How I became a sex educator

I became a sex educator out of necessity. At the age of 13 I had to teach my grandmother about female anatomy – specifically the hymen.

I guess I should back up a little bit. I was raised by a very sex-positive librarian mother. No knowledge was forbidden. I grew up wandering the stacks of libraries and I learned early, in the days of Dewey Decimal and card catalogs, to find the information I wanted. In addition to my own research my mother always answered questions honestly and she was proactive about giving me information. The first time she gave me “the talk” it was matter of fact and utterly without shame or judgment.

My mother passed away after a battle with cancer just days before my 13th birthday. That’s when I moved in with my dad and his parents. My grandmother ruled the roost and she was old fashioned in the worst possible ways. She’d never had good information about sex or sexuality. Her attempt to get a diaphragm in anticipation of her wedding night had gone badly and she was left with no contraception, which meant she became pregnant almost immediately. So I get where she was coming from. And although I have more empathy now, it was not a good environment for a young girl to come into her sexuality.

Back to the hymen; I’d been eagerly anticipating my period for at least a couple years so when I actually started bleeding I was pretty excited. (How lucky for me that I knew what to expect.) It happened when an already menstruating girlfriend of mine was over for the weekend and she was appalled by the giant pads that were waiting for me in the bathroom cupboard. So we hopped on our bikes and made a trek to the local drug store. She showed me her favorite kinds of tampons, explained the ins and outs of different applicators, and finally we choose a box. We also bought a pack of gum, because just buying tampons would have been embarrassing.

It didn’t take long for my grandmother to discover the tampons, and when she did she pitched a fit. She was convinced using tampons would break my hymen. At thirteen years old I wasn’t yet equipped to have a discussion with my grandmother about women only being valued for their purity, or about the harmful (and irrelevant) concept of virginity. But I did know enough about female anatomy to set her straight. First I told her that having engaged in gymnastics and horse back riding it was entirely possible my hymen was already torn. (As advanced as I was for 13, I didn’t yet know that the notion of tearing a hymen is just one more way violence against women is steeped in our language, and that stretching is far more accurate.) This did not comfort her.
My grandmother thought the hymen was a solid layer of membranous tissue covering the entire opening of the vaginal canal. Never mind that a simple logic exercise would prove this untrue; how would you bleed once a month without an opening?

So off I went to grab the appropriate edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (a gift from my other grandmother, who had passed only a year before my mother.) I turned to the blessedly complete and accurate section on female anatomy and read her the passage on the hymen and well as showing her the picture, and made it clear there was more than enough room for a tampon. (I didn’t mention I’d already explored with inserting things far larger than those little cotton plugs.) She wasn’t happy about it, but the point was mostly conceded. Still, when she took me to my first gynecologist appointment when I was 17, she did ask for confirmation that my hymen was intact. It was. Proof that it can take quite a beating.

It wasn’t only my grandmother who required my schooling, and a pattern began to emerge. As needs arose in my life I would seek out information, and then I would be the most informed person among my peers and in turn I would share the information I’d learned. This process happened for safer sex and contraception while I was a senior in high school and again for female pleasure and orgasms soon after.

The search for accurate information about contraception in the pre-internet days could be a story all on it’s own. It was an adventure that included chatting with a friend’s mother who was a sex worker, paging through inadequate books in the library, and making more than one pharmacist extremely uncomfortable.

By college I was the go-to dorm room when people wanted to discuss their contraceptive choices. I went along on condom shopping trips for moral support and I regularly escorted friends to the local sex-positive sex store while touting the benefits of vibrators and clitoral stimulation.

That was roughly 15 years ago. A lot has changed. The internet has helped. But the right information still isn’t getting to the people who need it. Not only is there a lack of good information, but there’s sea of misinformation to wade through. That’s why I’ve continued to seek out the best, most accurate information to share with others. These days I have more resources, and more training, too.

When I worked in animal welfare we used to say we wanted to put ourselves out of a job. As a sex educator I feel the same way. I wish young people got so much good information from their families and their schools and their libraries that the notion of adult sex education was redundant. But I don’t see that happening any time soon. And that’s just for the basics; for information that covers health, safety, and pleasure. Add in some of my specialities, like intimacy and BDSM, and I think I’ll have more than enough work to do for a very long time.



Do you need your very own well-informed friend? I offer coaching and instruction in person or by phone or skype on a wide range of topics. Contact me and let’s get started.

Spartacus goodies for Mapping the Vulva attendees!

You may have seen on social media that Spartacus is sponsoring my upcoming class, Mapping the Vulva, by providing door prizes.

Well, I went to pick up the prize packages today and I was absolutely blown away by how generous they are. Check it out:

Package one contains Blown Glass Kegel Eggs, a 10" mini flogger, a "Rub Me" Massage Bar, 2oz of Hydra Organic Lube, 50ml of Uber Lube, the Hello Touch by Jimmy Jane, the OVO Ti, and Y-style Nipple/Clit camps.

Package one contains Blown Glass Kegel Eggs, a 10″ mini flogger, a “Rub Me” Massage Bar, 2oz of Hydra Organic Lube, 50ml of Uber Lube, the Hello Touch by Jimmy Jane, the OVO Ti, and Y-style Nipple/Clit camps.

Package two contains Blown Glass Kegel Eggs, 4oz of Sliquid Silver, a "Rub Me" Massage Bar, 4.2oz of Sliquid Organics, "The Right Spot" Vibrating Silicone Dildo, The Kink Kit (Cuffs, slapper, blindfold, clamps) and an OVO T2.

Package two contains Blown Glass Kegel Eggs, 4oz of Sliquid Silver, a “Rub Me” Massage Bar, 4.2oz of Sliquid Organics, “The Right Spot” Vibrating Silicone Dildo, The Kink Kit (Cuffs, slapper, blindfold, clamps) and an OVO T2.

Aren’t those amazing???

Here’s how to win: Everyone who buys pre-sale tickets to Mapping the Vulva gets entered and everyone who shows up to class (including door sales) gets entered, so if you buy your tickets in advance you’ve got double the chance to win!

logo Huge thanks to Spartacus!

Also, while I’ve got your attention, how about taking a minute to vote for me in Kinkly’s Sex Superhero’s contest? All you have to do is click a button – no forms to fill out! kinkly_logo_352x102

Lady Cave Spelunking; Or, The Search for the G-Spot Rages On

M0017861 Vaginal examination , from Maygrier, Nouvelles...1825
Yet another study has been released telling women how they can, and should, find orgasms and sexual pleasure. And as usual the online commentary is immediate.

The way science tells women they’re supposed to enjoy sex is as fickle as the way science tells us we’re supposed to have a healthy diet. And like the high vs low fat diet or the carb vs no carb debate, the controversy between the clitoral and vaginal orgasm rages on.

I’m thrilled that they’re doing studies at all, as women tend to be left out of much scientific research. (Prescription medications are often only tested on men, for example.) Where I take issue is that this is simply another set of ‘shoulds’ bound to make women feel broken or inadequate.

The first problem with this research, at least the way it’s described in a Salon article, is that they’re looking for an actual structure in the vaginal wall. And although the g-spot can have an apparent texture, especially during high arousal, it isn’t a distinct anatomical structure.

In fact, the g-spot isn’t a spot at all. It’s simply an area of the vaginal wall which can be in different areas and be of different sizes. What you’re really aiming for is the urethral sponge, which becomes engorged during arousal. That’s because the urethra is surrounded by erectile tissue, so it becomes engorged right along with the rest of the network of erectile tissue found in the vulva, vagina, and surrounding structures.

As for g-spot orgasms, and female ejaculation, which are also called into question in the recent article, maybe you have to see them to believe them. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving side of these orgasms and while that may only be anecdotal, I’ve got the puddles to prove it.

What all of this research glosses over is that there are a variety of ways to reach orgasm. From clitoral stimulation to penetration to full body energetic orgasms and more. There’s no sense invalidating anyone’s experience or pleasure.

The main point is that all bodies are different. What’s important is that women (or people of any gender identity) get to know their own bodies well. It takes some thorough hands-on research to learn what your body likes. From there you can show your partners how you like to be touched.

For partners: never assume the person you’re with now will like what the last person you were with liked. Rather than making assumptions, ask questions. But not just any questions. Questions like, “Do you like this,” or “Is this okay,” will not elicit the most valuable information. Try asking, “How do you like to be touched,” or “Would this be better harder or softer?” When you ask an open ended question, or a question with a choice between two things, you get much more useful information than a yes/no question gives you.

In my practice the most common thing I tell people is to slow down. The problem with talking about orgasms is that it can become very goal oriented. It leaves people who aren’t having orgasms out of the discussion of intimacy and sexual pleasure. And it creates even more anxiety around sexual performance. This is a dangerous cycle because anxiety about performing makes it harder to relax and enjoy. That’s why I urge everyone to find multiple paths to intimacy. If your journey leads to an orgasm that’s fantastic, but even if it doesn’t, it’s still worth the trip.


Want to learn more? I’ve got a class coming up in Portland that will cover all this information and more. Mapping the Vulva: Anatomy, Communication, Touch & Pleasure. If you’re anywhere else in the world we can have a session by phone or skype. Contact me to get started.

Class spotlight: Mapping the Vulva

Screen shot 2014-08-30 at 6.07.35 PM

I’m thrilled to announce another upcoming class:
Mapping the Vulva: Anatomy, Communication, Touch, & Pleasure

Class description: There is so much mystery surrounding vulvas that it’s become a pop-culture joke. From Orange is the New Black to Gay Men Draw Vaginas – where even the title is inaccurate. Unfortunately, the joke is on us. With vulvas being a place of mystery, and worse – a source of shame – women’s ability to receive pleasure from this area of their body can be extremely diminished. In this class we will dispel misinformation and teach you all about the vulva from anatomy to styles of touch. In addition to the external genitalia the underlying anatomical structures, the vagina, and the g-spot will also be covered.

But we won’t dive straight in. As with all of my classes, the content is shown through the lens of intimacy and connection. We will cover styles of communication that will set both the giver and the receiver of touch at ease and give you tools to communicate your desires. There is a whole world of pleasure available if giver and receiver are willing to learn how to relax, open up, and to touch and receive touch.

People of all genders and sexualities are welcome to attend, either solo or with a partner or friend. This class will be a safe, supportive environment for people to learn. The class will be part lecture with visual aids and part live demonstration. We will use index cards so that attendees can ask questions anonymously.

For those that desire more in-depth exploration or guidance I am offering private coaching at a discounted rate to anyone who attends this class. Also, everyone who attends will be going home with gloves and lube samples for home practice!

Date: Sunday, October 5

Cost: $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Assure your space by purchasing tickets now.

There’s a lot going on in the next couple months – and beyond. Stay up to date by signing up for my mailing list.

Class spotlight: Empowering Enthusiastic Consent (plus a poll, newsletter signup, and more!)

It may seem like things have been quiet lately but there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes. You may have noticed a website overhaul which includes some new content. I’ve also been working on some business development and continuing education projects. More to come on these soon. For now, I’m pleased to announce that I’m finally launching a newsletter. The Quaintrelle Quarterly: Emphasizing a Life of Passion. Signup now!

Also, you may have noticed the new Upcoming Events tab, and boy is it filling up fast! With so much going on, I’ve decided that each upcoming event and class deserves it’s own post, starting with my next class: Empowering Enthusiastic Consent for Hotter Play and Better Sex!

Class description:

Think you know everything there is to know about consent? Think again. It’s a lot more than a simple yes, and certainly more than the absence of a no. Those of us active in the BDSM world have a leg up. We’re used to negotiating and to stating our needs and boundaries. But a lot of subtleties go unexplored.

Some of our earliest memories include enduring unwanted touch; from hugs and pats on the head to pinches on the cheek and kisses from relatives, we’re trained to endure touch to be polite. That’s a lot of baggage to unpack.

This class isn’t the lecture you’re expecting. Sure, you’ll learn some facts and statistics but you’ll also have a chance to share your own experiences. Not only that, you’ll get up out of your seats to participate in (fully-clothed) exercises to help you learn what embodied consent feels like.

When our partners are completely comfortable knowing that we won’t cross lines, when we find our inner ‘yes,’ that’s when the really hot stuff can begin. Because consent isn’t just about asking for permission from others, it’s also about being in consent with yourself. This class will help you figure out what you want and how to ask for it.

Details:
Sunday, September 7, 2014 · 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
University Place Hotel (Crater Lake Meeting Room)
310 SW Lincoln Street, Portland, OR 97201
$5.00 PLA members, $10.00 non members


I’ve also got a poll running to help me decide what classes to offer in the coming year. I’d love your feedback. And don’t hesitate to get creative with the “other” option!

That’s all for now!

xoxo,
Stella

What is a munch?

I talk to a lot of people who are either new to the kink scene or are curious but not yet involved. The general wisdom, and common advice, given to newcomers is that they should attend a munch. This advice is sometimes questioned because a munch can be an intimidating first step, especially for people that are shy, introverted, or experience social anxiety.

Recently I’ve felt my own reservations about this advice. I was talking to a young, attractive, submissive woman online and she was asking me about getting involved in kink. I was about to type the stock response about munches and then I had to stop myself. I felt like I was throwing her to the wolves. Instead I suggested we meet so I could give her an overview of kink scene culture before she dove in.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love the scene and love munches – but I’ve lost some of the stars in my eyes and I realize that just like any slice of society, the kink world has a dark side. And we’re doing newcomers an injustice by pretending that isn’t the case.

Here’s a heavily abridged version of what Wikipedia has to say about munches:

A munch is a casual social gathering for people involved in or interested in BDSM. Munches often take place at a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop; the organizer usually reserving a large table, a back area, or a private room. People are free to arrive and leave within the specified hours. The primary purpose is socializing, although some munches also have announcements or demonstrations from local organizations or individuals. Munches are meant to help those who are curious about BDSM meet others, become more comfortable, and better informed. Munches can also be a place to get advice, or pass on anecdotes about BDSM experiences.

Unlike a play party, most munches are informal affairs that discourage fetish attire or BDSM play. Some munches may be restricted to a specific group; such as women, or submissives. Munches can be very specific to their region, city, or neighborhood. Each munch is different and reflects the personality of the group that attends it.

As for Portland, we’re a very kinky town and there’s a munch just about every day of the week. In addition to having different munches for different parts of town there are different munches for different interest groups – such as those divided by age, gender identification, or sexuality. If you’re on FetLife you can find a list of Portland Munches here, and whether you’re on Fet or not you can find a calendar of all the kinky goings on in Portland here.

So, what should you expect at a munch?

As mentioned above, each munch has it’s own feel. This is influenced by the venue, the organizers, and the regulars who attend. So it’s well worth checking out a couple of different munches to see which one is the best fit for you. If you’re shy, maybe the introverts munch is the way to go. Another great way to start is to get in touch with organizers/greeters in advance so you’ll have a friendly face looking out for you.

What’s a greeter? Well, most munches have organizers or greeters who attend most if not all of their particular munch meetings and who look out for newcomers to try to give them a warm welcome and introduce them to some folks. Keep in mind these are just people, and volunteers at that, and no one is perfect. If you show up to a munch and aren’t greeted right away – or even at all – don’t take it personally. Maybe you look so comfortable no one noticed you’re new or maybe the greeters were just busy with other people. Take some initiative and introduce yourself to someone, let them know you’re new. Most people will either introduce you to a greeter or do the job themselves. Kinksters are, by and large, a friendly and welcoming bunch of people.

One caveat: Kinksters are still just people. So like any group of people there are some duds. Or, more gently, some people who just might not be the best fit for you as friends and play partners. And, at worst, there are some people who intentionally prey on newcomers.

But don’t fret. This is no reason to stay away. Simply be cautious as you would in any new situation. Take your time getting to know people and the scene. It can be tempting, when all of these options suddenly become available, to dive in head-first like a kid in a candy store. Especially if, like most of us, you’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. But it’s well worth getting your bearings first. Get to know some people you trust and get to know the reputations of people you’re considering playing with or dating.

If you already know what you’re into don’t hesitate to ask around about groups or parties that specialize in that topic – but don’t be in a rush to figure out what you like. Munches are a great place for general chat and to get to know people as people – there’s no need to even talk about kink.

Keep this red flag in mind: if someone tries to control who you talk to or tries to be your only source of information, something is wrong. Get to know a range of people and make your own decisions.

I really do think munches are a great way to get to know people and get introduced to those in the scene. And they’re a great chance to socialize for regulars, too.

I’m a greeter for one of the Portland munches and while sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the task I keep doing it because I firmly believe munches are a valuable resource for the community and I’m dedicated to making them as safe a space as possible for newcomers and regulars alike.

If you’re in the Portland area come see me some Thursday night.

Showing my work.

I did a couple of photoshoots nearly two weeks ago and I’ve been waiting for the results not too patiently ever since. I’m not the one who needs to do the culling and editing, so it’s hard not to expect instant gratification.

Although modeling is closer to a hobby than part of the free-lance puzzle that is my job, I still get very excited whenever I’m asked to shoot.

collage

Seemingly unrelated, I went on a trip to Powell’s books today, with a particular book in mind. Powell’s is a dangerous place for me and I have to be very strict with myself not to walk out with an unmanageable pile of books every time.

I grabbed the book I was there for and then something else caught my eye. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. I’m a huge fan of his book, Steel Like an Artist and I hadn’t known he had a new book out.

Although it hadn’t been on my list his first book was such an inspiration to me I figured that this new installment was a worthwhile impulse buy. I’m only 40 pages in and already so glad I picked it up.

What does this have to do with modeling? Well, the book pointed out to me how fixated I am on end results. I did these photoshoots and now I’m waiting for images to show you. I do the same thing with writing – I wait for a publication announcement, complete with book cover, before I say anything.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe sometimes the process is worth sharing too.

I’m going to try to keep this in mind in my day to day life and work. I’m going to try to find more value in the process that other people might like to hear about. And maybe sometimes I can post behind the scenes details, too.

Heck, if a photoshoot involves being dunked in a cold river at 8am that’s going to get someone’s attention, right?

Let’s talk about fisting

Well, the Mystery Box Show performance has come and gone, and it was an amazing experience. I can’t remember the last time I was so nervous but once I stepped on stage it was sheer exhilaration. Now I’m wondering if I have any other stories up my sleeve so I can do it again!

Did you miss the show? Not to worry! There’s a video you can watch right here:

Telling a story for Mystery Box!

I’ve been a fan of the Mystery Box Show for most of the time they’ve been up and running and I’ve been thinking about telling a story for just as long.

1911664_506749909430277_1413592310_n

Well, the time has finally come! I pitched an idea and they’ve put me in the next show. I’m both excited and terrified. Get your tickets here.

And just ten days later I’ll be teaching my third class with my fellow erotica author Emily Bingham. Follow our shenanigans on our joint website, Emily and Stella Present.

Bound to please (NSFW)

As you may have noticed, I’m a sucker for a good photo or illustration, even more so when it’s of my work. So I couldn’t resist throwing my hat in the ring when I saw one of my favorite fetish artists was having a contest. Coax Dreams selected my story as one of the winners and now I have this lovely illustration to show for it! Stella_Harris_inked_small

Bound to Please

Casey was both honored and terrified to be the centerpiece at the event. Although many of the attendees were her friends she knew that anonymity didn’t always bring out the best in people. She could hear muttering in the room as Ona finished tying her. Everyone had been promised something special but details had been kept under wraps.

Casey was bound on her knees with a piece of bamboo acting as a spreader bar. Her elbows were held behind her back with another length of bamboo and her hands in front of her body held a tray loaded with toys. She caught only a glimpse of what was on the tray before she was blindfolded.

The curtains parted and the response was immediate; gasps, giggles, and a smattering of applause. Ona explained the rules, “One person at a time will be allowed behind the curtain. You can use any of the tools provided. I’ll be timing everyone one minute, so work fast. And remember, no permanent damage!”

Hearing Ona explain what people could do made Casey shudder. She wished that she’d insisted on more limits. This had seemed like fun when she’d agreed but now the reality of her situation was sinking in.

Casey heard the curtains close and didn’t know if someone was inside with her until she felt the tray move. A toy had been chosen. Casey smelled the rose beneath her nose a moment before she felt the petals glide over her breasts. The light touch gave her goosebumps. Then she felt the thorns press into her skin, a light scratch at first followed by a piercing pain.

Time was called and the curtain moved again. The next person wasted no time getting started. Casey felt what must have been a feather gliding down her side and shrieked with laughter. Her whole body bucked and she feared she’d drop the tray, breaking the one rule she was held to. The audience listening outside laughed, too. If they were amused by what she was going through it would only encourage the next person to get a louder reaction.

The next time the curtain moved there was a long pause before she felt the tray shift. Were they choosing a tool or building anticipation? When Casey felt the sharp pain in her foot she screamed. As the sensation continued she got used to it and realized it was more shock than pain. A blade was being dragged along the bottom of her foot. She swayed on her bound knees and gasped.

Another person in and then a pinching sensation as harsh clamps were attached to her nipples. Casey whimpered and struggled against the rope. She felt the inadequate latex thong she wore slide against her wet cunt as she moved. She feared the next person into the room would see wet all down her thighs.

Minute after minute and sensation after sensation, Casey never knew what to expect. And there were at least a dozen people to go.