Links & Hijinks: Tinder Troubles & Fisting Femmes

• I love this comic about how toxic masculinity fucks up your sex life. “Sex is not something you do to somebody, it’s something you do with somebody.” Amen!

• This article is about femme fisting covens and you don’t need any other reason why you should run-don’t-walk to read it.

• Apparently T-rexes may have engaged in foreplay. This article says that the T-rex was therefore “a sensitive lover,” but I don’t think prioritizing foreplay is necessarily something you do only for your partner’s sake: it makes sex better for you, too!

• After the above article came out, Tracy Moore wrote about how to fuck like a T-rex. Amazing.

• This article about bionic penises is fascinating. C. Brian Smith is one of my favorite sex journalists, and he shows why here: he went above and beyond reporting on the scientific/mechanical story of penis reconstruction and found, in addition, some conflict between his two main subjects (apparently they hate each other). What a story!

• Here’s an interesting article on why rapists rape, and how our cultural ideas about rapists’ motivations have shifted over time.

• Consistently good sex with a partner takes consistent work, practice, and conflict resolution, according to a new study. So next time you have bad sex with a new partner, don’t think of it as proof you’re not meant to be with them – maybe view it as an opportunity for growth and improvement instead!

• I found it cathartic to read women’s responses to straight-dude Tinder clichés. God, why are most straight men on dating apps so dreadfully boring?!

Is Tinder the new meet-cute?

• And while we’re talking about Tinder… Here’s why people are getting bored of it and what might come next.

• Okay, one more Tinder thing… I loved this essay about dating-app fatigue, particularly this revelation: “Just knowing that the apps exist, even if you don’t use them, creates the sense that there’s an ocean of easily-accessible singles that you can dip a ladle into whenever you want… the apps’ actual function is less important than what they signify as a totem: A pocket full of maybe that you can carry around to ward off despair.” YUUUP.

• A very sweet and smart reader of mine wrote this response to my post about the orgasm gap. It explores these issues from a (cis-het) male perspective: the frustration of not being able to get a female partner off, and some ways to center female pleasure without being overly pressure-y or goal-oriented. I wish more men had this attitude!

• The great Alana Massey wrote about how the internet never forgets anything. Here she is, mirroring my own childhood back at me: “A born adventurer and a blossoming pervert, I regularly pretended that I was a hot and bothered 19-year-old, and lured men away from group chat rooms to private chats where my digital captive and I would proceed to have cyber sex…”

• On porn sites and encryption. I’m not as savvy as I would like to be about this kind of stuff, so this article was illuminating for me.

• Many people have written about why you should watch porn with your partner; here’s the case for why you shouldn’t. This made me think long and hard (har har) about my own porn preferences and how a partner might interpret them.

• I know why men announce when they’re about to come, but this article on it was an amusing read nonetheless. “So we agree this is a very useful behavior in men and women, gay and straight. Cumming must be announced, and should be announced. Declared, even.”

• Two of my current favorite writers, Helena Fitzgerald and Alana Hope Levinson, both wrote about the “boyfriend shirt” and why we love/want/crave ’em. (I am guilty of this. And admittedly not just with boyfriends.)

Catcalling and sexual harassment are normalized in our culture and nobody knows how to “properly” react to them. Ugh. Fuck the patriarchy!

• Nicole Cliffe wrote fanfiction about what life would be like if Benedict Cumberbatch was her lover, and it’s divinely funny. “I had decided to play Irene Adler, of course.” “Such a brave choice, considering you are not particularly attractive, and have never acted nor shown any aptitude for it.”

• Ever wonder how the concept of a fetish came into being? Here’s a psychological history of the fetish. Particularly interesting to me: sexually progressive physician Havelock Ellis was apparently an impotent virgin until the age of 60, when he saw a woman peeing and realized he had urolagnia (a urine fetish). Brains are so cool!

What should you do with a condom after sex? “You can also tie the condom off before tossing it to work on your career as a balloon animal artist,” Tracy Moore reports. (God, I love her.)

• The science is in: what makes a relationship last is good talkin’ and good fuckin’. This does not surprise me, but it sure is affirming!

• Timely: last month I got fucked with a penis extender and this month there’s an article on MEL about them. I, for one, always celebrate there being more options in the “toys for penises” category. I can also vouch for the fact that you don’t have to be insecure or have a small penis to derive some enjoyment from using these; the partner of mine who wanted to try an extender with me is quite well-endowed as is, and just wanted to explore a fantasy and try something new. Yay, sexual freedom!

A Jian Ghomeshi Reading List

Trigger warning: this post and the links therein contain descriptions of physical and sexual abuse, as well as consensual BDSM in some cases. If any of that stuff bothers you, you should take care of yourself as best you can and feel free to skip this post.

If you live in Canada and/or follow the news, you’re probably aware that a HUGE scandal broke here this week. Media personality Jian Ghomeshi has been accused of physically abusing multiple women behind closed doors.

Normally this isn’t the sort of thing I’d write about here, but I am, for two reasons: a) the story has become unfairly entangled with consensual BDSM and I’d like to help reverse that however I can, and b) if I’m honest, this story has affected me profoundly on an emotional level, even more than these violence-against-women stories usually do. Maybe it’s because it happened in my own city, or because I’d seen so much of Jian and he always seemed like such a normal guy. Maybe it’s because the good, upstanding in folks in my sex-positive, kinky communities are getting conflated with abusers in the wake of this mess. Or maybe it’s just because violence is always a horrible, difficult thing to encounter, no matter how indirectly.

In any case, for those of you who haven’t been following the story, or who have but are interested in knowing more, I’ve compiled this reading list. It contains links and articles I think are important to understanding the full scope of what’s gone on. Feel free to pick through it, read what interests you and skip the rest. And if you start to find any of it difficult to read, don’t feel you have to slog through it. You do what you have to do to take care of you, okay?

• First off: if you need some context for who Jian is and what he does (professionally, not criminally), you can take a look at his Wikipedia page or his website. Basically, he’s a widely-known, widely-broadcasted radio and TV personality who hosted/co-founded a show called Q, which focused on arts, especially music.

• One of the things Ghomeshi is most known for is this interview with Billy Bob Thornton. It was applauded at the time because Thornton acted totally unreasonably and Ghomeshi kept calm and dealt with it well. We even watched this clip in one of my journalism classes last year as an example of good interviewing skills.

• One of the first pieces of evidence to surface about Ghomeshi’s abusive habits was this article by xoJane contributor Carla Ciccone. It doesn’t allege any violence, just creepy non-consensual touching and stalker-ish behaviors. Ciccone never outright identified who she was writing about, but many details led people to believe it was Jian, including the references to his book and band, the brand colors of his show, and – yes – his quiet reputation as a creep. Plus there’s this tweet, in which he says exactly what he says to Carla in the article.

• On Friday, it was announced that Ghomeshi would take time off to deal with “personal issues”. He had recently lost his father, so some people in my community speculated that perhaps he was depressed from that grief, though we were surprised it could be so bad that he’d need time off.

• Then on Sunday, the CBC changed their tune and said that Ghomeshi wasn’t actually taking time off for personal issues but actually had been fired, due to “information” they had learned about him. (Toronto Star investigative reporter Kevin Donovan has hinted that the Star will report on what exactly transpired over that weekend to cause this change.) Ghomeshi – or perhaps more accurately, his PR team – composed this Facebook missive claiming that he was fired because he partakes in consensual BDSM in his private life, and that the claims of non-consent all arose falsely from one “jilted ex-girlfriend.”

• Incensed by the usage of the word “jilted” as gendered code, Mandy Stadtmiller at xoJane wrote about other such coded terms and how they’ve been used to invalidate and insult women over and over again.

• For those interested in the literary references Ghomeshi makes in his statement, here’s some information about the Lynn Coady story he references alongside Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s from Coady’s Giller Prize-winning book Hellgoing. Incidentally, Ghomeshi was set to host this year’s Giller Prize ceremony, but was replaced by Rick Mercer after the allegations of violence were made.

• On Monday, the Star published a story alleging that three women had been physically attacked by Ghomeshi. The Star had been quietly researching the story for over a year. These women were all on dates with Ghomeshi at the times of their respective attacks but had not consented to what he did to them (punching, slapping, biting, choking). A fourth woman, one of Ghomeshi’s co-workers at the CBC, also alleged that he had touched her without consent and told her at work that he wanted to “hate-fuck” her.

• Ghomeshi then filed a $55-million lawsuit against CBC for defamation, breach of trust, and damages – though many experts are saying that the lawsuit is hopeless.

• Law professor Brenda Cossman wrote an article explaining that Canadian law does not recognize consensual BDSM and causing bodily harm to another is always considered illegal, even if the “victim” consented. (It should be noted that this is probably irrelevant to Ghomeshi’s case, since he seems to have assaulted many women without consent – but this legal information may still be of interest to actual kinksters.)

• Indie musician Owen Pallett, who is (was?) a friend of Ghomeshi’s, spoke out in defense of the alleged victims and said they ought to be believed, not dismissed.

• A post called “Do you know about Jian?” talks about how Ghomeshi being “weird with women” has been quietly known about by many people for a long time. Scary to think that so many folks felt silenced.

• Prominent sex writers Andrea Zanin and Dan Savage both wrote excellent posts essentially warning readers not to conflate kink with abuse. Dan’s tweet sums it up nicely: “I oppose the demonization of consensual kinksters. I despise abusers who cover for their crimes by claiming to be consensual kinksters.”

• Wednesday night, the Star dropped another bombshell: eight women have now come forward about having been abused by Ghomeshi, including TV actress Lucy DeCoutere from Trailer Park Boys. This latest Star piece contains many unsavory details, so definitely skip it if you think it might trigger you – but it is an incredibly fine piece of journalism that seems hard to refute or explain away. If you’re wary of media outlets that use anonymous sources, maybe it would help to remember that it was the Star’s investigative team who also broke the Rob Ford crack scandal last year – using then-anonymous sources.

• One of the weirdest details in the Star story was about Jian’s teddy bear, Big Ears Teddy; two of the women the Star interviewed have said that Ghomeshi turned the bear around to face the other way before assaulting the women, saying, “Big Ears Teddy shouldn’t see this.” Jian has spoken before about the bear’s significance in his life and in easing his anxiety. Some folks in the #JianGhomeshi hashtag speculated that there could be something more sinister going on with that bear, like a hidden camera, but there’s no proof of that and it seems unlikely.

• Also on the topic of the bear: Twitter account @bigearsteddy has tweets dating back to April of this year that allege Ghomeshi is violent toward women. The tweets are written by someone who claims to have been one of Ghomeshi’s victims and might be a Carleton University media grad but they are unsubstantiated so it’s hard to know for sure. (I wonder if one of the women from the Star article is also behind this Twitter account.)

• Steffani Cameron wrote about Canadian sexual context and safety in BDSM.

• Dan Savage found and interviewed a woman who dated Ghomeshi and says she engaged in completely consensual BDSM activities with him. But, as Savage points out in his post, it seems that Ghomeshi’s MO was to get violent/aggressive with all his romantic/sexual prospects as a way of “asking” for consent to do more, so in the case of the woman Savage interviewed, it seems Ghomeshi just lucked out and happened to find a woman whose kinks matched his and who didn’t object to his “reckless, abusive and dangerous” approach. One consensual case doesn’t outweigh or invalidate the many non-consensual cases.

• Ghomeshi announced today that he “intend[s] to meet these allegations directly,” whatever the hell that means, and that he won’t be speaking to media about it anymore (although it seems he hasn’t spoken to media about it at all anyway).

I think those are the most important pieces of the story so far. If you’re interested in following how this plays out, the Star is probably your best source; their investigative team is out-of-this-world amazing and their coverage has so far been fair, balanced, and (I believe) accurate.

If you take anything from these events, I hope it’s this: we need to work together to create a world where abusers like Ghomeshi are publicly shamed and identified as he has been, and a world where victims don’t feel ashamed and silenced as his did for so long, and as some no doubt continue to.

Hot Tip: Enthusiastic Consent Isn’t That Hard

What with the barrage of rape cases flooding through our media outlets at the moment, a lot of people are talking about what it means to consent to sex.

You may have heard of one of the sex-positive responses to the question “How do I avoid raping someone?” – the idea of enthusiastic consent. In short, it means that no always means no, and only yes means yes.

Many of us have signed on to this agreement. I find it really sexy to imagine a world in which everyone “checks in” before progressing sexually. It’s hot to have sexy things done to me, but it’s even hotter (in my humble opinion) to have someone respect me enough to ask for permission first.

But, predictably, there has been a lot of pushback in the wake of this idea. “What, am I supposed to ask every time I do anything sexual?!” these protesters cry. “What if we’re already in a relationship and I know my partner’s body language well enough that I don’t have to ask?” And my favorite: “But asking for consent is so INCONVENIENT and AWKWARD and HARD!”

I’m not going to tell you how to negotiate consent within your own relationship, because obviously, that’s a personal thing. If your partner is really okay with you never explicitly asking for consent, that’s fine, as long as you still know you have to stop when you’re told to. But let’s get something straight: asking for consent does not have to be awkward or difficult.

You do not have to engineer a wordy question like, “Do you consent to me touching your vulva?” You can literally just say, “Is this okay?” or “Do you want me to stop?” or “Should I keep going?”

Some people have a Dominant/submissive relationship. Most people do not. And if you and your partner are equals in and out of the bedroom, acquiring verbal consent on a case-by-case basis really should not be a big deal. You respect your lover and you want them to feel free to express their feelings, right?

On the flipside, if you want your partner to ask for consent every time, that’s an absolutely fair request to make. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Our culture has a contempt toward consent. If this wasn’t the case, no one would be crying that asking for consent is “too much work.” Respecting your sexual partner’s body and mind is never “too much work,” and if you really feel that it is, you’re not ready to be in a sexual relationship.

Bonus reading:
Shakesville: Today in Rape Culture
Yes Means Yes
Scarleteen discussion: enthusiastic consent
Persephone Magazine: Why Do People Hate the Concept of Enthusiastic Consent?