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This is not a typical post for my blog, but it is something that has been affecting my life and the lives of those around me recently. Let’s talk about depression.

Scumbag Genetics

Yeah, this sounds about right.

scumbag geneticsDepression (and mental illnesses in general) is a genetic joke. There are studies upon studies relating creativity, intelligence, and mental issues. Pretty much any incredibly talented artist you can think of suffered from some sort of mental illness. There shouldn’t be any shame related to it.

Unfortunately, many people feel shame about their mental illnesses. I know that I often feel ashamed of mine. I find myself thinking, “you have this amazing opportunity to do something that you love, you live in an amazing city, you have awesome friends, and your fiancé is loving and supportive. You have everything that you need and pretty much anything you want, so why do you feel shitty? You know that there are people out there with REAL problems, right?” and on and on and on. All that shame, negative self-talk, and personal berating only serves to make myself feel worse and makes getting back to normal even more difficult. It is ten times worse when someone else says these things that I find myself thinking.

I have suffered from depression, off and on, for pretty much as long as I can remember. In the tumultuous life that I have lead, depression has been one of the few constants in my life.

When I was dealing with the death of my biological mother at the age of eleven, despite being in therapy, I was depressed and suicidal. I was better for a few years, but high school was particularly hard. I honestly thought that everyone around me had their entire lives figured out already, and I was in a constant state of panic that I hadn’t chosen a career path yet. I was fourteen years old, and I was stressed, anxiety ridden, and depressed.

My mental stresses manifested themselves in several physical ways. I barely slept at night. I would sleep for 30 minutes, and then be awake for an hour and a half, sleep ten minutes, be awake for forty-five minutes. The sleep I did manage to snatch from my overloaded brain was not restful, as I was grinding my teeth and having disturbing nightmares. I managed to grind my teeth so hard that the plate of cartilage between my jaw and skull slipped forward, and prevented me from opening my mouth fully. I had to go to a specialist, get a night guard, and take Valium in order to actually get some rest. I am terrified at the fondness I still feel towards an opiate.

This may come as a shock to my friends at the time, but I was also severely bulimic. In general, I would eat the bag of chips in my packed lunch, throw the rest away, and drink as much water as possible so that they would soften in my stomach, and come up easier. I spent a minimum of 45 minutes in the bathroom after dinner, hoping and praying that no one would hear me as I tried to rid my stomach of all the food I had ingested with my family. I was so severely dehydrated that I would faint from time to time, especially after gym class. The scars on my knuckles have mostly faded, but I fear that I may have done irreparable damage to my metabolism.

I also developed some OCD-like behaviors. I would find myself counting people, or specific things in a room, and unable to stop. There were certain things in my life that absolutely had to be a certain way, or I was convinced some unspeakable horror would occur. I plucked my own body hair: legs, armpits, pubic region, eyelashes. I couldn’t stop.

During my adult life, my depression has taken a few different twists and turns. I found my OCD behaviors moving towards a fear of germs, especially when raw meat was concerned. I would almost hyperventilate while walking in the meat section of the grocery store. I had a particularly bad episode when I had to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. I stood in front of the refrigerator, crying, because I couldn’t bring myself to touch the raw turkey. My hair plucking moved to skin picking, and I still have a very difficult time leaving a blemish or a scab to heal naturally.

I have been suicidal. I have considered the probability of dying with minimal pain by walking into traffic, crashing my car into a cement barrier, taking too many painkillers, using a knife on my own wrists, and, of course, simply wasting away by not eating.

I have been through all of these things. I am just now pulling out of a nine month struggle with some pretty severe depression. I still have bad days, days where I just want to sit in bed or on my computer, eat nothing, produce nothing, and feel nothing. I have wonderful days where I am ready to take on the world, and I get a lot of things done. I hope this explains the sporadic nature of my blog updates in the past few months. Thankfully, with the help of my fiance and my dear friends, I was able to catch myself before I reached the suicidal thoughts stage.

Happy mountaineer standing on the top

I like to compare getting back to “normal” during a depressive episode to attempting to hike up a hill that is covered in gravel. It is mentally and physically exhausting. It can help to have a walking stick (anti-depression drugs), or a guide (therapist), but sometimes you have to make the journey on your own. Sometimes you slip and fall, and you end up sliding back down to the bottom. If you already know the way up, and you have accepted that sometimes you are going to slide back down, you’ll have an easier time of it and you’re less likely to quit out of frustration. I slide around a bit, and sometimes I end up riding on my butt all the way back down the hill, but I always get up, dust myself off, and try again. It is the only way to get back to feeling like myself. The struggle and the bruises are always worth the time and effort.

I am not a trained therapist nor am I a counselor. I have no education or background in helping someone with depression or suicidal thoughts. I do, however, have a sympathetic ear. I can commiserate with how difficult it is to feel like something is wrong, and to not be able to put a finger on the problem, let alone know where to begin to fix it. I can help find a therapist, or tell silly stories for a laugh.

I am heartbroken each time I hear about a friend who is dealing with the suicide of someone they love. And the person who is gone is always loved. Always.  Suicide means that those who are left behind are plagued with thoughts of “What could I have done? How could I not know? I don’t understand.”  I think that the grieving process is especially hard when someone commits suicide, because it wasn’t a natural death.

Please.  You are loved.

Please, Call this Number if You Need It.

Next week (September 8-14th) is National Suicide Prevention Week in the US. If you or someone that you love is suicidal, there is free help available. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to be connected to a counselor in your area, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It sounds trite, but suicide is a permanent solution to what may be a short-term problem, and it leaves waves of devastation in its wake.  You are loved.  Don’t give up.

Tearjerkers

My emotions today have reached a heretofore unprecedented level of sappiness.  I kid you not, as of 1:30pm Pacific time, I have cried over three different things I have seen online.  I’ve decided to share them with you here.

First up is Anita Sarkeesian’s TEDx talk, where she discusses the potential psychology behind the cybermob that attacked her so viciously over her Tropes vs. Women kickstarter project.

I teared up at the end.  Male and female video game characters pander so excessively to the heterosexual male fantasies that it leaves little room for those of alternate genders or sexual orientations to also indulge in the fantasy.  I love playing video games.  Love it.  But just once, I’d like to see a female character that isn’t weak, or aggressively sexualized.  Am I really asking too much when I ask to play a female character who isn’t wearing a chainmail bikini over the balloons on her chest?

And then there’s this picture.

That is Dan Savage (one of my personal heroes, though we disagree from time to time) and his longtime partner Terry, getting their marriage certificate signed in Washington state.  I wept like a baby.  I am so happy that my home state has made same sex marriage legal.

Finally, the fact that this is an actual film that will be shown at SXSW 2013 did me in.

I am so very excited for this film.  Wonder Woman is a personal favorite superhero of mine (and really, she should be for anyone else too!).  I recently read The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, and the entire premise of this movie ratcheted my geekcitement up to 11.  I’m interested to see how the filmmakers will compare with the author of The Supergirls.

Has anything touched your heart today?  Maybe made you squee a little?  Share your excitement with me in the comments below!

DrinkSavvy

Because I am a terrible procrastinator, and I am desperately trying to stop doing so many “This thing makes me so ANGRY! HULKSMASH!” kind of posts, I was browsing Tumblr earlier for some post ideas.  I found a few really awesome things, like the Hawkeye Initiative, where a talented artist has taken to re-drawing the poses of female comic book characters as Hawkeye.  If you need to giggle a bit, and then weep when you realize how ridiculous female comic book characters are drawn, take a look.  But that wasn’t enough for a whole blog post.

But this?  This is seriously cool.

DrinkSavvy is the brainchild of Mike Abramson, and his invention could save lives.  How many times have you heard to “never leave a drink unattended”, or “watch your drink, you might get drugged”?  I know that I have definitely had my drink spiked by someone that I trusted, while I was dating him.  Normally, this sort of advice is directed towards young women, but the creator was inspired after being drugged himself.

DrinkSavvy is a series of products (cups, glasses, straws and stirrers) that actually change color in the presence of GHB, a common “date rape” drug.  Although it has a slightly salty taste, GHB is colorless and odorless, and can be difficult to detect in a flavored drink.  Here’s what GHB can do to a person, according to Wikipedia:

Its effects have been described anecdotally as comparable with alcohol and ecstasy use, such as euphoria, disinhibition, enhanced sensuality and empathogenic states. At higher doses, GHB may induce nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, agitation, visual disturbances, depressed breathing, amnesia, unconsciousness, and death. The effects of GHB can last from 1.5 to 3 hours, or even longer if large doses have been consumed. Consuming GHB with alcohol is dangerous as it can lead to vomiting in combination with unrouseable sleep, a potentially lethal combination.

If these products become widespread, then we can effectively eliminate one tool in the date rapist’s arsenal.  Do me a favor, share this indiegogo campaign on every social media platform you currently use.  I want to see these used in every bar in the US.

I donated to the campaign, will you?

Dear Jezebel: Your Sex Advice Column is STILL Crap

Jezebel’s new sex advice columnist is still absolute crap at giving advice.  Here’s my responses to the questions directed at “Slutever”.

Dear Slutever, I do not engage in any sexual activity unless my prospective partner and I both get full STD testing. In the past five years, not one woman that I dated agreed to this. Why are so many women against getting tested prior to sex?

Sincerely, Alan

Hi Alan,

While I agree with Slutever’s assertion that you should probably start presenting this in a different light to your dates (and using condoms!), I’m more concerned with your reasons behind this request.  Would you stop seeing someone if they tested positive for an STI?

As someone who has struggled with germ phobias, I would suggest that you engage the services of a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy so that you can get past this particular quirk.  Condoms and dental dams, when used correctly, are extremely effective at preventing transmission of most STIs, and I suspect that you know this already.  So, before jumping into the sack with someone, even if they’ve shown you a clean bill of health, take care of yourself first and talk with a trained professional about your concerns.

 

I’ve been at war for the past three years but I’m coming back next week, and I really need to take my mind off things and want to lose myself in some self-love. I’m in a small town with little access to sex shops, so I was wondering if you had any unique ideas for sex toys I could fashion out of household items, or any tips that would help achieve a great orgasm experience. I really need something to get excited about!

Thanks, Steven



Hi Steven,

First of all, congratulations on finishing your tour of duty!  I really wouldn’t recommend fashioning your own sex toys or using things from your kitchen.  There are intricacies of the human anatomy that are better left to the experts.  Fortunately, although you live in a small town,  you can easily order masturbatory aids online that will be shipped to you in discreet packaging.  Smitten Kitten comes to mind immediately!  As for interesting sex toys, there are a plethora that you can choose from!  If you are interested in penatrative objects, there are items like the NJoy butt plugs, or vibrating butt plugs/perenium massagers.  If it tickles your fancy, you could also experiment a bit with sounding, though I can’t find any online retailers that I would wholeheartedly recommend.  For other masturbatory aids, there’s the ever popular fleshlight, and along the same lines, you can purchase a Tenga egg masturbation sleeve, or the slightly more elaborate Tenga 3D masturbation sleeves.

Just make sure you eat and drink plenty of fluids, use lubrication, and go out of the house every once in awhile during your “me time”.  It would be tragic to see a headline like “Soldier Starves to Death During Marathon Masturbation Session.”



I am a 31-year-old woman who has been married for 5 years. We still have frequent and awesome sex, but I have an issue that (oddly) seems to be getting worse with age. I orgasm way too quickly! And then I’m basically over sex. I’ve never had multiple orgasms, ever. I have one gigantic, eye-popping orgasm after about 3-5 minutes of intercourse and then I’m ready for sex to be over.  I’m constantly telling my husband to slow down or stop totally during sex so I can prolong it enough for him to get off too, but it’s getting to the point where he’s a little hurt that I can’t “hang on.”

Love, Caitlin

Hi Caitlin!

Much like last week’s column, I would recommend that you spend a lot more time on foreplay, concentrating on getting your husband close to orgasm.  It would also help if you talked about this outside of the bedroom, and make sure that he knows you are asking him to slow down or stop because you want him to enjoy sex too!  The numbing agents that Slutever recommended can help, but you also might have an adverse reaction to them.  I know a lot of women, personally, who find that creams or lubricants that are supposed to numb their genitals give them a burning sensation instead.

It is uncommon for a woman to orgasm that quickly, especially if there isn’t some sort of direct clitoral stimulation during intercourse!    A little more communication between you and your husband can really go a long way here.

 

I think this is going to be a regular post for Nice Girls, at least until Jezebel hires a better sex advice columnist.  Some of Slutever’s recommendations are downright dangerous or unhealthy, and I hope my responses provide a needed balance.  Let me know what you think in the comments!

Random Ramblings

I am suffering from some serious writer’s block.  I was unexpectedly too busy to post yesterday, but I’ve had a couple of hours to write, and I just don’t have a topic that I can write a full post about today.  So today, you get snippets of things that are rolling around in my brain.

First off, can we please STOP calling other women “whores” and judging them for having sex?  One of my family members shared this on her Facebook wall, and it made me see red.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have definitely judged other girls that I didn’t know well, and called them “whore”.  But you know what?  I look back at those times, and every single time, it was an insult made out of jealousy.

You heard me.  I have called other women awful names because I was jealous.  I was jealous because I thought they were prettier, or because they had a nicer body, or they wore clothing that I could never pull off, or they were more socially confident than me, or they were better at flirting, or they had the attention of the guy that I thought was cute/dating/liked.  Look deep within yourself when you decide to label someone “whore” or “slut”.  Unless that person actually works in the sex industry, chances are, the reasons behind your loathing of another person is actually emotions that you’re directing at yourself.

Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.  – Cady from 2004’s Mean Girls

I’d like to add that calling someone a whore doesn’t make your sex or love life any better.

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A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to be funny on the Nice Girls twitter account, and joked that The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino was so sexy, I was scared I’d run out of batteries.

One of my followers, who is also a friend of mine in real life, said that I should invest in a Hitachi Magic Wand.  When I replied that I didn’t really have the money to spend on it, she actually bought me one!  It gets delivered tomorrow, and you can expect a review after I’ve taken it for a test drive.

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There are some really amazing conferences that I want to attend, but I always find out about them too late.  I really wanted to go to CatalystCon, the Good Vibrations Sex Summit, and I barely found out about Arse Elektronika in time to attend one day of the conference.  How does one go about getting on the mailing list for these things?  Readers, if you hear about an interesting sex conference that you’d like to see me at, or read about on Nice Girls, could you let me know about it?

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I read what seemed to be a really amazing, sex positive, open relationship positive book called Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles.  I say that it seemed to be that way, because up until the final chapter, it was purely discussing how women and men are programmed to seek out partners outside of their primary relationships, and it even had some interesting theories regarding homosexuality.  In the last chapter, it had a cloying story about an elderly couple and how being monogamous throughout their entire lives was the best possible reproductive strategy.  It seemed like an odd way to end an otherwise open minded and rather engaging book.  I’m still wrestling with how to review it properly.

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In the interest of giving Nice Girls some more diverse voices, I am approaching some of my fellow sex educators about writing articles or columns for this blog.  I’m also planning on starting a YouTube channel, so that I can interview some of the interesting people I come across in this line of work, and you can see it all!

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Finally, today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  I’d like for you all to take a minute, and take a look at that website.

And now, I’d like to challenge you to be a transgender ally.  When you see injustice, bullying, or any sort of hate-motivated violence (whether physical or verbal), take a stand.  Make sure that your words are not going to hurt another.  Intervene.  Call the police, and then stand witness when they arrive.  Make sure that those around you, whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, know that you won’t stand there and let someone else hurt them.

Naming and Shaming

Have you heard the name Amanda Todd?  Hers is a heartbreaking story of a young teenager who was relentlessly bullied by an anonymous online man, and then in person by her classmates because of a youthful indiscretion.  Specifically, she was encouraged to lift her shirt and flash someone on a cam-chatting site, and the man who encouraged her then shared a screenshot with others, including her classmates.  The man has been identified by Anonymous, they of the “we are legion” variety, and his personal information is now available for any person who has the desire for vigilante justice.   I admit, I felt a little thrill of joy when I saw the video on the Anonymous YouTube account, stating the name of Todd’s harasser, but I immediately felt guilty about it.

How about the name Violentacrez, also known as Michael Brutsch?  He’s been outed from his anonymous screen name as a chief moderator and expert troll on several unsavory subreddits.  He’s also been targeted, and he has subsequently lost his job, and his wife has become a target as well.

I have shared my opinion on “naming and shaming” publicly before, and I am going to do it again.  Right now.  I find it all incredibly distasteful.

Amanda Todd and her parents should have gone to the police with the information she had regarding her harasser.  He was ACTUALLY distributing child pornography, and blackmailing her in the process.  When her classmates were harassing her in person, she and her parents should have gone to the principal, or called the police.  The Gawker writer who outed Brutsch should also have turned over his information to the police, as he was also distributing child pornography.  Yet no one is talking about the things that could have been done to stop these people from hurting others.  There is no discussion of how the legal system is the proper venue for reporting harassment, or turning in evidence that someone is committing illegal acts.

Instead, there are Facebook pages about how the man who was accused of harassing Amanda Todd is going to die; two men are being held up as the worst that society has to offer, but that’s okay because now they’ve been caught and aren’t we glad that now we know their names?

Knowing their names does nothing but allow other assholes on the internet to use the same tactics of bullying and harassment, which sinks these would-be white knights down to the same level as those they purport to abhor.  It allows those who are innocent in these dealings, like Brutsch’s wife and children, to be caught in the crossfire as the internet burns and pillages real names in a virtual world.  It creates a mob mentality that makes scapegoats out of the unsavory in their thirst for blood, and we are better than that.

Use experiences to educate about the bad situations and behaviors you want to see changed, but don’t give the internet the names of those who are guilty of perpetuating the bad situations and behaviors.  Allowing a particular person to become a scapegoat for broader problems only allows the group who accepted or encouraged the behavior to disavow that person, and then claim that they have changed.  It is the best form of misdirection, and allows the group to continue, essentially unchanged.

Using the heartbreaking story of Amanda Todd as a tool to educate other young women about how to deal with coercion, blackmail, mental illness, harassment, and bullying would be a much better way to make sure that this happens less frequently.  Turning in Brutsch privately would have given the US justice system a much better chance at a fair jury trial, and would have prevented his family from being vilified along with him.

Don’t get caught up in the sensationalism of the story, learn and teach the lessons that the story has to offer.

XO Expo and Pink Cross

I spent a little time this past Friday at the opening evening of the XO Expo, hosted by the Adult Video Network.  I was expecting to see fun new sex toys, maybe some interesting demonstrations, and crowds of people.

I saw none of those.  Instead, there were tattoo and piercing booths, tables of the same sex toys I can find anywhere else, and the crowds were mostly men.  These men were standing around the booths with the porn stars, and the booths that were advertising local strip clubs, staring and taking pictures of the women like they had never seen a woman in a bikini ever before in their lives.  It was gross, and made me feel very uncomfortable.

One booth in particular caught my eye.  It was pretty incongruous with the rest of the expo.  This booth was for a group called the Pink Cross (I am choosing not to link to their website, because I really don’t want to direct traffic to the site.), which is a Christian non-profit dedicated to telling the young women who are involved in the sex industry that they are bad people who just need a little more Jesus in their lives.  I was completely baffled, but after delving into their website a little bit today, I am even more baffled.  Some of the testimonials are just ridiculous.  One was equating BDSM with the occult and devil-worship.  I actually laughed out loud at that one.

While I understand that there are some young women who are forced into sex work, there are even more who choose to be a sex worker.  I have many friends who work in the local pornography scene, and they are happy with what their line of work.  Equating all of the women who choose to work in pornography as unwitting and unwilling participants simply doesn’t ring true to me.  What are your thoughts, dear readers?

Book Review: Sex at Dawn

If you’re a fan of Dan Savage, you’ve probably heard Dan talking about this book on his podcast, Savage Love back in 2010.    In the book, authors Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. and Cacilda Jethá, M.D. explore “The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality.”

Covering everything from the form and function of the modern human, to the ways that we act in relationships, Sex at Dawn turned the study of human sexuality upside down.  Through observing and drawing parallels between modern humans, and our evolutionary cousins, the Bonobo chimpanzee, the authors draw the conclusion that modern humans have a difficult time with monogamy because we are genetically engineered towards multiple partners.

On the website for Sex at Dawn, a chart by Franklin Veaux maps the different relationships that modern humans engage in.  The overlap is fascinating.

Although it may seem that the authors are advocating for non-monogamous relationships, they claim that is not their purpose.  An excerpt from the FAQ on the website for Sex at Dawn:

So you’re recommending the everyone should have an open marriage or not get married at all?

Definitely not. We’re not recommending anything other than knowledge, introspection, and honesty. In fact, as we say in the book, we’re not really sure what to do with this information ourselves. We hope Sex at Dawn advances the conversation about human sexuality so people can focus more on the realities of what human beings are and a bit less on the religious and cultural mythologies concerning what we should be and should feel. What individuals or couples do with this information (if anything) is up to them.

It took me longer than I expected to read Sex at Dawn, because each page has information that borders on revelation.  I found myself having to stop frequently just to absorb each new piece of information.  I am normally the type of person who breezes through books, but I simply couldn’t do it with Sex at Dawn.  The authors did an amazing job at fully researching the topic, and presenting it in a way that is entirely accessible to those of us who are not in the academic field.

If you are struggling with any sort of infidelity in your relationships, read this book.  If you found yourself suddenly no longer attracted to a partner after going off of hormonal birth control, read this book.  If you are curious about how and why the modern human body and sexual organs are shaped differently than every other species, read this book.

If you’d like to support Nice Girls, you can purchase Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality through this link.  As an Amazon Affiliate, I will receive a small amount of the price of your purchase.  Thanks!

Some Blogs I Follow

Good afternoon everyone!  I’ve been busy reading books to review for you all on Nice Girls, and I thought that in the meantime, I would share some of the fantastic blogs I follow.

For reading up on feminist issues, these are my top four:

Patriarchy Survivor.  This blog comes from a Facebook page I follow: No, I will NOT be quiet.  This blog has a lot of submitted personal stories, and some of them may be triggering to anyone who has experienced rape, sexual assault, or domestic violence.

Make Me a Sammich.  The author describes this as “a place to read and talk about being a woman in the USA in the 21st century.”  It’s a great description, and she recently started posting some pretty awesome fiction!

Another Angry Woman describes her blog as “Part anarchist. Part feminist. All angry.”

Damn Right I’m a Feminist has shorter posts, mostly about current news articles and some fantastic quotes.  Don’t miss her Sexist Song of the Day posts.

For some reading that is a little lighter in topic and tone (in other words, you’re much less likely to read something that will make you angry), check out these blogs.

Sex Lives of Moms has some occasionally hilarious posts, but offers advice and commiseration for those awesome moms who are struggling with regaining intimacy with significant others.

Online Dating – Why I’ll Soon Be a Crazy Cat Lady always cracks me up.  If you’ve ever tried to find the genuinely good guys in the cesspool that is online dating, you will probably recognize your experiences in her blog.

 

Tomorrow’s post will be a review of Sex at Dawn!

A Call to Men

I recently came across this video on the TED talks website.  It features Tony Porter, the founder of A Call to Men: The National Association of Men and Women Committed to Ending Violence Against Women.

His eloquent 11 minute speech is a work of art.  It was definitely worth the standing ovation he received at the end.

To my male readers: what is your experience with stepping outside the “Man Box”?  Do you believe it is real? If so, what can we do to raise the next generation outside of this “Man Box”?

To my female readers: what are your reactions after watching this?

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