Useless Advice #202 – Love Yourself Before Others

Earlier this week I was writing a post about loving yourself in relationships, when a friend of mine sent me this quote.

I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.
― Maya Angelou

This was fortuitous both because it was precisely what I was writing about, but also because I am just beginning to read I know Why the Caged Bird Sings for the first time. So I erased the whole post and decided to start over, something I do more often than I’m willing to admit.

It’s certainly a good point. I’ve always believed that you can’t really succeed in a relationship if you don’t love yourself. Not loving yourself breeds all kind of tricky problems, like jealousy, insecurity, and doubt. Not loving yourself doesn’t give you an easy platform to love someone else. But how fair is that? How fair is it to say “you have to love yourself or you can’t love” in a society that routinely tell us that we always have to be better? That we’re always in need of improvement?

The truth of the matter is that I see lots of people in relationships who don’t seem to love themselves and they’re getting along just fine.

It’s a good standard to strive for though, and if you’re single, I think loving yourself can be a good starting point. Not only to love being single (because being single can be a lovely thing to be) but also to open yourself up to loving someone else.

What does loving yourself look like? Hell if I know. It could look like a lot of different things. Her are some possibilities I brainstormed.

1. Loving yourself does not mean that you always like everything about yourself. It is possible to pretend you are practically perfect in every way but it’s another thing to believe it. In fact, often times confidence gives way to ego, and thats when people start calling you a little shit.

2. Loving yourself means treating yourself. It means listening to what your body needs or doesn’t need. It means battling addiction and illness. It means trying to stay alive in an often times unfair and frustrating world. It means trying to stay upbeat because when everyone else is distracted by their own shit, you need to be your biggest fan.

3. Loving yourself means giving yourself a good quality of life. That is completely open ended but I think generally includes striving for something. That could be your career, it could be a large community of friends or lovers, it could mean traveling. Stray from stagnancy and be active in something.

4. Loving yourself means not putting yourself down. I love a good self-depreciating joke, and I try to laugh at myself, but I also have to remember to think positively. What am I doing right? Why am I a worthwhile human being? Why do I deserve to be loved?

What happens if you don’t love yourself before you enter in a relationship? What happens if you stop loving yourself?

I think the warning is out there because loving yourself is so fundamental. When you stop loving yourself, a whole bunch of things can fall apart. How you take care of yourself, how you take care of others, how you interact with the world around you. And those things are directly linked to your relationship. To how your partner is going to feel. To how the two of you will be together. Not loving yourself can lead to problems of dependency, depression, and anxiety.

Loving yourself isn’t easy, again, in a society that tells us we’re never quite good enough. And I certainly don’t think that all relationships require such perfect adoration for the self. But it is important to consider how your self love influences other parts of your life. It’s important to step back and think “the first person that should love me, is me.”

Do you have a question about sex or love? Submit to the top by hitting ask advice and I’ll answer it on my blog.

Sex from Scratch: Boundaries Unbroken

Sex from Scratch is the latest “do it yourself” book for those looking to make their own relationship rules. I’m always interested in what these books choose to include content wise, because there are a lot of subjects you can stick to or stray from. For instance, The Ethical Slut and Opening Up cover a lot of the same material, but leave certain subjects out while they focus more on ethical non-monogamy.

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Sarah Mirk chooses the following layout:

  1. Loving Being Single
  2. Building Feminist Relationships
  3. Navigating Non-Monogamy
  4. Gender is Messy
  5. Staying Childless by Choice
  6. On Never Getting Married
  7. Knowing When to Split

When I picked up the book I expected an emphasis on the first three chapters, so I was pleased to see how the book progressed through the various voices that were included. This book is very affirming for those of you who don’t want kids and don’t want to get married. It’s very affirming for anyone who doesn’t feel like they fit into a “traditional” relationship.

I loved the chapter on knowing when to split – something thats often left out of the dialogue on making your own relationships. Points like “say the stuff you’re afraid to say” and “you deserve to be happy” are some smaller points that make up big movements.

I also loved the chapter on building a feminist relationship. There is a lot of discussion right now on what being a feminist means and how you can be a better feminist. Things like being on a team, discussing conflict, and giving each other space are all so crucial in relationships.

Finally, I loved one point in the book where we get to hear more about infidelity. I’ve got a library copy so I didn’t want to tag it or anything so I’ll paraphrase the idea I got. When someone in a relationship cheats, and the couple intends to try to work through it, thats something that the couple needs to do together. Each partner needs to do their role to help mend the relationship. It’s not “you did this, now you fix it.” It made me think a lot about sacrifice and partnership and how it may be one person that does something physical or emotional in a relationship, but its up to both partners to want to fix it.

I would highly recommend checking it out if you’re at all interested in breaking out of traditional relationships or feel that the traditional linear model for relationships doesn’t suit you and your partner/s.

Tiny Penis Jokes Aren’t Feminist

1. Penis jokes re-establish the gender binary, with the assumption that all men have penises in the first place.

2. Penis jokes make the wrongful assumption that pleasure and power are tied to large penises.

3. Tying pleasure and power to large penises has direct correlation to many of the things women complain about on the internet, like how many “Do you want to see my big dick?” OkCupid messages have you gotten?

4. It ties the worth of a human being to a physical aspect of their body, something unchangeable. Many men struggle with image issues surrounding their genitalia resulting in unsafe pills and prescriptions they don’t need.

5. Feminism is about equality, not bringing men down to bring women up.

I’m all too guilty of making “looks like he has something to make up for” jokes. I think it’s important that people are aware of how they are contributing to the emotional stress that many men have about size. I don’t think it contributes to female empowerment when we put down men. Not to mention, every time a joke about tiny penises are made, we are enforcing this strange idea that giant penises somehow have more worth established to them. This is not sex-positive.

Just a reminder to be more cognizant of how you’re contributing to this conversation and to try to move away from the demoralizing jokes. Love your bodies, and encourage others to do the same.

South Park Takes on Identity

any thoughts on the recent south park episode about lorde and gender identity?

I actually haven’t seen any South Park recently so I’m not able to give a really comprehensive review on the episode. I did briefly read some other bloggers/writers talking about the episode and I’ve heard that was, generally, well received.

I read the wikipedia plot summary of the episode and from that I just have a few thoughts.

1. The whole concept of children talking about and exploring gender is interesting and I think super useful. Obviously the kids in South Park aren’t normal  or real kids but they do bring up the question as to when kids start exploring gender. The answer is really early.

2. I’d like to see how often sexuality and gender were discussed in this episode. For example, if someone is MtF is it presumed that they will be a “lesbian” based on this change? How is the gender binary tackled? How is ‘cis’ tackled?

3. That last question is sort of confronted in the title of the episode and the whole ‘cissy’ thing I think. It’s my assumption that they were making fun of the whole situation and making fun of gender issues being a big deal (to other people.)

4. Many will argue that this show tried, and succeeded. Others will argue that simply trying isn’t enough, and that to talk about trans* issues you need to do better. You need to do more. Given the context of South Park I generally fall into the “I’m glad they’re talking about it” category.

5. I think theres a lot of fear for things we don’t understand. While this platform for presentation might not be the most comprehensive performance of what being trans* is, I think it approaches an audience who might not ever hear anything about gender issues. I think that point is super important. It may not have been a super progressive way to get the word out, but it may have acted as a starting point for some people.

Did anyone see this episode? Could you give me your thoughts on it? Do you think South Park does good when it confronts issues of gender or sexuality? Does it add to the mainstream narrative of what is normal or does it skew ideas that should be presented in different or more progressive ways? And, of course, if you could expand on anything critical from the episode given that I haven’t seen it, I’d love to hear more thoughts.

Question: What is Virginity?

hi, I am worried that ive lost my virginity and really didn’t want to. It is quite unusual I think but I believe ive only had attempts at penetration by my ex boyfriend. I think I still have a hymen but there was some slight bleeding. I was always tense but sometimes he did get further than other times. I would just like to know how likely it is that im still a virgin after those attempts. Also it hurt every time so how likely is it that penetration didn’t actually happen. I still feel like I haven’t had the full experience. Thankyou.

This is a great question, thanks for writing in! We’re told growing up that virginity means something very very specific. That’s exactly what you think it is in your question: when a penis goes inside of your vagina you’ve had sex for the first time and lost your virginity. But that opens up a lot of questions. How far does it have to go in? Does it have to go in all the way? What if you lost your hymen before you had sex when you were rough housing or horse back riding or some other activity that wasn’t sexual? What if you were born without a hymen? What if you have no interest in ever having a penis inside of you – like if you’re a lesbian? Does this mean all lesbians are virgins? And what about men? Are all men virgins? How is their virginity protected and measured?

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In truth, the concept of virginity is something that is made up to shame women for their sexuality. The concept of virginity doesn’t leave room for the real experiences women have – like yours. It is fairly common for sex to hurt the first time whether or not you still have your hymen. There are a whole ton of factors that could contribute to that pain you felt. Let’s go through that first.

1. The hymen doesn’t always “pop” all in one go. The material of the hymen can stretch out over time which means you might still have bits of your hymen after attempting to have penetrative sex once. You can look down with a mirror and look for your vaginal opening and see what things look like. It’s good to start doing this now to become accustomed to your anatomy, know where things are, and being able to recognize if something changes.

2. When a woman is aroused her body goes through changes. A few of those changes help make sex comfortable. The vagina will grow in size to accommodate a penis, and it will produce lubrication of its own to help things slide. If you’re not turned on (which often times being nervous prevents) the vagina might be a little more resistant to penetration.

3. Going slow and using lube are important to help any discomfort. Those are two things that should be included the first few times you have sex. You should also communicate with your partner throughout the sex to stay on the same page. Things like “go slower” or “that feels good” or “stop for a second.” You can even reach down and help direct them if that helps.

Aside from vaginal penetrative sex, there are lots of other kinds of sex! Things like anal sex, oral sex, manual sex (fingering or hand jobs) or even just dry sex, where you rub up against one another. If someone had tons of oral sex every day I would not consider them to be particularly virginal. However, the thing about sex is that its very personal. For many people they really kick start their sexuality when they have that first vaginal penetrative sex. And I think it’s okay to consider that experience an important one. I just don’t think that you should feel badly if it doesn’t go magically the first go around, because it rarely does. Sex builds and grows on itself and the more you explore and experiment, the more you’ll grow. You’ll figure out what you like and don’t like and you’ll figure out what having sex is about.

Given that you’ve only tiptoed the line of having sex, if using the word virgin is important to you, I think you can very easily tell yourself that you haven’t really had that one sexual experience yet that takes you from “pre-sex” to “sexually active!!!” For myself, personally, as soon as you start exploring that kind of thing, you’ve already entered into the wondrous world of sexuality. And that shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of. So a congratulations is deserved, as well.

As you go forward into making this happen again, make sure to talk to your partner about comfort. Use lube and go slowly. Work on foreplay to help yourself become more aroused. If you want, try different positions to find one that is most comfortable. Some women find being on top most comfortable because they can guide things in and go at their own pace. Others find man on top more comfortable because they can work on the difficult bits on their own and you can focus on enjoying or relaxing.

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One last word of advice as someone who now knows more than she did when she first started fooling around: sex isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something you do with someone else for the mutual pleasure of both of you. If something doesn’t feel good for you, speak up, and try to find ways to make it feel better. One small thing you can do is play with your clit while he’s inside of you. Most women cannot orgasm without stimulation on their clit and so one quick way to make sex feel better is to reach down there and touch yourself. There are some positions that stimulate the clit (where their body rubs against your body just right) but those positions can be difficult to find and perfect, especially as you’re finding your way.

Don’t be afraid to readjust, go add more lube, reach down and touch yourself, look him in the eyes, grab him around the back, kiss him, interact. Don’t be afraid to tell him what you want. Don’t be afraid to ask him what he liked. Make the experience one that you’re both deeply involved in. And have fun.

Do you have a question about sex or love? Submit at the top by hitting ask advice and I’ll answer it on my blog. 

Weekly Update: I’m a Girl on a Mission without a Mission

Lord, what a term. I am teetering back and forth between complete apathy and pure rage driven obsession. I am a passion pie sprinkled with lethargy. I am a senior, and I’m almost done. Repeat, repeat, record skip!

This last week I hit 700,000 views on my blog. Let’s give a big bow to anal sex, pegging, and threesomes, the main contributing factors to my view count. You guys. You guys. I’d like to thank rectal pain and every single one of you who have been green with jealousy. I can’t tell you.

In other big news, I’ve arranged for myself 160 hours of volunteering to complete my senior project. There will be writing! There will be planning! There will be organized schedules that I stick to with vigorous attention! There will be crying! There will most certainly not be any procrastinating whatsoever she tells herself with gleeful dishonesty! 

I have dreams where I am writing and I wake up and there, in the corner of my mind, the perfect idea for a post. So I jot myself a little note on my iPhone and I wake up and its gone. The drive, the motivation, the words, the voice. There’s a little box somewhere buckled and bolted with my enthusiasm in it. This is a writers tradition. One that I will drown in a regular dosing of prescription journaling.

Other times, I am at concerts, sitting front row, standing among the sway of drunkards. And a song lyric reaches out and stimulates me and I think, jesus christ, I am in just the perfect mood to write about g-spot orgasms right now. I tell you, standing in the middle of a sweaty concert is the worst absolute time to whip out your reporters notebook. But inspiration comes when it comes and theres not much you can do about it aside from be glad its inspiration and not heart failure, Tourettes, a broken limb.

The next few weeks (and the weeks prior, if we’re being honest) are packed with nothing but holiday goodness. Several years ago a man was bestowed upon me that would become my partner in crime. A Nutcracker attending, ugly sweater wearing, sending out Christmas cards with disgustingly adorable photos in it sort of person. And I whisper to you in (what you must imagine) is the tiniest font ever – I like it. Bathe me in tinsel and glitter and pinecones for I smell of tree and nature and cookie dough and I don’t care who knows it. I am mother fucking Kristina Kringle.

May your pre-holiday planning and celebrating be merry and light, and may your sex lives of whatever nature be furiously wonderful.

What are the infinite gender possibilities?

Following in Facebook’s footsteps, today Google+ announced options for gender identification that go beyond male and female.  The article I read this morning (The Verge) reiterates an important detail in moves like this: social networks help shape norms. What we see and are exposed to help shape what we see as normal. Unfortunately, we’re still a long way from having the larger population accept, acknowledge, or even understand what gender is and what it means. Every single aspect of our lives is touched by what gender we read as. Falling outside of expected gender norms can make life difficult. A saddening example of this was a recent suicide by 12-year old Ronin Shimizu. He was bullied for his passion in cheerleading and fashion, hobbies seen as being feminine. His story isn’t unique and similar stories, each with their own sad story, are a part of the news almost every day.

If you don’t think that the gender binary is a problem – examples like this should act as some more solid proof. Aside from the real lived experiences of people who are trans* or simply perform outside of their expected gender roles, gender influences each of us intimately on a day to day basis. It influences what we feel comfortable wearing, what we feel comfortable doing, how we talk, where we go, the opportunities that are available to us. As a woman, my life is different than it would be as a man. Equally important are the experiences given or taken from men. This is something that influence both sides of the binary and everyone who falls in-between.

What do people mean when they talk about infinite gender possibilities, though? What does it mean to not identify as male or female? Why might someone not feel comfortable as identifying as one of these two titles, and if they aren’t male or female, uh, what are they?

Some people identify as trans. Very simply: Imagine a child that is born, the doctor says “its a boy!” but they grow up feeling as though they are a girl. The identity they were assigned did not fit them – even if their body appeared to look a certain way. This is because sex and gender are often regarded simultaneously. If you have a penis you are expected to be a boy, if you are a girl you’re expected to have a vagina. The way the penis and vagina look (among other sex-specific body parts) are expected to look a certain way. If things are “ambiguous” sometimes a gender is simply assigned anyways. Not everyone with a penis identifies as a boy and the same goes for women. Given that sex (physical) and gender (constructed) are separate things, you can start to see how gender becomes a problem.

Gender presentation can also be fluid. Some people are female bodied but present as ‘gender queer’ – their identity might be more fluid. They may not restrict themselves to a masculine or feminine identity. Some people may consider themselves genderless. Some people may consider themselves androgynous. The list goes on.

Allowing alternatives to gender identification on social media sites – where many people spend their lives – helps validate the real experiences these people are going through. It also brings a light to how rigid the gender binary is and forces us to question what it means to be a boy and a girl and why we put so much pressure on people to be certain ways based on that assignment they’re given.

Moves like this might feel small in the grand scheme of things, but they actively help build a new narrative for what identity is and what is or isn’t acceptable.

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