The People Who Treat You Differently After Sex

It’s not your imagination. You had an intimate encounter with a friend, and somehow, it seems that your genitals zapped them through to the Twilight Zone. Suddenly, they are calling you “bro” and “pal”. Or perhaps planning your wedding? Or even serving you up some cold, fresh apathy?

What gives when you give someone head one time and they let it swallow every meaningful thing that previously happened within your friendship?

I thought I had intimacy issues. And I do. I can’t stand to be touched unless I’m very comfortable or familiar with someone. Even then, it’s no guarantee – not by a long shot. Most of the time, proximity is a poison to me, but I have a lot of experience with my own idiosyncrasies and my own inexperience. I try to respect my own boundaries, but at the same time, assure others that the problem is mine and I’m working on it. My own mental health issues and my social unbecomings are points of sharp awareness and clear visibility, perhaps to the entire universe. No matter how embarrassing, I like to explain myself and over-explain myself, just to make sure no one is seeing my issues as a reflection of themselves.

I think lots of people with higher self-esteem and a more experienced touch than me have intimacy issues too, but rather than clumsily acknowledge them, it is far more unspoken. The blame ends up falling upon whoever stumbles into its haphazard path. It’s difficult not to take other people personally in respect to what they make you feel, but it’s important to live through that emotion and observe its patterns. Eventually, the results will come back negative: it really isn’t you, it’s them.

Sure, sometimes it seems initially awkward to interact with someone after a sexual encounter. But it becomes quickly apparent when temporary awkwardness morphs into a completely different beast. Genitals may look like aliens, but friendships shouldn’t feel that way.

I have known some amazing creatures and some utterly bullshit humans. Mostly, though, they have fallen somewhere in between. The complexity of imperfection is that it is difficult to distinguish who is a good person treating you badly, and who is a bad person who treats you well when it suits them. Even my life’s villains have not always been figureheads of cruelty. Generally, they are apathetic, selfish or just emotionally reckless. People don’t tend to realize they’re doing something unkind, either through denial or ignorance. If they did, I like to think that they wouldn’t do it. Nonetheless, the accountability is still there, but so is forgiveness for those who deserve it.

Dysfunction sometimes comes to a head during intimacy – pun intended. Other than their flesh, people are a bit like computers. And while sometimes you might need an expert’s help to tinker and debug you, it’s pretty handy to have some basic savvy with your own circuits and to understand malfunction in those of others. You can’t learn anything about why someone operates in the way they do without cracking open some motherboards to see what makes them tick, even if it doesn’t always go as expected.

Perhaps I cannot expect everyone to be super in-tune with their thoughts and actions at all times, but I can sure call attention to it and see if they respond with a willingness to communicate openly. Sometimes, the plain truth can shock others into sincerity. “Is there a reason for the fact that ever since we fucked, you’ve been refusing to stand without a six-foot buffer zone between us, as if you’re standing at an appropriate distance in an ATM queue?” may sound like a horrifying mouthful, but it’s scarier on the receiving end and its directness commands a similar directness in return. When it incites defensiveness or cock-and-bull excuses, there is an answer in that behavior as well. Bare butts are a lot less frightening than looking someone in the naked eye and owning your words.

Sex shouldn’t have an impact on how humanized or dehumanized someone makes you feel. Hang up on their hang-ups.

If they try to make it weird, make it weirder.

 

Prevenge: Murder, Mayhem, Motherhood

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD

A slasher film about a pregnant woman committing murder with a kitchen knife sounds like some weird version of Mad Libs, and not necessarily a watchable movie. Nevertheless, writer, director and star, Alice Lowe has made a movie like Prevenge a tense, yet funny, gory, yet artistic, horror film. Filmed during Lowe’s actual pregnancy, the movie’s main character, Ruth, is a British woman expecting her first child. Ruth’s partner, as we gradually learn, died in a climbing accident due to the apparent negligence of the other climbers.

Prompted by the voice of her unborn daughter, Ruth kills the people she holds responsible for her partner’s death. By taking advantage of how others treat her in her delicate state, our heroine shockingly becomes adept at committing murder. 

I learned of the film when a trailer appeared as a suggested Facebook ad. I was hooked the minute I started watching. As a fan of both women-led media and horror films, I knew I would enjoy Prevenge. The film plays with society’s notion that pregnant women exist in a state of bliss, full of love and motherly devotion. In contrast, our main character Ruth is hindered by her pregnancy and frightened by the will of her daughter.

Prevenge Poster

The fetus is extremely verbose, complaining about the people and world around her. She speaks in a cutesy demonic voice that sounds like Peppa Pig on drugs. “You can’t shake me, I’m fury.” Ruth tries to lecture her daughter, but it’s pretty clear who is running the show. As Ruth’s condescending midwife says, “Baby knows best.” But unfortunately, what the midwife doesn’t know is that the baby wants people stabbed to death.

While the movie’s premise has the promise of a cheesy B-Movie, it’s actually the opposite. Slow moving and deliberate, this is not a stylized or exaggerated film. Ruth commits her murders in a believable way and the story is all the more effective for it. Aside from the murder, you could be watching a movie about a woman mourning and working her way through a difficult situation. Ruth having her autonomy stifled by the wants of her unborn daughter offers an exaggerated metaphor of women feeling that their body no longer belongs to them while pregnant. 

Music by the group, Toydrum, adds to the freakiness with a synth soundtrack. Even in the film’s calmest moments, the soundtrack reminds you that all is not right and something menacing is right around the corner.

I was impressed that Lowe took advantage of her own pregnancy to play Ruth. It added a layer of creativity to her project that otherwise wouldn’t be there if someone else was playing her. It’s rare, unfortunately, that we see a film with such a strong female presence behind and in front of the camera.

Some people could interpret the madness aspect of the movie as hinting at pre and post-natal depression. Yes, Ruth is not all in her mind and clearly depressed. But the film does not go into detail about what can be a complicated illness. Ruth’s midwife never brings it up in conversation during her appointments. Whether that is a deliberate story choice or neglect by the character is not commented on. However, women who have experienced pregnancy-related mental illness may relate to Ruth. Having never been in that situation, I can’t make that judgement.  Prevenge is more art than exposition, if you are looking for an in-depth discussion of the disease, you may have to look elsewhere. 

Would I consider Prevenge a feminist film? Yes. A female character does not have to be a shining beacon of morality to be a good character. Society praises women who are loving, kind, and feminine, and female characters who don’t follow this are often derided by fans. Look at how people responded to Breaking Bad’s Skyler White and her criticism of her husband Walt’s meth dealing. The hate got so bad that actress Anna Gunn wrote an article about it that can be read here.

Ruth is a three dimensional. Yes, she is going around committing murders, but her partner died, leaving her pregnant and alone. Along with the violence, we get scenes of Ruth sadly contemplating her situation. I for one just wanted to give her a hug.

In the movie, Ruth criticizes the expectations of how women are supposed to act during pregnancy in a great scene to disparage how mothers-to-be are poorly treated in the workforce. She attends a job interview as a ruse to meet with one of her victims. The woman interviewing Ruth tells her that while qualified, she wouldn’t be hired because she is pregnant. After she slits the woman’s throat, Ruth throws a sexist comment back at her as a post-kill one liner.

Finally, nothing beats Ruth as she gets ready to commit her last murder. This mild-mannered and ordinary woman transforms into an avenging goddess, red dress flowing around her, with a face painted like a skull. 

While I really enjoyed the movie and all the squirming feelings it produced, I thought that the ending was a little rushed. Prevenge was wonderful at creating suspense, I don’t want to spoil the climax, but it loses steam as it nears the finish line.

That being said, I know that Lowe gave her best performance. Ruth was never a cardboard cutout, such as when she kills a man and then lovingly putting his senile mother to bed when she wanders out of her room. Prevenge is unforgettable, I sincerely hope that this is not the last we see of Lowe.

Prevenge is available to watch on Shudder.com.

DON’T Talk to Me ~ Free Desktop Wallpaper

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Read. My. Body. Language. Don’t talk to me!

As always, you can buy this artwork as a print or on products like cushions, phone cases and more in our Society6 store! Plus, scroll down to see it in a range of desktop wallpaper resolutions.

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Tantra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I write with you still on the tip of my fingers …

Table scraps of memories and all the places you bring me by the slight twitch and dip of

your muscles

I know nothing like your brand of love and thrust

Not lust,

But divinity

And the sacred energy produced by the rain,

of crashing elements.

Foggy and sticky,

You are in a lane

of your own

Super Saiyan patterns of flattery

The bedroom name “Goddess” falls from

Your lips with ease

And proof of how you’ve missed the alchemy of my chocolate

Strapped down by stardust

Chiseled as if cut from Greek god-cloth

Pre-cloth

Divinity inferred

And fortified at the seams,

Sealed in Onyx

Black diamond of perfection

You wield weaponry

That threatens me, to escape the barriers

Keeping me on the peaceful side of the barricade

Striding down streets with the fire of protest and implosion

Washing away anything I’d known about how the night might end.

Days begin,

Suspended on your lead

Cheering on the twerk of my hips

And calling out Godd when you see her!

…. Amani O+

Read Full Poem at amanipoet.com

The Semi-Enlightened Man

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Picture by Ariele Alasko

Let me tell you about a type of man that I keep meeting —I call him the semi-enlightened man.

When you meet this man, he is quite charming. He’s quick to pay you compliments and seems outgoing. All good fun. The conversation goes well and maybe you even agree to meet each other for a drink. Later, over drinks, you find out more about him. He seems to be open to self-reflection and even seems to think more about the bigger picture in life. What a relief! It’s always a nice change to meet someone who ponders his own existence from time to time and doesn’t go running for the hills the moment you mention the words “feelings” or “spirituality.”

Sometimes this guy is interested in Buddhism, wears prayer beads and shows you pictures of his recent trip to Thailand. He attends weekend retreats. He tells you he recently took a massage course in Greece to reconnect his mind and body. How nice! So far so good. After all, we are all improvising our way through life, aren’t we? When I meet someone who is honest about how he’s trying to get to know himself better in order to connect on a deeper level with others,  it makes me happy as a clam! “Waiter, keep the drinks coming!”

He then goes on to tell you that he’s very interested in the psyche of women and thinks relationships are beautiful. “Finally,” I think, “a man whose focus isn’t only on the more southern parts of the female body!” He believes sex and intimacy are not necessarily the same thing. He wants to live an authentic life, not one others have designed for him. Inspiring indeed.

But then he tells you about some of the most beautiful women he has had sex with. How they just laid there and therefore the sex wasn’t great. He explains that men don’t like models because they’re too skinny. Men like women who are curvier, softer, feel good about themselves and are able to just let themselves go in bed. He says you can find out a lot about how a woman is in life by how she acts in bed. He repeats that he loves relationships, but adds that he’s very much enjoying his freedom at the moment. Then he asks if you want to come back to his place to watch a movie. Wait, what?! All of a sudden this enlightened man wants no-strings-attached, casual sex.

So, I find out that enlightenment can very quickly become a mindfuck (pun intended).

Now, of course I love that men really do like women who feel good in their own skin, but if the main reason men like this is because it improves their own sex life, then we have a huge problem. It’s almost like a woman’s self-confidence should exist first and foremost to please a man in bed.

I want to tell this man that maybe the reason these beautiful girls were just “laying there”, is because they just didn’t feel comfortable once they sensed this man was secretly degrading them. Sharing your body with someone for the first time can be extremely intimate and requires a leap of faith. You trust that the person you’re sharing your body with will appreciate you for the person you are, not grade your performance while you’re naked and vulnerable.

So what if all the self-reflective, spiritual talk is actually just a way to get a girl in bed? Then she can start her free spirited performance for Mr. Enlightenment.

The semi-enlightened man does truly exists and sometimes it’s hard to identify him before its too late. This type of guy is so busy talking about how in touch he is with himself that he often doesn’t even take the time to see you. He doesn’t listen to you—yet he somehow thinks he has you all figured out and, of course, has to share that wisdom with you. He wants you to know that you’re afraid to lose control, because obviously he knows you better than you know yourself, having spent twenty seconds with you, wherein he mainly talked about himself and his path to enlightenment.

The kind of enlightenment that I’m interested in is a different kind. It’s very simple: put love into the equation. You realize how incredibly intimate it is to be with someone, so you’re happy when you’re with that special lady, regardless of the position you’re both in. Give it some time. You’re both opening up, daring the greatest risk of all—to be vulnerable. Equally. Sincerely. No performance, just two very brave people, growing together in shared intimacy. That’s the kind of enlightenment we should be seducing each other with. Because, if you ask me, it’s sexy as hell.

Battle of The Sexes

Yesterday I had a heated conversation with friends over red wine and cherry tomatoes. We talked about the unspoken realities between the sexes and how a spoken “no” could be taken as a yes. This quickly turned into a boys vs. girls debate.  Although the topics discussed aren’t that black and white, there is some truth in it.

We talked about a girl (a friend of a friend) who is known to spend the entire night talking and flirting with a guy. Then, they walk home together and she ends up inviting him to see the beautiful view from her balcony. Now, for some (dare I say most?) guys, this evening would almost certainly end with two naked people in bed. For a girl, and for this girl specifically, this is not a sure thing. And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. Spending the evening with a guy should never make a girl feel pressured to invite him in her bed.

On the other hand, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a guy hoping his evening ends in several compromising positions. What I do have a problem with is when the guy automatically expects it to happen and if it doesn’t, he leaves, super frustrated, thinking that the whole evening was a waste of time. There is something very wrong with this sense of entitlement. That same guy will probably wind up telling his bros that the girl is a cock tease. This type of guy is like a small child that wants cookies from a cookie jar. Just because he gets one, does not mean he is entitled to all of them. If this reality makes a guy frustrated, he probably didn’t deserve the cookie in the first place.

Expectations are a tricky thing. I, myself, have been in situations with guys where there was confusion about what we both wanted, sexually. Two of these situations involved guys who I saw rather frequently. Initially, there was some attraction between us and some flirtation, but in their minds, this automatically meant that I couldn’t wait to have sex with them. One of them even literally proposed to take my virginity off my hands (Virginity is such a nuisance, isn’t it?). When I told him, “Thanks, but no thanks, I would like it to be with someone I’m in love with,” his reaction made it clear that he had not expected me to turn down his oh-so-kind offer. His only response was, “You know if I wanted to, I could easily make you fall in love with me.” Oddly enough, almost ten years later, the falling still hasn’t occurred. Needless to say, what these guys thought I wanted was far from the truth.

So yeah, thoughts vs. reality: not necessarily the same thing. It’s never okay for guys to assume that just because women act a certain way, it automatically means they’re going to get some. Newsflash: body language and flirtation are not an exact science and, as far as I know, mind-reading is still not a university major. Inviting someone up to the apartment is not the same as inviting someone in for the night. It could lead to something more or not, and both scenarios should be treated as equally plausible options.

Even if a guy finds things with a girl going further than he expected – much more kissy, touchy and exciting that also doesn’t mean he’s going to have sex for sure. I think we can all agree that putting your tongue in someone else’s mouth is not as intimate as putting a penis in someone’s vagina. As a side note, I would like to add that, while blue balls are a real thing, a lady should never feel obliged to relieve the man’s pain. So please fellas, don’t be the kind of guy who makes her feel pressured or guilty about it. 

It’s okay for people to have different assumptions about what certain actions or situations mean, because – hurray – to avoid too much confusion, we have this great gift called communication!

But sometimes, even when we communicate our desires, there can be confusion. More specifically, when we say “no.” Now, of course not all situations are the same and there is a difference between talking to someone you just met and talking to your boyfriend of seven years. But even so, I think a good rule would be: no ALWAYS means no. Not: “She said ‘no’, but her eyes said ‘yes’.” Or “She said ‘no’, but the way she said it sounded more like a ‘yes’.” Or even: “She didn’t say ‘no’ before, so she can’t say ‘no’ now.” This isn’t about offering someone a piece of chocolate. It’s about an incredibly intimate act, that, if there isn’t clear consent from both sides, can turn into a nightmare. Even if someone says “no” but means “yes,” the safest bet is to always assume “no” means “no.”

Throughout the conversation with my friends, a recurring, vital point seemed to be: don’t assume too much. Don’t think of “signs” as an exact science. Because what about men or women who say they just want casual sex? We hear stories from our friends of guys who say from the start that they aren’t looking for anything serious. But then later on, the girl starts seeing signs, leading her to believe the guy does want to date her. So often, she ends up heartbroken when she realizes that, in fact, he never changed his mind about her.

In this scenario, we can’t blame the guy, because he was honest from the start. I think we can say the same about a girl who says she doesn’t want to have (casual) sex, even if you see “signs” to the contrary.

Let’s just remember that when it comes to a situation that could end in sex, we bring our own baggage: experiences, personality, insecurities and so on. Our interpretations are not always going to match.

Even though it goes both ways, women are expected to bend more often to men’s expectations. But why should women have to adapt their behavior to the unspoken desires of men? Why should women stop talking or even dancing with guys unless they’re 100% sure they want to have sex (preferably all in one night)? A girl’s feelings about a situation are just as valuable as a guy’s. It’s not like, if a girl thinks that guys only approach her if they are ready to go steady, this is a universally acknowledged truth. Her assumptions about a guy’s intentions are not his responsibility. Same with guys thinking girls who flirt with them are always ready to go home with them.

My point is that the moment sex comes into the picture, many, many things fall into a grey area. The best we can do is try to be clear about our consent, respect the other person’s choice (even if it changes later) and have lots of consensual fun along the way. In my experience, there is nothing as exciting as being with a man I know I can say “no” to, without having to feel guilty about it.

Still confused? Maybe this Youtube video will help:

Tea consent

Deadpool: Bros Can Be Superheroes Too

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Now that the holidays are over and we’ve already seen Star Wars at least once, if not twice, it’s time for the next big movie. For a lot of people, this will be the superhero story, Deadpool.  I recently saw a Deadpool trailer and was, to be honest, not surprised at all. The trailer was called, “Blatant Bachelor Baiting TV Spot (w/2% real roses).”

It opens with Deadpool lying on a couch, holding a rose. “Oh hello!” He says. “You’re probably thinking, ‘my boyfriend said this was a superhero movie’. Well, surprise, this is actually—lucky you—a love story.” Begin superhero reason for existing, bad-ass shots of Deadpool suiting up and making giant leaps onto bridges, etc etc.

I found this trailer offensive for obvious reasons. The idea that a woman could never be interested in a superhero movie, would only be going because her boyfriend dragged her and is only interested in romantic comedies is a worn out idea that likes to skip along hand in hand with the laughable idea that a woman could actually be interested in nerdy things, like comic books and video games.

I’ll admit that the humor throughout the rest of the trailer was amusing. Deadpool manages to fight villains, all while maintaining a note of sarcasm, littered with jokes. So, I thought, maybe it was just this one trailer. Maybe it’s not as bad as I think.

Another trailer opens with Deadpool riding in the back of a cab, when he pops his head forward to talk to the cab driver (stereotypically an actor playing a South Asian cab driver), saying, “Kind of lonesome back here.” He struggles to get up front, bringing some comedy in his clumsiness, when the camera angle points up at his face from his crotch.

Later, after Deadpool spears a guy with his swords, he explains how this is a different kind of superhero story. The camera then pans across his butt, while he voices over the shot, explaining, “To tell it right, we got to take you back right before I squeeze this ass into spandex.” Cue background storyline.

This movie is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, they turn the male gaze on its head by showing shots of Deadpool’s ass and crotch, which would be great, as it plays on the ridiculousness of the usual pans across women’s butts. But these shots are done so with this mentality of “Haha, look at Deadpool’s butt, but no homo, man!”

Secondly, his whole motivation for becoming a superhero, while at first for noble reasons, winds up being mainly about getting back his woman from his worst enemy. It gets worse. Later on, in another trailer, while in the midst of beating up several criminals, all while in a high-speed chase, he throws a cigarette lighter socket in a guy’s mouth and says, “I never say this, but don’t swallow.” Cue my eye roll.

Towards the end of the same trailer, as a vaguely butch woman approaches him, he says, “Yeah, you’re way too much dude for me. That’s why I brought him.” He then gestures to a giant silver muscular giant, named Colossus. After the woman throws Colossus almost half a football field, Deadpool quickly responds with humor, “I mean, that’s why I brought her,” gesturing to an equally butch looking girl.

“Go get her, tiger!” He calls out to her as she runs to take care of business. Not only does it poke fun at the idea that any woman the least bit butch is more man than an actual cis man, but he also nullifies her effort by talking down to her as if she’s inexperienced at fighting. After butch woman #2 beats butch woman #1 up, Deadpool, awestruck and a little terrified, quips, “Oh I so pity the dude who pressures her into prom sex.”  As if butch woman will (of course) respond to most situations with violence.

We’ve seen enough superhero movies like this, featuring a mostly white cast, with very few empowering female roles. The only possible hope against this is when Morena Baccarin, who plays his love interest, delivers her line, “I’ve played a lot of roles. Damsel in distress ain’t one of them.” Then she punches some guy in the face. I’m guessing this is the only scene in the movie like this. After doing a little research (since I admittedly don’t know much about Deadpool), I learned the movie has several female superheroes, none of whom seem to feature much in the trailers. I can only bet that in the movie the most they do is play a supporting role to Deadpool.

What is most troublesome about this movie is that it’s trying to be different, but is just playing the same game. Deadpool is the snarky anti-hero, all while saving the day. The trailers (and I’m sure the movie) turns the gaze onto a male body, but does so in a way that says, “Look how ridiculous this is, butt shots and all. It’s impossibly for a man to be sexy the same way a woman is.” At the end of another trailer, Deadpool shoots through three men’s heads all at once, pauses, snorts the smoke from his guns, sighs and says, “I’m touching myself tonight.” It feels like the equivalent of a college frat house, complete with a wealth of sexist jokes and the classic ‘suck it’ gesture of pointing to your crotch and thrusting your hips.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a breath of fresh air in the face of movies like this one. I’m sure there will be plenty of people getting excited to see Deadpool, but for the rest of us, we’re ready to move on past these overused jokes for something new.

No Tea Means No Tea

Trigger Warning: Consent and rape situations discussed

I recently watched this video that explains how, if a person is struggling with consent, to think of it like making a cup of tea. It explains how a person can say “No thank you” and you shouldn’t make them tea, force them to drink tea or get annoyed at them for not wanting tea.

It also illustrates how someone may say, “Yes!” to tea but after you bring them the tea, they change their mind. “Sure, that’s kind of annoying, as you’ve gone to all the effort of making the tea. But they remain under no obligation to drink the tea. They did want tea. Now they don’t. Some people change their mind in the time it takes to boil the kettle, brew the tea and add the milk. And it’s okay for people to change their mind. And you are still not entitled to watch them drink it.”

What makes this video so effective is it’s simplicity and its clear-cut examples that help viewers understand why consent is so important. The neutrality of the drawings are equally helpful because they are not assigned a specific gender, which opens it up to many different types of situations, rather than just heterosexual cis couples.

If we just thought of sex as any other act, like drinking tea, the rules would become much clearer. You wouldn’t force someone to go on a roller coaster or watch a horror movie if they decide that they don’t really like these things. As the video says, “Whether it’s tea or sex, consent is everything.”

A Choice between IUD and Anxiety

The color of blood leaking from between my legs now is much brighter than menstrual blood normally is.  This is not the thick wine red that I’ve gotten used to since I started my period seven years ago.  There are breaks in that time, the normal irregularity, settling into a pattern that had me convinced that one of my ovaries did not work, the months on Depo-Provera when my period stops all together.  With cramping and blood stains on my favorite pant, there are days when I yearn to be an old woman and leave the bleeding behind.  But to not bleed is much worse.

The first time my period stopped on Depo-Provera happened to coincide with the only time I have ever let a boy pressure me into sex without a condom.  My doctor warned me, “Laura, in 50% of women, the shot stops their cycle all together.”  When I missed my period, I remember her saying that, but a little seed of anxiety planted itself and grew.  It turns out that when I get anxious, I get nauseous.  So nauseous in fact that my mother asks me one day on our car ride home if I might be pregnant.  We stop at a CVS and I wait in the car while she buys the pregnancy test.  Together we wait the three minutes for the results, sitting on the cold edge of the master bathroom bathtub.  And when the test comes back negative, we both start to cry.  She turns to me and says “Laura, the next time we both cry over a negative test, it will because we were hoping it would be positive.”

I think of that the next time I take a pregnancy test, this time in a Meijer bathroom.  I’m not taking it here because I’m too ashamed to take it at home but because I’m annoyed and embarrassed by my anxiety.  This time I know it isn’t possible for me to be pregnant. I haven’t had penetrative sex for over three months before I started back on Depo-Provera for the first time since high school.  I’ve missed my period and I can’t shake the fear. I’m angry at myself for spending $10 on a test I objectively don’t need, but if you think about it as $10 for peace of mind, it no longer feels so outrageous.

Clearly Depo-Provera doesn’t work for me, which is sad because aside from my anxiety, it was fantastic.  No period, no pregnancy, only a shot every three months. While I’m anxious, I am also forgetful, which excludes the pill.  On top of all of this, I have been gaining weight, despite healthy eating and a good amount of exercise, which my doctor says could be the hormones, something I am still distrustful of.  But no birth control is out of the question, and so is abstinence.

A few years back, I saw a post on tumblr: a girl wrote that despite being a virgin, any time she missed her period, she thought, “Well, this is it, the next immaculate conception, I’m pregnant.” This was followed by a string of comments along the lines of “Me too,” “So true,” and “This.” Mixed in were comments by boys asking “Really?” and replies answering “You have no idea.”

Since birth control is an imperative, I’ve settled on the copper IUD, a non hormonal object inserted into the uterus which blocks conception.  I had been warned that the procedure would not be pleasant and ain’t that the truth.  All my tattoos and piercings in no way prepared me for the pain, though I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it would have been without knowing the right breathing techniques.  I was however unprepared for just how uncomfortable and cold a speculum would be, since it was my first encounter with one.  Then there’s a quick swab to clean the area, the measurement for the fit (which is by far the most painful part, but is over pretty quickly), and finally the insertion.  I felt fine afterwards, but by the end of my walk home, I was doubled over in cramps and crawled under my blanket, begging my roommate to reheat my hot pack.

This sounds like a horror story, but I like the copper IUD so far.  It is true that I bled for quite a few days after the insertion.  It is also true that for the first few days, I had pretty bad cramps and every now and then I still have to close my eyes and catch my breath while one hits and passes, but it is nothing that a good hot pack and ice cream can’t combat.  It has taken the worry out of sex for me.  Perhaps that is because of it’s longevity.  I got it inserted right after my 20th birthday.  I won’t need to get it replaced until I turn 30.  (I can of course take it out sooner, should I so chose.)  Sure I still get cramps and I’m still bleeding, but that seems like a small price to pay for peace of mind. Smaller anyway than nausea and $10 every few months when my period is a few days late.

Good Sex Requires Empathy

Humans search far and wide for the key to a healthy, satisfying sex life. There are bloggers, writers, podcast hosts, scientists, doctors and psychologist who participate regularly in—and even devote their lives to— the everlasting dialogue surrounding sexual satisfaction and pleasure.

The fact of the matter is that there is no single way to have a good sex life. Some people need toys, some people need to be dominated, some people need to start sleeping with a different gender, some people need to move out of Texas and others just need to start masturbating more.

We are all complex, fascinating sexual beings and the only way to understand and enjoy each other sexually is to have empathy–the ability to understand and share the feelings of another– toward the people we choose to share our bodies with. It makes a lot of sense, considering sex is supposed to be mutually pleasurable and satisfying; however, it seems far too rare that we truly invest ourselves in the emotional, physical and mental well-being of the people with whom we engage in such a highly intimate act.

1347275606728_3775039On a recent episode of the Savage Lovecast, advice columnist and talk show host Dan Savage answered a question from a woman who had experienced pain and bleeding during a particularly rough session of sex from behind. When she told her partner that the sex was so hard that it had made her bleed, her boyfriend’s response was, “oops.” Dan’s advice: “Never fuck him again.”

Dan’s advice was wise because the woman’s boyfriend lacked empathy. In the heat of the moment he was so overwhelmed with and consumed by his own pleasure that he forgot to consider the woman who was sharing her body with him. Once the sex was over, he failed to show either compassion or concern toward the person who had provided him with pleasure that was not returned.

It seems that in many instances, people enter into sexual relationships with hopes of the sex being good right away. Unfortunately, sex can’t become good without communication and understanding, both of which require some level of emotional intimacy with our sexual partners. Even if communication happens the very first time, the simple fact that a discussion happened means you have become more intimate with that person than you have with most people in your life.

Nine times out of ten, our partners are going to have some sort of emotional hang-up, a position that is uncomfortable, a past sexual experience that is inhibiting them or a preference that they are too embarrassed to share. We’re all complicated. We’re all human. To assume that a certain level of emotional vulnerability doesn’t precede good sex is an assumption that will set you up for disappointment and failure.

In order to receive honest information from our sexual partners, we need to be empathetic. We have to consider our own hesitations and insecurities about sex and do our partners the absolutely wonderful gesture of asking. We have to ask each other what we want, what feels good and what doesn’t, because without empathy, reciprocity is nearly impossible to achieve.

We can’t just ask, though. We have to actually care about the information we receive. We have to care that sex feels good for our partners, rather than painful. We have to care about our partners having orgasms. We have to understand if our partners aren’t in the mood. We have to stop being so ignorant that we’d hope to have sex with people who don’t bring any baggage with them to the bedroom.

Even during a fleeting sexual encounter with a stranger, having empathy toward your partner awards you the opportunity to become more experienced and understand more about how a person’s body works. You get to walk away feeling good about what you participated in because you gave pleasure, received pleasure and opened your mind up to learning about the preferences of a person other than yourself.

Ultimately, empathy is the reason why we yearn to have sex with actual, live human beings. Empathy is the reason why porn, vibrating dildos, phone sex, strip clubs and other substitutes just don’t do the trick for most people. The more empathy that is involved in a sexual encounter, the better the sex will be for both parties. Having empathy toward your partner means you get to not only experience your own pleasure, but the pleasure of another real human being.