Happy Birthday to Femsplain!

Bad bitch with great swag.

Bad bitch with great swag.

The theme over on Femsplain this month is “dreams,” which is pretty cute considering they just made a huge dream of mine come true. I’m delighted to announce that I am now a featured contributor for Femsplain!

I’ve sung the praises of Femsplain before. The digital publication—which turns one year old this month—is run by women, for women. They don’t only feature female voices you can’t find elsewhere; they also cultivate a warm, supportive and smart community of writers, readers and some of the loveliest commenters on the planet. The Femsplain staff has worked hard to create not a website, but a home for women on the Internet. Nasty, trolling comments have no place here. Since my first piece went live on the site in April, I’ve met some of my favorite new friends and mentors through the Femsplain network. I’ve also watched some of my old friends write about topics that used to terrify them and watched weight lift from their shoulders in the days that followed. And my writing has grown too. Continue reading

Bachelorella: The Bachelorette Gets Real About Online Harassment

Source: @BacheloretteABC

Source: @BacheloretteABC

The producers of The Bachelorette made an interesting choice during tonight’s “Men Tell All” episode. Between the awkward reunions and desperate attempts to rebuild reputations, Kaitlyn Bristowe and Chris Harrison had an honest conversation about the tidal waves of harassment this season’s Bachelorette has received online. In a controversial move, Harrison read out several real tweets and emails sent to Kaitlyn over the last few months in all of their violent, slut-shaming, expletive-laden glory. The studio audiences’ jaws dropped, Kaitlyn struggled not to cry, and her men winced and grimaced in sympathy and horror. Twitter lit up like a switchboard. Was The Bachelorette actually addressing the harassment women receive online?

Yes. Yes it was. Continue reading

Bachelorella: The Literal Battle of the Bros

Ben Z. gives me feelings.

Ben Z. gives me feelings.

I love bros. This isn’t exactly a secret; my twitter handle is @brosandprose, after all. Why do I love bros? I love their confidence, and their nerve, and their arms. I really love their arms. I also love their near constant negotiation with gender, because if being a bro is about anything, it’s about masculinity. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not a “men must be REAL MEN” type of girl. But I’m fascinated by how bros articulate, understand, and struggle with the expectations they’ve grown up with and continue to be judged by.

Self-aware social justice bros are Ella kryptonite. Yes, they’re real, I promise.

Anyway. Tonight’s episode of The Bachelorette was all about bros. During the first hour of the show, the men competed in a boxing tournament against each other to win Kaitlyn’s heart, and a big, fancy belt. Yes, you read that correctly. The men physically fought each other. Be still my heart. Was it insane? Yes. Was it hard to watch? A little bit, yes. One guy, Jared, was basically given a concussion, but still felt well enough to get Kaitlyn’s lip gloss smeared all across his face. I was aroused by it and also uncomfortable.

If you need evidence that men need feminism too, look no further than Jared wheezing, “It was worth every punch that I took… my head may hurt but my heart has never felt better.” Continue reading

The Boner Backlash: Stop Telling Me You Would Still Fuck Me

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I am too upset to find a better stock photo.

I get asked a lot if I have seen a backlash to my herpes activism. The simple answer is no, because it isn’t the backlash people expect. No one is raising ‘whore’ banners against me, and I largely ignore negative comments on social media when the response I’ve met has been so overwhelmingly supportive. There have been no (articulate) takedowns written about me, no inappropriate questions from journalists. For the most part people are ready to talk about herpes, and to talk about it kindly.

The backlash I’ve actually seen is worse, if I’m being honest. It’s insidious and “well-intended,” so banal I should have seen it coming. It’s the boner backlash: the wave of messages from men who find me sexually attractive and want me to know it. It’s the dozens of Facebook messages I’ve received from (always male) strangers inviting me out for drinks, or telling me I’m gorgeous, or writing that they’d still fuck me in the comments of my own blog like they’re defending my honor. It’s the simple “hey ;)” or “I can’t believe you’re still single” or “I’ll be at [x] bar tomorrow night, just fyi.” Continue reading

Bachelorella Recap Week 6: What makes a woman perfect (for Chris)?

Ashley vs. Kelsey.

Duck and cover, folks, it’s the two-on-one.

“Sorry I’m not from Pleasantville. I’m from fricken 2014. You and I both have our masters, and I have it from a good place… if you don’t think I’m intelligent enough to see through you, you’re friggen hilarious.” – Ashley I.

It was the catfight heard around the world. This season’s dreaded two-on-one date (two women enter, one woman survives) pinned house drama queens Virgin KardAshleyian and Tragic Widow Kelsey against each other in the scenic Badlands. There were insults. Both women cried. Chris was exasperated. Finally, in a surprising move of intelligence and badassery, the milquetoast Bachelor sent both women home. Or, more accurately, he got into the helicopter alone and left Ashley and Kelsey to find their own way back to civilization (one can only hope).

It was spectacular television. Watching the two least likable women in the house take turns throwing each other under the bus was schadenfreude in the truest sense. Should I be ashamed about enjoying self-involved women tearing each other down on national television? Probably. Am I ashamed? Nah. You can watch the action here. Continue reading

Bachelorella Recap Week 2: Widows and virgins and whores, Oh my!

This week, Ashley I. threw down the virginity gauntlet.

This week, Ashley I. threw down the virginity gauntlet.

This week’s episode of The Bachelor was very hard to watch. I’m not talking “guilty pleasure, why am I watching this don’t you DARE touch the remote, mom” hard to watch. I’m talking painful, uncomfortable, over-edited and genuinely difficult to watch. I found myself getting up to make a snack, refill my Diet Coke, and often just stare into the empty fridge rather than watch as the producers made the women on group date #1 race tractors down a Los Angeles street wearing nothing but bikinis. It was that bad.

But I committed to writing these recaps, and there was plenty to discuss about gender and sexuality this week, so here I am. And I want to talk—no, I need to talk—about virginity.

Contestant Ashley I. is a New Jersey Trash Princess. She is 26, wears hella makeup, and is a freelance journalist. Her self-description: “I’m more Kardashian than country.” She also seems smart, and the girl absolutely crushed the ridiculous tractor race, winning her some time to cozy up to Chris and try to make a lasting impression. She has the confident self-control of a girl who is pretty and has a plan. I respect Ashley I., but I really don’t like her. And that’s because her gimmick, and yes, it is a gimmick, is that she is a virgin.

Let’s not talk about whether or not she actually is a virgin, as the Twitterverse did. That conversation smacks of slut-shaming and misogyny, and frankly I don’t really care. If she is waiting until marriage, good on her. It’s ultimately none of my business, except now it is my business because it is now her Definitive Thing on this show, the trait that is supposed to set her apart from the other women. The producers love it, Ashley’s eyes glint with the awareness that she is playing a powerful card as she pretends to be self-conscious about it, and dim-witted Mackenzie plays right into her hands. (You can watch the clip here if you want to experience that pain for yourself). Continue reading

Book Review: Sex & Cupcakes

15556539042_77341e9cb0Rachel Kramer Bussel is one of those frighteningly prolific sex writers and editors who would scare the shit out of me if she weren’t so nice. I had the luck of meeting her at Catalyst Con this spring, and at the end of the night I found myself in a rowdy game of drunk Cards Against Humanity against her and a crew of sex writers, educators, and general personalities. I can’t say that I remember who won, but it was one of my favorite moments of the conference.

So when I found out RKB was working on a collection of personal essays for Thought Catalog, I knew it was a book I needed to read. Sex & Cupcakes covers all sorts of odds and ends, from her relationship with monogamy (forgive the pun, I had to) to her opinion on the sex app Spreadsheets. Some of the contributions are adapted from pieces she wrote for The Village Voice, while others are fresh and new. But my favorite essays were the ones she wrote about her own writing, especially as one of the highest profile female sex writers who uses her actual name as opposed to a pseudonym. Continue reading

Bros like erotica too: Why I don’t write “erotica for women”

Recent Cleis titles showing love for the ladies.

Recent Cleis Press titles showing love for the ladies.

I’m all about the dudes lately. Not in a Men’s Rights Activist way—in a “Feminism is for everyone, let’s model health sexuality for all!” kind of way.

There’s a popular assumption in our culture that men love porn. People argue (with ~*ScIeNcE*~) that men are more visual than women, and thus porn gets men off while ladies love erotica. The rise of feminist porn is slowly dismantling one side of this assumption by courting women’s desire and the female gaze. I’m a fan: generally speaking, women love seeing people fuck just as much as men do. But at the same time, I want to myth-bust the shit out of this idea that men only want filmed pornography. Mainstream porn can be just as damaging and confusing for men as it is for women. It’s not great for educational purposes, and it presents a super narrow view of what is “normal.” Plenty of guys enjoy both pornography and erotica, or would love good erotica if they knew where to find it (note: good erotica. High quality, smart erotica in actual books with real characters). So I have to ask, where’s all the erotica for men?

Continue reading

Bye Bye Berkeley: Sexual harassment, self-esteem, and social media

Bye bye summer sublet, hello red lipstick.

Bye bye summer sublet, hello red lipstick.

I move home next week. After two and a half months in the Bay Area I’ll board a plane at SFO direct to JFK and start the next, next chapter of my life. I wanted to write a blog post to acknowledge this, to talk about how important and intense this summer has been, but I don’t know where to start. So I’ll start with the good.

On August 25th, I begin a six month social media internship with TED in Manhattan. I am over the moon excited about this—TED is obviously a crazy awesome organization doing important and innovative work, and social media is crucial to how they spread their content. It’ll be wonderful to return to the nonprofit sector where the bottom line is important but not do-or-die, and to have a job I can talk about in bars without running the risk of being sexualized by strangers when they ask about my job (more on that later). And it’s funny—TED is one of the only places I have had the experience of being respected for my sex writing as opposed to it being considered my weakness as an applicant. So yay! Yay for working for TED.

Amazing fellow Cleis interns at the #pubofyearparty celebration.

Amazing fellow Cleis interns at the #pubofyearparty celebration.

It’s funny, really, because I wouldn’t have gotten the TED internship had I not moved to California in the first place. I absolutely love Cleis Press and interning there this summer has been a dream come true. I fully expected to leave Cleis once my three months were up and try to find a more permanent job in publishing. I was surprised to realize quite quickly that my strength is in social media management, in sharing interesting content with audiences and making them want to click that link. Ironically, my mother always used to push me to consider social media savvy a job skill, but I’m not alone in my age group in assuming most of this is intuitive. I am part of the Facebook generation—I figured I didn’t know any better or worse than anyone else in my graduating class. But I discovered at Cleis that I love trying to nail down a voice on social media. I love the challenge of making a company or an organization or a publishing house into a human with a personality on twitter or tumblr or anywhere else. I have so many feelings about Pinterest. I was lucky enough to learn from the formidable Eva Gantz, Cleis’s marketing guru, and to discover I already knew a good deal more than most. And then a little birdie told me about a position in New York (Lily Herman, I owe you my first born), and boom. Continue reading

Ebook review: NO LONGER MINE: INTERVIEWS WITH EX BOYFRIENDS

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Anyone who spends enough time on tumblr will recognize Sara Sutterlin’s poetry. Usually appearing in all capital letters and uploaded in a screen-cap of a text window, her work is unapologetic, demanding, and brutal in its detail. She writes about everything from heartbreak to internalized misogyny, and her posts are wildly popular, resonating hardcore with tumblr’s younger female (read: feminist) demographic. When I saw Sutterlin was looking for reviewers for her ebooks, which are more like digital zines due to their stripped down style, I jumped at the opportunity to do more than just stalk her website.

We all have questions we would love to ask our exes. Some might be about the relationship itself, or about where things between us stands now. Maybe we would like to clarify an unfinished moment or a lie that was never forgotten. In NO LONGER MINE: INTERVIEWS WITH EX BOYFRIENDS, Sutterlin explores this curiosity. But instead of demanding answers to lingering concerns, she asks her exes about herself, an act both self-indulgent and fascinating. She explains her project briefly and without apology, offering the results without any sales pitch. “AS A PART OF MY SELF LOATHING SELF EXPLORATION BULLSHIT PROJECT I DECIDED TO INTERVIEW SOME OF MY EX BOYFRIENDS AND ASK THEM A BUNCH OF WEIRD SHIT.” The ebook is for her, and if you benefit from it, cool. But that’s not Sutterlin’s priority.

I don’t want that to be read as an insult. It isn’t. I have so much respect for writers who write for themselves—especially women, who are told at every turn that their stories are invalid. The bulk of my work was written for myself because I had feelings I needed to exorcise, or because I wanted to communicate something that I wished someone had communicated to me. This blog is for me, at the end of the day. It’s a chance for me to read things without paying for them in exchange for an honest review. More importantly, it’s a means to represent myself, instead of letting the world decide how I should be represented. Sutterlin’s ebook is for her, but she is allowing her exes to represent her through their answers to her (highly intentional) questions. The result is honest, fascinating, and raw. I feel like I know Sutterlin, or that I know a version refracted through a mirror from the words of those who loved and lost her. To be even more exact, the ebook offers a glimpse of who she was at a time when these men thought they knew her, if they ever did. Continue reading