Tuesday, May 28, 2013

American Savage by Dan Savage: book review



Dan Savage is an outspoken, irreverent, gay sex columnist who gives sex advice to all genders and orientations at Savage Love and on his podcast. With his husband Terry*, he started the "It Gets Better" video project, designed to help kids who are bullied realize that it does get better.

Now he is the author of American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics, a book about sex, love, and marriage in our contemporary culture and how politics, religion, and sexuality get mixed together -- and badly mixed up.

I admit it -- I'm a Dan Savage geek. I find his sex advice smart, witty, usually right on the mark. I read his column, I subscribe to the long version of his podcast, I go around quoting him. When Dan had me on his podcast giving senior sex advice, I felt that I had achieved star status.

So I was prepared to like Dan's new book. I had no idea that I would love it, highlight it, bookmark it, rave about it. I had no idea that Dan could write so eloquently, and from the heart. For example:

  • "Sex education in America is a lot like a driver's-ed course that covers the internal combustion but not steering or brakes...so long as we skip past pleasure, desire, and negotiating a romantic or sexual relationship ... we aren't really teaching young adults about sex."
  • "Fighting your sexuality is like holding your breath: It can be done, yes, but not for long (when it comes to your breath) and not forever (when it comes to your sexuality)."

Politically, Dan is razor-sharp. His one-hour, dinner table debate with Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, about gay marriage is worth watching on YouTube -- but what you don't know about what happened before and after the debate is here in American Savage, such as the one question Terry asked after the debate was over:

"Do you think our son should be taken away from us?"
 "You shouldn't ask me a question when you know you won't like the answer," Brown said.
"Get the fuck out of my house," Terry said.

Dan's personal stories are moving, especially when he writes about his mother's death, his husband, or his son. Each time he speaks from his heart with a story from his own life, it is to illustrate or lead us to an important point.

Dan Savage makes you think about things you thought you knew. For example, when is/isn't it okay to cheat?

"We are socially monogamous -- we pair bond; we couple up... but we are not sexually monogamous... The fact that your partner is willing to 'forsake all others' only means something is your partner doesn't, on some level, want to forsake all others. and your partner doesn't."

How can you help laughing when he writes about Rick Santorum ("then the third most powerful person in the United States Senate [who] equated gay people to child rapists and dogfuckers") and Dan's campaign to launch a new meaning for the word "santorum": "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex" in our culture and in Google searches.

I could go on for another hour, but here's the bottom line: I recommend American Savage to everyone, straight or gay, who cares about how confused our culture is about sexuality and religion and politics. Please read this book and share it with people in your life who agree with you -- and those who don't.

*Okay, since I'm being honest here -- I drool over the photo of Dan's husband Terry posing in underwear, which I'll share here with you, at the risk of undermining the intellectual nature of this book review.

Terry posing in underwear


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Invitation: What do you want to see in new book?

Here's an inside look at a writer's brain: Every time I finish writing a book, I shout, "There! I've done it! There's nothing more to say!"

 But there always is more to say, more to think about, more to learn, more to teach.

What questions, concerns, and topics related to sex and aging did I not cover in Naked at Our Age, or cover too briefly? What more would you like to know about aging and sexuality in all its colors?

 Yes, I'm thinking about my next book, and I need your input! Brainstorm with me by posting your suggestions. (Though you're welcome to use a fake name, please tell me your real age.)

5/27/13 update: Here are some ideas that followers of my Naked at Our Age Facebook page posted, to get you started:

  • Do you cover Tantra? Or is that too New Age for "our age"?
  • I'd like to know what I can do in my 40s to prepare for the longest, healthiest, most enjoyable sex life possible in the decades that follow. 
  • I know you covered some of this in Naked at Our Age but more of how to deal with Sexless Marriage would be real good thanks xxx
What else, readers? Don't worry if your idea seems unconventional or offbeat. If you give me an idea I didn't think of myself, that's very helpful. If you repeat an idea I did think of myself, I know to make sure I'm covering it thoroughly. 

If you'd rather email me your ideas privately with more detail, or if you'd like your experiences included in this book, email me here and put as subject header: "Include in new book."  Thank you! 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Age 69+ wanted to discuss sexuality in documentary film


video

Recently, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by TV documentary film makers Lauren Buongiovanni Hunt, Linda Duvoisin, and their crew about my older-age sexuality views, experiences, and attitudes.

It was a fabulous experience! The film project, titled "69 and Up! Sex and Intimacy in the Golden Years," is intended to reveal the sexual wants and desires of people age 69 and over, presenting us positively and joyfully.

Would you like to be involved? Here is the call for volunteer participants from Lauren, both written and via video, explaining what she and Linda are looking for. Again, the experience was totally positive for me -- respectful, fun, absolutely non-sleazy. I hope you'll want to participate, too.

From Lauren Buongiovanni Hunt:

 I’m making a documentary film that explores sexuality, intimacy and older adulthood. I have a belief that my desires and drive for intimacy and sex will remain present throughout my lifetime While they may change (and/or even grow!), they will remain present and intact as I grow older. It seems to me that as the generation of the ‘sexual revolution’ enters older adulthood our culture needs to undergo an attitudinal revolution about how we view older people and their sexuality. After all, more and more of us will grow to live in older adulthood. Yet, one does not need to look very far to see how our society values youth and eschews the possibilities of the beauty of sensuality in older adults.

 The film, 69 and Up! Sex and Intimacy in the Golden Years, will interview sex experts, doctors, sociological professionals as well as older adults who are beautiful examples of what the possibilities can be. The purpose of the film is to portray that the science and the practice demonstrates that sexuality and intimacy in the latter part of life is alive and well.

 I am seeking volunteers who are willing to share their story – straight, gay, married, dating, widowed, etc. – as long as you are willing to be open for the purpose of sharing your experiences for the purpose of illuminating the challenges, successes and joys of sex and intimacy in older adulthood. I am seeking both men and women.
Email me at Lauren@gingersnappublishing.com for more information and/or questions about volunteering.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

How did your mother's teachings about sexuality affect you?

Shirley Kassman and
daughter Joan
Let's do something different here for Mother's Day: Looking back, how did your mother's teachings about sexuality affect how you matured, interacted in relationships, saw yourself as a sexual being, enjoyed your sexuality?

I was born in 1943. When I came of age, my mother taught me nothing about sex other than a little about menstruation. The birds-and-bees talk was left to my obstetrician/ gynecologist father, who gave me a pamphlet about how women got pregnant accompanied by "ask me if you have any questions."

Joan 1961,
senior year high school
Sure, I had questions. No, my parents weren't the ones I asked. Since my father regularly saw girls my age who were "in trouble," as unplanned pregnancy was called at the time, his point of view was decidedly and strictly a "don't do it!" warning.

So when I started having sex at 17 with my high school boyfriend, I knew I would be in big trouble if I got discovered (I did, but that's another story), and I knew nothing about pleasure.

Pleasure -- or why anyone would do these strange things with each other -- was totally omitted from my sex education. That's a weird and dangerous omission! When kissing and "petting" got me aroused, I was surprised and thought something was happening to me that didn't happen to other girls. What to do about that arousal remained a mystery, however.

In those days, no one mentioned the clitoris, not in the laughable "hygiene class" that was supposed to teach sex ed, not in any books I could find, and certainly not in the pamphlet that was supposed to ready me for adult sexuality. I had heard that women could have orgasms (no idea where I learned that), but how to make that happen? I had no idea -- neither did my boyfriend.

I have two chapters in Naked at Our Age called "Unlearning Our Upbringing" -- one with women's stories, one with men's stories. They're poignant, provocative, compelling. At a certain point we either look at our upbringing and realize it doesn't serve us any more, and we change -- or we don't.

I hope you'll add your comments and share your own experience. You don't have to use your real name (choose a first name of your choice instead of "anonymous"), but please tell us your real age so we can see how the era in which we were raised affected what we were taught about sex.

(A much shorter version of this post was published on Mother's Day 2011.)

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Best Sex Writing 2013: book review

Every year, I look forward to the new edition of the Best Sex Writing series from Cleis Press. This year's Best Sex Writing 2013: The State of Today's Sexual Culture offers 20 sex-themed, nonfiction essays, previously published in magazines and on websites as diverse as Playboy,  Salon.com, New York magazine, The Atlantic.com, and Church & State Magazine.

Since this blog is for sex-positive people age 50+, I always check out the essays about or by our age group first. These two emerged as my favorites:

  • "Ghosts: All My Men Are Dead" by Carol Queen stunned me with its beautiful writing and poignant content. Queen writes from the heart about the men in her life whom she lost to AIDS, interspersed with her own story of her sexual blooming in San Francisco, a self-described "small-town dyke who really wanted to fuck practically every gay man she ever saw." For those of us who lived through the bewildering beginning of AIDS and the ensuing grief, fear, and loss, this essay is particularly moving, though I challenge anyone of any age to read it with dry eyes.
  • "Very Legal: Sex and Love in Retirement" by Alex Morris is a fascinating look at the dating lives of residents age 70+ to 90 at Flushing House, an independent living facility in Queens, NY. “There’s a practicality that comes with knowing there are certain undeniable limits to how long a romance can last, or what romance at the age of eighty-five even means," Morris writes. What about sex? Al, age 89, keeps Viagra in a plastic bag in his shirt pocket. “You know, sex isn’t everything, but it has a lot to do with it," he says. "An awful lot to do with it.”

I don't mean to imply that only the essays by writers of our age or addressing issues affecting our demographic will interest you -- not at all! You'll be as absorbed as I was by most of the essays here. Some are political; some are intensely personal. All are well-chosen and well-written. If you're a sex geek, as I am, you'll devour this book.

Cleis's own book description says it well:

The Best Sex Writing series has fundamentally changed the way people think—and what they say—about sexuality. Rachel Kramer Bussel has collected the year’s most challenging, literate and provocative pieces on this endlessly fascinating subject.

This is not an exaggeration. Thank you, editor Rachel Kramer Bussel and guest judge Carol Queen for this superb anthology. And thank you, Cleis Press, for always being a staunch supporter of a sex-positive view of the world.

Best Sex Writing editor Rachel Kramer Bussel is a prolific author, editor and blogger. She has edited over forty books of erotica, and has been published in over one hundred anthologies. She blogs at lustylady.blogspot.com.

Learn more about Best Sex Writing 2013 here.