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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:

Anxiety

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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