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Your Call: What’s the Difference Between Make-Up & Photoshop?

March 24th, 2014

photo via Flickr

We get a lot of questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to respond to a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your deep thoughts in the comments section. 

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Hi,

I just read the question and response about the lady who felt bad because her husband had slightly photo-shopped photos he had taken of her nude body.  I thought your response was absolutely excellent.

However, this made me think a bit about photo-shopping in general, which is used, bluntly speaking, to present a version of the woman that is somewhat removed from the reality.

So, how different is this from women using make-up and other beauty treatments?  In my mind, make-up is merely ‘old-style low tech’ photo-shopping.

When a woman uses mascara, eye-liner, blush, and all the other things that guys like me can’t identify on a bet, they are altering their true image.  Yet, very few women will go out in public without doing this.

I’m not suggesting this is wrong, or a bad thing.  It is just the way things are.  And a bad or extreme photo-shopped image is terrible, just like overdone, or poorly applied make-up.

What do you think?

Steve

What do you think about Steve’s point? Leave your deep thoughts in the comments section below. Ours is this video:

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The Best Way to Fix Love (According to the New Book “Love Sense”)

March 21st, 2014

photo via Flickr

The new book Love Sense by clinical psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson tries to take some of the mystery out of that big emotion. While that may not sound very romantic, Johnson is dedicated to the scientific exploration of love so that we may have better, more-fulfilling, more intimate long-term relationships — especially in a world where independence, isolation and non-monogamy are growing more common. Her book offers real-life examples and practical exercises, based on the Emotionally Focused Therapy she developed in her own practice. In previous weeks, we’ve featured the first sections of Chapter 1 on the history of love and the sceince of love; below is the final section, which presents a unified theory of love and offers an exercise to try at the end.

 

Love Sense” by Dr. Sue Johnson

from Chapter 1: A Unified Theory of Love

Understanding that our lovers are our safe haven from the vicissitudes and depredations of life has given us new insights into what makes romantic relationships fail and succeed. For years, all of us have focused solely on what we see and hear. The fights that erupt over money: “You’re spending a fortune on shoes you don’t need.” “All you want to do is save. We’re living like misers. There’s no fun.” The disputes over in-laws: “You’re always on the phone with your mother, telling her every little thing we say and do.” “You’re Daddy’s girl, totally. When are you going to grow up?” The disagreements about child rearing: “So he didn’t do his homework last night. He gets too much. You’re too rigid and controlling.” “And you’re too lenient. He has no discipline. You let him get away with murder.” And the disappointment about sex: “You cheated. How many times? You’re such a liar.” “Well, I wouldn’t have if you were willing to try new things or have sex more often. And anyway, it didn’t mean anything.”

But concentrating only on what’s right before our eyes obscures our vision. We don’t get the big picture. Home in on the miniature dots in Georges Seurat’s painting and you’ll be unaware you’re seeing A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Sit at the piano and play a few notes in a score and you won’t hear Johannes Brahms’s lulling Waltz in A-flat Major. Take the dance floor and repeat one series of steps and you’ll never realize the sensuality of Argentine tango.

Similarly, troubled couples are fixated on specific incidents, but the true problem is broader and deeper. Distressed partners no longer see each other as their emotional safe haven. Our lover is supposed to be one person we can count on who will always respond. Instead, unhappy partners feel emotionally deprived, rejected, even abandoned. In that light, couples’ conflicts assume their true meaning: they are frightened protests against eroding connection and a demand for emotional reengagement.

In contrast, at the core of happy relationships is a deep trust that partners matter to each other and will reliably respond when needed. Secure love is an open channel for reciprocal emotional signaling. Love is a constant process of tuning in, connecting, missing and misreading cues, disconnecting, repairing, and finding deeper connection. It is a dance of meeting and parting and finding each other again, minute by minute and day by day.

The new science has given us what I like to call a unified field theory of love. Einstein couldn’t find it for physics, but we’ve found it for love. At last, all the pieces we’ve been puzzling over separately fit together. We see the grand scheme. Fifty years ago noted animal researcher Harry Harlow, in an address to the American Psychological Association, observed, “As far as love or affection is concerned, psychologists have failed in their mission…The little we write about it has been better written by poets and novelists.”

Today we have cracked the code of love. We now know what a good love relationship looks and feels like. Even better, we can shape it. For the first time, we have a map that can guide us in creating, healing, and sustaining love. This is a consummate breakthrough. At last, to quote Benjamin Franklin, this “changeable, transient, and accidental” phenomenon—romantic love—can be made more predictable, stable, and deliberate.

The fixes we’ve tried in the past have been failures because we have not understood the basis of love. In general, therapists have attacked the problem in two ways. The first is analytical: couples dig back and sift through their childhood experiences to find the reasons why they respond the way they do. This seeking after insight into first relationships is laborious, time consuming, and expensive—with small benefit. It comes at the problem sideways, through intellectual insight into each person’s relationship history. Your present relationship is not just your past automatically playing out; this dismisses your partner and the power of his or her responses, as if this partner were simply a blank screen on which you project the movie of your past.

The second approach is practical. Couples are instructed on how to communicate more effectively—“Listen and repeat back what your partner has said.” Or they’re taught how to negotiate and bargain their way through divisive issues, from sex to cleaning—“You agree to vacuum the rug, and I’ll clean the bathroom.” Or coached on how to improve their sex life—bring on the flowers and racy lingerie and try positions from the Kama Sutra. All of these techniques can be helpful, but only temporarily. Love is not about whether you can parrot back what’s said or decide who vacuums the rug or agree on what sexual moves to try. Such practical counseling is like putting a finger in a cracked dam to hold back the tide or sticking a Band-Aid on a suppurating wound.

My client Elizabeth tells me, “The other therapist made us do these set exercises using the statements she gave us, but we just couldn’t talk to each other that way when we got home, let alone when we were upset. And we did make a deal about chores, but it didn’t change the way I felt about us. I was still lonely. At one point we were doing this ‘leave the room, take time out’ thing, but then I was even more angry when he walked back in, and I didn’t even really know what I was so angry about.”

Ultimately, these remedies are ineffectual because they don’t address the source of relationship distress: the fear that emotional connection—the font of all comfort and respite—is vanishing.

When we know how something works, fixing it and keeping it healthy is much easier. Before this basic understanding, all we could do was flail around trying to fix one part of the relationship in the hope that trust and loving connection would somehow find their way back in through these narrow routes. The new science has given us a straight arterial road to our destination.

To really help couples find happiness, we must shore up the foundation of their relationship; that is, help them relay and rebuild their emotional connection. The technique I and my colleagues have devised, EFT, or Emotionally Focused Therapy (my irreverent children call it Extremely Funny Therapy), does just that. We’ve discovered that discontented lovers fall into set patterns of behavior that plunge them into cycles of recrimination and withdrawal. The key to restoring connection is, first, interrupting and dismantling these destructive sequences and then actively constructing a more emotionally open and receptive way of interacting, one in which partners feel safe confiding their fears and longings.

The results of EFT, as measured in a multitude of studies, have been astoundingly positive—better, in fact, than the outcomes of any other therapy that has been offered. Lovers say that they feel more secure and satisfied with their relationship. Their mental health improves as well; they are less depressed and anxious. And they are able to hold onto the changes they make long after therapy has ended.

Why is EFT so effective? Because it goes to the heart of the matter. We do not have to persuade or coach partners to be different. The new
science has plugged us into the deepest human emotions and opened the way to transfiguring relationships, using the megawatt power of the wired-in longing for contact and care that defines our species. Says one of my clients: “For twenty-eight years, my wife and I had been circling the kind of conversation we are having now, but we’d never actually gotten down to it…Either we were too afraid or we didn’t know how. This conversation changes everything between us.”

Once you have a map to the territory called love, you can put your feet on the right path and find your way home.

***

To help you turn the new science into love sense, you’ll find brief “experiments” for you to do at the end of each chapter. Science, after all, is deliberate observation that leads to identification of recurring patterns. By doing these experiments, you’ll be collecting data on your own relationship that will help you understand the way you love and help you find the security and satisfaction you—and we all—long for.

EXPERIMENT 

Find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted for about thirty minutes. Sit comfortably and quietly, and count twenty breaths in and out. Now imagine that you are in an unfamiliar, dark place. You are suddenly unsure and scared and aware that you are very much alone. You want to call out for someone to come.

Step 1 

Who is the person you want? Imagine his or her face in your mind’s eye.

Do you call or not? Perhaps you convince yourself that this is a bad idea, even a sign of weakness, or an opening that will lead to hurt and disappointment. Perhaps you decide that it is not good to rely on another person and that you must take care of your distress on your own, so you hunker down in the dark. Perhaps you call, but very hesitantly, then go hide in a dark corner.

If you call, how do you do it? What does your voice sound like? When someone comes, what does he do? Does he express concern, offer comfort and reassurance, and stay with you so that you relax and let yourself be comforted?

Or does she come, but then sometimes turn away, dismiss your distress, tell you to control your emotions, or even criticize you, so that you try to hold onto her but get more upset, feeling that she has not really heard your call or cannot be relied upon?

How does your body feel as you do this experiment? Tight, numb, sore, agitated, calm, relaxed? How hard was it for you to do this experiment? Do any emotions come up for you—sadness, joy, anger, or even anxiety?

Step 2

Now stand up and move around for a few minutes. Sit in another chair to consider the results of your thought experiment from some distance. (If it is hard to get distance, you may want to postpone reflecting on the experiment until another day or even discuss it with someone you trust.)

Summarize, in very simple terms, what happened in this fantasy scenario. Write the steps down. What does this imagined scenario tell you about what you expect in a relationship? Our expectations, our predictions about how others will respond to us guide our steps in any dance with a lover. They are our very own love story.

Step 3

Reflecting a little more, see if you can articulate your general feeling about love relationships.

Some people automatically go to phrases such as: “They just don’t work”; “Men/Women are impossible to relate to. They always reject you or let you down”; “Love is hard work, but it’s worth it”; or “Love is for dummies.”

Step 4

Ask yourself, “What do I really want to know about love and loving?” See if you can find the answer by reading the rest of this book.

 

from “Love Sense” by Sue Johnson, available on Amazon.com
Copyright (c) 2013 by Sue Johnson. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.
 Read the first part of Chapter 1 on the history of love
Read the second part of Chapter 1 on the sceince of love.
 

Dream Interpretation: I Had a MFF Threeway with My Husband

March 20th, 2014

photo via flickr

Other people’s dreams are never interesting…except when they’re about sex. Each week, our dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg tells one lucky reader what their dirty dream means. Got a dream you want Lauri to analyze? Click here to submit it (18 and older only, please). This week, a reader asks Lauri:

I had a dream last night about my husband and I having a threesome and I have been completely freaked out. In the dream we met a random woman who we befriended. One thing led to another and we took her to bed. I remember being completely fine with it until I found out that my husband would only be the second person and only the second time that she has slept with anyone. I tried putting it out of my mind and continued but I was suddenly jealous. During foreplay I looked at my husband and made it very clear that this would be the only time that we do this. Things continued to progress but I was able to wake myself before we went “all the way.”

This dream confused me for many reasons. My husband and I are completely closed to this subject as we agree it would be detrimental to our relationship. We are committed solely to each other. Another thing is that the only other person I have ever been with is a woman. I dated her for 7 years and while I enjoyed that time I have no desire to live that life again. I’d love to talk to him about this but it has taken 4 of the 5 years we’ve been together for me to convince him that I’m done with that part of my life and he fulfills my needs. Hoping you can help me figure this out. I’ve been thinking about it for hours. Thank you in advance!

Lauri:  Dreams are confusing for many reasons. One, because we look at them literally rather than symbolically, and two, because we don’t realize that everything in the dream is really symbolic of a part of ourself or a part of our own life. In other words, the woman in this dream represents you!

Notice how, just like you, your husband is only the second person she has ever been with. So you need to ask yourself what it is you have invited into your marriage that you now regret. Is something starting to feel like a third wheel? Have either of you taken on a new job or project that is getting in the middle of your time together? Or is it something intangible like insecurity or a behavior that that is starting to be a problem?

My suspicion is that it is your past. In the dream you try to make it clear to your husband that the threesome with the woman will never happen again just as you have to convince him in real life that you would never be with another woman again. I think your dream is showing you that this is still a sticky wicket for hubby… or perhaps it is for you in that it bothered him for so long. Either way, I believe THAT is the third wheel. Heck, a lot of men would totally dig if that was part of their wife’s past. Nonetheless, my professional opinion is that this dream reflects that you are solely committed to hubby but it bothers you that your past bothers — or DID bother — him. The past is the past. You don’t live there anymore so stop letting it imprison you.

 

Visit Lauri’s brand new site, WhatYourDreamMeans.com, for even more dream interpretations! If you want to be able to figure out your own dreams every morning, then check out her latest book, Dream On It: Unlock Your Dreams Change Your Life, which will give you the tools you need to become a dream expert, too. Check out all of Lauri’s books here.

 

 

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That Pesky C-Word

March 20th, 2014

“The ultimate sexist put-down: the prick which lies down on the job. The ultimate weapon in the war between the sexes: the limp prick. The banner of the enemy’s encampment: the prick at half-mast. The symbol of the apocalypse: the atomic warhead prick which self-destructs. That was the basic inequity which could never be righted: not that the male had a wonderful added attraction called a penis, but that the female had a wonderful all-weather cunt. Neither storm nor sleet nor dark of night could faze it. It was always there, always ready. Quite terrifying, when you think about it. No wonder men hated women. No wonder they invented the myth of female inadequacy.” – Fear of Flying

Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, and as we took a stroll down memory lane — the kind of memory lane where horny people park their cars for zipless fucks — we were reminded how perfectly comfortable Jong was using the word cunt in her books (“Jealousy makes the prick grow harder. And the cunt wetter,” from How to Save Your Own Life). We keep wanting to write “the c-word” as we type — that’s how scandalous the word still is, even forty years on. Even after the release in 2002 of a book called, simply, Cunt, which traced the history of the word from honorific (in ancient times) to expletive. Even after a hipster feminist like Caitlin Moran came out of the c-word closet in 2012 and admitted that cunt is her word of choice.

Sure, we know that cunt is a pejorative, and it’s not very nice to call your nether regions names — especially a name associated with sexism and misogyny. But we think people’s discomfort with the word goes much deeper than that; twat never shocks people as much, for example, and that’s a pejorative, too (albeit a charmingly British one). Is it, in fact, because a cunt seems powerful in a way that a friendly pussy just isn’t?  And because this kind of powerful cunt makes people think of raw, dirty, uninhibited sex?

Think about it: Of all the many hundreds of euphemisms for vagina and vulva, how many of them conjure the kind of sex — or the kind of all-mighty genitals, even — that cunt does? Not snatch, not yoni, not muff, not minge, not even pussy. In fact, most euphemisms convey some level of discomfort with the area. Consider terms that compare the vagina to a smelly or unpleasant food (tuna taco, hair pie), or a strange animal (bearded clam), or an abyss of some kind (slit, gaping axe wound), or an anachronistic Victorian lady (velvet glove), or something designed to “trap” a penis (flytrap, manhole). Even terms that are supposed to empower women, like vajayjay, just end up sounding cutesy. And who wants their vagina to be cutesy, at least when it’s getting some amorous attention?

In contrast, while cunt may also reflect some societal discomfort with women, the word just doesn’t seem to care. It’s got better things to do. And it will probably never be considered adorable (unless we all start putting an umlaut over the U to create a smiley face).

For years we have struggled to find the perfect word for a woman to use in bed with a partner — as opposed to with her gynecologist or on a ladies’ night out — and we’ve always come to the conclusion that the word simply doesn’t exist. Everything is either too damn silly (love muffin), too clinical (vagina/vulva), too offensive (pussy), too cliche (pussy) or too cringe-worthy (pussy) to say out loud in bed. (Can you tell we’re not fans of the P-word?). But we wonder if cunt has been unfairly overlooked as a viable, perfectly acceptable pillow-talk possibility. Maybe Erica Jong got it right forty years ago, and the rest of us (or at least the two of us) are too delicate — too pussy, a wise-ass might say — to realize it.

Of course, the perfect word is whatever works for you, whatever that may be (and to hell with Em & Lo’s delicate sensibilities!). Your perfect word may be no word at all, but rather a sigh or a moan. But we do like the idea of trying to expand your vocabulary in bed in order to expand your sexual horizons — even if that just means testing the waters with an Oh, baby, lick my c-word.

 

What do you think: Have you ever used the word cunt in bed? Or could you picture yourself doing so? If not, what’s your go-to word? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

 

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Infographic: How Sexual Norms Have Evolved in 50 Years

March 19th, 2014

Just when your blood is about to boil over all the reproductive rights rollbacks that have taken place in recent years, when you’re about to puke if you hear one more Fox pundit talk about “family values,” and when when your head is about to explode at the idea that “Dancing with the Stars” is a family show, something comes along that restores your faith in sanity and humanity, at least a little.

This week, Vitamin W ran a great article (with the infographic below) on how far we’ve come as a society when it comes to sexual and relational mores. There’s no doubt we’ve come along way, baby. But we’ve still got a ways to go (13% of people still believe interracial marriage is wrong???). As long as we stay vigilant and vocal and can avoid some 21st century version of the Protestant Revolution, then that progress will keep heading in the right direction. Forge ahead!

Here are a few places you can help keep that forward momentum going:

What Makes YOUR Marriage Work?

March 19th, 2014

Are you happily married? If so, we want to hear from you! We’re working on a new project celebrating happy-ever-afters, and we want to interview you over email to find out what makes your marriage a happy one. You can stay completely anonymous, we promise! (Unless you’d care to brag.) If you’re interested in sharing your story — think of it as helping to make the world a happier place, one relationship at a time — then send us a message via our contact form here. And we’ll tawk!

Oh, and if your marriage failed miserably? Or is in the process of failing miserably? No discrimination: We want to hear from you, too. Assuming, that is, that you’re willing to let complete strangers learn from your mistakes. Again, anonymity is guaranteed. Just send us a message via our contact form here.

Thanks, as always, for sharing…. and over-sharing.

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New Poetry: “No Girls in the Porn Store”

March 18th, 2014

Did you even know there were poets any more? Well, there are. We know one, and he is awesome. He is Mark Bibbins. And he will make you believe in poets again. He will convince you that they are sexy and dreamy and powerful and relevant. His knew book, just out, is called “They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full.” See? How can you not love that? How can you not give it as a just-because present to someone you want to have sex with? Even if that someone is yourself.

Here’s a poem Mark Bibbins is graciously letting us reprint in these unpoetic digs of ours. If we’re lucky, maybe he’ll give us another one next week.

 

Poem that Wants to Use Revelation 3:16 as an Epigraph

 

A guy who was a regular
at the bar where I used to work

we called Peckerhead because
he looked sort of like a balder

Ginsberg, who looks like a pecker.
Well I have no idea how Ginsberg looks

now, but it’s probably pretty
peckeresque. Peckerhead drank dollar

drafts and was no doubt ten times
smarter than all us smartass bitchy

barmaids put together, maybe he
was a botanist or an actuary

or had some other clever gig. I felt kind
of guilty about it, even though we never

called him Peckerhead to his face, as far
as I know. Ginsberg died April 5 (1997),

birthday of Colin Powell (1937), so happy
b-day C.P. and happy d-day A.G. Inevitably

we would get loaded during our shifts, before
we killed ourselves or caught you-know-what

or left town before either of those things
or worse happened. Did I read somewhere

that Ginsberg fucked a guy who fucked
Whitman? Fucked/got fucked by? So stinky,

who cares. I must not see what fucking
is, other than stinky. If I had anything

to say about gender I’d already
be fucking you or paying Peckerhead

to fuck you. I think he was gay too.
All the girls we saw after work

at the porn store, their skin was
the color of a three-month-old

plaster cast. If I could make you
a real simile it would be like when

I turn into a boy I will wag
a pecker at you like a dirty mop

until it cracks and flops around like
my broken leg. No girls better

go there, Peckerhead always said,
no girls in the porn store.

 

Mark Bibbins’ “They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full” is available on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Do I Tell a New Partner I Want an Open Relationship?

March 18th, 2014

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. You can leave your advice in the comments section below. 

Submit Your Own Question to EMandLO.comTry Our New
*PRIVATE* Advice Service!

 

Dear Em & Lo,

I’m a single guy and I’m fairly active on the dating scene. When I eventually get into a long-term relationship, I’d like it to be an open relationship, but I don’t know when and how to bring this up with new partners. I don’t want to scare a woman off by mentioning it too soon, but I don’t want to be accused of leading her on, either. When’s the right time to mention that long-term monogamy isn’t really my thing?

– Free Willy

What’s your advice for Free Willy? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below.

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