I’m Suffocating in This Closet!

I’m going to break an unwritten rule – one that I set for myself when I started blogging. I’m going to talk about something that happened at my Day Job.

An open closet
Not pictured: me so deep in this closet I’m in fucking Narnia

Now, I love a lot of things about my day job. I work with nice people at an organisation whose mission I care about. I am paid fairly and generally treated respectfully. But Day Job and this life, the life I live when I’m writing this blog, are separate. There is DayName, and there is Amy Norton, and never the two shall meet. I never even tweet as Amy while on work time, though my office is chill about reasonable personal phone and social media use. I am that careful.

At work I am quiet. I keep my head down and I don’t say much. I am friendly, of course, but in that enigmatic way where no-one really knows an awful lot about me. The superficial stuff, sure, but nothing real.

Today my co-worker said they’d watched the new Louis Theroux documentary about polyamory. (Though they called it “polygamy”.) My ears pricked up and I listened to the ensuing conversation, though added nothing to it myself except that it is forbidden to be legally married to more than one person in the vast majority of the world and therefore it was not really “polygamy” in the true sense. Sadly, the ensuing conversation was dripping with judgement. Words like “gross” and “freaky” abounded. Vomiting noises were made at the idea of group sex. I believe somebody even made a comment along the lines of “there’s something really wrong with you if you can’t be satisfied with one person.”

What I felt, in that moment, was shame. I felt that wave of doubt that comes from hearing that something is wrong with me. You’d think by now I would be good at batting away shaming comments about how I choose to love, but every one still hurts.

Of course, no-one knew they were talking about me. No-one knew that the quiet girl across the desk from them is going to see her secondary partner after work tonight, or that she had a threesome with her partner and an amazing woman they both adore at the weekend, or that the thought of the sex party she’s going to in a couple of weeks is getting her though as much as her incessant supply of coffee.

I guess what I’m saying is… be careful in your judgement. When you throw around blanket condemnation of something you do not understand, there might be someone across the desk from you who now feels a little less safe to be themselves, a little more sure they’ll never come out. If my self-protective closets were physical walls, they’d have grown an extra few inches wide today.

Would they have reacted differently if they’d known they were talking about the lifestyle of someone who sat four feet away? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. Would it humanise the concept if I’d said “hey, actually I’m polyam and it’s really not all that freaky! We go on ice-cream dates and have sex and do laundry and walk the dog and argue about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher, just like you!“? Should I have put myself out there, taken the personal risk in the name of sex positivity and fighting the good fight? Maybe. But I didn’t. I felt shame, and I said nothing. I felt judged, and I did not feel able to defend myself because they didn’t know it was me they were judging.  And I felt like a failure to the cause for not speaking up.

Not being out is a choice I make to protect myself from (at best) intrusive questions and weird judgements, and (at worst) from ridicule, loss of professional respect and possibly risking my job. Today I burrowed a little deeper into my closet.

Did you enjoy this or do you just want to help me get through this week? Buy me a coffee! Oh, and please – no advice. Thank you. 

Yes, I Have a Problem with Fifty Shades… But It’s Not What You Think

It’s actually more accurate to say I have several problems with Fifty Shades of Grey, the infamous erotic trilogy (plus rewrites-with-the-pronouns-flipped) about the kinky-ish love between naive college student Anastasia Steele and young handsome billionaire  Christian Grey.

A block of grey paint samples in reference to Fifty Shades of GreyYes, I’ve read the first book, and enough of the second and third to get the gist. I’ve also read Cliff Pervocracy and Jenny Trout’s recaps (which are hilarious, by the way). Make no mistake: these books are horribly written and I did not find them erotic in the slightest. The sex depicted in them is either boringly vanilla, dubiously consensual (or straight up rapey), or both. The main characters are both awful people and the dialogue is about as sexy as a root canal. As a kinkster, I hate that people think this is what we’re about. As a writer, I think it’s a travesty that Ms James has made more money than anyone ever needs in a lifetime, while genuinely talented artists are underpaid and undervalued every day.

So yes. I have issues with this book. But they’re not that it’s an unrealistic kinky romance between a virginal college student and a vampire billionaire.

“But it’s fantasy!” fans cry.

And yes. It is. Look, I’ll be the last person to tell you that you can’t have your fantasies, even your problematic ones. Fantasy is not reality and fantasy exists to enable us to escape from the real world for a while. And nowhere is that more true than in sexual fantasy.

A huge part of the reason that erotica and porn should only be accessed by adults is that adults, typically, understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Jaime Mortimer wrote a really good post on this recently.

I’m not going to infantilise everyone who reads Fifty Shades or any other problematic book and tell you that it’s going to turn you into a rapist or make you leave your husband for an emotionally stunted billionare (or a vampire in a Volvo). I read plenty of erotic fiction and plenty of it has themes that would be super problematic if they were real – doctor/patient scenarios, professor/student scenarios, consensual-non-consent roleplay, voyeurism and exhibitionism, public sex and more are just some of the themes I’ve enjoyed in my sexy fiction.

Guess what? Fantasy. And again: adults, overall, have the capability to understand the difference between fantasy and reality.

So enjoy Fifty Shades, if it’s your thing, as a fantasy about a naive young woman being seduced by an dude with more money than God and pants that hang from his hips (yes, this is an actual line in the book). Enjoy the light BDSM, the sexy  helicopter rides, the grumpy, brooding, damaged male lead if you want to. I’ll be the last person to judge you for enjoying some silly escapism or some improbable erotica if that’s what gets you off.

My problem with Fifty Shades is actually in the social and cultural narrative surrounding Fifty Shades.

Because this is not a great love story. This is not something to which young women should aspire! And the problem is that it’s being sold that way.

There is tonnes of erotica (and straight romantic fiction) out there that relies on problematic tropes and scenarios that are hot in fiction but would be a terrible idea in reality. That’s fine. Again: fantasy is cool, y’all!

But none of that has the marketing power behind it that Fifty Shades does. Ms James and her publishing team have made their collective fortunes not on selling Fifty Shades as fluffy erotic fantasy, but on selling Fifty Shades as a style of relationship to which we should all aspire.

And that is what is dangerous about this book. Not the fantasy it depicts, but the marketing power that sells that fantasy as genuinely aspirational. Because make no mistake, the relationship between Christian and Ana is very often abusive.

How many young women do you think have watched this movie, and decided that if this is romance, my boyfriend obviously only super jealous and controlling because he loves me? Or, Ana loves Christian out of abusing her, so if only I behaved better my husband would stop hitting me? Maybe not in quite so literal terms, but make no mistake – these messages are out there, and victims of abuse are listening and absorbing.

You might think this is hyperbole, but it’s not. This is the kind of power that massive marketing budgets, ingrained cultural narratives about love, and a total lack of sensible sex-and-relationships education has.

I don’t blame Fifty Shades for my own experience in an abusive D/s relationship, of course. But I do partly blame growing up surrounded by the idea that if a man hurt me, my job was to heal him so he could love me properly in the end.

Fifty Shades is far from the only story to suffer from this phenomenon

We have always built collective cultural narratives around these deeply problematic stories. I am reasonably confident in saying I doubt that Shakespeare intended Romeo & Juliet to be considered the greatest love story of all time. If you read it as a love story and analyse it for more than three seconds, it’s a ridiculous play. If you reread it as a satire about “love at first sight” and teenage stupidity, though, it becomes utterly brilliant. (While we’re at it, Wuthering Heights isn’t a great love story either. And Christian Grey bears a passing resemblence to Heathcliff in a variety of ways.)

Despite being for children, even Disney movies sell us some pretty horrible messages about relationships. Think about it: marriage is the ultimate goal for any girl. Once a man chooses you, you’ll live happily ever after.  Cinderella tells us to be good and subservient and pretty until a man rescues us; The Little Mermaid tells us that what we have to say is the least valuable thing about us; Sleeping Beauty suggests that kissing a sleeping stranger is totes a sensible and romantic thing to do… and so it goes on. We’re drip-fed these messages from earliest childhood, so is it really any wonder that so many of us grow up with totally screwed up ideas about what relationships are actually supposed to look like?

Don’t ban – educate

In closing: I don’t support the banning of Fifty Shades or other problematic stories. Fantasy is important and something we should all be able to have access to. Instead, we need a greater cultural understanding and greater education around separating fantasy from reality, and understanding what healthy relationships actually are.

I’d be much happier with the thousands and thousands of twenty-something women enjoying Fifty Shades as sexy, escapist fantasy if they weren’t already surrounded by a culture that teaches them if he hits you, it’s your job to be better so he can heal from his fucked up past.

All the Things “You, Me, Her” Got Wrong About Polyamory

SPOILER ALERT! This post will contain spoilers for You, Me, Her seasons 1-3, so if you care and haven’t watched yet, click off this post now.

Three brown kittens. For a post about You Me Her and polyamoryYou may remember my ridiculous quest to recap every episode of this stupid show, which fizzled out somewhere in the middle of Season 1 because I ran out of time, energy and fucks to give? If not, go read them. It’s snarktastic, I promise you.

In case you haven’t seen it, You, Me, Her is an American comedy-drama series following suburban married couple Jack (Greg Poehler) and Emma (Rachel Blanchard) as they enter into a polyamorous triad relationship with 25-year-old college student and escort, Izzy (Priscilla Faia).

Instead of reviewing this mess one episode at a time, I thought I’d bring you all the things I think it got wrong about polyamory – so far – in one easy post.

1. Izzy would never date these two idiots.

Izzy is a beautiful, 25-year-old college student who is escorting her way through university for the money. When Jack hires her for a date and then Emma later (having found out) does the same thing, she inexplicably decides she’s super duper into both of them for some fucking reason. That would never happen. Any sex worker in Izzy’s place would do her job, take the damn money, and leave this pair to work out their shit in suburban hell by themselves.

2. It’s PORTLAND, not the Bible Belt.

This show is set in Portland, Oregon – a city famous for being super-duper liberal and where I know for a fact there’s a huge polyamorous community. Sure, there are some conservative people there (they’re everywhere, sadly) but the idea that being out as non-monogamous – or even bisexual – in fucking Portland would totally destroy Emma’s life is patently unrealistic. If they wanted that narrative to work, they should have set it in rural Alabama or something.

3. Being bisexual is apparently a worse crime than cheating.

There’s a scene in their therapist’s office where Jack shames the hell out of Emma for telling her bisexual origin story and having slept with women before they met. Seemingly forgetting he cheated on her with an escort about, ooh, a week before. (Also, Emma later declares that her bisexuality “wasn’t a thing,” despite having relationships with four – FOUR – women! That is definitely “a thing”.)

4. Partners are not commodities that you have to share out equally.

Jack and Emma agree that they each get “two nights with her… I mean you” per week. They then have a debate about who “gets” her first. This is gross beyond belief. She’s a human being, not a pie that you both want equal numbers of slices of. Ugh.

5. Dating someone new isn’t how you inject sexual spark back into your ailing marriage.

Jack and Emma’s idea is that they’ll each go on dates with Izzy, then come back fired up and ready to ravish the hell out of each other. That’s not how polyamory works. That’s not even how feelings or sex drives work! And it’s, once again, objectifying as all hell. They’re basically using her as a human sex toy. Also, Jack gets mad when Emma comes back from a date and isn’t up for fucking him right there and then. Your partner doesn’t owe you sex just because they just went on a date with someone else!

6. Jealousy IS inevitable. That doesn’t mean courting it is good for your relationship.

Jealousy is normal and fine, as long as you deal with it in a healthy way. Trying to make your partner jealous deliberately in order to… what, make them want you more? is a REALLY bad idea. And half the time seems to be these idiots’ entire game. Jack and Emma use Izzy to make each other jealous. Izzy uses Andy (who is a dick but seems really into her) to make Jack and Emma jealous.

7. Treating someone like crap then chasing them through an airport isn’t romantic!

Jack and Emma treat Izzy like total crap for the entire show. One romantic gesture (chasing her through an airport to “bring her home”) isn’t

8. Polyamory isn’t just for rich white people!

Jack and Emma are the classic middle-aged, upper-middle-class, professional married pair I’d expect to see at a swingers’ club. Nothing wrong with that, except that the polyamorous community is actually hugely diverse. Trust me, we’re all bored as hell of seeing every representation of our community reduced down to “rich white people who don’t enjoy sex with their spouses any more”.

9. You can’t expect someone to fall for two people in the same way, at the same rate, at the same time.

And that’s EXACTLY what Jack and Emma expect of Izzy. At one point, it becomes apparent that Izzy’s connection with Emma is growing stronger while her connection with Jack is developing at a slower pace, and Jack throws a hissy fit to the point of fucking off for several days. This is exactly the kind of expectation inexperienced unicorn hunters put on new partners, and it’s grossly unfair.

10. Sex doesn’t solve your problems. Communication does.

Whenever these three have a problem, they just fuck and it all goes away… until next time. Sex is great but it’s not how you fix your problems. Only actual, honest, open and respectful communication can do that.

11. You don’t have to live with all your partners!

Jack, Emma and Izzy move in together almost the moment they’ve decided to give a triad relationship a go. Not only is this the mother of all bad ideas, it’s just… not realistic. Just as most monogamous people wouldn’t give a new date the keys to their house before things were pretty stable and established, neither do polyamorous people. And regardless of relationship set-up, the “three people sharing a double bed every night” trope is… sweet but unrealistic. Trust me. I can only manage it even in my King bed for a night or two. You can still be polyamorous if you don’t want to live with all your partners, now or ever.

12. Extremely conservative, homophobic parents don’t come around in three seconds flat.

Emma’s parents go from hyper-conservative, openly-homophobic bigots who only care about her having babies, to being totally chill with the accidental dropping of the polyamory bomb in… yeah, less than five minutes of screen time? (Which equates to about an hour in plot-time). People can come around, of course. People question their assumptions when they are directly confronted with them by someone they love. But it usually takes more time than this. Sometimes much more.

13. And finally… NOT ALL POLYAMORY IS A FUCKING MFF TRIAD.

Are we all sick of this very specific picture being painted yet? Good, me too. Let’s move on to something more representative and less relentlessly cishet-male-gazey. Please.

So what’s next? This show has been renewed for seasons 4 and 5. I hate this about myself, but I already know I’ll watch them all. Maybe I’ll even live-tweet them.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, please buy me a coffee!

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

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

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

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

The short answer is no. The long answer is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men: Her Orgasm Is Not About Your Ego

This is my third post of #Smutathon2018: #SmutForChoice Edition. Please donate to our page for Abortion Support Network, and don’t forget to leave your email address or Twitter handle so we can enter you into the raffle to win some awesome sex toys!

Dear Well-Meaning Cishet Man,

This one’s for you.

You’re a good guy, right? You care about your sexual partner’s pleasure, and her orgasms. You even eat pussy! When DJ Khaled’s comments surfaced about “different rules” for men re. oral sex, you probably tweeted furiously “I’M A GUY AND I LOVE EATING PUSSY”.

A man and woman kissing. For a post about ego and sex.Well, okay. But slow down. I want you to read this with an open mind, and try not to feel attacked. That’s not my aim.

However, please – please – stop making your female partners’ orgasms about your ego! Let me explain.

When I started having partnered sex in my mid and late teens, my boyfriend compelled me to tell him I’d never had an orgasm before I met him. He’d decided this was the case.  Telling him it wasn’t seemed like it wouldn’t achieve anything but bruising his ego. He was very into the fantasy of me as the perfect innocent. So I went with it.

I think a lot of young women have similar experiences. Their (also young and often inexperienced) boyfriends want to feel like sex gods who introduce them to a world of pleasure they never knew existed before. They don’t want to hear “I’ve been having orgasms by myself for years”. This narrative is a big part of the Fifty Shades of Grey fantasy. Ana has not only never masturbated or had an orgasm. She’s never even thought a sexual thought until Christian “I-Don’t-Make-Love-I-Fuck-Hard” Grey deigns to deflower her.

How this played out for me was thus: he didn’t really know what I liked. I knew what I liked, but couldn’t tell him because then he’d known I’d – gasp – had sexual feelings and even touched myself before he showed up. So a long time was spent with him trying to get me off, and either getting pissed off that it took so long (when I got there at all) or me faking it because dude, it’s been two hours, my clit is rubbed raw. 

This is, of course, a sex education problem. We don’t teach young women that exploring their bodies is okay. We don’t teach boys that girls masturbate and hey, she might know a thing or two about her own body! Instead, we glorify this notion of “I’ve never felt anything like this before!” even when you’ve totally felt something like that before… a lot.

A big part of the problem, though, is that these attitudes don’t really change as we get older! I remember reading in a glossy magazine (it was probably Cosmo?) advice along the lines of “when he whips out a new move in bed, tell him you’ve never done that before, even though you totally did that with your ex”. (That’s how Cosmo speaks, right?) The point is that women are still supposed to coddle our male partners’ egos to the point of straight-up lying to them, in order to pretend they’re the only person who has ever unlocked our sexuality.

This also plays out in other ways. I hang out on the Sex Toys forum at Reddit and also similar groups on Fetlife, and time and again men will post: “looking for a sex toy for my partner, but it needs to not be too big or powerful. Don’t want it to replace me!” But what if that big dildo or power-tool vibrator could give their partner the best, most explosive orgasms of her life? I guess it doesn’t matter – what they’re thinking about is not her pleasure, but being upstaged.

Men: women’s sexuality does not exist to stroke your ego! If your partner has a rich and fulfilling erotic life with herself, and/or had a rich and fulfilling erotic life with other partners before you came along, this doesn’t imply anything about you! When she uses toys, she’s not replacing you!

If you want your partner to never have masturbated (or to pretend she’s never masturbated,) or if you want your partner to have never had good sex with anyone else until you came along, you are not being sex positive. You are not being a good lover. You’re making your partner’s sexuality a receptacle for your ego.

And this brings me on to the Great Pussy Eating Debate of 2018, and the problems I see with it. Obviously, what DJ Khaled said was gross, as are all the other ridiculous things straight men have said about going down on people with vulvas. However, a lot of the responses pissed me off too. A lot of men felt the need to weigh in on how THEY always go down on their partners. Which… might seem harmless but is actually indicative of a particularly insidious form of virtue signalling that often comes into play around (particularly heterosexual) sex.

Prioritising your partner’s pleasure isn’t something to brag about. It’s the bare fucking minimum.

The other place I see this kind of ego-tripping manifest is around the issue of whether or not a woman orgasms during a sexual encounter with a man – and how that orgasm happens, if indeed there is one.

Too often, I hear “I want to make her come from intercourse, no clitoral stimulation, what am I doing wrong?”.  What you’re doing wrong, my dude, is prioritising your fucking ego over her fucking orgasm. The vast majority of people with vulvas don’t experience orgasm from penetration alone. This is normal. What you need to do is realise you don’t actually have a problem that needs solving. Talk to your partner, and stimulate her fucking clit the way she likes.

Basically: sex is much better when you take your ego out of it. I promise.

I Tried to Make Him Hit Me.

This was written as part of Smutathon 2018: #SmutForChoice edition. I’m sorry it’s not very sexy, but it’s sex-adjacent and it needed writing. If you’d like to support abortion access, please click below and donate – you can also win sex toys!

A giant male hand holding a female figure crushing her. For a post called I Tried To Make Him Hit Me.The one thing he never did was hit me.

He screamed at me, including in the middle of the night, including where my flatmates could hear, including when I had no idea what I’d done. He controlled so many facets of my life, and not in ways I’d consented to as part of a kinky dynamic. Guilting and ignoring your partner because they went for an innocent coffee with a friend who happens to be of a different gender is not fun D/s. He monitored my weight and shamed me if I gained a few pounds. I was pushed on to medication. He would even punch, kick and throw objects in front of me, just so I was in no doubt how scared he wanted me. It goes on.

I have a secret confession: I tried, a handful of times, to make him hit me. On these occasions, when he shouted at me, I didn’t cower – I sassed back, very occasionally even yelled back. I called him out on his bullshit. I even, on one particular occasion, told him “you’re abusive”. That was the time I most thought he was going to throw a punch at me.

I wanted permission to leave. I wanted something that would tell me unequivocally, this is bad and you can get out. The part of me that still loved him would, I thought, quiet down if he actually raised a hand to me. The part that was sure he was the best I’d ever do would snap out of the stupid trance he’d got me in. I realise now that it probably wouldn’t – I’d probably have justified it and convinced myself that I deserved it and stuck around anyway, the subservient fucking lapdog that I was.

Just fucking hit me, I thought, and then I can leave and I won’t be the bad guy. Because if I left, I knew he’d demonise me. I couldn’t love him as he was. I couldn’t be good enough to make him happy. I’d be the girl who couldn’t handle it.

We teach women and girls that they should leave if a partner physically hurts them. But we don’t speak enough about emotional and mental and psychological abuse. Too often, the message women get is try harder, try harder, try harder! Love him into not abusing you! We romanticise control as being “protective”.  We play off screaming as “it’s only because he cares”. This starts in childhood, when we tell little girls he’s mean to you because he likes you, and it continues and continues and continues and the next thing you know you’re in your 20s and sobbing on some guy’s floor because he yelled at you again and you just love him so much you’re sure you’ll die if you leave. THEN they have the fucking nerve to say “at least he didn’t hit you.”

He never crossed that line, and in his eyes that made him not-abusive. In mine, it just meant I had to wait for the abuse to get bad enough before I was “allowed” to leave. That took a long fucking time. Learning earlier that physical violence wasn’t the only form of cruelty I should Not Tolerate might have made all the difference.

Parents, teachers, adults: we must teach our girls that they do not have to tolerate cruelty of any kind. That they don’t have to tolerate the mental torture until he finally snaps and hits them. Please let’s do better for the next generation of girls.

Me and My Fur: All About Body Hair

I have all my natural body hair. The last time I shaved any part of my body was over three years ago.

A green razor on a brown surface. For a post about body hair

The pressure to be hairless begins early.

I first shaved my legs at the age of 11, because a girl at a sleepover told me that no boy would want me if I had hairy legs. I didn’t even like boys at the time! But somehow, even to an 11 year old who had privately decided she was either gay or asexual (not that I had the actual language for either concept then,) the notion of boys thinking I was ugly was impossible to shrug off. Less than a year later, my mum gave me an electric shaver and told me to keep my armpits free from hair at all times. She wasn’t trying to body-shame me – she is, after all, surrounded by the exact same toxic culture that I am. I think she just didn’t want me to get bullied any more than I already did.

I held out on shaving my pubic hair until I was 19. My boyfriend had been increasing the pressure for several years. After we went to an event where he saw naked women apart from me in the flesh for the first time, it became apparent it wasn’t an option to keep my hair any more. So I dutifully got rid of it and for the next five years, I pretty much kept my entire body smooth and hair-free. Whether I actually liked it that way didn’t really enter into the picture. It was just part of the package of having been assigned female, like periods and casual sexism.

Realising I had a choice

It was Mr CK who woke me up to the idea that I actually had a choice about my body hair. He has made it clear from the beginning of our relationship that he finds body hair beautiful and erotic (spot the boy who came of age in the era of 7os porn!) But he also emphasised that I had to do what felt right for ME, and that he had no more say over my personal grooming than the people who had pushed me into shaving in the first place.

So I tried going au naturel for a while. Just as an experiment, to see if I liked it. That was three years ago and I have not picked up a razor since. I credit my beloved for reminding me I did have a choice, but the choice I actually made was all mine.

Learning to love my hair

I love keeping my body hair for a number of reasons. The time and money it saves me is not insignificant. My skin is much happier since being free of razors and shaving balms and post-shave rash and ingrowing hairs. And I just fucking love how it looks. When I look at my naked body in the mirror, I love the look of my little patch of pubic hair over my cunt. When I wear my favourite sexy knickers, I like seeing the little wisps poking out. I love lifting my arms and seeing the shadow of my reddish-brown underarm hair. I love how soft and fuzzy my legs are.

If I’m honest, I also enjoy the implicit things it tells people about me. For better or worse, body hair on women is heavily coded “feminist” – because making a choice about how to groom our bodies cannot just be a choice, it has to be a political statement. Thwarting societal beauty norms feels like a simple way to wear my politics on my body.

I have to acknowledge I have a level of privilege here in that my leg hair, at least, is very fine and blonde (my pubic and underarm hair is much coarser, darker and more obvious). Would I feel different if my leg hair was thicker and darker? If I grew hair on other parts of my body? I don’t know. I suspect I might struggle if it was growing on my face, for example, but I cannot say with any certainty as this is not my experience.

The impact on my sex life

Having body hair has definitely impacted my sex life. Mr CK and I swing together, and a large number of swingers will not have anything to do with people who do not shave every inch of their bodies. Pubic hair, in particular, gets us rejected a lot. (Insert hi-fucking-larious joke about flossing during oral sex here).

It’s been less of an issue in my one-on-one sex life, surprisingly. I don’t actually play with new people by myself that often, to be honest, and when I do the barrier to entry is pretty fucking high. I remember when The Artist and I had first established that we wanted to date, asking them nervously how they felt about women with body hair. The giant smiley face emoji they replied with… well, that was the moment I let out a huge breath I hadn’t realised I had been holding. Until I asked, there was a sense of I really like this person… and I think they really like me too… but are they going to be disgusted by my body when I take my clothes off?

For this reason, I tend to disclose it to potential lovers before the clothes come off. I feel more relaxed if I know they’re cool with it rather than waiting for the reaction. I hate that I have to do this. I’d much rather it not be a big deal. I wish I didn’t have to feel like it was something I needed to disclose. But mentioning it to sex partners before we get to the sex feels preferable to how devastated I’d be if a lover said something disparaging about my body when we were already in a sexual situation.

And it’s a surprisingly good screening device, actually. Misogynists tend to self-select out of my dating pool pretty fast when they realise I’m hairy.  To be honest, pissing off sexist men is one of life’s simple pleasures for me. Having hair is an easy way to do that.

The thing I’ve actually found most helpful is sleeping with lovers who actively like body hair. I currently have four lovers who I know are extremely into it. The way they look at me when I take my clothes off,the way they run their fingers through my fur or bury their faces in it, reminds me that I can be beautiful and desirable like this. They’re not settling or putting up with it. They actually like it, and me!

Fear of judgement… and sometimes actual judgement

Sure, I’ve been judged for being hairy. I’ve had gaggles of girl whisper and point and take pictures on the Tube because I had the nerve to get my legs out in public in 30 degree heat. I’ve had disgusted, sidelong glances thrown at me in the gym locker room. When I was regularly nude modelling and dared to go on camera with body hair on display, my picture comments went from “beautiful!” to “nice body but please shave that fur”. (No longer wanting to put myself through things like this is one of the many reasons I quit modelling not long after I stopped shaving).

I’ve had couples cancel dates with me and Mr CK at the eleventh hour because they had assumed that of course I was going to shave, and then realised I actually wasn’t. I’ve had guys comment on my pictures on Fetlife, saying “if you were mine you’d shave!” (Good job I’m never going to be yours then, isn’t it, dickbag?) The implication is there that Mr CK is somehow less of a Dom for allowing his sub to go unshaven.

The fear of judgement used to go with me everywhere. Sometimes it still does. When we start messaging a new person or a new couple on the swinger dating sites we use, I worry they’re going to pull out the “ew, pubes are gross” schtick. When we go to new clubs and I run around naked or in lingerie, I’m bracing myself for the “you’d be so pretty if you’d shave!”

Every summer, I weigh up the choice between being unbearably overheated in my oven of an office, or the daily fear of being pulled into a manager’s office and told that my natural leg hair is unprofessional. I sit there quietly while a female colleague bemoans being a woman and having to shave your legs every day in summer. I do not shout “YOU HAVE A CHOICE YOU KNOW!” even though I want to. It’s a constant fucking balancing act between asserting my right to exist in the world with my natural body, and just being tired of it all.

I don’t think I’m good at responding to the judgement yet, when it happens. I usually just want to cry or shrivel up in shame. I’m trying to be better about not letting it get to me, but as someone who grew up bullied, brushing it off is really hard.

Amazingly, no-one has ever actually shamed me – to my face, anyway – in a sex club or kink event. But I’m waiting for it. I’m always waiting for it. Because at most events, I’m the only one – and I see the looks I sometimes get. I see the “ooh, hot girl, nice boobs… oh, never mind” eye-swoop over my body.

I know what you’re probably thinking. “If the judgement bothers you, just shave!” But if you’re thinking that you’ve missed the whole point of what I’m trying to say. The problem doesn’t lie with me. I’m not doing something hugely out there and subversive and wild just by having my body on display in its natural state. I should not have to change it. Nor should I have to constantly defend my choice not to change it.

I like my body like this. The world does not get a say.

Femme identity and body hair

My relationship to femininity has been fraught and complex over the years, but I now sit fairly happily with my femme identity. It’s been a healing way for me to play with my aesthetic and my presentation. To find ways that reflect who I am as both a woman and a queer person. However, for a while I wrestled with the question: can I be femme if I don’t remove my body hair?

Ultimately, I approached this from the same angle as the question about whether you can be femme without wearing, say, lipstick or high heels. There are many trappings that are culturally coded feminine, and femme is about reclaiming these things (which society has often deemed frivolous) and playing with them, making them our own. For me, femme is a way to pick and choose the pieces of feminine presentation I want to embody. A way to escape the rigid codes society enforces about “what a woman should do/be”. To say “in order to be femme you must do X, Y and Z” is just trading one kind of oppressively strict standard for another. Femme is about fun and happiness within your own skin, not following the rules.

For a while, I jokingly referred to myself as “#lazyfemme” for not shaving and for sometimes going out without makeup on. I stopped this, though, because I realised it’s actually playing into the patriarchy to continue coding myself (and by implication other women) who choose not to do these things as “lazy”. As I once furiously ranted online “I have worked sixty fucking hours this week, but sure, I’m LAZY because I’m not wearing lipstick.”

So yes. I am a happy #sparklefemme who chooses the aspects of feminine presentation that work for her, and has decided that shaving is not her thing.

So do I think women who shave are just pawns of the patriarchy?

No! I believe in the absolute right to bodily autonomy for everybody. That includes the choice to shave/wax/tattoo/pierce/adorn/decorate your body in whatever ways you like, or not.

What I wish is that it was a more free choice. I wish there wasn’t such immense societal pressure on women and AFAB people to present themselves in a certain way. That razor companies weren’t constantly trying to sell us the solution to a problem they’ve convinced us we have. That wider representations of beauty were common in our media.  I wish, to be honest, that shaving or not shaving wasn’t such a politically loaded and socially fraught choice.

And I wish we were not teaching little girls at 11 that the most important thing in the world is whether or not boys find their bodies aesthetically acceptable.

Oof – that was a long one with a lot of emotional energy behind it! If you enjoyed it, please consider buying me a virtual coffee!

[Book Review] “Buzz: The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy” by Hallie Lieberman

Image result for two and a half stars

I was beyond excited when I saw that there was a history book all about sex toys! Credit goes entirely to the fabulous Sarah Brynn Holliday (read her work, she’s great) for bringing this book to my attention. I still don’t really understand how there wasn’t any buzz (pun entirely intended and I’m not sorry) about it in the online sex positive sphere. It seems to have almost slipped under our collective radar, somehow.

The cover of "Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy" by Hallie Lieberman

I read this book on holiday over the course of a few days. My overwhelming impression was one of being, well… underwhelmed. I wanted to love it, and I felt it was full of promise, but the finished result didn’t quite hit the sweet spot. (Yes, that was another sex toy joke.)

Firstly, let’s talk about what I did love…

I found Buzz a really accessible read. The tone is lively and the pacing and structure good. The language is not overly academic, and the 15 chapters break the book nicely into bite-sized pieces.

I did learn some gems of fascinating information. Like, did you know that the first silicone dildos were designed and made by a disabled Caribbean immigrant, who was heavily involved in the disability rights movement and set out initially to make sex aids for disabled people? Because I sure didn’t. (His name was Gosnell Duncan and if you don’t want to read the entire book, you can find a brief outline of his story here.)

I also learned that the founders of Adam & Eve also created the abortion rights organisation that would become Marie Stopes International, that dildos were illegal in parts of the USA as recently as 2003 (!), and that the founder of Doc Johnson, Reuben Sturman, was a violent criminal and a tax-avoider and eventually died in prison. There was some genuinely fascinating and little-known history in this book, and for that it is to be applauded.

I’m glad Buzz exists. Sex-related history is so under-studied and stigmatised. But it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I hope it paves the way for much better and more complete works to come.

So where did Buzz fall short?

The first thing that really upset me about this book was that there is information in it that is simply untrue. “Nearly all sex toy companies today … make their toys from body-safe materials.” Uh. Do they? (No, unfortunately, they do not). And this goes beyond inaccurate – it’s actually dangerous. Educators, writers and sex geeks like me know that the industry is still jam packed with horrible toxic toys that can do serious harm to our bodies. The average layperson, though, doesn’t know that. They might read this book and think they can go and pick anything up off a shelf at a sex store or from the internet and it will be self for their body. This simply isn’t true and is perpetuating really harmful misinformation.

Secondly, I felt the title misrepresented the book. It should really have been called “A History of the Sex Toy In America.” For a book that bills itself as a general history, it is painfully US-centric. The UK is mentioned maybe once or twice, and any other countries barely get a look-in at all. It’s frightening how often I want to remind some American writers that there is a world outside the USA.

Thirdly, it’s very cis-centric. Trans people are barely mentioned – and, upsettingly, completely excluded from a section about the Stonewall riots. Non-binary and genderqueer folks are completely absent. It’s all about “men and women” (and “penis = man, vulva = woman” in the main, at that).  Bisexual people are also largely absent, and bisexual men completely so.

Finally, this might be a petty complaint, but Buzz is also riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. I can excuse one or two typos, even in a published book, but Buzz contains so many it’s ridiculous. I’m really surprised it got past an editor.

The verdict:

Kinda like a buzzy vibrator: vaguely stimulating but quickly becomes annoying. A somewhat interesting book with a few shining sections, but disappointing when you look a bit deeper. Buzz probably would have made it to three or even three and a half stars for interesting history, but the trans erasure and the misinformation about toy safety really killed it for me. Two and a half out of five.

Buy your copy of Buzz from Amazon or your local bookstore. To support my work, become a Patreon supporter, buy me a coffee, or shop with my affiliates in the right hand sidebar. 

No, You Cannot Get “Addicted” to a Vibrator

Anyone who has read my work for any length of time will know how I feel about the concept of “sex addiction” – in short, that it’s medically meaningless, so broadly applied as to be useless, and the sole criteria to diagnose someone seems to be “has sex more than the diagnoser or in ways that the diagnoser finds personally distasteful.” Read Dr David Ley’s amazing book for more information if this interests you.

Today, though, I want to talk about “sex addiction”‘s equally insidious little sister – “vibrator addiction.”

A close up of cocaine powder and a rolled up £10 note. For a post about being addicted to vibrators.

I have a variation of this conversation at least weekly, either online or occasionally in real life:

Them: “I want a good clitoral vibrator for me/for my female partner.”
Me: “Try the Doxy! It’s great because…” (*sends link*)
Them: “Oh no, that looks like something I/she could get addicted to!”
Me: *facedesks into next week*

I am here to clear up this myth once and for all, and also to have a central resource to point people to so I don’t have to have this argument on a weekly basis. S0:

You cannot get addicted to a vibrator.

Repeat after me: You. Cannot. Get. Addicted. To. A. Vibrator.

The fears here seem to fall broadly into three camps, so I am going to tackle each of them one at a time.

Fear the first: “I’ll break/stretch/loosen/desensitize my vulva if I use toys too much.”

Genitals are fucking cool, y’all. They do not “break” or “wear out” from overuse, and they are remarkable at bouncing back – for fuck’s sake, pushing an entire small human out of a vagina causes it more strain than even the most hardcore of sex toys!

I think this myth is closely associated with the (also false) narrative of a vagina becoming “loose” or “used up” if its owner has too much sex or has sex with too many different people. It fails to neglect the medical reality that the vagina is a muscle and muscles Do Not Work That Way.

You cannot break your vagina. You cannot stretch it out permanently in any kind of significant way. It won’t mold around a toy and become unable to enjoy anything else. It won’t break or become unable to have or enjoy sex in the future. Promise!

There is also no evidence whatsoever that prolonged or repeated usage of vibrators – even really high-powered ones like my beloved Doxy or the famed Hitachi – causes any long-term loss of sensation in the clitoris or vulva. At most, some people report feeling desensitized for a short while after a toy session – especially with buzzier toys – but these effects are really short-lived (typically minutes or hours) and cause no long-term damage or change in sensation whatsoever.

I’ve been using my Doxy for years – probably for ten orgasms a week for two and a half years, on average? – and other vibes long before that, and I still squirm at the slightest flick of my partner’s tongue over my clit. Vibes will not ruin the nerves or the sensation in your bits. I promise.

Tangential but related: I also see a lot of questions along the lines of “I used a toy and now my bits hurt, did I irreparably damage myself?” No, you probably used a toy made from a toxic material, or used a toy made from a material you’re for some reason sensitive to, or didn’t use enough lube, or didn’t warm yourself up enough, or it’s just your body’s response to a new stimulus that it’s not used to. (A bit like your muscles ache the next day if you do a new form of exercise!)

Fear the second: “But what if using a vibrator is the only way I can orgasm?”

I’m going to say something truly radical now.

If using a vibrator is the only or the most reliable way for you to achieve orgasm: USE THE FUCKING VIBRATOR, ENJOY YOUR ORGASMS, AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT.

Orgasms are great, and we should all be having as many of them in our lives as we wish to. There are countless ways to reach orgasm – from fucking, manual sex, oral sex, anal play, being punched in the butt (or is that last one just me?) And, of course, via the use of sex toys such as vibrators.

Here’s a secret: all these ways of reaching orgasm are equally wonderful, equally valid and equally real. ALL orgasms are wonderful as long as everyone involved in inducing them is consenting. That’s literally the only criteria.

I encourage everyone who wants to, to experiment with all different kinds of pleasure and see what works for them and what feels good. It’s also worth remembering that these things can, and probably will, change over time. I used to come reliably from clitoral fingering by a partner, but my clit got more sensitive as I got older and now this is a pretty rare feat. Conversely, I never used to have G-spot orgasms, but now I have them quickly, explosively and repeatedly. And my experience with using toys has been that it has broadened my experience of pleasure and the ways in which I am able to come.

However, no form of pleasure or orgasm is inherently any better than any other. Some vulva-owners spend their entire lives chasing the elusive vaginal-only orgasm, but the reality is that somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of vulvas simply don’t work that way. People often become deeply upset because they, or their partner, doesn’t reach orgasm from oral sex – even if they enjoy the sensation and the act itself. I think these beliefs are heavily tied in with the mistaken notion that we should be able to bring our partners to easy and explosive multiple orgasms with nothing but our hands/mouth/dick, and that anything else – whether it’s them masturbating themselves or using a toy or even just enjoying a session where orgasm isn’t necessarily the goal – is somehow lesser.

I am here to tell you that it’s not. If you come easily in fifty different ways, you’re beautiful and valid. If you only come with a vibrator or other toy or in some other super specific way, you’re equally beautiful and valid.

The overwhelming majority of the time, my answer to “Dear Amy, please help, the only way I can reliably orgasm is by doing this thing” is “….then do that thing.”

Fear the third: “Can toys become a replacement for partnered sex?”

The short answer is no. The long answer is this post in response to a worried reader who was afraid his girlfriend’s dildo would replace him.

A lot of people are afraid that they, or their partners, will find the stimulation they get from a toy to be so overwhelmingly amazing that they won’t have any need for partnered sex in the future.

Again, this is not only completely lacking in evidence, I’ve actually found the opposite is more often true. Exploring my sexuality through toys has increased my potential for erotic enjoyment and therefore improved the partnered sex I have. I am not the only person to have reported this kind of experience.

A toy, however much you love it, cannot be a substitute for a partner. Terms like “battery operated boyfriend” or “the perfect lover” to describe toys have a lot to answer for. Until a toy is sentient, there for me, makes me laugh, snuggles me at night, watches Netflix with me, takes me on adventures and brings me coffee, it is NOT a boyfriend/lover/partner – it’s an inanimate object, a tool through which to experience pleasure.

As I said to our friend who was jealous of his girlfriend’s favourite silicone dick:

Partnered sex is about so much more than just “does your body part satisfy my body part?” It’s about connection, about the feel and smell and warmth of a partner close to you, about the thud of body-on-body, about the rhythm and the dance and the responses between two (or more) people. Partnered sex is in-fucking-credible for so many reasons and a toy can’t fully replicate many of them. Pervocracy has a great article on some of the reasons people might love partnered sex.

So no. Your girlfriend isn’t going to dump you or stop having sex with you because she likes her vibrator more, and she’s not going to get so hooked on wanking with it that you never see her. (That stupid scene in Sex & the City also has a lot to answer for here!)

In short: “Vibrator Addiction” is a shaming tactic, and nothing more.

It shames people who struggle to achieve orgasm without a toy, people who don’t orgasm in socially sanctioned ways (i.e. by penetration with a penis,) people who need a lot of stimulation in order to come… and basically just adds to the stigma of vulva-owners masturbating and prioritising their pleasure.

It’s also sexist as fuck. If a cis man masturbates to porn two or three times a day, people will see him as a normal guy with a healthy sex drive. But if a woman or other person with a vulva uses a vibrator most days or every day, she may well face accusations of being addicted.

Addiction is a serious medical problem with causes major issues in the sufferer’s life and the lives of the people around them. No-one, to the best of my knowledge, has ever turned to crime, alienated their family and friends, lost their job or run themselves into debt because their Magic Wand just felt too good and gave them too many orgasms. Minimising the very real pain of addiction and co-opting it as a sex-shaming tactic is incredibly insensitive and harmful to anyone who has suffered from addiction or been affected by having a sufferer close to them.

So let’s stop with the “vibrators are addictive” bullshit and let people have orgasms in the ways that work for them, yes?

[(Not a) Toy Review] Here’s What Happened When We Tried a Terrible Cock Ring

From whence it came I do not recall. It must have found its way into my freebie bag at one sexy event or another. But somehow, this monstrosity came into my possession:

The Skins Vibe Ring, a clear jelly rubber cock ring with a small bullet vibe, sitting on its box. For a review.Because Mr CK is a very indulgent partner, and supportive of my penchant for putting strange things on my genitals and then oversharing about it on the internet, we decide we’d test it. Just for fun.

Well, it was… something. I’m not sure fun is quite the word.

This ‘Vibe Ring’ vibrating cock ring by Skins (better known for making mediocre condoms) looks and feels like something you’d buy for £3 from a machine in a seedy nightclub. It’s made of some kind of jelly rubber (the packaging is mysteriously quiet about its actual material) and just from handling it for a couple of minutes I can see its porous as fuck. Sweat and oils from my hands have leached into the rubber, turning its clear appearance opaque, and the squishy texture and dodgy chemical smell coming off it are dead giveaways for phthalates.

As a cock ring, it’s worse than useless. A cock ring is designed to restrict blood flow away from the penis, creating a stronger and longer-lasting erection. A lot of penis-owners report that this can be very pleasurable and give them stronger orgasms. This thing, though?

“I literally can’t feel it!” Mr CK declared when it was around his cock. It’s too stretchy and flimsy to do anything. Still, we were determined to give it a fair hearing, so we turned the little vibrating bullet on and I  hopped on board and started fucking him. In the me-on-top position, I could at least feel the vibrations – if you can call them that – against my clit. But, unsurprisingly, they were too weak and too buzzy to give me anything that I could define as pleasure. Mr CK reported that he could just barely feel the vibrations through his shaft but they were nowhere near to being pleasurable for him either. (And this is a man who definitely enjoys vibrations!)

We changed positions, him standing and me on my back, legs spread, on the end of the bed. This was worse. With every thrust, the damn thing buzzed against me in its completely useless and mildly distracting way. It was low-level annoying in the way that a mobile phone vibrating in your pocket can be. Only, you know, less likely to give me an orgasm.

“Ooh, it made you come!” Mr commented as he felt my cunt muscles clenching around his cock.

“Nope. That was all your dick, babe.”

“Shall we take this thing off?”

“Yes, lets do that.”

We tossed it aside and finished our fuck, which was much more satisfying once the stupid ring was safely on the other side of our very large bed. Afterwards, we snuggled in the afterglow and laughed about how utterly terrible this ridiculous excuse for a sex toy was.

“It feels like it would fit around my head,” he said, stretching it experimentally.

“Try it!” I dared.

And that, my friends, is how a sex session finished with my partner and I taking turns to wear a cock ring like a head lamp. I hope you enjoyed that mental image. You’re welcome.

TL/DR: Do not buy this toy or any other cheap, rubbery “single use” cock ring. For a simple, high quality cockring, try the Beginner or the Super-Soft C-Rings from Tantus. If you’re after one that vibrates, try the Desire Rechargeable from Lovehoney (and don’t forget to use discount code COFFKINK10 at checkout!)

The image featured in this post was taken by me. Don’t steal my photos, please! Links above are affiliate links. Doing your sexy shopping with my affiliates helps support me to keep the blog going.