An Ode to Odes to ‘Kisses Down Low’

We love Kelly Rowland’s new album, particularly her instructive “Kisses Down Low,” part of a great musical tradition of detailed step-by-steps about how to go down on a lady. In honor of Ms. Rowland’s breakout album and her celebration of female sexuality, we offer this list of Great Songs About Cunnilingus (which is to say: any songs about cunnilingus):


Bikini Kill, “Sugar”


Khia, “My Neck, My Back”


Madonna, “Where Life Begins”


Missy Elliott, “Work It”


Mariah Carey, “Bliss”


Lil’ Kim, “How Many Licks”


Christina Aguilera, “Woohoo”


Janet Jackson, “Anytime Anyplace”


Liz Phair, “Glory”


Foxy Brown, “Candy”

The Gossip, “Swing Low”


Sheena Easton, “Sugar Walls”


Lady Gaga, “Teeth”


“Raspberry Swirl,” Tori Amos


The Best Feminist Porn and Erotica

booksIn this guest post, Los Angeles-based sex therapist Moushumi Ghose, co-host of The Sex Talk web series, recommends some great female-centric porn and erotic options. For more feminist-friendly sex advice, join us at The Pleasure Chest in LA July 10, where we’ll be leading a panel discussion and Q&A with Ghose.

Not all porn is created equal. Feminist porn and erotica is a genre that caters to the feminine senses of lust sensuality, eroticism and sex, drawing from the emotion centers of pleasure but are for men and women alike. On a deeper level porn may be considered feminist because the actors are treated fairly, with respect and with equality in terms of wages, gender roles, consent, beauty, pleasure, and more. I have devised a list of my favorite feminist porn movies (and the sites where they can be accessed) as well as some of my favorite erotica from the last year. Please note that there is so much well-made erotica and porn out there made by women that this list is by no means all inclusive, nor is it in any particular order.


  1. Lust Cinema presents Cabaret Desire: A Swedish director who relocated to Barcelona, Erika Lust has created her most personal and sensual film to date. Erika Lust and Lust Cinema are committed to incorporating women’s voices into adult entertainment, and this movie is a sensual delicacy.
  2. Lesbian Curves by Courtney TroubleFor women by women, this sexy film explores the far reaches of girl-on-girl sensuality and sexuality.
  3. I.M. in Love, available on BrightDesire.comI am a sucker for sexy nerd stories, so this nears the top of my list.
  4. Best Women’s Erotica 2013 by Violet Blue: This compilation of erotica, selected and edited by Violet Blue, is playful, smart, and of course sexy—told from female perspectives, these stories highlight female pleasure in every story.
  5. Dr. Carol Queen: GushThis is more like a tutorial than it is a story, but nonetheless it is highly informative and features an all-star cast of sexy feminist XXX actors.
  6. Petra Joy and Candida Royale’s Female FantasiesCandida Royale is the pioneer when it comes to feminist porn. She continues to support and produce excellent feminist porn and in this film has teamed up with director Petra Joy for a tasteful, sometimes humorous, and intimate film.
  7. Simone Sinna’s Were Devil’s CurseDid you like the Sookie Stackhouse series (which the HBO series True Blood was based on)? Well, if so, you’ll dig Simone Sinna’s erotic stories about sexy were-devils, ghost vampires, glamour, glitz, and hot sex.
  8. Incredible Girl: I saw this sexy short film at a film festival in Los Angeles. The entire story is set to music and takes place at a sexually charged club. The movie focuses on two extreme individuals, an innocent-seeming, shy girl and the club diva who tries to seduce her.
  9. Expert Guide to Female Ejaculation by Tristan Taormino: This is another sex instructional, this one brought to you by Tristan Taormino, feminist sex educator and adult film director.
  10. Wicked Pictures Presents How to Be a Better LoverThis is not directed by a woman, but Wicked Pictures actors say that Wicked has always had a feminist outlook when it comes to film production. This sex-educational video talks about being a better lover and is narrated by a man, but still will appeal to many feminists, men and women alike.

Best Erotica for Women: Greatest Hits of the ‘Sexy Stories that Are Better Than 50 Shades of Grey’ Lists

3177LclDkVL__SL500_AA300_If 50 Shades of Grey has done anything (besides light up thousands of Kindles and iPads), it has opened up a discussion about the fact that — gasp — women enjoy badly written sexy stories as much as men enjoy badly written porn. And that discussion has included many female-oriented publications giving us lists of “erotica that’s better than 50 Shades.” Here, the best of the “better than” lists:

The Vine goes mostly classic: John Cleland’sFanny Hill, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus, Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain.” One of our faves, Cleis Press’ annual Best Women’s Erotica, also gets a mention.

BiblioBitch likes: Curvy Girls: Erotica for Women, Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica, Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, and Pauline Reage’s The Story of O.

The Guardian is into: Shirley Conran’s Lace, Judith Krantz’s Scruples, Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden (a feminist classic!), and Sappho (a lesbian classic!).

The Huffington Post focuses on “groundbreaking erotic reads”: James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime, Josephine Hart’s Damage, Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, and Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place.

Make It Better prefers the instructional: The Kama Sutra, along with Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancerand Judy Blume’s Wifey (yes!). They also mention Rachel Kramer Bussel, our personal favorite.

A Few of Our Favorite New Vibrators

Buying a vibrator can be a tricky task — just because it looks cool in your friendly neighborhood lady-friendly sex toy store (or online) doesn’t mean it’ll be great once you get it home. Too strong, not strong enough, too complicated — picking a vibrator is almost as complicated as picking a man. Luckily, we’ve tried several out so you don’t have to. Here are a few of our recent favorites:


Lelo Ina: We appreciate the sleek, modernist design of this easy-to-use vibrator. (We, personally, are not huge fans of vibrators that try too hard to look like penises. When we want the real thing, we’ll have it, thanks.) This two-pronged model allows for simultaneous vaginal and clitoral stimulation, though we happen to prefer just letting the vibrator work its clitoral magic and then call it a day. This more than does the job, with lots of fast/slow variations as well as several different kinds of rhythmic pulse. The up/down/left/right buttons on the Mac-inspired white plastic handle are very easy to use, and we love that this is part of a new crop of vibrators that charge up instead of requiring batteries. We don’t even want to figure out how to get batteries anymore, and there’s nothing sadder than your vibrator running out of charge when you want it most. Did we mention this also comes in three gorgeous colors?

We-Vibe 3: This design is so different that it’s a little intimidating at first: What to do with this purple, U-shaped, vibrating silicone thing? Turns out it’s pretty smart. One end goes inside, one goes outside, and you get that magical vaginal/clitoral stimulation in a way that doesn’t feel too forced. And yes, there’s even plenty of room left inside you to allow this to be, as the instructions tell you, “worn while making love.” (Being small, we were skeptical, but, yay, technology!) It’s also chargeable and comes with a cute little remote that makes it fun for your partner even if he/she is just watching (and controlling) from the sidelines. Most importantly, it works. And it, too, comes in three classy colors, complete with travel case!

BonBon: Brilliant — a vibrator that seems designed just to stimulate our clitoris, not to pretend to be a penis. It’s targeted, it works, it’s small, it’s quiet, and it’s powerful (though not too powerful). It also comes in a nice little storage pouch. Basically, it does everything we want a vibrator to do and nothing we don’t want a vibrator to do.

Lady-Friendly Sex Toy Stores Across the U.S.

sex_writing-291x300Move to a new city and you’ll have to find a new hair salon, dentist, gynecologist, massage therapist — and, more difficult than any of those, a great, classy, clean, comfortable place to buy your vibrators. As a public service, we compiled this list. Please let us know if there are more we should add — we can’t be everywhere at once!

Babeland (Seattle, Brooklyn, New York City)

Coco de Mer (Los Angeles)

The Pleasure Chest (Los Angeles)

Early to Bed (Chicago)

Eve’s Garden (New York City)

Forbidden Fruit (Austin, Texas)

Good Vibrations (San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, Calif.; Brookline, Mass.)

Grand Opening! (Boston)

Liberator (Atlanta)

Playthings (Miami)

The Pleasure Chest (Chicago)

Pleasures of the Heart (San Rafael, Calif.)

The Rubber Rose (San Diego)

Self Serve Toys (Albequerque, N.M.)

She Bop (Portland, Ore.)

Smitten Kitten (Minneapolis)

The Tool Shed (Milwaukee)

A Woman’s Touch (Madison, Wisc.)

Sexy Feminists Read: Anna David’s ‘Falling for Me’

FallingforMe-pb-199x300In Anna David’s new memoir, Falling for Me, the author sets out to find the empowering side of being single by following the advice set forth in Helen Gurley Brown’s groundbreaking 1962 book Sex and the Single Girl. So should we be living more like women in the ’60s? We talked to David (whose book launch we’re sponsoring in New York City Oct. 10) about that — and why it’s still so hard to be single.

You recently ignited a bit of a blogger controversy by asserting in a post that “women had it better in the ’60s.” Do you really think women had it better then, hands down? Or just in certain ways?

Definitely just in certain ways. Which is what I said in the piece! But I get that when people want to pick a fight with you — or are, say, angered simply by the title of your piece — they don’t see words that might minimize their vitriol. My point was that I wish women would stop making statements about things that don’t matter. I love Gloria Steinem and am incredibly grateful for all that she’s done, but for her to go around making a stink about the Playboy Club TV show when everyone knew the show was terrible and wasn’t going to make any kind of cultural impact seems silly. Instead, I’d rather she talk about things that do matter and we can change, like how judgmental and cruel women can be to one another simply because we always see each other as competition.

How do you think the perception of single girls has changed over time? Or has it?

Well, contemporary society certainly didn’t invent the notion of a spinster or the idea of a single woman being lonely, damaged, or desperate. But when there were fewer opportunities for women, I think it was probably much easier to concentrate on finding and working on a good marriage. Yet our generation was told — or at least I was — that we had to have incredibly successful careers as well as successful marriages. And I know very few women who manage that but hundreds of men. Of course, we now also have millions of shows, blog posts, Op-Eds, Tumblr groups and what have you out there to perpetuate the idea that we should be able to have it all or that single women are pathetic. We put these cultural messages out there; I mean, if you think about The Real Housewives of New York, Bethenny was repeatedly called the “underdog” when she was single. Then she landed a husband and she’s the show’s great success story, off to her own series!

But I don’t really know why we have such a hard time making singlehood okay; maybe it’s threatening to a still patriarchal society that needs procreation in order to survive. Maybe it’s that no matter what we do, some women are always going to find fault with others for their choices.

How do you think we can change the way single women are perceived?

I think we can all work on being open to one another’s choices. And look, I’m as much a part of the problem as anyone because I judge the shit out of women who are perfectly capable of working but instead rely on their husbands entirely — especially when they try to make a big show out of their “work” when really it’s some dilettante-ish thing their husband is funding. And the truth is I judge them because I’m jealous, on a certain level. A part of me wants to have a man say, “Honey, don’t worry about the money. How about you try making that scrapbooking business idea a reality? You’ll have my full support.” Yet ever since I’ve become aware of the fact that my judgment is based on jealousy, I’ve been trying to curb it — by reminding myself that I don’t know what these women’s lives are like, that I don’t know what they’ve traded or had to swallow and that maybe it’s a lot more challenging than anything I do. And with awareness, couldn’t we all — even the Smug Marrieds — stop congratulating ourselves so much and in turn finding fault with the way other women are living?

Is it a failing of the feminist movement that we haven’t been able to move past this?

Yes, in a way I do see this as a failure of the feminist movement because it’s something we can change and we don’t need men to help us. And it’s about spreading positivity rather than negativity. I mean, I get that anger is often required in order to make a difference, but when certain women make the same arguments over and over again about how there aren’t enough women allowed in one field or another, I just don’t know how effective it is. Most people subconsciously tune out those who sound angry because they assume the people aren’t being rational — that’s a psychological fact. And sometimes those arguments fall into that category. Of course, what I’m talking about isn’t something you write an Op Ed or create a Tumblr group about and then hope men change but actual humble efforts of self-examination and trying to change ourselves, which is arguably the most challenging thing in the world.

What was the most important thing you learned from the journey you took in this book?

It was that I had to stop defining my life based on what the world seemed to think it should be. I love my parents but I was definitely raised by people who have very specific ideas about How Things Are Done and love was sort of doled out based on how “successful” you were. I spent years trying to please them and not succeeding and then very much took that attitude into the world; I was going to succeed at this life game if it was the last thing I did. But in growing up like that and then continuing to be that way, I’d neglected to really ever ask myself what did I want? What made mehappy? And really hitting an emotional bottom and then deciding to devote my life to the principles of a book from the ’60s forced me to get to a place where I could really start to question what I’d always valued and to build a life that involved more than just creating a bright, shiny career. Maybe it would have happened anyway — maybe this is just the place I’m at in my life — but I came to realize I could change those things I didn’t like and learn to really love what I did.

Can we ever balance our seemingly innate yearning for love with, well, all the other things we have to do in our lives — careers, friendships, and the general pursuit of fabulousness that seems to be required of modern womanhood?

It’s definitely possible. I think it takes a certain emotional maturity that I’m only now beginning to feel like I possess. But we have to make sacrifices and give up certain fantasies. The fact is, I know only two married women with incredibly successful careers and in both cases, the husband essentially agreed to remain entirely subordinate — to either give up his career entirely or to just do it more as a hobby. I think a lot of Type A women want a Type A man but most of the Type A men seem to want yes-women. This idea a lot of women have about having it all — the big life, the great career, the successful husband, the group of friends, the fabulousness — is, I think, a fantasy. And somehow doing my book taught me that that’s okay, that it’s not about doing or having it all but being happy with what you have.

What’s the biggest problem with the way we approach sex today versus the Sex and the Single Girl days?

I think we’re as confused about sexual mores as we’ve ever been. Back in Helen’s day, girls either slept around or didn’t and most didn’t. But we were raised at a post-women’s revolution time, where we were told that liberated women could do whatever they wanted. And yet we were raised by women who’d come of age during Helen’s time so that message, to me anyway, always came out contorted or conflicted. Just because we have the Pill and the freedom to do whatever we want sexually, that doesn’t mean we’re always going to feel great about it. I’ve felt ashamed or like I did too much or like I shouldn’t have done something after many sexual experiences and I think many women feel an intrinsic level of shame when they have sex outside of a committed relationship. The fact is, sex is still, on some level, something women give and men take and we act like it’s not — like we’re liberated and everyone’s in the same boat. We’re not. And in many ways I think it was healthier when female sexuality was regarded as more of a gift — when it wasn’t so easily accessible. Until the day that a man could be called a slut and it would be viewed as something other than a compliment — a day I don’t really foresee coming — I believe the way we view and approach sex will be screwed up. I also think that while sex is everywhere — porn stars like Jenna Jameson and Sacha Grey have broken out into the mainstream, Kardashian-wear is sweeping the nation — our society is still so repressed. We’ll worship these sort of déclassé examples of female sexuality but won’t have open, honest communication about sex. And then everyone’s so shocked when wealthy golf players and politicians are embroiled in sex scandals. I actually have one section of my book that’s sexually very graphic and a few months ago, I panicked: called my editor and asked if we could take those six pages out. It was too late as it turned out, but my sudden shame wasn’t about me — I’d written the pages, after all, not to mention had the experiences I documented — but about how other people would judge me. And I think that if we as a society were as open and honest about sex as I wish we were, I wouldn’t have been so scared of that.

Easy Ways to Be Kinky

kinkySex can be liberating, mind-blowing, stress-reducing, soul-moving, or just plain fun. This much we know. And while we’re all for “spicing up your love life,” as the magazines like to call it, we’re pretty sure it’s not rocket science to do so — and certainly doesn’t require a new story every single month about it (we’re looking at you,Cosmo). So here it is, the definitive — and only — cheat sheet we’ll ever give you for mixing things up in the bedroom. And since we freely admit that this is hardly brain surgery, little, if any, explanation will be provided. Simply pick the ones you like, ignore the rest, and have a great time:

1. Spanking. Biting and hair-pulling also options. And, hey, be careful out there.

2. Sex toys. We hope we’re far past a time when any guy would be intimidated by the introduction of a vibrator, and certainly there are other options as well.

3. Tying up. Many, many modern young women are into this, and we could spend days analyzing that fact. But trust us, it’s fun. Lots of guys like to be tied up, too.

4. Various forms of anal play. Might be good to discuss this first, as romantically as possible, of course. It’s definitely a love-hate kinda thing.

5. Role-playing.

6. Telling each other what you want, in the moment, and doing it, in the moment.

7. Lingerie, etc. Some guys are into it, some don’t care that much, few will complain, and you might feel super-sexy, so try at will.

8. Do it somewhere other than the bedroom.

9. Share a hot memory from your past. Your shared past, to be clear. Probably you should keep the fantasies about exes to yourself.

10. Shower sex! But be sure it’s the right time. You don’t want to sneak in on him doing … whatever he might take care of in the bathroom when he doesn’t think you’re around.

11. Share a fantasy.

12. Sexting! So scandalous for teens, so awesome for grownups who trust each other implicitly.

13. Masturbation. With or without your partner there.

How to Be a Feminist Boyfriend

malefeministAfter having a few recent conversations about whether men can even be feminist (The Sexy Feminist says: YES) and stumbling across this plea for guy-friendly feminist reading from a concerned girlfriend, we got to thinking: What does it take to be a feminist boyfriend? Let us count the ways:

1. Read feminist sites. We recommend this one, of course, but there’s also Feministing, Slate’s DoubleX blog, and many others. And we don’t say this as our No. 1 tip just to keep ourselves in business — reading sites that filter news through a feminist perspective is the quickest, easiest way to get a feel for, well, just how far we still have to go. He’ll get exactly why we still need feminism after spending an afternoon reading about Dominic Strauss-Kahn, Planned Parenthood cuts, and, ugh, Charlie Sheen. Hopefully he’ll also come out a fan of Bridesmaids, Tina Fey, and Jane Fonda.

2. Make sure you’re giving her what she wants, and not what she doesn’t want, in bed. This comes down to talking. It’s fun. Have some wine and discuss what you both like (and don’t). Then everyone’s on the same page. It’s so easy to lose track of equality in bed, and while we aren’t advocating strict and literal equality (if you like being tied up, ladies, go for it!) we think the key is making sure everyone is equally satisfied, whatever that means.

3. Share the burden of contraception. Again, it comes down to talking. Don’t assume the lady’s taking care of things just because we have a pill and you don’t. And trust us, she will swoon if you offer to foot half the birth control cost (even if she’s the one who has to go pick up the prescription). She may decline your offer, but it doesn’t hurt to put it out there.

4. Treat her like a lady, but let her pay sometimes. This is another case-by-case situation: Paying for stuff might be the most fraught area of modern dating. Basically, it’ll vary widely depending on which of you makes more, or whether you’ve got roughly equal bank accounts. That said, we don’t suggest using feminism as an excuse to be cheap; but we also appreciate you checking your antiquated ideas about manhood at the door and letting your woman pay sometimes, especially after the first few dates. It helps assuage our awkward feelings of feminist guilt and that nagging sensation of being a kept woman.

5. Cook together. It’s romantic, fun, healthy, and fiscally responsible. It also establishes a feeling of equality when it comes to domestic tasks and lays a great foundation if you take things to the next level and cohabitate.

6. Don’t resort to “stop acting like a chick” retorts during disagreements. Just be direct and honest; don’t drag gender into things.

7. Have intellectual debates with us. We love that.

8. Call yourself a feminist, dammit. This is basically like dirty talk to us.

Sex: How Much of a Fantasy Girl Should You Be?

fantasy1He wanted me to wear short-shorts. Like Daisy Duke short-shorts, half-inch-inseam short-shorts, the kind one could purchase from Victoria’s Secret’s lovely outerwear collection in the mid-’90s. He gave them to me under the guise of some gift — our one-year anniversary, perhaps — but I had not worn them outside our dorm-room walls, likely because they were a bit (go figure) short for my comfort. I would happily wear them at “home,” or in “the bedroom,” both of which equated to our respective campus housing cells, as I did not mind spicing up our nascent sex life. But I did not take it upon myself to go anywhere (where would I go in these, anyway?) with them barely covering my ass in everyday life.

Then, suddenly, he was angry with me. Sulky, barely-speaking, passive-aggressive angry. At first, he refused to tell me why, insisting I should instinctively know. Then, after some seriously frustrating phone conversation — our first conflict in more than a year of dating — I dragged it out of him: He was mad I had not intuited his desire for me to don the short-shorts for Dillo Day, an outdoor music festival at Northwestern University (that is, alas, not as dirty as it sounds). Apparently it should have been obvious by his buying of the shorts and presenting them to me in the early spring that I would then be obligated, by my undying gratitude for said shorts, to frolic in them at the pinnacle of the season.

I told him he was nuts, he told me I didn’t understand his tender feelings. But I moved past it, resigned to sometimes not understanding the love of my life’s every thought.

Or at least I’d thought I’d moved past it.

In reality, I’d have the same fight with the same man again and again, and again, from the time we met in college when I was 19 to the time we finally broke up for good 10 years later. The garments and desires changed — sometimes it was a thong, sometimes it was a miniskirt with no underwear, sometimes it was a dirty picture, sometimes it was a threesome. But it was always the same tiresome dance: He’d ask me to do something I didn’t like, I’d express my hesitation, he’d accuse me of being cold to his advances, I’d be left to agonize over whether I should stick to my guns in the name of feminism or give in in the name of trying new things for the man I loved.

I never got out of the cycle until I got out of the relationship. But this constant struggle wore its way not only through our sex life — which was otherwise, it should be noted, quite robust, and not at all vanilla — but through my self-esteem as well. I didn’t come to college with a wide frame of sexual reference, as the only two boys I’d loved in high school were a strict Catholic and a closeted future-gay-best-friend. When, during my sophomore year of college, I found the man I thought I was going to marry, I truly wanted to make him happy. Until, it seemed, he told me exactly what would make him happy. These weren’t the typical things you read in women’s magazines that you don’t have to do if you don’t want to. They seemed kind-of, mostly, harmless. I would find myself thinking, Why don’t I want to go to the bar wearing this short skirt with no panties? What’s the harm in giving my future husband this little thrill? This line of thought soon unraveled into something more like,What’s wrong with me that I don’t feel comfortable doing this? Why am I so frigid and unsexy?

I think this urge, to look for what’s broken in ourselves when our sex life isn’t going as planned, starts, like so many neuroses, with women’s magazines. When we are constantly bombarded with 57 Ways to Please Him Tonight (or 75 Naughty Sex Moves Men Crave Most), we think it is our duty to go through these checklists, one point at a time, and accomplish sexiness the same way we accomplish career or academic success, relationship or baby-raising success, beauty or fitness, in our idealized-super-woman times. If we do not accomplish these successes, the reasoning goes, it is because we are not doing everything possible to do so. Therefore, to not do so is a personal failing, a sign of defect.

It is telling that I did not share these struggles with anyone at the time. I wanted so badly for my friends and family to believe that my relationship was perfect, that I had pleased my man the same way I’d pulled my undergrad grade point average up to a 3.5 after dipping dangerously close to the 2 range my freshman year (hint: don’t take three lit classes at once; also, statistics is a hard class) — by beating it into place with my iron ambition and steel will. Meanwhile, as we moved in together, he was complaining that I never initiated sex, and, well, he was right — I was afraid that starting anything would lead to something I didn’t want to do. The non-vanilla sex life devolved into a barely existent one. We decided this was a spectacular time to get engaged, naturally.

Even as I said “yes” to his “Will you marry me?,” I couldn’t parse the question at the core of our relationship: What happens when your partner’s sexual wishes constantly irritate you? Do you give him what he wants in the name of love, as I so often did? Or do you stand up for your own feelings in the name of feminism? The fact that this all bothered me so much bothered me in itself: Wasn’t he supposed to be telling me what he wanted in bed? Wasn’t that what all the sex self-help books told us?

We eventually broke up for a million interrelated, complicated reasons, the buildup of ten years of sacrifices and regrets compounded by two lives pulling in opposite directions until they shattered. I never figured out the answers to those questions. At least I didn’t think I did, until I noticed two curious, related phenomena in subsequent relationships: One, I broke up with anyone whose tastes in the bedroom didn’t blend seamlessly with my own. And two, I tend to initiate a fair number of sexual favors for my current, true love of my adult life. Following a checklist — whether dreamed up by Cosmo or your man — just never feels sexy. Making your own fantasies together, as a couple, does.

Having years of emotional distance from the whole ordeal with my ex also helped me realize what was truly getting to me about his sexual requests: They seemed to come from a pre-approved list from Maxim magazine or something, the ultimate markers of commodified female sexuality — I wasn’t even sure he wanted them, per se, as much as he wanted to prove he could have them (the same way, I must admit, I’d wanted an engagement ring from him just to prove I’d won at life). This was borne out one day, late in our relationship, when I danced on the bar at Coyote Ugly (yeah, just like the movie) at his urging, and he seemed more embarrassed than exhilarated.

The fact that my more spontaneous expressions of sexuality, the ones that came from the real me and not some trussed-up hussy version of her, weren’t enough for him degraded me doubly. If this sounds familiar to you — fake sexuality being forced upon someone while her genuine sexuality is devalued — that’s because it’s called the society we live in. I don’t — I can’t — blame my ex, who was as young and dumb as I was at the time, for ideas foisted upon generation after generation through everything from porn to ads to magazines.

But if you’re wondering whether to shoot that amateur porn or wear that uncomfortable crotchless latex onesie or enter that stripping contest at the request of your loved one, make sure you — and he — really want it to begin with. And if not, maybe it’s time to find a new lover whose fantasies you fulfill just by being you.

Not Getting Any?

celibacySometimes when you’re paging through, say,Cosmo, it can feel like everyone in the world—your friends, your neighbors, and, hell, even your second-grade teacher—has a sex life reminiscent of those hot, sweaty, twisted (in the best possible way) scenes in “Unfaithful.” However, acrobatic or even plain old vanilla sex isn’t happening for you tonight, or any other night for that matter. But everything around you—magazines, movies, those constant reruns of “Sex and the City” you always manage to stumble upon while channel-surfing alone on Friday night—seems to be conspiring to remind you of your sexless life, which is worse than a cult showing up with Kool-Aid.

But not to worry: the INCEL movement is here. INCEL (How has this phrase not been splashed across t-shirts sold at designer boutiques yet?) is short for “involuntary celibacy,” and, in short, means the state of not getting any for reasons other than, say, an actual vow of celibacy or commitment to abstinence. Or as WebMD puts it, “ordinary healthy folks who want to have sex but can’t make it happen in their lives.” (We’re not sure how comforting it is to know WebMD is weighing in on it at all, as if it’s diabetes or ulcers, but we appreciate the clarity.) INCELs are a demographic so rarely discussed that there are no statistics on their numbers. However, you should feel at ease knowing that if you lately often find yourself starring in your own rendition of “Sexless in Seattle” or “Home Alone: The On My Couch On a Saturday Night Without Even My Vibrator Edition,” fear not, you are not alone.

“While envied by their married counterparts, the stereotypical swinging single may not be having all kinds of marvelous sex with other single people,” says Gale Holtz Golden, a psychotherapist and author of “In the Grip of Desire: A Therapist at Work with Sexual Secrets.” “Instead, many single people characterize their sex lives as being voluntarily or involuntarily abstinent for a multitude of reasons.”

INCELs can have intimacy issues and other emotional problems, or they can also fall into the category of people who have had active sex lives in the past, but are unconsciously sabotaging themselves for emotional reasons. “People who choose, consciously or not, not to have sex for long periods of time could be avoiding intimacy because of fear,” says relationship coach Annie Ory. “This can be done by choosing partners to obsess over who are unavailable, married, or gay.” [Sirens note: Not a good idea.]

INCELs might also fall into the reluctant-virgin scenario. (Picture Steve Carrell in “The 40 Year Old Virgin.”) “Virginity is coming back in fashion, and it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of,” Golden says. “However, if you are waiting for Mr. Perfect you may wait a long time because no such person exists. Finding the right guy may be a matter of the numbers game. Once you get used to kissing frogs and one turns into a Prince, you may like kissing and the rest will follow.”

Changing your viewpoint about sex could be the key if you are apprehensive about having been in a sexless rut for a while and feel as if you don’t know where on earth to start. You should first get a physical/pelvic examination and tell your doctor you are there because you have some specific concerns about sexual encounters. If this does not put your mind to rest, you should see a therapist who specializes in sexual issues to examine this fear, Golden advises. Or you could be suffering from depression, says a 2001 study in the Journal of Sex Research that found links between lack of sex and depression.

That means that, yes, even the dismal state of our economy has an impact on our sex lives. If you have recently been laid off or are worried about the possibility of losing your job, then your sex life has probably taken a back seat to your worry-riddled mind. Who has time to seek out partners when finding a job is hard enough? No job equals no money, which makes us worried about keeping a roof over our heads instead of hitting the silk sheets. “Stress is always a sex-killer,” Golden says. “If you have a crazy, overwhelming life, you have to stop and smell the flowers—or each other.”

But even voluntary abstinence can morph into the involuntary kind: Vanessa, 35, decided to give up sex cold turkey after a rough breakup following a relationship that spanned most of her twenties. “It was literally almost a year before I felt ready to approach the idea of dating, let alone sex,” she says. “I tried online dating but it didn’t result in any significant hook-ups, which resulted in my period of forced celibacy. I never intended to be on a hiatus, but it just worked out that way.” She found solace in for all women who found their life and lifestyle grinding to a halt because of an unexpected breakup. The trauma can cause many aspects of life to be thrown into upheaval, and intimacy issues are a large part of that.

INCEL support groups are everywhere—from MySpace to YouTube. Just when you think you are alone out there, type INCEL into any search engine and a variety of support groups come up., you can scroll through INCEL info on topics such as being a gay INCEL as well as message boards, which give specific advice on how to approach people if you are chronically shy. On the Yahoo INCEL Support Bulletin, there is even a motto for people living withcelibacy: S.H.I.T. (So Horny It’s Torture).

In the interim, what on earth are INCELS to do? “Exercise has a lot in common with sex and is a healthy way to reap the same benefit,” says author of “Addicted to Stress” Debbie Mandel. “Also creativity and productivity are excellent ways to channel sexual energy. Massage therapy is another healthy alternative.”

And don’t beat yourself up for missing sex—it is important. “If you look at it from the hierarchy of needs perspective, sex is a basic human drive like the drive for food and water, and if these basic needs aren’t met, then it may keep you from being a fully self-actualized human being,” says psychotherapist Dr. Michael DeMarco. “I would encourage anyone who is abstaining from sex with another person to continue being able to get that need met through masturbation.” Or you can even romance yourself in other ways. “Doing things like treating yourself to flowers, sexy lingerie, or a nice dinner with a good friend will make life seem better when you are between relationships,” Golden says.

But as good as sex can be for you, it’s also important to remember that going without it for a while is not even close to as bad as going without food or shelter. In fact, while sex has plenty of nice side effects, skipping it for a while does no harm. “So far, I haven’t shriveled up and died, nor have I thought of myself as any less appealing to the opposite sex,” Vanessa says.

“We are programmed through movies and magazines that if we are single, then there is something missing, when I would argue that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being single,” DeMaro says. “And if abstaining from sex makes it easier to stay single without possibly complicating things, by all means, abstain!”

So the next time you find yourself in an INCEL-rific situation, just ride it out (so to speak). “Afterall, one can still have a romance with life,” Mandel says. Or, to use the favorite motto of many a sexless website: NO SEX, SO WHAT?

– Stacy Horowitz