“Sexuality, which is innate, includes your gender, sexual orientation and sex-related impulses and desires, how you relate intimately with yourself, others, and arguably, the world. It’s in your essence, your spirit, your soul.
While you won’t discover everything you need to know about sex in this book, my hope is that you will gain understanding of sexuality–particularly your own. Without such understanding, sadly, there will be problems. Trust me, I know…” ~~August McLaughlin, Embraceable: Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s Sexuality
I must admit, I first admired August McLaughlin for her outward beauty. She is a person one might look at from afar and think, “She’s perfect.”
Then, when I met her and experienced her openness, her friendliness and her beautiful smile, I admired her inward beauty.
But as I got to know August better through social media–Facebook, her blog and online radio program, Girl Boner® Radio–I began to admire her true beauty, in essence, not the beauty of her “perfection,” but the beauty in her courage to be open about her imperfections, her wabi sabi, and even more, to encourage others to do the same.
To celebrate the release of August’s new book, Embraceable:Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s Sexuality, I’m honored to share her thoughts on a few questions:
JAN: Have you always had the ability to open and honest about topics? If not, can you pinpoint an event or time when discussing “sensitive” topics became easier for you?
AUGUST: I’m pretty outspoken by nature, but, like many kids, I learned early on that “sex talk” was fairly off limits. When I was about 20, I took a sexuality college course that changed my life. It was the first time I, and many of my classmates, were encouraged to speak about this “taboo” subject.
JAN: There are many topics I’d like to write about, but hesitate because I worry about how it will make someone feel. Do you ever worry about what your loved ones will think of something you’ve said or written about? Does it ever stop you?
AUGUST: Worrying about what others think can be extremely stifling, both creatively and emotionally, so I avoid that. At the same time, I try to be respectful of loved ones in all of my work. In Embraceable, for example, I share some pretty intimate details about my life; but I aimed to tell my story only. When I mention others, I do my best to protect their privacy and make it clear that it’s not their perspective I am (or even can) tell.
JAN: In all of your interviews and/or discussions about sex, is there one “hang-up” that stands out above all others?
AUGUST: I hear from many women who are concerned that something about them isn’t “right” or “normal,” whether that’s a perceivably high or low sex drive or fantasies they have. The most common hangup or question I hear boils down to this: Am I normal? Am I okay? And for the record, the answer, across the board, has been YES.
JAN: Do you think there is a relationship between your anorexia and your sexuality? Which was harder for you to open up publicly about—your past anorexia or sex?
AUGUST: Absolutely! That’s why I do the work I do. Learning to embrace my sexuality allowed me to heal from the eating disorder and years of body dysmorphia and dwindling self-esteem. My personality is such that speaking out feels like the best and most natural thing to do in response to hardship. Speaking about my experience with an eating disorder helped me heal, though, admittedly, parts are still painful to share. Reliving difficult times isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly gratifying for me, knowing that it might help someone feel a bit less alone or gain a smidge of hope.
By the time I decided to speak up about sexuality with the mission of empowerment, it felt completely natural; I was giddy. That’s not to say my palms didn’t sweat when I hit “publish” on my first Girl Boner® post, of course! But those are the good kind of butterflies.
JAN: In some ways I think we have too much sexual information and imagery. In other ways I think we can barely talk about sex. If you agree why do you think that is?
AUGUST: This is such an important question. It’s the type and gaps in the information about sex that’s problematic. We live in a culture that over-sexualizes women, and shuns them at the same time, if they’re perceived as “too” sexual. The idea that women are “sluts” or “prudes” trumps on, which is incredibly sad.
Meanwhile, kids learn extremely little about sex and sexuality—other than from porn, which many experts believe has become our culture’s sex ed. We need more normalized conversations about sex and sexuality. Sex ed needs to be more comprehensive and start much earlier.
JAN: How important do you think sex is to healthy intimacy between a couple?
AUGUST: I think it really depends on the couple. For asexual couples, sex is completely off the table. For most other couples, it plays an invaluable role—but how and how often they express it varies hugely. What matters is cultivating a sexual lifestyle that works well for both partners, and maintaining open communication, growing together as time goes on.
JAN: Relationship therapist/speaker/author, Esther Perel has posed the question, “When we are taught that sex is dirty, but save it for the one you love, is it any surprise that so many couples become erotically alienated?” What are your thoughts?
AUGUST: I think she makes an excellent point. Seeing sex as “dirty,” or any other negative adjective, doesn’t help anyone. Such negativity invites shame, which is at the root of all sorts of intimacy problems, from relationship tumult to sexual dysfunction. It’s one reason women struggle with sexual empowerment, since sex is often perceived as “dirty” or taboo for us, whereas “guys will be guys.”
JAN: I often think about authenticity—about being honest about who I am in a variety of areas. Yet, being sexually open-minded, about myself and others, I often find I can’t be completely honest, because the concept of what’s dirty/naughty/taboo varies so widely, and is often judged harshly. How have you pushed past a fear of being judged?
AUGUST: For years, I had no idea I carried shame around sex and my sexuality. This is extremely common, because shame is so engrained in the fabric of what it means to be a woman in the U.S.—with too few exceptions. Since learning to embrace my body and sexuality, I’ve not seen anything about either as “dirty.” As a result, I don’t judge others’ bodies or sexuality harshly either.
I’d say if you’re judging others based on who they’re attracted to or how they express their sexuality, it’s gone too far. Have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Look within, and commit to undoing that negative dialogue. You’ll be blown away by what that type of empowerment can do for you and your loved ones. For many, it’s the beginning to a truly authentic life.
By owning her own story and encouraging the women in this volume to tell their stories, without shame and without judgment, August McLaughlin has created a valuable tool for healing, education and social change…Sometimes the most healing sentence anyone can speak is, “Me, too.” This book is filled with powerful “me, to”s. ~~Foreword by Susan Harper, Ph.D.
Thank you, August, for the interview, for Embraceable and for encouraging us to embrace who we are, to open up to each other so that we may feel the healing of “me, too.”
August’s new book, Embraceable: Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s Sexuality, is now available! Purchase your copy on Amazon.
August McLaughlin is an award-winning, nationally recognized health and sexuality writer, radio personality and host and creator of Girl Boner®. Her work appears in DAME Magazine, the Huffington Post, LIVESTRONG.com and more. Kirkus Reviews called her first novel, In Her Shadow, “an engaging story with an inventive structure and an intriguing focus on body-image issues.” Her latest book, Embraceable: Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s Sexuality, is a celebration of women’s sensuality. Each week on Girl Boner® Radio, she interviews relationship experts, celebs and more, exploring women’s lives and sexuality “like no one else.” Known for melding personal passion, artistry and activism, August uses her skills as a public speaker and journalist to inspire other women to embrace their bodies and selves, making way for fuller, more authentic lives. www.augustmclaughlin.com