Thursday, January 24, 2013

Babies Come From Armpits & Other Sex Myths

crazy armpit-smelling friends
crazy armpit-smelling friends
(Photo credit: jekert gwapo)
Who's having a baby?
In a recent edition of Newsweek, one Chinese woman said that her mother led her to believe that babies come from a woman's armpit.

Anybody else hear the interesting tale about "the birds and the bees"? (Neither of which reproduce anything like the way mammals do, so I am puzzled  how that phrase ever came about.)

I had a fairly decent idea of "how things worked" in the sex department, but one thing I didn't know was that sperm comes with an expiration date of 2-3 days, tops. As a teenager, I believed that once you had sex, the sperm just hung out in your uterus, like Jaws, swimming, waiting, hungry for that helpless ovum to come floating along...


For years I lived in fear of sperm. And sharks.

Plus I found the mere existence of sperm whales absolutely terrifying.

A pregnant woman
A pregnant woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Recently I saw a (presumably adult) person insist that pregnant women carry babies "in their stomachs." No, dude, that is where women carry food.

Technically, the external part on a pregnant woman that sticks out is her belly. The stomach, lungs, and liver are internal organs which don't hold babies. Ever. (Well, technically, the stomach could hold a baby, if the baby had been eaten, but that's not pregnancy, that's cannibalism.) The uterus is the internal organ which may carry babies, or an IUD, spare change, those missing car keys...

Okay, the last two are incorrect. Though there are stories of women who have inserted unusual objects into their uteri, in hopes these objects would function as birth control devices.

And you really don't want to know about the objects people insert into their own or a partner's rectum as part of their sex play. (Or maybe you do, in which case, click this link.)

We've all heard other myths - babies are found under cabbage leaves (why not lettuce leaves, like a nice Romaine?) or brought by the stork.

(It's a myth that) you can't get pregnant during sex if:

  • It's your first time
  • You douche with a warm Coca Cola afterwards. (Actually, Coke is a very, very weak spermicide, but some of those swimmers are like Michael Phelps, they're already out of range. And the Coke douche could give you a raging yeast infection.)
  • You do it standing up (see Michael Phelps, above)
  • He pulls out before ejaculating
As many a consumer of Clear Blue or First Response will tell you, these "methods" of contraception are not effective.  Stick to the pill, the IUD, and condoms, mmm'okay?

sperm whale
sperm whale (Photo credit: doublebug)
Or how about the myth that you can get pregnant just from kissing a boy?

Or from going into a swimming pool, jacuzzi, or ocean, if a man has ejaculated into the water? Not so. (But personally, I would still avoid swimming with the sperm whales, just in case.)


Is bigger, better? 


This is a persistent myth which has led many men concerned about their, uh, shortcomings, to invest in Ferraris, scary big assault-style weapons, and bad toupees.

Ferraris
Ferraris (Photo credit: Axion23)
From personal experience, and my entirely scientific method of polling all my girlfriends, I would say, no, bigger is not better.  While very rarely there is an instance of a man who wants to play Hide the Salami, while his partner is wondering Where's the Beef?, most men cater just fine in the sausage department, provided it's clean, relatively solid, and their other skillz (kissing, handsies, melting hot looks) are rated Grade A.  (Or even Grade B, with a willingness to improve.)

On occasion, big is too big. Look, the people who yearn to sit on a telephone pole are freaks, okay? I once blew a boyfriend off (speaking figuratively, not literally) because when it came to Hometown Buffet, it would've required a team effort to consume all that mangoodness.

And except in certain positions and with extreme care, it hurt.


A woman wants a man who can go all night.


No, we don't. (See scientific method, above.)  Women want to snuggle.  We want to make love and make our partner equally happy and then snuggle.

The whole marathon of hours and hours and hours of nonstop sex because our partner is trying to maximize his Viagra and/or cocaine investment before contacting a medical professional is not a joyous experience for most women. We get sore and dry out (yes, even young women).  We don't need to hang from the chandeliers and assume every position in the Kama Sutra, every time.


It's a game of numbers


Here is another area where some men (and women) get ultra-competitive. "How many times did you...?" you may be asked.

Bowling Orangerie - OVS
Via Flickr Creative Commons
Sex is not basketball, but if it was, countless two-pointers do not make for a more exciting game.  Nor is it like bowling, where you are trying to beat your personal high score. Besides, if you had a really good time, you will not be in any condition to deliver a post-game analysis.

For almost all women (and most men, from what I've been told) quality is better than quantity. Would a woman turn down two (or three) teeth-clenching, toe-curling, OMG yeses! in one lovemaking session? Of course not.

But that's not what makes memorable sex. It's that intangible connection between the partners, a magic spark that has nothing to do with number of orgasms or positions or hours spent in the sweaty exercise.  And golly, is it fun when it happens!


What other sex myths did you learn?
What surprised you most about the Real Thing?
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Monday, January 21, 2013

The Contradictions of MLK

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...
Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deutsch: 1964: Martin Luther King Português: Martin Luther King (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The handy thing about dead people is how flexible they are.

People can state, "So-and-So would have wanted this (or hated this, or supported this)," and since So-and-So isn't around to vocalize his own opinion, the speaker conveniently gets to attach So-and-So's stamp of approval to his own position.

When I think of Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., I always think of nonviolence.

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”

I find it ludicrous that some people claim, in the Great Gun Debate now ongoing, that MLK would support the right for crazy people to have assault rifles. And yet...

from Adam Winkler: MLK and His Guns
Most people think King would be the last person to own a gun. Yet in the mid-1950s, as the civil rights movement heated up, King kept firearms for self-protection. In fact, he even applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon...

William Worthy, a journalist who covered the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, reported that once, during a visit to King's parsonage, he went to sit down on an armchair in the living room and, to his surprise, almost sat on a loaded gun. Glenn Smiley, an adviser to King, described King's home as "an arsenal."

As I found researching my new book, Gunfight, in 1956, after King's house was bombed, King applied for a concealed carry permit in Alabama. The local police had discretion to determine who was a suitable person to carry firearms. King, a clergyman whose life was threatened daily, surely met the requirements of the law, but he was rejected nevertheless. At the time, the police used any wiggle room in the law to discriminate against African Americans...

Eventually, King gave up any hope of armed self-defense and embraced nonviolence more completely. 
 I also think of Dr. King as being, in my mental image of him, as extremely supportive of women and women's rights. Wasn't he fighting for freedom for all oppressed people? And doesn't that include women?

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

And yet...

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
from Teaching Tolerance: Sexism in the Civil Rights Movement:
Dyson quotes civil rights activist Bernard Lee as saying: "Martin … was absolutely a male chauvinist. He believed that the wife should stay home and take care of the babies while he'd be out there in the streets."

from Hipstercrite: In the Shadow of Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Reading about Daisy Bates made me think of all the unsung women of the Civil Rights Movement who often are left standing in the shadow of Martin Luther King Jr. Not to discount the inspiration and dedication King gave to the movement, but it is disheartening to know that there are many strong and brave women who also sacrificed so much yet are often left out of the history books. It broke my heart to hear about the women who were honored and spoke at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, yet were not invited to any meeting between civil rights leaders and government dignitaries.

English: Photograph of Rosa Parks with Dr. Mar...
English: Photograph of Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King jr. (ca. 1955) Mrs. Rosa Parks altered the negro progress in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955, by the bus boycott she unwillingly began. National Archives record ID: 306-PSD-65-1882 (Box 93). Source: Ebony Magazine  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It certainly appears that Rosa Parks and other "mothers" of the Civil Rights Movement were shoved to the side while the menfolk took center stage and credit.  Given her prominence and capabilities following her husband's death, it appears that Coretta Scott King was capable of much more than raising babies and ironing shirts.

Then there's the issue of King's extra-marital affairs - does it mean disrespect for women, for his wife in particular, or was it a personal moral failing? From Ralph David Abernathy's And the Walls Came Tumbling Down:
Martin and I were away more often than we were at home; and while this was no excuse for extramarital relations, it was a reason. Some men are better able to bear such deprivations than others, though all of us in SCLC headquarters had our weak moments. We all understood and believed in the biblical prohibition against sex outside of marriage. It was just that he had a particularly difficult time with that temptation.

Some people would say that I am "running down" Dr. King. No.  I do think, over time, MLK has become a larger-than-life figure, godlike and heroic - and he was heroic, in many ways. He was also somebody capable of changing his mind (over guns), capable of weakness and yes, deception, and vulnerable to the attitudes (sexism) of his time.

King was very, very human.  He was not a saint, attaining levels of moral amplitude  no modern man nor woman can ever dream of attaining. We can reach for the same dreams he did, push for reforms in our government and our society, and not chicken out because we, too, are flawed and imperfect.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We can postulate where Dr. King would stand on gun control (I'm guessing, being assassinated and all, he would not be in favor of deranged people having easy access to weapons), women's rights, gay rights, and poverty, but truly, we can never know for sure.  He might even have become one of those cranky "Get off my lawn!" geezers.

Even though he wasn't perfect, even though we are not perfect, we can learn much from the man.

“Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right.

Have you ever felt you shouldn't speak up about injustice because you're not the hero-type?
What are your thoughts, on this holiday that isn't, quite? 
(I'm working my day job, alas.)

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Slut of the Month: Boudicca

Cover of "Warrior Queen"
Cover of Warrior Queen
Even her name is under some dispute. Alternately spelled Boudica and Boadicea, but that's what happens when you go back to 60 AD. They did not use Webster's or Dictionary.com back then.

Boudicca, quite likely some kind of queen or princess in her own right, was married to Prasutagus, who ruled the Iceni people and East Anglia in what is now England. Conquered by Rome in about AD 43, Prasutagus was allowed to continue to rule as a client king, apparently with Boudicca as a co-ruler.

When Prasutagus died, Rome - or their local representative - decided to change the game, and ignore P's will, which had left his kingdom jointly to the Roman Emperor and his daughters. Rather than accepting Boudicca as a client queen regent for the underage girls, this brain trust (not!) decided to show her who was boss by publicly flogging her, and ordering her young daughters (roughly 12 years old or so) gang-raped before her eyes. This d*ckless wonder was sure it would show this uppity woman how powerless she was, how she was just a slave and had better suck it up.

Boudicca wasn't the type to suck it up.


From Unc.edu:
"She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, and with a harsh voice. A great mass of bright red hair fell to her knees: She wore a great twisted golden necklace, and a tunic of many colors, over which was a thick mantle, fastened by a brooch. Now she grasped a spear, to strike fear into all who watched her...…" -Dio Cassius (Dudley and Webster, 54) 

Boudicca's story as portrayed by Alex Kingston in the 2003 movie



Boudicca did not take the rape of her daughter nor her own flogging as a reason to curl up and become a meek little subservient woman, grateful for whatever crumbs fell from Rome's table.

She and her followers burned Camulodunom (Colchester), Londinium (later to be called London), and Verulamium (St. Albans) to the ground. The Iceni/Trinovante army was no gentler with the Roman women than the Romans had been with Boadicca and her daughters.



English: Statue of Boudicca near Westminster P...
English: Statue of Boudicca near Westminster Pier as commissioned by Prince Albert and executed by Thomas Thornycroft. It was completed in 1905. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Also from Unc.edu:
While by Roman law Boudicca had no real claim to succession after her husband's death, her people regarded her as their natural leader, and their neighboring tribes were willing to support any anti-Roman uprising. The indigenous people had suffered under Roman taxation for years. They were also driven off their own land and subjected to lives as prisoners and slaves. Sometime between 56 and 60 CE the Temple of Claudius was erected in Colchester to commemorate the life of the Roman emperor who had destroyed the majority of the Celtic culture; this immediately became an object of strong derision for the British. They were also angered by the attack on the headquarters of the Druidic religion. These realities urged neighboring tribes, among them were the Trinovantes, to join Boudicca in her rebellion, which has been said to have been 100,000 people strong, against Roman forces. They began by storming the Roman cities of Camulodunum and Colchester, then proceeding to the growing trade center of Londinium (London), and ending in a final catastrophic battle.

 If you prefer the story told in a music hip-hop video version, here's Boudicca, Superstar...



Here's a couple things that are certain.

We are not still talking about the d*ckless, nameless wonder of a Roman who ordered Boudicca flogged, are we? We are still talking about and reading about and watching movies about Boudicca/Boudica/Boadicea. Even though, in the end, she and her people were defeated by superior weaponry and military tactics.

from Wikipedia:
Boudica has been the subject of two feature films, the 1928 film Boadicea, where she was portrayed by Phyllis Neilson-Terry,[40] and 2003's Boudica (Warrior Queen in the US), a UK TV film written by Andrew Davies and starring Alex Kingston as Boudica.[41]
(See the Youtube clip above.)
She has also been the subject of a 1978 British TV series, Warrior Queen, starring Siân Phillips as Boudica. Jennifer Ward-Lealand portrayed Boudica in an episode of Xena - Warrior Princess titled "The Deliverer" in 1997.

The Viking Queen is a 1967 Hammer Films adventure film set in ancient Britain, in which the role of Queen Salina is based upon the historical figure of Boudica.

In the fictional world of Ghosts of Albion, Queen Bodicea is one of three Ghosts who once were mystical protectors of Albion and assists the current protectors with advice and knowledge.

Boudica's story is the subject of several novels, including books by Rosemary Sutcliff, Roxanne Gregory, Pauline Gedge, Manda Scott, Alan Gold, Diana L. Paxson, David Wishart, George Shipway, Simon Scarrow and J. F. Broxholme (a pseudonym of Duncan Kyle). She plays a central role in the first part of G. A. Henty's novel Beric the Briton and in a children's novel by Henry Treece. One of the viewpoint characters of Ian Watson's novel Oracle is an eyewitness to her defeat. She has also appeared in several comic book series, including the Sláine, which featured two runs, titled "Demon Killer" and "Queen of Witches" giving a free interpretation of Boudica's story. Other comic appearances include Witchblade and From Hell. The DC Comics character Boodikka, a member of the Green Lantern Corps, was named after Boudica. Additionally, in the alternate history novel Ruled Britannia by Harry Turtledove, Boudicca is the subject of a play written by William Shakespeare to incite the people of Britain to revolt against Spanish conquerors.
The Diana L. Paxson/Marion Zimmer Bradley novel Ravens of Avalon is one of my personal favorite tellings of the Boudicca legend. In it Boudicca is portrayed as a woman who gives herself over to and becomes possessed by the Celtic battle goddess, the Morrigan/ Morrigu, which explains her sudden proficiency with battle and bloodlust after basically being a housewife/judge for 15-odd years.

Then again, seeing your young daughters raped right in front of your face would really piss off a lot of women. (And men.)



Boudicca did not lead an all-female army. There are many, many decent men who really do not believe raping women is cool. But too often, men do need pressure or leadership by women to do the right thing. Right now in the US Congress the newest version of the decades-long bi-partisan Violence Against Women Act  is stalled, because it includes protections for Native American women on the res, the LGBT, and women in this country illegally (even those brought here against their will to serve as sex slaves).

Oh, and the 2012 SAFER Act (to authorize funding for testing the backlog of rape kits, currently estimated at 400,000)? Died in committee for the 112th Congress, though they managed to score a pay raise.  Why would anyone have a problem with the idea that thousands of rapists are walking the streets because we can't bother to test the rape kits and lock them up?

Please consider writing directly to your Senators and Congresspeople urging them to prioritize these matters.



Future Slut of the Month Candidates:
  • Mae West
  • Cleopatra
  • Sandra Fluke 
  • Morgan le Fey
  • Aspasia
  • Madonna
  • Liz Taylor
  • Dorothy Parker 
  • Peggy Lee
  • Tullia d'Aragona
  • Lillie Langtry
  • Anne Boleyn
  • Shelley Winters
  • Mary, Queen of Scots
  • "Klondike Kate" Rockwell
  • Catherine de Medici
  • Jezebel
  • Umrao Jaan
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine 
  • Theodora (wife of Emperor Justinian of the Byzantine Empire)
  • Margaret Sanger
  • Hwang Jin-i
  • Coco Chanel
  • Sappho
  • Joan of Kent
  • Catherine the Great
  • the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown
  • Eva Perón
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Anaïs Nin
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Mata Hari
  • Malala Yousafzai
Who's your favorite slut? 
Vote for one on this list, or name another slut to be added to it.
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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Who The Fluff Are These People?

Zebras
Zebras (Photo credit: flöschen)
Zemanta decided Zebras were an appropriate photo for this piece.
Why, I know not, but better zebras than pics of the Stock Exchange
.
And how did they get into my smartphone?  Yeah, yeah, synching, or, if they spelled it properly, sinking, because many of the phone numbers I entered in laboriously one at a time got overwritten when it "synched" with FaceBook and Google and half of my phone numbers disappeared, like going into a sinkhole.  Thanks, Technology!

But I still have a bunch of contacts who are unsorted, and frankly, am not sure what to do with them all.

I don't want to seem unFriendly, but it feels overwhelming if I classify everyone I have ever exchanged emails with or Friended on FaceBook as my Friend in my smartphone. I will be scrolling for eternity to find the actual friends I might want to call.

Take my first boyfriend. Please. [snare drum]  


Long, long ago, in a state far, far away, we exchanged painfully clumsy kisses, and even clumsier... well, anyway, we're FB friends now. Kind of family, in a sideways kind of way - one of "his people" is married to one of "my people."  Which brings up a new problem.

I've had several ex-boyfriends, including him, tag me as "family" on FaceBook. Clearly, in these cases, we're still cordial and not at all weird about each other - or weren't, until that request came across my screen.  It seemed bitchy to refuse the "family" request; I know that what they were trying to express was that our relationship seems more intimate than Just Friends. Yet there isn't a "Relative Not Otherwise Specified" label, you've got to pick something, and that's where I got squicked out.   Brother-in-law, uncle, father, cousin... all sound creepily incestuous.

And what if I meet somebody later on, and now I've got to explain to my new flame that my ex-flame on FB who's labeled as my cousin isn't really my cousin...?


English: Oregon trail reenactment with typical...
English: Oregon trail reenactment with typical Conestoga wagon in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska in 1961. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It was much easier back in the pioneer days, when you just crossed the prairie in your Conestoga wagon and could pretty much count on never setting eyes on any of your exes again.  (Easier except for the dysentery and cholera and understandably hostile natives and all that.)

What do I do, on my smartphone, with a former FWB that I met through an organization neither of us belong to anymore - are we "Friends"? Or do I file him as a contact under said organization - but then, if I go that route, what do I do about his wife, with whom I've become acquainted and friend-ish?  She's not an associate from that organization. If I file her as a Friend, then surely he's a Friend, too, right?


What about the Offspring (my own, not the band)?


And his various friends, their wives, his ex-girlfriends and their spouses, a fairly substantial group with whom I've kept in touch. Although they are no longer dropping by my apartment every day (thank goodness!), we exchange greetings from time to time and I publicly coo over their wedding and baby pictures.  (Though just between you & me? Some of those babies are so ugly. Not yours though. Your baby is adorable. Those other people's babies.)

What do I call The Kids? If I call them my Friends, am I poaching from my son, or presuming a degree of acquaintance that doesn't really exist? And their babies, ugly and beautiful, who now have their own FaceBook pages? I had to Friend them - because how could I not, when their parents invited me to? "No, I don't want to Friend your ugly baby"? But do you think, when they get old enough to work their own tablets, the kids of The Kids just might want to pick their own friends, and not maintain a "social network"with some weird old people they have never even met?

Nah. They'll probably keep the connection so they can pitch me Girl Scout cookies, wrapping paper, then later on, Amway and life insurance.


More Ex-amples

 
Add in my last ex-boyfriend's friends and family, with whom I've kept up tenuous contact for the most part, and become little closer in a few cases. Should I set up a category just for them, or...?  If I file them as simply my Friends, is it like I am co-opting his friends?

(For the record, I am not still friends with every man I've ever been involved with. That would be very weird. Some of them I've lost touch with, and some of them are dead.

(Of natural causes.)

What do I do with all the distant family and friends with whom, it became painfully clear this last election cycle, I have a total disconnect in political and sometimes religious beliefs? Do I set up a category to segregate them, an Outer Circle Loons where we can exchange family news and pet anecdotes and avoid going into the tinfoil hat stuff?

Portrait of a Guangzhou Lady Blogger  (China, ...
Portrait of a Guangzhou Lady Blogger (China, Qing Dynasty) (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)
Then there's all the other writers. Ye gods, I know so many writers. Romance writers and thriller writers and children's book authors and mommy bloggers and cover designers and memoirists. I've tried to set up a few categories for how I know them: my LARA (RWA Los Angeles Romance Authors chapter) sisters, SoCal Lady Bloggers, people I met at RWA12, but there are so many more than that, and some of them, I just don't remember how we met.

Or if we met.  When you've been blogging for a while, there are people who've guested on your blog, or vice versa, or just connected electronically somehow along the way.


We're All Next-Door Neighbors Now


These days, we do get to meet many of our long-distance friends face to face. In the last few years, I've made friends in Oregon like amazing author Lisa Hendrix - online first, in person, later; another online friend in Chicago (and now I have more people I want to meet in Chicago, next trip).  Even met one online friend from the UK for tea when he was passing through LAX. (Note: some people from the UK who are perfectly intelligible in writing, possess accents thicker 'n scones with jam, in person.)

I think the farthest person I met at RWA12 this summer had traveled from New Zealand; there were lots of friendly Canadians, and South'rners, and East Coasters though. So just because I haven't yet met Kiru Taye, a Nigerian writer who lives in the UK, or J.L. Campbell from Jamaica or Denise Covey from Australia doesn't mean I won't, the sooner the better, I hope.

I have in my smartphone contacts my former neighbors (sorry about the noise), Hilaree and Jeremy Robinson, whose original plan was to write Hollywood screenplays in LA, and who settled for writing best-selling novels in New Hampshire, instead. New Hampshire? Who goes to New Hampshire, except for Presidential candidates? But whether the Robinson clan come back to Cali to take the kids to Disneyland, or I find myself on a B & B fall tour of New England someday, they've got to stay in my smartphone - only, as what? Friends? Former Neighbors? Famous Writers I'm Stalking?

How do I separate out all the writers?


Everyone needs a Beyoncé in their life.
Writers I've Met, Writers I Want To Meet, Writers Who Don't Impress Me At All But I'm Hanging Onto Their Contact Info For Totally Self-Serving Purposes, Just In Case?

Without drilling down so far that every contact has her or his own category, like: Best-Selling Authors I Have Briefly Met Who Are Also World-Reknowned Bloggesses with Big Metal Chickens Who Are Strangely Not Yet My Best Friends? (The authors, not the chickens.)

I know I have to figure this thing out.

Or, I could leave the damned smartphone contacts in the big, dogpiled mess they already are in, until such time as I get a new smartphone and add another five hundred people who don't fit neatly into any category.


How do you organize your smartphone?
What contact categories are helpful for you?
Do you ever weed people out, or do you hoard
every scrap of info, just in case?
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