TIME Canada

Toronto’s Mayor Says a Tour by ‘Neo Masculine’ Author Roosh V Should Be Canceled

"He and his views are not welcome in Toronto"

Toronto Mayor John Tory has joined the chorus of voices calling for the cancellation of a lecture series by author and blogger Daryush Valizadeh (better known as Roosh V), who is slated to make an address in the city on Aug. 15.

Valizadeh is the author of Bang, which he describes as “a textbook for picking up girls,” and runs the website ReturnofKings.com. Its aim is to “usher the return of the masculine man in a world where masculinity is being increasingly punished and shamed,” Valizadeh says. He advocates for the adherence to traditional heterosexual gender roles and is against “unlimited mating choice in women” because it undermines “family formation.”

Most notoriously, Valizadeh has called for rape to be decriminalized on private property, because in such circumstances a woman “will never be unchaperoned with a man she doesn’t want to sleep with.”

Unsurprisingly, his views have promoted a backlash, with Tory at the forefront.

City councillor Norm Kelly, who has a reputation in his native Toronto for his forthright Twitter account, has called for the cancellation of Valizadeh’s speech.

Valizadeh has condemned the comments.

After beer was reportedly thrown in his face by angry customers at a bar in Montreal, Valizadeh now says he is prepared to take on any new “battles” in Toronto.

It’s not the first time a self-proclaimed “pickup artist” has met resistance upon embarking on a global promotional circuit. Last year, U.S. pickup artist Julien Blanc’s Australian visa was revoked after a public outcry over his seminars.

TIME movies

The Diary of a Teenage Girl Should Be Required Viewing

Bel Powley poses for a portrait during the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2015 in Park City, Utah.
Larry Busacca--Getty Images Bel Powley poses for a portrait during the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2015 in Park City, Utah.

And not just for teenage girls

The first time Minnie Goetz (Bel Powley) has sex, she marks her lover with an “X,” triumphantly drawn from her own blood. She commands him to take her picture, curious about what a 15-year-old teenager looks like moments after losing her virginity. Later that day, she walks with a skip in her step, noticing things she previously hadn’t—a jogger’s bouncing breasts, the way her own weight shifts as she saunters—as though she’s suddenly put on a pair of glasses that allows her to see the world in a whole new way.

But for all the excitement Minnie feels in this moment, there’s a darker way to read what’s just happened to the titular teenaged girl of The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Marielle Heller’s directorial debut, in theaters Aug. 7. Minnie’s first sexual experience was with her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard), who is more than twice her age; until this encounter, he served as a kind of informal guardian. Her mother (Kristen Wiig) self-medicates with booze and drugs, regularly getting high in front of Minnie and her younger sister. The only responsible adult in the girls’ orbit is their ex-stepfather Pascal (Christopher Meloni), who lives across the country and, despite his good intentions, is unable to offer much meaningful support beyond the occasional check.

This tension between the newfound agency Minnie is discovering as a sexual being and some of the more disturbing features of that process of discovery courses through the movie at a steady hum. And what makes this movie stand out from the admittedly underdeveloped subgenre of films dealing with young female sexuality is its refreshing candor in relaying that tension. It is presented without judgment, with full agency in the hands of its protagonist and with a nuance rarely achieved among its predecessors.

When coverage of the Patty Hearst trial comes on the local news in the Goetz home, it is more than a subtle nod to the time (1976) and place (San Francisco). The family’s debate about whether Hearst was a victim or a willing participant in her own ordeal could just as easily have been about Minnie’s budding sexuality: Is she a victim of what she may someday perceive as trauma? Is she being controlled or is she in control?

The answer, as with many of the trials of adolescence, may rest somewhere in between. Since its warm reception at Sundance, The Diary of a Teenage Girl has been mostly described as an empowering tale of teenage female sexuality. It’s not hard to count the ways in which the film normalizes and even celebrates teenage female sexuality: Minnie makes declarations like “I like sex” and thinks about it incessantly, embodying traits which cinema has historically associated with the teenaged male. When she sleeps with a boy from her school, she takes control, showing him how to do it so that she will feel pleasure.

But Diary’s empowerment does not derive solely from Minnie’s agency. It pulls from the moments of shame, disappointment and anger as much as it does from those of pride, satisfaction and joy. Empowerment comes from offering up a realistic portrayal of one young woman’s experience, to which another young woman watching might possibly relate. If you are a young woman whose sexual development has not been a path paved with roses, it is not empowering to watch a fictional tale that consists only of roses. It’s alienating.

It’s tempting to say that Diary is fresh because we are so accustomed to seeing sexual coming of age stories about heterosexual teenaged boys—Porky’s, Losin’ It, Superbad, American Pie—in which boy is subject and girl, consequently, is object. Certainly, the number of male-centric virginity-loss tales far exceeds the number about young women. But the latter do exist.

And they tend to go in one of two directions. There are those that present a young woman’s sexual awakening as a time characterized by danger and darkness. The 2009 British drama Fish Tank, in which a 15-year-old girl has sex with her mother’s boyfriend, could share a log line with Diary. But its protagonist is angry and isolated, and the encounter and its aftermath read more like the world-is-dark-and-cold kind of growing up than the world-is-magical-and-full-of-possibility attitude Minnie feels.

On the opposite end of the tonal spectrum, there are movies that take a more comedic approach to female sexuality. The To-Do List (2013), for one, stars Aubrey Plaza as a clueless high school grad preparing for college by checking sexual exploits off a list she keeps in her Trapper Keeper. They generally go humorously awry, though she picks up a sex-positive attitude along the way. Many that fall in this lighter camp feature a high school peanut gallery passing judgment on the protagonist’s exploits—the so-called slut, the nerdy virgin, the Christian saint a la Mandy Moore in Saved and Amanda Bynes in Easy A.

These movies are valid and important—for some young women, their first sexual encounters are damaging and painful, and for others, they are full of humiliating kerfuffles good for a laugh in later years. But in The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Minnie embraces sexual discovery head-on—not for laughs, and not to check it off a list. For her, sex is not the butt of a joke or a summons for danger or a stale right of passage. There is no peanut gallery to contend with, only her own sense of self and the fruits of her exploration, some juicy, some rotten.

And it’s not just teenaged girls who stand to benefit from such a refreshingly honest take on a subject that pertains directly to them. The non-teenaged, non-girl population—those who hold opinions about how teenaged girls should be, who influence access to birth control and sex education curricula, who weigh in on what defines consent and whose stories are believable—might walk away enlightened, as well.

TIME sexuality

Transitioning Genders Isn’t About Glamour

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

Coming out in Vanity Fair is one thing, but learning to be open with your family and friends is another

Four years ago, when I first started presenting to the world as a woman, I met my friend Jamie for lunch in West L.A. As soon as we sat down, some children sitting at the table next to ours said they spotted two men who were “dressed weird.”

I knew they didn’t mean any harm, but my heart sank, since I was a newly out transgender woman who was trying her best to blend into society. Jamie noticed my discomfort and saw how I tightened up. She knew that I was wondering what else I could do to look better. “What had I done wrong?” I thought to myself. “Did I not wear enough makeup? Was my voice the tell? What did they pick up that gave me away?”

“Don’t worry, Natalie, so many transgender women get read in front of children,” she said. “They just have the knack to read us out and spot us. It must be their purity or innocence or something.” She was trying to console me.

There was a huge flurry of discussion and applause when Caitlyn Jenner announced her new name and the start of a new life with a glamorous spread on the cover of Vanity Fair. But not all of us get a spread in Vanity Fair and a prize-winning journalist to explain who we are. For most of us, it is hard to explain ourselves. The daily awkward moments are difficult to deal with, if only because they keep coming even after the “big reveal.” The most important change a transgender woman can make is to drop the protective armor she has been carrying around her whole life.

The first thing we are taught about gender is what we can’t be. Often, while I was growing up, I heard, “No, boys don’t wear dresses. No, boys can’t wear makeup. No, boys play with different toys than girls.” I knew my heart was feminine at the age of four, but society repeatedly told me that I couldn’t show the world the person I felt myself to be. If I did, I was going to get beat up—even though I was growing up in liberal Southern California. But after 30 years of modulating myself for those around me, I needed to start the transition to the person I’d always felt was inside, or walk through the rest of my life feeling dead.

To be transgender is to know deeply that the traditional gender roles assigned by the body parts you’re born with don’t fit, and that you have to move beyond what society typically thinks of as a “man” or a “woman.” To transition to the gender that we feel is inside of us, many transgender people choose to get surgery or take hormones, but many others do not. It’s more about living in the world as a particular gender. Medical history is irrelevant—and a private matter, as it is for all Americans.

For me, transitioning meant I had to peel off the years of socialization as a man, no longer hiding in transgender and gay bars, and inviting all 30 family members from both sides over for a meeting, where my parents went through the trouble of translating what I said into Chinese for those family members that didn’t comprehend English.

It meant walking into the living room for everyone to see me, and answering questions for four hours from people who were genuinely concerned about me and the struggles I had faced in solitude for three decades. It meant feeling like my old skin was ripped off as I walked in the world raw and tender, even though I had ample support from those who loved me the most. It meant accepting that, at any given moment, people could express disdain towards me—the very same disdain that I had feared so much when I was younger and prompted me to hide my trans nature for so long. It made changing wardrobes and applying makeup seem so easy.

Shortly after I began transitioning, a transgender friend and I were trying on outfits—she a cute halter-top, and I a strapless dress with a floral print—in the fitting room of Forever 21. We overheard an employee say, “Oh my God! Did you see those two? What are they trying to be? Did you see how ridiculous they looked?” He was giggling hysterically with another coworker.

For the majority of transgender women I know, no matter how attractive and passable she is, her trans-identity will reveal itself at some point. But it’s not even having our history out there that is the scariest thing. I recognize that some people, no matter what, are going to want to make me feel uncomfortable because I’m different from them. But the scary parts for me are the moments I am labeled merely as a “man in a dress,” treated as less than human, or erased as a freak.

Two years after that unpleasant rendezvous with Jamie, I was ecstatic to start my first job while presenting as a woman. Everyone at work—I’m an engineer—would meet the me that I had hidden for over three decades.

But accompanying my excitement came the fear that I would be read out as a transgender woman. So I did what most inexperienced transgender women do in their first few years of transition: I stiffened my spine and kept a heavy curtain up to conceal my past. I wanted desperately to box up my history and leave it in the dumpster.

So even though I identified as more of a “girl next door” and felt most comfortable wearing jeans and a simple top, I constantly tried to keep myself polished and camera-ready with Marciano dresses and Michael Kors heels. Not only was I exhausted by trying to hold up this 50-ton shield of defensive armor, I was also distant.

I quickly realized my armor came with a huge cost. My friendships lacked emotional weight. To hide that I was a transgender woman, I felt I had to edit out snippets of my life, such as the fact that my ex-fiancé was a beautiful Russian woman, or my last boyfriend was an aspiring professional dancer turned electrical engineer. I couldn’t go into details about my high school days or describe the queer activist rally I had attended over the weekend. And when asked by a coworker about the name of my former rock band in San Francisco, I lied because I was fearful he would discover through Google that it was a transgender band.

I had spent so much energy to come out as Natalie—only to find myself choosing to convince everyone that I was born female at birth with the childhood of a girl rather than owning my transgender identity. So I asked myself, “What is more important, a seamless concealment of my past, or more depth in my relationships with those women whom I see as friends? Did I really make this transition to merely walk into another closet?”

Then came an opportunity to change all that. I went shopping one Friday with one of the gals with whom I was closest to at work. After terrorizing our bank accounts for over four hours and swapping fashion tips, we went to an Indian restaurant for dinner. It was there that I told her about my transgender history and my journey into embracing my womanhood. When I finished, I was so nervous, I couldn’t look at her.

Then I felt my hands being taken into hers. As I turned my head upwards to make eye contact, she thanked me for telling her, and told me she was grateful for the opportunity to deepen our friendship.

It’s now been four years since I transitioned and I am so much more comfortable with my transgender history that I can approach it as a “So what?” when I’m interacting with other people in public. It is the prose of my everyday life—not the poetry—that has made the difference.

All the work I put in to drop my defensiveness was affirmed recently. During a friendly gathering for lunch between two families, a 3-year-old named Stella observed me with curiosity as I played with my 4-year-old niece, Sasha. When Sasha felt shy about being around new people, she buried her head into my dress.

Stella blurted out, “Are you Sasha’s mom?” All the adults laughed at Stella’s innocent inquiry, but I felt as if Natalie had finally arrived. It wasn’t about putting on an outfit and makeup or getting my genitals reconfigured, but about the work I put in to stop being self-conscious and play with these kids in the way that let my feminine heart shine.

Natalie Yeh lives in the L.A. area. You can read more of her writings on her blog and the site Feminine Collective

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME celebrities

YouTube Star Shane Dawson Has Come Out to His Fans as Bisexual in an Emotional Video

Dawson made the video because he thought it could help others who were confused about their sexuality

YouTube star Shane Dawson has come out as bisexual, in a touching 15-minute video posted to his channel Tuesday.

Twenty-six-year-old Dawson, whose real name is Shane Lee Yaw, is known by his 6.7 million subscribers for his comedies, parodies and sketches that he has been uploading to YouTube since 2008.

In the emotional video, which has so far gained more than 1 million hits, Dawson says he had been confused about his sexuality all his life, but especially in the past year.

“This is something I’ve come to the conclusion through therapy and from being honest with myself,” he says. “I am bisexual.”

Dawson says he never thought he would make the video but did so because he thought it could help people who were also unsure about their sexuality.

“There are a lot of coming out videos of people who are gay or lesbian and they’re so confident,” he says. “But it made me cry because I’m not that, I don’t know who I am 100%. And I know that a lot of you guys might feel the same way.”

After the video was uploaded, Dawson tweeted thanks to his fans for their support.

TIME sexuality

What It’s Like to Be a Lesbian in Love With a Man

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

For now, I am just trying to be true to myself

xojane

When I commit to something, I go all in. I didn’t just become a vegetarian, I became a vegan. I didn’t just cut back on alcohol when it became too much, I got sober for keeps. When I became a runner, I signed up for a half marathon, the most difficult one in the world. When I started dating a woman, I became a lesbian.

The year I came out, much to the dismay of my girlfriend who loved my long girly blond hair, I went full lesbian with a faux hawk and shaved steps. I loooooved it.

Of course, I didn’t just “become a lesbian.” I knew that I was bisexual since probably the age of six or seven when I started kissing my girlfriends on sleepovers. We would play house, and one of us would have to pretend to be the husband and the other the wife. This was the only acceptable premise of course for them, but I was kissing girls, so I didn’t care what story they were telling themselves. Sure, yes, this time you can be the girl, sweetheart.

When I had casual relationships with girls in college, I never seriously considered ever coming out because I never seriously considered it to be an option. Girl stuff was for fun, but not very serious. Since I liked boys too, I assumed that eventually there would be a serious boy-girl scenario in my future. I never imagined it any other way.

When I met my girlfriend at 24, and it became serious, I confronted my sexuality in a real way for the first time. I had never felt guilt, shame, or fear about my sexuality at any point in my life until I needed to confront it in a social and public way.

I had never once considered what it would be like to walk down the street holding a girl’s hand, or coming out to grand-parents or raising a child in a same-sex relationship. This is the lovely state most heteros get to inhabit for their entire existences, god bless them. I know it was bliss when I was there. (I can only imagine that this is something even remotely close to the blissful ignorance I enjoy as a white, first-world, employed, able-bodied cis gendered person.)

There were many sleepless nights as I came face to face with the reality of the heternormativity of my world and with the homophobia I had only ever scarcely considered a reality of my family and community. I had benefited my whole life from cis and straight privilege and never considered a time when I wouldn’t either benefit from both, or what it was like for people who didn’t.

The process maybe took about two years; I never in that time even considered the option of coming out as bisexual, though. I was in a committed relationship with a woman, we thought we were deeply in love and I thought it was forever. We talked about forever, and babies, and growing old together.

To me, in that place, there was no point in not going all in. What was the point in telling people I was also attracted to men if I had only the intention of living in a lesbian relationship for the rest of my life? I didn’t feel that it was fair to benefit from even the privileged status bisexuals maintain (objects of male desire, and perceived as existing for and within the hetero dynamic) and/or from presumed straightness. I went all in.

I got a “lesbian haircut.” I joined activist and political organizations that were fighting homophobia and transphobia. I marched in pride parades and dyke marches and became a spokesperson in public schools where I told my coming out story to kids. I started a gay blog, and I talked about LGBT issues on national television.

I did it all as a lesbian, because once I confronted the reality of heternormativity and my cis/gender privilege and straight privilege (as someone who walks around in the world often perceived as cisgendered and straight and benefits from it greatly), I felt like lesbianism was a social and political issue that mattered.

I believed that for the rest of my life, I would have to come out over and over again at new jobs, to new friends, to teachers, to my kid’s friends’ parents, to new neighbours and to authorities.

Living in a lesbian relationship meant that I would be treated like a lesbian for the rest of my life and it mattered that I not live in fear of prejudice and that I use my other class, race and gender privilege to join this battle.

Ironically or tragically, my relationship suffered from the pain of both real and internalized homophobia. For eight years, I almost never enjoyed even simple public affection like hand holding, a light touch or gesture from someone I loved when the moment might have called for it. We never had a romantic slow dance at a wedding or a romantic kiss on a beach at sunset. Things that give me butterflies, that make me blush, that make me feel blissfully desired and loved. It was a behind-closed-doors relationship and it suffered because of it.

When my relationship did end (I am sure you saw that coming!), I once again found myself in a strangely precarious situation: I wasn’t personally confused about my sexuality, but I have been feeling deep social uneasiness.

If I date a man, do I need to come out again? What will the gay community think? Will I lose all of my gay friends? Will I lose my identity? Do I want to lose that identity? What does it mean for “the cause”? How do I explain it to people? It was all about the social and not at all about the personal.

When I recently met a wildly lovely man who has made my heart burst out of my chest with passion and vulnerability and kindness and sincerity and intelligence, I resisted. How did this fit with my identity? Reverse coming out felt anxiety-inducing.

I didn’t prepare myself for was the guilt. The first time we walked hand in hand around my neighborhood, my heart was racing. When we kissed on a busy public street, I felt the heat rise up into my face. When we cuddled in the park, I felt eyes burning into me from all directions.

People were looking, but I was terribly aware that I was not a freakshow. I wasn’t been ogled. I didn’t need to be afraid of someone yelling at me, of someone being offended or someone offending me, or of violence and threats or being objectified by men. Little old ladies smiled at us as we walked by. Straight couples did little knowing straight couple exchanges.

I felt for the first time in a very long time that I could be present and be in the moment and be light-hearted and enjoy the newness of the romance, of the exchange of a smile, or the feeling of my hand in his. For the first time in a long time, the palms of my hands weren’t sweaty from anxiety and fear while holding hands in public. It was a relief.

In that relief, in that ease however, I felt overshadowed by guilt.

I am not sure how to shake it off yet. I don’t know how to not feel like I am abandoning my people and my cause, how to continue to fight the fight that is still being fought around the world and in my community for the right to walk down the street and not feel fear of retaliation, of disgust and of hatred.

For now, I am just trying to follow my heart and to listen deeply to my mind and body. And be true to myself.

Erika Jahn wrote this article for xoJane

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME World

See Gay Pride Parades From Around the World

Celebrations took place in June 2015 in countries across the globe, from Brazil to Germany

TIME psychology

10 Secrets About Sexual Satisfaction, Backed by Science

red-rose-bouquet
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

  • Here’s a list of scientific factors associated with sexual satisfaction.
  • What women look for in one night stands and long term relationships is very different.
  • Age difference has a big effect on how sexually satisfied husbands and wives are.
  • Here‘s a list of what keeps men and women sexually satisfied over time.
  • Increasing the amount of good sex you have is more about self-esteem than getting kinky.

Join over 190,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME sexuality

Fifty Shades From A Man’s Perspective Is Bad for Women

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

Fifty Shades of testosterone have been added to a film and book franchise that has so far resisted interference by the patriarchy

It’s no surprise that Universal Pictures ordered a sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, considering the S&M-themed movie adaptation of the book trilogy has so far grossed almost $570 million worldwide. It’s also no surprise that screenwriter Kelly Marcel will not be back to write the sequel. After all, the book’s writer EL James (nee Erika Leonard), notoriously clashed with director Sam Taylor-Johnson and was given enormous creative control over the project.

What is surprising, however, is the narrative switch-up happening in the franchise. First it was revealed that James’ husband Niall Leonard will write the screenplay for Fifty Shades Darker. Leonard is a bona fide screenwriter with credits on several British series (and reportedly had an uncredited rewrite of the first film’s script). And earlier this week Grey, the version of the Fifty Shades tale from Christian’s point of view, hit shelves.

Grey seems like nothing more than a cash grab, another telling of the same tale to capitalize on a trilogy that sold well over 100 million copies, which is even bigger than a blockbuster in the book world. But it is also something different. With the official addition of Leonard to the creative team for the new movie, there is a growing amount of testosterone in one of the few giant Hollywood franchises that so far has resisted interference by the patriarchy, both in terms of its creation and narrative. Things could get complicated for James’ empire.

Nearly 70% of the audience for the movie’s opening weekend back in February was female, a staggeringly high percentage. Wouldn’t it make sense that the powers that be would want a woman in one of the major creative roles on the movie? When a planned Wonder Woman movie recently lost its female director, Warner Bros. hired another woman to bring the lasso of truth to the big screen, and that comic book franchise will have far more Y chromosomes filling the theaters than Fifty Shades ever will. To hire a man to helm a long-awaited film would have caused a worse and more vocal backlash than when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman.

Fifty Shades was also the largest opening weekend for a female director ever, and James had held out for a woman for her project. This not only makes sense from a creative perspective but from an activist perspective as well. Last year, a survey by the Writers Guild of America found that women wrote only 15% of feature films, down from 17% in 2009. They also only made 77 cents on the dollar to male writers, which is the regrettable standard across many sectors of American industry.

James is under no obligation to do anything to please anyone but herself, but she has remarkable control over who is making these movies and can give women opportunities to prove themselves on a global scale that they are not often afforded. On a very specific level, it’s a little gross that a man is going to be writing this project. While I have not read the books or seen the movie, I do know enough about the phenomenon—how could I not?—to know that it’s about a young woman who is seduced by a handsome billionaire who initiates her into a world of kinky S&M sex. I’m all for exploring all sorts of sexual expression between consenting adults, but plenty of critics were taken aback by the “abusive gender roles”, “anti-feminism”, and “abusive relationship” of both the books and the adaptation. Now to have it written by a man or told from a man’s perspective only seems to give more heft to those perspectives.

I don’t know what James and Leonard do behind closed doors, but for the book’s author to allow her husband to adapt her work about a man physically and emotionally dominating a woman seems a little, well, creepy. Part of the draw of the books was that it gave women a surrogate to explore a kinkier side of their sexuality that they might not have given into at home. But having Christian tell the story and giving more credence to the character who already has the upper hand seems a little bit exploitative. This is no longer about Anastasia’s decision to enter into a relationship with him — it’s about a man taking advantage of a woman for his own means, a story we don’t need to crack a book to learn everything about.

On the other hand, let’s imagine Leonard’s appointment is a compromise with studio executives who didn’t want James (who was characterized as ‘inexperienced,” “impulsive,” and “controlling” during the making of the movie) writing the screenplay herself. This way she can work with her husband who knows how to craft a screenplay and, most likely, forge compromises with his wife. And since Christian Grey’s book is sprung from her mind, ultimately he is under her power.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME health

Here’s What It’s Like To Take ‘Female Viagra’

Flibanserin
Allen Breed—AP In this Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, file photo, a tablet of flibanserin sits on a brochure for Sprout Pharmaceuticals in the company's Raleigh, N.C., headquarters.

Amanda Parrish participated in one of the Flibanserin clinical trials and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

I just want to want my husband again—and reading '50 Shades of Grey' at least 12 times isn't doing the trick as well as the 'little pink pill' did

I was raised Southern Baptist in the Deep South. Sex was something you didn’t talk about. As a woman, you certainly didn’t talk about wanting or enjoying it. I was taught that sex was about procreation, not recreation.

I met my husband, Ben, in 2005. We had both previously been married, and we approached our relationship with an open dialogue about what we would do differently and what we thought was important. There were no inhibitions, and our relationship was sexually charged.

Then around 2008, it felt like something was missing. Before, I’d been an active initiator—flirty, playful, and frisky. But now, there was a lack of oomph and interest. I found myself trying to be asleep before he came to bed and avoiding those intimate times.

It wasn’t that when we were together, things weren’t great, because they were. I don’t have an arousal problem, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy sex or that I don’t orgasm. From my neck down, my body responds perfectly. What’s missing is the lack of desire to start. I became an obligatory participant instead of an initiator.

My doctor told me to buy a vibrator, which didn’t help, and that what I was experiencing was a natural part of aging. I began to worry, and unknown to me, Ben started to worry, too. A few months later, I was in the doctor’s office again and saw a flier about hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). Reading the symptoms, it felt like a light bulb was going off. Part of me was elated: I’m not just getting old. Another part of me was terrified: What if this can’t be fixed?

After a thorough evaluation, I was diagnosed with HSDD, and I decided to be part of the trial for Flibanserin, which has been dubbed the “female Viagra.” That description isn’t right: What I have isn’t a functional problem. Viagra sends blood flow down to the penis so that it gets erect. You can send blood flow to my vagina all day long and that’s not going to make me want to have sex. My problem is that my brain doesn’t feel desire.

About two weeks into the trial, I was texting Ben in the middle of the day when I realized that I wanted to have sex. I had a flutter, and I don’t mean in my heart. So I texted him, “I think this is working.” I was back to my normal self.

Part of my hesitation about the drug was the stigma attached to it. Would I become a sex kitten? Would I want this all the time? Would I want to jump the bones of any man I saw? But instead, it was like filling back up a half-empty glass of water. It brought me back to where I was. Before long, I was the one suggesting we skip dessert and go back home to bed.

The quality of our sex during the trial was much different. I was taught that for sex, men need a place, and women need a reason. But what I found was that Ben responded differently to me when he knew I wanted him. It turned him on in a different way, and watching his reaction turned me on, too.

We were also finally talking openly about sex. I think this intimacy saved our relationship. That’s why I’m so passionate about this pill and have testified about it before the FDA. There are so many couples that don’t talk about sex and don’t realize what’s wrong. They think that once they’re 50, they’re done. I’m 52. I don’t want to think that I’m done wanting to have sex.

I was on the trial for eight months, and after the FDA canceled the trial, my desire went away. I’ve tried other things. I read 50 Shades of Grey at least 12 times, and incorporated the fun, frisky stuff from that. I even tried testosterone, but I found that it worked much better in the workout room than the bedroom, and I was concerned about the side effects that I was experiencing.

Some people have told me that all I need is a bar of chocolate, or a glass of wine, or a beach in Tahiti, or a new partner. I get that. For a large number of women, that might be the case, and they are likely not HSDD patients. I’ve tried talking to therapists, and I think that can work for many people, too. But I’ve talked about it until I was blue in the face, and for me, all of those solutions are simply temporary fixes.

There are lots of products to help women get aroused and lubricated. This is the one thing that’s missing. I know this pill worked for me. It’s currently under review by FDA, and I hope that it’s approved. I want to want my husband again.

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TIME Music

Poet-Rapper-Artist Mykki Blanco: I’m Living With HIV

Lovebox Festival - Day 3
Burak Cingi—Redferns/Getty Images Mykki Blanco performs on stage on day 3 of Lovebox Festival in London on July 21, 2013

He's been positive since 2011

Mykki Blanco, the poet-rapper-performance-artist hyphenate, who alternately identifies as transgender and multigendered, revealed Saturday that he is living with HIV.

“I’ve been HIV Positive since 2011, my entire career,” he wrote on his Facebook account. “F— stigma and hiding in the dark, this is my real life.”

Blanco explained that he decided to come clean as a way of living up to his artistic and personal ideals. “I’m healthy I’ve toured the world 3 times but ive been living in the dark, its time to actually be as punk as i say I am,” he wrote. He added later in response to a fan, “I just cant be an image living in fear having people call me brave and it being a lie.”

Blanco, who grew up in Harlem and whose real name is Michael Quattlebaum Jr., considers his music to be a product of the Riot Grrl movement and counts among his influences diverse artists including Kathleen Hanna, Lauryn Hill, Marilyn Manson, and Lil’ Kim. He took his stage name from Lil’ Kim’s alter ego, Kimmy Blanco.

His confession was met with words of support from fans. “You make me so proud with everything you do,” one wrote. “You are a hero and a warrior,” another added.

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