Our Bodies, Our Stories
New sex and relationship book empowers everybody
By Eva Avenue
Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf—seven chapters of candidly self-aware comics and writings—explores the multifarious world of the human sexual experience. Topics include experimentation, faking orgasms, cross-dressing, learning how to casually talk about sex with friends, abusive relationships, finding liberation through positive influences, first times, last times, health, age, identity, body image, substance abuse, masturbation and strange desires. While some traditional sex-ed books can seem patronizing toward adolescents, Not Your Mother's Meatloaf consists of real people telling their own stories.
Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf began as a biannual, 40-page self-publication filled with comics penned by multiple contributors. The new book interweaves the best of those comics with Miller and Bley’s descriptions of their own experiences.
Because sexuality can be emotional and complicated, sex education needs to be more celebratory, Miller muses from an iron chair on an outside café patio in New Orleans. “There need to be tools and resources to spark discussion and kind of diversify the information that is typically given in a sex education classroom,” she says.
When it comes to healthy communication, the authors are models of openness and honesty. Bley writes about her STI-related surgery and the courage it takes to get tested and tell others about it, while Miller confronts her past uncontrollable fits of crying by learning to cope through ever-elusive-but-inevitable understanding and growth.
All the writing is delightfully candid and self-aware. One comic addresses a guy's insecurity over having a thin penis, while another portrays a guy’s newfound ability to masturbate by dressing in his sister and mom’s lingerie after school. One girl illustrates the downward spiral of a love-turned-abusive relationship. After a while, you'll wonder what you might’ve contributed had they asked you.
One of the more surprising comic submissions comes in the form of one man’s account of working in a geriatric ward while politely and professionally dealing with the libidinous innuendos and impaired impulse control of the patients he helps bathe.
Miller and Bley used to print copies of the Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf zine on Eugene Lang College’s copiers using free printing credit from the accounts of other students who weren’t using the service.
“We kind of stole money but not really: We could get 100 free dollars of printing credit, people didn’t use it all, so we’d take people’s user IDs and passwords and use their accounts and clog the printers, and people hated us,” Bley says.
Miller, a charismatic go-getter with long orange hair and an easy laugh, says she wishes she’d had a book like this, one that went beyond the mechanical aspects of sex to help her navigate her experiences of growing up. While her mom was open to talking to her about sex, relationship health wasn’t even thought of as an issue to bring up.
“What I was lacking was sort of an idea [of] what relationships or what encounters should feel like emotionally or what was healthy or what wasn’t in that regard,” she says. “I think myself and a lot of young people get involved in really complicated and heavy scenarios for which there’s not really a blueprint for them, and there’s not really too many outlets to talk about these things.”
Bley says this book shows how important relationship health is in conjunction with sexual health.
“Identifying our relationships and finding our own ways to be in relationships is just pivotal, and we have to start talking about relationship health in all sexual health classes,” she says. “It affects the lives of young people into adulthood. If we’re not in a healthy relationship, it can affect our sexual health, our whole lives. Relationships take training and are a lot of work and we have to learn how to do it.”
NYMM will be available at ABQ Zine Fest on Oct. 5. Check the book’s website, notyourmothersmeatloafbook.com, for scheduled readings around Albuquerque. Bley is also working with Self Serve Sexuality Resource Center to put together an event for the book.
Working on NYMM has given Bley a sensation uncharted by many: pride in her own sexual history.
“Publishing this zine forces you to feel confident about the value in your own personal sexual experiences,” she says. “It’s really hard to talk about that stuff in general and hard to validate your experiences as important and worthwhile for sharing. If we tell everyone their experiences are all valid, you have to believe that for yourself. Do people really want to know about my masturbation story?”
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