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?

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The (Not So) Sexual Politics of "It Follows" ***ALL THE SPOILERS***

I’m a huge horror fan, so I was stoked when this indie horror film from the US suddenly popped into Korean theatres mid-spring — seemingly odd timing for a horror film (even for Korea, which usually releases its horror films in summer), but given the monster in the movie, I’m hoping the release date was thematically intentional.

Spring is the season of love — of flirting, sex, and new relationships.  Once those buds start to bloom, the air gets a little bit warmer, and that freshly-cut grass smell hits our noses, we develop a spring in our step and start acting like ovulation is happening non-stop.  We wear less bulky clothing, showing off curves and muscles.  We start giving people around us the sex eyes.  And that’s why I think this is such a genius time for this particular film to be released — because the mark of a good scary movie is that it makes you feel like YOU’RE NOT SAFE ANYWHERE AT ANY TIME!!!

The creature in It Follows happens to be passed on via sex.  The concept is that there’s a supernatural being which follows the person It’s connected to (in an attempt to murder said person) until that person has sex with someone else, at which point the being passes on to the next person.  Well, until It kills that person — then It comes back to the person who passed It on.  It kills that person and then goes backward down the line of transmission until, we may only suppose, It kills every single person who has passed It on and It can finally take that vacation It has always wanted in Bangkok… an obvious place to vacation for such a creature.

Image result for nana plaza

Critics and reviewers of this film keep likening the monster to a sexually-transmitted infection (favorite review title: The Ring Meets Chlamydia), but in my eyes, it acts much more like a parasite (trich?) – only it’s the host’s job to find a new host.  Most STIs are asymptomatic for years if not forever; a lot of people never know they’re infected.  Pretty hard not to know something is wrong when there’s a dead hooker walking toward you in your kitchen.     

I found it interesting that the main character, Jay, chooses a guy who she considers to be objectively attractive (I cannot say I concur with this opinion) to pass the creature onto in the assumption that it will be easier for him to pass It to someone else — completely overlooking the fact that he doesn’t actually believe in the creature and also has the IQ of a third grader.  It isn’t until the end of the film when she decides to transmit It to a lifelong, trustworthy friend who happens to be much smarter and is actually willing to come up with a plan to kill the creature rather than rely on the ability of others to continue transmission.  (Maybe not the best plan — who decided it was a good idea to try to use electricity as a weapon in a place that’s supposedly abandoned? And if the electricity doesn’t work, how do the lights work?  And if the pool is abandoned, why is it so clean?!  Anyway.  I digress.)  Lesson: Always bang the nerdy guy.  
 
One of the most tired (but arguably loved) tropes in the horror genre is to use sex as a moralistic impetus for murder.  Teenagers are always getting offed once they get off.  So I lovelovelove that in order to stay safe in this film, the characters not only have to have sex, but also have to communicate (some are better at this than others) at some point during their sexual encounter in order to preserve their own lives. 

Does the film reward abstinence?  Not necessarily, as It could be transmitted via rape.  Does it reward the refusal to pass the being on — the refusal to put someone else in harm’s way to save your own skin (I.e., is the film making a moral judgment about people who have sex knowing that they have an STI and choosing not to disclose)?  I don’t think so, since in order to stay alive, the characters really have to disclose their status as The Followed (if you don’t know you’re being followed, you don’t know to pass It on).  More than focusing on sex, the moral compass of the film seems to center on choice, responsibility, and the loyalty of friends.

But Choosing To Do The Right Thing doesn’t save you, either.  At the end of the film, we see Jay and the nerdy boy who’s loved her forever (Paul, who I am begging the writer to tell me was named after the awkward and gangly best friend from The Wonder Years) walking down the street, hand in hand, having just killed It for good.  In soft focus juuuust far enough behind them so we can’t make out a face or distinct features is someone following them.

Image result for it follows     Because YOU CAN NEVER KILL IT!  Mwahahahahaha!

This movie is great.  The filming style, the soundtrack, and the homage to classic horror tropes with a new twist make it a very exciting watch.  Go see it!

Other possible messages the film gives about sex:
-Fuck all of your friends!
-Have all the gay sex you want!  Apparently this being is on a pretty straight trajectory.
Image result for jake weary it follows-Never fuck a dude who is for sure using a fake name.  Seriously – does this guy look like a Hugh to you?  Definitely not.  Ray?  Maybe.  Donny?  Sure.  Hogan?  Absolutely.  But not Hugh.  

P.S.  What if David Robert Mitchell and John Cameron Mitchell had a baby?  That kid would be awesome. 

On Becoming Friends with my Gynecologist

I have heard and read a lot of horror stories about visiting the gynecologist in Korea during my five years here.  Because of this, I’ve saved my visits for back home, even though it’s more expensive since I don’t have insurance in the US.  Most of my female friends and acquaintances in Korea have told me that there is a curtain placed between the doctor and patient so they can’t see each other and that the doctor will often do things without first getting the consent of the patient, like an ultrasound or a biopsy.  This would be totally unheard of in the US, where malpractice insurance costs an arm and a leg and there are entire classes taught in medical school regarding consent and liability.  In the US being able to see your doctor and ask her (or him) questions is comforting; perhaps in Korea, because sexuality isn’t really talked about, it might be embarrassing to be able to see your doctor’s face while she’s looking at your vulva.

I’ve also read stories about women being asked to recount their entire sexual histories aloud in a waiting room full of other patients, or doctors calling a woman’s boss to report her pap results.  Because individuality permeates US culture so thoroughly, complete privacy is expected in a medical setting, but the concept of privacy is much less important in communal cultures.  Visiting the doctor here often involves getting on a scale, having blood pressure checked, or even getting blood drawn in a public area.      

I found an English-speaking gynecologist through an expat website and was elated that her office was only a short bus ride away from my apartment!  What I experienced there was astonishingly different from what I’d read and heard.  There’s one doctor in the clinic; she’s retired, but still practicing privately.  I was called into her office and had a conversation with her beforehand, specifically telling her that I didn’t want an ultrasound or a sonogram – just a regular old pap smear and STI panel.  The receptionist took me into a changing room to put on a skirt with an elastic waist (no giant, awkward paper cover!  This might freak out people who are germaphobes, but it’s definitely more environmentally-friendly…) and then called me into another room where I sat on a chair that was much like a dentist chair but with a super short seat.  The back of the chair could be electronically raised or lowered.  Instead of heel stirrups, there were thigh stirrups and a flat place to put your feet underneath them. 

The doctor, who did not put a curtain between us, did a normal speculum / swab routine, but then she surprised me by telling me she was going to take a picture of my cervix.  “Oh!” I said… “Okay.”  Suddenly, a full-color picture of my cervix popped up on a monitor across the room, which was pretty rad.  However, I then felt a sudden, slight, sharp pain.  “What did you just do?” I asked.  She told me that she had applied an acidic solution to my cervix to check for HPV, which I thought was kind of neat at the time, until I researched it and found out that not only does it not really test for HPV, but the CDC recommends against having it done.     

Afterward, the doctor took out the speculum and she and the receptionist (who had been next to her the whole time taking notes!) lowered my feet onto the floor so I could go change.  I went back into the doctor’s office, and this is where it got good.  We talked for at least thirty minutes about which STIs she tests for on her STI panels, the prevalence of HPV in South Korea and how it’s changing, the HPV vaccine and how guidelines for who should receive it and when are changing, and the various types of abnormalities that can be seen during cervix photography.  Her medical English was incredible, but that’s not what impressed me.  What impressed me was that she treated sex and sexuality as a normal part of the human experience — basically, she was sex positive.  She treated me as an educated person who was fully capable of discussing my sexual health.  She even gave me her mobile number and invited me to drive around the coast with her so I could see parts of Korea that I normally don’t have access to while she practices her English!

It was a visit to the gynecologist that left me feeling confident and comfortable, which is a rare and beautiful thing.  She called me yesterday to report my test results (all good – yea!) and reminded me to come hang out with her.  And I actually want to.