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Pain and power

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When #MeToo suddenly flooded social media with testimonials about sexual harassment, assault and violence, I applauded those who spoke out. Yet, even as I was overwhelmed with a need to support and fiercely affirm those around me, I was confronted with a certain uneasiness that extended beyond my reservations about the mentality of mass movements, representation of such campaigns and even ignorance surrounding the sexual harassment–awareness movement’s inception ten years ago. The torrent of posts filled me with a nebulous discomfort.

I couldn’t identify why until I began reflecting on my own experiences, memories of harassment and assault that I’ve swept under the rug as quickly as they have steadily accumulated over the years. From piano to debate, political functions to conversations with acquaintances, encounters with strangers to those I trusted, these are instances that I do not spend time discussing. When I recall the moments that constitute my identity, they do not come to mind. Yet, reflected in the honest and raw stories of the people around me — mostly women, but also oft-ignored men and queer individuals — I was forced to face how the climate of sexual violence has shaped my daily decisions.

Ironically, I have studied women’s rights movements and sexuality. I read voraciously about rape culture and gender inequalities, and consume op-eds and studies and literature on gender-based and sexual violence. With an understanding of how sex, gender and sexuality play into oppressive power dynamics, I advocate for survivors and women in so many spaces, defend the experiences of others around me and celebrate their bravery and authenticity with the fullest conviction. However, the culture I’ve internalized means that writing “me too” makes me feel either that I have no control over harassment and assault, which is scary, or that I hold responsibility for the situations I’ve encountered, which is worse.

This was and is still difficult for me, because I define myself as a strong, assertive woman. In the face of unfairness I have clung to resilience; I want to believe that I have the self-determination to control my own narrative and have the upper hand. I don’t want to sound like I’m whining, or focusing on the little things, or acting hysterically. I don’t want to sound like I’m weak, and, like many around me, I have implicitly linked these experiences with victimhood cast as weakness.

When I finally did write about my experiences, it was a bid for both me and others to associate strength with speaking truth to disempowering experiences, to reconcile the “me” who seeks positions of influence with the “me” in “me too.” Amidst well-intentioned people who dismiss harassment and men who hesitate to criticize friends for predatory behavior, amidst women who quietly succumb to blaming themselves and those ashamed of their experiences, I wanted to affirm that you can be strong and thick-skinned, yet still say “me too.” I wanted my experiences to discredit how we characterize powerful women and what we expect strength to look like.

At the same time, however, I wrote with a certain anxiety about the way I depicted my experiences and how they would be consumed. I’m a believer that sharing our stories can elicit transformative empathy, but it was with a sinking feeling that I wondered whether I’d raise awareness or attract pity. I felt as if I’d submitted scenes into a long, continuous documentary of #MeToo experiences, where the various dimensions of survivors’ memories had been reduced to a performance of pain in an exhausting bid for change. I wondered about the actual impact of writing and speaking out; I questioned using my experiences as a place of implied advocacy.

The past week of reading, reflecting and writing about scenarios of sexual harassment and assault has been emotionally draining for both those who have withheld and those who have shared their stories. Although I wish otherwise, the only way for nonsurvivors to understand the lived experiences of others is through hearing about them. #MeToo has brought about a bittersweet mix of acknowledgement and pain, so I hope that we see this pain as power and truly shift the way we think about victims and aggressors. Don’t let this be a pointless show.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Spice Up Your Relationship With Porn

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Believe it or not, porn can strengthen your relationship

 

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Let’s face it, many believe that pornography ruins relationships by setting unrealistic expectations in the bedroom. It’s a sound argument. But it would only be fair to make an opposing case that in some ways porn can improve your sex life.

“Pornography can spark curiosity and open conversation between partners. It’s so easy to get into a routine with your significant other, and it can be hard to break out of that. Watching or reading erotica allows couples to explore sexual activities that they may be curious about,” says Polly Rodriguez, CEO of Unbound.

A study published in the journal Sexual Medicine even shows that watching at least 40 minutes of porn twice a week can boost your sex drive and your overall desire to have sex. Not to mention, it’s really hot to watch people have sex, and sharing this with someone you love can enable a deeply sensual experience.

Convinced enough? Here are nine ways to incorporate porn into your sex life.

1. Have an open & honest conversation about it

Talk about your desires and interests and set boundaries of what is and isn’t OK, suggests Rodriguez. “From there, only good things can happen if you’re open and honest with each other about what you’re curious to try.”

2. Use porn as a source for inspiration

Be it BDSM or role-play, Rodriquez explains that having an example you can both watch and learn from together helps to frame what it is you’re curious to try.

3. Expand your sexual repertoire

Talk about the type of porn or fantasy you like to watch. Girl on girl, threesomes, just oral… have you always wanted to try a certain position or sex act? “This is the chance to open up and be honest about what you may have been afraid to voice to your partner,” says Antonia Hall, a psychologist and award-winning author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life.

4. Don’t be judgmental

Your partner might like something you don’t, notes Alicia Sinclair, Founder and CEO of b-Vibe and Le Wand. “It’s important to find the common ground and make the process sexy.”

5. Start soft

Begin with something you know turns you both on. “Try something in the amateur or couples section. It’s probably not a good idea to start with a hardcore sex scene (unless you’re both already into that of course),” says Sinclair.

6. Find a website both of you enjoy

Send each other clips you want to watch together later. “I’m a personal fan of Bellesa (run by Michelle Shnaidman) because it’s a bit more sensual than what you’d find on one of the bigger tube sites,” says Rodriguez.

7. Let it put you in the mood

Before your sweetie gets home. Put on your favorite video, rub one out and let yourself get totally aroused. As soon as they walk through the door, you’ll be in full get-it-on mode.

8. Aim for quality content

Sinclair suggests, Trenchcoatx. “This porn-for-women site is run by two women and has tons of quality content. Plus, you’re supporting women making porn, which is kind of a win-win in my book,” she adds.

9. Make you own porn

Get creative and make your own erotic video. It’s a fun way to experiment, act and enjoy watching it together later on. Just make sure to use a digital camera and not your cell phone so you don’t have to worry about it accidently getting uploaded and can delete it at any time.

Complete Article HERE!

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The future is fluid:

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Generation Z’s approach to gender and sexuality is indeed revolutionary

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Whenever a new generation comes of age, it inevitably ends up getting scrutinized by those who came before. Just look at how millennials have been derided for killing romance, sex, and the entire democratic system. If you believe everything you read, it’s like this generation is single-handedly out to destroy all that is holy in America, leaving nothing behind for posterity.

But death leads to new life, and from the ashes of the American Dream (which millennials have also killed), the younger Generation Z appears to have discovered a bevy of new social norms—especially in regards to gender and sexuality.

Also called the iGeneration, Generation Z is loosely defined as anyone born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s (aka ages 7 to 22). Growing up in the shadow of what is now the largest living American generation, Generation Z inevitably took a lot of inspiration from millennials. But as this group of young Americans become teenagers, even certified legal-drinking adults, one defining feature experts are starting to notice is the iGen’s tendency to view gender and sexuality as something on a spectrum, not just simply male or female, or gay or straight.

Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny Depp’s 18-year-old daughter and an actor in her own right, has said, “You don’t have to label your sexuality; so many kids these days are not labeling their sexuality and I think that’s so cool.” At 19 years old, Jaden Smith told GQ Style, “I feel like people are kind of confused about gender norms. I feel like people don’t really get it. I’m not saying that I get it, I’m just saying that I’ve never seen any distinction.”

For these Gen Zers, fluidity isn’t reactionary like it was (and still is) for millennials; now, it’s closer to the norm.

In fact, a 2016 survey by the consumer insight agency J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group found that only 48 percent of Generation Z identifies as “completely heterosexual,” compared to 65 percent of millennials. And over half of these young Americans reported knowing someone who goes by non-traditional gender pronouns like “they/them,” making this generation the only demographic where that is the case.

The iGeneration, as its name suggests, is unique because its members were the first to be born in the post-dot-com bubble world. While Generation X, baby boomers, and even older millennials will wax poetic about life before the internet took over, Gen Z doesn’t even know what that looks like. And although being constantly connected to the web can be very problematic at times, it has also gifted this generation with a level of exposure to different worldviews that was previously unheard of.

“We grew up in a time when the internet opened the doors of the world—literally—and allowed us to talk to someone on the other side of the globe in a matter of seconds,” Sean Dolan, a 19-year-old who grew up in the Chicago suburbs and now lives in Austin, told the Daily Dot. “The internet generation, as I’ve heard us referred to, has never experienced what it is like to not feel connected to every piece of information in the world at any time.”

Not only does the internet open up doors to different views of gender and sexuality, but it also allows for members of Gen Z to find other people who feel the same way that they do. Today, online communities like those found on Tumblr and in private Facebook groups are there to show support even when nobody is physically there to do so.

“Nowadays, I feel like kids are way more open about talking about sexuality, and making it more mainstream through use of social media and new forms of technology,” Madeline Dolinsky, a 20-year-old Chicago native told the Daily Dot. “People can freely express who they are and feel comfortable knowing they have a larger community around them who supports them.”

According to a 2013 study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, LGBTQ teens are online for an average of 45 minutes longer than straight, cisgender teens. And while only 19 percent of these straight, cisgender teens reported making friends online, half of the LGBTQ survey respondents said that they did have a close friend they met online.

This doesn’t come as a surprise for Michael Bronski, a professor in the women, gender, and sexuality department at Harvard University. In the 16 years that Bronski has been teaching, he has witnessed first hand how internet communities have shaped his students.

“I can remember a moment at Dartmouth, maybe 2007, when the freshman class showed up and because Facebook had just been invented, many gay or lesbian students as freshmen came and they already knew each other,” Bronski told the Daily Dot. “It was this amazing thing where the first LGBT meeting was completely packed because they were all friends already. Well, they were virtual friends.”

And that was 10 years ago, when social media was just starting to become a part of mainstream culture. Now, the iGen often goes to these virtual communities first to learn about gender and sexuality, regardless of whether they’re actively looking for fellow LGBTQ teens or just trying to procrastinate homework.

“Even in the past five years, I think I’ve seen more of an openness and open-mindedness about talking about stuff,” Bronski said. “You don’t have to go to the library to look up in the card catalog books that have ‘gay’ in the title anymore—you can do it on your iPhone that your mother left you with when you were 10.”

In other words, the internet can give queer teens what real-life surroundings cannot. For Dolan, growing up in what he refers to as “the conservative suburbs of Chicago,” it was hard for him to be open about his sexuality. Only when he went off to college and found himself surrounded by other people his own age did he gain the confidence to come out to his family. And when he did come out, he found that his parents were supportive, but not necessarily as understanding as his fellow Gen Zers.

“I had this idea all the way up until college that I would never come out to my parents, except for when I [told] them that I got married to another man,” Dolan said. “It wasn’t until I finally summoned up the courage to call them and tell them that their first reaction was, ‘Honey, we know.’ I still feel that, although they have been accepting when I talk about it at home, it is a borderline don’t-ask, don’t-tell situation.”

Dolan’s family experience shows that America won’t seamlessly become a fluid utopia when iGen takes over. While Gen Xers like Dolan’s parents might be more open to gays and lesbians than Baby Boomers are, sexuality is still predominantly seen as a black-or-white concept among them. The term “sexual fluidity” didn’t even enter the mainstream vernacular until psychologist Lisa M. Diamond wrote a book on the subject in 2008.

Gender fluidity, meanwhile, is an even more recent concept in pop culture. Only in the last few years have people come under fire for using the derogatory term “tranny.” And for some Gen Zers, the reality of living life outside of the binary is still far from perfect.

Nikolai Tarsinov is a 20-year-old transgender man currently living in Boston who identifies as pansexual. He often notices a discrepancy between how open his generation thinks it is in regards to fluidity, versus how open it actually is.

“My friend group is almost all heterosexual and cisgender. If I’m being completely honest, they are a lot less open-minded than they think they are,” Nikolai said. “The same people who proudly declare themselves progressives and allies will offhandedly make comments about how I’m not a ‘real’ guy.”

This also might have to do with maturity—teenagers can be mean and they’re hardly masters of nuance. But it also shows that this generation is teetering on the precipice of a major breakthrough. It’s going to take more than celebrities endorsing fluidity, however, to make long-term, noticeable changes to how America perceives gender and sexual identities. The million-dollar question now is whether or not Generation Z is ready to commit to those changes.

“I would never belittle the progress society has made. Just over the course of my short life, I have seen queerness go from something to make fun of to something that’s tentatively accepted,” Tarsinov said. “We are a lot more progressive than any generation that has come before us, but there is a lot more work to be done before society gets to a place where all people can be comfortable with their sexuality.”

It can be hard to predict trends in an entire generation’s worldviews, especially when dealing with a group as young as Generation Z. It can be even more difficult to try and sum up an entire generation’s views on a topic as complex as gender or sexuality. And let’s get one thing clear: Generation Z probably won’t be the group to completely rid the world of sexual and gender binaries.

With that said, this generation is onto something. It will be interesting to see how gender and sexual norms change as the iGen continues to grow up and enter the “real world”—whatever that means.

Complete Article HERE!

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Feminism and Sexual Submission Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

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A meme showed up on my Facebook newsfeed one afternoon a few weeks back.

by Savannah Stewart

It was shared by some fuckboy I worked with for about five minutes before he was never seen again, except when sliding into his female former colleagues’ DM’s—which should have been reason enough to keep scrolling past, yet here we are.

The picture was of a young woman. “Preaches feminism,” it said just above her head. And below, “likes bondage.” Accompanying the meme was some type of monologue calling out women who support equal rights but “like to get slapped around” as hypocrites.

If women are going to “complain” about the things feminists get all up in arms about—like the fact that one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, or that almost half of murdered women are killed by current or former partners—then they’d better not enjoy a bit of roughness directed their way during sex or they’re full of shit. That was essentially the message of his ever-so-valued input about a woman’s sexuality. Because, clearly, those things are identical.

A few commenters pointed out that enjoying some naughty fun between the sheets is, in fact, completely different from experiencing abuse. “The difference is consent!” one commenter asserted, drawing digital thumbs-up from me and many others.

I agree wholeheartedly with that idea, and I think that the logical argument ends there. Rape and domestic violence are by definition not at all the same thing as enjoying and consenting to being in a position of submission during sex, and there is no correlation between the two. End of story.

But of course, fuckboy didn’t see it that way—how can a woman who likes to have physical force used on her in a sexual context walk around saying that hitting women is wrong? She obviously could not be taken seriously, he asserted.

I know I should’ve moved on, forgetting him and his irrelevant commentary. But I didn’t. It bothered me to reading that post, because I know a lot of people actually believe the things he believes.

Then I realized something: people who think that way, that feminist women cannot also be sexually submissive, probably just think that way because they don’t understand either concept.

And so this is me, after sitting on it for about a month now, retroactively explaining to Mr. Fuckboy what he doesn’t seem to understand.

First, it’s important to know that feminism is about a lot of things, but primarily it promotes political, social and economic equality regardless of gender, race, ability, sexual orientation, etc. It focuses on the issues that affect women, as well as other marginalized people, with the goal of empowering them and helping them achieve equality with privileged groups.

Sexual and domestic abuse are therefore important feminist issues because, though anyone regardless of gender can be the victims of these, they disproportionately affect women, people of colour, people with disabilities, and so on.

But on top of that, feminism is about making sure everyone has the freedom, education and tools required to make their own choices and become the rulers of their own destinies.

This includes, but is certainly not limited to, sexual preferences. Feminists believe that people should have the necessary information and confidence to figure out for themselves independently of society’s imposed constraints what feels good, what turns them on, and how they want to have sex—as long as it’s done between people who are fully informed and consenting.

Therefore, if someone comes to the conclusion that they enjoy being in a submissive role for sex and they want to act out fantasies of submission with a trusted partner, it in no way makes them less of a feminist—in fact, that’s feminist as hell. Feminism supports people owning their sexuality; so it’s not an excuse to start criticizing people who know what they want and actively seek it out.

But perhaps fuckboy’s issue is more with the notion of a feminist, someone supposed to fight for equality, wanting to submit themselves to the whims of another human being, very oftentimes a man?

The thing about submission is, like most other fetishes, it is the complex and unpredictable result of years of lived experience, exposure to all sorts of media, and plain old nature and nurture. And, just like every other fetish, it is a sexual fantasy that for most people in no way dictates how they wish to be treated outside of a sexual setting.

Think about it: just because you like being touched a certain way during sex does not mean that you want people to touch you that way when you’re on the bus, or making dinner, or reading, or doing whatever else. This can’t be repeated enough—consent is the key.

The truth of the matter is that we can’t control what turns us on, and our turn ons usually have nothing to do with how we live our lives. But something we can do is find ways to act out our turn ons in such a manner that is safe, respectful and enjoyable for everyone involved.

For people who enjoy experimenting with a power exchange, that’s where kink comes in. With communication, safe words, discussions about hard & soft limits, people who want to take on a dominant or submissive role during sex can do so in a way that is respectful and mutually beneficial. If you want to learn more about kink and dominant/submissive relationships, this guide is a really great start.

With all these tools at their disposal, people who are interested in being dominated—or dominating—can do so in a way that makes them and those they engage with feel comfortable. The goal is never to actually hurt someone, push someone’s boundaries or to make them feel unsafe.

Submissive feminists aren’t hypocrites. They are people who know what they like, know what they want, and know that their preferences don’t take anything away from their value as human beings.

Complete Article HERE!

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Inside the Koreatown Dojo Dedicated to the Art of Japanese Rope Bondage

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Mention anything bondage-related and Zetsu Nawa reflexively geeks out.

A participant in a recent Tuesday night class learns the basics of shibari, Japanese rope bondage.

By Lila Seidman

A casual reference to a dotted gag in one of his thousands of drawings and photos of bound women launches him into a mini-lecture about its “humiliation factor” in modern Japan. It’s just a dishtowel, he explains. “It’s like he grabbed the thing you’re using to wash your hands to gag you.” As he talks, he’s caressing a length of Japanese jute rope, which he extols for its “toothiness.”

Zetsu — an American who adopted the pseudonym to protect his identity — is the head of a one-room school in Koreatown dedicated exclusively to shibari, or erotic Japanese rope bondage. His rope work has been featured in Katy Perry’s music video “Bon Appetit” and on the cover of Jhené Aiko’s album Maniac.

Launched in its current space in 2014, L.A. Rope Dojo is tucked away on the second floor of an unassuming office building just off Western Avenue and Second Street. The walls are plastered with images of women in various states of constraint. Wooden beams stretch from wall to wall — not coincidentally, the perfect height and size for binding willing men and women to.

On a recent Tuesday night, mostly fresh-faced, young couples stream into the dojo for its sold-out, bimonthly beginner’s rope play class. They look, well, totally normal.

“Most of the people who come here would never set foot in a BDSM dungeon,” Zetsu says, crediting the historical, philosophical and artistic appeal of the practice.

At most dungeons in L.A., people go by BDSM aliases, “like BadMaster79,” Zetsu explains. “Here, people are ‘Beth’ and ‘Kevin.’” In class, Zetsu goes by his real first name. “Nobody’s thinking about hiding in a way that people tend to do in the broader BDSM scene,” he says.

Zetsu, who could pass for anyone’s affable uncle, begins every intro class by detailing the origin of shibari, which synthesizes elements from Kabuki theater and an ancient samurai policing technique.

Before students start immobilizing one another, he asks the “top” (the one doing the tying) to think of a word before grabing their partner’s wrist. The first word is “sensual.” The second is “mine.”

Subtle acts like this reflect the essence of the teaching style he learned from his longtime instructor, Yukimura Ryuu, a grandmaster of the erotic art, who stressed the Japanese concept of kokoro, or “heart,” over technique.
“If your partner is feeling things that they need to feel, then the rest of it doesn’t matter,” Zetsu says. “The rope is just a conduit to get to those feelings.”

As class progresses, a petite girl with her hands bound becomes flushed and sinks to the floor. Her equally flushed male partner asks her if she’d like to be untied. She breathes “no” and they embrace.

(Class assistant Howard, who also goes by Rope Daddy, describes the feeling as “rope drunk” — a sort of euphoric high some people experience via bondage.)

Baltimore-born Zetsu says his path to enjoying bondage was significantly more fraught than many of his students.’ In the late 1970s, at age 12, he would wait 45 minutes to download a single pixelated photo of a bound Japanese woman. He stored the images on cassette tapes; floppy disks didn’t yet exist.

It wasn’t until 2006 that he found himself in Tokyo for work and decided he had to finally explore “this thing.” He took a class with a German expat, Osada Steve, who in turn connected with him a teacher in L.A. At that time, it was still a rarefied practice in the West. Now, “It’s everywhere!” Zetsu says.

In 2010, he returned to Japan to study rope more explicitly. He is now one of only two people in the United States with a teaching certificate from the late Yukimura.

Zetsu says that in Japan, teaching “is an obligation, and a very sacred one.” He had no choice but to spread the knowledge he acquired.

Significant cultural translation is needed to bring the essence of the art form to Angelenos, he admits. For one, Zetsu says in Japan it is normal to “molest” the models during a lesson. Here, that wouldn’t go over so well.
While Zetsu acknowledges ethical questions inherent to sexual power exchange, he believes it’s a basic question of consent.

“It should ultimately be about love and care for your partner, which sounds kind of ironic as you’re tying them up and hitting them,” Zetsu says. “But that’s the whole point: You only do that to people who need it and crave it and love it.”

Ivy, a 20-something Asian woman who came to the class Tuesday with her boyfriend of 3½ years, looks gleeful in the dingy hall outside the dojo. She says she was happy to act on some of her desires for the first time.

“It’s just sort of intimidating, taking that first step,” she explains. She’s already plotting her return.

Complete Article HERE!

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