Browsing Tag

sexuality

Guest Posts, Sexuality, Writing & The Body

The Vagina Monster

July 10, 2017

By Amy Bond

I took my first pole dance class the same day that I started law school. The instructor, Stacey taught us a move called the Vagina Monster, where you lay back, toes pointed to the ceiling, and then shuffle sideways, butt cheek to butt cheek waving your legs. The effect makes it look like your vagina is ravenously hungry and going to eat someone. It was raunchy as fuck and I loved it. By the end of class, we made something of a contest out of who was the nastiest bitch in the room, and it ended with all of us laughing uncontrollably, our heads resting easily on each other’s bellies in a pile of womankind solidarity. I left feeling strong and unapologetic.

There, for the first time, I met women who celebrated their bodies, and delighted in the weird shit we discovered we could do with them. I hadn’t seen sexuality like that before, which surprised me because I used to be a sex worker. From the women I met in pole dancing, I discovered a form of sexual expression utterly different from the kind I’d learned before.

Growing up, I was raised Mormon, and I believed that the absence of desire was what made me good. When I was 19, I moved to LA to be an actress, and maintained a long distance relationship with a Mormon man. We planned to get married in the Mormon temple and he was good like I was good; a virgin, pure. Continue Reading…

aging, Guest Posts

Grief Is Not Always About Death

January 22, 2017
senior

By Marlene Adelstein

We were about to renovate our bathroom, a total gut job, so in preparation, I began to empty out the vanity. Into the garbage went wands of gloppy mascara, old lipstick stubs, and ancient condom packages. In the back of one drawer, I found a blue cardboard box that I hadn’t touched in a while and I felt a surprising surge of wistfulness. It was a box of tampons, for God’s sake, and I was teary-eyed! It had been well over a year since I’d reached for it which meant…I had officially gone through menopause.

No, of course, I didn’t miss the inconvenience, the cramps, the bloating. Those unpleasant feelings had been replaced, first with perimenopausal, and then menopausal symptoms like night sweats, moodiness, weight gain. My bible on all things menopause, herbalist Susun Weed’s book, Menopausal Years, The Wise Woman Way, called it time of the Crone, which did not sound sexy at all, despite her encouraging words to embrace the change. Even though my longtime boyfriend still told me I was sexy, I wasn’t feeling it. What was it about the blue box that created a jumble of emotions? I wasn’t ready to figure it out so I left the damn box in the drawer.

The next week I had my annual gynecological exam, and my doctor, a no-nonsense woman looked up at me from between the stirrups and said, “Your vagina is pale.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Vulnerability

Sexual Vulnerabilities: An Education

January 8, 2017
sex

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault.

By Beatrice M. Hogg

After hearing all of the recent media reports of sexual assault and improprieties, I wanted to think, “Glad that never happened to me.” But, like most women in this country, I couldn’t do it. In one way or another, it has happened to all of us. I have friends who have been raped and assaulted; amazing women who at some point barely escaped with their lives from domestic abuse. Some still have physical scars and many others still harbor emotional scars. When I started to think about my own life, I was surprised at all of the incidents that rushed to mind, some that I hadn’t thought about in years.

In my tiny coal-mining hometown, there was a small grocery store, owned by a husband and wife. When I was eleven or twelve in the late sixties, I would walk up there alone with a list of things to get for my mother. I always dreaded when the list included a meat item. That meant that I had to go to the back of the store, where the husband worked behind the meat counter. Almost every time I would go back there, he would come out from behind the counter to give me a big hug. His hugs always included a squeeze or a grope of my burgeoning breasts. I never told anyone. Would my father have believed me? In a town were everyone was armed, would he have gone up there with a shotgun? Would he have accused me of lying? Who was more credible, a shy little black girl or the friendly white grocer who everyone in town loved? As I took my meat purchases to the front of the store for the wife to ring out, I used to wonder – did he do that every girl? Did she know? I was overjoyed when the store went out of business. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexuality, Women

The Origin Of The World

September 29, 2016
sexuality

By Zoë Brigley Thompson

I start to like my father again when we are standing together looking at a painting. To begin, you would have to explain the place. The Musée D’Orsay in Paris was a railway station until 1939, and the great clock-faces on the exterior signal an obsession with timekeeping and travel. This particular painting is relatively small, and its intimacy is out of place under the arching glass roof where trains once ran. The museum is a public space and still has the feeling of a railway station with people hurrying to their next destination. In the middle of all this is a painting of a woman’s genitals, and my father and I are standing together in front of it.

I have just turned 18, and my father has brought me to Paris as a birthday present. Some years before, my father moved with his new wife to the central lowlands of Scotland, but he often rings on the phone. “Just hop on a plane and come over for a visit,” he says, but of course it is never that simple.

What my father does not know in Paris is that I am in a very precarious place. A few years before, I swore that I would never have sex again: my first experiences were that awful. Not long after that, I slept with my best friend just for the sake of it, to get it over with. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexuality

Body Lessons (Genealogy of an Orgasm)

September 16, 2016
orgasm

By E Alice Isak

Shame blocks our mouths like the fat tongue of an unwelcome lover.

A questing tongue that corks our voice in the back of our throat, our own tongue pinned beneath,
as shame’s hot sour breath fills our nostrils and its sweaty body strains against us, pressing us tight into the corner of a darkened room.

Shame is what we submit to, what we open ourselves to, when we do not know how to believe that we deserve anything else.

After my divorce, I began a long and agonizing journey to reclaim my own sexuality. Seemingly overnight, I had developed both an overwhelming urge to masturbate—and an inability to orgasm without sobbing hysterically. Every orgasm cracked open a vast well of grief in my chest, a pain too profound and inchoate to put into words, then or now.

I would cry until I choked on sorrow.

The experience felt terrifying and ludicrous and shameful. I tried talking to my therapist about how silly yet frightening I found the whole thing. I tried blogging about talking to my therapist, titling the post: “In which I Talk Shamelessly About Masturbation.”

Rereading that story today, I am reminded how ‘shameless’ is not the same as ‘shame-free.’

The small but enduring popularity of that post in the two years since I wrote it leaves me both heartbroken and heart-warmed. The readers who find my piece are asking questions about how to talk to their own therapists about masturbation—and how to do so without shame. It craters me to witness this widespread pain from our culture’s pitting of shame against pleasure, of pleasure against speech. Yet I also see hope in people’s ongoing quest for help, for answers, for ways to speak ourselves past the hurt and back into our bodies.

I wish I had found clear answers then. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexuality

A Series of Almosts

August 24, 2016
kiss

By Elizabeth Glass

I was ten when I found my dad’s Playboy magazines. I pulled them out from under the bed one at a time and looked at the pictures. I sat in the window box and pulled out the centerfolds, let my fingers go over their breasts and legs, noticed the hair they had that I didn’t yet. The women were perfect—no moles, no fat, no imperfections, which I was full of. When I read the blurbs about these women, they said they had always wanted to be in Playboy. I decided right then I wanted to be a Playboy Bunny one day. I was a chubby kid, so it crossed my mind that none of the women were fat, but I didn’t care. I practiced how to be a Playboy Bunny, which meant stripping in the basement while listening to the 45 rpm record of “The Telephone Man” by Meri Wilson on endless repeat. I moved the Barbie townhouse away from the fireplace and used the brick hearth as a stage to practice my stripping and naked dancing. I wore my ballet recital pink and purple tulle tutus and pastel satin sequined leotards to strip out of. There were poles in the finished basement and I did my own rendition of pole dancing, too. In the magazines were stories of Hugh Heffner and his Bunnies, how they lived with him on his ranch, so I needed to get ready for all the sleepovers I’d have with them. I practiced in forts I made in the basement with sheets and blankets, gathering pillows from around the house to have pretend sleepovers with my friend Mary who lived two doors down. She was fun to do this with, but wasn’t very adventurous. My friend Ellie was, though.

I was at Ellie’s house on a snow day from school. I pulled a Playboy magazine out of the brown paper grocery bag I brought dry clothes in so I didn’t wear snowy clothes in the house while we played. When I was changing, I stopped while I was naked.

“Look.” I pointed at the women, then at Hugh. “We need to be Playboy Bunnies together.” Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts, Young Voices

Moments of Silence

April 27, 2016
family

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Aimy Tien

I’m cleaning the remnants of makeup and tears off my face when my father accuses me of hating my parents. “That’s why you don’t want to live in Colorado. That’s why you don’t want to come home and study here and be a doctor.”

It’s almost one am. We are three hours into this phone call, and I am tired, not just because of the conversation, but because this was Pride weekend—my eighth Pride, my third as an out queer woman (well out to everyone but my immediate family), and my first Dyke March. Dyke March is more low-key than the parade, no floats or gigantic balloon displays, just women and allies marching through the streets chanting about social justice and celebrating. After the march, I spotted an Angry Asian Dyke sign propped against a tree in Humboldt Park. With queer women as far as the eye could see, the sense of community was overwhelming. The rest of the weekend was a blur of rainbows, undercuts, and dancing at Backlot Bash, an outdoor queer woman party. And now, it’s Sunday night, I’m exhausted and I’m on the phone responding to my parents’ third in a series of increasingly angry voicemails.

Hour three of this call and the joy of the weekend is almost gone. My shoulders slump against the wall, and I let the sound of the Red Line rushing by my apartment settle me. I’m too tired to lie. “I’m not comfortable in Denver, Dad. It doesn’t feel like I can be honest there.”

“What do you mean?”

I think of the mantra I’ve been holding on to, “You can’t lose in a fight about your own happiness. You can’t lose in a fight about your own life.” So I say it.

“Dad I date men and I date women.” The train rumbles by. “You hate men and women? I don’t understand what that has to do with—“

“No, no, I date men and I date women.” The call drops, and I remind myself of a conversation I had six months before, sitting on a couch on the 8th floor of one of Columbia College’s buildings. Instead of discussing how to integrate writing and the arts into my scientific life, I was explaining to Megan, my former professor, how to be a bad Asian daughter. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Intimacy, Self Image, Sex, Sexuality

Ripe: Flaunting My Desire

January 17, 2016

By Andrea Jarrell

When I was ten, my mother declared me old enough to stay on my own between the time school let out and the time her Buick Skylark would roll up from work, tucking in behind our modest apartment near the Pacific Ocean. She tested me first, made me run a mock fire drill and a bad-guy-at-the-door drill. After passing her gauntlet, I was liberated from my babysitter, the muumuu-wearing, horn-toenailed Mrs. Carmichael.

Although we never would have referred to me as a latchkey kid (my mother forbade me to wear a key around my neck), that’s what I was. During those witching hours growing up in 1970s Los Angeles, I banded together with other untethered children. We dared each other to jump from my second story bedroom window into thick ivy below. We roamed the neighborhood on our bikes, stole candy from the supermarket, and tried out the confessional box at St. Bernard’s even though we weren’t Catholic.

But sometime during sixth grade, that daring girl I’d been just the year before turned inward. Unlike my classmates, I’d begun to look more woman than girl. Boys who had once been friends accused me of stuffing my bra; they taunted and grabbed me. Too much engine under the hood for the girl I was, I didn’t know how to respond. I was ashamed of their attentions mostly because my body seemed to be complicit, revealing new desires I wanted to keep secret. Only after school was out, left to my own devices and free to discover the rev and purr of my body, could I appreciate my full breasts in the mirror.

When I wasn’t lost in myself, I escaped into television. This was before VCRs and TiVo. My options were soap operas, bad cartoons, game shows, and my favorite, Westerns. I liked the old ones made before I was born:  Gunsmoke, Wagon Train and The Rifleman. At that age, I vacillated between wanting the rifle-wielding Chuck Connors for myself and wanting him to ride up on his horse and rescue my single mother.

One memorable commercial peppered these shows. Voiced by spokesman James Garner, the ad provoked a longing in me I’ve not forgotten, both a yearning and an urge to act.

The ad was for strawberries, sponsored by the California Strawberry Growers Association.

Just as there was no on-demand television then, fruits had strict seasons that lasted only a few months. Over photos of sliced berries garnishing piping hot oatmeal and piled high on waffles laced with maple syrup, Mr. Garner teased: “Imagine strawberries on a crisp autumn or cold winter morning?” His closing pitch: “Why now? Because they’re here now.”

It was the here now that pierced me. Come October and December, I would want those strawberries, yet they would be an impossibility. The memory of May’s shortcake would be my only salve.

Wise to the growing number of latchkey kids, television executives started creating programming just for us. The ABC Afterschool Special dove deep into taboo topics that called to me. By the time my mother came home, my nose was pressed against a glass of teen sex, runaways, anorexia, alcoholism, and feminism.

Even by high school, though, when the bodies of my classmates had caught up to mine, I had yet to act – to delve into real sex, to drink, to stay out late, to speak out for causes I believed in, to flout authority in any way. Not wanting to risk the judgment of others, I sat on the sidelines hungry for a taste of the grown up things I longed to do.

***

I have a man between my thighs, but it’s not what you think.

I’ve just swung my leg over the back of his Ninja sport bike and tucked my hands into the front pockets of his leather jacket. Pulling away from the curb, already the seat vibrates my most secret places. As we take off down the block, my knees press into his hips, giving me the illusion I’m in control and steering, but with the pavement so close my life is in his hands.

The sun is neon orange and low. It’s Friday evening in early September, technically still summer, the air buttery soft around me. I live on the other side of the country now, just outside of Washington, D.C. My local grocer carries strawberries year round. Not a girl anymore, I’ve been married to my husband Brad for over twenty years. Our daughter is in college and our son has just started his senior year in high school.

The year before our girl went away, I was overcome with fits of crying. Like a wave I could see off in the distance from shore, our life as a family of four was coming to an end. Scared the bittersweetness of it all might pull me under, I braced myself to ride it out. That was a couple of years ago. Now with our son’s departure only a year off, instead of an end it feels like a beginning.

Earlier in the afternoon, I texted Brad, “How about a motorcycle ride?”

We leave our neighborhood behind, heading upcountry on roads whose names—Lost Knife, Old Gunpowder, Bowie Mill, Goshen—inspire the storyteller in me. Sitting at a stoplight, waiting for green, I glance at the people around us, car windows open, heading into their weekends. Two girls in a black SUV are laughing and singing to the radio. They beam smiles our way. Brad reaches back to pat my thigh, his hand lingering. The light changes and we’re gone.

Merging into traffic, we bullet forward. I fly back a little and grip his middle tighter. Who are we to offer up our fragile Humpty Dumpty heads like this? I think. A boy in his last year of high school still needs us. I see my daughter in her twenties and remember myself at that age. They both still need us. I see my mother, my in-laws, our friends and neighbors at our imagined funeral, shaking their heads and saying, Why would they be so stupid, so careless to ride like that?

I’m not sure what Brad feels about this impending time when it will be just us again; I’ve been afraid to ask, and now I’m not sure I want to know. For all the time we’ve been together, part of me has always been on the lookout for that moment when the music will stop and harsh lights will be abruptly cast on the glow of our party.

But on this September evening, I feel freer than I have in years. As we accelerate, I don’t worry about crashing and burning amidst the cars around us, even after I catch sight of a dead fawn on the shoulder, legs mangled, white belly exposed, the burnt-leaf scent of its baking carcass sharp in my nostrils. I relax, the way I learned to float as a child: lying back on the surface of the water, trusting it would hold me.

We ride for miles, as I duck down behind Brad to keep us streamlined and fast. We lean in unison as we take the curve of a freeway onramp to head for home. Shifting lanes, I instinctively turn my head as he does, looking over our shoulders in sync, as if we’re part of a movie’s chase scene, staying just ahead of what’s after us.

Back home, we make love as we both knew we would. After all, that’s what my invitation for the ride was all about. Lately, we’ve been having more sex than ever. The sex has always been good, but something has changed and I think it’s me.

Despite having had my fair share of lovers before I married and a robust sex life with my husband, for all these years I’ve still been shy about revealing the magnitude of my desire. Pleasing someone else is easy for me, but enjoying my own pleasure takes a different kind of letting go. Especially without the tried-and-true de-inhibitor of alcohol. Shortly after we married, my husband quit drinking. In solidarity with his sobriety, so did I.

Yet lately, clear-eyed and sober, I flaunt my desire for him.

Walking naked into our room, no need for the cover of darkness, Feast your eyes on me, I’m finally eager to say. I am that girl in front of the mirror again, reveling in her own body, inviting my husband to be equally seduced. I’ve shed my youthful need to look perfect. I don’t see thighs I once thought too big. Instead I appreciate slim hips and sexy shoulders. I’m grateful for the way my body makes me feel, the way it makes him feel. No longer encumbered by all the pressures and worries of raising children, now my job is to move forward, to keep living.

* * *

The morning after our ride, Brad gets up early as he does every Saturday morning. While I’m still sleeping, he’s opening the doors of a church basement, turning on the lights, getting the coffee ready for the AA meeting ahead. Afterwards, he calls me and laughs as he says, “I kept thinking about last night. During the Lord’s Prayer I was afraid I was going to groan or say something I was thinking out loud.”

After we hang up, I text him, “Come home to me. I’m not sure why, but my breasts are big and beautiful right now. We should enjoy them while we can.”

I don’t tell him that I know exactly why I’ve recently gained more than a cupsize. I’d lost my ample breasts after nursing two kids, but now, in perimenopause, they are larger and firmer. Once again they are the breasts I hid from the boys in school forty years ago.

Our son is on his way to a friend’s soccer game. As soon as he leaves, Brad comes to me, kisses my neck as he lifts my shirt.

“I wonder if kids know their parents are waiting for them to leave the house so they can have sex,” he says as we lie in bed afterwards.

“No, they’re just thinking about their own escape and the sex they want to have,” I say, laughing.

But even as I say this, the knowledge that next year will be different hangs over us. There will be no son down the hall, no children at home, and my full, ripe breasts may wane again for good. Gazing into my husband’s blue eyes, I push such worries from my mind. Determined to seize this season and savor it, I run my hand along his thigh.

Jarrell_Headshot

Andrea Jarrell’s essays have appeared in The New York Times “Modern Love” column; Narrative Magazine; Full Grown People; Brain, Child; The Washington Post and several anthologies, sites and publications. Her memoir I’m the One Who Got Away will be published in 2016 by Booktrope. 

Join Jen for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join Jen for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

beauty, feminism, Friendship, Gender & Sexuality, Guest Posts, love

Beauty and Bitterfruit

November 24, 2015

By Renee Gereiner

There’s something painful about living in a world where the rules have never made sense to you, where the idea of following the rules breaks your own heart, so you start making bird calls in the middle of the night, hoping someone will hear you, hoping there will be someone else out in the cold night singing.  It takes so long for it to happen so that when it finally does the other bird is old, and she presents you with a bitterfruit.  Like no one you know, she speaks, “We are not of this world.”  And you don’t question her, because she holds you in the deep brown of her eyes.

When you bite it, you become the women you always knew you were.

You sneak into parties you aren’t invited to where the beer is cheap and the women are shirtless; you drink bottles of wine in fancy restaurants standing up; you talk about film and documentaries and both the history of it and all the bullshit of what happened to old fashioned picture taking like you’re a famous photographer who has an honorary PhD at NYU; you drink your weight in wine; you stay up all night literally burning your shit in a bonfire with hippies; and you finally start making those blue nude portraits that actual professionals compare to the late Francesca Woodman.

But, of course, the bitterfruit gives you diarrhea and you end up spending afternoons over the toilet bowl, and even so, you still go back for more.  Because the calling of the bird tickles you from the base of your spine all the way down the sides of your wings until you are flying.

The bird knows shit that women wish they didn’t know. Continue Reading…

Gender & Sexuality, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Young Voices

In My Mother’s Bathroom

September 23, 2015

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station: This is a piece for my “Young Voices” series. I am looking for more young voices to publish so please submit if you have something to say. Please note, if you are under 18 you must have parental permission unless you are using a pseudonym. I am so excited to be working on the book Girl Power: You Are Enough, as well as the workshop for young women which has been a HUGE success so far. Please help me spread the word and sign up or sign your daughters/nieces/friends. I am also in the process of selecting ambassadors to represent #GirlPowerYouAreEnough. More information on this on my instagram at @jenpastiloff. Love, Jen

In My Mother’s Bathroom
By Emily Falkowski

Over the years I learned how to kiss girls without feeling like my abuser. This is one of the small ways in which my voice came knocking at my gut, demanding to be let in.

The first time I fooled around with a girl I was fourteen. I kissed Brianna up against the wall of the astronomy building at summer camp. I pushed my groin into hers and imagined Brianna pinned there against the brick, like moss.

“You’re so aggressive,” she said. “I didn’t expect this.”

“I’m sorry. I’m nervous. Should I stop?”

“No,” Brianna pushed her tits up at me when I grabbed her wrists with one hand and pinned them behind her back, “I like it. It’s like you’re a boy.”

When she said that I got intensely wet. I wanted to be a boy. I started to unzip her pants and imagined that I had a penis. How it would be hard and corporeal against her thigh, a real thing she could pull out of my pants. Then I would push Brianna onto the ground and make her fuck me with her mouth.

I pulled her left breast out off her bra and wrapped my mouth around the nipple. She said my name, and I felt my body go numb, I couldn’t feel anything below my belly button. This wasn’t surprising, I was used to this sort of thing happening when someone I was with said my name, or tried to touch me below the waist.

“Mmm, please don’t say my name right now.”

“Okay,” She giggled, “What do you want to be called?”

 

My earliest idea of womanhood is limited, defined by the sexual anatomy of a female. I’m four in my mother’s bathroom watching her dry off after a shower, wrapping her hair in a green towel and propping one leg up on the bath-tub. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Sex, Sexuality

The Near Miss

July 19, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Lindsay Miller

When I was in high school, I dated an appalling-in-retrospect string of men five years or more my senior. I met most of them at the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was where my friends and I spent our adolescent Saturday nights. The twentysomething men who hung out there treated us like adults, or what we imagined that to mean at fifteen: they smiled and nodded thoughtfully when we spoke, leaned in as though our every stray thought was fascinating. They made us feel respected, intelligent, mature.

I knew, abstractly, that older men who dated younger women – not women but girls, high school girls, girls not even old enough to drive – were creepy and better avoided. But for some reason it never occurred to me that that applied to my own life. The guys my friends and I dated made it seem like there was nothing strange about men in their twenties sexually pursuing teenage girls – after all, we were so old for our age. We were so wise. They had never met girls like us, girls who knew so much, girls who understood them so well. They told us this over and over, every one of them, like reading from a script: You’re so cool. You’re so different from all the others. When I was young, I didn’t understand that as an insult, lifting girls up in the singular while putting us down in the plural. I was dying to feel older, which I accomplished by wearing impossibly short skirts and sky-high platform shoes, carrying a tiny knife disguised as a tube of lipstick in my purse and feeling sly and dangerous. I wanted to feel desired, and the men I met were more than happy to comply – to tell me I was beautiful in my Hot Topic bustiers, breasts hiked to the collarbone, boots laced up to the knee.

On Saturday nights in high school, my curfew was five a.m. I told my parents that I spent those early morning hours hanging out in a diner with my friends, girls a year or two older than me who would drive me home. Some nights that was true. Some nights, though, I caught rides with men I’d never met before, circled the city endlessly or found places to park where the streetlights didn’t reach. Or my friends and I ended up back at someone’s house, one of those horrible shared houses that all men in their twenties seemed to live in: broken furniture, cigarette butts in beer bottles, nothing in the refrigerator. We sat awkwardly on lopsided couches making tense small talk while one girl or another disappeared into a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, giggling, hand in hand with a man five, seven, ten years her senior.

When I was fifteen, I dated a man named Michael. He was twenty-three and already divorced, had fled the state of Texas to get away from his ex-wife, who he said had broken his heart so badly he didn’t know if he could go on living. I found this tragically romantic, imagining I might be the one to heal his wounded soul. On Valentine’s Day, he gave me a rose, already wilting. He offered to buy me a cell phone so that he would be able to hear my voice whenever he wanted.

Later that year there was Steven. I don’t remember exactly how old he was, but he must have been at least twenty. The night we met, he pulled me away from my friends, around the dark side of a building into an alley where he pushed me up against a wall and kissed me so hard it made my teeth hurt. In the gray early morning hours, he took my friend Jocelyn and me back to his apartment, where we sat on the edge of a filthy couch watching Steven and his roommates smoke cigarettes and complain about their jobs. I can see now that their lives were small and grimy, with little joy besides driving fast and listening to loud music, playing pool in bars where the very air felt gritty and making out with girls too young to know better. But to me, back then, it seemed glamorous and important. Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Owning It!, Sexuality

The Coming Out Post

June 23, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Renée Greiner.

I wanted this to be eloquent and researched with facts and figures to legitimize my pain. I wanted a weekend of three days to write this post to y’all but it can’t wait any longer. I’m in a 14 month program at Johns Hopkins University for nursing; and I’m being inundated with information and rules and patients with cardiovascular disease comorbid with obesity that beg some real empathy, the kind of empathy that everyone deserves and is lacking in our fast-paced system.

I thought at one point that yoga could heal it; or that I didn’t need therapy; or I didn’t need support; or my ingrained homophobia would just poof disappear. Because it seems so antithetical to be carrying around this deep shame when so many states and people are starting to finally realize that we aren’t child molesters.

And for the record, I used that term on purpose. I’m sick to my bones with the fact that even a teeny, tiny or maybe a bigger portion than I know associate me and the LGBT people I know with people who do awful things.

I am gay. I’ve toyed with the word bisexual because my sexuality is somewhat fluid, and I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in 10 years or so; and it just seems so nice to have a partner who can impregnate you, and then have a child who resembles you both.

But really I’ve toyed with word bisexual to avoid the bigoted stuff that lesbians face in large. The stuff that doesn’t go away if you chose to love the same gender. Continue Reading…

Anonymous, Guest Posts

Master of One.

April 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Anonymous

I learned how to give a blowjob at ten. By eleven, I was an expert. No matter how many hours I spent in front of the TV with a worn Atari controller clutched in my hand, I could never locate Indiana Jones’ Ark of the Covenant. But I could suck one off like a sorority girl after too many upside-down margaritas.

He was a young 20-something, our trusted neighbor. His hair was long, his eyes warm and sad. Sometimes he and his roommate made dinner when Mom stayed late at work to balance the books. For my birthday, he bought Bob Seger’s “Nine Tonight” album and wrapped it with a blue bow – my favorite color. It was an extravagant gift, one my single mom couldn’t afford. But that boy surprised and delighted me. I played the record over, over, over on Mom’s RCA turntable. I memorized every lyric. Sometimes I stood on the coffee table and sang “Hollywood Nights” at the top of my lungs. My hairbrush was my microphone. I was good.

***

I’ve always found it difficult to say no. I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, don’t want to disappoint. I over-commit and under-deliver. Yes, I’ll organize the preschool party. Yes, I’ll bake four dozen cookies for the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon. Yes, I’d love to take that freelance project. Yes, I’ll edit your manuscript. Yes, I’ll watch your kids.

(P.S. I don’t even like your kids.)

Yes is easier than no. Smooth sailing more enjoyable than whitecaps.

***

My young world was a wonderland of 1970s magic dressed in cut-off jeans. I explored overgrown cornfields, built forts with discarded lumber, beat all the neighborhood boys in sunset games of “Horse.” I hid myself in chicken wire basement storage bins so I could read uninterrupted, the chug of washing machines in the background, the scent of Downy dryer sheets floating on the hot air. I scribbled poems and short stories in my Strawberry Shortcake notebooks. I played 4-Square, SPUD, and Kick the Can until it was time for Kraft macaroni and cheese and a cold glass of 2% milk served on my TV tray, the one with the fold-out metal legs. I wore halter tops knotted around my freckled neck and smoked the butts of my mom’s discarded Merit Ultra Lights.

I gave myself the Sign of the Cross every time I walked into church, asked Jesus for forgiveness in the dark Confessional. “Father, forgive me for I have sinned. It’s been six days since my last Confession. I lied to my mom, tattled on my sister, and had impure thoughts.” I never named the act itself. It seemed an unsavory thing to discuss in a church. I knew He knew. I hoped He forgave. I listened to the nuns, readied my soul for the kingdom of heaven with Hail Marys and Acts of Contrition.

I rode my bike to the drugstore and bought Jolly Rancher sour apple sticks with the change I found under the couch cushions. I sucked their tips into sharp, dangerous points.

 ***

When I think about my childhood, I don’t first think about fellatio. In fact, I can barely recall the pungent scent of stale sweat, the smell of nervousness and sin. There was beer, and often, pot. He smoked the pot. I drank the beer. The smoky haze in the apartment was much more tolerable with an evenly matched fog in my head. Sometimes I drank enough to throw up. I did not understand my limits. He would wipe my face with a warm washcloth, would tune into “Laverne & Shirley” while I rested on the couch, the room swirling and spinning around me. “Schlemiel, Schlimazel. Hasenpfeffer Incorporated.” The couch was faded and worn and smelled slightly of mothballs and bacon. I sank into it, disappeared into the dingy plaid.

He loved me, this boy. He told me so every time.

I loved him back.

But most of all, I loved my mom. My hard-working, breathtaking, raven-haired hero.

***

Once I perfected the oral art form, it was easily transferable. I honed my skills on awkward freshmen with unskilled hands, high school quarterbacks and their cement abs, heavy-breathing frat boys, and strangers in bars. My lips were all-knowing, all-powerful.

I was invincible.

The decision to spit or swallow came later. In the beginning, it wasn’t a conscious choice, but a physical reaction. Later, I chose what I wanted.

Ingest? Expel?

Blowjobs as a metaphor for life. Continue Reading…

Dear Life., Guest Posts, Sex, Sexuality

Dear Life: I’ve Never Been Laid. Seeking Advice!

April 8, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to  Email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com to submit a letter. Please make it as detailed as possible) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by author Emily Kramer, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when she attended the Writing & The Body Retreat I led with Lidia Yuknavitch. This is the second take on this letter by a different author than last time. The first one went viral (Read it here.) Hot topic, I guess!

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy. 

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter

See you at a workshop/retreat soon!! xo 

 

Dear Life,

I am a 34 year old virgin.

I have no conservative religious beliefs and I’m not steadfastly “saving myself” for marriage. I just haven’t had sex….ever.

I have spent my life lying to the world, and myself, pretending to be something I’m not….or, more accurately, pretending to have done something I haven’t. People just assume that I’ve had sex and so I haven’t bothered to correct them. I feel like a fraud and a liar and so disconnected from one of life’s most basic human experiences. Stronger still are the feelings of shame and embarrassment and feeling like I’ve not only missed the boat, but am nowhere even near the water to have any hope of getting on board.

“BUT I’M NOT NAÏVE OR A PRUDE!!” I want to scream out in my defense, both to those who assume wrongly and to those who might suspect. But my scream has long been silenced by the fear of judgment, of criticism, of rejection. Why do I need to scream anyway?

I have “fooled around” with a couple of guys in my life. The first one, at age 19, was my university lecturer. He was probably triple my age but I let him touch me because I was in such desperate need of attention and care amongst the chaos of my life at the time. I hated his hands on my body and his lips on mine. Initially I said nothing and went along with whatever he wanted. When he tried to fuck me, I had to tell him that I’d never been this close before. He was going to figure it out pretty soon anyway, right? But, he just rolled over, his back to me and never touched me again. That was the end of that.

For the next 12 years I said nothing to no-one. No guy was even on my radar, let alone close enough for intimacy. I was confused, depressed and held myself hostage to my own walls, the ones I’d carefully built up to buffer myself against further rejection. I thought maybe I was a lesbian, cos I hated that man’s touch, yet I was not sexually attracted to women. So, I decided I must be asexual and concluded that love (and sex) just wasn’t for me. I didn’t need it. Instead, I threw myself into my nursing career and my travels and buried any questioning feelings with food.

Then, while travelling aimlessly around Africa searching for my soul, I unexpectedly fell head over heels for a bad-ass Kenyan guy with a good heart. He was not my type at all. But, how did I even know if I had a “type”? Regardless, our hearts connected and things went further. I loved how he touched me and how his lips felt on mine. Then, almost at the point of no return I dropped the V-bomb on him also. He had a similar reaction to the lecturer, though perhaps not so harsh. But, while it still hurt like hell, I became even more attracted to him, mostly because he had rejected me less. Then I had to return home to Australia, to reality.

In the three years since Kenyan-Guy and only a handful of awkward, ill-fitting dates, I haven’t had to think much about sex. But, now I think I’ve met a guy. I am attracted to his energetic spirit, his humour, his eyes. I don’t know if anything will even happen. But regardless, my virginity fears are oozing to the surface. I want a real, honest and loving relationship involving growth and connection on all levels, including intimacy and sex. But, in order for this to happen, I need to have a rather challenging conversation with the guy, whether it’s with this guy or someone else. Where do I even start? How do I explain myself? Will any guy even want me once they find out? I am so scared of being rejected again that I’m teetering on the edge of resigning myself to voluntary singledom forever. That scares me as well, because I can’t shake that deep desire for just a chance at real love. But, how do I begin to move forward and tolerate being a virgin in a non-virgin world?

Sincerely,

Never Been Laid

Join Jen Pastiloff  and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Join Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Dear Never Been Laid,

Let’s start with something from the old horse’s mouth shall we? “I want a real, honest and loving relationship involving growth and connection on all levels, including intimacy and sex.” Congratulations! I’m proud of you for writing this down and announcing it to me, to the readers and most importantly yourself. Now go download as many woo-woo, hippie-dippie, self-love meditations as you can (my favorite is Loving Kindness with Sharon Salzberg) and promise to go on a listening binge of at least one a day until you develop said relationship with, you guessed it, yourself.

As for this conversation you feel compelled to have with this “new guy or someone else,” let me be the first to say SOMEONE ELSE!, and by that I mean, yes you guess it again, yourself. Here’s a writing assignment. At the top of a page scratch out the following question: What exactly am I waiting for? And then be really really honest with yourself about answer. Because as one who has spread her legs for the cause, I can tell you that virginity never got me anywhere, least of all a quality relationship.

So now that we know that one’s status, as far as past proximity to a penis goes, has no bearing on whether or not one gets to fall in love, let’s explore the former, shall we? I hereby release you from the obligation to tell anyone else whether or not you’ve been intimately involved with a one or not, or by how much or when and with which one and so forth. These details belong in your private domain and do not necessarily need to be released to anyone at any specific time, least of all to a man who you might want to get it on with later. Which is not to say it can’t be shared, but rather to say it’s not a requirement.

Now this might be controversial, because doesn’t a loving relationship include baring witness to each other’s every thought, fear and potential future hurt? To this I answer with a resounding, NO. Instead, may I suggest that it is your business to decide when you want to make advances to the penis and how close and in what order. It is the owner of that penis’ business to treat your body and his with decency and care. As for this virginity thing, it is simply besides the point, not to put too fine a tip on it.

I hate to be such a feminist about this, but if we want to be historically accurate, the very idea of virginity requires us to look at a woman from the outside, to judge her as having or not having a certain objective value, as if that exists, and in that sense, has little to do with being the owner of the body of the woman herself. Now, you might say, that body cares about virginity if the first time is going to be painful. But if you ask me, losing your virginity is about as monumental as eating at a restaurant that you are not dying to return to but didn’t mind having eaten at to begin with. No more, or less. Sorry to disappoint.

No, NBL, what I’m more concerned with is your deprivation attitude about touch, whether it be from a man, a woman or a hard boiled egg. This black and whiteness about your external status has robbed you of all the glorious in betweens, of sweaty palms and panting kisses and hot rubbing between the legs. These little under-the-covers activities, my curious friend, are where you want to start.

In the meantime, remove the V word from your vocabulary all together. It’s doing you no good, and it’s separating you from the rest of your kind. Meaning, US! All the sexually active in some way shape or form woman who are no more close to an unattainable perfect virgin or an unforgivably fallen whore, than you, dear NBL. In fact, let’s just call you Newly Blossomed Love instead, for the relationship you’ve formed with yourself as a result of writing this deeply telling and emotionally cleansing letter. Again, we’re proud of you for knowing what you need. Now go out and get some!

 

Lots of Love,

Life (aka Emily)

Emily Scarlet Kramer is the co-author of The Hot Woman’s Handbook: The CAKE Guide to Female Sexual Pleasure.

Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her 2nd annual Manifestation Retreat Sep 26-Oct 3 (ONE SPOT LEFT.) Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! It is LIFE CHANGING!

Featured image courtesy of Robert Bejil Photography