You want me to read what?
Hi, I’m Quinn, a 19-year-old college student, and my mother writes erotica. Sounds like something I would be saying in group therapy, right? Anyway, you know her as Oleander Plume, and I’m sort of taking over her blog today, well, just this page since she won’t let me read the rest. Over winter break, my mom and I were talking about a “certain trilogy” (as she likes to call it), and I told her how much I hated the way the female character was portrayed. The book made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t like the message it was sending out to people my age, especially girls.
Next thing I know, she was shoving her Kindle at me and shouting about this book she was reading called Sex & Cupcakes. She asked me if I would read it too, and then discuss it with her. Yeah, I thought she was crazy. But I read it anyway, and I really got into it. We did end up having a discussion, and it wasn’t as traumatizing as it sounds. We talked, I typed, and this is the result. I added in some quotes I really liked, and there are reviews from both of us at the end. Hope you like it.
“Because we live in a culture that doesn’t exactly welcome or provide room for honest sharing about sex, many people don’t have any outlet for these kinds of stories save for locker room chat or girlie brunches.”
-Rachel Kramer Bussel
Quinn: That quote is a really accurate summarization of society’s view on sex. There’s never an open place to talk about the subject, besides with your own friends in a secret location, with the door closed and the music turned up so adults won’t know what you’re talking about.
Mama O: I agree with you. There is too much emphasis placed on keeping quiet about sexual relations, especially for women.
Q: It’s not just about sexual relations; it’s sex talk in general. We aren’t even supposed to think about our own body parts, except in clinical terms.
M: Tell me about what you learned in Sex Ed, starting in grade school.
Q: It was a friggin’ joke. Boys and girls were separated into two rooms, already instilling the idea that we were going to learn about something dirty and shameful. They told us that we were girls—
M: Wait. They actually informed you that you were girls?!?
Q: Yup. Then they explained that someday (no idea when) we were going to magically get hips, boobs, hair everywhere and red bumps on our foreheads. If that wasn’t horrifying enough, we also found out we would bleed. Every month. For the rest of our lives. Spectacular. When the boys returned to class after their talk, I immediately began hounding them for answers, wondering what kind of shit they would get stuck with. They refused to tell me, but after corning a boy on the playground and demanding information, I found out boys had something called a “penis”. I didn’t know what the fuck it was but it seemed better than bleeding.
M: I think having a penis would be better than bleeding, too. Especially in the winter, you could write your name in the snow.
Q: Oh my god, mom.
In the eyes of the pro-life movement women are designed for making babies, and men’s pesky sex drives are something to be suffered or used to procreate.
M: Did Sex Ed get any better in your later grades?
Q: Strangely enough, it got worse. Now things got technical. We learned the names of each specific body part, ovaries, testes and who had what. I had no idea how that graphic anatomy lesson was supposed to help. All I took away from the lecture was that girls’ genitalia had way more parts than boys did. I guess the boys didn’t even pay attention, because they still ask how we pee while wearing a tampon.
M: *chokes on coffee*
Q: After that science lesson, we found out how babies were made. And not in the flowery “When a man and woman love each other very much” kind of way, but in a “the man sticks his penis into the woman’s vagina” kind of horrifying way. I couldn’t look at my parents in the eye for weeks and it’s still kind of weird.
M: When I tried to talk to you about sex, you covered your ears and said “BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH” as loud as you could.
Q: And I don’t regret it at all.
M: I would have been happy to talk to you about anything, but I understand, I mean, I never wanted to talk about sex with my mom, either. This is funny, when I was about 12, mother brought home a few pamphlets from the doctor’s office, tossed them at me, and said “This will tell you what you need to know about life.” I’m pretty sure I threw up after reading.
Q: And now you write erotica.
M: And how do you feel about that?
Q: Sometimes I still want to cover my ears. But, now that I’m older it’s not as traumatizing. Mostly because I know more about sex in general, no thanks to school.
Sex, however, is something that most people think about and enjoy, but are loathe to be associated with publicly, and there is a particular kind of venom that comes out when you speak and write about sex, whether it’s autobiographical or not.”
M: When I was in high school, attitudes were a little different. My health teacher talked about the way sex felt, and even emphasized the intimacy of it. Preaching abstinence was not part of the curriculum and we learned about birth control. So it seems like we are going backwards regarding sex education.
Q: I would whole-heartedly agree with you. In high school, the biggest emphasis was abstinence. They told us about these magical things called birth control pills and condoms, then said neither were 100% effective. To further ensure that we wouldn’t have sex, they whammied us with the a short film showing the “miracle of giving birth”, then showed us delightful pictures of genitalia oozing with herpes and other types of STDs. I didn’t know about all the different types of birth control until I attended a seminar in college, and oddly enough, my friend just told me that she just found out about IUD’s. I think teens are hesitant to ask about other preventative measures, or sex in general, because of the bad stigma associated with it.
Go beyond the bloody-fetus placards and you’ll see the religious right isn’t out to simply reverse Roe v. Wade, but to combat birth control and promiscuity while they are at it.
M: Even in 2015, girls are supposed to stay virgins while boys are encouraged to “go get some”. Which really pisses me off. This is another area where we have gone backwards as a society. Slut shaming is more prevalent now than it was when I was a teenager. I don’t understand why we aren’t progressing in our views.
Q: Slut shaming, what the hell? I hate that it’s okay for men to brag about their sexual conquests, but women looked down on for doing the same, then we’re hammered with articles about “what’s your number (of sex partners)” and “how many is too many?” Sex Ed teaches us not to have sex, but then every media ad has a half-naked woman or something over-sexualized. The mixed signals are confusing to teens, especially the younger ones.
M: Yes, let’s talk about the media. We’re preaching abstinence to our kids, but sex is everywhere. Commercials, sitcoms, movies, even shows on the “Family Channel” are chock full of sexual situations and innuendos. I also hate the way women on TV are only portrayed in a handful of ways, and all of them are negative. Women are either the virgin, the slut, the cougar, the mom, or the bitch. While men get to be the hero, the comic relief, the cop, the doctor or the handsome Lothario who bags every woman he can, all the while looking like a positive role model.
To many, standing up for sexuality, for sexual desire, means that, especially if you’re a woman, that is all you count for. You are either a sexual object, or you might as well shut up.
Q: And for the women, every role is serving the men in some way. It’s rare to see a show with a strong female lead who isn’t somehow stereotyped in some way. And in the typical sitcoms, when one of those female characters tries to stand up for herself, she’s written off as being “on the rag”.
M: Oh my god I hate that expression. I hate the negativity that goes along with a natural bodily function and that somehow women turn into vicious beasts during their monthly cycle.
Q: The irony is that women have higher testosterone during their menses, so technically you could argue we’re acting like men. In my humble opinion… but continue.
M: I love that, we are acting like men! That must be why they get so fearful of us when they know we’re menstruating. I think “period phobia” is caused by what we talked about earlier, the lack of a proper education. We all fear what we don’t understand. Here’s an idea, let’s talk to our children in an open way about sex and gender stereo types and maybe society can advance to a higher level. Talk to you children, and if they cover their ears, keep talking anyway.
Q: If sex education was taught properly, there wouldn’t be a need to cover one’s ears in the first place.
M: You’re absolutely right, but where do we start? You’re an education major, what would you like to see happen.
Q: First, stop separating children by gender. If boys and girls learned about sex together from the get-go, it wouldn’t seem like such a big, shameful secret. I also really liked how you were told about how sex felt and that it was an intimate thing, we need to bring that back to sex ed. To be perfectly honest, when I was younger, I had no idea that sex was supposed to be a pleasurable thing. When you’re a kid and you see people moaning and screaming in movies, it does not look like enjoyable at all, and that’s kind of pathetic for a ten-year old to think.
M: Yes, sex education needs to discuss more than just body parts. Sex is fun, natural, and learning those facts will not make children or teenagers want to run out and do it right away. Knowledge is power and what better power to have than over your own body. Teenagers have such a high sex drive, telling them that they shouldn’t even think about sex is completely ridiculous. This might make you uncomfortable, but I think young people should be encouraged to masturbate. And why not? It’s a great way to learn about your body and what feels good to you. There is no shame in getting pleasure from yourself.
At least as much of my sexuality exists between my ears as between my legs, which is why the right person spinning the right fantasy about what we’ll do together can set me off in an instant.
Q: I’d like to explain basic teenage logic. If you tell us we can’t do something, we’ll want to do it even more. Starting with when we’re little kids, we’re always told not to do things, like flush pennies down the toilet or draw on the wall, but those are fun things, so kids will do them anyway. This attitude doesn’t change when we are teenagers, it gets stronger. If you tell us nothing about drinking, we’re more likely to go out and try it because we want to know what it feels like to be drunk. Same with sex. The more education, the safer we are. It’s a proven fact that schools with better sex education programs have lower rates of teen pregnancies. So all those abstinence-preaching-helicopter-soccer-moms can put that in their Starbucks and suck it. FIGHT THE POWER.
M: My dear daughter, you have given me hope for the future. It’s people like you who are going to change things. For the record, I’m behind you 100%.
Q: I should apologize to anyone who was put in their place by a 19 year old with authority issues, but it’s time to stop the insanity. No kid should be ashamed or afraid of their own body. The world is a crazy place already, there’s taxes and spotty Wi-Fi and Justin Bieber. There’s enough negativity in the world without adding sex to the list.
M: High five me, sister friend!
Q: Thank your Rachel Kramer Bussel for writing such an awesome book that inspired such a great conversation.
Q. And you totally should, like right now. For reals.
M: Buy two and share one with a friend, sister, or even your mom. Do you think we should get one for grandma?
Q: Would you look at the time? On to the reviews!
Quinn gives Sex & Cupcakes 5 stars!
When your mom tells you “hey read this book called Sex & Cupcakes” you’ll probably be confused, and say no, and then ultimately read the book because she’s ALWAYS RIGHT (no matter how much it pains you to type it). And, of course, yet again, she was. Because this book is great. Rachel Kramer Bussel writes a series of short and to the point essays on a variety of topics that are guaranteed to get you interested. You can devour the book in an afternoon due her witty lines, great information, and ability to wear her heart on her sleeve (and if you read the book you’ll get that this isn’t just a metaphor). The book made me laugh, it made me sad, it made me so angry at times I wanted to grab my torch and pitchfork and storm the local Republican headquarters. It’s a perfect way to get a conversation going with people of all ages and I would recommend it 100%!
Oleander gives Sex & Cupcakes 5 stars, too!
Rachel Kramer Bussel writes with such ferocious honesty, after reading this book, I felt like I knew her, as if we had sat down and discussed each chapter over lunch. With each topic, she hits you with a punch of reality that makes you want to start some sort of protest group. The essays were touching, anger inspiring, thought-provoking and witty. The best part of reading Sex & Cupcakes was sharing it with my daughter. Yes, talking to your kids about sex is awkward, especially for them. Using a book like this to start a dialogue is a great way to break the ice and I plan on reading it with my younger daughter when she is at the right age. I also plan on reading more of Rachel’s work, after getting a taste of her writing style, I’m eager for more.