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A.V. Flox
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A.V. Flox

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WHEN SUCCEEDING MEANS BECOMING IRRELEVANT

The adult news site AVN has a bitter article up in response to a piece on the +The Huffington Post about adult performers, other than Belle Knox, who attend university.

The AVN article adds a number of names to the short list begun by Huffington Post associate editor Tyler Kingkade, saying, "Not to be snarky or anything, but the point is that the mainstream media does a disservice to the history of adult entertainment when it applies its all-too-common myopia to porn, and as a result continues to perpetuate stereotypes about the industry and the people in it for their own self-aggrandizement. HuffPo is a relative newcomer, of course, and as such it can pretend to be unaware of some things because it wasn't around to experience them."

The problem with these comments is that Kingkade doesn't say anything in his post that AVN itself wouldn't say — in fact, AVN itself points out that it has covered the collegiate achievements of the two women that Kingkade brought to the attention of the mainstream media consumer. The HuffPo's point that "There Are Other Porn Stars On College Campuses, You Just Don't Know About Them," as the title reads, is buttressed by the number of names that AVN adds to the list beyond Tasha Reign and Spencer Scott: Joanna Angel, who founded her alternative porn site BurningAngel while at Rutgers University; Lorelei Lee, who juggled NYU and porn before finally graduating in 2009; and Nina Hartley, who started doing porn in her junior year at San Francisco State University’s undergrad nursing school, before graduating magna cum laude in 1985. AVN also throws another name in for good measure: Lexington Steele, who double-majored in history and African-American studies at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences three years before entering porn in 1996.

It's difficult to see how the Huffington Post is, in this case, perpetuating stereotypes about the adult industry. While they could benefit from a little more research, this is true of all information outlets. That said, the stories told about Reign (who is working toward a degree in gender studies at University of California, Los Angeles) and Spencer (who’s studying cosmetology) are complete and, more importantly, fair.

So why the rage? The tone of the article and the use of the word “self-aggrandizement” suggest a different concern on the part of AVN. When the trade magazine Adult Video News, better known as AVN, was founded in 1983, there was very little in the way of attention from the mainstream media when it came to issues facing the adult industry. Unless something horrific had happened in porn or at the hands of a porn star, no journalist could be bothered to cover it. AVN had a beat and owned it. They wouldn't see a serious contender until XBIZ entered the arena toward the end of the 90s, around the same time that AVN went online in 1998 — before there was a Facebook or even a LiveJournal.

When it comes to adult industry news — from lawsuits to legislation, from sex workers rights to the hijinks of high-profile members of the industry — AVN is our historian. Undoubtedly, it has hurt them to be a trade journal — before the web, that reduced their impact by making it difficult for anyone outside the industry to gain access to its content. But the trade aspect of their coverage doesn't do them any favors even in the open world of web: AVN is still, first and foremost, an industry site, which means that press releases will always run free among news items, making it difficult for readers to trust what they read. And there is, of course, the issue of the imagery on the site and on its advertisements. Suggestive or outright sexual imagery makes it difficult to safely access the site while at work — which, face it, is when most of us browse the web.

But there is another, much bigger thing happening — and this is part of a success story that owes much to AVN and XBIZ and members of the adult entertainment industry who battled to enable people in this country to enjoy access to erotic materials and fought to normalize sex — adult is not just mainstream now, it’s mainstream with increasing momentum.

I started blogging about sex because I thought it was disgraceful that newspapers had no “sex” section. When I eventually founded what would become +Slantist, that’s the model I went for. But we now live in a world where sex is often reported — not just on trade publications, weeklies, and alternative sites, but in places like the New York Times and the Atlantic.

Sex toys are given away in the street — you can even find them in drug stores, and not behind a counter, either. Sexology is on television, getting critical acclaim from viewers, and raves on TV Guide. Sex is the subject of a dizzying number of surveys and research, and science communicators are increasingly comfortable talking about it. Pornography has its own peer-reviewed journal!

This is a wild triumph — and it begins with the adult industry, which fought against censorship and oppressive Comstock laws. Whether you like porn or think it's a destructive force, remember that the ban on sending "obscene" materials wasn't limited to pornography, but included information on birth control and scientific articles that so much as mentioned the genitals or reproductive system. We are richer because of these battles, and we are well on our way to a place where sex is so commonplace that it can be seen through a sane lens, free of sensationalism and moralizing.

But where does this leave AVN — or sites like mine, for that matter? It is a bittersweet thing. But it is a good thing.

There is much, still, to be done. Mainstream media remains to some extent full of sensationalist causal claims that are without basis and it continues, in many cases, to moralize. For now, that is how we can differentiate — by bringing the humanizing angle that mainstream media sometimes forgets in the rush to publish first with eye-grabbing headlines.

But lets try not to be bitter. Winning this war means becoming irrelevant.
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+A.V. Flox The thing I find especially ironic about the infantilising of sex-workers is that there are so many other professions that are very well-documented as being mentally & physically harmful, & yet we praise the people who do them. I've never seen a firefighter writing about how he loves his job be analysed to death about how he couldn't possibly 'really' love his job; he must be kidding himself due to deep-seated psychological damage or somesuch, & we certainly shouldn't encourage kids to become firefighters!
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Lance Dodes has been treating people suffering with addictions for over thirty years. In his book The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry, he takes to task Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other such programs as largely unhelpful avenues that serve only to increase an addict's sense of shame and helplessness. He points to passages in the Big Book, the AA's "bible," with concern -- the 1939 book was written at a time we didn't well understand addiction, and at several junctures the book makes it clear that dealing with addiction is a question of restraint that requires strong moral fiber. "In other words," writes Dodes, "the program doesn't fail; you fail."

I am a recovering alcoholic. In my journey to sobriety, my first stop was Alcoholics Anonymous. I was in Peru at the time but in such a bad way that I couldn't call the local number and try to explain what I was feeling in Spanish, so I called their office in New York. I don't remember that conversation, but I recall feeling enormously grateful that I had reached someone at such an ungodly hour, someone who was ready to talk to me without the need for me to make an appointment or wait a few days to see them.

When it comes to access, AA has doctors beat. And it isn't just in terms of availability -- AA and other such programs don't require you to check with your insurance company or demand a high copay. They're free. They're everywhere. At my home group in Lima, a small English-speaking group that met once a day, we frequently received visits from professionals traveling on business to Peru. AA is accessible, it's free, and it's spread so widely around the world that it enables people a level of flexibility they don't have unless their psychologists are willing to Skype for sessions. A lot of them aren't. 

Like most recovery groups, we discussed the 12 steps on occasion, but though we used a church to meet, the emphasis was never placed on God. The only step that came up time and again and everyone seemed to be perpetually working on, was Step Four ("Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves"), which invariably played into Step Eight ("Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all") and Step Nine ("Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others"). This focus set the tone -- recovery is a great task composed of a number of things, each different for every person, but in order to get at it, we need a safe place from which to begin. 

As social animals, there is immense value in a group of people who are not only going through what you're going through, but who are available to give  structure to your life. When I quit drinking, I had no idea who I was. I didn't know how to have fun. Fun had meant going out to a bar or a club for so long, I didn't know what to do with myself when I wasn't working. In Lima, where nightlife is everything, I had no idea where to go. It didn't help that many friends I spoke with told me I was overreacting about the "drinking problem" and to go ahead and relax with a nice glass of wine. AA offered me a space where I could speak about my worries and a network of people to do things with. It's not that they offered me "distractions." They showed me life, love and fun were possible without setting foot in a bar, in a club or in a bottle. 

I am not saying addiction is a social problem, that I was drinking because my friends were drinking. I was drinking largely to self-medicate -- something that would require psychology to untangle -- but it was essential for me to begin the journey to understanding that from a safe place where life was possible. AA gave me social support in a way that no therapist ever has. This is precisely why Step Four, Eight and Nine are important -- they serve to repair bonds that have been debilitated or broken by addiction and enable people in your life to form part of your support system once again. This isn't just another version of doing penance for sins, as Dode claims -- it's useful. Granted, some people are not going to forgive you. Those steps are hard for a number of reasons, rejection chief among them -- but when you start from a group, you have a social safety net.

Dode is right that these things often don't address the addiction itself, however, and that in many cases they can exacerbate it. I was fortunate to have found the group I did on my first try. I didn't realize groups could differ so widely from one place to another. AA might be everywhere, but it's not one size fits all. The U.S. seemed a whole different animal in terms of recovery than Peru, where in my small group, I had related to everyone who passed through -- we were very similar socioeconomically, in level of education, in terms of expectations, and other life concerns. In California, I felt like a poser sharing my "rock bottom" story. During a break, someone told me I was lucky to have caught my disease "early" before it caused "real" damage in my life. I moved from meeting to meeting feeling more and more like an impostor. I never again spoke about how sobriety had left me with a fractured identity. Who cares about a little prat who wants to "find" herself when people are losing homes, custody of their children, facing jail time? I don't blame them. 

The result of being unable to relate to a group was a lack of ready-made safety net. Fortunately, by that point, I had been in the program for a while and knew that there was life beyond the bottle. I was even going to bars and clubs again, and ordering a coffee was as natural as ordering a vodka martini had once been. It helped me that I was in a new place -- the friends I had made since arriving knew me as someone who didn't drink alcohol. When they invited me out, they always made sure the places they suggested served coffee, just as they made sure it served vegan tapas or craft beer. In time, the functions I had depended on the program to provide me were taken over by my new, sturdy social group. 

I had a safe space, so I could continue investigating the causes of my addiction. This made it easy to leave the program -- in the U.S., the groups I had visited seemed to have a heavy focus on religion. Though I was very interested in Judeo-Christian religion, my interest was and is a lot more academic than people in the program were willing to entertain. The religious function of the program was hope, which is fine -- but I wanted more than hope. I wanted serious study and informed discussion. I can easily see how religious emphasis would make it incredibly inaccessible for an atheist, non-Christian, or someone suffering a crisis of faith to relate to people in the program. This sort of difference is often glossed over, but it's real -- and it prevents a person from relating and seeking solace within a group. It denies them the safe space from which they can begin. 

Another issue that made it easy for me to leave was the tallying. I never liked counting the days I'd been sober -- the notion that we should treat recovery a day at a time was essential for me. Counting days seemed like a violation of that. Worse, I felt that if I started counting, I would get careless. I could see myself rationalizing, "I've been sober this long, I can have this one glass of wine." For me to stay out of the bottle, it was and remains of the utmost importance to believe that just one sip will kill me. 

Early on, I had printed out a photo of David Lynch's offering to the Cow Parade, a gruesome fiberglass sculpture of a cow, beheaded and mutilated to show its internal organs with the words "Eat My Fear" carved on its side (http://goo.gl/9AYgwT). It was rejected by the Cow Parade project but it found a home with me. I have no idea how I found it, but when I did, I had it framed as one would a family photo, and it lived by my bed and later by my desk, as a constant reminder that my concern about the "alcohol problem" was a real one. I called this contemplation "eating my fear" and I did not count how often I did it. I just did it.

I don't have that photo anymore, but whenever I feel an urge to drink -- or self-medicate in some other way -- I look it up on my phone. It's not that the cow can cure addiction. It's that the cow reminds me of what I'm doing. It's unlike any other image in my house and life and it brings me back to the decision I made one night in Lima that no matter what's going on, the answer is not going to be found belly up in a dirty Barranco street with a head injury, too drunk to remember how I got there. 

AA and programs like it have a gamification component to them. Counting sober days enables people in recovery to get the meatspace equivalent of a badge, which we call "chips." No one ever forced me to take a chip or celebrate my "birthday," what the program calls the last day you quit, in my first group. This was different in the United States, where tallying was a big part of a meeting and chips were awarded to people with great fanfare. Back in Lima, this part happened quietly right at the end of the meeting, with most people crowded around the coffee already socializing while others went to the front of the room to get their chips. I understand the usefulness of gamification, but even then I wondered whether this was actually helpful. What do you do with the chips when you relapse? Does your sponsor come and take them away? I never asked. I wanted nothing to do with them. 

When I started watching Dexter and saw the protagonist's girlfriend force him into the program, using the chips to monitor his attendance, I realized how easily chips could become a tool of control. And here is where I most agree with Dode about his assessment of many recovery programs: for the most part, they enable us as a society to pretend that we have addiction handled. Addicts can be funneled into these programs, which costs us next to nothing, their progress can be tracked through chips, and we can, as a society, wash our hands of the whole thing.

It's a lot like telling victims of sexual assault to go away and take up their issues with law enforcement. We know the rate of failure of the program is high, just as we know that conviction rates for sexual assault are low, but we can ignore by shifting the blame. We tell assault victims that theirs is a fuzzy case, they shouldn't have done this thing or that thing -- they're not perfect victims. We tell people who fail the program that they aren't "working" it. That they aren't ready. That they're not "turning themselves over." That they didn't "bottom" hard enough. After all, it works if you work it! 

It's not the system that's flawed. It's the person who's flawed.

This is a problem. The most unfortunate part is that this path is not chosen but frequently mandated -- by a court or school or some other institution. But these mandates don't offer addicts help -- no one tells you that you might benefit from shopping around for a group where you fit in. No accommodations are made to help address the addiction beyond the social component.

The problem with these programs is that they make us think that we have a handle on the problem when we don't. Recovery is something that requires a lot of different factors to come together for a person. AA only addresses the social aspect -- assuming you find the right group in the first place. The safe place it can provide is a good start, but that's not the end of the path. 

In his article, Dode mentions psychoanalysis as a solution. I feel like I need to add caution to that example. While I was looking for a group to call my own in the United States, I was also looking for a mental health professional to help me work through things I had identified -- while in the program -- as possibly being related to my drinking. But just as AA groups vary, so, too, do mental health professionals. I will never forget going through a few as a teenager (each of which wanted to put me on scarier and weirder drug cocktails) after my parents found bondage gear in my closet. I refused to be medicated and "solved" and researched every therapy they suggested to lobby for a second and then a third opinion before committing to anything.  Finally the last -- who had the sort of accent you would expect from Freud -- explained to me (and later them) that there was nothing wrong with me, provided I understood consent and only pursued my "interests" with people who did, too.  

Though anecdotal, stories from gay friends to gender-nonconforming friends to religious friends to sex worker friends indicate that it's of the utmost importance to do your research before you get on the couch with a therapist. You need to know where this person stands on issues that are crucial to your identity and your life and that at the very least they don't perceive them as a defect or paraphilia. To this end, local organizations might have a list of providers whom they deem "friendly." It's worth getting in touch with them and asking. Before you get to your appointment, you should probably ask what school of thought they follow, to get an idea of how they may try to get at those root causes, and a sense of how they will treat them. It took one supremely weird adventure in Gestalt therapy to really drive that point home for me, but there it is. This stuff is more important than whether they take your insurance. Sadly, cost makes access to a suitable mental health option horrifically inaccessible. Don't give up.

There is no single solution to addiction. But the avenues we have are worth exploring -- if only to understand their components so we can improve on them. This is why Dode's work is important, though it will no doubt anger a lot of people who have benefited from the program. I think the key takeaway is this: "Any substantive conversation about treatment in this country must reckon with the toll levied when a culture encourages one approach to the exclusion of all others, especially when that culture limits the treatment options for suffering people, ignores advances in understanding addiction, and excludes and even shames the great majority of people who fail in the sanctioned approach." 
AA and rehab culture have shockingly low success rates, and made it impossible to have real debate about addiction
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+Antonio Borunda, thanks! If you hear it, let me know what you think! 
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THIS IS NOT +Charlie Hoover'S GEEK QUESTION OF THE DAY 

Lube of regenerate stamina should exist. Actually, can you imagine what one might find in a Skyrim sex shop? Imagine having access to a prophylactic of cure disease, for instance. Mmm -- lipgloss of waterbreathing! Additionally, a lube of fortify lockpicking would be quite useful for chastity devices or people who have a tendency to lose handcuff keys in the heat of passion -- not that that's ever happened to me.

What else? Eww, prophylactic of re-animate dead! (I swear, officer, I'm not a necrophiliac, I was re-animating him!) And I'd stay away from lube of the berserker or prophylactic of true shot -- unless you're in the habit of getting caught with your pants down. The prophylactic of soul trap and lube of summon familiar sound like some horrifying thing an ex would use in revenge.

Can you think of any interesting magic items you might encounter in a fantasy sex shop?
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Mohamed, that was the most profound statement I've ever seen on the Internet. It brought tears to my eyes.
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HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH AN EX IN 7 STEPS

"I forgot how tall you were!" I say when he approaches me, standing at the end of the bar waiting for my Americano to be served. I rise on tiptoe to greet him.

I don't think about the gesture before it unfolds. Kissing is how I greet most people I know well. But he's not "most people" -- and as my cheek moves to meet his, my body pauses as if, having passed his lips, my own seem to suddenly remember that this is the only reasonable destination. The hesitation only lasts a nanosecond, but when our cheeks finally touch, both are burning hot with a nameless transgression.

"Let's just be friends." I would never utter those words. Friendship to me is not a consolation prize to give out to people who fail to meet my standards. If I can't even agree to dinner with you, there is no way I am going to want to hear about your neuroses, help you move, or let you crash on my couch because you don't feel like being alone that night.

The dreaded phrase even affects the people who didn't get axed after a first or second date. "Let's just be friends," makes a transition from lover to friend sound easy, like friendship is a natural progression once a relationship concludes. This is quite possibly the greatest deceit our species has concocted to date. Friendship is built, stone for stone, from the foundation up. It may be the purest and most beautiful thing we have achieved as social creatures, and the closest we will ever come to unconditional devotion and loyalty.

Love is a process, too, but it is built with a different blueprint. While endowed with words like "eternal" and "unconditional," the devotion and loyalty associated with love are very conditional. There is forgiveness, of course, but love is demanding in a way that friendship is not. Friendship is built like houses near fault lines -- able to take on quakes as the plates of life tremble and shift. Love, on the other hand, tends to be built like a citadel to stand solid against invasion.

They are completely different things. To imagine that you can easily repurpose a fortress to stand the comings and goings of life, with all the tremors and turbulence that it entails, is to set yourself up for collapse. This is especially true if said fortress suffered structural damage during a breakup.

And yet there we are. Having coffee in the middle of what had been, up until this point, a typical weekday.

We quickly put space between the awkward greeting and the present. The ease into which we fall into conversation is surprising. I remember a bright-eyed Pollyanna reassuring me just this morning: "how can you not be able to be friends with someone who knows you so well?" But knowledge doesn't make friendship a certainty. If this were true, we'd all be best of friends with our therapists, hair stylists and manicurists. And yet we're not.

And then there is the danger, clear and present at all times. He doesn't look like a threat. But his jaw, his perfect jaw, is a threat. His mouth is saying nothing inappropriate, but his lips -- those lips don't need to say a word to be a threat.

Suddenly, a memory accosts me. A dark lounge poolside. "You could get me into trouble with words like that," he'd said. I'd smiled and leaned closer, "I could get you into trouble with one whisper."

Emotional time is not linear. You feel, therefore you are. At that moment in a coffee shop sitting with an old lover, I am also sitting at a bar with a man I am only now beginning to know. Common sense immediately rebels against the disorder, but curiosity placates it with Heraclitus -- surely if one cannot step twice into the same river, one cannot drown twice, either? That's when logic intervenes with an extensive discourse on the greats' understanding of time.

Just as pain lets the body know that it has suffered physical injury, intellectualizing alerts me of emotional injury. I snap back from my sojourn through the pre-Socratics, Plato, Spinoza, Descartes, and Leibniz and realize I am sipping coffee, staring vacantly at his hand as he waves it in front of me.

"Where did you go?" he asks me with a laugh.

(That laugh! How long has it been since I heard that laugh?)

I could tell him -- I'm sure time would make for an incredible discussion. But that carries its own risk; it comes too close to mathematics. Some people write love letters -- we used to cradle odes in the arabesques of formulae (because really, what is more descriptive of passion than tensors contracting toward potential and collapsing into sum?). Some call their love perfect -- we called ours the sectio divina. Some say "I love you" – we said Q.E.D. We were a curved geometry hidden in plain sight to anyone who cared to look beyond the thickets of superscripts and subscripts.

It's hard to build over ruins. It's hard to claim as yours a land littered with artifacts that belong to another self. You ask yourself how many peoples have taken a pickax to a city and raised their own structures where those of the previous civilization stood, and you calm yourself with the answer. This is the way of history. The problem is that this civilization you're destroying is a part of you -- you may have railed against it when you were in it, you may even have taken a torch to its relics and lexicon on your way out, but time patinates the ashes with nostalgia. Everything is so much more in retrospect.

But you can't serve both your past and your future, not at once. You have already made the choice, and the choice is the future. (And for the record, you can drown in the same river as many times as you have emotional lives.)

1.618033988749894848204586834... how many places can I go in one breath?

Why in the world can't one solve for this kind of transition? Wouldn't it be excellent if we could look at people the way we look at elements? Imagine we could determine the properties of individuals, that we had an understanding of the structure of our unions, and that we could easily infer the reactions necessary to alter the spatial arrangement of our bonds. Going from lovers to friends would require nothing but a reaction. Ready, goggles, go. Forget the Higgins boson. This is what I want.

No such luck. At present, we're flying blind. Here's what we know: two people walked side by side until they didn't. They made a choice. There is no going back. They've made too many choices on top of that choice. They're building lives on top of that choice, lives that affect a set of variables outside the simple formula of "me" and "you." They know too much -- enough to be dangerous. And yet they crave one another's presence.

First question: why?

If the honest answer to this question even vaguely suggests that romantic emotions remain, evacuate the area immediately. Emotion is unforgiving. It will corrode everything you are and hope to become. It's not just a coffee if both parties would do well to don a Hazmat suit.

It's okay if you're not free and clear yet. Moving on takes time. Time, you will find, is a powerful decontaminant. Let it do its thing. Only when you are sure that the intentions of both parties are free of romantic emotion and desire, may you proceed.

Next question: how?

My answer for everything that has no easy answer is: protocol. Protocol imposes boundaries in situations that otherwise lack them (first I told you math is romantic and now I'm telling you boundaries are awesome. Have I completely alienated you yet? Just curious).

I consulted both Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt and, aside from not meeting with an ex if your betrothed opposes it, found nothing, but we can lay the groundwork with a little common sense.

Not too intimate

In order to maintain the appropriate space, one can limit meetings to public places, avoiding situations that may feel like a date (such as the movies, dinner, a walk on the beach, etc.). You may graduate to these in time, but for now, keep it simple -- and by that, I mean keep it business casual. If you wouldn't picnic with your boss, don't picnic with your ex.

And yes, you should pay for yourself as much as possible. You know all the signs that indicate something is not a date. Put them to use.

Not too comfortable

Spending time with an ex alone at his place or yours is risky for obvious reasons. A good rule of thumb is to avoid comfort (now I've alienated you for sure) -- but really! Being warm causes one to remove articles of clothing and a comfortable couch invites one to luxuriate. Behaving with such familiarity during this transition can send mixed signals and lead to awkward situations that are best avoided.

Think twice about wine, beer and cocktails: disinhibitors are the last thing you want at this juncture. A bistro for lunch or a café after work are an excellent middle ground.

Not too often

Keep in mind that an outing should not turn into an afternoon or an evening. Short is good. There is, of course, no hard and fast rule about how often you should have these get-togethers. Use some judgment here: if an ex is crowding out other people on your day planner, you need to go back to the question of why.

Not too chatty

Talking on the phone, instant messaging, chatting, e-mailing and direct messaging count as outings and are subject to the same guidelines. Keep it brief and sporadic for now, don't do it while intoxicated, and don't do it late at night. Not sure what "late" means? I consider 9:00PM a good cut-off point.

Also -- remember that retweets on Twitter, likes and shares on Facebook and plusses and shares on Google+ tend to notify users as a default. Be conscientious of how you engage their social media spaces. Keep it to a minimum and limit the amount of e-stalking you do. Don't you want to have things to talk about when you see each other? If you know more about your ex's life than you do about your best friend's goings on, go back to step one and ask yourself why.

Not too thoughtful

He's sick. Should you make soup and take it over to his place? Unless you're that person (God bless them, we all need one in our lives), the answer is no. Taking care of his pet when he's on business? Picking up the dry-cleaning on the way home? Driving him around when his car is in the shop? Helping him move? You're not the only person in his life. Keep the amount of help you give proportional to your interaction: brief and sporadic. If you find that it gives you a thrill to act as his personal assistant, revisit the question of why.

If a birthday or holiday should come up during this time, stick with a card or something small at most. And when I say small, I don't just mean size: too expensive, elaborate or rare a gift can feel inappropriate given the circumstances -- especially if one of you has moved on to forge another relationship. Often, a brief e-mail is more than enough in this situation.

Not too nostalgic

What if you're having a casual conversation one afternoon over coffee and the past comes up? It's bound to happen -- and perhaps it's not a bad thing. Boundaries are rigid so that you don't have to be. If you feel that talking about the time you shared might help you get some closure, there is no reason to derail the conversation. But if you find that all you can do when you're together is rehash the past, you're going to have to go back to the question of why.

Paying attention to language during these conversations can be helpful in reinforcing boundaries. During that first coffee meeting that I recounted at the beginning of this piece, we did have occasion to discuss the past. I was slightly disconcerted at first, but was quickly put at ease by the verb tense he employed when he spoke about his emotions. The past tense is an important way of keeping time moving in one direction. It reminds you: that was then, this is now.

Of course, if you find yourself thinking obsessively about what an ex said and what it means, you need to book it back to step one and ask yourself why it matters so much.

Not too fast

Let time pass and take it slow. Set guidelines, but be gentle. Establish boundaries, but don't be rigid. Understand that you know this person in a way few others do, but don't assume you know him better than everyone else, and especially not better than he knows himself. Change is natural. He will change, just as you will change. If he hasn't already, he will meet someone new. If you can't cheer them on, at the very least be respectful of her and the space she will fill in his life.

When it feels like it's too much, take a step back, give it some time, assess your motives, reestablish your boundaries, clear your head, and start again.

Humans are creatures of habit. Just as kissing my ex seemed like the most natural thing to do at first, so too will the space between us come to feel natural.
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Samantha Rae Millard's profile photoshady fox's profile photoMEDO ELTORKY's profile photoPorter Doran's profile photo
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On the subject of remaining friends with an ex... I feel it's a very good idea to at least put forth the effort. When you can remain civil, at least, with your ex, it does make things generally better. Maybe friend is too strong a word, maybe not, that depends on the maturity of the two people and their own individual circumstances. However, if both people are mature enough in their thinking, it is assuredly the best path to take. No one wants enemies in their life... I remember when I went through my divorce 5 years ago, it was very difficult, and it is hard to like a person that causes you pain. But it is the right thing to do, if at all possible. I remained civil with my ex and it has for sure made everything easier after all the dust settled. I have no children and I know that would complicate matters, to say the least, but even though both people are living separate lives now, contact is still needed from time to time. This contact is very much easier if both people can get along. A little respect can go a long way in creating a long lasting and new playing field for both.
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A.V. Flox

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HELPING PEOPLE GO HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

I love social media because I know that together we can accomplish far more than we can alone. Not only that, but social media has enabled us to make incredible connections, bringing people more access than ever before. 

Earlier today, I got a notification from a reader on Google Plus telling me about +Laura Gallier, an active contributor on this network who is looking for work to cover costs to go home for the holidays. I responded that I had no work to offer at the moment, but mentioned +Peter Shankman, a friend of mine who had recently posted about a project he is working on to send people home for the holidays.

Last year, Peter put his air miles to use by giving four people round-trip tickets home at the end of the year. Peter travels a lot for work, "And by a lot," he says, "I mean no less than 250,000 miles per year for the past seven years. A lot."

As with most people who travel constantly, Peter doesn't want to travel more when he finally has some downtime to spend with his wife and baby. For a while, he donated his miles to charities and gave them to his friends for their birthdays (others were luckier and even got a slice of green cake), but in 2012, he decided to do more. That's when it hit him: he could send people who are far from home to their families for the holidays.

The experiment was so successful that this year, Peter is doubling his efforts. He got in touch with +United, which agreed to contribute to the cause by matching Peter's miles. Now he's asking others to help out by contributing their own miles, Groundlink codes, and even cash to help people take care of cabs while making their journeys. 

He's looking to get at least six people home this year -- maybe more if other people pitch in. You can read about how to participate in this exciting project on Peter's blog here: http://shankman.com/help-me-send-some-people-home-2013/

I plussed Peter into the thread I mentioned earlier to let my reader know about his project and, within hours, Peter was on the post as well: "Have Laura reach out to me. I have miles, I'll get her home for the holidays."

I've been online a long time -- long enough to have had perfect strangers bail me out of my share of pickles -- but it still amazes me to see what people can do for one another in this age of greater connectivity. 

Has social media ever helped you?
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I like that ending:
"just because they can."

Thanks for the question +A.V. Flox 
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A.V. Flox

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The Myth of Concern as a Limited Resource

On Monday, I posted about International Transgender Day of Visibility. Almost immediately, someone responded to the post, asking about the "more important issues out there" that people supporting this cause were obviously ignoring, such as "global warming, child abuse, animal cruelty, famine, etc.," because they were so busy worrying about this one, single thing. 

Anyone who's ever written about transgender rights, gay rights, sex workers rights and even feminism has encountered this silencing tactic. This derail is so common, it's one of the better known logical fallacies. Usually, such comments are ignored -- a fine response considering their worth -- but I want to take a moment to address this issue just the same.

Sometimes, when something happens that impacts me but I don't have the emotional bandwidth to deal with it, I joke that I'm "all out of fucks." Occasionally, I even do this to the tune of the pop ballad "All Out of Love" by Air Supply. And I'm not the only one who describes concern in terms of a fuck: "there goes the last fuck" renders 49,500,000 results in Google. Countless gifs have been made illustrating the many fucks given -- sometimes in flight, sometimes in a glass, and always in association with scarcity. We either don't want to give a fuck, or we have no more fucks left to give. 

This isn't actually descriptive of how concern works. Concern isn't a limited resource. There is no allotment of fucks we all get at birth that we need to ration, lest we run out in our thirties. When we lobby behind a cause, we're not giving up our fucks, never to care about anything again. And, certainly, if we lobby publicly, we're not attempting to get everyone to give us their fucks so that they can't worry about anything else ever again. 

Actually, once you start thinking critically about human rights, or the system, or conservation, it's a lot more likely that you will pick up on other causes worth supporting. Looking at the world this way isn't limiting -- it's expansive. 

I got into sex workers' rights through working to fight labor injustice. Sex workers' rights took me to the realities of poverty, homelessness, police brutality, legal overreaching, a broken welfare system, and more humanitarian causes worth supporting, though not related to sex work. Simultaneously, concerns over lack of sexual education took me to freedom of speech, privacy, and scientific literacy, which in turn took me to global warming, pesticides, and animal welfare, among other issues. These are only a handful of the many things I care and worry about. While it's true that we only have so much time, posts are not the only way that people signal support for change. A sex blog will only cover a handful of the issues I care about, but there are a number of ways to participate in other causes -- including donations, logistics planning, and volunteering.

Supporting a cause that has at its focus the improvement of the world is something to be applauded. Our contributions might not be great, but it all starts with that moment we say, "you know what? This isn't right." The direction that we take this initial concern might not crystallize immediately, the places it might take us might not be immediately obvious, but it all starts when someone stops and realizes that the way things are could be better. 

That's why these posts and discussions matter. That's why people who seek to derail conversations about change by pointing out that there are "bigger problems" out there aren't just unhelpful, but serious barriers to effecting any change at all -- even change regarding the issues that they actually care about. 
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It seems like people have a really hard time understanding that not everything is about them.  If you want to talk about something that doesn't necessarily concern them directly, they will twist it until it does (see opposition to gay marriage).  If they can't think of a way to do that or you won't do it for them, they will come up with a reason that it doesn't matter and is a waste of everyone's time.  Concern scarcity is a pretty good excuse.  

(I hope one can wade through that mess of pronouns.)  
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I DIDN'T LOSE MY VIRGINITY

My mother attended a convent school that had, as part of its curriculum, a track focused on marriage. These upper-grade classes provided instruction on skills very few of the women leaving this school would ever need, like sewing, as well as a lot of conversations about the sanctity of marriage. During one of these discussions, the topic of virginity arose and one of my mother's classmates surprised the room by stating flatly that virginity was a myth used to control women. She said she was not a virgin, that she was neither proud nor ashamed of it, and that the best way to live was to do so in a fashion that made one happy. Happiness, she told her schoolmates, was not possible if one arrived at marriage not knowing how to satisfy, for themselves, one of the most basic human cravings. 

This is the story my mother related to me when we discussed virginity. Her retelling relayed a certain respect for this position, but her choice to offer these views in story form without stating her own opinion was equally telling. My mother had arrived at the cathedral altar wearing white, the traditional symbol of purity, and not been struck down by an angry deity. But she was very aware, too, that punishment for failing to comply with cultural norms wasn't necessarily meted out by a furious god, but rather by people. Though the stoning described in Deuteronomy 22:20-21 wasn't the norm where she grew up, she was aware of the social repercussions of being identified as non-compliant. As a result, while I didn't receive the message that I had to be a virgin until marriage, I did get the message that it was important not to give people reason to believe I wasn't.

This message was relayed implicitly, often during discussions about my "reputation." I noticed, relatively quickly, that this "reputation" didn't have anything to do with whether I was a good student, a talented artist, or even a decent person. My "reputation" didn't come up in stern reprimands about lying, for instance, or having poor work ethic if I failed to come through on commitments. It didn't come up when I indulged in social and relational aggression toward other girls or gossiped or disrespected my parents. Discussions of my "reputation" only came up in relation to how I dressed, how I danced, where I went and at what time -- essentially, "reputation" was a code word meant to describe a young woman's perceived sexual availability. 

What infuriated me the most about these discussions was that I had no real control over my "reputation." Anyone could throw it into question at any time, no matter what I achieved for myself. In fact, the more I achieved for myself, the more likely it was that it would be thrown into question (the allegation that someone is "sleeping her way to the top," is a perfect example of this). This thing wasn't a measure of decency at all but a weakness, open to anyone wishing to exploit it. So I threw it out. It's difficult to define adolescence in any single way, but one of the most important things I did during this time was try to shift the measure of my worth, both internally and externally. I wanted my reputation to be comprised of things I'd done for myself, not to be ruled by this one, allegedly valuable thing that someone would eventually take away, leaving me only with blood on my sheets. 

Because that's what it is, basically, isn't it?  

It really bothered me (and still bothers me) the number of cultures that want their young women to suffer pain and violence on their wedding nights. Growing up, I picked up that the hymen was a fragile thing, and that you could break it accidentally at any time. Knowing this, I reasoned that it was possible to "cure" young women of this thing that could hurt them, but cultures were actively choosing not to. In fact, they stressed that behaviors that imperiled the thing were unseemly, such as riding a horse astride. Why did they want to hurt us? 

It wasn't until much later that I learned that what I thought I knew about the hymen was completely wrong. And yet despite medical progress, the violence normalized by certain cultures has remained -- you can see it everywhere in language relating to sex. Women are "penetrated," they are "taken" as though they were citadels, they "give it up," they are "popped" and "lose" their virginities, while the other person "scores." Some of these terms and expressions have only recently started to be used to describe both genders. That may seem more fair, but their perpetuation still carries in it a sort of violence that we'd do best to rid ourselves of completely. 

It's telling that one of the most promising attempts to address these issues at their root hasn't had much traction. Five years ago, Sweden's Riksförbundet för Sexuell Upplysning (RFSU) -- a group focused on sexual education and policy -- suggested changing the word "hymen" to "vaginal corona." The word hymen comes to us from Greek, via French, and means "membrane." That's what most of us learn when (and if) we learn about the female reproductive system -- that there's a barrier inside the vagina that gets punctured during the first penetrative sex act and disappears forever, along with your purity (unless you managed to "pop" it some other way first, like by riding your bicycle). 

This is not true. The hymen isn't a membrane stretched taut inside the vagina like a gate-keeper. It's an elastic mucous tissue between 0.4 and 0.6 inches (one to two centimeters) inside the vagina that takes many shapes, the majority of which are not completely closed. This tissue isn't a brittle thing that breaks -- it stretches. Yes, it is possible to injure it, just as it's possible to injure or irritate any other aspect of the vagina, but the cause of this is usually related to not being sufficiently aroused or lubricated during sex or other types of penetration. The tissue is not there to be pushed through like some internal wall that needs to be bulldozed. And it certainly doesn't go away after sex, though childbirth may alter its appearance.

This flaw in how we discuss anatomy can and often does cause women who grow up in cultures that explicitly or implicitly assign value to virginity or sexual purity to avoid seeking medical assistance when they suffer assault, when something seems wrong "down there," or even for a check-up. They're afraid that medical assistance will imperil the hymen. Or they're afraid that a medical professional, especially their family doctor, will notice that they no longer have one. This is only one of the many reasons that reproductive health clinics are important, though we're presently excelling in doing away with them at the same time as we're bringing back the notion that virginity is important and that worth can be measured in terms of "purity."

Ultimately, the word "corona" more adequately describes this characteristic of female anatomy than "membrane." Corona comes to us from Greek, via Latin, meaning garland or crown. We most often use the word when we talk about the plasma that surrounds celestial bodies, like the sun. The solar corona isn't evenly distributed either but the real bonus, of course, is that the term "vaginal corona" comes with no baggage attached. 

And yet for some reason, it's rare to encounter this term when reading about the hymen outside of resources concerned with sexual rights. A recent article about virginity in the Atlantic by Nolan Feeney briefly touched on the efforts to introduce the term "vaginal corona," noting that none of the activists and sex educators that Feeney spoke with expected to see the term "catch on in any serious way."

Why? Why can't we let hymen go? Why can't we stop referring to first-time sex as a loss? 

I didn't lose my virginity. I was enriched by the first sexual encounter I had, and continue to be enriched by those thereafter.
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I just finished a cross country flight, but I'll try to expound a bit soon, +A.V. Flox!
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SHOULD A MAN BE ASHAMED OF NEEDING VIAGRA?

Some nights ago I received an e-mail from a reader who has a birthday on the horizon and has recently been consumed by fears not unfamiliar to many men, such as being able to achieve an erection. He wrote:

My friend in London talked to me last night. Her latest lover — mid-40s, moneyed, a law professor with transatlantic connections, athletic — hadn’t been able to get it up all week, and she was baffled. She tells me she’s been with men into their 70s, and this has never happened to her, ever. She’s 32 now, so that’s… in eighteen years of sexual adventures, no man has ever failed to be hard with her. The current lover did everything else with her, but couldn’t do basic PIV [penis-in-vagina] sex. She was… concerned. Or at least concerned that something physical (blood pressure, undiagnosed diabetes, depression) might be wrong. She has, she says, a cache of generic, probably illegal, Indian black-market Viagra and wonders if she should give him a few.

I told her about Caverject. Caverject is what male porn stars use. It’s… injectable. Which would be… very, very painful. But as soon as I said that, I thought about aging seducers carrying three or four Caverject syrettes in a chic, stainless-steel Art Deco cigarette case. There it would be in the inside jacket pocket of your suit jacket, and you’d take one out and just… use it. It’s probably sad that I’m far more intrigued by the idea of the elegant case than I am by whether Caverject works as advertised.

[...] Anyway — I’ve never used Viagra or its relatives, and so far I haven’t needed it. But… having talked to my friend, I’m now afraid that it’ll happen any time. Yes, I’m probably hypochondriac — talking myself into being so afraid of this that it will happen. This is my usual “taking counsel of my fears” procedure.

So… should I be afraid or ashamed if I needed the Blue Pill? If men have to take one with you, how do you feel? If a man has an erection problem, how do you react? What would you think if a guy did inject himself with Caverject there on the bed with you? Would you ever laugh at a guy?

We live in a society that teaches women that men are extremely sexual creatures who can’t be expected to control themselves. From teachers that tell young girls that wearing spaghetti straps is “distracting” to boys, to judges telling women that wearing a tube top sends “signals” to an attacker, women are told, again and again, that men are basically beasts that live in a perpetual haze of desire; as a result, it’s entirely unsurprising that women are shocked when men don’t pop a boner the second a woman undresses before him.

The truth is that men and women are equally sexual, but they both require some level of seduction to get to a place where sex is optimal. I don’t like the phrase “turn on” because it suggests we have a switch that can be flipped instantly to get us to a place of complete arousal. There is no switch — arousal is a dance, and anyone is capable of experiencing issues, at any time, that interfere with this arousal or with a sex act itself. 

Regardless of my partner’s age, the most important thing I can do is make him feel comfortable and help him see that sexual pleasure — both for me and for him — doesn’t require a “performance” — and it is telling that we use the word “perform” as a euphemism when we talk about a man’s ability to achieve an erection or have penetrative sex.

I’m not in it for performance, but for mutual pleasure. To establish this tone in the bedroom, I make a point to give equal time to sexual activities that have nothing to do with the requirement of an erection, sometimes foregoing penetrative sex entirely. It’s not that I don’t like penetrative sex — I love it. But it’s critical for me that my partner understand the possibility of pleasure beyond it, and that we both participate in sexual experience paying tribute to that understanding.

As Masters and Johnson discovered decades ago, taking away this looming requirement frees a man from the positive feedback loop of anxiety engendered by the fear of failing to become erect, which, in time, can dispel psychological blocks to penetrative sex. I think pills like Viagra and Cialis likewise help in psychologically reducing this anxiety — as well as assist an erection physically.

For that, I applaud their existence and encourage their usage so long as it’s done safely. By “safely,” I mean that it is imperative to consult a physician about Viagra or similar products because of how they can interfere with alpha-blockers — taken for high blood pressure or prostate issues — nitrates, and other treatments, as well as conditions such as kidney and liver disease.

Black-market products, or products from internet sites that are not subject to regulation, might not even be selling real Viagra. At best, it will not work. At worst — well, don’t ever take anything if you don’t know what it is. Nothing good can ever come of that. The good news is that as a common prescription to treat erectile dysfunction, Obamacare should be of assistance in acquiring low-cost access to a healthcare professional to discuss whether Viagra is right for you, and in filling the prescription without breaking the bank.

I don’t see the use of treatments for erectile dysfunction as being different than using a lubricant or engaging in prolonged foreplay to get a person in the mood. Neither do I think it’s a man’s failure if he can’t get erect without them — or my failure that I can’t seem to inspire an erection by simply standing before a lover naked.

The takeaway here is that it is a worthwhile investment for everyone to create a space of physical and sexual pleasure with their partner or partners that exists beyond simple body mechanics. Think outside the box — or within the box, but beyond the phallus. Pleasure is always possible. But pleasure can’t exist in a place where anxiety reigns.
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Not ashamed, i suppose it will happen to all of us one day. I would probably feel embarrassed if it was  a new partner. 
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In L.A., there's a phenomenon we call the box of broken dreams. This box, which will no doubt sound familiar to you -- as to anyone who lives in a city where, every single day, people come by the thousands to make something of themselves -- sits on any one of the glittering sidewalks of this bright and guilty city, full of random things that make sense to none one but its owner, departed that morning or afternoon in a U-Haul too full of stuff, heartache, resentment and despair to accommodate its lonely dimensions.

When an Angeleno drives by one of these boxes, invariably a moment of silence descends in the car as they reflect on their own trajectory. No matter how broken-down the car, how desperate their own situation, they count their blessings because they're still there, sitting in a tight grid of smog knowing they have one more day than the person who just departed.

We don't see those who leave as quitters, as weak, as less than ourselves because they are ourselves. It takes talent and work to succeed but it takes access and luck, too -- the right idea at the right time, the right person at the right party, the right amount of trust in the right connection, and so on and on and on. And so we sit there, breathing that bittersweet air that's more likely to kill us than any number of calamities we worry about while shopping for organic and gluten-free groceries at Whole Foods, grateful that we'll see one more sunset, feel one more earthquake, read of one more fire blazing down the Malibu corridors, and -- if we're really lucky -- once more experience the coming of the Santa Ana blowing tattered copies of the LA Weekly across one more choked boulevard, making our skin crawl and reminding us, as Raymond Chandler once wrote, that on nights like those, anything can happen.

We know that feeling -- that nervous, hopeful feeling that anything can happen. We've seen it. It's why we're still here. Dreams are fragile things but those boxes remind us that ours, no matter how beat down by choice and circumstance, are still there, with us, at least for now.

But sometimes we'll take a day in Venice and get served dinner by someone that's forty, even fifty, or go to a post office and exchange a joke with a postal service worker who remembers that in the seventies it snowed downtown and we'll marvel at how unwilling they are to give up on this place even long after the dreams give way to life. We know these are the exceptions, not the rule -- and we know that because we, too, came like outsiders with nothing but the clothes on our backs and pockets full of hope and dreams, hearts full of youth and spines full of vigor.

Those boxes are a reminder that this city that feasts on that youth and those dreams still has a plan for us. So we reflect for a moment in our cars, separated from one another, competitors and brothers-in-arms all at once, and we feel a little grateful.

Those who leave find their own ways to deal with their grief, some of them in harsh tones reserved for the city that cast them out and the people who remain -- but that's how they heal. The city moves on and every day, more people arrive to make something of themselves, not knowing that fortune has its own plans no matter how determined and willing they are. We let those whose dreams have met their shattering deaths go -- to nurse their wounds, to forge new ones in another place.

And we drive on.

Image by +Enrique Gutierrez. 
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+Nikki Johnson, thanks! 
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Andy Warhol once joked that dying was the most embarrassing that could ever happen to a person. Many people give careful thought to what they want done with their assets after their death, even going as far as to spell out what should be done with their digital properties, but few think about some of the more embarrassing details of having been alive. In a recent column for the New York Times, Joyce Wadler reflects on the existence of a vibrator an old boyfriend gave her that she still has in the depths of a closet somewhere.

But disposing of sex paraphernalia -- actually all those embarrassing items you have stashed around the house -- is something every boomer should be concerned about. The days are dwindling down to a precious few and some of you have a nasty cough. Do you want the people clearing out your house, particularly your children, to find those feathery, metallic, rubbery, polymer blend items you ordered one drunken night a few months after you'd been forced to take early retirement? Do you want them to know their big, tough construction worker dad liked to dress up in heels and a boa and sing "La La La" from "No Strings," one of Richard Rodgers's weaker efforts?

[ ... ] I know no one likes to think about death. But just as the responsible person designates someone to make medical decisions in case he or she is incapacitated, we should all have designated, let's call them Eradicators, to come over and clean the house after we expire. Remember Marilyn Monroe. Not that I can prove anything, just saying. Your Eradicator should be given house keys, a list of items to be destroyed and their hiding places — you don't want to be in intensive care screaming, "Back of the sock drawer!" They'll just increase your meds.

After reading the piece, one of my dearest friends offered to be my eradicator. I asked him if he'd live-tweet my pleasure trove -- if he wasn't willing to do that, no deal. He told me I didn't get it. I think I do get it, but I'm in the business of destigmatizing pleasure, so I have no interest in hiding the things that make me orgasm, alive or dead. I want people to think, "well, she had one of those, maybe it's worth trying!" 

I know that's not for everyone, of course, but just before I could offer to be my friend's eradicator, I became consumed with curiosity about the proper disposal of sex toys. Magazines, books, DVDs -- if anyone other than me still has them, I know what to do with them (check them out and see if I want to keep any and recycle the rest) but what about sex toys themselves? There is no reusing here, no matter how good the friend. Suddenly, I realized that I had no idea how to properly dispose of sex toys in an environmentally-conscious way.

The question, it turns out, would be far more difficult to answer than I ever anticipated.

First, I called up the sex toy shop Good Vibrations in Oakland. They have a vibrator museum -- surely they would know everything there was to know about their disposal! I was very surprised to learn that the chain doesn't have a sex toy recycling program. The customer service representative I spoke with told me that they simply strip vibrating sex toys and recycle the motors as one might any electronics. 

To see if there were any more details I could get about recycling motors, I called the Mountain View Department of Public Works, which is closer to me than Oakland. I was sternly told by a woman on the line that "those [sex toys] go straight into the garbage, ma'am." You'd think Silicon Valley would have the recycling of electronics down to a science, being, you know, the hub of technology in the nation. But, no, Mountain View apparently doesn't want your motors if they were created to go inside you. 

I thought I might fare better in Los Angeles, what with Porn Valley being right there and everything, so I rung up the Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood, where a sales assistant told me this was a very good question, but had no answers to offer me. The Pleasure Chest doesn't have a recycling program for sex toys and they don't strip them for recycling. The woman who spoke with me suggested I call the West Hollywood Recycling Center and ask them what to do.

As expected, the people working at the WeHo center were very understanding and didn't make me feel like I was asking them about what to do with the vibrating equivalent of Trinitite (though come to think of it, I bet most cities do have programs at the ready for properly disposing of anything radioactive). Unfortunately, the one person at the center who'd be able to answer my question was not around, so I was directed to voice mail. I left a message. I will update this if I get a response. 

Still curious, I rang up Babeland to see whether New York City or Seattle had a better solution. I was told to check specific stores to see if they offered recycling options, as there is no store-wide program in place for recycling sex toys.

An internet search turned up 69AdultToys, which in 2010 held a sex toy recycling drive on Earth Day at their facility in Tarzana, California. I contacted them to see whether this had become an annual event, but received no answer. I'm not even sure if the site is still being run. 

Another search brought me SexToyRecycling.com, a site that claims to represent a program that turns old sex toys into new ones. The site says that they have bins at major sex toy stores, but none of the ones I contacted seemed to know about them. Lacking a phone number on their site, I used the contact form to send an e-mail requesting more information. If they respond, I will let you know. 

The sleuthing eventually paid off, though. After what felt like a million clicks, I stumbled on ScarletGirl.com, a green toy retailer based out of Portland, Oregon, that offers recycling for old sex toys of all kinds. Their site has all the instructions you need on how to package your old toys and send them in. As an incentive, they give out a ten dollar discount on their online store to people who recycle. 

I contacted their headquarters to make sure they were still offering this option and spoke with Regina, the general do-it-all at Scarlet Girl, who told me that they very much are still recycling and welcome toys from anywhere in the country. She told me they weren't opposed to people shipping from outside the United States, though the higher shipping cost and hoops erected by customs probably made looking for an option closer to home a little saner. 

I told Regina some of the responses I'd gotten from recycling centers here in California and she laughed. When Scarlet Girl set up the program, this was something they dealt with a lot, even in a city as green as Portland. I can't say I was embarrassed asking about sex toys, but I did feel a little ridiculous after hearing so many people tell me to just throw them in a landfill, so it's nice hearing from someone in the business that this is common no matter how environmentally evolved the city.

So there you go -- whether you're doing some end-of-the-year cleaning or been anointed "eradicator" by one of your friends -- now you know what to do with those old toys: spare the planet and turn them into a discount for some pleasure for yourself.

(PS: I'm currently only accepting requests to play eradicator from close friends.)
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Ha ha! Isn't it a beauty, +Andrew Oplinger?
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Have her in circles
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    Section Editor, 2011 - 2012
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Introduction

I have written about sex, relationships, technology and health for a variety of publications, including the Village Voice, LA Weekly and Los Angeles Times, the Good Men Project.com, and BlogHer.com, among others. 

I have edited blogs about relationships and science for Village Voice Media and BlogHer.com, a women's network that receives over 40 million pageviews per month.

My content here may reflect my beat, which largely revolves around issues of sexuality and health. I will strive to point out whether an article is safe for work to save you possible problems, though my public content generally involves more analysis than it does titillation. If you want access to my erotic content, please request to join The Desire, a G+ community I moderate with the intent to fill your life with desire and delight.

I am also interested in topics outside my beat, including science, technology, law, and journalism. As people are multi-dimensional, you can expect my stream to feature posts on topics that stray far from sex.

In the interest of preserving some measure of sanity, I only receive notifications from people who are in my extended circles. Even so, I don't always get all my notifications, so if you need to reach me, you can do so on my personal site. I am open to business opportunities, including content direction, social media strategy and consulting, writing, and editing.

I never thought I'd have to mention this, but seeing how many users on this network believe the existence of my profile indicates my sexual availability, allow me to clarify: I do not flirt. I consider joking around an intimate thing so unless we have interacted a few times, I may not respond to your humor. I hate compliments. I reserve the right to delete comments that veer off topic or otherwise blemish my stream. Repeat offenders are banned and immediately forgotten. 

But you're half-naked/fully naked in your profile image/photo albums!

I took or posed for those photos for me. I posted them because to me they represent a woman who is comfortable in her skin, in touch with her body, unashamed of her femaleness, and unwilling to censor it. 

Notice how the word "you" doesn't appear at all in that statement? That's because my photos have nothing to do with you! I did not post any of them for you. Just as I don't dress up for you when I leave my house! In fact, I probably don't even know you!

Nothing I wear or don't wear is license for you or anyone else to treat me like I am a thing that exists solely for your entertainment. If I am reading in a coffee shop, let me read in a coffee shop. If I am posting about Feynman diagrams and invite comments, then comment about the diagrams. 

Makes sense? Sweet, let's play.

Bragging rights
I am actually not at all a journalist or a woman of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, not a thinker -- I am, by temperament, nothing but an adventurer, with all the curiosity, daring, and tenacity characteristic of a woman of this sort. "You know what you are? You're an idea Hydra. Discuss one idea, and two more grow." -- Fraser Cain
Places
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Currently
Silicon Valley
Previously
Los Angeles - Lima - Stockholm - St. Petersburg - Moscow - Saipan - Honolulu - Las Vegas
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