If you think Instagram is a dicey place to search for the answers you never got from your sex education, then you clearly aren’t familiar with the world of Killer and a Sweet Thang and its 23-year-old founder, Eileen Kelly. KAAST, born out of Kelly’s viral Instagram and Tumblr following, functions as a blog, but also an online guide and community dedicated to providing resources about sex, gender, desire, identity, and relationships for millenials who are looking for answers about getting it on.
“The way millennials date and learn about sex and how it’s perceived is different from the generations before,” Kelly told COOLS. “I definitely think it has to do with social media and the Internet. I’m sure it will look so different even in five years. Anyone with a smartphone and the Internet can now have this dearth of information, which is great, but at the same time, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around, so you kind of have to give and take and ask, ‘What are the resources that are giving me accurate and inclusive information?’”
With her huge following online (she has over 410k followers on Instagram, where she posts images that bring to mind if Cindy Sherman took ironic thirst traps), Kelly saw an opportunity to use social media to reach out to people who might have been raised with a less than ideal sexual education, the challenges of which she knew firsthand. She drew on her personal experiences as the inspiration to create KAAST, as well as its online peer-to-peer forum, Birds & Bees, a safe space online where individuals can learn from each other and find community, over two years ago.
“I grew up very Catholic in a conservative community and kind of watched firsthand the lack of talking about these topics and how they’re treated like taboos,” Kelly shared earnestly, with the same kind of open-hearted candor that characterizes the many posts on the site, which run the gamut from the fairly self-explanatory “How to Have an Orgasm (in Five Stories)” to a literary confessional titled “Diary of a Sidechick.”
“I think about the sex-ed classes that I had or most of my friends had where it’s this health teacher that has no credentials to be talking about sex and they’re middle-aged, which is fine, but you don’t want to talk to your 50-year-old P.E. teacher about your body and sex,” Kelly said. “You’re going to relate and listen and connect and ask the questions you need to ask if you’re talking to someone your own age.”
Kelly’s philosophy for Killer and a Sweet Thang is simple: she just wants everyone to have the education and resources they need to make informed and healthy decisions when it comes to sex, something that’s become increasingly urgent to her in the current political climate, where the safety of trans folks is threatened and reproductive rights are in danger.
“Everyone deserves the same level of sexual healthcare and information on these topics because your relationship to your sexuality and your own body will be with you for your entire life,” she said. “And it’s more important now than ever. With LGBT+ care and access to safe and legal abortions, with Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court, there are a lot of things that show you everyday why these conversations need to be had and why it needs to be accessible and inclusive.”
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How Instagram documents a breakup by @emma_olympia on @birds.bees 📱💔 – “What I never expected was the intense pang of sadness I felt when I saw my ex had deleted photos of me from his Instagram feed. A strange ache reverberated through by body for days. Something about the mourning of deleted pictures feels like a parody of our times. It’s impossible to imagine this scenario outside of a modern, digital context. A deleted photo translates into something much deeper in meaning, to the deletion of a proof of our existence together.” – I’m fascinated by the effects social media and the digital age are having on the way we communicate, date and have sex. The internet is not only the source of my pain at times but it is the source of many pleasures, including my career and ability to connect with thousands of other young people who on some baseline level ~understand me?~ I have realized that the gap at my family dinner table gets larger and more drawn out each time I return home. That the concept of relating to someone even 15 years older than me is getting more and more difficult. At the end of the day, we are the guinea pig generation for the greatest shift in human history and while these new phenomenons and the feelings that run with them (even as trivial as not being able escape certain people online) may feel overwhelming at times, please know you are NOT ALONE! And you are most definitely not judged 🖤
Now, Kelly is looking to further the conversation with the launch of KAAST’s weekly podcast, Pillow Talk, which made its debut this past Sunday. During the podcast, Kelly and the site’s editorial director, Jacob Seferian, will interview guests who live out certain experiences or lifestyles that relate to sex, relationships or identity. Upcoming guests include a Herpes activist and a sex surrogate therapist, with the idea that these narratives and interviews will help to dispel stigma or judgmental attitudes, because as Kelly puts it: “we don’t believe in taboos.”
“We decided to start the podcast because we have over 100 writers that write for us and they’re sharing these personal stories, but you know it’s just so different to hear people share their stories,” Kelly said. “We kind of wanted to bring that to our audience, to our readers and make them listeners. We just decide to embark on what it would look like to allow certain people who live in certain sexual lifestyles to come on to the show and talk about why it’s normal or why it’s not crazy or sadistic or however people want to judge sex. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I think I’m most excited for the fact that people can hear these stories and we get to help shed light on these parts of human nature and life that you’re surrounded by even though you may not know it.”
Having accomplished so much with KAAST in the just over two and a half years since it was created, Kelly is grateful for the reach that the Internet’s given to her, even if it means recognizing herself as an “influencer,” a term she’s loathe to use.
“I’m feel blessed, but a lot of these ‘influencers’ and these people on the Internet have a lot of followers, but they have very little to say. I think you’re just a pretty face if you don’t have something to stand for — it’s kind of a waste of a mad amount of followers.”
Catch Pillow Talk on Sundays at 3 p.m. EST, on all major podcast platforms.