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Bid On A Date With A Hot Chunk o’ Hunk for Haiti Relief!

February 9, 2010 Causes No Comments

OMG, no way. Remember Jordy, that super guy we told you about last month who won the Hottest Bod in the World contest?

He’s trying to raise funds for relief in Haiti (so hot and so sweet!). To this end, he is auctioning himself off on eBay for a chic Hollywood date!

Calling all lovers of a hottie with a heart — we have less than ten hours left to bid on this man!

Sex & God: Accepting the Sexual Soul

February 1, 2010 Causes, Culture, Faith 9 Comments

Sexuality and Christian spirituality have had a rocky relationship: from the Apostle Paul’s reluctant admission of marriage as a way to handle those who unfortunately “burn with passion” (1Cor 7) to medieval asceticism’s sexual renunciation to the contemporary puritanical disdain for sensuality, it seems like Christian spirituality and sex just don’t mix.

But for the sake of the argument, let’s assume God wasn’t screwing up or tormenting us in giving us this drive to the most intimate of physical connections with others. Instead, can we conceive as prayers those short, shallow breaths that come when we tangle ourselves in another person’s pleasure? Can we affirm sex despite a long history of critics?

If we look carefully at this criticism, it’s important to realize that asexuality was traditionally associated with the spiritual/mystical vein of Christianity. Some people have this idea that the church is somehow dependent upon condemning sexuality for its identity: Nietzsche was one of these people. The pseudo-historical argument along these lines is that purity codes within the Judaism of Jesus’s time and the Greek/Stoic sensibility of Paul put a strong damper on sex from the beginning, but that’s simply not true: sex shot through the early church.

The sexual tone to the early Christian witness was so strong, in fact, that Paul had to tell women to keep their clothes on in church when prophesying (1Cor 11:5-6,13-16) and had to explicitly rebuke the “orgies” and “debauchery” going on in Rome (Rom 13:12-14). So while Paul was certainly no fan of sex, it seems he was surrounded by people who were.

No, the early church was not particularly down on sex. Some itinerant or particularly zealous people took chastity as a spiritual gift, but it was widely accepted (even by Paul) that chastity was not for everyone. On this point, it’s curious to note that some women voluntarily went into chastity as a pro-feminine move. Seizing power through sex in this way was particularly prevalent among those women married to non-Christian husbands. That’s a seemingly bizarre tactic in a world shaped by the much-needed sexual liberation of the late 20th century.

Where sexuality became vilified was when the soul became divorced from the body, which was a product of Greek-style mysticism. While God in the Old Testament created us male and female and cared for us in our body and met us in our particular time and place, and while God came to us in the form of Jesus so that we might touch and feel God and witness the resurrection promised through the prophets, there was a moment shortly after the time of the canon when a foreign idea surfaced in Christianity. This idea, derived from Plato’s followers, asserted that that the soul was good and immortal and eternal while the body was bad and decaying and temporary.

Let’s disabuse ourselves right here and now of that idea. The bogus idea that the body is bad and the soul is good requires the ability to divorce the soul from the body—but no such divorce is possible. The soul and the body are in an inseparable dance, connected in the most fundamental ways.

Attempting to rip body and soul apart and consider each separately leaves both lacking. Talk about the soul without reference to the body results in a “soul of the gaps”: as science discovers more direct physical interplay in aspects attributed to the soul, the space left for a truly independent soul dwindles down to nothingness. Talk about the body without reference to the soul results in a mechanistic view that loses the big picture: our will shapes our physical reality in profound ways, and to see that we need only look at the shocking effectiveness of placebo treatments and the study showing that we make our own luck by believing we’re lucky.

By recovering the union of soul and body, we can recover the spiritual quality of the union of two people. In fact, when we reject Plato’s philosophy in favor of God’s revelation, we recover our ability to live and love our bodies again. We recover the divine in the day-to-day living, in the romance of candlelight, and in the eros of art. We recover the basic fact that there’s a wide world out there, and that it is Good. What that means for Christian conceptions of spirituality and for our own conception of sex are ideas for another time.

Robert Fischer is Sex and the 405′s spiritual scholar and cultural commentator. Behold the sacred and the profane — he’ll shy away from nothing. Well-versed in mathematics, computer science and religion, this man is a bona fide intellectual whose musings on sex and culture are delicate as they are incisive. How could we resist? How could you? Follow him on Twitter: @RobertFischer

Slippery Slope: Government Regulation of Sex Toys

Last month in Canada, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, a Liberal Minister of Parliament, sent a letter to the Conservative Federal Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq, expressing concern about the sex toy industry and asking the government to take action in regulating sex toys.

The letter, which you can read in its entirety here, read, in part:

I am writing to express my concern for the urgent need for responsible regulation in the adult toy industry. In Canada, we are not yet doing enough to protect women against the very high concentratuons of materials linked to reproductive and other health issues.

… Our current legislation is insufficient. There are safe alternatives to pththalates and [bisphenol A] that are readily available.

It sounds like a good idea, right? Like they say on Facebook: It’s Complicated.

I’m gonna turn it over now to Cory Silverberg, blogger at About.com’s Sexuality Guide, who’s written about this topic at length:

In order to regulate sex toys first one needs to define the product category for proposed regulation. What qualifies as a sex toy? Currently in the U.S. sex toys are defined legally in some states (often as devices intended for genital stimulation). But they don’t exist as a defined category by health regulators. The same is true for many other countries where the term “sex toys” won’t be found in legal or regulatory documentation.

Even among sex toy retailers and manufacturers terms like dildo, vibrator, penis ring, butt plug can mean very different things. Is a sex toy defined by how it’s intended use? How it’s commonly used? Is a sex toy defined by who uses it or what kinds of bodies it gets used on? There is no generally agreed upon taxonomy of sex toys. There isn’t even an organization or body (public or private) that would be in a position to develop such a taxonomy.

But until we’re there, I’m certainly not comfortable with a government deciding what is and isn’t a sex toy, and regulating the products they think are while ignoring the products they decide aren’t.

And that’s just the beginning. Read his impassioned piece Why Government Regulation of Sex Toys Is a Bad Idea.

I’m with Silverberg on this one. I believe in educating consumers and leaving the government out of as much as humanly possible. But then, I’m a conservative. That’s just how we roll. Or used to. Yeah, yeah.

The Resolution

January 1, 2010 Causes, Vitals 4 Comments

The word sensual falls from lips like a silk slip slides down a body to the floor. I don’t think “sex” conjures as much pleasure as “sensual.” Sex doesn’t have to be sensual. But sensual can be anything it likes.

sen•su•al: adj.

  1. : relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of appetite : fleshly
  2. : sensory
  3. a: devoted to or preoccupied with the senses or appetites b: voluptuous c: deficient in moral, spiritual, or intellectual interests : worldly; especially : irreligious
    synonyms see carnal, sensuous

A word is like an ant, carrying the incredible weight of meaning on its back.

“Sensual” comes to us from the Latin sensus or sense. The senses are the body’s wonderful physiological methods of perception, the main five being, of course, hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. And yet “sensual”, the word, wanders around lugging the excess baggage of a gruesome divorce—that of body, mind, and soul.

I would like to follow sensual through time and learn where it became synonymous with the deficiency in moral, spiritual, or intellectual matters. Isn’t empiricism a crucial aspect of the scientific method? On what does it run if not the senses? Does walking the difficult, righteous path not require equilibrioception? And what is nociception if not the ultimate trigger of mercy? The senses, after all, bring pain as fast as they deliver pleasure.

I hold St. Augustine nearly entirely accountable for the wall between body and soul. Even today, in an age where the West has largely been released from the obligation to religion, the vestige of the split exists, like an insurmountable wall.

Or perhaps it’s that we still have religion, only instead of an almighty father, now we answer to an almighty clock. Now, instead of being exhorted not to dare enjoy, we’re chained to a schedule so ruthless, it permits nothing.

HIGH ART

It started with Anthony Bourdain, the celebrated chef, renowned author, world traveler and fearless sensualist. Much like the word “sensual”, Bourdain conjures a colorful mixture of praise and blasphemy in the minds of those who know him or his work.

“Think of the last time food transported you,” he writes in his 2001 novel A Cook’s Tour.

Your first taste of champagne on a woman’s lips… steak frites when you were in Paris as a teenager with a Eurorail pass, you’d blown almost all your dough on hash in Amsterdam, and this slightly chewy slab of rumsteck (rump steak) was the first substantial meal in days… a single wild strawberry, so flavorful that it nearly took your head off… your grandmother’s lasagne… a first sip of stolen ice cold beer on a hot summer night, hands smelling of crushed fireflies… left over pork fried rice, because your girlfriend at the time always seemed to have some in the fridge… steamer clams, dripping with drawn butter from your first family vacation at the Jersey shore… rice pudding from the Fort Dee Diner… bad Cantonese when you were a kid and Chinese was still exotic and wonderful and you still thought fortune cookies were fun… dirty water hot dogs… a few beads of caviar licked off a nipple…

A few beads of caviar licked off a nipple. What a simple, gorgeous celebration of touch and taste. The idea stopped me cold. I haven’t been able to pick up the book since reading that. What higher glory could be found among the rest of its pages?

STOP

We stand at the edge of our senses, waiting for the sets of data to come in: hot or cold? Pleasure or pain? Nice or mean? Red or green? Too spicy? Too loud? Too big? Too slow! Hungry! Tired! When was the last time we stopped and touched something and focused on the brush against our fingertips? When was the last time we turned off the constant background noise of our iPods and pressed down on a piano key to hear the clarity of a single note? When was the last time we paused briefly before putting that snack in our mouths and committed ourselves to savoring the marriage of flavors in a bite?

OVERWHELMED

A few years ago, I went to a meditation session that involved the use of crystal bowls. These bowls are made of quartz and, according to those who indulge in the practice, each is tuned to a note that resonates with one of the chakras, the body’s energy centers. The idea is that as the superstrings of the universe vibrate, every atom, cell, tissue of the body absorbs the energy and you are filled and empty, bigger than big and smaller than small, dead and alive, Shroedinger’s kitteh, etc.

“In the beginning there was the Word and the Word is sound,” says Margaret Lembo, a spiritual workshop facilitator. “Sound, intention and thought create reality.”

I went with an open mind, but to a woman from the ADD generation, sitting in the darkness of that room listening to each bowl amplify every note without a seeming melody was, well, incredibly boring. I fell into a sort of lethargic trance, glad to be spiritual enough to do this, but eager for it to be over so I could say I had done it and move on with my life. As soon as I had that thought, though, what could only be described as a conscience berated me: “living through things isn’t the same as living those things.”

Feeling a little ashamed, I focused my attention on a single note and started going along with it. I don’t know what I mean by that because I was engaging in no physical action. I was merely mentally following this note as it rose and stretched across the ether.

Call it the power of quartz, call it the power of suggestion, call it what you like: I started vibrating. Again, it wasn’t physical, but I could feel every pore, open, alive, like a mouth, receiving the the flow of a powerful charge that washed over me like an ocean. No sooner had this started that I had a powerful mental image of my hands reaching up to my chest and ripping my clothes, then my flesh, then my muscles until all that was left was a brittle rib cage that I easily pulled apart before taking hold of my heart and ripping it out.

My eyes shot open, my heart pounded in my chest, my skin on fire. Unable to calm down, I failed to get back into any kind of meditative state. Later, when people talked to one another about the wonderful relaxation they’d experienced, I bit my tongue. I could only conclude that I was not used to that level of focus on sensory perception.

Even I, the self-proclaimed voluptuary, had neglected her own receptors.

LIVING SEX

Let’s go to the carnal aspect of the definition of “sensual.” What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Sex.

When was the last time you had sex for the sake of your senses? No, think about this. I am not talking about orgasm. I am not even talking about pleasure in and of itself. I am talking about using every given sense receptor, focusing your energy on it and really, truly experiencing what that sense tells you, not just whether it feels good or not, harder, baby, harder, deeper, deeper, faster, faster, oh, yeah, oh, yeah. No. I mean: when was the time you lived your sensory data?

When was the last time you took down the filters engendered by the need for efficiency? When was the last time you let yourself experience everything? Do you even remember? If you were able to remove the filters as one opens a window, do you think you would be able to handle it?

THE BIGGEST ORGAN

A man may have a massive organ, but his skin is still his biggest organ.

The talent with touch—like the talent with sight (art), the talent with sound (music), the talent with taste (food), the talent with equilibrium (dance)—is granted arbitrarily, at birth. Sometimes those who have it use it and sometimes, like me with art, they ignore it. Sometimes they don’t deserve it. But it’s there regardless.

I think most of us are born with the talent of touch, if only we let ourselves go there.

I knew a man once who could orchestrate wild symphonies on flesh. At 31, he was an architect of sensation. The way cooks move around their kitchens, knowing exactly what flavor is missing and how to integrate it—that was how he moved around a body. A fine instrument, the body, and he knew how to play it. Fur, feathers, silk, leather, sand, cold water, chains, liquid latex, hot wax, duct tape, pudding, mud, rope, splintered wood—the body as merzbau, everything was welcome.

There was nothing that couldn’t serve some purpose. But the magic wasn’t in the creativity, it wasn’t even in the way he handled his tools. The magic was in the understanding of reaction, learning to balance pain, temperature, pressure and pleasure in every body he encountered, like tuning the instrument. He pushed the senses to the limit, but never crossed the line.

He understood sex was more than just getting off–it’s about tuning in.

So tune in with me. Put your fingers on the back of your hand. Right now. Run them lightly over it, from the knuckles to the bone gently protruding from your wrist. Be the skin that feels the fingers and be the fingers that feel everything under the skin.

You don’t need to awaken your senses. They were never sleeping. You just have to pay attention. The next time you eat, let your taste buds overwhelm you, let your mouth feel the texture of what’s inside it. The next time you hear a song, let the notes carry you. The next time you kiss, let your mouth become your hands. The next time you have sex, let yourself become the skin throbbing inside you or wrapping around you.

Open up. Living through things isn’t the same as living those things.

Let that be your resolution this year.

Hey, U.S.: Put The AIDS Money Back Where It’s Most Needed

December 21, 2009 Causes, Sex Work 1 Comment

Imagine a fire breaks out in your apartment. You need to put it out immediately, so what do you do? You throw a bucket of butane on it.

That’s what the anti-prostitution loyalty oath (APLO), which forms a part of the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003 (or, the Leadership Act) and the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is: butane on a roaring fire.

By having non-governmental organizations pledge they will not offer services to sex workers, the oath should become a sort of deterrent, right? Wrong. It hasn’t deterred anything other than the prevention of disease. As it is now, organizations assisting sex workers around the world with education, health and other services are being denied funding. Many have been forced to stop their distribution of condoms or shut down entirely.

Sex Work Awareness is currently collecting signatures on a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the Office of Global Affairs. They’re trying to collect 100 signatures by Tuesday, December 22.

Sign it because you believe it’s better to protect a vulnerable population than moralize about mixing sex and money. Sign it because you support sex worker rights. Sign it because you believe fighting AIDS requires us to access every population. Sign it because it’s been deemed unconstitutional in the past. Sign it because you can’t think of any other organizations that have to make such a staunch division between themselves and a “restricted” practice (such as religious organizations who get funding for projects and also, say, proselytize). Sign it because you believe in better, smarter policy. Whatever your reason, sign it.

Yes, your signature can be made private. We know that matters to a lot of you. We understand why, too. That’s the world we live in.

Want more info about how the APLO’s affecting non-governmental organizations the world over? Go ahead and head over to GenderHealth.org and watch the 13 minute film by Erin Siegal, co-produced by Sex Work Awareness board member Melissa Ditmore.

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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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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...