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Why (Some) Women Love Strap-Ons

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Last week, I found myself at Cafe Gratitude in Los Angeles, eating a gluten-free scone and fuming about gender, as one does in 2016. On the receiving end of my rant was my friend “Lori,” a 23-year-old MFA student studying queer theory. I was saying something like, “Sure, it’s cool that we live in this post-everything world where gender is over and hetero-normativity is off-trend and all the rules of sexuality have been thrown out the window. Life is more free now. But we’re also being forced to ask ourselves some serious questions. Like, ‘Does shaving my armpits make me a bad feminist?’ And, more pressingly, ‘Is my strap-on a symbol of male supremacy?’ And if so, should I set it on fire as a performance art piece?”

Lori sipped her green juice and rolled her eyes. “I love wearing a strap-on,” she said, casually flipping her long curls behind her shoulders. “Even though my dildo is bright pink and it’s this laborious process to strap yourself in, something about it still feels real. It’s some Freudian bullshit, but it just feels so fun and powerful to have a penis.” This wasn’t the “feminist” answer I was expecting.

A few nights later, I met my friend “Claire,” a 31-year-old screenwriter, for drinks at the Sunset Tower. Claire is somewhat of a unicorn in that she’s a straight woman who gets off on wearing a dildo. “Think about it: Men are the ones with a prostate. Why isn’t every woman fucking her boyfriend with a strap-on?” Claire asked, as an elderly man played jazz piano in the background. “It’s crazy, you actually feel like you have a dick. I’ve been pegging this guy I met at a Dave Matthews concert.”

Claire admitted that this was not a bucket-list moment for her. “I knew what pegging was because of that Broad City episode where Abbi pegs her crush, but I was never like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t wait until the moment when I finally get to peg someone.’ ” Her tone turned almost motherly.“I think every woman should experience fucking a man at some point in her life, even just as a therapeutic tool. It’s very empowering. I never thought this would be part of my life story, but here I am. I’m fucking a man.”

After meeting through friends at said concert last fall, Claire and her pegging partner, “Jim,” bonded on a party-bus ride back to West Hollywood, talking about sex.They ended up back at Jim’s apartment, where he produced a double-sided glass dildo—one end for the pegging, the other end shaped like a hook, to be inserted inside a vagina. “It’s essentially a strapless strap-on,” Claire explained. “It’s the chicest kind. I could never go back from this.”

She liked it far more than she expected to. “It’s such a shift in the power dynamic. I kept thinking, I’m literally penetrating someone right now. Plus, it’s a vaginal workout because you have to grip the dildo with your vagina while you use it. It’s basically exercise, which I love. I’m very health-conscious,” she said, gulping her second martini. For the next two months, the two met up for sex regularly. “He would get a colonic every time before I came over,” she said enthusiastically. “He was really on point about his whole anal grooming and cleansing journey.”

Beyond the thrill of the power shift, what Claire didn’t expect was how intimate the sex would be. “The person has to be very trusting of you. You have to listen to their physical cues and gauge if they’re having pleasure or if you’re hurting them. You have a lot of control, and that became very sexy to me. Before Jim, I’d always thought of myself as submissive, but through that experience I accessed a totally different side of myself.”

She made it sound so bizarrely appealing. I wondered if I should resurrect my strap-on from the junk box under my bed, where it’s been in exile since my breakup with my now ex-girlfriend four months ago. When I met my ex, one of the first things I did was run to a sex store and buy a large purple dildo and leather harness. It was my first same-sex relationship, and I was like, “This is what lesbians do, right?” As it turned out, we used the strap-on only like four times in our three-year relationship—partly because it quickly dawned on me that I didn’t need to imitate heterosexual sex in order to validate my queer sex. In the years that followed, I found it insulting when people would ask me, “But don’t you miss dick?” As if the penis is the holy grail of pleasure. Similarly, my androgynous girlfriend resented the fact that just because she wore boys’ clothes, people assumed she wanted a penis. (One day, I remember, she put on the strap-on, looked down, and said, “Wait, I’m gay and dicks are weird. Why is this thing on me?”)

But my worst fear is being one of those cyber-feminists who’s offended by everything, so in order to challenge my aversion to strap-ons, I organized a queer, roundtable lunch with strap-on loving Lori and my particularly opinionated friend Mel, a 37-year-old queer actress.

“My hand is my sexual object,” said Mel, displaying the hand in question, with its immaculately manicured fingernails. “A lot of women get off wearing a strap-on, either psychologically or because of the way it rubs against their clit, but I don’t. I feel erotic pleasure through my fingers. It’s sexual reiki: If I can make you come with my hand, then can I extend that power five inches in front of my hand? Ten inches? Can I sit across the room from you and make you come? When you’re at that level, a fucking phallus seems like kindergarten for me.” The conversation became heated very quickly.

“So is penis envy actually a thing?” I asked. “I just don’t understand why, if you’re queer, you need to bring a fake dick into the bedroom.”

“I know lesbians who, when they go on a Tinder date, will pack their penis in their bag,” said Mel. “Like, that’s their dick. They’re not trans, but they want to be able to fuck their girl without using their hands. When I was younger I wanted that,” she recalled. “I didn’t want a dick all the time, but I wanted to be able to fuck a girl and choke her with both hands, basically.”

“I don’t care to over-intellectualize or over-politicize it,” said Lori. “If you like being fucked by a strap-on, it’s not a reflection on your sexuality. I get where you’re coming from, but if it feels good, then what’s the problem? My girlfriend and I aren’t secretly wanting to have sex with a man.”

This made sense to me. If the point of sex is to create intimacy and to give and receive pleasure, then why restrict yourself from something that feels good just because of the patriarchy or whatever? After all, being a lesbian isn’t about hating dicks, and using a strap-on isn’t about wanting to be a man.

Through my own queer experience, in fact, I’ve learned that it often isn’t true that the more “masculine” or butch woman would be the one to wear a strap-on in the relationship. Mel put it well: “Our default is to think that, in a power dynamic, masculine is top and feminine is bottom. But a butch woman will often want to be subjugated sexually because she has to armor herself in the world so much. She has to be tough, just like a man does. It’s like the Wall Street guy who sees a dominatrix on the weekend. That’s why they say, ‘Butch in the streets, femme in the sheets.’ ”

Speaking of femme tops, I told them about Claire and her pegging saga, which incited a literal round of applause. “I wish more guys would get into pegging,” Mel said. “I think if men knew more about what it was like to get fucked, they would be better at fucking. The only reason men don’t get pegged more often is because of gay shame and bottom shame. It’s really hard for straight men to bottom because they think it’s emasculating, when in reality it can be super hot.”

Beyond all the politics, one can’t deny that strap-ons have a lot of advantages. You never have to worry about a dildo being soft or too small or diseased, and it won’t accidentally get you pregnant. As Mel put it: “When you’re having sex with a real penis, sex becomes all about what feels good for the penis, and then the penis has to throw up all over your tits. But a strap-on is just for the woman’s pleasure. The dildo doesn’t need to be satisfied.”

“That’s true,” Lori agreed. “Dildos are not demanding at all.”

“It’s just a hands-free device,” added Mel. “Like a selfie stick.”

Complete Article HERE!

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8 Steps for Choosing a Strap-On Harness for Men

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By Mistress Kay

Strap-on fun isn’t just for women. Men can have fun, too. Use these 8 steps to choose the best strap-on harness for your needs.

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Did you know that even if you have a penis that you can still wear a strap-on harness? Yes, manufacturers make strap-on harnesses for the male-bodied as well as the female-bodied. While males can definitely wear strap-on harnesses designed for women, some find that the pressure it places on the penis and testicles to be uncomfortable. Strap-on harnesses for male bodies are designed with a penis in mind, providing much better comfort.

Strap-ons for people who have a penis can be used for a variety of play times. Some people like to use them as an alternative to penetrative sex (or in kinky contexts, as a “punishment” where the wearer doesn’t get to be directly involved in stimulation). Other people like to strap them on to continue the penetrative action after the penis has gotten soft (due to orgasm or other reasons). Yet others like to explore the idea of double penetration.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Sex Toy Shops That Switched On a Feminist Revolution

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The “White Cross Electric Vibrator Girl” as pictured in a 1911 Health and Beauty catalog.

BUZZ
The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy
By Hallie Lieberman
Illustrated. 359 pp. Pegasus Books. $26.95.

VIBRATOR NATION
How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure
By Lynn Comella
278 pp. Duke University Press. $25.95.

Think back, for a moment, to the year 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. The Beatles released the “White Album.” North Vietnam launched the Tet offensive. And American women discovered the clitoris. O.K., that last one may be a bit of an overreach, but 1968 was when “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm,” a short essay by Anne Koedt, went that era’s version of viral. Jumping off of the Masters and Johnson bombshell that women who didn’t climax during intercourse could have multiple orgasms with a vibrator, Koedt called for replacing Freud’s fantasy of “mature” orgasm with women’s lived truth: It was all about the clitoris. That assertion single-handedly, as it were, made female self-love a political act, and claimed orgasm as a serious step to women’s overall emancipation. It also threatened many men, who feared obsolescence, or at the very least, loss of primacy. Norman Mailer, that famed phallocentrist, raged in his book “The Prisoner of Sex” against the emasculating “plenitude of orgasms” created by “that laboratory dildo, that vibrator!” (yet another reason, beyond the whole stabbing incident, to pity the man’s poor wives).

To be fair, Mailer & Co. had cause to quake. The quest for sexual self-knowledge, as two new books on the history and politics of sex toys reveal, would become a driver of feminist social change, striking a blow against men’s overweening insecurity and the attempt (still with us today) to control women’s bodies. As Lynn Comella writes in “Vibrator Nation,” retailers like Good Vibrations in San Francisco created an erotic consumer landscape different from anything that previously existed for women, one that was safe, attractive, welcoming and ultimately subversive, presenting female sexual fulfillment as “unattached to reproduction, motherhood, monogamy — even heterosexuality.”

As you can imagine, both books (which contain a great deal of overlap) are chockablock with colorful characters, starting with Betty Dodson, the Pied Piper of female onanism, who would often personally demonstrate — in the nude — how to use a vibrator to orgasm during her early sexual consciousness-raising workshops in New York. I am woman, hear me roar indeed.

Back in the day, though, attaining a Vibrator of One’s Own was tricky. The leering male gaze of the typical “adult” store was, at best, off-putting to most women. Amazon, where sex toys, like fresh produce, are just a mouse click away, was still a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye. Enter Dell Williams, who after being shamed by a Macy’s salesclerk while checking out a Hitachi Magic Wand, founded in 1974 the mail order company Eve’s Garden. That was quickly followed by Good Vibrations, the first feminist sex toy storefront; it’s great fun to read the back story of Good Vibes’ late founder, Joani Blank, along with radical “sexperts” like Susie Bright and Carol Queen.
Continue reading the main story

The authors of “Vibrator Nation” and “Buzz” each put in time observing how sex toys are sold, so have firsthand insight into the industry. Whose take will hold more appeal depends on the reader’s interests: In “Buzz,” Hallie Lieberman offers a broader view, taking us back some 30,000 years, when our ancestors carved penises out of siltstone; moving on to the ancient Greeks’ creative use of olive oil; the buzzy medical devices of the 19th century (disappointingly, doctors’ notorious in-office use of vibrators as treatment for female “hysteria” is urban legend); and the impact of early-20th-century obscenity laws — incredibly, sex toys remain illegal in Alabama — before digging deeply into more contemporary influences. In addition to feminist retailers, Lieberman braids in stories of men like Ted Marche, whose family business — employing his wife and teenage children — began by making prosthetic strap-ons for impotent men; Gosnell Duncan, who made sex aids for the disabled and was the first to expand dildo production beyond the Caucasian pink once called “flesh colored”; the Malorrus brothers, who were gag gift manufacturers (think penis pencil toppers); and the hard-core porn distribution mogul Reuben Sturman, who repeatedly, and eventually disastrously, ran afoul of the law. Although their X-rated wares would supposedly give women orgasms, unlike the feminist-championed toys they were sold primarily as devices that would benefit men. Much like the era’s sexual revolution, in other words, they maintained and even perpetuated a sexist status quo.

“Vibrator Nation” focuses more narrowly on women-owned vendors, wrestling with how their activist mission bumped up against the demands and constraints of the marketplace. Those early entrepreneurs, Comella writes, believed nothing less than that “women who had orgasms could change the world.” As with other utopian feminist visions, however, this one quickly splintered. Controversy broke out over what constituted “sex positivity,” what constituted “woman-friendly,” what constituted “woman.” Was it politically correct to stock, or even produce, feminist porn? Were BDSM lesbians invited to the party? Would the stores serve transwomen? Did the “respectable” aesthetic of the white, middle-class founders translate across lines of class and race? If the goal was self-exploration through a kind of cliteracy, what about customers (of any gender or sexual orientation) who wanted toys for partnered play or who enjoyed penetrative sex? Could a sex store that sold nine-inch, veined dildos retain its feminist bona fides? Dell Williams solved that particular problem by commissioning nonrepresentational silicone devices with names like “Venus Rising” from Gosnell Duncan, the man who made prosthetics for the disabled. Others followed suit.

Even so, Comella writes, the retailers struggled to stay afloat: Feminist stores refused, as a matter of principle, to trade on customers’ anxiety — there were none of the “tightening creams,” “numbing creams,” penis enlargers or anal bleaches that boosted profits at typical sex stores. Employees were considered “educators,” and sales were secondary to providing information and support. What’s more, Good Vibrations in particular was noncompetitive; Blank freely shared her business model with any woman interested in spreading the love.

Consumer culture and feminism have always been strange bedfellows, with the former tending to overpower the latter. Just as Virginia Slims co-opted the message of ’70s liberation, as the Spice Girls cannibalized ’90s grrrl power, so feminist sex stores exerted their influence on the mainstream, yet were ultimately absorbed and diluted by it. In 2007, Good Vibrations was sold to GVA-TWN, the very type of sleazy mega-sex-store company it was founded to disrupt. Though no physical changes have been made in the store, Good Vibrations is no longer woman-owned. Although the aesthetics haven’t changed, Lieberman writes, the idea of feminist sex toys as a source of women’s liberation has faded, all but disappeared. An infamous episode of “Sex and the City” that made the Rabbit the hottest vibrator in the nation also portrayed female masturbation as addictive and isolating, potentially leading to permanent loneliness. The sex toys in “Fifty Shades of Grey” were wielded solely in service of traditional sex and gender roles: A man is in charge of Anastasia Steele’s sexual awakening, and climax is properly experienced through partnered intercourse. Meanwhile, the orgasm gap between genders has proved more stubborn than the pay gap. Women still experience one orgasm for every three experienced by men in partnered sex. And fewer than half of teenage girls between 14 and 17 have ever masturbated.

At the end of “Buzz,” Lieberman makes a provocative point: Viagra is covered by insurance but vibrators aren’t, presumably because while erections are seen as medically necessary for sexual functioning the same is not true of female orgasm. Like our feminist foremothers, she envisions a new utopia, one in which the F.D.A. regulates sex toys to ensure their safety, in which they are covered by insurance, where children are taught about them in sex education courses and they are seen and even subsidized worldwide as a way to promote women’s sexual health.

In other words: We’ve come a long way, baby, but as “Vibrator Nation” and “Buzz” make clear, we still may not be coming enough.

Complete Article HERE!

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Everything you need for a beginner’s kink-friendly Valentine’s Day

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If vanilla sex doesn’t really do it for you, imagine the bounty that Valentine’s Day could be if you decided to celebrate it the BDSM-friendly way – with all the necessary kink toys.

Whether you’ve always looked at handcuffs with a glint in your eye or got interested in kink thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s a fun playground to express your sexual personality and have fun with your partner. If you’re a beginner, start slow and enjoy the exploration. We have a few recommendations to help you begin your journey too.

1. Burn your copy of Fifty Shades and grab one of these instead.

Fifty Shades of Grey may be a popular book, but it’s a poor guide when it comes to properly honoring the rules of BDSM. For that, you’ll need to turn back to some of the classics in the genre.We have a handy list right here we highly recommend. In addition to the classics, a book like The Ultimate Guide To Kink is a great way to learn about the rules and concepts that BDSM is defined by.

Price on Amazon: $19.18 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)

2. Try out restraints.

The only way to find out if one or both of you like restraints is to give it a try. While you could start with a regular old pair of handcuffs, we suggest something with a little padding to ease you into the experience. If you really enjoy it, upgrade to a nicer pair (Ardour Crafts makes a solid set).

Price on Amazon: $9.99

3. Experiment with a blindfold.

If you’d like to see what sensory deprivation is like, a blindfold is a good place to start. We suggest you forego the super cheap ones and try out a wider style that completely blocks out light that can seep in around the nose or at the top of the forehead. Try pairing it with the handcuffs to see how it feels. There’s lots to choose from in the kink world when it comes to masks, but this is a classic start.

Price on Amazon: $6.99

4. Explore your sadomasochistic side.

If you think you might like spanking (or know you do), trying out a crop is the next best option. It’s not quite as intense as a full whip and creates a more concentrated sting. If you’re super into it, try out a horse whip next – you won’t regret it.

Price on Amazon: $16.99

5. Strap on a collar.

Submissives love the feeling of a leather collar around their necks. This one attaches a leash that’s perfect for that extra bit of roleplay you may be looking for. Put all these goodies together, and your Valentine’s Day is going to leave chocolates and flowers in the dust.

Price on Amazon: $25.99

6. Rope Bondage.

Beginner? Just getting started and not sure what you need or what to do?  The Twisted Monk crew answers the top five questions they get from folks trying rope for the first time to help you find your way picking out your rope kit. (For more in-depth product and ordering information, check out their FAQ.)

Complete Article HERE!

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What a leather convention can teach everyone about sex and consent

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I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

“Hotel is closed for private event” read the signs affixed to the front of the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last weekend. A steady stream of people, mostly men, many in leather harnesses, some in collars and on leashes, and some simply in jeans and sweaters, walked in and out in an almost continuous stream.

Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL), now in its 48th year, is a three-day long celebration of the leather community, a subculture that celebrates various sexual kinks, many centered around leather and toys. Bears, daddies, pups and others identifying with various subsets roam the Hyatt Regency, participating in conference-like demonstrations about suspension (BDSM where you’re bound and hung) and electro (BDSM involving electric shocks), buying handcrafted leather goods and sex toys, and, of course, partying. (Actual sex was not part of the convention but no doubt took place in private.) It’s a predominantly LGBTQ centric space, although look closely enough and you’re sure to find people on every part of the gender and sexuality spectrum.

My first MAL was in the winter of 2016. I’d just gone through a breakup and my friend had suggested that perhaps it would be good for me to explore life beyond my comfort zone. “Just get ready,” he’d said, “it may be more than your little vanilla heart can handle.” And he wasn’t entirely wrong. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle it, but I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

That first year I met Adam, a dentist in town from Texas just for MAL. “You look like you could use a drink,” he said back in a hotel room he was sharing with a friend of mine.

“Do I look that out of place?” I asked. I’d put on a leather jacket to try to blend in.

“Not out of place,” he said, “just kind of shocked.”

And shocked I was. Not necessarily at anything that was going on at the hotel that night, but more so at the fact that for the better part of my life I’d allowed myself to believe that this kind of sexual openness was only available to a certain kind of person.

“Where I grew up, there wasn’t really anything like this,” said Anthony, a 30-year-old living in Arlington, Va., who grew up in Portsmouth. (The sources for this story preferred that only first names be used, for privacy reasons). “There was no kink culture, and I really wanted to explore it. Everyone here was super welcoming, and that’s why I keep coming back.”

This was a common sentiment. “It’s a different part of the gay family,” said Garret, 28, who lives in Washington. “We all have different interests … and if nobody else respects that, come to MAL because they do here.”

Respect, as it turns out, is a dominating theme throughout the course of the weekend. You might expect that when many attendees are walking around in only a jockstrap and a harness, but it is pleasantly surprising to see how strictly they adhere to that principle. In the era of #MeToo, when more and more queer folks are being vocal about the role consent plays in queer spaces, perhaps the leather and kink communities have something to teach the general public about active and enthusiastic consent.

Ask for permission before petting. Hold out your hand and let the pup come to you first. If the pup doesn’t, or turns or growls, let them be as they may not want to or have permission. This is rule No. 5 as listed on the board outside the 10th anniversary mosh at the MAL Puppy Park, a yearly tradition in which individuals who participate in pup play — a BDSM role-play wherein one participant acts as the “pup” and one as the handler — have an opportunity to interact with other pups. Other rules include: Nudity is not permitted in public spaces, genitals cannot be exposed and DO NOT pull on a pup’s tail or collar. It can cause injury and is disrespectful. Change some of the verbiage and perhaps these would be appropriate guidelines to post at the Academy Awards.

“It’s where I met my current roommate,” said Allyn, a 31-year-old originally from Wisconsin who now lives in Washington, of his first MAL experience. “It was exhilarating. I’d never seen anything like it. It make me feel brave and nervous at the same time.” He didn’t speak to his would-be roommate the first night they met, however. “I mean, I had a ball gag in at the time,” he recounted.

Zack, 23, from Baltimore, also used the world “exhilarating” when describing his first MAL experience. “I got chills coming down the escalator into the lobby of the hotel,” he said. “It’s the closest thing to Folsom I’ve ever been too,” a reference to the San Francisco street fair that’s the world’s largest leather celebration.

Everyone I spoke to talked about descending that escalator on the evening of the opening party. It is truly a complete sensory experience. The sight, sound and smell of wall-to-wall leather and latex on every kind of body, not just seen but celebrated and appreciated.

While I was talking to Garret about the weekend, someone he appeared to know approached him, whispered something in his ear and, after he nodded yes, lifted Garret’s arm and began to sniff his armpit. Garret continued to answer my questions without pause. “There may be something over here that’s not your thing, but then you’ll look over there and see something going on that you’re totally into,” he explained “Don’t be shy, don’t judge other people for something you don’t understand. And above all, come and have a good time. No one is here to be spectacled. It can be a learning and cultural experience.” The sniffer had moved on to his other armpit by the time he finished talking.

Although I have yet to be brave enough to buy and wear a harness to MAL myself, each year I attend I move closer toward that goal. At the very least, the event has highlighted for me the fact that there is an exciting world beyond the “vanilla” one I’d relegated myself to — and has given me a better understanding of the queer community as a whole. At one point, in the leather market, a man who had recently undergone top surgery was trying on a new harness next to a group of folks signing to one another, while feet away a $1,400 bejeweled pup hood was on sale. Only at MAL.

Complete Article HERE!

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