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?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMpFmHSgC4Q
  2. Touch of my Hand by Britney Spears
    Another good masturbation anthem.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SnQcYcG41U
  3. Sexercize by Kylie Minogue
    Work it!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3VjJKKVNew
  4. Shut Up and Drive by Rihanna
    Because someone needed to make the obvious innuendo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up7pvPqNkuU
  5. Made to Love by John Legend
    An all-around beautiful song with a beautiful music video celebrating beautiful sex in diverse forms
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRpjsFcb2uo
  6. Worth It by Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink
    What could be better than women celebrating their sexuality by saying exactly what they want?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBHQbu5rbdQ
  7. Let’s Talk About Sex by Salt n’ Pepa
    Isn’t it time we destigmatized the topic?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydrtF45-y-g
  8. S & M by Rihanna
    A little celebration of some kink needs to be represented, of course.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdS6HFQ_LUc
  9. Candyman by Christina Aguilera
    Just and all around fun song
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ScjucUV8v0
  10. LoveGame by Lady Gaga
    Of course Lady Gaga needs to be on here!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mB0tP1I-14
  11. Three by Britney Spears
    Not everyone is monogamous. Britney gets that.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTs6oQx1WJY
  12. Blow by Beyonce
    Possibly one of the sexiest songs on the list, and obviously an anthem to oral.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIELYkfoKy8
  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. 🙂
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Why2n9XtlNw
  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.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4LWIP7SAjY
  15. None of Your Business by Salt n’ Pepa
    For all the haters
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q96-e042bk
  16. Sugar in my Bowl by Nina Simone
    I had to end with a throwback to the dirty blues!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCTP5zjQTWE

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.

 

 

I’d Rather Be a Unicorn Than Exist On Your Terms

While I’ve heard some cheering about how bisexuality is no longer being erased, I’m not celebrating the recent study that articles are brazenly proclaiming proves that “women are never straight.” This is not a halt to bi-erasure; it’s just another form of it. We’ve gone from declaring that bisexuality is not an identity to making it ubiquitous.

Moreover, it carries forward the biggest problem with sexuality research in academia. This study is not interviewing women to find out how they identify. Nor is it seeking to understand their subjective experiences around attraction and arousal.

Just like the previous studies that “proved” bisexuality “doesn’t exist,” this one relies on the manipulation of people’s states of arousal…which is then interpreted by a stranger to determine their identity. The audacity of power and privilege that assumes that a person’s individual experience of themselves in relation to others isn’t as important as whether or not you, as a researcher, can get them off is quite impressive.

Unfortunately the flaws in logic that jump from “they are/are not getting aroused” to “they must be/must not be straight/bi/gay” should be obvious. There are lots of reasons why hooking someone’s genitals up to some sort of equipment would give less than accurate readings on their sexual orientation.

If achieving arousal with pornographic material can determine sexual orientation, then what does that say about lesbians who enjoy gay male porn? Are we going to declare that they’re really gay men now? What about if a gay man watches lesbian porn?

People find all kinds of porn enjoyable without actually wanting to go out and do those things themselves. Sometimes, yes, people get ideas of things to try. But sometimes they just want to explore something that feels different and out of character. That doesn’t determine their identity, certainly not better than their lived experience of who they find attractive and with whom they would build a relationship.

Not only is determining someone’s orientation from their arousal to porn a ridiculous way of studying bisexuality, studying someone’s arousal in the lab is problematic as well. It’s an artificial environment, presumably where people know they are being studied, even if they don’t know their arousal is being studied…but who couldn’t figure that out with the measurement methods? Seriously. It’s pretty safe to assume that there would be some differences in how they respond to stimuli on their own.

The biggest flaw, though, is the failure to take into account the importance of mirror neurons and empathy. Someone who becomes aroused at certain stimuli may be aroused because they find the material hot and would want to participate. Or perhaps they just recognize that the person in the picture or video is receiving pleasure and have a sympathetic response to that. Or maybe they’re thinking about how nice it would be for their partner to do that to them.

There’s also the binary flaw of failing to take into account anyone outside of cis people. Once again, bisexuality is being reduced to a binary attraction, despite the repeatedly vocal ways that bisexual people have said that it’s not binary. Moreover, the study is trying to categorize types of arousal or behavior as “masculine” or “feminine,” with lesbians, of course, being described as more “masculine” in their arousal. Apparently sexism goes hand in hand with heterosexism and cissexism. But I didn’t need a research study to tell me that.

I don’t doubt that bisexuality is far more common than we assume, but saying “all women are” or “no men are” in direct contradiction to their stated experience simply because of a badly designed study is something that science really needs to stop doing. It’s an abuse of power and bad research. If someone really wants to study bisexuality, start with a phenomenological study, interviewing individuals about their identity and their experience with their identity. Build from there. Don’t further steal their voices and contribute to prejudice. Use science to highlight and empower who they are. Better yet, have bisexual people conduct their own research on bisexuality. Then you won’t get people who mistakenly think that genital engorgement is the end all be all of sexual orientation.

Silly Girls, Orgasmic Sex is for Divas

Should it be news when a woman expects to enjoy sex?

Probably not in a world that isn’t completely fucked up…but actually, yeah, I think it should be news in today’s world.

It’s certainly turning heads that Nicki Minaj stated in her Cosmopolitan interview, “I demand to climax.”

Some are cheering her on. Some, however, think that she’s a “diva.” Because…apparently expecting sex to be pleasurable is such an unreasonable standard.

Sex. Orgasms. Celebrities. Who cares, right?

Well, I care. It’s a big deal.

The very fact that Nicki can create such a fuss over that statement and that she can get such backlash for holding that opinion reveals pretty strongly that even in our “advanced” society, female sexuality is still considered “for others.”

No man—absolutely none—needs to declare that he expects to climax every time he has sex. It’s a given. It’s expected that men will enjoy sex and that sex will lead to orgasm for men.

But women who expect the same…that’s shocking, unheard of, bitchy, demanding, diva-ish.

We live in a society where the female orgasm is extra. Movies and porn center themselves on male pleasure and ejaculation but hold no expectation of showing a woman climaxing. Women’s sexuality is used to sell everything from beer to cars to deodorant, yet women enjoying sex and climaxing during sex is no one’s first concern.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if we hope to change the way our culture views women, we need to change the way our culture views women’s sexuality, not by fighting for fewer displays of sexuality but rather by fighting for displays of sexuality that demonstrate clearly that a woman’s sexuality is for herself.

We need more women declaring that they enjoy sex…and that they only have sex that they can enjoy.

The traditional ways of fighting objectification too easily play into the mindset that a woman’s only reason for being sexual is for the male gaze, male pleasure, etc. It reinforces the myth that women don’t have desires of their own.

Women, and girls especially, need role models who demonstrate…not modesty, but agency in sexuality. We need media that shows sex being rooted in respect, consent, and mutual pleasure. Expecting orgasmic sex shouldn’t have to be a newsworthy story. It’s time for women to take back their right to their own sexuality and demand that sex is as pleasurable for them as it is for their partners.

A Sex-Positive Reading List

I’ve been on a quest to reclaim my sexuality over the last several years, which has been a beautiful and wonderful journey. That journey has required a lot of education and re-education, both about the physical basics of “doing the deed” and about the attitudes I was taught to hold towards sex and my body. There have been a number of books that have been particularly influential in that quest, which I list below. I highly recommend them to anyone else on a similar quest to positive and celebratory sexuality.

The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

This is, hands-down, the absolute best relationship and sex book I’ve ever read. While the majority of relationship advice in other books is formulaic (do this and you’ll be a strong couple and have great sex; don’t do that or you’ll end up divorced, alone, and very sad), this book recognizes that everyone is different and has different needs, desires, and goals in relationships. Despite being a “guide to polyamory”…or maybe because of being a guide to polyamory…The Ethical Slut offers great tips on boundaries, honesty, working through and owning your own emotions, working through differences with your partner/s, exploring your sexuality, and so much more. Whether you’re single, monogamous, polyamorous, or just plain promiscuous, this is a great book to read to gain a fantastically positive attitude towards sex. Show that judgmental, puritanical voice in your head the way out with a book that celebrates all consensual relationship styles and sexual desires.

Vagina by Naomi Wolf

A little heterosexist, but overall a really great way to start to get to know the female body and introduce yourself to the ways in which others, past and present, have found to honor and love female sexuality. It touches on anatomy and history enough to give you some really interesting information without making you feel like you’re reading a textbook. This is the book that introduced me to the possibility that the physical trauma of my sexual abuse could be treated, and it is thanks to this book (as well as gynecologist who was up on the latest developments) that I was able to seek physical therapy to treat my injured pelvic floor.

What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety by Jaclyn Friedman

This is a really great book that touches on a lot of the stuff that I loved so much in The Ethical Slut but in a way that is less overtly trying to reclaim the idea of “slut.” Each chapter has exercises and journaling prompts to explore your sexuality as well as references to great resources. It has one of the most in-depth guides to talking about sexual safety and sexually transmitted diseases that I’ve come across, which is great if, like me, you were basically led to believe your body would mimic pregnancy if you masturbated and that you could get an sti by holding someone’s hand.

What I love most about this book is that she doesn’t just expect readers to know how to have the conversations necessary with their partners. She infuses the book with excellent information but also incorporates advice on how to have those conversation with partner/s and suggestions of how you can practice them in advance. So, instead of just telling you to tell your partner what you want to do with him/her or if you want to stop at any point, she actually guides you through ways of communicating your needs and desires…which is also really important if, like me, you were basically taught that you didn’t have a right to have your own desires and that sex was something you endured because God expected you to fulfill your wifely duties. Friedman is also wonderfully inclusive of all genders and sexualities.

Women’s Anatomy of Arousal by Sheri Winston

If The Ethical Slut is the best relationship and sex book I’ve ever read, this is the best body and sex book I’ve ever read. Written with incredible beauty and wit (and illustrated with some of the best erotic art in history), this anatomy book is hardly the stuff you’d find in a textbook…yet surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) it covers far more information on the structure and function of a woman’s arousal and reproductive system than I’ve seen anywhere else. This book goes into depth on what Naomi Wolf only touched on and explains in mesmerizing detail how arousal works. Throughout the book, exercises are given to help you learn about and explore your own body and arousal network. Although this book is more about solo learning and play, tips are given for partners to learn how to navigate this amazingly complex system as well.

Succulent Sexcraft by Sheri Winston

I just started reading Sheri’s second book. Although I haven’t finished it yet, I feel pretty confident in recommending it to those on their own sexual journey. The same beauty and wit are present in the writing, but rather than being solely focused on women and women’s anatomy, this book is for anyone, partnered or solo, who is interested in expanding their sexuality in a more positive way. I can’t say yet what will stand out the most to me about this book, but so far it accompanies all of the others beautifully and is inspiring me with yet more reasons to love and honor my sexuality.

Reclaiming Negative Emotions: Lust and the Prohibition Effect

Lust.

It’s one of the seven deadly sins.

Depending on which religion or denomination you ask, lust is anything from mere sexual desire (i.e. all sexuality) to “wrongfully directed sexual desire” (Christianity Today’s “Understanding Lust” by Jim Vander Spek)

There’s no denying it gets a bad rap.

At first in my own journey, I separated “lust” (the wrong version of passion and attraction) from sexuality (a healthy version of attraction and love). It worked at a time when I was trying to reclaim my right to experience sexual pleasure. Being able to say that lust was what someone experienced when they objectified and dehumanized another person or longed to have sex with someone who wasn’t “theirs” to have sex with helped me to separate it from my own feelings of desire and find ways to embrace them, love myself, and love my partner.

I stopped actively thinking about it years ago, and my journey towards sex-positivity hasn’t really missed the equivocation of definitions. I didn’t consciously reclaim lust as a “negative emotion.” But I did consciously reclaim sexuality, and now I think it’s time to wed the two.

Here’s my definition of lust: sexual desire. That’s it.

Wherever you find a demonization of lust, you are guaranteed to find a group of people trying to dictate and control the sexual desires of another. It’s okay in “this” context, but not in “that” context. It’s okay with “this” person, but not with “that” person. It’s sacred and holy in “this” way, but it’s an abomination in “that” way.

But what happens when you stop placing value judgments on internal feelings and desires? What happens when you just let them be?

For one thing, they lose the stigma of shame.

As with most “negative emotions,” lust gets ingrained in our minds as a destructive thing to experience because the only time it is brought to the forefront of our minds is when we see its destructive expression. Just as anger is associated with violence, lust is associated with sexual impropriety, sexual violation, and sexual obsession.

Mostly because we’ve been conditioned to label it “lust” only if it’s problematic.

But sexual desire does not come with the mandate to cheat on your partner, sexually assault a person, or lose all sense of balance. Many of us experience sexual desire frequently as humans without those elements being present.

But society, especially religion, would have us believe that if we just accepted lust as a benign feeling, that all hell would break loose. We need the “this” but not “that” controls in place to prevent all manner of harm and evil.

But do we?

My partner and I were chatting the other night about what we’ve termed the “prohibition effect”—the phenomenon where something relatively benign becomes destructive as a result of prohibition, thus creating a false sense of the need for that prohibition.

For example, how many times have we heard a similar story to the following? A gay man is taught that he is sinful in his attractions to other men and is promised that if he gets married to a woman he will be cured of his sin. He doesn’t come out. He gets married to an unsuspecting wife. He struggles with trying to suppress his natural attraction, but eventually gives in to a one-night, anonymous encounter in a dark room.

He returns to his wife, distraught by the destructive power of his desire. He “repents” and tries to once again suppress his desire. A few months later it happens again.

At some point, his wife and church find out about him being gay, maybe because he contracts a sexually transmitted disease, maybe because he’s caught in the act of cheating, maybe because he just can’t handle lying about who he is anymore.

His marriage is destroyed. His and her health are both at risk. He is despised in his community. And everyone points to the “sin” of homosexuality being at the root of all of this destruction.

But his attraction isn’t the root!

Had he been given accurate information about his orientation when he was younger, had his attraction not been portrayed as deviant or abominable, had he not been talked into marrying someone he couldn’t love, had he been taught how to have safe sex, and had he not been driven into desperation and secrecy, he might never have lived out that vicious cycle.

He could have easily gone on to have a normal, happy, healthy life with relationships that were honest and with partners with whom he could be open.

It wasn’t the fact that he was gay that created the problem. It was the prohibition of his natural, normal, innocent desires.

That is the power of the prohibition effect, and its fingerprints are all over our sexual ethics. Those who wish to control the sexual behavior of others conveniently attach the label of “lust” to anything sexually prohibited. Then when people step outside the lines of prohibition, everything from eternal damnation to name-calling (slut) is rained down on them in an attempt to shame or scare them back into the confines of approved sexual expression.

But there are those of us out there who are tired of being shamed and punished for something that is arbitrarily decided to be bad. There is a movement of sluts, feminists, and queer activists who are redefining sexual ethics to be not about what others think of what you do in the bedroom or with whom you do it but about what is right and good for you and your partner/s on an individual basis, even if it’s taboo for another.

We free ourselves from the negative connotation surrounding lust. And we return to a far more basic version of good vs. bad sexual ethics. It’s easy to remember. It leaves room for everyone to be themselves.

It’s called consent.

In the world of The Ethical Slut, the only right or wrong about sexual desire is whether each person is consenting to the actions that follow.

 

 

My Boobs Don’t Create a Stumbling Block for Your Marriage, but Your Beliefs Do.

It’s the summer, which unfortunately means that modesty police are out, shaming women for their bodies and lamenting the uncontrollable minds of men. There are far more blog posts right now about how women should dress than would be reasonable or desirable to read, but I have to admit that I can’t resist clicking on a handful of links that come across my newsfeed.

This time it was this post about a woman begging for girls to keep their boobs out of her marriage.

I could write about my angst with the body-shaming or the problems with assuming that women are responsible for men’s fidelity and thoughts…but I’ve already done that and so have so many others. And ironically, I’m not upset at the body-shaming post. Rather, I feel incredible sympathy for the author.

So today, I’m not ranting about feminism and bodily autonomy. I just want to say something to Lauren, who is so upset about the bikini-riddled Internet and afraid of losing her husband to some other woman.

I get it. So much.

I don’t agree with you on any of what you said, but I feel all of your pain because once upon a time it was my pain too.

I haven’t been married that long. Five and a half years is hardly any time with someone, and certainly not enough time for me to feel that I have advice to bestow on other couples.

But I think that we have a lot in common.

Like you, I believed that other women were my enemy. I believed they were trying to steal my husband, ruin my marriage, and break my heart. I also believed that my husband was a helpless victim who would be lured away by their wiles and charms—that his mind was so photographic that he couldn’t ever—EVER—forget the things he saw.

I believed it was my responsibility to guard his heart and our marriage, which ranged anywhere from trying to be available for sex all the time to actively previewing movies so that I could cover his eyes if something came on.

I believed it because I was taught it. Every book I read, every sermon I heard, every class I attended told me that if I didn’t believe those things or act accordingly, my marriage was trashed.

I was controlling. I knew I was controlling. You probably do too.

I was insecure. I was afraid of being compared to all those (obviously) more beautiful women out there on the Internet (and sometimes in real life).

I was practically counting down the days to when my husband would cheat, and I believed it would be my fault for not being able to do enough to keep him faithful. Our goodnights were laced with interrogations about what he had seen, whether he was struggling with remembering it, what I could do to make things better.

And we were miserable.

Because there was nothing else for us to be but miserable in such a relationship. Our own love was undermined by a distrust planted so deeply that we never thought to question it, and our friendships were poisoned by the constant competition with any woman and shame around any man.

It was terrifying to start dismantling some of the teachings with which I’d been raised. Avoidance conditioning (where you teach someone to do something to prevent something bad from happening) is one of the hardest behavior patterns to break. For all I knew, when I started to dismantle those beliefs and confront the insecurities they created around my body and my relationship, I could have been throwing my marriage out the window, guaranteeing what I was most afraid of.

But what I discovered was that the opposite was true. When I let go of the control, my relationship grew stronger! Lines of communication opened up and trust deepened as we explored what it meant to be together without owning each other. The world started to look less threatening when we stopped assuming that every woman was a threat or that skin was taboo.

He had his own work to do, too. I quickly discovered that relationships weren’t one-sided, and I couldn’t be responsible for keeping us strong. But when I stopped trying to coddle him like a child, I discovered that he was more than capable of doing his own work. In fact, he dismantled his views of how he’d been taught to view women far more quickly than I dismantled mine.

We don’t have everything figured out yet. Our relationship is constantly changing and growing, which means that boundaries are constantly shifting. But that’s okay. There’s far more stability in a relationship that can morph and change as needed than with a relationship that is far too rigid to withstand summer Facebook photos.

I know now, more than I ever could have before, that he is with me because he wants to be, and the fact that he could leave at any moment makes me feel all the more secure in his love. We even share each others’ crushes, which usually end up being the same person since I’m attracted to the same kind of women as he is.

On some levels, I think being bisexual may have made it easier for me to dismantle the “other woman” teachings from modesty culture because it allowed me to see how I could be attracted to women without losing control of my mind or that I could be attracted to multiple people without losing my love for my husband. But I still think we would have arrived here eventually anyway because it’s just not healthy to live with that much fear and distrust.

I don’t know what kind of backlash you’ve gotten since you put up your post. I’m sure it hasn’t been pretty because Internet commenters tend to be the underbelly of a very ugly beast. But I hope that this can be a catalyst for you to find a way to grow stronger in yourself, question some of those fears, and open up new avenues for relationship development.

Coming from someone who has been where you’re at, you don’t have to live in fear.

P.S. Your friendships will also be far more awesome when you aren’t projecting the weaknesses of your relationship and self-esteem onto their shoulders. Just as you shouldn’t be responsible for keeping your husband faithful, they aren’t responsible for keeping you secure. If you own your own shit, you empower yourself to be able to change it.