It’s a Difference, Not a Disorder.

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Creative genius Shiina Ringo accurately illustrating the complex landscape of my brain. Photo not by me.

I have Bipolar 2, and OCD.

I have chosen to be out about being neurodiverse as a way of dismantling stigma, and because I have the privilege of not being placed at risk by being out. My friends, family, and romantic partners already know, and it doesn’t present a risk to my ability to make a living.

Being neurodiverse does change the way I operate in the world. I do not function well within highly structured environments and socially sanctioned institutions, I get bored easily, and I prefer being my own boss because I have issues with authoritarian hierarchies. Fortunately I have figured out ways of circumnavigating these systems to create a life on my own terms, which is a subject for another post.

What I really want to write about today is why I don’t think my disorders are actually pathological. I think they present inconveniences for operating in modern American society. I think they are misunderstood and carry heavy stigma. But I honestly wonder that if we lived within a society where these differences were accepted, if they would really be considered disorders? If people could take naps and mental health days when they needed to, instead of being pushed to work more and more? If everyone had access to healthy food, social outlets, and whatever physical expressions helped them feel good? If everyone had enough money and resources that they didn’t live in fear of homelessness or destitution as the result of one catastrophic event? If taking medication and getting therapy or doing spiritual work wasn’t so stigmatized and difficult to access? If it was accepted and understood that some people (and realistically, probably most people) experience their energy as a cycle of ups and down, rather than a straight line of consistent productivity?

It is not hard to find information about how my differences and those of others who experience neurodiversity can be detrimental and must be “managed.” And yes, management is important with regards to independence and functionality. (I wouldn’t qualify to receive government disability even if I wanted it). But I want to dig into the ways that these differences have actually been tremendously beneficial and wonderful in ways that are not always well understood.

I am creative. Creativity, aesthetics, beauty, spirituality and love have always been the thing that have driven me through life. I received a master’s degree with the expectation that I would be better equipped to take a more conventional path, but the truth is I still work and thrive as a writer, artist, and performer. It’s how I make my living.

I have never experienced writers block. I have been too tired or depressed to create, but I have never struggled to access the divine stream of ideas that come to me easily and effortlessly. This is not bragging, this is one of the secret joys of being bipolar. If anything, I have more ideas and inspiration than I can keep up with most days.

I feel intensely. People who know me well will describe me as “intense.” This can be hard when the feeling is of disappointment, sadness or anger, but truly amazing when it’s a feeling of inspiration, love, or joy. Wanting to tell everyone you love them is a classic symptom of hypomania, but I’m not entirely sure it’s a bad thing.

I see things differently, and love problem solving. I have a hard time accepting “accepted knowledge.” I can perceive dimensions and perspectives that might otherwise be overlooked. I love getting to the bottom of an issue, and using my intuition to sniff out what might be needed or missing.

I am detail oriented, and a sponge for information. OCD can be a tremendous gift for a writer. People without OCD tend to see it as a disorder where people wash their hands til they bleed, and obsessively clean everything in their house. That’s not how it presents in me, and I’m not going to discuss the less pleasant aspects here.

OCD helps me see details, and notice when something is “off.” This is a tremendous help when editing. To be honest I don’t edit my own work as thoroughly as others, but I have been told that I am almost brutally thorough when editing other people’s writing. It’s almost as if it gives me a finally honed intuition or instinct for what looks or “feels” correct in my work. Its a huge gift for problem solving.

OCD helps me remember, and process information quickly. My friends are always baffled when I remember some minor detail of an interaction that occurred years prior. I have to be very organized, systematic and remember a great deal of details for all of the work I do. This is part of why I did well in school (but not in the 9-5 world), and was able to learn a language like Japanese. I recall a friend telling me about the video game Katamari Damashii, which means “Soul Clump” in Japanese. “Oh, that’s because the kanji (pictograms) for katamari and damashii look similar” I said, in response to the peculiarity of the name. (It looks like this 塊魂 if you have Japanese fonts enabled in your computer, and you are curious). This wasn’t because I was looking at the written name, it was a connection I made by visualizing the characters in my mind. Oddly enough, my short terms memory is fucking lousy, and I struggle to spell things out loud, or transcribe spellings of words or number sequences that people read off to me, so this skill works in mysterious ways.

I have received tremendous gifts for  personal growth. Because my distress tolerance is relatively low (I can’t “suck it up” it feels like torture), I am not able to stay in situations that make me miserable for very long. (That said- I don’t mean not facing positive challenges, because I enjoy those. I mean learning to set firm boundaries, put my needs first, and extricate myself from toxic situations).

Seeking help was never not an option for me, if I wanted to survive. I learned quickly that if I was going to be okay, that I had to do the work myself, but that I needed external support as well. This has meant 15 years of therapy (worth every penny, and everyone can benefit from it), a decade of seeking out the correct diagnosis and medication, self care through art and exercise, and deep spiritual work. It’s pushed me to develop myself in ways that other people might not, without these types of challenges.

I am fearless. I am often told by people that the thought of what I do (being self employed with no “guarantee” of income) would terrify them. By contrast, the idea of being chained to a desk everyday fills me with dread. It’s hard to understand that even those “stable” jobs are not guaranteed, your income is capped, and that these jobs provide a false sense of stability- anyone who has worked as an entrepreneur, waitress, or exotic dancer can tell you that it’s NORMAL for the market to ebb and flow, that you will have lean weeks and flush weeks. Once you understand that, and trust it, it becomes less scary because you understand that things are ALWAYS changing and that surfing that wave and evolving with it is actually hugely rewarding.

I know it’s considered tasteless to toot one’s own horn in our society, but it’s important for me to recognize and celebrate the ways that what society has labeled “mental illness” has helped shaped me into a good person in many ways. That it’s not so simple and black and white. And I am certain that there must be others who feel this way as well.

 

Bianca’s Bookshelf: The Sex & Pleasure Book

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Coffee and cake optional, but certainly contributes to the pleasure of reading this book!

So I have a bad habit of buying a lot of books and trying to read 10 books at once.  I’m becoming more disciplined about setting aside time to read, especially books related to my field as a sex educator. I’ve decided to start a series of blog posts about some of the books I’ve enjoyed reading recently for those of you looking for a good read.

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Adorable illustrations by Amanda Lafrenais from the Sex & Pleasure Book

I grew up in Berkeley, CA, about a mile from a Good Vibrations store, and one of my good friends works there still! When I was a teen, my sister bought The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex and I credit it as an amazing source of sexuality information for me as a young person in a pre-internet (for me, anyway) era. Which is why I’m so stoked that Carol Queen and Shar Rednour, a pair of wonderful sexperts (Carol consults on my Sweethome Sexual Health Product Guides, and Shar’s book about being femme was a major influence on me in my 20s), have released a new version for the 21st century called The Sex & Pleasure Book : Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone (big thanks to Shar for sending me a copy!)

If you are going to buy one book about sex- especially for a young person or a person who wants a comprehensive guide to sex that also emphasizes the importance of pleasure- this is what I’d recommend, because it hits an amazingly wide array of topics in an easy-to-read manner, with adorable illustrations.To give you an idea: some the topics this book tackle range from sex toys to tantra, group sex, porn, sexual health, sex and disability, virginity, polyamory, dating after divorce…and so forth and so on. It’s also inclusive of a wide array of gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, ages, and so forth! It’s a great all-around sex ed reference book that has something for everyone.

Next time: Mim Chapman’s What Does Polyamory Look Like?

Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? Celebrating a Classic Consent Anthem

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As I become older and understand feminist concepts more thoroughly, there’s a lot of pop culture stuff I used to like that I can’t unsee as being misogynist and gross now.

On a recent car trip, girlfriend and I were discussing the old “Beatles vs. Stones” parable (which was “Beatles vs. Elvis” in Pulp Fiction but I think the Stones are a better litmus test). I.e. that you’re either a Beatles fan or a Rolling Stones fan, and that says something about your personality.

I’ve always hated the Beatles, which to so many people is like saying that I enjoy murdering kittens, but since it’s come out that John Lennon was a total abusive asshole, I catch a bit less flack for it. So I always answered that question with “Stones,” by default because I hated their music a little less, and it seemed like the edgier choice. But honestly, when I listen to their music now, I can’t help but feel a little horrified by how fucked up and misogynist it is:

-“Under My Thumb,” an anthem to abusive, controlling relationships

-“Brown Sugar” (originally titled “Black Pussy”), a song about raping WOC

-“Backstreet Girl” a song in which Mick Jagger lovingly tells his working class Mistress to know her place (i.e. totally sexual available but hidden from the public’s eye)

It’s easy enough to say, “well, it was the sixties/seventies, everything was misogynist.” But after this discussion, Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” came on the radio, and I kind of realized that this song is awesome, because it’s all about asking consent before fucking.

Think about it:

“If you want my body and you think I’m sexy
come on sugar let me know.
If you really need me just reach out and touch me
come on honey tell me so”

If that’s not a request for enthusiastic consent, I don’t know what is.

I also love the fact that after the characters in the song hook-up, they hang out and watch TV together, instead of feeling all awkward and shameful:

“They wake at dawn ‘cos all the birds are singing
Two total strangers but that ain’t what they’re thinking
Outside it’s cold, misty and it’s raining
They got each other neither one’s complaining
He says I sorry but I’m out of milk and coffee
Never mind sugar we can watch the early movie”

Thank you Rod Stewart, for keeping it real, and being sexy AF.

 

Greetings from NACS 2015 in Reykjavik!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and a very eventful past six months! Right now I’m in Reykjavik for the 2015 Nordic Association of Clinical Sexuality Conference (NACS). My friend Indiana was very kind to invite me, and arrange for my friend Jess and I to stay in a sweet little apartment in Downtown Reykjavik!

Yesterday I presented on how to use coloring for teaching kids about sex ed and body image:
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You can see the slideshow from my presentation here.

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I shared the awesome coloring books “Super Soft Heroes” and “Super Strong Princesses” by Linnea Johansson with attendees. They are amazing, and you can download them for free!

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I met Betty Dodson, who is as awesome as you’d imagine!

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There was smoked cod liver in my conference goodie bag!
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Even the coins have fish on them!

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Today I have been selling my artwork from The Venus Emporium, tonight we hunt for Northern Lights, tomorrow I dip in the Blue Lagoon! The Scandinavians (or Scandal-navians as I like to call those in the field of sexuality) are wonderful people & I am in love with Iceland!

Exercise Induced Orgasms and Gwyneth’s Grocery Basket

A couple of new things this week:

FathleticismI talked about research from Dr. Debby Herbenick and Dr. Tierney Lorenz in a piece on boosting orgasms and pleasure through exercise on YourTango earlier this week. I’m really excited for Debby’s book “The Coregasm Workout: The Revolutionary Method for Better Sex Through Exercise,” which will be released on June 9th. Spoiler alert: I’m one of the fitness models featured in the book! Debby is an awesome person in general, but I thought it was awesome that she made an effort to feature  seniors, people of color, and fat people (me!) as models in her book! Yes, I was a size 22 and had shockingly blue hair when I modeled for the book- my hair matched the Bosu ball I had to stand on!

CCKnJcCUsAE5a6SI also wrote a piece for The Daily Dot about why I didn’t think Gwyneth Paltrow’s food stamp shopping trip was all that crazy– and the problem with thinking that people on food stamps shouldn’t spend their budget on fresh fruits and veggies. I was on food stamps part of the time I was in graduate school getting my Masters in Public Health- largely so I could afford to be healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. I definitely faced that shame of feeling like I was “too privileged” to be on food stamps, despite the fact that I was in fact poor enough to qualify for them, and feeling extravagant (and also judged by others) for spending my SNAP on high quality food at the Co-op. I just wanted to offer another perspective on the issue, and dismantle some of the stigma around people using food stamps, and using food stamps to buy delicious, healthy things they actually want to eat if it is feasible to do so. EVERYONE deserves to eat good food regardless of their financial resources.

There is No “Safe Space” for Sex Positive Businesses on the Web

Some examples of my "offensive" art work.

Some examples of my “offensive” art work.

I am a love warrior. Every day I fight to do the things that I love, and have meaning for me. My heart is in creative work, communications and sex education. I am lucky enough to make my living this way. But it’s also an incredibly difficult and painful life I have chosen for myself in some ways (even if I would not have it any other way).

I am a writer, sex educator, and artist who makes sex-positive artwork. I have a lot of people tell me how important the work I do is for promoting a healthy sex positive society. I am not afraid to put myself in the public eye as an advocate for healthy sexuality. However, I do get a lot of messages as a businessperson that my work is not okay, challenges that sometimes threaten my livelihood. Here’s a few examples of some of the challenges I’ve struggled with in recent times:

Etsy informed me that my products (this sacred amulet imported from a Buddhist temple in Japan, specifically) needed to be obscured and tagged due to their mature content. I’m fine with tagging my items, but was frustrated that I couldn’t actually SHOW what I was selling in the thumbnail. I’ve found some acceptable hacks: blurring out nipples on my pin-up altars, artful cropping of vulva pendants. (AASECT blogged about my struggles with Etsy here). I am in the process of creating my own retail site where I don’t have to censor my work in addition to my Etsy shop, but it frustrates me that I am subjected to censorship (which negatively impacts sales), and I am pretty certain that my art will never show up on their front page, and I will never be a featured seller. But hey, at least they allow me to sell “mature” art instead of banning me entirely?

On a similar note, several of the more mainstream websites I write for will not feature my articles about sex-related topics on their front pages, or even promote the pieces through their official social media channels, which means it’s pretty much my sole responsibility to make sure people can find the writing at all.

The thing that finally pushed me to write this blog post is that Paypal decided to close down both my business and personal accounts without any warning or way to appeal. Fortunately I have a habit of withdrawing my funds promptly when I receive them and did not lose any money when this happened, but it felt like a slap on the face. They would not give me a specific reason as to why my accounts were terminated, and informed me that I have no avenue to appeal the closures. Apparently Paypal has a rather arbitrary vendetta against people whose businesses even tangentially involve sex-related content, even when it is completely legal. This didn’t just affect my business- I can’t even receive payments completely unrelated to my business anymore. This blog post is geared to more traditional sex workers but it really highlights how virtually every online payment option discriminates against people who do work related to sex.

The free market isn’t free when the morality police make it virtually impossible for people to engage even in COMPLETELY LEGAL COMMERCE. I’m selling artwork for chrissakes, though artists, like those who do work related to sex, are also a stigmatized class that have been historically targeted for harassment and censorship.

I don’t have much more to say about this other than I will continue to do my best to do creative work I feel is necessary and important against these odds. As they say, “Well behaved women (or genderqueers in my case) seldom make history,” and I’m fresh out of fucks to give.

My Response to 50 Shades of Grey on CBS News

Check out some of Janet Hardy's books if you want the real lowdown on BD/SM!

Check out some of Janet Hardy’s books if you want the real lowdown on BDSM!

I don’t really care about 50 Shades of Grey, but I do care about destigmatizing kink, and promoting BD/SM safety and consent. I gave my comments about the realities of kink (as opposed to the fantasy of 50SofG) and how I think it can be an awesome, pleasurable thing when done in safe, consensual ways.

Read the whole article here:

With “Fifty Shades of Grey,” BDSM goes mainstream

Here are some books other than 50 Shades of Grey I recommend if you are looking to learn more about Kink:

Playing Well with Others: Your Field Guide to Discovering, Exploring and Navigating the Kink, Leather and BDSM Communities by Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams

The New Bottoming Book and The New Topping Book by Janet Hardy

And if you just want some kinky and sexy fiction to read, Jacqueline Carey’s Kusheline Trilogy and Laura Antoniou’s The Marketplace Trilogy are lots of fun!

The Sweethome Sex Toy Guides are finally here!

Photo by me, courtesy of The Sweethome.

Photo by me, courtesy of The Sweethome.

I’ve spent the past six months of my life conducting EXTREMELY SCIENTIFIC research on sex toys for awesome consumer review site The Wirecutter’s sister site The Sweethome. The three guides I created finally went live today!

They are linked at the bottom of the site’s Valentine’s Day guide: http://thesweethome.com/reviews/valentines-day-ideas/

The three freestanding articles can be seen at the following links:

If nothing else, check out the sweet ass sex toy gifs I created!

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I hope you enjoy reading these guides as much as I enjoyed creating them! And if you enjoyed reading them, please consider sharing them on social media!

XOXO

Bianca

Hello and welcome!

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Welcome to the first post of my new blog…

My multi-user content site Msbehaved.com still exists but hasn’t been updated in a while, and I plan to start blogging here from now on.

Who the hell am I? I’m a sex educator, freelance writer and sex-positive artist. I have a MPH from Indiana University, where I worked at the Kinsey Institute blogging about sex. I made a documentary about improving access to healthcare for transgender folks which I’m currently raising funds to make a part 2 and 3 for.

I will continue to post updates about my projects here, as well as original content…I’m currently working on a post about how my favorite 1980’s workout DVD is giving me life all over again.

XOXO

Bianca