What Aesthetics Turn You On?

Isn’t it weird how attraction works?

There are sometimes specific reasons you can point to: clear answers to the question, “Why am I attracted to this person/quality/feature?” And sometimes the answers are less clear.

It can have to do with our formative experiences. I’ve had a thing for fauxhawks, particularly dyed-purple ones, ever since my first girlfriend at age 15 rocked one in the Facebook profile photos I pored over during many a lovelorn late night.

It can have to do with what makes us feel sexy. I know my predilection for staring at 1950s-inspired lingerie is all about my hyper-femme identity: when my eyes roam all over babely pinup models in product shots, I get turned on not because I want to fuck those women but because I want to be those women. And I know I feel beautiful when I wear what they’re wearing.

The line gets blurry a lot. I have occasional days when all I want to wear is impeccably tailored pants, beautiful silk neckties, crisp collared shirts, and shiny lace-up brogues – and I’m not sure whether that comes from my own gender fluctuations or from a fundamental desire to fuck people who dress like that. It makes me happy to tart myself up like a dapper dandy from time to time, so I don’t question it too much.

I have a vision board (also known by its technical name, “a corkboard with a bunch of pictures pinned to it”) which I created to evoke the feelings of my ideal relationship, and how my ideal partner would make me feel. It’s covered in pictures of cute people (boys, girls, androgynes, and others) variously wearing geek glasses, plaid flannel, leather jackets, V-neck cashmeres, Pucci bowties, and sharp blazers.

But I also get dark stirrings of something like lust when I see feminine ladies rocking thigh-high socks, bouncy pigtails, tight striped sweaters, fit-and-flare dresses, perfectly-applied red lipstick, platform wedges, and/or neat little hair bows. I’ve never particularly wanted to date or fuck a rockabilly femme in real life, but they own permanent property in the fantasy-visuals sector of my brain.

Oh, who knows why we like what we do?!

What aesthetics turn you on? What clothing, accessory, or hairstyle makes you want to climb someone like a tree? And do you know where those feelings come from, or are they just sorta random for you?

Image credits, clockwise from top left: Beautiful illustration by Cameron Stewart. Leather-and-gingham street fashion photo via Costin M. Photo of Andy Samberg and Joanna Newsom (babeliest couple ever?!) from the Independent Spirit Awards via People StyleWatch. Screencap of Olly Alexander from the God Help the Girl movie (watch it, it’s visually and sonically stunning). Santiago and Diaz illustration by Celeste Doodles.

New Year’s Resolutions for Sex-Positive Do-Gooders

December is one of my favorite months, because I love obsessively plotting how I’m going to change when the new year rolls around. Even if the changes don’t stick, that weeks-long period of planning is delicious. But, of course, it’s better if the changes do stick!

I’m going to do another post all about my personal sexual goals for 2015 when it gets a little closer to the new year, but for now, here are some new year’s resolutions you might want to think about adopting for yourself. At the very least, you can use them as a starting point for brainstorming your own big changes and exciting plans!

Volunteer your time at a pro-sex cause.

I have some friends who volunteer at Planned Parenthood’s TEACH program, and some other friends who do work for their local campus sex education centres. I know someone who helps abortion clinic visitors get from the street into the clinic without being accosted by protesters. As for me, I’ve spent years helping out at an emotional support hotline for LGBT youth and an online community for gender-non-conforming folks. These are just a few of the ways you can contribute to your local sex-positive scene.

Volunteering is a really rewarding way to spend your time. It might be something for you to consider if you’ve been feeling a little purposeless or directionless lately, or even if you just want to make some new friends and fill out your days (or pad your resumé!) a little more.

Take up a positive practice for your body.

I don’t just mean “have more athletic sex.” Although, you could always do that too.

In this mind-centered, desk-oriented culture, too many of us ignore our bodies and get all up in our heads. This can result in a feeling of disembodiment, and often, a lot of aches and pains. (I myself have been dealing with a stubborn shoulder-and-neck situation for weeks from overcommitting to desk work. Yuck.)

Here are some habits you could take up in 2015 that would be really good for your body: yoga, swimming, pilates, jogging, long meditative walks, dance classes, cardio classes, strength training, hula hooping, getting regular massages, starting every morning with a few minutes of stretching… Pick something which feels manageable for your body, lifestyle, and finances, and which makes your heart leap in your chest at the thought of it!

Invest in your sexual health.

Throw out all your nylon underwear and buy all-cotton pairs. Get a menstrual cup if you’ve been wanting one. Upgrade your birth control to a longer-term and/or less annoying form. Ditch and replace any toxic or porous toys you own. Go get those STI tests you’ve been putting off.

Make your frequent sex location(s) more inviting.

It is amazing what new bedding and a few scented candles can accomplish!

Think: what bums you out about the place(s) where you most often have sex, and how could you solve those problems? Mood lighting, better heating, air freshener, wall art? Curtains, carpeting, a neater organization system? Groovier music? Make it happen!

Go deeper into your gender.

Weird phrasing, maybe, but here’s what I mean: whatever gender(s) you identify as, you probably feel hotter/cuter/better when you go balls-to-the-wall with your gender presentation.

Think about what visual or tactile elements could increase the pleasure you take in your gender presentation, and try to incorporate them more often. I’m femme as fuck so for me this would mean things like wearing lipstick more regularly, buying warmer tights so I can wear skirts and dresses more often, and stepping up my skincare and haircare so I feel prettier on a day-to-day basis. How could you enhance, and luxuriate in, your gender as much as possible next year?

Be a sex-positive friend.

I’m going to write a full post about this eventually, because I think it’s really important to support your friends non-judgmentally in their (safe, consensual) sexual endeavors.

If you’ve got a friend who’s never been to a sex shop, maybe you could take them. If your buddy gets nervous about going to get tested, you could accompany them to the clinic. If your amigo expresses interest in an unusual fetish or sexual practice, you could help them do their research while affirming and encouraging their explorations. Be like a sexy fairy godmother to all your nearest and dearest!

What do you hope to do differently in 2015?

No-Shave November Made Me Think About Femininity

I did No-Shave November this year. Not to raise money for anything (although I did contribute some dough to a family member’s Movember collection, in awe of his new beard). I just wanted to give it a shot.

I’ve been a pretty consistently clean-shaven lass ever since puberty. Ever the precocious child (and an early bloomer, hormones-wise), I wanted to know what shaving was like, so I started shaving the hair on my legs and pelvic mound almost immediately after it first came in. I have a vivid memory of my mom spotting my shaved mons in the bath (so I must’ve still been young enough that my mom was bathing me?!) and her saying disapprovingly, “That’s something adult ladies do.” But still, I continued to shave.

Like every girl, I was ushered into a world of brainwashed, media-hyped, sweet-and-sanitized femininity. There were no hairy-lady role models in my life, sexy or otherwise. As I grew into adolescence, the girls at my school became increasingly mean and judgmental, as middle-school girls are wont to do, and I never dared deviate from any norm for fear of social ostracization (which, sadly, happened anyway).

Throughout my first sexual relationship, I kept my pubes and pits shaved. My partner went through a phase where she was desperately curious to know what it would be like to go down on a bushy twat, but I would not grant her that favor. I found pubes insufferably itchy and they also noticeably cut down on my sexual sensitivity.

My second (and current) partner was surprised the first time he put his hand in my panties, having never encountered a hairless lady-garden before. This, in turn, surprised me when he told me later. I had thought of shaved pussies as the norm until then, perhaps due to the porn I sometimes watched.

These days, I’m hanging out in a lot of queer and feminist spaces, as usual, and these are the sort of environments where body hair is accepted and sometimes even encouraged. But even still, I tuck my legs under me to hide their stubble; I keep my cardigan buttoned so no one will see my fuzzy pits. Though I purposely fill my head with hairy-lady inspiration (Amanda Palmer and Sadie Lune, for example), I still feel… well, dysphoria isn’t quite the right word, but perhaps what I feel is a very mild form of it.

And the trouble is, I don’t know whether my feelings are media-influenced or whether my particular brand of girly/femme-y gender identity just doesn’t mesh with body hair. How can anyone ever know whether their feelings are culturally induced or personally valid or both?

During No-Shave November, I also grew out my bush, though I kept my labia shaved because they really do itch horribly when I let ‘em run wild. My partner has no qualms about any body hair configuration I choose – he always finds nice things to say about my body, no matter how much fur it has amassed or is missing – so that didn’t influence my decision. I grew out the longest bush I’ve ever had and spent a lot of time combing it with my fingers, marveling at how weird and unusual it felt in the context of my own body.

Ultimately, on December 2nd, after snapping the photos used in this post in my bathroom mirror, I shaved my pits. And then, earlier this week, I attacked my bush with scissors and then a razor. The smoothness feels odd after all this hairiness but it’s also reassuring; I feel more like me again. I don’t feel more attractive; I just feel less weird.

What’s your relationship to body hair?

Sharing the Sexy #25

Are tampons anti-feminist? (Um, I think not.)

• Here’s an interesting article on preferred gender pronouns.

• Wow – a great list of things many men don’t understand about women sexually.

• Did you know forced washing fetishes are a thing?

• Does faking orgasms lead to “polluting the sexual environment”?

• A trans lady wrote a list of 10 things she wishes she’d known before transitioning.

• Al Vernacchio has a new sexual metaphor to suggest as a replacement for the prevalent baseball metaphors our culture uses.

• Here is a cool up-close video of a woman having an orgasm via clitoral massage. Not only is it hot, but it’s also interesting to see the way her muscles contract when she comes!

Sharing the Sexy #19

This website will deliver your sex toy purchases to your door within an hour if you live in the Toronto area. Oh my god, is this the future?!

• This poll infographic seeks to answer the question, what is and isn’t cheating?

• Ever wanted to become a sex toy reviewer like moi? Epiphora wrote a beginner’s guide and I give it an A+!

• Here’s some interesting stats about porn stars.

• This week I fell in love with Tits and Sass, a blog by and for sex workers.

• These stories about sex cults are intriguing and strange, as you might expect.

• New rumors are always cropping up about who will play Christian Grey in the 50 Shades film, and the current contender is Ed Westwick. I’d watch that.

The genders aren’t as separate and different as you may think. Awesome!