By Nicole Mazzeo
You, too can put on a workshop! You don’t need to be an official “educator” or have certification (or even a college degree).
You do need passion for the subject and willingness to put time and effort into it. And you should know a good amount about the topic you’re going to cover. I recommend reading things on the internet (or, you know, books) – and fact checking anything you want to use. You can do it!
By Nicole Mazzeo
[The “Sparknotes” version is at the bottom, for people with limited time/attention spans.]
I’m not talking about respect for a person’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy, or respect for a fetus’s right to life (no comment on either of those right now). I’m talking about respect for people who you disagree with. Your “opponents.”
Have you ever heard a pro-choice advocate talk about “pro-lifers”? Or a pro-life advocate talk about … “pro-abortion-ers”? (Or whatever anti-abortion people call pro-choice people.)
If so, it’s likely that you’ve heard this done in a way that paints the disagreeing party as bumbling idiots. Not just bumbling idiots, but conniving, deceitful, bumbling idiots with really bad intentions.
Nicole is hosting Pleasure Pie’s first ever Emerging Sex Positive Activist Workshop next month at Good Vibrations in Brookline, MA!
This workshop is all about sexual freedom activism and how you can find ways to help create a more sexually accepting culture that reflects your own skills and interests.
Learn how to participate in and create sex positive spaces within your own communities!
Purchase Tickets @ www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2304531
Facebook Event: www.facebook.com/events/557548077737319/
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.
This August I traveled to Maryland and Virginia to be a part of two sexuality conferences, Amorous Revolt and the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit. It was awesome to meet so many people who are passionate about creating a more sexually accepting culture!
My friends at The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health let me use some of their table space for Pleasure Pie zines, and I am eternally grateful! It was a great opportunity to put my work out there in a community of enthusiastic, supportive sex geeks. Also, I put up the Thoughtful Penis Series on the wall behind the table, because why not? Photo from the CSPH Instagram.
Unfortunately I didn’t think to take any photos at Amorous Revolt, and I haven’t seen any posted on the internet yet. But I’ll post some if I find any!
Thank you so much to everyone who donated to our Sex Positive Summer Tour fundraiser for making this all possible!!!
Local sex-positive mastermind Kit Stubbs, Ph.D., is in the process of launching [drumroll please…] The Effing Foundation for Sex-Positivity! The Effing Foundation aims to foster sex-positive artists, activists, educators, and entrepreneurs, and celebrate diverse expressions of human sexuality.
[Full disclosure: Kit and I are friends and we sometimes collaborate on sex-positive projects.]
I sat down with Kit to ask them some questions about their plans for the new nonprofit, how they navigate being a sex-positive activist, and what brought them to sex-positivity in the first place.
One survivor’s reflections:
Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like to live in a body that wasn’t repeatedly touched, fondled, and/or used without my consent. My relationship to my body has been shaped by all these experiences of people touching me against my will, since I was a kid.
When I was raped at age 23, it felt weirdly unsurprising and familiar because I had experienced so much non-consensual sexual touching in my life already.
I decided to make a map of my body that shows where people have touched me against my will.
Why do I want to share this with the world?
1. To say, “Hey! This is what sexual assault looks like (or can look like). Recognize it! Acknowledge it!”
2. To share what has happened to me as a part of my own healing process.
3. To bring attention to the complex, confusing, and deeply internalized ways that non-consensual touching can affect a person.
I am trying to reclaim my body as my own – to unlearn all of the experiences that have taught me that my body exists for other people’s whims, and to proclaim that I am the ruler of my body – the only person who gets to decide what I do with it. I have bodily autonomy and I will not give it up!
You can find these and more in the Pleasure Pie Etsy shop. Click here to check it out.
By Christina Bartson
During a recent Sunday brunch with my crew, my girlfriend was retelling her night’s sexscapades and blurted out a now infamous line her guy dropped right before things got hot-and-heavy. They’re making out, and he comes up for air, takes her by the shoulders and says completely seriously, “Ok, wanna make a game plan?”
He wanted to make a game plan for sex. We’ve laughed over this a thousand times, and frequently reference it in conversation because it’s funny, sure, but it’s also an ingenious sex-positive concept. A game plan for sex—both parties are collaborating to make decisions together, both people have equal power, both are consenting verbally. It warrants communication, and most importantly, a game plan means a thorough warm up. I’m talking about foreplay—a critical time for partners to turn up the heat and set some game rules. Anyways, you know you play better when you’re properly limbered up.
Foreplay gives partners a chance to build trust.
In the words of a good friend, foreplay is our time to, “physically and emotionally feel each other out.” You’re establishing your level of comfort, and guiding each other around your bodies the way you feel secure and respected. You learn each other’s style of communicating—how your partner responds and invites. You discover what makes them arch their back and bite their lip, respectfully exploring the wonders of their body. During foreplay, you can show your partner that they can rely on you to respect and honor their limits and preferences.
Trust increases pleasure.
Our bodies can sense when we are feeling unsafe. Our muscles are tense when we feel anxious, and when our bodies are not relaxed, they’re not ready for sex. Foreplay serves an important purpose in sex in preparing our bodies, warming us up not just emotionally, but bodily, too. This is important for everyone, but especially for people with vaginas. When bodies with vaginas become aroused, the muscles pull the uterus up and it makes more room in the vagina. This is called vaginal tenting and it creates more space to make penetration more comfortable and satisfying. Foreplay also helps boost natural lubrication—an ingredient that can make sex more enjoyable for all parties involved.
Communicating for consent and pleasure
How do you know when you’re partner is feeling ready to rumble? Talking about it, of course.
A common misconception is that talking during sex ruins the moment. Well, this is a ridiculous myth largely constructed by Hollywood—those flawless choreographed sex scenes where the individuals in the shot don’t need to communicate because they both already read the screenplay. In real-life sex, however, communication is necessary, and it makes it better, too. Personally speaking, hearing someone care for your body and emotional well-being is very sexy. Asking for what you want is empowering, and in return, inquiring about what feels good for your partner shows reciprocated attention to their experience.
For best results, try: How are you? Does this feel good? Is this okay? What do you want? These questions enhance sex, prolong it, and extend it (pardon the pun). Also, they’re a crucial step in foreplay and should be continued throughout. Keep asking, and never assume that one “yes” covers it all. Being attentive to your partner puts you fully in the moment and this makes your experience more fulfilling, too.
Foreplay, or More-play?*
Foreplay is about more than just hands on body parts—it’s the ways we communicate and establishing consent every step of the way in a creative, sensitive, and sexy manner. It’s the hushed talking at the corner in the party or the whisper in an ear on the walk home. It’s the firm hand-holding when you walk across an icy sidewalk, and the “Hey, watch your step, it’s slippery.” It’s the eye contact. It’s being present. It’s showing you’ve got the hots playfully, openly, and respectfully.
However, foreplay should not be reduced to just pre-gaming. Yes, it serves as a warm up, but it can be a main event, too. Why not try thinking of foreplay as sex? Perhaps we need to rethink our definition of sex. Sex is not just a means to an end. It’s everything leading up to the finale, too. We shouldn’t limit sex to homeruns, or scoring. This language ignores and forgets foreplay, and how the process can be equally as enjoyable and important as the end of the game.
Foreplay dedicates time to having those crucial conversations between partners that help sex and sexy feelings come from empowered places, not embarrassed or uneasy places. Next time you’re about to get it on, follow the wise words of the game-plan-guy and revel in the fervent functions of foreplay. Limber up, players.
*Cheesy pun courtesy of Nicole Mazzeo.
One survivor’s thoughts after a rape. Names have been changed.
I’m writing you to share my feelings about our interactions in the past couple of weeks. Some of your actions have been hurtful to me, and I thought that maybe if I put my thoughts into writing, you might be able to see where I’m coming from.
When you came up to me for the first time in the market, I assumed that your interest in me was based on my body, including my whiteness. That was fine with me – my body is a part of who I am and I enjoy when people enjoy it. I wasn’t looking for anything serious, and I was totally cool with enjoying each other’s bodies, as long as I felt safe and my boundaries were respected. I had a lot of fun cuddling with you. I was really missing touching someone and being touched. You were very sexy and it felt good.
But I was clear about the fact that I wasn’t comfortable with kissing you or doing anything more than cuddling. I told you that crossing that line could ruin my relationship with my boyfriend, and how sad that would make me. I wasn’t sure whether or not you enjoyed cuddling without having sex, and I didn’t want us to be doing something that was only fun for me, so I asked you. You said you liked it.
I was excited to go to the bar with you, and I had a good time there. Your friends were nice and I had fun talking to them. I accidentally got drunk (I know it’s weird, but I’m sensitive to alcohol and two drinks is a lot for me) to the point where my eyes kept closing and I felt like I needed to lean against something to stay upright. I assume you noticed how drunk I was, because I’m not subtle. I also told you, “I’m really drunk; I’m trying to slow down.”
This was around the time that we went to the jungle gym and you kept trying to kiss me. I kept avoiding you, but I still liked being close to you, so I didn’t move away completely. Eventually, I was too slow and you caught my lips with yours. I didn’t kiss you back at first. I think I was making it pretty clear that I didn’t want to kiss you, by telling you and avoiding your kisses.
At your house, I repeatedly moved your hand away from my vagina while we were kissing and cuddling. At some point you started fingering me and I said, “No, no, stop, please don’t, let’s not do this, no” etc. until you stopped. I think you could see that I was upset by this, because when I tried to sleep on the couch, you asked me if I was okay. You eventually convinced me to come back to bed by promising over and over again that you wouldn’t go inside me again. I trusted you when you said this. Then you insisted that I let you rub your penis on my vagina. I told you that I wasn’t comfortable with that. I don’t understand why you didn’t care about whether or not I was comfortable with the things you wanted to do with my body.
You promised again that you wouldn’t go inside me. Eventually I let you rub yourself on me because I wanted you to fall asleep so I could be alone, since the situation was making me uncomfortable.
Your rubbed your penis against me for a little bit, and then started fucking me. Again I said, “No, no, I don’t want this, stop, let’s not do this, please stop” etc. You didn’t stop until you came.
I know that you didn’t use violence against me, you didn’t force me to go to your house, you didn’t hold me down. But you did completely disregard the fact that I didn’t want to have sex with you. You ignored me when I said no. If you have sex with someone when they say no, that is rape. It can be traumatic even if it isn’t violent.
I’m asking you to please be considerate of what a woman wants when you want to have sex with her. If she doesn’t want to, please stop there. Sex should be pleasurable for everyone involved. I feel violated and disrespected by the way you treated me.
I am only writing you to ask you to think about the way that you treated me, and whether or not that is how you want to treat women in the future. I am not interested in contacting the police or anything like that. I don’t trust the criminal justice system and I think it often makes people worse off. I’m leaving for the US tonight and you’ll never see me again. If there is anything you want to say to me, you can contact me at [email address].