Archive for Sex+ Society

November 16th, 2016

On Politics and Feminism

Pantsuit Nation selfie, Election Day 2016

Pantsuit Nation selfie, Election Day 2016

As the title of this post may suggest, if you find yourself not interested in politics or feminism or expressions of my perspectives on them, you may want to skip this post.

A few days ago, I read an article from Glamour magazine that came out months ago and had been on my “to read” list ever since: “President Barak Obama Says, ‘This Is What a Feminist Looks Like.'”

By the time I finished reading it, I was openly crying. The juxtaposition of my reasons for such was breathtaking.

For context, I want to back up a moment and share a post I made to my personal Facebook profile on November 10:

“Yesterday I felt horrified that Trump won. Today I feel devastated that Clinton lost. She worked so hard (for decades), is so qualified, was so prepared. She lost to a man who by no stretch could be called any of those things. I see it as (among other things) wretchedly unfair. I also feel a considerable part of the populace of this country has either forgotten, doesn’t realize, or doesn’t take seriously that the presidency is in fact a job. Yes, the campaign cycle has been reduced to a sensational media show in this country, but being President is an actual job that requires attendant skill and expertise, and this country has elected someone who has demonstrated zero experience and qualifications to hold it, in addition to demonstrating no discernible interest in learning that I have observed.

All that is leaving aside for the moment the myriad reasons I feel profoundly appalled that Trump was elected in the face of what he did demonstrate. This post at the moment is not a call to action or an offering oriented toward uplift or helpfulness (those may come). It is simply an expression. An expression of sadness, of lamentation, of some things I feel right now amidst many other things I have felt, do feel, and will likely feel.

Love to all.”

That reflects how I feel now as precisely as it did then.

To return to the article, which was written by President Obama, I hardly know how to describe what an inspiring, insightful, incisive, beautiful offering I found it to be from a person I’m so grateful this country has had the honor of the leadership of for eight years. Perhaps my favorite line was, “And yes, it’s important that [his daughters’] dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.”

As they absolutely should. I was, quite simply, moved to tears by the gratitude and resonance I felt in the face of such exquisite awareness, articulateness, groundedness, and respect for humanity. It was truly one of the most beautiful pieces on feminism I had ever read.

Simultaneously, I was crying because it was literally almost painful to read such a profound exposition against the backdrop of knowing we had just elected as the next president a man who has unambiguously asserted sexist, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, and indeed misanthropic (I have seen it said and understand myself that “all hatred is self-hatred”) views in both personal and political/social contexts. Throughout the election cycle, I had perceived it as disgraceful that such a candidate had made it as far in the electoral process as he had; that he was actually elected to the presidency indicates such profound ugliness to me about our country I’m not sure I know how to articulate it.

The contrast was staggering. And for me, there are two separate though obviously related issues at hand. One is the prospect of Donald Trump’s being President. Of course I find that horrifying given the things I interpreted him as saying and the astonishingly low capacity to self-regulate I observed in him throughout his campaign. The other is that, regardless of what he demonstrates or instigates or accomplishes as President, a considerable portion of the populace of this country voted for him to be the leader of it in the face of his unabashed expression of perspectives embracing sexism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia of all stripes. In a nod to rape culture, this country voluntarily put in a position of (tremendous) power a man who explicitly condoned sexual assault. Whether or not Trump governs the way he campaigned, he still campaigned as he did, and almost half the people voting in this country voted for him amidst the tremendous unconsciousness and service of fear he displayed. Yes, I am horrified by the idea of his being President. I am at least as horrified that he was elected as such.

I have seen a proposition that a large proportion of his voters were rural, white, poor people. I don’t necessarily doubt that. And I have not been in the situation those voters have, which I truly and deeply appreciate. In the case of those voters, it is wrenchingly sorrowful to me that there are people in this country who find themselves in a position so dire that they feel compelled to vote for someone who demonstrates intentions to harm entire populations based on race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion in order to feel their own situation will improve or even that they will survive. (Very sadly, I have not and do not for one second feel Trump intends or desires to do anything at all to help those people. I did not at any point during the campaign see any indication that he has or has ever really demonstrated any desire to help anyone but himself.)

For those who are not in that situation and who also voted for Trump, I have seen a number of posts in the relatively sparse perusal I have been doing of social media since the election that seem to want to offer assurance of the understanding that they themselves do not consider themselves racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc…. I acknowledge that I am not there at this time. However much those voters may not feel or want to identify with supporting racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia themselves, they voted for a ticket that did, making their vote complicit with allowing those perspectives to ascend to representation in the highest level of official authority in this country. I don’t know how we could not yet as a species, or at least as a country, have come to understand that passive support of violence and oppression represents a stark and potentially grave threat, but I fear we may be in for another lesson to assist us in doing so.

Right now, I take a deep breath and reaffirm the appreciation I feel that our current President, in the piece that inspired this blog post, understands and offers such an aware, humanitarian, enlightened perspective and understanding of feminism’s importance, along with a resting, even amidst the revulsion I feel, that there are others out there who understand…that humanity is aware in part of things like intrinsic human equality even as other factions have not yet caught up to that level of awareness. That there is shadow in all of us and our work to see and release our own helps release the collective shadow that has so grossly emerged at this moment in United States (and human) history. And that we are still, and always, all One.

In answer to the perspective I have been seeing expressed that Donald Trump must now be given the “chance to lead”—of course he’ll get a chance. There’s nothing I (or anyone else) can do about that now.

I regret that this nation saw fit to offer him one.

Love,
Emerald

“If anyone still doubts that the inexperienced man gets promoted ahead of the qualified woman, you can wake up now.”
-Barbara Kingsolver (“End this misogynistic horror show. Put Hillary Clinton in the White House”)

January 14th, 2015

Sex, Aging, and Inspiration: The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50

Most readers of this blog or my work are aware, I imagine, that sex interests me. I don’t just mean engagement in it (though that is included!), but the topic itself: the vast, glorious, and fascinating subject of sexuality with its myriad psychological, spiritual, personal, social, and energetic implications. Whenever I have encountered another in the personal or public realm who seems similarly oriented, I have tended to take notice and go out of my way to discover said person’s perspectives and offerings on this subject of mutual fascination.

Joan Price is one of these people. And her latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50: How to Maintain—or Regain—a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life, published by Cleis Press, is a shining example of why I would seek out this kind of luminosity. I’m delighted to participate today in the official blog tour celebrating this brand new release—please visit here to see the rest of the schedule and follow along!

Sex-after-Fifty

I’m not yet over 50, and I won’t be for more than a decade, but the fact is, I am acutely supportive of an increase in information and discussion on sexuality-related topics, especially one that’s tended to get as little air time as this one. For a population that society consistently seems to say doesn’t—or shouldn’t—exist (seniors actively embracing, embodying, displaying, and living their sexual energy and desire), Joan’s advocacy and personal and professional devotion to the subject of senior sexuality strikes me as invaluable and woefully needed. 
The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50 offers a genuine, straightforward, comprehensive, and caring guide to things from the universal (as I see it) to the specific as related to the age group in question, covering topics from sex toys to the absence of intimacy in relationship to widowhood to navigating the contemporary world of online dating.

It is a beautiful book. If I were to describe it in one word, I think it would be “inspiring.”

I perceive this word from multiple angles. As a reader who hasn’t even experienced many of the things the book talks about, I could feel the energy of kindness, generosity, and encouragement with which it was written. I find that inspiring in and of itself. In addition, I saw inspiration in the following messages (explicit or implicit):

You Are Not Alone
As a baseline, this book will let readers know they are not alone in almost all of their situations, concerns, or challenges. Running the gamut from issues of seemingly lost intimacy, changes in desire, the occurrence of widowhood, health challenges, medicinal side effects, and much more, what is presented in these pages lets those facing any of these circumstances know that many, many other people have and are too. I don’t underestimate the profound value of this.

Mainstream Social Messages About Older Sexuality Are (Generally) Bullshit
I have experienced mainstream culture as dismissing or denigrating the existence or appropriateness of sexual desire, expression, and health among older people. I find this nonsensical and unconscionable. So, it seems, does the author.

There Are Many Practical Solutions Available
The author devotes much pagination to addressing numerous practical matters, from medicinal side effects to the potential benefits of different kinds of sex toys. Personally, I could feel the caring and reassurance with which this was written, which it seems to me will be of particular support to readers who may experience a defeated relationship with their bodies or health challenges. Joan not only offers information to help readers understand the array of options and potential solutions that are available, she has also compiled an extensive “Recommended Resources” section at the end of the book and consistently reminds the reader to check them out if they seem relevant.

You Have a Right to Have Sexual Concerns Addressed in Professional Medical Care
There is a whole chapter devoted to speaking with medical professionals about issues related to sexuality, particularly in the context of health challenges. This chapter encompasses information on everything from finding a doctor willing to address this topic (and ceasing to see one who doesn’t) to how to convey to your health care providers that you find your sexuality an important part of life and want to attend to any concerns about it.

While the World—and You—Have Changed, the Very Fact That You’re Still Here Means You Are Capable of Adapting
I also saw a continual emphasis on openness and awareness of shifts in ourselves and our relationships. The straightforward assertion that things shift in our bodies and beings as we age and that this does not necessarily mean the “end” of something but rather an opportunity for something different struck me as a linchpin of the overall positive, caring, and encouraging note this book consistently sounds.

Sexual Universality
Not surprisingly (to me anyway), there were certainly things in The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50 that it seems to me adults of all ages would do well to consider. Certainly I appreciated the emphasis throughout on expanding our view and definition of sex to mean things in addition to penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse. And, of course, there was a general inclusivity essential to any comprehensive book on sexuality that addressed populations such as the LGBT communities. There were also timeless offerings related to self-awareness, such as the recommendation to discern, articulate, and prioritize what one is specifically looking for in a sexual or long-term committed partner.

The book is presented in a way that inserts actual comments from readers and followers of the author’s work where relevant. These anecdotes, which ranged from longing and poignant to breathtakingly joyful, struck me as clearly reflective of the conflicts, successes, and complexities of real people’s experiences and, in my perception, added greatly to the accessibility of the book. In addition, the author makes liberal use of calling on colleagues with expertise in the specific areas she’s addressing, resulting in excerpts and asides from such luminaries as Carol Queen, Charlie Glickman, and Mark Michaels and Patricia Johnson.

Joan also shares generously of herself in these pages. This did not surprise me, as I have seen her offer openly about her (sometimes quite intimate) experiences and how they have impacted her life and sexuality. I have experienced her as doing this at least in part with the earnest aspiration of supporting others in developing and living their own authentic sexualities. Again—inspiring.

Never for a second did I see this book as not relevant to me because I’m not (yet) in the target age group. (Really, how self-defeating would such a perspective be, since it seems likely I someday will be!) I actually love having had the opportunity to read this at this time; it prepares me with so much information for what to perhaps expect and how to address my own experience as I get older. Encouraging and practical, accessible and informative, The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50 is a book I recommend without hesitation not only to the targeted age group but also to all of us who care about sexuality and want to support both ourselves and others in authentically appreciating it throughout the human life span.

Love,
Emerald

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good…”
-Michael Buble “Feeling Good”

December 1st, 2014

Welcoming December with an Award and a Guest Post!

RLFgemsAwardI can hardly fathom that it’s December already (I’m still looking around wondering where summer went)—but it is, and that means I have a couple things to announce today!

First, I truly could not be more honored to have received the Top Blogger Award from Romance Lives Forever for the month of November. I had an interview featured there November 10, and the award means that post received more page views than any other of the month (with the exception of the Top Blogger post itself, posted on the first of the month, and the post for a unique blog event in November that was in honor of Veterans’ Day). I really can hardly believe my post gleaned this honor, and I feel so truly, profoundly grateful to everyone who visited and/or shared it. Thank you.

BBIn addition, I also have a guest post up today at the remarkable Brit Babes blog, a site run by eight magnificent UK-based authors: Lily Harlem, Victoria Blisse, Lexie Bay, Tabitha Rayne, Sarah Masters, Lucy Felthouse, Kay Jaybee, and K D Grace. I am delighted to have the chance to spout off offer a perspective in me on their blog today.

As I mention in the post itself, the topic I chose to write about is not new (either its existence or a response to it). But I’d found the topic in my consciousness recently and felt compelled to muse on what I saw as its implications. The result was “The Art of Perception: Sexuality, Society, and Realness”—and what better place to offer it, it seems to me, than Brit Babes? :)

In case I’ve seemed coy about the actual topic, my post deals with the response to the claim that erotic writing is not “real” writing. A very thoughtful friend of mine postulated the question to me in a theoretical sense—as in, how would I respond to it were someone to seriously ask me—and this post is, for now at least, my answer. :)

Love,
Emerald

“I myself see the perspective in question as much more related to society’s perceptions around sexuality than about anything to do with either literary or erotic writing.”
-from “The Art of Perception: Sexuality, Society, and Realness”

November 14th, 2014

Sex, Cupcakes, the Personal, and the Universal

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Sex and Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays (on sale now at Amazon and iBooks), the inaugural single-author book from prolific sex writer, erotica editor, and cupcake connoisseur Rachel Kramer Bussel! I am delighted to be participating in the tour, which you may find and follow along with here. In addition, Rachel is holding an in-person book release party on November 17 at Sweet Revenge—find all the details on that on the Facebook invitation.

sexandcupcakes

This may sound far-fetched, but the fact is, the first paragraph of the introduction of Sex and Cupcakes captivated me. Intensely. Those six sentences resonated with me so much and struck me as so full of insight that I came to write this sentence down literally before I’d even gotten halfway through the introduction. Upon finishing the introduction, I honestly didn’t know how one could not find it electrifyingly intriguing. I certainly did.

Full disclosure: Rachel has bestowed upon me the honor, many times, of publishing my work in her anthologies. Exactly half of the stories in my first single-author short story collection, If… Then, were previously published in anthologies edited by Rachel. Three of the stories in my second collection, Safe, were. She has published me more than all the other editors who have combined (not counting, of course, the publisher of said brand new collections). I have loved working with her and am truly honored to have made so many appearances in her compilations.

So one could say I might find it difficult to offer a “fair” or “objective” review of a volume she penned in its entirety.

Perhaps. But one could also say that I have felt drawn to submitting to her anthologies and working with her because I have familiarized myself with and followed her work, much of which has included nonfiction writing for a variety of publications, and found it consistently resonant and compelling. That would be accurate, and I suspect it goes far in accounting for the enthusiasm and appreciation I feel for her first single-author volume of nonfiction essays. I guessed that I would like Sex and Cupcakes enough to rave about it, and I was correct.

Sex and Cupcakes is a compilation of nine of the author’s luminous essays in one place, offering a (luscious buttercream frosting) taste of her extensive examination of, as she herself puts it, “how ideas about sexual freedom impact our society.” In addition to penetrating explorations on universal themes of life, sex, connection, society, and various correlations therein, the author also delves deep into her own personal experience, offering memoir of a captivating and illuminating nature that, we eventually see, frequently harkens back to these universal themes and macrocosmic observations of social phenomena.

To me, “My Boyfriend’s Fat” exemplified this juxtaposition, gracefully weaving the author’s inner perspective on her intimate relationship with insights into society’s (astonishingly intrusive and, as I see it, relatively arbitrary) relationship with fat, adding in level-headed recognitions about how the circumstances of said fat affect her and her boyfriend’s lives. It was one of my favorite pieces.

I also found myself loving and strikingly relating to “Monogamishmash,” an essay that, as I experienced it, displayed a trait I noticed throughout my reading of Sex and Cupcakes. It is that Rachel doesn’t hold back from displaying her personal vulnerabilities and uncertainties in the memoir within these pages. I found this to make the writing more authentic, engaging, interesting, and relatable. I have the feeling she writes with not only a desire to express herself but also to offer connection to her readers, who may find things here to relate to, discover about themselves, feel relief about seeing in another. In short, as Rachel puts it herself in the title essay, “I hope … my books and writing have helped open other people up as well.”

Speaking of the title piece, which is, of course, called “Sex and Cupcakes,” it seemed to me to be the highlight of the compilation. This was not just because it is significantly longer than the rest of the essays but also because it offers a comprehensive glimpse into these two aspects of the author’s life that have become, somewhat unexpectedly, so pivotal to her everyday existence and her career. Their juxtaposition and the author’s presentation of how she experiences the professional, social, and personal implications of each not only makes for interesting reading but is also, as usual, filled with the incisive observations and assessments the author has established as characteristic throughout the volume.

It’s worth noting that in addition to the curiosity, contemplation, exploration, and openness Rachel offers in these pieces, she is also simply a skilled writer. Thus the content she provides is not only compelling to peruse but is noticeably complemented by clear, lovely prose to express it.

Never, as I interpret it, does the author presume she is speaking for or representing anyone but herself, which I find a grounding and ingratiating characteristic in almost any writing but particularly in memoir or social commentary. As she says in “Sex and Cupcakes”: “I don’t have all the answers and I don’t pretend to. What I do have is a curiosity about my own and others’ sexuality, about what turns people on and how those interests relate to the culture at large.”

Those two sentences encompass a summation of how I ultimately experienced Sex and Cupcakes: as a diverse collection of curious, probing, sincere musings of someone who is truly and unapologetically fascinated by sex. As one who has that in common with the author, this book was an endeavor I actively appreciated.

If you’ve ever read the author’s work online (and if you have an interest in relationships, sexuality, and/or memoir, you probably either have or will want to) and appreciated it, Sex and Cupcakes is something you’ll almost certainly want to devour as a comprehensive taste of the thoughtfulness, relatability, and insight she has to offer. If you haven’t yet been exposed to her work, I recommend this volume as a superb place to start.

In the title piece, Rachel says (accurately, it seems to me), “Focusing on sex as an intelligent point of conversation, as something lively, worthy and interesting, is beyond the pale for a lot of people.”

It is certainly our gain that the author is not one of them.

Thank you again for stopping by my day on the virtual book tour, and don’t forget that you can purchase Sex & Cupcakes now at Amazon and iBooks!

Love,
Emerald

“There is a particular kind of venom that comes out when you speak and write about sex, whether it’s autobiographical or not. You reveal a vulnerability and tap into the dirty little secret of our supposedly sex-saturated, anything-goes American culture: that deep down, we are pretty prudish.”
-Rachel Kramer Bussel, in the title essay of Sex & Cupcakes

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 that comprises chapter thirteen.

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, and watch Mark and Patricia on video. 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