sex

Shibari Is A Beautiful Form Of Japanese Bondage — & It Demands Respect

This article was originally published in Refinery29. Image courtesy of Refinery29.

For the average person who dabbles in bondage, adding a pair of handcuffs to their sex life is just a fun way to mix things up. For those who practice shibari, a specific type of Japanese rope bondage, it’s not just BDSM — it’s an art form.

Shibari is a Japanese word that literally means “to tie,” says Lord Morpheous, sex educator and author of several books on rope bondage, including Bondage Basics: Naughty Knots and Risque Restraints.

But let’s make one thing clear: If you’re new to bondage, (a.k.a. restraint play), shibari is probably not the best place to start. Simpler forms of bondage, like sex handcuffs or bed restraint kits, are easier to learn and use safely. “An absolute beginner might want to get a wider taste for several bondage styles and techniques before they focus on shibari,” Morpheous says. However, shibari instructors say that, for those who are more advanced in bondage and drawn to the visual delight of shibari rope patterns, there’s nothing better.

Unlike many forms of bondage within BDSM, shibari isn’t usually meant to foster a sense of helplessness and humiliation for the person who’s tied up (which many submissive people desire). “Shibari, conversely, focuses on the art, beauty, and geometry of the tying style over and above these things,” Morpheous says. But shibari practitioners’ emphasis on the craft itself doesn’t mean it can’t be an intensely erotic and spiritual sexual experience. “It fosters a real connection with your partner or partners, even when there is no other contact or erotic content to the play session,” Morpheous says. (But again, there are plenty of easier ways to achieve this connection, like using scarves or belts as basic restraints in a consensual dominant/submissive scenario.)

While it’s okay for anyone interested in shibari to safely explore the practice, it’s important to understand that shibari has a deep and rich cultural history. “I personally think one should study its history and origins, both Eastern and Western, because it’s interesting and helps one understand certain cultural meanings to why things may be done a certain way that doesn’t necessarily apply to our modern sentiments anymore,” says Kissmedeadlydoll, a New York-based rope bondage educator.

Morpheous says the practice originated from a Japanese martial arts tying style called “Hojōjutsu,” which the samurai used as a method of restraining captives. From there, it merged with “kinbaku,” the erotic practice of rope bondage. Jimi Tatu, a shibari and kinbaku educator, says that kinbaku is a prominent term still used in Japan to describe the act of binding things tightly. “In the West, these two terms have been merged into one, so what we refer to as shibari now is basically erotic, artistic rope bondage,” Morpheous says (though he says that “purists hate that”).

Along with learning about about shibari’s history, it’s important that people interested in trying it take the proper safety precautions — someone’s going to get tied up using heavy duty ropes, after all. Not to mention, shibari is often used in suspension situations, in which the person who’s tied up is dangling from the ceiling, so a lot could go wrong. “It is risky and requires attention to the details,” Kissmedeadlydoll says. If you’re interested in learning and practicing shibari, start by reading a book on the practice (Morpheous has written many) or attend an in-person workshop or class. Kissmedeadlydoll also suggests always keeping safety shears nearby, and both she and Morpheous recommend using rope made of a firm vegetable fiber called Jute.

Does this all sound complicated? That’s because it is. So, if you’re champing at the bit to give shibari a try, just make sure to do your homework before inviting someone over for an evening of beautiful, erotic bondage.

Sex Magic: How to Cast Spells with Your Orgasms

This article was originally published for Broadly. Illustration by Vivian Shih.

When people ask Kristen Korvette how she landed her first book deal, she normally responds with a predictable platitude: She achieved her dream through a combination of hard work and luck. In private, however, she attributes her success to masturbating under the full moon.

Korvette, the editrix of Slutist and a professor of the New School’s class “The Legacy of the Witch,” is a practitioner of sex magic, using sexual energy (often orgasm) for manifestation.”It happened to be a full moon on the evening I submitted my proposal, so I engaged in my usual practice”— which consists of “listening to my favorite erotically-charged music (which is always glam metal: Motley Crue mostly), lighting a candle that has been carved to symbolize my goal, and unsheathing my crystal dildo to consummate the spell”—”and exactly one month later, on the full moon, I received word that I was in,” she says.

Given the preponderance of love spells and evil-yet-seductive witches in pop culture, it’s understandable that sex magic is so often misunderstood. But according to those who practice the erotic craft, it’s just another form of magical manifestation. “You have an intention, and you’re using orgasms or sex as a tool to achieve that particular intention,” explains Cat Cabral, a Wiccan priestess who managed the East Village occult shop Enchantments for more than a decade. Bri Luna, owner of The Hood Witch, agrees with this characterization. “We’re not talking about how to be sexy or have an enhanced libido. We’re getting down to manifesting, talking about harnessing sexual energy to make very real results,” she says. “Sexual energy is just energy. It’s neutral.”

Neutral, maybe, but extremely powerful nonetheless. “With sex magick, all you need is to reach orgasm and you can change your world,” writes Damon Brand in Adventures in Sex Magick.

The history of sex magic as a whole is as expansive as it is elusive, and it’s often difficult to obtain records about it. According to Sex and the Supernatural by Benjamin Walker, sex magic and erotic mysticism were practiced earliest in Central Asia. The citizens of one area in particular, known as Urgyan, a “semi-mythical kingdom that fought for the rights of the Tibetan people,” and are said to have used rites involving tantra, the build-up (and avoidance to increase power) of sexual energy and orgasm. “[It] was a place of some notoriety, according to the Hundi Chronicles, where intercourse was regarded as not only pro-creative…but for the acquisition of magical power,” writes Walker.

Sex magic through tantra dates back to the middle of the first millennium. The diversity of tantric practices has made it difficult to pinpoint the precise origin, the first record of tantra is likely the Śaiva Mantramārga tradition during the fifth century. While today tantra has often taken on associations with new age sex workshops and Sting, it’s also about harnessing power, and even achieving enlightenment, according to Essence of Vajrayana: The Highest Yoga Tantra Practice of Heruka Body Mandala By Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Unfortunately, many early tantric texts were destroyed by crusaders. The Gnostics, a collection of ancient religions and sects, found in a range of regions from the Middle East to China, also performed sex magic rituals, such as blood rituals and mantras to invoke sexual energy.

The most notorious sex magic practitioner in recent history is Aleister Crowley, a famous 19th century British occultist who viewed sex as “the supreme magical power.” A high-ranking member of the secret society Ordo Templi Orientis, which uses sex rituals heavily in its initiation ceremonies, he went onto write several books on the use of erotic magic. His views were extreme, as was his desire to experiment with new forms of sex magic. In Sex and the Supernatural, Walker writes: “In seeking to enlarge his tantrik-oriented experiences, Crowley advertised for females of all kinds, deformed women, dwarfs, hunchbacks, and as he put it in his characteristically unfeeling way, ‘freaks of all sorts.'”

Contemporary witches dismiss much of his work. “It veered on the more racist and sexist and just really weird,” says Luna. “I feel that a lot of his work, for what it was, was very self-serving and low vibrational, very demonic in a sense where you’re working with things that if you have no idea what the hell you’re doing, you could fuck yourself up. I’ve never felt compelled to go any further with studying him.”

Modern sex magic users have a myriad of historical, cultural practices to draw inspiration from, and many of them emphasize the importance of finding what works best for you. In ways, sex magic is similar to any other form of energy work, which harnesses energy, with the practitioner often tapping into their own spiritual energy to heal. the only difference is that the energy being harnessed in this case is the release of orgasm. “The first step is to have a clear goal and an intention of what you want,” says Luna. “I find for me that sex magic works best when your intention has to do with sex, love, confidence, power, strength.”

“Not, I need a new car, I’m gonna masturbate—that’s just so silly,” says Cabral.”

Other techniques involve repeating mantras during orgasm, focusing on sigils (a magical symbol) to help focus your energy, and invoking certain deities. Hathor, Isis, and Aphrodite are common goddess to invoke, but you can use whatever deity appeals most to you since sex magic is so personalized and intuitional. “I think everybody needs to find deities or mythology or archetypes that relate to them. So for some people that’s staying within their own heritage or culture,” says Cabral. “Personally, I love working with Venus or Aphrodite.” Intuition, she adds, is “the most important thing.”

Indeed, most witches will say that sex magic is one of the most intuitive practices. “I came to sex magic pretty intuitively,” recalls Korvett. “As a young girl, my mother taught me the power of manifestation, but in a G-rated way, of course. Somehow I made the connection between that and all the self-pleasure I was engaging in, and realized it could be used in a more powerful and productive way.”

Another, perhaps less intuitive, component of sex magic involves the use of bodily fluids. An early example of this is Abbe Guibourg, a French Roman Catholic occultistknown as a “renegade priest,” who in 1683 performed a Black Mass, a corruption of the traditional Catholic ceremony. Such ceremonies involve the nun figure urinatinginto a chalice, often as a demonstration of opposition to strict Catholic beliefs. Period blood is another useful liquid in sex magic, and according to Luna, there is a long folkloric history of women putting period blood into coffee or tea or red pasta sauce (because it is easy to hide!) often for binding spells, to cause sexual attraction, as in the Hoodoo tradition. Some practitioners also do spells with a concoction of semen mixed with period blood, which is considered very powerful. The mixture typically obtained and placed in a chalice, or swapped through kissing after oral sex, in a ritual believed to “seal” the magic performed, or create whatever manifestation the practitioner desires (again, sex magic goals don’t have to be about sex), according to Brand.

“Blood is life, especially menstrual blood; it nourishes life, you grow humans,” says Luna, adding that you can use bodily fluids to dress candles and talismans, meaning coating a candle, often carved with a sigil, with a substance whose properties are believed to help one achieve their goal.. (If you are going to work with bodily fluids, please be aware of the health risks. Feeding and eating bodily fluids carries the same danger as oral sex, so get tested, discuss it with partners beforehand, and become educated on dangers. “You’re playing with someone’s will and health. You can transmit diseases and all kinds of icky things,” cautions Luna.)

In general, when practicing with a partner, communication is very important. Luna says that you should either work together completely or keep your partner entirely in the dark about the fact that you’re manifesting magic during intercourse. “Either they know what it is that you’re doing, or they shouldn’t know at all. Because any person who kind of knows and isn’t really into it they can fuck up the whole flow of energy,” she explains. “So either keep them ignorant altogether, or they know and they are going to focus on that energy as well, so it makes it that much more powerful if you are going to come together.”

Even those uninterested or skeptical of practices such as magic can attest to the intimacy and intensity of coming at the same time. “With a partner, it becomes really cool and exciting when you can trust someone, and the both of you can work together. You know, staring at each other in the eyes, maybe slowing down an orgasm, breathing together,” says Cabral.

For many practitioners, though, the fact that sex magic can be practiced alone is one of its main draws. “Although I’ve experimented with partnered sex magic, I find the solo spells have worked better for me thus far,” says Korvette. In a world that’s traditionally punished women for freely enjoying both sex and magic, combining the two can feel revolutionary—and taking matters into one’s own hands only heightens that sense.

“Witchcraft in and of itself if very empowering for women… you know that all of your power is just innately within yourself,” says Luna. “One of the most powerful aspects any women can have is owning her sexuality, and not being afraid of that power, and not being afraid to use that power.”

Kitchen Witches Are Brewing Lube for the Bedroom

This article originally appeared in VICE Broadly.

In the intersection of kitchen witchery and kink, magical women are brewing balms, ointments, potions, and lotions, which they bring into the bedroom for BDSM purposes and in lieu of mainstream oils and lubes. While Judeo-Christian traditions carry shame around sex, pagan traditions celebrate it, as many view sexuality and spirituality as one of the same.

“Sexual intimacy can be used as a ritual representation of the fertility of Earth and Goddess when celebrating the cycles of seasons; as a spontaneous reaction to psychic energy either during ritual, meditation, or spell work; or a consenting form of kink as energy play between two or more people,” says Arwen, a 23-year-old Neo-Druid from Orange, California.

Considering the overlap between sexuality and spirituality, it makes sense that self-identified witches are combining nature with their sex lives. “My work with salves is a big part of my life,” says Gg Irkalla, a 29-year-old artist from Olympia, Washington. “A few years ago, I was part of a sacred whore temple wherein there were bowls of coconut oil. It’s terrible for toys and condoms, but amazing for everything else—especially massages, healing work, and skin health.” She defines witchcraft as “not tidy maypole ceremonies in someone’s backyard in the suburbs, while Enya plays timidly in the background. It’s hashish, opium, Adderall, cocaine, anal sex, BDSM, sex work, sorcery, ordeal, and holy rage.”

Stepping outside of the magical lens, kinky people use plants through figging, the act of placing of piece of ginger in an orifice. “[Figging is] often used in D/S [dominance and submission] dynamics and as part of other aspects of intense sensation play, as it creates burning sensation,” explains Dr. Michael Aaron, a NYC-based sex therapist and author of the upcoming book Modern Sexuality. “Some folks’ fetish involves molding it into butt plug shape; it’s important to have some form of handle to retrieve it.” (He advises keeping figging confined to ass play due to the vagina’s particular pH balance.)

When using any essential oil that can cause burning sensations, it’s important to dilute the oil to prevent skin damage. “You definitely need some sort of carrier oil. It could be a sweet almond oil, or a fractionated coconut oil, whatever kind of scent draws you in. There are good things like sesame oil, grape seed oil, wheat germ oil—the list goes on,” says Sheeba, a 31-year-old energy healer from Portland, Oregon.

While drugstore brands such as KY sell warming oils, many women are more interested in a natural and homemade concoction. Sheeba recommends cinnamon oil, which creates a burning sensation and holds an association with the goddessesVenus and Aphrodite. In her own BDSM scenes, Sheeba often uses thieves oil, a blend of clove, lemon, rosemary, cinnamon, and eucalyptus, as part of CBT, a.k.a. cock and ball torture.

“We used thieves oil on the top of [one of my sex partners’] penis and around the head. I have this really mean clip that fit all the way around the tip of his penis,” Sheeba says. “Some of where his extreme pleasure comes from was from that extra sensitivity from the oils and that constriction.”

For cooling oils to soothe oneself after BDSM play, Arwen enjoys a concoction of Calendula, a healing oil associated with love, blended with olive oil for both aftercare and massage. “Steeping Calendula in olive oil in the light of the sun imbues the chemical compounds and energy of the plant to create a healing oil to anoint during ritual or to soothe the body after impact play,” Arwen explains to Broadly.

Other magical women, such as crystal healer Katie Manzella, turn to aloe, coconut, and CBD oil for sex. “When I make love, I find the aloe vera plant to serve as a wonderful way to enhance the experience. Usually I don’t need its assistance, but it’s always fun to work with plants to make life more magical and healthy,” Manzella says. “Coconut and CBD oil is wonderful too!”

Lube has other important mystical uses as well: It’s important to remember it when integrating stone magic into your sex life. Vanessa Cuccia, the creator of Chakrubs, a line of sexual wellness products made from 100 percent mother crystal, recommends using coconut oil when using a rose quartz dildo. “Especially when somebody is making it themselves, I think that makes it more special,” Cuccia says. “When you’re making it yourself—that work that’s going into it, that you’re going to appreciate so much more.”

Coconut oil comes with one downside, however. As Irkalla mentioned, the oil is not latex friendly. If you’re looking for an organic lube to use with condoms, stick with something like Good Clean Love.

Simply creating your own massage oil or BDSM tool from plant ingredients found in your home can make you feel like a crafty kitchen witch, but the true magic is the power and healing that takes place when sex and spirituality meet. “Whatever you are doing can be seen as spiritual no matter how kinky it is, as long as you’re understanding that what you are doing is sacred,” Cuccia says.

When consulting with clients interested in Chakrubs, she will work individually to find the right crystal catered to individual healing. “Bodies carry a lot of hurt, trauma, and loneliness,” Irkalla says. “Sacred sex is a vital tool for addressing these issues.”

The Sad Story of the Ted Cruz Lookalike Who’s Shooting Porn

I covered the Ted Cruz porn lookalike for Playboy.

Presidential hopeful and banner of dildos Ted Cruz is not doing porn. However, 21-year-old Searcy Hayes from Natchez, Miss., who happens to resemble Ted Cruz, is. And while plenty of folks have had a good laugh about this, her story is anything but funny.

Like so many women who face the decision of whether to do sex work, she’s doing it because she needs the money. Hayes, who lives with her family in a trailer park, told Playboy she currently makes $100-$200 a month cleaning houses. Her fiancé and soon-to-be adult costar brings in $733 a month from disability payments.

Hayes went viral after appearing on Maury to prove her fiancé, 25-year-old Freddie Green, was the father of her three-month-old-child. (He is). Hayes has another son who is nearly three in the care of her mother. After she appeared on Maury, a meme posted on Redditcirculated comparing her appearance to Cruz. The viral image caught the eyes of xHampster.com publicist Mike Kulich, who offered her $10,000 for a six-minute adult film, which will be available to view for free on the website. Hayes will shoot the video at home with her fiancé. “[Kulich] just told us do as many [sexual positions] as we can in six minutes,” says Hayes.

Kulich says he has seen the film, and viewers should expect “lots of hardcore BBW action between two people who truly love each other.” However, when I asked Hayes that same day, she said she has not yet shot the film but was planning to in the next few days.

No doubt there is an audience of people who to want to see a female version of “Lucifer in the Flesh” Cruz (a comparison Satanists have protested) getting nailed.

“I think Cruz is horrible, and I’d really like to get him out of the race. It’s fun controlling the internet conversation,” says Kulich.

However, for the trolls and commenters, the laughs have shifted from Cruz to Hayes, who may be the butt of a joke she doesn’t entirely get.

“I wasn’t really familiar with him,” she says of Cruz.

As a promotion for the upcoming film, Hayes has appeared in photos and videos posted to Kulich’s Facebook endorsing Trump. When I asked if she supported Trump, she responded, “I mean, not really.”

Hayes says she’s hearing from folks in Mississippi about her decision to make the film. “All of my friends are telling me that it would ruin my child’s life,” says Hayes, who says it’s the other way around. “The reason I (am) doing it is so my son would have a roof over his head and didn’t have to worry about losing our trailer. I don’t see where we’re ruining our child’s life.”

With the $10,000, Hayes plans to pay off $2,000 of $3,000 owed on her trailer, buy a new truck and make additional purchases to take care of her 3-month-old. “We’re going to buy a walker, buy a high chair, stock up on his diapers, his wipes, buy him clothes.” Hayes says that buying a newer model of a truck is for her son as well, as their current vehicle, a 1997 Mercury Sable, has no heat, no air conditioner and is unsuitable to drive with children. “[With] the car that we have now, I can’t really take him with me. It hurts my feelings because I have to leave him at home.” Like her child, over one-third of Mississippi children live in poverty.

Sydney Leathers, who rose to adult fame from her texting scandal with Anthony Weiner, knows a thing or two about the intersection of porn and politics, and she hopes Hayes has thought this all the way through.

“She should think about her future before actually doing it. It will impact future employment. Everyone she’s ever known will find out. It’s a tough thing to prepare for,” Leathers said. “It sucks, but sex workers are still discriminated against so much. She has no idea what she’s signing up for.”

While $10,000 to screw somebody you already screw may seem like a no-brainer, others are critical of the figure, pointing out that Mama June of Here Comes Honey Boo Boofame was offered $1 million by Vivid for an adult film.

Kulich says the offer is fair. “When you look at the regular adult performer they’re making about $1,000 for a 30-minute scene; $10,000 for a six-minute scene is a very generous offer.”

His figures match up with a CNBC rundown of porn salaries. However, her earnings may not be sustainable. It’s very likely this is a one-time gig.

“It’s generally not a smart financial move to do it if you’re only planning to do one. Money goes fast, so if you’re not committed to making this your career path, it’s a mistake,” says Leathers.

Hayes says she’s open to doing more porn and has even picked up a laptop for the possibility of cam work for additional income.

Ultimately, Hayes is an adult, capable of making her own decisions about sex work, ones that should be respected. “Everybody is still going to sit there and give me bad mouth because of what I’m doing, but it’s not what everybody else thinks, it’s what I think about it,” she said.

 

BOWIE DOWN, BITCHES: HOW DAVID BOWIE BECAME AN ICON FOR SEXUAL LIBERATION

I wrote this for Noisey in honor of the release of “Blackstar.”

As a kid sitting cross-legged on my parent’s rug, hearing “Heroes” for the first time was the auditory equivalent of falling in love. That was it. I’d found The One, and millions of other sexually confused kids and self-proclaimed weirdos, from 1969 right until this second—and for the foreseeable future—had too. We share a love affair to last a lifetime with our hero of many masks, David Bowie.

Like me, and others around the age of 30, I put a moving image to the voice when I saw Labyrinth. The celestial star of the 1986 film was a mulleted Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King, but it was his Lycra-ensconced bulge that snagged the gaze. “Mommy, who is this man with the spiky long blonde hair, sequined jacket, and elaborate eye makeup, and why do his tight pants make me feel things?” As a kid, Labyrinth was pleasurably scary for reasons other than all those monster hands grabbing for a young Jennifer Connelly. It was a moment of sexual awakening inspired not by a Backstreet Boys poster taped to the wall, but by an androgynous man far too old for me, who so confidently wailed about someone called “Queen Bitch” (and did so while wearing lashings of gold lipstick). The fantasy he inspired wasn’t one of handholding, red roses, and longing glances exchanged, but rather, with Bowie as Jareth, the kidnapper fantasy began to tease our nascent eroticism. Likely not what director Jim Henson was going for, but hey, that was my experience.

As I grew up, discovered masturbation, and then began boning, for someone whose boner didn’t always jive with the heteronormative standard of attraction, there was no more comforting mantra than: “If Bowie did it, it must be OK.” Exclusively watching lesbian porn with strap-on dildos as a 19-year-old college kid in conservative North Carolina sure seems a lot less odd when reminding yourself that Bowie’s infamous ex-wife Angie supposedly found him in bed with Mick Jagger. But as an icon for the sexually different, Bowie’s role went far beyond his alleged bisexuality. It wasn’t just about what he proclaimed, it was about he presented himself too. Bowie’s the type of guy that can dress in drag such as on 1970’s The Man Who Sold the World cover, coquettishly cocking his head draped in long blonde curls (let us never forget that the man of many hairstyles was, at 17, founder of The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men). He’s the kind of artist unafraid to adopt the soft focus Hollywood glamour of 30s starlets, just as he did on 1971’s Hunky Dory (a clear nod to the moody shots of Marlene Dietrich like this one). And yet, somehow this glam Martian was a performer who all Earthlings admired—from straight dudes in suits to glitter-eyed gay boys.

Bowie first announced himself to the world with his eponymous ’67 debut as the very British, very pretty David Jones. His sound at the time a decidedly jaunty brand of psych-folk—just don’t put his name in the same sentence as “hippie,” a word he grew to detest. But, it wasn’t until ’69 with “Space Oddity” that he made his break into the mainstream, and the surreality within him began to emerge, leaving the old guard media flummoxed. On one 1972 episode of the BBC’s long-running live music show, The Old Grey Whistle Test, Bowie was intro-ed with a bemused voiceover which ran thusly: “This is the face the public wants… an ex-art student from Brixton who has turned himself into a bizarre self-constructed freak.” The same year legendary photographer Mick Rock snapped an electric live shot of Bowie simulating fellatio/flossing his teeth with some guitar strings, English music newspaper Melody Maker asked about Bowie’s affinity for women’s dresses, to which he responded, “Oh dear, you must understand that it’s not a woman’s—it’s a man’s dress.” Later in that same interview the singer exclaimed, “I’m not outrageous, I’m David Bowie.”

Glam rock embraced and celebrated androgyny, flamboyance, button-pushing and liberally applied makeup, but what’s remarkable about Bowie is that he didn’t remain trapped in the glittering amber of the genre. With his ever-changing guises he gave us the green light to explore our secret facets. Straight men could sashay with Ziggy, gay men could put on a suit and out-masculine everyone as the Thin White Duke. It’s practically moot to point out that his playful toying with imagery wouldn’t have had a mere smidgen of the impact it has, if Bowie’s music wasn’t as catchy as it was mind-warpingly progressive and emotionally resonant. Just revisit the Berlin Trilogy: as much as Bowie liked to downplay his skills as a musician, with these records he gave the world a sprawling masterpiece. Songs like “Always Crashing in the Same Car” revealed inner turmoil, messages of mental struggle that sound almost suicidal, of repeating mistakes and searching for identity. Low, the first in this triumvirate, is a sonic snapshot of his skin-shedding that would result in coming into a space to create Heroes, which communicates a much calmer and cohesive exhilaration.

In 1976 he gave an interview with Playboy where he stated: “It’s true—I am a bisexual. But I can’t deny that I’ve used that fact very well. I suppose it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Fun, too.” He absolutely used it—in the way Mad Men portrayed Don Draper using his big-dicked sexual energy to cut swathes through the ad industry (and the ladies in his path). Nevertheless, it’s worth noting the bisexual identity is one he’d flip-flop on: at times he’d refer to himself as gay, then in 1983, he told Rolling Stone that coming out as bi was “the biggest mistake I ever made,” before going on to describe himself as a “a closet heterosexual.”

Labels aside, most biographies can agree he was experimental—and regarding sexuality, his exploration wasn’t simply regarding orientation. His infamously open relationship with Angie allegedly included a threesome on their wedding night according to one biography released last year, “Angie and David used to have the most amazing orgies.” Apparently they had a vast bed of called “The Pit.” Love didn’t have to fit in any box: it was much more “You like me and I like it all.” It didn’t even have to be a unary or static experience—love could be part of the equation of finding oneself. Forget love—David Bowie taught how to consistently fall in love, the hardest dragon to chase. And yeah, sex was part of this: Everyone wanted to fuck David Bowie and David Bowie made it OK to want to fuck everyone. Except to honor him only as an early champion of sexual and gender fluidity short-circuits his all-encompassing fluidity. With his ever-changing, always evolving image he made it OK to experiment not just with your sexuality, but with who you are. “It’s OK that in college I crossed state lines to see Phish and got a peace sign tattoo on my ass and now I look like a Kat Von D wannabe; I’m not borderline, I’m like David Bowie!”

Through my awkward and wild first years in New York City, flashes of memory include a 4 AM cuddle pile with both bi girls and bi boys, which went from simply masturbating to actually eating pussy, and then there was that one Halloween spent dressed as Ziggy Stardust, wobbling down the Westside Highway in the early hours with a buzzed brain to match. That night I’d wind up alone in the fetal position—“Rebel rebel, your face is a mess”—but I’d repeat the mantra: “If Bowie did it, it must be OK.” And as Bowie knew far too well—shedding your skin can be painful. “It’s OK to have had mental breakdowns and not leave my apartment for a week curled up on the floor screaming; David Bowie pulled that shit all the time in 1976.” Apparently he even kept his piss, hair, and nail clippings in his manager’s fridge because he thought someone was going to curse him. I even got his Aladdin Sane lightning bolt tattooed on my back. The tattoo artist reminded me also looked like the Gatorade logo halfway through. Ah the impulsivity of youth can be awkward.

Bowie would dip back into the dark place for Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)—often regarded to be a collage of his various personas and sounds thus far. He’d appear oddly conventional with 1983’s “Let’s Dance,” and well, yeah, yeah, there was that yellow sweater and goatee, and no one even talks about Tin Machine, but Bowie would grow up and impress again with 2002’s Heathen. His musical aesthetic and over-arching philosophical DNA is traceable from Boy Gorge to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and today, when he drops shit—like yesterday’s creepy 10 minute video for “Blackstar”—everyone still pays attention. David Bowie is the rock god who neither burnt out nor faded away. For all his experimentation, he never apologized. He could use different labels to describe himself and his sexuality because that was his muse at the moment: he leaned into his inclinations with his whole thin frame. The fact that he sobered up and settled down and married Iman shouldn’t be taken as Bowie losing his edge. Who wants to bet the 68-year-old’s had Iman dress up like Ziggy and enjoyed enacting some really fucked up fantasies like, this week? Perhaps he was always a “closeted heterosexual”—who knows?—but in a world where people are now adopting and inventing increasingly complex labels from “demi-girl who identifies with the female binary” or “a graysexual panromantic transman,” labels which at times need more explaining than acting as an explainer, Bowie appears even more forward thinking. He learned long ago that a label or alliance will eventually mutate or be shrugged off, and that his strength is just existing as it pleases him there and then. For those who’ve felt the pains of society’s razor sharp cookie-cutter, Bowie is a beacon. Try this mantra: “I’m not outrageous, I’m David Bowie.”

Why Do So Many Women Feel Sad After Sex?

Repost of an article I originally wrote for Mic Connections. Photo courtesy of Mic/Getty Images.

The last time I cried after sex was during a summer fling I wasn’t totally into, about a year and a half ago. The sex was consensual, but all of a sudden, while he was on top of me, my flight-or-flight instinct kicked in. I had to ask him to stop before tears came.

This wasn’t a first-time experience. I live with post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by sexual assault, which means I sometimes have panic attacks during sex, which can sometimes end in tears. But according to a paper recently published in the journal Sexual Medicine, I’m not alone.

According to the study, nearly 46% of the more than 230 women polled have felt depressed after sex at some point during their lives. These women reported feeling symptoms of PCD, or postcoital dysphoria, which is marked by “tearfulness, anxiety, agitation, a sense of melancholy or depression or aggression,” according to the Independent. Of those women, 2% said they felt that way after every time they had sex. And although 20% of the women polled said they had experienced sexual abuse in the past, which led to them developing mental health issues down the road, many of those surveyed didn’t report having a preexisting condition like PTSD to explain their symptoms. 

Why the hell are so many women feeling sad after sex? The PCD study had some obvious flaws. For instance, the results were collected through an online survey, and the sample size included predominantly heterosexual women. But this is not the first time researchers have tried to link sex to sadness in women. A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Sexual Health found one-third of women said they felt depressed even after satisfactory sex.

Jerilyn, 27, is one of them. “Even when I was single, the post-sex depression morphed into a different shade of empty. I always attributed it to the fear of being abandoned,” she told Mic. “I started to wonder if something was being taken from me every time I had sex, even though I enjoyed the act itself.”

Researchers theorized this post-sex dysphoria was caused by hormonal shifts after orgasm. But according to sex and relationship expert Logan Levkoff, the reason might have less to do with biology and more to do with how women’s sexuality is viewed in modern society.

“I think it’s important to remember that if you grow up not feeling empowered by your body, if you feel guilt and shame about sex, if you’ve been taught that your needs are less important than a man’s needs … [it’s not a] surprise that some people wouldn’t feel great after sex,” Levkoff told Mic.

According to Levkoff, part of why women might feel down after getting laid is that their needs weren’t met in bed, a phenomenon linked to how our culture teaches women about their sexual desires. While many men believe that women can achieve orgasm via penetration alone, according to one study, about 75% of women need some form of clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm.

If their partners aren’t interested in paying attention to their desires, it’s no surprise that women would feel frustrated or emotionally drained after sex. “I think that the take-home message has a lot to do with how we learned about sex [and] how we feel about our bodies,” Levkoff said.

Playing into stereotypes: Possible causes of PCD aside, it’s worth noting that the study could be interpreted as perpetuating the idea that women are more biologically predisposed than men to becoming emotionally attachedto their partners after sex. (That notion was quickly debunked by a study from Concordia University, which found men and women process both love and sexual attraction in pretty much the same way.)

The idea that women are more likely than men to become sad or depressed after sex also inherently endorses the stereotype that women just aren’t really into sex at all. While numerous publications have said otherwise — in fact, a fertility app survey from earlier this year determined that many women would prefer to be having more sex than they’re currently having — the stereotype of the sexless housewife in a frumpy nightgown snapping, “Not tonight, honey,” at her poor, neglected husband still persists.

For this reason, many women don’t buy into the PCD study, insisting that they feel just fine after sex. “The only time I ever feel negative emotions after sex is if it was a one-night stand and I didn’t practice safe sex,” Meredith*, 24, explained. “Maybe guilt the next day, but no, I’m never sad. I love sex.”

Ehris, 22, is also skeptical that women have a biological predisposition toward post-sex depression. “I’ve experienced [sadness after sex] before. But I don’t think that it needs to be pathologized as a problem experienced predominantly by women,” she explained. “I’ve had and heard of partners of both sexes and a variety of genders who have felt melancholic after sex.”

Ehris brings up an important point: PCD isn’t exclusive to women. Men too don’t always feel awesome after sex. “We certainly don’t talk about it as much,” Levkoff said of PCD in men. “And that’s the one thing — this study sort of stereotypes, ‘Yeah, women really aren’t interested in sex.’ I don’t want this to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think that’s a bad paradigm to put out there.”

hormonal quirk or a sign that something’s not quite right: An orgasm can be one of nature’s most powerful drugs. When you have sex, the release of hormones in your brain can cause some funny reactions, from making you want to snuggle into your partner’s armpit to making you cry uncontrollably for no apparent reason. The occasional bout of post-sex sadness might be a sign that something isn’t right in the relationship, but it might also just be an odd quirk of nature and nothing more than that.

That said, if you consistently feel sad and depressed after having sex, it’s worth asking yourself why and reevaluating your partner selection. While it might sound obvious, who you’re having sex with plays a major role in how you feel about it afterward. Levkoff said it’s wise to check in with yourself and make sure you are comfortable with your partner and that there are no unaddressed, underlying issues preventing you from enjoying the encounter to the fullest, even if you’re just looking for a one-night stand.

Ultimately, it’s important to have sex with someone with whom you feel safe, “and by safe I mean respected, trusted, cared for,” Levkoff said. “It might not even be a monogamous romantic relationship. If you feel like this is someone you are connected to and who respects you, that certainly impacts [your feelings afterward].”

Jerilyn experienced PCD for years before she started dating her current partner, a longtime friend of hers. They’ve been together five months, and Jerilyn said she is finally enjoying sex in the way she thought she was meant to.

“This is the first time in my life that I have not had some form of postcoital depression. The only reason I get sad is if he falls asleep and I want more,” she explained. “Sex is finally what it should be for me, which is primal and passionate, and no longer something that provokes that overhanging, ambiguous sensation that something isn’t right.”

I’ve dealt with a lot of my PTSD-related issues, and like Jerilyn, I am now with a partner with whom I feel safe. I no longer feel sadness or anxiety after sex. Instead, I feel a lovely, Ativan-esque sense of calmness.

*Some names have been changed and last names have been withheld to allow subjects to speak freely on private matters.

A Love Letter to Planned Parenthood

Dear Planned Parenthood,

When I was in 10th grade and my friends and I were beginning to discover the power of the blowjob, we heard rumors that this hot senior, who I’ll call Mike, had chlamydia. One of my friends had gone down on him and was scared she had the clap in her throat. I quickly drew out of a chart of our high school’s web of hook ups and concluded that if she had the clap in her throat, I most certainly did too. We were panicked and uneducated and couldn’t go to our parents, so we went to Planned Parenthood. None of us has chlamydia, but everyone was really nice, taught us all about chlamydia and safe sex practices, gave us a fuck ton of condoms, and we left feeling a little more grown up. I don’t think it’s a reach to say that first visit and what I learned about safe sex (they taught me a lot more than my high school was) helped inform what would become a career largely based on writing about sex.

Over a decade later, I still go to Planned Parenthood, now in New York City, for all my reproductive health needs. They do my annual pap and HPV test (although now it’s recommended only once every three years). They do my breast cancer screening, they answer all my anxious questions. They test me for STIs and HIV about once every six months (most people don’t go that often – but I am mega-OCD when it comes to my health). They also provide me with affordable birth control (as a freelance writer I’m on a form of Medicaid so it’s free) and give me heaps of condoms for free too (that shit’s expensive).

To get (extremely) personal here, I’ve (knock on wood) never contracted an STI or experienced an unwanted pregnancy, despite having a rather active sex life for over a decade now. Many people I love have, to no fault of their own, it just happens sometimes. STIs are sneaky and pregnancy is what women’s bodies were designed to do, so sometimes we get pregnant. Maybe I’m so used to taking pills for other reasons (lol), one more at the same time everyday is no biggie for me. But the whole damn reason I have access to the birth control and thus have never needed an abortion is Planned Parenthood! Thank you, Planned Parenthood. Why don’t more people talk about this side of it?  During Friday’s debate, Trent Franks, R-Ariz showed Congress a graphic poster of an aborted fetuses in Congress (I’d like to see a graphic poster of a 17-year-old child who lives in low-income housing giving birth to a ten pound kid after getting knocked up by her mom’s boyfriend. Then I’d like to ask Congress about the funds we’ll need to take care of her and her child, and if they play the “work hard and get a job” card to bitch about welfare, let’s talk about income disparity for women – especially women of color – and how we’ve created an education system and low employment rates following a crash caused by, guess who, rich white men, that more or less sets children birthed to such parents as the aforementioned 17-year-old up for failure and a life of crime, oh and if there’s time, we can talk about how much prison costs the taxpayers. End rant). Oh one more rant – do we show graphic posters of all the dead civilians (dead babies too) before approving war missions and drone strikes? Anyone? Bueller?

The legislation approved Friday would end federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, during which some time investigators will snoop around and see what they can find out to be true from those edited videos, basically. As a freelance writer, ending federal payments will directly affect me and my ability to love and fuck the way I want and I am outraged. Yet, I recognize my privilege. I’m a cis white girl with supportive parents and a Dad who is a lawyer. If something happened and I needed an abortion, they’d make sure I was able to see someone safe. I am one of the lucky ones. The majority of the women and families who need Planned Parenthood don’t have parents with the funds to step in in such a scenario.These politicians are using overtly edited videos for political gain, and imposing some condescending moral high ground that is completely unsupported by science pretty much because they think it makes them look cool to their Republican constituents and twisted version of God. It’s evil.

Planned Parenthood, I thank you for keeping me healthy, safe, educated, and not pregnant for the whole time I’ve been having sex. I love you, and I stand by you.

Love,

Sophie Saint Thomas