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How to Have an Open Relationship Without Annoying the Shit Out of Everyone

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By April Adam

non-monogamy

So you decided to open your relationship. Congratulations! Monogamy certainly seems tough, and since puberty, I have thought it profoundly wasteful to set up a game of chicken between commitment and the id. But I warn you: You may begin to find network television toothless, as so many plots lazily circle around infidelity, the threat of infidelity, or humor based in tension surrounding infidelity.

Also, you fantastic free-thinker, a poly lifestyle isn’t all Caligula all the time. The bacchanalian vibe you imagine may not come to pass, and you run some serious risks. I’m not talking about existential dangers to your coupledom, but a more mundane concern: namely that people in fresh open relationships can be annoying as shit.

I know what I’m talking about, because in my personal life I’m a target for a lot of open couples: I’m relatively promiscuous and think dating as a triad is cute and kinda hot. While I’m not saying there’s a right way to approach non-monogamy, there are definitely a few wrong ways. As someone who answered searchable poly questions on OkCupid honestly, those wrong ways frequently get aimed right at my face.

So before you screenshot Sex at Dawn for your joint OkCupid profile, allow me to provide you some tips for having an open relationship in the real world.

Getting laid still takes work

This goes out, I’m sorry to say, more to men than women. As I mentioned before, I answered a few questions on OkCupid truthfully: Yes, I would date someone in an open relationship. I would! That’s true. But now half the salvos I get on that dating site go something like this: “Hey April-I’m in an open marriage, and I love my wife. You’ve got a great ass! I’d like for us to become fuck buddies. Write back quickly.”

Ask yourself: Did you have to have game when you were single? Your wedding ring isn’t Spanish fly, and the fact that some woman likes you enough to share a bathroom doesn’t make you Justin Trudeau’s younger brother. Be polite, at a bare minimum.

Not everyone wants to hear about your sex life

The universe of people interested in the mechanics of your open relationship is almost certainly the exact same one that heard details of your pre-poly sex life. Your close pals, married wing-woman, that college roommate you ask about butt stuff—it’s wonderful to have a large pool of candid friends. But if someone isn’t in that circle, he or she doesn’t need to hear about “my wife’s lover.” You don’t need to bring up The Ethical Slut at Thanksgiving to your 75-year-old aunt. Your co-worker in the next cubicle isn’t being close-minded if they don’t want to hear about your foursome—he didn’t want to visualize you naked last year, and he still doesn’t. You don’t need to keep your new relationship status a secret; allude to it a few times, perhaps, and people who are interested will ask about it.

In most circumstances, a cold open request to fuck you and your partner is rude

It’s the same as asking complete strangers to pee on you, i.e. asking them to complete a fantasy of yours without first ascertaining whether they’re into it. That might fly at a sex party, but even if you’re on a dating site, a proposition requires preamble. Leading with an unsolicited sexual appeal is trolling. It doesn’t matter if you used the words “please” and “thank you.” This is still true if you’re a woman. Ladies, if I don’t know you, don’t assume that I’m interested in “slow sensuality,” or that I want to see your husband’s dick because “we’re sisters.” (We aren’t, and if we were that would be even weirder.) If you have a two-person profile, say hi and mention something we have in common, same as if you were single. I’ll get the idea, and if I’m interested, I’ll write back.

Baggage is still unattractive, even if it’s a couple’s set

Asking single people to date you singly, but describing yourself mostly in relation to your partner and how committed you are and how you’re in process with this whole non-monogamy thing isn’t going to turn people on or make them think they’d have a good time with you. The only thing less likely to get my panties in a twist than asking me for sex in your first five words is making it clear that you are a big ball of defensive, confused feelings, and you need free therapy that comes with head.

I understand that going from a lifetime of clear rules that can be spelled out with country songs to a new world of ambiguity is a big deal. My life is full of my big deals, too. Wait ’til the second date to wax large with the big deals, and try to understand that they aren’t my problem.

Low-stakes auxiliary sex Is probably easier with other non-monogamous people

When I tweak my dating profile to indicate “partnered but available,” the deluge of “third” emails slows to a trickle. The implications of this are nasty—it means that men (and couples) are looking for some kind of fantasy fulfillment robot with no life of her own, a convenient threesome partner and nothing more. That’s a lousy deal, especially for a single person looking for an emotional connection, not a role in a harem. This seems like a no-brainer, but I guess it needs to be said: If most of your emotional needs are covered by your primary partner, and all you really want is sexual variety and friendship, you might want to look for someone who is in a committed relationship of his or her own.

Non-monogamy isn’t the only way, and you don’t get to tell everyone else they’re doing it wrong

There are myriad reasons why people might prefer monogamy, including religion, ease of navigating the world, or because it just feels right. Respect that, even if you choose differently. You know how you complain all the time about monogamous bores telling you you’re going to hell/divorce court? They don’t need your advice, either.

Complete Article HERE!

When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?

Conversations between adults and teenagers about what happens after “yes” remain rare.

By

porn:sex ed

THE other day, I got an email from a 21-year-old college senior about sex — or perhaps more correctly, about how ill equipped she was to talk about sex. The abstinence-only curriculum in her middle and high schools had taught her little more than “don’t,” and she’d told me that although her otherwise liberal parents would have been willing to answer any questions, it was pretty clear the topic made them even more uncomfortable than it made her.

So she had turned to pornography. “There’s a lot of problems with porn,” she wrote. “But it is kind of nice to be able to use it to gain some knowledge of sex.”

I wish I could say her sentiments were unusual, but I heard them repeatedly during the three years I spent interviewing young women in high school and college for a book on girls and sex. In fact, according to a survey of college students in Britain, 60 percent consult pornography, at least in part, as though it were an instruction manual, even as nearly three-quarters say that they know it is as realistic as pro wrestling. (Its depictions of women, meanwhile, are about as accurate as those of the “The Real Housewives” franchise.)

The statistics on sexual assault may have forced a national dialogue on consent, but honest conversations between adults and teenagers about what happens after yes — discussions about ethics, respect, decision making, sensuality, reciprocity, relationship building, the ability to assert desires and set limits — remain rare. And while we are more often telling children that both parties must agree unequivocally to a sexual encounter, we still tend to avoid the biggest taboo of all: women’s capacity for and entitlement to sexual pleasure.

It starts, whether intentionally or not, with parents. When my daughter was a baby, I remember reading somewhere that while labeling infants’ body parts (“here’s your nose,” “here are your toes”), parents often include a boy’s genitals but not a girl’s. Leaving something unnamed, of course, makes it quite literally unspeakable.

Nor does that silence change much as girls get older. President Obama is trying — finally — in his 2017 budget to remove all federal funding for abstinence education (research has shown repeatedly that the nearly $2 billion spent on it over the past quarter-century may as well have been set on fire). Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than half of high schools and only a fifth of middle schools teach all 16 components the agency recommends as essential to sex education. Only 23 states mandate sex ed at all; 13 require it to be medically accurate.

Even the most comprehensive classes generally stick with a woman’s internal parts: uteruses, fallopian tubes, ovaries. Those classic diagrams of a woman’s reproductive system, the ones shaped like the head of a steer, blur into a gray Y between the legs, as if the vulva and the labia, let alone the clitoris, don’t exist. And whereas males’ puberty is often characterized in terms of erections, ejaculation and the emergence of a near-unstoppable sex drive, females’ is defined by periods. And the possibility of unwanted pregnancy. When do we explain the miraculous nuances of their anatomy? When do we address exploration, self-knowledge?

No wonder that according to the largest survey on American sexual behavior conducted in decades, published in 2010 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers at Indiana University found only about a third of girls between 14 and 17 reported masturbating regularly and fewer than half have even tried once. When I asked about the subject, girls would tell me, “I have a boyfriend to do that,” though, in addition to placing their pleasure in someone else’s hands, few had ever climaxed with a partner.

Boys, meanwhile, used masturbating on their own as a reason girls should perform oral sex, which was typically not reciprocated. As one of a group of college sophomores informed me, “Guys will say, ‘A hand job is a man job, a blow job is yo’ job.’ ” The other women nodded their heads in agreement.

Frustrated by such stories, I asked a high school senior how she would feel if guys expected girls to, say, fetch a glass of water from the kitchen whenever they were together yet never (or only grudgingly) offered to do so in return? She burst out laughing. “Well, I guess when you put it that way,” she said.

The rise of oral sex, as well as its demotion to an act less intimate than intercourse, was among the most significant transformations in American sexual behavior during the 20th century. In the 21st, the biggest change appears to be an increase in anal sex. In 1992, 16 percent of women aged 18 to 24 said they had tried anal sex. Today, according to the Indiana University study, 20 percent of women 18 to 19 have, and by ages 20 to 24 it’s up to 40 percent.

A 2014 study of 16- to 18-year-old heterosexuals — and can we just pause a moment to consider just how young that is? — published in a British medical journal found that it was mainly boys who pushed for “fifth base,” approaching it less as a form of intimacy with a partner (who they assumed would both need to be and could be coerced into it) than a competition with other boys. They expected girls to endure the act, which young women in the study consistently reported as painful. Both sexes blamed the girls themselves for the discomfort, calling them “naïve or flawed,” unable to “relax.”

According to Debby Herbenick, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and one of the researchers on its sexual behavior survey, when anal sex is included, 70 percent of women report pain in their sexual encounters. Even when it’s not, about a third of young women experience pain, as opposed to about 5 percent of men. What’s more, according to Sara McClelland, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, college women are more likely than men to use their partner’s physical pleasure as the yardstick for their satisfaction, saying things like “If he’s sexually satisfied, then I’m sexually satisfied.” Men are more likely to measure satisfaction by their own orgasm.

Professor McClelland writes about sexuality as a matter of “intimate justice.” It touches on fundamental issues of gender inequality, economic disparity, violence, bodily integrity, physical and mental health, self-efficacy and power dynamics in our most personal relationships, whether they last two hours or 20 years. She asks us to consider: Who has the right to engage in sexual behavior? Who has the right to enjoy it? Who is the primary beneficiary of the experience? Who feels deserving? How does each partner define “good enough”? Those are thorny questions when looking at female sexuality at any age, but particularly when considering girls’ formative experiences.

We are learning to support girls as they “lean in” educationally and professionally, yet in this most personal of realms, we allow them to topple. It is almost as if parents believe that if they don’t tell their daughters that sex should feel good, they won’t find out. And perhaps that’s correct: They don’t, not easily anyway. But the outcome is hardly what adults could have hoped.

What if we went the other way? What if we spoke to kids about sex more instead of less, what if we could normalize it, integrate it into everyday life and shift our thinking in the ways that we (mostly) have about women’s public roles? Because the truth is, the more frankly and fully teachers, parents and doctors talk to young people about sexuality, the more likely kids are both to delay sexual activity and to behave responsibly and ethically when they do engage in it.

Consider a 2010 study published in The International Journal of Sexual Health comparing the early experiences of nearly 300 randomly chosen American and Dutch women at two similar colleges — mostly white, middle class, with similar religious backgrounds. So, apples to apples. The Americans had become sexually active at a younger age than the Dutch, had had more encounters with more partners and were less likely to use birth control. They were also more likely to say that they’d first had intercourse because of pressure from friends or partners.

In subsequent interviews with some of the participants, the Americans, much like the ones I met, described interactions that were “driven by hormones,” in which the guys determined relationships, both sexes prioritized male pleasure, and reciprocity was rare. As for the Dutch? Their early sexual activity took place in caring, respectful relationships in which they communicated openly with their partners (whom they said they knew “very well”) about what felt good and what didn’t, about how far they wanted to go, and about what kind of protection they would need along the way. They reported more comfort with their bodies and their desires than the Americans and were more in touch with their own pleasure.

What’s their secret? The Dutch said that teachers and doctors had talked candidly to them about sex, pleasure and the importance of a mutual trust, even love. More than that, though, there was a stark difference in how their parents approached those topics.

While the survey did not reveal a significant difference in how comfortable parents were talking about sex, the subsequent interviews showed that the American moms had focused on the potential risks and dangers, while their dads, if they said anything at all, stuck to lame jokes.

Dutch parents, by contrast, had talked to their daughters from an early age about both joy and responsibility. As a result, one Dutch woman said she told her mother immediately after she first had intercourse, and that “my friend’s mother also asked me how it was, if I had an orgasm and if he had one.”

MEANWHILE, according to Amy T. Schalet, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the author of “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex, ” young Dutch men expect to combine sex and love. In interviews, they generally credited their fathers with teaching them that their partners must be equally up for any sexual activity, that the women could (and should) enjoy themselves as much as men, and that, as one respondent said, he would be stupid to have sex “with a drunken head.” Although she found that young Dutch and American men both often yearned for love, only the Americans considered that a personal quirk.

I thought about all of that that recently when, driving home with my daughter, who is now in middle school, we passed a billboard whose giant letters on a neon-orange background read, “Porn kills love.” I asked her if she knew what pornography was. She rolled her eyes and said in that jaded tone that parents of preteenagers know so well, “Yes, Mom, but I’ve never seen it.”

I could’ve let the matter drop, felt relieved that she might yet make it to her first kiss unencumbered by those images.

Goodness knows, that would’ve been easier. Instead I took a deep breath and started the conversation: “I know, Honey, but you will, and there are a few things you need to know.”

Complete Article HERE!

Undressing for Success in the Bedroom

by Michael J. Russer

Here is one simple thing you can do that will tremendously enhance your lovemaking and bond for each other…

Undressing for Success

What I’m about to share with you has led to countless hours of exquisite lovemaking and a deeper emotional bond and appreciation between my partner and me. It is so ridiculously simple that it is probably the reason many couples have never even considered it as an intimate ritual that could make such a huge difference. I say this because we only stumbled upon it after a particularly playful episode one evening together. Since then it has become such a powerful component of our relationship that we use it every single time we are together…

Frenetic Disrobing

I suspect that most couples have experienced the lust-laced frantic ripping of each other’s clothes off in a moment of unbridled passion. Yes, it is exciting, breath-taking (literally) and usually very short-lived –as is the coitus that typically follows. This is a phase that eventually succumbs to a more subdued process of self-disrobing before any of the exciting stuff happens.

Part of what drives this frenzied first stage of sexual entanglement is the novelty of exploring each other as new lovers. Where expectation and arousal combine into a highly combustible mixture of erotic adventure, discovery and explosive release. Which can be incredibly exciting while it lasts. However, because its very foundation is based upon the newness of the relationship, it will eventually fade.

My Partner and I have been together for about three and a half years and enjoy an 001extraordinary intimate life that only gets better over time. This is a significant fact because most couples will likely admit that their initial honeymoon period represented the most exciting phase of their physical relationship. One of the reasons that ours continues to achieve new heights of passion and pleasurable fulfillment is that we are constantly exploring what is possible. And, we are always listening to our sensual intuition in this regard.

One intimate ritual we discovered quite by accident and in a spirit of playfulness is the way we undress each other. We do this before we make love, before we take a shower together, before retiring to bed with no thought of sex and as we change clothes our before we go out on the town. In other words, any time it is required that we need to get naked for any reason whatsoever we follow this ritual. And the payoff has been and continues to be enormous for the health and mutual enjoyment of our overall relationship.

Slow, Sensual and Present

We make a point of always being fully present any time we do anything together. This means ridding our minds of distraction, agendas, goals, expectations and simply being there for each other in the moment, the Now. It is within this very sensually fertile environment that we conduct our mutual disrobing ritual.

We usually start out facing each other practically nose-to-nose as we gaze into each other’s eyes in acknowledgement of our mutual love and appreciation. Then we typically start lightly stroking each other’s fully clothed bodies as if our hands needed to first get a lay of the land so-to-speak on what should come off first.

Where we start really doesn’t matter. What does make a difference however is that we slowly and sensually undress each other while in this state of full presence. We find that when we remove a piece of the other’s clothing (which happens simultaneously) and do it very slowly, it builds an enormous amount of sensual energy between us. Just the feel of a blouse or shirt slowly lifting off and lightly rubbing our skin as our Partner does it with full intention while they look longingly at what is being slowly revealed can be almost overwhelmingly powerful. And, that’s a potential trap if you are not careful or being fully present. That’s because this heightened state of arousal can easily devolve into the more frantic shedding which will definitely break the spell.

Once the first of our garments are removed we typically take a while to lightly caress and kiss each other in the exposed areas. This is accompanied by soft, gentle kissing where our lips are barely touching yet megawatts of sensual energy is passing between them. Then we continue the process of slow, thoughtful mutual undressing and caressing / kissing until we are standing together fully nude.

A very, very sexy variation of this that we often apply is when we look in a large mirror observing each other doing this. In these instances, our caressing is often more overtly sexually explorative and designed to ignite our sensual imaginations. Despite the fact that we’ve done this many times, it still gets me extremely hot just thinking about it as I write this.

Granted, not every couple may want to see each other naked in the glaring light of a brightly lit room. If this is the case, then consider turning down the lights or even off. Use your imagination, hands and lips as the tools of exploration as you go through this mutual undressing ritual. In either case, lights on or off, you will find this to be a deeply connecting experience that keeps things fresh (since each time is unique) and juicy.

What if You Don’t Want to have Sex?

Of course, this practically begs the question as to why a couple would bother with this ritual if they have no intention of following it up with sex. And my answer to that is “Why not?”. Consider this for a moment: If you and your partner could do something every time you are together that resulted in re-kindling passion, desire, love and appreciation for each other, why wouldn’t you?

I think women in particular appreciate this kind of sensual gift that doesn’t always have to lead to sex. And guys, this is an important point. It is not uncommon for women to hesitate kissing a long-term partner for fear that he may get the idea she wants sex when in fact she just wants to express love and affection.

002So imagine the impact to your relationship (no matter how many years you’ve been together) if you were to include this ritual even for reasons that did not always end up in having sex (i.e. getting dressed up to go out on the town). By doing so you build an enormous bank account of trust and appreciation within your Partner. And, you are both likely to enjoy each other far more when you do have physical intimacy. Trust me, that buildup of sensual energy lasts a long time. Now granted, this can be difficult to practice if you are always in a hurry. If that is the case, just plan ahead to set aside the time to do it right.

So here’s my challenge to you and your Partner. Incorporate this ritual for the next seven days any time you are both together and your clothes have to come off for any reason whatsoever. And then let me know what that did for your relationship by emailing me directly at contact@MichaelRusserLive.com. I would love to hear from you!

Nothing ventured, nothing gained –and believe me, there is a whole world of intimate adventure to be gained awaiting you both.

Complete Article HERE!

How to look after your penis

By Ed Noon

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The British are a nation of stoics, often too proud to admit we have a problem, and too polite to bother anyone else about it. Men are particularly bad at piping up about health issues, especially when it comes to our penises. Often, a source of embarrassment can be a simple lack of knowledge. Fortunately, the male anatomy is quite easy to understand, and learning what to say when seeing your GP can help avoid red faces. Read our guide from a working NHS doctor for how to keep your penis healthy…

Don’t use slang

The number of highly imaginative slang words that have been used to describe penises can leave patients embarrassed and doctors wondering. Keep it real and you’ll be taken seriously. Here’s a quick anatomically correct dictionary of our own for you to memorise and check off next time you’re in the mirror:

Penis and foreskin – no explanation needed.

Shaft – the main length of your penis but not including the glans (tip).

Glans/tip – the highly sensitive area at the end of the penis, usually covered by a foreskin, unless removed in an operation called a circumcision, with an opening for urine and semen to escape.

Meatus – pronounced “me-ay-tuss”, this is the medical name for that opening.

Testes – otherwise known as testicles or balls. All are acceptable.

Scrotum – this is the stretchy skin that forms a sack for your testes. A thin muscle allows the scrotum to contract, which it does so in cold conditions to maintain your sperm at a constant temperature.

Epididymis – behind and above the testes lies the area that stores the sperm made in the testes. Above the testes is a firm tube that carries your sperm from the epididymis (via the prostate which lies near your bladder, so it goes a long way) eventually out through your urethra to come out in the hole in the tip of your penis (yep, the meatus – well remembered).

Knowing just a small detail of anatomy can really take the embarrassment out of a problem when explaining things. So next time you notice that something’s not right, be confident and just tell your doctor “straight up”.

DIY penis maintenance

Many male problems don’t require the attention of a medical professional. Allow GQ to fill you in.

How to clean your penis

We often gaze in awe and talk excitedly about the nose-tingling, fungus-coated, ash-rolled, squishy goodness that is a well-stocked cheese counter. That’s not what you want people to experience when getting up close and personal with your penis. The “knob cheese” that is technically known as smegma, has a particularly vile smell and builds up when the area underneath a foreskin hasn’t been cleaned. This area should be cleaned daily (just pull back) along with the rest of your genitals, your bottom and the area in between, called the perineum. Use a mild soap as these areas can be sensitive.

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How to examine your scrotum

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men. For this reason, every week you should examine each testis (the plural is testes) in turn between your finger and thumb by rolling the skin over them. The most common symptom is a lump of any size but you should book an appointment with your GP if you have any new feelings in the scrotal area.

On a lighter note, most lumps in the scrotum aren’t cancer, and if it does turn out to be cancer, it’s one of the most treatable forms of the disease. You should get to know your balls like the back of your hand.

Maintaining an erection

Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is unfortunately common from middle age onwards and it’s caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels that pump blood to create and maintain an erection. This narrowing may occur for a number of reasons but high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking are high on the list. Giving up smoking seems like a no-brainer, and maintaining a healthy body weight and undertaking regular exercise reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes.

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Protect your penis from STIs

STIs are invisible and often give no symptoms for many years so you won’t know if you’ve just passed one on, so you should always wear a condom. Available free at GPs and sexual health clinics, they significantly reduce the risk of the transmission of STIs but they’re nowhere near as effective if they remain unopened in your wallet. There are so many easy ways to get tested for STIs – a simple fingerpick test can detect HIV, and many GP surgeries have urine pots to test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea that you can pick up and drop off discretely without even making an appointment. No excuses.

Be careful with trimming

Many of us take pleasure in keeping neat and tidy. There are no hard and fast rules about what to do here, but a sensible one is to exercise caution. Be especially careful in the craggy terrain of your scrotum if shaving, where it can be technically more challenging to not make a tiny cut in the skin – this could potentially introduce harmful bacteria which could cause cellulitis, abscesses or worse, Fournier’s gangrene (Googling not recommended).

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Penis size really doesn’t matter to women

A 2015 survey of women presented with photographs of all types and sizes of penises published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine revealed that penis length was one of the least valued attributes. “Overall cosmetic appearance” came out on top. So no need to worry about whether your penis size is above or below average. Just keep it looking good.

Use your penis to keep it healthy

Make ejaculation part of your daily routine. Here’s why: a large Harvard study of nearly 30,000 men found the risk of prostate cancer was 33 per cent lower in men who’d ejaculated at least 21 times per month, compared to those who ejaculated only 4-7 times per month. This included ejaculations during sex, masturbation and, um, “nocturnal emissions”. Time to play catch up.

Complete Article HERE!

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

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.”

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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?”

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