Friday, February 25, 2022


Arthur and Francine. Image source.

Got A LOT of links for you all today:

1. Animation: Encanto and Gifts of Trauma (posted January 19) [content note: spoilers for "Encanto"] "I have a soft spot for Bruno in particular because my own trauma means I can often predict all the bad ways a situation will go, and it's vexing to be disbelieved as a cynic or as someone who 'wants' things to fail just because I've seen some shit."

2. An Arizona priest used one wrong word in baptisms for decades. They're all invalid (posted February 15) "During baptisms in both English and Spanish, Arango used the phrase 'we baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.' He should have said 'I baptize,' the diocese explained." Omg, imagine believing that *some man* has the right to judge if your baptism is "valid" or not, LOLOLOL.

(I also like Hemant Mehta's take on it.)

In all seriousness though, it's extremely easy to make fun of this story, but I am actually curious about if there are articles written on this from a Catholic perspective, that don't make it sound COMPLETELY BONKERS. Like, when we make fun of this, are we misrepresenting their position, or is it truly and literally as bonkers as it sounds? Might be good to hear a different perspective before we go all in on the mocking?

I did some quick googling and didn't see anything that looked much different from the npr article I linked, but if anyone does have a source that explains this in a non-bonkers way, I would be interested to read it.

3. How ‘Arthur’ grew up: Inside the beloved TV show’s emotional finale (posted February 21) "After 25 seasons, 253 episodes and seven specials, the PBS mainstay 'Arthur' aired its final episode, 'All Grown Up,' on Monday." Awww, "Arthur" was my favorite show when I was a kid.

"And I say hey, what a wonderful kind of day..."

4. Oh remember how in December/January the city of Xi'an, China, had a really bad covid outbreak and there were all these news articles about how Xi'an is doing such a bad job of making sure all residents' basic needs are met while they're in lockdown? (That's true- Xi'an did a bad job of that.) Well here's a follow-up to that: On January 24, China's Xi'an clears high, medium-risk areas for COVID-19. This means there are no longer any "high risk" or "medium risk" areas in Xi'an- the entire city is now classified as "low risk." "Low risk" means as far as we know (and this is after A LOT of testing), 0 people have covid. (Or, technically, anyone who has tested positive for covid is in a hospital where they're not able to spread it to anyone else, and there has been A LOT of testing on all their known contacts.)

Just want to point this out to make it clear to all of you who are not in China. This is how it works here- there are occasional "covid outbreaks" (which are a few dozen or a few hundred cases- Xi'an's was the biggest since Wuhan, I think, with 2000ish cases over the course of 1-2 months). The pandemic workers come in and test thousands or millions of people, put thousands or millions of people in lockdown, and then a couple weeks later, it's done, now there are 0 covid cases, the lockdowns end, and it's back to normal life.

It works. 

5. ‘Inerrancy’ and the 1611 Project (posted February 15) "You’d think such articles — there are many others like it in CT’s archives — would require some introductory disclaimer or explanation to contextualize them for contemporary readers. But then it’s hard to imagine what such disclaimers might say, given that no part of Ellis’ argument from 1957 can’t be found repeated in 2022 Christianity Today articles fretting about the supposed dangers that 'wokeness' or 'critical race theory' pose to the real, true gospel of biblical inerrancy."

This is really important. Back when I was in middle school and we learned about the civil rights movement, it was like, the white people who didn't want their kids to go to school with black kids were just one-dimensional racists who were clearly evil and wrong. But, the reality is, back then, white people were making these philosophical and nuanced arguments in favor of segregation- arguments that sound scarily similar to things you hear today. Arguments that even cited the bible, because they viewed the bible in the same way that I was taught to. 

Yes, they were bad and wrong and racist- but also not so terribly different from things I have thought and believed and said. And if white people don't know that- if we are not teaching our kids- if we are saying "oh those people from history were all hateful and racist and not anything like us"- then how are we going to do better?

6. The grift goes all the way to the top (posted February 10) "In public, [Jerry Falwell Jr.] pretended that he was the fire-and-brimstone Bible-thumper his father’s audience believed him to be—even as, in private, he and his wife Becki jetted off to Miami to drink and dance the nights away, far from the prying eyes of his fellow Christians."

7. The Winter Olympics don't really represent the world: Costs, climate and quotas keep the majority off the podium (posted February 22) "No African nation has ever won a medal in the Winter Olympics."

8. Rogers Musical (Full Version) (posted December 24) This is the "Rogers" musical from the Marvel show "Hawkeye," and if you are a Marvel fan, it is INCREDIBLE.

9. Ahmad Arbery's 3 killers found guilty of federal hate crimes (posted February 22)

10. True crime (part 1) (posted February 20) [content note: domestic violence, murder] "The politics of crime never seems to include criminals like Scott Peterson or Barry Morphew (allegedly). Their stories aren’t part of the narrative of crime. They’re just presented as entertainment. (Even Fox News reports these cases this way, as sordid entertainment wholly unrelated to the propaganda network’s otherwise relentless efforts to use 'crime' to foster rabid white resentment.)"

And also True crime (part 2). "He notes Barry’s comment to a local TV reporter — 'Suzanne trusted the Lord, and if one person got saved from this, she would think it was worth it' — and sees it as a chilling indicator of the faith-based calculus his cousin may have used to rationalize murder[.]"

11. [content note: eating disorder] Well, um, this is horrifying: HealthyWage: Weight Loss Challenges + Cash Prizes. It's a website where you can set a weight loss goal for yourself, pick a deadline, and place a bet with ACTUAL MONEY, and then if you reach your goal before the deadline, you get money. (And of course, if you don't reach your goal, you lose money.)

My first thought is, holy shit, this looks like a way to make money off having an eating disorder.

To test it, I followed the steps on their website, where it guides you through putting in numbers and it will tell you how much money you will earn. I pretended I weighed 90 lbs and want to lose 30 lbs. At no point during the process did a red flag come up and say "holy crap, if you weigh 90 lbs you should NOT be trying to lose weight." Instead, the algorithm very helpfully guided me along, doing the math with the numbers I had put in.

Screenshot from "Healthy Wage." HOLY CRAP, it is very NOT COOL to suggest to AN ADULT that 60 lbs could be their "ideal weight."

At one point, it even told me that I could totally lose 1-2 lbs per week, instead of 0.8 lbs (which was the result based on the numbers I had entered). Like, I saw this little warning symbol pop up, and I thought that's where the algorithm had flagged my hypothetical example as having a dangerous eating disorder, but NOPE, it was THE OPPOSITE:

Screenshot from "Healthy Wage"

One, um, at-least-not-as-bad-as-it-could-be thing I noted was, in the FAQs, it says if you get pregnant after starting your "challenge", then you should notify them and they will "pause" your challenge until your doctor says you can start up the "challenge" again (um, instead of refunding your money...).

I didn't actually create an account- maybe if I created an account to do this for real, an actual human would have looked at my numbers and said "HOLY SHIT this person should NOT be doing a weight-loss challenge." But, um, seriously, they should have taught their website algorithm to do that anyway.

Still, the whole thing is very "get paid to have an eating disorder", even if you aren't as extreme as my "90 lbs" example. I'm not sure they can realistically set a threshold and say "oh, if your weight is above this number, then we are totally confident that you are using this 'challenge' thing in a healthy way, no worries." I just think... when you start getting money involved, you introduce the possibility that someone is forced to keep going with it even if they end up realizing that it's actually not healthy for them to be on a weight-loss plan. Like what if the money becomes more important than doing what's best for your physical and mental health.


12. Can’t Believe We Have To Say This But Yeah, Dr. King Got Arrested A Lot (posted February 17) "By this rationale, they could have cracked down on the Civil Rights Movement. They could have arrested Martin Luther King."

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

I don't really use the "no sexual attraction" definition anymore

Okay I was searching for an image to represent me being confused about sex, and came across this stock photo of a white woman sitting with a laptop, looking like she is trying to write a blog but is also very confused. I find this delightful- please feel free to imagine that I look exactly like this while I am blogging. Image source.

Recently I was at a queer event and I mentioned I'm asexual, and then I gave the definition in case people don't know what it means- "it means you are not sexually attracted to anyone."

And it felt weird, because yeah I know that's the definition, but that isn't really how I understand my asexuality now. Like, okay I guess I am probably not sexually attracted to anyone, whatever that even means, but I no longer feel like that's what it is for me to be asexual.

Instead, being asexual is more about... I don't *get* sex. Yes, I do in fact have sex with my husband, Hendrix, and it works well, and I enjoy it, but in a general sense I don't *get* sex. It only works well with him because I have done A LOT of work to figure out my body and what I even want. I still feel like I have no idea what sex is about in general. When I hear other people talking about sex, it doesn't sound like anything I can relate to at all. I don't *get* sex.

I "get" it when it's with him. But in a general sense, no, I have no idea.

When I was first figuring out I'm asexual, I was super-fixated on the whole "no sexual attraction" definition. Trying to figure out what sexual attraction even is, in order to be allowed to claim I don't have it. It seems like this is a very common experience for asexuals.

But after 5-ish years of IDing as asexual, I don't care about that as much any more. I just feel comfortable with the asexual label, and, yeah that's pretty much it. I don't need to justify it to anyone- I don't worry about that anymore.

Recently I've found a really good group of queer friends, and we like to talk about our queer lives A LOT. And it's so extremely freeing to me, that I can be "out" as asexual and be very open about the fact that I don't understand sex. (Typically I feel like I can't be openly clueless about sex, because people will think I'm just pretending to not get it, because of prudish judgmental holier-than-thou reasons, or something.) I've never really had this kind of experience before, and it just feels so good, just to be honest about how I don't get it.

For example, we had the following conversation:

me: So I saw this video, and there was a couple talking about "do you want to look at some toys" and they're looking at a computer screen, but it turns out it's rubber ducks, and the joke is that you're supposed to think they are talking about sex toys, but they're not. But this isn't realistic, right? If someone was really talking about sex toys, they would say "sex toys," they wouldn't say "toys." It's just "toys" in the video because media has to be censored like that, but in real life it wouldn't be.

queer poly friend: Actually, a lot of people are really awkward about sex and unwilling to talk about it directly, which is a PROBLEM and people should COMMUNICATE.

me: But... wait, how can you even have sex without talking about it? Like how would that even work???

queer poly friend: Yes! A lot of people are bad at communicating about this!

me: But how?????? Don't you at least have to say "what position do you want to do?" How is it even possible to have sex without saying to each other "what position do you want to do?"

other queer friends: [start legitimately trying to explain how it comes about that people have sex without saying to each other "what position do you want to do?"]

me: [still doesn't get it, also now has a lot of concerns about how consensual that even is]

Like wow, I love how they treat it like a real question! In the past, people have refused to explain things to me because "stop being so naive". And yes, sometimes with these awesome queer friends I do have to just stop asking and accept that I'm not going to "get" it and that I will just annoy people if I keep asking over and over. But wow, I've never been in this kind of environment, where I can openly be as clueless about sex as I really am, and it's accepted.

This is what I mean about being just really comfortable and happy with the label "asexual."

Also I read asexual blogs, and the things they talk about make sense to me. I don't care as much now about being 100% sure that I've never experienced sexual attraction or whatever. It's about the community, about finally finding people who talk about sex in a way that I can "get."

I was worried, after I discovered I don't have vaginismus anymore and sex is going really really well for me- I was worried that I wouldn't be "allowed" to be asexual anymore. But the truth is, the reason I'm able to have sex in a way that goes well is that I did the work to figure it out. I came from a background of Christian "sexual purity" teaching that goes "best-case scenario is that you don't have a single sexual thought at all before marriage, and then BOOM on your wedding night you'll have the BEST SEX EVER" - and when it didn't work that way, there wasn't really much help for me from sex-normative society. (But wow, thank Nonbinary God that I didn't actually wait till my wedding night, can you imagine putting all those expectations on one single day, picked out months in advance, and then right when you expect the magic to happen, that's when you figure out sex makes no sense at all?)

I did the work, and it was A LOT of work because I'm ASEXUAL. Honestly, though, everyone should do the work of figuring out what they actually want, and if you choose to have sex then you should also definitely do the work of masturbating and really finding out how your genitals work and what feels good- I worry about people who don't run into huge roadblocks when attempting to have sex, because if it's easy, then they might not ever end up doing that work, and then their sex life is just what society expects them to do, rather than what they actually want.

But anyway. I did the work, and then I worried that my success meant that I would have to be heterosexual- like the thing that finally helped me understand myself would be taken away from me. Back to heterosexual world... Heterosexual world, which told me "just relax" and other completely useless advice about how to have sex. No, I figured this all out myself, asexually, and I want that to be acknowledged. It didn't come naturally at all. I did the work. I'm not heterosexual.

And as I worried about all that, I circled back to the standard definition- "asexual means you're not sexually attracted to anyone"- and I asked myself if that applies to me. In terms of the very very specific way that asexuals define "sexual attraction", no, I do not have sexual attraction. But for your average non-asexual person, who doesn't spend tons of time reading blog posts about "but what exactly is sexual attraction?" on the internet, they would totally say that my feeling of wanting to have sex with my husband is sexual attraction. Right? Like for someone not familiar with all the nuances of asexual terminology, yes, that's exactly what they would call it.

And maybe I'm ridiculous for claiming it's not.

Does it matter, though? I don't want to spend my time so concerned about parsing out the "truth" about whether or not I have sexual attraction. What matters is that IDing as asexual has given me the freedom to be honest about not understanding sex- I don't have to pretend anymore. It's given me the space I need to figure out what I actually want from sex, on my own terms. And it's given me access to a community of people who also don't "get" sex- finally people are talking about sex in a way that actually makes sense.


This post is part of the February 2022 Carnival of Aces. The topic is "Beyond Attraction."



I'm Not a Baby Ace Anymore

I'm Still Asexual

How Pregnancy and Childbirth Changed My Asexuality (or, actually, A Post About Vaginismus)

Friday, February 18, 2022

"Come As You Are" is helpful I guess but not for me

Book cover for "Come As You Are" by Emily Nagoski.

I recently read the book Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life so I want to do a little review here. (The one I read was the 2015 edition, but apparently there is a revised edition published in 2021.) 

So yeah, I bought this book because I saw it recommended on the internet, and the title claims that it "will transform my sex life" which I definitely wanted back then. (I bought it several years ago, and since then I have figured out my sex life on my own, by my own damn asexual self, so I guess I am no longer interested in things that claim they will "transform my sex life.")

Anyway. My thoughts:

1. I don't understand the main problem this book is trying to address

My main experience reading this book was being completely mystified, wondering what exactly the problem is that Nagoski is even trying to solve. Women, uh, want to have sex more? Okay, then have sex more? Oh but they don't want to. Uh, okay, then don't have sex? I just... I can't seem to get my asexual mind around what exactly the issue is here. (The examples given in this book were women in long-term relationships- so the issue wasn't finding a partner.)

The best I can figure is, the problem is this: A lot of women partly want to have sex and partly don't want to have sex, so the book is telling us how to change the "partly don't want to have sex" part. Like maybe they emotionally want to, but physically can't get aroused- I guess the issue is something along those lines?

Or... maybe they have this vision in their mind of the specific type of sexual experience they want to have, which isn't necessarily straightforward to achieve- it's not as easy as "just have sex" because "sex" isn't just one thing. Emotionally, it can be amazing or it can be meh, etc etc etc. Maybe the issue is, they want to have sex that feels a certain way emotionally, so the book is about how to set up a relaxing environment and how to have the right mindset so that when you have sex, you feel those emotions that you were hoping to feel.

I guess? Something like that?

I just... I am too asexual to figure out what this book is about. I can theorize that it's something like what I described above, but it's never clearly explained. It talks a lot about "turning on the ons and turning off the offs" but like, why? I guess as an asexual, I choose to have sex for more, uh, intellectual reasons, so I don't see why it's would be necessary to .... like carefully set up an environment that makes me emotionally want to have sex (or maybe it was actually referring to physical arousal??? I don't know???) 

Or... wait, maybe this book is based on the assumption that you need to have sex drive in order to have sex, so then for people who want to have sex more, it's necessary for them to figure out how to get their sex drive to be higher...? But, uh, again, I am super confused about why this is an issue- I have sex without having sex drive/ sexual desire/ sexual attraction. Or, is it like, without the sex drive, you won't be aroused, so then physically it's too difficult to have sex? Uh ... I mean yeah I have had vaginsmus-related problems along those lines, and I figured out how to use my fingers and a sex toy to get physically aroused even without feeling "sexual desire" or whatever- that's how I solved that problem- but the book is not about that at all. So again, I'm lost.

And also the book talked about how for a lot of women, stress "hits the brakes" and makes them not want to have sex/ it's harder to have sex, but also there are some women for whom stress is an "accelerator" (the main metaphor in the book is the "accelerator"/"brakes" of choosing to have sex). And I just... yeah I have heard people saying that stress leads to not having sex... but I don't really get it. I don't really see a relation, in my own life, between stress and having or not having sex. It's like, sex is a thing on my to-do list, which I put on the list for various reasons of my own, and yeah sometimes it would be the case that I was stressed about how I haven't had sex with my husband frequently enough so I'm worried that I'm not a good enough wife, and so I choose to have sex in order to solve that problem... (And yes I know that ideology about being required to have sex with my husband is really problematic, but that's really how I thought back then. Things are way better now though- see this post about vaginismus and this post about pregnancy.) That's the only real connection I can make in my own life between stress and the decision to have sex or not- but seems like that's not what the book was talking about at all.

2. There are A LOT of metaphors

So the book starts out talking about the "accelerator" and "brakes", and how this is how we should understand sexual desire. Don't just work on doing things that turn you "on", but also work on removing things that turn you "off." Again, as I write this I am like "oh wait, when I say 'turn you on', that's a euphemism for one's genitals being physically aroused (I think???) so maybe I shouldn't use that wording because the book wasn't just referring to that, it was a bigger concept than that- uh, or, uh, wait maybe it actually WAS just referring to physical arousal??? I don't know???"

So anyway. Yeah the beginning is a lot about how to tell what activates your "accelerator" and "brakes" and how some people have "a more sensitive brake" and everyone is unique etc. So I thought that was going to be the overall metaphor of the whole book. 

But then some more metaphors started appearing, like the "sleepy hedgehog" and "little monitor in your brain" and "flock of birds." And I didn't really put much effort into trying to understand the nuances of each new metaphor, because I assumed that the overall metaphor of the book was the accelerator/brakes thing, and these other metaphors would only matter for like 1 paragraph. But oh geez, no. The book keeps introducing new metaphors and then continuing to refer to them for the whole rest of the book, so you really do have to remember what each thing was supposed to represent.

Probably part of my problem was that it took me several years to actually finish this book, due to, you know, having a newborn baby... And that the book wasn't what I expected; I expected it to just be about the accelerator/brakes thing, so I wasn't mentally prepared to really pay attention to every new metaphor that came along.

From an asexual perspective, the metaphors themselves are not bad. Okay, as I said, the accelerator/brakes one I don't really get, but the other metaphors relate to emotions and things that don't even necessarily have to be about sex, and therefore they are understandable for me as an asexual.

But there really are a lot of metaphors, and I was not expecting that.

3. The best part (for me) is "accept yourself where you are"

I think this book has a lot of stuff that can be really helpful for people. In particular, it talked about arousal in ways I haven't really seen talked about before. There are also parts about handling stress and trauma in an emotionally healthy way, and evaluating the messages about sex we have internalized from our culture.

Yeah, useful stuff I guess, but none of it really felt relevant to my life. I was hoping this book was going to "transform my sex life" (as the front cover says) but nope, it didn't. See, back when I bought it, I was constantly looking for and hoping for someone to explain sex to me. My questions were things like this: "How are we even supposed to get the penis to go in?" and "Why does no one ever talk about how you really have to aim the penis in at exactly the right angle, otherwise if it hits wrong then it will hurt so bad that you really just have to give up on sex and try again another day" and "What is the point of doing all this anyway?" I now see that the first 2 questions were very much vaginismus questions, and the third is an asexual question... so no, "Come As You Are" did NOT give me any help there.

No, instead I found my answers through IDing as asexual.

The part in the book that I feel is most relevant to my life is this: First accept yourself where you are, rather than thinking you're already failing because you don't meet somebody's expectations about how your sex life is supposed to be. (I can't find the exact page so I don't have the wording the book used, but it was basically that.) Accept yourself where you are, and then go from there. Honestly, this is the biggest way that IDing as asexual has benefitted me. (So no, the book didn't help me, it just coincidentally mentioned what I had already learned from IDing as asexual.)

Back when I thought I was heterosexual, I was so confused about why sex didn't make sense. I thought, it is supposed to make sense to me, what is wrong with me, and so on. I'm supposed to understand what people are talking about when they talk about sex. I'm supposed to just follow my attraction to my partner and it will naturally lead to sex. None of it made sense, and I was stuck in the worry about why it didn't make sense, or trying to analyze and re-categorize my feelings so they could maybe fit into the kind of sexual desires I was told that "everyone" had.

And I couldn't really make any progress back then, stuck in the problem of being confused about the gap between my own feelings and what society said my feelings were. But when I discovered asexuality and concluded that I was asexual, then it made sense. I just don't have sexual attraction, and that's why I don't know the things that "everyone knows" about sex, and that's okay! Now I know this is how I am, this is a legitimate way to be, and I don't have to worry about trying to force my feelings into the "everyone knows" model of sex that society gives us.

And because I just accept myself and I don't have to worry about "figuring out what's wrong with me," I can then focus on what I actually want. When I started IDing as asexual, years ago, it gave me the freedom to define my sex life in the way I actually wanted, not the way that "everyone wants" or "it's supposed to be."

So that was the bit of the book I liked- but yeah I had already figured it out myself, didn't need to learn it from this book.

4. Link to another asexual review of "Come As You Are"

So I found this 2020 review from Sennkestra, another asexual blogger. Their review is much more negative than mine, perhaps because they had been told that the book was ace-positive (ie, good for asexuals) and that's why they were reviewing it. Wow, holy cow, who on the internet is going around saying this book is ace-positive? It's NOT. Very much not. Like, as I wrote above, as an asexual I really can't understand what problem this book is even addressing. It's about how to help women have more sex- but like, why would that be a desirable goal? Why do we need to have more sex? Why would anyone say this book is ace-positive? 

Also this bit from Sennkestra's review:

The other thing that strikes me about the use of these fictional anecdotes to illustrate concepts is that some of them feel weirdly, like......self-congratulatory? Like, at least half them are structured like:

I was talking to Amy, who told me "I am having a sexual problem with my partner Bob, and we can't figure out why it keeps going wrong!"

I then explained to Amy, "[whatever the concept of the book is]"

I could see a lightbulb turn on in Amy's eyes. "Wow, thank you Emily, why did no one ever tell me this! I am having a sexual epiphany! [concept] has solved my problem!"

Lol yes this is spot-on.

5. Also it says people get aroused by overhearing their neighbors having sex

Yeah not sure where to fit this in my review, but damn this was so WEIRD I just have to mention it somewhere. From page 72:

Example: A woman in her twenties told me of a time when she woke up in the middle of the night in her boyfriend's apartment, to the sound of the upstairs neighbors having sex. The rhythmic squeaking and grunting sighs instantly turned her on. She kissed her boyfriend awake and they listened together, then had fast, intense sex.

O_O What on earth

Is this, like, a real thing? I mean I guess it could be similar to watching porn, and I have tried to watch porn and just was totally baffled and not at all turned on, so... But... the neighbors?????? Like, it would only make sense if the neighbors are people you find attractive, right? Or like, if you don't actually know them and can just interpret their sex sounds as whatever idealized fantasy you have. Or??? The neighbors? 

I'm just trying to make sense of this and... okay imagine a spectrum, on one end is "your parents having sex" and the other end is "porn that you like", and you can place people along this spectrum according to how interested you would be in witnessing them have sex. (Okay this whole thought experiment is super creepy, don't actually categorize your friends and coworkers like this, eww.) I feel like the average neighbor would be way closer to the "parents" end of the spectrum. 

Right? Am I wrong? I know I'm asexual but this is just ridiculous. 



So that's my review of "Come As You Are" by Emily Nagoski. Overall I think it does have useful ideas, some of which I actually hadn't heard before- but none of it really related to me as an asexual. I guess a lot of people love it; there are a lot of good reviews on the internet. *shrug* But yeah, not helpful for me.


This post uses Amazon affiliate links.



How Pregnancy and Childbirth Changed My Asexuality (or, actually, A Post About Vaginismus)

Being Asexual in Pregnancy World

3 Reasons I Need To Identify As Ace

Let me tell you about a fanfic that reminded me of my marriage 

Saturday, February 12, 2022


1. AI-generated Valentine's Cards (posted February 4) "You're the snail's poise!"

2. Reliable sources and blogger ethics panels (posted February 2) "I know a lot of you have been asking yourselves, 'Why doesn’t LGM have more Fred Bonine content? Is one 2000-word post every 18 years really enough?'"

3. Washington selects Commanders as new NFL team name after two-season process (posted February 2) Awesome!

4. Former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores sues NFL, three teams alleging racist hiring practices (posted February 1) "The lawsuit alleges that one team, the New York Giants, engaged in a 'sham interview' process with Flores for their vacancy. The suit alleges that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick 'mistakenly disclosed' to Flores in a text message exchange on Jan. 24 -- three days before Flores was set to interview with the Giants -- that the organization intended to hire Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who is white."

5. Discovery of what ailed Dolly the dinosaur is a first, researchers say (posted February 10) "About 150 million years ago, a young long-necked dinosaur fell ill, likely coughing and suffering from a fever as it wandered what is now southwest Montana."

6. What happened to the nonbelief channel at Patheos? (posted January 4) "Bloggers were advised they could stay at Patheos so long as they stopped writing negative or critical posts on religion or politics and instead focused on how to live a good life within their own worldview."

Wednesday, February 9, 2022


1. The Nasty Logistics of Returning Your Too-Small Pants (posted October 2021) "Perfectly good stuff gets thrown away in these facilities all the time, simply because the financial math of doing anything else doesn’t work out; they’re too inexpensive to be worth the effort, or too much time has passed since they were sold."

I also wonder a lot about what happens to stuff in stores that doesn't get sold. I have friends who worry about "oh no, I bought lunch and they gave me a disposable plastic spoon with it," but really, businesses must be throwing away tons of stuff that doesn't sell... what's the point of you getting yourself all worried about throwing away plastic packaging or "wasting food" or whatever, when your choice not to buy it means the business will be the one throwing it away instead of you?

I haven't done any research into the actual facts of that, so don't take what I say too seriously I guess (although, if anyone has sources about what happens to unsold products and how that should inform our worry over using too many plastic bags, please do leave them in the comment section). But I just find it really really suspicious that every store has a huge huge selection of things, and I get to browse through them all and choose the one that fits my specific needs- so what happens to all the others? Sure, some things can sit on the shelf indefinitely and they'll eventually find a customer who happens to need that exact thing, but what about more time-sensitive things like food or seasonal clothes or new books, etc?

2. We Don't Talk About Bruno (From "Encanto") (posted December 29) Hendrix and I just saw the new Disney movie "Encanto" in the theater, and wow it has a lot of good songs!

I also love how the Madrigal family had such a fun mix of interracial relationships. :)

3. Joey I’m not angry anymore (posted February 2) This is one of the Slacktivist's frequent link roundups, and I'm posting it here because of this part: "You might be thinking that the beginning of February is way too late for any thought of New Year’s Resolutions, but don’t fall into that trap. This is a trap I’m well acquainted with thanks to having grown up in white evangelical purity culture, a framework that trains you to think of virtue as a kind of original innocence and purity you must struggle to preserve, gripping it tight with white-knuckled determination."

Yeah, as an ex-evangelical, I can relate to that.

4. Where is Noah’s Flood in the Geological Column? (posted 2021) "What is going on here? Are we to understand that lions, panthers and leopards existed as separate species prior to the flood, and yet just one single pair from the entire 'kind' walked on to the Ark, only to walk off less than a year later and hyper-evolve back into the very same species once again? This is quite a convenient occurrence."

5. Creation Science Exposed: When Ego and Creation Science Meet: A History of the Answers in Genesis Split (posted 2008 maybe?) Okay maybe this is not interesting to anyone except me, but... It's the whole long story of how the creationist organization Answers in Genesis split in 2006, with the part that split off becoming Creation Ministries International. Wow, I did not know any of this! I was a devoted follower of AiG back in, what, 2003, 2004, and then didn't really think about creationism for a few years, then I heard of CMI in, what, 2008? AiG and CMI seem to be pretty much doing and teaching the same things. I had no idea there was a history there.

But also, I gotta say I'm 0% surprised that Ken Ham- whose entire job is writing articles about how atheists are evil and how Christians who don't believe in young-earth creationism are bad Christians who don't really respect the bible or care about God- was mean and unfair to people. 

6. Eileen Gu's HUGE final run grabs big air gold from Tess Ledeux | Winter Olympics 2022 | NBC Sports (posted February 8) This is INCREDIBLE.

Like, suddenly seems like everyone in China is a fan of 谷爱凌  (Gu Ailing), Eileen Gu. The story is, she grew up in the US but is competing for China in the 2022 Olympics. My son has both Chinese and US citizenship, so it makes me wonder about Gu's situation and her reasons for choosing China. Because my son will eventually have to choose too.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

On Gynecologists and Angry Turtles

Speculum. Image source.

Background info for this post: I had vaginismus, but giving birth vaginally cured it. I wrote about it here: 

How Pregnancy and Childbirth Changed My Asexuality (or, actually, A Post About Vaginismus)


[content note: doctor-related trauma]


So. I recently went to the gynecologist, for the first time in a few years. The previous time was my 6-week-postpartum check (ie, 6 weeks after I gave birth). I was really dreading this because I've basically always had a bad time with gynecologists.

Like, specifically, geez I can't believe I'm writing this on the internet, the part where the doctor has to stick things in one's vagina. Always hurt like hell, oh my god. And I assumed that was normal, that it was supposed to hurt like hell, because no doctor ever said to me "wow your reaction is different from normal, seems like it's much more painful for you than normal, let's care about this problem and try to find the reason why." And also, because I was "pure"- ie, I had followed the "sexual purity" rules and stayed a "virgin" for a long time, and then only had sex with one (1) partner, in total, my whole life- see, I had followed the rules, and that meant there couldn't possibly be anything wrong with my genitals. I was taught that having sex with multiple people over the course of one's life is what causes problems. That everyone starts out with their body perfect and if you keep it that way for your "future husband" only, then you will have no problems.

So one day I happen to be reading about pelvic exams on Planned Parenthood's website, and it says- get this- it says it's NOT SUPPOSED TO HURT. And OH MY GOD, I was just completely bowled over, completely... just shocked, just completely shocked. It's not supposed to hurt? No one had ever... never, nothing that any doctor had ever done had given me the impression that a pelvic exam is not supposed to hurt.

Just like, unbelievable.

So anyway, in recent years, starting around the time I got pregnant, I have adopted a different approach to gynecologist appointments. Basically, discuss with the doctor beforehand that sticking stuff in the vagina is painful for me, and so I need to be the one to put whatever it is in, and then after I myself have confirmed that it can go in there successfully, then the doctor can move it around or whatever. Like, I CANNOT BELIEVE that I really used to let doctors just go ahead and try to stick stuff in my vagina. I don't even let my husband do that. I have to be the one to put things in, I have to control the movement, and then once I've confirmed that everything is okay, then I can let someone else.

This strategy of handling gynecologist appointments has met with varying degrees of success. I'm always extremely nervous about talking to the doctor about it, and it always seems that they're not expecting that sort of discussion. (My experience is mainly with Chinese doctors at an international hospital in Shanghai- maybe other places have a different culture around this.) And one time, I tried and tried and just could not fit the doctor's tool into my vagina, so I let the doctor try a little little bit, and I made him stop because it was clear to me that he wasn't going to be able to get it without hurting me, so then we just didn't do a pap smear. ... Why do I feel bad about that? Why am I saying this is "varying degrees of success"? Ever since I adopted this strategy, no gynecologist has physically hurt me. Isn't that a success, then? If I can't have a pap smear without the whole "it hurts like hell", then the right thing to do is not have a pap smear.

That's a success, isn't it? Being in control and aware enough to know that it would hurt me, and then saying no and protecting myself.

But I still feel so nervous and scared and helpless.

Okay so anyway. I am writing this blog post about my most recent gynecologist appointment. After giving birth and then not having any gynecologist visits for a few years- not counting the 6-week-postpartum one, which I felt like didn't go well, which is par for the course for me.

So. So the doctor tells me to lay on the table or whatever, and I start telling her I am nervous about it because it has been very painful for me in the past. Okay, readers, I guess here I will give you my tips about how to have the "boundaries and consent" discussion with the gynecologist. Ideally, frame it as "I am nervous" and "let's work together and solve this problem"- rather than acting like the doctor is attacking me and I am fighting back- even though that was how I felt. And don't literally call it a "boundaries and consent discussion" because yeah that also sounds like "I am protecting myself from you."

And also, very important: Don't take your pants off until the "boundaries and consent" discussion has come to an acceptable conclusion. In my experience, the doctor is not expecting a "boundaries and consent" discussion, so they are trying to rush you along to the next thing you're supposed to be doing, and something about social cues and politeness just makes me like... allow myself to be pushed along bit by bit by bit- and if you've already taken off your pants and underwear, you might end up in a position where the doctor can already hurt you, when you haven't even concluded the "boundaries and consent" discussion. So draw a line for yourself there, don't take your pants off until you're satisfied with the "boundaries and consent" discussion. And if you don't get a good enough answer, then I guess you don't have a pelvic exam, and... I know I would feel like a failure, but I'd like to tell you not to feel that way. You protected yourself. You did the right thing. Saying no makes you stronger.

Ugh, thanks non-existent Christian sex-ed, now you got me writing about vaginas on the internet. Do you think I want to be writing about vaginas on the internet? But I have to, because there could be someone who needs to hear this.

Okay. So. I tell the doctor I'm nervous because it was always really painful in the past. And she says, well now it will be different because you've had a baby. I felt like she wasn't really taking me seriously, and didn't believe me that it was painful in the past.

Also I asked her, "if it hurts and I tell you to stop, will you stop?" 

Uh I don't remember the details of how she responded, but she agreed to have a nurse come in (which made me feel better, not being alone with the doctor) and to use the smallest speculum, and I can put it in my own vagina first. So I was okay with that outcome of the "boundaries and consent discussion."

Oh another thing. I don't use the stirrups. Nope, not gonna put my feet in those dumb stirrups, no one can make me. Because what if you got your legs open and your feet hovering in the air, no support for your legs, and you want to withdraw consent, oh god you're like a turtle on your back. You're not able to move your body physically to attempt to withdraw consent, the only option is verbally. And oh god, just the sheer obstacles that you have to overcome, from that position, in order to successfully get the doctor to stop, using only words. You have to first realize that you would like to withdraw consent. Sometimes your body might know it but your mind doesn't- so that's the first obstacle. And then you have to say words, have to think of words you can say, to an authority figure, who is totally not expecting it... one factor is your own courage and the second factor is the doctor being able to realize what you mean, that you really want them to stop immediately. 

Imagine laying there like a turtle on its back... it's just, it's just unimaginable to me that in that situation I could possibly come up with words so that a doctor would really understand that they need to stop immediately.

At least without the stirrups, you can physically back away, which should help indicate to everyone that something is wrong.

So I don't use the stirrups. Not gonna happen, nope, nope. 

Ugh remember when I was so young and naive and "pure" and just did whatever the doctor said? Now I am here on the internet warning my readers about those cursed stirrups.

And okay, maybe I'm going too far, maybe I'm scaring teenage girls unnecessarily. All of this happened because I had vaginismus, and now I'm making all the people who don't have vaginismus scared of gynecologists for no reason. Some girl is terrified that all these problems I had are going to happen to her. Okay, here's my advice then: Try to put 2 fingers- your own fingers- into your vagina. I 100% recommend putting lube on your fingers for this, but maybe some high school girl reading this doesn't have access to lube- I certainly did not, when I was that age. Really should use lube for this though. Okay, if you can put 2 fingers in no problem, then you should be fine I would say. You won't have the problems I had. You don't have to worry that all this will happen to you.

And if you can't get 2 fingers in, and also you don't have access to lube, and you're about to go to your first gynecologist appointment and I've made you super-nervous about it, well... sorry I guess? Sorry we live in a world where girls who don't even have access to lube are expected to just let other people stick things in their vagina. Like you don't even own your body, but someone else does.

Really try to get some lube though. "Personal lubricant." Look for it in the "family planning" aisle.

Or, using tampons when you have your period can also be a good way to vaguely get a sense of whether you have vaginismus or related problems. Tampons are small compared to like, a doctor's tool or a penis, though, so it doesn't give you that much information. But if you can't even get a tampon in, you know you ABSOLUTELY need to figure out what is going on before you let anyone else try to put anything in your vagina. 

By "figure out what is going on" I don't mean you need to solve the problem or understand the reasons for it- but at least you need to be able to describe the problem. (I thought doctors would understand what the problem was and I wouldn't have to do any of that, but NOPE. It's all on you.) Use your fingers (and maybe a mirror) and feel around and figure out exactly where you are trying to insert something, at what angle, and so on. Know your body, own your body, be confident. It's your right. Your body belongs to you. Don't timidly kind of touch a little bit and then stop (like I did back then) because it's too weird or embarrassing or you think that a "good girl" wouldn't do that or because someone in a Christian magazine said you might become "addicted to masturbation". And if you can't even put anything in your own vagina, definitely do not let anyone else- doctor or sexual partner or whoever- try to put something in.

Wow, how am *I* giving advice about this? Maybe this is all wrong, not applicable to anyone else, only little-pure-Perfect-Number. I am not the right person to be giving advice on this. But here we are, somehow.

(Again, I am not trying to scare you- I encourage you to try to put 2 fingers in your vagina and if they go in no problem, then you don't have vaginismus and you can ignore all my scary warnings.)

Okay, so, where were we. At my recent gynecologist appointment. The doctor and nurse assured me several times that since I'd already had a baby, this would totally not be painful. I felt like the doctor didn't really believe me about the pain. But anyway. The doctor gave me the tool- the smallest size of speculum- and put lube on it, and let me try to put it in by myself. And wow I was able to put it in so easy.

Like holy crap so easy. Wow. 

So then I told the doctor she could go ahead and control the movement of the tool or whatever she had to do for the pap smear. And, oh my god, get this- wait, wait, you better sit down because this is a REVELATION. If little pure Perfect Number from an alternate universe is reading this, sit down because you're going to be so stunned you'll probably faint.



You won't even believe this, but: About the pap smear. It was uncomfortable, but not painful.




Kinda felt like the doctor was scraping around in there with some kind of little bristly brush.

I JUST. DAMN. I am having a hard time putting this into words, maybe this is one of those times I regret my evangelical upbringing did not teach me how to swear effectively.

Just like, can you believe. All these years, every time I have a pelvic exam and it hurt like hell, holy shit it hurt so bad and I knew so little about my own body that I had no idea what exactly was hurting or why, and the doctors always said "it's not painful, just a little uncomfortable." And I thought it was normal that it hurt like hell, because when I screamed and all that, they didn't seem to react like anything unusual was going on, just told me "it's not painful, just a little uncomfortable." And then I always went home and added them to the gynecologist blacklist I keep in my head.

I thought it was like when I was in middle school and went to swimming lessons over the summer, when you get there, the swimming coach is always like "the water's not that cold today" but really the water is cold and they are just trying to put a positive spin on it to make you feel better. I thought, yeah sure the doctor says "it's not painful, just a little uncomfortable" but that's like, misleadingly optimistic, the reality is that it's painful, that's just the way it is.

BUT HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS. This time, it actually, literally, was not painful, but was uncomfortable. Like literally. Like if you were trying to objectively describe it, those are the words you would use. Like if you're trying to describe it with no "let's encourage the patient" bias or whatever, like if you were just trying to give a brutally honest accurate description of what it felt like to have a pap smear, I literally swear to you, I mean I know this is unbelievable, so unbelievable, I write one description after another after another in this blog post here but I still don't know if anyone will believe me because it's so so unimaginable, that a pap smear literally was not painful but uncomfortable.

It was. Legit. I, I, okay I have done all I can to describe it, I leave it up to you to decide if you can really believe such a thing is possible or not.

Before, the main thing I felt was the extreme pain of forcing the vagina to open. But this time, I didn't feel that at all. Just the little scraping brush. 

(As I've said in other posts, childbirth cured my vaginismus.)

And just, all these years, when doctors expected me to recategorize my feelings so that they could be described as "not painful, just a little uncomfortable"- I now suspect they weren't referring to the force-the-vagina-open pain at all. I'm starting to think, that's not supposed to happen. That's vaginismus. This huge giant pain that overwhelmed me, so that it was 100% what I believed a pelvic exam was... Apparently that's not what they meant at all, when they said "it's not painful, just a little uncomfortable." Apparently just the little brush getting a sample of cells from the cervix is "not painful, just a little uncomfortable"- but damn, of course back then I didn't even feel that or distinguish it as being a separate thing from the huge extreme pain.

It's like if the first time you go on a rollercoaster, there's an angry turtle sitting next to you, biting you constantly. And it hurts and you hate it, of course. You get off the rollercoaster, and somebody asks what you thought about it, and you say "it hurt." And they say, "well, some people don't like the feeling, but it doesn't really hurt."

(I do apologize for having multiple turtle metaphors in this post. That's just how it worked out.)

And you know so little about your own vagina, um, ahem, I mean rollercoasters, that you don't realize that you're talking about the angry turtle, and for the person you're talking to, there is no angry turtle at all. You think you're describing the same experience... and how can you even realize that you're not, when everyone is too timid to talk about sex and genitals explicitly, and all you can say is "it hurt"?

Of course you barely notice the ups and downs of the roller coaster, because an angry turtle is biting you constantly. Your view of rollercoasters is 100% about the angry turtle, but you don't realize it, because how could you even know that it's not normal to have an angry turtle with you? How could you even know that when people talk about enjoying sex, um, enjoying rollercoasters, they are talking about something that doesn't involve angry turtles at all. How could you know? Of course you couldn't. Every single time you rode a rollercoaster, the angry turtle was there.

And in my case, it's a failure of sex ed- purity ideology making me believe that the ideal situation is knowing nothing about my own genitals and then everything will just work perfectly- and a failure of doctors, a whole bunch of doctors, that when I told them "sex is painful" they seemed too awkward to talk explicitly about sex, so I now see that they never got anywhere close to understanding what the actual problem was.

It's astonishing, that I gave birth vaginally, and now the situation is so completely different; now I see from both sides, you could say. No problems opening my vagina anymore. No problems at all, and I'm still amazed at that. I'm still amazed that there is no angry turtle on my rollercoaster now.

Me, personally, going through this experience, that's what it took for me to discover that it wasn't normal to have so much pain. So I have to write about it- maybe someone else can discover that sooner.

And another thing- at my recent gynecologist appointment, the doctor assured me that because I've had a baby, the pelvic exam won't be painful. Apparently this is a known thing, that after giving birth vaginally, the vagina opens easier? My situation is much more extreme than normal, I would say, but apparently this is a known phenomenon? Why have I never heard about it?

I've only heard the misogynistic jokes about if a woman has sex with a lot of different men, it supposedly stretches out her vagina and her male partner won't enjoy the sex as much because of that- and then the feminists replying that no, the vagina does NOT permanently change just because of a penis; it stretches but then goes back to its normal size. But in my case- and apparently it's very common- giving birth through the vagina really did change it permanently. Why have I never heard about this before? I mean obviously men are full of it if they think something small like a penis can change someone's vagina, but a big baby head, now that's different.

I'm a little bit angry that this was never mentioned at all in childbirth class when they discussed the differences between a vaginal birth and a C-section. Imagine if I'd had a C-section- then I'd still have all the vaginismus problems. Would have been really nice to know that one potential benefit of a vaginal birth is it can make a big difference or even totally cure vaginismus.

So here I am, somehow, me, little pure and naive Perfect Number, somehow I'm giving sex ed advice on the internet. But I have to. I have to say these things, because I needed to hear them back then, and there was no one to tell me.



How Pregnancy and Childbirth Changed My Asexuality (or, actually, A Post About Vaginismus)

They said it was about "valuing our bodies." That was a lie.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Blogaround + Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese-style art with a tiger. Image source.
Happy Chinese New Year everyone! Today (February 1, 2022) is the first day of the Year of the Tiger.


1. The Miracle Sudoku (posted 2020) It's a 25-minute video of a British sudoku expert solving an incredible sudoku, and the best part is his reactions, how he gets more and more delighted and amazed by the puzzle as he goes along. This is fantastic.

2. Don't know if you all saw Christianity Today's article "‘They’ Is Not a Pronoun for God" (it's not worth reading, but here's the link). I just... like why even bother responding- I've moved so far past this, and the world has moved so far past this. You don't need to sit around with people who believe exactly the same things as you and study ancient documents to make rules for how everyone else should live- "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!" Come into the big queer kingdom of God, where trans and nonbinary people can experience how life-giving it is to be called by their correct name and pronouns.

It's just so obvious to me that God is genderqueer and nonbinary. They/them.

3. What Does John Locke Say? (The Fox Parody) - @mrbettsclass (posted 2013) This is AMAZING.

4. One Chaste Marriage, Four Kids, and the Catholic Church (posted November 17) Well this is totally fascinating, especially from an asexual perspective.

5. ‘Are You All Right?’ (posted January 26) "Well, if you’re in Hamtramck, Michigan, you’re in luck. Officials in that city are keeping careful track of neighbors in need. Those officials don’t understand that this is what they’re doing, mind you — they don’t seem to understand what they’re doing at all. Those befuddled officials seem to think, instead, that what they’re doing is keeping careful track of which of your neighbors are in violation, threatening the sick and distressed with various punishments rather than offering to provide them the neighborly assistance they require."