Social Disconnect

In a society that has aggressively and rapidly normalized technology and social media, it’s heavily debated whether or not these newfound habits will have detrimental side effects on our mental health and sense of self. As we slowly accumulate facts and understand societal changes in behavior—the hours spent online, emotional reactions to content, pressures to be involved within inherently isolating platforms—the implications appear grim.

Take yourself for example. How many minutes (hours!) a day do you spend essentially living through the lens of someone else’s life? A 2015 Pew Research Center study finds that 92 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 use the internet every day, with 24 percent reporting they go online “almost constantly.” The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) reports that 91 percent of 16  to 24-year-olds use the internet for social media. About the rise in social media platforms and access to internet-centric technology, Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH, stated: “Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues.”

This excessive time online sparks risk for more than subconscious infatuation—it destroys the attention span, negatively affects our ability to measure self-worth, and increases levels of anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. The more time we spend on social platforms, the more we take away from the activities in life that keep us mentally healthy and physically active; we narrow the window of potential time furthering our passions, education, and self-development.

Through endless advertisements that blur the distinction between organic and sponsored posts,  selfies, five-star vacations, romantic relationships, new jobs, and expensive, materialistic things that we constantly flip through, the media has put us under a spell.  Society is shifting into a reality less present with our interaction between friends, family, and significant others; these are conversations and connections becoming more and more interrupted by scrolling, recording, posting.

The most striking contrast in platform users is girls and boys. According to Pew, teenage girls use social media—particularly visually oriented sites—for sharing more than boys do. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat provide a vast opportunity for advertising organizations to directly influence the population, which affects social standards. Unrealistic body image standards, thinness and fitness ideals, and hyper-sexualized women have been prevalent in movies, television, and magazines for the past century and these pressures have seamlessly crept into the social universe accessible at our fingertips.

This constant stream of images and videos portraying a preconstructed ideal of beauty starts to become the expected norm for appearances and behaviors, a damaging pattern that occurs with enough influence to pit what’s real against the distorted, objectified women the media has created. Young girls who are exposed to cunning marketing tactics begin to internalize these images and set unrealistic expectations for themselves.

When apps like “Retouch Me: Body & Face Editor,” “Body Plastic Surgery,” and “Facetune” remain popular across all age groups, it’s no wonder we’re falling into an age of body image disorders. While the media is trying to expand representation of women of all shapes, sizes and colors, there’s no denying the pressures that continue to exist for both men and women to conform to specific body types. It is imperative that we filter the content we view online into realistic standards of the human body. Not only must we control our media consumption, we must also stray from portraying ourselves online as something that we’re not, physically or emotionally.

A study conducted by Florida State University found that a group of women who were asked to browse Facebook for 20 minutes experienced drastically greater body dissatisfaction than those who spent 20 minutes researching rainforest cats online. As award-winning expert on body image Claire Mysko explains in relation to the study, “While social media is not the cause of low self-esteem, it has all the right elements to contribute to it. Social media creates an environment where disordered thoughts and behaviors really thrive.” Mysko also warns that, while social media gives young peopleespecially girls, the feedback and validation they crave, it can also “serve as a catalyst for more insecurity.’’

Society has become trapped in harmful comparisons to others without any accurate method of measuring our peers’ capabilities beyond a perfectly lit, deceptively angled selfie. These comparisons can lead to unhealthy levels of jealousy and lowered self-esteem and self-worth. They also tend to drag users into portraying their lives as better than they really are in attempt to one-up perceived “competitors.” This mentality has become a catalyst for a post-more-feel-better-about-yourself behavior, where one seeks gratification in the instant and short-lived, endorphin-igniting surge of notifications from digital followers. Social media has become an entirely unnatural environment in which we envelop ourselves in these glorified lifestyles that slowly normalize the idea that they represent real life.

I think we’d all like to believe that we don’t experience insecurity related to the seemingly never-ending party happening on our phones; that this distorted view into celebrities’ and peers’ lives doesn’t make us feel like we’re missing out on something someone else appears to have. But while we waste away hours longing for these digitized lifestyles full of success, glamour, vacations, sex, partying, relationships, and friendships, we forget to remember how brief these bursts of perfection are compared to the monotony of the average human’s daily reality.

So why are our lives so deeply integrated with this culture that publicizes only our best features and accomplishments?

Maybe because the origin of its intention is really not so sinister. The ability to connect, to keep contact, to share pieces of yourself with the world—these are powerful and useful digital tools that keep humanity connected and informed. Unfortunately, the reality is that the influx of unrestrained time spent on our phones has carried much discontentment along with its benefits and increased our feeling of social isolation. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine suggests that adults in the U.S. who use social media more than their peers experience higher levels of social isolation. Of the surveyed adults, those who reported spending more than two hours per day on social media had twice the odds of experiencing social isolation than their peers who only spent a half hour per day on social media.

Between an underlying addiction to cell phones and social platforms that are proving to be anything but social, we have lost the value of face-to-face interaction and have, to some extent, replaced or supplemented this socialization with digital communication. This substitution offers an illusion of companionship between friends, peers, and family members without actually nurturing these relationships and can leave them in a state of ingenuity. This behavior creates room for loneliness that develops when the value of physical relationships is compared to their digital presence in our lives.

If we can avoid the use of social platforms as a means of quelling an insatiable, existential boredom or a search for personal fulfillment, we will ease the burden of a lot of unnecessary negative emotion about our own lives and lessen comparison between ourselves and others. We will likely find ourselves more present within our own reality and relationships, which is something that must be treasured to a higher degree than menial, temporary online connections. Only you control the content you choose to consume on a daily basis. Why not build that into an outlet that uplifts, educates, and inspires without taking from and skewing the reality you exist in?

There may not be an escape route in sight for the deep integration of humankind and the internet. So in the meantime, we must find a way to enjoy this connection in careful moderation. Because through conscientious interaction, uplifting intentions, and the disposal of unnecessary divisiveness, there is opportunity to share positivity and there is potential for beneficial and healthy interaction online.

Why I Shame Tops On Instagram

I have a meme account on Instagram where I shame tops. Yes, it sounds silly (even to me) but would it still sound silly if I told you my memes are a tool to confront sexual power dynamics, and stereotypes in the queer community? Maybe even that also sounds funny, but bear with me. You may like what you read.

Before I get into it I want to set up the two cultural pillars that drove me to shame tops. First, it is undeniable that each of our lives are dictated by our proximity to power. We are given things and things are taken away from us depending on our relative access to power. Secondly, queer men categorize their sexual desires. The classic image of queer male sexuality is a triptych comprised of: 

  • Tops, people who prefer being the insertive partner during anal sex.
  • Bottoms, people who prefer being the receptive partner.
  • Verses (short for versatile), people who prefer both.


Why I shame tops.

Here’s what I’ve noticed…  tops’ identities are wrapped up in conceits of power, masculinity, and desirability. Topping is conflated with dominance, which is rooted in heteronormativity and sexism. When someone tops or is the insertive partner, on the surface, they are the more dominant partner and thereby have more power. Inversely, bottoming can be viewed as a submission. Someone who bottoms relinquishes power, so they say. 

And, yes, power bottoms (dominant-behaving bottoms) and sub tops are out here thriving, but the aforementioned more simplistic ideas about topping and bottoming are deeply embedded in gay culture. They exist in the things we tell each other every day through the apps and in the clubs. We uphold tops’ power through upholding their desirability (“Tops are scarce”) and their masculinity (“I only have sex with masculine tops”). We say verses are just ashamed bottoms. We propagate stigmas associated with bottoming. We don’t question total tops who’ve never tried bottoming. It is my belief that these attitudes so saturated in our community create power structures that value certain sexual positions and desires over others.

To turn the power structure on its head, I shame tops. There’s a concept called “punching up” that I use in my account. The idea is that when a group with less power shames or, in my case, makes fun of a group with more power—the group with less power gains more than the group with more power loses. Tops don’t lose much when I shame them for their behaviors because “gay culture” supports them.

Now, things can get tricky when shaming desire. I am aware of this. It should be said that desire can be deeply personal, and that shouldn’t be questioned; but desire can also be social, which should always be questioned.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that tops, mostly total tops (tops who never, under any circumstances, bottom), have left me worse off than when they found me. I mean, I created an entire Instagram account which  primary function is to shame tops. It’s not just me though. I made @versfirst to not only lift myself up, but for others in my community who have been devalued by tops. I was actually surprised when I connected with people who felt the same way as I did. Other queer people really were experiencing the same things as I was. I get messages all the time from people commiserating with me, laughing with me, and being a part of a community within a community that validates their experiences with tops.


Beyond top shame.

When I made my Instagram account, I was so sick of tops’ reductive attitudes about sex. My account was an outlet to vent my anger at the tops who sexually coerced me, who pressured me into compromising my own desires, who viewed me as powerless and took power from me. My reaction was to use memes to critique their harmful behaviors and the culture that promoted those behaviors. Using this light-hearted, yet direct medium to channel my frustration has helped me cope without emotionally wearing myself out. Without having to confront every top I met in person, I could address my top-based traumas. At first, my anger was directed solely at tops, but in the process of dissecting my anger through memes, I realized that tops were just the surface of my frustration. Power inequalities within sexual position identities is only one symptom of a larger problem.


The bigger picture.

Queer sexuality is stifled. We are so bogged down by stereotypes, categories, and misaligned associations. Through the stories my account’s followers have shared, I’ve learned so much about how the LGBTQ+ community exists within similar frameworks, and that this discussion extends to and affects us all. Queer women use similar language for topping and bottoming. Some queer women use the term “switch” instead of “vers.” I loved hearing that. Transgender men are pigeonholed as bottoms by cis gay guys. I hated hearing that.

I’ve also begun to write about race. As a mestizo Latino, I know a bit about racial stereotyping in the bedroom. Black and brown people are expected to top, and Asians are often expected to bottom. In American politics, these stereotypes have an origin way before gay people were allowed to come out and define their sexuality. In our current political environment, where it is entirely impossible to separate power from race and almost impossible to separate power from sex, it makes total sense that racial power dynamics would seep into our sex lives.

Going back to my original grievance, gay men have never really viewed sexual positioning as a spectrum. We view it like the triptych above: tops, bottoms, and verses. We don’t allow desires to shift, expand, or contract. We say people with big dicks are wasting their assets if they don’t top. We say masculine people always top. We say younger guys should bottom for older partners, and we say—get ready for this one—every gay man wants to have anal sex.

What I hope to do with top shaming is encourage people to question the motivations at play. In questioning our sexual desires we figure out where our desires come from and what factors influence them. As queer people, we are more free today than ever before, but we have more work to do. We must stop simplifying our sex and start de-socializing our sex.

To that end, I shame tops.


*You can join Miles Oliva’s movement on Instagram at @versfirst. 

My Partner Watches Porn

My initial relationship with porn was both complex and straightforward. In a sexually repressed household, it was my dirty little secret. It was my sheepish form of rebellion against the image many people had of me as an innocent little girl. It was liberation and my chance to truly feel like an adult. Most importantly, it was fun as hell to explore.

Point blank, I knew what porn was to me. I knew that the sight of it turned me on, and that was the entire point. With an anxious mind that over-analyzed everything else, I found solace in being able to finally take something at face value. I’d been single my entire life (with some “sort of” flings in between), so my perception of porn was consuming. Though I hadn’t gotten past the outward shame to casually talk about my porn preferences, I’d become confident in what porn was to me, and how I could use it to my advantage. That is, until I turned 21.

At that age, I not only got into my first long-term relationship, but I also lost my virginity. Through being exposed to the wants and needs of another person, I had to learn to see porn through a few new lenses. It was intimidating as hell.

Not long into the relationship, I learned that my partner watched porn as well. I remember feeling incredibly hurt and betrayed. If my partner loves me and is satisfied with our sex life, why would he feel the need to still use this, I’d ask myself. I wanted to know what I wasn’t giving him that these beautiful, busty women with pretty vaginas in porn videos were (other than those exact things). Was this his way of experiencing what he ACTUALLY wanted?

I cried and felt almost cheated. My self-worth plummeted under the assumption that porn stars could replace the love my partner and I shared. I felt weighed down by doubts no matter how I twisted and turned the situation in my head. Eventually, I knew I couldn’t handle it alone anymore. So, I talked to my partner about it. Thankfully, my partner was open and glad to admit he watched porn and talk about why. Through listening to his explanations, I realized that he watched it for the same reasons I did. The only difference was that I was confident in why I watched it, and insecure in why he watched it. I wondered why that was.

After some time of self reflection, I realized that I had something mistaken. I was viewing love and attraction as one and the same. Honestly, I couldn’t blame myself, either. We live in a society where those completely separate feelings are oftentimes placed in the same package. Guys and girls alike can be willing to get down on their knees and confess their love to people they barely know solely because they find them attractive. But contrary to popular belief, this does not make people inherently “selfish” or “shallow.” To some degree, attractiveness is what we all look for, especially in romantic relationships. Each of us finds unique things attractive, from looks to interests. There’s always something we initially notice about a person which draws us in, or maybe sexually arouses us. It’s not always something we can help.

Attraction can only carry people so far, though. If there isn’t love, companionship, trust, vulnerability and honesty, a relationship stands the risk of either failing or remaining two-dimensional. Attraction only serves as an initial pique of interest, but love suggests a sustainability and true connection. I had to remember that my boyfriend felt both for me, and that was more important than what he got off to.

Learning this difference helped me talk to my partner about the decision to use porn in the bedroom. I was, of course, still a bit nervous about it. However, as he watched it while I went down on him one night, all that mattered was how turned on he got. Thankfully, I’m empathetic in sexual arousal, so sensing his lust only heightened the experience for me.

Porn has spiced up our already fulfilled sex life, and has given us more options in what we can use in foreplay. More importantly, it’s made us a lot more open about everything that turns us on and why. That open communication has lead not only to us being more in tune with each others’ bodies, but also to a strengthened bond and a deepened trust. I’ll be completely honest and add that I do sometimes still have moments where I feel inadequate in comparison to the porn stars we watch in the bedroom. Unless I fully wipe out my personal insecurities, I don’t know if that uncertainty will ever fully go away. However, I feel comfortable opening up to my partner when I do feel any discomfort, and this communication has continued to help immensely.

In being open-minded about porn, I’ve now been given the privilege to learn early on what most still struggle to come to grips with: attraction is what turns us on initially, but love’s what keeps us turned on for the long haul.


The Lightbulb

I remember my first crush on a boy. I was 7. I had written him a love letter, put it in on his desk before recess ended, and watched as he walked back into class towards the clumsily folded paper on his desk. He picked it up, came over to my desk and tapped me on the shoulder. After catching my eye, he then proceeded to walk towards the bin, rip up the letter, and toss it in, along with my crumpled 7-year-old heart.

I remember my first crush on a girl. I was 10. She came to school with a newly cut fringe; I felt my cheeks turn red. I thought she looked amazing, especially when she tied the rest of her hair up into a ponytail for sports period. I went home and imagined us holding hands. I came to school the next day and never looked her in the eye again.

I didn’t hear of bi-erasure until well after I realized I was bisexual. It was like a rusty light bulb flickering at 2 in the morning, obtuse in its dirty orange glow, and omitting flickers of burnt red heat that smell like crap. Despite my initial discomfort with the term, it helped me conceptualize my difference, and subsequently articulate it to others. It helped me understand why 10-year-old me would hide my first crush on a girl.

Growing up I fit palpably into the image curated for me: the youngest daughter of a proud Vietnamese father. Enriched by our migrant community made up of refugees from the Vietnam War, the cultural pressure to do well at school and present myself in a perfect manner was not unfamiliar to myself, or any of my Vietnamese friends. I think the first time I registered disappointment from my father was when I decided to pursue creative writing. However, not long after noticing the grimace spread across my father’s face, it soon disappeared. He realized that my passion for writing formed a creative bond between us. After moving to Australia and taking up work in a factory, my father spent much of his time writing about his refugee experience. Through the scratch of a pen his experiences became memories, enabling my father to make a kind of reluctant peace with his past. My father and I share this need for catharsis.

As I grew older and began to evolve as an individual, my writing followed suit. In my teen years, I wrote short stories which often featured primarily white characters. This was a product of my social and literary environment. It was all I recognized and knew how to write. I projected my voice through those characters already familiar to, and represented in, the literary world. As I began to look inward, I started writing characters which not only reflected my interior, but my exterior as well; Vietnamese girls. Subsequently, without recognizing the root of their formation, I began to write queer characters.

But where does my identity disappear to when I have to play the role of the dutiful daughter? My love for my parents has certainly never wavered, despite knowing they would disown me if I ever dated someone non-male. I swept my bisexuality under the rug, only allowing it to resurface as I began to open up in spaces I felt comfortable and safe. Allowing myself to express my identity was the best decision I ever made. It feels as though I have slid into place; this is my life. Yet, it is a life that I cannot share with the people closest to me, so I write for catharsis.

I can only wish that I had the privilege to confide in my parents. It would be easy to say that they are bad parents, that they are evil. And although sometimes I may feel as though this is true, I then remember the social and cultural values which underscore the lives of refugee parents: the need to be close-knit, the need to stay close to home, the need to cling onto old-world values. Their mixed history creates a constant push and pull between understanding and ignorance, and in their eyes, family values and parental obedience are often equated equally. 

Being the good Vietnamese daughter my father wants means not being able to let him know about my bisexuality. This is not only an emotional concern, but also one of safety. What then do I do when my father, who shares my love for writing, asks to see one of my pieces? I lose the ability to share our most significant common thread. I lose it not only in the conglomeration of mish-mashed Vietnamese-English words spoken to one another, but also in the invisible space between us. The more I become sure of my sexuality, the more I realize how far I have strayed from the image of the daughter he keeps in his mind. I become more ashamed for not being a part of the family unit; “a crack in the vase.”

Through all of this, I’m left confused. I am sitting here waiting for the Vietnamese version of Janelle Monae, of Frank Ocean, of Freddie Mercury—someone to show me how they did it—how they prevailed amidst the pressure imposed upon them by their communities. Until then, I don’t know who to look to, to figure this all out. I don’t know how to become visible.

Intersectionality is a beautiful thing. It is narrative. It is story. It is connection. However, intersectionality also augments my individual reality. It acts as an erratic signal constantly flashing across my mind, filling my everyday interactions with a sense of social panic and dread. To make peace with my cultural identity, is to make sense of this other, seemingly bipartite aspect of my identity, my sexuality. I visualize my bisexuality as different chapters of my life enmeshed together, all at once. Like a movie in my mind with too many plot twists, it is a constantly changing process. Yet few moments of clarity continue to nurture personal growth. I see light bulbs sizzling, cracking open to reveal the full color which lies beneath their plastic shells. I see this and I want to turn on all the lightbulbs in my house.

Ava Answers: Sex Addiction


*Ava Answers is a column exploring the science of sex by Ava Mainieri, a PhD student studying women’s health at Harvard University.


The behaviors associated with a supposed sex addiction are so common that most everyone can check off at least a few on the list: unsafe sex, daily pornography use, one-night stands, cheating, serial dating, etc. While still considered controversial, the majority of the scientific community believes that the term “sex addiction” is a vice disguised as a pathology. Despite numerous studies, there’s still not enough evidence that high rates of sex lead to tolerance or withdrawal—hallmark symptoms of addiction—or that watching hours of porn, compulsive masturbation, or cheating on partners can be classified as a psychiatric disorder.

The last big push to include sex addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the Bible of psychiatric diagnoses, was led by Martin Kafka in 2010. Even though he presented hundreds of case studies and epidemiological data, the psychiatric association rejected his proposal, citing insufficient experimental evidence and a potential misuse of the diagnosis in legal settings.

The scientific community is skeptical that an individual can develop an “addiction” to sex, as the brain responds differently to drug and alcohol abuse than it does to an orgasm—bad news for Harvey Weinstein and Anthony Weiner, who both claim to be addicts. 

Sex addiction, in theory, sounds plausible. Whenever you do something that feels great, like having sex or eating a piece of chocolate cake, your body releases the neurotransmitter dopamine that teaches your brain to crave that behavior. Experiencing pleasure is your brain’s way of encouraging you to repeat that behavior. Eat a burrito when you’re hungry? Pleasure. Hug your grandma when you’re feeling down? Pleasure. Have sex with that attractive barista and increase your chances of reproducing? Pleasure. If it feels good, you are more likely to crave it. Dopamine is one of the most hyped up hormones—linked to everything from exercise to our obsession with social media. However, while dopamine can cause you to pursue an action, it does not create pleasure itself. It may provoke us to keep checking our phones, but dopamine is not responsible for the actual feelings of delight we get when we receive a new like on Instagram. 

Liking something, or experiencing pleasure, actually comes from opiods—hormones our bodies naturally create. Dopamine, on the other hand, makes us want something. Though wanting and liking something are two neurobiologically separate functions, they are often firmly linked together. We like the things we want and we want the things we like. But because they are different brain circuits, they can be controlled independently. Scientist Kent Berridge discovered that in addiction, wanting and liking can become uncoupled, so that you feel an extreme wanting without a reciprocal increase in pleasure. A study found that dopamine actually peaks in the brain just before, not during or after addicts were given cocaine.

Drugs like heroin and meth release abnormally higher levels of dopamine than natural rewards, like sugar or sex. Over time, your body deals with this influx by reducing how much dopamine is released and its effect in the brain. These changes lower your brain’s response to the drug, which is how tolerance is built. This means that the ability to feel pleasure from any activity is lowered, which leaves you feeling lonely, sad, and as a result, seeking the drugs that flood your brain with dopamine.

Sex does not fit into this model of addiction. Compulsive sexual behaviors may be fostered by a dysfunction of dopamine, serotonin, and a multitude of other neural circuit processes, but it’s a different physiology with drug addiction. 

From the perspective of the brain, orgasming creates a high that can temporarily provide relief from depression or anxiety. Researchers at the Kinsey Institute demonstrated in 2004 that people who self-identified as sex addicts had an increase in sexual behaviors when they were feeling depressed. The drive to get off is a fundamental aspect of being human and large parts of our brain are responsible for regulating our libido and how and when we want it. However, orgasming is not akin to a foreign substance being introduced to your body, but rather a natural process deeply rooted in our biological makeup.

Just because sexual pleasure involves dopamine and reward, does not mean it creates an addiction. There are thousands of behaviors that involve dopamine—from watching TV to petting a dog. If we start calling  the compulsion to engage in these kind of activities an addiction, then the word begins to lose its meaning. The label of a sex addiction is unfortunately a scientifically inaccurate way to describe a more complicated scenario. Depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder may be the principal illnesses which foster hyperactive sexual behaviors. For others, problematic sexual behaviors develop as a way to deal with trauma, like sexual abuse or violence. This may manifest itself as a heightened absorption with getting your rocks off that disrupts daily life.

Some people may just be ashamed of their fetishes. In a large study comprised of 6,000 men examining their sexual behavior, the 170 men who believed they were sex addicts were actually getting laid and masturbating as often as the rest of the subjects. Another study looked at thousands of porn watchers over a two year period, and concluded that the reasoning behind those who identified as porn addicts was based more in whether they had “moral scruples around pornography,” than in how much porn said individuals actually watched. 

As I have said before, there is no “normal’” human behavior—your goal should be becoming comfortable with who you are sexually. The controversy surrounding sex addiction comes down to an issue of classification. From a scientific standpoint, mislabeling compulsive sexual behavior as an addiction is not constructive to finding a cure to the symptoms of these “addicts.” 


If you find yourself using sex and porn to escape from your problems, don’t feel ashamed to share what you are going through with a professional. Helplines are a free and non-judgmental way to offer support and resources. Sex Addicts Anonymous (1-800-477-8191) is open to people of any gender and sexual identity and SAMHSA’S National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) can provide referrals to local treatment facilities.


RoleModel: Lindsay Dye

*RoleModel is an interview series highlighting badass individuals we look up to. Photos by Marc Harris Miller. 


Lindsay Dye is an artist and sex worker—maybe you’ve seen her smashing a cake with her ass on Instagram?

The multi-faceted performer is primarily known for her webcam work, in which lucky audience members pay for a virtual seat to see Dye perform a series of sexual deeds. Behind the shock factor is a wildy intelligent 30 year-old woman who exercises complete autonomy over her body and career. Badass, indeed.


How do you sexually identify, if you’re comfortable telling me?

Lindsay: I identify as a queer person. And that actually is something that I’ve never talked about in an interview before. I’m always a part of queer-positive [events], but I’ve actually never said it out loud in an interview. So it’s new for me.


Well I’m glad that we can be the ones to put that out there. For those that don’t know you or know what you do, how would you describe what you do?

I see myself as having many different jobs. My main work—the way I make money and support myself—is by working as a webcam model.

What webcamming has given me, though, is the juice for my artwork. While I’m a webcam model, I’ve ventured into new territory of performance art. Camming brought me to cake-sitting, and I think that’s how most people see my job title, as a cake-sitter. As if that’s the only thing I do, and the number one way I make money and highest grossing element of my work. But, it’s not. I still have to cam, I still participate in other forms of sex work, I still sell my art on the side. Short answer: sex worker artist.


Yeah, you’re like a multi-disciplinary renaissance woman! 

But they all feed into each other. The camming feeds into the art-making, that feeds into the caming. I need that circularity.


Are your parents chill with your career choice?

So I’ve been doing this for about six years now, and they weren’t. It has only really been through notoriety that I’ve received the respect I feel like I deserve from them in this career. Which is kinda sad [that] they can’t just take my word for it. But we’ve reached a level where we can talk about it, and I send them links to everything I’m doing. There’s a sense of pride from them—that I’ve taken this job that usually has so much shame attached to it, and I’ve been very unashamed and vocal. Like they didn’t know what the term “sex work” meant. So I got to be the teacher of what sex work is and what it can be and what it’s not.


Do you have any words of wisdom for people in a similar career who struggle with the judgement of others? 

Well, I’ve never been afraid to lose a relationship. You can’t shame me if I’m not ashamed. It’s something you just have to hold in yourself. It is sticking to your guns and not changing your path or manipulating yourself for anyone else. Just because my parents were uncomfortable with it or didn’t approve—I didn’t stop. It’s persistence. 


What would you say is the biggest misconception when it comes to what you do?

That it’s all sex. It’s totally not. Especially with camming, it’s like 75% a waiting game. You’re waiting for the right person, the right time, the right amount of money. Even with cake-sitting shows, I’m thinking about the time of day, who am I gonna interact with. I’m thinking about other peoples’ schedules, outfits I need to order, flavors of cake—all these logistical things that aren’t sexual.


Was it uncomfortable when you first started camming?

I feel like in the beginning and there were no how-to’s or forums or threads about how to access your chat room, how to talk to people. When I started, I pretended that I didn’t have audio because I was so nervous. It took me about a month to fess up that I actually did have audio, and [that] I could verbally speak to them. I was just typing to them in the beginning, because how would one know how to run a chat room?


I’m sure talking is much more intimate than typing.

Absolutely, and not knowing who’s listening, and how I’m being perceived. I still don’t know that now, but I have watched myself on camera enough at this point that I know my voice, I know my body, I know every angle, I know the conversations I am willing to have. [I have] so much experience in it now that it’s totally organic and natural, but in the beginning it totally was not. Definitely a learning curve and [I wish I] could have taken a class to figure out how to be a better cam model.


Do you ever think about how many people online fantasize about having sex with you? 

I don’t. There’s definitely a power imbalance in person. With men and women walking down the street and being in public, I feel a power imbalance, I feel unsafe. When I’m on the internet and I’m camming, it is a mutual exchange. I’m participating because I want be here and I’m profiting off of this participation. I feel powerful on the internet, because I do it in a setting where [the exchange] is comfortable and it is mutual. That internet fantasy I’m okay with because that’s mine. That’s why I’m doing it.


Can you kick people off of a chat? Do you have any boundaries for your chatroom?

There is a definite ban button, you can ban someone immediately. You can even let them watch you but they cannot speak. Or you can ignore them for a certain amount of time, like kick them out of your room for 24 hours, or do a lifetime ban and they’ll never be allowed back in your room.

It’s not something I use a lot because there’s not as many trolls as you would think in these chat rooms. You have to make an account, and if you’re making an account, you have to buy tokens. If you’re buying tokens, that means you want to support the people that you’re tipping. So the troll factor is almost nonexistent. [But] I’ve had really intense political conversations where it gets to a certain point where it’s not going anywhere and it’s like ban!


How did you get involved with cake sitting?

It started in my chat room. I’ve told this story, but no one’s ever published it because it’s strange. I was sent a private message and asked to sit on my cat and suffocate my cat. Obviously I didn’t do it—but this lead to researching crushing fetishes. I knew that this was not something like trolling, this was an honest question, someone was gonna pay me to do it.

So… crushing and sitting fetishes are a thing, and crushing and sitting fetishes, with small insects to small animals, is also a thing. But within this I found wet and messy play, which is sitting and playing with and soaking yourself with different types of food and liquids and substances. While researching one kind of morbid fetish, I found a more humorous fetish that I could actually act out in my chat room. I [also] thought it would be really beautiful, aesthetically, to sit on something that is sculptural and leaving an imprint or having some type of color exchange on my skin. There was something artistic about it. No one was asking me, “Hey, will you sit on a cake for me?” I kind of forced it upon them and was like, okay I have this dark experience and I want to see if y’all will be into this lighter, but still sexual fetish.


Have you ever felt judged in your dating life because of your career?

Yes. I am seen as 100 percent novelty, like I wanna have sex with you because you’re either a camgirl, a cake-sitter, an artist, but I do not want a relationship with a camgirl, a cake-sitter, an artist. I don’t date. I don’t have long term relationships anymore, where I very much did before I participated in any type of sex work or my art being so sexually charged. It’s become less important, and the intimacy that I have comes from my relationships with people in my chat room and other sex workers that are friends. It comes from my community now. 


Now for some fun questions. Dating apps or in real life?

Oh my gosh. They’re both kind of hard for me.*laughs* I’m gonna say IRL.


Hand job or oral?

Definitely oral.


Sub or dom?

I mean, I’m a sub, and I like to dom-ed.


Favorite position?

It’s been so long, Eileen—can that be my answer? Actually masturbating.


Sex on the first date or no?

I’ve never not had sex on the first date.


How do you let someone know you like them?

I’d probably make fun of them.


Have you ever hooked up with someone from a DM?

Actually yeah, I’m gonna change my answer to the first question. It’s not dating apps, it’s not IRL—it’s definitely DMs. That’s some of the best sex I’ve ever had.


Have you ever sent a DM trying to hook up with someone, or is it more like you receive them and then…?

I’m on the receiving end. I haven’t found it necessary to send or I haven’t gone through with it because I’m such a sub. I like to be pursued.


Do you send nudes? Like non-work related?

*laughs* No, because it feels wrong not to receive money for it.


Do you have any advice on taking nudes?

Interesting. Yeah, lighting. I have a blue light in my room that diffuses all cellulite. I don’t know if that’s just on me, but you can get an LED blue light strip, and it’s kind of like PhotoShop. I do not cam or take selfies or nudes without this neon-fluorescent blue light. It just makes everything look perfect.


How do you deal with rejection?

That’s something that I actually learned to deal with in my chat room. I have been told the absolute worst things about myself in my chat room.



But I’ve been told the absolute best things, so I know that there are people who aren’t attracted to me, and I know that there are people that are attracted to me. I don’t feel it as a rejection, it just is.


That’s a really mature way to look at it.

But also it’s the truth.


But I think a lot of people live in that denial zone.

I think that people want to be attractive to everyone, but you’re never gonna fulfill that, so why focus on something that you can never fulfill? There’s so much time lost in that. Focus on the people that are [attracted] to you. 


Do you have people who return to your chat room?

I have people in my chat room from like day one that I’ve known for six years, since I started. I have people that I go out to drinks with and have completely platonic relationships with. Like I mentioned before, the intimacy in my life literally comes from my chat room. These people have become my IRL friends, because it’s like going out to drinks after work with your coworkers. It’s a no-judgement thing, also.


How do you get it to that point, can you walk me through the process?

I’m thinking about one person in particular. We have the same taste in music, and we send each other Spotify links all day. Once I realize a person is gonna keep tipping me and we get along, I don’t have a problem giving someone whose been so supportive of me my phone number and communicating outside of the chatroom. [But] it takes a long time, it’s not as quick as meeting someone in person. They’re just as tentative as I am. They don’t want their information shared; there’s a trust that has been build. There’s an honest friendship that might stem from masturbating together. Just because you did that doesn’t mean you can’t send a cool song to me later on. 


It’s a different level of intimacy.

Yeah, and it’s like a relationship that hasn’t been defined yet, because camming hasn’t been around that long. The duality of a relationship, it’s like a friends with benefits type thing, but for the internet?


Do you ever feel like there’s a lot of shame on the other side? I think it’d be interesting if you could talk to everyone about how they’re feeling and ask them their reason for camming.

I feel like the people that are in my room are just horny, and/or wanna chat. I feel like it’s almost old school to say that people that seek out this type of relationship are ashamed or socially unaware. Like no, I just think it’s a different interaction. There’s a certain amount of confidence you have to have to engage with a person performing on the internet, because camming with someone is a step further than porn. If you wanna attach shame to it and just get it done, then go on a free site and watch some illegally downloaded shit. When you go on a cam site you are choosing to interact with someone, you’re choosing to pay someone. I actually think there’s pride in it—which is really special. I’m not naive in thinking that there’s no fetish attached to giving someone money for a sexual exchange, but I also think there is pride in it.


What is something that you’re hopeful for? 

The current political climate sucks—it is actually targeting sex workers and the sex industry, which in turn has given sex workers and the sex industry a huge boost and bigger platform to speak about what we do. So even in this negativity, we’re more visible and I think we’re being humanized. That’s light to me. We’re getting shit-on, but people can see us and there’s more conversation being had and I think people care more. I think that’s the positivity in it that I can lend. I feel like I have a voice right now.



What Happened Last Night?

In a generation that has supposedly exposed what consent means, whether it’s through an Instagram post discussing consent post-assault or an article calling out yet another celebrity for sexual harassment, we are quick to assume that we understand consent. When it comes to consent, “yes” is the golden word seen as an affirmative, undeniable agreement. However, when we begin to explore other factors such as being intoxicated or feeling pressured to engage in a sexual act, the line between what is and isn’t okay with the individuals involved begins to blur. 

This occurred to me on a strange summer afternoon. I woke up in the bed of a close friend of mine and had to ask myself, “What happened last night?” Sex is complicated by itself, and can produce feelings either during or afterward that were inconceivable prior to the experience. Yet, when reflecting on a sexual encounter, how can one consider the difference between regret and realizing what occurred was not actually okay with you? There are myriad questions that play into this: When consenting to sex, is simply saying “yes” enough? If you’re both intoxicated, is “yes” still yes? If you feel pressure to be sexually active from friends or society, is the word “yes” still yours to useor has it simply become a leverage point of escaping future consequences? Oftentimes, the concept of consent is used to avoid the discomfort of reflecting on a negative sexual experience by restating to yourself that you agreed to what was happening in the moment, a form of legitimizing a possibly harmful experience.

The excuse that everyone has bad sex is used, both seriously and in a comedic sense, to affirm sexual encounters. And while there is a clear distinction between bad sex and non-consensual sex, if someone reflects on a sexual experience and views it as being bad or uncomfortable, one must take the extra step to question whether what occurred was actually agreed upon by all involved. And take into account that you could’ve changed your mind post-giving consent. When discussing consent in this manner, it’s not as much about blame as it is about understanding within yourself what you wanted compared to what actually happened. There are ways to project that you consent to a sexual experience, but it’s important to recognize even the most minimal signs that indicate your partner is no longer consenting. 

When my body no longer felt like my own but the waste of another, I knew that I was not okay with what had happened. Despite trying to reason with myself by being selective about which aspects of the situation I deemed important—such as my close relationship with this friend or that we were intoxicated—I know that I never would’ve engaged in this sex had I been sober. Being able to acknowledge this has helped me to uncover the sometimes uncomfortable intricacy of sex and emotion that lies just beneath the surface of consent.

Consent should never be an excuse during or after a sexual experience to justify what was, in reality, not okay with you or others. If you’re not okay with what’s happening or aren’t feeling pleasure, stop or change what you don’t like. If you realize that what already happened was not entirely consensual, hold the individuals involved accountableeven if you do so only in your head. Consent is not only heard, it’s also seen. If you or your partner appear to be in a state of discomfort or either of you is intoxicated, it’s extremely important to consider whether the experience is what it should be.

As much as I wish that simply asking the question, “What are we doing right now?” could’ve been enough to alert my close friend that what was happening on that night was not okay with me, a more firm “stop” or “I don’t want to do this” would’ve been better.

It’s hard to stand up for yourself and what you want, especially with someone you are close to or feel obligated to please. Vocalizing consent is not just a good practice between you and those you choose to have any form of sex with—taking time to vocalize your wants to yourself can help you have a clearer idea of what you’re okay with. Allow yourself to learn from your mistakes and to accept the possibility that an experience was not entirely consensual. I argue that consent should no longer be understood as a simple “yes” or “no,” but as a continuous, attentive process which must be considered while having sex by both you and your partners.


What The Body Positivity Movement Means To Me

*All photos by Ashley Armitage. 


The other day a boy asked me for my thoughts on the body positivity movement. After expressing my support for the movement, he went on to claim that he believed it was ‘unhealthy,’ and a way to encourage women to become or remain obese. He said that women being oversized was not something to be celebrated. This got me wondering: What does body positivity mean to me, and was there a direct correlation between our size and our physical health?

As a child, I consistently struggled with my body and my image. By 8, I was already comparing myself to girls who were skinnier than me. By 13, I started starving myself, depriving my body of the nourishing food that it needed. I was surviving off an apple a day—ironically, bringing the doctor closer my way. By 16, I tried to become bulimic, mostly because I was now sick of denying myself food. I was in pain and in a continuous battle with the mirror, resisting my physical and spiritual being.

My insecurities held me back from so many things. I had this idea in my head that all people would see, all they could see were the bigger parts of me. That these parts stood out and separated me from everybody else. This began to hinder my ability to do whatever it is teenagers do, and most importantly infringed on my perception of self-love. I didn’t understand what it meant to love myself, and my only idea of what it meant to be healthy was to be thin.

Looking back I realize how much I wish I could’ve spoken to myself, and told the past me that it would be okay, that I was already healthy. I wish I had known that depriving my body was not the answer, and that repeatedly enforcing negative thoughts upon myself was only preventing my mind and body from healing its wounds.

Body positivity and the movement it has created translates into something much more powerful than what the boy referred to as ‘unhealthy.’ The truth is, the movement and concept did not evolve in order to encourage women to live unhealthy lifestyles, but rather to help us understand and love our bodies. It encourages us to make transform our self-image rather than to conform or fit into the unrealistic body expectations that social media says we must idealize. It’s also showed us the importance of prioritizing a healthy and nurturing relationship with these beautiful life-giving vehicles, rather than straining or even shaming them.

The increasing representation of women of all shapes, colors, and sizes within society has reminded me of just how diverse and abundant this world is. Instead of dwelling on our flaws or what we perceive to be ugly, we should celebrate the skin that we are in. It is okay and wonderful to love yourself, and to the live the most fulfilling life, and to do so because you choose to.

Today, I am almost 19 year-old, and while I still find myself struggling, there’s a difference in knowing that I am definitely not alone.


Meet The Team: Bri Scripture

Every week our writers share a bit of themselves with you. Inspired by their vulnerability, we sat some of our core team members down for an intimate interview.

We chatted with Bri Scripture, our in-house graphic designer who generates  visuals for the website, social media, and Killer And A Sweet Thang’s events. She is currently studying design in New York City, and in addition to her 2D work, she’s begun to explore animation and motion graphics.


Where are you from originally?

Bri: Richmond, Virginia.


Do you think your family dynamic growing up has influenced your work in any way?

I think it really informed my relationships now. How I view my future and myself with other people because of growing up with a single mom, and not really having any men around for my most formative years. It being my mom and I, that’s a lot of femme energy. I think definitely not having to answer to any men and not having a father figure, that has changed the way that I act and things that I care about. I think that I probably have daddy issues, which is a recent development.


I mean, it’s part of growing up where you’re just like, ‘I have baggage!’

You know how people always make fun of daddy issues? And I’m like, Oh wait though… 


How did you get involved in KAAST?

Through social media, which really speaks to how KAAST works. I’d been following both @birds.bees and Eileen and there was a post about needing help and I’d always been interested in this type of work so I thought, why not?


Can you tell the readers a little bit about what you do for Killer And A Sweet Thang?

I feel like it started out as just finding content, but as it turns out there was a space for me to be doing design, which is my biggest passion, and being able to use my design for the causes that I care about. This is such a small team so we all have to play a bigger role, but mainly I do graphic design.


What’s your favorite part about graphic design?

I think my favorite part is when I’m on the computer and—this is a blessing and a curse—you can do anything that you want. You have all these tools. 


Now some fun stuff. Do you prefer dating apps or IRL?

In real life.


Handjob or oral?



Sub or dom?



Sex on the first date?

It depends, but I’m in favor.


What turns you on?

Big dick energy, humor.


How would you define big dick energy?

I would say big dick energy is just like confidence in who you are. [BDE] can manifest itself in many different ways, and it’s ok if you don’t have it, I don’t have it. I don’t have big dick energy. It’s fine. I took a quiz and it told me I didn’t, so.


What! Where is the quiz?

I was a zero percent on Buzzfeed.


No, you did not get zero percent?

I got a whole zero. 


What turns you off?

Someone that’s super conservative. When we don’t vibe, if I don’t feel comfortable around you—that’s a turnoff for me. 


Have you ever been ghosted or ghosted someone?

Yes, it’s a bad habit.


Which way?

Me ghosting somebody.


Why did you ghost somebody?

Sometimes I’m just really bad at confrontation, for whatever reason, and then I feel so guilty that I just have to run away.


Have you ever been ghosted?

Yes, but then I always receive clarity at some point. I seek out clarification of the ghosting.


Do you like dirty talk?

Yeah. I think it’s necessary, for me.


Do you send nudes?



What a concise answer. Do you have any advice on taking them?

I think what’s most important is not forcing it. If you’re feeling sensual, if you’re feeling yourself, that’s the perfect time. But if you’re not feeling good about yourself that day—and that’s totally fine—then maybe it’s not the day for it. But I think feeling comfortable, feeling good, working your angles. Just get that shot, ya know?


What’s the worst thing a former partner has said to you?

The thing that probably hurt the most was being told that I was a different and changed person in a bad way.


And how did you respond to that?

I felt more like that was his problem. In retrospect, maybe I was kind of being someone that wasn’t true to myself, but that wasn’t necessarily his place to say that about me. I was like, whatever you’re thinking, that’s just what you’re deflecting onto me. I just think you don’t like the person I am now.


Do you find it hard to connect to people in the digital age?

Yeah. It feels like so often it’s the source of all our confusion. So much is based on if somebody texted you back and how they texted you back. This whole digital thing, it’s like we’ve got two versions of life. I think it complicates things, especially with relationships and dating.



How do you deal with rejection?

I do not take it well at all. I have this whole thing, and I’m trying to work on this, where I’m like, who would reject me? What’s wrong with me? So I have this new perspective that how people feel about you sometimes has nothing to do with you. It’s just their perspective that they’ve placed on you. So I try to let go.


Do you have any advice on letting go? 

Sometimes you just have to continue telling yourself to get over it until it happens. With social media—unfollowing, muting, whatever you need to do—because the little reminders can make it so much worse. Just accepting the rejection over and over. Like it’s fine, that’s what that person thinks, and there’s nothing I can do about that.


Have you ever lied to get out of a sexual situation?

Yes, countless.


Can you give us one of the lies you’ve used?

I feel like they’re all pretty regular, like sometimes I’m like, “Oh I started cooking before I left, so I need to go finish my noodles.” I’ve said that before.


Really? Like you’ve insinuated that you’ve left on the boiler?

I guess that’s what I was saying. I was like, “Oh, I started cooking,” and I was nearby so it maybe made sense.


Why do you think you felt the need to lie?

Sometimes it’s a pure defense thing. You feel [as though] this person is not going to let off unless you have a real reason. Sometimes it’s hard to be assertive, or you want to turn them down now but you want them to know you’re still open to it in the future. I think often it’s just me having a hard time articulating how I feel.


Would you say you’re a good kisser?

Honestly, I don’t even know. Sometimes I feel like I’m killing it and sometimes I’m like, Oh, no. 


What’s the kinkiest thing you’ve ever done in bed? And you can plead the fifth if you want to.

I’m pleading the fifth.


Have you ever been in love?

I think so.


Have you ever been heartbroken?



How did you get over it?

Honestly, I feel like, do we ever get over heartbreak? I don’t know if we ever do.


So there’s some people out there you’re still thinking about?

Yeah. I never have a linear healing process. It’s always all over the place. Some days I feel like I’m good, and then some days I’m like, Oh no, this is totally repressed and I need to handle it.


Do you have any advice for young people navigating dating and sex in 2018?

My biggest thing is to follow your gut instinct, be as transparent as possible, and to always put yourself first. And don’t ever question your value and your worth at the hands of someone else.  


I’m Bisexual But I Don’t Date Men

As a queer woman, I didn’t truly understand sexism until I dated a man.

I’d experienced and witnessed sexism through catcalling and slut-shaming on numerous occasions, as these acts of prejudice are so ubiquitous that they are impossible to avoid. Throughout most of high school, however, I didn’t spend much time with cishet (cisgendered and heterosexual) men. My closest circle of friends consisted entirely of members of the LGBTQ+ community and one cishet girl. For a long time, I remained happily ignorant of the true extent to which women are dis-valued and misunderstood in a hypermasculine society.

That all changed midway through junior year when I decided to try something new: date a boy. At that point, I was still fairly closeted at school. Outside of the LGBTQ+ club, there were only a few people who knew that I wasn’t straight. I had only dated women up to that point, but since none of my exes had gone to my school, it was easy to cover up my sexuality by referring to my girlfriends as “friends.” At some point, I got tired of hiding my relationships, however, I still wasn’t ready to be out. So I decided to try dating a boy, despite all the horror stories I’d heard about straight men.

I thought I was happy. My ex was, if nothing else, a funny guy. He could make me laugh, and we had enough fun together that I didn’t feel totally miserable. We also managed to become a high-profile couple, and it seemed like everyone adored us, which only added to my guilt for my growing sense of unease in the relationship. But this was all hidden. On the outside, we were a steady couple that connected on a deep, emotional level.

We stayed together for almost a year—much longer than we should have—for a multitude of reasons. One of the reasons was that he was a man.

I didn’t think there would be such a difference between dating a woman and dating a man, but I was wrong. Behind the happy façade of our relationship was a year that chipped away at my self-esteem and bodily identity in a way that I didn’t previously know was possible. Although my prior sexual experiences were limited, there was much more communication, especially on matters of consent, within my female relationships compared to this one. My first girlfriend always made sure that I was comfortable with any given situation. Regardless of what it was, she always asked before she did anything. In contrast, my ex-boyfriend asked me for my permission before kissing me for the first time but neglected to wait for my response; when it came to touching, he neglected to ask for my consent on all points except for when what he considered “sex” was involved.

In addition to the lack of communication, another thing I noticed that was different in dating a man was the necessity to constantly reassure him of his manhood. About a week into us dating, he told me about the size of his dick. This was, mind you, long before we had had any real conversations about sex. Also around that time, he started sending me shirtless pictures, which I neither asked for nor particularly wanted to see. He had a lot of insecurities about his masculinity and sex appeal, and I found myself constantly having to reassure him that I found him attractive and competent. Early on in our relationship, when we hadn’t done much physically, he told me that he had confided in his therapist that he was worried that I didn’t want to have sex with him—as if my sexual desire or comfort level was something I owed to make him feel better. It’s not as if my ex-girlfriends didn’t have insecurities or desires as well, but it was never presented in a way that made it my job to be their emotional crutch.

Another thing I experienced in my relationship with this man was the legendary objectification of women. I’m bi, so I obviously find women attractive. In past relationships, my girlfriends and I would have conversations about celebrity crushes or how cute a girl we’d seen on the street was. But there is, I found, a distinct difference between the way queer women express their attraction to women and the way straight men do it. In my experience, when women talk about other women, they use terms like “cute” or “attractive,” terms that, although unequivocally tied to physical appearance, stray away from the realm of overt sexuality. In contrast, men tend to use terms like “hot” or “sexy” — terms that are tied to sex, not just aesthetic appreciation. My ex was no exception. It was difficult to talk about any media involving a woman without his mentioning something sexual about her; he even went so far as to speak about cartoon characters from his childhood that he found sexually attractive.

Of course, I was not exempt from this kind of objectification. We would be talking about a movie when my ex would compare my breasts to the lead actress’, or I would be opening up about a difficult time in my life when he would shift the conversation to how beautiful I looked and start kissing me instead of listening. There was even a time when, for some reason, he decided to grab my ass in front of his younger brother. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an entirely physical relationship, but in our relationship, I thought we had agreed to have an emotional connection, too, which meant that there are different times for different things. Having nearly every conversation devolve into one about my body and his sexual attraction to me was uncomfortable at best, and alarmingly disrespectful at worst.

The sad thing about all of this is that my ex is probably one of the better ones. He was always active in school discussions about consent, he makes an effort to consume media by female artists, and he acknowledges the discrimination women have faced both historically and in modern times. To deny that he is making an effort, or that he is more educated than the average man would be unfair. Then again, if you set the bar at the level of the average man, it’s not exactly difficult to seem like an exception. I know that my ex is trying. Nevertheless, he was still sexist.

After we broke up, I pointed out that our first kiss was nonconsensual. His response? He said that he was sorry if he had pressured me, but that he remembered the event differently. When I brought up how uncomfortable his casual objectification of women had made me, he gave no apologies and said only that he had been brought up in a masculine environment, and that this was how he had learned to treat women. I know that he is trying, but it is not enough. His inhibited capacities for dealing with emotions and perception that women are something other cannot result in healthy relationships.

I do not think he will end up alone. Men like him have existed for a long time, men like him get married and live their lives never once escaping their ignorance. They don’t need to. Women are taught to care for men and act as the connection to the emotional part of human existence men often have little understanding of. As long as there are women out there willing to do emotional labor for men, men will not feel the need to change. And many women are willing. I was once willing.

Being with a man was not all bad. My ex is still a person, after all, and as long as two people are involved, they are sure to find something in common, some way of enjoying each other’s company. That being said, the love of a man is nowhere near comparable to the love of a woman. To paraphrase an idea from Lillian Faderman’s Surpassing the Love of Men, a queer woman’s identity is more influenced by the male incapacity for understanding and connecting with women as equals than by an innate lack of attraction to men. I fully believe that the man I once dated did his best to love me. However, he came into the relationship with so many preconceived notions of what womanhood meant that he was incapable of looking past them to see the real me. To him, I was more woman than person.

My sexuality isn’t a choice, but my dating preferences are. I doubt that there will ever be a day when I don’t find men attractive, but that doesn’t mean I have to date them or waste my time with them. Until the day that society has progressed to a point where men and women are true equals, and I am confident that a man can see me more as a person than as a vehicle for sexual gratification, I see no reason to be with one. I am bisexual, I love women, and I don’t intend to date a man any time soon.