My bookshelves… Sex

Hannah Witton recently did a video where she took viewers on a tour of her sex books (she’s a sex educator) and it inspired me to introduce you guys to my bookshelves, starting with my sex books!

A Curious History of Sex by Kate Lister
Cardinal Men and Scarlet Women, by Jan Keessen
Don't Hold My Head Down by Lucy Anne Holmes

Animals and sex

book shelf showing some of the books from the blog

Sex when you have a disability

I was flicking through instagram earlier today and came across an amazing post by @wheely_good_time.  It was a group of spoonie sex tips (learn about the spoon theory if you don’t know what a spoonie is) and I loved them!  I instantly bounced them up into my stories and saved them.  They are practical tips and reminders with a nice dose of humour and I love that.

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A collection of spoonie sex tips that you all gave on the collab I made with @frankietastic ✌️&❤️ Eva xx ID: 10 images showing “Spoonie Sex Tips”: 1. Communication (talk before, during and after sex about what worked and what didn’t) 2. You don’t have to (we have to get over feeling guilty saying no when we’re unable to have sex because of our health) 3. Talk to someone (your physical therapist or a sex therapist) 4. Sex aids (vibrators, dildos, sex swings and flesh lights) 5. Provisions (have water and sweets on hand) 6. Positions (experiment to find what’s right for you, start by spooning) 7. Instead of sex (not just penetration – oral, masturbation, voyeurism, massage, porn, tantric, kissing, dirty talk, instructing) 8. Spoonie support (mobility aids and strategically placed pillows) 9. Dull the pain (physical pain – not emotional with ibuprofen, warm baths, also alcohol or weed – but set limits when sober) 10. Take it slow (it’s not a race) #WheelyGoodTime #StillDisabled #StillSick #Art #Quote #QOTD #Disability #DisabilityAwareness #Disabled #ChronicIllness #Spoonie #Disabilities #Accessibility #ChronicPain #DisabilityRights #SpoonieLife #DisabilityAdvocate #DisabledPeopleAreHot #TheBarriersWeFace #AbleismExists #DisaBodyPosi #BabeWithAMobilityAid

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I especially like tip 6 about positions which suggests starting with spooning!  And I think positioning is something that is really important with some disabilities or chronic health conditions.  Do you feel better when you’re sitting or laying?  Is your wheelchair the most comfortable place for you?  Incorporate that into your sex life!  Do you find having your legs elevated on a cushion helps you feel better?  Well that’s great because it can position you for better sex!  Use the motion of a wheelchair or the many positions of a riser recliner in your favour.  Research positions together and you’ll find out what you both like.

“Use a powerchair? Explore the tilt function to get your body in a comfortable position for self-exploration. Depending on your mobility, explore the sensation of shifting or rubbing your weight on the seat. Go for a jiggly, bumpy ride on a rough surface. Play around with the position of your belt and/or straps if you want to see what light bondage feels like.”
ACSEXE+

I’ve talked on my blog about communication before but I want to reiterate that I think a safe word is important. You need a way to distinguish between moans of pleasure and the screams of “shit my hip just dislocated”.

Sex isn’t a race.  Quick sex can be fun and has it’s place but we are so often shown this idea of destination sex.  Sex which is just about penetration and anything else that’s happening is just to get to that goal.  Sex without penetration can be more creative. It can take an afternoon and go in fits and starts as energy allows.  You can take a breather and just lay there together.  These things are ok and can create intimacy.

“In the movies, couples are always portrayed as being flawlessly sexy and romantic. In reality… people get cramps. They hit their head. Their stomachs make weird noises. They pull a muscle. And when you live with chronic pain, things are, truthfully, even more likely to go a bit awry. Don’t be afraid to laugh with your partner – it may even bring you closer together.”
– 
The Mighty

I’ve said before but think about timing.  I know that there is this idea out there of spontaneous sex that often happens after bedtime but in reality, we could be having better sex if we listened to our bodies.  When are you most awake?  When do you feel at your best?  If that’s sunday lunch time then make the most of it!  And if your bed is like mine and full of random stuff – positioning pillows, books, bears… – then move them before you get started.  That way you don’t have to stop midway to make things more comfortable.  It also means that if, like me you are fed overnight, you don’t have to add in navigating extra tubes.

Play to your individual strengths.  If one of you is physically stronger, make them do more of the physical work.  You can give back in other ways – dirty talk, creating fantasies, excellent playlists etc.

Anyway, this post was mostly to link to the cool instagram post and to revive the conversation around sex and disability.

And remember that sex releases wonderful hormones which can help with pain!

Related reading:

Slipper Limpet, Crepidula Fornicata

This post is inspired by a poem from Isabel Galleymore which I looked at in a poetry class and fell in love with.  It’s part of her collection Significant Other which I’d highly recommend.  Whilst the poem is enjoyable by itself, knowing more about the slipper limpet heightens the pleasure and appreciation of Galleymore’s skill.

Whilst slipper limpets are found in the UK, they are a non native species that arrived from America in the 19th century.  The first live slipper limpets were found in Liverpool Bay and are likely to have hitched a ride on the back of oysters.  During the 19th century, eating oysters became fashionable in London and native stocks rapidly became depleted.  To meet demand, oysters were imported from America, along with the now invasive stowaway.

Slipper Limpets live under rocks in the intertidal zone and feed by filtering plankton from the water.  They have thin, flattened shells which has a little shelf and when flipped upside down, apparently look like a slipper hence the name.  The first half of the scientific name actually means slipper in Latin and whilst we’re thinking about the name, it’s also important to note they aren’t actually a limpet… They are instead a type of sea snail.

They live in groups of up to 12 with one stacked upon another, largest at the bottom and getting smaller as you go up the tower (or Galleymore’s “high-rise orgy“).  The base slipper limpet attaches herself to things like rocks, scallops, crabs and mussels and thus the slipper limpets live a sedentary life.  And it is always either a female or an empty shell, with the rest of the stack being male.  It is advantageous for females to be bigger than males so they can carry more eggs.  And they can lay between 10,000 and 200,000 eggs so they need plenty of space!

The male has a penis that can be as long as his body, and it needs to be; it has to extend round and under the female’s shell in order to reach her genital opening.  It is because they need to be so close that they attach to one another – imagine being stuck with your ex literally on your back until you die…

Slipper limpets are born male and will later change sex, something known as sequential hermaphrodism.  Recent research has shown that the change occurs as a result of physical contact with another male.  However, it’s not instant and doesn’t happen as a result of every contact.  The change itself takes about 60 days – or about two moon cycles – to change sex and during this time the penis shrinks and disappears and the female organs develop.

The more you learn about the slipper limpet, the more appropriate you think the scientific name is.  But whilst it would be fun to imagine an animal named for it’s sexual habits, fornicate unfortunately comes from the Latin word for arch – fornix – and refers to their arched shape.

Peak breeding occurs during May and June and most females spawn twice a year, after neap tides.  Egg capsules are brooded under the foot of the female, attached to the inside of her shell or her foot.  The young hatch as larvae after 3 to 4 weeks and will stay in larval form for about 4 to 5 weeks.  After this they will leave home.  In their early life they are able to move, slowly crawling to find a suitable site to set up home, but generally after about two years they are stuck wherever they are.  Hopefully having chosen the perfect spot, given they live up to 10 years.  If they settle alone, they will turn female and become the base slipper limpet.  Alternatively, they will join an existing chain and wait their turn.

Scientists have been looking at the Slipper Limpet to see if it has any medical benefits for us and hemocyanin – the same chemical that makes the blood of horseshoe crabs and octopuses blue – has been found in their blood and is effective in treating breast and bladder cancer.  Their tough fleshy food may also have uses for human medicine.  Collagen from it can be used in regenerative medicine, such as advanced wound care and bone and nerve repair.  Whilst collagen is found in virtually every living organism, the collagen from the slipper limpets is stable in the same range as human collagen and thus provides an alternative source – at present collagen from cows and pigs is used.

Returning to the poem, I am in awe of Galleymore’s ability to make us stop and think twice about this seemingly dull, drab, slightly gnarled looking creature.  Without her poem, I wouldn’t know about the slipper limpet and I certainly wouldn’t have had so many conversations about it.

Links

Bestiality: Resources

Below are the main resources I’ve used whilst considering bestiality.  There are some additional links within the posts themselves.

Videos:

Please use viewer discretion

Bestiality in fairy tales

If you’ve been following my blog recently, you will have noticed the bestiality series.  And you might well be thinking ok, well that is a topic that’s for other people, it’s nothing to do with me. But this overlooks bestiality in fairy tales, in mythology and in folklore.  Think beauty and the beast.  Think Leda and the swan.

“Legends about animal deities and their sexual congress with humans can be found in ancient cultures the world over – Sumarian, Indian, Chinese, Egyptian and Babylonian”
– Tatov

“Nearly every storytelling culture maps out dating practices with animal partners”
– Maria Tatov

“Mythologies throughout the world tell of intimate kinships that people have established with animals, whether as shapeshifters in the present or as ancestors in the remote past”
– Boria Sax

Starting with mythology from Ancient Greek, we find Zeus who took the form of an eagle to rape Ganymede.  He took the form of a swan to seduce the mortal woman Leda and the form of a bull to have sex with Europa.  Then there are the centaurs, which some people point to as the result of a Centaurus interbreeding with horses and hence the result of bestiality.

“There are several old tales of sexual unions between human beings and various animals producing composite creatures.”
– Sax

This theme of Gods turning into animals to have sex with humans is found elsewhere in the world including in the Roman empire and in Hinduism where sex with an animal was thought to be sex with a god incarnated in the form of an animal.  An Indonesian myth tells of a princess marrying a dog and giving birth to a son who would become an ancestor of a particular tribe.

In an Italian folktale – the King’s Pig – a cursed man is turned into a pig who killed his first two wives who were disgusted by him.  His third wife was quite satisfied by having sex with a pig.  In a Greek folktale – the golden crab – the beautiful princess marries a crab and wants no one else.

These two examples show that bestiality isn’t always the route to a restoration of humanity, a structure we are more familiar with.  Such as in the case of a Bantu story where a crocodile turns back into a human when a maiden licks it’s face.

The latter will likely seem familiar to many readers as it fits the form of an animal bride/groom tale.  A pattern where a bride has no choice but to marry an animal, often urged on by her father.  She suffers in that marriage although there are some good moments.  Her ordeal is rewarded by riches and the animal returns to being a man.  Sometimes the gender roles are reversed but often the spell breaks when the animal proves their human worth or is loved, generally by a virgin.  And yes, this is literally the plot of beauty and the beast.  That is how interwoven into our lives, bestiality is.

In early versions of little red riding hood, the girl saves herself from being eaten by engaging in bestiality, something that is now generally lost from today’s versions.

There are also the selkie style stories where a man steals the animal’s feathers or skin in order to trick her into marriage.  In the end, she tends to find her feathers or skin and is able to return to her animal form and escapes the husband.

That these stories cross cultures and time, suggests a desire to question or interrogate something that is universal.  That may be a fear of burgeoning sexuality, concerns about forced marriages or an attempt to understand the line between man and beast.  Another argument is that it’s about understanding other humans, about building empathy and showing the flares inherent in judging someone based on their appearance.  Whatever it is, there is something in these stories of sex between human and animal that continues to appeal to us today.

Bestiality and the line between man and beast

How we define humans and other animals, and the importance of that dividing line, is crucial to understanding bestiality as a transgression of the natural order.  So often this dividing line is one that demarcates a hierarchy, with humans at the top.

Even in religions where animals are valued more than in Christianity, humans tend to be on top.  Hindus believe in reincarnation and believe that animals and humans both have souls.  Humans can be reborn as an animal and vice versa but humans are considered “to be the apex of what life should be” (DeMello) and hence are superior.  Buddhists also have the idea of karma, and consider that humans and animals both have potential to reach enlightenment but again being reborn as an animal is seen as negative.

Human exceptionalism is the belief that humans are unique in the animal world but it is not the only way to approach the world.  The human animal divide is “neither universally found nor universally agreed upon” (DeMello).  It is a social construction, dependent upon time and place.

For example, in some Native American traditions, humans, animals and plants are created together.  In this context, humans are part of the natural world, not apart.  A number of creation myths have animal creators giving birth to humans and animals and this clearly influences how we see, and treat, animals.  Notably, some animals were seen as superior to humans and there wasn’t a concept of animals as private property.

The divide between, and differential values of, human and animal likely arose with the domestication of animals.  For hunter gatherer societies, the collection of plants and hunting of animals involves an intimate interaction with nature.  On the other hand, a society that’s based around producing food involves control of, and intervention with, nature.  We can’t domesticate animals for our own use unless we create some sort of a divide.  The rise of agriculture meant a new concept of animals and humans, one where humans transcend and control.  Animals no longer exist in the same world as humans, they belong to nature which humans have been able to ‘overcome’.

The rise of Christianity also influenced this divide.  There is a concept called the great chain of being which divides beings into physical and spiritual, those who have souls or not.  Within this hierarchy, humans are uniquely placed in that they are physical and spiritual, we are the only beings with souls and hence are closer to god than animals are.  The great chain of being set out the natural order of things and if it is broken, there would be disastrous consequences, all that is secure would falter.

“God had created an orderly nature with clear boundaries between humans and beasts.  Satan, and the buggerers who served him, were challenging the boundaries and threatening to reduce everything to confusion.”
– John Murrin

As an aside, not all humans are equal within the chain, some are less human – women, children, lower classes – and in many cases were treated as animals.

At particular points in history, such as when nature seemed to be getting too close to man, it wasn’t enough to construct this divide, it had to be proven and one way was to dominate animals.  This meant that owning and controlling animals was a part of what it meant to be humans.  This is reinforced because to own and control animals, you need to divide yourself from them:

“by drawing a sharp dividing line between human and non human, a vast gap is created between subject (the free acting human agent) and object (the passive acted-upon thing)… we perceive ourselves as belonging to a totally different order: the realm of culture, while all other beings and inanimate things are only nature.”
– Barbara Noske

Within this mindset, humans having sex with animals tested the boundaries between humans and animals and gods.  It could lead to half man half beast creatures which would be placeless in the chain.  It would also reduce man to the level of animal and generally lead to chaos and confusion.

Knowing this helps us to understand the almost instinctive, strong reactions that bestiality invokes.  Sex with animals degrades humans, and humanity, and undermines the “crucial understanding that human beings are unique, special, and of the highest moral worth in the known universe… [it] is an affront to humankind’s inestimable importance and intrinsic moral worth” (Wesley J Smith)

Today we find the divide used, and reinforced, in how we talk about animals, turning them into objects by labelling them ‘breeding stock’, ‘meat’ and so on:

“when we are determined to do violence to an animal, we must first turn the victim into a despicable “thing” that deserves such treatment”
– Noske

Interestingly, this may make it easier for people to carry out acts of bestiality, seeing the animal as an object or a possession rather than a living creature with a soul.

We cannot understand behaviours and attitudes outside of the culture in which they exist and this is so true of bestiality.

Bestiality and Masculinity

One thing I have found in all my research into bestiality is that it is, predominantly, a male activity.  There are women who do it, but over and over again, the majority of what I’ve read is talking about men.  Some of this may be down to the historical importance of penetration when it came to trials but I think it goes beyond that.

Looking back in history, between 1635 and 1778, Sweden executed about 700 people for bestiality, mostly adolescent boys and young men.  At the same time, under the UK laws, penetration was necessary and hence those people prosecuted were almost always men.  There was at least one exception and that was a woman and her dog who were hanged in 1679.  Women were generally accused in a different way, through witchcraft trials.  English women on trial for witchcraft would often confess to having sex with the devil, who frequently took an animal form.

“Bestiality discredited men in the way that witchcraft discredited women”
– John Murrin

However, unlike bestiality which is a specific act and a one off incident, witchcraft tended to be vague.  Bestiality vs witchcraft is a topic that I want to look into more in the future.

At certain points in British history, abuse of an animal was considered to be a violation of the man’s property, as was the case when women were abused by men other than their husband.

When I was looking at reasons why people have sex with animals, or how they explain their actions, I focused mostly on the modern situation.  Historically, Arab men have had sex with goats, mares, sheep, sows, asses and cooperative camels.  It was believed that sex with an animal increased virility, cured disease and made their penis bigger – the latter is a belief that I’ve found replicated in different cultures.  What won’t men do for a bigger dick?

“Sex between humans and nonhuman animals remains a typically male activity”
– Christine Overall

There are also parts of the world where sex with animals has been, and still is, a male rite of passage.  Whether that’s penetrating a donkey, or sticking your penis into a pig’s mouth

Some cultures also view young men having sex with animals as a part of learning about sex and sexuality.  It is also a way of demonstrating man’s control and domination over nature.

We have to consider this topic within the context of the patriarchal society we live in, where women are still so often considered objects, there for the amusement of men.

“The privileged expectation in male dominant societies [is] that men shall have sexual access to the bodies of women as a right”
– Sheila Jeffreys

This attitude around the right to sex, sex entitlement, certainly has a role to play and as we saw in the justifications section of this series, some people have sex with animals because they can’t have sex with women.

“Animal sexual assault is the product of a masculinity that sees women, animals and nature as objects that can be controlled, manipulated and exploited.”
– Pier Beirne

We see this when we look at male sexist language.  Calling women bitches, birds, chicks, foxy, fresh meat etc creates emotional distance between man and ‘prey’, making women less than and hence easier to abuse without guilt.  If this is the case, then surely within this construct, it’s not much of a stretch to abuse animals.

As I said at the start, women do engage in bestiality and I don’t want to portray this as a purely masculine behaviour but it is something to keep in mind in this conversation.