Lately I’ve been feeling like one of those little Tool creatures who occasionally crawls out of the cracks to absorb sunlight and feed off emotional energy from the people around me, just anticipating the drumming crescendo of opportunity…the moment or sign where I know it’s time to burst out in full amplitude of “fuck it” and glory to be a part of the world again. I keep thinking it’s going to be this or that, then I groundhog back into darkness, whether it’s finally getting my ex’s cat humanely adopted or having enough of a spine to ask my friend to move out of my apartment, or even graduating from one of the most traumatic academic institutions I’ll ever regret setting foot in (another VERY long post on that later). I keep thinking it’s going to be losing twenty pounds, no, thirty pounds, no, forty pounds, maybe when I finally go skydiving with my dad or get that Audre Lorde tattoo I’ve been saving up for. I just don’t know.
Something is slicked over my skin like a membrane I can’t dig out of and part of me knows it’s the stupid fucking internet games my ex and I are playing through Reddit, the slight jabs like the one I’m taking right now where we’ll post indirect shit towards each other and I wonder how much of our life investments we’re doing for self improvement or just to spite one another. I know despite his proclaimed Tinder exploits I still have no sexual or romantic interest in anyone, and it’s frustratingly instinctive…I wish I could say I felt some intentionality but it’s gut reflex of disgust at the thought. My only masturbation has been to a select few scenes between Owen Gray and Vex with this deep storyline in my head of what their emotional connections might feel like in that moment. And even then, I think a lot of that is projected because Owen reminds me of him. It’s fucking gross. It’s all so fucking gross. My blog is turning into a pining, melodramatic Livejournal and I wonder how different I really am from my high school yearbook page which predominantly featured sappy punk quotes and photos of the three guys I dated at the time. Fifteen years but some things never change.
I remember Piph telling us in our Business of Blogging class something along the lines (and I apologize if I’m butchering this) not to overexplain an absence from blogging or a future hiatus because it might turn readers away or signal a lack of commitment. But this blog hasn’t really been stable or committed in any single way to begin with and neither has my image in the blogging community. I’ve typically taken the attitude of “born to lose,” (I know that’s a ‘Souls Johnny Cash cover) which hasn’t earned me the popularity card, and sure it might sound gloatingly self-absorbed to take up entire entries just talking about my mental health instead of what I’m jerking off to but that’s just where I am. Sort of “take me or leave me,” and as someone with BPD who relies so much on acceptance, maybe typing “take it or leave it” in the safety of my own blog isn’t the most daring thing to do.
Maybe all of this is, and it’s all pretty self-effacing pandering, a pindrop of comparative “fuck it” crescendo. I don’t want to get tied down or attach any specific meaning to this blog. I don’t want to associate it with schoolwork because my days at Widener are HOPEFULLY over, and I don’t want to align it with obligation because I don’t get paid and although it’s a point of contention for some people, I don’t ever want to. It earns me the privilege of writing this way, and I recognize that privilege, but it also sticks me in this sludge of feeling as though I need to play catch up with an old friend after we haven’t seen each other in a while and really, I just want to enjoy their company instead of rehashing my shitstorm of life events.
I want to blog but between school ending, kidney infections, fucked up company ethics and fascist brutality, I don't know where to begin.
So how can I be present on a blog without glossing over personal life crises, accomplishments, ongoing sociopolitical turmoil, and where they all intersect? I haven’t the slightest. I’ve been avoiding addressing most of it on social media. Which is largely contributing to the problem as well, because silence is violence and it won’t protect me. But what do I say that won’t undercut the very cause of my words, the very futility and entrenched power structures of the language itself? I know the point is to keep trying even if I fail, to be ready to make mistakes and learn, to not make fucking excuses and to do the goddamned work. And yet I don’t know. I know to exist in the discomfort. And yet I don’t fucking know. Maybe if I could get out of my own head for two fucking goddamned seconds and stop being so fixated on failed relationships I could be a part of the world again? Or maybe I always already am? I really just don’t fucking know. It all sort of seems hopeless right now, the world around me and inside me, and I don’t really know how to exist for as ridiculous as that sounds. But I wanted to post today to say that I do. I’m still here. Trying and surviving in some protean form, some days better than others. I hope you are too. Yes, even you.
Ohhhh yes. My upcoming summer semester (and hopefully final semester at Widener) is quickly approaching and I’ve just begun plugging my due dates into Google Calendar…this one is going to be a doozy. Three courses wedged into the entire month of July, class nonstop from the 8th to the 16th, papers galore…I may have bitten off more than I can chew when I said I needed more of a challenge at this school. We shall see.
What it has done is given me a swift kick in the ass to get my writing flow back into gear, which is a bonus. I’ve basically spent the last two weeks getting back in touch with my roots, revisiting parts of my identity I had once abandoned with shame and regret. A trip to Aruba spent solely with Mom and Dad, a weekend of Punk Rock Bowling with a best friend, videogames with Steam friends…I needed the familiarity of these things accompanied by a deeper introspection of what they have meant historically to me through the years. How many times I’ve enjoyed the company of friends on my Aruba trips only to later make enemies with them, how many punk buddies I’ve pushed away never to speak to again, how, even now, I am constantly navigating the paranoia of annoying my Steam friends and sometimes I intentionally “fall off the map” because I think I’ve been a burden to them.
I was diagnosed with BPD in 2010 only to later be dually diagnosed with Bipolar II three years ago. Meanwhile, I’ve had one or two exes who have armchair diagnosed me with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, something I’ve mentioned to every psych professional I’ve seen since undergrad and has been consistently shot down…so who knows. I overproject intellectualism, have an ever-escaping self-awareness of my neurodivergences, and I’m definitely insecure… Probably going to delete all of this anyway because why on earth would anyone want to read something this personal in someone’s sex blog? Wouldn’t you rather read about handjobs or my gag reflex?
I guess the point of this reflection is that I’m trying not to be scared of looking back at who I was or being open about it to anyone (and I mean anyone). The 25 years spent chasing iguanas by the beach, the 15 years making out with sweaty folx in mosh pits, and now the recent years finding a community who shares my same love for gaming. I’ve fucked up a lot of it, but it’s not all bad, and neither am I. I NEED to start believing this. If I keep wasting time shitting on myself, I’ll never get back to blogging from a positive headspace, I’ll never learn how to love other people the way I want to be loved, I’ll never take the time to appreciate the world outside my head, beyond anything I could ever imagine. The whole concept of self-love terrifies me sometimes, because deep down I don’t think I really understand it, and I’m scared I never will.
This post was ACTUALLY supposed to be a review, believe it or not. I had every intention of getting punnily detailed with my recent usage of the Tantus ProTouch, a versatile toy I’ve been promoting since my days at the porn store but never actually tried. I opted for the Grab Bag version and ended up with literally the SAME fucking color (like a more translucent version of “wine”) it comes in normally (I swear to goddess, I have the worst luck with Tantus Grab Bag colors). I got so bitter about it I never ended up using the fucking thing.
Yesterday I finally had my first masturbatory release in months…a little Nine Inch Nails and a Wartenberg Wheel was enough to get me going. My butt just kind of wanted everything on the shelf. I went for each anal toy I could find, starting small, eventually working my way up to an Echo Handle. It was an intense afternoon and I direly needed it. But the ProTouch surprised the hell out of me. I was expecting the curve to be painful, uncomfortable, anything like any other curved butt product I’ve used before. It wasn’t at all. Sure, it’s made with the same shore silicone in most Tantus products, but maybe because of the hollow middle (which is meant for a vibrating bullet though I left it empty), it had some squish.
I’m not usually a fan of the freebie bullets that come with Tantus toys anyway (kinda weak), and the depth of the hole inside the ProTouch is too shallow for the WeVibe Tango. Besides, it actually made it more grippy for me because I could just stick my finger inside it while I hooked the flare with my thumb. Regardless, the curve of the ProTouch conformed nicely to my body and was actually relatively comfortable. My other surprise was that I could actually feel all the textures of it in the best ways possible. I went back to the ProTouch after using the Echo Handle and the ProTouch still had quite a…how shall I say…presence? The curves were stimulating enough to remind me it was inside, but not too scrapey or pinchy. So I’ll be damned. That thing has been sitting on my shelf for months now and I’ve just discovered I actually rather like it.
Sometimes I learn a lesson or two about myself when it comes to toys. I’ve been thematically discovering through blogging how the toys I think I’ll like, I don’t end up enjoying very much and the toys I don’t expect to like, I do. Or the toys I’ve loved for years suddenly don’t do it for me anymore, that my body and mind can change, that pleasure isn’t linear or orderly…it doesn’t obey any logic or mapping and what feels right to me one day might feel absolutely backwards the next.
I’m looking at my shelf and getting a little weepy now. These toys have taught me a lot. I cherish them. Beyond pride, beyond memory…there’s a little bit of magic in each of them and I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever understand. Maybe that’s what makes reviewing them so exciting. Because who knows? Two years from now, my body might be able to tolerate Aloe, and I might actually dig soft silicone. These reviews aren’t just unique to us as individuals, but unique to our place and time in life. It’s the futile but delicate attempt at grabbing a bit of eggshell through the yolk…always almost there but always slipping away.
I think about Audre Lorde’s “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” and how she spoke of words, how “Possibility is neither forever not instant,” and yet there is always a validity in her phrase “it feels right to me.” Each toy has its purpose, its opportunity to “feel right” for someone, as does each review. Maybe a time in my life will come when things begin to holistically “feel right,” maybe not. So for as disjointed and (perhaps inappropriately, to some) unsteady this blog post may seem, I think I’ll actually leave it as is, consciously unedited. I suppose it just feels right to me.
Recently I’ve noticed a lot of sex bloggers posting about how sometimes the most recommended items in the sex industry may not work for everyone. And I’m finding so much comfort in this. I remember the moment I read JoEllen’s post about the Womanizer and why it was crucial to talk about how highly-hyped toys can really affect people’s self-esteem; no words can describe how that article spoke to me.
Just recently Epiphora and Lilly went on an awesome search to find water-based lubes without aloe, citric acid, parabens, or propylene glycol, which made my heart sing and sink at the same time because the market is so limited for this. To think of it as such a “strangely” specific request to help “some” people makes me feel, well…”strange.” Do my needs represent a strange minority or are they just different needs? I really don’t know, but I think the language needs to change. I do know that Piph just posted an awesome tweet about why glycerin shouldn’t be in lube anymore and the first response was in essence: “YEAH! Sliquid all the way!” Which, along with lots of other reasons, leads me to my post.
“But it’s ___! Everybody likes ___!” Well guess what? My fronthole is not everybody’s fronthole. My butt is not everybody’s butt. There is nothing worse feeling as a neurodivergent human who already gets excluded from general life things for their GSM and disability identities to also feel excluded because they don’t get mindblowing orgasms from seemingly universally-lauded sex things. So I’ve decided to make a list. Instead of blogging entry-by-entry on the things that “shoulda, coulda, woulda” gotten me off, I’d rather have a massive “cleanse post” because frankly, I’ve been in that mode lately. Call it “spring cleaning.”
These are the items that gather the most dust on my shelf. And while I dusted them off for one last try, I was still left mostly underwhelmed, angry, even sometimes downright dysphoric. So this massive review is going to come with a bit of a content warning. But then again, there are some positives, so I really don’t know. A bit stream-of-consciousness here…please bear with me:
Let’s start with an easy one. And by easy I mean a gratingly painful torture device that frequently turns into battery acid and breaks in ten different ways. Satisfyer contacted me a little more than a month ago, and being the naive blogger I am, I thought it had something to do with my recent Liberatorposts or all the circulation my handle had been getting in a Twitter thread on trans and non-binary bloggers with disabilities. I thought I actually started making a name for myself, but no.
Satisfyer contacted literally almost every sex blogger in the fucking industry. As in, I’m genuinely curious how that mailing algorithm worked, because every blogger I followed on every form of social media got a Satisfyer kit. A hell of a pitch, I thought. Also incredibly suspicious, but whatever, I’ll take free toys with no contract attachments. I also knew I’d hate the thing since I once tried my ex girlfriend’s Womanizer and screeched in pain after a 30 minute attempt to orgasm. I figured this thing would be no different, and it really wasn’t.
A couple more modes of suction intensity, which were even more difficult to figure out. Buttons even further away from the flimsy Satisfyer 2 handle, almost impossible to discern, whatever. It still provided the most painful orgasm I have ever experienced. Have you ever had a UTI where you felt like you might be horny but really you just needed to pee really badly? And then, of course, because it’s a FUCKING UTI you don’t actually have any pee, just burning and throbbing sensations of HELL by your urethra? Yeah, that’s the Satisfyer 2 for me. That’s pretty much any of these Satanic suction devices for me. They feel like a goddamned UTI. I’ll pass.
Speaking of UTI’s, YI’s, BV, and all that awesome fun that happens because hey, I LOVE having a fronthole NO I DON’T WELL OK SOMETIMES BUT MOSTLY NO: enter Sliquid. Sliquid is the “do no harm” of the lube world. It took me years working at the sex shop to get them to stock it, and it was my pride and joy once they did. I introduced my mom to Sliquid Swirl and she was so thankful for it. At one point in time my body actually really liked Sliquid Sea. But hey, at one point my body also liked KY Yours and Mine, so I think I’ve just ritualistically trained my parts to hate anything but self-produced lubrication now.
Are there any water-based lubes that have NONE OF THE FOLLOWING: aloe, citric acid, parabens, glycerin?
But seriously though, Sliquid. Come on! You’re supposed to be the best of the best! The gentlest! The friendliest! Citric acid and aloe? It’s so burny! As someone with a sensitivity to garlic and onions, the aloe really does me in. When I say sensitive I mean sensitive: if you take the onions off a salad I will still have onion breath for the next two days. If I touch a piece of garlic, my fingernails will smell that way for a week minimum. So nowadays if I use a Sliquid with aloe, my nethers are a flaming Greek Salad for a week. It is beyond upsetting. One of my biggest dysphorias about that part of my body is the smell. I can pack and wear all the briefs I want, but it’s still going to smell like something I enjoy on other people, but not myself. And for a lube which is supposedly so body-positive, it makes me feel incredibly negative not only about my body, but about my gendered body as well.
On the upswing (pun intended), I’ve recently found a reason to not entirely dislike my Feeldoe. At first I was absolutely going to jump on the bandwagon of “It doesn’t work like it’s supposed to!” but then I realized that sex toys shouldn’t really be proscriptive to begin with. Yeah, you’re shelling out a lot of dough for a hard silicone two-fer that might look like it’s meant for a particular type of partnered penetration.
But a.) I bought my Feeldoe secondhand from an r/sextoys exchange for a whopping $60 (yes, boil and bleach), b.) I love Tantus’s hard silicone and am realizing hard silicone really is my jam after all, and c.) I am really enjoying the Feeldoe as a trans-identified person. For one, blowjobs are great with it. I love that I can stretch my partner’s mouth, that the slickness of the dildo lets them give me really sloppy blowjobs where I can watch their spit drip all the way down the glossy shaft. I love that the shaft is extra long so I don’t have to worry about their face getting too close to my mons when I’m feeling dysphoric. I love that they can jerk me off during a blowjob to stimulate me and they can fucking cradle my balls too.
For me, the Feeldoe is just blowjob gold. I also discovered during solo play last night that the Feeldoe is actually really amazing for jerking off. I already knew I liked jerking off the way I use my Jopen Vr6, and with a We-Vibe Tango popped in to the Feeldoe, I can actually feel the vibrations through the ribbed part. Jerking off felt extremely affirming, all the way down to the angle of it, how I’d hold my cock pointed towards me instead of going straight up. So yeah, if I’m walking around, the Feeldoe’s going to fall out. If I’m trying to peg with it, the Feeldoe’s going to fall out. But if I’m getting head or having a rough wank, which doesn’t seem to be a main narrative surrounding Feeldoe reviews, this toy is fucking great.
Which transitions to the Tango. Another toy I was ready to fall in love with and then…didn’t. I won the Tango through Ninja Lunabelle‘s awesome Great Dildo Weigh-In Giveaway and was so excited. I’d never won a giveaway before, let alone for something I really wanted! I even got it in blue, which excited me even more. Everything about the Tango sounded perfect. The wedged tip, the smooth acrylic, the rumbly motor, the various features. Literally every one of the perks people praised were the things I loathed. The plastic was far too hard, giving me no grip for my fingers or my flesh, the motor, while rumbly, had an even worse dampening effect than the Lust 2.5, and the features were cumbersome to cycle through.
There is literally one speed on the Tango that comes close to getting me off, and that is with some serious effort. I was probably the most let down by the Tango, a toy with such history and typically recommended to people who want a small toy with strong vibrations. I could not believe how much those vibrations dampened to almost virtual silence upon skin contact. It wasn’t until I put the Tango inside the Feeldoe that the vibrations actually transferred properly. Up until last night I was afraid I’d have no use for the Tango anymore, but now I’ve found a really good one.
A fitting end to the favorites would be the Njoy Pure Plug. I bought mine in medium, as the small looks teensy and the large looks like it would be a bit of a struggle for me. The medium, however, goes in smooth. Too smooth. As in I barely feel it. There is no pressure, no stimulation on insertion, none of that satisfying stretch you get when you’re slipping a plug in and taking a deep breath. It just pops right in and I’m left going, “That’s it?” Except then I’m not, because about one minute later I get an intense stabby feeling in the front wall of my rectum as the Pure Plug angles itself with its own weight.
If I become too aroused, I swell up and it pinches. If I sit up, it pinches. If I use a toy in my fronthole, it pinches. If I turn the handle so it’s not blocking said fronthole with vertical alignment, it pinches. There is really a limited amount of what I can do with the Pure Plug. It’s not particularly good for thrusting, more like a wiggly toy, and even then I have to be careful not to hit an uncomfortable spot. I thought it might be good for prostate play, but the two prostatepeople who have tried it have also said it gives a rather “pointy sensation.” So I don’t know, really. Love the company, really wanted to love this toy.
So that’s pretty much it. A collection of toys and lubes that may be majority favorites, but don’t really do it for me. Which isn’t meant to be discouraging, but rather a reminder that we all have different minds and bodies and that we should remember this not only as consumers providing feedback but also as companies who are constantly looking to innovate new products with inclusive designs.
Bonus gif of Ollie batting away a Hitachi similarly to how I might. The way it vibrates into my femoral artery freaks me the fuck out sometimes.
Content advisory: Poop. So much poop. And a lot of CAPS LOCK.
I’ve been putting off writing for a little while. Life has been throwing a lot at me, what with my hands dipped in all things sexuality-related, board meetings at Masakhane, eldercare wellness-therapy groups, trying to negotiate new degree tracks at Widener, and now being offered an opportunity to speak on the politics of identity and sex toys for Widener’s CareersCon coming up in September. The semester is approaching, and I am coloring testicles furiously in an Anatomy book while watching “It’s Complicated” with Meryl Streep because that’s apparently what $1,800 costs for a class, though I will admit I am excited to have other classes with Elizabeth Schroeder and in a different class I get to profess my love for Judith Butler. Academia has its upsides and downsides.
Anal August is coming to a close and with it so are the doors of Come As You Are Co Op; life is aligning with the ebbs and flows of sexuality. After hosting a last minute poll as to what the subject nature of this post should be, it seems as though folks were interested in hearing about my horrific history with anal beads. I figured this was appropriate, given the topic of my upcoming workshop about sex toys and Formidable Femme’s most recent amazing blogpost. (Also a huge fan of this blogpost from Lilly in 2015). (And this one from Hey Epiphora!). You get the idea. My relationship with anal beads is paradigmatic of many things I find really fucking wrong with the sex toy industry, and I’m kinda glad I got to experience this learning curve in the way I did.
My first experience with any sort of butt play was at age 16 with an unlubricated attempt at my then boyfriend’s dick partially in my ass. This was followed by the “Oh my god NO, ouch, why did we do that, BAD IDEA BAD IDEA” dance/hop all around the apartment with my hands clasped around my buttcheeks. I had sworn off anal for another two years until college came when someone I started hooking up with introduced me to fingers and lube. THEN a dick. MUCH easier. MUCH more pleasurable. Particularly with a vibrator on my clit. I found that orgasming with a dick in my ass provided an incredibly intense orgasm, and decided butt play was for me.
Winter break came our freshman year and partner and I stopped by a little leather shop on Christopher Street in the village and decided to buy a black large jelly rubber butt plug which we later realized would never in a million years fit inside my ass. I ended up using it vaginally. (I know, what?)
Years went by until I graduated college with much more knowledge in sexuality (heck, even a BA in it), began teaching sex ed for Masakhane, and started working at my local sex shop. For the next six years working at this sex shop, I used my 50% discount with reckless abandon. I bought hundreds of toys, spending each paycheck exploring the best and worst our store had to offer. And looking up at my toy shelf right now, I see all of 10 of those remaining. I’d try a toy and it’d either break, melt, I’d decide it wasn’t for me, it didn’t fit right, whatever. In retrospect, I wish I kept every single one of them because some serious science could have been done. Lilly’s Jar of Horrors? I could have made some sort of art installation! Hindsight…20/20…ableist idiom, but so true.
The first thing I heard about butt toys working at the store is how amazing anal beads were. “You know how good it feels taking a shit? Now imagine having an orgasm while taking a shit. Blumpkin level.” My colleagues were precious. I mean that sincerely. The honesty and crudeness of our conversations was something I still can’t have in a lot of other spheres. Even in the rest of my sexuality fields, I don’t know how comfortable I’d be casually watching porn at 9am while eating a taylor ham, egg, and cheese and commenting on the skill of a performer’s messy blowjob.
Anal beads were one of my first purchases with my newly acquired 50% discount. Not just any anal beads mind you. These. Tiny ones, green (because color was a huge factor in choice for me during my early purchase days, not material), connected with string knots, and a plastic green loop at the end. I used them twice. Once by myself, where they hurt immensely while taking them out, each knot scraping my insides, actually feeling the skin of my rectum catch in between each knot and bead as I pulled the string out of me. I used a ton of lube, but it didn’t matter. I still bled on toilet paper for two days.
The second time I used them was with my partner during sex. I asked him to pull them out of me while I was riding him on top with a bullet on my clit. As I was orgasming and he pulled them out, he yanked them way too fast, and while it felt better than the previous time, what he had hanging in his hand was mirrored by his face of horror. I didn’t need to look at either before the smell had hit me. The strand of beads were completely stained brown, each knot had caught a little bit of feces. I’m not talking a ton of poop here, but enough that by the swinging of the beads, the sweat of sex and the humidity of a Jersey summer, my boyfriend’s outstretched hand wafted the stink of shit from these beads while he looked at me asking “what do I do with these?” That ended our session pretty quickly, as I ran to the sink to scrub them out. Scrub them out. NOT throw them away! I put them in a wad of paper towels, left them in his basement to be forgotten, only so two months later his mom and little brother could find them and ask him about the plastic green bracelet behind his computer desk. Awful.
So I learned the hard way: No string, check. Bacteria, knots, pain, hard to clean, etc. Get beads that are connected, Avery! I fixed my eyes on these really funky looking beads that weren’t bead shaped at all, but rather shaped like little, fat, S‘s connected all with the same material. The same, disgusting smelling material that reeked so bad I could smell it through the packaging. It literally smelled the same as that Cherry scented dildo, minus the fruity notes. Like burnt medicine and shower curtains. All the typical phthalate signs I hadn’t learned about yet. But the texture wasn’t tacky (actually quite bumpy, which added to the disaster later on), and nowhere on the package did it say jelly, so I scooped it up. And then it scooped me up. Yes, these S-shaped nodules were absolutely perfect shit-scoopers. What I thought would stimulate my asshole upon exit and entry ended up provoking the SAME reaction in the SAME position with the SAME partner when I asked him to remove them. This strand of S‘s went even deeper into my butt, scooped out generous portions of feces per bead, and once removed I couldn’t tell what smelled more, the original material or this newer, poop-enhanced version. Not to mention the bumpy texture was a complete lube-eater, so we had a nice slathering of Santorum going on with this item as well.
You’d think I’d learn. Ok, so maybe I just need ROUND anal beads. But maybe I should get graduated ones, where they get really tiny at the tip and wider at the bottom. And maybe we can make them vibrate this time! Because why not add a new variable into the mix of something already really uncertain and discouraging? But I’ll be really good about it, I’ll make sure they’re silicone this time, because when a reputable company like TOPCO says it’s silicone, it HAS to be silicone, right? The insertable bullet transmitted zero vibration throughout the beads. The handle ripped and I almost lost the entire toy inside of me. We ended up grabbing the beads by the bullet when the bullet, in all its lubed glory, popped out of the toy. So after sticking a finger in the hole where the bullet USED to be and slowly negotiating this toy out of my rectum by holding one end of the ripped handle and keeping one finger in the bullet-hole, I was able to decide that “MAYBE I DON’T FUCKING LIKE ANAL BEADS.”
I know there are some good ones out there. Tantus makes some impressive Vibrating Progressive Beads. Fun Factory will always be famous for their Flexi Felix. But something about that sensation of shitting tiny turds I thought would feel so pleasurable a decade ago has absolutely zero appeal to me now. Don’t get me wrong. I love textured plugs. The Tantus Ripple feels absolutely amazing. I adore the Aneros Helix, even if it isn’t my current partner’s favorite. I can even handle the beaded end of the Fun Wand if I’m gentle enough. It’s just something about a loooong chain of bumps that my body can’t handle.
So there you have it. Anal bead mistakes were made. By a so-called “sexpert.” Which is why, with all the good toys out there, there are twice as many terrible ones. With even the most informed educators, we have the capacity for human error and need the space to learn and share those learning experiences (no matter how grotesquely crappy they can get). Sex-positive or not, whatever sex-positive means to you, we do stupid shit to our bodies all the time. We’re not always going to make the best decisions in life, and wisdom isn’t always a forward trajectory.
I’d like to think that my anal bead blunders are over, but I’m sure there will be a day down the road where I reflect on other practices in my sexual self-care that need improvement. I know there were moments working at the store in my later years where I had flickers of judginess at the customers who bought that string of green anal beads. I desperately tried getting my boss to take it off the shelves, but “It kept selling,” so we kept stocking it. Some days I’d do my best to offer a safer alternative. Some days I’d remember back to the moment I bought those beads. Would I really have listened if someone told me to pick something else? Probably not. My stubborn ways would have said, “No, this is cheaper, it’s my favorite color, and I don’t even know if I’m going to like it. I’m going with these.” You pick your battles and hope for the best. But that’s another story.
Today marks the one week anniversary of a journey into two conferences I never in a million years thought I would have had the balls to attend, much let alone participate actively. From Thursday morning until Sunday evening, I spent my time in Alexandria, Virginia at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit, and from Monday morning until Wednesday evening I was in Philadelphia for the Transgender Training Institute’s Training of Trainers. Right now I am typing this blog entry fully aware that I will be taking breaks, maybe to get a cookie, maybe to switch a load of laundry (of which there are so many), maybe to watch an episode of Pokemon Indigo League on Netflix, or maybe just to cry. It’s possible I may abandon this entry altogether, and it’s possible I may put it down for the evening when my partner comes home so I can spend some time with him as we have not seen each other in a week and have much to catch up on.
I had so many ideas for directions in which I wanted this entry to go. As my week progressed, I talked with my peers about how I wanted to write about my experience, each idea changing, refining into something not completely new or different but a lesson scaffolded onto another lesson. Where the beginning of my week I focused quite bitterly on my sense of being outcast from a blogging community I had expected to welcome me with open arms, a community that treated me like the new kid on the block in not so nice ways, I also realized this was a community made up of individuals going through their own shit and experiencing a drastic change in social environment in their own ways as well. I tried to empathize via messages I was learning about mental health through amazing workshops, but my own mental health and the difficulty I had processing a recent failed relationship with underpinnings of emotional abuse left me untrusting of those around me and suspicious of why people were not extending hands of support when I consistently asked for them, be it through social media, during audience participation, or outright face to face in hallway conversation. I found myself feeling not welcome in blogger spaces, and grappled with how much of this was a projection of my own insecurities and how much was legitimate. Had I been identified as the “needy new neurodivergent blogger with overambitious aspirations of making friends?” Everyone seemed settled with their groups. I felt invasive.
Fleeting negative thoughts were carefully mitigated with the positivity of a community I had known for years, friends and lovers I had known for decades, partners of partners, educational cohorts that have now become lovers, this huge mishmash of intersectional (in the least trivial sense of the word) eros that was aggressively unapologetic, forcing me under their wings. I find myself crying right now thinking about my gratitude for a queerness of bodies and minds that didn’t just give me permission to join them, but danced with me until the day I walked back to my car, smelling them and feeling them and imagining their words and spirits and the grazes of their beard on my thighs and their giggles around the lube bottles I had tried gagging them with and the cupcakes I had licked off their fingers and the way their underwear rippled when I beat them gently and the beauty of their tattoos and the violence in their hand gestures as they spoke of the illusions in idolatry and the way pool water made their t-shirt float all around them and I thought GOD I WANT TO BE THAT T-SHIRT and I thought, “I love you people.” I fucking love you people.
I was so proud to be a part of that brilliance. I was so thrilled to share true magic, in all of its wooey exuberance, with my hematite in one hand and the possibility of failure in the other, and know that no matter where I ended up this week, I would fail beautifully and with people who were willing to help me. I reaffirmed my beliefs in the humanness of wanting to be happy vicariously. If I saw others crying, my heart hurt. The stories I heard, the microaggression activities and other practices of facing transphobia during my TOT Conference, there was so much pain. At one point my cohort, Emily Nagoski turned to me and said “You know what, Avery, I kinda like that you identify ‘punk’ as one of your genders.” And I do. I think I need that hardness. Because if I spent all this time in my heart, in this empathy and in this affect, I’d fucking flounder.
So these two conferences taught me to feel. They taught me that when I get defensive, I intellectualize, I overanalyze, I try to get into other people’s heads, I reflect on the past, I try to do exactly what I’m doing now. I don’t feel because it’s a completely fucking vulnerable place. Case in point: where I was in tears writing the paragraph about my experiences at Woodhull I was a sobbing mess. Right now, I am dissociated to the point of disinterest, to the point of ending the entry and wondering why I wrote it in the first place.
Mental health wise, I am a person with Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and several instances of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sometimes these blend wonderfully to make me a hyperaware, feelings-sensitive, intelligent being who is very careful with my assumptions. Sometimes the blends bring me to other places, some good, some great, some downright horrible. I don’t have any complete or concluding verdicts to round up my experiences at Woodhull or the TOT to make this a digestible blog post. I’ll probably revisit it and do quite a bit of editing and adding later on. But something needed to be said. Something deserved to be written. It has been a powerful, emotionally exhausting, and life-changing week to the point where I’m not quite sure who I am right now (I thought today was Friday for a few hours).
One final thing I want to say about Woodhull, though I’m not sure the order it should be included in this entry, but I wanted to put it in before I forget it, is how much the last week has taught me about the concept of status in the field of Sexuality. Whether a blogger, educator, sex worker, activist, clinician, so much more that I feel partially terrible for marginalizing the “so much more” bit, you are important for whatever you do. Not like I need to be the one validating your work, but still. I saw so many “famous” and “well-known” people this week that were just fucking humans like everyone else. I even feel a little guilty for name-dropping Emily Nagoski and am debating that redaction…going to sit on it for a bit and why I felt the need to include that. I had so many great conversations with all of these “big names” this week and didn’t tweet them, didn’t tell anyone else about them, because I respected them for what they were, great conversations. And I’m a little salty and a lot confused why celebrity has become a thing in the field of sexuality. I get the whole giving creedence and respect. I definitely agree with live tweeting hashtagging and giving proper citation for brilliant ideas being generated during workshops. But when I see stuff like “OMG selfie with ___ look who I just met!” I’m left with a really puzzled feeling. I don’t really know what that feeling is, other than maybe fear of capitalist tendencies or going back to that status of not being the cool kid I discussed in the earlier parts of my blog, but it’s like, we’re all part of one community here. One of the “celebs” I was hanging out with after Woodhull said they deliberately wore a hat the entire time because they wanted to avoid that kind of response, and I totally get it. Like, maybe they’re here to learn, too?
When I went to the Transgender Training of Trainers, Dr. Green even said something along the lines of “Yeah, you can totally tell people you passed this course…you get a certificate, you know! But you don’t have to go throwing my name around, even though technically it is my course!” When you use the image of a celebrity, big name, well-established community figure, when you name-drop, what kind of agency are you taking from that person? What kind of subalternity are you creating and in a community promoting sex-positivity; do we really want to get that gross about it? To me, it just cheapens the whole idea.
Yes, I am super fucking proud of myself for pulling through this week. I most definitely had a deep con-drop on Sunday night, collapsing on a dear friends chaise lounger in the dark and calling my partner in Jersey on the phone crying, “I can’t do the next three days, I don’t even have the energy to shower.” But I fucking pulled my shit together, I smelted one last spoon, and I held my own during this training. So yeah, I’m going to toot my own horn. I’m going to be confident for the first time in a long fucking time and say, “Not only did I do the thing, but I did the thing FUCKING WELL!”
So thank you to Woodhull and TOT for helping me feel all the feels, and to reduce my temptation to get Butlerian with this entry and to let it come from my heart.