Health Care Reproductive Rights Love + Sex Love

Some women don’t want children, and they won’t change their minds

These days, many of the women who do not want children are opting for female sterilization as their primary form of contraception. The reasoning behind this decision varies from person to person, from climate change to simple disinterest.

Frustratingly, women who favor a child-free lifestyle are frequently shamed and questioned for this decision. I still can’t get my head around why society thinks that a woman’s choice of contraception is a group decision.

Not your body, not your choice. It is really that simple. 

Sterilization is a permanent form of contraception that is highly effective in preventing pregnancy. If you have decided that children aren’t for you, this form of contraceptive makes total sense.

Women in the United States are three times more likely to opt for sterilization than men. Despite this, women routinely battle stigma and opposition when attempting to access sterilization procedures. 

We’re all familiar with the raging debate surrounding abortion and personal choice. “My body, my choice” is a well-understood concept; it just doesn’t apply to everyone, apparently.

The hypocrisy of reproductive debates is blatantly obvious in attitudes towards sterilization. Not only is public opinion strongly against female sterilization, medical practitioners often refuse or attempt to dissuade women from opting for this procedure. Whilst there are specific risks and considerations that practitioners are legally required to disclose during mandatory counseling, many provide opinions that show personal bias. This is both problematic and unethical.

Given that the healthcare practitioner determines if you are fit for the procedure, their perspective is the ultimate decider. Women frequently are advised against the procedure because they are deemed too young or because their practitioners believe they may experience “post-sterilization regret.”  This undermines the ability of women to make their own medical decisions and fails to allow bodily autonomy. 

Women are rarely offered sterilization as a form of contraceptive, even when they expressly wish to remain child-free, forever. The options presented are almost always removable or temporary, such as the pill or IUD. In the decade in which I’ve been sexually active, I’ve not once had a healthcare practitioner even mention sterilization as a form of contraception. 

Women’s sexual health continues to be viewed as some sort of mysterious and taboo topic. This allows for misconceptions and misinformation; women and girls are provided with so little open and honest information about their own bodies and anatomy. 

A vasectomy, the process in which a man is permanently sterilized, is a minor procedure that prevents sperm from reaching the semen. A common misconception is that hysterectomies are the female “equivalent” of vasectomies. 

Female sterilization is not well understood or widely promoted. So, let’s break it down:

Tubal ligation: a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are cut, sealed, or partially removed, better known as “getting your tubes tied.” This prevents the egg from reaching the uterus and being fertilized. You’ll be able to go home that same day, and the recovery time is usually under a week. If successful, it is effective immediately. This is the safest and most common method of female sterilization. 

Hysterectomy: a major surgical procedure in which the entire uterus is removed. In some cases, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix may also need to be removed. Hysterectomies are needed for various reasons, including cancer and uterine prolapse. 

Female sterilization is 99% effective and requires no lifestyle changes. It’s potentially a good option if you experience adverse reactions to hormonal or implanted forms of contraception. 

Despite the high success rate, women under 40 are less likely to be referred for sterilization. It’s advised that this decision should not be made when single or when under stress. Apparently, being unattached renders you incapable of making serious personal decisions. Sexism is alive and well. 

Men who choose sterilization rarely face the same scrutiny. Vasectomies are generally approved and men are less likely to need a partner’s consent. Admittedly, there are some medical grounds for this: vasectomies are usually reversible, and more affordable. They are also generally considered safer, although they can take up to four months to be effective. 

But undeniably, men are assumed to not have an inherent paternal instinct. They just want risk-free sex and no maintenance—atta boy! This is woefully incorrect, so many guys really want to be dads. It’s actually pretty hard to find one who doesn’t!

Despite vasectomies being more socially acceptable and favored by medical practitioners, many men are against the procedure. Patriarchal norms promote the notion that virility and masculinity are mutually exclusive. 

The problem is, this debate too often centers around male versus female sterilization. Why is there even a comparison? Sterilization is a personal choice and one that women, single or not, should be allowed to make alone.

We need to stop telling women what they should do and feel, period.

Women who choose to be childless are tired of having to defend their decision. They don’t want or need your opinion. 

Parenthood is a complicated business. I often think about how bizarre it is that a relatively simple act can result in an entire person. 

I’m still confused about why it is so difficult to ensure that one is not responsible for someone else’s whole existence. 

Biology and bias can be a bitch.

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Editor's Picks The Ultimate Guide to Dating Love + Sex Love

All the words I wish I could have told you

I got rid of my last photo of you, and I immediately regretted it. I realized that I will never be able to use the photos I took, documenting our love, as a bookmark.

I regretted that on any suspecting afternoon, with the sun gleaming just right twenty years from now, one of those photos will never fall out of an old book in front of my children and they won’t ask about the boy in the picture with curly hair and reddened cheeks.

I regretted it because you are – you were – my first love. And a person only gets one of those in a lifetime.

When I finally left I reacted curt toward you, almost passive or indifferent, because I didn’t want you to know that this was killing me too. Because I wanted to be strong – because the alternative was weak. Because we met un-intentionally and you immediately became forever etched into my soul.

I regretted it because we were damned from the start – because I found happiness in you before I found happiness in myself.

But, the reality is that I didn’t even know that I was looking for someone like you to save me from my misdirection. In fact, all I knew was that I liked the feeling in my stomach when your bright smile landed in my direction. I liked the comfort I felt in your eyes, I liked being desired. And, I liked how the beginning of our love story sprouted as if it were straight out of a Nora Ephron film.

The thing about those movies, however, is that they always ended just before the story actually began and reality set in.

For whatever reason, I thought myself righteous enough to pop our bubble. To be the one who decides that there is something better, grander, more extraordinary beyond the story of us.

So, I let it go. I convinced myself that I needed to get away so that I could start feeling again.

But seared inside my mind, hidden behind my self-proclaimed and glaring passions for the best love story known to man – and my belief that you couldn’t possibly give it to me – are the photos of you that I took in sepia. My hand on your chest. The back of your head against a sunset. Our hands holding one another. A kiss stolen in a gas station parking lot. Your eyes meeting mine with affection from the driver’s seat when we stopped at a red light and I told you to smile.

I regret that I didn’t give us the chance to seize just one more moment together. I regret that I didn’t give us a chance.

I know that you broke my heart in little ways for a long time, but I broke your heart in a big way all at once. One does not cancel out the other.

I loved you unconditionally. You knew it, too, but you lost me. I waited until I had enough and I left.

I realized that it is better to be single and search for myself, then to settle for something I feel insecure in.

Don’t get me wrong though. Our ending wasn’t nearly as tumultuous as I am making it out to be, nor as I would have liked it to be. One second we were, the next we were not. And that was it. We just ended. There was no thunder, no lightening. Nothing.

Even now as I am sorting through what exactly happened, I still can’t help but think that if you loved me the way you said you did you would have treated me the way you said you would.

I wouldn’t have had to beg.

Even when we did eventually try to talk about us, instead of ignoring the elephant in the room with banter or seduction, I’d be speechless. I didn’t know where to start.

But, please don’t mistake my silence for indifference. I do still love you. I always will, except it’s not the same. We spent so much time together and I know that I am saying so little right now to make up for it. I know that this is unbearable, but I promise you that every word I wish to utter to you is in my mind. I just can’t bring myself to speak when you look at me like that. When you draw yourself closer, it is a bribe which I can’t commit to. So please take a step back, I’m so tired of this. I am drained. If I stayed, I would spend a lifetime choking on words I wouldn’t ever dare to say.

I invested in you and I lost myself. I became dependent. And to be honest, this was the last thing I wanted. I spent close to a year relying on someone I didn’t want to rely on – nor could I. I knew it was the end long before you did, and I held on anyways, just in case, because I have a drastic fear of letting go and moving on.

But how can I reconcile breaking your heart and leaving everything we had together in just a few short minutes. You say that I took you by surprise, that you didn’t see it coming – but I don’t know how. I gave you all of the signs. You saw my silent tears. I always knew I wanted more. I was destined for something different. I felt it, deep in my bones, I just never faced it until I was forced to. I was able to ignore my confusion because we laughed with one another. We couldn’t take our hands off one another. We ran home in the pouring rain together, stopping only to kiss.

We experienced the best of one another for a short period of time, and I know that our relationship lasted as long as it was meant to. We loved each other until we couldn’t. We chewed us up and spit us out. We got everything we needed to get out of one another. We fell in and out of love from worlds apart. But I still feel terrible. And I feel like I should be feeling more even though I have been overcome with intense conflicting feelings every day since we said goodbye. Every day for close to a year.

I guess I just want you to know that I didn’t make this decision in haste. I needed to get away in order to understand more of myself.

I regret not thanking you enough for watching me blossom and believing in me so that I could believe in myself. I should have told you just how much you helped me realize the endless bounds of myself, for better or for worse.

I should have thanked you for letting me go, even though it hurt like hell.

I regret doing this to you because you waited for me. Because I gave you dozens of silent chances in my head. Because you would take me back in a second and I am here telling you that I am confused. That I need more time. That is – time to think. Time to learn and explore and dream. But all you hear is that I need to do all of these things away from you, that I need time alone. That I would rather work on building my sense of self alone than by your side.

But I deserve someone who makes me feel alive. Someone who is generous and who makes my heart jump when I tell people that they are mine. And you deserve someone who doesn’t give you an expiration date.

I am scared that maybe I made a mistake, that maybe I am foolish, or maybe that this is all that my love amounts to. I am having trouble accepting the normalcy of the end of us. The lack of explosion.

I am scared that I will forget. I am scared that after a few months everything we had will feel just like a dream. A dream that is open-ended, a dream that will constantly be on repeat in our respective minds until the end of time. Fated to carry each other’s baggage.

I regret that I now have to give you to someone else. That someone else will nuzzle into your chest, and devour your smell. I regret that I gave it all up so easily and have only in hindsight realized the weight of my naivety. Or did I? Because I also remember being so incredibly devastated, and being met with oblivion, with dismissive niceties. I remember my anxieties being belittled or made to feel small. I remember that I didn’t have the means, or the patience, to heal you.

I remember crying on the dance floor a year ago. Turning around so that none of my friends would see. I was staring at your messages. They were curt, broken and hard to make sense of. I remember being confused, I remember when someone told me for the first time that I deserved a love that was better. A love that nurtured. A love I didn’t have to settle for. A love that swept me off my feet.

I regret that we were different together than we were around everyone else. That no one got a real glimpse of us, in love. I regret being so quiet. I regret that I couldn’t love you like you loved me. I regret that you couldn’t love me the way I needed you to. I regret that we’ve run out of things to say.

I regret that our relationship was already broken even when your fingers were strumming through my hair or when we sat across from each other on the floor in a fit of laughter.

I regret knowing it was the end before you did, and holding on anyways just in case. I regret not telling you just how nervous I was and just how serious I was when I said that I thought we lost our spark. Our magic.

I regret it all because I wish that I held on to those pictures for a little while longer. I wish I studied them. Even though I knew the ending wouldn’t change.

Neither of us can fully heal our heartbreak unless we are apart. We have to heal for ourselves, rather than for the possibility that one day down the line we will be together again.

Seeing you that day, when you came by to collect your things, actually helped me realize that I am better off without you. That I am happy now. Really happy. And I no longer doubt myself. I no longer rely on you for happiness. I no longer get angry or sad because you couldn’t make me happy.

In hindsight I had absolutely no idea who I was when I met you. I still really don’t. I’m not even sure that I knew what genuine happiness looked or felt like.

Maybe that’s what ruined us after all. My indifference. My sadness. All of which at the end of the day amounted to nothing.

Soon I will be able to think about you without ripping my heart out.

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Love + Sex Love Advice

8 things I wish I knew before I had sex for the first time

If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking about or ready to have sex for the first time – and that’s amazing! You might be feeling nervous and anxious about your first time – first off, this is absolutely normal, you’re not alone in feeling like this.

There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to having sex for the first time, but I wanted to put this list together so you can feel comfortable and relaxed the best you can.

I’d like to state that I’m writing from the perspective of a straight woman having sex for the first time with a man – these points are more related to my experience as a straight woman.

Having said that, I do feel that these points can be applicable to everyone.

So here goes – grab a beverage, get cozy and get ready to learn the things I wished I knew before I had sex for the first time. Enjoy the ride 😉

1. Forget what TV and film taught you about your first time

It’s fair to say that TV and teen movies have given us some pretty unrealistic expectations when it comes to sex and the magical ‘first-time’. Sex is meant to look good on camera – you have steamy make-out sessions under dim lighting as the couple (usually a straight couple) simultaneously take each other’s clothes off and dive into penetrative sex quickly (um, foreplay anyone?) that they miraculously both have orgasms at the same time. I’ll let you in on a secret….this doesn’t happen in real life. 

Sex for the first time can feel nerve-wracking, awkward, and messy – and that’s completely normal! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun, but don’t use first-time sex scenes from TV and film as a model for how your first time should go.

2. Having sex doesn’t change you – virginity is a social construct!

You are the same person before and after you’ve had sex for the first time, you won’t ‘change’ as a person. We’re led to believe that sex will make us different and we’ll ‘lose our purity’ – remember, virginity is a social construct! As the School of Sexuality Education puts it, “the pressures, myths and expectations surrounding the traditional idea of ‘virginity’ are very much the product of norms and ideas created by us humans”.

Have sex when you’re ready, it’s no one else’s business what you’re doing with your vagina

3. Don’t worry about your appearance

It’s disheartening to say, but the Instagram selfie-obsessed world we live in has caused many of us to hold negative thoughts about our own self-image (I can attest to this), which can hamper us from having a fulfilling sex life. Focus on what you’re feeling rather than how you’re looking – if it helps, close your eyes, and enjoy the sensations and explore what feels good and pleasurable to you and your partner.

But believe me when I say this, you’ll look sexy in the eyes of your partner when you’re all hot and bothered!

4. Communicate with your partner – especially when it comes to contraception

Communication is a must when it comes to sex. As sex and intimacy expert, Gigi Engle, puts it, “In order to have good sex, you need to communicate your wants, needs, and desires to your partner.” This includes sharing any concerns or expectations you may have when it comes to sex, the contraception you want to use (the last thing you want to do is worry about STIs and pregnancy during sex!), if this is a casual or serious relationship, or if either of you are seeing other people.

Open up on what’s important to you!

5. Have lots and lots of foreplay to feel comfortable

Foreplay helps to lubricate the vagina, which can make sex more enjoyable – this includes making out, talking dirty, listening to some sexy tunes or podcasts, massaging, dry humping, oral sex…anything that arouses you and your partner. Don’t just consider foreplay as pre-sex activities, but make foreplay part of the whole sexual experience.

When it comes to having penetrative sex, feeling aroused and lubricated can help you feel relaxed, making vaginal intercourse feel more comfortable and less tense.

6. Take the pressure off having an orgasm and enjoy the whole ride

We all know orgasms feel good (I thank my showerhead for that), but climaxing during penile-vaginal sex can be difficult for women to reach, and this is relatively common if you have a vagina. In a 2018 study, 10 to 40% of women reported having difficulty or an inability to reach orgasm

There are other things you can enjoy about sex that takes the pressure off having an orgasm – the close intimacy you have with your partner, exploring each other’s body, enjoying the pleasurable experience, and connecting on a deeper level. 

As you become more comfortable with your partner, you can communicate with each other on how you can reach a climax, with clitoral stimulation for example (whatever you do, DON’T fake your orgasms), but use this time initially to enjoy the pleasurable experience.  

Here’s another way of putting it: An orgasm is the dinner mint at the end of a five-course meal. Pleasure is the whole damn meal — from breadbasket to entree to dinner mint.

7. You might bleed or you might not – and it’s got nothing to do with the ‘hymen’

I was expecting to bleed profusely when I had sex for the first time after I ‘broke my hymen’, and I was pretty surprised that I didn’t. After some research, I found that a vast majority of women don’t bleed the first time they have penetrative sex – some do and some don’t, either is normal. RFSU, a Swedish sex education charity that refrains from the term ‘hymen’ and prefers ‘vaginal corona’ – in order to dispel the myth that a woman’s vaginal opening is covered by a membrane that ruptures on penetration – said that of those that do bleed, few do so because the vaginal corona was tight, but there are other reasons why.

RFSU explains that “if you were not sexually aroused, but rather tense, nervous and too dry, minor ruptures may develop in the vaginal corona and may bleed.” 

8. Don’t ignore your clit!

I really mean it! The clitoris plays a huge part in the sexual arousal and enjoyment of women. The clitoral glans contains 6,000–8,000 sensory nerve endings, more than any other part of the human body (hallelujah!). This sensitivity explains why women enjoy clitoral stimulation – so, to enjoy sensual pleasure with your partner, make sure you both play with your clit!    

So there we have it! I hope you’ve learned something new today and it’s put you at ease when it comes to your first-time.

Do you still want more? I thought you’d never ask!

Check out these other articles from our team:

Five reasons why masturbating is good for women

Let’s dissect the misogynistic arrogance surrounding the clitoris

I found my femininity through masturbation

Here’s how to have sex with trans women

I feel like a feminist failure because I fake my orgasms

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The Pandemic Love + Sex Love

My long-distance relationship with my husband strengthened our marriage

As I was at the airport preparing to leave for my flight back to the UK, I was trying hard not to look at anyone – a sympathetic smile or a simple ‘are you okay?’ from my family would be enough to set me off. I couldn’t even look or speak to my husband in case I couldn’t hold it together. My heart was thudding, palms were sweaty as I was trying to convince myself that my husband and I would be okay. I was trying to keep my mind in control and think rationally.

“I’ll see him again soon, we won’t be apart for long.”

I couldn’t be too sure of that. It was January 2020 and the daily news coverage of Covid-19 was growing rampant by the second. My husband and I were expecting that he’d follow me back to the UK a few months later, but we both knew that was wishful thinking if news of the widespread threat of the deadly virus was true. I was leaving him three weeks after our wedding in Bangladesh and I didn’t know when I’d see him again.

As soon as this dawned on me, I couldn’t hold it any longer. My body was trembling as my emotions took over me. My husband opened up his arms to me, letting me cry uncontrollably into his chest. Our family members gave us the space to have this private moment at the airport between husband and wife.

As I left him for the immigration checks, I kept turning around to see him. My husband was still there. He would only leave the airport until he couldn’t see me.

As I took my seat on the plane, I wept on my mum’s shoulder while she stroked my hair and consoled me. All I could do was ask myself questions I couldn’t answer as my mum held me: When will we be together again? How will I cope? Will this get any easier?

For the first few days after I arrived home, I felt tired and withdrawn. All I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep. My parents felt helpless, they knew anything they’d try to say or do wouldn’t release me from my melancholic state.

At that time, I would receive so-called ‘advice’ from family members and friends that just rubbed me up the wrong way. They’d attempt to reassure me with inane comments.

“Everything will be okay!”

“He’ll be here before you know it.”

“Remember the good times you had together.”

And finally, “At least you got married before the pandemic!”

That was a level of toxic positivity I couldn’t handle. They wanted to minimize my emotional struggle so it doesn’t burden them, but I didn’t want to hear any of it. All I wanted to say was “let me wallow, I don’t need your so-called help.” It may have been their way of trying to make me feel better, but it was just lost on me. Others would listen, allowing me to open up and say how I was feeling – that was what I needed at that time.

The only way I could pick myself up was to return to a sense of normality and routine. Going to work, attending my gym classes, doing my daily errands enabled me to get better, and focus on other things.

Eventually, I had to accept that my husband and I would be in a long-distance relationship, a term I’d heard before but never thought I’d experience. It wasn’t easy to accept this – we were married, but we didn’t feel like our marriage had begun. We were trapped in the middle with very little certainty on where we were heading.

The biggest factor that helped us get through this phase was talking and seeing each other every night on video. Communication – whether that was through video calls, texts, or audio messages – was vital for us to handle our long-distance relationship. We showed love, affection, and support for each other despite us being physically apart.

Even talking about ordinary things such as what happened at work, what we had to eat, what we watched on TV gave us an insight into each other’s day to day lives, which was something we valued. Our nightly chats helped us to heal and allowed us to connect on a deeper level. Communication was a critical element in not just the success of our long-distance relationship, but for the betterment of our marriage.

I had my ups and downs during our time apart. Loneliness would consume me. Then there was the added worry I had for his safety and well-being as the scale of Covid-19 was getting worse by the day. The loneliness combined with the anxiety I had for his health caused me immense emotional strain.

Rather than bottling these feelings away, I spoke honestly to my husband about how I was feeling. It didn’t matter how early or how late it was, he was only a call away if I was struggling and I needed to hear his voice.

After eight months apart, we’re finally together. We’ve been back together for two months and we still can’t believe it. As I write this, we’re both sitting together in the dining room whilst he’s working and I’m typing away – we both feel happy and content.

Our long-distance relationship set the foundation of our marriage, which is built on communication and honesty. Our relationship feels stronger than ever – we talk, share, and don’t hold anything back from each other. Our temporary physical separation was hard for us, but it’s strengthened us for the better.

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Love Life Stories

The 10 Most-Read The Tempest Stories of 2017: Love Edition

2017 was a rough year. There’s no way around that. But in the roughest of times we learn a lot about love.

We learn which relationships in our life are the real shit and which ones aren’t. We learn about who will truly be there for us through the worst of times as well as the best. We go through the heartbreaking process of cutting out those who don’t ride or die. We learn to truly appreciate those who hold us while we cry, listen to us bitch, talk us down from anxiety attacks, and make us laugh until we can’t breathe.

And we learn a lot about taking care of ourselves. We can’t always rely on others to get us through. Sometimes, we’re the only people who can save our own lives. And that means we need to commit to practicing radical self-love and abundant self-care.

For many of us, this is an uncomfortable and grueling process. Some of us have to almost destroy ourselves before we truly believe that we are worthy of our own love and care. But when the world has gone to shit and everything feels awful, self-love and self-care become the only means of self-preservation we have.

This year the amazing women of The Tempest have examined every aspect of love with their insightful, inspiring, moving, and motivational writing. They’ve written about parents who taught them how to love as well as learning to love after growing up with parents who didn’t know how. They’ve told us their stories of loving partners and best friends who went to the brink of the abyss and pulled them back and their stories of partners and friends who almost pushed them over that edge. They’ve shared their journeys toward self-love and their tips for radical self-care, including how they learned to take care of their mental and physical health.

They have redefined relationships and they’ve taught us what it really means to love others and themselves.

So, let’s take a look back at all the lessons of love these amazing women brought us in 2017:

1. “I never thought I’d have to get an abortion as a Muslim woman – until the day I did,” by Anonymous

A thin light skinned woman wearing a light blouse, black pants, and a headscarf in front of a flight of stairs, looking at the ground

By far our most popular and impactful piece this year was the struggle of a woman who decided to get an abortion. The piece is beautiful, raw, and heartbreaking. The author frankly describes the painful process of deciding that the best decision for her was to terminate the pregnancy and the mental and emotional trauma that she experienced after having the abortion.

She also talks about how she had to go through this whole experience alone because of the stigma against abortion in her community. The author confronts this stigma head on and points out how dangerous it is to have to go through trauma alone for fear of being ostracized.

This ruffled a lot of feathers, for sure, but everything in it needed to be said, and many women reached out to us to let us know that the article helped them deal with their own decision to have an abortion.  Read More.

2. “My Sunni-Shia marriage is not invalidated by your unwanted opinions, ” by Tuscany Bernier

A light skinned red haired man in a suit stands next to a light skinned woman in a Burqa on their wedding day
Courtesy of Tuscany Bernier

Writers for The Tempest never shy away from writing about controversial topics, and Spring Editorial Fellow, Tuscany Bernier, didn’t shy away from telling our readers all about the marriage that caused a stir in her Muslim community: her own.

Tuscany writes about how her Sunni community reacted when they found out she was engaged to a Shia man, hint: it didn’t go well. She talks about all the unwanted advice she heard from the leaders of her community and the Aunties who told her that her husband to be was a deviant.

Through sharing her narrative, she exposed the rifts that still exist within the Muslim community, and how her love crossed the divide. Read More.

3. “I’m so afraid of getting married to the love of my life,” by Katherine Kaestner

A red haired, light skinned woman sitting next to a light skinned, dark haired man, next to the water in front of a cityscape.
Courtesy of Katherine Kaestner

When loving ourselves intersects with loving someone else, and we think about combining our fucked up life with some else’s things get really tough. And that’s exactly what our Interviews Editor, Katie Kaestner, took on in this brutally honest piece.

Katie got really honest about her own mental illness and her fear of being a burden on her future husband. She tells the raw, sometimes ugly truth about what it’s like to live with mental illness and love someone who struggles with mental illness every day.

Her story reminds us that we need to take care of ourselves and our own mental health in order to be a true partner to another person, that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes, and that it’s normal to be scared about committing your life to another person. Read More.

4. “That time of the month is more complicated for me than you know,” by Jay Zheng

A gender fluid individual
Design Credit to Deema Alawa / Property of The Tempest, Inc.

In this story that we published in partnership with Lunapads, Jay Zheng shares what it’s like to get a period as a transgender, gender-fluid individual.

None of us really love that time of the month, but for trans* individuals, getting a period can be traumatic, a physical reminder that their bodies don’t match their gender. Jay talks so eloquently about the dysmorphia and dissonance that getting their period creates for them and how discovering the Lunapads boxer briefs helped them cope. Read More.

5. “I didn’t know that being asexual was a thing until someone asked me what I actually wanted,” by Amani Marie

An olive skinned woman wearing red lipstick standing outside in a snow covered street wearing all black including a black hijab

Sexuality is a complicated spectrum and each individual has to go through their own experiences in order to discover where they fall on that spectrum. When your experiences lead you to the conclusion that you don’t fit into the easily defined areas of that spectrum, it can be confusing and isolating.

In this story, Amani Hamed takes our readers on her journey to finding out that she identifies as asexual, something she didn’t even know existed until a friend gave her the word. In a world steeped in sex, asexuality is rarely talked about, and those who identify as asexual are often completely left out of conversations about love and relationships.

Amani’s piece shows the liberation that happens when we finally discover both who we are and the people that accept us for who we are. Read More.

6. “My mom gave me the “Talk” when I was 7 – this is how I turned out,” by Alicia Soller

Asian woman standing in front of a white wall with light falling over her

Many women, all over the world, still don’t have access to proper sex education or someone who they can safely talk to about sex. However, Alicia Soller, one of our fave Staff Writers, had a completely different experience: her mom gave her “the talk” when she was seven. Alicia talks about how awesome it was to be raised in a sex-positive household where she was never afraid to ask questions or tell her mom the truth about her sex life.

She also talks about how honest, sex-positive sex education is essential to raising a generation of kids who practice safe sex without shame. Read More.

7. “I can live through losing a guy, but I could never live through losing my best friend,” by Mitta Thakrar

Two Asian women wearing pink shirts sitting on a bed talking to each other

Often, the most important relationships in our lives aren’t our romantic relationships or even our familial relationships; they’re the ones with our BFF. Our person. In this heartwarming article our Now and Beyond Jr. Editor, Mitta Thakrar, tells us all about how her true soulmate is her best friend, not some guy.

She gets raw about her struggle with depression and how her best friend was there for her when things got their darkest. Anyone who’s found their person can identify with how much Mitta loves her BFF. Women need other women to survive and Mitta shows us how beautiful these relationships can be. Read More.

8. “It still feels like it happened to someone else,” by Shanicka Anderson

A light skinned man and woman kissing up against a wall

When we’re talking about love, it’s not always unicorns and rainbows and happy endings. In fact, more often than we’d like to admit, it’s more like nightmares and storms and pain. Love can hurt, a lot, and it’s important to talk about the painful things we’ve faced in our relationships so that others know they’re not alone.

It’s also super important to talk about the fact that abuse doesn’t always look like cuts and bruises; a lot of the time the wounds of abuse can’t be seen. In this article, our Junior Pop Culture Editor, Shanicka Anderson, opened up about her emotionally abusive relationship and the damage it did to her mental and emotional health.

She shared the experiences that will be familiar to anyone who’s endured this kind of abuse: the denial that her partner was abusive, the confusion that resulted from his gaslighting, the pain of trying to understand how someone who said they loved her could hurt her so often and subtly. And she tells how she got the hell away from her abuser and refused to put up with similar behavior in future relationships. Her narrative is a beacon of hope for anyone dealing with emotional abuse. Read More.

9. “Nobody else wanted to believe me,” by Kathryn Wilgus

Light skinned blond woman wearing a flower crown
We heart it

The last few months of 2017 became a time of reckoning for men who abused women. Powerful men in Hollywood were accused of sexual assault and women all over the world began to share their stories of being raped, assaulted, and harassed using #MeToo.

This article by Kathryn Wilgus is a powerful statement about all the ways women are violated on a daily basis. The short vignettes relate her experiences being harassed by doctors, friends, family members, and strangers on the street. They convey just how prevalent and constant sexual harassment is and the toll it takes on women. Every female presenting individual has had these experiences and Kathryn gives them a voice by sharing hers. Read More.

10. “You are absolutely allowed to cut toxic people out of your life,” by Arushi Tandon

Olive skinned woman looking up toward the sky in profile view

Part of self love is self care and part of self care, maybe the hardest part, is learning to set boundaries with those around us. We all have toxic people in our lives, be it a family member, a friend, or a partner, and in order to love ourselves we need to set boundaries with them.

Fall Editorial Fellow, Arushi Tandon, talks about how sometimes setting boundaries with toxic people means cutting them out of your life entirely, and that’s totally okay. Often we struggle to cut people out, no matter how much they hurt us, but failing to do so can mean our own self-destruction. Arushi talks about her own decision to cut toxic people out of her life and gives the reader permission to do the same. Read More.

New Year’s resolution: no more toxic people, no more toxic relationships, no more toxic thoughts, only “Toxic” by Britney.

Even though this year was generally a garbage fire, it did force all of us to learn a lot about what it means to love and be loved. It’s been a privilege to read, edit, and publish all of the amazing stories of Love the women of The Tempest had to tell this year.

Here’s to hoping that 2018 teaches us even more, and maybe sucks a little less.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Women don’t get a free pass on cheating. So why should I date a man who does?

It’s easy to fall into the narrative that all men are dogs, and they all cheat, and they’ve all got commitment issues, and whatever else you tell yourself to get through your latest heartbreak. But as comforting as those excuses are in your teary-eyed wailing as you dig through your third tub of ice cream, they’re not even remotely true.

Because cheating, commitment issues and toying with someone’s heart are not genes that any one person can be born with, so our generalization of men isn’t helpful.

Nothing exists in isolation.

We’re all products of our environment, upbringing, society, our past experiences and a variety of economic and political implications that influence our behavior. There is a bigger conversation here that needs to be had outside the confines of, “he’s such a dick.”

And believe me, I’ve said that phrase a lot recently. While it offers temporary solace, it, unfortunately, doesn’t give you any of the answers you’re looking for.

While I’m dissecting my latest relationship trainwreck, all I can think is “what happened to the man who said he just couldn’t be with me anymore?”

Now you might be rolling your eyes and saying something like, “maybe you’re the problem,” and trust me, I’ve gone down that road. I’m a woman, and society has programmed me to first and foremost ask the age-old question, “what did I do wrong?” I’ve asked it a thousand times.

But I also came to the realization that in this instance, it wasn’t me.

The thing is, currently, masculinity is in transition and it’s affecting our relationships. And while this evolution is happening, the men around us, desperately flailing for some sense of stability, turn into pricks in an attempt to steady themselves on what they feel to be uncertain ground. And I get it: trying to be a man to someone else when you don’t have a clue what being a man even is, is a terrifying thing.

Conversations about masculinity and what it means to be a man need to be happening, and they need to be led by men.

Women have been talking about feminism, womanhood and what being a woman means for so many years now. Whether you’re a part of it or not, you’re aware of its existence and have grappled with the idea of womanhood and what your femininity means to you at some point.

This has mostly happened because our society is structured to ask women who they are from a young age. From liking pink and being a girly girl, to being a tomboy teenager or a promiscuous twenty-something, we’ve been continuously playing with notions of womanhood as society asked; what type of woman will you be?

We couldn’t have ever avoided it.

Men, on the other hand, have never been asked to define their masculinity, mostly because they’ve never had to fight for their place. For the most part, they’ve been left pretty much to themselves as toxic masculinity was passed down from father to son, and from his grandfather before him.

Of course, there are exceptions and men who don’t feel comfortable with the dominant definition of masculinity, but I’m not talking about the exception.

My journey with what it means to be a woman has led me to realize that I don’t need a man. Not for a single damn thing. I am economically independent. I go out and metaphorically slay my own deer every day. I provide for myself and pay my way. If I want to go somewhere I don’t need the protection of a man to do it. And many women have come to the same conclusions.

So, if we women are surviving all on our own, just fine without a man, and men are still holding onto traditional masculine ideals – being a protector and provider – it’s no wonder we can’t all get along and find healthy relationships!

I’ve lost count of the arguments I’ve had with men on dates as they insisted they pay for dinner every single time.

Or even after a few conversations, they start asking you to tell them you’ve arrived safely at every single destination as if you were some small child navigating the world for the first time.

Our ideas of our gender roles in this world are so far out of alignment, that they can do nothing but jar and scratch uncomfortably alongside each other.

It just doesn’t work.

I may not need a man, but I want one.

I’d like a companion to share a life with. I’d like him to ask me about my achievements that day and what I accomplished instead of telling me to text him when I get home as some show of dominant ‘I’m going to protect you’ masculinity. Like it’s cool, you can just tell me you care instead of making grand statements about my safety.

Until masculinity has evolved, we don’t have a hope in hell of sustaining anything close to healthy relationships. They’re clinging on to a dead past and as long as they do, we don’t have a future.

And I know it’s a process, and I know these things take time and I know that it’s their journey, but I’m begging the men of our society to get there faster.

Because the more you stumble slowly through your gender identity crisis, the worse off we all are.

Love Life Stories

I lost my best friend the moment our lives fell apart – and it still breaks my heart

Mental health struggles have formed the backdrop of my life, whether I was coping with my own mental unwellness or was watching my loved ones go through their own struggles.

I put my mental well-being on the back burner because I sincerely believed the well-being of the people I care about mattered more. In ways, I conflated my self-worth with my ability to provide emotional labor the people I love.

This pattern spilled into my friendships, but not always in the most healthy ways. One of the most intimate friendships in my life so far, although rewarding, ended up being the wake-up call I didn’t realize I needed.

The beginning of this friendship happened rapidly.

She felt like a soul sister. The next thing I knew, we were spending tons of time together, texting every day, and a couple months down the road, we were sharing all the emotional baggage we’d been carrying with no inhibitions. I felt a profound connection to her. I would do literally anything for this person. She is one of the most resilient people I’ve ever met, but she carried deep trauma. Our profound friendship made me want to help her carry it.

I wanted her to know she wasn’t alone.

I did my best to be her go-to confidant, and she did the same for me. I was there for the good times, the bad times, the break-ups, and the existential crises. But months later, when she had been experiencing an abnormal amount of emotional distress, I received an unsettling message.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she texted.

I called her immediately, and she told me that she felt worthless and invaluable for so many reasons. She then alluded to taking her life. I was trembling. I tried to stay strong because I felt responsible for being her voice of reason, but after hours of pleading with her to change her mind and go home, I broke down in ways I never had with her.

She was stunned, but she promised me she would hear me out.

She disappeared the next day but when I eventually found her, she told me again that she wanted to take her life. I told myself that I had to get it together and assure that she was safe. I made sure she got home that night, but the following day my mental health was in shambles — more than I admitted at the time and more than I ever revealed to her.

I couldn’t eat, I had to skip classes and work, and a friend eventually took me in to take care of me because I was such a mess. I kept repeating to myself “get it together” because I thought that if I were an unwavering pillar for her, I could take away her anguish.

I wasn’t ready to accept that I nearly lost someone I loved not just once, but twice.

I carried on like everything was fine, but I didn’t know how to articulate that I needed space to heal. I was supposed to be her confidant after all — how could I possibly abandon her?

As time went on, I subconsciously found myself putting space between us. The last time I saw her, it felt like we were strangers. The air between us was cold and distant, and in many ways I accepted it. Just like that, this friendship we cultivated ended as fast as it began.

I convinced myself that I was an awful friend because of the fate of our friendship. I felt like I failed her and didn’t deserve her friendship because I couldn’t give her unlimited emotional labor. I was scared to reach out to her again, but at the same time she also never reached out to me.

It was heartbreaking.

But after years of soul-searching, I learned that I couldn’t possibly be there for her in the ways she needed because I needed so desperately to heal.  I couldn’t be strong for her because I couldn’t even be strong for myself. I appreciate the adage “you can’t pour from an empty cup” because it best captures the act of giving emotional labor to others.

If you have nothing left in your metaphorical “cup,” then what can you give to others?

My value as a human being and friend is not intrinsically linked to my ability or inability to take care of others. Unlimited, one-sided emotional labor isn’t healthy. It’s okay to take a step back and give yourself space to heal. It’s okay to practice self-care and acknowledge your mental health. Self-care and boundaries matter when supporting loved ones.

Some days I wish we established these boundaries at the beginning of our friendship because I like to think we would still be friends today if we had. But I know now that I’m not a bad friend if I don’t have the capacity to support someone.

Needing to heal is completely human, and I’m learning not to feel shame from it.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

My fear of commitment wasn’t the real issue – losing myself was

I’ve always revered the strong, independent woman archetype because of my upbringing.

Growing up, I often felt powerless and small, so I became determined to be the one in control my own destiny as I entered adulthood. Witnessing and experiencing some of the injustices imposed upon my family, I wanted to make sure that never happened to me or anyone else.

I knew that I ultimately wanted to change the world (I still do, in fact), but in my journey to do that, I also believed that I had to walk this path alone so no one could hurt me — especially a romantic partner.

I made a commitment to myself to put my aspirations first because of the negative preconceptions I had formed around relationships, especially as I witnessed how they affected my loved ones.

Instead of focusing on relationships that could potentially disempower me,  I wanted to focus on learning, growing and being a better person so I could better achieve my ambitions.

I was satisfied with situationships because they’re low maintenance. Serious relationships take time, patience and vulnerability, and I didn’t believe I had the capacity to give this to anyone.

That was until I met my current partner.

The beginning of our relationship was dizzying.

We started talking literally a month before I was about to graduate college, and within that short span of time, I quickly grew to like him—a lot.

Next thing I knew, we went on our first date, were calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend, meeting each other’s parents, and a few months down the line, saying I love you.

I felt a mix of emotions throughout the beginning of our relationship. As cliche as it may be, I never knew I could feel this much love for someone, but at the same time, I felt like I was losing a degree of control being in an intimate relationship that I so often feared.

I was adamant about carefully treading the serious relationship territory because I didn’t want to lose my sense of self, but I had felt myself gravitating toward that despite my greatest defenses.

A month and a half after we started dating I moved to Washington, D.C. for an internship with a newspaper. Even though this was an exciting step in my career, I felt homesick and missing my partner was a huge component of that. I sometimes found myself thinking that I needed to head back home so we could be together.

I felt weak and dumbfounded by these thoughts because this was exactly what I’d feared when I entered a serious relationship. Was I really thinking about skipping out on this amazing opportunity because of a guy?

I was also worried because I was unsure if our lives would ever be able to truly converge. I felt like we were on two radically different paths career-wise and that a healthy relationship wouldn’t work amid that.

I recall one conversation we had where he essentially asked me about every dream and aspiration I hoped to achieve within the next 10 or so years.

I gave him the full rundown: I wanted to become a successful journalist, change the conversation around social justice in the U.S. on a mainstream scale, travel the world, write my own book, study Asian American studies, and ultimately change the world.

He was in awe but in the best way possible.

Not only did he acknowledge these ambitions, but he also respected them too. He was never afraid of these ambitions or thought they would somehow tear us apart. His utmost concern then and now is that he does what he can to help me reach these goals.

Here’s what I learned since being in this relationship: Your personal and professional lives aren’t two distinct entities that can’t coexist. And my partner has been more instrumental in me flourishing in both areas of my life than I ever could have imagined.

I thought that letting someone into my life so intimately would disempower me, but now I see that being in a relationship shouldn’t strip me of my personal ambitions. In fact, being in a healthy, loving relationship allows these ambitions to grow and flourish.

Over the past two years since we started dating, he’s never failed to remind me that I know exactly what I want, even when I lose sight of the big picture. Although I might fight him on it because I’m stubborn as hell, he has never ceased to be my sounding board, my biggest cheerleader, and the kind of support I never knew I needed.

Being in a serious relationship doesn’t mean that I have to give up any degree of my ambitions. I know I am the powerful woman I once aspired to be, and my partner respects and cherishes that. There is no divide here: only acceptance, love, and support.

Love + Sex Love

My mom gave me the “Talk” when I was 7 – this is how I turned out

Every day after school, it was a tradition for me and my sister to go home and watch soap operas with my mom.

These soaps definitely weren’t meant for the elementary school demographic. Once in a while, there were scenes that alluded to a heterosexual couple having sex: a couple stripping and making their way into the bedroom, or under the sheets.

Obviously, this sparked my curiosity.

My mom always raced to cover our eyes during these scenes or changed the channel at roadrunner speed. But like any kids our age, my sister and I were curious as hell. Although we hadn’t had a formal conversation about sex yet, we would naively try to unpack what we thought was happening during these scenes and how they made us feel.

One day my sister and I marched toward my mom to find answers. My sister framed it innocently as I stood shyly behind her: “When a lady is in bed with her husband, what do they do?”

Thankfully it didn’t take my mom long to know exactly what we were implying, but we had certainly opened Pandora’s box.

One of the things I love most about my mom is how she’s an unapologetic open book. She had no problem sitting me and my sister down when we were respectively 7 and 8 for a three-hour conversation about sex. She didn’t shame us for asking questions, which was good because we certainly had a lot of them.

My mom didn’t shy away from using actual anatomical terms when describing sex between a woman and man. She never used euphemisms like “the birds and the bees.” With the exception of using the baseball metaphors to describe physical intimacy, she didn’t beat around the bush. My mom spoke unabashedly about the female and male anatomy, and what heterosexual men and women can do when they get intimate with each other.

We also added an addendum to the conversation: “What does a lady do when she’s alone?”

Cue the masturbation conversation.

I knew about masturbation before really even knowing what masturbation was and that it had a name. But I always perceived it as “bad.” Even though I knew it felt nice, I felt a degree of shame to touching myself because of its mystery. When my mom talked about self-pleasure like it was completely normal and not otherworldly, I slowly started feeling less guilty about it.

My mom stripped away the veil of shame that is so often draped over women’s sexual pleasure. She never described it as a negative experience. In fact, she was pretty candid about how positive of an experience it is, but she made it clear that the experience should be reserved for when one is older, mature, and emotionally ready for it.

My mom wanted to me learn this so I could have autonomy over my own sexuality and never let anyone take advantage of me.

Some may argue that having “the talk” at such a young age stripped me of my innocence, but looking at my attitude about sex and sexuality today, that perception couldn’t be more wrong. I actually found that the more I knew and the more positively I perceived sex, the more empowered I felt.

I inevitably carried these positive attitudes with me into my teens and adulthood. When I eventually had a semblance of public school sex education, I was surprisingly ahead of a lot of my peers. I didn’t perceive the lessons as scandalous as a lot of my peers did. For me, it was merely a fact of life.

My mom also never explicitly asserted “you’re not allowed to have sex.” Obviously, I didn’t get right on it after our conversation. I chose not to have sex until I was in my early twenties, and as someone who was raised to be keenly aware of their sexuality, this was perfectly okay.

When I did have sex for the first time, my mom was one of the first people to know. She asked me the rundown: “Are you using protection? Are you on birth control?” Soon after the serious stuff we immediately began to talk about the experience itself.

This matters.

Conversations about sex don’t have to be dreadful, and we don’t necessarily have to name it “the talk,” which implies it’s a one-time occurrence. Exploring sexual pleasure can be empowering and affirming, and having consistent conversations about that is crucial.

My mom opened up a sex-positive line of dialogue between the two of us early in my life that persists today. I appreciate this because not only do I appreciate her wisdom, but I also trust that her curiosity comes from a place of love and non-judgment. Sexuality is simply not shameful, and I’m grateful that my mom raised me to wholeheartedly embrace that.

Shopping Love + Sex Tech Love Wellness

7 NSFW toys that are absolutely perfect for treating yourself

We hope you love the products we share with you! Just so you know, The Tempest may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of the time of publication.

Too often, women and nonbinary people are shamed for seeking their own sexual pleasure.

Not only are we seemingly conditioned to believe that pleasure is solely dependent on a partner, but we’re also faced with judgment and negativity when it comes to self-pleasure.

Self-pleasure is key to exploring sexuality, and stigmatizing sexual exploration is preventing women from unapologetically exploring their bodies and what makes them happy. Sexual pleasure doesn’t have to be taboo – in fact, it can be an extremely affirmative and empowering experience.

Sexual exploration and self-pleasure is a radical form of self-love.

There is power in being in tune with your body and embracing sexuality attached to it, and we want to help you get there. We put together a list of sex toys you absolutely need to check out to help practice self-love and explore your own sexuality:

1. The Womanizer Pro40, $99.99

The Womanizer isn’t your typical sex toy. It’s an air-based stimulator that mimics oral sex through a combination of air suction and vibrating pressure waves. According to studies, it can take women up to 20 minutes to reach orgasm, but with the Womanizer, 80 percent of users claimed that they reached a climax within two to three minutes.

This toy is pretty revolutionary, not only because of its technology but because it allows users to achieve pleasure at a quicker and more intense rate (many users also reported experiencing multiple orgasms while using it!). Users can even adjust the intensity of the combined vibration and suction, so the power of self-pleasure is completely in your own hands.

Although The Womanizer a bit of a splurge, why not treat yourself?

2. Pelvix Concept Pelvic Floor Exerciser, $52.00

This pelvic floor exerciser kit gives its users a revolutionary way to practice kegel exercises, allowing you to exercise your pelvic muscles at your own pace. The kit gives you multiple kegel balls that are varied in weight, so you have the power to change up the intensity of the exercises depending on where you’re at with your pelvic floor strength.

This convenient kit can overall help its users strengthen the intensity of their orgasms. Kegel exercises can make intercourse and masturbation feel amazing because experts say they strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that contract when you orgasm.

You can practice kegel exercises just about anywhere too—so give it a shot with reckless abandon.

3. Jimmyjane Form 2 Vibrator, $72.55

This clitoral stimulator is adorably-sized: It’s portable and fits right into the palm of your hand, so you can pretty much take it with you anywhere.

It also looks like it has little ears, which users can strategically use to touch the clitoris and labia in stimulating ways, almost mimicking the way you can use your own fingers to stimulate that area (except you get to control the intensity through varying vibrations and contortions).

This vibrator is also awesome because it’s waterproof, so you get creative and don’t have to limit yourself to using it in bed.

4. Je Joue Mimi Soft Clitoral Stimulator, $89.30

Using the Mimi Soft Clitoral Stimulator puts “treating yourself” to a whole different level. Not only is it a great clitoral stimulator, but it’s extremely smooth against your skin, creating a gentler sensation that other vibrators don’t often provide. Its size is also perfect if you want to stimulate your entire erotic area.

The toy is also great because of its remarkably subtle design.

It’s less in your face about being overtly a vibrator, so this could be great for those who are trying a clitoral stimulator for the first time and may have felt embarrassed to purchase one in the past.

5. NJoy Pure Wand, $72.82

If you’re all about the G-Spot and aren’t exactly looking for something that vibrates, then this toy is perfect for you.

Refinery29 calls this the “the most perfect dildo ever.” The shape of the NJoy Pure Wand makes it the perfect toy to stimulate your G-Spot, and with the different-sized ends, the wand gives you the flexibility to explore what feels best for you.

6. Jimmyjane Hello Touch X, $74.95

The Hello Touch X is interesting because it combines using your fingertips with the vibrations typically found it a stimulating toy, putting control literally in your hands. You also have the option to use electrostimulation, which might be especially arousing (or kinky) when with a partner.

This toy is great if you want versatility in exploring sexual pleasure.

7. Coconu Organic Personal Lubricant, $13.99

Coconut oil is all the rage today, and it’s not surprising at all to find out that there is even lube that’s coconut oil-based. This personal lubricant is changing the game: it’s the only USDA-certified organic lube on the market today. As an added plus, it’s also cruelty-free.

Although not technically a toy, lubricant is still an extremely important component of self-pleasure.

Go forth and conquer your pleasure!