A Day in the Life of a Sexologist

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Project Pack/Donate/Sell/Trash all of my worldly possessions so I can move to California with only what I can fit in one car has led me to these two massive bins full of love letters.

Remember the “Everyone’s Free To Wear Sunscreen” graduation song of 1999? In it was a line that said “throw away your old bank statements. Keep your old love letters”. I evidently took that very close to heart because I have every love letter I have ever received since 1999. Notes, cards, and full on, old fashioned, “My dearest Jill…” handwritten love letters.

Here’s the breakdown of what I found:

Lover: 8th grade boyfriend
Length of love affair: 3 weeks
Number of love letters: 5

Lover: High school boyfriend
Length of love affair: 3 years
Number of love letters: I stopped counting after 267 because it just got ridiculous. Most of them were MULTIPLE pages.

Lover: Guy I hooked up with after the gut-wrenching high school boyfriend break-up
Length of love affair: 2 weeks
Number of love letters: 6 (hook-ups write love letters? Who knew.)

Lover: Rebound boyfriend
Length of love affair: 1 year
Number of love letters: 2

Lover: College boyfriend
Length of love affair: 2.5 years
Number of love letters: 28

Lover: Husband
Length of love affair: 6.5 years and counting
Number of love letters: 0
Zero notes. Zero cards. Zero love letters. I actually don’t even know what his handwriting looks like.

We do have a 13,000 text log from just the last year of the cutest, lovey-doviest compliments, “thinking of you”-s, and sweet nothings, so it’s not as if we don’t commit our feelings to print. But the difference is in the medium.

I didn’t even have a cell phone with actual texting capabilities until pretty much about the time I met Ryan. Before then, if you were bored at school or work and you were thinking of your lover, you wrote a note. Now you send heart emojis. Then if you were madly in love and wanted to declare your feelings, you penned a love letter. Now you text. I’m not old fashioned. I find paper annoying and don’t quite understand why phonebooks, paper receipts, snail mail, and other things still done on paper aren’t obsolete yet. Even still, there is just something about a handwritten love letter. ✏️📝💌❤️💋

I have a problem. I dumped out my boxes and bins of #inventory and this is what I have, not even including the inventory I take to sell at parties, which I store separately. I am knee deep in #dildos over here and I can not fit all of this in my car for the move to California! This all needs to be sold ASAP! #bigdildossmallapartmentproblems #heapingpileofsextoys #helpme!!!

I have a problem. I dumped out my boxes and bins of #inventory and this is what I have, not even including the inventory I take to sell at parties, which I store separately. I am knee deep in #dildos over here and I can not fit all of this in my car for the move to California! This all needs to be sold ASAP! #bigdildossmallapartmentproblems #heapingpileofsextoys #helpme!!!

Nice write up in the #UniversityofDelaware #studentnewspaper about my talk last week. I love that I am a “famed” #sexologist 😎 #thatsgoingtogotomyhead #sexedtalk #slutshaming #virginshaming

Nice write up in the #UniversityofDelaware #studentnewspaper about my talk last week. I love that I am a “famed” #sexologist 😎 #thatsgoingtogotomyhead #sexedtalk #slutshaming #virginshaming

New plushes! They are #mammaryglands with nipples! $15 at thesexologist.org. #iheartguts

New plushes! They are #mammaryglands with nipples! $15 at thesexologist.org. #iheartguts

I witnessed a birth. Conclusion: Vaginas are awesome!

Wednesday was a vagtastic day! It was a day that started with me witnessing my sister push life into this world through her vagina, and ended with Ashton Kutcher posting an article on facebook in which I’m heavily quoted, about vaginas, of course. Pretty rad day for a sexologist! Vagina, vagina, VAGINA!

Watching my little sister give birth, holding her leg with one hand and shoulder with the other, was an experience that gave me all the feels. And not necessarily the feels I thought I would have. I’ll try to explain them, in no particular order.

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1.   Vaginas are awesome. All I can think about is the “I Was There In The Room” monologue from the Vagina Monologues, and the introduction: “Eve Ensler was present for the birth of her granddaughter. She was in awe of vaginas before that moment; she’s in deep worship now.” I had a similar transformative experience. It’s no secret that I think vaginas, vulvas, and clitorises are pretty damn neato. But now I’m just like- HOLY SHIT! Honestly. Holy fucking shit. Wow.

I have seen the Vagina Monologues approximately 60 times, and I cry every time during the birth monologue. Every time I’ve seen a birth video in class, I cry. Even that old show “A Baby Story” on TLC made me get teary. So I figured I would cry seeing it in real life, up close and personal, and with someone I love. But I didn’t. I was too busy being stunned silent by the electrifying realization that the human body is a remarkable machine. Holy fucking shit. Wow.

The line where I always cry during the birth monologue is

We forget the vagina- all of us.

What else could explain our lack of awe?

Our lack of reverence?

I never understood why people hate on vaginas so hard. They belittle them, hurt them, condemn them, treat them like they’re repulsive. I’ve dedicated my career to trying to end this. But seeing what the vagina can do- it literally tears and bleeds to bring life, LIFE, into this world, it makes me doubly infuriated that they are shit on by society at large- by, frankly, all of us. (and I’m crying typing this… damn). It’s an important question Eve asks. How in the hell do you explain our lack of awe and reverence? Because I can’t think of any other way to describe what I witnessed other than deserving of roll-out-the-carpet, bow-down-and-give-thanks awe and reverence. Holy fucking shit. Wow.

2.   The medicalization of birth makes me uncomfortable. It some ways, I’m glad my sister could get medication to make her comfortable. She was even able to sleep through several hours of the labor. But when she wasn’t asleep and was balled over in excruciating agony, and 10 minutes seemed like hours, I was so thankful for the medical technology we have. I kept thinking of how people 10,000 years ago dealt with this suffering without any drugs. Yay modern medicine!

But at the same time, the medicalization just seemed cold and lacking a human component. A lot of the staff we encountered just treated her, and her life altering experience of giving birth and becoming a mother, and baby Ethan’s life altering experience of… becoming alive, like just another day at the office. They just seemed like they were punching a time card. Like an “Oh, another delivery, and then I’ll take my lunch break” kind of attitude. There was a relentless parade of random strangers walking into the room for something- a tech person taking vital signs, a med student introducing themselves, someone coming to make up the tray of instruments the OB will need during the delivery, and on and on and on. After she gave birth she couldn’t sleep for more than 10 minutes at a time because of the constant interference of people just needing to check “see patient in room 211” off their to-do list.

My favorite was when she just got admitted, and she’s in pain and scared because, OMG this is actually happening!, and she’s mostly naked, hobbling to the toilet while my mom and I have one arm each trying to help her get to the bathroom and someone walks in and announces “I need your driver’s license and insurance card”. My sister winced and tried to reach for her wallet on the table, and I’m like “Can she get her damn clothes on first??!!” It’s like, c’mon. Could you possibly have a shred of compassion for fuck’s sake?

When the anesthesiologist came in to give an epidural, my sister was in the midst of a contraction. The doctor shoved the clipboard in her face, needing her to sign the consent form, while my sister is, you know, having a contraction and thus a little too preoccupied to take the clipboard, read, and sign it. It was a 40 second contraction, and the doctor couldn’t even wait. She tried to be patient for a second, but then would move the clipboard closer. My sister would moan in pain. The doc would try to be patient for another second, and then moved the clipboard closer to her face again. This happened 6 times in 40 seconds. If your day is so busy and getting your paperwork done is so important that you can’t give someone literally 40 seconds to writhe in pain in peace, you might need to revisit that course on bedside manner. And humanity.

Also it was startling when random people came in, introduced themselves, and then looked at or touched my sister’s genitals without asking. Like “Hi, I’m Dr. _____.” And then their finger was in her vagina. I know it’s your job but, no. Unless there is a medical emergency and touching them will save their life, doctors should still ask first. How hard would it be to say “Hi, I’m Dr. ____, is it OK if I check how many centimeters you are dilated?” But that might take 15 extra seconds, and evidently taking 15 seconds of a doctor’s time is a lot to ask.

There was one nurse who was exceptionally awesome, patient, and attentive. And I told her I thought so :)

3.   It was a real treat to be around people for whom sexualized body parts can be discussed without so much as a hint of shame or embarrassment. Cervix. Vagina. Rectum. How to wipe the scrotum when changing his diaper. How to bring the baby to the breast. How to squeeze the nipple to get milk flowing. Penis. Foreskin. All these things were discussed extensively with us by doctors and nurses, and there was nary a snicker. No “who-ha”. No “private parts”. No awkwardness. Not even subtle awkwardness from people who are uncomfortable but try like hell not to show it because they know it would be unprofessional, which I’ve seen before. None of that. Everyone just acted like it’s all totally normal. Because it is, and it was so refreshing.

4.   OMG circumcision. My sister made a decision to not circumcise Ethan. But the assumption was that she would, by everyone. And remember, there were a lot of people coming in and out of the room, asking questions, filing out charts, and all of them assumed there would be a circumcision.

Pediatrician: So when you circumcise him later today…

My sister: (shaking her head no)

Pediatrician: Oh he’s getting circumcised tomorrow?

My sister: No, not at all.

Circumcision was even on the list of things that needed to be done before being discharged from the hospital. Granted, it says “if applicable”, but I got the sense they didn’t mean applicable, meaning if you chose to, more applicable meaning if the baby has a penis, because it couldn’t apply to vulva-bearing babies. Argh.  I’ll save my rant on routine neo-natal circumcision for another day.

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5.   Breastfeeding is perfectly natural but not naturally perfectly. In fact, it can be really really challenging. It’s hard enough, I’m now extra annoyed that people make it that much harder for moms by giving them shit for breastfeeding in public.

6.   I’m ever more convinced that the United States needs to get on board with the rest of the industrialized world and require paid maternity leave. He feeds every three hours, sometimes for an hour. That leaves 2 hours. In that time, my sister needs to change him, use the bathroom herself which is an ordeal because of the pain and swelling, and try to find time to sleep, eat, and do other life things. I don’t know how many weeks/months/years that’s supposed to go on for, but how the hell is someone supposed to do that, and work?

7.   Vaginas are awesome, but the people they are attached to are awesome too. I am so proud of my sister! She is so strong. Mothers don’t get enough credit. I’m also finding a new appreciation for my own mother.image

On a personal level, this experience was incredible. Getting to support my sister and have the women in my family share this moment is something we’ll all never ever forget. On a political/policy/professional level, it just confirmed what I already suspected. I always believed that the vagina’s ability to give birth was incredible in theory. I always thought routine circumcision was wrong as a matter of principle. I always supported destigmatizing breastfeeding and promoted paid maternity leave as a part of my personal ethics of compassion. I’ve always thought that many doctors could really stand to improve their bedside manner (I actually wrote a research paper on this in grad school as bedside manner relates to sexual health and medicine). But SEEING it all was totally different than believing it in theory. And I am so thankful that I got to SEE it. It’s literally the most ordinary thing in the world. Births occur every few seconds. But this will likely be the only time I’ll get to be a part of a birth, other than my own, so for me, it was extraordinary. And for Ethan, it’s the single most important thing that will ever happen to him. I’m still in awe.

I just watched a human be born. What did you do today? #babysfirstselfie #auntstatus #birthcoach #vaginasarefuckingAWESOME #truesenseoftheword #inspiresAWE #seriously #WOW!! #brandnewhuman

I just watched a human be born. What did you do today? #babysfirstselfie #auntstatus #birthcoach #vaginasarefuckingAWESOME #truesenseoftheword #inspiresAWE #seriously #WOW!! #brandnewhuman

Walking down the street in West Chester on my way to give notice to the person who owns my apartment that I am moving to California and that he can put my place up for rent.

Young Man: Hey, are you Jill?
Me: Yes
YM: I love everything you do.
Me: Wow, thank you!
YM: I hope you have a great day!

That’s what I needed today as I confront the bitter-sweetness of leaving this place. That reminded me that I did good things here, and I can feel at peace about that legacy as I turn the page. Thanks Young Man!

Do you live in Anaheim, Bakersfield, Chula Vista, Del Mar, or El Cajon? I am moving to California and I want to get to know sex-positive people all over the state! Here’s the game. Book me for an in-home sex ed party for January or February. Every host/ess will get a free gift. If I book a party in a town or city that starts with every letter of the alphebet, one party will randomly be selected to have their party be totally FREE! All the others will get $25 off! Anyone in Fresno, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach or Imperial Beach down for Female Orgasm 101 or Fellatio 101? Email jill@thesexologist.org to play!

Do you live in Anaheim, Bakersfield, Chula Vista, Del Mar, or El Cajon? I am moving to California and I want to get to know sex-positive people all over the state! Here’s the game. Book me for an in-home sex ed party for January or February. Every host/ess will get a free gift. If I book a party in a town or city that starts with every letter of the alphebet, one party will randomly be selected to have their party be totally FREE! All the others will get $25 off! Anyone in Fresno, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach or Imperial Beach down for Female Orgasm 101 or Fellatio 101? Email jill@thesexologist.org to play!

They are all either old, broke, or just not very good. And I got them all for free in exchange for writing a review on my blog, but it still pains me to throw them out. #vibratorpurge #boxofsextoys #gettingthrownout #movingcrosscountry #purgingmostofmyposessions

They are all either old, broke, or just not very good. And I got them all for free in exchange for writing a review on my blog, but it still pains me to throw them out. #vibratorpurge #boxofsextoys #gettingthrownout #movingcrosscountry #purgingmostofmyposessions

No offense, but clitorises are offensive

Add “die cut sticker printers” to the long list of businesses over the years who have refused to do business with me because my business is in normalizing human sexuality, which in itself speaks to why my business needs to exist in the first place. Also on that list are banks, credit card processing companies, realtors, lawyers, graphic designers, and a ton of different advertisers (groupon, clipper magazine, the list goes on and on).

Here’s the back story.

For my Female Orgasm 101 college workshop and in-home party, I created an activity called “pin the clit on the vulva”. It’s always been extremely popular because it’s fun and silly (I make people close their eyes, spin around and everything). Pedagogically, it’s a wonderful way to introduce the different parts of the vulva, what they’re called, and where they are. It’s an excellent lesson plan to fulfill my stated learning objective of participants appreciating the nuance of the vulva, and understanding how erasure of the different parts from popular vernacular and the reduction of the entire external genitals to a “vagina” is harmful and oppressive. It’s a strong ice breaker activity, as people who moments before were sitting in the audience nervous, suddenly are shouting out “to the left! to the left!” as their friend or classmate is feeling their way around the wall with their eyes closed and a larger than life labia majora or clitoral hood in their hands.

But there has been a problem as far as the logistics. Years ago I used an 8 1/2 by 11 laminated paper as the back drop, and smaller laminated parts for the vulva which participants taped on, and it worked perfectly. But as the Female Orgasm 101 got more popular and elicited bigger audiences, it was hard to see all the way at the front of an auditorium, and so I made another laminated version, this time 12x16. It’s easier to see for sure, but because it’s bigger, it’s heavier, and it always falls off the wall no matter how much blue painters tape I use. So I started brainstorming ways to make this work.

How about felt? Make a felt board like the ones in kindergarten classrooms, and the little felt clitoris and urethra and such will stick to the other felt and it would be great. But the problem would be getting the felt board on the wall. It wouldn’t stay upright. I couldn’t figure out a way to hang it without damaging someone’s living room wall, or prop it up without having to carry a heavy and cumbersome easel with me every time I teach. Not practical.

So I thought about removable vinyl. It could stick right to someone’s wall, and be removed for the next class. But apparently die cut vinyl in the size I would need would be almost $1,000?!? No.

Which brought me to stickers. If I could custom make a sticker sheet with all the different parts, and simply tape a piece of paper to the wall, which will be lighter not laminated, and have participants place the stickers on the paper, very much like kid’s “pin the tail on the donkey” games. It’s not reusable, but I figured it’d be cheap enough to be able to use a new sticker sheet for each event, and then I could also give away the finished “artwork” they make to someone in the audience. Win. I found a company that makes custom die cut sticker sheets and emailed them for a price quote.

I got this email in response:

It’s a shame I have to, but whenever I do inquires like this I’m sure to emphasize the EDUCATIONAL use. And it’s ridiculous and the whole reason I do clitoris education in the first place; it’s bullshit pleasure isn’t a valid enough reason to exist. We can include vaginas in “polite” conversation, textbooks, sex ed lesson plans, news reports, whatever, because they have “valid” health functions with reproduction and the like. But a clitoris’ only function is pleasurable sensations, and that’s not acceptable, so boom, clitorises get erased and excluded. It’s the same thing with creating vulva and clitoris stickers. If I wanted to make vulva and clitoris stickers because i wanted to cover my room in vulvas because I think they’re awesome and I like to look at them, or because they arouse me, or whatever, that’s not acceptable. So I have to capitulate by saying they are for TEACHING and HEALTH awareness and other “valid” and “acceptable” reasons a clitoris’ existence could possibly be acknowledged.

But it didn’t work this time. Emphasizing my position as a sexuality education teacher needing help with printing a lesson plan did nothing to lessen the sex-phobic, and ultimately misogynist, knee-jerk reaction to silence and suppress anything related to clitorises.

Clitorises are not offensive anymore than earlobes, fingernails, shoulder blades, or any other body part is offensive. What is offensive is that this part of my body is considered offensive. In this email, this is what I hear:

"There is a part of your body that is repulsive. Not my body, your body. It’s repulsive because if you figure out how to use it, you might not want or need a penis, and then my body kind might not be able to rule over your body kind anymore. This part of your body is so repulsive that a cartoon rendering of it will offend my staff who will have to see it. Losing your money is worth being spared from having to participate, however remotely, in this indecency that you possess. But no offense."

Welp. It’s material for the book I’m currently writing which is all about clitorises, why they’re fucking awesome, and why no one wants to talk about them.