Actress Marissa Jaret Winokur Talks ‘All About Sex’ and Feminism
“I’ve lived the dream, so now I get to have some fun,” says Marissa Jaret Winokur, much like a victor who has just finished her final lap around the track. And fun is what she rightfully deserves. The actress has been all work and no play (OK, maybe a little bit of play) throughout her career, and she’s got the Tony Award to prove it. Now she’s letting her hair down in a new late night series on TLC called All About Sex, a show where women openly discuss sex trends and bedroom tips amongst other kinky tidbits. After chatting it up with her last month, it became quickly apparent to me why she was chosen to be on the show. Speaking to the curly-haired actress is like gabbing on the phone with one of the girls. Her down-to-earth spirit, jokes and hearty laugh are enough to make the most callous person have a sudden case of the chuckles, not to mention the fact that it’ll have the shyest girl spilling her secrets about this past weekend’s rendezvous in no time!
However, being a comedian doesn’t affect how serious Winokur is about feminism. She wholeheartedly supports the notion of women having the right to express themselves on a public platform in regards to their sexuality, hence why she joined the ranks of All About Sex. On a weekly basis, she and her co-hosts, Margaret Cho, Heather McDonald and Dr. Tiffanie Davis Henry, defy society and shed light on topics that are oftentimes categorized as taboo — from bondage to toys, they talk about it all.
Given her presence on the show, it is no surprise that Winokur is just as passionate about women’s empowerment as she is about her acting. Case in point, she was inspired to write a self-help book after starring in Muffin Top: A Love Story, a movie that conveys the message of loving yourself now instead of five pounds later (in the slimming direction). As a woman in Hollywood, she’s come to know the pressures of having to reach sometimes unrealistic beauty standards all too well, and with her upcoming book, she just wants to lift women up. She says, “It’s a body image, feel good type of book.”
Managing to throw in a few laughs, Winokur got personal with GALO as she discussed All About Sex, body image, feminism, and more.
GALO: All About Sex is different in comparison to any type of work you’ve done. And the same holds true for what’s on TV — there really is no other show currently where women are openly and unapologetically talking about sex. Society has taught young girls and women that discussing this subject matter is inappropriate. However, this concept is changing with people like Lena Dunham and Beyoncé breaking the mold and embracing their sexuality. What initially attracted you to the show, and why do you think its presiding theme is important to the 21st century woman?
Marissa Jaret Winokur: What got me involved was [when] they said that [they wanted] to do a show where women are openly talking about sex and sexual experiences — and there are going to be definitely some women calling in that have had little experience, and some that are calling in with lots of sexual experience. I felt like it is important to open the conversation up and not be living in a society where we just, you know, act like, “oh, that’s not something you do; don’t talk about it.” I was excited to be doing late night TV where you could say whatever you want. I’m a female comedian, and so I was excited in just being able to make people laugh through real topics.
Also, I’m way less sexually active than anyone would ever think, because I’m kind of a “sexual mute.” [Laughter] So I kind of go out with all the confidence in the world, but then I’m like, “oh, that’s not really the most important thing to me.” Whenever I talk to other friends about that, or other moms, they’re like, “Oh my God! I’m the same way!” That’s not the most important thing to me, so I think it is important to be a part of the show to say, “Look you don’t have to have threesomes, and it’s okay if you’re tired at the end of the day with your kids.” Like, I get it. I am too.
GALO: In the All About Sex intro, you say you spent your 20s trying not to get pregnant; your 30s trying to get pregnant; and your 40s avoiding sex altogether. During the first episode, you mentioned a study that found that sex for married couples is on the decline. You even said that if your husband had sex once a month, he would be a lucky man. In your experience, why do you think married couples aren’t engaging in sex as much?
MJW: I think that the studies are proving that married couples aren’t engaging in sex as much. I don’t think that it’s a change. I think that that’s how it’s always been. I think that because when you’ve been married to someone for so many years, you know that they’re there; you know you can do it whenever you want. So the idea of: “Oh, I better get this on right now. It’s a Saturday night, I’m not going to see him for a week” — that doesn’t hold applicable, you know? Also, at the end of the day, you’re already tired.
I don’t really feel like marriage before children is the problem. I think it is marriage after children that is the sex problem, because now you also have like major issues — you’re mad at him about something that happened with your son during the day, and you don’t want to have sex with him. You definitely get over things differently when children are involved.
In your 20s, you are more sexually active because it’s exciting, new and fun, and you’re like, “If I have sex with him, he’ll marry me.” You know what I mean? It’s a different thing. And then in my 30s, it was just [about me] trying to have a child. The act of like, “what do we do? How do we get a baby?” And now, I have my son. I have crazy fun sex with my husband — just not this month, and it is not the most important thing. The most important thing is whether my son’s school bag got packed, or whether his homework has been done. And have we spent time with him today, as well as who is picking him up tomorrow since we both work. So I’d spend an hour with my son [rather] than having sex with my husband.
GALO: Yet in the most recent episode, you did mention that being on the show improved your sex life.
MJW: It has definitely improved because I’m on a show telling the world that I’m not having sex! So my husband is like, “oh, hold up! Wow, what? Now you’re messing with my manhood!” I didn’t realize that I was sending off such signals. Like, until we talked about it on the show, it wasn’t something I thought about. I didn’t realize that when I walk into my room and I’m eating popcorn in bed or ice cream — or whatever it is — I didn’t realize that I was saying to my husband: “don’t touch me.” In my mind, I’m like, “If he wants to touch me, he’ll touch me.” But no, he’s not. Instead, I’m watching Scandal and eating popcorn.
I even tweeted last week, “So I decided — I made a hard decision and I turned off Scandal. I put the popcorn down and I just let the room breathe.” And I was like, “happy birthday to me,” because truly, I was like, “oh, all I had to do was turn the TV off?” It never even occurred to me that I was sending off the signal of: “I don’t want it.” I think we don’t realize what we do. And month after month of me coming in and watching TV and being like, “please don’t talk, How To Get Away With Murder is on; don’t ruin the show for me,” it was [me] basically saying, “go to bed. I’m not having sex.” But at the time, I didn’t realize that.
GALO: You indicated that since you’ve been on the show that friends and strangers have been coming to you to talk about sex. One of your friends even had a wanker’s cramp?
MJW: Yes [laughter]. Who even knew what a wanker’s cramp was — like, who knew? It’s so funny that even exists. I had no idea. My friend sent me a picture, and then I showed [it to] the women [ on the show]. I told them that my friend just sent me this picture, and they looked it up and they were like, “it’s called a wanker’s cramp.” It’s an actual thing. And I’m like, “first of all, why is this girl sending me this picture?” But yeah, it’s like, “Oh my God.” People in the carpool lane, they’re like, “Oh my God, I’m so happy you’re having sex again!” And I’m like, “Oh my God, I don’t know you. I can’t believe you just said that to me.” [Laughter]
GALO: Going off that, how does it feel to suddenly be the person everybody turns to with these personal questions; to suddenly have the status of an expert in this area? And do you ever feel overwhelmed by it?
MJW: Yes. I feel like every interview or talk show that I do, I’m now the person on TV talking about sex — like, I’m the one; I’m that person. If I was watching The Talk and I was on it promoting my show, I would be like, “oh God, I don’t want to listen to this; it’s totally making me uncomfortable.” Now I’m the person on the show making people uncomfortable. So, it’s been interesting, because I’m not embarrassed to talk about that. I just never thought that that would be like — I think as an actress, I definitely play characters that love sex and are very sexual, so I think people are more confused with the fact that I’m not as sexual [in real life] as I am [on screen]. I think it’s definitely interesting because I have to keep explaining the fact that I’m like, “oh yeah, look how sexy I am, but I don’t really care.”