About Northwestern University

03/08/2011 at 1:53 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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A recent controversy in sex education involves one Prof. John Micheal Bailey, from Northwestern University. Professor Bailey teaches a Human Sexuality class to some 600 college students. He is a controversial figure, as described on the wiki page linked to – previous work includes his theories about homosexuality (he believes it is largely an inherited orientation,) and a book about transsexuality, which has been heavily criticized by trans activists for racism & transphobia (Plus Bailey engaged in unethical conduct while making the book.)

Bailey’s sexuality class includes optional events with guest speakers who talk frankly about sex & sexuality. The controversial event in question was titled, “Networking for Kinky People,” and the guest speaker was Ken Melvoin-Berg, associated with the Weird Chicago Tours group. Melvoin-Berg brought his partner and a kinky, engaged, exhibitionist couple with him to the event. (The couple has been named by some sources while others are keeping them anonymous; I’ll stick to the anonymity route here since outed kinky folk face safety risks.)

According to this Salon.com article, during the day’s lecture, Bailey presented a lesson on the G-spot. The Chicago Tribune says that the lecture included an educational video about the G-spot. Melvoin-Berg, his partner & the kinky couple arrived early, so they happened to be there for Bailey’s lecture and video. Melvoin-Berg’s group members were all unimpressed. So just before their speaking part was about to begin (after the lecture was officially over,) Melvoin-Berg asked Bailey for permission to demonstrate to the class what a g-spot orgasm looks like, in person, with a fucksaw. (Exactly what it sounds like: This is basically a modified power-tool with a dildo on the working end.) Bailey hesitated but decided that the demonstration would fall within the bounds of the scheduled speaking event, since such a demonstration is undeniably kinky.

So that’s what happened. The couple Melvoin-Berg brought with him, did exactly that – after giving an hour & half speaking lecture with a Q&A session first, according to Rabbit Write (the same Rabbit Write who organized Lady Porn Week.) When Melvoin-Berg’s crew finished the speaking portion of their presentation, the boyfriend used the fucksaw on his girlfriend and she had several g-spot orgasms in front of about 100 or so present students.

After that, the student newspaper reported on the event. From there, a lot of mainstream news sites picked up on the story. Reports about sex are easily sensationalized & they sell well or generate page views, whatever. So now there’s a lot of backlash & controversy going around now.

I can’t decide whether I’m in favor of this event or not. At first I was all for it – I thought, “That sounds useful,” and I understand that sometimes, written instructions, diagrams and educational videos fall short because they do not provide experience. I needed help learning how to find and then use my own pelvic floor muscles. Although I had anatomy diagrams and written instructions on how to dilate, I eventually hit a wall with my at-home dilator kit and needed to get physical therapy to progress with treating my vaginismus. (It was an incredibly clinical, non-sexual and useful experience – not really all that much different from rehabilitating any other muscle group, except for all the cultural baggage and weight assigned to people’s genitals.) But that was something I initiated, and since it took place behind closed doors, there was no risk of making anybody else know what was going on.
But then the more I read about Professor Bailey and the Northwestern University event, the more I started to change my mind & think to myself, “Hmmm… maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…”

Even Bailey himself has issued a formal apology, of sorts, for drawing such negative media attention to NU. If he could do it over again, he wouldn’t.

However, demonstrations like this have taken place before – just not on campus. Let’s all turn to Page 13 of Sex Toys 101: A Playfully Uninhibited Guide by Rachel Venning and Claire Cavanah. Some of the relevant parts are available on pages 13 & 14 from Google Books. Unfortunately not everything got scanned in – it looks like all the pictures are missing, and page 14’s relevant text is blocked out (It should be on the left side of the page.)

To summarize the relevant passages, the book says that a couple of years ago, sex educators affiliated with Babeland (then still known as Toys in Babeland,) took their G-spot program to a “Carnival-style book release party of a friend of Babeland…” (The next page says this event took place at a bar.) The sex educators set up a tent and one of them called out to passers-by, asking patrons to go in. People who went into the tent (up to 10 at a time) received a lesson in human female anatomy, complete with some suggestions for ways to find the g-spot. But the lesson didn’t end there, “Once they were inside, we gave them more than just a lecture.”

One of the sex educators took safe sex precautions (a glove and lubricant in this case,) and said, “Okay, who wants to experience it [a g-spot orgasm]?” So one lady and her boyfriend stepped up and the lady sat down in the hot seat. The description on page 14 says that this volunteer took off her underwear & used a vibrator on herself, so onlookers would have her masturbating. Then the sex educator with the lubricated glove on inserted two fingers into the volunteer’s vagina & found the g-spot. It’s not clear from the text on this page whether the volunteer had an orgasm on site. The text makes it sound like this scene was repeated throughout the evening.

So one reason I don’t fully understand exactly what the problem with the February 2011 demonstration is that there’s precedent for g-spot demonstrations just like the one at Northwestern University. This already happens. The show-and-tell described in the Sex Toys 101 book didn’t use a video, puppet or a piece of fruit as a stand-in.
On the other hand, this article from GoodVibes says that events which GV hosts do use stand-ins or clothed volunteers. So okay, sex educators can go either way when it comes to live demonstrations.

At first I thought the reason the school program caused so much controversy is that it must have been paid for with school funds, because that’s what was going on when feminist pornographer Tristan Taomino was initially un-invited from speaking at Oregon University. The student newspaper says that NU has events sponsored by Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and this Chicago Tribune article says that NU provides funding to Bailey & his speakers (including Melvoin-Berg but not the kinky couple) via this organization. But according to this statement from Bailey, he arranges the class events at “Considerable investment of my time, for which I receive no compensation from Northwestern University,” which makes it sound like he pays for the class’s extra-curricular speaking events out of his own pocket. So now I can’t follow the money trail because there’s like 3 different things going on there. (Maybe the school doesn’t pay him for the time it takes to arrange speakers but it does cover their fees? Like, no overtime pay for whatever networking is required to set everything up?)

So far what I’ve read about the event says that, participants who stayed for the demonstration aren’t the ones who are upset about it – as of 3/6/11, Bailey says that all the feedback received from attending students was positive. It is people who were not present for the show and found out about it afterwards that are registering complaints. They’re upset that it took place at all. I’m seeing similar complaints in comment sections of articles summarizing the event, and the negative comments usually contain some variation of “Immoral,” “distasteful,” “exploitative,” or “sick.” Something to that effect, which focuses on the content of the demonstration. Since kink is widely misunderstood & berated, I’m thinking that such comments would inevitably be made of such a demonstration or sex act regardless of the setting.

Every once in awhile a commenter will bring up the viewers’ ability to fully consent, which I think is a stronger argument against the demonstration, since it was spur-of-the-moment. An event like this should have required time to plan it out and better distribute information about the content. There wasn’t time to include this on the syllabus, basically (though being an optional event, it wouldn’t have been required either.) But even then, the articles say that Bailey & Melovin-Berg took steps with the limited time they had to make sure that the students understood what the content of the demonstration was going to have & that they had the option to leave without penalty, which some students did exercise. Yet, one student Bailey’s class explicitly told the media, “Then, just out of nowhere, the girl just takes her pants off, takes her shirt off, takes her underwear off.” That the student used the phrase “Just out of nowhere” suggests to me that adequate preparation for the students was nonetheless lacking. It should have come from somewhere. This student, though, also acknowledges that students were given adequate opportunity to leave.

So with regards to what the real problem is with this NU event, I keep getting different answers – including the “Nothing wrong” answer. I can’t pinpoint it down. But having done just a cursory background check on Bailey himself, even I am now resistant against throwing all my support behind him too. Will NU administrators be more translucent with their investigative findings now than they were when claims of impropriety were previously leveled against Bailey?

P.S. Good god almighty can I just express my own frustration with this entry –  this was hard to research; every source I checked had different pieces & I couldn’t get a comprehensive tell-all! And then before I knew it I had 1600 words and okay fine, up it goes.

Book review: Sex Toys 101

09/03/2009 at 8:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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By now it should be understood that I have an interest in sexuality books, and am always looking to pick up good and/or unique ones when I can. One such book of interest is Sex Toys 101: A Playfully Uninhibited Guide, by Rachel Venning & Claire Cavanah – founders of Babeland. I first read it about a year ago and got sidetracked before I could post an in-depth review, so let’s not delay any further.

The first thing I have to say about this book is that, it’s a very ~*~pretty~*~ book. It’s filled with rich, full-color photography of sex toys & sex toy accessories. If it were any other topic, (or if you’re a very open person,) it would fit right in on your coffee table in plain sight. Some of the text is written in colored boxes away from the rest of the body of work, to emphasize one point or another. Even if you don’t read the words, you might still like the pictures.

The second thing I have to say about Sex Toys 101 is that, it covers a lot of ground in a relatively small package – it weighs in under 200 pages, so a voracious reader could potentially burn through Sex Toys 101 in a day or two.

The topics follow in some sense of order, although you could start on any chapter & skip the parts you already know. It begins with an overview of sexual anatomy, followed by sex on the brain – ways to communicate & explore your sexuality. Then there are several chapters dedicated to describing different types of sex toys, lubricants, and how to choose & how to use them. These toys are broadly categorized as vibrators, dildoes, and anal toys, but in practice there’s a lot of specialization and overlap. Although Sex Toys 101 is written with primarily a feminine audience in mind, it does include one chapter about toys aimed at men. There are two chapters that talk about BDSM – these chapters contained a lot of information that was “New to me.” The last chapter covers safe sex, although technically with all the safety tips scattered throughout the text, the rest of the book is really about safer sex anyway.

For the most part, I felt welcome to indulge in Sex Toys 101, unlike with other sex books. Often when I’m browsing for new books about sex, I feel left out. “Oh these books aren’t for me. The authors wouldn’t even know what to do with me.” This was especially a concern to me going in, since I knew that the book was going to include quite a bit of discussion on toys designed for vaginal insertion, and that’s not always an option for me.

But Babeland, with its long history in business, has encountered all kinds of clients, and tries especially hard to make sure women feel welcome in its stores. So I figured even if I couldn’t participate in one activity or another, the book would probably have something else to offer.

And indeed, that’s what happened – yes there is some discussion on toys designed for vaginal penetration, and the only graduated dilator kit that makes an appearance is the 3-tier Silk line. But some of these phalluses can do double-duty as vibrators and/or for use in strap-on sex, and/or, I imagine, as another transitional step in the dilating process if you’re not *quite* there yet. And luckily since the scope of the book isn’t limited to discussion of phallic objects, there were other topics and toys that I definitely felt more comfortable with.

That said, one area of discussion did leave me feeling left behind, and that area is the G-spot. I felt the book put a very strong emphasis on finding & stimulating the G-spot in females. According to Sex Toys 101, the G-spot is the in front of the urethral sponge, a “a ring of erectile tissue that surrounds the urethra. It contains glands that when aroused release fluid into the urethra.” (20) Stimulating this area when aroused can be pleasurable, and may lead to female ejaculation. The book includes pictures & descriptions of many sex toys designed to stimulate this spot.

But how would you even find the G-spot if inserting objects vaginally hurts? How do you reach the G-spot if you have vaginismus and/or vulvodynia?

Or what if you find it and it just doesn’t do anything for you?

I’m at a point where I’m often (but not always; never always,) able to handle internal stimulation comfortably, and I’m certain that I’ve found my own G-spot… but I’m not at a point where I enjoy that part of my body. So far when I stimulate the G-spot, it just feels weird & uncomfortable, not pleasurable.

Am I doin’ it wrong, again?

I take some comfort knowing that I am not the only one who is skeptical of the hoopla over the G-spot. It’s as Betty says – “Naturally we felt like we were missing out on something special.” Indeed

There’s a couple of other potentially questionable areas. When discussing “A short history of vibrators,” the authors do not question whether the women who were treated for “hysteria” were actually comfortable having a strange person bring them to orgasm. Sex Toys 101 contains a lot of swear words (“Asshole,” “Fucking,” etc.) which I personally feel put off by; your mileage may vary. And the book ends abruptly – there’s no epilogue, no testaments from satisfied clients, no list of additional resources. The story just stops at the end of the chapter on safer sex.
It does have an index though, thankfully.

Additionally, the book was published in 2003, so some of the information has become outdated – and new toys have been produced since then. As an example, at the time of publication the only two non-latex, non-lambskin condom options available in the US were the Durex Avanti condoms and the Reality female condom (both polyurethane.) But Durex is phasing out the polyurethane Avanti in favor of polyisoprene Bare (Source: I e-mailed Durex!) and there are other polyisoprene condoms now available, such as Lifestyles Skyn. I can’t say I approve of Durex phasing out the Avantis; I like them. Guess I’ll have to stock up…

One thing to keep in mind, the “101” in the title is right – This book has a broad scope and touches upon many different topics, without delving too far into detail about any of them. For those who are just starting to embark on the road to sexuality – this is a good place to start. You’ll find lots of interesting ideas to think about, and you may find some paths worth exploring alone or with a parnter.
But if you’re active on sexuality messages boards online, the book may not have much new information for you. Or, if you have a strong interest in a one or more specific aspects of sexuality, such as BDSM or anal sex, you might be better off buying another book dedicated to that one topic.
On the other hand, if you’re a sex enthusiast, you might like reading through the book and just adding it to the collection. You may take some comfort seeing some of your favorite toy-buddies in vibrant full color photography. The back  cover describes Sex Toys 101 as being “The first fully illustrated, comprehensive guide to the world of sex toys,” and while it’s not alone anymore, it set the bar pretty high for this new generation of sexuality books.

Noted: Using dilators is kinky

06/01/2009 at 6:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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I don’t think of myself as a very kinky person. There’s a few kinks I’m interested in already or developing an interest in which I could probably go into detail about at a later time.

But apparently I’m actually a kinkier person than I thought. For some reason, “Vaginal dilation” is listed on a kink checklist brought to my attention by a dear friend. You’ll have to register to answer the questions, but you can still view them here. (Some terms may be triggering?) Much to my surprise, one of the items on that long list is “Vaginal dilation.”

Lol wut? That’s a kink? Welp that’s news to me.

Is that website even using that phrase the same way I mean it? “You keep on using that word. I do not think you know what it means.”

Does it still count as a kink if you’re doing the slow graduated process of using a dilator kit for treatment of vaginismus? Or do they only mean if you’re taking things to the extreme?

You know what the survey doesn’t clarify whether they mean an extreme definition or not so, okay! I’ll go with that. I’m okay with that. Apparently I’m more kinky & creative & sexy than I thought. I’m not gona argue with that.

Yes I’m so, kinky & exotic when I’m dilating while watching tv or listening to music. Yes that’s so sexy & interesting (except it’s usually not.)

There’s only one way I can think of to celebrate this, achievement, for lack of a better term.


So everybody grab your dilator kits, join hands now and dance all night.

(It’s okay; you can still dance even if you don’t have a dilator kit.)

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