Browsing posts from the category Musings


May
28

Oh Joy Sex Toy webcomic wins our hearts

Oh Joy, Sex Toy

Okay, we seriously can’t get enough of Oh Joy Sex Toy, a new webcomic from cartoonist Erika Moen! True, it’s all about sex toys, so we were bound to love it. But Moen is both excessively talented and a Portlander!

Tackling sexuality in her comics is not new to Moen, as evidenced by her past works “Silver Bullet”  (the tale of her first vibrator), “GirlFuck” (an illustrated guide to “girl-on-girl lovin'”), and her “patron saint of the Hitachi” illustration which graces the walls of Chicago’s Early to Bed. But Oh Joy Sex Toy as a comic will be uniquely focused on sexuality issues:

Oh Joy Sex Toy (OJST) is a weekly comic that debuted April 2013 and updates every Tuesday to bring you reviews of everything that relates to sex, sexuality and the sex industry. From toys to workshops to birth control and much more, no stone will be left unturned, no vibrator left unused, no nipple left unpinched. With the aid of guest reviewers, this comic will cover products for ALL the different anatomies people posses, from vulvas to penises and beyond. OJST strives to be relevant to all different genders, body types, and sexualities.

Thus far, Moen has written about her love for the Hitachi Magic Wand (err, just the Magic Wand now), her experience at a Disney-themed edition of Queens of the Pole, her affinity for Pink silicone lube, and her husband’s experience with a Fleshlight. Every week, it’s been a delight to see which topic/toy is covered, and the comics are always adorable, amusing, and informative. Plus, those Anal Safety Snails may just be the best cartoon characters ever.

Keep your eyes peeled for new editions of Oh Joy Sex Toy each Tuesday. The comic is being serialized over at Bitch as well. You can follow Erika Moen on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and her main site.

  Musings      , , ,  
May
22

Dildology: material verification of sex toys!

Dildology

Did you know that the sex toy industry is largely unregulated? It is much more of a wild west than most consumers realize. Companies can actually make their toys out of any mish-mash of material they want, then slap false claims on the packaging such as “100% silicone” and “phthalate-free” — with no recourse or accountability.

The only regulations are the ones put in place by ethical manufacturers and shops who vow to only use and carry body-safe materials. We’re very discerning about our selection, as we believe consumers should not be subjected to toxic materials (nor should they have to search high and low for answers about what their sex toys are made out of!). This is why we are a partner at the Coalition Against Toxic Toys and a member of the Progressive Pleasure Club, a network of indie sex toy shops committed to safety and education. Together, we keep each other informed and accountable.

But unsafe toys continue to be manufactured, and packaging continues to lie, and there is no governing body to put a stop to it.

Enter Dildology. Founded by a former sex shop manager, a rouge blogger, and a technologist, Dildology is a new non-profit organization which independently verifies the material content of sex toys. After a toy has been tested in a lab, the results are posted on the public Dildology Wiki. Ultimately, Dildology will add transparency and oversight to the sex toy industry while also educating the public about the science behind sex toys. We’re very excited about this!

With a big end goal of $20,000, though, Dildology is in dire need of donations. They have over $1,000 so far, but considering that testing a single toy can cost $200-450, more funding is definitely needed (thus far they have sent the Jimmyjane Hello Touch to a lab and confirmed that it is indeed 100% silicone). Dildology is also hoping to get enough votes on Offbeatr to start crowdfunding on there.

We’re really glad that this organization has been created. The industry has needed something like it for a long time now. If you agree, donate here and read more posts about the importance of Dildology. You can also follow Dildology on Facebook and Twitter.

May
13

Hitachi Magic Wand, minus the “Hitachi”

It looks like our old friend the Hitachi Magic Wand is getting a bit of a facelift. Notice anything? Yep, the word “Hitachi” is being dropped from its name.

Don’t panic — it’ll always be the powerhouse we’ve always loved. But, as it turns out, Japanese company Hitachi has grown weary of having its name attached to a device far more well-known for its pleasure-inducing properties than its “intended” purpose of massaging sore muscles (although it does that quite well, too!).

Despite the fact that the Magic Wand has been in production for over 30 years, Hitachi planned to cease production of the product. Thankfully, distributor Vibratex stepped in with a better idea: simply remove the word “Hitachi,” and in turn, prevent all-out pandemonium among the masturbating public.

Laura Anne Stuart, owner of the Tool Shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, attended the International Lingerie Show this year and reported back about the changes. Aside from the re-branding, the toy will have stronger construction and updated componentry, making it even more durable than before. Stuart found the new model to be satisfactory indeed:

I held a new Wand in my hand at the show, and it felt just as powerful to me, with the same intensity of vibration. The minor adjustments that Vibratex made cause the toy to be less jerky when turning on and off and will reduce the extremely small number of defective wands to almost zero. The handle has been reinforced to decrease the vibrations that are transmitted to your hand (rather than to the head of the toy), and the switch circuitry has been improved. In my opinion, you can feel these changes when holding the toy, but not when applying the head of the Wand to a body part.

The Hitachi Magic Wand rose to orgasmic fame in the ’70s, when feminist sex educator Betty Dodson featured it in her book, Liberating Masturbation, and talked it up in her workshops. It’s been a cult classic ever since, much loved for its incredibly powerful vibrations and broad, tennis-ball-sized head. It’s so popular that quite a few attachments have been invented for it, and a sex pillow was even designed specifically to hold one.

An old box for the Hitachi Magic Wand

So sometime in the next few months, our Hitachi Magic Wands will be replaced with updated Magic Wands. And while we’ll miss the box featuring delightful photos of’80s ladies innocently massaging their backs, we’re relieved that Vibratex jumped in and ensured the posterity of the toy that many refer to as “the Cadillac of vibrators.”

Apr
29

Let’s make sex normal!

Card deck made by Traci A. Giuliano, Professor of Psychology at Southwestern UniversityWhat does it mean to make sex normal? To Debby Herbenick, a research scientist at Indiana University and sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute, it means discussing sex openly and honestly in everyday life. Her new project, Make Sex Normal, shines a spotlight on all the people who do this — and the many avenues they utilize.

Herbenick was initially bummed out by the 2012 election season, when various political snafus highlighted the unfortunate state of sex education in the country. She thought about how discussions about sex are often confined to sensational media portrayals, with little room for a multi-faceted, realistic approach. The light bulb went on when she considered her own experiences:

. . . she realized that she and all her sex-positive colleagues “have experienced firsthand how quickly sex becomes normal and everyday when we’re in a bubble of people who talk about it, who have sex books on their bookshelves, who teach about it, and who talk about it like it’s no big deal.” She wondered, “If more people engaged in everyday acts of sex-positivity, would change happen more quickly?”

We can only hope! Herbenick’s idea is to give a virtual pat on the back to the people who help make sex, bodies, and gender a part of everyday conversation. So far the project features photos from sex shop owners, bloggers, sex educators, sexuality conference attendees and presenters, writers, sex therapists, students, and regular ol’ folks, with photos of everything from sex-positive burial tombs to vulva art and crafts.

It’s great to see the ways in which even single individuals are making a difference: a creator of a deck of cards meant to spark conversation around sexuality, a person who casually leaves sex-themed books on their bookshelf for friends to peruse, a mom who blogs about sex and motherhood, someone who hands out safer sex materials at Pride parades.

The site also features the Redhead Bedhead, whom visited us for her Superhero Sex Shop Tour back in December (the tour’s over now, but she continues to publish profiles of the shops she visited — check ’em out!). Also, as big fans of Early to Bed in Chicago, we loved this picture of owner Searah Deysach’s mom helping pack up vibrator kits. And you cannot stop your heart from being warmed by this picture of legendary sex educators and partners Carol Queen and Robert Morgan Lawrence at the closing keynote of CatalystCon. Their talk was extremely moving.

If you’ve been into She Bop, you probably noticed that we also follow a philosophy of normalizing sex. It’s not hard for us — we’re used to talking about vibrators, dildos, and lube all day. We also understand how tone, body language, and word choice can help put customers at ease. But most of all, we believe that sexuality is healthy and worthy of discussion and attention. With Make Sex Normal, we know that are not alone in this crusade.

  Musings     
Apr
16

Uberlube and the many uses for silicone lube

Überlube

If you’ve ever wondered just what kind of research and development goes into lube creation (and we sure did!), you’ll love this article in the Chicago Reader that details the story behind Überlube. We just added Überlube to our shelves, having been impressed with its light, effortless feel and high-quality glass bottle. Now that we know the whole story, we appreciate it even more!

Here’s how Überlube came to be: Stephen Magnusen and Franz Zwergel were best friends since high school. After college, they lived together working various jobs: selling security products, modeling, producing hair shows. They were on the hunt for a business endeavor they could enter together, but no ideas were sticking until one night in 2002 when a friend described something using the invented word “überlube.” The word struck them. Nobody was making an actual product called “überlube,” so that is what they set out to do — create a lubricant that fit the adjective’s definition: the best, the greatest, beyond the norm.

Neither guy had a background in chemistry or much knowledge about lube, but they had connections: hair salon friends, a chemist father. They set up a lab in a basement in Wisconsin and began a rigorous testing schedule, and soon, they were self-made lube experts:

After almost three solid weeks of 12-hour days, their experiments grew increasingly obsessive-compulsive. Zwergel remembers them like this: “‘OK, now stick your arms out; I’m going to pour A on your left and B on your right.’ And then we’d test each other and put the same product on both arms. That’s when we knew we were getting burned out — when we started calling out differences between the same product.” One of Magnusen’s fonder recollections is of an experiment wherein he attempted to set Zwergel on fire to test the product’s flammability: “Some of our ingredients said that they were scorchable,” he says. “So we had Franz in the kitchen covered in Überlube and I had my creme brulee torch and I went to town on him. And I was unable to light him on fire.”

Magnusen even went so far as to invent a device to test lubricity. And three months later, after testing tons of formulations and extensively polling their friends, they found the winning formula. There are only four ingredients — dimethicone, dimethiconal, cyclomethicone, and tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E) — but they’re high-grade, with very specific proportions.

“I remember trying a new composition and calling Franz to tell him I think we have it,” says Magnusen. “It had all the fine qualities we were looking for, and I knew it the second I dabbed it on my wrist. Unperceivable tack. Zero foaming. Highly lubricious. Acceptable combination of sensation versus slip. And it had the one thing we really wanted to get right but didn’t know if it was possible: it lasted while I was using it and dissipated when I was done. I was totally psyched.”

When Überlube hit the market, Magnusen and Zwergel celebrated with shots of Überlube. Yes, Überlube in shot glasses, right down the hatch.

That’s a little extreme, but actually, silicone lube is known for its far-reaching talents. It is not compatible with silicone toys, which is its main downfall (silicone is a synthetic that will bind to itself, leaving a toy tacky). However, as an incredibly long-lasting, silky, and waterproof lube, it’s wonderful for extended sessions, anal sex, water play (just don’t slip and fall in the shower!), and more. Those same properties also make it great for a host of other things:

  • Shining, smoothing, and de-frizzing hair
  • Skin moisturizing
  • Anti-chafing
  • Polishing and conditioning latex and rubber, touching up patent leather
  • Easing into rubber or latex clothing
  • Shaving
  • Oiling anything that is stuck or squeaking: locks, door hinges, bike chains, exercise equipment, hamster wheels…
  • Massages
  • Soothing chapped lips
  • Conditioning tattoos
  • Summer’s coming so we’re just gonna throw this out there: slip ‘n’ slide. (Or lube wrestling?)

Überlube was not designed solely as a sexual lubricant anyway. Magnusen and Zwergel saw it as more of an above-and-beyond product; so it is not just sold in sex shops, but also in hair salons and clothing boutiques.

For sure, silicone lube is a good thing to keep around the house. And on the bedside table. Do you have any favorite uses for silicone lube?

P.S. We have free samples of Überlube in the shop, so stop by and ask for a couple!

  Musings, New products, News       
Jan
4

“So, what does your family think?”

jimmyjane-mom-vibrator

Those involved in the adult or sex toy industry are often asked the question, “what does your family think of what you do?” In a recent article in the New York Times, this question was answered quite directly — by the mother of Ethan Imboden, founder of luxury sex toy manufacturer Jimmyjane.

Imboden’s mother, Joy Imboden Overstreet, explains in the article that her initial reaction to her son’s career was one of shock. But then Imboden explained his objective to her: to design classy, rechargeable, beautiful vibrators rather than vibrators that are ugly, break easily, and end up in landfills. Overstreet warmed to the idea, and soon she was even helping out, along with other family members:

[Imboden’s] stepfather helped construct the conference room. His sister worked on the office systems. His younger brother did market research. This formerly proper Bostonian edited vibrator instruction sheets. Yes, I did. I also flew down from Portland to help with shipping in the first pre-Valentine’s Day rush, donning cotton gloves to prevent smudging the vibrators’ elegant metal shafts as I nested them in their beautiful white boxes.

. . . Meanwhile, on my 65th birthday, an unmarked package arrived in the mail. Inside was a familiar white box. I opened it to find a gold-plated vibrator engraved “Mom” within a heart, and beneath that the inscription, “Behold the golden years.”

In that moment, with a mixture of pride, hilarity and delight, I could only marvel that my son had managed to shock me again.

We really admired this article for its honesty about the progression toward acceptance, even when something seems strange at first. We thought we’d add even more perspectives, so we asked a few of our staff what their families think about them working for a sex toy boutique.

Wyatt (sales associate and educator) said:

I feel like with all the things I’ve told my parents over the years (such as being queer and trans) they’re pretty open to just about anything. They pretty much just laughed and said “of course you are” I think I remember my Mom saying I was going to be like Dr. Ruth or something. In terms of telling others in the family (or friends) I think they just sort of laugh about it and people ask my parents things like do I get a discount or something. Once my kindergarten teacher (who has been a family friend over the years) came in to the shop with my Mom. She told my Mom after the visit that she was surprised at how calm I sounded and how at ease the customers seemed.

AJ (sales associate and in-house sex educator) said:

When I first told my mom and siblings that I worked at She Bop, they went online to the shop’s website to learn more. Once they saw how awesome and clean and friendly our shop is, they were super excited for me! They are used to sex toy stores in Indiana being a bit seedy, so I think at first they were like, “You got your Master’s Degree and are working at a porn store?! Oh, AJ, that’s kind of sad.” Once they did their research though, they were happy for me that I get to teach classes and have cool feminist employers and help people on a daily basis. My dad, who is a huge fan of Rush Limbaugh by the way, hasn’t actually talked to me since I told him what I do… but at least the rest of my family thinks it is great, so I’m not too concerned!

Epiphora (blog writer) said:

Whenever I tell people where I work, I urge them to visit the shop themselves. I think people picture something much different than what She Bop is, and I know the stylish, boutique-like atmosphere is sure to win them over.

My mom loves reading the articles I write for She Bop’s blog, and she thinks the shop itself is wonderful as well. I’ve educated her about phthalates and the importance of body-safe toys, so I was quite proud when she told me recently that she had thrown away one of her old toys that was beginning to melt. Some of my extended family has started asking me questions about toys, which I am all too happy to answer! If anyone has a problem with what I do, they don’t say anything.

My dad’s a pretty quiet guy so he doesn’t say much, but he did tell me that he likes having an exciting story to tell people about what his kids do for a living. My brother works at a medical marijuana dispensary, so we’re quite the pair!

As the years go by and more feminist sex toy shops like those in the Progressive Pleasure Club pop up, hopefully we’ll see a change in how people perceive sex toys, sex toy shops, and people like us who run such shops. No harsh lights and icky jelly dildos here; just a comfortable, fun place to buy some great body-safe sex toys.

  Musings     
Nov
23

Tune in to Sex Out Loud radio!

Have you listened to Tristan Taormino’s new radio show, Sex Out Loud, yet? If not, you’re missing out! The show, which debuted in June, has become the most popular show on the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network Variety Channel, and has surpassed one million downloads. And for good reason! This is the kind of show that never gets boring — each week there is a new and interesting guest with a specific area of expertise and knowledge to be explored on air. Plus, if you’ve ever seen Tristan speak, you’ll understand just how whip-smart and fun of a host she can be.

So far, Tristan’s guests have included Shine Louise Houston, Mollena Williams (co-author of Playing Well with Others), Kandi Burrus (designer of the Kandi Kisses vibe), April Flores, Courtney Trouble, Hanne Blank (author of Big Big Love), Buck Angel, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Kate Bornstein (author of Gender Outlaw), Susie Bright, and Dan Savage. There was even a special episode taped in Mexico City at the very first ever Latin American feminist porn film festival!

With discussion topics such as kink and BDSM, sex ed, feminist and queer porn, polyamory, body acceptance, sex worker activism, and tons more, there are a lot of exceptional past shows to enjoy — and upcoming shows to look forward to!  There is also a fabulous list of episode resources on Tristan’s site, so you can quickly and easily find links to all the stuff mentioned on the show.

Feminist sex toy shop the Smitten Kitten, a fellow Progressive Pleasure Club member, is a sponsor of the show. We love the peeps at the Smitten Kitten for always speaking out against toxic sex toys.

Listen to Sex Out Loud every Friday at 5 p.m. Pacific, or find past episodes here and on iTunes! Follow Sex Out Loud on Twitter as well — they livetweet during the shows!

  Musings       
Oct
20

Interview with Jiz Lee for Fisting Day 2012!

Tomorrow, October 21st, we will celebrate the second annual Fisting Day, created in 2011 by queer porn revolutionaries Jiz Lee and Courtney Trouble as a way to honor the act of fisting and debunk myths about it.

Courtney and Jiz are ramping up the festivities this year, making it an even more action-packed day. At 6 p.m. PST on QueerPorn.tv, there will be a livestream sex ed presentation, Fisting 101 For All Genders, taught by Tobi Hill-Meyer. And for just one day on Indie Porn Revolution, there will be a free scene from the film Fucking Different XXX, featuring a real life couple in a romantic, yet explicit, love story.

Folks over 18 are invited to share their own fisting content (photos, videos, links), anonymously or not, on the Fisting Day Tumblr. You can also RSVP for Fisting Day on Facebook and follow the hashtag #fistingday.

As for us, we managed to snag an interview with fisting connoisseur Jiz Lee! Read on for Jiz’s tips for first time fisters, their tools of the trade, their fondest fisting experience, why they think fisting is still off-limits in most porn, and what they’ll be doing to celebrate Fisting Day.

What are some myths surrounding fisting that need to be dispelled?

Jiz Lee, photo from Karma Pervs

Off the cuff — ahem — some myths are that fisting hurts, and causes bleeding. Also that it needs to be done with poppers or other drugs that might numb the pain. There’s a myth that your vagina or ass will stretch and not be as tight as it was prior to fisting. And, there’s also the myth that it’s only done in homosexual sex — that is, we hear that it’s common in gay men’s porn and sex clubs, or that it’s primarily a lesbian taboo sex act.

While I agree that it might be more common for sexual partners who experiment with sex other than that of penis/vagina, the truth is that sexual partners of all genders and orientations can enjoy fisting.

Do you have any special tips for someone easing into fisting for the first time?

The biggest tip, I think, is not to force it. Don’t try too hard. Forcing can hurt. If you have fears around pain, forcing it will only confirm that discomfort. If you’re not ready, not wanting it, that’s OKAY. It’s okay if you cannot get past the thumb. You can always try again. And, it’s just as okay if it doesn’t happen on the first try, as it is on the twentieth attempt. The point is to enjoy it, right? So let pleasure be the guide. (Incidentally, I have similar advice on G-spot ejaculation. Patience and pleasure are essential.)

Naturally, good-fitting latex or non-latex gloves are helpful, as is good lubricant. Coat a bit of lube on your fingers and hand before putting the glove on; this will not only make the glove a bit easier to slip on, but will also put a layer of fluid between your skin and the glove, which can conduct heat and sensation so you’ll feel a little bit closer to your lover.

For lubricant tips, water-based gel is a nice lube as it can line the anus or vagina with a thick layer of lube to protect your delicate insides. Silicone is also a popular choice, as it is really slick, and will stay slick for a long time. You can even blend the two lubes together, making a “lube salad” of your favorite types and combining the best of their desired qualities.

What are your personal tools of the trade — your favorite toys, lube, and accessories to compliment fisting?

Jiz Lee with the Outlaw, photo by Nikola Tamindzi

For water-based I like a nice thick gel, and for a slippery silicone I like Pjur. For gloves, I usually keep black gloves around, in both latex and nitrile (non-latex) varieties.

I sometimes like clitoral stimulation in addition to deep internal pressure. At times, something as strong as the Hitachi Magic Wand is perfect. Other times, gentler vibrations like those from the (waterproof) Form 6 by Jimmyjane are nice. When I have “too much” sensitivity, I find that my vagina can clench a bit tight as I enjoy the vibration — therefore laying off the intensity by using my fingers or a “softer” vibrator is nice.

If you are experimenting with size and girth, dildos could be a fun way to start eroticizing width and pleasure. For example, the Randy dildo by Vixen Creations is a toy fit for a (size) queen. If Randy is too big, try the Maverick, or another silicone toy; the material squishes a bit when you squeeze it, that “give” makes it more giving for trying things out.

Liberator’s Fascinator Throe is a good fisting accessory for those prone to gushing with G-spot pressure. Fisting can put pressure on this area so it’s not uncommon to have ejaculation while fisting. (Or, when the fisting hand slides out and frees up that pressure area for an exciting release!)

I’d also like to take a moment to congratulate and so appreciate She Bop for carrying a DVD that includes a fisting scene, Live Sex Show. Most DVD distributors shy away from allowing fisting to be included in their movies because they’ve been warned that they might be faced with obscenity charges. While G-spot ejaculation has (thankfully) become more common place in porn, it is another item that was similarly avoided. I hope to see fisting make a strong appearance in movies and I hope this film can help to lead the way. We’ve seen a lot of “how to ejaculate” sex ed movie guides. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see some that involved vaginal and anal fisting of various genders?

What do you love about fisting? Tell us about your fondest fisting experience.

Stoya and Jiz Lee, photo by Rae Threat

I love that fisting can be something spontaneous as much as it can be something planned. It’s something I don’t always want, something I initially might not be in the mood for… but when it happens, it’s utterly gratifying. There’s something about the act that makes me feel as if my vagina has a mind of it’s own. It will know when it wants it, and when it doesn’t. It’s like my body becomes the ultimate consenting factor, making the rules and calling the shots. It’s the difference between “This is good, I’m liking this just the way it is and exactly what you’re doing. I’m in bliss” and the hole-hungry: “More fingers. More pressure. More! I’m feeling GREEDY!!!”

For me, the feeling of fisting is full and warm and with so much pressure I feel that my orgasm could be pushed UP through my body, rather than centralized in my pelvis. It’s like I can feel the wave to come start to come out my sternum, my heart palpitates; it comes with an incredibly intense orgasm for me. And when I’m the giver? I can come through my hand. I can get off on the building timing of the motion of my hand inside someone, the sensation of wet internal heat so hot that it steams in winter sex. The pruning of my fingers from lengthy sex with fluid-bond lovers, or when my digits quietly go numb from sex so good it distracts from funny arm angles, and when you withdraw, you have to shake out the pins and needles.

One fond fisting experience was actually an almost-fisting. I like to think that even getting close to fisting can count. Sex is so varied, why place a hierarchy and say one’s supposed to be better or more complete than another? It was a surprise almost-fisting, a hole being hungrier than I thought it was.

A number of years ago, I found myself on a roof top in San Francisco, leading my lover and her wife with feet crunching over gravel and tar as we hopped a fence for a night-time view of the city, and a place to get a little frisky without getting caught. I leaned over the ledge looking out onto Market street, as my lover’s wife started to explore my ass with her slick gloved fingers. (If there’s any reason to love gloves, it’s for easy and clean outdoor adventures.)

The view, the precarious but safe position bent over the city, the sexual attention on me, the excitement around the experience, I was enjoying all of it. My ass was feeling amazing! I was pushing out to be received. And with each point of pressure inside me and against me, I felt the waves of orgasm start to swell. Being many years ago, the memories of what happened next are lost in time. But I do recall as we bagged up our gloves to toss in the trash and go back out on the streets, my lover’s wife glowing with fascination. “I almost fisted your ass,” she exclaimed. It was amazing. “Your ass was pulling my fingers up into it, almost to my fist!” While it was a not quite a fisting, I’ll take the almost-fist experience as one of my fondest. Unexpected, and thrilling.

The Cambria List, which was created in 2001 by an attorney for the porn industry, is often cited as the reason fisting is not shown in porn, and yet many things on the Cambria List (such as blindfolds, spitting, facials, and wax dripping) are shown without issue these days in mainstream porn. Why do you think fisting remains off-limits?

In general, I think mainstream pornography has formed a certain pattern of what are acceptable sex acts, and what is expected of performers. For example, in stereotypical lesbian pornography (cis women), we can see examples of very light digital penetration; the idea is that it’s designed for softcore or lots of vulva-specific sex such as tribing (scissoring) and oral sex. Of course this is a generalization, as we can see some hardcore companies making girl/girl work that pushes the boundaries using bright, large toys.

There’s also the theory that to use one’s fist might be seen as threatening to the assumed heterosexual cis male viewer, who might see a fist as something larger than a penis. This idea doesn’t seem to permeate into gay pornography however, where fisting is more common place, and at least in the US, less prosecuted. I’ve yet to see fisting in a heterosexual sex scene. (If you know of an example, please share the name of the title with me!)

I hope that in leading by example, directors bringing fisting into sex in a way that is seen as normal will help to have an effect on the market at large, and I think we’ve seen this with female ejaculation. As women-directed movies and queer-run studios create more examples of diverse sex acts, I think other companies may follow suit. While people are turning to the internet for porn more and more, DVD distribution and laws around what can be mailed to certain geographical areas may shift or become abandoned. I think the internet will help us learn to become more sex-positive, and ultimately more truthful, about desire, education, and the display of sex-positive media.

How do you plan to celebrate Fisting Day?

Well, on Sunday, October 21st, I plan to be spending much of it sitting at an internet cafe (hopefully somewhere nice and sunny) while publishing and reposting lots of exciting fisting day blog posts and other online participation! I’m not sure I’ll be fisting on that day, but I figure I might give self-fisting a shot at some point that day! If it happens, it happens, if not, I’ll have fun trying!

Oct
8

Anti-bullying projects and events make waves

Light graffiti by artist Vicki DaSilva

There is one instance of bullying every 7 minutes. And for LGBTQ kids especially, chances are high that they will experience bullying or harassment at school, which can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and even suicide.

It has taken far too long for the world to realize that bullying is not an acceptable rite of passage that kids should just learn to endure; it’s an extremely damaging ritual that must be stopped. Finally, in recent years, serious headway has been made toward educating folks on recognizing and preventing bullying.

In October of 2006, PACER’s National Center for Bullying Prevention started a bullying prevention week, which later became National Bullying Prevention Month. They have also declared October 10th “Unity Day,” a day in which kids can wear orange, hand out “unity” ribbons, and write the word “unity” on their hands or binders to express solidarity with the mission to stop bullying.

Many other important anti-bullying organizations have popped up along the way. The Trevor Project may have been one of the first, in 1998, with its invaluable support line (866-488-7386) that provides crisis intervention to LGBTQ youth. They now offer suicide prevention services digitally as well, by way of instant messaging and social networking.

The It Gets Better Project, founded in 2010, was revolutionary in the fight against LGBTQ bullying, and it is still going strong, with more than 50,000 user-submitted videos. In fact, tomorrow night (October 9th at 11 p.m.) marks the premiere of their second hour-long special on MTV and Logo. The first special, which you can watch online, aired in February. Both programs follow several young LGBTQ people as they face and overcome obstacles, proving that life is worth living — especially after high school.

And there’s a new and exciting project on the horizon that has taken a page from It Gets Better’s book. It’s a website called Equalize Youth. Right now they are asking for funding via Indiegogo, but it will be a place where LGBTQ youth can find support from people who are similar to them — folks who have walked in their shoes and made it through the hardest years. Here’s how it will work:

Searches will be as simple as entering a zip code. Kids can find entries by folks just like them, whether in their own hometowns or around the globe. Contributors will tag their ethnic backgrounds and religious upbringings in their entry to facilitate effective searches. Additional tags for experiences like being deaf, blind, going through “anti-gay therapy,” or being HIV+ will also be included. No matter what, we want youth to see (literally!) that they are not alone, that their challenges can be overcome, and that there is a world of unconditional love and support out there.

If you have an LGBTQ teen in your life who may need guidance or reassurance, there’s a great book called Queer: The Ultimate Guide for LGBT Teens that could be just what they need. If you want to help kids understand the impact of bullying, there are two sites, Teens Against Bullying and Kids Against Bullying, that teach young people how to recognize and prevent bullying.

  Musings      , ,  
Sep
25

Science proves that communication and flexibility make relationships better

It seems that when scientific studies tackle something sex-related, their findings are often just verification of what sexperts have been talking about for years (remember when scientists proved that stimulation of the clitoris and stimulation of the vagina activate different regions of the brain?). But there’s still something satisfying about qualitative research backing up these things. Two recent studies reminded us of this.

The first study, conducted by Elizabeth Babin, an expert on health communication at Cleveland State University, asked participants to complete surveys about their own personal sexual communication (both non-verbal and verbal), sexual self-esteem, and sexual satisfaction. 207 people participated.

As it turns out, low apprehension about sexual communication plus high sexual self-esteem were linked to more communication during sex, and communication during sex was linked to more sexual satisfaction. Vice versa, apprehension over talking about sex caused less sexual satisfaction overall. Moral of the story: communicate with your partner! It’s good for you!

The second study, published in the Journal of Sex Research and undertaken by researchers at the University of Arizona and Hanover College, studied “sexual transformations” — changes that people make to their sex lives for the sake of their partners — and how they impact relationships. 96 couples were asked about sexual changes they made — such as frequency of sex and types of sexual activity — and how they felt about them. They were also asked how often they cuddled, because why not?

The results showed that folks reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction when their partners were willing to undergo “sexual transformations” for them. Also, those who felt more positive about the changes reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction. Overall, a willingness to adapt and be flexible when it comes to sexual activity seems to be a positive force in relationships — which isn’t much of a shock.

Writer Debby Herbenick sums it up nicely:

As with movies, drinks and food, it’s common for people in relationships to have different preferences. One person likes beer and the other digs wine. One likes action flicks and the other favors anything starring Audrey Tautou. One likes vanilla intercourse and the other wants to hold a vibrator to their partner’s clitoris while she’s upside down in wheelbarrow, wearing a pirate costume.

Nearly all couples have different wants and needs, likes and dislikes, when it comes to sex. And that’s OK. Very few couples line up exactly in terms of how often they want to have sex, the positions they want to twist their bodies into, how long they want to spend from kissing to falling asleep, and the types of sex they want to engage in. What matters is how couples fill in those gaps — how they make changes for each other, how they feel about and approach the ways they’re willing to bend, and how they stay connected through affection.

Also, unsurprisingly, cuddling (and kissing, massaging, and hugging) resulted in higher levels of relationship satisfaction. Moral of the story: cuddle often, and be, as Dan Savage says, “good, giving, and game.”

It should be interesting to see what comes next in the field of sex research. Elizabeth Babin’s next move is to research couples and their communication styles as they relate to sexual satisfaction. Ultimately, she is hoping to develop ideas for therapists and sex educators in teaching folks how to discuss sex more freely with their partners. A very good goal, we think!

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