Dec 022013
 

Minna Ola

I first saw this toy in its beta stages at the AVN Expo in Las Vegas, 2011. I was so excited because it was new and different, and really brilliant for a lot of the folks who had asked me for a sex toy recommendation.

Now, you may look at it, and say “Shanna, the Minna Ola looks nice, but it just looks like a fancy Lelo or Je Joue toy, even down to the similar coloring!” This is true. And, like the Lelo sex toys, Je Joue Vibrators and even the Jimmy Jane sex toys, the Minna Ola charges, rather than runs on batteries (better for the environment and better for you; you don’t have to take the batteries out to travel, and you are never in fear of having to rustle through your remotes because you’ve used up all your spare vibrator batteries). So similar, yes, but also different.

Why? Because you create your own vibration patterns and it remembers them. While some toys may have 5, 7 or even 9 different vibration patterns, the Minna Ola vibrates as you squeeze the pad. The harder you squeeze, the more intense the vibrations. Once you let go, the vibrations stop. You want it to go start, build up, wind down, build up, wind down? Done. You want it to go on/off/on/off/on/off? Done. On for 7.5 seconds, off for 3.2 seconds, on for 3.2 seconds, off for 7.5 seconds? Done. Whatever vibrational pattern you want, you can make it happen, and it will memorize it for you. Oh the experiments I hope will happen!

Minna Ola is made of silicone, so is shareable if you sterilize it (I’d recommend wiping it down with a 10% bleach solution, letting it dry and then washing it off — don’t boil or dish wash this type of toy because it has electronic parts inside). Its design allows it to be used internally or externally (although not really both at the same time). Overall, it is a brilliant design by some nerdy folks who broke into the sex toy industry (after doing something more traditionally technical) with this incredibly creative idea.

Drawbacks? It is complicated to figure out the first time or two, especially if you are in the middle of the action (rather than sitting on the couch and reading the accompanying book to figure out exactly what does what and how to make it work the way you would like it to). Compared to some toys, like the Hitachi, it doesn’t have as much power as some people need…and yes, it is at a higher price point. However, you can get 10% off by entering shannakatz2013 at checkout, to make it a little bit more affordable. And oh yeah; it comes with a one-year limited product warranty. Heck, that is more than I can say for my hot iron!

Head over to the Minna Life site to buy your own Minna Ola, and don’t forget that shannakatz2013 gets you 10% off!

-Shanna

Aug 212013
 

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

When we think of intimate bonds experienced by the self and others, it’s hard not to insinuate a sexual context or a soon-to-be sexual context in which these bonds grow. This notion has prospered excellently in much of the mass media we tend to follow, as intimacy depicted in film is almost always followed by physical attraction. I understand that sexual motivations carries a narrative with great strength (both on and off screen), but it fails to demonstrate that they’re other ways to enjoy intimacy that doesn’t involve a passionate kiss at the end of it.

Here’s the idea: if intimacy happened to be presented to strictly within the context of sex, then it conditions one to seek intimacy exclusively in sex. This could lead to a pattern of thought where sex is seen as the ultimate end goal, with intimacy maybe served as a side. However, it’s important to stress that intimacy proliferates in many different environments, and it’s healthy to acknowledge notions of intimacy that you have that doesn’t necessarily end in a situation where you’re not wearing pants. Furthermore, understanding and appreciating intimacy one can experience outside of a sexual context might also help you within one too. With that said, it’s not my place to detract against the idea of the different kinds of sex people choose to have (both encompassing and void of intimacy), but rather to demonstrate a point that the two could be just as mutually exclusive as they could be intrinsically related.

Speaking of which, what exactly is the difference between enjoying say an incredible meal or an incredible production or an incredible blow job? Physiologically, very little. All three undergo a similar neuronal trajectory in the reward circuit system that promotes a positive self-perception, which in turn releases the same neurotransmitters (more specifically, oxytocin and dopamine). Of course the evolutionary implication behind the motivations driving sexual behavior obviously holds much more weight than artistic behavior, but it’s still kind of cool to think about why these innate mechanisms exist. If it were not an adaptive behavior, the rewarding sensations found in relation to intimacy would’ve been a trait left behind with our ancestors. Intimacy serves a purpose to bring people together as a social unit, so that collectively, we may up our chances of survival and mental well-being. It is single-handedly responsible for the enormous growth in cortical mass, as it is also the reason why we are apt to interpreting and understanding emotion and why our language happens to be so varied and densely knit. We carry these skills not because they simply existed, but because our innate desire to be interconnected willed our species to form it. What I find to be particularly poignant about this theory that when you classify intimacy as the over-arching umbrella term, sex follows suit as a subgenre of intimacy, and not the other way around.

For example, there are plenty of people on this planet who live happily with little to no sexual activity in their lives. Does this make them incapable of understanding and appreciating intimacy? Certainly not. However, popular opinion is still tempted to imply this stereotype. We see it in how one might treat a friend or family member as being ‘perpetually single’. Are they lonely? Maybe, but it certainly would be presumptuous to assume. Are they incapable of sharing a deep bond with other individuals? Certainly not. People choose to be single based on a multitude of reasons, the large majority of which do not revolve around the disinterest or incompetence of being sexually intimate.

The most spectacular thing about intimacy beyond sex, is it’s unmitigated sweetness can be experienced anywhere at any moment between anyone. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that though the company of others most often creates intimacy, it is ultimately the individual that perceives and internalizes it. I appreciate the moment one has when you find yourself sharing a smile with a stranger in a public place, but the space that’s created between myself and this stranger is largely in part due to the space I have allowed myself to experience in my mind. This should not automatically equate to a “what-a-shame-you-let-the-moment-pass” conundrum if I felt the person did not need to be approached. It should be sufficient enough to allow the thrill to ride its course without having to imply anything else. Having a frank conversation about an interesting topic with a stranger at a gathering does not mean that a shade of romanticism is owed, especially if this person is “someone I could see myself being attracted to”. By accepting it’s existence at face value, you could spend less time tripping over ill-fated attempts to justify an emotion that might not be understood in mainstream opinion. Intimacy helps keep you in check with your own personal relationship, it allows you the opportunity to practice humility and curiosity that other spaces in life might not. It is possible to feel connected and involved without submitting to the social prescription of asking yourself how it’s function should be carried.

For more thoughts, I invite you to read this interesting article :

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!

Apr 182013
 

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

Masturbation and sexual violence in particular are two topics that can be especially challenging to teach but absolutely necessary.

Masturbation is normal for all individuals, regardless of developmental ability. The exploration of genitals and self-pleasure is a common human experience which generally begins in infancy.  Individuals on the spectrum are no different.  In fact, most individuals on the spectrum learn to masturbate on their own at some point in their life, however, many have trouble reaching orgasm during masturbation.  The challenge to reach orgasm may become problematic for two reasons: First, it may result in ritualistic behaviors. Second, it may be the only realistic outlet for sexual release for some people with autism.  If masturbation becomes a problematic behavior perhaps due to a lack of orgasm, check out The Center for Disability Information and Referral; they will be able to refer to informational videos about masturbating to orgasm.

Regardless of whether or not the behavior is ritualistic, a strict structure around masturbation is will help the individual to understand when masturbation is appropriate and when it is not.  Designate areas where it is okay to masturbate.  For example, an individual’s bedroom is generally a good option.  Avoid teaching the bathroom as an appropriate place to masturbate because using the bathroom may become a stimulus to masturbate.  Set up rules that designate an appropriate time to masturbate. Teach the individual that sometimes, masturbation is not an option.  Provide the individual with alone time or private time and give them the tools (verbal, ASL, PEC, etc) to communicate their desire for private time.  If this individual follows a strict schedule, incorporate private time into the schedule.  If/when the individual requests private time, refer to the schedule reminding them when they will have time to themselves.

Part of the teaching process regarding appropriate masturbation is teaching inappropriate masturbation.  When someone is engaging in inappropriate masturbation, interrupt the behavior by asking the individual to cease the behavior without emotional affect.   Remind the individual of when masturbation is appropriate with whatever means you communicate (such as verbal, i.e. “private time in bedroom” or visual, i.e. image of their bedroom).  Then redirect individual to an appropriate activity.  Particularly successful redirections may include ones that require the use of their hands (bead work, puzzles, etc.) a physical activity (bouncing on a ball or trampoline), or one that requires a lot of focus for that individual.  If their bedroom is available, you may redirect them to their bedroom.  Be wary of redirecting them to their bedroom immediately because the individual may learn to request masturbation by engaging in it.  Perhaps create a first/then demand i.e. first puzzle then private time, or have them engage in another activity and once engaged have them practice requesting private time appropriately.

Sexual violence is another challenging topic to approach.  Although there is no absolute way to completely protect a person you love with ASD from victimization, there are steps that can dramatically decrease the likelihood of abuse.  The National Child Traumatic Stress Network suggests the following steps:

1.  Teaching children accurate names of their private body parts.

2.  Avoid focusing exclusively on “stranger danger.”  Keep in mind that most children are abused by someone they know and trust.

3.  Teach about body safety and the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touching.

4.  Let children know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies.  Empower them to say “no” and determining when they do and do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways (e.g. politely refusing hugs), and to say “no” to touching others.

5.  Make sure children know that adults and older children never need with their private body parts (e.g. bathing or going to the bathroom)

6. Teach children to take care of their own private parts (i.e. bathing, wiping after bathroom use) so they don’t have to rely on adults or older children for help.

7. Educate children about the difference between good secrets (like surprise parties – which are okay because they are not kept a secret for long) and bad secrets (those that the child is supposed to keep secret forever, which are not okay)

8. Trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about leaving a child with someone, don’t do it.  If you’re concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.

Obviously many of these lessons depend on the developmental abilities of the individual and some of these are unrealistic for some individuals.  Adaptations can be made to communicate these messages.  Additionally, supporting a school or program in their efforts to make an individual with ASD as independent as possible (eating, bathing) is critical.  Off Limits: A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse, by Feather Berkower is an absolute must read for every parent (present or future) and caretaker.  Although her books targets prevention techniques for parent’s with typically developing children, many of the concepts and ideas are applicable to those with ASD.  Feather will completely blow your mind and change your concepts around what prevention work means.  I cannot recommend this book more highly.

Sexual violence in the neurologically different population is happening at astounding rates.  Additionally, individuals on the spectrum who have been abused may engage in abusive behaviors towards younger siblings or ASD peers without an understanding of their actions.  There are steps to protect the ones we love on the spectrum from suffering in this way.  In fact, individuals on the spectrum should instead be given the support to live happy and sexually liberating lives!  May we move in that direction.

 

*Peter Gerhardt does fabulous work regarding the intersection of autism and sexuality.  Much of the information in this blog came from articles he has written and lectures he has given at conferences.  For more information I recommend a quick google search on his name.  Lots of quality information will pop up.  Also, don’t forget to talk to talk to the therapists, caretakers, and teachers in your life.  They too may have some fabulous suggestions in this arena.  Why not make this this education process a team effort.  Two heads are (almost) always better than one!

Apr 152013
 

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

Individuals with autism need sexual education.  But how and what do we teach?

Unfortunately, we live in a society where is not enough to assume that the person in your life with ASD is receiving quality education at their school, day program(s), or housing facility.  I presently work for a school for individuals with autism that provides healthy sexuality and sexual safety information, but these programs are few and far in-between.  Sadly, it is safer to assume that the person in your life on the spectrum is not receiving sexuality and sexual safety information.  This is why it is important to make yourself into the personal resource or advocate for the person on the spectrum that you love.  If you aren’t taking initiative to personally teach this information or to make sure the teachers and/or administration is providing quality sex education, odds are, no one is.

So, Step 1: Become a resource for that person you love with ASD, as the teacher of this information or as their advocate.

Step 2: Make sure the sexuality information is proactive.  When it comes to sex education ,America is generally a reactive society, and this is within the neurotypical population.  This tactic of teaching someone about condoms after they have already gotten pregnant is absurd, right?  Perfectly avoidable repercussions, including high rates of sexual abuse, STDs, and unintended pregnancy, are happening at alarming rates.  If this is how we educate our typically developing population, I’m sure you can imagine that the education for a population that is seen as asexual is even more pathetic.   Individuals on the spectrum often only receive sexual education after they have engaged in inappropriate and sometimes dangerous sexual (if the behavior is ever realized by a caretaker at all).  We need to prioritize education prior to an interest in sexual activity (if developmentally appropriate) or when interest is just becoming noticeable.

Step 3: Some important concepts that are important to teach

Public versus private behavior, good touch versus bad touch, proper names of body parts (research shows children who know anatomically correct language for their body are less likely to be victims of sexual violence because they have the language to talk about what happened to them), personal boundaries and personal spaces, masturbation (“private touching”), avoidance of danger and abuse prevention, social skills and relationship building, dating skills (if developmentally appropriate), personal responsibility and values (if developmentally appropriate).

Masturbation and sexual violence are often the two most challenges topics for folks to address.  For more information on how to teach or handle those topics check out Autism and Sexuality, Part 3.

Apr 122013
 

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

Sex, sexuality and sexual safety are important topics of discussion.  Addressing it in our own lives is hard enough, let alone talking about it with our partner, friends, or children.  And when an individual has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) this conversation may seem harder, even impossible.  How do we address these complex and challenging topics?  And really, is it all that important? 

Yes.  Yes yes yes.  It is that important.

But before we get to the how, let us address the how come.

Lisa Mitchell is a counselor who specializes in autism.  She argues that the following points are the top reasons why it is vital to provide individuals with autism accurate and useful information concerning sexuality and sexual safety. 

First, ASD individuals often have limited opportunities for socialization and normalizing social sexual experiences.  The few opportunities they do have are complicated by social skills deficits associated with autism.  Secondly, many individuals with ASD do not have even basic knowledge about sexuality, and low reading ability hinders the chance to learn from written materials and other media such as the internet.  Thirdly, individuals with ASD are people and, like all people, have the right to learn all they are able so they may become a sexually healthy person.  Individuals on the spectrum have the same hormones and urges as their peers deserve the information necessary to make healthy decisions.  Fourth, individuals on the spectrum need additional information to protect themselves from sexual abuse, HIV/AIDS, and STDs.  This is particularly challenging for many individuals with ASD who have low self-esteem that leads them to be willing to engage in risky behavior in order to be accepted by their peers. Fifth, many individuals with ASD do not know when and to whom they may ask questions about sexuality.  This issue can be eliminated merely by making yourself available as a resource.

I would like to expand on the fact that, simply put, individuals on the spectrum have sexualities, too.  Many individuals on the spectrum, along with most individuals with intellectual differences, are not considered sexual beings by our society.  This is false.  Individuals with autism are sexual beings.  However, many individuals on the spectrum have cognitive abilities that are incongruent with their sexual development.  This incongruence often leads to another common misconception: sex education is inappropriate for individuals with autism.  Instead, sex education needs to be tailored to best support each individual.  Let’s be real – navigating the sexual world is hard no matter what who you are.  As parents, friends, cousins, and caregivers to an individual with autism, it is vital we recognize that individuals on the spectrum have a right to sexual education so they may live a healthy and satisfying sexual life. whatever that may be.

Individuals on the also spectrum need quality information so they may lead a life free of sexual assault and abuse, which is the second point I would like to expand on.  As individuals who know and love someone with autism, it is imperative we understand that individuals with neurological differences are extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse.  1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys suffer from sexual abuse before the age of 18.  And sexual violence does not cease when an individual is 18.  The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey reports that every 2 minutes a person is sexually victimized in the U.S.  For individuals with intellectual differences the numbers are even higher.  Although no specific numbers exist for rates of sexual abuse among individuals with autism specifically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that individuals with any type of cognitive, intellectual, and/or developmental difference are 3.44 times more likely to be a victim of abuse (i.e. neglect, physical abuse, or sexual abuse) than their typically developing peers.   But the numbers don’t have to be this high.  With proper sexual education many individuals with autism can learn tools to protect themselves from sexual abuse and communicate any potential or previous harm inflicted, giving others in their lives the ability to take action.

ASD is a spectrum that covers a wide range of abilities.  This means the types of appropriate emotional and/or sexual relationships will vary dramatically for each person. The one consistent aspect of autism is that no one size fits all, and this concept applies to sexual education as well.  In turn, each individual needs personalized instruction that is appropriate for their abilities.

Every person deserves positive and healthy sex education and sexual safety information regardless of their neurology so they may enjoy a healthy and abuse free sexual life.

 

Feb 272013
 

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

As we previously discussed, defining sex for ourselves unleashes a whole world of options.  Instead of adopting mainstream definitions, limits, fantasies, and desires, which are often saturated in far too many “isms” (you know…sexism, ageism, racism, heterosexism…whew…just to name a few), deciding to define sex for ourselves allows us to engage in our own experimental growing process.  But let’s be real for a hot second: coming up with new ideas, and having the courage to then try those new ideas out (solo or with a partner or two), is a lot harder said than done. For real, even trying out new phrases, to make communication sexy, is really hard to do.

So, after doing some serious googling, visiting some of my favorite radical (and not so radical) websites, I’ve compiled a short list of ideas to consider, sleep on, and perhaps even try…

So what’s the big topic numba’ one we’re going to talk about on this fine fine day?!

Masturbation.

Masturbating.

Becoming your own clit master.

Mastering the willy.

Caressing the cunt.

Polishing the penis.

Greeting the genitalia.

Masturbation, despite mainstream promotion, is not just a thing teenage boys do.  Oye vey! No no no!  Masturbation is far too fabulous to ever be dismissed merely as a “thing” and only permissible for one, very small segment of the population. Masturbation is masturbation, not a “thing,” and everyone, of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations can and do masturbate!

Although statistics on masturbation are difficult to come by (pun intended), especially regarding reliable statistics for trans individuals, “Current research shows that around 89 percent of women and 95 percent of men have tried masturbation at some point in their lives, regularly or not,” (Ms. Shanna Katz, Flying Solo). Hmm…some high numbers.

Masturbation is not unique to the adult population either.  In fact, children often engage in genital play as young as six months.

Despite the fact that masturbation is an abundantly common human experience, masturbation continues to be laden with shame. Perhaps we feel unique in our shower ritual.  Perhaps we don’t feel unique in our shower ritual but do indeed try to make it as quick as possible…you know…to not waste water. Perhaps we masturbate in front of our partner to get our romantic candle lit, hot tub, and blindfold filled evening going.  Perhaps we buy the quietest vibrator to make sure our roommates don’t develop an inkling of our late night habit.  Perhaps it has never even occurred to us to touch ourselves down there because it is so gross. Perhaps we tried it once and never again because, I swear, my parents have looked at me differently ever since. Regardless of our present relationship with masturbation, positive, negative, or somewhere in between, it is hard to completely and entirely shake the explicit and (more likely) implicit shame we learned regarding touching ourselves.

Now, before we continue to blindly adopt this shame-based perspective or continue to believe that we have already reached a state of total masturbation perfection and self-love acceptance(you goddess you), we may want to consider the following before abandoning the ship that is this blog:  Masturbation has some seriously (and I mean gravely) positive physical and mental benefits, and provides the opportunity for further improving your individual and partnered sex life for  the novice and cultivated masturbators alike.

Do you dare say? Hmm…intriguing…

“That just ain’t true:” What masturbation does not do

1. Reduce your sex drive.

2. Make you grow hair in odd places. Who thought of that?

3. Make you go blind.

4. Kill you. Really?

 

“Keep whispering those sweet nothings:” The positives of gettin’ jiggy with yourself

1. Masturbation is the safest form of sex there is. After all, it is tremendously difficult (READ: Near Impossible!) to get pregnant when you are getting off by yourself.  Additionally, sexually transmitted infections are also very hard to pass along when you are alone (READ: Impossible!).

2. Masturbating can be relaxing. Trouble sleeping? Try jilling-off before going to sleep.

3. Masturbating often reduces stress and boost that ever needy immune system of yours.

 

Tell me more!?

Okay.

4. Masturbation improves your independent sex life. Think of it this way: you are the most reliable person in your life.  You’re always around so you can get down with yourself whenever.  At noon on a Sunday, 2 a.m. on a weeknight, or all day long on the leap year! You are always down for sex when you want it, you can get as romantic or kinky as you like, no communication is necessary (unless you like talking dirty to yourself, of course).  You can go as hard, as soft, as quick, as slow, as feisty, or as loving as you like – you can get yourself off, no ifs, ands, or buts, exactly the way you want to.  Whew.  Now that is some good sex!  Masturbation is independence, baby.

And…

5. Masturbation can support your partnered sex life to be dynamic, fun, sexy, engaging, and/or fulfilling.  It is simple: if you know what you like, then you can let your partner know what you like. If you feel like your genitalia is as mysterious as your default prepackaged gas station indulgent, then probably so does your partner.  The more you know about your own body, the more you know about what feels good to you, the more you can support your partner (who is not a genie, guru, or mind-reader) in figuring out your body.  Masturbation gives you the time and space to explore your body, and figure out what turns you on.  Then you take that knowledge to your partner(s) and share the wealth. 

Masturbation is like eating.  The more things you try, the more restaurants you go to, the more you cook, the more you realize the cuisines you enjoy (American…Italian…Mediterranean), the way you like your veggies cookies (processed…or steamed…or boiled to oblivion), to the way you like to eat them (in bed perhaps?).  If you only tried sautéed beets, it’s really hard to say what you like, because you have nothing to compare it to.  And when your adorably sweet partner decides to cook you an adorably sweet Valentine’s day dinner and says, “Oh lover, what is your favorite food?” You will respond, “Uhhhh…beets?” And your adorably sweet partner will feel more lost than Milo and Otis in Homeward Bound.

Masturbation gives you more options.  Masturbation supports you as you explore your own personal definition of sex.  And wouldn’t it be cool to be able to say to that adorably sweet partner of yours, “Umm…I love creamy beet risotto, with a side kale and arugula with an Italian style miso-tahini spread with zest-filled lemon juice on the side!”

You just may have the most phenomenal sex of your life.

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?

 

 

 

May 232011
 

I think this article about the raising of a child without sharing its’ sex with all those who ask is incredibly interesting.  It’s always been of interest to me that the first question people ask when they find out someone is pregnant, or right after they’ve given birth is “is it a boy or a girl?” Not “how are you feeling?” or “is everyone doing ok?” but rather, what is the sex that the doctor will be assigning it based on external genitalia and possibly chromosomes. Let me point out again that when a baby is born, we assign its SEX (biological markers), not its GENDER, which is socially constructed.

When I was in graduate school, I remember reading the story about Baby X, who grew into Child X, who grew into Teenage X, who ended up as Adult X, a very happy person who did what they wanted to do, regardless of what gender society usually assigned that activity to…all because they had been raised without a sex and gender placed on them by their parents. This was written in the 70s, showing that this is not a new concept. I have no plans to have children, but when I read that story, I could help but want to try and raise any offspring in such a manner. It seemed like such a healthy, accepting way.

It’s interesting to see what the psychologists have to say about these parents raising Baby Storm without telling others its sex. One was adamantly against it, saying that they were setting up the baby for a hard life, while the other was willing to wait to see all the wrong things that might happen from this situation. Honestly, it was a little gross to me to read their “expert opinions” because years ago, similar experts were giving similar opinions about letting girls play with trucks and boys play with dolls, and about letting your kid identify as gay, etc. Funny how expert opinions so often tend to capitulate to social norms. As long as you and your family are supportive of allowing your children to figure out their genders and presentations for themselves, and as long as you are willing to support them if they wind up deciding to be hyper masculine or hyper feminine (rather than a more blended mix, or something completely unique), then I see no issue.

These parents, instead of form fitting their children to the limits society wants to place upon them, are making society have to adapt. And honestly, I think that is great. If we all always capitulated to what society said, we’d be even farther behind in women’s rights, sex worker’s right, people of color’s rights, trans folk’s rights, queer rights, etc. If none of us ever challenged the status quo, I wouldn’t be allowed to vote, I wouldn’t be allowed to have a Master’s degree, I wouldn’t be allowed to walked down the street holding hands with my queer partners, and I’d be making even less to the dollar than I already am. So hats off and glasses raised to these parents, willing to take a stance for the diversity of gender, rather than biologically assigned sex.