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Perhaps because of my upbringing, sex has always fascinated me. The orgasm is the first and best high I have ever experienced. It's the only drug I know of which doesn't require ingesting anything. A flick of the switch, and, even if only for a few seconds, the world ceases to exist, my name escapes me, and I have to shake my head and stretch my body to awake from fantasy much like my dog does after a nap.
Growing up, I sought out shows like "Real Sex" and "Taxicab Confessions," read Anka Radakovich's sex column in Details magazine, considered studies presented in Psychology Today, and watched "Sex and the City." During my sophomore year, I polled all 200 students in my high school about what they found sexually attractive for my proposed science class project, my mother, outraged, telling me, "People will assume you're easy." (I'd barely had my first kiss.)
After determining I wasn't a fan enough of school to get my Ph.D. in sexology, I moved to journalism, later writing a sex column for a Maxim-style men's entertainment site and as a contributing writer for LA Weekly's After Dark column, all while reading books and research studies on sex.
Real-life research doesn't always yield what one expects. While at an Atlanta Poly Weekend panel earlier this year, sitting among "triads" (three people romantically involved) and a man who sat knitting (wha?), I was distracted by a woman who struck me as familiar. The man next to her was shorter than she, wearing a billowy pirate shirt, a corset, and steampunk goggles atop his head.
It hit me: Dear sweet Jesus and Mary Chain, she was one of my college professors.
My memory flashed to days she missed class because her husband injured himself in a cycling accident. I considered events and conferences other panelists discussed participating in — KinkFest, S&M Convention — and I realized there exists a possibility her husband didn't injure himself cycling. My imagination drew an image of him acting as her leather-bound submissive.
Outside the hotel, I phoned my mother. "I just left PolyCon," I said. She wishes I didn't tell her everything, I know.
"Guess what," I said. "I saw one of my old professors."
"Did he recognize you?" she asked.
"It wasn't a he."
"Oh." I could hear her silent judgment. "I don't understand your generation. You're all so weird."
Weeks have passed since Jesus and I talked that night on the phone, but still his notion that modern Atlantans are sexually inhibited lingers. It doesn't square with the Atlanta I know. We idolize a stripper who crushes beer cans with her tits, we have two sex clubs, Atlanta was named the "Gayest City in America" in 2010 by the Advocate, and men pay big bucks to bask in the curves of Magic City's women. There's also niche events that celebrate sexuality, such as Frolicon, Atlanta Bear Fest, Furry Weekend, KinkFest, and MondoHomo.
Are there things about the city's sexual development that could be improved? Of course. Always. When you consider how incestuous we can be among our selected communities, we should talk more often of STDs and condoms, especially when there still exists men who pressure women to have unprotected sex (you know who you are) and women who accept it (I'm looking at you, too). Or that there are no free STD screenings for women in the city, that interracial dating is still frowned upon in some pockets, and that some men and women feel ashamed to express their deepest desires.
We must feel comfortable talking about our sexual preferences and limitations, as it not only helps us find a partner who allows us to be comfortable in our own skin, but also allows us to avoid those who make us feel weird for what we like or don't like. In the end, it's all about compatibility. Your girlfriend doesn't like giving head? Marriage won't fix that for the better. Your boyfriend keeps pressuring you into some backdoor action? Find a new boyfriend. Your girlfriend won't give in? Find a woman you don't have to convince. There is nothing wrong with your likes or dislikes, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Knowledge of one's sexuality is power over one's body. But you won't know unless you ask. Unless you dig deep and bare all.
That's what I'm hoping we can do with Are You Shaved?: recognize and embrace the importance of sharing experiences and open conversation. AYS? is about setting aside social stigmas and tuning into your inner sexuality, not because you are a "perv," but because you recognize the ever-morphing definitions surrounding sex, the importance of those definitions, and the desire to keep sex exciting.
Jesus phoned me a few weeks ago with more questions.
"How are the boys of ATL treating you?" he asked.
"Well," I told him with a sly smile, "as it turns out, some are man enough to handle the tough questions. Two of them, actually."
"Ha! You're such a man-eater," he said, laughing. "So who are the lucky men?"
"Man," I said. "Singular."
"Oh?" he inquired. "Which one ended up winning over the pervert with a pen?"
"The one who made me smile most."
Follow Melysa Martinez on Twitter @areyoushaved. Feel free to ask questions, and she may answer one in her column.