much when you can look at a picture of the newly elected members of the 112th US Congress and not immediately see What's Wrong With This Picture.

Women are half of everybody. I hope I live to see the day when we're half of the people who get talked about and written about, too.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The invisible dick of Adam Smith.



It's been too long since we had a good episode of Someone Is Wrong On The Internet. In this case they're wrong in an actual print newspaper (albeit sort of a fake one), but I try to keep the number of tags down.

From the Washington Times: Economy of sex: It's cheap these days

See, if you say "all women are whores," you're a misogynist or something, but if you say "all women participate in the economy of sex," then it is a penetrating insight.

We put a price tag on sex. You might not think we ought to do that, but we do. Sex, at one level, is an exchange. … Each person gives the other person something of themselves. But it is typically a different something.”
Well... I give pussy, and I get cock. (I can also give pussy and get pussy--as per usual, gay people don't exist in this article--but it will be a different pussy, so that still counts.) And to be a little less crude, I give my unique talents and kinks and displays of sexual enthusiasm and affection, and I receive someone else's different talents etc. in return.

But all this presupposes that women would like sex for sex, and we can't have that. I'm not totally sure why we can't have that--it may have something to do with admitting that men and women have something in common, and something to do with admitting that sex is a textured experience and not a binary "sex or no sex" thing--but we can't.

Their conclusion is that, for young single Americans, modern rules of romantic engagement “clearly favor men” and penalize women who want to marry — especially those who want to save sex for marriage.
I'm a woman who wants to have lots of sex and not marry. Am I an honorary man, or a bizarre exception, or what? And it's important to note, I'm not just talking about casual hookups. It doesn't matter how close Rowdy and I are, doesn't matter what we do together or how we support each other--as long as we're not married, this article is going to treat it like a "wham bam thank you ma'am."

Anyway, as of 2010, about 83% of people had been married at some point in their lives by age 44. (US census data.) That means, according to Bizarro Logic, that 83% of women "won" and only 17% of men "won."

So what was the old “exchange rate” for sex, and how has it changed? Researchers have long recognized that male-female mating systems revolved around exchanges. Even in ancient times, men and women bonded because one could cook, sew, make a home and have babies, and the other could hunt prey and protect the woman and child,
Except for the "have babies," I'm pretty damn sure that either partner could do either half of that. And, in many cases, did. Men may have done more hunting and fighting, but since those make up a relatively small part of a person's life, Ye Olde Undefined-In-Place-Or-Time Tymes had plenty of men working on "household" tasks and plenty of women doing heavy labor.

Or should have. The fact that women (and men!) were sometimes genuinely restricted and pigeonholed in Ye Olde Tymes doesn't mean this was good.

Exchange rates sometimes involved real money or property, in the form of dowries or bride prices, she noted.
Yeah. Like this, for example. Please note, also, that neither dowries nor bride prices were actually given to the bride. Pretty much all she got out of the arrangement was "not being homeless."

A man who sought sex with a particular woman typically had to give her something of very high value in exchange — either marriage or at least a marriage proposal, he said.
But if I accept that marriage proposal, then I have to give him marriage, too!

You can construct this as a fair deal--we give each other sex for sex, and marriage for marriage. But to say it's a matter of "sex for marriage" implies that sex is indifferent or horrible for women, and marriage is likewise for men. Which is not just untrue, it's a sucky view of the world, one in which no one can be really happy and all sex and love is grudgingly given on one end or the other. It's a world in which truly mutual ecstasy in sex or happiness in marriage are not possible; how mutual can it be when you purchase a person?

The sexual market generally has more men than women in it, and rules of supply and demand operate, with the rarer sex wielding more power,
Whut.

...I know some women are asexual, but so are some men, and I don't think it's statistically huge numbers of either. This makes it sound like there are thousands of women just hiding somewhere in order to inflate the lady-price.

Say a young man wants to get to know his girlfriend of two months “more,” he said. If she says no, “then this tells the man, ‘The price is higher than you think.’ And he will have to figure out how high the price is: Does she need more time, more commitment?”
This is scary rape logic. It completely negates the possibility that a woman might not want sex at all with a certain person at a certain point in her life. (It also ignores the fact that she has a life of her own, and makes it sound like her choices only exist in relation to the man's actions.) If women can't say no to sex, but can only say "pay more," then rape is reduced to the level of shoplifting. Less, even, if a man feels that he's already "paid" enough and the woman is being unreasonable.

If "no" means "pay more," then "no" doesn't mean "no." And that's not just bullshit; it's dangerous bullshit.

College campuses and urban areas are often dominated by women, which means that men can and will decide how much — or how little — they will exchange for sex.
There are more women on some college campuses (more men on others), but I assume the statistics on there being more women in "urban areas" come directly from the United States Bureau of Pulling Things Out Of Your Ass.

Plus, it just doesn't work like that. People aren't commodities. At the very worst, people are artisan goods, where differences in quality matter. I wouldn't dump one Tim Minchin because I could get five Charlie Sheens. But really, people are people. Being in a polyamorous relationship doesn't mean I have to sexually "outbid" Sprite or take twice as much crap from Rowdy, because we're human beings who make an effort to treat each other decently just for decency's sake.

Men’s rules of engagement play to their interests of having sex often, with many partners, in a more sexually permissive environment, without romance or commitment, he said.
Why? BECAUSE. Because everyone knows this, right?

Or, at least, if we keep saying this, everyone will "know" it, and then we can really say "come on, everyone knows this!"

power shifts away from women as they move toward their 30s, Mr. Regnerus said. In other words, women have power when they are the minority in the sex market, but they lose power when they drift into the marriage market, where women outnumber men.
Are these markets in, like, separate places? Do they have separate ticker symbols? I mean, I guess there are people who've made up their minds to get married, but saying they're a marriage "market" is...

Oh. I know why I'm confused. It's because above, men were trading marriage for sex, but now we're talking like they're two separate markets. So I'm confused what exactly women are trading for marriage, if not sex (and not, you know, love or companionship or any of that happy horseshit). How can you be in the "marriage market" as a freestanding thing? Are you waiting for someone to offer enough goats?

The new sexual economy is especially disadvantageous to any woman who wants to remain a virgin until her wedding day, he said. These women essentially never enter the sex market, but instead “hold out for the highest price for sex, which is marriage.”
Wait, so women who reserve sex for marriage are... less likely to get laid? Well, yeah, but I think they're okay with that. Less likely to get married? Not from what I've seen.

There are men (really! I've met some!) who want to save sex for marriage, and they're unlikely to want to marry anyone but their female counterparts, so really, this isn't overpricing but a lucrative niche market.

“You can’t just decide that your house is worth $500,000 if everyone else is getting $200,000. … You can try for that price, but it’s unlikely you will get it.”
Fine, I'll run with that analogy. My house is large and in good repair and is in a nice neighborhood with easy access to transit. A buyer coming up to me and saying "I'll only pay $200K, because that's what houses cost" would get laughed out of any real estate office in the city.

Likewise, a guy would hopefully put some effort into romancing me because that's the only way he can get me, not because he just wants a woman, any woman.

But all this is buying into the mentality that people are to be bought and owned, or specifically that women are to be bought and owned. What I would really hope is that a guy would put some effort into romancing me because romance is fun and I am romancing him back.

A fundamental principle of sexual economics is that “sexual activity by females has exchange value, whereas male sexuality does not,” Mr. Baumeister and Ms. Vohs wrote in their 2004 paper.
Well, a fundamental principle of sexual reality is that cock is awesome and although I don't believe in "exchange" value, I certainly value it.

Let's put it this way: if I had the option to marry a man but never have sex with him, I would not be happy about this. If I had the option to have sex with a man but never marry him, I'd... well, I'm actually doing that right now.

Maybe I'm a freak. Any of my female readers who are just pining for a sexless marriage, please, speak up.

“When women collude to restrict men’s sexual access to women, all women tend to benefit,” he said, noting that “if women were more in charge of how their romantic relationships transpired … we would be seeing greater male investment in relationships, more impressive wooing efforts, fewer hookups, fewer premarital sexual partners … shorter cohabitations, more marrying … and more marrying at a slightly earlier age. In other words, the price of sex would be higher. It would cost men more to access it.”
Ah, the old Lysistrata gambit. Except that in Lysistrata, the women were (quite reluctantly!) withholding sex to end a war, and in this, women would be withholding sex to... have less sex.

Whoo.

However, he said, “none of these things are occurring today. Not one. The price of sex is pretty low.”'
Maybe the reason women aren't doing all the things this man thinks women should do is... women don't want to.

Maybe women love sex.

Maybe (heterosexual and bisexual) women even love men, for their bodies and friendship and companionship as well as for their marriage "value."

Maybe the world is not just different than is constructed in your weird little market ideology, but is better and happier and freer than you can even imagine. Maybe sex and love aren't matters of supply and demand, but humanity and joy.

Maybe a man and a woman in love aren't buyer and seller, but lover and lover.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Post-meetup.

The meetup was fun! Thanks tons to everyone who came out! Real post in the morning!

I took notes on the things we talked about, but looking back on them, all I see are things like "hamster bottles for people" and "caterpenis metamorphoses into cockoon," and I think these may define the very essence of You Had To Be There.

So I'll just say, again, that it was fun, and I love meeting seriously awesome real people via Blogland.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What about teh bathroomz?

This Sunday, I'll be volunteering in support of the Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Bill, which would add gender identity and expression to the state civil rights laws which prohibit employment/housing/education discrimination and establish penalties for hate crimes.

One of the most common objections raised to this sort of legislation is also sort of silly--the public bathroom issue. People are concerned that it'll be easier for people to get into the "wrong" bathroom and make people uncomfortable or perv on them or even assault them. Which I think is ridiculous on its face; it contains the unspoken assumption that trans people are dangerous, and that bathroom segregation is a crucial safety measure. Plus, there's been no epidemic of people dressing up as cis members of the other gender to sneak into bathrooms. (I think guys have actually caught on that we just pee in there. All we do is squat and pee and ideally wash our hands. It is not exciting.)

But this raises a major objection to bathroom paranoia: what about teh cis people?

Because, let's face it, there are some women assigned as women and living as women who, by fashion choices and/or genetics, look awfully masculine. (Ditto feminine men.) If we decide that bathrooms have to be used according to assigned sex, how are these people going to prove they belong? How does a stranger, on casual observation of a clothed person, know their assigned sex? Sure, the spectre of cis people having to somehow prove their gender in order to take a leak is as ludicrous as it is offensive... but so is the spectre of evil trans people hiding in bathrooms waiting to strike.

Personally, I'd like all bathrooms to be unisex, and I think they'd quickly become no more dangerous or awkward than a unisex reading room or unisex elevator. But failing that, we should at least not enforce the bathroom thing. Not only is letting people use whatever bathroom they want a reasonable accommodation for trans people, not only is it a reasonable accommodation for many cis people, but it also helps guarantee the safety of both cis and trans people. Because I have a suspicion that far more people have been assaulted or threatened in the context of bathroom enforcement than have ever been menaced by cross-dressed bathroom lurkers.

I've been fascinated lately by the slipperiness of gender, and this is just another example of how impossible it is to enforce rules based on the idea that gender is not only binary and biological--but binary, biological, and obvious.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When life is okay.

The ultimate fuel behind my feminism, behind writing and protesting and taking to the streets, is not anger. Certainly there are flashes of anger--when I'm told, in code or straight up, that as a woman I am less than a person or some other kind of person than the usual, I am angry. But though that's often what gets me talking, that's not what keeps me going. If life were nothing but a mountain of offenses, I'm not sure I'd bother to fight.

What keeps me going is the joy in life. It's the times when everything goes right--or even just most things go mostly okay--and it's wonderful.

Last night was not special. I went to a munch and talked with a bunch of other kinksters, had dinner with Sprite and Rowdy, and went home with Rowdy. At home we listened to music and talked and played around but didn't have sex and fell asleep. It wasn't amazing; it was simply an ordinary evening in which nothing bad happened. Nobody insulted me or kept me from doing anything or tried to hurt me. We rode on the bus looking at the lights of the city and we talked about bicycles as we walked home.

So what really motivates me is the wish that all my evenings, and everyone's evenings, could be this simple. Could be sharing a plate of cheap Chinese food and listening to Journey, safely and peacefully and without pain or obligation or self-doubt.

A lot of feminism is talk about ways in which the world is hard for women, and that's important talk--without exposing injustice, it's hard to fight it. But it's important to remember that this isn't an end in itself. Even fighting injustice is not the end of feminism.

The end is a world in which being a woman is okay, and all the days and evenings of all women are okay. The end is a quiet night in a quiet apartment, a place where I will not be harmed or shamed, am not hated or made to hate myself, am not any less nor more nor different of a person than the man by my side, quietly singing:

"Don't stop believing..."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Short hair.

I cut off all but a couple inches of my hair. It's way comfier and easier to maintain now.

But I didn't realize, when I did it, how much I would be running head-on into a minefield of gender and sexual anxieties. It wasn't a deliberate act of gender fuckery; I went in for a woman's haircut and showed the hairdresser a picture of a woman.

Within a day, I was getting called "he" and "sir."

Which I don't mind, when it's an honest mistake. If someone wants to believe I'm a man and treat me in good faith like a man, that's fine. In fact, if I were a little more passable I'd almost be curious how far it would go. What I do mind is when someone recognizes me as a woman, but as a woman who's presenting wrong, and gets either nasty or excessively "so, since you have short hair, tell me about your genitals" intrusive about it.

And it gets to me. I wish I were a Gender Warrior. I wish I had the strength to answer every "are you a boy or a girl?" with "really, would it affect you?" But I have an ego, I have sensitive spots about being called ugly and unsexy, and frankly, I have me some tender widdle feewings. At the same time as I want to be a Gender Warrior, I also want to be attractive and be liked.

It scares me that my first thought was "I could wear makeup and dresses and that would even it out!" Because it would. But it wouldn't be a matter of making myself happier, or even really prettier; it would be a matter of getting people off my back. It would be letting strangers--and the very meanest and dumbest strangers at that--tell me how to get dressed in the morning.

And my second thought is outright fear that, with something as simple and silly as a haircut, I might have bought myself a ticket into some really dangerous bigotry. I look like a lesbian or a trans man, and although I'm not, good luck explaining that to the sort of people who can't be decent to lesbians and trans men in public. (Then again, it's kind of a grossly privileged thing to say "don't call me that, I'm not a lesbian!" instead of "don't call me that, you shouldn't call anyone that.")

And my third thought is "oh no, it's going to be much harder to get laid now!" Rowdy likes androgyny, but it seems like most straight men like femininity, and I do feel a bit bummed that I might've blown my chances with them. Even some of the guys I've dated before liked me to be feminine, and in a weird way I almost feel like I'm betraying them--making them retroactively gay or something.

But I have all these nervous little thoughts, and then I look in the mirror, and all I can think is that I look good to me. I look like I'd like to look. Whatever the risks of being unfeminine, there's a great reward in feeling comfortable in my own skin. If my appearance were a mask, something that existed to show to others, it would be a failure at its task; but as a face, something that is also a part of my self, it has value.

I like my short hair. It scares me, but it also challenges me. It doesn't allow me to hide behind "don't worry, I may be an ally to weirdos, but I'm normal" quite as easily. And I can get a goddamn comb through it. I'm going to keep it for a bit.



Now, what really challenges my self-identity is the fact that with all the dyed parts cut out, I'm blonde now. I'm a goddamn natural blonde. This, I don't think I can integrate into my self-image.

Internalization.

This weekend, I walked in the Boston Dyke March as an ally. It was a wonderful, powerful atmosphere. And one, literally, of pride; of thousands of people being able to go out and say "no, I'm not ashamed to be a lesbian, and why the hell should I be?" Women held hands and kissed in public, because people are allowed to hold hands and kiss in public.

I had no trouble supporting this in public, because I feel like it's a totally legitimate and worthy cause; there's no doubt in my mind that women who have relationships with other women are doing something that's Okay, that's Allowed, and I wish the world at large would acknowledge this.

But when it comes to my own relationship--to polyamory, specifically--I am ashamed. I'm fine talking about it on the Internet or in Kinkland, but when it comes to real life and hostile places, to family and coworkers and society at large, I can't say "I'm here, I'm dating a dude who's dating another chick but it's not like cheating it's actually cool with everyone, get over it." Except for my parents and one coworker I trust, I'm closeted. And when I have come out to people who weren't "cool," I wasn't a warrior. I was embarrassed, even apologetic. Explaining my relationship to, for example, my doctor didn't make me feel like I was spreading awareness. It made me feel like I was disclosing a secret disgusting perversion, a naughty peccadillo, a dirty and decadent habit.

The problem is that on some level, I don't feel like my own relationship is Okay and Allowed. I feel as if it's a thing we're getting away with, not a thing we damn well should get away with. Some part of me has internalized the belief that polyamory is a shameful sexual habit, rather than a completely legitimate relationship style. Or I feel like it's not important, not a Real Big Deal, not worth getting all mouthy about, even though it actually has a huge impact on my life.

I don't want to draw too much of an equivalence with the Dyke March, because I can be happy in a monogamous relationship, and many of the people at the Dyke March couldn't be happy in a heterosexual one. And poly people may be underground but we don't face violence and discrimination on anywhere near the level gay people do. Nonetheless, I do think that the model of going from shame to pride, of changing people's perspective from "that's a perversion" to "that's a relationship" could be a valuable one for polyamory. And not just for outsiders. For poly people ourselves.

I hope someday polyamory can come more into the light, that it will become understood as a legitimate lifestyle, just another way for people to love each other. I suspect the poly community couldn't field as many people as a the gay one, but I hope someday those people who are with us won't be afraid or ashamed to admit it. I hope someday I can say "my boyfriend's other girlfriend" outside kink circles and not only will other people be comfortable with it, I'll be comfortable with it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Genderless.

I know I'm late to the party when it comes to commenting on the whole "child raised without a gender" kerfuffle, but I wanted to say this:

I can't think of many things crueler than going up to a child and saying:

"Hi, little Storm! Welcome to the world! It's a big exciting place! But there are a few rules. Some of the fun things you see, you won't be allowed to do, even though other kids do them, because of the way you were born. You're able to do these things, and maybe you'll want to, but you're not allowed, because everyone says so. And if you do those things you're not allowed to do, other kids will make fun of you and grown-ups will think there's something wrong with you and when you get a little older you might even get beat up! In fact, you're not even allowed to want to do these things!

Because of how you were born, little Storm, there are clothes you can't wear, clubs you can't join, ways you can't talk, toys you can't play with, sports you can't play, names you can't use, haircuts you can't get, and entire ways of being and acting and expressing yourself will be closed off to you! For no particular reason!

Have fun out there, and remember, don't do the things half the other kids are having fun doing, or you'll get in big trouble!"

Now that's permanently damaging.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Who Cares About Men's Rights?"

Boston-area Pervocrats! See below for an exciting but last-minute meetup!

Non-Boston-area Pervocrats, and Boston-area Pervocrats that already looked below!
Today instead of posting, I'm just going to link to something Ozymandias wrote, because it's pretty powerful.

Who Cares About Men's Rights?
I care because this is not about men, this is about my father and my boyfriend and my best friends and the guys whose books I've stolen and the guys whose hearts I've broken and the guy who broke mine and the greatest English teacher the world has ever known and my Greek professor and next year's roommates and Neil Gaiman and Gerard Way and Joey Ramone and Jim Butcher and half of the people I have ever loved or hated or feared or wanted to be.

Now it is time for the yelling.

Feminists? You know what you are, as a movement, right now? You are that's not my department says Wernher Von Brauhn. I mean, have we learned nothing from when we got black people in the movement, and poor people, and queer people, and trans people, and disabled people? The side of "well, we shouldn't help with that, it's not our thing really" has never, ever, ever, ever turned out to be the right side! You would think we would have caught on to the trend by now!


It's definitely worth reading the whole thing.

Meetup!

Boston-area Pervocrats! Exciting news!

In conjunction with the blog Manboobz, we are holding a Pervocracy-Manboobz Joint Meetup!

We'll meet at 6:00 PM on Friday the 17th, at the Prudential Center food court in downtown Boston (access via the Green Line or a short walk from Back Bay Station on the Orange Line; parking at the Pru is obscenely expensive and not recommended). We'll talk about issues of interests to crotchety humorless feminists, frivolous fun-feminists, sexually deviant feminists, and "I have a big complex objection to the word feminist but am basically an ally"s alike!

Apologies for the short notice; if I get a big response from people saying "I could've made it, but" I might organize a second one.

I have a lot of smart and snappy readers and I know quite a few of you are in Boston; come on out and say hi.


EDIT: For Fetlife members, the event page is here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cosmocking: July '11!

Pinkish-purplish cover! Fun fact: unlike all the "rainbow" colors, this color does not exist as a pure wavelength of light, and can only be produced by a combination of wavelengths! Rihanna! Boob tube and like eight pounds of jewelry! "His 6 Secret Sex Spots!" The penis is not that big a secret, Cosmo! "What Men Crave In July!" I don't even whatever okay! "Your Breast Myths--Busted! #1: The Boobgasm Does Exist!" Unclear if they're calling that a myth or not! I mean, I've had some myself, but that never seems to matter in this sort of thing!

One of the ads in this issue comes with a free pantyliner. Huh.

Women's paraphernalia is so revealing--the book she's reading or if she's carrying a bright pink phone. I can tell a lot by the color of her phone, actually!
What you can tell about me from the color of my phone is that I'm clumsy. I drop things, I break things, and because my phone is expensive, I sprang for a mega-resilient everything-proof impact case, which I could only find in black. Read "black means sophistication and thoughtfulness" or whatever into that.

My point isn't that I'm special. My point is that everyone's special. Everyone comes with particular circumstances and backstory that you simply can't read from superficial things. Everyone got their phone color--and a whole lot of other supposedly defining traits--for some idiosyncratic reason with a story behind it.

A girl who can handle a strong drink is attractive. She doesn't have to be slugging a Guinness, but if she comes in and orders a martini, I know I'm going to like her.
I did the tough-guy-drink thing for a while. I'd go for the darkest, strongest, bitterest thing around just to prove that I wasn't some weak little girl. Then I realized that I actually enjoy sweet fruity drinks. Not enjoy like "I'm too weak to stand up under the brutal taste assault of a real drink," but enjoy like "this makes my mouth happier."

So these days, if I want to prove that I can "handle" shit, I order a strawberry margarita and punch myself in the chest a couple times.

In a recent survey, 16 percent of women said they'd trade a year of their life for the perfect bod.
You think I'm going to mock the shallowness, but actually, I'd do this. I'd happily settle for living to 79 instead of 80 if I could have a body that was capable of running without getting winded, climbing without tiring, doing acrobatics without falling, dancing without getting completely discombobulated. Having a body of exceptional ability would easily be worth a year of my life.

Don't give much of a shit what it looks like, though.

We stopped at the food court for lunch and found a table by the entrance. At one point, I looked up and saw my ex walk in. I was feeling good, so I figured I'd say "hey" to show him what he was missing.
This is just part of a long boring story, but it jumped out at me as exceptionally nasty and bitter. I know I come from a different place culturally than Cosmo, but when I say "hey" to an ex it usually means "hey, we're still two people who have things in common and a shared history, and I still care about you as a friend, so how's it going?"

Rowdy has a theory that this "it's normal and funny to despise all exes" attitude comes from a particularly limited view of monogamy, in which it isn't enough to only love one person--you have to only love one person ever. In order to maintain retroactive monogamy, you must declare that all previous relationships were false loves, and thus despicable.

My own theory is different. My theory is that a breakup hurts, so (if you're a little perspective-deficient) you see the person who broke up with you as an attacker causing you pain. Never mind that the only way to avoid this pain is to date one person your entire life--they're still a jerkface for making you unhappy, and concepts of "painful for him too" or "painful but necessary" don't enter into it.

News Flash: Guys Crave More TLC in July
I don't even whatever okay.

Actually, the content of this cites a study saying that people are more likely to be depressed in the summer, then decides that "people" means "men" and "summer" means "July" and "depression" means "kinda bummed," in which case this makes perfect sense! Also, the way to treat a guy in July is to baby him and cater to him and act like you have no needs of your own, but you already knew that.

So, what are His 6 Secret Sex Spots? Why, they're...
1. The shaft of his penis
2. His testicles
3. The base of his penis
4. The head of his penis
5. His perineum

Math is hard.

But, see, this is why I want to be a paid "sexpert" someday. I'm going to tell people that I have the mystic secret of male arousal, tell them "it's his penis," and get taken seriously.

On why you shouldn't talk about dieting with your husband (but you should diet):
Men want hot spouses but don't want to hear that happens.
Yeah, and I want a guy who'll use a vibrator on me for three hours and then go to sleep. Too bad that when you have relationships with people who have lives and needs of their own, you sometimes have to be bothered with their stupid ol' humanity.

There's a whole article on wacky ER stories. Oh boy...
I'll never forget the time the medics brought a couple into the ER, naked and still stuck in the missionary position, with a blanket over them. The guy was wearing a necklace, and they must have been going at it vigorously because the necklace had swung into the woman's eye and become stuck.
And nobody thought to cut the necklace? They hauled two naked people into the ER in a sex position because of an eye injury?

...Okay, I know medics who might do that, but still.

A 26-year-old woman came into the ER because she had lacerated her vagina. She was bleeding quite a bit and required stitches. Turns out, she had a vaginal piercing that had gotten caught on her boyfriend's ring during sex. He didn't realize it, so when he pulled his hand away, the piercing tore out.
Your use of fancy words like "lacerated" is betrayed by your inability to realize which part is the vagina.

Hint: it's the internal muscular tube that--unlike the clitoral hood and labia--is never cosmetically pierced. It is not a general term for "you know, the down-therey bits." (Arguably a Princess Albertina piercing does go through the vagina, but that's pretty exotic. 99 to 1 the author just didn't realize that a real ER nurse or doctor would know what a goddamn vagina is.)

This woman had a broken ankle, and her husband carried her into the ER. When I asked what had happened, she said she slipped in the shower. I knew it had to be something else--she was blushing like crazy and had several oddly placed bruises on her body--so I asked her one more time. She admitted that she and her husband had been doing it doggie-style at the top of the stairs, and he thrust so hard that she fell down the whole flight, bumping her knees and elbows and breaking her ankle.
This one is weird, because I was on a call just like this one early in my career. We had a woman with a lot of bruises who claimed she'd slipped in the shower. Things didn't add up, so we pressed, and she told us she'd really gotten hurt during standing sex when her boyfriend dropped her.

...Course it turned out he'd actually beaten the shit out of her.

I'm not saying that's the case here. I'm just saying that injured woman + overprotective husband (and you'll really think I'm paranoid now, but it is an overprotective thing to carry someone in as opposed to just supporting them on the injured side and helping them hop to a wheelchair) + lies + ridiculous story that makes no sense = Very High Index Of Suspicion.

Play Sexy Slang. This is Cosmo's new favorite game--it's a mixture of charades and Pictionary... but with way racier terms. How would you draw "manscaping?"
I would draw it like (NWS) this.

Monday, June 6, 2011

How to become invisible.

Boston's a great walking city; whether it's socializing, shopping, studying, or just getting outside, I spend a lot of time on the sidewalk, and so do lots of my neighbors. When I go out alone, people talk to me. Friends say hi, tourists ask for directions, street people ask for money, shop clerks say "can I help you?", cellphone salesmen make obnoxious pitches, clipboard people ask for signatures and donations, and people randomly comment on the weather and whatnot.

When I go out with a guy... friends say hi. Sometimes. Everything else goes through the guy. It doesn't matter who the guy is--a guy my age looks like my boyfriend, an older guy looks like my dad, and a guy with a group looks like the leader. Anyone with a question to ask goes to him.

Maybe it's just me. I do have a meek side. Sometimes I let the other person do the talking when I'm with female friends too. I went back and forth over whether this post was a little too paranoid, and it might be.

But every time a man and I walk up to a counter together and hear "can I help you, sir?", it serves as a very subtle, polite little reminder that I've been transformed from "a person" to "a person and the girl with him."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sex anyway.

2005: I have sex with a guy, and it's miserably futile; try as I might, I just can't get him off. I keep going, sinking into desperation as my vagina gets sore so I use my mouth, and I start gagging so I use my hand, and my hand makes him sore so eventually he just tells me to give it a goddamn rest already. I sit around awkwardly, feeling like a useless failure, as he jerks himself off. He doesn't particularly enjoy it but just does it for relief. I wonder if I'll ever have the sexual skills to get a guy off properly, inside me and under my power.

2011: I have sex with a guy, and he doesn't come during the penis-in-vagina part of the sex. We separate when we get to a good ending point and I hold him and make out with him while he jerks himself off. I whisper in his ear how hot it is to feel his muscles tense as he pleasures himself. And I'm not kidding; I start masturbating along with him and then slip the fingers of his free hand into my pussy. The feeling of my muscles clenching around his fingers sends him over the edge and he comes explosively. We fall asleep entwined, satisfied.



Having mechanically perfect sex with your bodies in perfect unison is overrated. Knowing how to have good sex anyway, how to create an experience that's sexy and sweet even when someone has a limp dick or dry pussy or trick hip, is tragically underrated.

Friday, June 3, 2011

DSMocking!

May 2013! Blue cover, maybe! No famous actress or model on the cover because that would be really weird! The major resource codifying the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders! Yes, folks, it's the proposed draft of the DSM-V! This being the Pervocracy, let's look at the sexy parts!



In my opinion, the entire Paraphilias section is coming at things wrong by listing out specific fetishes. I don't think it matters whether you're an exhibitionist or a masochist; what matters is the problems it causes. In my perfect world, all the specific paraphilias would be out of the DSM and replaced with:

Sexual Adjustment Disorder: A person has difficulty accepting their fetish, orientation, or form of sexual expression (often but not always exacerbated by the attitudes of their friends, family, and community). They experience significant distress or impairment not from the fact that they have the fetish, but from the fact that they haven't healthfully integrated the fetish into their identity.

Sexually Abusive Disorder: A person has a persistent desire to sexually coerce, exploit, or abuse others--the specific form of the coercion is not as significant as the fact that it is coercion.

I realize that the DSM is only intended for diagnosis and not treatment, but diagnosing someone as "your problem is that you have Fetishistic Disorder" suggests that the treatment is to get rid of the fetish, rather than to help them express the fetish in healthy ways.

The particular shame of the Paraphilias section is Transvestic Disorder.
A. Over a period of at least six months, recurrent and intense sexual arousal from cross‑dressing, as manifested by fantasies, urges, or behaviors.
B. The person has clinically significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning.

The concept that there are "right" and "wrong" ways for people to dress according to gender is bad enough without codifying it into the medical literature.

It's also sexist, in that I wear "men's" clothing all the time, but I'm unlikely to be considered a transvestite because it's only weird when men do it. Which is sexism against men in limiting their clothing options; and sexism against women in saying that our clothes are so weird that you'd have to have some kind of funky fetish to want to wear them.

I realize that the language includes the "significant distress or impairment" loophole that almost everything in the DSM does, but this loophole isn't a "get out of bad idea free" card. For example, many people are significantly distressed or impaired by being gay, but we don't list homosexuality as a disorder with the "but don't worry, that's only if it's hurting you!" caveat, because the sexuality itself isn't a disorder. It's a matter of, as I described above, adjustment, and should be diagnosed as such.

I also wonder--and this isn't an accusation but a question--how much the "sufferers" of each condition have been included in the construction of the DSM-V. I get the impression that much of it is written from the perspective of "these are some patients that, I, a totally normal person who never does anything weird at all, have objectively observed," verus how much input was received from people willing to say "as someone with a thorough education in psychology who also happens to like wearing frilly panties, these are my experiences."



And then we have the minefield that is Gender Dysphoria. Unfortunately, this can't simply be tossed out with "being trans isn't a disorder!", because currently a diagnosis is often necessary for trans people to get drugs or surgery or alter legal documents listing their sex. And the wording has certainly improved from when it was "Gender Identity Disorder."--referring to "assigned gender" rather than "his or her sex," and being considerably more specific of what the manifestations of gender dysphoria might be.

Nonetheless, it still calls being transgendered a disorder. It still veers close to the "identifying the wrong part as the problem" issue present in the paraphilias section. And it also necessarily buys into gender roles and the concept of two fixed genders.

Being cis myself and not having a full view of either the legal or the psychological implications of a Gender Dysphoria diagnosis, I don't have specific alterations to propose, but I do want to point out that it's problematic.

Reading through this section, I couldn't help noticing that I would have handily qualified for a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria in Children. Which is weird, because I'm cis; I'm somewhat masculine and rather uncomfortable with the entire idea of gender as a package deal, but ultimately I'm okay being called a lady and having lady parts. But I played "male" roles extensively as a child, to the point of asking to be called by various male names (including Batman, okay, but woe betide anyone trying to make me be dumb ol' Batgirl) and refusing to play with any toys or games I considered "girly." How much of this was true gender dysphoria, how much was internalizing the sexism of "boys are tougher and awesomer, so I want to be a boy!", how much was reaction to the fact that due to sexism a lot of boy games were awesomer, and how much was simple preference independent from gender? Shit, I still don't know.

I do know that "treating" me, either to make me into a proper girl or to transition me to a boy, would probably not have been a good course of action compared to simply allowing me to grow up as a masculine girl. I'm not saying this is the case for all non-gender-conforming kids, but it illustrates the difficulties in a diagnosis that hinges on accepting traditional gender roles.

The good news is that the people writing the DSM-V are accepting public comment, and they are still very actively in the process of revising the diagnoses. If you disagree with the way they're defining identities as disorders, you can do more than shake your fist at the sky; you can up and tell them. I'm going to.