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Activity: Eroticizing Verbal Consent

8 Feb

*** EDIT: Check out this similar blog post! Thanks Melissa for the heads up!***

Recently, I lectured at the University of Michigan Sexpertise event about a variety of sexuality related topics, including eroticizing the consent process and making negotiation sexy. Videos of the lectures themselves are soon to come, but in the interim I wanted to share an activity I used at the end of the event to help the group relax into the idea of clearly and explicitly stating sexual desires in a safe, confidential way. Please note this is an adapted version of an activity done at a sexuality training I attended years and years ago, and I am unable to find the original source to credit them. If you know who it is, please let me know!

Background: We’ve all read and heard about the importance of gaining clearly stated verbal consent from partners before sex acts. But how do we do that in a way that doesn’t make our partner feel like we’re role-playing lawyer or doctor? “I would like to remove your pants and preform fellatio,” might interrupt the flow of a sexual exchange by sounding too clinical.

I suggest that dirty talk is an excellent way to go about negotiating consent while simultaneously heightening the erotic experience. “All I can think about is tearing off your pants and sucking your..” well you get the idea.. is asking your partner through stated desires, just like the earlier example, but in a way that’s likely to heat things up instead of cool them down. Dirty talk is an excellent way to state an interest in some sexual activity, and create space for your partner to say “yes, please!” or “mm, maybe not.. but I’d love to ____, what do you think?”

The problem is that dirty talk can feel awkward sometimes! Follow the cut for an activity to help participants loosen up and get comfortable with making sexy suggestions without being too on the spot!

Continue reading


Cross-post: Cisgender Privilege List

15 Dec
I found this laying around the office the other day, and was deeply moved by it. I think it’s worth a read and a discussion.. Can you think of any other cis privileges that come to mind?

Cisgender Privilege List

From Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

1) Strangers don’t assume they can ask me what my genitals look like and how I have sex.
2) My validity as a man/woman/human is not based upon how much surgery I’ve had or how well I “pass” as a non-Trans person.
3) When initiating sex with someone, I do not have to worry that they won’t be able to deal with my parts or that having sex with me will cause my partner to question his or her own sexual orientation.
4) I am not excluded from events which are either explicitly or de facto* men-born-men or women-born-women only. (*possibly anything involving nudity)
5) My politics are not questioned based on the choices I make with regard to my body.
6) I don’t have to hear “So have you had THE surgery?” or “Oh, so you’re REALLY a [incorrect sex or gender]?” each time I come out to someone.
7) I am not expected to constantly defend my medical decisions.
8 ) Strangers do not ask me what my “real name” [birth name] is and then assume that they have a right to call me by that name.
9) People do not disrespect me by using incorrect pronouns even after they’ve been corrected.
10) I do not have to worry that someone wants to be my friend or have sex with me in order to prove his or her “hipness” or “good” politics.
11) I do not have to worry about whether I will be able to find a safe and accessible bathroom or locker room to use.
12) When engaging in political action, I do not have to worry about the gendered repercussions of being arrested. (i.e. What will happen to me if the cops find out that my genitals do not match my gendered appearance? Will I end up in a cell with people of my own gender?)
13) I do not have to defend my right to be a part of “Queer” space or movement, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual people will not try to exclude me from our movements in order to gain political legitimacy for themselves.
14) My experience of gender (or gendered spaces) is not viewed as “baggage” by others of the gender in which I live.
15) I do not have to choose between either invisibility (“passing”) or being consistently “othered” and/or tokenized based on my gender.
16) I am not told that my sexual orientation and gender identity are mutually exclusive.
17) When I go to the gym or a public pool, I can use the showers.
18) If I end up in the emergency room, I do not have to worry that my gender will keep me from receiving appropriate treatment nor will all of my medical issues be seen as a product of my gender. (“Your nose is running and your throat hurts? Must be due to the hormones!”)
19) My health insurance provider (or public health system) does not specifically exclude me from receiving benefits or treatments available to others because of my gender.
20) When I express my internal identities in my daily life, I am not considered “mentally ill” by the medical establishment.
21) I am not required to undergo extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care.
22) The medical establishment does not serve as a “gatekeeper” which disallows self-determination of what happens to my body.
23) People do not use me as a scapegoat for their own unresolved gender issues.

Guest Blogger: Facing AIDS Press Release

22 Nov

Today’s guest blogger, Kristy Scott from CARES, brings us important information about the Facing AIDS campaign!

In July 2010 our president—Barack Obama announced the National HIV/AIDS strategy (NHAS). The National HIV/AIDS strategy’s vision is stated below:


“The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination”


The National HIV/AIDS Strategy has 3 main goals:

  1. To reduce new HIV infections
  2. To increase access to care and improve health outcomes for people livng with HIV.
  3. To reduce HIV-related health disparities


At my internship site, Community AIDS Resource and Education Services (CARES) we want to help do our part in implementing and supporting the National HIV/AIDS stategy. This is why we are in support of the Facing AIDS Campaign started by The Facing Aids campaign is a way to get everyone involved in fighting HIV stigma and supporting the goals outlined above by our president. This World AIDS Day December 1st, 2011 CARES is launching our local support and involvement in the “Facing AIDS” campaign.


President Barack Obama made it clear when unveiling the NHAS that Implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) does not fall to the Federal Government alone. Success will require the commitment of all parts of society, including state, local and tribal governments, businesses, faith communities, philanthropy, the scientific and medical communities, educational institutions, people living with HIV, and others.


This means all of us need to do our part! Every individual, business, non profit, government, etc. are all responsible for the success of the NHAS. As busy individuals going to school, work, raising our families, and struggling with our own troubles it is sometimes hard to recognize how HIV/AIDS affects all of us. When one of our fellow citizens becomes infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) every nine-and-a-half minutes, is becomes evident that the epidemic affects all Americans. I want to encourage the Kalamazoo community, as well as all of humanity to recognize that when HIV affects one person in our community, it affects all of us. Therefore, it is going to require all of us coming together as a society to combat the effects of HIV/AIDS in the communities that make up our great nation.


The Facing AIDS campaign takes photos of individuals in support of the NHAS holding a sign that says why they are facing aids today. Please come into CARES at 629 Pioneer St., Kalamazoo MI, 49007 and support the cause by taking your very own Facing AIDS picture! On December 1st we will unveil all the pictures taken in our main lobby of our . Please come by and see the unity of our community supporting the NHAS on December 1st. Remember we are all in this together! Come and support your community, state, and nation in fighting for health, equality, and support for all of those living in your community regardless of HIV status.


Resource List for Curious Students

21 Nov

This is a special and unusual blog update. Tomorrow, November 21st, I will be presenting a lecture called Pleasure in Darkness: BDSM and Kink as Healthy Sexual Options for Psychology of Sexuality at the University of Michigan, taught by the fabulous Dr Terri Conley. The lecture will be filmed and uploaded here in the next few weeks.

For now, a resource list for curious students:


Different Loving  offers a set of interviews with various kink practitioners and interesting insight to the psychology and appeal of BDSM/kink.

Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns is a classic how-to guide for BDSM topics.

The New Topping Book and The Bottoming Book offer a great introduction to how to be a top or a bottom.

Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink is a question and answer book created by Midori that looks into the psyche of many kinks.


Clarisse Thorn keeps a wonderful blog that explores  many different BDSM community related topics. is the kinky version of facebook, and a great way to get in touch with your local kinky community.

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom keeps a list of kink aware professionals.

This Xeromag Guide to BDSM is a great resource for “how to” on many BDSM topics.

For you cog psych people, here is a fabulous post about how to raise endorphins in a kink play session.


The Secretary is essentially a love story with kinky elements, and a lighthearted and sweet kinky movie.

I have not personally seen it, but I’ve heard wonderful things about Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Sadomasochist.

Storytime: Driving the Car- An analogy for sexual health choices

10 Nov

Polyamorous folks are often asked how we manage risk reduction, and handle fears of STIs. I have a simple analogy I like to use:

Having sex is a lot like driving a car. You can keep yourself safe by:

  • make sure you only do it when you’re sober and making rational decisions
  • equip yourself with various safety measures (like airbags and seatbelts… or condoms and gloves)
  • keep the necessary equipment in good working order (with the help of a mechanic or doctor)
  • obey traffic laws (or principals of risk reduction, like using condoms and lube)
  • limiting how often and for how long you are driving
But ultimately, even if you are the best, safest driver in the world, you might get T-boned by a truck. So ultimately, when you’re thinking about driving, you have to decide if the destination is work the risk.

Concept Introduction: Bisexuality and Beyond

31 Oct

In this blog post, I hope to introduce some terminology to describe sexualities beyond heterosexual and homosexual. If I miss a term you have heard or identify with, or define something slightly differently than how you may view it, please comment with your opinions, and add your voice to the conversation!

Bisexuality: Kinsey was one of the first few researchers to suggest that sexualities beyond homosexual and heterosexual may exist, with his development of the Kinsey Scale. According to this scale, people may be anywhere from entirely attracted to one gender or another, to attracted by certain degrees to different genders. Some people suggest that bisexuality is only true bisexuality if somebody is equally attracted to both genders. Others contest the use of the term bisexual, because the prefix bi- indicates a gender binary, and is only inclusive of male-identified and female-identified persons and attractions.

Pansexual/Omnisexual/Polysexual: These three terms are frequently used interchangeably to mean similar ideas. Pansexuals often reject the gender binary, opening their romantic and sexual attraction to individuals of all gender identities and expressions. A pansexual individual may root their attractions in qualities other than gender and genitals. For example, as a pansexual, I may say, “I am attracted to kindhearted, long haired, nontraditional individuals that enjoy cooking, are curious and adventurous, and are avid communicators.” These qualities exist outside of gender.

PoMosexual: This label is short for Post Modernist Sexuality. It springs from a kind of rebellion against community labels that come with a set of expectations of dress, behavior, or attraction. It is essentially a label that rejects labels, embracing a sexual orientation and identity that is dynamic, fluid, and evolving. This suggests that the qualities and gender identities somebody is attracted to may shift and change throughout life stages, and labels are not inclusive of the diversity of romantic and sexual attraction people may feel throughout their lives.

Heteroflexible/Homoflexible: This term may be used to refer to people who are primarily attracted to one gender, but find a partner or partners of the other gender that they are attracted to romantically, and/or for specific sex acts. This may be a general relationship kind of attraction, or only exist in certain contexts.

Despite over 50 years of social discourse about the possibility of individuals identifying as something other than heterosexual or homosexual, it still remains a contested identity in many circles. Bisexual individuals may be viewed as closet homosexuals reluctant to give up hetero privilege, heterosexuals experimenting for fun or to attract a lover of the opposite sex, confused, greedy, or over-sexed. Media representations of bisexual individuals often feed these stereotypes.

I would like to challenge tendency to develop labels and stereotypes that trap and constrain. I think, especially within the queer community, it is important that we are able to celebrate all experiences of sexual and romantic attraction and affection, and not discount any group for failing to stringently adhere to one definition or another. Individuals should not need to put their identity on trial every time they experience attraction outside of the label society has come to accept for them, nor should ones past attractions dictate the future of their romantic endeavors.

Cross Post: 5 sources of assumptions and stereotypes about S&M

24 Oct

This article was originally posted at Clarisse Thorn: Pro-Sex Outreach, Open-Minded Feminism. It is written by Clarisse Thorn, a wonderful sex-positive activist and blogger.

Why do BDSMers often feel bad about being into S&M? Why do so many of us freak out once we discover our BDSM identity, or live in secret and repress our desires, or write only under false names, or fear openly joining the S&M community, or ….

Well, here’s a particularly sad example of how bad some of us feel. A BDSMer friend works as a therapist who does couples counseling. He once told me about a couple who had some random argument in his office — the argument, apparently, wasn’t even about sex — during which the wife lost her temper and turned away from her husband. “You know what this freak likes?” she snapped, and proceeded to describe her husband’s biggest fetish. Her husband looked humiliated and was quiet.

Now, from the perspective of my kinky counselor friend and my kinky self, the husband’s fetish wasn’t particularly weird — in fact it seems much tamer than, say, my own desire to have needles slid through my skin — but I can see how the fetish would seem weird to the mainstream. More importantly, it was obvious that this poor kinkster’s wife had been using his fetish as her ace in the hole — her secret back-pocket weapon — for quite a long time. Whenever she wanted to shut him up or shame him, she just mentioned his Deep Dark Fetish and he was silenced and shamed.

So. Obviously, there are a lot of poisonous assumptions and stereotypes surrounding S&M. There are so many of them that lots of kinksters have taken them into ourselves: not only do we fear society’s judgment, but we also feel tons of anxiety from internalized social norms.

And yet I’ve come upon people who tell me that the stereotypes around S&M “aren’t that bad”. I’ve had people (even other BDSMers!) tell me that all our anxiety is internal, that society is totally okay with S&M and if we’d just quit indulging our “victim complex” then everything would be fine. In fact, one person read my coming-out story — in which I wrote about the internal struggle and panic I experienced when I came into my BDSM identity — and snidely said that I was “just being dramatic”.

Then there are people who tell me that S&M is “mainstream”, which is just plain ridiculous. I can see the argument that very mild kink has gone mainstream, at least among young liberals: hickeys, silk scarves, mild choking, mild spanking, and furry handcuffs. Yeah, lots of people try those things, and you’d have a hard time finding a (young, white, well-educated) person who condemns them. But you know what’s not mainstream in any group? Needles in one’s back; blood. Screams for mercy; tears. What appalled me, during my coming-out process, was discovering my need for agony. And I assure you, my anxiety and my self-disgust were real. I wasn’t “making it up to be dramatic”.

Apparently, though, giving examples of BDSMers who feel (or felt) awful about ourselves isn’t enough, so I started thinking about how I internalized that disgust. How did I develop my stereotypes of S&M? I can remember people in my teens joking about how I’m so aggressive, I ought to be a dominatrix; I even remember a girl who brought a whip to summer camp and lent it to me for a costume party. And for years before my own awakening, I was aware that some of my friends were into “that stuff”. Given these positive messages, where did I pick up the negative messages? To put it in academic terms: where can I find instances of BDSM stigma?

Here they are: Continue reading

Storytime: Identity Assumptions for Advocates

20 Oct

Funny thing about being a radical sexual pluralist and sex positive activist. A lot of assumptions seem to be made about who I am, what I do, and how my body and sexuality are designed. Granted, we all have assumptions made about us on a regular basis, based on how we dress, act, look, or some other arbitrary feature. But I’ve noticed that when I am verbally in support of a group of people that one cannot immediately tell whether or not I am a part of, I am assumed to be a part of that group- because why else would I care?

Nobody has ever mistaken me for a gay leather man, or a nice young pair of men looking to adopt, even though these are lifestyles I vocally support. Of course, you can look at me and tell that I seem to be presenting to the world as a woman, and thus (probably) don’t identify as a gay man (the funny thing here is that, on some days, I do!). However, you can’t look at me and tell if I’m a trans woman, HIV positive, polyamorous, kinky, a sex worker, a Domme, a submissive, a sexual assault survivor, a lesbian, or queer. I am some of those identities, and I am not some of those identities. As I say to strangers who ask me directly: That’s between me and my partner(s), thank you.

I think it’s curious that when I do not immediately confirm or deny association (it feels very strange to say “I advocate for the rights of ____! But, oh, no, of course I’m not ____.”), the assumption is made that I clearly care because I am a part of that minority. I think it speaks to the second, invisible assumption: Who would care but members of that minority?

Continue reading

Women in Voluntary Sex Work: Review, Perspectives, and Implications for Practice

17 Oct

This is a rather long, intensive, academically written paper from early in my graduate studies on different perspectives in sex work, from several feminist perspectives, as well as implications for social work practice. I am putting it up here (even though it’s more dry and paper-ey than blog-ey) because I think it offers a good introduction to the  topic, and some of you may find it interesting. I, myself, am a giant geek, and love reading and writing these kinds of things- I will trust that some other giant geeks are following the blog! 🙂  Here is an outline of sections, so you can know what you’re in for before diving in:

  • A Brief History of Modern Prostitution 1900 – Present
  • Structures of Modern Sex Work
  • Outdoor Sex Work
  • Indoor Sex Work
  • Perspectives on Sex Work (this is where all the juicy stuff on sexism, racism, and arguments about sex work within the world of feminism is hiding)
  • Implications for Social Work

Continue reading

Stop the butch bashing: Why her gender expression isn’t any of your damn business

13 Oct

Today’s guest post is by a Northwestern University Graduate Student Helen.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You wouldn’t know it from looking at me now, but I used to be the kind of queer who basically had a big neon sign over her head shouting “GAAAAY.” I had a pixie cut, sported lots of spiky earrings and wore cargo pants and men’s t-shirts or button-downs most days. I stomped around in work boots and wouldn’t touch makeup. It wasn’t really surprising that most people surmised my sexuality before I finally crept out of the closet.

I feel like preferring boxers to lingerie is ingrained in my DNA, just like my hair color or the fluorescent paleness of my skin. I was only three or four when I begged my mom to buy me my first tie (bright red, clip-on) while we were shopping at a department store. Growing up, I ran around clad in my older brother’s hand-me-downs, army vests that reached my knees and t-shirts that swallowed up my small torso. I was all skinned knees and gritty palms, climbing trees and orchestrating Nerf gun wars with the boys who lived in my neighborhood. I was happy. I was myself.

Then I hit puberty, and it suddenly became very clear that I was doing this being a girl thing all wrong. I can’t count how many times people called me ugly. Women and girls mostly whispered it behind my back, but boys and men had no problem saying it clearly within earshot or right to my face. In middle and high school, boys goaded their friends into pretending to ask me out. I was always painfully aware of the set-up and promptly told them to fuck off when they approached me, their friends gathered in a sniggering group behind them. I can’t say it didn’t sting a little, though. “Of course I wouldn’t really ask you out. Ugly dyke.”

I wish I could say that having people label me freakish and repulsive over and over again didn’t have any effect on my self-esteem. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the emotional fortitude at ages 14 through 19 to withstand that barrage of cutting comments unscathed. I’d be lying if I said getting told I was unattractive on a regular basis—and feeling ugly as a result—wasn’t part of the reason I decided to start growing my hair out and wearing eyeliner a couple of years ago. I don’t get called ugly anymore, but I still don’t feel attractive. That damage is done.

Next time you see a butch girl and you’re about to scrunch up your nose and call her gross, stop. It’s not her job to cater to your erotic preferences. Remember, ugly is subjective. Some people (like me) find masculine women sexy. So, don’t be that asshole. Stop the butch bashing.