We just put out the October issue of Boston’s Sex Positive Newsletter, which lists all the awesome sexuality-related events we can find in the Boston area. Click here to check it out!
Also, Karen (the Pleasure Pie intern) made this amazing ghost condom graphic. Karen = the best! :D
“Condoms will break, but I can assure you that vows of abstinence will break more easily than condoms.”
I made this plate for an event that a local nonprofit called The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health had this month to celebrate their fifth birthday. They had an art exhibit called A Place at the Table to honor the history of sex educators who helped move our culture in the direction of sexual acceptance. The installation was inspired by feminist artist Judy Chicago’s exhibit, The Dinner Party.
Chicago pioneered the Feminist Art Movement in the 70’s, and she created The Dinner Party to pay tribute to influential women throughout history. The Dinner Party was originally banned as pornographic and Chicago had to fight to exhibit her work. Through emulating Chicago’s concept, A Place at the Table intends to acknowledge the historical relevance of her contribution to eliminating sexual shame.
On Abstinence Vows
By Nicole Mazzeo
“Condoms will break, but I can assure you that vows of abstinence will break more easily than condoms.” -Joycelyn Elders
As a teenager, I believed that strict abstinence was my ownly acceptable option. This led me to internalize a lot of shame around the fact that I sometimes masturbated, was turned on by taboo things, and had sexual feelings at all. When I finally gave myself permission to experiment sexually, anytime I tried to engage sexually with a partner my mind would flood with anxious thoughts about whether I was doing it “right”, deadlines I had missed, etc. – anything and everything I could possibly be anxious about came to mind when I tried to be sexual. I usually couldn’t relax enough (physically or emotionally) to feel much sexual pleasure, and orgasms were often unattainable.
For the past six years, I’ve been on a journey of reclaiming my sexuality and my right to pleasure.
My experience of sexual repression has led me to care deeply about encouraging young people to make their own choices about sex. People of all ages deserve to have power over their own bodies and their own sexual expression. Educators and caregivers have the responsibility to support young people in their efforts to find healthy, fulfilling ways of relating to the sexual aspects of who they are (unless they find that sexuality is not a part of their experience – then they deserve support in embracing their non-sexual identity). Rather than pressuring young people to make vows of abstinence, let’s give them all their options, and all the information they need to make responsible decisions about sexual expression.
Jocelyn Elders is the former US Surgeon General who was fired by President Clinton in 1994 for her controversial remarks about contraception, masturbation, and abortion, among other things. She is currently a professor in Arkansas.
This piece was made by gluing magazine clippings to a ceramic plate. The text was written with a typewriter, glued to repurposed cardboard, and then glued to the plate.
Photos from A Place at the Table
Is sex dirty? Is enjoying sex a bad thing? Is it only okay if you always do it with the same person? Or if you’ve made a forever commitment with them?
Why do we have so many restrictions on our sexual enjoyment? What are we afraid might happen if we embrace sexual pleasure?
I got really into religion when I was thirteen. At that time I also happened to be going through puberty and becoming very interested in the possibility of interacting sexually with another person. But my religious role models were sending me some firm messages about the need to control one’s sexuality in order to live a moral life. And I took all the values they taught me very seriously.
So I tried not to masturbate. That usually worked until just before my period each month when my hormones would go wild. But I didn’t know anything about hormones, so every time I masturbated and then got my period the next day, I thought god was punishing me for what I had done.
I determined that I needed to stop giving into my sexual (and sinful) urges. I thought that if I could make myself feel ashamed enough, this tower of shame would serve as a self control replacement when self control didn’t cut it. When this method didn’t work, I just kept adding shame to the top of the shame tower every time I slipped up.
Luckily for my young faith, I was never intimate with a person (other than myself) who knew how to make my genitals feel good (what, was I going to tell them what felt good? Ha!). So for that and other reasons (i.e. I was uncool) my sexual interactions with other people were rare.
But that stretch of clueless boyfriends/no boyfriends ended when I was 17. By this time, I was adamantly against the idea of experiencing any kind of sexual pleasure until I was married. But this one guy pressured me endlessly and eventually I gave in.
In my attempts to switch from demonizing sex to having a satisfying sex life, I was surprised to find that I couldn’t orgasm when I was with another person. During sexy times, I found myself having terrible anxiety. I worried about all sorts of things: whether or not I was pleasing my partner, the smell of my genitals, my heaps of overdue homework assignments, etc. And I wasn’t thinking at all about what I wanted or how I could enjoy what we were doing.
I was also afraid to seem like I was enjoying it, even when I kind of was. I know now that whoever I’m hooking up with wants me to enjoy the things we’re doing together, and would probably even be turned off if they thought I wasn’t. But at the time it didn’t even occur to me that part of the point was for me to enjoy it. I thought I would seem gross and porn-y if I expressed that I had any sort of sexual inclinations. I was beyond terrified of putting my true sexual feelings out there for others to see.
My boyfriend would ask me for a lap dance and I would freeze. I had taught myself to hide any trace of my sexuality from my self expression (and I was especially intentional about hiding it from my dancing, since I always heard people lamenting the hyper-sexualized music videos of the world today). Now I was supposed to just switch that off? I imagine this is how many couples who wait until they’re married to have sex feel once they try to embrace sex in the context of their marriage.
So I began a journey of reclaiming my sexuality. I read articles upon articles about sex positivity. I came out as queer*. I visited sex shops and bought a vibrator. I sampled many kinds of erotic media. The list goes on.
Now, eight years later, I’m still unlearning my internalized shame. And I’m up against a culture that has taught me that women aren’t supposed to want or enjoy sex. But I’ve finally learned to ask myself: What do I want? What would feel good or be fun for me?
I indulge in cozy blankets with an erotic story (tailed to my interests!) and have great sexy time with myself. I communicate my desires and sexual fantasies to my partner and – get this – we try them out! I give myself room to experiment with things that I don’t know whether or not I’ll like.
These simple practices are what embracing pleasure looks like for me. It’s appreciating the sexual aspect of who I am. It’s unapologetically saying that I’m horny**. It’s believing that my experience of pleasure is a good thing – something to be celebrated, not something to repent or hate myself for, not something to see as less important than my partner’s pleasure.
I like sexual pleasure. And that’s okay.
*Well, I still haven’t come out to everyone.
**It took me years to be able to use that word without just dying on the spot.
Come write a letter to your teenage self saying everything you wish you knew about sex (and bodies, relationships, gender, etc.) as a teenager. Then we’ll have an open mic where you can read your letter (if you want to).
Date: Sunday, September 20, 2015 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Location: The Democracy Center in Cambridge
Cost: Sliding scale $3-$25
Click here to buy your ticket! :)
After we have some time to write our letters, anyone who wants to share their letter is welcome to read it aloud, open mic style (you can also ask someone to read your letter for you, if you want).
We will provide pens and paper, but you’re welcome to bring a laptop if you’d like to type your letter.
We would love it if you want to submit your letter to The Sex Letters Project blog! Then other people can read your letter, maybe identify with what you said, and possibly even learn something from it. Submissions can be anonymous or credited, it’s up to you. If you choose to write your letter by hand, we are happy to type it up for you to submit it to the blog. If you’d rather not submit your letter, that’s totally cool too. :)
Admission to this event is on a sliding scale from $3 to $25. You are welcome to pay whatever you’d like in that range. Admission includes a copy of our zine, Sex Letters Volume One.
There will be snacks! (The more you pay for admission, the better the snacks will be ;)
All are welcome. Feel free to invite people!
Pleasure Pie strives to create safer spaces. We will share what that means to each of us and come up with some guidelines during this event, but for now you can check out these safer space guidelines by a local co-op, The Fort, to get a sense of what this can look like.
This will be in the Library room in The Democracy Center. It is private and cozy. Unfortunately, the building isn’t wheelchair accessible. Please let us know if stairs are a hindrance to you. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.