Read Come As You Are

Read Come as You Are

Researchers have spent the last decade trying to develop a “pink pill” for women to function like Viagra does for men. So where is it? Well, for reasons this book makes crystal clear, that pill will never exist—but as a result of the research that’s gone into it, scientists in the last few years have learned more about how women’s sexuality works than we ever thought possible, and Come as You Are explains it all.

The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’ experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal.

Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, and orgasm.

Cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines tells us that the most important factor for women in creating and sustaining a fulfilling sex life, is not what you do in bed or how you do it, but how you feel about it. Which means that stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it. Once you understand these factors, and how to influence them, you can create for yourself better sex and more profound pleasure than you ever thought possible.

Learned lots of interesting things, especially in the first section. I didn’t love the examples of real people. The last chapter has a clear connection to her next book Burnout, here emphasizing completing the cycle of emotions rather than stress.


Imbue physicality with meaning in stories

Bookmarked against character vapor by Brandon (sweater weather)

A literalness of physical representation that does not deepen or sharpen the reality of either character or story. These sorts of descriptions feel quite rote, dull, dead. They feel like a transcription of a visual event totally deprived of poetry or sense. There is this sense that we are being cinematic when we watch a character cross a room. Rather than cinematic, I think we ought to be more dramatic.

In fiction, when you just plop those physical acts into your story or your novel, you’re copying the surface but not the deep reality.

We are brought along with the narrator’s perceptive field into the story. They are experiential, not narrated. They unfold in quasi real time, a sure indicator of experiential writing rather than the summarized narration. The psychic distance is quite close. We feel as things happen. And the things that do happen feel significant.

The author writes of literary works but I’m thinking of the physicality of romance: that a good sex scene is not “insert tab a into slot b” but full of what action means to the characters. That action conveys conflict and cooperation, is a proxy for the state of their relationship. That the other’s actions push them to a response: do they let the other lead or fight for control, do they trust the other with their vulnerability, do they deny the act has meaning between them? How does coming together change them both?


Art and Design Marketing

The evolution of romance covers

Bookmarked Bridgerton Is a Perfect Example of Why You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover(s) by Anne Wallentine (Slate)

The Bridgerton books got a makeover inspired by the steamy Netflix adaptation—the latest in a long line of redesigns that show how tricky marketing romance can be.

Publishers have used myriad strategies over the years to try to balance the audience’s competing desires for excitement and discretion.

A balancing act between marketing the type of book versus not making people embarrassed to be seen reading it. Adds context to the general sexiness of self-pubbed romance covers which are read digitally, so no one knows what you’re reading (although IIRC there was a period of time where Amazon didn’t allow male nipples on covers? 🤔)

I didn’t know the origin or purpose of the stepback cover — funny when the color strip is reproduced in the digital cover 😂

Art and Design Culture Political Commentary Society

Article pairing: normalize sex

Sex can serve a valuable narrative function. I think of Watchmen: Dan’s literal impotence in the face of nuclear annihilation, and his virility when he reclaims his agency and takes action, pointless though it may be. Doctor Manhattan’s failure to understand Laurie’s needs as he divides himself to continue his work while they’re making love. These scenes are core to the emotional story, to the characters’ choices and thus the plot. I read a book about writing sex scenes that suggests the characters should have sex in a way that only they could, that reflects where they are in their relationship and each of their arcs. Is she scared of admitting their connection and pushes for a quick fuck, while he keeps the pace slow to keep her from denying there’s more between them than physical attraction? Does she struggle with trusting others, and he says just the wrong thing after they make love?

A lot of the sex we see in movies isn’t used thoughtfully; Hollywood is bad at including romance in stories that aren’t primarily love stories (like action adventure) — it’s not actually enough for two hot people to spend time interacting if there’s no reason for them to like each other besides proximity and adrenaline, and it feels forced for them to bone — at that point the sex is more serving the wish fulfillment / hero gets the girl narrative. So we need better sex in our stories — which honestly probably means longer sex scenes (more foreplay or more afterglow) to allow screentime for characterization and meaning.

Federal judge rules that employers can refuse to cover PrEP

It’s hard to see this and not think that the cruelty is the point. What abomination of a person would deny anyone protection against HIV? Someone who thinks anyone who gets HIV deserves it 🙃

(There’s a lot of other things going on with this particular bad decision — health care shouldn’t be tied to employment, businesses aren’t people and cannot hold beliefs and shouldn’t have the same rights as people, it is not religious freedom to impose your beliefs on others or harm them because of your beliefs — but let’s not get into that here. We’re talking sex.)

The hatred and fear of gay and trans people is growing more aggressive. Religious extremists play off the public’s transphobia and discomfort with sex, gambling that few will come to the defense of queer folks when all LGBTQIA+ people and allies are painted as pedos. But this is only possible when people are skeeved out by other humans having sex, especially sex that’s different than the sex they have, and especially sex that’s for pleasure only. Our society doesn’t value “non-productive” activities in any form. This also ties in with the gross conservative obsession with people having more babies: “sex is for procreation!” No. Sex is normal and healthy behavior for consenting adults who aren’t trying to get pregnant.

We are not subject to the strictures of anyone else’s controlling, shaming religion. This is not a Christian nation and religious extremists cannot impose their moral judgements on everyone else. (Unless they steal power and exert fascism on us.) We need to normalize healthy, safe, consensual, pleasurable sex between partners of all kinds: straight, gay, old, fat, disabled. Let’s tackle all the -phobias and -isms 👏 (Asexuality too, another queer identity religious extremists hate — show healthy relationships without sex.) And that means including sex in our stories, visual and written. There’s a reason conservatives come so hard for books: stories have power.


Read I Give You My Body

Read “I Give You My Body . . .” by Diana Gabaldon

In this revealing compendium, acclaimed writer Diana Gabaldon shares her invaluable lessons for creating an immersive reading experience, from evoking a mood to using the power of emotions to communicate physical intimacy. You’ll learn the difference between gratuitous sex and genuine encounters that move the story forward, and how to handle less-than-savory acts that nevertheless serve a narrative purpose. Gabaldon also notes that sex can be conveyed instead of described. With such tips as “The Rule of Three” for involving the senses, handy lists of naughty euphemisms (with instructions for use), and Gabaldon’s own examples from the Outlander novels, “I Give You My Body . . .” is a master class in writing to draw readers in and keep them riveted to the page.

Tl;dr don’t write sex write a conversation with sensual details for character development

Some useful information but a surprisingly substantial portion was dedicated to “nasty sex”…aka rape and assault. I quit reading Diana Gabaldon because so many characters got raped so guess I should have seen that coming. This would have benefitted from examples of sex scenes other than her own. They were quite long, and most useful when she breaks it down describing what she’s doing and why.

I thought it was ironic that she talks about using not funny and not clinical words in sex scenes but all her sample scenes use the word “buttocks” which I find funny 😉

Cool Nature Science

Supergene divergence leads to “four sexes” in white throated sparrows

Liked The Fascinating and Complicated Sex Lives of White-throated Sparrows by Kenn Kaufman (Audubon)

With their quadruple personalities, those little brown birds at your feeder are a lot more interesting than they might appear.

I am not a bird person but this is legit fascinating. They buried the juicy bit down at the bottom of the article.

Field researchers noticed over 25 years of research that the two color morphs of this species *nearly always* cross-breed with each other, so they dug into the genetics and discovered a supergene that influences hormones that influences behavior to the point where there are effectively FOUR sexes of these birds!

(Actually good) explainer video from the original paper:

(Go go basic science research! Sometimes you need to look at things close enough to realize there’s something interesting going on — originally they thought the morphs were juveniles!)

Romance Science Fiction

Read Ice Planet Barbarians

Read Ice Planet Barbarians (Ice Planet Barbarians, #1)

You’d think being abducted by aliens would be the worst thing that could happen to me. And you’d be wrong. Because now, the aliens are having ship trouble, and they’ve left their cargo of human women – including me – on an ice planet.

And the only native inhabitant I’ve met? He’s big, horned, blue, and really, really has a thing for me…

Now that I’m writing sci-fi romance, I knew I’d need to read Ice Planet Barbarians, even though what I’m writing is basically space opera centered on a relationship versus alien mates (a large part of the SFR sub-genre so far). It’s *the* SFR book right now, reaching the top 5 books sold on Amazon in June. Like, up there with James Patterson. For a self published book, that’s incredible, let alone a self-pubbed book about sexy first contact.

Its popularity has spawned lots of knockoffs in the six years since it originally came out. Turns out I read one of them in December, which was basically a reskin except for the climax.

They’re each pretty short (~200 pages on Kindle) so I cranked through four in one night. It’s a masterclass in compelling the reader to be interested in the next book, seeding curiosity about the next couple that will be featured. I didn’t plan to read four in a row, but I was drawn to continue.

Comics Humor Science Fiction

Read Money Shot Volume 1

Read Money Shot, Vol. 1

In the near future, space travel is ludicrously expensive and largely ignored. Enter Christine Ocampos, inventor of the Star Shot teleportation device with a big idea: She’ll travel to new worlds, engage–intimately–with local aliens, and film her exploits for a jaded earth populace trying to find something new on the internet. Now, Chris and her merry band of scientist-cum-pornstars explore the universe, each other, and the complexities of sex in MONEY SHOT!

Funny idea, though the story itself wasn’t super funny. Told in a main storyline with flashbacks. Clearly some emotional reckoning coming. I liked the artwork and colors. Surprisingly not that racy in terms of illustration, just a few cocks and gross alien balls on closeup — much tamer than something like Chester-5000. Some of the dialogue I found a little hard to follow who was saying what with the use of thoughts transmitted as text from characters out of the panel.

History Society

Want to Listen: Gender and Sex in Medieval Times

Bookmarked Gender Stories – Gender & Sex in Medieval Times: a conversation with Eleanor Janega on Stitcher (Stitcher)

Alex Iantaffi talks about gender and sex in medieval times with Dr Eleanor Janega,  a medieval historian. More specifically, Dr Janega specialises in late medieval sexuality, apocalyptic thought, propaganda, and the urban experience in general, and in central Europe more particularly.