May 102013
 

This is a post by one of my Spring 2013 interns, Rebecca. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

Alright!  Alright…we know we have gone astray, but how do we get back on track?  How do we continue to improve our sex lives?  Following are three simple tricks you may start playing with next time you are getting frisky in the bedroom.  These tricks of the trade can and will (if you decide to use them) have a huge impact on your sex life.  Alright?  Alright.  First, talk about your body…parts.  Second, provide feedback.  Third, consider agreeing upon a word, phrase,  motion, or set of motions that lets your partner know where you stand.

Talk about your body!  That’s right!  It is time to let go of the “down there” lingo and actually say what you are referring to.  There is a high cost (you know…mediocre sex) for being general when you are referring to your body.  You know, because there is a lot down there.  I am a huge proponent of anatomically correct language, because why not draw upon an already existing mutual vocabulary that is smashingly specific?  However, some individuals find anatomical language: strangely anatomic.  Everyone needs to find language that works for them.  Now, that isn’t a get out of jail free card!  You still need to “find” that language if you haven’t already.  If you presently don’t have a label for your “down there,” then challenge yourself to use a label.  If you presently have a label for one part of your body try becoming even more specific (i.e. penis, head, shaft).  If you are all about the labels, try bouncing around label genres to create different moods (i.e. using anatomically correct when being romantic or  slang when being frisky). The labeling process may feel odd at first, but the more you do it, the less awkward it will feel.

Alright, next we want to provide feedback while getting intimate.  Positive feedback!  Every time you are with your partner sexually, find one thing they are doing that you particularly enjoy, and then tell them, “I like the way you are touching me there,” or “oh yes, keep doing that.”  Then the next time you are with them, pick something else they are doing that you are digging and vocalize that.  The reason I am a huge fan of this technique is because vocalizing what you like eventually results in well-deserved confidence for your partner (and yourself, if you both practice this) because your partner turns into a pleasure-giving machine.  Although they may not start out this way, the more you tell them what you like, they will ease up on the stuff they aren’t getting positive feedback on and hone in on the stuff that you tell them you enjoy.  Very quickly your partner will have a menu of all your favorite things.  Wouldn’t you like a list of their top ten favorite things?  Wouldn’t that make you feel just that much more confident in the bedroom?

Sometimes in the heat of a moment, you get sucked into territory you didn’t expect.  What if you unexpectedly feel uncomfortable?  Or the moment brings up a history of emotions?  Or you just don’t like the way the interaction feels anymore?  There is something really nice about have a predetermined words or motion to communicate desires that are may be difficult to say in the moment.  A motion, such as a tap on the shoulder, means “I’m not sure how I feel about this. Can we back off for a second?”

As far as words go, many individuals enjoy the red/yellow/green code.  Red means stop right there and don’t you move a muscle!  Yellow means, I’m not too sure how I feel about this, let’s slow down, maybe talk about it, maybe not and green means Yes! YES!  The red/yellow/green code is particularly nice because of the yellow aspect.  We often think of sexual interactions as black or white, where we want something or we don’t.  In reality, our sexual experiences involve experimentation, which results in grey areas.  The yellow allows for that nuance.  Yellow says, “Maybe if the licking was done just a little different you would love it,” or “this is too much for me today, let’s come back to it tomorrow.”

Motions are the exact same idea.  Tapping their chest could be red, tapping on either shoulder could be yellow, and deep pressure into their upper arms could be green.  Having a motion may be an excellent substitute for a word, because sometimes yelling “Oh my gosh! You fierce animal you! Green!” is challenging to make sexy.  Then again, sometimes it isn’t.

The code system may be particularly useful for survivors of sexual violence.  It is common for survivors to experience emotional triggers during sexual interactions that bring them back to their assault(s).  Triggers can happen unexpectedly even with partners they love.  Having a word or motion to help a survivor communicate their needs can help a survivor say what they need to, during a highly emotional moment when typical phrases might fail them.  Considering the high rates of sexual violence in this country (1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18, 1 in 3 women in their lifetime), there is (unfortunately) a good chance that at some point in your life you may engaged sexually with a survivor, whether you are aware of their history or not. Incorporating predetermined words or motions to communicate one’s desires may provide a safety net for a survivor when traditional phrases such as “stop” or “slow down” may be even more difficult for them to say.  Setting up these boundaries may provide extra support to an individual in need without you ever knowing.

These three fabulous tricks (if I do say so myself), of course, only touch base on a few communication skills. Nevertheless, these may be a nice place to start.  Challenge yourself.  I think you’ll be surprised how just talking to your partner about what you are doing will be both liberating and empowering.

May 032013
 

This is a post by one of my Spring 2013 interns, Rebecca. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

The first sex (and I use this term loosely to define all forms of sexual interactions) advice we generally receive is the just feel it method.  I am not exactly sure what “it” we are supposed to be feeling, but don’t ask questions because that exposes your *gasp* “lack of knowledge” or your *don’t say it!* “lack of experience.”  Because let’s be honest, using your crystal ball and 6th grade lesson on anatomy makes you an expert at pleasing your partner.  Duh.

Anyway, just feel it.  You want one thing to lead smoothly to another.  It needs to be romantic.  It needs to be smooth.  It needs to be intimate.  Don’t ruin it by talking or fussing.

Mmmmm yes.  That advice is a little like getting thrown into the Olympic pole vaulting competition, in which someone hands you your vaulting pole and says to you “just feel it.” They then pat you on the back and send you sprinting towards a pole that is 18 feet in the air and parallel to the earth.  Now I don’t know about you, bit if that were me I would take any advice you can get.  But you know, I would  this hunch that in about 15 seconds I would be feeling a lot of different things, and none of them would be what Mr. Just Feel It, was referring to.

Ways and reasons you get clued to the downsides of the just feel it method:

1)      Someone gives you wise sexual advice, OR,

2)      You realize your sexual experiences are continuously dull and disappointing, OR,

3)      You, or someone you love, experience(s) a sexual assault

It might occur to you that the just feel it method doesn’t work. At all. Period. The end.

Not only does the just feel it method lead to a lot of miscommunications, but how on earth are you supposed to have decent sex?  Did you know that there are six vital steps one must hone to have a successful pole vault?  Nor did I (thank you Wikipedia). There are six!  The approach, plant and take-off, swing up, extension, turn, and fly-away.  Yup, like pole vaulting, sex isn’t a one-step endeavor. I think it’s time to start looking for some decent advice.

After searching high and low, low and high, and back around again, hopefully you stumble across the just communicate method.  Now, that shockingly simple advice may be the best sexual advice you will ever receive in your lifetime.  So…what’s the problem?

Let us return to pole vaulting for a hot second.  Now you are at the start line, and Mr. Just Feel It transforms into Ms. Just Jump.  Telling an Olympic pole vaulter to just jump is indeed the best advice you can possibly give them.  Truly. It focuses them on the big picture.  However, this advice assumes a certain level of skill (years spent honing the art of vaulting). For them, all they need to do is focus on what they already know how to do.

“Communicate” is the best advice you can give a professional communicator, but unfortunately when it comes to talking about sex we often find ourselves tongue-tied. In a society of “just feel it,” we have learned to keep our mouths shut in the bedroom.  On the whole, we don’t know how to communicate our wants, desires, boundaries, and fantasies. Sex (again, in the loose sense of the word) is an art, a skill, a practice.  And communicating around sex is also an art, a skill, and a practice.

Now, I am no communication guru (but good Lordisa I am trying), but I do have a few little tricks that can turn into a sexual revolution.

Curious?  Check out Communicating in the Bedroom, Part 2!

Feb 162013
 

This is a post by one of my Spring 2013 interns, Rebecca. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

Salt-n-Pepa style. As you take a quick trip back to your jean jacket and spandex wearing days and rock out to this fabulous 90s jam, I must acknowledge that this song (sadly) reinforces some stereotypes around sex and gender that limit both our daily and sex lives (for example, I know many men who enjoy making love). That said, I think Cheryl James and the crew are right about one thing – it is time to truly, and honestly talk about sex.

Americans love sex. We sell cars, laundry detergent, and shampoo with sex. Entire movies are based around sex. Clothing companies write irrelevant words on the butts of women’s sweatpants so we look their behinds. Americans love sex. Or really, American capitalism loves sex. Regardless, every day we are bombarded with images, inferences, advertisements, and conversations about sex, SEX, sex. But what exactly is everyone selling?

We all probably agree that the sex being sold in the advertisement industry is the mainstream definition of sex. Vanilla sex: heterosexual, male on top, female on bottom, penis penetrating a vagina, interaction ceasing when the male ejaculates. Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with this type of sex. It’s quite lovely. I’ve done it. I can count on one hand how many times my orgasm conveniently, simultaneously, and I might even say magically, paired up with my partner’s, but it has happened and was indeed lovely.

This type of sex is single faceted. I mean, just change one thing about that encounter and you might as well quit. Two men? Whoa!  That just messes up the whole line of events. Female on top? Well…maybe when mainstream culture is feeling a little kinky.

Fascinatingly, when thinking about someone else’s sex life, we commonly default to the sexual interaction described above. When asked to define our own, however, we give as many different answers as there are ice cream flavors in the freezer aisle of your locally-named-chain grocery store. Hmm. Curious.

Jessica Valenti points out in her absolutely stellar book, The Purity MythI’m sorry, stop reading this blog right now, go to your locally owned bookstore, buy this book, read it, let it change your life, return to this bookstore, buy as many copies as you have relatives, friends, and mere acquaintances, then quit your job and begin passing this book out on the street corner, because yes, it is that good…Ahem. As I was saying, Valenti notes that people struggle when asked to get down and dirty and define sex.  Some argue that penetration makes sex. Which is fine and dandy except for the little question of, what is penetrating what?  Is a finger penetrating an anus, a tongue penetrating a vagina, or a penis penetrating a hula hoop? Others argued that engaging in oral sex made sex, sex.  A friend of Valenti’s suggested that the presence of an orgasm determined whether the interaction was sex (a thought provoking definition indeed).

This disagreement on the definition is consistent with the research I conducted at a local college here in Colorado last year. Definitions of sex were not only incredibly varied but also vague.

Let’s recap. 1) We know that we have this mainstream definition of sex that is quite limited. 2) When people are asked to provide their own personal definition of sex, we get a wide variety of answers many of which fall under the mainstream definition and many of which do not. So, why is the definition of sex so important?

Because your sex life depends on it!                                

Whew. Let’s unpack this suitcase. If you wear rose colored glasses, the world looks pink, right?  If you wear goggles that you made out of your younger sister’s training bra…actually if you succeed at that, let me know, that is just impressive…Point is, if you define sex the way the mainstream world defines sex, you can bet your grandpa’s best chocolate fudge cupcake that you won’t be straying far off that road. And even if we do have our own personal definition, we are all being watered by the same rain. It is hard to completely shed the mainstream perspective.

I know what you’re thinking…but you said yourself, that when individuals are asked to define sex they have a wide variety of definitions, not just the one the mainstream pitches to us daily. Absolutely! Amen. But how many people take the time to actually to define sex for themselves?   And out of those, how many individuals first take the time to learn all the things that “sex” could possibility encompass, and then once armed with this universe of possibilities, go forward to then define sex for themselves? And out of those, how many let their partner(s) know their own personal definition of sex?

There are so many possibilities. Thank goodness I found the The Guide to Getting it On, by Paul Joannides to clue me in on the all the options because, holy smokes, they don’t teach you this stuff in sex ed. If you haven’t already heard of this book, it is definitely worth your time, because is a super easy and fun read.

Let’s take the time to explore sex with the hopes of working towards our own definition. This means taking some risks, exploring, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, asserting yourself, and communicating. I mean, let’s be real, isn’t that why we all found our way to this fabulous site?

 

 

 

Nov 282011
 

Question: What are some fun ways to spice up a boring relationship?

Answer:

There is no one size fits all answer to this question, because “boring” definitely depends on who you ask. For some, it could mean that sexual activity is frequent, but always the same. For others, it might mean sexual activity isn’t a frequent as it used to be. For yet others, it might not have anything to do with the sex — perhaps everything seems to be “meh” — no exciting date nights, or doing the same thing every evening.

First thing to do; figure out what it is that you think is boring. Then, in a super NICE and CARING way, bring it up to your partner.

Good Example: “I love spending time with you having adventures, and feel like we haven’t gotten to have many lately — is there anything you’ve been ding to do or places to explore? Let’s create an adventure this weekend!”

Not as good example: “We never do anything fun any more!”

Good example: “It’s awesome that we get to have sexy times so often…I was thinking maybe we could watch this DVD/read this book/try out _____ to add some new exciting variations, since I love having sex with/fucking you!”

Not as good example: “We have sex a lot, but it’s boring/same old thing night after night.”

You hopefully like/love your partner, so it’s good to do your best to not hurt their feelings, and to let them know what you DO like about being them, and what you would like to have more of, because you enjoy it. You have to do some work too — get some ideas going for what you want to do. Check out your local paper/websites to get ideas for free and/or cheap things to do in your neighborhood. If you’re trying to have more adventures in your sex life, try out some books or adult DVDs to get suggestions. If you’re wanting to be sexual more often, it is probably worth re-defining your idea of sex; it doesn’t always have to be oral, or intercourse, or _____. Thinking about adding in some hot make out sessions, some fun role play, or even erotic massages. There are lots of ways to be sexually active with each other; they don’t always have to involve penetration, or even genitals or orgasms. Having fun together sexually can be just as awesome as having traditional sex.

Hope this helps,

-Shanna

Have a question you want answered (anonymously)? Contact me and I’ll post the answer!

Nov 132011
 

Question: Does semen whiten your teeth?

Answer: As much as you may want to hear that swallowing in the course of a blow job will act like Crest Whitening Strips, I hate to break it to you; this is one of the many myths associated with sex, and semen specifically. And while we’re at it; nor does semen provide your daily nutritional needs in the protein department.

Feel free to choose whether to swallow or not; that is always and will always be up to you. Just remember the following:

a) Semen can contain STIs, so get you and your partner tested on a full STI panel before you make this decsion.

b) Swallowing does not make oral sex better or worse than letting them ejaculate elsewhere (chest, face, back, towel, shower, bed, themselves, etc). Do it if you like it, but know it doesn’t change the sensation.

c) Semen is not a good source of any vitamins, minerals, or nutrition. It will not make your hair shinier, whiten your teeth, make your skin smoother, etc. Those are all false statements, but ones that are bandied about quite often.

Hope this helps,

-Shanna

Have a question you want answered (anonymously)? Contact me and I’ll post the answer!

Sep 062011
 

Have you heard of Kink Academy




or their sister site, PassionateU.com?

They are amazing education sites for folks around the world to get accessible and affordable education around sexuality. Kink Academy is more focused on kinky fun, while Passionate U talks about sexuality from a more mainstream light, but both are incredible. They feature clips from educators around the world, teaching their sexuality classes to you, regardless of whether you’re near by a hopping dungeon or rocking sex positive space. Wanna learn how to throw a single tail? Done. Wanna get some blow job basic? Done. Interested in gender 101 or the intersection of sex and disability? That is there too! Over a hundred educators (myself included) are excited to help you explore the spectrum that is sexuality.

Why am I pumping this up? Well, first of all, they are an awesome set of sites, and I’m happy to promote them. And second of all, I’m giving a FREE month of membership away to one of these two sites (winner’s choice) at the end of this contest.

How do you enter?

Must be 18 plus. Comment before by September 20th, 2011 (with a valid email please, so I can get ahold of the winner) with why YOU think it is important to have accessible sex education. It can be a sentence, a paragraph, a poem, a picture, but tell us why sex education is important to you, your community, etc.  Winner will get ONE MONTH FREE on their choice of either PassionateU or Kink Academy.

Time to try and win!

-Shanna

Aug 162011
 

Everyone (or almost everyone) knows my vulva puppet Vivianne:

However, Vivianne (provided for me by Fascinations) has never been alone.  She has her little sis, Val (short for Valerie) purchased for me by a dedicate reader/fan of mine:

And now, the two have been joined by a third, soon to be revealed purple and lavender vulva puppet. However, my new vulva puppet is sadly without a name! How horribly sad is that? So, I ask you, my fearless followers, to help me name my newest vulva puppet.  My favorite five names will make it into a run off contest (with links to your blog or twitter pages if you’d like), and the ultimate winner will get a little mini prize pack from me (I’m not telling what’s it in, but if you know me, you know it’ll be fun).

It’s easy to enter – just comment on this post with your suggestion (s) for the name for this new member of my vulva family by August 26th. Please make sure I have a way to contact you in case you make it into the final round. Please be creative, but not offensive (any vulva-negative suggestions will be deleted), as I love my vulva puppets and take them everywhere with me!

Alright; let the creative juices flow! (pun totally intended)

-Shanna

Aug 042011
 

For those of you who are unaware, one of the MANY issues with Google+ (in addition to having the big “male/female/other” requirement, and being SUPER hostile to adult content, including links to adult content marked NSFW) is that they are requiring you to use your legal name. If it is found that you are not using your legal name, your account can be deleted. If your Google+ account is deleted, that includes the Gmail account to which it is attached, which at least for me, would delete over 6 years of emails, files, etc and would really suck.

Why is this such an issue? Well, let’s start.

*Many trans folks have not had a legal name change (some states have VERY stringent requirements involving hormones, surgery, doctor’s letters, etc) based on their circumstances, whether it is a transition thing, a medical thing, a family/rights thing, a money/cost thing, etc. Requiring them to use their legal name rather than their real name is forcing them to out themselves. This can be dangerous.

*Adult stars and sex workers usually don’t use their legal names for a myriad of reasons. Requiring them to do so not only outs them, but puts them in danger from stalkers, being outed to their family, etc, not to mention legal repercussions if it is sex work that can be prosecuted (and keep in mind, not all sex work is illegal).

*Women often use different names online to keep themselves and families safe. Perhaps they’ve gotten out of an abusive relationship, or perhaps they have a more unique name, and don’t ant every asshole on a social network googling their home address.

*Lots of sex educators work under other names.  I did when I started out. Why? Because even now, my partner and I worry about people showing up on my door step. I get harassing phone calls sometimes. Luckily, most of my family is supportive, but not everyone has that privilege. Many great sexuality educators work under not their legal name; Midori, Ayden Fire, Sir Top and slave bonnie, Madison Young, etc. There are many others, but I don’t want to out them as not using their legal names.

*Most sex bloggers (and bloggers in general) blog under other names. Why? Safety; not just the physical danger issue, but losing their jobs, custody of their kids, their partners, and more. Has this happened when they’ve been outed? Absolutely.

*Many people just don’t go by their legal names. If your name is Katherine and you go by Katie, could Google+ delete you? Possibly. What about if you go by your middle name instead of your first name? Or you use your partner’s last name, but haven’t legally changed it?

The list goes on and on and on. Folks with disabilities. Celebrities (local, national and international). Whistleblowers. Authors. Gamers. There are so many incredible reasons someone would choose not to use their LEGAL name on a social media site, or on the internet in general, so how dare we force them to do so, at risk of losing their gmail and other google centric accounts if google deems their name not real?  Luckily, a group is creating a site with real people sharing their stories about why they choose not to use their legal name (you can use any name you want to post on the site), and they are looking for submissions. If you’re a person who would be affected by using your legal name online, or part of a group for whom you can speak, they’d love to hear from you. Their info is below.

Thank you for your help and understand on this issue, and sharing it with others so that they can understand why in fact this is a pretty big deal,

Shanna

From http://my.nameis.me/make-a-statement/:

Make a statement

We’re looking for more people to write for us about why they support the freedom to choose your own name online.

While we appreciate that thousands upon thousands of people worldwide feel strongly about this issue, the most valuable statements come from those who are famous or prominent in their fields, or those who can speak on behalf of populations who need to choose their own names.

So, we’re particularly looking for individuals like:

  • Performance artists (musicians, actors, etc), especially those who use stage names
  • Authors, journalists and other writers, especially those who use pen names
  • Politicians and prominent political activists
  • Sex educators and sex workers
  • Religious leaders
  • … and any other notable or famous person who supports people’s freedom to choose their own name online.

Or people who represent organisations like:

  • Domestic violence support groups
  • LGBT advocacy groups
  • Civil rights groups
  • Groups working with children at risk
  • Disability advocacy groups
  • … and any other organization working with people who commonly want the freedom to choose their own name online

If you fit the above descriptions, or can introduce us to someone who does, please get in touch with us!

Jul 252011
 

Surprisingly, sex education is a fairly thankless job. While there is often the bonus of fun work which I am passionate about, and the occasional free sex toys to test and review, overall, there is a lot of drama. You have to promote yourself constantly to get bookings, you usually have to work a full time just that is not connected to sexuality, or if it is, usually not the side that you’re passionate about. You have to deal with people (friends, family, co-workers and strangers) judging your choice of work, as well as treating you as a free sex therapist all the time. You have to have epic debates about whether to use your real name, give out your real phone number, etc, because of the fear of being unemployable in the future, or having stalkers…well, stalk you. It is not a job that makes much money (really), and it’s one that involves a constant fight for sex positivity in various environments, from the government funding Planned Parenthood to inclusion of gender in employment non-discrimination acts, to fighting for/with folks with disabilities to be allowed to embrace their own sexuality, to removing laws that make owning/buying sex toys illegal in certain states.

It is not easy, and there are days when I sometimes wish I had maybe chosen another route.

And then, you are reminded in a heart beat of why you do what you do.

Last week, I taught my final class (of pre-booked ones) at Fascinations. If they’d like to have me again, I’d be happy to do so, but this was my last planned one. The room was PACKED, standing room only (60+ people) for a class on cunnilingus, which is not frequently a sell-out subject. People were involved, asked questions, answered my questions, and were a truly wonderful group to teach to for 90 minutes. Afterwards, not one, not two, but over a dozen people came up to me, telling me how much I had positively affected my life. One woman was at a class for the first time, and cried, telling me she was so glad to have gotten to hear me speak at least once. Another women cried, telling me that over the last year or more, I had changed her life so incredibly, taking scary subjects of sexuality and helping her confront them, learn about them, and embrace them. Another group of 20 somethings (and a woman who had just turned 18, and was visiting a toy store for the first time) told me how much they’d learned from me, how comfortable they felt with their bodies and their sexualities, and how much they missed me. They all wanted to know when I’d be back, and they all hugged me.

THAT is why I do what I do. My goal in every class is for each person to learn 1 little thing that is new. One. This class, *I* learned how much my education has helped others truly embrace who they are, and have a more positive experience with sexuality. I could not ask for anything more than to have had such a positive effect in so many people’s lives, particularly in a state/area where sex is rarely discussed with a positive and pleasure centric bent.

It can often be a thankless job, but the occasionaly “Thank yous” that I get from people who have attended my classes, read my writing, watched my videos, or had counseling sessions with me? That is better than any easy 9-5 job, better than any big paycheck (though that would be nice too), and totally makes me reinvigorate my passion for this field. And to you all, I say thank you!

-Shanna

Jul 222011
 

Hey folks of Colorado –

Colorado Youth Matter (an awesome non-profit advocating for evidence based sex education inclusion in schools) is creating (through a partnership with Advocates for Youth) a Youth Advocacy Council. Now, they’re looking for people ages 15-22, so whether you fall in that range, or know a passionate person who does, and if you or they have a passion for inclusive sex education, now is the time to apply! You’ll get a stipend, plus a trip to a national AFY meeting, the opportunity to work on creating change, and much more. The info is below. Ready, set,…..check it out!

Shanna

Colorado Youth Matter in partnership with Advocates for Youth is searching for passionate youth and young adult activists from across Colorado to be part of a brand new Youth Advocacy Council!

The Colorado Youth Advocacy Council will be composed of 10 dynamic young people (ages 15-22) from around the state who will work together to advocate for comprehensive and inclusive sex education programs and policies in Colorado. Council members will take a grassroots approach to mobilizing communities around comprehensive sex education, social and reproductive justice, and other related policy issues by engaging communities to create opportunities that empower youth and their families to make healthy and informed decisions regarding their reproductive and sexual health.

Please pass this information and application on to all youth and young adults who you believe would be great activists to promote sexual and reproductive health. Feel free to pass this information along to others as well, as they may know someone who would be best for the job!

Click here to download an application or contact Joey at jtorres@coloradoyouthmatter.org with any questions. The deadline to apply is August 1, but applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.

Thank you,

Joey Torres
Youth Advocacy Coordinator
Colorado Youth Matter