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Gender Glossary: Understanding ‘Intersex’ Beyond the Binary


By Harish Iyer

[8] November is designated as the day where we show solidarity and ensure that we educate ourselves about the intersex community. 8 November is the birthday of Herculin Barbin a french intersex person, who was brought up as a girl, but in adulthood discovered that she has a vagina but also a small penis. She thought she was being punished and ended up committing suicide after writing a memoir, which is, a living document of what it meant to be intersex in the mid 1800s.

As a person from the LGBTIQ community, it is important that we address the I in LGBTIQ. To address that, we need to understand what intersex really means. This is because much of our discrimination is borne out of misinformation or lack of knowledge. In a world where we view everything in binaries, to let people know that there are sexes beyond male and female would need an open mind. But do we understand the binaries well either?

Did You Know: Bisexuals are capable of having romantic feelings with people regardless of gender.

Before we even get to intersex, it is important to understand the difference between sex, gender and sexuality. Let me try simplifying this with the least amount of jargon.

Speaking of sex, I remember the joke way back in school, where we used to giggle whenever we saw “sex” written in any form as we thought the response should be “2 times in a day”. But sex in every context is not the act of sexual intercourse. The most easy and explicit way that I could explain is that sex is between your legs, it is determined by the presence or absence of an organ like a penis or vagina. If you have a penis you get classified as male, if you have a vagina you get classified as female.

Gender is a social construct. It is in your mind and heart and is not determined by the presence or absence of a body organ. One could be a female and identify as female, or be a male and identify as a male. However, you could also be a male (with a penis) but identify as a female, or be a female (with a vagina) and identify as a male. What you identify as, is what we call – “gender identity”.  It is also known as “transgender”.

Segregation of gender would directly detriment a culture of empathy and mutual respect.

Also, when we say gender is a social construct, it could mean that it may take time for people to realise their gender expression. Because of the fact that the society puts people in specific gender roles, it becomes difficult for people to express that they actually are a man but from within they feel they are a woman or the vice versa. It could mean that they wish to identify as gender-queer or transgender.

Like, I am a male and till a few years back I thought my gender was male. But I am realising that my gender expression is more feminine, which could mean that I could identify as gender-queer in coming years.

The bottom-line is that my gender is what I tell you my gender is. My gender is not what you think my gender is.

One could go on and on about gender, sex and sexuality. Now that we have some basic knowledge about sex and gender. Let us understand intersex.

One could go on and on about gender, sex and sexuality. Now that we have some basic knowledge about sex and gender. Let us understand intersex.

Intersex persons are people who are born with a sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit into definitions of sex of male or female in terms of anatomy. A person may be born with a penis and with a depression that leads to a labia. Or a person could be born with a vagina and may have a small penis.

It is rude and incorrect to classify intersex persons as “in-betweens” or “abnormal” people. It is however not rude to state that intersex persons are different.

There is a huge confusion among most people about intersex persons and hijras. Hijras are a community of transgender persons who live together and have their own social and religious practices. They are mainly male persons who have a female gender expression. They may or may not have undergone a sexual re-assignment surgery to align their sex with the gender that they identify with. Hijras could be intersex people too. However, all intersex people are not Hijras.

There is a myth that hijras pick up children with ambiguous gender when they come to bless newborns. In a world where the girl child is drowned and killed at birth, it is not hard to imagine that a child with ambiguous gender is despised and also killed in some cases. Hijras are believed to offer to adopt such children. There is very little research on this. Much of these are myths propagated by folklore and incredibly stupid television serials who’re feeding on such myths and increasing the confusion between our understanding of intersex persons and hijras.

How do you identify if a person is intersex? You will not be able to tell. And you don’t need to identify them. They will tell you if they feel like telling you. It is polite to ask everyone what gender pronoun they would prefer and address them that way.

Didn’t I say, gender is something that people tell you? It is not just he/she or him/her, some could say that they prefer a collective pronoun “they or their” or “ze or hir” as gender neutral pronouns. So the pronouns in short are he/she/ze/ they or him/her/hir/their. Ask, don’t assume such things.

There are very few people in India who are intersex and openly identify as one.  One of my friends, Gopi Shankar is an intersex person who founded an organisation called Srushti Madurai. I used to always refer to Gopi as “he” as his gender expression, I assumed is Male and so did many journalists. Until recently when I discovered that he is intersex and prefers pronoun “ze”.

Ze contested elections in the Tamil Nadu Legistlative assembly in 2016 and has also won a lot of awards and accolades for hir work in the domain of gender and sexuality especially in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

Complete Article HERE!


Exploring the controversial fetish of race play



Having spent a lot of my life writing about sex, and exploring all the millions of ways in which people have sex, I can say that very little has ever shocked me. 

One of the few things to ever leave me slightly open mouthed is the concept of race play.

For the uninitiated, race play is a subset of BDSM where the focus of the imbalance in the role play stems from the races of the people in question.

In practice this often presents as people of colour role playing as slaves, or people of Jewish heritage role playing as prisoners.

We did warn you this was controversial stuff.

But it’s also popular. On the kinky dating site and forum Fetlife, the fetish has hundreds of groups dedicated to it and thousands of users who openly subscribe to being a fan.

Yet even in the fetish scene, where most things are fair game, race play is controversial.

Sophia*, 34, told that she felt ostracized on the fetish scene: ‘I have friends who are open about doing rape play or age play, but race play is a hard limit.

‘I feel like I’m not even allowed to talk about it, like it’s somehow this line we’re not allowed to cross. As a Jewish woman, I do feel ashamed of the types of role play I enjoy, but I can’t help it. It’s something that is deeply ingrained in me.’

Race play is a complicated and confusing area. The idea that someone might reenact genuine traumas that their ancestors experienced, but for sexual gratification, is a confusing one to anyone who isn’t that way inclined.

My stance on sex and sexuality is always, and will always be, that what you do in your bedroom is no one’s business but your own. As long as it’s consensual, why would anyone need to have any kind of opinion on your sexual fantasies?

In my experience, BDSM can be a way of working out some issues. Having been called bossy, argumentative and controlling for my entire life (thanks for that, society!) I found that being sexually submissive helped to soothe the concern that maybe I was all of those things.

I talked to Master Dominic, a professional dominant and sexual education expert about this complicated but compelling area of fetish, specifically why people enjoy it.

‘It’s always hard to definitively explain why people are into something specific,’ he tells ‘Everyone has their own spin on it.’

‘The taboo nature of it is certainly a big aspect, but that can come from a few different places. It can be a relatively simple “pushing the envelope is sexy” sort of thing, or it can come from a place of internalised racism.

‘The latter takes much more consideration, empathy and communication to navigate.

Master Dominic echoed my own sentiment – that sex and fetishes can be used to explore ingrained issues. He explained:

‘People turn to sex and fetish to process and own something traumatic or troubling, and whilst I absolutely think that you are completely within their rights to do so, you do need to try to dissect it a little so there’s an understanding of the context and the need.’

What Master Dominic hits on here is something to be aware of when dealing with more niche fetishes. Those that make us uncomfortable, or that feel out of kilter with an otherwise politically correct outlook on life, can be the hardest to navigate.

‘It can be tough, for sure, especially when one of you is not part of an ethnic minority’ says Dominic.

‘It’s been one of the toughest learning curves in my career, as a middle class white man, to understand.

‘So yes, it is part of the BDSM spectrum in a lot of ways and it shouldn’t be gasped at or judged. Nobody should be policing how anybody else relates to and expresses their race, heritage, gender identity, or sexuality. It’s theirs to own and express as they wish.’

Negotiating race play from the side of the person of colour is fraught enough, but what happens if you’re a white person who has a race fetish? Is it okay to find it arousing? Or is it just your racism adopting a different guise?

Therapist Sarah Berry, who specialises in sex and sexuality explains: ‘We all have different preferences of what we find arousing and may well be more judgmental than political correctness dictates, for example hair colour, height, weight, salary.

‘If someone only goes for a certain race it could be part of this. Or it could be that someone has ideas based around stereotypes or that person being perceived as more “exotic”. If someone is having a hook-up or relationship and is finding it hard to have these stereotypes challenged then this could be troubling.

‘I think, as with many things, it is nuanced and complicated – certainly not a black and white issue.

‘It’s important, if you do exhibit this tendency, to be challenged or to see that race isn’t the only defining factor of the rounded human that they are with. If someone wanted to exert power over someone else that they do not respect because of their race or any other reasons then this is not healthy.

‘Likewise if someone felt they needed to punished for race or other reasons by someone they perceive as superior then this is also not healthy.’

No kinky person wants to refuse their sexual desires on the basis of politically correctness, but no decent person wants their partner to feel fetishised for their race.

Complete Article HERE!


Proud, Perky, (Pervy), Penguin


Hey sex fans!

It’s Product Review Friday once again. And, like the last two weeks, you can see them HERE and HERE, we welcome a new manufacturer to our review effort. This week it’s a German company, Satisfyer.  There is something about the European aesthetic that both excites and delights. But don’t take my word for it.

Here’s one of our favorite veteran reviewers, Jada, who will introduce us to today’s product.

Satisfyer Pro Penguin (Next Generation) —— $33.99

When I heard that Dr Dick was reviving the Dr Dick Review Crew I wanted back in. It’s been nearly three years since I wrote my last review. Lots of things have changed in my life since then. When I joined the Review Crew way back in 2008 I was 46 years old, married (23 years), the mother of two teenage kids and I was working a very stressful job at a nonprofit organization. Now I am 55 years old, a widow, (my husband died two years ago), my kids are no longer teenagers (both are married), but I’m still working at that nonprofit. So even though many things change, others stay the same.

I really missed this reviewing effort; I was sorry when it ended. I missed discovering all the products that came my way. Not all of them were wonderful, not by a long shot, but each and every one taught me a little more about my body and my sexuality. I was also instrumental in introducing some of my friends to the world of adult products. So many women are clueless about the joys and pleasures to be had through adult products.

Today I have something really amazing to tell you about. What we have here is the award-winning Satisfyer Pro Penguin (Next Generation) by Satisfyer. Isn’t he adorable?

The first thing that piqued my interest was the Next Generation part of its name. Since it suggested that this marvel has been a work in progress, I wanted to find out more. I searched the web for Satisfyer Pro and discovered I was right. Some while ago the first generation of this product, a red, pink, and white version, appeared on the market. There are plenty of reviews of that are still available on the web. Most reviewers like the first generation, but had issues with some of the toy’s attributes. I’ll have more to say about this below.

For the uninitiated, Satisfyer Pro Penguin (Next Generation) is a clitoral stimulator, but it’s not a vibrator. Actually, it simulates oral sex with a delightful sucking motion.

Let’s start with the packaging, shall we? Satisfyer Pro Penguin (Next Generation) comes in is pleasant little cardboard container that features the adorable penguin. There’s a plastic insert, which holds the toy and it’s USB recharger, which connects to the Penguin by magnets. There’s also a very helpful user’s manual. The packaging is very nice, but simple and understated. Some manufactures package their products in such elaborate packaging, one has to wonder, how much more does all that packaging add to the retail price of the product? And, does that pricing place the product outside the grasp of less affluent women?

This generation of the toy not only resembles the shape of a penguin, but its whole color scheme changed from read, pink, and white to black and white, just like an actual penguin. He even sports a swanky little bow tie, which is removable. His belly houses the one dual-purpose, on/off and intensity, button. His oval beak is the business end of the toy. It envelops your clit and provides the sucking action. Delightful!

Pro Penguin fits easily and comfortably in my hand. There is nothing unwieldy here, thank you very much. I know that as I have gotten older my manual dexterity is less than it used to be. I am so glad that Satisfyer is being conscious of us older folks and our needs. As I mentioned above, the smallish oval beak offers pinpoint stimulation. The Satisfier logo is on the back of Pro Penguin, and there are two small metal charging pins are on its base.

Pro Penguin is covered is covered in a velvety, latex-free, nonporous, phthalate-free, and hypoallergenic silicone. And because it is waterproof and made of silicone it’s a breeze to clean. I simply submerge it into the sink with mild soap and warm water and rub it down a bit. Then let it air dry. The white “beak” is detachable for detailed cleaning with a cotton swab, if you’d like. Or you can just wipe the down with a lint-free towel moistened with peroxide, rubbing alcohol or a 10% bleach solution to sanitize it for sharing. And because Pro Penguin is also 100% waterproof, it’s the ideal toy for bath or shower, more about this in a bit.

Pro Penguin is remarkably quiet, even when it’s not pleasuring your body. This is one of the improvements Satisfyer made over the first generation. The reviewers I mentioned at the beginning of this review all commented on how loud the first generation was.

There are 11 stimulation patterns you can cycle through till you find the one that best suits you and your current mood. Very Nice! The buttons are intuitive and easy to use. The control system of Pro Penguin also offers a + and – feature, which allows me full control of the strength of the suction. This is really important for a clitoral stimulator. Let me explain.

If you are unfamiliar with suction-based toys, as I was when I began playing with Pro Penguin, there are some things you should know. Suction type stimulation is very different from the stimulation you get with a vibrator. First off, Pro Penguin doesn’t vibrate! I find the pressure wave sensations more intense than vibration so I have to start slowly. Pro Penguin’s “beak” is small, so the pleasure is incredibly pinpoint. I find that sometimes I need to take a more indirect approach, at least at the beginning of my play, than direct clitoral contact. And this toy can feel very different from one setting too another.

My favorite place to use pleasure products is in the bath. This is where Pro Penguin shines. I can experience waves and waves of pleasure while being engulfed in womb-like warm water. In fact, my first orgasm ever was in a bath so this watery environment is like pleasure-home to me.

Dr Dick asked me to specifically address the issue of how Pro Penguin might appeal to senior and elder women. All I can say is if you like pinpoint clitoral stimulation, as some women do, this is the toy for you. It’s small, easy to handle, fits comfortably in one’s hand, controls are easy to manipulate, and it’s very quiet. I think senior and elder women will appreciate all of these features.

When you also consider that Pro Penguin is waterproof, rechargeable and covered in body-friendly silicone; well, that’s nearly perfection. And please, consider the price point. This amazing pleasure product is under $40. That is an amazing bargain.

Oh, one last thing. Not all seniors and elders have computers. And since Pro Penguin utilizes a USB-type recharger, that might be an issue. But even that concern is easily solved. One can purchase a very inexpensive USB wall charger at just about any variety store, drug store, or hardware store. These chargers plug directly into any wall socket. See, you don’t even need a computer.

Full Review HERE!


The New Hanky Code Is an Actual Thing. Do You Know It Yet?


The hanky code (aka. “flagging”) was a ‘60s and ‘70s era way for gay men and BDSM fetishists to covertly signal their sexual interests in an age when seeking and having gay sex could get you arrested, beaten up or fired (it can still get you fired, by the way). Though it has largely fallen out of disuse, several queer artists have created new hanky codes in new and interesting ways.

What was the old hanky code?

Different colored handkerchiefs signified what sex acts you wanted (red for fisting and yellow for water sports, for example) and the pocket position indicated whether you were a dominant/top (left pocket) or submissive/bottom (right pocket).

Here’s a simple hanky code color chart:

The old (simplified) hanky code chart

As the hanky code became better known, marketers began creating meanings for every bandana color imaginable (dark pink for tit torture and leopard print for tattoo lovers, for example), but it’s likely that few people actually knew the entire spectrum because — as you’ll see in the chart below — who could possibly remember all 65 variations or tell the difference between orange and coral in a dark bar?

The waaaaay over-complicated hanky code

What is “the new hanky code”?

In our modern age of legalized gay sex and social apps, the hanky code has become more of a fashionable conversation starter at leather bars rather than an active way to solicit sex. Nevertheless, around 2014, a queer Los Angeles art collective called Die Kränken (The Havoc) began discussing what a new hanky code might look like.

Incorporating the sexual inclinations and gender identities of their members, Die Kränken designed 12 new hankies and created an exhibition entitled, “The New Rules of Flagging.” Their new hankies included ones for polyamory, outdoor sex, the app generation, womyn power, Truvada warriors and “original plumbing” (which was either a reference to the transgender male magazine or to urine and bathroom sex).

You should see all 12, but here’s some of our favorites:

Bossy bottom


Queer Punk

In addition to displaying the hankies, Die Kränken gave surveyed and interviewed attendees to figure out what hanky best fit them. He then invited the attendees to perform a short, pre-choreographed dance demonstrating the spirit of each hanky. The Truvada warrior’s dance, for instance, had people mimic a scorpion crawling up their arm before confidently brushing it off and flinging invisible pills into the air.

We asked Jonesy and Jaime C. Knight, two members of Die Kränken, why their hankies were so much more explicitly designed than the in-the-know ’70s era hanky code. They more or less responded, “Because we wanted to design something cool.” Their handkerchiefs aren’t for sale, sadly.

“The New Hanky Code” is also a hilarious stand-up routine….

In his 2014 stand-up routine, gay comedian Justin Sayre, plays the Chairman of the International Order of Sodomites who announces, “The board is thrilled to announce that we will be bringing back the hanky code, but this time, it’s to talk about your damage.”

“Long have these issues laid in the shadows of a second date,” Sayre says, “but no more. We’d like to put it out there.”

In Sayre’s new hanky code, wearing a handkerchief in your right pocket means that you self-identifying as having a particular issue whereas the left pocket means you’ve only been called out on it, “so it becomes a playful game amongst friends.”

According to Sayre, white hankies now signify racists, gray equals boring, yellow is for commitment-phobes, baby blue means you have mother issues, pink stands for ingrained homophobia (i.e. “masc-seekers”), mustard means you drink too much, magenta is poor personal hygiene and so on for conspiracy theorists, those who don’t like The Golden Girls and others.

In Sayre’s version, people can make up their own personal hankies (like charcoal for workaholic and eggshell for undiagnosed) and also assign hankies to one another. “We ask you all to be kind when assigning colors to other people,” he concludes. “because remember: You’ll be wearing them too.”

… and there’s also a Hanky Code film for queer fetish fans too.

Hanky Code is also the name of a 2015 queer indie film made up of 25 shorts from different international queer directors that each explore a different color and fetish from the hanky code. It’s quite artistic, avant-garde and even a little graphic (the segment on piercing almost made our squeamish editor pass out), but it’s a fine piece of film that re-interprets the decades-old hanky code for a new age.

Complete Article HERE!


In defense of opposite-sex friendships


By Heidi Stevens

My friend Jeff does not want to impregnate me.

And thank God for that, since his wife is expecting their third child this summer.

“Let me be clear,” he told me Thursday morning. “I have two, almost three children. I don’t want to impregnate anyone.”

I called him to check, since Lutheran pastor Hans Fiene put me and my fellow females on notice earlier this week.

“You don’t have any guy friends,” Fiene wrote in The Federalist on Tuesday. “In fact, you can’t have any guy friends.”

“Quite simply, men can’t be at peace being just friends,” Fiene wrote. “And there’s nothing you can do to change that. Platonic chilling won’t stop your inner (and outer) beauty from pulling a man towards romantic love. Telling him he’s like a brother to you won’t stop his brain from shouting ‘Marry that woman and impregnate her now’ when he encounters your femininity.”

Maybe Fiene didn’t mean my femininity, since I already have a husband. Maybe he didn’t mean Jeff’s brain, since Jeff already has a wife. But between his essay and Vice President Mike Pence’s no-dining-with-women rule, it’s a tricky time for opposite-sex friendships.

I’m here to defend them.

Jeff and I are friends because we work in similar industries, we live in the same neighborhood, our kids get along and we make each other laugh. I adore his wife. He likes my husband. Sometimes we meet for coffee. Sometimes we get together with our kids — with and without our spouses.

My husband, meanwhile, has a handful of female friends. He sometimes shares meals with them. With alcohol. Without me. I can’t overstate how much I prefer this setup over a husband who views all women as potential vessels to grow his babies. His female friends give him a greater understanding of half the world’s population. My male friendships do the same for me.

“It helps un-bro me,” Jeff said of his friendship with women. “I don’t know how bro-tastic I ever was, but certainly more so when I was younger and had exclusively male friends.”

Now his female friendships lend valuable insight and awareness to his home and work life. (He works in media relations.) “I haven’t had a male boss in 15 years or so,” he told me.

Friendships give us a different lens through which to see the world. They help us walk in someone else’s shoes. They give us people to care about, protect, laugh with, cry on, learn from, respectfully disagree with, cherish.

Friendships with people who don’t look and live just like us can open our minds and alter our behavior in ways that are immeasurable and invaluable.

And we should turn a skeptical eye — or avoid altogether — people whose reproductive parts don’t match ours?

I don’t think so.

We can acknowledge that some men are sometimes attracted to their female friends, and some women are sometimes attracted to their male friends. (And some men are sometimes attracted to their male friends, some women to their female friends, while we’re on the topic.)

We can also recognize that mature adults go through life, every single day, not acting on all our impulses. We don’t eat the whole pan of brownies. We don’t tell our bosses to take a flying leap. We don’t order martinis at lunch. We don’t sleep with our friends.

We don’t do the things, in other words, that sabotage our goals and our lives, even if they sound sort of fun at the time.

You can be friends with the opposite sex. You should, I would argue, be friends with the opposite sex.

The benefits of opposite-sex friendships far outweigh the possible, occasional risks, especially since we’re perfectly capable of mitigating those risks.

Men and women have far more to offer each other than our bodies, in bed. It’s insulting and, frankly, a little sad to suggest otherwise.

Complete Article HERE!