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“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.

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.

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.

Creep Breaks Into Home, Watches Porn

December 9, 2009 Crime, News No Comments

Jaquetin Fox, 18, has been charged kidnapping, armed robbery, first-degree burglary and grand larceny after he broke into a woman’s South Carolina home, cut cords off her blinds and appliances, collected some knives and sat down to watch porn on a computer as he waited for his victim to get home.

When the woman arrived, Fox approached her with a knife. Not one to be spooked, his victim remained calm and convinced him he let her use the bathroom. Once locked inside, she phoned the police.

I’m not sure why the media is calling him the porn-watching burglar, as it is evident to anyone reading about the incident that Fox had something much more heinous in mind. I’m assuming the label is related to the fact that he stole a car to make his getaway.

Whatever. I’m glad he’s been apprehended.

I’m down with cords and knives–but only where there is consent.

Jared Leto: “Rock and Roll Has Gotten Really Asexual”

December 9, 2009 Culture, Hollywoody, Music No Comments

A few weeks ago, Sex and the 405 did two lists of the music we’d like to boink to: 15 High Energy Songs To Have Sex To and Songs To Be Seduced To.

jaredletoThere is a mix for every brand of passion, you’ll realize, if you take enough time to think about it. But if you’re not the sort of person with that kind of time on your hands (i.e., funemployed like moi), you’re in luck.

Introducing 30 Seconds to Mars’ This Is War: hands down the sexiest album of our time.

“We spent two years of our lives working on that record, and it was us against the world,” frontman Jared Leto told MTV last month. “There were times that it was overwhelming. Everything that was going on was brutal, but there were beautiful moments as well… It was a case of survival, to tell the truth.”

I had the pleasure of meeting Leto on Dr. Drew’s Loveline earlier tonight. During a break, I asked him whether he realized 30 Seconds to Mars was creating the ultimate soundtrack of desire.

“Well, a lot of songs are very sexual in nature,” he told me. “I think rock and roll has gotten really asexual.”

That’s something he felt 30 Seconds to Mars should take on.

“That’s obviously a big part of all of our lives, and I thought it important to address some of that,” Leto said.

They did a good job. Never has an album so powerfully mixed animal desire, desperate want, angst and fantastic soul licking as This Is War does.

“We were literally having to kill ourselves at times. I had it written on the wall: ‘Kill yourself to finish.’ There were no other options,” Leto said. “So we did that. It was a time to redefine, rediscover, reinvent, reinvest in each other.”

Spoken like a true lover.

Get the album on AmazonMP3 for $9.99.

Hey, Guys–Is It Cheating If It’s With Another Girl?

December 4, 2009 Culture, Hollywoody No Comments

fergie
Marriages are like snowflakes. They’re pretty different, one from the next. And the people in them find a way to make them work.

Sometimes this involves extra-curriculars. I have some friends in the adult entertainment industry who have an established “if there’s money involved, it doesn’t count,” rule. In my marriage, ex-husband told me I could hook up with other girls–as long as he got to watch and she and I didn’t have a close relationship.

Usually, you know this kind of thing, either because you’ve discussed it, or because you can intuit what’s OK and what crosses a line.

Not Fergie. The Sun recently reported the Black Eyed Peas bombshell had been surprised to find from her therapist that girl-on-girl play counts as cheating.

“I’ve had a lot of fun with women, and I’m not ashamed of it,” Fergie said. “But just because I enjoy women doesn’t mean I’m allowed to have affairs in my relationship. I learned through talking with my therapist that it is still cheating even if it’s with girls, so there is a rule there.”

This comes on the heels of accusations that her husband Josh Duhamel had a hot affair with a stripper. I can’t help but wonder whether casting herself as the cheater is a way to help herself cope.

Whatever the case, I wouldn’t give a hoot what my therapist thought constituted cheating in a marriage. This is the kind of thing you really should be talking about with your partner.

What do you guys think? Is it cheating if she’s doing it with another girl?

Image via Stuff Queer People Need To Know. Information from The Sun.

He Littered Her Lawn With Used Condoms

December 3, 2009 News, Politically Erect No Comments

hallcondomBrace yourself, the creeptastic meter has hit 100, and you know I have a pretty high tolerance.

Blake Hall was a prominent politico in Idaho and member of the Republican National Committee (RNC), until he pleaded guilty to charges of stalking a former girlfriend and got the boot.

He followed his ex around town, harassing her, and ignored her repeated requests that he leave her alone.

His claim to fame as supercreep? He dumped used condoms on the lawn of his ex-girlfriend’s house. Nineteen condoms were collected over 10 different days, according to police.

Even though he was fired as a deputy prosecuting attorney and resigned from the RNC, the guy still gets to keep his cushy $31,000-a-year job as the civil attorney in Fremont County.

Prosecutor Joette Lookabaugh (also a Republican), who hired Hall in January, said Hall would keep his job “unless or until his ability to do an outstanding job for Fremont County citizens is compromised.” Apparently, harassing a woman in such a flagrantly creepy manner isn’t evidence that he can’t do his job.

“I understand that political figures are held to a higher standard,” she said. “What is disturbing is the fact that often people who have devoted their lives to public service are not given the same benefits, or are treated more harshly, than the public at large. There seems to be a certain amount of political glee in striking down the well-known for any real or perceived foible.”

Um. Yeah.

And they wonder why I went Independent.

Image from Foolocracy, condom via Glamour_Boy. Information from The Idaho Statesman.

The Porn App Store Has Arrived (For Android)

December 3, 2009 geek, News, Technology No Comments

mikandi

As an iPhone user, I can’t tell you how much it bugs me that the Apple doesn’t carry any sexy apps in their store. Yes, we have some web apps to satisfy the cravings, but web seriously limits what developers can do for us. These are fast times! Our porn should be up to speed!

Bastards.

Well, looks like Android just got a one-up over Apple. Introducing the MiKandi App Store, the first marketplace of porn apps, now in beta.

All you need to do to access the porn store on your Android is go to MiKandi.com on your mobile browser. Voilà! Porn at your greedy fingertips. You’ll have to tell me what you think, seeing as I made the gruesome error of choosing the iPhone over the Android and can’t do it myself. #fail

Image from MiKandi. Information from Mashable, via @harrylang.

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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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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...