The Hickey: A Plague! A Mythical Love Plague!

Iil_570xN.392181666_nxoln eighth grade, I knew a lot about kissing.

I hadn’t actually done a lot of kissing, mind you, but I’d heard expert advice on such matters. (Note: For a thirteen year-old Grace, those experts were Dawson’s Creek, the classic movie channels, and Ashley Lindsey from my US History class who made out with her boyfriend in the canyon behind school every afternoon.) In my mind, there were three absolute rules of kisses:

  1. The greatest one of all time had already happened, thanks to Wesley and Buttercup, so the pressure was off.
  2. Boys tasted like Doritos and rubber orthodontia bands.
  3. If you really made out with someone, you’d have to wear a turtleneck the next day.

Two of these things ended up being true. The third, however, was a load of hippopotamus vomit. Do you know how bloody impossible it is to give someone a hickey, kittens? In order to make that perfectly crimson blemish, a delicate balance of sucking and biting must occur. All of this must happen while making noises of make out delight and balancing atop your prey partner. So: biting, sucking, and balancing. These things do not go together seamlessly, unless you are a world-renowned lollipop gymnast. You’re not. You will bite too hard, or suck with too much effort. Unless your kissing partner is a masochist, such attempts shall result in high-pitched squeals of pain, not a hickey.

How did this become our visual shorthand for passionate encounters? Give me tousled hair! Give me beard burn! Instead, we’re left with rare painful welts. Kissing shouldn’t have so much in common with Ebola, friends. What’s next? Using Black Death-esque buboes as code for “We’re pregnant!”? Nothing says bundle-of-joy like massively swollen lymph glands!

What’s more, if my kissing partner ever actually marked me in such a way, I’d be enraged. Deigning to make out with someone does not make you theirs to mark! If you want to tell the world you like me, buy some damned flowers. Roses speak of affection more efficiently than scabs. If Professor McGregor broke skin during our canoodling, I’d have grave concerns about his mortality. Have you encountered anyone who sparkles lately, love? Is your skin turning to ash in the sun?

We brand cattle, not romantic partners. If you’ve practiced giving hickeys enough to actually be able to pull them off, please put your free time to better use. You’d, no doubt, be good at imitating a blowfish. Perhaps join a circus as The Human Sea Porcupine? Whatever you do, don’t hickey any more unsuspecting souls. That’s how these ridiculous tropes get started. Now, if you’d share what you’ve learned here today with Those Construction Workers Who Whistle at Women Pedestrians, it would save me ever so much time.

So, am I the only one who’s never displayed this ultimate sign of passion? Tell me true, love hamsters. Hickeys: fact or fiction?

– Grace

Hello, Big Boy: Pornography and Feminism

On Saturdays, We Talk About Sex is a new series in which the Spinsters talk about sex, sexual politics, and sexy things. On Saturdays. If you’re related to one of the Spinsters, or would prefer to never think of Grace/Kate/Mae mid-bedsport, this may not be the series for you. We recommend watching This ABBA video, instead of reading ahead. Everyone else, let’s talk about sex (on a Saturday).

04eMen watch pornography. It’s a bit of an expected thing, in this day and age. Teenage boys, given thirty seconds and relaxed Google settings, will find some people doing it. Boys will be boys, you know. Teenage girls, on the other hand, are expected to be horrified by porn, pretend it doesn’t exist, and spend all their time on Pinterest instead. This socially expected discrepancy will eventually play out in the following scenario:

A party of guys/girls. The first winter break of college.

Guys: We’re so free and adult now! We can talk about sex in front of girls!
Girls: We shall hint about our newfound sexual adventures, because it’s college and we’re no longer automatically slutty, if we’ve seen a penis!
Guys: Oh my god. The girls are ALSO talking about sex.
Girls: Sex, sex, sex! We are so empowered!
Guys: You know would be awesome, group of friends we’re really excited to be talking about real things with? Watching porn.
Girls: But no! We’ve never seen such a thing! Our eyes, our eyes!
Guys: Porn it is!
Girls: Oh My GOD! PEOPLE ARE HAVING THE SEX AND BEING NAKED! BRING US OUR PEARLS, FOR WE MUST CLUTCH THEM!

I know this scenario happens, because I’ve been there. An eighteen year-old Grace quite vocally insisted that she had never, not ever, seen pornography and why would anyone want to watch such a thing and, also, gross! Of course, I had seen porn. I was a teenager with an internet connection. It was “off limits”, so I’d switched off my safe settings and gone traversing the great, wide world of people doing it on camera. Being a virgin at the time, it was also super enlightening to have visuals of acts that seemed somewhat mechanically questionable. They weren’t my regular internet haunts, by any means, but I’d seen some P put into some V quite a few times.

So, why the feelings of shame? The guys weren’t embarrassed, but I would have bathed in warm garlic mayonnaise, before admitting to any virtual voyeurism. It was, of course, fear. If I’d spoken up and asked what the big deal was, my friends might have thought me—terror of terrors!—slutty. Good girls don’t watch porn. Good girls can be in touch with their sexuality, but only to the extent that they sometimes have monogamous heterosexual sex without hurling. To not only enjoy it, but actively seek it out? Unthinkable. Boys were the ones super interested in sex, while girls simply gave into it. As porn served chiefly to aid self-arousal, porn was off limits.

Now, here’s the thing—I am not pro-pornography. I think there are a lot of problems, for women specifically, when it comes to modern internet porn. In many ways, it has radically changed the way my generation looks at normal sex and sexuality. The most tangible example is in our grooming habits: well over 80% of women under thirty completely wax their pubic regions. While we say it’s for our own hygiene or for the guys we love, it has roots in a trend started in 80’s pornography, with the goal of better camera shots. That a standard beauty practice for young women has direct roots in pornography and the resulting look of pre-pubescence should cause anyone to pause. As a feminist, such pervasive and quick changes to the expectations of womanhood make me uncomfortable. Moreover, it’s just the beginning. We’re only just now starting to understand all the ways porn has changed the bedroom politics of America.

Vol-4 erotism-lingerie  (12)I’m not here to make value judgment on porn, but instead on the way we deal with it. Anytime something is a labeled a “man thing,” my hackles start twitching upwards. What exactly makes porn an exclusively male domain, World? Well, Grace darling, it’s because men are base creatures driven by their sexual desires and they’re going to masturbate themselves blind anyway, so we should let them have an outlet. Women, on the other hand, are delicate flowers who aren’t as in to sex and certainly don’t want the kind of dirty, lewd things featured in internet pornography. Unless they’re slutty, of course. That’s where porn really comes from: sluts.

Yeah, okay, see that’s all reeks-of-sexism bullshit. Women are told, subtlety and constantly every day, that we shouldn’t like sex. When we make jokes about wives having headaches or thinking of England, we’re reinforcing the notion of appropriate, gendered sexuality standards. Bullshit! Some dudes don’t have super excitable sex drives, while some women want it all the damn time. What’s more, how many women enjoy sex a whole bunch, but don’t feel comfortable voicing that enjoyment? How many men are made uncomfortable by the impersonal nature of porn, but must pretend otherwise to their buddies?

We’re doing everyone a disservice with these Victorian notions of what’s appropriate for whom. How will we ever talk about actual problems pornography may foster, if we can’t openly discuss who’s watching it and what’s happening in it? World, teenage boys are not the only young people watching pornography. Your daughters are seeing it too. What’s more, it’s quickly becoming the way all teenagers truly learn about sex. We need to address what that means for us as a society and we need to do it honestly. Let’s stop pretending men are all hypersexual semen monsters and that women are all innocence and light. Neither gender is that simple.

Men are watching porn. Women are watching porn. Instead of treating it as the flesh-colored elephant in the bedroom, let’s treat it like what it is: our modern sexual reality. How you choose to deal with that is the next question.

– Grace

The Pill & I

pillsI love birth control.

I also hate birth control.

Stay with me on this one. Hormonal birth control is, obviously, one of the most important medical innovations ever. Margaret Sanger, contraception advocacy pioneer, is one of my personal heroines. I love that women can plan their families and have more control over their bodies. I love that people can have sex, without worrying about creating tiny humans they’re not ready to take care of. I love that girls with irregular cycles can get their hormones under control.

However, sometimes, the whole thing makes me mad. When I take my pill at four-o-clock every afternoon, it’s a reminder that the only thing standing between me and an unexpected bundle of poo joy is a little blue tablet. My future plans rest on my phone staying charged, so that a “Take your pill, harlot!” alarm goes off. Such irrational bitterness comes down to two things: pregnancy terrifies me and guys don’t have to deal with this.

Babies are scary. Y’all are probably tired of me saying this, but they are! No amount of squishyness or tiny toes can currently outweigh my terror. I don’t want to be responsible for another human life. When I first got Remy le Super Dog, my amount of love for her just barely outpaced my resentment. There was this adorable ball of white fluff who needed things all the time. Not an hour went by that she wasn’t wanting to play or walk or go outside or eat something. Rationally, I knew that’s how puppyhood worked, but the reality of it had me strung way, way out. Just be quiet for five minutes, so I can nap, you stupid/adorable puppy! Of course, if I wanted a nap, I could put Remy in her ex-pen and ignore the whimpering. With a baby? THERE WILL BE NO NAPS. Bienvenue, Grace’s personal hell.

What’s really annoying, however, is that it’s all on me. If I accidentally get knocked up, it was some error with my pill. Perhaps I forgot to take it one day, or I just fell into that totally-not-as-exciting-as-the-other-more-famous 1%. Either way, the blame lies with my uterus. What the fuck, science? Isn’t there some way we can throw a little responsibility toward the guys? Condoms are all well and good, but they do break. So, where is the pill men have to obsessively take at the same time everyday? Where is the pill that costs $40/month, isn’t completely covered by insurance, and causes anxiety about blood clots? Hormonal birth control is more complicated for guys, but—Come the fuck on, Bridget!— if we can make a pill that lets old dudes have more sex, surely we can create one that mitigates the consequences of said sex.

If I were a billionaire, this would be my cause célèbre. Let Angelina have the starving orphans and Sarah Machlachlan have the sad puppies. My great ambition is to rid the fornicating world of blame inequality! With our powers combined, my uterus will be inhospitable and your swimmers will drunkenly backstroke downstream. We’d all be so much calmer. Of course, biology isn’t fair and women have been stuck with the blame and the baby for only eleventy billion eons now. So, suck it up, Grace! Science is going to keep making boner pills, because that’s what society wants. Babies are still for you women to prevent.

Feel free to roll your eyes at my tirade. It’s just that sometimes, having lady parts is a legitimate hindrance. At least once a day, I have the thought “Oh, geez. Please don’t get pregnant yet.” What’s more, I know I’m not alone. Being a woman is complicated and messy and, thanks to the genetic lottery of matching chromosomes, often all too unfair. Grumble, grumble, grumble

I would rant on a bit more, but my phone just imitated a Russian submarine sonar. Slave that I am to my nap love, I need to go take that damned little pill. Stop the ride! It’s the most important ten seconds of my day! Does anybody have a tequila shot that can help wash the bitterness down?

– Grace

Guilt and the Single Girl

Sex.

Three little letters, one natural act, and – if you’re a twenty-something – the potential for a lifetime of guilt. Wait. That’s not right, is it? This is sex we’re talking about, the thing that is supposed to be so much fun that it’s all newlyweds, teenagers, and rabbits would do, if they didn’t have to pause for food. Sex is so great we’ve dedicated most of the internet to watching it and most of high school to giggling about it. Yet, if sex is the be-all-end-all pleasure of human existence, why do so many of us have issues with it?

Oh, right, guilt. ALL THE BUCKETS AND BUCKETS OF GUILT. If we’re not worried we’re going to Hell for doing it before marriage, we’re freaking out that our oral sex technique is sub-par, or that sleeping with one more person will make us Head Slut of the Whore Brigade. I’m sure there are perfectly well-adjusted people out there – those who’ve never felt guilty about having sex or worried about being bad at sex. Well, that’s awesome, but I don’t know any of them. Most of the people I’m friends with have, at one time or another, been totally freaked out about sex.

In the South, it’s easy to blame overwhelmingly conservative society values. In my own Texan teenage years, we were bombarded with the message that sex is only for happy, married heterosexual people, because of Sin and Disease and Children Out of Wedlock. How could any teenage girl agree that she’s dishonoring her family and her god by screwing her boyfriend, then happily screw said boyfriend with minimal conscience tugs? The human brain isn’t outfitted with a magic sex lightbulb. You don’t wake up one morning and think “Today, I feel like sex is a-okay and natural. I should discover what I like and not worry that I’m doing something wrong!” All too often, after years of associating sex with negative emotions, I watch friends get married, obtain that blessed circle of gold, and retain their shame. Sex is something their husbands want or that will give them children, but not something they enjoy.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t think this is just a southern thing or a Christian thing or even a girl thing. Despite our generation’s supposed sexual freedom and hook-up culture, the American party line on sex remains all too static. Anyone who’s grown up with a sibling of the opposite sex has seen this difference. Girls are encouraged to wait for the “right time,” not be pressured by their boyfriends, and remain ever vigilant against penises. Most guys of my acquaintance? They were told to wear a condom, then patted on the head with a “boys will be boys.” This does such a disservice to both sexes. If a guy’s not ready, does that make him less of a man? If a girl initiates sex, without any male cajoling, is she a slut? I call bullshit on the whole thing. These same damn ideas screw up relationship after relationship.

The idea that guys want one thing and one thing only – raunchy, porny sex – does just as much damage as the idea that girls want the babies and security, not the pleasure. Outside of warning teenage boys to wear condoms, we don’t give them any real guidance. All too many boys are left to learn about sex from their friends or, worse, porn. I think we can all agree neither of these are best case scenarios. Misinformation runs rampant amongst teenagers and porn is not even close to an accurate, healthy portrayal of sex. (I’m not anti-porn, but come on! Two actors worried about camera angles and properly sexy sounds are not even comparable to a real couple.) If guys must rely on porn to form their sexual identities and girls must rely on guys to introduce them to sexual norms, is it any wonder we’re all a little bit messed up?

Guys are worried they can’t give automatic orgasms, like James Deen, and girls are worried they don’t have magical, hairless vaginas like those from that video they’re embarrassed about looking up. We all start off fumbling and awkward and are under the impression we should go from total innocents to porn royalty with one sexual encounter. We shouldn’t have sex until marriage, but if we do, we need to be really good at it. We shouldn’t be prudes about sex, but we shouldn’t have too many lovers either. We should please our partner, but we’re not taught how to do that. They should please us, but if they can’t right away, it’s somehow our fault. We should all eventually feel sexually empowered, whether on our wedding nights or when we decide “it’s the right time,” but no one tells us what exactly that empowerment looks like.

Is sex positive education the way to go? Is it all just a symptom of the human condition, destined to play out over and over throughout time? Have milliennia of ingrained stigma and shame doomed us all? I have no clue. All I know is that I wish it didn’t take most of us so long to feel completely normal about sex. I wish we could all be responsible and well-informed and hurt a minimum number of people on the way to our general empowerment. Maybe I just wish I lived in France?

– Grace

The Injustice of Genitalia Slang.

Dictionary of Slang

Have you ever thought about how many names there are for genitalia outside of the anatomically correct “penis” and “vagina”? Because I’ve thought about it a lot. And I’ve come to one conclusion: penises get a lot more slang terms than vaginas and that’s not ok with me.

Think about all the slang terms you use or have heard of for penis. I’ll give you a few minutes because it took me about 10 to exhaust my mental penis slang directory.

>

>

>

Finished already? (That’s what she said….) Ok, good. I bet you were able to come-up with at least 10 and that’s not even close to the actual 200+ the magical internet oracle was able to provide me with (in a Chrome incognito search of course). Here are a few of my personal favorites.

 Peen. I don’t know why, it just always makes me smile.

Who Who Dilly. It sounds like a mix between something you can buy at Dairy Queen and a Dr. Seuss character.

Bologna Pony. Sure, it’s gross but also it rhymes.

And then there are the ones I hate.

Ding-a-ling. It’s not a doorbell. Trust me.

One Eyed Snake/Monster.  A term coined to keep young women abstinent by terrifying them. It probably worked for a while.

Purple-Headed Soldier. Ummm…my vagina is not a war you are entering.

When I performed the exact same search for vagina, I was very disconcerted by the results. Only about 100 terms were found and of those, about 25 referred to the clitoris specifically so I’m not counting them. My favorites of those include,

Birth Cannon. I feel like it really gets across the brutality and bloodiness of what happens to you down there when you pop out dem babies.

Minge. I just feel so English when I say it. I feel like this is what Hermione Granger or modern day Jane Austen would call it.

Cha-Cha. It’s a fun dance. It’s a fun part of your body. This is my term of choice.

Honestly, I had a hard time thinking of three I liked, and consequently the list of the nicknames I hate is much longer but I restrained myself for the sake of writing symmetry and just choose to share the three I hate most.

Axe wound. How dare you. As if my vagina was some sort of wound I should see a surgeon about repairing.

Pink Sausage Wallet. My vagina doesn’t exist solely for a sausage.

Bearded Clam. First of all, gross. Second of all, I would appreciate you not making assumptions about the hair (or lack thereof) down there.

Why are there so many more nicknames for penis than vagina? Could it be because for centuries men have been taught to take pride in their genitalia while women were taught to be ashamed of theirs? Even Lady Gaga herself has coined two new terms for penis, “disco stick” and “vertigo stick”. And yet, she that is all woman has not coined one new term for vagina, of which she has one. Sure, she used “muffin” in Poker Face but that’s hardly a new term, in fact, I could find examples of that term being used dating back a few centuries. How is it that women can come so very very far in working towards equality and yet not have bothered to create a name for that which makes us women? I mean, didn’t it come up when we were starving ourselves to get the vote?

Ladies, I encourage you to take a stand against this situation and introduce new and lovely terms for vagina into the lexicon. I’ll start you off with one of my own: Lalala. As in, “My lalala quite enjoyed that.” Or “What a lovely lalala!” I like it because it sounds like a song Cinderella would sing after having a wonderful dream. I’m also considering referring to my vagina as a “Lady Gaga” but that honor is conditional on her creating a new term for vagina and incorporating it into a song.