Archive for Other Writing I Do
Some sex positions have stuck in the public consciousness like wedding confetti to a sweaty ass in the back of the church. These positions are not always named correctly—with the right person, for example, "missionary" position is anything but boring or doctrinal—and they're not necessarily good for everyone, depending on who has the bad knees in the couple, but you could name a few and most people would know what you were talking about.
Then there are the things you discover with your lover(s) that you don't know any names for, they're just positions that you find yourselves in as you roll around in the bed, or on the carpet, or yeah, on the pew in the back of the church. Later, when you tell your closest friends about it, they may say, oh yeah, I like that one, but in the moment, when you have a BING BING BING thrilling through your entire body, you don't have a name for it, you don't know how you got there, it might even feel like there is an extra pair of hands in there, it feels so good, but you're sure as shit that you will remember how to get there later.
And THEN there are the positions that WomensHealthMag.com comes up with, in articles like "8 Orgasmic Positions YOU MUST TRY".
First of all, any headline title that includes the words "MUST" or "SHOULD", I tune out immediately. I don't have to do a goddamn thing, is my rebellious streak's automatic response. This is part of making women feel inadequate with what they are already doing in sex, or like they're falling behind on the sexual trends. I guess the phrasing works, or else they wouldn't use it, but I hate that it does.
Secondly, this is Women's Health Magazine. The hard-copy version of it is all "flatten those abs" or "tone those thighs", so it's not actually "health", it's just weight loss sublimated into the endless pursuit of a mirage of health. They're not particularly interested in how accessible their "new" sexual positions are; if you can't do them, then you're obviously not healthy enough (e.g. skinny enough) to be up with the trends.
Articles like this are aspirational Kama Sutras. "The Backbend"? Really? In that position, just how much do you think you can adjust the pacing of the thrusts? (This position also features the most blandly terrifying sentence I have ever read in a sex-tip article: "Just be careful not to bend the penis back too far." YIKES.) Because of where this article appears, it can't actually show more detailed logistics or talk about it more graphically than "penetration" or "depth." So when the description for the "Pop-Up" position articulates in great detail how the knees should be arranged, but doesn't say anything about how, uh, penetration happens, the reader is left to put the puzzle of flesh together in their mind and go, huh, but how does…? Answer: it probably doesn't.
Or how about the positions that need special equipment, like an exercise ball? If you don't own an exercise ball, THIS IS NOT FOR YOU. Speaking for myself, I am totally fine with that. I did some few workouts on exercise balls in my dancing days, and holy fuck, that's a lot of balance and maneuvering. If you try to lie back and get properly shtupped, you are going to fall RIGHT off, I don't care how carefully you position your hands on either side. (Let go of the floor to pull him in? NOT BLOODY LIKELY.) Or a rocking chair. Where are you gonna get that kind of sturdy chair? Even if you take into account the fact that Women's Health Mag is mostly promoting the idea of women under 120 pounds, I don't think even Cracker Barrel's deluxe models are going to stand up to that kind of treatment.
I feel like positions get labeled so that they can more easily fit into someone's sexual curriculum or, more likely, the next volume of sex positions from Women's Health Magazine. You see this approach repeated in Men's Health Magazine, and Maxim, and Cosmo, and... All the ways that we can interlock flesh become narrowed down to impractical and vague listicles for people who are already acrobats.
For the rest of us… I'm inclined to think that all we really need to have a lot of fun is curiosity, openness, and basic safety guidelines (don't put your weight to bear without checking, check in frequently about comfort and adjust as necessary). Sex is not a static posture, a single pose—except perhaps for the most formal of exhibitionists or sadists—sex is a moving, sweating, panting process. It's a dance; it's a journey. We are wrestling our way through it, and not really stopping in any one place. Our needs for what comes out of sex may change from moment to moment.
In other words, the only sex position We Must Try is mouth closed, ears open, and nerve endings at the ready, waiting to see what happens next.
You know what's a fun sex position? The Patronus! Become a patron of mine on Patreon and find out!
I read the terrible sex-tip articles, so you don't have to.
Because trust me: they're terrible. I read them for the same reason that I read Fifty Shades of Grey: I want to know what is out there in the socio-sexual zeitgeist. What are people being told they should know or learn about sex? What crap is being floated around about how to better fuck?
It's the same terrible crap all the damn time, too. "12 ways to suck his cock"? "Six new positions to try tonight in the car"? We all know there's a heavy rotation of the same material, and I've either done them OR I've heard about them and said hahahahahaha, RIGHT. But every now and then a sex-tip article pops up that makes me so fucking angry! Amused, but ANGRY! Up until now, all I've done is mock these tedious bits in a status update, because I figured I don't really have the expertise to critique them in any substantial way. (I think I tend to dismiss my own sexual knowledge in any area other than phone sex, because I don't have any formal training in it. Maybe I should get over that.)
But a week or two ago one of those terrible articles came through my FB feed, and I found myself chomping at the bit to reply. It went straight to the heart of my own personal and professional experience, and I'm sorry, my friends, I feel the need to tear it apart point by cheesy, deluded, terrible point. (I won't, however, link to it.)
The title itself was problematic: How To Role Play In The Bedroom Without Feeling Embarrassed, Because Slipping Into Character Doesn't Have To Feel Fake. Way to set us up for feeling weird, unnamed online publication. By making "embarrassed" or "fake" the default emotions that your readers must feel, the ones that we are already feeling or would be most likely to fall into, you … fuck, you sound so negative!
The beginning of the article included this: "Consider how difficult it can be to let your guard down and be comfortable with yourself during sex. Perhaps the answer is to be someone else entirely." But the article ended with a suggestion to BE YOURSELF. Which one is it, then?
The whole piece was full of feel-good psycho-babble like that. "Injecting your own personality into your new role will help ease you into character," says <redacted expert> "Injecting", WTF. What a shitty metaphor: role play is a game, or an art, not a medical procedure. What does that even mean, in a sexual/emotional context? Are we somehow supposed to wipe our personalities clean to get the sexy new roles fully entrenched, and then, like, put bits of ourselves back in? This sounds frightening, not encouraging.
The key, said the author, is to "let your inhibitions take the night off and just have fun." OH, OKAY THAT'S EASY ENOUGH THEN. She went on to say, "Chances are your characters will be rather hilarious!" Sure, forget the potential for depth and excitement and profound sexual enjoyment. Go for the fucking laugh track.
A good portion of the suggestions were strictly surface, focusing on external elements like clothing, location, and visual/aural overload (lights off, loud music on). I can see the point of clothing and maybe location, you know, if the kids' bedtime is putting a crimp on your ability to properly vocalize, but turning off the lights? Personally I need to be able to get in the zone for role play, and for me that means being able to see the eyes of the person I'm playing with.
The article suggested other tactics that, in my experience, work directly against getting to the core of role play, like working out a script way in advance, apparently with lines too. Or just push past your discomfort! "If you’re feeling nervous or embarrassed, feel free to acknowledge the discomfort and say you’re feeling a little awkward or a little nervous — but it’s important to try to move past it and jump right into the task at hand, much like you would if you were nervous about giving a speech or presentation in front of an audience." Yet another inauspicious framing. My mind leaps straight to powerpoint lectures in a glass-walled conference room. Don't make me think about that! We're supposed to be talking about sexy things here!
And then the bullet point on dirty talk? It felt like actor coaching … "Ease yourself into the role by whispering your 'character’s' lines. The hushed tones combined with the background music will likely ease your self consciousness, says <expert redacted>."
Okay, you know what will ease your self-consciousness? Trusting your partner and treating it like a joyful, juicy game. I am all in favor of "faking it 'til you make it", but I feel like that's for public environments. In the bedroom, faking it—even in the service of supposedly sexy role-playing—just adds more distance between yourself and "the audience". Already there is so much in this piece that posits partner as audience, and role play as performance, and obviously, with the idea of performance comes performance pressure.
In a one-on-one encounter, there is no audience (except in some post-modern, performative sense, which fuck it, I'm definitely not trained in). There are no performers. There are partners in the game, in which everyone can win. For best results, role-play needs to be less about "roles" and more about PLAY.
<sigh> I need to get my ass in gear and get my workshop going. Because I feel SO STRONGLY that a) people could definitely learn more about role playing and dirty talk, but b) what is out here on the subject is mostly WHOA, really fucking terrible.
Do you want me to take on more terrible sex-tip articles? Become a patron of mine on Patreon, to support more of the non-play-writing that I want to do!
FULL DISCLOSURE: I have some class issues.
As some writers have already noted, a big part of the draw of Fifty Shades of Grey is not the kink or sex, it's the bling. If you extract the narrative (not difficult) and the dialog (if only we could), the Fifty Shades movie is basically a video catalog for some of the posh things that enough cash can get you. (I mean, in addition to enhanced tracking capabilities and support staff who won't even blink at your order to tow and sell the car of the girl you're stalking.)
In both the movie and the book, the protagonist Ana—the blank-slate character against whom viewers/readers can easily project themselves—comes from a humbler background, not poor, just, you know, humbler. An everyday person. Her life B.C. (Before Christian) is in bright colors and jumbled chaos. It's your standard college bohemia, well, faux-hemia, because it's the movies and any realer will take you out of rom-com territory. But you know, Ana has to work at a hardware store. Wow. Much humble, so relate.
Christian, on the other hand, has the money. He has all the money, and he lavishes it on his monochrome, pristine cars and watches and wardrobe and apartment, and on his equally monochrome and oddly sterile Red Room (OF PAAAAAIN). Christian gushes wealth all over Ana, like, drips it on her in scene after scene of symbolic "money shots". If not the strongest factor for Fifty Shades' popularity, the millionaire porn aspect is definitely in the top three, because poor girl/rich man has been a solid weapon in the romance-writing arsenal since before Pride and Prejudice.
At the same time, everyday people don't really trust posh nobs, so showing Christian's money is a handy shortcut for putting him in the "Do Not Trust" category. Not that there are not many other red flags a-flying in this film—SO MANY RED FLAGS—but Christian's wealth and willingness to use it in pursuit of his "specialized interest" absolutely nail the stereotype to the highly polished mahogany table: very wealthy people are self-interested and amoral.
My knee-jerk socialist lizard brain says, "Well, duh," and we could certainly discuss how massive quantities of money that one didn't earn oneself could have a corrupting influence in one's life, but again we'd come back to the problematic equation that kink = corruption and WHY is this movie promoting that again? Anyway, I'm more interested in other questions, like how Christian's kink isn't really challenging a goddamn thing. It's set dressing. Very little of that expensive shit hanging on the walls gets used, and anyway, Ana doesn't want it.
Unlike Christian, who supposedly needs his elite brand of BDSM to be satisfied, Ana doesn't need the expensive items. She's just folks, remember? She doesn't need leather restraints and a set of antique Japanese canes (well, that's how they're racked up in the film, fucking orientalist bullshit) and an elaborate drop-down support structure for standing/hanging bondage. She doesn't need any of that. She just wants to touch Christian without asking permission. And go out to a movie. And get sensually eaten out on a regular basis. You know, the "normal relationship" things. None of that posh pervy stuff, with all the gear.
The thing is, no one NEEDS all that gear. Sure, if you have the resources and find it fun, you prioritize it as part of the budget, but consumption of kink goods is higher up on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It just is. You can frequent Home Depot and the dollar store, NOT to stalk the love object of your dreams and aggressively buy suggestive items at them, but to actually stock up on playthings on the cheap because that's what poor pervs have to do. We repurpose wooden rulers and thrift-store belts and clothes pegs, because that's what you do.
But that approach doesn't sell product, and that is part of what Fifty Shades of Grey needs to do. It is an aspirational film, heavily tied to the look, the accoutrements of kink. The audience has plenty to strive for; here is kink as a sign of class. Not too much. Not too hard.
That's the great thing about a video catalog: you don't need to dig deep in order to shop around.
Sometimes I write about my callers; sometimes I write about cultural issues. If you like my take on sex—and all the other shit—you should think about becoming a patron of mine over on Patreon.