Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Michael Vick? may have served his debt, but an award for courage? hell no!

You see this girl? She used to work security for a drug house in Baltimore. When the house got busted, she was taken to the city shelter where she lived for three months, then a lovely woman took her home and fostered her. Now she lives with me. Her name is Bella Jane.

And when she came home she was fucked up. She shook all the time. She didn't know that standing on the dining room table was inappropriate behavior. She shied if I stamped my feet. She got aggressive if I yelled. And she cuddled like she was starved.

That was a bit more than a year ago. Now she has learned a lot and taught me and S more. She only shakes some of the time. She's been through two obedience classes and private training. She plays well with some dogs. Not well with others. I never yell at her. And she loves us madly.

She's a pit bull (as are the other two dogs that live with me). A pit bull that had been abused, neglected, encouraged to be aggressive, but never fought. And she was a mess.

I have a soft spot for pit bulls.

Which means I have a deep well of rage for people that torture and fight them.

Michael Vick, a QB for the Philadelphia Eagles, served 18 months in prison for running a dog fighting ring. A ring in which he personally, with his bare hands, strangled at least one dog. Others were tortured, many were killed in other non-medical ways.

He's a reasonably talented football player, so as soon as he finished serving his sentence, he was signed by the Eagles. He has since apologized for his choices and is working with the Humane Society to educate young people about the horrors of dog fighting.

Personally, I don't believe his remorse for a second. He's sorry he got caught. he;s sorry he went to jail. But really sorry for what he did? Judge for yourself:

The Eagles players chose Michael Vick to receive the annual Ed Block Courage Awared. Because apparently they believe that he:
symbolizes professionalism, great strength and dedication. He is also a community role model. With this honor, he enters into an association which contrasts his fierce profession by becoming a major component of the Courage House National Support Network for Kids. He becomes an Ambassador of Courage for victims of abuse, violence and neglect.


The man electrocuted and beat dogs to death. He perpetrated abuse, violence and neglect of animals. Not once or twice. But repeatedly. For years.

And he is now a role model for children?

18 months in prison didn't erase what he did. Or what kind of person he had to be to beat an animal to death.

Perhaps he has learned from his past. Perhaps his heart is in the right place now. It's possible. But rewarding him as a role model less than a year after prison? It's absurd and deeply offensive. People who break the law and get caught go to prison. They don't deserve an award for serving their time. People who have public personas who've done something horrible sometimes do things in public to try and rehabilitate themselves. If Mr. Vick is still on the straight and narrow in a few years, and still volunteering his time with the humane society, if his rehabilitation stands the test of time, if it's truely heartfelt, if he's really a man that has come out the other side a great person, reward him then. But now? No.

It's a slap in the face to all people who really have gone through difficult times. To the people who have made poor choices and manged to learn from their errors and create good.

And it sets a terrible example.

So what can you do about it? Well, I have some suggestions.

First, read what the foundation has to say (I'll withhold my hyperbole).

What the Ed Block Foundation has to say about Michael Vick

Then, if you want to contact the foundation and let them know what you think, send an email to:

Sam Lamantia Jr., CEO/Chairman of the Board sam@edblock.org

Want more? Contact the foundation's funders:

Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
Rachel Garbow Monroe, Chief Operating Officer
Phone: 410-654-8500, ext. 220
Email: rmonroe@hjweinberg.org

Want still more? Support the folks who are taking care of the dogs Michael Vick hurt.

The most traumatized are living at an amazing place called Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, in a place called Pittie City. They are calling them the Vicktory Dogs.

Thanks to Colten for the pic of Bella.

Thanks to Lauren from B-More Charming School For Dogs for all of her work with us over the past year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Last Friday: or in which i prove once again that someone should follow me with a video camera

How was your Friday?

Oh, was someone asking me that?

Because last Friday pretty much sucked. I mean it could have be worse. I've definitely had worse. But, let's just say it could be better.

That's Minnesotan for, "RUN FOR THE HILLS!!!!!"

It started Thursday.

I work from home on Thursdays. This is supposed to ensure that I get all that pesky paper work done. Uh huh. It does usually mean the web site gets updated and email gets answered. But I also have yoga on Thursdays, so I left the house (this was the mistake), went to yoga, went to the store, ordered some stuff, and went back home. I was gone for, oh, about 3.5 hours. Not much time, right?

When I opened the door, fresh with plans to eat my burrito, get started on some long postponed stuff and meet with the guy about our roof, only to be confronted with a smell that could kill small children.

Amazingly enough, it was not poo. It was puke. Really pungeunt puke. Zach had vomitted all over his kennel, and worn a bare patch on his nose in a futile attempt to bury the extremely odifereous stuff in his blanket. Poor guy.

He then proceeded to vomit about every ten minutes.

I would like you to know that I still managed to eat my burrito. In between cleaning the most awful puke I've ever encountered and calling the vet. The little guy was getting dehydrated.

In the mean time, helicopters were circling overhead. When the roof guy showed up he said streets were closed everywhere. I wondered about that for a minute, looked at the roof with the roof guy, threw Zach in the car and ran off to the vet.

IV fluids and a shot later we were back home and he was doing better. And the puking had miraculously stopped.

So, the rest of the evening was spent keeping a close eye on Puke Boy, and withholding food from both him and Piper. The vet's best guess was that we were dealing with doggie stomach flu. Bella had been sick earlier in the week, so it made sense to me that Piper was next.

It was around then, that I heard that a blizzard was expected. For Saturday. You know, the biggest retail shopping day of the year? Yep. That day. I grumbled and stomped and fed myself some wine. And went to bed.

Piper woke up puking in the middle of the night. But, she had nothing to throw up. Put one in the win column for the Jones/Z household! Good catch.

We were up early, cooking rice, baking chicken, walking dogs, tidying the house and retrieving the snow shovel from the garage. When I got an idea in my head. This should have been accompanied with blinking lights and sirens.

In our back yard we have a sweet little fountain. S and I had been meaning to dump it out and wrestle it into the garage, but she's been working out of town and we just hadn't gotten to it on one of her weekends home. She was coming home, but she had contracted the creeping crud and was coughing up small children and I knew she was going to think she needed to tackle the fountain before the blizzard. I decided to cut this off at the pass. I would take care of it before she got home!

So there I was in the back yard, wearing flannel sock monkey pajamas, red shiny shoes, a black parka and one of those fleece Raven's hats that always kind of look elvin and pointy no matter what. With a pick ax. There was some ice in the damn thing and I needed to get it out before I flipped the base over.

I pick axed out the ice, everything was going well, removed the main part of the fountain, and crouched down to lift and dump. The base of the fountain is heavy as shit. I'm reasonably strong, but it was extra heavy because of the ice. I got it mostly dumped. Then I decided to go for the flip. Just a little bit more umph would do it. And I'd be the best partner EVER. So I pushed with my legs.

And my red shiny shoes slipped on the frost. I dropped the fountain and landed in it. On my face, my nose making direct, hard contact with the pokey end of the fountain pump.

Then I was sitting in a lump of sock monkey pajamas sobbing with blood running out my nose. And all I was thinking was, "God damnit, my nose was already big enough!" Followed by a lot of feeling sorry for myself. And stupid. So I hiccupped and shuffled my way into the house, where Zach stared at me with that special, slightly bug eyed pit bull stare as I put the leftover frozen corn on my face and tried to arrange the corn so that I could watch the soothing patter of a West Wing re-run.

A bit later after I had showered, and reassured myself that my nose had not acquired a new direction, I took off to work, with both Piper and Zach in the car (see aforementioned puke fest). I shortly discovered that Zach was not ready to work in the store yet. Too much happening that scared him, so, after spending enough puke free time in the car that i was reasonably certain he wasn't going to repeat the previous day's kennel experience, back home he went.

By then I was a bit tired.

And overwhelmed.

And sore.

But we had some really lovely customers. And sold a lot of stuff.

I ended the day with a 9:15 pm trip to the grocery store for blizzard provisions.

And settled in with S for a long winter's night.

The black eyes were very, very minor by the way. More a suggestion of black eyes. S decided it was fun to call me Rickey.

She was right. That was fun. But I don't think I'm going to miss them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

in which i talk about sex at Morgan State

Last night I went to Morgan State and did a Hot Safer Sex class with the Rainbow Soul (Morgan's Gay/Straight Alliance).

It was a blast.

So I get there, check in with the woman who was organizing the event, set out my stuff and wait for folks to show up. People came in, laughing and greeting people, taking seats in a huge circle.

When I teach Hot Safer Sex, one thing I always take into account is the audience I'm addressing. Young people in Northern Virginia need to hear slightly different statistics than folks in Baltimore City. And young people at one of Baltimore's two Historically Black Colleges need to hear slightly different statistics than people at an event for white women over 40 in Roland Park.

Because 2/3rds of diagnosed sexually transmitted infections occur in people under 25.

And people who are African American in Maryland are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. 82% of AIDS cases and 75% of HIV cases in Maryland occur in people that are African American. Only 29% of people in Maryland are African American, a huge disparity.

Although the leading cause of HIV transmission in MD is heterosexual intercourse, a 2004 study found that in Baltimore City, among men who have sex with men, 40 % were positive for HIV. Most of them were unaware of their infection. This study tested men who were congregating at or around gay clubs and/or events, so the number likely excludes some of the lower risk men who have sex with men, but it certainly indicates that we have a significant problem.

No matter how you cut it, we have a crisis in this city. Baltimore is fourth in the nation in per capita AIDS cases. Just down the road is Washington, DC. With the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country at around 3% of the population.

What group that is seeing steady increases in numbers of new cases of HIV in Baltimore? It's people under 29. In fact the number of new HIV diagnoses doubled from 2001 to 2007.

This doesn't take into account other sexually transmitted infections. Which are more common, and contracted in the same ways - unprotected sexual contact.

All of these facts were weighing heavily on my mind when I walked into that room. Here was a group of young, smart African American people who were willing to listen while I talked about safer sex. And I had to do it in a way that they could hear.

It's that last part that's challenging.

Usually safer sex ed focuses on the scary numbers, or on frightening pictures of worst case presentations of disease. Frankly, those scary pictures hurt more than they help. If someone has a lesion on their stuff, they may not worry about it until it starts to look like that scary picture. And let me tell you. I've seen a lot of genital warts. They rarely look like those pictures. Second of all, scare tactics instill a fear of sex, not respect. Fear works. For a while. Until it doesn't. And the precautions go by the wayside.

Because at some point the extremity of fear based education doesn't ring true in our lives. No one talks about it when they get diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, so it feels like it doesn't happen in our peer group. And HIV? It is, after all, one of the least common sexually transmitted infection in the US. It's easy to think you don't know anyone with HIV. Or that something scary and deadly isn't going to happen to you. Those things happen to other people. Until it does happen to you.

I walk a very careful line between talking about the hard cold facts, normalizing the facts (seriously - the common cold? that's the most common sexually transmitted infection), and offering means of prevention that are accessible and sexy. Condoms, dental dams, gloves, vibrators.

Yep. Vibrators. Just because sex is safe doesn't mean it can't be sexy. If you use a vibrator on your partner, and that vibrator belongs to them and only them, there's no exchange of body fluid. You just had hot safer sex.

Or strap ons. Talk about safer sex! Use a silicone dildo (or metal or glass - materials that are body safe and won't absorb bacteria or virus). It's sanitizable, it's sexy, it's durable. Use a harness you can actually wash. Once again, smoking hot safer sex.

Or a butt plug that you insert in your partner, after massaging their ass, gently using lube while wearing a nitrile glove. That glove? Not only does it protect your hand from exposure to disease, but it protects your partner's ass from exposure to scratchy skin or hang nails. After you remove the glove, you can safely touch yourself.

Or how you talk about using protection. "It's cause I care about you, unless we've been monogamous for six months, we need to protect each other". Caring protection. That's hot.

So we talked. At first I depressed them a little bit. Because some of the numbers are scary. And we had fun talking about sex toys and safety.

They asked really good questions. We laughed. I think they might have learned something. I hope that they learned that sex is whole. It is hot and dangerous and earth shattering and boring and fascinating and delightful. When we treat sex and our bodies in a manner that is risk aware and respectful sex becomes more fun, more fulfilling and ultimately safer.

Happy World AIDS Day.

Get tested. Know your status. And celebrate the hot opportunities in safer sex. You're only bound by your own creativity!

Blessings to those of you who've dared to be out about your battles with HIV and AIDS. You've changed my life.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Twilght - glorifying emotional abuse?

The new Twilight movie opened this weekend. Which has me thinking. I've only read the first book, and it disturbed me deeply.

This fall, I gave in and downloaded Twilight (the first book in the Twilight series)onto my Kindle (as far as inventions go - the Kindle is up there with sliced bread). I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I was ready for an easy read and a bit of escapism.

Instead, I was horrified.

Twilight is a modern book, written for young adults, in which a controlling, borderline abusive relationship is played up as a great love story. Oh, and throw in a little pedophilia as well (how the hell old is Edward [112 according to a friendly twihard]? and Bella's what - 17?). But I'm probably being oversensitive about Edward's real age. I know - he looks 18. I'll let that go. And the abstinence message? You're not going to hear me complain about encouraging kids to postpone first intercourse. I have opinions about how that should be done, but I'm not against the concept.

I am against controlling, manipulative behavior.

Edward tells Bella that they can't be together. Not because he doesn't want to be with her, but because he knows what's best for her. Then he tells her he can't stay away. After all, they've known each other for two days and are deeply in star crossed love. She follows eagerly along as he pulls the strings.

He watches her 24/7. He doesn't need to sleep, so the fact that he spends all night staring at her in her bedroom is fine right? Um, no. That's called stalking. Doesn't he have something else to do?

She says she doesn't want a party or presents for her birthday. He surprises her with a party and expensive presents.

She asks him to drive more slowly because she's frightened. He ignores her.

He's rich and buys her things. She's middle class and can't reciprocate. Besides, 112 year old rich men have everything they'd ever need.

She wants him to turn her into a vampire. He tells her that will never happen and interferes when she tries to see if someone else will turn her (I would add that here, he may have a point - 17 is simply too young to make decisions that are irreversible by centuries).

Throughout the entire book he contradicts her, he tells her what to do, he treats her like a very stupid but appealing toddler.

She rarely objects to this treatment. After all, he's the hot, unattainable bad boy, and she's the awkward young woman who's new in town, has a distant relationship with her father and has been abandoned by her mother. But when she does fail to listen, people get hurt. Which reinforces her total dependence on him.

The power differential between them is huge. That happens in real relationships. And it's difficult to manage well. Here was a chance to model managing it well (while still being very dramatic star crossed lovers).

Not once in the book is the structure of their relationship challenged or questioned by the author in any meaningful way.

I recognize that when Stephanie Myers wrote these books, she had no clue that they were going to be the cultural phenomenon they have become. But, when you are writing for a young adult market you have some responsibilities. One of those is to not set up an abusive controlling relationship as a positive, sexy relationship model.

I've been in an abusive relationship. They aren't sexy. But, I learned alot. One thing that I learned is that you can not tolerate the least inkling of controlling behavior. Because it's a quick and slippery slope.

People who abuse other people aren't necessarily bad people. In fact they're often lovely individuals with unaddressed issues. That's part of what makes tolerating their behavior so easy. There are always multiple ways to rationalize it. "He's a vampire, he knows best, he's just trying to protect me" When the truth is, he's (intentionally or not) choosing to be with someone who has less power than he does. Rather than looking for ways to balance the power differential, he's choosing to use his power to control her every move. Abuse, especially emotional abuse can sneak in subtly. "Isn't it sweet that he wants to watch me sleep?" turns into, "he needs to know what I'm doing every minute of the day". Which becomes, "I don't do anything without his permission". At the end it's "I don't do anything that wasn't his idea, because the other options create too much pain".

Finding your way out of abuse as either an abuser or abusee is a difficult and painful journey. On the way a lot can happen, including both people finding a way to be healthy. But books like this? They don't help.

It's a lot easier to stop a relationship from becoming abusive than it is to fix it later. And this book sets up a relationship based on power and control as a fairy tale delight.

Teenagers are especially vulnerable to abuse in intimate relationships. One in 10 teenagers experiences physical abuse in a dating relationship. 2-3 in 10 report verbal or psychological abuse. Our teens should be taught the warning signs of this kind of behavior. Not have it glorified as the fictional teen romance of the decade.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Job Opening at Sugar

We've got a (very) part time job opening at Sugar!

If you're interested, read on.

Seeking mission driven Sex Educators to work at Sugar, a lesbian owned, women and trans operated sex toy store in Hampden, Baltimore. The hours available are: Friday evenings (4 - 9 pm) and occasional Tuesday evenings (5 - 9 pm).T

If you are interested in working at Sugar, please send a cover letter and resume to jacq at sugartheshop.com by Friday, November 20th. The cover letter should discuss:
1. why your experience is relevant to working at Sugar
2. why you want to work at Sugar.

**Please make sure that your cover letter includes both of the above**
**No calls please**
**Please send in your resume by Friday. November 20th**

Sex Educators are responsible for answering customers' questions and providing customers with the information they need to make the purchases that are best for them. In addition, SEs run the cash register, stock the store, and ensure that the store is clean and tidy at all times and perform other duties as assigned. These dutes may include: store decoration, workshop instruction and fulfillment of customers orders for shipping.

Required skills:
Computer literacy
Excellent customer service
Able to accurately work with money
Able to lift 50 pounds
Able to work evenings and weekends
Comfort with and acceptance of diverse sexualities
Cultural competency with diverse communities
Knowledge and understanding of queer and gender issues
Commitment to a team environment
A mind that is open to new things and ways of solving problems

Previous experience in sexuality education, counseling and/or retail.

Sugar will provide Sex Educators with:
$11.50 an hour - eligible for $00.50 increase after two successful months
A commitment to a systems oriented work place.
A work place that is respectful and supportive.
A work place that is damn fun!

Sugar is a lesbian owned, women and trans operated, for profit mission driven sex toy store. By providing education and toys in a shame free, sex positive, fun environment we help people of all genders and orientations experience their own unique sexuality with shameless joy and passion.

Friday, November 6, 2009

cheating and...

One of my favorite shows, This American Life, did a show last week on cheating, almost cheating, infidelity and the way those choices play out in people's lives.

It's really good. Check it out.

And, if you're thinking about cheating, think about ending the relationship, or transitioning to an open relationship first. Lying sucks. And ends up hurting everyone.

For more info about open relationships, check out Tristan Taormino's book, Opening Up. Or the Practical Polyamory blog.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My day so far (or my super sexy life)

Last night I was at Midori's super awesome hands on rope bondage class when I saw my phone ringing. In between watching a hot rope bondage demo and learning about different ropes, I ducked down behind the cunt wrap and checked my message. It was G, my friend and the person who walks the dogs when I work late. She wanted to know where the diarrhea medicine was. This is never a good message. And I happened to know that we were out of doggie diarrhea medicine. So I turned back to class and learned how to make a soft and comfy spreader bar out of 25 feet of rope. Brilliant.

I got home to find a note. Two of the three doglets were a little runny. Bella was farting in her kennel. Ok. Nothing I can't handle. In short order, the other two dogs demonstrated that their GI tracts were ok and we all went to bed.

I only had to get up three times in the night to take Bella out. Poor thing.

By morning it was clear that she was going to have to go to work with me, or I was going to have to stay home. There was no way she would be able to make it for more than three hours without a potty break.

So we went to work.

She quickly had an accident in the store. Lovely. But understandable. The store has a (polished) concrete floor. Bella spent three months living in an animal shelter and has yet to be convinced that the store is not, in fact, a large kennel. She doesn't work at the store often because she's still learning her manners, is easily freaked out by things that strangers wouldn't think were scary and responds to this by acting out inappropriately. And she's a pit bull. Which makes the inappropriate acting out scarier for customers than if she was, say, a Pomeranian. But it's Wednesday. The store isn't terribly busy on Wednesdays. And I didn't have any other good options.

In between bouts of diarrhea and deciding that the only place she felt comfortable was on my lap, she growled at a customer. Which meant that she was relegated to the back room as soon as anyone walked in the door. At around 5 a customer walked in and she got stiff. Which is dog for "I'm scared and trying to decide if I need to fight or run".

One of the things I've learned is important when you're working with a dog with issues is to listen to your gut. And my gut was telling me that I was putting a sick dog with emotional issues in a situation that she couldn't handle.

So I closed the store and took the girl home.

Yep, I closed the store because my dog's sick. I wouldn't have done it on a Saturday, or during our busy seasons, but today, I did. And it was the right thing to do. Because when she came home almost a year ago, I promised her I'd do my best. Besides, I'm responsible for everything she puts in her mouth. So it's likely that my choices have something to do with her current discomfort.

She's now cuddled in a ball in her kennel and ready for another dose of doggy homeopathic pepto bismol.

And I've been cuddled in a ball getting a ton of work done.

By the way - I'd suggest NOT feeding your dog a ton of treats that involve dehydrated chicken heart bits (even if it seems like a healthy tasty way to balance out the massive amount of treating involved in reactive dog training), on a day when they also demolish an "edible" beef flavored bone and you suddenly decide it's ok to let the dog eat a bunch of ends from the carrots you're chopping up for the carrot soup you're making. No matter how happy she seems doing all of the above. It may result in an unhappy dog later. And you may lose some sleep

Just sayin...

Friday, October 30, 2009


Next week, we have Midori coming to the store.

And I'm really excited.

I do have a tendency to procrastinate, but this week I was a little sickly, so i'm later than usual getting to some of the prep.  Which meant I got to spend about an hour in heaven this afternoon.  Yep, went to the sex toy warehouse.  It's one of my favorite places.

Wandered the long, dusty rows of toys in a 100 year old (ok, i don't actually know how old it is, but its OLD ok?) warehouse.  Looked at new things, picked up some bondage tape, a TON of rope, and the usual stuff that we need for a weekend at the store.

It's moments like this that i really love my job.

Now I would like a hot fudge sundae.  

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

finally, a video game i can get behind

so, the brilliant people at kink.com have come up with a use for video games that i can really get behind.

it's geeky, it's techy and it's as kinky as you want to be!

it's called 3dkink

you design your own characters.  then you tie em up, fuck em, use fucking machines, turn them into vulcans, take them to a dungeon, drip wax on their tits, or play in the furry area.  yep furries.

the entry part of the web site is heavy on suggesting that folks create their own slave and fuck "her", but from what I can tell, the player has a lot of lee way to decide about genders and appearance of the avatars.  it doesn't appear that you can make any of the avatars fat.  odd.

the sound on the promo pieces is a little bit off, but it may be fine in the actual game.  besides, i'm sure you all are capable of making your own soundtrack.

seriously.  this looks like fun.  but it's not mac compatible so i can't actually find out.


quick, someone with a PC go try this and get back to me!  it may be the only good reason to have a PC. and it's only $30 a month.

Friday, October 16, 2009

why I'm not "cis" gendered

So, cis gender.  

Cis gender is a word that's fairly new to me, and it's been attracting a lot of attention over the past year or so. However, the term has been around since the early 90s.

Cis is used to refer to folks who were identified as a male or female at birth, socialized as that gender and continue to identify as that gender.  

When I first heard the word, I asked my friends to please not refer to me as Cis.  I understood the need for a word for people who identify as the gender box they were stuck in as a baby, especially because without such a word, these folks were referred to as "normal".  Which puts trans folk in the "other" column.  That's assuredly not ok.  Trans folk are living the gender they were born with too.  We all are.  There may be gender identities and experiences that are more common, but certainly not more normal.  If you break down each individuals experience of their own gender you'd find more differences within a gender group than sameness.  There is no one set of characteristics or attributes that define men or women.  Or any other gender.

There's something about the word "cis" itself that irritates me.  It sounds like cyst.  You know plugged ducts in the body that can be painful and occasionally become smelly, oozing pus filled abscesses.  Yuck.  And really, it's not how I think of myself.

Then someone explained that cis is from the Latin, meaning "on the same side" as opposed to trans which means "on the other side" or across.  I should have paid more attention in Latin class.  The explanation made the word feel more comfortable.  And definitely helped replace the cyst image in my brain.  Besides, we need a word to help avoid the "normally" gendered comment.

So I went with that for a while.

But the more I think about it, the less I like it.  

First of all, it feels like it reduces gender back to the place we're trying to get away from.  What's between your legs now and what was between them when you were born.  It's birth genitalia defining gender.  Again.

I know guys who rock their vaginas.  Women who glory in their dicks.  And, given that people who were born with penises sometimes refer to their ass as their cunt, and people who were born with clitorises and vaginas strap on dicks, pack with them and do all kinds of delishishly dirty things with them, I'm even more convinced that genitals shouldn't be the center of this discussion.  And the folks I know who do these things identify as many different genders - some even as the gender they were identified at on their birth day.  Birth genitalia says little about your current gender.

Cis feels narrow.

Is anyone truely cis gendered?  

Seriously, let's use my gender and my parent's as an example.  Since their the ones I know best.

I was identified female at birth, socialized as female by society and two parents.  One of my parents is a woman who is as girly as they come.  She cries at Hallmark commercials, she bakes bread, she has more shoes than is reasonable (I come by some things honestly). She's also almost six feet tall, very opinionated and active in local politics.  My father, until recently was the head of a 3000 member congregation, tells tasteless dirty jokes, takes care of the finances,  drinks extremely dry martinis - stirred, not shaken (don't bruise that gin!).  He also wears pink suits, silk scarves and as much jewelry as he can get away with.   Both of them are what would be termed "cis" gendered.  But is the way they live their genders really "on the same side" as most other men and women?

I identify as both a woman and a femme.   My gender is that which is most commonly associated with the bits that I was born with and continue to have. I wear high heels and make up and corsets.  I love puppies, and knitting and I make a mean apple pie.  All things that fit in the "gender norm" for women (whatever the fuck that is). I'm also six feet tall, have strong features, more facial hair than I'd care to admit to, use power tools, drive a jeep, could once squat more weight than our current (male) governor and like to have sex with women.  Which should, I think, make me a man.

But I identify as woman.

It's common in the store for folks, especially men, to ask me if I'm trans.  There are people that I know from performing (burlesque) that have assumed I was a drag queen or a trans woman for months.  Until they asked.  Which, by the way, is the polite thing to do.  Assuming someone's gender?  That's rude.

I don't identify as trans.  Or gender queer.  Or gender fluid.  Or intersex.  Of course, I can't say with absolute certainty that I'm not intersex.  I doubt it, but I've never had testing and/or given birth.   

I identify as a woman.  And as a femme.  

I don't identify as cis.  It feels limiting.  The word implies that all people who identify as a woman (or a man) mean the same thing when they cite that identity.  My experience of my gender is undoubtedly different than someone who identifies as a woman but was identified as male at birth.  My experience of my gender is also different from a woman born into a family or culture in which her gender means young marriage, multiple children and subservience to her husband.  Or that of a woman who feels most comfortable in jeans, work boots and a mullet.  People's understanding of their gender is deeply colored by race, class, religion, culture and biology.

I understand that in this culture I receive privilege because of my particular gender and gender expression, that people who are trans are discriminated against, otherized, even murdered because our society has a fucked up understandings of gender. 

In our fight toward a broader understanding of gender, toward a culture in which each person's gender is both accepted and celebrated.  Where all of us are able to walk safely in the streets, and not fear or experience discrimination because of their gender or appearance of gender, does giving the privileged a box to happily climb into perpetuate a limited understanding of gender?

Perhaps what we need is an understanding that none of us is truely "cis" gendered.  Fewer boxes, not more.  Each of us builds our gender in our own way.  In our own time.  An approach like this will take more time, more explanation, more bridge building.  But it's more true. Nature creates diversity and uniqueness that defies categorization.

And thank goddess.  Because it makes our world a much more beautiful place.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

things that make me go hmmmm

So, these women from France have developed a new sex toy.  And they sound like lovely women.

But I'm just not getting the toy. And I'd like to.  Internet, could you help a girl out?

Here's what they say:

Fed up with using sextoys which are absolutely not shaped for us (penis shape) we have created "One" which is a sextoy dedicated to lesbians.

Our world : More than a toy, we are creating a lesbian world in which you are going to find pictures of known - or not, but still hot - lesbian couples, and videos.
WET FOR HER is the lesbian company who has created the first and original lesbian sextoy.
Now more than ever the lesbian community is coming out. We have chosen a theme which gives us an opportunity to keep developing our world. Our sexuality is our common point.

I think that part of the trouble is that I'm of the lesbian/post-gender binary mindset where I'm not sure what a penis shape has to do with gender.  I know. I left my husband 'cause he's a man.  So, I'm not totally post-gender, but really? 

I know some folks don't want anything shaped like a penis inside them.  I've seen the corn cob/zucchini/dolphin shaped dildos of the 80s and 90s.  You know twenty years ago?  I'm a Michfest gyrl

For me, when a woman owns a dildo, even a penis-shaped-skin-tone-matching-dick, it's hers.  And therefore associated with her.  And her gender.  Whatever that may be.  Just like some women are born with penises, or some guys have cunts.  Your genitalia doesn't define your gender.  So penis=man therefore lesbians don't like penises doesn't make sense inside my head.

Regardless of gender stuff, there are advantages to penis shaped sex toys.  The head of a penis shaped object, with the little lip that happens between the head and the shaft can be lovely on the first inch to two inches of a vagina, catching and teasing right at the vaginal opening - good stuff.  

Ok. I'm clearly confused by the penis shape avoidance.  But I could let that go (see aforementioned regular attendance at lesbian separatist events).  

It's the next part that really confuses me.  
the first and original lesbian sextoy.
Really?  Huh.  I can think of more than a few sex toy developers who would be confused by that statement.  You know, like Vixen Creations, or the woman who designed the FeelDoe (now sold by Tantus) or Aslan Leather, or well, the list just goes on.  Going back at least 20 to 30 years.  These folks may not only target the lesbian market as their companies have grown, expanded and embraced a wider spectrum of sexuality, but they all started there.

And last.  The toy itself confuses me.  Silicone fingers.  Which for some non-specific, undoubtedly highly irrational reason freaks me out.

It would make sense (maybe) if the fingers were solid and designed to use for masturbation.  

Or perhaps could be harnessed as a dildo.  In fact that would be kind of hot.  But, they're hollow.  

So, we're supposed to wear them?  They don't seem to come in sizes.  Which could be a problem.  

Perhaps it's a way to promote safer sex?  Except, you'd still need to wear  a glove underneath the toy, otherwise the rest of your hand would be exposed to and able to spread vaginal fluids.

I'm stumped.

Anyone tried this?  Am I missing something?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Party time!

It was a dark and stormy night.

Ok.  It wasn't stormy.  But it was dark.  And rainy. It was a night most suited for a movie and a pizza at home.  With a bottle of red wine. 

But Rachel and I were on our way to do a Sugarware Party at a hair salon in East Baltimore.  We found the address and trotted up the stairs to the salon. Looking a bit, I fear, like Abe Lincoln and Mary Todd.  We're about a foot different in height.  But no one pointed and stared.  Or called me Abe.  Which is good.

The women hosting the party greeted us at the door.  We set up the toys.  We hung out.  We watched the Housewives of Orange County marathon.  And agreed that the only housewife we like on the Housewives of ATL is Kandi.

Yep.  I watch the housewives shows.

And I'm not ashamed.


Besides, apparently, I'm not alone.  

Throughout our housewives discussion more party guests were trickling in.  Soon, the housewives were off and the party was on.

It was fabulous.  A room full of smart women with good questions,  a willingness to ask for answers and the freedom to laugh at both.

By the end of the party, I'd learned a few things.  Women were sharing notes about their bodies.  Rachel chimed in with some great info.  And we taught some folks how to use a dental dam.

All in all, a good evening.

I am so grateful for the customers that remind me why we're here.

Want to book a party of your own?  Shoot us an email! jacq@sugartheshop.com

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

March SUNDAY - and bring everyone you know

National Equality March - Sunday, DC at Noon

Be there.  Or don't bitch when:  you get fired from your job because of your gender presentation or your sexual orientation*, or some one tells you who you can marry, or who you can visit in the hospital, or who your kid's parents are, or whether you can be a parent at all. 

Each and every person in deserves equal rights.  And until we are all equal under the law.  None of us are equal.

Regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity, this march is about you.

Need help getting to DC from Baltimore, Philly or NYC?  Check this out.

For people with mobility issues - the DC Metro system is pretty accessible (many stops have elevators).  And the route itself is very flat.  If you have special concerns or require other accommodations, please email the organizers at this link.  This about equal equality for all - not just the "non-disabled".

And, when you get to the end?  Cheer a little bit extra when the young man named Richard Aviles speaks about being a GLBT student.  He's from a little Lutheran college in Minnesota, called St. Olaf.  I've got a soft spot for the place, I graduated from there in 1993....)

*In Maryland people are protected from losing their jobs due to their sexual orientation, but it is legal to fire folks based on their gender presentation or identity.  There are 28 states in which it is perfectly legal to fire someone, deny housing or public accommodations based on their sexual orientation.  In 36 states, you may do the same based on gender or the appearance of gender.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Polanski, listening to survivors and anger at perpetrators

I'm a feminist. I have a degree in Women's Studies. I've been trained as a sexual assault advocate. I volunteered on a sexual assault crisis line for three years. When I worked as a counselor and clinic manager for Planned Parenthood and at private clinics I was a mandated reporter. I've listened to women cry. I've helped women who were disassociating ground themselves and find their bodies. I've been required to call the cops when a minor has disclosed abuse. I've seen women feel like they were being assaulted all over again when they talked to the cops, or testified in court. I've held friends as they cried remembering an assault. I've seen how the effects of living thru sexual trauma play out in the lives of people I care about years after the abuse stopped. And I've had customers walk into the store shaking with tears on their cheeks as they look for a way to reclaim their sexuality.

I'm biased. And I know it.

I'll go to the mat for any survivor who chooses to not involve the authorities in her (or his or zes) recovery. And I have. I understand the need to walk away.

I believe, like I believe the sun comes up in the morning, that the person who survives a sexual assault is the person who gets to define how their recovery will go. They had precious, intimate control taken from them, and now, they get to make all of the choices.

Which is why, when I heard that the woman that Polanski raped wanted the matter dropped, I sided with her.

And then I saw the reaction to Polanski's arrest. And I had some issues reconciling my ethics.

I think it was this statement that really got my ire up:

"without wanting to interfere in a very old judicial process...(I) regret in the strongest way that a new ordeal has been inflicted on someone [Polanski] who has gone through so many"
Frederic Mitterand, Minister of Culture, France

Excuse me? He has gone through some incredibly intense things in personal life. Things no one should have to experience. He survived the Holocaust. His mother died in a death camp. His wife and unborn child were murdered in an utterly horrific fashion by the Manson Family. These are unquestionably tragedies. And he deserves empathy and understanding in relation to those events in his life.

But they in no way mitigate the fact that he admitted to, and was convicted of, drugging and raping a 13 year old girl. Read the grand jury testimony. And that he has not yet, according to the state in which he committed this crime, paid his debt.

Or maybe it was this:
He's a brilliant guy, and he made a little mistake 32 years ago, what a shame for Switzerland [for arresting Polanski]
Otto Weiser, friend of Polanski

"A little mistake"?! What the hell is wrong with people? He committed a serious crime.

If convicted of the same crime today, he would be a registered child sex offender. A felon. One of those people that you don't want living on your block. Or around your own kids. He likely would have been sentenced to at least three years in prison (released in less).

He is a gifted filmmaker. That's true. It is also true that the judge in the case changed the terms of the plea deal at the last minute. The judge has since been accused of impropriety in the case.*

Regardless of his sentence, the truth is. He did it. And what he did was horribly wrong.

Perspective on the severity of the offense is needed. Under current law, what he did is a felony level offense.

Of course, he can't be prosecuted under current statutes. That's unconstitutional. But looking at is crime in relation to current statutes helps to illustrate what he did in a contemporary context. And it's not pretty.

Here's what current California Penal Code says about this type of sexual assault which was:
  • penetration of a minor under the age on 14
  • by an adult more than 10 years older than the minor,
  • in which the minor was intoxicated and
  • the adult was aware of the intoxication (he gave her champagne and a quaalude)

Section 288
(i) Except as provided in Section 288, any person over
the age of 21 years who participates in an act of sexual
penetration with another person who is under 16 years of
age shall be guilty of a felony.

(j) Any person who participates in an act of sexual
penetration with another person who is under 14 years
of age and who is more than 10 years younger than he
or she shall be punished by imprisonment in the state
prison for three, six, or eight years.
Section 289
(d) Any person who commits an act of sexual penetration,
and the victim is at the time unconscious of the nature
of the act and this is known to the person committing the
act or causing the act to be committed, shall be punished
by imprisonment in the state prison for three, six, or
eight years.
As used in this subdivision, "unconscious of
the nature of the act" means incapable of resisting because
the victim meets one of the following conditions:

(1) Was unconscious or asleep.
(2) Was not aware, knowing, perceiving, or cognizant that
the act occurred.
(3) Was not aware, knowing, perceiving, or cognizant of
the essential characteristics of the act due to the
perpetrator's fraud in fact.
(4) Was not aware, knowing, perceiving, or cognizant of
the essential characteristics of the act due to the
perpetrator's fraudulent representation that the sexual
penetration served a professional purpose when it served no
professional purpose.
(e) Any person who commits an act of sexual penetration
when the victim is prevented from resisting by any
intoxicating or anesthetic substance, or any
controlled substance, and this condition was known,
or reasonably should have been known by the accused,
shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison
for a period of three, six, or eight years.
This is no "little mistake". It is felonious sexual assault of a minor. That is something for which I am not able to find forgiveness. Regardless of someone's "genius".

The fact that so many in the film and artistic community are coming to this pedophile's defense turns my stomach.

But, as much as I would like to see this man punished with the fullest extent of the the law, we need to listen to what the survivor has asked for.

She wants to be left alone and has been asking for the state to drop the case since 1997. It's reprehensible that the state has ignored her pleas. And ignored them for more than a decade.

Judge Rittenband was not acting on my behalf or in my best interest when he refused to allow the plea bargain...which did not involve additional jail time for Mr. Polanski.

The continued publicity surrounding this case has been so intense at times that it has changed my life forever from what it might have been...

I have recovered from the events of March 10, 1977. I have moved on and am very happy with my life. I feel I can also recover from the traumatic effect of the continued publicity, if this situation could only finally be resolved. I have long awaited the day that this issue is put to rest once and for all, and I am hopeful that this time may be at hand.
May 28th, 1997
Letter from Samantha Geimer to the Hon. Larry P. Fidler, LA Superior Court
*in 1997, Ms Geimer chose to give up her anonymity

Because you know what?

She's the one who gets to pick.

Not me, who'd like to smack him and take half of his income from the last 30 years to pay for recovery programs for survivors, or some asshole who thinks that Polanski only made a "little mistake" and that he should instead of jail be given a cookie, a pat on the head and an award for his films, or you and whatever you may think - but her.

The girl that he raped.

So drop it. Let her go on with her life as she chooses to live it. Without having to be reminded about the assault by seeing it played out in the media every time a Polanski film opens.

Give her some peace. As she defines it.

Then, lets go at the people who think that what Polanski did wasn't a big deal, figure out what's wrong with them and fix it. And let's go at a system that defines justice for the victim, rather than the other way around.

Because something is terribly, terribly broken.

*The prosecution and Polanski had agreed to a plea deal, avoiding a trial, when the judge changed the deal. General consensus is that the judge got cold feet because the deal, while it avoided putting the survivor through the trauma of trial, also meant no additional incarceration for Polanski (who had already spent 40 some days in a facility receiving a psych evaluation). When the judge indicated that he would require Polanski to serve an additional 40 days in jail, he fled the country. If he wasn't famous, the result of all of the above would have undoubtedly been different. But he was, and he is, and....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Summer Camp, Backs and Blues

Last Monday, I loaded up my jeep, nodded to the spider who has taken up residence in the passenger seat (and is sweetly keeping my jeep bug free) and set out for Dark Odyssey Summer Camp.

For the past several years, I have worked crew at DO.  Which means that I show up early, stay late and help set up the Sex-O-Rama.

Which is good.  Because I'm helping to set up something called the Sex-O-Rama.  Just try saying it a few times.  You can't help but smile.

DOSC is held at a camp in Northern Maryland.  It's a really a camp.  You know, with cabins.  A dining hall.  Bugs.  Flag poles. Bathrooms that no amount of bleach can really help.  I like to think that once upon a time band camp happened there.  And that those geeky children have now grown up.  And created the Sex-O-Rama. 

The Sex-O-Rama is a group of connected cabins that are transformed into something fabulous.

 First, the Make Out Room.  It has shiny, pretty fabric hanging on the walls, luscious low lights twinkling thru sheers, comfy futons, large Liberator shapes, and, of course safer sex supplies.

Next to the Make Out Room is the Paradise Hotel, then the Bordello, then the Peep Show.

My jeep and I tumbled down the dirt road and pulled up to the cabins.  I found M getting her cabin ready for her leather family who would be arriving later and one other person from our crew wandering around.  The Dungeon crew had already delivered all of our stuff and stacked it in front of the Sex-O-Rama cabins.  The three of us then proceeded to wander about aimlessly waiting for our leaders.  

In due time, Colton and Tristan (two of the four organizers of the whole shebang) showed up with their UHaul and their check lists.  I heart checklists.   As we unloaded them, more of the crew trickled in and we set to work. 

Then, the crew leaders for our crew showed up:  E and J.  E drew maps of how each room was to be set up.  Notes regarding which specific items were needed in each room were posted on the doors.  With painters tape.  So as to not leave a residue.  Swoon.

We set to work.  Staple guns flew, fabric was piped and draped, sex slings were taken to their appropriate locations.  Old staff met new staff and much chatting ensued.  

Then there was fried chicken.  Yum.

Sometime between nine and ten we knocked off for the night and I retired to my bunk to read my kindle and knit my sweater.  Which is very close to being done.  So I'm at that somewhat obsessive knitting/I-really-want-to-finish-this-so-that-I-can-wear-it-and-besides-I-want-to-start-those-really-cute-Fair-Isle-flap-mittens-that-I'm-going-to-make-for-S-stage (so that her fingers stay warm when she's working outside and there's a damp wind that just cuts thru other fabrics but she needs to sometimes have a her fingers free to write something or maybe toggle the switch on her walkie? unless you can do that with a mittened hand.  i don't know anything about walkies.  they're mysterious).

I spent much of the night flopping about my air mattress as it deflated.  When I gave up on sleeping at 7 am I was sore.  Like beaten sore.  Which really shouldn't happen until later in the week.  And then only after a negotiation.  And a safe word.  

I stretched.  Wondered why it sounded like a toddler was running around on the roof, realized it was only a mouse, and took my knitting and kindle to the Make Out Room where there were soft things to sit on while I waited for the dining hall to open.  

Soft futon.  Chick lit on the Kindle.  Angora silk blend sliding thru my fingers.  mmmmm.  good morning.

Help spread sex information

So, there is a little non profit with a big mission in Rhode Island that is having a few problems opening their doors.  It's called the Center for Sex Pleasure and Health.

The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health is the first sex-positive, non-profit sexual resource center to open in New England.  The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health provides a physical location for people to receive sexuality information and campaign for sexual justice issues.

And they are having zoning issues.

Because their location is apparently not zoned for "education".  Right?!  Who the hell knew that there was special zoning for that?

According to Oh Meagan, who is leading the charge on this project, education, not sales of adult toys is the focus of this enterprise.
...it wasn't my intention of ever selling [toys}, just having the toys on display for educational use.
And yet, perhaps because sex toys may be observed, the city council seems to think that they need to put up barriers to adults accessing information about their sexual health and pleasure.  Because, you know, our culture doesn't do enough of that.

We need your help.  I'm collecting letters for Megan to take to the City Council about the importance of adult sex education.  Have you attended a class that helped you?  Gone to a class that  helped you to maintain a long term relationship?  Gave you information or tools that enabled you to develop a more fulfilling relationship with your own body?  Taught you that your gender/sexuality/ identity was normal and didn't need to be a source of shame? Helped you heal from sexual trauma?  Or hell, just helped you have a better knowledge of human sexual anatomy?  Has any of this helped you to be a better member of your community?  Have you perhaps learned information that you then shared with others about safer sex and STI prevention? Then please take the time to write a letter.

I'm collecting the letters and will send them off to Megan and she will decide what to bring to the City Council.  Because these letters are going to a government body, they will receive more credence if you are able to include your name, address and phone number.  However, anonymous letters will be accepted as well.

please send them to jacq@sugartheshop.com

And please forward this link as widely as possible.  All of us who believe in sex positivity gotta stick together!  It's the only way we can create a world where each of us can celebrate their own sexuality with shameless joy.

BTW - if you happen to be in Rhode Island this upcoming weekend, check out their grand opening celebration - not at the actual center because of the zoning crap.  But it sounds fabulous!  I wish I could go!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Um - why? And - it's kinda brilliant

So there's this company that I didn't know about that makes stripper clothes for boys.  Fucking fabulous.  And they just released this.

Yep, it's a one legged thong (called the Cobra).  Because the two legged version was getting in the way?  It does leave better ass access....

More importantly - they also have this sassy little leather look glove shrug.  Which would look adorable with a boi beater, mini skirt and boots.  think it would fit a six foot tall girl with non-muscly arms?  it doesn't have to come with that full face hood thing.  full face hoods are on my no list.

thanks to Fleshbot!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Check out Carol Queen's new article at Good Vibes

Check out Carol Queen's new article at Carnal Nation.  It's a fabulous update on the awesome things she got to do recently - which include attending Betty Dodson's 80th birthday.  I'm including a pic from the article here - seriously - if this isn't a testament to embracing pleasure, masturbation and celebrating sexuality - i don't what is.  Fuck botox!  Go jack off!

AND - then she got to go to Annie Sprinkle's latest wedding.  In Venice.  During the Venice Bienniale.

Damn.  That's a good month!

**Pic from here

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jon and Kate - finally a good use!

So - Devil's Films is releasing a new movie.

It's called Jon and Kate F**k Eight.

Jon and Kate go for marriage counseling, and decide to save their marriage by seeing other people.

Now if only this was actually reality things might have worked out better. Gotta say this is the best Gosslin drama yet. I'd much rather watch porn than that reality show...

Friday, August 28, 2009

sex and menopause

I just found a really well written and comprehensive article about sex and menopause.

If you have someone who could experience menopause in your life - check it out.  

There's more about sex and menopause coming from me soon too!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Free Live Sex Show!

This is kind of awesome.

Apparently, The Standard Hotel and it's floor to ceiling windows overlook the new Highline Park in NYC (i'm so jealous every time i see someone tweet about going walking on the Highline!  Can't wait to check it out.).  And folks like to fuck in the windows.

Seriously - who doesn't like to fuck in floor to ceiling windows looking over NYC.  That's good times! And, apparently, folks have figured out that there's a good view from the Highline.

Free DIY peep shows.

God, I love New York.

*Pic from the Standard website

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

PP Clinic in Sioux Falls Stays Open!

After I graduated from college, I worked for Planned Parenthood of MN/SD. Actually, when I started there, it was PPMN - we added SD and right after I left, they added ND.

Those of us who live on either coast may not understand what it's like to get an abortion in most of the country.  It's not just making your decision, making your appointment and having the procedure.  It can be an ordeal.

First, you have to get to the clinic.  In many states, that involves a long drive.  Of several hours (or more).  Wyoming doesn't have a clinic at all.  Neither does western South Dakota or North Dakota. Some states require a 24 hour waiting period between receiving counseling and having the abortion.  Because, you know, women are stupid.  And aren't able to make up their minds on their own.  Or maybe didn't realize that having an abortion would end their pregnancy?  And if you're under 18?  Well, you have to notify one or both of your legal parents.  Even if you don't actually have a relationship with one of them.  Or, if say, one of them is in jail for abusing you and their parental rights weren't terminated (I'm not going for effect here, that actually happened to one of my clients).  Of course, you can go to court to get around the parental notification rule.  Which means getting to court.  Not a problem if you live in a metropolitan area.  But in rural areas?  Well, I know one 15 year old woman who "borrowed" her parent's car in order to drive to the county seat to see the judge.  45 minutes away.

I worked with the Regional Services department of PPMNSD when we took over the Sioux Falls clinic. There, women drove more than six hours and slept in the parking lot.  They couldn't afford to pay for a motel.  The doctors wore bullet proof vests to go to work.

A few years ago, an abortion "informed consent" law was passed in SD.

In order for anyone to have any type of medical procedure they must sign a a release, and go through a process called informed consent. A medical professional reviews the risks and benefits of the medical procedure with the patient, answers questions, and makes sure that the patient is firm and clear in their decision to have the procedure and that there are no contraindications to the patient receiving this procedure. It's basic medicine.

And as someone who performed the informed consent and decision counseling, let me assure you, the process used at Planned Parenthood and most other clinics that provide abortion services?  It's way more comprehensive than what I went thru as a patient for my tonsilectomy or my knee reconstruction.

Part of the anti choice stragey has been to pass laws that specifically dictate what must be covered when a woman is getting an abortion. You can have heart surgery or a tonsilectomy and your doctor determines what needs to be covered in informed consent, but an abortion, which is way safer than either of those two procedures? Your friendly neighborhood policitician would like to tell your doctor what to say.

These laws serve two purposes. First, they ensure that the anti-choice agenda is present in the treatment room. Second, they put an increased burden on the physician. What they don't do is improve the quality of care.  Informed consent is already a critical part of providing good care and of risk management.  It's the doctors who don't do good informed consent who get sued.  And lose.  Any doctor worth their salt is going to put an emphasis on this part of the procedure (or ensure that it is well taken care of by their staff).  These laws aren't about good medicine.  Or well informed patients.  They are about harassment.

What's the big deal? 

Generally, most of the informed consent process (with any medical procedure) is handled by nurses, counselors or other clinic staff. The physician checks in with the patient, answers additional questions and signs off on the forms (which have already been signed by the patient and every other part of the clinic staff that has seen the patient).

It's done this way for several reasons. The most obvious is money. Physician time is expensive - when you go to see your doctor, your doctor is expected to see 4-6 patients an hour depending on the type of medicine. A nurse practitioner can see fewer patients per hour, a counselor even fewer. Since doing good informed consent work takes time, it is usually performed by someone who's time is less expensive, hopefully ensuring the patient is able to get all of the attention that she needs and deserves. 

Secondly, physicians are trained to perform medical services. And they're really good at that.  They receive very little training in how to talk to people.  They often aren't that great at it. And even less good at speaking in a way that is intelligible to someone who is not well versed in medical terminology. Telling a woman that there is an X percentage chance of uterine perforation isn't very useful when she doesn't know what perforation means.

So what happens when these "informed consent" laws are in place is this. The informed consent takes place like it always has. Then, the physician has to read the patient a statement that was prepared for them by the legislature. Not prepared by a medical professional. And in most states these statements are not even medically correct.

The SD law was particularly awful. The law requires that the physician disclose to the patient the following:
That the abortion will terminate the life of a whole separate, unique, living human being;
That the pregnant woman has an existing relationship with that unborn human being and that the relationship enjoys protection under the United States Constitution and under the laws of South Dakota;
That by having an abortion, her existing relationship and her exisiting constitutional rights with regard to that relationship will be terminated;
A description of all known medical risks of the procedure and statistically significant risk factors to which the pregnant woman would be subjected, including:
Depression and related psychological distress;
Increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide;
A statement setting forth an accurate rate of deaths due to abortions, including all deaths in which the abortion procedure was a substantial contributing factor;
All other known medical risks to the physical health of the woman, including the risk of infection, hemorrage, perforation, danger to subsequent pregnancies, and infertility;
The probable gestational age of the unborn child at the time the abortion is to be performed, and a scientifically accurate statement describing the development of the unborn child at that age; and
The statistically significant medical risks associated with carrying her child to term compared to undergoing an induced abortion.

S.D. Codified Laws, § 34-23A-10.1 (2006)

What's the problem here? Well, first of all, there is no good medical definition of when life begins. A definition of life and when that begins is a spiritual, religious, ethical and philosophical decision that is utterly personal. Telling a woman that her pregnancy is a "whole separate, unique, living human being" is both insulting and medically inaccurate.  A fetus at 12 wks LMP is absolutely not capable of existing on it's own.  For some woman, such a statement may be ethically true. But that's for her to decide.

"That by having an abortion, her existing relationship and her existing constitutional rights with regard to that relationship will be terminated;" makes it sound like if something went wrong during the abortion and it was a result of medical malpractice, she would have no legal recourse. Also not true.

"Depression and related psychological distress; Increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide;" Also not true. Study after study has found that patients who were emotionally healthy before an abortion are emotionally healthy after. Patients that struggled with their mental health before an abortion may have increased symptoms after, just as they would be at increased risk for symptoms after any stressful event.  Furthermore, these individuals would be at significantly increased risk of post partum depression or psychosis. Even Regan's Surgeon General C. Everret Koop found that there was no increased risk to a woman's mental health after an abortion. And he was (is) prolife.  Every clinic in which I have worked has taken the mental health of our clients very seriously.  And clients with pre-existing mental health issues were provided with additional support and follow up.

"All other known medical risks" - well, this part isn't a big deal. It was already covered. In detail. And, may I remind you, an abortion is always safer than a full term pregnancy and delivery. And all women receiving abortions are pregnant. So a full term pregnancy and delivery? Yeah, that's the only other choice.

PP refused to follow this law for multiple reasons (although they have always engaged in a comprehensive informed consent process) and has been engaged in legal battles over it since 2005. Which of course is costing money on both sides that could be better spent on things like, oh, WIC programs, accurate and useful (eg. not abstinance based) sex education, reduced cost or free birth control including Plan B (the morning after pill), etc.

Recently, the Health Department threatened to shut down the Sioux Falls clinic. Last week, a court decision came down that allowed the facility to remain open. The physician still has to tell the patient that "the abortion will terminate the life of a whole separate, unique, living human being". But, they don't have to state the crap about suicide.

So, for now, the clinic stays open. And women from South Dakota still have access to abortion services. Although they have to jump through absurd hoops.

I have counseled thousands of women seeking abortions.  The truth is, for all of the women that needed counseling, a shoulder to cry on, or for someone to tell them that it was ok for them to not have an abortion and continue the pregnancy, the vast majority of the women I saw knew what they wanted. They'd thought it through. They were clear that having a child at this point was not a good option for them and/or their families. Women aren't stupid. Never once did a client say to me, "Really? You mean if I have this baby the father will have to pay child support? I had no idea!"

These laws aren't about supporting women. They are about restricting access.  And controling women.

So here's to a small victory in South Dakota. That leads to a much bigger victory. Another day of providing the women of South Dakota with the ability to control their own destiny.

Want to support the clinic in South Dakota?  Click here.
To support political action - PP of MN, ND and SD Action Fund
To donate funds in support of the SD Clinic email gifts@ppmns.org

Want to support an agency that fights for abortion rights? Click here.

Or support a woman in need of an abortion who can't afford one?  An average first trimester abortion costs $300-600 depending on where you are in the country and is often not covered by insurance (if you have insurance).