That's right, I said it - sex. It never ceases to amaze me how many people cringe when you say it out loud. As a former Pure Romance consultant, I am all to familiar with the side eye. Because, let's face it, good girls don't talk about sex, right? Wrong.
Our culture is steeped with taboos and myths surrounding sex and sexuality, and one of the most prevalent is that good girls and boys don't talk about sex (and if you're a woman, don't think about it either). My experience growing up is somewhat regionally colored growing up smack in the middle of the Kansas Bible Belt, but I've heard this misguided ideology spouted by women from coast to coast.
Look no further than the age old wedding night adage attributed to Queen Victoria, "Lie still and think of England." This idea has permeated our culture for decades and caused untold damage to the psyche of women everywhere. From schools who teach abstinence only to religious institutions that advocate puritanical chastity, there is a tangible current of anti-sex rhetoric. You can practice whatever fulfills you spiritually, but hindering open communication about sex and sexuality isn't doing anyone any favors.
Talking about sex doesn't cause people to have intercourse with reckless abandon. It doesn't cause un-planned pregnancy, or STIs, or assault. Talking about sex encourages people to open the lines of communication with their doctors, therapists, partners, and families. Being sex positive means accepting sex and sexuality as a normal, healthy, and good part of life and it is something we should all embrace.
I once had a very angry woman practically spit at me (while giving side eye), "I suppose you just think that we should just start showing kids adult movies and let everyone have sex with everyone all willy, nilly like a bunch of heathens." First of all, kudos on the use of the word "heathens", and second of all having open communication about sex and sexuality doesn't mean that the world devolves into chaos (see previous paragraph) - quite the opposite actually.
Open questions have opportunity for informed answers. I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, my parents didn't talk to me about sex, at all, because good girls don't talk about sex and so, I got my answers wherever I could find them - mostly other kids my age. When we give people permission to talk about and explore sex and sexuality, we open the door for healthy discussion. We can talk about it holistically as a natural part of overall health and well being and share answers for not only the "mechanical" questions but also the emotional, social, and spiritual ones as well.
Let's teach our children that sex and sexual health aren't dirty words. That they can come to us with their questions. That they shouldn't be ashamed to talk to their doctors about sexual health issues. That they should feel comfortable talking to their future partners. Informed consent is huge.
What if, instead of perpetuating the stereotype that good girls are timid and demure and boys are aggressive and hyper-sexual, we just normalized enthusiastic consent and open communication? Sex is supposed to be fun. If both partners are anything less than enthusiastic, then it's time to stop. If both partners aren't ready to discuss safety and preferences and individual needs, then it's time to stop. Our kids need to know that being heard, understood, and respected also extends to sex and sexuality.
When we normalize sex and sexuality, we remove the shame and stigma. Imagine if gonorrhea or syphilis were treated with the same regard as strep throat or pink eye - so many more would come forward for treatment sooner. Imagine if sexual assault survivors could come forward without fear of judgement or persecution - so many more voices would be rightfully acknowledged and vindicated. Imagine if people were free to explore gender identity without fear of discrimination - so many more would fine their personal truth and feel whole.
We're making so much progress as society, but we still have a long way to go. Embrace being sex positive by opening the lines of communication with your doctors, with your therapists, with your partners, and with your families because, good girls do talk about sex.
Time got away from me this past month as I know it has for so many of us, but I'm caught up now and ready to tell you all about the newest recommended reading - Chasing the Bright Side by Jessica Ekstrom. Normally, Conk's Community covers one book per month, but this gem will serve for April and May (to play catch up for lost time and because I think we can all use an extra dose of positivity about now).
Let me start by saying that I had never heard of Headbands of Hope before I read this book, and I'm so glad we'll all learn about it now. Jessica Ekstrom started the company in college and operates on a 1:1 model - for every headband sold, one is donated to a child with cancer. Right now, during the Covid-19 situation, they are donating one mask to a health care professional for every headband purchased (I totally bought two. Stalk my Instagram for pictures when they arrive).
So, to really dig into the meat of what this book is about and who it's for, let's take a look at the full title Chasing the Bright Side: Embrace Optimism, Activate Your Purpose, and Write Your Own Story. Ekstrom proposes that success in life relies an awful lot on practicing reckless optimism. Each chapter starts with an inspiring quote and ends with a reflection which could easily be a writing prompt if you are so inclined.
Entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and pretty much anyone looking to pursue a passionate and purposeful life can certainly benefit from this book. Ekstrom leads you through the hits and misses of finding her path and building her business. She doesn't shy away from painful set backs or hard lessons learned because optimism isn't about never feeling the sting of failure - it's about growing through what you go through.
This book aims to help you dig deep and ask yourself important questions about fulfillment, purpose, and what sets your soul on fire. Ekstrom uses her own story to illustrate with fiery clarity how to say yes, be open, and tackle life with kind of enthusiasm in a rousing movie montage (complete with badass music).
In a nutshell, Chasing the Bright Side achieves exactly what it sets out to do - guiding you to embracing optimism, activating your purpose, and writing your own story.
If you'd like to get in on the book discussion, check out my Facebook group page for ladies 18 and over - Conk's Community: Women Empowering Women.
It's Easter today and I'm filled with conflicting emotions. The Covid-19 situation has many states, like Kansas, under stay at home orders and we're all advised to limit the size of group gatherings and maintain a safe social distance of at least 6 feet. This means that so many people's Easter traditions are put on hold this year as we all scramble to acclimate to a new normal. But, I'm filled with a reckless sense of optimism this morning even as the skies are dark and the wind is howling outside my window. We're gonna be ok.
You have restored my faith in humanity. For all the dark, foreboding news clouding my news feed these days, there are just as many amazing people determined to find joy. My mother in law Facetimed us on her ipad yesterday and my father in law was wearing the silliest (and most terrifying) Easter Bunny mask. They took us on an Easter egg hunt through the house using clues she had made for the boys back in 2001. I must also add here that I do not have children, so it was just my in-laws, my husband, and I going on a virtual egg hunt. You are never too old to find joy in the little things.
Right now, I am most thankful for you, my audience, who give me so much love and support and a renewed sense of purpose. The world can be a scary, chaotic place, but sometimes all you need is someone to reach out and say, hey take my hand, let's go on an Easter Egg hunt, and it's exactly what you needed to catch your second wind.
"Lest we forget" is a line taken from the famous poem Recessional by Rudyard Kipling. It has come to be used in remembrance of war and veterans, and carries with it the admonishment to never forget the soldiers lost and the grave lessons learned. As I watched Iron Jawed Angels for the first time yesterday, the powerful story of suffragettes in America struck a chord with me and those words, lest we forget, have been echoing in my brain.
In moments like this, I truly understand why history is a required course in high school and in many colleges - to pass on the stories of hard fought battles and everyday heroes, lest we forget. But I think that we all have a responsibility to carry on stories. It is up to all of us to choose which stories we will help carry, and help keep the memories and lessons alive.
Today, I feel that the term "feminist" carries a largely negative connotation. To say you are a feminist or that you support feminist causes is tantamount to throwing the first punch in a fist fight. Actress Emma Watson said, "I have realized that fighting for women's rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop." And, I couldn't agree more.
There are always radicals and militants in every cause ( I have to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that their hearts are in the right place at least), but those are rarely representative of the cause as a whole. Feminism is really about equality. To quote Watson again, "Feminism is equality: politically, culturally, socially, and economically. That's it, that simple".
So many female pioneers have dedicated their lives to the cause of equality: Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Emmeline Pankhurst, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinman, and countless others. It is up to us to share their stories, to remember their fight, lest we forget.
There is no doubt that equality for women has come so very far, but the fight is not over. Until women are represented equally in positions of power, until men are not stigmatized for expressing feelings or taking on traditionally feminine roles, until we have stopped assigning value and ability for a given task on gender - the fight is not over.
Let's put our differences aside and raise our collective voices in remembrance of all those who have fought the good fight. Let's pick up their banner and be good and honorable human beings pushing forward to a new day. The future is up to us, and the lessons of the past are our burden to carry - lest we forget.
I'm a blogger and educator breaking through stigmas and helping women find their voice.