Hot Safer Sex

In an article shamelessly entitled Don’t Believe the Contraception Industry: Sex Education Doesn’t Work, the British periodical The Guardian presents the opinions of Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust. The article seems to be a reaction to Polly Toynbee’s article on the need for resonsible sex education. The basic premise of Mr. Wells’ thesis? Get this:

Our own study… reveals that not a single primary care trust was able to cite any evidence that the confidential provision of the morning-after pill in pharmacies has contributed to a reduction in under-16 conception rates.

The first point I am compelled to make is that morning-after pills AREN’T CONTRACEPTION. Morning-after pills deal with the possibility that conception may have already occurred and are an attempt to treat that possibility post-conception. Second, “our own study”? As in, not performed by an independent research labs with proven methods? I wouldn’t believe either side of this debate doing a study that wasn’t independent. Polly Toynbee called this study “a spurious story,” and unless it was performed by an accredited independent research company, I’d tend to agree.

Mr. Wells’ point is the familiar refrain: “there is also evidence that the ready availability of contraception results in some young people becoming sexually active who would not otherwise have done so.” No evidence is cited, of course, and we all know that young kids go out and have sex not for love or lust but because of the ready availability of the morning-after pill, right? Isn’t that why YOU had sex when you were a teenager?

I really find it interesting that the study focuses only on the availability of the morning-after pill and not on overall sex education, condom use, STD information, etc. But then, I guess that what Mr. Wells did the “study” on.


Thanks to the help of Amy Gahran, we’ve got a new home at! Come on over and check out the inside story on safer-sex porn from Audacia Ray, CunningMinx‘s favorite videos, and more!

When I think of a “Super-Inclusive” resort, where you literally don’t bring any cash because everything is already paid for up front, I think it takes a LOT of money. And I also tend to think that people with LOTS of money are better educated about the dangers and practices of safer sex – no matter how kinky. Which is why I was surprised to read this part of Midori‘s review of Kink in the Caribbean for Eros-Zine:

Immediately adjacent to the pool and the swim-up bar was the ginormous Jacuzzi – or the “Jiz pool” as some of us referred to it. After dark it was usually full of men and women screwing or humping in various ways. Since I didn’t seen condoms around much during the whole week, and I didn’t smell much chlorine or bromine in the water, I wouldn’t want to hazard to guess what the health safely level of the water or the damp, warm hard surfaces around it and the bar must be like…

Speaking of condoms, I didn’t see any available within the resort during the week, except at the nearly invisible nurses’ hut and the gift shop just at the main gate, beyond the clothing-optional section. Given the amount of alcohol-lubricated and multi-partnered sex going on, it did make me wonder what the post-holiday sexual infection and yeast infection rates were. Fortunately people were really excited to learn about hands-free sexy-as-hell condom application techniques in the fellatio workshop. I am sure there were lots of late night homework and studies going on for this particular lesson!

Kind of makes me glad I’ve not ever gone to Kink in the Caribbean…then again, that may be a bit of sour grapes, as my budget would never afford it.

Or am I being judgemental? Classist? Is there any reason to think people aren’t making risk-aware decisions that I’m not aware of, or that access to better health care means they can take more risks?

{November 28, 2007}   Porn: the Anti-Unsafe-Sex Drug

It’s true, no one has ever been infected by more than a dirty idea or two from porn – and even then, the ideas tend to be, well, as a pirate might put it, more along the lines of suggestions. Personally I’ve never been all that big a fan of the video format – much more of a literary person, and give me a copy of “The Way of a Man with a Maid” before “the Fashionistas” any day. However, as a videographer and a sexual activist I do find porn entertaining from a cultural and technically challenging standpoint. I’m fascinated by the ways they try to blend plot and titillation (sometimes) and the way they don’t (such as Tristam Taormino’s Chemistry series, which I’m really curious to see).

Audacia Ray Reviews the Berlin Porn Festival in Eros ZineAudacia Ray, one of the top five people I’ve never met but would like to, has written up an interesting account of the Berlin Porn Festival in the new Eros Zine. One of the surprising things coming out of the town that inspired Sally Bowles is this:

“Apparently, it is still 1985 in Europe — there are still a lot of arguments about whether or not women want to see porn and whether or not women enjoy blowjobs. Some of the audience members were really really concerned about the blowjob issue and wanted answers, dammit! How can blowjob giving and filming of blowjobs be a feminist thing if it’s all about pleasing a man?”

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved almost exclusively with people who enjoy fellatio, but I can understand certainly why some might not like it. But why would they then try and put that preference on others? It boggles the mind…any other sex acts that are considered “un-feminist”? Or how about “un-masculine”? Personally, if the goal is pleasure, I figure that as long as there’s consent (or consensual non-consent) anything goes. Am I being chauvinist from thinking that?

As part of a burlesque troupe, Dita von Tees is of course one of my heroes. But in the spirit of Sheryn’s suggestion that one of the dangers of sex is that it can lead to dancing (or something like that, I’m a blogger, I don’t have time to check my quotes) I would like to refer you to this video clip of Dita’s performance at London’s Erotica Show .

Interesting twist in that article, by the way, about a different kind of unsafe sex:

The new Rabbit Travel Vibe, which makers claim is “perfect for long journeys”, has been put in VIP goodie bags at London’s Erotica show.

But last night an RAC spokeswoman warned the aid could be LETHAL for distracted motorists. She said: “Don’t use it while driving.”

The purple 4ins gadget is designed to fit in glove compartments.”

“Glove compartments…” Huh. Interesting euphemism. I’d not heard it before. Still, it is a useful reminder of the efficacy of grabbing a couple of nitrile before you go digging in the goodies…

{November 25, 2007}   Ten Hot Safer NOT-Sex Tips

Too good to leave in the comments, here’s Sheryn’s response to my challenge of what are the top 10 things to do when you don’t have access to a condom…

My top 10 non-sex erotic dates

1. Flirt, over dinner, with sexy food (anybody see Jennifer Beal eat lobster in Flashdance?…my first crush on a woman). Any thing that lets you get messy, silly, and feed each other will do.

2. Dancing. Hot, sweaty, erotic, and fun. (There’s a reason so many religions disapprove.)

3. Curl up in front of a fire, with a glass of wine and share stories about first dates, first times, funny times, favorite things and fantasies while watching the flames (people tell more intimate details when they aren’t looking at each other).

4. Tell each other sexy stories based on the other’s fantasies, with your own twists (great for long-distance connections, too).

5. Long, slow erotic massage

6. Neck, like teenagers. Remember those long juicy sweaty hours of kissing and petting? How it didn’t “count” if you still had your clothes on!

7. Shower together. Few things are more erotic than having your hair skillfully washed and rinsed…and OOHHH…that spot in the middle of the back that’s so hard to reach alone.

8. Dance for each other. If you can shake off the inhibitions, there’s nothing hotter than a slow strip tease. Or for that matter, a fast one. If not, grab something to use as a blindfold and experiment with all sorts of sensual touches, tastes, smells. Play at guessing…or just enjoying.

9. Watch your partner masturbate. Tell a hot, sexy story while they do, or tease and touch all the other parts…or sit in a chair across the room and just watch, like a paying customer, or voyeur or some other role. Whatever is the most erotic for both of you. Turn the tables and perform for them. Make it a game not to let them touch themselves while you do…or not to stop, or come, until you do. (Yum!)

10. Masturbate together. Tell stories, touch each other, watch, don’t watch, try to come together if you want…maybe decide not to come at all, and just enjoy the sensations.

And then of course…there’s always dig all the change you can find out of both your cars and raid the nearest convenience store for condoms and/or plastic wrap. Surely the neighbors could spare a little cling wrap???

It’s very hard to write a “review” of something written by one of your heroes. And Violet is definitely a role model; her tireless blogging, her snarky style, and her generous hospitality (showing me around the Castro when I was visiting for the first time) have been inspirations for my own entry into the sexblog world. But more to the point, I share with her a desire for “Sex-positivity for all genders, orientations, operating systems and devices.

Cheering her on with her own e-book imprint, I was excited to see that among the titles offered for sale on the site is a free e-book: “The Modern Safer Sex Guide.” In keeping with the DRM-free nature of the site,  when you click on the link you get it in three different formats – PDF, PDB (for palm-based readers) and an unlocked text file. This is radical; what, you mean I can actually print it out if I want? I can send it to other people if I want? Good lord, Violet, what are you trying to do, singlehandedly take down the edifices of the publishing industry? (In my mind, I hear her dry chuckle. “Yep.”)

Now, aside from the cover photo (three of my personal favorite things, Violet, teeth, and a Magnum condom) I wouldn’t exactly call this a “hot” ebook. It’s a book of facts, and it very precisely nails down the risk factors involved in pretty much every permutation of sexual contact, without any hetero-centricity and also with a thorough nod towards the use of toys. Going down the list, I was impressed with its thoroughness, as well as amused by some of the side notes (under the risks for “Nasal Ejaculation”, for example, there is the note: “Yes, it is possible to get nasal herpes.“) I could see this e-book being a useful icebreaker, especially since there is a lot of room for discovering personal quirks in your partner (“People do that?” “Um…I guess…actually, I think that’s kind of hot…”) or ways to enjoy risky behaviors in a non-risk way (for example, rimming with a barrier lets a couple try out something “taboo” without either the risk or the ick factor getting in the way.

In all fairness, I did find that the descriptions were a little inconsistent. While the various methods of barriers were thoroughly discussed (and kudos to her for including that something as simple as plastic wrap can be used as a dental dam) the actual activities weren’t – “rimming” in particular comes to mind, with the thought that if someone needs to have a condom defined, they would probably have to have rimming defined as well. I would have liked to have a glossary that precisely described what is meant by “female sexual organs” (is there a risk for ejaculating on breasts? Does the anus count?).

Then again, this is nit-picking. She gives links right up front to the SFSI and CDC sites, and this is really designed, as far as I can tell, as a sort of quick reference (scenario: “We end up at her place. She really wants to give me head. We don’t have a condom. Quick, while she’s in the bathroom brushing her teeth, check the guide…shit! She’s opening up microabrasions in her mouth! What to do?” “Hey…you know what I’d really like? I’d like to watch you masturbate, so I can learn how your pleasure works…and I’ll show you mine, too. Got any candles?” “Thank God Violet’s let me know that I can kiss, at least…says right here on page 6, ‘Making out is not a high-risk activity’“).

One thing I really, really like about it is that it emphasizes the idea of “safer sex”, and personal responsibility to make informed decisions. She acknowledges that “Lots of us want to have unprotected sex. Just know the facts so you can make the best choice for yourself each time you engage in a sex act.”

So, while I don’t have a scale for reviewing things (any suggestions for units of measure for hotness?) while this isn’t going to directly stimulate your gonads, it is one of the clearest and simplest tools I’ve seen for being able to make your own decisions when you venture out into the game of pleasure. And it’s free; you’ve got no excuse not to click right now and get all eight pages (including the awesome photo) and bring yourself up to date. While you’re there, check out the other books (like her How to Kiss) and why not write a review for this site? Hmmm?

…and in honor of the labor of love being done by so many today:

He glanced at the latex gloves on the equipment table and hesitated a moment. Should he be careful and don the gloves? He knew that he was clean. All her tests were cleared. He knew that much, as that was a very important factor in his search for her. He wondered if he was just a squeamish wuss about the moistness of natural flesh. Was he just a neurotic metrosexual? Deciding to push beyond his urban skittishness, he lubricated his bare hands with the oils“.

from an article by Midori (nws picture)

Meanwhile, wow, the comments here and in my livejournal (which I’m hoping to transplant here) have become a really fascinating discussion. In fact, this is kind of the dream of any blog; since I can’t actually invite all of you really awesome people into the same room to have this discussion, we can have it here, and wow, such great comments! Even when they strayed from the “hot” part of hot safer sex and into the realm of stats and fluid dynamics, it was still really neat to read for this sapiosexual.

That being said, I have a few reactions, some of which are in a bit of disagreement – or, at least, with some divergent opinions.

  • The whole maneuver only takes about four seconds from wrapper to paradise“-Sherynb, that “four seconds” you talk about is the mark of a seasoned veteran. I don’t know that I could put it on that quickly (especially if it has the dreaded “reverse roll” effect) and not all trysts are of the “friendly and conversational” variety. The question is, what if it’s one of those deep emotional moments, and you’re talking about love and such, and then suddenly there’s…what, a commercial break? Of course, that’s an argument for practicing, but I don’t think many people do that.
  • My response to “Don’t you trust me?”: “Sure I do. But it makes me more comfortable.”” I also think that is a great strategy for a woman, because men in our culture (well, the Sensitive New Age variety, anyway) are taught that a woman’s comfort is paramount, and therefore that reason should be enough. Were a man to say that, I suspect the label of “selfish bastard” would be pretty quickly applied. Something more along the lines of “I’ll just do better if I know that you’re protected,” might work, but I love – LOVE – the pancake solution.
  • CharlyB had a great post that I really can’t summarize here; I’d suggest you go to the comments and read it if you haven’t. One thing that I really took from that is the idea that “RISK TOLERANCE IS PERSONAL — it comes from thought and feeling and experience, and thus doesn’t always mesh well with the “facts.”” This kind of goes along with the idea of “It makes me more comfortable,” but I think it’s important that it be respected in both directions – i.e., if one person’s risk tolerance is less stringent than yours, there needs to be enough mutual respect that you do not hold that over them as a character flaw. It can be a great topic of conversation, but keeping it hot means being tolerant of their right to make their own decisions. Sure, it can be frustrating as hell if you really want to suck their cock and they don’t want to use a condom…but that’s what fantasy is for, right?
  • Minx writes: “I’ve definitely heard the “I can’t come that way,” both with oral and PIV sex. Really, that should’ve sent me flying in the other direction, because that would mean that the guy(s) in question would have regularly had oral or PIV sex without condoms, right?” Not necessarily. It might just mean they don’t cum from those particular activities, even though they enjoy them. Personally, I have never been able to cum from oral sex with a condom on. Hell, I have a hard time achieving orgasm from oral sex without a condom. It just doesn’t do it for me, usually. That does NOT mean I don’t enjoy receiving the languisement. And I enjoy PIV sex whether I’m going to have an orgasm or not – though I’m often very paranoid about the other person having one. Good topic for a future post: how important is the orgasm, and how important should it be?

Speaking of which, I’d like to put out a challenge to anyone who wants to write: Let’s come up with the top 10 things to for a hot sexy date when you don’t have a condom, or if your personal risk tolerances don’t mesh. What else do we like to do?

{November 20, 2007}   Bringing It Up Gracefully

My past two partners voice distaste for safer sex practices. They both said that they were taking the pill and they couldn’t get pregnant. One of them even said “Don’t you trust me?” Now, I know the correct answer is “Ditch them, it ain’t worth it.” That may be true but what advice could you give to others in a similar scenario?

For example, you’re in the heat of the moment, you reach over to grab a condom and she says “Oh, you don’t need that.” How can he politely and without loss of arousal educate the partner that he does not know who she has slept with and neither does she…Wouldn’t the social stigma with STD’s cause the partner to become offended? Or is “no cover, no down under” good pillow talk? – Sukima, in comments

Oh, you don’t need that…” (shiver). What a scary thing to say. My first reaction is “Oh, I bet you say that to all the guys…” Because that’s the thing: if your partner (especially a new one) is wiling to forego a condom with you, do you really think they wouldn’t with others? I would never give advice…oh, wait, that’s cunningminx. Fuck that, I’ll give advice: if you hear a lover say something like that, ditch them, it’s not worth it.

OK, that’s harsh. And hypocritical; I was one of those people who put a huge stigma on herpes for a long time, and it took a patient partner to educate me on the realities of the issue. That’s only one STD, admittedly, and an incredibly benign one. But the initial reactions of people are way, way out of proportion.

In my opinion – and it’s only qualified in the sense that I have practiced safer sex for many years and hang out with people a lot smarter than me about it – is that the conversation needs to be had before the reaching for the condom. In my own case, usually the conversation has been about sex at some point in the evening anyway, and I will simply say things like this during conversation:

“Yes, I get tested every 6 months for STD’s, and also give blood regularly which is a great free HIV test…You know, I’ve had a several partners who had herpes, and even though I’ve been very careful, and never showed symptoms, I felt I had to tell people that they were at risk, because there really isn’t a reliable way for a guy to tell if he’s a carrier. Funny thing, no one ever said no to me for that reason…guess the stupid stigma of the disease is finally passing by. Oh, I prefer magnums, but the worst I ever tried were Avanti, with a lover who had a latex allergy. Oh, that really, really sucked…You know, I heard there are even Vegan condoms…”

By abstracting it like this, I give the person the information they need to know without the added pressure of “You need to know this now so that you can decide if we shall do the sex!” Usually the other half of the conversation is the person talking about how they’ve been tested, or what kind of condoms they prefer, or some funny story about the one time they tried the female condom and couldn’t stop giggling.

However, I suspect that not everyone peppers their dates with this much sexual content. For me, it’s almost a requisite that the person be comfortable talking about sex openly (one of my favorite first conversations with a lover was her relating how she learned to enjoy giving oral sex – this before she knew my last name. My kinda woman.).

If that’s the case – if you’ve spent the evening discussing Goya’s etchings and Barry Bonds’ bail – remember that the heat of the moment is the absolute worst time to make that decision. Forgive the pun, but it’s too hard to think clearly at that point…at least, I’ve found it difficult. But it’s necessary – even something as simple as

“Just a sec -” (style note: eye contact here is a really useful thing for maintaining intimacy) “…is there anything I should know about your sexual history? I have to tell you that I used to get cold sores in High School, so I’ve got the HSV1, but it’s not broken out in 15 years now. But if that means you’d rather I not go down on you, I’ll understand.”

That way you are taking the stigma on yourself (assuming that applies – it does to me, but your script may vary). It also sort of opens you up as a vulnerable person – Look, I’m opening up to you because I trust you won’t judge me and will talk to me – and therefore gives them the safe space they need to say “Well, after spring break a few years ago I came back with an unwelcome friend named gonorrhea, but everything else has tested negative.”

Tests. Tests are the hard part. It’s too easy to just say “Yeah, sure, I’ve been tested.” What does that mean? For HIV? For the full spectrum? Two days ago? Two decades? I think it should be a point of sexual etiquette that general questions should be met with specific answers: “Is there anything I should know about your sexual history?” is general. Something like “I get tested every six months, I’m due again next february, and I’ve had two partners since the last time. We used condoms, but not for oral, but neither of them have any diseases that we’re aware of.”

Too much information? Perhaps…but it lets the partner make an informed decision. It lets things be safer, and at the same time acknowledges (“…that we’re aware of.”) that there may be things that will still come as a surprise (Ding! goes the pun bell.)

Personally, I think that the idea of two people making adult decisions like that together is pretty hot, and can add to the feeling of fucking with wild abandon because you don’t have to have that doubt in the back of your mind of “What if I’m about to contract a disease that could kill me?”

Cuz that really sucks. At least, that’s all my opinion. Thoughts? Am I full of it? (Ding!)

This has been one of those fine Saturday evenings that you just can’t plan. We invited some good friends over for dinner — I cooked meatballs, and the other man of the party made marinara sauce, while the women joked about sitting on the couch and watching football until we served them. After dinner we sat in the hot tub and relaxed, and someone floated the idea of putting in the Intense Games DVD from Sexploration Games. This game was designed by Kidder Kaper, host of the Sex is Fun podcast, and has been marketed extensively on their show. It costs $50 plus shipping, and consists of a single DVD in a jewel case and a score sheet.

The game, which should run in any DVD player, is billed as “a party game for monogamous couples.” It’s rather like a video version of Truth or Dare, with a lot more dare than truth. You need at least two couples to play it properly (my wife and I tried it alone once, and it didn’t work at all), but there’s no upper limit except for room size. The way the game’s _supposed_ to be played, each couple is a team, and the women control the remote and decide which challenges to take.

Judging is also entirely up to the women. There are four categories of challenges, from fairly tame 1-point tasks (“Pass an orange around the circle without using hands or arms“) to very explicit 15-point encounters (“Lube or oil your man’s back and give him a massage with your vulva.“) There’s a clever escalating scale built into the DVD where you can’t pick 5-point challenges until enough 1-point ones have been completed, and so forth, to keep everyone from jumping straight to the 15-pointers. Some challenges are timed; some are solo and some have couples competing against each other; some require blindfolding or sending the men out of the room while the women conspire. The game ends when everyone says it does, and then you get your pick of a series of final games — most of which close things out with everyone having sex.

All of the challenges in the main game are strictly one-on-one — you may be doing explicit things in front of your friends, but you’re doing them with your own partner. Hence the ‘monogamous’ tag that’s all over the game, and it’s very safe by design as long as you’re practicing proper safe sex with your own partner. However, the setup menu has one option, a “female bi-sensuality” filter, which puts some extra challenges into the mix for women to do things with each other. There is no equivalent option for males, and many of the challenges would be unfeasible for gay or lesbian couples. So the game appears to originate from the ‘swinger’ mindset where everyone’s straight, except that women can play with each other from time to time for amusement. I found this moderately annoying.

We had fun with the premise of the game, although we didn’t quite play it through the way it was intended to be played. For one thing, we didn’t have the right group composition: rather than being neatly paired into couples, we were three women and two men, in a fairly relaxed poly arrangement. We decided to try it with a house rule that the women could pick either man as their partner for any challenge. This mostly worked, but screwed up the scoring, and it was a problem for a few of the group challenges that could only be done in pairs, leaving a woman sitting out.

And then there were the challenges we decided to skip: not because they were too risqué for us, but because they seemed tedious. Some required materials we didn’t have or didn’t feel like getting. (“Pass a strawberry around the circle with your cleavage.”) Some seemed like too much work for the laid-back mood we were feeling. And some were deemed by consensus to be just dumb. (More than one challenge awarded points by penis size; it was the women’s unanimous opinion that it didn’t matter and shouldn’t be scored.) As soon as we realized that the no one cared about the score any more and motivation for more
challenges was waning, we simply called an end to it and checked out the end games — which we were then feeling too relaxed to play.

Was it a success? Yes, in the sense that it got everyone fooling around and Having Fun. If you can “lose” a sex game you’re probably not playing it right, but we did feel that _not_ being explicit couples threw off the vibe of the game in unusual ways. It made it harder to move the game forward or feel satisfied by its mechanics. We can’t really blame the designers for our playing outside the rules, however. We decided that we’d try it again sometime, with a larger crowd and a more deliberate 1:1 boy:girl ratio, and hope that it flows better. (We might still let the women choose their partners for each challenge, though. Our friends are that sort of poly network.)

Overall, based on just one evening, I’d give it a qualified thumbs-up. There are some annoying deficiencies, some iffy challenges, and some underlying assumptions that play right into stereotypes. (Would a male bi filter have been that hard or offensive?) It didn’t make us feel super-excited, or that it was the best $50 we ever spent. But considering the evening at a whole, I’d have to give a compliment that I suspect Kidder would appreciate: it got the group into a mood such that, after a while, no one really cared about the game any more.

It’s hard to call that a failure.

Have Fun,
Steve Eley
ESCAPE POD – The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine

et cetera