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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet Nothings for Fearless Femmes: Blackbird Underpinnings

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Blackbird Underpinnings, photo courtesy of Kelly Puleio

If you are a frequent reader of Venus in Heels, then it’s apparent that I’m a huge advocate of all-things sex-positive and obsessed with the notion of women feeling empowered through sensual expression. Whether this is by reading steamy lit from Anais Nin, exploring a new dimension of pleasure with a partner or through solo hands-on research, or just donning sweet nothings and dancing around your apartment to swoony jazz music whilst sipping on peach-hued Champagne, women should feel comfortable articulating their sensual side as often as possible.

One company who also embodies this same ethos is Blackbird Underpinnings. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, this female-owned, body-positive lingerie company takes inspiration from fearless females of the past in both ideals and sartorial style. With their debut line, aptly dubbed The MAVEN Collection, co-founders Marin Camille and Julia Zolinsky infuse their locally sourced silky confections with retro-minded details and an empowering state of mind. Crafted to fit the manifold female body types, Blackbird Underpinnings makes the art of undressing fun for every feminine form.

So, you may be asking yourself, “where can I procure some of these silken sweet nothings?” The Blackbird babes just launched a Kickstarter campaign to put their line into production for fabulously irreverent ladies everywhere. The best part? A simple donation comes with sweet gifts like a tote bag, velvet high-waist panties, or even a champagne-hued romper. Check out their site and sumptuous video to get more information, and please help these fine femmes!

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Blackbird Underpinnings, photo courtesy of Kelly Puleio

Exposed: Digital Footprints, No Turning Back

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As someone who writes candidly about sex, romance, and dating for all the world to read, I have had my issues with feeling exposed. Especially once I found out that certain in-laws had tracked down my Twitter account and hence found my not-so-incognito blog persona.

Whoops.

While I have never been a private person—I tend to learn and grow from my own experiences when I share them with others—for the first time I felt really exposed. Exposed. Visible. Vulnerable. I also felt like what I was writing about on my blog was somehow wrong. I felt dirty. I felt like maybe I should abandon the blog for once and for all. If you haven’t noticed I’ve been a bit absent. Well, now you know why.

But then I realized why I was writing this blog in the first place. I wasn’t here trying to spill my sexiest secrets to the peeps of the interwebs. On the contrary, I was trying to legitimately help people, to connect, and to try to create a safe forum in which men and women can discuss sex, relationships, dating, and gender roles that go unspoken in our normal day-to-day lives. This blog also provides a creative outlet for me, which is something I don’t always get while toiling over copy about fashion trends, “It” bands, and luxury getaways. I didn’t have Carrie Bradshaw ambitions—unless that means being a regular columnist for Vogue—and I don’t spend all my money on shoes and gripe about my unsuccessful relationships. And though I do have an extreme shopping habit, my sole purpose is to connect people to a more honest version of self, or linking desire to a holistic idea of pleasure that’s anything-but-dirty, and to feel like it’s OK to question the status quo of dating, sex, and coupling. My blog also isn’t all about ME, ME, ME. It’s about universal truths that connect us.

Speaking of Vogue, I recently read an article by Karley Sciortino of Slutever fame. How she got into the BIG book is beyond me, but the piece really hit home in a lot of ways. In her uncharacteristically PG-rated piece (it is Vogue after all) Miss Slutever discusses something that’s pretty common for Generation Millennial: growing up with online footprints tracing your every style iteration, sexy picture mistake, and heinously written early-twenties-era article (ouch!). While I am technically too old to be considered part of this narcissistic tribe, I am still guilty of spending much of my formative years online, with my articles, photos, and blog-delivered insight like a scrapbook of personal anecdotes—both good and bad. Pixelated photos, unformed or poorly thought-out articles that my editor let slide, early attempts at blogging—it all exists somewhere, out there for anyone to see or read.

Despite the inevitable embarrassment of said online artifacts, Sciortino makes a really valid point. Web mishaps may haunt you like a really bad break up, but if you’re an unconventional thinker like Sciortino or myself, who is unafraid to speak candidly in such a public forum, you would never consider a job or a relationship that would ever force a fundamentally change. She adds that our notion of self and our identity is fleeting and as a result always changing, but if you’re non-traditionalist or nonconformist by nature, this stigmatization about a racy blog or some kind of past subversion shouldn’t even phase you. From an early age I made a conscious decision to play by own rules. It’s pretty obvious Sciortino made a similar personal pact—have you ever seen her blog?—so I guess the bottom line is that once you put yourself out there, these feelings of exposure should just roll off your back right?

Well, unlike Sciortino I am not an exhibitionist reveling in the shock-factor that comes hand-in-hand with explicit talk. I want to help, heal, and explore. I am not doing this out of narcissism. I am not writing this blog to further my career. I am putting myself out there, yes, but my aim is true, my intentions are good, and I am the furthest thing from a fame whore.

I guess that means I am going to try my best to write truthfully, regardless of the looming threat of further exposure or possible scrutiny.

But at this point isn’t it already too late?

Stay tuned ….

Mother F*cker: Grappling with Baby-Making

david-bowie-angela-bowie-baby

 

 

 

 

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

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

(((Shudder)))

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Marriage?

 

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

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

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

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

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

Birth of Venus: The Story Behind Venus in Heels

 

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

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

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

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

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

Emotional Eating: Is Food the New Sex?

Crystal Renn photographed by Terry Richardson for Vogue Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Crystal Renn, photographed by Terry Richardson for Vogue Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Crystal Renn, photographed by Terry Richardson for Vogue Paris.

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

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

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