Saturday, December 29, 2012

G-Spot, Anyone?

“You have a G-spot. Every woman does. It is not a Holy Grail, a hidden treasure, or one of the lost tribes of Israel.”  

                                                                            - Rachel Venning

If I had a dollar for every time the discussion turns to questions about G-spots and female ejaculation, I might be well on my way to a pleasingly rotund retirement nest egg by now.

Still, it’s always nice to have the opportunity to re-emphasize the importance of getting to know one’s body on one’s own terms. And as everyone knows, that’s what God made hand mirrors for, right? Although the truth is, while every woman should treat herself to an occasional exploratory tour with a hand mirror, searching for one’s G-spot doesn’t require a mirror at all, just one or two dexterous fingers on one hand.

While the clitoris, with its more than eight thousand nerve endings, is a woman’s primary, most exquisite sex organ hands down (and no pun intended here) much has been said, sung and written of late concerning the mysterious G-spot, yours, mine and ours. So what is it? Where does it hang out? What does it do?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sexuality and Aging: Changes

Regardless of sexual orientation, and regardless of whether we're in partnered relationships or single, in this day and age, every woman should be taking responsibility for her own sexual health and pleasure. As 80-something year old sex-researcher, educator and artist Dr. Betty Dodson argues, "remaining connected to our active sexuality 'until death do us part' ought to be a part of every woman’s life plan, regardless of age." It's a quality of life question, a matter of one's wholeness and birthright, no less. But in a culture steeped in the sexual repression of women, wherein it's possible to make reference to "binders full of women" in public discourse, the numbers of women themselves who still doubt this are many. So I ask you to consider the following: 

According to the Harvard Health Report, Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond, half of all men aged 50 and older report erection problems. This figure rises to 60% at age 60 and 70% at age 70. And even when men’s plumbing is in good working order, women in the US tend to outlive their men by an average of 6 years, one of the major reasons that more women than men wind up living out their senior years alone. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Desire and Consent

If you’re like me, every once in a while a desire comes over the heart that, while harmless and intriguing, doesn’t quite fit in with the dictates of society’s norms and standards. Maybe it’s something as little as wanting to wear white after Labor Day, which was a huge and largely inexcusable fashion blunder during my girlhood days in New York.

But then again, maybe it’s something more intimate and personal that pushes against the boundaries a little more strenuously, for example, the way cross-racial marriages used to do. I mean, back in the 70s in my neck of the Bronx, it was sort of okay to have sex across racial lines, but to marry the so-called “one of them?” I think not!

Similarly today, if the activities women desire to engage in happen to reside within the realm of nonconformist sexual expression, the fall-out can be fierce and overwhelming as religious and secular forces alike try their absolute best to reign us back obediently into line.

But the truth is, most of us know intuitively that sexual energies often find their outlet in ways that the society as a whole may find disconcerting. And rather than risk the condemnation of those around us, when playful or edgy or questionable desires steal into our thoughts, we clam up, freeze up, or run the other way, and leave the creative, playful boundary-pushing to others, while we try our hardest to ignore that soft, seductive inner voice that whispers, “I’d like to try that. Wouldn’t you?”

With the recent publication of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy, legions of women got a cursory look at the complex world of BDSM, or bondage and submission. Of course, bondage and submission as a mode of sexual expression is nothing new. A globally occurring aspect of human sexual behavior, there are BDSM groups and clubs, and monogamous partners, in every city and countless small towns all over the US.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cunnilingus: Lighting It Up Downtown

While many women find that vaginal penetration is a wonderful, - and for some women -, a must-have touchstone in their sex lives, if we were to put it to a vote and women had to choose, I’m willing to bet that many would opt for being on the receiving end of some good oral sex as their hands-down, world-class, all-time-favorite sexual activity. But different strokes for different folks, right?

Still, regardless of sexual orientation, oral sex, or cunnilingus as it’s called when the “lickee” is a woman, continues to be the activity that legions of women swear has them coming the fastest and with greatest, mind-exploding, toe-curling intensity. Most of this is due to the natural, normal structure of our anatomy, the location of the clitoris and its absolute richness of nerve endings (over 8,000 of them) in comparison to a relative sparsity of nerve endings in the vagina.

But bring this up to some folks, for example, some old-school men of African-American and Afro-Caribbean cultures in particular, and you still might hear some outright blatant resistance: “If a man’s doing his job right, a woman shouldn’t want anything else.” Or, “I don’t care what anybody says; I just don’t put my mouth down there.”  In fact, up until fairly recently, there was a pretty weird stereotype making its way around some circles suggesting that only Caucasian women “enjoyed” or “expected” oral sex from their partners… Indeed? On what planet?

Like sexual behavior in general, many of us came of age in a time when oral sex, both giving and receiving, simply was not openly discussed. This is not to say, however, that oral sex was not commonly being practiced in both lesbian as well as straight relationships since antiquity. 

According to many historians and anthropologists, graphic representations of women receiving oral sex appear in artifacts from the Oceanic peoples as early as 300 B.C. Robert Birch, Ph.D. in his book, Oral Caress, reports on graphic depictions of cunnilingus on Chinese and Japanese scrolls dating from 200 B.C. In fact, the Kama Sutra, a widely referenced Indian lovemaking manual written by the poet/philosopher Vatsayana around 400 A.D. makes ample reference to the act of “oral congress” with women – although to a lesser degree than with men. 

With “yoni” being the Sanskrit term for the vagina, ancient erotic art in Hindu temples shows explicit depictions of women receiving “yoni kisses”, their legs open wide to the enraptured faces of their lovers.” (See Violet Blue’s exceptional book, The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus for more of this). 

A word of wisdom for women in the here and now, though: It’s always smart to protect yourself when giving or receiving oral sex regardless of one’s age, and if we do indeed grow wiser as we grow older, there’s simply no excuse for seniors in particular not to be exercising caution. After all, there’s stuff out there that’s quite capable of really complicating your life, such as herpes, HIV, and human papillomavirus, the virus that causes genital warts, cervical cancer, and has recently been linked to throat cancer as a result of unprotected oral sex.

The sexually well-informed know that non-latex dental dams, the small squares of barrier material used by dentists to isolate a tooth work well as protection during oral sex. But the even better informed among us know that since dental dams can be a bit thick and thus might interfere with some sensation, more user-friendly alternatives produced by the sex industry are currently available. Lots of them are thinner and somewhat larger than dental dams and come in flavored or unflavored varieties, textured or not, in a rainbow of colors.

But here’s the coolest thing. In a pinch, you can simply cut open a non-latex condom or glove, apply a little lube to your partner’s vulva and hold your invention in place. As a matter of fact, ditto for a square of saran wrap! Yup, saran wrap or any generic non-porous equivalent. It’s super slippery and allows for the delicious transmission of heat and sensation while being creative, effective and WAY economical! Who could ask for more? 

How would you describe your experiences with oral sex? If you haven't tried it, would you like to? Would your partner?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rape: Surviving It and the Myth of Body Betrayal

We’ve got to talk a bit about rape. Not a comfortable or easy subject to wrap one’s brain around; much less so to be a survivor.

But more than the usual discourse about the nature of rape, - “it’s a crime of violence in the assertion of power,” “it’s not about sexual desire at all,” - we need to also talk more about what happens in the extended aftermath, two years or ten years or how ever many years later. We need to talk about how we relate to our own female bodies, long after the fact.

We should start, I guess, with an obvious premise, that one is never the same after a rape, and that, while most of us heal and go on with our days, no one ever forgets. I’m proud beyond measure of women doing the endless, soul-affirming work that’s often required in order to rebuild their lives. I’m especially proud of those who seek whatever help they might need in re-establishing their trust in a benevolent Universe that nurtures and watches over us all.

More frequently than I can say, it’s my sober privilege to stand before a room full of women, (and sometimes a couple of men), and listen as women tell how they managed to survive being raped. Believe me when I say that the courage with which they speak, and the multidimensional grotesquery they describe, makes me want to wrap my arms around them, every single time. 

But I’ll tell you right now what really breaks my heart. It’s when I hear these courageous women - whether they fought their attackers or couldn’t  -  express guilt, shame and confusion about how their bodies betrayed them.


The first time I heard this I was stunned, I’ll admit it.

“How did your body betray you?” I asked the speaker.

Her response was brief but excruciating to hear.

“I got wet,” she replied, lowering her embarrassed gaze. “As awful as it was, through the terror and the anger. And as much as his penis inside me made me want to vomit, I got wet.”

So let’s get one thing straight, okay? And let's do so before I lose it, and begin ranting about a system that allows women to reach the age of maturity without access to vital information about our bodies, information that might impart just a tiny smidgen of peace as we try to cobble our lives together after being raped. 

Vaginal tissues lubricating during a rape is a normal, involuntary adaptive response. In other words, “getting wet” is an automatic reaction. And the truth is  that we can’t control it, regardless of how painful or vicious or terrifying the experience. In no way does it mean we’re enjoying the rape. In no way does it mean that we secretly wanted it. But vaginal lubrication that happens during the violence does so for a very good reason, nonetheless.

Far from the delusional babblings of knuckle-dragging old men who think that there’s a distinction to be made between “forcible” rape and any other kind of unwanted vaginal penetration, all rape, by definition, involves force. Fortunately, then, evolutionary adaptations have provided “getting wet” as the body’s natural protective response, since lubricated vaginal tissues are less prone to being severely injured than dry ones are, particularly by the extreme force and violence that are characteristic of rape.

This is certainly not to say that the female body has any way at all of “shutting that whole thing down” as the knuckle-draggers have recently, and falsely, attested about the possibility of getting pregnant due to rape. But it is to say that lubricating during rape is the body’s valiant attempt to protect us, not betray us, and for that we ought to honor it, really.

A normal, natural attempt by the body at self-protection. Exquisitely automatic. Completely beyond our control…

So for those of us who’ve been there, let the shame go, let the confusion go, let the guilt - all of it - go. 

And thank you for surviving. I wish you peace.

photo credit: <a href="">United Nations Photo</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

photo credit: <a href="">Erminig Gwenn</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

photo credit: Studio5Graphics <a href="">DSC_0184</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>