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Special Brief: What is the sudden obsession with Furries. . . again?

Nov 16, 2018
 

Interest in the Furry subculture seems to ebb and flow over time and it appears we are heading into another period of Furry curiosity. And perhaps this time it is here to stay in the mainstream.

We’ve all seen “Kigurumi”—whimsical animal-themed onesies reminiscent of the costumes worn by the Lost Boys in Disney’s Peter Pan— growing in popularity. And this past Halloween, it was hard not to notice that vendors like Walmart and Amazon were all about adult-sized “maskimals,” animal heads meant to be worn with one’s everyday clothes.

Joe Strike, author of Furry Nation: The True Story of America’s Most Misunderstood Subculture (Cleis Press 2017), was recently interviewed on CNN.com in a piece that has the same aim as the book itself: to dispel controversy and misunderstanding of the Furry subculture as a whole. One can argue that this piece was meant to generate some hype for CNN’s This is Life with Lisa Ling, which will be airing a new episode this Sunday at 10pm ET/PT about the Furry subculture in America.

Now you may be saying, “So what? People have covered this before…” But was there ever a time where a major TV network was about to launch a new hit singing competition show that is so steeped in anthropomorphic and Furry culture you can almost taste it?

FOX, that’s right FOX, is premiering a new reality show January 2nd called The Masked Singer, where Grammy-nominated singers and Grammy winners will appear in elaborate masked, animal-themed costumes to conceal their identity. Hosted by Nick Cannon, the panel of judges will include Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong, Robin Thicke, and Nicole Scherzinger. The show was apparently such a big hit in Thailand, so FOX is bringing it to the US.

To get your mind spinning even more, apparently Furry dance competitions have been a “thing” at conventions for years with suited competitors doing moves that would put non-suited dancers to shame. Here is just one of many examples that can be found all over the internet and at conventions nationwide.

Is this all just a clandestine co-evolution or can inspiration be intrinsically tied to the Furry subculture itself? Does this signal a shift in the mindset of the American public? Is there a growing atavistic desire to bond with the animal world as an alternative to our technology-obsessed society? Are we becoming more tolerant, more desensitized, or just hungrier for new forms of highly visual entertainment?

If you are interested in covering this story. . . you may need an expert to weigh in! Author Joe Strike is available for comment and interview to help you fill in the gaps and spin your own story about this amazing, misunderstood, and re-emerging subculture.

Contact Allyson Fields at afields@cleispress.com for more information.

 
 

Exclusive Excerpt: Until Autumn Falls

Nov 07, 2018
 

We’ve read the previous stories of Sophie and Mont in Until Summer Ends and of Jared and Millie in Until Winter Breaks. Now it’s time to return to Redwood Bay, a sleepy little Pacific Northwestern fishing town that may appear calm and quiet on the outside, but supplies us with non-stop, drama-bespotted, contemporary romances.

Here is a little sample of what you can expect from the burgeoning romance between Tripp Thurgood, a lifetime resident of Redwood Bay, and mysterious newcomer and fishmonger, Hilary Finnegan, a transplant from Miami who wears scarves over her gaze-inducing scars. But does she wear those scarves to protect her past or to protect herself?

Tripp sensed Hilary the moment he stepped onto the pier. He couldn’t see her, but her recognizable scent lingered in the space where she’d been. He finished with one customer and glanced up, searching for her.

He caught himself and focused on the couple in front of him. The sous chefs from the nearby national park. He wasn’t sure why today he suddenly needed to sell fish to Hilary. Sure, he liked her. Maybe he’d started looking at her differently these past few weeks. He didn’t think she’d seen him as more than an acquaintance—at least she’d never acted like she had.

Her watching him eat a meal after his date had abandoned him could hardly be counted as romantic.

He finished with the couple, and Hilary appeared. Her grin lit up her face as she held her phone to her ear. He smiled back at her, and she lifted her hand before turning to complete her call. Only seconds passed, but Tripp felt like the world had paused.

He wasn’t quite sure what to do with these new feelings for Hilary. He wasn’t even sure when they had sprung into existence. Simply having Jared suggest a relationship was possible with Hilary hadn’t awakened something that wasn’t previously there.

While she wasn’t looking, he enjoyed the curve of her hips and the length of her legs. The dark black romper she wore seemed almost criminal, and a flush flooded Tripp’s whole body.

She turned back to him, and he dipped his chin to his chest so his eyes would fall on the fish in front of him. He cleared his throat, trying not to make too much noise, as she said, “Morning, Tripp.”

At the genuine, sweet sound of her voice, Tripp glanced up. Her beauty nearly stole his breath, but he managed to inhale without sounding like a squeaky balloon. “Hey, Hil. What’ll it be?”

“I heard you had swordfish.”

“I do.” He turned toward the cooler behind him. “I was up all night,” he said, his words running away from his brain. “Thinking about you.” He spun around. “I mean—not that I was thinking about you. Thinking about how you ate that ice cream. I shouldn’t have eaten it so fast. I was sick for hours.”

Hilary tucked a lock of hair that had escaped from her bun. “Wow, I didn’t know big, strong men like yourself got sick from eating ice cream.”

He thrust her package toward her. “Eating ice cream too fast.”

She took the fish and handed him her card. “Want to go get some more tonight?”

“Heavens, no.” He counted out her change. “I mean—” He took a deep breath to try to find his center. It didn’t work, but he really wanted to stop saying stupid things. “I can’t go tonight.”

“Oh, okay.”

“What about for lunch?”

Hilary’s eyes locked with his. He couldn’t seem to look away from their foresty depths, and he wondered what she saw in his eyes.

“I’m meeting some friends for lunch,” she said. “Sorry.”

He handed back her money and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “That’s okay.”

She backed up a couple of steps, stopped, and cocked her hip. “You know, you should go out with my friend Andrea.”

Tripp’s heart crashed to the soles of his feet and stayed there. “Andrea?” Now his voice sounded like he’d sucked in a lungful of helium.

“Yeah, she’s—”

“I’m not really looking to date anyone right now.” She pressed his lips around the lie.

“Oh, I just thought—you were out with that other woman, and….” She lifted her free hand up, palm forward, as if to say, Never mind.

Tripp watched her walk away and collect a couple of packages from Ben, who then went with her carrying twice as much as she was. A hole opened inside Tripp, but he ducked his head and did what he’d always done: He worked.

Hours later, after he’d sold his entire catch, after he’d scrubbed down his fishing boat, after he’d settled behind his desk in his office, he let Hilary’s words rebound through his mind. Had she really tried to set him up with another woman? Why would she do that?

Tripp pulled a folder toward him and flicked it open. He couldn’t focus on the contents though, and he ended up pulling out his phone. “Call Hilary Finnegan,” he commanded, and the phone responded with, “Calling Hilary Finnegan.”

She’d claimed she was having lunch with friends, but Tripp had detected the hint of a lie between her words, in the way her chin lifted just a notch, in the false quality of her voice.

“Hey,” she said, and the distinct sound of restaurant chatter in the background came through the line.

“Who’s Andrea?” he asked. He hadn’t meant his question to sound like a police request.

“Oh, uh, she’s my landlady’s daughter. She’s nice.”

Tripp didn’t care about Andrea, but he couldn’t say that. Maybe he should just go out with her so his interest in Hilary wasn’t quite so obvious.

“She’s a manicurist. Has a salon out of her house.”

“The house where I dropped you off last night?”

“Sort of. The two-story one on the other side of the pool.” Something very much like silverware on dishes clanked on her end of the conversation. “I’ll text you her number.”

Tripp’s mouth went dry. He didn’t want to call a perfect stranger and ask her out. How did he even phrase that? He had a hard enough time asking out women he knew.

“Can’t you, I mean, maybe you could set it up?”

Hilary laughed. “And then you can debrief me afterward. Is that it?”

“I’m not cold-calling someone I’ve never met.”

“Just a sec.” The chaos on her side of the conversation dimmed and then disappeared. “So you want me to set up a meeting?”

“That would be nice, yes.” Tripp hated the direction this conversation had taken, hated that he’d called Hilary at all. He wanted to go out with her.

“So I get to be your matchmaker?”

Tripp rolled his eyes. “This call was a mistake.”

“No, no,” Hilary said. “Don’t hang up.”

“Why would I hang up?”

She laughed, but now it had a nervous edge. “I don’t know. Listen, we should meet this afternoon. I can find out what kind of woman you’re looking for and go from there.”

“I don’t—” Tripp couldn’t finish the sentence. He wanted to see her, and if that meant he had to pretend to be interested in dating her friends…. It wasn’t his worst option. “What time?”

 

 

Until Autumn Falls is available for purchase at all eBook retailers. Or feel free to purchase a copy at your local bookstore!

Amazon • iTunes • Nook • Google Play • Kobo

 

 
 

Exclusive Excerpt: A Dirty Word

Oct 09, 2018
 

 

It has always been a challenge, at least in the majority of recorded human history and modern history, to be a woman. It seems that only in the most modern times can women finally have, generally speaking, socially acceptable platforms to give voice to issues that are important to them and the right to even do so.

Sexual harassment. Sexual assault. Sexual abuse. Misogyny. Fair pay. Maternity leave. Fair, safe, and affordable healthcare. The list can go on…

Thanks mostly to the #metoo movement and feminism in general, women are, now more than ever, seeking to further their stance in society and the world, and to live their own personal truths — from the married, stay-at-home moms of four, to the childless and husbandless CEO of a Fortune 500 company. However, despite this herculean agenda, perhaps the hardest thing 50 percent of this planet needs to accomplish is furthering the understanding of women’s issues, across and within genders, sexes, generations, and within yourself, too. Perhaps this is necessary before women and men could ever hope to affect positive change.

When it comes to our sex organs and sexual health, the most recent research seems disproportionately inclined toward the study of men’s sexual health as compared to women, despite the fact that women have more complicated reproductive systems when compared to men. And women’s reproductive processes put women at a much higher risk of death than men. But, then again, this is nothing new. Yes, it must be traumatic for those dealing with erectile dysfunction, but then again women go through menopause, too. (Granted, most women can still orgasm after menopause: I wouldn’t wish an orgasm-less life on anyone…) But before we even get to those wonderful mid-life crisis years, one study found that in their most recent sexual encounter, 95 percent of men reported orgasms, as compared to 69 percent of women. So why is more research not being done on women’s sexual health? Why is the range of experience so different? Shouldn’t women be getting off just as much as men?

There is obviously a divide here and there are A LOT of factors that play into a woman’s level of arousal and sexual fulfillment, from the errand she forgot to run this morning to the size and shape of her labia. How can women who feel unsatisfied and “less than” (even through they are not!) ever hope to help an outsider understand? How can they ever hope to move past the “what’s” and get to the “how’s?”

Steph Auteri has boldly volunteered her own personal experiences in A Dirty Word: How a Sex Writer Reclaimed Her Sexuality. She touches upon many subjects of interest to the modern woman, most notably her battles with female sexual dysfunction — which is much more wide-ranging than you would initially think. In a recent study, it was found that 40 percent of women have sexual concerns and 12 percent of women report distressing sexual problems. Women are complicated creatures…

So, read on. Whether you have been diagnosed or not, whether you feel at your peak mental and emotional health or at your lowest, whether you have the sexual ego of a award-winning porn star or a forty-year-old virgin, whether you have only had one partner or have more notches on your bedpost than you can count… you are not alone.

 

 

[Note: Travis was Steph’s boyfriend for several months in college. An experience that was beautiful at times, but was more traumatic than anything else.]

I was twenty when I finally succumbed to Travis’s appeals for a blowjob. We had just shared a shower and I was feeling generous, so I knelt down on the bathroom floor as he stood before me, the hair on his legs dripping, making golden loops and whorls across his shins and down his calves. The mirror over the sink was fogged, and the air was damp and heavy. My knees were slick, tender as they dug into the tiled floor; wet strands of hair striped my cheeks and my forehead and inched between my lips, requiring me to spit them out before returning to the job at hand. Travis’s knees shook, and he gasped. “Where did you learn to do that?” he asked.

Back when I still lived with my parents, I sometimes watched fuzzed-out porn at three in the morning. I stared at bodies twisting and humping on the screen, squinting to get a glimpse of things I’d not yet experienced. What was taking place on that bathroom floor was not nearly as bow-chik-a-bow-wow as what I had seen on TV. But as for sex education, that was all I had to go on. Apparently, it was enough.

You should never, however, underestimate the sex toy industry’s ability to make you doubt yourself. Like a SkyMall for sexy time, adult toy developers love creating unnecessary doo-dads and whatzits that promise to elevate the in-and-out experience.

The BlowGuard was one such whatzit. Years after that first blowjob, when I received a review unit just before a romantic anniversary trip to a B&B in upstate New York, I slipped it into my suitcase. In the fullness of that first day upstate, I almost forgot about it. Leaving our luggage at the inn, we drove along the Canandaigua wine trail, turning in at small vineyards, poring over lists of whites and reds, swirling the wine in our glasses as if we knew what we were doing. We sipped Chambourcins and Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs and, later in the evening, gulped down large, full glasses of wine at the farm-to-table restaurant where we had our dinner. By the time we made our way back to our room, we were thoroughly soused. Especially Michael. Because my tolerance for alcohol was lower than his, I often used his glass as a personal dump bucket when we were at tastings.

A drunk Michael is a particularly frisky Michael. So as I bent over the sink in our private bathroom, brushing my teeth, he took the opportunity to remove all of his clothing except for his boxer briefs, clamber up onto the elevated canopy bed, and stretch out in a come-hither position. I looked at him when I emerged from the bathroom and shook my head. I was wearing bulky, fleece pajama pants emblazoned with a Cookie Monster pattern. We were still in our twenties, but we had never been what I’d describe as sexy. At least not in that performative way you see on TV and in the movies where the woman shimmies out of her negligee or the man backs his partner against the wall, and then they both magically orgasm while they’re still standing there, dry humping each other. But I did have one ace up my sleeve.

I whipped the BlowGuard out of my suitcase and brandished it in the air. “Ta-daaaaa!”

Michael sighed.

The BlowGuard was a toy meant to be used during partner play in order to prevent you from nicking your partner with your teeth during oral sex. With its built-in bullet vibrator, it also promised “mind-blowing” plea- sure. It looked like a mouth guard but, since we weren’t winning points for sexiness anyway, I was willing to look silly if it meant we would soon experience staggering levels of orgasmic bliss.

The first speed bump came when I couldn’t fit the bullet vibe into the dental guard. Michael grappled with it for a while before finally prevailing over imperfect manufacturing. Then, I realized I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to place the BlowGuard over my upper or lower teeth. The instructions that came with the device were less than illuminating.

I eventually decided to try it both ways (I am nothing if not thorough) but couldn’t stop myself from giggling as I slow-motion approached my husband’s penis.

Not only that, but I couldn’t stop worrying that the BlowGuard would fall out of my mouth. This thought made me tense my jaw, which in turn made me worry that teeth nicks were inevitable. My tightened jaw also made it impossible for me to actually fit my husband’s penis into my mouth. (He asserts that this is because his member is so large.)

Finally, we were forced to abort the experiment.

“Besides,” he said, “it’s scary to see that thing coming at my penis.”

Luckily, we were able to laugh about it. But it wasn’t always that way. When Michael and I weren’t laughing, I was crying, the guilt and pressure I felt around my sexual issues suffocating me. If it were up to Michael, we would probably have sex every damn day. But night after night, when he turned to me in bed to run a hand down my arm, I turned away from him and stuck my head in a book. The want I’d felt for him at the beginning of our relationship had faded, and I could go for long stretches of time without feeling that tingling sensation that signified my desire. At the time, I hadn’t yet learned that, for many women, physical arousal is the thing that sparks desire. I hadn’t yet learned about the waxing and waning of desire that is normal throughout the course of everyone’s life. And so, I resented him for pushing me, even after I told him I wasn’t in the mood.

All of this was made worse by the fact that I continued to experience pain during intercourse for several years. Lube didn’t help. Penetration wasn’t the problem. It was when he was inside me, thrusting his way to completion, that I felt a sharp, stinging agony, like needles biting into my vaginal walls. Why would I want to participate in that? How could I not resent the person who wanted to forge ahead anyway, despite knowing what I was being forced to endure?

At the same time, I always felt that he deserved more. Better. And my experimentation around sex toys and my immersion in the world of sex positivity—an exploration enabled by my sex writing—were the vehicles I had chosen in my efforts to fix myself. I wanted to be more like everyone else. I wanted to have the sex life I imagined everyone else was having. I wanted to want. I wanted to feel comfortable and capable in bed. And if the pain I felt was all in my head—as my gynecologist at one point intimated—I wanted to get down to the very essence of who I was, deep down inside, and fix that, too.

A Dirty Word is available for purchase at all major retailers in print and digital formats. Or feel free to order a copy at your local bookstore!

AmazoniTunes • Nook • Google Play • Kobo

 
 

Exclusive Excerpt: Tongue Tied

Sep 12, 2018
 

Most of us have been there — caught somewhere between expressing our own needs and suffering in silence. It isn’t easy to talk to someone you care about, especially if the it’s about a sensitive topic, like finding new heights of passion in the bedroom.

According to Marriage.com, poor communication is the third most frequent reason for divorce and in a study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, it was found that communication and sexual satisfaction can independently predict marital satisfaction. However, if the communication was bad, sexual satisfaction did not contribute to a relationship’s overall health and success.

And that does not only apply to the married couples. Having solid communication skills is imperative to a person’s success in life, in work, and in the home. We’ve all read the articles, taken the advice, filled out the surveys, read the self-help books that promise you a solution, only to let you down when it comes to practical application. That is where Stella Harris, certified intimacy educator and sex coach, stands out from the crowd. She is not only informative and emphatic, but provides sound advice for improving communication skills in the home, with partners, and in kink play. But, even better, her advice has real applications in every type of relationship from love to business.

Below is an excerpt from Stella’s new book, Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships on one important key factor in communicating with your partner: setting apart time to have serious conversations in a safe space.

WHEN TO TALK: MAKING TIME TO TALK

This might sound silly, but we don’t always take time to talk to the people who are the most important to us. Maybe you chat about your day, what’s going on at the office, or the movie you just saw, but when did you last talk about your feelings?

Or maybe you and your sweetie(s) don’t get to see each other that often, and you feel reluctant to “ruin” date night by having hard conversations. You just want to enjoy your time together and not risk derailing the evening.

Either way, sometimes the most important things are the hardest to bring up.

Whether you’re simply giving your partner a heads-up that there’s something you’d like to talk about and asking if it’s a good time, or actually scheduling time to talk, it’s important to differentiate “talks” from simply chatting about your day.

You need to be in a different headspace to really share—and hear—heavier stuff about how you or a partner are feeling. That’s why it can be helpful to have a scheduled time on the calendar to talk about how things are going. Depending what your organizational style is, you can even make an agenda for these talks.

Whether you set these talks for once a week or once a month, it can be helpful to know that you’ve got a time coming when you can raise any concerns you’ve been having, set your shared schedule for the coming week or month, and make sure you’re on the same page about the relationship.

If you’re a note-taking type, like I am, you might even keep a running list for yourself of things you want to talk about at the next meeting. Putting something on the list and knowing you’ll get a chance to sort through whatever it is can help take it off your mind in the meantime.

When you have your first scheduled relationship talk, set some ground rules about how you’d like it to go. Are you agreeing on an agenda together? Are you each getting equal time? Are you tackling one big topic, then each adding your own smaller items that have come up since the last meeting? Knowing how the talk will go can be as important as the talks themselves.

Another thing to consider is location. Some people will be most comfortable doing this at home, and for other people having these talks in public is easier. Sometimes being out in the world is a good backdrop to keep things on an even keel, if you’re afraid the talk might get tense or emotional.

The bottom line is figuring out what it takes logistically to make it most likely that you and your sweetie(s) will get what you need from these conversations.

At a minimum, give your partner a heads-up when you want to have a difficult conversation, and check in about whether it’s a good time. Sure, sometimes things come up in the moment that have to be addressed, but if the issue isn’t immediate, you’ll get the best results if you have the conversation when everyone is in the right head space for it. It’s also another way to establish a consent culture within your relationship, by letting people opt in to serious talks rather than being surprised by them.

With clients, I often call these State of the Relationship talks. Just like oil changes, software updates, and putting air in the tires, everything requires ongoing maintenance, and relationships are no exception. Once you’ve decided to have these regular talks, here are some things you might want to cover:

  • Needs and definitions around sex.
  • Household logistics, chores, etc.
  • Vacation planning.
  • Big personal topics that affect everyone—job changes, moves, etc.
  • Your schedule for the coming week or month, depending how often you have these talks.
  • Scheduling date nights.

Sometimes just knowing that you have a built-in space coming up to raise issues can make things feel less urgent. Often it’s not knowing when or how to bring something up that causes the most stress. When you have these talks already on the schedule, you’ll also have a built-in time for bringing up new kinds of sex you’d like to try, or a fantasy you’d like to tell your partner about.

Most people think that figuring out how to start the conversation is the hardest part, so if you’ve got time to talk built in already, you’ve already done the hardest part and you can focus on the information you want to share, rather than worrying about how to bring it up.

Tongue Tied is available for purchase at all major retailers in print and digital formats. Or feel free to order a copy at your local independent bookstore! 

Amazon     iTunes     Barnes & Noble     Google Play     Kobo

 

 

 

 
 

Cleis Press Back to School Sale

Sep 01, 2018
 

It’s never too late to learn about pleasure…

And Cleis Press is here to help, despite some web design difficulties. I think we may have to go back to school for that one ourselves…

To help you discover the best instructional and sex ed titles, they are listed below by subject category. From learning the art of BDSM to mastering fellatio, we have you covered!

Sale ends 9/31/18.

 

BDSM/KINK

50 Shades of Kink: An Introduction to BDSM by Tristan Taormino

As Kinky as You Wanna Be: Your Guide to Safe, Sane and Smart BDSM by Shanna Germain

The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge by Tristan Taormino

The Ultimate Guide to Strap-On Sex: A Complete Resource for Women and Men by Karlyn Lotney

 

HEALTH & WELLNESS

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines

 

LGBT

The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men by Bill Brent

The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians: How to Stay Sane and Care for Yourself from Pre-conception Through Birth by Rachel Pepper

The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners by Charlie Glickman, PhD

The Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us by Felice Newman

 

REFERENCE

The Cleis Press Sextionary by the Editors of Cleis Press

The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie A. Brill and Rachel Pepper

The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens by Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney

 

SEX & RELATIONSHIPS

Better Sex in No Time: An Illustrated Guide for Busy Couples by Josey Vogels

The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex: The Most Complete Sex Manual Ever Written by Cathy Winks and Anne Semans

Never Have the Same Sex Twice: A Guide For Couples by Alison Tyler

Never Say Never: Tips, Tricks, and Erotic Inspiration for Lovers by Alison Tyler

O Wow: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm by Jenny Block

Opening Up: A Guide To Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Alison Tyler

Partners in Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-term Love by Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson

The Smart Girl’s Guide to the G-Spot by Violet Blue

 

ULTIMATE GUIDE SERIES

The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men by Bill Brent

The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women by Tristan Taormino

The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus 2nd Ed.: How to Go Down on a Woman and Give Her Exquisite Pleasure by Violet Blue

The Ultimate Guide to Fellatio: How to Go Down on a Man and Give Him Mind-Blowing Pleasure by Violet Blue

The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge by Tristan Taormino

The Ultimate Guide to Orgasm for Women: How to Become Orgasmic for a Lifetime by Mikaya Heart

The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians: How to Stay Sane and Care for Yourself from Pre-conception Through Birth by Rachel Pepper

The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners by Charlie Glickman, PhD and Aislinn Emirzian

The Ultimate Guide to Sex After Fifty: How to Maintain or Regain a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life by Joan Price

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette

The Ultimate Guide to Sex Through Pregnancy and Motherhood by Madison Young

The Ultimate Guide to Sexual Fantasy: How to Have Incredible Sex with Role Play, Sex Games, Erotic Massage, BDSM and More by Violet Blue

The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex: All You Need to Know About Masturbation by Jenny Block

The Ultimate Guide to Strap-On Sex: A Complete Resource for Women and Men by Karlyn Lotney

 

<3 Cleis Press

 
 

Meet the Children of Unicorns: A Challenge to Learn, Reflect, and Disrupt

Jul 31, 2018
 

Whether you consider yourself straight and 100 percent hetero-normative, or whether you consider yourself a mere being in a complicated cosmos whose physical manifestations bear little to no weight on who you instinctively gravitate toward when seeking a partner, or whether you consider yourself to be utterly and totally devoid of any and all sexual attraction or attractiveness, you would be hard-pressed to discover something that can bridge those divides – a hypothetical “God particle” that could universalize our opinion and understanding of sex and gender in relation to the family unit.

Now, this need looms ever more important as many are concerned that recently obtained rights may be nullified – that years of hard work, activism, and conversations will be moved backward in time. So, when you next find yourself confronted with hatred, bias, or misunderstanding, perhaps some of the responses below will come to mind. Perhaps the voices of children, even adult children, can be a source of deeper understanding and a path to that unifying, warm, squishy center. As so it so often goes, by only listening to those at the margins, could we hope to understand the power and the unifying force of love and to rediscover the best parts of what it means to be human.

Last month we explored the editor’s note in Frank Lowe’s edited collection of stories in Raised by Unicorns: Stories from People with LGBTQ+ Parents (Cleis Press, June 2018). Following Frank’s mission to provide readers with a diverse array of stories, we wanted to chat with some of the contributors to provide more insight into their experiences. Presented with five somewhat rudimentary and predictably-answerable questions, we were very much surprised to discover a much deeper underlying message—one of hope, growth, understanding, and most importantly love.

(Please note that this interview was conducted prior to some of the more recent threats against LGBTQ+ rights in America and abroad. Contributors to Raised by Unicorns vary in age from 15 to 47. Ages are noted after contributor names.)

1. What inspired you to write your chapter and share your story?

MIKAYLA DENAULT (15): The need for awareness. I seized this opportunity to show how the obstacles my family faces make us stronger in the face of adversity. The main goal of my chapter, “Two Hens and a Chick”, is to erase the line between LGBT and straight families. I want to show everyone that as long as there is love, a family is a family despite small differences that makes us unique and give us a diverse world. My chapter highlights the experiences I have encountered such as my moms’ wedding and the legalization of same-sex marriage in my state. So, overall, the inspiration behind my chapter was to share my perspective in a family with two moms, and how moments in my life motivated me to fight injustices in society and bring about equality.

LARA LILLIBRIDGE (44): Although I just published a memoir about my experiences growing up in a lesbian home (Girlish, Skyhorse 2018) there is such little representation for children of LGBTQ+ families that I was super excited to add to the body of literature.

I came of age in the late 1980s, and knew next to no other children with families like mine. Meeting other children of LGBTQ+ families feels more like meeting long-lost cousins than meeting strangers. So, often, children of the queer community feel as if we are poster children for our entire subculture: what we say about our families will be used by others to represent queer families as a whole. The best way to be seen as individuals is to have more representation in TV movies, and in books like Raised by Unicorns.

JENNY RAIN (47): Growing up as the child of two dads in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, my story finds itself firmly placed between the intersection of the church and the LGBTQ+ community. I love both. I believe both communities can not only learn to co-exist, but to also thrive together. I believe that every child of an LGBTQ+ parent, every LGBTQ+ family, and those who are attempting to find communities of faith have an important story to add to the changing conversation in our nation. I believe that my story can make a difference.

My life’s passion is all about how to change the conversation for LGBTQ+ families like mine both in our churches and in this religiously-motivated world. But, my ultimate goal is to see our nation elevate beyond the partisan and theological conversations around LGBTQ+ families to be less combative and more redemptive. Frank has given me the incredible opportunity to start doing that.

Overall, my inspiration comes from the belief that we all have stories and voices that matter. And when we tell our stories, we encourage other people to be brave with their own stories.

KELLEN KAISER (36): My whole life people have asked me what it was like growing up with lesbian moms. It’s such a gigantic question to consider. I find it easier to narrow in on what a particular moment or experience was like for me. I actually wrote another book a couple years ago, Queerspawn in Love, that focused on a relationship I had for five years in my twenties. I realized after finishing that book that there was still a lot left to explore from earlier parts of my childhood that might be of interest to people. In this case, kindergarten and my parent’s wedding. Writing this, I reflected on how central that time was, both in the creation of my family and in how I interacted with others around my family.

KATE HILLYER (43): First, there aren’t all that many of us who grew up with LGBTQ+ parents, particularly from my generation, so it is important for us to share our experiences. Second, a middle grade novel I am writing has a main character with two moms, and I knew it would be a good way for me to get back in touch with what it was like when I was growing up. I was right; the writing experience was both illuminating and cathartic for me.

PERSIS TICKNOR-SWANSON (21): My mother’s partner encouraged me to write my story because she recognized how unusual my family’s experience was. I sometimes forget that to outsiders my family’s history is interesting or confusing, because to me it’s just my life. But I’d also been thinking for a while that the voices of children of LGBTQ+ families to be included in the narrative of LGBTQ+ experience. We are a growing demographic and the diversity and volume of our stories is important to the equal rights movement. And I’d felt like there wasn’t really a place for me in the LGBTQ+ movement. “Ally” seemed too distant and didn’t encapsulate the depth of my experience. This book has given me a way to express what it has meant to me to be raised by a queer mom and to feel simultaneously unique and part of a group.

2. Were there any surprises or startling revelations about what it is like being “Raised by Unicorns?”

JENNY RAIN (47): First, the fact that the closeness of my relationship with my biological father is no different because he is gay. If he were straight, bisexual, transgender, a person of color, able-bodied, or disabled… none of those labels matter when you are family. Society tells you those labels matter, but they don’t.

Second, gender matters little when it comes to parenting. I know the conservative right will rail against this comment, but I have lived this experience. The roles (nurturer and protector) that my parents have played have been more important to my upbringing. Typically, the male is seen as the protector and the female as the nurturer. But to universalize this and say that a child is only healthy if they are raised by a man AND a woman is to substitute gender identification for roles— and I think that is a mistake. I’ve seen lots of heterosexual couples where the woman is the protector and the man is the nurturer. I’ve also seen same sex couples where both parents play both roles. As long as these roles show up in some sort of a parenting combination, the child is going to be healthy and happy.

Third, being the child of two dads, the Christian church has most definitely been the hardest place to feel safe… This is the antithesis of what should be. Jesus was at heart a countercultural force. He was kicked out of prevailing religious circles because of his habit of reaching out to those on the margins. I am a person who is on the margins of the margins. I AM the person that Jesus would have reached out to, as are my dads. Yet, we are rejected by churches, shunned, and even cast aside as immoral, defective, and abominations (yes, I get lumped into that category, too).

MARY HOLLAND (27): Honestly, writing out my own story had me reflecting more on my experiences as a child and just how much they effected me for the better. I realized that while the goodness in my heart partially comes from those who raised me, it mostly comes from the rejections I experienced throughout my life.

EMILY GRUBBS (21): I remember growing up and being surprised to learn that being LGBTQ+ was, and still is, considered “wrong” by many. My moms raised me to love everyone and have love left over for myself. It was shocking to learn that other children had not been raised in the same way I was. I had to learn that being a queer woman meant facing discrimination, because in our home we never discriminated. As a child I felt like my family was normal, what was shocking is that others thought we were so different.

KELLEN KAISER (36): I was surprised by how emotional I got reading the other chapters. I had expected to enjoy it, but there was something so deeply resonant about finding commonality that caught me off guard. As much as I have understood that there’s a shared culture we Queerspawn have, it is beautiful to see its complexity manifest. After many years of feeling different from others and often alone, it’s healing to feel a part of a tribe.

KATE HILLYER (43): It surprised me to realize how early I had begun to direct conversations in a way to avoid having to reveal that I had two moms. It’s something that a lot of closeted LGBTQ+ people do. I started that in about fourth grade.

PERSIS TICKNOR-SWANSON (21): Some of the surprise is how entirely normal it is. My mom is my mom. She’s also queer, but she is still a mom. So much of my family life is like the stereotypical hetero family: we argue, joke, play, and cuddle. But there are underlying themes of acceptance, openness, and difference in my family with both positive and negative implications. Our backyard BBQs feature mostly lesbian couples and 90s gay dance club music. My mother sometimes gets nasty or judgmental comments from people for her genderqueer appearance. I don’t blink an eye at women kissing women. I feel like I was given all the great things any child would be given by a loving healthy family with the addition of some amazing things only a kid with LGBTQ+ parents would have (like going to gay drag clubs with my mom).

3. What was the most defining moment for you as being “Raised by Unicorns”?

MIKAYLA DENAULT (15): My most defining moment being “Raised by Unicorns” is the receiving the encouragement from my parents to be whoever and whatever I want. My dreams and aspirations have been celebrated and cherished by my family, and I believe this is because they never want me to have the backlash they received from being different.

EMILY GRUBBS (21): This is a tough question! I think the moment it became clear to me what being raised by two moms really means is when I finally accepted my own queer identity. I write in my chapter about my struggles trying to come out as bisexual in high school. However, once I got to college, I started exploring partners of all genders and started to embrace my own queer identity, away from the protection of my parents. I remember “coming out” to my parents my sophomore year of college. I had a partner visiting me at home for the first time and my parents were thrilled. Up to this point, everyone in my family had only known me to be straight. It was not until my new companion was just a few minutes away from out house that I revealed she was a woman. My moms were surprised, but needed no time to accept me—they simply greeted my guest with warm hearts. That’s the definition of LGBTQ+ parenting; you’re free to be and love whomever you want.

KELLEN KAISER (36): Probably being taken out of math class in 7th grade to go speak on CNN about the Sharon Bottoms case one day in 1992. It was a quintessential “Queerspawn as spokesperson” moment. So often we are asked as young people to represent and defend our families and communities.

KATE HILLYER (43): I went to Smith College, and after a childhood of hiding or obfuscating, I was suddenly thrust into a world where having two moms was something to be celebrated. It was like shedding my skin, a rebirth into the open.

PERSIS TICKNOR-SWANSON (21):I am not sure I have a “most defining moment” because I feel like there are so many moments with my mom that have shaped me. Honestly, writing my piece for the book was an important moment for me as a child of a queer mom. Reflecting on my experiences and turning a critical eye on my childhood, helped illuminate just how special and formative it was to be “raised by unicorns”.

 4. What changes do you expect to see in the next 5 to 10 years?

MIKAYLA DENAULT (15): I expect more equality to be reached, and I am hoping that conversion therapy will be obsolete. I expect more acceptance, as well. (A new study by J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group states that only 48 percent of 13-20 year olds identify exclusively as heterosexual.) The world is changing, so with policy changes and spreading love, perception of LGBTQ+ families will have to move with this change.

JENNY RAIN (47): My hope is that we will see the normalization and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people and families. I say “normalization” because right now, we live in an overtly hetero-normative, cis-gender, patriarchal society that runs counter to the realities that many in the LGBTQ+ community are experiencing. Millennials and Gen Z’s are breaking stereotypes, norms, and the binary boxes that we have placed people into. They are disrupting the narrative and owning their place in the rainbow of what it means to be human and it’s beautiful.

MARY HOLLAND (27): I expect to see a more global level of acceptance and understanding. I hope that the stigma behind LGBTQ+ people will diminish greatly regarding discrimination against them in their daily lives.

EMILY GRUBBS (21): I have noticed that the LGBTQ+ movement is constantly evolving and becoming more nuanced. I predict that over time more people will start to identify with the LGBTQ+ movement as labels become more inclusive. My mom, Lisa, asked me the other day what I mean when I refer to myself as “queer”. She explained that when she was growing up “queer” was used exclusively as a slur. I explained to her that, to me, being queer means rejecting socially constructed ideas about gender and sexuality. Although I personally feel proud to biological female, my gender identification is not simply masculine or feminine. Furthermore, gender does not determine who I date, I base my relationships on connection; male, female, trans, non-binary, I can get down with any kind of person. To my mom my queer identity is a new concept, but expanding the LGBTQ+ community, as well as our preconceived ideas about gender and sexuality, is the future of the LGBTQ+ movement.

KELLEN KAISER (36): I’m not ready to fortune-tell about what will happen, but I’m happy to put forth what I want to occur. I want more laws and policy in place to protect and recognize our families. I want more representation of families like ours in media (for us and by us) and in the educational system. I want the Queer community to acknowledge our unique role, even as adults, and embrace us. I want the destruction of patriarchy and white supremacy to hasten further.

KATE HILLYER (43): I have been amazed at the pace of acceptance. When I was in college, I didn’t think I’d see marriage equality in my lifetime. At that time, Vermont became the first state to pass a domestic partner law, and lawmakers had people pelting their cars with rocks. In Vermont! I know that right now is tough because of the recent Masterpiece Cake decision, and because of the rise in violence against LGBTQ+ people, but I also know that as a community, adversity makes us stronger. I think the next 5 to 10 years are going to bring greater acceptance and embracing of the variety of gender identities and sexual orientations.

PERSIS TICKNOR-SWANSON (21): So many more kids with LGBTQ+ parents. At my baby sister’s first birthday most of the queer couples there either had babies or were planning on having them. That means there is going to be a whole demographic of people who can be advocates for the “gay lifestyle”. I am now old enough to speak out about my experience and when people try to argue that having gay parents damages a child, I will be able to raise my hand as proof that isn’t true.

5. What is the one thing you wish to see change to further the acceptance of LGBTQ+ families and their children?

MIKAYLA DENAULT (15): I wish to see more inclusion of all peoples, and all families to teach their children the importance of listening to other opinions and loving everyone. I know stereotypes must be diminished in order for the next generations of families to encourage and support one another.

JENNY RAIN (47): There are several efforts going on in society right now to further acceptance, equality, and normalization. I work with an organization called The Reformation Project (TRP) and they are doing groundbreaking work in the church to promote full inclusion, but also to operate from an intersectional approach.

THIS is my hope with the LGBTQ+ community at large – that we will welcome those on the margins of the margins instead of excluding them. I mean gay rights started because a person of color who was a drag queen raised hell at Stonewall. The fact that it was a person of color has largely been erased from the narrative. The strongest argument that the Supreme Court heard on the marriage equality case was regarding the welfare of the children of LGBTQ+ parents (listen to entire SCOTUS case) and the voices of children were able to contribute in a meaningful way to the case turning in favor. Our fringe stories in the LGBTQ+ community MUST be reclaimed, and our separate movements MUST be combined if we are going to be able to have the impact that we want on society for gaining greater acceptance.

Let’s combine our voices and our efforts so we can create a revolution for the acceptance of LGBTQ+ families for the next generations of rainbow families. I believe this is possible in my lifetime.

MARY HOLLAND (27): My greatest hope is that the discrimination against LGBTQ+ people wanting to start a family goes away in all of America. I wish to see the United States give equal rights to LGBTQ+ individuals wishing to adopt. Children just need love and security, why diminish the number of people wishing to do so by discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community.

EMILY GRUBBS (21): I would love to see changes happen in Discrimination law. While we all are still reeling from marriage equality, the fact is that it is legal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ persons in thirty-one states. Our fight does not end with a marriage certificate; the fight can only end once everyone is truly equal.

I would also like to see the LGBTQ+ movement embrace intersectionality: LGBTQ+ members of color, trans-people, non-binary members, and homeless LGBTQ+ are all examples of members who often get left out of LGBTQ+ advocacy and do not get the support they need. White, gay men are not the only faces of the LGBTQ movement; we need our advocacy to reflect the diversity of our community.

KATE HILLYER (43): I wish more schools focused on teaching celebration of diversity of all kinds. That’s why I love the Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools program. They’ve got fantastic resources, including book lists, answers to commonly asked questions, and lesson plans, all aimed at teaching inclusion and avoiding bullying.

PERSIS TICKNOR-SWANSON (21): I want there to be all the same legal and financial rights for LGBTQ+ families as heterosexual families. LGBTQ+ families are challenging the accepted structure of how families are built and I want to see social structures change with that. Also, a gay president.

 

 

Raised by Unicorns is available for purchase at all major retailers in print and digital formats. Or, even better, buy a copy at your local independent bookstore! 

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Enter to win a SIGNED copy of Night Shift: A Choose-Your-Own Erotic Fantasy by Joanna Angel!

Jun 07, 2018
 

Enter now for your chance to win a signed copy of Night Shift by the one-and-only Joanna Angel. That’s right. You can touch something she touched. If that is not inspiration enough for your own erotic fantasy, then I don’t know what is!

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Getting to Know a Real-Life Unicorn: editor Frank Lowe (June's Exclusive Excerpt)

Jun 06, 2018
 

The below passage is excerpted from the “Editor’s Note” in Raised by Unicorns: Stories from People with LGBTQ+ Parents edited by Frank Lowe, which will publish on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. 

Hi, I’m Frank Lowe, a forty-one-year-old divorced gay dad. Some of you may know me from my snarky, acerbic Twitter persona “@GayAtHomeDad.” Others may be familiar with my writing for publications such as Huff Post, Gays with Kids, and The Advocate online, among many more. When I started tweeting in 2012, my original intent was to blow the roof off gay parenting stigmas. I used humor to diffuse what was a newer concept then (times have changed in five years), and it worked. I amassed over a hundred thousand followers who can now say they know at least one gay dad.

I used that platform to segue into what I really wanted to do—help others in the LGBTQ+ community, specifically youth. Through my writing, I opened my life wide open and gave people a true perspective into what it means to be a gay parent. Most readers have discovered there’s not really a big difference. Sure, I might put a little more air into styling my kid’s hair, but that’s about it. Needless to say, my son is my life, and I’ve dedicated myself to him becoming the best human possible.

Six million and counting. A huge number, right? Hard to believe when you consider we’re discussing U.S. citizens who have at least one LGBTQ+ parent. But that’s reality. These people can’t even type “my moms” or “my dads” into Microsoft Word without it wanting to add an unnecessary possessive apostrophe—i.e. “my mom’s” (try it, you’ll be amazed). Whether they want to be or not, they are an extension of the LGBTQ+ community. Terms such as “queerspawn” have been used to describe them, but personally I wouldn’t refer to my son as that. In fact, I don’t think he needs a label. He can be what he wants to be.

Prior to our son’s birth, I longed for any kind of information about gay adoption and raising a baby. It was 2009, and there were a few popular options. Every night, I’d be awake until three a.m. reading, to absorb all I could. Eventually I wanted something I was unable to find: the viewpoint from kids with LGBTQ+ parents. Now, that isn’t to say there weren’t choices available (there were and are). I just couldn’t locate them easily, and time was not on my side.

Fast forward to now—2018—he’s eight, and I’ve never been more proud of a human being in my life. He’s been an inspiration to me in infinite ways, including what you’re reading right now. I was gifted with this fantastic opportunity, and can finally give voices to those who have been relatively silent or swept under the rug.

“Raised by Unicorns” is obviously a take on the old adage “raised by wolves,” and I couldn’t find it a more fitting title. Not that I necessarily consider myself a unicorn (well, okay, sometimes), but the LGBTQ+ community comprises unique individuals and therefore, it seemed entirely appropriate. My goal was to present a diverse anthology to you, full of different life experiences. These stories run the gamut, and that is the beauty of it all. You may notice that this book is a little heavier on the L and G, but I feel that is a snapshot of the time we are living in and is constantly evolving.

All I hope you take away from this book is empathy. These people are beautiful souls who have faced adversity since they were born. Some of the stories might be what you imagine, and others will floor you. Regardless, in a century or so, this will be history, and I thank you for being part of it just by taking all of this in.

Raised by Unicorns is available for preorder/purchase at all major retailers in print and digital formats. Or feel free to order a copy at your local independent bookstore! 

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Feeling the Summer Heat? Best Gay Travel Destinations According to James Lear, Author of In the Ring

May 24, 2018
 

It’s that time of year again… The summer heat is kicking in and the urge to travel is constantly tempting us to say “I need a vacation!” Fortunately for us, Dan Stagg, the main character of the Dan Stagg Mystery erotica series by prolific author James Lear, is a bit of a globetrotter and a great source for inspiration on where to spirit yourself away for a weekend getaway or an all-out vacation. Brace yourselves… We’re going on a big, gay adventure!

via GIPHY

1) London, UK: Legendary party nights, history, and culture for days, and so much room for activities!

London Tower Bridge.

Dan spends some time in London in In the Ring, and like any sensible person he realizes that it is the greatest city in the world. Dan, of course, saw more of the bedrooms and locker rooms of the city than the historical architecture and incredible arts scene, but even he noticed that the streets of London contain more beautiful men per square mile than anywhere else in the world.

2) Gozo, Malta: Mediterranean views for the ultimate gay-friendly romantic, sexy getaway.

Photo by Giuseppe Milo.

When Dan was eighteen years old, just after he left high school and before he started military training, he took a long summer vacation in Europe, and ended up on the small Mediterranean island of Gozo. While he was there he met a much older man, a retired doctor who divided his time between Massachusetts and Malta. Their inter-generational affair was highly enjoyable to both, and Dan always had fond memories not only of the wonderful landscapes and warm blue sea, but also of his kind, horny Uncle Mitch. With view like this, who wouldn’t want to take their own “horny Uncle Mitch” on a magical getaway?

3) Yorkshire Dales, UK: Amazing natural vistas with a sprinkle of military hotties.

Dan’s latest adventure, In the Ring, takes him to northwest England. During his leisure time, he drove east to the Yorkshire Dales, an area of hills and valleys leading up to the Pennines mountain chain. While here you can visit beautiful villages like Wensleydale, or explore the extensive limestone cave systems. Dan got distracted by the Catterick Garrison, the largest British army garrison in the world, and did extensive research into the moral and physical health of the young soldiers within.

4) Brattleboro, VT: Cafes, galleries, live music, breweries, museums, boutiques, and more.

 

Photo by J. Stephen Conn.

Dan frequently has fantasies about living in a log cabin with his latest conquest, growing a beard and shooting what he eats. During his travels around New England, he settled on the unsettled, wooded areas around Brattleboro as the ideal setting, as it affords him the kind of isolation he requires. Less ambitious travellers will find beautiful scenery, friendly locals and plenty of bars, cafes, and markets. For this destination, waiting for the end of summer may pay off—the fall foliage is a must-see!

5) Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY: Bars, NYC views, and military hunks, oh my!

Photo by ccnygeeks.

During his period of enforced civilian life in New York, Dan Stagg frequented low-rent gyms on the Upper East Side. Now that he’s a XXXRANK, he makes a point of staying in the southwest corner of Brooklyn—not so much for its leafy streets and notable architecture, but because of its proximity to the Fort Hamilton military base. This gives him access to lower ranks who are impressed by his rank and status. He has done considerable research into the bars where they hang out, but describes this information as ‘classified’. And with NYC a short train ride away, all the gay wonders you could ever imagine are at your fingertips.

The Dan Stagg Mystery series by James Lear is available at all major retailers worldwide in print and electronic formats:

The Hardest Thing

Straight Up

In the Ring

 
 

Happy Masturbation Month!

May 09, 2018
 

Who doesn’t love a little self love? Cleis Press is here to help get your engines roaring this Masturbation Month with a giveaway for a signed copy of The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex: All You Need to Know about Masturbation by the wonderful Jenny Block! Get rubbin’! I mean readin’!

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