Porn vs. Erotica

I refuse to make a distinction between "erotica" and "porn."

If I see material that depicts something that could be sexy, I call it porn. I don't care whether or not its intent is to get people off. It could be "purely for artistic purposes." If it shows anything that's sexually explicit, I consider it porn.

I don't think we need to differentiate between what's sexy art and what's sexy but doesn't count as art. This creates a system where we value the art more and the non-art less. It's another way of saying that eroticism for its own sake is negative, and I think that's a big pile of hooey. I think something that's purely intended to cause orgasms can be beautiful, and something intended just for aesthetic beauty can be erotically titillating. I jill off to "erotic art" all the time.

The difference between the two terms is also heavily tied in with censorship. Material can be deemed obscene and banned if the government decides that it has no artistic merit. Creating a linguistic distinction between porn and erotica opens us up to this kind of censorship. If we've already labeled some things as "less than artistic," it's a small step for the government to label them obscene.

Now, I know that the word "pornography" comes from inauspicious roots. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word as the following:
The explicit description or exhibition of sexual subjects or activity in literature, painting, films, etc., in a manner intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic feelings; printed or visual material containing this.
So it's true that the very definition of the word creates a distinction between aesthetically arousing and erotically arousing material.

You could argue that we should apply the term "erotica" to all sexually explicit material. This new word doesn't have the connotation of artlessness and baseness. Why not apply it without discrimination? That's a valid point. I just like the word "porn" better.

Porn came first. Before we started calling things "erotica" instead of "pornography," we didn't have a word for sexually explicit art that (supposedly) wasn't erotically thrilling. It's the creation of the new word that's given us a hierarchy. Now we're trying to decide which sex acts we can depict: which ones are "artistic," and which ones aren't. It's just another form of sexual elitism.

So let's just cut the bullshit and call it all porn. Just like there shouldn't be a scale of kink, we don't need a scale for the "artiness" of our sexual materials.

Tina Fey again, and This Weekend

Hey everyone. I know I've been terribly remiss this weekend with my posting. My best friend is in town from New York City, and I am just taking a personal weekend. It's been absolutely lovely, a whirlwind of too many substances and catching up and cuddling. I promise I'll do better again once she leaves on Wednesday.

In the meantime, here's another delicious tidbit from Tina Fey:


Well, I am just so plumb tired that I can barely move. I'm writing from my bed, with no clothes on. They just hit the floor when I came in my bedroom door and I don't plan to move for the next...well, seven hours. I'm taking the GRE early tomorrow morning and that's when I'll have to get up. But for now, I can indulge my tiredness.

It has been an utterly exhausting two weeks. I was thinking about it, going through a tally of what I've been doing, and I have been all over the map emotionally and physically. I think my body might just go on strike. "No more stress, bitch!" Actually, it did give out. I got a migraine last night, a bad one.

Two weeks ago, I spent almost the entire weekend intoxicated in one way or another and hung out with a posse of new friends and had a great time. I tried a hallucinogenic for the first time, and had a wonderful trip outdoors with the grass, clouds, trees, and home made music. It was lovely.

Then that Sunday I had a brief but terrifying moment in which I believed one of my best friends might be killing herself. This took a toll on me, and I went into the week feeling rather down. Once you confront the idea that a loved one might be dead or dying RIGHT THEN, it's kind of hard to take back. (If she's reading this, I reiterate that I'd rather take on a little emotional toll and have her still be alive than not be available to talk to her. Really. I promise.)

I love being a confidante to my friends; it's really important to me that I'm available to be supportive. I consider it a huge part of my identity and value it above most other parts of myself. Last week it didn't just rain, though, it poured. Many of my friends came to me at one point or another with issues they wanted to talk through.

Normally, too, I can sustain this kind of thing because I try to set up my own emotional support systems so that I'm safe and sane and in a good place to help people. Now, though, my best friend has graduated, and my boyfriend dropped out, and I'm too far from my (very supportive) parents, so I just don't have the emotional shoring-up that I need. I was emotionally drained.

Then I went to the memorial service for my friend, which I already wrote about. As you can probably tell from my post about it, it was extremely hard. I didn't bounce back from it as quickly as I'd expected. I am probably still not dealing with the whole situation as much as I should be. In any case, I was very low by the end of last week.

So I went away for the weekend. I stayed with a friend who knew Scott, went to her music show, and generally took it easy for two days. I was hoping it would help to be away from my school and friends for a few days and to support and maybe even be supported by my friend. It did help some, I think, but being gone for the weekend definitely threw me off. I had school and work things to do over the weekend that I just didn't do because I was spending time on myself emotionally.

So then this week I was a bit reclusive for a couple days, but started to feel better on Tuesday and got to hang out with my new friends for a while. Of course, while I was hanging out with them, I had a worrisome encounter with a homophobic, verbally-abusive asshole. This wasn't exactly restful, but was also interesting and gave me food for thought to kick me out of lethargy. Assholes=anger=motivation.

And then last night I got the migraine. While I was supposed to be finishing a lab report, which I have now not turned in. And which prevented me from sleeping last night. Which also made me so tired that I am flaking on two things I was supposed to do tonight, but which I just don't think my body will let me do.

Not to mention the GRE tomorrow.

On the plus side, I had a meeting today which was very successful and has brought into fruition a project I've been working on for months. I had to be all charming and convincing during the meeting, and I think I pulled it off using the last reserves of my energy. I also started an amazing new sex advice gig, which has been taking up a lot of my brain but which I'm really excited about.

All this is on top of my usual responsibilities.

So I guess I'm stressed. I'm pretty sure this post is excessively long and rambles too much, but I'm too tired to deal with editing it down. Maybe I will later. I hope you, dear readers, will forgive me for one rambling, personal post when I'm barely awake enough to type.

Note: One thing I got done this week was to make an appointment for therapy, which will ostensibly help with some of this. We shall see.

That's so Hardcore, Man!

There's this weird idea that we have as a culture, that there is a scale of sex acts from "normal" to "waaaaaay kinky and degraded and weird." Like drugs, as though sex comes in different doses depending on the act, and that you can develop a tolerance and need More Extreme Sex to maintain your erotic high. You'll keep upping the dosage to stay interested in sex.

I think, though, that basically all sex is created equal. If you've got consent, it's all good. And sure, everyone's turned on more by some things than others. It's just that across the board that all tends to level out and we've got a giant pool of sex acts that are all just sex acts.

Each person is sexually unique, and we all change sexually over time. As we get more comfortable with sex, sure we might want to explore things that we were afraid of before we realized that the social norms are bullshit. But it's not like appreciating one sex act (which may or may not be "extreme") has to affect your appreciation for another.

Like I said, we do all have changing preferences over time, and I think it's all pretty flowy. There are times when I just wanna have sex while spooning because I want closeness and comfort. I want to stare into my partner's eyes and make love like bunnies. There are also times when I want to be tied up in a public bathroom, spanked, and fucked. These desires are not mutually exclusive.

This bleeds into a lot of discourse on sex. You'll hear people saying all the time that they're afraid of exploring their sexuality because "where do you draw the line?" If you watch gay porn, or anal porn, or any fetish porn, or god-forbid-engage-in-any-non-missionary-heterosexual-vanilla-sex-acts, you're starting down a path that will inevitably lead to Bestiality! and Child Molestation! Sex is a slippery slope! (Ahem, so to speak.)

In talks of sex addiction (which I think is mostly bunko), there's the concept that you can be drawn in deeper and deeper to sexuality, as though there is a rote "normal" level of sex and everything else is like heroine: impossible to resist once you've had a taste. I don't want to disrespect anybody who has issues of sexual compulsion, I just think that sex addiction is based way too much on ideas of a norm.

Let's have an attitude adjustment here. Just do what turns you on; it doesn't matter whether it's supposedly kinky or not. We have the ability to choose what we want to do. Our feelings about sex are going to vary hugely from person to person. Do YOU score a 10 on the Richter scale of kink? Who cares? Live your life.

Male Sexuality and Threesomes

Okay, I know I already blogged today, but I found an AMAZING post at Marx in Drag, and I just had to share it. The rest of the blog is awesome, too, so check it out.

An excerpt:
Catherine Waldby* points out that the hetero-masculine body is defined by its ability to fuck another and its refusal to be fucked. The fuck-er is always the man, and the fuck-ee is, well, anything but a man. This is why we can believe that, when two women get it on, it’s not really fucking (no hetero-masculilne fuck-er) and when a straight guy thinks about being sexual with another guy (a fuck-er), he fears becoming the fuck-ee. When there’s another cock in the room, someone besides the girl might get fucked.

Put another boy in the action, especially if there is only one girl, and suddenly the gendering of fuck-ers and fuck-ees gets, well, fucked up. This is why, when there is group sex involving two men and one woman, straight men have to tell themselves that they’re “taking turns on the girl”. In other words, hands off, bro’. We’re just a coupla straight guys taking turns.

And this is why, with only a few notable (and much appreciated) exceptions, I don’t know any straight guys who would ever consider, let alone have, really hopped in bed with their girlfriends and another guy or with a straight couple (and by ‘really’, I mean not-just-taking-turns-on-the-girl ‘really’). Rather than resonating with normative heterosexuality, especially hetero-masculilnity, it throws a rather large wrench in the hetero-normative gears. In other words, it’s really quite queer and no longer mimics and reproduces that old myth of masculine sexual power and feminine sexual vulnerability.

Which is precisely why Catherine Waldby calls for feminists to develop and proliferate new cultural narratives and sexual experiences that eroticize a receptive masculinity. Images and experiences where no longer are boys automatically fuck-ers (in power, the destroyer) and girls fuck-ees (the destroyed). Not only would this open up possibilities for feminine sexual power as fuck-ers, but it would also open up the wonderful world of being fucked to straight men. As Waldby points out, straight men are missing out by not allowing themselves to be the fuck-ee once in awhile. It’s deeply pleasurable to be “destroyed” (in a good way) by erotic pleasure, something most straight guys don’t get to experience. And this isn’t just about straight men becoming more receptive. It’s also about straight women being open to eroticizing a receptive masculinity in their own desire.

My favorite line from Waldby’s essay is the following: “Maybe what…feminism needs now is a strap-on.” (p. 275)

Yeah, feminism and every straight woman I know.
Hell fuckin' yeah!

This is just completely spot-on when it comes to male sexuality and its supposed rigidity. It's all tied in with gender roles and male privilege, and it's all utterly ridiculous.

As a happy feminist, very little turns me on more than a guy who's willing to play with "fuck-er" and "fuck-ee" roles. I want a guy who can do a little gender fuck. It's damn hot, and hard to find. Especially in straight men, who are unfortunately usually the ones attracted to me. You know, by definition.

I've had a threesome with two men that was just ridiculously sexy because they were both queer and into each other and we all got to play equally. I loved watching them make out, watching them go down on each other. I got to engage sexually with them both and nobody was left out. It was just a hot pile of limbs and energy.

More people should do it, I highly recommend it.

Note: I linked to this post from the Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy, hosted this month at Susie Bright's blog.

Tuesday Review: Bitch Magazine

This is more of a rave than a review, but I figured it counts.

If you spend any time in the feminist blog-o-sphere, you already know that Bitch Magazine has been in trouble. They've been holding a donation drive to raise enough money to put out their next issue (which they did, thank god) but there is a big question about how they will create sustainable strategies to keep going as an independent magazine.

If you're convinced already, donate here to help them keep things going. Subscriptions give them money and get you the magazine, and like they said even small amounts help. I'm not exactly rolling in cash on my work break, and I gave my $20.

Bitch is a wonderful magazine. I've been reading it since I was a freshman three years ago, and it's one of the things that made me feel comfortable to start calling myself a feminist.

Yep, that's right. For about six months at the end of high school, I was one of those "I'm not a feminist, but..." types. You know, finish the sentence with any variety of "I believe in equal rights for men and women." If you read my blog, you already know that I'm still not 100% satisfied with the word "feminist," but I do proudly and loudly identify as one. I am definitely an activist and strongly believe in sex equality. I am a feminist.

Bitch also introduced me to sex-positive feminism. They ran an article about the different kinds of feminism, followed by an interview with sex-positive heroine Susie Bright. It was the first time I had encountered anyone who had an ethical, activist, intellectual interest in sex, who thought it was a legitimate thing to be interested in.

I pretty much cried with relief. I got on the phone with my then-boyfriend and told him all about it. I'd been enduring the slut label for years and it hadn't occurred to me that there were other people around like me. There were people I could look up to, people I could learn from.

Bitch prints all kinds of feminist pop culture goodness: essays analyzing movies, books, and music, interviews of pertinent people, discussion of various feminist movements (because there are many), etc. They are probably the most important feminist voice in the last decade.

So Bitch is a winner, check them out and help them stick around!

Time Off From Stripping

Stripping is really addictive.

I haven't worked in about a month. I came back to school and I wanted to give myself a little time to settle in, get my shit here in order, before I start working again. The work is really tiring and it inevitably eats some of my weekend social life. I wanted a little time for college life before I get back to the job.

I miss it in so many ways. I hear a hard-rocking song and I just want to be on the pole, naked, under the black lights. I'm not getting laid right now, and I want the energy, the dangerous electricity of playing the tease and getting paid for it. I want my costumes, my girly absurdity and seven inch heels.

There are reasons, though, that I haven't called in to get back on the schedule at the job I know is waiting for me.

Whenever I work, I have a recuperation period. After dancing, talking, and being excessively charming for five hours I tend to lose my ability to be social or hold a proper conversation. I'm just drained; I've used all my emotional energy on the job. That's why stripping (and probably all sex work) is most appropriately categorized as emotional labor. We're working to make others (men) feel good. It can take a lot out of a person.

So when I go back to work, there will be large chunks of time in which yes, I'll be making money, but I also won't be productive in other ways. I won't be able to blog or do homework or work on my honors thesis. It'll just mean I have less time to do all the things I want to do.

I need to go back, though. It'd be nice to have the extra cash, and I really just want the challenge and excitement of it back in my life. Dancing, here I come!

I Love Tina Fey

So, this has been up for a few days and a lot of you have probably seen it already. If you hadn't, though, here's Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. I don't need to say much else because you can see for yourself how funny and amazing she is.

And one more (not so timely) reason I adore her:

Because yeah, bitch is the new black. I like being a bitch and I should do it more often. I shall take a page from Tina Fey and let my bitchiness fly. :-D


One of my friends from my freshman year was killed in a car accident at the end of the summer. He was sitting in the backseat of a car that was hit from behind by a drunk driver going over 100 miles an hour on the freeway. He was crushed.

I heard the day it happened. I was with my summer lover on the last night we'd see each other before I left for school. I had to sit for a while and text back and forth with the good friend who told me, but then I went back with him and ate sushi, then had sex in his room.

I went to Scott's funeral this week. The friend who told me he'd died was my roommate from last year and one of my best friends since she was on my freshman hall. She had been really upset and we went together. I'd been expecting to have to support her through it and had this in my head. I knew it was going to be hard, but I was able to wryly joke about what the funeral would be like up until an hour before I went.

I didn't realize until I was sitting in that memorial, looking at the pictures and videos and listening to the songs he used to play, how broken up I was about what happened. I'd known I was upset, in some distant way, but I'd thought I was removed enough from him that I was okay.

Turns out that was just denial.

Yes, we hadn't been close since freshman year, but back then it was him, his best friend, my friend who told me he'd died, and me up all night playing music, smoking pot, and just hanging out. They were my late night buddies.

He was a good person. Laid back, giving. At funerals they say a lot of things about the dead person that are platitudes, glossing over anything bad. The funny thing here was that everything they said was true. He was an optimist, almost childishly so. He made everyone around him happy. They talked about how he used to do crazy shit; we got to share stories about his antics.

And even though it had been years since we'd really hung out, I miss him. I miss his existence. I can't fathom that he's gone; it just makes no sense.

And I don't know how to react or what to feel. His girlfriend, who he'd been with for three years, was at the funeral and I can't imagine what she's going through. What am I feeling, then, compared to that?

I know, though, that it's horrible and that I'm sad. I just need to figure out what the hell I'm supposed to do about it.

Jerk It to Synthetic Pubes

I found this really cool video at Synthetic Pubes. He posts beautiful pictures of naked ladies which never fail to arouse both sexually and aesthetically. I definitely appreciate tasteful things which turn me on.

The song is Jerk It by Thunderheist.

My PMS Needs

I want somebody around that I can fight with.

I haven't had my period in a long time. I think it's because my IUD thins the lining of my uterus, and I just haven't had anything to bleed out. I still have normal hormone cycles, though, and I'm pretty sure that if I had anything to bleed I'd have my period right now. I've got cramps and everything.

And I'm cranky as hell. I want to get into it with someone, just let a little of the chemical crankiness out. Pick a stupid fight.

But I don't feel comfortable picking a fight with someone I'm not close with. Maybe that's fucked up, but generally speaking people I like enough to get close to can take it. They know me better than to take my fight-picking seriously. I mean, rough sex would work, too. I just need some kind of wrassle.

I can't fight with people I'm not close to because in order to fight you have to show emotion. And I just don't do that until I've known someone for a good long time and trust them really, really well. There's no one like that in my life right now.

I need a primary partner. That's just what it comes down to. There are a million reasons. I'd really like someone around to support me while I'm trying to take care of everyone else. I want someone to have regular sex with. I'd like more cuddling in my life. I want to be able to tell some of my secrets.

And I wanna fight. I want the push-pull that only happens when I respect someone enough to care about their opinion. It'd just be fun. I miss it.

Polyamory and Friendships

I've gotten a lot more comfortable with the idea of being polyamorous in the last six months to a year. It's partly because I had a good relationship with someone who wanted it too, and partly because I've just gotten over some of my fear of rejection. I don't really care if people think I'm a slut or a freak; even if people are ignorant, it's an opportunity for me to push the limits of their open-mindedness.

There's a really great side effect to being "out of the closet" with my polyamory, one that I didn't necessarily expect. I knew it would be nice to be honest and ethical in my sleeping around and to pursue a primary relationship without cutting off my sexual exploration, but I didn't foresee the affect it would have on my friendships.

Jenny Block wrote about this really eloquently in an essay I found posted on the Chesapeake Polyamory Network's Yahoo group. I know, a lot of steps to get to the essay, but I can't link it directly unless you're a member of the group.

Here's some of what she wrote. I've cut this down to get to the parts I want to talk about:
I lived for 15 years in a monogamous relationship, before coming out as bisexual and polyamorous.

During that time, my friendships were strained and wary, because there was "the line". You know the line, right? The one you can't cross, because if you do you will be ‘on the slippery slope that leads to utter disaster.’

Here's the really strange thing about having a non-monogamous relationship - it's not the other sexual relationships that really change the quality of my life. It's the freedom I have in ALL my relationships, because there's no line to fear and avoid.

I now have several very close friends that I DON'T have sex with, but if we did it would be just fine, so we are free to express our love without concerns and fears.

From time to time, with a few of them, the physical affection extends to something decidedly sexual in nature, if it's appropriate and comfortable for all concerned. But it's not really important whether it does or not.

And that's the really surprising thing about non-monogamy - sex is just not as important. Monogamous people have to think about the possibility of sex with others in order to protect themselves against it.

Non-monogamous people just think about it a lot less. It is an element of a relationship, not the defining feature. Not even the most important element, either. I could have a life partner that wasn't a sexual partner at all, quite easily, because my life partnership doesn't depend on having sex, and my having sex doesn't depend on my life partner.
Okay, that's a long excerpt, but I felt like she said most things that I wanted to, and better than I would have myself. If you're interested in polyamory, it's worth joining the Chesapeake group to read this and other essays they've got posted up there.

I've noticed exactly what she's talking about. I have a lot of pretty sexually charged friendships, and I'm really okay with the fact that I'm not in bed or in a relationship with those people. I wouldn't have been okay with that in the past.

I think in the past I would have lost interest in someone I was attracted to if I didn't end up sleeping with them. I'd have found someone else to bang and all of my sexual energy would have gone into the new person. Without the sexual tension, the old friendship would have just fizzled out.

Now, I can live on that tense line between being friends and fucking because if I need to I can have a release elsewhere. It won't detract from the original friendship if I'm getting sex elsewhere, just like it needn't detract from my primary romantic relationship if I'm fucking someone else. The sexual charge, the sexual energy is still there. Sometimes it's even more fun because it's unfulfilled.

I can have as many sexy friends and hot lovers as I want or need. It's so freeing, not to feel limited in the amount of love and sex I can share with people.

Tuesday Review: The LayaSpot from Fun Factory

I'm starting a new weekly review! It's on Tuesdays because unexpectedly life-altering things always happen on Tuesdays. It's that day of the week that sneaks up on you. So maybe my reviews will change your life. Mwahahahaha.

I know there are a million bloggers (and especially sex bloggers) writing reviews of sex toys and other sexy shit all the time. I'm going to do that, too, but I also want to write about books that have blown my little feminist mind and movies that have stretched my imagination. I'll write about porn, too. Hell, I'll talk about random office products or food items if the mood strikes me. (You'd be surprised how sexy some paper weights can be.)

So this shall be the Everything Review.

Starting wiiiiiiiiiiiiith:

The LayaSpot Vibrator from Fun Factory

This is my favorite vibrator. That's why I'm reviewing it first. I've had it for years, and it lives on my bedside table instead of in the drawer with the rest of them. To put it away would be silly - I use it too often. I've gotten many other toys, but none of them have successfully unseated my Laya in its place of honor.

The biggest reason for this is that the Laya has the perfect level of vibration for me. Everyone is different, but I'm not always in the mood for a powerhouse like the Hitachi Magic Wand. The Laya has some kick; it's definitely more of a buzz than a tickle, but it doesn't leave my hands and clit numb unless I use it for a good long time. If a tiny tickle is a 1 and a motorcycle rumble is a 5, I'd say the Laya rates a 3 on the vibration scale.

It's also pretty quiet. When I had a roommate, I used it plenty of times when she was asleep across the room, and she's never heard it. And yeah, I asked her. We're pretty close like that.

I use the Laya as an external vibe. I really like how it covers my whole vulva, so I get stimulation on my lips, urethra, and the opening of my vagina as well as on my clit. I can see how you'd use it by inserting the hard plastic end into the vagina and letting the rest of the body of the vibrator touch the lips and clit. It's kind of an awkward angle to do this, though, so I wouldn't especially recommend it as an internal vibrator.

It's got very user-friendly controls. It's super easy to push the buttons and change the vibration while you're using it. There's a little nub on the plus button, so you can just feel your way and adjust as you go. The seven speeds of vibration are continuous, so you can just push the plus or minus button until you get to a place you like.

It also has three speeds of pulsation. The only problem with the pulsation is that you have to turn the vibrator all the way up before you get to the pulsation programs. This means that in order to turn it off when it's pulsating you have to push the minus button all the way through the vibration speeds. This isn't as speedy as it might need to be.

The Laya is made out of elastomer and hard plastic, so it's easy to clean and there are no icky pthalates to make your vagina smell funny or cause health complications. You can get it wet, but don't submerge or boil it, as you don't want to damage the motor.

It comes in a variety of pretty colors. Mine is pink because I so love the irony of a girly-ass color on something I use for dirty things.

One drawback to this toy is that it uses AAA batteries instead of being rechargeable. It's waaaaaaay cheaper than rechargeable vibes, though, so if you're looking for an affordable vibe this might not matter that much to you. I'll be happy when I find a comparable toy that doesn't make me worry about the affect my masturbation has on my carbon footprint.

I love to lie on my stomach with the Laya between my legs while a man fucks me from behind. It's not quite small or soft enough to use during vaginal intercourse if you're really into the missionary position, but I'm sure you can be more creative than that. It's also easy to hold while a man or woman has a hand (or a few fingers) inside me.

The Bottom Line: I love the Laya, and recommend it for anyone who likes moderately strong clitoral stimulation.

My Long Lost Brother: The Note to Ann Landers

When I was eleven, I found out I had a long lost brother.

I was playing Riven. I don't remember what I was stuck on; it was probably the little balls in the puzzle on top of the globe. No matter how many times I went back to the place with the puzzle's clue and how many times I thought I had it right, it just wasn't working. I was close to tears.

My mom, who'd played the game before, wasn't home and she wouldn't answer her cell phone. It was off. I thought I might be able to find her Riven notes in her filing cabinet, where she keeps her personal papers. When I noticed a file titled "Adoption," I was curious.

You can guess where this is going, right?

I found a note she'd written to Ann Landers. The advice columnist had told a birth child not to search for his birth mother, that the mother had given him up for a reason and probably wanted nothing to do with him. My mother wrote back and told Ann Landers how she'd had a baby in college and given him up for adoption. She considered it his right to decide whether or not to meet her. She had given him up, given him the decision, but she would be devastated if she never got to see him again.

His name, when she left him at the hospital, was Michael Patrick.

I stared at that piece of paper. I didn't know when my mom was getting home. She was probably at the grocery store, or paying bills at the bank. I put it quickly back in the filing cabinet and brought the phone into my room, where I had an unused jack for it. My parents didn't think I needed my own phone.

I called my best friend, and cried because my mother hadn't told me. Cried because I wasn't supposed to know; I'd found out clandestinely. I'd been intruding.

Bette Midler had a song called "Lullaby in Blue" about adoption. After that summer, whenever my mom would skip it on the album, I'd calmly ask her why. I asked to see her yearbook photos, since I'd figured out that she must have given birth during her senior year at Notre Dame. I didn't know all the details.

Every once in a while, I'd go back to look at the letter again. I'd wait until she was gone, for sure, for a while, and go back to the filing cabinet, slamming it closed if I thought I heard my sister coming up the stairs. I did this every few months until Mom sat the family down for a macaroni and cheese dinner three years later.

**Update** I was going to continue this story, but I decided I don't actually want to, at least not in this style. The short story is that Michael Patrick was coincidentally named Patrick by his adoptive parents and found my mom and our family about a year after she finally told my sister and me about him. He's a Catholic youth minister and just had a baby girl, I, with his wife, C. They got married as soon as she graduated college. I won't use his full first name after this, but it's a pretty cool coincidence.

Coming Out to My Parents

I came out to my dad about being a stripper on Father's Day.

Aren't I such a good kid?

I'd already been dancing for nine months at school, but I hadn't felt ready to tell my parents right when I started.

I hate lying to them. The lie I told them about my new job, that I was a "cocktail waitress" in a strip club, was the first one I'd told them since high school.

I learned when I was 16 that I only lied to them when I was ashamed or unsure about what I was doing. If I felt that I was right, if there was something I wanted to do that was against the rules or I thought they wouldn't like, I'd come right out with it and duke it out until I had my way. This didn't really happen unless I did have a good reason for what I wanted to do; I'm a relatively down-to-earth girl.

But. When I wanted to let myself get away with something I felt was wrong or at least was ambivalent towards, I'd lie about it. It wasn't about trying to trick them; they're very supportive of me and accept my choices. It was more about deceiving myself. I learned to use this as a moral compass: if I felt like I had to lie about it, I shouldn't be doing it.

So lying about stripping was difficult.

Here's the thing, though. When I started stripping I was ambivalent about it. A big reason for doing it was curiosity. I wanted to know what it was like, to be naked in front of a room of lecherous men. I wanted to know if it was degrading. I wanted to experience sex work for myself so that I could decide how I felt about it.

So I really had no idea what I was getting into.

I couldn't possibly have defended my choice to my parents. Maybe they would have understood the curiosity, but I wasn't ready to explain it. If it had turned out to be degrading and awful, curiosity wouldn't have been enough to justify it. And I knew it could have been bad; I'd heard enough stories. I'm masochistic enough that I didn't care and I was going to do it anyway. That's the part that would have been hard to explain.

I'm not sure exactly what it is that I said that convinced my dad (and my mom, a couple weeks earlier) that stripping was what I wanted to do and would be okay. I do know I wouldn't have been able to say it last October. Because now I've experienced stripping, I know for certain what it's like for me. I know that it makes me feel empowered, that I enjoy it. Without that certain knowledge, I'd have lost the "I want to strip, okay?" argument in a heartbeat.

They still think, or pretend to believe, that I was a cocktail waitress until I came home for the summer and told them I was going to be a stripper. Lying is something I'm ashamed of, so I can't admit to them that I lied. Funny, isn't it, how a lie stays with you for such a long time?

Entitlement or The "Coolness" Factor

I've been trying to figure out what it is that draws me to certain people more than others. Being in San Francisco (I guess I'll be writing about that a lot, since I've just moved back to the East and I've got a lot to compare it with) was odd. I was surrounded by people who are progressive, alternative, queer, physically attractive, activist, etc. All the little cues that I'd usually notice and gravitate towards. You know, my "type."

And the gravity just didn't happen that much. I didn't feel that pull in anyone's direction the way that I do all the time here in the East. People my type were everywhere, I was practically spoiled for choice, but the chemistry I rely on almost exclusively to bring me to people didn't show up.

Coming back here, I realized what the difference is.

In San Francisco, the progressive people are cool. If they grew up there, they've been cool their whole lives, because being alt-y is the "in" thing there. They were kings and queens in high school. Here in New York, the alt people have had to struggle a little to be who they are. They've come through being picked on and seen as strange to earn some self confidence. They had to learn that being progressive is awesome. They chose it under duress, not peer pressure.

So that's not to say that I hate cool people. I am very much attracted to self confidence. There's a difference between confidence and entitlement, though. The people who grew up being cool (and doing whatever to fit in) feel like they deserve everything they get and some things they don't.

I don't like to be taken for granted. I grew up as weirdo, I got called a nerd, and then I got called a slut. All that fun stuff. And yeah, I was in the SF Bay Area, but it happened nonetheless. I identify with people who've gone through those things and come out on top. They tend to be nicer.

So it's entitlement that drives me crazy. I can't be drawn to someone who's just expecting me to fall at their feet. I need a little give and take. And here in New York, it's easier to find that in combination with the other artsy qualities I like.

Depression, Memory, and Art

You know, it's funny, my memories from times when I've been depressed are very fuzzy. I don't remember what it's like very specifically. I have journal entries and I can go back and read them now that I am well and say "Wow, I was really depressed," but I don't remember the details of what that feels like. I can only read them on the page.

When I'm no longer able to speak or to write, that's when I draw or paint or play with collages. I'm so verbal, when I can function at all my feelings come out in my words. I write here in the blog or in the journal I carry around with me at all times. I have a journal beside my bed. I write a column. I love to have long, involved conversations with people I both agree and disagree with.

I'm looking back at my journal, and there's a period from April to August of last year where I barely wrote anything. What I did write is abysmal: "I wish just something wouldn't be so hard. It seems like I struggle with everything lately. School, friendships, my parents...I want to be able to rest for a while. I want things to be easy and to be able to truly have fun and be relaxed and easy just for a little while. Maybe then I'll be able to make it through all of this..."

I don't know how much of my personality comes through in this blog, but I'm just not like that. I want things to be challenging. I thrive when I'm pushed. That up there is me altered.

And I know at that time I was drawing and making collages, which I almost never do. I don't think I have any talent, although I'm sure I could cultivate it. But I usually just have my words. They are my art. At that point, though, I couldn't express myself that way anymore. I'd lost the ability to describe my feelings so I just had to represent them.

I think that's why my memories are so funny from those time periods. Normally, I remember things in words, in stories. Of course I forget things when I'm depressed, because I do become so non-verbal. I lose my systems of expression and therefore of remembering.

It's crazy, the total effects it has on my life. It's been over a year now, since I was depressed like that. A year and a half. I'm lucky, in that I can be a functioning person without anti-depressants. Now, I have no idea if that will change in the future. I know that if I get into a really major episode I could need them to get out. I've tried to set up support systems for myself so that I can have them gotten for me if I get that bad.

I definitely do things to try and keep my brain chemicals level, though. I exercise, I have to be sure I eat enough or I'm vulnerable to a mood change. And I sometimes take medication for ADHD, which actually usually has a positive effect on my mood. The writing does help me to constructively deal with things as they come up so that they don't have a long term negative effect on my well-being.

I know I've been writing a lot about depression and mental health. I had a spurt of productivity and thinking after I went to that Active Minds meeting. I've also become much more comfortable with the idea that I have depression, and so I want to talk about it and find others like me. I want to make connections and build support. This blog is part of that for me.

"Mental Illness" and Mad Pride

Okay, I just discovered the Mad Movement.

I read the article the New York Times wrote on the movement in May and was fairly inspired, but for various reasons involving school finals and my time-consuming relationships, I didn't look into it that much.

Silly me.

The Mad Movement seems just as diverse as any other movement these days, but I really like what's at the heart of their cause. They want to make mental illness, in all its incarnations, something people aren't ashamed of. Something they're, in fact, proud of.

They see madness as simply another way of thinking, another way of interacting with the world. There can be benefits, they say, to extremes of experience or unusual perceptions of reality. People should be proud of their uniqueness. To find out more, check out MindFreedom International, The Icarus Project, and Liz Spikol's blog.

Remember how I said I was going to post more about my feelings on mental illness? Here it is.

I don't like the term "mental illness." I recognize that it has some use in acknowledging the chemical components of things including depression and bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I can see how people want to call them illnesses because they need to be taken seriously and treated. They're not just character flaws or quirks. Yes.

But they're not like bronchitis or a common cold. They can't be cured with antibiotics and they're not going to go away on their own. Maybe they're like viruses: herpes, which flares up every now and then or AIDs, which is always kind of there and you have to treat it or you'll die. I see the analogy, but I think the term "illness" is too suggestive of some outside source or influence that's coming in and mucking up the body.

"Mental illnesses" are internal. Yeah, it's a body malfunctioning, but it's malfunctioning because it just does. There's no little microscopic whatever causing it. The malfunction is, in a way, an integral part of the human being housing it.

My depression is a part of my personality. It's integral to how I deal with things. What I feel is who I am, and to call that an illness offends me. I am not an illness.

I like the term I found on MindFreedom's website. They called it "Creative Maladjustment" after a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech. I'm down with that. Yeah, I'm maladjusted, but it sometimes lets me feel things more deeply than other people. This can give me insight that other people miss out on. That's pretty cool. I know that some of the same brain systems which lead me to get depressed (and to have ADHD) are also the ones that allow me to be empathetic, and well spoken, and productive.

So, uh, from now on I've got a creative maladjustment, not a mental illness. Okay?

Side Note: The NYT article was in the Fashion and Style section? What?

Active Minds and Psych Students

I went to a meeting last night for a new group on campus called Active Minds. Apparently it's a new chapter of a national organization, and their stated purpose is to "promote mental health awareness, break down the stigma surrounding mental illness, create programs that raise awareness, and facilitate discussions surrounding mental health issues."

I went because I have depression. I have it in the classic sense where I'm more or less fine most of the time but I have major depressive episodes that last around four to six months every 1-3 years. It mostly doesn't affect my daily life until I'm having an episode, and I've gotten better at preventing them and recognizing the beginnings of episodes so I can get help through them. I choose not to take medication at this point.

I was hoping that this group would be a forum for students with "mental illnesses" to come forward and denounce the stigma surrounding them. You know, a community of like-minded individuals. Crazy-minded individuals if you will.

It wasn't.

So far as I could see, there were two kinds of people in the fairly packed room at the first meeting. There were students like me who probably had "mental illnesses" themselves and had come for similar reasons to mine. When we went around the room, they seemed fairly shy and had a variety of majors. Then there were the psychology students. Now, I'm not suggesting that psych students don't have "mental illnesses," but at least some of them clearly thought they didn't.

The psych majors were there because they were interested in decreasing the stigma of "mental illness" in order for "mentally ill" people to be able to get help and get "cured" more easily. A lot of them talked about having friends who had mental problems and how bad and painful this was, and a big concern was how to get people around "mentally ill" folks to help them effectively.

It was all about making the "mentally ill" folks better. Fixing us. The girl who was running the meeting said at one point that she wanted people to "understand mental illness as a disease that's curable."

The thing is that "mental illnesses" are not curable. They're treatable. There's a huge difference. You can treat a "mental illness" with medication or talk therapy or any number of other methods, but by definition it will always be there to deal with in one way or another. Never "cured."

There's also a huge difference between helping someone and fixing them. I, as a "mentally ill" person do sometimes need more help than others to get through my everyday life. I very, very much appreciate this help when it's given and I need the support structures that the mental health community provides. I need those structures to be accessible, and making that happen does help me.

What I don't need is to be fixed. This is just a part of who I am, and I think I deserve respect. Maybe in spite of the "illness" and maybe even in some ways because of it. And that's what I was looking for when I went to a meeting to destigmatize "mental illness," some kind of respect for people with different (Active?) minds. An actual lack of stigma. You're not going to destigmatize something by trying to fix it until it's gone. That's still devaluing it.

But the thing is, the only people at this meeting who spoke up were the psych students. I didn't hear a peep from anyone saying they had a "mental illness," or what that was like, or what they might need. And sure, I didn't speak up either because I figured out pretty quickly that this wasn't the group I was looking for. It was clear as soon as they prissily said "This won't be a support group, it's just a group to run events to lessen stigma."

It wasn't a welcoming atmosphere to admit that you were "mentally ill." Isn't it funny that a meeting purporting to destigmatize "mental illness" silenced the "mentally ill"?

Note: You may have noticed I have put "mental illness" in quotations throughout the post. I really dislike this term and will discuss it in more depth in an upcoming post.

Men and "Pseudo Erotic Homosexuality"

My post title kind of says it all, or at least a lot.

I have this friend, who is an Orthodox Jew. He was raised Reformed Jewish and began practicing Orthodoxy maybe two years ago after he came to college. He is incredibly enthusiastic about his religion and will talk at great length about it to anyone who brings up anything even remotely related. This could be annoying, but he's smart and well-spoken so it's not. He has a very interesting perspective on religion in general and his own religion specifically, so it's fun to hang out with him.

This boy, however, is more touchy-feely with other guys than pretty much any other straight guy I've known. He has a very complex relationship with his sexuality; I think he is drawn to Orthodoxy because he feels that he can't control his behavior, especially his sexual behavior, without the structure it provides. There are other reasons, of course, but that one is pretty immediately apparent.

Now, I'm not going to second guess someone on their orientation. If he says he's straight, I respect him enough to take him at his word. I think that's a courtesy we should automatically give people. It's really, really fascinating, though, to hang out with him and other guys.

Now, I think it's safe to say that most straight men do a lot of latently homosexual things. Strip clubs, anyone? Let's all go in a group and watch hot girls so that we all get turned on? Together? Hello?

You know what it's like. They watch porn together. They have circle jerks. They "jokingly" hug each other or hump each other in order to "make fun of" gay people and prove that they aren't actually gay while they get the benefits of physical contact with their guy friends. It's a bonding thing.

The male gender role is so fucked up, right? Heaven forbid you have actual intimacy with a friend, or you just might be gay. And we can't have that.

My Jewish friend is really upfront about this. It's one of the reasons I like him; he's very self aware. He told me the other day that he really enjoys "pseudo erotic homosexuality" with other guys. He actually used that phrase. I kinda wish more men would be willing to admit to it, and be able to relax enough in their gender roles to be upfront about what guy friendships are or could be.

P.S. There obviously are guys who push at and escape their gender roles. If that's you, I respect you, and frankly probably want to sleep with you. Spent any time in New York lately?

BDSM and Me

I've been fantasizing about being tied up since I was a very young girl. Please don't think that's child-pornographic or anything; at that point they weren't really sexual fantasies, but I definitely had a strange excitement at the idea of being tied to the train tracks like the woman in a cartoon I saw.

These days, when I masturbate, I'm nearly always imagining some kind of restraint. I've got a memory foam mattress topper, and the way my arms sink into it reminds me of the feeling of handcuffs. I like to keep my arms up above my head and just leave my vibrator between my legs, and there's usually some kind of character in my head telling me just how much I can't move and how much I like it.

However, I haven't actually practiced a lot of BDSM. I'm not necessarily into the serious sadomasochism aspects of it (although I do like to be spanked), so I'm always intimidated by the members of the BDSM community. There seems to be a lot of emphasis there on trying everything, pushing your limits, taking things just a little farther. I definitely like to do that, it's kind of my philosophy of life, but when it comes to BDSM I haven't even found my limits yet so I don't feel at all safe pushing them.

I'm also a very motivated, extraverted, dominant person in most of my life. Without going into those BDSM circles where I feel so uncomfortable, I have no idea how to go about finding someone who could or would want to top me. I like to play the tease, kind of fight it for a while, and I have no idea how to negotiate that so that someone will actually throw me down on the bed when they've had enough.

Maybe I've just got to bite the bullet and go forth into BDSM-land and find someone who's interested. I know there's a lot of negotiation and talking that happens there, and I really like that. I do definitely worry, though, that someone more experienced than I am will lose patience with me and either not want to engage with me at all or try to push me too far.

San Francisco Prostitution Proposition

I just learned in the last few days that there will be a proposition on the San Francisco ballot this November to decriminalize prostitution.

I'm really happy to see this. I'm not an expert on prostitution, partly because I'm not a prostitute. I feel comfortable talking about stripping and criticizing that industry because I'm a part of it. Of course I can't speak for all strippers, but I do at least have some personal experience to draw from.

I do very strongly believe, though, that criminalization of prostitution is awful and stupid. It ties up needless amounts of money in punishing people (mostly women) who are simply trying to make a living. I won't call it a victimless crime because I know that's a controversial statement. Some would say that the prostitutes themselves are victims, and in cases where it's coerced (whether physically, culturally, financially, whatever) prostitution I agree. But that is not always. Some would say the clients are victims, and while I think that's a bit harder to argue, like I said I don't have the personal experience to draw from.

Criminalization also makes it really hard for prostitutes to report crimes committed against them. In a country where a judge will convict a rapist of "theft of services" after he and his buddies gang rape a prostitute at gunpoint, there needs to be a lot more protection for these workers. It's a travesty that we're not doing more to keep them safe. Decriminalization will make it easier for prostitutes to report crimes and hopefully make it harder to commit them in the first place by providing more sex worker support.

I know that I support decrim, but I'm not as sure about legalization. I'm curious what any of you think about that. I've heard a lot of support from the sex workers I know for decrim, but what would be the benefits of legalization, and the drawbacks? Opinions?

In any case, I am a San Francisco voter because I consider the Bay Area my home. So I'm voting yes on Proposition K. If you're a San Francisco voter, I hope you are too.

Everyone's Needs, and Mine

I've spent a lot of accidental time in the last few days with my friends. You know, not the kind of time where I'd planned to be with them or planned to have leisure or social time. The kind where I'd planned to do something else and people presented themselves to have fun with or showed up with needs.

I missed that spontaneity, that consistent demand for my attention, when I was at home over the summer. There, it's like I always have to seek out my social opportunities. It gets a bit taxing because I feel like I'm forcing myself on people. Here, they fall in my lap whether I want them or not.

I should learn to create more of a balance between those two things, though. It's true that when I'm always the seeker I get lonely and frustrated, but when I'm always in demand I feel very much overwhelmed. I forgot about that over the summer, the feeling of being overstretched and over-needed. I have trouble setting aside enough time for myself because I always do want to be with my friends or help them when they're distressed.

My new goal is to write every day in this blog. I want to push myself to create space for that, to give myself time to reflect and write. It's important to me that my output has some quality, so I'm just going to have to make the time for it. It's a nice extra incentive to give myself some space.

I Really Want Obama to Win

I just can't articulate it enough. He's so...much...better.

And I would've been happy with Hilary, too. I probably would have felt similarly, and been excited at the idea of a woman president. It's their policies that do it for me more than their sex, race, age, whatever.

But it is kind of fun to have young, hopeful Obama as a candidate. He started out in non-profits for Christ's sake, not running Daddy's friend's oil business into the ground. This is a man after my own heart. He works at making the world better. This is good.

And I pray that Americans aren't stupid enough to be taken in by the young, pretty, and female Palin. I mean, that's as important as the fact that Obama's got a pretty wife and he's kinda handsome. Palin is uuuuuultra conservative. She may be a woman, but she is not at all pro-woman. She's VERY pro-life. She's in favor of creationism. She'll continue this crusade against sexual health in America. She'll support the breaking down of GLBT rights. Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Oh yeah, and her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. Because abstinence-only sex education WORKS. (Poor girl.)

And of course, McCain, who is the actual presidential candidate and the one that really matters, has not improved any for choosing her. He's just as bad when it comes to human rights for all citizens.

And I so very, very, very, very much want a president whose power doesn't make me fear for my rights every day. I said this to my friends when the Democrats took over the House. It's not that I think they're so great, it's just that having them in power makes me much less afraid. It's like a consistent threat has been removed.

I'm so hopeful and excited that Obama will win and the threat of a closed-minded, anti-feminist, anti-gay president will be gone for at least four years. I can't wait. Please vote! Please vote for him!

Communicating with the Rest of the World

One nice thing about being in San Francisco this summer was the sense of shared language and experience with the people I met. Granted, I was working in the sex field almost exclusively, but even random strangers I met in bars or through out-of-town friends knew what "polyamorous" meant. Relationships would come up and I'd say "I'm non-monogamous" and the response would be "Oh, that's cool."

Here in New York, however, the response is usually "What does that mean?" and "How do you do that?" and, subtextually, "Wow, you must be a sexual deviant extraordinaire."

Of course, I talk to guys in a strip club, but they aren't the only ones. And of course not everyone imagines I'm some crazy sex animal, but a lot of conversations get very awkward as soon as I mention polyamory, even if the other person's been talking about sex and their relationships for a half hour already.

I like educating people about polyamory, and it's really awesome when someone hears me and says "Wow, that's awesome. I never thought about that but it's kind of what I've been doing and I needed a name for it." Or when someone says "Good for you. Do what makes you happy," even if polyamory isn't for them. It gets taxing, though, having to explain every word that I would use to define my identity. Even "bisexual" isn't safe. ("Do you like boys more, or girls?")

The weird thing is that now I'm a senior, there's a new disconnect because the people around me are younger. I met a freshman boy in one of my classes, who was tall, cute, and friendly and followed me around for a while, to lunch and the post office and such. Sex and relationships came up in our conversation, and he's got a girlfriend who lives far away. He hasn't "asked her out" yet, but he also hasn't "messed around" with anyone else since the two of them hooked up. He's thinking he will "ask her out" soon, since she's coming to visit.

So when I try to say "yeah, I don't do monogamy" and explain all of that, I'm even one step further from his understanding. I mean, when I say I'm going to "ask someone out" I mean on a date. And if it goes well, we'll have sex. And then if that goes well, we'll do all it again. Months later, we'll talk about commitment and (not) being monogamous, etc. It's just a different mindset from 18 to 21. It was weird to have a language barrier in conversation with this person I otherwise got along with swimmingly.

So this year should be interesting. It's been my habit not to deal much with younger folks anyway, but I'm at a loss for what to do now that I'm the oldest one around. I want new people to play with. I know I can go off campus to find them and it'll be good practice for the real world, but it's so much harder. I guess I'll manage. Onward, ho!

Bodies and Sex

I’m reading a really great account of sex by a post-operative transsexual woman, and I just thought of something. This is pure speculation based on my understanding of Male to Female surgical procedures, which is limited and could definitely be wrong. But it’s a thought.

They cut the glans of the penis off and put it where the glans of the clitoris goes. (And, it seems do a second procedure to make it look like a clitoris.) They turn the shaft of the penis inside out and fashion it into a vagina. I don’t know how they deal with muscles, or the bulb of the penis or creating labia or any of that. But think about the process I’ve described for one second:

The penis (glans, shaft, bulb, etc) corresponds to the entire body of the clitoris (glans, legs, bulb, etc). Most of the body of the clitoris is inside the body, under the skin, and relatively hard to access. The vagina is not as enervated as the body of the clitoris. For most women, stimulation of the vagina cannot cause orgasm.

For a transsexual woman, her vagina is essentially a part of her clitoris. (Trans vagina=shaft of penis=legs of clitoris.) She experiences vaginal penetration much the way we experience clitoral stimulation. Her WHOLE vagina is her g-spot, since I think we can safely assume at this point that the g-spot exists because of the internal structures of the clitoris.

I bet that transsexual women who’ve had successful and skillful operations experience vaginal intercourse on an entirely different and probably more pleasurable level than most chromosomal women.

How cool is that?

Man, I wish I could switch bodies with a whole variety of people for a day or a week. What would sex feel like for a trans man? For any of the different kinds of intersexed people? For a man? For people of different ages? For someone with breast implants? For another woman with a different female body than mine? It would be so interesting.
On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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