Sample Pages for “Best Erotic Comics 2009″ Now Available!

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Wanna get a taste of what’s inside “Best Erotic Comics 2009″? Of course you do! And now you can! We now have a dedicated webpage for “Best Erotic Comics 2009″… and it has several full-page sample pages from the book. Just click on the thumbnails to see the pages in all their glory.

The sample pages give a nice taste of the flavor of the book, with art in both color and black- and- white, and an assortment of moods, visual styles, and erotic styles — straight, lesbian, gay male, kinky, vanilla, and, shall we say, other. We’ve got sample pages from Erika Moen, Niki Smith, Steve McIsaac, Toshio Saeki, Quinn, Ellen Lindner, Belasco, and Colleen Coover. Enjoy the appetizers!

“My Four-Year-Old Is…”: Parents, Kids, And Sex-Positivity

FirstbooksexI have a new piece up on the Blowfish Blog. It’s a piece of advice written to a parent who wrote me, because their four- year- old daughter was masturbating and they didn’t know how to deal with it. It’s titled “My Four-Year-Old Is…”: Parents, Kids, And Sex-Positivity, and here’s the teaser:

There is nothing even remotely strange about the fact that a four- year- old child is masturbating. That is completely, 100% normal. Extremely common, even. Some children begin touching their genitals as young as three months old. It’s not a sign that she’s been molested, or that she’s seen other people masturbate, or anything else scary or inappropriate. It’s a sign that she’s a healthy child exploring her body. (My earliest memory of masturbating was when I was about 6 or 7; and in that memory, the experience was already familiar, something I’d been doing for a while.)

And IMO, there’s nothing strange about the fact that she gets mad when you try to stop her. I mean, if someone in a position of great power and authority over me tried to stop me from masturbating, I’d get freaked out angry, too.

It seems to me that your problem isn’t that your child is masturbating. It’s that she’s masturbating in front of you, and possibly in front of other people, in ways that makes those people (including you) uncomfortable.

So let’s deal with that problem.

To find out how I propose dealing with that problem, read the rest of the piece. (And if you decide to post comments here, please consider cross-posting them to the Blowfish Blog — they like comments there, too.) Enjoy!

The Fat-Positive Skeptic (Part 2 of 2)

Scale 2So how do you be a fat-positive skeptic?

Yesterday, I wrote about being a fat-positive feminist who’s losing weight. Today, I’m finishing up with a look at one of the trickiest and most loaded balancing acts in this struggle: being both fat-positive and a skeptic.

See, here’s the thing. As you may or may not know, there is something of a pitched battle between feminist fat- positive advocates, and advocates of a skeptical, science- based view that fatness is medically harmful. (I’m not sure what to call the anti-fat-positives. Fat-negatives?) The fat-positives think the fat-negatives are hysterics who exaggerate the health risks of being fat; the fat-negatives think the fat-positives are denialists who dismiss those risks too easily. The fat-negatives point out the well- documented connection between being fat and a whole host of health problems; the fat-positives point out that many of these health risks significantly diminish with a healthy diet and regular exercise… even for people who don’t lose weight.

Now, I don’t generally cotton to the “golden mean” fallacy: the misguided notion that in any dispute between two opposing sides, the truth will probably fall in the middle. But in this case, I genuinely do think that both sides have some valuable ideas… and that both sides are missing some seriously important truths.

AtherosclerosisI completely agree that the fat-positive movement does often trivialize the very serious, extensively documented, no-joke health risks of being fat. I think they focus on their political ideology about bodies and feminism, at the expense of the actual scientific facts on the ground. I think they’re often guilty of wishful thinking: of acting as if the mere act of saying “Fat is as healthy as not-fat” over and over again will somehow make it true, regardless of the medical evidence. And I think they dismiss the fact that, while it’s fairly easy to be a healthy, active fat person in your youth, it gets increasingly harder as you get older.

I also think that when the fat-positive movement keeps repeating the “Dieting doesn’t work” mantra, they support this view by stubbornly focusing on the stupidest, most extreme diets out there. It’s certainly fair to point out that a lot of popular diets are essentially semi- starvation, guaranteed to make you crazy and miserable and ultimately guaranteed to fail. But it’s also fair to point out that not all weight-loss programs are that dumb. (Of course, this is also true for fat-negative skeptics, who focus on the stupidest, most extreme forms of fat-positivism while largely ignoring the more moderate, pro- exercise- and- eating- right, “be as healthy as you can at the weight that you are” folks…)

Medical journalsAnd when the fat-positive movement insists that weight loss doesn’t work, they’re ignoring the fact that we now know a whole lot more about weight loss than we used to. Good, careful studies have been done, looking not at the details of specific weight loss plans, but instead at the 10% of people who do lose weight and keep it off, and what they have in common. And apparently, it doesn’t matter so much what kind of diet or exercise plan they’re on: low-carb, high-protein, low-fat, high-vodka, whatever. What matters is that they’re counting calories, keeping food journals, weighing themselves regularly, getting lots of exercise, losing the weight slowly (no more than two pounds a week on average)… and seeing all these things as a permanent lifestyle change instead of a one-time thing.

(Of course, that does beg the question: Why are some people able to sustain behavior changes like these, and others aren’t? Diets generally don’t work partly because many diets are stupid and unsustainable… but it’s also partly because people don’t stick with weight loss plans even when they are reasonable. But why is that? There’s a whole science about behavior change and why it’s so hard… and we need to not frame it as a moral judgement about weak character. It’s common across humanity. As a society, it’s been like pulling teeth to get people to quit smoking and wear seatbelts. If we’re serious about addressing the American obesity epidemic, we need to be looking at major social and political change about how we deliver food and design our cities… not just haranguing people about how fat they are.)

Super_size_meThe fat positive movement also often claims that being fat is purely genetic, not behavioral… a claim that ultimately isn’t supportable. Yes, there’s clearly a genetic component: in a perfect world where everyone ate a perfect diet and got loads of exercise, people would still come in different sizes, and one of those sizes would be fat. Besides, it’s not so easy to draw a bright line between “genetic” and “behavioral.” Appetite triggers, for instance, may be genetic, some people may be born being more easily triggered by external food cues than others… but the triggers shape our behavior, and we can make choices to deflect those triggers, or alter them, or avoid them. But if it were true that fatness is purely genetic, then why are Americans — and non-Americans who eat an American diet — so much fatter than the rest of the world? And why are Americans so much fatter now than we were 50 years ago, or even 20? If size were purely genetic and eating and exercise behavior had nothing to do with it, none of that would be true. Evolution doesn’t work that fast.

So yes, I think the fat-positive movement has been missing the boat. A lot of boats.

But I think the hard-line fat-negative skeptics are overlooking some important truths as well.

FastfoodI think they often overlook the degree to which American obesity is not a personal problem, but a political one. I think they often overlook the ways that American obesity is created and exacerbated by deeply-laid social and economic structures: city planning based around cars instead of walking or biking; an economy in which people are overworked at sedentary jobs and don’t have time for exercise; the phenomenon of food deserts (large urban areas with no access to healthy, unprocessed food); the multitudinous evils of the American food industry, with its emphasis on shelf life over nutrition and profit over absolutely everything. I think they overlook the ways in which weight loss is a privilege, far easier for people in progressive cities with ready access to healthy food… and for financially comfortable people who can afford trainers and gym memberships. (Both categories that I freely acknowledge I belong to.)

I definitely think the fat-negative skeptics can be dismissive of just how difficult and complicated this issue is, and how loaded it is — emotionally, psychologically, indeed politically. Especially for women. (The practical mechanics of how I’m losing weight are insanely simple: counting calories, keeping a food journal, regular exercise, patience. The emotional and psychological and political mechanics are a minefield. Did I mention the endless processing, the obsessive planning, the hysterical crying fits in grocery store parking lots?) I think the skeptics often ignore our culture’s obsession with an unattainable ideal of physical perfection — especially for women — and the effect this has on people who are never, ever going to even come close to that ideal, no matter how healthy they become. And I think the skeptics can be oblivious to the effect their words have on people: how, for a fat person, especially for a fat person who’s tried more than once to lose weight, hearing something like, “Weight loss is simple, it just takes will power, just eat less and exercise more” basically translates as, “And if you don’t, it’s your fault, you’re weak and lazy and you deserve to get sick and die.”

Shallow halI also think that fat-negative skeptics tend to overlook — or are maybe just ignorant of — the venomous contempt and hostile bigotry that gets aimed at fat people in our culture on a regular basis. I’m not just talking about third-graders who get teased at school, or the scores of personal ads seeking partners who are “fit and trim” (or, more bluntly, “No fatties”). I’m not even just talking about endless, degrading fat jokes in the media… and the way said jokes are a normal, unquestioned part of the media landscape. I’m talking about things like actual, well- documented job discrimination, and medical discrimination in areas that have nothing to do with weight. We need some sort of pride, some sort of positivity, just to keep from collapsing into depression and self-loathing.

And for all their passion about being reality- based and sciencey, the fat-negatives have a serious blind spot when it comes to one very important, extensively- documented fact about weight loss:

It rarely works.

Consistently, across the board, about 90% of people who try to lose weight either fail, or gain it back within a year. To my knowledge, every single method of weight loss that has ever been rigorously tested has a failure rate of roughly 90%. (Interesting tangent: If you join Weight Watchers, and you lose and re-gain the same 20 pounds three times? They don’t count that as a failure. They count it as three separate successes.)

10% success. That’s not a very good rate. And it’s something that fat-negative advocates need to deal with. I mean, what the hell is the point of raising the Dire Warning Alert System and telling everybody, “Being fat is horrible for you, being fat will ruin your health, being fat can kill you” — if, once you’ve successfully freaked everybody out, you don’t have anything constructive to offer about what they can do about it?

Medical scaleNow, as Ingrid often points out: Quitting alcoholism or other drug addiction also has about a 90% failure rate, and you’d still advise addicts to kick if they can. The fact that weight loss is difficult and rare doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. (And we are learning more about weight loss, and are beginning to get a good, science-based, reality- based picture about what works and what doesn’t. Again: counting calories, keeping a food journal, regular exercise, regular weigh-ins, patience.)

But given that this 90% failure rate is true, and until it is no longer true, then at least some of the visions and goals of the fat-positive movement are still pertinent. The idea that it’s useful to eat a healthy diet and get regular vigorous exercise — even if you don’t lose weight? As long as weight loss efforts fail about 90% of the time, that’s a pretty damn important message to get across.

And here’s a freakish irony: The ideas and ideals I learned from fat-positivism? They’ve been incomparably useful to me in my efforts to lose weight.

Here’s what I mean. The degree to which I’ve had to alter my life in order to lose weight has been pretty dramatic. If I’d had to do it all at once, I probably wouldn’t have done it at all.

DumbbellBut I already had a head start. I was already exercising regularly: not as much as I needed to for weight loss, but more than probably 90% of Americans, and enough to improve my mood and my energy, my sleeping and my libido, my joint problems and my mental health. And I was already eating a healthy diet: not low-cal enough for weight loss, but better than probably 90% of Americans, and mostly consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lowfat proteins. So shifting gears from “generally healthy lifestyle” into “weight loss,” while it was hard, was not nearly as hard as I’d thought it would be. I was already more than halfway there.

And a huge part of why I was more than halfway there was my fat-positivism, and the ideals I learned from that movement. I was flipping the bird at the corporate mainstream media industry that wanted me to look like Paris Hilton… but I was also flipping the bird at the corporate mainstream food industry that wanted me to eat a steady diet of Cheetos and Hot Pockets and Stuffed Crust Pizza. I was committed to being as healthy as I could be at the weight that I was… and that involved eating well and getting regular exercise. Goals that the fat-positive movement actively and passionately encourages. (The fat-positive activists I was reading, anyway.)

Plus, the fat-positive movement gave me the tools I’ve needed to frame my weight loss primarily as a health issue and not as a cosmetic issue: to pursue it, not to fit some mold of ideal womanhood, but for myself, for my health and the enjoyment of my life. If my efforts to eat better and get exercise had been entirely focused on the goal of looking better, I might well have given up long ago. After all, no matter what I do, I am never, ever going to look like Paris Hilton. Or even Heather Graham. I’m short, I have a square, stocky frame, and I’m 47. It’s not gonna happen. But because of the fat- positive movement, I was already thinking of how I eat and exercise, not in terms of what society expected of me, but in terms of my own pleasure and health. So paradoxically, once my weight started being a serious impediment to my pleasure and health, it didn’t take much to shift gears.

Kool-aid-manYet at the same time, I’m ticked off at the fat-positive movement as well. I do think that I put this off for a lot longer than I should have, at least partly, because I drank the Kool-Aid. I bought the idea that I could be every bit as healthy at 200 pounds as I would be at 140. I pored over the handful of studies saying that weight loss was no big deal, and ignored the mountain of studies saying, “Is Too.” I ignored the fact that my bad knee was getting worse, until it got almost too bad to do anything about it.

And the skeptical movement has also given me tools that I need to do this. Being part of the skeptical movement inspires me on a daily basis to face reality, no matter how difficult or emotionally loaded it might be. It inspires me to base my decisions, not on wishful thinking, but on the best hard evidence currently available. It’s gotten me thinking more clearly about the evolutionary aspects of food and appetite and weight loss… and has thus given me some seriously useful practical strategies to bypass the triggers that evolved on the African savannah 100,000 years ago.

So I’m not sure what to do here. I’m ticked off at both sides. I’m grateful to both sides. I see truth and value, and stubborn obliviousness, on both sides. In my personal life, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing: taking what I need from wherever I can get it, doing whatever works for me to be as healthy and sane as I can. But as a writer, and as a member of two conflicting social and political movements, I’m not sure how to handle this.

Thoughts?

Fast Food wasteland photo by Apathetic duck.

The Fat-Positive Diet

Scale 3How do you be a fat-positive feminist who’s losing weight?

Don’t worry. This isn’t going to turn into a diet blog. I’d rather hit myself on the hand with hammers. But this thing has been happening with me: it’s kind of a big effing deal for me, and I think it may be of interest to my readers. So although I’m finding myself with an uncharacteristic reluctance to talk about something this personal, I’ve decided to take the plunge.

I am, as anyone who knows me or has seen photos of me knows, fat. I have been fat for a long time, and have been more or less okay with it for a long time. My attitude towards my fatness has largely been shaped by the feminist fat-positive movement: I wasn’t going to make myself miserable trying to force my body into the mainstream image of ideal female beauty, and I was instead going to work on being as healthy as I could be — eating well, exercising, reducing stress, etc. — at the weight that I already was.

But a few months ago, my bad knee started getting worse. I’ve had a bad knee for a long time (I blew it out doing the polka and it’s never been the same since); but as bad knees go, it wasn’t that bad. I had to be careful getting in and out of cars; I had bad days when I had to rest it; I had to quit doing the polka. No big deal. I can live a rich, full life being careful getting in and out of cars and not doing the polka.

But a few months ago, it started getting worse. Like, having trouble climbing hills and stairs worse.

Lombard streetThat was not okay. I live in San Francisco. I need to be able to climb hills and stairs. And I know about knees. They don’t get better. I could see the writing on the wall: I knew that if I didn’t take action, my mobility would just get worse and worse with time. I could easily lose more than just stairs and hills. I could lose dancing. Fucking. Long walks. Walking at all.

Short of surgery, there’s really only one thing you can do for a bad knee that I wasn’t already doing.

And that’s to lose weight.

How do you be a fat-positive feminist who’s losing weight?

Fat!so?It’s really hard not to feel like a traitor about this. When I reach a benchmark in my weight loss and get all excited and proud, or when someone compliments me on how good I look now and I get a little self-esteem-boosting thrill, it’s hard not to feel like a traitor to my feminist roots, and to the fat women who fought so hard to liberate me from the rigid and narrow social constructs of female beauty.

And even apart from feeling like a traitor, there are about eighty million emotional traps along the way: traps that threaten to upend years of hard mental health work spent learning to love myself the way I am.

For starters: I know that weight loss typically fails about 90% of the time. So far this weight loss thing is working; but I’ve only been at it for a couple of months, and I know that in the long run, it could easily fail. And if this fails, then I get to feel like… well, like a failure. I get to be back at Square One, with my bad knee and everything — but without the emotional supports I built up during my “Fuck You, Body Fascists” anti- dieting years.

But if I’m one of the 10% that succeeds… well, then I feel like an idiot for having whined about it for so long, and for not having done this sooner. (I’m already feeling like that now. In a purely practical sense, this has been easier than I’d thought it would be, and so now I’m feeling like a jackass for having insisted all these years that it was all but impossible.)

And if I am successful, the last thing in the world I want to do is get all smug and judgmental about how easy it was and how if I can do it, anyone can. If there’s anything I hate, it’s when people who’ve lost weight (or never gained it) get smug and judgmental about how if they can do it, anyone can. (I’m looking at you, Dan Savage.) That is a huge, ugly trap, and it’s one I’m desperate to avoid.

Voa_Guinea_chimpanzee_picking_30jan08Plus, it’s so hard to let go of thinking that food and the appetite for it should be “natural.” I mean, it’s food. It’s one of the oldest, deepest instincts we have. (Reproducing and escaping from predators also leap to mind.) The fact that I can’t just “eat naturally,” the fact that I have to pay careful, conscious attention to everything I eat and when… it’s hard not to see that as a failure of character.

And as much as I want my weight loss to purely be about my health, the reality is that, now that I’m in the process, it’s become more about my appearance than I’d like. I really don’t want that: I find it politically troubling and emotionally toxic, and I think in the long run it’ll undermine what I’m trying to do. But it’s hard. As much as I like to think of myself as a free-spirited, convention- defying rebel, the reality is that I’m a social animal, and social animals care about what other animals think of them. And since I’m non-monogamous, I have to be aware of the realities of the sexual economy… and the reality of the sexual economy is that I’ll almost certainly get more action and attention as I lose weight. I dearly wish I didn’t care about that, but I do.

Scale 5In case you’re curious: So far, I’ve been successful. As of this writing, I’ve lost 20 pounds in two and a half months. And in case you’re curious, I don’t have any great secret to my so-far success. Counting calories; keeping a food diary; regular exercise; patience. Absurdly simple in theory. In practice, it’s been a fucking minefield, especially at the beginning: crying fits in grocery store parking lots, heavy conversations with family and friends, planning that at times borders on obsessive compulsive, a painful and complicated emotional dance every time I have dinner with friends or eat out, and way more processing with Ingrid than I ever wanted to have to go through. (And I don’t even get to call this a success yet. 90% of people who lose weight gain it back within a year; so until I’ve lost all the weight I want and have kept it off for a year, I don’t get to relax and think of this as a win. And to some extent, I’ll never get to completely relax: I’ll probably have to do some form of calorie- counting and weight management for the rest of my life.)

But it is getting easier with time, as I get more and more used to my new eating habits. It’s getting physically easier: for the first week or two, 1800 calories a day just didn’t make me feel full, and I was cranky on good days and despairing on bad ones. Now 1800 calories feels like plenty, as my body has adjusted its sense of how much food is enough. And it’s gotten easier mentally as well, as I’ve found some strategies — emotional, psychological, practical strategies — that so far have helped.

Origin-of-speciesIt’s helped to remember that my appetites and instincts about food evolved about 100,000 years ago on the African savannah, in an environment of scarcity. The taste for sweets and fats; the tendency to gorge when I’m hungry; the impulse to keep on eating even after I’ve had enough; the triggers that make me hungry when I see or smell food… that’s not weakness or moral failure. That’s millions of years of evolution at work: evolution that hasn’t had time to catch up with the modern American food landscape. And as a rationalist and a skeptic, in the same way that I’m not going to let myself believe in deities just because evolution has wired my brain to see patterns and intentions even where none exist, I’m not going to let myself eat three brownies at a party just because evolution has wired my brain to think I might starve to death if I don’t.

Chocolate chip pancakes and sausage on a stickIt’s helped for me to think of this as a political issue. It helps to remember that the multinational food corporations have spent decades carefully studying the abovementioned evolutionary food triggers, so they can manipulate me into buying and eating way more food than is good for me. It helps to think of weight loss, not as giving in to the mainstream cultural standards of female beauty, but as sending a big “Fuck You” to the purveyors of quadruple- patty hamburgers and Chocolate Chip Pancakes & Sausage on a Stick.

It’s helped for me to remember that my other “natural” impulses aren’t so natural, either. It’s worked for me to remember that as a non-monogamist, I have to think carefully about who to have sex with and when; that as a city dweller, I have to think consciously about whether I’m genuinely in danger or am just being paranoid (or conversely, whether I’m genuinely safe or am just being oblivious). Food is no different. It’s “natural” for humans to be rational animals, and to think about our choices instead of just reacting.

Doing this with Ingrid has been a huge help. Being able to support each other, encourage each other, plan meals together, share strategies, vent… it’s been invaluable. I don’t know if the people studying weight loss have looked at whether it’s more effective to do it with a partner or friend… but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Lose it ihpone appKeeping a food diary has helped enormously. It helps in the obvious way: that’s how I keep track of my calories. But more than that, it helps me be more mindful and present about how I eat. I’m a lot less likely to run to the corner and get a Snickers bar if I know I have to write it in my journal. (If you have an iPhone, btw, there’s a wicked cool calorie- counting app called LoseIt. I can’t tell you how much easier it’s made this process. If you don’t, though, not to worry: the Interweb has made calorie- counting a relative breeze.)

It helps to think of this as a permanent lifestyle change. It’s hard, but it helps. If I think of this as something I’ll just have to do once and will then be finished with… well, that wouldn’t just make this harder to sustain in the long run. It’d also make it harder in the short run: easier to blow it off for a day, and then another day, since all I’d be doing is postponing my “final” goal by a day or two. Thinking of this as “This is just how I eat now” makes it easier to keep it up.

It helped a lot to get a sane calorie count from my medical provider that took into account how much exercise I get. (As much as I love my little LoseIt iPhone app, if I’d have gotten my daily calorie count from that, it would have been way too low… since the gizmo apparently assumes that anyone using their program is about as active as a recently- fed boa constrictor.)

It helps to avoid using moral language about weight loss: to avoid thinking of “cheating” on my diet, “forbidden” foods, etc. It’s hard enough to not eat the things I’m trying not to eat, without making them seem more attractive because they’re naughty and wicked.

In defense of foodIt helps to eat real food… and to avoid “diet” food like the plague. No diet shakes, no power bars, no lowfat cardboard cookies from the industrialized food industry. Fruit, vegetables, bread, meat, rice, beans… that sort of thing. I don’t even eat lowfat cheese. I’d rather just eat regular cheese, and eat less of it.

It helps to eat slowly. Partly because it gives the “fullness” trigger in my brain time to catch up with my stomach… but partly because I get more pleasure from my food, and don’t feel deprived. And it helps to eat smaller meals more frequently: since I never get all that hungry, I can make smarter and more conscious choices about what to eat.

Measuring cups spoonsIt helps to measure my food, as much as I can. For calorie counting, it’s pretty much essential. My instincts about what constituted a cup of soup or a teaspoon of butter were way, way off. I don’t whip out the cup measure when I eat out, obviously… but I almost always do it at home, and since I’ve been doing it, my estimates on portion size when I do eat out have gotten a lot better.

It’s helped to break down my ultimate long-term goal into smaller, more manageable goals. When my health care provider told me I should lose 60 pounds to be at my maximum good health, I just about gave up in despair right then. Instead, I decided to fuck that noise, I was simply going to lose 20 pounds… and then I’d see how I felt, and how hard it was, and whether I wanted to continue or stay put. I am now shooting for another 20 pounds… and when that’s gone, I’ll once again re-evaluate and decide whether or not I want to keep going, and how far.

It’s helped to make incremental, non-drastic changes in my eating and my exercise. I think this is what trips up a lot of people who are trying to lose weight: they want to become health- obsessed gym bunnies overnight, and when that’s too hard, they give up. It helped instead to add one workout a week to what I was already doing… and then, when I got used to that, to add one more.

And on a related topic: It’s helped to be aware that weight loss can happen in fits and starts: there are natural fluctuations, with some weeks where I lose a lot and others where I don’t or even gain a little. One of my big hysterical grocery-store crying fits came early on in my program, during a week where I gained weight… and it took Ingrid forever to convince me that this didn’t necessarily mean I was doing something wrong, or that I had to make an already difficult weight-loss program even more strenuous. But she was right. It makes much more sense to keep my focus on the big picture, the overall arc. If I gain half a pound a week three weeks in a row, then I might decide that I need to step things up. But if I gain half a pound one week, I’m not going to decide that what I’m doing isn’t working. I’m just going to stick with it.

DumbbellIt’s helped for me to find exercise that I love doing. I am now doing bicep curls with 20 lb. dumbbells. I feel like a fucking Amazon goddess. Weightlifting rules.

It’s helped for me to do some sort of exercise almost every day. It’s not just that I burn more calories that way. It’s that it makes exercise into a normal part of my daily life: not a special thing I do a couple times a week and can blow off if I’m not in the mood, but an everyday routine like brushing my teeth.

When I’m not in the mood to exercise, it helps to remember that I never, ever, ever have been sorry that I worked out. Ever. No matter how crummy I felt when I started, I have always felt better afterwards.

Going to the gym helps. It’s not absolutely necessary; if you can’t afford a gym membership, you can get good exercise without one. But for me, the gym has been a lifesaver. The thing about the gym is it takes minimal willpower. All I need is the willpower to get in the car and get my ass to the gym. Once I’m there, of course I’m going to work out. I mean, what else am I going to do?

But it’s also helped to have some exercise equipment at home. Nothing fancy or expensive: some dumbbells, a stability ball, a resistance band, a mat. Having exercise equipment at home means I can easily do at least a little exercise every day, even if I can’t get to the gym. And that’s helped turn it into a regular part of my daily life, like brushing my teeth.

It’s helped to get a trainer. (Hi, Marta! We love you.)

Autumn_Red_peachesIt’s helped for me to to find healthy foods that I love. (Summer fruit season has made this so much easier: I can eat peaches and cherries and strawberries for months and never get tired of them.)

Dynamo donutAnd it’s helped to not be a purist: to eat the occasional cheeseburger, the occasional barbecued ribs, the occasional donut. I have to budget my day’s calories for it (or else budget for the occasional day when I don’t worry about it). But thinking, “I can never have another donut again as long as I live” would make this intolerable. Thinking, “I can have a donut today if I have a light dinner” makes this do-able. An entertaining challenge, even. Like my food for the day is a puzzle, and I’m trying to get all the pieces to fit together.

Knee jointFinally, more than anything else, it helps me to remember my knee. It helps to notice how much better my knee already feels now that I’ve lost the 20 pounds: to notice that I’m climbing stairs and hills again, with little or no problem. It helps to think of how much better my knee will feel when I lose another 20, and then another. It helps to pick up the 20 lb. dumbbells at the gym and think about how rough it would be on my knees to walk around carrying them all day… and how much better it would feel to set them down. It helps to think that I might even be able to do the polka again someday. And when I start thinking that this weight loss thing isn’t that big a deal and I can have that ice cream if I want it, it helps to imagine my old age, and to think about whether I want to be spending it dancing, walking in the woods, exploring new cities, on my knees committing unspeakable sexual acts… or sitting on a sofa watching TV and waiting to die.

There’s something Ingrid has said about this, something that’s really stuck with me. She’s pointed out that if I were diabetic or something, and I was told I had to change my eating habits in order to stay alive… I’d do it. I might gripe about it, but I’d manage, and I’d even find a way to enjoy it if I could.

Well, the reality isn’t that far off. I have a choice between a good shot at a healthy, active, pleasurable middle and old age… and a long, steady decline into a vicious circle of inactivity and ill health. I am, as the old ’80s T-shirts used to say, choosing life.

So that’s what’s working for me. If you’re doing this as well: What’s working for you?

Important note: I am most emphatically NOT looking for diet tips. Anyone who offers diet tips will be banned from this blog. I am only partially kidding. I already know the mechanics of what I need to do: count calories, keep a food journal, exercise regularly, be patient. Rocket science.

What I’m looking for is psychological tips. Ways of walking through the emotional minefield. Ways of framing this that make it more sustainable. Ways of answering the question:

How do you be a fat-positive feminist who’s losing weight?

And for that matter, how do you be a fat-positive skeptic?

(To be completed in tomorrow’s post.)

Fishnet is Live! “Confessions in a Small Room”

Fishnet logoFishnet is live! The first dirty story is up!

Constant readers may remember that Fishnet, the online erotic fiction magazine published by Blowfish, was being revived under my firm- but- gentle guidance as editor. The first story in the newly revived Fishnet is now up at last! It’s titled Confessions in a Small Room by Rowan Elizabeth, and here’s the teaser:

He brought his chair close enough that our knees touched. It was better than the back seat of the Pontiac.

“Okay…” I said.

“Do you kiss? You and Kevin?”

“Yes, Father. Is that wrong?”

“No. Not at all. It’s what kissing leads to which concerns me. It’s the touching.”

To read more, read the rest of the story. (Not for anyone under 18.) Enjoy!

Blog Carnivals!

CarnivalBlog carnivals! (I got a little backed up on these when I was on vacation — sorry about that!)

Humanist Symposium #40 at the evolving mind. (And because I missed it last time: Humanist Symposium #39 at Daylight Atheism.)

Carnival of the Godless #122 at CyberLizard’s Collection. (And Carnival of the Godless #121 at State of Protest.)

Carnival of the Liberals #95 at Neural Gourmet. (And Carnival of the Liberals #94 at Submitted to a Candid World.)

Skeptics’ Circle #115, at Effort Sisyphus. (And Skeptics’ Circle #114, at Homologous Legs.)

Finally, Skeptical Parent Crossing #10, at On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess.

Happy reading!

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Best Erotic Comics 2009 Is Here!

Eroc09_web

Best Erotic Comics 2009 is here!

This is the second volume in the series. And I am so proud of it I could burst. Here’s our blurb:

Comics for erotica fans! Erotica for comics fans! Smart, hot, and cutting- edge, Best Erotic Comics 2009 features the sexiest, funniest, filthiest, most beautiful, most unsettling, most inspiring adult comics of today, with work by Alison Bechdel, Gary Baseman, Peter Kuper, Junko Mizuno, Gilbert Hernandez, Ellen Forney, Toshio Saeki, and many other first-rate erotic comic artists.

For erotic connoisseurs who aren’t familiar with the world of comics, this anthology will open up an entirely new world of erotica. For comics fans who would enjoy erotic comics if so many of them weren’t so tacky, this anthology is for you. Best Erotic Comics 2009 has carefully culled the hottest work from today’s literary/ art comics — and the highest- quality work from today’s adult comics — along with some original unpublished work and a couple of vintage gems.

Other artists include Rick Altergott, Belasco, Robin Bougie, Marzia Borino & Mauro Balloni, Andrea Camic, Cephalopod Products, Colleen Coover, John Cuneo, DIRTY FOUND Magazine, Drub, Jess Fink, Jim Goad & Jim Blanchard, Diego Greco & Erdosain, Justin Hall, Molly Kiely, Ellen Lindner, Steve MacIsaac, Erika Moen, Quinn, Cristy C. Road, and Niki Smith. Cover art by Junko Mizuno. 8″ x 11″, paperback, color and b&w.

BEC 2008 cover, full sizePraise for Best Erotic Comics 2008:

“A sensual trip into the wide world of sex… Seasoned sex writer Greta Christina is out to provoke discussion, identification, lust, and much more with this collection.” -Rachel Kramer Bussel

“This book has been far too long in coming… We love erotic comics here at Blowfish, and we cannot think of a better volume to get for an overview of the genre.” -Blowfish.com

“American literary erotic fiction and the great American graphic novel just had a love child, and Greta Christina is its savant midwife… Don’t bother me, I want to be alone with Best Erotic Comics.” -Susie Bright

The editor — that’s ME, ME, ME — is available for interviews. Interview requests, publicity questions, and congratulatory telegrams should be sent to [email protected], or [email protected] I’ll post more here about publicity events and whatnot as the occasions arise. Yippee!

In Praise of Routine

No, really. I’m serious.

Monday shirtThere’s this very prevalent alternative-culture meme about how routine kills life and joy: how doing more or less the same things every day makes you less present and mindful in your life; how spontaneity is the key to a life fully lived.

So today — just for a change — I want to be an ornery cuss, and buck this trend.

I want to speak in praise of routine.

Ingrid and I just got back from a vacation in which, for complicated reasons that I won’t bore you with, we stayed in five different rooms, in three different homes and hotels. All throughout that trip — and for several days after getting back home from it — my daily routine was seriously disrupted.

And this put rather a crimp in my life. The vacation was great, for all the reasons that vacations are great. But it was also disruptive: even more so than a regular vacation where you stay in one or two places. And in the week or so that I’ve been back at home trying to get back into my groove, my style has been rather cramped. The loss of my routine has made my life less lively, less joyful, less present and mindful. Finally settling back into that routine has been a relief… and it’s enabled me to live my life more fully.

ToothbrushSee, here’s the thing. When I’m not in a routine, I have to put a disproportionate amount of time and mental energy into thinking about things that are… well, routine. Where is my toothbrush? Where is my underwear? Where is the colander in this kitchen? Where are the 15 pound dumbbells at this gym? The smallest aspects of my life are a struggle just to make happen.

And I screw things up. I forget to bring my lunch to work. I leave my wallet on the sofa. I lose my workout notebook. All of which takes even more time and mental energy to deal with.

That’s time and mental energy that I don’t have to spend on things like, say, writing. Talking with friends. Pondering the nature of existence. Looking at trees.

Plus it’s an irritant. And getting irritated every half an hour because you lost your workout notebook and can’t find your underwear is probably not the best state of mind for a present, mindful, fully-lived life.

DumbbellsBut when I’m in my routine, I can spend less time and energy struggling just to make my life happen… and can spend more time and energy actually experiencing it. And I can experience it in a calmer, more peaceful state of mind. When I’m getting dressed, I can be more present in my body and the way I express myself through style if I’m not tearing apart my suitcase trying to find my underwear; when I’m working out, I can focus more intently on the signals my body is giving me when I’m not wondering where the damn 15-pound dumbbells are.

(Side note: I think it’s funny that many of the people who deride routine are the same people who praise ritual, and bemoan the lack of it in our rushed modern society. If I call brushing my teeth and journaling my workouts a ritual instead of a routine, can I get my alt-culture cred back?)

BalanceI agree that there’s a happy medium here. I agree that there’s a balance between rigidity and chaos; a place where we can feel both peaceful and free, where we have room for surprises and change, but don’t have to spend every moment working out the smallest details of everyday existence. And I think this happy medium is different for different people. Some people flourish on wearing the same outfit and having the same thing for breakfast every day; for others, as long as they brush their teeth every morning and every night, that’s all the routine they need. For some people, the level of routine that I have in my life would be mind- numbingly repetitive; for others, it would be alarmingly chaotic.

But… well, actually, I think that’s my point. I don’t think it’s up to us to judge other people for having a happy balance point between rigidity and chaos that’s different from ours.

Yes, too much routine — whatever “too much” means for you — can be tedious and stultifying. Yes, doing the same things day in and day out can lead you to space out from your life instead of engaging you with it. Yes, we need to be willing to try new things, and to make room in our lives for surprises. Yes, we need to not be so attached to our routine that we’re afraid to ever let go of it.

But I have a limited amount of time on this earth. I would really rather not spend it figuring out where I put my underwear.

My Partner Cheated On Me With Their Right Hand

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Will someone please explain this to me?

Because I do not get it at all.

Main_de_Jules_Dalou_par_J.LeclerqI’m talking about masturbation jealousy. I’m talking about people who get jealous, not when their partners get attracted to other people, not when their partners look at porn starring other people, but when their partners masturbate. And I mean seriously jealous. Not “a little twinge of weirdness” jealous; not “I know this is irrational but I just can’t help feeling this way” jealous. I mean, “This is legitimately hurtful and threatening to me, it’s a violation of sexual trust, and I expect you to stop it” jealous.

And I do not get it at all.

Admittedly, I’m not necessarily the best person to ask about jealousy. I tend to rank fairly far down on the jealousy scale; to me, the fact that my partner gets interested in other people seems pretty normal, and not a particularly big deal. But it’s not like I don’t get it at all. I’m human. I get twinges. And I’ve felt serious, hard-core jealousy before, in bad relationships with people I didn’t trust and shouldn’t have. It’s not like the emotion is alien to me.

But getting jealous of your partner masturbating? That, I am totally baffled by. I’m trying to figure it out. And I might need someone to explain it to me.

Let’s take a closer look at jealousy for a moment. We tend to think of jealousy as a single emotion. But I don’t think that’s so. I think it’s more accurate to think of jealousy as a stew of different emotions. It’s part fear — fear that your partner will leave you for someone else. It’s part insecurity — insecurity about your own value and desirability in comparison to someone else. It’s part hurt feelings — hurt feelings of being unwanted, rejected, left out. And it’s part just flat-out controlling possessiveness — the feeling that your partner’s sexuality belongs to you now, and that they shouldn’t have any sexual feelings or experiences that don’t involve you.

Now.

Which of these feelings have anything at all to do with a partner masturbating?

It’s almost certainly not fear. It’s not impossible, I suppose; but I highly doubt that very many people are genuinely afraid that their partner will leave them to pursue more masturbation.

VaselineAnd for much the same reason, I don’t think it’s insecurity. Are there people in the world who are anxious about their partner whacking off and making unflattering comparisons? Are there people in the world who are genuinely concerned that, compared to a vibrator or a right hand and a jar of Vaseline, they just don’t stack up? Maybe. But I’m skeptical.

What about hurt feelings? Possibly. In the same way that some people feel rejected or left out if their partner eats dinner without them, goes to a movie without them, has a drink with colleagues after work without them, there may well be some people who feel rejected or left out if their partner has an orgasm without them.

But my money’s on possessiveness and control.

MineI speculate (and I will freely admit that this is speculation, it’s not like I’ve done a peer- reviewed study or anything) that 90% of jealousy over masturbation has to do with the idea that, once you get into a relationship with someone, their sexuality should be 100% focused on you. It’s not just that they shouldn’t have sex with other people, shouldn’t look at other people, shouldn’t maintain friendships with people they’ve had sex with in the past. They shouldn’t even have sex with themselves. They shouldn’t enjoy their bodies, and their bodies’ capacity for sexual pleasure, if you’re not there. Their sexuality belongs to you now. According to this way of thinking, that’s just part of the implicit contract of a relationship.

And this, I think, is why it baffles me.

I get the other parts of jealousy. I get being afraid that you’re going to be left for someone else. I get feeling insecure about your attractiveness, and feeling anxious about being compared to other people. I even get feeling hurt and rejected if you’re not included in something that you care about and want to be a part of. These aren’t always the most useful emotions in a relationship, but they’re certainly human, and they’re certainly understandable. And they can be dealt with, in a variety of creative ways.

But I absolutely do not get the part about how being in a relationship means diverting every milliliter of your sexuality towards your partner — and how any divergence from this is tantamount to betrayal. I think that’s just loony-tunes. What’s more, it’s loony-tunes in a way that’s singularly inflexible, impenetrable to negotiation or processing or reason.

And I think that’s what expecting your partner not to masturbate — and getting jealous when they do — amounts to.

I think. I could be wrong. I really don’t get this. Can somebody explain it to me?

Please note: I’m not talking about the “My partner masturbates all the time and we never have sex together anymore” situation. That’s different.

Come See Greta Read! Perverts Put Out, Sat. 7/25

PpoIf you’re in the Bay Area, or you’re going to be in the Bay Area this Saturday, come see me read! I’m going to be part of the fabled sex writers’ reading series, Perverts Put Out. This edition of PPO is happening on Saturday, July 25, in celebration of the Up Your Alley leather street fair, and the readers include Philip Huang, Thomas Roche, horehound stillpoint, Steven Schwartz, Jeff Stroker, Hew Wolff, and emcees Carol Queen and Simon Sheppard — as well as, of course, me.

Perverts Put Out will be at CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission Street, San Francisco, at 9th Street near the Civic Center BART station. It’s being held on Saturday, July 25, starting at 7:30 pm. Admission is $10-15 on a sliding scale.

So come on by and listen to me read about sex! And if you do, say hi. I always like to meet my readers. Hope to see you there!