I’m about to do something that is probably a terrible idea. I’m about to talk about STIs. I’m not a doctor. I am familiar with how things said on the internet are quoted out of context or read without full comprehension. I feel like these things need to be said anyway.
The way that I see it, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis are kind of like Strep Throat for your genitals. They’re all bacteria. They’re all easily cured with antibiotics if caught early. If you don’t catch and treat them early, they can cause serious damage to your body. Untreated Syphilis will eventually eat your brain, and kill you. Strep Throat can progress into Rheumatic Fever, which people used to (possibly still do) die from too. If you have one of these infections, it’s really freaking rude to pass it around. Do you see the parallels here? Sweet.
First let’s talk about catching things early. You’re aware of your throat. You’re aware of how it usually feels when you swallow and how things usually taste. You’re familiar with what your tongue and mouth look like on an average day. You know when something isn’t right. How aware are you of your genitals? Do you know how they usually feel? Do you know which parts are sensitive in which ways, what they look like in their resting and aroused states? If you have a vagina, do you know what goo happens during which parts of your cycle and what the typical texture and taste of these goos is? If you have a penis, I’m sure there’s some kind of equivalent, but I’m not qualified to speak on that. If you’re good friends with your genitals, you’re more likely to notice as soon as something out of the ordinary is going on with them. However, some STIs don’t show symptoms. Some people don’t show symptoms. Sometimes things get overlooked or written off as symptoms of another issue. This is why frequent STI testing is recommended, even if you’re diligently using condoms. Condoms can break, they can slip off, and they only cover part of the genitals. STIs can be transmitted through oral sex. STIs can be transmitted via shared toys, a finger that goes in a vagina and then into your mouth.
Moving on to how it’s rude to pass it around. If your throat hurts and you feel sick, I’d like to think you’d call out of work. I’d like to think that you’d wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough, and be careful about where you leave your tissues. You might warn people you’ve been in close contact with you’re sick and remind them to drink their orange juice. If it burns when you pee, you have an odd rash, or your genitals smell different than normal, I’d like to think you’d keep them in your pants until they can be assessed by a doctor. I’d like to think you’d immediately tell your sexual partners that they may have been exposed to something.
This paragraph is kind of random but definitely related: Most sexual education materials seem to have a worst-case scenario approach to what STIs look like and how they present. The most readily available pictures of each disease are, frankly, horrifying, but they don’t stop people from having sex. They don’t even stop people from having unprotected sex with near-strangers they’ve picked up at a bar. I think these worst-case images may actually contribute to an unrealistic feeling of ability to spot someone with an STI. For instance, you meet someone at a bar. They seem nice, smart, clean. You take their pants off later and see one small irritated bump. It could be a shaving injury or an ingrown hair. After all, it doesn’t look a thing like the cauliflower-like growths you’ve seen in pictures of HPV and certainly isn’t a blistered mass of angry red sores like the images of HSV2 (genital herpes) you were shown once in 8th grade. You really want to get your dick wet, and they *do* seem nice and clean. Maybe it is just razorburn, or maybe you end up with an incurable viral STI, partially because you were making decisions based on faulty information.
Why don’t we approach sexually transmitted infections the same way that we approach the flu or pinkeye? Why isn’t practical, easily understood information about STIs readily available? Why, in a world where Jenna Jameson is a household name and people can (and do) google up every sexual act imaginable to watch video footage of it, are we still so uncomfortable discussing sexual health?
There are plenty of sex positive and body positive lists and posts around on tumblr that try to combat the poisonous things especially people commonly identified as women get taught by mainstream society every day.
Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm to counter these things, they often end up just as prescriptive as mainstream and sometimes even ostracizing in their own right. Here’s a few things that they often don’t represent quite so positively, or sometimes represent not at all.
- The asexual spectrum is not an afterthought.
All too often, sex positive posts will slap on “Oh and also it’s okay if you don’t like sex.”, if they bring that up at all. For one, many people on the asexual spectrum do like sex. With themselves, with very specific partners, or when others do it, for example. They just don’t have any or have very little desire to have sex with other people. And these things are often ignored or relegated to an afterthought, even though there are important things to say here in the context of sex positivity. For example:
It’s okay to have a weaker or stronger sex drive than your partner/s. It’s okay to only like certain things and be repulsed by others, no matter how ‘common’ these other things are. It’s okay to have sex purely to make your sexual partner/s happy, if you yourself chose to do so. When your *ace partner/s doesn’t/don’t want to have sex with you, that is not a judgement on your character or your skills.
- STDs are equally less dramatic and more serious than you think.
Less dramatic because: STDs are not inherently a characteristic of irresponsibility, immaturity, thoughtlessness or promiscuity. Many STDs can, contrary to what the abbreviation implies, be in fact transmitted through other contact than sexual. Some are even hereditary. One of them, Herpes is in fact so common, chances are at least one person you know (or your yourself even) have it… a lot of herpes carriers are asymptomatic. And none of them have to have been sexually active to get it. (Since that is beyond the scope of this post, for some detailed info, you can start with Wiki). So getting an STD can happen in many ‘innocent’ ways… kisses, sharing food or drink, injections or injury, even by birth. And it can be passed on in committed, monogamous long term relationships as well as in casual one night stands.
And that’s also why STDs are more serious: you aren’t ‘safe from STDs’ just because you are a virgin, or married or use condoms every time. So don’t be ashamed to get tested sometime. It’s not a sign of shame. It’s not a sign of irresponsibility. It’s like doing a general check up… it’s simply a smart safety measure. (I am told that in the USA, standard STD tests can be taken for free in many places, btw. Standard tests do not normally include Herpes testing though, something to keep in mind.)
- It’s okay to be all about the orgasm.
You are not shallow or misguided if what you want out of sexy times is to come. For many people, orgasms are super duper. For some people, orgasms are the only good thing about sexy times at all. And that is okay. Don’t feel like you’re bad at sex positivity if you need to climax to be content. Sometimes. All the times. Once. Many times. It’s all good. And if you are someone who wants and needs to orgasm, it’s okay to get upset if you have sexy times and it doesn’t happen. As long as you don’t blame something or someone not actually at fault for it, be disappointed or sad or stressed. You are no less of a good person for it.
- It’s okay not to like the look of certain genitals, including yours.
Just because something is natural, it’s not automatically nice to look at for everyone. If to you penises look creepy or vulvas look gross, that is okay… as long as you realize that this your personal aesthetic preference, and says absolutely nothing about the owner of said genitals, nor about the function of said genitals. And if you think your own penis is too crooked, or your own labia are too wrinkly, that is okay too. It doesn’t automatically mean you’re manipulated by artificial beauty standards, or that you’re a tool of the patriarchy. What matters is why you feel that way, and what you are doing about it. Do the characteristics of your genitals negatively impact the things you like doing with them? Are you comparing them, and if so, to what? Is it only other people who say your genitals are ‘bad’ while you secretly think they’re actually okay? And if you dislike the shape of your genitals, is reshaping them permanently worth it (the money, the health risks) to you? Would you be happy if your partner/s (or you) simply don’t look at them? Maybe you just don’t enjoy oral sex? Maybe the right kind of underwear can make you feel sexier. You are under no moral obligation to like your parts. You are not a failure for doing something about disliking your parts. Just remember that your health and happiness come first, not the comfort of others.
- To shave or not to shave is not inherently A Feminist Issue.
Countless people shave or don’t shave for reasons that have shit to do with patriarchy and beauty standards. Health (both physical and mental), religion, clothing, personal aesthetics or physical sensation are all perfectly valid motivations for or against body hair. People may have problems with extremely coarse or curly hair or they may have thin skin that is easily cut by a razor blade. People may have OCD about body hair, or about shaved skin. People may have religious traditions that make shaving or waxing part of special celebrations, or disapprove of it in certain ways. People may like tight or thin light clothes that would get caught unpleasantly on body hair. People may like how their skin looks (or not) or how their hair looks (or not). People may enjoy the sensation of fabric on hairless skin, or of soft fuzz to pet. No matter what gender you are, your shaving or not shaving is only yours to judge and interpret.
- And finally: in many places, many sex and body positive tips don’t apply or apply differently to people who are not white.
Both cultural backgrounds and race and class issues (which are nearly always connected) can have huge impacts on body image and sexual expectations, and not every helpful feminist advice is actually helpful to people of colour and poor people, while there are probably some things that would be positive for them to see/hear, but that are never mentioned. (I won’t offer you in-depth examples, since it’s neither my area of personal experience nor my personal focus of activism, sorry.)
I’m sure there are more things commonly missed or misrepresented, but these are the ones I personally noticed the most while tumblr-ing.
Going with the orgasm thing, I think it’s also important to not focus sometimes on the orgasm because some people can’t orgasm. Orgasm isn’t the end-all of sex and we need to be talking about that.
Did you know that there is an exercise that you can do anywhere, anytime, in front of anyone that can intensify and improve your orgasms? It’s true! You can strengthen your pubococcygeus (mercifully abbreviated to “PC”) muscles just like you strengthen any other muscle, but without coughing up gym fees!
People of all genders have PC muscles… they’re an integral part of our body’s make-up, supporting all of our pelvic organs. The PC muscles are hammock-shaped and stretch from the pubic bone to the coccyx (tailbone), forming the floor of the pelvic cavity. These are the muscles you contract to stop yourself from peeing. They are also a huge part of orgasmic muscle contractions.
The exercises for developing PC muscles are called Kegel exercises (after Dr. Arnold Kegel, who “discovered” them) and they are very easy to learn. Basically, all you are doing is pretending to stop the flow of pee.
So. Clench your pee-stopping muscles. Do it! Yes, right now! No one is watching. There you go. Clench and unclench ten times in a row, playing with the length of time for each. Clench for two seconds, release for two. Clench and release 3 times in rapid succession, perhaps to the beat of your favorite song. You get the idea. Do three sets of 10 clenches, three times a day. That’s it! You can do these on the train, while watching TV, at work, anywhere! Just don’t do them while you’re actually peeing, because that could lead to urinary tract infections, which are no fun at all.
There are also toys you can purchase to help with Kegel exercises, such as the Energie kegel exerciser or the Njoy Pure Wand, which work pretty much like a regular barbell, except for the fact that one end is inserted into the vagina. Smart Balls are another good Kegel toy–they are jingling balls encased in silicone that are inserted into the vagina, where Kegels can be practiced by clenching and unclenching around the balls.
In no time you’ll notice your orgasms will increase in duration and intensity! Aside from the sexual benefits of exercising your PC muscles, these exercises have been proven to help with age-related and pregnancy related incontinence. So easy and so good for you!
PS: These are really helpful for people experiencing Pain during sex, working your muscles and becoming aware of what tenses up during intercourse is invaluable! That applies to all genders
#3 in my series “safety first”
breathplay safe! remember, you shouldn’t be strangling your partner- they should be able to gasp for air. pay attention and remember to also use a safety hand signal… the double pinch is a good one!
#2 in my series “safety first”
know your knots- a few handy ones
I’d also add - both of your brains have to be fully in the game. BDSM, just like any other ‘story’ requires care and WORK to be worth it. Otherwise punt and have cuddlesex, until you’ve got the time and energy and space to do it right.
The most basic difference between
S/M and abuse is Consent.
It is not consent if…
•You did not expressly give consent.
•You are afraid to say no.
•You say yes to avoid conflict.
•You say yes to avoid consequences (i.e. losing a job, losing your home, being outed).
•Done with respect for limits.
•Enjoyed by all partners.
•Fun, erotic, and loving.
•Done with an understanding of trust.
•Never done with the intent to harm or damage.
Just because you consent to play does not mean you consent to everything. You have the right to set limits.
i hear LOADS of people, on my blog and elsewhere, telling a story that goes roughly like this:
“i’m dating this person, and i’m really subby and i just KNOW my partner could be dommy if they tried, but they keep saying they don’t want to hurt me. i tell them i WANT them to hurt me, i’ve told them a million times, but they just can’t get into it.”
huge step-by-step advice post under the cut!
this is good advice.
What misconception about kinky people would you most like to clear up?
People who are into kink or BDSM aren’t
- Characters in some bad film/tv show/book. We don’t play some role. We aren’t 1 dimensional. We come from all walks of life, with and without baggage. We’re just like vanilla folks, just in another flavor.
- All into the same things. Some folks just like the power exchange. Some folks like sadomasochism. Some folks just like bondage. There are shades of gray.
- Victims of abuse or abusers in a number much greater than vanilla folks.
- Sexist, misogynist, oppressed, or victims/abusers of gender norms by default. I’m sure plenty of folks are attracted to BDSM and kink because they fit those roles, but I don’t think that represents everyone as a whole. I’m a feminist and I’ve met many feminists into ‘the lifestyle’. We’re intelligent people who have navigated this landscape carefully and with much introspection. I can honestly say that exploring BDSM has been one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done.