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.

Reuters: Gender, sex, power, and stillettos

Reuters: Gender, sex, power, and stillettos

I have a piece at Reuters today, about how wearing high heels can affect other people’s behaviour toward a woman – and what that finding tells us about gender, sex, power, and attraction:

A new study out of France’s Université de Bretagne-Sud in finds that men are more likely to lend a helping hand to a woman wearing high heels. In the study, social psychologist Nicolas Guéguen found that men were more likely to answer survey questions if the woman asking them was wearing heels than if she was wearing flats. Similarly, Guéguen (who has also tackled the research question of whether carrying a guitar case makes a man more likely to succeed in getting a woman’s phone number) found that men were more likely to help a woman pick up a dropped glove if she was wearing heels.

That high heels change how straight men respond to women is hardly surprising. After all, high heels change the way you walk, the way you stand, and the way your clothes fit your body. As a culture, we have decided that the alterations heels produce in how women carry themselves are desirable, a decision we’ve stuck to for over 50 years. In recent years, the trend pendulum in high heels has swung toward atmospherically high, with platforms and hyper-narrow stiletto heels giving way, recently, to 1990s-nostalgia in the form of chunkier heels. These are, in the grand scheme of things, relatively minor variations; our cultural penchant for high heels is entrenched, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

Some have questioned this study’s methodology, and not without reason, but its findings raise some interesting questions. Are men more likely to respond to women in heels because they find them more attractive, and are they more likely to answer survey questions from or help an attractive woman? Or are the men who help a woman in heels pick up her glove correctly perceiving that a woman in heels is in fact, physically, less stable than a woman in flats, and might therefore be more likely to need their help? Or, more interestingly still — and more troublingly — does a woman’s perceived instability and vulnerability make her more physically attractive to some men?

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.

Reuters: You’d love to meet me on Tinder. Here’s why you won’t.

Reuters: You’d love to meet me on Tinder. Here’s why you won’t.

I had a piece at Reuters last week about the sexual harassment suit against Tinder, and why it should make us think twice about whether or not we want to use the dating app:

The people behind the smartphone apps Snapchat and Tinder have the power to reshape how we interact with our romantic and sexual partners, and how we seek and have sex itself.

That’s an enormous responsibility — one that requires maturity, good judgment and a healthy respect for gender equality. The problem is, a few of the people behind Snapchat and Tinder seem to have none of the above.

When news broke last week that a former vice president of Tinder filed a sexual harassment suit against the mobile dating app company, the most salacious parts of the complaint quickly spread around the Internet. Whitney Wolfe alleges that her former colleague Justin Mateen, chief marketing officer of the hugely popular app, called her a “whore” (among other slurs) and deliberately concealed Wolfe’s role in founding the company, in part because it would look too “slutty” for a woman to have contributed to the development of a dating and casual sex app. Eventually, Wolfe claims, Mateen and chief executive officer Sean Rad bullied her into resigning from Tinder.

You can read the whole thing here.

New York: It’s not sexism, it’s chivalry!

New York: It’s not sexism, it’s chivalry!

I have a piece at New York magazine this week, about two new dating websites that are hoping to make a profit from what they call “chivalry” or “traditional dating”:

The HiDine process is simple: After being granted permission to join the “exclusive” HiDine community, would-be daters create a profile in which they list their favorite foods and the specific restaurants they enjoy. The men are instructed to find women who share similar culinary interests and “ask them out to a restaurant you think they will enjoy based on their lists of favorite restaurants.” The women, meanwhile, are instructed to “sit and wait” to be asked on a date. “Chivalry is alive” assures the website’s tagline.

“I come from a small town where guys act more like guys, and this wouldn’t even be a question in some places,” McGinnis told me in a phone interview. “When you take somebody out, you pay, it’s as simple as that.” But HiDine isn’t shooting for the small towns; it’s shooting for the big cities, starting with L.A. And in a city like that, McGinnis said, there’s a lot of competition. “Especially in big cities, where a girl can go out with any guy, [paying for dinner] is such a small and easy thing to do.”

Why can’t women do it for men? McGinnis explains that’s just not how it works. “If I ask a girl out, she’s going to expect that I pay,” he said. “It’s fair that that’s what girls expect, to be romanced in the early stages of dating.” (At no point in the interview did he refer to women as “women”— always “girls.”)

You can read the whole thing here. Unless you’re a “girl,” of course, in which case you should sit and wait for a man to come and read it to you.

Daily Life: On mid-twenties menarche

Daily Life: On mid-twenties menarche

I have a piece at Daily Life today, about getting my period back after several years of eating way too little and exercising way too much:

A few months after my twenty-third birthday, my period disappeared. It wasn’t a surprise to me that it had stopped showing up: that’s what happens when you don’t eat nearly enough and you exercise way too much. For two-and-a-half years, it kept not showing up. I wasn’t particularly worried about it; like a lot of eating disordered people, I took it as a sign that I was doing something right.

Of course, it was a sign of completely the opposite. If a female’s biological, evolutionary purpose is to conceive and bear children (I’m talking biology here, not culture; if you tell me that my purpose on earth as a woman is to conceive and bear children, I will smack you upside the head),  then I was failing miserably at fulfilling that purpose. My period disappeared because I wasn’t healthy enough to sustain a pregnancy, and my body knew it.

Our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for. Often, they’re smarter than we are. When it comes to weight, they know what shape, and what size, they’re meant to be. We can fight them on that, we can try to thwart genetic destiny, but our bodies usually win in the end. You can starve yourself thin, but your body will adapt: it will take every morsel of food, every ounce of nutrient, and convert it into the fat it knows you need to survive. And it will hold on to that fat for fear that it might one day starve again. We might live in a world of diets and cleanses, but our bodies are relics of another time, when food was scarce and fat was valuable. During those years, my body thought I was living through a famine, when in fact, food was abundant. I just wasn’t eating it.

And then, a few months ago, I stopped starving myself. I stopped punishing myself on the treadmill. I started taking care of myself. And a few months after that, my period returned.

You can read the whole thing here.

MSNBC: Double standards in sex scandals

MSNBC: Double standards in sex scandals

I have a piece at MSNBC today, about gendered double standards in political sex scandals:

When men are drummed out of office for a sex scandal, we lament their lost potential. Anthony Weiner had such promise, we groaned. David Petraeus was so brilliant, we sighed. Now they’ll never get to fly as high as they might otherwise have, as high as they should have. When Weiner relinquished his seat in the House of Representatives, the Washington Post mourned his “squandered political promise.” When Eliot Spitzer resigned, his colleagues rued his “promise lost.” In his own resignation press conference, the former “Sheriff of Wall Street” himself said, “I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been.”

In political sex scandals, women are not lost potential. They are punchlines and punching bags, and then they fade away into obscurity. The women these men were caught with, whether they were trading explicit Twitter messages or having a sexual relationship with the president in the Oval Office, become guaranteed laugh lines. If we know their names, if we remember their names, it is because we mock them. Monica Lewinsky! Chuckle, chuckle. Paula Broadwell! Giggle, giggle.

At the time, we laugh at the men, too, of course – we joke about “hiking the Appalachian Trail” and make sly asides about going “all in,” – all the while knowing that the men could bounce back, given a few years. The women, as The New York Times reported recently, will not be so lucky. The New York Daily News ran a photo of Ashley Dupre, the woman with whom Spitzer was caught cheating, with the headline “Hi, ho Eliot!” He’s running for comptroller; she’s still a “ho.”

You can read the whole thing here.