Category Archives: gender

How Your Body and Sex Appeal Change as You Age

Guest Post By Peter Minkoff

As we age, many things will unavoidably change – for the better of the worse. But you know what? Even though experiencing huge changes can be extremely intimidating and challenging, it doesn’t mean that turning a certain age is the end of your life. Just stay with us and find out how your body and sex appeal will change as you age. Keep on reading and learn something new today!

Low sex drive is a reality for many ladies and gentlemen

Low sex drive is the first issue millions of people deal with once they reach a certain age. In women, it naturally fluctuates over the years. There are many highs and lows, and these usually coincide with big life changes, such as the beginning or end of a relationship, pregnancy, menopause, or any type of illness. As for men, it is usually caused by low testosterone, too little or too much exercise, and prescription medicines, as well as psychological issues such as stress and depression. Even though it’s common to lose interest in sex from time to time, the fact is that low sex drive for a long period of time can cause a major concern for many people. It can even indicate an underlying health condition, so bear that in mind, too, and monitor your symptoms closely.

Menopause inevitably brings a lot of changes to all aspects of life

Millions of ladies in their late 40s and early 50s are experiencing menopause at any given moment. This is a period of life when many things change, and the most common symptoms are weight gain, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. These are the result of a decreased production of estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries. So, if you belong to this age group, you surely know what we’re talking about. You’ve probably noticed that your body is changing, which may negatively affect your self-esteem and self-image. However, there are ways to alleviate the symptoms and take your everyday routine to a whole new level. For example, menopause weight gain supplements are the first step towards maintaining your healthy weight. Of course, be sure to embrace a balanced diet and quit bad habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol. Once that’s done, you’ll see a huge improvement.

Erectile dysfunction is quite common among men

A lot of men will agree that erectile dysfunction is a very sensitive topic to discuss. Apart from sexual dysfunction, it can encompass different problems related to reproductive health, too. Even though erectile dysfunction often occurs in men older than 50, the truth is that younger men can experience it as well. Also, remember that this issue sometimes is the first sign of underlying health conditions, such as cardiovascular ones. Of course, causes of erectile dysfunction are both physical and psychological. Physical causes are injury to the penis, hypertension, hormonal disorders, obesity, diabetes, and many other conditions. On the other hand, psychological ones are stress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Needless to say, bad lifestyle habits such as smoking, drug abuse, and alcoholism can exacerbate the problem, so be sure to quit them if you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction.

The skin loses elasticity and becomes more fragile

As we age, our skin inevitably changes and becomes extremely fragile. In fact, skin changes are the most visible signs of aging – together with graying of the hair. In case you didn’t know, our skin consists of three layers – outer, middle, and inner part. Each of these layers contains connective tissue with elastin and collagen fibers that provide strength, support, and flexibility. Once you reach a certain age, the outer layer of your skin will start to thin and lose its strength and elasticity. Your sebaceous glands will produce less oil than it was the case in your 20s and 30s, which may result in dryness and itchiness. Yes, we know that it sounds scary, but all you need to do is to upgrade your skincare routine and be careful with what you eat. Once that’s done, you’ll see what we were talking about!

As you can see, your body and sex appeal will unquestionably change as you age. There will be many challenging life situations you can’t really prepare for – but take one step at a time and solve a problem along the way. Trust us when we say that aging doesn’t have to be as scary as you probably think. Just make sure to embrace the right attitude and look at things from the realistic perspective and you’ll do a great thing for yourself, without a shadow of a doubt!

The Future of Gender

I did an interview for Unleash Their PoTEENtial a free, online teen summit about the future of gender (spoiler alert: its nonbinary).

Looking for information about what nonbinary means, how it impacts teens, and what you can do to support your teen if they come out as nonbinary?

Check out the free talk at”

https://unleashtheirpoteential.com/RebeccaB

Embracing Sex Writing

I am an accidental sex/kink blogger. This site started five years ago as a book promotion site for a book I really didn’t think too many people would actually read. Y’all surprised me. Love Letters to a Unicorn is five years old and growing in its readership.

Despite the growth of this blog and the publication of a second successful kink workbook I was reluctant to let go of my “academic” and “researcher” identities in favor of “sex/kink writer.” Part of the reluctance comes from investing two decades into becoming a successful researcher in other areas (women veterans, criminal justice) which served me well. Part of it comes from not feeling as educated about sexuality as many of my sex educator peers. Finally, I have been an activist since I was young and feel my biggest contributions come from empowering disenfranchised folks and giving voice and power to their stories.

This year I have joined a group of other writers to work my way through The Artist’s Way. Part of this project involves writing 750 words a day for a month (not a big deal for me, but I generally write for publication not reflection). I’ve come to realize a couple of things about kink writing.

The Long Arch

I have had a long arch to getting to this career. In high school I was the kid folks went to with questions about sex, who always had a stash of condoms to share, and who knew who all the queer kids on campus were because I was out and would keep their secrets. In graduate school there were rumors in the dorms that I was paying for grad school by working as a professional dominatrix. The reality was much seedier- I was an assistant to the Philip Morris, USA Political Action Committee and paying folks off with the free carton of cigarettes I got each week as part of my benefits. Even as a college profession, kids would submit policy papers on sex work and said they “felt comfortable” talking about that with me.

Oppression and Sexuality

My life has also been dedicated to advocacy for three main groups: LGBTQ+ folks, HIV/AIDS activism, and women and girls. What underlies the oppression of all these groups is sexuality. Us queer folks are oppressed and targeted not because of “who we love” but because of who we have sex with. It we just had really close friendships, I doubt the world would be so harsh. It is our sexuality which other people freak out about.

Think about this for a minute. Lil Nas X’s hit “Old Town Road” ticked off the country charts by dominating the charts for weeks with a Black rapper as the singer. People were just mad about the cross-genre issue. However, as soon as Lil Nas X made a public announcement about his sexuality people started looking for “secret” sexual meanings in Old Town Road. When he was assumed hetero, no sexuality issues in the song. As soon as he said he was gay the song “had to” be sexual.

HIV/AIDS was seen as a “gay men’s” disease for the first decade after it was discovered. People argued (and some still do) that gay men “deserved” AIDS because of the type of sex they have. In fact, even some gay folks argued that the gay men getting AIDS deserved it because of the type of sex they had.

Women are oppressed by our gender and that is largely tied to our sex organs. Cis women have to fight for things like the right to control our medical options related to vaginas and uterus. Not only are groups trying to eliminate access to abortion, our access to birth control is limited or governed by other’s perception of our sexuality. For example, when I tried to get my first IUD planted at 38 years old, the GYN at UC Davis Medical Center (trash organization) grilled me for 30 minutes on my sexual behavior because “as an unmarried woman [I] was clearly not “responsible enough” to have an IUD.” FFS.

I have come to understand writing about sexuality and kink is true to my authentic self. This work lies at the core of my activism and desire to give voice to those of us who have been oppressed.

I am dedicating all my energies this year to improving my sex writing, expanding what I am writing about, and embracing this work fully. If there is something you would like me to cover or write about, please feel free to comment.

#writing #blogging #kink #sexeducation #HIV #AIDS #gender #oppression #LGBTQ #activism

Episode 9: 40!!!

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-gpaia-9ee5de

40!!!

Guests: Evie Vane (author, blogger) and Tina Hayes (Belly Dancer/Model)

Auntie Vice and guest co-host CharRon Smith discuss their feelings on turning 40 and what they have discovered now that they both passed that milestone.

Evie Vane discusses her award-winning book Bondage for All Bodies, discovering kink after 40, and her work in the bondage community.

Tina Hayes discusses how the body positive movement has impacted her as a straight-sized person, how she recovered from an abusive relationship and got back out on the dating scene after 40,  her reaction and work around her daughter’s eating disorder, turning 40, and the joys of sex after 40.

 

#dating #sex #sexuality #relationships #onlinedating #tinder #love #marriage #abuse #recovery #bodypositive #bodyimage #aging #forty #women #eatingdisorders #bulimia #anorexia #parenting #anal #rope #writing #bondage #bdsm #kink

Identifying vs. Becoming

In the kinky world we use a lot of labels. Queer, kinky, top, bottom, Master, slave, Domme, submissive, baby girl, pet, Daddy, switch, demisexual, bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, cis, trans, agender, nonbinary, it goes on. While labels have a purpose, they are also problematic.

Labels are great in that they provide a shorthand for us to identify something about ourselves and connect with others using this shorthand. For example, if I am talking to another person who has the same understanding of the language as I do and I tell that person I am a queer, agender, service submissive that means something to both of us.  We can then have a conversation with the basic understanding of where I am coming from and where they might be coming from if they also have labels.

Labels also help us ground ourselves internally and feel “less crazy” and less alone. When I was trying to put words to my gender orientation 25 years ago in undergrad, there were no terms for nonbinary or agender folks. I saw therapists and would describe feeling “not right” or “alienated” from my body and they would suggest I might be transgender and should consider if I wanted to become a man. At the time there was only cis and trans folks in language and those of us who didn’t feel one fit were either counseled to try and make us believe we were cis or possibly allowed to explore the idea of being trans but only in relation to trans as a binary (male-to-female, female-to-male). For someone like me it was literally crazy-making.

About four years ago the term agender started popping up in the media. I had used it in my own writing for a while before that simply applying the rules of Latin grammar (a- meaning without) to “gender.” When I finally saw an article in the Washington Post about a tiny group of younger folks talking about being agender as this “new” identity I was shocked (shocked!!!) that there was anyone else out there similar to me. After 20+ years of trying to explain to folks how I experienced gender and others shaking their heads in confusion, there was finally a word that other people used as well to describe what I felt.

Labels, however, also can be problematic. One issue that arises is the “labeling” versus “becoming” issue. For anyone who has searched to figure out who they are, finding a word (a label) which fits their experience of the world and themselves it becomes an “a-ha!” moment. There is a joy and relief to know that someone before you found a way to capture an important aspect of your identity. Finding out there is a word to describe part of your experience allows you to relax just a bit and feel a little more connected and normal.

A problem arises when we allow that label to circumscribe who we are and what we can be. That is when the labeling starts constricting who we are. This happens a lot in the kink community.

Many kinky folks can recall moments in their childhood or adolescence of exploring a nascent sexuality and feeling “different.” They may have gotten really excited while tying up their friends during a game of “cops and robbers.” They might have really enjoyed the hair pulling on the playground. They might have felt “at home” when a partner started telling them what to do. Because these actions are considered deviant they might have felt different or ashamed of their emotional reactions.

When we finally find out there are words to describe these feelings (e.g., submissive, dominant, Master, slave) there is an excitement that comes with finally figuring out we are not crazy and that there is a whole group of people who feel the same way we do.

Often, this initial discovery leads us down the rabbit hole into the kink community. We start looking up stuff online about kink, BDSM, submission, bondage and so forth. We read articles and books and erotica describing what a submissive or a dominant is. We look up definitions and try and force ourselves to fit these definition.

What starts as a journey of exploring who we are eventually circumscribes our own identity. I see so many kinksters read just a few pieces and most of that is erotica, describing a D/s or M/s relationship. They then use the practices and definitions to determine who they will be in the kink world. This is a dangerous shift. When external information and descriptions begins determining who you are instead of you determining who you are you stop becoming and just start living to the label.

No single description or small number of descriptions describe the vast world of kink or even any one vein of it. Submissives come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and sexual orientations. Some of us love service, some hate it. Some love pain, others avoid it. Some love our puppy masks and leashes, others balk at such things. I have been reading BDSM writings since I was 15 — 29 years of reading, and I am still finding new ways people talk about submission!

Limiting your expressions of submission to try and fit a given model or the things you read can be painful. I have watched person after person struggle to find their identity as a submissive and fight with the “but such-and-such says a submissive is THIS! I am not that but I am as submissive so I have to become what I read about.” This often leads to feelings of failure as a sub or that somehow the label doesn’t fit.

We need to work on continually becoming and relegate labels to what they are good for- a short-hand identification of a complex identity. You have to create your own version of submission or dominance. This is a lifelong journey. You are not a character in a book or a definition on some website. Don’t let those things limit who you can become.

 

#identity #submission #submissive #dominant #Domme #Dom #bdsm #kink #roles #labels #lgbtq #personalgrowth #love #journey #community #agender #queer

Fetlife Protest Isn’t Just a “Feminist Thing”

For those of you unfamiliar with Fetlife, it is a social media site for kinky folks (kinky defined very broadly).

Currently, there is a group of folks of undetermined size who are planning to temporarily deactivate their accounts at the end of April as a protest to some of the current policies and procedures on Fetlife. In the last couple of years as kink has become incredibly popular in the mass media the site has grown exponentially with folks looking to explore some part of kink. As will any group that grows rapidly there are growing pains including trying to teach newbies the norms of the group.

For kinky folks who have been in the scene for more than the past five years, we had communities which prioritized boundaries and consent. We taught the trickle of newbies about the importance of boundaries and consent and corrected them when they violated these norms.

With the massive influx of new folks, they have brought the norms of wider American (and to some extent British and Canadian norms). For those of us who have watched this, we have seen more consent and boundary violations and struggled with how to deal with these issues.

Let me make this clear right now- not all boundary and consent violations are equal. They are all important. I see a clear difference between an online account consistently sending creepy unwanted messages to someone and being raped during a pick up play scene. Both need to be addressed and prevented (if possible) but they are not on the same scale.

Boundaries

So much of the what is being protested (but not said explicitly) is the lack of capacity to redress boundary violations. All of us have some boundaries. All of our boundary lines are a bit different. Context can affect where we draw our lines.

Most women and a large number of men of color experience online harassment and boundary violations. Most of us have received creepy, unwanted messages from members of Fetlife. This happened early on in the sites history and happens more today. They make the recipient feel “icky” and sometimes unsafe. Sometimes we just want to non-consensually beat the person who sent it.

There is a big thread on Fet that “creepy messages never hurt anyone.” Eh… ok, most creepy messages don’t end up with someone being physically injured, I’ll give you that much. However, constant harassment and nasty messages can leave a person feeling unsafe. True, you can block the sender. However, when it is a daily chore to block folks sending creepy harassing messages, people bounce from the community. Nobody wants to have to feel like they are constantly being preyed upon by random strangers will ill intent. And yes, there are those of us who log on and our first chore is to block the new creepers. It sucks.

Sending an unwanted message tells us a lot about the sender. One, you are either unfamiliar or simply ignoring normal social boundaries. Two, if you persist in sending creepy messages when told to stop or the person fails to respond to your first one, you willingly continue to violate someone’s boundaries. These mean you are unfit to play with someone in the kink community.

Kink and BDSM relies heavily on people discussing their boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others. It is back to the old example, the difference between an impact scene and assault is consent. Many people use online contact as a primary or singular source of contact with other kinksters. If you constantly violate boundaries you signal you are not willing to respect community norms and should be bounced.

Racism, Sexims, and Ablism

Many of us who receive unwanted messages get messages which are filled with racist, sexist and ablist vitriol. As a fat chick, many cis het men on Fet feel comfortable either fetishizing part of my body or sending unwanted comments about how gross they think fat women are. If I don’t know you, I don’t want to hear your stupid opinion about my looks (positive, negative or otherwise). I also don’t want to be reduced to a single physical characteristic (e.g., don’t wax rhapsodic about my giant tits and fail to notice literally anything else about me).

My friends who are people of color get harassed way worse than I do. Black men (especially those identifying as Dom or Master) get messages inquiring about the size of the cocks riddled with racist slurs. Black men who identify as submissive have shared with me harassing messages about not “being a real man” and other racist stuff Fetlife members choose to message them. I could go over the specific forms of racism each different group gets, but I think I made the point— Fet has racist members.

We block these asshats, true. Some of us report them but that puts the burden on the person being harassed to correct the behavior. Most of these creeps move on to other targets but remain active members of the Fet community.

Consent Violations

Beyond general creepy messages, some Fet members violate a person’s consent. Many of us have a clause at the top of our bio which states, in one form or another, we don’t accept unsolicited friend requests from someone we don’t know. Many slaves or submissives have additional instructions as to who to contact if they want to make an introduction. Most of these are ignored regularly by creepy folks on Fet.

If you ignore these instructions in a bio you are violating consent. When corrected, if you persist in the unwanted behavior you continue to violate consent. Its simple: read and respect the terms the person wants to be contacted by.

Learning Curves

People have learning curves when they enter a new subculture. It takes a second to learn the lingo and the norms. I understand newer folks will take time to acclimatize to the norms of the kink community.

Right now, we are at a point where our various kink communities need to decide what norms we want to enforce and which ones we should consider changing. Just because its “tradition” or has been done one way for years doesn’t mean we got it right. I am willing to consider new ways of bringing folks into the community, how we can encourage people to explore kink in a safe way, and how we accommodate the myriad of needs of kinky folks.

I think the core values of consent and respecting boundaries need to remain. Figuring out new policies which create and encourage people to understand consent and boundaries is important.

Fixing Fet

I know the folks running Fet are currently trying to figure out how to address these issues. Here would be my suggestions to kick around:

1. Implement a type of “three strikes, your banned” rule.

Fet has some serial harassers. They target one person, get blocked or bored, and move to the next. When the harassment reaches a certain threshold, I think people should be able to report it and it count as a “strike.”

I would NOT include things like sending an uninvited friend request or single creepy message. These are sent all the time and we are all adults and can deal with it. Either block (or don’t accept) the friend request or send a generic “Please do not message me again” text. This is not too onerous for anyone to do.

I WOULD include things like messages indicating someone wants to harm you, messages which contain explicitly racist, ablist or sexist language.  Messages which clearly are sent to intimidate or scare someone would be included. Messages about stalking and other illegal behaviors would also be included.

I think Fet needs to develop an oversite group who can read the reported messages and determine, based on an explicit and published rubric, if the messages count as a strike. A bot cannot be used to determine the intent behind the message- we need real, live people. When a reported message is a strike, the sender of the message would get an message from the Fet admins identifying the specific terms they violated. If the person sends three or more of these messages, they are banned from the site.

The “you have violated community standards” generic message will not work. The specifi violation(s) need to be clearly identified so that the violator may learn what they did wrong.

2. “Cooling Off” periods

Consent violations of a wide variety occur in real life and impact Fetlife accounts. There is a lot of concern (mainly by cis men) that they can be randomly accused of a consent violation as a retaliation method from some upset play partner.

Recognizing not all consent violations are equal and that no one person should be able to make an unsubstantiated claim ant then attempt to destroy someone’s online reputation, there needs to be a reasonable solution.

If the consent violation can be corroborated by others in the community and shown to have impacted someone’s account on Fetlife, there needs to be a variety of repercussions. In the worst case scenarios where someone is raped there needs to be a clearly defined process for blocking the rapist from Fetlife. For lesser violations, I would suggest there be a “cooling off” period where one or both parties is limited from using their account. In the case where someone is claiming consent violations but there is no cooboration or it is a clear attempt to get a hated ex off Fet, the account of the accuser should be limited.

I know there are many women out there claiming this is putting the onus on the victim or refusing to believe the victim. It would require that it is more than and “they said/they said” situation. You may tell me your story. I may believe you. But if we are asking a company to remove someone’s access to part of the community, it needs to be more than hearsay.

3. Recognition that people need time to learn.

Some folks violate norms and boundaries accidentally. Maybe they didn’t know it was a boundary. Maybe they didn’t realize what they were supposed to say when the violated it. Maybe no one has ever told them they are a flaming racist pig. We all make mistakes.

Fet needs to create a chance for people to learn. There are lots of options– instituting “trainings” where someone accused of being a creeper on Fet either has to read about boundaries, consents and norms and take a little quiz before getting access back to their account, or instituting a “class” online people had to take if they were accused of being a creeper or some such thing. It seems punitive, but for folks who are just online or who rarely get out into the kink world in real life, we need a way to educate them about the norms and boundaries of the community.

Simply sending a copy of the terms of use and community standards won’t work. People don’t read. Seriously, if it is longer than a tweet, most people just quit reading.

I believe people can learn from their mistakes and should be allowed the chance to learn. We can’t just randomly block every dickhole who posts a few creepy messages. They may not understand how they are being a dickhole. Let’s give them a limited time to learn and correct their behavior.

Finally, Its About Power

A lot of the posts on Fet right now about how “dumb” this protest is or how “If you don’t feel safe, leave” shows a great tone deafness to the role of power. Men have more structural power than women do. White folks have more structural power than non-white folks. Cis folks have more power than trans folks. Able bodied people have more power than bodies with various disabilities.

Most of the posts about “if you don’t feel safe, leave” are being written by cis white guys or cis white women. They have the power and they feel safe because they know they have the power. You don’t get to set all the terms of the community. White cis folks live in a safety bubble and are lashing out being asked to share it.

If you don’t understand structural power, how can you possibly understand power exchange and giving/accepting power in a relationship or play scene? Posts decrying the “snowflakes” and all just reveal who the poster is: someone who doesn’t understand power. It should be a red flag for anyone seeking a relationship or play partner in these folks.

 

#Fetlife #protest #onlineaccounts #bdsm #kink #consent #boundaries #norms #learning #socialmedia #rape #power #powerexchange

If You Don’t “Get” Non-Binary, Read This

The more I read about nonbinary folks and the more I see cis folks try and talk about nonbinary folks, the more I understand that this is just a giant ball of confusion for many people. As someone who has understood gender isn’t binary and has been living as a nonbinary person for way longer than it has been in the mass media, it always surprises me how much so many folks struggle with the concept. So dear reader, here are a few things I think might help clear up some issues.

1. Gender isn’t just “boy” and “girl.”

Years ago when I was in undergrad I was trying to explain who I experience gender to some people. This was in the way, way back times of the early 1990s. Terms like “nonbinary,” “genderqueer,” “gender fluid” and “agender” simply didn’t exist and were  not part of the language. While there was a growing understanding of trans, most trans folks were largely unseen and unacknowledged even by the queer community.

I think of gender as stereo equalizer. There are buttons for the biology you were born with (think “on” or “off” for secondary sex characteristics like penis, vagina, and breasts). Then there are slider bars for things like “typically feminine” and “typically male” gender expressions like how you wear your hair, how you walk, and how you talk. There is another set of balancing bars for how you feel about your gender. You feel “female” or “male” or “no gender.” Bars are set differently for everybody and for many of us, the move throughout our lives.

For a “typical” cis woman, breast and vagina buttons would be “on.” Gender feeling would be high on feminine and low on masculine. Gender expression would be higher on feminine than masculine. However, these bars can move around and change and be set at all different combinations, so you begin to see how complex gender actually is.

2. Nonbinary isn’t synonymous with trans.

Transgender typically refers to someone whose gender expression and gender feelings don’t align with the gender they were assigned based on the genitals the doctor saw at birth. Transgender is a type of nonbinary person, but not all nonbinary people identify as trans. Some trans folks identify with binary genders. Some do not.

3. Not all nonbinary folks want sex affirming surgery.

How we choose to express our gender and what we need to feel comfortable in our bodies differs for each nonbinary person. Some nonbinary folks want to change their bodies to fit how they feel. This may be as simple as wearing their hair a certain way, wearing chest binders, wearing a prosthetic penis, or wearing the clothing of their gender. For others it can be taking hormones to help alter their bodies and changing their speaking voices. For some, it can involve surgery. Engaging in any or all of these activities does not make one more or less nonbinary or more or less trans.

4. Nonbinary folks may or may not use their legal birth name.

Some nonbinary folks are happy with their legal birth names (I’m one of them). Some want a name that reflects who they are now and use a different name. Using a name that aligns with your assigned gender or your actual gender does not make someone more or less nonbinary.

Many of us nonbinary folks are also performers (I know too many nonbinary performers to count anymore). We use stage names, nom de plumes, and all sorts of alternative names. That name does not change our gender. However, we expect you to use the name we ask you to use as a sign of respect.

5. Nonbinary does not mean androgynous.

Some nonbinary folks are androgynous, some are not. Some keep one look for long periods of time that is in line with their gender (a nonbinary person may look and dress “femme” for years). We do not necessarily dress as the “opposite” gender or as an androgynous person. We often dress based on the occasion and location we will be at (we have work clothes, date night clothes, beach clothes) and changing our style or “gender” of clothing does not change our gender.

6. Sex, Gender and Sexual Orientation are all different things!

Sex is something that refers to our genitals and our bodies.

Gender is a complex psychological concept that most people discover well after birth. We learn what it means socially to be “male” and “female” and “nonbinary.” We discover our own identities. Sometimes we feel that our gender matches our sex, sometimes it doesn’t, and for some of us, it is difficult to describe the connection.

Sexual orientation is about who we are are sexually attracted too. I may find men, or women or nonbinary folks attractive. Depending on my own gender then, I could figure out a sexual orientation (hetero, homo, bi, pan).

It is completely possible for someone to be an agender female pansexual (hi, right here). Others can be nonbinary male heterosexuals or trans female lesbians or any of dozens of permutations.

7. I don’t have to disclose my gender to demand you respect me.

I see a lot of rants by TERFs and other bigots in both the hetero and queer communities that those of us who are nonbinary must disclose our gender immediately upon meeting them or we are somehow “lying” to other people. My simple take is, “Go eat a donkey dick.”

Gender is complex and personal for many of us. While cis folks may feel completely comfortable shouting out their gender from the top of their lungs, many nonbinary folks understand that there is a great risk of harm in doing that. We are not lying by choosing to have some discretion and self-preservation. If we ask you to use a specific pronoun, just do that. It isn’t an assault on your world. I will use your cis het preferred pronoun without a fight, you can use mine. It is being a decent person.

If you are reading this and getting angry and arguing with me in your head that I must come out to you when we meet, you are the reason I don’t come out all the time. That anger some of you readers are building up can translate into very real physical harm for nonbinary folks.

So try this, take a deep breath. Realize my identity has nothing to do with you. Now go and use the pronouns folks ask you too.

 

#trans #nonbinary #gender #genderidentity #women #men #female #male #pansexual #transgender #agender #genderfluid #genderqueer #relationshiporientation #lgbtq

Free the Pussy, Free the World

I have spent nearly 30 years working in political activism. My graduate work in political psychology focused on identity, education and political involvement. I have worked from inside and outside movements. There is one thing I have seen consistently: Sexually empowered women are the most powerful force in the world.

Most cultures around the world have a lot of stigma and shame they train into women. Making us ashamed of our bodies, our sexuality, our desires and our needs works to silence and control us. Much of this shame and control is housed in religious and “moral” codes. Everything from the concept of “virginity” to controlling access to birth control, abortion and health care, to fat shaming, slut shaming, and using advertising to convince us that our body hair, our smell, our features, our pussies and our breasts are gross is all designed to silence and control us.

In the last five years I have had the great privilege of meeting women working in sex work, burlesque, sex education, kink and porn. Many of the women I have met and worked with are also the most forward-thinking, empowered activists I have ever met. It is in these circles where I get to talk to and learn from other women about issues ranging from race to class to health care to representation. It is women who love their bodies, who have not shame in who they are, who embrace their sexuality that fight tirelessly to make a difference for other people in the world.

While I have worked with plenty of other women in politics and activists groups, many of the women in these groups still hold onto shame around their bodies and the bodies of other women. When I was working for the Women’s Commission in California, I worked with many of the democratic elected officials and their staff. These women, while outspoken about needing some change, shied away from the big political fights and risks. These were also the same women who held shame (privately expressed to me) around their own bodies.

The more I have worked for radical change – moving away from capitalism, fighting for radical inclusion of POC, trans folks, queers and disabled – the more I have found these fights are only fought by women who are free from shame about their bodies and their sexuality.

Culturally we start instilling shame around a woman’s body at a very young age. We teach toddlers to cover up, we act embarrassed to talk about body parts and their functions, and for millions of girls, sexual abuse starts years before they ever reach puberty.

If we want change, real substantial change, we have to stop shaming women about their bodies and sexuality. This Women’s History Month, I challenge all of you to take a vow to empower and embolden women by working to end body shaming.

For tips and tools on how to help empower women and girls, please check out:

The Mama Sutra: Sex-positive parenting

Kenna Cook: Sex positive education for all ages

American Sex Podcast: Hosted by Sunny Megatron

Brown Chicken Brown Cow podcast

Kinky Queer Revolution podcast

Hot Over 50: Making the Beauty, Wisdom, and Anti-Aging Connection by Dr. Julie Stass

#Women #Gender #Sexuality #Shame #Politics #Movements #Power #Pussy #SexEducation #SexPositiveParenting

Is Non-Binary the Future of Gender?

News headlines are floating around about 20 percent of Millennials identifying as “non-binary.” This is based on a new study by GLAAD working with Harris Poll which looks at acceptance of sexual and gender identities.

The initial headlines caught my attention because most news outlets framed this as “20 percent of Millennials identify as non-binary.” This is actually a huge number when you start to think about it. Even lumping together the different non-binary identities (e.g., gender fluid, agender, transgender, and genderqueer) one in five fall into that category! As a person who grew up agendered and managed to live 35 years before meeting someone else like me, this seemed a bit suspicious (especially because I have a huge percentage of friends who are queer, drag performers, and other non-standard identities).

Questioning and Unsure of Identity

I looked up the study.

First, this category includes people who are questioning their gender. In fact, “questioning or unsure” is the biggest part of this “non-binary” identity make up. This makes sense when looking at Millennial since they are mostly under 30. Basic human development has demonstrated for more than 80 years that people try on different identities through their early 20s. These questioning individuals may eventually fall into the non-binary category, but many others will fall into the binary.

I think its great that more people feel free to question their gender and don’t just take the sex on the birth certificate for granted. We need more time and space for people to figure out what their gender means to them. However, since this group is the largest subset of the “non-binary” it diminished the headlines claiming people identify as binary since, by definition, those questioning or unsure aren’t actually sure they belong in the category.

The study then gives the break-outs for sexual and gender orientation by generation. Here, the numbers are still meaningful but not the shocking 20 percent in the headlines.

Transgender

Two percent of folks 18-34 identify as transgender. This is larger than other generations (1 percent for 35-50, 0.5% for those over 50). This study didn’t ask any specifics about identity other than asking people to self identify, so it is hard to say why more folks under 34 are identifying as trans than those over 35. I would put good money it is on the growing acceptance and visibility of trans folks in the media.

People under 35 have gone through puberty at a time where culturally we are talking about trans folks and their stories. The “increase” in people identifying as trans may simply be more people seeing people like them being accepted and therefore feeling okay to self-identify as trans.

So why aren’t more older folks identifying as “trans” since they have exposure to the same media and those under 35?

Well, because we grew up at a time where “trannies” were mocked, made the butt of jokes, beaten, and portrayed as “sick” or “crazy” or “perverts.” Even though we are now seeing more positive representations of trans folks in the media, we have decades of messaging that being trans in not okay. We have to overcome our own internalized fear of being seen as trans prior to self-identifying as trans. There may not be an actual difference in the percentage of folks who are trans. The difference may simply be the percentage of folks who are comfortable identifying as “trans” to a stranger on the phone.

Genderfluid, Genderqueer, Bigender

This subgroup is the one I am more fascinated with. The survey shows that six percent of those under 35 identify as genderfluid, genderqueer, or bigender. They define these terms as such:

Genderfluid: Identifying as male, female and/or outside the binary at different times.

Genderqueer: Identifying as beyond the binary at all times.

Bigender: Identifying as male and female equally at all times.

The understandings about gender these terms represent is a huge cultural shift. Genderfluid recognizes that a person can move through different gender identities at different times. This not only moves gender out of the binary (what is presumed to be a constant, solid state) and understands that for some folks, gender is more like light- moving as a wave and particle, changing but still seen as the same by outside people.

Genderqueer and bigender are concepts that gender is much greater than anything the binary represents. These identities recognize that for some individuals they are still tied to a gender, but that gender is beyond the scope of what most of us have words for at the present moment.

Its these groups that I think will serve as the vanguard for developing how we conceptualize and recognize gender and its roll in our future. While people will eschew labels and mock people for labeling themselves, having this new language to talk about gender opens up an entirely new discussion and allows like-minded folks to find each other. I can’t wait to see what this dialogue becomes.

Agender

This is the last subgroup included in the study. Three percent of folks under 35 self-identified as agender. Less than one-half or one percent of people over 35 chose this identity. This is the only term in the study that is also not defined, so people had to know what they meant by it when they chose it.

I think this speaks largely to how gendered our world is. It is incredibly hard to remove yourself from gender, even when the concept fails to resonate with you. I identify as agender because I honestly don’t “get” the concept of gender. My body just feels like a set of props and not something that gives me a meaningful understanding of myself or the world (see here and here for more writing on being agender).

The difference between those under 35 and those over 35 are the most pronounced in this category. This speaks to the growing cultural discussion of gender. Writings about the absurdity of “gender reveal parties” and the extreme gendering of products (Pens? Seriously, female and male pens!!!) has allowed younger folks to think of gender as a weird cultural artifact that does not have to have personal meaning to them.

What does this mean for the future?

I have a small hope that the generation entering adulthood and the workforce will change the cultural understanding of gender. However, there is a ton of work to do before this is more than just really exciting stuff to those of us who study gender. The same study found that thirty percent of folks still feel uncomfortable seeing a picture of a gay person and their partner on a desk at work (ffs). One-third of respondents still find it objectionable for a teacher to mention LGBTQ folks in schools (probably the same folks who are comfortable with Texas schools teaching Moses was a founding father of the U.S.).

I am glad more people are feeling safe to identify outside the binary. This is an improvement. And I am glad to see we are using more terms which give people the mental constructs to say more accurately who they are.

While the initial headlines on this study seemed to promise more change in gender than is really represented, the study still offers some hope. So, all my queer, gender-nonconforming readers, keep up the fight. We have a very long way to go before all folks can feel comfortable in their own skin.

#transgender #agender #bigender #genderfluid #genderqueer #gender #nonconforming #Milennials #identity #culture #LGBTQ

Hef, Playboy, & American Sex

With the passing of Hugh Hefner today, lots of sex writers and educators are reflecting on his influence on their lives and work. It is undeniable that Playboy has shaped the ideas of women, sex, and beauty for a huge percentage of Americans since it began publication in 1953. It has peppered the landscape of American sex for the better part of 70 years and has impacted American’s ideas of sex in ways few other magazine’s ever have.

My introduction to Playboy was not traditional at all! I had heard of it and I knew a few boys in high school who reportedly sold the copies they stole from their dad’s spank banks, but I did not see one until college. My introduction to the publication came from reading Gloria Steinem’s “A Bunny’s Tale” in my first edition copy of Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.

I found her book in a mall bookstore when I was about fourteen. I was already involved in activism and volunteer work and as an overly driven teen, I gobbled up this feminist tome. I can remember reading the essay and being horrified at the objectification of women and what seemed to be absurd amounts of stuffing and cramming and dieting it took to become a bunny. I can also remember thinking that it would be kind of awesome to be able to work as a bunny.

For me, the Playboy clubs seemed almost wholesome compared to the porn I was reading. From my late teens onward wasn’t much of a visual consumer of porn, I preferred to read stories. At fifteen I discovered a copy of Macho Sluts in a gay-friendly bookstore and scarfed that down, immediately seeking out all other works by Patrick Califia. His world was what fueled my fantasies. Lesbians clad in leather, wielding whips and handcuffs, having hot, wet, rough sex was what got me off and was the sex I sought out. Playboy magazine and clubs, on the other hand, seemed nearly chaste!

In college, I began pursuing pornographic magazines with a roommate. During my sophomore year of undergrad, my roommate and I developed a ritual. On Fridays after classes and work was over, we would go to the movies, then dinner, and then to the liquor store to by a “dirty” magazine. We would go home, had a beer, and flip through the issue of the week. She was an art major and I was deep into my queer activism. Most of our discussions focused on the actual critique of the images, writings and choice of models. I cannot remember ever masturbating to an issue or this ritual leading to sex in any form.

Playboy’s choice of models, its styling of the shoots, and the general depiction of women was never sexy to me. These images were always over-styled resulting in a cartoon-ish effect of women (at least for me). I distinctly remember one issue where some girl band had done a “lesbian-lite” type of shoot. I remember looking at the huge blow-out hairdos, the long acrylic nails painted bright pink, and the way the women were touching each other. Even as a baby dyke I recognized that this in no way represented lesbian sex, even if it was supposed to be between two “femmes.” There was no connection between the models- no fingers digging into flesh, no wetness, and the nails! Even with my limited number of female partners at that time I knew long, pointy acrylic nails on both models meant no one was getting a good hand job!

While the images of the women in Playboy never aroused me as spank bank material and I continued to recognize the issues with the male gaze, the lack of diverse representation of women, and the continued dedication to the most absurdly stylized photo shoots, I began subscribing to the magazine in grad school for the most cliched reason: the articles.

Probably the most repeated line about Playboy is that men “read it for the articles” followed by a wink, or a snicker, or a knowing look. But damn it if there weren’t a number of thoughtful articles included in the magazine. Over time, I came across social commentary, decent coverage of current events, and in-depth interviews. Even in this past year I have passed along decent articles from the magazine to sex educators and my readers on social media.

What I like about Playboy was its balance. Sure, people buy it for the centerfold or cover model (I still have a copy of my favorite issue with Dita von Teese on the cover). The articles provide some substance. Finally, the issues include some comedy, cartoons, and even fashion advice. The magazine, at least for me, read as a world where sex was natural and important, but it had to come with a balance.

I think that balance has been lost with many other pornography magazines and definitely with porn websites. As we have advanced with what can be streamed and accessed over the internet, so many sites reduce themselves down to sex and sexy pictures and nothing more. There are millions of sites where people with no context and no background are already mid-intercourse when you click on the thumbnail and three to eight minutes later they are done and there is nothing more.

Yes, this type of sex-only focus existed in magazines when I was reading Playboy and many others in undergrad 25 years ago. Those magazines were also big turn offs. Like so much of the free porn on sites today, the focus of these magazines were genital close-ups, penetration shots, and bukake shots. Don’t get me wrong, I have my collection of “rough, interracial, anal, pain” clips I watch when I need a few minutes of inspiration, but that is not the whole (or hole) of my pornography collection.

I appreciate sites which try to integrate pornographic videos with other things like education, STI/STD information, links to STI testing sites, classes, events and more. Sites which are more well rounded are growing every day and I find this to be a great thing for sex in America.

American’s are MESSED UP about sex in so many ways. We have so much shame, and body policing, and judgement, and acceptance of rape, and lack of good health information that it is appalling out there! Sex IS important and it IS a big part of many of our lives. My mother (a LCSW and psychologist) is fond of saying, “Sex is only about 10 percent of any relationship. However, when that 10 percent isn’t working, it affects the other 90 percent.” I don’t have a time diary or breakdown of how much time the average couple spends having sex, talking about sex, and preparing for sex, but ten percent seems about right.

We need to focus on treating consensual sex as something healthy and natural. In my own development, Playboy did a decent job of showing sex as a healthy part of the adult experience. For all its flaws, Hef’s magazine showed some balance. For that, I am grateful.

#Playboy #HughHeffner #PatrickCalifia #pornography #porn #MachoSluts #sex #balance #spankbank #healthy #women #exploitation #GloriaSteinem

Non-binary: Real or Rebellion?

Hello Readers! Sorry I have been away for so long. I had a severe infection and no help from doctors. But, despite the deplorable state of American “health care” I’m back!


In the last two months since I have been away, I have been thinking a lot about gender. I had the great opportunity to chair a panel about trans women and privilege at CatalystCon in Los Angeles this year. My three panelists and I talked about gender and culture and it gave me a lot to think about.

Gender is socially constructed. Most people use the term “social construct” without really understanding what that means. Often, the general public uses the term “social construct” as a synonym for “meaningless” or “unimportant.” The reality is, social constructs are deeply meaningful and important for people in the culture where the concepts are constructed.

Things which are socially constructed cobble together physical characteristics and behaviors, then attach a meaning to them. Race and gender are both socially constructed. We attribute meaning to things like skin color, genitals, nose width, and lip shape and attribute a meaning to them. On their own, there is little meaning to many of these physical things. Just knowing someone has a wide nose or wide hips tells you nothing about them other than the dimensions of a body part. Culturally we attach meanings and enforce them.

Something which is socially constructed can also have great value in a culture. Both race and gender are amazingly powerful as explanatory variables in a wide variety of social circumstances. For example, when doctors see me as a woman, they assume pain and illness is being made up for attention. When you look across all doctors in the United States you will find the consistently devalue women and under treat pain and illness. While the concept of gender is a social construct, it is also an incredibly powerful variable for accounting for shitty treatment by folks in white coats.

Most of us remain unaware of how much of our lives are shaped by social constructs. Cultures attribute so much value to these constructs that they may appear and feel “real” and immutable. It can be difficult to escape the meanings and significance of gender or race within a culture. We are raised to respect and perform these constructs and the are often punished for breaking the defined parameters of the constructs.

At the core of it, however, we are talking about something that is forever changing as a response to cultural pressures. For example, we can look at who is considered “white” in America. During the mass immigration wave of the early 1900s, Italians and southern Europeans were not considered “white.” As these groups moved into jobs associated with being white, we changed our cultural definition to include Italians and Greeks in the “white” category. [See David Roediger’s TheWages of Whiteness for a great explanation of the labor theory of race.]

Gender as a Construct

Gender is a social construct which feels very real and meaningful but can evolve and change over time. Right now, the concept of gender is under a great amount of pressure to evolve. For a very long time in the United States, gender has been reduced to what your genitals look like. Americans are taught if you have a penis, you are a man. If you have a vagina, you are a woman. If you have some other combination, you are a medical abnormality and generally your parents choose your gender for you at birth.

The reality is, secondary sex characteristics (genitals, breasts, etc.) do not determine gender. They can determine sex in terms of the medical meaning of what your genitals look like (and that is what the question “What is your gender? Male or Female” means when you are are asked) but gender is much more complex.

Gender is about how you see yourself and experience yourself as a gendered (or agender) person in your culture. Many people are lucky enough to feel a connection between what sex their genitals conscripted them too and what their culture says that means. Some people feel a strong attachment to the gender that is “opposite” (language is still stuck in the binary here) of what some doctor assigned the person at birth. Those folks are often identified as “transgender.” There are people like me who feel no connection to the concept of gender and find it wildly odd how obsessed people are with what your genitals are supposed to have the power to do. And now we have people who identify as “non-binary.”

What is Non-Binary?

Non-binary includes an enormous swath of folks who feel like the current gender binary is insufficient at describing the experience of gender. It includes trans folks. It includes gender fluid folks who move between identifying as male and female. It includes people who feel they possess both male and female traits at all times. It includes people with no attachment to gender. And pretty much anything that is not someone who feels completely at home in the binary.

The concept of non-binary has evolved very quickly. When I was working through my initial questions on gender identity twenty or so years ago, there was no such term. It has only appeared in the past decade. However, people who are non-binary have existed as long as male and female people have been around. Other cultures acknowledge non-binary folks but we never did in American culture.

Non-binary Explosion

Because people finally have a word that is closer in describing their experience of gender than male, female or trans, there has been an explosion of individuals gravitating toward the non-binary identity. In the past two years, there has been a call to recognize these identities by changing singular pronouns to include “they” again (it was common to use “they” as a singular pronoun two-hundred years ago but it fell out of favor). The insistence that “they” is a singular pronoun and that individuals should get to use the pronoun which reflects their identity drives people who are hellbent on enforcing the concept of a binary gender crazy.

Another result of the logarithmic explosion of people identifying as non-binary has also meant that many people deeply attached to the binary system of gender belittle and mock non-binary folks as “performing gender” or that non-binary is somehow a trend and that non-binary folks will “wise up” as they age and “choose” one of the binary genders.

I have come across several critiques of non-binary identity as just “young people” using gender as some type of performance art. The belief of these binary gender police is that non-binary is just a trend that “young people” grab on to in order to be popular and “cool.”

All Gender is Performative

What these critiques miss is that all genders, binary and non-binary, are performative. Many people do not feel like they are “performing” gender when they choose to wear something, or style their hair, or wear make-up. Most people feel they are making a natural choice to wear what is gender appropriate according to their cultural norms and it really feels like the clothing is in line with their being.

A simple overview of fashion history will quickly make clear that over time, what is defined as “male” and “female” changes radically. High heels were originally a men’s shoe. Make-up was once commonly worn by both men and women. Pink was masculine and blue was feminine for an extended period of fashion history. Men wearing make-up and heels felt perfectly masculine doing so when that was the style.

Today, we attribute gender to the most absurd things: the side of your shirt which the buttons are sewn, the location of a zipper in pants, the material and shape of a bag. Think about it. If your buttons were reversed on your dress shirt you would be wearing the shirt of the “opposite” gender. To me, this is absurd to put any meaning or value on this beyond what is better suited to your dominant hand!

Non-binary and Gender Definitions

Since all gender is performative (regardless how “real” and “natural” it feels to you) this led me to a question. How many non-binary folks are identifying that way because they do not feel connected to the dominant cultural portrayals of men and women?

Since gender is a social construct, and the meanings of gender are constructed through the portrayal of the construct in society, is there a percentage of non-binary folks who identify as non-binary simply because the dominant portray of men and women does not include people like them?

For me, I identify as agender because I have no attachment to the concept, I go through periods of time where I feel my body is “wrong” and does not reflect my gender, and I have never felt like a “woman” or a “man.” Non-binary folks have told me that they feel like they are “both male and female” or “swing between male and female” or are “beyond male and female.” But since male and female are social constructs, would changing the social construct make some of these non-binary folks feel more included?

Our gender binary is very limited in what is included in the definition of “male” and “female.” Men have a much more narrow options for being “men” than women do for being a “woman.” For example, while “tomboy” girls have found some acceptance in sports and the lesbian community, “sissy” boys don’t really have any safe, accepting community. Heterosexual men who like to craft, wear make-up, extensively groom their face and body hair, and dislike sports have a hard time finding a community which widely accepts them. Would expanding our definition of what is “male” make some non-binary folks feel more “male” and identify as male?

I know plenty of non-binary folks who would say “absolutely not!” They feel their non-binary status is a perfect representation of their gender. However, many have not looked closely at how our culture has defined gender and who the ham-fisted insistence a person fit into the binary influenced their own concept of what a man or a woman is.

Gender is a huge spectrum. I actually think it is two spectrum: Masculine and Feminine. I have long envisioned gender like the equalizers on a stereo. There is a level for masculine and one for feminine. The dials move for each person. You can be high or low on both scales or a mix. Over a lifetime, the levels can move for us, either consciously or unconsciously.

As a culture, we have not had the conversations we need to have about gender. We still largely accept that gender is somehow innate and still remains tied to what lies between your thighs. Most people cannot divorce themselves from the cultural representation of gender to see how what they do is performative and a way of enforcing gender norms. Until we have this conversation, non-binary will be an option for people who do not fit cultural norms.

 

#binary #nonbinary #gender #culture #socialconstruct #norms #identity #trans