Monday, November 10, 2014

Sex-Positive - It's Not What You Think

Or, maybe it IS what you think. Because I am not inside your head, so it's rather presumptuous of me to guess what you think.

My bad.

Here's what I thought: That being "Sex Positive" was thinking sex is great *raises hand,* promoting a wild & crazy sex life, and wanting to spread that belief to to the world.

Well, it kind of is, and kind of isn't. It's more about knowing who you are, claiming responsibility for your own body, being unashamed of it, and figuring out what you like, or dislike, based not on what others tell you is "good sex," but on what you decide for yourself. Those choices could include celibacy or asexuality, polyamory or swinging or monogamy, being gay or straight or "hetero-flexible," kinky or vanilla... you get to figure out who you are, and who you are not.

It's about being part of, and building, a safe community for all kinds of people to express their sexuality in a way that feels right FOR THEM. With vulnerability, but without shame.

[Note: I've joined a local, Sex-Positive group, read the materials and attended one orientation, which is not the deepest and most thorough knowledge one can have. So while I am striving to convey what I learned as accurately as possibly, it is entirely possible I have gotten something confused or am misstating it here. All such mistakes are my own, not the fault of SPLA.]

Sexy organizer Gabriella Cordova, who is "out" as Sex-Positive.

Here's what I learned at my Sex-Positive LA Meeting. (While you can be a Sex-Positive person without belonging to any formal organization, having that support can make this attitude a lot easier.)

Care, Consent, and Confidentiality

Let's take the last first: Confidentiality. Because there is such a stigma in current culture about sexuality  (something this movement aims to change), many members of this group use assumed names so that it does not affect them professionally, or with members of their family,  Therefore, no names or identifying photographs will be used here without permission.

Care. Being sex positive means caring for yourself, your family, and the others in the community. It means being responsible about being regularly tested for STIs, if you are in a non-monogamous relationship, AND using condoms; it means emotionally and physically caring for one another.

This is not a group to join if what you want is to cheat on an unsuspecting spouse or partner. Coercion, trickery, and lying are NOT caring, nor respectful. Not to your spouse, not to your partner, and not, actually, to yourself.


While morons and rapists may argue that "sometimes no means yes," no NEVER means yes with active consent.

Too drunk or whacked out with a head cold to say no, does not mean yes.

Cajoling or badgering until the other person gives in and says, "Okay, I guess," does not mean yes.

Only Yes, or, in some cases, Hell, yes! means yes.

Gabriella and the others emphasized that permission must be obtained for everything, not simply for what we typically think of as sex, but even things like a touch on the shoulder.  Every single time. And that bodily autonomy must be always respected.

But what about seduction, about romance? Doesn't this kind of thing spoil it?

You don't read much romance, do you?

Few things are sexier than the almost kiss. The two leaning toward each other, and then, just as their lips are about to touch, he whispers, "May I kiss you?"

She whispers back, "Yes, oh yes!" and their lips meet, ever so softly, tongues flickering to tease each other's top lip, bottom lip, dancing together, bodies pressed so tight against one another, for long, slow, sweet moments, until her nipples grow hard and her knees grow weak.

She pulls her mouth away from his, locking his eyes with her own. "I want to take off your shirt, and rub my nipples against your chest. And then I'd like you to lick them, and suck on them. Is that okay with you?"

I could go on, but I think you get the point (as our heroine will, shortly). Consent is sexy.

But What If You Get a No?

If someone tells you no, the kindest reply is, "Thank you for taking care of yourself."

Think about it. Much of the time, problems in relationships come up because Person A thought Person B wanted or liked X, but he didn't, and bad feelings were created.

When someone says no, it is because s/he has checked inside, decided s/he was not comfortable with what you were requesting. This means that YOU don't have to guess, you don't have to take care of her/his feelings; s/he is taking care of her/himself. And when you get a no, that means when you do get a yes, it is a genuine, enthusiastic yes.

This Group Is Not For the Intolerant

For myself, I am uninterested in a "Red Room of Pain," a la 50 Shades. This does not mean putting down people who are, nor going all judgey on people who don't like the things that I like.  Kinky is okay, vanilla (or, French vanilla), is perfectly okay.

In fact, I understand there are people in the group simply to be touched, held, and snuggled. Who will never be pressed to "take it to the next level," but are welcome to attend events built around the things that make them feel comfortable. Welcome are all LGBT people, the disabled, those with fetishes... Whatever your "thing" is, if you can't help make this a warm and welcoming place for everyone, it's not a good fit for you.

Orientation Not Optional

In order to join this group, you must attend an orientation. At the one I attended, besides Gabriella and the other organizers talking to us, showing us a short film clip, and a break for potluck refreshments, we shared a little bit of information on how we would label ourselves. Later, we practiced some lessons on boundaries, on saying no, on negotiating, on complimenting one another. And enjoyed a five-way hug.

I even got another compliment, later - one of the women who hugged me was very petite, had laid her head on my breast and enjoyed it very much. I probably should have replied what I was thinking, which was "I get that a lot" (especially lately from the littlest kitten), but I simply smiled at her, happy that I had made her happy.

I was also pleased to hear some people referencing Robert A. Heinlein, who often wrote stories including non-traditional love relationships. He's one of my all-time favorite authors, and while Time Enough for Love is my favorite (perhaps because it was my first, and I'm sloppily sentimental that way), I also love I Will Fear No Evil, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. I found Friday kind of sad, though the group marriage concept was interesting.

Will I be back?

Probably as long as they'll have me. And I will continue to share what I can, without breaking the agreement for confidentiality.

Have you ever attended a Sex-Positive event?
What did you think?
Your thoughts?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Need Some Slut Love?

Next week, this series will be back with the next Slut (and this one's not even 18!), but today I am guesting on Rebekah R. Ganiere's blog, with 3 Great Reasons To Be a Slut.

So, for those of you wondering about the dating thing... more on that, later. Suffice it to say I am finding men of interest, and vice versa. Now for a kitten update:

Picked up this little darling up from the vet on Monday night, following her spaying surgery.

I think I have settled on the name; Creativity, or Tivvy for short.  She has been someone shy at first, then a real sweetie once she gets warmed up, so Creativity seems to fit her.

But I'm not 100% sure.

The only thing I am sure if is that she is very sweet, very affectionate, very teething, and has very, VERY sharp little teeth.

So, what about the boy?

In the six weeks or so I've had him, Mojo has morphed into a sleek young teenager kitten (five months old).

His marking are gorgeous, if I do say myself (not that I had anything more to do with them than having the wit to pick him out.

Unfortunately, Mojo is twice Tivvy's size, and he wants to play with her, ALWAYS... and a little rough. After keeping them separate for most of the week, we began supervised playtime this weekend.

As you can see, while she is hiding in the bag, Tivvy is also initiating play. It has been hard for me to let her sort it out for herself, I want to protect her, but Mojo is learning to back off when she squeaks in protest.

This is from later in the weekend.

There is nothing as cute as sleepy babies - kittens, puppies, people...

And now they are learning to sleep together. Mojo's latest roughness is pinning her down and washing her face.

This time, I think it's gonna work out.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kittens & Puppies & Mens, Oh My! (Adventures in Datingland)

I'm doing it. The dating thing.

And I am ALSO now raising two playful kittens.

Let me 'splain.

For years I was trying to find something, anything, to bring down the weight of my extremely obese cat, Metaphor, aka, Stinky. Diet pet food after diet pet food, New toys, which she would condescend to play with for three minute, then never again.

Did she LIKE the collar? No. Did she tolerate it, like so much else? Yep.

Finally it dawned on me, perhaps a playmate would encourage Stinky to move around. So I consulted experts and very carefully selected Motivation, aka, Mojo, and after the 2 week seclusion period, some extra time for him in the Cone of Shame (why can't males leave their danglies alone?!?), and some slow, supervised exposure, Stinky and Mojo seemed to be on the path to kitty friendship, if not yet at the playground.

Seems to me like she's saying, "Hey, maybe he isn't so bad, after all."

Next, Stinky got sick very suddenly, and I had to have her put down. Cue many tears, and then I was faced with a dilemma. Now I had a solo, five-month-old kitten who would be bored silly while I am at my day job all day. How can I be the best pet mommy to HIM?

Answer = Kitten #2. After crowdsourcing name ideas, I'm leaning toward Creativity, because she seems playful, but a little shy.  Tivvy for short.

About Those Puppies...

So while all of this cat drama is going on, I've signed up for the wonderful world of online dating.

While yes, the pictures I used for my profiles are more flattering than not, they're not glamour shots, photos I've seen of authors and others, which don't look anything like them, or are 30 years old. Just better lit, mostly. Here's a selfie I took last night, with the new kitten.

In my profile, I'm honest about my struggles with weight, in the first paragraph.

I put my real age right out there: [gulp] 53 years old.

I state, among other things, that I am looking for SINGLE guys, in my area, aged between 40 and 60.

So I'm getting messages from some men who actually fit that description. Yay! Also from guys who aren't local, or guys who are much, much older than 60.

I'm getting messages from skeevy married men who just want to have a sleazy affair or one night stand, on the down low.

And I'm getting very flattering messages from, I'm calling them puppies.  Here's a sampling (names changed to protect the guilty).

  • Hey, how's it going? My name is Adam. I would probably be way too nervous to come up to you in person, but I just wanted to say that I think you're absolutely beautiful!  Adam, age 25.
  • Would you be interested in a boy toy for the night? Ben, age 23
  • I guess you can say trying to be flirty, lol. I'm open to women outside range, and am talking to several 50+ women, what can I say, y'all are a bit of fun! To be honest though, I'd be more interested in hooking up than a relationship with someone north of 40. Casey, age 30
  • And I get that I am young, but age is all in the head. Mentally I connect with women in their 40s and 50s. It's who I'm attracted to. So if you can get over the age thing... lets chat.
    I am awfully good in bed so that's a huge plus right? :) Desi, age 34
  • I'm not all that intimidating, honestly. I'm pretty friendly. I'm a XXX by trade. And I've dated older women before, so you wouldn't be an "experiment," as it were. Eduardo, age 25.

Seriously, I know my face doesn't scare horses or small children, and on occasion, I do feel very pretty (cue Natalie Wood's vocal stand-in).  But is it so hard for a young guy to get laid that they're hitting on an overweight woman old enough to be their mother (or, in some cases, their grandmother)?

I haven't entirely ruled out playing with a puppy, but mostly, I feel too squeamish about it.

Especially the one who is the same height, age, and NAME as my son.

Poly Want A Partner?

On the other hand... not an insubstantial number of connections I've made have been men who state they are in open or polyamorous relationships.  Messages about being home alone, while the wife is out with her boyfriend.


Polyamory is based on the theory that people can enjoy more than one loving, sexual relationship at the same time. (As opposed to "swinging," which is more a series of flings.)

I find I'm kind of intrigued.  In my own history, yes, this has described me. I have enjoyed - and sometimes, felt guilty about - feeling deep love and sexual attraction to more than one man at a time. Sometimes I was open about it; sometimes I was not, but I always felt worse about the secret-keeping than the sex.

Have I found "my people?" I always felt homesick when I'd finish a Robert Heinlein book that described an extended, group marriage arrangement, from Stranger in a Strange Land to Friday to To Sail Beyond the Sunset.

Research is pointing more and more to the idea that monogamy isn't the only "natural" pairing for human beings, any more than heterosexuality is.  Both may be the most popular, but they don't meet the needs of every individual. It turns out, I already knew a few poly people, and  I like them, a lot. They don't have horns or hooves or anything unusual about them, except perhaps a greater appreciation for sensuality and openness about sex. (Kind like mine.)

So, I am joining a few poly and Sex-Positive Meet-Up groups and FaceBook Groups, and have checked out a library book on the subject that was recommended to me. I'm going very slow, feeling like Bambi's mother, cautiously sniffing the air and taking one tiny, cautious step at a time, before frolicking in the meadow. We all know that Bad Things happened when she forgot.

And that's not the kind of stuffed and mounted I'm looking for.

And while I am meeting and chatting with a variety of men, I am being careful, both with my person and with my heart.

Note: If you are going to be sexting, and if you are going to be sending selfie pictures of your favorite vibrator (I would never ever sext a picture that showed intimate body parts, not even a nipple), you just might want to either delete those pictures off your phone, or move them into another folder, before you let people scroll through your phone to look at your kitten pics.  Oops!

Have you known people who were openly polyamorous?
Had unusual online dating experiences?
Your thoughts?

Monday, October 20, 2014

She Ain't Your Typical Snow White

Because who hasn't wanted to read the story of Snow White, retold where she's an amazing badass? Who hunts vampires?

Pleased to welcome to Writing in Flow bestselling author Rebekah R. Ganiere, and her book, Snow The Vampire Slayer.
Lady Snow Gwyn is tired of playing "mother" to her seven Vampire Slaying brothers. For the past two years, she's yearned to be out there fighting at their side as they hunt for bloodsuckers in the black of night. Snow is as good a fighter as any man, but she wasn't called to be a Slayer. A mere formality in her book.

 Prince Sageren, Son of Lothar has spent the last fifty years in exile, awaiting the day when he can finally avenge his family and take back his throne. Barely existing, he's forced to face his inner demons and the monster he once was, compelling him to vow to never drink from humans again. A simple enough task--until he crosses paths with a human who makes his fangs ache to drain her.
When Snow runs into Prince Sage on a late night trip to the woods, she's torn between the urge to kill him and the desire to succumb to the feeling he stirs within her. And when Snow's life is threatened by the same evil that murdered his family, Prince Sage must enlist the aid of Snow's brothers to not only help him save her life, but to also regain his rightful place as King of the Vampires.
 If Sage can keep the Slayers from killing him first.

Sounds delish, amirite? Here's an excerpt:

Run away. Run now. He wanted to scream. But he couldn’t. Drink her dry. Make her your own and you’ll never be alone again. He pounded on his skull. His gaze met hers and he suddenly lost all reserve.

One moment he was inches away, the next he grabbed her braid and forced her body against his, crushing her lips with his own. His tongue plunged deep into her mouth. She stiffened at his touch initially, but then relaxed against him. He needed this.

Her supple body pressed against his, her curves sparking every inch of his skin to wake up and pay attention. Out of sheer will, he forced his fangs at bay. He wanted her all to himself at that moment. Just her. The feel of her lips on his lips. Her tongue danced and licked his with a palpable need. Her apparent lack of experience made Sage savor her all the more.

He was dangerously close to losing control. She pushed against him roughly and he let go. Her eyes widened before hardening. Quick as light, she swung to slap him, but he caught her wrist.

“You don’t want to do that, love. You’ll split your palm open again.”

“You had no right to kiss me.”

Need pounded through him, making his body quake. He let go of her wrist. “I didn’t see you protesting too much.”

“I…I…” Her mouth opened and closed several times, but no words formed.

His gaze trained on her throat. The pulsing vein and the thundering of her heartbeat called to him. He licked his lips.

He stepped forward, gripped her arms and locked his eyes with hers. Her pupils contracted and then flooded open.

“You will go straight to the cabin. You will get your things and you will run. Run ‘til you get safe in your bed. And when you wake up in the morning, you will remember nothing.”

Her eyes glazed over and he eased his grasp on her. She picked up her sword and ran. A minute later, the light in the cabin flickered out and the door slammed. Sage didn’t dare let himself even breathe until he knew she’d gone, for fear that he would chase her down and ravish her.

When he no longer heard her footsteps, he fell to his knees and clutched the bloodied gauze she’d left behind. So long he had been in exile, underground. So long he’d denied himself the companionship of a woman. And here, in the middle of a glade, he’d found her. His heart’s desire was a human. What the hell was he going to do now?


Rebekah R. Ganiere is an award winning author. Her novel Dead Awakenings, debuted in January 2014. Red the Were Hunter, the first in her Farielle Series, released in May. The second book Snow the Vampire Slayer was released in September 22, 2014. And her trilogy The Society will be released Nov. 17th 2014 by Kensington's Lyrical Press.

Rebekah is the VP of Communications of the RWA FFP Chapter as well as a member of her local Los Angeles and Orange County chapters. In her spare time when she isn't writing you can find her moderating on or hanging out with her husband, four children and her English Bulldog, rabbit, two bearded dragons, and two tortoises. 

The escaped snake has yet to be found.

Stalk Find Rebekah:

Or, ask Rebekah a question here.
I'll be guesting on her blog next Monday, yeah, me!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Because Kittens

I haven't posted in a while, because life.

And kittens.

As I've been adjusting to the loss of my beloved brother-in-law, and looking for ways to support and re-invent my relationship with my sister, her sons, and my own son, I've been busy. Busy at work, busy with family "events," and busy with therapy.

I am happy to report, my sister is currently in remission and doing... okay. Losing someone who's been your life partner since you were 18 ain't something you shrug and get over in a hurry.

The weekend she moved home (june) to the small community on the shores of Lake Isabella, she almost had to evacuate, because of a nearby fire. Then again, last month (August), same deal. Another fire that came within 1/2 mile of her house, as if having serious cancer and losing her husband wasn't bad enough.

I am torn between sticking close to my sis to give her comfort and staying the hell away because it sometimes seems like she is a lightning rod for drama.

The drought is hitting California terribly hard, hence, the fires. I know, I know, #firstworldproblems. It's not like we have to give up showering (yet), or, stars forbid, miss a few meals like people in Africa or other parts of the world, where global climate change = regional starvation.

But then again, maybe that's in our future. Who knows where this will lead, in another 20 years?

Earlier this month, some of the family went to my sister's house to ?celebrate? ?acknowledge? what would have been my BIL's birthday, because that's what my sis wanted. Among other things, we watched Jim's favorite movie, Tommy. Which is also one of my all-time favorites.

Cover of
Cover of Tommy

Here's one of my favorite scenes, where Tommy's mother Nora, played by Ann-Margret, has a nervous breakdown (what we currently call a psychotic break).

I love how, in the end, the only pure, white, unbesmirched thing left in the room is the carnations... and then they, too, are beaned and chocolated up.

An Object in Motion Tends to Stay in Motion

Because my life is in transition, and I am having to make a shift in all the relationships in my life, to adjust to the loss of my beloved Jim, I've been seeing a therapist once a week. Got plenty of emotional homework I've been working on. I feel like I am making good progress.

I personally recommend therapy in times of grief, or transition. If we pay attention to something that's not - quite - working right, whether that's a car, a faucet, or our emotional life, it's much easier to fix than waiting till the engine is "froze up" on the overpass from the 134 to the 2. (Which is NOT where you want to be stuck, trust me.)

via wikipedia at at the half-way point
Yes, it IS a billion miles high, give or take a few

My personal engine is not stalled, but over the last few months, it's been laboring. So, fewer blog posts, more massages, and counseling to get through the tough parts.

And, I've been transitioning a kitten,

See, my cat, 12 1/2 year-old Metaphor, aka Stinky, is just a smidge overweight.

Maybe more than a smidge.

What do you mean, I'm not just fluffy?

I have tried every brand of diet cat for the last 8 years. Stinky only gets MEASURED amounts of it. Endless vet consultations. And still... *sighing*  I've bought so many cat toys and tried to interest her in them, my living room looks like Cat Disneyland. [Note: I'm sure I am supposed to post some kind of disclaimer here that Disneyland is trademarked yada yada, but you all know that I don't really have Disneyland in my living room, right?]

Enter Motivation, aka, Mojo

So, a hot young stud (neutered or not) would certainly get ME up and moving around. I consulted the staff at the East Valley Animal Shelter, and brought home Mojo, who's about 4 months old, and less than 4 pounds, to Metaphor's 22-23.

He is sweet and affectionate and I have been spending most mornings and evenings working to give each kitty individual attention and love and exercise space, before securing Motivation and heading off to the day job.

Two weeks in... Metaphor has let the kitten touch noses with her twice, but she's still pretty hissy.

Mojo has been in the Cone of Shame, following his neutering...

And out of it...

Yes, he does have the cutest, little white tip to his tail.

And... back in it again. (WHY can't males leave their danglies ALONE?!?)

*I* am well. Both kitties are spending a fair amount of time purring and being happy, and are on nutritional supplements recommended by my vet to boost their immune systems in these stressful times.

According to the label, it's tasty, so I almost took a lick, but it's rather fishy-smelling, so, no.

How are YOU?
What have YOU been up to, doing my hiatus from blogging and posting and visiting 'round?
Are you ready for the next Slut of the Month, coming next Monday?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Celebrating A #ToriAmos #MusicGiveaway

Powerful, poignant, passionate, Promise showcases the kind of relationship, one of beauty and honesty and love, that all mothers and daughters should share.

Since the first time I heard her, I've loved Tori's work. Whether it's the unflinching rawness Me and a Gun, the fairy tale-childhood lost ballad Winter, or the kind of smoky, wobbly-on-high-heels tune that perfectly fits Playboy Mommy, her songs make a deep sort of sense, a reverberation in my soul, and in that of many women and men I've talked to.  

So while normally, I don't "do" giveaways, when Chris Lam of whatIruninto said that Universal Music was looking for a few good blogs to share this video and give away a couple albums, I was jumping up and down, "Pick me, pick me, pick me!"

I love to share good things, and while I wish I could buy my blogfriends every single album she's ever released, funds don't permit. But I'm thrilled that they're letting me share TWO.

Tori Puts the Writing First

There's an incredible interview with Mark Shrayber over at Jezebel. A small excerpt:
One of the most unique things about your performances is that when you sing, even when you're in a huge theatre, it feels like you're singing directly to them. What does it feel like to know you have such an impact on people?
Well, you know, the thing is, in order to have an impact on people, your modus operandi cannot be to have an impact on people. You have to be a musician and serve the muses and you have to surrender, in a way, yourself. In order to empower, I must surrender and let them kind of take over my physicality. And stay out of the way. Because only by serving the songs and respecting them can you possibly have the correct intention, and the intention is that you seeing the song from a grounded place, a clear place, and an emotional place.
So in order to be that, your first thought cannot be, 'I wanna go out there and blow people away." That's when you're acting from your ego. And that's when you're performance is ego-based, and I have been there in my life, and we all probably have in different ways. But you're a writer, you put the writing first, and you be the best damned writer that you can be, then you can't control how people respond to it, but it's within your power to tell the story and in a way that does the story justice.

Tori Amos performing in concert during her Dew...
Tori Amos in concert during her Dew Drop Inn
Tour. Photograph taken at the Robinson Center
Music Hall in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you see why I love this artist? 

She spends an hour, hour and a half before almost all her concerts meeting and talking to her fans, letting them takes pictures, etc.  She doesn't hold back, in her performing, in her songwriting, or with her fans.

Critics are saying that The Unrepentant Geraldines is Tori's best album in years.

Two lucky commenters, chosen at random*, will win a copy of The Unrepentant Geraldines, which includes the amazing song Promise. or, if you just can't wait, 
buy it now:

*A lot of blog authors will use Rafflecopter or some other device to ensure that you not only leave a comment, but Follow the fan page on FaceBook, on Twitter and via email and reTweet and sign up for the newsletter, yada yada. I always hate being asked to jump through a billion hoops, and figure you do, too. Just leave a comment, and I'll be drawing the winners on Wednesday. (Though if you choose to Follow and reTweet and all that stuff, because I am cool and give good content, I do appreciate it.) 

Related articles

Monday, August 4, 2014

Slut of the Month: Margaret Sanger

Margaret H. Sanger  (LOC)
Margaret H. Sanger (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)
Do you remember the time when, if you wanted to prevent pregnancy, your best hopes were abstinence, prayer, or douching with Lysol? (Hell, yes, it burned.) When your doctor was forbidden by law to give you information on how to prevent pregnancy (even if you were a married woman, and begging for it)? When countless American infants and mothers died every year because of malnutrition, complications from constant childbearing, and illegal abortions?

Neither do I, but it wasn't so very long ago that Margaret Sanger, née Higgins, was born into that America. It was largely due to her tireless activism on birth control (a term she popularized), that it wasn't the world she left when she died in 1966.

Unfortunately, both in her own time, and in recent years, the name of Margaret Sanger has been splattered with so much mud and outright lies that the incredible, if flawed, woman that she was, has become hidden and distorted by the propaganda. Even the modern organization descended from the original clinics and organizations she founded, Planned Parenthood, shies away from discussing  Margaret Sanger. But why?

Comstock and his Pervy Little Laws

There once was a "Christian" man, Anthony Comstock, born in 1844, who epitomized H.L. Mencken's quote about Puritanism: "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is having a good time." Comstock served in the Union Army during the Civil War (incessantly complaining about the other soldiers' profanity), formed the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and in 1873 was able to get a law passed in Congress prohibiting delivery via US mail or publication of "obscene, lewd or lascivious material." 

According to Comstock, pretty much all drawings, photographs, or information about sexual organs or how they worked were obscene. This included material on prevention of venereal diseases, as well as contraceptive information... Even some anatomy textbooks were prohibited from being sent to medical students via US mail.

Comstock became a special Postal Inspector, and would later brag that he was responsible for about 4,000 arrests and 15 suicides.

No Birth Control = Poverty + Needless Death for Many Women & Children

English: Cover of Birth Control Review July 19...
English: Cover of Birth Control Review July 1919 Captions: "How shall we change the law?", "Must She Always Plead in Vain? "You are a nurse - can you tell me? For the children's sake - help me!" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This included Margaret Higgins Sanger's mother. The inference that this was a major impetus to Sanger's "calling" as the vanguard of the Birth Control movement cannot be denied. Anne Purcell Higgins died at age 48 of tuberculosis, much exacerbated by constant childbearing. She endured eighteen pregnancies in twenty-two years, with eleven living children and seven miscarriages, one nearly resulting in her death. Margaret Louise, born in 1879, was the sixth child, with the next living child, Ethel, following four years later. The family was so poor, one story goes, that when one of Margaret's brothers tore his (only) trousers, he was forced to attend school in a dress, while his mother mended his pants.

Margaret dreamed of becoming a doctor, but funds (donated from her older sisters) simply weren't available to permit more than a few years schooling as a nurse. As a nurse in the early 1900's, she often visited impoverished families with large broods of children, and met countless women who begged for help in preventing another pregnancy. Many women died of complications from childbirth or illegal abortions, to which they often resorted out of desperation.

While a modern, well-nourished American woman under good medical supervision may be able to bear large broods of healthy children with few complications, women who are badly nourished, or ill with syphilis, HIV, tuberculosis, or other diseases, who live in slums or in poor rural areas with little medical attention, rarely enjoy the same rosy outcome. No mother wants to abandon, via her own death, her existing children, yet this was a frequent scenario.

Sadie Sachs - True Story, or Composite?

Sanger would later tell and retell the story of Sadie Sachs, a 28-year old mother of three in the Jewish ghettos of New York, who she helped nurse through the complications of a botched abortion. Sachs begged the doctor who initially treated her for advice about preventing another pregnancy: "Another baby will finish me." The doctor had little sympathy: "You want your cake while you eat it too, do you? Well, it can't be done. I'll tell you the only sure thing to do... Tell Jake to sleep on the roof." Several months later, Sanger returned to the apartment, to find Sadie dying from septicemia, from another botched abortion.

While this story may or may not have been true, what is undeniable is that there were many "Sadie Sachs" in 1912, dying or suffering from lack of knowledge and access to birth control. Sanger felt strongly that it was an:
unjust world that offered women in their married state only celibacy, abortion, and too many children as their reproductive choices.

Sanger Was the First Pro-Choicer 

What women desire is the knowledge which will enable them to have as few children as they themselves consider consistent with their health, their desires, their opportunities for development, their economic resources, their ability to rear and educate.
Note: Pro-choice ≠ Pro-abortion. I tell you three times: Pro-choice ≠ Pro-abortion; Pro-choice ≠ Pro-abortion; Pro-choice ≠ Pro-abortion. While Sanger has been slandered in many different ways, one of the most egregious is calling her a "baby killer." Why she reluctantly agreed that in some rare cases, a therapeutic abortion might be medically necessary, she NEVER advocated for abortion "as a form of birth control," as she has often been accused.
...while there are cases when even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization.
Her first handbills, for her first clinic in Brownsville, New York in 1916, advised:
MOTHERS! Can you afford to have a large family? Do you want any more children? IF not, why do you have them? DO NOT KILL, DO NOT TAKE LIFE, BUT PREVENT.
Sanger believed that if knowledge and methods of birth control were widely known, affordable, effective, and easy to use, abortion would become rare.

We've Come A Long Way, (No) Baby

But there's still such a long way to go when it comes to birth control devices. In the early 1900's, there was abstinence (something Sanger and others did not believe was a very reasonable way to conduct a marriage), there was withdrawal (although the Catholic Church cast a heavy frown on 'Onanism'), there were various douches (see Lysol) and pessaries (basically, diaphragms, but officially used to 'support' a sagging uterus), and there were condoms.

Sanger believed the best option would be one the woman herself controlled, rather than relying upon her partner's cooperation, and spent many woman-hours in European jaunts looking for what they used. Was it better? Was it worth trying? How would it work in a tenement apartment in New York where one bathroom was shared by four or five floors of tenants? (A downside to some of the experimental sponges with powder that required adding water.)

Different kinds of birth control pills.
Different kinds of birth control pills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Later, largely in response to Sanger popularizing the discussion of birth control, the Catholic Church would devise 'the Rhythm Method' as an acceptable way to 'space' babies. (But it was supposed to be only for extreme medical conditions, and it also had the drawback of not working very reliably for most women, whose cycles are generally irregular.)

During Sanger's travels, as she encountered various types of birth control projects, she encouraged them, always verbally, often with donations directed their way. When it came to The Pill, Margaret Sanger became its Fairy Godmother. In 1953, she introduced wealthy donor Katherine McCormick to Dr. Gregory Pincus and his collaborator, M.C. Chang, who were working on an anovulant project that became The Pill. (And coincidentally, The Pill was able to help women with infertility problems.) Sanger also encouraged the development of IUD's.

Writer, Propagandist, Clinic Founder, Lobbyist, International Activist, Feminist

Sanger and her sons in a 1922 advertisement fo...
Sanger and her sons in a 1922 advertisement for one of her books (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
She wrote a series called "What Every Girl Should Know" for the New York Call, which was sometimes seized and other times, censored; she wrote pamphlets and in 1916, opened a clinic in Brooklyn, New York. Lines outside the clinic were long, but it served several hundred clients before it was raided and shut down after operating less than a week.

Still, somehow, she continued writing, continued lining up supporters, continued fundraising on a level never-heretofore seen, opened more clinics, lobbied for changes in the law(s), lined up support for birth control support internationally...

Sanger believed that when population growth exceeded local natural resources, war became the natural result. As a pacifist, Sanger thought it was better to limit population growth to what the local area could sustain, rather than raise excess population as soldiers and cannon fodder.

She had birth control advocates in Japan, in India, in the UK, and in the USA, and sponsored numerous international conferences. She continued to open or encourage the opening of clinics across the USA, which served the purpose of helping women's health, including, but not limited to, birth control.

Yes, she did hold "radical" ideas, including the one that each woman should be free to choose her own destiny.

So Where's The Controversy?

Was Sanger A Racist?

This is another allegation that has been flung so many times that people begin to think there must be something to it.

Of course, none of us can read Sanger's mind. But she insisted that whites be willing to work with blacks.
We must change the white attitudes... When you have Negroes working with whites you have the break down of barriers, the beginning of progress. Negro participation in planned parenthood means democratic representation in a democratic idea. Like other democratic ideas, planned parenthood places a greater value on human life and the dignity of each person.
She opened clinics for black women, not because she perceived them as particularly needing to be restrained in the fecundity, but at the request of African-American leaders like W.E.B. Dubois, Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., pastor of the Abyssianian Baptist Church. She put black community leaders on the board, with black staff and doctors at the clinics.

English: 1917 photo of Margaret Sanger.
English: 1917 photo of Margaret Sanger. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
She was sensitive to the idea that people might imagine she and her staff we trying to eradicate the African-American race (not there really is such a thing, biologically speaking). She wanted to offer black women the same tools to choose the number of children they would bear as she was offering to white women. African-Americans were NOT targeted (by her) in an attempt to wipe them out, despite ongoing LIES to the contrary.
We have got to change the inference that the quality of our population depends on the birth rate of college graduates. To me this is tinsel thinking. [There are] just as sound qualities in Arizona cowboys, mechanics, and artists. Racial regeneration must come from within and be autonomous, self-directed and not imposed from without.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was pleased to receive the Margaret Sanger award from Planned Parenthood in 1966. In part his speech, delivered by his wife Coretta Scott King, read:
There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life. Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist — a nonviolent resister. She was willing to accept scorn and abuse until the truth she saw was revealed to the millions. At the turn of the century she went into the slums and set up a birth control clinic, and for this deed she went to jail because she was violating an unjust law. Yet the years have justified her actions. She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision; for without them there would have been no beginning. Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her.
Doesn't sound much like Dr. King believed she was an inhuman monster intent on destroying the black race, does it?

Was Margaret Sanger a Eugenicist?

This is another label that has been slapped over the history of Margaret Sanger. The answer to that is, it's complicated. Many of the advocates of the early birth control movement were eugenicists - that is, they believed in the continual improvement of the human race via breeding "superior" human stock and discouraging the breeding of "inferior" stock. Sanger certainly did not want to alienate their backing at a time when she was looking to drum up popular support.

Many religious organizations and people in the early part of the 20th century, were part of the Eugenics Movement, including President Theodore Roosevelt. While some eugenicists were undoubtedly racist, others had a more nuanced view. Many believed that "morons" (a term applied to people who were not competent to make reproductive decisions) should be sterilized. While Down syndrome (and other developmental delays) happens on a spectrum, and many individuals are high functioning, would it be a terrible thing to sterilize those low-functioning Down syndrome individuals, who are not able to care for a baby, and also may not be able to employ modern birth control methods, yet be sexually active? Personally, I'm not sure. (And who would make that call?)

I believe that, even now, most of us would agree (in theory) that it would be better if some people didn't breed. For example, I don't want to see Octomom have more kids, or Charles Manson have any. I am in support of what Ashley X's parents did to prevent their Pillow Angel from "becoming a woman" in body, with the mind of a nine-month old baby.

So while, today, the idea of eugenicists and Hitler are bound together inseparably, this wasn't the case in the decades before Hitler came to power, and it's unfair to infer (or state outright) that Margaret Sanger thought that Hitler's attempted exterminations of Jews, Roma, and others was a grand idea. Sanger never applied the term "unfit" to entire races and religions, only to individuals. (As do we all, if we are honest about it.)

Man-hater? As if. 

Margaret Sanger had more (male) lovers and admirers, not to mention two husbands, than most women had stockings. She married Bill Sanger (a Jew, for those who insist she was anti-Semitic), and had three children by him, although their daughter Peggy died as a young child.  Later, she would take many lovers, including sexologist Havelock Ellis, the famous writer H.G. Wells, her biographer, an artist in Tucson... I lost track at a dozen or so men. Along with a second husband, J. Noah Slee.

Somehow, all her men adored her. She was petite, with auburn hair, a great wit, and apparently, was gangbusters in bed.
Never be ashamed of passion. If you are strongly sexed, you are richly endowed.
Somehow, she managed to juggle them all, writing a bouquet of love letters to most of them, without any of them feeling slighted or (much) jealous.

She also had many loyal female friends, somewhat unusual for a "man's woman."

A woman of many talents, indeed.

So who's responsible for all the disinformation about Margaret Sanger?

Yes, Catholic Church, I'm Giving You the Stinkeye

While there are many kind, loving, wonderful people who belong to the Catholic Church, as an institution, it has too often been on the wrong side of history, justice, and the protection of innocents. To give just five examples: 1) The Crusades, 2) The Inquisition, 3) The cooperation with Hitler, 4) The protection of pedophile priests, 5) The abuse in homes for unwed mothers in Ireland and elsewhere

When it comes to sex and sexuality, the Catholic Church is inconsistent at best. Their position, as I understand it, is that married couples should always be "open" to the possibility that God may grant them a child (and that non-married couples should simply not be engaging in sexual intercourse, period); otherwise to engage in sex simply for pleasure or emotional bonding is sinful. Yet they have also decided that for married couples who know they are infertile, for reasons of age or physical condition, it is not a sin for them to engage in sex simply for pleasure or bonding.


The Catholic Church, which holds non-taxable status in the US as a religious organization, theoretically not involved in politics, vigorously pressured politicians and lawmakers during the lifetime of Margaret Sanger, and continues to this day (Hobby Lobby, anyone?) to wield tremendous influence on the government of the USA to depart from or void any laws or policies that might encourage use of birth control (at the same time most American Catholic women say pff! to the Vatican, and use birth control according to their own familial needs).

It is possible, at some time, that the Catholic Church will come to realize that, like a petri dish, the Earth is a closed system. The organisms on it (us humans) can only multiply to a certain extent, before our food and water supply is exhausted, or we are poisoned by the toxicity of our own waste products, or, possibly, both.

So, why the lies? 

Societies in which there is more supply (of population) than demand has individuals who are more likely to accept crappy jobs - in factories, on farms, in "service industries," especially if there are too many mouths to feed at home. Young men (and women) who see little potential for finding decent jobs and cannot afford an education are much more likely to enlist in the military, enabling the elite to wage massive wars (and profit thereby *cough Haliburton cough*).

Follow the money. Who benefits when working class and poor people have more children than they can afford to feed, clothe, house, and educate?

How Should We Remember Sanger?

Her granddaughter, Margaret Marston, recounts one of their last conversations. Margaret Sanger said she hoped she would be remembered "for helping women, because women are the strength of the future. They take care of culture and tradition,and preserve what is good."

Past Sluts: Go to the For Sluts Only page for links to past sluts in this series.

 What had you ever heard about Margaret Sanger?
Who do you think should control a woman's reproductive choices?

Your thoughts?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ain't Ready To Make Nice #socialmediaetiquette

I've been on something of a blog and writing hiatus, dealing with some overwhelming family issues. Meanwhile, the world has rolled on, full of celebrations and tragedies and hero cats kicking the snot out of evilcrazy dogs. Go, hero cat Tara, go!

But I've been trying to read and comment on blogs, here and there. And I came across one post that kind of ticked me off. I wrote and pressed "Submit" on a polite but dissenting opinion, and moved on with my life.

Yet, days later, the original post was still bugging me. And (this is somewhat amusing to me) when I checked back, she'd never approved my comment; only the comments which formed an Amen Chorus to the post appear on the site.

So I thought I'd throw my opinions out there like spaghetti noodles, here, and see what sticks to the wall.

The original post: One of those "XX Things You Shouldn't Do on FaceBook"

In fact, I agreed with most of the "things" the author cited.

But the complaint with which she led off, was that when it was a holiday, like Fathers Day or Mothers Day, (or, presumably, Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, Groundhogs Day, etc.) when everybody is posting and sharing great pictures of their families and celebrating in a massive warm community glow of ain't life wonderful, a few people will dare to post rather contrary, painful statements on their (own) FaceBook pages, which then appear in her news feed. Things like this, that harshed her happy vibe.

Stolen Borrowed from the original post.

The blog author's suggestion was that if holidays are triggering for you, maybe you should stay off FaceBook altogether during that time, but if you are on, you should suck it up. That it's not nice to be posting your hurts, which spoil the happytimes for other people.

Now, I get it. I've never liked pain, or feeling uncomfortable - who does? Avoid it whenever possible. And it feels really, really uncomfortable to be faced with another person's naked pain when am feeling very good.

What can we do for that person, anyway? We might reply to their comment with some lame "I'm so sorry; wishing you the best in this difficult time." Or maybe we feel somewhat guilty or privileged about our own good fortune, but don't have the time or energy spend the 30 seconds to do that, so we just move on and feel slightly resentful of her (or him, but we know it's usually a her) for "making" us feel bad.

Maybe even write a blog post chiding them for their violation of social media etiquette.

Branding Does Need To Be A Factor

Also, there's the issue of branding, if you are trying to make a name or create a brand for yourself. I heard one agent speak about the dangers of oversharing on the Internet. When she went to one potential author's blog, she noticed a small icon in the sidebar that made her curious. She clicked on it, and it led to a site that supported mothers who'd lost a child to stillbirth. She said, frankly, it made her feel "weird" knowing that about the author, and cautioned us to never put anything political, controversial, or too personal in our blogs or social media interactions (but always to make sure to blog and interact with an authentic "voice," lol).

Debbie Downer
Debbie Downer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
People don't want to read someone who is Debbie Downer all the time. So yes, if social media is a part of a larger public relations effort, we should always consider whether what we are writing and blogging reflects the persona we want to show the world.

While I applauded that agent's honesty, and have enjoyed conversing with her at various events - she's really nice friendly and pleasant - I also crossed her off the list of people I could ever imagine working with.

Because I do blog from time to time about the hard, painful stuff, about sexual morals, and rape, and racism, and other things that make people feel uncomfortable. This is part of my brand. (Although, hopefully, people don't feel like this blog and my other social media interactions are consistently negative in tone or mood.)

Mean Girls Nice Women All Agree, Right?

Or at least, they'd like to convince us nice women all agree. Here's the problem: the "We don't talk about that in public" agreement is a big part of what contributes to rape culture and the social isolation of people who are different. It doesn't matter whether that difference is being motherless or having an unloving mother on Mothers Day, being raped by a schoolmate and shunned by schoolmates, having a disability, being LGBT... There is a constant stream of spoken and unspoken messages to those who are different which say that if you speak out or write about it "too much," it's like you are stealing the other kid's balloon and popping it out of spite. Why can't you pretend to be like everyone else?

I'm sure that the author of that post would claim that it's not that she's telling people to be silent; just not to make such a fuss on those days when everyone else in the world (or so it seems) is celebrating.

Unfortunately, those are often the days those in pain most need to reach out to their own social networks for support.

I don't, mostly, post the gory intimate details of my personal life on FaceBook, but I know people who do. My sister, for one, is garnering a great deal of strength and support from posting about her thoughts and feelings as she battles cancer, and, in past months, as she fought (unsuccessfully) for her husband's life. Somebody should tell her to check a calendar before she posts, because it's not "nice" to "make" people who are celebrating Mothers Day feel a twinge of discomfort?

I. Don't. Think. So.

Differences Can Separate, But Can Also Bring Together

FaceBook and other social media are supposed to be ways that connect people. It can be absolutely empowering to meet and interact with other people, even from a distance, who share something unusual: maybe it's a love of stamp-collecting, maybe it's being left-handed in a right handed world. Maybe it's grieving a loved one from an atheistic or agnostic religious viewpoint (there's a great FaceBook group for that, Grief Beyond Belief).

Sometimes you have friends who share a common wound that you don't even realize, until one of you shares something about it on, yep, social media.

My Feelings Are My Business; Your Feelings Are Your Business

I know, I know, many people pride themselves on empathy. That they can't help feeling other people's pain, and maybe that's where the conspiracy of STFU comes from. I used to feel that way, too.

But as I am learning, that's not a healthy way to live. Empathy is good, but a healthy way to have empathy is to be touched by and understanding of someone else's pain, not to be drowning in it.  That's enmeshment.

It's not healthy to get in a swivet about other people's expressions of grief or joy or fear or whatever, or to try to control where or how they express their emotions because you feel uncomfortable with them.

We're All In This Together

Today, all kinds of things happened: somebody's baby died, somebody got the news their house was destroyed by fire, somebody else got married or promoted or won the lottery. Somehow, we have to learn to live with the tragedies and triumphs of other people, all the time.

One of the wonderful things my local RWA chapter does is we celebrate successes and failures at our monthly meeting. You get applause and small tokens for good news - an agent signs you, you finish a manuscript, you get a book contract; and you get applause, sympathy and a chocolate truffle for rejection, because those, too, are part of the writing journey.

If being "nice" means telling other people they shouldn't express their pain or joy or whatever on FaceBook, because it would spoil my mood, then I hope I'm never a nice person.

Do you resent when people share painful things when you're in a happy mood?
Do you agree that people should censor themselves on social media during "special" days?
Your thoughts?
Enhanced by Zemanta