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The Long, Hard Work of Running the Only Academic Journal on Porn

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In 2014, Clarissa Smith and Feona Attwood launched “Porn Studies,” the world’s first academic periodical devoted exclusively to pornography, although many of their colleagues—and anti-porn feminists—advised them against it.

Academic Journal on Porn

Clarissa Smith, a professor of sexual cultures at the University of Sunderland in the UK, is describing to me the ideal sex robot. “Maybe it wouldn’t look like a human at all,” she says. “It could be like a sleeping bag you zip yourself into and have a whole-body experience. How fabulous would that be? You could have your toes tickled and your head massaged at the same time.”

I ask if she’s seen the two-legged cyborgs from Boston Robotics that don’t fall over, even when shoved. “They kind of look like horses,” she says. “They’re not sexy.” She tells me that if she had any business acumen, she’d design her own pleasure bots. “I wouldn’t be talking about this journal.”

The journal we’ve been talking about is Porn Studies, the first academic periodical devoted exclusively to the study of pornography. Founded in 2014 by Smith and Feona Attwood, a professor in cultural studies, communication, and media at Middlesex University London, it’s since become the go-to quarterly for hot-and-heavy, peer-reviewed research on how porn is constructed and consumed around the world.

After receiving a raft of coverage from the Atlantic, the Washington Post, VICE, and, of course, the Daily Mail, nearly 250,000 people viewed the journal online over its premiere weekend. The first issue featured an article by groundbreaking film scholar Linda Williams, an essay on how porn literacy is being taught in UK schools, and a meta-analysis of porn titled “Deep Tags: Toward a Quantitative Analysis of Online Pornography”—which reads sort of like Nate Silver’s guide to PornHub. Later issues have explored topics as varied as the “necropolitics” of zombie porn to the “disposal” of gay porn star bottoms who bareback.

Porn has long been a popular field of academic research—professor Linda Williams’s seminal text on the subject, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible” was first published in 1989—but its scholarly inspection has not been without controversy.

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“It has been considered a ‘despised form,'” Smith said. “But I think there are enough people around now who are approaching pornography from a whole range of viewpoints, not just asking, ‘Should it exist?’ or ‘How should we regulate it?’ but ‘What is it? Who’s in it? How does it work?'”

Before Smith became a leading expert in pornography, she was working at an ad agency and pursuing a master’s degree in women’s studies. “I sat through so many lectures about the radical feminists’ rejection of porn,” she said. Then, one day at the office, she received a press packet from two publishers who were just about to launch soft-core magazines for women.

“I was like, hang on, two publishers think it’s worth it to launch porn magazines, and yet women supposedly have no interest in this?”

Smith had friends who were into porn, she enjoyed a good Chippendales show now and then, and she’d watched as the Ann Summers sex shop in her neighborhood had transformed from someplace dark and seedy to a “bright and colorful” spot to buy sex toys.

“I saw these things happening, which, according to theory, couldn’t be happening.” She had a gut feeling that porn, too, was being misjudged.

In 1999, Smith decided to analyze For Women magazine, a relatively upmarket glossy that ran features like “Semen: a user’s guide” and “Women who sleep with strangers night after night.” The magazine, Smith argued, sought to manufacture “a space where women [could] be sexually free” by writing about things like three-ways, cuckolding fetishes, and anal sex in a way that made them seem normal. It was also primo masturbation material, offering “male bodies for female consumption” and real-life sex stories.

Academics and peers she respected tried to dissuade Smith from continuing down the porn path. “They would ask me, ‘When are you going to move on from this area into more serious study?’ They’d also tell me I was really brave.” She laughs. “I wasn’t brave, I was interested!”

For Women

When academics analyze comics, horror films, video games, or anime, it isn’t generally assumed that their scholarship constitutes a ringing endorsement of everything in their field of study. But with porn, it’s different. The topic is so “burdened with significance,” as transgender studies professor Bobby Noble once described it, it’s easy to get trapped in the debate over its existence—instead of looking at it objectively as a cultural product.

But Smith ignored the naysayers and, over the next few years, penned a number of articles with titles like, “Shiny Chests and Heaving G-Strings: A Night Out with the Chippendales” and “They’re Ordinary People, Not Aliens from the Planet Sex! The Mundane Excitements of Pornography for Women.”

She was cavorting with other porn academics and traveling to conferences when she fortuitously met Feona Attwood. “It felt like we were the only two people talking about [porn], at least in the UK,” Smith said. The pair eventually brought their idea for a porn studies journal to the multinational academic publishing house Routledge, initiating two-and-a-half years of negotiation. When, finally, the two were told their proposal for the journal had been accepted, they “sat in stupefied silence for about ten minutes,” Smith said.

Nearly as soon as Porn Studies was announced, a feminist anti-porn organization in the UK called Stop Porn Culture circulated an online petition demanding the creation of an anti-porn journal for the sake of balance. Signatories claimed the journal was akin to “murder studies” from the viewpoints of “murderers.”

Smith and Attwood believe they somewhat missed the point. “We were trying to move away from the idea that there were only two ways of thinking,” said Attwood. “Like for or against television, or for or against the novel. It’s a bizarre way of thinking, from an academic point of view.”

porn studies

At the time, the UK had recently banned a long list of hardcore sex acts from porn produced in the country, including “spanking, caning, whipping, penetration by an object ‘associated with violence,’ physical or verbal abuse (consensual or not), urination in sexual contexts, female ejaculation, strangulation, facesitting and fisting (if all knuckles are inserted).” The country’s mood wasn’t exactly sex-positive.

“We have this idea that we can just keep undesirable things out of the country,” Smith said.

That fearful attitude, naturally, extends to university campuses. “I don’t think there was ever a golden age for studying porn,” Attwood told me. “It’s always been tricky!” She says the resistance the pair encountered—and continue to encounter—is part of a “much broader” problem related to academic freedom; at the University of Houston, for example, teachers were recently told they might want to modify what they teach in case students are carrying concealed weapons.

“The social and political context we are working in at the moment as academics makes our work more precarious and dangerous in all kinds of ways that are not just about what we study,” Attwood said.

Yet the history of porn research in the United States isn’t as dramatic as you’d imagine. Linda Williams was able to teach porn with full support of her administration way back in the (H.W.) Bush years.

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“There is still such a thing as academic freedom,” Williams said nonchalantly when I asked how administrators reacted to her porny syllabi when she taught the subject at UC Irvine, in the heart of conservative Orange County, in 1992.

Back then, Williams, who’d already published a book on the subject by that point, would screen whatever porn was floating around in the cultural ether. She had her students watch gonzo porn; feminist porn (“cleaned up with lots of potted plants and no money shots”); and sadomasochist porn (“the theatrical kind…and the other kind”).

The biggest issue students had was with the gay porn, which Williams says freaked out the hetero guys—a lot. Usually, though, what students did in her classes was laugh their heads off. “That’s kind of a protective measure, because otherwise they might, you know, get horny,” she said.

When I asked Smith if she screened porn in her classes, though, I was surprised to hear that she didn’t.

“Both Feona [Attwood] and I have tenure, but that still doesn’t mean that you can do what you like. Also, I’m at a small, provincial university that is one of the post-1992 schools [formerly polytechnics or colleges of higher education in the UK], and we don’t have a very bullish attitude that we’re the elite, so I have to be aware of the university’s sensibilities, which are: Can we defend this to parents? I don’t want to cause that kind of trouble.”

For now, Smith is advising graduate students, conducting research, attending conferences, and, of course, editing Porn Studies. She says she’s most concerned about making sure the next generation doesn’t feel the same sense of shame over their sexual desires as the older people she’s interviewed in her research. “In the research that Feona and I did, one of the key things that comes through when you talk to older people about their engagements with porn [is that] people say, ‘I just wish someone had had a proper conversation with me about sex. I just wish I hadn’t felt so much shame about looking and finding bodies attractive and going looking for it. It’s taken me a long time to understand what I like sexually.’ Why do we want another generation coming up afraid of their bodies and ashamed of their desires?”

Complete Article HERE!

What Time of Day Is Best to Have Sex?

Enthusiasts claim that any time is the right time for sex, but there are some things you might want to consider

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In addition to the “where,” “with who” and “what do I do,” there’s another important question to ask about sex: when to have it. Sex enthusiasts may immediately weigh in that any time is a good time, and they might not be wrong. But those who find the answer isn’t so simple might want to take a look at some interesting research about sex, and the best time to have it.

It’ll come as no surprise that the mood tends to strike different people at different times. Recent research points to a gender difference in when arousal happens. According to Kinsey Institute, most men reach their peak testosterone levels in the early morning, which helps explain the experience of “morning wood,” or waking up with an erection.

For women, arousal tends to kick in a little later in the morning. Endorphin levels reach their peak between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Because high endorphin levels can help us feel less pain and mediate the negative effects of stress, they are often associated with more pleasurable sex.

There are other cycles to consider, too. Some experts suggest the best day to experience an orgasm is actually the day before you get your period. Sex therapist and couples counselor Laure Watson told Woman’s Day, “When blood accumulation makes your uterus heavy, contractions are more perceptible during orgasm.” She explains that the orgasmic tissue tends to be more sensitive when the body retains fluids.

Of course, it’s not always so precise. While data points can seem compelling, not everyone is slated to fall in sync with that science. Hormone expert Alisa Vitti argues the best time of day to have sex is around 3 p.m. And by “best time” she means the most opportune time to provide both parties with a pleasurable experience. The procreative bit runs on a different clock.

According to Vitti, 3 p.m. is when women experience a spike in cortisol levels. More cortisol means more energy, so if you want your lady amped and ready to go, 3 is a good time to catch her. During the same time, men experience elevated levels of estrogen, which Vitti says help make them more “emotionally present” during sex. She says this collision of conditions creates an environment where men and women can be most in tune with each other’s desires. She calls it the “perfect compromise” between the sexes in the way of heterosexual sex.

“You can see why ‘afternoon delight’ is a thing,” she told the Daily Mail.

Then again, there are other factors to consider. If Vitti’s 3 p.m. theory is correct, a lot of people will be missing out. The typical American work schedule doesn’t exactly permit mid-afternoon sex breaks. Though it might prove opportune for the adulterers out there. An extended lunch break or early-afternoon departure from the office tend to provide convenient cover for infidelities.

If you live with the person you’re having sex with (my grandmother keeps mentioning this thing called “marriage,” though my polyamorous friends tell me it’s something else), having sex in the evening or before bed might make more sense. A lot of people appreciate the somnolent effects sex can have on the body, and there’s no better place to enjoy that rush than in your own bed.

If you’re active in the hookup culture, you might find your sex schedule depends on other things, like what time the bars close.

There’s also age to consider. As people grow older, they may find themselves getting more tired at night, which makes scheduling a sexual rendezvous for earlier in the day all the more appealing.

In short, morning, noon or night all have their benefits.

Complete Article HERE!

The Secret To Good Sex In A Long-Term Relationship

Pro-tip: Act like your relationship is a Skinemax movie

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The Secret To Good Sex In A Long-Term Relationship

It turns out candles, lingerie, and jazzy tunes are more than romantic cliches—they might actually kinda work. At least, that’s according to a new study of long-term heterosexual relationships finding that sexually satisfied couples regularly engage in these and other forms of foreplay and mood-setting.

Sexually successful couples’ lives don’t look exactly like gauzy, soft-focus films, though: They were also more likely to have experimented with sexual variety—from anal stimulation to acting out sexual fantasies to using a sex toy together. And they had sex and orgasms more frequently.

“It was encouraging to learn that more than one-third of couples kept passion alive, even after a decade or two together,” said Janet Lever, a study co-author. “That won’t happen on auto pilot; these couples made a conscious effort to ward off routinization of sex.”

The study, published in The Journal of Sex Research, surveyed more than 38,747 heterosexual men and women in the United States who had been with their partner for at least three years. Researchers had participants rate their sexual satisfaction currently and in the first six months of the relationship. The majority, 83 percent, said they were sexually satisfied at the start. Ah, but passion does often wane: Just over half, 55 percent, said they were presently satisfied with their sex lives, while the rest either felt neutral or dissatisfied.

Satisfied couples were far more likely to have experimented with sexual variety. For example, among dissatisfied men and women, 33 and 45 percent respectively said they or their partner had worn sexy lingerie or underwear in the past month. But among their satisfied counterparts those numbers rose dramatically to 67 and 71 percent. Consider the percentage that reported recently trying a new sexual position: 22 and 25 percent of unhappy men and women, compared to 59 and 63 percent of their sexually stoked counterparts.

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The aforementioned cheesy, mood-setting measures also saw higher, although much less dramatic, numbers among the sexually satisfied: 23 and 20 percent of contented folks reported lighting a candle or dimming the lights during their last sexual encounter, compared to 11 and 9 percent among the dissatisfied. (You heard it here first: Candles can’t compete with anal play.)

Fulfilled couples also, as David Frederick, lead author of the study, put it, “practiced effective sexual communication.” It’s true: satisfied folks were far more likely to report praising their partners in bed or their partner asking for something they wanted in bed. But it’s also somewhat startling just how little sex talk there was, even among the happy couples. Satisfied or not, more people tried out sexy lingerie and undies in the last year than asked their partners in the past month for feedback on how something felt during sex. In fact, more men across the board reported experimenting with anal stimulation than having a partner who “asked for something they wanted in bed.”

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It’s important to note that the study didn’t establish causation, so we can’t say that lingerie or candles directly lead to sexual satisfaction—maybe the sexually satisfied are simply more open to exploration! Or maybe those who are open to exploration are more sexually satisfied. Frederick points out that the two groups respond very differently when it comes to tips found in articles just like this one. ”Almost half of satisfied and dissatisfied couples read sexual self-help books and magazine articles,” said Frederick, “but what set sexually satisfied couples apart was that they actually tried some of the ideas.” No pressure.

Complete Article HERE!

BDSM Bottom skills

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So much “how to BDSM” material is really “how to top.”  Which is understandable, up to a point. The top performs most of the obvious physical parts of the scene–they’re the one who has to know how to tie a knot or swing a flogger.  The top is likely to also be dominant, which means that they’re going to be the one in charge of planning the scene and directing it.  And the top is also expected to take more responsibility for a scene, because bottoms might be immobilized (or go off into la-la land) and need their tops to watch out for their safety.

001There’s also a certain bias in BDSM-land toward thinking tops and dominants should be the authorities and their experiences should be prioritized, because… well, partly because they’re more often men.  And partly because they’re in charge in their scenes/relationships so it’s only logical that they be in charge everywhere, even though it’s not like the community agreed to submit to them.  So the majority of kink community leaders, authors, and teachers are tops.

As a result of these factors, you can come away from a lot of kink books or conferences thinking that bottoming is… standing there.  (For advanced bottoming, you might kneel or lie down.)  It seems like a purely receptive thing.  Like a beanbag could do it, if you could teach a beanbag to moan and occasionally offer to get people drinks.

This is not the case.  Bottoming well, in a way that creates a great experience for yourself and your top, requires effort and skill.  We are not canvases for the art of BDSM; we are artists too.  Here’s some of the things I’ve learned (or am learning, or need to learn) about being on the bottom:

• Know your desires.

If you don’t know what you like, you’re not likely to get it.  I’ve talked about this so much on the blog, I don’t want to belabor the point.  Just… have some idea of why you’re bottoming in a BDSM scene instead of back at home knitting.  (Knitting fetishists please disregard.)  (That is not entirely a joke.)  Or if you don’t, at least be aware that you don’t know, and able to say “I’m experimenting right now and finding out what appeals to me.”

• Speak up for yourself.

When I first started playing, I had the idea in my head–maybe not in words, but definitely in 006feelings–that the best bottoms were the ones who were least demanding.  That for me to be an excellent bottom, I should take as much pain as I could stand and allow my top to do whatever they wanted.  I certainly noticed that I enjoyed some activities more than others, but I felt like asking for the ones I wanted would be rude or “topping from the bottom” or selfish or something.  So I just felt happy when I got things I liked, felt sad or annoyed when I got things I didn’t, and never gave any external indication of either.

Eventually I burned myself out on the stoicism thing.  I could only suppress my specific desires and limited pain tolerance for so long.  So I became a really grouchy, persnickety bottom.  No, I don’t like that.  Don’t like that either.  Yellow.  Yellow to that too.  Maybe we should just take a break.  It was frustrating, but it was actually progress–being able to say what I didn’t like without being able to say what I liked wasn’t very fun, but it beat the heck out of not being able to say either.  My tops were stuck playing “Marco Polo” with my desires, but at least they weren’t unwittingly hurting me.

And then–embarrassingly recently–I realized that asking for what you like isn’t presumptuous or un-bottomly, it’s something that a good top actually wants you to do.  Depending on the sort of scene you’re doing, they might not give you everything you like (or they might make you earn it), but they still need to know.  Otherwise they don’t know which parts are punishment and which are reward for you, and they’re not in control of the experience they’re creating for you.

• Look out for your safety.

005This is a responsibility tops and bottoms share.  It’s more the top’s, because they have more control and because they’re going to be at fault if the bottom gets hurt, but it’s an important bottom skill to be able to help the top keep you safe.  This means knowing and sharing the limitations of your body and your mind, it means using your safewords when you need to, and it means double-checking the top when they do something potentially unsafe.  Your top should notice on their own if they’re cutting off your circulation or positioning you in a way that would be disastrous if you fell, but even good tops can miss things, and it’s a good idea to also do your own safety checks.

(If you’re way off in subspace you may not be able, and then it really is the top’s responsibility alone.  But it’s a good thing to do if you can.)

• Play along.

This isn’t a simple directive but a whole set of skills that depend on how you play.  This is the physical, immediate side of bottoming, and it’s a whole lot more than standing there.  It’s positioning yourself to assist with an elaborate rope tie.  It’s being able to absorb blows.  It’s knowing when to push back, when to yield, and when to stand firm.  This really depends on what specific kinks you do, and it’s mostly stuff you have to learn “on the job.”  And it is things you have to learn.  “Standing there” looks like a no-brainer, but standing in a way that makes it easy for your top to do their job and supports you when you go wibbly and looks good and feels good?  Takes a little bit of brain.

• Give good feedback.004

In two ways.  There’s the practical feedback, the “oh yeah just like that,” the “wow, I’m really just melting away into the wall here,” and the “okay, that was the bad ow.”  And there’s the feedback that tops appreciate and get off on, the… well, actually, the first two sentences above are pretty good examples of that too.  I’m not talking about playing it up and putting on a performance, but a lot of tops really like hearing how much impact they’re having on you.  Giving them that, especially if they’ve asked for it, is good bottoming.

• Know how to cook what you eat.

I don’t think this is a requirement for everyone (well, nothing here is required, we’re all different and all learning, please don’t take this post as a list of “things bottoms must do”), but it’s something I value for myself.  I like to know how to perform all the skills that I enjoy having done to me.  I hardly ever top, but I know how to tie a rope harness and where to aim a flogger.  Having this knowledge helps me communicate better with my top, know what I can do to make their job easier, understand and process the sensations I’m receiving, and it gives me a whole lot of appreciation for how much energy my top is putting into the scene.

• Process the experience.

This is the internal work of bottoming, and I don’t know what I’m going to write in this section, because it’s… magic or neurology or something.  Also a lot of deep breathing.  This is where you take in pain, discomfort, fear, and/or humiliation, and you turn them into something wonderful for yourself.  And very often it is an effort.  It can take focus and intention to turn a spanking from “my butt hurts, ow, my butt hurts again” to “my butt hurts in a way that is giving me the most amazing pleasure.”  Or when it isn’t pleasure, “my butt hurts and I am strong and I am taking it.”  It’s almost a kind of meditation.

Everything else on this page is about bottoming.  It’s all the logistics around bottoming.  But this part?  This is bottoming.  This is why you aren’t home knitting.  And there’s nothing easy or passive about it.

•Give aftercare.

002Tops drop too.  Tops (at least a lot of them) also get into an altered state when they’re playing and they can also come down hard.  So tops might need cuddling and talking after scenes, or they might need to drink water and stretch out and cool off, or they might want to mellow out and enjoy the lingering buzz.  It’s good bottoming to be attentive to their aftercare needs as well as your own, and to check up on them a bit after the scene.

Just standing there? Bottoming in BDSM is goddamn hard work, and it deserves to be talked about.

Complete Article HERE!

Why are more people identifying themselves as bisexual?

A wee bit of a follow up to last Friday’s posting

By Story Hinckley

Women are three times as likely as men to be bisexual, according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday.

Of the 9,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 44 interviewed for the survey, 5.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men identified as bisexual. While the percentage of bisexual males only increased .8 percent from a similar survey conducted a few years ago, the percentage of bisexual females witnessed a 40 percent increase.

bisex_toon.jpgBut both genders are showing a shift in general sexual attraction. When the 18 to 24-year-old segment was asked if they were attracted to only the opposite sex, 75.9 of women and 88.6 percent of men said yes.

“I’ve never seen that figure below 90 percent,” Ritch Savin-Williams, a professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University and author of several books on sexual orientation, told NJ Advanced Media referencing the male statistics. “There’s a progression away from straightness, if you will.”

But Dr. Savin-Williams clarifies this progression: there are not more people identifing personally as bisexual than before, rather these trends have always existing but bisexuals now feel more liberated to expose their sexuality.

“I never take this as a change in actual sexuality,” Savin-Williams said of survey shifts. The percentage increases reflect a new willingness to vocalize their sexuality, rather than a larger trend within American sexuality. “I always think of it as reflecting permission – that women now have greater permission to say they have some sexual attraction to other women.”

Savin-Williams’ perspective is widely shared amongst his peers.

Debby Herbenick, associate professor at Indiana University and author of the book “Sex Made Easy” told CNN that as awareness about bisexuality grows, it is easier for people to identify and then label themselves as bisexual.Bisexual_by_DevilsLittleSister

Greater acceptance of causes affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities within the past few years is also evident in the data. When breaking down the overall statistic of female bisexuality, 7.8 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 24 identified as bisexual, compared to 5.4 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 34 and 4 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 34. The same gradual decline of bisexual identifiers as age increases is also present for men.

Casey Copen, a demographer at the CDC National Center for Health Statistics and lead author of the study, said the larger rates of female bisexuality is consistent with past trends. Women have consistenly reported higher same-sex contact compared to men. And over the last few decades, women attracted to the same gender have identified less as lesbian and more as bisexual.

Overall, experts praise the CDC report for the specific nature of its questions. The survey differentiated between sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and sexual orientation, allowing respondents to answer with their relative level of attraction for each gender.

The report “makes clear that sexual orientation labels have a range of meanings for the people who use them,” says the Human Rights Campaign. “This finding underscores the fact that identities, while important, rarely tell the whole story of our experiences with sexual orientation.”

Complete Article HERE!

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