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It Gets Better March 25, 2011

Posted by Dev in Musings, Reviews.
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Dan (left) and Terry (right) at the book launch in New York City

Back in September, I posted a link to a video that Dan Savage had made with his husband, Terry Miller, in which they reached out to LGBT youth with the message, “It gets better.” From that one video a movement has been born. More than 10,000 videos have been created and are now hosted on the dedicated It Gets Better website. Thousands of dollars have been raised for important causes, including GSLEN and The Trevor Project. The latest initiative in the campaign occurred on Tuesday, when the book, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living was released.

I’ve pre-ordered a few books on my Kindle before, but this was the first one I was very excited about receiving. I stayed up until midnight, turned the Whispernet on, and watched it magically download onto my device. So fucking cool!

Here’s the description of the book from Amazon:

Every story can change a life.

Growing up isn’t easy. Many young people face daily tormenting and bullying, making them feel like they have nowhere to turn. This is especially true for LGBT kids and teens who often hide their sexuality for fear of bullying. Without other openly gay adults and mentors in their lives, they can’t imagine what their future may hold. In many instances, gay and lesbian adolescents are taunted – even tortured – simply for being themselves.

After a number of tragic suicides by LGBT students who were bullied in school, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage uploaded a video to YouTube with his partner Terry Miller to inspire hope for LGBT youth facing harassment. Speaking openly about the bullying they suffered as teenagers, and how they both went on to lead rewarding adult lives, their video launched the It Gets Better Project YouTube channel and initiated a worldwide phenomenon. With over 6,000 videos posted and over 20 million views in the first three months alone, the world has embraced the opportunity to provide personal, honest and heartfelt support for LGBT youth everywhere.

It Gets Better is a collection of expanded essays and new material from celebrities, everyday people and teens who have posted videos of encouragement, as well as new contributors who have yet to post videos to the site. While many of these teens couldn’t see a positive future for themselves, we can. We can show LGBT youth the levels of happiness, potential and positivity their lives will reach if they can just get through their teen years. By sharing these stories, It Gets Better reminds teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone – and it WILL get better.

In the days since the book downloaded, I’ve been reading the essays off and on, whenever I have a spare moment. I’ve watched a lot of the videos over the past six months so I am familiar with the type of stories that are told—still they pack an emotional wallop and I find I can only read a few at a time before I need to take a break. But like a hummingbird to nectar, I keep going back for more.

I’m not gay (anyone who regularly reads this blog knows that!) but I was bullied in school—sixth grade was the year from hell. So I know the pain that these authors have experienced and appreciate their honesty and candor in reaching out to young people. As the parent of a bisexual teen, I did everything I could to advocate for her, both in school and out. Fortunately, she went to a high school that was inclusive and accepting. My heart breaks (daily) thinking of children who are scared, fearful, abused, teased—many right in the environment of their very own homes—and who have done nothing wrong except be themselves. I hope they are able to find this book or the videos or both and know that the message imparted is true: it gets better.

This book and the entire It Gets Better project are important. I fully support the work that Dan and Terry are doing and the goals they are trying to achieve. I highly recommend the book; it will remain in a place of pride on the home page of my Kindle (since I don’t put books on the bookshelf anymore!). Please consider a purchase—all proceeds go to LGBT youth projects—and if you can afford it, consider purchasing a second copy to give to a friend, young person, or library. I gifted a copy to my daughter’s high school library. Won’t you join me and do the same?

Review: American Hunks October 22, 2010

Posted by Dev in Reviews.

Title: American Hunks
Authors: David L. Chapman and Brett Josef Grubisic
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
Length: 351 pages; print only
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5

The Blurb

The “American hunk” is a cultural icon: the image of the chiseled, well-built male body has been promoted and exploited for commercial use for over 125 years, whether in movies, magazines, advertisements, or on consumer products, not only in America but throughout the world.

American Hunks is a fascinating collection of images (many in full color) depicting the muscular American male as documented in popular culture from 1860 to 1970. The book, divided into specific historic eras, includes such personalities as bodybuilder Charles Atlas; pioneer weightlifter Eugene Sandow; movie stars like Steve “Hercules” Reeves and Johnny “Tarzan” Weismuller; and publications such as the 1920s-era magazine Physical Culture and the 1950s-era comic book Mr. Muscles. It also touches on the use of masculine, homoerotic imagery to sell political and military might (including American recruitment posters and Nazi propaganda from the 1936 Olympics), and how companies have used buff, near-naked men to sell products from laundry detergent to sacks of flour since the 1920s. The introduction by David L. Chapman offers insightful information on individual images, while the essay by Brett Josef Grubisic places the work in its proper historical context.

The Review

American Hunks is a wonderful collection of photographs, spanning a bit more than a century from 1860 to the early 1970s. It shows muscular men in all their glory, starting with the early gymnasts and strongmen and moving on to bodybuilders and Hollywood stars with handsome physiques.

The pictures are drawn from the collection of author David L. Chapman, who opens the book with a wonderful memoir. When he was eleven, in 1959, he wandered into a tobacconist and magazine store in his hometown of Chula Vista, CA. There, he stumbled upon the magazine, Physique Pictorial, with John Tristam on the cover, photographed by Robert Mizer. Chapman bought the magazine (which, given his age and the fact that the proprietor of the shop was blind, was amusing in and of itself) and in that moment, a collecting obsession was born.

The book has minimal text: a Foreword by Chapman and an essay, Flexed for Success: Consumer Goods, Pop Culture, and the Setting of Heroic Masculinity by co-author Brett Josef Grubisic. It is broken into seven chapters: The Pioneers (1860-1914); Hunks Make the World Safe (1914-1919); Jazz-Age Athletes (1920-1929); Depression Physiques (1930-1940); Supermen at War (1941-1949); The Age of the Chest (1950-1959); and Muscles à Go-Go! (1960-1969). The concluding pictures in the book are of an Austrian with an unpronounceable name who marked the end of normal

bodybuilding and the rise of steroid enhanced bodies. To those of us who appreciate the male form in its natural glory, the current crop of ‘roid puffed-up specimens are about as realistic as breast implants bolted onto a woman’s chest, and Chapman wisely left them out, letting the book end at its natural conclusion.

American Hunks is a large format book (8” x 10”) printed in full color on glossy paper. Many of the images are full-page and all have extensive comments in the picture captions, identifying the subject and photographer (when known) and additional contextual information. In addition to physique photographs, the book includes ads, magazine covers, movie posters and stills, postcards and a variety of other ephemera to illustrate the rise of muscular masculinity in popular American culture.

This 351 page book retails for $29.95 (US); right now it is discounted at Amazon to $19.77 . At Out.com, I found a slide show of pictures from the book so if you need any more temptation to add this book to your collection, go there and look at them. In the meantime, I’ve included a few of my favorites here, along with the captions (just hold your cursor over the picture too see the caption), to

give you first-hand impression of what the book is all about. Enjoy!

Visit Arsenal Pulp Press for more information.

Buy from Amazon USA and Amazon UK

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

Review: Male Chastity A Guide for Keyholders September 26, 2010

Posted by Dev in Reviews.
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Title: Male Chastity: A Guide for Keyholders
Author: Lucy Fairbourne
Publisher: Velluminous Press
Length: 93 pages
Format: Print; no ebook
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Purchased from Amazon. Price: $13.45
I read this slim volume in about an hour and re-read it this morning to write this review. All in all, it’s not a bad book but the fact that it is so short means that some topics do get treated superficially. It is very much directed to the novice keyholder or, as some reviewers have commented, for the “vanilla” wife. The overall tone is reassuring and non-threatening although some inconsistencies keep me from giving it a full five stars.

The book is written by a woman and directed to a female audience. While a man could certainly read it, I think he’d feel like he’s reading about himself, rather than getting practical advice on chastity from the man’s point of view. Even so, I think men seeking info on chastity have other resources available to them; thus, in this way, this book fills a niche.

As I said, the tone is reassuring and non-threatening. The author comments that a woman might have received this book as a gift from her partner/husband; in that scenario she is likely to know little about chastity and the comforting tone will probably help to allay her fears about this new “hobby” or “game” her husband has suddenly become interested in. On the other hand, Fairbourne does not present chastity as a game. She is very serious about why a couple might choose chastity and what they can gain from it. This, unfortunately, may be a deterrent for some women. As I noted in this post the other day, a woman who is presented with chastity as a major lifestyle choice in which her husband will undergo a giant personality change may be very reluctant to learn more. And that’s not such an odd reaction, is it? So in that respect, even though the tone in the book is reassuring, the content is presented in such a serious way that the ultimate goal—to have a woman accept the role of keyholder—may backfire.

Along these same lines, Fairbourne makes it sound like it is very easy to screw up and ruin the chastity experience. For example, if a man is begging and pleading to be unlocked and allowed to orgasm, and the woman (keyholder) gives in to this, then, the woman has “lost control.” She is the one who is supposed to have total charge and if she gives in to whining, then she is not in charge and thus, she is a failure as a keyholder. Sorry—I am a great believer in do-overs. Giving in isn’t giving up, in my opinion. Fairbourne makes it seem very black and white, while I think there are lots of shades of gray.

Fairbourne makes the assumption that all men who desire chastity are submissive and thus, all keyholders must be dominant. If the woman isn’t dominant to begin with, she must find her inner domme. If that inner domme doesn’t exist, then it is likely that chastity isn’t going to work for the couple. Again, I think this is an extreme point of view that I don’t agree with. In my own relationship, Ab and I have come to the realization that we’re both sort of submissive (more submissive than dominant, that’s for sure). That probably explains why I view our chastity experience as a partnership rather than a situation where I am 100% in charge—although I am working harder on being in charge. This also explains why I tend to give in so easily when he asks for the key for cleaning! That aside, I think dominant and submissive can be very loaded words. A man who desires chastity may be submissive but he may not—he may just want to give up some control. I think Fairbourne errs by making the assumption that all men are.

The last point on which I disagree with Fairbourne relates to communication. She writes:

The subject of male chastity might crop up in conversations between you at first (your man might find it particularly interesting)…There’s no need for you to allow this to become an obsession…If necessary, put your foot down and tell him not to mention it anymore unless he has an actual problem to report.

Huh? One of the biggest benefits that I have experienced from chastity (besides an amazing number of great orgasms) is having wonderfully improved communication with my husband. We’ve talked about chastity, ourselves, our marriage, and our relationship. We’ve sorted out problems and issues and come through on the other side. Communication is key to the chastity game. Not talking is akin to “lock him and leave him” at least in my mind. Why would anyone want to do that?

Even with these complaints, it’s not a bad book and useful information is presented in its 93 pages. It’s short length might be a plus for the nervous or intimidated wife since it can be completely read in an hour or two. If you can only afford one book then I’d recommend Sarah Jameson’s Be Careful What You Wish For over this. But if you can afford two, then this wouldn’t be a bad purchase to add to your collection.

Review: A Trio of Terrible Tales September 6, 2010

Posted by Dev in Reviews.
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I own a Kindle, the ereader from Amazon, and one nice feature is that it lets you sample books before you buy. Thank God for that because I didn’t waste a ton of money on these three books—one mediocre and the other two wretched. I did buy Domme By Default ($2.80) because I was a little curious where the story was headed. The other two, the samples alone convinced me that they weren’t worth a cent.

Domme By Default by Tymber Dalton is written in alternating him and her POV chapters. The basic story is that the husband in the marriage (names are never given) has finally screwed up his courage to tell his wife he wants to be a slave to her mistress. Even though she writes erotic stories for a living, this is a totally new idea to her, being the plain vanilla good girl that she is. But she loves her husband and decides to go along with his kink, even though it makes her decidedly uncomfortable.

As with all stories of this ilk, there is a long slow build-up, lots of misunderstandings, and then, suddenly, both main characters are totally on board with the program, to the point that he’s wearing a ball-gag and she’s fucking his ass with a dildo, while getting ready to whip him afterwards. Yeah, right.

Overall, mediocre writing. Not recommended and no chastity in this story.

The second book (which I only sampled) was called Chastity Tales of the Submissive Male written by belted one. This is a series of stories—the sample included two (I think there might be ten in the book). The first story, which was so lazily written that it read more like a screenplay rather than a story, was a scene between LadyBeth and Michael. Michael spends a lot of time crawling around on his hands and knees, being tortured and teased, and beyond that, I am not quite sure what happened.

The second story, which did involve chastity, was written from the very odd second person singular POV. It has to do with a woman who has been a long distance keyholder for a man and now they are meeting for the first time—at the Chicago Hilton. The woman—sadistic mistress bitch in heels—does all sorts of things to the guy. Naturally, he loves every minute of it and the story ends with them getting married, he in a white tux, wearing some über-elaborate chastity device and she dressed like Marlene Dietrich (more lazy writing—this presumes we all know what MD looks like and how she dresses).

Overall, wretched writing and although it does involve a chastity theme, it’s not realistic and as a fantasy, not particularly alluring.

The third story, Humbling Harry was also by belted one and this was the worst of the lot. Harry is married to Colleen and he’s been a very bad boy. He has cheated on his wife and embezzled money from his employer. Instead of going to the authorities, Colleen has come up with her own form of punishment: she drugged Harry, put him in a “humbler bar” (some weird device that encloses his genitals in such a way that he has the potential to castrate himself), and is prepared to torture him for the next five years. The sample only covers about a day or two of Harry’s new life and that was so depraved—and truly disgusting—I can’t imagine what goes on in the rest of the book. Yuck, gross. People think this is the stuff of fantasies?

I read a lot of stuff including kinky erotica. Decent chastity stories would be fun to read—as I said in my very first post, it was a story that introduced me to chastity in the first place. But these stories do the world of chastity a disservice. They make it seem like torture and punishment, a way for exceedingly cruel women to control their men, all the while saying that this is the way they demonstrate their love. Um, sorry, no. A sociopath is a sociopath and calling it love is not going to change the fundamental core behavior that is being demonstrated.

So, all in all, stay away. The Domme story was the best of the bunch but if someone wants to read a M/s story, I have read others that are much better written that I can recommend. The other two books are a bunch of crap and not worth wasting five minutes on. I had to bleach my eyeballs after reading them.

We do the hard work here so you won’t have to. Thanks for reading.

Review: Be Careful What You Wish For August 31, 2010

Posted by Dev in Reviews.
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Title: Be Careful What You Wish For
Author: Sarah Jameson
Length: 277 pages
Format: PDF (ebook); MP3 for audio
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

If you are considering male chastity or thinking about bringing it up with a loved one, this is certainly a fortuitous time, considering that Be Careful What You Wish For just hit the streets. The subtitle, “The ultimate guide to male chastity” certainly tells you all you need to know about what this book covers. Even the most casual Internet search will bring up Sarah Jameson, her blog (The Male Chastity Blog), her newsletter, and now, this book. She provides lots of useful information for free in the blog and newsletter; the book is worth purchasing because she compiles it all together in one place, adds new info, and presents it all in a neat, tidy, an organized package that is very easy to read.

If you are familiar with Sarah’s blog (and if you’re not, you should be), you know she has a friendly, open, and welcoming writing style that makes readers feel like they talking to Sarah one-on-one over a cup of tea. For the woman who is freaking out because her husband just said to her, “Honey, I want you to lock up my cock in a plastic or steel device for weeks, months…maybe years…,” Sarah provides a reassuring, “Don’t worry, dear…he’s not crazy and if you actually consider what he is asking, you may find your life changes dramatically…and for the better!”

The book is nicely organized with chapters, sub-chapters, and appendices that introduce the concept of male chastity, provide useful useful definitions, discuss the details such as “who is right for chastity?”, “how to introduce the idea” (and have the resulting conversation) and practicalities of living a chaste life on a day-to-day basis. The appendices (which I think are the weakest part of the book) delve into issues that go beyond chastity (slaves, cuckholding, BDSM); provide a sample contract and include resources on where to buy devices, fitness, and three (not particularly) titillating stories. The appendices are only about one-third of the book—what you are paying for, and the value that you get comes in the content proper where Sarah very clearly details—using her own experience and information gleaned from other resources—what living a male chastity lifestyle really means, for the man and woman (or man and man) who are interested in experiencing it. (As an aside, Sarah notes that she has not encountered female couples who are interested in chastity; I know that there are stone butch lesbians who live a sort of chaste life but their experience, from what I have read, is so far removed from a male chastity lifestyle that Sarah’s guide and its information would be of absolutely no use to that audience.)

Sarah identifies three potential audiences: 1) men who are interested in a chaste lifestyle and want to introduce the idea to their wife/partner; 2) women who have a man who has brought up the topic and want more information; and 3) women who want have their husband/man participate in chastity. Sarah and her husband John fall into group number one (which by her reckoning, is the largest); my husband and I are members of group number three (which according to Sarah, is a very rare group indeed! Oh well, I was never a conformist…LOL). While the book is written from her particular perspective and it is clear that that is what she knows, I still found lots of useful information that pertained to me and helped me understand the exploration that I am currently going through with my husband.

There is no empirical research on male chastity and a lot of what is out there is anecdotal, at best. I appreciated Sarah’s down-to-earth, honest and straightforward approach. Statements such as, “Chastity is a gateway kink,” (how very liberating to read that!) and the idea to approach chastity as a game—granted, a game that might go on for years or the rest of your lives but at the end of the day, it is just a game—work very well to defusing and de-weirding the whole concept of male chastity.

If you are a man who has been agonizing over the idea of chastity and how to bring it up to your partner, you would be wise to buy this book and read it from cover to cover (or listen to the MP3). Sarah very clearly details what chastity can and cannot do. If your marriage (or relationship) is a wreck and you cannot talk to your partner—or worse, the sight of you makes her skin crawl—bringing in chastity as a solution is not going to work. On the other hand, if your self-analysis after reading the book makes it seem that chastity is a viable and reasonable option, then Sarah provides details on how to have the conversation and move forward in exploring chastity. “Having the conversation” might be as simple as handing over the book and asking your loved one to read it. Like I said, the easy, conversational writing style will go a long way to defusing a potentially volatile conversation.

I am not the exact target audience that Sarah is writing to, but then, I don’t know if anybody is. We all come at our sexuality and sexual lives with all sorts of past experiences, traumas, dreams, and future hopes. The strength of the book is that it is written broadly enough—and in a non-judgmental, neutral way—to allow the majority of readers to find useful information that makes it well worth the purchase price of $30-$40.