Tag Archives: women

Guest Post: Maria’s 5 Fashionable Female Leads in Film

In place of ‘Beauty in the Movies’ this week I present to you a guest post in which the lovely and talented Maria Rainier shares her ‘top five favorite fashionable films’—now that’s a mouthful! Enjoy, and many thanks to Maria.

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Disclaimer: I am no expert on fashion.  In fact, one of the last things I notice in a movie—after cinematography, script, acting, editing, what other movies the actors and actresses were in—is what said actors and actresses are wearing.  If their acting is impressive and they have nice smiles, that’s usually as deep as I’ll go.

See, that’s what makes the following list special: I don’t pay much attention to fashion, but the following actresses had something going on strong enough to make me remember to look at my own closet after the movie was done.

Marion Cotillard in Public Enemies

Marion plays Billie Frechette, who, until meeting the dangerous and dashing John Dillinger, hasn’t had much opportunity to wear anything nice.  She pulls off Depression Era glam like few actresses could.

I find myself envying her circa 1930s bob and fur-lined coats because a) I could never get my hair to look like that and b) I’m an animal lover and even prefer not to wear faux fur.  So much for that.

Audrey Tautou in Amélie

A girl as sweet, childlike, and silly as Amélie could only wear light, delicate, feminine fabrics.  She’s the girl who can effortlessly pull off polka-dots or stripes, lots of red and green, and a (circa 5th grade) my-mom-cut-my-hair trim without looking like, well, a 5th grader.

Everything she wears is endearing and simple—old-fashioned camisoles, mandarin collars, a-line skirts, and a simple retro flair.

Much of it says that Amélie doesn’t really care how she looks as long as it’s comfortable and fits—she’s too busy trying to make the world a nicer place, anyway.

Angelina Jolie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith

If I have a girl-crush on anyone, it’s Angie, if nothing for the fact that she can pull off a leather S&M outfit, a classy black dress, and a suit jacket in the same movie.  Anyone would agree that although Angelina’s perfect bone structure and pouty lips are her claim to fame, it’s her confidence that really screams, “I’ll wear what I want.”

I mean, what does she have to be insecure about (besides her failing marriage, of course)?  She’s a successful spy, she works in a skyscraper with high-tech computers and pressed suits, and she can escape a sticky situation with a zipline and a handgun.

Okay, most of us don’t have these things or the kind of confidence that goes with them.  Still, if all of us were half as comfortable in our own skins as Angelina appears to be, at least in this film as Mrs. Smith, the world would be a much sexier place.

Mila Kunis in Book of Eli

No, I don’t think we should all stop washing our clothes and wear overalls everywhere.

If anyone convinced me to buy a pair of Oakleys, though, it was Mila Kunis (and everyone else in Book of Eli).

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

If you ever wondered where the idea of the “little black dress” came from, you’re looking at her now.

Lovely Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly embodies timeless glam in this Hollywood classic, complete with huge pearls, thick sunglasses, and simple makeup choices.

 

 

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online degrees, and what it takes to succeed as a student getting an online associates degree remotely from home. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

 

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Beauty in the Movies: Desperately Seeking Susan

This week for Beauty in the Movies we’re heading back to the New York of 1985 for the cult classic Desperately Seeking Susan, where the streets are full of characters and you just can’t wear enough jewelry or sequins.

Desperately Seeking Susan brings us into the life of Roberta (Rosanna Arquette), a young housewives living in Fort Lee New Jersey with her neglectful, hot-tub selling husband Gary (Mark Blum). Suffering from the boredom of everyday life, Roberta finds herself obsessing over a string of personal ads in which a man, Jim (Robert Joy), is “desperately seeking” his girlfriend Susan (Madonna) in cities all over the country. When an ad pops up requesting a meeting in Battery Park, Roberta just can’t resist driving over to Manhattan to see the couple in the flesh. After witnessing the musician and his lady reunite, Roberta follows the enigmatic woman to a thrift store where she watches her trade her trademark pyramid jacket for a pair of bedazzled boots. Wanting to understand and be more like Susan, Roberta buys the jacket and rushes home to New Jersey to make dinner for her clueless husband.

That night she finds a port authority locker key in the pocket of Susan’s jacket and decides to pen her own personal ad seeking Susan in order to return the key and unlock the mystery of the woman. Unfortunately for Roberta, Susan is also being sought by a creepy guy who knows only that she unwittingly stole a pair of priceless Egyptian earrings and that she wears a gold jacket with a pyramid on the back. Uh-oh, because now Roberta is wearing that same jacket and the creepy guy is following her instead. Meanwhile Susan’s guy Jim has sent his buddy Dez (Aidan Quinn) to Battery Park to see who put the ad in the paper for Susan and check to make sure she’s alright. While Susan gets hauled away by the cops for skipping out on cab fare, Roberta is pursued by the creepy guy and subsequently falls and hits her head only to be rescued by Dez who also believes her to be Susan. She awakes to find she has lost her memory, and now Roberta believes she is Susan as well. Phew, that’s only the first half hour, from there the film weaves a path of mistaken identity and fabulous 1980’s fashion, if that’s not enough for you, there’s also this moment:

Pensive Aidan Quinn + hammock + cat = magic

When this film first went into production Madonna wasn’t Madonna yet, but by the time it wrapped they needed security to keep her growing fan base at bay during filming. Desperately Seeking Susan doesn’t show that Madonna is a great actress, in fact it probably proves the contrary, but she works well because she has a magnetism and style that invite attention. Roberta is drawn to Susan in the same way Madonna’s teenaged fans were drawn to her at the time. It’s as if the film foreshadowed the Madonna explosion, you would think it was written to emphasize the allure of the budding pop star, but it was nothing more than a happy accident. Goldie Hawn, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Ellen Barkin were all considered for the role of Susan. While I’m sure they each would have brought more depth to the role, it wouldn’t matter, because the only thing Susan needs to be is interesting, she doesn’t need to be likable or sympathetic—but she damn well needs to have style.

Desperately Seeking Susan was written by a woman, directed by a woman, and produced by women as well, so while it can be silly at times, it sidesteps the typical romantic comedy formula and delivers something decidedly different. In truth this film is really a love story between Roberta and Susan, not physically, but emotionally. Roberta is completely enthralled by Susan’s freedom and sense of self, and in her search for her own identity she falls in love with Susan’s, and even gets to live out the fantasy of being that identity before finally embracing her own.

There is something Alice and Wonderland-like about this film, Roberta being Alice and Susan the white rabbit she follows into a new world. Her life in New Jersey is seemingly perfect, but she’s miserable. When Roberta enters the somewhat mad world of Susan on the exciting but frightening streets of New York she finds an entirely new self. At first she needs to believe she is Susan in order to allow herself to change, but even when she regains her memory, she is no longer the suburban housewife she was, but someone new. This film is very much about duality and identity, who we are and who we want to be and why we should allow ourselves to explore both those ideas, because often they don’t line-up as perfectly as one would expect.

Sure, this film has its share of silly moments, but the great clothes and music, the strange background characters, and the somewhat goofy plot all add to the charm. Behind all the style, there is actually a very poignant message that was pretty rare for films about women at the time; be yourself, whoever that is. No matter what everyone else is telling you to be, you’re the one who decides who you are. In the ’80s women were taught they could have it all, but if you’re trying to be everything, you’ll probably lose yourself in the process. What’s really important to remember is that being who you are shouldn’t take any effort, and if it does, maybe it’s time to see what it would feel like to be someone else, you might even discover you’re not who you thought you were at all.

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Beauty in the Movies: Orlando

I have featured a lot of mainstream films recently, so I decided this week I should go with a film that might not be as well-known, but definitely deserves attention. That film is Sally Potter’s masterful retelling of Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando.

Orlando is a difficult film to describe, but I’ll do my best. The year is 1600, Orlando (Tilda Swinton) is a young man of noble birth chosen by the elderly Queen Elizabeth I (Quentin Crisp) as her favorite. The Queen gives Orlando an estate and the promise of fortune for his heirs, on one condition; he must never wither and fade, he must not grow old. The queen soon dies and in the frozen winter of 1610 the young Lord falls in love with Sasha (Charlotte Valandrey) the daughter of the Muscovite ambassador, and learns of the pain of heartbreak.

Time marches on and Orlando remains the same, a century passes as he dabbles in poetry only to be laughed at for being a man of wealth without talent. To escape his loneliness the young man agrees to act as ambassador to King Charles II and soon finds himself in Constantinople. On his journey to self-discovery he learns that engaging in battle, a requirement of men at the time, is unbearable for him. One morning Orlando awakes to find he has metamorphosed into a woman. He is exactly the same person, simply a different sex. What follows is a look at the absurd gender biases the now Lady Orlando must face. I’ll leave it at that, and hope you watch the film yourself.


Orlando is born an innocent child of the natural world. As a nobleman he does not behave as such, but rather looks at life with the curiosity and naivety of a child. Orlando’s nobility is directly responsible for his melancholy and loneliness. While he has a magnificent house and title, he spends most of his life in solitude with his servants and dogs. He, and later she, is entranced by beauty and desperate to experience love. The poets whom she worships and the characters she meets are sometimes disappointing, but from her experiences she learns the ways of the world and comes to understand humanity. It’s through this understanding of life that she eventually discovers the happiness she has sought for hundreds of years.

This isn’t a story about suspense or action, in fact there are moments of silence where the camera simply holds on Orlando conveying so much meaning it seems other films move much too fast. In order to enjoy the story you really need to suspend disbelief, put aside any questions of logic, and just except what is happening as easily as the characters do. Orlando is an epic of individuality, it doesn’t tangle itself in plot or shove the meaning down your throat. It’s an art film, so maybe it’s a bit abstract in places, but that’s what makes it so enjoyable.

Whether the story makes sense to you or not, this film is a feast for the senses. It’s a visual knock-out, each new setting different from the last, but equally stunning. The costumes are gorgeous, as is the scenery which was almost entirely shot on location rather than on film sets. The result is a film that is an ode to nature and makes you wish more films would utilize of the world around us rather than re-create it.

I don’t believe this film would have been possible without Tilda Swinton, she slips so easily from male to female making what could have easily been an awkward performance into something understated and believable. She is truly hypnotizing to watch, not just because of her unique beauty but also her incredible ability to express emotion through the most subtle changes in her expression.

This film is exceptional because it is a work of art, a study in gender, and so different from anything else out there. Sally Potter is a visionary and I cannot stress enough how important it is to support female directors since there are so few out there considering that we populate half the world. Orlando is the sort of film that sticks with you, not because it has a surprise ending or explosive action, but because it makes you think about life and identity while providing you with thrilling beauty. Give it a try, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Because Every Body is A Work of Art

Yesterday on the hairpin* I came across this video and had to share it.

I’ve already written a post about why comparing women’s bodies to fruit is dumb, but comparing them to artist’s works might be even stupider. Because when the girl in the video says she is a “Matisse” I immediately think of this image:

Obviously Matisse has some gorgeous paintings of frolicking women, but like most artists, he has a wide breadth of work and painted many different subjects of all shapes and sizes. So honestly, I prefer the fruit, at least they’re standard shapes.

I also just don’t get this campaign. I get that they did research and learned that women don’t like to be compared to fruit (duh), but did they take it one step further and ask them if they like to be categorized at all? And are these undergarments coming in artists names instead of sizes? Like instead of being a size 8 are you just a Rembrandt? I’m confused.

How about this, maybe we don’t compare women’s bodies to anything and they can just be you know, bodies? And then we can all like wear clothes that fit us and dress ourselves without being told that our shape category doesn’t allow us to wear gaucho pants or double-breasted blazers or whatever the hell we feel like. Maybe we’ll look stupid because everyone knows a Modigliani should never wear ponchos, or apples should wear belts with everything—but whatever. Even if we’re blissfully unaware of what paintings and fruit we resemble, we’ll probably be happier.

*If you don’t know what the hairpin is you should check it out. It’s probably one of the funniest lady-centered blogs out there. It’s not preachy or self-righteous at all, which is a breath of fresh air, and it consistently makes me spew my morning coffee all over my keyboard—and that’s no easy feat.

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Summer Cravings

Some say January is the worst month of the year, with the post holiday letdown and freezing temperatures. February is just as bad, but at least has the decency to be shorter than other months. Then we have March, which I find the cruelest of all. March teases you into believing it’s spring. the sun sets later, the stores are full of pastel candy, and you keep getting e-mails about sandals and bathing suit sales. And then, just when you’re thinking winter is done, the assault of cold air outside snaps you out of your warm weather delusions.

Recently, I’ve been fantasizing past the spring and have jumped full force into daydreams of summer. You can probably expect more posts in which I complain about the weather and long for the joys of springtime. Also, once it’s summer you can bet I’ll be whining that it’s too hot. Anyway, just for now, here’s what I’ve been pining for these last few weeks:

I am so sick of dry cracking skin, every time I wash my hands all the moisturize seems to disappear leaving me with scary mummy hands and the need to slather on gloppy expensive creams. The same goes for my face, I can’t use soaps or scrubs at all, they reduce me to an ugly flaking mess. I long for the humid days of July when I can once again be lazy and achieve a dewy glow without having to spend time and money dosing myself in products. Sure, I’ll complain about my hair frizzing up constantly, but right now, unruly hair seems like a reasonable trade-off for glowing skin.

There are people who always wear shoes, even in the house, they wake up in the morning and even if they’re not going anywhere they put on shoes—it amazes me! My husband is one of those people, he thinks I’m the crazy one because I never wear shoes inside. As soon as I walk in the door I have to get those things off my feet immediately. If it weren’t considered taboo by society I would walk around barefoot all the time (and yes, I’ve stepped in glass enough to know this is not a good idea). I hate having my poor feet trapped inside heavy socks and constricting footwear all winter long, toes want to be free!

When it’s finally warm enough to liberate my trotters, the first place they’ll be going is into the sand. It’s not a far walk, just a block away actually, I could go right now. Unfortunately I would have to wear my parka and would probably catch frostbite and then be sad about it. Boo March.

Don’t get me wrong, I love apples, they might just be the most versatile of fruits. Apple pie, apple crisp, apple butter, apple strudel, apples with peanut butter—dear god please someone give me some strawberries! It’s so much easier to eat healthy fruit in the summer when it’s in season and delicious. I bought strawberries the other day and half of them were mushy and rotten after a day, then I felt guilty for buying fruit out-of-season and killing the environment all because I’m impatient. I’ll go back to apples for another couple of months and continue to daydream about strawberries, watermelons and avocados (especially when they’ve been smashed into a delicious bowl of guacamole).

Come to think of it, I’ve been craving summer food in general. Not only fruit, but BBQ, hamburgers, chicken wings, salads and being able to eat outdoors. I’m sick of soups and stews, and being too cold all the time to eat anything that isn’t piping hot. I can’t even tell you about the lustful cravings I’ve been having for ice cream recently. I have to remind myself that enjoying a bowl of creamy cold goodness will just force me to add yet another layer of fleece to my already bundled, freezing body.

Obviously you can wear bright nail polish anytime of year, but for some reason it just feels better to wear it in warm weather. Somehow whenever I wear bright pink polish in the winter I feel like I’m lying to myself. This season the beauty world is telling us that darker polishes are in for spring—like Chanel’s black pearl, but I’m not buying it. Give me brights (especially on my toes at the beach) and I’m a happy girl. Save the black pearls for Fall, or for Liz Taylor—since they’ve always brought her luck.

I’m not only craving flowers, but green grass and budding branches. The other day in the supermarket I found myself staring longingly at the flower section, which was kind of embarrassing. I was literally stopped in my tracks by a bouquet of zinnias. This time of year I find myself trying to remember what the trees look like with leaves and what it feels like to go outside without being wrapped in down. I can’t wait for the first crocuses and daffodils to poke their heads out of the dirt. They’ll be a true sign that winter is over and summer, dewy skin tasty food and all, is finally on its way.

Anyone else having summer cravings? Let’s hear ’em.

 

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Beauty in the Movies: Moulin Rouge!

After visiting Paris last week and walking past the infamous nightclub on a daily basis I haven’t been able to get this film out of my head. Add that to the suggestion for Beauty in the Movies by Sarah a couple of weeks ago in the comments and I knew I had to feature Baz Luhrmann’s uniquely beautiful movie-musical Moulin Rouge! as my film this week.


When young idealist writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) comes to the Monmartre section of Paris during the turn of the last century, he is seeking a bohemian adventure of truth, beauty, freedom and most of all love. What he finds however is a vagabond group of performers producing a show for Harold Zidler’s (Jim Broadbent) brothel/nightclub—The Moulin Rouge. Among the troupe is Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) who is greatly impressed by Christian’s talents and begs him to help pen their new show, Spectacular Spectacular. After resisting his father’s voice in his head warning him of the evils of the bohemian lifestyle, Christian agrees to sign on as the new writer.

The following evening at the Moulin Rouge, due to a dance of mistaken identity Christian meets the star of the club, Satine (Nicole Kidman), who believes he is in fact a wealthy Duke. But while Satine has been entertaining and falling in love with the penniless writer, she has unknowingly neglected the Duke who also happens to be the Moulin’s biggest investor. After a good deal of singing and dancing Satine finally manages to dupe the Duke (Richard Roxburgh) into believing he is the object of her desire and convinces him to fund the new play by the brilliant young writer Christian—the man she actually loves, thus setting up a doomed love triangle. Unfortunately the Duke holds the deeds to the Moulin Rouge and if she refuses to sleep with him on opening night he will surely close the nightclub leaving Satine, Zidler and the rest of the performers with nothing. So, what’s a girl to do?

What I find interesting about the character of Satine is that she is essentially an object to all those around her. She is even given the nickname “The Sparkling Diamond”, a thing of beauty to be bought, rather than a living woman. The Duke, Zidler, the men at the Moulin, and even Christian to an extent think of her as a thing to be had and kept, fought over and won, rather than a woman who can make her own choices. Ultimately the cruel joke is on her admirers because unlike a diamond she is fragile and in the end, nothing more than mortal. If those who claimed to love her had spent less time battling to posses her they might have realized she was already owned by a far graver master.

I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to the art direction in this film, I will use the word glorious because this is a rare situation where it seems fully appropriate. Catherine Martin acted as art director and designed the gorgeous costumes as well, she won well-deserved Academy Awards on both counts. Martin also happens to be Baz Luhrmann’s wife, obviously the two make an incredible pair and I hope they make many more movies together.

Whoever had the idea to make a movie-musical using pieces of songs from bands as diverse as The Beatles and Nirvana was absolutely brilliant. Not only is it entertaining to hear songs we’re all familiar with used in different ways, but by mixing them together the pieces are recreated in to something new and in many cases create something better than the original. Personally I’ve never been a big Elton John fan, but I’ve had the Moulin Rouge! version of “Your Song” in my itunes rotation for years and love every second of it—and not just because it’s sung by the incredibly adorable Ewan McGregor.

Everything about this film is over the top, the saturated colors the elaborate sets and the boisterous acting, so you would think it wouldn’t be able to pack an emotional punch, but somehow it does. The film starts off with pure insanity, the camera ducks and zooms to the point of dizziness, the characters at times seem unruly and strange, shouting, laughing and buzzing with pure energy. As the film progresses it appears to slow, the juxtaposition of bawdy with serious only makes the emotion that much more jarring. By the showstopping finale, time has seemingly stopped and the audience is left with a heartbreaking conclusion that seems shocking despite the warning of impending doom given in the first few minutes of the film.

Moulin Rouge! is a movie-musical, but it’s very unlike any other musical out there. While it’s over the top and theatrical it doesn’t have the hokey feeling often found in Broadway shows—I’m not knocking Broadway, just pointing out what a feat it is to create a musical that deviates so far from the standard. Moulin Rougue! is a film with everything that can be enjoyed by everyone. If you’ve already seen it, with the extravagant sets and performances, there is always something new to discover the next time you watch it.

Beauty in the Movies: Moulin Rouge!

Beauty in the Movies: Moulin Rouge! by justinez on Polyvore.com

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Lady Porn Day: Porn and Plot

I’ve been invited to discuss a topic I rarely talk about on this blog—sex, specifically porn and masturbation as they relate to women. Now before some of you shy away, you should know that the point of this project is to get women talking about a topic often labeled as taboo. While I am the first to admit it might be outside my comfort zone, I also can’t resist a challenge. If you want to know more about Lady Porn Day and the awesome woman, Rachel Rabbit White, who got us all talking you can find more info. here. (slightly NSFW illustrations below)

I thought a lot about how to broach this subject because obviously there is a lot to say. The more I thought about it the more I wanted to pinpoint at least part of what doesn’t appeal to many women about pornography. For me, it can be hard to separate out the actress from the act—who is she? Is she happy? Is she safe? Is this her choice? I can be neurotic, and I often worry about these things and find them distracting, but that’s just one small factor, I find that pornography in general isn’t made for women. From the weird costuming to the unnecessary extreme close-ups and unflattering angels, there are a lot of things that distract from the romance of it. So the question comes down to, what is it that really turns women on?

I found one answer to that question in an article in this month’s Marie Claire (who woulda thunk?). The article was about a 27-year-old female pastor and her struggle with abstinence. At one point she mentions having a particularity hard time due to fantasizing about fictional vampire Edward Cullen of the Twilight series. And she is not alone, teens, moms, women of all ages, and apparently even women of the cloth are obsessively fantasizing about a teenage vampire who refuses to engage in sexual activity until marriage. So what’s the appeal? It might be that the lack of sex just makes the series that much more sexy, but it’s something else too—it’s storyline.

There is a reason why so much fan-fiction is dirty and porn spoofs and parodies of acclaimed movies are so popular too. They give you an automatic connection to the characters you’re watching engage in dirty deeds, and that makes things a lot more interesting. In most porn, a cheesy plot-line is set up, a delivery man is invited in or a woman randomly shows up at a guy’s house and—BOOM, sex. All you know about the characters is that they want to have sex and maybe that they received a package from UPS, no storyline, no development, which also means no seduction, no romance, no restraint. Women love romance, not all of us like the schlocky rom-com type, but some of us do, and even if we don’t I’m sure there are other forms of romance we do love. Erotica for example could be considered a form of pornography but it’s usually handled with sensuality, romance, and in-depth narrative. All you have to do is read Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin to understand that descriptions of sex can be created with lyrical beauty and insight while still being incredibly pornographic.

There are plenty of men out there who love romance as well, and while porn as it is gets the job done, maybe they often find themselves fantasizing about women they know—wives, ex-girlfriends, maybe even characters from movies, because they feel more of a connection to them. I’m the last person to point out what needs to be done to change the porn industry, I don’t know nearly enough about it, but the task at hand was to talk about it and this is a point I find interesting. Obviously it’s not as easy as adding a better plot to porn films. As my husband pointed out, if you introduced real storyline to a porno, most men would fast forward to the sex, and most porn stars understandably wouldn’t know what to do with a script requiring them to play a developed character. Who’s to say that it can’t be done though? I hate the idea that pornography and art have to be staunchly separated. Just because something contains explicit sex shouldn’t mean it’s lacking in artistic value. Personally I would be more interested in pornography that was written with appealing characters or explored any number of new and creative ways to make porn about more than just people having sex on camera.

Porn is sex, but sex for most of us is much more than just the act, it’s a culmination of a relationship and emotions which for many of us are a very important part of what makes sex satisfying. I’m not saying that women need an emotional connection every time they have sex or masturbate, that’s a myth that many have worked hard to abolish. I do think that men and women think about sex differently, and for some of us sex itself isn’t as important as the relationship of the characters engaging in it as well as the atmosphere surrounding them. When it comes down to it women are all so unique it’s hard to say what turns each of us on, but we’re a big market so it would be worth it to figure us out, and it might be an educational experience for men as well. Character might be something for the porn industry to look into to get more women interested, it’s definitely something to think about, and I’m just glad I accepted this challenge and found my own small way to write about women and porn that made sense to me. I encourage all of you to read more about this topic from other women who probably have way more insight into the actual world of pornography than I do, if for no other reason than we don’t talk about it enough.

Happy Lady Porn Day everyone!

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