Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sex Ed

I have a confession to make. As a writer and editor of erotica, it's a little shocking, but we're all friends here, right? I trust you guys not to get all judgmental on me.

When it comes to actual sexual experience, I'm... pretty vanilla.

I know! I know! Shocking. But true. I mean, the definition of "vanilla" varies some depending on who you ask, but my experiences, so far, are not likely to raise any but the most sexually repressed eyebrows. An alternate position or two, but nothing exotic. A few playful smacks on the bottom. Really, vanilla stuff. Okay, there was one attempt at D/s roleplay (as opposed to D&D roleplay, with which I'm quite experienced), way back in college, but that ended sort of disastrously.

Which is not to say that it hasn't been good, mind you. Just not terribly adventurous. Which seems pretty odd for someone who reads and edits and writes erotic fiction, especially when a lot of it is pretty far from what anyone might call vanilla.

Lewis Hine, Boy studying, ca. 1924
But in order to envision situations and (more or less) accurately describe the physical and emotional feelings and reactions of characters in those situations, I have to rely pretty heavily on research. Yes, sometimes "research" is just a way to deduct naughty books from my taxes. But a lot of the time, it's more serious than that. This article, for example, from sex educator Emily Nagoski, is fascinating and well-written, but it's pretty far from being a steamy read.

Recently, while talking about sex with my boyfriend, a topic was raised that was going to require some research. I thought I'd encountered it in passing somewhere before, though, so I promised that I would see if I could find that article and send it along. Which I did, even though the article I was remembering was at least five years old, because I have mighty Web-Fu. But looking for it took me to several favorite sex research sites, both old and new, and I've gotten sucked into re-reading a lot of them, because in addition to being interesting and informative, I find them just plain entertaining.

So let me share two of my very favorite sites. Which can then, if you get as hooked on reading sex research and advice as I do, serve as jumping-off points for more.

My favorite, for entertainment purposes, would be the archives of the (sadly finished) Alt.Sex.Column by the hilarious and sometimes irascible Andrea Nemerson. A.S.C. was sort of like Dear Abby, only about sex, hosted by the San Francisco Chronicle. Someone (possibly Lynn) linked to one of her articles one day, years before I was first published, and I was hooked. I read my way through her entire archive, and subscribed to the column for the remainder of its duration.

This is the column that convinced me that there was nothing morally shady about being kinky (up to that point, it had been one of those things I knew with my head but not really embraced in my heart), and also taught me that my particular kinks at the time were not a headlong dive into perversion -- they barely qualified as wading, honestly. It also answered some very serious questions that I had been afraid to talk to anyone else about but which were hurting my self-esteem. The column ended in early 2009, alas, but the nearly 10 years' worth of archives are still there, and if some of the advice is a bit dated for being nearly 15 years old, plenty of it still rings true.
...It doesn't matter "why" you want to do this. You want to, that's all. Too bad you're not going to get to.

What? How do I know? Because, silly rabbit, you have asked (and more than thrice, I suspect) and she just laughed. If she were interested and had been waiting for you to bring it up, she would have laughed, yes, but then she'd have gone on: "We should ask them! (giggle) I mean just for a joke! And see what they say, you know, just for laughs...(giggle)." She totally would have. She didn't. And now you have to drop it. You get three tries with anything like this (with certain exceptions). After that it turns into pestering or, depending on the dynamic in a given household (no aspersions cast) bullying. There are, of course, exceptions. It is acceptable, for instance, to mention more than three times that you think your partner ought to be getting more of the oral sex.
There's also, as already linked above, the endlessly fascinating Emily Nagoski at TheDirtyNormal.Com. In addition to this blogging thing (which is still ongoing and being updated regularly), she teaches college and has published several books. This is not an advice column per se, but a collection of her musings and observations, analyses of books (good and bad), and even occasional toy reviews. Her approach is far more intellectual than Andrea's, and also much more scientific. This makes it occasionally hard to wade through, especially if I'm reading a new post before I've had my coffee and I'm not ready to process fifty-cent words yet, but I still find it endlessly fascinating, and full of good, no-nonsense plain talk. More than once, reading Emily, I have thought (and even said aloud), "Yes! That's exactly it!" and been relieved and astounded that there were actually words that could so clearly explain a situation that had confounded me for years. If nothing else, you should check out her "best of" collection.
You know what no man has ever asked me?

No man has EVER asked me how to be better at penile-vaginal intercourse.

People do ask me all the time how to make sure a woman has an orgasm during intercourse, and I talk about positions and vibrators and maybe not sweating lack of orgasm with intercourse. Fine. Nice. Good. But a woman’s orgasm with intercourse is really more about her plumbing than it is about his technique.

Why, my dears, does no one ask how to be superb at intercourse in and of itself, without worrying about orgasm? Guys, all of you out there with penises who like putting those penises in a vagina: don’t you want her to adore having you inside her? Don’t you want her to miss you when you’re not there? Don’t you want her to be just a little bit addicted to your dick? Don’t you?

Maybe you don’t realize that it’s possible to be better or worse at it.
The only problem is that, having recently read (or re-read) a bunch of articles on these sites, I find myself getting hooked again... and getting hooked on reading about sex -- even from a relatively dry and intellectual position -- makes me want to talk about it more.

With my boyfriend, yes, obviously and first, but much more than that, because I have some pretty specific motives for that talk, and I enjoy it, but what really grabs my attention about this sort of reading and talking is the anthropologist in me who wants to examine all the various ways that people fit into society, and the disconnect in the way that people think society views them versus what's really out there. I love hearing about whatever kinky games my partnered friends are up to. I love commiserating with my single friends about the trials and tribulations of dating. I like comparing notes with my girl friends, and taking notes from my guy friends. I like talking to my GLBT friends about their experiences (good and bad and not even always necessarily sexual) just for that perspective. Heck, I even love it when my daughter tells me about the "boyfriend" she had back in kindergarten. ("Did you ever kiss him?" "Ew, Mom, no! Gross!")

So if you ever really get the urge to just talk about sex -- to ask nosy questions (in fair trade, of course) or tell anecdotes that you've been dying to tell but don't have a good audience for, or you're just curious about what happened with that disastrous D/s thing I mentioned up at the top there... I'm right here, and I'm always in the mood to talk! ;-)

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