Interview: Alexandra Franzen on Break-Ups, Hope, and Surviving

Alexandra Franzen is one of my favorite writers on the planet. Her voice is relentlessly upbeat, incisive, and clear as a bell. She’s inspired and uplifted me countless times, whether she’s writing about how to say no, how to achieve a goal, how to become a better writer, or anything else.

So I was heartened when I saw she had a new book coming out called You’re Going to Survive. It came along at a time when I needed that exact message, badly: I’d just had my heart broken and was figuring out how to feel better and move forward. (I don’t know why I wrote that in the past tense. I’m still feeling that way, honestly.)

You’re Going to Survive is full of stories about real-life people and their real-life problems – and how they kept going, even when it seemed like they couldn’t possibly. In this book, authors, chefs, lawyers, musicians, web designers, and Broadway performers (among others) describe one of the worst moments in their entire career – moments when everything went catastrophically, heart-poundingly, mood-ruiningly wrong – and how they got through to the other side. Spoiler alert: they all survived their hardships. And you can survive yours, too.

I wrote to Alex to ask her a few questions about the wisdom of her book as it pertains to break-ups. Here’s what she had to say…

What are your best tips for surviving a break-up?

My last break-up was a little over four years ago. It was pretty intense. I’ve had about five major break-ups in total, including breaking off an engagement with my college sweetheart.

In the past, here are some things I’ve done after a break-up:

– Call a friend while hiding under my covers in bed.
– Cry until it feels like my eyes are going to fall out of my head.
– Write super intense poetry.
– Thwack a punching bag at the gym.
– Get a hair cut.
– Get my cash washed.
– Get a Tarot card reading.
– Get a new vibrator.
– De-clutter my home.
– Buy myself some flowers.
– Flirt with people just to remember what it feels like.
– Pack all of my possessions into the back of a VW beetle and move to another state.

Every person is different, and every break-up is different. So, I would say, do whatever you need to do. There are no rules.

Personally, I’ve tried to view each break-up as an opportunity to clear space in my life—both physically and emotionally. Bye, old clothes! Bye, old commitments on my calendar! It’s a new beginning.

We often hear that “time heals all wounds,” but is there any way to speed up the process?

There’s a woman named Christina Rasmussen who studies grief, loss, and reinvention. She’s written books on this topic. She says, “Time doesn’t heal. Action does.”

I totally agree. To heal and move onward, we can’t be stagnant. We have to take action.

After a break-up, I’ve found that really small action steps—like making my bed, or getting nice bath salts, or opening the window to let in some fresh air—can seriously improve my mood. Small, loving actions can make a big difference.

Any tips for dealing with feelings of unworthiness, undesirability, unloveability, etc. after a devastation like a break-up?

Once, I went through a break-up that totally rattled my ego. I felt like I wasn’t interesting or attractive enough to hold his attention. Even though I’d been the PERFECT girlfriend—I mean, I cleaned his entire damn house and bought groceries and tolerated his cat even though I’m seriously allergic!—somehow, it wasn’t enough and he wanted to date other women.

I was crushed. I felt so rejected and confused. I remember feeling like, “I want answers. I want him to explain why this didn’t work out. I need him to explain why I’m not enough. I need to hear this from him. That’s the only way I will feel ‘closure’.”

I told all of this to a friend of mine. She said to me, “But what if he never gives you the closure that you want? What if he can’t explain, or won’t explain, or refuses to meet up with you to talk? Is there some way that you could give a feeling of closure to yourself?”

I’ve never forgotten what she said. Because the reality is, with many break-ups, the other person can’t—or won’t—give you the answers that you crave, or the feeling of closure that you crave. You need to create that feeling by yourself, for yourself. This might mean doing a ritual (like burning old letters) or re-writing a story you’ve been telling yourself inside your head about what happened and why. Ultimately, the only person who can really give closure to you… is you.

Also, let us remember the wise words of Dita Von Teese: “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

It’s so true. Just because someone isn’t interested in being with you, that doesn’t mean you are undesirable! It just means you’re a delicious peach and they happen to want a banana or a pear. They’re allowed to have their preferences—just like you.

How can you be brave enough to “get back out there” when your heart’s been broken?

I know a woman who was single for a really, really long time. She was really frustrated, and she was beginning to wonder if she would ever meet someone.

One day, she got invited to meet up with a few people and have brunch. She was going to say “no,” because she’d already eaten breakfast that day. But she felt this funny intuitive feeling that urged her to go, so she decided, “OK, I guess I’ll go anyway even though I’m not hungry.”

She ended up meeting her husband at that brunch. It was totally unexpected and out of the blue. They’re madly in love and have the sweetest, most amazing relationship.

I think about my friend’s story a lot, especially when I’m feeling discouraged.

The truth is, whether you’re searching for love, or searching for something else, like a new job, the path to getting there might be really surprising and unexpected. A spontaneous gut decision—like getting brunch, taking a road trip, or making an online dating profile—might lead to something incredible. Personally, I feel “braver” when I remember that the possibilities are truly limitless, and today is always a mystery, and anything can happen.

So, get out there, and keep your eyes and ears and heart open, because who knows what tomorrow might bring? Or what today might bring? Today is not over yet!

What do you wish someone had told you after your last really awful break-up?

“Hey, guess what? You’re going to meet the love of your life about two months from now. Just hang in there. You won’t believe what’s coming next.”

Thanks so much to Alex for her words of wisdom! If you’re craving more, be sure to check out her website and preorder her new book, You’re Going to Survive. (And remember: you are going to survive.)

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.