“It’s Complicated” Gets Simple

December 15, 2009 Interview, News, teh inetrwebz 4 Comments

bbr

We all know social media can be a double-sided sword. As more people get on Twitter and Facebook, including employers and family members, it becomes harder to overshare as freely as we did three or so years ago when it was just a handful of us on there.

Facebook can’t roll out security features fast enough–many people I know have cracked under the pressure of prying eyes, trading self-expression and fun digital socializing for peace and security. Well, not all is lost. A new network is on the scene and they’re committed to letting us overshare our shenanigans as publicly or privately as we deem fit.

Introducing: Blackbox Republic, a site where “It’s complicated” gets simple.

Lowdown

Blackbox Republic takes quality seriously. They’re more interested in fostering a sex-positive environment for people to be themselves and connect than in exploding in users within hours of launching. To fight against creeps and spam, they’ve put in several safeguards in place: for starters, it’s five bucks a month to be a member. Not only that, but you need to get vouched by at least one other member of the community (who gets a limited number of vouches).

The site has launched with privacy settings in place, so you won’t be rushing around after an embarrassing incident trying to make everything private (ahem, Facebook). There are also two types of connections on the site, which work a little like Twitter: followers and friends. Your friends get to see and do a whole lot more than your followers–and just following someone who follows you does not automatically make them a friend. The choice of how to categorize them is entirely up to you.

Also, the founders are aware that people and relationships change, so crushes (called “wishbones”) on other people expire after a certain period of time, completely eliminating the awkwardness of un-wishing someone.

Background

Last week, I sat down for a phone chat with founders Sam Lawrence (@SamLawrence) and April Donato (@aprilblackbox) to talk about how the idea for this ingenious new social network came about.

“It started with 17 hour ride home from Burning Man,” Lawrence told me, chuckling. “April and I were in RV filled with dust and dirt and garbage. Burning is about self-expression, creativity. On the drive back we talked about how the most kick ass thing was people didn’t talk about work or houses or kids. It was a much more intimate conversation. We started asking ourselves why there wasn’t a walled-off place like that, where people don’t judge you and you can really be you.”

So they went online to see if something like this existed.

“We found two things,” Lawrence explained. “There were dating sites, which have a short-term value proposition, and which are splintered by a lot of labels, race, sexual orientation, age–all these classifications. Relationships are messy, the social web is messy and people don’t want the labels. They want to self-organize without the labels.”

The other thing they found were the social networks with which we’re familiar, like Facebook and MySpace.

“Facebook and networks like that don’t guarantee you connect with like-minded people,” Lawrence added. “Everyday in the news we see people dropped from jobs because they were drinking a beer.”

The founders of Blackbox Republic understand that for many of us, life is cleaved in two. We have a public persona, which goes to work and is involved in the community, and a private self, which is vibrant and expressive and rarely fits the mold.

“The problem is this culture, which cannot accept investment in our personal lives,” Lawrence said.

Although not advertised right on the site, Blackbox knows a lot of this divide has to deal with sexuality.

“We tried to communicate the sex-positive part of the message,” Lawrence explained. “Blackbox Republic is about getting people together and once you’re in a safe environment is that things like sex and dates and relationships will happen.”

As far as these relationships go, Blackbox Republic is pretty lax. As any poly friend will tell you, it’s a pain that Facebook doesn’t allow for the listing of more than one partner. The language is pretty standard, too: In A Relationship, Married To, It’s Complicated, etc.

“We allow people to add their own language,” Lawrence told me. Not only can you input whatever label you want on your entanglements, but the other person can pick something totally different. Lawrence’s relationship with Donato is “in love.” Her relationship with him? “Cuddling.”

Also in the spirit of self-expression, instead of favorite movies and songs, users get virtual corkboards, which enables you to upload pictures of things they like. This is mine:

cork

“There are a lot of things that don’t have a home,” says Lawrence. “Stuff like YouTube videos that are funny but inappropriate, for example. This is what we’re working for. That’s why it’s five bucks a month.”

Blackbox Republic also features a well developed events section that allows non-members access, while keeping the more expressive content associated with these events members-only. Currently, they’re working on creating groups. An iPhone app is due out at the beginning of the year.

I’m already there. Are you?

Images from Blackbox Republic. For more information about this exciting new space, visit their FAQ Section.

Melt My Heart With Gore

December 15, 2009 Culture, Film No Comments

zombiesWhether you’re in love or in lust, the movie experience can be treacherous. The idea of forcing someone to sit through a movie beside me when they clearly had no interest–or worse, having to suffer something like Meet The Fockers or The 40 Year Old Virgin–gave me so much angina that when I was married, my ex-husband and I pretty much only shared the car ride to the movie theater, then met after our movies were finished.

(In sickness and in health, in escrow and foreclosure, but hell no, I am not watching another stupid comedy and screw you for not thinking Sin City was rad, falling asleep during 300, and calling La Dolce Vita one of my “little French movies.”)

Of course, just in time to commemorate the finalization of my divorce, there has appeared a movie on the horizon that requires little compromise.

Introducing: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a flick based on the tweaked Jane Austen classic (courtesy of by Seth Grahame-Smith) that infuses the storyline with a nasty zombie invasion.

Due out in 20011, this flick’s odd enough to interest most people, sweet enough to inspire the romantics, and creepy enough to bring out the lovers of ghouls.

Oh, and did I mention Natalie Portman is playing Elizabeth Bennett? If seeing her royal cuteness fighting, all covered in gore isn’t reason enough, I don’t know what is.

Stay tuned for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. You think I’m kidding, don’t you?

Image from the cover of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, from Quirk Books. Information from CNN.

LAID: Sex Ed, Overshare-Style

December 14, 2009 Books, Culture No Comments

laid

I was fortunate in my sexual discovery: I never contracted any sort of disease and while not every encounter resulted in dynamite sex, I never found myself in a threatening situation.

I like to think this has to do with the fact that I am fairly intuitive and committed to my personal health, but we all know there is a fair share of luck in there, too. Accidents happen. People are misread. You have too many drinks. Condoms break. The list is endless and it doesn’t just involve your physical health. Rape is a mental and emotional trauma. Even consensual sex carries with it a danger of emotional damage.

These are all issues addressed in Laid: Young People’s Experiences With Sex In An Easy Access Culture, edited by Shannon T. Boodram. What initially looks like a collection of sexy coming-of-age tales is actually a sex-ed Trojan horse.

I’ll confess something—at first, I was put off by the book. Chapter one made mention of “wasted” virginities too often for my taste. I am a staunch opponent of the idea that the first time is a sacred time and everything else is meaningless or somehow defined by it. To me, that’s a poisonous construct. Every sexual experience should be viewed as an opportunity to reach for the divine.

But as I read on the collection of accounts of sexual encounters I saw the book for what it is: a collection of different experiences and personal truths. Every chapter deals with a different aspect of sex. Yes, there are accounts that bemoan a lost gift, but there are many that celebrate responsible sexual freedom, too. And there are also accounts about consequences of sex (from abortions to HIV); accounts about rape; and tales of those who made the choice to abstain.

This book is a complete collection of sexual experiences, told in the voices of many people, men and women, across North America. It’s not a textbook, filled with clinical language, or a philosophical call-to-arms, heavy on the agenda.

It’s like sitting with a group of friends and letting them tell you what they went through. Oversharing, as the kids say nowadays.

Read the whole review at BlogHer.

Save The Libido: Happiness In 7 Bullet Points

December 13, 2009 Homework 1 Comment

Depression kills the libido, which essentially means that we at Sex and the 405 are committed to your happiness. This being the country of the self-made and the self-help book, and seeing as we are sailing through a dicksoftenus maximus of a recession, we thought we would put forth this excellent guide to happiness by Robert Fischer, our favorite geek and spiritual beacon hybrid:

  • 1. Stop Being a Dick

    When you get a reaction from strangers, they’re not actually reacting to you. They’re reacting to some stereotype and set of assumptions about who you are based on how you look, how you carry yourself, and the kind of person they are expecting to bump into in their current situation. So whatever it is they just did, whatever it is that you think was some great offense to your person, just let it go. It’s not worth escalating the situation, because you aren’t going to get anything positive out of the situation, and you’re just ruining everyone’s time. So leave strangers alone.

    As for everyone else, you’ve got even more reason to stop being a dick. If someone says something that you don’t like, yelling isn’t going to accomplish anything except grating on everyone else around you. Oh, sure, you may get them to shut up. You may even intimidate them to admitting you’re right or taking back what they said. But they didn’t mean it, and if they cared or had the guts, they’d still be standing up to you. And as soon as you leave the room or they think you won’t notice, they’ll go back to being exactly the way they were before you yelled at them. Congratulations, you’ve done nothing by being a dick except make everyone regret that you were invited to the party.

  • 2. Stop Whining

    Look, everything you might want to whine about falls into one of two camps: either you can do something about it, or you can’t. If you can do something about it, then put the energy you were going to put into whining into actually fixing it. If you can’t do anything about it, then your whining isn’t going to do anything except continue your cycle of self-loathing and make you a general downer.

  • 3. Get Out, Get Some Exercise, Unplug, and Deal with Real People

    If you’re in your house all the time, surrounded by your own hand-picked decorations and designs, and you go out only when insulated by your iPod’s earphones and something to be burying your eyes in, the it’s no surprise you’re unhappy. Human beings are social creatures. That means you will be a lot happier if you socialize. And, y’know what’s really weird? Most people won’t think you’re anything other than friendly if you strike up a conversation.

  • 4. If People Are Treating You Like Crap, Then Let Them Go

    There are lots of people out there who aren’t listening to #1 (”Don’t be a Dick”). They, for some reason or another, are out to bully you, to passive-aggressively control you, to tell you that you are wrong, to use you as a punching bag (verbally or otherwise) and to generally be a problem. So let them go. Stop hanging out with them, and put plenty of distance between you and them. No matter what that person might say, you know that you don’t deserve what they’re dishing out, so pick up your dignity and hit the road.

    There are 7 billion people on the world. You can afford to not hang out with that one again.

  • 5. Your Critics Are Always Right

    If someone seriously says that you are some way — if they tell you you’re embarrassing to be around, or if they compare you to someone you hate, or if they say you’re not a very nice person, or whatever — then you are that way. You may not be that way in the core of your being, and you may not want to be that way, and it may be a surprise that you have come off that way, but their perception of you is valid, and you need to accept and deal with that. What did you do that made them think that was true? Ask yourself (and them) these questions, and see if you can take it as an opportunity for self-improvement.

    Now, of course, you need to be sure they’re serious: something said in the middle of a fight or said flippantly doesn’t really qualify. So you need to be sure they’re serious. But if your critic is serious, then your critic is right.

  • 6. Do Hard Stuff for a Change

    For some reason, our society tries to ask as little as possible from you. Don’t let it.

    It’s hard to make a new friend. It’s hard to vest yourself in a job, or in a project, and to really start to care about it. It’s hard to fight for your career, and to do what needs to be done to advance it. It’s hard to get out of your comfort zone and experience things or listen to people that are totally foreign. It’s hard to demand your dignity, it’s hard to submit to humility, and it’s hard to focus on self-improvement instead of self-destruction.

    But, if you do those things, you’ll be happier for it. Take the hard road: that’s where the good stuff is.

  • 7. Let Stuff Go/Suck It Up

    Most things aren’t worth the effort we put into them. We get angrier about them than they’re worth, we worry more about them than they’re worth, and we generally ruin
    ourselves over pittances. Let it go. Not a huge fan of where people are going to lunch? Suck it up and go with them anyway. Try something different. Still angry about something someone said to you years ago? Let it go: the reality is that they probably don’t even remember it. Whatever it is that you’re all hung up on that’s been ruining your decade, just let it go. It’s seriously not worth the effort you’re putting into it.

    Along this same vein: you can’t control everything, so don’t try. Let it go. Have some confidence in yourself: you’ll find a way to deal with it — whatever “it” is — when you get to it. Human beings are wonderfully adaptable creatures, and there have been others who have found ways to deal with worse than you will ever see.

How’s that for Sunday brunch food for thought? And it didn’t even cost you the $40 you might have paid for a self-help book!

You’re welcome. Now go and bestow some warmth on someone who means something to you.

You can read Robert Fischer’s blog at Enfranchised Mind. He’s @RobertFischer on Twitter.

Divorce On The Appalachian Trail

December 12, 2009 News, Politically Erect 1 Comment

sanford

Jenny Sanford is vacating the Governor’s Mansion in South Carolina.

You guys remember Governor Mark Sanford, the guy who took off in April and told everyone he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, when really he was down in South America canoodling with his mistress?

Remember? He came home after he was found out and gave the most cringe-inducing press conference of the century about love and soul mates. He will forever be known as the man who tried to do the wrong thing the right way.

Well, last we heard, he and his wife Jenny were working things out. She, the very picture of composure, did not stand behind her philandering husband at the press conference as other wronged wives have done in the past, choosing instead to give a few very focused interviews.

Where her husband was a stuttering fool, high on love, she was persevering, calm, cool, and collected. She would not tolerate his behavior, but she was willing to forgive–if he put in some effort.

In an interview after the debacle, Mark Sanford told us he was working on “falling back in love” with his wife.

Looks like his effort wasn’t enough. Jenny Sanford filed for divorce on Friday on the grounds of adultery. Yikes.

On the bright side, he’s now free. For now, anyway. The governor is facing a hearing next month on 37 charges by the State Ethics Commission over his actions on the “AT,” which include allegedly using state planes for his clandestine Argentina trip.

Cue Carlos Gardel, “Por una cabeza, todas las locuras, su boca que besa borra la tristeza, calma la amargura.”

We know how it goes.

Image from The Los Angeles Times. Information from Time, Los Angeles Times blogs, The Washington Post.

Women Want Group Sex, Too!

December 11, 2009 News, Research No Comments

Australian women are as likely as their male couterparts to want to take part in group sex, and they tend to initiate it almost as often, a survey conducted by the country’s second biggest dating site, RedHotPie.com.au, has shown.

Almost 40 percent of respondents report an equal gender split in group sex, while a further 30 percent report a majority of women at such encounters.

Almost as many women as men instigate the idea of group sex: 46 percent compared with 54 percent, and a narrow majority of these are coupled, rather than single. According to the survey of 8,763, most of the couples participate together.

According to Stuff.co.nz, The most common reasons given for the desire to engage in group sex are excitement, variety and to spice up long-term relationships:

The most common form of group sex is a threesome, although one third of respondents say their largest group involved five or more people.

Participants are not at it all the time, with 40 percent saying they have tried it only once, and little over one in 10 doing it weekly or monthly.

But there seem to be few tears after bed time, with 80 percent reporting nothing but fun, with everyone’s rights being respected.

Reasons cited by the comparatively small number of regretful participants include judgment impaired by alcohol, jealousy between partners and being pressured into it.

Information from Stuff.co.nz.

Oxytocin: For Her

December 11, 2009 News, Research No Comments

Oxytocin is a hormone released in the brain associated primarily with bonding. In women, it plays a role in reproductive functions like birth and lactation, and orgasm. Over at Neurotopia has developed a fast and furious tutorial about this hormone’s role as it regards the female orgasm:

  • During sexual arousal, oxytocin increases rapidly, with a big burst at orgasm.
  • Oxytocin levels correlate to sexual arousal in women, as well as the amount of vaginal lubrication present.
  • Oxytocin fluctuates along with a woman’s menstrual cycle, being highest in the ovulatory phase and follicular phase, and lowest in the luteal phase (The follicular phase and ovulatory phase are the preparation and release of the egg, respectively, and fertility will peak at ovulation for obvious reasons. The luteal phase is the phase after ovulation, as the egg sits around and grows old until the shedding of the uterine lining during menstruation at the end of the month).

Information from Neurotopia.

Nudes and Catholic Iconography for the Love of Animals

December 10, 2009 Advertising, Culture, Eyecandy, Women 1 Comment

Playboy model Joanna Krupa is all tangled up in a controversy regarding her latest contribution to the expansive catalog of controversial PETA ads.

Krupa, a practicing Catholic, is depicted in one PETA’s “Be An Angel For Animals” ads nude with only a crucifix to cover her naughty bits. Another ad features her topless, holding a dog to cover her chest, and a dangling rosary.

Needless to say, people are pissed. We here at Sex and the 405 think it’s in poor taste, but this is PETA, after all. They love to court controversy.

In the words of Lisa Lange, senior vice president of communications for PETA: “Sex does sell.” No explanation about how Catholicism fits into all of this, other than the fact that Kruga is a practicing Catholic.

Image via Trash Selector. Information from Newsy.

How To Be An Ethical Bastard

December 10, 2009 How To, Lessons No Comments

Some of us are just not looking for a relationship. We have our reasons—and I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with it, assuming, of course, that you don’t behave like a total douchebag.

I wrote a piece for Manolith this week that spells out how to go about acquiring and keeping happy lovers.

Here’s a preview:

The object of your attention must be aware that you are not seeking a relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean sitting the woman down before the first drink and spelling it out for her, but if you’re man enough and do, that’s the best way. Do not assume that your reputation precedes you. By this I don’t mean a bad reputation, I mean a general understanding among members of your social circle that you’re not the relationship kind.

Since I want a partnership where one party looks out for the other as friends do, and there is very little buddy about “fuck buddy,” I avoid that term and put it like this: “I’m not looking for an exclusive relationship. I’m looking for a non-committed, long-term, mutually-beneficial partnership.”

Now, I’m not saying that it’s bad to wish to have a purely physical relationship with someone. If that’s what you want and that’s what she wants, then by all means proceed. However, I should mention that I’ve never met a man who didn’t eventually confess a degree of vexation at the idea that I only kept him around for sex.

It’s human nature. We want to be special. And we should be. Even if our particular brand of special doesn’t involve exclusivity. In any case: The key point here is that the terms of the relationship must be clear to all parties.

If you suspect you need to cloud your intentions because the person you’re pursuing wouldn’t go for you unless you suggested you’d eventually be her man, you: a.) don’t know how to pick your audience, b.) don’t have balls, and c.) should probably stick to getting chicks drunk and taking them home, then never calling them again.

Remember one thing: in today’s world of digital nomads, it’s great folly to burn bridges.

You can read it all here.

Lady Gaga: Afraid of Intimacy or Sex?

December 10, 2009 Culture, Hollywoody, Music No Comments

ladygagaHere’s the issue with euphemisms: they confuse the fuck out of people.

Recently several news outlets reported that Lady Gaga had once been afraid of sex. Or intimacy. Or both. They’re not the same thing and anyone with an ounce of gray matter knows it, but because the media is either terrified of talking about sex truthfully or eager to exploit a juicy headline, we’ll never know which.

A cursory listen of Gaga’s albums suggests she has no issue with sex (how many women do you know will so readily admit they wanna take a ride on your disco stick?). Songs like “Poker Face” and “I Like It Rough” off The Fame, on the other hand, clearly illustrate a fear of intimacy:

Your love is nothing I can’t fight,
can’t sleep with the man who dims my shine.
I’m in the bedroom with tissues and when
I know you’re outside banging but I won’t let you in.
‘Cause it’s a hard life, with love in the world
and I’m a hard girl–loving me’s like chewing on pearls.

On her new album, The Fame Monster, the track “Bad Romance” also alludes to this fear–and don’t get me started on the music video. Following an oversexualized walk down the aisle, Gaga and her groom are consumed by flames, which leave the man a charred skeleton.

I want your love and I want your revenge.
I want your love, I don’t want to be friends.
I don’t want to be friends.
No, I don’t wanna be friends.
I don’t wanna be friends!
I want your bad romance.

The cat’s out of the bag. I love Lady Gaga because every little girl who’s terrified of intimacy needs an anthem. So much the better when an artist gives you a handful.

I wanna roll with him, a hard pair we will be.
A little gambling is fun when you’re with me–I love it.
Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun
and baby when it’s love if its not rough it isn’t fun.

A morbid part of me can’t wait to hear her fall head over heels. I’ll tell you one thing–I won’t be satisfied unless it’s as bloody as Courtney Love’s “Uncool.”

Image from Lady Gaga’s shoot with for Elle magazine. Information from Entertainment Daily and China Daily.

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Gamers Won’t Be Seduced, Will Stare At Random Cleav Instead

That Steam allows the objectification and sexualization of female characters in a variety of its games but refuses to accept a game about actually engaging with women in a more interactive fashion is astonishingly backward.

FetLife Is Not Safe for Users

That the site doesn’t take measures to protect user content and has shown incompetence or negligence in regard to user privacy, all the while prohibiting victims from warning others about predatory behavior creates an environment where it is nearly impossible for members of the community to take care of themselves and one another. By enabling FetLife to continue espousing a code of silence, allowing the spinning self-created security issues as “attacks,” and not pointing out how disingenuous FetLife statements about safety are, we are allowing our community to become a breeding ground for exploitation.

Why You Should Vote No On Prop 35

Should people who benefit (parents, siblings, children, roommates!) from the earnings of “commercial sex acts” (any sexual conduct connected to the giving or receiving of something of value) be charged with human trafficking? Should someone who creates obscene material that is deemed “deviant” be charged as with human trafficking? Should someone who profits from obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should people transporting obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should a person who engages in sex with someone claiming to be above the age of consent or furnishing a fake ID to this effect be charged with human trafficking? What if I told you the sentences for that kind of conviction were eight, 14 or 20 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $500,000, and life as a registered sex offender?

Pretty and Calls Herself a Geek? Attention Whore!

If you are a woman, you might be given a chance to prove yourself in this community. Since there is no standard definition of what a “geek” is and it will vary from one judge to the next anyway, chances of failing are high (cake and grief counseling will be available after the conclusion of the test!). If you somehow manage to succeed, you’ll be tested again and again by anyone who encounters you until you manage to establish yourself like, say, Felicia Day. But even then, you’ll be questioned. As a woman, your whole existence within the geek community will be nothing but a series of tests — if you’re lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you’ll be harassed and threatened and those within the culture will tacitly agree that you deserve it.

Cuddle Chemical? Moral Molecule? Not So Fast

Zak’s original field, it turns out, is economics, a far cry from the hearts and teddy bears we imagine when we consider his nickname. But after performing experiments on generosity, Zak stumbled on the importance of trust in interactions, which led him, rather inevitably, to research about oxytocin. Oxytocin, you might remember, is a hormone that has been linked previously to bonding — between mothers and children primarily, but also between partners. What Zak has done is take the research a step further, arguing in his recent book, The Moral Molecule, that oxytocin plays a role in determining whether we are good or evil.

How to Avoid Pissing off a Stripper

Let’s talk about the strippers. Whether they like to be half-naked or not, whether they enjoy turning you on or not, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re working. Whether you think that taking one’s clothes off for money is a great choice of career is really beside the point (is it a possibility for you to make $500 per hour at your job without a law degree? Just asking). These women are providing fantasy, yes, but that is their job. And as a patron of the establishment where they work, you need to treat them like you would anyone else who provides a service to you.

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Editrix-in-Command:
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In-House Theologian:
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Sex and the 405 is what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

Here you’ll find news about the latest research being conducted to figure out what drives desire, passion, and other sex habits; reviews of sex toys, porn and other sexy things; coverage of the latest sex-related news that have our mainstream media's panties up in a bunch; human interest pieces about sex and desire; interviews with people who love sex, or hate sex, or work in sex, or work to enable you to have better sex; opinion pieces that relate to sex and society; and the sex-related side of celebrity gossip. More...