Sex-Positivity: A Parental Superpower for Raising Happy, Healthy Kids

Don't worry - it gets easier! And as my recent radio guest Lea Grover pointed out, sex talk should go well beyond a single chat.

Don’t worry – it gets easier! And as my recent radio guest Lea Grover pointed out, sex talk should go well beyond a single conversation.

One of my favorite questions to ask radio guests and listeners is, “What did you learn about sex as a kid?”  In response, I usually hear some variation of “nothing” or “that it was bad.” Considering the little, if anything, most of our parents learned about sex growing up paired with the abstinence-only and fear of STDs approaches used in U.S. schools and society’s messages about sexuality, these answers aren’t surprising—but they are unfortunate and worth changing, no matter when you start.

Some of the reasons parental sex-positivity matters:

◊  Most kids learn extremely little or countless mistruths about sex throughout their lives, which raises their risk for depression, anxiety, eating disorders and more.

◊  Sexuality is a natural part of being human, from the womb on. Addressing kids’ natural curiosities truthfully, respectfully and in language they understand (but still using proper terms: vagina, penis, etc.) helps ensure body confidence and lets your child know they can trust and talk to you, without shame.

◊  When kids’ curiosities aren’t quelled, they seek the information elsewhere—namely the internet or their peers. This is why mainstream porn has essentially become our youth’s sex education, raising loads of risks.

◊  Talking to your kids about sex and their bodies in respectful, uplifting ways creates stronger child/parent bonds.

◊  Encouraging kids to embrace their sexuality paves the way for positive self-esteem, body image, growth and development and relationships throughout their lives.

It would be easy for me to say, “Come on, everyone! Raise your children with sex-positivity!” but I don’t have kids, and can only imagine just how complex and confusing doing so can become. That’s one reason I was thrilled to interview Lea Grover on Girl Boner Radio last week.

A writer and mother living on Chicago’s South Side, Lea says she waxes philosophical about raising interfaith children, marriage after a terminal cancer diagnosis and vegetarian cooking. She recently added sex-positive parenting to her article library, in a poignant piece published by the Huffington Post. I contacted her after reading it and learned that she’s also a fellow 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year! Her blog is as fabulous as she is.

Writer and sex-positive parent, Lea Grover

Here’s the opening excerpt of Lea’s article, This is What Sex-Positive Parenting Looks Like:

It happened yet again. As I was sitting at the table for dinner with my children, I noticed my daughter’s hand fishing around under her skirt.

“We don’t play with our vulvas at the table. Go wash your hands and finish your food,” I scolded. She nodded, ran off to wash her hands, and resumed picking at her dinner instead.

Small children, they touch themselves. A lot. It’s fascinating to them. And when you’re a small child, you have no sense of shame or disgust or fear of your body. Your body is what it is. It does what it does. And everything that it does is kind of amazing, because you’re not old enough for lower back pain. It’s not sexual, it’s just… fact.

The first time I caught one of my kids playing with their genitals, I said absolutely nothing. I was momentarily paralyzed with indecision. One thing I knew for a fact I did not want to do was to shout, “No!” or “Stop!” What good could that possibly do? Sure, I would be spared the awkwardness of catching my child playing with her genitals on the living room floor, but what kind of lesson is that? To fear or ignore your own vagina?

I thought about it almost constantly for two days, and of course she gave me a second chance to react.

“Sweetie, we don’t play with our vulvas in the living room,” I said. Which sounded ridiculous and strange, but nonetheless true. Why is everything with little kids “we” statements? “It’s OK to touch your vulva, but people are private, and it’s a private thing. The only places where you should touch your vulva are in the bathroom or in your bedroom. If you want to play with your vulva, please go to the bedroom.”

And she smiled and did, without question, because compartmentalizing where you do certain activities makes sense to little kids.

“We don’t eat in the bathroom, and we don’t touch our vulvas in the living room,” became the new mantra. And yes, eventually it became, “We don’t touch our vulvas at the table.” To read on, visit this link.

To listen to our radio chat, click here: Sex-Positive Parenting: How to Raise Empowered Kids

You can follow Lea’s work as Becoming SuperMommy on FacebookPinterestGoogle+ and @bcmgsupermommy on Twitter.

For tips on how to talk to your kids about sexuality, read the post I wrote for the National Eating Disorders Association, Boosting Kids’ Body Image and Self-Esteem by Taking the Taboo out of Sex Talk.

To learn what my mom learned about sex while growing up in the mission fields of India, check out this Girl Boner Radio episode.

How do you feel about sex-positive parenting? What did you think of Lea’s insight—on the air or in her article? If you’re a parent, how does your child’s knowledge of sexuality vary from what you learned growing up? What do you wish you’d learned growing up? I love hearing from you!

Finding Joyful Calm in Happy Storms (or How NOT to End Up in a Wrist Brace)

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”  ― Pema Chödrön

A few years ago, I ended up sleeping with a brace on my wrist after my doc diagnosed me with carpal tunnel. No! I thought in the exam room. Take my legs, my feet, my butt. But please don’t take my wrists! If I couldn’t write as much as I desired, I wasn’t sure how I would manage. Good thing I resisted fleeing and stayed to hear him out.

Stress and exhaustion, he said, usually cause carpal tunnel. Had I been experiencing any? Well sure, I told him, but it was GOOD stress. I was too excited to sleep well. “Stress is stress,” he replied. Obsessive typing hadn’t caused my write pain! It had merely exacerbated inflammation from hyper alertness and sleep loss. Talk about an a-ha! moment. When life gets happily hectic, I could probably stay awake 23/7—but at a cost. Lately I’ve had opportunities to make better choices.

Next week, after years of renting, my husband and I are moving into our own home. The following week, I’ll fly to New York City to host World Sexual Health Day, N. America’s 2nd annual celebration, and the day after, I’ll participate in an orgasm MRI. That’s right! My sex-geek dream of climaxing while my brain is hooked up to analytical machinery is, quite literally, coming true! A couple of weeks later I’ll dress up as a human cake with a dear friend in the name of a brilliant artist. Weeks after that, I’ll be in the same room as OPRAH. The following week I’ll be in Puerto Rico, presenting at the National Women’s Studies Association conference. (More on all of this later!) The list goes on…

Amid all of this happy hectic-ness, I’m doing all the work you writers and busy do-it-yourself-ers do. I can feel some of you nodding your heads; a creative’s life is seldom an automatically calm, well-balanced act. Many of you have kids, pets and additional jobs to allot time and energy to, or wear so many hats you often like Bartholomew Cubbins.

I’m a strong believer in prioritizing self-care and celebrating, so as life grows busier, I’m making asserted efforts to not explode maintain positivity, to eat well, rest well and play well, soaking in all the wonder without letting stress or sleep loss from holding me, or my beloved wrists, back. What good is excitement and hard work, after all, if we don’t enjoy it?

I’m also a fan of sharing our goals, which seems to cement them and invite takeaways from others. I hope you’ll join the conversation!

Some of my work-in-progress toward these ends:

- Breathing and meditating – on purpose

Rather than rely solely on my respiratory system’s cues, I’m taking time daily to breathe fully in and out with intention, particularly on intense days. And rather than simply daydream and listen to the occasion meditation podcast (okay, I’ve only listened to three), I signed up for a transcendental meditation class and plan to incorporate the practice into my daily life. Oprah does it, Ellen does it, Hugh Jackman does it, and so should I!

- Avoiding working and web-surfing at night

I’ve never been a night owl. My brain turns into sludge after a day of work, and nighttime efforts to work harder and longer end up working consistently against me—so no more. So I work hardest during my brain’s golden hours and try to chill out and tend to less rigorous tasks as it dims. I’m also limiting internet use at night. Like I need any help not sleeping well!

xUprzI415knBTtd

- Pondering life’s blessings

When an anxious thought crops up, such as, “What if self-stimulating in a tube whole others listening gives my G-spot stage fright and she runs up and hides behind my kidneys?” — you know, normal concerns — I remind myself what in incredible opportunity the experience is (and, in the MRI case, how important, and still lacking, female sexuality research is). I’m also keeping a list of the perks of investing in a house, which really helps nuke any moving-related stress, and doing my best to act on and express my gratitude. (Have I mentioned how awesome you all are, by the way???)

- Saying “no” and taking breaks

Overwork and overextending ourselves doesn’t help anyone. It certainly won’t help our work quality, sleep abilities or relationships. While it’s important to help others and hang out with our pals when we can, if shouldn’t say “yes” to obligations if it means saying “no” to our dreams or self-care. I’d also like my husband to come home to a happy, healthy human, not the exhausted, eyes-glued-open robot he’s seen more than once. If you’ve ever spent too much time writing, you know exactly what I mean. It looks something like this:

"What do you mean 'what's wrong?' I'm perfectly FINE!"

“What do you mean ‘what’s wrong?’ I’m perfectly FINE!”

- Focusing on fun

My mom is the BOMB at this. When she last visited LA, our place was essentially a doggy hospice—full of love, but also concern. And while I was making efforts to make Zoe’s life as lovely as possible, which truly benefited mine, without negating self-care, “fun” wasn’t exactly a priority. Mom turned everything we did into a party. We laughed while grocery shopping and cooking, dined on the patio as though it was the French Riviera, spent lots of time with super Z and even broke away to dance our butts off in Ellen’s audience. For a few days, I virtually stopped worrying. I’ve been set on keeping that going since.

- Making like a dog

Speaking of Zoe, she taught me so much about being mindful and present—to spend time in nature, simply absorbing my surroundings rather than stress over whatever work I’m not doing then. Dogs give love without condition, savor the heck out of every meal, belly rub, walk and car ride, and, in our new pup Via’s case, seem to think Christmas comes around every couple of hours. I see her giddy face each morning and can’t help but feel eager, too. Pets also make us who work from home take rejuvenating breaks and never, ever delay a meal.

Life's too precious not to smile.

Life’s too precious not to smile.

My thoughts keep trailing back to Ariana Huffington’s talk at BlogHer, ’14. For women to succeed, she said, we must sleep our way to the top! In other words, rest paves the way for success—not needless stress, excessive work or insomnia. Words to live and dream by, don’t you think? I also continually remind myself of the motto which I shared at BlogHer:

August_McLaughlin_quote-unknownmami_thumb

Butterflies are awesome, as long as they don’t overtake our entire bodies. ;) With these steps in tow, my wrist brace won’t likely see the dark of night. Hey, that’s one less thing to pack! See that? Endless blessings.

I’ve shown you mine. Show me yours! ;) How do you stay calm and present in happy or challenging storms? Do you agree that it’s important?

Should You Have Sex With Your Husband Every Day? My Response to a HuffPost Article

As much as I adore sex, I don’t think aiming for a nightly bout is the healthiest or smartest of choices.

Last week I read a Huffington Post article called “5 Reasons You Should Have Sex With Your Husband Every Night.”** The author, Meg Conley, wrote the piece after realizing that she and her husband hadn’t had sex in a over a week, which was long for them, and makes some fantastic points. Routine sex helps women feel feminine, she asserts, provides enjoyment, enhances intimacy, relieves stress and allows a woman to treat her man like a man so he’ll act like one. As you might guess, I wasn’t hip on that last bit (which is section three in the article). As the last line summarizes, “talk about a small investment and big returns,” this makes sex seem like currency. And although Conley presents women as beautifully sexual creatures given ideal circumstances, I’d have preferred, “Let humans be humans.”

**Because the article I’m responding to focuses on straight married couples, this post will, too—but much of could apply to GLBT couples and singles, too. I’ve also decided to focus on daily, rather than nightly, sex; timing of sex is a whole different topic.

I don’t want to attack Conley’s piece, particularly since I find much of it sex-positive and empowering—we need more of that from and for women! I’m also grateful that her article made me think, which is what strong writing does. Today I’d simply like to share those thoughts.

The only reason to have sex every day, in my opinion, is because you and your partner want to. Sexual wants and needs vary among individuals and couples, regardless of gender—and many perceived gender differences in sexual desire derive from society and culture, not physiology. Women are more likely to put up emotional walls that bar sexual desire because of common myths, for example, such as sex is a guy thing and “dirty,” and feeling as though we don’t measure up to society’s harsh and unrealistic standards of sexiness. Addressing these obstacles and others, such as relationship rockiness and stress, frees us up to embrace and express our sexuality and desires as we see fit, whether that involves sex daily, weekly or less.

Prioritizing sex can help remind us that we’re sexual creatures when the world or life’s complexities has suggested otherwise and help keep the daily grind from leaving no time for, well, THE SCRUMPTIOUS GRIND! ;) But I also see benefits we might only gain by not having sex every day, anticipation being the biggie. Missing sex for a time and experiencing giddy, “I want you!” buildup can make sex even hotter—particularly if we allow ourselves to fantasize about it in the meantime. As women, it’s important to allow ourselves to want and think about sex as often as we’re inclined, and recognize that the notion that men naturally think about sex constantly while women seldom do is a damaging myth. On the whole, we’re just as sexual and equally, if not more, capable of sexual arousal and pleasure than men. (Remember, Masters of Sex is non-fiction! Thank goodness. :))

I’ve personally gone through relatively long periods of daily sex and stretches without. Sex daily can be AWESOME, but it also raises the risk of some amount of monotony. Sure, it’ll still bring pleasure, if we’re healthy and pursuing it for the right reasons—not simply to be a “good wife” or faking orgasms. But as recent research shows, women are more likely to tire of sexual monogamy than men; we tend to crave more excitement and change. So while I’m sure there are exceptions, if you decide to give daily sex a go, your guy may consistently dig it while you gradually grow somewhat bored or even resentful. Sort of like eating the same delicious food every day, you both may have to make serious efforts to spice things up. That’s not necessarily negative, of course, and could be fun, but if you’re the only one wanting more or different, you may have to drop some not-so-subtle hints…

warmup sex

I also find setting standards or rules about sex risky, regardless of the specifics. If we strive for daily sex, we could end up feeling pressured to have it simply because we’re “supposed to.” It also sets us up for perceived failure. For a couple who’s been having sex, say, once per month, nightly sex is a steep goal, and the loftier the goal, the more likely we are to fall short, give up and feel crummy. Also, suggesting that the woman, versus the couple, should aim for daily sex could cause her to feel pretty (or even more) inadequate and self-conscious, even if she doesn’t take the challenge on. I recommend taking gradual steps toward an improved sex life as a couple instead. The specifics depend on your current norm and what you both wish to strengthen or change.

There is no “normal” when it comes to sex frequency, just what works best for you as a couple.

Sex should evolve naturally for couples from emotional and physical intimacy and natural desires we best let flow. Rather than set aside time every day for sex, aim to connect with your partner on an intimate level—emotionally, physically or both—routinely, whether you have five or 50 available minutes to do so. Will sex happen? If you’re both healthy, communicative and comfortable with your sexuality, quite possibly! But not always, and that’s okay, too. There are countless ways to enjoy sensual intimacy without actually having intercourse. The more intimacy and sexual self-comfort we cultivate, the more and, most importantly, better sex we’re likely to have.

If you do set your sights on having more sex, keep in mind that many factors commonly tinker with libido, including:

  • Poor body image and self-esteem (biggies for women)
  • Medications, including birth control pills
  • Sleep loss (huge for women and men)
  • Hormonal shifts associated with menstruation, pregnancy and menopause
  • Illnesses, such as depression and hypothyroidism
  • Vaginal dryness and pain during sex

If you’re experiencing low libido, seek professional guidance. Most causes be remedied through medical treatment or lifestyle shifts, and simple awareness goes a long way. Unless you’re asexual, a lack of desire for sex isn’t natural and probably reflects an underlying cause.

Lastly, whether you desire sex once, twice, seven or many more times within a timeframe, please don’t criticize yourself over it. Doing so only perpetuates negativity in a world still lacking of sex-positivity, particularly for women. If you and your partner want to have sex every day, go for it! If not, that’s perfectly fine, too. Allowing ourselves flexibility and growing in-tune with our sexual needs and wants are far more important than how often we get down and dirty sexy.

An insightful reader here recently commented: “I often feel sexual pressure, not because I physically have an enormous need for sex but because there’s a mentality that if you’re not having sex something’s wrong with you.” That should never be the case. Pop culture and the media often present female sexuality in over-the-top, porn-like ways, while women-depowering beliefs about our sexuality run rampant in daily life. I know men and women who’ve gone months or even years with very little, if any, sex due to reasons such as being single—and there’s nothing wrong with them. (I do recommend that you single gals masturbate, however, especially if you’re not into casual sex. Celebrating and staying connected with our sexuality is important.)

Owning and celebrating our sexuality means being as sexual we desire, which doesn’t merely—or even necessarily—mean having sex. Thinking about sex, talking about sex, recognizing its importance and naturalness and embracing our bodies and sensuality all count. I believe sexuality should be at least as prevalent in our spirits as what happens beneath the sheets. Assuming we take care of ourselves, that sexy, naked awesomeness appears as mind-blowing frosting. ;)

How do you feel about the notion of aiming for daily (or nightly) sex? What other steps have you taken to enhance your love and sex life? I love hearing from you! ♥

When Depression Strikes: 5 Ways to Cultivate Hope and Healing

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” — John Keating, played by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society

As we mourn the loss of Robin Williams, I want to honor his family’s wishes and focus most on the tremendous gift he and his brilliance were and will remain. While I’ll remember him most for his artistry, I also feel compelled to speak up on the disease that took him.

Major depression affects an estimated 16 million adults in the U.S., making it one of the most common mental disorders. Episodes can last weeks or more, interfering with your ability to sleep, eat, work and enjoy life. While it may only flare up once in your lifetime, several episodes are more common. Other forms of depression are less severe, longer lasting, seasonal or triggered by specific events, such as childbirth—but all cause a seemingly unfixable emptiness and can lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Going far beyond the blahs, depression is an intense apathy and hopelessness no one who’s been there would wish upon another. I certainly wouldn’t.

In my case, depression led to a severe eating disorder. Though I was never technically suicidal, I knew more than once that death was possible, or even probable—and more than once, I didn’t care. But I was lucky. My near-fatal experiences took turns for the better, and I kept hoping amid hopelessness that one day life wouldn’t feel so hard. I also knew what it was like to nearly lose someone to depression, because my mother had come close during my teens. My family’s potential pain paired with her courageous fight, which she won, gave me strength to keep breathing.

depression quote

My parents taught me and my siblings that mental illness wasn’t shameful, but a disease like any other that required treatment. So once I recognized that I indeed had depression and anorexia, embracing treatment was a given. For many months, I thought I wasn’t making any progress, but my therapist disagreed. Talking helped, even when my words seemed senseless; when you’re a sensitive extrovert, as I am, the isolation depression invites was a double-edged sword. My own form of music therapy, expressing my thoughts and feelings through song, brought profound healing, as did adopting and caring for my first dog. Every step forward drew me closer to freedom, and as the clouds began to clear, passions and purpose sprung forth. In the last decade, I’ve only had one major depression episode and for the past six years, I’ve been depression-free. But I don’t take that for granted. When a lower backache pairs with low feelings (my personal cues), I know it’s time to seek preventative care.

I wish I could say why some people are able to move past or learn to cope with depression, while others are swallowed whole. All I know for sure is that there is reason to hope, even when hope seems like a faraway fairytale—and that seeking help is always worthwhile. Here are some of the steps that helped me in my own battle with depression. They aren’t easy by any stretch, but they are worthwhile.

5 Ways to Cultivate Hope and Healing 

1. Do away with shame. As I mentioned, I was fortunate to learn early on that mental illness isn’t shame-worthy. I wish this wasn’t uncommon, particularly for men. Males are seldom encouraged to embrace their sensitivity or discuss their emotions in our culture, which is one reason that while depression is more prevalent in women, men are less likely to seek help and more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol and suicide. Contrary to common belief, people with depression aren’t lazy or selfish; they need help. The earlier it’s sought, the better—but it’s never too late.

2. Don’t try to measure it. When I was diagnosed, my initial thought was, “I’m not sad enough!” I laughed and smiled occasionally, so how I could be depressed? “Depressed people laugh and smile,” my therapist told me. “And not all consider suicide.” Like many artists, Williams said that his humor often sprung forth during dark times; though creative expression and humor can help, one doesn’t cancel out the other. Depressive symptoms are worth addressing, regardless of the intensity. The same goes for disordered eating thoughts and behaviors.

3. Embrace your body and sexuality. While some depression is rooted in genetics and brain chemistry, our brain chemistry and emotional wellness are deeply influenced by how we feel about ourselves and damaged when our sexuality is suppressed. I personally believe that cultural beliefs and myths about sexuality that demean women, encouraging us to perceive sex as “dirty,” “naughty” and namely a “guy thing” are a significant reason depression affects more women than men. Cultivating positive body image and sexual self-esteem played a huge role in my own recovery, while instilling a sense of purpose and empowerment that has safeguarded me from relapses.

4. Do whatever you can to eat and sleep well. This is a tricky one, because self-care is often the first thing to plummet when depression sets in. Whatever you can manage, however, is worth the effort. For over eight years, I taught nutrition in- and outpatient therapy for individuals grappling with depressive disorders. The overwhelming majority ate and slept very poorly prior to treatment (which also involved psychotherapy and, often, medications). Even if all you can manage is drinking smoothies for every meal instead of skipping them, do it. The malnourished brain becomes depressed, agitated, hopeless and unable to rest, even in a depression-free person. Sleep loss causes similar symptoms.

5. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Depression lies, telling you that you can never heal and the world would be better off without you. Neither is true. If hearing of Robin Williams’ passing has you wondering how you can move forward when someone as brilliant as he couldn’t, know this: he was just as human as the rest of us. People move past and learn to cope with depression and related disorders every day, finding unimaginable fulfillment. What if healing means that you’ll find yours life’s purpose and inspire others to do the same? Having experienced it myself and witnessed it in others, I can assure you that it’s possible. Once you do find healing, I hope you’ll let others know that Robin Williams inspired you to find the help you needed and deserved. If anything could make him smile down from the hereafter, I imagine it would be that.

My beautiful mama - a light in every darkness

Me and my beautiful mama – a light in every darkness

Thoughts from others:

I asked friends to contribute thoughts on their own experience with overcoming or learning to cope with depression. Here’s what they had to say:

“Depression can’t be battled alone! It needs a team of people supporting you and focus in the blessings in life and be grateful. It is hard work, but it is worth it!” – Laura

“I lost my thyroid to cancer thirty years ago. When my thyroid levels are off, I get depressed. I long ago learned that if I ever feel suicidal because I burned dinner, I should get my thyroid checked before acting on that emotion.” – anonymous

“Exercise helps a bit but when you’re depressed it is hard to get going, if not impossible. Sometimes just getting out of bed takes every bit of strength. I found that if I get outside and move around, go down to the ocean or exercise it helps but must be consistent. I battle this every day, and more so since my friend who was battling depression passed away in June.” – Janelle

“Picturing the deep, black hole… And not wanting to go down there…” – Karen

“My first husband and I used to joke that, ‘Suicide is taking one’s own life . . . entirely too seriously.’ When I lost him to mental illness, I was severely depressed. Not killing myself was a completely dispassionate choice that I made each morning, and it was neither here nor there to me if I lived through the day. Each day, I chose to live because I didn’t beat cancer to off myself. I also didn’t want to ever be accused of taking myself too seriously.” – anonymous

“It takes all of us practicing loving behavior towards all. Kindness is a ‘pay it forward’ activity. And we never know who is suffering silently around us.” – Roni

“…my faith saved me. I definitely needed love, and have supportive family and friends. I agree about exercise—it can be a remedy.” – Susie

“One of the ways I deal with my depression is being really open about it. I don’t believe in stigma, and I’ve found that being open relieves some of my internal downward-cycling pressure. Plus, you’d be surprised how many people suffer from depression or know someone who does.” – Lisa

“What helped me get on a better path was acknowledging that I was depressed, and then accepting that I could not do this alone. I needed help. It was a very hard step to take but one that I will never regret…  I’m learning that I need to give myself credit for the little things and not be so critical of the big things that I just can’t do right now.” – Jennifer

Wonderful related posts:

First Star I See Tonight by Pauline Campos (Aspiring Mama)

We Don’t Start with Needles in Our Arms by Janelle Hanchett (Renegade Mama)

Depression and Robin Williams: It’s No Hoax by Karen (The Missing Niche)

One more thought for those who are suffering:

I’ve known many people with mental illness, some of whom have lost their battle and more who have gone on to thrive. In addition to sharing similar struggles, they share beautiful sensitivity and heart I’ve seldom seen elsewhere. Once you move past such a disorder or learn to better manage your symptoms, it can become a tremendous gift. I know that’s tough to believe in the throes of it, but trust me: beauty springs from pain, endurance and even defeat. Please don’t let an illness keep you from recognizing how spectacular you are. ♥

On Taking Chances — and a Sexual Health Writing Contest!

Do you remember the last time you took a chance? I’m not talking about trying a new hair color or cuisine. I mean a CHANCE—something out of your comfort zone or unconventional that makes your heart flutter.

I sure do.

A couple of years ago, I decided to listen to the scream nudge in my gut, telling me to “just do something!” with a topic I’d grown increasingly passionate about. I wrote a blog post and boom: Girl Boner was born. Little did I know where it would lead, but the road since has proved my gut right. While much work remains, the brand has helped my journalism career flourish in a desired direction, introduced me to remarkable people, kickstarted my radio show and invited a variety of additional opportunities I hadn’t even dreamed of at the start, including the latest.

Everywhere I roamed, I sensed something was missing...

On September 4th, I’ll be hosting World Sexual Health Day, North America’s annual event in New York City, sharing the stage with Dr. Sara Nasserzadeh, Reverend Jes Kast-Keat and other phenomenal voices in the sexual wellness industry. I couldn’t be more honored! If you’ll be in the New York area, I hope you’ll join us! Regardless, you can participate. All it requires is taking a chance.

World Sexual Health Day, North America is running a WRITING CONTEST, open to anyone 21 or older in North America who has “an active interest in sexuality and sexual health and further seeks to promote and support their efforts for greater global awareness and community outreach” — in other words, most of you! (Yes, you with butterflies flapping in your belly right now included. ;))

WSHD 2014

Some of the perks of entering:

♦ You’ll contribute to the World Association for Sexual Health’s mission of heightening social awareness of sexual health across the globe. (Every step counts!)

♦ Unlike many other writing contests, there’s no entry fee.

♦ You could win publishing and exposure on the WSHD website, a congratulatory certificate and a nifty notch for your resume.

♦ Sharing of ourselves through story is fulfilling, growth-inducing and fun.

Here’s what they’re looking for:

♦ Personal memoir-style essays and poetry related to sexual health, in document or blog post form.

♦ Writing with a strong, clear voice by authors who are daring, original and unafraid to take risks.

♦ There’s no minimum length requirement, but your entry shouldn’t surpass 10 double-spaced pages.

Deadline: August 20th (extended from July 4th)

Prize announcements: The three winners will be announced on World Sexual Health Day in NYC, perhaps by yours truly! In addition to receiving a certificate, winners’ submissions will appear on the WSHD website with a bio and photo.

**If you’re not ready to publicly share what sexual health means to you, I imagine pseudonyms are welcome. As for those of you with no shame whatsoever (*clears throat* Kitt!), keep being you! :)

**If you enter as a blogger, send me your link and I’ll share it in my follow-up post!

Maybe you’re all about going out on a limb, or the thought of openly reflecting on sexual wellness only excites you—if so, kudos! Considering how often folks tell me they wish they could be more expressive regarding sexuality, I figured a little encouragement was in store.

You never know where the experience will lead. Perhaps the contest will prompt you to write more, think more or share more. You may touch more hearts and minds than you’ll know. For whatever reason, I hope you’ll consider joining! Regardless, I hope you’re continually finding ways to spread your wings.

For full details and to access the application form, visit the WSHD Writing Contest.

What do you say, will you join? What writing experience has had a significant influence in your life? I love hearing from you! ♥

Behind the Scenes of “Masters of Sex” with Author/Producer Thomas Maier

“We’re born man, woman and sexual beings.” — Virginia Johnson

It’s remarkable how such a simple fact can seem controversial and even maddening to some. Thank goodness Virginia Johnson and William Masters, MD,  pioneers in the field of sexual science, didn’t let controversy stand in their way.

Call it wishful thinking, but I’ve long felt a connection to Virginia Johnson. I certainly won’t compare my work to her legacy, but we do share major things in common: midwestern roots, independent, arguably rebellious spirits, a penchant for singing and microphones and winding paths that led us to careers in sexuality, pursued with curiosity and passion. I recently had the honor of adding another semi-commonality to my belt: chatting with Thomas Maier, the esteemed biographer who interviewed Virginia Johnson, as well as Dr. Masters and many of their loved ones and associates for his remarkable book,  Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to LoveAlso a producer on the hit Showtime series, “Masters of Sex,” Maier had wonderful insight to share.

In case you’re not familiar, Masters and Johnson were researchers who studied sexual response by observing people having sex in a lab. Through analyzing some 10,000 cycles of sexual response, they established four universal phases, proved that while men need a break after ejaculation, women can orgasm multiples time in-a-row, discovered that there is no age at which sexuality dwindles and proved that clitoral orgasms actually aren’t, contrary to Freudian belief, inferior to vaginal orgasms. Perhaps most notably, Masters and Johnson revealed female sexuality and our capacity for pleasure as powerful during a time in which gender inequality throughout American culture ran markedly fierce.

You can imagine how prominent THAT made my Girl Boner.  *sigh*

Book Cover of Showtime's %22Masters of Sex%22- Basic Books-Maier-2

To listen to my full with Thomas Maier interview, visit these links on iTunes or Stitcher RadioIn the meantime, here are some excerpts:

August: Of the many biographies you could have written, why did you choose this one?

Thomas: When I started this project, I was already working on another book about Dr. Spock, the baby doctor, on the consequences of sex—having babies and such. I work as a reporter here in New York for the newspaper, News Day, and I was asked to interview Dr. Masters almost 20 years ago…so I did, and I talked to him for about a half hour. It was on the days up to his retirement. When I got off the phone I wrote a story for the newspaper and I thought about it. It was one of those ideas that kept with me—the idea of a man and a woman, not married, studying love and sex, not necessarily in that order, and who then get married and become world-famous as the gurus of sex research who are emblematic of this whole sexual revolution during the 1960s and ‘70s. And then after 20 years of marriage, get divorced and they never talk about it, and nobody knows why. So to me that was a fantastic subject.

August: I think they’re two of the most fascinating people. What did you personally find most fascinating or surprising from the research process?

Thomas: Without doubt, the most fascinating thing to me was the relationship between Virginia Johnson and Dr. Masters. It began as a very unequal relationship, almost like the Pygmalion myth or if you remember “My Fair Lady,” the professor and the woman who literally is desperate for a job and comes in off the streets. It’s a very unequal relationship, between the powerful male and the subservient woman. Virginia Johnson was hired as the secretary for Dr. Masters, really didn’t have any background in medicine whatsoever, but she was desperate for a job.

Dr. Masters was looking for a  female partner that would know female doctors at the time who were interested in doing this, and as a matter of fact there were very few female doctors at the time. And the reason why they weren’t was because this was going to be a very controversial study, examining how human sexuality takes place—not by surveys, but by actually watching it in a laboratory and documenting it the way you were a map, if you were a cartographer.

So all of this stuff, the combination of the two—the unequalness and then how they became equals and how Virginia Johnson, through the dint of her effort and through her native genius about human nature, and how things work between men and women, how she became more and more of an equal with Dr. Masters. For those people who are following my book as it’s portrayed on the Showtime series, in the second series, we’re just beginning to see where Virginia is a little bit more of an equal with Dr. Masters, although he’s clearly very much the boss.

August: I’ve noticed that as well, and I think it’s so interesting, especially at that time, for a woman. The dynamic between them is very interesting. How was it, interacting with the family and those who knew them? Do you feel that they’re portrayed accurately in the show?

Thomas: I think particularly the relationship between Masters and Johnson, which is the heart of my book, and is the heart of the show, I think it’s very accurately portrayed, by both Lizzy Caplan, who plays Virginia Johnson, and Michael Sheen, who plays Dr. Masters.

In the case of Lizzy Caplan, she looks a lot like Virginia Johnson, but she also has captured that independent-minded woman’s spirit that Virginia Johnson embodied, well ahead of her time, in the 1950, 1960s and ‘70s…but I think that spirit is very much a part of young women today. So I think I’m finding a lot of young women tell me, and young men as well, how much Virginia Johnson seems of their age, even though its 50, 60 years ago when we begin the story.

Lizzy Caplan and Thomas Maier

Lizzy Caplan and Thomas Maier

In the case of Dr. Masters, he doesn’t look physically look exactly like Michael Sheen, but I think Michael Sheen has brought a real verisimilitude—I believe is the word—a real accuracy to the essence of Dr. Masters as a sort of hardboiled doctor guy who is extremely talented, very ambitious, willing to risk everything, including his family life and his profession to seek and win a Nobel Prize. Bear in mind, for people who are watching the Showtime series, he’s constantly referring to “the study, the study,” as if it’s the Holy Grail. And for an ambitious scientist, the idea of winning a Nobel Prize, it’s one of those things that does make people very driven.

August: One thing I found so fascinating about him and his determination was that even though he is this very strong, sort of dominant male figure, he also has almost no issues, it seems, with presenting female sexuality as  powerful and saying all of these really empowering facts about female sexuality when a lot of other people were not quite perhaps ready to hear or embrace it.

Thomas: As well it is. You know, it’s interesting, because here they are, they do this experiment, and what their data is showing is that women have a greater sexual capacity than men. In many ways, women are a virtual fireworks display compared to the single firecracker of a man, when it comes to sexual orgasm… So here they have this information that’s incredibly controversial, because bear in mind, Freud and Freud’s views were at the height. The male dominance of Frued’s views are inherent throughout his work and were very much reflected in American culture. So to have scientifically proven that women are not only the equals of men, but they actually have a greater capacity than men, was something that even they, Masters and Johnson, realized was something that they would almost have to candy coat.

If you go back and read their book, in 1966…the language indicates that there’s an equality in women and men in terms of sexual response, but then when you get into what they actually say, you realize that women actually are greater than men sexually and at least in terms of clinical observations, that they found in the lab. So this was incredibly controversial, and so they kind of tiptoed around it in the book. But there it is. Everybody who read it actually realized that their findings were that women had a greater capacity. This was something that really emboldened the feminist movement of the late 1960s and ‘70s. As more and more people read the book, they realized the consequences socially, politically and culturally of Masters and Johnson’s findings, and it really had a big impact on the sexual revolution of that time period.

August: What did you hope to accomplish with the story? How have people responded?

Thomas: I genuinely was trying as a biographer…to create a piece of biographical art—to try to write something that would last and would talk about these never-ending questions that all men and women think about, about their lives and human intimacy and being understood by a loved one. I think the show has been able to take my book and go even further of it, because of the nature of television.

I’m really happy that it really stirred a lot of deep questions about the relationship between men and women, and kind of underlined that misogyny or sexism is still one of the great, nagging [issues today]. It really is the last remaining civil rights of our time, I think—misogyny and men learning particularly to understand, appreciate and ultimately love women is at the heart of the story.

****

To learn more about Thomas Maier and “Masters of Sex,” visit his website and connect with him on Twitter (@ThomasMaierBook).

What did you think of the interview? What do you love most about Masters of Sex, the book or TV show? Are you as hooked as I am?

10 Common Fetishes and My Chat with Sexy Superstar Gia Nova

fe·tish noun \ˈfe-tish also ˈfē-\

: a strong and unusual need or desire for something

: a need or desire for an object, body part or activity for sexual excitement

- Miriam-Webster

Why is it that when I first think of the word fetish, my brain conjures an image of a creepy dude enthusiastically sucking (read drooling all over) a woman’s bare heel? Hmm….

[Stock photo deleted. You're welcome!]

You don’t have to answer that. ;) Lucky for us non-foot-suck fans, no offense to you who are, there’s so much more to fetishes! Based on the above definitions, we all have fetishes. Healthfully celebrating them is an awesome thing. Why? Because excitement makes us happy. Happy people have more sex. Consensual sex increases happiness. In other words, the more excitement we seek out in our lives, the more gratifying our whole darn lives will be.

10 Common Fetishes

1. TRICHOPHILIA: being aroused by hair

Body hair can be seriously hot, if you’re a trichophilac. While this passion may only involve hair on someone’s head, genital, chest and even arm or leg hair can also entice.

2. AUTOANDROPHILIA: when a woman who identifies as female, imagining herself as a male for arousal

Who doesn’t love a little role-play daydreaming now and then? Wearing or evening imagining wearing a strap-on can be HOT. The male equivalent, imagining himself as female, is known as authogynephilia.

3. VOYEURISM: getting turned on by seeing others having sex

Unless you’re asexual, I hope you relate! Research shows that women are sexually stimulated by a broad range of sexual imagery, including heterosexual, homosexual and even animal sex, whereas straight men tend to be namely turned on by straight women. So basically, we’re turned on by ALL sex. It’s important to let ourselves feel aroused, however; too often, a woman’s body is turned on, but her thoughts and feelings—such as shame or anxiety—put up barriers. This also works the other way—arousal from being or imagining being watched during sex. (Yum.)

4. SADISM: experiencing or inflicting pain on another for sexual pleasure

I don’t personally relate to pain as a turn-on, but it’s super common, healthy and normal. As long as you aren’t causing injury and whatever you do is consensual, BDSM (bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism and masochism) can enhance sexual intimacy and pleasure. If you do engage, Laura Berman, PhD recommends having a “safe word,” which either partner can state to end whatever’s happening if it grows uncomfortable.

Spank ecard

5. PYGOPHILIA: a sexual passion for butts

Are you a “butt person?” Apparently many folks are, deriving huge arousal perks from rear ends. And we’re not just talking looking at or grabbing them. Many women enjoy inserting toys or fingers in a partner’s anus or having the same done for them. If you’d like to experiment with this, I have one word: MOISTURE. Diving in without lube, natural or commercial, can be pretty uncomfortable for the, er, pokee.

6. STIGMATOPHILIA: an  intense attraction to piercings and tattoos

A 2012 Harris Poll showed that of the 2,016 adults in the U.S. surveyed, 21 percent had a tattoo and about one-third said the skin art made them feel more attractive and strong. If piercings and tattoos make you feel or consider a partner sexier, both can be major turn-ons.

7. MAZOPHILIA: sexual interest in breasts

Yep! Women, regardless of sexual orientation, find breasts enticing—probably partly because our own are so erogenous. Contrary to popular belief, breast size usually doesn’t matter, unless the only breasts you look at or think about during arousal and orgasm are a particular size.

8. METROPHILIA: being sexually aroused by poetry

If reading or hearing poetry melts you into a puddle of SIGH… there’s a good chance you’re turned on. Talk about romantic foreplay! If this little diddy turns you on, it may be more of a cheesy humor fetish.

penis poem

 

You’re welcome to nab and share this “poetic” gem image on Facebook—just be sure to tag the Girl Boner page: Facebook.com/MyGirlBoner. :)

9. PODOPHILIA: foot fetishism

Okay, so my initial thought about foot-sucking wasn’t far-fetched. While this one is more commonly claimed by men, many Girl Boner’s are tickled by well-kept feet, foot stimulation and foot massage. Some podophiliacs are also attracted to foot odor and taste.

10. UNDERWEAR FETISHISM: sexual attraction to observing or handling underwear

This fetish goes beyond the fun of wearing or seeing sexy lingerie. If you have this fetish, you enjoy watching another dressing or undressing from their skivvies or the touch and feel of sexy undergarments. Seems pretty common, right? If you’re not comfy bearing it all, check out How to Feel Sexier Naked for useful tips!

To learn more about fetishes and hear my chat with Gia Nova, a celebrated burlesque and fetish performer who not only dances with fire (literally), but designs her own costumes., visit this link on iTunes:

Common Fetishes and Sexy Dancer Gia Nova on Girl Boner Radio

Gia and I talked about her path from a curious but shy young woman to a feature dancer who’s appeared in world-popular publications, including Hustler, Playboy and Penthouse, what her glamorous performances are like behind the scenes, tips for stepping into the BDSM world, if you’re so inclined, and more. I could’ve gabbed with her for hours!

FetishCon Gia Nova

You can also tune in via Global Voice Broadcasting or Stitcher Radio. If you’ve subscribed, you’ll also receive today’s episode in which I explore whether sex work should be legalized with renowned sociologist, Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals!

What’s your favorite fetish? Or the oddest one you’ve encountered? Any sex-tastic questions you’d like answered on the air? I love hearing from you! ♥

Is “Pretty” A Privilege? Thoughts From #BlogHer14

“A consequence of female self-love is that the woman grows convinced of social worth.” — Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

This isn’t an easy post to write, and certainly not one I imagined writing after BlogHer—but when you’re surrounded by inspiring women sharing their hearts and vulnerabilities, sharing what yours says only makes sense.

The conference was one of the most phenomenal events I’ve attended. Thousands of bloggers gathered to learn, laugh and mingle with likeminded others and have an overall uplifting time. On the second day, I read My Big Brindle Heart: A Love Story, the post I wrote about my bulldog Zoe, along with other Voices of the Year recipients.

As soon as I met fellow winner Ashley, aka The Baddest Mother, I was smitten. Her wit, contagious laugh, glowing smile and warmth put me instantly at ease. When they lined us up beside each other, I thought, “I’m so lucky to sit next to her!”

Voices of the Year crew

VOTY: Warming up for the show!

Little did I know until afterward that Ashley had a far different initial reaction to me. She hadn’t wanted to appear by me because I’m “so pretty,” she explained, then promptly added that the thought derived from personal insecurity. She was one of the first to hug and congratulate me after my reading, and I adore her even more for her openness and willingness to shift stances.

What “Pretty” Means

Being “pretty,” which I define as fitting society’s definition of physical attractiveness, is an odd thing. Writing about it feels even odder, particularly since I don’t feel more attractive than others. For many years, I felt ugly and awkward. I still occasionally feel that way.

Throughout my youth and into my twenties, I judged everyone’s appearance, especially my own. Because I struggled with body dysmorphia and poor body image, I often misinterpreted other girls’ and women’s discomfort regarding my appearance for dislike. I wanted people to like me, and felt few did—so much so that when I was nominated for Ice Age Queen during high school (so Minnesotan!), I thought it was a cruel joke.

Overcoming an eating disorder and empowering myself helped me reach a point of self and body acceptance I feel too few women, sadly, do. I no longer judge others or myself by aesthetics. I don’t look in the mirror and think, “Wow! You’re gorgeous!” (Does any woman?), but I do see beauty—real beauty, the kind that radiates from within and shines in the uniqueness we all have. I have “good hair days” and bad like anyone else, but I’ve learned to keep it all in perspective; in the grand scheme of things, our looks don’t matter—at least, they shouldn’t.

Here are some of the remarks I’ve heard women make about me, some frequently and from well-intended friends, in recent years:

“I want to hate you, but I can’t, because you’re too nice.”  OR simply, “I hate you.”

“I’d never let a woman who looks like her live near me.”

“Must be nice to be beautiful. You could write anything and people would buy it – it doesn’t even have to be good.”  (Said in response to a successful promotional event I ran for my novel.)

“You’re too pretty to be a writer.” 

“I’m so glad I’m not as pretty as you. It’ll be easier for me to get wrinkles, because I’ve never cared about my looks.”

“No one wants to hear ‘positive body image talk’ from someone who looks like you.”

“You look so much better now!” (Said to me after anti-depressants and binge-eating added 25 pounds to my naturally thin frame, mostly around my middle.)

Why It Matters

Trust me, I don’t mean to complain. I know that these comments have little to do with me, that many women face harsher criticism and that “prettiness” has advantages. “Pretty” women often have an easier time getting dates, make greater salary and receive better job performance evaluations, for example—largely because of the way we, as a society, perceive them, in my opinion. We’re not bullied for our appearances the way many females are. Without my looks, I never would have traveled the world as a model. As my first theatrical agent told me, “Pretty won’t get you jobs, but it will get you through the door.”

But “prettiness” also brings discrimination that goes beyond snap judgments. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology in 2010 showed that when photos are included with resumes, “pretty” women are significantly less likely to secure interviews from female HR representatives than less conventionally attractive women. We’re also less likely to be taken seriously for jobs considered masculine and less expected to be intelligent, good lovers or nurturers of the self.

I’ve held back from openly addressing these issues due to my own insecurities—not wanting others to deem me vain, feel somehow shunned or that all of this seems trivial. “Attractiveness” has more perks than downsides, you may think, and you could well be right. Thanks to Ashley and other bold women who spoke at BlogHer, however, I’ve realized that they matter. If women can’t support fellow women, how can we move forward? Or expect negative stereotypes that affect all of us to change?

After speaking and serving on panels at BlogHer, I was blown away by people’s warmth. Many women rushed to me with open arms and shared stories of their own pets. A few cried on my shoulder. I reacted similarly to others’ posts and stories, including Ashley’s gorgeous piece, It’s All One Life. Connecting with other women in such personal ways strengthens all of us, and I feel so blessed.

Although this was my first BlogHer experience, I’m convinced it will be far from my last. Bloggers are a special group of folks, many of whom feel compelled to share their unique voices and stories. What a powerful way to change the world.

edbadge_syndicated1-1

Fabulous related posts:

Baddest Mother Ever: The Woman Inside the Mirrror  (Ashley’s take on our shared experience. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with her, as I did!)

It’s a Dome Life: I’m Prejudice Against Beautiful Women

Jess Witkins’ Happiness Project: Top 5 Reasons to Go to BlogHer

Good Day, Regular People: BlogHer Timeline: Five Years of Gratitude (recap. 2014)

From Adult Star to Comedian: Sexy Hilarity with Alia Janine

 

The knew I adored Alia Janine the moment I saw her Twitter handle, @TheGloriousCunt. How could that not make you smile? Love at first byte, right? *ba dump* *dodges tomatoes* Um, perhaps I should leave the funniness to the pro…

The Wisconsin-born standup comedian and talk show host worked in many facets of the adult industry before trading life as a porn performer to cracking folks up from the stage. We had a fabulous chat about her career path, what she loved most about porn performing, her sex ed history and more. As expected, I had to practice zen breathing and hand-covering-mouth techniques to keep from guffawing in listeners’ ears. (Thank you, spell check, for making that read REARS!) Her series available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio and more, Scatterbrains Podcast, is not to be missed. I hope you’ll check it out!

Alia Janine Gotham 1

Ironically, the show ended up bringing light to my own career shift, from model/actress to sexuality writer/radio host. As some of you may recall, I trashed my blonde card a couple of years ago after realizing that my tendency to blame my blondness for all-things-“ditzy” wasn’t funny. On the air, I shared the clip of my performance on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, where I was paid to tell a blonde joke for millions of folks live. Hearing and seeing my less empowered self stirred up all sorts of emotions. Even the uncomfortable feelings were worth it; it’s groovy to look back and see how much you’ve grown. KWIM?

blonde-jokes

To listen to our chat, learn some of the negative effects of demeaning humor and hear the blonde joke I’ll never tell again, visit the following link on iTunes.

Girl Boner Radio: Sexy Hilarity with Alia Janine

It’s also available via Global Voice Broadcasting and Stitcher Radio. If you like what you hear, I hope you’ll consider posting a simple rating and review and connecting with Alia and I on Twitter. Thanks so much for the support! ♥

What did you think of Alia’s insight? Isn’t she hilarious? Any non-sexist jokes to share with us? How could we make the blonde joke I performed more positive? (Switch “blonde” for “sleep deprived woman” or “woman on weed”? Hmm…)

Do You Believe in Soul Mates? It’s Riskier Than You May Think.

“To say that one waits a lifetime for his soulmate to come around is a paradox. People eventually get sick of waiting, take a chance on someone, and by the art of commitment become soul mates, which takes a lifetime to perfect.” — Criss Jami, Venus in Arms

As a kid I visited a cemetery that held the remains of my great grandparents. I was only about five or six years old, but had already come to understand romantic notions of soul mates and “the one.” My parents had found “the one” in each other, after all, and seemed to know it instantly. Then there were all the episodes of General Hospital I wasn’t supposed to be watching during “nap” time. That show was riddled with soul mates!

As I wandered around perusing graves, I landed at a fairly new one for a boy with my same birthdate. As only a melodramatic child could, I decided that my soul mate had died too soon and laid buried under that mass of soil and rock. *sigh*

Broken heart with hands of adult and child isolated on white background

Do you believe in soul mates? Two thirds of Americans do, according to a recent Marist Poll, or more specifically, that “two people are destined to be together.” It’s a beautiful notion in many ways, but potentially risky in others.

Romantic comedies often portray a soul mate-like connection, two rocky paths merging to create romantic, often marital, bliss. What the films don’t show are the everyday challenges and realism that accompany long-term unions; true and lasting love takes work. Failing to recognize this brings mega risks, shows research. People who believe they’ve met their soul mate are often gleeful at first, said W. Bradford Wilcox, head author of a Social Science Research report on soul mate expectations published in 2010, but they often end up disenchanted, due to their impossibly high expectations.

Another study showed that 73 percent of married couples surveyed had settled for someone other than their one true love, “making do” because their soul mate got away. How sad is that? It gets worse. Forty-three percent of these people said they’d leave their spouse if their perceived true love appeared.

What saddens me about that statistic isn’t the fact that people would choose true love, but because I suspect that for many of them, the belief that a more wondrous love exists for them elsewhere keeps them from being fully present and growing in their current relationship. It’s easy to fantasize that Mr./Ms. Right could make life, or at least your romantic life, perfect, but is that even possible? If the grass is always greener in your soul mate daydream, won’t the grass in your own yard wilt away?

Quite possibly, yes. A study at the University of Virginia found that people who believed in soul mates were 150 percent more likely to divorce than people with realistic marital expectations. Yikes.

It seems to me that many folks long for a soul mate in order to be completed or fixed. “When I meet him/her, I’ll feel less lonely and miserable,” we might think. “The void will be filled, and I’ll finally be happy!” I’ve certainly been there in the past—but desperation to find someone attracts similar desperation and insecurity. I’ve also known guys who’ve tried to convince me I was their soul mate, seemingly as a way to have, rather than simply know or love, me.  I don’t think partners are meant to fix, complete or keep us. If that were the definition of soul mates, I suppose we should become our own. By embracing ourselves and living lives of passion, we can share a soul mate-type sparkle with most anyone—reserving the most for those we hold most dear.

Girl with cage and red heart

Love changes over time, but that doesn’t make it any less magical than sparkly Hollywood endings. When we hold reasonable expectations, we move from punch-drunk “I’m so high on you!” falling-in-love euphoria to a love that deepens over time. When we nurture all parts of that relationship and continue to work on ourselves, romance flicks can’t hold a candle to the unfolding gorgeousness.

I no longer believe that my soul mate died, leaving me to suffer alone from first grade on. But I do believe in kindred spirits, with whom we share a special connection and love of many kinds. I also believe they’re limitless in number. My husband’s one, my bulldog Zoe was one, and so are many of my friends.

When we choose to partner up with one special person for the right reasons, I’d hope that we all see them as a sole mate, and never feel we’re settling. I also hope that if that relationship ends, it’s not because someone seemingly better appears. We owe ourselves and our partners more integrity than that.

How you feel about soul mates and pre-destined love? Have your views ever changed? I’d love to hear your thoughts! ♥

*Don’t forget to tune into Girl Boner Radio this week! Today I’ll be interviewing porn star turned actor/comedienne, Alia Janine.

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