November 28, 2011

Why Children Don't Tell

Steward uses these dolls to
teach children how to tell
someone if they are ever abused.
The Penn State child sex abuse scandal has gotten people asking not only how witnesses could fail to report the crimes they saw committed against the young boys, but also why the victims didn't tell. So why didn't they? Explains the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR):
Just because a child does not disclose or initially denies sexual abuse doesn't mean it is not happening. Sexual abuse is a secret crime, one that usually has no witnesses. Shame, secrecy, and fear keep a child from disclosing the abuse. Victims of child sexual abuse are often unable to trust, which contributes to secrecy and non-disclosure. Often, children do not tell about sexual abuse because they:
  • are too young to recognize their victimization or put it into words
  • were threatened or bribed by the abuser
  • feel confused by fearing the abuse but liking the attention
  • are afraid no one will believe them
  • blame themselves or believe the abuse is punishment for being "bad"
  • feel guilty for consequences to the perpetrator
(Quoted from PCAR's "Child Sexual Abuse" brochure).

As PCAR also states, education is the best defense against child sexual assault. "An educated child has the ability to recognize dangerous/uncomfortable situations and will be more likely to tell you if abuse has occurred."

November 21, 2011

Pregnant with Desire: A Review of Madison Young’s Documentary {featured film}

(This post was originally published at Good Vibrations Magazine.)

Madison: Taking Back MILF
Feminist pornographer and queer-kink activist Madison Young has received a lot of media attention lately for her breast feeding advocacy and for incorporating motherhood into her sex-positive performance art. There has been less attention given to Madison's pregnancy activism. A few months before she herself got pregnant, Madison directed the documentary Pregnant with Desire. Featuring many of her friends, it shows, as explains Madison, "how couples can stay connected while they're pregnant and how sexualities change and how bodies and people's feelings about their own bodies change, how they feel like beautiful sexual beings during their pregnancy -- but without exploiting or fetishizing them."

Pregnant with Desire includes four episodes. Each begins with an interview before we see the women have their choice of sex. Featuring queer, kinky sex-positive sex workers and performers, I didn't immediately connect with the characters, and the sex scenes don't reflect the kind of attention to production quality and re-visioned content that to me sets feminist and progressive sex films apart from mainstream porn. Nevertheless, the film is a valuable contribution to the much-silenced topic of pregnant women's sex lives and the erotic sensations experienced by the changing bodies of pregnant women. Offering advice and inspiration, the film encourages women and their partners to enjoy and take pride in women's pregnant bodies. And as one pregnant woman points out, her level of sexual confidence inspires her body confidence too, an asset as birth approaches and she can better articulate to her midwife what she wants, and asking questions without embarrassment. And as another woman points out, what's good for mom, is good for baby.

The interviews are particularly helpful. Addressing common issues such as morning sickness, tender breasts, and sexual dreams as blood levels and hormones surge, the women share their experiences with changing sensitivities and what feels and has felt good to them as their bodies grow and transform.

Tricksie and Sadie
Tricksie, for instance, talks about how even during the first four months of pregnancy when she was feeling really sick, sex would actually make her feel better and give her relief because of all the hormones happening and the chemicals released during orgasm and arousal. Miss Muffy, on the other hand, notes that even if in general she's had more sexual dreams and felt more sexual during her pregnancy, there have been times when the level of "uncomfortableness will override the sexiness." How she can feel horny, "but don't touch me!"

Heavily pregnant Ambrosia talks about how belly dancing helps her feel sensual and erotic, in tune with her body and in love with herself; an earth goddess. And both Tricksie and Miss Muffy share advice on what positions feel best as their bodies grow, which is also helpful.

Though the couple featured in the final episode does talk about their feelings about pregnancy (as the epitome of womanhood: feminine, vibrant and alive), it doesn't quite fit the theme of the film. Instead the episode focuses on how a lactating woman (Penny) and her husband (Eric) incorporates lactation in their sex. In Mongolia, a country which takes its endorsement of breastfeeding seriously, a woman will often express a bowlful for her husband as a treat, or leave some in the fridge for anyone to help themselves.

Eric and Penny
At first grossed out when her husband sucked a little milk out of her breast before letting it spill from his mouth into hers, the couple now shares and enjoys this act as a very intimate way of being close while it also feel kind of "dirty," but in a good way, adds Penny. Penny also talks about how it excites her to see her breasts begin to lactate when she's turned on since it is a very visual sign that she is in fact aroused, something getting wet doesn't quite do for her unlike what an erection will do for a man.

Syd and Miss Muffy
The sex featured on Pregnant with Desire includes a lot of vulva stimulation using fingers, mouths, dildos and vibrators. And at least to a certain extent, the sex reflects what the women have said about how they as pregnant like their sex to be. But as another reviewer commented, "while this film has hot parts, and I enjoyed it overall, it's more 'porn featuring pregnant women' than 'pregnant women in pregnancy-focused porn.'" The sound quality is not great and even if they feature queer sex, the sex numbers at times just feel too stereotypically porny with the come-hither-looks, high heels in bed, cum shots, and exaggerated moans. Even the nature and sequencing of the sex acts and positions feel typical to me, no matter how queer (a cum shot is still a cum shot, even if it's a female ejaculating, standing over a woman lying flat on her back).

November 18, 2011

Snow Patrol: This Isn't Everything You Are {featured video}

For a little Friday sexy fun: watch for moving and inspiring erotic dance at a tango club in Buenos Aires about a minute and a half into the video. I love that it features a diversity of couples as well, young and old, straight and queer.

November 14, 2011

Stranger-Danger Message Puts Kids at Risk of Abuse

Honoring the victims
“There are perverts out there,” said an attorney in town to our local newspaper addressing the issue of an age limit policy on “toplessness” at our city’s pool. In a culture with as warped views on human sexuality as ours, I actually don’t question that there are perverts around. It’s just that in 90% of all instances of child sexual abuse, the abuser knows the child. Child sex abusers are fathers, mothers, stepparents, grandparents, uncles, cousins, neighbors, babysitters, spiritual leaders, coaches. Like Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky who is finally facing charges after abusing eight young boys over a 15-year period. Caught 9 years ago by a witness in the locker room showers having anal sex with a 10-year-old boy, the abuse has been silenced for years by his supervisors who turned a blind eye to the abuse. Despite reports of inappropriate behavior on behalf of Sandusky since the late 90s.

People do that all the time. “He’s so good with the boys, we know and trust their coach.”

It’s exactly this kind of trust of which child abusers take advantage. Notes columnist Gail Rosenblum, "The grand jury report is a sickening synopsis of the methodical workings of a sexual predator." As the founder of the Second Mile, a group foster home to help troubled boys, Sandusky ingratiated himself with the boys and, often, their mothers, by giving them gifts and treating them to football games, and by inviting them to eat in the dining hall with Penn State athletes and to Sandusky family picnics and on walks with the family dog. "Soon it wasn't odd at all that the boys were left alone with Sandusky, in the locker-room showers, or sleeping overnight in his basement, according to the report."

The problem with the "stranger-danger" message is that "we cannot get our hands around the ugly truth, which is that, in so many cases, it is no stranger who harms them."

November 11, 2011

Comprehensive Sex Ed Bill Introduced in House and Senate | Tiny Nibbles {featured news}

On November 1, a comprehensive sex education bill was introduced in the US House and Senate. Writes sex columnist Violet Blue at Tiny Nibbles: "it is not at all what I expected. It’s exactly what I’ve always hoped for."
It is the singlemost important piece of legislation for the public health sector in regard to preventing unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, sexual abuse, dating violence, bullying, fostering healthy relationships, and providing accurate sexual health information. It would -finally- disallow the US government to spend money on or promote programs that withhold information about HIV, are medically inaccurate or proven ineffective, promote gender stereotypes, are insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of sexually active or LGBT youth, or are inconsistent with ethical imperatives of medicine and public health. (This is the current state of affairs.)
Use this link to send your representatives a letter telling them to support HR 3324 – Healthy Youth Act. Please, please, please spread the word.
 Read More at Tiny Nibbles >>

November 6, 2011

Can America's Attitude Towards Sex Get Any Worse? (Or, What Happened When My Son Said 'Breast' in Pre-School) | AlterNet {featured read}

Few topics generate as much terror in America as sex, unless it is sex+children+education. Perhaps that is why sometimes even the most caring parents prefer to let schools (or as the case may be, porn) to provide the instructions. Quite simply, we are accustomed to allowing our children to view violence early on, but teaching them about the science or pleasure of our bodies dampens confidence quicker than a cold shower on a freezing day. We squirm, we deny, we laugh nervously and freak out frequently.

I am the mother of two and a relationship writer, so it is no surprise that I’m often approached to answer questions or offer advice. Equally likely are the more disquieting moments when someone hears just how ‘open’ I’ve been with my own children (by open I mean answering their questions directly, simply and truthfully). More than once I’ve been on the receiving end of an indignant stare, the kind that with one raised eyebrow says, oh-no-you-didn’t-just-tell-your-kid-that.
Read More at AlterNet >>

November 5, 2011

The Pill and Relationship Satisfaction, aka the power of interpretation | Scientific American {featured read}

I sometimes think I could write an entirely different blog, devoted entirely to oral contraceptives. I don’t know that it would make any difference, but there is just SO much misinformation out there. Similarly, I sometimes feel I could devote an entire blog to debunking over-interpreted science. The two blogs would frequently overlap.

There’s just so much misinformation about “the Pill”. And there seems almost to be glee in the way people spread it. No one seems to spread this kind of misinformation about condoms. Or Nyquil. Or cholesterol medications. There’s something about taking a PILL (condoms don’t seem to have this, and the Ring has it less, too, I think because those are physical things and thus give themselves to a different mindset) that just makes people feel they are messing with their physiology, messing with their MINDS, messing with themSELVES, and feel it on another level entirely. Even psychiatric medications, it seems to me, don’t get this kind of bad rap.
Read More at Scientific American >>

November 4, 2011

The Womanly Heartaches of Bleeding, Infertility, and Miscarriages

I've written about the womanly art of bleeding. But what often goes in silence are the pains and heartaches many women experience on a regular basis as their bodies cycle through their periods. The swelling and the cramping, worsened for many by fibroids and uterine thickening, and the emotional effects of the hormone shifts.

And then there's the bleeding women don't want to see when it becomes a message of infertility or the dramatic experience of miscarriage.

Unbeknownst to the public, Anna Arrowsmith, also known as feminist pornographer Anna Span, has endured much of all of this over the years. Suffering on a regular basis from intense period pains and prolonged bleeding as a result of adenomyosis (endometriosis interna), she has over the last three years also gone through the added exaggerated effects of hormone treatments and IVF with its high hopes and wrenching losses. Four IVF cycles, four pregnancies, four successfully detected heartbeats, then no more.

And nobody knew. When Anna was actively campaigning last year as a Liberal Democrat Candidate for Gravesham in Kent, advocating for comprehensive human sexuality education among other issues, nobody knew all that she was suffering off the political scene.

Then after a dramatic conclusion to the fourth pregnancy this fall followed by near fatal illness due to treatments she'd received to keep the pregnancy going (by suppressing her immune system), Anna's husband Tim Arrowsmith last month finally posted about their experiences and they both shared his post on Twitter. 

As Anna commented in her tweet sharing Tim's post, the topic of infertility is still a bit taboo. For that reason, the couple sharing their experiences with it is all the more significant. As Tim writes, his hope is that "some of this may resonate with some of you who have had similar experiences and might promote a bit more open discussion of a taboo subject, even amongst friends."

Busted! Gender Myths in the Bedroom & Beyond | Live Science {featured read}

The difference in men's and women's attitudes toward sex are often taken for granted. Men want sex, women want commitment; men look for attractive mates and women go after social status.

But not all psychologists are on board with these gender-essentialist statements.

In a new review, University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley and colleagues sift through psychology studies and find gender differences aren't always as black-and-white (or pink-and-blue) as they seem. Here are six gender differences that may not be innate after all.
Read More at Live Science >>

November 3, 2011

No Bikini {featured video}

A young girl aged seven defies gender roles with inspiring results when she decides not to wear a top during a summer swim camp. Directed by Claudia Morgado Escanilla.

Faking It | Smitten Kitten {featured read}

A word to everyone, everywhere: let’s make a concentrated effort to make fake orgasms a thing of the past.

Allow me to make an observation: women in general don’t seem to be completely sexually satisfied with their partners. That’s right, I said most women. Feminist women, adventurous women, dominant women, women who have casual sex, even women who know their partner is good in bed, and all of their counterparts. Orgasm fakery is an equal-opportunity phenomenon. If it makes you angry or uncomfortable to hear it, it should. Women are capable of having orgasms, and I think we can all pretty much agree that women SHOULD be having them.
Read More at Smitten Kitten >>