Monday, July 7, 2014

Let's Talk about _______ Shaming - A

Let's talk about shaming.

I'm going to ignore the fascinating etymological journey that the word "shame" has taken from it's origin as a noun to today's usage as a verb, even though I highly encourage anyone willing to take the time to go explore it's history.

There is an idea of absolute non-judgement that I've been seeing among the sex positive community, especially among people who act as educators, influencers, or leaders. I've seen calls for no more shame or judgment for anyone, regardless of what they look like or choose to do in life, no matter what. It is the idea that someone else's life choices are theirs to make, not yours.

I tried to achieve this ultimate non-judgmental attitude, since all the cool sex-positive people were doing it. Hey everyone, I'm cool too! Check out my totally non-judgemental JNCO jeans and my anti-shame frosted tips! I did my best to get a running start and jump on the bandwagon.

I took what I had learned spiritually and applied it to other areas of my life, that someone else's choices may seem right by their morals, so even if my morals say it's wrong I cannot judge them as myself unless they choose to live by my morals (I really tried to word that better, it just wasn't happening).

But I hit a wall. I wrestled with myself for a while, because I wasn't able to let go of some things. I felt like I was judging and shaming and failing at being a sex positive person. I felt like I was less than other sex educators, that I was just posing as one. But I found out some things that helped me see the truth.

For one, I found out through some interviews that sex professionals and sex positive people will sometimes adapt this total non-judgement mask for when they are educating or working. At home they have opinions just like me, but "on the clock" they are perfect, opinionless, neutered caricatures of the sex positive world that are needed to help people with their issues and welcome all people with open arms.

And the second was that it's okay for me to have opinions. I didn't have to be this perfect person. I could be human. I'm not okay with everything, and that's okay. I just have to understand that I need to not go out of my way to hurt anyone practicing a lifstyle I feel that I cannot personally support. I need to love that person anyways as a beautiful human being, and see them for more than what they do.

To help anyone in my same situation, I'm going to admit what I was having trouble accepting. I really didn't want to, and re-wrote this post a few times to try and get around it. But I'm going to be open. If you are into any of these activities or ideas, just know that I still respect you as a person, and would love to talk with you about any of these.

  • Fat Acceptance. I cannot support this movement. Hard science, weight loss successes, and a separation of emotional and physical/logical arguments debunks almost every ounce of support the Fat Acceptance movement touts. It is okay to have some fat on you, just know that you are entirely capable of changing your body with hard work and discipline. It is not healthy to be overweight, period. Even if you find yourself in decent health while overweight, it is almost indisputable that without excess fat you would not be in even better health. I am all for body acceptance, but not unhealthy lifestyle acceptance. 

  • Bug Chasers. For those who aren't aware, some people are deliberately trying to get infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections. Some do it for a thrill, some do it to gain access to the medications used to treat STI's, some do it to try and infect others with dangerous infections. I like people getting pleasure, but I cannot support Bug Chasing or any deliberate transmission of STI's. 

  • Non-Consent. I am absolutely supportive of role-playing or pretending to be in a non-consensual situation, with prior consent. But pedophillia, zoophilia, rape, molesting, public touching or groping, exposing others to your fetishes and kinks without asking, or any sexual activity that takes place without even implicit consent is not okay with me, no matter how tame or how crazy it is. 

  • Blood play, sexual wounding, sexual vampirism, and other activities that involve blood exposure. The risk is just too high for me to be supportive. I suppose that an exclusive couple or group, with the right medical tests and precautions, could lower their risk. But blood carries diseases of many kinds, being exposed to blood is incredibly dangerous, and blood loss is a huge risk. There is too much risk, no matter how much pleasure it gives you.

  • Asphyxiation. I know that there is some appeal to light choking during sex for many people. I am going to separate that into it's own category. I am specifically going to address the use of any device to choke someone, like a rope or scarf. Asphyxiation can go from pleasurable to deadly in under three minutes. While a hand or other body part can be removed at will to let the receiving partner breathe, any apparatus used to cut off air can become stuck or tangled and kill very quickly. The loss of a human life is not worth any amount of pleasure. Would you rather have a mind blowing orgasm and die, or have many orgasms that are almost as good over the course of a longer life?

  • Addictive substances as a part of sexuality. Anything that can become addictive is a risk to use as a regular part of your sexuality, the risk being that you may become reliant on that addiction for all of your sexual pleasure. You will be much more satisfied if you are not forced to feed your addiction any time you want sexual pleasure, trust me. I don't like to see anyone have obstacles they have to get through every time they want to have pleasure.

This isn't a complete list, just some off the top of my head. I hope this helps some sex positive people to feel better about not being the perfect, judgement free person they keep seeing and hearing about. 

I am a real person, and I'm not going to adopt a mask for my education. I admire people who are able to, but for me it causes some inner turmoil that I'd rather not deal with. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Is Your Bra Killing You? - A.

The short answer: no, and wearing bras more can help your health. The long answer is below.

In 1955, a book was published by researchers Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer. Dressed to Kill was an (inaccurate) write-up that attempted to link breast cancer and wearing a bra. They proposed that wearing a bra, especially ones that fitted properly and not loosely or had underwire, especially for more than eight hours a day, drastically increased the likelihood of cancer.

I'm going to pause and let you look at the Wikipedia article linked in the title in the paragraph above. Go ahead. I'll still be here.

This book was completely false. Who says so?

The American Cancer Institute.
The American Cancer Society.
Scientific American.
Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN who writes for USA Today.
ACS Media.
The collective National Institutes of Health.

These aren't all of the critics. These are just the ones I found in the last five minutes because I'm lazy.

Dressed to Kill was the first instance of this theory that proliferated beyond old wives' tales. Ever since then, you can find this theory cropping back up on natural health blogs and books, in conversation, even from some doctors.

The issue is that not only was this a self-published book about a theory, the theory was repeatedly found to be completely false. The support for it was one study which was completely misinterpreted. If you go and look at the study cited in it, you will see the only conclusion they found evidence for was that women with larger breasts were at a higher risk for cancer because they had more breast tissue. There were no conclusions that were able to be drawn about bras. Length of bra wear was even more proven false. Constant support was found to give the best breast tissue health and allow it, the ligaments, the milk glands, and the supportive blood and lymph systems to thrive.

Here is a rough drawing of the lymph system of the breast. There are no nodes inside the breast itself, contrary to what Singer and Grismaijer claim. The only lymph system located on the underside of the breast is made of small capillaries that do not extend down onto the stomach, and the connections from the breast lymph system to the abdominal lymph system are located inside the ribcage, not along the skin under the breast.

However, there is plenty of evidence to support that more support could better support your breast health. (see what I did there?)

For instance, both breasts and testicles have a higher risk for cancer if they have endured some kind of physical trauma in the past five years. Some of these examples of trauma are common, everyday occurrences like excessive bouncing. There is also evidence that

How do you protect your body best? Well, for your balls, some nice supportive underwear will help, and a cup will protect during activities that are more risky. For breasts? Well...

Wear a bra.

Yep. Dressed to Kill literally recommends you do the opposite of what can help protect your breasts, lift them more, and avoid other breast issues. Not only that, but some of the recommendations that have spun off of this publication's theories are hurting you.

Cupless bras, bras without any padding, bras without underwire, bras that are made of only a thin piece of fabric? Only for sleeping, preferably not at all. The lack of support these give increases your risk for many health and cosmetic issues.

The best bra to protect your breasts is a padded bra that has good coverage. So those of you who swear by the push-up bra: Good on you! You are wearing the safest bra possible. Plenty of light padding on the front helps cushion any impact, and the plush padding along the bottom helps protect your sensitive breast tissue from everyday bouncing. It should be noted that theories that push-up bras can cause breast sag are also unsubstantiated. In fact, the best way to prevent sagging and the issues that can come with it (stretch marks, lower milk production, ect.) is to give constant proper support. Even padded bras with underwire that are not push-up are still good, although more padding is best. And don't think that a little bra that barely covers your nipples will do as much good as a full-coverage. Some sexiness is still allowed, but if you aren't trying to show much cleavage consider a much more enveloping bra for yourself.

Some other bra tips:

Wearing a bra for more than two days in a row stretches it and reduces it's elasticity and support. Repeating this will wear the bra out permanently, rendering it much less useful and irreparable. Throw out any bras that this happens to, so you will not be tempted to wear it and will be forced to wash and wear your good ones.

Wash in hot water, rinse in cold water. Hand-wash with some detergent that is delicate-friendly. I like to wash my wife's bras in the tub, so I can do up to five or six at a time.

I hope these help you, and help clear up the mis-information I've been hearing for years now.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Changing my views on Sex, Religion, and Marriage - A

This post will include my own religious opinions and views. I am not going to apologize or try to skirt around this fact. I just ask that the reader remembers that it's okay for us to not believe the same things, and we can still be friends. 

I am a Christian. I have identified this way since my early teens, out of my own choice. I was exposed to church very early in life, but it took a while for me to find God on my own, away from all the pomp and circumstance of a church. It was through music, in the middle of nowhere, and it changed my entire life.

But I didn't want to be a Christian who just parroted everything I heard in church or from Fox News or from other people. I wanted to take in whatever wisdom people had for me, but didn't want to just adopt other people's views without reason. So I turned to a friend of mine, the man who was playing the music that made me curious about finding God. I asked him how I could find out what being a Christian meant. He dug into his bag and pulled out a book.

"This is the only words of God, Jesus, or their original Disciples and Followers we have. This is everything about Christianity we have left. Forget everything you were told about being a Christian until you have actively read this book, thinking about the words and stories as you read them, taking notes. Then we will help you answer any questions you have."

It was a modified Young's Literal Translation of The Bible. The forward explained that the original YLT version of The Bible sought to accurately represent each original Hebrew word individually with English. This meant that the sentences were broken and jumbled, but gave accurate meanings of the original intent. Where other translations would just say "Love" for all the Hebrew words for love, the YLT version would specify whether it was brotherly love, erotic love, or Godly love. 

The modified book I had been given also organized the whole Bible into Chronological order, and summarized some of the simpler historical records, such as genealogies and geography. This made the Bible easier to read, since everything took place on a constant timeline, and made some of the non-essential historical events and family records short. It was meant to be read over six months, with a few chapters a day. But I was working at a summer camp at the time, and had some time to kill.

So I read that book twice through, referencing a normal New King James version of The Bible for help and filling two spiral notebooks with my horrible handwriting. I tried my best to read it as a story, absorbing details, filling in, remembering, referencing, studying. Over three months I was able to find out what the original instructions were for Christians. It stripped away years of confusing sermons and other people's opinions about what it meant and laid it out bare. 

I found out so much. I was relieved when being a Christian was presented as a daily choice, not a magical moment that you accept God into your life and feel him enter your soul. I was overjoyed to learn that just because I didn't speak in tongues, it didn't mean I wasn't a Christian or had no spiritual gifts. I was intrigued by God's love of music, and fascinated by His simple explanations that He was not a vending machine, and that bettering one's self would take effort on their part, and not him magically granting you more patience or courage. I was able to form my own opinions and beliefs based solely off of these words and notes, while listening to other people's wisdom and experiences for practical advice and deeper understanding to incorporate, but only after keeping the original text in mind. I am not trying to claim that my views are perfect, but I actively tried (and am still trying) to keep the original biblical text as the ultimate guide to my Christian walk, above other people or my own thoughts. 

One of the areas that I really sought information for was marriage. I hadn't considered it up until that point, but as soon as I started to try and understand everything from this basic point of view, forgetting what I had been told was true and trying to find out the real truth, I had to consider that maybe God's original intent wasn't for marriage to be a ceremony endorsed by the state of wherever, with a dress made by David's Bridal and a rented tuxedo and cake and pomp and circumstance and birdseed and overpriced photographers and catering. I wanted to know how people were married before this, and even before the Jewish traditions of marriage outlined in The Bible. The parties they threw and the ceremonies they observed were even more elaborate than the ones we use today. How did people marry before then? Surely God would want people to marry, procreate, and all that jazz well before civilization had developed enough for traditions to emerge! So I went digging.

And I found something that I've been leaning on for several years now, and something that I am now reconsidering as true. So what follows is what I believed, and afterwards I'll explain a little bit about why I'm not as sure, and have a new theory given to me by someone I look up to spiritually.

I believed that sex was equal to marriage. I believed that to be married, you just had to have sex. This would marry you to that person, forever. It seemed to fit very well! It explained how people were married before all our ceremonies, in a simple little way. I even used this with my wife, who I consider myself fairly married to. We talk about our legal marriage and our spiritual marriage as two separate things, since we didn't wait until our wedding to have sex. It also fit in very well with the cute saying of "making love". 

There were passages in The Bible that seemed to support this, notably a passage that talks about Jesus meeting a woman at a well who has lived with several men and says that she "has many husbands". There were a few others that could be stretched to fit this definition of sex that I found after thinking about it and deciding that that was my explanation. I posed this to people as my own opinion, and other people seemed to support it and agree. I was comfortable with this idea, and felt that it worked well. 

I had problems with this theory, though. What about people who are paralyzed below the waist? What about people who are sick and unable to have sex, or have some kind of physical or mental handicap that prevents them from being sexually active? Did I really believe they weren't married? It didn't feel right, but neither did my excuses of "Oh, God knows their situation and will make an exception." I also had no answers for rape victims. Did I believe that there was an attack that caused marriage between the victim and assailant, and that God would allow that? What about the godly men and women in the bible who practiced polygamy or polyamory? Why didn't they get the memo, even though they were older and had been Christians for longer? Some of them even communed with God on a personal basis. What was going on there?

Fast forward to two weeks ago. I was working a small event for couples. This group was an offshoot of a larger church, and on this particular day our senior pastor had decided to drop in for a bit and speak briefly. He was fond of this group and was all smiles walking in, happy to be there. This was an amazing speaker, and someone I admire spiritually. He is eloquent, and his wisdom is incredible. I've taken many things he's said to heart, and I am better for it. So when he got onstage and began speaking, I paid attention.

He began by introducing himself and telling a joke, talking a bit about his own marriage and their adventures. The whole audience chuckled politely at his humor.

He cleared his throat and began. "I want to take you all back to basics a little bit. I want to talk about what marriage is."

I perked up even further. Back to basics, ignoring social stigmas, from an amazing teacher? Yes please!

"I spent far too long imagining that marriage was all about the ceremony, the party, the wedding, and it kept me from reaching my full potential as a husband."

Mhmmmm, pastor. You are speaking my language. I started to get a little bit cocky, waiting for him to affirm what I believed.

"I didn't appreciate my wife, or our partnership. Our beliefs about marriage as an idea caused friction between us. We felt entitled, as if one day spent in a dress and tux in front of a preacher suddenly made our relationship deeper."

Oh yes. Come on. I'm waiting for it! Tell them about the sex thing!

"Some more radical Christians have taken to believing that in order to be married, you must follow Jewish customs for the wedding. Some others believe that all you have to do is to have sex, treating it as a sacred act that bonds you in spirit. Even others think that just cohabitation is enough to be married. But this is not the full story."


I'll admit I got some tunnel vision. I honestly panicked a little bit. I had been wrestling with doubts for the past few months about my beliefs on marriage, and someone I admire saying that those beliefs was like a nail in the coffin. My ideas had flaws, undeniable flaws. 

"Marriage is meant to be a reflection of the church and Christ: a daily commitment and ever-present decision and lifestyle. You must wake up and live your life for your spouse. You must decide every day that you will be a reflection of God's love, as much as you can in this imperfect life, to your spouse. And they are to do the same back to you."


That made sense. I had replaced one physical action, the ceremony and wedding and everything that came with it, with sex. But sex is just another physical action. Sure, our sexuality and desire and intimacy that stems from it is deep, beautiful, and diverse, but conventional sex between a heterosexual couple (which is mainly what The Bible addresses) mainly involves a simple physical action of sliding a penis into a vagina. 

No physical action can equate a spiritual and emotional decision to be together with your partner, a daily renewal of your desire. I chose to follow God daily, to always hold out my hand to Him, to sing songs to Him. Why would I believe that this same relationship of constant re-commitment and mindful partnership wouldn't be the basis of marriage? Why would I think that one physical action, albeit one with strong emotional bonding effects, could be held higher than a soul-bond, one that you constantly decide to follow and not break off? Why would I believe that our relationship was deeper because I put my penis inside of my lover's vagina and slid around a bit? What would make us deeper, bring us closer, was to try and emulate our relationship with God

It hasn't been easy to reconsider these beliefs. But I believe in the wisdom I heard, and I already had questions and situations about my old beliefs that made me uneasy about them. I look forward to exploring this more, but for now, I am content with sex being sex and marriage being a reflection of my ongoing commitment to being a Christian. 

If you want to read the same version of the YLT Bible, it is available online. Just click here and you will find resources to help you.