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Pesky Pronouns

Name: Lynn
Gender: Female
Age: 19
Location: Eugene, OR
I have a friend who is driving me (us) crazy. She is my age and we’ve been best friends since grade school. Last year I came out to her as a lesbian and she was very supportive and loving. This year it’s her turn. She cut her hair really short and now only wears men’s clothes. Thing is, she’s not gay, or lesbian. In fact, she doesn’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. As far as I know she’s still a virgin. She told me that she’s gender queer. I was like, OK cool. Then she changed her name and wanted all her friends to call her by her new gender-neutral name. I was like, OK cool. Now she wants us to use gender-neutral pronouns—they, their, and them when referring to “her.” This just sounds dumb. I want to be loving and supportive of her, like she was for me, but I don’t understand what’s going on. It’s like this whole thing is an act, like she is trying to see how much attention she can get. A lot of our friends have just given up on her, but I don’t want to do that. At the same time it’s like she’s mocking our trans friends who have real gender concerns. Am I being a dick for not wanting to go along with this?

Curious word choice there, young lesbian Lynn. Are you being a dick? Hell, I don’t know. What I can say for certain is, if we were being totally politically correct, we wouldn’t use euphemisms for our genitals in a derogatory way, right? Luckily, I’m not the least bit PC as you will discover from my comments below.gender-fuck

The question you raise in your email is a thorny one and I’m not sure I know how to respond. Gender is the new hot button issue and it is rapidly becoming the litmus test for PC crowd. As you suggest, it sometimes looks as though some folks are just trying to get attention or see how much the traffic will bear.

I’m going to be pretty self-referential in my response because I feel like I’ve been here before. Let me explain.

When I was about your age and into my early 20’s the modern gay lib movement here in the US was just finding its footing. Stonewall had just happened and those of us on the sexual fringe were tying to come up with a new vocabulary with which to talk about ourselves. No one I knew liked the term homosexual for obvious reasons. Some of us, myself included, preferred the term, homophile. The difference being one was about loving, the other was about sex. That term didn’t catch on, but “gay” sure did. I was fine with that, even though it wasn’t my first choice. As I began to take a closer look at my sexual orientation and identity, I became a bit more radical; gay just didn’t cut it anymore. I began to embrace the term “queer.”

look!When I was a boy, the term queer, often directed at me because I wasn’t like the other boys, was hate-filled and hurtful. It stung and I was ashamed. By my mid 20’s, however, I was no longer ashamed. In fact, I was full of a new found fervor that was connected to my new found identity as a sexual outlaw. I know for certain that my radicalness was a little off-putting to some people, even people who wanted to love and support me.

After I passed through my militancy stage, I continued to use the term queer to describe myself as a way of showing the world that I had reclaimed and detoxified the word that once brought me shame. It became my own personal badge of honor.  Maybe you’ve had a similar ark in your coming out, Lynn.

The curious thing is I’ve lived long enough to see the term I fought so hard to reclaim morph yet again. Nowadays, when someone self-identifies as queer, more often than not, it has to do with gender; it no longer has a strong sexual connotation. I feel a little bummed about this because one of my favorite words has been coopted by another group of people.  But that’s the nature of language, right?Gender-Outlaws6

Over the decades since I first began to struggle with who I was and how I would talk about myself to others, I’ve seen numerous fracturing of the solidarity we sexual outlaws might have had. There was a virulent strain of lesbian separatism that cropped up in the mid 70’s. But most of that has dissipated since. And there was the radicalism that came with HIV/AIDS, which turned quiet, unassuming, cocktail sipping homos into fearless street fighters. That too has played itself out. In fact, now that marriage equality is all the rage, some of us old queers are asking if it’s still possible to be a sexual outlaw by just being gay. I fear not. Apparently, gender benders are the new sexual outlaws. OK, my time has past; I get it. I have no hard feelings, but I do have a wistfulness for days gone by.

It’s also been my experience that some of us, and I include my younger self in this category, have an uncanny ability to alienate loads of people with our politics. That can be a good thing, but radicalism can, and often does, alienate those who would naturally be our allies as well as some of those who struggle next to us. There’s nothing more devastating to a popular movement than having a bunch of edgier-than-thou folks setting themselves up as the thought police. When this happens, as it always does, it suggests to me that we are more interested in making a point than making a connection. This is a particularly acute problem for the newly liberated crowd, often found on college campuses. They are flush with indignation as they discover that life is not fair. They tend to use the scattergun approach when doling out their fury regardless if those around them are deserved of their wrath or not.

fuck genderThe current incarnation of the gender liberation movement suffers from a lot of the excesses that other liberation movements have experienced before it—intolerance and dogmatism among them. The thing is, gender-fuck has a long history and an honored place in sexual politics. However, in the past, this has mostly expressed itself in street theater. Nowadays, there is precious little humor among the new gender warriors, and very few of these zealots can laugh at themselves. That tells me we’re all in for a very rough ride ahead.

I know how important a shift in vocabulary is to making the dominant culture see its oppression, but the pronoun thing is just awkward. For one thing, there’s no agreement on what pronouns to use for those who are rallying for gender neutrality. Some people militate for they, their, and them. Others want the even more extreme “ze,” pronounced as the letter zee. And “hir,” pronounced here. As in, “Ze went to the store and bought hirself an ice cream cone.” Well, if you wanna do that to the language go right ahead, but I refuse!

Besides, are we just supposed to use these twisted pronouns when the gender warrior is in our company, or are we to alter our vocabulary even when they aren’t around? Try using they, their, and them when referring to someone who isn’t present. Confusion will reign.gender neutral pronouns

Lynn, I don’t know your friend so I can hardly make a call on whether your friend is being authentic, disingenuous, or histrionic. But I don’t think you should beat yourself up if you draw the line at a pronoun shift. If your friend takes offense, as well your friend might, you could always compromise and use no pronouns ever in relation to your friend. Simply use your friend’s chosen name each time a pronoun might serve you better. In time, this will surely get exhausting for both you and your friend. But maybe this exercise will help your friend see that you are not the enemy and maybe your friend will then cut you a little slack.

Good luck

Pretty is what pretty does

Name: Nanine
Gender: Female
Age: 50
Location: Kent, WA.
I have problems with my body image. My breasts really sag; my abdominal skin is very loose and hanging. It affects the sexual positions I want to get in. (on top) When I am with someone new, they will tell me that I am very beautiful (they assume I will be underneath as well) and with a feeling of dread I think “wait until you see me with my clothes off.” I know men are very visual. I am very visual! I want to be free to express myself sexually, and I do for the most part, but if I have someone who wants to see me naked or really look at me, it is very hard. Any ideas?

Yeah, men are visual, and if they think you are attractive with your cloths on, maybe that’s all they care about. And anyone who would raise an eyebrow at a middle-aged woman having a middle-aged woman’s body isn’t ready for all the seasoned lovin’ a hot middle-aged woman can offer. Am I right, or am I right?  Besides, darlin’ have you seen what middle-aged men look like in the buff?

beautiful middle-aged womanI am of the mind that those of us who have been around the block a time or ten, if ya know what I mean, should have bodies that look a little lived in. Those who can’t accept that oughta take a hike. That is if you ax me!

It’s like going for a job interview and the interviewer says, “We want all the experience you have, but we want it in a person half your age.” Really?  Well, fuck you very much!  That’s not gonna happen.

Listen, Nanine, the freedom you seek to express your sexuality without encumbrances is gonna flow from inside you, from the comfort level you have in being your own self, including your saggy tits or loose abdominal skin. You either embrace your sexy self with all your assets and liabilities, or ya don’t. And if ya don’t, then it’s your fault, not some shallow dude who might dismiss you for having less than a perfect body at age 50.

So many of us script ourselves right out of all the best sex and intimacy we desire. We foolishly buy into the dominant culture’s ideas and norms of what is attractive and what is not and we do it at our own peril.

Give yourself a break, hun, be proud of those less than perky tits of yours and let your tummy hang-the fuck-out all over the place. Stand against the popular culture’s notion of beauty, vitality, and sexiness; don’t feed it. And I certainly discourage you from projecting society’s judgmental attitudes on your potential partners. After all, they may be way more liberated than you.

Good luck

Finger Your Hole For Your Health

Name: Gordon
Gender: male
Age: 67
Location: Florida
I guess I have more of a comment than a question. I’m 67, a widower and have been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. I never was very adventuresome when it came to sex. In fact before my wife died two years ago I never had sex with any other woman. I never gave prostate cancer a thought, never gave my prostate a thought either. Now I’m mad as hell that I didn’t. You see when I started to go to a prostate cancer support group I discovered I could have monitored myself better with a simple self-examination. Why don’t doctors tell us about this? Women are supposed to examine their breasts why don’t men examine their prostate? It’s so easy actually and yet it’s this big secret. Why don’t people talk about this? It makes me so mad because it could have made a big difference in my own life. Do you know about this self-examination Dr Dick? If you do why don’t you tell other people about this? I think it would help a lot if you could get the word out on this. Now that’s all I have to say. Thank you.

No, thank you Gordon. Thank you for sharing your concern with me…with us.

I’ve been an active proponent of prostate self-exam for many years. Let me explain. My career as a therapist began in San Francisco in 1981. As you may recall, that was precisely the same year a mysterious new disease began showing up among gay men. Back then it was being called gay cancer, but soon it would have another name — HIV/AIDS.

give prostate cancer the fingerNot surprisingly, my private practice focused down almost exclusively to working with sick and dying people. Luckily, I discovered that I was well suited for the job and I liked it very much. So much so that in the mid-90’s I founded a nonprofit organization called, PARADIGM, Enhancing Life Near Death. It was an outreach and resource for terminally ill, chronically ill, elder and dying people. This was brilliant cutting-edge work and I learned so much from the people I was working with. One of the things that struck me most was that regardless of the disease — cancer, HIV, MS, you name it, or aging process for that matter — there was always a woeful lack of information about regaining a sense of sexual-self post diagnosis, or sexual wellbeing for seniors in general.

This was such an important topic for me that I decided to include a chapter on sex and intimacy concerns for sick, elder, and dying people in my book, The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying.  I am proud to say that it is one of the only resources of its kind available in print.

I recall one PARADIGM group in particular, there was a man much, like you, Gordon, who had fingering his assprostate cancer. And, like you, he was mad as hell with the indifference of the medical industry toward prostate self-exam. One day during a group session, John was railing against his doctors and cancer associations for their lack of interest in promoting prostate self-awareness. He pointed to the success of the cultural campaign to get women to do breast self-exams. Like you, Gordon, he couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a similar campaign for men.

Another group member, Marie, a senior woman in her 70’s and a breast cancer survivor, helped put things in perspective. She reminded us that breast self-awareness in our culture is a relatively new phenomenon. Her mother, aunt, sister, and a niece all died of breast cancer before the self-exam campaign began in earnest. Clare went on to say that it was only through the hard work of individuals and grassroots organizations that actively campaigned for breast self-exams that things began to change. Eventually, this movement changed the cultural mindset. Clare said that it was these individuals and grassroots organizations that helped all of us — medical industry, the cancer lobby and women in general — overcome the denial, shame and embarrassment that was associated with women touching themselves, even to save their lives.

prostate examThis is an indication of just how ingrained the sex-negativity and body-negativity runs in this culture.

I continued to work with sick and dying people here in Seattle. I had a brief gig at a local cancer center where I developed an NIH (National Institute of Health) funded program for women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was also working with a group of women with breast cancer and another group of men with prostate cancer. Again I realized that just about every therapeutic intervention I encountered — government funded or foundation funded — was woefully lacking in any clear and unambiguous information about sexual health and wellbeing and intimacy issues.

To remedy this, I began planning a video series for people experiencing life threatening and/or disfiguring illnesses. Videos that would help them address reintegrating sex and intimacy post diagnosis. One of the first videos was going to be Public Service Announcement showing men how to do a prostate self-exam. By the way, this particular film was to be dedicated to my friend John, the guy I mentioned earlier. He died shortly after the PARADIGM group he was in ended. But he died self-aware. He was militant to the end about the pressing need for prostate awareness among men.

Once again the stumbling block I encountered was funding. My grant writing efforts turned up nothing. I did get a whole lot of, “what a fine idea, Richard. Good luck with that…” brush-off letters though. No foundation would be caught dead funding sexually overt pattern films, even ones with the laudable intent of assisting people with the very information they needed most.

I’m sorry to have been so long-winded in my reply, Gordon. I just wanted you to know that many have preceded you with outrage at the conspiracy of silence regarding prostate self-exam. Let’s face it; our society is so ass-phobic that we’d rather see men die than offer them simple instructions how to finger their butt, find their prostate and keep tabs on their prostate health.

If we want this to change we all need to speak out…as well as stick a finger in our ass.

Keep up the fight, Gordon! And please, stay in touch.

Good luck

A Rose By Any Other Name

We’re all back from spring break. The Dr Dick Review Crew is all rested and relaxed. Sadly, I can’t say the same thing about me. oh well, no rest for the wicked.

Doc:

I enjoy your podcast, the frankness and open vocabulary is exactly what I like. No need in beating around the bush, just get to the point. Wish more people would live by that philosophy.

Ok. I am a 45 YO, gay male, very experienced sexually, some say whore… LOL! I enjoy a lot of fetishes; the unusual has always been very attractive to me. The more bizarre the more I will probably like it.

Until I was about 40 I was a DOM top. I started experimenting with the group party world and enjoyed it greatly. Became an experienced fisting top with some formal training, I guess you could call it an apprentice who graduated, or so I thought. Then a few of the FF bottoms suggested I was missing something. Because I didn’t have any experience as a FF bottom I couldn’t realize the true feelings and emotions involved with fisting. I was encouraged to experience fisting as a bottom.

This was a HUGE ordeal for me. The mental change alone was like, wow. The first time I crawled into a sling and had my whole ass on display, legs spread like a woman at her gynecologist…man was I uncomfortable. This was 5 years ago. Now I can hop into a sling and take a fist-fuck fairly easy. I now understand the advice given to me: I finally understand what fisting is all about.

Now my issues.

I have changed. My whole personality has been altered. Changing from a Dominate Top to fisting bottom has created issues with my head and overall sexuality. These changes are now affecting my sex life. I guess I need some help figuring things out.

Thanks,
Jimmy

Thank you, Jimmy, for your message and your kind words about my podcasts.

We really get boxed in with all our self-identification we do, huh? I mean I know why we categorize ourselves and others as gay or straight, top or bottom, sub or Dom. It helps us understand ourselves and communicate in a kind of shorthand with others. But there is a downside to this, as you suggest.sex sling

I believe that human sexual response is a whole lot more fluid than we give it credit for. But this fluidity is often stifled when we overly compartmentalize ourselves or others. Not to mention the fallacy of the binary system — being one thing or the other.  It just ain’t so and you are the perfect case in point.

I’m always talking about how the best tops are those who, on occasion, bottom. The best submissives are those who, on occasion, dominate. Besides the wider range of experience this provides us, we also grow in emotional maturity encompassing both our yin and yang.

Also the words we use to describe ourselves have, over time, become heavily laden with unintended cultural connotations. Top/bottom, sub/Dom are classic examples of this. That’s why I believe that we ought, from time to time, reinvent the language we use to talk about ourselves. In this case, I prefer terms like: giver/receiver over top/bottom. A change in vocabulary can certainly cut through a lot of the cultural nonsense and it can open the door to a more fluid sexual expression; as I believe it ought to be.nekkidbookclub

I hasten to add that at lot of hard-core pervs disagree with me on this. And that’s perfectly fine with me. It’s just that, if our language detracts from our experience, or hems us in, rather than facilitates it, and frees us up, something’s out of whack.

You will pardon the shameless self-promotion, but I’d like to call your attention to my latest book, The Gospel of Kink. It’s a communication and relationship building workshop in workbook form. It centers on the skills us kinksters need to communicate with others, and initiate, build, and maintain the relationships that will serve us well. Learn how to ask for what you want and get what you ask for from the people best situated to fulfill your desires. The book covers a lot of the territory that you raise in your question.

Stay in touch and let me know how this sits with you.

Good luck

We’ve Only Just Begun…

Name: Donna
Gender: Female
Age: 18
Location: Salt Lake City.
I’m turning to you for help, because I don’t have anyone else to ask. My boyfriend, who is 19, and I are very much in love. We plan to marry next year. But we both want to start having sex now. We are both virgins and we think we need help overcoming the natural obstacles, if you know what I mean.

Gee, I’m not sure I know what you mean by natural obstacles. Are you talking about physical things? Emotional things? Maybe you just need a little tutorial on how to get started. I’ll try to at least touch upon all these things, but first I want to thank you for entrusting me with your concerns. I’m sorry to hear that you don’t have others in your community to approach. I guess that says a lot about the family values and community standards where you live.

teen_sexuality.jpgI have lots to say about beginning a sexual life with another person. Curiously enough the information I am about to share is applicable to both women and men and it applies to any and all sexual orientations. That’s the beautiful part of human sexuality. There is so much common ground. In fact, there is way more that we have in common than what separates us.

Ok, so here goes. Be yourselves. Let your natural feeling of affection for one another lead you. Always use a condom (This applies to penis/vagina and/or anal sex.) Be gentle; be curious; seek your partner’s pleasure before your own; and most importantly, have a sense of humor about the whole damned thing.

Just about everyone who is sexually inexperienced will also lack sexual confidence. It can be nerve-wracking not being sure what to do to satisfy your partner. Sometimes this nervousness is contagious. Your anxiety can make your partner anxious. The surefire way to get around this is to not pretend you know what the fuck you’re doing, if ya don’t. The best way to find out what to do is to ask your partner what he/she likes and how she/he likes it. If they don’t know or can’t tell you, then you can find out together with some sex play. And I do mean play, not work.1sexual_response_cycle_male

This is where our natural sexual curiosity comes in. And we all have that to one degree or another. Sexual confidence comes from knowing. Curiosity will bring you knowledge.

There will be no room for curiosity if the only thing on your mind is the old in an out. That’s why I suggest you put off full-on fucking till you get the lay of the land, so to speak. Besides, there are lots and lots of ways to pleasure yourself and your partner that doesn’t involve intercourse.

Like I said, sexual confidence comes with understanding the mysteries of our sexual response cycle. Each one of us is different and the differences are most pronounced between the sexes. If you haven’t discovered at least the fundamentals of your own response cycle through masturbation; then you’re really not really ready to gift yourself to another person just yet.

female sexual response cycleYa see, the more you know about your body; how it works; where your pleasure centers are; the kind of stimulation you need and want to come to full arousal; the more information you’ll have to pass on to your partner. Even if your partner is more experienced than you, he/she will still need to get to know the intricacies of your individual response cycle.

Sexual confidence stems from being able to please your partner. When you know what you are doing you project an air of self-assurance. This is not the same thing as cockiness, mind you, although that might be a very fun attribute to have too.

The best lovers look to pleasure their partners before they expect to be pleasured. Delaying your own pleasure, particularly if you’re a guy, so that you can provide multiple orgasms to your partner will reap great pleasurable rewards for you when it’s your turn. Besides, giving pleasure is often as pleasurable as being pleasured.

Sexual confidence translates into sexual assertiveness. Each partner should take equal responsibility for initiating sex. Trust me, this is not merely a man’s role. And sexual assertiveness translates into sexual creativity. If you’re timid about trying new things, you’re gonna short-circuit a whole lot of pleasure.black teens

Learn to ask for what you want and how you want it. Communication is key to a healthy and vibrant sex life. Never underestimate the your partner’s ability to develop and grow sexually. Check in with your partner on a regular basis. Don’t assume you know what turns him/her on today, just because it turned her/his crank the other day.

Feelings of sexual inadequacy, discomfort with your body, anxiety about your skills will destroy your sex life. If you are plagued with any of these things get help with them before your bring them to a sexual partnership.

sexual confidenceSexual confidence comes down to knowing yourself and being able to communicate your likes and wants to your partner. If you’re simply gonna be passive about your pleasure, you’ll wind up getting only what is dished out to you. And for many women, that is woefully insufficient. Don’t expect your partner to know any more about pleasuring you than you do, even if she/he has had more partners then you.

Allow yourselves the time or space you need to feed your intimacy needs. If you expect to discover sexuality with your partner in the backseat of a car, you’re gonna cum up short. Passion and spontaneity is great, but what I’m talking about is different from that. Think of it as learning to walk before you run.

Being a terrific lover is dependent on know-how. Skill comes through practice. So practice, practice, practice! Keep it fun. When it stops being play and starts being work, put it aside for another day.

Good luck

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