Shared posts

25 Jun 16:00

Atlas of True Names: A World Map with Locations Replaced with their Original Meanings

Okay...phew. I know that's a somewhat strange post title, but this project is fascinating and totally worth sharing, if not eloquently. The "Atlas of True Names" is a series of maps that substitutes the official names for cities, states, countries, and geographic areas with the meaning of their names in their original language....etymological … read more

03 Jul 15:00

Comparing polyamory to nigiri: Coming-out as polyamorous

by Angela
Kristen

Again, this is a perfect come-back line and also a great convo starter. AND its true - I used to never consider sushi a food and now I can't live without it.

How can sushi help you come out as polyamorous? By: andreas hagermanCC BY 2.0

My husband and I have been actively polyamorous since late 2010. We came out to family and friends over the past two years. My boyfriend has been out to everyone he knows since we started dating in 2011.

To those unfamiliar, a bit of clarification: being polyamorous often involves a decision of when, or if, to come out. Like in any other coming-out situation, not everyone who is poly opts to come out, and some choose not to come out to everyone. For the time being, out of deference for my parents and their journey through cognitive dissonance, I'm not out to my extended family. Some people don't come out to coworkers for fear of discrimination. Some people choose to not come out at all.

In my years of coming out as poly, I was surprised to find that making "I am poly and have two partners" come out of my mouth wasn't the hardest part. (In actuality, it is almost exclusively relieving.)

And it's not watching the person's brain explode in reaction to my perceived fairy-floaty woo-woo liberal (in so many ways) relationship status. No, it gets tough when they respond.

Almost invariably, any monogamous person I come out to will spout a variation of, "Oh! I could never do that!"

Clearly this response indicates empathy. As Eddie Izzard put it, my disclosure surged through their brain, which spit out a terse "No information on this." So they went with what they could. I wholly appreciate this response, knowing that those who are actually rude or inconsiderate could say much, much worse.

Still, I was left with the question of how do I respond to such a statement?

A sheepish "Yeah…" didn't feel right — I'm afraid it might sound condescending or wishy-washy. Need something with more conviction. How about an elevator speech about how some consider monogamy a purely social construct? Nope, then I'm no longer relatable, and risk coming off as superior. And with my poor friend in a state of shellshock, the last thing I want to do is challenge them with, "Oh yeah? WHY?"

I knew what I wanted to convey: I wanted to maintain my dignity while putting them at ease. To show them that it's absolutely fine that they feel that way, and I'm fine the way I am too. Out of these desires came my trademark throw-away line, a lightly delivered:

"Oh, don't worry — I'm not asking you to!"

And that handles it for me. They know I'm not hitting on them, or recruiting (as a friend puts it, "poly-nating"). I have provided them a Scott-free exit from the subject if they want it. If that's the case, the look on their face tends to give it away, so I'll tack on "I just wanted to let you know!" and steer the conversation elsewhere. I let them know I'm around if they ever have questions, and that's that.

That response has been sufficient for a good long time. But recently my husband surprised me. In what is relatively against-type for him, he wanted a reply that facilitated a conversation and provoked a bit deeper thought.

He wanted to convey the monogamy-as-a-societal-norm idea in a way that facilitated conversation. Unfortunately this disqualified launching a copy of Sex at Dawn at their faces. So we put our heads together and worked it through.

For a while, everything we developed was too alienating or dangerously close to liberal shaming. (Thanks for that article, Ariel!) Out of frustration, my husband exclaimed, "They haven't even thought about it! I mean, I never liked the idea of sushi, and now I eat it all the time!"

And there it was. It fit perfectly with his general approach — light, humorous, non-threatening.

"Oh, I could never do that!"
"Yeah, I used to feel the same way about eating sushi. But I love it now!"

Comparing polyamory to nigiri — automatically, it's not that big of a deal! Provides a nice lead-in to deeper conversation, if the other person is interested. Either way, he feels good about that reply. We've developed two ways to honor the other person's feelings as well as our own.

We love you, monogamous friends! And don't worry if you couldn't be polyamorous — we're not asking you to.

Recent Comments

  • Mistie: I really agree with you. Part of the problem in this discussion is that there are people you might need ... [Link]
  • ALKD: I agree — I feel like the OP has the awareness to suss out what kind of response would be ... [Link]
  • Barbara: I might very well be a person who responds that "I couldn't do that". Not because I've never mulled it ... [Link]
  • Michelle: Setting the specifics of your post aside for a moment – thank you for writing honestly about polyamory at all! ... [Link]
  • Lindsay: Thanks for your response! I agree with both myself and you now… It just goes to show how important empathy ... [Link]

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31 May 17:08

I’m Not Easy. I’m Selectively Convenient

by Charlie Glickman
Kristen

Love, love, LOVE this post. So well written, so much a part of my life!

One of the things that often surprises people is the fact that being queer, kinky, and poly doesn’t have to mean that someone is promiscuous.

“Promiscuous” is such an interesting word. My dictionary has two definitions for it:

  1. having or characterized by many transient sexual relationships
  2. demonstrating or implying an undiscriminating or unselective approach; indiscriminate or casual

Now, I’ve had quite a few “transient sexual relationships” in my time. Some of them were no longer than half an hour and others have included dates once or twice a year, over the course of many years. Sometimes, I’ll have a series of dates with the same person for a few months before we part ways, and other times we’ll develop a sexual connection based on “I’ll see you when I see you.” I think that most folks would consider the majority of these “transient.” At the same time, my approach has been anything but “undiscriminating or casual.”

I have high standards for what I want from a sexual connection, and I have high standards for the people I create those with. I expect people to come to it with an open heart, to be able to tell me their wants, needs, & boundaries, to be able to hear mine in return, and to find a way to have fun within those parameters. I require honesty around their safer sex and STI background. And I demand that they respect both my relationship with my partner, and the boundaries that grow from that. That’s a lot to ask for, and that doesn’t even begin to cover the question of our individual sexual preferences and kinks. Granted, I enjoy a fairly wide range of pleasures, but that doesn’t guarantee a good fit.

So I’m definitely not “promiscuous” by the second definition of the term and I think it’s pretty telling that the word is based on the assumption that having many sexual partners means not having a selective approach. I filter out a lot of people. It’s just that the circles I move through are full of folks who are tall enough to ride this ride, so I can have high standards and still have multiple partners.

When a friend jokingly told me that I’m easy, I instantly replied, “I’m not easy. I’m selectively convenient.” I don’t play hard to get, and that doesn’t mean that I’m easy. I expect a lot and if I don’t get it, I’ll start a conversation to see if that will change. If it becomes clear that I won’t get what I want and need, or that I’m not offering what the other person needs, I’ll disengage with as much grace as possible. On the other hand, once I know that things line up, it all becomes pretty straightforward. That’s where the “selectively convenient” piece comes in, because I’ll do what I can to make things as smooth as possible.

Being selectively convenient is sort of similar to how some dogs and cats operate. They’ll check someone out to see if they want their attention. If the answer is yes, they go all in. If the answer is no, they back off. And for some animals, the “yes” list is pretty small, but they don’t hold back from the people who are on it.

I think “selectively convenient” is a fine thing in any kind of relationship. If you’re monogamous, all that means is that your selection process is different from mine. For that matter, if you have multiple partners, you probably a have different selection process than I do because you have different needs. Within whatever structure you create, can you make your sexual relationship more graceful? Can you reduce the friction and increase the pleasure? Can you bring more flow to your sex? What would it look like to bring more ease to your sex life, to your partner(s), and to your relationship(s)?

If you want to figure out what “selectively convenient” means for you, start by thinking about what your selection process is. What are your wants and needs? What are your filters? Can you share them with a partner in such a way that they can hear it and respond? Are you open to their replies? And how will you talk with them to find the overlap between what you each offer and what you each want?

Those conversations take a bit of practice to manage with grace, especially when there aren’t a lot of role models for how to do it. Fortunately, there are some great resources that can help. Reid Mihalko’s safer sex elevator speech makes it easier to talk about your safer sex needs. Tristan Taormino’s book Opening Up is great for anyone interested in having multiple partners because she interviewed folks in many different kinds of open relationships about what worked for them. I really like yes/no/maybe lists for figuring out what kinds of sexual pleasures might be fun. In many US cities, there are growing communities and social scenes where you can meet other folks who are exploring similar experiences. Even if you’re not looking for another partner, simply going to events and meeting other selectively convenient people can be a wonderful experience. And if you want some suggestions that are more tailored to your needs, you might consider working with a sex or relationship coach. That’s a great way to get some support and ideas that are specific to your situation and your goals.

Whatever your personal vision of what “selectively convenient” might mean, and whatever path you choose, think about how you’re holding yourself back. Then imagine what it would be like if you didn’t do that anymore. You’ll probably discover that it’s a lot easier to get there and the rewards are definitely worth it.


The post, I’m Not Easy. I’m Selectively Convenient, is from Charlie Glickman's website.
26 Jun 15:00

How we're renegotiating our marriage with our yearly "relationship summit"

by Cassandra Complex
Kristen

Love it.

Homie Cassandra left this awesome comment on our post about long-term relationships. So of course we asked her to elaborate and turn it into an awesome guest post.

Let's meet at 12:30 to discuss our relationship! (Photo by: marc falardeauCC BY 2.0)

When I was in my 20s I went to acting school in NYC. I had a terrible and abusive teacher whom I ended up despising. Despite that, she mentioned something one day that had a great influence on me. She was approaching her 35th wedding anniversary and offhandedly said that she and her husband renegotiated their marriage each year on their anniversary.

I loved the idea and 13 years later, when I started dating my husband, incorporated it on the anniversary of our first date.

So for our anniversary we have our "relationship summit" or our "State Of The Union" address. We talk about where we are and what we want and if changes need to be made. This can be anything from "I don't want children, and if you do I love you and don't want to deprive you of them, so maybe we should part ways" (dating anniversary #2), to "pick up your socks" (somewhere around wedding anniversary #3 or 4), to "I see recurring patterns that cause you suffering. And even though this isn't about me, I don't want to get to old age and still see you suffering. Will you please think about getting some counseling, for the both of us?" (last year).

But what's more important is the time when we come to "I want to stay married to you for another year." It really is optional. A few years ago when mid-life crisis hit my husband and I was afraid he was thinking about leaving I reminded him that he had re-upped for at least another 10 months and he owed it to me to hang and see if we could work it out. We did.

We shared this practice at our wedding, which was on our anniversary (which happens to be Valentine's Day). We even had a wedding "intermission" where we went off into seclusion to do the summit. It was a great opportunity to be alone for 15 minutes and to really center ourselves.

These are the big issues. Ones that can't be solved when things are heated and doors are slamming. Ones that won't resolve themselves with makeup sex.

I remember once talking to a younger person about it in our early years and he said "That's great. That means you actually talk about stuff." It may seem like an artifice but we do, indeed, talk about stuff. Usually over a nice dinner (before drinks). And it's not just limited to that once a year.

A few weeks ago, after I had a disturbing dream where my husband told me he was leaving for greener pastures, I talked to him and said "I don't want to be just the greener pasture, I want to be the greenest pasture. And I want you to think about it for our next summit." These are the big issues. Ones that can't be solved when things are heated and doors are slamming. Ones that won't resolve themselves with makeup sex.

So even though that teacher wasn't great she did teach me som'n. Wasn't about acting but it was about life. And though I still wouldn't thank her to her face I will spread her lesson. Think about it. It works for us. We've been together for 19 years now and married for 13 and I see a long future ahead. One that we'll live without feeling terminally trapped but with freedom of choice.

Recent Comments

  • jess: My partner and I do a mini version of this on a weekly or monthly basis. We are in ... [Link]
  • Janna: My husband and I have had SOTTUA's since we started dating too! At first we had them monthly…then 6 months…we've ... [Link]
  • Beth: This was one of my favourite ever comments on Offbeat H&L, so I'm really glad to see it on the ... [Link]
  • Angela: I'm sure that you talk about these things day to day, and work things out as they come. I can ... [Link]
  • Tina (sk8bettyt): Our pastor recommended something similar to this during our wedding counseling. It was more of a marriage contract (his words), ... [Link]

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10 Jun 16:30

A Self-Sustaining Tree House Community in Costa Rica

Kristen

WANT. SO MUCH WANT!!

Inside the rain forests of Costa Rica, there's an entire "neighborhood" of tree houses... a full community complete with a cafe, community center, and, oh yeah: a network of zip lines, which residents use to move among the tree top properties. … read more

18 Jun 17:20

John Mayer + Prancercise = New Song About Taylor Swift

by Kate Dries
Kristen

This video has made my day.

Not content with those usual lyric videos that just blind you in the face with their extreme fonts, John Mayer decided it as nigh time to redeem himself as a human worth paying attention to, and what better way to do that than releasing a new music video? Specifically, a video for his new song that is allegedly about Taylor Swift featuring Joanna Rohrback of Prancercise LLC? [Insert the world imploding on itself here.]

Read more...

    


17 Jun 18:00

Mailbag: How Do I Manage Crowd Anxiety At A Con?

by Jen
Kristen

Great tips for those like myself who have crowd anxiety!

 Jessica D. writes,

"Jen (and other Epbot readers) - I am thinking about attending the Minneapolis MetaCon in August- mostly because I see that Steam Powered Giraffe will be performing and I really really want to see them.
I, however, have Asperger's syndrome. And extreme anxiety about large crowds. Are there any hints and tips on what to do while at a con to control anxiety?"



As someone who LOVES sci-fi and comic conventions, and who also struggles with anxiety, I get asked this question a lot. Now, admittedly, I don't suffer from crowd anxiety so much as no-way-out anxiety (technical term) - but the two have a lot of overlaps. So, here are my best tips, based on what works for me:


1) Bring a friend or SO who's willing to stick by you the whole time. Moral support is key! 

:D

2) I met a reader at the last MegaCon who told me when things got too much for her in the crowd, she'd just grab on to her husband's backpack and look at the floor, allowing him to lead her through. I do the same thing with John all the time, although for me it's more because I'm lazy and he's bigger. :) See if your convention buddy is willing to do the same - a designated crowd-parter, if you will.

3) Take lots of breaks, so you don't get too over-stimulated. Most convention facilities have smaller halls branching off with lots of empty rooms, so you should be able to find a quiet alcove to chill for a while. (If not, try heading outside.) Remember, it's better to enjoy just a few activities than be miserable with a tight schedule.

4) Bring emergency supplies: anxiety meds (if you have/need them), a full water bottle (so you don't have to hunt for a water fountain), earplugs, & sunglasses if those work for you. I really like earplugs - especially for concerts, but they also help with crowd noise and extra loud sound systems.

  General convention mayhem. Gotta love it!


5) Often times the convention staff will let you stand in the back of the room for panels and performances, which I always prefer, so don't be afraid to ask. If it's a really large convention, ask at the ticket desk about medical/guest assistance passes, which can streamline the process and save you some stress. (Sometimes I'm afraid to ask because I'm embarrassed, but believe me, it's worth it in the long run. Plus most convention staff are super accommodating if you explain you just need to be near an exit.)

6) And finally, and hardest of all: don't put too much pressure on yourself. Take the day at your own pace, and tell yourself that you'll leave if you have to, because there will always be more conventions. If you force yourself through a miserable experience, then odds are you won't try again - and that would be robbing yourself of some truly amazing adventures! So go at your own pace, and concentrate on sopping up what fun you can. When your Fun Tank is full, take a break and/or get out of there!

We feel ya, Beaker.

Other than that, don't forget the common sense stuff like getting enough sleep and eating right/enough. Oh, and keep in mind that Saturday is always the most crowded day of a multi-day convention, with Sunday being a close second. So if the convention is open on Friday, go Friday.

Along the same lines, try to go to a smaller local convention for your first one, if you can, before jumping in to the really huge events. Little cons are much more relaxed, and are a wonderful way to test the crowd-anxiety waters.

Ok, guys: what'd I miss? Share you own tips for managing anxiety at a convention in the comments!

14 Jun 14:30

Why more feminists should watch Game of Thrones

by Luz Delfondo
Kristen

All the yeses!

A lot of my feminist friends have reservations about watching Game of Thrones, because they’ve heard it’s misogynist. This makes me sad, because I think there’s a lot in this show for feminists to love. I definitely don’t think this show is for everyone. It has some disturbing representations of violence, including sexual violence, which can be triggering. For some people, it’s not just their cup of tea. But I’d like to try to convince some women that they might want to consider watching this show, and tell them what they might get out of it.

(I’m restricting myself to discussion of the show rather than the book series, even though I enjoy both, simply because most people don’t have the time or energy to read thousands upon thousands of pages of epic fantasy, and that’s OK.)

First, I’d like to take a moment to point out what is most problematic about the show, because all shows have troubling aspects, and just because I love a show doesn’t mean I can’t call it out on its bullshit. The show is famously drenched in the male gaze; that is, the creators assume the viewer is a man who wants to see naked women represented as sexual objects. Most unsettlingly, the male gaze sometimes applies during scenes depicting sexual violence. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with depicting sexual violence on screen, but the camera definitely should not be leering at women who are sexually assaulted.

Any spoilers below the cut will be clearly marked, so read on without fear.

Quaithe from Game of Thrones

All women of color dress like Lady Gaga, amirite?

Another major problem with the show is race. All of the major characters in the show are white. The minor characters of color who exist in the show are Otherized: basically, presented as exotic, evil, or helpless. (The only exceptions I can think of are Missandei, Talisa, and Grey Worm.) There is a gross “white savior” aspect to one of the major subplots which was especially apparent in last week’s season finale.

If you’d rather not watch a show that depicts sexual violence or people of color in this way, I totally understand. We all draw a different line when it comes to the media we’re willing to engage with. Even with all of these problems, though, I think the positive outweighs the negative.

If I were to identify the central theme of Game of Thrones, it would be power. Some characters have a lot of it; some don’t. The show asks questions about what people are willing to do to acquire power, what they do with it once they get it, and how they handle themselves if they lose it. Game of Thrones is set in a highly patriarchal fantasy world, which means that society works to rob women of power. But instead of accepting this as a given, the show asks how women face up to their powerlessness in this world, and how they might empower themselves despite the strictures of the societies they live in. This doesn’t always result in “strong ass-kicking badass women” (though sometimes it does) – more importantly, it results in some of the most three-dimensional and well-developed female characters in the whole fantasy genre.

That, for me, is the bottom line of how worthwhile a book or TV show is from my feminist perspective: how many multifaceted, interesting, real female characters are there? I’ve read books by women, with no objectionable problematic elements, in which the answer to that question was zero.

SPOILERS FOR ALL THREE SEASONS OF THE SHOW BEYOND THIS POINT.

Brienne from Game of Thrones

Go ahead. Say that sexist comment again.

Some women in the show acquire power by going completely against what their societies tell them they can do. The best examples of this type are Brienne Tarth and Daenerys Targaryen. Brienne fights for what is right and holds herself to the honor code of a knight, even though women in her society are not allowed to be knights or even wield swords at all. When people take away her agency, she takes it back at swordpoint. Her power, however, comes at the cost of social disapproval. People see her as a freak, less than human, because she defies her gender role. Daenerys is a warrior queen who fights to take back her rightful kingdom, even though all the societies she encounters are led by men. Male leaders constantly sexualize, infantilize, and disrespect her, until they realize that she is much more powerful than they assume.

Margaery and Joffrey from Game of Thrones

Which string is she pulling – the crossbow’s, or the king’s?

Other women in the show gain and wield power through means that are deemed socially acceptable. Cersei Lannister, Margaery Tyrell, and Catelyn Stark are all examples. Catelyn uses her status as the lady of a powerful and well-respected noble house to get what she wants. When she believes that Tyrion Lannister tried to murder her son, she gains control of him by telling the commoners around him to capture him in the name of House Stark. She also manages to broker a peace between her son Robb and King Renly using her status as Lady Stark (though the deal is subsequently shattered by the assassination of Renly.) Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister use flattery, sexuality, and manipulation to get what they want. They bring down their enemies in games of court intrigue, while to all outward appearances being proper ladies. These women have the respect and approval of society, which both bolsters and limits their power.

Other women are stripped of their power. Yet these women’s struggle to retain a sense of self despite their powerlessness makes for amazing drama and amazing characters. Here we have a tale of two sisters: Sansa and Arya Stark. Both of them lose all their power when they are separated from their family. They deal with their predicaments in nearly opposite ways. Arya takes refuge in anonymity, concealing her identity from as many people as she can, and uses it as camouflage against those who might try to use her name as a tool. Sansa takes refuge in her identity as a Stark, holding onto her dignity and the memory of her father despite the attempts of all the backstabbers at court to grind her into the dirt.

Another aspect of the show I find fascinating is the role of misogyny itself. This is a highly patriarchal world, so all men here are sexist to some degree or another. However, the misogyny of men is correlated with how evil they are. The most evil, hated characters in the series (e.g., Joffrey Lannister, Walder Frey) are disgustingly misogynist, while the good, sympathetic men have much more respect for women (e.g., Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow.) Not only that, but the men’s sexist attitudes are integral to their character arcs. Jaime Lannister’s redemption from a heartless, unlovable character to a kinder, more understandable one is inextricable from his total reversal of opinion on Brienne, from sexist contempt to self-sacrificing devotion. As he sheds his misogynistic assumptions about her, he becomes a better person.

In this show, men who underestimate women suffer for it. Joffrey’s misogyny makes him easy prey for Margaery’s manipulations. Over and over, men who think that Daenerys is a naïve little sex doll die in exceedingly horrible ways. Theon Greyjoy gets tricked and backstabbed by Osha and his sister Yara because he thinks of women as nothing but sex toys for his amusement. Anyone who thinks Arya is a harmless little girl is in for an unexpected and brutal death.

Whenever people tell me, “Oh, I never see female characters who are XYZ,” I can almost always pull out an example of the type of female character they seek from Game of Thrones or A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series on which it’s based. The breadth and depth of female characters rarely disappoints.

If you’ve been holding back on watching this show because you’re worried it’s full of the same old cardboard women you always see on TV, I ask you to reconsider. If you’ve been watching the show and you wish the women were represented better, I encourage you to participate in the fandom, which engages critically with the problematic aspects of the show. In particular, I’d recommend the Fat Pink Cast, a Game of Thrones podcast by three women of color, and the following fanfiction:

We are Strangers and Rebels (Margaery, Renly)

The Dregs of Power (Sansa, Shae)

the little rose (Margaery)


12 Jun 18:30

Book Review: Bitten, But Not Smitten

by Jen
Kristen

Wish I saw more book reviews like this one. Why is barely-not-rape so much a "normal" part of romance novels?

Sometimes I like picking up reader-recommended books without reading the synopsis, so I go in to the story blind. It adds a little more suspense, and hopefully makes me approach the book without any preconceived opinions on the genre.

That was the case with Bitten, which - since I got the Kindle copy from my library and so didn't see the cover art - I assumed was a vampire story. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find a story about the only female werewolf in the world, Elena, trying to make a life for herself away from her kind in modern society.



That doesn't last long, though, as Elena is soon called away from her devoted live-in boyfriend and city life to return to her Pack's home and help hunt down another werewolf-turned-murderer.

Elena's pack has plenty of obvious parallels to Twilight's Cullen family: a supernatural "family" living together in a remote-yet-lavish backwoods estate, a benevolent Alpha father figure who is obeyed without question, and their self-imposed obligation to police others of their kind, "mutts" who have less compunction about killing humans.

It was at this point, though - roughly 50 pages in - that the story started to fall apart for me. Up 'til then Elena seemed like a pretty relatable main character, but by the second night she's hopping into bed with two of her fellow pack mates, without so much as a passing thought to her boyfriend back home. It was really bizarre, with no lead-up, and seemed drastically out of character for her.

Anyway, before much happens, the three play a game of poker to determine which guy gets to sleep with her. (To be fair, Elena seems pretty on board with this.) When one wins, Elena obediently follows him out to the woods, but then starts to have second thoughts. So the guy overpowers her, ties her up, and forces her. (Again, this whole section was like the Twilight Zone invading - I couldn't believe it was the same story!) We're supposed to believe it's not quite rape, though, because after a while the guy says he'll stop if she really, really wants him to, and Elena finds she just can't say no anymore. So hey, SCORE ONE FOR ROMANCE.

I can't decide if the author was trying to emphasize the animalistic nature of werewolves, or if she was honestly trying to write a hot sex scene. I will say that it was so awkwardly written that I was still trying to figure out the mechanics - "wait, wasn't she hanging from her arms a second ago? So how is she lying on the ground now?" - by the time I realized it was over. In fact, it was so rushed and robotic in nature that I think the author just wanted the whole sordid ordeal over with as quickly as I did.

Anyway, I put the book down at this point to look it up, and learned that not only is Bitten primarily a romance (?!?), it also has five stars across the board from the vast majority of readers. 

  (From Amazon's review page. Clay is the-not-quite-rapist. How's that for terrifying?)

So, thoroughly confused, I decided to keep going and see if it got any better - or at least made any more sense.

Having finished all 540 pages now (yep, I WORKED for this review, guys), I can say that the "romance" angle does get better - if only because it couldn't possibly have gotten worse, and also because Elena doesn't get tied up and not-quite-raped again. In fact, Bitten is a pretty decent werewolf story that could have been quite good, if only it wasn't afflicted with lots of awkward rushed sex and a protagonist more self-absorbed than your average three-year-old.

It goes like this: Elena has sex with Clay, the-not-quite-rapist. Then Elena spends the next day(s) sulking and hating Clay for being so gosh-darned irresistible. They fight a lot. Then they have sex again - and it's always the super-rushed, mindless, literally-ripping-clothing-off kind of sex. About halfway through the book I started wondering how they had any clothes left, and if maybe Clay wouldn't benefit from some kind of performance aid. (WHAT.) Oh, and then Elena goes back to hating him again - all while rationalizing that her cheating isn't really her fault, it's Clay's for being so gosh-darned irresistible, and ooooh, does she hate him for it. And so on.

If you're starting to think that maybe Elena is a terrible person, then you'll understand why I had a hard time rooting for her. She IS a terrible person, only rarely realizes it, and never does anything to try and change her inherent terribleness.

However, like I said, things get a little better as the story goes on. And it does go on. And on. Let's call it the literary equivalent of a leisurely stroll - with occasional showers of dangling intestines. The more tedious sections are the ones where everyone's just running through the woods as wolves: killing rabbits, licking blood off each other's fur - you know, werewolfy things - but doing absolutely nothing to move the story along. I found myself skimming some of those.

Then, for no other reason than because it would be really, REALLY awkward, the author makes Elena live with her two guys in the same tiny apartment for a while. Elena ramps up the annoyance factor as she continues to waffle between the two men, lashing out at Clay all day while going to bed each night with her clueless-yet-saintly boyfriend. I may have started hoping for a few more dangling intestines at that point.

It would be one thing if Elena knew her own mind and was intentionally playing both men - not something I'd approve of, but at least she'd be acting from a place of strength and independence, as opposed to just being a fickle child with daddy issues (which get SUPER creepy, btw) and a bad case of narcissism. In the end she doesn't so much make a choice as have it made for her, which was, again, kind of disappointing. But at least it finally broke the snipe/sex/sulk cycle, so let's call that a win. (Heck, by that point anything that stopped her whining would have counted as a happy ending in my book.)

There are more books in The Otherworld Series, but since the next one, Stolen, also features Elena, I think it's safe to say I won't be reading it.

So, in conclusion, if you're looking for an edgy shape-shifters' romance filled with adventure, fascinating animal-based cultures, and gripping suspense, then I highly recommend Hawksong, by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.


In fact, the whole Kiesha'ra series is pretty flippin' fantastic. Enjoy!



For more of my reviews, check out this handy-dandy list. I've even starred some of my favorites there, in case you're just looking for other titles I'd recommend!
04 Jun 15:00

On "getting wifed" after getting married

by divaalix
Kristen

Relevant to my interests! Nope, never "settling down" more than I already have!

If you've read Offbeat Bride the book, you'll remember the final chapter is called "Getting Wifed," aka dealing with people's expectations about how your life will change after the wedding…

Don'ts for Wives

Don'ts For Wives should apparently be read immediately upon the end of the wedding reception. (Photo by David E Jackson.)

I've noticed something a month after getting married… I feel like I've totally been "getting wifed" recently, and not-so-much by strangers or friends, but by my family, who really should know me better. One of my sisters has asked me a few times "how's married life," even though she knows I lived with my husband before we were married, and nothing much has changed. Still, in that case, I know she's just making conversation, and that part is really not bad.

The assumption that now that I'm married I will be a "good girl," have a nice, predictable, stable, practical career that keeps me home most of the time, buy a house, make babies, is baffling.

My dad, however, has been saying all kinds of weird stuff to me lately. He felt the need to spend most of his speech at my wedding talking about having babies, which at the time, I really didn't mind that much, plus the whole room had a good laugh at his speech and my reaction. But recently he made a comment that he was glad I was married and "settled down." I answered that I was married, but not-so-much settled down. There's something about the phrase "settled down" that makes me want to pull my hair out.

I also remarked that my husband and I are really not sure if or when we will ever have kids, as we have no desire to do so anytime soon. My dad went on to say he hoped I did, and implied that if I didn't have kids and do everything I could for them, I wasn't repaying my parents for everything they did for me.

But the big "wifing" stuff came out, when he was making a check out to me, asking which name to use. I told him to use my maiden name/his name and said "You're not changing your name?" "Nope!" "How does David feel about that?" "He doesn't care at all."

What bothered me about that conversation is that the notion that a woman "should" change her name is still prevalent, and whenever a woman doesn't, or a family has a naming-arrangement (for lack of a better term) that isn't the traditional woman-and-kid-takes-husband's-name, people assume there must be some controversy around it.

Then, when I was talking about some of my long-term opera singing/professional goals and traveling abroad for auditions, my dad felt the need to ask, "Well, how does David feel about that?" I answered that he was supportive and it was something we discussed at length. David was given ample warning ahead of time of the realities of sharing your life with a professional singer. Neither one of us is wild about being apart for likely a month or more at a time, but it's what my career requires, and he wants me to have a career.

When I talked to my sister about my hopes to travel to Germany for singing in the near future, she remarked, "but do you really want to do that your first year of marriage?" Whether I want to be away from my husband or not is beside the point: of course I don't want to be away from him, but do I want to follow my dreams? Yes, and he wants that for me as well.

I've gotten variations on this "but you're a wife now!" theme from a few people. The assumption people seem to make that I haven't discussed these things with the person I'm arguably closest to and will be sharing my life with is baffling. As is what feels like the assumption that now that I'm married I will be a "good girl," have a nice, predictable, stable, practical career that keeps me home most of the time, buy a house, make babies, etc.

Without passing judgement on anyone else's life, (because I don't think that people who work in a more "stable" profession, have babies, or buy a house all have the same, traditional life) it seems so odd to me that, in this day and age, the fact that there are so many different ways to be married, to make a living, or to live your life, is news to so many people.

Recent Comments

  • divamezzo: Thanks for all the comments and support (Still reading through all the comments)! It's tough, and I feel a ... [Link]
  • SansOrigineFixe: Not married yet, but I think I've behaved "wifey" for some time now. When friends offer me to go out ... [Link]
  • Elizabeth: @Claire: I think sometimes he does get asked "How does she feel about it?" but it's usually about really, ... [Link]
  • Coral: I've always answered "how's married life?" with a laugh and some variation on "pretty much the same as unmarried life." ... [Link]
  • SansOrigineFixe: My FH's coworkers recently told him as he moved towards the big 40 (he's 35) he'll have a mid-life crisis ... [Link]

+ 55 more! Join the discussion

04 Jun 14:30

Feminist Dating: Rejection Ninjas

by MissX
Kristen

YES. All the yesses.

To some, love is a battlefield, rigged with land mines, hidden triggers, full of red flags and enemy combatants. Those who join the guerrilla campaign against lonesomeness are apt to encounter all sorts of creatures in the field. Today I want to talk about Rejection Ninjas.

Despite sounding like an elite group, Rejection Ninjas are common in the field. They have no distinguishing characteristics, so there is no way to recognize them before it’s too late. It goes something like this: the unwitting soldier of love, Lonely Heart,  meets Mr. or Ms. Could Be Right (CBR) and goes on a number of outings with CBR (usually somewhere between 1 and 3). Shortly after, CBR is stricken with a case of “falling off the planet” or “extreme business.” A week later Lonely Heart realizes that he/she has been dealing with a Rejection Ninja.

You don't know it yet, but you already don't exist

Nobody expects rejection ninjas

Here’s why Rejection Ninja approach sucks:

It reflects poor communication skills.
Use your words. That is the best thing you can do when dealing with humans. Honest direct communication is not easy, but it is a prerequisite to getting your “adult” card. It is absolutely OK to decide after a few dates that you’re not interested in a person. That is the purpose of dating, after all. But once the decision has been made, the decider has the responsibility to inform the interested party. Lonely Heart will have to find out eventually.

It’s messy.
Ninja rejection can come in two forms: total severance of all communications, or a series of excuses as to why the Ninja can’t hang out. Both leave the dumpee room for interpretation (and desperation). Maybe CBR’s phone has been stolen, maybe CBR got hit by a car, maybe CBR really is going through a difficult time and does genuinely want to spend time with Lonely Heart. All of those doubts lead to awkward calls, emails, text and facebook messages that make the Rejection Ninja uncomfortable and put LH at a really vulnerable spot.

It strings people along.
Eventually dropping out of contact or becoming unavailable will result in the desired outcome. Lonely Heart will get the message. However, it will take some time. Time in which LH can agonize, waiting for that text message or phone call. LH may refrain from looking for other partners and forgo going on dates. LH may keep his/her schedule open to accommodate the Ninja.

It’s disrespectful.
Rejection by avoidance is disrespectful of Lonely Heart’s time, for all the reasons mentioned in the previous point. Those Ninjas who try to justify their sneaky tactics as a way to avoid hurting LH’s feelings, are committing the crime of  arrogance (not to mention self-delusion). The arrogance lies in assuming that the Rejection Ninja knows what is best for LH and does not grant LH the responsibility for managing his/her own feelings.

It makes further contact a lot more awkward and uncomfortable.
Stealthy rejection sends one clear message: the Rejection Ninja does not care for LH as a person. The Ninja does not want to be your friend, he or she doesn’t even want to be your acquaintance. By dropping you unceremoniously, he or she did not even bother to smooth things over in case you see each other again. So when LH and the Ninja run into each other, it is an uncomfortable experience for both.

blending

The temptation to join the dark side and become a Rejection Ninja is great, but resist. Try to understand what is fueling the desire to run and hide. Some women feel like they led someone on and may experience extreme guilt, because society tells us that there’s nothing worse than being a tease. Am I right the girl from Grease? And in the world where a woman’s right to say “no” is not respected or acknowledged, saying “no” will get you labeled a bitch before you can say “rape culture.” Furthermore, rejecting someone may lead to conflict, and women are socialized to smooth things over and avoid confrontations at all costs. I can only speculate why men are driven to the dark side (help me out in the comments?) A lot of men in my life have been taught to suppress emotions and therefore feel uncomfortable around any expression of strong emotion, which rejection will inevitably evoke. Men are also taught to be protective and never to make a woman cry. If a man fails to do that and makes someone cry, the feelings of intense shame and guilt are sure to follow.

With all the social conditioning loaded into us, the desire to avoid conflict is natural. Shame is a horrible, soul-wrenching emotion. However, I implore you to be a decent person and not utilize Rejection Ninja tactics. Be direct and be prompt. As soon as you decide that you’re not interested, inform the Lonely Heart. If you do want to be his/her friend, say so. If you do not, DON’T. After you’ve done this, go buy yourself an ice cream and congratulate yourself on being a responsible adult.

Be brave, Lonely Hearts!


31 May 17:14

Open letter to a loved one in an abusive relationship

by ddpguestposter

Dear loved one,

This is a letter for you, the person in our lives who is in an abusive relationship. You are our sister and our brother, the girl we went to college with, the friend with whom we went on that epic road trip, our coworker, our parent, our past self, our future child. The abuse you’re living though may be emotional, sexual, or physical. You abuser may be a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, parent, friend, or some other relationship to you. Maybe you’ve spoken with us about your abuse, maybe you’re not yet comfortable sharing it, or maybe you’re not even comfortable labeling the treatment you endure with the “A” word. This letter is to you, the one we love who is enduring abusive behavior.

There are some things we want you to know, and the first, the most important, is this:

You are loved.

I love you, and many other people in your life love you. My love for you is not dependent on whether you choose to stay in a relationship with your abuser. I love you because you are good, smart, funny, kind, sassy, sweet, and brave. I love you because you are wonderful. You are.

Even if I didn’t exist to see it and love you for it, even if I don’t say it to you enough: you are valuable. You have intrinsic value. Please never forget that, even if your abuser sometimes tries to convince you otherwise. You have value, you have worth that he can neither give you nor take away from you.

You have a right to your reactions.

Your abuser will tell you that you are wrong, that you are unreasonable, that you just misunderstood. They will do this to you over and over until you’re not even sure what’s real, until you feel like you can’t trust your own memories.

And so you end up agreeing with them. Of course you do. Of course you must have misunderstood – because how could someone as good and sweet and loving as you know your partner to be, do or say such a horrible and hurtful thing? The darkness and the light can’t coexist, they don’t make any sense, so one of them must be false.

But they are both real. They can and do coexist. And the darkness in your partner is not going to go away. You are not imagining it. It is not the punishment you bring on yourself by not being selfless enough, giving enough, good enough. It is real. And it is not your fault. 

It’s not your fault that you’ve been stuck for what feels like forever. The screaming fight you had, where you ended up groveling for days in apology? Not your fault. The time “you made him so mad” he punched through a wall right next to your head? NOT YOUR FAULT.

Not your fault. Not. Your. Fault.

You are not a monster.

Just because you have good memories with her doesn’t mean the bad times are worth enduring.  It can be hard to end a relationship, but please look back to see how the good times and bad don’t just come in the natural rhythms of life; the good times come just when you’ve almost had enough.

Maybe you have difficulty calling what you are enduring abuse. Maybe that’s hard because you love them–but just because there’s love does not mean it isn’t also abuse. Or maybe you think it can’t be abuse because of who you are. Maybe your genders aren’t the genders you’ve associated with abuse from Lifetime movies: if you’re a man and she’s a woman, or you’re both women, etc. Or maybe you think that because you have relatively greater power in the relationship–physical power, economic power, social power–you can’t possibly be being abused. Yes, you can.

Maybe you think that just because you’ve never visited the hospital, just because you’ve never bled, it’s not abuse. But emotional abuse and sexual abuse are abuse. Maybe you think just because you’re not the “perfect victim” (if you’ve used drugs, if you suffer from a mental illness, if you chose to go back to her), your experience doesn’t count. Yes, it does.

Abuse can take many forms, some easier to recognize than others – although when you are deep in your relationship any abuse can be difficult to see because it has become normal for the two of you. But that doesn’t make it not abuse. When you cry for hours after hanging up the phone. When you hide things from the other person, because you know it will make them angry, and their anger terrifies you. When fights you have or things they do seem impossible, irreconcilable with the person you thought you knew. When they tease you, and once it used to make you laugh, but now it makes you shrivel up inside. When they do something that hurts you, and maybe apologize but then keep doing it and DOING it. These things are not okay. These things are abuse.

It can be so hard to see what is happening when you live inside it. It seems impossible for concerned friends and family to understand, because they just don’t see all the good parts. But I promise. They understand. They see clearly, in ways you can’t right now, how much this relationship is changing you and damaging you, just as you would be able to see clearly if it were happening to them. 

If you wrote out every story of every thing she said and did to you, and imagined it happening instead to me, would you still think it was deserved? Would you still think it was worth it?

I know that you love him. I know you see good in him, that he is good to you sometimes, that the relationship you two share is real, that the bond is deep. You love him. That doesn’t mean the way he treats you is acceptable. That doesn’t mean you should stay.

Leaving isn’t going to be easy. But there’s support out there. I will support you. I promise. Things may suck for a while, but it will get better. So much better. And in the meantime, I will be here. I will help hold you up until the ache begins to dull, until you can stand up on your own again. I will also be here with material help, to keep you housed, fed, and safe.

And if you go back to him, I’ll still be here supporting you regardless. I meant what I said: I’ll love you regardless.

I have some practical advice for you, too. Talk to me. Whoever the people in your life are whom you trust the most, let us know enough about the situation that we can be here to help if you need it someday–even if you feel like you don’t need it now. Let us put together a safety plan for you. Ask us to tell you exactly what kind of help we can offer you: storing a copy of your personal documents, helping you move, paying for cab fare out of the house, giving you a place to stay, going back with you at a later date to get anything you left behind, caring for your pets. And speaking of personal documents, it really is a good idea to make copies of them: account information, birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, bank checks, money, etc. If there is or may be physical violence in your relationship, memorize the domestic violence hotline number: 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). Even if you don’t need these right now, please be prepared in case something changes.

Your abuser may not always recognize what they are doing to you as abuse. Some abusers are predators, but not all. Sometimes they are hurting themselves, and lashing out in abusive ways because that’s what they know. That’s the deepest groove that they most easily slip in to. I know this well from the abusers I’ve known in my own life. They are troubled people. But the abuser hurting or being unwell doesn’t absolve them of responsibility: abusive behavior is ALWAYS a choice. And it doesn’t make “fixing them” your responsibility. It doesn’t have to make them a monster or a horrible person. But it does make them not a good person for you. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

Darling. You can’t change them. I know you want to. I know you want to save them from themselves, save the relationship you have poured so much love into. But you can’t, you can’t, you CAN’T. No matter how much you love them. No matter how good you try to be. Nothing is going to stop the abuse. Nothing is going to change, not in the long term. The best thing you can do, the only thing you can do, is leave.

Please. My friend, my brother, my poor broken past self. Get OUT of there. I love you.

.
"Tree Heart" by ~The-Dancing-Queen on DeviantArt
.

PS: Here are some resources you may find helpful:

Loveisrespect.org

Breakthecycle.org

Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationships

 


30 May 15:00

Ozzie and Harriet beds: The aftermath of sleeping separately

by venus
Kristen

I would like to sleep in a separate bed sometimes, but it's been a childhood dream to wake up next to my partner. My solution: we'll just be getting a kingsize bed when we next move. However, I still think this is a great discussion!

This is in response to the insomniac post. I saw a few comments like, "Separate beds will help. Separate rooms would probably help even more." Having experience with this, I wanted to lend my two cents.

My partner and I sleep in separate beds, and I am not sure how I feel about about it.

We were sleeping on a queen mattress my partner had bought several years ago, which was fine for him, but lacking for me. I desperately wanted a memory foam mattress, and he mostly wanted to keep his current mattress, but neither of us was sleeping very well there, for a few reasons.

  1. He's six feet tall and generally is longer than whatever bed he's sleeping on, so he sleeps diagonally. I have trouble sleeping, and had a hard time falling asleep when I had to curve my body around him.
  2. We had blanket/temperature disagreements: I believe that a bed should be very warm and double as a fort, and he's pretty minimalist about covers, and would be annoyed when my extra blankets inevitably encroached on his space, a precious commodity in that bed.
  3. We have a cat who takes up a shocking amount of room, and always found ways to leave one or both of us uncomfortable on the edges of the bed.

Two beds was originally his idea, but once he said it out loud, I immediately began championing it. I prize sleep above all else, and if I'm not sleeping well, everything else suffers. This seemed like the perfect solution to all of our issues. After five months, I can say that it has definitely been a mixed bag, with a few unintended consequences.

We do sleep better

This was the goal, and it has been achieved. I LOVE my bed. It is my special happy place, and I hate when I have to sleep in other places. My partner feels the same way, and both of us have felt that we got what we wanted in terms of improving our sleep.

It has created distance and space between us

Literally. My bed is on a box spring and metal frame, and his is in the low-to-the-ground wooden IKEA frame he's always used. We put a nightstand in between so that we'd both have access to the alarm clock, but it mostly serves to create a literal chasm, with me up high and him down low, and neither of us able to see the other when lying in bed.

Back when we slept in one bed we would hang out before going to sleep — cuddling, catching up, being silly — it was one of my favorite parts of our relationship. Now, that nightly ritual has been somewhat disrupted. We tend to solve it by hanging out in one bed or the other, but it sucks when we get comfortable and start to fall asleep in my bed and then he has to get up and go to his bed. I'm not sure yet how much emotional distance this is causing between us, but it is definitely changing things. I start to feel some regret, because the bed I bought is a full, and there's no WAY that we could both sleep there long term — it's too short for him to be comfortable. But since I invested in the bed, we're kind of stuck with it.

One way to deal with this that we've discussed is to get rid of the night stand and get him a frame so that we can push the beds together into one giant SuperBed.

I forget that it isn't typical

I am always super confused when people talk about being careful getting into bed so as not to disrupt their partner, or other co-sleeping banalities. My frame of reference has completely shifted, and two beds seems like the obvious default to me now. While this isn't something I generally discuss publicly, one time I accidently let the cat out of the bag when talking to a coworker because I mentioned washing my partners' sheets separate from my own. I forgot that what I was describing was atypical! That changed the conversation pretty quickly, to one I didn't mean to be having!

It can be AWKWARD when someone notices

I don't know how to talk about this with people, so I generally don't, and try to keep the bedroom door shut. Except we have roof access from our bedroom door, and we want to bring guests out onto the roof. Most often, no one says anything. It is incredibly awkward when someone sees the two beds, and I see them seeing them, but no one addresses it… Most people don't want to be impolite, but I can never find the words to bring it up, so I don't.

I am always blissfully relieved when someone blurts out "Wow! Separate beds!" because then we have an avenue to discuss it. It does produce extra anxiety for me when we have new people over and I know they might see the two beds and have questions, but not know how to ask them. I don't mind the curiosity, but with new friends or casual acquaintances, I never know how to broach the subject, and it becomes a white elephant. (My partner doesn't find it nearly as awkward as I do.)

So, would I recommend it?

I don't know. Sleep has improved, but it has definitely had an impact on our relationship. Neither of us can accurately gauge just how big that impact is, but we both feel it. We're taking steps to minimize it, and to make sure that the physical space between us doesn't create an emotional one.

Recent Comments

  • zingor mantid: This is exactly what my boyfriend and I do. He has to wake at 3:30 am for work and I ... [Link]
  • Lou: My parents have this, too, but they actually bought a special bed that has a single base but two separate ... [Link]
  • Mizdid: My husband and I have OUR room/bed and MY room/bed. I'm a very light sleeper, and keep weird hours due ... [Link]
  • Cali: This is so interesting to me, because I *love* sharing a bed with my husband. Seriously, it's my favorite thing ... [Link]
  • Robin: My husband and I have a king sized bed and we rarely see each other at night (as in don't ... [Link]

+ 39 more! Join the discussion

29 May 16:10

Embryonic fixie awaits your love, will win her heart

by rosiefranklin
Kristen

Love this so much, but I think all my bike friends probably love it more.

(I was recently selling off some bike parts on Craigslist. I generally try and give my ads a little extra copy beyond the bare facts of what I’m selling, and I thought this one was funny. Enjoy! And talk about biking in the comments!)


Picture 124

Embryonic fixie awaits your love, will win her heart – $20 (48cm steel frame with fork) 

Naked steel frame, with fork. Bought it a while back to build up into a city bike, but first it needed stripped and painted. I stripped it, and painted the fork the prettiest damn shade of blue you ever did see.

Howeva… I didn’t get around to painting the frame. It’s just been taking up space on my shelf in my closet behind my drums* from high school and my snowboard* and my dignity*.

I have no idea what the make on it is, it was a former fixie some hipster sold me when the paint was already in pretty bad shape. The frame itself is fine though. I also have some 27″ wheels that were chalked for this project. $10 for the pair of wheels.

This could be for you! You can win your own heart! Practice self-care! Thank yourself for treating your body well and biking! Namaste! Or it could be your girlfriend, the cutest, shyest country girl you ever did see. (She’d barely unbuckled her bible belt when she landed at [my university] but she’s getting there and promises to tell her mother about you, like really soon.) 

Or it could be for your girlfriend, but you are a boy! Your girlfriend is wicked cool, of course, and while you’re gonna paint it up for her, the real present is a bike she gets to build herself. Bitches love the sense of mastery they get from assembling something practical and functional with their own hands!** Or it could be for your girlfriend, and you are a boy, and your girl isn’t really all that into bikes but it’d be nice if you could at least ride from campus to the movies together! on the bike you’re gonna build her! Bitches love it when guys are thoughtful.***

(If it absolutely totally matters to anyone, in the department of not being offended by my use of the word bitches, I’m female.)

* I sold that shit too, but you get the idea. Also it’s actually in the basement, not in the closet. Dignity is still in storage ’till the divorce gets finalized. If you are the hella cute hipster boy in the plaid shirt working at Performance Bike today, who fake-sympathized with me when I brought my commuter in to get the tube on the rear tire changed (b/c let’s be serious, changing that shit is a pain in the ass and right this today I’d rather pay you ten dollars than wrestle with it) but anyway, you were like “yeah, you have to have really strong hands [to get the tire off].” Dude, I rock climb. I have strong enough hands. But if you want to make out, go ahead and reply to this cause you were cute enough that if you can speak intelligently that’d be baller but if you can’t then I’m content for you to just not be speaking while… stuff.

** That’s a little long to be catchy, but I think you get the idea.

*** People of all genders like this in their partners, actually.


22 May 12:05

The Drunken Botanist Goes to Manhattan… by Amy Stewart

by Amy Stewart
Kristen

Mmmm Rhubarb and Rye

…and Buffalo.  And Brooklyn.  See you there?  As always, please check with the venue before heading out to confirm details.  Also, there are lots more events coming up around the country–go here to see the complete list.

June 06 2013 06:30 PM — The Horticultural Society of New York, New York, NY

Doors open at 6 and there will be drinks!

June 09 2013 02:00 PM — Sycamore Bar & Flowershop,
Yes, it’s a flower shop AND a bar. So naturally, I’m doing an event there!  $15 gets you a cocktail, a bouquet of cocktail-friendly plants and flowers, and a $5 donation to the Flatbush community garden.

June 13 2013 07:00 PM — WORD Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
A cocktail demo and conversation with Rosie Schaap, author of Drinking with Men and cocktail writer for the New York Times.

June 17 2013 06:00 PM — Talking Leaves, Buffalo, NY
Drunken Botanist event with Talking Leaves at Mike A’s Lounge, Hotel @The Lafayette, 391 Washington Street.

And if you can’t be there?  Here’s a rhubarb version of a Manhattan for you:

manhattan

Rhubarb and Rye

A delightful twist on the classic Manhattan from Adam Chumas at Tilth in Seattle.

1.5 oz rye whiskey

.5 oz rhubarb-lemon verbena simple syrup

.5 oz fresh lemon juice

.5 oz sweet (red) vermouth

Shake all ingredients over ice and serve in a cocktail glass.

 

Rhubarb simple syrup

1 loosely-packed cup chopped rhubarb stalks

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Other fruits or herbs to taste (lemon verbena, strawberry, scented geranium, for instance)

Combine all ingredients and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes. Once the stalks are soft, press them with a muddler or wooden spoon to release the juice. Allow to cool, then strain and bottle. Keep tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Adding an ounce of vodka as a preservative will help extend the life of the simple syrup.

 

The Drunken Botanist Goes to Manhattan… originally appeared on Garden Rant on May 22, 2013.

21 May 20:00

The Portland Press Turns a Mason Jar into a French Press for Coffee

Kristen

John? ;)

To date, I have broken four of the glass beakers from my Bodum French Press. Well, I've broken one and my wife broke three, but same/same. It's beautiful glass, but it's thin, and with daily use and cleaning, these things break. And cost at least $20 to replace.

The makers of the Portland Press know exactly what that's like, and seek to remedy it, by creating a new design of French Press that uses a standard (and very affordable) … read more

21 May 21:00

How to: Make a DIY Swiss Army Key Ring

Kristen

WANT TO MAKE!

created at: 05/21/2013

The clever hackers at Makezine came up with the cool, yet surprisingly easy, method for creating a Swiss Army Knife-style key ring as a much more efficient way to stash your keys in your pocket. … read more

24 May 14:30

I kissed a girl (and a boy!) and I liked it.

by lucysmall
Kristen

YES to all of this. Probably not NSFW unless your boss is terrible.

Hey friends, we need to talk.

What, you ask, is so urgent?

BISEXUALITY. That’s what.

Now, don’t get nervous. I know it’s scary, but this needs to happen. Are you ready? Here goes.

First things first: WE EXIST! Widespread denial of bisexuality isn’t just an issue among heterosexuals, but it is an endemic and pernicious problem within the LGBTQ community as well. Bisexual invisibility and erasure stems from a lot of internalized homophobia and misogyny, and that has very real consequences for people’s identities and relationships, including my own.

Among bisexual men and women, there’s a whole range of experiences out there. We come in all different shapes, sizes, hairstyles, AND genders. If this is new information for you, don’t worry, even the New York Times was confused about it. Some bisexuals date women/feminine-of-center people most of the time, others date men/masculine-of-center people most of the time, while still others like a nice mix of everything. There’s no magic bisexuality threshold. If one person’s mix is 50/50 and another’s is 90/10, neither one is more authentically bisexual than the other. Some are monogamous, and some are polyamorous — just like straight and gay people! All of us think it’s none of your damn business.

In my experiences as a femme, monogamous, bisexual cis woman, I feel I operate in two spaces simultaneously. The first presumes heterosexuality, and my heterosexual experiences sometimes allow me to safely navigate within this space towards acceptance with open arms. The second presumes homosexuality, within which I’m constantly trying to prove that I’m queer enough to be part of the club. When I try to be upfront about my bisexuality in either realm, I get tossed between the two.

In the volley back and forth, one message becomes abundantly clear: if you’re a woman, the straight world fetishizes you. The queer world doesn’t trust you. If you’re a man, they think you’re just transitioning towards gay.  Both think you’re probably a liar and unsure of what you want.

It was that distrust and erasure of bisexuality that made my coming out process take three times longer than it should have. Between the ages of 14 and 21, every passing crush meant its own miniature identity crisis. Even with all the sexuality trainings I went through with my high school’s gay-straight alliance I couldn’t shake my own deeply internalized ideas about bisexuality; that bisexuality was for people who wanted attention or for those who weren’t ready to come out yet as gay. My parents were supportive when I came out to them at 17, but then I started seriously dating a woman at 21, they freaked out as if I was kidding for past four years. They’re incredibly supportive now, but it was a process.

As I grew more comfortable and open about my sexuality, I eventually met other super awesome, comfortable, and open bisexual men and women. I also encountered a LOT of really stupid stuff – ranging from the straight boys who’d tell me how hot it was to the lesbians who treated me like the Imaginary Awful Slutty Cheating Bisexual Girl Who Is Probably Straight Anyways. I reached a point where I considered dropping “bisexual” altogether because it had too much baggage. Queer and pansexual didn’t really resonate with me at the time, so I tried to be creative with half-gay and doublesexual, but neither of those really stuck. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am realistic about the fact that I get to enjoy straight privilege sometimes. I also realize that bisexual men experience erasure, hatred, and biphobia much more often and in different ways than bi women. However, that doesn’t invalidate or inauthenticate the disorientation, confusion, and fear that I felt while coming out. Neither does it make the harassment I do face less of a problem.

As Mikró Blogol writes, “laws targeting homosexuality don’t make exceptions for the bisexuals who are caught having sex or relationships with members of their own gender.” Neither do individuals. If I walk down the street holding my girlfriend’s hand or give her a kiss in public, my bisexuality doesn’t keep me from getting sexually harassed. It doesn’t make it suck any less, either.

It’s an easy cop-out to say that it’s not as bad for bisexuals because they could just as easily have decided to date someone of the opposite sex. But let’s break that down for a second. “You could just as easily date a (wo)man.” “(S)he’s only bi for attention; (s)he’ll end up with a (wo)man.” Doesn’t that sound strangely like ALL of the heteronormative bullshit that gays and lesbians get?

And speaking of heteronormative bullshit, queer and straight people, I’d like to take this opportunity to answer a few of your more pressing questions:

  • No. I’m not going to go back to dating dudes just so you can continue believing in a binary system of sexual orientation.
  • No, I don’t date boys and girls at the same time, I’m monogamous. I understand that a lot of your biphobia is actually misplaced polyphobia. That doesn’t make it any better.
  • No, I will not have a threesome with you. I have certain criteria for threesomes and hetero-couple-seeks-lesbian-fantasy-experience does NOT fit that list. Neither does I-wanna-watch-my-girlfriend-fuck-another-girl.
  • I fall in love and lust with men because I fall in love and lust with men.  Not because I’m trying to break a poor lesbian’s heart or submit to the patriarchy.
  • I fall in love and lust with women because I fall in love and lust with women.  Not because I want the attention.

Just like homophobic comments can push people further into the closet, biphobia encourages people to feel rejected and hide their sexuality. When this rejection comes not just from unenlightened heterosexuals but from the very community we’re supposed to be a part of, it’s especially disorienting. So the next time you catch yourself thinking bisexuals don’t exist, consider this: maybe they do exist and they just don’t want to tell you.

“You’re still biphobic? Bro, you are so out of style.” –itsokaytobegay101.tumblr.com.

Any questions?


22 May 16:42

Me and the internet

by Jenny the bloggess
Kristen

TRUTH. Also, Bobs Burgers is the best cartoon on tv right now.

This cat = me trying to actually get work done.

This weasel = my brain trying to destroy me:

Me:  I have work to do.

Weasel: You should check the internet because  remember yesterday when that one person on the internet was wrong and it made you so mad, but not actually mad enough to register to leave a comment.  Go see if someone else left a comment calling them out.

me:  No.  I don’t care.

Weasel:  LIAR.  And check your blog because there might be a secret comment from Doctor Who asking you to go time-traveling with him.

me:  That’s not...possible.

weasel:  You hesitated.  You totally think it’s possible.  Quick – check twitter.

me: No.

weasel:  Just once.  And check your replies.  And check that girl you hate.  And check that girl you want to be more like. And check that girl who used to be on that show who’s totally crazy now and is posting insane shit that you can’t look away from.

me:  No.  I don’t remember her name.

Weasel:  Then IMDB her.  And then IMDB all the Anchorman quotes.  And then go look up all the trivia on the Mythbusters site.  And then go see if you were right about how many times the Vulcan mind-meld was used in the last movie.

me:  I already know it was two.

Weasel:  Victor says you’re wrong.

me:  UGH.  Fine.  I’ll just look that one thing up, but then we work.

**FIVE HOURS LATER.**

Weasel:  And those are all the ways in which you can die in a Disney park.  Now let’s wikipedia the most unusual ways to die ever.

me:  NO.  I HAVE REAL WORK TO DO AND I HAVE TO-oh my God, someone died from being smothered in cloaks?  Is that for real?

Weasel:  WIKIPEDIA IS ALWAYS RIGHT.  NOW CHECK PINTREST.  SUPERHEROES DOING FUNNY THINGS.  CATS IN BOXES.  OPEN YOUTUBE.  SOMEONE IS FALLING IN A FUNNY WAY AND YOU’RE MISSING IT.

me:  SHUT UP.  SHUT UP.  I NEED TO WORK.

Weasel:  What if someone just found a Sasquatch?  Quick – check the news.

me:  STOP IT.

Weasel:  Checking the news is mature.  It is immature to not keep a news website up all the time to keep up with breaking news.  WHAT IF THERE IS A FIRE MADE OF OGRES?

me:  You have a point.  Sort of.

Weasel:  Breaking news.  Someone called Kim Kardashian fat.  See if you think she looks fat.

me:  I DON’T CARE IF SHE LOOKS FAT.  I’VE NEVER EVEN SEEN ”THE KARDASHIANS”.  I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THEM.

Weasel:  You should probably see if their show is on netflix.  That seems like a big pop culture reference you probably need to know about.

me:  NO.  NO MORE TV.

Weasel:  Knowing pop culture is part of your job.  Just bookmark it for later.

me:  FINE.

Weasel:  Ooh!  There’s a new “Bob’s Burgers”!  If you don’t watch it it will go off the air and it will be all your fault and then it’s “Arrested Development” all over again.  Just leave it running in another window while you work.

me:  No.

Weasle:  It’ll be one thing you can check off your to do list.

me:  FINE.  But I’m only doing it while I answer emails.

Weasel:  Your computer just froze.  You can’t run that many things at once.  Go watch regular TV and eat a bunch of cake with your hands.

me:  No.  This is a sign that I need to stop watching tv on my computer.  WORK, DAMMIT.

Weasel:  You sound stressed.  You totally need cake.

me:  I DON’T HAVE ANY CAKE.  SHUT UP.

Weasel:  You should get some cake.   Can you order cakes like you order pizza? Is that a thing?

me:  I have no idea.  But it should totally be a thing.

Weasel:  OMG, THAT SHOULD BE OUR NEW BUSINESS.  GO BUY “IWANTSOMECAKELIKEYESTERDAY.COM”.

**FIVE HOURS LATER**

me:  What am I doing?  I don’t even know how to cook.

Weasel:  I think it’s called “baking” when you do it with flour.

me:  I’m pretty sure it’s called “cooking” no matter what.

Weasel:  You should look it up on the internet.  Hey, did you know it’s 3am?

me:  I hate you so much.

 

15 Jan 09:25

Playing Xbox

by noreply@blogger.com (effingdykes)
Kristen

Some really nice lines here, my favorite being
"It's possible to be angry with someone and still hope for the best for them. "

[thanks Britt]

Hi there, vagina-diners!

Greetings from the black hole of time.  

Jeez.  
In the two months since we've talked, we've had Mitt Romney vanish like a bad dream and we've survived an almost-apocalypse. (Two totally unrelated events.) 



Thanksgiving, ChristmasChanukkah and New Years came and went and took their annual reign of terror with them.


[thanks Lauren m'dear. Also wtf]

The holidays are finally, utterly over.

I could not be more thrilled.

I've been MIA for two months, dealing with a changes to my family, freaking out a lot, and basically getting my shit together.  


[qbutch via hauteproportions]

Everything's ok, and I'll tell you more about it another time, but for now, know this— things are finally calming down, and it is a serious relief for me to suddenly be able to devote mental energy again to the subject I like best: 

Boobs.


[via simple-sinner]

Just kidding!  (Am I?)  It's lesbians

Who often have boobs. 


[thanks Em & Linds]

Dykes! My god I've missed dykes! 

I haven't been out—really out, where I wasn't focused on omgmyproblems and planning to leave early—in ages. 

I'm not myself.  I feel like I'm surfacing for sweet homo-scented air (smells like tea tree oil, pussy, freshly-washed 100% organic cotton, and men's deodorant) from the shadowy underwater depths of Drama Ocean.




I was in Minneapolis right before Christmas, and while I was at the Seward Co-op, I was literally snorting up great lungfuls of ghey girls, all wandering past hand-in-hand in their boots and adorable glasses and torn-up sweaters and carabiners jingling. 


[thanks Rachel W.]

It's been so long.  

I don't know what to do with myself around large groups of queergirls besides look at them hungrily and make soft whimpering noises. 



Bear with me, mos.

A few quick holiday highlights from the last two months:

- CJ got me a high-powered juicer for Christmas, which is basically the greatest thing ever until you go to the bathroom, start shrieking, and have to be reminded you had raw beet juice for breakfast.



- Timothy Maxwell Thumperton got a new holiday sweater, which he hates and has been refusing to wear.  
Rude. 



- I learned how to make hollow books and decided to wrap everyone's present in one, but hollow books are made with X-acto knives and NO ONE SHOULD LET ME NEAR X-ACTO KNIVES, EVER.



- My mom actually said the word "lesbian" with her mouth.  For the first time ever.

At which point there was a fearsome cracking noise and the Earth was divided asunder and time and space ceased to exist and I became a radiant being of light.


You see? We've missed so much together!

Anyway! 
Today, just to eeeeeeeease ourselves back into the swing of talking and thinking about everything faggette, I thought we would root through the ol' effingdykes@gmail.com mailbag and pull out a question.

Ready?
Mmkay.

Q: Dear effingdykes writer,

Can you please help me? It seems like every woman I meet lately isn't over her ex. In the end they tell me this and I get hurt every time. The thing is, I never talk to them first - they always initiate [the relationship]. Should I start carrying around interview questions for them?

1. Are you single?
2. Do you enjoy zombie movies?
3. Are you still in love with your ex?
Etc.

I don't understand. Is there some kind of sign I'm missing?

Thank you,
      Naomi*


A:  Oh Naomi.  This is such a good question—so innocent, so sweetly hopeful.


[Ann F.]

Well, Naomi, you're fucked. 


[thanks Hope S.]

The reason that no one you're dating is over her ex is because everyone you're dating is a lesbian.  

I'm so, so sorry, hunnybun.
But as a general and sweepingly stereotypical rule, we lesbians don't "get over" our exes. 

Absolutely not. 


[thanks Erin F!]

We think about our exes, process to our friends about our exes, obsess about them, quietly stalk them online, dissect them over drinks, mention them on first dates, slander them, befriend them, fuck them secretly, swear we're done with them, and say we're over them. 

But we're not.  

Not yet, anyway.


[thanks Kristen]

We had a connection to our exes that was very intimate and special and no one else will ever understand, and whoever comes into our lives later is likely going to get familiar with these exes through vivid and graphically-detailed descriptions. 

It doesn't always happen that way, but Naomi—I need to tell you I don't know any dykes who don't have at least one Ex with a capital E.  


[thanks Jess B.]

There's always someone—whether she was the first girlfriend or the girlfriend who was an acrobat in Cirque du Soleil or the girlfriend who became the fiancée or the girlfriend who made us coffee every morning without fail and brought it to us naked—that we, as a people, cannot forget. 

She haunts us. 


[thanks Bruna L.]

We had something with her.  

It was beautiful. 


[thanks Dani]
She loved us once.  

And even though things turned to shit and would never, ever have worked out in a million years, the golden, shimmering memory of That Feeling we once had with The Ex lingers somewhere in the hazy part of our collective brain, waiting to ambush us and our new relationships when we least expect it.  

[Jennifer B., what the fuck are you trying to do to me with this dog-dyke-shaggy-pony picture?]

Here's my horrible confession:  I've dated, um, a couple of people, and I retain fondish, I-still-love-youish, or fucking pervy feelings towards...

almost all of them.


[thanks Sara L. K.]

And I'm only talking casual and semi-serious exes, here.
Never mind the Serious Ex-Girlfriends—they're an entirely different category of feeling that would take way too long to explain. 



In general, though, my exes are women who have meant something to me, so I feel like they were a big part of me, somehow. 

And, through the special glittering rainbow miracle that is queer dating circles... guess what?  



My exes are often still a part of me and my life. 

You too! Because dykes tend to hang out in packs, we all get to learn how to be friends-in-real-life with our exes!  Wheeee!   


[thanks Randi B.]

Ugggh.  I think a little empathy for lesbiqueerkind in general is in order, Naomi

Getting over your ex is hard.
Getting over your ex is even harder when you see her every single time you go out to any queer event and all your friends are still her friends. 

[thanks Miranda]

So queergirl exes are complicated.  
And it's difficult.  
And sometimes it's not really even our fault. 

But! That's not your fucking problem, Naomi, and you wanted to know if you should carry interview questions around with you.  

Certainly not.


[thanks Dani P.]

While almost everyqueer has a major Ex or multiple major exes, it is possible to find the ones who are ready to date again.  

Figuring out if someone is over their ex is simple - all you have to do is look for warning signs, which happen to be fairly easy to spot, thank god.  



[thanks Britt]

And with that, I give you: 

A Few Signs Your Date Isn't Over Her Ex


1) The first time you go out, s/he brings up her ex.  

[thanks Lily S.]

Whether it's a teensy-tiny mention, e.g.: "Oh, thanks, my ex bought this dress for me." 

a brief anecdote, like: "Ha, you want to go to Kopi Cafe?  Me and Sara - that's my ex - used to to go there all the time."  

or whether it's long-winded: "I'm so glad you wanted to go out because I've thought you were really cute for basically forever but I never had the courage to ask you out. My girlfriend - she's my ex now - was always telling me to talk to you when we'd get coffee - we were in an open thing - and I'd always be way too shy, so it's kind of funny you were thinking the same thing!"

... consider the red flag dropped. 



Why?  Because there is no reason—literally none—to bring up The Ex on a first date. 

When you go out on a date, you are there to learn about a new person.  You don't need to bring your ex along for the ride, even if you hahahahatotallyusedtoshareeverything.


[thanks DeAnna M.]

It is possible to thank your new date for complimenting your outfit without dropping the fact that your ex bought the dress for you.  

It is possible to go with a new date to a place you and your ex used to go.  (Unless you're not over it...? or you're hiding from your ex, sugardimples...?) 

If there's too many memories at that place, just say you once had a bad ham sandwich there.

And nobody needs to know how you and your ex used to encourage each other to ask other people out during your "open thing."  

Not on a first date. 

Maybe save stuff like this until you've sufficiently dazzled the New Date with your quick wit, good looks, and devastating charm.


[thanks Fin S.]

2) When you've been out together a few times, and now it's time to hear about The Ex, and your date keeps telling you how "over it" she is.

[thanks Jess B.]

If someone is telling you something repeatedly—say, more than twice, whatever it is—then it's a pretty good guess that they don't quite believe it themselves yet, and are trying to convince themselves through repetition and hearing the words spoken out loud. 

Not on purpose!  It's just something that people tend to do, and if your date keeps telling you she's over her ex, she might still need a lil' convincing herself.


[thanks Kassandra D.]

It's like when you know your friend is pissed about something that just happened, and she keeps saying "I'm fine, it's FINE" emphatically, or the friend who can't go one single day on Facebook without posting about how happy/thrilled/blessed she is with her relationship.

Who exactly is being reassured, here? 


[thanks Nel]

My friend Court says, "If you're happy, you're just going to live happy."

And if you're over your ex, you don't need to say so, over and over.  

You'll just be over her. 


[Thanks Shanell]


3) After a short period of dating, you're getting to know your new squeeze's ex pretty well... and you've never met.

[thanks Celeste]

Do you know that your girlfriend's ex hates ice cream?  
Do you know that The Ex always thought your girlfriend had a funny way of laughing?  
Do you know The Ex used to make quietly cutting remarks about your girlfriend's weight and that's why she feels uncomfortable fucking without the lights off?  
Do you know that The Ex was "crazy jealous" and that the "littlest things" could make her mad and that she once broke that plate you're eating off of right now? (She glued it back together, The Ex was actually fairly handy.)

Congratulations, your new girlfriend is probably not over her ex! 


[thanks Christine]

You don't win anything, btw.  
But you do get to hear lots and lots of stories while your new girlfriend deals with emotional damage dealt during her last relationship, and you get to nod worriedly and say things like, "Maybe we jumped into this too soon - are you sure you're ready?" and then be reassured that she's ready. 


[thanks Amber A.]

Oooh that sounds bitter.  AM NOT BITTER OBVS. 

Ok. Y'allfags. 
I am not saying that no one should date until they are 100% ready to date.  Not all all.  (How would homogayelles ever get together?)

We will probably never 100% get over our collective exes.  


[thanks April B.]

But maybe we should wait to date until we're at least mostly over our exes. 

Like, I dunno...70%?  Could we shoot for 70% over it?

[Thanks Elisa]

And how do we know when we're on the road to recovery, anyway?  

How do we know when we're getting over The Ex?

Fortunately, it's easy to tell.

Good Signs You're Getting Over Your Ex:

1)  You deleted all her adorable texts on your phone so you can't reread them alone in your apartment with wine anymore.


[via arkenciel]

2)  "Your song" comes on and you don't burst into tears/grab someone and urgently tell them it was your song.

3)  You see her out in public by chance and you look like shit and you don't particularly care.  She looked really tired, anyway.  Alright she looked great but really - fuck her.

4)  You don't stalk her Facebook/Instagram/whatever every single day. (Multiple times a week, ok, but your need for a daily fix is dwindling.  Also, she never posts.)


[Candice from ohtinyrnbw]

5)  You hear she's dating someone new and your second thought—after "OMGAUGGGHHNOOOOOWHATTHEFUUUUUUUCK WHO IS IT???!!?"—is:

"Huh. Who is it?  Ew. They can have each other."

6)  You hear she's just broken up with her new girl and your second thought—after "HAHAHAHA"—is not "Now's my chance."


[thanks Julie L.]

7)  You genuinely begin to wish your ex well.  

Meaning: no matter what you two have been through, no matter how nasty the fights were or who got the dog or how many pieces your heart was shattered into, when you hear about something good she's accomplished or is trying to accomplish, you honestly hope it happens for her and hope she'll be happy. 

You want to heal, and you want for her to heal. 

It's possible to be angry with someone and still hope for the best for them. 

(This, from what I hear, is called maturity, and I guess it's supposed to feel tingly and startling when it first happens.  It opens a chakra or something.)

[Hana N. and Gordo]

Sometimes... sometimes you don't even know you're not over your old relationship until you meet someone and it stirs up all sorts of shit you haven't had to think about since your last breakup. 

And that's ok, sluts.  
We will all work it out on our own schedule. 

Naomi, all of this is of course completely unfair to people like you who are totally emotionally ready to be dating, but there's only so much you can do. 


[thanks Elinor]

You can have a little empathy for the special kind of weirdness that is the gayelle ex-girlfriend situation, and you can watch for warning signs on dates to nip this kind of shit in the bud. 


[thanks Katie and Dayna]

But there's really only one thing that helps anyone get over an ex, even an Ex with a capital E, and you already know what it is: 

Time.

"Time heals all wounds," my Nana used to say. 


[thanks Rachel and Dena]

Even giant gaping raw bloody holes in your heart that were violently ripped out by the unsheathed demon claws of your Ex.



How did you mos know when you were getting over your Ex? 

Anybody got any tips for Naomi?


22 May 05:29

Can A Corset Cure Cramps?

by Jen
Kristen

Fascinating. Corsets (compression) helping to alleviate cramps.

I've debated writing this post for a little while now, but at this point I figure I've discussed everything from my OB-GYN visits to my bra size with you guys, so hey, why not?

[Note: Gentlemen, there is nothing in this post that speaks to your interests, unless of course your interests include a lady friend who suffers from menstrual cramps. You have been warned.]

So here's the deal: back when I last cosplayed as Lady Vadore, I was unfortunately right smack in the midst of my womanly miseries*. I've always struggled with severe cramps and PMS and all the joys that go with them, so you can imagine how I felt that morning when I crawled out of bed and contemplated the Dreaded Corset.

[*If you read that fast it looks like "womanly miniseries." Ha!]

I was already in pain, but I gritted my teeth, swallowed two Tylenol, and had John lace me in. (OOPH.) I did have him loosen it quite a bit, though.

Within minutes I was feeling much better, but of course I attributed that to the pain pills. 


"I feeeel happyyyy!"

That day I went about seven hours in costume, and I felt fantastic - no pain at all, even long after the Tylenol should have worn off. I was too distracted to think much of it, though, until we were packing up at the car to go home that evening. Since it's mighty uncomfortable to sit in a car that long laced in a tight corset, I swapped it out for a loose overshirt. 

Within approximately three minutes of removing the corset - perhaps sooner - it felt like a sledgehammer hit me right in the gut. I've never had such a sudden onset of menstrual pain in my life, as I literally went from feeling on top of the world to curling into a ball and sobbing in agony. 

Needless to say, this raised a few questions. Namely, does a corset stop cramps, and if so, how or why?

My internet research turned up lots of anecdotal evidence: plenty of ladies claiming corsets *do* stop or help cramps, but nothing more "official" or offering a medical explanation as to why. I also found a lot of links to scammy looking sites pimping something called a "premium beautiful corset" (yes, really) for menstrual pain. There was also a slightly less scammy-looking site selling a compression belt contraption for the same purpose, which seemed to support all the anecdotal evidence.

As to WHY a corset would relieve cramps, all I found were some dire-sounding warnings about corsets stopping menstrual bleeding all together, usually listed in articles bashing corsets as dangerous and unhealthy. On the other hand, there are just as many (if not more) sites defending regular corset-wear as perfectly healthy - assuming you wear them correctly, of course.

So, does compressing your uterus trigger it to stop shedding its lining, or does it alleviate the cramping for some other reason - maybe by just supporting the muscles/organs? Beats me. All I know is that it definitely works. 

How do I know? Well, for the last couple months I've been wearing a tight compression band on the days I start to cramp - and it really, really works, you guys. Happily you don't have to wear a corset, though, or even anything all that tight. All you need is one of these babies:


Those are underbust shapewear camisoles you can find almost anywhere - assuming you don't already have one in your closet - or you can order one off of Ebay for less than $7 with shipping. (I think I found mine at Ross for ten or twelve bucks.)

The one I had kept cutting into my underarms with those straps, so one day I got out the scissors and hacked 'em off. Now it's just a stretchy tube for my abdomen, and I tuck the top edge under my bra band to keep it in place. They also sell "slim belts," though, which are essentially the same thing:


This one is $9 with shipping on ebay. (Note: I know nothing about these sellers, so of course do your own comparison shopping.)

These shapewear pieces are snug but extremely stretchy, so odds are you'll forget you're even wearing them. And even though the very LAST thing you want to do when you're cramping is put on tight-fitting clothing, believe me when I say this will absolutely alleviate some or all of the pain*.
[*Someone just pointed out I sound a little snake-oil huckster-y here; sorry! I should say I *believe* it will help you, but of course everyone is different and there are no guarantees.]

In fact, I've cut down drastically on the amount of pain pills I need each month - last month I think I even skipped them entirely, if you can believe it - thanks to this compression thingy and one other trick I stumbled across online: Magnesium supplements. I take one 200 mg tablet of magnesium citrate the second I start to feel the pain coming on, and then another with each meal and when/if I take any Tylenol, and I could swear it actually prevents the cramps from getting worse. (It looks like there's plenty of evidence to support this, too; here's one from the University of Maryland, for example, or just google "magnesium menstrual cramps" for more.)

You guys might recall that the last time I mentioned my uterus I was gunning for a hysterectomy - solely due to the pain each month -  so believe me when I say this is a HUGE improvement. Fingers crossed it lasts.

Oh, and the only negative side effect to magnesium is that it can be a diuretic/laxative if you take too much of it - but that's actually kind of a good thing for a lot of us around that time, am I right? JUST SAYIN'. (I'm so glad we can have these chats, you guys.) Magnesium is cheap, too, so if nothing else you've got very little to lose by giving it a try!

As with everything concerning your health, though, always do your own research and/or talk to your doctor if you have questions. I can only tell you what's worked for me, and while I don't think either of these suggestions can harm you, again, please do your own research.

Speaking of which, I know there are (at least) several doctors who read Epbot, so if any of you would care to weigh in on this in the comments, I'd love to hear from you! Ditto for any of you regular corset-wearers out there. Let us glory in all our glorious womanhood, my lady friends, and freak out the men-folk with our talk of chocolate-cravings and heavy flows! WOOT WOOT!

20 May 18:00

How to buy a car using data part III: The cheap-ass car version

by Dev Nambi
Kristen

Fascinating, and exhausting. But good info if you need it!

Remember when Dev introduced us to buying a car using data part I and II? He's back with part III, and this time it's all about buying cheap-ass cars.

Screen Shot 2013-05-11 at 11.43.27 AMMy sister called me from her trusted car repair shop. Her '95 Ford Escort had been troublesome for months, and was now truly dead. This means the car's demise had left my sister, her husband, and their two-year-old without transport. Worse, they had a 20+ mile commute to work, didn't have time off, and would be fired if they couldn't get to work at a moment's notice.

I had less than 72 hours to find a replacement car. So I broke out my data nerd skills and got to work.

My first step was to find out about what features my sister cared about the most in a car:

  • Space for a child seat and groceries
  • Reliable
  • Less than $5,000
  • Low operating cost: the cost to run the car each year, repairs, insurance, and gas.

I had researched how to buy a car using data. Sleuthing on Craigslist and AutoTrader revealed that vehicles this cheap are 9+ years old and have 100K+ miles. Many seemed of dubious reliability.

There was no way to know the reliability of a car from its description. That suggested there were both ripoffs and deals in the listings. This was an information asymmetry problem. The seller had perfect knowledge and the buyer had little.

Where to start: Make and Model

Internet sleuthing led to FleetBusiness, which reported how long different brands last before they die (are junked). I also found TrueDelta, which had reports from car owners about repairs, mileage and cost. Here's what I found in the FleetBusiness data:

death_vs_age_half

The car brand that died off quickest was Suzuki. The brands that died off slowest were Toyota, Honda and Subaru. The die-off rate was not a straight line… it was an S-shape, like the continuous normal distribution. Looking at the scrap rate per year, I saw a roughly normal distribution:

incr_death_vs_age_half

Most cars died after 10-20 years. The cars I was looking at were the worst possible age. The odds were good the car I purchased would die within the next 5-10 years. However, the cars I was looking at were 10-13 years old. Any cars that died before then weren't for sale so I could exclude that percentage.

death_vs_age_10_half

The most reliable brands to buy at 10 years' age were Honda and Toyota, followed by Chrysler. I picked 6 reliable models:

  • Toyota Corolla
  • Honda Fit
  • Honda Civic
  • Toyota Camry
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Hyundai Elantra

I added two Hyundai models, the Elantra and Sonata, because I heard their later-generation models were well-built. This was not data-driven and foolish.

What's on sale?

I collected 117 car listings. My goal was to have enough listings that there were a few good deals.

The biggest cost of owning a car is depreciation: the difference between your purchase price and what you sell it for. Buying a cheap car that lasts a long time seemed the best way to reduce that cost.

I didn't care about car mileage or age. I wanted a car with as many miles remaining as possible. I needed to find out how long each car model would last. If a car has 125K miles already there's a big difference between a car that lasts 200K miles vs. 150K miles. The 200K car will get you 3X farther.

I guessed mileage was roughly 5X more important than age. Maintenance costs would increase exponentially as mileage and age increased. I puzzled out an equation to compute a "quality score for each car.

Score = fnNormalize ( Age^1.2 ) * 20% + fnNormalize ( Mileage^1.4 ) * 80%

quality_histogram_half

The ratio of this score to the price is the "value score." Higher value scores were better deals:

quality_vs_price_half

Roughly, better-quality cars were more expensive. However, there isn't a straight line. There were ripoffs (in the upper left, with smaller dots) and potential deals (in the lower right, with larger dots).

Let's go shopping!

Now I had a shopping list: the five cars with the highest value scores.

  • The first car had sold, in under an hour.
  • We went to see the #3 car at a nearby dealership. The test drive was illuminating: the car was junk. The brakes barely worked, the fan belt made a whistling sound, and the lowest gear didn't work… in an automatic. We left in a hurry.
  • For car #2, I wasn't hopeful after that first test drive, but was surprised when this car handled well. The engine, brakes, and steering all worked perfectly. A roller-coaster route through West Seattle found no issues. We made plans for my trusted mechanic to look over the car.

Open your bonnet and say "vrooom"

The car and seller were legitimate. A check of the vehicle's VIN number found no thefts or accidents.

The mechanic confirmed car #2 was in good working condition except the it burned some oil when accelerating. Some hasty Internet searches suggested this was not unusual for old Toyota Corollas and didn't mean the engine was toast. We quickly bought the car. Success!

Epilogue

  • Work quickly. Good deals sell fast, in a day or two.
  • Hundreds of cars in Seattle were listed on Craigslist and AutoTrader each day.
  • The dealer car we tried was worse and more expensive than the private seller. A NADA report shows that used-car dealerships' profit margins were 12% for used cars. A $5,000 dealer car would cost $4465 on by a private seller.

Retro Clothing, Mod Clothes, Shoes, Handbags
   
18 May 22:12

What we’re reading 5/18/13

by katejowrites
Kristen

Of particular note: The link about un-necessary pelvic exams on non-consenting women during medical procedures. Chilling and happens all the time.

"But then in my third year on my OB/GYN rotation I performed pelvic exams on unconscious patients. Women would come in for appendicitis or something. Then, once they’re asleep, the crowd gathers, line forms to the left."

I'll DEFINITELY be using this tip for ANT procedure I'm ever in that requires me to be unconscious.

"Women can write on their bikini line, “I do not give consent for medical students to practice pelvic exams on me” in marker. Then as soon as the clothes come off or the robe is lifted and all the medical students are getting on their latex gloves they can see that message. And that will stop them."

Happy Saturday, Disruptors! Here’s what we’ve been reading and talking about with each other this week. Tell us what you’ve been reading in the comments!

  • Disney wanted to revamp Merida for their princess merchandizing (as Jan mentioned in her post earlier this week). Some people are really into sexualizing 16 year olds. Thanks, marketing.
  • Why isn’t the New Orleans Mother’s Day shooting being reported as a national tragedy?
  • Ellie Kemper (from The Office) asks, “Can men be funny?
  • If you change your mind in the middle of the evening, do you have to change your underwear? We had an interesting discussion about the merits and problems with this Etsy shop from the people responsible for pranking Victoria’s Secret last year. We’d prefer underwear that says “use your words”- the “ask first” ones on their kickstarter page are cool.
  • Speaking of consent, how about consent for medical patients? This is unsettling, to say the least.
  • STILL speaking of consent, it’s pretty awful how some (many?) media photographers care so little about even making an attempt at consent in editing.
  • How does one manage a company “masculinely” or “femininely”? See if you can figure out the problems with this article.
  • A choice to say “consent-positive” rather than “sex-positive”: “Saying “yes” is framed as empowering and to give one’s consent is “sexy”. Which can and often does imply that a “no” or hesitation is a problem or “less cool/liberated” Hesitation and refusal are totally valid expressions of uncertainty and deserve respect. The framing of “consent is sexy” can, in some applications, invalidate this vital uncertainty.”
  • Like so many other feminists/people with eyes on the internet, we loved the photo shoot a photographer mother did for her daughter’s fifth birthday, dressing her up as real groundbreaking women instead of Disney princesses:Picture 24
  • How Anonymous got involved in justice for rape victims.
  • Marriage equality in Minnesota!
  • What if people taught European history like they teach Native American history?
  • Angelina Jolie is a badass. As a sex symbol, her employability relies heavily on the appeal of her body, and she looks at a positive BRCA1 result and goes “my life is worth more than my breasts.” (In case anybody doesn’t know, BRCA1 positive cancers are also especially aggressive and especially fatal.)
  • Where you come in regarding that “highest paid public employees” graph.
  • Here’s a great continuation of the discussion on healthy masculinity, a topic Logan covered here.
  • Behind the Cosmo-eque title is some interesting data about the stratification of the class system for people looking for opposite sex partners.
  • For those who live in DC: a survey about transportation safety- walking, biking, taking buses and metro trains, cabbing, what have you. Collective Action for Safe Spaces is a kickass organization.
  • Everyday Sexism is a rockin’ (if depressin’) blog, and Buzzfeed recently had a pretty compelling roundup.
  • If you are a queer person working in STEM, take this survey for queer folks working in STEM!
  • The new artistic director of the English National Ballet is working to end dancer eating disorders.
  • Here’s a comic for you!
  • The delightful convergence of woman, victim, and poverty shaming. Rape culture hat-trick!
  • Pima County, Arizona, is the only county in the United States that tracks migrant deaths. Here’s every one since 2001.
  • “What I mean when I say I’m sex positive
  • Sinfest continues its trend of having feminist comics. I’m thrilled by the artist’s recent feminist turnaround… but based on their recent archive, I wish he’d read the piece above, about what sex positive really means (hint: not just a smoke screen for sexists to continue objectifying women). Anyway, here’s a good one:
  • Some helpful information correcting misconceptions about intersex people in general and the court case in the news recently. Lunas adds: Sometimes doctors perform this surgery soon after birth, sometimes without fully informing the parents. (In this case it’s an adopted child, which further complicates things.) When I have kids, I intend to tell the doctors (in writing) that that I don’t want them altering the child’s genitalia in the event the child is born intersex, and I encourage others to do the same.
  • From Reyes: “This is pretty dang interesting, especially if you happen to listen to jazz allllll the time. Not that any of us do that. Or nerd out about it. There’s also this sick video linked there. Love it.”
  • How to exercise out of self-love rather than guilt from fat-shaming.
  • UMBRELLAGATE! This is SERIOUS, y’all.
  • One editor wrote: I think voting for a candidate solely based on gender is a terrible idea (see: Sarah Palin) but I also think the author is using it as a device to make her point, which is that people who have been fighting in the feminist movement for a long time are exhausted and frustrated.
  • Clothes we are forced to wear in a majority of MMORPGs:
  • Skylar says: “I’ve seen this pop up a lot on youtube lately and it makes me want to vomit. I appreciate that you want to include men in your marketing of unreasonable beauty standards instead of just women but please just STAHP!”
  • This article reminds of of Rosie’s True Love Doesn’t Wait piece. The conservative reaction to Elizabeth Smart’s remarks “shows that too many Christians, too many proponents of abstinence-only education, have put their concern for the welfare of a quasi-political movement above their concern for the welfare of a human being, of human dignity itself.”
  • Several editors found this article very thought-provoking: The Ethics of Extreme Porn: Is some sex wrong even among consenting adults?
  • How rare is “crying rape”? Pretty damn rare.
  • If you are a feminist living and activisting in the NYC area, maybe go to this!

16 May 19:25

Two uncomfortable truths: New Merida looks a little whorey. Fewer people care about this than you would think.

by Jenny the bloggess
Kristen

Good point. Don't let Disney teach you what a "strong woman" looks like. Show them yourself.

Ugh. 

I sort of already hate myself from weighing in on this but people keep asking me to tweet about it and forward their petitions, and I really thought it would quiet down by now but it hasn’t, so I’m going to give my big, fat, stupid, irrelevant and probably wrong opinion on the changes Disney made from the original I-might-trust-her-to-babysit-my-kid-when-she’s-a-little-older Merida to get-the-fuck-away-from-my-husband Merida.

There are all sorts of calls to action to get Disney to admit that the new Merida looks a bit skanky and they’ve met with some success and that’s awesome.  Go team.  I hope you succeed.  But (in my opinion – stop yelling at me) the majority of people do not give a shit.  Mostly because we’re busy personally teaching our kids what strong women look like instead of letting Disney do it for us.  And in a way, Disney did us a favor here.  Did you have a talk with your kid about the new Merida? Because if you didn’t you missed a good opportunity to see where your kid stands on this, and to talk to them about over-sexualization.

I showed the new Merida to my eight-year-old and she assumed that it was Merida’s evil twin.  Which actually would make an awesome story, and personally I plan to tell stray children I see buying backpacks with the new Merida on them that the original Merida was eaten by the new Evil Merida because she was so hungry.  And they will probably believe it because seriously, look at her waist…the girl needs a damn sandwich.

Anyway, my incredibly dumb and probably ill-informed point is that it’s really uncomfortable to see a strong, child-like character get tarted up and flash bedroom eyes at you, but it’s equally sucky to rely on a giant corporation to teach your kids what strong women look like.  Strong women look like Amelia Earhart, Rosie the Riveter, Asmaa Mahfouz, or Elizabeth Smart. Or Wonder Woman, or Sally Ride or Sojourner Truth, or Amy Poehler, or Ada Lovelace, or Anne Frank.  Or your grandmother.

Or you.

I support and admire the men and women who speak out in the cause of feminism, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that there are so many amazing women who may never end up on a lunch box (Wonder Woman and Word Girl excluded) but who can make a great difference in the life and perceptions of our sons and daughters.

Okay.  Your turn.  Who’s your favorite female hero?

PS.  There aren’t any right or wrong answers here.  It’s totally okay to like pretty dresses and sexy princesses.  It’s totally okay not to.  No judgment.  Probably.

15 May 13:30

Professional Network LinkedIn Not a Fan of World's Oldest Profession

by Laura Beck
Kristen

FYI.

LinkedIn, the website where we all pretend to love working (and networking!), recently updated its privacy policy and user agreement, and along with the usual blah blah blah about blah blah blah, they also wanted to make sure that nobody is using the site to talk about their jobs if their jobs include getting paid for sex work.

Read more...

    


14 May 17:30

The Best Non-Violent Video Games For Adults

by Jen
Kristen

Delightful run-down of games I'd like to play one day. No killing! Made for adults! Would also like to add my favorites: Spyro the Dragon and Legend of Zelda, even though zelda involves killing, and both are more targeted towards kids.

After my review a few weeks back of BioShock: Infinite, a reader by the name of ZippyWafflebuns (best name ever? YUP) wrote:

"This was a fun review to read (and would love to see you write more), but are there any games this quality that aren't violent? Like, no killing involved at all? I have a pretty low threshold for this kind of thing in games that I play, and I just can't put myself through it just for the world-building/storyline. But I wish I could, because I feel like I'm stuck playing Lego games and this looks so much cooler."

There aren't many non-violent games out there not aimed at children, but there are some, and some of those are pretty darn amazing. I gave Zippy a few titles to try, and then started amassing a list of my own. I focused on relatively recent, story-driven console games not specifically aimed at kids - and I also left out anything sports-related, because blech. (In fact, you might recognize several of these from my last recommended games post; I'm not generally a fan of violent games, either.)

I realize there are many degrees of violence, but for my purposes here I'm defining any game that doesn't include/require killing other humanoid characters as "non-violent."

So, with those caveats, here's what I've got so far:

Games I've played:

Kingdom Hearts - (2002)(PS2) or Kingdom Hearts Remix (HD remastered collection for the PS3,  releases this September, yay!)


A must-play for Dizgeeks with a fun, button-mashing fighting style. Great storyline, gorgeous graphics, and only mild cartoon violence. I love this game. (I also can't believe it's this old - yikes! Can't wait to get the HD remix version and play it again this Fall.)


Mini Ninjas (2009, PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, and Mac) -

Quite possibly the perfect game; beautiful, a rich story, and you defeat enemies by turning them back into the adorable woodland creatures they used to be. 

- Psychonauts (2005) (Xbox, PS2, PC, Mac)

 via

This game is almost too old to include, but it's still brilliant. Crazy characters, funny dialogue, great art, and a totally unique concept/story line. As I recall there's some cartoon violence, but no killing. (Please correct me on that if I'm wrong, guys.)

I do have a love/hate relationship with Psychonauts, though, because I've never seen the ending; the last boss fight is just too dang hard. I threw my controller across the room more times than I can remember with this game, but if you're a more skilled player than I (which is likely), do give it a try.

Portal 2 (2011)(PS3, Xbox360, PC, Mac) - 
By all means play both Portals, but if you have to choose just one, go with Portal 2. It's a hilarious puzzle-based action game with a fantastic storyline. The only violent aspect are automated turrets that shoot at you, so there's no real killing. Plus there's a 2-player co-op mode that's great fun to play with your SO.

Quantum Conundrum - (2012)(PS3, Xbox360, PC)

If you've already played both Portals and are yearning for a game with puzzles almost exactly like them, play this one. (It was directed by one of the Portal designers, which explains the puzzle similarities.) The story isn't as entertaining, but the colorful, cartoony style is fun - and may fool you into thinking this game is easy. IT'S NOT. (I made it about halfway before giving up in frustration.) No violence whatsoever, and as a bonus for my fellow Trekkers, John DeLancie (aka Q) is the main voice actor.

Journey (2013)(downloadable PS3 exclusive) - I'd never even heard of this one before I started researching games last week, but after watching this trailer I immediately downloaded it and played it that night:

That review says it all, although I'll add that this was the most relaxing game experience I've ever had, and I'll definitely be playing it again. I felt like there were plenty of things I missed the first time, so don't be too put off by the $14.99 price tag for a 2-hour game; odds are you'll get several play-throughs out of it.

Machinarium (2009)(downloadable only, PC or Mac)[Correction: someone just told me you can download this on the PS3, too! Yay!]

 
It's been years since I played this, but Machinarium is still popular and enjoyable enough that I'm including it despite the fact it's not a console game. Adorable robots and puzzle-solving gameplay. Need I say more? (Hit the link up there to play the demo for free.)

(And if you've already played that one, Unmechanical is another puzzle-based adventure game featuring adorable robots. You can only play that one on a PC, iPhone, or iPad, though.)


Honorable Mentions: 
Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) & Batman: Arkham City - (2011, Xbox 360, PS3, PC) - 



While these games are definitely violent, Batman himself (who you play) never kills anyone. So if that distinction is enough for you, then give Asylum a try. Both titles won Game of the Year and have an "easy" level for not-so-great players like me. Again, these games are violent and gritty, though, so even though *you* won't be shooting people (you politely knock them unconscious instead), other people will be. Even so, the violence isn't nearly as graphic as BioShock:Infinite.

Games I haven't played:

Dishonored (2012)(PS3, Xbox 360, PC) - 

This is a tricky one, but it IS possible to play the game without killing anyone. It's just a lot harder. John played through the violent way, and from what little I've seen this is the game that most approaches BioShock: Infinite level scenery and detailing. That said, even if you choose not to kill in the game yourself, it's still a gritty, violence-filled world - like Batman - so there are no guarantees you'll find it any less disturbing.

Braid (2008)(Xbox 360, PC) -



This is a side-scrolling platform game that's won rave reviews and all kinds of awards for its unique puzzle-solving game-play. No violence that I know of.

Fez (2012)(Xbox, PC) -


(The PC version just came out this month!) Like Braid, this is an indie game that's garnered lots of praise, awards, and attention. It looks like a standard side-scroller, but you can rotate the world to turn corners and access all the different sides of each structure. Nifty!

[Btw, if you have Netflix Streaming check out Indie Game: The Movie. It's a documentary that features both Braid and Fez, among others.]

Katamari Forever (2009) (PS3) -

Since Katamari Damacy - the first game in this series - is now ten years old, I don't think its graphics will really hold up for new players. Katamari Forever is the most recent installment for a console, though, and from what I've read has the same style of gameplay as the original. It looks... weird. But hey, it's from Japan, and millions of fans can't be wrong, right? The object is to roll objects into one giant ball to form stars, so unless you consider that violent, it's completely violence-free.


Mirror's Edge (2007) (PS3, Xbox, PC) - 


This is a parkour-based game, so your object is to scale buildings, run, jump, tumble, etc. to deliver secret messages in a dystopian society. Your character *can* use weapons, but doesn't have to, and like Dishonoured you unlock a special achievement if you navigate the entire game without killing anyone.



You'll note I've neglected to add any of the Mario series games, Lego, Rayman and the like, although those are all fantastic, fun games. I omitted them because they're primarily made for kids, and because I prefer games that are more story-driven. I also left out some titles like Myst, Ico, and Siberia because they're just too old; I tried to go back and play Siberia a few years back and the point-and-click playing style just didn't hold up well. (It's a gorgeous steampunky game, though!)

So, what did I miss, guys? Share your favorite non-violent games in the comments! Bonus points if they're not too old, not too kiddy, and somewhat story-driven (as opposed to arcade-style games.)

 ******

5/15 UPDATE: Wow, lots of great suggestions coming in! Keep 'em coming, guys! Here are some of the titles you've mentioned the most so far:

- The Professor Layton games (Nintendo DS only, which is why I didn't include it in my original list - but so many of you are raving about it that now I think I need a DS!)

- Ni No Kuni (Also for the DS, or the PS3, released in 2010)


- Okami (Re-released for the PS3 in 2011 [Supports the Move controller, but not required], also available on the Wii)

- World of Goo (PC, Mac, & Wii) - Physics-based puzzle game

- Stacking (Xbox 360 & PS3) I enjoyed the demo of this, but was afraid it'd be too kiddie to recommend. After talking to some of you in the comments, tho, I believe the puzzles get more challenging as the game progresses - so check it out! It's by DoubleFine, the company behind Psychonauts, and the art is fantastic.

- Ico and Shadow of the Colossus - I mentioned that Ico was too old, but someone pointed out it was re-released in 2011, so you can play it and its companion game on PS3! Sweet!

Be sure to check the comments for lots more; plenty of non-console games being mentioned, and also older titles. (You've all convinced me to finally try Zelda, too. Most of those are pretty old, though, so I just have to figure out where to start!)
03 Sep 22:54

Can You Face Her In the Morning (How to Assault People Less)

by kinkylittlegirl
Kristen

YES. All the yesses.

This is a terrific post put up on Fetlife by SadisticLark on how to avoid being an abuser and assaulting your partner, reposted with permission.  Please read the original as well, as he is planning some changes and additions, and there are some great comments there that cannot be reproduced here.

=================================================

This is a rambling collection of thoughts based my own mistakes and ideas I’ve pulled out of my ass. It’s written mostly from the perspective of male top / female bottom engaging in casual/public play. Feel free to disagree, substitute your preferred gender pronouns, and/or go back to looking at nude pics. I’ll hopefully be adding to and changing this as time goes on.

I honestly don’t know much about rape culture and my only experience with unwanted touching was having my ass grabbed by a cougar at a bar (which I thought was funny at the time). It seems like many tops are worried about being ‘falsely accused’ or having a bad scene get blown out of proportion and turn into some kind of witch hunt. I’m not going to say that doesn’t happen but I personally think it’s a pretty rare occurrence (for exceptions see the How to Avoid Problem People link below ). It’s a risk you take by playing with people but if both parties are acting in good faith there are a few things you can do to lower the chances of things going south.

1. Choose your play partners carefully.

There are people you probably don’t want to play with. These people can usually be divided into two groups: People with no fucking clue about what’s going on and people who need professional help.

The first group is dangerous because their expectations can be anywhere from non-existent to complete fantasy and you can easily end up way outside their Goldilocks zone.

Risk of things going bad with group 1 = moderate

The second group I personally try to avoid. I’m not a psychologist, therapist, or doctor (although I play one in the bedroom). Even if I was any of those things, I’m pretty sure hitting them with a stick or sticking my dick in them wouldn’t be approved methods of treatment. I really recommend How to Avoid Problem People. [klg - Ed. note - also found in its entirety on the author Libida's blog, where it's easier to read and print out, but the Fetlife version and its sequel have entirely different lists of fabulous comments.  All of it on both sites is worth reading.]

Risk of things going bad with group 2 = RED FUCKING ALERT!

Pitfall: Your partner has “consented” to an activity they know nothing about.

You’re up big guy! This probably isn’t going to be terribly “Risk Aware” (RACK) and it’s debatable if they can “Consent” (RACK & SSC) to something they know nothing about. They are effectively washing their hands of any personal responsibility and leaving everything up to you. If this thing goes south you are probably going to be wearing this one around your neck.

Pro Tip: If you want to play with the hot newbie then tailor your scene to the person you are playing with.

A light laboratory/education style scene with lots of communication may help them get familiar with the reality of this type of play. Once they know what they are getting into you can talk about a heavier scene. If they still don’t seem to ‘get it’ then you may be dealing with someone who belongs in the group number 2.

2. Negotiate what you want to do before, not during the scene.

If you enjoy a good rape-and-pillage just ask during negotiations. If you want sexual touching ask. While you are at it you might want to ask what exactly “sexual touching” means to them.

Example: If I’m round house kicking you in the ass and I accidentally stick my foot in your box is that sexual?

Pro Tip: Rape play works best with people who both agree to have sex with you and enjoy consensual non-consent.

If you are missing one or both of these elements your partner will probably get the strange idea you are actually raping them.

Pitfall: Re-negotiating while your partner is at your mercy (or “physically incapacitated”).

Top: – “Wow she is looking awfully cute all tied up like that. I think I’ll ask if I can stick my penis in her.”
Bottom: – “My god I’m helpless! I had better do what he wants and maybe he will let me live!”

Pitfall: Re-negotiating while your partner is in subspace.

Surprisingly, they may agree to things in the heat of the moment that they wouldn’t normally. This has been known to leave them feeling like they were taken advantage of in a vulnerable state.

Pitfall: Turning into a legal bagel (Yes I know it’s beagle) mid-scene.

People often make the crazy assumption that you are negotiating in good faith. Avoid “omitting” things or your partner might start thinking you are a piece of shit.

Examples:

  • “You didn’t negotiate me not sticking my penis in your nose!”
  • “When you agreed to needle play you didn’t say the needles had to be clean!”

Good luck playing with this person or any of their friends ever again.

3. Don’t assume.

Remember that old saying ‘Assuming makes an ass of u and me’ well it can also end up making an ‘assault of you by me’. We all enter a scene with expectations of what’s going to take place. It’s important to talk about what’s going to happen so we don’t end up with what I like to call ‘a serious fucking mismatch of expectations’.

Pro Tip: The less you have played with someone the more detail you should provide about how you think the scene is going to progress.

Anticipation is the best marinade.

Pitfall: “Everyone knows who I am and that I’m the edgiest of edge players.”

No they don’t. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “Wow, you’re really mean” I’d have enough for a happy meal. Assuming that someone magically knows your play style and what type of scene you have in mind is setting one or both of you up for some disappointment.

Pitfall: “Negotiations are Borings-ville and I’d rather be exciting and spontaneous.”

Top: I think I’ll surprise her and brand ‘SL’s Cum Dumpster’ on her chest.
Bottom: OH MY GOD WHAT IS ON MY CHEST!

It’s a common misconception that girls like surprises. In fact rigorous scientific study has show that that girls only like expected surprises. This tricky sub genre of the surprise can often be achieved by negotiating the hard limits around the ‘surprise’ ahead of time.

Example: “How would you feel about me permanently branding something on you that is both degrading and shows my ownership over you?”

4. Don’t fuck around with colours (safe words).

When you cram a bunch of unrelated people together it helps to have some common language to maintain some semblance of order. Colors (safe words) are one of the ways we communicate ‘consent’. Specifically we can use the absence of colours to indicate that our partner is most likely continuing to consent to the scene.

I say most likely because this system isn’t perfect. Our partner(s) are only human and there may be times where they can’t safe word or even communicate their feelings. If this isn’t scaring you, it should be! Just because your partner can’t indicate that you are well out of their comfort zone doesn’t mean they aren’t going to hold you responsible when they come back to reality. This is a whole other topic that I won’t get into but just be aware that colours are one of those necessary but not sufficient things.

Pitfall: Having a meltdown when your partner gives you a yellow/red.

Nothing says experienced master in full control of themselves like a good old fashioned hissy fit. To really pull this off it helps to blame your partner for whatever is wrong and berate them for not being good enough to play with you.

Example: DON’T YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE TO BE PLAYING WITH ME?! RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!

Side note: S-types please run-don’t-walk when the above happens and tell everyone and their dogs about it. You could be saving someone from injury or worse.

Pro Tip: When starting a scene reassure your partner that colours are available to be used.

You want them commit to using colours if something is wrong. If they can’t do that then your risk level just increased a few defcon levels.

Example: “I need you to use your colours if something is up and don’t be afraid to give me a yellow. I promise not to throw a dom temper tantrum and I’d rather know so I can fix whatever is wrong instead of finding out later.”

Actively and continually procure consent.

Why? We already negotiated and they consented to this! I’m the the one in control now and they need to stop topping from the bottom and let me work my Dom-ly magic.

Some reasons off the top of my head:

  • Negotiations are not perfect. Without prior experience people are often either guessing what they like or trying to extrapolate from tangentially related experiences.This can lead to an awkward situation where someone is engaged in an activity they thought they would enjoy but learn they hate with a fiery passion.
  • They know what they like but there is some stupid little thing easy to fix thing preventing them from enjoying it tonight. Maybe a cuff is too tight, a creeper is staring at their titties, it’s freezing cold, etc.
  • They have done this a million times before but today it just isn’t fucking working. It could be a bad day, a lack of chemistry (I know hard to believe right?), injuries from prior play, etc. etc.

Now you can wait until they say something or you can check occasionally and see how they are doing. The problem with waiting (as mentioned above) is that some people won’t say anything unless prodded and some people can’t say anything. This can mean the difference between “The scene was fucking horrible and I regret ever playing with him” and “The scene wasn’t working but I’d like to try something again some other time”.

Someone once described these check-ins in terms of risk and time:

The risk of the scene going off the rails increases in direct proportion to the time between checking in with your partner during play.

Examples:

  • Incorporate some evil witty banter into your scene. If the last shock had her calling your mother a crack whore she is probably alright.
  • Arrange for them to squeeze your hand if you squeeze theirs and all is well.
  • Take a break. Are they a thirsty kitty?
  • Agree on some body language that indicates things are going well. If she is wiggling her bum in time with the music things are probably good.

Personally, I find colours can be a bit ‘jarring’ and it seems much easier to feel in control of the scene if I’m the one asking how they are feeling and fixing things on on my schedule instead of waiting for them to colour.

Pro Tip: The less experienced your partner is with the activity the more important it is to actively get their consent as play gets heavier.

If you’re lucky you will get a chance to do a scene with someone who finally wants to try out that scary hard limit activity. Do your warmup but before you dive into the unknown it’s a good idea to get consent one last time before starting.

Pro Tip: The scene just isn’t working for them, you’ve tried fixing some things with no success, and you need to end it.

It’s time to attempt the art of the graceful crash landing. The idea is to change the direction this scene is heading so you both ‘win’. This isn’t as easy as it sounds but often changing the pace, modifying the negotiated activity, and winding it down is a good place to start. Avoid the emotional equivalent of dropping your partner by making this a ‘failure’.

5. Check in a day or so later and actually listen to what they say.

Besides being the polite thing to do it’s also your last chance to work things out semi-privately before things blow up. At this point they’ve had some time to think about things and decide how they feel about the scene.

Bang! They feel uncomfortable/’off’/unhappy about something. The first thing is to realize that you aren’t ‘going to make this better’ by arguing. People feel how they feel and trying to rationalize someone’s feelings generally just pisses them off. Instead, try listening and try working backwards to the ‘mismatch of expectations’ that led to this point.

This isn’t a risk free activity, mistakes and miscommunications happen. If you followed my earlier advice you have hopefully shared the responsibility for the failure with your partner by:

  • Making them aware of what they are getting into.
  • Sharing the responsibility for planning and executing the scene.
  • Repeatedly seeking and obtaining their consent (without duress) as the scene progressed.

Talk about it. Own it. Figure out how not to repeat it.

6. Relax and have fun.

BDSM is serious business. No fun allowed! :-P

TL:DR?

Actively involve your partner in all the phases of the scene so they share the responsibility for how things turn out. Periodically get their consent to continue so you are ‘playing together’ instead of you just ‘doing things’ to them.

I wrote this like a guide but it’s more of an opinion piece. People have different ‘styles’ and I can only talk about what has worked for me so far.

If you have any neat stories (anonymous please) of pitfalls I’d be interested in hearing them.

12 May 15:43

Happy whatever.

by Jenny the bloggess

Today is Mother’s Day, and while I think that being a mom is a crazy-hard job it’s also one that most of us wouldn’t trade for the world, so it’s always been a bit odd to me that we get to be mothers and we also get a day to celebrate it.  Not that I’m judging you.  Celebrate the hell out of yourself.  You deserve it.

But you know who else deserves it?  The women who have struggled to be, or are still struggling to be moms.  The women who want children but just aren’t in a safe place in life to have them.  The women who don’t want kids and have to listen to a bunch of bullshit about how you’re only worthwhile if you’ve pushed a human out of your vagina.  The women who miss the children they once had.  The women who miss the children they lost before they ever met them.  The women who gave up their children so their child could have a better life than they could provide.  The women who were raised motherless, or with shitty mothers, or who have lost their mothers and are reminded of how alone they feel.  Mother’s Day is a confusing, weird, very-seldom-wrapped-up-with-a-nice-commercial-bow sort of day, and as for me, I salute you all – mothers or not…you’re here.  You’re alive.  You continue to survive.  You are worthwhile and wonderful.  Never forget that.

********

On a personal note, today I’ll be remembering the children I carried who never lived…and the one miracle who did.

PS.  This is technically a terrible picture.  The lighting is weird.  I’m not wearing make-up and the sun is too bright.  It was taken with a crappy cell phone.  But it’s one of my favorite pictures ever.  Why?  Because Hailey took it when she was playing around with my phone and she turned it around, put her arm around my neck to pull me in closer and then took the picture.  One day soon she’ll be too old to be want to take pictures with me, but I’ll keep this one safe until she survives the teenage years and comes back to love her mom like I adore mine.

I’m incredibly lucky for moments like this, and I hope that I never forget that.

07 May 18:45

Efficient Hedonism

by Charlie Glickman
Kristen

Fantastic.

I’m a big fan of efficient hedonism. Let me tell you what that means.

I once read a story about an 80-year-old judo master who had been studying martial arts ever since he was a child. He said that when he was younger, he could have less-than-perfect form and make up for it with strength and flexibility, but now that he was old, his form had to be in perfect alignment. When we act in alignment with our goals and intentions, we’re more efficient because we don’t waste as much energy and time. We don’t create as much friction, so we can move from A to B with more grace and speed. That’s a lesson we can apply to any part of our lives, especially our sex lives and our pursuit of pleasure.

A lot of people hear phrases like “the pursuit of pleasure” and assume that it means wallowing in sensual experiences at the cost of one’s health and well-being, but that’s not what I mean by it. In her book The Pleasure Zone, sex therapist Stella Resnick identifies eight kinds of pleasure:

  • Primal pleasure and surrender
  • Pain relief
  • Elemental pleasures such as play, laughter, and movement
  • Mental pleasures
  • Emotional pleasures
  • Sensual pleasures
  • Sexual pleasures
  • Spiritual pleasures

For me, the pursuit of pleasure means acting in ways that expand my ability to experience all of these. I don’t want to focus so much on one that I decrease my capacity for another, such as when someone gets so hooked on the pleasure of drugs that they don’t see the physical and emotional damage they’re causing. Efficient hedonism means looking at all of my actions and how they affect me and the people around me. Without that context, it can easily slide into wallowing in unhealthy patterns.

So why do I think this matters? Because I enjoy pleasure and I want to experience as much of it as I can during my short time in this world. When it ends, I want to look back on my life and be glad that I had an amazing time. I want to wring every delicious drop of delight out of it and drink it all. I see a lot of people spinning their wheels or using up all of their energy in friction, which creates heat, but not much else. I don’t want to do that, and that means being as efficient as I can be.

There are lots of ways to do that. Being open and honest about my intentions, desires, and what I can offer is probably the biggest piece. While it’s not a guarantee against friction and drama, at least it lets me point out that I said exactly what I was offering. I find that it invites a prospective partner to do the same, which gives us room to see if we have overlap in what we’re looking for. It also makes space for us to each say yes or no, make a counteroffer, ask questions, and look for some flexibility in what we’re seeking. A deep commitment to honesty and clear communication is essential to the pursuit of efficient hedonism.

Another piece is making sure that everyone is taken care of and everything is cleaned up. A dinner party isn’t over until all the dishes are washed and put away, and a sexual experience isn’t finished until everyone involved feels complete with it. I always drop an email or a text the next day, just to say that I had a fun time and check that my partner(s) did, too. That gives the other person room to let me know if there’s anything that they need to touch base about. If something has come up for them, I make time for a conversation so we can work it out. I’d much rather do that than have unfinished business, and anyway, it makes the odds of another date with that person go way up. Being efficient means looking for possible rough spots, and then doing what I can to smooth them out.

Efficient hedonism also means being willing to follow the pleasure and let go of whatever expectations I had at the start. If my goal is to have a specific kind of sexual interaction, it’s easy to get so attached to that idea of what’ll happen that I forget to enjoy the moment. When my goal is to co-create an amazing experience, I can adjust to the needs of the moment and have a great time. Resisting reality is both pointless and incredibly inefficient. Desire is fine. Attachment to the outcome of desire gets in the way. Letting go of it takes practice, and one reward is getting to have more fun.

I’ve had plenty of experiences during which I was surprised at how much fun something new or unexpected was, so I’m willing to try almost anything twice. Anytime we try something new, there’s going to be a learning curve, so working with that process is a big part of efficient hedonism. That might mean geeking out and figuring out how to do it again. It might mean deciding that a particular activity isn’t my thing. But whatever the response for a particular situation, efficient hedonism rides the learning curve, rather than resisting it.

There’s also quite a bit of planning that goes into it. I need to manage my blood sugar, so I’ll bring a snacky bar and take a break when I need to. Or we can pause long enough to grab dinner before heading back to bed. When I was younger, I would frequently ignore my body’s needs in order to have sex, which led to a lot of post-sex blood sugar crashes and fights. (I get cranky when I get hungry.) A little preparation avoids that and lets me have fun for much longer.

Other kinds of planning include having plenty of safer sex supplies. I have a “go kit” for quickies, and another for more extended dates and threesomes, so if something comes together at the last minute, I don’t have to pull my gear together. Condoms, gloves, lube, and a few hypoallergenic wipes- it’s not difficult to put something together and it’s always better to have safer sex supplies and not need them all than to need them and run out. Of course, I have toy bags that I can pack for whatever might be on the agenda, and the lube and condoms get restocked when I’m cleaning up after a date. That makes prep for the next time faster.

Lastly, efficient hedonism means listening to my body and recognizing when it’s time to stop. The best time to leave the table is when you’re still a little hungry, and the same thing applies to sex. Overdoing it once in a while is fine, but as a regular diet, it’s much less satisfying than having just enough. Being efficient means knowing when it’s time to stop, when it’s time to take a step back, and when I need a vacation.

Ultimately, these are the things that work for me, so you might decide that you need something different to make your hedonism more efficient. Whatever that might be, take a look at how you can make it part of your sex life. The less energy you have to put into dealing with friction, the more ease you’ll find in your relationships. As I tell a lot of the people I coach, the short-term investment of work and time pays off pretty quickly. And with a little practice, you might earn your black belt in sex, too.


The post, Efficient Hedonism, is from Charlie Glickman's website.
07 May 10:28

links: technology

by megan
Kristen

A wealth of good tech links today

100 Websites You Should Know and Use | TED Blog. Via The Morning News.

TIGSource » Preview: Hiversaires. A very pretty looking game that I’m looking forward to, for iOS.

What I’m Using Instead of Google Reader | Slog. He lands on a paid option called NewsBlur, I’ll have to check this out.

Podcast recommendations | Ask MetaFilter. Lots of great long, conversational podcast recommendations here.

swissmiss | iFontMaker. “iFontMaker is an iPad font editor allowing you to create typefaces with the iPad touch interface in a matter of minutes.” Neato.

15 DIY Gadgets You Can Make with Raspberry Pi | Brit + Co..