A Sex-Positive Play List

I’m super excited about my classes beginning this semester. I get to take two electives in which I’m extremely interested, one of which is a class on sexuality. In preparation for a full semester of reading about and discussing all things sex, I’ve developed a sex-positive, badass playlist that is as representative as I can find.

I’ve gotten requests to pass on the playlist from a number of friends, so I’m posting it here.

I’m also really interested in continuing to expand it, so if you notice that there is a song you know about that I don’t have, feel free to make a suggestion in the comments. I’m currently strapped for songs by male artists that are sex-positive and respectful.

Enjoy the following playlist! (I’m having a hard time getting the new WordPress format to cooperate with YouTube videos, so I’m linking also to the song through the title).

  1. Love Myself by Hailee Seinfeld
    Everyone needs to celebrate masturbation! Can you scream your own name?

  2. Touch of my Hand by Britney Spears
    Another good masturbation anthem.

  3. Sexercize by Kylie Minogue
    Work it!

  4. Shut Up and Drive by Rihanna
    Because someone needed to make the obvious innuendo

  5. Made to Love by John Legend
    An all-around beautiful song with a beautiful music video celebrating beautiful sex in diverse forms

  6. Worth It by Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink
    What could be better than women celebrating their sexuality by saying exactly what they want?

  7. Let’s Talk About Sex by Salt n’ Pepa
    Isn’t it time we destigmatized the topic?

  8. S & M by Rihanna
    A little celebration of some kink needs to be represented, of course.

  9. Candyman by Christina Aguilera
    Just and all around fun song

  10. LoveGame by Lady Gaga
    Of course Lady Gaga needs to be on here!

  11. Three by Britney Spears
    Not everyone is monogamous. Britney gets that.

  12. Blow by Beyonce
    Possibly one of the sexiest songs on the list, and obviously an anthem to oral.

  13. Lick It by God-Des and She
    As much a celebration of women loving women as it is a tutorial on how to do a woman…Unfortunately, I can’t find a non-censored version of this song, but if you buy the actual version it’s explicit. :)

  14. Lady Marmalade by Patti LaBelle
    Although sex work requires a much more nuanced conversation, I included a sex-positive prostitution song because I think it needs to be represented. I would never presume that all sex workers feel positive about their work, especially given the deplorable way our nation treats them and the rampant sexism and violence of patriarchy; however, I also would never presume that all sex workers hate their jobs because that’s just not true. So, my disclaimer is that I recognize this song is a limited perspective, romanticized view of prostitution that may have limited applicability.

  15. None of Your Business by Salt n’ Pepa
    For all the haters

  16. Sugar in my Bowl by Nina Simone
    I had to end with a throwback to the dirty blues!

A Story of Love and Marriage

If you compared my partner and me today to who we were as a couple when we first married, you would hardly recognize our marriage as the same marriage.

In fact, today we don’t even call it a marriage. Neither of us wears a ring, and I only refer to my partner as my “husband” when I don’t see another way around a system that still often places men as the head of the home.

We got married because we felt we had to in order to live together and escape the cult. Looking back, it wasn’t my wisest decision. I was conditioned to not just tolerate abuse but to actually consider it an expression of love. The odds of my choosing someone from within the cult who would reject that kind of power when I thought it my literal duty to grovel at his feet were probably against me.

The odds of us staying together after we left and throughout our deconversion process were also probably against us.

Every cycle of growth that one of us went through often required a redefinition of what our relationship was, but somehow we managed to stay connected and in love in spite of an unviable relationship model and significant individual changes to our worldviews.

Despite being a choice that I would never recommend to anyone else, it’s been a choice that I have never regretted.

I’ve often thought about what I would do if I were still partnered with my partner but unmarried. If I could take my current feminist consciousness and give it to my 21 year old self, would I still choose to marry?

The answer has differed over the years. At one point, it was, “Yes, because it worked out.” Then it was, “No, we wouldn’t need marriage to validate our love.” Then it was, “Yes, because of the benefits.” Then it was, “No, we weren’t mature enough. It could have been a terrible thing.”

Right now, it’s a pretty solid yes, but not because of pragmatics or some ridiculously fucked up version of ownership masquerading as romance.

Rather, I’ve come to realize that while I might disagree with the history of what marriage has been (a means of transferring property and controlling/disempowering women), I actually don’t disagree with the concept of marriage itself.

One of the things that I have always deeply felt in my own marriage is a sense of belonging.

During the height of my attempts to combat my own internalization of patriarchal relationship maps, I felt that that sense of belonging was a betrayal. I didn’t want to belong to my partner. He certainly didn’t belong to me.

But I’ve come to realize that belonging doesn’t have to signify ownership. I can belong with someone without belonging to them.

Certainly I don’t need a “marriage” for that sense of belonging to be true. However, marriage is suddenly beautiful to me because it’s one of the only ways of getting official recognition for one’s chosen family.

In general, society acts as though those who are biologically related to you somehow hold more weight than those to whom you are emotionally close. People say that “blood is thicker than water.”

That is, people say that when they have the privilege of family.

When your family rejects you or disowns you…or isn’t safe for you, then the concept that blood is thicker becomes almost laughable.

The queer community has learned through experience that the people you choose to surround yourself with can be far more like “family” than the people who contributed their DNA to yours.

Marriage is one way that someone can stand up and say, “I choose to be connected to this person. I choose them as my family.”

I never want to be viewed as the ward, property, or “ball and chain” of my partner, but that is only one story of marriage.

I do want the world to know that we are a family. I’m proud of being family with him.

That is the story of marriage that I choose.

 

My Selfie-Confidence Trumps Your Narcissism

There are times when I feel like I’ve stepped into an alternate universe, a world where Donald Trump is celebrated for his lack of empathy and overt arrogance while women are slut-shamed on social media and called “narcissistic” for taking a selfie.

But then I remember that it’s just another day in patriarchy.

In patriarchy, no one is really all that concerned about a cis, white, straight male strutting around, stroking his ego, and ruthlessly attempting to crush anyone who makes him feel like less than the absolute most superior being in the universe.

Trump could be a stand-in for Narcissus himself, but cis, white, straight men are used to being able to indulge in self-grandiosity at other’s expense. No one finds it shocking when they do so because patriarchy has established that as a man’s prerogative.

However, women daring to self-validate—that indeed is a threat to society.

If women began to learn that they could appreciate themselves outside of the male gaze, they might decide that they don’t need to cater to the male gaze.

If women discovered that they could recognize and declare their own value—that their value came from within rather than from without—they might discover that respect and humanity is something they deserve simply because they are, not because it is “generously” bestowed upon them from the menfolk.

If women were able to love themselves and continue to love others, they might figure out that they don’t need to sacrifice their own well-being in order to be in relationship with others.

Selfies give women control over how they reveal themselves to the world and power to self-determine their own sense of who they are.

In the face of such a threat to the control of the other half of the population, patriarchy could only respond in a handful of ways—convince women that selfies are still about the male gaze and gaining approval from men or, when that fails, shame women for being self-absorbed.

If patriarchy is so threatened by women who self-validate by snapping a little picture, imagine what would happen if women became conscious of the power they have at the tip of their fingers….

Jealousy: Neither a Right nor a Wrong

From the Bible declaring “I am a jealous God” to Nick Jonas crooning “It’s my right to be hellish. I still get jealous,” our society has this romanticized concept of jealousy as being a necessary part of true love.

Once, I even declined to date someone because I couldn’t imagine feeling jealous if they hung out with another girl; if I couldn’t feel jealous, I didn’t think it was love.

A decade later, I’m little by little unlearning that ridiculous message. I don’t think jealousy is necessary for love or that it indicates a healthy relationship. (It certainly doesn’t work very well in my type of relationship).

It’s rather tempting to recategorize jealousy as a genuinely negative emotion and try to eradicate it from my life, feeling shame in the process for every time that I feel jealous. Indeed, it would be all too easy to adopt such a mindset between the evidence of jealousy’s destructive role in domestic violence and the “you should never be jealous” attitude that permeates the poly world.

But that’s not how I operate. I’m committed to the idea that nothing we feel, in and of itself, is ever bad. Thus, I want to get an idea of what jealousy might look like as a neutral emotion.

In The Ethical Slut, jealousy is portrayed as a conglomerate emotion rather than a pure emotion. Jealousy it the name we give to feeling a mixture of anger and fear or fear and betrayal or insecurity and anger…the combinations can vary, but you get the idea.

For some, that means that jealousy isn’t an emotion at all. However, I’m not one to dismiss “secondary” or composite emotions since they are, after all, composed of primary emotions.

However, I do appreciate that perspective because it reminds me to take a look at what might be underlying the initial name. Is there jealousy because of betrayal? Or perhaps it’s related to a fear of abandonment…a fear of not having enough love in the end.

A single word actually encompasses a wide range of possible motivations and meanings. There’s a really awesome PDF called “Making Peace with Jealousy” on practicalpolyamory.com that outlines at least four different types of jealousy, from possessive jealousy (Nick Jonas) to fear of being left out. I highly recommend it as reading material for nuances on the emotional and story content of jealousy. Note: the link above will download the pdf rather than take you to the site.

But I digress.

To a degree I have found it helpful to consider jealousy from the perspective of it being composite and able to be be analyzed as separate components. However, I feel there is more to explore beyond just “what am I feeling?”

Recently, in reading Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch for an upcoming class, I came across this quote: “Jealousy is a form of emotional fusion.”

I adore this concept as an additional layer of knowing and analyzing jealousy. It frames jealousy as a developmental task.

Since none of us start out differentiated, we are all struggling with fusion to some extent. Viewing jealousy as evidence of areas where further growth towards differentiation is needed in the relationship reframes jealousy as a potentially useful, not to mention normal, part of relationships.

However, on some levels, it still feels shaming, with this sense that if you’re well-differentiated, you should never feel jealous.

Certainly I don’t want to walk through life like Nick Jonas thinking I have a right to be an asshole because of my jealousy, but neither do I want to walk through life seeing every twinge I ever experience as an indication of a flaw within myself.

However, if I take that thought and expand upon it, framing jealousy as an emotional response stemming from the tension of connection and separation, then add a dash of existentialism by also assuming that such tension can never be fully escaped/resolved and must, instead, be tolerated—then I get a concept of jealousy that feels more rounded to me.

In fact, jealousy then becomes not just a symptom of a need for personal growth but the catalyst itself for personal growth. It is a relational existential crisis in much the same way that anxiety about mortality is a personal existential crisis.

With crisis comes possibility for transformation—transcendence really. Existential crises are the things that catapult us into the next phase of growth…if we can embrace them constructively rather than merely reacting to them (or conversely resisting them, which is also a form of reaction).

Perhaps the solution to the jealousy issue is not to either adopt it as a means of controlling another’s actions or to shun it as something that “healthy,” “mature,” or “differentiated” people won’t feel, but rather to embrace it as a valuable opportunity to appreciate the tension of interdependence. After all, duality is a dance, not a wrestling match.

 

Sometimes Magically Mundane (I had to make a pun on my blog name at some point)

At the beginning of every seasonal change, I find myself dusting, vacuuming, and rearranging.

When I get out of work after a long day, I often find myself changing my clothes, washing my hands, or even showering.

Both habits seem entirely mundane, but they are actually incredibly important spiritual rituals.

Yes, I called them rituals.

Often rituals get characterized as formal ceremonies, requiring special attire and tools.

In reality, anything that someone does on a regular basis in a specific way can be considered a ritual. The way you make coffee in the morning is a ritual. The way you get ready for bed is a ritual.

We are creatures of ritual and habit. We all have dozens of rituals in which we participate every day. It’s just that most of us don’t realize that we are performing them.

It’s not a bad thing, per se, to go through a ritual without thinking about it. Part of a ritual’s purpose is to create continuity and stability in life, and mundane rituals certainly do that. Anyone who has ever had their morning routine fucked up can attest to how much it affects the rest of the day.

But there is so much potential in recognizing the rituals of the mundane…so many ways to bring magic into one’s world without even having to try.

I first became aware of my after-work ritual when I found myself unable to leave “work at the office” for the first time in my life. Moving into mental health from retail meant that my interactions carried considerably more significance than before. I wasn’t prepared for the way that conversations, stories, and interactions would come home with me, haunting me, plaguing me with what should have been different or what to do next.

I needed a way to signal to myself the end of the work day and the beginning of my private life.

At first I spent some time trying to devise something to help me, until I realized I already had it. The very first thing I did when I got home was to kick of my shoes and rip off my bra. They were the most uncomfortable things on my body, and I couldn’t wait to be out of them at the end of a day.

Taking a ritual that was already in place and creating intention around it was transformative. Suddenly, changing my shoes and clothes came to symbolize switching out of a role and transitioning into a new space.

On days that I found it particularly difficult to signal the end, I began using a ritual of washing grime off to also wash off energetic grime and energy.

Not every ritual is daily like that. My seasonal ritual of giving my home a miniature “spring clean” happens every few months or so. Before, it may have just been a compulsion I had to deep clean after doing surface cleaning, e.g. dusting around but not under knick knacks, vacuuming what I could see or feel under my feet, etc. However, at some point I realized that it was a perfect way to reset my focus and spiritual intentions.

Now, giving my apartment a good dusting provides me an opportunity to clear out or stir up the energy that has become stagnant. I can refresh my altar with new items and identify a goal for the next couple of months. It helps prevent my own spiritual life from becoming dust-covered and forgotten.

We can’t take the mundanity out of life. Indeed, I’m not sure that any of us would really want to, even though it’s tempting when we’re bored.

However, we can infuse our mundanity with magic. The mundane can become significant and meaningful with a little attention and intention to our habits.

Living the Scarcity Myth in a World of Abundant Love

I just began watching the season of Once Upon a Time where Elsa is introduced. There’s a ridiculous love triangle building between Robin Hood, Marion, and Regina. Robin and Regina are clearly in love, but when Robin’s “dead” wife comes back, he feels compelled to return to her and hold true to his marriage vow. However, when Marion falls under a freezing spell, Robin is unable to save her with “true love’s kiss” because he is in love with Regina.

The whole situation was such a blatant illustration of the scarcity myth of love. Love triangles are annoying even as it is, but it’s even more infuriating when the love triangle involves a supposedky dead loved one come back to life simply because it implies that in order to love someone else after losing a spouse or partner that you have to stop loving the one who is presumed dead.

Regina lives out a fear that I’m sure many people feel—that as the “second,” they are not loved as much as the first. If the first were to return, the love they experience now would be taken away.

But why would Robin’s love for Marion necessarily have to cancel out his love for Regina?

One of the most important ideas that I’ve picked up as a sex-positive bi-feminist is the concept that love is not finite. We aren’t all equipped with a limited supply that we have to dole out in rationed doses or give entirely to one single person.

The poly community espouses the motto that it’s possible to love more than one person.

It’s true.

What often gets left out of the conversation is that everyone already loves more than one person, even monogamous people.

But we don’t think about it as being polyamorous because society has conditioned us to view romantic love as “real love”…or at least the most important kind.

Whether it’s the continued love for a lost (or not lost) partner that doesn’t diminish the love for a current partner or the love for one friend that doesn’t cancel out the love for another friend or family member, we all can look to various relationships where we love multiple people, sometimes in similar ways, sometimes in different ways.

Ironically, the whole point of Frozen, from which Once Upon a Time is drawing its curse, was that an act of true love didn’t have to be strictly limited to romantic love.

Love was love, regardless of whether it was coming from a romantic interest or a sister.

Are there clear differences between love for friends, partners, or family?

In my experience, no.

There are differences in boundaries, commitment, sexual attraction, and other things that can be tied up with love, but none of those is love itself.

Perhaps thanks to hook-up culture, more and more people are realizing that love and attraction can be separate.

I’m not sexually attracted to everyone I love…and I don’t love everyone I’m sexually attracted to. Learning to separate the attraction or the ability to act on attraction from care, affection, and concern for someone’s well-being is eye-opening in terms of understanding the depth that love can take.

Learning to recognize that a love that includes attraction isn’t more valuable or valid than a love that doesn’t include attraction is just as eye-opening.

Absolutely it’s possible to have more than one person that one is “in love with” in the sense of true love’s kiss, and maybe one day I’ll live to see a movie or show acknowledge that reality.

But more importantly, love doesn’t need to be confined to the “romantic interest” box in order for it to be valid, true, or magical.

And that is something that I think we should expect to see in our current entertainment.