Monday, February 2, 2015

Slut of the Month: Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker in Banana Skirt from the Folie...
Josephine Baker in Banana Skirt from the
Folies Bergère production "Un Vent de Folie"
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From St. Louis, Mo, to Harlem, to Paris,

From washergirl to cabaret star to French spy.

Born Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3, 1906, she was the illegitimate child of a vaudeville drummer, Eddie Carson, and a fellow performer, Carrie McDonald. When Carson abandoned the two, Carrie became a laundress, and Josephine would as well, being sent into white households at the age of eight, where one woman burned the child's hands for putting too much soap in the laundry.

At age thirteen, she was living on the streets, sleeping in card boxes and scavenging for food from trash cans. Sometime around then she made her first of four marriages; this one very short-lived.

At age 15, Josephine would join the St. Louis Chorus vaudeville show, and from there, her talent springboarded her to New York City.

New York's Nice, But Paris Is Always A Good Idea

Although she enjoyed success in New York, it wasn't until Josephine Baker (she divorced her second husband, but kept the name) relocated to Paris and began appearing nearly nude onstage in La Revue Nègre in 1925 that she took Europe by storm.  She was not afraid to shake her banana skirt, to cut a rug in her Charlston, to cross her eyes and clown for the camera or the audience. Josephine appeared in several movies, and as a muse for the artistic community of the world, including Langston Hughes, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Christian Dior, and many others.

She also knew that, despite her success, her voice needed help, and worked with a vocal coach in 1934 to prepare for a six month opera role as the lead in La creole.

Note the look that Liza Minelli would later copy.

In the 1930's, Josephine married again, to a Frenchman this time. But despite all the incredible things her body could do, having babies wasn't one of them.

Winning over America was another. When she visited the United States in 1935-1936, the audiences in the land of her birth did not pack in at the box offices to see her.

But she could be a kick-ass spy,

Too Busy Eyeing Her Tits to Suspect Her Brain

During World War II, Josephine's cachet as an entertainer allowed her to mingle at parties with high ranking Japanese officials, Italians, traveling to Portugal and North Africa. Her reports were written in invisible ink on her sheet music, or pinned inside her underwear.

It was in North Africa she would suffer her last miscarriage, with a resulting infection that required a hysterectomy and still developed into septicemia.

After the end of the war, Josephine would receive the highest decorations for her service, as well as being made a Chevalier of the Legion d'honneur.

America, 1950's Style

Josephine had long supported the American Civil Rights Movement from afar. In 1951 she returned to the US, to performed in Miami, after fighting for and  winning a battle to perform to a desegregated audience. But a public row with columnist Walter Winchell led to a termination of her work visa, and she had to return to France.

She was able to return to the United States in the 1960's, and was the only official female speaker at the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

She Built Her Own Rainbow Tribe Long Before Madonna or Angelina

Photo by Rudolf Suroch of Josephine Baker. Hav...
Photo by Rudolf Suroch of Josephine Baker. Havana, Cuba. 1950 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Josephine had the idea that she could build her own family out of children adopted from all over the world. She adopted Akio from Japan, Jari from Finland, Luis from Colombia... eventually, twelve children in all.

However, she did not prove the kindest, most attentive, or loving of mothers, leaving them for long periods of time with their nannies, housing them in the attic of her chateau, beds in a row as if in an orphanage. The children would be dressed and led outside to be displayed to the press in such a way that one son described feeling like they were pet monkeys.

She tried to control their future - they were to be trained in professions of her choosing, and return to their countries of origin as useful citizens.

None were to become artists; in fact, music instruction was banned.

And despite her own open bisexuality, she was intolerant of the developing homosexuality displayed by one of her adoptive sons.

Final Curtain Call

After parting ways with her fourth husband, who had managed her finances, Josephine lost her chateau for unpaid debts. She was able to settle in an apartment near Monaco, with  the assistance of longtime friend Princess Grace. In the early and mid 1970's, she would star in performances at Carnegie Hall in the US, the London Palladium, and the Bobino in Paris.

Four days after her Bobino revue, she would be comatose, having suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Josephine Baker would pass away in a French hospital, at age 68, and be memorialized in countless plays, music videos, streets, restaurants, documentaries, paintings, and movies.

Curious about past sluts, from Russian Empresses to South African "curiosities" to Biblical villainesses? Listing of past Slut posts is here.

Would  you invite Josephine Baker to a virtual dinner party if you could?
Did you know that she was a heroine of World War II?
Your thoughts?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cuddles and Snuggles and Anal Play Workshops (SPLA)

Man and woman having anal sex. Ceramic, Moche ...
Man and woman having anal sex. Ceramic, Moche Culture. 300 C.E. Larco Museum Collection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, I'm deep into exploring the world of Sex Positive Los Angeles, both for myself, as a sexual human being, AND because there's so much more variety to learn, as a writer of romantic and sexual fiction, to understand and express, than just Penis-In-Vagina sex.

Not that there's anything wrong with PIV sex. I am a huge fan of PIV sex. (Just ask anybody.)

Many sex scenes, in fiction and in p0rn, dive into penetrative sex, including anal, all too soon. Meanwhile, there's this whole, wide, wonderful world of sexuality and sensuality that goes overlooked and underwritten.

Not always. Take the incredibly arousing frottage scene between Minerva and Colin in Tessa Dare's A Week to be Wicked. Part A never gets inserted into Slot B, but if you can read that chapter without getting OMG-where's-my-boyfriend-or-vibrator HAWT, there's something wrong with you. Just saying.

So, because I'm the research as procrastination self-sacrificing kind of writer y'all know and love, I'm sharing with you the results of my weekend explorations.

Not About the Butthurt

When I dragged myself in to the SPLA workshop on Awesome Anal by Charlie Glickman, I came in  with a whole world of buts.
  • Anal sex might be fun, eventually, BUT I hate how it's always so painful at first. (And sometimes, it never gets better.)  Or, sometimes, it's just meh, I-could've-had-a-V-8  - okay, but not particularly memorable sex.
  • I guess I should learn about this, because many guys seem to be into it, and I need to be able to write scenes that include it, BUT it's not something I will ever want to do, much.
  • Receiving anal play can be intensely pleasurable for men, BUT many of them are afraid admitting any interest will "mark" them as being gay or bi. (This particular myth is true, at least for now. Not that there is anything wrong with being gay or bi.)
But that other stuff? Totally wrong.

If It Hurts, You're Not Doing It Right

Using an anatomical chart, Dr. Glickman explained with words, and sometimes using sex toys, exactly what is going on with penile or toy penetration in both males and females (swapping out the prostate for the G-spot). Also, in women, care must be taken to prevent fluids from trickling into the vagina.  Bouncing from A directly to V with a penis, fingers, or a toy that hasn't been thoroughly washed? Monistat might thank you, but the V will NOT.

There was also an amazing live demo with a volunteer. AMAZING.

I can't cover everything in a short blog post, and anyway, trust me, you want to take this class in person, and buy the book.

But (that word again!) a few highlights:

  • PIA (Penis-In-Anus) makes up only a very, very small part of anal play.  If you're going to play that way, you want to warm up for at least 45-50 minutes. The idea is to invite, not force, anything.
  • There are all kinds of pleasurable strokes and touches and caresses that take place both on the outside, and on the inside.
  • If you're the prep-with-an-enema type, commercial enemas that contain laxatives are not the best solution.
  • Nitrile gloves and other barriers are a damn smart idea and do not inhibit sensation.
  • Because of the way the body works, and because lube is slippery, it is a terrible idea to use any toys, vegetables, or other objects that do not have a built-in "stopper" at the end.
  • If you do, don't try to bullshit the paramedics or emergency room about how you were dusting the ceiling, naked, and just happened to fall on the object that's now lodged inside your rectum.

I am definitely going to be buying this book, AND incorporating fun anal play into my writing and my life.

Cuddling, Some of the Most Fun You Can Have with Your Clothes On

So the other eye-opening event was I attended an SPLA Cuddling and Snuggling party.  Like the anal workshop, I went in a little apprehensive and nervous.

I know, on paper, that cuddles are good for us - for the immune system, for the oxytocin high, for pain relief, and many other healthy things. But... cuddling with a stranger, or people with whom I'm barely acquainted, but not normally that intimate? Have to admit, it kind of squicked me out.

And I was afraid I would do something wrong, or fart or something.

For starters, since this was an SPLA Level 2 event, no one was present who hadn't attended at least one orientation, and was familiar with rules of active consent, with the responsibility of self-care, with saying no, with negotiation, and understood there was freedom to disengage at any time, and where to go physically if we needed to take a break from the cuddle and snuggle area.

We started with verbal introductions, then did stretches to loosen up. Then our facilitator grouped us in sets of three, and used a timer to have each of us, in turn, request some kid of touch from our two partners. I've been having issues with with a tight neck/shoulder muscle, so I asked for massage work in that area. Others asked for foot massages, or arm stroking, or hair brushing, or whatever THEY needed. Everybody was free to ask, everybody was free to say no. Soft music played in the background (and, sometimes, the sounds of dogs barking was heard).

After we each got a turn, one of my three partners wanted some spooning. I ended up being part of several different spoon configurations, sometimes sandwiched, sometimes on the inside, sometimes on the outside. Sometimes there was handholding, arm or face or breast stroking, sometimes just holding.  Sensual, not sexual.

All along the way there was continual checking in, "Is it okay I am touching you like this? Are you comfortable? What would you like?" I found myself humming along to the music sometimes, or almost purring.

The purring, I come by naturally.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Slut of the Month: Hedy Lamarr

Cropped screenshot of Hedy Lamarr from the tra...
Cropped screenshot of Hedy Lamarr from the trailer for the film Come Live with Me (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Austrian-born actress Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was a goddess on screen... and a techno-geek in her spare time.

She first scampered into movies in Germany in 1930, with her nude scenes and simulated orgasm in 1933's Extase (Ecstacy) at age 18 raising controversy.

At the time of the movie's release, she was married to munitions manufacturer Friedrich Mandl, one of Hitler's best buds. According to her autobiography, he was a controlling SOB, keeping her a virtual prisoner in his castle. But as one benefit of this, Hedy was brought along by Mandl to business meetings with scientists and military technical experts, where she absorbed a fair amount of information about their strategies and techniques.

In 1937 she escaped to Paris, where she met Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, who was delighted to add the exotic looking beauty to his roster of studio talent.  He promoted her as "the world's most beautiful woman."

Cropped screenshot of Hedy Lamarr from the tra...
Cropped screenshot of Hedy Lamarr from the trailer for the film Lady of the Tropics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With a new last name chosen in tribute to silent film star Barbara La Marr, Hedy La Marr would begin her Hollywood career with a film called Algiers, and go on to make dozens of movies in the 1930's and 1940's.

However her film roles did not satisfy her active mind. From Wikipedia:
White Cargo one of Lamarr's biggest hits at MGM, contains, arguably, her most memorable film quote delivered with hints of a provocative invitation: "I am Tondelayo. I make tiffin for you?" This line typifies many of Lamarr's roles, which emphasized her beauty and sexuality but were light on lines. The lack of acting challenges bored Lamarr, and she turned to inventing to relieve her boredom.
Apparently three kids and five additional marriages didn't scratch that intellectual itch, either.

Among Hedy's inventions was an improved traffic stoplight, and a fizzy beverage tablet that was not a hit. But her main claim to fame, today, as an inventor, was her co-creation (with composer George Antheil) of frequency hopping spread-spectrum.

Hop What?

So, what is frequency hopping spread-spectrum technology, and why should we care?

I'm not a techno-geek, but as I understand it, wireless technology in the 1940's consisted of the sender and receiver tuning in to a particular frequency, like playing spies with the walky-talkies in your neighborhood as a kid, you both send/receive messages using channel 8, for example.

The problem, in wartime (and other times), it's pretty easy for the enemy to discover what channel you're using (even if you're using code), and to jam or disrupt your communications. Start broadcasting on another channel: lather, rinse, repeat.

Hedy thought if they could find a way that communications could be sent and received via a system that hopped across a spectrum, that nobody would be able to intercept or jam ALL of them.  She and her neighbor, who was also a composer, devised and patented a system on 1941 based on the 88 keys of the piano, and... it works.

The US did not, ultimately, put it to use during World War II, But almost every human being does, today, because her invention became the backbone for the digital technology that makes cellphones, fax machines, and Bluetooth possible.  So if you sent or received a text, or used a wireless device, thank Hedy LaMarr and George Antheil.

The Tell-All Autobiography - or Is It?

Ecstacy and Me was published in 1966, and Hedy would later sue the publisher, claiming her ghostwriter had slipped in fictional anecdotes. So, is it a perhaps too true recounting of her life, that she later regretted divulging, or full of details that might have been "filthy, nauseating, and revolting," according to one judge, but also, false?

In her later years, Hedy's life would be less than pretty. She was arrested for shoplifting, and there were rumors of pill addiction and botched plastic surgery. She died in Florida in 2000 at the age of 85, and her ashes were spread in the Vienna Woods. She also has an honorary grave in Vienna's Central Cemetery, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Curious about past sluts, from Russian Empresses to South African "curiosities" to Biblical villainesses? Listing of past Slut posts is here.

What did you know about this goddess of the silver and smartphone screen?
Do you have a favorite Hedy LaMarr movie to recommend?
Your thoughts?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Inventory - Word of the Year for 2015

Rather than resolutions, a lot of people, some bloggers, some not, choose to pick a specific word to focus on for the upcoming year. For 2015, mine is inventory.

Are you saying, oookay, and scratching your head? Because most folks choose words like inspiration and fitness and hope and change and crap like that.

Inventory-Control-Q-IC da
Inventory-Control-Q-IC da (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Taking Inventory is something I had to do regularly, in various jobs. (Hello, working in food & beverage!) But I never thought of applying it to my personal life, until my friend Tony Faggioli (a terrific writer, btw, he's going to be on a bestseller shelf near you someday soon) used it in one of his novels.

Tony's detective hero, Napoleon, is faced with an antagonist who is taller and bigger (and, possibly, demonic, but that's another discussion). Outmatched, right? But before plunging in, blindly, and hoping for a miracle, Napoleon "takes an inventory" of the skills and advantages he does have, before engaging. And (spoiler alert!) he is able to overcome the bad guy (without using his gun).

So I kind of fell in love with the idea of taking inventory of my life, both on a broad scale, and on a daily, in the moment scale.

What's overstocked in my life ?

What steps can I take to reduce the overstock that's creating problems - too many books or clutter or possessions? Too many demands on my time, too many friends or lovers? (Not currently a problem, but that could change.)

Hoarding in an apartment, via Wikimedia

Guilty Indulgence: I used to watch a reality show called Wife Swap. One week a woman was on there who was a little over-the-top, IMO (of course, that's why they pick 'em). She  was so anal about organizing, she wore a label gun in a holster on her belt.

But her tip stuck with me: When deciding whether or not to keep something, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Do I love it? (like that weird ashtray your kid made for you in shop)
  • Do I need it? (like your toothbrush)
  • Does it make me money? (like research books)

And if you can't answer yes to at least one of those questions, the thing - whether it's an ugly painting your dead aunt gave you that you've been hiding in the closet forever, or that set of weights you haven't used in five years - needs to go away, to make room for things that you do love, or need, or that make you money.

In terms of people, Dr. Phil uses the expression, contributing to, or contaminating, when evaluating actions in personal relationships.  And if someone is your life is a constant buzzkill or or time-suck...

Friends and lovers who aren't adding to your life, but only to your sense of obligation and/or guilt, even family members... Perhaps it's time to either cut them loose, or, at to see less of them.

What's missing on my "shelves"? 

via Wikimedia

I figured out I needed more mens in my life, so I joined OKCupid, and some chat groups, and have found out that, lucky me, living in L.A., there are lots of mens all around me. Some of them don't appeal to me, and some of them aren't interested in me, and some who do appeal at first click turn out to be totally douchey. But some of them are a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to filling my, uhm,  man shelves, in 2015. Deeply and completely and with lots of variety.

And I realized, I also needed more girl-gossip, specifically about this whole exciting world of dating. So I created a secret, safe place to make it happen (send me a message on FB if you're female-identifying, and want in) and I am having sooo much fun with it, and the terrific women from so many areas of my life, from high school friends to poly friends and blogger friends, and author friends and other members of Sex Positive Los Angeles.

I needed somebody who was happy to see me every day when I came home from work, too, and now I have Motivation and Creativity, aka Mojo and Tivvy.

Creativity & Motivation

But getting back to our detective, Napoleon, and some of the exercises I've learned in Sex Positive Los Angeles. If somebody asks me for a hug, and I'm not sure I want one, or maybe I do want one, but not from this person, I am not obligated to allow him or her to hug me. It's okay healthy to stop, take inventory of how I am feeling, before I say, "No, thank you." Or if I would like it, I can give a big "Hell, yes!" a big smile, and a big hug.

(Hugs, from men or women, are awesome, just saying.)

Life Can Offer Us a Smorgasbord - But Do We Want That Thing?

I grew up in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. And going to smorgasbord was like heaven, even for a normally picky eater like me.  Oh, so many, many tasty things from which to choose!

But, there's an analogy used by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her Running with the Wolves audioseries that resonates deeply with me.

You see, we often make our choices, based on what's in front of us. What catches our eye, what is right in front of us, that we suddenly crave?

via PinayMedia Planner

We might look at a smorgasbord and think, ooh, yes! I would like a croissant roll with some honey butter on it, please, or perhaps some of those yummy sausages.

That choice is based on snatching from what's displayed in front of us. Because there is is, and it looks so tasty! It's not bad; it's a human thing, and we all do it, all the time. (Or, a feline thing: It's a box, and I must jump into it!)

But what if, instead, we took inventory? What if we asked, "What am I really hungry for?" Maybe, when it comes to food, we might be really hungry for celery with peanut butter in it. And probably, that is not on that table.

And so our first task is to take inventory, and our second task, to figure out how to fill our shelves not just by choosing from whatever is in front of us, but from evaluating what we are truly hungry for, and figuring out a way to fill that need.

Joining in both the Fabulous Friends of Chloe bloghop, and the SoCal Lady Bloggers Bloghop.

Your thoughts?