Pros and Cons: The Golden Age of Hookups

I have a theory that we are entering the golden age of hookups. Technology has given us the means to find people to have sex with more easily than we ever could have in the past. Twenty five years ago, you went to bars or book clubs. You put out personal ads or bonded over BBS. In the year 2017, you can literally find strangers to have sex with using a phone. I’ve begun fleshing out this theory by examining a few of the pros and cons of hookup culture in 2017.

This shit is easy.

Pro: Oh. My. God. This is so easy! I can sign up for websites like sexwithnostrings.com/us/meet-and-fuck from my couch. I can browse Tinder when I’m in the car. I can use text messages to talk dirty to someone from the toilet, if I desire.

Con: Oh. My. God. Does nobody put any effort into this because it’s so easy? Apparently ease of use is a pass to do the absolute bare minimum to get laid. Which, like, that’s fine, you do you, and I’ll do me, but I wish that dating and hookup sites had an option for me to check saying that my potential matches had to at least demonstrate a little effort. Filling out a profile with words that actually tell me something about you is a good start.

The internet is a kinkster’s paradise.

Pro: You can meet some super fucking kinky people. The low-stakes nature of sites and apps during the Golden Age of Hookups means that people are so much more likely to be up-front about their kinks and desires. It’s way easier to ask somebody to drink your piss if you didn’t even have to change out of your pajamas to do it and you’ve got five other matches messaging you. I have way more luck finding people who will admit that they like erotic asphyxiation online than I’ve ever had finding them in person.

Con: You can also meet people who are super boring. Sometimes these people are also kinky, and maybe they’re just otherwise boring. Their interests don’t catch my eye (which is fine, I just don’t match with them) or they aren’t good conversationalists, or they’re bad at sexting.

I haven’t sexted a ton of people since joining Tinder – in fact, only one person has made the mistake of trying to sext me, thus far. It was a mistake because he was super bad at it, and he disqualified himself when he kept bringing up transgender people like they were fetish objects. (Admitting you’re nonbinary on Tinder apparently attracts a ton of chasers.) I don’t know if “you do all the work and I’ll tell you I like it” is standard sexting strategy for cis dudes on Tinder, or if this guy in particular was just really dull, but basically all he did was ask me questions about things I’ve done that he was clearly beating off to in between two word replies. For someone who talks openly about sex on the internet, these conversations are *not* masturbation material for me. This is boring, run of the mill stuff. Me telling him this was no more intimate than me tweeting about it, and I don’t masturbate to the stuff I tweet from Sugarcunt.

If I wanna jerk off thinking about the people I’ve had sex with in the past, I’ll do so without stopping to text some rando the story every few minutes. If someone tries sexting me and they’re bad at it, they’ve ruined their chances of meeting me in person. I’m turned off by boring, low-effort sexting. If you’re a shit sexter who can’t be bothered to say something that will turn me on, why would I want to see what you’re like in person? Exactly.

A wider net.

Pro: You’re not limited to people in your immediate local area. While the point of most hookup apps and sites is to meet and fuck, not everyone is looking to get together in person immediately, if at all. Some people are content to have distance hookups and relationships, and those are totally legitimate too! Not being limited to people in your town, state, or even your timezone can be a super amazing thing, especially if you live in a remote area where you don’t have a lot in common with the locals, like I used to. This allows you to find a relationship that you can fit into your schedule, too. You know what sucks about dating when you’re on the graveyard shift? Trying to get together with daywalkers. You know what you can do in the golden age of hookups? Date somebody in another timezone. You may not fuck together in person often, but I promise you, it is refreshing to find someone that wants to fuck you who is on a similar sleep schedule.

Con: Managing a relationship with a person in another timezone can be difficult, especially if you *aren’t* on the same wake/sleep schedule that they are. Long distance relationships (LDRs) aren’t for everyone, and while it’s awesome that LDRs have been greatly enhanced by modern technology, that time difference will foil even the best-laid plans sometimes. You have to honestly evaluate whether you can maintain a relationship in the face of those difficulties. If you can, it can be an amazing thing. If you can’t… well, set the allowed distance for your potential matches really low.

This golden age idea has been so fascinating for me, and it’s been on my mind a lot lately, especially thinking about how dating has changed so rapidly in the past few years. I’m going to explore this topic further in the upcoming months. If you have any thoughts about this topic that you’d like to share, I’d love to read them! Comment below, tweet me, or e-mail me at sugarcunt [at] sugarcuntwrites.com!

This post was sponsored, but all opinions and experiences shared are my own.

Lavacunt Erotica: Challenge Accepted

Hello, my friends. It has been a while since my last post, because I spent the first two weeks of August at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit and then at Spacewitch Retreat. You know what sucks worse than con drop? Con crud and double con drop. **Finger guns.**

I finally got my shit together to write a guest post about my nonbinary identity and gender fluidity for my sweet friend Taryn, who runs the blog Ace in the Hole. But I wanted to post here before the end of August as well, so I figured I’d drop a short piece of erotica in for your reading pleasure.

Lately I’ve been writing erotica for the first time in years, because I’m trying to move away from my destructive habit of judging all my writing before I even finish a paragraph, then deleting it all. Examining my submissive and DD/little fantasies is helping me suspend that judgment.

This fantasy features my dominant partner Root. Right now, my wife Zoe is adjusting to having a polyamorous partner with their own partner for the first time, and so we are “don’t ask, don’t tell” on romantic and sexual details while we adjust to this new relationship structure. Because of that, I’m going to put this post under a “Read More” tag so that she doesn’t have to scroll through the dirty details on my homepage. Please do not discuss posts like this with her unless she initiates the conversation.

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Subsurgence

Hi friends! July has been very busy for a lot of reasons, and one of those reasons is that I got a new partner. I am still happily married to my wife, I’ve just moved more into the realm of polyamory rather than only confining myself to the realm of open sex. Right now, my wife is adjusting to having a polyamorous partner with their own partner for the first time, and so we are “don’t ask, don’t tell” on romantic and sexual details while we adjust to this new relationship structure. Because of that, I’m going to put this post under a “Read More” tag so that she doesn’t have to scroll through the dirty details on my homepage. Please do not discuss posts like this with her unless she initiates the conversation. This particular post is about a term I like to use called “subsurgence.”

Content warning: Some of this is sexually explicit.

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Woodhull SFS17: Crowdfund Queer PoC and Trans Blogger Attendance!

I’m SUPER pumped about going to Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit ’17 (a.k.a. SFS17)! Shevibe was kind enough to sponsor my registration and room costs, so I’m definitely attending and I can’t wait to see everyone there. This blog post isn’t about how much I’m freaking out about attending, though – it’s about getting other bloggers there too!

Image reads, "Help trans bloggers get to SFS 17! Woodhull is matching funds raised by Sugarcunt to bring trans bloggers to this year's summit! Check out woodhullfoundation.org for more details!" The image background appears to be notebook paper, and other than the text the image features Sugarcunt's logo ("CUNT" spelled out in rainbow sex toy silhouettes) and the Woodhull Foundation's logo.

I started a fundraiser in May to help bring transgender bloggers to Sexual Freedom Summit ’17! Two of my favorite bloggers, Insert Trans Here and Taylor J. Mace of Feisty Fox Films, are the intended beneficiaries. Newer bloggers tend to have a lot more difficulty securing sponsorships than more established members of the community, so I wanted to ensure that they would both be able to attend without having to find sponsors for the full cost (which can be tricky no matter how experienced you are). We’ve raised over 50% of our goal thanks to an AMAZING outpouring of community support, and now the Woodhull Foundation is matching up to $750 in donations! If we meet our goal in donations, Woodhull’s matching will make it possible for me to help other trans bloggers attend, so please donate and share widely. If you have already donated, thank you so much, from the bottom of our hearts.

Image is a green, square-patterned background with the Twitter profile photos of PinkLotusBud, TheNotice, and MakeupAndSin, which depict them in 2 photos and a drawing. The text reads, "Help bring bloggers of color to Woodhull 2017!"

My most recent fundraiser launched today, and is dedicated to bringing 3 bloggers of color to SFS17! Victoria of Pretty Pink Lotus Bud, Rae of The Notice, and Carly of Dildo or DilDon’t — will be attending this year, but need some extra financial support to make it to the summit. This goal is larger than my goal for the trans fundraiser, and we have less time to reach it. Sex bloggers of color are vastly outnumbered by white bloggers in our community, so share and donate to help these bloggers bond with their community and improve the Summit with their feedback!

Dangerous Lilly has helped me reach out to retailers about matching donations for this fundraiser while I move, and she got not one, but TWO retailers to match donations, AND one is offering donation incentives!

Image of five Come As You Are-branded handkerchiefs overlaid atop one another, green, black, red, blue, and pink, on a green, square-patterned background. The text reads, "Donors get at CAYA hanky or tote and 30% off in the CAYA online store! Come As You Are is matching donations! Donate now!"

Come As You Are Co-Op is offering donors who contribute $25 or more 30% off in their online store and their choice between a Come As You Are hanky or tote! They’re also matching up to $800 in new donations, so please donate if you haven’t already.

Image features three multicolored Swarovski crystals on a green square-patterned background and reads: "Thank you Crystal Delights! Crystal Delights is matching $250 in donations to bring bloggers of color to #SFS17. Donate now!"

Crystal Delights matched $250 in donations! I have consistently been impressed with Crystal Delights’ commitment to charity in the past, and was so thrilled to have their support here.

Please keep sharing this to help us meet our goal in time to get these bloggers to the Summit!

If you’re interested in attending Sexual Freedom Summit ’17, check out this post by Lilly where she discusses some options to get yourself there, such as blogger scholarships and free registrations. Be sure you read her description of the Digital Content Creator Meet and Greet, as well, and RSVP if you can come! We want to meet you, skill share, and network!

Non-Monogamy For Snowflakes

In 2015 my wife and I decided to experiment with non-monogamy. Through a series of comical and confounding miscommunications, we both labeled ourselves polyamorous and found ourselves back on OKCupid. If you’ve read any of my posts about online dating before, I’m sure you can anticipate how much I was dreading this. Putting yourself out there on any dating site for the first time can be intimidating when you don’t know what to expect, but once you DO know what to expect it’s intimidating for a different reason. Have you ever had a dog that freaks out whenever you tell them it’s time to go to the vet? My brain is that dog, and dating websites are the vet, except it’s debatable whether the vet will help me in any way.

Here’s something I didn’t count on: it was way harder to find a partner in my area on OKCupid as a married polyamorous person than as a single person. We weren’t unicorn-hunting, it was just super difficult to find non-monogamous people. Since we live in a rural town in the mountains of North Carolina, it’s also a lot harder to find queer and kinky folks in general, and your dating pool shrinks significantly if you’re only looking for non-monogamous people in those categories.

Another thing that sucked was that it also fostered a weird competitive undercurrent in our relationship. I don’t think either of us was consciously thinking in competitive terms, but my wife wasn’t getting as many messages as I was, and it seemed difficult for that not to discourage her. Whether we liked it or not, the mean parts of her brain compared our numbers. I knew this was because she was presenting male on a dating website.

If you appear female on a dating website, you’ll get a barrage of messages from horny dudes whether you’re married or not. They’re not usually polyamorous, they’re usually assholes who are just looking for no-strings-attached sex. (NSA sex isn’t why they’re assholes.) This actually ruins the chances for perfectly decent male-presenting humans, because this is a driving force that governs how we interact with messages and other people in general. When I considered myself monogamous, I would have been skeptical of a married man messaging me and saying he wanted to hook up or date, so I have a firsthand understanding of how wary someone might be when they get an OKCupid message from a married person.

When this happened, we didn’t know much about dating websites geared toward non-monogamous or kinky folks, like Swingtowns. In recent years more businesses like this are becoming publicly visible, and that’s a total relief. No longer will non-monogamous people have to spend hours straining monogamous people out of their dating pool!

We ended up adopting a different relationship structure a few months later, and part of what helped us make the decision to change it was how incredibly fucking stressful trying to meet people online was. There is a certain degree of time and effort involved in actively hunting for new partners that can be exhausting, especially when you’re fishing in the wrong pond. The other part of our decision was that we weren’t particularly romantically available to others, which wasn’t going to make meeting people any easier. Now I interpret us as being more monogam-ish than monogamous or polyamorous. This arrangement works for our relationship so much better than feeling like we have to commit to one label or the other and much more accurately describes the flexibility and intentions of our agreement.

If you’re discussing opening your relationship for the first time, consider talking more about what the experiences and flexibility you desire are before you try to label it. There is no one-size-fits-all style of non-monogamy – each relationship is like a snowflake: unique, complex, nuanced, and beautiful.

 

This post was sponsored, but all opinions and experiences shared are my own.

Seed: What You Shouldn’t Call Your Semen If We Fuck

Photo of a line of baby plants in pots silhouetted in a windowPhoto credit: Gratisography

This week on Twitter there has been some casual discussion about words that we use for penile ejaculate. One of my top three most hated words for semen is “seed.”

This is purely about me (although I know other people have a similar mindset), but I am repulsed by the idea of myself bearing children. I do not want children, and I refuse to go through the pain and toil of pregnancy and birth. It’s totally fine for other folks – not repulsive at all! But the idea of doing it myself sounds like a personal nightmare. It makes my skin crawl.

With that in mind, the word “seed” squicks me out. With the constant barrage of political and social anti-choice rhetoric that essentially reduces AFAB humans and their bodies to an Easy-Bake Oven, sexually interacting with people who use the word “seed” to describe their semen when they’re with me makes me feel deeply uncomfortable. I’m not potting soil. I do not exist to grow things. And I do not want to be pregnant. Some people have impregnation fetishes, and that’s fine, but that’s a hard limit for me. My baggage renders me unable to sexualize my impregnation. Calling it that makes me feel like a broodmare and conjures up my fear of pregnancy – two huge turn-offs for me.

I wrote this handy poem to all my present and future partners who want to use this word with me:

If you must call it your “seed,” I do not want to do the deed.
I do not want a seed in me – I do not want it, let me be!
I do not want it in a car, I do not want it in a bar.
I do not want it on a boat, I do not want it – sink or float!
I do not want it in my ass, I do not want it on the grass.
I do not want it in my mouth, I do not want it north or south
I do not want your seed, I plead. I do not want us both to breed!
Dear, if you care for my desire, release your seed into a fire.
If you want us both to fuck, don’t call it seed – you’ll have good luck!

The “Male Birth Control” Injection Trial Demonstrates Inequality

I’m sure that you’ve heard about the contraceptive injection for people with penises – or, as it is called in the headlines, “the male birth control,” “the male pill,” or “the male contraceptive injection.” I put all of these names in quotation marks because I wanted to make this distinction up front: this is being called “male birth control,” but I fully acknowledge that some men do not have penises and testicles, and not all people with penises or testicles are male.

In places where the reproductive organs are directly pertinent to the discussion and I am not quoting specific language that other people have used, I will try to make it entirely clear which reproductive organs are being discussed. I will use this language because genitals do not indicate gender, and because broadly generalizing all people with uteruses as women and all people with testicles as men is cissexist. Intersex, trans, and nonbinary people exist, and are also regularly harmed by sexist oppression and the medical community, but point of this post is to address the double standard inherent in the existing dichotomy that western culture has distilled gender down to based on sexual organs.

A 320-participant trial of a contraceptive injection for testicle-owners (all identified as men in the study) was halted when 20 of them dropped out because of the side effects. According to the Chicago Tribune, one participant did commit suicide, but the researchers ruled that the suicide was unrelated to the injection. So other than the dead person, these 20 people with penises decided that they didn’t want to endure depression, muscle pain, mood swings, acne and changes to their libido. Even though 75% of the participants said they would use this contraceptive in the future, the researchers stopped the entire trial because the injection DID reduce sperm count, but “the unfavorable side effects may outweigh any further findings.”

Those reactions to the contraceptive injection for penis-owners are just a few extremely common side effects (among many others) that uterus-owners are encouraged to endure for the sake of preventing pregnancy. In addition to those potential side effects as well as cramps, sore breasts, headaches, migraines, weight gain, heavy and painful periods, no periods at all, and bleeding every single day, people with uteruses who choose to take the pill must also accept the well-documented risks of deep-vein thrombosis, stroke, and cervical and/or breast cancer.

No one is saying that the people who dropped out had to stay in the trial. Most of us who are criticizing the abrupt end of the trial are just saying that halting the entire trial because of those side effects is completely unjust when compared to how people who are perceived as women are treated by the medical community. All of these side effects of the birth control pill for people with uteruses are usually deemed “minor” by doctors who prescribe the pill, and were acceptable enough that the hormonal birth control pill was approved by the FDA in the 60s, and dozens of variations of it remain on the shelves today. Doctors say that “the benefits outweigh the risks.”

So in a world where the onus of preventing pregnancy is very often placed on the partner with the uterus, they have more hormonal contraceptive options than people with penises, but are also denied basic autonomy in regard to tubal ligation and hysterectomies. Many doctors in the US refuse to sterilize patients who could be impregnated until they’ve either already had at least one child or have reached a certain age (I’ve heard anywhere from 30 or beyond, depending on the whim of the doctor). The other contraception options aren’t all great either, which means the pill is sometimes the best choice for a lot of people. Doctors will hand hormonal birth control pills out like candy, and not all doctors tell patients about the side effects and mortality rate. Is the fact that a person taking the combined pill has a small chance of dying is just a pesky footnote to the medical community? To put it in short with gendered terms: the chance for a woman to die is an “acceptable risk” to medical professionals, but the trial for the men had to be stopped because of depression and mood swings – two known symptoms of existing hormonal birth control that patients with uteruses have been encouraged to tolerate for literally half a century.

Yaz and Yasmin, two hormonal birth control pills for people with uteruses, were advertised as more effective for reducing unwanted hormonal birth control symptoms, and their side effects were severely downplayed. That’s not opinion – that’s actually what the FDA ruled after a bunch of lawsuits were filed against Bayer, the company responsible for Yaz. The FDA made Bayer change their ads to be more transparent about the risks, and though Bayer eventually changed the commercials, they still weren’t disclosing enough information about the risks. Three years after the FDA’s warning about the commercials, an FDA document acknowledged that studies raised questions about the safety of Yaz and its related contraceptives. In 2008 the FDA put a more serious warning label about the risk on the packaging. Over 10,000 patients have filed lawsuits related to Yaz against Bayer.

The progestin in Yaz/Yasmin, drospirenone, is the ingredient that is specifically linked to the increased risk of harm. Birth control pills with drospirenone are no more effective at preventing pregnancy than the other options on the market. In 2012 the FDA announced that they acknowledged there was a higher risk of blood clots linked to drospirenone, but they said the benefits outweighed the risk and Yaz would not be removed from the market… even though there are loads of alternative birth control pills that do not contain drospirenone. In addition to Yaz, there are 7 other hormonal birth control pills on the market that contain drospirenone: Beyaz, Safyral, Gianvi, Loryna, Ocella, Syeda, and Zarah. Gianvi and Beyaz are also manufactured by Bayer.

The reason I mention Yaz is that when people with uteruses are involved, the benefits always seem to outweigh the risks. There is no shortage of birth control pill brands on the market, almost all considered equally effective at preventing pregnancy, but doctors are still prescribing Yaz, and the FDA still permits it to be sold. Yet when researchers start testing a hormonal birth control option “for men” they STOP THE TRIAL because “unfavorable side effects may outweigh any further findings.” In fact, a direct quote that the co-author of the research paper gave to The Independent stated:

“Although the injections were effective in reducing the rate of pregnancy, the combination of hormones needs to be studied more to consider a good balance between efficacy and safety.”

I’m sure that most of us agree that people with any configuration of reproductive organs deserve effective and safe contraception options, but the only symptoms of this injection that made themselves apparent during the study were symptoms that were considered acceptable risks for people with uteruses.

If this double standard doesn’t stand out enough on its own, consider the cultural context: studies have shown that men and women are treated differently in medical settings, particularly those involving diagnoses of severity and pain management. The research paper The Girl Who Cried Pain cites multiple studies that demonstrate this. One study coined the term “Yentyl Syndrome” – women are less likely to be treated as aggressively [as a male patient would be] until they “prove that they are as sick as male patients.” Men are more likely to be given narcotic painkillers, while women are often given sedatives, indicating that perhaps they are perceived as anxious instead of “in pain.” In a 1994 study of over 1,000 cancer patients, they found that women were significantly less likely to have their pain adequately managed than the men were; the ratio is 1:5.

In an online survey of over 2,400 women living with chronic pain, 75% (1,732 of them) said that their doctor has told them: “You’ll have to learn to live with your pain.” If you’re interested, you can read a collection of anecdotes along this line that were gathered from the write-in portion of the survey.

People with uteruses are not taken seriously in the medical community. We’re always told that we’re exaggerating, that we’re just anxious, that we can’t be sick because we don’t LOOK sick, or that our medical conditions can’t be solved. Got a uterus? Doctors and the FDA think that when it comes to oral hormonal birth control, “the benefit outweighs the risk.” Got a penis? The trial for your hormonal birth control option ended because “the unfavorable side effects may outweigh any further findings.”

From where I’m standing, a desire to protect people with penises from unpleasantness coupled with the willingness to put people with uteruses through painful and potentially lethal side effects is not health justice. It is not equity to shield the privileged from the same side effects that the oppressed have been resigned to for decades, especially when doing so continues to place the burden of hormonal contraception on the oppressed.

We need to push for equality and an overall higher standard of care in the medical field, especially as it pertains to people who are already marginalized. The first step to doing this is acknowledging the imbalance of power and the violence inherent in the system. The next step is action.

 

Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit 2016: Part 1

I was dying to go to Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit. Since I found out about it last year, attending was on my to-do list. The Woodhull Freedom Foundation’s mission is to affirm sexual freedom as a fundamental human right. That’s a cause I can get on board with! Plus, a ton of industry folks were attending, including my beloved blogger community. Last year I watched everyone tweeting as they spent a weekend in sex-positive heaven, wishing that I’d found a sponsor to get there myself.

This year luck was on my side. I was fortunate enough to have a little money saved up, and when Harry and Mary found out that I couldn’t quite afford to go they were kind enough to pay for my registration. Then Lilly helped me connect with Ignite and I was over the moon! Without Ignite I would have had to choose between getting a room or eating something every day. Obviously, my experience was greatly improved by Ignite’s sponsorship, because I got to attend, sleep in a bed, AND eat!

On Friday I attended “Self-Publishing for Radicals” (#SFSPublish), “Navigating Social Media Practices for Adult Businesses” (#SFSMedia), and “Likes and Liberation” (#SFSLikes). That evening I partied at the Blogger PJ Party, hosted by our beloved SheVibe. Saturday’s schedule was “Eugenics: It’s Still a Thing” (#SFSEugenics), the Roundtable Lunch, and “The Monster Under the Bed” (#SFSMonster). I had originally planned to attend a couple more sessions, but life happened. I really enjoyed the sessions that I did attend.

I think that the session I learned the most in was “Eugenics: It’s Still a Thing.” Full disclosure: Erin Basler, who presented this seminar, was one of my bosses during my internship at The CSPH. That was a huge contributing factor in my decision to attend the seminar. Once the session started, I was shocked by what I learned. Previously, whenever someone asked me about eugenics (inevitably while playing Cards Against Humanity), I was like, “Nazis did it,” because I had no idea that it was a much of a thing in America, nor did I realize it was STILL a thing in America. And, believe it or not, the Nazi eugenics program was based on a blueprint for compulsory sterilization laws in the United States.

Over 30 states adopted compulsory sterilization laws, and many of those laws remain on the books today. In 1927 the Supreme Court affirmed states’ rights to forcibly sterilize the disabled. After World War II ended, eugenics “ended,” and instead states began implementing “eugenics-based practices,” which limit the reproductive decisions of marginalized groups like the disabled, people of color, cis women, the poor, and trans people. And don’t think that Europe was exempt from the horrors of eugenics-based practices after the fall of Nazi Germany; in addition to the 28 U.S. states that require it, 34 European nations require “medically-appropriate treatment” (including sterilization) for the government to recognize gender transition.

Eugenics: still a thing, and still super shitty. We cannot ignore eugenics and eugenics-based practices as reproductive justice issues. It’s not just the government – the non-profit industrial complex is complicit in contemporary eugenics.

To read more about what we learned regarding eugenics, check out the #SFSEugenics tweets.

“Self-Publishing for Radicals” was taught by Allison Moon (of Lunatic Fringe and Girl Sex 101 fame) and was an informative glimpse into the world of self-publishing: why people do it, what people need for it, and the pros and cons of it. Writing a book has been one of my goals since I was in middle school, so learning more about the world of self-publishing was really wonderful. That really isn’t the focus of my blog, so I won’t go into a lot of detail about the session, but if you’re interested in learning more about it, you can check out the #SFSPublishing tweets.

The social media panels were really interesting to me. #SFSMedia with Sandra, Metis, and JoEllen we learned a lot about the social media history of Shevibe and Tantus. When Shevibe started they had multiple Myspace accounts, one for each of their signature heroes. Can you imagine managing 6 social media profiles? Like, REALLY managing them? Engaging with people on each one, writing/drawing/photographing new content for each? That sounds exhausting. I can’t even handle having three Facebook accounts, and after managing The CSPH’s social media for about four months I can confirm that my head would explode.

In #SFSMedia we also talked a lot about social ethics and responsibility, making (and owning up to) mistakes, and social media self-care. Take breaks when you’re stressed out, and remember that you can block people. Block button, block button, block button. If you turn out your bathroom light and say it three times in front of a mirror, a troll appears and harasses you until you learn to use it. Or you could just post about social justice and sex, not use your block button, get overwhelmed, and surf off of the internet forever on a wave of dick pics and rape threats. But we don’t want that, because chances are that we like your face and your quality content.

#SFSLikes was a little bit more focused on activism and creating dialogues via social media. We talked about hashtags like #LubeGate and #TweetYourLube, which brought a topic that was somewhat obscure/taboo in the mainstream (personal lube for your ~personal parts~) into the spotlight and sparked lots of discussion about it. We also discussed how social media can be a great platform for minority activists, but that it can also reinstate social hierarchies – who has the time for social media? Who has access to social media? Who has the followers and engagement to bring about change? It was a very thoughtful presentation by Gwen Rosen.

My last session was #SFSMonster, the seminar about sex and depression taught by JoEllen Notte and Stephen Biggs. This session had a lot of audience participation, which resulted in a lot of resource-sharing and advice. I am not sure if Stephen and JoEllen got through all of their material because of the frequent interruptions, but the things they did say were very wise and impactful.

For starters, depression doesn’t always mean an end to sex. In JoEllen’s survey, she found that more people wanted MORE sex when they were depressed, rather than less. This hit home for me, because for a long time when my depression was very severe, sex was a high priority for me. Now I live medicated, with a consistent feeling of less-severe depression, my feelings are completely reversed.

Making conscious decisions about sex is important. If you’re not feeling up to sex, don’t force it. And speaking in terms of physical arousal, just because the bodily cues that you’re used to (an erection, vaginal lubrication) aren’t necessarily there doesn’t mean that you can’t have sex. In fact, depression messing with your body’s reactions just gives you an excuse to try new things. You might have to re-learn what acts are going to arouse you, or what acts will constitute “sex” for you – maybe vaginal intercourse isn’t my thing anymore, but my partner using a vibrator on me is. (I don’t know, I’d have to stop crying in bed long enough to try). It’s frustrating when our bodies won’t do what we used to do regularly, but the world of sex is vast, and there are always more things to try.

We talked a lot about coping, self-care, and support systems. Emotionally speaking, being open with your partner(s) about your capacity to do things, including support them emotionally at that moment, is a big deal. If your partner needs a shoulder to cry on, it can mean a lot to affirm their feelings and acknowledge that you care about them, but tell them you don’t have the energy to be wholly present and attentive. Many audience members confirmed that this makes them feel heard.

Stephen and JoEllen discussed how having separate social lives can help a romantic relationship a lot, because having a wide and varied support system means that the depressed person’s partner doesn’t feel the pressure of being the only person that their partner can rely on.

Another audience suggestion for people with depression (or other chronic illnesses) was saving a spoon for your partner at the end of the day. This is based on spoon theory, but if you don’t want to learn about the details of spoon theory then just think of it as “saving a little bit of energy” for your partner.

A lot of these suggestions were really thoughtful and valuable, and I appreciated a perspective on depression and relationships that took a step back from feelings and experiences and focused on resources and solutions. It was nice to get out of my own head for a while, and also very affirming to be in a space with people who live with similar mental and chronic illnesses.

In my next post about this year’s Sexual Freedom Summit I’m going to talk about the social aspects of the event. While you’re waiting for me to publish that, please consider checking out the site of my sole Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit 2016 sponsor, Ignite. I had never heard of Ignite before Lilly connected me with them, but I am really impressed by their commitment to body-safe products, and I highly recommend considering them the next time you’re shopping for sex toys.

Ignite Pleasure Products Banner

If you’d like to see all my tweets from #SFS16, here’s a link to them!

Review of Showtime’s Submission

So I watched/livetweeted Showtime’s Submission under the hashtag #ShowtimeSubmission, and then I wrote over 1,000 words analyzing the power dynamics and how they were portrayed and they contrasted… but I didn’t finish it. And then I said, “This is not what I want to post about Submission.” At least… not right now. So here’s my basic review of Submission.

Content warning: sexual assault (largely by way of questionable consent).

SPOILERS AHEAD.

Submission Summary

Ashley leaves her shitty-in-bed asshole boyfriend and moves to a new town to live with her best friend Jules. Jules lives with her roommate Dylan (played by Skin Diamond, who is sexy as hell). Dylan is a submissive to Eliot, and brings him women to have sex with.

Eliot flogging Dylan - Showtime Submission

Ashley finds Dylan’s copy of a BDSM novel by Nolan Keats and is intrigued. She gets a job at the local coffee shop and sleeps with her boss (Raif) one night while they’re getting drunk together. Shortly thereafter Eliot notices Ashley at a party and Dylan tells Eliot that Ashley is off-limits. Eliot swoops in and saves the day while Raif is drunkenly trying to push himself on Ashley at the party.

After chasing Raif off, Eliot follows Ashley to her room, notices the book, and asks her about it. Eliot discloses to Ashley that he wrote the book, which intrigues her. He steals Ashley’s underwear after she leaves the room and makes the random chick that Dylan picks out for him wear the underwear that night while he sleeps with her.

To prove that he’s Nolan Keats, Eliot has a manuscript of the next Nolan Keats novel delivered to Ashley. He calls her and starts seducing her on the phone. Eliot begins ignoring Dylan, which Dylan hates. Dylan bugs Eliot to pay more attention to her, and Eliot eventually tells her to fuck off. Eliot kinkily fucks Ashley and lays claim to her.

Eliot and Ashley - Showtime Submission

Dylan steals video footage of Eliot fucking a bunch of different girls with her in his dungeon. She blackmails Eliot and makes him turn Ashley over to her for a night, and Dylan torments her. Ashley endures the torture. Dylan decides to move out of the house. As Ashley catches her leaving Dylan gives her the videos and tells her that Eliot isn’t Nolan Keats – he’s Keats’ copy editor.

Ashley is hurt and betrayed. She ignores Eliot, he shows up at her house, and she tells him to leave. Dylan shows up on Nolan Keats’ doorstep with her bags. The show ends.

There is other drama in the show about Jules’ relationship with her boss, but, frankly, I find it irrelevant to the main plot and only feel like discussing it in my extended power dynamic analysis.

What they did right

Eliot makes Ashley pick a safeword. Good! SAFEWORD GOOD. Although he does flog her while she’s deciding, and as someone from the “we don’t play until the safeword is set” school of thought I wasn’t a fan of that.

Eliot mummifies Ashley with saran wrap, which is something she is terrified of initially when she sees the saran wrap in his dungeon and he explains what you do with it. The kink play in this scene is surprisingly solid – Eliot takes it slow, he communicates with her, he gives her water. He’s very attentive.

The kink in Submission was nice to watch if you ignored all the fucked-up shit going on around it. The gear used was cool and authentic. Where can I get a web of chains for my dungeon?

Quotes I liked

“Most men think it’s just smut.”
“What’s wrong with smut?”

“Society wants us to believe that women are these pathetic little creatures that live and die by a man’s happiness.”

“My goal is to open you up, not shut you down. You will never have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

What they did wrong

Other than Skin Diamond and a random guy that she fucks, the entire cast is white. They’re also all thin, non-disabled people. But I expected that. Diversity is important, but here’s what pissed me off even more:

Ashlynn Yennie, who plays the main character, Ashley, said in an interview with The Daily Beast:

“I hope our show, Submission, can shatter that glass ceiling of false belief and show the world what it truly means to trust, communicate, and finally feel free to talk about what you want and don’t want sexually in a consensual and healthy way.”

Consensual? Healthy? Consent was portrayed VERY poorly in Submission. Raif makes a move on Ashley and has sex with her after she says, “No, we’re not doing this, because I’m drunk… and you’re kind of drunk.” At a party the next night a drunken Raif thrust himself upon Ashley, assuming that their single night of previous sexual interaction meant she consented to it again.

Dylan and Eliot’s relationship goes from a functional, consenting M/s scenario to a fucked-up trainwreck where Eliot never verbalizes the withdrawal of his consent and Dylan (who wears a collar that we assume is from Eliot), thinking he’s still into her, tops from the bottom. She says “I’m getting tired of you telling me no.” She misbehaves, seeking punishment. Finally she handcuffs herself to him and forces him to fish the key out of her vagina to escape. It was a painful disaster to watch. The show portrayed this scene as a minor inconvenience that didn’t faze Eliot and just pissed him off, but it was assault, and it was not cool. Then when Eliot tells Dylan to fuck off for good she (nonconsensually) blackmails him.

And finally, even though Eliot seems like sort-of-an-asshole-but-mostly-a-decent-guy because we see a few scenes where Eliot is an experienced dominant that focuses on consent and care, he also forces Ashley outside of her comfort zone (not in a good way) and manipulates her into subbing for Dylan so that Dylan won’t blab his secret to her. Ashley specifically tells him that she doesn’t want to be shared and that other people are a big NO for her, and Eliot shames her into it, telling her that it’s the ultimate act of trust and submission and that she has to explore and take risks to know what she wants. Consent-tastic! As someone who was coerced into sexual abuse as a child and has been manipulated with an almost identical narrative from my emotionally abusive fuckface ex, I felt so great about that scene!

And then the scene with Dylan was not… stellar. It would have been hot if Ashley had wanted to be there. “Tonight I’m not your roommate, I’m the bitch you answer to.” Like… YAAAAAS… if it’s enthusiastic and consensual. But it wasn’t. Is BDSM that you don’t really want to do but agree to because of coercion and stubbornness a type of sexual assault? My signs point to yes.

Conclusion

It was interesting. The kink and the food for thought re: power dynamics were enjoyable, but I did not find the plot especially inspired. Especially the way Dylan is cast aside by Eliot. It’s a sad trope that you see in a lot of popular BSDM media: a submissive (usually a woman) is collared by a dom (usually a man), then her dom loses interest in her and tosses her aside. It’s practically ancient – that’s how The Story of O ends (master claims sub, master demands sub bring him other subs, master ditches original sub). Endings in which the sub gets screwed over do not represent the lives of many real people in happy, long-term M/s relationships, but it’s a risk that exists, just like it does in vanilla dating.

Should you watch it?

If you want to see kinky softcore sex and don’t mind the show’s flaws and “meh” plot, sure. I usually enjoy livetweeting things, even if they’re mediocre, but I probably could have found better uses for my time, like painting my nails, findomming strangers on the internet, or writing reviews for vibrators that felt like a million butterflies fluttering over my vulva.

What I Want out of Showtime’s “Submission”

Showtime teased and intrigued many of us with its trailer for Submission, which airs tomorrow (May 12th). Even people I know who aren’t as into kink have expressed interest in it, which makes sense to me… after all, it’s about sex, and plenty of folks are probably kind of open to different kinds of sex acts that they have no desire to practice in real life. That’s the beauty of fantasy. I think a lot of vanilla people are going to watch Submission unless they outright hate kink/BDSM or find it triggering.

I’m definitely going to watch it. I want to see what it’s like. How will it shape up compared to the well-loved (and totally shitty, in my opinion) 50 Shades of Grey? Will it portray people practicing Risk-Aware Consensual Kink? Will there be negotiation? How heavy will the bondage and impact play be? What will the characters be like?

It’s so hard to get what I want from mainstream portrayals of BDSM. People are naturally complex. Some people come to the BDSM and kink community after trauma has happened and use it to work through/past those experiences and the marks they’ve left, and it’s unrealistic to pretend that everyone goes into a scene centered and emotionless. Trauma can play into a person’s kinky/sex life in a huge way, and that may or may not result in unethical or unsavory behavior. I feel like we should be able to have complex characters and explore their stories, and I feel like we should see them make mistakes, but we shouldn’t pretend that a troubled past is to blame for mistakes and shittiness. Some people are just shitty.

I want to see characters who may be flawed, but who learn from their experiences. But mainstream media so often does a disservice to the complexity of human beings in minority demographics, so those of us who see behind the BDSM stereotypes revile Christian Grey, and those of us who don’t understand abusive dynamics in relationships end up celebrating Christian Grey: a controlling, jealous, abusive asshole who hides behind a dominant persona because his mom didn’t love him enough or whatever. So many 50 Shades fans think Christian’s possessiveness is “romantic,” and that his rough childhood is what drew him to “sexual deviance,” and that it validates “why he is that way.”

I do not want to see a Christian Grey in Submission.

Here’s what I want to see in Submission: I want to see someone who didn’t come to BDSM solely because of a “fucked-up” past. I want to see someone who respects boundaries and doesn’t feel compelled to track their submissive’s every movement. I want to see a submissive enthusiastically explore what kink has to offer. Hell, maybe the submissive should be the one with more experience – that would certainly change the typical BDSM narrative dynamic. Real life BDSM isn’t The Story of O over and over again.

I don’t know what the psychological dynamics will be like, but what I’m seeing in the trailer is a cast that appears to be composed of white, skinny cisgender people. I want more than that! I would lap up a show with a diverse cast – people of color, people with disabilities, trans and nonbinary people, people with bodies bigger than size 4, 8, or even 12. I want to see a show where characters talk about power dynamics in the context of American racism, where handicapped-accessible dungeons exist, where gender is disregarded or actively fucked, and where fat bodies are celebrated.

I’m not under the illusion that I’ll get this from Submission, but I think an inclusive series or film with humanized BDSM that is deliberate, careful, and powerful would have a huge impact. Somebody get on that because it will make a difference for a whole lot of people. In the meantime, we’re seeing representation in erotica, and I’m thankful for authors like Xan West, who sees us – the minorities – and gives us a voice. If you’re interested in heavy, kinky, well-written erotica, you can check out my review for West’s recent story collection titled Show Yourself to Me, and if you’re into the sound of that then you should absolutely buy it to support West’s work.