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August McLaughlin, creator of Girl Boner Radio, on what sexual empowerment means in 2021

By Harriet Piercy

Mar 23, 2021

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Recent years as well as the repercussions of COVID-19 highlighted many important conversations, one being the supreme importance of self care. The act of which is mostly related to what happens behind closed doors, but drastically affects everything that happens in our public lives too. Screen Shot spoke to health and sexuality writer, host and creator of Girl Boner (books and radio), about not only what sexual empowerment truly means in 2021, but how it ripples throughout our every day lives and relationships.

When did your interest in exploring sexuality first start and what made you want to start writing and talking so openly about it?

I was in my late teens and had returned to the US from Paris, where I’d been working in the fashion industry, to go through treatment for an eating disorder. The treatment was intense, so I opted to take some college courses for a chance to think about literally anything else.

I was sitting in a psychology class one day when the professor said, “Today we’re going to talk about sex.” I had one of those huge, lightbulb moments because it struck me that I had never really talked about sex, not even with the person I’d been having it with.

That realisation spurred a ton of curiosity in me, as well as some worthy anger: why hadn’t I talked openly about sex or sexuality? That led me down a rabbit hole, not only into my own journey but into sex education and societal messaging around these topics. It set a fire under me that blazes to this day.

In hindsight, I now see that that was the day I stopped wanting to starve myself. I still had a lot of healing to do, but I developed a newfound respect and sense of compassion for my body and self that I’d been missing.

Once I had a blog, I knew I wanted to explore sexual empowerment. That met with increasing awareness and growth in my own journey and finally the time felt right to launch Girl Boner into the world. It started out as a blog series, then the podcast, which has become my main focus.

The term ‘Girl Boner’ stems from my childhood experience in that awkward sex ed class so many of us have, in which “male pleasure” was alluded to, and any positive equivalent for gals was never mentioned. We primarily learned daunting information about cramps and blood and periods. As soon as I heard the word “boner” on the schoolyard, I wondered, “What about girl boners?” It took me years to figure that one out.

 

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Why do you think its so important for women especially to talk about sex and sexual health so freely?

Women have been silenced for too long, in terms of sex and sexual health, and we still face so many barriers. Sexuality remains taboo in many cultures and populations, but even more so for women, LGBTQIA+ folks and people with vulvas.

That silencing, from factors such as societal messages about our supposed “purity” and “slut”- shaming to misleading ideas about gender and sexuality, lead to profound problems. It’s one reason we’re more prone to things like low self-esteem, heightened stress, body image challenges, eating disorders, anxiety and depression.

Do you think that there is a disparity between how men talk about these topics compared to women?

Yes! Cultural messages and pressures around sex lead many men to talk about and perceive sex more in terms of conquest and without much emotional sensitivity. On the flip side, many women feel shame around mentioning sex at all. And if we’re really into sex or wish to talk about it, we may run the risk of being considered “slutty.” Things have improved somewhat in this area and there are many exceptions, including plenty of women who feel “prudish” for not feeling especially explorative around sex these days, but we still have a long way to go.

How do you think that sexuality empowers women?

When we feel comfortable talking about sexuality and our related needs, we’re better able to lead full, authentic, gratifying lives.

Sexual empowerment isn’t about having as much sex as possible or as much “wild” or “kinky” sex as possible. It’s about owning our sexuality, however we define it, and respecting others’ choices as well. In these ways, sexual empowerment fosters compassion for ourselves and others, and honestly makes way for a better world.

What drove you to write Girl Boner and what feedback did you receive for it?

Since I’m a writer, the book was my first idea once I decided to shift gears from general health writing to focus on sexual empowerment. I knew I needed to prove there was an audience first, though, so I started with the blog series.

From there, it took about six years before the book found a home and it was published. Looking back, I’m grateful it took so long, because Girl Boner evolved into so much more before it released. I hadn’t anticipated starting a podcast on the topic, and that’s become my passion and where I feel like I can make the most impact.

August McLaughlin, creator of Girl Boner Radio, on what sexual empowerment means in 2021

I’m so grateful that Girl Boner and the derivative workbook, Girl Boner Journal, have both been very well received. It’s almost always difficult to get your book into the hands of many, and even more challenging when you write about a stigmatized topic such as sex, but those who’ve read Girl Boner or used the journal have responded as I’ve hoped they would. Readers have shared that they feel more understood, less alone and more empowered in and knowledgeable about their sexuality.

Of course, no book is ideal for everyone, but the people I wrote the book for seem to appreciate it and I couldn’t ask for more than that.

How do you think that women can overcome sexual shame?

Shame can’t survive in total silence, so once we’re aware that we’re dealing with sexual shame (the first important step), talking to someone about it can be tremendously powerful.

Writing about sexual shame can be deeply healing too, which is one reason I often recommend journaling for sexual self-discovery. When we’re writing in a private space, we don’t have to worry about others’ judgement. And words and ideas may flow out that we hadn’t even let ourselves face, those beliefs that sort of hide beneath the surface.

Other helpful steps may include sex therapy, if you have access, practicing patience with yourself and reminding yourself that you are far from alone. Nearly everyone experiences some amount of sexual shame at some point and it’s sadly prevalent among women.

I also often recommend prioritising personal pleasure and solo play (aka masturbation), too. When we explore our sexuality solo, we can learn so much about our body and what feels good on our own terms and in our own time. Doing so helps us reclaim full ownership of our pleasure, which we’re born having, but too often lose to some degree.

What does it mean to self-define yourself sexually, and do you think it’s important for women to do so?

I think it’s important to gain understanding of our own sexuality, whether we find particular labels helpful or not. Many folks find labels, such as bi or pansexual or queer or kinky, helpful for finding partner(s) who are into and/or deeply respectful of the same. Many other people prefer no labels at all. Both choices are valid.

Being able to identify our sexual values and desires can be impactful from a personal empowerment standpoint and for any relationships we cultivate, so I think that’s important. If we don’t know what we enjoy or wish for in our lives and relationships, we’re less likely to experience that fulfillment. It would be like going to college and dabbling in this and that and just seeing what happens, or having someone else choose a bunch of random courses for you, versus eventually choosing a major and minor or speciality.

Our sexual values and desires may shift over time—they often do—and that’s perfectly fine, too. So staying in touch with our sexuality and checking in with ourselves along the way can be important.

What attitudes do you hope to see more women having in the future?

I hope we’ll all feel more compassionate toward ourselves and more accepting of our sexuality, however we experience or define it. All of that fosters so much freedom and growth throughout our lives, not just sexually. When we embrace our sexuality, we move through the world differently. We have better relationships. We feel more alive and more true to ourselves.

One really beautiful thing about that kind of self-compassion and awareness is that it really brings out similar care for others. For example, I’d love to see more embracement of trans and non-binary folks and for all women to recognize that trans women truly are women, too.

I’d also love for people of all genders to understand that women and men are not “Mars and Venus.” We tend to be socialized and treated differently, but we aren’t inherently alien to one another. We’re far more alike, and still individually unique, than many folks realise. Sexual desires, sex toys, “high” versus “low” libido—none of those are gendered. It’s perfectly okay to connect more with “masculine”or “feminine” traits and to express and enjoy your sexuality as you see fit.

What would be your number one tip to other women looking to empower themselves sexually?

Prioritise sensual pleasure in your life. Make it a priority the way you would any other important practice. Use that time for solo play, reading or listening to erotica, taking a sudsy bath or whatever you enjoy that involves your own pleasure and taps into multiple senses.

My podcast listeners might laugh when they hear this because I’m pretty sure I’ve recommended masturbation for basically everything, but it really is so powerful! If you enjoy sex or wish to enjoy it more, there is little better way to get into touch with your body, reduce stress and improve partnered sex, too.

 

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August McLaughlin, creator of Girl Boner Radio, on what sexual empowerment means in 2021


By Harriet Piercy

Mar 23, 2021

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The ultimate guide to breakups by relationship coach Trina Leckie

By Malavika Pradeep

Mar 19, 2021

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Breakups hurt, there’s no denying that. While rom-coms sweep the process into a montage of ice-cream tubs, pyjamas and bad hair days, many of us tend to pick up worse habits like ignoring friends, family and self-care along the way. Heaps of much-needed advice we get at this point go along the lines of ‘it’s their loss’ and ‘there are plenty more fish in the sea’. But sugarcoating things or getting straight back on hookup sites won’t help us move forward in a positive and healthy direction. What we truly need at the time is someone to tell us what we need to hear rather than what we want to hear.

Enter the breakup BOOST podcast and coaching service, where relationship expert Trina Leckie becomes your best friend after a breakup. Offering services over email, coaching calls and dedicated breakup hotlines for prompt advice, breakup BOOST’s goal is to “not only help people through their breakup, but to also give them the tools and perspective they need to learn and grow from their relationship(s) and breakup(s).”

“I aim to help build people up from within,” Leckie told Screen Shot. “This is to make them realise that they are accountable for their dating choices so that they make better ones going forward, and to encourage them to take charge of their lives versus adopting a victim mindset. Empowering and encouraging is what breakup BOOST is all about.”

The coach further believes that coddling and sugarcoating “will only keep people stuck and repeating unhealthy patterns.” “If people want someone to be 100 per cent honest and objective with them through straightforward but compassionate relationship advice (without all the fluff), I’m their coach! I also aim to get my clients feeling better ASAP versus dragging things out for several months. Life’s too precious for that!” added Leckie.

 

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When asked about her motivation behind starting the podcast and coaching service, Leckie admitted to having always found herself “encountering people who were either struggling with a relationship, going through a breakup, sitting on the fence about whether they should breakup or getting back into the dating scene and having a tough time with it.”

“It seems like no matter which way you turn these days, someone is struggling with some sort of relationship issue,”  Leckie explained. “I was constantly offering advice and coaching friends and random people I encountered through their heartbreak and dating adventures (and being really good at it). That’s when I decided to kick it up a notch and start the breakup BOOST podcast to be able to extend my reach and help people around the world.”

Leckie also believes that heartbreak is a universal thing. “No matter what gender, age, or race you areyou’re going to experience a broken heart in your life. There’s just no way of dodging it.” “I know what it’s like to go through heartbreak based on my own experiences,” she continued, “but I also know that you can always get through it and be better off because of it.” The coach further confessed that she has always wanted to be there “for anyone who was struggling, seeking guidance, or just needing someone to talk to.” “I never want people to feel alone during such a vulnerable time,” she added.

“Basically, from what I have built so far from an idea that I came up with in my kitchen one day and the amazing feedback that I receive on a daily basis (whether through the podcast or coaching), I know that this is my calling. And I love it!”

Some of the major issues Leckie’s clients present her with through breakup BOOST are in regards to “how to save a relationship, when to call it quits on one, how to get over an ex, how to get an ex back, understanding why a relationship fell apart, putting an end to healthy patterns, conflict resolution, low self-esteem, confidence and self-worth.”

Reflecting on the impact the pandemic has had on her clients and coaching services, Leckie highlighted the fact that the present time “has brought problems that people were shuffling under the rug to the forefront and highlighted them.”

“Before COVID-19, people had so many distractions and it was easy to let things slide or ignore things and just go to work, go out on the weekends, or have more space from one another,” the coach said. “I have definitely had an increase in people reaching out due to reflecting on their relationships, their lives, and thinking about what truly matters because of the pandemic.”

Leckie hence perceives this pandemic-accelerated shift under a positive light. “Life is too short to just go through the motions or be in a relationship just to be in a relationship. Plus, running from your problems is never a solution. They will always catch up to you.”

So, taking her word for it, we here at Screen Shot have decided to whip up ‘The Ultimate Guide to Breakups’. Here are top 5 tips from the relationship coach herself to help you find your breakthrough on the other side of your breakup:

1. Make yourself a priority

This is a time to focus on you and positive distractions. For example, get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, even if it’s just a walk to get some fresh air and a change of scenery. Or go a little harder and sweat out the stress. Welcome those endorphins and the confidence they bring.

2. Stay away from alcohol and drugs

These will only make you feel worse and amplify everything. When you’re sober, you’re more in control of your emotions and won’t be drunk texting or drunk dialing your ex, which can lead to embarrassment, possible rejection, awful anxiety, and other poor decisions.

3. Be 100 per cent honest with yourself

Stop telling yourself that everything was perfect, and stop hanging onto words they said, such as “I will never hurt you / I will love you forever / I want to marry you.” If everything was perfect, you would be in a happy and healthy relationship with this person right now. Remember that words never meant much if there were no actions to back them up.

Here’s an exercise for you: make a detailed list of all of the negatives and unfavorable things that happened during your relationship, right down to the nitty-gritty. Next to each thing, write down how it made you feel in that moment. You’ll likely have a list of words like ‘unwanted, anxious, insecure, unlovable, depressed, unappreciated’. Keep this list close to you and when you feel weak, look at it to bring yourself back to reality. Stay away from reminiscing over those ‘beginning’ weeks or months that were so fun and carefree.

4. Go ‘no contact’

No contact is the key to moving on. If you are still in contact with your ex, whether that be via texting, calling, seeing them in person, looking at their pictures, or stalking them on social media, that will make it 100 times harder for you to move forward. You need time on your own to get your emotions in check and gain clarity. The prior are simply triggers. Don’t tell yourself you can be ‘friends’ with your ex. You’ll only be fooling yourself.

5. Have faith and trust the process

Believe that you are being redirected to something better, because you are! You might not see it now, but one day, you’ll be grateful this breakup happened.

Can breakups be avoided altogether?

Is there truly a way to make relationships ‘breakup-proof’? We decided to ask the breakup and relationship coach herself.

“There are definitely things you can do as a couple to make your relationship as strong as possible through communication, effort, and commitmentbut there is not a way to make relationships breakup-proof,” she admitted. “So many factors and variables come into play, people change, and love can dissipate. Plus, everyone is different with their own, unique relationship. And let’s not forget that what you desire in your teens or twenties will be different from what you desire in your thirties, forties, and beyond as you mature and grow.”

Leckie further stated the fact that “even people with the best of intentions can outgrow each other or find that they are headed in different directions.” “There’s nothing wrong with that,” she added. “I believe the key is to stay in something solid and healthy that is injecting joy into your life. When that is no longer the case, it’s best to decide to move on instead of just going through the motions, staying together because you have already invested a lot of time, or because you fear being ‘alone’.”

“When you can walk away from a relationship and have the confidence that you will be okay, no matter whatyou win,” she further explained.

What is the best way to break up with someone?

To complete the guide and come full circle, it is essential to cover this aspect we have all been curious about. What is the healthiest way to break up with someone, especially during a time when we are increasingly dependent on technology for communication?

“I think it’s definitely important to have a conversation for any type of breakup, pandemic or not, whether that be in person, on a video call, or on the phone,” Leckie advised. “Stay away from sending a text message or ghosting. It’s a matter of respect and consideration for the other person’s feelings.” “Say everything you need to say and allow them to ask any questions they may have so they aren’t left feeling confused or as though they didn’t get closure,” she added. “Treat people how you want to be treated.”

Nothing can throw you into a whirlwind of emotions the way a bad breakup can. When asked about Leckie’s personal struggles and learnings with breakup BOOST the coach confessed, “When people’s self-worth is so beat down from an abusive situation or they are in a position where they feel like they are stuck in that abusive situation due to financial hardship, it can take a toll on my emotions after I get off the phone with them because I care so much.”

The coach further admits to wishing for something she could instantly do to pull them out of the state. At the same time, however, she also sees it as a relief that “they found my podcast and/or reached out so that they know that someone cares and is there to support them, as well as assist them in finding resources in their area that may be able to help them.”

Reminiscing some of her learnings with breakup BOOST, Leckie quotes the saying ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink’. “Some people only want to vent. They don’t actually want to make choices to move forward,” she said. “I can give all the advice in the world, but until someone is ready to take charge of their life and help themselves, no one can help them.”

“For the most part though, people who order my coaching (as compared to messaging for free advice) truly want to take action. When people aren’t invested in the advice, that’s usually when they’re just looking to vent. This is why I now direct everyone to my coaching services if they send me an email or a DM on Instagram seeking free advice. It’s also out of respect for my paying clients.”

If Leckie could inspire a movement for something, she stated that it would be “towards staying true to yourself, living life on your own terms and making smart choices based on what genuinely feels good for you.” She also admitted to pioneering a movement against “settling or making decisions based on fear, age, family, or societal pressure.” “It pains me how people feel so much pressure to be in a relationship as though they are less than or not ‘good enough’ if they are single,” she added.

In the next five years, Leckie has her eyes set on making breakup BOOST “the ‘go-to’ for heartbreakhealing and empowering millions of hearts around the globe so that people can live happier and more confident lives.”

And if you are in need of a best friend to coach you through a recent breakup, telling you all the things you need to hear, you can reach out to Leckie via email, coaching calls or her dedicated ‘Breakup Hotlinein case you want prompt advice without having to wait for a specific date and time. The breakup BOOST podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast apps is also a great initiation into finding your breakthrough that we believe lies on the other side of your breakup.

The ultimate guide to breakups by relationship coach Trina Leckie


By Malavika Pradeep

Mar 19, 2021

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