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>> The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability (July 3, 2011)

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness is written for a broad audience of individuals who live with disabilities, pain, illness, or chronic conditions, from chronic fatigue, back pain, and asthma to spinal cord injury, hearing and visual impairment, multiple sclerosis, and more; and regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability provides readers with encouragement, support, and information to create a sex life that works for them. The authors cover a wide range of pertinent topics, including building a positive sexual self-image; positions to minimize stress and maximize pleasure; dealing with fatigue or pain during sex; finding partners and talking with partners about sex and disability; adapting sex toys; and more.

Coauthored by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette among whom one lives with a disability, one has a chronic condition, and the third is currently nondisabled, the book is expertly written. Kaufman is a pediatrician and specialist in Adolescent Medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and associate professor at the University of Toronto; Silverberg is a sex educator and owner of a disability-positive sex toy shop, and Odette is a disability activist who has worked in the field of sexuality and disability for years.

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability begins by debunking myths about disability and sex before it moves on to address desire and self-esteem; sexual anatomy and sexual response; communication; sex with ourselves; sex with others; oral sex; penetration and positioning; use of sex toys, books and videos; yoga and tantric sex; S/M; sexual health; and sexual violence. Without presuming to offer the final word on sex and disability, it concludes with an extensive collection of further resources, and a glossary of gender and sex terms.

>> Barcelona Sex Project (June 17, 2011)

Barcelona Sex Project (2008) by Barcelona-based Erika Lust affirms the natural joy and sexiness of women and men masturbating. Shot as a documentary featuring three women and three men, we first get a sense of their everyday lives and likes through one-on-one interviews, before we see them masturbate individually for the camera. Both the interviews and the masturbation scenes are shot in a more subdued style than Lust’s short films, further emphasized by the white backdrop and minimalist furniture used for this documentary.

Lust is among a new generation of women creating films that feature women masturbating. Read more about them here.

>> Hard Core (May 24, 2011)

Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible" (1999; first ed. 1989) by Linda Williams, professor of film at the University of California, Berkeley, provides a film historical analysis of the porn genre from the early stag films of the late nineteenth century through the classical features of the seventies and the video porn of the eighties. In the illustrated epilogue added to the 1999 edition, Williams addresses the most recent historical trends in porn and porn studies, in particular the need for a method with which to discuss the visceral viewing of porn; "the rawer, less sublimated, responses of viewers to moving-image pornography" (289).

In response to the "we know it when we see it" argument with respect to what porn is, Williams' filmic study represents a landmark in porn studies, which has primarily approached porn from cultural, sociological, psychological, technological, and polemical perspectives. Moreover, while opposing the "hard/soft distinction to label men's sexuality as pornographic and women's as erotic" (6), Williams argues that:
The very notion of erotica as "good," clean, nonexplicit representations of sexual pleasure in opposition to dirty, explicit pornographic ones is false. The erotic and the pornographic interact in hard core. The one emphasizes desire, the other satisfaction. Depending on who is looking, both can appear dirty, perverse, or too explicit. (277)
While Williams' book is hardcore academic, it is accessible to a wide audience. Her film readings are lively and engaging. Unpacking the iconography of porn as it evolved from its focus on "meat" to "money," including a smorgasbord of diverse sex numbers that drive the film forward much like musical numbers do in musicals, but in porn climaxing with the "money shot," Williams also discusses what porn reveals about gender roles and the cultural context.

As Williams points out, just as tragedies strive to induce tears, and horrors goosebumps, the intention of porn is to stir a physical reaction. But as she also argues, porn is more than masturbatory material; it is also a discourse about sex. And as she further argues with reference to Michel Foucault's analysis of sexual discourses in The History of Sexuality, sex has historically been defined and discussed from men's point of view: "for women, one constant of the history of sexuality has been a failure to imagine their pleasures outside a dominant male economy" (4).

In her final chapter, Williams considers the potential of a "re-visioning" of porn from a female perspective, analyzing the early films of Candida Royalle who founded her Femme Productions line of erotic films in 1984. As Williams shows, Royalle's films succeed in re-visioning porn as they develop women as the subjects of desire and not as the object, featuring sexual pleasure on women's terms.

Williams ends in her conclusion with a speculation on what feminist porn might be like:
Perhaps the true measure of the feminist re-vision of pornography would be if it were to produce a pornographic "speculation" about the still relatively unproblematized pleasures of men. When hard core begins to probe the nature and quality of male pleasure with the same scrutiny that it devotes to female pleasure, when erection, penetration, and ejaculation are no longer primary, self-evident measures of male pleasure, then a realm of female pornotopia may be at hand. (276)

>> The Band (May 12, 2011)

The indie sex and rock feature film The Band (2009) by Australian Anna Brownfield (1971) stands out from all other new porn by women. In 2009, The Band was the opening film at the Berlin Porn Festival and was also shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Brownfield’s film gives association to Michael Winterbottom’s 9 songs (2004) and John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus (2006), films along with which Brownfield classifies her own: art house films with hardcore sex.

The Band is a cinematically sound film, driven by raw catchy punk-rock music and hardcore sex. The music was composed by the Melbourne-based band Moscow Schoolboy, with the PJ Harvey-esque vocalist Jess Cornelius. And the acting is strong, with performers who fit their parts: believable punk-rock band members with their ups and downs.

Photography and cinematography are striking on this film, for which Brownfield gives director of photography Sanne Kurz much of the credit. The pictures are exceptional in the depth, layers, and textures that they convey, communicating excitement, heat, and passion, as well as affection and tenderness; all of which is further emphasized by the nuanced soundtrack that captures the sensations of licking and touching. Shot on a Panasonic AG-HVX200 camera with its variable shooting speed, the sex numbers are shot in true slow motion, which gives them a fluid quality.

In content the film pushes boundaries, portraying a range of sexual relations and experiences that include fetishes and gender bending encounters, without being pedagogically preachy or overtly politically activist. The film follows the rock group Gutter Filth on tour through clubs and rundown bars with their own groupie in tow. The vocalist and front figure for the band, the sexy but smug Jimmy Taranto, decides early on to give his solo career a shot and drops both the group and his girlfriend, Candy, a beautiful long-limbed and long-haired young woman who’s too good for him anyway. The rest of the band, with bassist G.B., who looks like a younger version of Mick Jagger, and drummer Dee, a lean black-haired man with a fondness for women’s attire and black eye makeup, decide with their manager, the caring and inconspicuously butch Jennifer with dreadlocks and piercings, to choose Candy as their new front figure. The record company wants to test the audience response to the new vocalist and sends the band on tour in the backblocks. The tour is successful and the band’s new single with Candy reaches number one on the top hit list, while Jimmy’s popularity falls to the bottom.

The Band won the award for Hottest Feature Film at the Feminist Porn Awards in 2010. The film is distributed to audiences in the United States and Canada by Breaking Glass Pictures.

(This product review was originally posted at Good Vibrations Magazine, and is an excerpt from my forthcoming book New porn. By women, for women and men.)

>> What's Going on Down There? (May 10, 2011)

What's Going on Down There? Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask by Karen Gravelle with Chava (13) and Nick (11) Castro provides accessible information and advice to boys going through puberty. The book includes information about body changes, sex, birth control, preventing STDs, and lots of practical reassuring advice in response to typical concerns and questions.

The book's first chapters cover physical changes which range from testicular growth, including advice on testicular self-examination and reassurance that it is perfectly normal for one testicle to grow larger and hang lower than the other ("with time, the other testicle will catch up, and they will both be about the same size when you are fully developed," 12); and further provide factually reassuring information about penis size, hair in new places, growth spurts, pimples, perspiration, voice changes, erections, ejaculation, orgasm, wet dreams, and masturbation.
Many people masturbate, including children, teenagers, married and unmarried adults, and elderly folks. They all do it for one reason: It feels good. (43)
It is not harmful, will not make you run out of sperm, and it will not "ruin you" for normal sexual relations. In fact, masturbation probably helps prepare you for sex with another person. By exploring your own body, you have a chance to learn what feels best to you. (46-47)
The bulk of the book addresses the topic that probably interests boys the most: sex; i.e., being sexual, having sex, being sure you are ready, not pressuring others, homosexuality (it's not a choice, 72), birth control, STDs, and STD preventions.

One chapter addresses typical "what's normal" concerns about crooked penis shape, masturbating with other boys (it's normal sex play for boys, 115), and more. Another chapter responds to "what if" questions ranging from "what if I have an erection when I'm giving a report in front of my class" to "my girlfriend and I had sex, and she got pregnant. I think she should get an abortion, but what if she doesn't want to?" (it's her choice, 125).

A final chapter is a collection of advice from adult men thinking back on adolescence and what they wish they'd done differently, from being able to accept yourself more to knowing more about the changes of adolescence in advance.

What's Going on Down There? also devotes an entire chapter to how girls are affected by puberty, providing a detailed description of girls’ external and internal sex organs and how they change during puberty, as well as menstruation (does it hurt, and why does it make girls cranky?).

>> The Period Book (May 8, 2011)

The Period Book: Everything You Don't Want to Ask (But Need to Know), written by Karen Gravelle with the assistance of her 15-year old niece Jennifer Gravelle, will appeal to adolescent and pre-adolescent girls with its informative and accessible approach to puberty. Since, as Gravelle writes, the reason a girl gets a period in the first place is that her body is changing from a child's body into a woman's body, the book provides good information concerning all these changes; in addition to practical advice on menstruation, from changes you can see (growth spurts, breasts developing, hair in new places, skin changes and perspiration, and genital changes) to changes you can't see (in the internal sexual organ).

I appreciate Gravelle's endeavors to empower young girls against cultural body ideals, from the American obsession with breasts to excessive concerns with body odor, and that she further encourages young women to feel good about their bodies and celebrate this time in their life. – To see the arrival of menstruation as a celebration of life. Which, The Period Book cautions, does not mean girls should give up the equal status they had with boys during childhood or that they should stop playing.
Playing is an important part of being human, and we should do it all our lives. Men do! So women should not allow themselves to be told that they must stop playing. (102)
Gravelle also includes information about seeing a gynecologist, answers to typical "is this normal" and "what if" questions, and how to talk about sex with your parents.

>> Ready, Set, Grow! (April 30, 2011)

Ready, Set, Grow! A "What's Happening to My Body?" Book for Younger Girls by Lynda Madaras, the author of numerous sex education books for youth, and a puberty and health educator for more than twenty years, is aimed at girls ages eight to eleven who will appreciate the book's direct language, simple questions and answers, and cute illustrations. Madaras covers a wide range of topics, from breasts and bras to hair in new places, growth and weight spurts, sweat and pimples, changes in the external and internal sex organs, getting your period, and respecting and protecting your body.

I appreciate among other Madaras' response to masturbation, which is still a taboo topic, especially among women. - Touching yourself feels good and there's nothing harmful in doing it, writes Madaras:
Most of us masturbate at one time or another. Some girls start when they're young and continue for all their lives. Others start when they are older. Some girls masturbate quite often. Other girls never, or hardly ever, masturbate. It's OK if you do and it's OK if you don't. (80)
With girls as young as ten requesting labiaplasty these days, I also appreciate Madaras' advice to young girls on how to examine their external sex organs with the help of a mirror, and her positive and detailed description of genital changes in puberty, including the labia:
The outer lips are thin and flat in little girls. At puberty, they begin to change. They become thicker and more rounded. Pubic hair also begins to grow here ... The inner lips change at puberty, too. They grow bigger. They change color. They get more wrinkly ... The outer lips cover the inner lips. But in some of us, the inner lips stick out beyond the outer lips. One of the inner lips may be bigger than the other. It's all perfectly normal! (73-74)
Ready, Set, Grow! concludes with advice on talking with your parents, and dealing with harassment and abuse.

>> How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do (April 21, 2011)

To empower and inspire your sexuality, Candida Royalle, a sex positive feminist and the most experienced producer of adult sex films catering to women and couples, shares ideas based on her personal life lessons and professional career skills in How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do.

This handbook is written with a warm, inviting voice that will make you feel at ease with yourself, your body, and sexuality, featuring ideas on how to script and enact the sexual scenario of your choice with your partner in order to explore and enhance your sexual delights.

With its emphasis on the importance of first and foremost nurturing a positive relationship to your body, this book was immensely helpful for me when I first read it during a difficult time in my life. I have since returned to it for encouragement, inspiration, and inspiration. I highly recommend Royalle's How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do.

>> S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College
(April 3, 2011)

S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and CollegeAimed at adolescents and young adults ages 16-22, S.E.X. is also for parents, teachers, and all others, young or old, interested in the physical health and well-being of youth today. S.E.X. is sex-positive and inclusive, encouraging young adults of any and all body type and gender orientation to take ownership of and enjoy their bodies and sexuality in a manner responsible and respectful of others. Its author Heather Corinna is founder of the widely recognized grassroots sexuality education and support organization and website Scarleteen.com.

In her book, Corinna points out that sex isn't just about your genitals or partnered heterosexual intercourse. It's a mix of different things--physical, chemical, emotional, intellectual, social, and cultural. Corinna educates the reader about the essentials of one's body; issues surrounding body image; sex with self and sex with others; healing from abuse; pregnancy and birth control; gender orientation and sexuality identity; and more. As Minnesota Women's Press writes in a product review, "S.E.X. itself is revolutionary as a feminist, GLBT-friendly and overall progressive collection of sexual education material"

>> Pink Brain, Blue Brain (March 27, 2011)

Boys and girls are different, but not as different as cultural stereotypes would have us think. And differences caused by genes and hormones can be compensated for by encouraging appropriate games and activities to kids. That's the gist of Pink Brain, Blue Brain (2009) by neuroscientist Lise Eliot. Eliot takes the reader from the womb through infancy, toddler years, preschool, and the beginning of formal schooling, so her book might be particularly interesting to parents of children in those age groups.

As the parent of a toddler girl, I found Eliot's recommended toys and activities for toddler girls in particularly interesting:
  • vetstibular stimulation (spinning, swinging, jumping, cartwheeling) "because girls, while they don’t lag behind boys in gross motor skills during the first year, are slower and weaker from the preschool years onward."
  • ball games (balls, darts, paper airplanes) "because girls begin to fall behind boys in certain spatial skills by end of the preschool period."
  • sports (peewee gymnastics, soccer, T-ball, running, kicking, batting) for spatial skills and hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills and mind-body wellness.
  • puzzles, mazes and other visuospatial games (jigsaw puzzles, the refrigerator magnet toy called Gear-a-tion that allows kids to experiment with gear movement in the kitchen while the adult cooks) to encourage spatial and mental rotation tasks.
  • building toys ("many girls love these, but the themes and colors are often not marketed to appeal to them. Look for more gender neutral LEGOs, Lincoln Logs, Marble Works, K’NEX, old fashioned wooden blocks. Translating a series of instructional diagrams into a three-dimensional structure provide excellent practice at the kind of visuospatial skill that is linked to higher mathematic achievement.")
  • hand her a tool and "moms need to tackle more of the mechanical jobs around the house too for good role modeling."
  • visuospatial computer games (particularly those involving spatial manipulations involving three-dimensional objects and virtual navigation) "because this kind of spatial ability shows the largest sex difference of any cognitive skill."
  • music keyboard training (piano or electric keyboard or a xylophone) "which increases spatiotemporal reasoning skills in preschool-age children. Because the musical scale is experienced as a visual pattern on a piano or a xylophone, learning to play such instruments may train the brain to recognize patterns in both space and time, which may be helpful for mastering mathetmatical concepts such as fractions, proportionality, and geometry."
For toddler boys, Eliot recommends:
  • language and literacy enrichment ("boys need lots of verbal interaction to boost their vocabulary and other language skills. Reading to them is probably the best way to do this. Boys often have a strong interest in nonfiction books about vehicles, sports, animals, outer space, etc. Another boy-friendly way of increasing literary exposure is having them listen to books on tape or on CD. It’s amazing how adding Play and Pause buttons and headphones can entice some boys to sit still and follow a story.")
  • ABCs and letter sounds (to improve independent reading skills later). Reading ABC books to them, emphasizing letter sounds, playing games involving rhyming and alliteration, encouraging them to practice printing their names and other words.
  • Preliteracy computer games ("computer time should be limited, but boys are often drawn to them and they can be powerful learning tools, including for practicing learning letters, sounds (phonics), rhyming, and other reading-readiness skills.")
  • Fine motor skills, which are essential for pencil-and-paper tasks in grade school (cutting, stamping, building with small construction toys, painting or drawing standing at easels, typing, clip-boarding as in walking around tallying or charting objects in the environment)
  • More physical movement indoors and outside.
  • Rough-and-tumble time.
  • Focus on feelings ("books like Thomas the Tank Engine stories with trains that have animated personalities and feelings about their jobs and one another can help boys distinguish and give voice to a range of broader their feelings from a young age").
  • Pet care (to teach nurturing skills).

>> Matinée (March 21, 2011)

Skin. Like. Sun., an erotic experimental documentary music video, goes on pre-sale on Monday, March 28 at Blue Artichoke Films. In our LSF Amazon Shop, we currently have Blue Artichoke’s erotic short porn film Matinée available for purchase. Featuring two actors, lovers in real life, but accused by critics for not displaying chemistry on stage where they play two lovers, the two decide to take it up a notch in a reunion scene in a matinee performance of the play.

Matinée is a porn film with high cinematic quality, presenting professional photography, strong acting, and realistic settings. The characters are naturally beautiful in their anachronistic ways; he thin, his jaw distinct, fine lines around his eyes and mouth, short coarse dark hair, his gaze present; she softer, pale skin and blond hair in dreadlocks, a furrow between her eyebrows, some thin lines along her neck, full lips and eyes to sink into. Matinée portrays their sex on stage in near real time, capturing the warmth and textures of skin, layers, curves, and forms, and the intensity of their mounting desire and pleasure crosscut with the audience’s keen response, all underscored by the film’s excellent soundtrack.

Matinée won the award for best short film at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (2009) and at CineKink NYC Film Festival (2009).

>> Comstock Films (March 17, 2011)

Comstock Films by the New York couple Tony & Peggy Comstock is a combination of documentary and hardcore where real couples are invited to be interviewed about their relationship and feelings for each other and their sexual life, and to have sex for the camera. The films' first part consists of the interview with glimpses of the couple's sex, while the second part presents the viewer with just sex in close to real time.

The Comstocks get that what’s truly arousing to see is realistic desire and pleasure, and their films milk the sexy energy one can find between real partners. My personal favorite is their second film, Xana and Dax: When Opposites Attract (2005). First of all, I’m completely charmed by Xana and Dax; they are two beautiful people to look at and listen to, talking about how they met, and the first time they had sex. In their case, "objectification" becomes a mutually adoring, affirming, and embracing gaze. There is such compelling love and kindness, desire and admiration, in the voices of Xana and Dax as they describe how they first saw and still see each other’s bodies. The smiles, the warmth in their voices, looks that caress; it’s beautiful.

The seventh installment of Comstock's "Real People, Real Life, Real Sex" series, Brett and Melanie: Boi meets girl, was recently released on DVD. Tony Comstock has a lot of interesting thoughts about the challenges—cultural, political, and financial—that confront those who seek to make new and better porn today that he writes about in his blog. Now he's decided to test the MPAA's rating standards (again) with this latest installment and is asking for our support. To find out more, read his blog post here.

>> From Diapers to Dating (March 14, 2011)

From Diapers to Dating: A Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children by Debra W. Haffner, parenting and sexuality educator with more than twenty years of experience, is based on Haffner's firm belief that "sexually healthy families raise sexually healthy children who grow up to become sexually healthy adults" (5). Taking into consideration different religious, ethical and individual norms and comfort levels, Haffner provides informed and balanced advice to adults of different backgrounds and values on how to teach their children about sexuality and serve as positive role models for them. 

Divided into separate chapters focused respectively on infants and toddlers, preschoolers, early elementary school students, and upper elementary preteenage school students, From Diapers to Dating includes advice to parents on how to foster a positive physical relationship with our children from the beginning; ways to encourage children to feel good about all parts of their bodies, including their genitals; and suggestions for how to talk to our children about their developing sexuality from infancy through prepuberty.

A new analysis of data collected from nearly 2,000 teens in Scotland in 2007 supports the benefits of positive sex-focused parenting that go beyond merely talking about it. When parents are positive role models, supportive and involved in their children's life, parents may shape teenagers’ attitudes toward sexual relationships and provide them with the social skills to act autonomously and safely. The researchers behind the study recommend supportive overall and sex-specific positive parent-child relationship, beginning at least several years before teens are likely to start sexual activity. Haffner would have added that "sexuality education begins in the delivery room" (21).

“Is Parenting Associated with Teenagers’ Early Sexual Risk-Taking, Autonomy and Relationship with Sexual Partners?” by Alison Parkes et al., of the Medical Research Council in Glasgow is currently available online and appears in the March 2011 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health