The following is the transcript of my presentation in virtual reality for Raspberry Dreamlabs, August 2020. All rights reserved.
How do we tell the difference between what is real and what is fake, when life itself is a subjective experience? And as such, one in which we are the sole creators of the reality in which we live? How cool that we are all here in VR!
On the one hand, the subjectivity of our individual reality can be a great thing. It might enable us to overcome some of the greatest setbacks or suffering simply with the right attitude and the emotional intelligence to reframe. On the other hand, we often times become prey to forces whose sole intent is to manipulate us for power and control, profit and greed, fame, ego, and validation.
When it comes to topics as juicy as sex and relationships wrought with myriad beliefs, cultural mandates, and a spectrum of ideas as to what’s permissible and what’s not—it’s a freakin proverbial jungle out there.
Many people in the field of human sexuality focus on function and frequency. The quantitative research aspect.
But my joy comes from diving into the feelings around sex, or rather, the qualitative. Indeed, human sexuality is so much greater than what genitals we have and where we put them, but rather, how we perceive the world and ourselves, and then relate back to that world around us.
Eroticism is the emotion behind our drivers; it’s the human imagination where we discover and assign meaning to our lives. Put another way, human eroticism is the way we create meaning from our experiences—whether it’s during sex, falling in love, a moment in nature, devouring a slice of your favorite cake you can only get at Grandma’s house, experiencing a piece of art or music that moves you to tears, or going on a wild mushroom trip at Burning Man that causes you to totally reevaluate your corporate job and change your life path.
So peculiar and beautiful and strange, how what we feel and what we experience shape our beliefs. And once those beliefs are cemented into our beings, they are really very difficult to change.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories. It’s the validation of our beliefs.
Negativity bias refers to our proclivity to use negative information far more than positive
information. It’s our brains' natural tendency to focus on the negative innately, a trait we’ve carried forward from our reptilian brains, which at one point helped our species survive, but nowadays, often gets in the way of emotional intelligence.
Not only do we have the psychological forces of negativity bias and confirmation bias which serve as blueprints to our beliefs, but we also just have the human nature of pride. Change is hard and uncomfortable. Few people are brave and willing to venture beyond the comforts and contentment of the shores of what they know.
This becomes a very real challenge when science and data go against what people believe, or wish to believe.
Studies at large prove that we can’t even all agree on what sex actually is! Is it oral? Is it a handjob? Is it just simply pleasure in the body ... is orgasm required? Is it penis in vagina only? Hint—no! Is it eating a cheeseburger at midnight (food porn), getting caught up in gazing at the sky change (cloud porn), or is it playing your favorite symphony on your instrument with an orchestra, mind and body exploding like fireworks?
How do we navigate defining for ourselves, what we want sex to be, what it means to us, and what place it has in our lives? As we all work toward individual self-actualization and evolution, we grind up against a backdrop of cultural propaganda, consumerism, and rife misinformation.
While our subjective realities and lived experiences may all differ, shouldn’t we be able to rely on data and science to tell us the truth? What is accurate research anyway? And how do we know who to trust?
I wanted to speak on misinformation because it’s become such a cancer in American culture, especially right now. We have people —including our top leaders—who give more credit to youtube videos and facebook memes than they do to scientists and experts, and it’s literally costing us lives.
Facebook used to be the place I’d go to check in with relatives or to see which one of my friends from high school just got married. Now I’m learning that some of those high school buddies believe Covid is a hoax, 5-G is here to hijack our souls, and Bill Gates is going to microchip us all before turning us into lizard people.
The phenomenon of the spread of false information infecting human beliefs is nothing new. When we control public perception of any subject matter, we have power. Just look at how Hitler perpetuated false ideals around eugenics, spreading propaganda and galvanizing public perception, leading to one of the worst mass genocides ever seen in human history. When we manipulate public perceptions,when we prevent people from having all the facts, when we trick people into believing ideologies and misinformation, we set them—and society at large— up for failure.
How can anyone make good logical decisions without knowing all the facts? When we aren’t forthright with truth or falsify data, we are actively engaging in the oppression of others.
Of course, misinformation is rampant when it comes to sex ed in America. We have proof in the puddin’ that abstinence only sex ed doesn’t work. We’ve had this data spawning decades now. From the Waxman report, to Guttmacher Institute studies, we know it does nothing to curtail teens from engaging in sex. In fact, in America, we continue to have one of the highest teen pregnancy and STI rates of any industrialized nation, even if those rates have been declining.
In the Netherlands, where sex ed is introduced as early as kindergarten, with more of a focus on relationship skills, emotional intelligence, and consent, we know from data that comprehensive scientifically based education does in fact delay the age at which people have sex for the first time—and, when they do, they’re more likely to make the choice under positive circumstances, without coercion, while also utilizing contraception. Yet, adults in power in America—from school boards to teachers, political leaders, and even parents—continue to intentionally use false, misleading, or distorted information in order to persuade the public that abstinence-only education works.
How has it become so ubiquitous that politics and upholding beliefs are more important than the sanctity, safety, and solid factual education of our children? This type of grave irresponsibility by educators, politicians, and policy makers is not only oppressive and harmful, but negligent and a blatant form of abuse.
At a council meeting in Colorado last year, where the debate on what “comprehensive” actually meant with regards to comprehensive sex ed, one lawmaker asked, “Is this our role as a state to determine what a healthy sexual relationship is, rather than allow the parents to define that for their families?”
I work with adults who can’t seem to discuss sex comfortably and honestly with their partners. No doubt they’re going to struggle to discuss it with their kids. I see too many unhealthy partnerships and marriages, which I would in no way, rely on to be the living example children need in order to mirror healthy relationships for their own lives.
So the majority of kids in America are left to learning about sex from mainstream free porn, their peers (who I promise don’t have as much experience as we adults), movies, and of course the internet.
As of August 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 28 states in the US require SEX education and HIV education be taught, 18 of those require that the sex ed be “medically and scientifically accurate” and only nine require conversations about consent. There is power in oppression. And there is patriarchy in the curriculum—if there is curriculum at all.
Consent is something we should be teaching and practicing from as young of an age as possible and using throughout our entire lives. It’s not just an enthusiastic hell yes to sex. I use it all the time with my partner of 10 years, and he uses it with me. Two fingers or one tonight? Does that tickle? Are your nipples particularly sensitive this time of the month? Do you feel like feta in our watermelon salad tonight? Is it cool if I put this antique diamond ring I’ve been eyeing on the Amex—k thaaaaanks!
Teamwork is dreamwork.
Now, let’s take a step back in time. No, I’m not talking about when people believed the world was flat, although all these generations later, we STILL have those in the Flat Earth Society. Pretty amazing it took generations—literally hundreds of years—even with scientific data for the majority of us overcome this fallacy!
I’m talking about fkng Freud and the female orgasm.
In 1905 Sigmund Freud published Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Here, he differentiated between clitoral and vaginal orgasms, grading clitoral orgasms—and the women who had them—to be immature and infantile. His implications were basically that, women who experience clitoral orgasms are mentally unfit.
Patriarchy clit-blocking our pleasure—our absolute birthright!
And here’s where one of the greatest tools of misinformation was utilized, that’s still used immensely today.
During Freud’s day, there were pamphlets called marital sex manuals and marriage manuals which spread his toxic ideas into the households and minds of couples across the western world. At that time in America, women couldn’t vote, own property, or inherit property if we weren’t already married, and we definitely couldn’t have a bank account.
We basically had no rights in society unless we were a married woman. So naturally as it would follow, any woman who wanted to maintain what rights she did have, or who didn’t want her husband to throw her in an insane asylum back then—which by the way, happened in droves—would of course, do her best to cater to the male ego. She would give Oscar winning performances of faked vaginal orgasms in a matter of seconds to few minutes, ensuring he felt like the Don Juan of the century, thereby assuring him that he had in fact married a real mature woman.
Freud’s misinformation alone likely led to trillions of faked orgasms for the generations following. Here, one hundred plus years later, we have only more recently proved all genital orgasms are derived from the clitoris—whether the internal or external. And while we might experience different types of orgasms, there is no right or wrong way to experience pleasure as a clit owner, just like there is no right or wrong eye color.
Pictured here, a digital creation from 3-D sonography of the erect internal clitoris, first published for Museum of Sex in 2011.
For today’s womxn, who still fake orgasms with their partners (which many still do) what a peculiar paradox to consider. We are taught to believe that men are tough and strong, then we sacrifice our own needs and pleasure for fear of bruising their egos or making them feel inadequate.
Regardless of your gender or orientation, when you fake an orgasm, you perpetuate the oppression of all genders, including your own. You are not living truthfully. The pleasure gap will continue to persist until we speak up, speak out, and fight for our birthright to experience pleasure.
So when you spread your legs, don’t spread fake news!
It is the gradation of orgasms, still alive and well today in our modern day manuals— pop mags and media outlets—or what I call content mills, that with their need for eyeballs and clicks, perpetuate ideas & misinformation about "womanhood", continuing in Freud’s footsteps with headlines like, The 15 Types of Orgasms You Should Be Having or A-Spot Orgasms You Need Now, etcetera etcetera.
Women, queer folk, people of color, basically anyone who isn’t a heteronormative cis white male has endured years of cultural and psychological mutilation; what society has done to our psyche, and especially to the psyche of our respective sexualities is nothing short of tragic.
And it continues, especially when we’re not consciously aware of the work we must do within to combat it. We must be well equipped to be able to recognize headlines whose sole intention is to make us click.
In our year long course of Erotic Intelligence™ education, this past year we introduced an entirely new pillar. In addition to sexual and reproductive health, relationship education, consent education, and pleasure education, we have added digital literacy. And it tackles some of the bigger implications of technology than just questioning whether an article our aunt shared is factual. It tackles some of the elements of social media, and how that affects our overall self-worth, self-esteem, and human connection at large.
Of course we’ve all seen or heard about the Plandemic conspiracy video that took social media by storm a couple of months ago, perpetuating falsehoods that have cost lost lives. We’ve heard about the doctor pushing hydroxychloroquine who also believes in demon sperm. Anyone here have a devil fantasy? Halloween is just around the corner!
I firmly believe digital literacy is something we ALL need to take seriously in our daily lives. It’s so easy to give into our confirmation and negativity bias when we see a piece of information that validates our beliefs. It’s baffling to see some of the smartest people I know, believe some of this stuff.
I find myself frequently asking, when did everyone start taking this new crazy drug that’s making them insane, and why wasn’t I invited to the party?
I have seen first hand how media outlets will use my own quotes to serve their ulterior motives, sometimes not even just twisting and manipulating information for a slight misquote, but straight up putting words in my mouth.
And when it pertains to sex, it’s even more ubiquitous. Sex sells. Sex draws eyeballs.
In society, we have two negotiations around sex publicly—hiding It or bragging about it. Since we don’t discuss it enough regularly, it’s easy to make claims that just aren’t true—and, mislead people to believe those claims. I could literally show you slides from magazines, and do an entire presentation called, “I never said that.”
It’s not just the media outlets as a whole who are at fault. It’s the people write for them, who carry the same hunger that exists in all of us, even Freud himself—the need for validation, sometimes feeding into an even bigger need for fame, and notoriety. None of us can escape this aspect to human nature—the thirst within! Our ego is the brain's default mode.
It’s not all bad, if our greatest intention is to serve others, rather than serve the ego. Content mills exist in the form of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts too. And studies show that when we hear the same piece of information repeatedly, even if it’s not true, we are more prone to believe it. So when accounts repost and re-share, especially without accreditation like we see so often on Instagram, it’s hard to find where the initial source even came from. How can we fact check or motive check?
I wish, that in addition to brushing our teeth every morning, we would all check in with our thirst levels every day. When we commodify ourselves into individual brands—like we often do with our Instagram accounts—we commodify each other. It can be dehumanizing if we allow it. We must be extremely conscientious about how we utilize social media. And besides, do you really want to spend hours of your relaxing vacation updating stories, rather than enjoying in the present or just engaging in self-reflection?
One thing we can all ask ourselves, about our own social media posts, shares, and information, what is my intention, what are my motives behind why I am doing what I am doing, who does this effect?
Is it to inspire, educate, entertain, impact, or serve a greater good? Am I giving credit? Am I just documenting my life to look back on 5 years from now, or today, is my ego starving for attention? How else might I fill myself up and give myself validation today? Am I looking to the external to resolve internal wounds, rather than turning toward self- reflection?
After all, as the clitoris has taught us, TWATS ON THE INSIDE THAT COUNTS!
And here’s where the currents of redundant content mills, at times spreading misleading clickbait misinformation for eyeballs, notoriety, and clicks, conglomerate to the brands behind them.
Clicks equal money. Brands need clicks too. They also need money if they are to survive and if they are to please their investors. The reality is, it’s a slippery slope of doing good in the world, and selling out.
Let’s look at Goop, for example. They’re still doing well for themselves. It’s still a brand going strong. And so is the tobacco industry.
If you haven’t heard the story of Goop!, a few years ago before they were peddling orgasm scented candles, they started pedaling yoni eggs made of jade and rose quartz. Yoni eggs were used by ancient Japanese geishas to tone their pelvic floor muscles. But Goop! went overboard, making unsubstantiated claims, along with several other sites all over the interwebs, that yoni eggs balance hormones, balance chi, and promote collagen rejuvenation in the skin, reducing wrinkles and lines in the face. WHEW!
I remember going on the Her Rules radio show at the time to ring the alarm of what I do know to be a medical fact—with any porous material, even if you clean it, you are still running the chance of an infection.
Fast forward to 2018, and Goop! settled a class action lawsuit for their false claims in the amount of $145K. But the attention garnered from the novelty and allure in this intentional spread of misinformation, and the fact the eggs were constantly sold out, likely brought in more money than what they settled in court. And the eggs are still for sale on their website—just without all the misleading information.
For this brand, peddling false myths of magical pussy secrets was worth it. Who cares if it actually worked or not—they made money and they continue to make money.
At the end of the day, I’m not the judge to tell you if something is right or wrong. I don’t dare wish to be the person to tell you what orgasms you should be having or what brands you should or shouldn’t trust. I can tell you my thoughts based on years of research in my field, my studies, and my experiences. But I am not some holier than thou clitoral guru with all the easy answers ready to present for you on a platter.
YOU get to find them for yourself, within yourself. The onus and responsibility is on you to decide what’s right for you, the same way it’s your responsibility to figure out what contraception you like best, what positions work best for you, what your proclivities are, and what your standards are.
What I can offer today, are some basic ideas and strategies to consider, as we all navigate this wild world, sitting on an overload of information.
First, question everything. Remember when I suggested we check in with our own thirst levels and motivations? Doing this regularly will also help us to recognize motives and intentions in others.
When presented with something new, pause. Dig deeper. Take a deep breath. Take a step back. Where did this information come from? Who is sharing it? How old is this information? Is it a study, and if so, who funded it and how big is the study group?
Something that always blows my mind is how headlines draw definitive conclusions from studies in the field of sex, where the sample size is so small it seems ridiculous it’s even being pedaled as new science. 30 people for a sample size is not enough to tell you much. 52K for a sample size—now that’s a different story!
And most importantly, because we are feeling beings more than we are knowing beings: Ask yourself: does this headline, this new idea, or this article I’m reading play on my emotions? If you’re feeling disgust, outrage, fear, shock, or even that pesky confirmation bias, getting your beliefs validated, take a pause. What is your emotional investment in the information? Who is sharing the info, who is funding it, what is their motive, what is their intention, is this serving money, ego, power structures or patriarchy? Is it bringing in clicks for consumption? Could it be oppressive to certain groups? How could this negatively or positively impact society overall?
And by all means, don’t play into our shortened attention spans and share articles based on headlines, without thoroughly reading them first! I know, I know. I've been guilty of too. But our children's futures are on the line. We must do better.
Remember, brands and media work to sell you on prescriptives and the idea that their product is going to revolutionize something about your life. It’s there to solve a problem. Some of them actually do live up to the hype. Many do work to make our lives easier, better, and more efficient! But a ton of them are investing in PR, product placement, and various ways to manipulate you into thinking they’re the answer to all your problems. Most of the time though, things are just temporary distractions.
And finally, understand that like humans, the scientific method isn’t perfect. One of the issues with Covid-19 and the distrust that’s suddenly built around scientists and medical experts researching it, is that we’re all learning about it in real time. We obtain new information every day. And with that new information, comes the responsibility to being open to challenging and changing—not just our beliefs—but our protocols.
So be brave! Take your beliefs out on the back porch and beat them with a stick. Douse them in gasoline and set them on fire. Then open a bottle of wine, sit by that fire, and think of new ways you might shift to reframe your thinking.
We must work to recognize the currents of intention, motive, and human drive to understand the forces active at shaping public perception. Because at the end of the day, beliefs simply are not easily or quickly changed with facts, data, or proof. Public perception, whether true or false, right or wrong, good or bad, will always win over science. Beliefs are stronger than facts.
If there’s one thing you take away from today, please let it be this: what is now considered progressive will one day soon be the norm, and then eventually, antiquated, outdated, and replaced. What’s progressive now will soon be just as another step on the staircase of human evolution.
As our understanding deepens of gender, sexuality, and science, we continue to redefine, reconfigure, and rename aspects to our existence. Non-binary is a new term on the block, and the definition of queer has taken on various updated meanings over time. People still struggle with new language and new ideas; they don’t have the context or experience, and it’s easier to stay stuck in their comfortable ways than be open to new ones. It takes generations for real change to take hold.
But take hold, does it ever!