You have all heard the classic female tale. Whether bleeding through your khaki uniform pants and your mom telling you, “You’re a woman now,” losing your virginity in the back of an old pick-up truck at summer camp, or becoming a mother after a seamless pregnancy and having your perfectly round-headed and healthy baby placed on your ready-to-breastfeed chest, you know these movie quality stories to be wildly uncommon. You instead, as resilient you are, guide yourself through the untold truth of femininity.

You throw away 100 tampons before knowing how to use one. You lose your virginity on a messy, confusing, and imperfect night and you experience birth in a deeply personal and courageous way that likely completely deviated from your best-laid birth plan. Yet, you, as a powerful and resourceful force of nature, figure it out. You talk to your friends, converse with the Google Search Bar, and overcome the unknown. 

Welcome to Self-Taught, Blood + Milk’s newest column where we discuss how women teach themselves about their bodies—because we’ve all been failed by school courses, perplexed by movie scenes, and embarrassed by conversations with parents and peers.

For far too long, flawed systems and unrealistic media have depicted the female body—the female experience—as too skinny, too fat, too messy or neat, disgusting or pristine, but rarely the truth that lies between every extreme. In Self-Taught, we’ll share stories of how women uncovered flaws in systems, products, and lore, and taught themselves that there is a better way—and they deserve better. 

Morgan McGlothan took learning about her body and sexuality to new heights by using her new modeling career as sexual empowerment. As a model for Girlfriend Collective, Big Bud Press, and Intentionally Blank, Morgan graces the camera with her fearless presence, encouraging all women to love the bodies they have.

How old were you when you first had sex? Did you feel prepared?

I was actually a “late bloomer” as people like to say. I didn’t have sex for the first time until I was 19, I think. The person I first had sex with was a male so it was heterosexual sex and he didn’t realize that he was asexual. I knew I wasn’t emotionally prepared for sex for a long time. When I was younger, I didn’t want to do it. I always felt uncomfortable in my body. When it did happen, I felt I was ready because I had done a lot of research and gotten in touch with my body, but there was this element of being there while someone is discovering that they don’t want to be having sex that made it really awkward and threw me for a loop. We hooked up once and kinda started dating and then a few days later he texted me that he was asexual. This was the first person I thought I would date but it kinda fell apart.

I remember going to therapy a couple of months later for other reasons and brushed over it. My therapist asked, “How was that for you?” All I said was, “It was OK.” I feel like I had such a weird response to it for such an emotionally charged situation. It is weird to relive that now. It really did affect how I interacted with men.

Had you ever had a sex talk? What did it look like?

I am very lucky because my mom was really transparent with me. I think that made it easier for me to figure out my own body. I think there were some things that were uncomfortable because, of course, talking to your parents about sex is weird. There were definitely some things I didn’t tell her about, but I was with her when I bought my first sex toy. That is an unusual thing and super embarrassing at that time. I asked her to go with me. 

I have had a really weird dating life. Before I dated anyone in person, I had an early 2000s internet relationship. It was actually really traumatic and it was super emotionally abusive so there were all these things that were not good. My mom didn’t know the whole story of this person and we were engaging in sexual things without being with each other. He had asked me to get a vibrator. My mom knew I was talking to this person and thought they were fake. It turned into a big chaotic thing but at the time she didn’t think anything of it. He asked and I embarrassingly told my mom that he wanted me to get a vibrator and she said OK. We didn’t go to a sex shop. We went to get a super generic toy at, like, CVS. I remember being so embarrassed at the checkout line, but I used it. It didn’t work very well because it was a poorly made CVS vibrator. She didn’t make anything of it or say it was awkward. I was 14 and I hated the toy so much. 

I remember saying to myself that I am not a porn star and no one is going to want to be with me because I can’t do those things. I think porn is totally fine. It’s a tool, but it’s not education. 

Even before that moment, I remember being really young and my mom sitting me down and telling me I was going to feel things for people. 

“There are a lot of men who are going to try and pressure you. It’s going to feel good and you might want to do it,” she said. She never told me not to have sex. It was very much teaching me to know what emotions are and being able to rationalize things. That has always stuck with me. There have been moments where I didn’t know if I liked a person but I know I liked kissing them. She was always very open. She wasn’t “The Sex Mom,” but when the time came, I could always talk to her. I was really shy with men so I don’t think I ever put her in a position where she had to be hard on me. 

What do you wish you could change about the sex education you were given?

There has been a lot of talk within my friend group recently about how people view porn as sex education. I got really lucky because my high school had a very decent sex education class and my mom was very open. But no one ever told me porn wasn’t real. No one ever taught me that I could explore my own body. I wish I had maybe gotten a jump start on that. I remember saying to myself that I am not a porn star and no one is going to want to be with me because I can’t do those things. I think porn is totally fine. It’s a tool, but it’s not education. 

I also wish people talked about masturbation. No one talks about it. I remember masturbating and being embarrassed for like a year. It took a lot for me to explore masturbation. I had to learn to accept that I was masturbating to learn about myself, not to just feel feelings that need to be released. I am still learning. I still get really embarrassed about it and in my own head. It’s not weird. It’s very normal, but it takes time. 

You have been a model for a little over a year. You are obviously so beautiful inside and out. What inspired you to be a model? 

I think I have always been very into being photographed. It’s the Aries in me; I love being the center of attention. When I was in college I remember I finally wanted to connect with my body in new ways. I started finding clothing brands, like ASOS, that didn’t make me feel bad about myself. I started buying a lot of clothes and posting outfits of the day. One of my friends is Sara Cath who is the photographer for Big Bud, but also my good friend from high school, and I got on her radar.

I used to watch America’s Next Top Model with my mom and my grandma. I used to wish I could be that but always thought I wasn’t like those people. I was doing my own exploration with posting things but I didn’t view myself as a model. I always wanted it. I like posing and being photographed. In the back of my mind, I thought it would never happen but could be cool. When the opportunity came up, because I was exploring it in my own way, I ran with it. It was really fun. 

Has modeling helped you become more comfortable in your body and sexuality?

Totally. I am also a filmmaker. Back when I was making a lot of work in college, it was always focused on putting myself in uncomfortable positions and making that art. I would be crying and use those emotions to make a movie. I would expose myself in really uncomfortable moments. I think there is something that is really similar to modeling. I catch myself on shoots all the time feeling really bad about myself. I feel self-conscious about my body. I have to remind myself all the time that I am there for a reason and these people aren’t looking at my body the way I am looking at my body. It is a really consistent and nice challenge to have to see myself as beautiful, even though I feel really different about myself at that moment. If I do something that feels weird and my stomach is sticking out weirdly, the photographer will tell me it looks great. That is confusing. It is nice to be reminded that my brain is not understanding reality in those moments.

I want to feel like my body is a playground and I can use it to do things. I can use it to make things. 

Modeling is so much about the body. It got me back into exercising. It got me back into wanting to feel good in my body so I can pose better and bigger. I posed for Girlfriend Collective and I remember wanting to be as flexible as I could be on that shoot. I want to feel like my body is a playground and I can use it to do things. I can use it to make things. 

It is so good to tell myself I don’t feel good about my body and then put myself in an awkward situation where I have to address and overcome that. It is something I have to work through so I can show myself it isn’t what I think it is. 

You’ve modeled for Girlfriend Collective, Big Bud Press, and Intentionally Blank modeling workout wear, lingerie, and beautiful clothes. Do you think facing your insecurities in photo shoots helps you to feel more empowered during sex?

I have a partner, a boyfriend. I think it has been a really nice combination of having someone in my life that is affirming my body and me doing that work myself. We are both chubby people and it is nice to be with someone whose body looks like yours. Even before I was with him and I was modeling, I do think being comfortable in your body and having to face your body makes you feel hot. It used to be very rare that I felt like I was hot, and I wanted to flaunt myself and feel pleasure in hook up situations. I used to never hook up on the first date because I was so uncomfortable with my body. Dating someone you know can be crazy and you just want to feel safe, but I would also make sure I felt secure in myself before I would hook up with them.

The first time I hooked up with someone on the first date I knew I had reached a new frontier with body confidence. The more things I do with my body on set, the more it feels like I can push myself in other ways. I can have fun while I have sex in new ways. 

I always had weird anxiety being on top, but the more I model and exercise and connect with my body—without my weight even fluctuating—I reaffirm my body and don’t feel weird or uncomfortable. And I have bad knees, which is what makes me more anxious. I used to feel uncomfortable about that. My bad knees don’t have to be the end of me being on top! I can find a new pillow or try a new position. I tell myself that one day I will solve that problem and it will be great. 

Do you think the way you have sex fits society’s “standards,” i.e. what we see and hear in movies, music, pop culture, etc.?

I don’t know, honestly. More recently, it doesn’t, because my partner and I have been exploring sex without penetration. I don’t really find pleasure through penetration. I have always had sex with men and sex is them putting their penis inside of me and being done. This is my first boyfriend. This is the first person I have been with in a sexual sense for longer than a few weeks, so there is a lot more exploration there. Penetration hasn’t really been working for us. It doesn’t make me feel that good. It’s a weird thing for him sometimes. Then we just asked ourselves what new ways we could explore. We wanted to broaden what sex was in our relationship. We had to ask, “How can we find new ways of doing things?” 

I don’t think I am having sex much differently than anyone else, I just don’t think anyone is talking about how they have sex.

I have been trying to force penetration onto myself for my whole time as a sexual woman. Even though I knew  I didn’t want that, I was always put into situations where penetration was expected. I hadn’t had an orgasm until this relationship and until we tried new things. We are broadening the idea of what sex can be. 

I think sex is this thing where people think it should be a certain way, but in their own personal relationships, no one knows what is going on. It is always a question mark. What is the underbelly of what society feels about sex? The reality is, when you talk to someone about their sex life, it usually doesn’t align with yours. I was such a movie romantic, envisioning a world where no one talks during sex and everyone needs an awkward kiss on prom night. The reality is, sometimes my knees hurt during sex and I need to say it. I was just telling someone how no one talks about how sometimes your body can hurt during sex. No one also talks about how sex doesn’t have to be perfect or awful. Sometimes it falls somewhere in the middle and some things suck and some things are awesome. It varies. I don’t think I am having sex much differently than anyone else, I just don’t think anyone is talking about how they have sex. 

What is one thing you wish your younger self knew about sex? 

Speak up. Explore yourself and know what you like. If something isn’t working or doesn’t feel good, communicate and don’t feel embarrassed about it. I spent a lot of my life having really bad sex because I was so uncomfortable speaking up. I used to go into situations and would do whatever my partner wanted. I wouldn’t know if I did or didn’t like it because I wouldn’t say anything, and then I would leave the situation feeling bad. I would feel disappointed that I didn’t say anything. I learned a lot through that because eventually, you get tired of not enjoying yourself.

I also wish I had told myself that sex isn’t love, and it doesn’t have to be.

I also wish I had told myself that sex isn’t love, and it doesn’t have to be. A lot of times I was looking for love and affection through sex. I think I was looking for validation. I was single and hadn’t kissed anyone until I was 19 and didn’t have sex until I was 20. I spent a lot of those formative years being single and no one wanted to date me. I would ask people out and they wouldn’t be interested. It doesn’t mean that it’s you; some people just aren’t emotionally available. That will take a toll when you feel like something is wrong with you. I let my standards drop very low. I got tired of being single and I wanted time to explore. I would accept too many things from people. I had a lot of traumatic situations because I didn’t stand up for myself. It created a lot of bad memories.

No one tells you that it is OK to communicate. You don’t know what it looks like or what it means. I wish I felt more secure in myself and knew that it’s important to go into a sexual situation feeling like I had agency. If you’re in bed with a person and you feel like you can’t talk to them, you shouldn’t be there.

Featured image of Morgan McGlothan

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