My Experience at an Asian Massage Parlor

Here’s a story one of my followers sent me…

Thank you Joe R.

So during the summer of my junior year I was staying in in town over the summer working as a certified nursing assistant and taking a chemistry course through the university. I had joined a gym to get back into shape and maybe lose a couple pounds. It had been awhile since I weight-lifted and anyone who’s been in that boat knows how sore you are after the first couple times getting back on the horse.

While, on my drive to work out, I kept passing a dilapidated white building with a bright red sign reading “Asian Massage” on the outside. I mean, this thing was a glorified shack. The first time I passed by gave me a chuckle. The stereotypical Asian massage parlor with happy endings had long been ingrained in my mind. I had seen plenty of jokes and portrayals of the places in pop culture, but I took them with a grain of salt. Surly most things like that hold some grain of truth, but I was skeptical any but a small fraction actually operated like that. Still….it got me thinking.

I would like to say that my reasoning for my trip there the following week was purely out of rationality. I was really sore and stiff from working out. The parlor was close and probably didn’t charge as much as some of the…..we’ll go with, more established massage businesses in the area. Although, to be truthful with myself, it was mainly out of curiosity. Now, did I go in there expecting anything, not at all. It was surly in the back of my mind, but I thought the stereotype was overblown. There also wasn’t anyway I was going to ask about it. How would one even go about doing something like that? There is also a conception that Asian massages are rougher, which is exactly what I needed for my sore muscles. The expectation was I would get a good massage and at least be able to put some context to the stereotype.

*Disclaimer: When I refer to Asian massage, I simply mean a massage where the techniques are derived from Chinese or Asian culture and not necessarily performed by a person of Asian descent, although that it true a majority of the time.

Back to the story,

I parked my car in one of the two spots they had and gained my composure for a minute. I could feel the butterflies rising in my stomach and felt my heartbeat picking up. I felt as though I was breaking the law or guilty of some misdeed as I did have a girlfriend at the time. I thought for a moment to just leave and get a massage somewhere else, but my damn curiosity wouldn’t let me. I needed to know. So, I entered the dimply lit building.


Complete exaggeration, but might have well been the place with how I felt going in

There was a stairwell that led upstairs and then a door that I presumed was the parlor. I entered the later and was met by a dark room with a counter and couch and several doors jetting out from there. Traditional Chinese decoration covered the walls and music played prominently throughout. I was greeted at the counter by a middle-aged woman with a thick accent.

“Welkom, welkom, do you have an appointment”.

I managed to stammer out a “no”. My eyes were wide with a combination of discomfort and naivety.

She said that was okay and pointed to a chart with different times, prices and what each massage entailed. She started to explain them. I simply choose the half hour option because it was the cheapest. She then led me to a back room that held a massage table and chair with a stereo that played the music. She asked If I ever had a massage before. I hadn’t and she told me to put my clothes there and then get under the sheets. I asked, “all my clothes”? She said yes, then swiftly exited. I could hear her talking to another woman in Chinese.

I started taking off my clothes, throwing them on the chair, but stopped at my boxers. Surly she didn’t mean EVERYTHING, just down to my boxers. Although, I did ask all clothes. Never having a massage before I didn’t know if that was normal. At first it didn’t seem like that would be the case, but you did get under a towel so it wasn’t like you were exposed or anything. I needed to make a decision so I went with the full nude option.

At this point you might be reading and thinking dude, really? Full Nude? You think that was reasonable? To those I say yes, at the time, but thinking about it in hindsight, probably not the norm.

Anywho, I’m settled in and finally breathe a sigh of relaxation just before she returns. I let my head sink into the hole with my body going limp. She enters and immediately begins giggling.

“Oh no silly, too many towels”. She immediately rips them off me! Exposing my naked body on the table.

I shoot up completely nude and for a couple seconds she just stares at me and I back at her. I watch her gaze travel the length of my body as I try to cover up, then she begins laughing again. This time even more.

“It okay, it okay, not all clothes but okay. Here, lie on the table”. I sheepishly jump back on the table and begin to apologize. I was embarrassed to say the least. She took her sweet time placing the smaller towel to cover me then left the room again. I was cursing myself for being so stupid. She left for a moment and outside I could hear her talking and laughing with another employee in Chinese (undoubtedly about me). She returned and started the massage. It started out really nice, with oil and stretching out my limbs and deep tissue massages to my muscles. I was sinking into relaxation and starting to forget about the awkward start.

She asked where I worked and other common conversation mannerisms. The first question she asked though was where I was from. I paused for a moment because I could try to use my origin to explain earlier, implying that it was perhaps different in other cultures. I blurted out Nigeria, the first African country I could think of, and she gave a long, “oohhhh”.

Disclaimer 2: I do not think it is normal cultural practice that Nigerians, or for that fact other African cultures have the practice of getting naked during a massage, but I needed a culture foreign to her and my skin tone funneled me to that answer.

I quickly followed up with, “I moved when I was younger” to account for my lack of accent.

The massage continued without incident until she got on top of the table startling my back and sitting on my butt. I was a little confused because that seemed an outside the bounds of what a normal massage would be and of course in my previse mind ushered in other thoughts of what could be going on.

I wasn’t able to think too much more as a jackhammer plunged into my back. 

My head shot up from the table. I wanted to let out a yell from the pain, but I didn’t want to be rude or seem like a wimp, so I bit my tongue. Another shot came down right on my spine. What the hell was this woman trying to do, paralyze me? I started to think it was punishment for my earlier embarrassment. The pain train went right on trucking as elbows were buried deep into my pressure points. That soon subsided thankfully and I let out a breath. For a few moments I felt relaxed and loose, the beating was a good pain. But no sooner did I relax, then my arm was twisted back. It was pulled into a position I don’t ever think it has gone, nor will again and I kid you not I thought my arm was about to tear or pull out of the socket. She must’ve felt my body convulse because she let up almost immediately. The stretching continued for a little while and then she left the room again. She left the room several times during the massage to talk to what must’ve been another employee because I could hear them. They sounded like they were arguing. I kept thinking it was about me and I hoping it didn’t cut into my half an hour.

She returned and finished the massage with a more relaxing touch, culminating with an abrupt , “all done”. It was a fast half hour and I wanted longer, but It was worth it. She left the room again and I put on my clothes. When I emerged, and approached the front counter she asked how I liked it and I told her very much. It was just what I needed for my sore muscles and it really was. For how unorthodox it seemed, I really felt amazing. While paying she told me next time to come back for an hour and they would do my front. My head shot up from counting my money and she just smiled back. Well hot damn, maybe there was something to these places after all……

Hope you enjoyed and got a laugh steemians. If by some lottery chance this gets 100 upvotes I will share what happened when I returned to this parlor.

 

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The Older Adult’s Guide to the New World of Marijuana

Metabolism slows with age, so you may feel high for longer. It is also important to take current medications into consideration.

Baby Boomers, the generation born between 1946-1964, are circling back to marijuana, becoming known as “Boomerangers”. This group of older adults are giving themselves permission to enjoy old and new ways of consuming cannabis, both recreationally and for the management of pain, anxiety and insomnia. But today’s cannabis products are undoubtedly more potent than the weaker “grass” they may have experimented with in their younger years.

Marijuana of the 1960s and 70s likely had THC levels of 2-3%, while strains found in the modern dispensary average well over 10%. So tread lightly to prevent potential anxiety, paranoia or physical instability. Plan your cannabis experimentations when you are free of other obligations and comfortable in your pleasantly prepared environment, and avoid consuming too much for your first time back in a crowded environment such as a concert.

Entering a dispensary in a legalized state can be like walking into a candy store. Find a high quality dispensary with a knowledgeable budtender, someone who speaks the new cannabis language, and can walk you through the wide assortment of choices and ways to consume the plant.

It helps to know what effects you are looking to experience, as well as ones you would like to avoid. “Indica” strains are often experienced as physically sedating, ideal for relaxing or before bed. “Sativa” strains tend to provide invigorating, uplifting cerebral effects that pair well with physical activity, social gatherings, and creative endeavors. “Hybrids” are a blend of both.

  • Flower refers to the actual green bud of the marijuana plant, which can be consumed in a pipe, bong or joint. Most dispensaries sell conveniently pre-rolled joints.
  • Vaporizers do not combust the cannabis, but rather use lower heat to create vapor from the flower before inhaled. Portable vaporizers, which come in all shapes and sizes, have become popular for their ease of use, portability and discrete nature.
  • Concentrate pens or vape pens have pre-loaded cannabis extract. They come in a many flavors and offer various experiential benefits.
  • Edibles are an alternative to smoking or vaping, and the varieties of goodies are endless. Be aware of dosage; you can always take more but you can’t take less. There are food-based treats as well as sublingual edibles such as juices, tinctures and lozenges.
  • Concentrates, which can be much stronger than flower, are best in small doses. Methods of consuming concentrates include dabbing or applying topicals, non-psychoactive lotions that provide beneficial cannabinoids.

Metabolism slows with age, so you may feel high for longer. It is also important to take current medications into consideration; Xanax or Valium can interact with marijuana to cause intense lethargy, and mixing with Prozac can cause irritability and restlessness.

Marijuana is contraindicated for those with heart conditions, so consult your doctor before you consume any cannabis products.

 

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What Women Want!

 

The age-old, stereotypical statement overheard in a group of women often goes something like “he just doesn’t get it” or “why can’t men just understand what we need?” Unfortunately, men (and women) aren’t mindreaders, but the fundamental differences between men and women can get in the way of happy and successful relationships. So, how exactly do we overcome this and what is it that women REALLY want? We try to find out!

The general consensus is that “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” Men and women are inherently different, yes, but when it comes down to it, we are actually all ‘made up of the same parts, organized in different ways’ [to really get a thorough understanding of women sexually, read more of Emily Nagoski’s work. You won’t regret it!].

So, let’s break it down on what women really want, right from relationship dynamics to sex:

Women want to feel heard… but really, truly heard

Active listening doesn’t just involve nodding and responding with an ‘uhhuh’ while you keep watching TV. The first step in active listening is eye contact (basic right?). Then, it requires verbal and non-verbal cues of acknowledgment. The next step is something that actually doesn’t come easily to men or women – validation and empathy.

What this means is that instead of the usual ‘how do we fix this’ approach that is inherent in most men’s wiring; it’s an approach of listening and trying to really come to grips with how she might feel. For example, if she tells you she’s having trouble with a co-worker, it’s unlikely that she wants you to fix it. What would probably make her feel a lot better is if she heard things from you like “that sounds tough” and “I would also feel that way.”

This means you give her patience, understanding and kindness too. You let her feel her feelings (even if you don’t get them) and you acknowledge them and try to put yourself in her shoes. Unfortunately, this is not a skill we’re taught at school, and in my work with men and women, I often spend a lot of time teaching men how to offer empathy to their girls.

Women want to feel like they matter

This one may require a little detective work, as every woman is different in the way that she feels that she matters to a man. So, what worked for your ex may not work for your current lady. For example, one woman may feel like she matters to you when you tell her you’ll do the washing up after dinner, and another when you tell her that you’ve canceled a late work meeting so you could spend the evening with her instead. Ask her what makes her feel appreciated and that she matters to you, and then do it consistently! It might be something you can say rather than do.

A really great way to figure this out together is to do the 5 Languages of Love test, which is available online [created by Dr. Gary Chapman]. Most couples talk in a completely different language, so it often requires a little more effort to speak your partner’s language when it’s not your default. Doing little things for her to show her you appreciate her, in her language, goes a very long way.

Women want to feel wanted in ways other than sex

This is a massive one for most women. Of course there is a great deal of importance in adult relationships placed on sex for a couple, but what so often happens is that one partner initiates sex to feel close whereas the other partner pulls away because they don’t ‘need’ sex to feel close, and they would prefer simple touches and affection rather than anything sexual. I’ve seen couples over and over where the girl won’t even be affectionate because she’s worried he’ll think she’s keen for sex – even when she’s desperate for affection. Sex becomes this experience that creates difficult territory in the relationship. So, put energy into making her feel special outside of the bedroom, consistently. Foreplay is actually any intimate experience that takes place between couples. This could be you placing your arm around her in a movie, or you telling a group of people you’re with something you appreciate about her. A little goes a long way outside of the bedroom, and she needs to feel wanted by you for other reasons aside from just sex!

Women want you to make the effort

At the beginning of a relationship, we’re all about the effort. Effort in making time to see each other, effort in planning special things to do, effort in complimenting each other and being on our ‘best behavior’ (i.e. not farting in front of her). But when we start to get comfortable and domestic life with all its routines is established, we slowly fall out of making this effort. We stop complimenting each other, we stop dressing up for dinners out, and we start to show our real selves more and more. This, unfortunately, does not do anything for desire and feeling wanted. Relationships take effort, and they always will.

Happy couples are constantly working on their relationships and doing small things consistently. And this includes making an effort to make each other feel special and wanted. Tell her you want to plan date nights and take her out or compliment her regularly so she doesn’t get suspicious of a compliment out of the blue and think it’s out of character for you. Make her feel like she matters to you all the time; not just when she asks or it’s a special occasion.

Women want to feel like equals

In relationships, women want to feel like an equal, like they matter and their opinion matters as much as their man’s does. They want to be included, asked their opinion and given the opportunity to engage. So in a group, ask her what she thinks and don’t dismiss it. Women want to know that you respect them and value what their input, so make sure that if you’re in a group of men, you’re the one standing up for her!

A very interesting fact, however, is that research has found that most women prefer to have their partners be dominant in bed, and to play a more submissive role. This is of course not true for every woman, but for most women, they prefer to feel that their male partner is in charge, and taking control. Research shows that women enjoy the fantasy and experience of being dominated. But before suddenly taking on this role, start slow and ask her what turns her on or what she would like. Asking will also go a long way in helping her feel that her sexual needs matter to you.

Women want vulnerability

“Men don’t cry” is a very outdated, stereotypical thing to say. Men do cry – they are human beings too after all. Men and women may experience emotion in a different way but that doesn’t mean a man constantly has to live up to the “macho” ideal others place on him. Showing emotion to your girl is important and helpful – assuming that the emotion you’re showing her isn’t destructive or abusive. When you’re sad, tell her and let her know how she can help. If you’re feeling stressed out or anxious, reach for her and get her to support you. Connecting on this level is a way of developing deeper emotional intimacy.

Women want moral integrity

Unlike many cultures around the world where men have multiple partners or wives and it’s seen as the norm, or even in cultures where infidelity is expected, American culture is not one of them! Having a girl [or 3!] on the side while calling your main squeeze ‘the One’ is not something any woman appreciates. Women want to know that they matter enough to you that you respect them. And what that means is that if you agree to be exclusive and deem yourselves in a relationship, that it means it’s just the two of you.

No flirting with others on the side, no swiping right on the sly. Respect is fundamental to any successful and happy relationship. Without it, couples may be in constant conflict and struggle to get the relationship to go anywhere. It leaves room for abuse and toxicity to develop. If you’ve discussed dating other people or having an open relationship, then go right ahead. But for most girls, they want to be your only one.

Women want to know you can own your sh*t

Moral integrity also includes honesty, trustworthiness and responsibility for your own actions. If you’ve done something, own it. Take responsibility for it. Ask how you can make it up to her rather than apologizing and then negating it with “but you did this…” If she’s upset and telling you you’ve done something that would probably also be upsetting to say, your sister or best girlfriend, own it! She wants to know you can own it, but also that you’ve really gotten what she’s upset about.

So instead of just apologizing, try to follow the apology with your understanding of why she’s upset. For example, “I’m sorry you’re mad” isn’t going to go down well. “I’m sorry you’re mad. I should’ve let you know I was running late because I know you worry” will help repair things in the moment and help her feel you respect her and recognize why she’s upset.

Women don’t want to feel pressured during sex

Women often tell me that they feel they should be having orgasms and wanting sex more. And when I ask why, they often say it’s because their partner wants them to. Pressure, expectations and sex are the worst possible combination. As soon as we feel pressured to do something or be something sexually, it causes anxiety, and anxiety decreases our ability to function sexually.

This is particularly true for women during sex, and when she feels like she can’t achieve something (e.g. an orgasm) she will feel worse about herself and the situation. Approach sex as something you’re excited to share with her; no matter the ending. Make it an experience that feels exciting, not full of expectations and anxiety. Tell her that her sexual needs matter to you, but that she doesn’t need to feel that anything is expected.

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Inside Russia’s Shady Seduction Schools, Where Desperate Women Learn How to Lure Rich Men

According to School of Seduction, working-class women have few options in patriarchal Russia, and all of them involve finding a man. To aid young ladies in that quest, there are seduction schools where they can learn the timeless art of bumping, grinding and butt-wiggling their way into a prospective partner’s heart and pants—in particular, the pocket where he keeps his wallet.

Focused on a trio of women navigating this warped and sexist landscape, Alina Rudnitskaya’s documentary (premiering on Nov. 9 at the DOC NYC festival) is an eye-opening snapshot of gender dynamics in modern Russia. Praised by President Vladimir Putin as a place where “a man is a man and a woman is a woman,” it’s a country that instills in its female population the belief that independence is a pathway to ostracization and sorrow, and that marriage and parenthood is the primary means by which happiness can be attained. As a result, there can be no greater aim than to land a man willing to put a literal ring on it—regardless of whether love is also part of the matrimonial package.

That’s where the schools of seduction come in. In crowded classrooms, scores of women dressed in underwear and revealing outfits follow the instructions of a middle-aged male teacher who guides them through exercises in which they must bend over a chair in order to receive some rear-end grinding, wiggle their asses in the air, and participate in dance routines where they’re grabbed by the neck and thrashed about, crotch-to-crotch, in a display of intense macho attention (the more violent, the more genuine, apparently). The overarching lesson is clear: self-worth only comes from the interest of a man, and women should use whatever sexual tools they have at their disposal to catch one. With a shamelessness that’s almost as startling as its chauvinism, the program strives to turn women into veritable Venus flytraps.

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The Russian Sleazeball Peddling Girls to Billionaires

The first of Rudnitskaya’s subjects, Lida, isn’t especially gung ho about the shady methods promoted by the School of Seduction. However, stuck living with a mother she can’t stand, and mired in a relationship with a married man, Sergei, who’s initially unwilling to leave his wife for her, she has few alternatives. Lida blames her problems on the fact that she “never had an example of a good family.” Still, TV and radio broadcasts that play intermittently throughout School of Seduction—providing macro context for the micro action at hand—suggest that the root cause of her predicament is the widely disseminated and accepted notion that women aren’t whole unless they’re the subservient half of a marital couple. That concept is backed by the school itself, where Lida nods in agreement as her teacher states that men want women to have brains in a business context but in other things, “no one needs them.”

Lida’s subsequent marriage to Sergei and—four years later—dreary housewife existence with a daughter proves the lie that domesticity guarantees bliss. On the contrary, Rudnitskaya’s clear-eyed vérité gaze reveals that, in these circumstances, it just brings about marginalization (once a professional, Lida now cooks and cleans), victimization (she suspects Sergei is cheating on her), and crushing displeasure. Unhappiness similarly plagues Vika, a student trapped in a loveless union with husband Denis, with whom she’s opened a lingerie shop. Vika admits to her therapist that she wants to leave Denis but fears being lonely and scorned by her peers. Meanwhile, she only feels truly alive (and on “fire!”) when partaking in hypersexualized dance classes at the school.

Economics play a significant factor in both Lida and Vika’s cases. Aware that they can’t earn as much as their male counterparts, and endlessly told that marriage is the end “goal” (as Vika’s mom outright states to her), Russian women are socially conditioned to feel bad for having independent desires—even though marriage itself, forged out of convenience and necessity more than love, is often a one-way ticket to regret, resentment and despair. Images of Lida’s daughter prancing around in her mother’s high heels underline the inherited corrosiveness of such an ideology, where sexual attractiveness is celebrated above all other qualities, because it’s what allows women to conform to their prescribed (if frequently unrewarding) role as dutiful wives and mothers.

School of Seduction most strikingly addresses the consequences of Russia’s misogyny via Diana, a young single mother introduced being chastised by Vika for her schoolgirl outfit and blonde pigtails (which Vika says would, if she wore it, make her “feel like a prostitute”). While that dig may be unduly nasty, there’s some truth to the idea that Diana—and those like her—are intent on selling themselves as sexual objects in direct exchange for financial support. Diana is depicted turning down a boyfriend because he can’t offer her the apartment and money she bluntly claims she requires. And she eventually marries an author who gives her those very things, and yet still fails to satisfy her, as illustrated by her attempt, six years later at a gala ball, to accept a stranger’s offer to take her on vacation sans husband.

In late scenes of Diana attending an etiquette school where she dresses in regal gowns and performs a scene from the Nicole Kidman-headlined Grace of Monaco, Rudnitskaya’s film provides a candid view of the brainwashing that’s been perpetrated against these women, all of whom have been led to believe that they can achieve their “fairy tale” by becoming appealing enough to nab a suitor. School of Seduction incisively exposes that idea as a carefully-constructed trap designed to keep them in their place as material “decorations,” striving for emotional fulfillment they can’t possibly attain, and then forced to settle for whatever affection and support they ultimately receive from their less-than-well-suited mates.

The fundamental futility of this paradigm is finally expressed by Diana’s son Sascha, who at film’s conclusion tells his mom that, no matter how hard she tries to be cheerily elegant, “your attitude changes” when the camera is off and no one is looking. In Russia, women may be trained to think that securing lifelong joy comes from transforming themselves into sexual temptresses or majestic queens. Yet as School of Seduction illustrates, both reductive guises only lead, in the end, to the same old everyday misery.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

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The Benefits of Living Alone After a Breakup

In every relationship, there’s one person who leaves unused seconds on the microwave timer for the other person to be annoyed about. But since the demise of my long term relationship, I am now both of these people in my home. I never hit the clear button, but every time I look at the microwave, I wonder why I can’t see the time. It was definitely me and not my ex. Insert fears of dying alone here. This is a frustrating downside of the #singlelife, but there are so many benefits to living alone that sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever go back.

Say what you want about the joys of being single, but it’s not all dancing to Lizzo in the kitchen with your cat. The prospect of living alone can be scary and lonely. It’s not just loneliness that scares people, though. People think living alone makes you weird and that it may not be good for your health. I asked therapists and other single solo dwellers to tell me what happens to people when they live alone.

You learn to enjoy your own company

When people say they’re scared of being lonely, what I often hear is that they’re scared of getting to know themselves. But when we take the time and effort to get intimate with ourselves — and that can manifest in anything from cooking breakfast naked to nights awake in bed reconciling with thoughts we’ve avoided for years — we often find that we actually enjoy our own company.

LaylaBird/E+/Getty Images

“Having time alone allowed me to explore what I am like when the pressure to be social is turned off,” says Brooke Fallek, a 25-year-old publicist who lives alone in NYC. She got her own place after going through a period of intense loss — within the space of a year, Fallek lost all three of her grandparents. She tells me that she wanted to live alone in order to give herself some mental and emotional space to heal. “As someone who recharges through alone time, I expected to find a sense of calm from having my own space. That turned out to be the case, but what I didn’t expect was feeling more comfortable in my own skin.”

But isn’t the point of being a social animal to connect with others?? Our culture tends to dismiss single living or even demean it as an existence that is incomplete, says Brittany Bouffard, a Denver-based psychotherapist. But, “learning how you like to spend your time, how you work, what you choose if no other opinions are available — these are vital understandings,” she adds. Living solo can help us understand ourselves more completely.

There are a lot of subtle things we don’t notice about ourselves when we’re always around another person, perhaps in a partnership. When I was in a relationship, I would always ask my partner for input on everything from what to wear to how I should spend my time. It wasn’t intentional, but most of the decisions I made were joint decisions. I never had to figure out the details of my preferences because there was always another person’s to consider.

When my partner moved out, one of the first things I did was cover a cow skull in rainbow lights and hang it on the wall. It’s not a decor choice that everyone would agree with, but it makes me really happy.

When we first split up, the subtle textures of my likes and dislikes were new territory. Now, they are fully mapped terrain, and I think that knowing my own internal landscape so well makes me more interesting, not just to me, but to others.

You get more confident about asking for what you need and offering what you have

When you live with a partner or a roommate, you don’t have to work very hard to get your basic social needs met. There’s another human around by default. But if you live alone, you have to work for it. If you want to share your ups and downs with another human, you have to reach out. This is a double-edged sword. A lot of folks find that learning to manage the daily rollercoaster of their emotions alone feels complicated.

“It can be tough sometimes to get out of a depressed rut and really isolate myself since there’s no one physically there to hang out with or talk to,” says Kayla Hockman, an account executive who lives alone in Los Angeles. John Simon, an editor who lives solo in Virginia, agrees: “Some days, I wake up feeling miserable because I have no one to talk to about my feelings.” This is so real. It can be really depressing to not have someone handy to share your joy and pain with.

On the flip side, what I’ve found is that living alone has strengthened my relationships, platonic and otherwise — precisely because I have to work so hard for them. I have to make an effort to go to an event or a friend’s house. It’s less convenient to connect, but because it takes some effort, it feels more valuable.

The effort people who live alone have to put into connecting can make for more satisfying connection. The truth is that, before I lived alone, I was kind of emotionally unavailable. I was busy being available to my live-in boo and it shut me out, to an extent, to other relationships. Fallek agrees that there’s something about living alone that makes you more open. “Meeting new people is exciting — having so much time to process my own thoughts has made me more present and genuinely interested when chatting with a stranger,” she says.

You can throw yourself into your creativity

Writing is the real love of my life, and it is the relationship I put the most time and effort in to. When I lived with my partner, I felt under constant pressure to work less and play more. The problem was that writing is my idea of play. “I can focus on my passions without having to divide my time or being made to feel guilty for not doing so,” agrees Nina Dafe, who lives alone in London.

Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, you may find yourself being more creative about how you live your life. “For the first time I was able to truly explore my own aesthetic, not having to consult others about furniture, art and decor choices,” says Fallek. “ I experienced a new feeling of confidence in my home.” When my partner moved out, one of the first things I did was cover a cow skull in rainbow lights and hang it on the wall. It’s not a decor choice that everyone would agree with, but it makes me really happy.

All the projects that get stuck in the negotiation stage when you live with someone else can be a easier to follow through on when you live alone. Margo Benge, who lives alone in Texas, decided to start her own publishing company. Simon finally did some things he had always wanted to do. He took a bunch of digital marketing classes and launched his career as a relationship coach. “The joy of accomplishing a long-term goal is unparalleled,” he says.

Marina Abramovic, the Serbian artist who’s 2012 piece, The Artist is Present, became a viral sensation on Youtube, says that cultivating solitude is a requirement for artists. You could argue, but she turned performance art from a thing only other artists knew about into a pop cultural phenom, and it’s hard to argue with that. As Joe Fassler said in The Atlantic, “It’s not drugs, poverty, or wild lovers that make a great writer. It’s discipline and time alone.” Well, if the minor annoyances of a flashing microwave clock and spooning with my pitbull instead of a human are what it takes for me to make better writing, I think it’s a fair trade.

 

What Is Slut-Shaming? (And Why You Need to Stop Doing It)

This Common Prejudice Might Be What’s Stopping You From Getting Laid

So your friend just got out of a long, nearly sexless relationship.

Now, he’s doing what any newly single person would do: hitting up the dating apps, swiping right a ton, going on dates as often as possible — sometimes five or six per week, even. When you talk, he’s going on about all the sex that stems from these dates. Can anyone really manage to enjoy that many sexual partners, you wonder? Wouldn’t you get tired? But your friend appears to be loving every minute of it. “They can’t get enough of me!” he tells you.

This particular person is a guy, but what if it was a woman? Would you condone the same, sex-filled, promiscuous behavior if it were told about a female? For many people, there’s a salient difference. A guy getting laid a ton is a Romeo, a player, a stud, a Don Juan. But if a woman were to play out the same exact scenario, a very different type of word starts creeping in: loose, easy, promiscuous, whore, slut.

That last word is the root of the term “slut-shaming,” a practice that most people engage in to some degree at some point in their lives, sometimes without even realizing it.

1. What Is Slut-Shaming?

“This one guy was not into dating me seriously because I was too promiscuous for his taste (even though he had no problem sleeping with me), and because I also slept with women.” – Maria, 29

Slut shaming is “when someone is shamed for being sexually provocative or promiscuous, or being perceived as not having control over their sexual behaviors,” says Dr. Janet Brito, a sex therapist based in Hawaii.

However, not all people are slut-shamed equally. “Specifically,” Brito notes, it’s most often applied to “women who sexually behave outside of societal norms.”

This can take on many forms, including “blaming someone for being sexually assaulted, shaming someone’s kink interest, negatively judging someone’s wardrobe as being sexually inappropriate or used to garner the sexual attention of men,” says Brito. It can even go as far as what someone the outfit someone has on, or how they present themselves with their clothing.

“When we tell women and girls what’s appropriate or inappropriate for them to wear, we’re communicating to them that their value diminishes based on how sexy someone views them as being,” says Jor-El Caraballo, a relationship therapist and co-creator of Viva Wellness.  “That is slut-shaming.”

But the issue doesn’t begin and end in the changing room. Because of the way sexual desire is framed differently depending on someone’s gender, men are often expected to be sexual, whereas women’s sex lives are explicit and implicitly policed. The tacit understanding, for many people, is that a woman’s value as a person (or as a partner) is diminished by the amount of sex she has.

“One of the most common ways this happens is by people asking about the number of sexual partners their new partner has been with,” says Caraballo. “Most of the time when it’s asked, it’s designed to make some assessment on how worthy or ‘used up’ someone is. What’s more important to inquire about is the kind of sexual contact people have had before, and their experiences using protection or testing for STIs, and/or any related medical conditions that you might want to know about to manage your own risk more effectively.”

Women are simply subjected to much more stringent standards when it comes to their sexual history — not because they’re more likely to carry of transmit STIs, but because their decisions to have sex are considered suspect on some level.

That leads to all kinds of backwards thinking, with women who experience any kind of negative consequence for sex are often thought to have “deserved it” — an infection, an unexpected pregnancy, a less-than-consensual encounter — simply because they were having sex in the first place.

2. How Does Slut-Shaming Negatively Impact People?

“I’ve been made to feel weird about my sexual preferences by previous partners. Because we’re taught early on to think of sex as something dirty, I feel anything that deviates from the standard vanilla sex narrative that we’re most often fed is looked at as even dirtier.” – Elsa, 27

While some sex-negative attitudes — like, say, kink-shaming — arguably impact both men and women in similar ways, slut-shaming is a very gendered practice. But while the primary impact is felt by women who are typically punished for being sexual beings rather than celebrated for it, men still experience negative effects, albeit slightly different ones.

“Slut-shaming is abusive behavior and no one wins, to be honest,” says Caraballo. “People who engage in it do so to boost their egos but this feeling is fleeting and can’t really help them contend with their own sexual internalized shame, thus inhibiting their ability to really embrace their own sexuality.”

When you’re belittling someone else for their sexual choices, you might feel better in the moment, but in the long run, you stay trapped in a regressive mindset that doesn’t reflect sex in any kind of healthy way. And of course, the receiver is left unable to embrace their sexuality to the fullest.

“Some negative consequences of slut-shaming for women are increased shame, feeling bad about their sexuality, self-doubt, and feeling unworthy,” notes Brito. Thus, women are often put in a conundrum where there’s no right answer. If you hew to what society dictates, you’ll be forever frustrated — and if you seem not sexual enough you might be mocked for being ‘frigid’ — but if you follow your desires, you’re likely to be castigated or mocked for them.

There’s a reason, for instance, that the concept of the “stripper name” exists. Women who engage in sex work need to maintain some degree of anonymity, hiding their true identities to avoid facing any negative consequences from their choices. Former porn actresses have been fired from jobs as simply on the grounds that having sex on camera makes you unfit to be in a professional setting for the rest of your life.

“Slut-shaming also perpetuates so many myths about sex/sexuality, and spreads misinformation more broadly, which keeps us in the sexual dark ages in mainstream culture,” says Caraballo.

Considering the broad range of negative impacts, it’s a good idea to start trying to confront instances of slut-shaming in your own life.

3. How Can You Unlearn Slut-Shaming Beliefs?

“When I was a teenager, I was very much anti-choice when it came to abortion, even though I was more generally leftist and no longer very religious. But a conversation with my older cousin made me realize that my position was basically that I believed women deserved to be punished, essentially, for having sex outside of a certain context. When I had to actually think it through a little bit, I changed my position completely.” – Ian, 30

While men aren’t the only ones with slut-shaming beliefs — women often police other women’s sexualities as well — they are a special case. Meaning, men are often guilty of judging without being judged themselves, critiquing women’s decisions without ever feeling their own decisions put under a similar microscope.

They can trust that they won’t be removed from consideration for having had too many past partners (or possibly not even asked in the first place), or that people won’t joke about their genitals being used up and worn out by too much penetrative intercourse. Considering the relative place of privilege that men occupy when it comes to slut-shaming, it behooves them to start extending some of that non-judgmental attitude they’re on the receiving end of to people who aren’t — namely, women.

For Brito, that starts with unlearning the idea that sex is dirty, period. “Stop internalizing the shame surrounding sex,” she says. “Affirm yourself as a sexual being — so that you can also affirm others as well.”

If you can see sex for what it is — two people engaging in a mutually pleasurable leisure activity — then you won’t be as likely to lose respect for someone for engaging in more of it than you do.

Furthermore, it’s important to try to root out anti-women attitudes that might be playing a role in how you see female sexuality. You can do this by no longer “subscribing to negative notions about women that degrade them to objects and less than human,” says Brito. Instead, look to “form and nurture relationships with women that are respectful and demonstrate value toward them as people and not sexual objects.”

Reading this piece? That’s a starting point, too.

“I think that guys can continue to educate themselves by reading sex-positive materials and articles like this one,” says Caraballo. “I would also recommend that men take time to listen to the women and femmes around them about sex and relationships.”

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Things Men Should Never Say to Women

Without question, these are fundamental values.

I’ve done a lot of crazy shit, but no matter what situation I’ve ever been in, I always treated women with respect.

Please… please do the same.

In a polite society, you’re expected to treat men and women differently.

Even leaving aside outmoded schools of thought like chivalry, there’s a tacit understanding of different rules for interacting with different genders.

You can say what you mean in as mean a way as you feel without running into trouble. However, women are more sensitive beings, and according to this logic, you need to be polite and on your best behavior — no curse words, no crass sexual talk and so on.

However, it’s worth highlighting some very valid reasons we should think about what we say to women differently than what we say to men. Namely, that women’s lived experiences mean that there are some things that are much more real, serious and painful to them than they are to men.

Simply put, there are things you can say to guys that don’t register remotely similarly in terms of impact as they will with women. To explore that concept, here are nine things you should never say to a woman, as well as why you should think before you speak.

1. Using Gendered Slurs

Why? There’s no male equivalent to “bitch,” “slut,” “whore” or “c*nt”

As gendered insults exist for both men and women, it’s easy to draw an equivalency. You might think that “bitch” is like “bastard,” “c*nt” is like “asshole,” “whore” is like “piece of sh*t,” and so forth. In a perfect world, those terms might carry equal weight.

However, the world we live in is a world where anti-women slurs like those are often used in conjunction with serious anti-women violence. That’s not to say that everyone who calls a woman a “c*nt” will also engage in acts of physical violence toward her, or even that men who are violent towards women use such language, but simply that the two are paired up often enough to make them extra powerful.

Think about it: Have any of your guy friends ended up in the hospital because his girlfriend beat him up and called him a “bastard” when she did it? Chances are, no. On the other hand, many women know someone who’s been a victim of male abuse — an abuse that often goes hand-in-hand with abusive comments.

When you use anti-women slurs, you’re signaling your own potential dangerousness. Don’t make women live in fear. If you’re angry and want to call them names, use non-gender specific insults, or better yet, calm down and talk it out like an adult.

2. Threatening Her With Violence

Why? Many women already live in fear of male violence

Male violence against women is a widespread and deeply damaging phenomenon.

Even if you never lay a hand on a single woman, threatening to do so puts you on the side of those who do harm, rather than those who don’t. As well, threats are particularly terrifying if you or someone close to you has actually experienced real violence.

Physical threats might come off as joking, non-serious or otherwise par for the course between you and other men, but it’s a very different situation when you’re using threats of physical violence against women, who typically cannot defend themselves in a one-on-one confrontation.

Even a semi-threat like, “If you were a man, I’d punch you right now,” comes across as deeply terrifying. Don’t do that.

3. Implying She’s Not as Smart as a Man

Why? Women have had their intelligence questioned for centuries

For a lot of recorded history, men have taken the lead on thinking. That’s why our school textbooks are full of male scientists, male inventors, male philosophers, and so forth.

However, to use this evidence to conjecture that women aren’t as smart as men is to commit a serious error. For much of human history, women were expressly forbidden from pursuing the same studies their male counterparts were encouraged to pursue.

As a result, any discoveries or advancements made by women were done against the intentions of the men around them. They did not receive financial support, they did not receive emotional support and they did not receive logistical support. Had the roles been reversed, it would be men who would be absent from our textbooks, not women.

If you imply to a woman that women aren’t as smart as men, you’re participating in this long history of injustice, and revealing yourself as a pretty shallow thinker, too.

4. Engaging in Slut Shaming

Why? Women should be allowed to be as sexual as men

A man who sleeps with a lot of partners is a playboy, a stud or a Casanova. You probably don’t need to be told that a woman who sleeps with a lot of partners is not described using such positive language.

People even come up with justifications for the double standard, like, “A key that can unlock many locks is a good key, but a lock that can be opened by many keys is not a good lock” — ignoring the fact that human genitalia and anti-theft devices exist for completely different reasons with nothing in common.

A particularly dark aspect of the way we shame women for their sexual desire is something known as “victim blaming” — when we imply that a woman who is raped, assaulted or harassed is to blame for her own misfortune, rather than the person who did it to her.

The implication being, if she had been more modest (i.e. “OK, but when you’re dressed like that, what are you expecting?”), she wouldn’t have been in that situation. If your buddy went on a date and ended up being raped, you wouldn’t tell him it was his fault for being alone with a stranger drinking alcohol late at night, would you? Don’t do it to a woman.

5. Implying She Owes Her Success to Her Gender

Why? Women deal with more gender-based hurdles than men

The thinking goes that because women are sexually desirable to men, they can get things more easily — free drinks, entrance into events, promotions at work, gifts, and so on.

While there is a degree of truth to this — men sometimes do give women they’re attracted to special privileges they wouldn’t accord other men — this is not a uniquely positive dynamic. Often, these freebies come with a subtle (or not so subtle) expectation of romantic or sexual favors in return, and broadly speaking, they exist within a culture where too many men see women as potential conquests, not fellow human beings.

Ask a woman if she would trade the ability to get free drinks at a bar here and there for the promise that she wouldn’t ever be stalked on her way home, and most would give a resounding, “Yes!”

Women may have a few small things easier than men, but broadly speaking, their lives are more difficult, and to imply otherwise is both ignorant and cruel.

6. Telling Her She’s Ugly or Fat

Why? Women face immense looks-based pressure

The trope that women are looks-obsessed is not entirely without merit. However, it’s due to them being conditioned to understand that their looks are the most important quality they have by a society that prizes female beauty above any other trait.

As a result, almost all women are hyper-conscious of looks, not unlike the way almost all men are highly conscious of notions of toughness and strength.

Telling a woman that she is ugly or fat is a direct attack on one of the most vulnerable parts of her psyche. In a world where the models for beauty are endlessly made-up and photoshopped, even the most naturally beautiful women in the world cannot compete with men’s expectations of that beauty.

There is no winning this game. Don’t add to the frustration of that by complaining that she doesn’t live up to your standards, too, or subtly suggesting she “wear some makeup” or “work out more.” It’s not necessary.

7. Shaming Her About Menstruation

Why? It’s a natural part of life for almost every woman

From around the age of 12, young girls begin menstruating, typically continuing to do so once a month for the bulk of their adult lives.

Societal messaging pushes that menstrual fluid is disgusting, and that women should be ashamed of it despite the fact that it’s natural, normal and essentially universal.

If guys had periods of wet dreams that lasted one week out of every month, it would be both awkward and deeply embarrassing for most of them, for starters. Consider offering women the same respect you’d like to receive in that kind of situation, rather than saying something like “Gross, are you on your period?”

As well, it’s worth considering that this is a feature of the human body intrinsically tied to the capacity for reproduction. Meaning, if your mother, her mother,  her mother and so forth hadn’t had their periods, you would not exist. Have some respect, and be polite about menstruation.

8. Telling Her She’s Crazy

Why? Many men weaponize the concept of craziness to cast normal behavior as wrong

It’s tempting to call someone whose behavior we don’t understand “crazy.” If you get in an argument with said person, you’re absolved of any responsibility. You don’t have to win the argument, you don’t have to behave rationally, you don’t have to treat them with respect — they’re just crazy.

However, it’s an unfortunate truth that men weaponize the idea of craziness in a way that often targets women, particularly for the fact that women and men approach emotional matters very differently.

“She’s just crazy,” or “You’re behaving crazy right now, you know that?” are just particularly cruel ways of saying, “I don’t understand this reaction.” That said, just because you don’t understand someone’s emotional reaction doesn’t mean it’s not valid.

Quit telling women they’re crazy and start putting yourself in their shoes — what you learn might surprise you.

9. Belittling Her Concerns About Abuse

Why? We need to take women opening up about their trauma seriously

Recent years have seen a significant change in the way society sees sexual assault. Once-venerated men have been toppled from positions of power. It’s become normal for people who’ve been abused to open up about it.

That’s just the beginning of working towards a future where sexual abuse isn’t rampant, but it’s a start. As a man, it’s not hard to be an ally to women around these issues, but it’s also all too easy to come across as a supporter of abusers when the subject comes up.

RELATED: Here’s How to Support a Victim of Sexual Abuse

If you say things like “Don’t go all #MeToo on me,” you’re making light of an incredibly serious subject. Rape and assault are deeply traumatic events that can mark the rest of a person’s life. Treat them with the seriousness that they deserve.

Victims of abuse deserve support, no matter what their gender is. Committing to treating these crimes like crimes and not like a frivolous annoyance that’s become common outs you as someone who’d rather maintain the status quo than live in a more just world.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Facebook: phicklephilly       Instagram: @phicklephilly       Twitter: @phicklephill

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