Category Archives: Personal

ESSM School: Hi from Budapest!

The ESSM School of Sexual Medicine is a multidisciplinary, comprehensive and crazy intensive 10-day course on human sexuality. I am having SUCH a good time. I’ve had some training in sexology before, of course, but it’s always been kind of fragmented. This school is everything I’ve been dreaming of, it really is. The schedule is punishing though. We have breakfast in the hotel, class starts at 8.30, lunch is served in the hotel at 13.00, then more class until 19.00. We get half an hour to freshen up, meet in the lobby at 19.30 and have dinner at a different restaurant each night around 20.30. After that we might go dancing, have a drink somewhere (Buddha Bar is great!), last night we went on a boat cruise. Then back at the hotel around 23.00, and do it all over again the next day.

Topics include everything including endocrinology, gynaecology, urology and psychology. Because of my own background I would have liked some more sociology, sex education and gender studies, but I have to say, I’m having a great time watching surgeries on penile fractures and all sorts of other stuff I usually would’t see. This school is on sexual medicine after all.

marijkevonkessmThe participants come from all over the world, every continent and completely different cultures. Most are medical doctors but I’m not the only psychologist. The group is great, it’s just so amazing to be around this many academic sex geeks! These are all people like me who think talking about sex during dinner is a great idea, who are scientists and evidence-based and ah it’s just lovely.

And exhausting. Sunday will be our last day and I’m flying back home on Monday morning. I think I’ll spend my Monday afternoon imitating a vegetable while watching Netflix. Anyway, if you’re a psychologist or medical doctor and you want to become a sexologist, I can totally recommend this school.

The Weekly Personal (aug 2016)

gay prideI’d never been to the Amsterdam Gay Pride before. I went to Pink Sunday in Tilburg once, that was great fun. But I’d only seen parts of the Canal Parade on tv a couple of times, and I was excited to experience it in real life. And yeah, it was great. A couple of friends of mine live in Amsterdam and a whole group of us met up to watch the boats, drink wine and eat crap. I think it’s nice how gay pride has become the cool thing to do, even though it’s sad actual LGBTQ groups and people hardly have any space in the whole Parade anymore.

Many visitors were wearing the Gay Pride Hema t-shirts. Hema is a family-friendly shop that sells stuff like towels and pens and kettles. For Gay Pride they sold shirts with the Dutch treat ‘tompoes‘ which translates into Tom Puss (puss, right?) and sausages (haaa!), and I thought they were hilarious. We’re not there yet, obviously, gay rights are still something to be fought. But we’ve come a long way! (why were all the models White though?)

hema

 

 

 

How To Spot A Kinkster In Public

I was at a vanilla wedding the other day, when I noticed some marks on my friend’s arm. Now I met her through the BDSM scene so it didn’t surprise me, but if you’re wondering how you can recognise a kinky person in public, marks like these are a pretty good indication they’re into rope play ;). It’s easy to spot a kinkster in public if you know what you’re looking for!

(Posted with her permission, obviously)

kinkster in public

The ‘Weekly’ Personal

It’s become almost an ironic title, hasn’t it? The ‘weekly’ personal. A memory of some really ambitious idea I once had. Anyway, life has been great. I’m currently working on a project to provide education about sexual diversity to health professionals, more specifically an online course on BDSM. The company I work for is so supportive, I’m very lucky I found a job so soon after returning from all the travelling, and even more lucky it’s a position in which I get to do what I’m most passionate about: educating people on sexuality and psychology. I’m also seeing clients a few days a week, which I enjoy a lot.

marijke sm

Finding good stills in a video in which you’re talking is hard.

The course is such a fun project to work on. I give most of the classes (on video), but I found some really good other teachers too. I asked kinky people in my own community to contribute, let me interview them (on camera!) about their experiences, and I got over 40 responses from people wanting to help. I mean.. I knew the kink community was wonderful. I knew we help each other out and there’s support and I was quite confident I’d find maybe 5 to 10 people willing to be filmed, on camera, about BDSM. But 40.. I’m still a little emotional about it, it’s just so great. I made a selection and have interviewed a little under 10. I have my own camera team that does the recording and editing for me, and it’s been lovely working with them. They’re professional, kind, and fun to hang out with.

Our friends organised a ‘welcome home’ party for Robin and I when we got back, which was great fun. Life is really starting again, we’re renting a good place and looking to buy a house, we both found jobs that we’re happy about, our cat Poes is living with us again after staying at Rene’s house for a year when we were gone. And although I enjoyed the company of other travellers, I’m so, so, so happy to be back with my friends again. I have an amazing social group, most of whom I’ve known for over 10 years, and I don’t know.. new people can be great, and new friendships can be very deep, and I do love meeting new people, but it’s great to be back :).

There have been some sad things in my life as well, of course. I’ve lost some people, sometimes because they’re literally gone, sometimes because my relationship with them ended, and it’s had a big impact on me. Things don’t always work out the way you want them to.

Like stills from a video. Whoa.

marijke

Happily talking about BDSM.

whatt

When Someone Is Wrong On The Internet

This is now happening so often I feel I should take some time to clarify: I am a psychologist, specialised in sexology. Talking about sexuality and writing about sexuality, educating others and providing help is my job. It’s what I do for a living. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy talking about sexuality in my free time or that I’m unwilling to provide information without payment, but when you’re asking me to give my opinion as a professional, you’re asking me to do work for you. And if you don’t intend to pay me for my service, you’re asking me to work for free.

wrongontheinternetI get regular mentions on Facebook when someone I don’t know says something silly about sex work. “There’s no such thing as truly voluntary prostitution!” this person will say, and one of my acquaintances will comment with “Marijke Vonk” and I’m supposed to show up and explain why they are wrong. Just my name, usually, not even a sentence or two to explain why they’re dragging me into this. I don’t care if this random person I don’t know and who has no influence on my life holds an incorrect opinion, I really don’t. If you want to explain why they’re wrong, do it yourself. A while back someone posted “why do some women not like their vagina’s?” and I was mentioned in a comment by someone I’ve never talked to. “You’re a sexologist Marijke, I’m sure you have an opinion on this?”.

If you’re asking me to give my professional opinion on something, you’re asking me to do work. If there’s a topic on Fetlife about research or sexology and you think my knowledge would be relevant in that topic, and you’re asking me to write a whole post explaining the subject, you’re asking me to do work. Unpaid work.

fixcomputerIt’s like asking your friend who knows a lot about computers to help your cousin’s co-worker’s friend fix theirs. It’s one thing to ask your friend to help you, but when someone you hardly know posts on Twitter that their software is giving an error, you should’t post “hey Emily Smith, you’re good with computers! Go help this dude I don’t know fix theirs!”. Asking your friends to do unpaid work for you is sometimes problematic but can be okay, if you’re my friend you can ask me. I’ll even help your mom. But there’s a limit.

I’m willing to do work for free if I think you or your group are doing great things, I give lectures for students for free, I do voluntary work in my local kink scene, I’m not a greedy person. I’ll argue people who are wrong on the internet if I think that conversation would be educational for me, or if I think they have political influence and it’d be a form of activism. Sometimes I hang out on Fetlife because it’s fun.

But don’t mention me on Facebook, just dropping my name in some comment so I’ll come over and do unpaid work. Don’t email me telling me to contribute to a discussion just because you think my knowledge would be relevant. Offer to pay for my work, or leave me out of it.

 

Counting down..

Just six more days before we’re heading home after travelling the world for almost a year. Time has flown by, honestly. We’ve visited Australia, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal and India and although I am looking forward to seeing the Netherlands again, I’m going to miss the freedom of travelling.

The last week I’ve spent in the hospital though :(. Food in India is simply amazing, but somewhere I ingested something bad and my body was so busy getting rid of it that I got severe dehydration and had to be admitted for 7 days. The bug that’s causing it is resistant to most antibiotics so I’m still walking around with a drip-thingy in my hand, but at least they let me out of the hospital and I get to hang out in the beautiful city of Udaipur. By the 9th I’ll be done with my antibiotics course and we’ll do a flash-visit to the Taj Mahal before rushing to Delhi.

And then.. BACK TO THE COLD!

Hi From Nepal!

2015-11-13 13.28.16We’ve had an amazing trip through Myanmar (Burma), it was simply amazing. Such a gorgeous country, the people were friendly and generous, there is so much to see and we just had a blast. You can read about it on my travel blog if you want, there’s loads of pictures there too. After Myanmar we spent a week at a super touristy part of Thailand, in a bungalow right at the beach. I’m currently translating the book Natya and I wrote on BDSM into English, so I had plenty of time to work on that which was great. We’re hoping to publish it in English in the future. And now we’re in Kathmandu, Nepal! I love it here. The smells, the sights, it’s so busy and hectic and there is so much to see. Well probably do some shorter hike and visit a few cities before we cross the border into India.

I’m Not Racist, But..

My social circle is a pretty cool group of people, with generally reasonable views. But there’s a subject that will knock down any lively conversation in a heartbeat: racism.You see, we all like to think we’re good people. We’re not racists, because racists are bad people who think non-white people are different from us white people, and we don’t believe that, so we’re not racist. I notice the same when discussing other marginalised groups: “I’m not against trans people, I’m not gay phobic, I’m on your side, so back off!”.

I kind of felt the same when I read the following article: “how to tell the difference between real solidarity and ally theatre” at the awesome Black Girl Dangerous blog. I think as a white person it can sometimes feel like you can’t do it right. And there’s a ‘threat’ (notice the quotation marks) of another angry black person, another angry trans person, getting angry at you because you tried to be supportive but now apparently you didn’t get being supportive right and you know what, I’m doing this for you so if it’s not appreciated, whatever I’ll not care about trans rights any more if I’m pissing you off so much just saying I’m agreeing with you. Can someone get me a whaaaambulance?

Dutch people have the harmful habit of including a person’s background in a story if that person has a Moroccan background and did something wrong. “So these two Moroccan guys walked up to me” and you already know they were up to something bad, because that’s how these stories always go. But say something about it – was it really relevant these guys were Moroccan? – and the story teller will usually explode. “Jesus look you know I have nothing against Moroccan people, can you back off?!”.

I feel that too. I’m trying to do everything right and then it’s still not good enough. All of this just doesn’t feel nice for a white lady.

That’s privileged as shit, isn’t it? To think that my feelings are even of any concern at all. That I have a right to feel good. 

When it comes to sex workers’ rights I’ve proposed giving anti’s a golden bridge out. But I don’t think it works that way way with racism. Instead I think white people need a bigger tolerance for feeling like crap. For letting it sink in that we don’t know best, are not leaders here and are messing up, and people not petting our heads when we refrain from doing harm but instead biting our heads off when we do.

So I started thinking, how can we get white people on board with this? What should we do to get white people to do all this? And then it struck me.

That all of this is really, really, really not about us. Not about how we feel. Not about what we want to do. What our role should be. That we’re not needed.

A shock to my white lady mind.

So that article was good, and made me think. Go read it. It’s okay if it doesn’t feel nice.

The Weekly Personal

2015-10-07 20.32.16Greeting from Myanmar! If you want to read more about our travels you can always have a look at my travel blog, though I’m structurally behind on updates, but yeah we’re having such an amazing trip. Australia stole my heart, I had a great time in Thailand, Myanmar is such an experience, and I’m looking forward to Nepal and India. I feel very blessed that I’m in a position where I can afford to travel like this, low-budget obviously but still, I get to see the world. Not many people are that fortunate.

And you know, travelling with one of the people you love most in the world is wonderful. Of course we miss Mara like crazy, and I do not enjoy being so far away from my family and friends (wish I could put you all in my backpack and take you with me!) but having the chance to spend this much time together, having adventures, is lovely.

This post by Maggie McNeill brightened my day as well: human rights are winning! I mean obviously there are setbacks, but I think overall we’re moving in the right direction.

 

The Weekly Personal

Some of my family members live in Australia and a few days ago we met up with my cousin. It was great, I hadn’t seen her in forever and I don’t know, there’s something interesting about being related. You’re something of the other person, you’re their someone, so you have this bond. Anyway, Robin and I intend to go to India later this year and she had travelled there by herself so we were interested in her experiences. She loved it there, loved the food, had a great time.

I was a bit apprehensive about how I would be treated there as a somewhat young travelling woman, but she managed to reassure me. “Yeah you get remarks from men. One time a guy followed me around on a boat, asking sexual questions. A taxi driver scolded me for not dressing modestly enough”. We both shrugged, and said at almost the same time “you get that everywhere you go”.

And Robin did “whaaaaaaat?!”.

A few days later we were at a touristy thingy when I tried to read an information sign. An older man started mansplaining stuff to me, asking me if I understood English (’cause he’d heard Robin and I speak Dutch) and remarked “you know, this architect’s wife was really smart. She went to school!”. I smiled politely, not much you can do when an older ‘gentleman’ goes all creepy grandpa on you so I just ignored him. “I can’t believe how condescending he was!” Robin remarked later. “Sweety, I get that everywhere I go”.

And Robin did “whaaaaaat?!”.

I mean, Robin is not blind. He’s not a stupid guy either. But when you’re not living in it, it’s easy to be blind to sexism. You just don’t see it. As a white, cis-gendered, hetero-partnered person I’m used to being one of the ‘us’. I’m used to seeing ‘myself’ on television, of feeling represented by the main characters in tv shows, of the news being viewed from my perspective.

And then there’s a ‘Dutch person’ on Gilmore Girls and you get a glimpse of what it’s like to be othered. When I saw that episode I went all “whaaaaat?!”.