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A Dinner Table Debate Over Gay Marriage

August 28, 2012

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photo by Stuart Isett for The New York Times

With all the backlash over “legitimate rape” vs. illegitimate (sic) rape last week, another great debate got a little lost in the shuffle: the one over gay marriage between sex columnist and married gay dad of one adopted son, Dan Savage, and the president of the National Organization for Marriage and straight married father of seven biological kids, Brian Brown.

When Savage called some teens who walked out on a speech of his criticizing parts of the Bible “pansy-assed”, Brown challenged him to a debate to see “what a big man you are in a debate with someone who can talk back.” Savage accepted, going so far as to have Brown over to his home for dinner with his husband and child before a sit-down debate moderated by the New York Times’ Beliefs columnist, Mark Oppenheimer.

The result is an awesome, hour-long, intellectual duel that’s the closest thing most of us liberal, art-loving, political junkies will get to truly enjoying a sporting event…

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A Musical History of Wooing Women

July 26, 2012

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CDZA (short for Collective Cadenza) is a group of mostly Juilliard-trained music geeks (and we use that term in the most loving and respectful way) that “creates musical video experiments” — in other words, fun viral vids that play upon all sorts of musical themes and genres (think “Evolution of Dance” but with live musicians and no dancing). Ten months ago they created their inaugural “History of Lyrics That Aren’t Lyrics” (i.e. Sha na na na, doobie doobie doo, etc). Then a few months ago they started producing these videos regularly, one every other Tuesday. Some recent examples: “Mark Zuckerberg: The Musical” (“This is the dawning of the page that you share with us”) and ”Aces of Basses” (a literal tribute to the Swedish pop sensation using five acoustic upright basses).

Now there’s “History of Wooing Women.” It begins innocently enough with the 1955 classic “Only You” by the Platters and quickly runs through the next few decades with Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does,” and so on. But suddenly, around the mid-’90s, things take a turn for the obscene:

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“Sex House,” and Other Non-News Parodies from The Onion

July 19, 2012

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Today marks the second weekly installment of the Onion’s new web series, Sex House – a parody of The Real World/Big Brother/Glass House-type reality shows that pretend to be about something other than throwing a bunch of people into a Sartre-esque No Exit living sitch with a bunch of raging hormones and an endless supply of cheap vodka. It’s the first series from the Onion Digital Studio, which according to the Huffington Post, will focus exclusively on non-news parodies. The other three web series premiering on its YouTube channel this past week include Lake Dredge Appraisal (think Antiques Road Show meets 1980s public-access TV), Horrifying Planet (think National Geographic meets When Animals Attack meets American’s Funniest Home Videos) and Troublehacking with Drew Cleary (think vloggers with delusions of grandeur).

So far, Sex House has the most promise — but…

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Em & Lo Interviewed on The Interview Show

June 4, 2012

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Yep, we just referred to ourselves in the third person…again. Remember a few weeks ago we told you we were going to be on The Interview Show in Brooklyn? No? Well, here’s the video of us on Chicago comedian and humor columnist Mark Bazer’s show anyway. We thought he was going to be asking us things like “What’s the weirdest advice question you’ve ever gotten?” or “What’s the best/worst thing about writing about sex?” You know, the fun cocktail conversations we never seem to have in real life. Instead, Mark asked us real, honest-to-God sex advice questions. The nerve! It was like work, except without the benefit of us being able to pick and choose the questions we want to answer and spending hours polishing our responses to make ourselves seem effortlessly witty. The veil has been lifted.

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A Sex Toy Sitcom

May 30, 2012

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Okay, this is the weirdest thing we’ve come across in a while: a low-budge, home-made, episodic sitcom about a family of sex toys. It’s called “The Dildos” — there’s the gynecologist father, the domestic goddess mother, the teenage son JD (Junior Dildo), the younger twin sisters (a double-ended dildo), and the dog (a vibrating bullet). There’s even a catchy theme song.

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“Bounce That Dick,” Feminist or Not?

December 30, 2011

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When we were sent a link to the new YouTube video “Bounce That Dick” on the Jenna Marbles channel, we didn’t know what to expect: some kind of safe-for-work sexual technique advice video by a porn star turned educator? Then, during the first 30 seconds, our hopes were raised, as the young “blogger and entertainer” began a rap parody, stating with much braggadocio, “I’ve been told since the day I started growing pubes to shake my ass. Well, guess what, my ass is fucking tired as shit. This time it’s your turn to wiggle your man junk for me. I wanna see you shake your muthafuckin penis, bitch.” Ever since we read Gloria Steinem’s essay “What If Freud Were Phyllis?” years ago, we’ve enjoyed the use of role reversals to expose sexism, racism, etc. But by the end of the vid, we were left a little cold…

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This American Laugh: Ira Glass Sex Tape

October 21, 2011

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If you’re an NPR junkie, you’re going to love this. It’s an 11-minute spoof of a “This American Life” episode featuring a story about host Ira Glass making a celebrity sex tape. All the elements are there: Ira Glass’s go-to phrases, input from Alex Blumberg, the clever mood music, the end credits with a shout out to WBEZ general manager Torey Malatea. The Ira Glass impersonator’s tone is spot on (though he could have gone heavier on the speech impediment that makes Glass’s Ls sound like G-Ls, as in “This American Glife”). And it’s full of funny nods to other NPR shows: Fresh Air, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Car Talk. There’s even a deep, thought-provoking and truly inspiring wrap up at the end that avoids any cheap jokes or crass puns, just as any real T.A.L. show would. We won’t give away who it is Glass ends up making his sex tape with, but it is someone who enjoys the sound of their own voice even more.

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The Speedo Makes a Comeback

October 17, 2011

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If you’ve ever rolled your eyes at that iconic image of the bikini-clad woman sudsing up a muscle car or rollerskating along the boardwalk, then have we got two videos for you. First, the high budget one: LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” As our writer friend Grant Stoddard recently put it in a Facebook post, never before has banana sling been so explicitly celebrated in a music video. And it’s shot in a way that gives the illusion of three-dimensionality, if you know what we mean. (Best line of the song? The chorus refrain “I work out.”) Yes, it’s funny and tongue in cheek, and yet the high production value gives it a weight that makes it feel like genuine equal-opportunity objectification…

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When Public Proposals Go Wrong…

August 18, 2011

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Click here to watch the humiliation, to the tune of “Sweet Caroline,” if you dare

As we have said here many times, we are massive FAILblog fans. We think it’s hilarious when people fall down (so long as they don’t get seriously hurt), especially if it happens at a wedding or when they’re trying to act sorta cool. When shit goes wrong and someone happens to capture it on video, the internet gets a little happier. But there is a sub-genre of shit-going-wrong videos that makes us clench our buttholes, and not in a good way: When a dude gets down on one knee and proposes in public…and his girlfriend says no (just Google “proposal gone wrong” if you’re not familiar with the genre).

What makes a guy so misinformed about something so big? So sure that she’ll say yes, when in fact she puts her face in her hands and runs away? In some cases it’s just one big staged event to make the Internet a happier place (Lo is convinced the above video is fake), but even this surely reflects the very real humiliation of public rejection for a rare, but growing (thanks to the web) breed of guy. Is it the same willful denial that lets him believe that the woman he’s hitting on in a bar actually wants to talk to him? Studies have found that men are inclined to misinterpret signals from women. Or is it in fact a subconscious means of forcing her to say “I Do” — because she wouldn’t dare reject him in the middle of a busy food court at the mall, in front of all the grandparents, would she? Would she?

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New Fiction (and Film and Music): “Lola, California”

July 5, 2011

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The amazing writer Edie Meidav (who also happens to be our friend and neighbor) is out today with a new novel: “Lola, California”, called “brilliant” and “awesome” by Publisher’s Weekly. Meidav is such a force of inspiration that art practically gets spontaneously generated in her wake: above is a beautifully haunting short film created by Snapdragon that’s inspired by “Lola” along with Meidav’s narration; and here is music inspired by the book from Kevin Salem, who calls it “part soundtrack for the reader, part songs inspired by the text … and part music inspired by the cultural identity of the novel.” Below is one of two excerpts from “Lola, California” that Meidav is generously allowing us to publish here — this one about a rape on a Greek island. Stay tuned next week for the second excerpt about two friends go-go dancing. Both are compellingly creepy and deeply moving, even without the context of the full novel:

Chord progression being an island of a moment in Greece bearing two girls, nurtured on American soil and pieties, hitchhiking to get a boat back to the mainland from which they’ll take a bus toward a plane toward home so they can return toward starting the first year of college and all its unknowns. These girls intersect with a native mode: two men of the islands driving a truck on a highway.

The truckers pull over, understanding the girls enough to suggest a destination, asking do the girls mind stopping at a restaurant? Four plates of salad and fish, an afternoon stretching on, a broad continent of arm, a brush of skin, a narrow hand pulled back, continental drift, rough thumbs pressing an apology and offers of endless ouzo. The men drive farther down the road only to pull into another outdoor bar. Drink, dab bread into glistening plates of olive oil, dab hands, a brush of skin, no apology, drink and drive, brush some more, pull into an- other bar.

We got to get to our boat, says one of the girls, it’s getting late. Let’s go check the schedule at the train station. One girl looks around out- side the truck while one slouches inside, contemplating. The afternoon has slipped through their hands, a wild rodent. One man inside, one outside and, a drink-and-dab earlier, the plan must have been hatched: without warning, the man in the truck takes off with only the one girl inside, a tectonic plate shifting.

He is driving her up the mountain road toward, ostensibly, the train station. For no reason the girl can see, he pulls over on the side, of- fering her then that downward arc that will become so familiar: his hand on the back of her neck, pushing her head down toward his lap as if a gentle derrick.

She resists and he pushes farther, deeper toward the core of the earth. Years later another man will explore this similar gravitational potential and she will throw up in his lap, oddly elated. But right now there is the problem of her head’s habit of numbness and the bothersome question that lets her go down more easily: had she wanted this overpowering?

Also and not insignificantly she wants to ace the situation, sur- vive intact. Like that heiress, kidnapped, who immediately saw her kidnappers’ point of view. Could spinelessness be a surprise tactic of strength?

Ravines and clefts in his forearms, along his neck.

Does he do manual labor on the side? She had liked his looks, the delicacy of the eyes, a femininity against harsher angles. His hand not ungentle but insistent on the back of her neck toward his lap where he is conveniently unsprung. She hadn’t chosen to enter this situation but now it has arisen, a pop-up dollhouse. A man’s hand warming her neck and is she willing or not? If she doesn’t want to be doing this, can this son of this country of mothers’ sons tell? How can a man want something not freely given?

Does he tell himself that it is wanted? But maybe she wants. Is it bad if you aren’t the first person to know what you want?

And hadn’t the lolling tongues and technicolor availability of cer- tain magazines, her mother’s creased copies of certain novels, initi- ated her into some permanent hoarfrost of open-lipped readiness?

In ninth grade, on the pastel carpet in the parental bedroom, the televised cartoon of Yellow Submarine playing on the tiny TV set above a pile of tea towels, had she not mouthed for the first time the young and grateful Flynn, seeking to initiate both of them? What was different between her liking for that boy’s good nature, his father- less making-the-best-of-it self, and this moment in a Greek truck? Flynn too young and flimsy to bear the weight of her vague fantasy, not desire, really, but an apery of futurity, an ironic paroxysm.

Her head breaks on the thought. She’s no virgin but in this truck in Greece she wants to choose, choice everything: she could choose rape and then, in a fight with this fellow, wouldn’t she win? If she doesn’t choose, she’ll emit the scent of fear and some unguessed-at contrap- tion might release a lever making the whole moment plummet be- yond danger into irreversibility on a mountain roadside where no one in the world knows the exact coordinates of her body. The mo- ment narrows. She floats above her body, allowing for a certain kind of survival.

After and in the truck’s fish-scent, she rifles through the phrase- book. Trying for let’s go back, though can a person go back? Epeestro- phe, she says.

Her rapist, a man of few words, agrees, drawing dignity back into himself. As if something quite normal has transpired, he drives back, fingers tapping out an idle rhythm on the steering wheel, knuckle hair matted by a wedding band shimmering in the last of the day. At the restaurant bar, her friend runs to the car. To stay safe from the other truckdriver, her friend had hidden atop the restaurant roof if in plain sight of diners and cooks, another chicken avoiding the pan.

Stunned, the two girls grab backpacks, running blind in the dusk only to end up lying in a ditch. The girl who’d gone for the ride hugs the one who’d been left behind, crying: I hate men! Falling still when the two men tramp near holding flashlights, muttering as if they’ve stumbled into an outtake from a war movie, seeking American girls fallen to an earthen trench, parachutes broken. A search party of en- emy soldiers who back away when they find nothing. One girl raped but might as well have happened to both of them.

They will never talk about it. A vessel containing past and future, all the crisp nights when one girl failed to show at the other’s house or the moment when one had cried, saying your friendship means more to me, I didn’t mean to hurt you with that boy, I didn’t know you had a crush on him, he just showed up around my house, throwing rocks at my window at night and I won’t see him if it makes you feel better. Or the moment when one visits the other’s room at college. A debu- tante roommate will say—after seeing the girls’ shared uniform of messy hair, thrift-store patterned skirts and men’s white shirts—to the girl she’d suspected was a witch because of her penchant for standing on her head and burning incense, that, at least, after meet- ing the girl’s friend, she could understand the girl a tiny bit better.

It will contain the night when one of them finishes college and moves to Los Angeles, driving fast at night on Highway Five’s hills toward an art school with an old boyfriend who himself had just fin- ished driving across the country to start over and he’s offering a bite of moo shu vegetables while her favorite song of the moment plays, a latterday version of Lola which happens to have the name Jane in the refrain.

A truth will pop in her mind: that lost bubble. She lives in a post- girlfriend universe, left entirely alone to experience others. She will hold that boyfriend’s hand, drive hard.

“Lola, California” is available today from Amazon.com.


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