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Top 5 Works of Dirty Literature You Can Read in Public

July 11, 2013

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We’d never be caught dead reading Fifty Shades of Grey – let alone well-written erotica — in public. There’s just something unseemly about it, like PDA with too much tongue. But there are plenty of books that can satisfy your craving for smut while making you appear erudite to your neighbors on the beach or the subway.


Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
The original edition of the book, published in France in 1934, was banned here in the U.S. for its sexual explicitness. Not until 1961 did we get a U.S. version — and that led to obscenity trials going all the way to the Supreme Court, which declared it non-obscene in 1964, a whopping thirty years after its publication. Be warned: it will probably offend your modern sensibilities with its misogyny. (And if it doesn’t, then there’s probably something wrong with you.)

 


Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

For a more female-positive sex book from the same era, check out this 1928 classic, which was also banned for a time. It elevates sex as something sacred and soul-saving. If Lawrence were alive today, he’d totally be into Tantra.

 

 

 

 

 


Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Some people have called this 1955 classic an “erotic novel.” But don’t get too excited. It’s dirty in what it doesn’t show. Its rightness is in its darkly funny wrongness. This is, after all, at its most basic, the story of a hebephile. One you’ll love to hate.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Collected Poems 1947-1997 by Allen Ginsberg

Ginsberg’s openness about his homosexuality didn’t just make him controversial, it made him politically significant during the second half of the 20th century. Just go straight to “Please Master” to see just how open he could be. It’s an ode to BDSM that proves the dirtiest sex requires love.

 

 

 

 


The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Promiscuity, sexual manipulation, adultery, public sex, deflowerings, and, of course, rimming. And this collection of stories was a 14th century bestseller! Do yourself a favor and get a version written in modern English (otherwise, some of the tasteless dirty jokes might get lost in the Middle English).

 

 

 

 

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Kinky Poem of the Week: The World’s Guide to Beginning

July 8, 2013

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You may recall that a month or so back, we were in New York City to receive an IPPY Award for our latest book, 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink. While there, we met  Marty McConnell, silver medalist in the poetry category for her collection Wine for a Shotgun. When the poetry winners were each asked to perform a poem, we braced ourselves for the kind of spoken word poetry slam stuff typically found in grad school basement coffee shops. But Marty’s poem blew us away.

After asking the crowd, “We’re all adults here, right?” she recited the last poem in her collection — an ode to the body and all the kinky things you can do with it — with the perfect blend of performance and restraint. And now, Marty has kindly agreed to let us post the entire poem here so you can enjoy it, too (be sure to check out her video performance of it above, too!):

The World’s Guide to Beginning by Marty McConnell

I was born in the obscene genius
of the club. I was a chemical
hero. Slick as a greasy encyclopedia,
I strutted like a bullfighter. I learned kink

is another word for survival. learned to love
the body more for what it can do
than for what it is. how did you get this far
without knowing lust is disaster’s

good cousin, what flickers when the rest
has been burned down and blown
away? there will be a quiz.

here’s another story: I was born.
I was adored. I am in charge. I need you
to tie me down, now. call it love,
this intimate vine. this gift

of the mother. gift of the neighbor,
the uncle, gift of the whip. the dildo.
lying was my first language. I am not

ashamed. touch is not reversible. one
cannot be un-touched. are you
uncomfortable? good. then it’s begun.

go ahead and cry. to break
is to be sanctified. to find in the body
a safehouse where all your monsters
get to be raucous, bring the audience

to their feet calling what. what.
dig at the shame places. your gutter
of a cunt. your crowbar of a cock.
say the words, say fuck and wheelbarrow

and voluptuary until it all sounds
like amen, amen, amen, amen, amen,
amen, amen, amen. why despise

your own wiring? it was desire
that made you; however twisted
the originating bed, your beginning

was ferocious. quiz: what’s the difference
between a lie and a myth. answer:
the storyteller’s intention. example: I
am more bear than fruit. more leather

than lion. legend says I opened my mouth
and the world rolled out. the brine
of saliva, browbone splitting into branch,
to root. and from the cheeks, the sweetest

meat, the man, the woman, the lost
androgynous other. example: in our myth, Atlas
is a hermaphrodite. a dancer. bearded lady

in a g-string in a cage above the dance floor.
fact: there are gods who love us,
and they want us to fuck. have I earned

another story? to emerge, a world
must learn itself, then flood,
then burn. unfurl your ugly
like fists inside another’s

body. step into a skin familiar
as your mother’s bed, and
as spurned. something in you
stands up. it is like light,

or a crime. it is alive.
your turn.

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Awesome New Book: “What Makes A Baby”

June 12, 2013

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One of our favorite sex educators, Cory Silverberg, just came out with a new children’s book called “WHAT MAKES A BABY: A Book for Every Kind of Family and Every Kind of Kid.” It’s brightly illustrated, awesomely inclusive, and very, very sweet. Plus, it makes the perfect gift for families with little ones (or little ones on the way)! Cory says it’s intended for kids 4 and up — of course, we read it to our 2 year olds. They ate it up…literally. Cory, we’re going to need another copy without drool on it!

EM & LO: Your average reader might wonder why you chose to be vague about who has eggs and a uterus and who has sperm — for example, you write “Every body that has a uterus always has it in the same place…” without ever mentioning the word “woman.”  Can you explain?

CORY: I guess the simple answer is that I wanted a more honest book.  It’s just not true to say that every woman has a uterus. Most women have a uterus.  But not every woman does. And for that matter, not every woman who has a uterus has one that either can or will be home to a growing fetus at some point in their lives.

As a sex educator who works mostly with adults I see every day the effect that sex education has on adult sexuality, and it isn’t all positive.  When we teach children at the youngest ages that being a woman means having a uterus and eggs and being a man means having a penis and sperm, it may seem like a small thing but actually it’s a message that goes deep into our psyche.  And later on, for those of us who want kids and try to make them and find that our bodies won’t co-operate, it can feel like an enormous betrayal.

So that’s one reason.  Another more specific reason is that I wanted a book that would work for every kind of person.  I was particularly thinking of all the transgender, transsexual, and gender non-conforming parents I know whose bodies simply don’t fit that narrow story most books tell.  Some women’s bodies don’t have a uterus because the weren’t born with one.  That doesn’t make them any less a woman or any less a mother.  I feel like we all deserve books that reflect our experience, and that’s how I wrote What Makes a Baby.

If you cover the different ways babies can be born (vaginally, cesarian), why not cover the different ways they can be made (intercourse, IVF, etc)?

That will be in book 2!  What Makes a Baby is the first of a series of three books, but it’s written for the youngest age group, children as young as 4.  Little children tend not to be very good at sitting still for a long laundry list of things.  There’s a reason picture books usually follow a standard format and length;  it works!  I wanted a book that wasn’t just a text book for kids, or a check list of what kids MUST know, I wanted a book that kids and parents would want to read. And when it comes to young children that means being spare with words and information and letting the meaning and hopefully a bit of poetry flow.

The truth is that there are so many variations on how we’re making babies (at least in terms of getting the sperm and egg together, and then getting them to a uterus) that to do it properly would have meant a lot more pages.  So we made the decision to save that for the next book which will be about three times as long and be geared to older children.

You’re so careful about terminology, so why did you decide to refer to the embryo and fetus as a baby (“But before a baby can be born it has to get bigger, and bigger, and BIGGER” next to pictures of the various stages of gestation starting with 2 weeks)…?

This was one of those things I struggled with for a long time.  When I’m working as an educator and teaching live, I use the terms embryo and fetus (and sometimes zygote, which usually gets a few laughs). In a book you don’t get a chance to explain or talk around words, you just have the word on the page.  And in a picture book the language has to serve many functions.  It has to convey meaning of course, but it also has to be fun to read out loud, it has to have the feeling you want to convey.  Ultimately the words embryo and fetus just didn’t do it for me.  So it was a creative decision not a pedagogical or political one.  Of course it has political implications.  Some people feel very strongly that a baby isn’t a baby until it’s born.  Others think that a baby is a baby sometime after conception.  Others think that it’s a baby at the point of conception.  I’m not ignorant of these debates, and originally I used both embryo an fetus as they reflect my own understanding.  My hope is that I have left enough space in the story for parents to share their own beliefs and values around this question.

“Some babies are born by coming out through a part of the body that most people call the vagina.” Why not just say “…a part of the body that’s called the vagina”, since that is precise and accurate? And what are your thoughts about parents using euphemisms for genitals?

Language is language, and it doesn’t become any more or less important when we’re using it to describe our bodies than it does when we’re using it to describe our feelings, or a book we read or our favorite toy.  I think kids should know all kinds of words for different body parts including genitals.  So I wouldn’t say that people should never use euphemisms for genitals, but I would say that kids should know the terms that doctors and health care providers use in addition to whatever words a family might use.  I think euphemisms can be a problem if they are really about embarrassment or shame.  But sometimes we use words because we like the way they sound and feel, and I’m not sure why we need to police parents and families in that way.

Why did I write “most people call the vagina”?  Again, because I think it’s more honest.  Not every one calls that part of the body the vagina.  Most people do, but not everyone does.  So why not just say that?  It opens up the opportunity for a conversation about language and doesn’t foreclose options for the readers.

This language also has particular meaning and importance for Trans* dads, who have given birth but who often don’t use the word vagina to describe that part of their bodies.  So many of us have the experience of having to change words in books while we read them to kids so that they reflect our experience.  I wanted a book that would require the least amount of re-writing, and using this phrase makes it a little more real for a few more people.

Have you gotten any criticisms or hate mail from anyone? We’d guess if you’ve gotten any, it would be from the religious “family values” anti-gay crowd.

Yes I have.  It started when I launched my Kickstarter.  There were a few posts (one was on Glen Beck’s website The Blaze) and they seemed to suggest I was destroying families with my book.  There have been a few more articles – as you guessed – from conservative and generally homophobic organizations, since the book came out.  I’m glad when my work makes people think and starts conversations, but unfortunately in each of these cases, as far as I can tell, the people writing have not actually read my book and don’t seem to be interested in having a conversation as much as using my book as an occasion to spout the same narrow minded often hateful perspective they usually take.

“What Makes a Baby” is on sale now on Amazon.com!

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“150 Shades of Play” at the IPPY Awards!

May 30, 2013

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Last night, we attended the IPPY Awards ceremony in NYC to receive our silver medals for all-around awesomeness in an independently-published sex & relationship book.150 SHADES OF PLAY: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink is now an award-winner!

While sipping our complimentary cocktails (yay, open bar!), nibbling the mediocre passed apps (free food, eh), listening to all the award announcements (there were over 100 categories!), and waiting for our 10-second turn in the spotlight, we made friends with the gold medalists in the Humor category. Husband-and-wife team Dr. Ted Eisenberg & Joyce K. Eisenberg penned The Scoop on Breasts: A Plastic Surgeon Busts the Myths. As the world-record
holder for most breast augmentations, Ted supplied the info; Joyce supplied the jokes (guess you have to have a sense of humor when you’re married to a man who’s up to his elbows in boobs all day). We’re no big fans of fake tatas, but we must say The Scoop is really nicely designed. And they win for best award photo of the night: each of them held the cleavage-festooned cover up to their chests.

When the winners in the Poetry category were announced, they were each asked to read a poem from their collections. Admittedly, we braced ourselves for major cringing. But Marty McConnell, silver medalist for Wine for a Shotgun, made us poetry converts. After asking the crowd “We’re all adults here, right?” she recited the last poem in her collection — an ode to the body and all the kinky things you can do with it — with the perfect blend of performance and restraint. Stay tuned for an excerpt of it on our site soon!

We forgot to bring a copy of our own book to hold up for our award picture, so we accosted the winners of the Outstanding E-Book Achievement Award who hadtheir book (which is actually an app) on an iPad. Peering over their shoulders before pouncing, we got a good look at Psychometry, a super cool interactive digital collection of photographs by Carol Golemboski. She and her designer kindly let us pull up a picture of our book cover and borrow the iPad for our photo.

All evening we were looking for the telltale ponytail of the co-author of Great Sex Made Simple, the Tantra book that edged us out for the gold in Sex & Relationships (damn you, Tantra!). But we didn’t meet Mark A. Michaels and his partner Patricia Johnson until our category was announced — which of course was the 69th category of the night. Talk about a long-time coming! (Bud dum ching! Speaking of which, we would be remiss in our duties if we didn’t also mention the gold medalist in the Erotica category, The Harder She Comes by D.L. King)

After our award photos were taken (which, in usual fashion, we tried to ham up as much as possible), the gold medal winners Mark & Patricia generously gave us a copy of their book Great Sex (which we’ll also excerpt on this site soon). You can tell from this gesture (and the photos in their book), they’re very giving in all areas of life.

So stayed tuned for the fruits of our networking. And don’t forget to get your copy of our AWARD-WINNING BOOK! 

 



“Lean In” Is Great! Facebook, Not So Much.

May 24, 2013

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Our book group just read “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. According to its Amazon descrip, she (and let’s be honest, her writing and research team) examine “why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.” Does it do that? Totes.

Some of the more interesting points in the book have to do with…..wait for it…..sex and relationships:

Research supports [the idea] that equality between partners leads to happier relationships. When husbands do more housework, wives are less depressed, marital conflicts decrease, and satisfaction rises. When women work outside the home and share breadwinning duties, couples are more likely to stay together. In fact, the risk of divorce reduces by about half when a wife earns half the income and a husband does half the  housework. For men, participating in child rearing fosters the development of patience, empathy, and adaptability, characteristics that benefit all of their relationships. For women, earning money increases their decision-making ability in the home, protects them in case of divorce, and can be important security in later years, as women often outlive their husbands. Also — and many might find this the most motivating factor — couples who share domestic responsibilities have more sex. It may be counterintuitive, but the best way for a man to make a pass at his wife might be to do the dishes.

Yeah, what she said! (And these are not just Sandberg’s observations — all of the above points are meticulously footnoted with their research-study sources  – as is the entire book.)

There has been some major poo-pooing of this book, by both men and women, some who didn’t even read it, some who even consider themselves feminists! Do all of her points and suggestions apply to every single woman in America? No. Is it weird that she doesn’t openly thank any of her nannies in the acknowledgements? Yes. But how anyone can argue against the call for more real equality between the sexes — and that’s all this book really does — is beyond us. Jessica Valenti said it best: “Here’s a nationally known woman calling herself a feminist, writing what will be a wildly popular book with feminist ideas, encouraging other women to be feminists. And we’re worried she has too much influence? That she’s too . . . ambitious?” Yeah, what she said!

The only legitimate complaint that has anything to do with Sandberg that we’ve come across is the fact that the company Sandberg leads allows Facebook pages like “Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus,” “Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won’t make you a Sandwich,” “Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs,” “Raping your Girlfriend” (to name a few) — which feature pictures of battered women — while it bans images of breastfeeding mothers. This week, in “An Open Letter to Facebook” published on HuffPo, 43 women’s groups urged Facebook to apply the same standard to gender-based hate speech as they do to content that is violently racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic: “In a world in which hundreds of thousands of women are assaulted daily and where intimate partner violence  remains one of the leading causes of death for women around the world, it is not possible to sit on the fence. We call on Facebook to make the only responsible decision and take swift, clear action on this issue, to bring your policy on rape and domestic violence into line with your own moderation goals and guidelines.” Yeah, what they said!



Not Tonight Dear, I Feel Fat: How to Get Over Your Body in Bed

May 17, 2013

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More than half of all women have put off sex — even when they were in the mood — because they felt too fat. A recent study showed that how a woman feels about her body has more influence on libido than even menopause — and we have the letters in our inbox to back this up. (Those rare women who always feel good about their bodies probably stress about how “normal” their labia are!)

A new book, Not Tonight Dear, I Feel Fat, by sex columnist Michael Alvear — he was also the co-host of HBO’s show The Sex Inspectors — helps women get past their negative feelings about their bodies in order to truly enjoy themselves in bed. Here are seven of Alvear’s tips for sparking your libido next time you’re feeling bad about your stomach/hips/butt/insert body part you obsess over:

1. Speak up.

Being still, quiet and passive are ways of withdrawing from activity—leaving nothing left to focus on but your body. The secret to managing your mind is bed is to be active: talk, engage, exchange. Move so you can stop being a sight to see and be a force to be felt.

2. Lower your estimate.

Research shows that women with body anxiety overestimate the size and shape of their body by at least 25%. When you’re focusing on your body, apply the 25% margin of error. Your butt just got 1/4 smaller than you thought.

3. Get active, then get frisky.

Exercise doesn’t just affect your abs. It also raises hormones linked with arousal—estrogen, prolactin, and, cortisol—particularly 30 min. after the workout. Plan your sexy evening before hitting the gym, to make the most of its effect.

4. Sexual competence builds body confidence.

Women who consider themselves “good in bed” report far less anxiety, even when researchers held their weight constant. Feeling good about what your body can do is the first step to feeling good about your body. [Editor's note: For expanding your expertise, may we humbly suggest our new book, 150 Shades of Play?]

5. Share your fantasy.

Fantasize your way out of your appearance anxiety. Go light or go Fifty Shades of Grey, but go. Inhabiting new people and situations makes you far less likely to focus on your thighs.

6. Develop erotic cues.

From smelling your favorite aftershave to just having a heart-to-heart talk with your guy, finding your body’s cues triggers a response that brings your desires to conscious awareness.

7. Find your best light.

No supermodel can save harsh lighting, so take time to do a room makeover, keeping lighting soft and low wattage. Think about installing a dimmer switch—or even a strobe light.

Not Tonight Dear, I Feel Fat by Michael Alvear is on sale now

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C Is for Cuffs

May 14, 2013

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Lelo’s Etherea Silk Cuffs (a black version is part of their Dare Me Pleasure Set)

The following is from our very own naughty, award-winning dictionary, 150 SHADES OF PLAY: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink. Bolded words signify individual entries that appear elsewhere in the A-to-Z section of the book. Anything with a tie icon indicates an activity or prop mentioned in the Fifty Shades series (symbolic of the famous woven tie Christian Grey uses to restrain Anastasia Steele). The idea being: look up something you’re interested in and, from there, make it a choose-your-own-adventure book by following any bolded words that pique your interest to their own dedicated entry. Or just start at A and don’t stop ‘til you get to Z—or ‘til you’re compelled to try something out with your partner, whichever comes first!:

C

 cuffs, ankle and wrist

If restraining someone by their wrists and ankles is the meat-and-potatoes of bondage, then made-for-play cuffs (sold at any sex toy store) are bondage’s Hungry-Man frozen dinners: quick, easy, and surprisingly satisfying. Bondage cuffs are way safer than handcuffs and provide instant gratification—unlike rope, with its pain-in-the-ass learning curve. Most cuffs are made of either leather or nylon (for kinky vegans, e.g. Super Cuffs) and are often lined with faux fur, etc. (for comfort even during marathon seshes). And before you complain that faux fur is “not me” or “so last season,” just try writhing around in a pair of police-issue handcuffs first. For real-world restraints that aren’t a pain in the wrist, check out the surprisingly attractive institutional cuffs at MedicalToys.com. And for something a little more in line with the high-end Fifty Shades aesthetic, check out LELO’s Etherea Silk Cuffs and Sutra Chainlink Cuffs.

Bondage cuffs feature either buckles or Velcro (the former gives a stronger hold, the latter a quicker release and a sexy sound) and are fairly wide (at least two to three inches) to ward off the nerve damage that is a risk of traditional handcuffs. Speaking of risks: As with any form of bondage, the bottom should speak up as soon as he or she notices any numbness or tingling, and the top should allow for at least one finger’s width between cuff and skin. And regular bondage cuffs should never be used for any kind of suspension — you need special equipment for that sort of advanced play (although you should never suspend someone from the wrists, no matter the gear). Bondage cuffs typically feature D-rings so that they can be tethered to each other, to bed posts, to chair legs, etc. And if you’re still sleeping on your college futon? Most sex toy shops sell “Under the Bed” tethers that serve as makeshift bedposts. Another option is to attach the ankle or wrist cuffs to a spreader bar. For more self-contained bondage, just attach wrist to wrist and ankle to ankle. You can even attach bound wrists to bound ankles (either in front or back) for an instant hogtie! See also bondage safety, collars, cuffs (grip), cuffs (rope), door jamb cuffs, and handcuffs.

For more on restraints and other kinky endeavors, pick up a copy 150 SHADES OF PLAY, on sale now at Amazon!



Our “150 Shades of Play” Won an IPPY!!!

May 7, 2013

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Woohoo!!!!

Our most recent book, “150 SHADES OF PLAY: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink” has won a 2013 IPPY Award!

The Independent Publishers Book Awards is the world’s largest book awards contest and the longest-running unaffiliated independent publishing awards contest (since 1996). It’s designed to bring increased recognition to the deserving but often unsung titles published by independent authors and publishers.

“150 SHADES OF PLAY” was our seventh book, but our first foray into independent publishing with our new two-woman imprint, Better Half Books. We were so proud of our little kinky baby, we entered the contest.  This year there were over 5000 entries — and less than 400 winners! In our category –  Sexuality/Relationships — we were up against 48 other entrants!

So “150 SHADES OF PLAY” won the silver medal. We were robbed by Great Sex Made Simple: Tantric Tips to Deepen Intimacy & Heighten Pleasure which took the gold (damn you, Tantra!), and beat out Rewire Your Brain for Love: Vibrant Relationships Using the Science of Mindfulnesswhich received the bronze medal.

So if you haven’t already gotten your copy of “150 SHADES OF PLAY”, you now have 151 reasons to do so today! It’s an award winner, baby!



New Book: The End of Sex

April 25, 2013

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The End of Sex by Donna Frietas is getting a lot of action lately, with reviews calling it “important, wise, and brave” (The Atlantic), “illuminating” (WSJ), “straight-forward, well-researched, and eye-opening” (Publishers Weekly), and with Frietas herself penning an editorial for the Washington Post and nabbing a coveted spot on The Today Show. Subtitled “How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Sexual Intimacy,” the book analyzes 2,500 surveys from 11 colleges and finds that casual sex is perceived by students as the only romantic option on campus these days — and that actually bums a majority of them out. Here’s an excerpt:

The Second Shift of College

Amid the seemingly endless partying on America’s college campuses lies a thick layer of melancholy, insecurity, and isolation that no one can seem to shake. College students have perfected an air of bravado about hookup culture, though a great many of them privately wish for a world of romance and dating. And yet they soldier on. By all appearances, graduating college with sex on one’s social resumé is as important as it is to have a range of activities, internship experiences, and a solid GPA on the professional one. In today’s college culture, sex is something students fit into their schedules, like studying and going to the gym.

College students learn from the media, their friends, and even their parents that it’s not sensible to have long-term relationships in college. College is a special time in life—they will never get the chance to learn so much, meet so many people, or have as much fun again. Relationships restrict freedom—they require more care, upkeep, and time than anyone can afford to give during this exciting period between adolescence and adulthood. They add pressure to the already heavily pressured, over scheduled lives of today’s students, who, ac- cording to this ethos, should be focusing on their classes, their job prospects, and the opportunity to party as wildly as they can manage. Hookups allow students to get sex onto the college CV without adding any additional burdens, ensuring that they don’t miss out on the all-American, crazy college experience they feel they must have. They can always settle down later.

Students play their parts—the sex-crazed frat boy, the promiscuous, lusty coed—and they play them well. But all too often they enact these highly gendered roles for one another because they have been taught to believe that hookup culture is normal, that everyone is enjoying it, and that there is something wrong with them if they don’t enjoy it, too. What could be better than sex without strings? Yet, in fact, many of them—both men and women—are not enjoying it at all.

Hookup sex is fast, uncaring, unthinking, and perfunctory. Hookup culture promotes bad sex, boring sex, drunken sex you don’t remember, sex you could care less about, sex where desire is absent, sex that you have “just because everyone else is, too,” or that “just happens.” It’s the new, second shift of college: the housework, the domestic labor that everyone needs to pitch in and get through because it simply has to get done. The more students talk about hooking up, the clearer it becomes that it has less to do with excitement or even attraction than with checking a box off a long list of tasks, like homework or laundry. And while hookup sex is supposed to come with no strings attached, it nonetheless creates an enormous amount of stress and drama among participants.

Today’s younger generation learns quickly and learns well that the norm is to be casual about sex—even though so many of them don’t fit this “norm.” Parents and educational institutions unwittingly promote this idea. Because we worry about the perils of casual sex among teens—unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and, for some constituencies, sin and God’s disapproval—the very people who should be mentoring young men and women about the pleasures and joys of good sex instead focus on its dangers. Sex education in high schools, in both its comprehensive and abstinence-only forms, tends to favor the how-to’s or the why-not-to’s of sex. This limited approach is often reiterated in first-year college orientations, which tend to concentrate on birth control, STIs, and sexual assault. Rather than empowering teens and young adults to make informed decisions about sex, these sex-educational methods often reinforce the idea that hookup culture is the norm, that everyone is doing it, and that all students can do is protect themselves against its worst excesses.

The average college student, like the average adult, wants to have a meaningful sex life, even a soulful one, even if that requires having less sex or, for a time, no sex. But the path toward this goal is dimly lit. This leaves students fumbling all the way up to their senior year, sensing that something is missing from their lives, yet with no idea how to find fulfillment or who can help them in their search for it. Universities may be doing a good enough job facilitating safe sex for those who genuinely enjoy hooking up. But many students today are graduating college either unhappy or ambivalent about their sex lives, and unable to imagine a more fulfilling alternative. At the center of their unease is the four years they’ve lived within hookup culture.

Author Donna Freitas

Hookups have existed throughout human history, of course, but what is now happening on American campuses is something different. College has gone from being a place where hookups happened to a place where hookup culture dominates student attitudes about all forms of intimacy. The hookup has become normative, and hookup culture a monolithic culture from which students find little chance of escape. It is the defining aspect of social life on many campuses; to reject it is to relegate oneself to the sidelines of college experience.

In my personal experience as a university student in the early to mid-1990s, the hookup was one of many available forms of relating. Hookup culture was like a town everyone knew about and knew how to find. We also knew who lived there permanently and partied there exclusively. Most of us would visit hookup culture and its accompanying parties a number of times during college, if only to see what it was like. But we weren’t immersed in it throughout our four years—or, at least, we didn’t have to be if we didn’t want to. The landscape for navigating one’s romantic and sexual life was much broader and more diverse and included traditional dates and long-term romantic relationships as well as hooking up. (There was also the possibility of opting out of all of it.) But even in the mid-1990s, hooking up could still mean making out at a party and exchanging phone numbers, with the thought of turning the make-out session into an opportunity for a relationship. It didn’t necessarily ride on the notion of unattached intimacy both during and afterward, and it wasn’t an end in itself.

Between 1997 and 2003, I lived on campus as a professional in student affairs departments at two major universities, one Catholic and one private-secular. More than anything else, student alcohol abuse was the major issue. My colleagues and I dealt with it on a regular basis with the students in our residence halls. Hookup culture existed then, too, but it didn’t dominate the social lives of students the way it does now. I witnessed couples heading out on dates, knew of long-term relationships that were kindled early on in a student’s first year of college, and listened as students chatted about their various social exploits and romantic aspirations. It wasn’t until my last few years living in the halls that student behavior became more extreme, and the drunken hookups more obvious because they began in the hallways, stairwells, and elevators in my building. But still, among the students with whom I came into contact for all sorts of student-affairs department reasons, conversation about hooking up was fairly minimal. You might hear the term once in a while, but it was not the thing that everyone was talking about constantly. Today, it’s almost the only thing.

One can only speculate as to the reasons that hookup culture has come to dominate college campuses in the early part of the twenty-first century. During the 1980s and 1990s, the threat of AIDS loomed over all sexual encounters. Today’s generation has a difficult time understanding the threat of AIDS, given advances in research and medication. The widespread availability and social acceptance of pornography is yet another factor that may contribute to the rise of hookup culture over the past decade. The ubiquitousness of pornography is changing the attitudes of young adults about sex, their expectations for their partners, and their understanding of desire, gender identity, and how one enters into various types of sexual intimacy.

Moreover, the campus culture—along with the wider culture—has become more superficial with the advance of technology. A frenetic go-go-go and do-do-do pace, increasing in the midst of an economic recession, has put young adults under ever more pressure. They are competing with each other for fewer and fewer jobs, but burdened with greater and greater expectations of success. Such pressure can breed stress, anxiety, and even selfishness, all of which are aided and abetted by technologies that allow us to text rather than call, and to interact superficially and efficiently, with broad swaths of “friends” and followers, through Facebook and Twitter, rather than engage in meaningful interactions face to face with other human beings. This pace and pressure coincide with the attitudes toward others fostered by hookup culture. Rather than looking at the people right in front of us, we look at our phones, preferring to touch a screen rather than the hand of a partner. Instead of engaging in conversation with those sitting next to us, we text, email, and chat with people nowhere near our bodies. We have become more excited about interacting with the various technological devices at our disposal than about developing relationships with real people, even our own children. This prioritizing of technology over in-person interactions does not teach us how to value the life and body of another human being, or what it means to treat others with dignity and respect. Instead, it promotes the idea that in-person relationships are cumbersome and time consuming—better to be dealt with on- line, or, even better, not at all.

Excerpted with permission from The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, by Donna Freitas.  Available from Basic Books, a member of The Perseus Books Group.  Copyright © 2013.

 



A Sexy Poem to Celebrate National Poetry Month

April 19, 2013

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photo via flickr

April is National Poetry Month, so we thought we’d celebrate by sharing with you one of our favorite erotic poems. This poem by Christina Rossetti is a little more, er subtle than Fifty Shades of Grey — it’s not exactly wank material. But we were in the mood for a classic. And as our old pal Jack Murnighan of Nerve’s Naughty Bits fame will tell you, the classics can be dirtier than E.L. James after three martinis.

Read this narrative poem on a gorgeous spring day when everyone — women and men alike — are wearing a little less and eating something fresh and juicy outside, and we guarantee your mood will take a turn for the salacious. In the absence of an English professor, Wikipedia can help you parse the poem — if you’re having trouble sorting the juicy double entendres from the feminist allusions.

(We were torn between this poem and “because i love you)last night” by e.e. cummings, but quoting e.e. cummings always makes us feel a little cheesy.)

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”

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