Human Fleshlight

Save an Uber, Ride a Cowboy is a column exploring queer millennial sex culture. The stories presented here are based on true events. Identities have been changed to protect the privacy and reputation of those involved.

“Gay men are not meant to be monogamous,” Caleb said staring at Riley.

“What?”

“I think a benefit of being queer is not conforming to heteronormative relationship molds.”

They kissed.

Riley pulled away, “I’m not mounting you on a park bench.” It was close to midnight, and he didn’t want to be that tacky duo grinding on each other in a public park—not to mention the ingrained fear that some passerby would see two boys kissing and decide to do something not so nice.

But tongue trumps reason so Riley straddled Caleb.

They decided to go somewhere more private, in this case Caleb’s questionably legal co-op a few miles away. An abandoned warehouse he and his roommates re-purposed into makeshift apartments, complete with a scattering of tarps and half-full paint buckets. As a result of climbing rent, young kids working shitty day jobs had to become increasingly creative.

Caleb went to the restroom, during which Riley snapped a few photos on his phone. Evidence, because this place looked like a spot where someone might reenact that Silence of the Lambs scene. But he figured he was safe since Caleb’s hands were moisturized.

It was summertime, which meant inside it was sweltering. Since essentially every apartment building in Brooklyn is old, they lack aspects of modernity — like AC. Leaving suffocatingly hot rooms relieved only by cracked window or a P.C. Richard plug-in fan, sometimes two.

Caleb’s “room” was no exception. Riley was looking at his mattress on the floor and wondered how the sheets would look with their bodies’ sweat stains when Caleb offered, “Want to go on the roof? It’ll be cooler.” The mechanics of a rooftop hookup alluded Riley, but to the bead of sweat forming on his brow, open air sound positively erotic.

As they ascended the crumbling stairs, Riley contemplated turning back. There’s plenty of dick in New York City, he thought, dick that lives in foundationally-sound homes. Then he was hit with the view: a borderless stretch of roofing that looked if you walked over the edge, you’d step clean across the East River into the Manhattan skyline.

On the other side of the roof was a brick chimney, whose edges and crevices were adorned with different potted plants. “You have a garden!” Riley squealed, left a little breathless by the greenery’s audacity to exist within such industrial harshness.

He turned back to find Caleb swaying on a metal swing next to the roof’s entry way. The mechanics of the hookup were beginning to become more clear.

“Dude, I love you roof,” but Caleb was done talking, and pulled Riley onto his lap. Murderer or not, Caleb was a good kisser. And what’s better, he seemed to really like it, couldn’t get enough of it. You’d think this would be a given, but in the world of casual sex where, for most, the goal is penetration, many are quick to move their lips lower than your mouth after delivering a few obligational pecks.

The creaking of the swing’s rusted metal was eventually drowned by the pair’s heavy breathing, when Caleb broke for air to ask, “Do you like to be spanked?”

“I’ve never tried it.”

“Bend over.” Like they were in some sort of domination vid, Caleb positioned Riley on all fours across his lap; the swing squeaked furiously.

First the cool air tickled Riley’s (at this point) bare ass, followed then by a firm smack from Caleb’s outstretched palm. Riley normally liked it when his partners took charge, but Caleb, with his slight frame and boyish face evoked more substitute teacher than dominator. Riley stifled a giggle and was beginning to lose his boner.

Thankfully, Caleb was not, and after their brief misstep, they got back on track and soon found themselves off the bench, onto the floor of the roof groping, sucking… The roof was probably dirty, but neither of them seemed to notice. Funny how practical thoughts evade you when a cock’s in your mouth.

Riley wanted to see Caleb finish first, it was one of his kinks: watching someone’s breath quicken, abs constrict, face twitch, body vibrate, and know it was you who gave them that pleasure.

But when Caleb got close, rather than let Riley bring him to completion, he started jerking off. Watching him tug away manically made Riley feel a little obsolete. Wanting in on the action, he quite literally tried to lend a hand, but Caleb pushed it away. From a foot away, Riley watched from his knees as Caleb’s body tensed and fertilized the dingy rooftop.

“That was hot,” Riley lied, still recovering from the coldness of Caleb’s shove, but determined to finish strong. He was touching himself, hoping for Caleb to join in.

A long moment passed between them. Surely he isn’t going to make me ask, thought Riley, who up until this point had never had to ask someone to return the favor. He conceded after more deafening silence, “Aren’t you going to help me cum?”

Caleb gave a helpless smirk, “but I came.”

Riley blinked at him.

“Sorry, I’m just not horny after I cum.”

Standing there naked with dick in hand, he searched Caleb’s eyes for a sign of malice or contempt, but only found honesty. Which somehow made it worse.

They began to retrieve their clothes, retracing the steps of their encounter. Riley tried to stay turned away from Caleb to hide his red cheeks. They didn’t say anything until something in the way Riley aggressively pulled up his jeans prompted Caleb to ask, “Are you annoyed?”

Riley wanted to say that no one was horny after they orgasm, but they got their partner off anyway because they wanted to make them feel good. He wanted to say that sex should be viewed as a mutually beneficial, a fucking symbiosis, not two people separately using one another to achieve their private goals. But all that internal dialogue sank into the growing pit in his stomach: an emptiness borne from the moment when anger subsides to sadness.

“No, I’m not annoyed.”

Caleb walked him down the neglected stairs. “Do you want to sleep over? You can.” Riley shook his head. Caleb pulled him close for a final kiss, deceivingly tender. “Thanks, I had fun.”

It was either very late or very early, the sun having yet to rise, Brooklyn a cast of shadows and faint traffic murmurs. The kiss lingered with Riley for a few blocks, a disorientingly intimate touch to a night that felt anything but.

Walks of shame normally filled Riley with a sort of immature excitement, a march of sexual independence that he’d looked forward to since his virginal years. Usually he’d float along enjoying the momentary peace of mind that comes with being wanted by another. But Riley was feeling less desired and more like an exciting substitute to a night alone with some lotion and a palm.

He hadn’t gone into it necessarily thinking he’d want to see Caleb after tonight, but since when did casual sex denote being an asshole? Riley was reminded of all his friends’ stories of men’s callous bedside manners. “They’re just shit humans,” he’d assure them, and come morning he knew he’d pity Caleb for his limiting sexual outlook, but right now it was hard to shake feeling like a mode of someone else’s satisfaction. Rather than stew in his insecurity, Riley decided to call an old friend who he knew would still be awake at 4AM.

Paloma’s buoyant voice came on the line, and his heart somersaulted. She listened and concluded, “Fuck him, he sounds like a shit person. Side note, I think I’m in love.”

Paloma was famously scatterbrained. A reliable wild card, too charming to be considered a total mess, she and Riley had partied away much of high school together. Although always popular with boys, she was never eager to be tied down, so this confession came as quite a surprise. It was even more shocking when she started to cry, “But he’s leaving the country.”

Paloma never cried, not even during their very bad shrooms trip junior year. 

Thoughts of Caleb felt very far away as Riley consoled her over the phone. Paloma felt all these feelings. Having given so much of herself away to this guy, she was devastated at the prospect of him leaving. While his heart went out to his friend, part of Riley couldn’t help being soothed by her groans. It was awful of him, he knew, but he felt a selfish comfort in that he’d only given away one night and chance to cum to Caleb.

Bodegas were starting to open, their owners sleepily peeling up the gates. In the early morning, love sounded awfully complicated. “Babe, that sucks, but I’m sure you’ll meet somebody else,” he told himself as much as her.

Riley quickened his pace, spurred on by the prospect of a hot shower and his own bed, empty as it was, he knew it wouldn’t make him cry in the twilight hours. Besides, he could always make himself cum.

Mythbusters

 

Growing up in a sex negative culture, a lot of our sex education comes from whispered conversations at sleepovers and porn. Understandably, as a result of this, myths abound in the mainstream understanding of sex. This list, by no means exhaustive, is meant to deconstruct five commonly heard myths at sex toy stores.

  1. Anal sex is supposed to be painful.

Nothing in sex is “supposed to be” painful unless you want it to be. Sadism and Masochism have so many amazing places to be exercised but the anus and rectum are not that place. Pain is an important way that your body talks to you. Pain could mean tearing, and tearing could lead to fecal matter getting in other parts of the body, or infections, and just in general, really not fun things. Numbing creams are problematic for this reason. Just as a general rule, if something is painful and/or you are not enjoying it, stop! As we say at work, the butt is an equal opportunity orifice. We all have tons of nerve endings in the anus and rectum. Whether or not you have a prostate, anal sex should be pleasurable for all involved. The G-Spot can even be stimulated through the butt. Enthusiasm from all players is key. It means relaxed muscles and awakened nerve endings. The other necessity is lube. Contrary to what porn may have taught you, saliva is never an adequate substitute for lube. Arguably all sex acts should involve lube (which I’ll discuss later) but since the butt is not a self lubricating part of the body, lube is not optional. Go out and grab some silicone lube if you’re using condoms or body parts, a thick water based one if you’re using silicone toys. Once you have enthusiasm from all players and a good lube, try fingers first, maybe a plug, or some other toy that is safe for anal use, take it slow, stop if you’re not enjoying it, come back to it later, or not.

2. Vibrators desensitize.

This comes up most often when people pick up the Magic Wand but I also hear it about vibrators in general. I find the easiest way to think about this myth is clapping. You know how when you clap for a long period of time your hands start to go numb but shortly after you get feeling back in them? That is the same of all of the nerves all over your body. Yes, they can get over stimulated but that doesn’t mean they’re getting blown out, just taking a nap. Sometimes though this myth is phrased a little differently. “Won’t vibrators ruin me for ‘real sex’,” “Won’t I become dependent on a vibrator to get off?” And an endless number of slightly differently phrased but essentially very similar questions. When you grow up being told that sex and sexuality are something to be ashamed of it’s no surprise that celebrating it with toys feels shameful to a lot of people. If you feel like you’re “getting dependent” on your vibrator to get off maybe analyze why that is. Is it because it’s playing a role in your sex life that you’re afraid or too uncomfortable to ask your partner(s) to play? Or, don’t analyze it and just enjoy using it. Talk it through with your partner(s) that you want to use a toy because it’s awesome and not to say anything about them or the sex you’re having. Vibrators and humans do very different things. Which leads us into our next myth.

3. Incorporating toys or lube into partnered sex means that someone is deficient in some way.

While all misconceptions about sex are unfortunate, this one in particular stands out as a prime example of our society’s issue with communication regarding sex and sexuality.

Due to  our miscommunication, we harbor insecure feelings and shame attached to our sex lives. Cock rings aren’t only used by people who are trying to delay ejaculation and there is nothing wrong with  wanting to delay ejaculation. Drawn out orgasms are awesome. Vibrating penises are awesome. Making your partner come, once or multiple times, is awesome. Vibrators aren’t only used by people that can’t get off with their partner(s) or can’t get their partner(s) off. Unless you have a human that can move so fast they vibrate or have inexhaustible strength vibrators are not competition. And even if you are fooling around with a superhero, vibrators are still amazing. They free up the hands, bodies, minds, to do other stuff. As for lube, no one is an unending geyser of lubrication but here we are specifically going to talk about people with vulvas. The amount of lubrication bodies make depends on many random factors such as: Where you’re at in your cycle, what you ate for lunch, how well you slept the night before, whether or not you paid your phone bill, the chances of your favorite contestant being voted off The Voice, etc, etc. Expecting your body to make the perfect amount of lubrication every time you ask it to is unrealistic.

4. The G-spot doesn’t exist.

 

In utero the cells that make up our genitals exist before they take on any configuration. This means that no matter what your genitals look like they have a lot in common with everyone else’s. The clitoris and the head of the penis come from the same tissue. The same goes for the outer labia and the scrotum, the clitoral hood and foreskin, the ovaries and testes and the list goes on. This also means that the cells that make up the spongy tissue that makes up the G-Spot exists in every single body. For people with penises those cells make up the prostate and for those with a vulva, the G-spot. So, yes, the G-Spot most definitely exists. However, this does not mean that everyone enjoys or can orgasm from having it stimulated.

Thinking about analogous anatomy isn’t just important for understanding that the G-Spot exists in all bodies. It’s also important in understanding the ways in which different bodies get off. Imagine we lived in a world where every person with a penis was expected to orgasm from having their prostate stimulated alone. I think we can all agree that’s a pretty ridiculous expectation to have. Yes, some people can orgasm that way, but not everyone, and it’s definitely not expected of them! And yet we expect this exact thing from people with vulvas! The G-Spot and Prostate get engorged when that person is aroused. This means that for most people clits and penises need to be stimulated before G-Spots and Prostates. This expectation that the G-Spot is always geared and ready to go has contributed a lot to the myth that G-Spots don’t exist at all (not to mention a lot of bad sex!) Doctors claims that the G-Spot doesn’t exist didn’t take into account the role of the clitoris or that most people aren’t turned on while at the obgyn! It’s real. We all have a G-Spot by one name or another. However, whether or not you enjoy it being stimulated or can orgasm from stimulating it is totally up to you, your body and your preferences.


5. If you enjoy prostate stimulation you’re gay.

Imagine if someone said that not liking having your elbow touched means you’re lactose intolerant. That’s a ridiculous remark. When you detangle this myth from all of it’s cloaked homophobia and misogyny, that’s what this myth is, ridiculous. The prostate gland, as we touched on in the last myth, is spongy tissue with an abundance of nerve endings. If you enjoy having your nerve endings stimulated then prostate stimulation might be for you! I know some of you are thinking that it’s more of an issue of putting something up your butt. To be clear no one is forcing you to put anything up your anus and never should but being interested in doing that is not some secret way your body is telling you that you’re gay. Your sexuality and what nerve endings you enjoy having stimulated are  unrelated. Now about that cloaked homophobia and misogyny. Inherent in this myth is that being gay is something to be ashamed of. People are worried that enjoying prostate stimulation translates to being gay.  If you dig a little deeper this myth is covered with misogyny. Those that are afraid to put things up their butt are reluctant because they don’t want to be penetrated. Not wanting to be penetrated is your choice but when it’s because being penetrated is seen as being “feminine” and by feminine you mean degrading, maybe it’s time to reconsider. I don’t want people to come away from this thinking that the only way to get rid of their internalized homophobia and misogyny and/or be a true ally is to put things up their butt. That’s not what this is about. Just maybe try to distance butt feelings from preconceived notions of masculinity and sexuality.

Terminology

Abortion: A medical intervention that ends a pregnancy.

Abstinence: Choosing to refrain from certain sexual behaviors for a period of time. Some people define abstinence as not having vaginal intercourse, while others define it as not engaging in any sexual activity.

Age of Consent: The age a person is legally able to consent to sexual activity. It varies from state to state, but ranges from 14 to 18 years of age in the United States.

Abstinence-Only Programs: Programs exclusively focused on refraining from all sexual behaviors. They do not necessarily put a condition on when a person might choose to no longer be abstinent.

Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs: Programs focused exclusively on refraining from all sexual behaviors outside of the contexts of a heterosexual marriage.

AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). People do not die from AIDS, they die from one of the infections their body acquires as a result of a weakened immune system.

Biological Sex: Our sex as determined by our chromosomes (such as XX or XY), our hormones and our internal and external anatomy. Typically, we are assigned the sex of male or female at birth. Those who chromosomes are different from XX or XY at birth are referred to as “intersex.”

Bisexual: A term used to describe a person whose attraction to other people is not necessarily determined by gender. This is different from being attracted to all men or all women.

Body Image: How people feel about their  body. This may or may not match a person’s actual appearance.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Sexuality education programs that build a foundation of knowledge and skills relating to human development, relationships, decision-making, abstinence, contraception, and disease prevention. Ideally, comprehensive sexuality education should start in kindergarten and continue through 12th grade. At each developmental stage, these programs teach age-appropriate, medically accurate information that builds on the knowledge and skills that were taught in the previous stage.

Consensual: When a person agrees to engage in sexual behaviors with another person. “Consensual sex” means that no one was forced or manipulated in any way to participate in a sexual behavior.

Contraception: Any means to prevent pregnancy, including abstinence, barrier methods such as condoms and hormonal methods such as the pill, patch, injection, IUD, and others.

Dating Violence: Controlling, abusive and/or aggressive behavior within the context of a romantic relationship. It can include verbal, emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse, be perpetrated against someone of any gender and happen in any relationship regardless of sexual orientation.

Gay: A term used to describe people who are romantically and sexually attracted to people of their same gender. Gay women will often use the word “lesbian.”

Gender: The emotional, behavioral and cultural characteristics attached to a person’s assigned biological sex. Gender can be understood to have several components, including gender identity, gender expression and gender role (see below).

Gender Expression: The manner in which people outwardly expresses their gender.

Gender Identity: People’s inner sense of their gender. Most people develop a gender identity that corresponds to their biological sex, but some do not.

Gender Roles: The social expectations of how people should act, think and/or feel based on their assigned biological sex.

Harassment: Unwelcome or offensive behavior by one person to another. Examples are making unwanted sexual comments to another person, sending unwanted sexual texts, bullying, or intimidation.

Heterosexual: A term used to describe people who are romantically and sexually attracted to people of a different gender from their own.

HIV: The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). The virus weakens a person’s immune system so that the person cannot fight off many everyday infections. HIV is transmitted through exposure to an infected person’s blood, seems, vaginal fluids or breast milk.

Homosexual: A term used to describe people who are romantically and sexually attracted to people of their own gender. Most often referred to as “gay” or “lesbian.”

Incest: Sexual contact between persons who are so closely related that marriage between those two people would be considered illegal (e.g., a parent or step parent and a child, siblings, etc.).

Lesbian: A term used to describe women who are romantically and sexually attracted to other women.

Puberty: A time when the pituitary gland triggers production of testosterone in boys and estrogen and progesterone in girls. Puberty typically begins between ages 9 and 12 for girls, and between the ages of 11 and 14 for boys, and includes such body changes as hair growth around the genitals, menstruation in girls, sperm production in boys, and much more.

Rape: A type of sexual assault that involves forced vaginal, anal, or oral sex using a body part or object.

Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse is any sort of unwanted sexual contact often over a period of time. A single act of sexual abuse is usually referred to as “sexual assault”.

Sexual Assault: Any unwanted sex act committed by a person or people against another person.

Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Sexual Intercourse: When a penis is inserted into a vagina, mouth, or anus.

Sexual Orientation: Romantic and sexual attraction to people of one’s same and/or other genders. Current terms for sexual orientation include gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual and others.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): Diseases caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that are transmitted from one person to another during sexual contact. Also called sexually transmitted infections or STIs.

Transgender: A gender identity in which a person’s inner sense of their gender does not correspond to their assigned biological sex.

*Taken from The National Sexuality Education Standards Core Content

I’ve Got Beef With The Patriarchy

When I was twelve years old, just a prepubescent girl, I was walking home from school and a man in a car pulled up next to me. The sky was the most perfect shade of blue and the sun reflected off his silver Toyota. In a kind enough voice he asked me where the Rose Bowl was. Before I could finish my sentence telling him to make a left, his voice changed and with power and dominance he smirked, “Look what you made me do.” I looked into his car and saw he was nude from the waist down and masturbating.

Despite the California heat, my blood instantly went cold. I stood there completely shocked and voiceless. I suddenly felt the adrenaline and sprinted away, but he followed me down the street. In that moment I thought it was over. I could hear the news reports about a missing child and I imagined being stuffed into his trunk like you see in the movies. He followed me for 5 blocks before I ducked into an abandoned house and as I hid in the bushes and dusty leaves, his car stopped and I heard his heavy footstep. He finally gave up muttering under his breath and got back in his car, driving away. After that day he never saw me again, but I see him. I see him every single day. When a man shouts “Hey Sexy!” out of his car or another smirks and mutters, “Smile, baby girl,” I see him. I see him when an entitled boy at a party grabs my ass or the grown man at the bank looks down my shirt. I see him whenever I am objectified. That moment as a twelve year old was the first moment I understood what it felt like to be assaulted, violated, harassed and scared for my life because of the male gaze. How could this man see me as a living being if he was willing to do something so cruel and dehumanizing to me?

Growing up as a girl in a patriarchal system, I began to understand objectification from a very early age. Not only did I struggle with being catcalled and assaulted more times than I can count, but I also felt objectification through the media. Magazines, TV shows and ads told me what to look like and how my body should be shaped. I spiraled into a world of crash diets, trying to fit impossible beauty standards. I squeezed my body into tiny clothes, I pinched my fat, I skipped meals, I did ab exercises in the school bathroom, all with the goal of becoming a perfect object for viewing.

Finally I decided I had had enough and I went vegan. I didn’t want to diet anymore and wanted to be healthy rather than hungry. As I transitioned into veganism I became so passionate about animal rights. Seeing how animals- fully sentient, intelligent beings- were being murdered and harmed made me sick. I went vegan for my health and for animal rights and later for the environment, but as time unfolded I realized there was something deeper about veganism. There was something that made it personal. Something that made me explode with blind rage and hurl my words at people who questioned my diet.

From walking around the streets of New York being catcalled with my friends to feeling personally victimized when cases of college campus rapes occurred and the rapist was protected, I realized there was something there.  Being constantly objectified and having my voice go unheard in the world, I realized I felt like a piece of meat.

“I felt like a piece of meat.” This is a phrase said time and time again by women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted. This phrase that symbolizes the oppression of half of the population transforms a living being into a nonliving object. The word meat itself implies death through violent dismemberment and slaughter until it is a product of consumption. Meat is unrecognizable as a living, breathing, feeling being to its consumer. Society has made animal products devoid of the soul and the inherent value those beings once had, by labeling it as “meat.”

Animal bodies become food for pleasurable consumption and female bodies become sex objects for the same reason. When animals are referred to as meat, it implies not what the “meat” actually is– a lifeless carcass– but rather a form of cuisine. The language we use creates an absence of life. When people say the word “meat” they are referring to a once living creature. Having a separate word for a dead body allows us to forget about the animal as an independent entity.

Not only are animal bodies fragmented and divided through the violent disassembling of body parts, but women also become a referent because of fragmentation. This fragmentation occurs in instances of rape or other forms of discrimination where women are used for their body parts. Women are constantly valued for only their body parts and the “consumption” of women in society is highly sexualized, making women appear useful only for sex and male pleasure. Male power works by figuring gender difference and dismembering and coding the female body. When one’s spirit is rejected or taken away they become a tangible object for exploitation, thus rape and gender discrimination become acceptable in the eyes of the power holder.

Looking at magazines, movies, porn and any form of mass media, female bodies are highly over sexualized. The camera zooms in on tits and ass, slowly creeping up hairless legs. In porn women are solely trying to please the man and make him finish. Magazines are plastered with ads on how women can satisfy men or how women can change their bodies to fit an ideal mold. All of these are ways in which the female body is fragmented and deconstructed, similar to the way an animal is deconstructed down the factory line. Society’s obsession with women’s singular body parts is intrinsically linked to our culture’s tendency to value whole animals as only products like beef, bacon or veal.

My attacker was able to assault me because he separated my mind from my body. He deconstructed me. He saw me walking and thought of me as an object rather than a sentient being. He felt no qualms when he smirked and exposed himself because he wasn’t doing this act to a twelve-year-old girl. In his eyes he was doing this act to a lifeless object. More times in my life I’ve felt like an object than I’ve felt like a human. I am slowly learning to decode the patriarchal language, using my voice to remind whoever is fragmenting me that this body is connected to a mind. My voice and my body create a being. I am not an object and I will no longer be made into one.

Animals however, don’t have the privilege of being heard in society. Their voices aren’t recognized and therefore they continue to be treated as objects rather than the beautiful sentient beings they are. Their light has been taken and as long as this violent dismemberment and consumption of animals occurs, sexism will occur as well. The best way to reclaim your voice as a woman and take ownership over your personhood is by giving a voice to those who go unheard. Saying no to animal agriculture means saying no to gender oppression. I will not stay voiceless, I will speak up in wake of tragedy and harassment. I choose to use my voice to stand up to the system that oppresses me and that oppresses animals. The patriarchal system is deeply connected to animal agriculture. I choose to stand up to the patriarchy by not consuming animal products. I know oppression and I will not lend my dollar to a company that will not only oppress animals but also ultimately oppress me. As long as we see animals as objects solely for consumption, we are not just feeding a system that promotes cruelty and death but we are also feeding a dominant culture that codes and fragments our own bodies through the same system.

I’m Not Your Jungle Bae

“Can you teach me how to twerk?”

“You’re pretty for a black girl.”

“One of my biggest fantasies is to role play slave and master.”

“You look so exotic, are you completely black?”

“Should I play some Destiny’s Child to make you more comfortable?”

I am not the only black woman that has heard these words. These phrases, though shocking to some, have become a familiar “mating call” for college-aged black women; fetishized by white peers under the guise of aesthetic praise. Even the seemingly complementary or innocuous ones are illustrations of the fetishization of black women, which is heavily rooted in the misogyny, racism, stereotyping, and anti-black sentiments that plague America.

Black bodies have a long history of being exoticized, fetishized, and othered. This happens to all black people, but this piece focuses on the fetishization of those that identify as a woman. The earliest example of this kind of discrimination is slave masters’ justification of raping their slaves. Slave owners’ abuse of the black woman’s sexuality branded slave women as livestock, not human beings. The erotic undertones of black people being stripped naked, oiled, and poked at by potential slave buyers were especially present in those cases relating to black women. White society believed that black women were wild, lustful creatures because they contrasted the image of the “pure” white woman. Consequently, this made black women both loathed and lusted after by white people.

This discrimination manifests in the case of Sara “Saartje” Baartman, a woman enslaved and forced into the circus as the “Hottentot Venus.” The word “Hottentot” is an ethnic slur, while the word “Venus” stands for the Roman goddess of love). During her enslavement, beginning in 1810, Baartman faced public ridicule for her figure which, according to European beauty standards, was grotesque and inhuman. Her large behind, enlarged labia, and full breasts were turned into spectacular commodities for a white audience to consume and from which her white captors to profit. This established an irony in her dual eroticization and mockery by white people; a body both sexualized and shamed. Ironically, in the same period that Baartman was shown off as a circus freak for her black female body white British women adopted the fashion of the bustle, which is characterized by emphasizing and exaggerating one’s buttocks. Unfortunately, this trend of white women with thicker bodies, like Kim Kardashian and Iggy Azalea, being admired for these features while black women with those same features being scorned, like Serena Williams and Blacc Chyna, still exists.

The idea of black women as carnal beings continued past the 17th century into the present. More recently, the production of film pornography allowed for the appropriation of black culture and misinterpretation of the black woman’s sexuality to be manufactured. The accessibility and industrialization of the porn industry makes this toxic imagery easier to promote, further praising and shaming black women for their otherness in comparison to European bodies. And let’s not forget the backlash Nicki Minaj faced after releasing the “lewd” cover art for Anaconda while Sarah, Becky, and Megan receive praise for posing in similar fashions on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Black fetishization is a powerful force that plays a role in many of the world’s institutions, including those of higher learning. The college hookup scene is difficult to navigate for many reasons, especially if you attend a small school, but it becomes increasingly more challenging when you’re black in a white space. Hookup culture is heavily based on physical appearance, and when beauty standards in America are Eurocentric this leaves even less room for black women to feel comfortable. Many of my black women friends acknowledged that at first the attention may feel empowering because they are often ignored, but fetishized compliments eventually leave them feeling used or hollow. It is quickly understood that he/she/they will not ask you for anything more than sex.

Everyone has a general right to fetish, it’s uncontrollable but ultimately derives from external forces such as cultural influences and taboos. However, the intellectual differences that distinguish the safe from the unsafe are very clear: so long as this fetish does not violate one’s humanity it is relatively safe. People with legitimate fetishes are often stigmatized, but if your “type” is one specific race, stop and ask yourself why. (Not all people who like black women or people with fetishes racially fetishize; however, the two are not mutually exclusive). Do you like black women because of their hair? Ass? “Independence”? “Sassiness”? These are characteristics of specific people, not a whole race. Believing that every member of a race possesses the exact same attributes is racist, even if it is intended as flattery. Do not imagine us to be people we are not. Do not erase our character.

Black women are repeatedly superficially judged and hypersexualized based on harmful stereotypes, which comes from centuries of violence. Centuries of combined violence, legislature, and literature have culminated in a disdain and ironic mystique for black, women’s bodies. This extension of misogyny and racism is aimed at maintaining control of the black woman’s body; it is not a compliment. Furthermore, even when black fetishization sometimes appears in the form of idolization, it is still not a compliment.

Being a black woman in college hookup culture filled with white bodies far too often means that your sexuality, character, and humanity are unappreciated and undermined. (It is also worth noting that as a rather light skinned, thin, cisgender woman, my experiences are very different from someone who does not share those same characteristics).

We are not your ebony princesses, your jungle baes, or your kinky twerking ladies. We are not objects to be used then discarded. We are not made solely to be stereotyped as erotic, naughty, wild, or aggressive. And most importantly: You are not progressive or good for “looking past our blackness”.

A few weeks ago a friend mentioned to me that one of her friends from home found me attractive and wanted to get to know me. When she asked them why she hadn’t been considered good enough to hook up with they said: “You’re cute but you’re just not black enough.”

Yikes.

 

Getting Pregnant With An IUD

I was recently at lunch with a friend when they brought to my attention that someone close to them had gotten pregnant with their IUD. I was shocked. Although, I never deem anything impossible, I had never crossed paths with anyone in this specific situation. It is extremely rare to get pregnant with an IUD. Around 1 in 10,000 women get pregnant with an Intro Uterine Device in place. Just like any method of birth control, it is not going to be 100% effective. That being said, in most cases where pregnancy occurs while having an IUD, the IUD has been misplaced inside the uterus or has fallen out.

 

When getting an IUD inserted it is crucial that you test for placement. This means coming in a month later and checking that it is in the right place in the uterus. They should do this with an ultrasound. Many women skip this visit because they think it’s fine but if the IUD is misplaced then it won’t work correctly.

 

A person’s body can also expel the IUD, meaning it will fall out and leave them unprotected against pregnancy. People can also become pregnant if their IUD expires while still inside them. Remember to replace your IUD on time, you can do it before the expiration date.

 

The symptoms of pregnancy while having an IUD are typically the same as being pregnant without one. This includes nausea, fatigue, and breast tenderness. If you are experiencing those symptoms and you’ve missed your period, call your doctor. Many women don’t menstruate when they have an IUD so missing your period might not have much of an effect. Pay attention to other signs and remember to get an in office blood test because they can test pregnancy much earlier than an at home test.

 

If you happen to be pregnant with an IUD in place, there are a few routes you can take. If you decide to keep the baby, there are going to be many pregnancy risks. Women with an IUD in place are 50% more likely to miscarry. It is recommended to remove the IUD if possible and continue the pregnancy. You will still carry the risk of a 25% increase in miscarriage if you do so.

 

There is a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy. This is where the fertilized egg stays in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus. If found early this can be treated with medicine or surgery.

 

If you decide to get an abortion they will remove your IUD first and then make sure once again you are pregnant using an ultra sound. Depending how far along you are, they will either do an in office abortion or give you a pill. From all accounts I’ve read online, it seems that clinics prefer to do in house abortions when you’ve gotten pregnant with an IUD but talk to your doctor if you find yourself in this situation.

Straight People Talk Pegging

Anal penetration within the context of heterosexual couples is not terribly taboo — but when the penetrative roles are reversed, the act remains controversial.

Pegging, a term coined by sex columnist Dan Savage in 2001refers to the scenario when someone adorns a strap-on to penetrate their partner, usually anally. The sexual act dates as far back as — well, as far back as whenever someone decided sticking an inanimate phallic object up someone else’s hole looked fun.

Strap-ons are familiar territory for most queer folk, but for many straight men, the thought of their female partner(s) stimulating them anally is a sensitive topic. 

Professional pervert and “philosopher” the Marquis de Sade wrote about the act in 1795, Williams S. Burroughs in 1959, eventually making its way to cinema in 1970 and porn in ’76 — where it would stay in the smutty shadows for the remainder of the century. Pegging would continue to be referenced by mainstream media in small ways, but the first prime-time break came in 2015 with the popular television show Broad City.

The episode featured the female protagonist’s male love interest asking her to peg him, going as far as to reveal a customized strap-on. Despite the comedic nature of the show, pegging itself was not made out to be the punchline. The joke — clarified by Broad City co-creator Abbi Jacobson — was the plot line in which her character attempts to wash her partner’s expensive, handcrafted dildo in the dish washer, thereby destroying it. “We were very careful because we didn’t want it to be misconstrued that that preference [pegging] is looked down on,” Jacobson said, as reported by Vulture.

The episode attempts to attach normalcy to the act, as male-bodied anal stimulation is still thought of by some to be a domain reserved solely for homosexual men. Many think anal pleasure is a decision homosexual men make out of necessity rather than their own volition (males have only one entry point, so…), but anatomical evidence proves that heterosexual men are biologically designed to enjoy it, too.

The prostate, often referred to by experts as “the male G spot” and located within the anus, is actually a highly erogenous zone, and when stimulated, can intensify its host’s orgasms. Additionally, prostate stimulation is also used as medical procedure to reduce inflammation. Studies have also found that continual prostate massages are believed to slightly reduce men’s risk of prostate cancer.

But despite the scientific evidence that anal stimulation is not only normal, but natural — heterosexual men and women still have reservations about butt play.

“My current partner would definitely not be into it. He’s really grossed out by butt stuff of any kind,” says Ashley, 23, who identifies as bisexual.

Allie, a 22-year-old straight woman, was also skeptical heterosexual men would be readily up for the task. “What I would assume, is that most straight guys would not be comfortable doing that. You have to find someone who was really comfortable with their sexuality.”

What about the boys?

20-year-old NYU student “Max” was not familiar with pegging. His brows remained furrowed while the specifics were explained to him. Afterwards, he was still unsure whether he would try it, but added, “If I did try it, I wouldn’t tell my friends.”

Yet not all straight men were vehemently opposed to pegging. In fact, it was art student Maddie’s male-identified partner who approached her about the possibility of penetrating him, apparently having done it before and enjoyed it. Maddie leaped at the opportunity.

“I loved fucking him in the ass and he loved it too,” she said of the experience, “it was empowering and sexy to see him get off from penetrating. It was really interesting to me to find his ‘spot,’ like I do when I have sex with women and I think it made him feel really vulnerable.” He is very comfortable with his sexuality, she believes and attributes to, in part, the fact that two of his brothers are gay.

After she pegged him, Maddie said she felt powerful. “It felt like I was able to express a feeling in a new way, like learning a new word for a way you’ve always felt.” A pretty glowing review.

But not all straight men are as comfortable as Maddie’s former partner with the notion of backdoor entry.

“Eric”, a 30-something heterosexual publishing exec, thinks that a strap-on would just be a gateway for the fleshier, real member the toy represents. When pressed on why he believes that, he responded heatedly, “Look, men penetrate and woman are penetrated, that’s the way it’s always been!”

An interesting proposition. He continued to explain that men and women have ingrained sexual roles. This sentiment — or at the very least reservations about disrupting the status quo of penetration — was echoed by college student Leah. “I don’t know, it’s just that I don’t feel comfortable doing that to someone else,” she said cautiously, seeming as though she did not want to offend parties who did enjoy pegging.

While Eric and Leah may be troubled by the role reversal pegging presents, for others, it’s exactly what drew them to the act in the first place.

Jordan Mannix, 21, said she was first introduced to pegging through the Broad City episode. She was approached by a man who wanted to try it, and Mannix raved about the experience. “It was such an interesting role reversal. Like it’s such a novel experience. I was just thinking about how crazy it was that I was fucking someone, like hell yeah!”

On the evening of November 2nd, a crowd of roughly seven gathered in the basement of a NYC sex shop called Pleasure Chest on the Upper West Side. Basked in red light of a neon sign reading “Sex is back”, they have come to attend a pegging workshop entitled “Bend Over Buddy: Anal Pleasure for Him.”

The basement lacks sufficient ventilation, so the room is quite warm.

“I’ve had a lot of sex,” Nico, the employee who led the workshop, assured the audience. The two hour workshop covered the literal in and outs of pegging; from how to broach the subject with a hesitant partner to the mechanics of the act itself. A variety of strap-ons, harnesses, and lubricants were displayed on a table to be referenced (and reviewed) during the presentation — the ultimate product placement. A worksheet was passed out which which allowed people to categorize specific sexual acts based on personal levels of comfort, promoting conversation on intimate and sexual boundaries.

After the workshop ended, the majority of the audience shuffled out quickly. The workshop was primarily technical, so politics were left out. However, talking to Nico afterwards, she seemed to possess added opinions about the stigma surrounding pegging.

Nico, a Latinx trans woman, believes the biggest reservation cisgender heterosexual people — those who identify with the roles society assumes of them at birth — have about pegging (other than cleanliness) is how it challenges the concept of gender roles.

“Queerness is pathologized,” she said, her face glossy with a sheen of sweat, “is that something that’s structural? Yes. [It is] something that we subliminally view, that queerness is dirty. That queerness is wrong. Things are changing, but queerness is terrifying to society.”

She believes that people are afraid that by engaging in an unorthodox sexual behavior that flips ingrained gender roles, they will somehow become queer, as queerness can best be understood as a philosophy and identity that rejects sexual and gender binaries altogether.

Whether this fear of subverting sexual stereotypes is rooted in homophobia — I’ll leave that call to the academics and Twitter critics.

However, it is further proof that gender roles define (read: confine) not only public spaces, but our most intimate and private spaces, as well. Many would reject a sexual exploration and deny themselves potential pleasure based on an outside, societal factor. So cemented are our ideas of “who penetrates who” that we’ll willfully ignore our biological capacities for satisfaction. Because what exactly is taboo about pegging?

Unlike other kinks like bondage and fantasies which introduce entirely new dynamics into the bedroom, pegging takes a concept we know well and simply reverses who’s doing the thrusting. The deep upset over this reversal is the true take away: that we have confined ourselves with learned notions of what it means to be a man and a woman having sex.

 

*Written and reported in part with Nina Rettenwander. 

Scabies

What is it?

Scabies is a skin condition caused by small parasites. Scabies mites are tiny, insect-like parasites that infect the very top layer of your skin. It is easily passed from skin to skin contact, usually during sex.

Scabies mites burrow under your skin and lay their eggs. The eggs then lead to more mites. They are very small, so you might not see them. However, you will most likely notice the itching they cause. They are easily cured.

How do I know if I have it?

Symptoms include itching, rashes, and burrow lines (dark, small curling lines under your skin).

The rash itself can consist of tiny blisters or pimple-like bumps.

The most common symptoms of scabies include a rash and intense itching that gets worse at night

Common affected sites?

  • webbing between fingers
  • wrist
  • elbow
  • armpit
  • nipple
  • penis
  • waist
  • buttocks

How to get tested for it?

You can get tested at your doctor’s office or local health clinic. If you are itching and have rashes on your body, you should get them checked out.

How do you contract it?

Scabies is spread by touching. It is commonly spread through sex. Scabies spread in crowded places where you have close skin contact (schools, prisons, nursing homes).

After the initial exposure to scabies, it can take up to six weeks for symptoms to appear. The symptoms usually develop more quickly in people who’ve had them before.

How to reduce your risk?

Scabies is incredibly contagious so the only way to prevent it is to not have close, intimate contact with anyone. That’s not exactly realistic, so it’s probably best to avoid touching or sharing clothes with anyone you know that is infected until they finish treatment.

Condoms unfortunately don’t protect you from scabies. Scabies sounds scary but try not to stress about them. They are very easy to treat.

How to treat it?

Scabies is treated with prescription medication that kills the mites and their eggs. It is called “Scabicide.” It is usually prescribes in the form of a cream. You rub the scream everywhere from your neck down and then wash it off after a few hours.

Along with taking your medication it is important to wash and dry all of your bedding, towels and any clothes you’ve worn while being infected. Wash everything on the hottest setting that’s safe for your clothes and then dry them on hot as well.

Vacuuming carpets and furniture where you’ve laid around or hung out.

Tell your sexual partners so that they can get checked and potentially get treatment. Don’t engage in any sexual activity or contact until you finish treatment.

How to prevent spreading it?

Follow your doctor’s care on treating it. Don’t have sex until you’ve finished treatment and wash everything properly.