5 Myths About Pursuing Your Passion and Purpose

What are you passionate about? Do you go after it with gusto? Or are you still searching for that which rocks your world?

To me, passion and purpose are inseparable. In many ways, I believe pursuing our passion is our life’s purpose. Cultivating these powerful Ps makes our lives more gratifying and meaningful, and makes us better folks to be around. We’re more likely to uplift and help others, and even better the world.

It’s one thing to say you’re following your passion. It’s a fun, happy word—who wouldn’t? But it’s another thing entirely to follow through consistently, without letting common myths obstruct your way. Here are five common ones to disbelieve pronto.

1. True passions are reserved for the “lucky ones.”

I’ve heard many people say, “You’re so lucky to have a passion,” or, “I wish I had one!” Trust me, I understand those feelings. It took me years of self-work and exploration to begin finding and cultivating mine. I truly believe that we all have passions within us, just waiting to be discovered and sprung forth. But we’ll never get there if we don’t belief in their existence.

2. If you wait around long enough, one will appear.

I’m sure there are folks out there who work a job they dislike, never explore new interests and settle for lackluster relationships and one day, SHABAM! Passion appears at their door. But I’m guessing 99% of us have to work our way toward them—whether we’ve sensed what they are yet or not. While there’s something to be said for leaping smartly, finding and fulfilling a passion almost always requires leaps of faith. Don’t waste your time and energy in a deadend-anything. We only have so much to utilize.

3. Yours will mirror someone else’s. 

Last year at Oprah’s Live Your Best Life Tour, she made it clear that others’ life purpose shouldn’t replicate hers: “You don’t need to be another Oprah.” That’s when I removed my Oprah wig. (KIDDING! I’ve never wanted to be her. She’s got that gig handled. ;)) We’re all inspired by others, but our passions are unique. Rather than emulate someone you admire or copycat their every move, strive to shine as your authentic self. Never stop exploring who that beauty is.

4. You can choose the specifics.

Big ol’ NOPE. Not only can we not choose the specifics of our passions, they may shoot us off in an unexpected direction—and that’s OK! Such diversions can be the most important happenings we can hope for. Here’s an example: For years, I thought acting was “IT” for me. Then writing cropped its gorgeous head up and lightbulbs I hadn’t known existed flashed on. Novel-writing led to my blog, which led to Girl Boner, which led to my radio show. None of this would’ve evolved had I not pursued acting—or let stubbornness keep me from staying open to possibilities. As as the wonderful Patricia Sands would say, be a “possibilitarian.”

5. Once you’ve found one, life’ll be a breeze!

Excuse me while I ROFL giggle a little. 😉 Remember when you were a kid and thought that once you met Mr./Ms. Right, everything would fall perfectly into place and your days would consist of stargazing and hot fudge sundaes? Yeah, passions don’t work like that either. They take work, vulnerability, major challenges and risk. Embracing them doesn’t suddenly make life easy, but it does make our existence significantly more worthwhile. Seek fulfillment, not ease.

August McLaughlin blog

Arouse your whole darn life. You’re worth it.

What’s your biggest passion? What helps you pursue it? Have you bought into any of these myths? I’d love to cheer you on, so share, share away!

#NotSorry: 5 Things I No Longer Apologize For

You may have noticed that women apologize a lot. A whole lot. While it’s appropriate to say, “Sorry!” when we’ve, say, stepped on another’s toe, apologizing for being ourselves hurts us and, by way of example, others.

A few years ago, the ever-sparkly Natalie Hartford published a blog post called 5 Things I’ll Never Apologize For, which basically says, “This is who I am. Deal with it!” (Woot!)

I’ve thought of her post many times since, particularly upon realizing I’m no longer apologetic for aspects of myself that once left me guilt-ridden.

Here are five of those things:

1. For not being a night owl.

I think I’m genetically predisposed to turn into a mushy-headed pumpkin by 9pm. (I don’t even know what that is. Anyway…) I used to feel dorky for wanting to eat dinner at 5pm or donning PJs when “hipper” friends were taking pre-going out naps. Not anymore.

Proof that turning in early can be sweeter.

Proof that turning in early can be sweeter.

If I stay out late, I know I’ll pay the price the next day; feeling groggy and not on top of my game. My work and relationships are too important to do so regularly.

Nurturing what makes us feel healthiest and most alive—especially when it isn’t the norm—shows strength and self-respect.

2. For being passionate and outspoken.

I sometimes think I was born an activist. As a kid, I campaigned for endangered animals, protested for planet-friendlier school lunch dishes and co-organized events to raise awareness about child abuse. Then there was my first walk-out. (How dare my piano teacher deny me M&Ms for neglecting my homework expressing my artistry through improvisation?)

By my early 20s, I’d lost some of that confidence and occasionally felt I was on an annoying “high horse.” Does everything have to be a world-altering mission? No. But it’s important to me to feel that I’m contributing to positive change, or at least trying.

Writing and speaking have helped me see that using my voice and passion for greater good is my happy place, and washed away concerns over what others might think. (And, wouldn’t you know? Most folks don’t shun me anyway.) Now, rather than feel crushed by injustices I see, I find peace in knowing I can do something. And I’m not afraid to speak up.

You know you're in your happy place when someone walks in on you taking blog-prep-selfies and you keep on shooting. ;)

You know you’re in your happy place when someone walks in on you taking blog-prep-selfies and you keep on shooting. 😉

Meeting my awesome husband also helped. Early on in our relationship, he caught me apologizing for babbling on and on enthusiastically sharing. “It’s the best part of my day,” he said. *swoon* (Yep, I married right.)

We all deserve to nurture our passions, and what makes us feel obscure or alone at times could actually be what makes our lives extraordinary. People who truly care about us will embrace them.

3. For not having perfectly groomed appendages.

Does anyone else fight the urge to yelp, “Hurry up! I’m bored!” when having your nails done? Ugh. Now that I meditate, I could probably handle it. Regardless, nail treatments feel like a waste of precious time and money I could be investing elsewhere.

When I first moved to LA, I often had gels added to my nails, fearing that others would judge my “imperfections.” Now, I embrace my imperfect, guitar-playing, typing-fanatical hands.

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Dear Nails: Thank you for showing the world how much I value typing and strumming over aesthetics, and for putting up with my bashing. I promise not to have you ground down and covered up again. Sincerely, Me

What we see as “flaws” are often quirks that reflect who we are. Not sweating over them is a huge relief.

4. For not caring much about fashion —at least not enough to appear totally put together very often.

Looking back on my life, I see a direct correlation between how much time and energy I put into my appearance and insecurity. That’s not to say these are linked for all women, of course.

One sign you're not putting much thought into your wardrobe… #whoops

One sign you’re not putting much thought into your wardrobe… #whoops

I admire women who consistently look like they’ve just stepped out of a style mag, but I’m so not one of them. While I enjoy dressing up for special occasions, I prefer spending my time and energy elsewhere. As long as I’m clean and comfy, I’m a-okay.

When we fixate on our looks, what we need to change almost surely lies deeper than our hairstyle or wardrobe.

**If you’re a low-maintanence gal, too, this Elite Daily article is a must-read: The Science of Simplicity: Why Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day

5. For taking up space.

Last year my friend Sheri, I and another friend were standing and chatting in an open hotel lobby. When a group of people walked our direction, I apologized and stepped aside, giving them ample (if not necessary) room to pass.

“You don’t need to apologize for taking up space,” Sheri said without hesitation. “We have a right to be here.”

Woah. (See why I adore her?) In the following weeks, I noticed that I had a tendency to offer up my space to others in this way; it was a dangling thread of insecurity I hadn’t yet clipped.

Owning the space we stand in is empowering, and it’s never too late to grow.  

Why stay small?

Because why not?

Whether we say the words or not, feeling regretful for who we authentically are can hold us back in all sorts of ways.

As Natalie shared in her post, she dresses provocatively, cusses regularly and speaks her mind–without regret. Is she judged for these traits on occasion? Probably. But they’re also three of the reasons I, and many others, love her. It would break our hearts if she held back. We should have that same compassion for ourselves. Don’t you think?

What have you stopped apologizing for? Do you relate to any on my list? I’d love to hear from you! ♥

Help My Brilliant Friend Elle Beat Cancer

Two years ago on a sweltering April afternoon, I lugged copies of my novel to the LA Times Festival of Books, hoping I’d sell a few—okay, all of them. Little did I know then that the biggest reward would be the start of a lasting friendship.

As soon as I met my table-mate Elle, I was smitten. Her palpable warmth and ebullience made it impossible not to smile, and we seemed to have much in common, from past theatrical careers and body image wars to the valiant blonde women gracing our book covers. (We both had to have the images specially created, after observing the lack of stock photos of kickass gals with blonde tresses.) And unlike many of our fantastic introverted writer pals, we’re both, shall we say, outspoken.

We chattered away, luring passersby to our table and (let’s be honest) frightening others with our OVER-THE-TOP-ENTHUSIASM, ahem, slightly overt cheerfulness.

Elle the Author August McLaughlin SCWC

Those who dared approach seemed surprised that these chipper chicas wrote dark thrillers. I caught us both describing our books with phrases like, “…gritty and psychological…violence, yes, but no animals are harmed…eating disorders and sexual trauma…but inspiring! It could change the world!”

And here’s the thing:

We both sincerely believe that. Out of darkness derives the most powerful light, and nothing in life happens from which we can’t learn from or use as a platform to inspire or support others.

If you have any doubts about that, seeing how Elle is dealing with her latest fight, breast cancer, would erase them. Seemingly from the moment she was diagnosed, she’s been handling it with uncommon grace, will and humor—and already has plans to transform any bitterness into sweet lemonade.

Elizabeth Posten

Elle has also been brave enough to ask for necessary support:

Wish list intro

Tell me you don’t love her already. ♥

Elle and August

I hope you’ll consider supporting her however you can. Cancer doesn’t merely affect those who have the disease, but all of us—and Elle happens to be one of the most magnificent.

Visit her registry to make a donation, 10% of which goes to LetsFCancer, or gift her an item from her wish list. 

To learn more about Elle and order her poignant book, The Fall, visit ElletheAuthor.com. Listen to our Girl Boner Radio chat on overcoming dating abuse through this link or download the podcast here, via iTunes.

Much love,

August

3 Reasons to Support Female-Driven Action Films (and @Artemis_FF)

“Until we can look at women and see them as physical equals to men, we’re going to keep being seen as less.” — Melanie Wise

How different do you think the world would be if all girls grew up believing in their strength? What if each time we went to the movies, we left feeling empowered? What if there was a film fest that encouraged both?

Guess what: THERE IS! (Don’t worry – this post isn’t an advertisement, but a natural derivative of being thoroughly inspired by this fest!)

artemis-film

Last month, I had the privilege of interviewing Melanie Wise, founder of the Artemis Film Festival—the first film fest ever to celebrate female-driven action films. Man, is she groovy! I learned so much.

The groundbreaking event will take place April 24 – 25 here in Los Angeles, featuring screenings of films large and lesser known and honoring iconic leading ladies, including Linda Hamilton, Angela Meryl and Maja Aro.

FUN NEWS!

I was recently asked to emcee a Red Carpet awards ceremony at the fest on Friday, April 24—I couldn’t be more stoked or honored! I hope if you can, you’ll join us.

This opportunity makes my inner Riveter PROUD!

This opportunity makes my inner Riveter PROUD!

Regardless, here are just a few of the important reasons why supporting female-driven action films is, IMO, vital.

1. They’re freaking awesome! Aliens. Terminator 2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Kill Bill. My Super-Ex Girlfriend. Action films featuring kick-ass women characters are some of the most awesome films out there. Yet, when I looked up “top action films,” many of my favorites didn’t appear. WTH?

“For a lot of years, women in action films was considered box office poison,” Melanie told me. (Ah…) As a result, many female-led action films are marketed as romantic comedies, sci-fi or horror. Those available are making mega-bucks, however, and for good reason.

2. They empower women to embrace their strength. If the only women we saw on the big screen were women playing distressed damsels and princesses awaiting rescue dudes, we’d all be less likely to envision more for ourselves. For many years, that’s all we could see.

Here’s just one example of what happens when we celebrate empowering alternatives:

When Terminator 2 came out, Melanie explained, workout gym memberships soared, largely from women wanting to work out and increase their physical strength. (Makes sense! Uma did have me considering karate classes after watching Super-Ex.)

3. Doing so can better the world. Stories really do shape, and have the potential to change, the world.

“As the film industry, especially in the U.S., we have a very large voice that is heard the world over,” Melanie said. “We have an amazing responsibility and opportunity to make really nice messages. This is something we can easily do, if we choose.”

***

I couldn’t agree more! If you can’t attend the Artemis Film Festival in person, you can still support its mission by making a donation and/or sharing links with your friends. For tickets and specifics, visit ArtemisFilmFestival.com. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter (@Artemis_FF)

To learn more about women in action films, listen to my Girl Boner Radio chat with Melanie Wise on iTunes or here, on my homepage.

What’s your favorite female-driven action film? Will you be attending the fest? I love hearing from you! ♥

The Question Too Many Women Ask

I’m just returning from a fabulous trip to my old stomping grounds—the Twin Cities, in Minnesota—where I gave a talk on blogging at the Bloomington Writers Festival. Afterwards, an attendee emailed me (let’s call her Kat), thanking me for giving her permission to explore whatever topic she wishes on her blog. She often holds herself back, she explained, for fear of what others will think.

“So here’s what I’m thinking of covering,” she wrote, then listed incredibly unique and insightful topics. “You honestly don’t think people will think I’m weird or crazy for these? Sorry to ask again, but I’m nervous and could use some reassurance!”

What a kick-ass woman, right? I love that she’s planning to step out of her comfort zone and reached out for support. She didn’t need to apologize, of course, but I imagine most of us can relate to what she’s experiencing—that apology included.

On the plane ride back to LA, I spent some time daydreaming preparing for upcoming radio segments (okay, same thing). Tomorrow, I’ll interview Stephanie Berman, creator of an intimacy product that helps lesbian couples get pregnant.

photo-163

Who wouldn’t daydream to this? View of the Grand Canyon, from my plane window

Amid controversy and criticism, Stephanie has succeeded, and continues to better the lives of many. I plan to ask her how she’s managed to deal with naysayers, answers to which I think will apply to the most brutal type: those that rise up within ourselves.

I’ll also answer a few questions from listeners,’ which happen to tie into this theme. Nearly every email I receive from listeners features similar lingo, and while the specifics vary, they ask virtually the same question. Women want to know, “Am I normal?” I think they’re really asking, “Am I okay?”

We want to be extraordinary and unique, but without ruffling anyone’s feathers; to feel beautiful just the way we are, but without others judging us harshly against their standards; to live full, authentic lives, but without letting others down by not living up to their expectations.

If we truly want extraordinary, authentic lives in which our dreams not only come true, but better the lives of others (which is exactly what authentic lives and dream-work do), we’ve got to kick those BUTs and ‘their’ worries out the window. It’s not often easy, but learning to shift the focus from self-doubt to self- awareness and embracement may be the closest thing to magic I know of.

Ask questions and seek support, particularly when it comes to important yet wrongfully taboo topics like sexuality. When you find yourself asking questions that have more to do with doubting yourself than a particular thought or behavior, though, dig deeper: Why are you doubting? What’s the worst that could happen? Does what others think of you matter more to you than leading a happy, healthy life?

My Minnesota trip ended with a visit with my first modeling agent, Teqen, who I hadn’t seen in years. He was one of the first to offer support when I was diagnosed with anorexia, regardless of the fact that my hiatus to focus on healing meant that I wouldn’t be bringing any cash or esteem to their company.

“What you do isn’t important to us,” he said back then. “What matters is who you are.”

I’ve held those words close to my heart ever since. More than a decade later, Teqen and the Vision crew continue to embrace me as family. I feel the same way about them.

The reunion was another illustration to me just how powerful self-embracement is. Gone are the days when I let insecurity cloud my days, keeping me from living, except from a distance. Back then, I’d have worried that he was judging me, that I’d say the wrong thing or simply would not have shown up. I certainly couldn’t have written authentically then.

Instead, I reconnected with a friend of the truest variety, the kind who cares more about your soul and well-being than your details.

We’ll always doubt ourselves on occasion; it’s part of being human. What’s important is not letting it stifle us. Doing away with a self-doubt mindset allows us to be more present and grateful in our lives and for others, rather than caught up in, “Am I okay?” Because, quirks and all, there’s never a doubt that we are. The only permission needed to get there is our own.

August and Teqen

Reunion with Teqen

“…and the day came when the risk to remain tight, in a bud, became more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”Elizabeth Appell

Why Valentine’s Day Can’t Get a Self-Loving Woman Down

Is it just me, or does Valentine’s Day get as much hate as tax day and go-to-the-dentist day? While opinions vary, I’ve heard a lot more loathing lately than praise.

Here’s what I think: It’s whatever we make it, and rocks most when we embrace ourselves. ‘Cuz, think about it:

♥ If you love and respect yourself, you’re probably either single—because you want to be or refuse to settle and haven’t met the right person yet—or in a healthy, happy relationship.

♥ If you’re in a healthy, happy relationship, you and your partner probably communicate well. He or she knows how you prefer to celebrate the holiday (if at all), and vice versa. And you both respect each other’s desires. There’s no competition or standard to meet, other than one of mutual respect.

♥ If you’re a self-loving single, you won’t let the day zap your happiness. When degrading memes crop up, poking fun at being single on Heart Day, you’ll be all, “Dude! I’d so rather be on my own or with friends on V-Day than lonely in the wrong relationship.” You’ll ignore those memes and invest your time, thoughts and energy elsewhere.

It’s just a day, people! And you’re WAY too groovy to let it bring you down.

Valentine's Day quote

If you are going to let the cupid extravaganzas get you down, at least laugh at the goofiness they inspire—and perhaps yourself. For some inspiration, check out Jilly and Shawn’s latest episode of STOP IT!

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? How will you spend this one? I love hearing from you!

The Banned and the Beautiful: Celebrating Women Writers

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” — Anne Frank

As you may have heard, the Ozarks Writers’ League conference coming up the weekend of February 21 was booted from its venue of 30 years this week, largely because I’m set to speak there.

My topic? Cultivating self-confidence for increased success. Not exactly controversial. My advocacy for female sexual empowerment, however, apparently is. The venue heads also disapproved of award-winning author Velda Brotherton‘s workshop on writing sex scenes. The conference program has never before been questioned or analyzed, but this one’s theme, Celebrating Women Writers, invited scrutiny.

“Doesn’t that make you mad?” an acquaintance asked me when she read the news. “I’d be so offended!”

Nope, I replied. It’s unfortunate that OWL had to scramble for a new venue, as they successfully did, but the venue’s response merely illustrates the importance of the kind of work I and other women writers do.

we-can-do-it

Many people in our culture find anything related to sexuality shameful. It’s one of the most heartbreaking and damaging notions of our time, in my opinion, and anyone who abides by it has been victimized. I and many, if not all, women I know have been hurt by negative views and damaging myths about sexuality and our bodies at some point—in some cases, profoundly. The moment we lose compassion for folks we’re trying to help through our writing and advocacy, we lose our ability to make a positive impact. It’s as though we’ve lost compassion for ourselves.

As revolutionary Gloria Steinem said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Trust me, I’ve had those pissed-off times in the past. But I learned that if I hoped for change, I had to take action—loving action. That’s why I made the transition from health writer to health and sexuality writer, launched Girl Boner on my blog and welcomed the chance to bring my work to the radio/podcast waves. It’s also why I adore artists, who are some of the most compassionate souls around.

OWL’s community is a prime example. In response to the recent controversy, they’ve not only publicly supported Velda and I, but increased their efforts to support and celebrate all writing women. I can hardly articulate how touched and grateful I am. Writers uniting. What a beautiful thing.

It’s with giddy pleasure that I invite you all to join OWL’s campaign to celebrate women writers! Simply post and engage with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #WomensRightToWrite.

If you’re in the Missouri area, I hope you’ll join us at the conference, which has a new location. To learn more, visit www.ozarkswritersleague.com.

Going Green is the New Sexy! My Chat with Alexandra Paul

“As consumers, we are so powerful. Every day we have a choice with what we buy to do the right thing.” — Alexandra Paul

A few weeks ago, I was streaming Ted talks while cooking dinner when one stopped me in my tracks. Alexandra Paul, the actress internationally known for her portrayal of lifeguard Stephanie Holden on TV’s “Baywatch,” shared a story from her childhood—the moment the rapidly increasing population prompted her decision not to have kids.

“I felt alone in my beliefs,” she said, ” and thirty-seven years later, I still feel alone in my beliefs.”

She went on to explore the human overpopulation crisis, why virtually no one discusses it and impactful steps we can take to preserve this beautiful planet we call home. This was only a glimpse of her awesomeness.

The star of over  75 TV shows and feature films is a prolific, award-winning activist who uses her skills as a speaker, writer, producer and huge-hearted human being to educate others on causes she holds dear, most prominently human overpopulation and animal rights.

She also glows, literally radiates, with the rare kind of beauty that shines from within. Based on our chat, I can only assume much of that light derives from living authentically, passionately and inline with her values.

Last week Alexandra joined me in the studio for what turned out to be one of my most insightful episodes yet. We discussed her acting career, our shared history with eating disorders, powerful ways to preserve the planet, simple ways to shift toward an animal-friendlier lifestyle, veganism and more.

To download or stream our chat, visit this link on iTunes:

Girl Boner Radio: Going Green is the New Sexy with Alexandra Paul

Alexandra Paul_GirlBonerRadio_August McLaughlin

It’s also available on Stitcher Radio. To learn more, visit alexandrapaul.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Watch her powerful TEDx talk here: Overpopulation Facts – The Problem No One Will Discuss.

*****

#BOAW2015 Don’t forget to sign up for the 4th annual Beauty of a Woman BlogFest! For tips and updates along the way, RSVP through the Facebook event page once you’ve registered. As a participant, you’ll have chances to reach hundreds, perhaps thousands, of readers and win fantastic prizes, such as artwork, organic intimacy products, a gorgeous bathing suit and stylist consultation, gift cards and more.

A Special Freebie: In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Month, my novel inspired by my experience with anorexia, In Her Shadow, is free on Kindle until February 5th. If you’d like to check it out, hop over to Amazon. Derivative sales support eating disorder awareness and prevention.

What did you think of Alexandra’s insight? What steps are you taking to lead a planet- or animal- friendlier lifestyle? Has overpopulation influenced your decision to have kids? I love hearing your thoughts! ♥

Revenge Porn and Relationship Privacy: An After-Chat with @DrJaneGreer

“There is no sexual, visual, acceptable picture without my consent. Without my consent there is only violation.” — Emma Holten

Our bodies and sexuality should not be used as shame-inducing weapons. Who’s with me?

I know Emma Holten is. After an ex posted explicit images of her online, the Danish activist chose to share her own nude photographs on her own terms. *pauses to happy-dance* I adore her for that, and for using her experience as a platform for making positive difference.

sexuality quote

One in ten ex-partners have threatened to release explicit photos post-breakup, according to a 2013 MacAfee Survey. Sixty percent of them act on the threats, and 90 percent of victims are women. Despite these risks, says the report, 36 percent of Americans plan to send sexy photos to their patterns through email, text or social media on Valentine’s Day. I personally don’t see a problem with that. Sharing our sexy selves however we see fit with a trusted loved one (or the world, for that matter) is awesome and should never be shunned.

What bothers me about ‘revenge porn’ is the lack of consent and intentional pain former partners intend to inflict—regardless of the medium. It also saddens me that our bodies and sexuality are so often used to induce shame. If we all embraced our bodies and sexuality as natural and beautiful, folks wouldn’t care whether such images were posted online. (This is probably why none of my exes have made attempts—just saying.) Without associative shame, they can’t be used as weapons. But as a culture, we’re so far away from that.

Last week, I had the pleasure to interviewing the spectacular Dr. Jane Greer, a marriage and family therapist, author and creator of the popular celebrity sex and relationship commentary, “SHRINK WRAP with Dr. Jane Greer.” She also hosts a dynamic radio show I had the honor of appearing not long before Girl Boner Radio launched. (You can find that episode in the show’s archives here, and via YouTube here.)

We explored some of the biggest lessons we can derive from celebrity relationships, how to keep selfishness out of our own relationships and more. She was also kind enough to share a few more thoughts here, including her take on revenge porn. Read our quick after-chat below then check out our interview on iTunes, Stitcher Radio for lots more!

jane

August: Social media has made it tougher for celebrities to maintain privacy, which can pose challenges within relationships. What can we learn from the ways celebrities use social media? 

Dr. Greer: 

We can learn that it’s important to be open with people and to share; however, be mindful about what you share in order to keep some things private. Maintain personal privacy and don’t feel like you have to share everything. For example, say you’re in a new relationship – you don’t have to share all the personal details of what you did on your first date, all of your common interests, etc. Keep the intimate details of your relationship to yourself.

August: Revenge porn has been a big topic in the media lately. It saddens me that the victims are so often blamed, and that how they decided to express their sexuality becomes a tool to induce shame. What’s your take? 

Dr. Greer:

It’s hard enough to go through a breakup and deal with the loss of shared intimacy, but however angry you may be, violating the trust and intimacy you had with your partner by sharing your sexual relationship with the public really destroys any semblance of trust or respect that may be left. Even though it looks like you’re retaliating against your ex-lover, you’re compromising your own integrity and disrespecting yourself as well. The fact that the victims are being blamed is wrong because this material was to be shared only between the two partners, and if anything it suggests the person sharing the material now was not trustworthy. The victim should be more wary of sharing something so intimate in the future.

August: If you could spend an evening with one celebrity couple, who would you choose and why? 

Dr. Greer:

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. I think they’re the most fabulously talented country couple, and I love their music individually. Not only that, but I find them intriguing as a couple!

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To listen to my Girl Boner Radio interview with Dr. Jane Greer, visit this link on iTunes, or stream it via Stitcher Radio here.

Dig it? I’d love to hear from you! Post a review on iTunes or Stitcher, or share the links with your friends to keep the conversations going. To learn more about Dr. Greer, visit DrJaneGreer.com and follow her on Facebook.

What’s your take on revenge porn? What about Holten’s reaction? Which thoughts from Dr. Greet struck you most? I love hearing from you. Like, SERIOUSLY. 

Butterfly’s Wings: How A Former Stripper and Rape Survivor Found Healing

Since I first launched Girl Boner on my blog in late 2012, I’ve been interviewing and corresoliteonding with remarkable women with equally remarkable stories. Of my growing collection, Butterfly Jones’ story is one of the few that sits close to my heart—partly because I met her in my late teens, when I’d first started modeling. Back then, I thought she had everything going for her. At six feet tall without her stilettos, wavy hair that matched her hourglass figure and a confident air I lacked, she also intimidated me. Little did I know how challenging her life was.

Butterfly quote Maya A

While many of the women I’ve encountered in the adult entertainment business sought the career path for empowering reasons, Butterfly, who donned her nickname long before she evolved out of her metaphorical cocoon, did not. Based on our several-hour chat, here’s a bit of her story:

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“They called me Butterfly because of the way I looked when I played volleyball,” she said, recalling junior high. “Wings all flappin,’ hair flying… I loved those games, and I was good. But then, everything stopped.”

During the eighth grade, life volleyed Butterfly a scenario no one should have to face. During a slumber party, her best friend’s father molested her on her pink and purple sleeping bag.

“He took us out for ice cream before and kept looking at me like I was the real treat,” she said. “There I was, thinking how cute I musta been, and how lucky—getting his attention… Few hours later when Chelsea was in the shower, I was screaming on the family room floor. He covered my mouth, had his way with me then just left me there, cryin.’ Said if I told anyone, he’d kill my mama and little brother.”

She didn’t even know what sex was then, other than a way for “mamas to make babies.” The last thing he said before raping her was, ‘You’re so beautiful.’ “Even though I was scared, that meant something,” she said. “Felt like I was special.”

Fearful of the man’s threats and what others might think, she kept the occurrence a secret for decades. “I was never good at school, especially after that,” she said. “My boobs grew faster than the other girls. ‘Where’s your brain? In your bra?’ kids used to say—always teasing me. In high school I learned that guys liked it when I wore tight clothes and batted my eyes. I was getting attention…figured it was the one thing I was good at.

“A teacher told me I was good in music. I always loved singing, and dancing, but I was shy about it. If I’d listened to her, maybe I’d be someone else now… Who am I now? That’s a good question.”

Butterfly dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade, a decision her single mother barely flinched at. “She cared about us, sure, but she was busy working three jobs,” she explained. “I told her I quit school so I could dance, but I really just wanted to make money so she could sleep sometime, and spend more time with my brother.”

While walking home from a neighborhood market one night, toting a bag of canned and frozen food for her and her brother, she passed a nightclub. Smoke poured from the doorway, she recalled, and the music was so loud, the sidewalk trembled.

“A couple of guys hooted and hollered at me,” she said. “One came up to me and said I should be on stage. He stunk of booze and cigarettes. I was gonna walk away, but he handed me a wad of cash—just dropped it in my bag and then drug me [into the club] by the arm.

“I didn’t dance that night, but I saw the other girls. They weren’t just dancing. They took off their clothes, swung around poles, rode them while guys in the audience drooled and nearly pissed themselves. They looked powerful. And I thought, I want to feel that.”

Butterfly began stopping by the club nightly until she worked up the courage to talk to one of the performers. It’s a “shit life,” she was told, but she could make a hell of a lot of money. “Just don’t tell Jimmy you’re nineteen,” the woman added. “Say you’re 21.”

Stashing the “shit life” remark away, Butterfly focused on what she deemed a lucrative career opportunity. She could help pay for rent and groceries. Her brother, unlike her, could have their mother present throughout the rest of his youth. He might even go to college.

“He was always smart,” she said. “And he didn’t have boobs and an ass to lean on, if you follow. He deserved a better life. He could really do something with himself.”

Butterfly compares her introduction to stripping to driving for the first time. “You’re terrified, but you want [to do] it so badly,” she said. “And then suddenly it gets easy, like you knew how to do it all along. Just have to be on the lookout for crazy drivers.”

For a while, it seemed that her dreams were coming true.

“It was powerful at first,” she said, particularly on nights she left with a thousand dollars cash. “I was on top of the world. No one could touch me.”

But then, someone did. One night, after one of her biggest paying performances, a man slipped out the door behind her and followed her home.

“I felt him walking up behind me, sent the hairs on my neck on end,” she said. “When I turned around, I knew. It was the guy whose eyes were creeping me out all night. I shoulda asked for someone to walk me home, but I didn’t.”

She was raped for the second time, in a dark alley, pressed up against a garbage bin that reeked of rot and fast food. “It was my second time having sex, if you wanna call it that,” she said wistfully. “This time, I just felt numb… I just wanted it to be over so I could go home.”

She continued to strip for several more years, eventually taking up modeling on the side. Modeling was different, she said—like working in an office versus a crowded alley. The clients were professional. They treated her well and made her feel “more like a person than a plaything.”

When her modeling agent learned of her primary vocation, he encouraged her to quit. “‘You’re better than that,’ he told me, but I didn’t know how to believe him. Besides, I wasn’t making close [to] as much money modeling. I had bills to pay.”

Struck by his words, she cut back somewhat on her stripping hours and then compensated financially by offering a few ‘special treatments’ at the club. “Some of the guys would pay triple or more for a blowjob,” she said. “When a regular I kind of liked—more polite than the others—started asking for more, I gave it to him for extra…and eventually, ended up pregnant.”

Pregnancy was the first time Butterfly felt a connectedness to her body. Where she’d previously seen oversized breasts as something to be profited from and enjoyed by others, she saw beauty and capability. “I wanted to take care of myself for once,” she said. “I wanted to take care of my baby.”

She gave birth to a healthy baby boy she named Jeremiah, after her favorite cousin. At a loss for a viable way to support her family, she went back to stripping. “Whenever I hated going on stage, which was most of the time, I thought ‘I’ll do this for little J.’ And then I did.”

When Jeremiah was a toddler, she met a young man at a local playground. “He was babysitting his niece and nephew. I sat there watching him while I pushed Jeremiah in the swing,” she said. “Looked like he really loved them, and it almost made me cry. So gentle, so sweet.”

She saw the man, Samuel—a sociology student at the University of Minnesota—repeatedly at the park. Over time they became friends. Then one day, while helping their little ones along the monkey bars, he asked her out on her first-ever date. “For a second, I thought he just wanted services, but I knew he wasn’t like that,” she recalled. “We went on a picnic and a walk around the lake, and talked and talked, for hours.”

Soon, Butterfly opened up to Samuel about stripping, her lack of experience with dating, romance and sexual intimacy (she had no idea what ‘sexual intimacy’ entailed then), and being raped. “I thought he’d think I’m disgusting and run away,” she said through tears. “He just said ‘I love you, baby’ then held me so tight.

She quit stripping shortly after began seeing a therapist. She began to see herself as a survivor, “…like, look what I’ve been through, and I’m still here!”

Two years later, the couple wed. She’s since put her brother through nursing school, given birth to two healthy girls and obtained her GED. While she doesn’t feel Samuel “saved” her, she believes he came into her life as a reward for learning to take care of herself and her family. Love healed her, she said.

If Butterfly could go back and change one thing about her life, she’d have given her mother, who died of liver disease after her first daughter was born, a supportive partner. “If she’d had help, she woulda loved us better,” she said. “We all need someone to take care of us and teach us things…like what it means to be a woman, and to love another person and be loved.

“No one taught me about my body on purpose. I learned about it from being used and raped…and what I was worth from stripping. Sounds like crazy talk now! I was twenty-four [the] first time I made love… It’s still a struggle sometimes. I have to remind myself that sex isn’t something men take—not the good ones. Not my Samuel.

“I couldn’t believe that sex was fun and felt so good!” she said of her early sexually intimate experiences. “People think strippers know all about sex, and maybe some do, hell if I know. But sex is different than making love. They don’t all know that. Where I danced, almost every girl had been raped or abused. We were all just a bunch of kids up there, feeling lost. Makes me sad. I feel sorry for the men [watching], too. Who taught them to be like that?

If schools and parents don’t teach children about their bodies and worth, she poignantly added, the world will. “I won’t let my girls or my boy have that—not my babies. They are worth something. We all are.”

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I hope you all were as touched by Butterfly’s story as I am. If you would like to share respectful thoughts below, she’ll likely see them.

Stay tuned later this week as I announce the 4th annual Beauty of a Woman BlogFest! And if you missed my last post featuring my interview with Margaret Cho, stop by to listen and comment by 1/25 for a chance to win a groovy prize pack. ♥