And Then I Brought Up Flesh Hooks.

One of the topics I discussed with my fall college-level class on non-monogamy is BDSM and kink. I deliberately introduced the topic at the end of the semester, when we’d already studied sexual and gender configurations around the world, past and present, with an eye toward how gender, sexuality, and relationship models inform one another’s construction. Our purpose was to critically evaluate how these things work, not to judge them. My goal was to give my students a vocabulary for discussing various sexual practices, and then to have them turn that critical gaze on subjects closer to home and happening in contemporary America: swinging, polygamy, polyamory, and kink. But there I was, on Day 1 of discussing BDSM, mentioning extreme examples of kinky play like flesh hooks and blood play. Continue Reading →

New Study on Exercise and Sex: Our 30 Day Core Challenge

Researchers from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University’s School of Public Health in Bloomington, Indiana are recruiting women and men to participate in a 30 Day Core Challenge, which is a study of exercise and sexual feelings (such as arousal and orgasm). In order to be eligible you must be at least 18 years old. You must be able to engage in physical exercise (such as squats and abdominal exercises, like crunches). In addition, you need to be willing to go online every day for up to 30 days to complete a short questionnaire about the exercises you did that day (if you did any) and any sexual feelings, such as arousal or orgasm, that you experienced. To learn more about the study or participate, visit the study website at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/corechallengestudy 

Thank you. Continue Reading →

Poly 101 Vs. Poly 201

In the class on non-monogamy that I’m teaching this semester, we’ve spent some time discussing polyamory and open relationships, focusing on how these relationship models intersect with cultural notions of gender and sexuality. We’ve covered a lot of “Poly 101″ topics such as how to communicate in non-monogamous relationships, so I’m going to pass along to my students this link to a blog post about Poly 201 issues. In it, blogger AmazonSyren describes the importance of having a space in which to discuss the issues that arise when one is practicing an alternative sexuality lifestyle. It’s less about “whoa, this is new, what are my options?” and more about “ok, now that we’re here, let’s discuss managing the daily things that crop up in this lifestyle.” Continue Reading →

Rethinking “Consent Is Sexy”

Condom Monologues recently published an interview with sex educator Ashley Manta on consent, sex positivity, and other hot topics in the world of sex education. In it, she urges us to rethink the phrase “consent is sexy,” claiming that it’s an oversimplification:

Consent is not always sexy—sometimes it’s downright awkward. Having a conversation about boundaries, STI testing, and other pre-sex talking points can be incredibly difficult. That does not make it any less necessary. I think it’s important to let people know that these conversations can be challenging and that good sexual communication takes practice. Continue Reading →

Eight Holiday Gifts for the Sex Geek in Your Life (2013 Edition)

There’s nothing quite like a thoughtful gift that says “I love you in all your sex geekiness.” And if you’re a reader of this blog, I’d guess you have a bit of a sex geek streak yourself. Continuing the tradition of curating a list of sex-positive gifts, here are my 2013 suggestions for the sex geek in your life. 1. Buy them an iTunes gift card so they can download the first season of Masters of Sex when it comes out. This well-reviewed series about sex research pioneers Masters and Johnson will be sure to please. Continue Reading →

Clear Teaching Principles and Sex Education

At fellow MSP blogger Kate’s urging, I began to brainstorm ways to apply the clear teaching principles articulated here to sex education. I’ve spent way more time in the university classroom, typically teaching folklore and/or gender studies classes, than I have in the sex ed classroom, so some of this will speculative. If nothing else, I hope it’ll be helpful or thought-provoking. In the aforementioned article, Dan Berrett relates the findings of studies that document a correlation between students’ perception of their professors’ teaching and improvements in student attitudes and performances that follow. The research suggests that these teaching practices can even help ameliorate gaps in skill sets that exist between students at different levels of privilege. Continue Reading →

Sexuality and Tenure

An assistant professor at Indiana University Northwest reports that she has been denied tenure because she is out as a lesbian. Her publishing record is excellent, and thus she suspects discrimination. This isn’t surprising, given how we’ve seen transgender professors denied tenure. I don’t think it’s fair to ask academics with non-mainstream gender/sexual identities to remain closeted. But that’s essentially what these actions are doing: enforcing a heteronormative ban on behavior that is different. Continue Reading →

Thoughts On “Carrot Dating”

Thanks to an MIT alumnus, there now exists an app called “Carrot Dating,” which allows allows people to offer potential dates a gift for going on a date with them. The problem, of course, is where the gift crosses the line into, say, a bribe or a payment. The app’s creator explains the idea like this: “Giving is the greatest ‘icebreaker,’ and anyone can date the man or woman of their dreams by simply dangling the right ‘carrot.’” The idea is apparently more about having a way to break the ice, and then seeing if you connect, than actually trying to pay someone to go on a date with you. As someone with a background in cultural anthropology, I can agree that giving occupies an important role in many cultures. A glimpse at my field’s classics will confirm this. Continue Reading →

Academia’s Hostility To Women

The Guardian documents a new study reporting on why women in the sciences are leaving academia at much greater rates than men. According to the study’s results, the number of women in science PhD programs who report wanting to remain in academia plummets the longer they spend working on their degrees. Women learn, by observation and experience, that their gender will be an impediment to their progress, and they reported more than men did that the great sacrifices demanded of them were too large. While this study focused on the sciences, I think it might apply in the social sciences and humanities as well. Academia is full of gendered micro-inequalities, though women have largely made progress over time. Continue Reading →

Six Things I Learned From Being a Birth Control Counselor

Like many sex educators I know, my very first sex ed gig was taking part in my undergrad university’s peer education program. Getting the training and the opportunity to deliver sex ed was a powerful experience for me and a real boost to my career as a sex educator (penis costume notwithstanding). One of the key responsibilities of being a peer educator was providing one-on-one sexual health counseling for students at the University’s health center – many of them young women wanting to start using birth control. Since the doctors and nurse practitioners at the health center had little time to spend with patients, my role was to educate the “clients” about their options beforehand. I had the time to ask questions about their lifestyle, sexual activities, preferences, and what would be convenient for them. Continue Reading →