Hoe Sik

Image result for yuja sojuThere is a tradition common to most (all?) Korean companies of going out for a “work dinner” with the other members of your staff and getting completely obliterated; it’s called 회식 (pronounced hway sheek).  While eating dinner, the office staff goes through several bottles of beer and soju, toasting over and over — and everyone is expected to participate.  Sometimes the evening happens in rounds — dinner, drinks (as if you didn’t already drink enough with dinner), noraebang (singing room).   

While this happens most often in corporations, school staffs are not excused.  My first four years in Korea, I worked with Christian bosses who didn’t drink, so I was lucky in that I mostly escaped the 회식.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve gone out for some school dinners, but there were students there, so we never got too drunk (as mentioned before in this blog, drinking with students is not only acceptable here, but encouraged at times). 

A few weeks ago, I went out for my first proper 회식 in Korea.  We started with pork barbecue and flavored soju (I can’t believe it’s taken this long for soju companies to introduce flavored soju); a professor a lot of us had never met before paid for dinner and drinks for everyone — and there were about twenty people there.  Next, we moved on to a pub, where we all downed a few pints.  Afterward, we all moseyed over to a huge noraebang down the street — but not before stopping into a convenience store and stuffing our bags and pockets with more bottles of beer and soju.  The same professor who had paid for dinner paid for five hours up front for the singing room!  Five hours!  Who was this mysterious man?  It should be noted here that we arrived at the noraebang around midnight. 

By 2:30 am, several teachers had stumbled out into the night to catch a taxi home; some were drunkenly flirting with each other while looking through song books; a small group was still standing, singing every song together; and my boss was passed out on a bench at the back of the room, fast asleep after exhausting all available Bon Jovi songs.

I left without saying goodbye and walked through the refreshing summer night air to my bike parked a few blocks away.  As I was riding home, I started really listening to the lyrics of the song that was playing on my iPod (YES, YES, I know I shouldn’t be riding a bike while listening to music).  You know how sometimes you can hear a song several times but never really listen to it, but then at some point you DO listen, and you have an epiphany about how good the song is?  This happened to me while listening to — and I’m going to ask for your forgiveness here — a Taylor Swift song on the way home from my drunk evening out with coworkers.  I listened to all the words and thought, “Taylor Swift!  How do you know my life?!”  I rode my bike through empty back alleys for the next forty minutes listening to the same song over and over and feeling this special bond with Taylor Swift (or her lyricist, I guess) that comes from someone else totally getting it.  I rode my bike as fast as I could up and down tiny hills until I could sing that song at the top of my lungs.  It was a long night, but a lovely one, and completely worth the kind of hangover you can only get from hours of drinking flavored soju. 

Pairings

Image result for wine flightI have a good friend who’s a wine aficionado; we got into a silly conversation last night over dinner about the tastes and smells of genitals and their secretions (because what else would you talk about over dinner?), and he mentioned that he once noticed a mild mushroom scent emanating from a vulva he was going to town on (which I’m pretty sure is a sign of infection…).  I told him that I’ve also tasted semen that had a mushroom taste.  “You know what wine would go well with that?” he asked.  “An Oregon pinot noir.”  I laughed and said that he should have a glass of wine handy the next time he was getting a blow job so that he could hand it to his partner when she was finished and start explaining how the bouquet of flavors and notes in the wine complement his dick.  I asked: “What if the semen is really bitter?”  In that case, he recommends a pinot grigio to counteract the bitterness, or if you want something a bit sweeter, a beaujolais with berry notes and a lighter body.  For arugula-esque peppery spunk, he’d go with a zin or syrah.  I know zero things about wine, but I do know that all semen tastes differently depending on diet, body chemistry, smoking, etc. — so maybe I’ll just keep a flight in my fridge just in case. 

Come As You Are: A Book Review

Image result for come as you are nagoskiIt’s rare that a book about sex makes me cry, but this one did.  It’s not just a book about sexuality and neuroscience, although it is that — it’s a call to action to women everywhere to see themselves and their sexuality as normal.  To understand that they are not broken.  To listen to their own bodies and desires instead of to harmful media messages about what they’re expected to feel and desire.  To connect with themselves and their partners as women who (surprise!) have sexual characteristics of women.  To reject male sexuality as standard sexuality and to claim agency over their pleasure and joy. 

You’d think that it wouldn’t be such a radical idea to accept yourself where you are and practice self-compassion — but it is.  

I’m getting ahead of myself, however. 

The book opens with a chapter on anatomy and explains in great detail the homologous features of male and female genitalia, which is absolutely fascinating.  It also discusses  at great length the variant features of vulvas and how we’re taught to see them and talks about the myths we perpetuate regarding hymens.  

Nagoski goes on in subsequent chapters to introduce the key concepts of her book one by one: the dual control model of sexuality (we all have a sexual inhibition system and a sexual excitation system, and everyone differs in the sensitivity of both); the One Ring in our brains that controls our emotional and motivation systems; sexuality in context and responsive desire (as opposed to spontaneous desire); sexuality as it relates to the stress cycle; sexual non-concordance (when arousal doesn’t match genital response); the brain mechanism that controls goals and expectations, which she calls the little monitor; and how meta-emotions (how we feel about our feelings) affect our sexual lives. 

Even if you’re already familiar with some of these ideas, having them all intertwined and presented with stories from peoples’ actual relationships is effective at making everything sink in.  Throughout the book, Nagoski keeps referring back to previously-discussed concepts in order to link them together and show how they affect each other.  She uses the same central metaphor (a garden) in different contexts to make complex scientific concepts relatable, and continually comes back to examples, analogies, and stories that end up creating a kind of sexy neuroscience schema.  She also uses millennial shorthand (I could have done without it, but I use standard punctuation and whole words in my text messages, so that’s just me…) as a way to draw in a younger audience.    

And there are worksheets!  She provides actual worksheets, available on her website, that you can fill out and use to improve your sex life.  As a teacher, I can’t not love that.

Important Takeaways from Come As You Are

  • Your sexuality and your body are normal.  You are not broken. 
  • Everyone has the same parts, organized differently. 
  • We all have a sexual “accelerator” and sexual “brakes,” and everyone differs in how sensitive theirs are. 
  • How we perceive sensation is dependent on the context in which we experience it; the same experience can feel different in different contexts.
  • Stress has a negative impact on desire and arousal; it reduces sexual interest and pleasure.
  • Self-criticism creates a buttload of stress.
  • Our responses to sexuality are learned, not inherent.
  • There is only a ten percent overlap between women’s self-reported arousal and their genital response!  For men, it’s 50%.  Sexual arousal does not necessarily lead to genital response and genital response does not necessarily indicate arousal. 
  • Sex is not a drive – you won’t die if you can’t get your sexual interests (not needs) met.  Instead, sex is an incentive motivation system. 
  • Only 15% of women have a spontaneous desire style; 30% of women have a responsive desire style, and about half of women experience a combination of both.  As more men experience a spontaneous desire style, spontaneous desire has come to be viewed as standard in sexual narratives.
  • Novelty, a focus on pleasure rather than outcome, and ambiguity can increase sexual desire.
  • 70% of women do not reliably have an orgasm from penetration alone.  Women most commonly orgasm from clitoral stimulation.
  • How we feel about our sexuality has a profound impact on our sexuality.  If we let go of where we think we should be sexually and accept ourselves where we are (which takes a lot of hard work emotionally), we can start to heal.  Better emotional and mental wellbeing leads to a better sex life!  Noticing our feelings instead of judging our feelings is a start to this process.

In the introduction of Come As You Are, Nagoski says that the “purpose of [her] book is to offer a new, science-based way of thinking about women’s sexual wellbeing.”  I feel well.  Read this book, you guys.    

P.S.  Dear Emily Nagoski,
Thank you for the intense orgasm I had last Saturday night.  Focus on sensation indeed.
Love,
Jo

Pussy Poem! (NSFR)

I thought of the first two sentences of this poem a few months ago and it made me laugh, so I decided to make a whole thing of it.  Warning: I’m not a poet and this is likely a terrible poem.  However, it’s also probable that it’s entertaining, so enjoy!

Want me to come?  Then
Don’t
Touch
My
Pussy.
Don’t even go near my vulva until you’ve touched every other inch of my body.
Until you’ve
Dragged your tongue all the way up my spine
Snaked your fingers up the nape of my neck and into my hair
Caressed the backs of my legs and my inner thighs
Kissed both of my arms lengthwise like Gomez Addams
Scratched my ass cheeks ever so lightly
Run your tongue, your lips, your hands over my breasts (several times, then several more)
Dug your fingernails into my hips
Nibbled my earlobes
Traced my collarbone and
Licked all of my bare skin.
And when you finally make it there to find me slippery in anticipation – 
Don’t you dare go straight to my clitoris. 
A vulva has many parts,
All of which long to be touched.
Start out at the very edges and work your way in slowly. 
Take your time.
Tease me. 
When you finally do make it to the epicenter of all my nerve endings,
I’ll be begging for it.
It will feel like I’m dying,
And it will be the sweetest death.

Bonfire

I had a beach bonfire with a group of students a couple of weeks ago; as the fire died down and we finished licking the s’mores chocolate off our fingers, everyone grew quiet and stared up at planes flying over us.  We talked about where the planes were likely coming from and going, and the next place each of us would visit.  I asked my students where they saw themselves in ten years.  One said she’d be working in Germany, though she wasn’t sure what she’d be doing.  One said she’d be an office worker, and one said she would own her own kindergarten.  One said he would be in sports medicine.  The others couldn’t answer; they had no goals, no plans, no ideas.  I wondered if I could honestly answer if they turned the question around on me — definitely not.  I don’t even know where I’ll be in three years, let alone ten. 

We continued looking up into the stars, listening to jazz on my tiny iPod speaker, breathing in salty ocean air, and contemplating the future as the last embers faded on the wooden pallet in the center of our circle. 

It was a moment of bonding without speaking, out in the open, away from the city lights and with no phones or computers in sight — just face-to-face human connection.  We could all use a little more of that.    

Intentional Dating

On my 27th birthday, my best friend (who at that time was just a guy I’d recently re-met after we’d both moved to San Francisco a month earlier) drove me up to the top of Twin Peaks and stopped his car.  We looked out at the beautiful lights before us and the city we’d come to call home, and he told me to wait a minute, then went to his trunk — and came back with a birthday cake, full of lit candles.  He sang “Happy Birthday” to me, and my jaw dropped — my friends never remember my birthday, let alone bring me cake.  He then went on to tell me that over the last month while we were getting to be good friends, he realized that he had more than friendly feelings for me and was wondering if I felt the same.  It was an incredibly romantic gesture — but I felt no romantic or sexual feelings for him at all.  Zilch.  I was very honest with him; I’m sure it stung a little, but he got over it and we remained great friends.

Over the next two years, I watched him fall for the same girl over and over: charismatic, energetic, full-of-life women who wanted to sleep around and be rootless.  Which would be fine – except for that what my best friend wants more than anything in the world is to be a married father.  He’s a traditional guy who believes in traditional gender roles.  And he will be the best dad ever — that is, if he can ever manage to fall for a woman who wants the same things he wants in life.  He’s not doing anything to seek out this woman; rather, he’s putting his happiness in the hands of fate, as most of us do.  As we’re told to do by every romantic comedy ever made.

He complained to me for years about how no women ever liked him back because he was just “too nice.”  He’s not a Dr. NerdLove Nice Guy ™ — he actually is a nice person — but he chooses the wrong people.  He looks for his “type” instead of women he’s actually compatible with.  I finally told him this recently after he and his fiancée broke up because she’s not ready to get married.  And while I was telling him that he should specifically be on dating sites looking for women who want a serious long-term relationship and children, it hit me: I am absolutely fucking terrible (I’m sure most of us are) at taking my own advice.  My whole life I, too, have been dating people who I was immediately physically and mentally attracted to because they were my “type” instead of looking for people who want the same things I want.  And as I was recently forced to figure out exactly what it is I do want*, I thought it might be an excellent idea to use that to my advantage.

This year I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with a couple of men who I would never have pictured myself with, and they’ve both been really wonderful experiences.  I feel cared for and valued, and much happier because of it.  I finally started seeking out people who have a similar communication style to me and who want similar things in a relationship instead of just expecting people to fall out of the sky in front of me.  And surprise!  It’s working.  Intentionality is a beautiful thing. 

The moral of the story is: Figure out who you are and what you want, and specifically and purposefully look for people who also want these things.  Because amazing things can happen when you do.

*I used the questions at the end of the chapters in More Than Two; seriously, I cannot recommend this book enough.