Archive for September, 2008

we’re having the wrong conversation
September 29, 2008

We’ve all heard about the great debate about homosexuality: It’s a choice! No, gays are born that way! No, it’s a choice! And so forth. Over the last few years, I’ve started to see a similar question come up on kinky discussion groups and lists with regard to other non-normative ways of experiencing sexuality. People seem drawn to the puzzle of whether we’re born kinky, or whether we get that way through our upbringing and society.

Every time it comes up, whether it’s about whether gays are genetically hardwired to be gay or in any other context, I just about want to tear my hair out. In short, I think the question doesn’t deserve nearly as much time and energy as we tend to put into it. It’s rare that I truly think we should stop inquiring about any topic related to sexuality, but this one brings me awfully close to a statement like that.

Someone once reacted to my take on this by telling me that knowledge is a valuable thing for its own sake, and that it’s human nature to inquire about and study things we don’t understand. My response is, fair enough, except that when it comes to questions of sexuality, the inquiry is necessarily loaded. We aren’t talking about a “why is the sky blue?” kind of question. No matter how innocuous the nature/nurture question might be on the surface, we aren’t looking into it because of genuine scientific curiosity – or at least, to give the benefit of the doubt, for all I know individual researchers might be genuinely interested in new scientific knowledge for its own sake, but their funders may enable a project because they have an agenda, and their data will instantly be seized by all kinds of people who very much have an agenda. That data is then used for all sorts of purposes that are most definitely not scientific – government policy, religious decree, various forms of social oppression (and occasionally social progression) and more.

In the realm of research into homosexuality, people are hungry for an answer on the nature/nurture question to feed a range of agendas. Various agendas often conflict because each point can be argued from many sides. If people are born homosexual, some people (queer and straight) think that means we queers should be “forgiven” for our “sins” because we can’t help being this way; others think that means we should be exterminated at birth or during pregnancy through selective abortion, or sent to behaviour modification camps to force behaviour to conform to a heterocentic model even if desires don’t. If people become homosexual through society, some people think that means we live in a sick society and so it can’t be helped; some people think it means we live in a diverse society and that’s a good thing and perfectly acceptable; some think it means queer people have a choice and therefore should make a “better” choice; some think it’s a choice and they’re quite happy with that choice and defy anyone to tell them it’s an illegitimate one. Check out a post I wrote last year, “don’t ask why, or running in scientific circles,” if you want to see how Marjorie Garber tears apart the existing scientific research on the homosexual version of the nature/nurture question.

When it comes to kink, we’ve got another layer of problems to deal with. For starters, “what it is that we do” is completely different from person to person. I really doubt there’s a gene for bondage, or enema play, or shoe fetishism – these activities are all constructed by society and the industrial marketplace, so how could they possibly be genetically wired? Six-inch stilettos simply didn’t exist several hundred years ago, for example, so nobody could fetishize them. Throw in, say, 24/7 servitude, puppy play, looning, forced feminization, play piercing… the draws to these things, and the experiences of engaging in them, are so different that it’s hard to imagine any common genetic source, or even several common ones.

It might make sense that the genetically determined elements of our personalities, in combination with early childhood social stimulus, would create minds and emotional make-ups that are ripe for certain desires – but from there to the specifics of those desires being 100% “nature” is pretty much impossible.

The second big thing that always bugs me about the nature/nurture question is that it’s impossible to accurately determine whether anything is entirely one or the other, whether it’s personality or disease susceptibility or physical body characteristics or sexual desire or anything else. There simply is no scientific tool or equation that can make that distinction – even in the most clear-cut of cases, all they can do is predict the likelihood of something, and never with perfect accuracy.

The third is that we assume that things can be one or the other, as though anything in the world were ever black and white. That’s just not the way the world works – even for those of us (myself included) who’ve experienced their sexuality and desires as kinky since the very beginning, the desire is only one part of things. It may be a crucial part, but the way it develops is shaped by the world around us. The imagery we see in the media, the ways that power is managed by the people in our worlds from early childhood to today, the social context in which we’ve managed to grow up and find kinky community and the language to talk about these things, the ways we’re exposed to different sexual practices and paradigms, the sexual experiences we have, the traumas and joys we encounter – all of these things influence who we are as sexual beings. So it feels like reductive thinking when someone tries to say it’s one or the other. It’s just not that simple.

Last but not least, I think the nature/nurture question is a problematic one in a similar vein to when the question is asked with regard to homosexual desire and behaviour. Why is it important to know where kink comes from? Would it make a difference as to whether or not we consider it to be okay to be kinky? What would we do differently if we knew kink was genetically motivated? or if we knew it was entirely socially constructed? And here’s the kicker – if the honest answer is “nothing,” then why does this question pop up so often, and why do we have such hot debates about it? Why does the issue arouse such passionate argument if we aren’t placing our own emotional investment in the answer?

Of course I’m not saying that discussions should be drained of their emotional relevance in order to be valid or worthwhile, but the deep convictions that some people hold are completely unsupported by any kind of reliable data, and they stem from a question that’s based on a reductive and illogical premise. It’s hard to look at those convictions and see them as anything other than emotional arguments that are trying to cloak themselves in science to gain better footing. It’s a classic example of people worshiping Science (as though it were the new God) and, like religious zealots, abandoning any semblance of critical thinking along the way.

Even if the question made sense, which it doesn’t, and even if we could get a 100% accurate answer to it, which we can’t, we’d still end up in the same arguments over what to do about it. So why not just drop the impassioned references to a very limited form of science, and instead engage in the arguments that underpin the nature/nurture debate? Namely: is it okay to be queer? Is it okay to be kinky? If it is okay, what should we do about that? If some people think it’s not okay, what should we do about that? Who holds the authority to make those decisions, and should they hold that authority? If not, who should, and why, and how can we get them there? Do we like what the people in power are doing with regard to queers and kinksters, and our challenges and communities and practices? If not, what would we like to do about it? What will we do differently if and when we are in positions of power ourselves?

For me, the answers to the first two questions are extremely simple: yes, it’s okay to be kinky, just like it’s okay to be queer. As for the rest, those questions can lead to some complex debate indeed, and, one hopes, to some highly relevant action. But as for nature versus nurture itself? I prefer to simply opt out.

the joy of re-runs! (prefaced with a boring preamble)
September 22, 2008

I started blogging in February 2006. At the time, Friendster was as good as it got in the realm of social networking (remember, back in the dinosaur age when there was no Facebook?!), and I knew nothing about the various fabulous blogging options available to me. I just wanted a place to tentatively put some thoughts out to the world; I wasn’t even sure what sort of thoughts they’d be, or in what tone, except that I knew they’d be about sex, gender, kink, feminism and sexual politics because that’s where my brain lives.

So I put out my first post, which, appropriately, was entitled “let’s see how long this will last.” And then the second. And after a few months and many dozens of posts, I started to realize that people were actually reading what I wrote, and that was exciting, so I kept going.

Eventually I realized that Friendster’s blogging technology totally sucked, and so in May of 2007 I switched over to WordPress. Cue the chorus of angels – WordPress rocks.

Recently I’ve had a number of people ask me why I haven’t imported my old blog posts so they could find bits and pieces of writing that they enjoyed reading in the past. The answer? See above – Friendster blogging technology sucks. It’s actually not possible to import from Friendster to WordPress. (Note that I refuse to blame this on WordPress. We’re still in the honeymoon stage, so WordPress can do no wrong.)

But see, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It took me a little while to find my footing as a blogger. So I don’t regret anything I put out there, but I must say, not all of it is really worth re-reading.

Some of it, though, feels worthy of posting a second time. Which is convenient because, see, life is a little crazy right now – the to-do list is long, the events are many, the speaking gigs are piling up, and An Unholy Harvest is in three weeks (eeeee!). And my posting frequency is taking a beating because of it. So I’ve decided to make a little project out of this. I’m going through my old posts to pick out the good ones, and I will be re-posting them here at the rate of one per week for the next little while, perhaps less frequently if I have more time to write originals. I’ll preface each one with a bit of context as needed, and the date of the original post. My apologies to long-time readers who may find themselves doing the equivalent of watching re-runs on TV… then again, it’s some long-time readers who’ve been asking for ‘em. Balance in all things I suppose.

Okay, done with the preamble. The following post is about workplace harassment and the gender divide. It was entitled “barbed wire” and was originally posted on February 26, 2006. Since then, two (female) friends of mine actually have been harassed by their (male) bosses, so my statement in the second paragraph is no longer true. I’d also like to add that I fully recognize that workplace harassment can come in myriad forms – colleague to colleague, boss to employee, client to employee, and any number of others. And most important, I also recognize that harassment is not only based on the male/female binary, but many other factors as well, including race, sexual orientation, religion and gender presentation. Not that any of this was any less true when I wrote the original, but they feel like omissions upon my re-read, and worth rectifying.

There it is. Enjoy. Keep your eyes peeled for future re-posts about same-sex marriage, the joy of going against the norm, and polka-dot stiletto shoes. And bug-crushing as a sexual fetish. Just for starters. Mmm. Fun.

Re-run time!

***

Last night I watched the movie North Country, based on the true story of a landmark 1989 sexual harassment class action suit filed by female employees against a mining company.

Of course it was horrid to see the male characters play out all kinds of abusive behaviour towards the female ones. At the same time, my thoughts kept flipping back and forth. On the one hand, it was really tempting to think, “Oh, wow, it’s terrible what was happening 17 years ago, but that would never happen today.” Truth be told, while I’ve met my share of assholes, I’ve never been sexually harassed by a work colleague, and no friend of mine has ever told me of having that sort of experience either.

On the other hand, at the same time I was consciously resisting that logic. It just felt too easy. In fact I’m sure sexual harassment is still happening today. The existence of policies against it are not sufficient to deter it from ever occurring – much like other forms of discrimination and abuse, it’s probably just shifted into subtler forms, or is inflicted upon people who are already powerless in ways that a policy can’t compensate for.

This isn’t to say I think nothing has changed. Many things have indeed changed, if for no other reason than the aging of the population – more and more older male managers and VPs are retiring, and while a sixty-plus man is not by definition a sexist one, nor a sixty-plus woman anti-feminist, their views are perhaps more likely to be tinged with older values. And the younger people who fill their places have grown up in a society fundamentally affected by feminism.

Rather than by default seeing women as horning in on men’s rightful positions in the workplace, younger men have worked alongside women for most if not all of their working lives. And rather than being taught that they should be housewives dependent on breadwinning husbands, younger women have grown up with the idea that they have to take care of themselves and have their own careers, and as a result they feel they have every right to the jobs of their choosing.

For people in their 20s and 30s this may seem eye-rollingly simple, but the self-evidence of these things is pretty new, relatively speaking. When I was a kid reading my mother’s magazines, the agonies of a woman earning more than her husband were a regular topic in articles and advice columns. Was it demeaning to him? Would their marriage suffer? The difficulties of being a female boss of course included the fact that lower-ranked male employees would doubtless feel emasculated, and how to deal with the “understandable” threat this sort of situation posed to them. The advice was confusing and contradictory: Stay feminine. Demand your rights. Don’t be a dragon lady. Take it like a man. Bring your feminine skills to your management style. Behave exactly like your male peers.

And god forbid your man stayed home with the kids – then he’d be the butt of jokes everywhere he turned, from sitcoms to the Friday-night hockey game with the boys. I also regularly saw articles about plain, simple, straightforward sexual harassment – at the time the debates raged, and this particular incarnation of the bitter divide between the sexes seemed to be lined with venom and barbed wire. But today it’s not the kind of thing that really makes the news much anymore.

Certainly, just because twenty years have passed, that doesn’t mean everything’s perfect now. And my own experience has been relatively narrow; I’ve never worked in a particularly male-dominated field, and I’d be willing to bet that the workplace experiences of my female friends who are bus mechanics and welders have been markedly different from mine. The blurb at the start of the movie last night indicated that the mining company in question still has 30 male employees for every female one. On its own that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it at least opens up the question of what it’s like to work there as a heavily outnumbered woman. But even then, I do think that we now have a base line of awareness that simply wasn’t around before.

I had brunch with a friend today who’s a high school teacher. He was telling me that when one of his students calls another student “faggot,” he gives the name-caller an instant detention. And my friend explains that he’ll sometimes tell the name-callers they’re Betas. “You know,” he explained, “Betas, like the old VCRs. I mean, I’ll ask them, ‘They still make people like you?'”

That’s kind of where I think we might be at nowadays. At the very least I’d like to believe we’re there – that we’ve arrived at a point where, when one employee grabs another employee’s ass or leers inappropriately, the reaction will be one of disgust and surprise. And the person being harassed, instead of being cowed into the collusion of silence, can say, “Do they still make people like you?” And promptly file a complaint that will stop the harasser in his tracks. I’d like to think society will make harassers feel ashamed of themselves, rather than making their victims bear the burden of that shame.

I’d also like to think we’re in a time when harassment is the exception rather than the rule. That the sexes really are pretty darned equal, and the suggestion that they’re not is cause for raised eyebrows, rather than the other way around.

So, am I dreaming in technicolour, or have I just been lucky or blind? I hope not. I hope that we really have made progress in the last couple of generations, and that it’s not an elaborate illusion I’ve bought into because of my eternal hopefulness and my belief in the possibility of change.

Like Betas… venom and barbed wire are just so 1989.

Aren’t they?

plural perspectives
September 15, 2008

Not too long ago, I gave the keynote address at PolyCamp, a wonderful weekend in the woods of Ontario during which a bunch of poly people got together and talk about any number of relevant topics. I titled that address “Plural Perspectives.” It occurred to me that it might be fun to post the meat of it here. Enjoy!

Oh, while I’m at it, I should also encourage you to go check out my cover article on the latest issue of the Toronto Xtra, entitled “Sex in This City.” It’s a rundown of my take on four different sex-positive venues in the fine town of TO, in the context of the city’s changes since the 2005 Supreme Court ruling that legalized private sexual gatherings. I’m just grouchy that I was out of town when they did the photo shoot. Hot damn, those are some sexy models! Grumble. I’ll just have to console myself with the thought that my words got ‘em naked. Okay, so it’s a bit of a stretch, but please allow me my small pleasures.

And a quick note for those who were planning to attend tomorrow night’s Café Scientifique (“He’s a player, she gets played: Challenging gendered stereotypes about youth sexual health”) at Buddies – it’s cancelled. Or rather, postponed until further notice. What a bummer. Good thing there’s still a female ejaculation workshop to keep me busy that night. Heh.

Moving right along… here’s that address!

***

We all know that communication can be challenging between two people… let alone three, or four, or twelve. More often that we’d care to admit (myself included), our communication approaches rest on a range of assumptions. Of course making assumptions always gets us into trouble, but we still do it. Have you ever assumed you knew what the plan was for the weekend, who was bringing the condoms, where you’d be meeting up with your new date, how many partners someone has, whether or not you define “poly” the same way as the person you’re cruising? Yeah. Me too.

Assumptions get made when we forget that we may function with…

  • Different definitions of terms or use of language
  • Different values – and it’s even more confusing when some of them are the same and others aren’t!
  • Different tastes and preferences
  • Different goals, ambitions, and definitions of failure vs success
  • Different emotional reactions and patterns, such as ways of experiencing jealousy or anger or even joy

Now, the same kinds of problems we encounter within our intimate relationships, we can also see in the ways different groups deal with one another. Especially between different elements of a loosely related community, things can get even more complex—like, say, between heterosexual(ish) married polyamorous tantrikas and radical non-monogamous queers.

To illustrate one of the ways this seems to play out, I’ll refer to a discussion* I had online with someone just over a year ago. Her name is Janet Kira Lessin. She and her husband live in Maui and they run the School of Tantra and the World Polyamory Association. They speak at poly and tantric conferences all over the world. Janet frequently posts essays she writes about tantric connections and polyamory on various lists, including the Poly Canada list, of which I’m a member.

(*I should clarify that it was more like she posted an essay and I responded to it. The discussion ended there and I have no idea if she even read what I wrote. Oh well.)

Before I launch into this, I should mention that I’m very interested in tantra. In fact in the last couple of years I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to the principles and practices of tantric sex, because something has to be able to explain the kind of intense spiritual and physical energy that I’ve experienced in my sexual and BDSM play. So I’ve been reading and taking workshops—Barbara Carellas in particular has a wonderful take on the topic, with her recent book Urban Tantra.

I should also say that I’m not out to get Janet in particular. I am, however, going to play our discussion out as a perfect example of the sorts of problems we run into when people (and communities of people) like Janet encounter people (and communities of people) like me. Janet simply did an excellent job of putting into words the precise things I’ve observed at various conferences and discussions, and sometimes just in the flavour of things in certain poly environments, so I’d like to thank her for helping me figure out where these intra-community differences lie.

Now, Janet lays out a number of ideas that I can totally stand behind. In her list, “The Benefits of Being in the Polyamorous Lifestyle,” she mentions things like the following:

  • “Learning & growing within yourself & with your partners. This makes you happier & healthier therefore your relationships are happier & healthier.
  • Cutting back on all the cheating & lying that goes on in mainstream relationships
  • It takes a village to raise a child. Guess what… now you have more adults to do just that.
  • If you are bi, you don’t have to give up one gender for the other.
  • Financially even though people still have to work in a poly family, there is more to go around because there are more people contributing.
  • Building a community where everyone around you doesn’t judge you, is open & honest.”

That last one is a bit of a problem, as when I read her list I actually felt very much judged. And the most significant place where things started to go wrong was around the question of sex. I’ll get to that in a second.

The next part of her essay is about the traits of a true polyamorous person. It starts with, “Any true poly will tell you that…”

You know that’s a bad sign. Much like in the BDSM community we have the “One True Way” phenomenon. I’m sure you’ve heard of it – you’re a real dominant if your slaves make every meal for you. You’re only a true submissive if you give over control of your finances to your dominant. You’re only really a masochist if you can have an orgasm when someone canes you.

Of course, this is all bullshit. So my warning bells went off as soon as I read the header.

Janet writes, “Even though we respect & embrace our sensuality, we are not swingers or polysexuals, so we don’t focus on the sexual or disrespect the very essence of sexuality & all its glory.”

And my response is that placing an excessive emphasis on sex may be disrespectful, depending on how it’s done, but I don’t think that focusing on the sexual is intrinsically a form of disrespect for it.

Also, while I certainly am not a swinger myself, and I find the swing culture to be highly misogynistic and homophobic and just generally kinda gross, I know a number of poly people who are also swingers, and vice versa. While the subcultural boundaries might be pretty clear, in actual fact people cross them and blur them more often than you might like.

I took the time to attend intro-to-swinging workshops, read several swingers’ association websites, get tours of more than one swingers’ club and attend a couple of events before declaring I wasn’t a member of the subculture. And even then, I don’t believe the underlying principle of sexual freedom is a bad one; I just don’t fit well with the predominant way that sexual freedom plays out in that particular culture.

Now here’s where she started to tread on some sensitive territory for me, beyond the basics. She writes, “We aren’t swingers, so we don’t use swinger terms & for the most part, most polyamorous people would never use the words… slut, whore, queer, fag etc. These are derogatory & demeaning to a person’s character plus in no way to these words have a positive meaning behind them.”

That, my friends, is a gross generalization, and shows a lack of understanding of the very people those words refer to. When people say things like this, I always want to ask, if you think that calling someone a (insert controversial reclaimed word here), have you ever met one?

Let’s take the word “slut.” Keep in mind the biggest-selling non-monogamy book of all time is called The Ethical Slut and its authors explicitly and proudly refer to themselves as sluts. I don’t personally like the term, and I don’t use it for myself, but I wouldn’t presume to dictate or judge others’ use of it.

Now let’s talk about whores for a minute. I have another book title to recommend: Whores and Other Feminists by Jill Nagle. A wonderful anthology about sex work and feminism, very enlightening. While “whore” is often used as an insult when directed at sex workers by those who disrespect them, it’s also used very positively and even affectionately among sex workers and their allies. Plus, there are poly sex workers out there… several of my friends and intimates, for starters. I’m not a sex worker myself, but I consider myself an ally and have done a lot of work with Montreal’s sex worker rights and support association. I was very flattered when a sex work activist said to me once, “Oh my goodness, I thought you were a whore!” To her, that was like calling me a sister, and I took it like the compliment it was. We can have a whole discussion about sex work some other time, but suffice it to say that there are lots of amazing people out there doing sex work in ways that have nothing to do with criminal activity, non-consent or the basic disrespect of humankind.

Queer. Let’s talk about queer!

I happen to be very proudly queer, and use that term quite liberally to describe myself—and the term has a lot of positive meaning within my community. It’s also got academic validity—google “queer theory” for example, and you’ll see numerous academic works and programs of study with the word quite happily in place. It’s derogatory if you yell “fucking queers” while throwing a beer bottle out the window of your truck at a same-sex couple walking down the street, but don’t try to tell me I can’t use the word as a positive, strong and accurate description of myself and my peers.

This is similar to the word fag. Much like “dyke” and “tranny” and other such terms, “fag” is widely used in the queer community. Some older gay and lesbian people still associate those words too strongly with a history of oppression to be comfortable with their casual use, but younger generations of the community are perfectly comfortable with them when they’re used by queers and allies (again, not so much when hurled as an insult). And again—there are poly fags out there.

I said it was going to hinge on sex, right? Here’s where she really gets going.

Janet writes, “We use the words ‘love’, ‘long term relationships’ & commitment when we talk. We aren’t crude, rude & talk about sex 24/7.”

So. I’m a sex geek. Is talking about sex a lot necessarily the same thing as being crude and rude about it? I’m a sex educator. I write about sex; I teach about sex; I give interviews about sex; I read about sex and study it at school. Really, it’s pretty close to 24/7, all things considered. And I don’t think I’m the least bit crude or rude. Unless the situation calls for it, which is probably no more frequent in my life than in anyone else’s. (Not to mention I can’t help but raise an eyebrow when someone who runs a tantric poly commune says she doesn’t talk about sex a lot… given her life choices and vocation, how exactly does she manage to avoid it? And why would one want to learn about poly and tantra from someone who doesn’t like to talk about sex? But I digress.)

Janet writes, “We don’t consider humans sex objects or seek out people for self gratification. That’s disrespectful of humankind.”

Agreed. But objectifying people and using them for self-gratification is not the same thing as sharing sexual experiences with people outside the context of a committed relationship. That is quite an equation to posit. Also, sadly, being in a committed relationship is no guarantee that there’s no objectification or self-gratification going on. Wouldn’t it be nice if things were that simple…

Janet writes, “Polys are NOT here for sex or sex play !”

And I’d respond that we’re certainly not having problems with marriage laws, child custody and society’s prejudice for all those multiple non-sexual relationships we get into… now are we? Of course sex may or may not be the first or most important thing we seek out in a relationship, but from there to saying we’re not here for sex… simply not true.

Of course, it’s unhealthy to pathologically pursue empty, meaningless sex with strangers, but that simply isn’t the way every non-committed sexual encounter takes place.

It seems like there’s a subset of poly folks who are so intent upon the “purity” of poly that they forget, or would like to forget, the natural human instinct to fuck. Sometimes sex is deep and meaningful, sometimes it’s superficial and fun. Sometimes it happens in the context of a 20-year-long relationship, sometimes it happens with a person you’ve known for two hours and will never see again. Sometimes it’s rough and fast, sometimes it’s sweet and sensual. Attributing validity to only one kind of it, and only then behind closed doors and closed mouths, only serves to alienate the people who are proudly poly and do their sex in other ways (often in addition to, not instead of, the long-term committed kind), and to dismiss the incredible richness and power of other kinds of experiences.

This brings to mind an experience I had a couple of years ago. I attended a poly workshop at a conference in which a well-known speaker turned up her nose at fetishists and people who do BDSM, saying that they didn’t see sex as the spiritual union it’s supposed to be. I was appalled at her prejudice and lack of comprehension. I have met some of the most highly spiritual people I know among BDSMers and fetishists, and we often incorporate intense spiritual meaning to what we do in bed (and out of it). In fact, in my experience, people who pursue the intensity of BDSM are often some of the most spiritually articulate people out there; with the exception of some people’s (potentially enjoyable) Catholic guilt, we just happen to refuse the separation of the sacred and the profane, choosing instead to view them as parts of a whole that’s worthy of exploration as such. The BDSM community is blessed with a plethora of writers, speakers, conferences, websites, online discussion groups and other cultural manifestations of deep engagement with and commitment to spiritual growth. You don’t even have to look that hard.

I’m always puzzled by people who live out one non-traditional way of doing relationships and/or sex and/or gender, and who want so badly to remain acceptable to the mainstream that they loudly disavow any association with other non-traditional groups, or deliberately misunderstand them, or simply fail to learn enough about them to accurately represent them, even if they don’t share their views. It seems to me that alternative communities make much better allies than enemies, especially since so many people are members of more than one non-traditional group at once.

People often seem to think that the only way to deal with clueless non-poly folks’ assumptions—i.e. that poly is “all about sex”—is to go too far in the other direction and say “it’s not about sex at all.” In truth, poly relationships are as much about sex as any non-poly romantic relationship is—in other words, sex may not be the be-all and end-all, but you’re kidding yourself if you think it’s not important! I posted about this in the first two weeks of my blogging career, and have banged away at the same point more than once (like here), but dammit, it just seems to keep coming up.

All of this to say that while I agree with and stand behind many of the values that Janet lays out in her list, when it comes to sexuality, I’m not interested in the sex-negativity, judgmentalism and general lack of understanding that the above points convey. I find it really unfortunate when people explain poly in this way because it leaves out substantial numbers of people who adhere to a poly relationship style and creates an unnecessary and inaccurate hierarchy that ultimately does nobody any favours.

sex bloggers rock (and i am a bad person)
September 10, 2008

So this is where I confess to being a bad, bad person. Or perhaps I should say, a bad bad blogger. Not so much in terms of my writing, but rather in terms of my dismal track record of participating in the rich and vibrant online community of sexuality bloggers. When I started this blog a couple of years ago, I plunked a couple of friends’ blog links in my blogroll and have pretty much ignored it ever since. And despite the growing number of truly articulate, thought-provoking sexuality writers out there who are putting their words on the screen to educate, share, arouse and discuss, I’m woefully behind on my reading of their wonderful work. Truly, folks. I suck.

Case in point: a lovely blogger named Rori, of betweenmysheets.com, recently ran a “Top 100 Sex Bloggers of 2008″ contest, in which she asked readers to nominate their favourite blogs, then conducted a voting process, and then posted a detailed list of the results. She’s actually in the process of annotating each entry, with information about the blogger, an excerpt from and link to a favourite post, and a “why you should love them” section. For every one of them. Talk about a blogging promotional super-hero.

Now here’s how much I suck: until last week, I didn’t even know that Between My Sheets existed, and the only reason I found out is because my hits started skyrocketing when I wound up on the list. Um… wow, do I feel like a heel. Flattered and happy, of course, but it certainly made me realize that if there are sufficient readers out there who appreciate my work well enough to nominate and vote for me (enough to get me into the top 20, no less), I should certainly get about the business of appreciating the work of others in return.

So in the spirit of community, and in an attempt to re-ingratiate myself to the gods of blogging and show my fellow sex bloggers that I’m on a mission to reform my evil ways (no, don’t worry, not those ones), I am re-posting Rori’s list here, and I will suggest that you check out the many fantastic blogs that appear on it. I promise I’ll do the same, really I do!

Here you go, folks. Enjoy. I certainly plan to.

Top 100 Sex Bloggers of 2008

1. Sinclair Sexsmith http://sugarbutch.net
2. Radical Vixen http://www.radicalvixen.com
3. Curvaceous Dee http://curvaceousdee.blogspot.com
4. Always Aroused Girl http://aagblog.com
5. Ellie Lumpesse www.lumpesse.com
6. Catalina http://catalinaloves.com
7. Selena Kitt http://selenakittyn.com
8-9. Wifey and Hubby http://wifeytalk.com
10. Roger http://dirtyboy2.blogspot.com
11. Essin’ Em http://essin-em.com
12. Amber Rhea http://www.beingamberrhea.com
13-14. Richard and Amy http://247richardandamy.com
15-16. MJ and MJ’s Slave http://www.aslavestruenature.blogspot.com
17. Thursday’s Child http://thursdayschildhasfartogo.blogspot.com
18. Narration by D http://narrationbyd.blogspot.com
19. Andrea Zanin http://www.sexgeek.wordpress.com
20. The Provocateur http://theprovocateur.wordpress.com
21. Violet Blue http://tinynibbles.com
22. Autumn http://dreamsofaneroticaqueen.sensualwriter.com
23. SSS http://sweatshopsissy.wordpress.com
24. Storm http://ambientstorm.blogspot.com
25. Sub lyn http://longdistancesub.blogspot.com
26. Tara Tainton http://www.taratainton.com/tarastrysts/index.html
27. Jake http://factsandfriction.blogspot.com
28. Cherry Bomb http://cherrybombnyc.blogspot.com
29. Lakey http://fairelaffaire.blogspot.com
30. Scarlet http://feministfucktoy.com
31. Glenpreece http://lastbreath.wordpress.com
32. Lolita Wolf http://www.leatheryenta.com
33. Vixen http://blue-eyedvixen.com
34. Tom Paine http://perverselypoly.blogspot.com
35. Tongue Tied Blue http://tonguetiedblue.blogspot.com
36. Maymay http://www.maybemaimed.com
37. Miss Bliss http://blog.blisswarrior.com
38. Mistress Maeve http://7d.blogs.com/mistress
39. Nadia http://www.kinkylibrarian.net
40. Luka http://barbedwireboudoir.blogspot.com
41-42. Odysseus and Penelope http://marriedexploits.blogspot.com
43. Eileen http://bloodylaughter.com
44. Calico http://dominatrixnextdoor.com/blog
45. Caroline Shepherd http://feministsexcarnival.blogspot.com
46. Kathleen http://polyspace.wordpress.com
47. Packing Vocals http://packingvocals.blogspot.com
48. Audacia Ray http://www.wakingvixen.com
49. Axe http://unspeakableaxe.com
50. Baccus http://www.erosblog.com
51. Chelsea Summers http://prettydumbthings.typepad.com/chelseagirl
52. Debauchette http://debauchette.wordpress.com
53. The Butterfly Temptress http://thebutterflytemptress.com
54. Dirty Little Girl http://dirtylittlemind.blogspot.com
55. Sexy Whispers http://sexywhispers.wordpress.com
56. Wendy Blackheart http://www.heartfullofblack.com
57-58. Padme and Anakin http://darkside-journey.blogspot.com
59-60. Him and Her http://sexcakes.blogspot.com
61. Slip of a Girl http://aslipofagirl.blogspot.com
62. Blowjob Babe http://strokesuckswallow.blogspot.com
63-64. Dirty Debbie and CJ http://dirtydebbie.blogspot.com
65. Scorpio http://adventuresofascorpio.blogspot.com
66. Charlotte http://charlottethorpe73.wordpress.com
67. Bitchy Jones http://bitchyjones.wordpress.com
68. Anastasisa http://www.chaosnoir.com/anastasia
69. Alice http://anonymous-alice.blogspot.com
70. Anita Wagner http://practicalpolyamory.blogspot.com
71. Jack http://writingdirty.com
72. Mistress Matisse http://mistressmatisse.blogspot.com
73. Mariella http://wannaplaymariella.blogspot.com
74. O http://eros-logos.blogspot.com
75. Shasta Gibson http://shastagibson.com
76. Gwen http://www.pop-shot.blogspot.com
77. fivestar http://www.iamfivestar.com
78. Lilly http://dangerouslilly.com
79. Penny http://birdsaresmart.blogspot.com
80. Figleaf http://www.realadultsex.com
81. Tony http://www.comstockfilms.com/blog/tony
82. Viviane http://www.thesexcarnival.com
83. Six http://sixelaborates.wordpress.com
84. Bob http://bobsbestboobs.com
85-99. Fiammetta, Jill, Robyn, Scarlot, Melissa, Kitten, Karly, Holly, Surgeon, Stacey, Tara, Jessica, Gina, Wendy, and Tori http://deepthroated.wordpress.com
100.

Why is #100 blank? Because I know there are dozens…hundreds…of other amazing sex bloggers out there, and I want everyone to be a part of this list. If you weren’t already include, please promote yourself and your blog with a comment below. You can also feel free to link to other people’s blogs in a comment. Anything goes! I hope you’ll copy/paste this list on your own blog, if you have one. You don’t have to link back here – just get the word out about these amazing bloggers. Or, create your own list! Again, I hope you this out the 2008 Sex Bloggers page, which goes into more detail about each amazing blogger above!

fetlife and fall fun
September 4, 2008

A few months back, I got an earnest comment on this blog from a guy I’d never met, named John Baku. He invited me to take a look at the new site he’d created, and post a review here if I liked it. That site was FetLife.com. Now, I get a lot of people sending me requests to review sex toys, porn sites and the like, and it’s generally not my particular bent – I’m much more interested in the intellectual and emotional analysis of sexuality than in product ratings and porn (though there are, of course, always exceptions).

I did check out John’s site though, and I liked the idea – a sort of Facebook-style interface for kinky people. So I joined… and I totally loved it. After a few weeks I killed my Alt.com profile (what a waste of my time) and have been happily FetLifed ever since. But I never got around to posting a review here.

Not long ago, a friend of mine from Montreal casually mentioned that she was volunteering as a greeter for the site – because John insisted on welcoming every new member with a personalized greeting. She said there were 30 such volunteers because the site was growing in leaps and bounds, with hundreds of new people joining every day.

Needless to say I smelled a scoop. So I sent in a pitch to the Montreal Mirror (since John’s a Montrealer), did a very cool interview – he’s really quite the character! – and voilà. Check out my article in this week’s paper. Enjoy! And of course, feel free to look me up on FetLife and say hello. (Unless you’re a stalker. Then please go away.)

***

Meanwhile, across the provincial border, it would appear that fall is in full sexy swing in Toronto. There are a ton of cool things happening for the sexually geeky in September and October. I’ve got my picks summarized here, with links and details for each event posted below in case you’re interested! Really, it’s quite the impressive line-up. I’ve been rather lax in the “blogging about thought-provoking events” department in the last month or two (blame it on summertime) but I will aim to be more disciplined in the future, ‘cause there are just that many excellent occasions that will be well worth writing about!

So here goes.

September 16 has two events of note. At least they’re running one directly after the other so with a well-timed cab ride I should be able to make it to both!

The first is the CIHR Café Scientifique hosted by the Institute of Gender and Health, on the topic of “He’s a player, she gets played: Challenging gendered stereotypes about youth sexual health.” It’s at 5 p.m. at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre.

The second is Shannon Bell’s famous Female Ejaculation Workshop at Come As You Are, which runs 7:30 to 11 p.m. I’ve been wanting to go to this for years, and it never seems to fall on a date when I’m in town. Yay for squirting!

September 22-28 is Sacred Sex Week at Good For Her. They’ve got a ton of cool workshops going on. For starters, Sheri Winston is teaching two workshops and I strongly encourage anyone who’s interested in sexual energy to check them out. I can’t say enough good things about her – she’s definitely one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met when it comes to women’s anatomy and sacred sexuality, and just a whole lot of fun to boot. Sheri rocks. Other treats include a variety of workshops on sexuality and sex-positivity from the perspectives of several non-Western cultures. And I’m definitely taking Boi M to the sexy partner yoga class. Yum.

And just when the focus on body knowledge needs to be balanced out by some good ol’ intellectual stimulation, there are three consecutive launches in the space of three days… I’m telling you, this is gonna be a good week.

The first is the Bisexuality, Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being Research Project Community Forum and Celebration on Tuesday, September 23 (which just happens to be International Celebrate Bisexuality Day) at the Sherbourne Centre. The group will be launching the results of their research study. MMmmm. Brain food.

The second, on Wednesday, September 24, is a book launch of Miriam Smith’s new work Political Institutions and Lesbian and Gay Rights in the United States and Canada, which looks at the differences between queer political progress in the two countries, followed by a screening of Nancy Nicol’s 54-minute documentary One Summer in New Paltz: A Cautionary Tale. It all goes down at the Gladstone.

Last but not least, on Thursday, September 25, there’s a book launch for Reclaiming Eros: Sacred Whores and Healers by Suzanne Blackburn and Margaret Wade at WonderWorks on Harbord.

That same night – back to the body we go – there’s a women and trans bathhouse event. The details aren’t up on the website yet but I promise it is indeed happening.

Friday night, September 26, is the annual Bi Bash, an evening of fun and entertainment by and for bisexuals and their friends. Last year it was a blast; this year it’s at Goodhandy’s so doubtless it’ll be even better.

That weekend I’m teaching two workshops at Come As You Are. The first is “Hole Lotta Lovin’: An Anal Play Workshop” on Saturday the 27, and the second is “Body Language: Creating Erotic Scenes” on Sunday 28. Tell all your friends about them! Check out my Workshops page for more info.

And coming up in October – Saturday the 4th to be specific – the GRUE comes to Toronto! GRUE stands for Graydancer’s Ropetastic Unconference Extravaganza, run by my friend JP and super-awesome rope bondage nerd and all-round good guy Graydancer. The concept is a very cool one: a bunch of people interested in rope bondage (and other lovely things) get together in a big space and come up with a conference on the spot, with people sharing knowledge and asking questions on a variety of topics. The concept sounds chaotic but apparently it works out really well, plus tickets for the day are only $40. I hope to make it. Whee!

*****

DETAILS! Click on the links here (included when available) or scroll down for more info on each event.

***

** Free public event. Please distribute widely.**

CIHR Café Scientifique hosted by the Institute of Gender and Health
He’s a player, she gets played: Challenging gendered stereotypes about youth sexual health

Tuesday, September 16, 2008, 5:00 p.m.
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
12 Alexander Street, Toronto
Light refreshments provided
Please RSVP: ea-igh@exchange.ubc.ca

Young people of all genders and sexualities are sexually active; the average age that Canadians first have sex is 17. So why is it when a girl is sexually active, she can be considered to be easy, but when a guy is sexually active he can be called a stud? How do these gendered stereotypes affect young people’s physical, emotional and sexual health? How do they intersect with race, class, and oppression? In what ways do these stereotypes influence how parents, teachers, researchers and health care providers talk and think about youth sexual health? Join us as we challenge these stereotypes in a lively
discussion with experts in the field of youth sexual health.

If you have accessibility needs, please contact the organizers and we will do our best to accommodate you.

The expert speakers featured at the Café are:

- Dr. Sarah Flicker, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
– Dr. Jean Shoveller, Associate Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
– Jessica Yee, Founder & Director, Native Youth Sexual Heath Network

The event is moderated by Dr. Joy Johnson, Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Gender and Health.

What is a Café Scientifique?
Remember when you used to spend untold hours sitting around a table over a beer or coffee with your friends, solving all the problems of the world, debating all the “big questions” of the day? Café Scientifique is, simply put, a larger and slightly more organized version of those conversations. It’s an opportunity to bring together researchers with members of the public to spark a discussion about some of the most interesting – and sometimes contentious – research currently underway in Canada.

What is CIHR?
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada’s agency for health research. CIHR’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health-care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 11,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada. http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca

For more information about this event, please contact:

Zena Sharman
Assistant Director | Directrice adjointe
Institute of Gender and Health | Institut de la santé des femmes et des hommes
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) | Instituts de recherche en
santé du Canada (IRSC)
University of British Columbia,  Room 208, 2259 Lower Mall, Vancouver, BC  V6T 1Z4
zsharman@exchange.ubc.ca
Telephone | Téléphone 604-827-3284
Facsimile | Télécopieur 604-822-1622
Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada

***

Female Ejaculation Workshop

Returning with her popular seminar, Shannon Bell will discuss female ejaculation from a historical perspective, followed by an overview of anatomy and technique, plus a demonstration. Learn about female ejaculation, see the real live clitoris (g-spot), and discover new techniques.

Tuesday, September 16, 2007. 7:30 – 10:00pm (For women, trans people, and men accompanied by a woman.)
Where: Come As You Are
Cost:$30/person (Sliding Scale Available)

***

Bisexuality, Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being Research Project Community Forum and Celebration

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Location: Sherbourne Health Centre, 333 Sherbourne Street
Phone: 416 260-4138
Email: bisexual_health@camh.net

The goal of this community-based research project was to better understand the factors that affect mental health and emotional well-being among bisexual people across Ontario. We also hoped to learn what services bisexuals find helpful and what services they wish existed to address their emotional and mental health needs. Over 50 people participated in the research and we are pleased to be able to share our findings on September 23, which is Celebrate Bisexuality Day!

Join us at the community forum to:
– celebrate the completion of the project
– learn about the research results
– connect with bi community and resources
– enjoy a reading by Debra Anderson, author of Code White – “an innovative story of psychiatric confinement, rippling with sardonic humour, sexual tension, and rebellious honesty, in a setting that often lacks all three”

All are welcome at this free event. Light refreshments provided. RSVPs are encouraged but not required: 1-866-371-6667 or (416) 260-4138 or bisexual_health@camh.net

This project is a partnership between Sherbourne Health Centre’s LGBTT Program and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and has been sponsored by the Community Research Capacity Enhancement Program of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

***
WEDNESDAY, SEP 24, 2008
7PM-9PM

US/CANADA: QUEER POLITICS TODAY

FILM PREMIERE AND BOOK LAUNCH
Political Institutions and Lesbian and Gay Rights in the United States and Canada by Miriam Smith, Routledge 2008.
One Summer in New Paltz, a cautionary tale (54 min., 2008) by Nancy Nicol
With Performance by: D-lishus: poet mother fire goddess diva storyteller, dispensing words of wisdom, laced with dub and framed by womanly hips, hard hitting political sistah telling it like it is.

What accounts for the rapid pace of change for lesbian and gay rights in Canada compared with the laggard status in the US? What inspired 1000s of lesbian and gays, as well as straight mayors, city officials and clergy across the US to engage in civil disobedience for the right to marry? How do issues and legacies of racism, nationalism, political and legal institutions play a role in the same-sex marriage debate in the US and Canada?

BOOK LAUNCH: Political Institutions and Lesbian and Gay Rights in the United States and Canada
Miriam Smith examines why these similar societies have produced such divergent policy outcomes, focusing on how differences between the political institutions of the US and Canada have shaped the terrain of social movement and counter-movement mobilization. Miriam will briefly explain why dry topics such as federalism, state constitutions and the division of powers are relevant to queer rights.

FILM PREMIERE: One Summer in New Paltz, a cautionary tale (54 minutes, 2008)

Director/Producer Nancy Nicol will introduce the film.
Set against a backdrop of the Bush administration’s policy of endless war and assault on civil liberties, One Summer in New Paltz is a cautionary tale of a young mayor of a small village who decided to do the unthinkable.

President Bush’s call for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to enshrine a heterosexual definition of marriage ignited a wave of civil disobedience same-sex marriages across the USA. One Summer in New Paltz focuses on the small village of New Paltz, NY, where the mayor Jason West began performing same-sex marriages on the steps of village hall and 1000s of couples flooded the village seeking to be married. The film goes on to document civil disobedience same-sex marriages and demonstrations across New York State, the Nyack Ten legal suit against New York State and the first day of legal same-sex marriages in Boston Massachusetts in May 2004.

One Summer in New Paltz probes into the debate on same-sex marriage examining the intersection of same-sex marriage, war, the Constitution, race and the family. A strong work about grass roots organizing, straight/gay alliances and confrontation with state repression from an intersectional perspective.

With special thanks to: Inside Out Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival, Night at the Indies and Meow films, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies, Sexuality Studies, and the Faculty of Fine Arts, York University and Vtape

Contact Name: Nancy Nicol
Email: nnicol@yorku.ca
Phone: 416.656.3415

***

Thursday September 25 7-9 pm
Book Launch for Reclaiming Eros: Sacred Whores and Healers
With Suzanne Blackburn, FREE! No pre-registration required
At WonderWorks (79A Harbord Street)

In this new revolutionary book, Suzanne Blackburn and Margaret Wade, Suade Publishing, challenge us to examine what roles eroticism and sexuality play in our lives, how we regard these powerful forces and how we might, if we dare, change our beliefs. Reclaiming Eros puts sexuality back where it belongs – with all of life that is sacred and beautiful. Hear her read, ask questions and get your own copy personally signed!

***

Bi Bash 2008
Host: Toronto Bisexual Network
Friday, September 26, 2008 at 8:00pm
Goodhandy’s, 120 Church Street
Email: info@torontobinet.org

Join the Toronto Bisexual Network for a kick-ass party for bisexuals and our friends, showcasing local bi talent and performances celebrating bisexuality. Our variety show will feature: Burlesque, Spoken Word, Musical Performances, Hula Hoop Dancing, Zombie Burlesque and more!

Doors 8:00, Show 9:00
DJs and dancing starting at 12:00
Cover: $8 ($5 sliding scale tickets available)

Performers include:
– Clara Engel, apocalyptic folk singer
– Annanda DeSilva, Spoken Word Artist
– Cinnamon Hearts, sexy and satirical burlesque stylings
– Tomboyfriend, Rogue Cabaret Style
– Susan Tarshis, a hot reading to warm up a cool fall night
– Circus Alchemy’s Hooping Three
– MEA, cellist & singer/songwriter
– Angela Sinclair, singer/songwriter
– The WiKiD, zombie burlesque
– Zombie Apocalypse, rocking your brains out
– Lassie Vicious, burlesque
– Jon Pressick makes a bold statement about what he likes…
– Snoovy, songstress in groovy folk/girl rock style
and more!!!

DJs: Nik Red, DJ Polybear
Cheryl Dobinson will be your host for the evening’s festivities.

Brought to you by (with proceeds benefiting): the Toronto Bisexual Network. http://www.torontobinet.org * info@torontobinet.org * (416) 925-XTRA x2810
Sponsors: Sherbourne Health Centre and the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario
Media Sponsor: Xtra

Celebrate Bisexuality Day (CBD) is an annual international event, held on September 23 of each year, aiming to promote bi visibility and celebrate the wonderful diversity of bisexual lives. The Toronto Bisexual Network holds an annual celebration in honour of CBD taking place the weekend before or after the 23rd.

This is a 19+ event.

***

TorontoGRUE 2008 – Graydancer’s Ropetastic Unconference Extravaganza (A Day-Long Meeting of Kinky Minds)
Saturday, October 4, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Graydancer, a friend from down south, is a man of many titles: Podcaster, RopeSlut, Published Author, Burlesque Performer, Sex Blogger, Educator and fellow sukebe. Now, thanks to his flexible schedule, a bit of a break in my workload, and the wonderful people at Goodhandy’s, Graydancer is bringing the GRUE to Toronto: Saturday October 4th, 2008. The GRUE is an unconference that he has facilitated around the US, giving people of kink a chance to come together in a non-mediated way and discuss issues they themselves find important and compelling. You can read his post about the first GRUE here (http://www.graydancer.com/2007/08/21/the-grue-ate-my-friends/ ). As well as in Madison, the GRUE has also been held in Lansing, MI, Minneapolis, MN, and St. Louis, MO, and the techniques have been used to teach at events like Shibaricon, TES Fest, and the Spankfestival.

Tickets for the ToroGRUE are 40$ CDN, and are limited. For more information about the TorontoGRUE visit http://www.thecontrolenthusiast.com/?p=94. Due to the size of the venue and the intimate nature of the Unconference, we are making 80 tickets available for the event. If you’re interested in taking part, email me at grue@thecontrolenthusiast.com with any questions about the event, or to reserve your tickets. 2 per person, first come first served. I will email you back with confirmation of your tickets.

Keep checking http://www.thecontrolenthusiast.com for more information and updates about the TorontoGRUE. As details become clearer I’ll both post more on the site and email updates to those who’ve expressed interest in participating. I’m very excited to welcome Graydancer to Toronto, and facilitate what I hope will be the first of a series of events for the community on the whole. Remember, this is a conference put together by and for You. The more intelligent & hungry minds that attend, the better it’ll be for all.

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