I used to think it was a myth, but  indeed a form of male hormonal contraceptive (MHC) is in the making. The MHC, which is estimated to become available in 3 years and FDA approved in 5, will be offered in a variety of different forms, such as a pill, patch, injection or implant, much like female birth control. A two-year study being conducted in California has proved the pill to be effective, with very few side effects (some men report slight nausea and weight gain, side effects similar to female oral contraceptives).

This new form of birth control opens up a variety of different doors in the realm of safe sex,  complete with both positives and negatives. On the bright side, men will now have a condom-free option of controlling unwanted pregnancies. And, for couples in committed relationships who have been tested for STDs and don’t feel the need to wear condoms, the man can take responsibility when it comes to preventing pregnancy.  Plus, I can’t wait to see some men on those obnoxious birth control pill commercials (they’re much funnier in europe).

However, I feel male birth control will only be productive in committed, monogamous relationships.  It will obviously decrease the popularity of condoms (because no one actually enjoys wearing those anyways) and therefor it could  increase the likelihood of STDs. I am constantly lecturing female friends about the importance of condoms, because often girls who are on the pill feel a false sense of safety when it comes to casual sex, especially if they get a few drinks in them and their decision making-skills become impaired. Likewise, it shocks me the amount of men who agree to have random  condomless sex with a girl who is on the pill, as if STDs don’t even register in either of their heads.

In a study done in England, researchers asked both men and women if they felt that men could be trusted to be in charge of taking a contraceptive. Results were not such a big surprise; the men felt capable, but women doubted they could be trusted to take the pill daily.

I also wonder if the male pill would have similar side effects to the female pill when it comes to picking partners. Studies have shown that women naturally prefer the scent of a man whose genes are dissimilar from her own, which gives the offspring of said woman and man a better chance of survival (stronger immune systems, etc). However, women who are on birth control seem to be chemically confused, and choose men with genes similar to their own. Will the results be the same when men too are on the pill? Natural sexual selection will be thrown even further off course. 

Whenever (if ever) MHC comes out on the market, I feel safe-sex campaigns will have to work extra hard to prevent STD-rates from skyrocketing.  However, I know I would be excited to get off the pill, not have to use a condom, and keep my belly baby-free. For anyone still out in the casual dating world (or a super-drunk, super-sexed college environment), condoms should always be the number one choice for contraception regardless of who is on what type of pill.

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As spring rolls around and the local farmers market starts up again, I find myself facing a dilemma that many environmentally conscious people are facing. Is it better for me to head to my grocery store and get my organic produce, which may have logged thousands of food miles to get to the shelves at Kroger, or stop by my community market and pick up some locally grown things, even though they may not be organic.

In an ideal world, all the veggies offered to me at my local market would be grown organically or even better, all my food would be coming from my very own garden, allowing me to be self sustainable. Unfortunately, neither of those things are an option for me, at least not right now, and so I am constantly going over this dilemma in my head.

Organically grown produce is good for the environment, because it was grown naturally and is supposedly pesticide free. This is also good for my body, as pesticides can lead to all sorts of nasty things both short (headaches) and long term (tumors, birth defects). Organic farming began with the best of intentions, but as it blossomed into a national demand, what the industry has dubbed “Big Organics” emerged. These are huge organic farms that focus on producing and shipping as much as possible. Here lies the problem; I know that eating a nice butternut squash that was not sprayed with tons of chemicals or genetically modified is good for me, and organic eating is a movement I support. However, what if I am getting my organic squash all the way from California? Do the food miles logged to get my squash from their happy organic farm (or huge industrial-sized organic farm) to my grocery store use so much fuel and create so much pollution and green house gas that they outweigh the friendly farming techniques all together?

Would it then be more beneficial to the environment (and economy) if I bought my squash (most likely not organic) at the market from a man who grew them himself, whose profits go directly into feeding his own family, supporting his own business,  therefor benefitting my local economy? And if you dedicate yourself to consuming mostly locally grown produce, this will help you eat seasonally, cause if it isn’t in season you’re not going to find it. Plus, if I want to know how the food I am about to buy was grown, all I have to do is ask the man who grew it. I can’t possibly do this in the organic  produce section at Kroger. However, perhaps it is just the neurotic in me, but I can’t help fretting about the chemicals in the food I buy whenever it isn’t organic, regardless of where it is coming from.

In the end, I haven’t come to a perfect conclusion, because this is a very complex issue. Buying locally and organic each has its pro’s and con’s. Because I try to eat seasonal whenever I can, I often buy locally before organic. I would rather put my money and trust into a local farmer than a grocery store (even the dreaded Wal-Mart carries organic produce now), and I feel if everyone did the same we could change the way our nation looks at food. Hopefully one day I will be able to grow a good amount of my own food, organically, but until then, whenever I choose local over organic I just rinse everything really, really well before I eat it and know that I am doing the best I can.

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Ever since I was a kid, as March draws to a close and April approaches, I begin to get excited. Why? Because April 2nd is my birthday (wahoo) and because after my birthday comes Easter! Now I am not religious, and wasn’t raised religious, so to me Easter meant only one thing : a huge basket of candy. 
Raised by health conscious parents (thanks guys!), candy was a special treat reserved for holidays, so days like Halloween and Easter just couldn’t come soon enough.

Since becoming vegan, however, the only sweet treats I have really been enjoying are the ones I have made myself. This is fine of course, I like knowing exactly what I am putting into my body. However, I was extremely excited to stumble across this vegan easter candy! While I probably won’t eat much of it (candy is still candy, and not so good for you), I am stoked to get my hands on some vegan cream eggs (a childhood favorite of mine) , vegan truffles or a vegan easter bunny. Yum. Easter this year is April 4th so order some candy now so you’re fully prepared to get down.

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      This was an article published in my column, Sex, or Something Like It, in the March 2010 issue of The Lynchburg Current.

Luckily for me, I am not a guy. I say this because, as much pressure is constantly put on girls to fit into society’s idea of beauty, men have a bit of pressure on themselves as well, and it all rests on what they are packing.

In our culture, bigger is better. Think about the portion sizes we consume, and the size of Heidi Montag’s brand new breasts. In an ideal world, everyone would be happy with what they naturally have. However, this is not the case. If a woman is unhappy with herself and doesn’t have the desire or funding to go all Heidi, she can grab a push-up bra.  This isn’t the case for guy’s most talked about body part.  If they have been given the short end of the stick (literally), unless they want to put their little guy under the knife, all they can do is turn the lights off and hope the guy that came before them was even smaller.

So, what exactly is big when it comes to taking a trip down south? I ran a quick survey and asked the five girls I live with their estimates. Most of them thought average stands at around 6 inches, with big pushing 8. However, one argued that average was around 8 inches (I then proceeded to write down the names and numbers of all her previous hook-ups, just in case Ben breaks up with me). In actuality, the average male is about 5 inches, according to a study published in the September 1996 Journal of Urology, which was being conducted in order to counsel patients who were considering penile augmentation, also known as phalloplasty (ouch).

A lot of pressure is put on guys to perform, and I wouldn’t be surprised if half of them suffer from a bit of penis anxiety now and then. And while most women do care about the size of their partner, a study published in BMC Women’s Health showed that women are more concerned with width than length. This is most likely because all of our pleasure points are located within the first four inches of the vaginal canal, and as we placed the average male at around 5 inches, length is more of a mental preference than physical. In reality, it is the idea of a man with a long penis that is arousing to women, and something to be coveted in men. These super-sized genitalia are displayed in nearly all pornography, and I always wondered if it would actually take a female porn-star to be able to handle a vessel with a girth so substantial that it is almost comical. This got me thinking, does having an extra-large penis ever have its downfalls?

To get a male perspective, I interviewed an LC Junior who is well-known for the size of his soldier. Word has spread all around campus after his zipper came down and a post went up on the now non-existent Juicy Campus (good riddance). Despite having a sizable reputation, this LC student remains modest, and as a result prefers to be referred to as Herbie Hancock.

Upon my arrival at Herbie’s townhouse, he said nonchalantly “oh yeah, you’re here to talk about my dick.” No big deal there. He informed me that he didn’t know he was above average until he came to college, because before that the only erect penises he had seen aside from his own were in porn, and so he assumed that’s what everyone was stuffing into their jock-straps. It wasn’t until he became comfortable with his hall-mates freshman year (and began walking around naked) that he realized he had something to be proud of. “It finally started to click it was bigger than normal, and they weren’t just messing with me,” Hancock explained.

While it must be nice to receive all that positive attention, Hancock laments over some of the downfalls of being huge. He is now in a committed relationship, and as both of them have been tested for STDs , they have stopped using condoms (his girlfriend is on the pill- no little Herbies running around any time soon). “No matter what kind of condoms I got, they were so tight that they hurt, making it hard for me to keep an erection,” Hancock said. The best fit for him were Trojan XL’s, which were still slightly uncomfortable.

When Hancock was single, he tried a variety of different girls on for size, and in the process learned that certain girls were a better fit for him. “It’s not always a guarantee, but girls with certain body types have an easier time,” Hancock says, continuing on to lament over the fact that he has never been able to successfully hook up with an extremely petite girl. And no matter what girl Hancock is with, or how much lube they use, he needs to spend a lot of time on foreplay. “I really need to be patient, otherwise I might end up hurting her.” No quickies for him.

Hancock also brought up a very unusual issue during our interview. His girlfriend lives in Texas, and recently they were shopping online together (via Skype) for a vibrating penis ring. All of the models that interested Hancock stretched to a diameter of 1.5 inches. Hancock weighs in at 2.2. Holy freakin’ penis. “It was pretty much the biggest disappointment in my recent life.” Aww.

So girls, the next time you express your wish to be a guy so that you can pee standing up or start your day without looking in a mirror, think about the pressure put on them about size and performance. And guys, next time you see Hancock strutting around campus (with his junk taped to his leg) maybe you can abate your penis envy, as you still have the liberty to purchase the vibrating penis ring of your choosing and have sex without the assistance of half a bottle of lube.

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I am always interested to learn about new advances in technology (usually about two months behind everyone else..) and to find one involving sex is even more captivating. So, I was amused (and slightly horrified) to learn about “Roxxxy,” the first ever sex robot, created by a company called True Companion, who takes the idea of a blow up doll to an entirely new level. She is actually programmed with a computer chip giving her vocal skills on parr with a childs talking doll (creepy) and sensors on her different body parts that allow her to ‘react appropriately’ with different comments, or an impressive array of very vocal feedback.

Roxxxy’s creator and founder of True Companion, Doug Hines, says that although Roxxxy’s conversation skills are limited, the idea behind allowing her to talk is so that the people using her can relate to her on a level above merely the sexual. Roxxxy comes with a laptop that she is connected to which updates her conversations so she always has something new to say, and you can choose different personality types that match your own, as well as download additional persona’s for your sex droid, such as flirty, innocent or naughty that she can try on if you’re interested in spicing it up a bit. If you’re into S&M, that’s cool, but the doll does have a code word (marshmallow) in case things get a bit too rough. And, if you want a male companion, True Companion also has a male robot known as Rocky.

This is terrifying. Anyone who needs a doll to have sex with needs to get out more, but if they need a doll to have sex with and TALK to, they need a therapist, a dog, a match.com account or a webcam constantly hooked up to  chatroulette. Didn’t you see Lars and The Real Girl? (If not, you should). No doll can compensate for a true human connection, regardless of how anatomically correct  or technologically advanced she is, and while Roxxxy may be a big seller, I worry for the mental health of the people who buy her with the idea that a doll can satisfy their need for human interaction. And, at $7,000 to &9,000, she costs more than my used 2000 Honda Civic.

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This past week was my spring break, but because I am so financially challenged (broke) these days I didn’t go on any big trip like most college seniors. Sigh. Don’t feel too bad for me though, I am heading to Bermuda right after graduation. Anyways, one thing I did over break was hole up at my boyfriends and do a ton of vegan cooking.  I tried a recipe from Veganomicon that everyone orbiting around the vegan sphere has been talking about; chickpea cutlets. I was a bit skeptical but went out to find the key ingredient, vital wheat gluten, at a local health food store and got down to business, cooking the recipe with Ben for his parents.

We decided to serve the cutlets exactly the way the book suggested-with roasted asparagus and mustard sauce. We got a bit overwhelmed in the kitchen trying to make sure everything was ready at the same time and I think we made his mom a bit nervous (she is very protective about her kitchen). The end result was pretty good- the cutlets definitely had a meaty texture and the spices gave it a chickeny flavor. I wasn’t such a fan of the mustard sauce but I believe that was just personal taste, as Ben and his dad ate it right up.

Later on during break I went to visit my vegan buddy Hannah, whose boyfriend has decided to try being  a vegetarian and is having some serious chicken withdrawals. We decided to make him some chickpea cutlets, emulating his favorite italian dish, chicken parmesan. I liked the cutlets much better this way- first we prepared them in a pan the way recipe directs. Next,while the pasta was boiling, we baked them in the oven with tomato sauce and vegan cheese. Yum!

While I was excited about the chickeny feel of these recipes, never had there been a time in my life where I was more relieved to not eat chicken. Ben lives in Bridgewater, VA, the home of at least two different Perdue factories. I love the quiet little town of Bridgewater,with its peaceful community, old victorian houses and great farmers markets, but the smell (which gets worse in the summer) coming from the factories is really repulsive. A cross between road-kill and manure. Once this past week Ben and I got stuck driving directly behind a Perdue truck and I could see hundreds of fluffy white chickens shoved four stories high in the back of the truck. Pretty much ruined my day..

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Here is a contribution from my chef of a mama..

Chocolate Frosting

2 Cups Organic Chocolate Chips
1 Block (12.3 oz) of Firm Silken Tofu
2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1½  tsp Vanilla

Step one
Melt your chocolate chips over very low heat, stirring so as not to burn!

Step two
Puree all in food processor until smooth and then ice your cake, or whatever else that may need a little adornment before devouring.

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Apparently a company in Switzerland is now selling a smaller condom specifically made for preteens, called Hotshots. This is certainly a controversial move, and while I don’t think twelve-year olds should be sexually active, I do know that quite often, they are.  The condom was created based on the results of a Swiss study that concluded 12-14 year olds do not use adequate protection, if any at all, when they engage in sex. And as the levels of teen pregnancy rise and the age in which the average teen becomes sexually active lowers, this move does make sense.

The condoms are smaller in diameter but not length. The  standard condom has a diameter of  2 inches and the Hotshot only 1.7.  The logic here is that since  the condom is smaller, the fit will be better and it will be less likely to slip off during intercourse. Smaller condom, better protection.

While no one likes to think of their kid having sex before they even reach highschool, this is a possibility parents need to face and address with their adolescents. While some may feel the HotShot is promoting sexual activity,  I think this is a step in the right direction. If teens want to have sex, they will, regardless if the condom fits properly or not. These condoms are a method of prevention, and with our sky-high teen pregnancy rates, I feel it can’t hurt. Perhaps the US should follow suit, or at least start offering sex-ed classes to younger youth groups.

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         I know the first day of spring is still a few weeks away, but having survived an entire winter as a vegan (wooo 3 1/2 months under my non-leather belt) I am extremely excited for the arrival of a new season, as I try my hardest to eat seasonally, and this  means a new crop of fruits and veggies to choose from! I like the Natural Resources Defense Council’s website to find what is seasonal and local, as you can look your food up by region. Here in VA,  March for me means lots of great greens. I love greens so much that sometimes I actually crave them, which is great as they contain fantastic levels of folic acid and B12’s. I like to saute them up with a little garlic and olive oil and just enjoy as is, or stuff them in tofu  like my great recipe from my favorite vegan cookbook, The Best of Bloodroot, which I got as a ‘merry Christmas/welcome to veganism’ gift. As we continue on through spring I am excited for the arrival of local asparagus ,  which I will munch (steamed, baked, sautéed, souped) as I wait patiently for the best time of the year (in my opinion) for produce; summer.

Veganism is still going really well.I still feel great; my energy levels are up, nearly all my symptoms of PMS have disappeared (sorry, too much info?), and I am sleeping better. Also I get to spend a ton more time in the kitchen, and luckily have not exhausted my creativity thinking of ways to maintain the diet while living the life of a college student, two things that do not exactly go hand-in-hand. Lucky for me, vodka is completely animal-friendly…that was a joke. I’m in bed by 10pm every night.

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