Medium: What’s the worst sex you ever had?

Medium: What’s the worst sex you ever had?

My first ever piece at Medium is about painful sex, consent, and desire. Unsurprisingly, it’s intimate and fairly graphic. You’ve been warned.

It will hurt so much that you’ll wonder if he’s putting it in the wrong hole. It will hurt so much that it will feel like he’s stabbing you in the vagina. It will hurt so much that you’ll stop long before he gets close to coming. And that’s how you’re going to lose your virginity.

When you tell your friends about it, you’ll lie about how it went. You’ll tell them that you were both nervous, but that you both enjoyed it. Inwardly, you are baffled that this activity could ever feel good for a woman. The space between what you just experienced and good — let alone orgasmic — is a wide, yawning gap. “This sex thing is pretty great,” you’ll tell your two best friends, feigning both a satisfaction and a nonchalance that you do not feel.

You will try again in the coming weeks — in fact, you’ll try many times, hoping that the pain was a first time thing. You’ll tell yourself that it probably hurt the first time because your hymen was breaking, which is highly unlikely. You are an ex-gymnast, and you fell with one leg on either side of the balance beam a few too many times for that to be a plausible explanation. Still, you’ll keep trying, and at your insistence he will keep ramming his penis on in there, even as your vagina burns and screams in protest, feeling like it’s tearing with every thrust. It will hurt enough that you wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled his dick out to find it covered in blood.

You can read the whole thing here. And if you or someone you know suffers from pelvic pain during sex or otherwise, I cannot recommend the good people at Renew PT highly enough.

BuzzFeed: When my boyfriend gained weight I had to confront my own eating issues

BuzzFeed: When my boyfriend gained weight I had to confront my own eating issues

Relationships are messy. Recovering from mental illness is messy. Human desire is messy. Blend all three and you can get what I got: a painful, complicated tangle. That’s the topic of my latest essay at BuzzFeed Ideas:

I told him early in our relationship that I was recovering from an eating disorder. I had only stopped compulsively overexercising and subsisting on lettuce and baby carrots a few months before we met. Having struggled with his weight for most of his life, he sympathized. In the year before we met, he told me, he’d lost a dramatic amount of weight, and was only now starting to like the skin he was in.

As a feminist writer, I had felt like my eating disorder made me a hypocrite. For two years, while I wrote about body image and loving yourself and being healthy at every size, I had been starving myself. On one day in 2011, I moderated a panel at a body image conference — but I was starving; I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I had spent those years feeling tremendously guilty, not just because I was a feminist who ought to have “known better” than to have an eating disorder, but because I felt immense pressure to set an example for others.

I felt like such a fraud. The double whammy of perfectionism — you must have a perfect body and you must be a perfect feminist — tied me up in a painful knot. The guilt, the extra layer of self-disgust, lay thick on top of the kind of self-loathing that makes a person starve herself, and only deepened the pain I felt. The knot was so tightly tangled that I spent a year and a half in therapy before I turned a corner and stopped actively hurting myself.

Then I met B, and we fell in love. And then B started putting on weight.

You can read the whole thing here.

Marie Claire: I married myself

Marie Claire: I married myself

I have a piece at Marie Claire today about my not-engagement ring, and about how we might endow old symbols with new meaning:

Forget men—one of the longest and most meaningful relationships I’ve ever had was with my doctorate dissertation. It consumed me, and fascinated me, and took up all my time and energy. It accounted for four full, pivotal years of my life.

As I worked on it, friends all around me were getting engaged, tying the knot, and changing their names from Ms. Them to Mrs. Someone Else. When the full draft of my thesis was finished and the end was in sight, I decided that I wanted to mark the pivotal moment when I changed my name from Ms. to Dr.

So I bought myself a diamond ring at an auction, and when my I passed my thesis defense, I put it, proudly, on my left ring finger.

My statement can result in weird interactions. “So what does your fiancé do?” strangers will ask, and I’ll stare blankly at them for a second before collecting myself. “I’m not engaged,” I’ll reply. “I’m a doctor.” Then it’s their turn to stare, understandably confused by the non sequitur. But then I get to explain why I bought the ring, and why I wear it where I do.

You can read the whole thing here.

The New Republic: Throw pillows do not make for good therapists

The New Republic: Throw pillows do not make for good therapists

This week at TNR, I wrote about my recent visit home to Sydney, and about the challenges of living (and working, and loving) far from home:

And then it was time to go. Time to leave home, yet again.

The pain of separation, of leaving the place I love—even though it’s for another place I love—hasn’t faded after ten years. I always cry when I leave Sydney. This time, as the plane took off from Kingsford Smith, I wept. We soared into the sky and I couldn’t stop the tears, or stop looking out the window to see the last of my hometown, the green of the parks and the red of the terracotta roofs and the blinding flashes of gold as the sun hit the harbor. We flew east over the beach where Zach and I had sat at a café working the previous day, the beach where I wrote long stretches of my doctoral dissertation and had my first real kiss.

“We’ll be back,” he said, squeezing my hand. 

We doubtlessly will be, though in what capacity, I can’t say. Sydney is where I’m from. New York City is where I live. Home, the cliché goes, is where the heart is, but cross-stitched throw pillows don’t offer advice on where to go when the things dearest to your heart—your given family, your chosen family, your work—are all in different places. For now, my answer to those who ask if I’ll come back is: “I don’t know.”

You can read the whole thing here.

BuzzFeed: The paradoxical rise of the public marriage proposal

BuzzFeed: The paradoxical rise of the public marriage proposal

I had a piece at BuzzFeed last week, about the way that social media and new attitudes toward marriage have reshaped the way we live our love lives today:

Late last year, a grand romantic gesture went horribly awry. A Dutch man in a town near Utrecht hired a crane to use in a spectacular marriage proposal — the plan was for him to be lowered into his girlfriend’s garden as he sang to her, and for him to then pop the question. Alas. The crane fell over and smashed through neighboring roofs, resulting in the evacuation of 32 homes, international news coverage, and the amused pity of readers around the world. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and she said yes.

As someone who has watched a lot of romantic comedies — they were the subject of my doctoral dissertation — this story caught my eye. In order for a romantic comedy to come to a “happy” ending (that is, with the couple united, and presumably headed for monogamous heterosexual marriage), they must first be reunited, having been parted by the various obstacles to their love. Then she writes an article about him and stands on the baseball field in front of a huge crowd, waiting for him to show up and accept her apology, or he drives to her apartment in a white limo blaring La Traviata out the sunroof and climbs up her fire escape to declare his love. Or he stages a flash mob in Grand Central Station, or stands outside her window with a boom box, or interrupts her at her place of work to propose in broken Portuguese, or shows up at her press conference to ask her a big non-work-related question. You know the drill.

The unnamed hopelessly romantic Dutchman is an extreme example of how the ways in which many of us experience and express love have changed in recent years. Our collective desire to make a spectacle out of our love, and our unprecedented ability to broadcast and share that spectacle, have produced a visible and dramatic shift in the culture of romance. Today, we perform love, and consume it, as never before. And yet, the popularity of marriage is fading among young Americans. It’s a fraught and fascinating paradox, one of several that mark contemporary romance culture.

You can read the whole thing here.

The Hairpin: She’s All That

The Hairpin: She’s All That

Last week at The Hairpin, I wrote about She’s All That, as part of my ongoing series about romantic comedies:

She’s All That is a perfect example of how, in popular culture, male persistence in the face of female refusal is framed as romantic, desirable, and part of a healthy courtship. When Zach first tries to befriend Laney, he approaches her at school. She blows him off; he shows up at her workplace, where she tells him that “stalking is illegal in all 50 states.”

Next, he shows up uninvited to her house, and jokingly threatens to stay all day playing video games with her little brother—unless she consents to come to the beach with him. Later that night, when she says she can’t go to a party with him because she has to clean the house, he shows up again, this time with a soccer team tasked with cleaning her house. Now she has no excuse not to come out with him! She also has a troupe of complete strangers in her house. But now she can go to the party! Isn’t it charming how he won’t take no for an answer?

In the context of this movie, sure, it’s charming, I guess, with Freddie Prinze Jr’s big soulful eyes and very square jaw. He’s sweet as he threatens to camp out on her couch, unless she does what he wants, if affable threats are your thing. As viewers, we can suspend our disbelief and imagine we’d be cool with a bunch of fifteen-year-old boys we’ve never met cleaning our house —fifteen-year-old boys being known for their excellent hygiene and exceptional tidiness.

But the fact remains that Laney repeatedly tells Zach “no” and he repeatedly ignores her. Laney even uses the term “stalking,” and so does her best friend, but only to say, “The most popular guy in school is stalking you, and you aren’t the least bit curious?” Hardly the words of a concerned friend.

You can read the whole thing here.

Reuters: What When Harry Met Sally… got right – and wrong

Reuters: What When Harry Met Sally… got right – and wrong

At Reuters last week, I wrote about why When Harry Met Sally… is as relevant in 2014 as it was when it was released 25 years ago:

When Harry Met Sally… concludes that friendship between men and women is possible but ultimately unsustainable. Sooner or later, the friendship will involve sex and, in Harry and Sally’s case, love. Like so many other Hollywood romantic comedies, the movie posits that friendship between men and women is a holding pattern en route to the most desirable kind of relationship they can have. Harry and Sally’s friendship is based on respect and honesty, and it’s mutually beneficial; these are two people who care about and for each other. And yet, that’s not enough for them — or for the audience.

The notion of friendship as a consolation prize is the basis for the “friendzone,” a term that did not exist in 1989 but that would have made complete sense to a man like Harry. The friendzone is, in 2014 thinking, the place to which women cruelly relegate men in whom they have no sexual or romantic interest, with whom they want to be “just” friends. It is a hellish place, cultural wisdom tells us, a purgatory devoid of sex where men are forced to enjoy women’s affection, support and admiration without any coitus whatsoever. To be friendzoned is to be stuck at the halfway house with no hope of reaching your desired destinations: Sexburg and Boyfriendville.

You can read the whole thing here.