Where do I go from here?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for the past several weeks, as I try to figure out exactly what I want to be doing over here in the Adorkable Realm.

I’ve ventured beyond the boundaries of this space in terms of blogging. I’ve got a regular feature over at the Yummy Mummy Club, where I write about vibrators, representations of sex in the media and relationship stuff. I’m also a monthly contributor for Already Pretty, which is where a lot of my body-image pieces are landing. Meanwhile, in my offline life, I’m honing and refining my sex educator skills through school and my AASECT mentorship. I’m becoming less of a sex-generalist and slowly working my way towards becoming a child and youth sexuality specialist.

Basically a lot of information is coming in and a lot of content is going out but very little of it is landing here. For a long time, Adorkable Undies was the clearing house for every bit of sex and/or gender-related I had churning in my brain. Now that I have other outlets, I’m trying to decide what I want to post here. What do I have to share, that I’m not sharing elsewhere?

I’ve been pondering, considering, musing and doing some plain old thinking and I’ve decided my best options boil down to these two:

Option The First – Keep It Professional.

I can use this blog as space to write about topics related to my studies and eventually, my sexuality education practice. I can ruminate on issues related to child and youth sexuality. There’s so much I could tackle: talking to kids about sex, media influences, gender norms, gender variance, orientation, dating, parenting quandaries, porn on the Internet, porn off the Internet, resources, social influences, etc, etc, etc. Tailoring this blog to fit in with my speciality is a basically a big, meaty potential sandwich, with a side of hot crispy sensible, as the time I spend writing will directly support and promote my professional services.

Option The Second: Get Personal

In the  years since I’ve been blogging here, I’ve noticed that it’s often the personal posts that illicit the most response. As much as it’s fun to be all expert-y expert, something really nice happens when I let it all hang out. I’ve written about my struggles with anxiety and low libido, my misadventures in parenting and my issues with self-image and you’re so kind and supportive. And you talk, to me and to each other, which makes my heart all big and glow-y! I like being open. I like sharing (sometime oversharing) about my life. But I worry. Will a potential client want my educational services after Googling my name and reading about my masturbatory foibles? Not to mention that while y’all are bomb, the Internet At Large is not always a kind place for women with opinions about the things I have opinions on.

What to do? What to do? I’m going to keep thinking about it. And if you have any ideas or input, I could really, really use some outside influence right now. Opinions, options and all thoughts are most welcome in the comments!

I used the term “y’all” twice in one post. Living in America is having an affect.

 

“I do multiple intrinsically non- and/or anti-feminist things a day. It doesn’t change who I am or what I stand for – but those things also don’t become feminist just because I’m the one doing them.”

The following is a quote by feminist author and body image activist extrodinaire, Kate Harding. I’ve been a long time fan of Ms. Harding. She frequently writes things that blow my mind and alter my thinking on issues regarding women, bodies and general life stuff. Now she’s done it again.

This particular statement was taken from a recent article entitled ‘Why I Lose My Mind Every Time We Have The Name Conversation’. The piece is about women’s who take their husband’s names at marriage. Kate fully acknowledges that:

a) becoming Ms. HisLastName is a choice that women have a right to make.

b) it can be thoughtful, meaningful, positive option for many women.

c) you can be Ms. HisLastName and a feminist and that’s totally cool.

Harding explains that women who take their husband’s names are still awesome, feminist gals making a valid life choice. But the fact that it’s a choice doesn’t magically separate the convention from it’s roots in patriarchal ownership. And being a feminist does not negate the fact that, generally speaking, our society tends to regard men’s identities as fixed and women’s as fluid.

Harding’s specific thoughts on married names were all kinds of interesting. But it’s the passage I quoted that resonated. I identify strongly as feminist, sex-positive, a queer-ally and bunch of other things. While reading the article, I realized that part of me does feel like everything I do, should fall in line with my belief that social oppression is for suck and it needs to go away now. And I will try to rationalize all of my actions within the context of those beliefs.

Case in point. I recently wrote a piece for Already Pretty about burlesque. I wrote my own experiences doing burlesque and tied that to a larger point about performers using the art form to challenge conventional perceptions of what sexy body looks like. Body image politics + personal experience = Instant Awesome Blogpost.

I thought it would be an easy assignment. Instead it was a frustrating struggling that went on for days. Eventually I finished the article and even though I wasn’t entirely satisfied, I submitted it. I figured this was just one of those crappy, writer’s block kind of weeks, nothing more.

But after reading Kate Harding’s piece I can see why I had a hard time. I was writing about burlesque subverting body image norms and I was trying to say that my participation was part of that subversion. But it’s not.

I’ve done burlesque with all sorts of people who fall outside the young, thin, able-bodied, cis-gendered, heteronormative ideal our society tends to uphold as “sexy”. I think how awesomely cool it is to see people broadening the standards of beauty and sexuality, while being hella hot and talented. I support the shit out of that kind of thing. But here’s things:

I am a younger-looking, slender, able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual woman. Pretty much everything about the way I look and the way I present myself  falls in line with conventional ideas about what sexy is supposed to look like. Some might say that being as a person of colour takes me a bit outside the “norms” of sexiness. But even then I find that there’s a trend toward glamourizing/idealizing POCs – especially if they have European-esque features, which I pretty much do.

I love performing. I love dressing up and wearing costumes and being a big, exhibitionist show-off with my body. I also believe, passtionately that we need to make more room in this world for the many, may types of sexy that are out there. But that’s not what I’m doing when I do burlesque. I can’t do that when I do burlesque because our society has already made lots of room for my type of sexy and it has done so at the expense of other people.

None of this means that I shouldn’t be doing burlesque or that I can’t derive joy from the experience. And it doesn’t mean that I don’t support or believe that we need more sexy diversity (and maybe a better term).

I’m going to change over time. I will get older. The shape and likely the size of my body will change. There’s no guarantee that I will remain able-bodied throughout my life. If I still choose to twirll my tassles while rockin’ the wrinkles and low boobs, I WILL be sticking to the patriarchy and ageism and bunch of other sex-negative, body-negative bullshit. But I’m not now, so I probably shouldn’t pretend that I am.

Like everyone else, I make choices. Many are informed by desire to work towards a less oppressive, more inclusive society. But they’re also about what’s right for me and sometimes that’s the status quo. Instead of trying to rationalize those choices, it feels I can say, “This system/convetion/idea unfairly penalizes or excludes others. I don’t like that, but I am choosing to work within this system because there are still benefits for me as an individual.”

To put it another way, not everything I do is about fighting a social battle. And I realize after reading Kate Harding’s words, that I don’t have to rationalize it or get defensive. I’m a person, a part of this society. There’s some messed up shit happening but that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes it works for me.

I have a hard time expressing myself erotically. True story.

I can talk about sex. I’ve engaged in what I call “intellectual smut” for years. It didn’t begin this way but over time, these frank, informative discussions of sexuality have become familiar and easy for me. After years of reading, writing, learning and teaching I’m perfectly comfortable steering any conversation towards the subject of clitoral response or anal anatomy. These days sex-words virtually spill from my mind and my mouth – so long as the purpose is to inform, rather than to arouse.

I am an erotic person. I have sexual thoughts and desires. I ponder people, their parts and things I’d like to do to them. I think about thing I’d like done to me. I also have an amazing partner that I love, trust and really like having sex with. When you consider all of that and the fact that I’m a pretty chatty, expressive person – you’d think I’d be the dirtiest talkin’ gal in town. Instead, it’s a struggle.

I read a lot of erotic fiction. I’m often inspired to create my own stories, but when I sit down to do it, I find it’s a long, fairly uncomfortable process. I have no compunction about baring most of my body to hundreds of people during a burlesque performance Reading an authentically erotic poem for an audience of fifteen makes sweaty and tense. Even when it comes to The Man of Mans – my partner of seventeen years, I find it much easier to express my sexual desires during a matter-of-fact discussion at dinner than I do when we’re hot, heavy and in the moment.

Words. Words make it real. Words bring what is barely perceptible into sharp focus. Words turn formless lust into an acute awareness of exactly where and how I want to touch and be touched. And there is a place deep inside of me where that knowledge feels exciting and good. But piled on top of that is a bunch of vulnerability, insecurity and maybe even a little guilt.

I’m a pretty big proponent of communication in general and sexual communication specifically. My reluctance to get dirty with my words makes it hard to put my money where my mouth is. What’s that all about? I have some theories.  The past few years of my life have been filled lots of sex-positive learning. It’s changed a lot of how I think about sex. However, I’m also part of a culture that perceives of sexual pleasure as inherently sordid, dangerous, offensive and taboo. Logically, I’ve largely dismissed that characterization. But my emotions are still under the influence of deeply ingrained sex-negative ideology. I’m fine with the knowledge that I want to put my tongue there. I haven’t been able to shut out that pesky voice telling me nice people don’t say it out loud.

Despite my awkward embarrassment, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to push past those feelings and get comfortable talking erotic. And writing erotic.  First, because the very idea of that tongue thing is pretty hot and there’s nothing wrong with saying so. Second, because the more explicit I am about the kind of sex I want, the more likely I am to get it. And lastly, because I think being okay with down and dirty communication is key piece in building consent culture.

Discussions around sexual consent often lead to a few common concerns. One is that is ensuring a partner’s consent means a bunch of super-formal negotiations where all parties sit down and to outline the all details of the sexual encounter. Another worry is the ensuring ongoing consent.  Naysayers sometime conjure a scenario where people have to stop the action every couple of minutes to ask , “Can I put my hand there? About there? What about there? How about there?” It’s an unappealing prospect for some people. I’m one of them.

But consent doesn’t have to be either of those options. You don’t have to sit primly on the couch and ask “May I please put your penis my mouth?” You don’t have to stop in the middle of fucking to say, “Sorry, I know we didn’t talk about it before but I was wondering if I could penetrate your anus digitally.” I mean, you can if you want to. But you can also lean in and whisper, “I would love it if you let me suck your cock.”*  You can be skin to skin and all over each other when you ask, “How about a finger in your ass?”**  Consent isn’t about ruining the fun. It’s about communicating. It seems like talking specifically and explicitly about the sex we do want to be having is a good way to avoid making people have sex they don’t want.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a pervasive notion that the ideal way to hook up is with languid body language, coy looks and a host of other non-verbal tactics. Asking for sex outright is often labelled crass and kind of pervy. So, it’s not entirely surprising to me that some people see explicit consent as the antithesis of hot sex. We aren’t exposed to a lot of dirty word-slinging and when we are, it’s rarely presented as a positive thing. I want it to be a positive thing. Emotionally, it may make me twitch. Logically, I think it’s a key part of a safer, hotter, healthier sex.

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but I think 2013 will be the year that I challenge myself to move beyond expressing my thoughts on sex. It’s time to get comfortable expressing my sexual feelings. Bring on the dirty talk!

*I got all flushed when I wrote this.
** And this.