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sex & sexuality

#LookitThis: Monday, February 29, 2016

 

Tom-Hardy-image

Figure 1. This is Tom Hardy…and I can’t remember the point I was going to make…

A brief guide to everything that I am…

Listening To

“Fire Away” by Chris Stapleton

Reading

“The Single American Woman” by Rebecca Traister
Bad Houses by Sara Ryan & Carla Speed McNeil
“The Pros & Cons of Having An Herbal Abortion” by Gabby Bess

Watching

(Nothing much. You know how it is when you’re watching a show with your partner and it takes scheduling to get you both in the same room, at the same time…)

Wondering About

– Adoption/Transracial adoption. It’s on my mind after reading Shannon Gibney‘s masterful See No Color. I’m wondering about how open adoptions work out for families, because I recall reading that Dan Savage and his partner have an open adoption situation with their son. When did open adoption become “a thing?” Who made that happen?

I’m also interested in reading more narratives about transracial adoptees from Korea; Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen has spoken and written about this specifically and I want to do some more reading about the history of Americans adopting children from Korea.

If you feel like it, let me know what you’re reading/watching/listening to/wondering about, too. I’m always up for knowing about what’s good in your world…


And now: a very special message for readers who are interested in sex stuff!

Everyone else: Class Dismissed!

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              Figure 2. Ahem.

 

CHECK YOUR HEAD, LADIES!

The entire month of February we celebrated our Second Annual Write LadyHead Right Flash Fiction Event.

Our last story of the month is by Christa Desir and you can read it here.

The origin story of this event is described here, and you can read all of the 2016 stories here.

The enthusiasm for this event was very delightful to me! Thank you to all the writers who participated and all the readers who reblogged, retweeted, liked or otherwise passed around the stories. We’ll open next February for submissions, but will keep the Tumblr up for year-round enjoyment.

 

 

The Oral History Podcast: An Introduction

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This is Norman Reedus in that movie The Conspirator. This has nothing to do with the podcast.

 

Back in January, my fellow YA author and friend Christa Desir and I decided to produce a podcast. We had these long conversations about sex and YA books and our lives and thought it would be fun to share our thoughts with everyone else.

So, The Oral History Podcast was born.

It’s a simple concept. We pick a topic, discuss our own personal histories with respect to that topic, and then recommend YA books that we think handle that topic well.

Our first topic was “Girl Talk.” We discussed the kinds of ways our friends talked to each other about sex & romance when we were back in high school and then recommended six YA books that address female friendship and conversation.

We did three episodes on our own, with technical help from the excellent Sara Zarr, whose “This Creative Life” podcast was a big inspiration. Then podcast fan & editor Andrew Karre offered to be our technical advisor and producer, so the sound quality and format are much improved after the third episode, I’m pleased to say. I record my portion in his attic office, because he has better equipment, and this involves me kicking him out of his own lovely space for an hour or so. Then Christa records her portion in Chicago, where she also has great equipment thanks to her tech-loving husband. Then Andrew pastes it all together, erasing our pauses and ums and uhs.

Also: Thanks, Sara! Thanks, Andrew! Thanks, Julio!

In just seven episodes, we’ve discussed more than 50 books (you can find all titles here), as well as live-tweeted & commented on the premiere of the 50 Shades of Grey movie, and tackled First Sex, Oral Sex, Kissing & Masturbation. We also hosted a special Valentine’s Day LadyHead Flash Fiction blog hop, which was born of a Twitter conversation tagged #WriteLadyHeadRight. You can find those stories here.

It’s been a great learning experience from the technical side (uploading mp3 files properly, blog formatting, submitting to iTunes) and the author side (discovering and promoting books we love). Mainly it’s just been a lot of fun.

We’re going on hiatus for the summer, though we have a couple of things planned, including Favorite Scene Close Reads, as well as plans for our One Star Review Merch shop that we hope to unveil this fall. A sample, modeled by Christa:

 

 

So: if you love podcasts, sex talk and/or YA fiction, take the summer to catch up with us! You can subscribe to us in iTunes or listen directly on the website where we keep our show notes. We are always open to listener feedback too! Please let us know what you think here.

 

 

On Young Men and Virginity

Figure 1. Jamie Fraser, post cherry-busting

Figure 1. Jamie Fraser, post cherry-busting

 

This all starts where everything seems to start. With The Walking Dead and Daryl Dixon. Who is a character not even featured in the source material comic.

I can’t remember if Norman Reedus said this but the idea of Daryl Dixon Is A 40-Year-Old Virgin is a long-time headcanon for fans.

There is a sort of har-har-har involved when dealing with male virginity – or debut sex, if you want to be fancy – and it just gets worse the older the dude involved is. He’s a nerd, he’s awkward, he’s got some awful problem, blah blah blah. Because the larger myth we’re contending with is that Men Are Rapacious Sex Monsters Every Waking Moment.

Yet, the deflowering of Jamie Fraser in Outlander is one of the best things I’ve ever seen (or read). The prospect of seeing Daryl Dixon have sex for the first time (with Rick, Michonne, Carol, Beth or all of the above) makes me get weak in the knees.

And the fact that Perfectly Good White Boy opens with a boy’s first sexual experience with a girl? Well, that also happened for a pretty selfish reason, too.

Here are some disordered thoughts on the matter.

1. In adolescence, I think it’s fair to say that the Hormonal Surge responsible for libidos is often fairly overwhelming for boys. I don’t know if it’s overwhelming for girls – not in a physical sense. I don’t want to generalize that, at least. I think girls have libidos and sexual interests, but I’m not sure they manifest in the same way (and that is the subject for its own post).

2. Though the Surge can be relentless, that doesn’t mean all guys successfully execute all of their sexual urges.  The long pent-up period of desire, though, has an effect on many men for years to come, even when they are in relationships and have actual sexual partners. The desire for sex remains a top physical priority for men, long after the resultant hormonal surge has evened out.

3. Just because guys feel this way doesn’t mean they have no interest in relationships. That they don’t want to be seen or cherished. That they don’t want someone to spend time with outside of sex.

4. However, that guys are comfortable and able to reside inside a mutual relationship is another matter. Wanting that and knowing how to make that function are two different things. The importance of relationship skills is not something we really hammer home to young men.

5. The reason we need to see more fiction that deals with debut sex – and that deals with how young men encounter such sex – is that though mechanistically, porn gives us lots of data, what is important for young people contending with sexual experience and identity is the context in which these decisions are made. A shorter way of saying this is you cannot fully understand what CONSENT means if you only know about sex outside of any kind of interconnected CONTEXT. Porn is staged sex between paid performers. It’s lovely and informative, but it is an act. Whereas fiction has the power to go beyond nudity and show us even more. We can see the naked thoughts and responses of the people engaging in sexual activities.

 

Figure 2. Shh. Daryl's not really a virgin. He's actually in love with Rick.

Figure 2. Shh. Daryl’s not really a virgin. He’s actually in love with Rick.

 

6. Is debut sex always awkward? Do young men always orgasm 10 seconds after penetration? Do there exist young people who find and enjoy sexual pleasure? These are interesting questions. The answers are varied. The myths and stereotypes about male virginity are not. Why do we expect first sex to be competent and masterful? If you’ve never understood your own body’s response vis a vis another person’s body, then of course it’s going to be a little strange. Even if you’re a girl who knows how to masturbate; even if you’re a boy who is comfortable with his body. Every person you encounter in sexual activities has different baggage and needs and histories. Even among grown people, sex is awkward. It’s not a fluid choreographed dance like we see in porn. You have to take your socks off. One of you needs to move up on the bed more. Someone’s phone rings. There is stopping and starting.

7. Being a man in our culture is about competence and leadership and mastery. It’s about being perceived as capable and strong. Yet there is no way a guy having sex the first time can exhibit all those ideals. None. At some level, he will fail on all those counts. No wonder men get up and leave after sex, don’t call the person back, don’t want to acknowledge anything happened afterward. Facing those inadequacies involves a strength we don’t cultivate in boys.

8. Virginity is often lost in increments. Not everyone waits for the Big Night At Prom.

9. Negotiation is something that kids dealing with first sex may not understand. The reasons can be this: there are time constraints, there isn’t much privacy, they don’t have access to things like birth control and lubrication, they haven’t been taught to talk about their bodies in any capacity, much less sexual capacities.

10. If you understand other ways to get girls off besides penis-vagina sex, then why do we care about premature ejaculation so much? Increasing the sexual self-interest and education of girls is a measure I think makes the most sense for moving away from the notion that boys “get” or “take” something from girls via the sex act and the girls are then “robbed” or “diminished.” If sex doesn’t end when the guy ejaculates, then who cares what order things go in?

11. The idea of going around in an obvious state of arousal sounds wretched to me. As a woman, my sexual interest is hidden or capable of being hidden. There are no T-shirt bras for your math class boner.

12. Vulnerability in men is absolutely heart-breakingly sexy. I cannot be the only person to think this. And I thought this as a girl, too.

 

 

In Between Days

 

Figure 1. Exactly.

Figure 1. Exactly.

 

Here we are poised on the ragged end of summer. I’m caught between routine and leisure.

There’s too much on my mind. I have been sick for several days but I’m feeling on the mend.

Still, I can’t do anything but read.

(And write smutty fan fiction. For some reason, I expel a whole bunch of that stuff prior to doing the Published Writing. Clearing the pipes.)


 

Figure 4. Pablo and Gonzo cuddle time.

Figure 2. Pablo and Gonzo cuddle time.

 

My dog is a champion cuddler. I was told this morning that I am not a champion cuddler.

“You lay next to me and read, but you don’t cuddle,” said Matilda.

“I’m the best cuddler in this whole family,” said Adrian.

“Did you know that the name ‘Pablo’ is actually Spanish for ‘excellent cuddler?'” asked Pablo.


 

fresh desk

Figure 3. What my desk looks like when I clean it quarterly.

 

My office is getting new windows. This means violence is being done to my bookshelves and desk. No access allowed to that room. Probably I should have picked out a clean outfit today?

I wonder if the vintage table cloths we currently use as curtains will still cover the new windows?

My office is not an exciting place. I might buy a couch for it once the dumbass remodeling is finished.*


 

Figure 4. Heh.

Figure 4. Heh.

 

One thing I like about reading fan fiction is how baldly it can show the writer’s fantasies. I also don’t like it for that reason, especially when I read things that sound like they’ve been produced by some kind of software designed to sound “sexy.” That makes me feel sad for the person; that they’ve not developed their own erotic glossary, so to speak. That the images they’ve decided signal ‘sexy’ are stock images and worn metaphors.

Silky, throbbing, shuddering, dewy… etc.

Come on, man. Don’t let others speak for you!

There are specific things you learn about a person when you have sex with them. They are not usually sexual or erotic. That was one of the main draws about sex for me back when I was a youth. I just wanted to SEE what the guy would DO. What he’d look like. What would HAPPEN if I did x or y. A kind of curiosity that hasn’t left me, even though I’m married and monogamous and boring.


 

Figure 5. My kid, Matilda. Sorry you have to go to Gross Middle School, honey

Figure 5. My kid, Matilda. Sorry you have to go to Gross Middle School, honey

 

My daughter had middle school orientation yesterday. Her middle school smelled like floor cleaner and onions. The onions part is from body odor, I’m quite certain.

Middle school is populated with lots of kids who don’t realize they should now start bathing with more frequency.

I think all middle school building signs should say: “Welcome to _____________ Middle School: No One Wants To Be Here, So Let’s Just Get This Over With.”

The nice thing about her middle school, though? It still has a library. And a librarian. And there were some really good books on the shelves. More than I can say for her goddamn elementary school.

*sighs for 15 minutes*


Figure 6. Oh, thanks, Norman.

Figure 6. Oh, thanks, Norman.

 

Next Wednesday, I turn 40.

It doesn’t feel that old. Yet: you are OLD when you are 40. But I wrote this when I turned 37 and it still is true.

I keep waiting to transform into someone grown-up and responsible.

I keep waiting to, like, somehow need religion.

I keep waiting to become this person who is demure and discreet and appropriate.

But I’m 40 and that’s not happening. So I guess now I just say, what?

Fuck It All

Stop telling me what’s what, World

I’m half-way to death so give up on me becoming Proper already

I’m having Devil’s Food cake with coconut pecan frosting for my birthday. Later, once this dumbass remodeling** is done, I’m taking Adrian to Italy for a week to celebrate my oldness.

 

 

 

 

 

*This dumbass remodeling is scheduled to be finished exactly never.
**I know. I KNOW.

What We’d Like To See In Young Adult Fiction by Actual Young Adults

Figure 1. Reedus licking his fingers for no good reason.

Figure 1. Reedus licking his fingers for no good reason i.e. every good reason

 

Adding to this post by Andrew Karre on sex in YA, I’d like to add a list of what students in our class at the Loft Literary Center also wanted to see more of in YA books.

One thing I’d like to note. While I knew some of the students in this class, they were all strangers to Andrew. And yes, from jump they were talking candidly about sex. It could be that this group has a particular interest/comfort in the topic (they did sign up for a class with this title, after all) but my experience with teaching teenagers has been that their candor and comfort with talking about complex topics is always high. They just need to be given the space and time to talk.

This message should knock on the ears of editors and booksellers and librarians, too. What you might not be able to verbalize as a grown adult, teenagers have zero problem with talking about to ANYONE. The world is changing with respect to sexual mores and attitudes. Our books going forward should reflect this.

All right – I give you THE LIST:

 

  1. Insta-like v. insta-love
  2. Kids with parents who are alive and not terrible
  3. Girls kicking butt without having to be ‘Strong Female Characters’
  4. The recognition of bisexual people existing
  5. Rushed teenaged hook-ups
  6. Homeschoolers who aren’t socially awkward, super religious or delinquents
  7. Different (and complimentary) descriptions for brown eyes
  8. Flirty characters who can exist without being shamed to death for their behavior
  9. Boarding schools where kids actually go to class
  10. “Sensitive” guys who don’t run their fingers through your hair and write you poetry
  11. Minorities being described beyond their race (Black kids, Asians, Mexicans, etc.)
  12. Gay dudes who have straight guy friends
  13. People who LIKE having red hair
  14. Girls who play video games for fun
  15. Crazy main characters with normal best friends
  16. LGBT characters
  17. Teen pregnancy and abortion conflicts
  18. References/memes
  19. Fetishes
  20. Fewer cliches
  21. YA without any romance
  22. Talking about test results
  23. Getting each other off without intercourse
  24. More  masturbation
  25. Female masturbation treated as a matter of fact and without sappy ceremony — like male masturbation
  26. Masturbation being talked about/thought about during partnered sex
  27. More variety and less romance in sex scenes
  28. Injuries that take a plausible amount of time to heal
  29. More communication around and during sex
  30. Getting comfortable with each other’s bodies
  31. Non-sassy-best-friend gay characters
  32. Fight scenes that are sad on both ends
  33. More girls on receiving end of oral sex
  34. Realistic relationship building
  35. Multiracial relationships
  36. Threesomes
  37. More characters questioning their sexuality
  38. Long-lasting, established relationships
  39. Bad dancing at dances
  40. More trans characters
  41. Bad yearbook photos
  42. Awkward sex
  43. Girls’ perspectives on guys’ penis size
  44. Mutual enjoyment
  45. Mutual amazement during sex–“what the hell are we doing?”
  46. Guys being called sluts
  47. Good, accurate non-heterosexual sex scenes
  48. Opinions and doubts about embarking on non-hetero sex
  49. Verbal abuse
  50. Non-cliched seduction
  51. Detailed rape scenes
  52. Sexual fantasies
  53. More thought processes during fighting and sex
  54. More friend conversations about sexual experience
  55. Bisexual, pansexual struggles and confusion
  56. LGBTQ relationships that are not judged
  57. Dumb arguments that seem like a big deal

Looks like you’ve got a job ahead of you, YA writers! Go forth and get some!

(p.s. those who write paranormal/fantasy stories might also enjoy this list: Paranormal Stories We’d Like To See)