Oct 112013
Women are listening to what we say about their bodies when we discuss this shirt.

Women are listening to what we say about their bodies when we discuss this shirt.

When we talk about this shirt, we’re talking about vulvas.  We’re talking about our culture’s values around vulvas, masturbation, and pubic hair.  And the things we say not only reveal our internalized issues with those natural things; our words are impacting everyone who listens.


I will begin by getting the distracting things out of the way.  I am not a fan of American Apparel’s advertising, and often times not a fan of the company itself.  I’m especially pissed about their approach to fat potential customers.  I hate that their t-shirt sizes run really small compared to other companies, and that the fabric is cheap and disposable.  There, now that we have that out of the way lets refuse to be distracted by our thoughts on this this company so we can focus on this t-shirt, ok?

Recently American Apparel started selling this t-shirt, and the internet and news media went into their predictable meltdown as though this were bigger than global warming, international conflict, and the US government shutdown all rolled into one.  What was the outcry?  I won’t include links because these folks are getting enough press already.  The summary: the shirt is disgusting because (1) it’s a big naked vulva (2) it’s not naked/young enough; it has pubes (3) it’s menstruating.  For much of the mainstream media it was just too taboo to include (4) the vulva is being pleasured by a hand on the clit.

Whether you or I would wear a shirt like this doesn’t matter to me one bit (spoiler: I would), nor does it matter to this discussion.  What I care about is what we’re saying to each other and the world when we comment on this shirt.  When we talk about this shirt, we’re talking about vulvas.  We’re talking about our culture’s values around vulvas, masturbation, and pubic hair.  And the things we say not only reveal our internalized issues with those natural things; they are impacting everyone who listens.

This is a line drawing of a real vulva, drawn from a vulva selfie taken by one of the artists who created this image.  (The blood was added later, if you’re curious.)  If you’re interested in learning more about the artists and their thoughts on the brewhaha about the shirt, this is a great interview.  Although every vulva is different, there are plenty of vulvas out there that look like this one.  The simplicity of the line drawing means it can represent a particularly wide variety of vulvas, to boot.  When we say nasty things about this vulva, we’re disparaging a real person’s vulva and we’re saying awful things about the vulvas of many people.  By labeling certain things that nearly every vulva was born to have (pubic hair, menstrual blood, labia, masturbatory pleasure) as disgusting in this image, we are enforcing the idea that vulvas and sexual pleasure are something to get all “ew, gross” about.

A happy vulva is a fucking gorgeous vulva, with or without hair, with or without blood.  That includes mine, yours, hers, theirs, his (genitals do not equal gender), and that one over there.  If we’re gonna get our collective undies in a twist over the need for more positive body images, then lets start with our own language right here and now.  I surely hope none of us would turn to our child, sibling, parent, best friend, our partners, or ourself and say “your vulva is nasty.”  When we put down the image on this shirt, that is one of the messages we’re sending, whether intentional or not.

The vulva in this picture is lovely.  

The pubic hair is natural and attractive.  

The fact that the person in the image is pleasuring themself suggests that they and their vulva are happy together, and that’s fantastic.  

I love this vulva.

I love that it is proudly displayed on a shirt.  

And I adore your vulva even more.  I hope you do, too.

Oct 202011

Babeland.com is doing a wonderful October fundraiser called Pink October: Come for a Cause.  For each qualifying purchase, 10% will go to the Young Survival Coalition, which helps women under 40 with breast cancer.  One of the best ways to have fun while making a Come for a Cause purchase is by checking out the Power to the Pink kit.  This kit contains a delicious bottle of Sliquid Pink Lemonade flavored lube, a Babeland Buzz vibrator, and the ever-popular pink Mystic Wand.   Check out the reviews for all three products in these videos!

The Power to the Pink Kit is a fun way to support breast cancer survivors

Sliquid Pink Lemonade flavored lubricant is one of the most high-quality flavored lubes I’ve encountered.  It has a strong fruity lemonade scent, but only light to moderate flavor, so it isn’t overwhelming or sickly sweet.  It works quite well as a lube, especially considering it’s flavored (most flavored lubes tend to be stickier and less useful for actually lubricating).  It has a body-happy formula, a quality Sliquid products are known for.  And its pink lemonade flavor is unique and refreshingly different from the usual strawberry/cherry flavors of most flavored lubes.

The Babeland Buzz is a waterproof and easy-to-use bullet vibrator.  It has a simple one-button control, and provides strong buzzy vibrations.  It has all the convenience and fun of a good bullet vibe, plus it comes in a cute sparkly pink color!  Note: be careful to tap the batteries all the way down when putting them in, as I found it was easy to get them not-quite-all-the-way in by accident and think the toy was breaking (see video).

For the full scoop on the Mystic Wand, you can check out my review of it from last year.  In short, the Mystic Wand is a portable, battery-powered vibrator.  It has a variety of settings with powerful vibrations, and is nice and lightweight.  Plus, the button panel has a really bright blue light, so you can pretend you have some strange piece of alien technology between your thighs (if that’s your thing)!

Jul 032011

Most of the time, I prepare for conferences by nerding up with lots of articles, picking up a fresh notebook and a few good pens (anyone want to contribute an ipad to my cause?), readying my digital slides and packing layers for those ever-frigid presentation rooms.  It’s a different story when I’m off to a sex-positive event like Floating World!  Suitcases are fewer, presentation outfits are much more creative, comfy shoes or no shoes are the rule, and at least one piece of luggage is usually dedicated to fun freebies like these!  FunWares has generously sent me this gorgeous box of seductive tingly lip glosses, stimulating Tenga Egg toys, and delightful flavored dental dams.  Yay!  And you guessed it: I’m the lucky educator who gets to share all of these goodies with workshop attendees.  The condoms were a purchase I made – 100 unlubricated condoms for teaching safer oral sex skills, and for folks who want to avoid the silicone lube that typically comes with lubed condoms.  If you’re not yet in the know, that dab of silicone lube can put unwelcome wear on beloved silicone dildos and prosthetics.

Yep, Floating World is not your typical educational event, or at least not the ones I cut my teeth on as a grad student with a CV to build.  At events such as these, the days and evenings are filled with some of the most breath-taking, entertaining and applicable sex ed from some of the finest fellow educators in the world.  And the nights?  They’re educational and entertaining in… other ways. And the outfits get even better!

Many thanks to FunWares for helping me spice up my presentations at FloatingWorld.  Will I be seeing you there this year?

Dec 182009

It’s Friday, December 18th, and that means you have less than one week before Christmas, yet you still need that perfectly caring, sexy, and unexpected gift from the heart.  It’s too late to order the toy of the moment without paying for speedy shipping, my procrastinating Romeo.  Fear not!  Dr. Ruthie is here with a new annual tradition: Your Guide to the Three Hottest Last Minute Gifts.  Subscriptions and gift cards were once relegated to officemates, grown kids that don’t call home, and awkward holiday gift exchanges.  Now, they’re a hot gift item for loved ones, but only if you pick them with care and sincerity.  Consider this list, and pick the ones that will make your sweetheart’s cheeks glow (either set).

#1 – KinkAcademy.com

This site is a gem, and a subscription is the perfect couple’s gift for the romance with zing.  Subscribers have access to tasteful, educational videos from some of the top experts across the continent.  Learn how to finger your lover’s rear, tips for better kissing, suggestions for opening your relationship or exactly how to make your honey melt with that flogger that’s been hanging in the closet all year.  Heck, you can even learn to make your own sex toys so you won’t be in such a rush for next year’s gift ideas! These videos gently and patiently show you how to do the kinky things you’ve been dreaming of more clearly than a book can.  Videos are categorized for beginners, intermediate, and advanced.  Many feature demos in which educators show you how on real people; others feature appropriate props or discussion. It’s queer- friendly, and professionally produced, too.  As professional sexuality educator, I have high standards for a site like this and KinkAcademy.com goes above and beyond.  Gift tip: Personalize this one by creating a handmade gift certificate, along with a coupon book for activities that your lover would most like to try – inspired by these educational videos.

#2 – BeautifulAgony.com

Perhaps your lover’s style is more subtle, less kinky, but still very intimate and steamy.  Check out BeautifulAgony.com for a delicious subscription to real videos of real people masturbating.  What’s special about that?  This site focuses solely on their faces.  BeatuifulAgony has been around for a few years now, and continues to excite with images of gorgeous amateurs.  Thankfully, they’ve been featuring a wider range of body types, genders and even ages lately too.  This site is a powerful reminder to slow down and enjoy our partners’ experience of pleasure.  Gift Tip: Give this one to your lover with a note inviting them to create their own video with you, either to keep private or to share with the site.

#3 – Scarleteen.com

So, you and your partner like to spend the holiday volunteering, and the hottest thing you can give each other is the promise of a better tomorrow.  Spread the love by helping our youth to receive the highest quality sexuality education through Scarleteen.com.  They’ve been around over a decade and helped at least a million people, not including all of the friends-of-friends that get solid info traced back to Scarleteen!  This year, they’ve rolled out an amazing service in which young adults can receive solid info through text messages.  Clearly, a donation to Scarleteen goes a long way toward showing your sweetie that your love has no limits. Gift Tip: Have other friends who are similarly inclined?  Go in together on a larger, anonymous donation.

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Oct 302009

Good Vibes - Fantastic Sex Shopping in San Francisco

Good Vibes is the first adult store from which I ever made an online purchase – way back during my time in New York. It changed my life, because the atmosphere of their website encouraged me to learn about what I was buying, as well as myself, without shame.

When I finally found myself in San Francisco I knew I must make the pilgrimage in person and I was not disappointed. What a fantastic store! I know good vibes was recently acquired by a larger company, but rest assured that the independent, feminist, service-oriented spirit is very much alive.

I walked into this store and was immediately greeted by their inspiring and entertaining selection of antique vibrators. As a proud owner of an early 1900s vibe myself, I was thrilled to see her sisters on display here. As one might expect, this excellent store sells a variety of toys for all genders and sexualities, as well as some uniquely tasty BDSM gear and plenty of books, condoms and lubes. Toys are usually on display, so you can check them out, and the lay out of the store is comfortable and easy to navigate.

Let me take a moment to compliment the staff, who are all far more trained and approachable than those are your typical (smuttier) store. As a professional sex educator, my questions tend to be picky and unusual. I was thrilled that staff were able to advise me on their items without hesitation, in spite of my detail-oriented needs. I left feeling well educated about the products that I was interested in, and confident that I could call later, if needed.

I should also mention that they have an art gallery space in the back are easily accessible by bus.

View all of my sex store reviews here on ExploringIntimacy.com.

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