The Wedding Party

The California King-sized bed had been moved into the main living area, the largest room in the house. The entirety of the home, inside and out, was adorned in their favorite flowers. Blood red dahlias for the groom and purple orchids for the bride. The scent of the flowers filled the entry way and the aroma was punctuated with sandalwood and jasmine in the form incense burning in several rooms. A little over a dozen well dressed people began to fill the space. Most of them drifted into a circle around the bed. No side of the bed was against a wall allowing an adequate vantage point for everyone in the circle. Once everyone found their assigned places around the bed, there was a respectful silence that held the room. The silence exploded into applause when the bride and groom arrived, dressed impeccably and still aglow from their wedding ceremony.
A woman with sienna-colored dreadlocks projected her voice over the applause to congratulate the couple on their union and to begin the ceremony for which they’d all gathered. She spoke with the same tone and respect one would at the opening circle for a play party. This party was a bit more exclusive as only the closest friends of the newlyweds were in attendance. She spoke about consent, boundaries, respect, and holding space. Everyone stood with a muted respect for the orator, the unofficial matriarch of the group, until she’d finished. Once the opening circle was complete, a person who sang at the wedding began singing softly to set the mood. Their voice was low and rumbled with a vibration strong enough to give the guests a tingle. The singing continued just long enough for the DJ to finish cueing up the music playlist that had already been curated by friends of the newlyweds. Music began playing softly and the vocalist sang quieter until they faded out their contribution to give way to ambient noise. Music that felt impossibly slow with its own brand of tension filled the room.
By this time, the couple had already begun undressing each other. His hands slowly loosened her red corset until unhooking it was easy. He dropped to his knees to help her out of her thigh high boots, again unlacing slowly. The onlookers were silent, save for a few whispers, as he continued to undress her. By the time he’d reached the last layer, she was bent over the bed as he pulled her panties down, covering the backs of her legs with kisses as his hands pulled them closer to the floor. When he reached the floor, he took the time to kiss her feet. She turned and sat down on the bed as he massaged her toes, squeezing and pulling each one to help her feet relax after a few hours in six inch heels. She was completely free from any clothing, which meant it was her turn to undress him. She took the same care and patience with undressing him. She used her fingernails, manicured to a dagger-like point, to stimulate the nerves in his skin wear clothing had been instead of the kisses he’d used to show his affection for her. She knew every erogenous zone that made it difficult for him to stand. She played with him until he was short of breath and weak in the knees. At last, they were both naked.
The photographer was given a nod by the bride. This was their cue that they were now allowed to begin capturing the event for them to frame and enjoy for the remainder of their years together. Boudoir photos in real time. They each turned to their trusted friends, the groom to the best man and the bride to the maid of honor, to receive gift wrapped boxes. These boxes held their wedding gifts to each other. She opened her box first. In it she found a purple Hitachi with the words, “Can’t stop. Won’t stop.” engraved on the handle. She laughed as she read the inscription. It was their private joke and there was no need to explain it to the wedding party. He sat upright on the bed, near the head, with his legs spread and she nestled in between them facing away. Her ankles were then bound to the bed posts by soft leather restraints. Her hands gripped his shins as he plugged in her new toy. Once he turned it on the lowest setting, he began gently running the wand across the nape of her neck. He then moved on to her shoulders until he felt more tension leave her body. He whispered more private jokes to her low enough to stay out of earshot of the wedding party. She laughed as she leaned her head back for a kiss. He continued down to her nipple where he stimulated her briefly until she seemed to lose her breath. He knew that her nipples can only take so much before the pleasure crossing the line into annoying. He then crossed over to her sternum and moved lower until reaching her waist. He then moved in a circle, past the iliac crest and on to her sacrum. There, he held for a while and pressed the vibrating wand between his penis and the muscles in her lower back. Both of them began to lose their breath. He circumnavigated her pelvis a few times before placing a condom on the wand. By this time, her lips were swollen, red, and pulsing. He applied more pressure and a higher vibration on her pubic bone as her left knee began to sway side-to-side. He continued with the massage just outside of her vulva, being careful not to touch her pussy, not yet. He moved on to her gracilis. Her legs began to shake. While he continued to use the wand with his right hand, the palm of his left hand covered her pussy with gentle pressure, no movement, no rubbing, just gentle pressure. She breathed a sigh of relief as he felt how wet she’d become. “Do you want me inside of you?”, he whispered into her ear. With eyes half-closed she exhaled an anxious and audible “Yes!” The wedding party smiled in silence.
He extended his hand out to the left as someone was ready with the bride’s preferred lube. After a few squirts into his hand, he rubbed all five fingers together and reached back to his partner. He began with one finger as he slid from the perineum up and slowly pressed inside. He felt her Skene’s gland swelling as he gave gentle circle stimulation until she accepted a second finger. Less focused on destination and more enthralled with the journey, he massaged her pussy with two fingers and alternated back and forth between nature’s oldest sex toy, the hand, and her wedding gift. Between heavy breaths, she encouraged him when to stay “right there” or reminded him “don’t stop” when his intentions were in alignment with her reception. Following her guidance, the massage from man and machine continued. Her moans turned into song as her voice outperformed the speakers. Her toes would curl as if her feet were making fists and her ankles pulled at the leather restraints. Her eyes rolled back at regular intervals only broken up by the occasional proclamation of “FUCK!” or “YES!” The wedding party stood in quiet reverence, excited at the possibility of what was next. The thoughts from the party ranged any where from expectations of an epic squirting orgasm to clenched teeth as they patiently waited to play with their mates. Time seemed to travel from fast to slow for everyone in the room. There were times when it felt like time was moving fast and that five minutes felt like 30 seconds. There were times when some felt the opposite and everything was in slow motion. The groom continued to massage the bride’s pussy, focused on journey in lieu of destination. And then it happened…
A bridesmaid in the corner who had yet to make a sound, dropped to her knees. She had an orgasm! The entire room shifted their focus to where she had been standing in the corner, untouched, uncoupled, and up until that point, unspoken. She had fallen to her hands and knees and squirted so hard that the carpet underneath her was spongy to the touch. As she gyrated through a series of pelvic thrusts, the wedding party began to erupt in cheers, applause, and laughter. The bride laughed the loudest. When the cacophony died down, the bride wiped a joyous tear from her face and announced to everyone, “YOU MAY ALL JOIN IN THE DANCE!”
The wedding party erupted in cheers and laughter as the exercise in voyeurism transitioned into a play party for everyone in the room. The groom paused his massage, removed his partner’s restraints and they held each other, laughing at the unexpected turn of events. Everyone began to undress and play in groups. The bridesmaid who broke the ice kept to herself in the corner. She refused any would be partners and massaged herself into orgasms for the rest of the evening.
This has been an original erotic short story written by Jet Noir. This is a work of fiction.

“Strong Is The New Sexy” = Objectification

In the modern lexicon, words tend to change meaning all of the time. Societal stigma also changes and because of that, we hear more “this is the new that” statements everyday. Forty is the new thirty! Forty years on earth is still forty years. Society has just decided that it will place less judgment on 40 year-old humans. “I thought by the time I reached 40 I would have [fill in the blank with whatever cultural influences lead one to believe about their 40th year].” Cheer up, Friend! Forty is the new thirty!

Strong is the new sexy! That statement, in and of itself, is a sexist form of motivation. I’ve heard women say it, I’ve read it on magazine covers, and I’ve seen it on T-shirts. I find “strong is the new sexy” to be sexist. The phrase is packed with thinly veiled objectification.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I write that women are often viewed as property. To be clear, I am not in agreement with this mentality. However, as a cisgender male, raised by cisgender males, the misguided thought has been passed down to me. I challenge myself daily to think against my indoctrination. When someone is dehumanized into an object to be attained, the selection process resembles that of a Farmer’s Market fruit selection. Do you want her firm or soft, long or short? Either way, look past all human emotions and just see her body as an object to be obtained. As men, that’s how we’re socialized to think of women. That mentality generates scrutiny that women face regarding their appearance and it’s a never ending shit storm of annoyance. No, I’ve never been a woman. I’ve never experienced such scrutiny first hand. But, 90% of my friends are women and I hear the stories that drop my jaw in disbelief. The scrutiny happens with the elevator eyes and the long distance decision by the pursuer as to whom they will “spit game.”

“Forget about game, I’mma spit the truth! Won’t stop ’til I get ’em in they birthday suit!” -Ludacris

When a woman’s strength (read: muscular definition; not to be confused with her mental fortitude) starts being labeled as a determination of her worth (again viewing her as property) then society starts saying, “Strong is the new sexy.” I’ve been a Personal Trainer for over a decade and in all of that time, women still make the same request to me when we begin working together. “I don’t want to get too muscle-y!”, they say. I find it difficult not to roll my eyes when I hear this, for two reasons. 1.) Women, generally, have less testosterone and will not gain muscle as fast as men. 2.) So, what if they did gain muscular definition? Why would that be a bad thing? Throughout history, weak men have been threatened by the (mental or physical) strength of women. When you think of the term “ladylike”, what image pops up for you? She’s not muscular, is she? When you think of the term “butch”, what image pops up for you? Women have been socialized to look/act like ladies. It’s because of that socialization that some women apologize about their bodies.

I went to look at a friend’s tattoo on her leg and she said, “sorry, I haven’t shaved my legs.” When I asked why she was apologizing to me, she replied, “some people are weird about bodies.” I said, “Yeah, but it’s YOUR body. It’s not my place to have an opinion on it.”

Back to my point on socialization. Women have been socialized to not appear (physically) strong. Instead, they’ve been conditioned to be sex objects. Now that more women are working out with weights*, there are more women that are accepting their muscular definition. I applaud that acceptance. I think it takes a dark turn when the acceptance of a strong physical form must be diminished into “sexy”. The definition of sexy belongs to the owner of the strut. Culture should not define it. “The eye of the beholder” should not define it. Women should be able to look however TF they want without apologizing for hairy legs or objectifying their muscular definition as “sexy.”

I spoke with my friend, V, on the matter and here’s what she had to say when I asked her, “What are your thoughts on the phrase, strong is the new sexy!?”:

“…this phrase is simply jam-packed with interesting undertones. It always raises so many questions in me when I hear it. For instance, was strong not sexy before? Who is making this proclamation? How does one define “strong”? Are we now excluding other characteristics that used to be considered sexy in the past and replacing them with this image of “strength” instead? If I don’t look strong because of the particular characteristics of my physique, then am I not sexy? On a personal note, I live with a chronic disease and pain, which limits my capacity for many kinds of physical activity, and my muscles are smaller and relatively weaker because of this…so, am I not sexy? Often, when I hear this, it rings a similar bell as “Real women…” and “Real men…” Because, for the same reason that all people are real and you can’t define “woman” or “man” in a single, restrictive, exclusionary statement, neither can you define “sexy” in just one way. There is no definitive The Sexy- new or otherwise. So if a statement like this must be made, then I much prefer, “Strong is sexy.” Because it doesn’t preclude or exclude other ways of being sexy. I tend to struggle with phrases that attempt to raise up one physical ideal by knocking another one down- overtly or implicitly. Because to do so feels like an attempt to invalidate other ways of being and put a box around an experience that ought not be bounded.” -V

The next time you read, “Strong Is The New Sexy”, just repeat after me.
I don’t need anyone else to define my brand of sexy.
I don’t need anyone else to define my brand of sexy.

See you next week, Friends!

*-If you’re beginning a fitness program, study the overload principle. Lifting tiny weights for fear of gaining too much muscle mass is not going to make you stronger.

The next time you (I) fall in love…

Dear Jet,

If you’re reading this letter that Past Jet wrote to you, then it may already be too late. You fall in love too easily. To be clear, you make excellent choices in the quality human beings you’ve chosen to give your heart. But, far too often, you’ve given that heart so freely and with such intensity that you may have created a whirlwind. Her head may be spinning. Everything that I’m about to tell you is based on past experiences. This isn’t about focusing on past mistakes. This reminder is about learning from your personal history.

In the beginning, you’ll want to give her everything. You’ll write her poems, buy her flowers, find songs that are just for her, and you’ll also give her your willingness. You will make yourself available in any way feasible. Because of your rule of relationships (never start any romantic habit/gesture that you’re not willing to maintain for the life of the relationship) you’ll only do the aforementioned activities if your heart leads you down that path. But, pump your brakes. All of those are beautiful gestures, but have you asked if those are the gestures that she wants? Do those gestures have the same emotional weight for her as they do for you? If you’re unsure of the answer to that question, then drive slow.

Imagine running down the Walgreens Holiday aisle on February 15th and buying all the red V-day things. Then imagine dumping all of those things on her doorstep when she’s not home. That would seem like some stalker shit, right? After the stories friends tell you about the lameness of the average dude, by comparison, a few romantic gestures can feel like that Walgreens dump approach when you display affection.

Dude, it’s like you have this habit of asking your new love interest to bend over so that you can stitch your Peacock feathers onto her bare backside with a needle! “See! Don’t you see how much I dig you! I’m so willing to give all of me!” *Boom* Jet, don’t try so goddamned hard! I’ll spare you the list of names, but I will give you a time line. Roughly every 12-18 months, you meet “her” and begin to believe in magic again. You start getting stupid as fuck and all dumb in the eyeballs, seeing her and becoming less responsive to your other lovers. But, this letter isn’t meant to reprimand you. Past Jet wants to give you a new course of action. So, here are 7 things (in no particular order) I want you to do/remember the next time you fall in love.

1.) Be the Peacock, but don’t encroach on her emotional space. Strut with humility and be your beautiful self. Give her a chance to see the real you underneath those feathers instead of figuratively pushing into her field of vision. If she sees you, great. If she doesn’t see you, keep it moving, that’s not her.

2.) Don’t lie to yourself about her perfection. She’s a human being. She’s just as flawed as you. At the same time, don’t look for her flaws either.

3.) Re-read the Four Agreements. When you turn into a dumb bunny in wuv… twu wuv, you forget the four pillars of sanity and a drama-free life.

4.) Pay more attention to her actions than her words. She will do the same when she receives your messages, trust.

5.) Speak to her about how the two of you define Polyamory, how the two of you define terms like Primary Partner or Anchor. Don’t go past the second date without having this conversation.

6.) Look at your time together through several lenses. To date someone for 12 months when she lives over 500 miles away is very different than that time you dated your neighbor. To know someone for 8 months, having only gone on 12 dates, means you’ve only gone on a date about every 2.5 weeks. Unless you’ve been on the phone every night like an eighth grader, you probably don’t know this woman very well. Remember that you don’t truly know a human until you’ve seen some range of emotions. Anger is very telling. Have you seen her angry yet? She doesn’t have to be angry with you, just annoyed at something. Until you see her explore some range of emotion (not just anger) you don’t know her. Don’t start thinking about moving in together or buying rings and shit. Calm down. (Note: Knowing basic trivia like middle name or her cousin’s birthday doesn’t mean you know her.)

7.) Your parents have an adorable “how they met” story. Your mom had a crush on your dad from the moment that your mom’s friend introduced the two of them. Your dad asked your mom to move in after he got tired of walking to the corner store to call her from the pay phone. Fast forward 50+ years later, they’re still together. Yes, that’s a cool story, Bro. But, that doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to have a similar destiny. The Universe doesn’t owe you a storybook relationship.

It’s true, it would be nice to have an emotional anchor. It would be nice to embrace romance, love, trust, and passion with a partner that “gets you” (whatever TF that means). But, the truth of the matter is that you can’t just go out and pick “her” up at the Gently Used Partner Dealership like some goddamned object. Further, you can’t “find” her like Indiana fucking Jones while ruining artifacts of ancient cultures. The Universe is not conspiring to bring you two together. The Universe gives not one fuck about the dating habits of humans any more than it cares about the sexual mating habits of Bonobos. You’re on your own. If you happen to meet someone that happens to meet you and that spirit of reciprocity shines in all of your interactions, great! The important thing (for your sanity) is to not expect that to happen. Romantic love and romantic partners are not promised to us.

The truly important thing is to be open to love.
She will see your open heart.
Be accepting of who she is
and she will walk right in.
There is no pre-conceived mold
into which she must fit.

The next time you fall in love,
learn from your past experience
without reliving your past traumas.

Kiss her like every touch on her lips will be the last
and be completely present with her.
Be cool.
Ice cold.
Warm center.
Open heart.
When you feel her reciprocity,
then the dance can start.

Love,

Past Jet

Societal Nature Vs. Human Nature

I’ve been trying to get out of the habit of citing human nature as the reason that some humans do certain things. For example, I don’t believe that jealousy is human nature. I do believe that society has conditioned us to believe that our chosen mates are possessions and if they were to receive a hint of flirting from another pretty face, then ooooooohhhhhh boy! Watch out! THIS ONE’S MINE! Whoa! Calm down. That’s not human nature, that’s societal nature. Perhaps our experiences have colored our view of what generates feelings of jealousy. But, despite those moment’s when toddlers identify a parent as “mine”, I don’t think that jealousy is innate.

In a recent conversation about plastic surgery, I was asked my thoughts on the matter. If someone had asked me a decade ago, I would have had a mouthful to share about all of my myopic judgments of assumed insecurities. That was then, this is wow and I have changed a lot! The truth is, I don’t give a shit about plastic surgery or the fact that someone has gone under the knife because… Well, that’s the thing you see, I don’t know the reason. Everyone has a different because and that makes it unfair to judge everyone the same when I know nothing about their personal history or experiences in life. I live in the militantly liberal Bay Area where many people feel their opinion must be heard without knowing all of the facts (or without considering sending their opinion through the proper channels). That tends to manifest in women getting shit for formula feeding over breast feeding without the giver of shit bothering to find out if the mother is having trouble producing milk. Sorry for the digression, I just wanted to drive home the point that some shit you heard on NPR or read in a book shouldn’t give you the right to go round telling people what to do, know the facts about the individual experience.

As a friend was explaining why she’d decided to have her breasts augmented, she casually brushed past an easy argument. “Yeah, yeah. Love yourself just the way you are and all that. But, not everyone is wired that way.” Now, she didn’t need to explain/justify to me why she decided to do something to her body. It’s really not my place to judge, comment, or give a shit about what another human does with their body. (Because it’s THEIR body, not mine.) I did, however, take issue with her argument that some are wired for self-love and some are not. I took special interest because I’m taking a Developmental Psychology class and we’ve been spending hours discussing what characteristics humans are born with and those they’re not. Essentially, we’ve been discussing the wiring. I’ll spare you all the Psych lesson as if I’m qualified to school you on the matter. I will point out that a baby human’s concept of the world is limited to the child’s mother figure. Within that microplanet of mother figure and child, securities (and of course insecurities) are created based on their interactions and developing trust. The manner in which the mother figure responds when the baby human is hungry or in need will shape the baby’s scope of trust for the world. The wiring is being installed. I’ve heard different ages for when a child develops their full personality (3 y/o?), when their brain reaches adult size (7 y/o?), and other statistics that I tend to take with a grain of salt. We all have character-defining memories (some conscious and some repressed) that have happened much later than the age of seven.  Some of those character-defining moments have short circuited our wiring for self-love.

I checked in with the Professor leading our lecture. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just mansplaining to myself that my opinion was right. What would the world of science have to say on the matter? On the matter of insecurities, we’re not born with them, we’re not wired to be insecure. The simple proof of this is the lack of evidence. They’ve tested children for every social ailment that’s a part of the human condition. There’s no empirical evidence to suggest that a baby has expressed insecurity. Societal conditioning and pressures are what create insecurities.

To be fair, some of us may be genetically predisposed to anxiety. Such predisposition, coupled with society’s nature to critique and judge one another can certainly create a shit storm of insecurities. So, I’m just saying that a refutation of self-love isn’t something that we’re either wired with or not. Instead, self-love or insecurities tend to manifest as a result of a cocktail of ingredients including, but not limited to, the love we received at home, the acceptance/criticism of our peers, our perception of images in the media, and the self-image of our peers. (If your BFF in high school, had high self-esteem and looked like your polar opposite, you may have internalized that.)

I think it’s important to reiterate that I’m not making a judgment on those that have had plastic surgery. I’m not suggesting that anyone’s body parts were surgically altered due to insecurities. Not only do I not know why people do what they do to/with their bodies, I don’t make it my business to care (unless I’m at work and they’ve asked me to care). Over the years many friends, lovers, and colleagues have had plastic surgeries. The reasons have ranged from Business Expense to Cancer to Graduation Gift to Post-Accident Reconstruction to Sexual Reassignment. This post isn’t about plastic surgery it’s about taking the time to remember what part of our thought process came from human nature and what part came from societal nature.

 

 

A Perversion Of Love?

“Today I believe in the possibility of love; that is why I endeavor to trace its imperfections, its perversions.” -Frantz Fanon

In a city that is quickly losing it’s right to be considered the most liberal place in America (has it already lost that right?) I saw a billboard that wreaked of conservatism. The city is San Francisco. The billboard claimed that Porn Kills Love. Perhaps the promoter of this message should visit the Armory (not far from the billboard) where they don’t kill anything, but they do beat the shit out of lust. I don’t claim to fully understand the sentiment behind the message that Porn Kills Love. But, it doesn’t take an in depth analysis to figure out that the promoters of this message are against porn, its production, and the employees of the porn industry. (The website proclaims, “Fight the new drug!”, you know because porn is a new thing.) As a sex worker myself (read here to bring yourself up to speed) I take issue with any message that is against the sex industry. I was having dinner with a friend when I mentioned the billboard to her. She asked, well what is love? Fair question.

In fact, I asked that question quite often some years back. I just used it as a conversation lubricant in social settings. “How do you define love?”, I’d ask. There were no wrong answers, but there were certainly some interesting ones. The most interesting answers were from those that couldn’t answer. I don’t mean that they refused. I mean to say that their answer was, “I don’t know!” Wait, let me get this straight… You’ve used the L word to describe your feelings for everything from an appetizer at a restaurant to your mother and you can’t define the word!? You say it 437 times a day, but you can’t define it!? WTF!? Well, it saddens me to type that I ultimately stopped asking the question because it no longer acted as a conversation lubricant. More often than not, people couldn’t define it and it would grind the conversation to a halt. Wow! Something to think about the next time a significant other (SO) tells you those three little greeting-card-filler words.

The definition of porn that most can agree on is that “porn is hard to define, but you know it when you see it.” Conversely, there is no cute catch phrase that most can agree on in regards to the definition of love. With that being said, how can hard-to-define porn kill even harder-to-define love? I don’t know either. Further, if love is half as powerful as all of those songs, movies, and books suggest shouldn’t it be impervious to porn or any other would-be attackers?

Porn vs. Love. Why must everything be so goddamned either/or? Porn is watched by intelligent adults that know bad acting and lame costumes when they see them. Porn is also watched by impressionable youth that assume the boning they see on the screen is the boning they should attempt in the bedroom. It’s true, that’s a thing and that’s unfortunate. But, that’s where the intelligent adult parents have the opportunity to step in and talk to the kids about what’s happening on screen and why (without judgment). “Hey! Everybody’s gotta make a living!”, a parent could say. “No, you don’t have to dress like that the first time you have sex… wait until at least the third time!”, could be another reminder. Then there’s the classic, “Trying to learn how to have sex by watching porn is like trying to learn how to drive by watching the Fast & the Furious!”

Porn doesn’t kill love because they are not in competition with one another. For the sake of argument, let’s wave a magic wand and all porn goes away *poof*. Now, let’s look at some other challenges that romantic-sticky-sweet-greeting-card love must contend with.

1.) The fallacy of monogamy and possessiveness. We are not a monogamous species. Yes, you. The human that’s reading this post. You may practice monogamy. Society has programmed you to do so. Hell, you may even be happier than Pharrell with your SO. But, I challenge you to name five couples that you know personally that have been together for greater than five years that happen to still be happy together. Not TV couples. Your friends/family. Name. Five. Oh! You can name five? So much for anecdotal evidence. Here’s some empirical evidence. Compile the divorce AND breakup rate of couples worldwide. You don’t have to know specific numbers to know that it’s high. Possessiveness is also an issue. The concept of “my” BF/GF/Husband/Wife/WTF often causes subtle objectification. To think of another human being as mine suggests that they are no longer driving their own life. I don’t want to possess another human being. Any woman with whom I begin a relationship should be a partner, not a possession. #BeingPossessiveKillsLove

2.) The societal lie of the one. We’ve heard all of the happily ever after fairytales about finding the one. We’ve heard the stories so much that we have convoluted ideas of love based subconsciously on some of those stories. RomComs that give hope for unrealistic relationships with fictitiously awesome (read: stupid) characters (not real people) aren’t doing love any favors. Two words: Love Actually #RomComsKillLove

3.) Family and sphere of influence. Everyone has to meet and approve of the new one that your dating. Isn’t that a pain!? I mean they’re not making sweet love to that person, you are. But, there’s an unspoken protocol to these sort of things I suppose. #NosyParentsKillLove

Because I’m sure that one of the promoters of #PornKillsLove will read this and have some words for me, I’ll leave you with these thoughts.

~Before telling everyone that this kills that, be sure that everyone agrees on how this and that are defined.
~You can still promote love without demoting porn (or anything else). Unless you’re writing a stage play, you don’t need a specific antagonist and protagonist.
~I’m not really mad. I’m just talking shit. I just wish San Francisco was as liberal as it once was.
~The world doesn’t need less porn, we just need better porn… and more sex positive people… and more support for sex workers.

Enjoy your week, I’m off to look at some videos of Nuns… praying, yeah that’s it.

Touchy Touchy: Respecting Personal Space As A Fitness Professional

“Get your fucking hands off of me!” Those are the seven angry words that you never want to hear as a trainer. Truthfully, you don’t want to hear those words… ever. It’s a very real possibility that someone may think those words instead of making their frustration heard. In such an event, you’ve no doubt crossed a line and the person on the receiving end feels uncomfortable or threatened in some way. (More on that in a moment.) Respecting personal space starts with kinesthetic awareness. Knowing where your body is in relation to the space around you is important to the people around you. Are you standing too close? “Back up, Sucka! Give me three feet!” It’s also important to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. To be more specific, put yourself in her shoes. This week’s blog post is about male-on-female hands-on training. Fitness professionals have different approaches to coaching. In my ten years in the business, I’ve made it a point to focus on my verbal cueing and demonstrative skills in order to avoid excessively touching female clients. You may be thinking, “Oh! I bet this dude had some sexual harassment charges filed against him! I bet that’s why he’s afraid to touch the ladies.” False. On the contrary, I’ve never had to defend myself against such accusations because I’ve never done anything to make a client think those seven angry words. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never done anything with my hands to make a female client feel threatened. The word threatened has a lot of weight to it. But, when I asked a few females about their thoughts on male fitness professionals (group classes or personal sessions) placing hands on them, the word came up more than once.

This topic came up during a recent photo shoot, I was being photographed with a client for an advertisement. I was instructed to “put your hands on her as if you’re correcting her form.” I replied, “I wouldn’t do that in a real session!” The photographer also wanted me to “get closer to her because I’m going to crop this vertically.” Again, I protested.

It’s worth mentioning… The photographer in question is a good friend of mine and she is very aware that all of the poses were “portrait pretend time” and that there are many trainers that don’t get all Handsy McHanderson.

I’m grateful for my female friends over the years. I’ve always had more female friends than male. It’s because of their countless stories of Coach McHanderson the personal trainer or group exercise instructor getting touchy feely with them that has made me very aware of what/where/why I touch my female clients. There are many ways of correcting a client’s form or to get them to accomplish a specific movement. Going back to my point on putting yourself in her shoes, training to become stronger and sweating through the process is a vulnerable time for anyone. So, this is for the male trainers. Put yourself in her shoes for a moment. If you’re trusting your fitness goals in the hands of a stranger the last thing you want to worry about is stranger danger. Enjoy this PSA from the 1980’s to get the understanding of what it means to engage with a creeper.

Gentlemen, imagine that one of those creepy fuckers was your personal trainer. Imagine that they’ve asked you to tuck your pelvis under and engage your core as they stood over you in plank position. Imagine that they said it with their hands and grabbed both of your hips in the process. That wouldn’t feel great and you’d probably be bothered by the interaction. So, try to consider that when you place your hands on your female clients.

It’s worth mentioning… This blog is not about creating a PSA to tell all male trainers to never touch female clients. That’s not what this is about. This post is about being empathetic to the feelings of female clients. Furthermore, I’m not suggesting that female clients are the only clients with feelings or triggers. I’m not here to suggest that females are sensitive and need special handling. Unfortunately, women/womyn deal with a lot of harassment on the street. They often choose their gym because they feel like it’s a safe place free from comments, staring, and of course unwelcome touching. Walk in her shoes for a moment through this video:

After watching the video, before you begin questioning which one of those comments was/wasn’t harassment, think critically about to whom the men chose to speak. “Jet, that guy only said, HI! How was that harassment?” Well, why didn’t he say HI to everyone? Now, let’s bring this back to a gym setting. Have you ever watched a group fitness instructor using his hands to correct the form of people in the class? Have you noticed that all of them were females that had a similar look to them? Why didn’t he say HI to everyone with bad form? For the dudes reading this, don’t be that guy.

Have you ever wondered why there are gyms that are exclusive to women/womyn? Imagine that street walking scenario with fewer, tighter, sweatier clothes on. If you have access to some online forum, ask the question “Ladies, what makes you feel uncomfortable at the gym?” Delete all of the male responses and pay attention to the general theme (hint: objectification). I’m just saying, don’t take my word for it. Ask the women/womyn in your life about Coach McHanderson and the comments from the Numbnuts Gallery. In a similar online forum, a female commented that unwanted comments in a gym are worse than a bar because she doesn’t expect it at the gym. Again, we all want a safe place to get stronger and improve our overall fitness. Why do so many women/womyn LOVE going to the gyms in the Castro or SoMa ? Phrases like, “I don’t have to worry about that shit.” or “People leave me alone.” come to mind. Circling back to the street harassment video, what educated guess can you make (context clues are different from assumptions) about all of the males in that video? None of them were gay and none of them were females.

It’s worth mentioning… I’ve spent time with some females that identify as male and I’ve listened to a rare few of them catcall. It’s very rare and I may have only seen it twice in two decades. But, it’s heart-breaking that someone’s idea of male identification is being that sort of jackass.

Let’s loop back to the T word. I’ve heard some women/womyn talk about feeling threatened due to whom those overused hands belonged. When I asked a female about how she felt when her form had hands-on correction by a female coach there was often an indifferent response; when asked about gay male instructors the same response was conveyed. I found that interesting. So, when a female or a gay male places their hands on your body to correct your form you feel (for lack of a better word) safe. However, a well-meaning heterosexual male can use the same hand placement and you feel threatened? One could argue that there’s more to that assertion than I’m qualified to unpack in this blog post (read: I’m not a Psychologist.) Nevertheless, I will plug this anecdote in your brain’s soil to grow and flower some new thoughts. I once dated a female with implants. They were great and everyone wanted to touch them. She and I dated at a time when I still practiced/believed in monogamy. So, I wasn’t keen on the idea of other men touching her breasts. (I was a prude back then.) She would still come home with stories about how she let some dude feel her up “but, he was gay” she would explain in defense. “Oh, okay! Perhaps I’ll find a lesbian to rub my cock!” I would argue. [I never found a lesbian to help me win that argument.] What makes one set of hands safer than another? That’s rhetorical food for discussion at your next cocktail party. Are gay men or straight women/womyn safe just because they’re not actively pursuing you? Are all straight men a threat because of the dark cloud of rape culture? Fuck, I hope no one views me as a threat. If my heterosexuality (or the harassment she’s received from assholes on the street) marks me as a threat then no matter what I do with my hands, I’ve already lost. And that’s precisely why I don’t give anyone any reason to view me as a threat.

A message to male fitness professionals: Just to reiterate, this blog is not about you changing your touchy/feely habits. You’re an adult. Do what you do. But, it would benefit your coaching skills if you were to improve your verbal cues. Use positive coaching phrases telling your clients what they should do and what they should feel. Avoid speaking at length as to what they should not be doing. The brain has trouble processing words like not and don’t. Where’s the first place that everyone looks when you exclaim “Don’t look down!”? I often hear trainers lament on how they told the class to not do something three times and most people still did that thing. Another way to step up your coaching skills is to improve your demonstrative skills. Being able to execute the exercise is one thing, making sure that all of those viewing you have an ideal vantage point is another. Ideally make sure that they are gathered round in a semi-circle no more than three deep so that everyone can see you complete the movement. The demonstrating doesn’t need to stop there. I often stand next to someone that I’m correcting and do the following: “Right now I’m seeing this *mimic their bad form* and I need to see this *demonstrate the correct form*.” In doing that, I’m sure to use “I” statements and not sound accusatory/judgmental (again this should be a safe place to get stronger). It’s also important that many people may not have a high level of kinesthetic awareness. So, if I tell someone to move their hips and they respond by moving their feet, it doesn’t mean that they have less than stellar intelligence, it may just mean that they’re visual learners. The third and most important way to keep from being Coach Creepy is to ask for permission/approval or at the very least let them know it’s about to happen. There may come a time when teaching a class and things are moving fast and you have to correct form in less than 10 seconds. Saying things like, “I’m going to adjust your form” or “may I adjust you” will go a long way in the memory of that experience. You can also ask the class to raise their hands at the beginning of class if they do not want to be touched in any way. “If there is anyone in the class that does not want hands-on correction, please speak up now and I’ll find other ways to correct your form.” Everything written in this message to male fitness professionals goes for straight and gay alike. I’m sorry, homosexuality is not a license to be handsy with women.

It’s worth mentioning… There are times when I absolutely touch my clients. It’s often after I’ve had to repeat myself. It’s always after we’ve built up enough of a rapport for them to understand that I’m correcting their form in the most professional way possible.

Takeaways [If you don’t remember shit else from this post…]
I am not against touching clients. I touch clients. I use light touches from fingertips on neutral areas that involve more bone than flesh. (read: pelvis instead of booty cheek) I am against disrespecting the personal space of others.

Hands are hands. There should be no multi-tiered standard for straight men, gay men, straight women/womyn, and gay women/womyn. On the giving end, respect all bodies and individual preferences. On the receiving end, demand the same respect/treatment from everyone.

Coaches should use words and other teaching skills before relying on touch as a first resort. When touch is about/needs to happen, coaches should ask for permission. There’s a person under that flesh.