Browsing posts from the category Musings


A glimpse at comprehensive sex ed

As most sex ed programs in the U.S. continue to push abstinence, a gutsy teacher from a Quaker prep school in Pennsylvania is showing everyone what comprehensive sex education could look like — and it looks very promising. Al Vernacchio (“Mr. V,” as his students call him) teaches an elective class for seniors entitled “Sexuality and Society” at the Friends’ Central School.

The in-depth New York Times Magazine article about Vernacchio’s class recounts the roots of sex ed in America — the original concept of “proper sex” between a husband and wife only — and the winding path it has taken, including a stint in the ’70s and early ’80s when sex ed was pretty comprehensive in response to AIDS and teen pregnancy. Now, of course, sex ed has become a highly divisive, politically-charged issue, and most classrooms rely on an “abstinence is best” message. Vernacchio’s doesn’t. In fact, his syllabus covers many subjects surrounding sex:

Sexuality and Society begins in the fall with a discussion of how to recognize and form your own values, then moves through topics like sexual orientation (occasionally students identify as gay or transgender, Vernacchio said, but in this particular class none did); safer sex; relationships; sexual health; and the emotional and physical terrain of sexual activity.

Vernacchio is in the business of busting myths and making his students think. He is constantly tackling gender stereotypes — by explaining that men are not naturally hornier than women, or by asking students to examine the myriad ways in which the sex-as-baseball trope is problematic. He also shows his class close-up photos of vulvas and penises, which leads to discussion about genital variation. He even screens a medical research video of a woman ejaculating — an act that is virtually never discussed in sex ed classes.

There’s also an anonymous question box in Vernacchio’s classroom. One day, a girl submitted a note asking whether her urge to pee during sex could lead to female ejaculation.

He laid out a plethora of explanations for the feeling, everything from anxiety about having sex to a bladder infection to the possibility that the young woman was getting “some really good G-spot stimulation” and in fact verging on ejaculation.

And that is perhaps what is most amazing to hear: the way the students have benefited from the course. To them, “Mr. V” is both a teacher they can trust to tell them the truth, and a confidant they can talk to about sensitive subjects. It is clear the kids have learned a lot about relationships, pleasure, and how to navigate their sexualities.

The school’s administration is pleased with Vernacchio’s course, and so are the parents of the students, who have never complained.

Check the article out — it’s a really fantastic read.


International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Today is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Originally created by Annie Sprinkle and the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA and first observed in 2003, this day includes memorials, vigils, and activism — and symbolizes a powerful cry for an end to violence and discrimination against sex workers.

The importance of this day cannot be overstated. Simply raising awareness about violence against sex workers is critical. In a sobering piece on The Huffington Post, human rights professor Chi Mgbako writes:

The event will likely pass with barely a whisper of media notice, and many women’s rights groups will ignore or remain blithely unaware of the occasion. It is an uncomfortable global truth that we do not regard violence committed against non-trafficked sex workers as violence against women.

Our staunch moral judgment of women who by choice or circumstance participate in the sex industry — buttressed by laws that criminalize, stigmatize, and condemn many of them to unsafe working conditions without police protection — results in the shatteringly silent incidents of rapes, assaults, and murders of sex workers. This unforgiving moral judgment is unfair.

. . . Many sex workers reject this moralized dismissal of their personhood. Several years ago I had the good fortune of collaborating on a human rights project with empowered sex workers in India. I still remember one sari-clad, doe-eyed sex worker defiantly noting, “In the past we thought that sex work was not a good thing and anything bad that happened to us we just accepted it and cried. But we learned that we deserve to be treated not as good or bad but as women.”

Today, events are happening all around the world to remember the lives of sex workers who have been victims of hate crimes. Sex worker rights activist Audacia Ray has been tweeting about the NYC vigil. Her past speeches at International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers events can be found here.

The Sex Worker Outreach Coalition has organized an event tonight, from 7-10 p.m. at the Red and Black Cafe in SE Portland.

We invite you to an evening of remembrance and healing. We will have community speakers, an open mic, and screening of the film A Safer Sex Trade. We will also make origami cranes to remember victims. Please bring new/used tents, sleeping bags and flashlights for Our Mother’s House.

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Google increases health care coverage for trans employees

Mountain View, California-based corporation and search engine giant Google recently announced a considerable increase in health care coverage for their U.S. transgender employees. Effective immediately, trans employees are now entitled to a full range of procedures and treatment in accordance with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s Standards of Care. This includes transitioning procedures such as gender reassignment surgery, facial feminization, pectoral implants, and more, if determined to be medically necessary by a doctor. Google has also increased the maximum dollar amount for transgender health care benefits from $35,000 to $75,000.

Masen Davis, whose law organization consulted with Google about the additional health benefits, said,

We’ve never worked with a company so clearly dedicated to doing the best they can with transgender employees . . . I would anticipate that what they’ve adopted will become the gold standard in the United States.

The increased benefits come just in time for the Human Rights Campaign’s 2012 Corporate Equality Index, which analyzes and rates large U.S. employers and their policies regarding LGBT employees. Google was rated 100%, placing them on the Best Places to Work 2012 list. The Corporate Equality Index has proved a motivating force for many companies, according to Todd Solomon, a Chicago attorney who specializes in LGBT employee benefits issues. It has provided the extra push necessary for employers to begin implementing inclusive benefits.

This is not the first awesome thing Google has done for its LGBT employees this year. In June, they fought back against the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act by offering reimbursement to gay employees whose domestic-partner health insurance benefits are taxed as income by the federal government. Google also has active LGBT employee groups — called “Gayglers” — all around the world.

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Dissecting the blackboards in porn

What is the internet for, if not uber-specific blogs such as Blackboards in Porn? This deliciously safe-for-work blog takes a photo of a blackboard in a porn scene, along with fully-clothed performers, and analyzes the information for accuracy, issuing a grade from 1-10. Subjects are varied: chemistry, math, music, English, and history have all been covered thus far. Impressive!

It’s hard to choose a favorite, really, because each analysis is pretty hilarious. But I did really enjoy this one:

The title Imperial Russia 1609-1752 is something of a misnomer. The Russian Empire wasn’t founded until 1721 — before that date it was the Tsardom of Russia. In fact, the date range chosen for module 3271 does seem somewhat arbitrary. The main study question is rather awkwardly posed, using a mixture of tenses, but is open enough to stretch the more able students.

Handwriting is rather sloppy — all caps, sometimes at a rather wild angle, and with one map label illegible. The student pictured has been lucky to find Professor Stefano in, as his office hours are somewhat idiosyncratic. But this could be a result of education cutbacks, or flexitime due to his personal circumstances, so will not affect the overall score. (In fact, his work-life balance may be under threat as he feels the need to specify that he does not work at weekends.)

Overall: a very good effort – 7/10.

I learn something new each time this blog is updated, so I hope it will be around for a long time! The blog author is looking for user submissions, so if you have a picture of a blackboard in porn (SFW or otherwise), email blackboardsinporn AT


Senior erotica anthology call for submissions

Joan Price, blogger at Better Than I Ever Expected and author of two books about senior sex, is putting together a collection of erotica from writers over the age of 50, with stories featuring characters also over the age of 50. This senior erotica anthology will be published in Spring 2013 by Seal Press, so Price is looking for submissions right now:

. . . the truth is that we seniors don’t respond to the sopping-wet panties and rock-hard erections that are the hallmark of traditional, youth-oriented erotica. Instead, we want erotica that we can relate to, that encompasses the changes and adaptations of age, that acknowledges how we like to be stimulated. Age is accepted, celebrated, and sensually enjoyed.

Characters may be having spicy sex with partners they love and have loved for decades; or with new loves or casual encounters; or solo with hands, vibrators, memories, and fantasies. Although I admit my bias towards erotica that is tender and loving, I’m also looking for edgy and kinky stories for a balanced collection.

Seal Press and I will choose submissions of high literary quality, not just good, explicit sex scenes. Arouse us with a sexy, well-crafted plot we haven’t read before, characters who entice us and feel real to us, language that describes sex in a new way. I welcome diversity of all kinds, including race, ethnic background, gender identification, sexual orientation, disability, and every other kind of diversity.

. . . I’d prefer the sex scenes to take place at the characters’ current age (over 50, 60, 70…). A story or two with flashbacks to younger years is fine, but I’m getting too many youthful flashbacks and too few current-age erotic scenes. What makes a story sexy and arousing at our age? That’s your challenge!

Price is trying to do something “truly different” by encouraging erotica that is a genuine reflection of senior sex, which is fantastic!

Story length should be between 1,500 and 3,000 words. Authors may submit up to two pieces. The submission deadline is February 1, 2012, but earlier submissions are preferred. Visit the call for submissions post for all the info.


Today is International Fisting Day!

Queer porn revolutionaries Jiz Lee and Courtney Trouble have declared today International Fisting Day — and who are we to argue? Fisting doesn’t get nearly enough attention; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any porn DVD that includes fisting because distributors are afraid of being sent to jail on obscenity charges.

The censorship of fisting is what sparked Jiz and Courtney to create Fisting Day. They are hoping to dispel myths and stigma surrounding fisting, and shine a light on just how pleasurable and sensual fisting can be. As Courtney Trouble writes in her Fisting Day post,

fisting is all about a hand and a hole listening to each other very closely. It’s one of the most beautiful, intimate sex acts I’ve ever experienced. It’s sex positive and builds a deeper connection between sex partners. It encourages deeper communication. And most people who have been fisted will probably tell you, it’s one of the best ways to orgasm in the whole wide world.

Jiz Lee’s Fisting Day post contains an in-depth explanation of why fisting is not shown in most porn, as well as a description of what Jiz adores about fisting.

As someone who loves to receive a fist, what I enjoy about it is an unparalleled feeling of fullness. The most sensitive areas of the vagina are just within the first few inches inside the vagina, which is where I like to use my kegel and pelvic muscles to grip snugly around a lovers’ wrist, which can be compared to the girth of a medium-large dildo . . . Combining clitoral and vaginal stimulation, the network of nerves and contracting of muscles orchestrate some of the most amazingly intense orgasms I’ve had.

Here are just a few of the posts that have gone up today:

Even more blog posts are being quoted on the Fisting Day Tumblr.

If you’d like to celebrate Fisting Day, we carry a great how-to guide on vaginal fisting called A Hand in the Bush. You may want to work your way up to a large toy first, like RandyGloves are also perfect for fisting, as they can make your hand feel slicker, and they don’t absorb lube the way skin can. Of course, you’ll need lots and lots of lube!

And this is really cool: Courtney Trouble and James Darling will be hosting an online fisting workshop tonight at 8 p.m. Pacific. They will discuss fisting preperation and setup, communication, safer sex, and beginning and andvanced techniques for penetration and movement.


Steve Jobs and the lesbian erotic revolution

It was 1984 when On Our Backs, the first ever women-run erotica magazine — and geared toward a lesbian audience, to boot — debuted. The magazine was groundbreaking in many ways, and it played a major role in the development of sex-positive feminism.

What does this have to do with Steve Jobs? Well, as Susie Bright recounts on her blog, the magazine was originally composed via typesetting. Then one day, publisher Debi Sundahl hauled a big box into the living room and, in one fell swoop, thrust On Our Backs into the digital world. Sundahl was convinced that the computer was about to change everything about publishing — and she was right.

Within a year, our “entertainment for the adventurous lesbian” magazine took PageMaker 1.0 software, tossed out the typesetter, and published On Our Backs completely on Mac software.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were the first magazine to do so. We printed our 13,000 copies, and sent them all over the country.

Our On Our Backs Winter 1986 edition was what the first magazine — on any subject, anywhere — looked like, built on a 1984 Apple machine with Pagemaker.

The kerning is atrocious. You could only choose from Helvetica or Palatino fonts. I remember crying about that, too. But we could afford it; it was the only thing we could afford. And considering our content, which no one else in the printing industry would touch, that was saying something.

. . . I am very sad today about Steve Job’s passing. I know many of us are thinking about how his life touched ours, through good times and bad. For authors, artists, and publishing outlaws of every description, the Mac revolution was the puzzle piece we had pressed for, longed for, and finally achieved.

Susie Bright’s blog post is a lovely ode to the far-reaching influence of Steve Jobs. And you have to read her account of bewilderment, trepidation and intrigue as she assembled that first computer; it’s a reminder of just how foreign computers seemed not that long ago.

Take a peek at the On Our Backs Winter 1986 edition as well — it’s a piece of history all in itself.


Porn myths, debunked

There sure is a lot to discuss when it comes to porn, and no shortage of posts on the internet about it. However, when I came across a porn myth series by Dr. Brooke Magnanti, a forensic scientist, statistician, and former sex worker, I knew it was something special.

The five-part series of posts looks at various questions that many folks have when it comes to porn, examining the research that has been done, both credible and questionable. Best of all, there are links to many of the studies/papers, so you can read them in full and form your own opinion on the research. Here are the five posts.

If nothing else, Magnanti’s posts confirm that sweeping generalizations about porn are not useful. There are so many varieties of porn out there, and the industry cannot be pinned down easily. At She Bop we’re discerning with our porn selection for this very reason.

In a similar vein, I found a post by Dr. Marty Klein (sex therapist and author) about his experience at a porn shoot. The post — Deep in the Valley: Going to a Porn Shoot — makes a very poignant point about watching porn.

Sooner or later, watching the same people having sex is repetitive and boring — unless, of course, you’re adding to it via fantasy, imagination, arousal, and voyeurism. I didn’t do much of that, because I was there working (yeah, I know — nice gig). So yes, watching the shoot did reduce the sex (along with the filming itself) to a technical craft. She used her left hand when the camera needed it, even though she’s right-handed. He stopped right in the middle of licking her when some sweat dripped into a bowl of fruit.

Some people condemn how watching porn at home supposedly does the same thing — it reduces sex to “mechanics.” But the critical difference between watching a film being made and watching it at home is what the consumer brings to the experience. And that transforms the “mechanics” into something stimulating . . .

What a consumer brings to a porn film is imagination, privacy, a little time, maybe lube or a toy. And that gives the images meaning — erotic meaning. When anti-porn crusaders take the same film and add fear, anger, and a sense of helplessness, they also give the images meaning — but distinctly un-sexy ones (such as “exploitation” and “immorality”). So:

Porn + nothing = neutral meaning
Porn + privacy + time + imagination = positive meaning
Porn + fear, loneliness + anger = negative meaning

I’d never thought of it this way, but it makes so much sense. Porn is given meaning by the viewer. Makes you feel powerful, doesn’t it?

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Would you buy a vibrator from a sex toy truck?

Here in Portland, we’re no strangers to food trucks (have you experienced the glory that is Potato Champion?!), but this is something new: a truck that promotes vibrators.

For a few days in July, a Trojan “Good Vibrations” truck parked itself in various spots in Manhattan and Brooklyn, drawing in passersby and engaging them in discussion about masturbation and sex toys.

Trojan’s first order of business was to promote its new vibrator to young people, and they did so by having folks take a “What’s Your Vibe” quiz on an iPad, and by holding a Facebook check-in raffle for a free vibrator. They also gave out condoms and disposable vibrating cock rings.

Although this was a short-lived event based on blatant product promotion, it brings up a pivotal question: what if a sex-toy-peddling truck popped up on the streets of Portland? Would you buy a toy from it? Which food cart pod would it most thrive in? And would the world explode with awesomeness if this truck were set up next to the place selling fried pies?


Cyndi Lauper to open home for LGBT youth

Cyndi Lauper, the spunky ’80s icon who inspired the name of our shop with her masturbation-embracing ditty, “She Bop,” has a fantastic plan in the works: she’s opening a housing facility for LGBT youth in New York.

The True Colors Residence will consist of 30 energy-efficient studio apartments and several community spaces. The home will be more than just a roof over the residents’ heads — while living at True Colors, residents will also be assisted with employment and offered a range of social and educational support services.

True Colors Residence will be the first ever permanent housing facility for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in the state of New York. A large percentage of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

Lauper’s goal is simple, yet poignant:

Our primary goal is to provide a physically and emotionally safe and supportive environment that will empower our young residents to be the self-loving, happy, and successful individuals they were meant to be.

Lauper is also the creator of the Give a Damn campaign, which works to educate people about the inequalities and discrimination that LGBT folks face.

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She Bop is a women-owned sex toy boutique specializing in body safe products and education. Our mission is to promote healthy and safe sexuality by offering quality products and educational workshops in a fun and comfortable environment. She Bop welcomes people of all genders and sexual orientations.

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