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[Kink Product Review] Lovehoney Take Control Bondage Kit

I often groan at the idea – and the reality – of sex toy kits. Too often, they’re lots of cheap and bad quality things shoved together in a pretty box and sold for a premium. If pressed for an opinion, I’ll nearly always tell my readers to forego a kit and spend a bit more on just one or two quality items. However, I try to keep an open mind, and occasionally something surprises me. The Take Control Bondage Kit from Lovehoney pleasantly surprised me.

Through the eyes of a beginner…

I’m practically a kinky veteran at this point. I’ve been practicing BDSM for about a decade and have accrued a sizeable collection of toys – expensive leather floggers, my fabulous vegan leather collar, the gorgeous hand-made whip I gave Mr CK last Christmas, our electro-play kit, and more. So beginner kits are not something I would ever normally buy for myself. Therefore, I am trying to step back in time ten years or so and view this kit through the eyes of someone who is just starting out in their kinky explorations.

Inviting and Fun Packaging…

The Take Control Bondage Kit comes in one simple box, with all the products clearly displayed on the front so you know exactly what to expect. The packaging is bright and fun, which I suspect is a deliberate choice to make it non-intimidating to the new and nervous.

There’s a LOT of information on the box, too. I really like the way that there’s a brief description on how to use each item on the back, and also that they pay attention to safety and consent! The box reminds you to use safewords, never leave a bound person alone, and have a non-verbal safe signal if someone is gagged. In this regard, I’m really impressed. It’s pretty 101 stuff, but safety/consent 101 is exactly the information that the target market for this kit needs. A+ for that.

The unboxing…

I wasn’t delighted with the way the box was packed – everything was just sort of piled in, each item wrapped in a cellophane wrapper. It would have been nicer to have an inner tray with slots for everything. Some little storage bags for the items would also be a welcome addition. Assuming you don’t want to throw everything back in the box when you’re done playing, it’s not an ideal storage solution.

With that said, I was immediately pretty impressed with what was inside. Some (many) beginner BDSM kits are filled with things that are dubiously even safe, let alone of good quality.

Let’s take a look at what’s inside, shall we? Just for fun, I’ve included a fun tip or an idea to try with each item.

1: Blindfold

This blindfold is super comfy. It’s nice and thick and padded, and I couldn’t see a thing when it was on. The band is stretchy, too, so it should fit most people comfortably.

Pro kink tip: blindfold your partner and stroke different things across their body – a silk scarf, a piece of velvet, the tails of your flogger – and make them guess what each item is.

2. Nipple suckers

I really liked these! They’re a great gentle introduction to nipple play, and perfect if you want some sensation but without the pain of clamps or clothes pegs. I have pretty small nipples on fairly large breasts, and I found these stayed in place very nicely once I’d suctioned them onto my chest.

If you flick or hit them too hard, they will fly off, but they can withstand some gentle playing and wiggling.

Pro kink tip: tell your partner to fetch you something from another room with these on. They’ll have to move carefully… they’ll be spanked if one falls off!

3. Ball gag

Full disclosure: I hate ball gags. I fucking hate them. They make my jaw hurt, they make my face contort into an expression that no-one could possibly find attractive, they make me drool, and I can’t kiss my partner when I’m wearing one. I. Hate. Them.

With that said, this is a good one if you like that sort of thing. The holes make it breathable, and being silicone it’s non-porous which makes it hygienic. The holes do make it somewhat of a pain to clean, so take extra care when you’re cleaning it. Warm water and gentle soap is the best way to go here.

I also like how adjustable this gag is. With 9 buckle holes, it will fit most people comfortably.

Pro kink tip: make your submissive try to repeat words back to you (try phrases like “I’m a dirty little slut”) while gagged.

4. Flogger

This is a stingy little bastard! Don’t let the small size fool you, it can pack a wallop. The falls are made of thin rubber, which delivers a vicious sting when you put some force behind it. If pain isn’t your thing, you can drag it sensually across the skin for a gentle tickle. I would have liked the handle to have a bit more width and weight to it.

Pro kink tip: Try – gently – flogging the vulva or penis if your partner is up for it. Remember to clean your flogger thoroughly afterwards.

5. Wrist and ankle cuffs

These were the weakest part of the kit by far, for me. They’re quite thin and made of nylon, with no padding, which means they chafe if you put any pressure on them at all. They’re fine for exploring the feeling of being restrained, but if you’re into rough play and would be wanting to pull against them, they’re not a good option for that.

Try restraint with these, by all means, to see if you like it. But then ditch them and get some proper cuffs. And I hope it goes without saying that you should never, EVER suspend from wrist or ankle cuffs. These are not designed to take any real weight.

Pro kink tip: Restrain your partner then make them watch you masturbate in front of them.

6. Under-bed restraints

These are great, except for the tiny detail that they don’t fit on our bed! We have a Super King bed (which is the best thing ever, seriously. I always tell Mr CK that my relationship with him and the bed is polyamorous in itself.) Turns out these restraints fit up to King Size. So they’ll be fine for the vast majority of people, but if you have a ridiculous bed like us, they may not fit.

That said, they’re still a great addition to the kit. They’re strong, durable, and easy to set up… and tuck out of sight when you’re done, if you want to. The little clips mean you can easily add different cuffs to them, so when you ditch the rubbish cuffs in this set and get some better ones, you can still use them with this restraint system.

Pro kink tip: when your partner is restrained, run a cube of ice along their body… or drip candle wax onto their skin (read up on how to do wax play safely first, of course!)

7. Silicone suction-cup dildo

Do my eyes deceive me, or… no, it’s actually a body-safe dildo in a BDSM kit! With an insertable length of 6 inches and a diameter of 1.5″, it’s perfect for vaginal play. It’s possibly a bit ambitious for first-time anal sex or pegging, but most people could easily work up to it with a bit of time and warm-up.

The slight curve makes this dildo feel delicious for G-spot or prostate stimulation, and the silicone is super soft and silky. The suction cup is also a nice addition and makes this toy more versatile.

It’s even got a convenient hollow in the base where you can slip the bullet vibe that comes with this kit to turn your dildo into a G-spot vibrator!

Remember to use water-based lube with your silicone dildo for the best experience.

Pro kink tip: tease your lover’s entrance with just the tip of the dildo. If they want it inside, they have to thrust on to it!

8. Strap-on harness

This is actually the same harness that I bought as part of a pegging kit a few years ago. I’ve used it many, many times to top for both vaginal and anal penetration, and it’s still my favourite harness. It’s comfortable, the dildo stays in place well during thrusting, and the rings are interchangeable so you can use it with any dildo with a flared base.

Pro kink tip: If you have a vulva, put on a wearable vibrator before you put on your harness, so that you get some clitoral pleasure while you fuck your partner.

9. Wired bullet vibrator

This was the biggest surprise in the kit for me. I was fully expecting it to be awful. While it’s not the strongest vibrator in the world, it’s not a bad little bullet for the size. I was able to orgasm with it quickly and easily. It has a number of patterns as well as steady vibration speeds.

I didn’t love the wire element, but you cannot expect to get a wireless bullet for this price-point. It’s long enough for one partner to comfortably have control of the remote while the other holds the vibrator against their genitals.

Pro kink tip: switch it off just when your lover is on the edge of orgasm. Make them beg for release.

Other things to note

  • The bullet takes 2x AAA batteries, not included.
  • There is no real leather in this kit, making it entirely vegan-friendly.

Overall Verdict: do I recommend it?

On the whole, a very solid kit for the price. I wouldn’t recommend it to folks more experienced in kink and BDSM, but for those of you who are new and looking to explore different sensations and types of power-play, this kit is a great starting point.

The Take Control kit retails for £79.99 ($109.99 US) which is a reasonable price for the quality and variety. As you get more into your kink and discover what you like, I’d encourage you to drop more money on single items if you can – a quality, handcrafted whip or flogger will last you a lifetime, perhaps, or some really high quality natural fibre rope? But to get you started? Look no further.

Thanks to Lovehoney for sending me the Take Control Bondage Kit in exchange for an honest review. If you choose to purchase this or anything else from Lovehoney, please buy through my affiliate links – it supports the blog at no extra cost to you!

 

[Guest Post] “Everything I Know About Sex, I Learned from Dan Savage” by Ari Potter

Today’s post is a continuation of my sharing awesome pieces by new voices to sex writing! When I put out my call for pitches I was overwhelmed with the response and the extraordinary quality of so many of the ideas. What I loved about this piece was Ari’s honesty around the trials and tribulations of getting past the problematic ideas around sex that come from a conservative upbringing, and the way she’s told it with a straightforward and humorous tone. Definitely a writer we need to see more of! 

Heads up: this post uses the p-word that is sometimes used to refer to sex workers. It is used in the context of quoting something that was said many years ago, and not in a derogatory way by either the author or myself.

Now, over to Ari…

Amy x

“Everything I Know About Sex, I Learned from Dan Savage”

I am in bed with a recent partner. We are taking a pause to hydrate and I’m supposed to be
thinking about how I want to be fucked: this DJ takes requests. Our conversation turns to sex and childhood and, with a delicious situational irony, it transpires that we have both shaken off prudish attitudes conferred by quasi-religious upbringings. My own were inherited from relatively liberal Bengali parents. It’s not that sex was wrong, per se, but the constraints under which it could be enjoyed were strictly limited: within marriage, to one person, of the opposite sex to you, for life.

Of course, they never sat me down to convey this diktat. Indeed, the sex talk that I got from
my parents was clinical and secondhand. When watching a subtitled Les Miserables aged eight or nine, I asked my parents what a ‘prostitute’ was. They told me to look it up, which led me to asking what this ‘sex’ thing was that you could be paid for. Again, they delegated their responsibility to a book, and a Dorling Kindersley encyclopaedia with an illustrated cross section of two torsos missionarily-connected provided me with a scientifically functional but practically useless understanding.

Over the years, no more is said about the matter, but it becomes understood from their general reticence about me hanging out with boys that All Boys Want Is Sex and Sex Outside Of Marriage Is Very Bad. There’s more than a pinch of It’s Especially Bad For Girls! too, but they reassure me that’s not because they think that, but more because everyone else will.

Predictably, they learn through my adolescence that ‘you can read anything but you can’t do anything’ is a recipe for parental disaster. I have decided to ignore much of their advice on anything, considering everything from ‘don’t drink’ to ‘get home by 4pm’ under the same broad category of “too strict and reasonable to ignore”. So when the first peers start copping off with each other, I join them. Yet, unlike with the other rules that I have wholesale dismissed, the one about sex has some sticking power in my mind. Aged 15, it’s not that I think my parents are wrong, it’s that I think they don’t understand that it’s OK for me to sleep with my first boyfriend, because we’re in love and will one day marry. Obviously. (Editor’s note – I laughed so hard at this because I had EXACTLY the same train of thought at nearly the same age. Spoiler: reader, I did not marry him.)

The gradual dismantling of these archaic views on sex were a demonstration of hypocritical insistence on conservatism – constantly making exceptions to exempt your own behaviour while trying to maintain an increasingly unsustainable dogma. When I sleep with my next boyfriend (I’m 17 or thereabouts now), it’s okay… as long as you’re in love. After that it becomes fine if you’re in a relationship. Which is amended to add the exception of ‘and on holiday’ (?!) and then finally disappears entirely by the time I’m 21 and in theory, a fully fledged adult. Oh, with the now hilarious exception of ‘I don’t let people go down on me because I’m holding something back for The One’. (Ingenious spin for ‘I don’t have the patience to let inexperienced partners practise on me!’)

My parents don’t realise how far they have own-goaled. By my mid twenties, armed with the view that safe, consensual sex that doesn’t harm anyone is to be celebrated and recently out of a long term relationship, I am keen to make up for lost time. What becomes clear to me is that my introspection doesn’t match my enthusiasm. While I want to explore my desires, the conservative hang ups from my past leave me too ashamed or bewildered to interrogate what I want. The result is a peculiar mix of willingness to try things that means I go along with others’ kinks without knowing my own.

It leads me to question how much I enjoy sexual experiences on a purely physical level. A
public, group encounter with a masked man at a party was certainly anecdote-worthy, but
was it hot? Being decorated in various constellations of latex and rope makes me smile to
recall, but out of context feels faintly ridiculous. Pegging makes me feel as though I am able to confidently take a lead, but does it turn me on? More importantly: does it matter?

Dan Savage’s sex podcast describes a good lover as someone who’s GGG: good, giving
and game. And, rightly, the model assumes reciprocity. Yet, I find that my conditioning
around sex and shame leaves me unable to be frank with willing partners. I don’t want to
only be a participant in someone else’s fantasies without indulging my own, but they are
buried and when one surfaces I second-guess how much it is mine.

‘So what do you want me to do?’ asks my bedfellow, again. Good question.

Ari Potter is a Bengali-British writer who’s particulary interested in gender, mental health and cultural identity. She’s previously appeared in gal-dem, Orlando and Litro. By day, she works for a health and social care charity, and, separately, has recently launched her own campaign on consent and sex education. 

Sex Educators You Should Know: The “Ersties” Podcast Crew

You guys might remember a few months back I introduced you to the wonderful Ersties Podcast, a smart, sassy and funny show about sex, kink, porn, the adult industry and more. Well today I am thrilled to bring you an interview with Lina Bembe, one of the team of badass women behind the podcast. 
But first, I wanted to tell you about a couple of my favourite recent episodes since I last introduced you to these amazing ladies.

Episode #7 is called “Self-Love, Sex and Magic” which brings together two of my favourite things – sex and magic! Sex is, really, its own particular kind of magic when you think about it, isn’t it? The team discuss sexuality as a form of women’s power, which has terrified men for centuries – so much so that in time gone by, women who dared to be openly sexual opened themselves up to accusations of witchcraft.

Favourite quotes:

“Witches are in many ways the original feminists… the original sluts.”
“We need to get our vulvas together… we need some vulva action!”

The other thing I loved about this episode is the team’s discussion about coming out to their families as working in the porn industry. I won’t spoil the stories for you, but you should go and hear them for yourselves.

Their special guest is Vanessa Cuccia of Chakrubs, the world’s first crystal sex toy company (which, yes, is 100% a thing I want in my life.)

Listen here.

The ladies also JUST released Episode #9 which is on my favourite sexuality topic of all – consent! They discuss consent in BDSM, how to talk about what you want in bed, and what consent looks like on a porn set.

If there’s one, single message I want my readers to take away from my work, it’s that consent is everything. Consent is the beginning, the end and everything in between. The Ersties team delve deep into this complex and nuanced subject with honesty and insight.

Personally, I particularly appreciated the discussion of being in a sex work situation such as making porn, and not really feeling like having sex… but making the decision to consent anyway, in order to get paid at the end of the day. It’s such an important point that there are other good reasons to consent apart from “I’m extremely horny right this second,” and that this doesn’t have to be a traumatising experience. The key, they seem to be arguing, is checking in with yourself and making an informed decision to say yes or no in any given situation.

Favourite quotes:

“Ohhh, now she has to put her fucking fingers in my pussy and I have to pretend to have an orgasm…!”
“Everyone who knows me knows that [my favourite safeword] is brocolli!”

A must-listen for anyone grappling with the nuances of sexual consent. Which is ALL of us, because this shit is complex.

Listen here.

Right, let’s get on with my interview with Lina, shall we?

Amy: What made you want to start the Ersties podcast?

Lina: Paulita, Pandora, Olivia & I were already a sort of gang. We used to hang out a lot, crack jokes, go out and get crazy, and talk about sex and feminism basically all the time. So it was kind of a natural thing to pour all these conversations and the things we are curious about into a podcast format. These days anyone with a smartphone or computer and WiFi access can build a platform and talk about whatever topic they want. In our case, we felt we were a fun crew with good chemistry and important things to discuss and explore, so we just got a mic and started recording!

Amy: Which other podcasters inspire you, and why?

Lina: Tristan Taormino for her extensive experience and educational approach, Ron Johnson’s journalistic work for The Butterfly Effect, Sadia & Monty from BBC’s No Country for Young Women because of their natural style and emphasis on black & brown communities. My personal favorite is Tina Horn from Why Are People into That?!, always fun, unapologetic, politically relevant and raising the voices of fellow sex workers.

Amy: Oh, god, Tristan Taormino is my heroine! So which show do you always listen to the day it comes out?

Lina: Why Are People into That?!, The Cuntcast, Sex Out Loud, Sex with Strangers, Guys We Fucked, The Second Circle, Asa Akira’s podcast for Pornhub, and hopefully the next season of No Country for Young Women!

Amy: Some new names for me there, I’ll check those out for sure. What is the core message you want to get out with the podcast? The one thing you’d like listeners to take away?

A cartoon image of the Ersties Podcast crew speaking to a live audience.Lina: That sex and sexuality are incredibly important for our lives and that it’s crucial to have more unbiased, shame-free conversations about them. We have all been raised and encouraged to see anything related to sex as shameful, dirty, not worth discussing, but the consequences of doing so go a long way into affecting our emotional well being and relationships to others. Thus we need to find ways of reclaiming our bodies and sexualities, and we need to find people we can feel relate to in our journey. We don’t always have the spaces to have shame-free, honest conversations about sex in our daily lives, so we wanted to offer a channel for it with our podcast.

Amy: Preach! So what is ethical porn? What sets ethical porn apart from regular, run-of-the-mill “tube site” porn?

Lina: Ethical porn has two main dimensions. The first dimension happens on the production side, where performers and crew have to be treated with respect regardless of their origins or identities, with professionalism and with attention to their personal boundaries. Where everything discussed in terms of sexual health issues, types of sex acts, remuneration (or skills/content trade agreement), identity, privacy protection and distribution channels is transparent, respectful and agreed by the production company, director, fellow performers and everyone involved in the project. It’s basically playing by the rules,  respecting everyone involved in the process, and making sure, as a producer that you put together a team who are able to work under these ethical standards and understand their importance in both the project and the wider industry.
The second dimension of ethical porn falls on the responsibility of the consumer, when they pay for the content they watch or access the content in the way the producer or performer wants them to. Sadly enough, it’s quite normal for people to watch porn for free and to assume that’s the normal way to go about it – whereas they’re happy to pay for platforms like Netflix or Spotify. The stigma surrounding porn and the proliferation of tube sites (who offer plenty of stolen content) obscures the very elemental fact that porn is also a form of work and that there’s people trying to make a living out of it. Not paying for porn only contributes to the stigma, shrinks the diversity of contents and throws indie producers and performers even more into precariousness. I’d really, really love for people to understand that consuming porn in unethical ways affects everyone.
Amy’s note: I am in love with the Ersties porn site! You can support ethical porn, get access to tonnes of great content, AND send a little kickback my way when you buy an Ersties porn subscription from as little as $11/month through my affiliate links.

Amy: Who would be your dream interview guest on the podcast, and why?

Lina: As a short-term goal, I’d love to have Munroe Bergdorf as a guest. Every single word she says speaks in such a strong way against stigma, and pushes for diversity and real change on so many fronts –  as racism, transphobia, whorephobia, misogyny and so on. I’d love to hear her views on porn and what sort of narratives could make this industry more inclusive and less discriminative!
As a long-term goal: Rihanna! To me, she’s the best global scale example of what it means to be a powerful creature and being unapologetic about owning your sexuality. Plus she likes porn!

Amy: What’s your favourite sex toy?

Lina: Wands of all kinds, and buttplugs. Please don’t make me choose just one!

Amy: Oh, god, yes I’m a wand girl too. Wands are life. Anyway, what’s one thing you really wish people outside of it understood about the adult industry?

Lina: That this is a job like any other. The only thing that sets porn aside from other industries is the traditional shame we culturally attach to everything related to sex and sexuality. That’s incredibly harmful for how we all see ourselves as sexual beings and how stigma and discrimination can go a long way into marginalization and even the death of those who choose porn as a career. It’s time to press fast-forward to 2018 and leave this centuries-old, harmful, puritanical nonsense behind!
***************
Amy again! Thank you so much to Lina and the Ersties crew for taking the time to tell us all about their work and industry. I’m so glad they’re having these conversations – we all need to talk more openly about sex, porn, consent, sexual ethics and all these deep, complex, nuanced topics. Only by talking about these things can we bust the stigma and all enjoy safer, happier, more fulfilling sex lives.
Remember to check out the podcast! If you like friendly, informal dialogue about all things sexy, led by super smart women, you’ll love this show.
This interview was kindly sponsored by The Ersties Podcast. All views, as ever, are my own.

Five Fun Ways to Use a Kinky Card Game

Have you ever played a kinky card game!? I hadn’t either, until recently – when the lovely folks at Pain Play: The Game introduced me to their prototype.

A laid out table with Pain Play the Game cardsPain Play is a simple game for lovers of impact play. There are 50 cards divided into 5 decks – 20 “hit cards” (i.e. the number of strokes you will receive, when the two are added together,) 10 “location cards” (where on the body you’ll receive the impact,) 10 “implement cards” (to determine the implement used,) and 10 “modifiers,” which can do anything from doubling or halving your strokes to allowing you to give them to somebody else. You literally draw a card from each deck and then do what the cards say. There are also spare cards, so that you can add your own ideas.

After a devious session of scheming with the creators of the game, I thought it would be fun to share some of the wonderful – and perhaps less obvious – ways of using this delightful little game.

A table laid out with a deck of Pain Play the Game cards
Just one possible permutation…

Obvious disclaimers apply

In the context of the game, as ever, full consent and negotiation is paramount. A safeword or any other withdrawal of consent ALWAYS supersedes the rules of the game. Whether in a group or one-on-one setting, no-one should ever be pressured to take part in anything they don’t want to.

Pro tip: you can remove cards from the deck without affecting the mechanic of the game. So if impact on a particular body part or with a particular implement is a limit (or if you just don’t own/have the skills to use any implement,) you can remove it.

Now let’s look at some ways to have fun with Pain Play: The Game.

1. As humiliation play

Is your masochist complaining about the cards they drew? Well, just tell them they did it to themselves!

I recently discovered I have intense feelings (good ones!) about phrases like “you brought this on yourself…” while a Top is doing deliciously mean things to me. Making your submissive pick the cards and then telling them that they’re just getting what they chose can be super fun for the discerning sadist.

2. As a way for newbie bottoms – and Tops – to explore

So you want to try impact play but you have no idea what implements you want to play with, where on your body you might enjoy it, or how hard? Or are you a nervous new Top, wanting to spank your eager submissive? Playing this game is a wonderful way to try things out – and, frankly, to get a feeling of permission to try things out. Afterwards, you can discuss which “rounds” were your favourite.

3. To get a kinky party going

You know that moment at the party when the snack table has been demolished and the introductions have happened and everyone’s like “so… do we just start playing or what!?” Being the first one out onto the play kit can be nerve-racking. Get a few friends together – or even everyone, if it’s a small party – and play a few rounds of Pain Play to start you off. Everyone will be into their kinky thing before you know it!

4. To start a scene with a new partner

You want to play with that hot person. They want to play with you. Awesome! But how do you actually get from the negotiation chat (you’ve done that, right? If not DO IT NOW) to actually getting a scene going? Well, a round or two of kinky cards can be a great way to transition from negotiation-space to play-space.

5. To demo different toys or techniques

Are you a sex and kink educator, workshop leader, purveyor of fine impact toys, or just the resident spanking guru in your friendship circle? How about using this game as a jumping off point for your next teaching session? Whether you’re showing off different skills to the audience on your own partner, or allowing willing volunteers to have a go at being on the receiving end themselves, structuring a workshop or demo around this game adds an element of fun and surprise!

Okay, Amy, you’ve sold me! How do I get a copy?

Pain Play: The Game is being funded through a Kickstarter project, and there’s only a little time left to get them to target! Mr CK and I have pledged £200 which will get us a copy with custom artwork to at our events and parties. But if you can’t afford that much, never fear! Every pledge of £15 or more gets you your own copy of this fabulously filthy little game, with the standard (gorgeous) art and everything you need to play. We should be supporting creativity and innovative projects by people within our community, so please do support if you can!

This post was kindly sponsored by the creators of Pain Play: The Game. Follow them on Twitter! As ever, all opinions are my own.

[Guest Post] “Liberating Myself from the Confines of Sex and Love Addiction” by Taylor Morley

This post is the second installment in my “new voices in sex writing” project. This was actually the first pitched piece that I read, and it went straight into the YES pile, on the grounds that it made me cry.

Taylor’s story is extremely powerful and I think will resonate with lots of us who have had our perfectly normal and healthy sexuality and/or romantic life pathologised. I have long been in the “sex addiction is not a thing” camp, and if you want to learn more about this from an expert’s point of view, I suggest you check out Dr David Ley’s fantastic book, “The Myth of Sex Addiction.”

Now over to Taylor… 

A spilled glass of red wine with the word "love" spelled out in the spill. For a post on sex and love addiction

“Liberating Myself from the Confines of Sex and Love Addiction”

“Maybe she abuses sex as a means to cope like her dad abused alcohol,” my psychology
classmate said, as she tapped her leg against the barstool, waiting impatiently for her
second beer.

“No,” the next one said, as she hung up with her boyfriend for the third time in 15
minutes. “It sounds like she has borderline tendencies. Like, she’s not actually borderline,
she just has the borderline-like tendency to act out sexually and lose herself in each and
every partner.”

My friend inhaled as if she was about to speak. Finally, an ally coming to my defense, I
thought naively. “I think Taylor just picks the wrong men and she lets sex negatively
impact her life. She’s definitely an addict.” Then, she changed the subject to talk about
her last failed casual hookup.

I had been the subject of many armchair psychology sessions such as this one. In these
scenarios, my body served as the blank screen onto which people projected their greatest
sexual anxieties, judgments, and fears. I would often sit quietly, as I did that night,
listening to people talk around me as they attempted to diagnose and explain me away. I
suspect that it was easier for them to categorize me and squeeze me into neat little
pathological boxes than to listen to my lived experience. If I were the only broken toy in
need of repair, then no one else would have to engage in any self-examination.

At that point, I had been in recovery for over 3 years, after my therapist and psychiatrist had agreed on a diagnosis of sex and love addiction at age 21.

But I had been a part of this process, as well. The tricky thing about sex and love addiction is that you have the opportunity to diagnose yourself. You can even do it online with a vague questionnaire. In reality, this ludicrous practice opens up far too much space for people who have been shamed sexually to convince themselves that they are, in fact, damaged. When you are raised in a society that defines ‘healthy sex’ in such a narrow fashion – heterosexual, procreative, monogamous sex with cis bodies and few partners – there is far too much room for everyone else to fall into the cracks. Down I fell.

It hadn’t always been this way.

With no basis for self-love, body positivity, or confidence
in my youth, I had somehow managed to build and sustain it on my own for a few
beautiful years. As I look back on it now in adulthood, I realize how magical and unique
that was. When I was 18, I wrote in my diary that sex was “exhilarating and life
affirming.” I basked in my own glow. I noted the way my freckles curved around the
right side of my back, and named my legs as my favorite body part. I wrote with
excitement about my last sexual encounter, reveling in the limitless feeling of orgasm.

While my friends pined for monogamous relationships, I preferred casual dynamics that
spoke to my need for exploration and freedom. But that kind of authenticity and self-
assuredness had no place in a world that refused to see me as a sexually autonomous
being, especially as a young woman. My wings would have to be clipped before I
reached the sun.

In those same years before the diagnosis, I was harassed and stalked both on and offline,
slut-shamed relentlessly by friends and classmates, sexually assaulted, and victimized by
image-based abuse (also known as revenge porn) on more than one occasion. The last
encounter with image-based abuse destroyed my budding career and all of my future
ambitions when the photos were sent to current and former employers and coworkers.
These events sent me tumbling down the rabbit hole of self-loathing, which had been the
goal all along. Once I had convinced myself that sex was negatively impacting my career
and relationships, I surrendered to the label of sex and love addict.

I went through the 12 steps, making amends to friends and loved ones, apologizing for “acting out” and allowing my quest for sex to overrule my life.

I examined past traumas, attended women-only meetings as often as possible, and took the program seriously. But as the years drudged on, questions and doubts loomed in the back of my mind. Why were straight and bisexual women overrepresented in all of these recovery meetings? Why were men defined as sex addicts, while women were always identified as sex and love addicts? If the scientific community had never legitimized this addiction, why were we so convinced that these diagnoses were correct? How could doctors even diagnose someone with a condition that did not exist in the DSM? These questions were left unanswered in meeting rooms, and they were always met with pushback and anger, as if I had pulled the rug out from underneath us all.

The underlying, bare bones message from clinicians and fellow addicts were the same:
“We see that you enjoy sex, but you don’t seem to feel an adequate level of remorse or
self-disgust about it.” The brazenness and the confidence, the casual nature of my
relationships – these were the attitudes and behaviors that needed to be fixed, or
eliminated entirely. While other people in the program insisted that recovery would bring
freedom from shame, I could not taste the independence. Instead, this so-called
‘recovery’ was a pillow held firmly over my face, suffocating me with shame. Every
subsequent sexual experience was an exercise in self-flagellation. Whenever I looked at a
man and felt a mere twinge of lust, or yearned for a casual encounter, I berated myself
internally for falling back into toxic behaviors and ran off to a meeting with my head
hung low.

When society grows tired of policing women’s sexual activity, they teach us to
police ourselves, and I was monitoring my own behavior so closely, no one else had to
weigh in. It was a dull, colorless existence, and it only served to exacerbate the
depression that was already simmering underneath.

If authenticity was my goal – and it was – I would have to liberate myself.

The first step was to exit the program and leave the sex and love addict identity behind. I sought out a sex therapist that had worked with other defectors from the program, and over the past few years, he has helped me re-learn how to have pleasurable, exhilarating, life-affirming sex without the existence of shame. It is a process that has yet to reach its
conclusion, but for the first time in over a decade, I have no interest in contorting myself
to fit into a tiny box in order to be more palatable or acceptable to society. My healthy
relationship with sex will not be explained away, or pathologized. You will just have to
sit there quietly, and listen to my lived experience.

Taylor Morley is an activist, writer, and advocate who writes and speaks on topics ranging from sexual liberation, to anti-imperialism and human rights issues. She does marketing and development for non-profit organizations in Los Angeles, where she resides with her Dorothy Parker books and her vinyl collection.

[Guest Post] “RESPECT: Find Out What It Means to Me” by LittleWelshMinx

I recently decided to run a pitch call for newer voices in sex writing – specifically, the criteria was anyone who has never been paid to write about sex/relationships before. I got a huge number of pitches and many of them were outstanding in quality. In the end, picking just one from the 70+ I got was too hard, so I picked a small number of my favourites and will be publishing them one at a time between now and Christmas. Today’s is from LittleWelshMinx. This one stood out to me because of its unique take on the role of song in self-care around dating. I also wanted to share this one first because it’s so timely given Aretha Franklin’s sad death last week. 

Without further ado, over to LWM…

RESPECT: Find Out What It Means to Me

A shelf of records in a store, for a guest blog on Aretha Franklin and RESPECTToday I’m talking about relationship rituals.

I have been dating now for 18 years. During that time, I have developed certain rituals for getting me through the tough times and for getting me through the really tough times. As my regular readers will know, I’m a big music fan. I often use music as a way of feeling, thinking, soothing myself, and finding the strength to face the pain, love, rejection, betrayal, and the unknown that is the world of relationships and dating.

My parents have handed down to me a very eclectic taste in music, and one of their favourite genres – and mine – is soul. In turn, soul music became one of the key elements of my own personal relationship soundtrack.

The deep, powerful voices would resonate through my room, vibrating through my heart, connecting me to singers from over 50 years ago, making me feel slightly less alone as their voices raised in celebration, desperation, and elation.

Of all of them, I loved Aretha Franklin’s Respect the best.

Here was a woman, not bowed in defeat, not crying in a corner but standing up for herself. Rather than giving up and walking away, the woman within the narrative of the song seems to be drawing a line, telling her partner the way it is, and demanding better treatment. You get the sense that she has taken some crap and just isn’t prepared to take any more.

Every time I was in a bad place, and had been neglected, ignored, abandoned, patronised, cheated on or dumped, I would turn to music, and inevitably, turn to Aretha.

Respect acted like a much-needed shake from a collective sisterhood, putting fire in my heart and stiffening my backbone. When I was looking for the strength to keep going, stand up for myself, or screw up enough resolve to look inside for the truth, for the reality of my situation, to face my unhappiness and find the strength to leave, her voice and words would give me courage, hope, and determination. She sang about not taking any shit back in the 1960s. I’d be damned if I’d take any shit 50 years later.

And so this women, with her words and raw power, would get me through.

She was there for me during the pain and shame when “D” made me go shopping with him for his girlfriend’s Christmas present, knowing I loved him, and the day after he slept with me for the first time.

She was there for me when “S” was playing mind games, gaslighting me before I knew gaslighting was a thing, when in my bewildered state I questioned my own sanity and morals.

She was there for me when “J” trailed off into oblivion.

She was there when “R” left me for another woman, three days after introducing me to his extended family, and three months after insisting I meet his son.

This song, among many others, has been a touchstone for me. An audio reminder of who I am, what I want, and what I will and will not tolerate in my own life and relationships.

The thing to remember is that we all go through tough times and we all get our hearts broken at some point or another. To survive it, you need to have things you can fall back on, and songs like Respect, that help to snap you out of the pain, make you laugh at yourself, and keep moving forward.

Whenever I find myself hurting, I find bittersweet comfort knowing I can turn to music for solace. More than just reminding me to be strong, Aretha has been a thread throughout my dating life. Whenever I listen to Respect in a moment of pain, I am forced to remember the previous moments, but also forced to remember the fact that I got through them, and survived, a little wiser, a little tougher, and a little stronger.

When I heard the news of her death, I stopped in my tracks. Later that night I wept. I wept for a woman I never met, because her song helped me to become the woman I am.

Thank you, Aretha.

xxx

Little Welsh Minx in a masquerade mask.About LittleWelshMinx

Hello! I’m a 30-something girl from Wales, who likes classic literature, rugby, salsa, old Hollywood cinema, 40s/50s/60s fashion, and drinking gin and tonics. I blog about sex, from as many different view points, subjects, and angles as possible… academic, historical, geographical, scientific, technological, moral, personal, socioeconomic, political, emotional….

Sex – it’s not just a noun or a verb.

[Toy Review] The Red Head by Glas

I love glass toys, I love pretty toys, and I love double-ended toys. So when the folks at The Adult Toy Shop offered me this beauty from their range to try, I eagerly jumped at the chance. If you’ve never tried a glass toy, you really should. They feel like nothing else! Smooth and yet completely unyielding, glass begins cold to the touch but warms up surprisingly quickly with your body’s heat. And you can always run it under some warm (not hot!) water or pop it in the fridge for 20 minutes prior to play for some exciting temperature-based fun.

The |Red Head Glas DildoLet’s meet the Red Head…

Unlike many double ended dildos, I liked that both the ends on this one are the exact same size.

It’s 8.5″ in total length, and 1.5″ in diameter at the widest points of the heads. The shaft is 1″ in diameter.

This toy is really pretty. I always find glass toys very aesthetically pleasing and the red wave pattern on each of the heads gives this one a unique, striking appearance.

Is glass body-safe?

Short answer: yes!

Long answer: A properly made glass dildo is highly, highly unlikely to just break – and I have never heard of one breaking inside someone. Borosilicate glass, the kind that most glass toys are made of, is the same stuff that “Pyrex” and similar cookware is made from. It’s very hardy stuff and can withstand changes in temperature. It might break if you drop it on a hard floor from height, but that’s all you need to worry about.

Glass is non-toxic and non porous – it doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals like phthalates, and as long as you clean it properly it won’t harbour any bacteria or germs.

Glass toys are also latex and non-latex condom compatible, and safe to use with water, silicone or oil based lubes. In short, a great choice!

To clean your  glass toy, wash it in warm water and some gentle soap or soak it in a 10% bleach solution for a few minutes. For a quick clean, a body-safe medical wipe or toy wipe will do the trick.

In use…

Unfortunately, I did not have another pretty vulva-owning person on hand to try this toy with, so I tested it solo. I’m definitely keeping it earmarked for the next time I have someone with a vagina in my bed, though! As it doesn’t have a flared base, the Red Head is not suitable for anal play, but there are anal safe glass toys on the market if that’s your jam.

I’ve sometimes struggled with straight glass toys because, as they’re so rigid, it can be hard to angle them just right and they end up pressing into the wrong spot and hurting. No such issues with this dildo, though. The curved shape and super smooth surface means that, with the help of a little lube, it slid in with no pain or discomfort at all.

The combination of the gentle curve and the bulbous heads made the Red Head dildo immensely satisfying for me. I’m super multi orgasmic when it comes to G-spot stimulation, and… well, let’s just say after about five or six, I stopped bothering to count. The head presses in just the right spot and with a little gentle wiggling, it feels absolutely wonderful.

A quick pro tip from me: if you like G-spot vibration and intense stimulation, insert your glass dildo then press a wand vibrator against the bit that’s outside your body. The glass will transmit the vibrations and they’ll feel really strong.

I have never squirted, but if I was ever going to, I’m pretty sure it would be a curved, very rigid G-spot toy – like this one – that got me there. Hmm. More experimentation is in order! For science, of course.

So do I recommend it?

Yes, this is a wonderful little (or not so little) toy for the price! It’s body-safe, super pretty, it feels delicious, and it’s perfect for both solo and partnered play. A perfect beginner glass toy, or even a good addition to an afficionado’s collection.

The Red Head retails for $28.34 (RRP $34.99) at The Adult Toy Shop.

This unbiased review was sponsored by The Adult Toy Shop, who carry a wide range of very affordable sex toys. This in no way affects my views of the product which are, and will always be, entirely my own.

[Toy Review] Womanizer Premium

I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a Womanizer for SO long, you guys. I think I missed the buzz (heh) when they first launched as the first few models were already old news when I started my blog, so I was delighted to see that A) there are new models out, and B) Lovehoney were kind enough to provide me with one to review for you all.

The Womanizer Premium on a wooden floor.Now, for those who don’t know, Womanizer were the first company to create clitoral suction toys of the kind that are now made by a whole host of companies. Many sex toy experts hold them up as the original and best, while others say they’re overpriced and the much more affordable Satisfyers do just as good a job. I’m not here to compare these toys today (though I will at some point) but felt that little bit of context was relevant.

Stats & Things

The Womanizer Premium on a wooden floor.The Womanizer Premium is the latest in Womanizer’s line of toys utilising what they call “Pleasure Air Technology”. Essentially, the nozzle creates a seal around the clitoris and the toy provides stimulation via rapid pulses of air.

This toy operates off a simple interface of 4 buttons. The bottom button just above the charging point switches the toy on and off; the one with a little wave pattern on it switches in and out of Auto Pilot mode; and the +/- buttons adjust the speeds. The buttons are easy to press, and well positioned to change the speed when in use without breaking your flow.

It’s USB rechargeable, completely waterproof, and ergonomically designed to fit comfortably in the user’s hand.

Premium Product, Premium Packaging… Premium Pricetag

The Womanizer Premium black box.The Womanizer Premium lives up to its name before you even take it out of the box. The packaging is elaborate and decorated in a style which makes me think of perfume or high-end make-up, with a clear section where you can see the toy. Included with the toy is the charging cable, a convenient storage bag, and two nozzles of different sizes (so you can swap them out depending on what suits your body).

The Womanizer Premium box openNow this toy screams luxury to me. The velvety soft premium silicone (available in three  colours and, praise be to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, none of them are pink!) and subtle gold-coloured accents add to the luxurious feel.

This product does, though, come with a premium price-tag. It retails for £169.99 ($198.99 US). Do I think it’s worth it? Eh… maybe. It’s a damn good product from a trusted company, and if you can drop this kind of money on a toy it’ll be an investment that will last you for years. On the other hand, if money is tighter you can forego some of the special features (more on that later) you can get the Classic model or a much cheaper Satisfyer without losing a tonne of functionality. This toy does have some distinct advantages over cheaper models, but whether they’re worth the extra cost is a personal choice.

Body-Safety and Cleaning Concerns

The 100% silicone (apart from the ABS accents) of this toy make it completely body-safe. As it’s completely waterproof, you can submerge it to clean it all over. As an extra hygiene precaution, I recommend taking off the nozzle and sterilising it in boiling water or a 10% bleach solution after every few uses. In between, a sterile medical wipe will do the job just fine.

Sharing suction toys can be an issue, as they are not barrier compatible. Fortunately, this toy comes with two nozzles (and you can buy extras) so I recommend just swapping nozzles between partners if more than one person is going to be using it.

As ever, I recommend water-based lube.

Special Features

The Womanizer Premium has three defining features which set it apart from the lower priced models.

Firstly, it boasts a massive 12 speed settings (the Classic model has only 8), with the lowest setting lower and the highest setting higher than ever before.

Second, it has a super nifty body-sensor feature they call Smart Silence, which means the toy turns itself off automatically when it’s not in contact with the body, and then back on again (on the same setting) when contact is reestablished. It’s really cool and I like it a lot. No more fumbling with buttons if your roommate knocks on the door or your child barges in at an inopportune moment!

And finally, there’s the Auto Pilot mode. I hate this, because it’s basically a glorified pattern, but I think a lot of people will love it. In Auto Pilot, the intensity moves automatically between speeds (within a range of 4, which you can turn up or down). Personally, I want to be in control – it can ruin my chances of orgasm if the stimulation changes suddenly when I’m getting close – but others may love this. It could be fun to utilise as part of an edging or orgasm control game?

So how does it actually feel?

Short answer: amazing.

Long answer: it feels like it’s caressing your clit with a fierce determination to rip an orgasm from you whether you want it to or not, and when it does it’s the kind of orgasm that drenches the sheets and wakes the neighbours.

…At least that was my experience.

After a lackluster first try or two last year, I’m a serious suction toys convert. The differences between each model of suction toy are fairly subtle, but I’d describe this one as gentler than some others – even at the higher settings. If you’ve got a super sensitive clit and other toys of this type have been too intense for you, the Womanizer Premium on the lower settings might be the perfect choice.

Anything I Didn’t Love?

Well, that stupid Auto Pilot setting, but it’s easy to forget that exists. It’s also not the quietest, even when pressed against the body. For reference, my partner could hear it in the next room. It’s quieter than a wand but definitely louder than a bullet.

Otherwise, I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t enjoy about this toy.

So do I recommend it?

Yes, if you can afford to drop close to £200 on a toy and want something really luxurious that will last you for many years!

Thank you to Lovehoney for sending me the Womanizer Premium to review. All views are, as ever, entirely my own. If you buy through my affiliate links I make a small commission. Thank you for supporting my work when you buy your sex toys! All images are by me and not to be reproduced without permission.

Group Sex Does Not Ruin You For 1-on-1 Sex

Believe it or not, this post title has been in my ideas list for ages… and then Exhibit A said almost exactly the same thing in one of his Smutathon posts! So this forms my final post of the day (probably, unless this is quicker than I think it’s going to be and I end up rattling off a sixth one). If you still want to donate to our fundraiser for Abortion Support Network, you’ve got time!

A snowy slope with a ski lift. For a post about group sex and the slippery slope fallacy.
This is a slippery slope. Sex and kink is not one.

I get asked this question surprisingly often. “Doesn’t group sex mean you can’t be satisfied with one on one sex any more?”

The short answer is no. The long answer is…

Things, and people, don’t work that way. Are you no longer able to enjoy a simple but delicious meal simply because you occasionally go to fine dining restaurants? Are you unable to appreciate quiet drinks with friends because you’ve also experienced wild, dancing-on-tables nights on the town?

No. Because people don’t work that way. Sex is exactly the same. The idea that things always have to get more and more and more extreme in order to keep a person satisfied once they’ve had a taste of the “exotic” just doesn’t stack up. Sex isn’t a drug – you don’t need a bigger hit every time to get the same high.

I love group sex. Love it love it love it. The tangle of bodies, all the hands and mouths and cocks and cunts and… oops, sorry, got a little carried away there. Point is that it’s brilliant. No matter how many times I do it, and how often and in what combinations, it’s still fucking amazing. I honestly don’t see that ever changing.

But you know what? One on one sex works exactly the same way! We might have had nine-person orgies (that was a great birthday party) and group spanking parties and kinky threesomes and wild nights with other couples… but none of that takes away from the simple, perfect loveliness of my partner’s lips on mine and his cock inside me. Enjoying four or six or eight hands on me doesn’t mean I can’t still delight and find bliss in the same two hands that have known and loved me for years.

It’s the same with kink. I have done some wild kinky shit in my life, and loved every second of it. But it doesn’t mean every session needs to be wilder and more extreme than the last! Despite what some scaremongers would have you believe, spanking is not a slippery slope to being strung up from the ceiling on meat hooks. (Hook suspension exists, don’t google it if you’re squeamish, #YKINMKBYKIOK!) The intense stuff I’ve done has been brilliant and I’m sure it will continue to be brilliant. But it doesn’t mean I’m always seeking harder, crazier, more. A light spanking can still thrill the hell out of me exactly as much as it did the first time I experimented with it. A good old vanilla-ish shag with my partner is still super satisfying, too!

Sex is not a drug. You cannot “ruin” yourself for one-on-one sex by having group sex. Liking kink is not a sign that your desires are getting out of control or that you’ll end up doing something dangerous to get your rocks off. Enjoy what you enjoy, and don’t stress – you’re not going to lose control.

Masturbation Monday: “Blue Dress”

A mostly-true story for Smutathon 2018: Smut for Choice edition. There’s still time to donate and enter the raffle!

A girl in a blue dress from the back, for a Masturbation Monday post about fucking after a wedding“No, keep your dress on.”

The order is sharp. His voice is low – our hosts are asleep in just the next room, after all – but there’s no mistaking the do-as-you’re-told, no-arguments tone. I pause from unzipping the side of my blue silk dress.

“Bend over the bed and keep quiet.”

I lean over the bed, my face buried in the duvet, the wooden frame digging in to the front of my thighs. He lifts the hem of my dress, flipping it up over my back, and runs a hand over my ass. He saw me put on the red knickers I know he likes this morning, and I’m sure he’s been thinking about them ever since as we’ve been terribly well behaved at the family wedding. He’s pulling them down until they sit around my ankles. I’m still wearing my sparkly dancing shoes, and my hair is still somehow, unbelievably, tamed into the impossible style that took the miracle-worker at the salon an hour and a half this morning.

I’m not really completely ready for him when he starts to push his hard cock into me. I wasn’t expecting this and we didn’t bring lube with us. But the humiliating position and the feeling of him fucking me with my dress still on are getting to me. It hurts just a little bit, but I like that. My gasp spurs him on and he buries the full length of his cock in me.

“Keep quiet,” he tells me. I bite my lip and bury my face further into the bed. The sensation of being used is unbearably erotic and I can already feel myself edging closer to orgasm. Perhaps he can feel my telltale spasms, because he says, “come for me. Just do it quietly.” The order is enough to push me over the edge and I come hard around his cock. In response, he thrusts harder.

When I come a second time, it pushes him over the edge too. He releases into me with a low groan.

My beautiful hairstyle is ruined, my makeup smudged and my best knickers stained with his come. The perfect end to the night.

Masturbation Monday is created and owned by Kayla Lords. Click the logo to see what’s getting everyone off this week. (I’m the prompt!)

If you enjoyed this story, you can get bonus erotic fiction with #BonusSmutTuesday plus other fun perks every single week by signing up to my Patreon page at any level.

Image sourced through Pixabay.