Let Women Call Themselves Sluts

Fun fact: I’ve never been called a slut. Despite years of talking and writing about sex, it’s just never happened. That’s not to say the word hasn’t held power in my life.

I grew up seeing it in movies and TV shows, watching women’s faces crumple when they were sexually shamed and stigmatized. I knew it was bad to be deemed a slut, and that was only reaffirmed by my mom telling me not to wear slutty clothes and my friends writing other girls off for their sexual behavior. By high school, I was careful to avoid being seen as a capital-S Slut. I dressed modestly; I only told my closest friends what I was doing with boys; I kept my social media free of skin and sexuality. 

But then, the word started popping up in new ways. During junior year I read Karley Sciortino’s book Slutever, which defines a slut as “someone who has no moral obstacle between themselves and their desire to enjoy sex.” That same year, a young woman named Samirah Raheem went viral after openly declaring that even virgins can be sluts because it’s all about “feeling empowered.”

Then, in my senior year of high school, I found Call Her Daddy, a saucy, salacious podcast hosted by two self-proclaimed sluts named Alex Cooper and Sofia Franklyn. These women lovingly address listeners as sluts and whores, offering sex tips and even telling them how to ask their partners to call them sluts in the bedroom. To say the least, my world was rocked. Women were obviously more sexually open and liberated than ever before, and “slut” wasn’t a universal insult like I’d thought it was. Instead, women were redefining the term and giving it a new kind of positive power. 

Despite these constant progressive revisions to the definition of “slut” à la Linguistics 101, there are countless essays arguing for the word to be retired and not reclaimed. These authors say “slut” is a mere capitulation, a submission to systems which shame women for indulging in their sexuality. They ask, “How can it be subversive for women to define themselves using language which has been so historically harmful?”

To be fair, it’s true that slut-shaming hasn’t ridden off into the metaphorical sunset. I’m in college now, and I still hear boys calling girls “sluts” and “easy” behind their backs. But just because men are weaponizing the word doesn’t mean there isn’t power in women reclaiming and redefining it.

In fact, reclaiming “slut” can be revelatory. For some sexual violence survivors, it’s a coping mechanism; for girls in high school and college, it can be a newfound source of community or even pleasure. Over the past few years, I’ve found plenty of girls who celebrate their sluttiness. When telling me about her most recent conquests, my friend Remi, a 20-year-old editor living in LA, often tells me she’s a slut with a light, breezy laugh. My friend Monika, an Ivy League freshman, loves when her boyfriend calls her a slut in the bedroom.

These women are claiming the word on their own terms, and it’s working. Remi and Monika have robbed “slut” of its traditional power, refracting it through a kaleidoscope of autonomy and profound sexual empowerment. Because of this, both women agree the word doesn’t have the ability to hurt them as much as it might have before. “If some guy at a party called me a slut or something, I think I’d probably just laugh and say I know,” Monika told me. “They just can’t hurt me with it anymore.” So not only can reclaiming “slut” offer a personal sense of pride and community — it can lessen men’s ability to hurl the word at women and cause real damage. Obviously, the bigger problem lies in how our society treats sexual women — but reclaiming “slut” is certainly one step toward freedom.

The word “slut” shouldn’t be a dirty one, but one that’s celebrated. Whether being a slut means enjoying casual sex or feeling empowered by your body, I think every woman should decide for herself if and when she wants to take the word back and call herself a goddamn slut. She should decide what that word means for her.

As much as feminists might want the word to be retired so women can progress past sexual shame, “slut” doesn’t have to be universally negative; it doesn’t even have to be about sex. “Slut” can mean whatever women want it to mean, and letting them redefine and reclaim it isn’t going to halt feminism or prevent women from reaching their most fully realized selves. It’s true that we aren’t at a point yet where every woman across America can go around publicly calling herself a slut — but that doesn’t mean we have to keep the word confined to conversational whispers or the bedroom. Women should use “slut” on their own terms in a way that makes them feel good and empowered.

Me? Instead of censoring the way I talk or dress or post on Instagram, I might just buy a Slutever necklace.

 

Photo by Emma McMillen. 

Becoming Fluent in Love

If love is a language then I don’t understand it.

I can’t sympathize with those in love because I’m not sure I’ve ever felt the feeling. Even if I were to feel it, would I know I was feeling it? The word “love” is so personal, so subjective. What if I’ve been basing my definition of love off someone else’s? 

It isn’t really a question, I know that’s what we are all doing. 

I’ve always learned the meaning of a feeling after already going through the motions of it. When I first cried, I was comforted. When I first laughed, someone laughed along. But this raved about, hazy state of passion and sexual desire has always lived on the other side of the screen, hiding on the next page of a story book, waiting to be read about, never in my reach, sometimes scripted, always somebody else’s: this love thing has been getting under my skin since the eighth grade. I know I’m not the only one embroidered with the side effects of this subconscious peer pressure. 

I’ve patted the backs of pouty girls at my lunch tables for years. I’ve listened to them sulk and partake in pathetic conversations about this faux loneliness they’ve created for themselves. I have to admit, in the beginning I was very much an active member of these lonely lady luncheons, but one random day I lifted my head off the shoulder of the girl beside me and looked up for a moment, shocked at the sight of a room full of people. How could someone so lonely as myself be surrounded by so many living, breathing bodies? And yes, I really had been soaking someone’s shirt, while sobbing about not having a shoulder to lean on.

I don’t know if I have fallen in love yet. But I’m scared that my version of love isn’t what’s being advertised to me. Is love a universal feeling or is it only made to feel that way?

Lines often times get blurred in the land of romance. Even smaller signs of affection are difficult to decipher. How can we tell the difference between plain attraction and true feelings? Well, at first we can’t. But then we leave it up to body language, words, and signs to figure it out. If they kiss you on the first date then they must not be serious right? But maybe that thought never even crossed their mind. One person’s definition of “love” is another person’s definition of a fling. That’s just how it is. Whether they’re emotional or sexual, everyone has preferences, and those preferences change everything. 

I’ve felt intensely for a few boys throughout the years, but never considered those feelings to be love. Now, being a little older with a bit more experience, I realize I can come to love someone platonically after only knowing them for a short time. My Love for someone is often birthed on the night we first meet. But if this “love” wasn’t the friendly type, it would be labeled as lust.

So how do I know I haven’t been in love before? Maybe I have. Maybe I’ve just been hiding behind my age and assumed immaturity to distance myself from the reality that: love can be whatever I want it to be. Love can be comfort and convenience and passion, and even sorrow. 

 

Photo by Adriana Electra. 

 

Not Every Ending is Bad

Almost two months ago, I was in my car — a two-time broken down 2001 Subaru Outback, sitting in rush-hour traffic and confiding in a friend. 

I told him everything in my life had just changed over the past few days, and I didn’t know what to do next. He told me, blatantly but softly, something I will never forget. Quoting the TV show Frasier, he said, “Emma, you’re not mourning the loss of your relationship so much as you’re mourning the death of what you thought your life would be.”

And in that moment, hitting me like a ton of bricks — it made sense.

At the beginning of the summer, I thought my life was going to be completely different. I had planned it a certain way, with a certain person. But yet, a month into living in a new city, I was all by myself. I hardly knew anyone, except for a few co-workers. 

I looked around at the apartment we moved into together — so many dreams and future plans. I look where his clothing sat, and the kitchen where he made me breakfast every morning. I see the bed that was once “ours” and I see us intertwined together in it. I remember the mornings, where we’d both sit in silence as the sun rose, thinking this could be my life forever.

But then, just like that, it wasn’t my forever. 

Now, I sit in my overly hot apartment, like Carrie Bradshaw, minus the famous curls and designer clothing, as I write this. A 21-year-old with the world as her feet. It is terrifying. After an extremely difficult year filled with hardships via work, school, mental health, just being young, etc. this was the last thing I wanted.

But for whatever reason, it’s the most uncomfortable scenarios that always seems to be best for us. 

When my relationship ended, I didn’t know what I liked anymore, what made me happy, what my goals were, who I wanted to be or what kind of people I liked hanging out with. I felt like a cardboard box. Stale. Empty. 

My relationship, though I gloated about it on social media, wasn’t healthy. But I never wanted to admit it. Me? A girl who always stands up for herself was in a toxic relationship? It couldn’t be. But sadly, it was. Unhealthy, one-sided, and at times, our partnership took the life out of me. But it wasn’t something I ever wanted to walk away from. I was so scared to be alone. I told myself that despite all the bad, there was some good. And wanted to hold onto it for dear life, no matter the cost. 

But it ended. And to my surprise, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

This is the first time in more than a year that my life has been about me. Just me. What do I want for dinner? What am I doing this weekend? What movie do I want to watch on Netflix? And to be honest, it has been amazing to not have to compromise on anything for someone. 

I began painting — I never saw myself as artistic, but somehow it’s working for me (kind of.) I started watching my favorite movies, I made new friends, I started doing everything on my own again. I danced around my apartment like no one was watching.

When he left, I felt like the weakest person in the world. I couldn’t stand any type of upset in my life — it would crush me. But now, I’m beginning to remember that person who got lost on the inside. And there is something so freeing about being young and remembering who you are.

In high school, I dreamt about who I wanted to be: 20 something, living on her own in a new city, paying all her own bills, and doing what she loved — writing.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing. 

But yet, it doesn’t always feel like how you think it would when you get to the “finish line.” It kind of feels like it just happened, and you ended up here. But that’s the thing we forget in the spiral of life: It never happens how we plan it, and we tend to not be in the moment for it when we should.

Recently, since the anxiety in my life seemed to subside with the absence of a certain someone, I find myself living in the moment more. I notice the woman at the store with her young son and the joy he brings her. I converse with the cashier and exchange laughter with them. See, when you’re tangled up in a situation, you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, or at least that’s how I saw it. You don’t feel the need to connect with others, or build new relationships because you feel like you already have everything you need. But in reality, you could be missing out on so much.

And this is not me being a relationship hater or a #SingleGirlSwag activist, because hey — if you’re happy in your relationship, all the power to you. But for the rest of us, who are young, naive, and still figuring this out — let us have this moment.

I remember being 17 and feeling like I knew everything. Then again at 19 when I got my heart broken for the first time, but now at 21, I know for certain, I’ve hardly scratched the surface. And that’s the beauty in it all. There’s so much to learn, to see and to experience.

If someone told me a few months ago how my life would be in this present moment, I would have kicked and screamed, done anything I could to avoid it. Now, in hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing. There’s a reason people continue to say century after century, “everything happens for a reason.” Because it does. In the moment of being sad, stubborn, heartbroken, and angry — we don’t want to believe it. But it’s real. What happened made me find my independence again. The unthinkable, the one thing I wanted to avoid more than anything because I was in love. And at the end of the day, love is great. It’s breathtaking. But when you don’t know yourself, when you don’t love yourself and when you’re not strong on your own, it’s a vice. And it can take you down in an instant.

So be on your own. Deal with the unthinkable — or probably what is the inevitable. It’s going to happen either way. But choose how you deal with it. Because more than likely, it will be liberating. 

I’ve now realized that there’s nothing more powerful than an independent, strong woman who has finally realized her worth. Be that woman. 

 

Photos by Adriana Electra. Gifs by Jacqueline Jing Lin. 

 

Letter to My Rapist’s Mother

The following content may be triggering. Names have been changed.

Dear Marie, 

I am not sure if you are aware of a particular incident which occurred, involving your son, Jack, but I wanted you to be aware, as a woman and as a mother. I understand and appreciate how this may be incredibly difficult to read/hear but I think that you need to hear what happened from the other perspective. 

Jack raped me while I was under the influence of alcohol and strong pain medication that I take for a chronic pain disorder. I was very visibly inebriated and in absolutely no state to participate in any type of sexual activities. 

We were at a bar, I remember him putting his arm around me, I felt uncomfortable and also quite nauseous so I went to the bathroom, I told him this and then left to the bathroom. I spent around ten minutes vomiting in the bathroom, and when I exited the restrooms, he was waiting for me outside of the door to said bathrooms. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but I continued to make my way back outside. He asked me whether I needed to go home, which I assumed was an innocent and caring observation that I was too drunk. He whisked me away and away from my friends. We were standing out front of the bar – my friends were on the right side. He grabbed my arm and told me to follow him left, towards a taxi.

I was too drunk at the time to have any judgement as to what was happening and why he was secretly ushering me away. In the Taxi I faced the window, he started asking me about my life: what I did, etc. I explained that I live with chronic irritable bowel syndrome and how it has ruined my life. He then proceeded to explain why Irritable Bowel Syndrome was the most “bullshit” excuse of an illness. I then don’t remember anything in between then, and going into my flatmates room and explaining that I thought this guy expected sex from me and I didn’t want to do anything. I then went into my bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. From then on, I do not remember a thing. 

The next thing I remember is when I started to sober up, Jack was on top of me, he was inside of me and making loud noises. I felt paralyzed, I had no idea what to do. Never once in my life have I ever felt so terrified. I felt numb, staring at the ceiling until I figured out exactly what to say and what to do. I told him that I needed to go home and made up a lie about having a curfew. He then said, “Oh what?” He got off of me. I was getting dressed as fast as I could and I deliberated just grabbing my clothing and running out to get changed somewhere else. I asked him if he could pass me a lighter which was on the bed, Jack looked at me and said, “That is my lighter, you whore.”

I then went to leave and he followed me out the front door, when we were on the road he said nothing, put his hood up, and jogged off. 

When I got home, I stayed in the shower for three hours, for the following weeks I had at least three showers per day. My thighs ached. I constantly felt sick. I struggled to eat and I couldn’t sleep. I felt as though I was no longer in control of my own body, he had taken total authority over it. There has not been a day since where I haven’t replayed this event in my head. 

I have struggled immensely with my mental health the past year. I have experienced death, debilitating anxiety, depression, a pain disorder, and eating issues. I have worked harder than I’ve ever worked before to improve these things, and hopefully, my over all quality of life. It feels as though that night, what happened, has set me so far back and made my efforts of recovery almost redundant. 

Again, I apologize if this is difficult to read, but I believe that it is important that you also are aware of my side, and how I felt / feel. 

I sincerely hope that as a woman you can understand how traumatizing this was. If not, please think about how you might feel if I was your daughter. 

 

Photo by Delaney Shuler. 

 

Summer in New York

To whomever it concerns,

Bittersweet. That was the way my friend Christopher had described it to me as we sat in the middle of New York City. Bryant Park, specifically. He defined what I had been talking about and wondering myself. He asked me why I loved the person I did when it brought me both joy and sadness.

“Something to wallow in,” I said.

I loved him. More than I could say, more than I can even write about now. I thought I had fallen in love before — but not in this way. I’d fall for cities and people.

I’m originally from Los Angeles, but New York City has always been my dream. I graduated college and planned on moving to a different area code. In the middle of June, I landed in Manhattan.

In college, I had one serious relationship. That relationship consumed most of my undergrad years and taught me what I did not want in a relationship or partner. It also brought me the most defining heartbreak I had up until that point — until the following year.

I dated a little, as in by the third date we would fuck then never speak again. It was hard for me to find intimate moments with people I had no attraction to beyond their exterior. It’s also very hard for me to want to continue seeing one person, as I’m easily distracted and have what you may call a terrible case of what if there’s someone better out there? syndrome.

Later in that same year of the disastrous heartbreak with my long-term college boyfriend, I tried to be more open to dating. During that time, I found someone — or rather they found me and everything changed.

I actually had met him before, but unfortunately, we didn’t have much time together; he was only visiting New York. I wouldn’t see him again until the next fall. Unlike most sudden affinities, this did not go away. Immediately after our initial interaction, I realized how much I liked this person. And for the first time in a long time, it wasn’t because I wanted to fill my empty spaces of time with someone. It wasn’t about their appearance, but because of them. Their entirety. It felt too good to be true.

But by the time we started talking frequently again and became physical with one another, I began to realize that I was falling deeply in love with a person who would never feel the same way. By December, I finally admitted the way I had been feeling after too many tequila shots in a bar far away from him.

I was told, “I’m not looking for anything right now.”

He had missed the point completely. My expression of love for him was not to convince him that I should be his girlfriend. In fact, I didn’t even want to be his girlfriend. It was to tell him, “You’re something so important to me and losing you in any way at this point would absolutely tear me apart.” In other words, I can’t stop thinking about you and I don’t even want to try not to and I just want you to know that.

But he didn’t understand, and I’m not mad about it.

I fell madly in love with someone who I can now call one of my dearest friends. I could barely keep eye contact — if he ever looked at me the same time I looked at him I couldn’t linger on for more than ten seconds. I would be swallowed by what was between the two of us.

I felt as though I could be around him forever; never tire of seeing him, hearing him, or feeling him. I still can recall exactly what his hair would smell like after he showered and the way his skin felt in the sun. He was always so warm. And if he walked into the same room as me, the Frank Ocean’s line “Wish we grew up on the same advice and our time was right,” would play in my head.

We graduated from our university and as we separated I left him with a three-page long letter confessing my love. Not because he hadn’t heard it before, but because I wanted him to have it in writing.

Then, I started to look for new cities to live in. I spend the beginning of June in Spain contemplating my future. I then end up across the Atlantic back in the states in New York. I go there to meet up with my possible Brooklyn roommate. I always loved the East Coast, so I figured to try it out for a bit. While I was in the city, the boy who I had fallen so in love with was also there. Perhaps against my better judgement, we decided to meet in Lower Manhattan.

We spent the entire day and then the following evening together. I had never felt so deeply for someone as I looked over my shoulder to him lying in Central Park next to me. He was so close yet so far away. Although everything seemed perfect in that moment I knew as soon as I would
leave the city, it would all be gone.

I’ll never forget our night in Brooklyn, and I’ll return to this memory for the rest of my life. We shared a few drinks, some more of our thoughts on similar interests, and then we walked in Domino Park for most of the evening. It was so warm, around 75 degrees at midnight. The clouds had slowly rolled in from the south and as we looked up at the Williamsburg Bridge and over the water onto the Manhattan skyline. It was beginning to drizzle but we didn’t mind. We continued to walk along the river and share the evening. I remember slowly reaching for his hand as we stood side by side gazing at the traffic. It was the hum on the water that consisted of a few boats and the ferry that takes you back and forth from the city to the quieter streets of Brooklyn. I remember the way he grabbed my hand back and as we started to kiss in the summer rain, my heart swelled and sank even more.

I never wanted it to end. In the separated seconds of pressing our mouths to one another, I felt the sadness of everything when we stopped. As he looked at me and as I saw the lights of Manhattan behind him, I wanted to scream at him, “How can you not feel the same way?”

I mean, we were in New York, it was summer, it was raining, and we were kissing. If this wasn’t enough of a magical package of the best feelings to convince him we should be together, then I knew there was no convincing that could work. It was the way he felt. And although I respected it, I didn’t understand the way he could compartmentalize his feelings and moments with me into categories labeled “platonic.”

A few days later, I left New York. I haven’t seen him since.

But before that, I met with Christopher to have coffee after a morning of suffering a serious hangover. As we sat in Bryant Park, he asked me about this person and the past two nights we spent together. He asked me why I let myself fall in love with someone who showed no real want for me.

I couldn’t explain it. It was like I was addicted to it. I was so in love with him but also okay with the pain it brought me. I knew that no matter what I did or said, I would never be to him what he is to me. Once again he described our latest interaction as “bittersweet” because despite the happiness, it did not come alone. The sadness still lingered as I recalled his words of disbelief for my feelings for him and unreciprocated actions and words of affirmation.

That last night with him in Brooklyn was the closure I needed; he could only give me these small doses of intimacy that were not consistent with the rest of our interactions.

Although I have never stopped loving him, I have finally stopped wishing things would change. He still hinders my ability to want or try to be with other people — that’s not anyone’s fault but mine. I don’t want to see another sunset without him, I don’t want to go back to the city and know he is not there. But I will. It’s the only way I can go on without feeling as if I was carrying a brick on my chest.

I still haven’t spent a full summer in New York, but the days I visited in June felt like an entire summer wrapped up into one. Although I am still in my early 20s and have so much life ahead of me, I can’t help but think I will not feel this way about another person for a long time. As I try to date even now, I subconsciously look for him in other people. I wonder if he is doing okay. I’m not sure if he’ll ever read this, and even if he does I still don’t know if he would fully grasp it. But this was something I wanted to share. An open letter, an opening heart.

I wonder if I open it enough this love will pour out of me as easily at it seeped in. Maybe it’s to share with others that it’s okay to fall in love and be sad about it. Maybe it’s to finally put it in writing. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was all real and it was all on purpose and that’s the best thing I could have asked for.

 

Love,

Dev

 

All photos by Willow Gray. 

 

Sex is Supposed to be Fun for Women – Who Knew?

 

I didn’t know sex wasn’t supposed to hurt as much as the first time every time you had it until two years after the fact. Up until my revelation that sex could and should be enjoyable for women, I was satisfied in my dissatisfaction with sex.

For a while, whenever I would retrospectively wonder why I had put up with so much bad sex, I’d end up blaming myself. I felt responsible for my own complacency with sup-par dick. I explicitly told the men I’d slept with — time and time again — that the sex was great, that I enjoyed myself, that orgasm was completely authentic. And yes, it is so wonderful that we came at the same time. And so on and so forth. 

What a liar!

Why, if the sex sucked, was I sucking dick? Even then in my teenage naivete, I felt a distrust and disliking towards straight men. Yet, I fell into some sort of reversal when naked and attempting to reach some sort of climax — an effort often thwarted by my partners’ inability to locate anything with a nerve ending. 

I noticed my yielding toward the will of gendered power structures I so actively hated outside of the bedroom. And that behavior was rewarded. Or, reinforced with what I’m sure the men I was sleeping with perceived to be positive affirmation. Later into my sexual life, I found the forms of communication used through sex which I had become accustomed were kinda fucked up. Both verbal and non-verbal, were oftentimes completely dependent and in response to whatever my partner was communicating. 

That looked like: 

Him: I want head.

Me: Okay I will give you head. 

Him: You want to give me head, right?

Me: Yes, I want to give you head. 

I actually hate giving head. I hated then and I hate it still, but I’d do it anyway. Me just doing the damn thing wasn’t ever sufficient though. I had to want to do it. At the least, I had to make it seem like I wanted to do it. If my enthusiasm was not where it needed to be, I’d be asking a rhetorical question, to which the answer was already scripted. It never felt as though I could say, “No, I don’t want to do this sexual thing because we did it before and you’re bad at it.” Often, I felt that to be the only truthful response. So I would lie. 

Lying while laying. More focus applied to my moans than anything else. After a while, I decided that I hated sex and began to see it as a tool more than anything else. I rarely finished sex, because I rarely finished during sex. It became clear that once sex had started, to an extent, we’d done the deed regardless of if we came. Ta-da! Done. 

I got very good at faking fatigue from over exertion, exhaustion from lust, electrolyte depletion from sweating — I could find any way to get out of a fuck. It is to this phase in my life which I attribute my theater prowess. 

This happened so often and became so normalized that I wasn’t displeased or even deprived. I didn’t know what I didn’t have. I had never felt properly touched before, and therefore never longed for it nor suffered in its absence. 

Actually, I thought I had the whole sex thing pretty down. Guys loved sleeping with me and frequently wanted to do so more than once. I usually declined, opting instead to find more bad dick elsewhere. Neither party seemed to be aware that the sex was good for one person, since we both actively expressed a singular, male viewpoint. I call this bedroom hegemony. It’s like regular hegemony in the way that we’re convinced the unequal distribution of power is normal when really, it’s not. 

For example, I don’t particularly enjoy having a penis rammed down my throat. I don’t like having my head pushed in any direction. I like being choked, but you’re supposed to squeeze the sides of the throat, not the windpipe — that is how you kill someone. I don’t mind having my ass slapped, but I will be upset if I can’t sit down the next day. None of these are outlandishly deviant preferences. Though, I realized these were things I didn’t like because men kept doing them to me without asking. 

I would say nothing. Actually, I would pad my silence with a bunch of well rehearsed “oohs” and “ahhs”, not that anyone was listening anyway. In my mind, since everyone was doing it, that was just sex, right? 

It wasn’t until I started watching porn that I realized why all these men fuck like they’re trying to hammer a nail into a cement wall. The prevalence and seemingly formulaic incorporation of violence into mainstream porn fascinated me. The women, to whom I naturally  paid the most attention, rarely looked pleased. When they did I instantly questioned if it was as performative as I myself had grown to be. Porn is graphic, you can see everything. What I was seeing looked painful. I then understood, men are being taught that violence is sexy. Yuck.

There is an overbearing theme of domination and objectification of women in porn. This isn’t necessarily a nuance, but when applied to the behavior I experienced in the bedroom, the themes transfer over. I see the unrealistic expectations and understandings of sex bleed from the internet into my actual bedroom. Sometimes that’s in the uncomfortably rough way men have handled my body. Often times, it’s in the overwhelmingly male focus and narrative of our sex. We’re done when he’s done. White flag means game over.  

I notice the confidence in men who have bad sex. Clearly they don’t know they’re bad, and they’ve been bad for so long, they think they’re good. To which I say, we need to stop lying to men about their pipe game. 

We’re doing ourselves a disservice, sure. But it’s easy to walk away from bad sex with a smile and never look back. I used to pull that all the time. Though, what we’re also doing is reinforcing male delusions of grandeur in the bedroom. Do not let the age old myth that he who fucks the hardest and fastest wins the race. He who comes first does not actually win. In the name of vaginas, anuses and orifices otherwise used in sexual activity, tell guys what they’re doing wrong. If not for yourself than for their next partner. Consider it as passing it forward. 

Once I made the connections between my own displeasure and the looks of boredom on porn stars’ faces, I started speaking the hell up. “I don’t like this,” “touch me here,” “do not even think about it.” I wasn’t a dick about it, but if the service wasn’t up to par, I dismounted, packed my things up and took my butt home. 

I had to explain to a lot of guys that no, that wasn’t how you did that. And they listened. If we needed to, we stopped. When I wanted to, I took the time to explain what I liked and how they could improve. It made my sex longer, better, and hotter. The active dismantling of male dominance in my bedroom made me love my bedroom a lot more. Made me love sex a lot more. Made a lot of guys into the men they are today. 

 

Photos (in order of appearance) by Francesca Iacono, Tamara Chapman, and Dakota Varney. 

 

How I Discovered I’m a Love Addict

 

“Hi, my name is Ana. I am a 21-year-old junior in college, and I’m pretty sure I struggle with love addiction,” were the first words to come out of my mouth during my first Sex Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) meeting. 

Realizing that I was love addict was a lengthy process, but finding what triggered it was almost instantaneous.

For almost two years now, I have been conducting a strict, solo-polyamorous lifestyle. Which, simply put, just means “single with multiple partners.” Most of the relationships I am currently in are nothing but casual, and they are based on both sex and friendship. In my head, this pattern seems ideal. I mean, I’m getting all the perks of being in a relationship without having to worry about commitment, having to introduce someone to my family, or wanting to be intimate with someone new.

So why does it hurt so much?

I began to suspect I had some addictive tendencies whenever I would find myself mistaking sexual encounters with a new romantic opportunity. To this day, I crave emotional connection, non-sexual affection, and the feeling of falling for someone. All because it temporarily boosts my perception of self-worth. Unfortunately for me, I oftentimes find myself having sex in order to obtain all of those things. Mostly because it seems to be the easiest and quickest method. Unsurprisingly, all this does is put me in the perfect position to get constantly burned. 

I frequently catch myself putting other people’s needs, specifically those of my sexual partners, before my own.

Although I can admit this is a nice gesture, it is definitely an unnecessary one. I begin to act like “the perfect girlfriend” in order for me to get a glimpse of the perfect boyfriend. Deep down, I’m aware that I could never really hold a genuine romantic relationship with a lot of the men I’m involved with. Yet my mind never fails to overwhelm me with negative emotion whenever these men don’t treat me how I dream of being treated. In the past, I caught myself defending this behavior with “the golden rule” — but I recently discovered it’s rightfully inapplicable in this scenario. 

So, what exactly is love addiction? To be quite frank, I found out about it less than a month ago. In fact, it was hard for me to believe it was a real thing. However, that thought quickly changed after going on an hour-long Google binge which ended on the SLAA website. 

While The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not officially recognize love addiction as a real disorder within the manual, it is considered a behavioral addiction amongst many psychiatrists. Like any other addiction, this particular one provokes compulsive behavior that can lead to self-destructive tendencies: practicing unhealthy habits, having falling-outs with friends and family, and even developing new addictions. 

In my case, I am severely addicted to the rush I get from the disingenuous relationships I’ve developed over the past two years. My symptoms are merely focused around the dependency within romance. My coping mechanisms include finding new partners or contacting old ones, fantasizing about love, restricting my eating, and of course, having sex. 

Though I’m still unsure from where exactly my addiction stems, I am confident that the absent relationship I had with my father growing up, the highly manipulative, age-gap relationship I had with my first love at sixteen, and the sexually and emotionally abusive relationship I had with my most recent ex boyfriend are all contributors. I will not go into detail about what exactly happened in each of those chapters of my life, but I am grateful to be at a place where I am comfortable enough to admit that they happened and that these events still haunt me. 

I’m still having a hard time trying not to blame the people I mentioned before for my current struggle with love addiction. I understand that being angry at them is acceptable, but at the end of the day I know I’m the only one who can improve my life.

In other news, I also have a hard time staying away from sex and the habits that come with my addiction. For example, I only ate one meal yesterday and I spent the entire day crying because I told myself I should try and limit how much I communicate with my current partners.

All I want is the constant reassurance and happiness that stems from a romantic relationship. It makes me feel confident, it makes me feel wanted, and unfortunately, it makes me feel good enough for everyone.I’m still confused as to why I seem to need it from a man I find attractive. But I’m proud to have been brave enough to come to terms with my ongoing problem.

 

 

For more information about sex and love addiction, you can visit Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.

Photos (in order of appearance) by STAA Collective and Francesca Iacono.

 

An Audience with the Dildo Duchess, Zoë Ligon

 

RoleModel is an interview series highlighting badass individuals. 

 

Zoë Ligon is changing the world one dildo at a time. 

For those who don’t know, ZoĂ« is the CEO of Spectrum Boutique, an inclusive, online sex-positive adult toy store operated out of Detroit. In addition to being a businesswoman, writer, and sexual educator — she also hosts a podcast called Hot Brain, in which she discusses everything from sex to memes to intimacy.

Whether you know her as ZoĂ«, the dildo duchesss, or @thongria, there is no denying that she’s a renaissance woman. Zoë’s shop is online so we decided to chat with her — online. The following is a transcript of our conversation. 

 

Where did the name Thongria come from?

I used to be a moderator for OkCupid in 2014. Essentially, I reviewed user reports as well as flagged content and made decisions on who stays and who gets banned. I came across an account that was clearly a scammer, but before I slapped ’em with a ban, I noticed their username was “Thongria” — and thought it was cute.

Soon after, my original instagram account @poopexplosion was banned from Instagram because… dildos. When I needed a new name, I thought, thongria! [@Poopexplosion] had about 1,000 followers and was by no means visible on social media, so I had no idea that it would literally become known as “me” as time went on.

Recently I learned that “Thongrian” is a common name in other parts of the world, so I have no idea if that scammer meant to write that name and it was a typo, or whether it was really someone being like “thong + sangria = thongria” (which is how I interpreted it). 

 

Spectrum is so welcoming and helpful, an insanely different experience to my first time in a sex shop and I’m assuming many other peoples’. Do you remember your first time in a sex shop? 

I most certainly do! I went into Tic-Tac-Toe (now closed) in Greenwich Village to get a gag gift for my roommate freshman year in college. I also picked up some metal handcuffs (truly the worst restraint ever) and some very toxic butt plugs that were part of an “anal training kit.” I was uncomfortable, but I acted on my discomfort by being like LOL cool LOOK AT THIS!! While my friend who joined me was a bit more quiet and shy.

Like many people, I got insertable things before I got a vibrating thing. When you’re taught that sex equals penetration, you don’t realize that dildos and butt plugs are best paired with external stimulation (for many of us)! I mainly used those butt plugs to send sexy pictures to guys I was into, it wasn’t even for me, really. 

 

Your first vibrator? 

Ah, the original Lelo Liv. In navy blue! I still have it. I got that thing, and it sat in a drawer for weeks, maybe months, before I used it. I didn’t know it at the time, but the vibrations were far too gentle for me. I used it, felt pretty meh about it, and finally connected the dots that I needed something stronger, so I got a wand and the rest is history! The Liv ended up being a prop for me to shove in my ass during sex with partners — and no that is not an anal safe vibrator. I cringe thinking about it, and how it too became a prop for others’ enjoyment more than my own. It’s not that I dislike anal, I just did anal play performatively for others at the time, and I like reflecting on that.

 

Imagine yourself seeing Spectrum online through the lens of a young adult. It seems like a super informational and inclusive place for everyone. Was this the intention?

Oh wow — heck yes! The fact that Spectrum is nearly four years old and growing each day blows my mind, so much so that I almost compartmentalize it. It feels too good to be true. I can’t even absorb how fucking cool it is that I have grown, learned, and healed through creating this platform that also helps other people, too.

Ultimately, the viewers teach me more than I could ever teach myself. The education goes both ways, and I’m excited to make Spectrum a place where the users have even more input and ability to share their thoughts!

 

We are exposed to so much sexual content and have it available at our fingertips thanks to the internet. With that, information about Sex Ed has become more accessible. Your personal approach is very humorous and candid. How did you settle on your educational voice? 

I really think it’s just who I am. I recently watched videos from my childhood, and couldn’t get over how I have always had the same vibe (minus sex toys of course).

Pleasure is an amazing and beautiful thing, but there are many difficult aspects of pleasure, especially in our society today. I can only speak from my personal experience, and there is a lot of pain and trauma in my personal experience. So in order to approach my pleasure and take it back and make it mine, I need to make it funny. Humor is the only way I can authentically navigate the darkness in order to get back to pleasure. It’s not a deflection or glossing-over, it’s the way I can transform pain into pleasure. Humor is the change agent for me. 

 

From an online/IRL lens, have you seen attitudes towards sex changed since opening your shop?

Absolutely. People are much more aware of sexual trauma, specifically. The most frequently asked questions have always involved people with vulvas and their inability to orgasm, but people phrase it differently now.

Questions, in general, are worded in ways that are more aware of things like dissociation and physical pain that manifests from trauma. Instead of “why am I this way?” It’s now more so, “how do I move past this?”

 

What goes into being @thongria? Your internet presence is incredible, and I’m sure the trolls are unforgiving. Have you ever had to deal with online harassment? 

What goes into being Thongria? A lot of haphazard selfie taking that is utterly ridiculous. I have no content calendar, I just impulsively create based off of ideas that float through my brain. I think relative to my reach, I have been pretty lucky with trolls.

The things that cause me to get dragged the hardest are the things that strike a nerve with people and cut to the core of an issue that brings out intense feelings from people. I can’t say that my tolerance for harassment is healthy or natural, but after years of it, I do feel that online harassment over something I am standing up for is far better than no reaction whatsoever.

I just want people to self-reflect. If people follow me just to report me or troll me, maybe one day that ideology will unravel a bit. People who harass others online are making a bigger statement about themselves than the person they’re harassing.

 

Has IG ever removed your content in the name of censorship?

Yes, constantly. Just got notified of something being taken down within the past hour. Twitter is better about not censoring me. I respect the concept of community guidelines, but it’s clear that the guidelines are subjective, selective, and reflect many disturbing double standards in society.

 

If you could snap your fingers and erase a taboo about sex or a false belief/misconception, what would it be?

The belief that you can be entitled to sex or intimacy from someone else.

 

Do you think we will ever ‘free the nipple’? 

I am genuinely unsure, but I am hopeful. As we all begin to understand the fluidity of gender, and we see that reflected within the structure of society — maybe.

 

What’s something about you we couldn’t learn from googling you?

I had two pet snakes growing up. One was a large bull snake named Bullet, and one was a ribbon snake that I named Birthday because I got it on my birthday and I am terrible at naming pets. 

 

What’s your sign and do you think astrology influences your sex life at all? 

I’m a Taurus sun, Gemini rising, Aquarius moon… yes I know all that, yet I don’t think that astrology influences anything in my life, period.

I do appreciate that it is a way we can discuss personality traits and relationships, however! I have found far more personal insight from things like Enneagrams (I’m a 6.) I don’t have any issue with astrology, but I am bothered by people using it to manipulate other people (i.e. you can’t do X today, mercury is in retrograde!) as well as people who use it as a scapegoat for their shitty behavior.

But having said that, my Venus is Aries so I’m terrible to date!

 

What’s a toy from spectrum that my boyfriend and I should try?

This is a question I receive often, and the answer is… that’s up to both of you! There isn’t one specific thing that I think all people or couples should try. There are definitely things that can be helpful for couples, like sex positioners which help you get better angles, but nothing is “just for couples.”

But in the spirit of answering this question, even though it isn’t a toy, get a sex wedge! You can always just use it as a back pillow for eating snacks in bed. 

 

You can follow ZoĂ«’s hilarious and thoughtful Instagram account here, and be sure to check out her podcast Hot Brain — currently streaming on Apple and Spotify. 

Article photos (in order of appearance) by Chloe Sells, Megan Lovallo, and Maizy Shepherd.

Wanna Have a Threesome?

Threesome almost feels like a bad word at this point. At worst, the experience can be disorganized and over-performative, but at best — when you’ve perfected the art of communicatively taking turns — it truly is the more the merrier.

I find that one of the most unappealing aspect of threesomes is that it’s an infamous facet of straight boy dreams, but I want to advocate for the group setting. Here are a few of my personal tips that may help enhance your ménage à trois!

 

Who to ask.

Some enjoy the novelty of a stranger, while others find comfort in the familiarity of a friend or acquaintance. Inviting a stranger into the mix can be ideal for those who want to avoid potentially shifting the nature of their current intimate relationships.

However, friends can be preferable for those who seek familiarity. Before you and and your partner bring others into bed, ask yourselves: what would best enrich my experience?

 

Initiate the conversation.

Introducing your desires may take your partner(s) by surprise, which is fair enough! Endeavoring into new sexual territory requires a lot of trust. Be open to answering all of their questions — before, during, and after. Your partner(s) may experience internal conflicts and express insecurities about their performance in bed, hold space for their concerns. Communicate why you’d think a threesome may be fun for you both and how it’s an interest not borne from boredom in your shared sex life. 

Remember that it is a conversation, be as open-minded as you would want in return. 

 

Vocalize fears and concerns beforehand.

Be open about your own and your partner(s)’ expectations. Discuss specifically what you are and are not comfortable with. Is something about the deed making you nervous? Are you concerned with the aftermath? 

Talking about your desires and fears beforehand will also ensure that every participant is prepared. If you all aren’t familiar with each others sexual wants, be honest about what gets you going. Don’t worry about ruining the spontaneity, life has its way of slipping surprises in no matter what. 

Set your boundaries.

Decide what is off-limits. If kissing isn’t in the cards — be vocal about it! No anal? Perfectly fine. Similarly, advocate for what you do want to try. Threesomes also don’t have to be treated as a singular occasion. Sex in general requires a lot of practice to familiarize yourself with others bodily preferences. No decisions have to be made immediately, but extend the idea of giving each other the chance to practice. 

 

Be prepared with condoms and lube.

What’s a bigger buzzkill than scrambling for that one condom you are SO sure you have under your bed somewhere? Nothing is hotter than being prepared. Also, don’t forget the toys! Throwing in a gadget or two may ensure that no one feels left out.

 

Don’t use porn as a guide.

Sexual navigation is more complicated than pornography can prepare you for. You and your partner likely don’t behave like pornstars in bed, so why reference it? Although, it can be a hot tool to utilize during the real life thing, if you’re into that. 

There is no singular or right way to have a threesome!

 

It’s OK to change your mind.

You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. If your partners give you a hard time about it then it just validates your decision even more.

 

Have fun and roll with the punches (metaphorically)!

Sex is messy. We, ourselves, are subject to being messy. Be confident in yourself and follow your gut. Nothing that you do for the first or hundredth time has to go off without a hitch. Don’t be overcritical of your own performance. 

 

It’s all right if everything doesn’t go “back to normal” afterwards. 

Don’t feel pressured to achieve normalcy. Maybe it’s better if your relationships with your partner(s) take a different shape rather than squeezing into socially acceptable and formal boxes. You’re in charge of the relationships you want and the sex you want. 

 

Be safe, be confident, and be kind! 

 

Photos (in order of appearance) by Sweet Suezy, Dariana Portes, and Francesca Iacono. 

 

Letting Go of the Shame Surrounding My Mental Illness

 

*The following many be triggering to those affected by self-harm and depression.*

 

Last month, I found a note I wrote when I was 9 years old. It was hidden deep in the bedroom closet of my childhood home. Soon after I began to read it, I realized it was a suicide letter.

Suicide itself was not specifically detailed, so it was a little cryptic. I tiptoed around the topic; I don’t think I had ever even heard the term “suicide” before. In the letter, 9-year-old Maya explained how life was too hard for her and that she needed to leave. I wrote to my family and friends that it was not their fault, and that I’d always love them,  apologizing for being selfish, but with a hint of hesitation by including the idea that I thought their lives would be easier without me.

The letter was the first of many folded up pieces of scrap paper.

After years of therapy and intensive treatment, I’ve learned to dig deeper into my memory to evaluate childhood events and dynamics that contributed to the development of the mental illnesses I have today. I was already aware of my mom’s alcoholism and of my parents’ broken relationship. But, this was the earliest, actual piece of evidence I found that tangibly initiated my mental health trials.

Seeing 2008 as the year listed atop of the old wrinkled paper shocked me. I was mortified that a child young could house the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that I still struggle to work through today, as a young adult. The letter triggered a series of events within my mind. I began to recall memories I had buried so deeply that their existence was almost erased.

I watched the new Christopher Robin movie, and emerging from the adorable story and characters I loved so much as a child was another memory — one from when I was little and comparing myself to every animated character I fell in love with, constantly changing my metaphorical identity from Belle to Jasmine. Yet, out of all of the Winnie the Pooh characters, I thought of myself as Eeyore. I didn’t want to be the severely depressed donkey living in misery. I wanted to be Roo or Piglet, the cutest ones that made people smile. But the truth was, in my heart, I knew that I was Eeyore.

Growing up, I liked to constantly change my style. I was obsessed with self expression and figuring out who the “real” me was. In 7th grade, I wore dark purple eyeshadow for a week and decided that that was my thing. This evolved into glitter eyeshadow the following week, since that’s what the popular girls started wearing, and in my mind, I was supposed to be popular. At one point, I bought a sock monkey beanie with ears attached to the top and wore it around the house and out and about with my family for a few days because I told myself that THIS is the real me: I’m the quirky girl that wears a funky hat. 

When I was 15, I decided to embrace the hippie life because my dad was a surfer and drove a 1989 Volkswagen bus. I believed that hippie genes ran through my veins… which isn’t totally untrue. Numerous parts of my personality do reflect those of my dad’s, who grew up in Southern California with a group of friends who wore homemade loincloths on the beach and wrote notes in each other’s yearbooks preaching “make love, not war” and “peace, love, granola.” Dad always smells like patchouli and sandalwood…

My free spirit identity carried on until my first suicide attempt during my second year of high school. This was consequently followed by a thirty day stay at an inpatient behavioral health facility for teens. My mental health status had remained rocky since 2008.

When my junior year of high school came around, I returned from summer break with a bang and changed my style and physical presentation to what I believed would qualify as “girly girl.” I got really good at doing makeup, straightened my hair before going out in public– no matter what. I got a lot of attention that year and went through a few boyfriends. My social status rose quite a bit, and I got the full experience of what it’s like to juggle relationships, friendships, school, drama, HORMONES, sex, and everything else that comes with being a teenager. I was doing much better and managing my mental health closely. I was consistent with my new medications and participated in outpatient therapy. My social life was entertaining, but everything was still a secret. I told no one about my mental illness or past suicide attempt. I was beginning to thrive in my environment, I thought, so the world mustn’t find out that I’m crazy.

But, the truth must come out eventually.

I was carrying a giant, invisible backpack full of shame from my depression and anxiety as I walked through the halls of my high school wearing a new outfit and smile on my face. I learned how to perfect my under eye concealer application to hide the purple and puffy bags that lingered from the night before. Eye drops were always on hand for me so I could clear the redness after a cry in the bathroom. The back stall was safe. I could let my anxiety attack run its course unbothered and return to class seemingly fine. I learned to resist my body shakes and voice quivers so that I could be that girl who’s friends with everyone.

When I turned 18, my breakdowns became daily. I didn’t know how much longer I could carry this heavy backpack full of secrets. My back was breaking from the weight. I thought I could hear the cracks spreading from my spine to my skull.

In the last four years I’ve learned a lot about myself, society, and especially mental health. I started reading about the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and about the importance of raising accurate awareness. I watched documentaries about people like me, and I reminisced on the moments I shared in inpatient treatment with my peers. They became the people that I connected with on a deeper level. I had only known them for thirty days, but they had become some of the most important people in my life. They’re the true reason I made it through that terrible month; our vulnerability with one another and the stories we shared together about our struggles bound us together. That honesty and establishment of community was a crucial healing agent in my case. We had secret powers that helped us reach our own unique lights at the end of the tunnel, and none of us even knew.

I thought about those kids every day and began to consider the possibility that people at my school may be going through the same thing we were. Maybe they were also good at putting on a disguise. They could be sitting right next to me in class or meeting with a school counselor like I do. They could be at this very party, dancing and laughing. They could be in my friend group. They could be the people I think I know everything about.

My mom tells me that I have always been an advocate. I stood up for myself and those around me. She told me that the only time she’d receive “in trouble” phone calls from my preschool and my later elementary school was when I punched an older kid in the stomach for bullying one of my classmates. I’ve always known this about myself, but I was never confident enough to intentionally tap into it. I didn’t think I was powerful. 

But then, I realized there is a lot more to me than just my mental illness. It doesn’t rule me. I don’t need to keep playing a role — I could finally navigate the intersection of my identity and mental health.

So, I stopped faking it. I started acting on my impulses rather than strategically planning out my identity as if it were a Pinterest board.

I woke up from a nap one afternoon and got my hair cut. I watched my long, healthy hair fall to the floor. I looked at the dead ends. They had been there in my crises, they had been there in my weakest moments, they had been there through everything. And now, they were idly sitting under my feet, no longer a part of me. As I shed the dead follicles, I began to shed the preoccupation I had with my identity and the shame of my suicide attempt — I got a bob. It felt amazing. I went home and deconstructed my dresser and made a pile of things I would wear but didn’t really like on myself. The suede ankle booties from Nordstrom. The god awful basic grey t-shirt dress that was so short I may have accidentally flashed the entire cafeteria when I sat down. The low-top white converse that I thought made my ankles look weird. The black ripped jeans that were so tight I could literally feel them slowly cut off my circulation while I stood in front of the “twin day” spirit week wall beside my friends who wore the same ones. Most importantly, the push up bras that did nothing but torture my A-cup boobs.

After the demolition of my room, I bagged those and dropped them off at Goodwill. Ironically, Goodwill would become my favorite store. I flourished in my new skin, I felt comfortable, and I didn’t have to convince myself that anything was my “thing” because I didn’t have or need one anymore.

My newfound confidence in my appearance gave me the strength to lay my interpersonal cards on the table. I shared my story with what felt like everyone I knew at a weekend getaway sponsored by my school. I prepared a script so I wouldn’t mess up when I stood in front of a hundred of my peers. I read about a third of it to my audience before I realized I didn’t need to follow a structured layout like I always had.

I knew my story —  the paper didn’t.

I cried publicly and felt no shame in doing so. I soaked in the love from the audience when I finished and realized that some other people were also crying. Did I really do that? Yeah, I fucking did that. And, for the rest of the night, I sat with people who asked to talk with me. I heard multiple stories about their own struggles. I gave a lot of hugs. I thanked God for the opportunity my testimony presented me with, and for the fact that others who likewise felt isolated got to share a bit of their hidden selves with me. We unloaded our backpacks together. Life went on. I finished high school with satisfaction. I graduated from all those years of secrecy and false impressions. I granted myself a little diploma of truth.

But my journey with my mental health didn’t end there. There is no end; there is only forward.

The shift to college has been the most exciting period of my life thus far. It almost feels like a second puberty, except it’s entirely mental and much more definitive. I’m a force to be reckoned with, and I’ll say that now with a prideful glimmer in my eye. 

It’s important to remember, though, that my mental illness hasn’t disappeared. It’s still with me, but it can now be recognized and confronted.

I recently impulsively cut my hair (again) at 2AM on a Wednesday, watched the new dead ends fall to the ground. I have to continue to take care of myself, and that will never change. But, I’m no longer feel embarrassed or ashamed in talking about treatment or sharing updates on my health. I can be the fiery Aries, feminist, and passionately loving person that I am in coexistence with my depression and anxiety. My traumatic experiences have fueled my work in school and in society. Now, I shamelessly use social media as a platform to speak about what I believe in, and I’m grateful for the positive influence it can have on people’s ability to reshape their perspectives, especially about sometimes difficult topics like mental health.

The people who are advocates like myself, the people who may not agree or understand but still wish to expand their knowledge by reading whatever I have to say, the people who may be silently struggling, just as I was: these are the people that need to see my honest words. 

Yes, I have chronic depression and crippling anxiety. Yes, I have attempted suicide and been sent to a rehabilitation clinic. These are truths of mine. 

No, I am not insane. No, I am not weak. No, I AM NOT my mental illness. I am kind, passionate, persistent, powerful, and an amazing friend and dog mama. These are truths of mine, too.

What are your truths? 

 

Photos/art (in order of appearance) by Nikki Burnett, Dariana Portes, and Emily Millar.