Are You There, Universe? It’s Me, Hayley.


The Internet is a strange place. It’s even more bizarre that people, like myself, pen blogs divulging personal information, secret feelings and urges, and intimate meanderings for strangers, like yourself, to read. It’s a little like my theory about one-night stands: It’s easier to throw yourself into wild abandon with a stranger rather than a constant partner because there’s no expectations, and you’ll—god willing—never seen this anonymous bedfellow again. Basically you can get as freaky as you want with no judgment, repercussions, or issues to plague your performance. But you also run the risk of leaving the tryst orgasm free—but that’s a whole other story …

What is it about the anonymity of the Internet that makes us so brave? Why can we bear our soul, our fantasies, our insecurities, and our fears to a cacophony of mouse clicks and faceless screens? This idea makes me think of a televised obsession of mine, the cult-favorite MTV show Catfish. In case you haven’t watched this ubiquitous small screen phenom—which is an offshoot of a documentary with the same name—this show profiles aspiring lovers who meet on the Internet and have yet to connect face-to-face. They share secrets and desires with each other using the Internet as their conduit, confiding in each other like a normal, non-cyber partnership. The catch? Many of these Internet relationships are founded on lies.

Hidden or fake identities, picture stealing, and general dishonesty inform these Catfish tales, resulting in broken hearts and dashed dreams. Fueled by insecurity, jealously, or curiosity, the duplicitous lover-to-be or “catfish” assumes a different Internet-only identity and peruses the web seeking a potential mark—er, mate. My husband and I watch as these safe-from-a-distance virtual relationships unfurl into a deeply human discourse about loneliness, alienation, and the need for connections and communication. Why is it so hard to just reach out and touch a corporeal being rather than hide behind a photoshopped avatar?

After a brief hiatus I am back to blogging. Part of the reason why I stopped was because I wasn’t even sure if I was helping people connect to a deeper understanding of themselves as holistically sensual beings—the real purpose behind my blog—or if anyone was even reading it at all. WordPress can feel alienating. Much like the nature of relationships, the things that attracted me to the Internet or the perceived anonymity of blogging are also the things that repelled me. I crave connections, feedback, a community of like-minded men and women to delve into the deeper issues. While I might get a “like” or a comment here and there, sometimes I feel like I am writing in a vacuum. Is anyone out there?

That was until I logged back in to post about a friend’s amazing lingerie company and realized that my humble blog had taken on a life of its own. Despite my absence, Venus in Heels continuously attracts visitors—who cares that much of the traffic comes from unsavory keywords or sexed-up searches. While the search term “blowjobs” or “brothel girl” might bring them to my blog, they actually stay for a while and continue to navigate. So, thank you for coming—in whatever capacity.

Mother F*cker: Grappling with Baby-Making


Perhaps it’s the maniacal ticking of that proverbial biological clock. Maybe it’s the “grownup” version of peer pressure. Or even a primordial urge that’s greater than rational human understanding. Whatever the case, everything around and inside me has forced some serious contemplation about the abstract notion of motherhood. I say abstract because, to me, I am experiencing this strange dichotomy where having a child seems both a far away concept that happens to “more mature,” fully formed people as well as something so innate and inherent in who I am and what I hope to experience as a woman.

It’s literally like I am walking through Times Square and every flashing neon light, animated billboard, and larger-than-life poster is screaming: “HAVE A BABY—NOW!


Around me everyone is pregnant. Or they’re talking about fertility treatments or about the elaborate getaway they’ve planned—its sole purpose for baby-making. Or I am standing in line at the pharmacy and the headlines are filled with baby bump-this and maternity chic-that. My dreams are also inundated with my hypothetical baby-to-be. Sometimes it’s like Rosemary’s Baby, but minus the pixie haircut. Other times, it’s beautiful and profound and what I always imagined. Maybe having a child is somewhere in the middle between the horror of having a devilish little foreign body inside you and the real-life miracle of conception. Obviously, I have no clue, but according to my subconscious, impending motherhood is seen in this hyperbolized black and white.

It’s strange how we spend our promiscuous twenties avoiding pregnancy by any means necessary. As we usher in our thirties the narrative changes to women searching either for the perfect potential mate or to procreate with a previously procured partner.

My decision to finally abandon birth control for once and for all two years ago had nothing to do with pregnancy. In all honesty, I was convinced the extra dose of hormones surging through my body was the cause of some chronic health problems. Once off the pills it was obvious that my initial suspicion was correct. My health improved, as did my sex life strangely.

Thinking about it now, maybe there’s something so passionately primal about the possibility of conception that makes sex so much more exciting. While there’s the tangible orgasm—an expected byproduct of sex—a baby is the ultimate corporeal gratification of coupling. It’s the end-all, be-all creation. The extra-added risk and the feeling of sex with Russian roulette-like odds bring a different level of excitement. Or maybe my body is calling.

And how apt this post is. Just in time for Mother’s Day. I think my subconscious is working overtime. Mother fucker.

Love and Marriage?

So it’s been a year since I’ve written anything on my beloved blog. There have been many ups and downs, with many learning experiences along the way. Jobs gained then lost, new friends made and old relationships evaluated. The one thing that’s been a constant is my impending wedding—like a familiar shadow following me everywhere. While the planning of my nuptials has had its annoying moments or frustrations, it has been a nice distraction from the tumultuous year. As has my relationship with my fiancé, who has been at my side for every last smile or tear.

This past year I have also watched many relationships dissolve. It’s been interesting to witness a seemingly solid partnership fizzle out, the couple relegated to near-stranger status. Two people once bonded are now just a piece of each other’s past. How sad is that? I’ve had many breakups, but as I watch these long-term relationships devolve from intimacy to spiteful pettiness it just makes me realize how much we change over the course of our partnerships. This is obviously not a bad thing, but it’s interesting to study and wonder if I, too will one day wake up feeling like a different person and like my current beau is no longer a perfect fit. Honestly, I feel as though I have made the best choice for me in terms of a life partner—someone who makes me laugh, someone whose smell is the pheromone equivalent of home, and who gives me comfort and satiation in equal measure. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking, on the eve of my wedding season, whether there is truly nothing definite, even when it comes to true love.

We all marry and cling to each other for different reasons. Whether you’re searching for comfort and security (either emotionally or financially), companionship, or the dizzying, intangible notion of love, the decision to devote yourself to one person for eternity is daunting and in a sense—after watching many celebrity parings end miserably or even the supposedly solid relationships of our parents end—seemingly impossible. What does it take to stay in love? How can we insure that we never lose sight of our partner’s needs, and how do you prepare for the inevitable changes we are all destined to face?

All this uncertainty and these unending questions swirl in my head as I attend the tastings, the consultations, and fittings for my wedding ensemble. But, instead of giving in to them, like a weird sick and twisted peer pressure, I feel almost more strongly and sure about my future and my decision. Perhaps being armed with the knowledge of how other people’s marriages have crashed-and-burned is allowing me insight into what to prepare for or at least how to potentially detect what I should stay aware of.

With the future so uncertain all we can do is trust in our own personal version of love, happiness, and the bond of our partnerships. Maybe I am naïve, but I still believe.

Birth of Venus: The Story Behind Venus in Heels


I always had a subversive take on love—so why not write about it?

As glamorous as it sounds, back in 2009 when I started Venus in Heels, I was a freelance music and entertainment writer hungrily navigating the supersaturated city of New York, trying to scrap together my next high-paying gig. Yes, I made my living giving good convo to rock n’ roll stars, but for some reason making small talk with famous strangers didn’t fulfill me in the slightest. Sure, I had an enviable job and access to the musical and cultural geniuses of our time, but I was always left wanting more. I desired to help and connect to people through my writing—digging deeper than the surfaced pieces I was churning out about fashion trends and the next “big” thing sonically. There had to be more, right? So, in my quest for fulfillment—bodily, emotionally, and spiritually—I began my Venus in Heels journey. That, and I needed something productive and creative to occupy those never-ending idle hours between my dwindling freelance jobs.

My aim was to put my unconventional views about love, romance, dating, and the major misconceptions about “proper” ways to engage with the opposite sex to paper. I wanted to help expose the fallacy of happy endings, to help women find empowerment through sex, and help to turn the old school rule of romance on its head. Modern women deserve modern rules, and I saw far too many of my contemporaries caught in the dichotomy of dating within the confines of an old system. Those notions of relationships just don’t apply, but up until this point, there was no definitive source for information on contemporary courtships or how to date on your own terms.

You may be asking yourself why I am qualified to write about romance. I might not have fancy degrees hanging from the walls of my office (nope, instead I have photographs of Iggy Pop and Rod Stewart), but I have notches on my bedpost, keen insight derived from years of playing the field, guiding my friends on their romantic journeys, and a solid understanding of both the male and female psyche. Venus in Heels isn’t a clinical look at love and romance, a debauched tale of my bedroom conquests, or a self-help blog. Instead, I want to position Venus in Heels as a forum for curious men and women to be thoughtfully provoked to look deeper into the realms of love and dating, and to question the old school conception of romance so many people still seem to live by.

Venus in Heels is a Subversive Guide to Romance because we must challenge the norm to achieve our own truth and understanding about what makes us happy—and what makes us feel truly empowered when it comes to love, courtship, and sexual exploration. I never played by the rules. I openly pursued men when all my friends accused me of being brash, I made the first move when others warned me I was too forward or would be viewed as a slut, and I always tried to follow my heart wherever it took me. I made mistakes, which I have learned from. My quest for love was fearless.  It is an endless pursuit.

Emotional Eating: Is Food the New Sex?

Crystal Renn photographed by Terry Richardson for Vogue Paris.















In case you couldn’t tell from my recent barrage of disgruntled tweets about Points Values, calories, and my lack of Pinot Noir, I am on a diet. This is the first diet of my entire life—except for the impromptu wine diet of summer 2010, which was fueled by relationship hardships and provided the increased calorie count that paved the way for this new, real diet.

I recently came to realize that I lost the script—and like lost it big time.

Through all the dramatic highs and woes of the past year-and-a-half, I unknowingly fell victim to the dangerous cycle of emotional eating. Between the almost-breakups and make-ups with my boyfriend—um, now fiancé—to job stress, financial ups and downs, and the shaky freelance world, it’s been a tough uphill battle. The more and more things went haywire, the more I resorted to my social life that revolved around pleasure and comfort. That meant going out for dinner and drinking as much red wine as I could get away with before it was hangover territory.

The scariest part: With my culinary pleasure-seeking came the major reduction of quality time spent between the sheets. I shudder as I wonder how this even happened. How did food come to replace sex, which has been such an important aspect of my life and an integral part of my quest for self-exploration? And, most importantly, how did I not notice this happening? How did I get so trapped in this vicious cycle that I didn’t even see the effect it was having on my life?

Crystal Renn, photographed by Terry Richardson for Vogue Paris.















My boyfriend and I were both guilty of putting a pizza party above sex on our priority list, especially when things got tough. And in the process, my body went from a well-proportioned vixen physique to a super-sized version—and all in a matter of two years. My boyfriend and I become coconspirators in our need to find warmth in a carb overload, our sex life taking a backseat as our daily stresses and pent up emotions became too much to bear—and too hard to ignore for the length of a sexy encounter.

I had never recognized the correlation between sex and food before. I mean, sure, they both provide satisfaction, help to spike serotonin, and they both can be described using many of the same terms. But, being an inherently sexual creature, it was hard to wrap my mind around how one act could easily replace the other in times of stress and unhappiness. Much like my relationship to sex, my friendliness towards food was never unhealthy. Sure, I ate and enjoyed going out for dinner, but it wasn’t the driving force that it, up-until-recently, had become.

Strangely enough, the scale initially began to tip towards an unhealthy relationship with all-things edible once my boyfriend and I moved in together and began to settle comfortably into our personal iteration of domestic bliss. Part of our bonding ritual was enjoying food together post- or pre-coitus—whether that meant visiting our favorite foodie haunts or me slaving over the stove—eating became a kind of foreplay. It also didn’t help that watching me cook is a major turn-on for my man, but that’s a whole other story…

Crystal Renn, photographed by Terry Richardson for Vogue Paris.

The more settled we became, the more I got lost in the bliss of indulgence and the act of satiation—whether that was sexual or food-wise, I was finding comfort and safety in both forms of fulfillment. But as time went on, and as life happened, the sex slowed down but the eating didn’t. Soon it almost began to replace sensual pleasures during our hardest times.

Although it has taken a while to fully understand and recognize these recent destructive patterns and my unhealthy coping mechanisms, it’s not all that surprising. I spent a large portion of my life relying on external things to quell my own personal demons and the daily stress of a basic mundane existence. Whether it was drugs, alcohol, shopping, or inappropriate romantic choices, there was always a diversion, something else I had to focus on that drew the attention away from me and my problems. Facing things head-on has never been easy for me, and now, trying to embrace my life as an adult, it has gotten even harder.

Food is plain and simply drugs for grownups. We fuss over new hard-to-get-into restaurants, coo about freshly-picked peaches at the overpriced farmers market, or brag about a decadent whole-pig roast we attended over the weekend the way we would about 20-something sexual conquests and debauched nights that used to define us. While I am easing into my thirties with grace—and a new diet—I don’t want to replace one compulsion for another. It’s time for a detox from all the distractions. It’s time to face life without the armor of excess.

The Ex-Files: The Dating Site Disaster

Andreas Kock's stalker fashion editorial.

Photo by Andreas Kock

At this point in our collective dating lives, I imagine we’ve all accumulated enough horror stories about ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends to fill a two-volume novel. Whether it’s the psycho stalker, the asshole who locks you—and your stuff—out of the apartment, or the blackmailer who posts naked photos of you on all of their social networking channels, there’s nothing worse than a butt-hurt former lover with an axe to grind. Luckily, I have had the pleasure of keeping most of my exes as friends. Some of which I still email with, joke with about old times over the phone, or share the occasional happy hour libation. I’ve only had one ex who really lost the script after our breakup and behaved so badly I had to change my phone number—twice.

Back in 2005, I was a full-time student and struggling freelancer who had no time to socialize and even less time to date. I was tired of using the same circle of friends as a conduit for romance, so in a bold attempt to rekindle my love mojo, I signed up for an online dating site. And not one with the “measure your long-term compatibility” bullshit. No, this was the era of, the notorious online dating destination known for its hot hipster singles, most of them looking for no-strings romps. Perfect. After I created my profile, added a coquettish picture, and filled out the requisite information with as much humor as I could muster while writing back-to-back papers on Spenser and eight record reviews for the music mag, I sat back and waited for the eligible man-dolescents to start lining up. And virtually line up they did! I was literally going out four nights a week on dates thanks to my Nerve profile.

Max was a seemingly normal guy—at least for my standards. I had gone out with about everyone in San Francisco, most of them were way out of my age range (Electra complex, anyone?) had major issues, and only wanted me because I was 25 and a not-so reformed party girl-cum-student. Max and I liked the same obscure indie bands, he had a deep voice, and an adventurous nature that was refreshing after all of the aloof and “over it” scenesters I used to roll around on unmade beds with. And just like that, it went from a casual phone call to pint-sized margaritas at Casanova to a marathon make out session in the dark corner of the bar while the DJ played obscure ’70s rock and Northern Soul. Coincidentally, I had a date scheduled with the DJ the very next night. It’s safe to say that date never happened.

I never wanted a boyfriend. Or, I guess I should rephrase that. I never wanted him as my boyfriend. But our chemistry was right on—well, that’s an understatement. I realize that I was completely hornswaggled into a relationship because of our incredible sex life. That coupled with the fact that summer was drawing to a foggy close with the fall semester looming like a dark cloud in the distance. So there I was, suckered into a union with a guy who looked like a deranged monkey when he smiled and used improper grammar. But he knew how to satisfy me physically, and that was my weakness.


So I quickly went from fun, flirty, and single to attached and confused about how I got there in the first place. But I was blinded by lust, and he kept me content by buying me pretty things, like naughty Wolford stockings, Led Zeppelin records, and expensive bottles of Pinot Noir. I was hooked on being worshipped, but this was far from the basis of a stable relationship. Looking at this time retrospectively, I also recognize that I spent very little of this period sober (I said not-so reformed party girl, remember?), and what we had in common was our consumption of top-shelf spirits, premium cocaine, and the mother of all drugs—sex. The more time that went on, the more I began to realize that our relationship was founded upon our sexual chemistry—it was a temporary fix, a moment in time, and somehow it managed to last three years. By the beginning of our second year, I started to have serious doubts. I slept with two men behind his back and fantasized about breaking up with him every single day as I rode the train to my cushy magazine job. Between his lack of ambition and his hopeless devotion towards me, I lost respect for him and with that my sex-drive. Without the lusty haze keeping us glued together, I knew that the end was imminent. I also knew that, because Max was so addicted to me, this breakup wouldn’t be an easy one. So I put it off eight long months.

With the realization that it was time to break it off with Max, I also recognized that I had gotten too comfortable in my current life and surroundings. It was time to shake things up. I did the most extreme thing I could think of. I decided to move from San Francisco to New York City with no plan in mind and no place to live. So with idealized visions of city life dancing in my head, I broke the news to Max. I told him that breaking up was the best thing I could do for him, and that it would light the fire under his ass to make him figure out what he wanted out of life. Because worshipping me had become a full-time gig. He sat in my room and cried and cried, wondering why I wasn’t upset about losing him. I walked him out, as he staggered to his car he looked at me like a puppy through the cage at the pound and I knew I was doing the right thing. As my astrologer so aptly put it, “Pity is not love. Let him go.” And so off he went into the damp Bay Area night.

But of course that wasn’t the last I’d see of him. He wrote me numerous love letters, painted me things that were symbolic of our relationship, and he broke into my house in an attempt to talk to me. That was the first time I changed my phone number. Frightened as I was, I knew he was just maddened by love and needed some time and space to heal. Or so I thought. As my plane touched down at JFK there was now a whole country between us. I began my life on the East Coast, and quickly forged a new relationship with a man I had been pining over for three years. Who would have thought that Max was living mere blocks away from my sublet in Brooklyn? Not heeding the wise words of my sage astrologer, I felt bad for the guy and emailed him back on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. That’s how I quickly learned that he too was living in Clinton Hill and fled California shortly after I broke up with him. “It was mere coincidence, right?” I wondered as I met him for lunch at the small café around the corner.






One lunch date seemed to rekindle a tentative friendship, which gave way to the dysfunctional dynamic of our recently terminated union. He took me out to dinners in the West Village when I had no money, or bought me glasses of wine when I had a hard day scouring the job boards. Soon I realized that it was like we were dating again—but without any of the lust to cloud my judgment. It became obvious to me that I really didn’t like him enough to be friends. And not to mention I had a new boyfriend that I was quickly falling in love with. The whole thing was flawed from the get-go. Again, my sympathy for him overruled my rational thought. The whole ambiguous friendship thing came to a head one night when he came over to my West Village apartment to use my Internet before I went off to meet my beau. As I emerged from the steamy bathroom I could tell the energy had shifted. Something was different. I asked Max what was wrong and he admitted to reading my emails while I was in the shower and came to the conclusion that I had no interest in ever getting back with him. I screamed at him, shocked by his idiocy and his disrespectful snooping and told him I never wanted him to contact me ever again. That was the second time I changed my number. That was also the second time he tried to break into my apartment.

That’s when the emails started. According to Max, I owed him money for the time he generously took me out to dinner when I was unemployed. I knew he was fishing for drama, finding some way to be able to write me off and call me a bitch. Fortunately, my boyfriend wasn’t having it. He emailed Max and told him that if he really wanted his money back, he would come and meet up with him in place of me. That settled the issue, and my boyfriend and I were back to domestic bliss while Max silently fumed in a dark apartment in Williamsburg. That was the end of the saga. Until two-years—and two awkward serendipitous street run-ins later—I got an email from my friend Kate.

“Hey, long time no see,” it read. “I wanted to ask you about your friend that’s on OKCupid. You’re in his photo. My friend is supposed to go out on a date with him and I figured I’d ask you about him. Is he a nice guy?” As I read the email I had a sinking suspicion that it was an old photo of Max and I. Probably the uber-flattering photo taken at my 27th birthday party. I emailed Kate, and she confirmed my suspicions. It was him—and me—in that profile photo. Not only that, the photo was at least four years old. I don’t even have that haircut anymore! It dawned on me how incredibly creepy this was on a multitude of levels—to use your ex-girlfriend as a “look I’m not crazy” device on a dating site, or even worse, to feature an out-of-date photo that neither reflects your current post-20s physique or your post-20s hairline. But as they say, how you find them is how you keep them. I met Max online, so in a strange way it’s pretty fitting that I would end up on his profile as a way to lure in a new wave of dates, our fate strangely entwined in the ether of the Internet.

Oversexed: Is the Modern Woman’s Amped Up Sex Drive Emasculating Men?

Rebecca Chandler shot by Robert Harper for

I attended a stylish rooftop soiree this past Saturday in the East Village. The Champagne was flowing—or overflowing I should say—and attractive singles danced and mingled with the monolithic Manhattan skyline in the background. It was my good friend’s birthday party, but I didn’t know any of the attendees. Instead of being a silent wallflower I poured myself a big glass of Pinot Noir and began striking up conversations with the partygoers. As usual, I subconsciously shifted the talk to relationships and sex. I was struck by how many women on this one Manhattan rooftop were bragging about their insatiable sexual appetites and how most men—both young and old—couldn’t keep up with them. Many complained about men frequently not being able to perform, or just not being in the mood and I was left wondering whether this generation of women are turning men off because of their empowered sense of sexuality.

For us women, is knowing what you want—and how to get it—emasculating our men and, as a result, diminishing their sex drives? Are we shifting the power so much that the men no longer know how to harness their power in the bedroom? I pondered over these questions on my breezy cab ride home over the Manhattan Bridge, praying that my red wine buzz wouldn’t manifest as a hangover the next morning.

With the increasing amount of power women have in the workplace, in contemporary politics, and many other facets of society and culture, it appears as though the influence of the strong female is wiping out the virility and potency of the male psyche—libido and all. There have been plenty of occasions that my boyfriend has complained about me being aggressive and “too independent,” insisting that I should respect the delicate balance of the masculine and feminine energies in our household and relationship. Being the neo-feminist that I am, at first I was pissed he broke things down like that, but I realized without the distinct gender roles that have been carved out for us by the media, our upbringing, and societal influence, many men don’t know how to operate or function correctly, especially when it comes to love and sex. Plainly stated: with the shift in the gender dynamic men don’t understand their new role and where they fit in—or how to fuck you.

Rebecca Chandler shot by Robert Harper for

It’s a sad fact, but so much of who we are is a product of our upbringing and a reaction to our parent’s values. Unless your boyfriend grew up in a progressive household with parents that deemphasized the traditional roles of men and women, it’s likely that he was reinforced to see his role as the provider, the family figurehead, and the sexual aggressor. That’s not to say that he won’t appreciate you initiating sexually and feel thankful for having a partner that is as equally engaged in bringing the fire into the boudoir. But, he probably believes that there is a clear-cut male and female role within the lines of your relationship. Although these are archaic notions that are painfully outdated, once these definitions become hazy, his sexual role comes into question along with his sense of power.

Intoxicated by feeling free, beautiful, and successful, many women are looking to translate this energy into time spent between the sheets, only to be greeted by a less-than-interested man. As frustrating as this may be, we can’t expect our guys to just drop everything and update their operating systems to accommodate our amped up sex drives. This would require reprogramming many years of societal conditioning, and a complete ego overhaul. Instead, use your newfound power for good. Rather than pleading for him to have sex with you constantly, spend time pleasing your partner, indulging him in his fantasies, and trying out some steamy moves geared towards his climax. Also, take your pleasure into your own hands—literally. There’s no harm in channeling your monumental sex drive through self-love. Not only do you know how to get yourself going better than any lover, there is an array of affordable and exciting toys on the market to help you get to your sensual destination.

And, finally, try and communicate your feelings—and your urges—to your dude instead of pressuring him to pleasure you in an aggressive way. If you’re just trying to “put the pussy on him” every chance you can—like those unsatisfied rooftop partiers who found their partners unable to handle their advances—it’s a sure bet that your assertive tactics are a turnoff simply because they force him out of the dominant or “masculine” role. Because it’s this kind of gender shape shifting that is creating tension in the first place, try to make your point in a way that won’t be threatening and make him feel further emasculated. A male ego is a delicate thing, so instead of mentioning his sexual inadequacy, try to build him up by explaining how much he turns you on—because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a little flattery. Transport him back into a position of feigned power by hinting at your growing need for more sex, but by giving him the “authority” to decide when it can happen. Just let him know you need it more. By not forcefully making your point and carefully treading on this difficult subject matter—and hornswaggling him into thinking this was all his idea—the gender dynamic will shift on its own and, as a result, you will find that you will get what you want.

Betony Vernon and the Slow Sex Movement

Photo Courtesy of Ali Mahdavi.

As modern men and women, juggling careers, relationships, the fall-out from the recent financial crisis, and a bustling social life, it’s sometimes hard to devote time to nurturing yourself sexually. Sure, we’re all familiar with the quick bang, or the sex-laden morning shower, but how much time do we really spend pleasing ourselves, and our partners, without the distractions of our tech-obsessed existence?

It is this type of “fast sex” that sex educator and erotic jewelry designer Betony Vernon abhors. On a balmy Wednesday night, myself and thirty other lovely ladies (and two brave men) attended Vernon’s much-hyped sexual salon “The Art of Sexual Ceremony” at the exclusive venue Mister H, housed in the new Mondrian Hotel in SoHo. As we sipped on high-end cocktails, the beautifully statuesque Vernon enlightened us on the importance of taking back and owning our pleasure. By breaking down what she calls the “pleasure taboo,” Vernon believes that we can enrich our sex lives and as a result be happier people.

“Have you ever noticed how people walk down the street?” Vernon explained while fingering a leather crop. “We live in a stiff-hipped society. People walk around life with their sexual energies blocked.” Her solution? Treat the art of lovemaking as a sacred act, and embrace a slow, sensuous road to pleasure.

A former high-end jewelry designer, Betony Vernon was ousted from the fashion world after taking her erotic accessories to the mainstream market place. She now lives, breathes, and explores ways to enhance and educate people about the inherent joy of coupling, and encourages people to abolish categories in an effort to broaden sexual horizons. Employing philosophies of transcendentalism, tantra, and early Greco-Roman views on sensuality, Vernon pontificates on ways to prolong pleasure in a practical and user-friendly way.

In an effort to move away from the contemporary notion of what she calls “masculinized pleasure,” or the idea that the end of the sexual act is signified by ejaculation or orgasm, Vernon stressed the need to enliven the other parts of the body and to not place so much emphasis solely on the genital region.  To “masculinize” your sex, is to only work a small fraction of your potential, and according to Vernon the average sexual act in America last a mere three to fifteen minutes.

Photo courtesy of Michael James O'Brien.

While our overworked and undersexed society is a full of frustration and a general lack of sexual fulfillment, the Sexual Ceremony is a way to extend the time that we spend with our partner prolonging the pursuit of pleasure. Vernon insists that we must reprioritize our lives to leave more room for sensuality and satisfaction, and to move away from the type of “fast sex” that most of us are currently engaging in. And how can we make this transition? Accouterments that help to heighten and extend the lovemaking process—something that Vernon goes into great about in her upcoming debut book The Boudoir Bible due for release in 2012.

Another point, which Vernon stresses adamantly between delicate sips of Champagne, is the importance of breaking down the myths and misconceptions that affect our pleasure. One major example of this is pornography, with she says is the “worst teacher” when it comes to honing your sexual skill set and learning to please your partner. Vernon went on to explain what is called the “hysterical arch,” a term coined by the legendary sexologist Wilhelm Reich used to describe that iconic image of a woman arching her back in ecstasy commonly depicted in porn. This position may be aesthetically pleasing to men, but it actually cuts off blood from the pleasure center, hinders correct breathing, and inhibits sexual response. Instead of playing into some sexual role perpetuated by the male-dominated adult industry, Vernon advises that women should make sure to be comfortable, receptive, and ready to explore your pleasure and your lover’s pleasure openly.

As the evening comes to a close, Vernon leaves her salon attendees with one last point about the all-important Sexual Ceremony. “To gradually build tension, you have the body turned on so much that it becomes something that expands,” she explains about the importance of stretching out the pleasure process. “The arousal now will not be localized to the genitals and will move beyond to the whole body, which will leave you trembling.” I think we could all use a little bit of that.

For more information about Betony Vernon, check out her website.

Behind the Brothel Doors: An Interview with Blogger Brothel Babe

Two ladies in the hallway of the infamous Moonlite Bunny Ranch.

During my time as a sex and relationship writer, and as the editor for the Lifestyle website iVoyeur, I have been able to meet numerous personalities and sex celebrities on the small and large scale. One blogger I am quite fond of—who I serendipitously met through a friend of mine who fancied her—is Brothel Babe, an ambitious young artist who works as a legal prostitute in a Nevada brothel. On her blog, she writes openly under her pseudonym about her life as a sex worker, the difficulty of keeping her secret, her job-related relationship woes, and pithy tidbits about her day-to-day travails, which would be the perfect fodder for a sexy cable television show. I have always been personally curious about what it’s like to be a woman who has sex for money—I mean who hasn’t had a secret fantasy about being a high class call girl?—and to find out what it’s like behind the doors of a house of ill repute. I recently interviewed my virtual pal and fellow sexy scribe Brothel Babe to discuss how working girls stay safe, the pluses and minuses of working in a “house,” in addition to a bunch of questions I’ve been dying to ask her for some time now.

So, without revealing too much about your past or your real identity, can you tell me why you chose to pursue a profession in the sex industry? What was it about working in a legal brothel that originally piqued your interest?

Brothel Babe: Lets get out the basics: I was never abused by anyone, I didn’t grow up living a hard life. My parents never went through an ugly divorce. I never had a boyfriend who hit me. I grew up in a loving home with creative and vibrant people.

Now lets get to the core of the matter: I got to a point where I felt like I was “cursed.” That curse was getting hit on—a lot. I was at a point in my work pursuits where all I wanted to do was work with people I looked up to, except their dicks kept getting in the way. They wanted sex, and when I said “no” they were complete assholes to me. There were places I enjoyed going that I literally started avoiding because I didn’t know how to deal with those assholes.

I looked up an escort agency online and was about to head off to Boston to work for an upper class agency when my brother (who I tell everything to) informed me that brothels are legal in Nevada. He gave me the name of a brothel there, I emailed their manager, and one-week later I was on my way to turn my “curse” into a blessing.

You’ve made mention that you are looking to publish a book all about your adventures at your chosen profession. How much of what you do is for the purpose of research, and how much is just general curiosity?

BB: The greatest “mystery” about the brothel lifestyle to me, is that to those of us who are in it there is little mystery. We’re so much clearer about our wants than most women I meet outside of here. Nearly every woman I speak with is incredibly clear on her reasons as to why she is working here. She has a purpose. She has a goal. She sets out to do these things by working in a brothel. She accomplishes these things.

If a woman’s story is really interesting, I’ll dig deeper and ask more questions.  I’ll often ask a co-worker if I can write about it. Sometimes they ask for anonymity. Some I have even emailed questions about working in a brothel and they have let me put it in my blog. I hear some crazy stuff that you know from how they tell it is true. Like a girl who hit the streets at age thirteen and cross-dressing trannies took care of her till she got older, or somebody who gets raped and drugged by the Hollywood elite. A lot of shit happens to these girls.

Here we know we are safe. We know we are taken care of. My real research will come in time when I start traveling to brothels in other parts of the world. I have plans to head to Amsterdam to see the biggest and oldest brothels, and my list of brothels I’d like to explore grows every few months or so.

Do you find that you’ve been empowered by your job? And if so, in what way?

BB: Having seen at least a couple thousand men pass through the brothel doors in the years that I’ve worked here, you develop an instant sense of knowing who wants to fuck you, who will pay a lot to fuck you, and who needs emotional nurturing. That is a priceless skill to have. I’d say the most valuable skill I’ve learned is being able to instantly identify a “no bullshit guy” or whether he’s a “full of shit guy.”

Before I started this job, I had no clue as to who was “full of it” or not, and I think I got taken advantage of often for that reason. Applying the bullshit detector to my daily life has been extremely empowering. I wish all women could possess this skill, as they could spare themselves many a bad one-night stand, or a mediocre relationship.

I know that you make great attempts to keep your true identity under wraps. What has been the response from your friends and acquaintances that have found out about your job? How do people usually act when you’ve been publically “outed”?

BB: I went through a big phase where I told a lot of people. Close friends, randoms in bars, people I wanted to date. Telling your guy or girl friends usually leads to a lot of questions. Some think it’s “fucking awesome” and some are surprised. Nobody has ever given me a disgusting face. Not once. Acquaintances and randoms just act surprised, mostly.

I will say that the nature of how I socialize has changed. I don’t hang out with any “loose canons” any more. Now, I can usually be found in a small, protected social circle. I have a circle of friends who all know, and a small circle of friends who don’t know. With those who know, it is treated much like an inside joke. I hang out with those people because I can trust that they would never publicly embarrass me. They protect me.

I guess you could say that I protect the circle that doesn’t know. I try to keep those social circles separate. It’s sort of my refuge to have those friends who don’t know me as Brothel Babe. I feel like I can be myself to some extent, but I can never let down my guard like I can with the friends who know about my job.

I know one or two people in my hometown who insist on telling everyone, whenever my name comes up, that I’m a legal prostitute. I have a very loyal group of friends, who take great care to tell me, “oh hey, this person brought up how you were a prostitute to me at lunch today. I pretended like I didn’t know.”

I also have an archenemy on the Internet who seems determined to out my real identity. Strangely enough, a lot of people think I’m her, and vice versa. She thinks I’m a fraud. Oh well.

You write at length about the difficulty of being able to maintain a romantic relationship on your blog. What have been the hardest hurdles for you to overcome with partnerships? What advice would you give other people who have risqué jobs but still want a steady relationship?

BB: It’s taken me a year at least to learn that I shouldn’t tell my friends exactly when I go to work in a brothel. It puts a weight in the air that weighs me down. I don’t need people checking up on me to make sure I’m OK. There was a guy I started dating while holding this job who knew about my job from day one, but it was a month or two of us dating before I actually went to Nevada. When I left he fell apart and so did the budding relationship. I don’t think even he knew that he would take it that hard.

That was the worst. Going from talking to someone every day to literally having this great new relationship fall apart in a matter of 48 hours. It broke me bad. I tend to think that serious relationships are best to be avoided. If you’re choosing to work in a brothel it’s because there is something in your life you are pursuing that is more important than your relationship. You have to accept that no man is going to be able to predict how they will react when they find out you are a prostitute. You can’t predict the outcome, and neither can he. No matter how much he says he can handle it, you really don’t know until you get there.

My advice? If you meet a guy you think you could get serious with keep him on the hook but don’t ask questions. Go on dates. Be mysterious. Be busy. Be seemingly unavailable. It makes you more attractive, and you can take your time to figure out whether or not he’s worth your trouble. If you meet some liberal dude who’s gonna be okay with your job, chances are, you will know right away.

What are some weird things that you encounter in the brothel on a daily basis?

BB: Chihuahuas and kittens running around, vibrators out in plain sight, or people walking back and forth with sheets—and I am talking about sheets that have jiz on them. Girls in thong teddies with their asses hanging out and fishnet tights in all styles. Nervous men. Daily plays of “I Am Not A Whore” on the jukebox. Pole dancing for breakfast. Good cop/bad cop. I could go on for days.

brothel, bunny ranch, sex for money, legal prostitues

The all-important line-up at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch.

Can you give me an idea of what your day-to-day life is like? What time do customers begin to arrive? Are you on-call most of the day and night? Or are there different shifts? Typically how many people do you see a day?

BB:  My shift is typically spent in the bar, or in my room, and when the bell rings we all line up. At some brothels you are required to hang out in the bar and socialize. At others you can go back to your room, so long as you make it out for line up. Shifts are 12 hours, sometimes 14 hours on weekends. At some places, you can have your own day off. Closer to Vegas, you get one “out day” where you can go out for four hours to run errands, and that’s it. The rest of the time, you’re in “pussy prison” format—meaning no ins or outs. Since I am closer to Reno, and things are less strict, I’m able to have my car and go places if I want. At some brothels you will draw for your shift every week and some girls will trade shifts with each other. At my home brothel, I just tell them what shift I want and the manager decides whether it’s OK or not.

You can see anywhere from zero to ten people a day. You might talk with more than that, but they don’t end up buying. A brothel is like any sales job—there’s dead days, busy days, in-between days. I don’t have a vagina made of steel, so I tend to max out earlier than some of the veterans. There was only one time when I took things too far. That Push Pop in the freezer? Guess where it went.

What have you learned from your time at the brothel?

BB: With the advent of Facebook and whatnot, you really can’t go back to “life before being a prostitute” unless you want to work hard to completely make over your social life and get an entirely new set of friends. Surprisingly, this is not that hard to do.

I just got tired of sex being such an active part of conversation. When you get down to the core of me, I’m actually more conservative than a lot of people my age. I don’t like to purge details about my personal relationships, and I don’t like to talk openly about my sex life. It’s incredibly isolating when people treat you as if working in a brothel is some huge roadblock that prevents you from living your life, like I’m a sex slave. There’s no way they could ever understand the level of respect we receive from the staff that works in a brothel.

I am a valued employee. My needs are met. If I need an hour of sleep because I stayed up late with a client, they will allow it. If I am feeling sick and need to see a doctor, I’m allowed to be late for my shift. If I bullshit them, they put me in my place and they address the issue, but this doesn’t mean I am fired on the spot. They allow room for error in ways other businesses do not.

I have a chef to cook me good food every day. Even if I didn’t make any money that day, there is still food on my table and a roof over my head. Here, the opportunity to make money exists 24/7. You can work extra hours if you want. You can dedicate yourself and reach your goals sooner than you could at any other job. This is why I am here.

What is the hierarchy or power structure like within the brothel? Is there a level of status or prestige that comes with seniority?

BB: If you are a bad person, there is an incredible sense of teamwork on driving out bad people who do not belong in this industry. If you don’t belong here, letters get written, phone calls get made, and the girls call the owners till the “bad person” gets fired.

There are girls who are idolized to some degree. Girls who have perfect figures, or this sexy allure to them when they walk. This sexiness has been earned. These girls possess a glow about them because they are the top bookers and their confidence shows. If you’ve been there longer, there is some seniority, but mainly your worth is determined by how good of a salesperson you are and whether you are working hard or are goofing off on your shift. Seniority comes from hard work, not tenure.

brothel, legal prostitute, bunny ranch, sex worker, belle du jour,

A Moonlite Bunny Ranch worker putting on her makeup.

How often do you get tested for STDs? Do you ever get freaked out that your customers could give you something? How do make sure to keep yourself safe?

BB: I get tested once a week. With more in-depth testing happening once a month, and an even more in-depth test happening once a year.

For your own protection, you must personally inspect every penis under good lighting before the client pays you and before the penis goes inside of you. Condoms are required by law, even for blow jobs. If you stay safe, and you inspect every customer, the odds of contracting an STD are incredibly low. Of course I get paranoid when I get an ingrown hair and I worry it’s herpes or something. I’ve honestly had more problems from my regular sex life than I have had from my sex life here. I self medicate and I’ve been known to stock some extra treatments for yeast infections. Some girls have bought kits off of me before. Really though, the trick to safety is condoms, lots of condoms.

Do you have repeat customers? What happens if you have a customer you catch a bad vibe from? Have you ever said “no” to a potential john?

BB: Repeat customers can be fun when you know how it’s going to go—especially if they have a funny thing about them such as a quirky accent or fun demeanor. I avoid people I catch a bad vibe from. I’ve said “no” probably more than I have said “yes.”

Do your parents know what you do?

BB: Yes, they do, and they’re cool with it. They just don’t want some of my immediate family to know. My mom talks about it. I’ve worked other jobs in between working in a brothel, and my mom tells me she’s proud of me when I do that other stuff.

How long do you plan on working at a legal brothel? What is your next move career-wise?

BB: I’ve always been one to have some zany business ideas. I think I can get out of this business before I turn thirty. Next move is launching a couple business ideas and oddly, putting more trust in other people than I ever have before.

Do you have a special persona that you conjure for your customers? Or do you act and sell yourself for who you are?

BB: I’ve been known to dumb it down a little, or flirt a little more, or speak some Spanish, or French. I’ve also been known to play the therapist a lot. All I’m selling is various shades of myself. I figure you can’t come up with it unless it’s already in you somewhere. Most girls become more extreme versions of themselves and will crank up the charm and crank up the sexy. I tend to do this less than some girls, I think.

Do you have any recent work horror stories?

BB: My recurring nightmare scenario, which has thankfully never happened, is where somebody I know from real life comes into the brothel and sees me and probably I’m wearing some thong with my ass hanging out. That to me would be a nightmare. However, that’s never happened. Usually the biggest horror is that the cook made fish and the kitchen smells, or we’re all out of Frosted Mini Wheats.

Have you ever caught feelings for a customer?

BB: Once I hit on a guy because I thought he was cute and I got his number and we went on a real-life date. He turned out to be the dullest tool in the shed. Then my feelings for him quickly went away. I’ve never really felt a “love connection” happen in a brothel. I think the whole Pretty Woman scenario is so cliché that it’s never happened to me.

What are some arguments you can make for and against working in a legal brothel?

BB: I would only make an argument for working in a brothel if you have a strong enough personality for this business. You have to be so psychologically strong to work here and to maintain your sense of self in the real world while doing this job. A regular, everyday woman does not belong here. Only the strongest do.

I don’t think this is the kind of job somebody should go for when they are wandering about life, unless their plan is to save some money until they figure out what they want. If you can manage to work two regular jobs, or a job that will give you over-time, I’d tell you to go do that before you come here. If you can manage working at a restaurant, or bartending, I’d encourage you to work there. If there is specialized training of any kind that you could go to school for, and you could get a loan, and that stuff interests you, I’d say definitely take that opportunity before you come to work at a brothel.

If you have a summer off and you’re a student and you want to make a few grand to put away, then it could be a good idea. But, if you choose to walk down this road, be careful about your lies. If you have a Facebook page that you frequently update, don’t say you are going to Hawaii. Your friends will want to see pictures of you drinking a Mai Tai in a bikini, and you won’t be able to give them one, and then you’ll be caught. Find an alibi, someone who will lie for you and cover for you. Just don’t be stupid about covering your tracks. If you’re a horrible liar, it will never ever work. I’m the best example of that.

Photo Lust: Witchy Women

I am loving this witchy editorial shot by photog Tim Bret Day. Part Salem Witch Trial, part rock n’ roll, and heavy on the sex appeal, this shot really embodies the juxtaposition of darkness and light, the contrast of masculine and feminine, and the fascination-repulsion contradiction of sex in modern American culture. What are your thoughts?