Interview: Singer/Songwriter Missy Bauman on Girlhood, Motherhood, & Being Brave

My brother Max, a musician and songwriter, doesn’t often tell me I “have to” check out a particular artist, album, or song. But when he does, he means it.

A few years back, he met a girl named Missy Bauman through mutual friends who were attending music school with her. “You have to come see this girl play,” he told me. And because Max so rarely makes these assertions, I took this one seriously.

I went and saw Missy perform, with her then-collaborator, Rebekah Hawker. I think it was sometime during their song “Supernova” that I really fell in love. Tender and thoughtful lyrics, gorgeously simple melodies, and a girlish solemnity that felt familiar to my far-too-full heart… I immediately wanted to devour Missy’s whole oeuvre.

She has a stunning new EP out, Girlhood, and I sat down with her to chat about the inspirations behind the songs. Here’s our conversation…

Kate Sloan: Heyyy beauty.
Missy Bauman: Hello hello! 🙂
KS: Sssooooo, the EP is beautiful. I love it ❤
MB: Thank you! 🙂 ❤
KS: Max told me I would like “Easier” the best and he was right, it’s soooo pretty. Your melodies are so gorg.
MB: Thanks 🙂 It’s become one of my favourites, too. I recorded it kinda last minute, we weren’t planning on recording it.
KS: So first off, I’m wondering: is this EP “about” something to you? Does it have an overarching theme or message, in your mind?
MB: For sure. Girlhood was supposed to be a full-length album, and it kept being delayed due to financial reasons. By the time I had enough money to print it (back in October), those were the 5 songs that made the cut. But the album was originally supposed to be very very nostalgic, all of the songs being dreamy and looking back with a very deep melancholy towards my late adolescence. The album had a little more cohesion and I think the themes were a little clearer – most of it about the distance between being a kid and being a “woman.”
KS: Innnteresting. I remember hearing you play “Motherhood” for the first time and going, “Wow, ‘I want you to cum in me,’ that’s quite a powerful line!” and it sounds so different in the kind of dark solemn context of that song than it would sound in a different context. Can you tell me a bit about that song and what you were thinking about when you wrote it?
MB: I wrote it before class back in my IMP [Independent Music Production @ Seneca] days. Fox had just shown me a song, “Lucky You,” and I really wanted to write about the dark side of parenthood as well. It also kind of goes hand-in-hand with a relationship I was in at the time, where I wanted so much more out of it than he did. As a kid I always thought that parenthood was a little narcissistic (the whole “he has my eyes,” etc.), but I had become so infatuated with this person that I started to understand. Maybe I didn’t literally want him to become the father of my child, but if he did, I would’ve wanted the kid to have his eyes, his hair, his everything. It was obsessive, and weird, which is why I think the line, though super vulgar and kind of shocking, fits in pretty well with the rest of my nervous ramblings and sexually charged, unrequited feelings. It’s hard catching feelings for someone who explicitly tells you it’s not going to be a holding-hands, Facebook-official thing.
KS: Yeah, I tooootally know that feeling… In the heights of certain romantic obsessions of mine, I’ve had that fantasy of “What if I accidentally got pregnant; what would he do? Would we get married? Which one of us would the kid look more like?” and it’s this dark, obsessive road. And I think, as women, we are conditioned to view that as the fulfillment of a wish we are supposed to have.
MB: Exactly…. It’s like the hyper-extreme version of writing his last name after mine.
KS: Haha yeah. And you feel kinda guilty about it but it’s so satisfying somehow.

KS: Have you written a lot of songs with sexual themes before or was this kind of a departure for you?
MB: “Motherhood” was definitely one of the first (and probably still the most explicit). I revisit sex a lot because I consider myself to be an extremely sexual person, but a lot of the time it shows up more metaphorically. The only other track that says it as bluntly as “Motherhood” is called “Imaginary Boyfriends.” [Author’s note: you can listen to “Imaginary Boyfriends” at the end of this post!]
KS: Do you get nervous performing songs with sexxxy references in them? I remember when I first wrote my song “Good Girl,” which is full of some pretty explicit kink shit, I would make up fake versions of the lyrics for when I felt uncomfortable practicing around my family, or I would kind of mumble those parts of the song… Haha!
MB: I used to freak out a LOT, especially because my dad is my #1 fan and we are both very private people. Every song I wrote before 2015 has an alternative set of lyrics in case he was in the crowd. I’m less worried about that now, partly because I feel more confident in my craft, specifically lyrics (as uncomfortable as it might be)… If I didn’t have to say it in such a straight-up way, I would be singing about something else. That’s the approach I take to it now, anyway.
KS: Haha, that’s amazing. and I’m glad you’re feeling better about it these days! I’m curious, do you have a favorite song on the Girlhood EP?
MB: I think “Her” is my favourite. It was scary to write and still scary to share, but I fell in love with it in a way I haven’t ever felt for my other songs.
KS: Why was it scary to write/share, if you don’t mind me asking? (I mean, I know the lyrics are INNNTENSE, but I would love to know what you meant by that in your own words!)
MB: [My partner] and I had just lost a baby, and I was just in this haze for weeks. It was the middle of the summer and we had an upstairs apartment with no A/C; it was just so muggy and sluggish and I felt so empty and kind of dazed. I wrote it and recorded the EP version sometime that week after we got into a fight and he left to get some air. It was hard because we definitely weren’t planning on having a baby or anything like that, but it still felt like I was very alone and kind of broken. People don’t really talk openly about miscarriages. Like… I don’t even talk about it openly. I feel like I have less of a space in a community of women who were trying to be parents and lost someone they truly loved vs. an unemployed kid who was blissfully unaware of the pregnancy at all.
KS: ❤ I’m so sorry, I didn’t know that had happened.
MB: I’m still getting used to being open about it! My friend Tyler from Said the Whale just put out his story “Miscarriage” and told me that it’s just important to get the discussion going so that women going through it don’t have to feel so broken/alone. It’s way more common than you would think.

KS: So, I know you won a grant recently. Can you tell me about the grant and what you plan to do with it?
MB: Sure! It’s through Ontario Arts Council, and it’s a creation grant for Popular Music. I wrote to them with the concept for my next album. The purpose for the creation grant is to cover your “living costs” – it’s super general and relatively easy to apply for (compared to FACTOR or other federal funding). It’s very competitive. I had an entire class in IMP dedicated to that grant. With the support from the grant, a LOT of stress was relieved from my living costs this summer (we’re going on tour, but I still have to pay OSAP, rent, and my share of water/hydro), and it will let me create my next album without the crazy financial stress I’ve become accustomed to! It could not have come at a better time.
KS: Yaaay! Congrats!
MB: Hehe thank you!! ❤ ❤ ❤
KS: One last question for ya. What music do you find sexy? Any particular songs you like to make out or do Other Activities to?
MB: Oooh, good question!! “Hunger of the Pine” by Alt J. “My Kind of Woman” by Mac DeMarco. “Once I Loved” by Astrud Gilberto. “Riot Van” by the Arctic Monkeys. “Cola” by Lana Del Rey.
KS: Thanks, girl! I’ll add those to my sex playlist right now…

Thanks so much to Missy for her vulnerable and inspirational stories and her beautiful music! You can buy/download her Girlhood EP now on her Bandcamp page. You can also “Like” her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and check out her website.

And, bonus: Missy is letting me premier her song “Imaginary Boyfriends” here on my blog! As per usual for her, it’s dark, smart, poignant, and pretty. Have a listen!

Interview: Tynan Rhea on Sexy Scents, Self-Love, and Post-Baby Body Pride


My friend Tynan Rhea is one of the funniest people I know. Her stories at Tell Me Something Good are always crowd favorites, and I could happily listen to her talk about damn near anything for hours. She’s just that kind of person.

But being funny and engaging isn’t Tynan’s only skill. She’s also a trained doula, aromatherapist, and sex educator. I sat down with Tynan in a noisy Toronto coffee shop to talk about the science of aromatherapy, the oil blend she made for me (which is my #1 favorite scent, far beyond any perfume I’ve bought at Sephora), and the super rad self-love workshop she’s teaching this month for folks who’ve recently given birth.

Kate Sloan: So, you made me an aromatherapy blend, and I’m wearing it today, actually. Do you want to tell the story of that blend? ‘Cause it’s a cool story!
Tynan Rhea: It’s a great story! Okay, so, you’ll have to fill in the parts that are about you and your day, but basically what happened was: I had a dream. And in the dream, you and I were discussing a blend that I was gonna make for you.
KS: And we were at a sex club.
TR: Oh, really? I forgot that part! Okay, that makes sense. So, we were at a sex club, and I was discussing this blend. And I remember, in the dream, feeling this sense of urgency, like, “Oh my god, Kate needs this blend.” I knew that it had to have pink grapefruit in it, and I knew that the middle note had to be lemongrass, and then, for the base note, first, I thought, “For sure, jasmine,” and then I thought, “Oh, wait, no. This may be a rose moment.” And I was like – weird! She might hate rose. Why would I do that? And so then, when I woke up, I immediately texted you, like, “I just had this wild dream that I was making this blend for you, and this is what it would have in it… Do you think you’d like that?” And you were like, “Oh, yeah, I could really use that, because…”
KS: It was actually, the guy I was seeing at the time, I had just found out that he was a chronic abuser. So I was going through some feelings of guilt and self-hatred around, like, “Why didn’t I know this? Why did I put up with him for so long and believe him over these other women?”
TR: Oh, that’s so much more fascinating now, in terms of the blend, because we did end up going with rose, and rose is about self-compassion and healing the heart. So it’s good for if you’ve lost somebody to death or illness, or if you’ve broken up with someone, and it also helps us focus on self-love. It helps us go, “I am deserving, so I don’t need to feel this bad.”
KS: Yeah. I think I definitely really needed that, at that time. And still, it’s my favorite. I wear it all the time. I love it. It’s so good.
TR: Good! Well, the nice thing about rose, too, is it’s pretty intensely anti-stress. It does things to our brain that have been scientifically researched.
KS: Interesting. So I’m curious about – like, you knew me, in that case, so you maybe had some kind of subconscious or conscious sense of what I needed. But what is the process usually like, when you’re working with a client, to determine what they need in a custom blend?
TR: So normally, when we’re creating a blend, I go through the process that was taught to me by Tracey TieF, my teacher. She’s the owner and operator of Anarres Apothecary. So what we do is, we ask people what their top three complaints are. So they might be like, “I have backache, I have itchy dandruff, and I just broke up with my boyfriend.” And those seem wildly unrelated, right, but maybe they are related. And that’s kind of the idea with holistic medicine, is that we don’t live these disjointed lives; everything plays into everything. So your back might be aching because you’re tensing your shoulders up all the time because you’re anxious or upset or stressed, and that’s related to the break-up. And when you do that, maybe you scratch your head a bunch. I dunno. Dandruff is not that! But the point is: after you have your top three complaints, then you find a top, middle, and a base note, and each of those notes should address all three of those things. So, I think rose would be really fitting as a base note for that, because rose is an anti-inflammatory. Rose would address all of them, because rose, on the skin [diluted in a carrier oil like vegetable oil], is very healing and very soothing, especially for dry and irritated skin, so that would work well for the dandruff, it would help with the heartache, and it would work well as an anti-inflammatory for the backache. And the idea is that, if all three of the notes address all three issues, then that’s the medicine you need, because it’s hitting all of those points. The oils should mimic the profile of what’s ailing you.

Tynan's handmade products are available at Come As You Are and Anarres Apothecary.
Tynan’s handmade products are available at Come As You Are and Anarres Apothecary.

KS: Okay. That makes sense. So, can you tell me about some of your favorite oils specifically for purposes related to sex and sexual health?
TR: Yes! So, as my final project, I specialized in sexual health in aromatherapy. My favorite oils for sexual health depend on the sexual issue. My favorite base notes are rose, vanilla, and jasmine. I know we’ve talked a lot about rose, but rose has been shown to release dopamine in the brain, which is partly why it’s such a good anti-stress. And then jasmine has been traditionally used to speed up labor, to increase bonding and sensuality between lovers… It’s suspected by some aromatherapists and midwives that it releases oxytocin in the brain, although I haven’t found research to back that up, but its traditional uses suggest this. And then vanilla releases serotonin in the brain, which we know from research. So I think it’s this wonderful little commonality that they all have: they all work on your “yummy juices.” That’s such a dorky way to put it, but I think of dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin as the “mmm juice,” ’cause those are the feel-good chemicals. And I think each of those has a different way of making you feel yummy.
KS: Right.
TR: And I should also mention that the oils I pick for sexual health tend to be the ones that play on our psychological and emotional stuff, because that’s sort of the realm of health that I like to work in. But there are lots of really good oils for physical illness of the body. Like, I have this great yeast infection blend that I made for the vulva. It’s coconut oil, tea tree oil, and lavender oil. You mix ’em all together in the right proportions, and it is so soothing and it instantly takes the itch away and it’s so good. So, I would call that an excellent sexual health oil.
KS: Yeah! That sounds good.
TR: Yeah! But so, my favorite middle note is marjoram, because traditionally, it’s been listed as addressing sex addiction. And I was like, “What?! That is so weird! That’s such a weird, specific thing.” But then you read into it a little more, and you look at the chemistry of marjoram oil, and it’s made of stuff that is both calming and stimulating. Which sounds really contradictory, but then if you look at traditional uses again, it’s used to help you focus. And it’s also used to help us open up and connect with other people so we don’t feel as alone and isolated. And feeling alone and isolated, I think, is a major piece in addiction, particularly sex addiction. So I think, not only does it invite us to connect with other people – which is huge – but it also focuses us. So when you put it in a sex blend or an aphrodisiac blend, a blend where you’re trying to “set the mood…” I don’t like the idea of aphrodisiac blends being like, “I’m gonna attract this person!” because that’s rude. Talk to them! But if you know you already like them and you know they like scents, and you wanna put a nice scent in the room, I love marjoram as the middle note because I feel like it takes the stuff from the base note – whether it’s relaxing, or conjuring up a sensual feeling, or trying to build a sexual appetite – it’s gonna take that energy and help you focus in on it.
KS: Cool!
TR: Yeah! So one of my favorite top notes for sexual health is pink grapefruit, because it’s supposed to help us be in our bodies, in a way that’s pleasurable and fun and feels good. Most of the food-related essential oils, like pink grapefruit and cinnamon, are going to, in some way, put us in our bodies. But there’s something that’s particularly playful about pink grapefruit. And that word, “playful,” reminds me of my other favorite top note for sex essential oil blends, which is tangerine. Because that one’s all about being playful and silly and cute and bringing us back to our inner child. In a sexual context, I don’t know how many people would feel comfortable saying, “I want to bring out my inner child!” but I think that’s so important. I think the inner child does know how to have good sex.
KS: Sex is grown-up playtime!
TR: Yeah, exactly! The cool thing about aromatherapy is that the molecules in the essential oils are so small that they can pass through the blood-brain barrier. So when you smell it, it actually goes directly to your brain and works on the brain, which is how it can release serotonin and all those things. I love aromatherapy because it’s an immediate medicine that you can pick up at any health food store. Smelling something, you can quickly pick up and do. It’s not a tool that is gonna cure everything, but generally, it’s a tool you can immediately use, and it kind of holds your hand while you work through your stuff. When I use an oil, it’s not like it can fix all the damage that’s been done, but it allows me some serenity and it works on the brain so that you have more space to work through those things and not be as triggered or as overwhelmed while you do that. It kind of works like food, in that pleasure-centre kind of way, because even though you’re not eating it, it is going into your body. And it’s also not gonna have the same side effects as, say, an antidepressant. Like, if I’m having a panic attack, I can go huff some clary sage, and it won’t have the lasting, shitty effects of a lorazepam. But I can get the same effect, or a similar-enough, or a different-but-just-as-useful.

KS: Cool! So, let’s shift gears a little bit. Can you tell me about the Body Pride workshop that you’re running?
TR: Yeah! So, as a sex educator and doula, and a friend of Caitlin K. Roberts, I’ve been to a few of her Body Pride workshops as a helper and as a participant. And after a few of those workshops, somebody suggested that there be a post-partum Body Pride. Women are so under attack for how their bodies “should” look, and the post-partum period – the period right after birth – is particularly hard, because I think there’s all sorts of pressures around getting back to your “pre-baby body.” You’re not gonna have the body you had before. You had a fucking baby! That’s amazing! Why would your body be the same after that? It shouldn’t be, because nothing’s the same after that. And that’s a good thing. Or it can be a good thing.
KS: Totally!
TR: So we thought it would be helpful to have a Body Pride just for people who’ve had that experience, because I think that transitioning from a young person into adulthood has its own unique set of struggles – and then you have to do it again, in a different way, with a slightly different set of obstacles, in post-partum.
KS: How much are you changing Caitlin’s basic Body Pride curriculum to be specifically for post-partum folks?
TR: Not a lot. We’re keeping it pretty on-point. I won’t be doing a photoshoot at the end, mostly because I don’t have the skills. We just felt that it wouldn’t be appropriate, and we don’t have somebody with that skillset. Not knowing what will come up for people, I wasn’t sure if that would be the best way to end it. I am gonna end it with a little dance party, to keep it light. The other thing is, I sat down and had a consult with a woman who was very interested in this post-partum Body Pride idea, and she really helped me to build in some checking-in kind of stuff. So there might be a little extra care around appreciating that not everybody coming to this event is going to feel great about their body. It’s not that you can’t celebrate your body in the space, but we all need to be mindful that not everybody is gonna be able to celebrate like you can, necessarily.
KS: True.
TR: The other thing that’s different is that people who are breastfeeding – from 0 to 6 months – can bring their baby, because that’s a really tough period to not be around your baby, if you’re breastfeeding.
KS: Do you have any other workshops coming up after that one?
TR: I do! I have a Pleasure After Kids workshop coming up at the LGBTQ Parenting Network. It’s gonna be at the 519. It’s on December 4th from 2 to 4 p.m., and I think it’s free. I’ll also be holding an Aromatherapy for Sexual Health event on November 22nd from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Anarres Apothecary (749 Dovercourt Road, north of Dovercourt and Bloor). There will be treats!
KS: Awesome! Where can people find you online if they want to book you for services or just find out more about you?
TR: They can visit me at and[Ed. note: Tynan’s also on Instagram and Twitter.]
KS: Thanks, Tynan!

Beating the Stigma: Whipsmart Thoughts on Kink and Mental Health


It’s funny to me that many people think of kink as dark, dangerous, and edgy. It can be all of those things, of course. But for me, it’s not scary or mysterious. It’s a key part of how my brain works and how I relate to other people. It’s a sexual interest and also a non-sexual paradigm. And sometimes, it’s a boon for my mental health.

Earlier this year, I entered the last semester of my four-year journalism degree, and found myself unable to cope with the challenges it brought. Newsrooms are an anxiety-provoking place to begin with, and I was also experiencing one of the worst anxious and depressive episodes of my life – so, as much as I wanted to be up to the task, I just wasn’t. Two days in the newsroom were enough to convince me of that: the real work hadn’t even begun yet, and already my heart pounded, my mind shouted self-hating epithets at me, and I found myself thinking everything would just be easier if I walked out in front of a speeding truck.

I spoke to one of my instructors, and she – blessedly – was sympathetic to my cause. We discussed possible accommodations and arrived at the idea that I’d get my final credit by creating a journalistic audio series on a topic of my choice.

Over the preceding months, I’d found that my bad mental health days could sometimes be turned around by an intense spanking, a service-submission BJ, or various other acts of kink. Giving up control to a partner made me feel, ultimately, more in control of my life. So the intersection between kink and mental health was front-and-centre in my mind at that time, and I pitched that as a topic for my audio series. My prof loved it, and so I began.

I spent the next six weeks producing Beating the Stigma. Several local sweethearts volunteered for interviews, and generously lent me their time and energy to discuss this topic on tape. Our conversations ranged from intense to funny to mindblowing, and were often all three. I’m so so grateful to my interviewees for being candid and clever every step of the way.

You can listen to the whole series by clicking here, or you can skip to specific chapters below:

Chapter 1: Introductions

Chapter 2: Pain

Chapter 3: DD/lg

Chapter 4: Dominance

Chapter 5: Safe, Sane and Consensual

Chapter 6: Trauma and Recovery

Chapter 7: Sex 2.0

Chapter 8: Aftercare

I hope this series sparks some thoughts and feelings for you! The process of producing it certainly brought a lot to the surface for me.

Interview: Tina Horn on Sexting, Style, Self-Discipline & Snuggling

tinahornI’m finding, increasingly, that my media consumption habits are based less around “What is this piece of media and what value will it add to my life?” and more around “Who created this piece of media and how much do I trust them?”

The world is full of books, podcasts, articles, and interviews on every conceivable topic. If there’s a piece of information I need to find, or a subject I want to learn about, I can do that in innumerable different places. So what matters to me more, now, is – who is imparting this information? Do I know them? Do I like them? Is their style and approach in line with what I want?

That’s why I got so excited when I heard Tina Horn was writing a book about sexting. When it comes to sexuality, she has one of my favorite minds in the biz. I love her podcast, her writing, her random and irreverent tweets. Ever since the word “sexting” burst onto the scene, every sexpert in existence seems to have shared their best tips and tricks for the medium – but I don’t trust most of their advice nearly as much as I trust Tina’s. She’s a seasoned sex pro, a clever whiz kid, and a dirty-talk aficionado. If anyone can help you up your sexting game, it’s Tina.

And indeed, the book rules. It covers everything, from the basics (how to figure out which vocabulary words turn you on! how to use OkCupid!) to the more nuanced considerations of sexting (how to get someone’s textual consent in a hot and respectful way! how to take a sexy selfie that doesn’t suck!). I consider myself a competent sexter (sextress?!), but Tina’s book made me ponder the whole activity much more thoughtfully, and I think my skillz have improved as a result.

So, I was delighted to be able to interview Tina about her book. Except, in classic sex-nerd fashion, we got a leeeetle bit off-topic because there were just so many exciting sub-tangents to delve into. Including X-rated Animaniacs fanart. Read on for the interview…!

Girly Juice: What kinds of “proto-sexting” activities did you engage in, in the early days of the internet or before that? (I was all about cybersex in ICQ chats and online roleplaying games!)

Tina Horn: I often wonder how my sexuality would have developed differently if I had not been just right age in history to be going through puberty right when we got dial-up internet in my house. Technology continues to inspire an urge for self discipline and self control in me, and maybe that has something to do with furtive, measured trips to the family desktop to talk to my internet buddies when I was 13, 14. I can remember sitting at the wooden desk in the den, madly typing, learning about the world through language divorced from identity.

I’m going to tell you about something I almost never talk about, because I hold a lot of embarrassment about this even though it’s obviously normal and quite adorable. Like I said, I was an adolescent when the Internet became a thing people had in their homes. As a child on the verge of adulthood, I just sort of assumed, oh, ok, you start to grow up and then your access to the world gets bigger. I was too caught up in my own teenage narcissism to give media a historical framework. So what did I look for online? I searched Napster for EVERY SINGLE TORI AMOS B SIDE AND REM LIVE CUT, and I looked for newsgroups about the shows I was obsessed with: The X Files, Quantum Leap, and Animaniacs.

So here’s the thing about Animaniacs. It was a show for children, but it had a very mature sensibility. It was saturated in popular culture and had this sophisticated ironic Borscht Belt humor. So I was a kid who was looking for people to talk obsessively about Animaniacs with. And the internet was filled with adults who were, shall we say, in touch with their inner child. So I spent hours and hours in IRC chat rooms and newsgroups. I think I was honest about my age and I knew there were a lot of adults and they didn’t seem to mind how young I was. I felt accepted and respected in a way I didn’t among my normal peers. Maybe my internet friends were predatory or maybe the Internet was just new to everyone and the novelty of talking to a precious child was no big deal. But eventually they started sending me links to fan porn they were writing and drawing about the cartoons we all liked. I of course have a very vivid memory of clicking on a file in an FTP folder and slowly watching an image load: a hand drawn illustration of Buster Bunny fucking Plucky Duck along with an extended explanation of why it makes sense for cartoons to sexually experiment.

Eventually I got together IRL with some of these folks, and suffice it to say I think some of them may have wanted to seduce me. I guess I was smart enough to be creeped out by that.  I started to actually hang out with some theater kids at school and spent less time online. Eventually this one girl who I used to exchange Sailor Moon drawings with sent me this angry hand written letter saying I was totally shallow and didn’t care about my REAL online friends because some dumb teenagers made me popular. Which was hilarious because of course my new IRL friends were all the freaks and geeks of my small town. I am happy to say I realized how totally backwards and fucked that was even then.

I think this has influenced my subsequent relationship to evolving technology, from texting to Skyping to naked selfies to online dating to Snapchat. I’m very skeptical about the relationship between our virtual selves and our IRL selves. I think technology can facilitate wonderful fantasy exploration, but it’s imperative that we can distinguish between fantasy and reality. That skepticism and self control really informs my proscriptions for etiquette and ethics in my Sexting guide book. I don’t mean to sound like no fun! Think about it: BDSM is also about negotiation, restraint, boundaries. When you have self discipline, you can be absolutely disgustingly filthy and profane and ecstatic within your agreed-upon parameters. When you know the size and shape of your pen, you can go hog fucking wild.

GJ: As a fellow writer, do you share my attraction to people whose grammar, spelling and vocabulary are on-point in textual communication? And how do you respond to people who tell you that this preference is elitist or picky?

TH: You know, there are such cretins out there that my bar is actually quite low! As long as someone is not being a complete troll, I’m pretty tolerant of slang, abbreviations, misspellings, creative grammar. I think the most important thing for me is STYLE. I’m sure we know some people whose use of slang is tacky and tone-deaf, while some people make me bust out laugh when they say something is on fleek or whatever. Same goes for grammar; you can get imaginative with grammar to demonstrate rhythm, emphasis, tone, even surreality. I guess what I’m looking for is writing that I can hear, as if the person is speaking to me, and there are formal and informal ways of achieving that with different digital mediums.

I used to joke that I thought the most important OK Cupid question was, “What does ‘Wherefore’ mean in Juliet’s famous speech about Romeo?” (It means Why, as in, Why must the man I love have a name my family hates?). Then a friend pointed out how classist that is, to weed out people you won’t date because they haven’t had a certain kind of classical education. I think both perspectives are valid. I do value people who appreciate literature and theater, and like to nerd out about language. Then again, I DON’T value exclusively dating people who have a similar education, background, or life experience as me. It’s important to know what you value, but it’s just as important to be critical of your own prejudices and the way our personal lives perpetuate systems of oppression.

GJ: I sometimes get anxious about starting sext conversations because I worry the other person will think I’m overeager, “too sexual,” etc. Any tips for mitigating my anxiety around that?

TH: I don’t believe in playing hard to get, but I do believe in finesse. You can tease without misrepresenting yourself. Use your sexting language to seduce. Sometimes you have to withhold a little in order to get the satisfaction of making your partner beg for it.

Think of your sexting conversation as a story, with a prelude, exposition, rising action, climax, and denouement. Or a pop song that starts off quiet and builds and builds its excitement and dynamics. Or think of sexting as a strip tease, in the classic burlesque sense. You can burst onto the stage fully nude and lewd, or you can appear fully clothed and slowly reveal more and more until you have your audience wrapped around your g string.

GJ: Are there sexual acts you like to sext about that you don’t actually like to do in real life? Or vice versa? Why’s that?

TH: Sexting is totally a place for fantasy. If you have a sexting partner who is capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality, then go for it! The more absurd the better!

GJ: What celebrities or fictional characters do you think would be amazing sexters? Why?

TH: David Bowie has been on my mind so much lately, so I’m gonna let myself imagine his prolific, surreal, romantic sext life. Suck, baby, suck.

GJ: Do you ever have to do aftercare after intense/kinky sexting sessions? How does that work?

TH: I think if you’re sexting to get yourself and/or your partner off (whether it’s by language message, picture, or video) it’s important to stay with the person after orgasm. Unless you’re on the same page about using each other for stimulation. The magical thing about sexting is that you have such an effect on someone’s body, their nervous system, whether you’re across town or on another continent. Sometimes it can be jarring to feel so close to someone to the point of sexual ecstasy, and then get dropped back into reality. I would say use the same principals as IRL self care: let the person know you’re thinking of them, remind them of how hot your sexting was. The virtual equivalent of snuggling!

Thank you so much to Tina Horn for being as thought-provoking and generous as ever! Go check out Sexting – I’m sure it’ll elevate your sextuality to the next level.

Interview: Kasuchi, my favorite fanfiction writer

The search for erotic media that actually turns you on is always a crapshoot. Some porn aligns with all your kinks but is poorly lit or sloppily shot. Some erotica is beautifully written but just doesn’t turn your crank, subject matter-wise. All too often, I settle for stuff that almost meets my needs, but falls short in one area or another. It’s a state of affairs to which I’ve become accustomed.

Of course, my pickiness makes it all the more exciting when I discover a piece of media that ticks all my boxes. And one such example is Kasuchi’s fanfiction. Like, all of it. Everything she writes.

The character development is on point. The prose is skilled and emotive. The voices are true to the shows she writes for. The sexy scenes are hott (yes, with two T’s). Y’all know I have high standards for fanfic, and Kasuchi is nonetheless my fave writer in the whole medium.

I bugged her for an interview, because I wanted to pick her brain about how she does what she does, and how she feels about fic as a whole. She was sweet enough to answer my fawning-fangirl questions, and what ensued was a super interesting chat about fiction, fandom, fucking, and consent (hell yeah!). I hope you like reading this as much as I like reading Kasuchi’s stories…

GJ: What, for you, is the appeal of writing fanfic? What do you get out of it?

Kasuchi: I LOVE writing fic. I’ve been doing it since I was 14, give or take? But I think what I started writing fic for was me wanting to see more of the thing I loved. I wanted more about what Hermione and Ron were doing with their lives. I wanted more about Mulder and Scully and all the moments we didn’t see on screen. I wanted more about what happened between episodes of The Office.

Nowadays, I think I write fic because I love the characters and want to expand and push and build them, see what happens under duress, see what happens (and feels natural, given what we know about who and how they are) when they’re put in non-comedic situations. I won’t also pretend some of it isn’t wish fulfillment; I want those two characters (any two characters, let’s be honest) to kiss, and to kiss passionately, right now, almost always.

GJ: What qualities/criteria do you consider important in good fanfic?

Kasuchi: Ah, that’s such a subjective question! Because I think everyone comes to media and their material with their own biases and prejudices and experiences, and those things color what we think of as being “good,” you know?

For me, I look for primarily three things:

(1) Dialogue — I need, NEED, the dialogue to be good, to be realistic, to be true to the characters. It doesn’t have to be exactly what the character would say in any given situation, because that’s not our job as fic writers. But, I have to believe that character would say that, meaning you (the author) have to do a lot of work to get me to that. If a generally goofy character is serious and responding with real gravitas, show me how and why that is before we get to that moment. Or, do that moment and then show me how we got there emotionally. Basically: is the dialogue naturalistic and natural to the character? If no, I click away.

(2) Narration has to flow — does the narration of the story match the tone? If we’ve got a story that’s about a character, like a vignette about their emotional growth, then the narration is everything, because it’s our (the readers’) glimpse into their inner monologue. If we’ve got a missing scene/moment kind of fic, then maybe the narration needs to get out of the way so that the dialogue can shine. For example, I’ve been writing characters who are detectives or generally observant; the narration tends to include notes about body language or expression changes, things I believe a good detective would notice and file away.

(3) Verisimilitude — Does this feel like real life? Since I’m not involved in many fantasy fandoms, this is really important. I love authors doing research on the setting of a show and including location details. Hell, I live in New York and write in details about Brooklyn into my fics about Brooklyn Nine-Nine all the time. I love that; it gives stories a sense of place and a better sense of how the fic itself fits into the larger world it resides in.

GJ: What qualities/criteria in a TV show (or other piece of media) make you want to write fanfic about it?

Kasuchi: Frankly: a lack of emotional resolution on some front. Shipping is the easiest one of these, but I wrote a lot of NCIS fic because the show was so rude to my fave character (Tony, and Tim to a lesser extent — and this was true of Psych, too) by always making him the butt of the joke or giving him the most depressing outcome and playing it for laughs. So I wrote fic to compensate for that, to make him more heroic or romantic or capable in a way that the show seemed determined to not do. That’s usually what gets me writing.

GJ: Do you have any tips for writing good sex scenes, in fanfic or fiction more generally?

Kasuchi: I’ve actually got a huge essay about this that I’ve been writing since, uh, last May (oops) but I think my best tip is: don’t do it before you’re ready. I was 16 when I read my first explicit sex scene, and I wrote my first one when I was 17. I didn’t even have my first kiss until I was 19! I wrote a lot of fade-to-black and sensual stuff before I felt more comfortable talking the mechanics of sex in fiction.

Now, from a more “authorly” perspective, I’d say: read romance novels. Read them voraciously. Read as many as you can. And not the category stuff (the Harlequins and Mills & Boon books), though adding some of those into your reading diet is good, too. Rather, read the single-issue stuff, the 250-page behemoths that usually have 3 scenes that are 20 pages of sex. Read those. Read erotica, the published stuff — Allison Tyler and Jaci Burton and Cathryn Fox and Lacey Alexander and Maya Banks and so many other women who have written — have BEEN writing — erotica for over a decade. Their work is there, and fanfiction is as much about the learning as it is the product. Go read the masters, go recreate their work. We all learn that way. I won’t pretend some of my early (unpublished? I honestly can’t remember) fic is me literally rewriting treatments of Mulder/Scully and Inuyasha/Kagome erotic fanfiction. Unless you’re having a lot of sex as research (which, hey, no shame in that game), the reading of novels/short stories is much easier.

The most important thing: do not use pornography as a template. Porn tends to be soulless and empty, with at least one of the parties mentally disengaged. Some pornography isn’t like this, but those studios are few and far between and often cater to queer markets. That’s fine, but if you want to show intimacy in your erotic scenes, I would urge reading written material and using pornography (or gifs of pornography) as inspiration rather than a guide.

GJ: Do you consciously choose to integrate enthusiastic consent into the sexy parts of your stories? (One of my favorite examples is that moment in “I’ll Know My Name As It’s Called Again” when Jake pulls at Amy’s pants and says “Yeah?” and she says “Yeah.” So perfect!) Do you think erotica writers have an obligation to include this element, or can erotica be “escapism” that doesn’t conform to real-life sexual rules?

Kasuchi: Oooh, this is a really big question. I think I’ll try to answer it by going backwards.

I don’t think that erotica has an obligation to include these moments of consent. But: I’d also differentiate between “types” of erotica.

I think published work and erotic fanfiction should include these moments. Here’s why: for the published stuff, art tends to serve as a bellweather and a measure of social acceptance and change. We can see this most obviously with drunk driving; thanks to television, the idea of driving home drunk is pretty anathema to most of the “millennial” set. In the same vein, what we consume (i.e. erotica, which when published is essentially “curated”) should serve as a way of normalizing consent. I know many people come to read erotica for different reasons, but no one is going to prevent young, curious teens from checking those books out from the library or sneaking them out of their parents’ rooms or buying them along with YA stuff from the bookstore. Hell, with the e-readers, it doesn’t even matter!

So in that sense, erotica becomes for women (and I use women here only because I think women are socialized to seek out reading material rather than audio-visual material, and because these books target women in turn) — most especially young women — a gateway to getting questions answered. To that end, yes, erotica needs to include consent. And, for similar reasons, we need to have those moments of enthusiastic consent written into our fanfiction. Fandom as an audience tends to skew young, I think; I’m 25 and I feel like the Old Lady in the Room, sometimes. So, knowing this, I think fic has a responsibility to be the change we want to see in the world. I know I learned a lot about the world, about relationships, about women and friendships and families from fanfiction and other writings. Knowing that, I tend to do a huge amount of research for stories because I want to pass on that gift of learning from fic onto the next “generation” of fandom.

I do think there’s a space for escapist erotica, though. Kinkmemes are explicitly that: wish-fulfillment. Same for Literotica; despite its classy title, it’s sorted by kink, and that’s important, because going in, you know what you’re getting yourself into. I won’t pretend there aren’t erotic stories that I go back to that I fully know are escapism. The delineating factor there is knowing what purpose that work serves. It titillates and it touches on taboo subjects and it is me going into the story aware of its hows and whys. That’s not the same as me reading a fic that pretends to be about my two faves having a romantic weekend away together, but then there being elements of non- and dub-con. Warnings exist for this reason. Kinkmemes exist for this reason. Consent should and must be a natural, normal part of sex, just like condom/prophylactic use is de rigeur in most pornographic films and even in published erotica and contemporary (and even some historical!) romances.

Do I consciously choose to integrate it into my stories? At first, no. But at this point, not doing so doesn’t feel like Jake Peralta (in this specific instance) — but I feel I’ll keep writing that into my more erotic work. I like it because it gives the reader a moment to take a breath before the rest of the story goes, and it gives the characters a moment to check in with each other, something that I think is hard to “choreography” into a love scene naturally as it progresses.

For the scene you reference specifically, Jake tugs at her waistband but doesn’t pull them off of Amy until she says yes. Consent is freely, enthusiastically, continuously given. And, I love the idea of one character giving the other an “out” because I think that’s just fair. Plus, it’s such a great character moment; the one giving the out is doing so out of affection and insecurity; in doing so, they’re saying, “It’s okay, we don’t have to go further than this.” And the other, in reaffirming their consent, is saying to the other, “You’re the one that I want.” In what universe is that anything but simultaneously hot and moving? Consent is 100% sexy.