'Oddly Normal,' by John Schwartz: A family's struggle to help their teen son come to terms with his sexuality
"If you look carefully at the research, sexual diversity, on the level of genital appearance, hormones and chromosomes, is present and predictable in humans," writes Cory Silverberg, who is the Sexuality Guide at About.com.
"To use the language of normativity, the fact that some of us don't fit into one of two boxes is as normal as the fact that some of us do."
Cory was writing about a new piece of science that examines "what it is that makes us think about bodies as being either one sex or another, only male or only female." He tells Boing Boing:
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This is a book about "doin' what comes naturally". Which is to say, sex. But what kind of sex? With whom? And to what purpose? At what point do things like gender expression, sex, reproduction, and child-rearing stop being "normal and natural" and start being something weird that humans do because we are diverse/perverted/sinful/creative (depending on your personal point of view)?
In reality, the word "natural" is mainly how we tell each other which behaviors and traits are the socially correct ones. Calling something natural is often more about specific human cultural standards than it is about what actually happens in nature. Crime Against Nature is artist Gwenn Seemel's attempt to correct that mistake. Filled with gorgeous, Klimt-esque illustrations, Seemel's book shows readers just how diverse nature can be and just how often it fails to conform to our ideas of what is normal — from girls who are bigger and tougher than boys; to boys who give birth; to boys and girls that don't have sex or reproduce at all (and don't seem to mind one bit).
The issues at play here are hefty and potentially uncomfortable, but the book itself is light, playful, and pleasantly un-preachy. It's also set up in a way that allows it to evolve with kids as their reading skills improve — pairing simple statements like "Boys can be the pretty ones" with longer but still easy-to-read paragraphs explaining, for instance, the most recent scientific theories about why male peacocks are so much more colorful than females.
Overall, the book is a great reminder that there are lots of ways to be a girl and lots of ways to be a boy. Nature is chock full of role models for every kid (and every adult). Just because you don't conform to the version of your gender that you see on TV it doesn't mean that you're defective. Last month, my husband and I navigated aisle after aisle of noxiously gendered toys, trying to find things for our niece and nephew that reflected those individual kids, rather than telling them who they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to like. In a world where even Legos come in pink boxes (with instructions for building cute little houses) and blue boxes (with instructions for building race cars), Crime Against Nature is a much-needed breath of fresh air.
You can buy a print version of Crime Against Nature from Gwenn Seemel for $32.
Alternately, you can download the digital version for free (or for a donation of your choice!)
An early 1990s magazine called Future Sex was all about teledidonics - devices that allow people to have sex with each other even when they weren't close enough to have sex. But in the early 1990s, there weren't any real teledildonic devices. Future Sex closed down after a few issue
In 2012, a couple of designers are hoping to make teledildonics a reality with LovePalz, an iPhone sex toy that allows you to "remotely control your partner's device through your body movement." They were rejected from Kickstarter (Kickstarter won't say why), so the designers have launched their own Kickstarter-esque website. They've received 2223 pre-orders so far.HuffPost)
Here's an interesting fact about sexual dimorphism: On average, if you were born a male, your hands are a little bit different from those of someone who was born a female. Most men have a pointer finger that is a little bit shorter than their ring finger. Most women have a pointer finger that's about the same length as their ring finger, if not a little longer.
People have noted this differences between the sexes for centuries. But what's it mean? Truth is, we really aren't sure yet. But it is correlated to a lot of awfully interesting things. In fact, some scientists think "the finger thing" (as I like to call it) is a hallmark of prenatal hormone exposure. Because of that, in the scientific literature, you'll find lots of examples of studies that try to find a connection between the finger thing and seemingly disparate traits, such as sexual orientation and gender expression.
We talked about the finger thing on a recent episode of the Sex is Fun podcast—what it's all about, what fingers could be telling us about people, and why it's maybe all just a bunch of hooey. Take a listen!
Also, for the record: My right hand has lady fingers. My left hand does not. How about you?
Boing Boing pal and periodic guestblogger Andrea James sends word of a cool and worthy project she's doing, and raising funds for via Kickstarter: "Family Restaurant," a film for children whose moms and/or dads are LGBT.
"There are very few family-friendly films where kids with gay or lesbian parents can enjoy a fun story that reflects their own lives," Andrea says, "I think it's going to be pretty cute and a teensy bit controversial. All art is political!"
From Andrea's project description:
Pitch in or learn more here.
"Family Restaurant" celebrates young children with gay or lesbian parents. It shows them a magical world filled with cute characters who reflect their family lives. Set in a family restaurant, it features talking ketchup and mustard bottles among the colorful residents of the diner. It has a mix of puppetry and actors, including a number of real children with gay or lesbian parents.
I serve on the Board of Directors of Outfest, a prominent LGBT film festival. Each year, Outfest has a family day for children to watch movies, but there are very few family-friendly films where these kids can enjoy a fun story that reflects their own lives. It's time to make something specifically for these wonderful children, with a story that's charming enough to appeal to all young people.
This Valentine's Day, enjoy a classic essay by Annalee Newitz about celebrating differently-defined love.(image: Shutterstock)