A Very Brief Look at Sex Toys in Popular Culture

Despite its problematic elements (and OH GODS there are a lot, TW for biphobia, transphobia and racism in that link,) Sex & the City was groundbreaking for its time. In 1998, when the episode “The Turtle and the Hare” aired featuring the women discovering the Rabbit sex toy, a frank discussion of vibrators on a prime-time, hugely popular TV show was a big deal. A few years later came The L Word – queer women’s answer to Sex & the City, which I devoured when I was in my late teens, low-key ridiculous though it undoubtedly is. Alice asks her girlfriend Dana to penetrate her with a strap-on. Sex toys then feature as a recurring theme throughout their relationship.

DivaInner G-Spot Rabbit vibrator with box, for a post on sex toys in popular cultureBut let’s face it, the portrayal of sex toys in popular culture hasn’t been hugely positive.

In the fairly recent past, sex toys in movies and TV were treated as the butt of a joke. 2001’s Not Another Teen Movie, for example, famously opens with Janey getting caught masturbating by her entire family (and for some reason a few random children and a priest.) The idea of a woman masturbating – especially a geeky, not-classically-beautiful young woman – is supposed to be hilarious in itself. The “Rabbit” episode of SATC depicts Miranda’s friends shaming her for using a vibrator instead of having sex with a man. (“You can’t take it home to meet your parents!”) Later they stage an intervention to stop Charlotte using hers, treating her like an addict.

In The L Word, Dana’s shame around using toys is an ongoing theme in the depiction of her relationship with Alice – including a cringe-inducing scene where they go through airport security. (“Yup. Nipple clamps.”) Later, a jilted Alice dumps out a box of toys in front of Dana and her new girlfriend, who recoil in disgust. It’s a dildo, guys! It’s not going to hurt you!

Thankfully, things are starting to improve.

The wonderful Sense8 features a beautiful scene of two women having sex using a strap-on dildo. Netflix’s Grace and Frankie feature the two main characters trying to design sex toys for women over 60 – and older women’s sexuality is not treated as gross or as a joke. And, of course, Broad City’s pegging scene became such an instant classic that there is now a line of sex toys themed around the show.

This is all a great start. I’d really like to see more positive portrayals of sex toy usage in popular media going forward. Give us joyful depictions of female masturbation, divorced from shame or guilt or narratives about being addicted, a nymphomaniac, or unable to find a man. Give us sex scenes in which partners reach for toys and no-one thinks it’s weird, gross or offensive. I’d even like to see vibrators casually sitting on female characters’ night stands without it being a big deal.

Popular culture has begun to catch up, but still has a way to go in the sex positivity realm.

Luckily, sex toys themselves have (s0metimes) improved tremendously in the last twenty years. The infamous 1998 SATC “Rabbit” is made of some kind of translucent jelly material, which is certainly not body-safe. Jelly toys are softened with phthalates, plasticiser chemicals which are now banned in children’s toys in many countries as they are known carcinogens. They’re also horrible for the environment! Unfortunately, the adult product industry remains largely unregulated, allowing unscrupulous manufacturers to keep making cheap, dangerous sex toys. There have been documented cases of people getting chemical burns in their genital area from unsafe toys!

Fortunately, there are reputable adult brands out there dedicated to offering body-safe and eco-friendly toys. DIVAINNER is one of them, creating intimate products of the highest standard such as this fab G-Spot Rabbit, out of exclusively premium, body-safe materials such as non-porous, phthalate-free silicone! Despite the silly stereotypes, it’s impossible to get addicted to a sex toy – so you can let go of your inhibitions and have as much fun as you want.

This post was commissioned by DivaInner and first appeared on their blog. Featured image is property of DivaInner. All opinions, as ever, are my own. Want to see YOUR company, brand or product on these pages? Get in touch!

Ten Lessons from One Year of Sex Blogging

I started my blog late in the evening on 31 December 2016. Can you believe I’ve been at this game for a whole year already? Time flies when you’re having fun, banging various sexy people, and accumulating a collection of sex toys bigger than you reasonably have storage space for.

A white mug from Girl on the Net with the text "No-One Does Whar You Do Quite Like You." For a post about things I've learned in a year of blogging.

And oh what a year it’s been! This little side project – and the community I’ve met as a result – has changed my life, and changed me, in deep and fundamental ways. I’m a better person, and a better writer, than I was a year ago thanks to this little adventure. I’ve placed in the top 100 sex bloggers, won a Newcomer Award, and been paid for my work. I’ve worked with great companies like Hot Octopuss and Lovehoney. And I’ve met some of the most awesome people I’ve ever had the privilege to know.

So, in the spirit of reflecting on the past year – it is New Year’s Eve, after all! – I wanted to share with you ten lessons I’ve taken away from this first year.

1. I can experience pleasure and orgasm in ways I never imagined.

I hardly ever bought sex toys before I started this little adventure and started getting sent things to review. They’re pretty expensive and my vulva is fussy – it knew what it liked (this baby, mainly) and though I was curious about other toys, I couldn’t quite bring myself to spend upwards of £50-100 on things that may or may not work for me.

Well, I’ve now tried oscillating toys, suction toys, dual-stimulation toys, ride-on toys, great vibrators, terrible vibrators, mediocre vibrators, dildos in interesting materials, and even sex toys shaped like penguins. And if you’ll pardon the pun, FUCK ME it turns out my experience of pleasure is diverse. Not only can I get off in all these different ways, but each gives me a subtly (or sometimes wildly) different variety of orgasm.

Bodies are cool, y’all.

2. Sex writers are the best community.

I cannot overstate the extent to which the sex writing community has changed my life for the better. At events like Eroticon, Lube & a Laptop, and even the recent sex blogger Christmas party, I feel profoundly seen, deeply understood, and radically accepted in a way that I have never quite encountered anywhere else.

This community is so open, so generous with time and support and knowledge and friendship and a helping hand up, that I want to cry with joy every time I think about it. You, reading this? Yes, you. I love you.

3. I have the power to take my ideas and make them real.

This whole “sex blog” thing was just a bit of a side project a year ago; a bit of fun that I thought would keep me busy during a difficult transitional period and maybe entertain a handful of people. Now, though? Now it’s so much more. It’s my genuine passion project AND a source of additional income.

That didn’t happen by accident. That happened because I had an idea and ran with it. It happened because I put in the hours (and hours and hours) at the computer screen, tap-tap-tapping away; because I invested what I could, money-and-time-wise, into things like going to Eroticon; because people like Girl on the Net, Kayla, Molly and Michael, and Sarah generously shared their wisdom and I was smart enough to shut up and listen and learn from them; frankly, because I worked my ass off for it. I still do every day.

You can, too.  You just need an idea, some determination, and the willingness to put in the hard work to see it through.

4. Sometimes, the best way to get what you want is just to ask.

Sending off my first pitch was so scary that I needed to celebrate a little bit having done so. Actually getting it accepted? Well, that was something I’d never imagined! That first time someone believed in my work enough to pay me for it, even a little, was like a shot of pure confidence straight to my anxiety-riddled brain. But I never would have got it if I hadn’t faced down my fears and just asked.

Writing to Hot Octopuss a couple months ago on a whim, going “hey we’ve got some common interests here want to sponsor a post?” felt ridiculous. Presumptuous. Why would a big and successful company want to work with a nobody like me? But they said yes. They liked my idea and they paid me for it and I’ve worked with them again since!

These little victories would never have come my way if I hadn’t bitten the bullet and just asked the damn question.

5. Rejection can tear you down, or it can propel you forward.

Rejection happens in any creative industry. It’s just a fact of life. I’ve been rejected plenty of times, both as a sex writer and in my vanilla writing life. My first novel probably got rejected 30 times before I decided to e-publish. I got rejected from an OxBridge Masters programme at the final interview stage. I’ve spent days, weeks, crafting a perfect contest entry and not placed. I’ve sent pitches off and never heard back.

What I learned this year, though, is how to channel rejection into determination and forward momentum. I’ve honed my pitching style and my approaches. I’ve looked again at a rejected piece with fresh eyes and revamped it. And I’ve taught myself how to view all experience, even rejections, as valuable and as opportunities for growth. All writing experience is good writing experience.

6. Whatever weirdnesses I have, I’m definitely not alone.

Whatever bizarre fetish or kink I might be into, someone else is into it too.

When I think I’m the only person in the world whose body responds to a certain stimulus in a certain way, someone will go “me too!”

When I’m struggling with an emotion or a fear or a trip into the darkest depths of my psyche, sometimes what keeps me going is just knowing that someone else sees me, that they understand what I’m going through, and that they came out the other side – and I will too.

7. I have workaholic tendencies.

Okay, so I had a hunch about this one already, but it’s become apparent to me in the last year just how true it is. When I’m really into something, I am in real danger of becoming completely consumed by it.

In October, writing every single day for my Kink Month challenge was stressful and thrilling in equal measure. Since then, I’ve forced myself to take half a step back to recharge as my day job workload explodes over the festive period, but I still feel twinges of guilt if I go more than three or four days without blogging.

This passion and the way it eats at me until I sit down and do the work is a blessing, in large part, and occasionally a curse too. Sometimes the best thing my loved ones can do for me is give me space to work, and sometimes the best thing they can do is force me to take a break, eat some snacks and watch a terrible movie with them. Often, though, I need to take a good look at how I’m really doing in order to communicate which of these things I need.

8. People HATE being told the truth.

Whether it’s that their jelly dildo is riddled with toxic gunk, that shoving 2lb of marbles up their ass is a really bad idea, or that their favourite toy company hired a known abuser as a spokesperson, people really cannot deal with facts and information if it conflicts with their view of The Way Things Are. What’s more, sometimes these people will come at you with name-calling, personal attacks and even threats of physical violence when you speak the truth.

Block early, block often, my friends.

9. How not to take shit from companies.

I don’t work for other people/companies for free, unless:

1) You’re a charity I really, deeply believe in, OR
2) You’re a personal friend and I’m either doing you a favour or we’re doing some kind of work exchange.

Even so, the number of companies who have approached me wanting me to write for them for nothing – or “for the exposure!!!” – is fast approaching levels of bullshit I never knew existed. Add this to seriously shady requests like “talk up our product but don’t let on to your readers that we sponsored you for this,” and I’m left shaking my head at the audacity of some people. This year, I’ve learned to value my work properly and not accept flattery or “exposure” as forms of currency. I’ve learned to stand up for my worth, to hold firm with my boundaries, to put my foot down, so say “no”.

You love what I do and REALLY REALLY want to bring my voice to your readers? Perfect. I’m flattered. Now pay me.

10. No-one Does What I Do Quite Like Me

I’m just gonna finish off with this gem of wisdom from Girl on the Net, a phrase which adorns the mug (pictured) that I drink my coffee from every morning. Because it’s true.

Happy new year, you beautiful lot. Here’s to 2018.

Image by me.

[Offsite] The Five Biggest Lies I Was Told About Sex…

…And You Probably Were Too!

I’m honoured to be featured again as a guest writer for the excellent Exhibit A, talking lies we were all fed about sex, love and relationships. Here’s the teaser…

We are all fed toxic beliefs about sex and relationships from the time we’re tiny. Whether it’s parents, the church, teachers, your peers or crappy internet porn teaching you these things, they’re almost impossible to escape. Here are some of the most toxic, thoroughly busted by Yours Truly.

  1. “Your first time will be the best sex of your life.”

Why It’s Told: We live in a society where (female, or those read as female) virginity is highly prized and highly commodified, and where woman/vulva-owning people are not supposed to enjoy sex or seek it out for its own sake. Setting up sky-high expectations for the mythical perfect ‘first time’ puts young women under huge pressure to find the ‘right person’ and effectively serves as a warning. If it’s with the ‘wrong’ person, we’re told, we will miss out on the One And Only Opportunity to have The Best Sex Of Our Lives.

Read the whole post here.

[Offsite] Pegging with CK and Exhibit A

I can’t believe I forgot to link to this one! Exhibit A and I co-authored a piece on everything you need to know about pegging (and probably a few things you didn’t!)

A close up of some colourful clothes pegs hanging on a washing line. For post about pegging.

Here’s the teaser

EA: Right, ok! So pegging. It might be useful to start with a bit of context here. At Eroticon, we discussed the possibility of you writing a guest post for me, and a few days later you suggested pegging as a potential topic. Can you explain a bit about why you landed on that, and what you had in mind?

CK: I thought of it while writing a post for my blog on my top 5 favourite sex toys (GOD it was hard to limit that to five!) and ended up picking my strap-on as one of them. I’m bi but tend to end up dating more male-bodied people (just a symptom of there being more straight men than queer women around I guess!) and pegging is something I’ve quite recently discovered but really fallen in love with. Beyond the act itself I’m also interested in the power dynamics and the questions around gender roles that it throws up.

Read it all here.

Note: the image in this post was offered under Creative Commons Licensing.

[Offsite] Guest blog for Kayla Lords: “Abuse, D/s and the Art of Knowing the Difference.”

I was honoured to be asked by the amazing Kayla to guest blog for her site. After sharing some of my story with her when we met at Eroticon, the topic became obvious.

Here’s the teaser of ‘Abuse, D/s, and the Art of Knowing the Difference’:

We’ve all seen the lists. The ‘if your partner ticks more than five of these behaviours then you’re being abused’ lists, that is. There are many of them available online, so I’ve pulled out the one that helped me to leave my last abuser for the examples used here. Anything listed is far from exhaustive and ultimately, if your relationship makes you feel unhappy or unsafe, you should start thinking about making a plan to leave.

Read the whole post here.

[Offsite] Guest blog for Girl on the Net on Female Orgasm Denial

Today I am immensely proud and privileged to have had a guest blog accepted and published by Girl on the Net. This is a big deal for me for two reasons: first, I love GOTN’s work and I’m full of joy that she likes something of mine too. Second, this marks the first time I’ve been paid to write about sex. (Also, I was inspired – dared? – to send the pitch by GOTN’s amazing panel on pitching at Eroticon.)

Here’s the teaser (heh) of ‘Female Orgasm Denial (or: Why I Get Off on Not Getting Off)’:

‘Don’t stop… please don’t stop… I’m going to…’

‘No you’re not.’ The vibrator is yanked away. I cry out in frustration as my clit pulses with need and my cunt clenches in anticipation of the orgasm it’s been denied.

He does it again. And again. And fucking again. I am ready to cry with desperation, ready to promise anything in exchange for release.

Read the whole post here.

[Offsite] My work in Exhibit A’s International Women’s Day Special

My erotic vignette Four Minutes featured in Exhibit A’s International Women’s Day fantasies special alongside work from The Other Livvy, Hannahlects, @19Syllables and several other anonymous authors.

Here’s the teaser:

A lot can happen in four minutes.

It’s long enough for him to sidle up behind me as I’m towelling off after my shower, him already dressed and ready for the day. Long enough for him to slide a hand along my hip, over my still-damp stomach, and up to grab a nipple between his fingers. To squeeze, hard enough that I bite my lip but not hard enough to elicit that squeak I know he loves…

Read it all here!