Art & Culture

Recent posts

American Vs. Other Parenting Styles

While I lived in Estonia, I observed that (along with the prevalence of condoms in stores),  there were always children walking around in public, often unaccompanied. Kids as little as 5 or 6 could be seen walking or riding their bicycles down the sidewalk (at least, during the parts of the year when the sidewalks weren’t covered in snow). This puzzled me – but as more Americans are realizing, our style of parenting is perhaps a tad too overprotective. This essay on international parenting styles points out that many behaviors that American parents take for granted are not universal. Young kids in other cultures climb trees, use knives to carve wooden figures, and are even allowed to feel pangs of hunger from time to time. Continue Reading →

Faces of Ecstasy: Orgasm as Art

As a sex educator and therapist, as well as a performing artist, I am always interested in artistic depictions of sex and sexuality. In my explorations, I’ve found two art projects that explore a similar theme: the depiction of orgasm as a meditation on art and culture. I know this sounds like all artsy pornography that’s ever been produced. However, these two artists have come up with a way of exploring the art of orgasm in a new way: without nudity or visible penetration. First, there’s Beautiful Agony (NSFW). Continue Reading →

Revisiting Sex Work And Checking My Privilege

I was pretty pleased with my post on why legislating sex work is problematic, until someone wrote to me to point out where I got it wrong. That’s actually what I was hoping for, as I’d concluded the post by writing:

To that end, if I’ve misrepresented the nature of sex work or adult performance here in this article, I apologize and request that someone from the community contact me and correct me. I’m just an academic who’s good at spotting patterns and analyzing cultural trends – you know more about your lives than I do. Not that it’s your job to teach me, but hopefully I can use this blog as a platform to correct false impressions about sex work and sexuality in general. So when C. Simon, an escort, emailed me and pointed out that I’d undermined my own argument in certain ways, I was both happy to receive the criticism and chagrined that I’d fallen prey to the very logic I’d been trying to critique. Continue Reading →

If You’re A Consenting Adult, I Support You Doing Anything

When I write that I support consenting adults doing anything, that statement of course comes with a few caveats: “anything” should not include acts that harm others, at least without their pre-communicated consent (as in, say, giving a beating in a BDSM setting). This is where the discussion gets complicated, since how do we define “harm”? Is it possible to consent to ostensibly harmful acts, like being punched or whipped as part of a sexual scene? I think it is, but I also think there are coercive situations where consent gets muddled and there are then social pressures to not talk about it in those terms.

In general, though, if you’re an adult who is informed about the circumstances and thus able to give consent, I’m not going to tell you

Who to date
Who to have sex with
How to have sex*
What props or toys to use (or not use) while having sex with others or yourself
Whether you should or should not try kink or polyamory
Whether you should choose to sell sexual acts

I am, however, going to tell you

To go out of your way to get as much information as possible about the potential risks and benefits of any sexual acts you might try
To make sure your partner(s) are clear on what you’re planning on doing so that everyone can give informed consent
To make sure you want what you’re pursuing and that you’re trying it for the “right” reasons (which, admittedly, may not be the same as society’s version of the “right” reasons, but in general, try to identify what it is you want so that you can be authentic to your desires rather than giving in to peer pressure)

I may not be a fan of every sex act or relationship choice out there, but I support your right to choose these things. I try not to fall into the trap of thinking that if I don’t like it, it must be morally repugnant. Continue Reading →

Queer Scholarship In Song And Story

Queer theory is known for being dense, almost unreadable at times. That’s why it’s all the more impressive that Kay Turner, a folklorist at the Brooklyn Arts Council, dedicated an evening to performances of queer-theory-oriented songs. And even better, the New York Times wrote up the event in a blog post documenting the songs and attendees. Why is this noteworthy? Queer theory had its beginnings as an offshoot of academic feminist theory, gay and lesbian activism, and other influences from the humanities, social sciences, sexuality studies, and the public sphere. Continue Reading →

How A Misogynist Changed His Mind

What makes people change their core beliefs about how the world works (a.k.a. their worldview)? This question intrigues me, as I note in this post about how Canadian health care converted a self-identified conservative to support universal health care. In this blog post, you can read about a similar sort of thing happening: a guy who used to be a real misogynist explains how, over a period of years, he slowly began to change his mind about the feminist conspiracy to oppress men and keep “nice guys” like himself from getting laid. What would it take for you to change your mind about a deeply held belief regarding gender or sexuality? Continue Reading →

My Trip to the World Erotic Art Museum

As I ventured down to Miami a few weeks ago for yet another spring break in the sun, I realized that I never blogged about my trip to the city’s famous erotic art museum! The museum isn’t a huge tourist attraction, probably because it’s so small. It sits on the top floor of a retail building, so it’s pretty easy to miss- but a shame if you do miss it! Here are some of my favorite photos from their collection. Naturally, I had to pose in front of the giant gilded penis. Continue Reading →

Remember: We’re Not The First Advocates for Equality

As I wait with bated breath for the Supreme Court to make a decision on the repeal of DOMA and Proposition 8, I’m reminded of all those that came before me. In the past several years, the LGBTQ community has seen some incredible legal, social, and political advances. Just in my lifetime, I’ve seen several states pass laws that recognize same-sex unions, gays and lesbians in the military be allowed to discuss their sexuality openly, and have experienced a huge growth in cultural acceptance of the queer community. To put this in a different perspective, here are some numbers. A document from the Movement Advancement Project recorded that between 2000 and 2010, the United States experienced a 1300% increase in states outlawing gender discrimination based on gender presentation, a 600% jump in the number of high school Gay-Straight Alliances, and today, majority (57%) support for marriage equality. Continue Reading →

Pornstars are People, Too!

I’ll admit it- I take seriously guilty pleasure in perusing celebrity gossip magazines. My favorite feature is when they show the celebrities in their everyday lives- at the grocery store, in sweatpants, and- best of all- without makeup on. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Buzzfeed released a list of “33 Startling Photos of Porn Stars” without makeup. And yet, I found myself mildly peeved. Perhaps it was the comparison of photos- one of the woman with makeup, and one without directly next to it. Continue Reading →

People Are Generally Smart Vs. People Are Generally Stupid

As a scholar of culture, I’m constantly amazed by people’s behavior: it alternates between intelligent and inane, smart and stupid. People in groups can do the dumbest things, while at other times, people achieve the most altruistic and amazing accomplishments. This is doubly true when it comes to gender and sex: some people manage to be mind-blowingly perceptive and tolerant, while others are bigoted, placing themselves or others at risk due to prejudice, ignorance, or small-mindedness. What I find intriguing is when one group of people makes itself out to be smarter or better-informed than another, and thus tries to regulate the other’s behavior. And I’m not just talking about instances where a sex researcher says, “Hey, X is a really good idea based on the studies I’ve seen” (where X might be consistent condom use to avoid pregnancy and STI transmission, or promoting gay-straight alliances in schools, or whatever). Continue Reading →