Wednesday, February 13, 2013 10:43 AM
Why does passion
ebb over the course of a long-term, committed relationship? Love and sex
specialist Alex Allman investigates that question, proposing ways to
short-circuit the phenomenon.
This article originally appeared at
The challenge for so many loving and
committed couples is in keeping desire, attraction, passion, and presence in
their sex lives.
can feel like your sex drive is betraying your heart. You wish that you could be
consumed with mad attraction for the person you love, and yet all too often,
familiarity actually kills libido. You might even begin to feel shame around the
simple truth that you are often more sexually aroused by thoughts of complete
strangers than thoughts of the person who is so dear to your heart.
it would be naive, or worse, self-deceptive, to not acknowledge that this is the
way humans are built, and in absence of some intentional action on your part,
this is likely the way your relationships will evolve.
big part of the problem is that most people define "making love" simply as "sex
with someone you love."
danger with that definition is that it assumes that love is passively to be
enjoyed during sex, rather than something that you DO.
if you examine the phrase "making love," you might notice that it is not
grammatically passive. There is a powerful action term in there. "Making" is
creating -- perhaps the most demanding of all actions. One can watch, listen,
or even walk quite passively, but making or creating requires attention,
intention, and presence.
my definition, making love is in doing the work of surrendering the mind (or the
ego) in service of relating. It is being present with your shared desire rather
than being wrapped up in your unconnected mental or emotional
of the unexpected consequences of this definition is that it is possible to
engage in profound love-making with a total stranger in a
"in love" is not required for "making love." Rather, what is required is an
openness to love itself and a willingness to "do love" by being present.
Further, it is often easier for some individuals to do this with a relative
stranger than with someone they deeply love and respect, with whom they have
shared many of life's trials and rewards, and with whom they've developed a deep
and trusting relationship.
are two reasons for this counterintuitive experience:
first is that for a couple who have not practiced and worked at "doing love"
while "making love" throughout their relationship, the path to being truly
present with each other during sex becomes overgrown with all of the accumulated
disappointments, minor betrayals, grudges, wrong-makings, and resentments of the
years living together as partners in the business of life.
for many couples, they wake up one day to discover that their life partner is
the single most threatening person in the world for them to become sexually
vulnerable, present, and real with.
partner is the person they are most likely to feel judged by, and the person
they most fear judgment from. There is simply too much at
Read the rest of
this post at Reality
Alex Allman will be a guest on the
Evolver Intensives course "
From Sex to
Super-Consciousness: The Future of Love
." For this live, interactive video
course, host Adam Gilad has assembled 7 remarkable experts on the ways that
sensuality and intimacy provide an ecstatic path to profound spiritual
experience. Joining Alex will be Annie Lalla, Sera Beak, Michael Mirdad, Marc
Gafni, Carol Queen and Reid Mihalko. It all starts on February
Photo by Camdiluv ♥, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, February 09, 2012 10:55 AM
The Nature Conservancy is taking a new stripped-down approach to environmental protection: The green group is teaming up with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and online luxury retailer Gilt to raise money for beach preservation in an unholy mashup of sex, commerce, marketing, publishing, and environmentalism.
Why the green tie-in? “Because everyone benefits from pristine tropical beaches. Especially when they’re occupied by gorgeous women in bathing suits.” That’s according to promotional prose about the partnership on the Gilt website, in an announcement that is no longer posted. (Though you can still buy a $1,000 ticket to a New York launch party where you can hang out with the swimsuit supermodels.)
Gilt will be selling Sports Illustrated-themed swimsuits, surfboards, photos, and other merch on its site, with all ecommerce sale proceeds going “to preserve the beaches SI features in its pages,” reports Folio magazine.
Not everyone is sold on the mission. “What’s next for The Nature Conservancy?” wrote a commenter on Folio. “Partnering with porn sites?”
I understand the writer’s sentiment. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has long been an overhyped exercise in sexual objectification and anorexia induction, and I’m not sure why The Nature Conservancy thinks it will benefit from hitching its green message to the marketing machine that cranks out this cheeseball, throwback brand of softcore year after year. The association seems to risk putting off every potential supporter who doesn’t think Mad Men is a look back at the good old days.
Environmental writer Derrick Jensen of Orion already saw this sort of thing coming, having penned a prescient column in the current issue titled “Not in My Name.” Go ahead and call him a killjoy, but I think he pretty much nailed it:
Let me say upfront: I like fun, and I like sex. But I’m sick to death of hearing that we need to make environmentalism fun and sexy. … The fact that so many people routinely call for environmentalism to be more fun and more sexy reveals not only the weakness of our movement but also the utter lack of seriousness with which even many activists approach the problems we face. …
Unfortunately, the notion that activism … has to be fun and sexy pervades the entire environmental movement, from the most self-styled radical to the most mainstream reformist.
Sources: Folio, Gilt Groupe, Orion
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Friday, July 08, 2011 5:03 PM
Could your dildo be dangerous? Many sex toys contain toxic chemicals, including plasticizers that can lead to infertility, hormone imbalances, and other health problems. In Germany, the Green Party is making moves to clean up the country’s goodie drawers.
The party has reason for concern. “Phthalates and other plasticizers are highly regulated in children’s toys,” reports Jess Zimmerman for Grist, “but adult toys—which are, after all, designed to get all up in your mucus membranes—can have all the plasticizers they want.”
The German Greens demand that their government come up with a plan of action to protect its citizens—20 percent of whom report using sex toys—from the toxic plasticizers in dildos and vibrators, says Spiegel, and they have published a paper called “Sexual Health as a Consumer Protection Issue” to outline the issue. Thus far, the German Ministry for Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection has offered few concrete solutions. In fact, it refuses to even use concrete terms like “dildo” or vibrator,” referring only to “erotic items.”
There are a handful of non-toxic, green-focused sex-toy shops in the United States, with the Smitten Kitten—based in Minneapolis, but with a healthy online presence—at the forefront. Owner Jennifer Pritchett is working to make sex toys safe for all. She says:
The Smitten Kitten is proud to say that we pioneered the eco-friendly and non-toxic movement in the adult retail industry. In 2003 we were first ever non-toxic sex-toy shop. Likewise, we founded the first ever community advocacy organization and adult industry education organization, The Coalition Against Toxic Toys. [The Smitten Kitten is] a big part of my life and an ever growing positive influence on the sexual health and vitality of our community as a whole.
So, before you get up close and personal with a new “erotic item,” consider the manufacturing methods and materials used. Go green, then go wild.
Sources: Grist, Spiegel
Image by stagshop, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 11:09 AM
CAUTION: If you prefer not to read graphic descriptions of rape, you may not want to continue reading this piece.
Correspondent Mac McClelland offers no such precaution to her readers in the opening sentences of her article in Good (June 27, 2011):
It was my research editor who told me it was completely nuts to willingly get fucked at gunpoint. That’s what she called me when I told her the story. We were drunk and in a karaoke bar, so at the time I came up with only a wounded face and a whiny, “I’m not completely nuuuuts!”
It’s an interesting approach on McClelland’s part, shocking the reader with an immediate brutal image, a literary rape of sorts, and at the same time subverting the violence with a flippantly chick-lit-esque tone.
Author of the 2010 book For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question: A Story from Burma’s Never-Ending War, McClelland oscillates between the two poles—brutality and cheekiness—throughout the rest of her article. The subject is by no means frivolous. She’s writing about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in journalists, specifically her own. “As a journalist who covers human rights,” she writes, “I spend a lot of time absorbing other people’s trauma.”
After bearing witness to the paroxysmal breakdown of a Haitian rape victim named Sybille, McClelland experiences months of uncontrollable crying and what she calls “rapemares.” Any sexual thought led to violent thought: “I could not process the thought of sex without violence. And it was easier to picture violence I controlled than the abominable nonconsensual things that had happened to Sybille.” Thus the willingness to have sex at gunpoint.
I support every woman’s right to choose what’s right for herself, sexually. If McClelland wants to experience violent sex in the name of self-therapy, that’s her prerogative. Although I don’t buy it, and that’s my prerogative. If I were her friend, I probably would have tried to talk her out of it.
The piece has earned McClelland immediate praise. And perhaps, for her, it did help her overcome her trauma. She doesn’t claim that her article is a handbook to overcoming PTSD. Nor is it a handbook to role play sex (in which case she would surely mention the use of a safeword, for the love of god). McClelland is simply sharing one experience of PTSD, making one more woman’s voice known, and that contains value.
I don’t support the self-indulgent way she writes about it, however. McClelland seems to enjoy unseating her reader too much. As just one example, she did not have sex at gunpoint. She did willingly get pinned down and punched in the face during sex by a trusted ex who “loved and respected” her and with whom she’d “done this sort of thing before.” Which means McClelland opens the essay with an unearned image. Then, after raising some truly compelling issues about the horrors endured and absorbed by journalists, she concludes her piece with a description of the pinning and the punching. The detailed scene of her “willing rape” feels like a gratuitous conclusion to a real issue. By the time I was done reading, I felt brutalized and assaulted. Which may be a clever literary trope, but, hey, I’m not the one looking to feel raped.
Image by newbeatphoto,
licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010 5:09 PM
Priggish Bible-thumpers may use the Good Book to justify sexual conservatism, but the actual text of the Bible is anything but prudish. The book is filled with innuendo, bawdy behavior, and enough obscenities to make modern, HBO-inured adults blush. Religious scolds may never stop quoting scripture to call for sexual civility, but Tibor Krausz writes in a book review for Killing the Buddha, “sexual civility requires ignoring scripture.”
The bone taken from Adam to create Eve, for example, may not have been a rib bone, as is often taught in bible class. The word “bone” may have been a far more modern euphemism for male genitalia. And the word “testify” may have been pretty dirty, too:
In court we swear to tell the truth with a hand placed on the Bible. But in the book itself, Jacob, nearing death in Egypt, asks Joseph to swear an oath not to bury him there by “put[ting] your hand under my thigh” (Gen. 47:29). Earlier in Genesis, Jacob wrestles with God, who touches “the hollow of his [Jacob’s] thigh” (32:25). “Thigh” happens to be a biblical euphemism for male genitalia; it’s from Jacob’s “thigh” or “loins” that his numerous offspring sprang. The practice of swearing an oath while touching one’s or someone else’s testicles was common in the ancient Near East (Abraham also orders a servant to do just that in Genesis 24:2). Its linguistic memory survives in our word “testify”—
being the Latin both for “witness” and the male generative gland.
(Thanks, Marginal Revolution.)
Killing the Buddha
Friday, September 04, 2009 4:02 PM
Thinking about love makes people better at creative problem solving, while sex is more shortsighted. That's according to research highlighted by Miller-McCune. The idea is that love “is dreamy, and dreams are linked to creativity. Sex, on the other hand, is about achieving an immediate goal.”
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009 12:50 PM
The vast array of sex science available since the 1950s has demystified sex. Many Americans can now talk about it with their doctors and Bob Dole can speak freely about “erectile dysfunction” on television. Researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson “helped clear away much of the shame and myth that had perpetuated a communal ignorance about human sexuality,” Drake Bennett wrote for the Boston Globe. Today, that research has lost touch with its humanity, according to many researchers, promoting the "medicalization" of sex.
At its worst, they warn, [sex science] is pushing us into a sort of sexual arms race as people engage in sex acts that hold little interest for them, partake of a growing pharmacopeia of sex drugs, even get formerly unheard-of cosmetic surgeries to measure up to a fictional sexual ideal.
Researchers often reduce sex down to its most basic, physical elements, viewing intercourse in terms of function and dysfunction, rather than idiosyncratic preferences. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the marketing of Viagra. Many people swear by the drug’s regenerative properties, but Bennett writes, “the benefits of Viagra and similar pills have to be balanced against the fact that they have made our sex lives seem like something that can - and should - be fixed with a drug.”
The media hype surrounding Viagra promotes the all-too-common view that “sex is a zero-sum game, a win-lose athletic performance, measured entirely by the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of the arousal-intercourse-orgasm sequence,” Michael Metz and Barry McCarthy wrote in the Jan-Feb issue of Utne Reader. A more healthy view of sex is one that changes depending on the couple. “The challenge,” Metz and McCarthy write, “is to stop clinging to the ‘perfect intercourse’ model and replace it with positive, realistic expectations of oneself, one’s partner, and one’s relationship.”
The overly medicalized science isn’t just misguided, it also prevents helpful work from being done. Bennett quotes Amy Allina, program director at National Women's Health Network, saying, “We don't really know - and this is a timely one - how unemployment affects a couple's sex life.”
Scientists are now proposing a new, more “humanistic” model of sex, according to Bennett, that respects the idiosyncrasies of people and their relationships. Looking beyond the physiological, sex science could promote a more healthy view of sex as it functions inside of relationships.
The sex science so far may be promote a sterile, medicalized view of sex, but “it sure is entertaining,” according to Mary Roach, the author of Bonk. In a talk to TED, Roach explains some of the most interesting observation in the history of sex science, including this one by Alfred Kinsey:
Cheese crumbs spread before a pair of copulating rats will distract the female, but not the male.
You can watch that video below:
Source: Boston Globe, Utne Reader, TED
Tuesday, May 19, 2009 4:55 PM
You know the adage: Sex sells. The wizards who cooked up the low-cal, chocolaty Mars Fling, however, seem to have taken the maxim a bit too, um, literally. In a Bitch-at-its-best take down, the feminist magazine wryly dissects a marketing campaign that urges women to “pleasure [themselves] with this chocolate sensation time and time again.”
Monday, May 04, 2009 1:47 PM
There comes a day when parents can no longer avoid talking to their children about sex. That day can be made more awkward if the talk is illustrated by comical drawings of fish with oversized genitalia. In an exploration into the Christian condemnation of masturbation, Scott Cheshire writes for Killing the Buddha about his father’s use of a Christian publication and hand-drawn fish cartoons to teach about procreation. “To fully appreciate the gross irony,” Cheshire writes, “please understand that I think of my father’s drawing whenever I find myself behind a car bumper bearing the Christian symbol of Ichthys—the Jesus Fish.”
Image by Jaako, licensed by Creative Commons.
Friday, April 24, 2009 3:56 PM
In the film Guest of Cindy Sherman, the photographer's former lover set out to tell the story of an art star, but, according to a critic writing in The American Prospect, winds up presenting a "creepy, cringe-inducing rehash of a relationship's failure, told through intimate home-movie footage and the annotations of friends. Importantly—albeit inadvertently—it is also a film that illustrates the misogyny still pervasive in the art world today, a misogyny that Hasegawa-Overacker both records and exudes."
Sherman’s work questions the role and representation of women in society, and Hasegawa-Overacker's argument, as presented in The American Prospect, is that "the market swung once wildly in the direction of the macho, so the swing toward the feminine represented by Sherman's enduring success must be some sort of overcorrection."
Beyond the strange world of Hasegawa-Overacker's film, that feminine swing is still evident in the art world. The up-and-coming, 24-year-old UK photographer and painter Sarah Maple is feeding an art world buzz. Maple grew up in southern England struggling with her Muslim/western identity and explores that identity in her art. Having been compared to Cindy Sherman, her provocative work explores sexuality, feminism, religion and culture, and she has been making headlines since her first solo exhibition “This Artist Blows” in London in 2008, as featured in Red Pepper.
Some of her paintings were so controversial that a gallery showing them was vandalized and put under police surveillance. The painting which received the most heated debate within some Muslim communities depicts the artist in a headscarf cradling a baby piglet. In her piece I Love Orgasms, black fabric covers her entire face and body except a small slit for the eyes and a white pin exclaiming, you guessed it, “I love orgasms” on her chest. In an interview with Red Pepper about the themes of religion and sexuality in her art, Maple explains “a lot of my work is quite cathartic it gives me the opportunity to explore the sorts of things I wouldn’t explore in my actual life. I can use art as an outlet—especially with sexuality.”
As for the Sherman connection, she brushes it off: "Yeah, it’s funny, everyone says Cindy Sherman to me and I’ve never looked at her work. I know of her because everyone keeps saying Cindy Sherman, Cindy Sherman. So I’ve looked at her and now I quite like it. People think I’m trying to copy her, but I’m not. I’m not really even familiar with her work."
Sources: The Amerian Prospect, Red Pepper
Top, Cindy Sherman Untitled #132. Image by hragvartanian licensed under Creative Commons.
Bottom, Passport by Sarah Maple. Image by libbyrosof licensend under Creative Commons.
Monday, April 20, 2009 8:47 AM
When parents talk about the birds and the bees, it’s usually a metaphor. When scientists talk about the sex lives of animals, the conversation tends to get interesting.
Researchers recently discovered that male chimpanzees give pieces of meat to females in exchange for sex, the BBC reports. For some time, scientists hypothesized about food-for-sex deals, but previous studies tended to look for short-term, payment-on-delivery exchanges. The researchers form the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany found that such exchanges can take place over time. Researcher Cristina Gomes told the BBC that males “might share meat with a female one day, and only copulate with her a day or two later.”
The researchers found that male chimpanzees who shared food with females were able to mate twice as often as the more selfish apes. Gomes thinks the findings could give clues into human evolution, and may provide a link between “good hunting skills and reproductive success.”
Similar food-for-sex exchanges have also been observed in flies. In fact, according to National Geographic, male flies have been known to cheat the system by presenting females with worthless gifts—wrapped up to look like food—to fool females into copulation. The strategy may work in the short-term, but the National Geographic reports: “the female dance flies that received the largest nutritious gifts copulated for a significantly longer amount of time than when given either a small nutritious gift or a larger worthless one.”
Though the strategies are similar, flies tend to be more indiscriminate about their sex lives than the chimpanzees. In Green Porno, Isabella Rossellini said flies “have sex several times a day: any opportunity, any female.”
To see Rossellini’s exploration into the sexual lives of flies, watch the video.
Thursday, February 12, 2009 4:11 PM
Historically, sex has been subject to strict personal and religious rules. Just 50 years ago, a person’s sex life was thought of as a direct reflection of moral standing and character. Food, on the other hand, was a matter of personal choice. People ate what they were going to eat, and it wasn’t a matter of public concern.
Today, however, the societal rules surrounding food and sex have switched, Mary Eberstadt writes for the Hoover Institution Policy Review. Proper food consumption has become a moral imperative, with vegetarians, vegans, and locavores playing the roles of ethical evangelists. Sex has become a matter of personal choice, one that is best left to the people involved. This dynamic, according to Eberstadt, has resulted in a the popularization of “mindful eating, and mindless sex.”
The problem, Eberstadt writes, is that both food and sex, “if pursued without regard to consequence, can prove ruinous not only to oneself, but also to other people, and even to society itself.”
, licensed under
Source: Hoover Institution
Tuesday, December 02, 2008 10:43 AM
Simply by looking at a photo, most people are able to figure out if a person would be good in a monogamous relationship or if that person is more interested in casual sex, Mairi Macleod writes for the New Scientist. Men who look more “masculine” and women who are judged more “attractive” were not only thought to be more promiscuous, they actually were more inclined toward flings.
Scientists are trying to explain this phenomenon through biology and evolution. The ability to make accurate snap judgments of people’s sexual proclivities would provide an evolutionary advantage. What scientists continue to grapple with, however, is why people would have such wildly divergent sexual strategies to begin with.
Back in 1991, researchers developed a questionnaire to measure people's level of sexual unrestrictedness, a trait they called “sociosexuality.” Survey respondents were asked seven questions, including questions about their sexual history and if they agreed with statements like, “Sex without love is OK.” From their answers, researchers tried to determine how cavalier respondents were toward sex. You can view the questionnaire here.
From that questionnaire, evolutionary biologists identified differing motivations for infidelity between men and women. Since women run the risk of getting pregnant, men are thought to be evolutionarily wired for more sexual partners. This may be changing, however, according to new research profiled in the New York Times. Tara Parker-Pope writes that “women appear to be closing the adultery gap: younger women appear to be cheating on their spouses nearly as often as men.”
That may be true in the United States, but many factors are at play that could influence the numbers. For example, in cultures with a high ratio of men to women, like China, Japan, and South Korea, “there is a relatively low level of interest in uncommitted casual sex,” according to Macleod. And Parker-Pope reports that social taboos may influence self-reporting of infidelity, where people are less apt to admit infidelity during in-person surveys.
In their quest for more accurate answers on enduring sexual questions, scientists continue to dream up stranger and stranger experiments. In her new book on sexual science, Bonk, author Mary Roach describes the act of having sex with her husband in a 4D ultrasound system, and some experiments even stranger than that. Although the science still leads to unreliable results, Roach told the website Neuronarrative, “we’ve come a long way, certainly. That’s not to say that the work is done, though.”
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008 9:05 AM
It’s often easy to agree with spiritual ideals in theory but struggle to achieve them in practice, especially when it comes to sex and drugs. In an essay for the Buddhist magazine Tricycle, Hannah Tennant-Moore writes about her difficulties following the five precepts of the Dhammika Sutta: “do not injure others, lie, steal, consume intoxicants, or ‘go with another man’s wife’ (nowadays understood to mean ‘engage in sexual misconduct’).” When confined to a Buddhist monastery, Tennant-Moore writes that she was able to achieve all five ideals. Once faced with the temptations of the outside world, however, she found herself unable to avoid “sexual misconduct.”
The Buddhist faith actually has a complex relationship with sex. Tennant-Moore writes that it can sometimes help and sometimes distract from achieving awareness. The Dalai Lama once said that sex between a guru and a student is sometimes (though rarely) acceptable, according to Tennant-Moore. She quotes Zen teacher Ezra Bayda who wrote: “The difference between experiencing our sexuality as heaven or hell is rooted in one thing only, and this is the clarity of our awareness.”
Monday, June 30, 2008 4:18 PM
Impulsive, deceitful, narcissistic, and exploitative men have more success with women, Mason Inman writes for the New Scientist. Although they risk social alienation, men who exhibit the “dark triad” personality traits—described as somewhere between narcissistic and psychopathic behavior—have more prolific sex lives and are evolutionarily more successful.
The correlation between “dark triad” personality traits and active sex lives didn’t hold true for women, but mean girls have unique methods of competition. According to another article in the New Scientist, women learn more subtle modes of social competition than their male counterparts. While little boys try to grab or chase objects of their desire, a study from Emmanuel College in Boston found that young girls learn to harness “the pain of social exclusion” in order to get what they want.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008 5:11 PM
Forget hot wax and nipple clamps. The darkest and most twisted examples of sadomasochism are found under beds and in sock drawers the world over. Consider the phthalates-rich butt plug, whose toxins are slowly poisoning its user’s body via the holiest of holies. Or the discarded rubber dildo, buried in a landfill and contaminating the groundwater. These instruments of pleasure may in fact be causing environmental and biological pain, Molly Freedenberg writes for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. And while their actual impact may be overstated—especially in comparison to other harmful, more widely used items—its not difficult to play it safe and find these same items made from more eco-friendly (but no less user-friendly) materials, like the seaweed-based dildo created by Love Piece. Or get creative and make your own. Just don’t forget the sandpaper.
Monday, February 11, 2008 4:50 PM
Sex. Violence. Rebellion. While these are synonymous with success in today’s box office offerings, films containing allusions to—or, heaven forbid, actual examples of—such behavior were guaranteed a red light in Hollywood after the creation of the Production Code Administration in 1934. Thomas Doherty chronicles the film industry’s last-ditch effort to save itself from the censors’ scissors in his new book, Hollywood’s Censor, and in an excerpt published in Reason.
The Production Code Administration was tasked with upholding the film industry’s self-inflicted Decency Code. Producers and directors had generally ignored the code, but with a major boycott spearheaded by the Catholic Legion of Decency draining box office coffers, and with Roosevelt’s New Deal regulatory paroxysms pointing west, Hollywood producers knelt at the feet of censorship and kissed the insipid ring of values-based entertainment by agreeing to self-regulate film content.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008 2:04 PM
Kathryn Blume’s traveling one-woman show The Boycott raises profound questions, such as, “What do men prefer, gas-guzzling motor vehicles or their wives’ carnal affections?” Blume’s monologue, based on the Aristophanes comedy Lysistrata, follows First Lady Lyssa Stratton as she singlehandedly tries to end global warming. Lyssa vows to abstain from sex until her husband solves climate change, and she urges other women to do the same. Check out Blume’s monologue here:
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