My User Manual Part 6, In The Bedroom

Content notice: explicit sex talk

Let’s start with a basic list of activities I enjoy both giving and receiving: kissing, cuddling, scritches, biting, hand jobs, oral sex, anal sensation play (caveat: my ass is unfortunately sensitive in an often uncomfortable way, so with me it has to be kept light and/or mostly external), spanking, scratching, flogging, hair pulling, knife play, Hitachi magic wands, bondage, temperature play, sensation play in general.

I enjoy giving: PIV, anal sex, tit fucking (to be fair, the first and the last are more out of impossibility of receiving than preference against receiving).

I enjoy receiving: hot wax, fire (okay, I probably would enjoy giving both of these, but I am not experienced in safely giving either of them).

Now on to the nitty-gritty details, in no particular order:

Consent:

Consent is very important to me. Even with things I am explicitly into, surprising me with them is not generally encouraged. I try to be careful about asking for consent for things, and I expect partners to be similarly careful.

Technique pointers:

I don’t tend to like pinchy, stingy, or tickly sensations. I generally have a preference for sensations that are broad and deep. Do not tickle me ever. Don’t pinch me, don’t bite me hard on a small amount of skin – I prefer wide, deep bites to shallow or narrow ones. Suction-y bites are encouraged. Try to take care to avoid light touches around the lower half of the sides of my torso, and the area of skin between my navel and groin; these areas are particularly ticklish for me. Build-up is pretty important for most intense varieties of sensation play, and I am often somewhat of a lightweight with them.

Leaving marks:

I love to leave marks, and I love to have them left on me. Whether or not I’m comfortable having marks in places that are visible when I’m clothed will depend on my social schedule over the following days. I will ask you what your comfort level is with marks and if you have a preference for having or not having them in particular places.

Feedback:

I am very appreciative of feedback. “Stay right there”, “Stop that”, “Go faster”, “Slow down”, “Do it like this”, etc. Physically guiding my hands or body to move in a particular way that you like or stop moving in a way that you don’t is encouraged.

Anecdote: I have generally gotten positive feedback from going down on people, but I have only recently started explicitly requesting feedback on it. Generally getting good feedback when going down on people but not knowing what specifically what worked or didn’t has left me in the past feeling pretty insecure in spite of the positive feedback. Imagine if you were trying to speak a language you didn’t know, and whenever you tried to make sounds that sounded, to you, kind of like what the language sounded like, people complimented you on your fluency. Would you feel confident, or would you feel just as nervous, given that you have no idea what aspects of your random noises made the difference, and therefore no idea which to try to reproduce the next time?

Testing and STI knowledge:

Know your testing status, and have a decent working knowledge of the varying risks of different types of sex and methods of STI prevention and birth control.

STI prevention:

I always use condoms for PIV or anal sex. Otherwise, I generally don’t, but am entirely willing to if that is your preference.

Accidental pregnancy:

I am pro-choice, and I will probably want to know that you are, too. I keep Plan B in my desk just in case.

Dominance/submission:

I have experimented with power exchange almost uniformly as dominant. My experimentation has been pretty limited, because the idea of power exchange has only started being interesting to me fairly recently, and thus far I’m still not particularly curious about total power exchange or 24/7 power exchange, though they aren’t necessarily hard limits with a partner who wants to explore them. I have a lot more experience bottoming than being submissive. I’m not opposed to being on the submissive side of the scene, but getting the right vibe for it seems to be pretty rare for me.

Other things to know:

I often have trouble getting and/or staying hard with new partners the first time or two. It’s a performance anxiety thing that I am pretty used to, although still occasionally insecure about, and it’s not a reflection on you. I also generally don’t orgasm from people giving me hand jobs or blow jobs. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy them – I do — but you shouldn’t expect me to orgasm from them. I don’t always reliably orgasm from penetrative sex, either. I have, at times, the opposite problem to premature ejaculation (is anorgasmia an appropriate term in this context?).

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Support Ashe Dryden

Ashe Dryden is a programmer, conference speaker, and feminist activist. She gives talks about diversity at tech conferences, writes for Model View Culture, and is in the process of writing a book about how companies can diversify their teams. I think she is magnificent.

She makes a significant portion of her income from contributions from people who support the activism she does. Unfortunately, she has recently had to leave the site from which she gets most of those contributions. This switch means that she will lose any income she had from people who are unwilling, unable, or unaware of the need to switch to using the new platforms she is using to receive contributions. This is a big deal for her.

I think that her work and voice are incredibly important to making the tech community and Internet communities at large better, more diverse, and more accepting. As such, I am making a shout out to readers of mine to support her if you can by either making contributions toward her work on the new platforms she is using (MoonClerk (her preferred platform) – Stripe-based, so currently accepted in these countries, or PayPal), or signal boosting this to others who might be able to.

Mommies Don’t Run and Daddies Don’t Play Piano, or Why Media Criticism Matters

Why is media criticism important? Why do we talk about how different groups of people are portrayed in media? What is the point of having conversations about how Beauty and the Beast depicts an abusive relationship, or whether women ever have conversations about things other than men in movies, or whether cultures composed largely of black and brown skinned people in fictional worlds are so often portrayed as more primitive and violent than their white cultural counterparts?

What does it matter?

It matters because what we see around us in media and the world influences our attitudes and behavior. Sexism in media influences sexism in the consumers of that media, not just in terms of reinforcing sexist attitudes, but in raising the tolerance and likelihood of behaviors like harassment, and in reducing empathy for the subjects of sexism. Racism in the media works similarly. Media has even been shown to affect attitudes on things like organ donation and jury expectations with respect to scientific evidence in trials.

It matters because media fundamentally shapes how we see the world, not just in terms of explicit messages about what the world is like and what people are like, but in terms of the thousand little details that we don’t consciously notice that shape what we perceive as normal or abnormal, acceptable or unacceptable, realistic or fantastic.

Whenever I think about how media influences us, I think back to a story my mom once told me about a conversation she had with a sibling of mine when we were very young. At that age, this sibling used to call all women “mommies” and all men “daddies”, our dad would generally go on runs every day, and our mom would practice piano every day.

She is with my mom and, looking out the window, sees a woman jogging. She looks at my mom and asks, “Mom, why is that mommy running?”

Mom answers, “Well, some mommies like to go running.”

My sister responds, “No; mommies don’t run, and daddies don’t play piano.”

I’m sure no one had ever explicitly told her anything of the sort. I can’t imagine she didn’t have friends with parents who had other hobbies, etc. yet there she was, so sure that things couldn’t be any other way for anyone even when she was directly witnessing contrary evidence. For no other reason than that she hadn’t seen it before. It didn’t happen in the world she knew, therefore it couldn’t happen in the world she knew.

What if she hadn’t ended up having this conversation with my mom, and had wanted to be a runner?

In my mind, there is little difference between my sister growing up (to a certain point) believing in running/playing piano gender roles because she had rarely been exposed to anything else and so many people in my generation growing up believing that gender is binary, or that men want sex and women want love, or that being gay is a disorder, or that trans people don’t really exist, or that black people are more inherently violent than white people, or that sexual harassment is “a compliment” or “just a harmless joke”. We normalize what we see.

I don’t want anyone to have to grow up thinking that abuse can be part of a romance (like in Beauty and the Beast), or that a man routinely making sexual comments to his female boss is acceptable (like in House), or that people with dark skin are naturally violent (like in Star Trek TNG — Klingons of course being the best example, but certainly not the only example in this particular show), or that it’s impossible for a fat person to be attractive to anyone but weirdos (like in Archer), or that kissing someone with a penis is one of the most disgusting things that can happen to a heterosexual man (like in Ace Ventura), or that it’s romantic to refuse to stop pursuing someone romantically after they have explicitly asked you to stop (Charlie/Zoe in The West Wing), or that stalking someone is an effective or appropriate way to kindle romance (10 Things I Hate About You).

These messages manifest as beliefs and actions in the real world. There are people who believe that people of color are inherently more violent than white people, in spite of the fact that there is no biological basis for race. There are men who think that being hit on by another man is justification for murder. There are stalkers who think that stalking is an effective, appropriate way to pursue romance with someone.

Most of the media I mentioned is media that I enjoy watching. I still enjoy watching most of them even while recognizing that there are problematic elements in each and every one of them. It’s just that I also recognize that there are problems with each and every one of them, and that those problems matter. Those problems affect us, they teach us things, and if we’re not careful they can teach us things that are both false and incredibly harmful. I recognize that we can do better, and that the world will be a better place if we manage to do better, and that the only way we will do better is by first recognizing the problems that need to be improved upon.

This is why media criticism matters. Because my sister was wrong; men can play piano and women can be runners. Because so much of our representation in media is teaching us things that are wrong, is shoving us in boxes, is teaching us ways we can and cannot be, is teaching us to think things that are not true and to tolerate things we should not tolerate. Media criticism matters because we can do better, and because in doing better we make the world better by making it a place where anyone, no matter who they are, can run or play piano or do whatever fucking thing makes them feel like a person.

 


 

Credit for a number of the links I use in this post goes to the citations section of the most recent Feminist Frequency video.

Thoughts On Being Excited About Sex

I’ve been trying to figure out how to just talk about sex.

With people who know me it’s easier. I would venture to say that in day-to-day life I am more comfortable talking about sex than most people are. What I’ve been trying to figure out is how to talk about it on my blog and social media.

My dating life is busier than it has been in quite some time at the moment. Parts of this are complicated and parts of it are great. I’m getting laid more than usual, I’m learning new things about new partners, I’m having silly awkward sexual moments, and I’m getting the kinds of compliments I absolutely love to get — “You are very easy to talk to.”, “I like the way you ask for things.”, “You’re a good feminist.” (although, to be fair, that last one resulted out of a slight misinterpretation of something I’d said, so it’s possible I didn’t really deserve it).

Incidentally, talking about feminist stuff while in bed with people is super fun and I am never more weirded out by guys who say feminism is ruining their sex lives than just after I’ve done that.

Here’s the thing: I get excited about getting laid, and I get excited about the times when I feel I can be good at sex, and I like being able to talk about the good moments and the silly moments that happen around sex.

But.

But I’m in this culture of, for people who are perceived as male, Everything Is About Getting Laid And Demonstrating Sexual Prowess, and I don’t want to play into that culture when I talk about this stuff. I want to be able to be excited about having sex and the funny, interesting, sexy, or bizarre things that happen in and around sex, but I’m apprehensive about doing that because, in doing that, I don’t want to play into this Make Everything About Your Dick culture.

Maybe it’s one of those things I should just do unapologetically, and the manner in which I do it will bear out that that’s not the way I mean it. Then again, sometimes my responses to sex are as simple as “Oh my god, I got laid and it was awesome and I am awesome and everything is awesome!” and sometimes all I want to do is shout that to Twitter because I’m excited and I firmly believe that a world in which we can all let ourselves be excited about whatever random, silly things we’re excited about, whether Harry Potter or Dr. Who or cat pictures or sex or contra dancing or discovering the FedEx arrow, is a better world.

Without context, though, is such an expression of excitement playing into the more problematic parts of our culture? Is it harmfully perpetuating an unhealthy obsession with sex as conquest or social status? Is the way that I write about it, especially in a medium as brief as Twitter, sufficient to dissociate it from that culture? Is it necessarily even any different from their culture? Certainly, my own feelings on sex will have been influenced by the more harmful sexual attitudes I was surrounded by growing up just like the rest of us. Certainly, some of the ways that influences my opinions and behavior are probably still invisible to me.

So the question comes down to this: how do I allow myself to be fascinated and excited by sex in all the different ways that I am without playing into a culture that is obsessed with sex in some very unhealthy ways?

Right now I’m not sure.

Writing

I miss writing. But I’m not sure what to write about.

I have ideas for things to write about, but usually something stands out. Usually some particular thing just needs to be written about.

Usually in the past when I have had writer’s block it has been because there was something that I needed to write about before anything else would come out. For a while I thought maybe the thing I needed to write about was anxiety, which I’ve been experiencing a steady supply of lately. But I’m not sure if it’s that.

Maybe it’s the meds I’m on? Maybe they’re having a negative impact on my drive to write. I’m not sure. I want to write, but I don’t know how right now.