Too often, I hear about people being misinformed and ignorant when it comes to sexual health and education. To see grown men and women be confused about sex is something very wrong in our society and a huge safety liability. Sexual education is not validated in the U.S and is imperative for a happy and enjoyable sex life.
In the sex positive community, I became interested in a group that wants to create a sexual safe space that is what is so needed today. From so many different perspectives, that can teach every walk of life something about sex education and sexuality.
I interviewed Shakun, the creator of Tickle.Life, to learn more about her perspective and why she wanted to create a realm of education for something that is still taboo in our country, and ironically Tickle.Life is from Toronto.
Please tell me a little about yourself (age, where you're from/live, occupation). I will also add your bio from your website. I am 33 year old Indian origin woman who has had the privilege of travelling across the world. I have been an initiator of multiple social impact projects for creating exposure and opportunities to the relevant stakeholders and citizens. My experience in India and the Netherlands led her to realise the importance of an ecosystem to celebrate sexuality and to eradicate the taboo attached That is how Tickle.Life was born. A senior communications professional that also founded Dizuna Communications and has an experience spanning more than ten years in Strategic media relations. I am also the recipient of Netherlands Fellowship Awards.
What is Tickle.Life? Why inspired you to make it? Tickle.Life is an initiative to encourage acceptance and expression of our sexuality. It is a platform to celebrate unrestrained fantasies and sexual innuendos via discussions. The community exclusively targets like-minded people who are judgement free, where there is no right or wrong way of expressing one’s thoughts. So helping us to remain true to our real self and accepting the world around in a better way. The platform encourages community building by maintaining anonymity and privacy but discourages hookup by providing no way to connect personally on one to one level.
I believe, sex is an integral part of human life, in fact there is no doubt that it is as important as food and water though unfortunately we try to curtail or add taboo with this integral need. If you look around there are so many issues and negativity which can directly or indirectly be related to sex, that is where the idea was born. A self actualisation environment where any discussions related to sex are welcome.
What is your journey with sex positivity/education?Why is sex positivity important to you? I am more of an observer than an educator. I can only work in areas where I know deep impact can be felt and Tickle.Life through its sexual liberation is planning on bringing that exact change. It is important to know what is right and wrong but also very very important to accept that one has to try to learn and things cannot be taught but learnt.
Like I said before, our life and its needs are intertwined and keeping ourselves oblivious or putting a banner on sex is only injurious and unfair to ourselves.
Why do you think a safe place for sex and “a self help group” is needed today? Ultimately we are social and we need a place where we can express ourselves without the danger of being misjudged and being subjected to preconceived notions. That is one of the major reason why a self help group or community is needed. Since a lot of personal information is expected to be shared, it is imperative that the environment that is created is safe from all the different facets like information leak, bullying, trolling, etc.
How would you define sex positivity and how does Tickle.Life portray it? Sex positivity stands for acceptance and Tickle.Life advocate that acceptance.
How does Tickle.Life provide a community for sex positivity? Tickle.Life as an iOS application has various groups where people can talk about everything and anything without the fear of being known to the world. For people who love to read about different things, we have specially curated real life blog posts by people from all walks of life. Also, I think this is an interesting platform to announce that we are curating a book as we speak of real life stories of real people who have come to accept their sexuality in a positive way.
Why is Tickle.life different from other sex resources? Tickle.life is made for everyone, people who want to talk, who want to have their own community but can not find a platform to promote sex positivity, we are here to provide them with the platform, people who love to read, can read our blogs and can even write. Tickle.Life is basically a movement, an ecosystem to understand and propagate sexuality.
What has been your favorite response to the site? The favourite response we have received for the iOS mobile application and the website has been people coming on their own and even before we explaining them they understand and want to be a part of this movement. Till date, we have multiple advisors and collaborators who are experts in their own right in the field of sexual liberations and are helping us spread the message.
You have many different people on your team of writers. How does the diversity contribute to your content? The main essence of Tickle.Life lies in its diversity We are just not creating a mobile application community but an ecosystem where people are open and understandable of each others needs and cultures. To create an entity which is so ambitious, it requires diverse thought process and knowledge regarding human intricacies with a global outlook. Tickle.Life is thankful to have managed to gain that essence via our team members, helping us not only to celebrate sexuality but also to give us factual information.
How would you define feminism? Would you refer to yourself as a feminist? Is there anything you would change/like to discuss on feminism on the topic of sex positivity/education? I believe feminism is inequality in itself . My school of thought is we all are equal and we all deserve equality whether we are a woman or a man or are gender fluid. Though I am open to talk more about how with time woman as a gender has been subjugated to various atrocities and issues.
To learn more about Shakun and Tickle.Life, check out their website and follow them on Instagram.
Afterglow! Interview 17 September 2018
The Afterglow Podcast which is a sex and relationship podcast from the perspective of two black women living in California, having a good time while sharing knowledge and stories about the ups, downs, and complications that are relationships. CeeCee and Voodoo interviewed me and it was super, super fun! You can listen to ithere.
What Goes Where 7 August 2018
Many of us learn about sex from high school rumors and rated R movies. The sad part is that you don’t really learn anything at all. I distinctly remember a high school memory, where one girl was talking to my friend as we were walking to class. She relays to my friend: “It (losing your virginity) hurts super bad and you feel like you have to pee the whole time”. I then immediately thought, “gross! I don’t want to lose my virginity!!” Sex is a weird myth for adolescence and even into adulthood, sex ed has so many factual holes in it.
In whole, we learn nothing about sex from society. Even porn is a huge lie and young boys are taught that their penis is either small or like heroin for women (not negating porn, but this is true in many categories!). The sector of sex therapy and sex education is so small and taboo and hidden and for this reason, the result of unhappy sex lives and lack of orgasms.
Sex is apart of life and is apart of who we are. How we have sex, what we enjoy and dislike and what we know create our sexual sphere. I always want to learn more about the sexual education field so I asked the very smart and talented, @Sexpositiveohio, or Abigail Hurst, for short.
When it comes to ALL of the intricacies of sex, we really do need an expert and Abigail can guide us through all of it!
Tell me a little about yourself. I am a sex therapist practicing in Columbus, Ohio. I currently live in Columbus and have been in this general area most of my life.
What has been your journey towards sex therapy? I feel like I have always been a sex positive person, even before I knew sex positivity was a thing. Throughout my life this manifested through trying to reject or change the gender binary and sticking up for woman’s rights. As I began my higher education and then my career, this mostly showed through working on women’s health issues. This included working with birth workers, contraception counseling and trauma therapy. In the past year I had the pleasure of being exposed to sex therapy through podcasts and books, and decided that is what I am born to do. I founded Ohio Sex Therapy and began pursuing advanced education in the field.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do? I love when people are able to fully acknowledge and explore their sexuality. Our true sexual desires and pleasure are often buried in cultural expectations, shame or fear—and in some cases trauma. When someone feels comfortable and confident in their sexuality that is a joy to witness.
How long have you been a sex educator? I have been a therapist for five years and have shifted into a sex therapy focus within the last year. Prior to that, I was doing family and trauma counseling. Sex therapy largely includes an education component and I hope to expand to more education based workshops this year. This field fell in my lap through exploring my interest through podcasts, books and blogs. Once I knew the field existed, I looked into how to start and jumped right in.
What do you think is the biggest sexual health issue today? That is a hard question, because I feel there are a tremendous amount of sexually unhealthy issues going on right now. The lack of accessible, comprehensive, inclusive sex education is probably my primary concern. There are so many people in this world who have had no education or extremely limited education on sexual health. This is a topic that needs discussed and taught, early and often. Most of my work is helping people unlearn what they heard from peers, in school or through other cultural platforms.
Is there anything you don’t suggest to someone when they have issues? Each person has different experiences, thoughts and histories they bring to their sexuality. I never want people to do things that they make them uncomfortable or feel unsafe—even if it is solo sex.
What is the weirdest sex ed question you’ve received? I don’t look at questions in terms of “weirdness” because I love Emily Nagoski’s “Don’t Yuck My Yum.” We all have a wide variety of sexual interests, and there is no question too weird to be asked! I think when people are in the sex education field it is easy to forget that some people have ZERO sex education or correct information about sex. I want all people to be met where they are far and feel confident asking even if it feels “weird.”
How do you help those that want a specific sexual experience but their partner wants nothing to do with it? This can be really frustrating in a partnership! It takes vulnerability to come to your partner with a desire or a want. It is all partners responsibility to have this conversation with care and compassion. You should never shame someone, or get angry at, their sexual desires. I encourage partners to explore ways to include each other’s desires. This may mean trying it, watching porn together, discussing the fantasy, having the partner do that thing with other partners, etc. There are many creative ways to work through the issue, if both partners are willing to be compassionate and caring to each other.
What are some simple ways to make foreplay more fun? A big part of what I do is working toward legitimizing all parts of sex, which means changing foreplay to play! All play is a part of sex, and our culture tends to over emphasize penetrative sex, especially penis in vagina sex. When talking about what happens before penetration, I think being creative is important. You can turn any part of your body into an erogenous zone and it can be really fun seeing what other parts of your body turn you or your partner(s) on. Being creative also means mixing it up with order, place or position. People, especially in long term partnerships, tend to get in a pattern. Try starting the play in a new room, trying new touch or incorporating new toys.
What would you tell your younger self when it comes to sex and womanhood? I think about this question a lot because I want it to inform the way I meet others with their sexuality. I wish I knew that as a woman I am entitled to my sexuality.
Why is sex education needed for couples that already have a happy sex life? Our sexuality is dynamic and as we grow, change and age what works for us or what we like may change. There is never too much information when it comes to sex education.
Also, the sex education we get in our culture is so so poor, that they may be missing out on a fundamental part they never thought to explore.
How has being an sex educator made you more sexually comfortable with yourself? I get to talk about sex all day which is awesome! People also love to ask about it and are curious. I love when friends, or friends of friends, ask questions. I can guarantee most of my dinner conversations discuss masturbation, anal or fetishes at some point. Because I talk about it all the time, it helps to normalize the discussion and helps me put into practice what I recommend to others. Through learning about sex it always gives new ideas to try!
Do you find that millennials are more or less sexually explorative? I am not sure! I definitely think there is more comfort with diverse identity expression, but we have a long way to go as a heteronormative culture that prioritizes monogamy.
I also tend to get people who are interested in exploring their sexuality, so everyone in my office is sexually explorative to some degree.
How does feminism play a role in sex education? Bell Hooks says “feminism is for everybody” and she is absolutely right. All genders benefit from feminism. We are at a turning point in our culture with the #MeToo and Times Up movements and increasing awareness of the prevalence in sexual assault. The estimates are 1 in 4 women are assaulted in their lifetime. Feminism is a human rights issue. Sexuality is part of human nature and humans need to learn how to have healthy sexual lives with one and other. This means learning to respect partners, treat them equally. This also means access to birth control, high quality and ongoing sex education, abortion access, etc. These are issues that affect all genders and must be included in sex education.
BDSM has always been interesting to me. The psychology of control and the mental aspects of it is fascinating and I think would be a great tool for the bedroom. I also really love the comfort of your body it provides while also fulfilling so many fantasies. I really think it is intimidating to start and while I'm open to it, the most important part of any sex act is respect. Respect for yourself, body, and sex partner (s).
One of my first early blogs was about BDSM but I wanted to really explore it from more intimate standpoint and hear first hand from someone that has dived into BDSM and is fully open with their experiences. Kink and Cuddles, or also known as Eleni Peitho, journals her sex life as a sub and how BDSM has transformed her sex life. Her openness with her sex life is admirable but also gives us a peephole into a crave-able sex life. With provocative and artistic pictures, Kink and Cuddles tells the story of a BDSM relationship and all the fun that comes with ropes and whips. She answered my questions too, just in case you wanted more (I know you did).
Please tell me a little about yourself. My pseudonym is Eleni Peitho; I am a teacher and am based in the UK. I am in my mid-thirties. I currently live in London but was born in a small-ish, much more conservative town further south.
Why did you make Kink and Cuddles? Kink and Cuddles is the public face of my sex positivity. Creating an alternative persona meant I was free to express myself without fear of judgement. Honestly, it’s sad to me that I don’t feel more able to be open about sex as “myself” but due to my profession that isn’t an option currently. I wanted to document my journey and be part of a changing narrative about sex.
How has sex positivity impacted your life? My journey hasn’t been a smooth one and, in all honesty, still isn’t without its challenges. The pivotal realisation for me was just how important sex is as part of a healthy, long-term relationship. I realised that I struggle with feelings of guilt around this and started trying to explore why this was. I slowly realised that there were reasons for this guilt and once I understood them I could try to shed them. So that’s where I am!
It’s affected the conversations I have with friends - both openly talking about Kink and Cuddles and not. The ones that know have been ultra supportive and it’s allowed me to talk more openly and confidently with those that don’t too. In some ways it’s made me feel more confident in my own skin. It’s made me inadvertently more healthy in that I want to feel good and be in better shape, physically but also mentally. While it’s led to some, shall we say “interesting,” conversations with people, it has ultimately given me a bit more faith in humans to be forces for good too.
Sex is a part of everyone’s life, no matter how much they don’t want it to be. By talking openly, honestly and positively about sex we remove the shame and guilt around it and allow young people to grow up being given the tools they need to make safe decisions for themselves.
How important is sex in your relationship and in life? Very, I love pleasure and pleasing others. But it’s inconsistently important in its physicality, in that my sex drive fluctuates. Sexual intimacy is always important though: I love non sexual nudity and talking about sex almost as much as I enjoy being sexual. It’s all part of the same thing to me.
A good sexual relationship is one in which you feel completely comfortable to say, “No,” whenever you want or need to. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable, at least you feel secure in the knowledge that your, “No,” will be met with understanding and not coercion.
Do you give advice to friends and family? Haha - yes! For better or worse. The other day, a friend and I had a very heated debate about what to call female genitalia when talking to young children. So that would be an example of unsolicited advice. It’s an interesting one, though, because the exploration is still fairly new for me. None of my close friends follow my Instagram or my blogs but I have shared some of my experiences with them. They are positive in general.
How did you get into BDSM? I have always been interested in it but didn’t really know I was. I knew I enjoyed certain things sexually and I loosely know about BDSM but didn’t quite make the connection. It was meeting people and talking through things I liked and disliked that made me realise it was a lot more usual than I had thought. Another reason why sex positivity is important!
I really enjoy it on the whole. It has made me a lot more aware of my own limits and boundaries - sexually and nonsexually - and has opened up a whole new confidence about communicating too, especially where saying, “No,” (and, “Yes!”) is concerned. Submission itself is a challenge as I’m not a particularly submissive person and relinquishing control can be tough, especially when I am going through a transitionary period anyway. I totally get why people in high powered jobs enjoy submitting: it’s a way to quieten an otherwise busy mind and let someone else take control for a change. For me, it’s a very calm space, almost an out of body experience. My memories are always hazy but I feel tranquil and relaxed, almost like meditation.
Are you a feminist? Yes, through and through. For me it’s simple. As Maya Angelou put it, “I’ve been female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” And for me feminism is about releasing us from unwanted gender stereotyping while allowing individuals the freedom to make their own choices. Men should be free to emote. Women to be CEOs. If they want. And if not, then that’s fine too.
I am honestly so jealous of your sex life you have no idea! I think every person should be as vocal and explorative when it comes to sex. Is there anything you won’t try? There are a few things I have set as hard limits but mostly I’m up for trying anything once. I don’t like the idea of using anal hooks, and things like scat play, fisting, and having someone control my bowel/ bladder movements or what I eat doesn’t turn me on at all. But, in general I’d consider myself fairly explorative. In the right circumstances and with the right people.
I would think your DMs get pretty crazy. How do you deal with that? I actually don’t get too many creepy messages. Or if I do I just wipe them pretty quickly; I generally don’t bother replying although have decided to start naming and shaming people who send me unsolicited dick pics. I don’t really find them funny. It annoys me that men (and it is, without exception, men) seem to view sex positivity as synonymous with wanting to hook up with them and then feel rejected when you don’t. I had a slightly risque photo on my (non-Eleni) dating profile and ended up taking it down because of all the sex chat I got. Which was sad, because I liked it and I wanted to show my ‘naughty’ side. The weirdest message I got was probably from a 20-year-old self-proclaimed ‘virgin’ who wanted his first time to be with me.
Thank you Kink and Cuddles, please make sure to check out her bloghere!.
Behind the Lens 27 June 2018
I came across Alex Kacha (@alexandrakacha) and was immediately obsessed with her art and its narrative. With her lighting techniques and styling, Kacha’s art is something that is so unique and needed today. I think so many photographers try to have a similar concept when photographing the female anatomy and they pale in comparison to her technique. Her pieces tell a story and represent so much about femininity and feminism. Her pieces have me wanting more, and asking “Who are these women? What is Kacha trying to convey?” The juxtaposition of kink and innocence plays a major theme in her art; with bondage, latex and lace, we see sex in so many shades and the ways many individuals understand the concept. The usage of her models and their distinct beauty connects sex and body positivity as well as gender equality. Her photography is an ode to all women and the extravagance of being a sexual being today. I could honestly talk for days about how much I love her work and want them printed all over my walls but that will just bore you, and her interview below is much more interesting!
Please tell me a little about yourself (age, sexual orientation, where you're from/live, occupation) My name is Alexandra Kacha, I am a queer photographer who moved to LA from Austin, Texas. I do full time lifestyle & wedding photography for the last 6 years.
How long have you been a photographer? I have been shooting for 14 years, I used to document my music scene, which soon turned to me working for a couple music magazines and then I paved my way to doing portraiture full time.
Where does your inspiration come from? Most of my inspiration comes from women & femmes, I am constantly finding new ways to shoot them. I love experimental techniques, after a while a basic picture wasn't enough for me. I started investing in mirrors, glass & prisms to shoot through, interesting lighting, or just any other object to enhance the creative side to my photos.
How does sex positivity play a role in your art? Sex Positivity has so much to do with my work. The reason I even began this business is because a friend of mine who did sex work asked me to take some photographs for them. After that, more and more sex workers came to me, and then regular people began coming to me for boudoirs. People know they can be comfortable with me because I have seen it all.
Does each individual get their own inspiration or do you think of their styling/creative direction beforehand? I usually just have clients come over, and I can work off of their energy. Each shoot I do gets better and better, my connection with people has grown so much, nothing makes me nervous anymore, so I really trust myself to get my subject beautiful and really weird images.
Is there anyone that influenced your work or inspired you? I have always been influenced by a lot of BDSM photographers, and especially Nan Goldin. I grew up shooting film and documenting everything and anything so her work as always spoken to me.
Your art is so needed in today's society. It is very editorial while still being very inclusive and raunchy. What would you say is different about your art? As time has gone on, my art has become more 'acceptable' I remember models would never want to work with me because they would see a hint of latex or a flogger in my work, where as now, they think its more interesting or I have even been asked by one where we could get it for a shoot.. I am glad the world is moving into a more sex positive place. Sex has always been beautiful to me and people should not submerge that.
I would consider you a feminist artist. Would you consider yourself that? I do consider myself a feminist artist. I feel women feel the most beautiful in front of other women. Men have damaged the safety of photography. Most women I work with will only work with other womxn queers.
While Instagram provides a platform for amazing photographers, your art has such a strong message rather than most "instagram famous" accounts. How do you think Instagram helps or hurts talents like you? Instagram is a blessing and a curse. I was really, really late to instagram. Now it eats away my whole life, it can be so inspirational yet so discouraging. Ideas are stolen, likes matter whether you want them to or not, but in the end of things, it is a really positive platform. I would never have met many of the people I have gotten to work with if it wasn't for that. There is definitely a community within what I shoot.
What is your favorite part about photographing the female anatomy? I love photographing women, I love the details, the movements. My favorite part is watching someone go from nervous to adventurous. I feel it is a trust thing, and it means so much to me. More then they know.
To learn more about Alex and her art visit her website!
Loving the Skin You're In 3 April 2018
*Photos courtesy of @barenaked_creations
I so often think about the verbal abuse women’s bodies take too often. Its almost as if we’re taught that if you’re not insecure or self conscious- we’re odd and unusual or faking confidence. Some of the most beautiful women I’ve known carry so much body hate and talk so badly about their bodies and yes, that made me more insecure about mine. When we’re on social media we rarely see women post images of their bodies that don’t look like Kim Kardashian or a super thin model. It struck me that we are influenced to believe that that is all people want to see and this is something I aim to change. I really wanted to have a discussion with someone that has evolved their relationship with their body and can help me and other women love our rolls, cellulite and other things that should never be photoshopped.
I luckily was given the opportunity to interview Lauren. You might know her as the very popular artist, @barenaked_creations. If you’re already familiar with her, you know how her Instagram shows her body confidence, cheerful selfies and beautiful artwork. She not only is an artist but also a designer and a Women’s Body Love Coach. While we see someone that loves her body and is living her best life, she was at one time living a completely different lifestyle. I wanted to ask her what her old lifestyle was like and how she feels now.
What made you want to post a body comparison post from when you were a body builder? I felt like this was a really important reverse transformation for people to see. I know so many people that believe that the way that they look is a reflection of their self worth. I’ve been that person, I thought that by having amazing abs and looking the way that I did people would love me. I look at that photo now and I see the pain that I was in, plain on my face. I look at the photo on the right and I know that I’m in such a better place about my body and about my life and happiness.
What was your lifestyle like when you were a body builder? The Body Building life is all about dedication. You have to be committed and dedicated to preparing your food, weighing it down to the milligram. You have to be committed to being up at 4am to do your cardio, even when you want to sleep. or lifting weights after work and practicing your posing routine. You have to say no a lot too, there’s no going out and partying, or meals out with friends.
A typical day for me was 6 small meals spread out across the day, mainly chicken/fish and green veggies. Any of my carb meals (rice or oats) were timed just before my workouts. Everything is super controlled and considered by my coach. Each weigh in would determine how my week would changed, based on how my body changed.
What attracted you to body building? This is actually a big question for me to answer, and one that I haven’t really shared. I had been training with my coach for a few months and had seen a lot of changes in my body.
But it hadn’t occurred to me until I was having a conversation about dating with a couple of friends of mine. I was fed up with the continual string of disappointing dates and let downs from men that I met off dating apps. One of my friends pointed out that I no longer had anything to focus on and finding a partner had become my focus.
I relayed this conversation to my coach and after his laughter died down, he threw a seemingly random date at me which end up being a competition date. So I directed my focus away from dating and into getting stage ready. The changes you see in your body become super addictive.
What was your favorite/least favorite thing about body building? My favorite was seeing just how adaptable the body is. Making the little tweaks in your workout and diet can change your body in such a dramatic way. I remember the first comp i was in and being fascinated by the fact that my belly button popped from an inny to and outy. My least favorite was the cardio and the starvation.
What did you learn about yourself and your body when body building? It taught me just how dedicated I can be when I put my mind to something. The thing with bodybuilding that people don’t talk about is exactly what you’re doing in order to look the way you need to on stage.
You are waging an internal war with yourself. Your body will play tricks on your mind to try and get you to survive and eat. While you are feeding yourself to keep the muscle you are slowly starving yourself at the same time. It becomes this mental battle to not run and eat a pizza, some nights it became so hard to sleep because I was so hungry!
Have you always been confident with your body? Is there anyone/ an experience in your life that had contributed to your body image? No, not always. I’ve had big weight fluctuations. The biggest one being when I was at the end of a relationship where I had put on 20kg. Then lost it for my first body building comp. I know the Body Building did help in terms of being comfortable near naked in front of people. I had to be comfortable enough to show that much skin and I was proud at that point of what I had achieved but I also knew it wasn’t sustainable at all. Being less than 10% body fat for a woman is really dangerous.
After I walked away from body building, I had to re-learn body love. Because you end up feeling foreign in your own body after you return to a normal body weight. A lot of body builders already struggle with body dysmorphia and I was no different. You can’t help but go through a negative cycle and really start hating yourself.
How is your lifestyle different now? So different. I’ve dealt with so much of the negative self talk and body hate. It doesn't affect me much anymore (Sure, I have a very rare day were i’m not feeling great but they are rare). I eat what I want. I move my body in a way that feels much more suited to me, I do a lot of yoga and walking because I want to.
Reiterate on the “coach you hired to help with your negative self talk”? I remember sending a particularly nasty text message about myself to my best friend. I sent these to her quite regularly, about how no one was ever going to love me, or how I was so fat now that I wasn't at the gym 7 days a week. I went to work that day and was listening to a podcast where my soon to be coach, Caty Pasternak, dropped a little gem that inspired me.
“Those nasty things you say to and about yourself… would you say them about your best friend?” I sat at my desk and cried, because there’s no way in hell I would say these things to anyone else, but I spoke like this to myself on a daily basis. So, I got in touch with her and she helped show me how different my life could be if I started treating myself with love and respect.
After everything that I have been through, and all of the work I did with Caty, I came to realize that this is what I was meant to do in this world. I love coaching people through the same body hate I have conquered and help them see themselves for the beautiful empowered goddesses they are. I want women to be free of the constant self hate and dieting cycles we go through in order to feel loved and for them to see that self love is such an important part of life and happiness.
Your art depicts so many beautiful images of the female anatomy. Where do you get your inspiration? I meditate a lot, especially before painting, this is where the majority of my ideas come to me. I also do live portraits, so women come into my home and model for me, which is such an honor. I love creating such a safe space for them to come and share their stories and allow me to show them the beauty that I see in their bodies.
I’ve also been doing a few collaborations with photographers that allow me to paint their models, and also working with photo submissions from people with body dysmorphia.
What is your definition of body positivity? It’s a feeling of freedom from your own self judgement and the ability to show your own body pure love. It doesn’t matter what you look like, if you’re happy on the inside it’ll transform the external.
Thank you Lauren, for being a great resource and having this conversation on a needed topic! To keep up with Lauren you can follow her on Instagram,( link up top) and also check out her website.
Cumshots and Consent 28 March 2018
While I love talking about porn, I love learning new things about it and from a different point of view even more. I've always considered how I hate nonconsensual porn themes and the underbelly we always hear about. While I'm obviously sex positive- I can see the gray area for porn. On a feminist and sex positive perspective, there are so many positive and negatives when it comes when it comes to porn and it's industry. I wanted to talk about porn with someone that looks at it from an educated perspective, one that our society finds confusing (sadly).
Amber N Harris is a Consent Educator and I couldn't think of anyone better to discuss porn with ( in the most feminist way possible). Harris is a bisexual mother of two powerfully smart girls. She's originally from Los Angeles, CA. While also being a Consent Educator, she's also an activist and, a sex-positive parent. We have so many similar views, so I wanted to pick her brain about the multi-billion dollar industry and how things fall on the Consent Richter scale.,
What is Consent Always? I made the page after leaving Utah. While I was in Utah, I was appalled by the Rape Culture that is alive and well. While I was in Utah, I spent my time advocating for women, the LGBT community, and sex-positive education. Coupled with all of the sex assault movements, and I decided there need to be a change. I have two girls, and they shouldn't have to go through what I went through. I shouldn't have to teach my girls to look over their shoulder. I've had enough second class treatment as a woman, and I want to pass on something better to my children. I want my legacy to be a shift in conscious thinking, politics, and patriarchy.
Consent Always is just a diving board for more things to come. I have a few things in the works that I am excited about revealing over the next few years. And you can be sure that everything will have a common thread, consent (always), you can keep up with us by visiting consentalways.com and joining the newsletter.
My mission is simple "Create a culture built on Respect, through consent." I genuinely believe that there are a lot of problems that continue because people don't recognize or exercise consent. So it thrills me to teach people about consent, and my favorite part is knowing that I may stop something terrible from happening and ruining someone's life. Too many people have been hurt because consent isn't taught, isn't followed, isn't given - and it's entirely avoidable.
What was your reason for making Consent Always? [For] victims (for lack of a better word) of sexual assault/abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking. The truth is I have my own #metoo story, and while I'm a survivor, there are those who never made it. I have a voice, and I want to use it for those who have been silenced. No one deserves to have their autonomy and power taken away. People should not have to live in fear. I am confident that consent starts in childhood, and if we can begin there are a lot of problems that can be genuinely worked on and fixed instead of just band-aided.
Knowledge is power, that's real. There are people out there that don't know when they're being taken advantage of. Some people don't know they are doing anything wrong and get caught up because they honestly didn't know. I just want to help level the playing field.
Because you are also a feminist and sex-positive, I was interested in why you're against pornography. I understand that the porn industry is often disliked by feminists. What is your main point for why you are against porn? This is such a tricky question for me to dissect. But, I will try to do my best.
I am not against porn, as a consensual adult activity. I am again the porn industry itself. They give no safety to those who are watching, buying, or participating in their product. Websites while having age restrictions don't do much to enforce them. And it is to easy to mass produce and distribute child pornography, rape porn, revenge porn, and other non-consenting types of porn. Porn is just a broken industry that glamorizes a trade that is not protected.
As a feminist, if a woman wants to have sex let her have sex. I don't see anything wrong if that's what a person wants to do. But again it goes to consent. Also, there are a lot of female porn-preneurs. They have made sex their business. This is, also, one of the few industries where the pay gap is tipped in a women's favor. While I wouldn't choose their lifestyle, I don't condone their lifestyle either. I don't pay any of their bills, so I have no say in how they decide to make their money. It saddens me to see some of the porn stars and know that not all of them want to be, some of them are being trafficked, and there is a merit of them that have been abused and are abusing drugs and alcohol.
As a mother, Porn is not appropriate for my children, at this age. I despise the fact that it's too easy to access, and there are so many negative images. These are adult relationships taken out of the context of a healthy loving sexual relationship, and it sends the wrong message to children, boys and girls. And kids don't get the fact that porn is staged. They don't realize that porn is still a movie, which means it's not filmed the same way it's shown. If kids are getting their hands on this kind of information (misinformation), coupled with R rated movies/ tv shows, lack of parental guidance, horrible school sexual education, and a barrage of social media mixed messages how do we expect them to have healthy functioning adult relationships?
It saddens me to see some of the porn stars and know that not all of them want to be, some of them are being trafficked, and there is a merit of them that have been abused and are abusing drugs and alcohol. It's not the life I would hope for my daughters.
As a Consent Educator, Porn, with consent, is okay. However, that brings me to all the porn that I can't condone - teen, sleeping/unconscious, abusive, drugged, rape. If a person can not consent to sex, it's rape, it's wrong, and to watch it happen. That just perpetuates the bystander role.
After your analyzation based on your layers of dissection and mindsets, whats your full conclusion? The porn industry is a trafficking ring. I want to be okay with it, for the few reasons mentioned above, but let's get real it's a piece industry that capitalizes on people getting off at the risk of the actors. For more info on this, Amber shared an article discussing a porn star's personal experience.(link). Are you anti-sex workers? (strippers, models, phone sex, prostitution) I am not anti-sex work, I'm anti sexplotaion. I only wish there was more protection for those who choose to do it. And even more protection for those who don't.
Although, I agree with some negative points. It has allowed me to learn so much more about my sexuality and about myself. Do you think it could help people's relationships and their own sex lives? I get where you're coming from. There is more degrading porn then good old fashion sex. Unfortunately, sex is so overstimulating and desensitizing that it's become dirtier, more violent, and ultimately unreal.
Although, homemade porn can be fun, hot, and a talking point for couples. Not many couples talk about what they want or like in bed. Most people don't even know they can talk about what they, hell, most don't even what they like. But porn can be like a game tape. You can sit there with your mate and point out likes and dislikes. Porn can breed fantasies, share them with your mate.
Porn can also shine a light on "taboo" sex. Sex acts between consensual adults that are usually shamed or hidden. It can connect people and make them feel less like an outcast because they found others that like what they do. It's freeing and liberating for some. Again this doesn't go for any sex not consensual - I say that because I don't want anyone to miss read this and think I condone anything like pedophilia. Children can NEVER consent, it will always be rape.
What is your opinion on the fetishization (ethnicities, genders, body types) of porn? I completely agree with you. I am a minority too, and I am also aware of the fetishization of the ethnicities, and redheads as its own fetishize category. I think it's actually empowering for some of the minority groups, to know that they are fantasized about. It's an excellent place for someone who may feel depressed about their weight gain confidence that they are wanted.
What are your thoughts on the Cam Girl sector of porn? This is consensual! This is where the sex industry becomes more female friendly. And there is a contract between the performer and audience. The performer is in complete control.
Do you find that pornography shows the juxtaposition of sex shaming and our society? As a feminist, my job is to advocate for the equal of humans. I want women to be treated equal, period. I have also come to terms with when I'm advocating for women and their right to choose what they want to do for their life I don't get a say in what their choice is.
Ex. If I advocate for a woman to decide her career, that includes being a housewife - if that's her choice. If I advocate for a whose right to choose I can't complain when a women's right is to continue to have 5 and 6 more kids. The feminist part of me that hates porn is born from the lack of protection for those within the industry, not porn itself.
If a family member or friend told you they started working in the sex industry, how would you respond? First I would make sure they were going into the industry of their own accord because they want to do it. Then I would make sure they weren't avoiding sexual trauma (they weren't sexually abused or coerced). Next, I would support them and make sure they knew someone had their back. But mostly I would make sure they never felt like I was passing judgment on them.
What is your definition of sex positivity and feminism? Sex positivity is having an open attitude toward sex, even if you don't "get" people's kinks. Feminism supports the equality of the human race, even if they don't agree with their decision.
Thank you Amber for being so open and spreading your wisdom! For more info about Amber, her personal Instagram is @Bigirl.living.
A Superwoman Memior 17 March 2018
@natalie.rbf's Original post (via Instagram)
It’s been a long journey this far, from left to right—about eight years difference—and the more I reflect on this blend of images, the more I’ve learned about where I spent thirty years in that purgatory, depressed, sad, a half-life of saying to myself—but no one else—“this isn’t who I am, this is not what I’m supposed to be,” but never out loud, never with a voice that I would let anyone hear because when I was growing up, it wasn’t safe and I was more afraid to lose everyone for the truth, and not afraid enough that I kept maintaining the lies I told myself: it’s a phase/you’ll grow out of it/you’re just a cross-dresser.
The picture on the left, I was 25, and I’m smiling because I was having fun with some college friends out in the woods, but the smile felt only as genuine as the experience did for me when I got home and I was alone in my bedroom again. That was the beginning of the end of masculinity for me, or at least the beginning of an active crisis of self I’ve lived through since as far back as I can remember, feeling like an interloper among men saying, “I look like you but this isn’t me” in my own head. It was the nails building the coffins of who I thought I was, or why I didn’t shave because the beard was (a mask, a cover,) an excuse not to feel the dysphoria led from having to shave my face to free it from the facial hair I never wanted. I spent the second half of my twenties living a lot in my own mind, repeating the refrain of my entire life: I’m not like the boys, I’m too soft, too emotional, too concerned with the safety of the queers that (to all the eyes around me) didn’t make sense in the world I lived in. Three and a half years after this picture was taken, my therapist asked me if I thought I was #transgender and I was glib and dismissive in my response, because I didn’t understand myself, but she saw right through me, and I didn’t admit it to myself until a year later, and that was still almost three years until the picture on the right, from a few days ago. I’ve become more honest, more whole, even when it’s painful and I see the pain around me and within me every day.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
When I came across Natalie on Instagram, less than a month ago, I immediately knew I wanted to learn more about her and her transgender journey. Above is Natalie’s Transformation Tuesday post that truly inspired me. Her ability to not only tell her story, but also be courageous was beautiful and made me want to reach out to her. Natalie, 33, works in the service industry and was born in Washington D.C. and now resides in Portland. I was thrilled to be able to learn more about Natalie, the details of her journey, and be able to be more informed about a Trans experience.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about the Transgender community and their societal obstacles. My conversation with Natalie was not only educational for me, but hopefully for all of you. Not only does she describe her self discovery moments, but focuses on key points on how to accept and love who you are.
While Natalie later explains support from her family and friends, many transgender individuals are not as fortunate. Please always be considerate and loving to those around you and realize you can always make a positive impact on someone. To further your support, you can donate to the National Center for Transgender Equality @ http://bit.ly/1SEvVP9 and Glaad.org.
What was your experience like when you first admitted to yourself you were transgender? After I had my initial “coming out to myself” moment, I started reading everything I could get my gay little hands on with regards to being trans. I needed to confirm it for myself, first, I guess.
I then slowly started reaching out to my close friends and talking to them about what was going on and was met with a lot of support and compassion (and a little confusion), but the response was mostly positive.
How did your family and friends respond when you communicated to them you're transgender? I spent several hours drafting several long letters to my parents and after a lot of agonizing over it, I sent them an email and had them read it together. My parents don’t really get it, but my mom is supportive and loving, and pretty good about asking questions.
I came out publicly about two months after I had my little epiphany to a mostly positive response from family and friends. I think it’s really overwhelming for the cis community to all of a sudden find out that their friend/partner/brother/sister/whatever is in front of them saying, “Hey, I know you thought I was one thing, but I’m not.”
I had a few friends that suspected or for whom “it all makes so much more sense!” I had some friends tell others that they’re happy I’m happy, but will not have anything to do with me after the fact. Some friends just froze me out or acted like those conversations never occurred. Those hurt, but the amount of support and positivity and love and community I’ve gained have been so great and so powerful. I have some of the best friends in the world and I don’t know where I’d be without some of them.
What was your next step after coming out as Transgender? After I came out to my folks and told them they could tell the rest of the family. I came out on Facebook to a TON of support. I think while, yes, trans issues are intimidating for a lot of people, most people just want their friend/partner/family member to be happy and whole. I spent a lot of time feeling like I was lying to myself by not actively taking steps to do anything beyond repressing myself, only to reinforce the closet I spent so long living in, which isn’t healthy for anyone. Not everyone has the ability to come out safely, because of fear of retaliation or violence or what it might cost them.
Have you gone through the medical process of changing your sex? I started medically transitioning via Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) early last year. Surgery is the end goal, but it feels like a long way off at the present.
I am not really a fan of doctors; I have a lot of anxiety surrounding medical facilities and practitioners. I have experienced some medical gatekeeping with regards to trans issues—admittedly not as bad as some trans folks do or have—and I wish more doctors were better informed about trans patients, and that those that provide trans affirming healthcare were... better informed and more trusting.
I've heard a lot of experiences from other transgender individuals about their childhood. They collectively describe how their apparel choices were immediately reprimanded for being the wrong gender. Was your childhood similar to this? Everyone’s experiences are so varied, but I think things have come a long way with how parents treat their trans kids. As psychiatric and medical professionals push more towards trans affirming care, so too is there a cultural shift, and parents aren’t as restrictive of their child’s gender exploration or presentation.
I simultaneously knew and didn’t know that I was trans. I always felt like a girl, from a very young age. I think I was three or four the first time I can recall having said something to the effect of “I’m a girl” to myself. Due to personal experiences, I repressed a lot of what I was feeling because I didn’t feel safe when I was a kid to say, “Hey I’m this “other thing” than what you think I am.”
I didn’t have the words, and society/the media was not friendly towards trans people in the early ‘90s. Anything I had been exposed to at that time was like... Jerry Springer “Freak Show” bullshit and Ace Ventura. So, I internalized a lot of what I felt. Any cross dressing or experimentation I did as a kid was kept very quiet (like when I was home alone) or private. I was afraid of what my mom would say. I was afraid of getting called a faggot or a freak or getting my ass kicked at school.
You mentioned in your post that your therapist questioned you if you were transgender and then a year later accepted that label. Do you still see that therapist? No, I haven’t seen that therapist since I moved to the west coast. She asked me “The Transgender Question” about six months before I moved here, almost a full year before I had my “Holy Shit I’m Trans” moment. Therapy has been helpful for other things I’ve experienced and I’ve had a couple of great therapists that are really supportive. Some of it feels a bit gatekeepy at times, but licensed medical/psych professionals can only do so much. Governmental regulation has a lot to do with how trans people are treated.
Are you in a relationship or single? I am a currently single lesbian.
What would you say to teens and young kids that struggle with a similar journey? Trust yourself, believe in yourself, let your friends that care for you do that. There are people you could lose, but the people that you keep and gain by being honest with who you are is some of the best love you can receive. It is a hard world, but your family (in whatever form that takes for you) loves you. Be there for each other.
It’s scary shit, to think you could say, “Hey this is who I am,” and to know that that simple statement can result in violence, or isolation, or worse. Sometimes it’s not safe for people to come out at all, and that’s an unfortunate reality of the binary-heavy society we live in.
What does self-care and sex-positivity mean to you? Self care is super, super important. It isn’t selfish to acknowledge your needs and to do what you need to to help yourself. And it isn’t always pleasant or easy work, either. Growth can be really painful, but it’s important to try and love yourself.
Sex, body positivity and consent are also important. Love yourself! Be enthusiastic and loving with your sex life, whatever that means to you, and celebrate your fascinating bodies!
Would you label yourself as a feminist? I am an intersectional feminist, and I think it’s really important for society to recognize why it’s important to recognize where we have our privilege (or lack thereof) and where we fall with regards to all possible axes of oppression. It is important to speak up for those who don’t have as much privilege as you might, and to help society raise up as a whole. Ultimately, I think we’ll be better off for it [feminism].
Thank you, Natalie for being a WCLO resource! To keep up with Natalie, you can follow her @Natalie.rbf on Instagram!
The Afterglow Angels 13 March 2o18
If I tried explaining the Afterglow Podcast, I think I could define it as a beautiful Cheetah-Girls-ish, Sex positivity, very needed podcast. The two stars, Cee cee and Voodoo, dive into all of the the crevasses of sex and relationships and celebrate everything it means to be a woman. I immediately loved their message and content their ability to help others. Their upbeat and funny personalities and excitement for sex positivity are one of the many reasons ALL OF YOU should be listening. They’re also based in LA so that makes me love them even more. In this day and age, it’s hard to find sex/relationships commentators that are actually open, honest, accepting and funny as shit. Listen to them at Afterglow.buzzsprout.com and follow them on Instagram, @afterglowpodcast.
What made you want to start a podcast and how long have you been passionate about analyzing sex and relationships? Is there a personal reason why? Cee Cee: I am currently going to school to be a sex therapist and I have always loved to talk about sex, lol. I have seen other people share their sex positivity via youtube, but I have never really liked being on film so I figured doing a podcast was the best way to reach out to people and I feel its still not as oversaturated as youtube. I have been passionate about analyzing relationships and sex since I figured out my love for psychology. So about 10 years or so. Both of these topics are universal to everyone for the most part, however, we all have different ideas of how we approach the topics. I wanted to make people more comfortable with approaching these topics. Voodoo: I have always LOVED podcasts. I listen to a few true crime podcasts, Criminal, True Crime Guys, and another called Death, Sex, and Money, which is just about life and love and of course sex. When I would listen I would always say to myself, I want to try this, I want to have my own show one day. And just like Cee Cee, I wanted to help relax the conversations we have surrounding sex. I feel like in some ways we have come a long way as a society, but we are still so stuffy and close minded in others.
I have one specific topic I have yet to touch on and have not written about it. I will eventually write about it because I know it's a needed conversation. Is there any topic that is off limits on your podcast? Cee Cee: I don't think there any topics off limits besides anything that has to do with pedophilia as of right now just because things like molestation are so traumatic. But it later seasons if there are later seasons, hopefully we will be able to touch on that. Voodoo: As of right now we try to steer clear of domestic violence and abuse stories. I want us to get into those when we reach a bigger audience to make sure those episodes are heard, and also because they are both very sensitive topics.
Who are the people/figures that have inspired you to voice your opinions on sex and relationships? Cee Cee: Shan Boodram actually I went to one of her talks at a store called Melody Ehsani here in LA and I had already the idea of a having a podcast for sometime but was unsure of how it would be received due to the stigma that is still prevalent when it comes to women talking about sex. After hearing her share her experiences and seeing the women really relating to her I realized this is a topic we as women need to talk about. Its always nice to hear someone have a similar experience to yours, you don't feel alone. Voodoo: Ertha Kitt. She is always so openly sexual and pushes every boundary possible. She remains strong and graceful even with her sexiness on display. I know she might seem like an out of the box choice, especially for someone my age, I didn't grow up in her generation, but as I got older I would watch interviews with her and she's such a dynamic woman. She showed me that being who are will get you to where you need to be.
What sex/relationship advice would you give to your younger self? Cee Cee: Just do it! You're damned if you do, damned if you don't! Voodoo: HAVE FUN!!! Don't settle for less EVER!!!!
The Afterglow Podcast is such an amazing addition to the sex positivity movement and if you have a long commute, bored with listening to the same Tinashe song over and over, PUT THEM ON! They are entertaining and enjoyable in so many ways. Thank you to Voodoo and Cee See for being a WCLO resource and being impactful!
Chains + Whips + Wisdom 27 January 2018
Before thinking of the subject about this particular article, I questioned what I would want to read about and rarely get to in the realm sexuality. This is thought process is rare for me because usually blog ideas pop into my head randomly throughout my day. The idea of discovering more about BDSM and how it has helped people came to mind. I have a very open perspective of BDSM versus when I was younger and I had a negative mindset it of it because I didn’t look at it from a mature mindset. With any sexual activity/fetish having an open mind/lack of judgment is the most important part to enjoy and explore. BDSM has become more commercialized and I think that has pushed a lot of people towards it now. You might learn something, I know I did.
I asked Chauncey Bishop, a sex and wellness expert, questions on BDSM and how it has worked it’s leathery magic in her life.
Bishop got her start in the adult industry in 2015 at a local sex boutique. She was hired as a part-time sales associate and worked her way up. She now manages a locally owned franchise that particularly specializes in having sales associates extensively educated on sex and wellness. (What the world needs more of!!!)
Why did you choose a career in the adult industry? I chose this field because I want to end the stigma that society has against sex. I want to be part of the conversation that promotes open discussions about safe, healthy sex. There's a big shift happening around the way people view sex and sexuality, and I want to contribute to that. “
What are most people’s initial reaction when you tell about your professional background? People who know me weren't surprised I left nursing to do this full time. Meeting new people is a mixed bag. Most people are fairly open-minded these days, so I don't get many negative responses.
How long have you been part of the BDSM community/practicing BDSM? As a lifestyle, right around 2 years.
How many close people in your life do you share your knowledge with? I'll share with anyone who asks!
In what ways has BDSM personally affected your sex life? It has definitely strengthened some of my relationships. I was in an unhappy marriage for 8 years. I had several failed relationships after. It wasn't until I met a friend who was into kink that I realized I might be too. We explored a few things like paddles and cuffs, and I absolutely loved it. I loved being able to tell him everything without fear of judgement, knowing he would carefully consider any scenes we had to ensure my safety and comfort. That allowed me to look at relationships differently. Now I know those relationships failed because I was in the wrong kind of relationship, not necessarily with the wrong person. If I had opened up to any of those partners, and allowed them to do the same, we could have discovered countless mutual interests and lived happily ever after.
Has BDSM impacted your opinion of sex? Absolutely! There is a huge importance placed on communication, respect, and consent in the BDSM community, and that provides a foundation for very solid relationships. In many traditional relationships, one or both partners are consistently dissatisfied with their sex lives. What I see most often is couples who don't talk to each other about sex. They don't know what they like, and they're afraid their partner will think something is wrong with them if they talk about that fantasy they've always had. In BDSM, the entire sexual experience can be built around that fantasy, and both partners can end a scene feeling not only satisfied, but fulfilled. And they can do it in a safe space, with a person they trust. In turn, this strengthens their relationship.
I have found that BDSM is very body inclusive and appreciates all shapes and sizes. Does this match your perception? I think you're correct. I think people are generally more aware of how things make them feel during a scene, and that can make them forget how they feel about their body image. I also think there is more appreciation of all body types within the BDSM community.
Another sequel to the “Fifty Shades” franchise will be released very soon. Are you pro fifty shades? I think the movie has been great for opening people's minds to what "normal" can be. We are seeing more interest in kink related products than ever before, and that continues to grow with each movie release. I appreciate that it makes room for a conversation about what is and isn't healthy with respect to BDSM.
What is your opinion on the controversy regarding the franchise glamorizing an emotionally abusive relationship shown in the written text? I'm just happy people are having the discussion [Emotional abuse controversy]. It has been great for the adult industry, no doubt, even if it doesn't accurately portray a healthy relationship. We practice and preach “S-S-C”. Safe, sane, consensual. These are the only requirements for kink, and they are not taken lightly. I provide resources and safe spaces to clients who request them, and will do one-on-one consultations for those who need more guidance. Have you used BDSM with all your sexual partners? These days, I'm happily non-monogamous, but I do not practice BDSM with all of my partners.
Do you recommend BDSM to everyone? No. If someone expresses an interest, I'm happy to be a resource. I think the idea of BDSM is a bit frightening for most, though it is becoming more mainstream. I find it's best to let a client approach me about BDSM, rather than suggest it to them.
What would you like people to know about BDSM? So many things, but mostly: just do what feels good, people. You are not broken or weird or wrong because what you like is taboo. Its okay to like what you like. Also, don't yuck someone else's yum. Its okay if you don't like something, but please don't be a dick to the person who does like it. Thank you Chauncey for your participation and for being a WCLO resource. Follow her @_chaunceyk_ on Instagram.