DID YOU SEE: The Atlantic on the impact of pornography

In the latest issue of The Atlantic, Sophie Gilbert writes an excellent thoughtful piece about the impact of pornography, as it is reflected through Tom Perrotta’s novel Mrs. Fletcher and a podcast called The Butterfly Effect.

“It’s a surprisingly simple argument, and yet a shocking one, in a culture that’s as polarized over porn as it is over everything else. What if porn is neither good, nor bad, but both? What if it enables some people to feel less isolated even while it conditions others to do things they regret?”

Check it out here and let me know what you think.

LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX: a practical guide to “cleaning out”

Aficionados of anal sex appreciate the value of preparing for an encounter by douching, for the safety, comfort, and pleasure of both parties. Over time, most bottoms develop a system that works for them. But people who are new to bottoming or inexperienced and curious are subject to considerable amounts of fear, anxiety, and bewilderment about the process. I’ve met many young guys and people new to exploring anal sex who live with a huge amount of self-consciousness and concern about bottoming because they’re afraid of not being squeaky-clean and humiliating themselves in front of more experienced partners.


How do you learn about cleaning out? They certainly don’t teach it in school. It seems like a much more taboo or embarrassing topic than menstruation or masturbation. If you’re lucky, you might have a kind, patient, and generous friend or partner who will take you by the hand and lead you through the process. More likely, you turn to the internet and take your chances with whatever information churns to the surface from a Google search. I’ve looked at a lot of online resources and have finally found one that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Someone who calls himself “blindjaw” on the Tumblr-like blog site called imgur has created a clever, knowledgeable illustrated instructional article forthrightly titled “How to Clean Your Ass Before Anal Sex.”

What I like about this comic-book-style article (see the first panel above; see the rest here) is that the instruction is very clear and plain-spoken — and, be forewarned, very explicit about buttsex and poop. And that’s what you want when you’re looking for information about cleaning out.

One of the misconceptions he clears up right away is that you have to do high-powered colonic hydrotherapy and fast for hours before having anal sex. He outlines two different methods for cleaning out, but newcomers need only pay attention to the “fast” type he describes (fisting is not an activity for newcomers). I love that his illustration features a bear-sized guy, and he’s very practical-minded about how to dispose of waste products. Plenty of people find the idea of peeing in the shower or bathtub a little edgy — pooping down the drain may seem beyond the pale. But his explanation is pretty solid and practical. It’s still probably too edgy for some people, so there’s always the toilet.

I’m not sure you need to repeat the process quite as many times as he recommends (once or twice will do the trick for many folks preparing to bottom), but I definitely agree that the shower hose with personalized nozzle is the superior method for cleaning out, and I can steer you toward what I consider the best model on the market: the ErgoFlow Portable Shower Shot. It clips onto any shower pipe, and it comes with its own travel bag, easy to throw in your suitcase when you’re on the road. The videos and still shots that I’ve seen demonstrating the product are a little coy, leaving much to the imagination, which is where blindjaw’s instructions come in extra-handy.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

RESOURCES: The Worry Tree

Many people live with anxiety on a daily basis, whether it’s mild low-level worrying, obsessional thinking, or severe crippling fear. Managing anxiety, like managing stress, is crucial to living a reasonably healthy life these days. There’s not a quick fix. If only there were. Medication can help. Meditation can help. And I’m always on the lookout for other tools to help reduce the suffering of people who live with chronic anxiety. In the latest issue of Counseling Today, the in-house journal of the American Counseling Association, Bethany Bray offers clinicians a thorough overview in her article “Living with anxiety.” I particularly appreciated a chart she shared, based on the work of Gillian Butler and Tony Hope, called “The Worry Tree.” The intention is to help people sort whether the worry is about something you can do about it right now, or not, and if not to reduce worry by changing the focus of your attention. Easier said than done, of course. But I find that a roadmap almost always helps. Check it out and let me know what you think.

DID YOU SEE: The Guardian on Laura Dodsworth’s MANHOOD

I’m always fascinated by the differences between American and British newspapers, especially how they handle discussions of sex and depictions of nudity. The Guardian, the most progressive of London’s daily papers, recently published a feature about photographer Laura Dodsworth and her latest book Manhood, for which she photographed 100 men naked from the waist down and interviewed them about their penises. (The book is a sequel to Bare Reality, in which women talked about their breasts.)

manhood

In addition to talking to Dodsworth about her book, the Guardian published several excerpts of the interviews and every single one of the photographs. I can’t imagine any daily newspaper in the United States running pictures of 100 penises, can you? Above and beyond the initial titillation, the article (and the book) do a great public service by exploring a subject that men think about all the time but don’t talk about much at all, even to their closest friends and loved ones.

The men range in age from 20 to 92, and their bodies take many sizes, shapes, and colors. Unless you are an enthusiastic naturist and spend time on nude beaches or in other environments where naked bodies are the norm, you may not have seen very many penises in your life — outside of pornography, which almost exclusively features penises that are large, erect, and intimidating. In my experience, it’s almost always revelatory and healing for men (and women!) to see a large quantity of penises and realize how varied and individual they are. And the men in Dodsworth’s book talk very honestly and intimately about their private parts. Check out the excerpts online here and let me know what you think.

RESOURCES: Oh Joy Sex Toy

Does everybody know about Oh Joy Sex Toy? Erika Moen launched OJST in 2014 as a weekly web comic providing fun, accessible, easy-breezy adult sex education in the format of reviewing sex toys. At first Moen set out to sample whatever toys she came across on the market or that were sent to her as “promotional copies,” usually in the company of her GGG British-born husband Matthew Nolan. Based in Portland, Oregon, they self-published the first year’s series of comics in book form, and it was enough of a hit to persuade them to make it an annual publishing event. They’re up to Volume 4 now (the Kickstarter campaign is in full swing, which is basically a way to subsidize production by pre-ordering a copy of the book — hardcore fans can also buy signed prints, apparel, and other swag).

OJST omgyes crop.jpg

Over time they’ve invited guest artists to contribute strips that range from product reviews to more general ruminations on sex, sexual health, and the sex industry, writ large. Just scanning the list of topics in the OJST archive is both impressive and hilarious (curved penis! period sex! brain orgasm science! wax! how to survive your first dungeon party!). The tone is unapologetically sex-positive and un-snarky. Moen and her contributors are cheerleaders for sexual pleasure and exploration, and their enthusiastic and shameless approach goes a long way toward making virtually anything having to do with sex completely normal. Maybe not every household spends as much time and energy discussing butt toys, lube, kink, and sexual hygiene as these folks do. But spend a little time with it, and their effervescence is likely to rub off. And before you know it, you may find yourself checking out the comic sci-fi webcomic Oglaf, and then…look out, world!

 

MEDIA: “Pleasure, Anesthesia, and the Burden of Consciousness”

RFD fall 2016 cover

Last fall RFD, the radical faerie quarterly reader-written journal, devoted a special issue to the topic of Substances. The magazine includes some extremely honest and searching writings looking at many different practices involving party drugs and sacred medicines. I continue to marvel and chuckle at the powerful, witty cover image created by managing editor Bambi Gauthier and art director Matt Bucy (above). I contributed a very personal essay about my own experience of using various mind-altering substances, what I’ve gained, and how closely I monitor the balance of recreational and ceremonial explorations, what’s excessive and what’s enough. The essay is titled “Pleasure, Anesthesia, and the Burden of Consciousness: Notes on Substances.”

Early on, I say:

I am at heart an epicurean. I believe that pleasure is the greatest good in life, and in my sacred intimate practice I’m a champion of healing through pleasure. I’m quite attached to the pleasures in my life: the four cups of strong black tea that fuel my day, the couple of glasses of wine or beer that are my treat at the end of the day, my robust sex life, my enjoyment of music, and the occasional toke that my stoner boyfriend has taught me to enjoy. At the same time, I’m aware that sometimes it’s hard to distinguish pleasure from anesthesia, and sometimes I wonder what pain or fear I might be medicating or numbing with the substances I routinely enjoy. I’m sure I’m a bit hypervigilant about this because my father’s alcoholism left a strong imprint on my life. But I like to believe that I remain in choice rather than compulsive about my pleasures, and I’ve noticed that when I diet to prepare for sacred medicine ceremonies, I get quite cranky about giving up tea and wine and still spend considerable energy thinking about and craving them. There are writing projects that are important to me that I’m trying to summon the energy and stamina and concentration to complete, and it’s unclear to me whether my use of substances helps or hinders that. The constant existential battle between Living a Good Life and Getting Things Done.

RFD has a fairly small readership, so after sharing the essay with a handful of friends, one of them suggested I approach Reality Sandwich, the online magazine created by Evolver Learning Lab, about republishing my piece. The editors there enthusiastically embraced the idea, so now it’s available to read in full. Check it out here and let me know what you think.