Category Archives: Editorial

What Is Sex? Or, How Do I Know If I’ve Lost My Virginity?

I was speaking with a woman who wanted me to do a blog post on adult virgins (which I plan to do) when I was struck by something that she was saying. She was in her early twenties and considered herself a virgin yet when I asked her about her sexual history I learned that she regularly engaged in sexual activity like oral sex and mutual masturbation, she just hasn’t been vaginally or anally penetrated. This seems to be the distinction, for many, between virginity and lack there of. Penetration = sex. I feel it is my duty to proclaim that penetration ≠ sex…well, ok it does but it’s not the only thing that equals sex.

 So here it is, the age old argument against defining sex as vaginal penetration. Lesbians and gay men. Now I hear your argument already, “Lesbians use strap-ons and gay men penetrate each other anally,” but here’s the thing, not all lesbians use strap-ons and anal sex isn’t as common amongst gay men as pop culture and pornography would have you believe. Many homosexuals have had non-penetrative sex their whole lives and you can trust me that most would not consider themselves virgins. Sex is what happens when two horny people consent to help each other feel pleasure in an erotic way. Ever notice how it’s called oral SEX. Now I’ll concede that the line get’s blurry when the people aren’t in the same room; are phone sex and cyber sex the kinds of sex that constitutes a loss of virginity?

 If the question is “Did I just have sex?” I think that the answer must also come in the form of a question. “Do you think you just had sex?” if the answer is “Yes!” then you, my friend, just had sex! When two women are bringing each other to climax using their hands and mouths they most definitely think that they are having sex, and they’d be right. Sex is just one of those terrible things like art that is kind of subjective. Some people believe that anything can be art and in a similar way if you believe that you’re having sex that’s the only way to really know if you’re having sex. No one else can tell you.

So I get that this woman I was speaking to doesn’t think that she’s had sex yet but she also seems to be putting an inordinate amount of weight on one particular sexual act to the point of almost negating all her previous sexual experience. I don’t think that we should raise vaginal intercourse up on some pedestal of sexuality as the key sex act to which all other sex acts are lesser. It’s just one kind of sexual activity that can make up sex, and in fact, it’s one of the more high risk things you can do with a sexual partner. This doesn’t even cover the fact that considering vaginal intercourse to be the only real kind of sex is a highly discriminatory and heteronormative viewpoint and leaves people who do not engage in this kind of sex on the fringe. I for one believe that the sex act which we consider to be the primary and most important one should be masturbation. I think that would go a long way towards demystifying sex.

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The Most Painful Side Effect Of Genital Herpes Is Stigma

Most people know what herpes are. There’s the kind that gives you unsightly and painful cold sores on and around your mouth and there’s the kind that does so on and around your genitals. Herpes are extremely easily transmittable, requiring only skin to skin contact, with condoms being an ineffective form of prevention. About 1 in 6 Americans aged 14-49 have genital herpes causing them some pain and discomfort but more than anything else, embarrassment.

Perhaps the most devastating side effect of genital herpes is stigma. The stigma associated with herpes is absolutely brutal, especially considering the fact that it is non-lethal and, beyond it’s unsightliness, is harmless. It’s true, many people’s first herpes flare up can be painful or prolonged but we forget that the shame associated with herpes can cause significant emotional damage to many people who have the virus.

Sadly, herpes is incurable at this point in time. If you contract it, you have it for life. But there is something that can be done about herpes. The world at large can stop giving such an enormous fuck about it. Beyond the actual outbreaks, it’s such a non-thing, but even reading this I’m sure some of you are still completely turned off by the idea of herpes as though it were some giant mark of uncleanliness. “People with herpes are dirty sluts,” is the general consensus and in our society it is acceptable to openly mock them both in our personal lives but also, in some cases, in the media.

The shaming and the stigma surrounding herpes is one of the saddest consequences of the low level of sexual education amongst adults. It is so common, that when we speak flippantly and hurtfully about it in our social groups, the chance that someone present has herpes is quite high. Could you imagine being that person?

Herpes and HPV are so, so common. Most sexually active individuals have at least one of the two, the one’s with herpes and the strains of HPV that cause warts just happen to be the unlucky ones who have to explain their STIs to their partners (or worse, hide them) in hopes that they won’t run for the hills or shame them publicly. Imagine what effect this would have on a person’s confidence and sex life.

We need to educate ourselves on the realities of herpes and HPV and stop this culture of stigma surrounding them. We need to eradicate sexual shaming in all its forms, not just shame about orientation or how many partners one chooses to have, but the shame about the real consequences of simply having sex, because the only way to protect against herpes is abstinence. The only reason you don’t have herpes is because of dumb luck, and who knows, herpes can lie dormant and symptomless, it could be you that is giving herpes to the very people that you are shaming. Just think before you speak about herpes, are your words contributing to the worst side effects of this virus or healing them? There isn’t a cure for herpes, there is a cure for stigma.

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Sex Is The Way We Play, A Rant

Is sex the most important thing in the world? No, obviously not, but it is really, really important. Now, as the writer of the sex blog, of course I’d say that. Sure, sure, sex is sooo important, gimme a break. But I mean it, even though it’s not the most important thing for humans, it’s way up there.

Ok, so here’s what’s more important than sex: strong, healthy, loving relationships. That is the most important thing in the world, period. But I’m not here to talk about why relationships are so integral being human, I’m here to talk about why sex is.

Sex is how adults play, which is the word we use for, “things we do for fun.” Remember fun? Fun is that thing that, when you were a ki,d you knew without question was the most important thing in the world. Relationships are what keep us alive, fun is what we live for. Now, I can already hear some readers saying, “Well he’s a millennial, of course he thinks fun is what we should live for, such narcissism.” Yeah, well, if that’s you right now then go away and stop bumming the rest of us out (or keep reading, whatever).

Play is super important, as much today as ever. We work many, many long hours as Western adults and are encouraged to funnel any and all creativity into our work. Fantasy and roleplaying are looked down upon as juvenile and have been relegated to the last bastion of play for adults, sex. Now all my Settlers of Catan players out there are getting their panties in a knot and I acknowledge that games in all forms are having a renaissance, and this is fantastic news. Right now, however, sex is still the primary form of play for adults and if sex isn’t going well for you then there’s a good likelihood that the amount of fun in your life is low. There is so much pressure for sex to be always fun and fulfilling and abundant, because it’s our primary playful release, that when sex isn’t so fun or fulfilling or is lacking in your life then life can start to seem pretty shitty.

There is a whole argument to be made about how we need to de-stigmatize the use of imagination and play as a thing for adults to engage in. Adults are actively discouraged from the kinds of playing that they were encouraged to do as children. This is the reason I think sex is so important, humans need to have fun. This is something that I emphatically believe. If sex is how adults have fun then great, but if so, we need to make it ok for adults to really have fun. This is why I think that getting rid of the stigma that surrounds kinks and fetishes and all the myriad ways in which people express themselves is so important. In a world with so much stress we need to be able to relieve ourselves of it as best we can and feeling shamed or guilty about the way we choose to play is going to greatly impede that catharsis.

Being open to the way in which people choose to play is your obligation as a human being. As long as no one is hurting anyone else or themselves, we need to support everyone in their quest to have as much free, self expressed fun as they possibly can. I want to live in a world where there is no sexual stigma and no stigma around fun and play. I want to live in a world where people are encouraged to express themselves in a healthy and positive way, to counterbalance the demands and stresses that this futuristic 21st century life places on all of us.

I take sex seriously because I take play seriously. I seriously think that play is fucking important and I think that fucking is how most people play. The reason why I do this blog is so that people will learn more about sex and how other people enjoy it, and how to enjoy it more safely, but most of all it’s so that, through exposure, people will start to become accepting of sexuality on all levels, not as something to be private and secretive about but to be proud and accepting about. The queer community has always had it right (obviously), we need to take pride in our sexuality and encourage everyone to do the same because who’ll want to fight when we’re having this much fun. Ever been to a pride parade? I’ve never seen a better celebration of fun and play in my life.

Rant over.

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Want To Really Participate In Sexual Science? You May Be Eligible To Take One Of These Three Scientific Surveys

It came to my attention that over at The Psychology Of Human Sexuality they are in need of participants for a number of scientific surveys about sex and relationships. I don’t know about any of you, but I’m all about this kind of thing. Naturally, with any good study or survey, the more participants there are, the more reliable the findings. So please, if you are eligible, take one or more of the surveys and share this with your friends. I’ll be sure to let you guys know if/when I hear about the results.

  • Attitudes Toward Sexual Relationships – You must currently have at least one “friend with benefits” and/or be involved in some type of romantic relationship in order to participate. You will be asked a series of questions about your relationship(s) and sexual attitudes.
  • Survey of Men’s Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors – This survey is open to men who have sex with other men, regardless of their sexual identity and relationship status. You will be asked questions about your sexual history and current sexual practices.
  • Consensual Nonmonogamy – This study is open to persons involved in any type of consensual, nonexclusive intimate relationship(s). You will be asked questions about your relationship beliefs, practices, and desires.

Now go forth and be a part of sexual science!

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Female Sexual Fluidity And Male Sexual Rigidity

A woman  I am friends with was married to a man for a good number of years and before him she was only ever involved with men. Their relationship stopped working and the next person my friend ended up falling in love with happened to be a woman. This story is more common than you may think, in fact there’s a whole book of similar accounts called Dear John, I Love Jane.

The question that invariably comes up in these situations is, were they always lesbian/bisexual or is this a new development in their sexual orientation? and can our sexual orientation change over our lives? Now, obviously the answer to the first question varies woman by woman but the answer to the second question is an emphatic, yes. Sexual orientation is a fluid thing that can certainly change over time, especially, according to experts, for women. This isn’t to say that men’s sexuality can’t also be fluid but there is some evidence to say that men have at least a slightly more rigid sexuality.

Many women who discover the fluidity of their sexual orientation have a difficult time fitting it into one of the neat little boxes that we have created for them. Often they will change their sexual identity from lesbian to bisexual (even back to straight in some cases) over and over again, not necessarily ever settling on one that feels most comfortable. This to me seems like just an other reason to do away with the notion of cut and dry sexual orientations and start to view sexuality as a moving point on a spectrum. One has to wonder if we would ever have had the kind of sexual orientation system that we have now if the world were run by women!

It is often said that men’s sexuality is totally rigid and that they are unlikely to change orientation over their lifetimes, but that idea is becoming less and less popular. I think it would be fair to say that men have more of a tendency to rigidly focus on one kind of sexuality or orientation than women do, but it is by no means completely fixed in all cases. This rigidity may, however, account for why paraphilias are so much more common amongst men than women. Men account for the vast majority of “unusual” sexual interests such as necrophilia. As Justin Lehmiller puts it on his blog, The Psychology of Human Sexuality, “men are just more likely to become fixated on a specific sexual target, whereas women tend to become aroused by a wider range of stimuli.”

What is interesting is that, for both men and women, there are far more people who are willing to admit that they are at least somewhat attracted to the same sex than there are who will actually identify as bisexual. There is so much stigma attached to any kind of non-hetero orientation and that could be skewing the statistics about sexual fluidity. Who knows, our own internalized homophobia could be keeping us from realizing just how fluid our sexual interests really are.

Bi-, Hetero-, and Homosexual are all just terms that didn’t exist before the 1860’s anyways. Like most things in life, our sexuality doesn’t fit neatly into one of these categories. Now we just have to wait for society to catch up so that we can do away with sexual orientation (and dare I say, gender) all together. When Katy Perry kissed a girl and liked it, it wasn’t some scandalous thing, it was actually pretty boring and normal. It’s like writing a song about eating apples…and liking it.

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The “Oh!” Face: Top 10 Most Viewed Posts Of 2012

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2012 was a big year here at The “Oh!” Face most importantly because we started the blog this year in August. That being said, it’s only been a few months so a top 10 list seems a little ambitious but here it is anyways, the top ten most viewed posts of 2012 as viewed by you:

Number 10: How Risky is Oral Sex?

Not not risky.

Number 9: What The Shape Of Your Lips Says About Your Orgasms

It turns out that women’s lip shape can be a determinant of wether or not they are able to orgasm vaginally.

Number 8: 17 Shades of Stupid: Cosmo’s Worst BDSM Tips

Cosmo wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t one of the top mainstream sources of sex education for women…instead, it is.

Number 7: Toyota’s Gender Bending Win!

Best commercial of the year…wait for it.

Number 6: Talking About Anal Sex

Always a good idea, not always a common practice, especially amongst sex researchers.

Number 5: According To Our Friend Science, Fall Is The Season Of Sex (Go Figure)

Kick those fall blues…by fucking! (Can I say fucking? Of course I can, it’s my blog! w00t!)

Number 4: Why We Still Need Feminism (Oh And By The Way, You’re A Feminist)

Essential viewing and reading for anyone still unsure as to wether or not they are a Feminist (here’s a hint, do you think men and women are equal?)

Number 3: What Type Of Casual Sex Are You Having? (A Flow Chart)

This chart is a little hard to navigate but then again, so are casual relationships. Man, so are all relationships really, and so is this chart…and this caption.

Number 2: Just Some More Mainstream Slut Shaming on Facebook, NBD.

This particular post was one of our earliest ones and so got a lot of hits just due to it’s time up on the blog but it was also one of the ones that got the most hits from search engine terms…and man did it get some f’d up search engine terms. Let’s just say, I hope that the people who searched for those things learned a little something from stopping by the blog…yeesh!

And finally, The Number 1 Blog Post Of 2012 as determined by your views:

Pegging: An Account Of One Man’s Discovery Of His Favorite New Kink 

I’m really glad that this one got so many views because I put the most work into it. It started as a for-fun interview over some lego building in my dining room and it turned out to be a pretty great post about sexual exploration and gender role fluidity.

Well, thanks a lot everybody for tuning in, strapping on and blissing out, I wish you all the best in 2013. Keep checking us out, hopefully the next year will be as successful as the past few months have been. I can’t stress enough how much fun I have doing this. This is something that I really love and I hope to do for a long time. Thanks to everyone for their feedback and support and remember, be safe, have fun, respect yourself and others. Now, let’s continue to be a part of this sexual and genderal (not a word) groundbreaking that seems to be happening all over the world (if not the internet).

Love.

My Two Cents About Consent

I often finish my blog posts with a sentence or two to the effect of, “you should try your best to communicate openly and honestly with your partners about sex, it’s more important than anything else I’ve talked about above.” This is my general attitude and belief. Talking with your partners about sex both before, during and after is the key to having the most fun, fulfilling and safe possible sex. That is my opinion and will likely remain so.

I don’t talk about sexual assault or rape very much, if at all. I think that there have been quite enough cisgendered, straight identified, white men (of which I am one) talking about rape in 2012. Many of them have made complete asses of themselves in public and have been berated forcefully on the internet and other media outlets.

What I do want to talk about, which ties into sexual assault, is consent. A number of people who get charged with rape make the argument that “consent is such a tricky issue.” The idea behind this is that it’s next to impossible to know wether or not you have received consent. This my friends is bullshit. But the problem is as much to do with these rapey douchebags as it is to do with our current attitudes towards sex. We are so afraid to talk about sex in most circumstances. We are so scared to speak openly and bluntly with our partners about our needs, desires, preferences, dislikes, kinks, etc. Now, this is not the case for everyone obviously, some people have amazingly open communication with their partners about their sexuality, but those people, from what I can tell are a rarity.

Good sexual communication is not the norm in North America (where I live). So, what does this have to do with anything? It has to do with consent. Ask yourself honestly: When was the last time I asked, or was asked, explicitly for consent? I’m talking, “Would you like to have sex with me right now?” I’m serious. How many people have asked that question with a straight face? I’m going to guess very few. It seems to most like such an awkward and uncomfortable question. It seems so unsexy, right?

Now process that for a second. Our sexual culture is one that thinks that asking for explicit consent to have sex is unsexy. It’s built in to the structure of how we view sex. Sex is still, in many ways a taboo. If something is sexual it is labeled Not Safe For Work. Sex is against the rules, it’s icky, it’s embarrassing and it’s not something you talk about straightforwardly. There are more sexual euphemisms than any other kind I can think of. So fine, use euphemism then! “Hey, wanna bone?” But still that can come off as too upfront. Let’s face it, in the current sexual climate, asking for direct consent in a sexy way is a challenge, but not getting consent can lead to much bigger issues. Perhaps we can sacrifice a little sexiness for some good communication.

I’m not convinced that I have a point but if I do it’s probably this: We don’t need to make explicit consent a sexy thing, we just need to make it a thing that we do. The pendulum needs to swing such that, even in long term relationships, we are asking for consent every time. And it can be sexy if you make it sexy. Maybe I’m just a square, but to me nothing could be better than starting off your sexual encounter with some communication. Encouraging open dialogue in sexual relationships isn’t just about trying to help people have the most fulfilled sex lives possible (though that is part of it), it’s also about opening up the societal conversation about sex, period. I am over sex being a topic that is Not Safe For Work. I am over sex being a topic that we don’t feel comfortable talking about in certain situations, because the more we accept that sex is not something that we talk about, the more harm that lack of conversation and communication has the potential to inflict. Rant over.

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Is Lady A Four Letter Word?

About a month ago I was showing my sister-in-law a video on feminism that I had posted here on The “Oh!” Face. Being the advocate of women’s rights and feminist that she is, I was sure she was going to love it. When I asked her what she thought she said that it was great but she didn’t like how the presenter referred to the audience as “Ladies.” To her the word lady has a negative connotation.  To be lady-like means to uphold some untenable standard of femininity and to be un-lady-like is to be seen as being a ‘bad woman.’ My sister-in-law doesn’t alway feel like being a Lady and to be addressed as one feels, to her, like just an other patriarchal putdown.

My wife on the other hand took the oposite stand on the issue. She loves being called a lady and feels that it is a very respectful term of endearment. Working in the service industry, she regularly greets a group of women, “Good evening ladies,” and very much enjoys being greeted in the same fashion. She’s concerned that a day may come when people no longer address her such.

In all honesty, since my sister in law brought it up, I have had to check myself regularly before using the word. I’m not as quick to refer to women as ladies when working at my restaurante job and just in general. I have become my wife’s nightmare! A person, less willing to greet a group of women as ladies.

I am well aware of the power that language has, especially when being used either as a means of raising up or tearing down the less privileged. Referring to women as ladies or girls can be very demeaning and belittling. However it can often go both ways, many of my female friends refer to their women friends as ‘the girls’ or going out for a ‘girl’s night,’ and like my wife, many women love being called ladies. Woman often feels too formal and in certain contexts can be used as an offense as well.

As with many things, context is the key. Some words are just plain offensive, they were created to be offensive and even when spoken ironically are offensive. Neither woman, lady or girl are such words and so I feel that the context in which the words are spoken is as important as the words themselves. Finding offense where none was intended can lead to conflict between two parties who would otherwise be allies. We must all do our part to help eliminate the use of offensive, derogatory and oppressive language but ignorance is not a crime. If a person says something that you find offensive, it is not your duty to attack them for their ignorance but to teach them a better way. Education is the cure for ignorance not conflict. If we spend more time teaching people why what they are saying is offensive and less time getting angry about the offense then there will be fewer ignorant people saying offensive things.

Is lady an offensive word? Yes, to some people, but taking offense when none was intended is not the fault of the offender but the choice of the offendee. With language, we must pick our battles and see ignorance as something that we can help not something that we must fight against. But what do I know, I’m white guy.

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The Feronia Project

Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida have an associated sexual health blog called The Feronia Project. Their mission is to be:

A safe place to learn about sexual health, engage in discussion about social and reproductive justice, and find trusted resources for comprehensive, medically-accurate sex education.

This mission fits in pretty well with what we’re trying to do here at The “Oh!” Face. They have recently republished my post about the Skene’s gland (original post here) and will be posting another piece I wrote for them sometime next month. I will be making monthly guest contributions over there throughout 2013 and I am very excited to be doing so.

So if you’re over on that side of the internet be sure to check out The Feronia Project and stay tuned as always to The “Oh!” Face for more on sex, gender and sexuality. I’ll make sure to let you know when my posts are up at Feronia so that you can go check them out and take a peek at the rest of the blog. If you like it here at The “Oh!” Face then The Feronia Project will feel pretty familiar. Feel free to ‘like’ them on facebook, they’d love the support, and thanks everyone for supporting The “Oh!” Face. I don’t know if you can tell but I’m having a lot of fun!

“Treating” “Hysteria” With Vibrators And “Curing” Masturbation With Corn Flakes

The Victorian Era which spanned the majority of the 1800s was a time of much invention, scientific discovery and sexual conservatism. It was not a great time for sexual progressives and it was (as most historical eras were) a terrible time to be a woman. One could explore in great detail the shittyness of this era for anyone who’s notion of sexuality was less than Christian but this will not be that particular post. No, I intend to cover three inventions of the Victorian Era who’s original purposes may surprise you (unless you’ve read the title, then you will be less surprised).

Hysteria was a catch all term going back to ancient history that, by the Victorian era, was used to pathologize essentially every woman alive who wasn’t Queen Victoria herself. The symptoms of hysteria ranged from being nervous to having any kind of sexual desire to “a tendency to cause trouble.” So what was the treatment for this terrible ailment that was sweeping the globe? Pelvic massage. Yup, a physician would lay the hysterical woman down and manually manipulate her vulva and clitoris until she reached what was termed “hysterical paroxysm” or what is more commonly known as orgasm. So the treatment for horny, nervous, trouble making women was to make them cum…ok then. The only problem was that these physicians had the same problem that many sexual partners of women have: they weren’t all that good at making their patients climax. It took a long time and they needed lots of training to get good at it (shocking). Enter the vibrator. The common masturbatory aid seen in bedside dressers across the world today was originally only to be found in a doctors office. Sure it’s intended purpose was perhaps one of the most sexist and spiteful things ever but joke’s on those assholes, am I right?

Now vibrators are one thing but did you know that around the same time a reverend named Sylvester Graham and a doctor named John Harvey Kellogg were trying their darndest to figure out why boys wouldn’t stop masturbating! I mean, didn’t they know it was a sin? On their crusade to liberate these young men from their path towards damnation they both came up, at about the same time, with the answer. Really, really boring food. Kellogg invented the now ubiquitous Corn Flakes and Graham invented the cracker (cookie?) that would go on to be a necessary element of the campfire favorite, S’mores. These two believed that it was the diet of these young men that was causing them to masturbate with such fervor and the only path to salvation was to buy their product…nice, real nice.

So the next time you’re in the market for a vibrator or you’re walking down the cereal isle in the grocery store remember, if it wasn’t for ass-backwards, sexually conservative, sexist quacks, you wouldn’t have some of your favorite products. It’s true the 21st Century is no utopia, and sexual and gender equality are still a long ways off but I don’t think that should stop us from celebrating the fact that it’s not 1869, the year that the terms heterosexual and homosexual were invented by some politicians. That’s all.

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