Emma started her internship at Pleasure Pie only a little over week ago and has already done so much.
Emma helps to keep Pleasure Pie connected to you by:
My favorite things about working with Emma so far:
-Nicole Mazzeo, Pleasure Pie founder and director
Q&A with Emma!
Emma Glassman-Hughes: Hi everybody! I’m Emma, the new Pleasure Pie intern, and I’m very eager to introduce myself to this community. As a way for you to get to know me, as well as my place in the world of sex positivity, I’m going to answer some questions for you.
Nicole Mazzeo: So Emma, why is sex positivity important to you?
EGH: Though I’m an Atheist by mentality and a Jew by heritage and sense of humor, my family still celebrates Christmas for the hell of it. My gift this year from my dad, fully embracing my burgeoning feminist pride, was a book called The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lapore, which highlights one of America’s most beloved superheroes, while masterfully weaving in the comic’s shining feminist subplot. Though I’m not yet finished with all 300+ pages, I was struck by the introduction of the wife of William Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, named Sadie Elizabeth Holloway. She was supposedly very independent and an avid reader of the ancient Greek poet Sappho, a feminist of her time who is described in the book as “the symbol of female love.” Holloway was deeply inspired by Sappho, this feminist symbol, and it is speculated that Wonder Woman is inspired by Holloway. Thus, by my calculations, Wonder Woman is, by association, a superhero whose true super power is the power of female love. To me, this proved very important. I had never thought of my love—my sex, my friendship, my passion—as a power before.
So I suppose I would say that sex positivity is important to me because it helps me see the power in owning my sexuality, and it reminds me that sex is more than something that society simply expects for me to give; my sex is my autonomy. I’ve always had trouble embracing my own sexuality to its fullest potential—learning to effectively communicate with partners, let go of self-consciousness, and separate myself from sexual shame are just a few of the things I have had to work toward. And, while that struggle is far from won, my continued learning about sex positivity has helped unwrap the happier, healthier, and more self-aware woman that was hiding under layers of limiting societal pressures. The power behind female love is a more extraordinary phenomenon than we are taught to believe in school (my third-of-a-year-long high school sex [read: abstinence] education was, needless to say, a letdown), and I am thankful for sex positivity and for Wonder Woman for showing this to me.
NM: What’s your take on intersectional activism?
EGH: As a feminist, one of the most interesting things about keeping up with media coverage in times of nationally heightened racial tensions (such as the recent uproar about how police brutality disproportionately affects black victims) is hearing black activists talk about black men the same way that feminists talk about women. I hear so many of the same buzzwords, like “victim-blaming,” and it becomes difficult for me to see a separation between the two issues. Racial injustice and gender injustice are inextricably tied, and you simply cannot have true feminism without an anti-racism component. It is also important that sex positivity in particular embraces intersectionality (I hope this is a word because I like it) and specifically tackles racial injustices because the sexuality of people of color has historically been controlled, commodified, and exploited in this country.
Though racism is often at the forefront of my thinking due to its growing coverage on different forms of media, people who face other kinds of oppression also need feminist advocates. Because I grew up in Southern California, an area with some of the country’s largest homeless populations, as well as a very close proximity to the Mexican border, I began thinking about class and immigration issues at a young age. Disadvantages in people’s lives can lead to unhealthy views of sex, which contributes to the anemic and destructive overarching sex culture in our country. People of every background deserve to be knowledgeable about sex, to love their bodies, and to know how to give and ask for consent. People of every background deserve to feel safe and free from sexual violence. People of every background deserve to know how to make themselves happy. Eradicating the oppression of all people is the real business of feminism, empowering those who have historically been silenced will lead us all to a better future. Intersectional activism, to me, is the only activism worth pursuing because it unites diverse voices in order to more effectively create change.
NM: What do you want to accomplish by doing this internship?
EGH: Not only am I a fabulous Pleasure Pie intern, but I am also a fabulous college student and young woman with a lot on my mind. As much as I would love for these things to not belong in the same sentence or even the same blog post, as a female student, I am constantly reminded of rape culture. Need I even mention the obscene statistic that approximately 1 in 5 female college students will be sexually assaulted before she graduates? People of all sorts and genders (yes, this includes men *gasp*) suffer in a society that refuses to promote healthy sexuality and instead fosters sexual violence. I would love to live in a world where people can come into their own sexualities free from fear, judgment, entitlement, and shame. This sexual utopia can be achieved, I am convinced, if we improve the conversations that we are having about sex, and if we embrace a healthier and more informative sex education curriculum that covers all kinds of varying sexualities, gender identities, and contraceptive choices, which is a lot of what sex positivity is about. As a sex positive intern, I would love to learn new ways to make this topic more accessible for a variety of people with different backgrounds, to help eradicate rape culture, to work to improve sex education in schools, and to do my best to create a more accepting and all-inclusive sex culture through productive and forward-thinking conversation. Working for Pleasure Pie is my way of entering this conversation with purpose, and, of course, a wealth of nifty zines to guide me through it.
Two days ago, I moved into a previously uninhabited apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina. Yesterday, when I took my first shower in the apartment, I stepped into the shower to find a millipede trying, and failing, to climb up the shower wall. While I’ve come far with my long-time bug phobias, millipedes are one of the few critters that can still make me scream, cry, and rethink my living situation. So I cried through my first shower (after the millipede had been removed) and insisted that my partner Eric stay in the bathroom until I was done, just in case.
Today, I bravely ventured into the shower on my own (with the help of a newly installed shower drain with little holes that a millipede should never be able to fit through) while Eric went to a nearby cafe. But there was one thing giving me courage today (other than the new drain): I was going to be washing with a beautiful, detailed, life size vulva soap.
My friend Callie makes these soaps in her studio in Boston from casts of real people’s vaginas (you can read about her concept and process here). Anyone who looks through my Etsy favorites will know that I have been aching for realistic vagina paraphernalia for a long time. So of course I was thrilled when Callie offered to let me try out one of her soaps.
Since I could use all the bathing encouragement I could get today, I decided it would be a good time to open up my new vulva soap and take it for a spin. I tore off the biodegradable (did I mention Callie’s big on caring for the environment?) cellophane and held the soap in my hands, running my fingers over its life-like bumps and wrinkles before nervously stepping one foot – and then the other – into the running shower.
I put the soap on a little ledge in the shower while anxiously watching for any millipedes that might heroically fight their way through the too-small drain holes to join me. After a moment of resting on the narrow ledge, the soap fell to the shower floor with a thud. I heard Eric’s knowing laugh in the other room as he gathered his things to head to the cafe. I laughed at the fact that he knew exactly what had just happened. My tenseness started to subside.
I began washing my furry armpits, which I lathered up using the flat back of the vulva soap, in order to preserve maximum lifelike texture for when I got to my own vulva. The soap made a pleasantly thick bubbly lather that I enjoyed massaging into my skin. I washed the usual areas in this fashion until it was the moment I had been waiting for – vulva time.
I stood upright and rubbed the soap – vulva side up – along my vulva, front to back. The vulva-on-vulva action was erotic. The curves of its labia and the slipperiness of the soap felt good on my clitoris and labia. I got a little carried away, rubbing past the point of just bathing. Thanks to the vulva soap’s sex appeal, my vagina has never been so clean.
My 4 Favorite Things About the Vulva Soap:
1. It sends the message that vaginas (and genitals in general) aren’t gross. It says it’s okay to look at genitals, touch them, and even enjoy them.
Demystifying genitals can help to make us all a little (or a lot) more comfortable with our bodies (and our partners’ bodies). Vulva soap sparks a conversation about genitals, which is an opportunity for people to ask questions, bring up concerns, and reflect on things they’re uncomfortable with relating to their genitals, or genitals in general. If we see things that look like our own genitals being presented as normal and okay, it sends the message that our genitals are normal and okay. I would love to see someone make soaps from penises, testicles, trans people’s genitals, and intersex genitals. I would love to see all different sizes, shapes, colors, and variations so we can all find something that we can relate to and recognize as ours. (Note: Callie’s vulva soaps come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.)
2. It’s a good way to see what other people’s vaginas might look like – in 3D! I don’t see many people’s vaginas up close (I can’t even see most of mine without using a mirror), and I would like to have a better idea of what vaginas actually look like. Through my work as a sexual health educator, I routinely describe vaginas and how they work to teenagers and adults. I also make illustrations of vaginas. I could do both of these things better if I had a better understanding of what exactly vaginas look like, and how they vary.
3. It’s sexy. It can double as a sex toy – just don’t put it inside the vagina or use it for a long time at once (getting soap inside the vagina can mess up its pH level and cause infection). But you can still enjoy it as a sexy, wet thing to use as a prop for fantasizing and to briefly stroke the outer vulva with.
4. It’s good soap even after it stops looking like a vulva. It’s made with shea butter and lavender oil, and is free of animal products, detergent, SLS, and paraben. It also feels and smells great.
11 Fun Ideas for Using the Vulva Soap:
1. Put it in your bathroom as a hand soap when you have guests over.
2. Masturbate with it for a couple of minutes while you’re in the shower. Then rinse off and continue the sexy time elsewhere (or continue with your fingers in the shower).
3. Invite a partner to shower with you and surprise them by rubbing the vulva soap all over them, spending a little extra time on their genitals.
4. Give it as a birthday gift to a feminist or nudist friend or partner.
5. Give it as a birthday gift to a conservative friend or relative.
6. Make a body positive gift basket with this zine, this cross stitch, and this T-shirt, and give it in a gift swap or to a loved one.
8. Attach it to a wreath and display it on your front door.
9. Mail it to an anti-choice or anti-feminist politician or religious leader in your community.
10. For artists: Use it as a prop in a video, photo shoot, or play.
11. For educators: Use it in a sex ed or health class to supplement any less life-like vagina models you use.
The vulva soap was everything I wanted it to be and more. I had so much fun with it that I forgot about the millipede threat altogether and immensely enjoyed the shower that I had been dreading.
Vulva Soap Giveaway
Do you want to try the vulva soap out for yourself? You’re in luck because Callie gave me an extra one to give away for free!
Click here to enter the giveaway!
[A note on word choice: I use the word “vagina” to refer to the whole genital area of anyone with a vagina. Technically “vagina” only means the vaginal opening/cavity. “Vulva” means the whole genital area. However, most people I know commonly use the word “vagina” when talking about the vulva, and many might not know what “vulva” means. I prefer to use the word “vagina” or use them both interchangeably because I’d rather have people know what I’m talking about than use the “right” word.]