Sometimes Sorry Isn't Enough

I low-key wish I had a better, more legitimate, reason as to why I’ve been gone for so long, but the truth is that the past few months have really put me through the wringer emotionally and I couldn’t focus on repairing myself and my relationships and function as “Sexology Bae”. It felt disingenuous.

Instead of spending 18 paragraphs going into detail about everything that has gone wrong in my life recently, I found it better to welcome myself back into the blogosphere with a reflection and unpacking of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few months. My general goal as a writer is to write things I’d want to read, and this is something I really need to hear right now.

In relationships, romantic, platonic, or whatever, we’re bound to do things that hurt people we care about. Sometimes it’s by accident. Other times it’s an intentional lashing out because of our own pain. And occasionally it’s that fucked up I-know-what-I’m-doing-is-wrong-but-I-don’t-want-to-consider-consequences-right-now-because-I-think-the-short-term-benefit-is-worth-it. It might even be a combination of the three, but the point of it is that the result is the same—someone you care about is hurt and it’s almost completely up to you to fix it.

 Image of the author, 2018.

Image of the author, 2018.

I don’t believe in taking complete ownership over anyone’s healing but my own for a myriad of reasons, but we have some measure of accountability to people we’ve hurt. It’s hard to process when you’re as apologetic as can be but that isn’t enough. Vowing to change your actions—and actually changing them—might not be enough. I’ve had to sit with this feeling for a while now, and let me tell you, it’s not fun.

What do you do when you’ve done all the “right” things and still get hit with “i’m good luv, enjoy” or the more timely “thank u, next”? If you’re me, you wallow in self-pity, completely isolate yourself, and pray that the other person (or people) comes around and doesn’t leave you hanging. And then you eventually face reality and start to move on with your life knowing that you’re the friend/ex/lover/whoever that someone thinks about when they have a flash of emotional pain.

Not owing anyone forgiveness is a very powerful sentiment and one that I agree(d) with, until I was on the receiving end of it. Don’t get me wrong, I still agree with it now, but it SUCKS to move on and take your L knowing that there’s a very good chance someone you once had an extremely strong connection with wants absolutely nothing to do with you ever again, and it’s your fault. We want to believe that we’re fundamentally good people and because we’re good people, our mistakes can and should be forgiven regardless of their actual impacts on another person.

This may come across as me trying to position people who hurt people as the true victims. Let me clearly state, I am not trying to do that at all. If you’re an abuser or otherwise intentionally cause people harm you can go straight to hell. What I am saying though, is that we are all people, capable of very genuine and very horrible sometimes-unintentional mistakes.

No one should feel obligated to hold grace for someone who caused them harm, though, and that’s a very painful lesson I think we all learn at some point or another in our lives when we’re the offending party. Right now is that time for me.

As someone who’s caring to a fault and more often than not puts the needs of others ahead of my own, I’ve mostly been the injured party in my dealings with others, not the one who caused hurt. But I’m on the other side of the fence now and working to heal the pieces of myself that were broken enough to allow me to hurt others and find comfort in these lessons. It’s easy to go on an apology tour with the people you’ve hurt and run down the list of ways you can (and have) change(d) in order to convince them you’re worthy of being part of their life again. It’s harder to do that and live with knowing that, at least for right now, it’s not good enough. And very well may not ever be.

Yes, time heals wounds and changes our perspectives, but I’m not banking on that. There’s always a chance it might not and I’ll end up in a worse situation than before trying to make amends with someone when I spent months or years refusing to confront myself and my actions because I thought it would all turn around for me.

I’m coming to terms with being okay with not being okay with what I’ve done and the resulting fallout. It’s something I have to carry with myself, and much like accepting any other flaw undoing the shame and stigma of being a kind of shitty person is sticky because it’s new territory for me. But I’m back, as much as I can be, with new perspectives and a lot of growth I’m ready to share with you all.

Conference Bae Part Two: Sex Down South ATL 2018!

Many thanks to my sponsor Spectrum Boutique for their assistance with my travel for the event, as well as to the Sex Down South team!

This conference season has been a whirlwind for me, and it’s only my first! I went from not going to any sexuality conferences to attending two within the span of a month, thanks to scholarships, sponsorships, and friends who helped me.

For the uninitiated, Sex Down South is a Black-founded, Queer and POC centered sexuality conference that takes place in Atlanta, Georgia. 2018 marked their third year. I’ve wanted to go to this conference for two years now, but the stars finally aligned just so and I was able to make it. i’ve had quite a few people ask me to compare and contrast Sex Down South with the Sexual Freedom Summit (check out my reflection here), but I’ve decided I won’t do that because highlighting differences between the two may make it seem like I’m positioning one as better than the other, when in reality they serve completely different audiences and I had an amazing time at both.

There’s something to be said about a space that aims to center Southern Blackness. I’m proud to be from the south, and I don’t see myself settling down anywhere else. Regionalism plays as big a role in how we approach sex education work as any of our other identities but frequently gets left out of the conversation, or only becomes the center of conversation when people feel the need to drag the South for being backwards or out of touch.

The world operates differently in the South, that’s a fact. There’s a myriad of reasons why, directly tied to slavery and religious patriarchy, but the major movements for justice in this country have started here too. The way that folks in the north, even so-called progressives, reduce us to stereotypes of ignorance and enemies of progress, erases the organizing and educating that people have done to make the south more equitable. There’s so much power in holding a conference that is open about sexuality in one of the biggest cities in the highly-religious South and I don’t think people who aren’t from here truly understand why that’s so important.

For me, Sex Down South started with a too-early plane ride Thursday morning which meant that by the time I got to the hotel, after I caught up with all my friends I was running on fumes and had to sit out most of the day’s sessions to sleep and recharge. I ended up only making it to the keynote by Ericka Hart, about the role that pleasure takes in liberation movements.

I had trouble connecting with it, but I’m chalking that up to exhaustion and the realization that I don’t think about my work being directly connected to Black liberation. I guess it is, but I haven’t given it much thought or intention for that matter. This ties into my broader thoughts about “who am I writing for”, and “why do I write”, which requires more unpacking outside of this post.

Thursday night, I went to Magic City, the world-famous strip club. I had never been to a strip club before so i really didn’t know what to expect, because I didn’t want to go off just what I’ve seen on TV and in movies. IT WAS AWESOME. I’m afraid to go to any other strip clubs now because I’m afraid they won’t live up to Magic City.

Friday, the first session I attended was “You Let Her Do What?” Examinations on Polyamory and Masculinity with Bex Caputo and Kevin Patterson. I live-tweeted it, and you can find the thread here. This workshop was one of my personal “must-sees” of the conference. While I’ve known that monogamy wasn’t ideal for me for years, my relationship hasn’t been polyamorous for very long.

I’m often at a loss for helping my partner through his feelings when trying to combat the issues that toxic masculinity presents within our polyamory, so I was excited to hear people with different relationships to masculinity talk about their experiences. The workshop evolved into a conversation about undoing the damage that toxic masculinity causes, which was cathartic and healing, but ultimately kind of disappointing to me because we never got back around to the connection with polyamory.

 Scaled replica of a human clitoris, courtesy of  Aria !

Scaled replica of a human clitoris, courtesy of Aria!

The great people from The Pleasure Chest hosted Lunch & Learn Mini-Workshops all weekend, and Friday afternoon I was able to make it to the session hosted by my pal Carly: Using the 5 Senses to Create an Erotic Scene, threaded here. It is abbreviated, as my UberEATS came in the middle of the session and I had to leave early.

My second full session of the day was Fuckstrology: Sex Languages According to the Stars with Gigi Robinson. I know plenty of people think astrology is hokey, but I don’t. I consider it as useful a spiritual guidance system as anything else. Learning about my chart more in-depth was beneficial because astrology can easily get overwhelming when you’re trying to learn on your own. The workshop focused on Mars and Venus placements, as Venus controls how we like to receive love and affection and Mars controls how we like to give it.

Each sign has different ways they like to give and receive affection, which when taken with your chart as a whole, can explain parts of your personality. For example, my Venus is in Pisces. On its own, that means that I’m very sensitive and want constant affection from my partners. But when taken with my materialistic Taurus sun, it manifests as a desire for gifts or food when a partner wants to show me they care, the more luxurious the better. If you’re interested in doing your (or a partner’s) birth chart, you can find the one I use here.

 From left to right, my conference baes:  Victoria  of Pink Lotus Bud,  Ari  of Who Do You Kink You Are? Podcast,  Aria  of Your Heavenly Body. and yours truly.

From left to right, my conference baes: Victoria of Pink Lotus Bud, Ari of Who Do You Kink You Are? Podcast, Aria of Your Heavenly Body. and yours truly.

The last session I attended on Friday was my favorite of the whole conference: Race and Desire Roundtable with Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, Aida Manduley, M’kali-Hashiki, and Kevin Patterson, moderated by Tristan Taormino. I live tweeted it here, but as a disclaimer my tweets are mostly paraphrases of what the speakers were saying.

As a Black woman in a relationship with a white man, I’m constantly thinking about race, white supremacy, and the roles they play in how my partner and I interact and express our love. I spent the first few years of my relationship feeling like I needed to apologize for or otherwise justify dating him, because it was implied and sometimes outright said to me that I can’t really be about Black liberation if i’m dating a white person. This made me insecure in my relationship and hurt us in a lot of ways. I didn’t feel like I could look to my partner to make me feel better, because, to me, he was the cause of this conflict. I would sometimes take my insecurity out on him which he didn’t deserve. We’re in a much better place now, mostly because my feelings about what it takes to do “the work” now go beyond judgments based on identity politics.

The session took so many different routes and left me with a lot to think about in my own relationship as well as how I think and talk about sexuality. It requires more than just seeing and naming explicit instances of white supremacy in the sexuality/sex ed community. It necessitates understanding the insidiousness of whiteness and how white supremacy’s main goal is to protect itself. This can manifest in actionable goals like being honest about how some of us have different labor demands placed on us for less pay and interrogating how we support white supremacy in our sexual lives. Sure, you may not have an explicit “whites only” policy for your genitals, but do you only have partners of certain classes, formal education levels, or other social markers that perpetuate white supremacist ideals of “the perfect partner”?

For people of color, it requires undoing the messaging that leads us to police the behavior of ourselves and others. When we engage in the woke olympics, we’re ultimately left exhausted from the inter-community conflict, which leaves us no more mental or emotional capacity to process and undo the damage white supremacy has caused. Even when we’re not explicitly desiring whiteness, we still have to grapple with how its benefits are dangled in front of our communities as a goal to aspire to.

Saturday brought my most introspective workshop of the conference, Uses of the Erotic in Times of Resistance by M’kali-Hashiki. I’m familiar with Audre Lorde’s essay, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, but this workshop allowed me the opportunity to take it out of the theoretical academic context in which I knew it and make it tangible, practical, and livable. I’ve been feeling very disconnected from myself for a while now, and I had so much going on right before the conference that I almost didn’t go.

Holding space with the other workshop attendees and connecting back with myself helped me remember why I started writing in the first place, as a form of release in a world I felt didn’t hear me otherwise. We went through different breath work techniques, and it was grounding to feel and release some of the energy blockages in my body. I’m still struggling to maintain that balance now that I’m back at home but the workshop was a reprieve.

 It almost goes without saying, but I look for any opportunity to take my pants off. Shout out to Lil Kim for the pose inspo.

It almost goes without saying, but I look for any opportunity to take my pants off. Shout out to Lil Kim for the pose inspo.

Saturday night culminated in the Big Bang, a huge party with performers and giveaways. My favorite moment of the night, hands down, was when the contestants of a lap dance competition had to dance to “Stomp” by Kirk Franklin. This is what I was getting at earlier when I talked about the intersections of Southerness and Blackness and why that’s so important to see in a sexuality conference. Watching people twerk to a gospel song I grew up hearing was so beautiful I almost cried.

I just felt seen and recognized in that moment, in a way I don’t feel often. And that’s what this conference was for me. An opportunity to share space with people who weren’t asking anything of me other than for me to show up. I didn’t feel invisible, I didn’t feel exoticized, but I felt validated. I didn’t even get to all the personal connections I made, but suffice it to say that I found my people. Sex Down South 2019 is already on my calendar for next year, but I’ll remember to take Vitamin C ahead of time (con flu sucks).

Review: Le Wand Massager Petite

While I was at Woodhull, I won a Twitter giveaway held by my pal Red Hot Suz. The prize? A Le Wand Petite Rechargeable Massager, plus lube and massage oil samples from SUTIL. I was excited to win this giveaway for a few reasons. First, I don't normally win things, so winning the giveaway in and of itself was a cool surprise--as much as winning a contest you entered can be a surprise.

Secondly, this is my first wand-type vibrator ever. When I was younger, I believed the myth that using wands can cause clitoral desensitization and make it harder to orgasm without them. This knowledge, plus the not-broke-college-kid-friendly $100+ price tag of most meant that wands were low on my self-pleasure bucket list. Before now, my only experience with a wand was hearing my college roommate's plug-in hitachi from across our house. 

 I'm a sucker for beautiful packaging, and this box endeared me to Le Wand IMMEDIATELY.

I'm a sucker for beautiful packaging, and this box endeared me to Le Wand IMMEDIATELY.

The Le Wand Petite is a smaller version of the Original Le Wand. It comes in two beautiful colors: the light violet I have, and rose gold. Within the ridiculously gorgeous box, you get: the wand, the USB charging cord, a travel pouch, instruction guide, and a bonus pleasure guide. The pleasure guide is an amazing addition to the packaging because it helps explain using a wand to beginners. Wands aren't self-explanatory, so the pleasure guide was helpful to me as a wand newbie and as someone interested in sex education.

The wand is rechargeable and waterproof, with 10 speeds and 6 patterns. It measures 10 inches x 1.8 inches and 0.47 lbs (7.52 oz). The head is made of silicone and the "neck" joint is flexible. It has three buttons: one to turn the intensity up (it looks like a plus and also functions as the on button), one to change the vibration pattern, and one to turn the intensity down (it looks like a minus and also functions as the off button). The buttons also act as a travel lock, which when coupled with the wand's light weight, small size, and storage pouch, make it incredibly travel friendly. 

One of my favorite features is the (lack of) noise with this product. I knew it wouldn't have the lawnmower noise of my roommate's hitachi, but even on maximum power it's not much louder than so-called traditional vibrators. It's not whisper quiet, but not likely to wake, say, a partner sleeping deeply next to you. 

  I don't have an Original Le Wand for comparison, but my hands are fairly small and the Le Wand Petite fits very comfortably. 

I don't have an Original Le Wand for comparison, but my hands are fairly small and the Le Wand Petite fits very comfortably. 

okay, but how did it feel?

I have to be honest, there was a learning curve the first time I used it. I attribute this to my lack of experience with wands in general though. The infamous numbing sensation associated with using wands is normally caused by holding it in one place for too long, since the vibrations, while rumbly, are stronger than a traditional vibrator. Because the sensation spreads across a bigger area since the vibrations are stronger, one might not think to move it around like with other kinds of vibrators. This is all explained in the pleasure guide I didn't think to read when I first opened the package. 

Rookie mistake, but I took a break and tried again, adding lube to the head the second time around because why not? This time was much better, and I finally understood the buzz about wands in the community (pun not intended, but does it really matter?)

 Do as I say, not as I do: if you're new to wands, read the pleasure guide BEFORE your first use.

Do as I say, not as I do: if you're new to wands, read the pleasure guide BEFORE your first use.

Due to the small size, accessing the buttons during use wasn't an issue. However, the buttons themselves do present my biggest issue with the wand. Like I mentioned above, there are 10 speeds, and the minus button is the only way to turn it off. This means that if you're using a higher speed, once you're done you either have to click down a bunch of times or hold the button for as long as 10 seconds to get it to turn off. Maybe this is standard for wands, but I'm used to a 3-second hold on a dedicated power button to turn a toy off.

That being said, I really enjoyed this wand. It was a great first-time product, so I'd definitely recommend it to wand beginners or anyone who's in the market for a wand but doesn't need something as strong as the traditional models. Even for wand aficionados, the travel-friendliness of this particular model makes it a must-have.