Women Share Their Pleasure Principles In A Podcast About Literal Self-Love

Ménage à Moi is not about female desirability; nor does it treat sex, alone or with a partner, as precious.

Jennifer Sullivan for “Ménage à Moi,” used with permission.


Talking about pleasure is a way to encourage open dialogue about sexuality without desirability.

A few months after Chelsea Beck launched “Ménage à Moi,” her podcast about female masturbation, she found a guest via an unusual source: the Nextdoor app. Beck posted to ask if anyone living nearby wanted to talk to her about masturbation.

Then she met Ellen.

“To the extent to which I’ve read anything about masturbation,” mused Ellen, the third guest on “Ménage à Moi,” which launches its second season in April. “I’ve read tales of women saying that they’ve never achieved orgasm or that they were afraid or that there was some hang up.”

A 60-year-old lawyer with a husky voice, Ellen is the hardest-hitting guest Beck has had so far – she refers to masturbating as “busting a nut” and believes women should take responsibility for their own gratification. “I don’t understand why you’ve kind of tripped yourself up in trying to find something that’s self-satisfying in the most primordial way,” Ellen said.

In November 2016, Beck left her job as an assistant curator at The Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles to pursue a “personal project” — a book about female masturbation. Soon after, over brunch, she told three friends about the project, and they started sharing their own masturbation stories. Women often swap sex tales, but conversations like this happen much less often.

“It dawned on me during this brunch that I was going to do this,” says Beck of the podcast. It would be research for the book and a chance to share stories that don’t get shared. “There’s not the body of work that women can refer to about masturbation,” she explains. “What’s available is instructional or about trying to achieve things.” Google “female masturbation,” and plenty of Cosmo and Glamour how-tos pop up as do clinical articles. It’s harder to find in-depth chronicles of the evolution and variety of women’s experiments in self-pleasure.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]There’s a messiness around female sexuality that’s rich and complicated.[/quote]

“My favorite thing that happens on the podcast is when guests say, ‘I’m saying this out loud for the first time,’” says Beck. Bianca, guest six, says this before explaining her love of sinks as a masturbation tool. Nikki, guest seven, says it before explaining that she first orgasmed with a medical back massager. “I want these kinds of conversations to happen more often,” Beck says.

Image by Jennifer Sullivan for “Ménage à Moi,” used with permission.

“Ménage à Moi” was not at all conceived with the post-Harvey-Weinstein wave of frankness and call outs in mind. But it does bring conversations about pleasure unabashedly to the forefront at a moment when journalists, feminists, and activists are figuring out how to address rampant sexual assault without making discourse around sexuality more puritanical than it already is. When violence and coercion are part of the story, negative messaging tends to overshadow the positive, sometimes even when the positive is the main point.

After actress Natalie Portman spoke at the January 2018 Women’s March in Los Angeles, media outlets, like Time and CNN, led with headlines about how she called out “sexual terrorism.” She did use that term, describing early experiences with harassment, but she also called for a new focus on desire: “Let’s declare loud and clear, this is what I want,” Portman said. “Let’s find a space where we mutually and consensually look out for each other’s pleasure.” In a recent essay for The New York Times, critic Nona Willis-Aronowitz tried to pinpoint where pleasure got lost in feminist conversations about ending violence: “Protection from violence became the narrow, defensive definition of feminist sexual politics,” she wrote, “and the concept of pleasure became synonymous with narcissism and self-indulgence.”

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]I’m tired of the beauty conversation and the how-to-be sexy conversation.[/quote]

An indirect response to this challenge, “Ménage à Moi” takes each guest’s agency and self-knowledge as a given. Each episode begins with sexy, ethereal music by Brooklyn-based musician Anni Rossi, and each segment is tightly edited, a 20- to 25-minute story about one woman’s experience. The first episode, with an academic affairs officer named Jessa who also responded to Beck’s Nextdoor post, set the stage for subsequent episodes. “I don’t know what women do or what women don’t do,” says Beck. “I don’t necessarily feel like female masturbation has stigma,” responded Jessa. “I just get a sense of absence.” Beck agreed and then, as she always does, started delving into her guest’s early experiences, learning about the washcloth a very young Jessa would request from her parents before bed. “If you haven’t tried balling up a towel and humping it, let me tell you, it feels really, really great,” said Jessa.

In another episode, Cayden, a clinical psychologist and a trans man, discussed the way hormone therapy can affect sex drive and how he grapples with the relationship between fantasy, masturbation, and gender identity. Jenée LaMarque, who made a film about a lesbian woman struggling to orgasm, remembers her mother taking her to the pediatrician as a child because she was masturbating so often. “She’ll make a man very happy someday,” the male doctor commented.

The new season of the podcast kicks off in April 2018 and explores the relationship between masturbation and motherhood. Beck acknowledges that sex is portrayed often in various media, but there’s little room for discussion about the principles of pleasure. “Sex is everywhere right now, but I don’t think that means people are any better at talking about it,” Beck says.

She appreciates the larger role female masturbation has begun to play in pop culture: Ilana on “Broad City” goes to a sex therapist to “find” her lost orgasm, and Elisa, Sally Hawkins’ character in “The Shape of Water,” routinely rubs one out before breakfast. “But there has to be some deeper conversation too,” Beck adds. “I’m tired of the beauty conversation and the how-to-be sexy conversation.”

Her show is not about female desirability nor does it treat sex, alone or with a partner, as precious. “There’s a messiness around female sexuality that’s rich and complicated, and there’s no map for it,” she says.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

Keep Reading Show less
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less