The Sexologist

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Self-acceptance during swimsuit season

Posted By on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 4:09 PM

It is that time of year when a woman must muster every ounce of self-esteem and boldly walk into the dressing room with her arm full of skin-baring short shorts and tank tops only to leave the store empty-handed with her emotional reserves depleted. In swimsuit season, the thigh dimples and "bat wings" that are hidden under jeans and sweaters are now visible to the world. With idealized images of beauty held up as the standard, women of all shapes and sizes struggle with body image issues.

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In the past, I have taught classes on "being sexy" and how it is all about confidence. Men have told me how turned on they are by a woman who is secure in herself and her body. Online, I follow people like @healthyisthenewskinny and @militantbaker and @hipsandcurves. I know, in my head, that my dress size is not a reflection of my worth, but right now, after gaining 20 pounds since last summer, my heart doesn't know it. I am in need of someone to inspire me. That's why I am so glad I connected with Rosie Molinary.

Rosie is a local speaker, writer and educator. Her latest book is Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance. I have heard rave reviews of her and her workshops, so I was thankful for the opportunity to finally meet her a few weeks ago at the Women + Girls Research Alliance Summit at UNC Charlotte. After one of the sessions, I stopped her in the hall and asked if I could interview her for a post about body confidence, since it was something I was personally having a hard time with, and I was pretty sure I wasn't the only one. She graciously accepted.

CL: There is a video of you online where you were interviewed about your book and you said "Negative body image and negative self-esteem don't usually root themselves only in dissatisfaction with the physical body, but really are rooted in a greater dissatisfaction." Can you unpack that a little more for me?

Given everything that I have seen and experienced, I just don't believe that a negative body image is solely rooted in dissatisfaction with one's physical appearance. I think that when we are fundamentally unhappy, we look for what feels controllable and our physical body at least feels like it should be controllable in our minds and so that becomes where we fixate. I also think that we can become consumed in our physical body when our mind and spirit aren't otherwise invested in experiences that provide us meaning, that allow us to feel a sense of purposefulness in the world.

Poor body image is often a manifestation of a poor self-concept or lack of self-awareness. Beautiful You is rooted in the premise that if we had a better self-image and greater self-awareness, we would be less likely to allow how we feel about our hair or weight or whatever happens to be our hang-up to consume so much of our time and energy.

Self-acceptance represents our decision to not have an adversarial relationship with ourselves. It is an acknowledgment that we have worth and are enough simply because we exist.

I know you work mainly with women, but do you have any thoughts about men and their struggles with body confidence? I know quite a few guys working out like mad and taking scary diet drugs because even at 40, they think they need rock hard abs in order to be relevant.

The beauty standards we see represented to us in the media exist for a reason: to encourage us to buy more things that we are lead to believe will make us more physically attractive and, thus, happier. For a long time, women and girls received the brunt of those messages but, at some point, you saturate your target market and you either reach the pinnacle of what you can earn or you look for a new market. That new market? Men and boys. And just like women and girls were sold a bag of goods by showing them a very limited range of body types and looks that are then excessively photoshopped, men and boys are now receiving that treatment. The result is that boys and men are making risky choices now to get the bodies they see that are just as photo-shopped and/or achieved by using diet aids and steroids. We are sold a limited, unattainable idea of what is attractive because if we choose to buy into it, we will always be buying. And what a company needs from us is to always be buying.

You work with a variety of women, from students at UNC Charlotte to middle-aged moms who attend your workshops. Do 20-somethings and 40-somethings have different demons?

It might be expressed differently but so much of it is rooted in the same discomfort with one's self and desire to be acceptable and enough in what feels like someone else's eyes. The irony is that we think we receive those things by being the stock photo definition of beauty. The reality is that the people who love us love us because of the way that we make them feel.

Why are we so scared to believe in our own beauty?

When we decide to end our reliance on someone else defining worth and beauty for us, we open up a world of possibility for ourselves. I also think that we have this sense that to not be fighting ourselves is arrogant. But arrogance is not someone who doesn't abuse themselves. Arrogance is someone who abuses others in some way because they are so impressed with themselves. Self-acceptance isn't arrogant. It's neutral. The self-accepting person is not right or wrong. She simply exists and takes her experiences for what they are, opportunities to gather information and enhance her life journey as she lives her purpose. The reality is that we are all here on purpose - each one of us is meant to offer something to the world that will contribute to its healing in some way. The fundamental question we have to ask ourselves is what we are not doing while we're lamenting in our mirrors?

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Monday, May 5, 2014

A conversation with Charlotte's newest kink-friendly sex expert, Angelique Washington

Posted By on Mon, May 5, 2014 at 11:07 AM

I recently met with Angelique Renee' Washington, a transplant from Pittsburgh, who came to Charlotte to be closer to friends and family and to start a kink-aware, sex-positive business. I was eager to welcome her and get her perspective on how our fair city measures up in the kink world.

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  • Courtesy Angelique

Creative Loafing: First, tell me a bit about your professional background and how you transitioned into your current role. You used to be a mental health professional. Now you are a sexuality educator and coach, correct?
I previously did social work, case management, education in youth services, and adult programs for over 15 years. In those occupational positions, I somehow always ended up dealing with clients' relational and sexual issues to the point I had to apply crisis intervention techniques and attain certifications in numerous areas of abnormal psychology, sexual paraphilia, and addictions. I found a niche in all forms of sexual health, sexuality and sex related relationship alternatives. So, yes, in being a mental health professional I used that platform to build my own services geared towards sexuality education. I currently consider myself a sexuality educator, advocate, and promoter of sex-positive culture.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Purgatory, a middle-of-the-road kink event

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Not quite heaven, not quite hell, Purgatory night at Amos' Southend left me feeling stuck in the middle. While the event lived up to its reputation as the place in Charlotte to "let your freak flag fly," I expected more shock and awe. I left feeling underwhelmed.

First, the freaky part. Purgatory is the place to go if you like to people watch. Many of the attendees dress up in spectacular fashion: nuns, priests, naughty schoolgirls, angels, demons. They done bat wings and bull horns. One woman wore nothing but a neon green thong and electrical tape "X"s over her nipples. Another women wore an elaborate feather headdress and dark priestess costume that genuinely impressed me. Guys got into the cosplay of it all too. One walked around all night, seemingly looking for a playmate, in nothing but his tighty whitey's, a leather harness, and fake blood smeared all over his face and chest.

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Vendors were set up around the perimeter to hawk their wares: wooden paddles, "evil sticks" - I tried it and it burned like fire!, leather floggers, fur-lined handcuffs, studded collars, and the like. The vendors were friendly and knowledgeable. They seemed like a council of elders - folks who had probably been around the scene for a while. They offered encouragement and expertise, helping me choose between a thick leather collar with several rings or a thinner more flexible collar with dangling delicate chains. Decisions, decisions...

In the VIP area upstairs, one could sign up to be pseudo tortured in any number of ways: spanking, flogging, knife play, light electrocution. So the opportunity to indulge your fetish fantasy was there, but it was pretty structured and controlled. Granted, this is not someone's secret dungeon fetish club. These demonstrations were just that - demonstrations for an audience. Not that they didn't hurt; there was some very real pain going on there. Some people get off on being watched. Not only is the high from getting paddled, it's also from knowing your burning red ass is exposed to the world.

So as someone from outside the lifestyle looking in, I can appreciate that Purgatory does provide a place for people to dip their toe into kink. It's also a place for FetLife folks to get together offline. I appreciate seeing any kind of community building, especially for people on the fringes. Human sexuality is amazingly diverse. Everyone should be free to explore their sexual self in a safe and non-judgmental space.

What disappointed me most about the night is that so many of my friends refused to go with me. When I told them what it was, they were equal parts terrified and disgusted. I assured them that they didn't need to participate, that it was all monitored for safety, and that it's a well-established long-running event. Yet they still wouldn't go. So many of my guy friends brag about being "kinky" and "into weird shit," yet they freaked out at the thought of going to Purgatory. That's sad to me. It's not my particular persuasion, but I can still learn something by going. I can appreciate the variety that is the human sexual appetite. I can applaud the people brave enough to get tied up and hung from the rafters. I can find inspiration in seeing people be honest about who they are and what gets them off.

Don't forget, oral sex in North Carolina is still illegal and considered a "crime against nature." What is enjoyed by some, is repugnant to others. Judge not lest ye be judged.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

My date with the grave digger

Posted By on Fri, Apr 4, 2014 at 2:47 PM

I've reluctantly joined the masses and taken my search for love onto the Internet. My less-than-stellar track record with online dating has been well documented here, here and here. It has gotten me a few dates, but mostly lazy invitations to hook up. When I came across a local speed-dating group on Meetup.com with over 3,000 members, I thought I had hit the jackpot. That's a lot of people looking for connection - people who were actually getting out of the house with the intention of meeting someone.

The group usually splits events into two age groups, 25 to 39 and 35 to 55. I am in the lucky sweet spot where I could attend either, but I chose to go check out the younger crowd. The event was held in the basement of SIP. Located in the heart of Uptown, it is accessible, but also private. The bar seating and tables make it easy to have one-on-one conversations but also not feel too isolated. It was a good size for the group that night.

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I walked in a few minutes late, slapped on my name tag, and hurriedly took a seat at the bar with date No. 1. It was surprisingly easy to find topics of conversation. The default questions like "Where are you from?" and "What do you do?" get old real quick. Everyone seemed pretty relaxed. Knowing that our time was limited, my dates and I usually found common interests to talk about and were disappointed when the bell rang and signaled the rotation.

Out of the dozen guys I met, only one of them was difficult to talk with - the awkward IT guy who was harmless enough but also kind of creepy. Come to think of it, there were a couple of IT guys there (must be a neglected demographic in the dating scene). There was also a professor, an arborist, a salesman, and a grave digger. Yes, a grave digger.

With speed dating, I was forced to interact with each of them. There was no technology to hide behind, and that is the way I prefer it. For me, so much matters in how a man carries himself, how he speaks, and how he laughs. I never really know if I am attracted to someone until we are within three feet of each other. Great pictures and clever profiles and witty texts only reveal so much.

It was a fun night, and I enjoyed meeting men I probably would have too easily dismissed online. I went home and selected my matches. The following day, I was alerted that three of my picks had also picked me. Not bad.

I've corresponded with two of the men but haven't met with either since. One is out of town on business (or so he says). The other hinted at a possible date but then only invited me over to his place. (Yes. It is getting ridiculously predictable now.) We were texting about our shared loved of Mac's Speed Shop and instead of asking me to dinner there, or even just to meet there for a beer, he said "When you come over to see me, we can order take out from there." In my book, that sounds like a booty call. Or at the very least, he is lazy. Not interested.

Speed dating wasn't any more successful for me than online dating. I am becoming more comfortable with the realization that what I am looking for may not be found.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Love Me Tinder, Love Me Sweet

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 9:41 AM

As I wrote in my Death of Dating article, in January I had gotten fed up with online dating. It seemed like everyone was just using sites like Match and Plenty of Fish to hook up. I was looking for something more substantial, so I took a break.

Then the Olympics came along, and although I did not watch any of the programming, I did hear rumblings about the "scandalous" use of the Tinder app among athletes in Sochi. In the interest of keeping up with current sex news, and out of personal curiosity, I decided to sign on. After a month of use, I am undecided on its merit. A Tinder profile is brief - a few photos and a few sentences. Interested? Swipe left for "No" and swipe right for "Yes." There is no "Maybe." Judgments are made in about a second. If two people say "Yes" to each other, they are notified of a match and can begin messaging each other.

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What I do like about Tinder is that it draws information from Facebook so I can quickly see if we have any Likes or Friends in common. Barring the people who have fake profiles for the sole purpose of luring women (yes, I know a couple men who do that), most people use Facebook to interact with family and friends and, I would assume, are pretty honest about what they like and who they know. If I see that a guy on Tinder knows a few of my Plaza-Midwood friends and we both like Michelle Obama, Psychology Today, and the Panthers, I feel pretty confident that we could at least have a decent conversation.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

The Duke porn star revealed more than her body

Posted By on Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Recently, I was accused of slut-shaming. On my Instragram account (@livingsexuality) I posted a screenshot of an Observer article about the Duke student paying her way through school by doing porn. In the article, she is quoted as saying, "If Duke had given me the proper financial resources, I wouldn't have done porn. ... They have nobody to blame for the scandal but themselves."

My response, paraphrased: Own your career, don't be ashamed of it or expect anonymity. And don't blame Duke's lack of financial aid. I support your right to do what you want, but I have little patience for whiners.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

'Buns 'n' Bowties' and Silly Boys

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 9:30 AM

When I saw that Uptown Cabaret was hosting an all-male revue, I felt it was my sexological duty to attend. I grew up watching the Chippendales perform on The Donahue Show, with their trademark cuffs and collars, but I had never seen them live. As luck would have it, I recently made friends with Ava, a woman with connections to Charlotte's community of strippers, madams, escorts and the men who love them. She invited me to join her and her friends for a wild night out.

We started with a stop at the Midnight Diner. Heads turned as we made our way to the big corner booth. I was with women who were obviously well taken care of: hair and nails perfect, flawless skin and makeup, expensive jewelry, six-inch heels, and a WGAF attitude. I was prepared to feel insecure in their company, but they were friendly and welcoming. I think they liked the idea that they were going to educate the "expert."

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lovely things to do this month

Posted By on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Love it or hate it, Valentine's Day is almost here. I may not get flowers or chocolates from a lover, but who cares? What I am going to get is off my ass! There are some fantastic events going on this month in the Q.C. I'm going to be a V-day slut and try them all - from jazz songs to men in thongs. I heart February!

LoveMake at Dupp & Swat: What's the recipe for making love? LoveMake has the right idea: cocktails, massages and desserts. Single or coupled up, this event is about indulging your senses. Come make massage bars with me! I don't know what they are but they sound scandalous. $25. Feb. 6, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 2424 N. Davidson St., Suite 112B.

Jazz for Lovers at Bechtler Museum of Modern Art: Swoon and sway as Toni Tupponce, aka "the sexiest voice in Charlotte," sings with the Ziad Jazz Quartet. It will be the price of admission just to hear her sing "Lover Man (Oh,Where Can You Be?)." $12 (free for museum members). Feb. 7, 8:15 p.m. 420 S. Tryon St..

Purgatory 56: St. Valentine's Day Massacre at Amos' Southend: Need a place to unleash? (Or to be leashed, if you're into that.) Indulge your voyeuristic or exhibitionist tendencies at Purgatory. VIP passes get you special access to fetish demonstrations. $12-$15. Feb. 8, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. 1423 S. Tryon St.

Buns N Bowties at Uptown Cabaret: What is it about male strippers that is so ridiculous? I just can't take them seriously. But if they don't dance to "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" wearing nothing but chaps, I will be sorely disappointed. For reservations, call 704-493-5653. Feb. 9, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. 108 E. Morehead St.

Mingling for a Cure at Dandelion Market: Carolinas Matchmaker and Guys and Dolls of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation are hosting a mixer for professional singles in their 20's and 30's. Laurie Berzack, matchmaker extraordinaire, will be on hand to guide you. $15-$20. Feb. 12, 6:30 p.m. 118 W. 5th St.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What's really going on in your relationships

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 3:44 PM

Let me begin by saying that this is not a "men are dogs" diatribe, nor is it an attack on women. If anything, I hope to illuminate what is often hidden in the minds and lives of couples. If this isn't going on in your relationship, then it is most definitely going on in the relationship of someone you know.

I should also say from the outset that men don't want to sleep with me because I am particularly good looking or sexy or interesting. I'm average in every way. The only thing that may be especially appealing about me is that I study sex and am comfortable talking about sex with men. I am interested in how they think, feel and act sexually. Even when I am personally uncomfortable with what they reveal, I am usually able to maintain a non-judgmental attitude.

When it comes to relationships, men admit that they want to have the best of both worlds. They enjoy the perks of a woman who works, mothers and maintains a household. They say, "I'm not an idiot. I've got it good, and I don't want to mess that up. I have no intentions of leaving my wife." However, they are often sexually frustrated and looking to supplement their unsatisfactory sex life at home with a fun and strings-free sex life on the side.

I asked one of these guys last week, "So are you telling me that as a woman, I'm either the 'good woman' at home making you dinner or the 'bad girl' that you're hooking up with after work? Are these my only two options? Be cheated on or be cheated with?"

"Pretty much," he said. "You just have to decide which one you want to be."

He is, by most accounts, a good man. I know him to be caring, intelligent and responsible. He speaks highly of his wife and said that whatever he has got going on on the side, his family always comes first. He doesn't dodge his son's basketball game for a quick hook-up. He says he is always up front with his side chicks that he will never leave his family. He said his last girl got feelings and broke up with her boyfriend to be with him (yep, she was cheating too), but he told her that he needed to stop seeing her. Once a side chick catches feelings, it's time for him to cut her loose. He can't risk her messing up his marriage.

Another guy I know has been telling me for months that his wife hasn't had sex with him in almost a year and he's about to explode and would I please be willing to have sex with him. In the same minute he's tweeting about the awesome church service he's at, he's texting me that he can't stop fantasizing about me giving him a blow job. The same day he's posting adorable family pictures on Facebook, he asks if he can send me a picture of him naked.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. If I wanted to be with a married man, I could have my pick. I don't. I have no intention of getting in that kind of mess. But some women are all too eager to be with a married man. Some women even prefer it.

I know it's possible to be monogamous. I did it for 16 years. So, possible? Yes. Probable? Seems not. Odds are, in any long-term commitment, someone is going to cheat. And even if they don't do it, they probably want to. Which begs the question, is monogamy realistic? If not, what is?

More on that in the next post...

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Monday, January 27, 2014

The Death of Dating

Posted By on Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 10:06 AM

When I became single, I foolishly assumed that people still went on dates. Apparently dating is a lost art, at least with the guys in Charlotte that I meet via online dating. It should be called what it is: online booty calling. In my foray into the single life, I have been asked out on only a handful of dates. The invitations to sex, however, have been plentiful.

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I am sure there are men genuinely interested in forming relationships with women. Unfortunately, I have not met many. The men I meet seem to only want sex and they will take the road of least resistance to get it. There are so many men who initiate conversations and who say they are looking for more than sex, yet expect sex from the get go.

There has been a story circulating online this week about male Reddit user OKCThrowaway22221, who posed as a woman and set up a fake online dating profile. Prior to his experiment, he was convinced that women had it easier in the online dating world. He admits now he was wrong. He lasted a mere two hours before taking down the profile in disgust:

Guys would become hostile when I told them I wasn't interested in NSA sex, or guys that had started normal and nice quickly turned the conversation into something explicitly sexual in nature. Seemingly nice dudes in quite esteemed careers asking to hook up in 24 hours and sending them naked pics of myself despite multiple times telling them that I didn't want to.

I lasted three weeks on my latest round of online dating before taking my profile down last week. I met a couple of nice guys, but I met a lot of jerks too.

Exhibit A
I met M for a beer at Hickory Tavern and we watched football. We discovered some similar interests and values. There weren't huge sparks but I liked him enough to see him again. We talked about getting together the following weekend. On Saturday evening I suggested we meet for brunch in the morning. He suggested I come over immediately. I told him I wasn't comfortable with that. He asked again. I declined again. I told him that driving to his house at 11 p.m. sounded like a booty call and I wasn't interested in that. He called me a few names and that was that.

Exhibit B
I am not shy online so I often initiate contact, but C reached out to me first. We messaged a bit and then talked on the phone during my lunch break. An hour later he texted "Why don't you come to my place tonight." I told him that I would prefer to meet him somewhere public. He got upset that I didn't trust him, said that he was a man not a boy, assumed that I hooked up with younger better looking men all the time, told me that sex is the "easiest thing" for him to get, and good bye. Yikes. Seems I ruffled someone's feathers.

Exhibit C
I was really hoping K was different. We texted for several days and spoke on the phone a few times. He wasn't rushing anything. One afternoon he texted me to say that he changed his prior plans for the evening because he wanted to take me out for dinner and drinks and a movie instead. Finally!!! A real date. I was excited. However, over the next few hours the plans changed to just dinner, and then to just drinks. And then he insinuated that we would be spending the night together. When I texted back "I'm looking for more than a hook-up. We are on the same page, right?" he got defensive, said he didn't need me because he could hook himself up, and told me to "enjoy your day" (i.e. kiss off!). Another one bites the dust.

So that's it. I give up for now. The examples above are only the latest in a long string of men who want all the benefits of a relationship but don't want to exert any effort into earning my trust, respect or admiration. My theory is that women are so eager for love that they have set the bar too low and men have gotten lazy. When sex is easier to get, love is harder to find.

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