Parker sleeps in until 5pm. My early afternoon fills with paranoia: What if he’s sleeping in to avoid me? What if he was so drunk last night that his body needed this extra time to recover? In his mind, did anything actually happen between us?

I spend the day not mentioning a word to any of his brothers. I eat the hangover special: chicken fajita omelets. I tan by the pool. I have a few drinks. I plant myself on a couch and watch UCLA lose dejectedly to Villanova. I shower and check my email in the mansion’s office. I’m dressed for our 7:30pm limo ride to a strip club: my best jeans, a casual white-button down, its sleeves folded halfway up my arm.

Through the door, I see him in his boxers as he waits to iron his dress shirt. I say nothing. He says nothing. I wonder if this is awkward or normal: our still-unacknowledged interactions from last night.

I wait outside with the rest of the guys. They filter in and out of the porch and the kitchen, and eventually, looking out into the Texas hillside are me, Parker, and another brother. I sit quietly as Parker asks his brother a question. His friend goes back inside, leaving us alone, eyes still out into the open.

He takes out his box of cigarettes. He remarks that they’re empty, and I laugh at him knowingly.

We board the limousine and don’t interact for the hour and a half ride to the nearest strip joint. When we arrive, we find a reserved area, half booth seats, half swivel seats. I pull a swivel seat behind me, and as I look around at the girls—half-attractive, half-not—he pulls a seat next to mine. He asks me to save it for him. I nod.

Our party’s first bottle of Grey Goose arrives, and a first string of girls comes to give Emil lap dances. I think briefly about his fiancĂ© before Parker sits down next to me. We talk about the strip club and the girls. I demonstrate unusual curiosity, as I confess never having been to a strip club before. He compares this one to ones he’s visited in Oklahoma and Bourbon Street. He says this one is not bad, but it’s certainly not the best.

He offers to buy me a lap dance from a girl. I laugh and tell him it would do nothing for me; he laughs and tells me they’re fun. Being clear about my sexuality though—something I never articulated explicitly the previous night—opens the door to debriefing our hot tub encounter. He makes it official: he couldn’t find me. When he peeked into the mansion’s office and saw me on the floor, he thought that I was one of his brothers. He eventually gave up looking and fell asleep. “But tonight,” he says, “we can fix that mistake.”

Two of his brothers tap him on the shoulder and ask if he wants to go to Pervert’s Row—the closest tables to the main stripper stage. He gets up to follow them, but turns around and tells me to come with them. He almost grabs my hand before remembering where he is.

I’m handed a dollar bill and told to stick it into my mouth. I do, playfully. We look around Pervert’s Row, and while no one is on the stage quite yet, we eye the swarm of girls writhing on the laps of visiting men. He expresses fondness for one of them in particular—he calls her Ms. Canada, because he was trying to talk her into dancing for the bachelor. I compare her breasts to the breasts of some of the other women, and he begins mentoring me on the differences between fake boobs and real boobs.

When we return to our reserved area, word has gotten around that I had never been to a strip club. The bachelor insists on buying me one.

He brings a girl over to my swivel chair, a blonde with a short cut, and she begins to dance. I ask her if she knows what’s going on, and as she twists across my lap, I whisper to her: I’m gay, and they’ve put me up to this. She becomes self conscious and whispers back: don’t worry, I won’t do anything uncomfortable. And as she puts on a show for the other guys without actually giving me a full show, I notice that right next to me is Parker, in his own swivel chair, receiving a lap dance of his own. I find it ironic, funny, and then flirty that we—two men with some sort of interest in each other—are bonding in the straightest possible way. I feel the rest of the boys watching us. I hear them cheering us on. We, men into men, effectively being teased by beautiful women, become, in a way, more of a show than the women’s show itself. The explicit image of heterosexual desire collides with implicit homosexual desire to perform perhaps the most exciting event of the evening.

Parker and I look at each other and laugh. The strip club has a way of relaxing all the rules you’ve ever known: it does, in a way, enact its own rules upon you. For more than just its dancers, it’s a place to let your hair down, and for Parker and me, that meant defusing any unease from the previous night’s unfinished business.

The rest of the night blurs by: we flirt at another bar. He pulls me into a bathroom stall for a kiss. We buy a post-drink pizza. He puts his arm around me in the limo ride home. It slips down my back, reaches under my shirt, and nudges at my side. We take pictures. And when we get back to the house, I see him stealing pillows and blankets and throwing them onto the same floor on which I had slept alone the previous night.

And this time, when I wait for him by the makeshift bed, he comes inside and closes the door.

To be continued…

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Does anyone have any sense as to how Ron Huberman's coming out (CEO of public schools in Chicago) has been received by people over there in Illinois?

I admit I was surprised to hear of this because of how strongly regulated schools in the U.S. are with regard to (gay) sexuality. How are students/parents/administrators/schools negotiating this? I tried to do a news search but couldn't find much. Any links or personal insights are most welcome!

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Jen joins us from DISGRASIAN:

Ladies and Gents...

Actually, just the Gents. Young Gents. Young, straight Gents...

We've got some thoughts on how to guarantee you get laid, if you bring a lassie back to your apartment and just need to close the deal. Bottom line: Your digs totally matter.

As RuPaul would say, "Don't fuck it up."

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Thought this article about Jim Carrey's role in an upcoming movie is a really interesting demonstration about constructions of gender and desire.

I think this is a perfect example of not only the awkwardness that viewers can experience when watching straight actors "authentically" play gay characters and perform "gay behaviors", but also the economic impact that doing so can have on the actual success of a product in mainstream markets. I don't doubt that Jim Carrey does an amazing job of playing gay/performing gay sex, but it's pretty powerful that after years of LGBTQ groups complaining about the consistency of straight guys not really playing gay very well...this movie can't get a damn distributor.

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Contrary to popular belief, loneliness is not all that glamorous; as a matter of fact loneliness comes at a major price, happiness. Human beings were never intended to be solitary creatures, the very fact that we’ve managed to persevere as a species for thousands of years without evolving sharp claws or other natural defenses proves that our survival is distinctly attributable to our sense of community. No exceptions. Now this blog entry is not intended to be a dissertation on the evolution of man, it is intended to highlight the fact that genderqueers, like other human beings, also need a sense of community even if a grand portion of our social peers still reject us.

I can’t speak for everybody out there, however I can confidently say that being genderqueer has never been easy for me, especially considering for most of my life I did not even know that my feelings could be vocalized in a word. I’ve always been androgynous, however growing up I never had access to a word that could shield me from falling under society’s prescribed label for deviants, "freak" (pleasant no?). As far back as I can remember I’ve had an eclectic appreciation for things in life, and that appreciation was never limited to things that were considered appropriate for a lad like myself. While I enjoyed playing outdoors and indulging in several boyish activities, I also appreciated things that were considered feminine: romance, fashion, aestheticism, and well eye makeup (naturally!!!); however, these eccentricities of mine were a first class ticket to the closet.

Little satisfaction comes from living in a dingy closet, so I began my foray into the scary world of self-expression and yet years later I find myself constantly starting over every time I move to a new city. I am currently living in Tallahassee, which has a fairly prominent lgbt community, however like most lgbt communities the lgbt lacks a gq. All too often we’re caste out of the lgbt community for not being gay and well I don’t need to mention why we get the boot from the “straight” community. While some of us lean towards the transgender community, there’s still something lacking and that is because our dissatisfaction with gender is greatly rooted in our refusal to accept a two-dimensional gender binary.

I am currently working with a group of like-minded souls to create a genderqueer presence in the the public eye. For those gender rebels out there who live in fear of social retribution, you’re not alone; I encourage you to take it upon yourself to lead the way in your community. We can all be leaders and while it is not easy, your bravery will be rewarded when you see the faces of those whom you’ve inspired. We can create a presence in our community and in so doing take over the world; so be the change you want to see in the world(I totally stole that from Gandhi).

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What if...?

Past 4am. A hot tub in the middle of nowhere, Texas. I’m in the backyard of a mansion that deserves to be in a reality show. Its lights are off—inside and out; its inhabitants, a dozen drunken fraternity brothers from a large southern university, are asleep. Except for the one in the hot tub with me.

I, of course, was never in his fraternity. And our hot tub, of course, is the only thing lighting the Texas darkness; its jets are the only thing we hear.

We’re at the bachelor party for Emil, a mutual friend who happened to be the president of his college fraternity. The party is everything I anticipated: a keg sits yards away; the mansion’s theater screen had been programmed for March Madness; and a trip to a strip club was planned for the following day. For me, the weekend is a giant “what if”: What if I were a fly on the wall when a pack of southern white fraternity boys went on spring break together in Texas? What would I see?

And at 4am on the first night of this bachelor party weekend, I see Parker, one of Emil’s groomsmen and fraternity brothers, with me in a hot tub. We have been the only ones awake for an hour and a half now. We’ve been drinking; we’ve been chatting. We compare my city life in California, his country life in Oklahoma. We get deep. Talk politics and family, life ambitions and lacunae. He opens up.

He goes inside for a moment, brings out some scotch from the kitchen, an ice cube floating in each of two glasses. He’s also brought back a box of Camels. We feel buzzed, and the cigarettes, we decide, would provide an extra, welcome layer.
He slips into the jacuzzi, a few feet away, directly across from me.

“So,” he says, “I’m going to get kinky.”

I raise my eyebrows.

“You get a cigarette if I get a kiss.”

In the span of a second, I realize the classic fraternity episode I’ve found myself in: alone, in a hot tub, drinks in hand. I look toward the mansion. I look back at him. I move from my seat and step across the hot tub. I plant each of my hands on either side of him. We kiss. As I back away, he hands me a cigarette. I return to my seat. We light our cigarettes and take a puff.

“So I thought this was supposed to be a bachelor party,” I laugh, surprise still intact.

He responds: “Well, wild things are supposed to happen, right?” His southern accent melts me.

As we continue talking, my mind rewinds to my first interactions with Emil, the bachelor. As my colleague and eventually my employee, he had known that I was gay. He had mentioned once having a close friend in college who was also gay, but I never thought that we’d actually ever meet.

In the hot tub, I inch my way toward Parker. Eventually, we’re close enough to make out some more.

After a bit, I pull away again. “So,” I point out, “not a tongue person, ey?”

He blushes. “I’m glad you noticed.”

I sit next to him, and he adds, “I’m sometimes a bit of a tease.”

Our glasses of scotch are empty, and we bite back and forth about who would get refills. He wins the debate when he says, “My shorts come off if you go get us more drinks.”

I pause before climbing out of the pool. I take my time. I let him stew in the jacuzzi. I would show him who could be a tease.

I return with our glasses full of Bud Light, and I sit them on the ledge, next to me, out of his reach. I step into the hot tub. I wait another moment before prodding, “Your promise?”

His shorts surface. I hand him his drink. He takes a sip before placing his arm around me. I think to myself that I had never been skinny dipping before, and my shorts come off too.

We look toward the mansion. “Where do you suppose we’ll find room to sleep tonight?” he asks.

For a moment, I’m glad he says “we,” but then I realize he’s right: all of the mansion’s beds and couches, by this time of night, were probably taken by the other guys.

“Maybe we can just grab some blankets and pillows and camp out on the floor of a room.”

Our plan: I would go in first and change out of my swim trunks. He’d follow in and find me on the floor somewhere. And we’d finish what we had started.

I go in. I dry off. I switch my trunks for boxers and a tank. I grab some blankets and pillows, find the mansion’s office room, and set up a makeshift bed: two pillows, two blankets. I leave the door ajar, slip underneath the covers, and wait.

I see Parker through the office’s sliding glass door as he leaves the hot tub. I hear him enter the mansion, his damp footsteps slopping onto the kitchen’s tiled floor. He dries himself off. He changes, and he begins searching for the room. I wait, trying not to make it seem that I am waiting at all.

He approaches in the hallway and pushes the door open quietly. I stretch so that he notices I’m in the room and on the floor. He looks down at me; I look up at him. Wrapped in his towel, he demonstrates his frattier side: he sticks out his tongue and makes a farting noise.

He shuts the door and walks further down the hallway. I want to call out his name but doing so would wake people. He opens and closes other doors. He has either mistaken me for someone else or is completely the tease that he promised he would be.

Either way, I recognize silence. And succumbing to the buzz of alcohol and cigarettes, I sink into a floor that I now notice is cold and hard. I roll myself into the two blankets I grabbed, laying my head on one pillow, wrapping my arms round the other.

The next thing I know, it’s 9:30am. I’m on the floor of an office, in a mansion in the middle of nowhere, Texas. As I shield my eyes from the sunlight blazing through the sliding glass door, I remember the last moments of a few hours ago. And I realize that the weekend I had expected to be heterosexual through and through had only just begun.

To be continued...

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genderkid joins us from genderkid:

I never liked buying clothes. Before questioning my gender, I had a hard time finding girl’s clothes I liked, but I couldn’t even conceive the notion of buying in the men’s section (I had the binary well internalized). I kept looking for my own girl “style”, hoping to find something I felt comfortable wearing; altough being so picky made me feel superficial.

When I started identifying as trans, I realized that I couldn’t find my girl-style because I didn’t feel like a girl in the first place. I became suddenly aware of all the oh-so-comfortable, oh-so-me men’s clothes available — if I dared to buy it against my mother’s wishes.

When I finally plucked up the courage to go into a men’s store, I found an obstacle I hadn’t thought of: men’s clothes come in men’s sizes. I am only boy-sized, and thin to boot. I now know a couple of stores that sell extra-small T-shirts, and I can wear small shirts if necessary. Switching to boy shirts made me feel so much better. I could finally look at myself in mirrors without feeling my stomach twist.

Pants were a tougher issue. I have female-wide hips, but men’s pants are simply humongous on me. After months of wearing boy shirts, I still couldn’t find boy pants in my size. I went into store after store, feeling more and more frustrated, asking the store clerks for their smallest size. They were really nice; they tried to find something my size, and you could tell they didn’t want to send me to a kids’ store.

I couldn’t bring myself to go to a children’s shop: all of them have toddler-sized things in their windows. Why are there stores for teenage girls, but not for teenage boys? I mean, even boys need clothes when they aren’t kids anymore, but haven’t grown much either!

I ended up buying a huge pair of jeans out of desperation. They didn’t look too good on my thin legs, but I had to get out of my girl-fitting pants. I didn’t think I’d ever find anything my size — even T can’t do miracles (actually, T might make things worse, since it’ll melt my hip fat away!)

But, recently, a store clerk offered me a pair of extra-snug-fitting pants. And they fit! Maybe I wasn’t condemned to a no-pants life, after all. I had gotten really dramatic about the whole affair: I honestly thought there were no adult pants in my size. Now, I’m more optimistic: it might be harder to find clothes my size, but it isn’t impossible.

PS: Hudson’s FTM Guide includes a section on finding clothes for short and small guys.

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I hate hearing how "women aren't funny" and blah blah. Different people have different opinions on what is funny and what isn't. For example, I hate Family Guy. But some people find it hilarious. So I think the people that say "women aren't funny" either have a different sense of humor or haven't seen certain comedians (who happen to be female).

One such person I'd like to use this space to gush about is Sarah Haskins of Current. If you haven't seen her Target Women videos, they are hilarious.

I'm sure a lot of people (men) would write Sarah off as not funny. But I write Larry the Cable Guy off as not funny. Sarah cracks me up as both a woman and someone that works in marketing and also enjoys media studies. Commercials directed at women are ridiculous. Chocolate gives us orgasms, we have a relationship with our cleaning products, yogurt is the only food we ever need (other than chocolate) and women's skin care is serious-sounding fake science. Sarah says the things I think while watching TV, in night 3 1/2 minute bite-sized video segments.

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I wrote a few weeks ago about the Rihanna and Chris Brown ordeal that shook the country for a little bit -- long story short, Rihanna was beaten and bruised by Chris Brown and people were trying to play the blame game.

A really interesting New York Times article was published yesterday about how youth are reacting to the Rihanna/Chris Brown narrative. I think for the most part, my analysis of how the blogosphere was reacting holds true for how both youth and youth in schools are talking about it. Rihanna bad, Chris Brown good. Rihanna is lucky to still be with him. Despite severe battery.

And I still argue (and so does the article) that the Chris Brown's relative success in this debacle is tied to masculinity:

“This is the air that hip-hop breathes,” said Ms. Rose, author of “The Hip Hop Wars.” “The celebration of a stereotype of an aggressive, physical, often misogynistic masculinity that often justifies resolving conflict through violence. It can’t be held responsible for this, but it can’t be ignored.” (Tricia Rose, prof. at Brown)

When are people going to realize that gender issues, and the construction of gender in this country, creates the opportunity for Chris Brown to somehow be the winner after brutally beating his girlfriend?
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Despite all my gendery analysis (read: whining), I'm not really all that politically involved...though I'm trying to change that. I recently attended a political event for LGBT folks where people running for local office had an opportunity to talk to us.

I knew going in not to have too much faith in all the speakers to speak to LGBTQ issues eloquently, but I didn't expect that more than one person running for office, SPEAKING to an audience of LGBTQ people and allies, would have difficulty enunciating the words "gay and lesbian" -- two guys seemed actually afraid to say it.

Shh. They'll can hear you!!!
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How Far We've Come

Okay, it's been two months since the inauguration, and this seems as good a time as any for a reality check... an assessment of the good, the bad, and the ugly, if you will.

Let's start with the good, just to get off on the right foot. I'm vibing with Obama right now. Stem cell research in, Guantanamo Bay out, fair pay in, global gag rule out. Call me crazy, but that sounds like my kind of government.

And, while I am a bit hesitant about Obama's whole "let's do it all at the same time and see what happens" approach, it certainly is ambitious and probably necessary in the long-run. If he gets everything passed now and lays out his plans all in one shot, then things can actually start moving along before all the discontent and weariness starts to set in.

Oh, and did I mention the International Women's Issues position? Awesomeness. And the White House Council on Women and Girls? Double awesomeness.

The bad is that conservatives are still being a wee bit difficult with this whole transitioning thing. Nobody expected them to come out holding hands with the Democrats or anything, but their resistance sure isn't going to help anything.

It's also probably not helping that Obama doesn't even have a full team working on all of the issues yet. This is especially true for the treasury department, which is a bummer, to say the least, considering the shape the economy is in.

The ugly is really rather clear, isn't it? The economy sucks. There just isn't any way to sugarcoat that, unfortunately. (Well, unless you're one of those people having pink slip parties... really?!) People are losing their jobs in record numbers, it seems everyone but the regular folks are getting bailed out, and I don't know about you, but the debt-to-cash flow ratio on my budget tracker gets sadder every day. There's really no way around the fact that we're going to be complaining about the economy for at least another year or so, since things get worse before they get better. Plus, it can't be easy to fix eight years in one.

But for now, I'll stay hopeful and positive and keep pushing the new administration to make the changes I want them to make. The alternative, curling into a ball and crying, just doesn't seem as much fun.

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So I just got finished reading the New York Time's assessment of Paul Rudd as an image of the new man...published in time for his new movie, "I Love You, Man".

I'm not going to lie, Paul Rudd is really pretty and has given credibility to some more open-minded, less anxious performances of masculinity. But there's still something that bothers me about all of this, and I'm not entirely sure why. Anyone else feel this way?

I think part of my uneasiness is articulated in the NYT article:

"He is the rare straight actor to have played a serious gay role early in his career — in 1998’s “Object of My Affection” (“I figured everyone thought I was gay anyway,” he said) — but also seems compulsively drawn to gay jokes, a hallmark of buddy comedies, and is usually shrewd enough to make them register as lampoons of homophobia."

It still seems as though despite the fact that he's chill about playing gay, about bending certain rules of masculinity, he's still creating his identity by sternly defining himself against gayness -- this is pretty much a staple for the construction of hegemonic masculinity and many other kinds of masculinity. You're only as straight as you're not gay. Sure, he can have bromances and make out with guys, but he's...not like that. Am I just being silly?

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Greetings from London and the funny old world of The Virginity Project. I don’t mean funny ha ha - although I have laughed out loud many times - but just that when you set out to interview people about the most intimate moments of their sexual lives, you do discover that truth is stranger than fiction.

‘You wouldn’t want to hear my story about virginity loss’ they say. ‘It’s really boring’.

That’s practically a cast iron guarantee that it will be an absolute cracker. Almost everyone thinks their own story is boring but it never is. It’s almost as if our own internal landscape is so ordinary, so ‘everyday’ to us that we cannot possibly conceive that it could be of interest to anyone else. I beg to differ.

All of our stories reflect our own unique set of circumstances, thoughts, impulses, hang ups, backgrounds, motivations, whatever you want to call them and however you want to define them, every one of us has a story that is so uniquely ‘us’ that it is practically the sexual equivalent of a finger print.

Listening to these stories has been interesting. Many a time, people sit back at the end with that satisfied grin on their faces that was almost certainly lacking from the experience itself and say ‘Now I see where I was coming from at the time. I never understood that back then’.

Because there is something about returning to familiar territory, to a story that we know so well in our heads, and re-living it in the presence of another human being, that can be enlightening, cathartic even, mainly because we are doing it with a more certain sense of self. We are doing it with the eyes of an adult and it is always a surprise to see how much we have changed and, with a little bit of luck, moved forward.

From time to time on my journey, people have expressed surprise that I interviewed men. Quite apart from the fact that this was practically the whole point – I’m a woman, I know what’s going on in my head - it was the underlying suggestion that virginity somehow didn’t matter as much to men. Crap.

Fast forward three years and my blog, The Virginity Project, fills the gap where the interviewing for my book left off. But the interesting point is that I get sent stories from all over the shop and most of them are from men. Men are gagging to talk. It is hardly surprising given the world that we live in. Women are excelling in every area. Everything is up for grabs. We all have an adjustment to make – which is something that women are often better equipped to deal with. Flexibility is part of our make up. For men, this is tougher territory to conquer.

No matter. Constant change is the way of the world, we all have to flex and grow. That’s what evolution is all about, and along the way, it is nice to record history. To listen to other people talk, to hear their stories and hopefully record them so that somewhere along the way, other people will be able to listen too and look back and see, not just how they have changed, but how the world has changed with them.

For the better? Who can say, I’ll leave that up to you.

Without further ado, here is a small story that makes a big impact. You’ll probably never think of your local bookstore in quite the same way again…but that may not be a bad thing.


‘If I pause for even a second, I won't send this to you, so I am just going to send it as I wrote it before I have a chance to change my mind. It was ten years ago this month that I lost my virginity and the experience has left me with memories at once beautiful and bitter.

I was in college, working at a bookstore where it was my job to catalogue all their books for sale on their website. I had a key and often worked late at night and this meant that I and the girl I loved had a place where we could go and be away from the dormitories and our roommates. To say that I loved her would be a pale word for a feeling of radiant brilliance. I savored her. Every angle, every facet of her mind and her words and her eyes seemed to infuse me with an energy that I had never experienced before. When I was with her I felt that blessings were falling around me in a circle, shielding us both from a grey and chilly world.

One night, late in the dark store, after talking about Joseph Conrad novels, we kissed more and more deeply, and everything began to spin around me; all the square angles of the books and shelves blurred like a cartoon as I removed the lace from the curves of her body. It was hard to believe she was real—that anything could be so beautiful. Of course I had seen naked women before in pictures, and that had somehow infused the whole idea with a degree of unreality that now seemed to surround us.

We were laying on the floor between shelves of old books, and it all seemed like magic rather than reality; like music rather than sounds. I remember how her heat surprised me. I remember how her legs felt when they moved up around my ribs. I remember something she whispered to me—a whisper I sometimes still hear at night. I remember when I climaxed, the feeling rising up in me in a rush of heat: not like the feeling it had been when I was alone.

I remember playing with her hair afterwards, as we lay together panting and hot. And most of all I remember the feeling much later, as the sun was rising and we left the store. She was wearing my coat. And everything in the world was different. I noticed it instantly—as though the world had changed color; as though everyone had been speaking in a foreign accent and now suddenly switched to my own. I felt connected with the earth and the trees and the animals around me, and, of course, with her. It was truly a revelation.

I felt redeemed, saved somehow from an emptiness of which I had once had only a vague notion. In the ensuing weeks, as we made love more and more, I felt as though I had discovered a spiritual salvation of which religion had always seemed a bland imposter. I had never been a religious person, although I had appreciated religion's emotional aspirations. Now I was part of those aspirations.

It was only weeks later that it ended for us, under peculiarly painful circumstances. We tried briefly to salvage what had been, but it did not work. I was faithful; she was not. My heart was truly broken, as it has never been before or since. I fell into a depression and a year later decided to kill myself. I lay on my bed holding a knife and staring at it. I put it to my skin, but did nothing else. I won't go into what happened next, or describe how my desperate attempts to salvage what she and I had were rebutted with two painful betrayals. Suffice to say that I put my life together, and in the decade that has passed since I have made a successful and happy life, one of which I am deeply proud; one which makes me so glad I did not take my life as I so seriously considered then.

Six or seven years ago I saw met up with her again at a restaurant on the East Coast. She was with someone else, and after our lunch, I was able finally and at last to let her go. At home, I threw away my mementos of her. Since then I have found a woman I love with all my heart and this summer will be our five-year anniversary.

My college girlfriend has married, and I hope she has found a life of tranquility, and that her husband fills her heart, as evidently I could not. Although the pain she caused me can never be washed away, and can never allow us to be friends, I am still intensely grateful for what she gave me, and I am able now to look back on that night and the other nights with magnanimity and fondness.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking of her and I am reminded of lines from my favorite poem, Tennyson's ‘Ulysses’: ‘I am part of all that I have met; / Yet all experience is an arch where through / Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades / For ever and for ever when I move.’

I told her then that I would always love her, and, for better or for worse, it seems to be true.'

virginityproject joins us from The Virginity Project

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Despite generally being a feminist in most areas of my life, I enjoy watching "The Girls Next Door," E!'s reality series about the (former) live-in girlfriends of Hugh Hefner. I don't know if it's because I used to play with Barbie dolls when I was little girl, or the fact that their lives are (were) so far from reality, but I constantly find myself tuning in when channel surfing, or checking my On Demand listings for a new episode.

One thing that I do find interesting, is that Hef and the Girls challenge heternormative relationships. Sort of. It doesn't take much imagination to figure out why Hef likes the arrangement. But one thing I will give him (and the Girls) credit for is challenging the heteronormative idea that One Man + One Woman = The Only Path to Happiness.

In addition to being an avid watcher of The Girls Next Door, I've also watched Hugh Hefner's True Hollywood Story on E!. So, I can tell you that Hef tried normal hetero marriage. Twice. And it didn't work for him. Twice. So finally, he figured, what made him happy - lots of attractive blonds. Again, big stretch to figure out why. But, it's still a "crazy" idea to some people. People who think marriage (and thus relationships) should only equal one man and one woman. Why?

One argument against gay marriage is that if it is legalized, it could open the door to other "crazy" ideas, such as polygamy. But what's wrong with polygamy? If all parties involved are 18+ and OK with the arrangement, why does anyone care if someone has multiple spouses? Personally, I think marriage to one spouse is enough to keep me busy, I couldn't imagine having two husbands. (... or could I? TWO men to cook and clean?? Hmmm.) But if someone else wants two husbands, or two wives, what do I care? I don't. More power to you.

Of course, what have we seen of polygamy so far in the media? Mormans turning little girls into young wives, living subordinate lives of service to their husbands. However, even though they weren't married, Hef and The Girls have shown the world that polygamous relationships can work if all parties are happy with the arrangement. In many cases, it seems as though the Girls were in a relationship with each other more than Hef (romantic or platonic ... who knows). They all seemed happy. And as we are seeing with this season and what's been in the news, if they're not happy, they are free to leave the relationship.

So, while it still includes incredibly sexist stereotypes about men and women, on a very twisted scale, The Girls Next Door may help pave the way for acceptance of relationships that fall outside the heteronormative One Man + One Woman "Ideal."

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Growing up in the Caribbean, almost everyone went to church. And if you managed to escape the itchy taffeta dress and shiny, tight shoes on Sunday mornings, God was there waiting for you at school the next day, in assembly, with its Songs of Praise hymnbook and officiating priest. Yes, we actually had a real live canon employed by the school to teach Religious Studies and to spit short sermons in our general direction during morning assemblies. I loved the canon – even with all the spitting and yelling words of damnation he was just a warm, grandfather type doing what he saw as his job – but I could have done without the fresh doses of religious guilt first thing in the morning.

In such a society, the stance of the Church on women’s behaviour tends to be pervasive; and even among those who are not avid churchgoers, their own habits are shaped by the Church’s dictates on the appropriate roles and responses of women. This, for me, is one of the dynamics to consider in looking at how we treat domestic violence as a modern society. When I read of Rick Warren’s teachings that abuse is not a sufficient condition for leaving a marriage, and that he encourages women to prioritize saving their marriages above themselves, I was not surprised. Neither was I surprised at the public indignation over the fact that this anti-gay, anti-women’s rights activist was chosen to deliver President Obama’s inauguration invocation. In the US, there was and continues to be very vocal, very visible outrage that a spiritual leader should encourage women to stay in abusive partnerships, and should further be endorsed by an incoming administration.

In other places, outrage over similar Christian teachings – if it even exists – is far less vocal and visible, and the lines separating liberal non-believers on the theoretical left from right-leaning Christians is extremely blurred and arguably non-existent. Even those who are less than virtuous in their quotidian endeavours invoke God and the bible from time to time, and many people regard with suspicion anyone who does not believe. It is in this context that my friend who was separated from her husband but still living with him in their home sought advice from her church when he tried to force her to have sex with him, on the grounds that she was still his wife. She was advised by her pastor – a man who was also my pastor before I became disillusioned and my soul was lost forever – that her husband was right, and that she should not resist, since the bible has clearly explained what is expected of wives as long as they are still so called. This was his counsel even though he knew that theirs was an abusive relationship.

He completely disregarded her physical and mental well-being, her sense of dignity, and her own personal freedom. And the worst part of it all was that she followed his advice and stayed months longer, until her husband was the one who made the choice to leave. I type with calm now, but at the time I was irate. Irate that many religious leaders hide behind their bibles rather than take real life responsibility for what they stand before their pulpits every week and denounce as the social evils of society; that in many cases, this whole doctrine of submission is nothing more than a way to get women to shut up and do as they’re told. It’s really easy to sit in our McMansions and ‘submit’ when we have oodles of cash and access, and are in no mortal danger. But for millions of women every day, ‘submission’ means degradation, injury and death.

I’m not attacking people’s rights to choose and express their own religious beliefs, but religion does not exist in a vacuum: it has been defined over the years according to patriarchal norms, just as have other institutions. Teachings that shoulder women with the responsibility for the survival of their marriages at any and all costs to themselves, even as their partners are afforded all sorts of hierarchical privilege, are not in the best interests of women. And such doctrine gives abusers more tools and license to cause harm, hiding behind the ‘it’s biblical' mantra that I’ve heard so often growing up. We’re often afraid to call out the Church on its teachings lest we be accused of religious persecution. But if they're that healing for society, they should be able to defend them, and in fact they have a responsibility to do so.

I have lots of Christian friends, and I can’t help but hope that if they ever encounter abuse and are counselled by their religious leaders to ‘stay and put their marriage first’, that they dare to ask them to kindly f- off, and then dare to get the hell out.

Afro_diosa joins us from The Mongoose Chronicles.

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