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Welcome to #AskCam, a column where sex and intersectionality are not divided but welcomed together.

Dear Cam, I'm exploring my sexuality and experimenting with different kinks, but I'm getting kind of worried about the kinds of things that I've been interested in. I'm not hurting anyone or anything, but some of the things that I find through online or in my imagination are... not as typical to what other people are into. But they turn me on. Am I a freak or what? -Turn Me On Turn Me On, Your question immediately made me think of a Dear Sugar columns [trigger warning: mentions and slight details of rape, incest] to which Cheryl Strayed responds to a reader concerned that her interest in submission means something with a line that stands out completely: icky thoughts turn me on. The thing about what turns us on is that it's both connected and independent from the rest of us. The things that turn us on, like everything else, don't exist in a vacuum. Your curiosity and interest in them could be coming from a subconscious pull or it could simply be the sensation of something — the feeling of leather on skin, the look in a domme's eye as they train their pet, or something else entirely — that just speaks to you. You're not necessarily required to dive deep about the why of what turns you on. If it's something that you are consciously consenting to, are ethical about, and aren't harming another person (or yourself) with, then I say that you're free to explore to your heart's content. What turns you on doesn't need to fit into a box for others to consume neatly.
Related: ASK CAM: NAVIGATING EMOTIONAL LABOR AND ANTI-BLACKNESS IN RELATIONSHIPS

Welcome to #AskCam, a column where sex and intersectionality are not divided but welcomed together.

Dear Cam, I'm not quite sure how to navigate this. I have a white partner (we're polyam) and I feel like he gives his white partners more space, patience, and consideration to feel insecure or needing validation to feel safe in a polyamorous relationship than he gives me. Am I imagining how big of a problem this is? Why is empathy something that's used so often against Black folks in relationships? How do I talk about this?   -Deserving of Empathy
Deserving, Whew, this question has been on my mind for a while and I'm glad that you brought it up. By no means is this a unique problem to your relationship. In fact, I've heard this question raised over and over by the BIPOC in my life, no matter what kind of romantic relationship they have. I believe that in every relationship — romantic or not — everyone involved has to commit to performing labor for the betterment of the relationship. But when it's done evenly (i.e., both parties commit to doing labor for each other and themselves), the relationship itself is healthy and balanced. It's when this labor falls unfairly on one party that this balance is thrown out of whack. And because nothing exists in a vacuum, we can't separate the fact that this imbalance of labor almost always falls on the shoulders of marginalized people. There's a rising interest in non-monogamy, which is great, but I think a lot of people who are first learning about or are new to non-monogamy often forget that there's work that goes into these relationship structures as well. We're still interacting with other people, and that means that we still have to take care in treating them with respect, love, and understanding and not just project our own assertions and demand they fulfill our needs without considering what effect that will have on them. So much of this creates violence and unnecessary hardship — especially when we take identities like race into account. There's also an assumption here, it seems, that your partner thinks that there is an equal dividing of care he gives to you and his other partners. Care and work that goes into a relationship doesn't come with an on/off switch; it isn't neatly divided between "yes" or "no", "all" or "nothing". It's highly unfair of him to assume — not even ask — that you would need "less" support in the relationship with no evidence other than the assumptions he's making on your identity as a POC.
RELATED: #ASKCAM: CELIBACY IS A VALID CHOICE

Welcome to #AskCam, a column where sex and intersectionality are not divided but welcomed together.

Dear Cam, I've always been a sexual person, but I haven't been dating in the last few months because of life – school, work, family, that kind of thing. Because of this, I've been unintentionally celibate for a few months, and sometimes I feel like something is wrong with me. Is celibacy still valid even when you don't plan for it or have a super deep meaning, like for religion, attached?  -Accidentally Celibate   Accidentally Celibate, Celibacy doesn't often get enough love in the sex education world, but sex positivity means empowering everyone to make the best choices for themselves by providing information on everything. And if other sexual acts can be pleasurable and valid, why can't celibacy? For those who are unfamiliar, celibacy has a variety of definitions, but it's best known for being interpreted as the abstaining from sexual activity. Google dictionary defines it as "the state of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations", but that seems very detached from how we regard other forms of sexual expression in our lives. Where sexual activity is often connected with other parts of our lives, celibacy is too often seen as separate, disconnected, and "less than". It's a looked down upon choice because the norm in our society is that everyone should want to and be able to have sex. That simply isn't true.
Related: #ASKCAM: NAVIGATING COMMUNICATION AND CASUAL CONSENT

Welcome to #AskCam, a column where sex and intersectionality are not divided but welcomed together.

  Dear Cam, How exactly do I address consent in casual relationship settings? If I'm in a longer-standing relationship, I'm not embarrassed or ashamed to talk about literally any topic....but if I go on one date with someone and I'm not vibing them then they kiss me or grope me or touch me in some way that my body is adverse, I get uncomfortable and can't find the words to defend myself in the moment. Sometimes it's because I shut down, other times I just prefer the out that I can ghost them and use that as a way to avoid the in-person confrontation. If I don't know the person at all, I'm fine. You creep on me at the bar or catcall me I'm telling you to your face to not sexually harass me, but it's this weird in between where I almost feel a sense of either guilt, or obligation, or fear that clouds my ability to speak out. -Casual Consent   Dear Casual Consent, I think your question is an increasingly important one. There's so much conversation lately about the ways that desirability, consent, and autonomy spill over into our everyday (*ahem* sexual) lives, and I think that we don't really allow much space for navigating these things in ways that are free of confusion and awkwardness. When I first read your letter, I immediately thought that this wasn't so much a question of consent itself – you already seem to have a firm grasp on that – to me, your question speaks more about boundaries. Boundaries are a tricky thing in itself – for women and people who have been conditioned and socialized as femme folks, we've been brought up with this idea that other people's needs should come before our own. Empathy and compassion for others are admirable traits, but because conversations about autonomy and boundaries weren't accompanied, the message that most of us received was that what we want and need aren't as important as our partner's wants and needs, whether they identify as cis-het men or not.
Related: HOW SEXUALITY IS CRUCIAL FOR INTERSECTIONALITY: AN INTRODUCTION

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