It’s Not Just for Dentists Anymore, Part I

If you’ve ever had dental work done, it’s possible that your dentist used something called a dental dam, a square of latex used to isolate a tooth. There’s another use for it that you may or may not have heard of. This post might be considered a safer sex lesson, but there is a safer sensuality dimension, and I have to be frank.

Betssy, Does this Dental Dam Make Me Look Fat?, August 10, 2008 by Flickr, Creative Commons 3.0 BY-SA

Betssy, Does this Dental Dam Make Me Look Fat?, August 10, 2008 by Flickr, Creative Commons 3.0 BY-SA

And that requires bringing up a name recently in the news: Michael Douglas. Michael Douglas, who’s been treated for throat cancer, throat cancer caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV. I won’t go into HPV’s connection to cancer; you can read that here.  How you acquire HPV is direct contact with the virus, which is found on the genitals or mouth/tongue where it can move further back into the throat.

So, enough said about that. So you want to be safe, you need a barrier, right? And the right (correct) barrier. Just like with condoms, latex is your best barrier, if treated properly (no storing in heat, use the right lubricant). So many like the taste of their female partner, and if she’s been tested for HPV, the mouth/tongue against her vulva is safe to do. Some partners may be less turned on, or she carries HPV (which may eventually clear from the body; see your physician about retesting). And then there are those turned on by latex. In any of those cases, a dental damn works great. Use a little tasty and appropriate something on the mouth/tongue side and a water-based lubricant, if desired, on the side against the vulva/lips/clit. Hold in place with fingers. Partner’s tongue moves the fluid around–whether added or naturally produced–and if done right, there’s no reason that the pleasure should be any less than without the dam.

Okay, so if you’re a dentist, you’re in luck–you know where to get your supplies of dams. But what about the rest of us? Make your own. Check out this great little explanation on how to turn a regular unlubricated condom into a dental dam. This is a DIY project you can get behind.

And speaking of “behinds,” stay tuned for Part II in the next couple of weeks.

HBO’s Sex/Now: A “Real Sex” for Our Time?

**The following is intended for readers over 18**

Like many people, I was a somewhat regular watcher of Real Sex. When I didn’t have HBO at home, I looked forward to those Thursday nights while at conferences in hotels where HBO was offered to guests. The next day, it was interesting to talk with coworkers who sometimes attended the same conference to find out that we all had been watching the night before. When you work in sexual health and sexual communication, it’s all part of the job.

Sometimes hot, sometimes really strange, sometimes featuring people I really had no interest in getting to know while featuring others who were quaintly sweet while performing oral sex and masturbating, Real Sex was usually at the least entertaining and sometimes illuminating. Clearly,  all were from California since we didn’t have those folks doing those things here in Texas. Of course not.

Now HBO is coming out with a new sexually-oriented show, Sex/Now—something of a Real Sex reboot intended for an audience in the 2010s, a time when sexually oriented material is all over the Internet.  It will be interesting to find out the story that accompanies sex in this new program, with the pilot of a possible series previewing January 2 at 11:00pm Eastern Time. I’ll be checking it out. How about you?

UPDATE: After a busy fall, with holidays and new writing projects, I’m back to a regular schedule, every 7-10 days, of posting to the blog. In the next couple of weeks, look for information on how you can download an erotic short story, the story I wrote for the winner of the personalized erotic short story contest and which I am posting with her permission. And this spring, stay tuned for the sequel to Song of the Balalaika, Balalaika in Paris.

Movies: At the Drive In

Drive In Movie Poster

When I was a teenager, we had a drive-in in our relatively large town, a drive-in that showed pornographic movies.  Large trees blocked the screen (mostly) from the well-travelled freeway behind it. Some weekend nights, my boyfriend and I would take his van and go to the movies and, well, do what couples in vans almost always do. He enjoyed the movies more than I did. I enjoyed his enjoying them.

The first movie I remember during the few visits we made was one called “Beach Blanket Bango,” a bad retelling of the 1964 movie, “Beach Blanket Bingo” with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.  The busty female with big bubble hair performs sex with her beach bunny friends on the Frankie Avalon character. The second film I recall involved “doctors” and “nurses”. That film, with a name that escapes me, shows up in my novel, Song of the Balalaika, when Cilla’s current lover, Tom, brings it home from the video store, telling her, “I hope you don’t mind a healthcare theme.”  I didn’t mind, but the movie didn’t do much for me or for Cilla. A brutally violent movie with an early exit ended our trips there.

The drive-in is long gone, a victim of the VCR, DVD, Internet and, probably, endless complaints, maybe even complaints from other patrons of the choice of movies. The boyfriend is long gone, too, with no regrets.

Have you ever visited a drive-in at all, or one that showed similar movies? Would you go if you could?

A Welcome Break

I’m back again after a welcome retreat away from technology, just me and my books and a completely different place. If you’re a writer, there’s nothing like getting away and seeing things in a literal new light. I look forward to be back on a regular blogging schedule in the next few days, continuing the stories and tips. And I’ll be out with a free short story and am currently working on the next installment of the Balalaika series.

Meanwhile, a little hint where I’ve been. Alexa


The “Modeling Studio” and a Case of Mistaken Identity

Presentation3“How y’all doing?”

The two of us wore wool coats. The woman who greeted us when we came into the “modeling studio” and her coworker wore denim short-shorts and work shirts tied above the waist.

Ellen and I in our coats, our bags stuffed with pamphlets and condoms and lubricant samples—and information on the clinic where we both worked. Before we got a chance to chat with the two women a man in his late 50s, bald, wearing jeans, a belly overhang, and a jeans jacket came through the door. “What do y’all do?”

One of the women working there pointed to a sign on the wall, much like what you’d see in a burger or taco joint. “Here’s the price list. That includes me or her,” pointing to her colleague. “But not her,” pointing to Ellen, “or her,” pointing to me.

The man scratched his head. “If I bring in some clients, can you take care of them?”

“Sure,” one of the two women answered him.

“Okay. Can you give me a receipt?”

I did my best not to roll my eyes at the man. He planned to bring in some of his customers to partake of some nude “modeling” and he was concerned about taking it off of his income tax.

Good Days on the Job

For a time, I worked as a health educator and counselor in a maternal health and family planning clinic at the same time that I did outreach in the field identifying women who were not receiving well women care. [See my posts on my visits to a topless bar or two.] Some days were a challenge, listening to all the difficulties the women in and outside the clinic were having that were difficult to address. There were a few successes I remember in my work. One was a woman who returned to the clinic to let me know that the time we’d spent together six months before, when I counseled her about relationship violence issues, that she had turned her life around. She’d used the numbers and information on leaving an abusive relationship to help her go in a new direction in her life.

A second was a young 15-year-old girl who told me that she didn’t mind if she was pregnant and didn’t need birth control that visit. Rather than lecture her, I asked to think about her child, if she was pregnant, and ask herself if she would want to be her own baby in the life circumstances that she found herself in.  When she went in to see the nurse and found out she wasn’t pregnant, she asked for birth control, though I don’t know what happened to her after her clinic appointment as I didn’t see her again.

But the one woman I remember most, who I did see more than once in the clinic and on outreach, was Veronica (not her real name). I met Veronica in a “tanning salon”—a place on a street filled with sexually oriented businesses that had a broken tanning bed and a towel on the floor for sex with clients. Veronica started by coming in to the clinic to be treated for a sexually transmitted disease and a well woman visit. Returning again several months later, she was disease free and appeared less altered by drugs or alcohol. The third time, a very different Veronica visited the clinic—smiling for the first time and accompanied by a sister. She credited my coworkers and I for helping turn her life around, but I knew we had contributed only slightly, with most of the credit going to Veronica’s family and to Veronica herself.

So even though I sometimes sat out in my car before going into the clinic and had a “moment,” wishing I could do more, I often thoughts of those times of hope and firmly committed myself to doing what I could to make women’s lives better, or be there to support them when they made their own lives better.

Celebrating the Female Anatomy

**A post for the more mature reader**

A recent article in the Huffington Post on the clitoris made me want to write this post to expand upon it a little more.  It’s about a recent art installation that addresses that most misunderstood of the female body, yet, in my mind, the most important. Sure, some women find intercourse pleasurable, and there are some who prefer stimulation of the “g spot” through intercourse, than stimulation of the clitoris. I trust that to be the case if a woman actually has experienced clitoral stimulation hopefully to orgasm.

Although less so than in the past, the problem has often been that women don’t really understand how the clitoris works, and how for most of us, it is the main (although not exclusive) pleasure center of the female body. When a woman tells me that she “thinks” she’s had an orgasm, we discuss clitoral knowledge and certainty: if you’ve really had an orgasm, there’s no doubt what’s happening. That intense feeling is unmistakable.

When I wrote “Song of the Balalaika,” I wrote of a main male character who derives pleasure from bringing his partner to orgasm as creatively as he can. Much of what he does with her is to attempt to “learn” what pleases her, how and where she likes to be touched, how and when to stimulate her clitoris.

This is the reason that I’m adamant about properly naming the female anatomy.  If we keep referring to the external genitalia as the ‘vagina’ instead of ‘vulva’ and ‘labia’ (external and internal), then we confuse the internal organ of the woman, and her main instrument for intercourse, with the place where that premiere organ of arousal and orgasm is nestled. My post on the confusion on Project Runway’s frequent incorrect use of ‘vagina’ is a case in point.

Afternoons in the Topless Bar

Stripper-on-PolePerhaps if you’re reading this you’ve been in a strip bar and haven’t thought it was any big deal, but for me, stepping through that door and approaching the (usually female) greeter/hostess was more than a little intimidating. We often go in the late afternoon, so the number of patrons is usually much lower than after normal work hours. That helped to reduce my anxiety over a place that is both taboo and intriguing.

No matter whether high-end or not-so-high-end club, we first make contact and establish a relationship with the house mother, a woman who helps the dancers with anything from a little make-up, feminine hygiene products, or a shoulder to cry on. Many club dressing rooms are crammed with all the things a house mother needs to do her job, which includes making sure the dancers go on stage at the appropriate time and gets them scheduled for the upcoming week.

I have always been impressed by the talents of most of the women in strip bars. There’s a certain athleticism that they have to have. I learned that early on when I passed the stage on the way out the door just in time to see a dancer punctuating her number by standing on her head.

Watch for more about what happened during some of these forays into the bars.

Stripper on Pole image by Momoko (,  Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, via Wikimedia Commons

Keeping Your Latex Safe

Trojan-CondomsHe’s wearing a latex glove for protection, or for fun. You’re using that square of latex, also known as a dental dam, when his mouth is on your lower body-genitals, between the thighs, or “between the cheeks.” A nice bit of water based lubricant works to add that nice slippery felling, but when it’s mouth against latex, there are other choices that won’t damage the material and will add a bit of extra taste to the tongue.

Say yes to honey. Jelly—strawberry, grape, orange marmalade. A dusting of powdered sugar. Some good quality maple syrup. Or perhaps Mrs. Butterworth for a threesome.

But just say no to anything with oil or animal fat—the natural enemies of latex. So don’t top the syrup with butter or use it alone. Avoid the chocolate sauce with or without whipped cream. Or whipped cream alone. Peanut butter should not accompany the jelly, no matter the flavor.

Still want to use the chocolate sauce and whipped cream? Just wash it away thoroughly before reaching for the condom or dental dam. Your rubber will thank you.

Learning a New Skill: Putting on the Condom

Trojan-CondomsThose who can do. Those who can’t, watch someone else do it. Then if you watch carefully enough, you can actually do it  yourself.

Before I became a sexuality educator, I knew about condoms from using them with a partner. Confession: I always let the man take care of business thinking that putting on a condom required a special skill that only men possessed, given that they possessed the actual organ to be adorned. PluUntil I got into the business of safer sex education, I never knew the finer points of condom use. But in spite of my original hesitancy and confronted by the dawning realization that I would be demonstrating my proficiency in front of groups of strangers, I took on the challenge. (Plus my salary depended on it.)

 If I wanted to succeed, I knew I’d have to get it right my from an expert–my gay boss Kyle. I and a small group of young female college students were treated to the lesson while gathered around his desk, then each one of us had to demonstrate that we’d learned what he taught–on a condom model, to be clear. At first, I didn’t look forward to having an audience watching me awkwardly manage the little roll-down hat, but I pulled it off, or more correctly, put it on exactly the way it’s supposed to be done.

  • Open package; no teeth, as tempting as it is to use them to rip the package open.
  • Remove the condom from package
  • Grasp tip (and implement the tip tip)
  • Place on top
  • Unroll to the bottom; careful with fingernails
  • Enjoy

 To be honest, it took several tries, but in the end I finally got comfortable with it. And if you haven’t tried it, you can, too.

Check out this article on a study showing that condoms don’t diminish pleasure for men.