How Sex Toys Improved My Relationship

Almost unbelievably now, regular use of toys is a pretty new addition to my partnered sex life. It’s less than two years since Mr CK bought me a Doxy (still the love of my life – yes, the man and the toy!) and only about a year since I started buying, and eventually being sent, toys to review. But I can unreservedly say that adding in toys has massively improved my sex life, and my relationships as a whole.

A pink banner ad for The Pleasure Garden. For a post about using sex toys in a relationship.

More to Explore…

Using different kinds of toys means that sex with my partner can be really diverse and interesting, even though I’m fucking the same person many times. Whether it’s a ring that makes his cock vibrate, a toy that sucks on my clit, or a dildo you can cool down or warm up, toys allow for a range of possibilities that simply aren’t physically possible with our factory-installed bits.

“Sex toys for couples” are really popular, and there are some great ones in particular that are designed to be worn during intercourse, if that’s your thing. However, something I’ve learned is that literally anything can be a couple’s toy. A vibrator, a cock-ring, a dildo, a stroker… if you use it with a partner, congratulations, it’s a couple’s toy. It sounds obvious, but this was a revelation for me when I realised there was nothing wrong with reaching for my favourite vibrator during partnered sex.

Continued sexual exploration keeps things exciting, but it also builds physical and emotional intimacy, provides opportunities for vulnerability and openness with your partner, and allows you to see each other’s pleasure and desires in whole new ways.

Reliable Orgasms

My clitoral orgasms have always been somewhat unreliable, and more so for the last six years as I’ve been on antidepressants. Struggling to come from manual, oral or penetrative sex can lead to a really frustrating and stressful experience for all involved. I start putting pressure on myself, which makes the orgasm drift further away, which feeds into the whole vicious cycle!

With toys, though, my orgasm becomes much more reliable. Even when I’m really struggling to get off, the vast majority of the time I can grab a high-powered vibe and get the job done in less than five minutes. More reliable orgasms means more relaxed sex, less pressure for all concerned, and a happier Amy and more satisfying sex and relationship life as a result.

Speaking of less pressure…

Using toys also releases pressure on bodies to perform a certain way. We grow up with a narrative that suggests that sex works in one specific way – you kiss, then you get naked, then you do hand stuff, then she goes down on him, then he maybe goes down on her (but probably not for more than a few seconds), then fucking happens – and that if a dick doesn’t get hard, a pussy doesn’t get wet, or orgasms don’t happen simultaneously, it’s a failure.

Do you need me to tell you that pressure to conform to a really narrow and prescriptive view of sexuality is the opposite of sexy?

One thing I love about using toys is that they free up bodies to do what they’re gonna do with much less worry. A cock isn’t getting hard when you want it to? No worries, grab a dildo instead. If my partner’s bad neck is playing up and he can’t go down on me for an hour or more, he can probably still hold a light bullet vibe in just the way I like. The key for me here is to think of toys as an extension and expansion of what our bodies can do, not a replacement or a poor second choice.

Asking for what you want

I’ve historically been really bad at asking for what I want both in and out of the bedroom. I used to drive past partners crazy because I couldn’t even express a preference in something as simple as where we would go for dinner!

Using sex toys with my partner has helped me to cultivate a greater ability to ask for what I want and clearly advocate for my needs. It’s really hard to be vague when what you mean is “fuck me with that glass dildo until I have to safeword out” or “hold the vibe still against my clit and oh god yes don’t move it a fucking millimetre“. Toys helped teach me that I deserve pleasure and that I deserve to get my needs met. When you make a habit of asking clearly for what you want, your whole life improves, and this goes far beyond sex.

Fun with gender

Toys also bring some really fun opportunities to play with gender, gender roles and power within a relationship. I’m pretty cis and very femme, but that doesn’t mean that occasionally I don’t want to have a cock and fuck my lover with it hard. Toys give me the ability to do this. And for my cock to be purple and sparkly if I want it to be! This means that, despite what cisheteronormativity tells us, sometimes I can be the fucker and he can be the fuck-ee. And this is just one of the ways in which we’ve examined societal gender roles in our relationship and thrown out all the ones that don’t work for us.

Sometimes it’s as simple as being seen and understood

I’ll finish with something simple but true. Whether it’s really seeing and noticing and putting into practice my body’s preferences based on my toy usage, or buying me the perfect toy gift for my birthday, sex toys have helped my partner to see and know me in a deep and profound way.

Tweet me and tell me: how do YOU use toys to enhance intimacy, connection and love in your relationships?  What’s YOUR ultimate couple’s toy, whether it’s marketed that way or not?

Banner ad for The Pleasure GardenThis post was sponsored by the wonderful folks at The Pleasure Garden, an inclusive online retailer committed to body-safety and gender-free marketing. If you buy toys from them with my links, you support a small feminist business AND send a little bit of commission my way to help me keep doing what I’m doing. All views are, as ever, entirely my own. Images are property of The Pleasure Garden and must not be used without express permission.

Love-Letters to People I’ll Never Fuck

It’s Valentine’s Day! However you feel about the Day of Love (and I know there’s a lot of feelings out there about it,) we can’t deny that it’s culturally ubiquitous and impossible to escape. This day has long been associated with hearts, flowers, chocolates, elaborate proposals and quintessentially romantic love.

A puppy and kitten cuddling in a patch of sunlight on some grass. For a post about Valentine's Day and non-sexual love.

Now, I love Valentine’s Day. I love it because I love love. But as a polyamorous person – and just as a human being with lots of important people in my life – I believe in not only many loves but many kinds of love.

So today I want to celebrate some of the most important non-romantic and non-sexual loves in my life. People I’m not fucking and not in hearts-and-flowers love with, but who have had a profound impact on my life in some way and to whom I can comfortably say I love you.

One.

You are my best friend and I love you. People talk about an instant connection that then stands the test of time in a romantic context, but with you it was instead the kind of friendship that comes when you meet a kindred soul.

You’ve always been the person I know I can call in the middle of the night; the person I can confess the most personal things to without judgement; the person who has been there for me, through thick and thin, through university and work and moves across the country and bad decisions and terrible boyfriends. And you’re also the person I have more fun with than almost anyone. When we hang out, I can briefly be 19 again.

I don’t know what I’d do without you. You’re one in a million, and I don’t even care how corny that is. You’re one of the best people I’ve ever known and had the privilege to call a friend.

Two.

You were a surprise. I’ve never clicked with a metamour as fast or as easily as I did with you, nor have I ever had such a profoundly positive relationship with one.

You make me feel welcomed and valued in a situation where my experience has usually been one of being pushed to the side, grudgingly tolerated at best, constantly reminded of my place at the bottom of the priority heap. You didn’t do any of that – you were the opposite.

I am in awe of your wisdom, your kindness, your generosity, your strength and your spirit.

One of the best things about the many great things about being in a relationship with The Artist is that I get to be metamours with you. Thank you for doing so much to restore my faith in this little thing we call “polyamory”.

Three.

You have the honour of “oldest friend I’m still actively friends with” at this point. I don’t know if I ever thanked you properly for everything you did for me when we were growing up. In a world that terrified me and a life I didn’t want to be in much of the time, you were one of the people who stood steadfastly by my side and didn’t really care that I was a socially unacceptable person to hang around with.

You were always wise beyond your years and kind beyond the life experiences you had.

Four.

We might have drifted into very minimal contact – unsurprising, I suppose, given 14 years (half my life, fucking hell) and 12,000 miles. But I haven’t forgotten a single minute.

You probably saved my life. Did I ever tell you that? I still believe we’ll meet again, though I don’t know when or where or how, but even if we don’t…

You’re with me like a handprint on my heart.

Five.

I don’t pretend to understand you – I spent years trying to puzzle you out, but eventually I realised that you’ll always be something of an enigma to me.

I was a little bit in love with you, once upon a time. Of course I knew it would never come to anything (that pesky “you being straight” thing was a hindrance if nothing else!) but it was never supposed to. You taught me how to love freely even from a place of complete confusion.

You drift in and out of my life, each time different and yet somehow always kind of the same. I rarely know what’s actually going on in your life any more, but whenever we do end up thrown back together there’s always nothing but love there. And for that, I am grateful.

So that’s me, folks. Tell me about your non-sexual loves this Valentine’s day?

If you’d like to support my work, please consider buying me a coffee, becoming a sexy Patron, or shopping with my lovely affiliates in the right-hand sidebar.

Image courtesy of Pixabay, an awesome site of royalty-free images.

“Bring the Collar”: The True Story of a D/s Break-Up

I don’t want to write this post. I really don’t. I’ve been mulling it over all day and a huge part of me just wants to go, “oh fuck it” and write a generic “how to get over a break-up” listicle.

But I feel like that’d be a cop-out. Today’s 30 Days of D/s prompts is all about break-ups, and to be honest I’ve been inspired by Kayla’s amazing raw honesty in telling the story of her own D/s break-up a few years ago. So… here goes nothing, I guess.

A vase of dead roses. For a post about my D/s break-up

Realistically, I knew we were breaking up. Our relationship had disintegrated beyond repair now I’d finally, a good five years too late, begun to stand up for myself.

We were to meet in the park. Neutral ground. The stated aim: to have the make-or-break conversation. My true intention, though: to escape as quickly as possible with my head held high and my dignity intact.

All of this to say, dear readers: I knew it was over. It was overer than over. That relationship, like Marley, was dead as a doornail.

Still, it was three words on a text that broke me into pieces and tested my get the fuck out resolve to its limit.

“Bring the collar.”

Of course, I’d known he would want it back. That was in the contract. The Contract, to love and protect on his part. To love and obey on mine. Worth less, in the scheme of keeping us together, than the notepaper it was written on. But even so, this was the moment it sunk in. But Master is releasing me. He doesn’t want me any more.

My subby heart broke then. I’d thought I was as good as over it – mentally checked out of the relationship I was technically still in. I’d mourned the man I’d loved, come to accept he’d never been real and this monster who now stood in his place had been him all along. The guy who told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known, one perfect night in a student dorm room when I was nineteen, and the man who looked me in the eyes five years later and told me I was poison, were one and the same person.

But as his sub – his slave, he’d called me, though I was never entirely comfortable with the connotations of that word – I’d tried so hard to please. To obey, do everything he said, shut my mouth and look pretty and never take up more space than my little allotted corner. A toy isn’t supposed to complain when it’s tossed aside once playtime is over.

What I felt then, when I kissed the little silver lock of the collar one more time and handed it over to him while I tried not to cry, was that I’d failed. He’d thrown it at me plenty of times over the preceding weeks, while whatever was left of our love dripped down the drain. Bad sub. Not really submissive. Disobedient. If you’d just shut up and do as you were told, we’d be fine.

For years, I’d twisted myself until the core of my identity was being his. I wrote him a poem in the early days. In it, I said, “You are life. You are oxygen. You are everything.” My blood and breath. My heart and soul. More myself than I am.

What I know now, and wish I’d known then, is that I wasn’t the one who failed. I was just a young girl who got thrown into a lion’s den too complicated and fucked up to comprehend, and then spent years trying to tame the most vicious, dominant lion while he snapped and snarled at her heels.

He was the one who failed me. He promised too much, delivered too little, broke me down too hard. I gave love, and what I got in return was emotional devastation, over and over and fucking over.

In that moment, I saw him as he was. All my idealistic, teenage bullshit fell away and I saw a man who could never love me. In that moment, I took myself back. I gave him back his collar and I took back my agency, my power, my life.

You’re not my blood and breath. I am.

I belong to nobody. I am free. And I am happy.

 

No kinky item today. This is too raw to add anything to it. Today’s image, as ever, was provided for use under Creative Commons Licensing. I’ve used an image of dead roses because we exchanged roses as part of our collaring/vows ceremony. 

The Price of Admission

Anastasia: And what do I get out of this?
Christian: Me.
– Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

It is no secret that I am not a fan of those books. I might eventually write more fully about why, but other writers have already done this so beautifully I’m not sure I have anything to add to that particular conversation. However, the above quote captures the essence of this topic perfectly. Hmm… maybe Ms James did have some insightful moments after all!

An admission ticket torn in half

When we’re children, we’re taught that no-one’s perfect. It’s a platitude, though a truism, perhaps to encourage us not to criticise others – or ourselves – too harshly. And because no-one is perfect, I firmly believe there is no such thing as a Perfect Relationship. There are amazing, incredible, wonderful relationships – and I count myself lucky to be in one of these. But perfect? With all our flaws, foibles, beautifully messy humanity and inevitable mistakes? No.

My relationship has imperfections. So does yours, I guarantee it.

We come, all of us, with our Price of Admission. These are the things about us that are imperfect, maybe even problematic, that someone must live with in order to be in a relationship with us. These are the things, be they big or small, that we don’t see eye-to-eye with our partner on. The things that, if you dwell on them, form the end of the sentence “the relationship would be PERFECT if only…

We all have to pay a price of admission to be in meaningful relationships with another human. Whether it’s as relatively benign as putting up with your husband’s snoring, or as troubling as knowing your friend has a serious drug/alcohol problem but being unable to intervene, every relationship has one – or more likely, several of varying degrees of significance. But here’s the thing about prices of admission. We get to choose whether to pay them or not.

One of the major problems in my relationship with my abusive ex was that he believed that no matter the price of admission, I would continue to pay it regardless. And for many years, I did. I was madly – and I mean that in the literal, not-quite-in-my-right-mind-when-he’s-around – in love with the man. As such I felt I had to do absolutely anything to keep the relationship. When the price of admission was putting up with lies and half-truths, I turned a blind eye. The times that the price of admission was him screaming at me for a tiny perceived infraction, I tried to harden myself to the yelling. When the price of admission was an uneven, enforced mono-poly dynamic, I pretended I didn’t want anyone else anyway.

And what did I get out of all of that?

Him.

Which was enough… except that it wasn’t. I convinced myself I was happy as long as I was with him, this person I idolised. But he didn’t meet my needs and he didn’t hear my voice. If I complained the price for the relationship was getting too steep, he might as well have laughed in my face and said, “but you’ll pay it, because the other choice is walking away and we both know you don’t have the balls to do that”. It was years before I finally decided the price had become undeniably too high.

In our final make/break conversation, with all the characteristic arrogance that believed I would never be the one to walk away, he laid out his Terms for continuing the relationship. And for the first time, I refused the offer. The price was too high and I wasn’t buying. It was no longer worth it.

The point of all of this is to say: you get to decide when the price of admission into any given relationship is too high.

However much you love this person, however much you think you absolutely need them no matter what, you do not have to accept the terms they are offering. You do not have to pay a price of admission that includes abuse of any kind, that includes being cheated upon or lied to, that includes a relationship structure that is unworkable for you, that includes sex acts you can’t or won’t consent to, that includes losing yourself or your self esteem, that includes fundamental differences in beliefs or values, that includes anything that makes the relationship unhappy or unhealthy for you.

You don’t have to.

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

Six Little Love Stories in Six Songs

An iPod resting on some sheet music. For a post about love songs

One. Evanescence – You

So many nights I’ve cried myself to sleep,
but now that you love me I love myself.
I never thought I would say this,
I never thought there’d be You.

I know I have to begin with this one, and yet all I can do is stare at the screen and wonder how I can possibly sum it up in a few short lines.

I lost my thing-society-typically-calls-virginity to this one. I was only sixteen and a Good Girl, fully believing that having sex outside of marriage might be okay, but only if I did go on to marry the person I ‘lost it’ to. That belief and its equally-insidious sister, ‘you must keep your Number as low as possible,’ kept me in far too many broken relationships for far too long.

But once upon a time, before sex and shame and trauma, I was just a lonely girl who needed a boy to tell her she was pretty and it would all be okay. I needed someone to love me into loving myself. It would be years before I learned that wasn’t possible.

Two. A R Rahman & The Pussycat Dolls – Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny)

You are the reason that I breathe,
You are the reason that I still believe,
You are my destiny.
Now there is nothing that can stop us,

Nothing will ever come between us,
So come and dance with me…

Pride – my first. She was my first many things. First woman, first poly partner, first person I completely lost my mind over. First drinking-myself-into-oblivion, crying-for-weeks heartbreak.

But before it all goes wrong, we share this one beautiful day. I hold her hand. I kiss her, surrounded by fellow queers, the first time I’ve felt in my bones that my love for her is not wrong, but the rightest thing in the world.

Later, in the corner of a marquee drinking overpriced Pimms and wearing a fluffy-rimmed cowboy hat (from whence it came I do not recall,) we dance. In this moment, I believe that nothing can ever come between us. So come and dance with me…

Three. The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony

Well I never pray,
But tonight I’m on my knees (yeah)
I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me.

A camping weekend. A field in the grounds of someone’s enormous farmhouse, rural Cambridgeshire. It’s his birthday, this long-haired energy ball of a boy I’ve had a crush on for so long.

The campfire blazes. This song drifts across us from the speakers someone’s rigged up, the melody distant and yet still so imprinted upon my mind that even now, whenever I hear the tune I can still smell the fire and feel his lips as he leaned to kiss me.

We date for maybe a couple of months. He takes me on a date to the zoo. We make out and engage in some very heavy petting, but whenever he tries to push things further, I can’t do it. We quickly realise we’re not really all that compatible and fade easily back into a casual friendship.

Four. Music & Lyrics – Way Back Into Love

There are moments when I don’t know if it’s real,
or if anybody feels the way I feel.
I need inspiration,
not just another negotiation.

Kiss me. Kiss me damnit! I’ve been thinking it, madly willing it every time I’ve seen his so-bloody-attractive face all weekend. With literally minutes until I have to leave, reluctantly crossing back into the real world after a weekend of glorious poly retreat, he finally does it.

Three months later, I get on a train and go to his housewarming party in a different city, where I don’t know anyone. He does a shitload of drugs. I don’t, but I’m high on him, on his presence. He spirits me off to a loft-bed and goes down on me, pressing a hand to my mouth when I giggle too loudly. I sleep in his bed with him, his wife and her boyfriend. For a few short weeks, I wonder if this pretty, pretty boy is going to be the person that makes this burned girl believe in love again. (Spoiler: he wasn’t.)

Five. Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Follow You Into the Dark

If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied
and illuminate the ‘no’s on their vacancy signs,
if there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks,
then I’ll follow you into the dark.

The moment I see this one, I am lost. Even years later, she’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, let alone been in a relationship with. The most amazing style, a smile that rendered this wordy girl tongue-tied, and a passion like a fire in her belly. She’s something else.

And she writes a song for me. It only takes a little coaxing for her to sing it to me. I can see her now, cross legged on the bed with lacy skirt pooling around her, turquoise ukulele in hand.

‘I can’t write tunes,’ she says apologetically, ‘only lyrics, so the tune’s kinda ripped off from a Death Cab For Cutie song. Maybe don’t listen to the original, it’s about suicide.’

Six. Porcupine Tree – Sleep Together

Let’s sleep together right now,
relieve the pressure somehow,
switch off the future right now,
let’s leave forever.

We sext day after day, have illicit cyber-sex night after night, and fall in love through typed words and grainy video-chats. I don’t know, yet, that I will eventually move my world around for this man, that he will become my blood and my bones and the most dearly beloved of my life.

What I do know, when he sends me this song, is that I want to sleep with him. I don’t even mean have sex. I am so very tired, physically exhausted from too many late night chats and emotionally drained from fighting a battle with my own heart that I already know I’ve lost. I want to rest in his arms, to feel safe for once in my life, and just to sleep.

Today I sleep with him every night.