So, you’re probably wondering about that title, “your vulva is a snowflake,” and the fact that today’s episode had the word “sex” in the title. You might even be thinking, oh this episode isn’t for me, I’m not in a relationship – or, I AM in a relationship and it’s a healthy relationship – or, I’m not looking for sex advice right now – or whatever might be coming into your brain because this episode has “sex” in the title. I want to make this clear – yes, we talk about the act of sex a little, but this episode is not about intercourse or partnership. Like, at all. This is, I mean, maybe one of the most all-inclusive, body-positive conversations I know I’ve ever had. And probably, you too.
Anne Hodder is a Certified sex educator, sex toy expert, and sex-positive PR & marketing pro at Hodder Media. She’s also been a friend of mine for about….5 years now?...I met her at the gym, in a spin class, and since then she has just been such a thoughtful, wise, and supportive presence in my life. I knew that when the time was right, I needed to have her on the pod. And today, more than ever, seems like the moment to talk as candidly, honestly, graphically, and altruistically about sex, sexuality, trauma, consent, desire, and body positivity as we do here in Episode 16.
So when you hear “sex educator,” if youre like me, you probably think about your health teacher in middle school and that one unit they did on basically the how tos of sex and our bodies.
Talking to Anne, I learned it’s, so, SO much more than that. And while most of us get the birds and the bees talk or maybe get that year or two of classes in school, it’s NOT enough. What Anne does isn’t just talking about intercourse – it’s about owning your body, your decisions, your emotions, and making empowered choices. Yes, sometimes in the bedroom – but a lot of what she talks about doesn’t even have to do with going between the sheets.
In this episode, we talk about shame, what we get wrong about sexual trauma – or at least what I did – and how MUCH that explains when it comes to the way we navigate our relationships and sexuality, her experiences with talking to high schoolers vs. adults, Anne’s journey into the sex journalism and then sex education world, judgement, dealing with embarassment, body hangups, sex positivity, body positivity, and why no emotion is mutually exclusive. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I came to a realization while listening back to this recording: Ann says "There are things we can and cannot say to people under 18. The thing we need to remember when talking with high school kids is that developmentally they're in a totally different place." And it donned on me that most of our FORMAL, ACTUAL SEX ED ends in high school health class. Which means that, for most of us, the education ends before we're actually experiencing the majority of our mature sexual life. The education ends - and the speculation begins. No wonder sex, sexuality, and everything even closely related seems like such a mystery - the information we have was given to us based on what we were actually able to process at the time! When we were kids! The rules around sex ed are so varied from region to region - I mean, I had "human development class" every single year from kindergarten to sixth grade, talking about everything from dating to kissing to drugs to yes, how babies are made. And then I got to middle school, and I distinctly remember we talked about sex in 7th grade. And then nothing in 8th, then barely anything in 9th, and that was it. In 9th grade, I was 14 years old. I was really lucky to have incredibly open-minded and candid parents, especially a mom I could talk to or ask anything. But I know most young women aren't as lucky growing up. Even with her guidance, I was still being handed a set of experiences and opinions - nothing from anyone actually trained to guide me through things from an educational non-parental perspective. So it makes sense to me that sex and sexuality are most commonly surrounded by shame, mystery, rebellion, etc. And moreOVER!, we only see sex portrayed a certain way in the media - USUALLY heterosexual, usually cisgender, and USUALLY two young, pristine-looking people. Very little body diversity, age diversity, gender diversity... that's why shows like sex and the city and girls were and are so groundbreaking.
This should go without saying, but this episode IS for mature audiences – we swear a bit, we talk not GRAPHICALLY in a vulgar way but in an anatomical way, and while Anne was cracking me up throughout the entire episode, it’s definitely not a set of subjects to be taken lightly. If you’re not into it, cool, or if you’re, I don’t know, my grandma listening (and she does listen) and you don’t really want to hear your granddaughter talking about this, that’s cool too! But on the flipside, I would say that this is an episode that should DEFINITELY be shared with anyone in your life who is open to listening because as we discuss on the episode, we live in a culture that dodges these important topics way too often and to our detriment.
Something I'm realizing now more than EVER is the power of community. So it's only fitting that today's episode is with community builder extraordinaire Audrey Bellis.
Audrey is a FORCE OF NATURE. A first-generation Latina, she's is shaping the future of Los Angeles, and specifically, Downtown LA by fostering the startup and tech communities as a founder of StartupDTLA and as a cofounder ofGRID110. Not only that, she’s linking creative female entrepreneurs as the founder of Worthy Women. Mayor Garcetti's office honored her as 1 of 5 "Inspiring Latinas of LA" and TechOutLA named her "a key player in the Eastside/DTLA tech movement." If there's anyone who knows how to create community and make a collective impact as visionary women in the world, it's this stunner.
In this episode, we dive deep into knowing your body and healing past trauma, why owning your worth is so important in everything from business to friendships, Audrey’s crazy medical complications that gave her a huge wake up call – and her sort of Eat Pray Love experience that helped facilitate that, and why it’s so important that we’re never, ever, ever done with the work, even if we think we’ve reached success or that we know it all.
We also talk building community, making friends as an adult, finding the people who we connect with on the deepest levels, which can be hard sometimes as an adult, and so much more.
HEADS UP: this episode contains graphic descriptions of Audrey's health scare. So if you're squeamish, you might want to skip over the part about 15 or so mins in where she's talking about the bathtub. We don't shy away from anything here on WANT - it's so important to me that these podcasts tell unedited, unglossy stories (because life is unedited and unglossy). But you've been warned ;)