When Secretary Sebelius says that Plan B could pose health risks for teens, is she really thinking straight?  After all, Dr. Megan Evans, in RH Reality Check, writes, “Tylenol is over-the-counter and far more dangerous with far more potential for adverse outcomes. Oh, and pregnancy in a ten- to 11-year-olds also has far more adverse outcomes than a small, but effective dose of Plan B.”  Wise words.  In fact, according to the Guardian, for every 100,000 American women who give birth to live babies, 16.7 of them die.  And that’s not to mention the damage that post-natal depression can cause.

Evans’s grounded, intelligent point will doubtless be ignored by many.  Witness that since news of the Plan B decision broke, parents have been stating how brokenhearted they’d be if their own daughter didn’t ask their advice before taking Plan B.  This, they argue, supports Sebelius’s decision.  But the ruling isn’t just about parents who adore their kids.  It is also about young people who come from abusive families and are afraid to turn to their guardians for support.  It’s about those who live in the middle of nowhere and can’t drive themselves to the doctor.  It’s about those who have been date-raped and can barely think straight.

And it’s also about all of us, regardless of sex, gender and age, because when you control human sexuality, you control intimacy, life and the body itself.

I’d be surprised if that wasn’t a power trip.

Given these recent events, my political fantasy world has gone wild.  I mean, what if young people felt so afraid of pregnancy that they decided to stop screwing the opposite sex, but decided, instead, to all start having same-sex relationships.  “Don’t risk pregnancy,” they’d shout, “be gay!  There are fewer risks!”  I bet parents and politicians would be hitting the roof, showing their true homophobia, and Plan B would be in the bubblegum aisle sooner than you could say FDA.

Or what about if all the heterosexual under-seventeens who live in states where sex toys are illegal each ordered a vibrating rubber duck from Good Vibes, figuring this was safer than partnered sex without Plan B?  This could prompt the Vibrating Duck Revolution of 2012.  Fifteen year-olds throughout America would be sinking into their bubble baths, pledging their virginity to their rubber ducks.  And what would the police do?  Storm into these bathrooms and arrest these young rebels?  I’m not being entirely ironic when I say they might. I’m sure families, religious leaders and politicians would go nuts.  There’d be complaints about police pocketing ducks that weren’t theirs to pocket and there’d be anti-masturbation posters everywhere.  “We do not have evidence to prove that vibrating ducks are safe for under-seventeen’s,” the politicians would announce.  “Further testing is needed.”

See the mad place this is sending me to?

If Plan B is safer for an eleven year-old than Tylenol and they can also buy condoms in the bubblegum aisle, then the decision on Plan B is definitely a political one.

So.  What’s Plan C?



A Final Note:  This is the final installment of Hot Topic.   I have so enjoyed writing at TNB and receiving all your wonderful comments.  Thank you all so much for reading!  I will still see you all on the TNB site, as part of the community.  In the meantime, please do keep up with me.  I blog, most days, at www.lanafox.com.

Be safe, be proud, be you.



In the last two weeks, two TNB writers have written about masturbation (thank you Smibst and Marni Grossman). Why not make it a threesome? Tis the season, right?

Specifically, I’d like to focus on the vibrator.

I was 29 when I visited my first actual sex toy shop. I went with a couple of girlfriends from my kung fu class to look for Valentine’s Day gifts for our men. Together, we were trouble.

First, there was V, the dark-haired Filipina-American who had spent 8 years in the army and who could arm-wrestle any man stupid enough to challenge her under the table. I have broken up fights between her and overzealous guys at dance clubs on more than one occasion. Second, there was M, the ample-chested knockout who never failed to turn a head with her screaming feminine vibe. She has also been the cause of a few scuffles at dance clubs – but perhaps for less confrontational reasons. Third, there was me, their plump friend, Bess.

So there we were, marching into Ye Old Sex Shoppe on 28th Street (otherwise known as “Fascinations”), and winking boldly at the pre-adults working the counter as if we had just stopped in to get a bag of chips and a vanilla Frappucino out of the refrigerator case.

“Can I help you with anything?” asked a zit-faced attendant somewhat ambiguously.

“Oh, sure,” replied V with a firm nod, “just looking for a sex toy.”

“Do you guys carry those?” joined in M.

“For sex,” I added, late as usual on the scene.

The attendant smiled a crooked “I have just the thing” smile and led us through the store. Past the lotions and games. Past the sticky videos. Not quite to the fake pussies. He stopped at a table filled with a menagerie of items. Aside from the obvious “penis” theme, the collection was comprised of all sorts of dangly, delicate things. Flowers. Fairies. Hearts. Like something I would find under glass at Gramma’s house.


“The latest in vibrators,” he said, grabbing one by the shaft and holding it up for our examination. It was pale green and coated in a soft rubber. A hummingbird emerging from a flower was poised in mid-flight, its beak at the ready.

“It’s for your clit,” he explained.

I raised my eyebrows at V and repeated what he’d said very seriously, “It’s for your clit.”

Our personal shopper then proceeded to turn it on for us. Handed it to M like a pair of size 7 black pumps.

“Good God,” she said. “That beak isn’t getting anywhere near my clit.”

She handed it back to him, pinched between two vibrating fingers. He turned it off, visibly hurt. Excused himself to help a customer wearing a black trench over combat boots and bearing multiple facial piercings.

After that, we headed over to the lotion section. Contemplated edible undies. French maid costumes. Chocolate body paint. Didn’t bring the vibrators back up for a good 15 minutes. When the subject finally did come up, it was touched on with a derisive humor. The pale green. The beak. Was that an orchid from which it was emerging or a Black-eyed Susan?

Touchy subject, vibrators. Kind of embarrassing. Got one? Sure. A whole collection. I got them from your mom. Right.

According to one study, however, this has not always been the case. In 1999, Rachel Maines published an eye opening study called “THE TECHNOLOGY OF ORGASM; “HYSTERIA,” THE VIBRATOR, AND WOMEN’S SEXUAL SATISFACTION.”

In a nutshell, for centuries – possibly millennia – women have been assumed to not be able to reach orgasm during normal intercourse. As a matter of fact, women were thought to not be able to reach orgasm at all.

What women were subject to, on the other hand, was a disease called “hysteria.” This disease involved a variety of symptoms, including “excitability, mood swings, insomnia, and restlessness.”

Once diagnosed with hysteria, women were then prescribed a treatment from doctors, which involved genital massage in order to effect a “paroxysm.”

I had to read that part twice when I first came across it, so here it is again. Women went to their family doctors or midwives in order to receive genital massage to help bring them to a paroxysm.

Not an orgasm – women don’t have orgasms – paroxysm.

Women would go into the doctor’s office, hike up their skirts, remove pantaloons, and allow the doctor to rub their clitoris until they cried Mother Mary.

Nuns and unmarried women in particular were encouraged to go for regular treatment. They used aromatic oils. There was no shame attached. It was a medical condition. Many doctors of the day believed that nearly 70% of the female population suffered from this affliction.

Naturally, this epidemic was becoming a bit of a problem. Think about it. The ugly spinster comes in once a week for her paroxysm. She is awfully slow about it. Sometimes it takes the doctor nearly an hour to effect her paroxysm. The doctor is losing time and money. Other tragically afflicted (hotter) patients need his attention. Something needed to be done.

Thus was born the first of the automated vibrators (Cleopatra and her “calabash of bees” doesn’t count). There is evidence that shows that vibrators were used as early as 1860 – run by water or foot pedal.

But when the Chattanooga arrived on the scene, the history of the vibrator would change forever. Here is a lovely description of the device:

The Chattanooga…stood nearly 2m tall and required a couple of men to operate it. Being steam-powered, the engine of the machine was located in a small room and two men shoveled coal into the furnace and monitored the steam temperature, pressure, and thrust required to drive the Chattanooga. The engine room was separated from the doctor’s room by a wall which had a hole in it. A mechanical arm extended from the engine through the wall and into the consulting room where the doctor controlled it and used the vibrating arm to administer the appropriate genital massage to the grateful patient.”

By the turn of the century, the vibrator was battery operated and was the fifth household appliance ever to be electrified.

Toaster? Check! Sewing machine? Check. Vibrator? You better believe it. Electrified before the vacuum; before the iron. The vibrator had even become a popular gift – touted as a great muscle relaxer, of course.

So what happened?

Porn, for one thing. As soon as movie producers realized they could make money by selling sex, it was only a matter of time before the vibrator made its first appearances on the big screen and smuttied up the whole vibrator industry. By the 1920s, a vibrator could scarcely be found on the shelves. It wasn’t until the 1960s when they made a reappearance and were suddenly viewed as a power symbol.

As for the “disease” of hysteria, well, it was finally recognized in 1952 by the American Psychiatric Association for what it really was – sexual frustration and not something pathological.

And as for my little visit to the sex shop, it ended as can be reasonably expected. I became pregnant with my first child. Actually – funny story – so did M. Which leads me to the moral of my little story:

Whether it’s pale green, pink, pocket sized, comes with hanging daisies and emerging hummingbirds – buy the damn vibrator.