If you missed out on celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, no worries—you still have the entire month of March to make amends. Last week, we paid tribute to a group of “bad girls” who shaped the way we talk about and experience sex. Many of their achievements paved the way for a new generation of femme pioneers. As the saying goes, “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” and these women will be inspiring the next generation to feats of badassery.
This rose has thorns. As Amber Rose rose to fame, she became a reluctant role model for sluts. This South Philly native went from supporting her family by stripping at the age of 15 to becoming an entrepreneur, model, author, and actress. If anyone knows what the burden of slut-shaming is like, it’s this gorgeous powerhouse.
This irony is not lost on Rose, however. In fact, it is the impetus for the phenomenon of SlutWalks—protests against slut-shaming, sexual double standards, and victim blaming which began in 2011 in Toronto. Instead of hiding from the intense media and public ridicule, Amber climbed above it all with a self-help memoir, How to Be a Bad Bitch, and her hilarious video, Walk of No Shame.
In her career as a journalist, Janet Mock has hosted shows for MSNBC, written a best-selling memoir, founded the #GirlsLikeUs social media movement, and is one of the most influential trans women in the country. Her accomplishments and advocacy have made her a role model for other trans people everywhere. Mock is proud to be a much-needed mirror for young girls, whom look up to her example. There’s an irony in her successes—while Mock certainly struggled to live in her truth and find support when she was younger, it’s those personal experiences that were the catalyst for Mock helping future generations of young men and women within the growing trans community.
The Little Tramp
If you’re a fan of comedy, then you’ve probably heard of Amy Schumer. She’s one of the most famous comedians working today, creating not only popular standup specials like Mostly Sex Stuff and an award-winning TV show Inside Amy Schumer. She also released a hit film, Trainwreck.
One of Amy Schumer’s many comedic gifts is the way she has turned oversharing into her trademark art form. Her credo of embracing life’s awkward, messy, and dark places is central to her comedy, and she has nothing to hide. “It’s work having a vagina. Guys don’t think that it’s work but it is. You think it shows up like that to the event? It doesn’t. Every night it is like getting it ready for its first Quinceanera, believe me.”
Adult filmmaker Erika Lust can recall exactly how she felt the first time she watched porn. She was conflicted, to say the least. “Part of me was horny, and the other side thought, What the hell is this sexist bullshit?” These feelings led Lust to create her own porn—the kind she would like to watch. Her goal was to create something which illustrated all the intimacy, beauty, and joy of sex, but not at the expense of female performers. Lust explains, “With most mainstream porn it can be hard to tell if the people in the film truly enjoy themselves—particularly women.” Lust makes certain that each of her performers are offered equal pay for equal pleasure.
Eighteen thousand people—teen trendies, twin-set professionals, peacenik grandmas, dads, sons, lovers, kids and teary feminists—were all suddenly screaming one word, “Vagina!” All thanks to Eve Ensler. Best known for her groundbreaking play The Vagina Monologues, and as a founder of V-Day—a movement to call attention to violence against women—Eve Ensler does not pull any punches when it comes to the vagina. That cultish 1996 off-Broadway show ultimately morphed into a nonprofit charity that has so far raised more than $35 million for programs designed to end violence against women. Plus, Worth magazine named V-Day one of the 100 best charities.
The Shameless One
Karley Sciortino is an uninhibited writer whose blog, Slutever, tackles modern sexuality with humor and frankness. She began her career while living in London when she started a blog about her nocturnal exploits, as well as those of her young and transient roommates. The stories quickly evolved from anecdotes about hanging out to a chronicle of sexual experimentation. The blog caught the eye of Vice, which commissioned her to create a sex-centric web series on topics like orgasms and polyamory. Not letting a good thing go to waste, Vogue.com picked her up for a twice-a-month dating and relationships column called “Breathless.”
In her stage show, Green Porno, prolific screen actor Isabella Rossellini not only brings offbeat humor to zoological hardcore, she also makes it educational and, somehow, safe for kids. A high school drop out, Rossellini decided to return to school and pursue a degree in biology and animal science. Seeing the instant popularity of YouTube in the late 1990s as a proof-of-concept for experimental shorts, Sundance offered small budgets to bring their ideas to the screen. Rossellini, who had been mulling over how to turn her interest in animal behavior into a performance, saw the opportunity. The result is delightful mischief. In the videos, Rossellini physically demonstrates the mating habits of scores of creatures, mounting or being mounted by paper puppets. Narrated in a breathy voice on an intimate sound stage, it’s funny, creative, and weirdly romantic.
The Cultural Icon
When Lady Gaga first emerged on the music scene there was a lot of talk about how one couldn’t get a real read on her sexuality. To some, she appeared somewhat queer or asexual. But there is something complex about this performer. She embraces, yet fights, the cultural standards of femininity. Although she relies on sexual themes as a performer, Gaga rejects conventional sex appeal and encompasses all gendered dynamics. Her hit song “Born This Way” is an anthem for those who simply wish not to be identified by their looks or gender. Here is what Lady Gaga had to say about using her sexuality in her work: “Sexuality is half poison and half liberation. What’s the line? I don’t have a line.”
If you’re not already aware, Fifty Shades of Grey was a huge erotic breakout novel during the digital download revolution. Although panned heavily by critics, it was the author E.L. James who brought BDSM into mainstream consciousness. Considered “mommy porn” at first, the Fifty Shades franchise has gone on to make millions upon millions of dollars in merchandising and movie deals. The author of the hit series attributes her astounding success to two factors—following her dreams and seizing all opportunities.
The Cover Girl
Being hailed as a role model brings with it huge responsibility. But for rising start Ashley Graham, it looks like she’s taking it all in stride. Graham is, of course, one of the most influential and prominent women celebrating killer curves. Her relaxed approach to accepting the body, whether big or small, is making women all over the world feel proud about their own body types. Her positive attitude and infectious personality has helped secure not only multiple modeling contracts, but the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition. This stunning woman truly proves that sexy really does comes in all shapes and sizes.