Saturday, October 30, 2010

Urination in drysuits, Testosterone at Splash Pt II

Floating in an Avon heavy rubber drysuit

Urination in drysuits: A frequent reader has taken me to task for an incomplete answer, after I raised the topic of urination while diving in my blog entry for October 25, 2010. She complained that I mentioned wetsuits but did not cover the options for a diver wearing a drysuit. There are several options for urinating in a drysuit some of which are more satisfactory than others.
• There is the ‘try-holding-it’ option, in my opinion the least satisfactory as it diverts the mind from enjoying the dive and if the diver is determined not to pee in his or her suit it shortens the dive considerably.
• Using a Pee Valve installed on the suit that allows both male and female divers to vent urine outside the suit – if it is working properly. For more about Pee Valves click here. Most of my male dive friends use pee valves but I don’t like them because they interfere with using a vaginal vibrator.
• A third alternative is self catheterization which has fallen out of favor since the advent of the Pee Valve. I’ve tried it and I really hate the feeling of the tube in my urethra and if the balloon deflates or the tube catches on something and the catheter pulls out you pee on yourself anyway. Additionally for women wearing a Penetrator plug with a vibi head for G-spot masturbation is compromised (well, it was for me) by the tube in my urethra.
• Another is to wear an adult diaper. Adult diaper technology has improved dramatically in the last few years and this is my fave alternative if I’m going to be in a drysuit for any length of time. A Penetrator plug (with urethra vent) can be worn to stimulate both the clitoris and G-spot.
• Finally the ‘wear-nothing-and-pee-in-your-suit, option. This is only satisfactory if you plan to intentionally flood your suit. Flooding a drysuit can be risky depending on the type suit and what - if any - other buoyancy devices the diver has available. The shoulder entry suits are the hardest to flood and nearly impossible for the diver to get watertight again by him or her self. My fave suit to flood is the latex HydroGlove that has a fold seal around the diver’s waist. It’s easy to reseal, but very tricky to re-inflate since it is intended for shallow water and has no constant pressure inflator valve so when submerged air has to be inserted past a wrist seal.

Women, relationships and risk in Vegas: My friends try to stay away from serious relationships with men outside the adult entertainment industry because the guys don’t understand what it takes for a woman to be successful here. A girl has to continue to push the envelope if she is going to be any sort of success, which means elbowing the competition out of the way if necessary. It also means continually training to keep a hard flexible bod and well toned pelvic muscles because men are amazed (and some are creeped out) when a small woman who they think of as being frail can ripple-grip a guy’s penis giving him a massive orgasm w/o breaking a sweat while he has her gripped tightly in his arms and is focused on staying as still and deep in her as possible. A hard bodied professional can also crush his shaft with her vaginal muscles. A girl doesn’t want to do that often or she can get a reputation as a ‘man-eater’, but if he won’t behave you have to do what’s necessary to get his attention. After his erectile tissue is crushed a guy is never the same. Transplants, implants, pumps, injections there is only so much even the best urologists can do even at a cost that will put their grandchildren through Harvard.

So a professional must keep up her training regimen which is three hours of ballet; barre, center, technique and pointe as well as two hours of pelvic training- when not with clients - every day. Guys outside the industry love it when they can partner a girl during parts of her pelvic training, but so many of them don't understand the need for a professional to constantly train. They take the girl for granted and become possessive which for them is a huge mistake because she has a long list of other admirers to choose from. It’s a given that a girl will eventually age out as a professional just as dancers and models do, but even with a modest formal education girls can make it to an upper tier with looks, talent and hard work where they can save a lot of money for retirement or to start their own business.

Towel Girls and testosterone at Splash Pt II: The puzzle has been solved. Returning readers will remember that in my entry for October 25, 2010 I wrote about a Towel Girl at Splash who claimed she was having masculizing side effects from excreted testosterone metabolites in club member’s urine and semen. The team of doctors at Splash, a Gynecologist and an Endocrinologist, insist the literature does not support her assertion. The medical team also conducted a complete inventory of the supply of drugs on hand in the small pharmacy at Splash and found a shortage in 10 cc vials of testosterone. Two were missing as were a quantity of disposable syringes. The TG who claimed the masculinizing side effects problem was interviewed and admitted taking the missing testosterone and self administering injections of it over an interval of 26 weeks in order to increase her stamina while with some of the more highly sexed club members. Her leave of absence was changed to immediate termination and increased security has been instituted at the pharmacy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SILCS diaphragm - under development

The single-size (70 mm) SILCS silicone diaphragm

A reader’s query: This was posted as a reader’s comment and my reply on my October 23, 2010 Entry “Gas guards for high school girls”. It concerns a new design for a cervical barrier that still has to be approved by the FDA. I haven’t discussed SILCS before so I thought I would re-post this discussion where more readers can read it.

The reader wrote: “SILCS is an intravaginal barrier device currently under development. It is made of silicone with an arcing ring. SILCS has a pre-shaped rim to cling high in the vaginal vault and a finger cup on one edge for easy removal. It will be a one-size-fits-all device. I would appreciate your expert opinion on this new contraceptive Diaphragm.”

My reply: Actually, SILCS is a single size (70 mm) one-size-fits-most device of advanced design. I like the design, but I hate the fact that it will be available in only a single size. Current thinking is that SILCS may be available as early as 2011. The FDA has yet to approve it for use in the U.S. I am very skeptical about the effectiveness of one-size-fits-most contraceptive devices.

The intention of PATH is to develop a simple inexpensive device that poor women in under-developed countries can use without the attendant costs of medical providers, pelvic exams and fitting visits and in this they may be successful. The four most prescribed diaphragm sizes in the U.S and Europe are 65 mm, 70 mm, 75 mm and 80 mm. Currently diaphragms are made in sizes from 60 mm to 90 mm.

That SILCS will only be available in a single 70 mm size is worrying. A single 70 mm size is too small in a traditionally shaped diaphragm for many women and using a too small device would decrease its overall effectiveness for users. That’s because a traditionally shaped diaphragm that is too small will expose the anterior rim to the likelihood of being thrust underneath by a partner’s thrusting penis. With the penis under the dome at ejaculation sperm is deposited against the cervix protected only by the spermicide which should be applied in the dome. The curved relief arch (on the anterior rim) of the SILCS design may (or may not) go some way to minimizing the problem of under-thrusting, but we won’t know about that for years.

I have no doubt that if SLICS becomes easily available in under-developed areas where it will give women something to use where previously they had nothing, then it is a major step forward. I’m not at all certain that it is as good as or better than a properly fitted and correctly inserted traditionally shaped diaphragm.

SILCS showing the curved anterior relief arch

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Feminine fluids and diving, Testosterone at Splash

A lactating instructor in custom made DiveRubber

The photo: The lactating instructor in the photo above is thrusting out her chest and bending backward. With the shoulder straps of her tank sloping away from her waist there is an optical illusion that she is big-breasted. By ballet standards she is, but she is only a C-cup when her breasts are full. You can tell by her full lips and the way she grips the mouthpiece of her reg that she has amazing suction for giving head.

Diving and Feminine fluids: A returning reader and friend interested in cervical barriers asks: “Does the pressure experienced in the dive tank cause an expression of breast milk or a more pronounced period. I would think it would but alas I am not a diver.”

BREAST MILK: These are good questions and ones I haven’t answered before. If it’s a normal dive and I’m breathing ambient air as I descend then there is no major pressure change on my breast tissue – other than a tight wetsuit - that would cause me to express my milk. However, there are situations where I do, such as:

1) In a descent with my air shut off (or the reg is out of my mouth) where the change in depth is 10 feet or so my nipples start to leak. If I descend 20 or 30 feet w/o breathing ambient pressure air my milk flows freely. When my milk reaches full flow will depend on how full my breasts are when I dive. I try to have a partner breast feed or I pump to empty them before diving as rough sex with engorged breasts isn’t my idea of fun. Tight rubber compressing engorged breasts may look erotic, but it is very uncomfortable and not the sort of pain I’m into.

2) The other situation that forces lactation is if I’m wearing a drysuit and I intentionally release, or don’t add, air causing the suit to ‘squeeze’ me as I descend. The rubber will compress my breasts and I will lactate in my suit. I have to be careful that a nipple isn’t caught in a fold and nearly crushed as the suit squeezes me because that can be amazingly painful. Lactating in a drysuit from squeeze (or for any other reason) can be annoying. Not from the feel of warm milk trickling down my belly, but because after the dive the suit is a nightmare to clean. The scent of rancid breast milk at one I’ve never come to love so a thorough washing of the inside as soon as possible with a white vinegar and water solution is necessary before the milk turns rancid.

The compression of breast tissue while diving will decrease the milk quantity to an extent and puts a lactating woman at a higher risk of having clogged milk ducts so I use a good skin cleanser after I dive and if I’ve been submerged more than an hour I pump a bit to ensure my ducts are flowing freely.

URINATION: Urine is another fluid the quantity of which is pressure related and that affects both male and female divers. Any diver who says s/he hasn’t peed in his/her wetsuit is lying. When diving the pressure of the surrounding water causes immersion dieresis which is not depth related as long as the diver is breathing ambient air. Immersion dieresis causes buildup of urine from increased pressure squeezing fluid out of body tissue, which is why dehydration is such a problem for divers and it can contribute to decompression sickness. That’s why it is so important that divers stay well hydrated. Immersion dieresis can reduce the amount of breast milk and the thickened milk can contribute to clogged ducts.

MENSTRUAL FLOW: The effect of diving on menstrual flow is to slow or stop menstruation during the dive primarily from the effects of immersion dieresis. Once I’m on the surface again there is a surge in flow over the next few hours that requires emptying my diaphragm more frequently.

Towel Girls and testosterone at Splash: Gigi has an after-school job as a Towel Girl at Adolph’s adult pool facility in the hills. For more about that see my March 9, 2010 Blog entry entitled ‘Towel Girl Fantasies’. One of the hormonal supplements available at Splash is Androderm, the testosterone patch and one of the senior Towel Girls is undergoing physiological changes. Her muscles are beginning to bulk up, her voice is getting deeper and she is beginning to have a little hair growing on her chest and chin. She is a petite blonde with a svelte figure and unblemished skin and that is changing though at this point she is still quite attractive. Rumor is that she is getting a reaction to the testosterone patches than most of her clients wear to improve their muscle mass, virility and stamina. That is because her specialty is mind blowing oral sex and she has swallowed pints of semen and testosterone ladened urine from her clients on a daily basis for the 7 months that testosterone therapy has been available at the club. Approximately 90% of a testosterone dose given intramuscularly (from Androderm) is excreted in the urine as glucuronide and sulfate conjugates of testosterone and its metabolites; about 6% is excreted in the feces, mostly in unconjugated form, so the thought is that she is getting masculinizing side effects from the testosterone excreted in the urine of her clients.

The Gyn who oversees the health of the Towel Girls and Endocrinologist who prescribes the hormonal supplements at Splash deny that there is any connection between this girls symptoms and her secondary ingestion of testosterone. Meanwhile she has taken a leave of absence. Gigi volunteered to take her place since a lot of the men on Androderm are wealthy Europeans who are worth cultivating as sexual partners. I’ve asked my medical advisors at the clinic to research the literature to see if there are any reports of masculinization of escorts and working girls from metabolites of testosterone ingested while giving head to men on supplementary testosterone. Meanwhile her father, Jacques, is supporting her in her desire to take the place of the masculinized blonde saying that Androderm or its equivalent have been in use in Europe for years with no instances of masculinization that can be traced to professional girls providing oral sex.

The first performances of Dracula: The first performances of my adaptation of the ballet Dracula were to packed venues and were very well received! I danced the heroine, Flora, Sunday night. I was CD3 and my period was in full flow so the audience was properly shocked when it seemed as though I was hemorrhaging. My partner, in the role of Dracula, tried to staunch the flow after he had gorged on my blood and flinging the bloody thong around he splattered a few of the men in the first several rows with my flow. I thought for guys wearing $2,000 suits they took being splattered rather well. We offered to have the suits of five men dry-cleaned and only one took the offer. The others said they were not going to have my blood cleaned off. My producer gave each of them our card so if they change their minds they can get back to us. We did say the older the stain the less likely it would come out. Fortunately there were no women in the first few rows.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gas guards for high school girls

An All-Flex silicone arcing spring diaphragm

Offering advice and support: I try to stay away from involvement with high school girls in town. I have more than enough to do with my work at St Lucy’s as well as my full time job with the ballet. But several weeks ago a friend who is a pit boss at the casino and the mom of 15 and 17 y/o daughters in city schools came to me for advice. She understands the culture here and both girls are on birth control pills, to ‘regulate their cycles’. Well, I’ll accept that explanation as it’s the standard reason at their ages. So she wasn’t concerned about pregnancy as much (although that is always a concern in a mom’s mind) as she was about the unintended consequences of oral sex.

Safe sex: Oral sex is usually thought of as ‘safe sex’ because there is no danger of pregnancy. But the community is finding out the hard way that in addition to transmitting STIs oral can have additional dangers. That’s because there was a recent instance of a very popular girl in her daughter’s school who had a pulmonary embolism when her boyfriends blew air into her vagina while giving her oral. He did it with her permission so that they both could hear her Queef, which they thought was hilarious. Apparently she had been letting him fill her vagina with air for months and they had been getting away with it until at the end of her most recent period while the walls of her uterus were still raw an air bubble got in her bloodstream and caused a clot that lodged in her lung. She claimed the clot was caused by her birth control pill, Yaz, but the nature of the clot and the fact that there was no sign of deep vein thrombosis, points to the fact that her BF caused it by filling her vagina with air. It used to be that blowing into a vagina was known to be dangerous and girls were taught that and wouldn’t allow their sex partners to do it, but times have changed and some young women are paying dearly for their lack of knowledge or - if they know - willingness to take that sort of risk. It can be very dangerous, but I’m not against having air forced into my vagina if I take the proper precautions. [See my post about ‘Vaginal Breathing’ for more about having orgasms using compressed air.] Actually, I find it great fun when a partner forces air into me using his mouth. I get a lovely full feeling having my vagina expanded with air, but there is a safe way to do it and that is to use a gas guard.

My friend wanted me to meet with a group of her friends who are mom’s who have daughters and a few who have sons in the city schools to talk about the danger of forcing air in the vagina and if there was a way to protect their girls. They were all past the point of trying to get their teens not to do it, knowing full well that some would try it anyway. They were interested in how to protect their daughters. As I mentioned earlier the way for a woman to protect herself against vaginal over-pressure events is to wear a gas guard. I asked if any of the girls had a Mirena or ParaGard or any other framed IUD inserted and was told that none did. That was good news because you shouldn’t wear a diaphragm or cervical cap with IUD strings hanging out of the cervix because removing the barrier can pull out the IUD if the strings stick to the barrier. Finding that none of the girls had an IUD I recommended to the moms that they have their daughters fitted with All-Flex diaphragms.

I recommended All-Flex because it is made of silicone, is rugged, is the easiest style to insert correctly and can be ordered through local pharmacies. The possible problems with using an All-Flex is if the girl takes a very small size (All-Flex isn’t made in sizes smaller than 65 mm) or has a very shallow pubic notch it wouldn’t be right for her. Most teen’s first diaphragms are 65 mm and few women have shallow pubic notches so I thought they would probably be ok, and they were. The girls have all been fitted and all but one took 65 mm devices. The other took a 70 mm. I was pleased that they were already sexually active so their vaginas had been stretched a bit by dildos and their partner’s penises. The moms wanted to know if All-Flex was the same style that I used for dive-sex (the word is getting around about my fondness for dive-sex) and when I told them that it wasn’t they wanted to know why I wasn’t recommending the one I used. I didn’t want the conversation to get diverted to my involvement in dive-sex which several of the women tried to do. I kept them focused on protection during oral sex, but I did tell them why I wasn’t recommending the style diaphragm I use.

Differences in latex Vs silicone gas guards: I explained that while the use as a gas guard was similar in the two situations (oral sex and submerged intercourse) the ambient conditions were quite different. The girls don’t need a diaphragm to protect the upper reproductive tract that can safely handle the wide variations in pressure encountered during dive-sex below 30 feet. All their daughters need is a single atmosphere device to prevent embolisms during an oral over-pressure encounter. And, the only diaphragm that provides protection below 30 feet is made of latex, which isn’t as well tolerated by users because of the possibility of latex allergy, latex is more susceptible to damage from oily lubes and meds, latex is more likely to contribute to infections and the flat spring rim of the latex diaphragm is more difficult to insert correctly. My explanation relieved any concern about my choice of an All-Flex for their daughters.

Fitting and wearing regimen: We talked a bit about getting the girls fitted and that it would be good to go to one of the local clinics that fit entertainers with diaphragms because the fitters are highly experienced and will provide a supportive fitting experience. I wanted to stay away from having anything to do with having local girls as young as 14 being fitted with diaphragms – though the reasons could be that it was needed as a pessary - because they are below the age of consent. But what the teens do while using their diaphragms is up to them. I did talk to the moms about their daughter’s gas guard wearing regimen. I recommended that the girls insert their barriers before each time they are around their BFs because teens are very spontaneous and if they are going to have oral they really needed to be protected rather than ending up with a lot of ‘just-this-once’ encounters where the teen’s gas guard is at home while she is being eaten during lunch in the back seat of a car in the school parking lot.

The moms said that most of their daughters were really freaked out about their friend’s pulmonary embolism so if they can develop the habit of wearing their diaphragm before the horror of what happened wears off things might just work out. I suggested the moms mention to their daughters that gas guards are worn by some celebrity entertainers. That’s true, they do, and because out here local teens look up to young super club and cabaret entertainers as role models they are more likely to wear their protection if they think that Tara or Mila or Anna is wearing one too.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dracula for Halloween

Count Dracula and Flora

Dracula in Vegas: For Halloween we are presenting eight performances of Dracula in the various high-roller venues. It’s an occult holiday favorite that we are bringing back and hope to make it a tradition. The original three act ballet was created by Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson in 1997 to mark the 100th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s novel and with music by Franz Liszt has become a modern classic. I have had to shorten and reduce its scale appreciably to fit our performance venues and the attention span of my audience and rather than the quite chaste neck punctures by Dracula’s fangs I have substituted a more effective but no less dangerous way for a woman to be taken over to the dark-side.

Induced menstruation: In my version, instead of sucking blood from his female victim’s neck Dracula spellbinds her and then while giving her an orgasm during oral sex forces his saliva into her uterus where its anti-coagulant properties induce her period causing her to bleed heavily. In order for this to work properly in front of an audience the dancers in the role of Flora (Mina in the book) have to be cycling naturally so their periods will be relatively heavy. It also requires scheduling their periods so they are bleeding for the performance. I’m cycle day one (CD1) today and just starting my period so I will be in full flow by tomorrow night when I will dance Flora for the evening performance. For dancers whose cycles aren’t synched to mine we shift them a few days by having them take a regimen of Aygestin tablets containing 5 mg of the progestin norethisterone which delays their periods a few days until needed for their performances as Flora.

After each performance one or two fortunate members of the audiences come away with one of Flora’s break-away thongs soaked with her menstrual blood as a souvenir. I will use the first one of mine with the blood from a public performance in a spell that I will cast for Halloween. Readers of my 360 blog know that I am, at the very least, a ‘sensitive’ though my spells are (usually) of a benign nature. Unlike Christine O'Donnell I’m not running for public office so I don’t really care if people know I’m a witch. I don’t usually mention it in public because it tends to raise eyebrows and then people want me to do something to prove it and when I don’t they think I’m kidding or lying to them. But on Halloween and the Summer and Winter solstices the power of the old religions is very much alive, and in many places it is just below the surface of what is happening in ordinary peoples lives.

I will use my bloody thong as the wick in an ancient oil lamp that will be lit for the Halloween party I’m having at my place Sunday evening. As long as the blood on the thong is less than three days old the spell is quite potent. Blood from a virgin can be used for up to three weeks after her period with no loss in the spells potency. Burning the fragrant oil with a blood-soaked wick will ensure the party is a festive one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pointe shoe quiz October 20, 2010

Who is the maker of this shoe?

This should be an easy one to answer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Beavertail as a training suit

An escort and her trainer during a beavertail encounter

The beavertail jacket: when both men and women escorts begin dive-sex training wearing wetsuits we start them out wearing beavertail jackets. That’s because when closed the beavertail provides a feeling of being safely covered in thick rubber while displaying the wearer’s legs, and breast cleavage if the throat is unzipped a bit. An instructor acting as an aggressive partner quickly rids the student of any thought that her body is being protected by the 5 mm neoprene skin of her wetsuit. In less that a second her instructor has operated the twist latches holding the crotch of her beavertail in place and yanked down the front zipper leaving the students breasts and vulva visible and vulnerable to being fondled. The student has gone nearly instantaneously from being flirtatious showing off her beautiful body while it is unattainably encased in dive rubber to being at the mercy of her partner’s desires.

The first few times that happens during training the student is so shocked she is liable to freeze and become passive or panic and try and escape. At that point the student has lost any control she might have had at the first of the encounter and unless she is a submissive will have to struggle to regain any control over her partner’s actions. What we do during training is to introduce as many unexpected actions by a partner as possible so that the trainee learns to be alert for almost anything that s/he might do and thereby be able to turn the situation to her own advantage. Once the student realizes that she is vulnerable every time she is with a partner and especially in the hostile environment where underwater sex is practiced and she is relying on her dive gear for survival it concentrates her mind enabling her to focus on survival skills as well as the pelvic skills necessary to graduate with honors.

Negative effects of using a Sybian: A reader asked about the negative effects of using a Sybian machine. You should always use a condom when riding someone else’s Sybian or one at a health club because you don’t know what the sexual history of other users is. You can hurt yourself if you don’t use plenty of lube and run the RPMs up with the plug inserted, but that can be avoided by taking care how you use the machine. I think the biggest negative for skilled long term Sybian users is that the sensation is so much better than a man can provide and the orgasms are unbelievable intense that we have had women have seizures while having a Sybian encounter. Counter intuitively the intensity of Sybian encounters can be a negative because it can encourage masturbation with the Sybian rather than the intimacy of sex with a male partner. And of course there is no danger of impregnation from riding a Sybian.

On the down side there isn’t the erotic scent of male sweat and the accompanying pheromones, the caress of his fingers, the softness of his lips as he latches on to your nipples and tries to breast feed while he is giving you a clitoral orgasm. Or during penetration the amazing feel of skin-on-skin as he pushes his massive shaft deeper and deeper while totally unprotected so he can successfully transfer his male fluid filled with hundreds of millions of sperm. Riding a Sybian you miss the sound of his shallow breathing and the crush of his arms around you as he approaches orgasm and his grunts and the increased speed and power of his trusts as he batters you with his pelvis and rams the tip of his rod into your cervix as he pumps and dumps spewing sperm as deep into you as he can.

Lemons at St Lucy’s: Half a fresh lemon (cored to fit over the cervix) is a natural spermicidal barrier (made famous by Don Juan) if a girl has forgotten her pills or contraceptive device and is w/o a better alternative. At St Lucy’s there is so much emphasis put on using an effective means of contraception that as a prank some years ago one of the 6th form students put a large ceramic bowl of fresh lemons and a sharp paring knife on a sideboard in the rotunda of the administration building and it has become a school tradition to keep a bowl of fresh lemons and paring knife in that very spot as a reminder of each student’s contraceptive responsibility.

It has also become a traditional part of the initiation into the ballet club to have new members wear a half lemon as a cervical cap for their first penetrative sex en pointe in a public place. Not on Las Vegas Boulevard (The Strip) of course, that comes later, just in the rotunda of Conception Hall, the administration building, at midnight with other members of the club as witnesses. The inductee can have a boyfriend take her or spring for a studley escort purchased for the evening. The inductee continues to use her usual effective method of contraception since the half lemon is only symbolic of the new member becoming publicly sexually active in the club. The lemon has long been a symbol of longevity, purification, love, and friendship.

An enquiring reader asks: “Just what is St Lucy’s? Is it a real finishing school or what is your angle just to teach young women how to seduce en pointe? And why the name St Lucy, are you of catholic roots, and do you know she had her eyes yanked out.”

Actually the details of St Lucy’s martyrdom are a bit sketchy. But yes, I know the story of her being blinded. I prefer her story as told in Jacobus de Voragine’s The Golden Legend. And yes, the school is an elite girl’s finishing school. I intentionally chose the name St Lucy’s as a nom de conte (a fictitious name in a story) to provide a name filled with irony for one of the most farsighted and liberal girls schools in the country. In today’s society a young woman needs to hone all the skills she possesses and her body and innate seductive tendencies need nurturing if she is to compete effectively for what she wants. I’m fortunate to be able to help train St Lucy’s students for their roles in the upper levels of society.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ballet Cosplay & Horizontal Academics

Old Freed Classics used for Cosplay

Ballet training for UNLV Cosplay women: There is a cosplay (costume play) club associated with a popular sorority at UNLV that is using a set of period (1950s) story lines that involve ballet for role playing. The idea is that the costumes and equipment for and the interpretation of the individual roles have to be as nearly as perfectly period as possible and errors in costuming or performance are brutally criticized and the girl making the errors is humiliated in front of other club members as a form of sorority hazing.

A friend of Taryn’s, who graduated from St Lucy’s at the same time as Taryn, is now an Advanced Placement second year student at UNLV asked for my help in getting herself and two of her sorority sisters up to speed in pointe work and contraception (which are the two aspects where they feel their experiences and training are the weakest) to avoid being humiliated by the stream of invectives directed at new club members who make costume and performance errors.

For pointe shoes we are using old Freed Classics which use traditional materials and manufacturing techniques and are the closest to the pointes used in the fifties. We get them from the discarded shoes from several of my company dancers and pad-up so the shoes don’t hurt that much. When the girls get good at it I will reduce their padding and refit them with shoes that are a better fit. And we replaced some of the ribbons that had elastic in them to lessen the chances of tendonitis because elastic wasn’t used in the ribbons in the fifties.

One of the girls balked at the time I insisted they take for training, but after one of her friends was so humiliated during a critique of her Cosplay performance she resigned from the sorority she changed her mind and is now 100% committed to learning as much from me as she can. It would have been a hopeless task to train them except for the fact that all three had taken pointe several years ago and so they were rusty, but with proper training and dedication were back up to passable amateur speed in a few weeks.

The contraception problem limits the girls to condoms and diaphragms since the ballet roles are set in the 1950s and the women are not supposed to use hormonal contraceptives or IUDs which weren’t invented or in use in the U.S then and that freaked them out. As far as cervical barriers are concerned the FemCap wasn’t available then nor was Oves or the Prentif cervical cap so the only method of contraception that the woman herself could use was the diaphragm which became available in the 1930s. The girls were very concerned about using only diaphragms for protection, but I assured them that a properly fitted and correctly used diaphragm is 96% effective and that when used simultaneously with a male condom the combined effeteness is above 99%, just as effective as the pill or an IUD. I would like to have fit the three of them with All-Flex silicone diaphragms since it is rugged and the easiest style to insert correctly. However, they needed latex because diaphragms were made of latex in the 1950s. So I fit them with Reflexions flat spring diaphragms the only latex devices still made by a major manufacturer. A flat spring diaphragm is a bit harder to insert correctly. Fortunately their fingers are long enough that they can feel their cervixes, so I taught them how to check with their fingers that the stretchy rubber dome is covering the cervix. And a gas Guard inserted protects a girl from her partner blowing air up her vagina while giving her oral, something fifties women using diaphragms were automatically protected against.

Dive-sex wasn’t a part of normal sexual activity in the fifties so with wanting to be as true to the period as possible during a cosplay sexual encounter they shouldn’t be having dive-sex. However, a benefit of a flat spring diaphragm is that it can be use at any depth for dive-sex so if somehow they find themselves in that situation they are still safe. Of course there is nothing to prevent the girls using their flat spring diaphragms for dive-sex with a favorite partner outside the Cosplay setting. Diving deeper than 30 feet seems very unlikely since the only dive facilities deeper than 30 feet in the area are my pit and Adolph’s well and neither of us is allowing UNLV students in our training facilities.

The girls use our in-house experimental silicone base intimate lube and spermicide Semécide from Labia Labs professional line of contraceptive products. The spermicide made with dive-gel and Octoxynol-9 (O9) and is far less irritating and just as effective as spermicides using Nonoxynol 9 (N9) and can be used with both silicone and latex barriers.

They have been able to avoid any of the ballet scenarios during Cosplay so far, but their training has reached the point that they don’t wobble en pointe and their poses, développés, bourrées and jumps are quite good for amateurs so I think they should be ready to compete in that category in the next few days.

Horizontal Academics: Karen Owens PowerPoint presentation during her senior year at Duke University is old news by now. However, the same thing is going on at UNLV with, hopefully, a bit more discretion. With today’s sexually liberated women keeping a tally and rating a girl’s sexual conquests is common, especially among sorority sisters who share the information while mentoring younger women. Horizontal Academics is not a for-credit course, but it certainly is a valuable part of a young woman’s education. I’m working with Student Health to provide dive-sex training for the few sorority women who want to score in non traditional public locations and counseling them about being careful what information they post about themselves and others on social networking sites.

That’s because many of the most popular applications, or "apps," on the social-networking site Facebook have been transmitting identifying information -- in effect, providing access to people's names and, in some cases, their friends' names -- to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found. For more about that read the eighth installment in The Wall Street Journal's "What They Know" Click here

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pointe shoe quiz October 17, 2010

What’s wrong with how this dancer is wearing her pointes?

A change of purpose this time. I’m not interested in the maker. I’m looking for detail about how the dancer is wearing her shoes.

I’m indebted to a frequent reader for bringing this photo to my attention.

Women, fertility and desire

Fertile: Is she or isn’t she?

Live Science
By Stephanie Pappas,
LiveScience Senior Writer
17 October 2010

Booty Call: How to Spot a Fertile Woman

Ask the average person how the menstrual cycle affects women's moods, and you're likely to get an earful about PMS, or premenstrual syndrome. While it's true that PMS symptoms are common (although not as stereotypical as usually believed), new research is finding women's behavior shifts at another point in the reproductive cycle: ovulation.

Two new studies in the November issue of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior find that women get a little wilder during their most fertile days of the month. One study found that fertile women are more open to the idea of hooking up with a stranger or acquaintance, while the second found that women with less masculine-looking partners are more likely to lust after strong-jawed men during fertile days than women with partners with manly mugs.

The new studies are two of more than 20 that have examined the effects of ovulation on the way women dress, talk and think. While it's not yet clear if or how these temporary changes affect women's relationships in the real world, they may by a key to humanity's past.

"The idea is you see the preferences that would have evolved ancestrally still show up," Steven Gangestad, a University of New Mexico evolutionary psychologist and co-author on both new papers, told LiveScience.

Ovulation and lust

Until about a decade ago, most research on the menstrual cycle focused on PMS, which occurs after ovulation and before menstruation. Few people had investigated whether ovulation affected women, Martie Haselton, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told LiveScience. (Ovulation occurs when a woman’s body releases an egg down the fallopian tube where it can meet up with Mr. Sperm.)

"Nobody was asking what happens on fertile or non-fertile days," Haselton said.

One reason no one had tackled the question is that researchers in human evolution had long assumed that ovulation didn't matter much in humans. Unlike other mammals, which go into "heat" during fertile periods, women can be up for sex any time of the month. Evolutionary theorists have tried at several explanations for the loss of this estrus cycle in humans, one of the most common being that humans lost the "heat" phase to conceal ovulation. If a man didn't know which sexual encounter would pass his genes along, the theory went, he'd be more likely to stick around and help raise offspring.

The problem is that men do seem to be able to tell when their partner is ovulating, albeit imperfectly. No one knows how men can tell (smell is one hypothesis), but several studies have found women report that men become more attentive and jealous around fertile days. One 2006 study published in Evolution and Human Behavior found that when women were fertile, their male partners saw other men as a greater threat to their dominance.

Another problem is that women do seem to have a "heat" phase, although it works very differently than in other mammals. It's not that women become more receptive to sex in the five or so days around ovulation, Gangestad said. It's that they want sex for different reasons.

"It may be experienced more as a kind of lust mid-cycle," Gangestad said. "Outside of mid-cycle, women may be more interested in sex for intimacy."

Multiple studies have found that women go for more masculine-looking men when they're ovulating. According to a 2008 review of research by Gangestad and his colleagues published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, some of the masculine traits fertile women prefer are strong-jawed faces, muscular bodies, dominant behaviors, deep voices and tallness.

Because most studies on the topic have been done on heterosexual women, little is known about how ovulation affects lesbians or bisexual women. One study, published online in May 2010 in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, found that ovulation boosted lesbian women's motivation to act on their desires for other women, while bisexual women showed smaller increases in motivation. While women's sexuality is more fluid than men's, study coauthor Lisa Diamond, a psychologist at the University of Utah, told LiveScience, the findings suggest that ovulation could be a window into the biologically-based component of female sexual orientation.

Girls gone fertile

Back in the more-studied world of heterosexual couples, Gangestad's most recently published study on female preferences finds that if a woman is partnered with a man without a masculine face, her eye is more likely to wander during her fertile days.

This wandering eye doesn't necessarily translate into a cheating heart. Most women probably notice nothing more than a "funny little feeling" of lust during their fertile days, Haselton said. But other studies have shown that the hormonal fluctuations surrounding ovulation do change women's attitudes and behavior.

For instance, fertile women seem to be more open than non-fertile women to the idea of taking "sexual pleasures where [they] find them," in the words of one question asked to participants in the study by Gangestad and his colleagues published in the November issue of Evolution and Human Behavior. They're also more likely to express interest in sleeping with an attractive stranger or someone they don't care about.

A 2006 study in the journal Hormones and Behavior found that women who had their pictures taken during fertile and non-fertile stints were judged to be trying harder to look nice on fertile days, suggesting the hormonal boost of ovulation may translate to real-life decision-making. The women's faces were blacked out, so judges could only go on hairstyles and clothes to make their assessments, said Haselton, who co-authored the paper. To avoid any menstruation effects, none of the women were photographed right before or during their periods.

"We saw that the effect was strongest for women who were photographed closest to the day of ovulation within the high-fertility window," Haselton said.

An online shopping experiment reveals fertile women are also more likely to choose sexy clothes and accessories than women who weren't fertile, according to the study published online in the Journal of Consumer Research in August. For those who aren’t as interested in sexy clothes, ovulation can mean more money. In a widely publicized study published in Evolution and Human Behavior in 2007, researchers found that ovulating strippers made an average of $30 more an hour than menstruating strippers and $15 more an hour than non-ovulating, non-menstruating strippers.

Do fertility fluctuations matter?

The big question, of course, is how much ovulation affects the real lives of the non-strippers among us. Do women give in to the temptation to cheat more often when fertile? (No one has found any evidence suggesting they do, Gangestad said.) And what about the massive number of women on the birth control pill? The pill halts ovulation and smoothes out monthly hormonal cycles, so do women on hormonal birth control act differently than those who aren't on the pill?

The answer to that question depends on whether women base any long-term relationship decisions on the changes that happen around ovulation, Haselton said. So far, none of the studies on the topic have shown that ovulation changes women's preferences for long-term mates, just short-term flings.

"Being on the pill does remove a lot of the variation in the changes in hormones across the cycle, so we certainly would expect it to have an impact on a woman's behavior," Haselton said. "But if it's only having an impact within that narrow range of fertility, then maybe it's not that big a deal."

From an evolutionary perspective, unraveling the question of ovulation could reveal a lot about how human reproduction evolved. It's possible that women really are trying to signal their fertility with sexy clothes, Haselton said, but it's more likely that the changes are side effects of the hormonal tides women experience throughout the month.

Perhaps women really did evolve to conceal ovulation but can't quite cover up all the side effects, Haselton said. "There may be a co-evolution arms race between women concealing and men detecting any cues that leak out."

Personal comment: I think this is an important article because it summarizes and to an extent explains in print so many of the psychological aspects of a woman’s menstrual cycle and how they affect her personality. Some women, especially dancers and those of us in the adult entertainment industry have known since we were teens how to use our hormonal fluctuations to increase our attractiveness to men. It’s instinctive, but can be developed into an art with a little practice. We have known for years that intimate performances while fertile can bring in a lot more money than the same routines when we aren’t. That is why my dancers and other entertainers at the casino don’t use hormonal contraceptives.

Copper IUDs are the contraceptive of choice for the younger girls and sterilization is popular for the older ones and gas guards are now commonly worn by professionals even when no dive-sex is anticipated so if while receiving oral her client blows into her vagina the likelihood that he will give her an embolism is greatly reduced. Guy’s wanting to ‘blow-up-a-pussy’ has become very popular here recently. Initially that caused a lot of concern because it’s not good business to tell a client no. Fortunately it is just a matter of a girl being fitted for a diaphragm to use as a gas guard and she’s good to go. Personally I’m a lot more likely to try risky things with risky men while I’m fertile than when I’m not, although when I’m menstrual I’m almost as adventuresome.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Freed pointe shoes: a look back

Freed Classic pointe shoes

Personal comment: The article below written more than 26 years ago is the best one I’ve seen about Freed and how traditional pointe shoes are constructed. Today the prices are much higher (from $64 to 72 USD per pair at Discount Dance Supply) for stock shoes as are the budgets for shoes for the major ballet companies. For dancers buying customized shoes (Special Make Up) pairs in quantities of dozens of pairs the cost may be a bit less. Gaynor Minden shoes made with elastomeric boxes and shanks are now on the scene and are winning converts. So far for all their comfort, longevity and quietness Gaynors do look a bit different and Freed is still the most popular shoe for professional dancers in the U.S and UK.

For those who may not have read Toni Bentley’s work before she was a NYCB dancer for Balanchine and has written several books (Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal, Sisters of Salome and Holding On to the Air: An Autobiography by Suzanne Farrell and Toni Bentley) about ballet and dancers that anyone interested in the art will find fascinating.

Smithsonian Magazine
June 1984 by Toni Bentley

The Toe Shoe Makes its Pointe

A New York City Ballet dancer interrupts a European tour to visit Freed of London’s shoe factory, where she "meets her maker"

This is the story of a business with a beautiful product that has never been so in demand. It is bought in vast quantities by women between the ages of 13 and 40 – maybe 45. The business is British, with no franchises and, in this customer’s eyes, no plausible imitators. Though the company has no monopoly on its product, it exports to virtually every country in the Western world. The product is expensive and its life span short: it is the toe – or pointe – shoe produced in Freed of London’s factory.

In 1928, Frederick Freed, his wife and one helper left Gamba’s, then the leading English toe-shoe factory, to begin one of the most successful toe-shoe businesses in history. In the period since Freed and his assistant started sewing shoes in the basement of what is now the retail shop at St. Martin’s Lane, a short walk from Trafalgar Square, the popularity of ballet has soared. Today there are more professional and student dancers than ever before, and thousands of them buy from Freed’s. Any dancer who spends as much as eight hours a day on her feet can tell you why: Freed’s peach-color toe shoe is the lightest, slimmest, most elegant one available. It is also as comfortable as a tight, hard-toe shoe can be.

To accommodate its enormous clientele, Freed’s factory has grown to 200 employees – and from two shoe “makers” to 25 – at three locations, with the largest in Hackney in London’s East End, and produces about a half-million pairs of toe shoes a year. Should Freed’s ever close down because of fire, strike or bombing, the ballet world would be under a cloud while hysterical, flat-footed ballerinas protested that they could were no other pointe shoe.

When the New York City Ballet was touring Europe last summer, our first stop was London. Many of the dancers wanted to visit the factory where our shoes are made. Their intention was to speak with their respective makers to discuss alterations; we are forever changing our requirements for both practical and aesthetic reasons. Often a foot has simply changed shape from the endless maturing and shaping a professional career brings about: the metatarsal has grown wider and flatter; various lumps, bumps, corns and calluses have grown, changed or been removed. Sometimes the heel of the shoe must be cut down to virtually nothing because of sore tendons, bone spurs or sensitive nerves on the lower ankles. With new orders placed four times a year, we have four opportunities to alter our shoes’ shapes, but with the long distance and paperwork that lie between us and our makers, we have grown skeptical about the amount of communication possible, and most of the ballerinas were determined to meet their makers in person.

A professional working dancer may easily use 12 pairs of new toe shoes a week, and often more. Under average circumstances, a pair lasts for 15 minutes of performing and is then ready for class, rehearsal, autographs or, most often, the trash can. A used toe shoe is not revivable – this is the secret of the eternal demand for new ones. A toe shoe is as eccentric as the ballerina who wears it; their marriage is a commitment.

Though experts at demolishing a new shoe, we had been ignorant of the materials and processes that precede our more destructive actions. A brand-new pair of toe shoes presents itself to us as an enemy with a will of its own that must be tamed. With the combined application of door hinges, hammer, pliers, scissors, razor blade, rubbing alcohol, warm water and muscle power – followed by repeated rapping against a cement wall – we literally bend, rip, stretch, wet, flatten a new shoe out of its hard immobility into a quieter, more passive casing for our feet.

Without music, lights, scenery, costume or false eyelashes, a ballerina can still dance, given some space. But if her shoes are taken away from her, she loses her technique, her grace and her ephemeral quality. She will literally descend into the world as a mere mortal if her means of support is taken from her. In the ballet La Sylphide, the sylph loses her wings and is thereby destroyed. But it was not wings that gave the famed original sylph, Marie Taglioni, her lightness, it was her pointe shoes. At her debut in 1822, Taglioni brought classical ballet onto pointe, and it has stayed there, sometimes shakily and with much pain, ever since. It is Taglioni whom we have to blame. Had she not been so charming, so ethereal and so graceful on her toes, the whole idea might have been dismissed as an unsuccessful experiment. Each time one of us stands on our toes it is still an experiment that we would often condemn as unsuccessful. But we are 160 years too late in voicing our feelings – besides, the applause contradicts us! And so we are silent; our complaints could not begin to compare with those of the early ballerinas.

From pain and fortitude, a magic symbol

Before the turn of the 20th century, pointe shoes came in only one size and were made to fit. A long narrow tube of satin-covered leather bound and squeezed the foot into the ideal aesthetic – an inhumanly-shaped miniscule pointe that did not remotely resemble the naked foot that entered it. The result of this painful effort is the symbolic figure of the ballerina: an unworldly creature of magical qualities and supreme femininity. It is a symbol recognized all over the world, achieved by fortitude and sacrifice in a search for illusion, perfection and beauty. The toe shoe of the 19th century bound the dancer’s foot as the Chinese bound their infant daughters’ feet and as laced corsets bound the bodies of fashionable women (the satin used for toe shoes is the same silk-and-cotton mixture as corset satin). By the early 1900s, Pavlova was wearing a shoe that resembled the toe shoe of today. There were different sizes by then, but still only one width, and the shoe was leather. Not until the 1950s did the construction of toe shoes improve dramatically in comfort, pliability, balance and strength.

Since I was satisfied with my own toe shoes, I had not visited Freed’s, but after three weeks of touring I decided I had to see it for myself and made my pilgrimage from Paris across the Channel. A long tube ride from Heathrow Airport and a small taxi fare landed me at 62-64 Well Street in Hackney, London’s oldest industrial area.

Factory director Bernard Kohler, a 35-year veteran of Freed’s, welcomed me with lunch in the factory canteen. He trains the new makers himself, preferring to have men (makers are always men) with no previous “shoe experience,” just as a good ballet school prefers young girls and boys without previous training. In both cases, time is wasted having to unlearn knowledge incompatible with the job at hand. He is a wiry, energetic man with a strong, handsome face and heavily scarred hands – big, gnarled, scarred and skilled. Their look is poignantly mirrored by the dancers’ feet, which are also strong, scarred and misshapen from wearing the shoes. In the making and the wearing, a toe shoe, ironically, is not a kind or gentle object.

The dilemma: more strength with more comfort

As we ate, Kohler told me the story of the toe shoe. All of the changes in the shoes’ sizing, shaping and raw materials that have taken place since Freed’s first opened have been innovations that closely followed the course of classical ballet. The shoes are in service to the dancer just as are the costumes, lights, scenery and makeup. As ballet technique has been dissected, refined, improved and quickened, the toe shoe has changed accordingly. Pointe dancers now spend a great deal more time on their actual toe tips than ever before. Thus the contradictory dilemma of a good shoe arises. The shoe must be simultaneously stronger and harder while being more comfortable. Of the toe shoes currently on the market, Freed’s is, to me, the kindest to the foot. It is the softest and lightest, with less substance and less actually weight than other shoes, thus its life span is necessarily short. Yet if a dancer is comfortable, as she continues to dance she can rely less on the shoe (whose support has dwindled) and more on the power in her own foot – a power that is considerable in a well-trained dancer.

A great part of the comfort lies in width. Unlike the 19th-century tubes perhaps only two inches wide, today’s shoes come in many widths: narrow, regular, X(wide), double X and, recently, triple X. There has also been a widening of the shoe tip, which has caused a severe problem: in the very center of the flat tip where the pressure is the strongest on pointe, a softening, not unlike a hole, occurred after only a few minutes of wear. This led to the development of the “platform.” The hard tips of Freed’s shoes are formed from layers of satin burlap, brown paper and glue; the platform is an extra triangle of burlap added to the layering. This triangle, an inch on each side, has largely eliminated the weakness, and we can now dance without fear of the soft spot through which we could feel the stage far too intimately.

As a toe shoe begins its career, Kohler explained, it has a rapid but smooth progress into softness. With weight, work and sweat, the layering crumbles evenly to form cushioning for the toes. The length of time between a new, rock-hard pointe (it feels and sounds very, very hard – like cement), which is noise- and blister-making, and its transformation into a soft, pliable cushion of padding, is very short. So Freed’s has reached an acceptable compromise that favors the dancer while remaining aesthetically correct – a compromise between hard and soft. It is these two terms that dancers use to describe their shoes. We have “soft”-shoe ballets with many jumps – Taglioni in La Sylphide – and “hard”-shoe ballets, the bravura ones, with fewer jumps but many pirouettes and bourrées – Patricia McBride in Tarantella.

The reluctant one percent: Who are they?

Why aren’t toe shoes made from more lasting materials? Because leather, rubber, plastic and synthetics are loud, clumsy, painful and, most important, ugly. Freed’s shoes, like the dancers who wear them, are beautiful, with a necessarily finite life span. “And you girls in the New York City Ballet use almost twice as many shoes a year as any other company,” Kohler said accusingly. Then he winked: after all, it means more business for Freed’s.

We are indeed a “Freed’s company,” with almost 99 percent of our shoes sent from London every year. (Kohler is still trying to find out who the few dissenters are.) We order approximately 50 pairs per girl, four times a year. The American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet order 60 pairs per girl, twice a year. “Suzanne Farrell orders over 350 pairs a year” – one a day – Kohler said.

He came to watch a NYCB class while we were in London to try to see why we are so hard on our shoes. He noticed that, unlike the ABT or Royal Ballet dancers who follow a more traditional classical training, we tend to pounce onto our pointes. Less concerned with the development and display of the calf and ankle, and with the foot slowly “rolling up” onto pointe, we virtually jump onto our toes. I was reminded of Balanchine. “Bang!” he would shout, “Get there! What are you waiting for?” And he would clap his hands quickly and sharply. Kohler thought we were more dependent on the shoe for support than other dancers who strive to create the illusion that the shoe is merely part of the foot. Balanchine liked the shoe to look like a shoe – separate and clean, with shiny ribbons. He did not like us powdering the satin to achieve a more subtle onstage effect.

Special orders comprise 75 percent of Freed’s production. If a dancer is not satisfied with her shoes, she will not wear them. With humility and earnestness, Kohler said, “We try to keep our ladies happy.” But this is impossible. Both the ballerinas and shoes have their eccentricities, and to find a perfect match on any given day is rare. No two toe shoes are alike, and no two pairs are alike, even though crafted by the same maker. He too has his good and bad days. A finished shoe cannot be altered, so returned shoes are added to the stock shoes and sold in Freed’s retail stores, which is why students can be found wearing Natalia Makarova’s or Gelsey Kirkland’s rejects.

The dancer’s complaint is usually something miniscule – a vamp that appears too short or too long, an uneven shank or a heel cut too low – eighth-inch discrepancies, but enough to drive a fussy ballerina wild. We have varying degrees of tolerance – some dancers simply wear all their shoes despite slight problems, others sort out 20 pairs into “unwearable,” “for rehearsal only” and “best” – for the performance. More often than not, returned shoes arrive with the statement that they “are just not right.” Kohler shrugged and smiled: “You ladies are a funny bunch. Miss Fracci, bless her heart, is a lovely lady, but Oh, how she fusses over her shoes! Miss Park is the same.” Freed’s has an illustrious clientele, including Carla Fracci, Merle Park, Antoinette Sibley, Suzanne Farrell, Patricia McBride and Natalia Makarova.

Suzanne Farrell has worn only white shoes for the past few months. Doesn’t she have any peach? “Yes, she does, lots of them, but she says she can’t wear them,” replied Kohler. Many of us, myself included, find the size and shape of white toe shoes invariably different from the peach. Kohler is again bewildered by this common complaint: “They are the same shoes, made by the same men, but I know you girls don’t think so.” He’s right. And we’re right. It’s simply one more elusive idiosyncrasy inherent in the toe shoe.

On the subject of pay and price, Kohler was discreet. The makers work without contracts or company pensions and are paid per pair of shoes. A maker who assembles 42 pairs each day will take home twice the pay of one who assembles 21. At Freed’s London store, a pair of stock shoes costs £8.90 ($12.63 at the current exchange rate). At the New York store they cost $29 ($80 in 2003.) Special orders – for professional dancers – cost about $5 extra. The NYCB bill is close to $400,000 a year.

The surprising part of Freed’s business is that for an enterprise of its scale, work is carried out with such individuality. Each maker is selected by each dancer according to her own needs and expectations. This is good old-fashioned country-store service. As dancers, we are each known by name, just as our makers are known by their signature symbols imprinted on the bottom of each shoe.

“The men will be starting the afternoon work soon, and we can begin our tour,” Kohler announced at a quarter to two. But first he wanted to explain an important toe-shoe tradition. They are made inside out and then turned for drying, shaping and cleaning. Turn-shoe making, as it is called, was the method used for all shoes until the 1870s. Today, street shoes are assembled right side out. Toe shoes and some running shoes are the main turn-shoes still being made; when they are reversed, there is a flat, smooth sole seam on the underside. Have they tried to make a toe shoe right side out? “Yes,” nodded Kohler, “but it didn’t work.” Why not? He leaned back in his chair: “Well, shall we just say it wasn’t a ballet shoe?”

At street level, in four large bays and several offices, lies the factory. Nineteen of Freed’s makers work in one of these rooms. There are large skylights, and old-fashioned ceiling fans keep the air cool. Each maker has his own workbench with his name and personal mementos – it reminded me of our dressing rooms, where each girl has her “place” with mirror, makeup shelves and theater case, and where we, too, sew our toe shoes, attaching elastic onto the heel and ribbons at the sides (the shoes don’t come with pre-sewn ribbons so that each dancer can place them to suit herself.)

My romantic vision of little old men like Dr. Coppélius, bent over, sewing shoes while dreaming of their lovely, far-off ballerinas, was quickly dispelled. Many of the makers are young or middle-aged, and they stand (always stand) at their workbenches. I asked if the men had photographs of ballerinas to inspire them. Kohler smiled again: “I think you’ll find the men have other kinds of girls on their walls.” Indeed they do. Pinups, belly dancers and provocative calendar art are where my wafting Giselles should be. The girls who have been taped haphazardly to the walls have never sported a toe shoe – or anything else.

Pushing and pulling toward the pointe

As the maker begins his work, his bench is already set up with the orders for that day and all the raw materials. “Making” is only a small part of the finished product. The other employees do what the maker does not. Initially, he matches the upper to the shank, pleats the toe and then shapes the shoe after the marking, measuring, cutting and stitching have been done by others. With his hands and various curved pushing and pulling instruments, he molds the still-soft block of paper, glue and burlap into its finished pointe – square, long, flat, oval and curved in all the right places. The shoes are then set to dry overnight in large ovens to preserve the shapes perfectly – until the dancer reshapes them before wearing. It is by their “shapes” that we know our makers, and it is their shapes that will win for them their “own dancers.”

Entering the factory, I was struck by two things: the shoes, which are everywhere – 40 pairs at a time stacked in four-foot-high cones of shiny silk – and the lasts. These are the heavy plastic molds around which each shoe is shaped. They are blue, green, brown, and yellow, and there are 8,000 of them at Freed’s. They resemble the idealized smooth, slim, elongated shape of a dancer’s foot, and they give the Freed’s shoe its distinctive shape. The natural foot lives and works inside a toe shoe that is molded to an ideal perfection: the bumps, lumps and angularities that a dancer’s foot develops are the compensatory results. Were our feet as smooth and symmetrical as our lasts, we could emerge unscarred from our shoes. A last is a compromise, fashioned to have the hypothetical curve that lies somewhere between a dancer’s flat foot and arched foot – two very different sizes and shapes, yet the same shoe must serve both.

The women who inhabit the large room next to the makers perform the last stage in the birth of a toe shoe. It is one of the wonders of their skills that in just 30 seconds the “drawstring lady” can stitch the string and its casing to the edge of the satin shoe. At the heel end of the outside shank, Freed’s famous trademark – two standing toe shoes – is pressed into the leather; the toe end gets a crisscross design to help prevent slipping. The name of the dancer is then written by hand on the shank. Kohler explained that because different-color pens are sometimes used to inscribe each shoe in a pair, dancers often complain that they did not receive a true pair. As all toe shoes are the “same” – there is no left or right – the dancer decides which shoe goes on which foot. The date of the shoe’s birth is stamped on the shank to help in sorting out returned shoes and tracing complaints. Shoes are cleaned, bagged and sorted for shipping. The women’s workroom is more bright and convivial than the makers’. Here there are no pinup girls, but family snapshots and calendars of Princess Diana, Prince Charles and the Royal Baby.

As we leave the workrooms, great tubs of gooey pale-brown glue being mixed for tomorrow are churning in a corner. The floor is covered with leather shavings and little pieces of peach satin. What other factory has such dainty droppings?

Bernard Kohler and I get coffee from a machine and return to his office, which is decorated only with bags of unused old toes shoes – his museum. He sits before a desk covered with papers: orders, measurements, complaints. A single new shoe lies to his right. He opens a tin of tobacco, rolls a cigarette and seems pleased by my enthusiasm for what I have just seen in the factory. After all, at the very base of the ballet business is the toe shoe – and its maker.

It takes three years of training before a maker can expect to get his own dancers and a steady flow of orders. He may then work for 30 or more years – far longer than most ballerinas. I asked Kohler if he and the makers know or care that we deliberately mutilate our new shoes. He laughed. “Yes, we know what you girls do…” He held his hands out helplessly and said, “This is our business. We make the shoes and you wear them.” Do the makers know much about the ballet or who their dancers are? “Not really,” he replied. “These men are more interested in Saturday-afternoon soccer.”

My maker until two years ago was Mr. Y. We Y dancers were told that he was no longer working (we thought he had died, but he’d semi-retired) and so we had to choose a new maker. Mine now signs his work with the playing-card symbol for the ace of spades.

Kohler then got up and from a shelf pulled down a dusty brown box. “Here’s something you might appreciate.” He took out an old unused pair of toe shoes. They were tiny – size four. The name on the shank was Fonteyn. “These are from her last order,” he said. He told me that in her career of more than 40 years she had had three makers just as she had had three partners. The shoe still shone, and the blocks were as hard as the day they were made, only now little bugs had crept inside to feed on the dry glue. He shook out the bugs and put the shoes back in their box.

As we left the office, Kohler asked if I would like to talk to my maker. My heart jumped and I followed him. “Mr. Spade” was Ron Boorman, 25, slim, strong and handsome. He was also very shy. It was after 4 o’clock and he was finishing up his day’s orders, placing them in one long row. Boorman is unusually successful for such a young maker, with many devoted customers like myself: he makes 36 pairs a day. I asked him if he had ever been to the ballet. He hadn’t, but he’d seen a little on TV. I thanked him for making my toe shoes and enabling me to dance. He blushed and looked at the shoe in his hand, then thanked me for giving him my orders and enabling him to work.

Men in pointes

Craig Salstein ABT soloist with ballet photographer Gene Schiavone

(during the Guinness Most Ballet Dancers on Pointe (230) record set on August 2, 2010 in Central Park NYC )

Beef cake en pointe:
I think Craig Salstein’s legs are just so awesomely well defined en pointe and the presentation of his package is so, well, masculine and mouthwateringly erotic (sigh!) in the photo accompanying this entry. Isn’t he gorgeous in his shortie purple unitard!

Male dancers in pointe shoes: I’m not going to go into the history of men in ballet and how women, once they found how to dance on their toes, gradually relegated men to a supporting role in ballet, though in recent years that has begun to change bringing more men to the fore in ballet. These comments are about how I see the relationship of men and the pointe shoe today.

All my male dancers take pointe to strengthen their feet and to broaden their dance perspective by experiencing what female dancers who routinely wear pointes experience. Men are routinely given the opportunity to take pointe class in most ballet companies and it is worthwhile. It makes guys far more appreciative of women ‘flitting around on their toes’ as one non-dancer man put it. And generally male professional dancer’s feet and ankles are so strong that they are up to speed very quickly. The tricky part is getting a toe protection regimen established of taping toes and using ouch pouches or other padding as women commonly do.

But unless a guy is a member of the ‘Trocks’, Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the St Petersburg All Male Ballet Troupe (Russian), Matthew Bourne's dance company (New Adventures), the New York based company Les Ballets Grandiva, or another all-male company there is usually no need for a male dancer to be on his toes very often for there are few roles for men en pointe in major classics. There are some ethnic dances where men in blocked boots will dance on their toes, but not in traditional pointe shoes. Puck in A Mid Summer Nights Dream and the wicked step-sisters in Cinderella are the main roles in which men wear pointe shoes in classical ballets that come immediately to mind, but there are a few others, for example in Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker.

Les Ballets Grandiva is an interesting Company. I think it is still performing, but the last advert for them was in March of this year. To me the interesting thing about Les Ballets Grandiva is that they have a ‘male pointe initiative’. More about that below.

Pointe shoes and men who aren’t dancers

Romantics: There are men so enamored of pointe shoes that they almost seem to attribute magical qualities to the shoes. This is not a new phenomenon; it extends back at least to the mid 19th century. Perhaps the start of pointe mania and worship of the women who wear them was during Marie Taglioni’s triumphal season performing in Russia, when her adoring fans cooked a pair of her ballet slippers and served them with a sauce.

For these men when a woman puts on a pair of pointes they transform her from a normal woman into a mythical all-powerful female creature of surpassing beauty, strength and ability. For men who have the romantic notion that pointes are transformative objects turning a woman who sweats and bleeds into a goddess may have some validity because standing en pointe with our calves contracted, buttocks clenched and breasts thrust out – the normal position for a woman en pointe – our bodies do look sleeker, curvier and generally more attractive. Not to mention that our pelvic muscles are contracted as well, thus providing the tightest grip on a penetrating partner when having sex while balanced on the platforms of our pointes. And women who have had enough ballet training to be en pointe professionally have enough steel in their spines to be independent, self assured and in many cases dominant over these romantically inclined men who are predisposed to believe the fantasy.

Men in pointe shoes: There are also a few men who with little or no dance or pointe training are very interested in wearing pointe shoes themselves. If this aspect of the male pointe shoe fetish only involves wearing them while sitting down or lying on a bed like so many women do when wearing ballet boots, the fetish is relatively harmless. It’s when men push themselves to try to stand and walk in pointe shoes without any strengthening of their feet and ankles that serious problems can occur. The likelihood of severely spraining or breaking ankles or toes then becomes a very real possibility, not to mention the discomfort of bruised nails and blisters. And some men in this category become very upset (you know who you are) when female dancers try to warn them about the dangers. I attribute this to the same male gene that causes many men to refuse to ask for directions when they are lost. Or, perhaps it’s too much testosterone.

I have several dancer-stallions who are really good at moving confidently en pointe and I have been taken by them while we both were balancing on our platforms. Being taken by a guy while he is balancing on his toes doesn’t do much for me erotically, but it’s a great test of the man’s ability to compartmentalize to keep from falling off pointe while staying focused to prevent his bone from wilting while he is trying to get me off ahead of himself. For my guys there was a learning curve even though they were motivated by competition to see which of them could get me off quickest. For couples en pointe we all wear Gaynors and I stand on an adjustable platform so our pelvises are at about the same level. I tried having them take me on a flight of stairs, but that didn’t work nearly as well since I had to be at least two steps up and then the distance between us was too great. Although, if we found a narrow stairway with hand railings on both sides I could hold on to I could lean back to close the gap and to brace myself for his thrusts. So under some conditions it is doable.

Male pointe challenges: There are several problems that non-dancer men wanting to wear pointes face. First is finding a dance shop that has a sympathetic fitter who will properly fit them in pointes because without properly fitting shoes the wearer will be in great pain and can cause permanent damage to his feet.

There may be reluctance on the part of pointe shoe fitters – especially in small towns – to fit untrained men. This is based primarily on the concern that the man is not strong enough to stand and walk en pointe in them and if injured will sue the shop and fitter who, he will claim, should have known better than to sell him the shoes in the first place.

A secondary issue in small towns is that a man being fitted with pink pointes – the color in which the shop has the most sizes for fitting – can freak out tweens and their mothers coming in to buy the daughter a new pair of shoes. It can also be embarrassing for the man as well if he is the least bit concerned about what other people (especially women) might think when they see him in pointes. And finally, finding a shop that has pointe shoes in sizes that will fit men can be a problem even in larger towns.

Some men are fortunate to have understanding sisters, girl friends or wives with ballet training to go to their local dance shop with them to lessen the likelihood of rejection and help with the fitting. Buying pointe shoes on-line may be an option, but the process of self-fitting is one of trial and error over a long interval and even when the shoes are discounted can be a costly proposition.

In my case I’m fortunate to be a dancer so I can enjoy wearing pointes during the day while I’m working. I know it is not easy for men who have a psychological need to actively wear pointe shoes. And I’m aware that the fetish can be driven by multiple and complex psychological needs. While pointes are my work shoes I love wearing them because I like the way being on my toes makes my body look and feel so ultra-feminine. I love the bondage aspect of having my feet tied securely into my pointes by their ribbons. And I love the feel as the weight of my body fluctuates pressing my toes into the blocks as I walk or bourrée en pointe and I like the pain. Being able to balance, run and jump confidently in pointe shoes is a sexually arousing experience for me and I fully expect that each man has just as complex a set of psychological needs – probably different from mine – that together make up his fascination with and need to wear pointes. Perhaps it is the fact that the shoes themselves are beautiful, that they are feminine footwear, that they take skill to wear and that there is pain involved. What ever the reasons are that are driving him I wish every man with a pointe-shoe fetish well in reaching the fetish goals he sets for himself.

I think it’s great that men want to experience the thrill of dancing, or at least standing, on their toes in pointe shoes. And as an additional benefit it certainly deepens their insight into the art of ballet. All I’m saying is that if the effort in time, money and pain is to be worthwhile the task needs to be planned for logically. Being in denial and believing that training doesn’t matter if you want to walk en pointe in toe-shoes can get you seriously hurt

I have at least one frequent reader (you know who you are) who has found supportive fitters and takes pointe classes. I hope he will stop by and share his experiences and tips for men who are serious about being able to wear pointe shoes confidently.

I mentioned above that there would be more about Les Ballets Grandiva’s Male Pointe initiative which I think is such a great idea. It is explained below, from information available by clicking on the outreach link on their website:

Les Ballets Grandiva
Description of our outreach and educational services

The Male Pointe Initiative

Male comedy ballet belongs to a special genre of dance, and it is Les Ballets Grandiva’s goal to provide support and education to those dancers who choose this particular art form as their occupation. We wish to give those dancers a serious option to conventional ballet companies, and make becoming a member of our company a choice they can be proud to make.

As The Male Pointe Initiative is the official training of Les Ballets Grandiva, it is our objective to maintain and improve each dancer’s male technique – including jumps, turns, beats, and partnering, while developing pointe technique – focusing on foot articulation, in-step and ankle strengthening, and weight distribution. Ballet and pointe classes are kept separate so each dancer can focus on correctly and effectively developing both male and pointe technique.

Along with the daily educational regiment for the company, members of our staff tour the Untied States during the summer months providing workshops for male dancers who wish to study pointe technique.

Male Pointe Initiative Summer Intensive Curriculum –
Ballet Technique
Pointe Technique for the Male Dancer
Pointe Variations
Partnering Male Dancers
Men’s Technique
History of the Male Dancer
Acting for Dancers
Injury Prevention

Qualifications –
Male between the ages of 18 - 23
Advanced ballet technique
Strong ankles
Stable trunk
Proper control of rotation

College and University Lecture Series

Our Lecture Series is geared towards all college level dancers who are seriously looking to dance professionally. We are committed to ensure a positive and nurturing learning environment where dancers can feel comfortable, reach their individual goals, and grow as artists. Along with ballet and pointe technique, our platforms consist of – Comedy in Ballet and Acting for Dancers.

Master classes

Intended for intermediate and advanced students, this two hour class is aimed towards proper technique and alignment to create the necessary classical lines and prevent injury, working with individual rotational capabilities, improving flexibility, hand to head relationship, and performance quality. Insight into the audition process and tips on getting a job is also provided. Every student is given individual attention.

Lecture demonstrations

Students watch technique class while a moderator explains the value of the exercises and their relevance in the process of going from classroom to stage. Excerpts from company repertoire are performed, and character development and comedy is explored to show how dancers and chorographers create. Audience participation is included where a number of volunteers are incorporated into excerpts with company members. Choreographic participation is encouraged where students can witness firsthand, with their input, how choreography can develop into a ballet.

Educational performances

Intended for schools and other community venues, this series showcases longer sections of company repertoire with moderator explanation.


For schools who are interested in a more in-depth approach, our workshop offers a combination of master class, lecture demonstration and education. Workshop lengths and schedules can be discussed for the particular needs of individual schools. Workshops conclude with a performance of Les Ballets Grandiva.


Les Ballets Grandiva’s residency programs combines master class, coaching, lecture demonstration, pre-determined lecture series, school performance, company performance, and post performance reception. While working, rehearsing, and performing alongside professionals, students gain the understanding of what is expected of them once they venture out into the dance world.

Physical Education Dance

An introduction to dance for non-dancers incorporating beginner ballet, modern, yoga, cardio activities, cultural dances, and popular dance. This program is designed for schools who do not have a dance program but would like to introduce their students to movement. A gym, performance space, or stage is required. Students should wear lose fitting t-shirts and sweats or shorts.

College and University Lecture Series Curriculum –
Ballet Technique
Pointe Technique
Acting for Dancers
Including Character Development and Pantomime
Lectures on Comedy in Ballet
Lecture Demonstration on Male Comedy Ballet
Audition Process

For fee information and further inquiries, contact Noriko Miyazaki at (212) 875-0951

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pointe shoe quiz October 14, 2010

Who is the maker of this dancer’s shoes and what style are they?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How America Masturbates

Spilled seed: hundreds of millions of sperm & no egg McMuffin

About.Com Sexuality
Sexuality Blog
By Cory Silverberg, Sexuality Guide

How America Masturbates
Thursday October 7, 2010

This is the second in a series of blog posts about specific data coming from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB). If you want to start at the beginning, start here.

Forgive the hyperbolic headline. It's not true, of course, that the data from the NSSHB, or from any other quantitative survey for that matter, can tell us much about precisely how Americans masturbate. Online surveys, statistical software, and the soft focus of a nationally representative sample all obscure the gentle (or rough) touch of a back of a hand, the swirling of finger tip or elbow in just the right spot, the heat we make between ourselves and our own bodies. How America masturbates will probably remain a mystery, and our sex lives may be better for it. But how often and with whom we masturbate are questions that researchers did ask, and when 5,865 people ages 14 to 94 responded, it's worth a look.

How Much, How Often?

The responses affirmed the idea that among the big ticket sexual activities (they only asked about masturbation, oral sex, vaginal, and anal intercourse -- I know, it's not fair, but no one surveys people about hugging, kissing, or earlobe roughhousing) masturbation is tops.

Overall 60% of adolescents (ages 14-17) and 82% of adults (ages 18-70+)say they have masturbated at some point in their lives, with more men reporting masturbating than women across all age groups.

Solo masturbation (both in the past month and past year) was more commonly reported than most partnered sexual behaviors for people 14 through 24 years and 50 years and older.

Participants were whether they masturbated, and if so, how often they did using several time frames (past month, past year, more than a year). In terms of frequency:

30% of women and 21% of men masturbated a few times a year or monthly
17% of women and 23% of men masturbated a few times a month or weekly
5% of women and 17% of men masturbated 2-3 times per week
2% of women and 11% of men masturbated more than 4 times a week

Masturbation Across the Lifespan

When responses are broken down by age the image of the constantly masturbating adolescent or teenager doesn't appear. Instead, people age 25-29 were the ones most likely to report masturbating in the past month (60%). 34% of 14-15 year-olds reported masturbating in the past month and 42% of 16-17 year-olds said they had masturbated at least once in the past month.

Who Masturbates Most?

Well it's not a contest. But 61% of women and 77% of men ages 25-29 reported masturbating in the past three months, which was the highest percentage across age groups (participants 70+ were least likely to report masturbating in the past three months, 16% of women and 35% of men).

Are You Lonesome Tonight: Do Single People Masturbate More?
Overall, participants who were single did not masturbate more than those in relationships. Among women it was those who were single and dating that overall were more likely to have masturbated in the past three months. Among men it was divided between those single and dating and those who were in a relationship but not living together.

Masturbating Together

Interestingly, the same age group of women who report masturbating alone the most, those 25-29, were the ones who reported partnered masturbation the most (35%). For men the group with the highest percentage reporting partner masturbation was those ages 30-39, 32% of whom reported engaging in partnered masturbation in the past three months.

As the authors note in the paper looking at the details of sexual encounters (they call them "sexual events") the results are likely influenced by them not being specific about what "partnered masturbation" includes or doesn't include. Other surveys have specified using fingers and hands to stimulate specific parts of the body (e.g. clitoris, penis, anus). Still, this survey lays interesting groundwork for future research on the details of what we do when we do this thing we call sex.

Personal comment: I love to masturbate! Especially when I feel like being alone. I’ll get my dive gear, slip into the pit, tether with ankle leashes at about 30 feet and get myself off with a Penetrator plug with a G-spot vibi ball in the tip; then have a short nap while I enjoy the afterglow. It’s awesome listening to the gas hiss through my DV as I inhale and the roar of the bubbles as I exhale and they rush toward the surface. When the vibi tips me over the edge, I love the feel of my vaginal muscles spasming, clenching around the shaft of my plug as I orgasm! As you can see from the statistics in the article above masturbation is a very normal part of human sexuality and is performed millions of times a week in the U.S. I feel sorry for those few people who feel masturbation is a sin and deny themselves the pleasures of masturbating. I wonder how they handle “nocturnal emissions”, wet dreams. Is having a wet dream a sin?

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Powys , Wales, United Kingdom
I'm a classically trained dancer and SAB grad. A Dance Captain and go-to girl overseeing high-roller entertainment for a major casino/resort