Sexuality Happens

Back in Colorado

Holy Guacamole has life been crazy lately!

My partner Q and I moved back to Colorado, a few months earlier than originally planned due to Q’s new job, and it is fucking fantabulous…at least the six days I was able to spend there before I headed out of Providence, RI to speak at the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (on Ethical Pornography), and now at Brown University (On Body Positivity and Autonomy as Sexual Freedom and then with Megan Andelloux on Being a Sex Educator in the Real World). I’m then back in Denver for about 48 hours, if that, before I head out to Portland to teach at KinkFest (Safer Sex for Kinksters, Poly and Kink, and Communication in a Kink Context). Then thank the mooses, I’m back for about 10 days before heading to Washington, DC to speak at Momentum (on Intersections of Identities and on 3 panels about ethics and blogging, feminism in the adult industry and public vs privacy in blogging) and Sugar (Sex positions for EVERYONE!). Phew.  Then it’s back to AZ twice in April for a class and Phoenix Pride, and then to San Diego for AASECT. Finally, I get to chill a bit in May, really get to re-settle into Colorado, work a little more on planning the wedding, etc.

In the midst of all this, I also had to help my mother put down our family cat of eleven years, the wonderful and caring Anastasia, who was a rescue cat from a dementia patient who was abusing her back in 2000. It was incredibly tough, especially with all of the emotions running high still from the move, some of the body pain I’m dealing with, and then traipsing across the country…

Anyways, I’ll try to be better about putting more posts up here, and you can also check out thoughts, Q and A, upcoming workshops and more on ShannaKatz.com.

-Essin’ Em

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The Ridiculousness of the Love Industry

Now that Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and that I’m back in the scheme of things (which includes planning for our wedding/celebration of love this October), I have to say that I’m sick and tired of the Love Industry.

What, pray tell, is the Love Industry? It is the capitalism in our society has found that by making people (particularly women, but people in general) feel back about not being in a relationship, not being in a “serious enough” relationship, not having the “perfect wedding” etc, that they will then rush out to spend tons and tons of money on ridiculous things. The worse you make people feel about their relationships (or lack thereof) with others, the more money they will spend.

Look at Valentine’s Day — people spend so much time and energy trying to make sure they have a partner on Valentine’s Day, and then once/if they do, they spend all this money trying to impress their partner and “show their love” by buying outrageous gifts that may or may not even suit their partners tastes. Clearly, every woman in existence wants a diamond necklace, right? I sure as heck don’t.  And then, when people say things like “I don’t think Valentine’s Day is important — I think love should happen year round,” they’re then told that they are just being jealous, petty, wishing they had a partner (or a partner that did better things for them, bought more expensive things, etc) and so on.  And of course, I work in the industry that hops onto this bandwagon — Valentine’s Day is one of our biggest seasons (but at least a vibrator lasts a lot longer than a bouquet of flowers, and can be used together).

This year, I picked up some pre-made food from Whole Foods and we ate it, cause I wasn’t in the mood to cook. Then we watched TV we’d missed, and worked on our duo-presentation for the National Collegiate Leadership Conference. Oh, and drove to the post office to drop off our application for a residence in Denver. Why? Because it was a Monday, and that is what needed to happen that Monday. My best friend and her husband went to Qudoba for dinner, and he wound up buying her a 6-pack of blueberry beer. It had nothing to do with money — they just decided that THAT was what they wanted to do. And that is how it should be.

Don’t even get me started on the wedding industry. Other than the fact that they are totally not queer inclusive (which they need to work on, given all the states passing same-sex marriage and civil unions), but honestly, this industry is vile at times. I keep getting sent wedding magazines, bride magazines, nesting magazines, where the “budget” dresses are one thousand to three thousand bucks. A “budget wedding” apparently comes in between twenty and thirty thousand. a BUDGET WEDDING means keeping it under a grand in my mind. We’re capping ours at $5000, and that includes outfits, locations, food, flowers, DJ, cupcakes, pumpkins for decorating, etc. We’re doing a cheap wedding of sorts, the way we like it (whether or not a burgundy ball dress is traditional, whether or not a DJ with a Rainbow Mohawk is appropriate, etc). But clearly, so many people buy into this fantasy that they are selling, this concept that with out an expensive white dress and prince to sweep you away, that we are nothing. Why? What is it that says this is “right” thing, other than the companies trying to sell it to us in the first place?

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A Gift to My Primary

As I am one of my own primary partners (I mean, I contribute a lot of time, energy and resources to myself, right?), I’ve bought myself a bouquet of flowers, and a red vase that I love.

I hate the concept that only a lover can give you flowers, chocolates, etc. I spent this weekend on my own with the kitties, delicious food, lovely flowers, and chocolate covered ginger. I miss Q, yes, but I am also responsible for treating myself well and seeing to my own happiness, which occasionally means fresh flowers in the house.

-Essin’ Em

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Day 19: Someone That Pesters Your Mind

This is day 19 in my “30 Days of Letters” endeavor. It is supposed to be written to someone who “pesters my mind,” either in a good way or a bad way. I assume they don’t mean music that gets stuck in it.

Dear Conservative Right Wing of America (and the Tea Party) -

I don’t understand how you can be filled with so much vile hatred. For as much as you rant against individuals like me (queer folk, Jewish people, agonostic people, people with disabilities, sex educators, pornographers), as well as other minorities (immigrants, people of color, those in lower socio economic classes, those with different religious beliefs, etc), I don’t hate you. You spend your days trying to convince the world that people like me and those I care about are less than, are unworthy, are below you, and yet I don’t hate you. I think about you often, how you try to control me, to ruin my life and the lives of others, and yet, I don’t hate you.

So how can you, those people that cause so much pain and anger, those that are on top of this political dog pile, on top of the economy here when my partner and I are living paycheck to paycheck (with two Master’s degrees), be filled with so much hate, when I am not? I fight every day of my life to be validate and recognized, and yet that hatred doesn’t come naturally to me, and yet it seems to come so easily to you.

It boggles my mind.

-Essin’ Em

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When Work Is Emotional

I love my job. A lot.

There are some days I like it less. It is often entirely stressful, it can be frustrating, and working in the field of sex education often leads to me being questioned as an educator, told I’m not enough not a real educator, etc.

However, some days are just wonderful – I realize I’ve changed people’s lives, I’ve helped to save people’s relationships, I’ve helped people to discover things about themselves.

And somedays? Wow.

At my last Let’s Talk Sex workshop in Phoenix, after the class, a young woman came up to me. She looked familiar — I realized that she was a Fascinations Facebook Fan, and commented often, as well as attended classes. She told me that her sister had died in November, and that was why neither of them had been at my November class. She told me how much my updates on social media had meant to her sister, how much she loved attending my classes, reading my facts of the day, etc. She told me, through tears, that she was just hanging in there, but that her sister would have wanted her to tell me how much I had meant to her during her life.

I went home, driving 45 minutes thinking about this. Q was out of town, so I made a cup of tea, tucked myself under the covers with the kitties, and cried.

What I do, what people in my field do, changes lives. Period. We often present to people that we never seen again, never talk to again. Unlinke a college professor, or a therapist, we don’t have a lot of continuity with the people whose lives we touch. But this? Hearing from someone’s family member how much what I did had meant to them? It’s both very heavy and very lightening at the same time.

Sex education remains a difficult field…but things like this? THIS is what keeps me going, every single day, despite the frustration and the tiredness and the being broke and the getting called out and the long days and longer nights. What I do matters.

-Essin’ Em

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Still Alive!

Hey Folks -

I’ve been in Denver the last week or so, very busy (teaching four classes and co-hosting a kinky girls sleepover within four days!), but I am still alive, and will be writing more soon. Thanks for your patience, and I promise, in the worlds of Arnold, I’ll Be Back!

-Essin’ Em

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Map of Tasmania: Thoughts on Pubic Positivity

I like Amanda Palmer quite often. I’m still out on how I feel about her Evelyn Evelyn project, which deals with a faux discovered set of coinjoined twins (hence my issue with the project). However, usually, I think she’s pretty rad.

Recently, I discovered this video by AFP (Amanda Fucking Palmer) which is about pubic hair (watch out, it’s very catchy):

Now, the video is awesome, I love the fabulous merkins (vulva wigs), the beat is rocking…but I have some issues with the message. I totally 100% believe that we need to do away with the myths that a shaved vulva is sexier, that natural hair is gross, that shaving/waxing/etc is a cleaner option, and so on. Obviously, these are all bullshit, and just one more way to control women and their bodies.

HOWEVER, I’ve talked about this before and I’ll talk about it again. It is NOT sex positive or feminist in anyway to tell people that what they CHOOSE to do to their body is wrong, or as this song puts it “whack.” Vagina Monologues (which has its other issues as well) has a piece called Hair, in which it says “You cannot love the Vagina unless you love hair.” First of all, this is anatomically incorrect, as the vulva is where there is hair, not the vagina…and secondly, it tells those people that like the feel of having less/styled/different/no public hair that they clearly don’t love their vulva/vaginas or those of a partner.

I have done almost everything that there is to do with pubic hair (except dying it). I have cut it, styled it, shaved it, waxed it (never again — way too fucking expensive), etc. It is certainly NOT for any male gaze. And I identify as a sex positive woman and with parts of the femininist movement. Does this mean that I don’t love my vulva? That I’m wack? NO. I like the sensations of toys and tongues both with and without hair, and enjoy the differences that hair does and doesn’t provide. Some months I grow it out, other months I chop it off. My public hair and how I style it does not define me as a person, or whether or not a love female assigned genitala. The end.

I don’t know what the answer is. How do we reclaim the sexiness of having hair as an option without stepping on shavers/waxers/etc? It’s the same as how can we run the fat positive movement without saying horrible things about skinny people? (some people are naturally a size two, and yet often times the FP movement talks about them as if they are bulimic or anorexic when they are not, or calls them skinny bitches, etc). To be truly sex positive, or the type of feminist I identify as involves elevating global thinking WITHOUT HURTING others. When we step on people, say hurtful things, call them names, etc, solely in order to futher our own thoughts about things, we set all of us back.

So yes, I will probably continue to sing this song under my breathe, and I will DEFINITELY be using Map of Tasmania in the future. But Amanda Fucking Palmer, Eve Ensler, and the rest of you? Please stop judging people for choices that they make. Pubic hair is NOT gross…but not having it doesn’t make you a bad person, a failure as a woman, or even whack.

-Essin’ Em

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Being Emotional

One of the most hurtful things F told me when we were together was that I was “always in my head, and never in my heart.” She’d follow this with ending a conversation, having sex with someone else against the rules of our relationship, or a torrent of judgemental things about me. That was her way of telling me I wasn’t emotional enough, that I didn’t feel. In her mind, feeling was superior to thoughts and logic, and because I was a planner, and wanted to talk out our issues instead of fighting about them, or worse yet (to me), ignoring them, I wasn’t good at relationships, that I wasn’t emotional enough, that I had no feelings.

I know now that this is bullshit. It’s true, for a long time after my father died, I did hide my feelings. I wrote a few years back about how I couldn’t cry, how it was only through a totally irrevelant conversation with K that I was able to finally break down and cry. I was so scared that if I showed myself crying, I’d be seen as weak, or worse yet, that I wouldn’t be able to stop crying, that everything I’d built up in my life, all my independence and stability woudl come tumbling down with my tears, and that I’d be back at step one.

However, I was beyond that point when I met F. I was an emotional person. I felt. I hurt. She hurt me. I felt hurt by hurt. And because I also have anxiety and a little OCD, which makes me a little more logical at times, she told me that I had no emotions, that I didn’t feel, that I didn’t have a right to ask for my needs to be met in our relationship because I wasn’t worth it, wasn’t worth having a relationship.

Now, if you asked Q if she thought I was more in my heart or in my head, more emotional or more logical, I have no doubt the answer would be the former of each of those choices. True, we joke about me being tender and delicate, but at times, it is true. From losing my father to losing multiple close friends throughout my life (some through death, some through their choice), I have a lot of fear and hurt inside me. Sometimes, so much that I don’t even believe I’m worth it, that I don’t believe I deserve to have someone as wonderful as Q in my life. Every now and then, something triggers me, and I burst into tears, convinced that this is the point where Q figures out that I’m a fraud, that I’m nothing, that I’m not worth it.

As I think back on my relationship with F, and how much she did that lead to me questioning myself, to feeling as though I wasn’t able to be part of a long term relationship, to believing that I wasn’t enough for anyone, I realize that perhaps she was looking inside at herself and expressing the worries that she had about her onto me. Doesn’t mean I feel any less fucked up, but I can only hope she didn’t do it out of malice, and that she just never allowed herself to see my tender side, my emotional side.

And more important, I thank my lucky stars every damn day that I met someone like Q, who gets me, who not only thinks I’m worth it, and thinks I’m more than enough, but is working on helping me to believe it too. Someone who will lie in bed holding me until the tears dry up, who will tell me again and again that she wants to be with me, and who will make me laugh by creating shadow puppets to pull Kinsey’s tail. I’m worth it, and she knows it. And she knows that I’m just as emotional as I am a planner, and that one does not exclude the other. How lucky am I?

-Essin’ Em

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Sex Game Review: Dirty Minds

Dirty Minds Game

So, Q and I like to play games. I know the kind you’re thinking, but we also really enjoy playing good ol’ board games like Scrabble, and fun more new fangled games like Apples to Apples. Ergo, when a certain sex toy website offered to let me review Dirty Minds, I jumped at the chance. I had some friends who used to love playing it back in college, but I’d never gotten the change to try it, and I was excited.

One chilling evening in Arizona (read: 45 degrees), Q and I cuddled up in bed, and decided that today was the day to play a fun sex-centric game. Now, note that this game is about dirty clues that lead to totally innocent words. It’s not a game to play in order to have sex, like Behind Closed Doors or Sex Casino, etc. Those games are usually very heteronormative, and not of much interest to us. However, Dirty Minds is a game that can be played by lovers, friends, family, you name it, and so out it game.

The game itself is silly for two people to play. The goal is to gain enough cards to spell D-I-R-T-Y (you start with two, and earn more depending on the quickness of your guesses/need for clues)…and in the two full on rounds we played, the game was over within three or four turns — not too much fun. However, then we took turns reading clues to each other, and guessing the word (without trying to collect the cards), and we had a lot more fun. It’s important to remember that you never have to follow the instructions of any board game; make it work best for you and your partner(s), however your imaginations may run.

Apparently, Q and I have equally dirty minds, as well as were able to figure out the non-dirty item from the clues pretty well. We actually wound up having a good deal of fun, and I can totally see busting this game out at another party we have. All in all, I was impressed. And happy to review something that wasn’t a vibrator – it’s nice to have a break as a sex toy reviewer as well. Upcoming reviews include another game, and a few books!

-Essin’ Em

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Day 18: The Person I Wish I Could Be

This is day 18 in my “30 Days of Letters” endeavor. It is supposed to be written to “The Person I Wish I Could Be.” This is a hard one, because I am who I am, and am pretty ok with that for the most part, and think it is futile to wish you were someone else. I’ll therefore write it to the person I hope to be in the future as I continue to grow.

Dear Self-

You’ve come so far, learning to deal with your depression, to function around your OCD and planner-y-ness. You’ve gone through your list of friends, finally realizing which ones are true friends, and have dedicated more time and energy to staying connected and being a part of their lives.

You’ve finally gotten back to the weight you are happy with (and had been happy with for so many years before the Neurontin had you gain 30+ pounds), and have no illusions about ever wanting to be a a size 6, because you’re happy with who you are physically, and realize that wanting to be something else isn’t worth it.

You’ve become successful, what ever that means. In the field of sex positivity and sex education, people know who you are, respect you, and enjoy having interesting discussions for you. Shockingly, you’re able to make your paycheck(s) based 100% on doing sex positive education and sharing with people, changing people’s lives and improving how people look at sex. You’ve paid off your loans, and your car, and your medical bills, and you and Q are living in a small house that you’ve worked together on fixing up.

You’ve found some good method for coping with stress; congrats. Goddess knows you’ve been looking for that one for a while. Thank the mooses you’ve found it, because stress should never be as big of a part of anyone’s life as it had been for you for so many years. Stress isn’t needed in order to accomplish things; I’m glad you’ve learned that.

Self, I can’t wait to be you in a year, in five years, in ten years. I’m proud of you now, and know I will continue to be.

-Essin’ Em

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