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1-800-HEYLAURA is a bi-monthly newsletter dedicated to accessible sex and body image thought-starters. Each edition explores varied topics under a central theme to keep you motivated in your exploration through snackable facts, love notes, and personal challenges. 
 
From now until February 28th, 2019, 1-800-HEYLAURA will take on the theme SOLO as it relates to sex, body image, and confidence. 
 
This week: Valentine’s Day Edition // No-Shame Sex 
Dear Reader,

I think about shame a lot. I think about how we use tone/language to make each other feel inferior. I think about why the shamed shame others. I think about how it's a universal concept that feels singular. I think about my own shame and how it manifested into acne by my 30s. The scary thing about shame is that it always finds a way out of our bodies: 
  • Hyper masculinity is a possible result of shame; pushing away compassion and empathy to remove any connections to the feminine. 
  • Eating disorders are a possible result of shame, not feeling valuable within societal body standards and finding a sense of control through harmful actions. 
  • Even narcissism is a possibility of shame, hiding your negative self-worth by inflating your personality to create envy in the people around you. 
Sexual shame is the one that really stings. We’re already so repressed about admitting we want to have sex/enjoy sex that our sexual exploration become these dark fantasies we refuse to learn about, care about, admit to ourselves. This specific shame is connected to:
  • having sex
  • the kinds of sex we want to have
  • our sexual fantasies
  • how we see ourselves during sex (gender/body)
  • who we feel sexual towards
  • showing off our bodies in a sexual way
  • if the sex we want diverts from “normal” sex we see. 

This edition of 1-800-HEYLAURA comes out the week before Valentine’s Day, and I want you to celebrate yourself by finding actionable ways to work through sexual shame so we can love ourselves — and in turn, be better lovers. 

This (very long) edition is for you. 

xxx,
Laura
Herpes is nothing for you to be ashamed about. Question. Do you have bumps on your face/body because of acne, ingrown hairs, the sun? Yeah, same. Herpes is a STI that can happen to anyone and it says nothing about who you are as a person, as a sexual being, or your responsibility. The shame and stigma around herpes is positioned like sexual collateral — that person is supposedly ruined, tarnished, unclean. This is silly. About 90% of people have herpes and don’t know about it. And for people who show signs (ps. I hate the phrase "herpes outbreak" because it makes it sound way intense) can have them treated with medication — like your acne. We’re all cool with taking accutane for pimples (a medication that fucks with your whole body), but we can’t conceive of taking Valtrex for a flare up. I know I sound cavalier about the subject; I do believe in getting tested and understanding your status for your own sexual autonomy and to communicate with your sexual partner(s). But, herpes shame can’t be the hill we die on. Why? Because it’s linked to sex and your acne isn’t? This is a morality issue we should all move past. 
Physically removing sexual shame with ritual. Grab a piece of paper and write down all of the items you feel sexual shame over. Be honest with yourself — no one else will see this. It might be difficult to even conjure the words — and that’s okay! When you are done, take your piece of paper into the bathroom. Light a candle, shut off the lights, and look at yourself in the mirror. Hold the paper and repeat: I will not feel shame because of the items on this list. I want them consensually. I want them with no emotional or physical harm to myself or others. I will not feel shame because of the items on this list. Repeat this 5 times or however many that feels good to you. Run the water from the sink. Light the paper with the candle, let the paper burn so it's touching some of the written words (Not all! You don’t want to burn yourself or start a house fire! Be safe in your ritual!). Place the paper under the running water and put out the flames. Grab some of the wet ashes and add it into the toilet. Pour the liquid candle wax into the toilet over the ashes. Say the phrase one more time . . . and flush. Sometimes the physical removal can positively affect your emotional status with shame. 
Sex workers. It’s 2019. We need to get on board with the fact that sex work is work. Not only should working in the sex industry be considered valid, us adults should consider paying for sex work as a therapeutic solution to our sexual shame. Let’s take dominatrixes. This skilled person is here to make your fantasies come true. Do you feel anxious about giving up control? Your dominatrix will take you through that in healthy environment with safe words and precautions. Need to face a fear? Your dominatrix will get you to that place. Want to work through trauma? Your dominatrix will consider your limits to make sure you feel good after your session. There is communication, prep, and aftercare that goes into sex work — it is therapy and should be considered an equal place in the working world. There is this invisible — but palpable — distancing between sex work and other work; as if anything else is morally superior i.e. companies championing sex worker rights but the staff would never consider it a lucrative side-hustle to their job. Break that separation for yourself — try it. Go on Chaturbate and tip a cammer, send a sexy photo, write a sex toy review. You’ll find that it’s not as scary as you may think. 
Period Sex. I asked on social what you felt most sexually ashamed about, and the overwhelming response was period sex. So, guess what. That's your dare this week! I understand not everyone reading this will be able to participate in the dare for various reasons. However, this topic spotlights how we speak, touch, represent bodies and the ways we’ve been taught to feel shame through antiquated rhetoric. Period sex is seen as gross/something to shy away from, but it's incredibly beneficial to be sexually active during that time: your sex drive is up, there's a natural lubrication to alleviate any friction, and your orgasms can help with cramps. Plus, this is a great opportunity to communicate with your partner — talk about the cleanup, barriers, your comfort, how hot it is that you’re both about to get very naked, very messy, and will need to take a sexy shower together! This past month, I worked with Lunapads to help rid our period sex shame by talking about the benefits, answering your questions, demo-ing a pair of Lunapad Underwear for Instagram Stories, and writing an article about the historical shame surrounding period sex and why we should ignore it. Here, an excerpt from the article to inspire your dare:
 
Period sex shame is, literally, man-made. It’s the patriarchy. Take that into consideration when you’re about to have period sex — every bit of information you’ve been given has directly correlated to a shame tactic for you to feel bad about your body. Own your body and your menses.
What Does Feminist Sex Look Like? 
By Kate Bernyk 

I am a feminist and I like sex. But I couldn’t always admit this.
As a straight, cis woman, I felt shame about enjoying the kind of sex I liked. More specifically, l was uncomfortable with enjoying letting men take the lead in bed. Even more specifically, I was uncomfortable admitting I liked a few other mildly-non vanilla things in bed that ran counter to what a feminist should like. I didn’t want my partners to think I was only a feminist in the streets.

But, guess what? If you get what you want in bed after you ASKED for it — whether it’s being dominated, tied up, slapped, spanked, etc — that’s not only feminist, that’s fucking punk rock. Think about how powerful it is to say I WANT THIS and then another person is like HELL YEA IMMA GIVE IT TO YOU.

You are not a bad feminist because you enjoy going down on men or getting your hair pulled. So, stop worrying! Feminist sex is the sex you want to have, on your terms. Full stop. Now go forth and get yours.

Kate Bernyk is a sex + body positive writer based in BK. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @kbernyk.
This week, I asked you to tell me what you felt sexually ashamed of. You sent me Instagram notes, DMs, and even submitted to my anonymous Google form. I appreciate the guts it took to write these to me. Here, some of your question with answers!

How do you bring up wanting to use a vibe while on your period (with a tampon in due to comfort levels with menstrual blood) with a partner? What if they are uncomfortable with tampons/the idea of menstrual blood? I want to respect my partner’s boundaries and also pursue pleasure in a contextual context.
Hi! Question: How do you talk about what you’re going to eat for dinner with your partner? Maybe your partner doesn’t like chicken but you do — so you compromise! Maybe you can have chicken with a salad and rice and your partner can have tofu with salad and rice. You’re still making the salad and rice together. You’re still having dinner! The seriousness of this conversation about using a vibrator and a tampon with your partner should be a low-key as my dinner analogy. If you go into it with confidence, your partner will see how much that means to you! And, yeah, people have their boundaries about sex toys and bodily fluids! Talk about it over coffee in the morning or at a neutral time/location. I talk about sex over dinner: “Hey! Just wanted to temperature check something really quick. I’m going to start using a vibrator in bed. Would love for us to explore that together! Especially when I’m on my period. I get so turned on when I’m on my period and I really want to be sexual with you during that time.” Then you chat! A lot of this comes down to emotional maturity, hearing the other person out, understanding boundaries, and taking everything you have learned into the bedroom!

I havent had sex since my body became large. I am freaked out and dont even know how to feel sexy. Im not even sure where to start. Do you have any advice?
Expose yourself to yourself. The brain attributes value to repetition. 1. Go on Instagram and fill your feed with people you admire, people who look like you, people who like their body, then unfollow everyone who makes you feel shitty about yours. 2. Be naked as much as humanly possible; so much so that you get used to how you move in your body! I hate to use this phrase but a lot of body image work is like riding a bike. You’re not going to be good at it when you first jump on! But, eventually you’ll find yourself standing up on your pedals down a hill with all the confidence in your biking abilities. 3. Treat yourself to your own date night. The act of doing nice things for yourself will allow your brain to take note that you deserve nice things! Take a long shower, paint, make your favorite meal, masturbate! Give yourself permission to do all the things you love. 

i’m nineteen and have limited sexual experience - i really want to be able to be more comfortable with my body and engaging in sex but i just can’t seem to hack masturbation lol. any advice for someone who wants to love their body more but physically the desired reactions just aren’t occurring?
Hi hello! Being 19, having limited sexual experience, and having a difficult time with masturbation sounds like you’re right on track! You’re basically describing me at 19! Without having all the context of who you are and what you like, I can give you some quick basics: First: sexual experiences will happen! Don’t worry about it because it will come naturally. Second: Masturbation will be there when your body is ready for it! Third: Follow the same advice from the question above. Sometimes we need to mentally know that we deserve pleasure so that we can physically get there. Also, experiment with how you masturbate — use your hand, use a vibrator, try different positions, look at porn, read some erotica. Mentally prep yourself for the physical act! 

So, I’ve always been a huge fan of anal but I always want it to be special because I want to be able to express myself (aka scream) comfortably when it’s happening. Do you have any suggestions on how to pursue an amazing anal experience without roommates around but at the same time keeping it personal, romantic and intimate ?
I love love love this question and often find myself in the same situation. I think we should take a quick step back to note that you set the mood from the very top of the play — you light the candles, you put on your sexy playlist, you dress in your sexiest lingerie, you make the decision to have anal sex, and you make this as romantic and intimate as you want right from the beginning. That romantic feeling doesn’t change if you’re having slow, quiet sex or if you’re having rough, loud, anal sex. I think we tend to judge our levels of romance and intimacy against what we see in pornography — if we’re anywhere near the realm of porn star, we distance ourselves from it because it’s not considered intimate. But, sex in general is intimate. Porn is intimate. You having loud, anal sex is intimate! I find that using pet names and being vocal in bed helps me feel more connected to my partner on an intimate level. Scream as much as you want! Maybe add in a pet name or say how much you care about your partner while you’re having anal sex. Set the mood from the beginning and it will carry you throughout the play. 

Is it normal that I can’t orgasm with penetration ?
Now hear this everyone! The way you have an orgasm is very normal. We have been led to believe that we should all be able to orgasm with just penetration, and that’s just not true. You body is different from my body and everyone else’s body. "While 18.4% of women reported that intercourse alone was sufficient for orgasm, 36.6% reported clitoral stimulation was necessary for orgasm during intercourse, and an additional 36% indicated that, while clitoral stimulation was not needed, their orgasms feel better if their clitoris is stimulated during intercourse,” reported from a 2017 study inside The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy titled "Women's Experiences With Genital Touching, Sexual Pleasure, and Orgasm.” How you have an orgasm is completely normal! 
In addition to the above questions and answers, I created a glossary of every single item all of you messaged me about when it comes to your sexual shame. I want you to know something: all of these are completely valid and you should absolutely explore them. I would even bet you that Zac Efron likes at least 5 things on this list! Hell, I like most things on this list! Find solace in the fact that there are entire communities dedicated to the thing you feel ashamed of — you’re not alone in your interests so maybe let’s try to let go of some of that shame, shall we?!

ANAL — Stimulation of the anus through touch, rubbing, licking, penetrating, plugging. It can be done by anyone for anyone and with anyone of any sexual orientation or gender — and it is very fun! 
ASPHYXIATION — Being deprived of oxygen for heighten sexual arousal (choking is a common version). Be safe with this one. I’ve done breathe play before and I always use non-verbal safe words to keep everything within my boundaries. 
BLOOD PLAY — Drawing blood from the body for sexual satisfaction and arousal. This is my next big “I want to try this” kink! There are different ways to play in this capacity — needles, knifes, syringes, etc. And the endorphins feel amazing! Again, read, go to workshops, talk to people within the community, and learn how to be safe throughout! 
CASUAL SEX — This is describe as having sex without emotional attachment. But, I have casual sex with people I really respect and hold emotions for. So maybe it’s having sex with people that you emotionally respect outside of the bounds of how you would describe a relationship. 
CNC — Consensual Non-Consent. Mmmmmmhhhh this one. This is the act of playing with a partner in a non-consensual way but both parties have given consent for everything that is going on in the scene. For example: If you want to live out a forced-sex fantasy. You talk with your partner, you lay out how that will go, you understand your safe words, and you pick a date to act out your fantasy! 
DOMINATION — Either taking all the power or relinquishing all the power to your partner. This also requires a bunch of communication to understand what each party wants to get out of the power dynamic. 
FAT — Having sex with the literal fat on a person’s body (titty fucking is a common example) OR having sex with someone who is fat. Let me just say as someone with a fat body, it’s kind of amazing! 
GROUP SEX — Having sex with multiple people at the same time. This is fun and normal and way less scary than you realize. Want to have a threesome? Want to have sex with a ton of people at the same time? Do it and keep everyone’s heart safe. 
LATEX — A sexual arousal from wearing, seeing, touching, licking latex. It’s shiny, it clings to the body, it’s sexy! 
LOUD SEX — Being super loud/screaming while you’re having sex. If you have roommates or thin walls, turn up that Spotify playlist and go forth, babes!
MASTURBATION — Having solo sex with yourself. Well, you know my feelings about this. Insert here (pun very much intended): The First Edition of 1-800-HEYLAURA
NAME-CALLING — Ohhhhhh love it. The act of using pet or derogatory names during play to stir up an emotion. Like, if you wanted your partner to call you slut in bed. Or using mommy/daddy as a way to strike a power dynamic. Or maybe you want to be called by a different name! Super hot. Do it! 
PEGGING — Pegging is typically considered a heterosexual act when a woman puts on a strap-on and penetrates her male partner anally with the dildo. This is 1) So Hot 2.) So So Hot 3.) The Hottest. I got a bunch of messages about this one from men asking if this was going to make them gay. No, no. Sadly, this does not bless you into gay world. It’s a sexy act that you can do with your partner!
PUPPY PLAY — A super liberating form of kink play that involves a lot of power dynamics while role-playing as a puppy. There are puppy-shaped hoods, collars, tails! It's a whole thing! 
SPANKING — Being hit or hitting another person on the ass as a form of punishment. SIGN.ME.UP. 
SLUT — A person who knows what they want sexually. Often used as a derogatory term for someone who likes to have sex or is outspoken about sex. I refused to feel ashamed about this. If being a slut means I ask for what I want, I'm respectful of boundaries, and I'm not sexually repressed, then cool. Yeah. I'm a slut. 
WATER SPORTS — The act of urinating on another person or watching someone urinate for sexual arousal. Politicians deny doing it. People make jokes about it. Shame ensues for those interested in it. When really it’s super hot and can be tied into domination play! 
My dearest reader — I’m writing this to you hours before this edition goes live. There was an entirely different love note here for you, but there is a part of my person history that makes this topic so important to me. Every single one of us remembers that girl in high school we deemed a slut because of a petty rumor. It was mean and childish and a great example of how we shame each other for sexual exploration at a time we should be sexually explorative. I was both of those people: a girl who shamed other women because I wanted to be cool AND a girl who was shamed because I kissed a boy and consensually let him put his hand up my shirt. The aftermath was this ongoing nightmare as peers yelled slut at me and slipped hostile notes into my locker. The substantial shame left an emotional mark that still lingers every time I find myself trusting a new sexual partner. This is why I think about shame so much (see editor’s letter above). I think about all the lives it has ruined, all the lives it has taken from us, the reputations it has broken, the amount of pain it has caused, and how sexual exploration is used to make us feel bad about our bodies. If you’re a person who has survived revenge porn, slut shaming, sexual rumors, harassment, given less opportunities because your Instagram is just oh so hot, told to tone it down — You’re too fucking bright to be shadowed by shame. I see you.

So, now, we're a week before Valentine's Day. Soak in the above and let it wash away your shame. Go into you V-Day (and the rest of your life) knowing that you can let it go, you can love yourself, you can explore you sexual interests. I'm proud of your progress, babes. 

xxx,
1-800-HEYLAURA

NEXT EDITION: FEB 21ST, 2019 — Adult Sleepovers And Everything That Comes With It
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1-800-HEYLAURA is a bi-monthly newsletter dedicated to sex and body image. Each edition comes (read: cums) in your inbox the first and third of every month.
 
DISCLAIMER: 1-800-HEYLAURA is not a licensed medical practitioner and not responsible for any E.R. trips as a result of the previous, future, and above advice — you still need to make an effort to see what can and cannot be put inside of you; she is just a person with an insane thought that all people should have the autonomy to explore, pleasure, and love themselves. 

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