Author Archive

2012 9 Sep

Super-Gonorrhea Is Here

This was written for and originally published at Role/Reboot.

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Hey, you know what word should never have “super” in front of it? “Gonorrhea.” But super-gonorrhea is here. It’s far scarier than our former adversary, and it’s a serious threat, emerging from Japan and beginning to cross the world. News first started breaking in the public health community about super-gonorrhea years ago, but it’s finally hitting the mainstream, as for example in this recent article at RH Reality Check by Martha Kempner: “No Clapping Matter: Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea Is On Its Way, and We Are Not Prepared.”

As I think about super-gonorrhea, my mind inclines towards condoms and oral sex, and my experiences as a sex educator. As Kempner’s article notes, many gonorrhea tests wouldn’t detect an infection that came from oral sex. And plenty of people don’t realize that you should use condoms during oral sex to prevent disease transmission. The risks for most diseases usually aren’t as high as they are during vaginal sex, and certainly not as high as the risks during anal sex. But the risks are there.

I know this as well as anyone; I’ve worked as a sex educator both in the USA, and in HIV-rich populations of sub-Saharan Africa. Living in an area with an overall HIV rate of 25% taught me a lot about the statistics and issues surrounding safer sex, and also scared the hell out of me. But I’ve still taken occasional unwise risks when it comes to condoms and oral sex — or, when I was younger, other types of sex. And plenty of other health educators I know have taken unwise risks, too. The dirty little secret of sexual health promotion is that while health educators may be better at health stuff (?), we’re nowhere near perfect at the ideals we espouse. (Just watch for people standing, smoking like chimneys, outside the doors of public health conventions.)

Why do people risk their lives for a heated moment? One reason was articulated by Kerry Cohen at Role/Reboot, as she wrote movingly about her past experience:

Unless he reached for [a condom] — and he so rarely did — I was never going to put my physical health over the intoxication that came from owning him, from losing myself, from letting him lose himself in me. … as he moves toward me, I won’t think about my body as anything other than something that could hook him, reel him in, and make him mine. I won’t catch an STD that time, but I might the next time. And if I catch something, I will still strip down to my core, exposing everything to the other person, even the STD. The shame I have about that runs deep — for the desperation, for the selfishness, for the utter lack of care for anything other than my need.

The reasons people don’t use condoms (or dental dams) frequently start and end with physical pleasure. But there’s often an emotional component as well, with people associating lack of condoms with trust or intimacy — or hating to “break the moment.” There is also the self-conscious agony of disclosure, when one partner knows that they have a disease. This was recently shown in an interesting, anonymously-written piece at The Hairpin, “The Perks of Herpes.” The author talks about how uncomfortable it is to disclose her herpes infection to every partner, every time. She ends up concluding that herpes (which she contracted from oral sex, by the way) actually has an up side: it’s deepened her love life by forcing her to only date men who are committed to her despite the disease. But I will point out that she’s in the sought-after position of being an educated young lady. Her trade-offs might feel very different for other people.

Indeed, when people are poor or marginalized enough, the human motivations around these diseases can become hard for privileged people to understand. For example, there are cases of people deliberately contracting HIV. At one point, it was because France — in an attempt to contain the spread of HIV — extended citizenship to undocumented HIV-positive immigrants; some immigrants then commenced to deliberately seek HIV, reasoning that being undocumented was worse than HIV. Lest anyone think that this can’t happen in the USA, it’s been described in Detroit, albeit for different reasons.

When people talk about HIV in Africa, they often like to focus on the differences between various African cultures and USA culture. (They also like to talk as though Africa is one big country instead of an incredibly diverse continent, which I am trying to avoid in this piece; I apologize if I’ve failed.) Yet although culture matters — it matters a lot — humans are humans all over the world. The USA has better overall health than the hardest-hit areas of Africa simply because we have more resources, but as I’ve already shown you above, marginalized USA people can end up making health decisions that privileged ones find unthinkable. And even privileged USA people will screw up our condom usage, like in Kerry Cohen’s story (she notes in the piece that her mother is a doctor).

People want to believe that sexually transmitted infections can’t happen to them, saying that HIV or whatever only happens to “those other people.” But the truth is that although stigma, marginalization, and cultural differences make some groups much more vulnerable to disease, people also have sex with other people from all walks of life … and global networks are more interconnected than ever. The history of HIV shows millions of people dismissing it as “the gay disease,” or “that epidemic that’s storming across Africa,” etc. But plenty of folks have caught it who were straight, in the USA, or even believed they were in a monogamous relationship. Gonorrhea has always been easier to catch than HIV; with no treatment, super-gonorrhea will ravage us. I can only hope that some of us will keep in mind not just the physical risks at hand, but the emotional ones. I hope we will consider how to manage the risk-reward tradeoffs that everyone makes.

UPDATE, September 2012: A recent New Yorker article apparently stated that super-gonorrhea is actually bred in the throat, which means that oral sex may actually be riskier, STI-wise, than other forms of sex. Food for thought.

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The image at the beginning of this post shows a model wearing a dress made entirely of condoms; thanks to the gallery at the website for The Wisdom of Whores, Elizabeth Pisani’s incredible book about the HIV epidemic and the international response. Pisani’s book is one of my favorites, ever — there are some valid critiques to be made, but even with those in mind, I just love it.

Also, Tracy Clark-Flory wrote a good recent article: How Risky Is Oral Sex?

And! There are pieces about my experiences in Africa in my collection, The S&M Feminist: Best Of Clarisse Thorn. You can buy The S&M Feminist for Amazon Kindle here or other ebook formats here or in paperback here.

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2012 4 Sep

[postsecret] The Triumph Of Discovering S&M

So! I’m back from Burning Man. A Chicago publication asked me to write a “review,” which is an interesting notion. Is Burning Man such a reviewable, consumable thing? Anyway, stay tuned for whatever I come up with (I often announce such things on Twitter). In the meantime, let’s have another PostSecret entry!

PostSecret is an online community art project to which people send postcards featuring a secret they’ve never told anyone. Of course, I’ve always paid special attention to the postcards coming in from BDSMers.

Like this one:

“When my boyfriend spanks me, my inner feminist weeps, but it just feels so damn good.”

I was stunned when I started searching the Internet several years ago, and realized that there were other feminists writing and thinking about S&M. I think this postcard appeared around then — maybe 2008 — when every time I saw anything about the tension between feminism and S&M, I felt thrilled.

Things have changed in the intervening years. Major feminist writers now write open, accepting, and even somewhat nuanced articles about consensual S&M. Bitch Media just ran a long series examining BDSM and feminism — from a friendly perspective. I myself had a long guest blogging stint on one of the biggest feminist blogs in the world (and of course, I just published a best-of collection called The S&M Feminist).

Within mainstream feminism, we’ve reached the point where S&M is no longer constantly on the defensive. Which feels awesome.

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2012 22 Aug

Catch Me at Burning Man for a Signed Book, ALSO, upcoming stuff!

The Bliss Dance statue was my favorite thing at Burning Man, the first year I went. Here’s a picture of the statue as it was set up later at San Francisco’s Treasure Island:

Bliss Dance Statue - Treasure Island

Photo credit to jdm650, on Flickr

I wasn’t planning to head to Burning Man this year, but a friend awesomely gave me a free ticket, so I shall unexpectedly be there. (You know who you are. Thanks again.) I’m leaving today.

If you or someone you know will be at the Black Rock Desert, then find me on the playa and I’ll totally give you signed paperback copy of either The S&M Feminist or Confessions Of A Pickup Artist Chaser (while supplies last, I guess …). If I’m wearing lipstick, I’ll even put a lipstick kiss on it.

A clue for locating me: Ceci n’est pas une pipe dream. Or you could just, you know, look up Clarisse in Playa Info. Assuming I get around to entering my location.

Upcoming Stuff!

* I am really, really excited to announce that I’ve been developing an anthology on the topic of rape in gaming with the legendary tech journalist Julian Dibbell. (Julian’s article “A Rape In Cyberspace” is a landmark; he was one of the first smart writers to take on Internet culture. I’m honored to be working with him.) Hopefully, the anthology will be out in late September. I am, however, feeling stymied and uncertain about the cover design. If you or someone you know would be able to design an awesome ebook cover for an anthology about rape in gaming, please get in touch!

* I was hoping to finish and release my erotic romance, Switch Seductress, previous to departing for Burning Man. Unfortunately some technical concerns intervened. So: look for Switch Seductress in early September. In the meantime, here’s the description for you:

Kara, a beautiful escort-turned-history-professor, has married the man of her dreams. He’s an ethical, dedicated activist who loves to torture her sweetly — and loves ordering her to seduce and destroy his political enemies from Corporate America. But Kara is falling for one handsome corporate target. Can she keep her hot dominant husband, her hot submissive lover, and stick it to the Man?

Heh … I can’t get over the fact that I wrote that.

* I also plan to release a short story about Sita, of the South Asian epic The Ramayana. If you aren’t familiar with the Ramayana and you have any interest in folklore whatsoever, then I highly recommend the fascinating anthology Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia — it’s free to read online!

* And there’s more! Stay tuned.

Moderation Note

Burning Man is off the grid, so there’ll be no Internet for me while I’m out there. For the next week and a half, prolific commenter Infra has generously agreed to moderate comments; I figured I could rely on him because he’s left the most comments around here lately, and he seems like he won’t be driven power-mad by the responsibility. (Right Infra?) (Also, thanks.)

2012 17 Aug

S&M, Open Relationships, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” and Me

LarssenCover2I just finished reading the third book of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy — it starts with the world-famous The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, then continues with The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. They’re good books: incredibly detailed procedural mysteries starring a charismatic middle-aged journalist and a brilliant girl hacker. Actually, they’re a bit too detailed for me — at one point I realized I’d just spent half a page reading about the brands and styles of apartment furnishings that a character purchased at IKEA. Seriously. And no, it was not even a little bit important to the story. So I skimmed a lot. But I guess some people like that, and there’s plenty of other stuff about these books that I like.

Larsson, the author, was apparently a feminist anti-racist journalist who did some pretty interesting work himself. He clearly had a lot of revenge fantasies against men who abuse women, and he liked creating powerful female characters, but those aren’t my favorite parts of these books. I do enjoy how he represents some subtleties of how abuse happens. For example, he shows quite clearly how disabled people (or people who have been designated disabled by the state) are vulnerable to abuse by those who are in charge of them. (Apparently the movie version is more graphic than the books, when it comes to rape scenes; I haven’t seen it.) But those aren’t my favorite parts either.

Mostly, I like how he represents S&M and open relationships.

I’ve said before that if I could get my dream representation of S&M in the media, then I’d want a couple who does S&M … and it ain’t no thing. This is true in the Millennium novels, and I love it. The characters have relationships, some of which are awesome and some of which aren’t. Some of them break up, some of them don’t. The author doesn’t bother being graphic, detailed, or generally concerned about the S&M. It’s not portrayed as a sign of dysfunction, anxiety, or self-esteem problems. It’s just something that the main characters do, and it’s not even a big deal.

Better yet: one of the characters is raped and later does consenting S&M with a consenting partner, and it’s still okay! Amazingly, we have an author who truly gets that consensual S&M is different from abuse! (As I pointed out in my piece on S&M and the psychiatric establishment, there are even people who use consenting S&M experiences to work through past abusive experiences. That doesn’t happen in any of the Millennium books, though; I just wanted to make a note of it.)

LarssenCover1I’ve been thinking lately about how, for me, S&M isn’t something that I personally obsess over anymore. I mean, of course I think about it. I’ve got so many years of experience doing S&M, researching S&M and teaching about S&M that I have a kind of S&M-lens that fits over my vision at all times. I believe it’s really important that we think clearly about S&M, and I think that S&M theory is relevant to a lot more things than most people think. Yet it’s not a thing for me, you know? It’s just something I do. I remember that a few years ago, I knew some experienced S&Mers who told me that they felt this way, and I was like “huh?” Now I get it. And it’s awesome to see it portrayed.

And open relationships. Larsson never uses the term “polyamory,” but there’s an ongoing open relationship between the journalist character and a colleague, and I like that, too. I also like how Larsson doesn’t downplay the difficulties. Jealousy is a problem more than once, and it’s dealt with in a variety of messy ways. In my upcoming erotic romance Switch Seductress (I plan to release it next week!), I’ve been working to portray both functional polyamory and problems that can arise during polyamory. It’s not easy to do, especially when you’re aiming to be accessible to a general audience, and Larsson gets my heartfelt applause for trying.

The books made me think a lot about where I want my relationships to go. I’ve written before that ideally, I’d love to someday have a primary relationship with one person who I live with, raise kids with, et cetera. I’d also like to have secondary relationships with other people when that happens. In the Millennium books, the journalist has a relationship with killer sexual chemistry and extreme intimacy, which is nonetheless a secondary relationship: his partner is married to another man. I want that.

But one thing I’ve been wondering lately is: how much can I develop a relationship like that before I have a stable primary relationship in place? I’m not asking whether people in general can do this; I’m wondering about it for myself. This year a relationship fell apart with someone I care about a lot, mostly because he’s not primary relationship material — and yet he’d be fantastic secondary relationship material. In theory, there’s no reason not to date him, but it’s just that if I don’t have a primary relationship in place, I can’t seem to prevent myself from wanting to escalate the relationship I have with him. It’s difficult and painful territory; and I’m not sure what to do about it, except stay away from it for the foreseeable future.

How much does it even make sense to have a secondary relationship with someone I’d consider having a primary relationship with? But on the other hand, if a man isn’t primary relationship material, then why is he worth having a secondary relationship with? There are so many contextual factors shaping the answers to these questions, and personal factors too: how much chemistry do we have, how bonded do I feel, what’s going on in the rest of our lives.

I guess we’ll see how it goes. Stay tuned, folks, as always.

Final note: Larsson gets into sex trafficking a bit during the various plotlines, and so I’d be interested to know how sex worker activists would review the story. All I know about Sweden is that they have a particular set of laws around sex work that some feminists claim are awesome; but I also know that many actual sex worker feminists (and people who study sex work) believe the laws are harmful and bad. It’s one of those situations where certain feminists who are Utterly Appalled by certain types of sex have made legislation that affects the lives of women who are actually having those kinds of sex. And in these situations, the bogey of sex trafficking is often held up as a banner for why that legislation is necessary, even though the legislation is hurting women. So when I see super-dramatized representations of sex trafficking, especially set in Sweden, I kind of automatically feel skeptical. But maybe in this case, I’m jumping the gun. (If you’re interested in learning more about the complexities of the trafficking debate, then I can’t recommend this paper by Bridget Anderson and Julia O’Connell Davidson enough. It’s incredibly nuanced, detailed, and smart.)

LarssenCover3Larsson died before these books were published, and apparently he planned more. That’s pretty clear from the sudden ending of the third, which left loose ends. I’ll also say that the first book, as is so often the case, is just generally better than the other two. Still, they’re all a fun read:

1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

2. The Girl Who Played With Fire

3. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest

(Full disclosure: the above Amazon book links contain my referral code, so you’re kicking me a tiny commission if you buy through one of those links. If you don’t want to do that, then search for the books on your own.)

2012 8 Aug

[e-publishing] Amazon, Smashwords, Oh My: Where And How To Sell Ebooks

I’ve now self-published some reasonably successful books and I have more on the way. Big Plans, my friends. Big Plans! So it’s time to write down Lessons Learned about Internet self-publishing. And of course, I welcome feedback and disagreement! If you read my blog solely for the sex & gender commentary, then do not fear. You can easily avoid my entries about Internet publishing, because they will be clearly marked. Like this one, right now.

I’ve been obsessed with online communities and Internet culture since the scrawny 11-year-old version of Clarisse got her first dial-up connection (17 years ago!). Now I’m enjoying this opportunity to watch the self-publishing revolution. It’s got a real sense of the Wild West about it. On the down side, Internet self-publishing can be somewhat confusing and challenging. On the up side, there are lots of opportunities for agile thinkers.

I have the sense that the field is both aggressively expanding and organizing itself, which means there are some Big Chances … but in the years to come, it’ll get harder for plucky newcomers to break in. So if you want to get in on self-publishing, you probably won’t find a better time than now.

I promise to be just as detailed on this topic as I am on every topic I blog about. I’m basically writing the guide I wish I’d had when I decided to self-publish.

#1. Where to Self-Publish:
The upsides and downsides of Amazon, Smashwords,
and other markets, circa 2012.

Note: If you have lots of spare cash, and if you trust other people to succeed at obsessively fiddly technical formatting tasks, then you can hire someone to prepare your book files. In fact, it doesn’t cost that much — from what I can tell, you can get plenty done for a few hundred dollars. So if you are not techie and you have money, then you might consider just hiring someone to format your ebook file and put it on the market for you. In that case, you can skip the rest of this entry, although you might find that it helps you understand the market.

However, if you are interested in getting deep into this industry and/or plan to do a lot of publishing, you’re probably better off just learning how it works.

Formats and Platforms: Super Basic 101 Primer

An ebook “platform” is a word for the device that you read your ebooks on. For example, the Kindle e-reader is the Amazon platform; the iPad is its own platform, the Barnes & Noble Nook is another platform, etc. Kindles are dominant, and the non-Kindle ebook platforms have been jockeying for position. Depending on the website/platform, a self-published author usually gets around 60-90% of the cover price on each ebook sale.

A file “format” is a term for the type of file you are reading. For example, if you use Microsoft Word a lot, then you read your computer files in Word’s DOC format. Another file format that you’re accustomed to reading on your computer is PDF. When it comes to e-readers, there are a lot of different formats; the most popular is EPUB. EPUB is free and open, which the software geeks in the audience will know is great for development. It’s used by almost all the big e-readers except Amazon Kindle, which uses its own format.

The ebook industry is not standardized. Wikipedia has a gloriously dense article detailing different ebook formats, which ruefully notes that the multiplicity has been compared to the Tower of Babel. (Those of you who remember how we used to watch movies on videotape — you know, back in the Stone Age, before DVDs? — may also remember the epic industrial Betamax vs. VHS battle. That’s exactly what’s happening now with ebooks, except messier and unresolved.)

Obviously, old-fashioned physical paper books are another possible “format.” And now there are a bunch of great “print-on-demand” websites allowing you to make your book into a physical book that can be purchased, printed and shipped within days. Costs are higher, of course, because there’s a physical product involved, but you don’t have to pay those costs up front because they’re deducted from each book sale — and you can still release paper books at an amazingly reasonable price.

Where To Sell

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2012 5 Aug

[postsecret] The Despair of Missing Orgasm

Yes! It’s another entry featuring postcards from PostSecret, an online community art project to which people send postcards featuring a secret they’ve never told anyone. I’ve been reading PostSecret for a loooong time, and I’m uncertain when I began saving postcards, so I can’t date these images. I think these two are both pretty recent, though.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when the inability to orgasm leads you to consider suicide. But, that’s exactly where I am.”

I published a piece last year called A Unified Theory of Orgasm, which detailed my experiences figuring out how to orgasm. For a long time, being unable to “get there” was the most toxic secret I had, and it weighed on me. And I believe this is a depressingly common experience. I never contemplated suicide because of the orgasm thing, but I can imagine how and why someone would. It feels like a failure, and it feels like you’re missing out on what’s supposed to be a transcendent experience, and sometimes it feels like you can’t even share it with your partner for fear of making them anxious.

“I spent $10,000 on internal repairs in hopes that I’d have orgasms again … I got nothing.”

I also think some folks may underestimate the lengths to which people will go to “cure” orgasmic “dysfunction.” As I wrote in A Unified Theory of Orgasm, when I was still figuring my stuff out, my gynecologist recommended me to a place that charged literally $1,500 for an initial consultation. (The place in question has been criticized for contributing to ideas that differences in orgasm should be “medicalized” — i.e., reduced to categorizable symptoms and pills — which is arguably impossible and even harmful. Such topics are explored further in the documentary Orgasm, Inc.)

What really kills me about all this orgasm agony is something I learned only after I’d figured out how to come: orgasms aren’t my favorite part of sex. Who knows … maybe someday I’ll do some serious tantra, and experience one of those five-hour orgasms they’re always on about, and get my mind blown. But right now, all I know is that when I finally started being able to have orgasms regularly, my feeling was basically: oh … is that it? I realized that I’d already had sexual experiences that were way more mind-blowing than an orgasm — and that they came from just following what felt good; from exploring my boundaries; from reveling in the connection to my partner, rather than focusing on mechanics and goals. I understand, however, that others may have really different experience with this. As always, everyone is welcome to share experience in the comments.

(Please note that there are many PostSecret books available for purchase, including A Lifetime of Secrets, and Extraordinary Confessions From Ordinary Lives, and Confessions on Life, Death and God, and others.)

2012 29 Jul

Rapey Pickup Artists: Analysis Of A Field Report

UPDATE, September 2012: The Field Report that I linked below was just modified in response to criticism. (The author showed up at my blog and talked about it with us here at Comment #80.) I still have serious problems with the author’s attitudes, but I will admit that the post is better than it used to be; he’s trying to build a career, so perhaps he took my point that asshole PUAs will be frozen out of the market. The excerpts that I quote below were accurate when I quoted them, and I stand by everything I said.

* * *

When I wrote my awesome book Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, I did my best to present a relatively balanced picture of the pickup artist (PUA) subculture. I tried to show good facets, bad facets, and shades-of-grey facets. Perhaps inevitably, a lot of people — some of whom I respect — felt that I was over-generous to this strange mix of analytical nerds, hedonists, entrepreneurs, and misogynist assholes. Others felt that I was over-judgmental.

Many feminists claim that the culture, mores, and/or tactics within the PUA community encourage rape. In my book, I quote one feminist who said: “I’m just going to come right out and say it: PUAs rape women through coercion and manipulation. Full stop.” I think that’s an overblown blanket statement rooted in a simplistic view of the community. But also in my book, I described a written report from one PUA in which he basically documented a date rape. And after I published the book, a reader sent me a link to one of the more unsettling PUA forum threads I’ve seen (thanks Jon).

I would’ve broken this thread down in the book if I’d seen it before publication. I didn’t, so I’m breaking it down for you now. I do want to start with two important caveats:

A. This does not represent all PUAs. Some guys really do get into the community because they’re having trouble figuring out answers to questions like, “How do I ask that cute girl in class for her number?” This kind of thing is, however, one reason that lots of guys who found decent advice in parts of the community won’t associate themselves with the community as a whole.

B. PUAs are not the only people who do this. PUAs did not invent this. Other people are doubtless out doing this. PUAs are just the ones who have jargon for it and document it publicly on message boards.

Here’s the thread. (It’s posted on the forum for Real Social Dynamics — for those of you who read The Game, that’s Tyler Durden a.k.a. Owen Cook’s company.) If you usually stop reading when there’s a trigger warning, you should probably stop reading now.

Let the games begin:

Thread title: Lie your way inside a womans vagina (People with morals DO NOT READ)

First sentence: When i pull girls and fuck them, i cheat, i lie, and i steal (their booze). And i feel good about it, cause in the end girls like to be outsmarted and physically and mentally dominated.

We’re off to a good start, and by “good start” I mean “this thread already makes me want to shoot myself in the face.” Sidenote: when I see words like “dominated” used in this context, I feel the immediate need to give everyone involved a lecture on S&M 101. Yes, some women are sexually submissive, but not all; also, submissive women still want to be respected, not generally treated like garbage. And since we’re talking about submissive heterosexual ladies, I’ll throw in a link to a piece of mine about men and feminism and dominance, too.

Onward! Next, the writer describes his main type of lady target: The retarded, drunk and fucking hot 18 years old. … Dont let the friends see you.

Pick someone drunk and inexperienced, and isolate her from her friends? I’m amazed how blatant this dude is about being an asshole. People, this is one reason we keep an eye on our drunk friends at nightclubs. While it’s not your fault if your friend gets in trouble, sometimes there’s a chance that you could provide support at a crucial time.

Also! A broader note on the nature of abuse: abusers very commonly seek to break their targets’ social connections.

Pace it a little bit so a vibe actually forms but never let her time to think, otherwise shea going to see her friends, and you’re done. Once you pulled her away from the friends, made out, and have a somewhat chill vibe going on (takes 15 -30mins), you say “this bar sucks, lets go to another bar”.

Based on this self-reported evidence, this guy is somewhat charming. Charming people can still be assholes and/or predators. And people, this is one reason that if a friend disappears at a nightclub, even for 15 minutes, we make sure we know where she is.

If she wants to know where it is, you say 2 min walk. … Once youre out, walk 2 blocks away from the bar. get in a cab and go to your house. If she objects, say its too cold/hot to walk./ Its just 5 min/i just wanna kiss/ can we kiss?/ ignore what she says and physically force her. If you cant verbally and physically dominate a drunk 18 yo girl that likes you, please kill yourself.

Outright lying in order to get a girl home is not an uncommon PUA tactic. It’s happened to me; I wrote about it in Confessions. (Spoiler: the PUA did not succeed in his goal.)

To get inside your house, tell her you need to get money before you guys go to the bar.

To all the women who might find themselves in this situation: If a guy tells you you’re going one place and you mysteriously end up in another with zero discussion, then firstly, let me tell you that it is not your fault. You don’t deserve to be dealing with this.

I suspect that for a lot of people in this moment, the big question would be “How the fuck do I get out of this in the lowest-stress way?” So, here’s a tactic for you: “Okay, you go up and get the money. I’ll stay here in the cab.”

Later in the thread, a PUA actually asks for advice on what to do if a woman does this. The original writer says that he would stay in the cab and make it a waiting game, basically. But it’s a cab, so he can’t make it too much of a waiting game, and you always have the option of saying “Look dude, I think I’m just gonna take this cab back to meet my friends at the original bar.”

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2012 23 Jul

[postsecret] Manliness, Relationships, and Erections

Those of you who have been reading for a while will know that I kind of love PostSecret. It’s a community art project; people send in postcards featuring a secret they’ve never told anyone. I first heard about it when an ex emailed me the URL in 2004, saying that he was certain I’d love it. Since 2004, I’ve graduated university; gone through a number of jobs; come into my S&M identity; lived in three US cities and two countries overseas; broken hearts and had my heart broken. And I still occasionally read PostSecret.

At some point I started saving the postcards I really liked to my hard drive. I’ve done it sporadically and I have no idea which year each postcard is from. But! New feature around these parts: I will be sharing PostSecret postcards occasionally, with a tiny dollop of commentary. And of course all are welcome to share thoughts in comments.

“Every time you lose an erection, I panic for our future.”

(Based on the picture, and probably also because I’m a heterosexual cisgendered lady, I am assuming that this postcard was written by someone who identifies as a woman. But that might not be true, and alternative interpretations or extra layers are welcome.)

This postcard strikes me as sad and fascinating not just for what it says about men’s gender roles, but about women’s. A man who can’t get an erection risks being seen as “unmanly” … but there’s also this terrible cultural message that men aren’t attracted to women if they lose an erection in bed with them. Also, there’s a pervasive idea that “real” sex must include a man’s erection, and that sex/eroticism doesn’t really exist without that. Stir in the fact that women often feel as though the only real way we can prove our worth or contribute to a relationship is by being sexy. And somewhere among all those threads is the woman who wrote this postcard. I imagine her feeling unwanted and desperate to prove her worth — and I also imagine her partner feeling both inadequate and guilty about how she feels.

(Please note that there are many PostSecret books available for purchase, including A Lifetime of Secrets, and Extraordinary Confessions From Ordinary Lives, and Confessions on Life, Death and God, and others.)

2012 12 Jul

You Can’t Date Half A Couple

This was originally published at the girl-power site Off Our Chests. The comments on the original are great.

I currently approach my relationships as polyamorous, meaning that I prioritize being able to have multiple lovers and discussing the relationships honestly with everyone concerned. A while back, I wrote a piece called My Top Questions About Dealing With Multiple Lovers, in which I mused about some confusing thoughts I’ve had in pursuit of polyamory. My first question was:

What are my responsibilities towards my partners’ other partners? A lot of poly people will tell you that if you get into a relationship with, say, a married polyamorous man, then you must also expect to interact with his spouse. In other words, don’t assume that your relationship means you only interact with one half of a couple. I’m totally fine with this, but on occasion I’ve felt like I was getting sucked into the couple’s problems, or like I was expected to have no individual relationship with my partner — that I always had to go through his primary partner.

Sometimes, polyamorous people put this much more succinctly: “You can’t date half a couple.” If you’re emotionally involved with one person, you’re involved with their other partners by default … even if you’re not having a sexual or romantic relationship with their other partners.

A couple years ago, I dealt with a striking situation along these lines. I was careless … but I think my partner was pretty careless, too. He and I were highly attracted to each other from the start. He had a girlfriend, but I thought they were polyamorous. So I brazenly flirted with him in front of her, and got his contact information. She seemed calm and collected as she watched it happen; I really didn’t think there was a problem.

Boy, was I wrong. I went out to dinner with that guy later in the week — I’ll call him Ken — and we scheduled an S&M date. Ken and I agreed that we wouldn’t have any genital contact, although we planned to hit each other with things and inflict some pain and make out a bit. (Lots of people who are into S&M sort of separate S&M feelings from sexual feelings, but it’s different for everyone.)

Ken and I had fun together. But there was one thing I didn’t know until after the date was over: it was the first time in their relationship that Ken had ever done a private encounter with a different partner! And he hadn’t been very thoughtful with his girlfriend about it, either.

I found out the next morning, when Ken mentioned offhandedly that he was a little worried about his girlfriend. “How come?” I asked.

“We’ve never done this before,” Ken said. “I mean, we talked about polyamory a little bit, but we hadn’t decided to do it until you came along. So last night, she knew I was meeting you, and she’s probably been anxious about it all night.”

I got a sick feeling. I realized that Ken and his girlfriend had fallen into the “monogamous-now, polyamorous-later” trap. One of the big problems with being “monogamous now” and thinking about “polyamory later” is that if a potential Other Partner comes along, it forces the issue. Then, if the couple decides to be polyamorous, and it feels difficult for anyone … then the Other Partner can receive a lot of the bad feelings because the Other Partner is seen as the “interloper.” And I was now the Other Partner.

“Oh my God,” I said to Ken. “You mean you weren’t polyamorous when I met you?”

“No,” he said. I remembered how I’d blatantly flirted with him in front of his girlfriend, and I felt careless and cruel.

“I wish you had told me,” I said. “I wish you’d mentioned that this was your first time meeting someone outside the relationship. I would have suggested that you call her late last night to reassure her, or something like that. Do you want to call her now?”

Ken shook his head. “It’s nice to know that you would have been cool with that,” he said. “But now it’s the morning, and I’ll just wait until we’re done with breakfast before I call her.”

I thought about saying, She should be your top priority. I thought about saying, Maybe you shouldn’t date other women if you’re not sure whether they’d be cool with you calling your primary partner … but I held my peace. I decided that it wasn’t my relationship or my place to criticize him.

I felt a little uneasy about Ken, but I liked him a lot … so he and I thought about having a longer-term relationship. I decided that if we were going to continue, I wanted to do things right. I invited his girlfriend out for a one-on-one lunch so that we could talk.

It was hard to schedule lunch, but I was determined. I went all the way across the city to see her. When we met, she was nice enough … but standoffish. I asked if I could give her a hug, and she said, “No.” Then she said, “I’m sorry,” and told me that it was all a bit new for her.

We talked for an hour. I tried to make it completely clear that I didn’t want to be a threat to their relationship. But I also didn’t want to get sucked in to talking through their problems with her, and there were a few difficult moments where she told me about relationship issues. So I also tried to say, as gently as I could, that I didn’t want to be in a role of “relationship therapist” for their partnership. Although I felt open to talking to her and understanding her concerns, I really didn’t want to be in a position where I advised her about her relationship with Ken. I thought that could create conflicts where there didn’t have to be any conflicts.

By the end of lunch, Ken’s girlfriend said that she felt better and less anxious. But I kept feeling like I was barging in on a situation that was even more complicated than it seemed on the surface. I kept feeling like she blamed me, a little bit. Even though she seemed willing to deal with it, I was uncomfortable.

Although he wasn’t even there, that lunchtime meeting was the major reason I didn’t pursue things much further with Ken.

2012 10 Jul

Lots About Relationships; A Transgender Story; and an Intervention

For the last six months or so, I’ve been the Sex + Relationships Section Editor at the gender-lens site Role/Reboot, which meant that I both wrote regularly for the site and picked up other content for it. (I haven’t chosen everything in that section — some was selected by the managing editor — but I’ve chosen a bunch of it.) I was attracted to Role/Reboot because its mission is to make sex and gender issues accessible to a broad range of people outside the “usual suspects;” I saw an opportunity both to reach a new audience, and to promote work by writers who I don’t think get as much attention as they should.

As the site has developed and my writing has continued to develop, my sense of both has evolved — and Role/Reboot’s own sense of itself has evolved, too. One result has been that I’m no longer picking up extra content for the site. I will continue to contribute regularly for a while, but I have other ideas and projects that I want to focus on, and Role/Reboot simply isn’t the ideal destination for the majority of my work. So that’s going to conclude, too. I want to emphasize, though, that I think the intent of the site is good, and I’m glad I had a chance to contribute.

In the past, I’ve given you folks lots of links to my favorite content that I found for Role/Reboot. Here’s a final roundup:

* Bad With Men: Where I Was When Obama Was Elected, by Dana Norris (who runs the ongoing Chicago event Story Club, where I will appear on August 2!). Dana is writing a series of articles about her dating experiences after a huge breakup, and this is probably my favorite — she’s so self-aware! Favorite quotation: “I apologize for having deliberately wasted his time with my grief-motivated flailings for male attention.”

* I Will Not Get Married Just To Please My Family, by Adaya Adler (who blogs at My So-Called Polyamorous Life). This piece is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s awesome.

* I Intervened On A Man Yelling At A Woman: Did I Do The Right Thing? by Richard Jeffrey Newman (who’s part of the blog team at Alas! A Blog). I’ve always appreciated Richard’s thoughts on manliness and masculinity; this is a perfect example of his nuanced, careful writing on the topic.

* What To Do When You Know About An Affair, by Rob Dobrenski (who blogs at ShrinkTalk.net). Rob’s thoughts on how to deal with your friends when you know that one is cheating on the other mirror my own, which is why I chose this piece. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve given this exact advice in the past.

* Journey Home: My Life As A Transgender Man, by Justin Cascio (who is an editor at The Good Men Project). I asked Justin to write this because I think it’s important to have more testimonials of what it’s like to go through major hormonal changes — including mental and emotional effects. He’s been taking testosterone for more than 12 years.

If you have been following my involvement at Role/Reboot and were hoping to contribute at some point, then do not despair! You can still submit something to me and I’ll put you in touch with the right people. The relevant email address is clarisse at rolereboot dot org.