Salmon

Today was an emotionally difficult one.  I woke up like so many others this morning with a heaviness in my heart and gut that’s not likely to disappear for a while.

A lot of folks have written long-form pieces on the misogyny, white supremacy, xenophobia, and entitlement that have fueled the Drumpf campaign; that’s not what I want to write about here because so many people are speaking about it more eloquently than I can.

But I can speak to this: with a vice president coming into office who has done everything possible to roll back Roe vs. Wade in his state, reduce women’s access to contraception and reproductive health, and who has tried to criminalize miscarriage – now in a national position of power with no one to check that power – our reproductive rights are genuinely in a precarious position.

In Indiana, minors must have parental permission to get a prescription for birth control.  Sex education isn’t required and if it is taught, abstinence must be stressed.  Teaching about contraception is NOT required.  There are no anti-discrimination laws or anti-bullying laws in schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and there’s no statewide hate crime law.*  Much has been said about Indiana’s draconian measures to restrict abortion and its attempt to encourage discrimination against same-sex couples; this is the man who will be tasked with helping to choose our next secretaries of health and human services and education.  Who will be partially responsible for nominating the next Supreme Court justice.

Furthermore, knowledge itself is dangerous to Drumpf.  The more educated people are, the less likely they were to vote for him.  As an educator, I’m nervous not only about the future of teachers’ unions and science and history textbooks, but about an administrative attack on higher education and knowledge as a whole.

There are many who joke about leaving the US for greener pastures; I certainly sympathize with that sentiment.  I’m swimming upstream, though.  After seven years of living as a resident alien in another country, I’m coming home.  I was already planning on this well before the election, but after yesterday, my feeling that now is the right time is much stronger.  I can’t make my voice heard from South Korea.  I cannot march, I cannot organize, I cannot be an advocate or active ally for young people and communities who lack access to resources.  There are trying times ahead, and it’s time to jump in with both feet.

#wewontgoback

*This information comes from Sex, Etc., which I highly recommend you check out for state-by-state information on laws concerned with birth control, abortion, and sex education.

 

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Always Be Condoming

I’ve had a couple of experiences this year wherein I was playing with someone for the first time, and things were hot and heavy.  After lots of making out and touching, stroking, licking, and nibbling each other’s various body parts, I was lubed up and desperately wanted to be penetrated.  I come much more easily from penetrative sex than oral sex, so I usually want to have penetrative sex if it’s on the table (especially if it’s on an actual table).  In both cases, the guy was hard as stone; however, once I rolled on a condom and we started fucking, he lost his erection.  This in and of itself is not a big deal – boners can be pretty random.  They often come and go for no reason at all, and I’m all about being sexual and sensual and completely enjoying being with my partner in myriad ways without a hard dick present.

What struck me as odd, though, is that after sex with both of these gentlemen, they apologized and said that they weren’t used to having sex with condoms.  I then asked: “The women you’re with don’t care whether or not you use them?” Nope, they said.  Usually they don’t.  I’ve heard this from numerous other (straight) male friends as well – that they don’t bother wearing condoms if the women they’re with are fine with them not wearing one – even strangers they take home from a bar.  The thought then occurred to me that maybe I’m the anomaly here.  I’ve always insisted on condom usage – even with most of my partners when I was in monogamous relationships and on the pill (I realize this is strange)!

When I was very young, I watched two loved ones die of AIDS-related diseases which catapulted me into ten years of volunteering for various HIV, AIDS, and STI-related organizations and non-profits.  I guess Always Be Condoming just got drilled into me during my adolescence and has never gone away.

Two thoughts on this: one, I grew up with actual sex education.  It wasn’t much; it certainly wasn’t comprehensive or sex-positive, but it was something – we learned about barriers and contraception.  We learned that this shit was important.  I was in high school during the passage of the 1996 welfare act that first funded abstinence-only education (thanks, Bill Clinton); it didn’t go into effect until I’d already gone through sex ed.  Abstinence-only curricula often preach medically inaccurate information regarding the use of condoms, so people who have been taught in states that receive abstinence-only funding are less likely to use them.  The funding of comprehensive sexuality and relationships education is imperative to safer sex practices.

Two, every poly person or swinger I’ve been with consistently uses condoms with their (non-primary, if they have a primary relationship) partners, which is one reason that STI transmission rates for ethically non-monogamous folks and monogamous [sic] folks are pretty similar.

Don’t get me wrong.  I relish the sensitive feeling of the satiny skin of a hard cock inside of me, and there’s nothing I love more than being pumped full of jizz and feeling it drip down the insides of my thighs (or then having it fed to me…), but seriously.  Seriously.  I suggested to the first guy this happened with that he might try masturbating with a condom on to get used to the sensation – at least the cleanup is easy.  I’m curious now as to what other people’s experiences have been like in terms of condom usage.  If you have a dick or fuck people who have dicks, do you insist on condoms for PIV sex, or let it slide – and why?

Straight Talk

Blood is such an excellent prompt for a piece of fiction, but I’m having the damnedest time thinking of one because all I can focus on is the blood gushing out of me at this moment.  Thanks to hormonal birth control, I barely bled for the last twenty years.  My periods were usually three days of light bleeding and no cramps – so my whole life I’ve had NO idea what women with heavy or painful periods went through.  My periods were terrible when they first started, but it was so long ago I’d forgotten.

Until this year.

I’m experiencing heavy bleeding for the first time as an adult.  I mean cups full of scarlet blood, much redder and thicker than I expected it to be, poured into my drain… which is unexpectedly satisfying.  I’m experiencing strong cramps for the first time.  Now that I have a copper IUD in, I’m experiencing menstruation-induced pain for the first time.  And it’s a motherfucker.  My lower back hurts in a way that I’ve heard women complain about but have never been able to imagine.  So bad that I don’t want to go to the gym today, even though I know exercise will help.

I’m skittish about using my cup this month because my first IUD expelled last month during my period, so I’m using a pad for the first time since I was thirteen, which is a weird feeling (tampons are wildly expensive here – around $.50 a pop – and stores don’t sell the ones without applicators).  It’s uncomfortable and I can actually feel the blood coming out of my body in spurts.

The strangest thing about all of this is that it actually feels good emotionally.  Even though I’m experiencing pain, I also feel much more connected to my body, to the other women in my life, and to the natural world.  I know that sounds so fucking cheesy, especially given that the reason I’m bleeding more is that I have a piece of metal in my uterus – but the feeling is genuine.  I want to make art with my blood.  I want to be fucked bent over in my shower, hands against the tiles – to have him come inside of me, to watch the pink fluid run down my leg in rivulets and mix in with the water on my shower floor while panting (Y’all know period sex is so good, right?  My orgasms are much more intense right before or at the beginning of my cycle!).  And I want to talk about menstruation.  To men (gasp!).

Women are made to feel shame our whole lives for something we have zero control over – socialized to believe we are dirty or smelly or untouchable when in actuality, we are badass.  Every month, we go to work or school while bleeding.  We play sports and work out while bleeding.  We go on dates and hang out with friends while bleeding.  We take care of kids and partners while bleeding.  We program and shop and dance and work outdoors and swim and study and read and run conferences and write and make art and make music and cook and take boxing classes and sleep and drive and argue and heal and play while actual blood – ounces of it – is coming out of our uteri.  Some women have incredibly painful periods, and they still do all this shit.

Half the population bleeds for approximately 15-20% of their reproductive lives.  That’s a lot of blood… but many of us never talk about it.  And I think we should – or at least, we should feel like it’s okay to talk about without the people around us clamping their hands to their ears and exclaiming, “TMI!”  Can you imagine people doing that if you started talking about what you ate for dinner or how long you slept last night?

I’ve had more than one male partner freak out because he suddenly saw a little bit of blood on his dick and he thought something was TERRIBLY WRONG when in fact, he had just knocked a little blood loose from my cervix at the beginning or end of a cycle.  I have male friends who refuse to have sex with their partners while they’re bleeding because the mere sight of blood unnerves them… in person.  Seeing pints of blood squirt out of various body parts in a Quentin Tarantino film is no problem, but if it’s on a tampon, it is gross and terrifying.

But period sex is awesome for a lot of women; if we can handle a cunt full of blood five to seven days a month (and spotting in between), men can probably give a go to having a little blood on their cock for five minutes.  I say if the sight of blood bothers you, try a blindfold!  Your partner is powerful at this time anyway (I mean… at least according to Pagan folks), so it seems like a good time to work on your submissive side.  When your partner wants to talk about what’s going on with her body, listen.  If you have a question, ask!  Communication is aces.  Period fucking: Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Menstruation affects most aspects of our lives in some way – for me, it can impact mood, diet, activities, libido, and physical and emotional comfort.  For women without access to educational or medical resources or menstrual products, it can be completely life-altering.  One thing it does not do is impact the decisions I make at work or how I engage in other life responsibilities… but it does affect my life, and I expect to be able to acknowledge that.

I’m happy I bleed.  It makes me feel strong.  It makes me feel incredibly horny (my period horn is super intense now that I’m off the hormones).  Sometimes it makes me feel crummy and sore and frustrated and sensitive too, but I wouldn’t change it if I could.

Cu T

Late last summer, I made an attempt to get an IUD placed as I’d recently stopped using condoms with The Texan; things didn’t work out so well.  I wanted a copper one, but the office I went to didn’t have any, so I opted for the Mirena instead – but when my gynecologist tried to place the IUD, my cervix was so narrow that she couldn’t get the tube in.  She said I had two choices: come back again when it was a better time in my cycle and my cervix was more open and malleable, or sit around and get my cervix dilated.  I hightailed it out of there and said I’d come back later.

 

 

During that appointment, she said I should go off the pill; I never asked why.  Instead, I kept taking them until The Texan left in December, after which I finally went off after twenty years of hormonal birth control… and I waited.  I wanted to get my IUD in during a period when I knew I wouldn’t be having sex (the highest risk of infection comes in the three weeks after placement), so I waited until one partner was gone for the summer and another one was leaving Korea AND timed it so I was both off work that day and in a place in my cycle that would be conducive to a slightly more open cervix.  Sheesh.
 

Women who have IUDs have lots of feelings about them; some love them and some hate them.  I did as much research as I could[1]; determined not to go back on hormonal birth control, I found a hospital that had a small copper one and set a date.  It was my first time seeing a male gynecologist; I thought that would make me nervous, but it didn’t.  What did make me nervous is when he showed me a uterine sound and told me he was going to insert it to check the depth of my uterus.  And after that hurt like a son of a bitch, he then told me that he was going to need to dilate my cervix a little with bigger sounds to get the insertion tube in.  Eek!  I consider myself a strong person, but that didn’t stop me from crying a bit and saying “OwowowowOWOWOWowowow” over and over.  It made me feel completely in awe of any woman who has actually pushed a human baby out through her cervix.  He told me to relax.  Ha!  “I’m going to put this metal stick into you – so you know, just relax.”  That being said – it worked this time!  Hurrah!

 Image result for uterine sound
“It can’t hurt that much, lady.”
Day one was pretty awful, not gonna lie – lots of bleeding and cramps.  Days two and three involved lots of bleeding and almost no cramps; days four and five were reversed (the worst cramps I’ve ever had, but very little bleeding).  So… we’ll see.  Is it worth it as a backup method?  I’m still using condoms with my partners as I have more than one, but I really don’t want babies.  I like having a just-in-case birth control method.  And who knows?  In a year or two I may end up with a partner with whom I decide to bond fluids.

 

Oh, and that whole gynecologist wanting me to go off birth control pills thing?  I asked this doctor about it and he said, “Yeah, you shouldn’t be taking the pill for more than two years at a time.”  WHAT.  Thanks for telling me that, no gynecologist I’ve ever had.  He then said gravely, “You should probably get a mammogram – extended pill use is linked to breast cancer.”  “But I’m only thirty-five,” I said.  “Do it before you leave Korea,” he retorted.  (Korea has amazing health care – the kind where you can just walk into any office any time without an appointment and it’s cheap AF.  My copper IUD was only $100; in the US it could easily be $500.)  So it looks like I’ll be getting a mammogram this year… at thirty-six. 
 
 On a complete tangent, I found this amazing website where someone documented his partner’s cervix through actual pictures the first month after she got her IUD in; it’s completely fascinating!!!  It made me feel better knowing that other people have experienced the same things I’m experiencing (and likely will be for the next month or two… ugh).  I’ll make a full report on my first post-IUD penetrative sex later and I promise it will be much hotter than talking about mammograms and sounding.  


[1] A note on the articles I read while researching: IUD placement seems to be quite different in the US than here. I got no Misoprostol, no numbing agent, no prior STI tests or pregnancy test… pretty sure my gynecologist didn’t even wear gloves.  

Hormonal Drift

Warning: If you can’t deal with the fact that half the population bleeds for ¼ of their lives, you probably shouldn’t read this post.
A year ago, I went to my gynecologist to attempt to get an IUD put in.  While doing an exam beforehand, she looks around my giant skirt at me and asks, “How long have you been on birth control?”  “Twenty years,” I reply.  “You need to get off it.  Now.” she says.  “But –” I start to protest, and she cuts me off: “Now.”  She told me that I had the uterus of a seventeen year-old – whatever that means. 
I finally took her advice last December when The Texan moved back to the US and went off hormonal birth control for the first time in two decades.  I was freaked out about what might happen to my body; here’s what did happen:
  • My face broke out like a fifteen year-old.  The acne was gone in a couple of months, but it was really bad for a while.  Now when I get my period, I get acne in places I’ve never had any before, so that’s weird.  It goes away, but still.  Weird.
  • I finally stopped spotting and my mood swings stabilized.  Yea on both accounts!
  • My periods last longer and there’s a significantly heavier flow, but nothing too bad.  I’ve also been experiencing cramps for the first time since I was fifteen.
  • MY BOOBS GOT SMALLER!  This is a huge victory.  I’ve always had giant knockers; since I exercise a lot, this is a pain in the ass.  Having smaller breasts feels wonderful – it’s something I’ve wanted my whole life.
  • My libido has skyrocketed.

I thought that I already had a much higher libido than most people – I’ve had more than one boyfriend complain about the frequency with which I want to get down.  Now it feels a little out of control.  In addition to no longer putting extra estrogen and progesterone in my body, I also do weight lifting, which increases my testosterone level.  I am ridiculously horny ALL THE TIME.
I’ve started hitting on people I normally wouldn’t hit on, have said yes to sex with someone I’ve never considered sleeping with before (and it’s been great!), have done some pretty stupid and hurtful things in the past month because of my sex drive (sorry, Emily Nagoski), and have had some horrifyingly sexually aggressive thoughts that I never had before.

I’m feeling great about having more sex with more partners (this is going to be a renaissance year for my sex life, no doubt), but I’m not okay with being in a place where I’m not fully thinking through my actions before doing them. What I’m saying is, I need to check myself before I wreck myself, as it were.    

I write this blog

because of bullshit like this.  And just when the Catholic church was starting to change its image a teeny, tiny bit thanks to Pope Awesome.  

By the way, one of those “gravely evil acts” is using birth control pills.  Guess I know now why mom dressed me as Satan for Halloween that one year! 

We should get a bunch of sex nerds together for a huge meetup and call it EvilCon.