April 16th, 2014

Recommended Reading #197: Life Force



      “A Pause for Beauty” email series quoting Sarah Ban Breathnach (Non-Sex-Related, Consciousness/Spirituality, Self-Awareness) Undated

I see this as a simply self-explanatory truth of existence.

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      “This is something humans DO” at The Writers’ Greenhouse (Non-Sex-Related, Writing, Humanity, Art) 3/31/14

I found this beautiful. Beautifully stated, beautifully conceived, beautifully aware.

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      “Eros is Relatedness” by Annie OShaughnessy (Self-Awareness, Consciousness/Spirituality, Philosophy) 4/9/14

I appreciate the understanding of Eros I interpret here, and I felt struck by the descriptions the author offers.

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday

April 9th, 2014

Recommended Reading #196: Humor, Pt. VI



      “Bangin’ on the Head Drum!” at PostHumorous (Non-Sex-Related, Music, Memoir) 8/21/13

I really do laugh out loud all the way through this. :)

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      “Nation’s Underfunded Public Education System To Experiment With Shortened 6-Day School Year” at The Onion (Non-Sex-Related, Education, U.S. Public Policy) 8/24/12

“[T]hree seconds of detention after class” made me laugh out loud. :)

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      “Mother Has a Meltdown During Daughter’s iPhone ‘Acid’ Prank” at Funny or Die (Non-Sex-Related, Technology, Parenting, Youth) 3/20/14

I want to say that I truly thought I would find this silly and roll my eyes at it, but the truth is I found myself literally laughing out loud….

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday

April 2nd, 2014

Recommended Reading #195: Memoir, Pt. V



      “She wasn’t being rude” by dogtorbill (Non-Sex-Related, Animals, Economics, Humanity) 2/15/14

Even barely skimming this again before I posted it here brought tears to my eyes. I cried quite a bit when I read it for real, and I found it profoundly beautiful in a way to which words don’t seem to do justice.

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      “What I Want to Know Is Why You Hate Porn Stars” by Conner Habib (Sex Work, Pornography, Relationship) 3/1914

I found this a beautiful memoir piece in addition to one I appreciated greatly from an advocacy perspective. I especially liked the perspective offered about whether or not performers in porn were abused as children (“I’m not sure why this is important to you, or why it sounds so much like an I-told-you-so when it comes from your mouth”) and the section right after that about what it seems to indicate to say that women are being intrinsically exploited when they do porn (on which I’ve written myself).

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      “The Worst Best Day of My Life” by Amy (Health and Body, Western Medicine, Consciousness/Spirituality, Parenting) 3/26/14

It feels fair to me to offer a warning that I experienced this as heart-wrenching and cried openly as I read it. I also found/find it well worth reading and beautiful.

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday

March 31st, 2014

Partners in Passion Walking Their Talk

PartnersinPassion_cover

I was first exposed to Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson when I attended their Tantra-related session at the inaugural MOMENTUM Conference in 2011. I felt deeply affected by both their presence and their presentation, and when I heard of their new book, Partners in Passion (published by Cleis Press), I knew I would want to read it. I was thus delighted to volunteer to participate in the blog tour dedicated to the book—which, incidentally, I enjoyed even more than I anticipated.

It’s felt a bit difficult to me to formulate this post in an aim to do justice to the way I experienced Partners in Passion without going on for indeterminate pages. I found this book to be an extraordinary combination of explanation of pertinent history and cultural context; affirmation of readers’ uniqueness as both couples and individuals; invitation to personal exploration; and practical considerations, resources, and/or recommendations. I was also struck by how comprehensive the volume is. It contains an incredible range of information and covers an array of topics to a surprising degree of depth. Need an overview of sexual anatomy? See chapter six. Interested in Tantra? Check out chapter seven. Curious about swinging or other forms of nonmonogamy? Visit chapter nine. Wondering about sex and parenting issues? Reference chapter eleven. Incidentally, any time you want more information about almost any area covered, you can check the vast resource guide of which chapter thirteen is comprised.

The authors establish their orientation to and respect for the importance of sexuality in the preface in a way that resonated with me deeply. They relate how, when they first met (as two individuals already interested in or practicing Tantra), they proposed a suggestion to explore Tantric sexual practices together. “By putting our interest in sex on the table from the start and being clear that it was very important to both of us, we bypassed a lot of the game playing and manipulation that is so common in the dating scene” (p. xxx). While I don’t have any experience with Tantra to speak of, I relate to this desire and approach strongly, and for me, it immediately affirmed the credibility and authentic perspective of the authors in relation to their subject matter (which admittedly wasn’t in question due to my previous experience of meeting them in person).

What perhaps remains one of my favorite parts of the book came very early on in the form of utterly fascinating revelations about the original implications of fairy tales and their contrast with contemporary interpretations. I found this short section riveting, and the introduction of just how culturally formulated (rather than somehow intrinsic to the human experience) our cultural perception of romantic “happily-ever-after” is was truly revelatory for me. The earliness of this subject matter was not a coincidence, of course; the contextual relevance of this collective shift in perception served as a backdrop for much of the authors’ offerings about relationship and connection throughout the text.

The nuanced and clearly presented perspectives Patricia and Mark offer that in some cases fly in the face of social strictures or indoctrination were like a breath of fresh air to me. The book elucidates and invites exploration of such provocative statements as:

“The real secret of great lovers is in their ability to get pleasure from giving pleasure” (p. 64).

“We all have entrenched beliefs about ourselves, and it can be very unsettling to recognize, let alone embrace, the fact that our sexual proclivities don’t always match our self-images or what we would like our partners to believe about us” (p. 83).

“Statistics and studies can be informative and often make for great sound bites; however, they can’t give you any specific information about your own life” (p. 106).

“Trust is not based on a commitment or a promise” (p. 213).

“Many predispositions are formed at an early age and have nothing to do with the dynamics of your relationship” (p. 229).

“The tools it takes to have a vibrant, fulfilling, and expansive sex life are the same ones that can be used to create a satisfying long-term relationship” (p. xxix—the authors’ first line of the book).

None of these was presented bombastically or with any hint of shock value. Each is surrounded by the authors’ explanation of perspective and unyielding support for the reader in exploring these conceptions in the context of his/her/their own relationship. While most of these perspectives either already resonated with me or presented new angles I also found resonant, even if they don’t (right away), it seems to me they offer the opportunity for expanded consideration or jumping-off points for one’s own exploration of what does resonate. Indeed, since I interpreted the authors as claiming that the very devotion of time and attention to sexuality as a subject invites an expansion of sexual connection, the invitation itself to consider these ideas seems potentially self-fulfilling.

The openness of the authors’ sharing around, for example, their experience with BDSM established a relatability around the kind of process I perceived them as advocating in sexual adventuring. The sharing of this particular evolution thwarted any potential impression of condescension or dismissiveness in the context of the authors’ offering advice about sexuality and relating—it is clear they have undertaken their own process in general; in this instance, they approach an area around which they feel some initial trepidation with sincere interest and enough respect for the possibilities to want to know more. As usual, they take into this exploration an underlying orientation toward self-awareness and the aim for its development. Their personal sharing of this with us as readers is reminiscent, to me, of their general recommendation to treat one’s partner with respect, caring, and consideration; here, and indeed throughout the book, they are demonstrating this themselves in the way they treat the reader.

Indeed, to me it felt impossible not to be affected by the kindness and sincerity with which the authors write, and perhaps the aspect of Partners in Passion I found most affirming was the constant emphasis on respect and kindness toward each other—even (perhaps especially) in the face of challenging times, situations, or conversations. I experienced this perspective as so seamless and consistent that it felt clear to me that the authors embody it themselves with a degree of consciousness and practice that makes it seem effortless—or, perhaps more accurately, simply a way of being. As Tammy Nelson, PhD, states in the foreword, “Michaels and Johnson write what they know because they are living what they write” (p. xxvi).

Partners in Passion is not, in any way, a clinical, detached, or “how-to” guide that glosses over anything in the name of quick fixes or empty suggestions. Rather, it is a sincere, depth-filled, conscientious exploration imbued with the sense that the authors have walked (and are walking) their talk and are inviting you to learn and walk along with them at your own pace and in your own way. As a truly affected and appreciative reader, I add my voice to that invitation.

Purchase Partners in Passion from the authors, the publisher, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble (or your own preferred online retailer). Elsewhere online, you can follow the book and the authors on Twitter, visit the authors’ website here, and watch Mark and Patricia on video here. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Love,
Emerald

“Being sexually free in a society that remains at once extremely sex-negative and overly obsessed with sexuality takes courage.”
-from Partners in Passion, p. 84

March 26th, 2014

Recommended Reading #194: Reproductive Choice, Pt. III



      “‘Most days, I feel like we’re going backwards’” by Katie Mcdonough (Abortion, U.S. Public Policy, Politics) 1/16/14

This struck me as a relatively detailed look at some of the legislative initiatives currently threatening legal access to abortion throughout the U.S., with some historical information included.

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      “The Medical Community’s Hidden Abortion-Training War” by Abigail Golden (Health and Body, Abortion, Education) 2/27/14

As an activist, I’ve been aware for years that abortion provision training in medical education is alarmingly lacking (I’ve also been a long-time supporter of Medical Students for Choice and Nursing Students for Choice); it’s something of which I’d like to see the public and pro-choice supporters more aware. And of course it’s something I’d like to see shift.


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      “#NotMyBossBusiness Rally at the Supreme Court” by NARAL Pro-Choice America (Contraception, Sex and Culture, U.S. Public Policy) 3/26/14

I felt energized after and loved reading this Storify compilation of tweets from the #NotMyBossBusiness rally in DC Tuesday morning in front of the Supreme Court. (The Court is currently hearing the case from Hobby Lobby claiming it should have the right as a corporation to deny insurance coverage for birth control to its employees on religious freedom grounds.) I loved seeing the camaraderie between Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, as well as other pro-choice orgs!

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Recommended Reading posted every Wednesday