All my ladies out there….how many times were you told to put your legs together, sit up straight, put on something more appropriate, not say that, or wait until you are married? Have you ever felt ashamed to share how many lovers you have had? (Grandmother if you have read this far, I’m sorry…love you.) Or maybe you are insecure or embarrassed to share a weird or maybe funny sexual experience? Men can openly discuss or joke about these things, but women are often shamed for doing the same.

Most of this shame is behind the woman’s back and a negative picture is painted without her knowledge. This sets the expectation for other women to know that if you act like her than you are not a healthy or normal person. If I am ever privy to these kind of situations I get quite a kick out of calling out the blatant hypocrisy. The truth is today women and men on average have more intimate partners in their life time than ever before. But women are expected to present themselves a certain way. To be lady like, and to never reveal any kind of experience that might make them look “slutty.”

In the South, where I am from, if a woman hasn’t married and had her first kid by the time she is 25 – 30 years old it’s almost like she missed out on life. Men are cheered and encouraged to always do what makes them feel good. Times are changing and the old attitude that we as women are only meant to be housewives, bear children, and be looked at and not heard from is a thing of the past! However society as a whole would rather women never talk about sex, not have multiple partners, not show an unnecessary amount of skin, or identify as another gender or sexual orientation other than heterosexual. Healthy sexuality has a lot of meanings, and I want to talk about it! I believe that it’s things like communicating about sex that can unite us, and it’s a way for women today to express themselves in a healthy way. 

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One thing I love about women today is they are celebrating each other more and more, and with that comes a camaraderie that fuels talks with each other about sex. We all do it, so why not talk about it? It’s funny, interesting, something we have in common, and informational. Even women that are in serious relationships or married are talking more with their girlfriends about some very personal details. Some of my favorite conversations are secrets about what we like and don’t like. Was he a good kisser or not? Yes some of us tell stories about our ex’s and their penis size and how long it lasted. Sometimes there is a certain pride in saying how your man laid it down last night. Maybe it was with a she….just saying! This in a lot of ways is today’s woman!

Of course there is an exception to what I’m saying and some women just don’t feel comfortable and that’s okay, too. There is no pressure, it’s just that more and more are feeling comfortable and to me that is a good thing. The topic of sex can at the very least be joked about in just about any situation. Maybe some of you are thinking…uh no that’s not what we do. That’s cool too! I’m pretty sure I have lost a couple Facebook friends over it. I get it…maybe I have just surrounded myself with enough open-minded/kinky people it feels like I can talk about these things with anyone, and I will! 

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For me I think it all began with a song called, “Let’s talk about sex.” Y ’all know what I’m talking about if you were listening to the radio at all in the 90s and even still today! Salt-N-Pepa were stuck in your head, and even now you are singing it to yourself! That might be why my mom tried so hard to sensor what I watched and listened to. Sorry mom!

Personally I have always just been interested in how others do it, and maybe learn something new to try the next time. Laughing about what turns you on is a great way to break barriers and build trust within a friendship. It also might help someone be more open to discussing these kind of things with their partner which ultimately is the best case scenario. Communicating and building stronger relationships, and realizing that even if others are attracted to the same sex it’s still the same feeling as being attracted to the opposite sex. We are all more alike than we think.

From a drag queen to a housewife, healthy sexuality is all the same! As long as you are comfortable, and take steps to prevent STDs or an unwanted pregnancy. That really that is all that should matter! My passion for wanting to start this blog is to “change the narrative” or “break the stereotype.” What better way to do that than highlighting people in our community today who are living their life with good intention, staying true to who they are, and proving that nothing is what it might seem! I specifically want to highlight a very special woman who works in the “sex industry”, lives in our community, and is proving how women can use art to express themselves sexually and be celebrated and not shamed.

Photos Courtesy of Ethel Loveless

This woman I want to highlight today is fierce and beautiful and I had so much fun interviewing her. Just walking into her apartment with her wall to wall costumes hanging in her living room was such a testament to her dedication to her craft and lifestyle! She is one of my favorite people in the world. I have known her since she was a teenager and watching her grow has been so fun and inspiring. When I first met her she was an awkward teenager who was making typical questionable teenage decisions. I met her as Emily but within 5 years I began to meet Ethel.

Ethel Loveless is her burlesque stage name and seeing her morph into this character but also a young woman was magical. She is one of the first people I remember just being unapologetically herself. She had this swag and defiance about her that made you want to see more. She developed a love for pinup art and at around 18 years old is when I started noticing the tattoos. I remember thinking at first glance they were borderline offensive, but the more I looked at them (the beautiful women on her skin), and actually knowing her it was perfect. She was just beginning to build this brand and she knew exactly what she wanted to be. 

I asked Emily what is the biggest difference between Ethel and Emily. She said, “Emily feels emotions and Ethel has the power.” Ethel is a stunning burlesque performer. Her energy and stage presence is one of a kind and you can’t help but be drawn to her beauty, both inside and out. When getting ready for a burlesque show she feels Ethel start to come out. Ethel can be out of control and she loves to network. Emily is more low key and feels pressure to sometimes to turn Ethel on. Either way she loves what she does and over the last few years has really established a name for herself in the burlesque industry. I wanted to sit down with her one on one and really pick her brain about what healthy sexuality means to her, and to learn more about her knowledge of the LGBTQ community. 

Photo Credit: Skylar Davis

To her healthy sexuality is “being comfortable enough so that others feel comfortable with you.” I love that! With her orange, velvet, swirl of pink vibe, she oozes sexual energy. She captures the essence of what it means to be a sexy woman and she is not apologetic about it at all! We should celebrate that kind of liberation! You don’t have to want to do it yourself to appreciate the beauty of it and her confidence to entertain you and make you feel good! You have to have an open mind and be perceptive to the idea of possibly being turned on and use that energy to maybe then go home and have some fun with your partner! Or simply just respect the time she has put into creating her craft, and that she herself enjoys entertaining people without her clothes on! She is hands down the best tassel swinger I’ve ever seen! I have also had the pleasure of getting to know her family. Her mother and father, siblings, aunts, and cousins have been to many of her shows. I think at first it was a bit of shocker, but they have seen how amazing she is on that stage and how much love she puts into her performances. I hope that kind of support has given her some strength in the moments where her profession can difficult. 

Being “queer” isn’t always easy and producing and performing shows has its challenges. There are many if not all performances or venues where she and a team of rock stars are coming up with the entire creative aspect of the show, the wardrobe, the promoting, finding a venue, and managing event ticket and merchandise sales. When it comes to gender, I admittedly am ignorant to this new wave of identifying oneself. For me a huge part of having a healthy sexuality includes understanding that we all like different things and no one person is the same. Emily not only identifies as queer but she is completely immersed in the drag and LGBTQ community.

Her best friend, roommate, and industry side kick Stevie Dicks, is a drag queen. She performs with people of all walks of life every night. I personally love seeing friends that stick together and their relationship is very connected and inspiring! Talking with Emily is always so interesting for me because her perspective on life is not the majority. She helped me begin to understand some new terms during our chat, for example, “cisgender” and “non binary.” Cisgender is a man or woman that identifies with the gender identity that matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Non binary is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍—‌identities that are outside the gender binary. I know this is confusing, and new, and people don’t like change. Believe me this is hard for me, too! I don’t think anyone should feel bad for not necessarily understanding it, as long as you respect it enough, and when presented with the opportunity to learn about it, you listen. 

Working in this industry Emily has seen the effects on mental health and how taxing it can be to just stand out and be different. The pressure that society puts on these performers in their everyday life can create a mindset that does not promote healthy sexuality or just general acceptance. I don’t know about you but I don’t ever want to be responsible for someone else not feeling good about themselves. They often feel alone and have to rely on each other to overcome the negative stigma that society gives them. They grow up even as very small children knowing that they are different from most, but having a strong desire to just fit in.

To me healthy sexuality has everything to do with your own personal preference. Learning what makes you feel good and allowing yourself the time to explore what that means to you. I think in order to know what that means you have to talk about it! We all need to feel comfortable with who we are but also make sure we don’t criticize or make someone who likes something different feel unworthy. You have to learn what others are doing or not doing and laugh and be open to the idea of something different than what you already know. There could be something out there you have never heard of that is completely safe, and gives your relationship that spark it needed to fall in love with your partner even deeper. Ethel and other “sex workers” like her are more than willing to show you a good time and entertain you in such a way that will you bring you closer to your partner. This industry also gives you the ability to see how other people’s art can translate into something they are going through. That to me is moving and what brings us all closer together. 

Photo Credit: Brooke McCallum

I hope I haven’t offended you, and that maybe you see a side to this industry that can bring positivity to just about anyone! I hope you talk about this with your friends and lover. I hope it maybe made you feel sexy. Most of all I hope you go see Ethel Loveless because she is everything a woman can and should be! Take a date night and go see a local performer who works hard to promote unity and love to all! 

Check out Ethel’s Facebook page for her upcoming performance dates!

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