Category Archives: Personal Reflections

100,000

Somewhere between 9 pm and 10 pm my blog had its 100,000th page view. I think it’s somehow symbolically cool that on its 1st birthday it had its 100,000th view.

Another birthday wish, then, is for continued enthusiasm from you who read these words. Whether you comment or email or simply read, your presence is part of what drives this whole project!

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SitPS at 1: Looking back, but mostly forward

I am not good at looking back at things I’ve written unless there is discussion of a particular item, so I’m not going to compile a retrospective of the year’s posts, but I’ll tell you a few things I realized as I thought back over the year:

First off, because of the title of the blog and the topics covered, I disappointed a number of people. Many people got there through searches for “naked pictures of my wife,” or “naked middle school girls” or searches like those. Those searches turned up my two most popular posts, my response to the New York Times Op Ed piece “Middle School Girls Gone Wild” and my reaction to the news that Doris Ozmun’s naked photos had stirred up such controversy in her Oklahoma town that ultimately her husband (the chief of police) and two other town officials (the mayor and a city council member) resigned from their jobs. Though I’m very happy to have you hear, and am ambivalent about giving this advice, if you truly are looking for pictures, then a Google Image search is probably a good idea. It’ll at least save you from a mess of analysis and commentary!

Many others of you landed here unintentionally because you were looking for instructions about care of foreskins, or to find out what women think of them, or you were looking for public sex venues, or for sex in the woods, and for other fascinating things, and many of you stayed long enough to poke around, and liked what you saw enough that you came back. I’ve been glad to have you around and I hope you’ll keep reading! (I’m stunned by the number of you searching for information about foreskins, by the way, and I hope you’re finding the information that you need!).

I also learned that I am the queen of saying “let’s get back to this” and then moving on to something new. I won’t go back and count the number of times I raised a theme or a question and said I’d get back to it and then didn’t. I’m glad that the end of this first year doesn’t mark the end of the blog! There are lots of threads to pick back up:

These days, though, I am much better at looking forward than at looking back, so let me leave this post with the following birthday wish for my blog:

May the next year be even more exciting than the last, may the public square continue to expand, and may we all participate in the creation of a more sensible culture of sexuality, one that affirms differences and is grounded in ideals of openness, freedom and respect.

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Filed under Personal Reflections, public discourse, sex

Sex in the Public Square Index – Year 1

Today is the first birthday of this blog. In fact, it is exactly a year ago today that I wrote my first ever blog entry. I’ve got a couple of retrospective-y posts in the works, but to get started, since I love Harper’s Index, I thought this would be a fun way to summarize some of the first year of Sex in the Public Square. If there are other things you’d like to see quantified, leave your suggestions in the comments!

Number of posts: 132

Number of Guest Posts: 3

Total words (not including comments or today’s posts): 77,813

Number of page views as of this posting: 99,500

Largest number of page views on a single day: 12,543

Number of comments: 526

Number of blogs that link here, according to Technorati: 122

Total number of links back from those blogs: 313

Number of people who subscribe to the RSS feed: 117

Minimum number of people I met as a direct result of this blog: 13

Number of those who are purely fictional: 2

Number who are not fictional but whose “real” names I do not know: 6

Number of men who have contributed stories about their penises to the Foreskin Dialogs post, so far: 22

Increase in the number of blogs I read regularly as a result of writing this blog: +14

Ratio of posts to categories/tags: 1:1.7

Number of times SitPS ended up on the WordPress top blogs list: 2

Minimum number of comedy routines derived from SitPS threads: 1

Number of blogs I started as a result of this one: 2

Number of other people I’ve convinced to blog: 1

Number of times I’ve thought “How am I going to keep all this up once my sabbatical ends?”: Impossible to count!

 

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Out of the woods…

I’m back in the city and collecting my thoughts. Being in the woods for a week was delightful — human sounds were few and bird sounds and frog sounds were many. It was, it appeared, mating-and-baby-tending season: turtles were laying eggs, fish were guarding nests, very young squirrels were play-fighting in the trees, and red-wing blackbirds were busy escorting crows away from the large areas of marsh they’d claimed as nursery space. (Visit this post on my partner’s blog to see a photo of a turtle checking whether the sun was just right for egg laying. And yes, that’s me in the canoe in the first photo.)

It made me think that a blog about sex — broadly speaking — should include a section on ecology. So that’s something I’m going to add in the expanded public square, which is now — really truly — nearly ready to open. In fact, if you’re interested in previewing it, please drop a note. The new site’ll have much more room for “active membership” so I’d be especially interested in hearing from anyone who’d like to be a regular contributor.

I didn’t keep up with the news much at all while away, so I’m still a bit dazed from all the catching up there is to be done! In addition, there are BR’s extensive comments about penises in the Foreskin Dialogues thread, and Kyle’s on the Alternatives to Marriage Project platform. I promised I’d respond to them.

And I will.

Soon. Tomorrow, perhaps. Once the car horns and ambulances reclaim their place in that part of my brain where they are simply background noise again and not the ear-splitting distractions that they sound like today.

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A few thoughts on Love this Valentine’s Day

Let today be a day when you freely express your love for another human being. It needn’t be romantic love, though certainly it could be. Just so long as it is love. Don’t be shy about it. Don’t be private about it. Do it publicly, openly, and unrepentently.

Let today be a day when you feel deeply your love of community. The biblical imperative to “love thy neighbor as thyself” is a good one to remember today. Let yourself feel the gratitude, love, or simple connectedness that you feel toward the people in your community who make it “home.” And a bit of self-love is in order, as well!

Let today be a day when that feeling of love for community radiates out to become an awareness of the connections we share beyond our communities, connections that tie all of us on the planet together.

Let today be a day to be mindful of the need for peace, for sharing, for connection, and for the part we each play in achieving peace, for sharing with each other, and for tending to the connections that bind us all together.

Love deeply and love widely.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

ps: A special Valentine’s kiss for Will, my partner-in-life and now in blogging!

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Filed under life, Personal Reflections, Valentine's Day

Segregating Sex

“As long as we equate sex with dirt, weakness, and guilt, a powerful weapon exists for demagogues who not only flatter supporters that they are disciplining their own erotic instincts correctly, but also advertise the values they profess as essential to living a good life.” – Jay Gertzman, “There has been no sexual revolution,” p. 315 in Russ Kick’s Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong, The Disinformation Company, 2006

I’m still thinking about the discussions we’ve been having about what is “mature” and about what people should be protected from stumbling across accidentally. There is no question that most of the “what” here is sex, or sexually explicit, or erotic material. That made me think back to the Jay Gertzman quote, above.

By making sexually explicit or erotic material the stuff from which we protect people – or to be more clear, the stuff we segregate into a separate space so that people don’t come across it accidentally, we continue to link sex with “dirt, weakness and guilt,” which Gertzman warns us against. We could add all kinds of things to the list of “dirt, weakness and guilt.” We could add “shame,” “secrecy,” “fear,” “embarrassment,” and perhaps other things as well, but “dirt, weakness and guilt,” seem to form the foundation for all those other things.

Of course there are people who don’t want to come across sexual material. But why should we cater uniquely to those people and not, say, to people who would rather not accidentally come across movie reviews, or blogs about gaming, or blogs about gambling, or blogs about politics? Why segregate sex?

It is true that the values of our dominant culture in the US assume sex to be something reserved for private spaces, something that is supposed to be shared only between partners in long term loving committed relationships. But our own dominant culture is riddled with examples of where that is not the case. One only need to look at advertising to see that. Yet that is really just an aside.

It is true that our dominant culture values assert that sex should be private. But that, as Gertzman claims, supports a dangerous ideology, so why should the public sphere of ideas be governed by that? Isn’t the public square or the public sphere the place where we are supposed to have the most open exchange of ideas, where we test ourselves and our worldviews against others and where we persuade others to change their minds, or where we change our own minds in the face of persuasive arguments?

Separating sexually explicit material out from the rest makes it seem equated with “danger,” “dirt,” “guilt,” and “shame,” and contributes to its usefulness as a weapon – a weapon that is useful for instilling fear into anyone who wants to be ‘respected’ by neighbors, co-workers, families, or bosses, and who has ideas that deviate from the dominant sexual script. For that matter, it is a tool that is useful for cowing anyone, because it becomes a source for accusations that are nearly impossible to refute. Remember how sex was used to keep blacks down? Whites just had to assert that black male sexuality was dangerous to white women. No proof necessary.

As long as sex is segregated from all other kinds of material, we will continue to let it be a tool for exploitation, oppression, discrimination, fear, and hate. The danger of sex is not in sex itself, but in the hiding of sex and the shaming of sex.

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Filed under censorship, community-building, Homophobia, life, Personal Reflections, public discourse, sex, sexuality

“Protection,” “freedom,” “community” and control

A quick update to my previous post: Dr.Mike left a comment directing readers to Mark’s post from last August, which raises many more question than answers. (This is actually, I believe, the same post that is mentioned several times in the forum I linked to earlier. The link given in that forum does not work any longer. The one above does.) Check that out and let’s discuss!

Meanwhile, I’m prompted to think about the overarching question of how much we ought to be protected from in terms of public discourse. Up front let me acknowledge that while the blogosphere might *feel* like a completely public space, it is actually a complex conglomeration of privately-owned spaces that blend together and feel more public than they really are. So, I acknowledge that WordPress.com, and Automattic, the hosting service, has a right to set the rules for conversation as it likes, and I agreed to the Terms of Service (and even got the treat) when I signed up.

So here’s my first question: Given the quasi-public space we have here in the blogosphere, or at least in our own corner of it at WordPress.com, how much ought we be protected from content we might not like? And, given the wide range of content people might not like, how should we decide which are “bad” enough that people need to be protected from accidental contact with them, and which are not so bad?

And, then another question: If protection is deemed necessary, what level of protection should be offered? For example, there is a little arrow at the top right of my WordPress screen that will take me to some randomly chosen “next” blog. I usually find this uninteresting, so I don’t usually click on that button. But let’s say I did. Am I not, by clicking on it, acknowledging my willingness to be exposed to something I am not expecting? I can protect myself by not clicking on that button in the first place. Or, should I expect that any randomly selected blog will be a reasonably bland and unlikely-to-be-offensive bunch of writing? Since it’s random, perhaps erring on the side of caution is worthwhile, given the incredibly wide range of users that WordPress generates. There are so many ways for WordPress users to judge the content of what they’re about to see before seeing in “in full” that this “next” button seems to be the only way to be truly randomly exposed to something you don’t want to see.

Even if we agree that sexually-explicit material is something that some people should be protected from seeing, (and I, for one, would not tend to agree), certainly we would also agree that people who are looking for it don’t need that protection. If I’m a person who writes erotic blog posts, and I want to do some tag surfing to see who else is writing about similar material, why should I be “protected” from seeing the kind of material for which I’m looking? In the tag surfing module I actually have to enter the tags indicating the kinds of posts I want to browse. Likewise if I purposefully browse the “sex” tag page, why should I be “protected” from posts about sex? Isn’t it counterproductive if I’m kept from seeing them? Doesn’t it do a disservice to WordPress blog readers by getting in the way of a free exchange of ideas among people interested in the same topic?

Would it be more effective to encourage WordPress bloggers to use tags that do identify their content as “mature” and then show those only on the tag pages for those “mature”-content tags? People would know where to look, bloggers would take responsibility for their content, and we would come to a solution that might make most members of the community happier than they currently are. Remember, the current system relies largely on unhappy users, by waiting for them to be randomly offended. (You wouldn’t be flagging something you were looking for, would you?) Essentially this system depends on exposing people to things they don’t think are appropriate and then waiting for them to complain. And it results in a very uneven blocking of material from certain parts of the WordPress site. Thus it is neither very effective nor very efficient.

What is the answer? I don’t know. We don’t even all agree on the question! But I do know that what is happening now seems arbitrary and over-reaching, and while I agree WordPress has the “right” to do it, I also think they are not achieving their own goals — providing a community for bloggers, and “protecting” bloggers from material they find offensive — as well as they might if they had a more nuanced and rational policy.

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Filed under censorship, community-building, culture, Personal Reflections, Political Obscenity, public discourse, sex, sexuality

The “Voice” of the Affluent, not the Alternative

Like many others, I was saddened to learn that Rachel Kramer Bussel would no longer be writing the sex column, “Lusty Lady,” for the Village Voice. I admire Rachel and I enjoy her writing. When I read on her blog that she’d been told her column was finished, I was disappointed. Then, when I read what the Voice had used to replace her, my disappointment turned to irritation and disgust.

Some of us had speculated that the Voice had hired someone “younger” and “newer,” but as it happens, the “newness” that they’ve turned to is the newness of middle-age and convention. The Voice has hired “two married mothers living in Brooklyn” whose greatest wish is to get their husbands to have sex with them.

Now, I’m glad when I see married women writing about sex. Sex ought not disappear — as an event or a topic for conversation — just because people have hitched their wagon to the state. And married women should share their experiences just like single or otherwise-partnered women should do. Women should talk about sex no matter what their relationship status. Women should talk about sex no matter what their class or their age would lead us to stereotypically expect from them.

But these women are professionals, living upper middle class seemingly conventionally-affluent lives, apparently with little sex to speak of, and nothing much to say. As some readers already pointed out, this type of column might have been suitable for New York magazine or the New York Times, but not for the Village Voice.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the Village is not what it used to be. Sure it still hosts many interesting and alternative folks, but there is no mistaking that gentrification has succeeded in winding its tendrils throughout the neighborhood. Still, the Village Voice used to be an “alternative newsweekly,” and now, especially in its new sex column, it appears to be becoming the Voice of the Affluent, not the Voice of the Alternative. It’s not like I hadn’t noticed this happening. It’s not like I hadn’t noticed the increasing number of ads for cosmetic surgery, expensive day spas, and other luxuries-deemed-essentials of the elite creeping in among the ads for futons and second hand clothing and drag shows. (Anything that markets itself as a cosmetic procedure and comes with a “$500 off” coupon is way out of my league as luxury treatments go.)

But I digress. I am inclined to be happy when married women write about sex. I am a married woman, much to some people’s surprise, and while I don’t live in the most traditional of marriages, I find that — based on a very unscientific sample of my friends and colleagues — lots of married people don’t live in the most conventional of marriages. I’m totally up for reading about how people negotiate sex in their marriages, how they keep themselves sexually engaged, and how they deal with, or work around monogamy. There is lots of interesting material that married folk could put out there for everyone to enjoy.

So there is no excuse — other than a radical shift in market strategy — for what passed as the Voice’s sex column this week. First of all, it didn’t contain any useful information about sex. Instead it was really not much more than a catalogue of commercial endorsements. It’s amazing how many Nora Shelley works in. By name she mentions “Forever 21,” “Zoloft,” “City Bakery,” “Cosabella” ($60 bras and $20 thongs, mentioned twice), “Aeron” (as in the $750+ desk chair), “the Limited,” and “Starbucks.” Now, Forever 21 and City Bakery are places they actually spend time in during the events narrated in the column. The other mentions are pretty gratuitous. Is there any reason in the world we should care what kind of desk chair Essie Carmichael’s husband sits in to do his online “printer research?” And even worse, in the litany of product endorsements, the only item named that helped either woman achieve sexual satisfaction does not get its brand identified or promoted! What kind of sex column tells you exactly where to buy a dress that you don’t look good in, and a lunch that spoils your diet but then doesn’t name the amazing showerhead that is reportedly the best gift Essie has ever been given and the only thing with which Nora has had sex in years?

As if that weren’t bad enough, Nora Shelley, the one who wrote this week’s column and who isn’t getting any sex with her husband, has a housekeeper and a nanny and still can’t find time not to be exhausted. Not only that, she’s not creative enough to see immediately that sex with her husband should be easier if she’s got a nanny and a housekeeper, rather than more difficult as she believes it to be. And to make it all the worse, the tone is whiny and self-indulgent instead of hip and informative.

I suppose this change reflects what the Voice understands its readers to want. I suppose it means that the alternative crowd they believed they existed to inform has become an affluent-married-mainstream crowd. And perhaps that’s exactly what’s happened. But if you’re a Voice reader and you don’t fit that description, let them know.

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Filed under culture, Family, life, Personal Reflections, public discourse, Relationships, sex, sexuality, sexuality and age

Happy New Year

This year is ending with a huge upsurge of interesting comments and I promise to respond to them when I return on January 2, 2007.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something to read, may I suggest, based on what has triggered all the recent interest, these two posts from the archives. The first is more personal, the second more political.

Sex is a way of knowing

Age, Consent, Power, Position, Agency and Abuse

Wishing peace and joy and compassion and pleasure for all in the new year,
Elizabeth

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Filed under News and politics, Personal Reflections, public discourse, sex, sexuality, sexuality and age

Gratitude

The darkness descends early and it is a good time to draw inward, to reflect, to be thoughtful, to contemplate.

It is Thanksgiving, and rather than let that mean myths about pilgrims, Indians and turkeys and horns of plenty I prefer to take the holiday more seriously and quietly consider the things that I take for granted but should not. The things that, when I consciously consider them, make me wonder at how fortunate I am.

I am grateful to have a partner who shares so much of himself with me and encourages me to share so much of myself with others. He is a truly amazing human being: generous, creative, incredibly smart, full of energy, thoughtful, wise, gorgeous and sensuous… I could not be more fortunate. I am grateful for his love, his support, his encouragement, his curiosity and his enthusiastic adventurousness.

I am grateful for the rediscovered courage to open myself more fully to the world.

…and for the new, interesting, passionate and compassionate relationships that have opened to me as I have been more open to the world.

… and for the courage to explore them, and for the courage it has taken these brave souls to open themselves to me.

…and for the time and carefulness that goes into all the communication that sustains important relationships.

…and for friends who are such inspirations for how to be whole and how to engage honestly and completely with people.

…and for the ability and time to meditate, to sit quietly, to stretch and to be mindful.

I am grateful for colleagues who encourage intellectual growth in unusual directions.

…and for sabbatical leave during which to do exactly that!

I am grateful for the community of bloggers whose work inspires me and who encourage me in developing my own work for the readers who comment on it.

I am grateful that the political atmosphere in this country is a little less scary than it was before election day.

I am grateful for life, for freedom, for family, beauty in the world, for consciousness and mindfulness and the supportive love of others who see and understand.

And you. What are you grateful for?

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