IMG_5390 FINAL-1Gina Frangello is the author of the novel My Sister’s Continent and the story collection Slut Lullabies. She is one of the most bold, fearless, unhindered writers I’ve ever read. After reading the manuscript of My Sister’s Continent, one editor was quoted as having said, “I couldn’t explain this book to a marketing rep without blushing or breaking down.” Here are six sex questions for the inimitable and amazing Gina Frangello.

So I’m at a party and a stranger asks what I do.  When I tell them I’m a sex columnist, they laugh and joke that they should send me a letter.  “I’m not that sort of columnist,” I say.

Their brow creases.  “Well then, what do you write about?”

When I tell them sexual politics, they often look twice as confused.  “What’s that?” they ask, or else they shrug and say, “Isn’t that quite a limited topic?”

It isn’t their fault that they aren’t aware.  In most communities, sex is so taboo that people just don’t register the sexual side of political issues.  They know Michele Bachmann’s anti-gay stance is destructive, but they don’t particularly consider it a sexual topic.  Neither do they think that the Miss Universe contest, or Anders Beiring Breivik’s sexist manifesto, impinge on people’s sexual lives. That’s not to say they don’t care, because often they really do.  But the word “sex” doesn’t enter their minds.  Brothel closures, sex workers’ rights, condoms in porn, gay suicide…once I mention these topics, a light goes on and they’re with me.  But the fact that we’re not encouraged to view these issues as sexually political speaks to the effect that sexual silencing can have.  (In fact, in a recent column, I wrote about Michele Bachmann and the damaging power that her silence can wield).

The truth is, when we don’t talk about a powerful human issue, suddenly it’s everywhere — the elephant in the room.  That elephant can be so darn hard to ignore that we have to play psychological tricks with ourselves to keep it invisible.  Our unconscious gets used to automatically suppressing the sexual so that our conscious minds stop making the connection.  This could be viewed as an adaptive quality.  (You should see how often people glare at me because I even mention sex).  But I believe we need to start reversing this process, especially since so many are missing the lies we’re being told about sexuality.

Seeing as you are reading this post, I’m confident that your eyes are open to sexual issues.  So I thought you might be especially stirred by a list I created in order to answer the question, “What is Sexual Politics?”  I’ve entitled the list, “What Sexual Politics Is,” and it contains some (but by no means all) of the political issues that fire me up, right now:

Sexual Politics is:

When you work in a brothel where your clients dodge payment, until the brothel building is deemed structurally unsafe, and, much to the delight of the neighbors, is eventually closed down.  The fact that you were working in dangerous conditions isn’t mentioned by the local press. (And will you get arrested?  And Jesus, where will you sleep tonight?).

When five year-old children in Amsterdam ask their teacher “What is sex?” and he tells them it is a loving act, and none of the parents prosecute.

When your teenage son commits suicide because he was bullied for being gay, and then, after his death, the bullies continue to chant “We’re glad you’re dead,” when a grieving family member is near.

Sexual politics is a  vibrator that’s illegal, even when it’s shaped like a rubber duck.  It’s when queer sex and queer love are looked on as sinful.  It’s when you want to marry your lover, but aren’t allowed.

It’s when a porn movie, with consenting actors, is more shocking to many than the war scenes on the news.

It’s the boy who says no to condoms.  It’s the girl who says no to pleasure.  It’s the kid who feels neither female nor male, but is told that isn’t good enough, and wants hir life to end.  (If this is you, dear one, please look to Kate Bornstein who is amazing).

It’s the man who spends time with a sex worker and suddenly feels embraced and at peace, even though, technically, he’s just made himself a criminal.

It’s a world that doesn’t understand when a trans woman is having sex with a male partner and they identify as gay.  Or a world in which people who are attracted to both men and women are told that they aren’t real unless they choose.

It is a woman who has experienced deep trauma and decides to bravely enact a rape fantasy to deal with her pain.  Then, after this role-play with a trusted partner, she feels significantly healed, but is described by so-called “feminists” as as victimizing herself.

It’s a Facebook wall of rape jokes by men who, apparently, are making jovial confessions online, yet Facebook refuses to remove the conversation.

It’s when the word “cunt” is considered more offensive than “cock,” or when you’re in love with more than one person, yet society tells you you’re not.

(And that’s just the start of it).

 

 

 

 

 

 

When our kids found out that we would be going to Amsterdam on our next trip, they badgered us not to miss the chance to smoke dope when we had the opportunity to do it legally.  We were called wimps for voicing doubt. We were reminded that we probably would not return to Amsterdam again, old as we are.  They pleaded with us not to be pussies.

A coffee house in Amsterdam is the place where you can buy and smoke marijuana, but not a cigarette.  That would be illegal.  Oddly, they do not have coffee there.  On our first day there, we had an Indonesian Rijsttafel near a coffee house. We passed it and it looked to be a pretty rough place.  There was an imposing bouncer-type dude outside wearing black leather and chains. We took him as representative of the clientele, and kept walking. There was no way we could walk inside that place.

We passed another coffee house the next day that had almost as alarming-looking characters outside it.  (I never knew people could pierce the backs of their necks and their breasts!) We left that place for people with a more powerful mission to smoke dope.

Two days later, we were in a very respectable part of town where there was a coffee shop.  Victor looked at me and asked what I thought.

“Uh, I don’t know,” I waffled.

Victor said that if we didn’t do it in this upscale neighborhood, we never would.  We didn’t want to disappoint the kids, right?

Victor walked inside and I followed.



It was located kitty-corner across the street from Rembrandt’s house.  It was as classy a coffee shop as we had seen.




The man at the bar gave us a drug menu.  We bought a marijuana cigarette and asked for matches. The joint was very narrow and conically shaped.  A third of it consisted of a filter of some sort. It was unimpressive. Victor lit it and we each took a puff and coughed violently.  We were out of practice.  I told Victor I didn’t think I could smoke it.  He said that it was now or never.  I didn’t want to disappoint the kids, did I?



We each took another puff and coughed like consumptives again.  We sat for a while and looked at the joint in the ashtray.  The matchbox was made in Sweden! I thought that was amazing!

Victor suggested that we try a really little puff and see if we didn’t cough so much.  So we took one or two wee puffs more.  About ten minutes passed.  I told Victor that I’d had enough.  He blinked at me.  He said he’d go get us cokes.

We sat over our joint. Half of it was still untouched. We drank some soda.  We looked at the joint.  We drank some more soda.  We looked at the ashtray.  I wondered where it was made.

Victor suggested he drop the partially smoked joint in the soda can. Then we could leave and walk home.  It seemed like a good idea to hide the fact we couldn’t finish it.  I guess we were embarrassed that we turned out to be minor league dope smokers.




I asked Victor if he could find his way home to the hotel.  I couldn’t have found my way in the best of circumstances.  It was my good fortune to have married a map-reading whiz.

My mind was meandering.  I feared I might wander away from Victor to follow my thoughts, so I asked him to keep checking that I was nearby.  He said I could count on him.

We were about two miles or more from the hotel as the crow flies, but the way the streets were mapped out, (do you remember the map I had you draw in an earlier piece?) it was about 100 miles.

I marched behind Victor carefully.  In most places it was impossible to walk next to each other because of the crowds and the swarms of speeding bicycles. After we had walked a block, Victor stopped and appeared puzzled.  He studied the map and then he turned around in a circle and, without speaking, started walking fast.  I tried to catch up, but first I had to explain to my knees that they had to lock with each step, or I would fall down.  If we had kept walking, it would have been all right, but when we stopped, my knees simply discontinued standard operation. Victor was totally involved in the whole map-reading experience and I didn’t want to interrupt him to ask if his knees were functioning normally.  I was anxious to get back to the hotel.

After a few minutes of walking, I stopped and yanked on Victor’s sleeve.

“We are in a hotel lobby!” I shouted.

He looked at me.

“Huh.  Well, it was a hotel lobby, but now it has turned back into a street again,” I said.

Victor patted me on the back.

While we walked, Victor peppered his map reading with mumbled responses to questions that I hadn’t asked.

“Thirty.”

“Yellow, I think.”

“Over there.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Possibly.”

Victor continued to stop, looking puzzled, at most corners to scrutinize the map. He invariably turned around 360 ° and then took off again suddenly.  I really needed to hold on to part of him.  It was quite congested and there were a surprising number of policemen staring at us, who subsequently morphed into tourists who were not actually looking at us. I tucked a finger in his waistband and trailed him closely.

“Victor, things are not what they seem,” I said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“What we see is not necessarily there,” I said.

Victor blinked at me.

When I asked Victor if he remembered that I were with him, he did not look surprised to see me.  I took that as a good sign.

I was seriously thirsty, but I did not want to mention it, because I had no intention of stopping until we got back into our hotel.

In actual time, it took an hour and a half to walk back to the hotel.  Victor got us back without a single mistake. When we got to the steps of the hotel, I asked Victor if he thought my knees would be able to understand what a staircase entailed.  He didn’t hear me, but I needn’t have worried, because my knees were able to figure out just how to act when faced with both climbing and descending a staircase.

When we got to our room, I filled the hotel glass with water several times and drank each glass quickly.  It was good water!

“My mouth is dry,” Victor said.

I poured a glass of water for him and brought it over.  He took a couple of sips, and handed it back to me.

“My mouth is dry, but I’m not thirsty,” he said.

“Huh!  I always thought they were the same thing!” I said.

I didn’t like how my lungs felt.  It was as though they were still filled up with smoke.  I wanted to know if Victor felt the same way, but it was way too much trouble to ask.

I lay down on the bed and closed my eyes.Victor said that it was 5:00 and we could leave for dinner at 6:30, if that was all right with me.

“We’ll see,” I said.

“Aren’t you hungry?” he asked.

“Nope.  I just want to lie down and watch where my mind is going,” I said.

Victor got out his computer.  I went into the bathroom and noticed that the tiles were blooming with tiny blue flowers. I had not noticed that they had tiny blue flowers on them before. It appeared that being stoned made possible for me to see how pretty things were.

When I got back to the bed, Victor looked at me and popped up on his elbow.

“What are you eating?” he asked.

“I’m not eating,” I said.

“Then what do you have in your mouth?” he asked.

“My mouth guard,” I answered.

“Why are you wearing your mouth guard?” he asked.

“My teeth are grinding.  Using my mouth guard is only sensible,” I said.

He went back to the computer on his chest.  He was reading his email.

I lay down on the bed and after a while I took out my mouth guard and poked Victor.

“Don’t. Sell. The Farm,” I  said.

“All right,” he said.

“I mean it,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

I was impressed that he was doing his email.  Victor has terrific powers of concentration.

I poked him again.

“Don’t make any big decisions,” I said.

“I won’t,” he said.

“This is not the time for making big decisions,” I said.

“I understand,” he said.

After a while, I began to say something to Victor but stopped.

“What?” he said.

I started to laugh.

“I just realized what I was going to say doesn’t make sense,” I said.

“What were you going to say?” he asked.

“I was going to say that I was happy that there were no bicycles riding around our bed,” I said.

We laughed a lot about how hard it would be for me to get to the bathroom at night if there were bicycles speeding around the bed all night long.

Victor was also laughing about something he was reading on the Internet.He tried to read it to me, but he was laughing too much for me to understand anything he was saying.

Victor remained obsessed with eating.  He asked me every few minutes if I was ready to leave for dinner.  I finally gave in and we walked to a restaurant. Victor took great pleasure his meal.  My meal was good, but I could have skipped food and just stayed in the room to think some more.

Later that night I was truly disappointed to see that the tiles in the room were just plain brown.  They were far prettier covered with tiny blue flowers.

We had no trouble driving from Brussels to Amsterdam, except for that one time the police roared their bright yellow motorcycles around our car frantically waving at us. I thought they were pulling us over, but they were simply indicating to Victor that if he planned to continue driving like an old fart, he had to move out of the faster lanes.  Victor said not to worry.  Our license plate was French.  Anyone who objected to our driving just assumed the French were bad drivers.

Then we arrived in Amsterdam. 
Please go get a pencil and a blank piece of paper.
Now do the following:
Close your eyes.
Draw a spiral on the paper. 
Then draw lots of Xs through the spiral. 
(Keep your eyes closed, now!) 
Crumple the paper up, flatten it out again and turn it 90°.
Now draw several happy faces. 
Okay? 
Now open your eyes. 
You just drew the actual map of Amsterdam!

When we entered Amsterdam we were immediately trapped in a maze. Canals randomly intersected the roads and swarms of speeding bikes appeared from nowhere. The street signs were small and illegible, however, they could have been enormous and it would not have helped us at all. The names of the streets were impossibly long. Most of the vowels were doubled up and the consonants were huddled together like little bouquets.

Eventually, we found our hotel. (It took about the same length of time as it took us to drive from Brussels to Amsterdam.) We bumped our bags up the stairs to our hotel lobby and Victor got instructions to the garage.

Our room was not yet available, so I sat in the lobby with the bags and read my book.  I read and I read and I read.  An hour passed and Victor still wasn’t back.  The room was finally ready, so I bumped all the bags down a flight and up a flight and then to the elevator in a different building.  I settled our bags in the room and unpacked.

An hour and a half after Victor drove away from the hotel, he returned.  The “parking surcharge” listed in the hotel information turned out not to be for a hotel garage, but actually for a public parking garage, which was a considerable distance from the hotel.  It took him a while to find it.

Victor walked in and explained all this. I asked him if he remembered my broodje which I had forgotten in the pocket of the door.  (A broodje is a Flemish or Dutch sub, or hoagie, or po’boy, or hero, understand?)

Well, was Victor annoyed!  We had to walk all the way back to the garage to retrieve my broodje, so the car wouldn’t smell like rotten meat after six days parked in Amsterdam.  When we got there, I noticed a sign that said that you must retrieve your car after four days.  We were staying six days.  Aha!  That was something Victor didn’t notice when he parked. In order to enter the garage to collect your car, (or your broodje, as the case may be,) you need to scan your parking card.  Unfortunately,Victor had left the parking card in the car.  We were stymied. So we illegally walked down the driving ramp to the car.

I told Victor that we should ask the guy in the booth whether we could leave the car for the six days we were staying in Amsterdam, or we actually had to take it out, pay, and park it again on the fourth day.  He thought it was ridiculous, but we asked.  The guy in the booth said we did indeed have to unpark and repark our car before four days were up or we would be charged a great deal of money when we finally took the car out of the garage.

Then he handed us tram tickets.  The guy in the booth said that each of us had to take the tram twice or we would have to pay more to park the car.  We had to use the tram chip cards and make sure that they dinged both getting on and off the tram.  If the chips did not record that we used the tram twice, all bets were off.

We found a tram stop and waited. One came quite quickly and we got on, making sure both our cards dinged.  The cards said “One Hour” on them. Since the rest of the card was in Dutch, Victor asked the driver if we had to actually stay on the tram for one hour.  The driver said we did.  We sat down and wondered where the tram would take us in an hour’s time.  We looked at our watches.  (Um, okay, 4 o’clock, we have to ride until 5.) Then a young woman interrupted our thoughts to tell us that we didn’t actually have to stay on the tram for an hour, we just had the option of doing so.  We thanked her and got off the tram at the next stop and wound our way back to the hotel on foot.

Victor thanked me for forgetting my broodje.  Parking ended up costing us 8 € per day.  If I had not forgotten my broodje, we would have paid 50 € per day times six days, plus a few hours more, (which would count as an extra day,) equals 350 € which translates to about $490…just for parking!

Victor was very happy with me for being forgetful, which was a nice change of pace for me, since being forgetful usually gets me in Dutch, so to speak.

People like me don’t go to Europe. White trash takes a late model vehicle to all vacation destinations. If you can’t drive there you can forget it, because dad only works summers, unable to acquire a skill set that he can utilize all year round.

Warning: this post is not for anyone under 18, faint of heart, or my mother.

When you think of Amsterdam, certain things immediately come to mind:

So imagine my surprise when I, for all intents and purposes, a “good girl”, was asked to be the keynote speaker at an event celebrating pubic hair (or lack thereof) at an erotic novelty shop.

You see, I made this little film that has caused quite a ruckus, tarnishing the shiny patina on my ‘good’ name.

It’s a silly film. A cute film. Despite the title and subject matter, it’s extremely innocent…

… if you also discount the pink shots and porn stars.

My very first bikini wax (at the age of 34) was a toxic disaster. No seriously. Toxic. Some people just shouldn’t do some things.

A lesson learned too late.


Image © 2007 She Shoots to Conquer, LLC.
All Rights Reserved

When infection set in, I immediately called the friend who had recommended that I try it in a full-on rage.

Words like “follicular” and “rape”, “misogyny”, and “death of feminism” spewed forth from my frothy lips. “Why do we do this to ourselves?” “How is this considered beautiful?” “What perv wants to fuck a twelve-year-old!”

After she talked me down, she explained to me that what happened to me didn’t happen to everyone. Clearly, I had a bad reaction.

This made me even madder.

“Really??? So this isn’t just one of the perks???”

She jokingly told me that I ought to make a documentary about the experience; and having just finished watching Why We Fight, she suggested I call it Why We Wax and make it a spoof; noting that these particular WMDs were obviously Weapons of Mass Distraction.

Fast forward five months.

Finding ourselves with nothing better to do that summer, we decided to turn a bad joke into a better reality. We’d make the film together. A short one. Funny. Without any man-bashing or über-feminine agenda. We’d make a fair and balanced assessment gathered from all perspectives: Gay & Straight, Male & Female. We’d tackle fashion, function, fetish, fad, feminism and fun. We’d research the origins of the Brazilian (not Brazil, btw) and dig through the annals of time to get to the root of where it all began.

And so now, just one short year after completion, our little film is in competition at the International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA) in the company of some of the most acclaimed documentaries of 2008 from around the world.  Cool, huh?

But not really the point of this little tale, is it?

You want to know how this ‘good’ girl ended up in the company of Candida RoyalleXaviera Hollander and Willem van Batenburg, don’t you?

You naughty thing, you.

Well, it’s simple enough. Bod-mod trends (as with most everything else) seem to start with porn, become embraced by the gay community and eventually get watered down and become acceptable for mainstream consumption.

So who better to start with than porn stars?

Candida Royalle quickly became our little porn mommy. We loved her! Candida is not only a leader in female-centric adult films, but she herself is an enlightened, empowering woman and successful entrepreneur. Hers was an incredibly intense interview and it was she who connected us with the brilliant ladies who own and operate Mail&Female – Amsterdam’s version of Babeland – when she heard the film was going abroad.

And these Mail&Female broads whipped up an event too spectacular for words: An entire evening devoted to the celebration of SCHAAMHAAR (pubic hair).

Could a little film like ours ask for better press???

There was to be a coloring contest!

Fun Betty’ give-a-ways!

Hair-based performance art!

Vintage early-80s porn with hirsute girl-on-girl action.

Just like any other cocktail party, really…

… where the cocks have tails.

And at the center of it all was… me.

The ‘good’ girl.

What would my mother say???

To kick off the evening, I gave a speech about the film and a clip was shown. After which, a lengthy Q&A ensued.

Now, I’ve done a fair amount of these sessions over the past year and American audiences have had some interesting questions that have led to evocative discussions. But Americans have been well-trained, or are too prudish, to ever ask anything too personal.

Or maybe I’ve just been lucky.

The Nederlanders were different. These people were interested in every sordid detail, from the exact (and I mean exact) description of my malady to my own pelt preferences (both personal and partner-based) and everything in between, like: “Describe how your cunt* felt without hair for the first time. Surely you enjoyed the licking much more than before.”

*“Cunt” (or “Kut” in Dutch) is considered quite harmless, but is nonetheless shocking when you’re jetlagged all to hell.

Now normally, I would have come up with some quippy retort to deflect such intimate and what some may consider rude questions, but it was as if, suddenly, in these surroundings, I was in Bizarro-world, where it was good to be bad and bad to be good.

I mean, I was surrounded by crotchless panties and impossibly long strands of anal beads.

What happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam, right?

Fueled by less than four hours’ sleep in 36 hours’ time, three glasses of prosecco, the residual effects of the Klonopin/Whiskey chaser I had on the flight over ‘The Pond’ and a slight contact high from the oh-so-fragrant streets, I decided to let loose and answer each question in minute detail. These people genuinely wanted to know, and in Bizarro-world, I wanted to tell them.

In what rapidly became a lively and animated group discussion, Xaviera Hollander and I debated the best way to ‘prune a hedge’. Willem van Batenburg and I talked shop about the infamous bed scene and when someone challenged me, calling me a hypocrite based on my personal aesthetic desires vs. the conclusion we arrived at in the film, I threw my hand on my hip and saucily retorted in a manner that delighted the audience:

“Listen, sister. I judge not. I’ll take what I can get, however I can get it. If it comes the way I like it, so much the better for me… and for him!”

I made bad girls around the world proud that night.

And no one would be the wiser.

Because what happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam.

Of course, I forgot that the entire evening was being filmed, to be shown on Holland-wide television as part of the IDFA Opening Night festivities.

Bad girl.

Very bad girl.