My Safety Philosophy: Why I Practice (C)RACK

I always listen to Loving BDSM Podcast the day it comes out (Fridays), usually on my way to work. They’re always insightful, frequently hilarious and often make me think.  Today’s episode was all about the different safety philosophies within the kink community. Kayla and John discussed why they personally practice SSC – Safe, Sane and Consensual. As always, they’ve got loads of great things to say and I highly recommend you take a listen.

A cracked wall with flowers growing out of it. For a post on safety philosophies in kink.As I was listening, I realised I’ve written about safety tips for kink, but I’ve never actually written about my own personal safety philosophy before.

In kink, the three safety philosophies you’ll mostly hear cited are:

SSC: Which states that everything we do must be Safe, Sane and Consensual.

RACK: Which urges us to practice Risk Aware Consensual Kink.

And PRICK: Which asks us to take Personal Responsibility (in) Informed Consensual Kink.

Each of these has their merits and I will never knock anyone else’s safety philosophy as long as it’s based around the cores of safety and informed consent. Personally, though, I practice RACK. Let me tell you why.

What is “safe” anyway?

Very little in life is completely safe. We take risks in our life every day. It would be absurd to think that sex or kink could be completely free from risk. I take a risk every time I use a sharp knife to chop vegetables. I take a risk every time I get in my car (driving, when you think about the size of the machine you’re in and the speeds at which it moves, is fucking terrifying). And I definitely take a risk every time I let someone spank me, string me up in ropes, or get into edgy and emotionally fraught places in my psyche. (Yes, not all risk is physical. Mental risk is just as real).

Risk Aware, for me, doesn’t just mean knowing the risks are there but taking active steps to reduce them. We know driving is dangerous, so we wear seatbelts, don’t drive drunk, and don’t text while we’re driving. And in kink, it’s exactly the same.

Being risk aware means letting a partner know about any physical issues I might have that could impact our play, and keeping an eye on them during. It means letting my partner know about a pinched nerve or pins and needles in my hands. It means, when I’m Topping, getting proper education on the acts I want to do to another human being and not playing beyond my competence level.

So: nothing we do is, or can be, completely safe. Even vanilla missionary position sex with the lights out carries some degree of risk. By being informed, we can meaningfully mitigate risks to the best of our ability.

Who gets to define “sanity”?

I, like approximately 1/4 of the adult population (conservative estimate,) suffer from a mental health problem. Does that mean I’m incapable of doing kink responsibly? No, absolutely not. As a person with mental health conditions, I find classifications of “sanity” to be intensely problematic.

As long as I’m aware of where my mental health is at, and can communicate that to a partner, it’s generally reasonably safe and completely healthy for me to play. Which… circles us back around to that risk aware piece, doesn’t it?

At best, sanity is nebulous and difficult to define. What feels “insane” to one person might be “average Saturday afternoon” for another.

My unease with PRICK

PRICK is a fine philosophy, in so far as it goes. But it makes me feel a vague uneasiness whenever I hear it, and today I finally put my finger on why.

I’ve been involved in various ways in anti-sexual-violence activism for 6+ years. The phrase “personal responsibility” has been thrown at me and so many of the survivors I know more times than we can count. In those instances, unfortunately, it is taken to the extreme of meaning that you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens to you.

This means that a generally good philosophy (“look out for yourself, take responsibility for your actions and the impact they have on yourself and others around you”) has been co-opted and twisted to mean “if someone harms you, it’s your fault”.

It’s not that I’ll never play with someone who practices PRICK, but I would need to make damn sure that their meaning is closer to “we are responsible for taking care of our own and each others’ safety and wellbeing to the best of our ability”. That’s what a good philosophy of personal responsibility would look like.

Sadly, I just know too many people who say “personal responsibility” when they mean “if you get raped, what were you wearing how much did you drink why were you out late how did you not know that guy was a rapist?????

It all comes back to consent

Whichever you practice, you’ll notice that the one thing all these philosophies have in common is consent. Consent is at the core of everything we do. However, it occurred to me today that there is one key ingredient which none of these philosophies explicitly address…

The missing piece

Kayla and John so often come back to the importance of communication in their discussions on Loving BDSM. I often find myself nodding along, and am in absolute agreement with them that effective communication is at the core of everything we do. You cannot have safe(r) kink and sex without communication. You cannot have a good relationship without communication! And I don’t think we can meaningfully discuss good philosophies of safety without also discussing the importance of strong communication.

Therefore I present to you my new philosophy, adapted from RACK, which you are all welcome to use if it speaks to you:

CRACK: Communicative (&) Risk Aware Consensual Kink.

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Image from Pixabay and used under Creative Commons licensing.

[Guest Post] Forget Perfection, Bring Me the Glory – Life as a Disabled Kinkster by Pippin Strange

Today I am so, so honoured to be sharing a guest blog from one of my most favourite people. Pippin is my metamour – my sweetie The Artist’s primary partner – and a dear friend. Among many other things, they identify as disabled, queer and a survivor. They are also supremely wise, powerfully compassionate, ridiculously talented, and kinky as fuck in the best possible way. 

Content notes  are: chronic pain, intestinal health, ableism, intimate partner abuse and rape. Please look after yourselves when engaging with these topics.

Buckle in and get some coffee for this one, folks. It’s longer than I usually post, but I devoured every word and you should too.

Amy x
______________________

A person sitting in their wheelchair facing away from the camera looking up at a big tree.It’s a bad pain day. My joints are twinging; something untoward is happening in my lower abdomen; my neck feels like two bars of iron stuck on either side of my spine. And my fatigue levels are high – even sitting forward in my wheelchair is a challenge, and I’ve done well to make it out of the house.

Suddenly we come to a patch of bumpy pavement. The Magician increases their pushing speed ever so slightly, and every little jolt sets my buttocks singing with joyful agony from last night’s caning. It’s exquisite. Once we’re on the smooth ground again, I tell them my arse still hurts and it’s all their fault. Even before they stop pushing, I know they have broken into that devilishly handsome, sadistic grin. I shiver. They bend down and we kiss deeply, leaving me wanting more.

I’m Pippin Strange, otherwise known as the Minstrel. I’m a genderqueer, queer, polyamorous switch in my late thirties, with two delightful partners – the Magician (also known on Coffee and Kink as the Artist!), and the Ranger. My relationship with each of them includes kink – I submit to the Magician (who is my primary partner), and I switch with the Ranger.

I’m also disabled. I have joint hypermobility, and an unnecessarily interesting selection of long-term mental and physical illnesses, the former including Complex PTSD, the latter including ME/CFS and some form of seizure disorder. I’m also neurodivergent, with no formal diagnosis but the strong likelihood that I am both dyspraxic and autistic. I take several forms of medication, I’m housebound a lot, and I usually use my beloved wheelchair when out and about. For good or ill, being disabled permeates every part of my life, including my sex life, and it has done ever since I reached adulthood.

An evening in a university town, nearly twenty years ago. I’ve just come back from the bathroom. My lower abdomen is again in a scary amount of pain. The Saboteur – my boyfriend, later to become my husband – is not shy of expressing his disappointment that I’m yet again not well enough for intercourse. I’ve been close to screaming with the pain, but instead we focus on his sadness that we’re not going to fuck. I assure him, desperately, that yes I really am trying my best to sort out whatever is wrong with my innards so that he can be inside me again. I feel like a failure.

I say “an evening”. Actually this happens several times. On at least one occasion, I decide to give it a go anyway, because I can’t bear the guilt any more. The pain is too much, self-preservation kicks in, I speak out. He stops and withdraws. But he is the wronged party; I get no sympathy from him.

Fast forward to the present. An afternoon in an industrial city in the Midlands. The Ranger is above me, fucking me, and it’s glorious. His hands pin mine above my head. My lips are pressed against his collar bone, moaning words of helpless submission into the his soft skin. I know I’m not going to come like this, not in this position, but I love it, I love it so much, and I’m desperate to keep going, to feel the rhythm change and hear his gasps as he comes inside me. But my thigh muscles are too weak, and my right hip joint is complaining. This is not a sexy pain. I keep going anyway, because it is wonderful and I want it so much. But he notices something, checks, asks if I’m comfortable. I realise that I’ve been foolish, and admit that I’m not. He pulls out of me, shifts aside so I can stretch out. I breathe an apology for having to stop but he tells me I have nothing to be sorry for. He smiles at me, praises me for answering his question honestly, tells me how good I am. And seeing I’m eager to stay in the scene, he starts dominating me in a different way…

Looking back, I’ve been a sub-leaning switch for as long as I’ve had any sexual urges at all. And I suspect that I have being disabled, even more than being queer, to thank for how much I’ve allowed this part of me to blossom. My body is already othered, already weird, already unacceptable. I’m already rebelling against a cultural norm every time I use it in any way that brings me pleasure. So if conforming is impossible, at least for someone with my drives and my stubbornness, I’m damn well going to rebel in whatever way I like best. And now that I’m gnarled and middle-aged (and the hottest I’ve ever been) and I only have sexual or romantic relationships with people who are actively lovely (rather than, say, completely dreadful), kink – as both dominant and submissive – has become a crucial part of my sexual identity. And a crucial part of how I cope with the day-to-day reality of my health conditions and the impact they have on my life.

A winter morning. I’m so fatigued that my arms have mostly stopped working. But I have the Ranger stretched out at my side, beautiful and helpless and mine. I can do so little to him physically right now, but there’s so much I can order him to do to himself – and I do, stroking his face and holding his gaze with mine and enthralling him with words. I have no power to do much with my muscles, but I have so much power over him.

To be a disabled dom makes, I would say, an instinctive sense. I’m someone who feels far too powerless in my life far too much of the time. And here is the Ranger, a man I love, kind and fascinating and staggeringly gorgeous. And here he is handing temporary control of his body and mind to me, calling me “Sir”, eyes widening with pain or pleasure as he falls at my command and I play with the power he’s given me. Yes fucking please, on every level. 🙂

And the flip-side of that: one of the worst frustrations I experience in being incapacitated with fatigue so much of the time is how little ability I have to do caring, lovely things for the people who I love. Put simply, my dominating the Ranger makes him happy, and I love making the people I love happy.

When I’m submitting, it’s more complicated. I already spend far too much of my life feeling powerless and in pain. So why does, for instance, being held down by the Magician’s firm hand while they torture my nipples until I squeal not only make me wet, but also give me a welcome sense of peace, healing, well-being, and even power?

The obvious answer is that in that situation, however powerless I feel, I actually am nothing of the kind. Every instant is something I have passionately chosen. But it’s more than that. While I do struggle to feel powerful in my everyday life, something that I never struggle to feel is responsible. With PTSD, an anxiety disorder, and a mind that is by nature a constant torrent of words, the feeling of falling into subspace and allowing my mind to be quiet, slow, responsive to what is immediate rather than what is ongoing, brings an instant and glorious relief, and, ironically, a growth of true power within me that lasts long after the scene. As an abuse survivor who struggles with low self-esteem, being praised for my submission by a beloved partner is incredibly healing. As a caree who does not always feel at ease about my needs, to have a situation in which I am cherished and guarded and cared for as a submissive, and in which that adds to the pleasure experienced by the dominant, reclaims some of that space for me away from my own internalised ableism.

And the pain? As every masochist and every chronic pain sufferer knows, pain varies, in quality as well as in intensity. The angry bite of a headache, the enervating ache of a stiff muscle, the sickening dragging agony of an inflamed intestine… “pain” is one word for all these things, but they have little in common beyond it. I defy anyone to enjoy anything about having Ulcerative Colitis, but most of the pains involved in sensation play within kink are of a kind that are at least potentially pleasurable, and at no point give the kind of “wrongness” signals that the body is coming to serious harm. Even when I’m being spanked to the point of tears, I know that I’m safe, that no harm is coming to my body worse than a few bruises or welts. It is blessedly different from anything that comes from my health conditions. It’s not uncommon, even, for kink sensations, coupled with post-impact endorphins, to temporarily overwhelm and drive out my chronic pain; especially useful for me given I cannot safely take most painkillers!

The sense of achievement in sensation play is also a mighty difference between kink pain and chronic pain, and gives me a taste of something that I miss. I’ve always loved the feeling of having successfully pushed my body beyond what I believed it could do. To stand, for instance, on top of a big Scottish hill, gazing down at the incredible view, and thinking I made it. Since I now have moderately severe M.E., exerting my body beyond very narrow (and varying) limits is actively dangerous – it can make me more ill for days, weeks or even months. But a hard spanking challenges my body without that risk. And since I’m afterwards able to gaze on the Magician or the Ranger, the view’s not bad from the top of that hill either.

When it comes to sensations that are pleasurable as well as painful (clothes pegs on my nipples, a punch on my butt, a flogger on my thighs, a bite on my shoulder…), my body gets to feel something it can relish, just as much as with sensations that are purely pleasurable. More so, often, since the high background level of tension in my body can make pure pleasure paradoxically painful to me. A mixture of kink pain and pleasure allows my body to relax into the sensations and relish them intensely – and to be able to relish a physical experience in this body is a powerful thing indeed. Like a lot of people with chronic pain, I wrestle with the temptation to hate my body or feel thoroughly disconnected from it. At its best, sensation play as a sub brings me back into affectionate synchronicity with this fractious, fragile, and yet utterly wonderful meatsack of mine. It is beyond precious.

As I write this, the ring and little finger on my right hand are a trifle numb. Two days ago, with the Magician’s own chronic pain flaring but both of us feeling enthusiastic, we tried something new. They sat back on pillows, comfortably, calmly eating an apple like a (gorgeous) movie villain. And I gave them a show. Stripping at their instruction, torturing my nipples, scratching my thighs, pleasuring myself while they watched me and praised me and noted with delicious smugness that turning me into their helpless toy and slave had been so very, very easy…

It was wonderful. Squirmy and embarrassing and hot and beautiful and loving. And I wrenched my neck. It had been playing up for a few days, and the slightly unfamiliar position I was lying in did the rest. I felt odd after I came (I mean, happy! but odd), and the following day I woke up with my neck, jaw, and shoulders a mess, and the obvious symptoms of some mild and hopefully temporary nerve damage, as well as some indications that I’d had a seizure in my sleep. I don’t regret a thing about that scene (although I am thinking that I might need to go to the doctor if the symptoms continue…), but in future I’ll need to take a lot more thought about how I position myself, and ask for some Tiger Balm or ibuprofen gel as part of my after-care…

I don’t want to give the impression that being a disabled kinkster is easy. That, it certainly is not.

Events are a problem. I can’t get out of the house much, and when I can theoretically get to something, worries about access and the likelihood of running into at least some kind of ableist bullshit can be prohibitively exhausting.

Meeting new potential play partners is a problem. I’m horribly vulnerable, and already a survivor of assault, harassment, rape and ableist relationship abuse. Disabled people are on average twice as likely to be abused over the course of their lives as currently-abled people, and to say that I am very wary of the possibility of it happening to me again is an understatement. The kink scene and the polyamory scene are both riddled with ableism, from the usual cultural disdain for disabled bodies, to the fetishising of certain of those bodies in Fetlife groups, to the extreme end of Relationship Anarchy that rejects anything like a carer/caree (or mutual carer!) relationship between romantic partners – or even one that is merely stable and secure and committed, as is essential for me – as intrinsically oppressive. On top of that, anyone I go on an actual date with needs to be someone both the Magician and I trust to be, at least in a small way, my carer for a couple of hours – including pushing my wheelchair if the situation requires it. Thankfully I already have my two wonderful partners, not to mention three superb “kissing friends”, one of whom I may also start kinking with soon; I am quite beautifully polysaturated! But even if I were more interested in, say, casual play with a stranger or acquaintance than I am, it would not be remotely an option for me.

And then there’s the actual impairments. There are some activities I’d love to do that are either physically impossible for me, or which I cannot do for long. Ever tried giving a blow job with your jaw a clicky mass of pain, and when you have both a strong gag reflex and emetophobia? Not the easiest thing. 😉 I actually love sucking my partners’ cocks, both as a dom and as a sub, but my Gods do I have to be having a good day before I can, and deep-throating is most definitely not an option. And sometimes I am just too mentally ill for kink to be safe. Anxiety and depression and even flashbacks are one thing, and under the right circumstances kink can actively help, but on those thankfully rare occasions when my perception of reality is a little porous, let’s just say that telling a partner I’m their helpless captive is not a sensible plan…

But those limitations do come with their own blessings. I can’t have some perfect scene that lasts for hours and doesn’t require extensive in-scene management of my energy, pain levels, and whatever my brain might be up to. And since I can’t have it, I don’t need to try. Instead, my partners and I can get on with doing what works for us on the day – and finding creative solutions to some of the difficulties. After the Ranger and I stopped having PIV sex with him on top in the scene I describe earlier, we found another position that was a lot more sustainable for me, and in which I was able to come really quite explosively. Would we have found that position if my hips had been behaving themselves? I’m not sure we would. My difficulties with stroking his cock for any length of time I have gone some way to fixing, buying him as an anniversary gift a stroker toy that gives me a much easier grip, and which he loves in its own right (not least because it is purple!). The frankness about my body that I have had to develop to survive means that I’m good at giving accurate feedback, vital when trying something new.

The Magician and I, since we live together, engage in a lot of micro-kink: scenes that last literally seconds long and which we fit randomly into our day whenever we’re both up for it. A brisk hand or hairbrush spanking while we run a bath. Their hand closing briefly over my mouth while we’re snuggling. A glare over the top of their glasses that rapidly becomes a contest, with me trying to make them laugh before they can turn me into a subby heap (they usually win 😉 ). Even the very fact that they’re my carer sometimes creates micro-kink situations, as helping me out of bed turns into mutual fondling, encouraging me to rest becomes sternly ordering me to, and helping me undress when my arms aren’t working properly becomes, well, stripping me naked.

Perhaps this above all: every body and every brain has its moments of misfiring. The Magician is disabled too; the Ranger is also not in consistently perfect health. And they both know they can trust me absolutely to understand and empathise when it’s their needs or limitations that mean that a scene has to be changed or halted, or just isn’t possible that day. I don’t want to romanticise the lessons that being disabled has taught me, when the primary lesson it has taught me is that all disabled people live in severely ableist societies with inadequate access, respect, and understanding, and that this desperately needs to change. But I have been forced over the past two decades to teach myself something powerful about how futile it is to search for what is perfect, and how much better it is to build what is glorious instead. And if there is one thing that makes me both a good dominant and a good submissive, it is probably that.

Photo provided by the author. Do not steal it.

How to Be a Good Couple to Threesome With

I’ve had a LOT of threesomes. I love them. Due to my status of more-or-less-constantly-in-a-relationship-since-I-was-a-teenager, I’ve more often – not always, but often – been one of the members of the more established couple, rather than the third person coming in for playtime.

Three Maine Coon cats sitting down in a row and looking at the camera. The middle one is white with a ginger face and the other two are tabbies. For a post about being a good couple to threesome with.

Playing with an existing couple can be really daunting, even if you’re really into them both. like to think that Mr CK and I are a good couple to threesome with. We’ve been told so, anyway! So I thought I’d set down some things that I believe a couple can do in order to treat the third party in their threesome well, and make sure they have a good time.

1. No Pressure

Pressure is a massive libido killer. It’s a really bad idea to go into a threesome or potential threesome with a very rigid idea of how you want it to go. This puts undue pressure on everyone, and especially on the third party, who may feel that they have (or actually have) less negotiating power than the couple.

Don’t rush things. Don’t invite a potential playmate over To Have A Threesome And Anything Else Is A Failure. Spend time getting to know what makes them tick, what they’re into, what they’re hoping to get out of the experience, what kind of ongoing dynamic they’re interested in with the two of you (if any), and how they communicate.

And for fuck’s sake, when things do progress to a sexy place, don’t make it a rush to get around all the “bases” as quickly as possible! Making out, touching, groping, hand stuff, oral sex, kink play… all of these things can be amazing. Yes, intercourse can be on the table, but it doesn’t have to be… and rushing to get there will just result in a bad time for everyone.

2. Have your own house in order first.

Nothing is more awkward than being in the middle of a couple having a fight… except being in bed with a couple having a fight.

Discuss your feelings. Talk about any insecurities or jealousies you have that might come up. Plan for how you’ll handle it if they do come up – in a way that is kind and compassionate to everyone, including the third person. “Well we can just kick her out if one of us gets jealous” is neither a solid plan nor an ethical way to treat a human being.

Don’t attempt to bring anyone else in to your relationship, whether for casual sex or something more, unless your relationship is solid first. Note I said solid, not perfect – perfection does not exist. It is monumentally unfair to bring a third party into a dynamic that is crumbling or dysfunctional. It is even more unfair to expect that this person, or sex with them, will somehow fix your relationship issues.

“Relationship broken, add more people” is a cliche because so many couples try to do it… and it never, ever ends well.

3. Approach sex as a collaboration, not a service from them to you.

If you want to have a threesome with a third party where the focus is really on the two of you in the couple, and their pleasure is less of a priority, consider hiring a sex worker. Your threesome partner, even if the sex is casual, is not a life-size sex toy! They’re a person with their own wants, needs, desires and feelings.

Sex is a collaboration, a dance. Everyone should give and receive pleasure and the goal should be mutual satisfaction for all parties – not just the couple. Your threesome buddy may not be a fully fledged member of your ongoing relationship, but they are a fully fledged member of whatever dynamic the three of you are creating together. Collaborate to have a sexy time. Don’t use them.

4. Consent first, consent last, consent in all things.

Check in early and often. If you’re not absolutely 1000% sure you have consent for something, ASK. “Ruining the mood” is a myth – a good time will never be ruined by checking on consent for something, but it can easily be ruined by overstepping someone’s boundaries.

And of course it should go without saying that no means no, and you should never push someone to do something if they don’t want to.

Mr CK and I received an email from someone we played with recently, thanking us for how good we were at consent and boundaries, and it is honestly one of the best compliments I have ever received.

5. Openly discuss safer sex.

This is absolutely vital. Ideally, this discussion should happen while clothes are still on, long before any sex happens, but it can happen in the moment if necessary. Everyone should disclose their testing status, their safer-sex protocols, the method(s) of birth control they’re using, and any other relevant information – an allergy to latex, for example.

This is as much your responsibility as a couple as it is the third party’s responsibility! 

6. Have things you’re likely to need on hand.

Have a stash of condoms, lube, gloves and dams easily reachable. Think about, and discuss, what toys you’re likely to want and have them easily accessible too (and charged, if applicable)!

7. Have an aftercare plan.

Will your threesome buddy stay over, or would they prefer to go home afterwards? How will they get home safely? If they do stay, would they prefer to sleep with you both or in a separate bed? (I hereby promise that anyone who stays over at ours after sexy time will get pancakes and your favourite hot beverage in the morning. Just, you know, in case it tempts anyone…!)

Make sure there’s time afterwards to cuddle, debrief if necessary, and make sure everyone is okay and has everything they need. Offer, and ask for, reassurance and affection freely as needed. Check in with your sexy friend the next day to make sure all is well with them.

Aaaaand that’s it. Follow these tips and, while I can’t guarantee you’ll have an amazing threesome, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you’re treating your Special Guest Star with the respect, compassion and consideration they deserve.

Image is from Pixabay. It’s what came up when I searched “three” and it amused me so it stays. If you enjoyed this post, you can buy me a coffee to say thanks or become one of my sexy Patrons, and access some exciting bonus content!

Can You Truly Consent Ahead of Time?

As you will have seen already if you’ve been reading this blog for long, I have Many Feels about consent. In short, consent is everything. In all areas of life, but in sex and relationships in particular.

Full disclosure the first: I pondered this one for a long time, nearly didn’t post it at all, then went “oh fuck it.”

Full disclosure the second: it’s relatively late on Friday night and I’m tired as fuck. This might not be my best work ever.

Psst – don’t forget to check out #KinkMonth and join the conversation!

A white pillow with the words "do not disturb" in black. For a post on sleep sex and pre consent

Today in 30 Days of D/s, Kayla and John are talking about sexual availability. They say:

In some D/s relationships (including ours), there is an agreement that the submissive will always be sexually available to their Dominant. While this can be a kinky, sexy aspect of a relationship, it always requires a great deal of trust from the submissive and responsibility from the Dominant. What do you think? Does it sound deliciously sexy? Or does it not sound appealing at all?

Pre-consent vs. sexual availability

Mr CK and I do not have this type of arrangement as such, because we’re not in a 24/7 D/s relationship. What we do have, however, is certain types of what we call “blanket consent” or “pre-consent”- which, in practice, I imagine works in much the same way as a relationship where the submissive has consented ahead of time to sexual activity when the Dominant wants it. That is, it’s okay for you to do this thing unless I explicitly withdraw consent in the moment.

One of the things we’ve put this in place for is instigating sex/play while the other is asleep. Either of us can do this, and we’ve pre-negotiated that it’s okay. I find it really hot to be woken up from sleep because he’s decided he wants to fuck me. (And I’m a LIGHT sleeper so there’s no chance of my not waking up once he starts making a move on me.)

The reasons this works and is safe for our relationship, I think, are threefold:

First and most important: trust

Pre-consent of any kind, especially for sexual activity when in a vulnerable situation like being asleep, is edgy shit. It requires a huge amount of trust. This is not something you do on a first date. I really don’t recommend playing around with this level of vulnerability with a partner until you have a seriously solid foundation of trust.

Again: this is edge-play. Treat it accordingly.

Secondly, we exercise common sense and don’t abuse the trust

Just because he technically could, under this agreement, wake me up for sex at 3am the night before an important early meeting… doesn’t mean that he would.

Part of having agreements around pre- or blanket- consent means not abusing the trust your partner has put in you. These agreements exist, hopefully, because both parties find them sexy and are enthusiastically into whatever the thing being consented to is. Using them in a way that is likely to cause your partner harm or distress violates the spirit of the very trust required to have these kinds of arrangements in the first place.

Finally, we’re both totally happy to withdraw consent if necessary

I used to be the kind of person who would think, “well, I agreed to this in advance – or at least implied I might be up for it – so I guess I have to go along with it now even though I really don’t want to.” I am not that person any more.

We both say no when we mean no. Being able to rely on each other to do this means that we can relax into the play, knowing that the consent we’re receiving from the other person is genuine.

So: can you consent to something in advance?

My answer is… kind of. In theory I’ve given Mr consent to wake me up for sex any time he chooses. In practice, I could withdraw that consent any and every time he invokes this, if I chose to… and he would respect that withdrawal without question and with no negative consequences to our relationship. So, in reality, I’m actually consenting to the activity in a very meaningful and ongoing way at the time.

Because if you can’t withdraw consent, it’s not really consent at all. In advance or otherwise.

Kinky item of the day: Cuffs! Forget metal handcuffs (they’re either shit quality or painful as fuck in a bad way, in my experience.) What about these black leather beauties?

The above is an affiliate link. All opinions are, and will always be, entirely my own.

The image featured in this post was offered for use via Creative Commons Licensing.

Building Your House Together: Using Rules for Good

Hey, I’m pro-rules in relationships. (Related, I’m also pro-hierarchy in polyamory – yes, even when I’m not the one on top of the heap. Read this to find out why.)

A close up of a section of red brick wall, for a post about rules

Did you see that I’m celebrating #KinkMonth by writing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s project?

Join the discussion on Twitter or sign up for the project yourself – it’s FREE and can be used any way you like. Today’s prompt is all about rules. Kayla and John simply ask:

Do you know what kind of rules you may want or need?

A note about this post: it doesn’t contain much in the way of practical tips. I will do one soon with some more concrete advice on setting positive and useful relationship rules. This one is more a primer on my personal philosophy on the concept of rules/agreements in romantic relationships.

What’s wrong with rules?

A lot of non-monogamous people are against rules in relationships. The thinking goes: if you need rules to keep your partner from hurting you, the relationship is already doomed. I kind of agree with that sentiment, in so far as it goes. But I think it presents an unhelpfully pessimistic view on the role of rules in adult relationships.

Mr CK and I have rules in our relationship. They include things like always using condoms with lovers outside of our dyad, STI testing every 3 months, not having sex with someone new until the other has met the person, and not engaging in ongoing (i.e. longer than a scene) D/s dynamics with other people.

The rules don’t exist to keep either of us in line or prevent us from running amok over each other’s feelings. If we were going to do that, no rules would stop us, in the same way that the “rules” of traditional monogamy won’t stop somebody who is determined to cheat.

We have them because they keep us, and our relationship, happy and healthy.

A better framework

Used properly, rules aren’t a tool to bash your partner over the head with or keep them in line against your will. Used properly, they’re are the walls you build – collaboratively – to contain the house of your relationship.

You can use the word “agreements,” if you prefer, but in this framework they amount to the same thing. They’re limits, boundaries or modes of behaviour that you both (/all) agree to operate within, for the good of the relationship and everyone involved. Good rules should bring a sense of safety and security, like the solid, stable walls of your home. They’re not a prison.

If the agreements of your relationship are feeling like a cage, a conversation with your partner is in order. If your partner is arbitrarily imposing new ones without due discussion and buy-in from you, that’s a major red flag. (Incidentally, you obviously shouldn’t do this to your partner either!) To go back to the shared house metaphor, you wouldn’t just decide to build an extension or divide your living room in half without consulting your partner, would you? (If you would, umm, your relationship operates very differently from mine so please explain to me how this works for you!)

Build your house – together

I was once invited to move in by a partner and metamour. The further into “how will this work?” discussions we got, the more I came to realise a troubling fact. Namely, that their concept was that I would have little to no say in the running of the house. From the colour we’d paint the bathroom to the guests who were and weren’t allowed in the house, I would have very minimal input – while paying half the mortgage, naturally. I realise now, looking back, how fitting a metaphor this was for our relationship. They made the rules and I got no say, both in our trio and in my dyadic relationship with him. We weren’t building the metaphoric (or literal) house together – I was a permanent guest in theirs. I was caged.

I share this anecdote just to illustrate how a framework of rules can be really badly misappropriated. Contrast this with Mr CK and me, who thoroughly negotiate every agreement we make as equals. We leave them all open to discussion of renegotiation at any time, and always consider them with the best possible outcome for everyone involved in mind. Saying all rules (/agreements/boundaries) are inherently bad is like saying walls or doors or windows or grey tiling are inherently bad. They’re not. They’re elements you can pick and choose for your house – your relationship – to make sure it’s designed exactly the way you want it.

Keeping the house clean

You don’t build a house, move in, and expect to never do any work on it again. That’d be ridiculous. You have to sweep, do the dishes, repaint the odd wall and occasionally rip a piece out completely and spend loads of time fixing it. Maintaining the ‘house’ of your relationship is exactly the same. You don’t set the rules once and then you’re done. No. You have to tinker, negotiate

Build your perfect relationship the way you’d build your perfect house, with walls – agreements – to keep you cozy inside. That way, you can prevent the leaking roof of drama, and always have a safe home to retreat to and invite your loved ones into.

Kinky item of the day: Nipple clamps, for squeezy, pinchy fun! I looove clamps so much, both on my nipples and labia. (Pro tip: leave them on for more than 5-10 minutes, and they hurt like hell when they come off!)

This post contains an affiliate link. If you buy through it, I may make a small commission. Opinions are, and will always be, my own.

The image in this post was offered for use via Creative Commons Licensing.

The C Word: All The Wrong Things I Was Ever Taught About Consent

Are you celebratiing #KinkMonth? If not, you totally should be! Why not treat yourself to something exciting, and enjoy a free lube when you spend at least £30 on kinky goodies at Lovehoney?

I’m celebrating by taking part in Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s programme and writing posts inspired by the prompts. Today… oh boy. It’s the big one. Simultaneously one of my favourite topics, and one that feels too massive to actively delve into.

Today, we’re talking consent. 

Scrabble style letters spell out "yes" on a slate grey background. For a post on consent

Look, I can’t have my say on consent in one post. I just can’t. I’ll probably write a book on it one day (or at least a collection of essays,) but today I have to tell you something meaningful about one of the biggest and thorniest topics out there, in 1,000 words or less.

Something I learned recently: prior to finding sex-positivity, everything I was ever taught about consent is wrong. Everything you were ever taught about it is probably wrong, too.

Let’s go ahead and delve into some of the wrongness.

“Only men need to seek consent. Women don’t need to ask because men are always up for sex.”

If there is one myth that I think could fix so many of the world’s problems around sex if it would just have the decency to die in a fucking fire already, it’s this one.

Newsflash: sometimes, women want sex. Sometimes, men don’t want sex – tonight or this week or with this person or ever. Sometimes women want sex more than men[1] or at different times than men. And everyone needs to seek consent before and while engaging in any kind of sexual activity. (Incidentally, there are more than two genders and not all sex is heterosexual, so there’s that. Consent rules apply the same.)

[1] Source: literally every single male-shaped person I’ve ever dated having a lower sex drive than me, whether only slightly lower or a whole lot lower.

“Consent is unsexy and ruins the mood.”

Fuck this one! Fuck it backwards and upside down with a cactus, seriously.

Consent doesn’t have to be unsexy, awkward or scary. It doesn’t have to be a big sit-down discussion with yes/no/maybe lists (though these are awesome,) contracts and lawyers, for fuck’s sake. It can be straightforward: “I’d really like to kiss you, would you be into that?” “What kind of sex are you into tonight?” It can be playful: “Hey baby, wanna spank my ass?” It can be sexy: “God, I want to fuck you so bad. Do you want my cock?”

And you know what? Even if it IS awkward, even if you DO perceive active consent as unsexy… it’s still fucking vital. Get over it.

“If she says “no” or pushes you away, it might really mean “yes.””

No no no no no no no.

If someone says no or pushes you away, unless it’s part of a very clearly negotiated game (in which instance, you have a safeword, right!?)… no means fucking no.

Playing hard to get is bullshit. Even if you think someone might be doing it (because societal stigma is strong, especially when it comes to women being enthusiastic about sex,) the correct response is to stop what you’re doing and have a conversation with your partner about what’s going on and what you both want and don’t want. The correct response is never to just go ahead and have the sex.

No means no. Pushing you away means no. Freezing means no. Hemming and hawing without giving an enthusiastic “yes” means no. Making excuses means no. “I have a headache” means no. “We really shouldn’t” means no. Say it with me now: anything that isn’t clear and unambiguous consent means no.

“If I don’t ask, they’ll have sex with me! But if I ask, they might say no.”

If you ask and they say no, they were either never going to have sex with you in the first place and would have told you to stop when you got close to a boundary, or they would have endured an experience they weren’t really consenting to, possibly out of fear of the repercussions of saying no.

Is it worth risking maybe raping someone because you’re afraid that asking gives them permission to maybe say no?

(If your answer to the above question is “yes,” fuck off from my blog, ask yourself some serious questions, get therapy and don’t go near another human until you sort your shit out.)

“It’s really hard to know if someone’s consenting or not!”

First: no, it isn’t. Most people’s body language when they’re into an encounter is actually quite clear, and VERY different from the aforementioned “going along with it because you might really hurt me if I say no.”

Second: FUCKING ASK.

Third: if you’re still not sure, it’s your responsibility to not do the thing until you are sure.

See also: this song. [Song is “For the Guys” by Rachel Lark, who is a fucking badass genius. Lyrics include “if you’re not sure that it’s not rape, don’t do it!“]

Tell me in the comments or on Twitter: what lies were you told about consent?

Kinky item of the day is one from my “maybe someday when I have a shedload of money” wishlist: a proper custom-fit chastity belt. (Not an affiliate link and I have no connection to the company.)

Heads up: this post contains an affiliate link and if you buy through it, I make a small commission. All opinions are, and will always be, my own.

The image featured in this post was offered for use under Creative Commons Licensing.

Competitive Submission, or: A Journey Through Labels

For those just joining now, I’m celebrating #KinkMonth by writing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s project.

Day 3 is about labels. Today’s post is quite vulnerable and also heavily based on a stream of consciousness I splurged onto Fetlife last year. Kayla & John ask:

Beyond the basic title of Dominant or submissive, are there other titles you prefer or are interested in exploring? Are there any that turn you off or don’t seem like a good fit for you?

Some titles for Dominants may be Master, Sir, Daddy, Mistress, Lady, etc. Titles for submissives can be pet, babygirl, little one, boy, girl, etc.

A name badge style label with "submissive" crossed out and "Switch" next to it. For a post on competitive submission.

On Fetlife, you have to pick a “role” to list on your profile. There’s the usual Dominant, submissive, Master, Mistress, slave. Then there’s the slightly more specific babygirl/babyboy, Daddy, Mommy, pet, Primal. And then there’s the nondescript and vague Kinkster, Unsure, Evolving.

I’ve flip-flopped between labels over the years. For a very long time, I considered myself the most subby of the submissives. Topping was just not something I could ever see myself doing. So I listed my role as submissive.

Then, at twenty, I found myself pinning a willing submissive man to a bed and fucking him, telling him that he was Mine. And I liked it. Gradually, I explored my Dominant energy and realised I could get off on that rush of power, on reducing someone to a puddle of lust with just my hands and voice. I changed my label to Switch.

Then I realised that being young, hot and listed as a Switch brought out the worst of all kinds of men on Fetlife. The Doms were convinced their Domly dick was all I would ever need to shove myself firmly back into the box labelled “submissive”. The submissives wanted to crawl at my feet and serve me (for the value of “serve” which means “have me fulfill their every sexual fantasy”). I couldn’t be arsed with it. I switched to the vague Kinkster. Something about that nondescript label – possibly along with aging out of the coveted “18-24” age bracket – hugely diminished the number of unsolicited gunk in my inbox. But it didn’t feel like me.

In the midst of my relationship with my ex-Master, I switched (heh) back to submissive. I filled my profile with variations on, “I AM OWNED, LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE”. It worked, sort of, but it still only described a fraction of the rich and complex tapestry of the Amy.

Me and Mr CK switch with each other. This has been the case since the beginning, and will most continue to be the case for as long as our lives run in parallel. We both enjoy both sides of the slash (him more “D,” me more “). So I changed my role once again to Switch, and that was that.

And then… well. There’s no way to make myself look good here. I got competitive. Jealous. Scared.

My partner started dating someone, you see, who we’ll call The Doctor. She listed herself as 100% submissive. (Having been on the receiving end of her hand spanking my ass, I respectfully disagree with that label, but people have the right to self-identify.) It was this, more than the sex or the romance or anything else, that freaked me the fuck out. My headweasels took over and convinced me absolutely, in the space of a couple of weeks, that:

One: Identifying as a submissive, instead of a Switch, made this person inherently better at submitting than me purely on the basis that they never swapped roles.

Two: Therefore, my partner would prefer playing with her to playing with me.

Three: Therefore, my partner would use all his kinky/sexy/Dominant energy on her, leaving none left for me, start taking her to all our favourite kinky events instead of me, and collar her as his 24/7 submissive despite emphatically telling me he doesn’t want that dynamic with anybody.

Four: Therefore, my relationship would be over if I couldn’t show him beyond all doubt that I was at least as good a submissive, if not better, than this other person.

The thing is, this was all in my head. Neither of them did anything to indicate to me that there was any validity to these fears whatsoever. In desperation, not knowing what else to do to fight the battle against my own mind, I changed my status back to submissive. It took a very long and tearful conversation with my partner, in which all my fears fell out of my mouth and into his lap, for me to articulate what was really going on and say “I’m scared as fuck that you’ll leave me for someone else who’s more submissive than I am.”

That was when I learned that my Switchyness, and the Switching dynamic we share, is a feature, not a bug. It’s one of the things he loves about me. It was also when I began to internalise that:

One: Submission is not a contest.

Two: Being a Switch doesn’t make my submission, when I give it, less real or authentic or beautiful.

There’s a stigma against Switches in a lot of the kink world. Much like bisexuals, we’re told that we’re greedy, that we’re confused. That we need to get off the fence and make up our damn minds.

I tend to date either Top-leaning Switches, or exclusive Tops/Doms. It’s getting much better (thanks, in part, to fabulous partners who embrace ALL of me as I am!) but on some levels I still struggle with the insecurity whispering that, as a Switch, I’m a poor second choice and a Top/Dom would always choose a 100% submissive over me and like a 100% submissive more than me. I also worry, because Mr and I hang out at a lot of fem-sub/M-Dom events, that I’ll be judged poorly or thought less of due to being a Switch.

On the flip side, sometimes I feel like a fraud for identifying as Switch because my interests are so unbalanced. It’s really hard to put a number on it and it fluctuates. At the moment my desires are probably 90% sub/bottom and 10% Dom/Top. On the occasions when I do Top, I worry that my submissive partner is just going to say, “you’re shit at this, I’m gonna go do it with a real Dom.”

So where the fuck does that leave me?

Sadly, there isn’t a role option on Fetlife for “Basically submissive at heart but still gets a huge rush from Topping once in a while because I like the feeling of power and the reactions and the knowledge that I’m giving so much pleasure.”

So… yeah.

Switch.

Remember: a label is the beginning of a conversation, not the end.

Kinky item of the day: Collars by Kabunza. I’m not affiliated with this company in any way, but I could talk them up forever because 1) Aemilia Hawk is the most wonderful human being and I adore her. 2) their stuff is so beautiful it makes my heart sing. 3) their customer service is brilliant. 4) we should all support our friendly neighbourhood kinky businesses.

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you’d like to support me, please consider becoming a sexy Patron, buying me a virtual coffee, or shopping with my affiliates in the right hand sidebar.

The image featured in this post was sourced from Pixabay and edited by me. Please don’t steal my edit without express permission.

[Guest Post] From Clueless Virgin to Enthusiastic Wife (with Sex Therapy Along the Way) by Christine Woolgar

Today I’m so excited to be hosting my first guest post. It comes from my friend Christine Woolgar. I have known Christine for a few years, having first met her at a local munch in the city where I used to live. I’ve been an admirer of her writing for a long time and I am honoured that she has chosen to share this intense, vulnerable, wonderful story with me and all of you.

_________________

TW/CN: This post doesn’t describe abuse, but it is loaded with intra-personal dialogue that enables/allows abuse.

Headshot of Christine Woolgar, a while woman with blonde curly hair, smiling and facing the camera. For a post about sex therapy

Night 1 minus 5 days: My period is late. Darn, I thought my body had fully adjusted to the pill already. I don’t want to have sex on my period but I don’t want an argument on Night 1. I don’t want disappointment on Night 1. So I tell him now that I won’t want sex on Night 1. He agrees. We both figure it’s for the best as we’ll be tired from the wedding anyway.

Night 1: I see him naked for the first time. Wow. And just a bit scary too. But it’s OK, because I’m not taking off my knickers. Not tonight. It’s not the night I had envisaged but it’s a good night.

Night 2: I consent to taking my knickers off. We caress each other and have fun together. He doesn’t come.

Day 3: I’m kinda aroused, but he doesn’t come. Odd. I thought it’d be easy for him.

Night 3: A bit more intensive tonight, but still taking things slowly and gently.

Day 4: I think my hymen has broken. I muse on the idea that I am no longer a virgin by some definitions. And yet neither of us has come. Not what I had expected. What is wrong with me? Why is this so hard?

Night 4: I’m naked and he’s not getting hard. What is wrong with me? Am I unattractive?

Day 5: He is finally hard enough and I’m relaxed enough, but he doesn’t come. What is wrong with me?

Night 5: This is getting silly now. I feel alone. I talk to him about it and it helps.

Night 6: We caress each other. Variable arousal. He doesn’t come.

Night 7: He still doesn’t come.

Night 8: Finally! I am genuinely happy for him.

As for me, I always knew I’d be the difficult one. Can’t expect to orgasm immediately. No woman can. I knew I was lazy with my Kegel exercises. It’s my fault really that I haven’t come yet.

Day 11: Honeymoon is over and we’re back at marriage prep. I learn there are couples out there who’ve taken a year to consummate their marriage. So why am I all upset about taking seven days? I don’t have issues. I must be being picky.

Week 3: By now it’s not too much of a problem for him any more. But it stings when I pee after sex.

Weeks 4-5: It keeps on stinging badly when I pee after sex. I search for causes on the internet. Not helpful.

I feel madly uncomfortable after sex. I don’t understand why.

I know sex is important. I know sex is important for him. But I also know it’s not entirely straightforward for him, so whenever he gets hard I just have to make myself available, otherwise it’ll never happen.

Months 2-6: It takes forever for me to get aroused. I count the days between sex. I feel really bad when it’s longer than seven days. I still feel uncomfortable.

He’s always the one who initiates. I say ‘I don’t mind’. But I don’t want it. Sometimes I say ‘I don’t know’ – that means I really don’t want it. I don’t tell him I don’t want to have sex with him. That would be selfish. It would make me a failure as a wife.

If the marriage fails, it’s my fault.

I try squeezing my pelvic floor muscles during sex. OW! PAIN! BAD! Ow! That hurts! Not good! Do not want! Note to self: do NOT do that again!

I’m picking up my pill and I tell the woman there that I’m in pain after sex. She doesn’t know what to do. She talks to a colleague and comes back saying it’ll go away with more sex. I’m in tears.

He says he doesn’t like seeing me in pain. He says he wants me to enjoy sex. I wonder if that will ever be possible.

I get better at judging my body’s state of arousal so it doesn’t hurt (most times) (much) afterwards. I’m using lube, but I hate the stuff.

He asks me what I want, but I don’t know what I want. I am indifferent to his touch.

Months 6-18: Friday evenings: Tired or meeting friends. Saturday mornings: Maybe there’s a chance, but it depends on how much we need to do that day. Saturday evening: Have supper before all desire drains away. Sunday morning: I need to be up to play hymns and all that jazz. Sunday evening: I’m stressing because we haven’t had sex all weekend. Forget arousal. During the week: Forget arousal.

We speak to a friend and he encourages us not to focus too much on coming, but on enjoying our time together. It helps. Marginally.

It’s not about what I want. It’s about what I can bear to give. Sometimes I get away with just offering cuddles. But it’s not the same as sex and we both know it. How long is this going to last?

I tell him what I mean by ‘I don’t mind’ and ‘I don’t know’. I tell him that I hardly ever want sex.

I realise that I’m actually afraid of his penis and have been since Night 1. Realising this helps. Marginally.

When he’s physically affectionate, I feel nothing in response. I just let him touch me and wait for him to stop.

Month 17: I’m talking to HR about stress and say that my sex life is through the floor. I’m in tears. HR asks how my husband’s handling this; I say he’s being a saint. But there is this aching sadness inside me.

Month 20: I’m talking to someone about it. I try and explain that I have no good memory of sex. Every time I try and have sex it’s like I have to talk myself round that it won’t be a bad thing. I have nothing to look forward to in sex. I’ve learned not to be in pain, but it’s SO HARD to get aroused enough that I’m not in pain.

There are only two things that actively get me aroused: thinking about degrading myself and the thought of being tied up. Problem is, I don’t want to degrade myself and he doesn’t want to tie me up. He’s studied too much history to want to do that to me.

Month 22: I’m talking to my pastor / minister / vicar person about it. He says it’s important that the problem is sorted. He says there’s no shame in getting professional help.

Month 25: I’m picking up my pill again and I’m in tears. The woman there refers me to a sexual health clinic.

I get a letter in the post inviting me to make an assessment appointment. It says that they can’t help couples where there is complete loss of arousal as this comes from relationship issues. We don’t have relationship issues. Letter goes in the bin. They can’t help me. I must be being whiney.

Month 27: He buys me some fantastic clothes to help me feel good about myself. They help. Marginally.

Month 28: I tell him just how bad I feel about not wanting to have sex with him. I tell him how I feel unfaithful. He tells me that I don’t need to feel like I have to save the marriage – he made a vow too. That helps. A lot.

Well, it helps me feel better about myself. Doesn’t help me get aroused.

Month 30: It’s pill time again. Tears again. This woman I speak to actually books us an assessment.

Month 31: We have the assessment. She says the clinic can help. She says it’s a six-month waiting list. We can wait. We’ve waited this long.

She says it’s no bad thing to think of degrading oneself to get turned on.

But I don’t want to.

And I don’t see why degrading myself should be the ONLY way I can get turned on.

Am I asking too much when I want to be turned on by thinking about the one I love?

Seriously?

Month 33: He buys me more fantastic clothes to help me feel good about myself. Positive effect is short-lived. I begin to feel bad about the money spent.

Month 34: He says he’s been doing some research and there are these things called ‘rope dresses’. He says in Japan, tying a rope around something can symbolise ownership. He says there’s a whole art form called ‘shibari’. He says it doesn’t have to be degrading. He says he’s willing to give it a try if I am.

We start learning about rope.

I begin to not dread sex.

Month 36: I’m getting better at understanding my body so that I don’t consent until I’m ready for him. I realise one day I’ve made a mistake: I’m not ready and he’s inside, but if he carries on he’s going to hurt me. I ask him to stop. He stops and withdraws gently. No hard feelings. He wants me to tell him if he’s going to hurt me.

He always has.

I’m no longer afraid to be completely honest with him.

Month 38: I tell HR that we’ve reached the top of the waiting list and I’m going to need regular time off work to go to the sessions. They’re cool with this.

He tells his department head that we’ve reached the top of the waiting list and he’s going to need regular time off work to go to the sessions. Department head is cool with this. Line manager however is gutted she didn’t happen to be in when he asked. Not because he’s taking time off, but because she’ll never know the reason why he asked for it.

Month 39: Therapy begins. She’s like: “So you’re no longer experiencing pain during or after sex; you already know that you love each other, even when you don’t want sex; you’re getting enjoyment out of this ‘shibari’ stuff; kinda makes me wonder what the problem is.”

It’s official. There is no problem. We are wasting therapist’s time. We are bunking off work. We have massively unrealistic expectations and should just get over ourselves. After all, no therapist can PROMISE orgasms or satisfying sex.

I move department at work and need to tell my new line manager about the time off. There’s a moment when I just don’t know how to say it. But when he hears the words ‘psychosexual therapy’ he nods and I don’t need to say anything more. He doesn’t think I’m making a fuss.

Month 40: We’re not having sex and I don’t have to feel guilty about it because it’s required as part of therapy.

Relief.

Though I miss doing rope.

Following all the exercises our therapist gives us. Must show we’re serious and co-operative.

Buy helpful book ‘Becoming orgasmic’ recommended by therapist. Massively unhelpful shop assistant waves it around and reads out its title loudly. Not impressed.

Therapist suggests I masturbate. I tell her I never have and I don’t want to start now. Besides, what difference would it make? Touch doesn’t turn me on.

Month 41: I switch shower products at therapist’s suggestion. I can now come out of the shower and feel remotely comfortable about my body. Wasn’t the case before.

I get proper lessons about the human reproductive system. Majorly embarrassed at my previous level of knowledge (read: lack of knowledge).

Therapist is like: “So on Night 1 you were both virgins and neither of you had ever masturbated in your entire lives. I’d say having vaginal sex after seven days is pretty impressive.” Feel-good feeling quickly gets swamped by feeling that I am wasting therapist’s time.

I begin to enjoy our physical time together. Though I don’t have orgasms. At least, I don’t think so. I’m not sure.

He begins to lose the fear of hurting me unintentionally.

Month 42: Therapist says we’re making progress and can cut down sessions to once a fortnight. I confide my long-standing sexual fantasy with therapist.

I come out of therapy and think about my sexual fantasy. I ask myself if there is a way I can think of it (and myself within it) that isn’t degrading. I realise that there actually is a way. So I picture myself in my fantasy – or rather, within a particular story that resonates with my fantasy. And suddenly I’m wet. I picture myself in another story I love and OH MY GOODNESS I AM SO WET!

I talk and talk and talk with him about power and types of power and all these very sexual thoughts I’m having.

Now when he touches me, I welcome it.

I wake up the next day and I’m wet the whole time. Just as well I’m not playing hymns. I remember nothing of the sermon but cry buckets with a friend after the service. I don’t tell him why, just that it’s a good thing.

Next day, I commute to work and I’m wet. I try to work, but my goodness, EVERY FIVE SECONDS I get turned on. Are people going to notice me going to the toilet so often? My knickers are soaked all day long.

Next day: Wet all day. Can barely think all day. When is this going to end?

The whole week, even the slightest thing gets me turned on. I gradually cool down, which is actually a good thing.

Next session and therapist says we’re done. We book a follow up session in four months.

Now when he touches me I beg him not to stop.

Month 44: We’re a bit stressed but go back on the ropes and find it’s a disappointment. We decide to try again when less stressed.

Month 45: Follow up therapy session. We talk over previous month. We reckon last month was a blip but generally speaking we’re on the up. We book another follow up for three months’ time – we can always cancel if we don’t need it.

Month 46: Back on the ropes and enjoying it.

I’m reading about other people’s experiences of sex and realise I DEFINITELY have not had an orgasm yet. But hey, who cares? I’m having a great time even without them.

I’m relaxed enough now that I let him touch me where I’ve never let him touch me before: directly on my clitoris.

Month 47: He’s stimulating me and it gets proper intense. Oh my goodness, what is this? Don’t stop! I scream. Now THAT WAS an orgasm! Wow! OK, I need to recover now.

So does he. He wasn’t expecting me to scream and only kept going because I was giving continuous active consent.

Next day: second orgasm (a less dramatic experience for us both, but no less satisfying).

Next day: third orgasm.

Next day: don’t need to keep count.

Month 49: Last therapy session. I tell therapist that looking back, there was DEFINITELY something wrong, but there isn’t now.

I now KNOW I wasn’t a time waster. Relief.

Sex life gets better and easier. We can enjoy rope but we don’t need it to enjoy sex. I squeeze my pelvic floor muscles during sex – no pain.

Month 52: We’re talking about consent. We talk about the early days when I didn’t want sex and he got frustrated. We talk about the upset that put on me. We talk about the pressure he didn’t even realise was there for me to say yes. We realise there were times when I said yes, because I couldn’t allow myself to say no. He is deeply, deeply upset at the thought of violating my consent (his words), even if it was something he only did because I deliberately hid my true feelings from him. We both know better now. We share big hugs.

Month 56: I wake up in the early hours of the morning. I lie still so I won’t disturb my dearly beloved. I start to think about my dearly beloved caressing me. And then, almost before I know what’s happening, my body gives me a gorgeously gentle orgasm. It is the first orgasm I have ever had without being physically touched. Wow.

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About Christine: For anyone curious to know a bit more about me, I would describe myself first and foremost as a Christian theological thinker. I live in the UK with my husband, and have a passion for shaping the church’s attitudes in areas around consent, sexuality and equality because… well, you can probably guess why from this post. I am unafraid to tackle awkward questions and I’m an unashamed critic of Fifty Shades.

You can find me and more of my writings on:

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Footnote for anyone concerned about the non-consent described in this story:

I used to think in terms of male privilege and I didn’t know it. Yes, that terrifies me. No, no one had taught either of us about enthusiastic consent. Yes, I am working on changing this. I have blogged in more depth about how I now frame consent in a long term relationship and you can read about that on a fabulous blog run by Ashley Easter. Yes, she’s a Christian blogger. No, this post doesn’t talk about religion. Or marriage. Despite the title.

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Longer footnote for anyone concerned that my husband and I are at risk of going to hell and/or besmirching the name of the church:

I thought long and hard about sharing this story in this much detail.

A lot of what is here is already in the public domain. Back in 2011 (around month 26) I made a short video in which I disclosed publicly that we didn’t have sex in the first seven days of our marriage; the narrative of that video that was also published in 2013 on a multi-author Christian blog. In February 2016 (that is, two years after month 56) I blogged for them again about being on the ‘receiving end’ of sex, and disclosed that my husband and I had sex therapy. Shortly after, I blogged on my own site about our learning experiences of going through sex therapy, writing an open letter to a Christian evangelical couple who I knew were considering it.

I know that these posts have really helped people.

Now, I grant you, none of them were as explicit as this writing is. And although anyone who follows my blog knows that I’m not afraid to write about BDSM, this is the first time I’ve disclosed that my husband and I actually practice anything that remotely resembles BDSM.

Yet this is my story and I believe that sharing it has the potential to really help people. For some people, it might open up conversations on Christianity that wouldn’t happen otherwise. Yes, I have asked myself whether it’s right to disclose this much detail. No, I’m not 100% certain that I’ve got it all right. But then, I don’t think I can be certain because whatever I do, I won’t please everyone.

I decided to disclose about the shibari because if that hadn’t been within our story, then I’d never have started to engage with people in the BDSM scene. You see, around month 43, my husband asked whether we should starting trying to make connections with people on social media and engage in discussions about BDSM, given that we had benefited from the idea of shibari. It was just a question, but as soon as he asked it the Holy Spirit was persistently on his case, saying “Yes, this!” And that’s what led to my blog. Gosh, that’s what led to me being even capable of writing the stuff that’s on my blog. And it is bearing good fruit. So if you’re worried about me, judge me by my fruit. My times are in His hands.

The image featured in this post was provided by Christine and is owned by her. It must not be reproduced or copied without express permission.

Terrifying Sexual Laws You May Not Know About

[Note: this post focuses on UK laws and is by necessity limited to my own country.]

Sexuality has been criminalised in various ways for the vast majority of human history – in particular female sexuality, LGBTQ+ identities, and anything else the wider culture deems ‘deviant.’ This post will explore a few of the more fucked up laws of the last 100+ years…

A judge's gavel and 2 books for a post on historical sexual laws

Hysteria & Nymphomania

Around a third of female patients admitted to asylums in the Victorian era suffered from this supposed ‘mental illness’. ‘Symptoms’ included promiscuity, bearing illegitimate children, or masturbating. To say that these places were prisons is probably understating the horrors these women would have suffered – at the worst end of the spectrum, rape and murder of ‘inmates’ were not uncommon. In the 1860s, clitoridectomy – the surgical removal of the clitoris – became briefly accepted as a treatment for various ‘conditions.’

Criminalisation of Male Homosexuality and the Sexual Offences Act

Any act of homosexual sex between two men was criminalised until 1967. The Buggery Act of 1533 made ‘buggery’ (sex between two men) punishable by death. This was replaced by the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which reduced the highest sentence to life imprisonment. Male homosexual sex remained a crime until the Sexual Offences Act 1967 finally decriminalised it between consenting men over 21. (The age of consent for heterosexuals was sixteen. 21 was lowered to 18 in 1994 and only equalised to 16 in 2001.)

Interestingly, sexual activity between two women was never technically criminalised in the UK. An urban legend suggested that this was because Queen Victoria held that ‘women do not do such things’. But historians now widely consider this to be untrue. Some suggest the male establishment avoided legislating on lesbianism for fear of giving women ideas. Others believe that it simply did not occur to the male lawmakers of the day. Whatever the truth, until the age of consent was legalised across the board in 1994, there was no statutory age of consent for lesbian sex.

Two high-profile men who fell foul of this law were Oscar Wilde, who was sentenced to two years’ hard labour in 1895 and died 3 years after his release, and Alan Turing, who killed himself in 1954 after being sentenced to chemical castration for “gross indecency” two years earlier.

Spousal Rape

It was completely legal for a man to rape his wife in the UK until 1991.

Read that again.

I’m not very old and that was within my lifetime.

This is because, historically, marriage was a contract of ownership and women were considered the legal property of their husbands. Sir Matthew Hale in his History of the Pleas of the Crown (1736) wrote that ‘the husband cannot be guilty of Rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given herself up in this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract.’ In other words, by consenting to marriage (and the concept of ‘consent’ is dubious at best under a system in which a man could sell his daughter off to the highest bidder) a woman was consenting to any and every sexual act her husband might wish to perform upon her.

I’m ambivalent towards legal marriage anyway. I cannot imagine ever wanting it under a system like this. Again, marital rape has only been a crime in the UK for 26 years.

Section 28

Section 28 or Clause 28 was enacted in 1988 by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and stated that any local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.’ In other words, homosexual sex had become legal two decades previously, but discriminating against LGBT+ individuals was not only legal but borderline government mandated.

In practice, Section 28 made it illegal for authority figures like teachers to tell children that being LGBTQ was okay. This led to not only widespread homophobic bullying with little to no recourse, but also LGBT+ young support and social groups, particularly in schools and colleges, being shut down for fear of breaching the Act.

This law was only taken off the books in 2003. I was thirteen in 2003 – I’d already had some 3 years of whatever shitty sex ed schools had to provide. At no point had we been told that being anything other than straight was even an option. I was questioning my sexuality at 13. It might have saved me many years of confusion and self-loathing if my teachers had just been able to say, ‘some boys like boys and some girls like girls and some people like both and by the way, boy and girl aren’t the only gender options.’

If only.

BDSM: The Spanner Case and beyond

The Spanner case was a landmark case in 1990. 16 gay men were handed sentences of up to 4-and-a-half years in prison for engaging in consensual sadomasochistic activities. Their defense – that it was all consensual – was denied and the convictions have since been upheld. This case is complicated – there was video evidence (technically extreme pornography) and an extensive investigation of what the police initially thought was a snuff film, meaning the investigators may well have felt compelled to bring criminal charges so that the investigation had not been a ‘waste’ of time and money.

Consent is not always a defense. Under UK law, you cannot consent to assault. Judge Rant decreed during the Spanner trial that ‘bodily harm applied or received during sexual activities was lawful if the pain it caused was ‘just momentary’ or ‘so slight as to be discounted.” His judgement applies also to bodily marks such as those produced by beatings or bondage. These too, according to him, must not be of a lasting nature. In essence, Judge Rant decided that any injury, pain or mark that was more than trifling and momentary was illegal and would be considered an assault under the law. This means that while most common BDSM activities are not illegal to perform in and of themselves, more extreme acts could technically fall foul of the law – however consensual they may be.

There are very very few documented cases on the books, but involvement in BDSM is not legally protected. In theory, a person could be fired, lose custody of their children or be evicted from rented accommodation for participation in BDSM.

The amazing organisation BacklashUK campaigns for sexual freedom and believes that these laws and others like them are outdated, harmful and discriminatory. We agree. That’s why we’re supporting them with Smutathon 2017. Please donate here if you believe this work is important.

The image featured in this post was offered for use under Creative Commons Licensing.

When Consensual Sex is Punished More Harshly than Rape [or: Smutathon – the Reason Why]

[This post comes with a HUGE trigger warning for sexual violence from intimate partners. Please feel free to skip this one or step away to care for yourself if you need to. It also carries a hefty dose of vulnerability and exposure of my personal traumas. Victim-blaming or doubt-casting comments will be deleted and the commenter permanently blocked. This is a one-strike-and-you’re-out deal.]

The Rape Crisis England and Wales logo for a post about Smutathon and rapeThe Backlash UK logo for a post about Smutathon and rape

I was sexually assaulted for the first time by a classmate when I was twelve. It was “only” breast and crotch grabbing through clothing, but I was deeply troubled by and ashamed of it. It was three years before I could even begin to find words for what had happened, let alone how it had made me feel.

More than one of my early relationships were sexually violent. By the time I was fifteen, I’d been coerced into sex acts I absolutely did not consent to and was not ready for by a much older boyfriend.

At nineteen, I pushed a man away seconds before he penetrated me – penetration that I had explicitly said, repeatedly, was not on the table that night. On the second date with the same guy (yes, there was a second date) he pushed me to drink and drink and drink, before telling me he wanted me so black-out pissed that I wouldn’t remember anything in the morning. Later, our previously sweet online chats took a turn for the dark as he described his violent, graphic fantasies of raping me (fantasies, he made very clear, that were not about CNC but about Actual Genuine Rape.

A year or two later, a boyfriend threw me out of the house for not acquiescing to sex. And on and on and on it goes. Sex became about obligation, pressure, coercion and survival. I became divorced from my own body, my own pleasure. They took me years to reclaim.

The point of all of this is to say that I didn’t understand until years later that sex under duress counts as rape or serious sexual assault, even if there was little or no physical force involved. I didn’t understand that as a minor, what happened to me at fifteen was statutory rape as well as sexual assault under coercion.

I didn’t seek any help until I finally got a counsellor, long after it was all over. I dimly understood that places like Rape Crisis existed, but I thought they were only for people who’d been raped at gunpoint or assaulted by strangers in dark alleys. “My boyfriend uses the threat of the roof over my head to make me have sex I don’t want, and my other boyfriend tried to rape me once and is weirdly obsessed with getting me drunk and telling me graphic fantasies of raping me” just didn’t seem serious enough, somehow, especially as I’d also had consensual sex with both of these men and others.

I wish I’d known then what I know now – that Rape Crisis would have listened with sympathy, love and support, given me resources to help me get out of those relationships, and told me that in no way in the world was it my fault.

That’s why #Smutathon2017 supports Rape Crisis.

In all but one case, I didn’t even report because I knew I’d be putting myself through hell for a less than 1% chance of justice. None of the men who assaulted or abused me have ever suffered consequences of any kind.

The same, alas, cannot be said for the not-insignificant number of people over the years who have been punished (legally, financially, employment-wise and more) for engaging in completely victimless fringe sexual practices with other consenting adults. From 1987’s Spanner Case (in which a group of gay men were prosecuted for participation in consensual sadomasochism) to the infamous ‘tiger porn’ debacle, to those who have been fired or had their kids taken away for participating in BDSM, sex work or pornography, sexual freedom is constantly under threat.

I cannot sit back and be okay with innocent, good people being prosecuted for consensual sex while only 0.6% of rapists ever see a day in jail.

And that is why #Smutathon2017 ALSO supports Backlash UK, an amazing organisation that defends freedom of sexual expression for consenting adults.

Please donate and support these two brilliant charities if you can. I hope none of you will ever need them – but if you do, they’ll be there for you.