Monthly Archives: July 2012

Why Monogamy Should Be Classified as a Paraphilia

Married Couple

Do these people have a paraphilia?

Imagine this scenario: a friend (we’ll call her Rene) says to you that she plans on spending the rest of her life having sex with the same person (we’ll call him Tom). Rene claims that for the next fifty or so years she will flirt only with Tom, fantasize only about sex with Tom, stay with Tom even when he gets fat and sick and old. This will make her happy, she thinks. It will make her so deliriously happy that Rene must celebrate by inviting all their friends to an expensive, drunken party where she declares these intentions while her friends and family cry, not out of sadness for her misplaced ideas about happiness, but with joy, with the hope that unlike the majority of married couples, she will continue to have a great sex life with Tom. But in all probability this will not happen. There’s about a 50% chance that there will be cheating in the relationship and a 15% chance that they will stop having sex altogether. And most likely even if Rene and Tom are still having sex, it will be of the routine, robotic variety. Yet our society continues to perpetuate the myth that lifetime monogamy is a normal state for most human beings and that it leads to happiness.

It’s such an ingrained societal belief that deigning to question it is seen as heresy, which has created a situation where people who question monogamy are too scared to openly discuss it because they fear social reprisal. They then assume that most people are happy practicing monogamy, since few people are saying otherwise. Communication theorist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann called this phenomena the Spiral of Silence, which is succinctly described by Wikipedia as “the process by which one opinion becomes dominant as those who perceive their opinion to be in the minority do not speak up because they fear isolation from society.”

Side note: The Spiral of Silence is controversial among some because of Noelle-Neumann’s connection to Nazism. Having tea with Hitler and writing for Das Reich, a newspaper founded by Joseph Goebbels, isn’t the best way to endear yourself to the academic community. Some scholars believe that her theory is “riddled with totalitarian ideology gleaned from working as “Germany’s leading pollster.” Continue reading

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I Wore a Vibrator During Sex So You Don’t Have To: A Review of The Newest Couples’ Sex Toy

Tiani 2

Lelo’s Tiani 2 Couples’ Vibrator.

If Charles and Ray Eames had designed vibrators, they would have looked like the Lelo Tiani 2, with its rounded corners and candy colors. I really wanted to love Lelo’s new Tiani 2 couples’ vibrator. Not only is it a valiant attempt to solve the intractable problem of the male anatomy– the inability of the penis to stimulate the clitoris during sexual intercourse–but also the device and its packaging is gorgeous. Ensconced in a sleek back rectangular box lined with velvet, the Tiani oozes luxury. It even includes a gold pin with Lelo’s logo. Maybe you’re meant to clip this pin to your lapel so that other  Tiani owners can identify each other, a hanky code for the sex-toy set.

So I approached the task of reviewing the revamped Tiani with excitement. Designed to be worn during intercourse, the Tiani 2 joins the cock ring in the pantheon of couples’ vibrators. Unlike the cock ring, the Tiani 2 attaches to the vagina, a much more difficult task, as the cock ring easily wraps around the penis like a genital wristwatch. A cavernous realm inhospitable to interlopers, the vagina is less capable of retaining sex toys within its vast, sloppy depths.

The thicker half of the Tiani 2 contains the vibrating motor; this is the part intended to be pressed up against the clitoris, while the insertable half of the vibrator (its “wearable attachment”) anchors the device in the interstices of the vagina. The Tiani 2 comes with two interchangeable attachments, one of which Lelo designed to stimulate the G-spot. Continue reading

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One Nation Under Sex Toys

Rejected Newsweek Cover with American Flag Vibrator

Rejected Newsweek Cover with American Flag Vibrator for the February 14, 2012 issue. Image from http://newsweek.tumblr.com/

This Fourth of July, as I reside in the nation’s capital, studying the history of our regulations against sex toys and the various ways that sex toy manufacturers have attempted to evade these laws, I should have a pessimistic view of the nation. After all, my raison d’être, the motivation that keeps me going, is the belief that sex toys are objects that are symbols of American ingenuity, that dildos are proof of American Exceptionalism. In fact, as I like to imagine it, masturbators all across the country are now sublimely bringing themselves to orgasm while contemplating how lucky they are to be Americans, or simply to be humans, a part of the tool-making species that has contrived such wonderful motorized devices to speed up and intensify “the little death,” that thirty-second moment of ecstasy that has driven invention and innovation since the beginning of time.

But America has been attempting to frustrate the nation’s masturbators for the past 150 years. They’ve incinerated sex toys in fires in the mid-1800s, arrested people for selling them, shamed people for using them. Unlike the burned book, few take up the torch for the sex toy, feeling, incorrectly as it happens, that sex toys are not full of ideas and ideals, are not, in fact, objects worthy of intellectual contemplation. But all objects, however reviled, especially the reviled ones, posses the ability to become muses, to expand minds, to launch dreams. We have an idea that great literature is full of lofty intellectual ideas, that it ignores the bodily processes, that nobody farts in Shakespeare. But  literature embraces the body. James Joyce revelled in defecation, Marcel Proust lovingly described gay sex, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s characters buggered each other with plow blades. That’s not to say that sex toys are books’ intellectual equals, just that we mischaracterize classic literature. We consciously create a divide between the body and the mind, a divide that allows people to believe that they are above animals. Instead, we need to admit that we are animals with the accompanying animal instincts, but that we differentiate ourselves in our ability to think deeply about these instincts, to make choices about them, to improve upon our genitals.

But what gives me hope isn’t that most of our anti-sex-toy regulations have been lifted; it’s that Americans have always ignored them. No matter how much our government has done to stop us from using sex toys, we have continued to manufacture and market them. Even in the face of imminent arrest, American entrepreneurs have always produced and sold sex toys because they’ve believed, correctly, that deep within the soul of the red-blooded, pragmatic American consumer lies the indefatigable hope that the newest dildo or butt plug or tube of clitoral stimulation gel will change the face of orgasm forever.

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