Category Archives: sexual politics

k-y lesbians

I was dogsitting for my sister and therefore had access to television, and I saw this:

And I would just like to say:

WAHOO!!!!

Okay, so it’s two thin white women. So it’s poorly written. (“People always ask us how we’ve stayed together so long…” “KY Intense!” but she just bought it and they’ve never used it, so how is it why they’ve stayed together so long?) So what?? It’s a tv commercial about lesbians improving their sex lives, that treats them like normal people.

From a cynical point of view, it values the buying power of same-sex couples over any moral outrage experienced by people who weren’t customers for KY anyway. And there are lots of ways that I’m interested in problemetizing the entire concept of mainstreaming. But still. They’re just like regular people.

Seriously. We have made progress.

Can I get a slow clap for this one little burst of same-sex couples being presented as ordinary in mainstream media?

in which emily gets mad.

This morning I googled “what the hell is wrong with people in colorado missouri and minnesota?”

I got no answer.

Fortunately this is a sex blog, because there is a LOT of sex talk happening in the election. And ALL of it pisses me off.

Because I am pissed off this morning, let me just vent a little:

Dick Santorum on Prop8: “7M Californians had their rights stripped away today by activist 9th Circuit judges.” Because Californians have a right to deny other citizens equal rights under the law – but wait, doesn’t that mean it was okay for these Californians to lose their rights? Wait, what?

And on contraception: “They said to people of faith, specifically the Catholic church… you will provide the morning-after pill, which is abortion drug…” So he’s got the facts straight, at least.

???

Side note: This was printed on ABC NEWS and went uncorrected by them. So let me correct, on my tiny scale: Emergency contraception will not impact an intact pregnancy. Tell everyone you know. It will, however, prevent pregnancy if taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex; the sooner you take it, the more effective it is. Tell everyone you know.

(SMITH STUDENTS: You can get emergency contraception without a prescription at Health Services for $15. Tell everyone in your house, and go get some just to have, just in case you or your friends need it.)

The man is a menace. He believes that if a women gets pregnant by a rape she should “accept what god is giving you.” He believes life begins “at conception” – i.e., when sperm meets egg. 50% of all fertilized eggs never implant in the first place. 1/3 of all implanted eggs spontaneously terminate within 6 weeks. Already, we’re up to two thirds of all “lives” ended without medical intervention (“god’s will, I suppose”) within the first 2 months. A further 8% miscarry in the following 32 weeks, a total of 3 out of 4 “innocent lives.” That’s triple the rate of induced abortions in the United States.

My point? The assertion that “life begins when egg meets sperm” is not only ignorant and wrong, but disrespectful to women who suffer the grief of a lost pregnancy.

On EVERY SINGLE ISSUE related to sexuality, reproductive health, and women’s rights, this dude is so far from what research has shown to be correct and supportive of positive health outcomes, that he actually almost counterbalances the weight of evidence with the mass of his own ignorance, bigotry, and outright lies. Almost.

And he has 44 delegates in the race to be named the Republican candidate.

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

(I don’t need to tell any of you about Dan Savage’s redefinition of “santorum,” do I? You all know about that already, right?)

how do you clean a girl scout?

So, in my first lecture I spent a lot of time talking about Haidt’s 5 moral foundations, focusing especially on the “Purity” foundation, as having a great deal to do with the politicization of sex and gender.

The idea with the moral foundation is that we’re born with a packet of moral potential, and it’s structured into these 5 different categories. One of them is “purity,” the notion that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants. It’s assessed with survey items like:

When you decide whether something is right or wrong, to what extent are the following considerations relevant to your thinking?

  • Whether or not someone violated standards of purity and decency
  • Whether or not someone did something disgusting
  • Whether or not someone acted in a way that God would approve of
  • and

    How strongly do you agree or disagree?

  • Chastity is an important and valuable virtue.
  • I would call some acts wrong on the grounds that they are unnatural.
  • People should not do things that are disgusting, even if no one is harmed.
  • And generally speaking, liberal-identified people rate these items very low while conservative-identified people rate these items very high.

    Except when it comes to sex. Apart from issues related to sexual orientation, liberals and conservatives aren’t very different in their moral assessment of sexuality, like if you tell someone these scenarios:

    A 34-year-old woman enjoys masturbating while cuddling with her favorite teddy bear.

    Or

    A 25-year-old man likes to masturbate while his dog willingly licks his owner’s genitals and seems to enjoy it.

    And you ask them how they feel about it, how they’d feel if this person invited them over for dinner, or how they’d feel if they saw a photograph of it, political affiliation does not predict how people respond.

    It also doesn’t predict whether or why they say it’s “okay or not okay.” Liberals and conservatives are just as likely to use “ethics of divinity,” a moral code about appropriate uses of the body.

    I taught all that on Wednesday, and then THIS came across my screen:

    A Make Girl Scouts Clean Again facebook page!

    CLEAN!!

    For those who lives in ditches, girl scouts recently admitted a transgender girl (born male, has identified as a girl since the age of 2) who wanted to be a girl scout. (In fact, she hasn’t joined – yet – because her mom would like an apology, due to the fact that the first person she asked called her kid “it.” Which is more evidence that the characteristics of a group do not necessarily predict the characteristics of the INDIVIDUALS in that group.)

    This makes the Girl Scouts “dirty,” according to some Jesus-wielding, gender-terrorizing fuckwits.

    (Not that I judge…)

    Anyway, the language choice of “clean” is just such a crystal clear example of the ways the moral foundation of purity is applied in political issues related to sex and gender.

    Me?I bought two boxes of Thin Mints and a box of Somoas yesterday. Delicious, dirty cookies.

    they’ll like us when we win

    Trigger warning. Discussion of attitudes supportive of sexual violence.

    Here’s a TED talk of Melinda Gates talking about how Coke does things that human services can learn from. Coke, she tells us, uses real-time data, local entrepreneurs, and aspirational marketing.

    What she doesn’t mention is that Coke has a product that is chemically addictive (caffeine) and filled with glycogen-ready sucrose. Human bodies/brains respond to table sugar in much the way they respond to cocaine. I’m pretty sure Coke doesn’t need to make us feel good with aspirational marketing, because it makes us feel good with sugar and caffeine.

    In contrast, when it comes to prevention interventions around sex, it really doesn’t matter how “aspirational” your marketing is or how good your data are: condoms interfere with pleasure. They require a skillset separate from (and potentially interfering with) the skillset for being good in bed and enjoying sexual pleasure. They do. Condoms don’t feel as nice as skin, and anyone who says differently probably works for a condom company or a public health office.

    I’m a sex educator; it’s my job (among other things) to persuade people to use condoms correctly and consistently. What are the good things and the not-so-good things about using a condom?

    Good things: not getting a disease, not getting pregnant.

    Not so good things: fumbling around, feeling embarrassed, potential loss of erection, making your partner think you don’t trust them or that you think they have a disease or that you cheated on them or think they cheated on you, not to mention reduced sensation.

    Young people in particular have a hard enough time communicating about sex, but add to that communicating about condoms and you just have a shitshow.

    What is there but fear – and POWERFUL fear, to overcome the perceived unlikelihood of negative consequences – to force someone to use a condom, given that laundry list of hassles and worries and angst?

    Well.

    This fell into my head after a series of conversations with a variety of people that can be summed up this way:

    In Europe, there are small pockets of immigrant, Muslim men who believe that women who wear t-shirts and show their knees are no better than they should be and it’s completely fine to do anything you like to them, including sexually harass and assault them. Just small pockets of them, but they’re there, and they’re convinced by their cultural beliefs (emphatically NOT their religious beliefs or their families’ beliefs, but by specific cultural rules of men in impoverished and marginalized communities) that what I call violence against women is completely acceptable.

    So tell me, Melinda Gates, what does Coke have to teach us about changing that? What aspirational marketing, local entrepreneurship, or real-time data will convince these men that their behavior is in fact morally reprehensible, not to mention criminal?

    This, at a time when my mandatory sexual harassment training tell me that if a coach touches his athlete in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable and asks her personal questions that make her feel uncomfortable, this might not be harassment if (a) it’s common for coaches to do these things (b) he treats all his athletes this way or (c) other athletes don’t agree that she’s being harassed.

    That’s what MY LAWYER is telling me.

    (NB: If it’s common for coaches to touch their athletes in this way, then there’s systemic abuse happening; if this coach treats all his athletes this way, then he’s a serial perpetrator. And if the other athletes don’t agree she’s being harassed, they’re participating in rape culture, with its victim blaming/survivor stigmatization, its gender stereotypes, and its rape myth acceptance.)

    Sometimes you can’t be nice. Sometimes you just have to make laws and enforce the hell out of them and manage the inevitable resistance that arises, and eventually you WIN and then people settle into a new normal.

    Toby on West Wing said it: They’ll like us when we win.

    Condoms are not the answer to STIs: cures and vaccines are the answer. People can’t be relied on to protect their long term interests in the face of short-term loss.

    And collaborative, developmental conversations are not the answer to changing the culture of objectification of women: shaming and imprisonment are the answer. People can’t be relied on to retain respect for others when everything in their culture and their meta-culture tells them that others are not really human.

    There are days when I’m not interested in creative solutions or getting the buy-in of the stakeholders. There are days when I just want to blow people off the face of the earth. They’ll like us when we win.

    could the emergency contraception decision make sense?

    I feel obliged to comment on the jaw-dropping stupidity of the recent actions of the Obama administration regard access to emergency contraception.

    I’ve been trying to work out what the administration gains from this betrayal of science and public health, because I simply cannot tolerate the idea that someone as intelligent and clear-thinking as Obama really BELIEVES that this is a “common sense” decision that makes sense to him as a father of two girls. That’s BULLSHIT. It’s got to be political.

    So. I investigated some.

    Rates of abortion among girls aged 15 and under is less than one per 10,000, compared with around 1 in 1,000 among girls aged 15-17 (these two groups combined represent about 6.4% of all abortions performed) and slightly over 2 per thousand among girls aged 18-19, according to the Guttmacher Institute. So the public health impact on reducing access to effective contraception is far less than, say, the impact of not allowing it for OTC sale to women over 17, which is what the Bush administration did until 2006, three YEARS after the FDA advised that it was safe.

    This is not to minimize the importance of reducing barriers to access to girls under the age of 17. If you’re that girl whose condom broke or whose partner forced you to have sex without a condom or who can’t ask your parents about getting birth control, then being able to walk into a store, pick up a box, and buy it, is TOTALLY CRUCIAL. (Though, as Cora Breuner points out in the Time article linked above, how many of those girls have $50 to buy EC?)

    But say you’re a president. And say you want to make a public decision that will make you look good to people who don’t know much about these issues and are much better at being scared of young people’s sexuality than they are at being compassionate toward young people who have sex – because those ignorant, non-compassionate people are swing voters – but you want to do it without actually fucking up public health outcomes in a major way.

    You’re not significantly increasing the pregnancy rate or the abortion rate, as measured at the population level, because those girls represent such a small proportion of the abortions performed in the U.S. And you’re not even meaningfully increasing the pregnancy rate, since access to EC is not correlated at the population level with reductions in the pregnancy rate. It’ll be easy to point to data that show that no harm was done.

    And in 2012, when you’ve been elected for your second and final term, you can reverse the decision, with someone brilliant like Elizabeth Warren in the wings, knowing that the number of girls who suffered over the previous 11 months is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of women and girls who would suffer under any of the Republican contenders’ administrations.

    (FYI: a handy summary of the age-and-EC research by RHTP (PDF).)

    I’m not trying to be an apologist here – the decision is fraudulent and a vicious strike against both science and women’s reproductive health and rights. It’s BULLSHIT and it makes me angry. But I’ve respected a great deal of what the President has done, especially the measured, patient, and collaborative approach he has brought, even when the Republicans didn’t (in my view) deserve such respectful treatment. He’s Melanie Hamilton to my Rhett Butler: he’s all the things I can never be but that I respect as good and decent. So what in the world could induce Melanie Hamilton to support such a stupid decision?

    Long-term harm reduction.

    It’s an idea.

    But don’t let this idea stop you from calling your representative, your Senators, and the white house, to explain to them that it’s BULLSHIT. BULL. SHIT.

    ’tis the season

    This year I’m participating in the annual Hot Chocolate Run here in western Mass, which benefits Safe Passage, our local domestic violence shelter.

    It’ll be me and 5,499 others, running or walking through the relatively affluent streets of Northampton, MA, to raise money and awareness around intimate partner violence.

    Shall I give you some statistics to explain why?

    One in four women is a target/victim of domestic/intimate partner violence in her lifetime, distributed about equally across all ethnic groups. IPV is more common in urban areas than rural or suburban areas, and women aged 20-24 are at the highest risk.

    Domestic/intimate partner violence disproportionately victimizes women: 85% of survivors are women; 15% are men. Only about 1 in 5 women (1 in 10 men) reports their abuse to the police.

    Half of men who frequently abuse their wives also frequently abuse their children.

    In about half of all battering relationships, one of the weapons used is sex; sexual assault occurs in about 45% of violent relationships.

    IPV increases with unemployment. The national unemployment rate is 9%, roughly double what it was before the economy did a nosedive in 2008.

    And domestic violences increases around the holidays. Really, it does. ‘Tis the season.

    And yet Safe Passage, like so many shelters and support agencies, has to raise money with a fun run, rather than having guaranteed, permanent federal, state, and local government funding. Which seems shameful to me.

    There are lots of worthy causes out there – animal shelters, global poverty, global hunger, reproductive rights, climate change, wildlife conservation, the list goes on.

    For me, this is one where I can see the difference my little contribution makes, right here in my neighborhood.

    Click the Hot Chocolate Run icon on your right (or right here) to “pledge” for me for the hot chocolate run, or donate directly to Safe Passage.

    Or find the shelter that’s in your area (you can start by looking here) and donate to them.

    Or talk with your friends and family about pooling holiday gift money to support a cause rather than buy each other more crap and carbohydrates. Last year my sister and her family gave a goat, and then she got the kids little goat-themed stuff, like t-shirts and body lotion.

    And finally, if you think your relationship might be abusive, or if you don’t feel safe in your relationship, click here.

    genitals and epistemology

    I desperately want to assign my class Susan Frost’s Implications of the New Materialisms for Feminist Epistemology, a dense, challenging, 15-page work of feminist philosophy of science.

    It’s stuff like this:

    Feminist scientists and historians have done a marvelous job of breaking down the modern binary of nature and culture by showing how the natural environment or aspects of biological processes and behavior are shaped by the social and cultural. Non-scientific feminists, however, have been wary of if not downright resistant to reconsidering biology or materiality as anything but discursive formations, as historically specific products of power relations, linguistic practices, and cultural beliefs….To put the point differently, feminists have been more comfortable with denaturalizing nature than with what we mnight call “deculturalizing culture” – or admitting that matter or biology might have a form of agency or force that shapes, enhances, conditions, or delimits the agency of culture. Yet, this wary reluctance, understandable as it is given historical precedent, is structured by an understanding of causation that binds feminists to the binaries they have otherwise been constructing.

    Does a reading like that have a place in a 100-level class?

    The reason I want to assign it is because it is very, very hard to explain the idea of “new materialism” in the context of a lecture – I haven’t even been very successful explaining it on the BLOG (despite trying various times, including here and here) – and yet it MUST be explained to them because (a) apparently no one else on my campus is teaching it and (2) it’s integral to my entire approach to the class and to the science of sexuality.

    But on a deeper level, does a conversation about the nature of science belong in a 100-level class? Easily the least popular lecture from last fall’s class was the 100 Years of American Sex Research night, when I talked about who and how and what disciplines generated the knowledge I was teaching them. What they liked best in the class is when I explained stuff they’d always wondered about – why some penises are curvy, why orgasm is sometimes difficult and sometimes easy, why it felt like they had to pee during intercourse, how to break a hymen, all the things that are most popular on the blog – and they really kinda didn’t much care about where the answers came from.

    It would totally fair of me to boil the entire argument of New Materialism down to, “This is a 100-level, two-credit survey course, and therefore everything I’m teaching is, in fact, vastly more complex than I have time to go into.”

    But… I mean, these students are so smart. They’re so hungry. They’re so INTERESTED in critical thinking.

    So I’ll ask you nice folks:

    If you were in the class, would you rather I dismissed the details of multi-level, reciprocal interaction across biology and culture and instead spent more time on basic health stuff? Or would you rather I skip some of the basic health stuff (which you can find online more or less anywhere) and instead spent more time talking about the theoretical underpinnings of the class?

    on monkeys, bullshit, and scale

    I was feeling smugly knowledgeable and clever, and then I started reading Stephen Hawkings’ Grand Design. I understand, oh, maybe half of it? He loses me at field theories.

    But there’s one bit that I found to be a wonderfully clear description of something that I’ve struggled to make clear.

    In 1922, a Russian mathematician named Friedman found the galaxies are moving away from each other, and he did it by making two assumptions:

    …[T]hat the universe looks identical in every direction and that it looks that way from every observation point. We know that Friedman’s first assumption is not exactly true. The universe fortunately is not uniform everywhere. If we gaze upward in one direction, we might see the sun, in another the moon or a colony of migrating vampire bats. But the universe does appear to be roughly the same in every direction when viewed on a scale that is far larger – larger even than the distance between galaxies. It is something like looking down at a forest: if you are close enough, you can make out individual leaves, or at least trees and the spaces between them. But if you are so high up that your thumb covers a square mile of trees, the forest will appear to be a uniform shade of green. We will say that, on that scale, the forest is uniform.

    And what good could come from making such a sweeping assumption that wipes out every variegated leaf, every inch of bark, every mammal and bird and lizard the dwelled there? Why, this:

    Based on his assumptions, Friedman was able to discover a solution to Einstein’s equations, in which the universe expanded in a manner that Hubble would soon discover to be true.

    Which is, ya know, IMPORTANT.

    And it just doesn’t matter if there are a million brown monkeys living in the forest; it’s still true that from space, the forest is green.

    Ya’ll know that my my dissertation looked specifically at interactions across levels of analysis, so this question of “scale” is very, very important to me, particularly as it relates to sex research.

    Many of you will consider me embarrassingly naive when I say that I was surprised, when I talked about things that are true about populations – for example, that human populations contain two general categories of people, males and females – that people reacted negatively.

    And by “negatively,” I mean people felt personally insulted, “erased,” oppressed, and generally like the scientific establishment was deliberately trying to tell them they don’t exist.

    Truly, I was like, “… Huh?”

    Because I know that science about populations has no particular meaning for individuals. Like: On average, humans are 5’6″, brown-eyed, and east Asian. Should I therefore think, “Phew, I’m 5’6″, but crap, I’ve got blue eyes and I’m this northern European mutt! There’s something wrong with me!” No.

    Or should I think, “I’m not brown-eyed and I’m not east Asian, so therefore that’s BULLSHIT!” No. It’s not bullshit just because it’s not true about ME; it’s not TRYING to be true about me, it can only be true about the POPULATION.

    No, the sentence, “On average, humans are 5’6″, brown-eyed, and east Asian,” is both true and fair. FROM SPACE (according to the metaphor). At the largest scale.

    What’s not true is, “Every individual human who ever existed was 5’6″, brown-eyed, and east Asian.” At the human-level scale, that’s simply wrong.

    And making a LAW that says, “People are 5’6″, brown-eyed, and east Asian; to be anything else is against the law,” is both untrue and unjust – a.k.a., ACTUAL “bullshit.”

    And I want everyone to be able to tell the difference between those things, between science, what’s true about you, and bullshit.

    The basic point that something can be true about the population you live in without being true about you as an individual is something I’ve struggled over and over to persuade people to take for granted, even to the point of considering giving up on the idea.

    Social science at the population level is an important reality-check, bringing us out of our on-the-ground perceptions and lifting us into orbit to see the bigger picture. The bigger picture is powerful and important. Each of our little micro-pictures also is important, in different ways and for different reasons. And science at the population level is NOT a weapon; it’s a tool. As the Dog Whisperer tells us, “It’s not the tool, it’s the person holding the tool,” that makes it a weapon.

    (I wonder if we could train all journalists writing about science to include not only the means but the variability, just to help remind people that the very concept of “average” necessarily implies variability.)

    scientists. and the 99%.

    mad science

    Michael Pollen is pissing me off a little. For two reasons, actually. I’ll just talk about one of the reasons for now.

    I don’t disagree with the principle message of “In Defense of Food,” which is, very approximately, that it’s better to eat stuff that looks the way it grew, stuff that was made by the earth, rather than stuff that’s been through chemical processes between the earth and your plate. Also it’s better eat while paying attention to yourself and the people around you. That’s self-evident to me.

    What pisses me off is (and this is just my reading of it) the condescending attitude toward “reductionist science.” Darn those foolish yet all-powerful reductionist scienists and their belief that they can measure what’s nutritious about food!!

    Of course, he’s not condemning it while he’s citing the “reductionist science” that shows that people will eat far more if their bowl automatically refills, or the “reductionist science” that analyses the macro- and micronutrient content of non-western populations. Somehow THOSE scientists are just providing interesting and helpful information, not implying that individual nutritients or specific behaviors are solely responsible for ill health or good health.

    It makes no sense, this simultaneous reliance on and contempt for science and the scientific method.

    Contempt for science per se is contemptible. Science is the best – indeed the only – system we have for gaining reliable information about the world outside our own individual experience.

    Is it perfect? Hell no, because people aren’t perfect, and scientists are people; but the entire structure of scientific endeavor deliberately counteracts the biases and shortcomings of people. It is a PROCESS, not an outcome.

    The history of applied health-related sciences is often the history of good ideas, well intentioned, falling short of the mark, or else solving some problems while creating others. The industrialization of the food supply is a perfect example: why did we end up with massive monocultures of a handful of high-yield breeds of a handful of species? Because people were starving during the depression and we needed to find a way to get calories into bodies on a massive scale. The unintended consequences have been chronic diseases and an unprecedented scale of malnourished yet obese humans, but the key word is UNINTENDED. In this particular case, goverment, industry, and science worked together in ignorance, doing their best to FEED PEOPLE.

    Nowadays, the food industry proceeds to process and refine our foods in full knowledge of the health consequences, and they may even deliberately manipulate food to their benefit and our detriment.

    The medicalization of women’s sexual dysfunction parallels this. (You knew I’d get to sex eventually, right?) Ostensibly the goal of Masters and Johnson’s four phase model was to describe the sexual arousal process of all humans; it turns out it’s different for girls, and they ended up with roughly three sexual “landscapes” for women.

    So Helen Singer Kaplan develops the triphasic model of sexual response, which is so important it’s the model on which clinical diagnoses are made. It added “desire” before “excitement,” noting that M and J left out this crucial piece of the sexual arousal puzzle. Now you can have a desire disorder, an arousal disorder, or an orgasm disorder (or a pain disorder).

    And then it turned out that actually a lot of women have “responsive” desire, instead of “spontaneous” desire, so that sometimes excitement comes BEFORE desire, and these women might be incorrectly diagnosed as “low desire,” when actually they are just normal and health with “repsonsive” desire.

    And it also turns out that women’s physiological response to sexual stimuli doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with their mental or emotional response. Do they have “arousal disorders”? No, they’re just WOMEN.

    And women’s orgasms vary more from each other than men’s orgasms do – in latency (how long it takes to get there), duration (how long they last), and intensity (how big they are when they get here). Do they have orgasm problems? No, they just have WOMEN’S orgasms.

    Now, the pharmaceutical industry, with a massive vested interest in creating a pill that will “fix” these “problems” will inevitably perseverate; why buy into a new model (however accurate) when the old model is more profitable? No, they are sticking with the old model, and they will exert political and commercial pressure to make all of US stick with the old model too. Why don’t we see Leonore Tiefer on TV more? Why, it’s because big pharma is the largest source of TV ad revenue!

    But that’s industry. NOT science. Getting these things wrong and then correcting them is the process of science. It’s a GOOD sign when we figure out we were wrong, because now it means we’re (closer to being) right!

    I think what I want to say here is that scientists aren’t monsters. Corporations may very well be (though any given individual within a corporation may not be, necessarily), but scientists are curious, hypothesis-orientated adventurers, treasure hunters who love the feeling of finding not gold but ANSWERS.

    Hate corporations. Love science.

    PS – the other things that caused me to be pissed at Michael Pollen is the classist, privileged standards he sets for healthy eating. Spend more? Eat less? Spend more time preparing food? Tell that to a single mom making minimum wage who needs to feed her kid.

    what are the sex books

    Arrite people. I’m now listening to Michael Pollen’s In Defense of Food: an eater’s manifesto, and it constitutes the fifth book I’ve read that says that really it’s the refined carbohydrates – flour and sugar, basically – that cause heart disease and overfat. (See also Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, and At Home by Bill Bryson, and best of all Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy by Walter Willett, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and therefore no wackanutty journalist but an honest-to-god expert.)

    Now, this idea has been around a long time and there have been books written about it for several decades, but only now is it seeping so thoroughly into the mainstream that even *I* am unable to avoid it.

    I, like you, grew up hearing that it was the fat in our diets that caused the negative health consequences (this is “the lipid hypothesis”), and it is simultaneously appalling and liberating to learn that that is wrong. It’s a revolution, and yet it makes perfect sense and feels very, very good.

    Can you tell I’ve been reading a lot, and a lot about health? I’m totally That Crazy Lady with the Nutrition and Exercise Books. I always have been. My mother was an aerobic teacher before I was born (the fitness club was called a “figure salon” then) and sprinkled wheat germ on our food; there was a rotating library of diet and exercise books in the house; we watched PBS specials about food and exercise science (Covert Bailey FTW!)

    But there were no sex books!! None! Despite that being a central component of my wellbeing as a person. (There were also no books or PBS specials about sleep, about which I’ve been reading a great deal and have strong feelings, but this is a sex blog. So.)

    So tell me, peoples of the interweb: where are the revolutionary, liberating sex books?

    What are you reading that makes you go, “Oh my god, I’ve been lied to, I’ve been manipulated, I’ve been made to believe things that have actually hurt me, when the truth is that all I need to do is be like a monkey!” or “Holy crap, all this time I’ve been worried about THE WRONG THINGS – and actually the main thing is I just need to worry less!” or “Ohhhhhhhhhhh… christ, if someone had told me this 10 years ago, I’d be in a really different place right now.”

    Seriously. Tell me. I’m desperate to know.

    Example of why I’m desperate to know: A week or two ago, I watched students reading Paul Joanides’ bewitching Guide to Getting It On (which is one of the textbooks for my class) and learning the kinds of things I forget people need to learn: what is erotica? Why is he in a wheelchair? What exactly is a vagina? I had no idea you could do it in so many positions!

    Despite being intelligent, highly educated, and mostly middle-class or higher women, they were, to an astonishing degree, absolute, utter beginners. Through no fault of their own – no one ever told them this stuff, and shame on the world for allowing that to be true!

    Indeed, I’ve gotten frustrated in the past because the occasional student will tell me, “Well I didn’t learn anything new [in your TWO HOUR LECTURE THAT IT TOOK YOU 10 HOURS TO WRITE, DURING WHICH PROCESS EVEN YOU, THE BONA FIDE EXPERT, LEARNED SOME STUFF]. But it was nice to have the review.” If you fail to learn anything during one of my lectures, you really, truly, seriously, are not paying attention.

    But I don’t hear from the students who are sitting there having their mind blow by stuff that I assume everyone already knows – like what a vagina is, what erotica is, that people in wheelchairs have sex, etc.

    So what is there in the world these days that lifting the veil and changing/improving the way you think about your sexuality? (And I’m most interested in the ones that improve just that, YOUR sexuality, as opposed to changing the way you think about sex culturally. The food books talk about the cultural/infrastructure issues related to food, but that’s not as important for my day-to-day life.)

    I think Sexual Fluidity (a chapter of which is in my course reader) might be one of them.

    What else? Tell me, tell me!