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We’ll be in a SXSW Interactive Core Conversation

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been invited to host a Core Conversation at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, TX. It will occur Sunday,  March 15, 5 pm in Rm 19B at the Austin Convention Center.   The topic will be “Sex Ed Online: How Teens Self Savvy,” and joining me in presenting this hour-long conversation will be Karen Rayne, PhD. She is an expert in adolescent development and education who teaches workshops and counsels parents and teens on human sexuality.

Some of the questions I’ll be asking Karen:

1. What do teens want to know about sex?
2. How do they use the Internet to find answers?
3. Which social media tools provide the best sexual education?
4. What positive or negative impact can the Web have on teen sexuality?
5. At what ages should online use by children and teens be monitored?
6. Are parents abdicating their roles as sex educators to the Internet?
7. Does online info encourage or discourage sexual experimentation by teens?
8. What role does the Internet play in educating youth about sex?
9. Can the government regulate online sex education and should it?
10. Can online sex info be trusted for accuracy?

Thanks to everyone who commented on the SXSW panel picker in support of my proposal. They  received more than 1300 panel proposals for the 2009 South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival. Most of these ideas are extremely impressive in their analysis of current (and future!) issues in the new media landscape. In lieu of a panel, I was invited to host a more intimate Core Conversation. This will have a format much like the monthly meetings I host at BookPeople. At a SXSW Core Conversation, there’ll be 30-50 people seated and standing around a round table with one or two presenters. I’m excited that Karen Rayne and I will have the opportunity to talk on this personal topic with the  web developers and digital creatives who attend this conference.

Now I’m very challenged to learn more about the subject. Please share your thoughts and insights into how the Web is changing how and what adolecents know about sex and sexuality.

Enjoy Intimacies

Intimacies: Secrets of Love, Sex & Romance by Karen Kreps

Cover of the book, Intimacies: Secrets of Love, Sex & Romance by Karen Kreps

Buy the book for yourself, someone you love or a friend who could use it.

Since 2002, minds have been opened by Karen Kreps’s insights about love and lovers, shared over seven years in monthly columns for The Good Life magazine and the public conversation group that met monthly  at BookPeople to discuss these personal topics.   Her book, Intimacies: Secrets of Love, Sex & Romance, contains a collection of her columns and is illustrated with photographs of figurative sculpture by her husband, Arye Shapiro.

Karen is an advocate for giving voice to what needs to be said, even it it breaks a taboo or two. Read her blog below, ask her a question and download her free ebook, Choice Intimacies, and get satisfaction between the covers of her book.

The Intimacies Conversation Group meetings, hosted monthly by Karen Kreps, 2002-Jan 2009, was sponsored by
Good Life Magazine logo.

At our last meeting, on Jan 21, we talked about

“Love in the Recession”

It was our final meeting at BookPeople  after a seven-year run, since our sponsor, The Good Life magazine, has ceased publication.

Watch as this site transforms over the coming weeks to take the Intimacies discussion to new dimensions.

Please tell us what you think of the book, the column or the meetings. Leave a comment below. (If comment form isn’t showing below,  please click on the title of this post and it will appear in the new page.)

It’s a shame, shame, shame how we feel shame about sex

What causes us to lower our eyes in shame?

What causes us to lower our eyes in shame?

by Karen Kreps

Admit it. You and I have all experienced it, and we enjoyed it—though we’re loath to tell anyone exactly what we did. We felt heat emerge from within our bodies, as a flush turned skin red and self-consciousness became acute: We wallowed in our private sense of sexual shame.

Ever since Adam and Eve got expelled from the Garden of Eden (the Hebrew word for which, by the way, means, “pleasure”), humans have been ashamed of their nakedness. Sure, we’ve been through the Sexual Revolution and now many people have declared themselves “sex positive” (a movement promoting open sexuality with few limits, in contrast to sex-negativity, which adherents identify as the dominant view of sex in Western culture). But shame—either suffered by the submissive or inflicted and enjoyed vicariously by the dominant—still permeates the sexual experience.

There’s an undercurrent, if not an emphasis, on bondage and sadomasochism (BDSM) in erotica, pornography and adult entertainment. The master-slave dynamic is acted out to stimulate our imaginations. For some, it is a turnoff. For others—such as consumers who support the ten billion dollars-a-year pornography industry—it is arousing.

Most adults won’t talk about sex. For some, it’s a matter of discretion. For many, sexual issues are seen as “dirty” and immoral, even in this age of supposed sexual enlightenment.
Why is a natural act, even non-kinky sex, a source of shame?

Children are taught to feel shame from an early age. When used properly, it is a useful self-regulating mechanism for behavior. Sadly, it often causes the shamed one to pull back, physically and emotionally, afraid of being exposed or seen as being bad.

Feelings of shame may also be the result of sex abuse or early childhood stimulation, which could not be resolved—unrequited Oedipal longings. But even in normal, age-appropriate sex play, children may be shamed and told they are bad and wrong. When parents are embarrassed by their children’s sexual behavior, they pass their misgivings about sex to their offspring. As a result, for example, we begin to feel guilty about masturbation, the most basic self-care and self-pleasuring.

We’re fooling ourselves if we think we could totally free ourselves from these feelings of shame. So many religions and customs have linked sex with guilt that few of us are entirely unaffected. Over centuries, the Judeo-Christian ethic has ingrained into our psyches the belief that sex is synonymous with sin. Churches have used shame as the guiding force to redirect young peoples’ sexual impulse. Puritanical teachings say that life is about suffering and the hedonism of pleasure is to be shunned. It’s programmed into us. Yet we enjoy intimacy and making love. So when we do things that support that, we feel a sense of shame.

Some men have a Madonna-whore complex. They want to be mated with a pure virgin, but sex without guilt doesn’t to it for them, and they lust after the shame of a prostitute.

We pride ourselves on having evolved out of the cave to a highly sophisticated social structure where sexual impulse is restrained by intellect. Our fear of being discovered spares us from doing things we would later regret.

Guilt emerges when we revert to our animal behavior. We’re ashamed about appearing selfish in our desires or about having lost control of ourselves. Orgasm becomes taboo, experienced only in private and rarely discussed. We feel inhibited by something. Could it be the fear of being visible, disarmed at the deepest levels?

Sexual shame is rampant in our culture. We objectify each other sexually, and then we feel shamed for having done so. Thinking of someone as a sex object instead of as a human is a way of depersonalizing the experience, of toning down the intensity. And we can even recognize this self-imposed limitation and feel ashamed for indulging in it. Then we eroticize shame itself. Its “forbidden” status hooks us into an addictive cycle made even stronger by shame.

Although stories of sexual shame now fill tell-it-all TV talk shows, the pages of popular magazines and the plots of soap operas, few people will ever talk about or admit to their own feelings of shame. If one or both partners are too shy, embarrassed or ashamed to talk about sex and any shame they may associate with it, they’ll miss the exploration and risk-taking required for good, lasting sex with a long-term partner.

“There are two ways to absolve ourselves of shame,” states psychologist and sexologist Joy Davidson. “One is to speak of it, share it, expose it to the light and watch it burn away. The other is to use it, to eroticize it. Fantasy allows us to utilize shame in extraordinarily creative ways. If you allow yourself this privilege, you triumph over shame.”

Tantra is an Eastern tradition that teaches us to reframe how we see sex, to celebrate it as divine, not a shame. It views sexuality as a path on by which we may be guided out of the illusion of being incomplete and separate to an understanding of our intrinsic wholeness and connection.

Before we evolve to that exalted level of consciousness, we have some issues to work out. Perhaps it’s not a shame that we experience shame, for it compels us to self-examine and to better understand what triggers our response. Do enough of that, and lovemaking is bound to be something to be—not ashamed of—but proud about.

The Good Life is Over, Looking for a New Sponsor

For a full seven years, I have been writing the “Intimacies” column in The Good Life magazine and hosting the group at BookPeople on behalf of the magazine. It has been a great pleasure  to write about love, sex and romance and to exchange confidences with everyone at the discussion group.  So it is with great sadness that I must share with you the news that I received last week from my editor, Ken Martin. His email  began as follows:

“Dear Good Lifers,

The road goes on forever
And the party never ends
But The Good Life must

It is with deep regret that I must inform you that The Good Life is
going out of business.

After publishing 136 editions, we have exhausted our resources….”

This came as a complete surprise for me. Since the magazine had revised its format last year and just last month launched a wonderful new website, it was not what I expected.

The January issue is the last.

The January 21 meeting at BookPeople is still scheduled and will occur, even though The Good Life is no longer sponsoring my efforts there. (I’ll buy the wine; contributions will be welcome.) Ironically, the topic is “Love in the Recession.” My special guest, Claire Miner PhD, and I will  lead a conversation about how financial stress may affect our social lives and what we can do to nurture our relationships in spite of those problems. Claire trained at the Gottman Institute and has  done a lot of career coaching and counseled couples and singles for five years.

Meet Wednesday, January 21, 2009, 7:00pm-8:30pm on the third floor of BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar. Audience members will be encouraged to share their personal experiences. No charge, just bring your sense of humor and an open mind.

BookPeople management said that we can hold the Feb and March meetings since those are already programmed. Please watch for future announcements. To continue the meetings at BookPeople beyond March, however, the store has told me that I must find another well-established publisher for my column on line or in print.

When one door closes, another opens, and I hope that this may enable me to find a new, wider audience. I am seeking another publisher to continue my work. I’m asking for your ideas and support.  Please write to me, Karen@TrueIntimacies.com, with suggestions for another publishing venue or an introduction to anyone who might be helpful in finding a new sponsor for my Intimacies work, writing and hosting.

Last year I published a collection of my columns in the book, Intimacies: Secrets of Love, Sex & Romance. The book is illustrated with photographs of figurative sculpture by my husband and “Intimacies research assistant,” Arye Shapiro. The book can be ordered online at www.TrueIntimacies.com (where I will also continue to blog). BookPeople has the book in stock, and it may be ordered from any bookstore in the country. If you’ve been attending the meetings at BookPeople or enjoying my columns in print, please buy a copy now as a souvenir. The book makes a great, meaningful Valentine’s Day gift that will stimulate conversation about relationships and pleasure. Please consider giving copies to your friends and lovers.

There has been an outpouring of appreciation for The Good Life magazine and letters to the editor have been posted on the magazine’s website. You can add your voice by writing to editor@goodlifemag.com or by commenting with a reply on this blog.

Never Too Old

It’s said that “Youth is wasted on the young.” The older I get, the more I tend to agree. I wrote about “Where the mysteries of sex meet the mysteries of age” for the January 09 Good Life Magazine. See my comments at:

Then, I happened upon this interesting short video about a fat woman who turned to porn for survival at age 60 and now is one of the UK’s top grossing porn stars. (Try this preceding link to view the video, since the video share feature below seems to allow a still image on my blog, but not the full video play feature.)

Ageless Sex

If it is not beauty or youth that makes us attractive, what is it?

A Side-splittingly Funny Wedding Video

Whether this is real or fake, it is SO funny. Everyone gets so jittery at weddings. Let’s hope this never happens to you.

First Quarter Intimacies Group Lineup

We’ve got an exciting lineup planned for programs in the first quarter of 2009. The events are sponsored by The Good Life magazine and all occur on the third Weds of each month, 7 pm at BookPeople.

In January, we’ll be talking about “Love in the Recession” with my special guest, Claire Miner PhD.

In February, we’ll be talking about “Reading Erotica” with author and former lit teacher Hapax Legomenon. (CANCELED)

In March, we’ll be talking about “Playful and Spontaneous Romance” with improv coach and performer Shana Merlin. (CANCELED)

Start sending in your questions for these folks now.

Contraceptive Shenanigans

Chocolate flavored condom in wrapperSitting on my desk in artfully designed shiny foil wrappers are chocolate-, grape- and banana-flavored condoms. They were gifts from the good folk at Planned Parenthood, where I recently met with a group of sex-health educators. Since condoms are the most reliable available and reliable protection against unwanted pregnancy and STDs, Planned Parenthood is running a campaign to change the image of the rubber. It got me thinking…

What are the various was in which people can have fun with contraceptives? Must contraceptives be seen as a turn-off, however necessary, or are the part of the collection of toys in your pleasure chest? I’m collecting real-life anecdotes and suggestions, and I welcome yours. The compiled results will likely show up in a future “Intimacies” column I’ll write in The Good Life (names may be withheld on request). What memorable experiences have you had with any form of contraception?

Photos from Oct 16 BookPeople event with Frank Butterfield

Sign advertising Intimacies Group, Oct 16, 7 pm at BookPeople

Frank Butterfield was my special guest at BookPeople, talking about “Attracting Love” with the Law of Attraction.

Intimacies group at BookPeople Oct 16, 2008.

Some of the crowd that turned out for the event. As the host, I stand in the middle, in front of Frank.

Craigslist.com’s Craig Newmark Tells Karen about Matches Made on his List

 Ted Fry of the Seattle Times says:

Craigslist has become so deeply rooted in the social fabric of community and relationships that it’s not even product placement when it pops up as a movie’s plot point. We understand implicitly that it’s the place to go when you need a job, a couch or, in the case of “In Search of a Midnight Kiss,” a little companionship.”

Poster of Craig Newmark talkAt the Frances Moody Newman Distinguished Lecture Series featuring Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist — one of the most-visited sites on the Web in all time–I got to see and talk to Craig at the University of Texas as Austin. Listen to our exchange in which I asked him about the matches made on his list and if he’s ever used his own list to get a date.

Between these covers, find secrets to great relationships! Buy the book now and learn about love.

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