So… What Are We?

Dating isn’t what it used to be.

College — or more generally, the 18-22 range of our lives is a transitional period. As undergraduates, we are approaching adulthood and taking on new responsibilities every single day, all while technically still being within the adolescent stage of mental development. We must learn to not only navigate the trials and tribulations of living on our own (read: laundry, scheduling doctors appointments), but also who we are and who we want to become. This struggle manifests itself as we maneuver through coursework, job applications, friendships, and most notably, romantic relationships.

In my high school days, things were so simple in regards to dating culture; there were two very straight-forward labels for relationships: a couple who was either “officially dating,” or “just hooking up.” Sure, there was a fair share of fighting over significant others — people cheated on their partners, and virtually everyone bragged about their sexual conquests — but nevertheless, we were all aware of each other’s rather definitive relationship statuses.

However, as a college student, I often think about how complex relationships at this age can be. The lines are more blurred than ever. The range of potential labels is extensive: “exclusive”, “casual”, “it’s complicated”, “hanging out”, and my personal favorite, “why even label it at all?”

It’s easy to get confused.

Should you shoot your shot with that guy you met in class, even though you heard he’s been seen around with someone else? Can you ask someone you’re dancing with at a party for their number despite your brief fling last week with another girl? What if the person you’ve been crushing on has a significant other back home or at another school?

It only gets more confusing when you factor in social media. 

However, the worst part of the college dating scene is probably the pressure to choose between engaging in hookup culture and seeking out someone to take home to your parents.

This can cause confusion and uneasiness about the concept of commitment. Are there certain feelings that should be reserved only for future life partners? Speaking of life partners, should we be looking for them now? Are our biological clocks ticking? Is it too soon to fall in love? Why do I feel like I have to decide what I want before I even meet anyone?

In past generations, people often met and married at a young age — social media didn’t exist — and it was easy to meet at a party or through a mutual friend. Many of us glamorize the stories of how our parents met, and thereby convince ourselves that a similar meeting of our own may be unattainable, given our generation’s different circumstances.

Something that can link past generations to younger ones, however, is the concept of college — particularly the rhetoric that has survived throughout the years about how it is meant to be “the best four years” of someone’s life. Whether or not this holds true for most, college is usually a time of increased independence, where you have more opportunity to experiment and find out who you are and what you want. 

Sure, it’s a lot of fun, but take that “experimentation,” mix it with some alcohol and other questionable substances, and you’re left with the average hot-mess of college life. (Not that all we do is drink and have sex!)

According to Kathleen A. Bogle, author of Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus, college students estimate that their peers “do it” on average 50 times a year, which is 25 times greater than studies actually show. The truth is, we’re more busy with school work and handling responsibilities than with sex. Many of us have less game than we’d like to think.

There are obvious pros and cons to college hookup culture: on the one hand, it promotes casual relationships and requires little commitment; on the other hand, it can be intimidating, difficult, and sometimes dangerous.

The social implications that seem to surround the idea of casual sex and hooking up are certainly not to be overlooked. For example, if you are femme-presenting and you do it — you’re a slut, and if you don’t — you’re a prude. And whatever you do, don’t catch feelings because hookups only lead to heartbreak. Despite whatever stigmas and stereotypes that exist, it is important to remember that nobody has it quite figured out yet. We’re all in the same boat — even those kids who try to fool us into thinking they’ve got it all together.

I suppose the beauty of the broad spectrum of dating labels that exist in college is how they’re indicative of the uncertainty and confusion that lies ahead. Intimacy may be difficult to navigate, but this doesn’t mean that you have to know exactly what you want every step of the way. You and your partner have the power to label your relationship however you want.

So do what you want and who you want, as long as all activities are safe and consensual. Before you know it, the four years will fly right by, and you’ll be left with a greater understanding of yourself and your future, no matter what choices you made along the way.


Photos by Sweet Suezy



Safer Sex 101

Most people don’t want to wear or use protection.

I know I’m not supposed to say that as a sex educator, but then again, maybe that’s precisely what I’m supposed to say — because it’s the truth.

I’m not going to babble on for several paragraphs trying to convince anyone that putting a thin plastic casing over their genitals is going to make sex feel better. Everyone is entitled to know the facts, and the fact is that sex feels better without condoms/dental dams. However, since we’re on the topic of fact-telling, I have a few more I would like to share…

1. If worn correctly every single time, condoms have a 98% chance of preventing pregnancy.

2. Condoms and dental dams are the only known way to prevent the transmission of STIs.

3. One in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25.

4. The CDC estimates that nearly 20 million new STIs occur every year in this country; half of those are among young people aged 15–24.

5. The herpes infection is common. About 1 in 8 people aged 14-49 in the U.S. has genital herpes.

6. Symptoms of genital herpes often go unnoticed. Most people with genital herpes — close to 90% — don’t know they have the infection.

7. Rates of reported chlamydia are highest among adolescent and young adults and have increased in recent years. In 2017, almost two-thirds of all reported chlamydia cases were among persons aged 15–24 years.

8. In 2017, a total of 555,608 cases of gonorrhea were reported to CDC, making it the second most common notifiable condition in the United States.

9. Since reaching a historic low in 2001, the rate of Syphilis has increased almost every year, increasing 10.5% during 2016–2017.

10. According to CDC, 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV, and 1 in 7 of them don’t know it.

11. CDC estimates that undiagnosed STIs cause 24,000 women to become infertile each year.

12. Condoms and dental dams are FREE at Planned Parenthoods and most health clinics.

*  *  *

Now, first things first… please don’t misinterpret my telling you these facts as a scare tactic or as a means to further stigmatize sexually transmitted infections.

Numerous people don’t even experience symptoms when they do contract an STI. Almost all STIs are easily treated, and those that aren’t (for example, herpes and HIV) have daily medications which can suppress the virus so that people never experience symptoms and never pass it on to their partner, even without using a condom during sex.

So, if you do get an STI, I promise you that it’s not the end of the world. You are among the vast majority of humans on this earth, and you will have sex again.

The reason I am including all of these facts about protection and STIs is because many people either don’t know this information, or they don’t know where to find this information. You need to understand the risk that is involved when you have unprotected sex, and more importantly, you need to know that almost all of these risks go away when you have protected sex. So, the take-aways…


  • There are multiple STIs in the world.

  • Even though STIs are not the end of the world, transmission rates are increasing.

  • Some STIs can have long-term health consequences.

  • Each of them can be prevented, as can pregnancy, by taking two extra minutes to put on a condom or a dental dam — which are free at countless locations.


Sure, sex might feel slightly less satisfying when you wear a condom, but it’s worth it.

To be clear: having sex without a condom does feel better, but not by too much. It’s like the cherry on top of an already delicious ice cream sundae.

Is the cherry a nice addition? Totally! But when it cums down to it, the sundae is the main event, and the cherry is just a bonus. And, if including the cherry comes with multiple risks, do you really need it? No.

Okay, so, you know the risks of not wearing a condom. Now, let’s review how to put them on correctly, which is almost as important as wearing one in the first place. Condoms are 98-99% effective.*



How to put a condom on a penis…


Step 1:

Open the condom with your fingers — not with your teeth or scissors — to avoid tearing or ripping the condom.

Step 2:

When you place the condom on the head of the penis, make sure it is on the right way (it should look like a little hat, with the rim on the outside) so that you can easily unroll it.

Step 3:

Before rolling the condom down the shaft, pinch the tip of the condom so there is a little bit of space for the semen to collect at the top.

Step 4:

Unroll the condom down the shaft of the penis all the way to the base.

Step 5:

After you ejaculate, make sure you hold the base of the condom when you pull out of your partner’s body so that it doesn’t slip off and semen spills out. Throw it away in the trash, not down the toilet!


How to put on an internal condom…


Step 1:

Open the condom with your fingers, not with your teeth or scissors to avoid tearing or ripping the condom.

Step 2:

For anal sex, remove the inner ring. For vaginal sex, keep the inner ring in.

Step 3:

For anal sex, you can just push the condom in with a finger, but be sure to use plenty of lube! For vaginal sex, squeeze together the inner ring (on the closed end of the condom) and put it in like you would a tampon.

Step 4:

Make sure the condom isn’t twisted before pulling your finger out. Allow the outer ring to be about an inch around the opening to the vagina or anus.

Step 5:

When your partner is pulling out be sure the outer edges of the condom are held in place to avoid any spillage. Remove and throw into trash.


How to use a dental dam (barrier method used for oral sex)…


Step 1:

Open the dam with your fingers, not with your teeth or scissors to avoid tearing or ripping the condom.

Step 2:

Place the dental dam over the vulva or over the anus lightly; you don’t need to stretch it over or slap it on there. Most of them will adhere to the body part they are over due to natural moisture/lube.

Step 3:

Now go down and go to town! When you remove be sure to throw into trash and not down the toilet!

*  *  *

Alrighty! Now you know why you need to use barrier methods when you have sex, and how to put on a variety of these barrier methods. But, knowing and actually doing are two very different things.

Most people already know that they should use a condom or dental dam, but the real issue is that most people don’t want to, which can be attributed to two reasons:

1. People think sex with condoms/dams doesn’t feel as good.

2. People think condoms/dams kill the mood.

We’ve already covered why the first reasoning is flawed. However, in addition to the pleasure factor, many people believe that asking to use a condom or a dental dam will be a turn off or blatantly upsetting to their partner. First of all, if you are worried about your partner’s reaction, or you’re specifically worried that they are going to get angry — they’re not someone you want to be fucking anyway.

But if you’re still concerned, there are multiple ways to turn safe sex into hot sex! The two are not, nor have they ever been, mutually exclusive.

I have encountered plenty of situations in which I was too nervous to ask to use a condom, so trust that I know the struggle. Still, there’s no reason to that this aspect of the sexual experience can’t be fun, flirty, and part of foreplay. Check out just a few of the options below:


Use your words…

Worried about losing some of the heat when you ask to use a condom? Turn it back up by using dirty talk. Try out a few of these lines in the bedroom and see how fast they get the condom/dam out of their wallet.

“There’s no way a condom will be able to fit over your huge dick, but I need to find out for myself…”

“I bet that even through a dam I’ll be able to find your clit faster than any guy can.”

“Nothing gets me harder than watching you put that condom on me.”

“I like putting a condom in you, because I know I’m going to get to cum inside you.”


Use your hands…

Instead of having your partner put the condom on themselves, do it for them. Start by lubing them up good and wet before you combine your hand-jobbing skills with your condom application skills.


Use your mouth..

Although using your mouth to put a condom on your partner’s penis may take some practice, especially since you need to be careful about not accidentally ripping the condom with your teeth, but it will definitely be the opposite of a turn off. For dams, try using your tongue to apply the dam, like a grown up version of pin the tail on the donkey, only now its pin the protection on the pussy.


Make it a game…

Condoms on the Clock:

See who can put the condom on correctly the fastest. Keep score of who wins. Whoever gets the most points get a special treat from the losing partner….


Dam on the Cam:

What better way to enjoy oral sex with your partner than to film it so you can watch it again and again. Of course, not everyone will be comfortable with this, and as we hopefully all know: consent is a necessity! But, those who are interested, be sure to both take turns being the eater and the eated. Watch with each other to see the faces of pleasure. Warning: re-watching may lead to a redo!


Use special condoms, lubes, and/or dams..

There are so many different kinds of fun condoms, lubes, and dams to try out with your partner(s) that can make including them in your sex life much more pleasurable than if you hadn’t! There are varieties of ribbed condoms, there are multi-colored condoms, flavored lubes, lubes that change from warm to cool, flavored dams… the list goes on and on! Go shopping for them with your partner(s) for some added foreplay!


All sex should be and feel safe — in every sense of the word. Now go hump away!

Art by Ezra Covalt and photo by Nyle Rosenbaum.

My Mental Marathon

How I learned to stay ahead of my anxiety disorder. 


It’s human nature to worry.

Certain situations — familial, relational, academic, personal — that arise often can cause us to fret. Most of the time, these feelings are perfectly normal. We’ve all heard of “fight-or-flight” — how your body reacts to a perceived threat.

This natural bodily response involves an increase in heart rate, hyperventilation, nausea, dizziness, muscle tension, and all of that body-draining goodness (NOT). 

Now, here’s the thing… feeling anxious or suffering from an anxiety disorder are two entirely different conditions. If you are one of the countless people who suffers from an anxiety disorder, A) welcome to the club and B) chances are, you experience these fight-or-flight sensations even when there is no apparent threat.

You may relate to this, if not, I guarantee that there is someone in your life that can. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses, affecting 40 million adults in the United States — 18.1% of the country’s population. In light of the statistic, you’d think more people would be understanding, but that’s not necessarily the case.

I was diagnosed with GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) a few years ago, but I’m pretty sure this “thing” has been living inside me since I was in the womb. This is not an exaggeration, “prone to anxiety” was written on my medical file when I was a kid. It was as if it were stalking my childhood, getting ready to jump my bones the moment puberty hit.

In the beginning, it started off with nervous feelings and overly cautious tendencies. Once I learned that these nervous feelings weren’t supposed to linger when everything was going swell, I realized that something was actually wrong. I would constantly wonder why my friends weren’t feeling the same degree of anxiety as me, or if they were, why they weren’t vocalizing it. This bred a daunting feeling of loneliness and isolation.

I remember missing class trips due to the fear of being struck with homesickness, something fatal happening, or just the plain discomfort of unfamiliarity. I thought, How is everyone okay with doing this?

Of course, my family did their best to teach me that life wasn’t supposed to be a fearless breeze. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why it had to be so fearful. It’s so hard to escape this type of mindset when it is literally your mind whose the one playing tricks on you.

My moments of panic, as if they weren’t horrific enough, were constantly labeled as dramatic, idiotic, foolish, silly, annoying, ridiculous… the list goes on. The worst part is, adults (the people I trusted the most) made a majority of these uneducated presumptions. Can you imagine what this did to my self-esteem?

Not only did these symptoms progress and evolve into the product of self-destruction but also self-estrangement. A couple of years ago, my anxiety drove me to a very dark place. I began questioning life, reality, my existence, everything and anything that I could wrap my head around. I had anxiety about my anxiety! How does it even get to that point? I would ruminate on these thoughts until I was blue in the face, and when there was no energy left in me, I was fueled by my unknown panic.

Panic attacks can feel like death; your heart starts skipping beats, you can’t breathe properly, tunnel vision kicks in, and you lose all sense of reality.

I remember going out with my friends and I started to feel really nauseous and that triggered anxious feelings. My friends couldn’t understand, so I felt alone and scared. My body started to kick into a fight-or-flight state, and I was not close enough to home. I called my mom repeatedly, begging her to pick me up. I ran to the bathroom and locked myself in a stall for a long period of time. Everything felt so foreign, all I could do was cry and hyperventilate. I wanted to be anywhere but there in that moment.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was experiencing feelings of depersonalization and de-realization. These are common anxiety symptoms, but unfortunately they’re rarely discussed. Depersonalization and de-realization are mental illnesses of their own and can be experienced without an anxiety disorder to accompany them.

This awful side effect always had me in a daze, completely detached from everyone and everything — including myself. A constant cycle of panic and detachment, I felt as though I was losing my grip on reality, which has always been one of my biggest fears. I cannot emphasize how exhausting it is when you’re trying to run away from your own mind — anxiety disorders are a mental marathon.

Thankfully, my mother was my moral compass and directed me toward seeing a psychiatrist.

After participating in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), I learned several coping mechanisms. My sessions were progressive, but the entire experience naturally opened up some wounds. Metaphorically, it felt like I was wreaking havoc in my room only to rearrange everything again, learning how to Feng-Shui my brain in order to have a new Zen mindset. As much as it was terrifying, I needed to experience it in order to grow.

What has really helped me cope is understanding that a panic attack cannot last for a very long time. Whenever I fear that panic might strike, I remind myself that an anxiety attack has a peak of about 10 minutes, and then you’ll start to calm down.

I’ve also learned that cognitive distortions (distorted ways of thinking, which formulate an altered view of reality) take place when I am anxious. For example, overgeneralizing situations based on a single experience in the past. I also tend to catastrophize every little thing, expecting the worst to happen. Emotional reasoning is something a lot of people do; when we believe things based on how we feel about them.

To combat these distortions, you can…

  • Journal your thoughts and moods because when it’s on paper, it’s easier to face and figure out.


  • Recognize your distortions and challenge them by restructuring your initial fearful thought into something more positive/realistic.


  • Another important technique is exposure, AKA facing your fears. Try to understand the ways anxiety affects your mind, so you can walk yourself through panic attacks, etc.


  • Remember to breathe — try closing one nostril and inhaling for seven seconds, then exhaling out of the opposite nostril for seven seconds, and then repeat.

*  *  *

Over time I have learned to remain civil with my anxiety whenever it tries to surface in my life. It’s important to make the conscious decision to set boundaries with your demons. You can acknowledge them, but don’t invite them over to hang out.

I have learned — and am still learning each day — to let my anxiety tell me what it wants, and then take those thoughts with a grain of salt. There needs to be a distinction between what’s real and what your mental illness is trying to convince you of. It can make you feel unfamiliar with your own life and force you to question what you already know.

My ultimate advice is to not fear it, but get the help you need to defeat it. You are NOT your thoughts. You are NOT your mental illness. Your low points do NOT define you, and most importantly, you are NOT alone.



Photos (in order of appearance) by Cheyenne Morschl-Vill, Sweet Suezy, and Uma Schupfer


Isabelle Fuhrman, Annarosa Mudd and Deborah Kampmeier on “Tape”




DoubleTap is an interview series highlighting creatives whose work explores sex, body and identity. 


If there were any justice in the realm of film distribution, every member of the #MeToo movement would currently be the proud owner of a boxed set featuring four movies written and directed by New York-based auteur Deborah Kampmeier.

Her 2003 debut, Virgin, starred Elisabeth Moss in a breakthrough performance as a teen who believes that she has been impregnated by God, a conviction that deeply disturbs her Baptist family. Kampmeier’s 2007 follow-up, Hounddog, received an enraged backlash upon premiering at Sundance for its frank portrayal of the abuse endured by a young Southern girl (Dakota Fanning). It wouldn’t be until nearly a decade later that the director would release her third picture, Split — a deeply haunting portrait of an artist (Amy Ferguson), who learns to fully embrace her identity, freeing it from the clutches of her domineering boyfriend.

Now Kampmeier has completed Tape, her fourth feature, which builds on the themes embodied by her previous heroines while exploring them in an audacious new way. It may be her finest work to date. 

Isabelle Fuhrman, an exceptionally gifted performer whose credits include OrphanThe Hunger Games, and Masters of Sex is flat-out astonishing as Pearl, an aspiring actress whose dreams for success are revitalized by the manipulative words of Lux (Tarek Bishara), a predator-in-director’s clothing.

He spouts empty, authoritative terms — “Sprezzatura! Claim your power!” — like a shield, clouding the air with white noise as a diversion from his true intentions.

When he gets Pearl alone in a room with him for what he promises will be the filming of a career-launching audition tape, Lux insidiously places the blame on his intended victim, causing her to feel as if she must prove herself by having sex with him. What neither of them know is that the room has been secretly fixed with hidden cameras by one of the man’s previous targets, Rosa (Annarosa Mudd), who intends on utilizing the footage to take him down. Rosa’s warrior-like attire pays homage to Lavinia in Titus Andronicus, while a shot of menstrual blood seeping through the sheets and onto Lux’s mattress calls to mind another Shakespeare classic, namely the “Out, damn spot!” monologue from Macbeth, a play that Fuhrman will soon be performing Off-Broadway.

Tape is an intentionally challenging film to watch, initially because of its style — as Rosa’s concealed lens frequently abstracts the image during the first half — and ultimately because of its content, as Lux’s grooming of Pearl is viewed with piercing clarity during a nearly 40-minute sequence that is excruciating for all the right reasons.

Just as Jennifer Fox’s The Tale, a movie also co-starring Bishara, found an ingenious method for its filmmaker to reexamine her forgotten memories of abuse while interrogating her childhood self, Tape allows Rosa to peer into her own past by observing Pearl, and eventually rescuing her from the prison of unearned shame. A few hours prior to Fuhrman embarking on a 344-mile run from LA to Vegas via The Speed Project, she joined Kampmeier and Mudd for an in-depth conversation with about bringing this fact-based story to life on camera.


When I first spoke with Deborah four years ago, she told me about how the theatre saved her life by providing her a safe space to tell her truth. As artists, in what ways was the experience of telling this story a healing experience for each of you?

Isabelle Fuhrman (IF): I think that, as women, we all experience moments like this. When I turned 18, I remember that the description for every single character I went out for said “nudity required.” It’s not like the shift happened gradually. You turn 18 and those are the jobs that you get sent immediately. So I was very lucky that I’ve never had an incident like this occur when it came to work, but especially at the time when I read the script, I related to that feeling of when you’re working so hard toward a goal and you feel that you need a mentor — somebody in your life to help propel you forward. I remember a time when I was searching for that sort of person, and ultimately realized that the person was me. I didn’t need anybody else for that. Pearl is at a moment in her life where she doesn’t have the time to figure that out for herself, and she’s found someone who seems trustworthy. When you really feel seen as an artist, you feel freer to perform in the best way that you can, and you feel an attachment to the people that you work with because you’re sharing in that experience.

Deborah, Annarosa and I all made this movie together, and I love them so deeply because we shared things that I haven’t shared with some of my closest friends over the course of this film. This industry breeds an intimacy that you can’t get anywhere else, and when that intimacy is put in the wrong hands, that can cause a lot of problems. What we’ve seen coming out in the press over the past two years is not new news by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact that the stories are finally being told is a really exciting and scary thing to have happen. It is pushing into the limelight something that people don’t want to talk about, and even with our film, I think people are afraid of it in some ways because it does really show what that abuse is like. Consent is not a black and white thing. It’s very, very gray, and I think we do a great job of showing that in Tape. It shows how you can put your faith in someone and have that person completely betray your trust, which is what a lot of women in their careers experience.  

Annarosa Mudd (AM): One of the things that I enjoyed about playing Rosa was getting to have this vigilante sense of purpose. I’ve just got one thing that I want to do, which is kill this guy. *laughs*

It was kind of cleansing because her life isn’t cluttered with anything else. Deborah wrote the script long before the #MeToo movement happened, but while making Tape, we had the luxury of having all this material coming out as women in the industry began sharing their experiences. In addition to the horror stories, like Annabella Sciorra’s — which really affected me — there were all these weird little encounters, like when Harvey Weinstein burst into Daryl Hannah’s room and she felt that he would have raped her had her makeup artist not been there.

I just felt so honored to carry the experiences of these other women with me as my character went after this guy. My entire role is the product of healing in some ways. Rosa is the figure who is there to heal, and she’s not great at it. She definitely misses a few things, and she doesn’t have it all quite mapped out, but she’s driven by an overarching purpose to fix something.

IF: What stood out to me in the script, and came alive even more so when we began filming, is how it captures that weird feeling you oftentimes get as a woman, when you find yourself in situations with men, and something doesn’t feel right. I think every woman would be able to relate to that. In fact, that happened to me the other day, when I was sitting in a room with someone and suddenly I was like, “I should leave.”

AM: It really shows those little compromises you make in order to convince yourself that something weird isn’t happening. It was an honor to put those sorts of details on film for everyone to see. I was talking to my sister last night about our movie, and she said, “People don’t want to be uncomfortable, but being a woman is uncomfortable.” We have to be in uncomfortable situations all the fucking time, and they don’t always lead to something that becomes a real transgression, but there are times when they do. I just love that our film doesn’t shy away from portraying that truth. This is what it’s like, this is how it feels.

IF: On Amy Schumer’s new comedy special, she said that there was a recent study about how the number one fear that women have is an act of sexual violence being enacted against them, and the number one fear that men have is being ridiculed. And I thought that was so funny. When I walk home at night, I am so afraid all the time. All the guys claiming that “it’s such a hard time to be a man right now” I find hilarious. My response to them is, “Yeah, because we’re talking about you right now, that’s why!”

Deborah Kampmeier (DK): When we last spoke, Matt, I told you that I had completed my trilogy on rape, but then I realized that I actually wasn’t done. Everything that I’m writing and wanting to direct right now is still dealing with sexual violence against women. It is a big issue for me, and I’m going to keep talking about it, writing about it and making films about it until I am done, and that might not be until the end of my life. What was really powerful and healing about making Tape, for me, was that it was my dear friend’s story instead of my story. When she initially told it to me, the first thing I said was, “Go to therapy,” and then, “Can I make this into a movie?” She did go to therapy, and then she gave me permission to make the film. My own story is not exactly this story, but I understand it intimately, and in the process of holding this story for my friend, all these other stories started to be told.

Suddenly, as Annarosa was saying, we were holding this story not just for my friend or for ourselves, but for the entire world, for all of the women who are holding this story too. I see Rosa and Pearl going from a place of isolation to a place of connection, and in the early days of making these films, the shame I got for telling the stories of Hounddog, Virgin, and Split left me feeling very isolated.

Similarly to the circle of women sharing their stories in Split, all the women talking together at the end of Tape are actually sharing their own personal stories — they aren’t scripted. That is when the film hopefully opens out to all the other women who have, and have not, come out in this #MeToo movement. For me to go from a place of real isolation, as an artist, to a place of community has been incredibly healing.


The true story portrayed in Tape is strikingly similar to that of a close friend, who was targeted by a predator masquerading as a theatre director in Chicago. The exposé published in the Chicago Reader a year prior to #MeToo, where she and many other survivors were interviewed, led his venue to be permanently shut down within a week, and inspired theatre companies around the country to break their silence about their own histories of misconduct. What advice would you have for young people on how to spot abuses of power while avoiding the temptation to rationalize them?

IF: There are always red flags, but we just tend to ignore them. I always look for the best in people and that’s a quality Pearl and I share. There’s a lot of people in this business, in LA, who will constantly feed you empty promises, and it’s so important to have a support system that you can go to when necessary. It’s difficult to be honest about things when they are actually happening. In the film, when Pearl is calling her mom and talking about all the amazing things on Lux’s resume, she really doesn’t see what’s happening yet. What’s hard is when she gets into the room with him for the taped audition, and there’s the long build-up of her trying to comprehend and understand where she wants to draw the line. He manipulates her by claiming that she has a marker and can draw the line wherever she wants, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to work out for them, work relationship-wise. That’s a moment where Pearl could’ve called her mom, but that’s not what she does. Just as Annarosa’s character has this one goal to kill this guy, Pearl’s goal is to be an artist and find someone who has her back one hundred percent. She thinks that she has found that with Lux.

My advice for any young actor or anyone in any industry is to keep questioning everything. Just because someone has a certain level of authority doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to ask them questions. You should be able to say, “Hey, this doesn’t make me feel good.” Deborah does an incredible job of capturing that day where Pearl sits in that room, trying to decide whether or not she wants to go through with it. That sequence intentionally took up a large part of the film because the woman whose story this is told us, “That was a whole day.” She thought she was doing something to help accomplish her goal, but was in fact helping him accomplish his goal. This #MeToo movement is incredible because it has made me feel more empowered in my work and in my personal life. For the first time, people are listening. I don’t know if everybody is hearing everything, if that makes sense, but I do think that people are listening, and that is a massive step forward.

In any industry, you really just have to trust your gut. When things aren’t feeling right, oftentimes they’re not right, and that’s a really hard thing to acknowledge, especially when you are standing in front of someone you think has the keys to your future. That’s why these men prey on people who are young, and we just have to be brave enough to say, “No.” I’m 22, I’m still figuring things out, and if someone came up to me and was like, “I have the magic key to help you succeed,” I’d probably believe in them one hundred percent. And then my mom would be like “What do you mean?!” [laughs] If Pearl had taken a moment in the bathroom to call someone rather than look in the mirror and tell herself, “You want this, you want this,” I think that would’ve changed things for her.

AM: I’m putting myself in my younger shoes thinking about Pearl. I’m a bit older than her now, and it really is so tricky when you’re starting out in this industry. You’re still figuring the world out, and you may try something that crosses a line or two because you’re young and trying to be sexy and having a good time. That’s what I see when I look at my younger self, you make mistakes. I was at a speaking event last night with The League of Women Voters in my county, and I was once again overwhelmed by the wisdom of women who are older than me. I was so fucking lucky to be able to reconnect with Deborah in my life, after having studied with her in my college years. She was a superstar to me, and I didn’t think that I would ever be able to work with her in the way that I have here.  

My advice for people like Pearl is to find your tribe of women who value what you have to offer, amplify your voice and help you grow. There is such a fucking fierce energy among women right now, especially after the midterm elections. Find those people who stand for what you stand for, and maybe you’ll get to work with them. Women are talking about everything now. We are looking out for each other, we are creating, we are organizing, we are making shit happen. Just try alerting your senses to those people. There are wonderful men too, of course, but there is something going on right now among women that’s really powerful and protective and invigorating, and it opens so many more doors to connect with others.

DK: Speaking of old ladies, I don’t mean to sound like Andrea Dworkin — well, actually maybe I do, because she spoke a lot of truths for which we’ve shamed her for a long time — I think there can only be red flags because we live in a patriarchy. As Annarosa was saying, we have to continue deepening our connection to women and find our tribe. That isn’t to say you can’t have a relationship with men, but the fucking red flag, if you’re a young actress, is being in a room alone with an older man who’s in a position of power. Don’t do it. There can be another person who is a female or a female-identifying person in the room too. There is no audition situation where a young actress needs to be alone in a room with a man, whether or not it involves a sex scene.

IF: I’ve worked with two different male directors in doing sex scenes, and they have gone amazingly well. What you don’t see on camera is that there is a large group of people sitting in the room with us. Very often what happens is the director describes what exactly he is looking for, and then he’ll say, “You and your fellow actor talk about what you are comfortable with and figure it out amongst yourselves. Then I’ll figure out how to shoot it without making you feel uncomfortable.” While rehearsing Tape with Deborah, she and Annarosa and Tarek came to my apartment and we acted out the whole thing. It was very funny.

DK: Did I climb on top of you at some point? I think I was playing Lux.

IF: [laughs] Yeah, yeah. I was nervous about the scene because of its context, but blocking it out made me so much more okay with it.


Considering that you, Isabelle, made your film debut in Hounddog, 12 years ago, how did that first experience collaborating with Deborah help shape your approach to future projects?

IF: Hounddog made me realize that I needed to take my job more seriously. I had such a great time, and the only other jobs I had done up to that point were easy games where you just get to go to work and play. Dakota is an incredible actress. She was so wise and professional onset that she was an adult, in a sense. I looked up to her, and through that experience of watching her work with Deborah, and watching the way that Deborah worked with all of the actors, we all felt comfortable. It was my first time on a movie set, and I was watching something happen that I could only really describe in my head as being magic. It made me go, “Oh wow, people do this as a job. This could be something that I could do beyond just having fun.”

Of course I enjoyed it, but there were real emotions that I had to portray during that shoot, and I remember being kind of unsure about how everybody gets to that point so incredibly quickly. I was so grateful to Deborah for creating such a comfortable space onset, and when I came out to do Tape it weirdly felt like a continuation of our relationship. Deborah didn’t feel like a stranger at all. I just felt like I could slip into this part and feel protected and safe with her and with Annarosa and Tarek. A lot of that was because she knew me when I was a kid. She was there for my first steps. I was so excited to be trusted with a role like this, and when Deborah said that she wrote it with me in mind, I went, “Oh my god, you still remember me? From when I was a kid?”

DK: I did. She was the person I wanted for this role from the beginning. Isabelle was perfect in Hounddog. And I always wanted to work with her again. I did have her in mind from the beginning for Tape, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role of Pearl. I have to say that Isabelle went to places in this film that were so far beyond my wildest imaginings. It was just amazing working with her. I felt the same way about working with Annarosa and Tarek and their performances. I can’t imagine anyone else in those roles. And they each put all of themselves into the work and went beyond what I had hoped for.


I was delighted to spot your daughter as the actress in Tape who skewers the Olay anti-aging cream ad. You’ve spoken beautifully over the years about ensuring that your daughter grows up “whole” rather than “naive and pure.” What changes have to be made in society in order to make this a reality for future generations?

DK: Until we change our sex ed to a sex positive education that includes consent and teaches women and men about female sexuality, then there is no way past these red flags. It has to go back to elementary school and how we set up our sexuality with our daughters and with our boys in relation to our daughters. How do we raise daughters who would know to walk away in the situation portrayed here? Hopefully they wouldn’t be in that situation anymore because we’ll have raised young men who understand what a relationship to a woman and her sexuality is about. What I find particularly interesting about the Pearl character is that there is a naiveté to her in the midst of being a very, very smart woman, and the naiveté is not her fault. Society has engrained it into her and every other young woman that I know — this notion of remaining naive around their desire in terms of their bodies and their sexuality.

IF: Another thing deeply ingrained in our culture, from the time we are kids, is that when something goes wrong, as a woman, you must apologize. A man never needs to apologize for anything. It’s women who are taught to feel guilty about things. There’s that scene in Eighth Grade where the girl is in the back seat of the car and the guy’s asking her to take off her shirt. She repels his advances, and then goes, “I’m sorry.” I remember something like that happening to me. Someone wanted to kiss me and I didn’t want to kiss him. For the rest of the day, I kept finding myself needing to apologize, and he was like, “Your first kiss is going to end up with someone you don’t even like and you’re going to be bad at it.” I was like, “I’m sorry, I know, I know,” and he’s like, “This is about you.” That’s when everything gets skewed, and it happens so far back in our lives.

In sex ed, they talk about the male orgasm, but they don’t teach you about the female orgasm. That’s a massive problem because it basically instructs you that sex is a thing for men. Woman are something to be had versus people who can make choices for themselves. This is as much your decision as it is the man’s. I was very lucky to have a mom who told me, “You have the cookie jar. If you say no, they can’t do anything about it.” When I wanted to have my first kiss with a guy, I realized that if I wanted to make it happen, I could make it happen. You have to take control of your sexuality as a woman, and that’s kind of what’s happening right now. We are being up front about what we are okay with and what we aren’t, and there is a lot of conversation about it, but it has to go so much deeper than that. There needs to be actual change happening. I’ve asked all my great male friends how their moms raised them because I want to make sure I know what to do if I have a son.

DK: I definitely think that sex ed should start with the clitoris. Then it can lead to penises and penetration and pregnancy, but pregnancy should be at the end and they put that at the beginning of sex ed when I was growing up in the South. It has to be reversed, and they never included the clitoris in class much less start with it.

IF: When you teach sex ed as only a means to have children, you’re completely ignoring the fact that sex has become a recreational activity and it has been for a very long time. People have sex with each other, it’s just a fact, and yet it’s being explained as, “When a mom and a dad love each other very much…” What if two people just want to have some fun? Why can’t we talk about that openly and explain how you prevent disease, how you stay safe, and how you should decide whether a person is worthy of you in that way?

AM: Navigating our own desire in general has been difficult because we don’t talk about what women are looking for. But that’s really starting to change, and we see it more when women are behind cameras. I was watching a sitcom that had a really excellent make-out scene and I was like, “That clearly was directed by a woman.” There was something about it that felt super-hot, and it had that acknowledgement and celebration of female desire. There is such value in the work of filmmakers like Deborah that provide us with a space to have that conversation about what we are into, what it looks like, what turns us on.

IF: In my first meetings with Deborah about Tape, she told me how there would be three cameras, each representing a particular perspective — Lux’s camera representing the male gaze, Rosa’s hidden cameras representing the female experience, and the director’s storytelling camera. Those are three separate visual approaches that are all merged into one. It’s so different from the movies where women seem to be occupying a completely different film than the men. The door opens, the lights come on, her legs are oiled up, and you’re like, “Didn’t they just come back from the bar? It makes no sense!” *laughs*

DK: For me as a filmmaker, Tape was about trying to find a cinematic language that shifts from the male gaze to the female experience—not the female gaze because for me, as a woman, it’s not ever about the gaze, it’s about the experience. Rosa’s hidden camera represents how hard it is to find that female experience and the search for it is confusing and unclear. Near the end, there is this huge payoff where you’re hearing that typical sex scene between Pearl and Lux with all the moans, and then you get that hidden camera and it is focused right there on her face. She looks in that camera and you see the truth of her experience.  


In my first article for this invaluable site, I wrote, “Only by embracing the full extent of ourselves can we become capable, at long last, of seeing the light.” That is what the final moments of Tape convey to me, as all the women begin sharing their stories.

DK: The story that we tell is the future we create. The most powerful part of this whole journey for me was hearing what my friend said to Isabelle when she first saw the film.

IF: She told me that I made her feel like she wasn’t stupid for having been in this situation. I was so concerned going into the film because this is also the first time I’ve played somebody who is a real person, and Pearl is not a stupid girl. She’s incredibly smart, she didn’t grow up in some small town and she is not naive. It’s just that someone took advantage of her at a vulnerable moment in her life. It is so easy to blame victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault, saying that it’s their fault, but the truth is that it’s the fault of the manipulator who’s able to see those moments of vulnerability and capitalize on them. It was very important for me to make sure that there was never a moment in this movie where the viewer would think, “She’s stupid, she doesn’t know what she’s doing.” I wanted her blind faith and beautiful vulnerability to come through, but I didn’t want it to seem like the clichéd idea of what this experience could be.

Even when I was prepping for it, I talked with friends and asked questions about their experiences. Someone was like, “Well I was really young and naive,” and I said, “I’ve never seen you as young and naive.” Of course, we are all young at first, and we all have moments where we are naive about things, but when those situations happen, I think we are sadly aware to some degree that something is up, and we choose to ignore it because of what we want to believe. When we were filming that crazy long day in the room with Tarek, I felt everything so deeply, and even my mom was like, “This is the most vulnerable I’ve ever seen you in a movie.” Hearing Deborah’s friend say that my performance made her feel less stupid really made me cry because that was the only thing that I wanted.

DK: And I am so grateful for Isabelle’s performance. The vulnerability that she brought to Pearl is breathtaking and it does create this humanity where you can see her intelligence. The patriarchy thrives on making us feel stupid and ashamed, and shaming us is the way that we are silenced. There is no denying this young woman her humanity because of the performance Isabelle gives, and my friend’s words to Isabelle just broke me open.

AM: At a Q&A during one of our first screenings, our moderator said that she felt the film was revolutionary. People like Lux can get away with these crimes because no one knows that they are happening. All of these stories were hidden not only because of people like Harvey, and the culture that created him, but those who protected him as well. It’s a fucking revolution to put this story, moment by moment, on camera and make people sit through it. The fact that we were able to find backing for this film is because the #MeToo movement was loud enough. Our two investors felt that this story was important and needed to be seen. I don’t know if they would’ve jumped on board a few years ago when Deborah first wrote it, but it’s because of their power and means that our movie got made, ultimately. We need people with money and influence to hear us, believe us and support us.

DK: Our investor had been reading all the Harvey Weinstein news stories and all of the women’s shared experiences, and he kept saying, “How does this happen?” Then he read the script and was like, “Oh now I understand. People need to know how this happens.”

AM: He cared about this story being seen. When Isabelle was saying how much she apologizes, that took me to so many little moments in my life where I’ve found myself carrying around the shame of men’s behavior. We are working on very new ground here, simply taking you through one woman’s true story, and to me, that is a revolution.

IF: Every woman has a story, whether it’s “some guy looked at me” or “grabbed me” or “catcalled me,” and we continue to carry around that shame. It’s not like you can look at somebody and go, “Woah, that must’ve really hurt,” because you cannot see it. It’s not a wound that you can visibly see on our bodies, it’s something that we harbor and that we’ve been taught to not talk about, to feel shame about. We’ve been taught to think that it is our fault every single time, and we’ve made it okay for so long. The only way to get over something is to be able to talk about it.



For more info on Tape and to keep up to date on upcoming screenings, you can follow the film on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Isabelle’s production of “Mac Beth” kicks off at NYC’s Red Bull Theater on May 7th, you can purchase tickets here.

Photos by Sweet Suezy


Will Roe v. Wade Be Overturned?

The judiciary and legislative basics, explained.


Several states have recently either drafted, passed, or signed Anti-Choice legislation into law. These are policies that restrict and/or outright ban a person with a uterus’ ability to access a safe and legal abortion.

If you’re thinking, “That sounds unconstitutional!” — you’re not wrong.

Roe v. Wade was a landmark case by the United States Supreme Court which held that the right to an abortion is protected by the constitutional right to privacy. That was in 1973. Prior to that ruling, abortion was illegal in the United States.

Later, other Supreme Court decisions, such as Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) reaffirmed Roe v. Wade and stated that any policies/laws that place “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion are likewise unconstitutional.


Are the state laws restricting abortions in Alabama, Missouri, Ohio, and Georgia unconstitutional?

The short answer is yes.  

As we write this, legal challenges are being filed in the U.S. district courts of these states, which will likely delay any implementation of these new laws. However, that is the goal of the Anti-Choice legislators who drafted them.

Even though it is likely that the lower courts will deem these laws unconstitutional, the losing side will appeal to the U.S. circuit court, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court.



United States law operates with federal legislators (Congress people and senators) and state legislators. Federal laws apply nationwide while state laws are only applicable in their state. Federal laws override state laws. However, states can attempt to pass laws that restrict or modify federal laws — to varying levels of effectiveness.

The Federal court system has three tiers: district courts, circuit courts, and finally, the US Supreme Court.

Laws are passed at either the state or federal level. If their content is challenged, they can travel up the courts — if a law reaches the US Supreme Court for review, their ruling is final.

The latest wave of Anti-Choice legislation doesn’t just criminalize abortion, but also proposes the most severe penalties against not only people who seek an abortion in these states, but for the physicians who would potentially carry out the procedure.  


How can they do that?

These laws were drafted to provoke legal challenges and make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court for review, with the hope of overturning access to safe and legal abortion.

The Supreme Court is made up of nine justices who serve for life. With the recent confirmation of Brett M. Kavanaugh, the court is now made up of a conservative-leaning majority (five to four). With the odds tipped, there’s a fear that long-standing federal protections of abortion could be reconsidered.


So how in danger is Roe v. Wade… actually?

It’s hard to tell for sure. The Supreme Court usually operates on precedent, and thankfully for us, tries to avoid rushing to overturn a long-standing ruling.

Efforts to limit and restrict safe access to abortion are not new. Pro- Choice advocates have been fighting for years against numerous state laws that sought to make it harder for people to obtain abortion procedures.

Nonetheless, there is legitimate concern that these recent (very) aggressive tactics combined with a more conservative Supreme Court may put Roe v. Wade in serious jeopardy.  


If Roe V. Wade gets overturned, will abortion become illegal everywhere?

It will depend upon the content of the opinion (which lays out the specifics for a ruling) from the Supreme Court, but if they overturn Roe v. Wade in its entirety, abortion could very well become illegal in the United States.


Is the recent legislation in Alabama, Missouri, Ohio, and Georgia currently being enforced?

No. In most cases, Pro-Choice groups will have mobilized quickly to file law suits to stop their implementation.


What can I do to fight this? 

While you may not be involved in government, there are ways you can help combat these recent infringements on human rights.


Donate to state-specific reproductive rights organizations: 


  • Gateway Women’s Access Fund is based in Missouri and provides educational and financial support for low income people in the state seeking abortion.



  • The Yellowhammer Fund provides funding for abortions and also assists with patient access to travel and lodging while seeking treatment.
  • Alabama Women’s Center, the only abortion provider in northern Alabama, provides healthcare services for people with uteruses and their families.



  • Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund is run entirely by volunteers in Mississippi. The organization helps people access abortion services while providing additional support and resources.



  • Women Have Options is an organization that provides financial assistance and support to low-income patients.


Some nationwide organizations fighting for reproductive rights include the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Additionally, the National Network of Abortion Funds services over 38 states, with an emphasis on eliminating economic barriers to marginalized and low-income individuals in need of abortions. Cut them a check!


Cisgender women are not the only ones affected by these laws.

Consider donating and/or volunteering with Lady Parts Justice League, an abortion rights organization which caters to trans and gender non-conforming people.

For tips on how to make your conversations surrounding reproductive rights less cis-centric, click here.


If you can’t afford to donate funds, consider donating your time… 

  • Volunteer as a clinic escort. (Click here for more info.)
  • Attend local protests surrounding reproductive rights.
  • Missouri’s HB 126 is a bill that would ban abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy. It passed through the state senate and just needs the governor’s signature to become law. Call Gov. Mike Parson’s office at (573) 751-3222 and urge him not to sign the bill.
  • Engage with and intellectually challenge people in your life who are Anti-Choice.


Changing minds can change votes.



Photos (in order of appearance) by Julie Bennett (via Getty), Sophie Kubinyi, and Alida Bea.


What I Learned From Sleeping with Older Men


At the beginning of the year, I unconsciously embarked on an odd sexual journey: everyone I slept with was six to twelve years my senior.

I got out of my longest relationship back in November of 2017. For me, this meant that after a month of mourning, I chose to go through the stereotypical bucket list every recently-heartbroken RomCom protagonist makes for herself. This, of course, included casual sex.

But the question remained, why was I only devoting my attention towards men in this particular age range?

After stepping into my twenties, I began to look for deeper qualities in potential partners other than “attractive”, “nice”, and “doesn’t hate his parents.” I found myself blocking out every man with a little drive, ambition, or creative output. This, in turn, resulted in me blocking out everyone who was not successful in their field, or had minimal motivation to move up the ladder. Subsequently, I had zero luck finding people my age that I was not only attracted to but also not bored by. I only wanted to be intimate with people I could really click with. So with my own blessing, I began to have sex with “older” men.

“Refreshing” is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about these new interactions. It was nice being able to connect with guys who I found deeply interesting. Guys who knew how to hold a mature conversation, as well as guys who didn’t constantly quote The Office, or play Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap after dubbing it a musical masterpiece. Not to mention, I was awed by their confidence and honesty. And the sex was far better!

Although sleeping with relatively older men benefited me in most ways, it still damaged me in others. I was having a lot of fun, but I also noticed a change in my overall behavior.

As someone who is easily overwhelmed, the aftermath of these encounters drove me insane.

I was genuinely happy for all the guys I was being intimate with, but I couldn’t help but envy them for their professional success, financial independence, and sense of direction. I wanted to feel like I could relate to them in those ways, but as an anxious junior in college, I was only halfway there. Unsurprisingly, this caused me to underestimate my worth for not being able to achieve things that I was perfectly capable of doing, but for which I was simply (and rightfully) not ready.

Though the resulting self-deprecation began long ago, it only started to sting more recently.

Last month, I started sleeping with someone who most wouldn’t hesitate to call “perfect.” Despite this and our capacity to get along well, we were simply at different parts of our lives.

While I opened up about my frustrations regarding final exams, he told me about his duties as a small business owner, how he had to play golf with some clients, or how his friends were either getting married or having kids. Again, this sent me spiraling into unhealthy thoughts, like, Why haven’t I done that yet? It was as if every time I met up with him, I was no longer a girl in her early twenties, but rather, an odd, ageless being, attempting to morph into someone and something she wasn’t.

Putting all of these men’s triumphs on pedestals caused me to undermine my own. I began to doubt my abilities, and despite being happy for the things I was accomplishing, I felt like they were never enough compared to my sexual partners’.

Eventually, I grew sick of placing my partners and myself on a scale. There was nothing fun about going over to their place with a smile on my face, only to return home hours later with tears in my eyes. I became obsessed with the idea of growing up, only because I wanted to feel as fortunate and successful as them. I knew it was unhealthy, but I didn’t know how to stop it. So, I asked for help.

A week’s worth of strenuous healing and a therapy session is all it took for me to get back on track. I was given the tools to realize that being in the 26-32 age range is a beautiful thing, but so is being in your early twenties. Sure, in my case, there’s not loads of financial independence or luxurious job opportunities, but I am still doing well.

Comparing yourself to other people is the worst kind of mental self-infliction, and I had hurt myself everywhere.

I don’t blame my sexual partners for what I went through. They have the right to talk about their lives, and censoring certain aspects of it to please me (or anyone) seems ridiculous and unrealistic. I was just handling the information I was given poorly. I just needed to remember that I have the tools and resources to go as far as they’ve gone. To expect me to be there now, however, is simply unfair.

I do not think on these relationships with bitterness, but rather, with gratitude. If it wasn’t for the raw exposure to their sexual and professional personas, I wouldn’t have come face to face with such difficult thoughts, and thus learned to appreciate my youth, among other things.

I have no idea if I could ever seriously date anyone who falls under the 26-32 category. I now know I am deeply attracted to someone’s passion, dedication, and ability to be a hard worker. As much as I hate to generalize, I haven’t found any of those qualities in men my age.

In a way, I’ve given up on them. I’m sure they’re out there, but frankly, I’m tired of overthinking whether or not it’s acceptable for me to keep my older streak going. I personally see no danger in it, and I’m proud to admit that despite once feeling ridiculously anxious over this situation, I’ve come out a winner.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with searching for those desired attributes, whether it manifests in a serious or strictly physical manner. If the only candidates happen to be older — as well as respectful and genuine — then there’s no harm.

So, should you try sleeping with older men? Only if you really want to (and it is, of course, legal and consensual).

Personally, I learned a lot about myself, but such a revolutionary experience is by no means guaranteed. If nothing else, these men set the bar high. Though it took me a while to find a balance of appreciating their success without comparing it to my own, dating older men did make me realize that I am worthy of a partner who is not only kind, but also diligent and innovative.

Of course, I could’ve done this without the help of a man — it just happened to unravel this way. If you choose to date older, my only advice is to stay grounded. Know that no matter how much you may have in common, some significant differences will always remain. Have fun, while keeping tabs on your mental health.

At the end of the day, there is nothing more important. 



Giphy by Waywardteacup.

First photo by Sohpie Kubinyi, and the following by Cordelia Ostler


Who Do We Take Nudes For?

We send men photos of our bodies, but our bodies carry more than our breasts and legs. 



A friend told me something disturbing the other day, “I have a photo of myself — missing.” 

What do you mean by missing?

“I don’t know where it is.”

What kind of photo?

“Of you know… me.”

After much mulling over details and trying to hold back of tears, this is what I gathered: there is a somewhat tasteful, naked photo of my friend, that her now ex-boyfriend has or has tried to mail back to her from overseas. She had given it to him as a gift or, as she might put it, as a token of affection, and requested it to be sent back to her when they called it quits.

The breakup (the tears, the request) were nearly three months ago.

We sat down and googled how long international postage usually took — just seven to ten days, as I had imagined.

Why didn’t you follow up on this? I asked her.

“I guess I trusted he would do the right thing.”

Why did you only realize now that the picture hadn’t arrived?

“I didn’t care for a while, and then I listened to ‘Body’ by Julia Jacklin and realized that it was my body that was missing.”

My friend’s body, captured in a moment of sexual freedom and liberation by the eyes of her lover. A split-second decision made during a fleeting intensity between two people, to document desire, to make the feeling tangible.

A nude is a moment in time that usually stays in that moment of time, but somehow they both decided to duplicate it in the form of a physical print, to allow them to relive it in their own separate worlds.

No one could send it, but they could touch and hold her body. Or maybe they could take a photo of the photograph and send that? She’d thought about that. She also thought about strangers touching their own bodies as they held and touched hers.

Growing up as a woman in society, female bodies — big or small, skinny or curvy, long or short — are continuously sexualized. They are sexualized in the images we are exposed, and in how the opposite sex — and even other women — describe us. 

Our bodies are sexualized by the cat-calls we receive in public, an act that normalizes projecting desire and tactile pleasures onto our bodies — bodies which carry not only our breasts and legs, but also our hearts and minds.

Our bodies carry our past, the little scars from childhood fights to the cracks in our teeth, the stretch marks when we began to evolve more into our self, even down to the pimples on our cheeks… Our bodies carry our future, the inside parts that will help grow new life or continue maintaining our own life.

When I first heard Australian songwriter Julia Jacklin sing, “I guess it’s just my life and it’s just my body,” it stuck with me.

Yes, I acknowledge the beautiful connection between my life and body, and in a healthy mind frame, I can accept that who I am is intrinsically linked to the body I possess. However, why does my life have to be certified by my body? Why do I find that more men say to me “You have a good body” before they compliment my mind? Intimacy usually asks women to allow men deep inside, but why not intellectually more so than physically? “You are the skinniest girl I’ve ever been with” is a comment that has stuck with me longer than when I was told I was a “driven and generous woman” by another man.

The previous comment — so simple on the surface — now dictates a part of my lifestyle and how I feel when I choose to be intimate with men.

When I was a teenager, it was normal for young women my age to take nude pictures of ourselves. Frowned upon, scandalous, and maybe even a bit risky — but still a common pastime of my generation.

Photographers are trained to capture poignant moments in time, so they can be viewed indefinitely. Interestingly, with ‘naked selfies’ the very thought of an image so raw and visible being ‘forever’ horrifies the subject. So why do we do it? Why do millions of women elect to snapshot their nude or partially nude bodies for themselves or another person?

Perhaps we want to share our sexual desires with our lovers, show off parts of our bodies that we know another will like? Or we do it for our own self esteem? However, I can assure you that any girl I knew who took a photo of herself during high school was not doing it for her own pleasure.

We are all victims of conforming to becoming an object of sexuality. We were wired that way from the very start thanks to pop culture, the media and the vacuum of porn, as were men wired to presume the role as the receiver of such arousal. It’s how we got attention in high school from the opposite sex — a power play in adolescence that has transferred into my adult life.

I don’t take naked pictures of myself to obtain power over a man’s penis and ego — even though I wish the power play were that simple. And even as I write this now, I still don’t know how to totally refute the presence of sexualizing women’s bodies, as for some, sexualization can be powerful and liberating. As for my friend, she regrets her decision.

My friend had allowed a man with power to take an image of her body and now she can’t, in a way, get her body back. “Will you use it to hurt me?” — lyrics she sings along with Julia, a little too intensely.

In no way am I implying that all men are evil, sexual predators, or objectify women on their daily commute to work by calling out to them. I have the most caring, loving and generous male friends and brothers in my life that have shaped the woman I am today. I just hope they are having progressive conversations about how smart, caring, or driven their new lover is… rather than how “fit”, “hot”, or “good in bed” they are. 

As for Julia Jacklin, in another song she exclaims, “I don’t want to be touched all the time / I raised my body up to be mine.” 

Let us take these words as our 2019 mantra and sing them to every person we meet.



Photos by Alexa Fahlman.

Talking Gender with My Mom

One Saturday afternoon, at my monotonous service job at a New York theater, a man with salt and pepper hair walked up to me. Clutching his plastic cup of beer, he inquired, “Isn’t New York one of those places where they let the men use the ladies’ room?”

It took every ounce of my self control not to clock him on the head with the giant basket full of wine-in-sippy-cups I was holding.

This wasn’t the first time I’d fielded a remark of this sort, nor was it the last. For me it was irritating and uncomfortable, but for members of the trans community these interactions are harmful and potentially dangerous.

In this day and age, media representation of trans and genderqueer people is better than it’s ever been, but we still have such a long way to go. We still have cisgender actors playing transgender characters. Our armed forces are still intolerant of trans people. When older generations are shutting doors on gender nonconformists left and right, it can be difficult to imagine them ever understanding a narrative beyond the hetero, cisgendered normative one that has prevailed in this country for centuries.

This begs the question: in a nation divided on gender, can we bridge the generational gap? I talked with my mom who is a baby boomer — but doesn’t look a day over thirty three — in pursuit of common ground.


Let’s go back to ten years ago. How did you understand gender then?

Mom: Well, there was the binary. There’s male-female, there’s boy stuff-girl stuff. And as a feminist, I never believed that girls couldn’t do some things that boys could do and vice versa. There are no girl careers or boy careers, or girl toys or boy toys, but boy/girl was either/or.

I first became aware of the spectrum when, as you remember, the school I work at accepted two students who were trans.


And who were out.

Who were out, right.

The summer before they were to start [the] ninth grade — I was diversity coordinator, so I had to understand what it meant to be trans. I was given a book that really changed my paradigm completely. It was called “The Transgender Child”, and that’s where I was first introduced to the idea of gender as a spectrum and of gender as being separate from sexuality, as two distinct parts of someone’s identity.

That really made me understand the complexity of it much more than I had before. Before that I understood that people who were transgender were born with the physical sex characteristics, but felt that they were the other gender. 


Now, twenty years ago you have two young children — you’re forty. How did you understand gender then?

I think I was even more steeped in the stereotypes of looking at it from a binary perspective. I’d say twenty years ago — I’m embarrassed to admit it — but I thought it was a choice or that there was something disturbed about someone who would dress or present as a gender different from their sex. I’ve learned a lot.


How do you identify in terms of gender?

I identify as a cisgender woman.


What does being a woman mean to you?

It’s kind of hard to answer that because I don’t really have anything to compare it to. It’s just [such a] big a part of my identity that it’s hard to kind of tease it apart and isolate it. Can you come back to that one?


Sure. Are there any moments that make you really aware that you’re a woman?

Well, yes. I think within the last couple of years, especially in the political environment that we’re in, it sometimes feels very frustrating to see what happens when men, especially rich old white men have the power.


For me, I think the #MeToo movement made me re-contextualize what being a woman meant, because I lead a very privileged life, a life in which I am safe and accepted by those around me. But it’s scary sometimes, to be a woman.

Yes. I think it’s even scarier to be a young woman. I feel less threatened at times in public than I did when I was younger.

When I was your age and in my thirties and even forties, there were times when I felt inhibited from doing things because I was a woman alone. I couldn’t run by myself at night…I think it is harder for you as a young woman at times.

On the other hand, I think that young women are so much more powerful today than when I was a young woman. I think young women see their power and feel entitled to it much more than when I was young. On the flip side I think, in the culture we’re in, it can be easier to be a woman when it comes to expressing emotion. Being able to understand how we’re feeling and being able to talk about it… and not only to express feelings but to express gender with fewer constrictions.

People who identify as male have a narrower perimeter of what is accepted in terms of gender expression. This is maybe more true for older men in the U.S., but if you’re a man and you wear feminine clothing — that’s not often accepted. Women can dress in a more masculine way and it can be stylish and fashionable and acceptable.


Have you ever questioned your gender?



Have you ever questioned gender itself?

You mean the concept of gender?


Yeah, the concept of gender.

I think I’ve learned a lot more about it than I thought there was to know within the last several years. Like most people, I grew up steeped in the dichotomy of male or female with nothing in between.

Now I’ve learned over the course of the last several years working in a school that’s had to educate ourselves in order to serve our students the way they should be served, that there’s so much in between the two ends of the spectrum and that there’s a whole range of not just identity, but of expression and behavior. That’s how I’ve grown to understand it.


You know, I feel like there was a learning curve for me as well. Binary trans-ness was a concept that was very easy for me to understand. I learned about it in middle school, from “This American Life” actually, where they did an episode on trans kids. The binary is so ingrained in our society that I was able to understand [being] trans as long as it was binary. I remember starting college, and I hate to admit it, but I had trouble grasping the concept of nonbinary identity and they/them pronouns. I was one of those people for a short period of time.

Thankfully, I learned, grown, and evolved. But everything is gendered, everything in our world. Like sunglasses, like school supplies and lotion, you know, razors. Everything that we consume is gendered. And it doesn’t need to be.

The power of the media and advertising hasn’t failed to reach the young kids I work with. I have lunch in [the] Early Childhood [department] on Fridays, and I see the girls’ Hello Kitty lunchboxes and the boys’ superhero lunchboxes and I’m sure that they’re saying to their parents, “I want a pink lunchbox, I want a superhero lunchbox.” So they’re being influenced by the media and advertising say boys should have… and girls should have… even as three and four year-olds. Now what they’re learning from their school is very different, and I can hear their learning and understanding of that in their conversations with each other. For example [I’ve heard kids say to each other],“Girls can do that, too.”

[And the other kid says back], “I know girls can do that, too, I just wanted to play with my friend who happens to be a boy.”

You know what I’m saying? They understand and can articulate that there’s an equality. In fact, just today I heard someone say the name Sal and a girl said “Sal can be a girl’s name or a boy’s name” and another kid said “I have an aunt named Sally,” and someone else said, “My neighbor’s name is Salvador.”


You’ve got two perfect examples there.

So this year in our K-1 class they’ve done a lot of work on identity and gender as part of identity, as a piece of it. The kids all made these really cool life-sized portraits that are hung up all around the balcony in the foyer of the new building. It’s really cool looking. They hung smaller self-portraits on these strings [which represented] the [gender] spectrum and the kids put their self portrait where they felt they identified, closer to boy, closer to girl. Some were right at boy, right at girl, and some were right in the middle.

Their expression was clearly one way or the other, but the way they were feeling was a little less binary. And so they talked to the kids about how that can even change day to day. Some days you might be closer to one side or the other, or not. You might say “every day this is how I feel” and that it’s all okay.


That sounds like a really wonderful project.

It was a really good lesson.


And it’s amazing that they’re learning it early.

Well, they’re learning it whether they’re being explicitly taught or not.


You know, I’ve actually questioned my gender before.

Have you?


I have, yeah. What I ultimately came to realize was that I was confusing gender identity and gender expression because I do tend to present in a more androgynous way.

Our society tells us there’s one specific way to be a woman, and I thought if I didn’t fit into that box, then maybe I wasn’t a woman. And it wasn’t just me. Sometimes other people are confused by me. In my classes in college, I remember there was a man who would just never use any pronouns for me. It was a theater class and he was directing us at one point and he was like, “Okay, Nora’s gonna go over here and Nora’s gonna do this and Nora’s gonna do that,” and I remember thinking, “You are playing a strange game.”

Still, I feel really lucky to have a community of people who I can talk openly with about gender. And at the end of the day, I take a lot of pride in being a queer woman and in being a woman who presents in a way that is not always deemed acceptable and is sometimes frowned upon.

I hope that even if there’s one kid in the afterschool program I work at who is, one day poised with a razor in the shower about to shave their legs and stops and thinks, “Oh wait, I had that one afterschool teacher who didn’t shave her legs. Maybe I don’t have to shave mine.” If I can be that for one kid, I will have done my job.

I think you already have been just by being there for them to see. You’re that window for them.


I’m the window.

And I’m sure there are kids for whom you are a mirror.


I hope so.

*  *  *

Photos (in order of appearance) by Adyana Covelli, Kate Phillips, and Antonia Adomako.

Speaking in Loves

The importance on knowing your love language. 


Being young and queer, no one really teaches you how you’re supposed to love or to be loved. I think it’s become a societal expectation to follow what film and music says to do… but if you’re queer, you don’t get many mainstream examples to go off of. 

So where are you supposed to get all the answers and clues?

My friend has been going through a break-up. She was explaining to me that even though she and her boyfriend have been long-term partners, their biggest issue has been divergent expectations: he was a clingier type, so she ultimately blamed herself for not being “as affectionate”, faulting herself for the downfall of their relationship.

Giving her my perspective, I explained that it seemed like the greater fallout was not understanding each other’s love language. She cared a lot for this person, but because he had a different idea on how to “love” someone, he seemed to have misinterpreted a lot of her signals.

This can be tricky, regardless of your sexual orientation. How exactly are you supposed to decode someone’s love language, learn to appreciate it, and uphold a mutual understanding — without letting anxieties instill fear that there’s detachment? 

Someone’s “love language” is how they express, through actions or words, their amorous feelings towards another person. In 1992, Dr. Gary Chapman published a book called The Five Love Languages, which has since sold over 11 million copies worldwide, and has become the go-to text on the subject. The anthropologist lays out five primary types of love expression:


          l. Words of affirmation 

          2. Gift-giving

          3. Acts of service

          4. Etching out quality time 

          5. Physical touch 


I’ve been dating my current partner for almost two years — which in sapphic time, feels like decades. I’m talking “summer vacation home with fireplace, don’t forget the pool” king of longevity. We’ve grown tremendously as individuals, but we’ve done so by understanding how to maneuver within what is, for both of us, our first healthy and serious relationship.

But even with the fictitious beach house image, our love languages aren’t identical, and I realized that it would be impossible and even annoying if they were on par.

The way I express romance to my partner is by showering them with gifts, to the point where they’ve had to grab my face numerous times begging me to stop spending money on them. The gifts can range from getting flowers routinely to more expensive gestures like booking a hotel room for our anniversary just to ensure a night alone. The past version of myself believed that I had to buy my way through love to prove I was “worthy” of devotion, but truthfully, I just want to adorn my partner with whatever they desired.

Another expression of my love language comes from my tendency towards idealism and dreaming, specifically indulging adventurous whims. Growing up, coping with my depression led to building fantasies as a way of escaping, and something about escaping from the mundane with someone became the most romantic thing that I could imagine.

My current partner was the first person that put a face to these types of thoughts, and I was sharing my travel plans with them before we even reached a full year together. Although, I don’t think they took me very seriously… and I don’t blame them! We didn’t even know what the next week was going to look like, and there I was, going on and on about how I wanted to see the world with them.

But I think a lot about how my partner’s type of love language roots me back to the present. They remind me to enjoy what’s happening now and not inflate it with fantasy. Their love language speaks through quality time and experiences: enjoying a night out, creating moments together locally, etc.

They became my person of firsts — cooking meals, being in queer spaces, expressing myself with confidence and vulnerability, and much more. In a way, firsts are a sort of emotional travel, and through learning and trying new things with them, I can express a different side of my love language. Meanwhile, their love language comes from being present — whether it’s encouraging me to be in the moment or being attentive to my feelings, anxieties, and my state of mind whenever I’m with them. It is in this sense that our love languages complement one another.

Although, sometimes my partner and my love languages aren’t always in sync (and I don’t want them to be), our true compatibility comes from open and honest discussion of what we expect from this relationship. It’s not that either of our expressions or expectations are more “right” or “wrong” than the other, but vocalizing what each person needs, emotionally and mentally, is necessary for any fulfilling relationship.

Most importantly, it helps you understand how both of your mental tendencies shape your emotional capacities and views on romance.

In a relationship, I never needed my partner to replicate whatever language I was speaking. Nor would I ever advise them or a friend to change their love language if it doesn’t “match” what the other person expects. There’s beauty in unpredictability. As long as communication factors in at some point of the process.

If anything, in my relationship I can say we both learned from each other’s navigation of romance, which indirectly helped us grow as individuals, too. And that’s honestly all I can ever ask for.

I love them for exactly who they are, how we are, and all the gestures in between.


To find out what your love language is, click here

GIF by Taylor Anne Mordoh. Photos (in order of appearance) by George McFadyen and Cordelia Ostler


My Trauma Does Not Define Me

Why does the media portray trauma as the most interesting thing about us? 


Elena from The Vampire Diaries kind of sucks.

I think we can all admit that she’s not the most interesting character, but somehow, we all love her; at least, we’re supposed to if we watch the show. Even though she is relatively boring, she endured unspeakable trauma through her parents’ passing. As a result of this trauma, she has two immortal beings head over heels in love with her.

Elena and similar characters I came to know throughout my teen years taught me that trauma is all someone requires in order to be lovable; characters are only interesting and worthy if they’ve had something terrible happen to them. The death of Elena’s parents is the very thing that deems her worthy of love. Within this problematic model, she is not supposed to be more than her trauma, nor is the audience supposed to expect any more from her.

My mom passed away when I was 14 years old. She’d been in a coma for 10 years before that, and in some ways, I used to count this as an asset.

My freshman year of college, on the anniversary of her death, I didn’t feel too sad. What is the importance of an anniversary anyway if she is still gone every other day? But in books and movies, people are always upset on these anniversaries. They would cry in the bathroom secretly and be distant all day. Take the book, Crown of Midnight, for example. On the anniversary of her parents’ death, the main character runs away, awakening her love interest to the deep intricacies of her character. Because I thought the only way to deserve love was to exploit my trauma, I decided to play sad music to induce similar depressive episodes throughout the day.

And if I liked a boy, I’d go through all the ways in which I could slyly let them know my mother was dead — as if that would make them love me. I’d pretend to be on the sidelines at parties sometimes, trying to show that I “wasn’t like other girls.” I’d been through shit in my life and therefore couldn’t be as free spirited as the others… right? I was the mysterious Katniss, just a little detached from anything that could bring me happiness. My sadness became the apex of my personality, hiding the other traits I had — something I’d seen happen with so many characters in books and films before me.

I would look at other girls who were similar to me and decide that what set me apart, what made me special was the death of my mother.

The other chick and I were both funny and smart, but my mom had died, so the boy should choose me, right? If they didn’t, I would sink further into the haze of my depression. I would think of more reasons why they should love me — add another tally to the list I would use to measure myself against others. My grandma had died this year, too. I was juggling work and school and sports and yes, I deserved love because of all of this. But the real problem was, I never looked at myself as someone worthy of love without this trauma.

I eventually became obsessed with these feelings. Every mundane issue I crossed paths with would make me fall apart. Part of me wanted to break so someone could find me and put the pieces back together. I wished for bad things to happen to me. I stopped going out with my friends. I almost lost myself entirely. I no longer believed in who I was — I only believed in what had happened to me, and how others might respond to that. I became the damaged girl I wanted the world to think I was.

What surprised me the most about this time in my life was how badly I did not want to be okay. When approached with ways to change my disposition, I would almost always find a way to excuse myself. I would constantly listen to sad music and try to make the predicaments in my life fit the lyrics of the songs, instead of using music to lift me out of the hole into which I had dug myself.

I kept waiting for someone to save me because they saw my pain and loved me for it. This is what I had been taught to believe — that someone’s worth is equal to the amount of pain they’ve endured.

When I returned home after my freshman year, I was exhausted. I felt out of touch with myself, unable to recall many of the characteristics that made me who I was. However, I remember a distinct day a few weeks into being at home that I began to find myself again. I was sitting in a bookstore reading, and the unmistakable scent of books hit me. For the first time in a long time, I felt entirely peaceful within myself. I pulled out my phone and began a list of things that make me happy — things that make me who I am. These were items I could bond with people over, rather than things that made me sad, and subsequently competitive with others.

It took me a few months to understand just how bad of a state I was in at the end of my freshman year. It took seeing a post on social media about how you are an active participant in your own mental health to really make me realize what I had been doing to myself, and how unstable it was.

I started taking the necessary steps to achieve stability.

I found value in myself through reading, writing and listening to music that showed me that being myself was enough. I felt healthy for the first time in a while; I finally wanted to be okay.

I realize now how lucky I am to have been able to escape that dangerous state of mind. I have good friends and a supportive family that helped me, but if I hadn’t had that same support, I’m not sure what kind of mindset I would be in today. I may have sunk deeper and deeper into that hole, trying to prove myself worthy of love.

In the future I’d like to see less glorification of trauma in the media. I’d like to see more people who may have been through trauma, but who are not deemed worthy of love simply because of this trauma. It shouldn’t have taken Meredith Grey a dramatic near death experience in the emergency room for Dr. Shepard to realize he loved her — she was just as worthy of love before.

And me? I am worthy of love because of all the things that I am, not because of what has happened to me.


Photos by Cordelia Ostler