My turning point with safer sex happened in a cheese warehouse.
At the time, I was sleeping with a trans guy, Ben, and I was having a miserable time trying to make safer sex happen between us. Ben was in the beginning of his transition and had just started testosterone.
In the beginning of our relationship Ben had been open to using barriers. I’d brought it up before we had sex, but when it actually came time to use a dam I panicked because I’d never gone down on someone with one before. I said we didn’t have to and he seemed relieved. At the time I was mostly okay with going without barriers because we’d both been tested recently and were only having sex with each other.
As time went on, though, and Ben started sleeping with other people (we’re poly), I wanted both of us to start using barriers for real. Ben had been initiating condom use with strap-on sex all along, but now felt strongly that he didn’t want to use dams or nitrile gloves. He said they reminded him too much of being a lesbian. Dental dams and gloves were “what lesbians used,” and he said they made him feel dysphoric.
I roll my eyes at that now, and feel angry about the STI risks he exposed me and others to. But at the time, I was flummoxed. I wanted to be sensitive to his gender issues, and so instead of just taking sex off the table, we continued to have sex, with me feeling increasingly uncomfortable. Occasionally I’d bring up wanting to use barriers and it wouldn’t go anywhere.
Anyway, in the midst of a round of tension with Ben about safer sex, I got a temp job in a cheese warehouse. It was weird that I was working there because I was a vegan, plus I’ve always wanted to avoid food jobs. But the temp agency sent me over with only the warehouse address and the information that I’d be performing “shipping duties.”
The manager led me into a room that can only be described as a very large bunker. It had more cheese than you can possibly imagine. Like Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory levels of cheese. There was a room with row after row of large wheels of cheese stacked to the ceiling. Then there was a divider and another room with metal tables and tired-looking employees dressed like surgeons. I was soon to become one of these people.
The leader of the group introduced me to the procedures. Keeping the room sterile for the cheese was paramount, so in addition to the stylish outfit I’d have to wear, every few hours we’d completely sanitize the room. This involved washing all the cheese-cutting implements, taking an industrial hose out to blast the floors, and thoroughly scrubbing down every imaginable surface. If you touched your nose or mouth or left the room, you had to put on a whole new protective outfit. This included: a pair of white stretchy booties over your shoes, an apron, a second apron, these weird elastic trash bag things that went over your forearms like leg warmers, latex gloves, and a hairnet.
The third time I had to put on a whole new suit in two hours - I kept touching my nose; it’s hard not to - I had an epiphany.
Safer sex really isn’t that hard.
Read the whole (and so, so awesome!) piece at Scarleteen here.
Help! I’m in a relationship with a man (I identify as a straight woman) who identifies as queer. He’s mostly had sex with men in the past (there might have been 1 woman), but this is first heterosexual relationship. It’s also my first relationship with a queer man. I really care for him, but I am struggling with checking my own heteronormative attitudes. For example, I don’t know how to get over the fact that he enjoys watching gay porn, and mostly gets off to men. We still have great sex together and I know he is attracted to me, and I try to remind myself of this when I find myself getting bothered by what turns him on. I’m learning to love, not accept, that he is queer and that he has made me shift my thinking about relationships and sexuality so much. However, I still don’t know how to get myself out of these moments, sometimes ongoing, of insecurity.
I know many people experience different romantic vs sexual attraction, and from talking to him, I feel like he is a little more sexually attracted to men, and a more romantically attracted to women. We also have a very friendly/open sort of relationship (we started off as really good friends) where we talk openly about everything (something that seems to weird out my straight friends, especially when he talks about having sex with men). I love that we have this, but I can’t deny there are plenty of moments when he tells me how hot his favorite male porn star is or how horny he is after watching some video and I feel confused. We have talked about this, and he assured me that he wanted to be with me. Yet, I still feel increasingly insecure. I don’t want to make him feel like he has to repress a part of himself in order to be with me (and he is the type of person that would hide it from me if he saw it was hurting me). Can you give me some pointers on how to deal with this on my own, or what I should talk to him about?
Heather Corinna replies:
I’m glad you asked this question. I’m hoping I can give you some helps to evaluate your feelings, explore them some more, and find some things to talk about with your partner and perhaps work through and adjust together. I do suspect this is something where we might do a lot better having a conversation with some back-and-forth, so when you’re done reading this, if it doesn’t really do it for you, or you want to talk some more, you can hop on over to our message boards here and I’ll be glad to talk with you.
Before anything else, I’d be real with yourself about how bothered you are by what, as you say, turns him on. I’m not sure what you mean by that, but if there’s a big conflict between what he finds sexually exciting and whats to do, or how he wants to do it, and what you’re comfortable with and works for you, I’d start with a step back to make sure that a sexual relationship is really the right one for the two of you, or that it feels best emotionally to be in a sexual relationship with him right now rather than dialing things back to a more gradual place while you figure out what you’re really okay with and what you’re not, and how you two do and don’t mesh in this regard. In doing that, I’d encourage you to let go of worries that you’re being heteronormative or heterosexist: figuring out what you’re comfortable with or not in your intimate relationships like this truly isn’t going to impact someone else’s rights and liberties.
One thing I’d say to your questions and issues here, and I say this both as a sex educator, but also as a queer person, is that something that tends to get lost in translation for people who are only attracted to people of one gender when trying to understand those of us attracted to more than one is that gender is often a lot less relevant — and sometimes even totally irrelevant — for many of us who are queer and attracted to people of more than one gender.
Now, that can make some people feel more comfortable, while it makes others less so. If you’re someone, for instance, for whom gender is a huge part of who you are, then a partner who could care less if you were a man or a woman might feel uncomfortable. You might really want your femininity or womanhood to be something a partner is super-duper into; for whom it is very relevant. I can’t speak for you in this regard to know, nor can I say how important or unimportant your gender is to your partner. But, on the whole, gender often is far less important to queer people than it is to straight people.
On the other hand, that gender-whatever-thang can be a very freeing thing for people, especially in a world that puts gender so front-and-center all the damn time. And if you have the idea that the fact that you’re a woman somehow makes his feelings for you more iffy because he’s had a lot of history with men, and is also attracted to men, seeing that gender probably plays way less of a part for him as a queer person than it does for you as a straight person might give you some breathing room. At the very least, I’m hoping pointing that out might help you recognize that chances are good that gender in this equation is probably a bigger issue for you than it is for him.
I think if you can take some time to think about what role you want your gender — or gender, period — to play in your sexual or romantic relationships, and how, ideally, you want a partner to see your gender in that regard, how much focus and weight you like it to have, that could give you some good starts for talking about some of this together.
Something I’d suggest thinking about for yourself with this, too, are your feelings and ideas about male sexuality. When I say “male sexuality,” for the record, I’m really talking about however you conceive that yourself. Sexuality is so diverse that while we hear a lot about “male sexuality” and “female sexuality,” and our world tends to have often simplistic ideas about this that we can’t help but pick up, in actuality, there are so very many parts of sexuality for every person, and we all differ so much in our sexualities (and the ways we experience, perform and present our gender) that I find those terms to be mostly useless because the diversity is so great even amongst people of one given gender. But where they’re not useless is when ideas about those things may be playing a part, as they often are, in our sexualities or sexual relationships: then it makes sense, I think, to explore our feelings about those ideas.
Read the rest at Scarleteen here!
One night in the bath, my five-year-old son poked at his testicles. “What are these things called again?”
“They’re called testicles, but sometimes people call them balls,” I said.
He seemed momentarily satisfied, but the next night, on the toilet, he returned to the subject.
“These tentacles…” he started.
“Testicles,” he repeated. “What are they for?”
We’ve always talked about bodies and used correct language for anatomy. But this conversation felt different. Waylon’s questions were self-initiated and specific. After offering a hastily constructed answer, I consulted my parenting books. They counseled me to offer my child correct, technical, and honest information and to avoid overwhelming him with any information that wasn’t age-appropriate and that he didn’t need to know yet.
Sure, that sounds easy. Just like walking a tightrope. My son has the disposition of an attorney. His favorite questions are “Why?” and “What about…?”
I thought it would make things easier to keep the conversation factual and age-appropriate if I had some nice, feminist, LGBT-affirming book for talking to kids about their bodies. So I did the laziest thing in the world. I went to Amazon.com and searched for children’s books about sexuality.
Read the rest here.
I’m 23 years old.
Depending on who you ask, I’m a single woman or a wife, “sex-crazy” or sex-positive, a slut or a virgin. Obviously, I can’t be all of these things… but just as obviously, the wide variety of people and institutions I interact with throughout my day-to-day life are defining these terms very differently than I do. So let me be more clear, and maybe help you clear up some of your own confusion about what labels you “have to” use, and what labels you want to proudly claim for your own.
About four and a half years ago, my girlfriend Katie and I had what we would have called our “first time.” Since we’re both women, we don’t have the ease of understanding of what “losing your virginity” that someone paired with another person of a different gender might have. After a lot of conversations, we came to the decision that we didn’t want to be completely naked together until we had a room where we had a right to close and lock the door without anyone questioning us- in other words, until I could travel to her dorm room at her college rather than just seeing each other when we were both on break in our hometown. It was sweet, sometimes awkward, incredibly meaningful, and overall a wonderful “first time.”
But that’s not the end of the story.
Read the rest of this reader-submitted, first-person story about discovering your own sexual identity and what, if anything, “virginity” means to you here.
Have you just come out of the closet, or are you peeking through the keyhole thinking about it? Is life on the outside starting to look inviting, shiny and new?
(Yes, even you back there, hiding behind that box of moth balls and Aunt Ethel’s spectator pumps.)
I confess, I lucked out. I never really had to “come out” because I grew into my sexuality very clearly being attracted to and involved with both men and women, and my father acknowledging that basically went like this:
Dad: “So, was that your girlfriend that just slept over?”
Me: “No, that was just a friend.”
Dad: “Oh. Sorry. I didn’t mean to assume that—”
Me: “Don’t be. My girlfriend was the girl from the night before.”
Dad: “Oh. Gotcha.”
That was pretty much that.
No fuss, no fanfare, no drama, and at the time, I went to an urban arts school where just as many of us were gay and bisexual as those who were straight, so it was no big deal on that account either. Different time, different place, and I was indeed one of the lucky ones when it came to coming out. It may well be the most boring coming out story in history, but it’s mine, and I’ll take it.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t have my own mistakes to make, or that I didn’t watch friends of mine make a million when coming out themselves. So, I offer you a few tips to help make the transition a little bit easier, a little less rocky, and to hopefully give you a few less things to have to look back on and laugh at later.
Read the rest of Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out here. Happy national Coming Out Day, everyone!
Florida’s Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll has been accused by Carletha Cole, a former administrative assistant to Carroll, of being involved in an inappropriate sexual encounter with a female subordinate. Cole is a grandmother and a minister, who took a lie detector test regarding the accusations and passed.
When Carroll decided that she was going to defend this matter publicly, she stated that her accuser is not only attacking one person but is attacking her entire family. Her actions that followed demonstrated that she needed to transfer her pain.
In an attempt to seek public sympathy for her personal and professional matter, Carroll decided to insult every black woman who is a lesbian, bisexual and/or single. She decided that her personal status as a wife and mother with a long-lasting marriage to her husband was somehow superior and above reproach for inappropriate, extramarital relations. She further decided to insult my beautiful black sisters by comparing her life situation to those of longtime single women, and imply that women who engage in sexual relations with other women could not possibly look like her.
I am so furious and frustrated by a black woman of power trying to bring other black women down to save face. Jennifer Carroll, the core of your character is at stake, and you are showing your true colors. Leadership requires grace and dignity under fire, and you are showing that your character includes misguided superiority and poor judgment.
Read the rest at HuffPo Gay Voices here.