Click on a link below to jump to an article:
Coralling the Pink Pony
Depressing the Urge- Two essays explore the effects of anti-depressants on sex driveGetting Ambushed - The Presidents War on Reproductive Rights
Coralling the Pink Pony
By Gina Daggett
What do you girls do? What does it mean when lesbians say “sex”? What are those double-headed dildos for? These are just a few of the questions my heterosexual friends have bravely asked (after a few glasses of wine) since I came out of the closet. Now, I have answers for them. But prior to coming out, I had the same questions and nowhere, within a 360-degree spin in the closet, to turn.
I would have given anything for a Lesbian Sex 101 class when I initially ventured down the path of female desire. When my best friend and I kissed for the first time, we not only found ourselves in insatiable love - we found ourselves in the dark. We didn’t have a clue what lesbians did, but we knew what felt good, and that was a good enough place to start.
We were the blind-leading-the-blind as we fell in love. With our sorority sisters pounding on the door, and our clothes heaped in a pile by the bed, we fumbled into each other’s panties and sucked on one another’s toes. We tried to balance what felt right with what we’d seen in the pornos played in the background at some high school parties. I worried that I didn’t have acrylic fingernails, that I had too much pubic hair, and that my high heels weren’t stilettos.
To say we were ill informed is an understatement. There is so much mystery surrounding lesbian sex, not only for straight people, but for budding lesbians, too. We aren’t born with a how-to manual, and if you think there’s poor sex education in schools for our heterosexual children, don’t even get me started about lesbian sex education.
Anxious to sharpen our lesbian MO and hungry for more than a finger, we drove to an adult shop in downtown Phoenix. The building was pink and windowless. It was adorned with neon “XXX” and “24-hours” signs that hummed above the warm cement sidewalks and reflected off the hood of our car as we sat in the parking lot gaining courage. This, we thought, will be a safe place; no one we know would come here and see us buying our first sex toy.
So, sitting in the car outside the porn shop, we both decided to go in. After blindly pulling one of the shrink-wrapped toys off the massive wall of confusion, we arrived at the register and said (obviously overcompensating), that we were sure Melanie would love the pink, hollow strap-on as her gag bachelorette gift.
We paid in cash and went home. Standing in the bedroom wearing only our g-strings, we wondered what to do with this pink dildo. It latches here. No, it snaps behind there. We fidgeted, readjusted and struggled through the weekend trying to make it work and feel right. We cared for our new little toy that smelled like a cheap shower curtain and gave it the name “Pink Pony.” I put it in my hope chest for a while, hoping to enhance its efficacy.
Eventually, we branched out and got a few other toys, some that vibrated and some that bent at doubtful angles. We soon realized we were born with the best equipment; we were the experts; we had home court advantage.
Part of the blame for our poor first performance goes to the $10 dildo stapled to an elastic band, but the rest of the blame goes to the blurry lines that corral lesbian sex. Unlike heterosexual sex, (read this like an awkward fourth-grader) where sex happens when the penis enters the vagina, lesbian sex is nearly impossible to define, and most lesbians don’t even agree on the definition. So where are the answers? What is lesbian sex?
Now a seasoned lesbian, I’ve explored things I never dreamed existed. And the things I had dreamed of have become second nature. I now know that lesbian sex, as defined by sex-guru Jo Ann Loulan, is “anything two lesbians do together.” Anything doesn’t include going to the dog park, the movies or Home Depot, but it does include the tongue, fingers, vibrators, dildos and harnesses.
Like a kid in a candy shop, I soon learned all about quality dildos and vibrators. I learned that the double-headed dildos, extra long and limber like a contortionist, are designed for simultaneous use. Other variations to the traditional strap-on, hip-hugging harnesses, include harnesses that attach to your thigh. And while the idea is fun, I’ve heard they swing around like a hula-hoop if you don’t get them tight enough. It’s rumored, though I haven’t actually seen one, they make harnesses that strap to your forehead. (Ahem - sorry, Mom. Didn’t mean to give you that visual).
But I was still left scratching my head, because even though we found what worked for us, I still didn’t understand what the hard definition of lesbian sex was. Until I began to talk with other lesbians, I had no idea that there is no right answer - lesbian sex means different things to different people. One woman I ran across on an Internet forum - we’ll call her “Lady J” - sees “a parallel between trying to define sex and trying to use queer labels.” She believes that “people should have the right to define it for themselves and that others should respect their definitions, even if they disagree.” Just as heterosexuals negotiate what feels right with each new partner, lesbians re-negotiate what works for them on an individual basis. If you ask one, she might say oral sex constitutes sex; ask another, she’ll say it’s when fingers or a phallic device penetrate the vagina.
In the same lesbian forum, “Lucy-Licker” said, “If there are at least two women and someone gets off, or someone could potentially get off, then it’s sex.” Others offered colorful, broad declarations, such as “Alota-Vagina,” who said, “For me, sex is when passion is high, energy is flowing and bouncing off the walls in the room, and the bed is-a-rocking!” And there were those who consider any exchange of sexual energy between two women, be it as seemingly innocent as “holding intentional eye contact in a bar with someone,” as sex.
The physical components of lesbian sex vary with each woman’s comfort level. One “sex positive primer” (www.Sexuality.org) encourages women to expand the idea of lesbian sex, saying sex really boils down to “how adults play and have a good time together.” They tell women to “spend an evening kissing passionately and running your hands over each other, and call it sex.” Equally, “give each other erotic massages,” or “blindfold your lover and run tantalizing objects over her skin, and call it sex.”
Despite all the differences in what feels good for each couple, there is one staple within the lesbian community. Cunnilingus is a very popular form of affection for lesbians and can be pleasurable for both partners. However, not all women are comfortable with another woman’s smell, and some worry about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). For those worried about the female fragrance, one lesbian recommends going down on your lady in the shower or pouring wine over the vulva before taking the plunge, as this will give both partners a little buzz. There are also various forms of protection available for lesbians to guard against STDs. For a dildo that is used with various partners, an over-the-counter latex condom should be used for protection. For safety when scuba diving down south, dental dams, which are small sheets of latex, create a barrier between the vagina and the mouth while not compromising stimulation.
The things that tickle our fancies are as diverse as our community. Since the night I stood in my panties with the Pink Pony, I’ve come a long way in figuring out what tickles mine. There are endless options for lesbians, far and beyond what I touched on here, but the final word is pleasure. When my girlfriend and I rolled around trying out new things, we faced our bodies in the dark, feeling our way to pleasure. We just followed where the blood pumped and paid attention. We were in love and wanted to please each other. With that heartfelt intention in mind, how could we not have found something that worked?NG
Gina Daggett is an In-house Writer at Nervy Girl magazine.
Depressing the Urge- Two essays explore the effects of anti-depressants on sex drive…
by Joy VanNuys
I’ve been blessed with orgasms all my life. At an absurdly young age, I learned to put myself to sleep with a gentle finger, coming within minutes of when I began, just by conjuring up a fantasy, sliding my hand down there, and making it happen. Wham - my juices would flow, my brain would flood, and I’d smile and drift into dreams. Coming was a treat at the end of the day, a way to relax and escape.
As I grew up, orgasm became an experience I could share with others. Experimenting in my teen years, I found that I could have nipplegasms, toegasms, fingergasms, buttgasms - you name it. I came so fast, so furiously, and so frequently that lovers thought I must have been faking. When my first boyfriend presented me with a vibrator for Valentine’s Day, I laughed. Good god - I’d probably come in less than a second - no buildup at all - no fun.
I’ve fucked men and women who took forever to come. I’ve been the one who has sought out new tricks that would make it happen, my hands and mouth working wildly over their bodies, whispering just the right words at just the right moment. When friends told me that they faked it, with one-night stands or inept lovers, I’d smile and nod. But I’d never faked an orgasm in my life - I never had to.
All that’s changed. Now it’s my turn to lie back and wait for what might never happen, my blue ovaries swollen and hurting. Now I sometimes even fake it with myself, pretend that all that finger-numbing labor has carried me up, up and over the mountain into the beautiful land of Orgasmia. But as my breathing returns to normal, I have to wipe that smile off my face and confess. Nope, not this time.
What happened? I started taking a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), designed to calm the nerves that lay beneath the skin. Means that I, like thousands of other people, have learned how to sacrifice bliss for sanity, ecstasy for calm. Making the decision to take this drug has changed the way I see the connection between my body and my mind and has given me a unique outlook on the sex organ that is the human brain.
I have always had orgasms. I have always had panic attacks. This is the mixed blessing of thin skin. Like a sensitive plant, my leaves pull in, fold up, when the music’s too loud or a voice too harsh. Ticklish. Moody. Touchy. Vulnerable. But goddamn if I don’t come like a house afire.
All my emotions have always been right on the cusp, directly underneath my skin. Tears well up in my eyes as if they were lubricant, flowing at the most inane problems. A stalled subway train or a harsh word from my boss can send me into a full-blown attack, gasping for air, sure that this time my heart will actually leap through my chest.
Years after all my friends had tried Prozac, I decided that I couldn’t take the attacks any more. They were making my life miserable, affecting my relationships and my work. It was time to get some help. I sat in my doctor’s office crying. Prozac wasn’t right for me, he said, but there were other drugs that could probably keep me from panicking. “How are your orgasms?” he asked me. I laughed. “Um, they’re really good,” I said. He frowned, then he drew me a graph of what happens with the serotonin in your brain when you obsess and panic, explaining that your brain refires and refires the same thought. When you block the panic, you sometimes block the possibility of orgasms too. He told me the story of a patient who called him at 3 am screaming into the phone, “I can’t have a fucking orgasm! And it’s your fault!” “I’ll never do that to you,” I told him.
The next day I took the pill. I made it through two sad long-distance commercials and a movie about a kidnapped child. No tears, no panic. But as I lay on the couch, I realized that for the first time in my life, I was terrified to masturbate. Moving my hand between my legs felt like a risk. Finally, I assumed the position, conjured up one of my hottest fantasies, and went to work. Got almost there, almost there, almost there, and no. I just couldn’t come. I couldn’t have a fucking orgasm. I cried and cried and cried.
When my boyfriend got home, I told him that I had cried all day, that I couldn’t have an orgasm. “Well, that sounds like something to cry about.” he said, raising his eyebrows suggestively. “Let’s see what we can do about it.We decided that I should give it a week. I’d try to have an orgasm, by any means necessary. I’d talk to my friends about their experiences with SSRIs. And, at the end of the week, I’d call my doctor and let him know my decision.
Days 1-7: Operation Fuckfest. We christened the kitchen counter, the bathroom sink, the fire escape, screwing like it was the end of the world. For hours I lay stretched out on the bed, clamps on my nipples, a vibrator on my clit, a Tristan Taormino video in the VCR. My lover fingered me and whispered how much he loves me and what a hot naughty fuck I am. My breath came deep and rapid, my skin burned so hot it could peel clean off. Hard, wet, there, there…nowhere.
Not coming is like stifling a sneeze. There’s that delicious tickle inside your nose saying come on, come on, it’s going to feel so good when you do it, but right now it’s maddening, tempting, teasing, then…whoosh. When you stop yourself from sneezing, your head feels plugged up, itchy, deprived of the satisfaction of achoo. But you survive, and the itch goes away eventually.
In general, I felt good. I wasn’t depressed about anything, except the fact that I couldn’t come. I have had enough sexual pleasure in my 32 years on the planet to run over into several lifetimes. Even if I never came again, all that satisfaction has to add up to something. Right? People live like this, I told myself. Plenty of people live their lives without ever having an orgasm. I could handle it. Meanwhile, I asked around, polling all of my friends who have taken SSRIs. Some don’t have any problems reaching orgasm; some can come if they try really hard; some can’t come at all. Most told me that their doctors never discussed possible sexual dysfunction with them. These doctors sent their patients out of the office with a pack of pills and a brochure and left them to figure it out.
That last, dry, frustrated night, I moved my hand over my nipples and down into my underpants. I winced. Trying made me sore. And talking made me angry. It’s personal, it’s political, and I’m really fucking horny! Why should I have to choose: my orgasms or my life? Staring at the ceiling, I imagined my friends, my neighbors, a whole world of women trying and failing to come. We have been betrayed by our chemistry and betrayed by science, but we’re not alone in the dark. What if all of us rose up from our beds, called our doctors, turned on our mega-vibrators and took back our orgasms? I looked at the clock: 2am. I could wait till morning to pick up the phone. Just barely.
When I called my doctor the next morning, I said, “You were right. I can’t seem to have an orgasm on the drugs. I guess it’s not that important in the scheme of things, if you’re going to be a happy person, but...” He interrupted me. “It’s pretty damned important,” he told me. “Come in. We’ll see what we can do.”
These days, I’m on and off the drugs. I’m lucky enough to have a doctor who cares, who understands that sex is important and that orgasms matter, and we worked out a plan that works for me. For a week here and there, I can’t have an orgasm. And I’m not saying it’s hell. Hell is panic attacks, knowing that the scary monsters that can turn me into a weeping 3-year-old are around every corner. Not having orgasms is more like purgatory, knowing that just over the horizon lies a bliss that’s like nothing else. When I’m not on the drugs, I touch myself for hours, delighting in the power of my unmedicated body. I spend days in bed with my lover, enacting elaborate fantasies, coming till my brain turns to happy goo, storing up memories for the dry times.
Other nights I lie awake, worrying: Planes will crash, the subway will cave in, I’m ugly, I’m stupid and everyone I love hates me behind my back. I search my body, in the dark, for signs of the obscure disease that will surely kill me within six weeks. Then my hands, which know better, slowly slide between my legs. Serotonin, my friend, my enemy, will make everything all right.NG
Joy VanNuys, has recently published work in Best Bisexual Women’s Erotica and Grunt and Groan: The New Fiction Anthology of Work and Sex.
back to top
Prozac Ain’t Pro-Sex
By Sonia Pereira
Ah, the old cliché: Sex dies once you get married. But for my husband and I, binding ourselves by a piece of paper, idealistic vows and two weighty pieces of metal wasn’t the act that killed our sex life. It was something much smaller - popping a little pink pill. And no, I’m not talking about birth control.
My husband, Diego, and I were put on anti-depressants about two years ago, around the time we got engaged. We had struggled with disquieting anxiety problems throughout our lives, and I’d been plagued by swells of depression for years. My sadness and Diego’s increased anxieties eventually culminated in many heated arguments and a general unhappiness in our relationship. We decided to do something about our intense moods before they completely screwed up our impending marriage.
Thank the Lord we did. By popping our prescribed daily doses of bitter, pale pink pills with names that sounded more like diseases than cures, we were able to go through a day without hurling a coffee-mug onto the kitchen floor or holing up from the world in the safe confines of our bed.
How fucking brilliant these tiny tablets were! After a month, I no longer felt too spaced out to get dressed in the morning. Taking a shower no longer seemed like a big deal.
For those who have never been clinically depressed let me assure you that small things like brushing one’s teeth can seem overwhelmingly pointless. The fact that I was not even thinking twice about getting up in the morning was little less than a miracle. For the first time in months I was in love with my mind, the outside world, words, music, art…I noticed how my brain suddenly fired off ideas and insights with an elegant ferocity.
Despite the joys the pills brought, it wasn’t all a summer love-fest. The sexual side effects, which seemed so insignificant at first, quickly began to take their toll.
Prior to doing anti-depressants, my husband and I had been busy doing each other. Rather than losing interest in sex as many depressives do, I had turned to it as a continuous source of comfort and relaxation. Everything about sex ran opposite my sadness: the acute pleasure, the rushes of passion, the waves of orgasm through which I could literally see orange streams riding behind my eyes.
Anti-depressants changed all that. In order to retain our physical bond, my husband and I still had sex at least once a week, even though sex no longer interested me. Once we eventually got turned on through foreplay, the sex was even halfway decent. But it was the weak orgasms and the fact that we had to make conscious efforts at arousal that bothered me the most.
My mind was getting better, but my breasts, lips, thighs, vagina and belly suffered a new sort of depression. My brain asserted that yes, theoretically, I am a woman who enjoys sex, while my body played the plastic dummy. How ironic, I thought - to trade inner well-being for an outer numbing. And if this is the price of happiness, can happiness ever truly exist for the mentally ill?
Damn, it’s depressing.
Unless Diego and I want to slide back into our old behavioral dysfunctions, it’s mediocre sex for us. Which is really a shame considering how intensely we used to pin each other on the floor, rip our clothes off and have the kind of orgasms that make you faint when you stand up.
I suppose I ought to feel grateful. Grateful for being mentally stable. Grateful for existing in an age where an average gal can easily score life-saving “happy pills.”
After all, sometimes I doubt whether Diego and I would still be together had we not found help. And that’s when the real compensation for losing our libidos comes in. We can either quietly love each other and flourish through slow kisses and bear hugs, or we can choke each other with our neuroses after another night of fabulous sex.
My teenage self would have gladly opted for the latter. Luckily, I’m a bit more grown up now, and I realize that having a healthy mind outweighs sexual pleasure in my life. Until Diego and I are well enough to get off the anti-depressants, I’m focusing on enjoying our time together. With or without mind-blowing orgasms, we’ve still got our love - and that’s enough to keep me happy.NG
Sonia Pereira is a freelance writer in Massachusetts.
back to top
by Senta Gorrie
The President’s War on Reproductive Rights
National polls show that nearly 60 percent of Americans support a woman’s right to choose (including those who prefer some limits). Yet today’s women have “fewer reproductive rights than their mothers had in 1973,” according to Kate Michelman, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League).
Pro-life proponents have chipped away at legalized abortion since its inception, but our current president has arguably done more to curb our reproductive rights than anyone else. Since his first day in office, President Bush has worked hard to limit a woman’s right to choose, but his war on women doesn’t stop there. From the millions of dollars thrown at abstinence-only sex education to the health care his administration provides for “unborn children” (but not for the pregnant women carrying them), Bush has shown that his position on women is deeply rooted in moralism - not science, and apparently not even public opinion.
On January 22, 2001, the president’s first day of office and the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Bush reinstated the Global Gag Rule - a policy instituted by President Reagan and later lifted by President Clinton. The rule blocks any U.S. aid from going to international health providers who offer abortion counseling, speak publicly on abortion, or provide abortion services. As a result, hundreds of clinics have closed, millions of men and women no longer have access to contraceptives, and AIDS prevention programs around the world now suffer from a lack of funding.
Last July, President Bush withheld the United States’ $34 million contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The fund does not provide or finance abortion services in any of the 141 countries it represents. The UNFPA does, however, provide birth control, maternal and pediatric health care, and sex education for young people. The UNFPA also works toward combating HIV/AIDS. Originally supported by the Bush administration, the funds were held back after a group of extreme conservatives made an elaborate and completely unfounded statement that UNFPA financial support went toward coerced abortions in China. The rumor was proven false after an investigative team returned from China and insisted the money be released, to no avail. With $34 million, the fund could have prevented 2 million unwanted pregnancies, nearly 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths, 60,000 cases of maternal illness, and more than 77,000 infant and child deaths, according to the UNFPA.
Domestically, the 2003 budget contains no increase for the United States’ under-funded family planning and reproductive health programs. However, Tommy Thompson, Bush’s Secretary of Heath and Human Services, has made fetuses eligible for health coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, but not pregnant women. For the first time in history, U.S. policy recognizes a fetus as a person eligible for federal aid, but not the woman carrying the fetus.
In other federal programs, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee hasn’t met in more than two years. The FDA makes vital decisions on the safety and effectiveness of reproductive health care. Its reproductive health committee needs 11 new members and, with none of the positions requiring congressional approval, Bush alone gets to appoint all the new members. The president recently selected Dr. W. David Hager as head of the committee. Dr. Hager is a self-described pro-lifer and the author of As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now. He is adamantly opposed to RU-486, the medical abortion pill, and has publicly recommended reading the bible and praying as remedies for PMS.
Yet another example of Bush’s moralistic agenda, the Human Rights Watch reports that the United States Congress paid more than $100 million to “abstinence until marriage” programs in 2002. According to the group’s press release, plans like these “deny children basic information that could protect them from HIV/AIDS infection. In the case of HIV/AIDS, what they don’t know may kill them.”
The Bush administration’s policies on women’s issues are so far to the right, even Catholics are joining the pro-choice fight. NARAL Pro-Choice America and Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) purchased advertisements to mark the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (January 22, 2003). The ads ran in bus shelters in Washington, D.C. This union with CFFC reflects the largest mobilization in NARAL history as it sets out to “rally the nation’s pro-choice majority to protect a woman’s right to choose,” according to NARAL’s Michelman.
“As pro-choice Americans, we must understand that freedom of choice will not survive unless we act to protect it. As people travel through our nation’s Capitol - they will be reminded that the majority is pro-choice.”
Senta Gorrie is an Associate Editor for Nervy Girl magazine.