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(This article originally appeared on the Thistle and Spire blog, February 7, 2023. Photos by JMA photography.)

Madeline Gregg is currently known for her work as a certified sex educator and owner of the Vampire Shot Glass, an inclusive menstrual cup line marketed to all bodies that menstruate. She breezily talks sex, intimacy and anatomy—and has the education, statistics and proper terminology to back up her thoughts on these issues. Madeline knows her stuff and wants to share it with anyone who is interested in learning more.

This current path was not one she had mapped out, though. In college, Madeline majored in American Sign Language (ASL) and taught young children how to read. Then she had kids of her own, started blogging, and sought out creative ways to generate income outside of motherhood.

In 2020, when the pandemic hit, Madeline pivoted and explored other ways to use her skills as a teacher and longtime interest in taboo subjects to generate an income and help other people. In the span of roughly two years, she established a presence on TikTok, started a podcast, earned a sex educator certification, and launched a menstrual cup line called The Vampire Shot Glass.

One thing that hasn’t changed during the recent years of seismic shifts, though, is her focus on education and inclusion. Those two components have remained consistent throughout Madeline’s personal and work life, echoed throughout her interviews and websites The Nude Attitude and The Vampire Shot Glass.

She recently sat down with us to share her story and some of the juicy bits of knowledge she has picked up along the way, including terms like “the orgasm gap” and a Catholic school class she took called “Integrity Matters.”

How did this current sex-centered career path come about?

I’ve always had an interest in sex. It’s fun! I was one of those friends who would bring it up at inappropriate times, like at brunch, when people weren’t necessarily talking about those things. Those taboo subjects always just fascinated and fueled me. Also, statistics on sex are really interesting. This career landed in my lap, and I just formed what I was going to do with it. I think it was something I was always destined to do.

This seems to have come together primarily during the pandemic. What role did that play in your life?

I think during the pandemic a lot of people were interested in their sexuality. The number of people I’ve heard about coming out during that time is insane. Friends of mine were either having tons of sex or none, and it was making or breaking relationships. I got into TikTok at the end of 2020, when it was already popular, and referred to a menstrual cup as a “vampire shot glass.” People flipped and loved it, so I branded it. I also became a certified sex educator during this process, all in about two years or so.                                                                                                                                                              

Can you explain more about your role as a sex educator?

I am a certified sex educator under the American College of Sexologists International. I’m not a sex therapist—that is a whole degree above me, but we but we do overlap somewhat. I give clients some tools, help them work through issues, maybe give them some homework, but what they do with that information is ultimately up to them. I have a lot of “baby gays” come to me for help as well as couples who want to rekindle their relationships and sex lives.

The certification gives me some authority on the subject, but even more important is the ongoing education that I hold myself to and share with clients. A lot of educators stop learning when their degree stops, but I love reading studies for fun. It’s fascinating! The continued education is more important to me than the title. I’m a born educator, whether it’s teaching children or adults, and I love being the know-it-all in the room. All of a sudden, I had a platform of people listening—and I knew it all and wanted to share everything I knew with others.

What can you tell us about The Vampire Shot Glass and menstrual cups in general for people who may not be familiar with them?

A menstrual cup is a medical-grade silicone shot-glass-looking item that you fold and put up your vagina. You can leave it in for about 6 to 12 hours, depending on your flow. They’re made to fit your body, and not your flow, so they’re not like tampons in that way. Most menstrual cups are pretty much the same in terms of shape and function. The Vampire Shot Glass differs mostly in its marketing. It’s not frilly or predominantly feminine. We acknowledge that nonbinary and gender-fluid people have periods too.

As far as I know, there aren’t a lot of sex educators who own a menstrual cup brand. Highlighting education is something I strive for with Vampire Shot Glass. I also try to make it as gender inclusive as possible. A trans person is front and center with the marketing, which throws a lot of people off, but for the people who need to see it, they really appreciate it. Hopefully that takes away from the gender dysphoria that can happen. So much marketing around menstruation is pink and frilly, like a tampon commercial that tells us we can do anything while menstruating. No, that’s not true. Lay the fuck down if you need to. It’s fine if you want to relax and have chocolate while you’re menstruating.

What can you tell us about a provocative term called “the orgasm gap”?

This is one of my favorite topics, and I am so nerdy when it comes to the orgasm gap and vibrators! I love breaking down the differences and all of the statistics. There are constant studies coming out about it from places like The Kinsey Institute, and one of the first ones came out in 1994. There seems to be a disconnect or miscommunication between people who have vaginas and people with penises, and their level of pleasure. There is so much shame about asking for what we need and acknowledging that what we’re getting may not be enough. 

In a 1994 study, there were significant differences between the number of heterosexual married men having orgasms during intercourse (75%) and heterosexual married women having orgasms during intercourse (28%). Meanwhile, women in short-term relationships were orgasming 43% of the time. Once these women were in relationships with their husbands, their orgasms dropped drastically. What is causing this discrepancy? Is it lack of communication, lack of spontaneity, lack of foreplay?

Most people don’t realize that foreplay should be lasting a lot longer than intercourse and penetration itself. A lot of people confuse ‘foreplay’ with ‘coreplay.’ Foreplay involves anything that does not include your genetalia. Things like vibrators, oral and finger blasting—anything that will make you orgasm—are coreplay, not foreplay.

There are studies to back up this phenomenon that AFAB (assigned female at birth) people need 20 to 40 minutes to warm up their bodies before they’re able to have an orgasm. There’s nothing wrong with you if it takes that long—it’s scientifically proven. If you have science behind you, it can take away so much shame and we realize that people are just different from each other, not dysfunctional or bad. I would love to talk to more millennials about how the orgasm gap is changing with their generation. So many of them are coming out at bisexual or something under the LGBTQ spectrum, which leads me to my next study.

This one was heterosexual versus bisexual versus gay couples, and the results were that 95% of hetero men orgasm every time during intercourse, 80% of bi men do, and 79% of gay men do. For the women, 65% of hetero women orgasm every time during sex versus 69% of bi women and 80% of gay women. I think a lot of it has to do with vibrators because 81% of women cannot orgasm from penetration alone—they need some clitoral stimulation as well. The clitoris is a small, small version of the penis, so why aren’t we touching it during hetero sex?

I find this information all so relevant and interesting, like I’m wearing a tinfoil hat and yelling, “It’s all related!” But these things actually are all connected and they all go back to the topics and numbers I discuss on all of my platforms and with my clients. I feel lucky that something that fascinates me this much truly fascinates a lot of other people as well.

What is next for you?

My podcast is going to be starting back up, but it’s going to be a little different. I’m starting a [new] podcast with one of my partners—I’m polyamorous—and we’ll be talking about polyamory and sex in general. It’ll be nice to have somebody else to bounce these ideas off of with me. My current [The Nude Attitude] website is actually going to be turning into a vibrator review. I get sent so many [toys] and don’t know what to do with them. People need to understand their anatomy before committing to a sex toy because some may not be a good fit, based on their size and dimensions. I think putting some of that technical information up on a website could be very valuable for people.

You can learn more about Madeline and her work:

The Vampire Shot Glass

The Nude Attitude


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Girls on Porn: Making the World and Safer and More Interesting Place to Talk About Sex

(Originally published on the Thistle and Spire website December 5, 2022.)

It comes as no surprise that online pornography is massively popular, second maybe only to cat videos, but it still isn’t a widely discussed topic. Longtime friends Laura Ramadei and Rachel Napolean have been slowly changing that trend with their podcast Girls on Porn, which, not surprisingly, covers all things porn. 

Since 2019, this sex-positive duo has tackled an array of formerly taboo themes—sex toys, BDSM, orgies, and some terms that may be less familiar—on their weekly show. They discuss their own sex experiences and porn preferences (some good, some bad, some ugly) alongside issues around ethical porn, safer sex work, and representation. 

Combining their respective experiences in (non-porn) producing and acting, shared curiosity and openness around titillating topics, and mutual interest in high-quality porn, Laura and Rachel have started a cultural discussion that far surpasses their expectations.

With their trademark candor and humor, Laura and Rachel answered some of our burning questions and offered a peek into their dirty minds.

For our readers who may not be familiar with Girls on Porn, could you provide a quick and dirty origin story of how your partnership and podcast came about? 

Laura: Love a quick and dirty. Basically, Rach and I bonded over porn and all things sex, and it deepened our friendship. And it was a rarity to find another woman who openly and freely watched and talked about porn with some facility and genuine enthusiasm. Rach happened to have a room open up in her apartment, and I took it. Just before I moved in I chuckled about how much we’d be talking about porn. And in that moment had the very clear revelation that….Oh, that’s a podcast. 

Rachel:  I think I gained Laura’s respect when I loudly shared I had pegged someone the previous weekend. One can always sniff out the fellow horn dog in the room! She’s being modest, but Laura is an incredible producer, so when she brought the idea up I was essentially like, “Ok, so when do we buy microphones?” 

In addition to discussing porn in a funny and entertaining way, you also address larger and more serious topics in your podcast. Did you set out to tackle these macro issues, or did it come about more gradually over time?

Laura: We initially set out to make a pretty light-hearted podcast, though we did have the aim of finding just better, more ethically made porn than some of what we were privately watching at the time. I was tired of watching porn that made me question whether the performers were okay. We knew that in seeking out and reviewing material on an ongoing basis that we’d naturally find better, more trustworthy content. But at the time it was almost just exciting for our own purposes of guilt-free masturbation. I don’t think we necessarily anticipated how political some elements of the pod would eventually become, or the fact that we’d basically evolve into sex work advocates.  

Rachel: I think you can’t have one without the other, especially since we ourselves are not sex workers. We realized pretty quickly that if we just joked about porn for every episode we would be skirting a lot of issues within the adult entertainment industry, which wouldn’t represent us as ethical consumers. And there are already so many misconceptions associated with porn and sex work, so we definitely felt a responsibility to help educate and advocate. 

We see Girls on Porn included in Marie Claire’s list of 35 Best Sex Podcasts of All Time. Did you anticipate resonating with such a widespread audience when you started your show?

Laura: I definitely didn’t anticipate that the Marie Claires of the world would have any interest in what we were doing. In hindsight, it’s not a surprise, though, because ultimately most of the population is just dying to let go of sexual shame and to embrace a healthy, adventurous sex life. Hopefully we can help with that. 

Rachel: It’s so affirming! I think when we started out we were like, “Maybe our friends will listen? Surely our friends.” But having it resonate with so many people all over the world has been such a surprise and joy, and is honestly the reason we keep going. Other then, you know, the fun of just hanging out talking to friends about porn. 

What do you think it is about Girls on Porn that clicks with so many people?

Laura: I think we hit a sweet spot between being playful and informative, accessible yet meaningful, sexy and silly. I also think listening to a podcast about porn is just a fun secret to take with you on the subway or on your drive to work. 

Rachel: It’s sort of like being the friend at the middle school sleepover that’s like, “Do you guys know what a boner is?” It’s fun, entertaining, and stigma-free. It’s a safe space to learn about all the things you were too scared to Google or bring up with your friends. There are still so many people who don’t feel comfortable discussing any topic related to sex. And I think our podcast is just one of the many outlets that are hopefully changing that. 

We loved your episode on lingerie (6/15/22) and appreciate the Thistle and Spire shoutout! Why is T&S your favorite lingerie company, and what was your photo shoot experience like?

Laura: I was first introduced to Thistle and Spire through a digital series I worked on called Unicornland. Thistle and Spire sponsored the series and provided several hawt lewks for the shoot, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt cooler than when I was wearing sponsored lingerie for my sex scenes. Soon after that shoot, I was invited to be part of a shoot dedicated to empowerment, that was part underwear party, part feminist cocktail hour. It’s great lingerie, and I love that the brand is increasingly inclusive in the designs and in the marketing. Plus, I look hot in it. So, not mad at that. 

Rachel: Well first of all, women supporting women! I love that it’s New York-based and founded by women, and as a female New Yorker that is extremely important to me. Just like how I care about where I give my money to in the porn space, I care about where I shop! And yes, I’ve never felt sexier than in Thistle and Spire lingerie. The designs are dark, sexy, romantic. A bodysuit with marijuana leaves? Genius. Also, I feel expensive in it. And dangerous. Best combo. 

Do you have anything fun on the horizon?
We have the porn performer Ty Mitchell on an episode on December 8, 2022. Also, our two hundredth
episode will air on January 4, 2023. We’re hoping to put something special together for that, but don’t want
to over promise anything!

We’ll definitely check those out. Where can our audience find Girls on Porn?
Listeners can find GoP anywhere where they normally get podcasts: Spotify, Apple, Overcast, Stitcher, etc. If
anyone is interested in supporting the show directly, folks can go to our Patreon page.

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Empowered Pleasure: Better Sex with CBD and Herbal Healing

(This article was originally published here on the Thistle and Spire website on April 14, 2022.)

With 4/20 just around the corner, we thought this would be the perfect time to introduce you to Ashley Jelks, the owner of our favorite CBD-focused company The High Priestess Herbal Wellness.

Ashley wants to help you make the most of your sex life—and every other part of your life—with her CBD-based products, which include a mélange of other natural herbs and elixirs.

Don’t worry, CBD (cannabidiol) isn’t mind altering, so there’s no uncomfortable gray area around consent. Rather it’s a nonintoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis (marijuana) and is derived directly from the hemp plant.

Ashley believes so much in the healing properties of this plant that she has created an entire business around it. The High Priestess is the first (and, so far, only) Black-woman-herbalist-owned CBD apothecary of its kind, tapping into a niche market with widespread appeal.

A trained herbalist and engineer, Ashley has developed targeted lines of proprietary smoke blends, tinctures, teas and lubricating oils that address different issues, specifically:


Sleep issues

Menstrual tension

Sensual and sexual arousal and awakening

While all of those things are integral to a happy, healthy life, we’re the most titillated by the intimacy products containing CBD and other herbal boosts that help increase levels of openness, comfort and sexual satisfaction.

Ashley’s diverse background and training in engineering, herbalism, yoga, reiki and teaching created fertile ground for her current entrepreneurial wellness venture. Also, as someone who struggled with her own physical and mental health issues—autoimmune conditions and anxiety—she found that plants and herbal medicine helped her manage, and sometimes improve, these conditions.

She shared her story with us about a lifelong interest in natural medicine and the journey of self-healing and community creation that led her to create her own CBD business.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

When did you launch The High Priestess Herbal Wellness?

We opened last year, in March 2021, and just celebrated our first anniversary. It was definitely a pandemic project, but was one of those things I had wanted to do for a while. Before the pandemic, I didn’t have the time to carve out the time or a business plan required to start a company. That was the pandemic’s gift to me—the opportunity to sit down and do what needed to be done to make this happen.

Great name. How did you come up with it?

It came to me one night when I was consuming cannabis and reading tarot cards, and I was struggling with names for my new company. I drew the High Priestess tarot card and examined it. Its meaning is about bridging the seen and unseen, the physical and spiritual worlds.

I use cannabis as a tool to tap into my intuition, which is exactly what that card and what this plant are both about. It’s also a fun play on words—high, 4/20, all the good stuff that we associate with cannabis. Right now, we only work with CBD, but at some point, I plan to branch more into THC (the psychoactive part of the cannabis plant) products, so the name will really resonate with those.

You know this is on everyone’s mind—how can your products help improve our sex lives?

Sexual arousal a biological process, but so much is happening in our minds too. Our thoughts and mental processes can enhance or detract from the overall sexual experience. [Referencing the book The CBD Solution] Some women who struggle achieving orgasm find that consuming cannabis before sex can help with that issue.

Our bodies have an endocannabinoid system, which is designed to receive the medicine and benefits in the cannabis plant and our bodies react to it. When combined with other herbs that do particular things, the results can be powerful and targeted to specific needs, both mental and physical.

I wanted to focus on intersecting herbal medicines that have certain effects, and originally, I was going to focus exclusively on a sexual wellness line. This is specifically how I wanted to set myself apart from other CBD companies and not add to an already saturated market. I don’t see many other companies doing this, especially combining herbs for sexual pleasure with topically applied sexual wellness oils.

What was your motivation to create a company like this?

I’m trained in yoga and reiki, and was turned off by the wellness experience because I realized it was super white, thin, cis-gendered and able-bodied. I’m not like a lot of the community of people I practiced with, so I wondered why the representations of this community were so monolithic.

I intersected so many different elements of myself. There’s the engineering part of my brain that likes solving problems and working on different things. There’s the herbalist in me that loves plant medicine, the part of me that uses cannabis in my own healing journey, and the practitioner in me that doesn’t feel like the images representing wellness are accurate and inclusive. I put all of these pieces of myself together and The High Priestess was the meeting point and organic outgrowth of those various things.

Did you have a specific goal or vision in mind when mapping out your business plan?

I want to change the world with plants, and my products can do that in small ways, one step at a time. I’m a woman with anxiety who made a company to help other people who may also struggle with anxiety.

I was trying to fit into a world that didn’t have room for me, and so I just made room for myself and extended that to others. I’ve always felt like I’m a bit of an outsider and I wanted to create community and space for all people to feel welcomed and included. I love that we’re moving in that direction as a society. I often forget to talk about this because it’s interwoven into my entire life experience and at the forefront of what I’m thinking.

Wellness can be a lot of different things. Human beings are dealing with so many different issues, and we all have a lot more in common than we don’t. Where and how can we help people feel more seen and included? That piece is so important to me, and not because it’s a hot buzzword, but because it’s my life.

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