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Are you getting any closer? A pocket-sized primer on female sexuality

By Clarissa Fortin

Stay curious between the sheets, friends.

Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality
by Sarah Barmak
(Coach House Books, 2016; $14.95)

If it weren’t for Sarah Barmak’s Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality I might have gone for years of my life without ever finding out what my clitoris actually looks like.

“Illustrations of it resemble a swan with an arched neck,” Barmak writes. “When I saw an closerillustration of the clitoris’s true shape for the first time I felt like a blind man finally seeing a whole elephant when all he’s ever known was the tip of it’s trunk.” I realized while reading those sentences that no one in my Catholic high school health class ever bothered to show me such an image and I’d never thought to seek one out.

I consider myself a feminist and a sexually liberated woman. Yet, there are still surprising gaps in my understanding of my own body. And that’s why a book like Barmak’s is important. Closer tackles its subject with eloquence, intelligence and humour.

The book is split into five essays that tackle the “fear of pleasure,” the history of female sexuality, the science and psychology of the orgasm, the “female sexual underground” and the politics of acknowledging female desire.

While each essay has its own strengths, I think the most effective chapter is “A History of Forgetting.” This section aligns the historical “discovery” and “loss” of the clitoris with the individual experience of a woman named Vanessa — an actual interview subject.

We first meet Vanessa on the table at the doctor’s office filming herself masturbating in order to prove to the doctor that she can indeed ejaculate. We learn that Vanessa has been having a series of problems — pain after sex, recurring yeast infections and so on — that no doctors can figure out.

From here Barmak momentarily leaves Vanessa’s story behind and turns her attention to the clitoris itself, noting that “the mapping of the human genome was completed in 2003, years before we got around to doing an ultrasound on the ordinary human clit.”

While the tendency is to see history as ever moving forward and progressing, Barmak counters that “women’s sexuality began by being celebrated, then was feared as too potent, before being downplayed and denied in the scientific era.”

The Christian church, the scientific revolution and various other factors resulted in a demonization and rejection of female bodies. It’s a generalized historical account to be sure, but Barmak does point readers in the direction of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina, a much more comprehensive book on the subject.

What makes this essay so powerful is the way it revisits and concludes with Vanessa and her struggle. Her story held up against the larger history of the clitoris itself demonstrates all too well an overall contempt for and neglect of the female genitalia.

Along with research and anecdotes, Barmak amasses a diverse collection of interviews with doctors, researchers and sex educators. I was excited to learn many factoids that I will surely whip out at dinner parties in the future — for instance, vaginal self stimulation actually blocks pain in women, and even women who are paralysed can sometimes still feel sexual pleasure because of nerves which bypass the spinal cord and communicate directly with the brain!

Barmak combines this research and traditional journalistic writing with first-person narration, bringing her own experience into the story. This means attending seminars and workshops, watching a demonstration of a female orgasm at Burning Man, and getting a vaginal massage.

Barmak is open about her own skepticism and trepidation during these investigations. “I like to consider myself open to new things,” she writes. “Yet, the idea of a strange lady’s gloved fingers all up in my jade palace falls somewhat outside my personal boundaries.” She goes through with it and the personal account makes for a richer narrative overall.

A note about the term “woman”: Barmak uses it throughout the book to generally refer to the cisgendered female experience. If I have any strong critique of the book it is that by celebrating the distinctly female anatomy, the book sometimes verges on unintentionally emphasizing a gender binary. This is something Barmak herself seems aware of. She notes on pg. 21 that “the word woman can refer equally to cisgender, intersex, genderqueer and transgender women all representing varied shades of experience.” While it’s good that the acknowledgement is there, I think a declaration like this belongs even earlier on as a note for readers to keep in mind before the book even begins.

That said, Barmak does make an effort to include the experiences of typically marginalized women such as trans women and women of colour in her narrative. “Being white affords privileges even in non-mainstream spaces of revolt such as sexuality,” she notes.

The topic is something “that requires far more depth and attention than this little book can offer,” Barmak says and while this seems like a partial cop-out for having only a few pages devoted to women of colour and trans women specifically, Barmak makes a valid point. Issues regarding sexuality faced by marginalized women warrant entire books altogether, preferably penned by a writer who has lived those experiences.

Nevertheless, I think this book would have been more complete with a sixth section devoted specifically to these issues.

At its core this book is compassionately optimistic, celebrating the innate complexity of sexual pleasure itself and arguing in favor of orgasms for all, something I can definitely get behind.

Sex educator and vlogger Lindsay Doe has a motto she repeats at the end of each of her videos: “stay curious.” Closer isn’t the definitive book about female sexuality and it doesn’t claim to be. But it made me curious about my own body, and even more curious about the wonderfully vast array of experiences we humans have between the sheets.

I recommend it to my friends of all genders, my boyfriend, my sisters, and especially the woman who started it all, my mother.

Complete Article HERE!

Two-Spirit: Gender as an Expression of Spirit

by SlickLion

two-spirit

Two-Spirit: Gender as an Expression of Spirit

While gender identities are pretty widespread at this point, there are a few culturally distinct gender identities that pertain only to certain ethnic groups. One of these is known as Two Spirit. It’s only for indigenous Native American peoples, and it pertains to a very specific and important role in their culture. It pertains to individuals within the society that fulfills one or several mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native Americans.

That might sound a little confusing to some, so to narrow it down to more layman terms, it’s a general term used to describe gay, lesbian, bisexual and gender-variant individuals in their communities. It was created in 1990 to replace a more insulting term, and is also a spiritual role recognized by the Two-Spirits community.

However, don’t assume that this term can be used with all Native American tribes. Not all tribes conceptualize sexuality and gender the same way, and many of them have words for such gender identities in their own language. Always be sure of the proper term before making too large of an assumption.

But for tribes that do use this term, Two-Spirit individuals are people who usually perform and behave in both gender roles, including work or clothing that can be associated with either gender. The idea is that Two-Spirits embody and manifest both masculine and feminine qualities, though not necessarily in equal amounts.

In some tribes, Two-Spirit individuals are seen as having two identities within one body. This may be a difficult concept to understand, but it is not too different from some other ideas we may be familiar with. Two-spirit is similar to the notion of being able to fulfill either gender role at any time one pleases, or to be a little of both at any time.

Like any notion of gender society in the culture you may be used to, it’s important to understand that other cultures have them as well, and have even had them accepted long before many others.

In the tribes that use Two-Spirit to define individuals of this gender identity, they perform many roles in both male and female areas, and relationships between Two-Spirits and other individuals of any gender is usually not seen as heterosexual or homosexual, but rather something unique from both of those.

That being said, sexual orientation does not make an individual a Two-Spirit. It’s about embodying aspects of being both masculine and feminine. Regardless of sexual orientation, Two-Spirits are a unique element in their tribes, and regarded as unique. Just as effeminate males or masculine men in our society aren’t necessarily gay or lesbian, neither are Two-Spirits in their own tribes.

Knowing how other cultures treat such gender identities is important to possibly learning how to better handle our own. As always there is something to be learned from other societies, things that could help improve our own in a way that could spark a revolution grand enough to put an end to intolerance and bigotry for good.

 Complete Article HERE!

I lost my virginity yesterday

Name: Mariana
Gender: Female
Age: 18
Location: Washington
I lost my virginity yesterday and I did not bleed. Why is this?

You lost your virginity yesterday? Where, at the mall?

I don’t mean to be facetious, but that phrase always grates on me. Mostly because it sounds like you were careless and misplaced something really important. Like, I lost my keys. I lost my phone. And it was all your fault!

Why do people (gals) say things like, “I lost my virginity?” Ya almost never hear guys say that.

What you do hear is shit like, “I took her virginity.” But wait; you took it? I thought she lost it? Can someone actually take something that has been lost? Maybe the more accurate phrase is I found the virginity she lost. But that would suggest that the guy didn’t take an active role in “winning” the virginity game. And that simply won’t do. Because the men folk, as we all know, gotta be the hunters, if ya know what I mean.

The language of sex is often so fucked. No wonder people, young folk as well as oldsters, are so confused and conflicted about sex.

Hey, sorry for the digression, Mariana.hymen-types

So, my dear, are congratulations in order? I mean, was your first time enjoyable? Are you happy you’re no longer a virgin? It’s so amazing to me that you didn’t mention anything about your first intercourse other than that fact that you didn’t bleed. I guess, for some young women, that all that really matters.

As you may know, a hymen is a mucous membrane that is part of the vulva, the external part of your genitals. It’s located outside the vagina, which is the internal part of your genitals. Not all women have a noticeable hymen. You may or may not have had one to begin with. However most women do. Simply put, having a hymen and/or having it rupture during one’s first fuck is not a reliable indicator of virginity.

Many girls and teens tear or otherwise dilate their hymen while participating in sports like cycling, horseback riding and gymnastics. A young woman can tear her hymen inserting a tampon, or while masturbating. And it’s possible that the girl may not even know she’s done this. Often there is little or no blood or pain when it happens. The tissues of the vulva are generally very thin and delicate prior to puberty.

i lost my virginity

Like I said, the presence or absence of a hymen and/or bleeding in no way indicates whether or not you are a virgin.

Some hymens are elastic enough to permit a cock to enter without tearing, or they tear only partially, and there is NO bleeding at all. As I hope you know, when you are adequately aroused, you lubricate and your vagina becomes more flexible. It will stretch without discomfort for most women. It’s even possible for a woman to have sex for years without ‘tearing’ her hymen. And, like I said, some women never have much of a hymen to begin with.

Is that helpful? I hope so.

Good luck

Learning the ropes, so to speak

Name: Julian
Gender: male
Age: 32
Location: Mexico City
What does CBT mean?

Geez, CBT could mean all sorts of things, depending on the context. It could stand for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, something the good doctor knows a great deal about. It could also stand for Computer Based Training, but why in the world would you be asking Dr Dick about that? Let me see what else…CBT also stands for “Cock and Ball Torture”.

Yeah, that’s it! That’s what you want to know about, huh Julian — you little pervert, you. Good for you!big-balls

There are all manner of torture techniques for your cock and balls Slapping, Squeezing, Pinching, Bondage, the use of weights even tickling can be a form of torture. A dude’s package can withstand a fair amount of torment. But dolling out professional grade torture is not for the amateur. The dominant (as opposed to the submissive) really needs to know what he or she is doing. Carelessness can lead to severe injury.

In most cases, “torture” is really mostly “play”. One’s cock and balls are simply tugged on or stretched out, maybe with some weights. There’s cock and ball bondage too — the family jewels trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey, don’t cha know. And that’s just the beginning. Imagine what you could do with your mother’s old clothespins. See, now you’re putting two and two together!

Oh, and the “T” word doesn’t necessarily stand for torture. It can represent a full range of play — from tickling and teasing to torment and torture.

If you’re interested in investigating the pain/pleasure of cock and ball torture for your self, Julian, here’s a safe way to start. Begin by experimenting with different sensations. Look around the house for things you can brush or rub against your cock and balls. Start with something soft like a silk scarf. Progressively work your way to something with a rough texture, like a scrub brush. You will also notice that the sensations are different when your dick is soft as opposed to when it is hard.

curiosity_WM_1024x1024Try a hollowed-out, cylindrical loofa sponge. Get it good and wet, and slip it over your cock and try jerkin’ off with it. Rubber bands can be applied to your cock and balls. Not only for the constriction sensation, which is delightful in itself. But you can also snap those puppies for some delicious pain.

Lots of pervs like cock and ball spanking. You could try your hand at this, so to speak. Or you could employ a kitchen wooden spoon or spatula. They work nicely too. Prickly things like a fork can be used to scrape or drag over your cock and balls. Poke them lightly if you like. Be careful though; you do not want to break the skin and draw blood.

Cock and ball bondage can be a delight. Hemp rope is the perfect choice for this. And I have a fantastic resource for you, Julian, a novice, as well as for all you more advanced perverts. Check out all the great stuff at Twisted Monk. You’ll find everything you need, including some very informative how-to-videos. Look for the Twisted Monk banner in the V-Style Ball Spreadersidebar.

Again, safe play is happy play. Wrap the rope around your cock, and around each of your balls separately. Use the rope to stretch your sac. A little discomfort is desirable, but just don’t over do it. Remember the sensations will become more intense as your dick engorges with blood. Keep this kind of play to less than 10 minutes at a time. Watch for signs of distress — your dick will veer to the color purple and your balls will feel cool to the touch. When that happens, it’s time to loosen the restraints and move on to something else for a while.

If you really get into this you can find loads of more professional torture implements at Dr Dick’s Oxballs Stacker Ball StretcherStockroom. Look for the banner in the sidebar at the top of the page. There’s a whole department in my online store devoted to cock and ball toys. You might want to start with a ball stretcher or a cock and ball harness. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

CBT is great for livening up and extending a ho-hum jerk off session too. And here’s a tip: once you know what you like and how you like it; you can turn on your partner to the practices.

Speaking of partners, the novice perv might want to surrender his privates to a professional Dom. A well-trained mistress or master will be able to take you places you’ve only dreamed about. A pro Dom is also a great resource for the do-it-yourself kinda guy. Before you launch into uncharted waters, seek the advice of someone who has made the study of pain/pleasure his or her life’s work. But don’t expect to get this information for free.

Cock and ball play can be loads of fun — alone or with others. Just remember the mantra — safe play is happy play. Experimenting is fine, but if you get in over your head and you don’t know what the fuck you are doing, STOP. Go back to something more suitable to your skill set.

Good luck

Having sex with a man doesn’t make you gay

But if you’re man enough to do it and still call yourself straight, be man enough to talk about it

by The Guyliner

men who have sex with men

Labels are important. They help us. They can protect us. Labels tell you that there are baked beans in the tin you’re holding; labels warn us not to wash our merino sweater above 30 degrees. We trust labels, because without them, we’d get it wrong. But sometimes, labels don’t work – they are derogatory or incorrect or unwelcome. One part of society where labels are changing is within sexuality and gender. As the landscape expands from straight/gay and man/woman to include bisexuality, queerness and trans people, among others, many are finding themselves moving away from the specific, restrictive pigeonholing a label can bring and merely tagging themselves “Me”.

But what happens when you’re happy with the label society has assigned you, but quite fancy trying out something someone like you doesn’t normally do, or what if you start to travel down one path, only to find you prefer another, and want to change course and stay on it for ever? Do you have to re-label yourself? Does it mean you’re not who you thought you were? Is it time to mute whichever episode of Stranger Things you’re watching, stand up, tell the room you dreamt another man’s erection touched you and have an identity crisis? In short: if you’re straight but have sex with another guy, does it make you gay?

beautiful buttIt rather depends on what you think being gay means. For most people, ask what “gay” means to them and, if we’re talking about guys, they’ll say a man who has sex with other men. And this, of course, is a huge part of being gay. But the reduction of gayness to be nothing more than just sex can not only be counter-productive – as in, uptight straight guys are missing out on something quite spectacular – and, frankly, homophobic, but it’s also plain wrong.

You know when you see a kid acting or talking a certain way and you think, “they’re gay” or “they’ll be gay when they’re older” – how do you explain that? They don’t even know what sex is yet, straight or gay. The feelings “gay” children have and the character traits they display can’t be boiled down to some potential gay sex they may or may not be having 10 or 15 years down the line – that’s gayness right there, already in play. Whether you believe in nature or nurture or any other theory, there’s more to being gay than just shagging another guy.

So if we remove the label of “gay” from sex acts we traditionally assume are only the domain of gay men, does this mean you can take part in them and still be straight? Where do we draw the line? Getting a blow job from a guy, for example, is something a lot more straight men have experienced than the stony faces down at the Dog and Gun might have you believe. Is it less gay if there’s no mutual contact of genitals? Because it’s passive? A service, almost?

James, 28, says he regularly got blowjobs from a gay pal in his teens, but he doesn’t consider himself gay. “Me and my mate would fool around but mainly he would do it to me,” he explains. “I wasn’t as interested in his cock as he was in mine, but I think we both got something out of it.” If there’s one thing hormone-frazzled 17-year-old boys aren’t getting anywhere near enough of as they want, it’s oral sex. “I didn’t have a girlfriend yet and my mate was just discovering his sexuality and wanted to try. I always made it clear we weren’t in a relationship and that nobody should know. But I didn’t feel guilty and I think he was cool with it.”shut your cock washer

You could argue that there was an element of exploitation to James’s relationship with his mate. The friend was finding his feet with his sexuality and James was the willing guinea pig – as long as nobody found out – but if you’re encouraging a gay man to perform fellatio on you, aren’t you gay? “I’ve never been with a man since and I’m happily married now. I doubt I’d do it again as that would mean being unfaithful, but I consider myself straight. It’s fine to experiment; it’s a big part of finding out who you are.”

And what about when contact with another man happens as part of your relationship? Mark, a 28-year-old investment banker had already had one skirmish with a gay guy when his colleague’s boyfriend came on to him in a club bathroom and went down on him – real life really is stranger than soap opera – but his second time was a different matter altogether. His girlfriend was there.

downlow6“I was in the couples room at Torture Garden [a fetish club in London] and a stranger gave me a blowjob,” Mark explains. “I was there with my girlfriend at the time and we’d both got pretty wild.”

So why stop at a blowjob and not take it further? When in Rome, and all that. “I just didn’t really feel the desire to f*** him. I suppose it’s possible I might go further one day but I think it’s very unlikely. I almost never think men are attractive.”

But if you’re involving a third person in your hitherto straight sex life, does this mean either you or your partner is bisexual? For Mark, it’s not a concern. “Why do I continue to identify as straight? I suppose it’s because I couldn’t imagine myself having a relationship with a man. In the same way I have gay friends who’ve f***ed women, but would never identify as bi, or worry they’re straight.

“I think that ‘being gay’ or ‘being straight’ is about much more than some sexual contact.”

So a BJ is a BJ, but what about when things go further? Is the threshold for gayness actual penetration? Surely, if you’re having anal sex with a man, you’re gay, no? That’s what the guys in the locker room would say, right?

Thinking about having sex with a man isn’t a sign you’re gay yourself, no more than idly imaging pushing your evil boss under a truck means you’re a latent homicidal maniac. Sometimes, though, even if you’ve never imagined it, when the opportunity presents itself, a primal instinct takes over, as videographer Zak, 25, discovered.

“I’d never really thought about being bi or gay, he explains. “I’d only ever been with girls and had never really been sexually attracted to any guys.

“When I was 20 a load of our sixth form year got together for a party. George was a guy from my year I’d known fairly well but never been close to. We were both fairly drunk and I remember just feeling happy to see him for the first time in ages and for some reason, knowing he was gay, I kissed him rather than hugging him. We chatted for a bit and then we both carried on with the night – not really thinking much about it.”

So far, so straight – no need to adjust any labels so far. Everyone is as they should be.

Zak continues: “Later on, we were both alone on the landing and he kissed me again. This time, for some reason, I didn’t really stop him and before long we were fully making out – we snuck into one of the bedrooms and one thing led to another.”

But was this a harrowing experience? Was there much soul-searching or did Zak just have a blast?

“I did enjoy myself. I suppose I’m quite a sexually liberal person and didn’t really think of it as being ‘gay’, it was just was fun and at the time I was enjoying it.”MSM

The ability to distance oneself from any gayness of a sex act perhaps comes from how it plays out. Who shags who, who touches what – that kind of thing. Like James getting a BJ from his pal, Zak’s mate was also providing a service of sorts, but Zak was an active participant. “We had sex, both oral and anal,” says Zak. “I ‘topped’ [the other guy played a passive role and ‘received’], I don’t think I’d have been comfortable with it the other way around.”

It’s not uncommon for straight men who have sex with another man to experience “gay panic” and feel guilty about what they’ve done and what it means. This can, on occasion, lead to persecution of, or violence against the other guy, whether he’s gay or also straight. But Zak remains unfazed about the experience.

“I wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed,” he says. “I still identify as straight and don’t think I’d initiate something with a bloke, but put in the same situation I could see myself doing it again.”

Some guys might worry that they were gay – and if you’re wondering why anyone would “worry” about such a thing, do take a moment to research how gay men and women are treated across the world – but Zak takes a more relaxed approach.

“One of my uni friends described himself as ‘hetero-flexible’ and I reckon that’s probably where I am at too,” says Zak. “I don’t think repeating it would make me ‘gay’. I’m not attracted to them but I can appreciate men who are attractive. In the same way I’ve slept with women in the past who I don’t think I was really attracted to, sometimes sex is just sex and it’s fun.”

And Zak’s right, sex is just sex. It’s common for gay people, when they first come out, to say their sexuality doesn’t define them, that there’s more to them than simply being gay. It’s all part of the process of recognizing your sexual orientation and assert yourself as an individual, not part of some flock or movement. It’s the vestigial feelings of shame that coming out is supposed to eradicate, hanging on for dear life. “I’m not like the others,” they think. Most of us get over it eventually and reconcile with the fact we’re gay, but this refusal to define can, in some cases, be a positive thing – a defiance of society’s boring old norms. As long as it’s used constructively and positively, and not homophobically of course.

You as an individual get to decide how you label your sexuality, if at all. As long as nobody’s feelings are getting screwed over, you’re free to have sex with men or women at will and still call yourself straight.

But it’s worth acknowledging that you’re merely a tourist and all the privilege this gives you. You get all the pluses of gay sex – and they are pluses, admit it, you love it – but, as long it’s kept on the downlow, none of the prejudice and pressures the LGBT community faces apply to you. You get to dip in, and out, with little or none of the comeback.

Labels inform and warn and categorize, but they also help us come to terms with who we are. A label can be something to cling to, to identify with, to make us feel safe, to tell the world what we’re about.

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Avoiding them altogether is brave, choosing one and then flouting the conventions of it could be braver still, but living with a label 24/7 and taking all the consequences it throws at you is perhaps the bravest path of all. And those repercussions can be noxious: LGBT people are discriminated against, mocked, beaten and murdered, all for doing things you get to do without question. Just for being.

Having sex with a man doesn’t mean you’re gay, definitely not. You get to be who you want to be. But don’t forget the sacrifices your gay brothers make on a daily basis so you can have that freedom to choose. You get to go back to your privileged status in the world – we can only be us.

“Gay” sex acts aren’t something to be ashamed of; if you’re man enough to do it and still call yourself straight, be man enough to talk about it. Don’t let it be a dirty little secret; own your sexuality – whatever it may be – with pride.

Complete Article HERE!