Incomplete Thoughts About Raising a Daughter

Incomplete Thoughts About Raising a Daughter

I’ve been meaning to write this post for forever, and it occurred to me that I’d probably be refactoring and making adjustments to my approach on raising my daughter from now until she’s well and truly independent. I figured that waiting until I’d figured that all out wasn’t worth the 15 year plus delay. So I’ll just put these ideas down as I have them now, as I’ve already shared them with a few other fretting dads with daughters, on edge about their girls coming of age in 7 or so years and wondering how to deal with suitors and other dad fears. I’ll present this as I worked it out in my head.

First was addressing the visceral fears, and accepting them. No, I really don’t want my daughter to grow up and to meet boys and god forbid have sex with them. At least, that’s the self-centered emotional state. To be more accurate, I don’t want to deal with the emotions that will come from those phases of her life, which make me dread the events themselves, but you’d never hear me saying I don’t want her to grow up and live her own fulfilling life. I put my entire life on hold for my children, I took a different path. Rather than work our asses off into our thirties and then have children in the house until we were collecting social security, we decided to have kids sooner and then tear into our careers after they left. So I’m as motivated as any parent for the children to grow up and leave. Yet, even with the internal inconsistency, the universal dread of fathers remains, and it has to be dealt with in a healthy way. I thought about the options, I tried to pin down the components of that fear. After all, I wasn’t fearful about ruining Emily’s life when I pursued her. Conversely, all of my daughter’s pursuers, as imaginary as they are right now, are imagined with contempt and suspicion. Perhaps that’s because I know that there’s only one motive I can count on from those suitors, no matter which other motives they may have, good or bad. That’s when it hit me. That’s what I’m dreading. What if she makes bad choices? There’s no way I’m going to let her wither on the vine if she does you know?

So the internal conversation shifts. How do I maximize my daughter’s chances of making good choices? I started considering the common options, and discarding the bad ones. I certainly knew some things that just don’t work. Sheltering is a big no-no. Wrap your kids in bubble wrap and they never grow up. This is the method of people who, having their dread of the future, simply and futilely try to prevent it. When your teenager hits their rebellious phase, what exactly is it they’re going to be rebelling against? Something to keep in mind. Sheltered girls seem to get into trouble, for two reasons that conspire together to form tragedy. The first is ignorance. Ignorance of sexuality, sexual health, anatomy, and the consequences of sex. These are the girls that fall for ‘just the tip’ and the pullout method for birth control. They’re naive and that’s bad enough on their own, but it’s made worse by the fact that naivety attracts the very people predisposed to take advantage of it. Ignorance also leaves a person ill equipped to resist peer pressure. Secondly, the shelter method can and often does produce an impulse to go taste forbidden fruit, usually indiscriminately, and that indiscretion is specifically what we’re trying to avoid when it comes right down to it. These two combine, the eagerness to seek the forbidden thing, and the ignorance of its dangers, to make for a really sad ending.

I briefly considered the other extreme, very early education. It’s something I’d seen talked about in passing, but the more I thought about it the less it made sense to me personally. At this age, kids are just absolutely curious about everything, and they don’t make good decisions. First of all, I’m a firm believer in letting your children enjoy their time as children for as long as is healthy. Second, simply knowing about it could be a motivator for premature and ill-considered exploration. Three yearolds aren’t exactly good at things like delayed gratification, curiosity deferment, or taking into account the consequences of actions. So all the curiosity would penetrate, but none of the warnings would, is what I considered a very likely outcome.

So what other methods are available? How do we encourage our daughters to grow without throwing them to the wolves? I watched my three yearold. I took in her personality, which I was always familiar with, but I really sat down and watched it, and I noticed a few things. Aside from being utterly adorable, smart, and especially precocious, she’s quite picky. Heh, now there’s an idea, what if she was as picky with her boys as she was with her food? That’d be nice. She’s also somewhat athletic. She loves climbing and shamed her much older brother into going up a faux rock wall because she was going to do it first. I got this image in my head of a strong athletic woman that didn’t take crap. That’s when it hit me. Confidence.

I figured the best thing I could do for my daughter was build up her sense of self-worth. Spend time with her, be a father figure, be a role model. No really think about those words, role model. I am her model not just for what a father should be but also for what a husband should be, right now I’m the only one she knows. I’m pretty sure Emily would tell you that while I’m not perfect, because who is, I’m already a pretty darn good role model as a husband. But my daughter doesn’t really see even half of those moments, I didn’t think osmosis was good enough. So I started setting aside a little time once in a while to take her on little dates. That reminds me, we’re a bit over due. I already do this with my son, that is, I make one on one time for him away from his mother and his siblings to just spend a bit of time together and learn how I tic. That relationship comes a little more natural, it’s not a conscious thing. All I have to do around my son is do dad stuff, it’s a direct relationship, I’m a man and that’s what he’s wanting to grow up to be, simple, intuitive. What I didn’t realize was it was just as simple with my daughter, I just hadn’t considered my status as a role model. Simple, just less intuitive.

So I took her on a date, and what a nice time that was. We went for ice cream and I took her to the new age store to pick out a pretty rock to display in her room. She set her eyes on a nice gypsum sphere and she admires it regularly. We’ve been on a few more since, and she’s been increasingly sweet on me, which, that’s just kryptonite, it’s something I can’t explain to anyone without a daughter. There’s a few things going on here that I think are going to be very positive for her long term. One, I’m setting a positive relationship as our base state, which helps counterbalance the hard-to-do but absolutely necessary regimen of my role as a disciplinary figure, this is going to help me convince her to confide in me later, so I know when she gets into trouble before that spirals out of control into worse trouble. Second, it’s helping her sense of self-worth to get dedicated one on one time. Third, I’m teaching her the standards by which she should expect to be treated by men through my behavior. Fourth, I’m decoupling the idea of having a good time on a date with a sexual payoff, and I think you’d be surprised how entwined those concepts have become—consider what tinder has done to the expectation of dates.

I’ve been enjoying employing this method, which I’m hoping accomplishes my goals in raising my daughter, but only time will tell. To make that more clear, here’s what I’m hoping I’ll accomplish in the long run. I’d like to foster her sense of self worth, which will hopefully allow me to explain the consequences of sex without seeming adversarial or sex negative—this is a sex positive household after all. It’s not the idea of sex I want my daughter to devalue, it’s that I want her to value herself highly enough to be in charge of her sexuality rather than carried by it. I’d like her to be able to be mature enough to acknowledge her desires as healthy so that she can process them in a way that allows her to make good decisions about who she shares that with, and I want her to feel like she can confide in me and her mother without fearing the consequences more than continuing down a bad path, because ultimately it is her decision making skills I’m going to have to trust and rely on later on. I can’t do it for her. On that note, it’s also important to make sure to pass on skills that increase her independence; from how to get and hold down a job, cooking, financial skills, and employable skills, one of the easiest ways to end up in a bad situation is to be dependent on someone else for your care and contribute to a sense of inability to walk away, and that goes for sons and daughters alike. The ability to walk away is the strongest position of negotiation. Competence and confidence surely is the best defense, therefore.

I’ve shared these thoughts with other concerned fathers, and though they experience the same apprehension and dread as I do about witnessing the future, they like the idea of my method. After all, they all know too, from experience, how inadequate alternate methods were when they were doing the chasing. They also remember how scary and intimidating the collected and confident girls were. Ultimately, it’s not me I want potential suitors to fear for disrespecting my daughter, it’s her. There, yeah, I think that’s the point of this method summed in a sentence. As I said before, these thoughts don’t really feel complete yet, and perhaps they’ll change over time, but until then, that’s my current thinking. ‘Til next time.

Getting Through Bad Months

Getting Through Bad Months

Or weeks, or years, or whatever period of time is bad. Let’s get one thing out of the way right away. This post is about how I handle things and how I cope, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know what works for you. Maybe you can identify with some of the methods and techniques I use or maybe they’ll be something that you’d find willing to try, but I’m no snake oil salesman, and I can’t promise these things will help you through. I just hope they will. I’d rather you never need to know how to get through tough times but, that’s just a fact of life.

Don’t Change Who You Are

It’s tempting, after you’re hurt or you go through a bad time, to discard everything associated with that memory even if they’re a critical part of who you are. A favorite song, a hobby, a core behavior, a belief system, an entire city, they’re all things people can ditch in an effort to quickly relieve themselves of reminders of bad times. I can’t deny that these things can seem to help in the short run but I don’t think they’re good long term. Throwing these things away just gives power and legitimacy to the people or things that hurt you. If I could draw a familiar parallel, it’s a lot like the security theater that comes after a horrific attack on innocent people. We tell ourselves that changing our behavior is how the terrorists really win, and then we go and radically change our behavior in an act to make us feel safer. For bonus points, the things we change don’t seem to make us any safer at all when push comes to shove. Changing who you are won’t stop the future bad times that you’re going to go through, that everyone goes through. Bad times are a fact of life, and changing yourself in a fruitless attempt to avoid them does nothing but give them power over your life. Security theater for the soul. There is one exception to this advice though. If you get hurt in the same ways over and over, and the hurt has something to do with a life goal, like holding a job, retaining friends, or building meaningful relationships, it’s definitely worth taking a look at yourself, and you should do so with a professional. The scope of this blog however, is for those unconnected bad moments that aren’t part of a larger pattern. Sometimes bad things just happen. This is about those times.

You’re Not Alone

While each individual’s suffering is unique, suffering itself is universal. Everyone goes through tough times, everyone suffers, but life goes on. That’s not to diminish your suffering, quite the opposite. Your suffering is meaningful, it may even redefine you going forward if it is profound enough, but if you let it keep you from moving, from going forward at all, you can make it worse for yourself. Like it or not, the Earth doesn’t stop spinning when you hit a rough patch and neglecting yourself and your commitments can make a bad situation much worse. You haven’t hit bottom yet, don’t aim for it. Someone, somewhere, even if it’s just the person in the mirror, is counting on you. Don’t let them down. Friends are good to have in times like this, good friends, the ones that don’t get upset when you have an emotional load you need help carrying. You’re about to find out who your real friends are, and which ones are fair weather. That’s useful knowledge to have. Just remember, being under the microscope is often the price you pay for this sort of help. Your real friends don’t like seeing these things happen to you just as much as you don’t, and they’re going to try and help you prevent repeating mistakes, and that might mean they have to know things. They might have to see you ugly cry into a beer, they might have to learn that you did something awful, or that you were the victim of something awful, and either of those things can be painful to share, or to see, but real friends will listen and help you through, now isn’t the time to push them away.

Avoid Isolating Yourself

This is related to the preceding paragraph, but it’s important enough to reiterate. Isolated people are vulnerable people. Now isn’t the time to shrink from your friends. You’re emotionally vulnerable, there are predators out there who will exploit that, try to make themselves out as your savior, make promises to provide whatever it is you think you need, and then trap you with it. Whether it’s rushing into a rebound, getting in with the wrong crowd, putting yourself in a dangerous situation, or ceasing to bring in income, real friends are going intervene when you’re being self-destructive. All predators, four legged, winged, or the worst of all, two legged, prefer isolated and weak prey. Don’t make yourself attractive to them.

Joy Is Contagious Too

One of the most common excuses I see for people withdrawing from their friends and family when things get tough is not wanting to be an emotional burden. Sorrow is contagious, and you don’t want to spread it. That’s a reasonable concern to have. Negativity actually is contagious. One couple divorcing often results in a rash of divorces throughout their social circles, but having a baby is contagious too, and that’s because Joy is also contagious. First of all, you’re not sparing your friends the story of your hardship by radically changing your behavior in a way that I guarantee you is going to alert your friends to something being wrong. Spare yourself the fantasy that by vanishing suddenly you can spare people some worry, that behavior is worrying in itself. Your friends and family however, will try to get you to have fun and get over it. Let them. Let them take you to a movie, to the beach, to your favorite bar or hangout. Joy is contagious too.

Book Review – Open Bobs BB volume 1

Book Review – Open Bobs BB volume 1

Over the course of this blog we’ve reviewed a bunch of indie-made dildos and I’ve reviewed a fair few books. Today I’m reviewing my first indie-published book, Open Bobs BB volume 1. There were some small challenges in reviewing Open Bobs BB—I’ll just call this OBBB from here on out—that I think are useful to go over. I was asking questions that didn’t have obvious answers, as I typically review from the point of view of the self-help genre with questions like, Who is this book for? What use is it? What’s the value proposition? We’ll be covering answers to those questions where they’re appropriate, but OBBB isn’t strictly, nor is it billed as, a self-help item, it’s a collection item which happens to contain some self-help segments.

Let’s start straight away with one of the most obvious things in need of an answer, what does that title mean? Funny enough, you won’t find that answer in the book, I think there’s an assumption that anyone reading the book will be familiar enough with the blog already to know. Well, I hope that changes, because I think more people should own a copy, but we’ll get to that later. So the short of it is, “Open Bobs BB?” was the first message performer/sex worker/author/more Tawney Seren received when she started working in the sex industry. You can learn more here. I do wish OBBB mentioned that in the introduction though.

From there we work our way through a curated selection of works from the Open Bobs BB blog itself. The formatting of this book really shines here, credit to Harper the Fox. The text is easy on the eyes, the breaks feel natural, and the design lends a sense of flow to the reading, which is very nice to see in a collection type book. As I alluded to earlier, the content itself runs quite a wide gamut of topics. There’s serious practical advice for removing cum stains but also interviews with mothers about their sex lives and body image and how they’ve coped after children, a topic that really hits home here and that I’ve written on at length. There’s windows into the lives of sex-workers and fetish practitioners. It’s not really possible to convey the range of topics here without kinda spoiling the contents in their entirety, so I won’t, let’s just say I found the change of pace from piece to piece enjoyable but formatted in a way so it wasn’t jarring. My favorite bit was the interview with the moms though, for the record.

So, there’s a good question some of you may be asking right now and it’s one that deserves an answer. Why would I buy a book that contains a collection of blog posts I can go read for free? Glad you asked, because while there are some answers to that question that are easy, there’s one I came up with that I found pretty surprising, and all of them fit into a general theme of the benefits of a physical item, though a digital version is available. One of the easy answers is as a show of support that gets you something a little more concrete than a thank you. I also have a thing for physical media, always have, I’m biased towards it, but that’s because of things like the next reason. This is a great book for what I normally consider to be a book graveyard, the coffee table, but this time we’re using it to start conversations instead of to sit unused. My self-help books really don’t accomplish this well. Many people avoid the self-help section of book stores specifically because being seen there means, to many people, that there must be some large flaw with them or something wrong with them, and maybe that’s true, but it’s a tough thing to admit in public for anyone. Draping that on your coffee table comes with similar concerns over the message you’re trying to send. Why would I keep She Comes First on my coffee table? What message would I be sending? Not too keen on telling my guests that I might just have an oral edge over them.

But let’s say I’m really high in openness and really need to be explicitly told borders early in a relationship of any kind. Let’s also say for a moment that people who have low openness are really terrible at communicating things like that. If I leave OBBB on the table, odd title and all, with that cover—getting to that soon—I’d find that to be a more subtle and at their own pace way of getting to know someone’s limits. It’s a world apart from sending them a direct link to the blog via text or something, that would be me shoving the conversation on them, but when you enter my house it would be hard to object to seeing the material there, this is my space. So yes, I’ve finally figured out a use for the coffee table as something other than a place where unwanted magazines go to die. Thanks OBBB.

So about that cover. Despite it’s usefulness in the prior scenario I have to give it the same minor ding I give the rest of the books I review that have the “I will never read this is a coffee shop” cover. I should call this the e-reader award honestly. Damn me and my need for physical items that cover sex but that I’d also like to read in public, or at least away from my utterly lovable but very distracting family.

Let’s get into another use for putting this sort of thing into a collection piece and the value that can bring. Another artifact of doing a lot of book reviews on sensitive topics, and being as in the IT biz as I am, is that a lot of this stuff is not safe to link to or from work. Networks are increasingly monitored and even if you’re on a personal device you may be on monitored wi-fi. Your workplace, if it isn’t already, is getting increasingly invasive into your browser habits for reasons both good and bad. Passing someone a physical book removes these considerations.

I’ve spent a lot of time so far weighing on the pros and cons of physical versus electronic media, where that could have been it’s own post, and maybe it will be, but in light of what this product is, it seemed the right and necessary time for that topic to be covered. Also, this book is a short and quick read if you’re going to be doing it cover to cover style. I managed it with child distractions in about 2 hours, 137 pages.

So would I recommend Open Bobs BB volume 1? Absolutely, but excepting rare cases, my recommendations always come with a few caveats in the form of “if you are looking for X”. Let’s start with a recap of the stats. OBBB is a collected works style book with a great format, layout, a short length that lends it to casual reading or busy lifestyles without much opportunity cost for your time, and is inexpensive. Aside from my specific boundary probing scenario above, this book also serves the purposes of anyone who is even passingly curious about the lives of online sex workers, fetish practitioners, or people who are just curious about sexuality and the forms it takes in general—that’d be me. This is also the time to get some disclosures down. I normally have some boilerplate for these reviews, as I’m typically never tied in any way towards the source of the content. The ties here are really loose, but need disclosing. I have had some of—one actually, as of this writing—my content featured on the Open Bobs BB website and intend to submit more. I purchased this book to read out of my own volition and curiosity and Tawney was blindsided by the news that I’d be reviewing it. So there you go.

If you’d like to pick up Open Bobs BB volume 1 you can get a physical copy like I did—the most recommended option—but you can also pick up the digital version, both are available here.

Keeping Passion Alive

Keeping Passion Alive

I’ve often been described as a very passionate man, whether that comes to my work, my relationships, basically anything I do—provided of course that I care about it. I really care about the quality of Emily’s sex life. I cared about that for my previous partner as well. That sort of passion is something that always came easily for me, and the idea of men could be selfish in the bedroom was something I actually had to be introduced to later as an adult. That was down to my father, and some critical decisions he made in regards to my sexual education. Dad isn’t a particularly open man, at least, he can’t really do that directly, but what he did have was a sexuality section is his library and when I came of age he mentioned that he had books on the subject, and that I was free to read them. It didn’t escape my notice that of the five books he had on the art of sex, four of them were dedicated to a woman’s pleasure and only one to his own. That sort of set the stage for me with regards to expectations of what is meant to happen in the bedroom. In many very old and primitive cultures the inability to please a woman was seen as catastrophic enough to prevent conception itself. As for me, even before I started my reading, I didn’t see the point without making an emotional connection, and I assumed, quite correctly I might add, that the quality of each encounter would be directly related to the emotional purpose of it. I’m setting this scene up not to pat myself on the back or brag, but to give context to my perspective of a plight affecting many marriages. For many, some time after marriage, whether that’s years or immediately, there seems to be some sort of lost magic, and further still many couples defeatedly accept this fate as an expectation long before they tie the knot. What to do about that exactly requires explaining some deeper held meanings of what marriage is, so we’ll be taking the long way round.

Esther Perel calls this problem a lack of desire, the flame going out, and in her view this can only be solved by creating some sort of distance in the relationship. Apparently many people view the flame dying down as a necessary stage of marriage. I think that may have been the most shocking thing about reading Mating In Captivity. I wondered why that was such an accepted presupposition, the thought never even occurred to me that sexual desire would naturally wane over the course of a relationship, hell, I consider that a sign of a relationship that’s starting to fail. If anything, I consider the separation of sexual health from marital health to be an issue all on its own and it’s rare that I see the former fall apart without the latter following suit. Clearly though, there’s a problem with fires going out. I think I could even accept Esther’s position more readily, if I assume that the relationships she’s talking about are built on a foundation of pure Eros, or what we refer to as romantic love and lately even lust. To me, this would be akin to lighting the flame of a relationship, having no fuel available but pine straw. At the very beginning of Mating in Captivity, Esther talks about how there are actually couples that have no trouble keeping that flame alive, but she talks about them like they’re weirdos, and she certainly points out their rarity. Esther makes no further mention of these people, and is quick to point out her material isn’t directed at them. I have to assume this lack of ability to explain the perspective is borne out of the fact that she isn’t one of those weirdos. Well, Emily and I are those weirdos, and perhaps that’s some perspective I can and ought to give.

Perhaps if we kindled relationships with better types of fuel than pine straw we wouldn’t accept it as fate that fires would dwindle and extinguish over time. Have you ever tried to keep a fire going with nothing but kindling? It’s something to give a shot, even to just capture the symbolism with experience. You’ll find yourself expending energy, rushing around in a never ending panic to keep the fire fed. Any interruption, no matter how needful, and the fire dies down if not outright expends its fuel. Plato describes a situation wherein lovers are also friends. In Plato’s view this transforms Eros into something more substantial than romantic lust and keeps the passion of a romantic relationship perpetually fed. Eros and philia are transformed by one another, and feed one another, creating a positive feedback loop that endures time and hardship. This lines up a little more closely with my experience. Not to undermine the importance of Eros however, I find when that flame dies down the marriage soon follows. Perhaps it’s a mistake to view those things as separate. Those fires are one in the same. We do not replace Eros with philia, one modifies the other. We can even find some pointers towards this in biology. When you have sexual relations you release oxytocin. This neurotransmitter is responsible for a lot of things but the two we’re interested in at the moment is pair-bonding and trust. Mothers release a ton of the stuff when they give birth, and when they nurse. In fact, any stimulation of the nipples of women seems to release it. Oxytocin also regulates uterine contractions, it’s what’s in Petocin, and it’s why women close to term are encouraged to have regular sex (as it releases oxytocin and helps move labor along). Oh yeah, did I mention it promotes pair-bonding and trust?

Trust has been fingered as a key predictor of divorce by Dr. John Gottman. In his book What Makes Love Last: How To Build Trust and Avoid Betrayalreviewed here—Dr. Gottman lays out his case and his research, showing that low levels of trust are a highly predictive indicator of a doomed relationship. He also goes over the behaviors outside of sex that build trust and behaviors that erode it. Extremes of either seem to be self-reinforcing. So let’s put that together a bit. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter released during sex that influences trust and pair-bonding. Low trust is a strongly predictive indicator of relationship failure. Behaviors outside of sex influence trust levels higher or lower. High enough trust begets itself, damaged trust begets mistrust. The idea that a romantic relationship reinforced by a genuine connection outside of its sexuality is stronger than one based purely on Eros is supported by modern scientific literature. Plato figured this out a long time ago. Relationships that merge Eros and philia feed each other sustainably and are the most durable.

If you’ve followed this far, you may be thinking I’m making the argument that the die is cast, that relationships started in the wrong way are doomed to failure and that there’s no helping it. You’re either doing things the way I did or you’re screwed. Nah. What I’m saying is that you have to be more than your spouses provider, or nanny, or babysitter, or any other major marital function you can think of. All of those functions after all are merely temporary, or at the very least, replaceable. Sexual satisfaction is likewise replaceable. A good marriage however, isn’t, it provides a critical function that I think is well summed up by a quote from Dr. Jordan Peterson in one of his recorded lectures. He says on marriage…well actually I was going to put a quote here but he’s damn wordy, but the expressiveness is useful, so I’m just going to leave a clip here.
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It’s often extolled in the virtuous theater of social media that a friend is someone who will support you but a true friend is someone who will tell you you’re screwing up and it’s your fault. This is a sentiment I agree with but in my experience no matter how much people talk about wanting one, most people can’t handle having a so-called true friend. I don’t think that’s an inherent flaw, I think that’s why we take marriage vows. This is the aged oak that is lit by the kindling of Eros. Oak burns hot, and it burns long, hot enough and long enough that you need not constantly rush about to refuel it the way you have to in a relationship built on pine straw. In this sort of fire, you may actually take a moment to enjoy the light it gives and the warmth it radiates before you have to give it more fuel. You may be in one of those pine straw relationships, and you may believe everything is fine, and hey maybe it is, but don’t be surprised when you find out just how much upkeep you’ve been doing on that fire when something else interrupts you; hardship, children, a new job that requires relocation, longer hours at work. I’ve been through all those things with Emily, and it was never the sex that kept us together, good as it is.

Now, that was the long way round to get to it, but I think all those details are important, because it is for those qualities of my marriage that I do not have to think about keeping our fire stoked—that is something that happens mostly on its own. Yes, there’s some effort involved here and there, the small reminders of physical affection, the occasional date night, and other romantic gestures, but it’s not something we fight with or struggle with. It’s what makes us those weirdos where the flame doesn’t just die on its own unless we create some sort of contrived distance between us or other strategy for tricking ourselves into being sexually attracted to each other again. I never fell into the trap of thinking of my wife as only a mother or only a caregiver or as adopting any other sort of single identity that reduces her sexual or romantic value to me because our relationship is deeper than her utility—which by the way, are the situations Esther Perel deals with in her book. If you want to call that ‘keeping distance’ you go right ahead, I call that proper togetherness. I call that knowing without a doubt, that come praise or criticism, the things Emily says to me and about me are coming from a position of my long term well being.

Hey, maybe that does actually make us weirdos. Maybe you take a look at the words I’ve written and say you couldn’t live your life that way. Totally valid. I can tell you one thing though, I don’t mind being in the position of looking at people who can’t seem to make the time for intimacy, or are in a marriage of utility, and can’t seem to wrap their heads around where all the magic and love has gone, and thinking that they’re the weirdos. I don’t mind that situation being alien to us. If that situation isn’t alien to you, perhaps it’s time to be a weirdo.

Dealing With Sexual Insecurity – A Male Perspective

So I saw a pretty interesting question posted on Twitter the other day by a fellow reviewer. She goes by the Backwoods Bedroom handle on Twitter and she’s definitely worth following, but on to the question itself.


“I just saw a tweet, and it got me thinking. I want to try one of the silicone penis extenders so bad, but don’t know how to broach the subject with my partner. So my question to those of you with a penis, would you be hurt if your partner asked you to try a penis extender?”

This question was issued as part of a poll, which you can reference here if you’re interested. I personally did not feel I could adequately express the potential brier patch of this situation within the limited confines of Twitter, so here we are. While this is a response to the question and its author, it is not a direct one, and I’ve had to consider everyone that may potentially read this. Let’s also keep in mind the kind of space the review community is. Seventeen percent of the respondents indicated they absolutely would not want their partner to approach them with this question, and even in a vacuum that’d be a significant portion. This is sex review Twitter space though, and I’d bet my less developed nut that as you leave that relatively sex positive place that number would climb precipitously. However, for the purposes of this piece, I’m going to deal with that number as is, I just thought that context was needful to establish.

The original question is multi-parted, even if it doesn’t look that way at first glance, and we’ll need to deal with those parts one at the time before we bring them all together for approach. Part one…

I want to try one of the silicone penis extenders so bad,…

Okay, but why? There’s nothing inherently wrong with that statement, or even eventually wrong, but if you don’t know exactly why you want to change things up in the bedroom you may answer a sensitive follow-up question clumsily and that can lead to hurt feelings. I will however go over a red flag answer to this question. If the reason you want to try a penis extender is because you find your partner inadequate, you probably want to stop right there. Why? Well let’s explore the nature of what a penis extender actually is at its core.

Unlike dildos or vibrators or a myriad of other sex toys a penis extender isn’t confined to being an experience add-on, a penis extender changes your partner. Sometimes these changes can be fun and obvious, like say with a french tickler, but in the case of extenders the message is clear, I want you to be longer/girthier/whatever. Adding inhuman textures and features is one thing, and I’ll actually circle back to that point later, but there’s an inherent declaration of inadequacy in using an extender. Let’s turn the tables on this a bit with a hypothetical. What if your partner got you a sex toy and this sex toy was widely known as a she-tightener. Imagine this as a penetrable toy that is designed to be inserted into the vagina, the net effect being you’re vagina being replaced with a different one. Your partner would on some level be telling you that he wanted you to have a different vagina wouldn’t he? As an aside, this is called vagception—because of course there’s a name for this—and it has a small subreddit, because of course it does.


…would you be hurt if your partner asked you to try a penis extender?

Now, I can hear a very reasonable objection here already. What if that’s very different from the message you’re trying to send? Well that’s why we started with the “why?” question, and that’s why in the hypothetical I gave the toy is named she-tightener. Be careful about using the accepted labels for these toys if those labels don’t match your intended use. Penis extender is a name that is likely to be reacted to negatively. Understand that the nature of these toys is an especially sensitive one, you’re asking for their body to change. Be prepared to answer questions like; “Why not a dildo?”, “Am I not adequate?”, “What’s the draw for you?”, and that’s already a relatively calm and cool reaction. Heaven forbid the extender be realistically styled or resemble an ex or some equally potentially emotionally hurtful thing.

You may be wondering why I’m focusing so very hard on the change side of this. You may be reasonably thinking, “Well yes, this is like a dildo, and you’re okay with those right?”. You may be thinking that it’s like a thrusting dildo that is self-guiding and self-powered—probably a good point to make honestly. What’s the big objection here?

Well the big point is your partners feelings, and some insecurities they may or may not have, insecurities you need to be aware of if they do have them. Keep in mind, many men struggle with and fail to disconnect their partners sexual satisfaction with their own sexual performance. That is to say that there are many men out there with the idea that their value in a relationship is highly or entirely sex based, and that they should be sole provider of their partners sexual satisfaction. These tend to be the men that aren’t okay with women having sex toys at all, it would depreciate their value, you may have met some of those before. Ultimately remember, that as toxic as these ideas may seem to you, underlying them is a concern that they’ll lose you—that’s the consequence of losing your worth as a partner. It’s the reasoning borne of inexperience and insecurity, but it’s rooted in the idea that they don’t want to lose you. Most can be gently educated out of this. On the one hand, you have the sexual insecurity creating insecurity about the resilience of the relationship but that also works the other direction if your partner isn’t convinced that you aren’t going to leave and it can reinforce or even create the sexual insecurity in question.

Reinforcing these ideas is an entire industry revolving around “correcting” penises that are less than magical. Everything from pumps to pills are thrown at the insecurities so predictable and universal they can be targeted for profit. You too can have the magically satisfying porn star penis that you’ve been convinced is the minimum standard via the same, if only you would use this pump or take this pill. There’s a large market targeting female insecurity and falsehoods about tightness or moisture too, and perhaps that may be the singular best thing I can reference to bring this issue into focus. When it comes to sexual insecurity, the targets of that exploitative market indicates we are universally affected. Fortunately, that means you have a valid frame of reference. Now you take the pills, you take the pump, at least those act directly on the body, dangerous as they may be, and the object of pleasure is still his penis. Imagine for a moment the feeling of dejection that would come from such a lazy solution as a sleeve, if not carefully considered and not wanted for the exactly right reason.

More secure men aren’t immune to this either. Security too is a spectrum, and it comes with experience, and is often a journey. Many men have learned that their partners sexual satisfaction belongs to them. They have learned that their partners sex toys can provide sexual experiences both when and where they can’t, and they enjoy the awesome benefits of those feelings of security in their sexuality and their relationship. In the particular case of the penis extender, they are available both at the time and capable of providing the type. The penis extender therefore targets the very last island on the road to sexual security, it targets the place where the last bit of insecurity is most likely to reside. Your partner, as I do for mine, may have a large collection of toys he enjoys you using and enjoys using on you. Have you ever expressed before how none of those things could quite replace him? I’d wager that’s come up. How do you follow that line of reasoning in the case of the penis extender, as you inherently ask his body to change, as you inherently replace the one thing you have been telling him was safe from criticism?


“…how to broach the subject with my partner.”

The answer to all of these rest with you and your partner. Each answer is going to be as unique as your relationship, and I could never give you a blanket answer on how to proceed with this question and how to make this approach. What I can give you, hopefully, is a map of empathy that has all the minefields and treacherous roads clearly marked, and I hope that’s what I’ve done today. I know that the tone of this article so far has been, perhaps negative, and that’s because of the weight of the consequences of getting this wrong. I am in no way suggesting that wanting to use one of these extenders is in any way inherently bad, I just think it wanders into an especially dangerous mine field that may even include fears of being replaced. There are however, perhaps some positive ways to broach this, and there I have a few suggestions.

First and foremost, make sure you’re protecting his sexual value to you. He is sexually valuable to you right? Beyond the specific subject of extenders, this is the most basic and fundamental rule to introducing anything to the bedroom, and it works in both directions, just as applicable to men as women. Make sure he knows that he’s sexually valuable as much as you feel he is. As I mentioned earlier, you have to get to the bare-bones of why you want to introduce this kind of toy. Perhaps it’s just one more tick-box of things you haven’t tried yet. What if you just wanna see what all that fuss is about? Maybe you’ll use it once and maybe you won’t even like it. Make sure he knows that. Maybe you really want the fuck machine experience without the cost, also, maybe he’s a damn good fuck machine—compliment opportunity there. Maybe you could even make that part of play earlier in the day. Tease him with a hearty dinner, your fuck machine needs good quality fuel after all. Maybe he likes when you take charge occasionally, I know I sure as hell do. Sometimes Emily forcefully tells me that I’m her toy tonight, and I enjoy that, not the least of which because she literally has a few grand worth of other options—an example of preserving and protecting my feelings of sexual worth.

I hope that with these examples I’ve given you the start of an empathetic map that will allow you to broach this subject safely and with minimal risk of hurt feelings . Whatever you do, make sure your reasoning is at least as clear as it is honest. Good luck.

Book Review: Getting To Yes

Book Review: Getting To Yes

Boy has it been way too long since I’ve done one of these. Sorry about that! For whatever reason, over the last couple of months I’ve found it hard to read at all, much less get through material as certainly dry as self-help genre stuff. On that note Getting To Yes isn’t generally found in the self-help section, but rather the business section. If I could make a simple and critical point however, many things in our lives are negotiations and especially our relationships and even more especially when they go south. So I’m not just going to review this book, I’m going to give you some advice on how to use it. The latter half of that sentence may have tipped you off, this is going to be a positive recommendation.

“Facts, even if established, may do nothing to solve the problem”

If I could describe Getting To Yes in a nutshell it would be to compare it to a book I’ve reviewed previously, What Makes Love Last, by John Gottman. Basically, the material in Getting To Yes is called principled negotiation, and it’s the basis for the negotiation techniques Gottman encourages you to employ to repair and retain trust, Getting To Yes is however more comprehensive. To put it another way, What Makes Love Last could be considered the application of Getting To Yes as strictly applied to romantic relationships.

I’m being a little simplistic in that statement, which isn’t entirely fair to either book, but that’s a quick and comprehensive tl;dr for Getting To Yes. On that note, Getting To Yes is a far more comprehensive explanation of principled negotiation while managing to come in a smaller, more condensed and quicker to read package. Throughout this review, I have peppered memorable quotes from Getting To Yes that I thought would have been helpful to include in What Makes Love Last.

“Give them a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the process”

Now for the cover critique, or should I say cover appreciation. Since Getting To Yes isn’t strictly a self-help section book it mercifully comes with a cover that can actually be read in public without drawing attention to yourself. Bye bye lipstick red covers, suggestive fruit, and vulva purses. You could actually be forgiven for casually reading this in a coffee shop, or on a lunch break at work, physically, sans the protection of an e-reader and its coverless covertness. What a breath of fresh air that is.

“…some people begin by announcing that their position is an issue of principle and refuse even to consider the other side’s case. ‘It’s a matter of principle’ becomes a battle cry in a holy ware over ideology.”

The prose is deadpan, dry, but well written. It’s what you’d expect from a book focused on business deals and other similar negotiations but at the very least it’s not laborious to get through or especially hard to read. The book is small in physical dimension, and while 200 pages is already fast to get through, the fact that the pages are also small and the font is still large enough to comfortably read, and adding in some white space for the generously peppered formatting, reading Getting To Yes can be done in an afternoon easily. One of my metrics for scoring any self-help book is how quickly the contents can be digested and put to use, and Getting To Yes scores very high here.

Cost is another serious metric to consider. If a certain book is 40 bucks but there are two other books for fifteen each that cover the topic more helpfully and more completely I’ll generally give the nod to the two. It’s an opportunity cost to read a book, and combined with the length and difficulty of the read it can make one book not worth reading over two or even three others. Getting To Yes knocks this one out of the park as well, usually under 20 bucks, but at the time of writing, UNDER EIGHT on Amazon for the paperback.

“If you want the other side to accept a disagreeable conclusion, it is crucial that you involve them in the process of reaching that conclusion”

So that’s the short of it, and that’s why Getting To Yes comes with a quick and strong recommendation. There’s something else I’d like to talk about though, that really makes this book very useful for me, and highlighted by a recent catastrophic failure to use the techniques therein—though I am unsure if that would have effected the outcome of said event.

Here’s the thing. You don’t need advanced negotiating techniques about unimportant things. You don’t necessarily need to know the difference between positional and principled negotiation to win the battle of the pizza toppings. You may win more battles of pizza toppings with such techniques, but losing the pizza topping battle isn’t a hill many of us are willing to die on in the first place and I hope something many of us wouldn’t even consider ‘losing’.

When an argument gets serious, consequential, and important however it also tends to be emotionally charged, and like many of you, that emotional charge on its own may rid me of the use of my toolbox of knowledge. Stress physiologically takes us out of our executive function and puts us into more primitive modes of thinking. I’m the good guy, you’re the enemy, at least, that’s what the stress is making me think. If you’re the source of my stress you’re dealing with the same part of my brain that teaches me how to deal with a hungry lion. People vary in this response, some freeze, some flee, some fight. I fight. This gets us into a bit of a circular conundrum. If the best time to use this knowledge is the time I’m least able to access the areas of my brain that contain it, how is it useful?

I don’t have a specific answer for that, but I know that for someone as prone to emotional flooding as I am, I’m going to need some sort of technique, some trick, some device, that backs me out of flooding the moment I hit it, because anything less is too late. The other participant in the conversation willing, I can postpone or even stop needless suffering while I recompose and remember all this training I’ve put myself through. I don’t have that technique yet, and I’m going to have to practice it once I come up with one. My major point here is that simply knowing this stuff may not be sufficient for you to start employing it. I flood very quickly relatively to my circumstances. General levels of pre-exisitng stress will effect how quickly each of us emotionally floods compared to our normal rate. But if your rate is generally high like mine, neither What Makes Love Last or Getting To Yes is going to help you when you need it the most. Practice detecting flooding in yourself, and in others, and have others, and particularly those that care about you the most, practice detecting flooding in you. Build a safety net, and use it, and then by all means, leverage what you learn in Getting To Yes.

Distributed Manufacturing – A Ray of Hope for Families

Last weekend I went out to Orlando Florida to visit a small company named Uberrime (Uber-ree-may). It’s a one man shop owned, worked, and managed by Marco Uberrime. I had gone down there to observe and understand the process of making silicone dildos by hand. If that strikes you as odd, welcome to the blog! You’ll get used to it. I got the additional education I wanted for sure, and I also got to chat a bit with Marco, quite the interesting fella himself. The shop itself is quite homey, but the production area is quite sterile for reasons that I hope are obvious. While I was there I observed, commented on, and was instructed more or less in how several models were made and the thought processes that go behind that and behind the business. Below are some pictures I took with Marco’s permission of several products curing in molds.

I’ll have more on Marco and Uberrime in the near future when we review one of his products. Those of you who’ve paid attention to the title and the content so far may be thinking I’ve got a screw loose. Henry what the hell do dildos and bringing hope to families possibly have to do with one another!?

Distributed manufacturing, that’s in the title too, and it’s become more popular over the last decade. It’s easy to forget, but the amount of time parents spend working outside of the modern home is anomalous from a historical perspective. For the vast bulk of human history, livings were made by the work done inside of the home. While we’re on that, I highly recommend reading about the history of marriage and getting familiar with it. We live in extraordinary and tumultuous times for families. While our divorce rate is not without precedent from a historical perspective, the severity of the economic burden watching and caring for a child brings is. The opportunity cost of not being productive in order to care for a child has hardly been higher since before we started farming and had to travel from food source to food source, and perhaps even before that.

Even as the industrial revolution raged on, for the most part, it was expected there would be someone home taking care of the kids, this usually was mom and it wasn’t uncommon for mom to have some live-in help. A common first job during the industrialization period was to work in someone’s home where you were also boarded. During the mid twentieth century single-family homes were all the rage, and floor plans picked up separate bed rooms for all occupants for the first time. Live-in help became less common, but someone still stayed home, still usually mom, and the other went to work, and the kids were watched. Only in the last 30 years or so has it become dead common for both parents to work outside of the home to make ends meet. The cost of child care has skyrocketed as a result, and even that is being held down by the veritable daycares our public schools have become with the help of a massive funding effort by uncle Sam. Between school provided meals and after school care programs, the school holiday has become one of the most dreaded days for families around the United States as the question of “who will take care of the kids” becomes a work interrupting emergency, among other things. A substantial part of the population has become so dependent on school meal assistance that many school districts keep offering the service over summer break.

But the tide may be turning on what is hopefully a historic flash in the pan when it comes to latch-key children. Advances in micro manufacturing like affordable 3d printing and CNC mills that fit on your desktop have provided a large facet of what is being called the ‘maker’ economy. As an aside, I think it says a lot about our culture that making things is a participle now. Websites like Etsy provide a place where common people can easily set up store fronts, supported by our expanded and super responsive logistics networks. Services like Amazon have caused our shipping capacity to expand like it never has before, and shipping across the country, and even around the world, has never been easier as a result. The convergence of all these conditions together threatens to bring meaningful production back into the average home, if we are keen enough to recognize the opportunity. More over, people are paying more attention now than ever to what they put in their bodies, how their products are made, where they come from, and are starting to reject goods made to be thrown away, and designed to be replaced rather than fixed. Made-In-[Your Nation-State Here] is no longer the domain of trade protectionists.

Evo-One desktop CNC Mill

Physical creation is actually late to the ‘creator’ party, which is the digital form of the ‘maker’. Blogs like this one, platforms like Wattpad, YouTube, Twitch, and other established and emerging platforms give more places than ever to ply a digital living from the home and that idea has been around for a while. Doing customer service as a call-center-from-home has been a thing for over a decade now. More and more technical work that you only need a computer to do has gone freelance and home-based as well. The emergence of the physical creator into the scene marks an important step forward in my estimation. If our logistics/distribution networks can take the strain, there may just be a real alternative for the working class to leaving their children to fend for themselves in daycares, schools, home alone, and otherwise without the direction and aid of their parents. A home business isn’t just an opportunity to spend more time with family, it’s a chance for youngsters to learn skills they can use to keep themselves independent and out of trouble. A more meaningful way to interact with the real world that sadly, our classrooms have failed to provide.

Formlabs Form 2 3d Printer

Naturally our society will be slow to acknowledge, much less come to parity with, the needs of this trend. While schools both public and private focus harder and harder on serving the interests of expensive diploma mills, our children will suffer from the lack of interest in providing everyday skill education such as balancing bank accounts, basic carpentry and machine work skills (how these fundamentally math based applications escape the ‘STEM’ push eludes me), basic finance, or even a basic set of social skills needed to navigate business. Learn to code? What about learn to operate a CNC mill? Or a 3-d printer? What about learn to take and process payments and avoid tax trouble while doing it? We’re still laser focused on creating middle management and cogs for large corporations. As I mentioned in an older post about the shortcoming of our education system, you as a parent bear the responsibility of teaching and passing on these skills to your children, even if you have yet to learn them yourself.

All those hurdles considered, the future is looking brighter every day for those of us who want to escape, and wish our children to escape, the expectation of the fluorescently lit cubicle farm. Self-determination and personal responsibility it turns out may still have a competitive place in today’s job market, and the future’s as well.

Without Caveat – Being Yourself

Without Caveat – Being Yourself

Photo By: Ilze Lucero

I was raised by parents who were very into ‘new age’ culture. If you aren’t familiar, think things like keeping amethysts around for their healing powers, belief in any of the zodiacs and their descriptive and predictive power, spiritual healing, burning incense and all manner of now frowned upon behaviors for being not-fact-based. I’m not saying my parents believed in all of those things, I’m just trying to give you a frame of mind for the culture. Of course, in his defense, my father is old enough that he had genuine claim to the title hippy without being a hipster about it. Far out. If it weren’t for this sort of eclectic upbringing I think I would have been a lot more vulnerable than I already am, by virtue of being a human being, to group think.

Why do I have that opinion? Because despite abjectly finding the idea of the healing power of crystal points humorous, I very much like how they look. Actually my youth started a life long obsession with mineral specimens in a Kantian disinterest sort of way. I like how incense smells, I don’t think it’s going to help bring me to some higher plane of thinking over some light meditation. As for the zodiac, that’s a punchline I’ll get to later.

Image result for blue crab

I actively hid these things about myself for a long time during and after puberty. I enjoyed these things, but not in the same sort of way my parents enjoyed them, and the sort of people my parents were, was being made fun of. Those are a few critical years of trying to fit in with your peers so I carefully considered answers to questions about my interests. Joke was on me though, I never ended up fitting in anyway. That was an easy lesson I somehow managed to ignore. Hiding my interests didn’t change me from being the sort of person that would be interested in them, and that person wasn’t particularly popular in high school.

I had actually managed to spend so long denying my interests that I forgot about them for a period of time. Love of minerals was one standout survivor but even that was kept pretty low key, that is, until I met Emily and started buying her jewelry. Emily seemed surprised I was so interested in buying these things for her. I mean, while the diamond necklace I had snuck into her high school on valentines day was a shock, it was also sort of expected, they’re diamonds and it was valentines day. I however, also bought her a range of earings and necklaces ranging from rubies to opals, a full gamut from precious to semi-precious. I had an outlet. It was however, something I still kept from most people.

The culture that really buys into those things seemed to be getting weirder and weirder. Colloidal silver and tinctures and anti-vaccinations had entered that area and I really didn’t want to be associated with them by having too many similar interests. I don’t despise those people, as seems popular to do these days. I would like it if drunk driving were met with half the energy devoted to the publicly acceptable shame and outrage, alas that still seems to be an angry-behind-closed-doors sort of thing. Still, I didn’t want to be associated with that crowd, and I thought expressing my interests in quartz points, tea, and incense would have left me defensive over it.

Then my daughter arrived. She got older. She turned three. Some time during that third year, by chance encounter, I stumbled upon one of those new age stores. They were having a moving location sale. My daughter and I were alone in the mall, which was a rare event. I think I was explicitly taking her on a date. I remember having reasons for it. Ah, that’s them. I will save those for a future post, they’re worth a future post. Daughters man, there’s something magical and frightening about them. Anyway, we were on our date and I see this relic from my own past, changing locations, deep discounts, meaningful ones, like half-off minimum. It was a liquidation. So we went in. After much looking around, my daughter fell in love with this sphere of gypsum. That’s all it was, plain jane ball of polished gypsum, it must weigh 3 pounds. It has a cats eye feature in it, and she absolutely fell in love with it the moment she set her eyes on it. That in turn, brought back memories of being in these sorts of stores with my parents, and that made me even more in love with her.

After I explained to my daughter that it wasn’t a toy, that she could easily break it, and that it was mostly going to be for looking at and having agreed to those terms, I purchased it and we got some ice cream and set back out for home. I took her shiny paperweight and set it up in a prominent position in her bed room so that she would see it all the time. Then I thought about myself and where I’d been the last decade or more. Out came my rose quartz candle holders, my oil fragrance burning apparatus, the tea candles that go with, I ended up going back and buying a wooden incense holder for the stick variety and ended up getting plenty of things to burn in it.

As chance would have it I was conversing with one of my older friends and somehow the subject of the zodiac came up. It was a gaming related context. Our group had been crustacean themed for some years now, and in the back of my mind was the information that I was a cancer, but until then that sort of thing was met with derision even from me. The song making fun of horoscopes by Weird Al was something of a favorite of mine growing up. But then we looked into it, and boy was I ever a cancer. I know I know, astrological sign descriptions are supposed to be vague to the point of applying to everyone, but this thing was dead on in ways that even surprise my friends. That doesn’t mean I “believe” in the zodiac, but the entertainment value given the theming of my gaming group was and remains high. Point of fact, neither of my wife’s signs—cusp baby—describe her in the slightest.

This all came to a head very recently when someone started criticising me for using an astrological sign to describe my personality. “Consummate cancer”, I told them. They droned on and on about things I already knew and didn’t care about. The lack of scientific evidence that they were efficant and blad-de-blah science I know. This person seemed to take it personally that I could find joy or entertainment in something not based on science while possessing the knowledge that not only was it not scientific but that it was a bunch of bullcrap. This interaction happened in the same culture that’s made Harry Potter a global phenomenon and devotes precious electricity and compute resources to making fan-theory videos about all sorts of fictional characters and universes. Hey, at least amethysts actually exist.

Seriously guys, why? You do you though.

Then it hit me. Our culture has become one where we are hypersensitive to our differences, rather than what we have in common. I’ve learned to turn these interactions around with my own sort of pointed ridicule. I don’t know what sort of joyless planet liking shiny rocks or freshly crystallized bismuth is frowned upon on but please leave mine. Anyway, the crux of the problem is focusing on the wrong sort of thing. Now there’s all sorts of reasons and causes for this. We know through our studies of social media that these platforms directly encourage social signaling and outrage culture in their participants. Heck, I left Facebook over the obviousness of that phenomenon, among other reasons.

So that sorta brings me to my main point, and the title. I think it’s pretty important that we do what we can as individuals to get over minor differences of opinion when faced with the temptation to socially signal about it. On the other end, and I’ve seen a lot of people do this and I’m just as guilty, don’t frame your likes behind caveats, justifying your likes isn’t something reasonable people should be asking you to do, though there seems to be plenty of that going around. Now, social signaling serves an important function, don’t get me wrong. Social signaling helps us determine our societies overarching values and guiding principals as a whole and it is key to doing so as a social species. Social media however has allowed us to start micro-managing social signalling into areas that don’t really matter, and that needs to stop, or at the very least be sharply reduced. Try and be aware of what really matters when tempted to judge or dog pile people. Though, a few internet memes sums all these words a little more succinctly.

XKCD
Maximumble

Derailed

It’s only been since the weekend when I last wrote, but that feels like far too long. I’ve been quite distracted over the last several days by a confluence of personal and professional road bumps. Interactions with some of my earliest creative writing courses in junior high taught me that when you really need to get something out and can’t seem to focus that the roadblock itself can often become the subject. Though, this far more easily applies to journaling and blogging, sorry fiction writers it doesn’t help you as much though it still could.

Though distracting for many reasons a bulk of the source of the personal speed bump is actually amusing from a distant viewpoint. Emily and I are struggling getting used to her having periods again. It’s just been that long. Between being pregnant and nursing we’ve had a good 5 years or so off, straight. Things that may have once been obvious no longer are, like sudden changes in behavior and mood. Oh yes it’s that time again, but the expectation that there should be a ‘time’ takes us both by surprise in ways that leave Emily inadequately prepared to spot and govern the changes in her own behavior and me inadequately prepared to temper my responses to them. That’s just going to be a thing that gets better with conscientiousness and time.

Professionally there were some set backs that are really nothing more than the logistics of having to work harder for an extended period of time. We hit a roadblock involving short maintenance windows and things that didn’t go wrong until load testing. This caused a missed deadline and it’s about a month and a half until the next possible testing period, so great efforts are being made to make sure that one isn’t also wasted. It’s no big deal in the grand scheme of things, just necessary extra strain.

See, I can feel my head clearing already, though the thing I really wanted to write about was just covered in essence by another blogger I follow so that’s kinda a bummer eh? I mean that’s understandable, expected really, when you’re trying to stay abreast of current events but the subject I’m tackling next has nothing to do at all with current events and that was a bit of a surprise to see. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to cover it, there’s more than one perspective on any given issue and especially when it comes to life lessons but, eh, I think other bloggers especially know the kind of feelings that occur when you see that happen.

Of course, perhaps my old at least every-other-day schedule just was never sustainable in the first place. Back then I wasn’t even bothering with featured images, I was barely watching my tags at all and you know, just not really doing the things outside of the actual writing that ought be done. On that note, I’m headed down to Orlando this Saturday to check out a special place in person, and that ought to be a treat, but I may not get my normal weekend content up in a timely fashion. No, it’s not house of mouse, you’ll just have to wait and see, it’ll be fun.

To-do lists around the house continue mounting as the days get longer and spring sets in and that energetic cleaning phase really gets off to an earnest start. Things need mowing, fixing, organizing, purging, you know the drill.

On top of all of that I’ve been dealing with the emotional fallout from a traumatic event from January. I’m not sure how many of you can relate to this but though the event is long over there are residual waves of it that come back to bother me every now and then and the stresses of this week just happened to expose those. It’s like throwing a hefty rock into a pond. There’s the initial splash and disturbance of the water but as the waves hit the edge of their confined space they bounce waves back towards the center like an echo. Those waves meet up again and cause a smaller but definitely there disturbance.

That makes it a little more difficult to watch my weight, which I’ve been struggling with since puberty really. Lately, I’d say the last 2 years or so I’ve actually been very on top of that and remain so, but boy do I reach for the chocolate quick. Like so many of us, I’m a stress eater.

I think of all of those factors, nah, definitely more than all of those other factors it’s the ripples in the pond that most impede my creative process. I’m looking forward to the day when they bounce their last bounce off the edge and the surface smooths again. That could take months, it could take years, but I’m looking forward to it. As for the blog, it’s been going fine since January and things have been getting better for me personally and emotionally since so it’s not like there’s any threat to my activity, there’s just been a disturbance this week and I expect that to pass soon. You’ll hardly notice.

Anyway, the main point is, I’m hoping some of you can relate to my troubles whether that’s personally, professionally, or creatively, and at the very least if I can do nothing with all these distractions and the amount of time they are stealing from otherwise productive thoughts I can at least affirm the experience of anyone else that’s had to deal with them.

Until next time.

Dildo Review – Hookah by Tantus

Dildo Review – Hookah by Tantus

Today’s review is singularly and easily the most work I’ve had to put into any review to date. I’ve noticed that when I’m on the fence about something the urge to do the deep dive gets very strong. When something is obviously bad or obviously good there’s a lot less work to do in parsing where something falls short and where personal preference is or isn’t asserting itself. But we go a bit further than that today, our little journey is going to take us straight into the heart of the manufacturing process, cross a bridge of changing preferences, and coin the term soft-spoiled.

I was mulling over my older and newer reviews a week back and thinking I might want to return to the format I used for the Apollo review, but after I started to write this one I realized that the format of each individual review was going to vary by what I needed to say about it. This one is going to be more of an essay. For those of you who need a tl;dr version, the Hookah we purchased is a rough ride due to the combination of shape and hardness, but on the balance Emily enjoys it. There are big caveats though, including the fact that your Hookah may be substantially softer and squishier than ours. Before we really get started with that in earnest though, have some pretty pictures of Hookah. It’s mirin’ time.

All hand poured silicone toys are going to have some variance in them, and the Hookah is no exception, but the variance in the Hookah’s hardness was so substantial that Tantus made some changes to the manufacturing process as a result of our investigation. Kudos to Tantus for taking feedback seriously enough to do that in the first place, but now it’s time to start our story in earnest.

When Tantus released their Magma model it stuck out to me as a lot bolder of a design than I was accustomed to seeing from them. Up to that point Tantus was the manufacturer that offered body safe silicone design in mainstream shapes, to us anyway. That’s not really a criticism per se, that approach was effective in securing a lot of our business as we transitioned out of potentially toxic toys—shout out to Dangerous Lilly—to body safe toys, but Emily quickly desired something more than a proximal penis out of her toys and we both got sucked head-long into the world of fantasy dildos. For a while, we didn’t buy from Tantus anymore, and the reasons why are very important. Tantus’ toys did not get worse, they are as good as ever, the company didn’t do something bad to us, our experiences had been great. Heck, we own an O2 from the original discontinued run. We were changing and leaving their target demographic. I saw the Magma and was excited. Was Tantus moving in our direction? We went to their website and saw it even came in two sizes and two colors. Surely, we thought to ourselves, this is Tantus dipping their toe into the unusual designs side of the market, Steamhunk not withstanding. We read the dimensions on Magma, too small for Emily in either size really, but we started keeping a very close eye on what Tantus was doing and had very positive feelings about this direction.

Then the Hookah dropped. This was even more obviously targeted at the fantasy crowd, or perhaps people leaning that way. We think that’s great either way and I in particular am critical of the human penis replacement design philosophy for dildos and much prefer a designed for pleasure approach. That could and perhaps should be its own blog post. It was enough that we committed to give it a try. It was cast in the new ‘super soft’ formula and that appealed to us too. We checked out the dimensions and they were definitely enough for Emily. We placed an order fairly quickly.

It wasn’t long before our Hookah arrived. We chose blue, we had more than enough pink toys and Emily deliberately wanted more blue in her collection. It doesn’t seem to matter how many of these toys we get, sometimes we misjudge the size. Hookah was significantly bigger than we anticipated, but what we anticipated was at the low end of Emily’s tastes, so we were quite happy about this particular misjudgment. On close inspection of the toy we found some beads of silicone in the grooves that form the ‘swirly’ look for Hookah. I must say we were a little disappointed by this. Yes these are hand made toys, we get that imperfections happen, but this seemed like a lot of them and for a simple detail. We own a lot of toys with much finer and more detailed features in softer silicone that are absolutely flawless. Something with that mold? I dunno, but it was a bit of a hype killer. The finish was nice and satiny, similar to the Vamp, also from Tantus, and we prefer this finish to the glossier one found on a lot of our Tantus toys. Emily wasted no time giving it a go, and that was the first time we noticed something was off.

Almost immediately Emily was complaining about how rough of a ride Hookah was. I found this very strange as Emily typically gets the firmer options from our favorite fantasy toy makers, enjoys glass toys, and enjoys toys much bigger than Hookah. Emily had to stop using it and didn’t find it pleasurable. I reminded Emily that she may still be sore from having ridden her firm Nova from the night before. Nova dwarfs Hookah and always leaves Emily sore for a few days, and she begrudgingly agreed to try it again later—yeah she was that convinced it was a no go. Nova by the way, is purportedly in Shore 8A hardness. That purportedly bit is going to get some attention later. Hookah felt firmer than that. This struck me as odd. “Super soft compared to what?” I asked myself.

My curiosity could not wait until Emily had recovered, I went and purchased a deurometer to test the hardness of our toys. It was something I felt I needed for the blog anyway but it was one of those eventually kind of things, at least up until that point. My curiosity demanded I get to the bottom of this. I had recently been educating myself on the finer details of silicone firmness ratings at Felicity’s blog. She has a lovely comprehensive guide to toy firmness on her website that I encourage you to check out. I immediately went to town on everything measured on the A scale in our collection. I wasn’t getting the numbers I thought I would, our 8A firm toys from Bad Dragon for instance were measuring at ~3A, and our Shore 5A toys from the same manufacturer weren’t even registering on the scale. I tested on other manufacturers toys. Tantus’ older—and I do mean old, like Echo w/handle and the version of Vamp with the bullet hole old—models were measuring between ~30 and ~40 where I expected them to. A Shore 10A tentacle from Pleasure Forge was registering about where it should, between 7A and 10A depending on where I poked it. I could never get the Shore 5A tentacle from Goblin to register either. The ‘bases’ of any of these toys seemed to be a place where the reading would be lower. Hookah was consistently getting between 10A and 14A, 10 being the lowest measurement at the base. This lined up with hand feel and experience, for us ‘Super Soft’ super wasn’t.

I had to sit back and stew on the numerical facts, Emily’s period had arrived and while that’s not a problem for me it tends to make her feel very unsexy and she typically doesn’t engage in any pleasurable activity while that’s happening, especially on heavier days. So here I was spinning my wheels about this ‘super soft’ branding while waiting for that to be over. I could see labeling it as that from the standpoint of comparing it to the 30A and 40A toys they have for sure. We however, review from a fantasy toy enthusiast perspective and when we hear ‘super soft’ we’re thinking 3A tops, maybe 00-50 or 00-30. It was jarring for us, and I was starting to wonder exactly who it was Tantus was marketing to, because it didn’t feel like it was us. I also considered mass market appeal and the details that go with. I don’t actually consider 00-30 and 00-50 hard enough for mass market, not because they aren’t enjoyable, but because it takes enthusiast level care to keep those things around. Silicone that soft is prone to nicks and cuts from almost anything, especially finger nails. I can just see the support tickets now from launching a mass market toy in that firmness. In fact, that original O2 we have? We retired it. We keep it around for memories sake and because we think that maybe one day we’ll try to repair it, but it has scratches and nicks and lacerations in the soft outer layer that appeared not only from finger nails and things like that, but just by being stretched repeatedly during thrusting. That’s where the largest tear came from actually, located just beneath the coronal ridge. I also ruminated on the idea that Emily used to enjoy those 30A and 40A toys. Even on our own blog the Vamp gets a glowing review. So why was 10A-14A suddenly a problem? Why could Emily still enjoy glass toys and not this one? Well, I think that’s two things. One, Hookah has much more aggressive features than those toys, and two, Emily has gotten very used to the much softer firmnesses of fantasy toys. I remarked to her that her vagina had become soft-spoiled. We had a giggle over that one.

Close-up of imperfections in swirls

I’m happy we kept the old retired O2 around though. I like that we can still include our old O2 in pictures like this.

Eventually we got to a place where we could try Hookah again. Soreness from Nova was indeed a factor, and Emily managed to bring herself to orgasm with Hookah this time and even engage in some DP play. Hooray! Emily noted that Hookah was still on the very edge of too firm for her and that while the ride was worth it, it was still rough. It should be noted at this time though, that for those of you who like ‘knot’ play Hookah is essentially a series of knots. Neither of us feel comfortable calling those features merely ridges.

I sat down to prepare our review, but something didn’t feel right. My investigative curiosity was not satisfied. Something felt off to me. Surely, this wasn’t what ‘super soft’ was meant to be. As luck would have it, a brief engagement with Felicity regarding her Magma review revealed that Tantus had intended Hookah to be a ~8.5A experience. I inquired further as Shore 8.5A is a firmness I think this toy would absolutely shine in. We got into a brief chat about deurometer technique and it seemed I was doing everything right. We talked about Bad Dragon firmness and yep, we both got low readings from their toys, wasn’t just me. What did seem to be just me however was how hard Hookah was. I reached out to Tantus for comment informing them that I’d be delaying my review slightly to give them a chance to respond to my inquiry about the seemingly abberant hardness of our Hookah. I was about to go ahead with the review, having not heard from them in six days when I got a curious but short response in my email from Tantus support.


 Thank you for alerting us to this issue. After much digging we found a procedural issue in production that ended up making the toys inconsistent. This has now been addressed and the shore hardness of the Super Soft is now consistently soft. Quality Control is also empowered and encouraged to stop the line if they find any more inconsistencies.


Again, your voice really matters, and we are very grateful for your input.

Well okay then. My gut instincts win again. Seriously I always get into trouble any time I ignore those. However, without any offer to send us a toy in the intended verified firmness, we can only review what we have. I imagine there are also still plenty of Hookahs made with the old process sitting in the channel, which means if you buy one today, by Tantus’ own admission, the firmness you’re getting could vary significantly which kinda makes the Hookah hard to review in the first place.

So what’s the bottom line here? Well we think we’ve hit a situation where our personal tastes and acclimation to softer toys are already pre-disposing our experience to be worse with Hookah than yours might be. I think the combination of 10A+ firmness in our Hookah and the aggressive features of the design make for a rougher experience than intended. Even in the intended ~8.5A of the Hookah I think that might be the case. As I stated earlier, Emily still enjoys her glass toys, like her Twist from Crystal Delights, she loves her girthy Nova even if it leaves her a bit sore later. It’s not even necessarily that Hookah’s girth is the issue, it’s the changes in girth that are resulting in this experience. Some of you though, some of you really enjoy a rough ride, especially you knot enthusiasts, and if that’s you, hoh boy I think you’ll have fun with Hookah. We have to be a little more careful about when and how we use it than we were expecting. Hookah by the way, even with the production flaws I was talking about earlier, is a beautifully crafted toy and sits with the rest of our collection not looking a bit out of place. On that note, that confirms to us that Hookah is an attempt to market towards the fantasy crowd and in that capacity I have some advice for Tantus, don’t call anything 5A or higher super soft if it is indeed those people you are trying to make into satisfied customers, our crowd looks at Shore 8A with skepticism about comfort.

I’d like to reiterate at this juncture that our second go round with Hookah did provide a significant degree of pleasure and we did end up enjoying it on the whole. It won’t however be enjoying reach-for-first status with that degree of firmness. Hookah also comes with some classic Tantus staple features, like harness compatibility and that same flared base makes Hookah anal safe. We don’t think we’ll be trying Hookah that way though. If you go to Hookah’s product page here, they also have a very well done sizing chart that describes every single knot on this the toy. Very handy indeed as we generally don’t bother with anything but ballpark measurements on shapes this irregular. You can get Hookah in two colors, as we mentioned before we chose Rockabilly Blue, but it also comes in Punk Rock Pink and both models have a high degree of sparkle to them.

I think the hardest thing about this review has been that Hookah is neither a recommend or a don’t recommend. It comes with a pile of caveats that essentially boil down to the idea that you’ll have to use your past experience as a guide for whether or not you’ll enjoy Hookah. With that comes the only concrete recommendation we can make. Hookah is not a toy I’d recommend to newbies. I think the strongest recommendation we can give for the toy are to people who are really into knotting and people who crave a rough ride now and again. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading and sticking with us to the end. I hope you’ve found this useful. Until next time!