In some ways, Wanda Means is the typical Highland Park mom. She has the youthful yet conservative clothes, four kids in the school system, a successful home-building business with her ex-husband, and a blog, Jesus, Divorce and Over 40, that sounds like something a more pious Elizabeth Gilbert might write.
But that’s about where the similarities end. On a Friday afternoon, we’re listening to Means record the ninth episode of One Blunt Woman, the companion podcast to her blog, and not even five minutes in, she’s already called her stepmother a cunt.
In a city where the moneyed often prefer to sweep their darker problems under the rug, Means uses her blog and podcast as a platform to talk about everything. That includes the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, the affair she had while she was married, and more light-hearted, salacious topics like female ejaculation. Her delivery may seem crass for someone also concerned with Jesus' opinion, but it turns out her blog isn’t invoking his name in the way you think. “I’ve had people say, ‘You really shouldn’t use that kind of language if you’re going to have Jesus in the title,’” she says. “I write about the hypocrisy of religion. Some people don’t get that, and that’s not my problem.”
Means started blogging in February 2015. She had just turned 40, and her stepfather, the perpetrator of her sexual abuse, had also passed away. “It was a perfect storm,” she says. “I turned 40. He died. I had an affair. The affair wasn’t the end of my marriage, but it was the catalyst of the end. I just woke up and had been stuck in this person for so many years, and then when he died I felt free.” Her first post described her rage after visiting her mother’s home and finding a picture of her abuser holding up a piece of her son’s artwork on the fridge.
Means had never written anything other than the annual Christmas letter to her friends and family, but she began using Jesus, Divorce and Over 40 to express her feelings during this major period of transition, as she dealt with her childhood trauma in a new way and underwent what she describes as a “sexual revelation.” Means, who studied finance at University of Arizona, admits her stream-of-consciousness writing style isn’t a strong point.
“I’m not a writer,” she says. But she hopes readers will look past her poor grammar and penchant for profanity and recognize the campaign she’s on: to encourage others to be more willing to discuss difficult topics, particularly important ones like childhood sexual abuse. “It’s not just about me telling all my crazy sex stories,” Means says. “There’s a mission behind there.”
In January, her site reached a million hits, and One Blunt Woman, which addresses many of the same topics, is the most successful of a handful of podcasts produced by Real News Communications Network near the Galleria Mall. The opportunity to record it came when a reader with connections to the company suggested Means would be a good fit. “You can say whatever you want on a podcast,” Means says. “You can’t drop the C-word on the radio.”
Born in Richardson, Means describes her childhood as a “trifecta of fucked up-ness,” the three elements being abandonment by her father, sexual abuse by her stepfather and her mother’s denial of her abuse when she came forward with it at the age of 12. Means says it’s important to talk to kids about abuse, so that they have recourse if it should happen. “You can’t ever prevent abuse,” she says. “But you can certainly talk to them about it and say no one does it. … Children who are rescued during the abuse — you take them out of the situation and you get rid of the perpetrator — have such a better chance of having a healthy life.”
Means never had that rescuer. Her mother remained married to her abuser for years after she came forward. Reliant upon her family for financial support through college, Means stopped talking about her trauma and instead found solace in sports, resolving that she would speak freely once she was independent.
“[When that day came], I said to my mother, ‘I can’t believe you’re still with him, when are you gonna leave him.’ And she says to me, ‘Jesus Christ has forgiven him and so have I, and you should too. In one comment she made me hate religion — made me hate Jesus being shoved down my throat all my life, all the while a penis was being shoved down my throat by my stepfather. Literally and figuratively, Jesus was shoved down my throat.”
Means was married at Highland Park Methodist Church and her children were baptized there, too, but in spirit she claims no religious affiliation. On her website, you’ll find more than 80 posts organized into the categories “religious hypocrisy,” “relationships,” “parenting,” “child sexual abuse and “just me.”
In the relationships section she spends plenty of time discussing what she perceives as her own failures. Far from pretending not to make mistakes, Means’ goal is to deviate from her mother’s path by acknowledging her shortcomings as frequently as she calls others’ out. “People are so happy living in denial. I don’t live in denial,” she says. “I had an affair on my husband and I told the world. We all wear a scarlet letter. I had a big fat A across my chest. People fuck up, it’s OK. But don’t blame other people.”
Means is in the process of expanding many of her blog posts and compiling them into a book, Are You Uncomfortable Yet? She shared the first line with us, and it immediately delivers on the title’s promise: “When you give your first blow job at 8 years old, you’re destined to have a big mouth.” She’s only shopped it to one publisher so far, which turned out to be Christian. Predictably, they said no. “They can’t handle the truth,” Means says.
In the same way that financial independence was the catalyst for Means to speak up about her sexual abuse, her ongoing success in the business she co-owns, Ram Custom Homes, has made it easier for her to speak increasingly provocatively on already difficult subjects. “I’m not stuck by the parameters that some people are," she says. "But there’s plenty of people who have money who don’t have a mouth."
Means' manner of speaking and writing may make some uncomfortable, but again, that's her objective. "One in three girls are abused, and one in five boys are abused by the time they’re 18," she says, "My goal is to get this to be everyday dinner conversation. It is not comfortable to talk about, but if you talk about it enough you will drill it home to your kids. The irony of the title is that I’m not uncomfortable talking about it. I will talk about anything."
As for the "anything" part of Means' brand, an assortment of raunchy topics not clearly related to her cause, she admits that she's also just out to have fun. “I like the entertainment factor of it," she says,
"making people laugh.” On her podcast she tells stories about shopping at Condom Sense, getting caught having sex in the back of a car at DFW airport, and her one lesbian encounter. Sometimes one segment will have an educational bent. On the episode we sat in for, she discussed eight types of female orgasms; on another, she brought on friends who are swingers to talk about their lifestyle.
Means is also hopeful that her evident level of comfort exploring her sexuality as a survivor of sexual abuse will demonstrate to other victims that it’s possible to heal from abuse and go on to have a healthy adult life. “A lot of people come to me and say, ‘Thank you for sharing. How do I get to that point? How do I have an orgasm? I’m so uncomfortable with myself,’” she says. “So many women are inhibited sexually. Throw in abuse, throw in rejection, throw in abandonment. It adds up. I’m very lucky that I have moved on and can have a prolific sex life.”