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50 Shades of Fucked Up: How BDSM in Film Fails Everyone

I've been seeing a lot of frustration and anger about the 50 Shades of Grey trailer that went up at some point in the last... week, I guess? I don't know. I haven't watched it and I'm not interested. I already livetweeted reading the first book and wanted to shoot myself in the face. I am ashamed for fan fiction writers everywhere that E.L. James is now a success, because she's an awful writer and her idea of romance is incredibly messed up.

I could rant about how 50 Shades is a manual for how to get women to eroticize abusive relationships, but there are many people who have done that. I could make fun of it, but that's been done too by people who are better equipped for that sort of thing. I am a Serious Feminist who has no sense of humour, so I'll leave it to those goofballs. ;)

But I'm also seeing people compare 50 Shades of Vom to Secretary, like Secretary was worlds better. Now, here's where I do that thing I do where I ruin everything that people love, but I think it's important to discuss anyway.

You've been warned: you are entering... the Feminist Killjoy Zone.

Secretary starts off suggesting that BDSM is a decent alternative to self harm. Which... I have weird feelings about. Is it used that way? Yeah, probably, but I think it's possible to still self harm using someone else and ethically I think that's fucked up.  Lee Holloway comes from an abusive household, perpetuating the "people into kink are messed up" story. And E. Edward Grey is also filled with trauma, possibly (probably) coming from an abusive relationship with his ex wife, and certainly having overcrossed his boundaries with other women before Lee. Which is fine, of course, and honest, that does happen- a lot of people have been touched by abuse, whether kinky or not, and while self harm isn't a path to kink, it can be for some. So... not great, but ok, fine.

Then you have Mr. Grey sexually assaulting his assistant.  I mean I have a whole other issue with the fact that of COURSE she's a secretary, and the tasks she's given are menial and often pointless, which says a lot about women's work. Perhaps it's a critique of that, perhaps not. But he sexually assaults his employee, and then she likes it and even tries to provoke him into doing it again. But fundamentally you have a person in power abusing that power and it's all ok because she falls in love with him.

Now, it's a cute romantic comedy in a lot of ways, and points out some interesting ideas about consent and agency (like the consensual but not enthusiastic sex Lee has with her boyfriend) so we forgive the problematic things, or at least push them to the side. They're still there, though.

And it doesn't stop there. I mean, I watched 9 1/2 Weeks after hearing what a sexy and kinky film that was. The scene that stuck with me, though, was not the food scene that everyone remembers, which is cute and playful and as someone who enjoys mixing food and sex here and there, I could appreciate it. No, the scene that stuck with me was the money scene. "We're going to play a little game", Mickey Rourke says, before throwing money onto the ground and lashing his belt at her while she crawls around, sobbing, grabbing for the bills as she's been told. "I don't want to negotiate with you- now crawl!" he demands, and it's incredibly dark and creepy and traumatising. Apparently the scene was cut on HBO, and I'm not surprised. It's pretty clearly abusive.

But here's the thing that gets me about 9 1/2 Weeks, what I think sets the scene for how BDSM between a dominant man and a submissive woman is portrayed.

In the book of 9 1/2 Weeks, the main female character is not a gallery worker looking for love like she is in the film. She's a successful, well-paid executive looking for casual sex that gets her off. She has agency, and she chooses this fling with a stranger because it turns her on, not because she hopes for love, and she certainly doesn't seem like she'd put up with a dominant type who makes her feel unsafe. In the movie, his dangerousness is part of the allure, part of what makes her desperate to please him.

Don't even get me started on The Night Porter.

I see that dynamic in BDSM relationships in real life, and it's really fucking concerning. Maybe I was brought up in a different kink, but I was always taught that a submissive should be self-sufficient and have agency, because if they gave you control because they were in control of themselves enough to give it, that meant something. If a submissive gave up control because they wanted no responsibility, that not only reflected poorly on them, but on the Dominant taking advantage of them. Codependency is not sexy, but you'd never know it to look at how male romantic leads in films, especially with a kinky theme, behave. I think there is harm done when the only depictions of BDSM (and most depictions of romance, to be honest) in popular media are abusive in nature. It's boring at best, and deeply troubling at worst.

But you know, it's not just how male dominants are depicted. Because female dominants are also shown in media, sometimes. Rarely. Almost always in heels and latex, slender and young and beautiful. If they're lucky, they get to be smart, though often never as smart as the male romantic lead (of which there is always one), and ultimately they desire to be overpowered and outsmarted by said male lead. And usually they're professionals, because obviously women aren't interested in kinky sex by themselves, they need a guy to persuade them in either case. Female dominants are depicted as bored, cold, mentally ill, only in it for the money, laughable, or some combination of the above... and the men they dominate are not seen as romantic possibilities, but pathetic. Their cries for their limits to be respected are the punchline of a joke, or meant to be humiliating. No wonder the male submissives in the kinky scene are so often completely lost about how to engage the female gaze or interest. There's no examples of it, really, except maybe subtext you look really hard for.

I think the difference in how male dominants and female dominants are portrayed is somewhat beautifully depicted in this proposal of what 50 Shades of Hogwarts would look like. The joke of this, of course, is that you have an older woman in a smart suit sadistically hurting a younger, pretty man she has systematic power over for her own pleasure, to exercise her power, and because on some level she thinks it's good for him.

Of course we'd never eroticize someone like that...



...well, not a woman, anyway.

PS: Wanna know what was the closest thing to a depiction of my kinky love life? Here it is.

Categories: abuse, bdsm, best of, bondage, books, community, consent, dating, media, misinformation, oh ffs, pop culture

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Femme Friday Review: Seagrape Soap

I'm not the most femme of the femmes. I'm new to skin care. I never used moisturizers, and even struggle to remember sunblock on a regular basis (I remember when it means I'm getting it rubbed into my skin by a babe, but otherwise, eh). Still, I've started to use lotions and such on my skin instead of ignoring it, and, fancy that, my skin is loving the TLC!

I am in love with my Seagrape Soap products, particularly the rose serum. And it's a requited love, judging by my skin's reaction to being massaged with rose serum on a daily basis for the past month. I don't have particularly oily or dry skin, just the occasional breakout- and the rose serum has made me skin feel glorious and soft without drying me out or making me feel greasy. Also it smells lovely! I've been using it when I wake up, especially as my makeup glides over it easily. It takes very little to get full coverage and feels pampering while also not taking a lot of time.

While the rose serum was my runaway favourite of the products I received from Seagrape Soap for review, I also got some massage candles (Dark & Sexy and Exotic Fields), a lip tint in Bad Girl, a solid shampoo bar in Tea Tree Lavender, and their Sexy Travel kit, which includes a massage candle (Deep Light), a cocoa honey dust, a bath soak (Aches & Pains), and a massage oil (also Deep Light). The only thing I haven't gotten to try yet is the bath soak, but it smells herbally and divine. I love earthy, green smells and this totally hits the mark.

The massage candles come in such incredible scents. As someone who can find vanilla cloying and lavender sleepy, I found the scents Seagrape Soap has created to be refreshing- the spiciness of Dark & Sexy, the freshness of Exotic Fields, and the tanginess of Deep Light are all pleasant, gender neutral, and harmonious. I also liked the way they melted into some really nice massage oil. And the travel sizes helps make these the kind of thing you can have in your purse "just in case", taking up the same space as a potted lip balm. Similarly the massage oil has a lovely scent and soaks into the skin beautifully, leaving you not feeling overly greasy or needing to reach for the bottle over and over again.

The cocoa honey dust falls into that realm of products that I often giggle at. I remember being a teenager and seeing the Kama Sutra branded edible dusts, which always tasted very much like flavoured dust. Why would one need a persuasion to lick their lover? But I know that I'm pretty adventurous and really into sweat, so I can see that for other people this would be a nice alternative. This one has a dryness to it, but it's not overly sweet, which I appreciated. If I want a sugar rush midsex I'd likely just use pixy stix, you know? Instead this is fun to sprinkle a bit on, lick it off, and, well, keep licking, which is the point of such things. As a foreplay item, it's pretty good. Keep in mind though that this tastes like cocoa, and not chocolate, or you'll be surprised!

I hadn't tried solid shampoo before and was curious. I didn't find that it lathered as much as I'm used to, but it didn't matter- this shampoo bar definitely did what it says on the tin. My hair felt healthy and light after use, really silky and nice to touch. You can also use it to shave and as a face soap, which I found I also liked it a lot for. If you want a solid option instead of Dr. Bronners, this may well hit all your marks. I don't have a dry scalp so I can't speak to how well it manages that, but it certainly made my hair feel luxurious.

Finally, there was the lip tint, a bright pink colour they called "Bad Girl". It's cute, and provides a very light colour, but as I tend to go for bolder looks I suspect this one will sit in my purse for when I want a more natural look. It glides on really nicely, and has a light amount of glossy finish- I just personally am more of a lurid colours kind of girl (as anyone on my Instagram may suspect)! If you like Burt's Bees, you'll love this.

All in all I would definitely use more of Seagrape's products. I'm curious to have Phil try out the shaving set, actually! The scents really did it for me, and I think a couple of them would make incredible scented moustache wax. Hey Seagrape Soap! Make moustache wax! :D

Thank you Seagrape Soap for providing me with these products in exchange for an honest and fair review (as well as giving me a chance to pamper myself!)

Categories: femme, femme friday, potions and lotions, review

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Go Deep: Lube Wrestling Capitalism is Slippery Business

I've done a variety of things in my life- fucking in coffins, clown sex on stage, human fox hunts, etc. I tend to enjoy dabbling on the outskirts of sexual and sensual exploration, and very few things raise my eyebrows, so experimentation is something I'm into. I joke that I have a fetish for novelty, and that's not far off the mark.

But strangely enough, I had never lube wrestled before last week. I know, right? Lube wrestling is one of those classic things that people do, and at least lube washes out, unlike oil and fake blood (which stains terribly). I debuted for the evening as Auntie Capitalism for Go Deep, a local queer lube wrestling event here in San Francisco, wrestling Big Business/Jetta Rae (who is a writer in her own right- you can find her piece on lube wrestling here, as well as her Patreon here).

When I think of lube wrestling, I mostly picture "sexy ladies" by mainstream standards, wrestling each other in tiny bikinis for the gaze of the men in the audience, who are shouting out obscenities and waiting for a top to fall off. I was happy to find that this particular event was meant as a safe space for queer people specifically, with straight people allowed but not catered to. I appreciated that free tickets are made available for queer folks, so that it's accessible. Also cool is that there's celebrities (who wrestle for a cause) and then random signups. The celebrity slots are limited and go quickly, so I missed out this time around- no big deal, as I wanted to feel it out without bringing too much notice to myself!

I was honestly pretty nervous. I'm somewhat clumsy, and I was already slipping on the floor when I got there. I've never broken a bone, and I definitely didn't want this event to be the first time! But Jetta and I had talked a few times about what the match was going to look like, and scripted it somewhat, so I at least felt confident that I had some vague outline for what would go down. I watched several other pairings have a go, too, observing what moves seemed to work and what didn't as I built up a strategy.

None of that mattered when we got in the ring. I knew I could throw my weight around with Jetta and so focused entirely on getting on my knees and staying there! Closer to the ground, harder to hurt myself, I figured, and at least this time I was right. Any and all strategy flew out the window as I tried to slide under her legs, slap her, and get her pinned. It was fast, furious, and totally invigorating. I appreciated how we'd grapple and she's take the opportunity of closeness to check in and make sure I felt ok. I felt remarkably safe, and while my muscles were sore the next day, I didn't hurt myself at all!

The best part though in my opinion was being Auntie Capitalism fighting Big Business. It was cathartic to wrestle, to channel some of the frustration I held towards capitalism and push it out of my body into squirming out of Big Business's grasp. The lube cascaded over our bodies, warm and wet, and I just wanted to push myself and give it my all. Fighting and then surrendering is hot whether in a lube pit or a bedroom, right? Of course, no matter how many people shouted for me to smash capitalism, Big Business ultimately won the bout (she would've anyway, that girl is fierce). I definitely plan to be back in the ring, though, so she'd better watch out!

Very appreciated was the showers available for after the lube wrestling. Being able to take a hot shower was pretty amazing. And because we're in a drought, I took it with Jetta, because conserving water, you know?

I think everyone won that bout, but I'll leave the details up to your imagination!

Categories: fetishes, lube wrestling, parties, personal, public, queer

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"Take Lamp": how GaymerX reignited my love of gaming

My first real game, the one I remember best, was Zork. Good old fashioned white text on a black background, I was obsessed with it, the challenges intrinsic in playing it, and the mythology attached. I read the books that came with the series obsessively, and even did a school report (sadly not preserved for posterity) on the Underground Empire for a class in school. Infocom ruled my childhood, inspired my imagination, and got me interested in storytelling. Part of what I loved so much about Zork was the lack of a player description. You were an adventurer, and that was that- no gender, no race, none of that mattered. All that mattered was exploration, creativity, and a willingness to accept that sometimes, if you planned poorly, you'd be eaten by a grue. I didn't even really think about my character, because it was just me, wandering through the map. There was no default, except for the person playing the game, whomever they were.

When I was a teenager I was introduced to the idea of MOOs, programmable environments that followed the MUD format but were excellent teaching opportunities by giving players the ability to explore other people's programs as well as creating your own. I participated in a MOO specifically for kids called MOOSE Crossing, which had a great sense of humour as well as a safe space to learn some basic programming. It was an incredibly supportive environment, and one where I not only made friends, but other female, geeky friends. You can read a bit about the experience in this thesis (see if you can figure out which character is me!)

But then, as I grew older, I felt more and more alienated by games. My parents tended to encourage me to play computer games that were based on problem solving, and when I initially wanted to stretch out into console games I didn't find anything easily that had the puzzles I had grown to love. I played Civilization, and Sim City, and Loom, and cursed endlessly at Myst, but couldn't get into console games outside of Gauntlet Legend. As a queer teenage girl struggling with weight, it made me feel sad to not find characters I could play that reflected my body type or my romantic inclinations.

So I stopped playing. Any gaming interests I had I pushed away, because Everquest seemed expensive, Second Life seemed kind of creepy, and shooting games bored me. I gave up being a gamer, because it seemed like games just had no interest in me as a consumer.

Then I found indie games. Indie games initially really inspired excitement in me, a thrill for gaming I thought was long gone.  It was refreshing to see different game mechanics, more focus on puzzles rather than realistic murdering people. Until I started to delve deeper, and realized that even these indie games, so overwhelmingly created by white straight dudes, repeated the same tired ideas, particularly about women. Yet again, male was the default, and you accepted that or don't play. Even worse, the developers (at least from what I witnessed online and in Indie Game) are incredibly sensitive manchildren who are prone to throwing fits if they don't get what they want. Sure, ok, they're artists, and these games are personal, but these are the SAME GUYS who tell other folks to kill themselves for giving critique or tell women they're being hysterical when we're upset by how they portray us. I felt like indie games were often WORSE than the mainstream games, who simply ignored me. Indie games started to feel actively hostile (and sometimes like they were just taking the piss).

There's nothing subversive about a white cis straight dude insulting me or my intelligence, whether he does that through gameplay or on the street. That's just the shittiness of normal life, and, as Merritt Kopas said this weekend on a panel about consent and interactive media, it's not even problematic, or edgy. It's just boring.

Last year, a friend from the internet suggested that I judge a cosplay contest for a gamer convention happening in SF. I didn't know that much about cosplay, but knew something about the format and costume contests, so I said sure. I knew it was a gaming convention specifically for queer people, which I figured meant a lot of white gay men, but the costumes would be interesting I figured. Then I met Matt Conn and Toni Rocca, and realized that GaymerX was a lot more than just PAX for gay guys who like Streetpass as much as Grindr. I felt safe there, as a femme. I went through the entire con never hearing a rape joke. The zero tolerance policy was implemented transparently and efficiently. The volunteers had so much fun they hung out together after the con was over because they still liked each other. This was someplace really, really special.

Even so, I dismissed a lot of the video games as not being really my thing, instead choosing to spend my time in the tabletop rooms. It was a defensive gesture, I realized, because I didn't trust that I'd find what I loved about games even at a queer gaming convention. I picked up games like Bears!, and played Fluxx, and shrugged off the way console games tended to ignore me. It wasn't anything new after all.

I did pick up a book that weekend in 2013, though. I picked up "Rise of the Video Game Zinesters" by Anna Anthropy, and began to read it, finding myself going from "hm yeah this is cool I guess" to "OH MY GOD I NEED TO MAKE MY OWN GAMES" in a matter of an hour. I learned about Twine and the push back to interactive fiction, I learned about games that were to teach rather than to "have fun", I learned that games didn't have to mimic the same bullshit I saw in the media all the time, but could be used as a subversive art form. As someone who has longed to be an artist, but is, instead, a writer, I realized that I could perhaps create games to communicate in a new way. I started playing the games I found on forest ambassador, a list curated by Merritt Kopas. I opened a Steam account. I got lost in the queer-friendly, riot-grrl-loving game "Gone Home", and I became inspired by the game industry writing of Mattie Brice.  I bought a 3DS, my first console in years, and began to try new games to see how I liked them. I fell in love with gaming again, in part because I found other people, outcasts in gaming who created worlds I wanted to dive into. Their games and their writing exploded my ideas, not just of the idea of what a game is or why people play it, but society in general.

This year I ran the cosplay pageant for GaymerX2, which was as amazing this year as it was last year (even if they didn't have a ball pit). I was delighted to see so many discussions about gaming and representation, along with call out culture working effectively to tell vendors when what they were selling were not ok. I was able to have intense conversations with lots of people and no one told me I was humourless or needed to lighten up. It's the world I wish I lived in all the time.

Anyway I did a discussion on cosplay and accountability. While I spoke I realized that cosplay and DeviantArt should be influencing game developers when they're trying to figure out characters to create for a new piece, because the desire for diversity is there. Learning about how Saint's Row 3 deals with race, gender and body size (via sliders) made me realize that this is not only something companies can do, but it's not nearly as difficult as they make it out to be (yes, I'm looking at you, Assassin's Creed, who inspired the best cosplay I saw all weekend). Also it MADE ME WANT TO BUY AND PLAY THE GAME, so obviously inclusivity works on a purely capitalistic level as well.

As the Queen of Cosplay, I gave out prizes for usual categories like Best in Show and Audience Favourite, but I also got to highlight crafting skills with Best DIY, femme representation with Best Glam, and queering characters with Best Queer Character. I realized Best Original Character should be a thing, too, to encourage people to cosplay their own characters and to let us know about them. I realized that offering prizes legitimized these areas of cosplay that aren't always seen or encouraged, and seeing people new to cosplay bring their all really made me feel teary and honoured.

It wasn't just about the outfits, either! I got a chance to enjoy a bit of the IndieCade game area at the con, and played a game about depression that spoke to me as an excellent way to describe to someone what it's like trying to get by when depressed. I felt that same thrill I used to have, a desire to explore, to learn, to problem solve. And no one told me I didn't belong for being a woman, or being queer, or even being a sex worker. I was a gamer too.

GaymerX2's tagline is #everyonegames. They really made space for that to come to life. I hope game developers take notice, and that people like me start making our own games, cross pollinating new ideas, mechanics and characterizations. This weekend made me excited about gaming again, and I'm glad.

Now I have some Card Wars to play.

Categories: best of, community, current events, games, queer, why I do what I do

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"Think of the Children" Is Rallying Cry... While Adult Sex Workers Primarily Arrested

I woke up yesterday morning to my Twitter in an uproar.

That’s reasonably common in my world, as many of the people I follow are marginalized and there’s a lot to be angry about. Turns out that the FBI has seized MyRedbook, a local site where masseuses and escorts could advertise for clients for free, and arrested Eric Omuro, 53, of Mountain View and Annmarie Lanoce, 40, of Rocklin in connection to “using the mail and the Internet to facilitate prostitution” as well as money laundering under several aliases. As of right now it’s not entirely clear if those arrests were the main focus of the sting, or if there will be more upcoming. It's terrifying to many people close to me who used MyRedbook to advertise their erotic entertainment services. Other options, like Eros, were too expensive or less trafficked by paying customers. We don’t really know what options sex workers who had profiles up on MyRedbook have to protect themselves from investigation.

I’m among them: I used to advertise on MyRedbook as a professional dominatrix. It’s a gray area of sex work, because strictly speaking it’s not prostitution (or maybe is- laws around sex and money are often purposefully vague). I chose it after advertising for years on Craigslist before it was pressured to shut down its adult services (along with Backpage). I didn’t find it to be the best site, but it had decent traffic and I got booked when I put in the effort to hustle. Advertising on the internet and communicating via email creates a paper trail in case I don’t come home some night (a reality many sex workers consider when booking clients), as well as offering the possibility of filtering clients, getting references, and blacklisting people who are bad customers. With MyRedbook, the forum for sex workers, MyPinkbook, is also gone, along with the resources it made available for sex workers to communicate with each other to stay safe when the police are not an option.

It’s interesting that every single time an adult site is shut down, “child prostitution rings” or “sex trafficking” are cited as the reasons. Companies like Google throw down big money to support these anti-trafficking measures, even though the statistics suggest the money lines the pockets of organizers more than it helps at-risk populations. I hear how we must think of the children, yet when you look at the statistics of who gets arrested, it’s vulnerable adult sex workers who end up in handcuffs. Teenagers who go into sex work are often assumed to have less agency than they do, studies have suggested- sex work provides a sustainable survival method for many homeless youth, male, female, trans and cis. So if they are not in the danger anti sex work feminists want us to believe they are, who is getting caught in these police webs?

I spoke to one woman who was arrested for sex work in 2010, the cops using money that was earmarked for child trafficking to instead waste manhours chatting her up over several days before coming in for the sting.

“They basically dicked around with me for days over email,” she said. “He said he had never seen anyone before and didn't have references but was willing to meet up with me at a cafe for a meet n' greet. Honestly? He spent so much time writing that I thought what fucking cop would have the time. There was no way that they could have mistaken that I'm on my own and of age- it's obviously not a way to target children or pimps.”

I asked my friend, who asked to remain anonymous, what the arrest process was like.

“Oh my god, there were five cops, multiple cars. It was a big ordeal. I was like seriously? This much time, this many people, all for little ol' me? And they leered, arguing over who got to escort me to the car. The cops asked me so many other really rude and inappropriate questions like... if I was pregnant, if I had any STDs, when my last period was. They took fifteen bazillion pictures of all my condoms, trying to shame me. The sheriff was even wearing a shirt with some sort of weird misogynist sexual innuendo.

It was kind of a jerkoff thing for them. They had the funds and they didn't have anything particularly better that they wanted to do than fuck with me. I was in a cell with a bunch of girls who *did* look young to me, all on the phone crying to their pimps. But as far as I could tell they didn't get the pimps and they didn't try to get the pimps. I went to court over it. My lawyer made the lovely argument that hitting me with a record would negatively impact my bright future... which of course is true for anyone, not just those who are white and middle class. But whatever, the case was dismissed.”

I asked her, “Did they even ask you if you were coerced?” I mean, in theory, the whole point of these stings is to save women who are being forced to do sex work by pimps, right?

Welp, they never asked. I guess they were too busy counting her condoms and asking about her sexual health. Makes it pretty clear who, and what, they “protect and serve”- white capitalist patriarchy.

May I remind you how often the police have raped women they're supposed to "protect". Like domestic violence victims. Or sex workers. In San Jose, where I live, a cop was arrested for raping a domestic violence victim after she called 911 for help. Never mind how well the police deal with rape even when another person wearing a badge isn’t involved… many police officers, when asked, hold to concepts of “rape rape” (violent stranger in the bushes) as the main definition they look for. It doesn’t particularly give me a lot of faith that the police are the best people to deal with the traumatised women and children that these rescue missions are supposedly for. Why anyone would think the prison industrial complex which fails women so often when it comes to rape reports and convictions would be the right way to go on this boggles the mind.

In short, no, I do not trust the police have my best interests at heart, and I'm a privileged white cisgendered woman. Basically, it seems to me that California is determined to ensure that women who go into sex work die on the streets, at the hand of an abuser who will go unpunished, or in jail. That would, of course, include me, and many people I know…. particularly the trans women and women of colour.

I asked my friend what she thought about the MyRedbook bust. She was pretty cynical.

“Let’s be realistic here. This isn’t about helping trafficked sex workers. They want his 5 million dollar property. I mean, that's some nice loot.”

Between this and the mandated condom bill, AB1576, I'm so grateful that anti sex work feminists care so deeply for our wellbeing that they're pushing sex workers to desperation by removing our only methods of making money without any solutions for how to survive financially. It’s great to see how they’re happy to offer us makeup and cupcakes but not practical resources like job connections, education funding, and medical support. What could possibly go wrong?

The next time you read some hysteria about child prostitution stings, look at who gets arrested and how the arrests go down. At-risk people are put at more risk by these measures, and it needs to be exposed for what it is- supporting, not women and children, but the corporate, patriarchal status quo.

Categories: abuse, activism, angry, capitalism, politics, power struggles, sex work is work, think of the children!, whores are people

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The Mean Girls of Lesbian Porn

“There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don't try to stop it.”
-Janis Ian

Judging from the popularity of using femme-on-femme makeouts to sell products from Versache to concert tickets, one would think that lesbian porn is a big seller, particularly here in the United States. The best thing a pop star can do to fan media attention is fake interest in another femme, after all, so we must be eating up lesbian porn. Right?

Studies indicate that this isn’t true, however. in the United States, Pornhub tells us that MILF, creampie, and teen genres are the top categories, and the only place lesbian porn even places in search engines is in the UK (interesting, considering selling fisting and squirting content is illegal). I hear a lot that men love lesbians, but for all that men complain about penises in their porn, the statistics suggest they vastly prefer heterosexual porn to the girl-on-girl genre.

It’s not like women are buying this porn, either. First off, CCBill reports it’s pretty rare that women’s names are listed when purchasing porn through their service… and they’re pretty much the big game in town for XXX content. Lesbians are bored with the standard tropes, the lack of body diversity and the heteronormativity even of the sex shown between women. It’s not queer sex the way a lot of us have it, is the standard complaint. The LA mainstream porn industry is learning it needs to evolve or die, which may explain their sudden interest in feminist and queer porn.

I’ve been watching a discussion on social media about lesbian porn, particularly on whether or not trans women should be included, spurred by performer Chelsea Poe. She asked why lesbian porn companies refused to work with trans women, pointing out that trans women are women and therefore the lesbian genre is an appropriate place for them to perform. In exchange, she was bombarded with accusations that she and other trans women were part of some grand conspiracy to rape cisgendered lesbians. Despite Poe’s mentioning of the lack of women of colour or plus sized women in lesbian porn, women of colour and plus sized women were not accused of attempting to rape lesbians by asking about more inclusive policies… just trans women.

How terribly typical.

Now what’s interesting is that when critiqued about their narrow vision of what lesbians look like, self-identified “gold star” lesbian porn performers (ones who had never had sex with men) spoke up strongly in defense of continuing to focus the vast majority of their content on white, slender, femme, cisgendered women. “This is how we’ve always done it”, they said, “and this is what’s marketable”. I've heard performers like Betty Blac get similar treatment as a BBW performer who is also black- over and over again, she's told that she can be black, or BBW, but to be both is to occupy too many niches for mainstream work.

So it basically comes down to “you can’t sit with us”.

Well, I call bullshit on marketability. How would you know, if you haven’t tried making several examples of the content? In order to make such a claim, you need a control group (how you’ve always done it) and several examples of doing it differently (your samples). When I asked TroubleFilms director/producer Courtney Trouble about the success of their film Trans Grrrls, which features trans women matched with cis women, they told me that it’s their #1 bestseller when it comes to profits… and it’s only been out since September of last year. They also told me that Queerporn.TV launched with a scene featuring Drew Deveaux (of 2012’s cotton ceiling debate) with Mickey Mod, and that of their 5 best selling performers, two are trans women, three are women of colour, and one is plus sized. Every application from cis women includes requests for trans women as co-performers, too, for those who seem to be worried about nonconsentual partnering.

Sounds like there is, in fact, money to be made from moving past the world of “niches”.

Tobi Hill-Meyer, director and producer of Doing It Online, a sex positive site centering trans women, said similar in an interview at Original Plumbing:

“Mainstream audiences are only ever shown one thing, so that’s what they demand. Producers meet that demand because they get blowback whenever they deviate...Everything is so compartmentalized and formulaic, there’s a strong possibility of losing customers if they change anything. Still, change has to start somewhere. And I think mainstream porn producers often underestimate their audience and how many people would be really excited to see a departure from the same old same old.”

I agree. I remember when I first got my hands on On Our Backs. It was the first lesbian porn magazine focused on a lesbian audience, and it entered the world the same year I did. Looking through the archive (which sadly appears to no longer be online) I saw images of women of colour, fat women, butches and femmes, fisting, S & m, strap ons and muff diving. You know who wrote a piece for the magazine? Christine Beatty, who is credited in her bio as a transsexual and a lesbian… in 1993. People laughed at the idea of a lesbian porn magazine marketed towards lesbians, and On Our Backs was published for 22 years. The protests that no one wants to buy porn featuring an actually diverse range of women seem to ring rather false under that kind of scrutiny.

How is it that 20 years later, we’re still arguing that lesbian porn is for cisgendered women only? Or white women? Or slender women? It’s not even an issue of “times changing” - “real lesbian porn” had begun this process while I was still carrying a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lunch box.

“But the porn I make isn’t political, politics aren’t my problem,” is the other thing I hear a lot. *The sex we have is political* whether we like it or not, never mind the filming of it. When I was born, queer sex was illegal in half of the United States. 14 of those states only overturned their sodomy laws (and yes, that included lesbian sex) in 2003. Depictions of fisting and squirting are still questionably obscene, and erotic film festivals in the US tend to shy away from showing them. Filming porn is only definitely legal and considered protected by the First Amendment in California and New Hampshire. The AIDS Health Foundation is trying to mandate safer sex barriers in all porn filmed in California via bill AB 1576, which might also consider any errant drop of fluid on set to be in violation of the new (and vague) policy. Porn isn’t political? Well, tell that to the judge, I guess.

In the meantime, all I can say is… beware of Plastics. Cold, hard, shiny Plastics.

Read more on this topic by checking out the interview in Original Plumbing between Tobi Hill-Meyer and Courtney Trouble (part one and part two), which tackles a lot of things around queer trans women and representation.

Categories: activism, angry, current events, don't tell me how to live, fat is fit, politics, porn, queer, sex work is work, trans

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Online Dating: Fun with Tinder

So I'm on this secret dating group, and it's where I go to gave femme talk about my lovers, as well as live vicariously through other women and hear about the online dating triumphs. Or, more often, the pitfalls, of which there are many. We all have our different techniques, of course. There's women on there who swear by OkCupid, others that use niche fetish or swinger sites, still others that use Tindr. Some of us use more than one, depending on what we're looking or in the moment.

Now, I met my partner on OkCupid, so I think it's a reasonably good way to meet people who are a little alternative (poly, kinky, nerdy, artsy, queer, etc). The risk, of course, is that the men of OkCupid tend to not know how to initiate a conversation with a woman, and their messages are often pretty one dimensional at best, forcefully entitled at worst. Pictured here is a conversation I didn't get from OkCupid, but from Facebook... still, you get the idea. I get messages like this all the time, and yet OkCupid offers so many opportunities to discuss interests. I get bored going through so many messages from men who just want to put their dicks in something, anything warm, that I began to turn my sights towards something new.

Enter Tinder. Hailed as sort of like Grindr but for mostly straight people, mashing up the instant judgment of Hot or Not with the one liners of OkC. You check out a photo, swipe left for no, swipe right for yes, and if they like you too, then you can message each other. You can write a mini profile, about a tweet's worth of information, and post a bunch of photos to highlight your "personality", by which we mean "your body, and maybe your style". The trick is, you can never delete your profile, so it makes it really easy to continue to use the service, even if you're in a committed relationship. Since Tinder records when the last time you checked in was and broadcasts that, some couples find themselves checking up on each other... especially if they met on the service.

It can be difficult to stand out so someone bothers to look at your profile. Many of the men I've encountered fail in this regard- photos of them as part of a group as a main photo (which one are you? left swipe) or with a woman cropped out (seriously, that just seems awkward, left swipe) or just blank faced boring selfies (c'mon, you didn't even try?). But some intrigue me- I've found guys riding camels, jumping out of a plane, and this guy to the right, who didn't have a personal photo, just a picture of his cat. To be fair, I would love to go on a date with this cat, because he looks incredibly snuggly and that fur...! Even still, I definitely left swipe more than I right swipe, because I don't have a lot of free time, and it takes a very particular kind of guy to pique my interest. I kind of figure most of them will want to engage in inane conversation like the first dude, and no thanks.

But yesterday I right swiped on this guy. He hit all my marks- he's hot, certainly, has a lot of interesting tattoos, and is shirtless cooking in the kitchen. Um, yes please! I liked what his photo communicated- he's comfortable doing the cooking, he knows that women want to look at sexy man flesh and he's happy to oblige, and he knows how to take a decent picture. I messaged him, complimenting his photo, and we actually got to chatting about queerness, my porn work, and what we were on Tinder for (he did express surprise that I was "willing" to talk to a black guy, which broke my heart more than a little... racism sucks). When I said I was more browsing than shopping, he was understanding, asking me questions about my work that managed to be curious without being invasive. He didn't challenge my queerness, and was flirty without being pushy. He also NEVER talked about sexytimes, which made me feel a lot more comfortable with him. I wasn't expecting to find someone to have a hookup with, but frankly, his attitude was so good, I'm kind of tempted! (also I got his consent for using the image for this)

It made me realize that I don't think many men understand how to create a good, eye catching, clit-throbbing dating profile. A good picture is really important, guys. We judge you, not just on your looks, but what you're doing, if you seem to be having a good time, how confident you seem to be. If your photos show you surrounded by women all the time in a trophy kind of way, we'll likely assume you're not that interested in women as people. If you're particularly sporty in your pictures, we'll figure you'll want someone vaguely athletic. Basically we try to imagine being in the same place as you, and if we can't, we usually keep going. It's the same when women are looking at other women, though frankly I do suspect queer women read profiles more. We know how important words are the the seduction process.

Would you be interested in a constructing an online dating profile guide, at least one according to my own techniques?

Categories: dating, fat is fit, female gaze, female sexuality, male sexuality, personal

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Review: Super Hung Heroes - The Amazing Web Shooter

I took one look at the dimensions of this dildo from Shevibe and realized that in my vagina's current state of not having much penetrative sex, this was not gonna be the dildo for me. Too girthy, too textured! I find myself sometimes writing cheques my body can't cash and this was one of those times.So I gave it to my partner Phil N LeBlanc, who's a Spiderman aficionado, and told him to put it in his butt. Here's his review!


So today I'm reviewing the novelty Spiderman dildo, The Amazing Web Shooter, from Doc Johnson. 

That is a big focal point for this particular product: novelty.
To say I was intimidated by this dildo when we first got it is putting things mildly. I mean hell, the entire reason I ended up being the one doing the reviewing for this toy is that when Kitty got it in the mail, she took one look at it and said "There's no way that'll fit inside me, you've got to do this review."
The thing is for me, this toy has its usability problems, but size isn't really chief amongst them. Yes, it is intimidatingly wide (5.3" in girth, whew) - though the penetrable portion of the dildo is fairly short (5" insertable). Openings tend to stretch though, so it's not the wideness that will get you, rather it is the firmness.
This toy is so made from such a rigid silicone, it might as well actually be attached to a life-size action figure of Spider Man himself. It is painfully inflexible and doesn't have any sort of softness or give to it when squeezed. Furthermore, they've attempted to put a sort of realistic texture on it, but based not on flesh but rather based more on the sort of bodysuits that Spider Man wears in the live-action movies. Coupled with the firmness of the plastic, this gives it almost a sandpaper-like consistency on it which means you'd not want to use it without a condom on it, period.
That said, that brings me to the real question that I'd like to raise in reviewing this particular toy which is - are you really even supposed to use it as an actual sex-toy? To which I'd say for most people, the answer is no.
To me, this particular dildo is really a classic example of the 'novelty' adult toy. It looks GREAT, as far as visual appearance sake, the texture that they got on it is spot-on, and while the ridges are a bit TOO pronounced for comfortable use, they got the 'spider web' pattern detailing that the costume is known for fantastically.
If you are a fan of Spiderman, or comics in general, I HIGHLY recommend this product just as a fun shelf-piece. For novelty purposes it is a FANTASTIC looking piece. If you're looking for a usable dildo however, you may want to stick with one of the more standard models from Doc Johnson.I have to admit I'm sorely tempted by the toys that have less texture but fun costume possibilities: the Hammer and the Captain Cock come to mind!

Thank you SheVibe for sending us this toy in exchange for an honest and fair review!

Categories: dildo, review, Shevibe, silicone, toys, toys for boys

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Tested: STIs, Shame, and Reactive Healthcare

Yesterday I got tested at Planned Parenthood for STIs - I had a condom break and better safe than sorry. All in all it was a positive experience, and I'm glad to have a place I can go and feel not-shamed about the kind of sex I'm having (I didn't have to define any terms, either, which was kind of a relief... when I go to a doctor I'd like to not have to educate them!)

I asked a bunch of questions about sterilization (which I still really want to do) and about my nonhormonal birth control options. Apparently I was relaxed enough while getting tested for them to be surprised, as I'm not afraid of needles of blood.

Of course while there, I asked to be tested for a full panel of STIs, expecting that a full panel would cover everything I needed to know about to be safe as a porn performer and as a nonmonogamist.

Here's what I'd expect to be tested for, as a porn performer who sleeps with men who have sex with men:

HIV
Hepatitis
Syphilis
Gonorrhea
Chlamydia
Trichomoniasis

What I'd love to be tested for as well, as best we can:

Herpes
HPV (which I believe I was vaccinated against while in the UK, but I like to be sure)

What, when I asked for a full STI panel, were they going to test me for?

Gonorrhea and chlamydia.

When I underlined that I was a porn performer who had sex with men who had sex with men, they added HIV. I had to pretty firmly ask for syphilis to be covered, citing the rise of syphilis among adult performers. I want you to keep in mind that a porn performer was JAILED for "knowingly spreading syphilis", and while Talent Testing now includes syphilis in their full panel, they didn't always. Planned Parenthood felt that even though I engage in what is called "risky behaviour", I wasn't a high enough risk for syphilis- they would only test me if I showed symptoms. That scares me, especially with something like syph, which is often asymptomatic for long periods of time. I'd rather not wait til my skull is being gnawed away before I get treated- and syphilis is most easily treated within a year of getting it.

I realized that most people would not be honest about the sex they're having, or who they're having it with. They might not know the status of their partners. They might feel ashamed to ask to be tested in the first place, something I think isn't helped by having to wait until you're showing symptoms. Never mind that there are too many cases where people with HIV are murdered when they tell people, which is enough to scare anyone off of honesty. You can be thrown into jail for not telling your sexual partner you have HIV, even if you use a condom, making the risk incredibly low. Ads about STIs are scary, threatening, personifying people with STIs as insects or violent dictators.

Even the sex positive community is often not well-equipped to handle people with positive test results. People admitting they have HPV or Herpes 1 is still pretty rare, and I get around. I personally stay tested as best I can, but with less and less funding towards places like Planned Parenthood, it's becoming more difficult to know for sure what my status is. There's this erroneous belief that condoms prevent you from getting anything, or that only penis-in-vagina or penis-in-anus is risky. GONORRHEA OF THE EYE, PEOPLE. It exists. That's why I worry about AB 1576, or mandated condoms in porn. And that's why I worry about how shocked and scared people are of bug-chasing porn. I think as long as having an STI is dangerous and taboo, we're going to see people flocking to risky behaviours, either for excitement or out of fear and shame.

We need to realize that people cheat in their relationships. People don't always tell you when they have something, and they may not always know. They may also think they're getting tested for everything, and really only getting tested for 2-3 possibilities. Getting tested for STIs should just be a habit - I slipped out of the habit of being tested every three months and I regret it, because it was a good habit to be in. I'd love to see people talking honestly and openly about their status, no longer afraid of rejection or violence. I've realized that if I end up discovering I have an STI it's not the end of the world. Look at Natasha Lyonne, who has hepatitis C. She's doing all right. Issac Asimov died of AIDS. Perhaps the more we destigmatize STIs, the more we can push for proactive rather than reactive healthcare. Knowledge is power, after all.

Categories: activism, best of, personal, reflection, safer sex, sex myths, sexuality

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Why I Wear Sexy Lingerie

I went to the Curvy Girl Lingerie Show this weekend with Virgie Tovar. I was excited to hear about a lingerie store catering to plus sized bodies, but have to admit I was a little uncertain. As someone who does erotic performance, I've had a rough time finding underwear that fits comfortably on my body but also looks really cute and isn't super cheap, material-wise. I haven't found much, which is why I often buy my underwear from Marks and Spencer out in England!

I needn't have worried. Chrystal Bougon, owner of Curvy Girl Lingerie, had an amazing collection on show, and, even better, displayed gloriously on all sorts of bodies (not just 2x!). I saw things on the runway I wanted to wear, and in all these different cute styles. Not just baby dolls and ruffled panties, either, but all different styles, fitting up to at least a 6x (with the owner wanting to go even bigger with her selection!) And the thigh highs made me drool too (by Kix'ies, which Virgie had pointed out to me earlier and I need to get ON that train).

Lingerie holds a special place in my heart. I mean, part of it is because I'm a femme, and lingerie feels like a particularly femme luxury. Lacey, satiny, soft, see through, floaty or tight, it's all good as far as I'm concerned, though there's a special place in my heart for the things I can wear, hidden, underneath my clothes as a secret self love or, sometimes, as a special surprise for a partner. And of course, in porn I like to have a lot of different looks, so I'm always looking for new possibilities!

The problem is, though, that there's few enough stores that carry plus sized lingerie, never mind plus sized lingerie that actually looks and feels good on my body. A lot of the choices out there are modeled on women who are, at biggest, a size 12, which doesn't really tell me how it might look on me. I'm tired of buying lingerie that doesn't really fit my body because "true to size" means different things to different companies. I'm tired of having to choose between things I can't actually try on and feel on my body and very plain, functional underwear, or underwear that falls apart after one wash. Curvy Girl Lingerie showed me that I had an option (though it's apparently the only plus size lingerie shop in the US. Seriously???)

What was particularly nice about the fashion show was seeing how various pieces looked on bodies like mine, and Chrystal was really helpful in explaining what the sizing was like from each brand. A 2x can fit me in one brand but not in another, so the diversity of bodies showed me how they REALLY looked on.

But the big plus was seeing the confidence on the women as they walked the runway for us. I haven't been in many spaces that cater to fat femmes, and it was really amazing and special to be surrounded by gorgeous women of all ethnicities, ages, and body types walking around, reflecting their own styles and what makes them feel good. I appreciated that not all the models wore heels, for example. Some were professional models, others were not. I felt honoured that they would put themselves out there in this way, as we're not a society that encourages fat bodies to feel good in their skin, never mind sexy.

Also nice for me was that Lelo, one of my favourite sex toy companies, sponsored the event (and VIPs got some pretty awesome toys!). I appreciated the underlining of self love at this event, that sex (our sexual pleasure, at that) was on the table. Even fat bodies in lingerie are sometimes desexed, shown reluctantly as existing but only when it comes to marketing lingerie for wearing very much in private, or as part of an art show. I think it can be easy to forget or overlook just how often fat bodies are not seen or given the same exposure as slender bodies, or even athletic bodies. When we don't see ourselves represented, it becomes easier to engage in self-loathing, and easier to ignore our own sexual feelings, disassociating from our bodies.

I feel particularly lucky as Curvy Girl Lingerie is down here in the South Bay, so I can pop by there as often as I like. And I plan to- I can already imagine the photo shoots and sexyfuntimes I could have with this chemise, or this babydoll, or this bodystocking! Mmmmmhmm.

I remember when I really hated my fat body. I would wear baggy mens jeans, and baggy teeshirts, not because I liked them but because I was afraid of my rolls. I was afraid people would see my cellulite and laugh at me. Thankfully I had a lover who suggested I throw away all my high waisted cotton granny panties and replace them with thongs, with mesh, with cute patterns and bright colours. And even with that simple little change, I began to feel more confident, wear more skirts, enjoy getting dressed. Now I love fashion, but in order to feel that way I had to love my body.

When I wear lingerie, I feel powerful in my femme-ness. Especially when that lingerie fits my body well, doesn't dig into my armpits or strain to cover my stomach. I feel like it's a validation that yes, women with bodies like mine CAN wear sexy stuff if we want, and that we have options that embrace classics like red and black or leopard print, but that also follow the trends with coral and seafoam green.

I'm grateful to Chrystal for all the work she does in proving that, as well as all the models who put themselves out there. And thanks, Virgie, for recommending I go!

Be sure to check out the #losehatenotweight giveaway I'm doing with Virgie! It's for the Hot and Heavy audiobook, which features a piece I wrote among other incredible stories!

Categories: #losehatenotweight, body stuff, community, fat is fit, femme, lelo, lingerie