What is Cisgender?

Decided to write this up after my latest poll.

Someone who is cisgender is someone who feels comfortable in the gender they were given at birth. For instance, someone who is cisgender could be a woman who has a vagina who feels comfortable her presentation as a woman. When I explain this to people (as I’m still learning myself) the common reaction is: what, like normal people? Instead of this, lets consider someone who is cisgender someone that most people would typically think of as male or female. What does a female look like, what does a male look like? That snap judgement you’ve made about what it means to be male or female is someone who is cisgendered. We often use cisgender in opposition to transgender. Someone who is transgender may not feel comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Want to know more? Here are some websites I’ve found that discuss it more.

  1. Basic Rights Oregon
  2. Cisgender Privilege
  3. Gender Wiki
  4. Kinsey Confidential

It’s my knowledge that you should not at an “ed” to cisgender to make it cisgendered, just like you should not say “transgendered” instead of transgender. To understand why, consider how “femaled” or “maled” sounds.

I know I don’t write much about trans* issues. This is because I don’t know much about trans issues and don’t have those experiences. As I broach the subject in my courses this term, its likely you’ll see a bit more. Thanks for being patient with me (or in some cases, learning alongside me) as I stumble my way to some greater understanding.

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the both/and of 2012

If I had to look back over 2012 and pick one lesson from the courses I took, it would be this. The both/and lesson. I learned this in two separate courses over the span of the year and it took me a while to really click onto it and start using it in my own life. I also found that initially it was very hard for me to accept it. I didn’t understand how it worked.

The both/and means that you can be two things simultaneously that contradict one another. For instance, you can be a feminist but you can have opinions that might not be considered feminist opinions. For instance you can say “I am both a feminist and I believe that women can be satisfied as housewives.” An important little note to this is that the “and” portion may not always be something that you want to feel, but that you acknowledge it’s a part of you whether or not you want to change it. For instance some women may really feel that it’s completely OK to be a housewife. Other women may feel that it directly contradicts their feminist beliefs but must confess that they feel it regardless.

Does that make sense?

The both/and gives us validation in our feelings even if they don’t always make sense. Even if we believe we’re one thing but act another. It allows us to be fluid in our evolution as human beings. Not always perfect. Not always perfectly aligned into little boxes. And yeah, it’s messy. It’s messy to say “I am this one thing, but I am also this other thing, even though they might not make sense together.” Sometimes it’s hypocritical. Sometimes it’s hard to confess. Sometimes they might be things we keep secret. Only sharing the bits and pieces of ourselves that make sense in the version of ourselves we want others to see.

I think it’s important to own the both/and and to be accepting of other peoples experiences. Take a note from a famous both/and in Perks of Being a Wallflower. You’ve probably heard it before.

“I am both happy and sad at the same time, and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

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Gangbang Fantasy Lives

This is a guest blog submitted by a reader. If you’re interested in submitting a guest blog read this post for more information.

Two weeks ago, I did the amazing, and some might call it the unthinkable or unimaginable. But for me, it was a long time coming. And totally hot.

I was in a filmed gangbang, a special-made fantasy-turned-porn for my amazing lover and partner.

How did I get here? Gangbangs have been a huge fantasy for my partner, J, and I for the past year. We tried setting up multiple gangbangs and it wasn’t until about a month ago that one finally worked out: it takes so much planning, scheduling, vetting, and emailing. We are picky: guys need to be intelligent, thoughtful, be okay with using condoms, and our preference is that they are actually turned on by the gangbang scenario. We don’t want guys who are using the gangbang as simply an excuse to have sex with a woman and then leave. We want guys who are into the idea of a girl with multiple men.

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The Courage of Saying Hello (and other things)

Every now and then something magical happens to me. As I’m walking about, minding my own business, I absorb the courage of others. At least… that’s what I suspect happens. Because one day I’ll be minding my own business and the next I’ll suddenly have balls. Not real hairy hanging-down-yo-pants kinds of balls, but the metaphorical balls. Which is really a post all in itself, because what intelligent designer decided to put the future of mankind hanging from a sweaty sack outside of the body? I digress, sometimes I’m courageous.

I’m middle school my fondest memory of prepubescent flirtation was hitting on a little redheaded mormon boy. I’m not sure why these are his identifiers in my mind, but they are. He has four or five brothers all split apart in various classes and he was the youngest of the brothers, putting him in my class. He was very funny and nice which put him in a different league from the other hair-pulling spit-wad-throwing boys I knew. So one day, in this moment de courage I walked up to him, sat down, and said do you think I’m cute?

We then entered into some sort of pseudo-philosophical conversation which my brain has since created filler for in the back part of my memories. That doesn’t matter so much. What does matter is how I felt, and what it accomplished. (Confident, confidence.)

A lot of people ask me how you approach someone you’re interested in. I’m a big fan of faking it until you make it. That means that a lot of courage comes from diving in head first and then figuring it out as you go along. I had no idea what he was going to say to me, but I was confident in my entering the conversation. I knew that if he said “No” that I would be able to pull some funny retort out of my ass like “Good, I’m glad we’re on the same page monkey brains” or something similarly juvenile. If he’d said yes, my training-bra self would have blushed, smiled, said “Good” and walked away mysteriously. Gotta keep em on their toes.

As an adult the game changes a little bit. Does approaching someone mean you’re being a nice person? Does it mean you’re just interested in making small talk? Does it mean you want to go on a date with them? Does it mean you just think they’re cute? Does it mean you want to bone them super hard all night long gangnam style? You have to be a little more clear. And, of course, you have to consider what is or isn’t appropriate.

Not appropriate: Whistling, cat-calling, any sort of name-calling, or any adult version of hair pulling. (Doing something stupid and mean to get attention when really you could just be nice and honest.)

Let’s go with my favorite scenario. You’re sitting at a cafe and someone across the cafe is reading a book that you really like. You notice both the book, the fluttery feeling in your heart, your face is red, and by gosh golly do they sure look physically attractive to your little lizard brain. What now?

1. Walk over to them

2. Make some sort of introductory comment: I love that book! What do you think about it?

3. Note their reaction. Do they seem like they want to talk to you? Or are they looking at you like you might have just stepped in dog poop and rubbed it all over them? Be cautious.

4. Ask: Do you mind if I sit down? I’m so-and-so! 

5. Keep up the conversation. Talk about the book, related books, ask them where they’re from, what they do, and then when it’s time to say goodbye, write your email or phone number on a piece of paper and let them know you should keep in touch about whatever such things you had in common. Maybe you can catch a movie, visit a book reading, take a walk with your similarly aged poodles. Whatever it is.

If you had nothing in common and they are still looking at you like stool, abort the mission.

While I do not always have great moments of courage when I see someone I’m heinously attracted to, sometimes I do. And you know what’s never a bad idea? Showing interest in someone in a polite manner. Worst case scenario? They aren’t interested. At least you tried. Maybe you’ll make a friend. Maybe they are your one and only soul mate destined from the great almighty god of love, sent to the cafe with that book in hand to test your courage. Never know, really.

TL;DR: If you see someone you think you might want to talk to, say hello.

Bonus Points: If someone approaches you in a nice way, be polite back. You don’t have to have a conversation (god knows sometimes I want to drink my coffee in peace) but it’s nice to appreciate that it might have taken someone a lot to say anything at all.

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a note on loving yourself

A post for those struggling with dating. 

Dating sucks. Dating really sucks. And if you’re not particularly good at dating there can be nothing more demeaning than having people tell you to just be confident! Be confident? Yeah, that’ll do it. After rejection #45 when you’re at home slumming with a pint of ice cream in front of your media-of-choice what you really need is confidence. Seriously. How can you suffer through a stack of spurned lovers and still come out on top?

Love yourself.

If you don’t love yourself, it’s going to be hard for anyone else to love you. Don’t seek confidence from other people. Build up confidence within yourself first. People who like themselves are easily distinguishable from people who don’t love themselves. They carry themselves taller. They smile more. They participate in the things that they love and have a life outside of the relationship they seek. These are attractive things. When you are around people who love themselves you don’t feel that they are trying to steal acknowledgement from you. They are self-sufficient. You don’t have to be 100% satisfied with yourself as a person – aren’t we all improving? –  but you do have to be confident that you are worthy of a relationship. You have to be confident that right now you are being the best you that you can be.

Confidence is little things that we can all do. It’s realizing that if someone doesn’t like us, we don’t need them to. It’s realizing we shouldn’t be with someone who doesn’t like us the same way that we like them. It’s taking a shower and putting on your favorite outfit. It’s brushing our teeth and hair. It’s smiling at someone and intently listening when they talk. It’s inhaling and exhaling. It’s taking each moment as it comes without fear of what will come next. It’s treating someone as an equal. It’s asking questions. It’s being interested in someone – genuinely interested. It’s sharing yourself and your life. It’s being proud of who you are.

Confidence is just little things all piled up into a feeling that starts with loving yourself.

 

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I want to be open – my partner doesn’t!

My boyfriend and I have been together for a couple years and I’m realizing that I really want to be in an open relationship. I love him and I love having sex with him but I’m missing having sex with women and I’d like to experience sex with another man again. I feel like every time I bring it up I hurt his feelings and he doesn’t want to budge on the issue. What can I do?

This is the toughest, and I feel like so many people wind up in this exact situation. I love you, but I want to see other people. I think the toughest part, that you noted, is being able to clearly explain to your partner exactly what you want and why. It’s not easy to express your need/desire for something new or different without your partner feeling like they aren’t good enough. I mean, fuckit. I’ve been studying this stuff in school and in my personal life for the past couple of years and there are still some aspects I struggle with, still some new things I’m learning.  It’s a process. With no understanding of polyamory or open relationships or swinging, the thought of your partner being with someone else can be particularly painful. Don’t forget that. It may make complete sense to you, it may not seem hurtful or damaging to you, but if your partner isn’t in the same mental state that you are he’s going to perceive what you’re asking for differently than you may want him to.

That’s where I’d start. Get on the same page. Read books together (Open, Opening Up, Love in Abundance, Sex at Dawn, The Ethical Slut…) and learn about alternate styles of relationships. Write lists about what you’re both looking to get out of your relationship. Write about what you want and what you need. Express your concerns, your boundaries. Talk about what you want together out of your relationship. Develop your ideal relationship. Talk about why you want to stay together rather than just splitting up. Talk about how you want to make it work and find a way to both be satisfied. The hardest part is understanding. The hardest part is getting to a place where you have a similar point of direction.

If you can get to that point, you’ll be able to work on experimenting with these things and developing the boundaries for your relationship. You’ll be able to work through struggles one at a time. Finding a couples counselor who works with open couples may be incredibly useful for you in learning how to deal with your emotions and learning new ways of communicating with one another.

You also have to consider that your boyfriend knows what an open relationship entails and just isn’t interested. In this case you have to consider your relationship with your boyfriend. Are you going to be happy if you stay in this relationship and don’t get to have these experiences?

The bottom line is that you can’t have an open relationship by yourself. Your partner needs to be on board and consenting to the style of relationship you want to have. So talk about it. Express how you feel. Communicate. Maybe don’t jump straight into your ideal relationship but tiptoe to it with baby steps that make him feel comfortable. Explore it together. See if there is anything he’s interested in trying. But if he’s not interested, consider the need/want you have for these new experiences. Are you going to regret not experiencing them? Are they a necessary part of your life? Are you not ready to completely settle down yet? Is settling down something you ever want to do? Is this something you can compromise on and let slide? A passing curiosity? For some it is, for some it is definitely not.

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after your infidelity: what next?

I got a submission from someone asking what they should do after having cheated on their partner, so I thought I would do a little writeup of my own personal feelings on the subject. There are obviously many different ways that this can go, and I think that the most important thing to realize is that there is very little control in scenarios like this. With emotions flying, all you can do is the best you can do. It’s imperative that you realize that all you have control over is yourself. You cannot control or predict how someone will react when you tell them that you cheated on them. It’s important to understand that no matter how well you plan this conversation that its still going to take on a life of its own once you let it out. Coming to some sense of calm about this will help, I think.

In my earlier post about why people cheat, I pointed out that a lot of people who cheat have serious guilt and shame about what they’ve done. I don’t believe that people who cheat are bad people, spare a few exceptions. I think that people who cheat have made a mistake, typically because something in their relationship has become flawed with or without their notice. From that point we realize that our relationship requires some sort of fix me up, break it down and rebuild it, or we realize that our relationship is beyond repair and we end it.

The problem is that most people follow the script of “You cheated on me, this is over” instead of looking at infidelity as a reason for strengthening their relationship, looking at the issues that plagued it, and coming back together. This is reasonable. This is understandable. Trust is the foundation of any relationship and it makes sense that once you’ve lost that trust you may not want to work to rebuild it – you may not think that you can. And you may be right. That said, I think that many wonderful relationships are broken down and tossed away because of a horrible turn of events that could have had a more positive ending. Not every relationship that experiences infidelity needs to end.

But, again, as the cheater, you only have so much control now that this has played out.

So you have to come clean, what do you say? How much do you say?

I think you should tell your partner everything but I think it should be as tactful as possible. The difference between “I slept with someone else, twice, in the past couple of months” and “I slept with these two guys from my gym class, they had giant cocks, we fucked right here, and here, and there…” Your partner will likely want to know more, and may ask questions. I’m inclined to say that answering any question that your partner has is probably better than withholding information. The most important thing about this step is not telling any more lies. Don’t pretend something didn’t happen if it did because this is the moment of truth, of clearing your conscience, of coming clean. This is the moment to get it all out if you want to have even the slightest chance of rebuilding a relationship based on truth and trust.

It would be helpful, I think, to get the basics out. Then to take a break. Leave and let your partner think about what happened and what you said. It’s possible that they may have more questions following your first conversation.

I think it’s important to express your regret for the mistake that you made. I think it’s important to state your intentions. I think it’s important to never tell your partner that they have to forgive you or that they have to make it work with you. Your partner is going to feel horrified as is – and they’re not going to want to be told what to do. Tell them what happened, tell them that you are regretful, tell them that you want to find some way to rebuild what was broken.

It would also be helpful if you expressed some desire to fix the issue that led to the infidelity. Whether it be temptations, dissatisfaction, a friction in the relationship, your own personal depression, your own personal needs, or whatever else you feel led you to that place. I would also consider (before even having this conversation) that you may have cheated because you were done with the relationship. Do you really want the relationship back, or do you just feel as though you still love this person and are upset that you hurt them? Consider that point strongly before expressing a desire to fix the relationship.

Lastly, talk to them immediately. No one wants to hear “So I’ve been trying to think of how to tell you this for a few months now…” It’s better to come to your partner immediately after you’ve cheated to tell them how you’ve wronged them and express your regret.

This post is disjointed, and it gives me the same feelings that these serious and unfortunate conversations usually have. It will likely be messy. It will likely not come out in the order you want it to. Have the conversation, be honest, tell your partner what happened, tell them what you want to fix and how you attempt to fix it (counseling? taking a step back to rebuild? defining new rules and boundaries?) and then let them take some time to think about what they want. It might not be the same thing.

But first figure out if this is a relationship that you truly want to save, or if you just want your partner back because you still care about them and feel badly for hurting them. What did your infidelity tell you about you and your relationship? Why did it happen, and how can you make it not happen again? It’s going to hurt for the both of you no matter what you do, no matter what you BOTH decide. Take the time while he is thinking about what he wants to do things for yourself. Focus on yourself, your friends, your own life. Focus on learning the lesson from the mistakes that were made. Whether or not you get back together, this is going to be an important step. Good luck.

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Infidelity / Age

Do married senior citizens cheat on their spouses with the same frequency as younger couples?

There is some interesting new studies being done on infidelity. I would suggest that you read this article that came out in 2008. Here is a clip with some relevant information. I would note that this seems to refer specifically to sexual infidelity, not emotional infidelity. I imagine emotional infidelity may appear more steady than sexual infidelity – maybe depending on gender as a variable.

University of Washington researchers have found that the lifetime rate of infidelity for men over 60 increased to 28 percent in 2006, up from 20 percent in 1991. For women over 60, the increase is more striking: to 15 percent, up from 5 percent in 1991.

Theories vary about why more people appear to be cheating. Among older people, a host of newer drugs and treatments are making it easier to be sexual, and in some cases unfaithful — Viagra and other remedies for erectile dysfunctionestrogen and testosteronesupplements to maintain women’s sex drive and vaginal health, even advances like better hip replacements.

“They’ve got the physical health to express their sexuality into old age,” said Helen E. Fisher, research professor of anthropology at Rutgers and the author of several books on the biological and evolutionary basis of love and sex.

 

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Relationships Aren’t Love Affairs

I just finished the book Wabi Sabi Love: The Ancient Art of Perfect Love in Imperfect Relationships by Arielle Ford. I picked this book up as a new release because occasionally it can be enlightening to read a good book about relationships. This one was no exception. No matter how much experience (literary or personal) you have in love and relationships, you always learn something new, and you always get good reminders. This book made me sad at times, and really happy at others. While there was brief mentions of God or religion (very brief, IMO) it was always very respectful. It wasn’t “hands off, God will do things for you” and it wasn’t “You should do this for God” –  it was using God as a backbone for the choices that you make in life, and seeking strength in the beliefs you have that things will be OK. I really enjoyed that, as someone who is not religious.

If I had to summarize the book, it would be in the title line. Relationships Aren’t Love Affairs. The other makes the point that love affairs are about passion. Relationships (and subsequently marriages) are about the irritants that two people have to make them stronger together. Certainly it’s all about love, and happiness, and pleasure, and fun, but it’s also about the work that two people put into a relationship to make it stronger.

Here are some notes, and thoughts, that I jotted down in my notebook from themes the book gave.

When you suffer, when you have a history, you become stronger and more beautiful. It doesn’t damage you or make you less-than.

Crisis can be used as a way to bring two people together and make them stronger. You are forced to admit your faults and your mistakes, and your true self. The fact that you are human and can do wrong shouldn’t be seen as a breaking point, but rather a turning point.

On the thought that a baby can bring love and enrich your marriage/relationship. It is another example of how much love we have to give and spread. Another baby doesn’t make you love your husband less, it makes you love your husband more. Presumably. This point is often used when talking about polyamory. Your partner experiences love or emotion for someone else, but it doesn’t mean they love you less. That love they give can help strengthen your relationship, because your partner is happy and satisfied. No mention of polyamory (that I can recall) was given in the book. But a lot of the tools could be useful in any style of relationship.

Forgiveness and sincere apologizes are important. Don’t forgive unless you truly forgive. Don’t harbor ill will towards people while you smile and say that everything is OK.

All you can control in life is your response. You cannot, can never, and will not control someone else. I would suppose the harder you try, the more they will rebel – in some cases. Bad things happen to even the most wonderful people and it’s how you choose to react to these situations that makes you and your relationship.

You should trust your intuition in relationships, not scripts. For instance if you are cheated on the script is that your partner should not be trusted and you should leave them and never return again. If your intuition says this is true, do it. But if your intuition tells you that your partner feels poorly for the mistakes they have made and you want to make your relationship work, don’t feel pressured to do what you “should” do – do what you feel is right.

You should not have to end a relationship to feel freedom. If you feel trapped, why do you feel trapped? How can you seek and experience freedom in your relationship? We may not want freedom from our partners, but from the imaginary things we feel bind us to them.

How do we act differently when our children do something badly, or when our partner does something badly? We expect adults to do no wrong, to know better, to not make mistakes. When a child makes a mistake we may tell them what they did wrong and why it was wrong and what to do the next time. We may not give this benefit to adults, who are also still learning, and also still need space to grow.

Share the truths that you are afraid of. RAFT: Reluctant and frighted to share. These things can help you grow closer to your partner, and help you have a more honest relationship. Keep your RAFT short and concise. Tell them you are RAFT – but you want to step out of your comfort zone to share a part of yourself with them.

We have many soul mates in life, for different purposes, different kinds of love. Nurture those relationships and they will nurture you back.

“In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.” – Erich Fromm

Irritation over time turns a relationship into a pearl. The things that once made us crazy can make us grateful later. Learn to love the flaws – the things that makes your partner unique. Find goodness in those flaws.

Our care takes many forms. How does your partner care for you, and how do you care for them? This may look different, and you may not at first perceive it as a care. (For instance: Cooking and cleaning for your partner may be a small act of caring that the partner may perceive as a duty, because this may not be a form of caring that they relate to.) Learn your partners style of caring, the little things they do for you that shows their love.

In order to help someone you have to first help yourself (Re: Putting the mask on in an airplane first before you help others do so) You need to make sure you are in order before you can help others. Fill yourself up with good things (food, sleep, exercise, things that make you happy) so you have more to give. Make yourself happy. Know how to.

Refuse to suffer in bad situations. Give your partner space and do what you need to do. Offer compassion. Think about how you can care for them and your relationship, now how you can fix the problem or change your partner.

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Shaving Tips.

I’m 20F and I’ve never shaved anywhere in my life, and now I want to… but I don’t know how much to shave, or where, or how. Help??

No big! Shaving can be a little overwhelming at first, when you realize just how much hair you have. What you shave and how much you shave is really up to you. The big three, I think, are your 1) Legs 2) Pubic hair 3) Underarms. These are the places that I shave (or wax) and you’ll often see others who choose to shave do the same.

Your leg hair can be the most time consuming because there is such a great big spanse of it. Many people choose just to shave the area of their legs that are visible when wearing clothing. For some that might be just to the knee, for others it might be all the way up to the thigh. I typically shave just to my knee – as the hair that is above my knee is much lighter than the hair below my knee. You can’t really tell it’s there. Up to you. The pubic hair may be equally as time consuming, but because the skin is more sensitive and there is more to shave around. Some women just shave the edges – what can be seen when wearing underwear. Others just trim. Some shave everything. Some even shave in the taint area (in between the ass and vagina) or the actual hair that grows in your crack. Some people have more hair than others. You can choose to shave whichever parts you want to, here. Underarms are pretty self explanatory.

I recommend getting a nice razor that has a couple of blades. I’ve tried a few and I really like Gillette. I’ve tried mens and womens razors and prefer the shockingly pink and marketed towards woman version. It always glides a little smoother. It’s good to shave with a razor that is fairly sharp. Not too sharp, but definitely not too dull either. If it is too dull it will pull the hair rather than cut it. If it’s too sharp you may cut yourself. Shave in areas that you are less prone to cutting yourself (your legs, maybe) prior to shaving more delicate areas. Replace blades as needed.

A shaving cream choice is up to you. I like the ones with aloe in them, or ones that smell like raspberry. It’s good to reapply your shaving cream as necessary to prevent dry shaving, which can cause ingrown hairs.

Ingrown hairs are little red bumps that may form after shaving. The more you shave and become used to shaving, the less likely it is that you’ll have these bumps. Exfoliating (using a scrub on your skin a few times a week or rubbing a washcloth with soap over your skin) can help prevent ingrown hairs. Using a moisturizer can keep your skin happy.

The actual process of shaving that I use is: Shave downwards in the direction the hair grows. Clean your razor often to prevent clogging the blades. Once you’ve shaved everywhere downwards, reapply more cream and shave upwards at a diagonal. A fair bit of pressure usually helps, as does pulling the skin taut. I find shaving diagonally prevents cutting and snagging more than shaving directly upwards. Hair grows fast, and you cant get everything with a blade. You’ll likely see stubble the day after shaving. It’s best to wait a day or more in-between shaves if you can to prevent irritation and to allow some of the hair to grow back so you have something to shave. Make sure to go slowly when shaving over the knee and around your ankles – tricky areas. It’s also important to move your lips out of the way when shaving your pubic hair so you don’t snag them. Ouch. If you’re shaving the taint or the hair in your crack, good luck.

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