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.

Ask Amy #7: “Respectful Flirting for Queer Women”

Today’s advice question comes from one of my wonderful Patreon supporters, who has been very patient in waiting for me to get to it. I’ve also, I must admit, been sitting on this one a bit because knowing how to answer it was tricky.

The reader in question is a woman, in case that wasn’t clear from context. Let’s go…

Two women drinking coffee at an outside table. Only their arms are visible. For a post on flirting as a queer woman.“Hey Amy,

I like girls but am very nervous about flirting, in part because they’re so cute my brain melts, and in part because I want to be polite and respectful.

What are your tips on approaching cute humans in public places (cafes, bookshops, etc.) in a respectful way, to tell them their shirt is nerdy and cool, and to maybe indicate I want to start flirting with them?”

Oof. My dear reader, if I knew the definitive answer to this one, I’d date a lot more girls. But I will do my best, writing from the perspective of a woman who likes women and is maybe open to being flirted with by them.

A cool thing I learned about flirting a long time ago, which has always served me well, is to consider treating it as an end in and of itself. Flirting is a joyful activity as long as both parties are fully on board with it, and it does not necessarily need to lead to sex/a date/a relationship in order to be “successful”. This mindset will both help to guard you against crushing disappointment if that cutie you’re chatting to turns out to not be interested in taking things further, and helps to prevent you coming across as “creepy” or having an “agenda”.

To approach or not to approach?

When it comes to deciding whether to approach someone in public, it’s important to look for visual clues as to whether they may be open to being approached or not. If they’ve got headphones in, for example, or are hiding away in a corner behind a book or laptop, they’re probably either super busy or wanting to be left alone. Body language and general demeanor are important too. Does she look sad, stressed out, pissed off? That person is unlikely to be in the mood to chat. But someone who seems chilled out, happy or content is more likely to be open to meeting new people.

What to say?

A good way to approach someone and gauge if they’re interested in chatting to you is to offer an opener that they can either pick up and run with, or answer quickly then get back to whatever they were doing.

“I love your shirt! Where did you get it?” is a great one, especially if they’re wearing something that reflects a shared interest. You can also substitute “shirt” for bag, item of jewellery, shoes, cute notebook, etc. etc. Anything that clearly reflects an interest or personality trait. The key is to be genuine in your compliment. That way, if she’s not interested she can say thanks and you’ll have made someone smile. If she is open to more conversation, you’ve got a perfect first thing to talk about.

“Oh, I love [Author Name]” is also a good one if, say, you’re browsing the bookstore and see a cutie checking out one of your favourites.

Then, if she seems open and receptive, you can maybe tell her your name and ask hers, and see if you can get a conversation going. Ask if she wants to sit with you, or if she’s up for company at her table or would prefer to be alone. If you’re scared of backing her into a situation where she feels unable to say no, try the ball-in-her-court approach: “I’ve got to go meet my friend, but I’m [Name] on Facebook if you fancy looking me up. I’d love to get coffee and geek out over [shared interest] with you sometime”.

The “is she even into girls?” problem

Of course, you can’t usually tell by looking at someone if they’re queer or interested in your gender. There’s no easy way around this unless they “flag” in some way. Many people prefer not to be openly queer until they know they’re in a safe space to do so. This is particularly true in small or conservative communities.

There’s not a super easy way around it. Often, you’ll find out if someone is queer or available in the course of conversation and getting to know them. But one way to show that you’re a safe person to be open around is to flag queer in public, however subtly or overtly you’re comfortable with. This also makes it more likely that other queer folks who think you’re cute will approach YOU! Consider a rainbow bracelet, a “queer” or F/F symbol pin badge, a bi pride necklace, a risque phone case, or an LGBTQ/sex-positive tee.

Other ways to meet people

It’s probably also a really good idea, if you don’t already, to try to join some activities where people like you will congregate. Is there a feminist book club, a queer women’s social, an LGBTQ+ film group, a board game geeks’ night, anywhere near where you live? Go along and make friends, not with the specific intent of getting a date, but with the intent of meeting other people who share your interests and making friends. One of these people could be the next love of your life! Or they could invite you to a party, where one of their friends will turn out to be the cutie your heart desires.

In these environments, you’ve got a huge advantage over just meeting people in public. Everyone is, presumably, there to socialise and meet others to a certain extent. Not to mention you’ve got a ready-made thing to talk about! If you’re nervous, “I’m new, how long have you been coming?” is a fine opening gambit.

Most importantly: give yourself credit

Meeting people is hard. Saying hi to someone in public is even harder. This is all amplified by a thousand when you’re a queer person trying to get by in a heterocentric world. So if you say hi to someone cute, congratulate yourself! Maybe you’ll get knocked back, maybe you’ll make a friend, maybe you’ll get a date. The result isn’t the only point. The point is you put yourself out there. Confidence, coupled with a healthy respect for other people’s boundaries and comfort, is sexy as hell. So go you!

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Ask Amy #6: “The Care and Feeding of Your Unicorn”

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Whew, it’s been a while since I had an advice question from a lovely reader. This one, I must confess, has been sitting in my inbox for a while. Thanks to the person who sent it in, both for the excellent question and for waiting so patiently for an answer.

An artistic drawing of a sitting unicornNOTE: For those who don’t know, a “unicorn” is a person (usually a woman or AFAB person, though not always) who gets into some kind of relationship with an existing couple. So called because this type of person is almost as rare, precious and highly sought-after as the mythical horned horse. “Unicorn hunter” couples get a bad rep because so many of them approach this type of relationship from a fantasy-fulfillment perspective without due regard for the third person’s feelings, needs or, well, humanity.

Let’s dive in…

Hey Amy,

So my primary and I have suddenly and quite unexpectedly acquired a unicorn! We love them so much (we’ve been friends with them for years). So far we are all three having a delightful time. We are, as much as possible, using our polyamory skills to continue this state of affairs.

But I am nervous. Obviously being a unicorn is a terribly vulnerable position and so many unicorns end up really hurt. So: can you give me some tips from your own experience on making sure we keep our unicorn as gloriously happy and safe and secure as they deserve, while also making sure that we look after our own needs too? Because, my goodness, they deserve all that is good and wonderful.

Dear Nervous Unicorn Handler,

Okay, first of all, I LOVE this one. Not only because you say you are all having a wonderful time in your newfound triad, but because you are obviously as invested in your new partner’s happiness as you are in your own and your Primary’s. So, yay for you! You’re already way ahead of the curve here.

You’re also doing the right thing in realising that being a unicorn is a vulnerable position. Your unicorn has a certain level of advantage in that they’ve been your friend for a long time, but you and your Primary will still have tonnes of shared history, intimacy and knowledge that your unicorn has not been privy to.

I find myself wondering if you’ve talked to them explicitly about this? Even something as simple as “hey, we understand that being a unicorn can be a really vulnerable position, and we want you to know that we love and value you so much and are really invested in your happiness in this relationship. Please don’t be afraid to tell us what you need and let us know if something doesn’t work for you” can go a really long way. Then, obviously, follow through on that with actions such as listening actively, consulting them on things that affect them, and not getting upset with them for expressing needs or emotions.

Balancing multiple people’s needs is tricky in any relationship. It does, of course, become somewhat more difficult the more people are involved. However, there’s no reason you can’t keep all of you safe, secure and happy for a long time to come!

Communication, as ever, is key. It sounds like you’re well aware of that and all making efforts to communicate well. Keep doing that!

I also advise, in so far as it’s possible, each of you having one-on-one time with your third partner sometimes as well. Just as the two of you need alone time together in order for your relationship to flourish, your relationship with your unicorn and your partner’s relationship with them needs the same to a certain extent. But, of course, lots of lovely all-three time is also really important to schedule and prioritise.

Looking after your own needs is vital in any relationship. So, try to keep a good handle on where you’re at internally. Ask your partners to look out for themselves similarly. Have you considered a periodic check-in meeting for all three of you? This can be by Skype or phone if you live far apart, or around the kitchen table over coffee, or even snuggled up in bed together. It doesn’t have to be serious. It can just be, “how are we all doing? Anyone got any issues they want to raise?”  Then if anything comes up, you talk about it. If it doesn’t, you carry on doing the snuggling/coffee drinking/kinky fuckery. Obviously, you can react to things as they arise. But don’t underestimate how useful it is to have a designated time to check in with everyone and focus on your three-way relationship.

Beyond this, the things that spring to mind seem obvious and I’m sure you’re doing them/not doing them already:

  • Don’t try to control/limit who your unicorn can date. Having a secondary relationship with them while being in a primary relationship with your existing partner is A-okay, but don’t try to make them be exclusive to you or make it difficult/impossible for them to date others.
  • Discuss, with your Primary AND all three of you together, what will happen if someone feels jealous or left out. “We’ll close down the relationship and kick the unicorn out” is not a valid answer to this.
  • Keep your promises and honour your commitments. Emergencies happen, of course, and a degree of flexibility is important. But your partner should feel that the two of you are reliable and will do what you say you’ll do.
  • Related to the above, don’t make promises you may not be able to keep.
  • Never, ever, for the love of all that is sexy and good in the world, throw your unicorn in the middle when you and your Primary have a disagreement.
  • Try not to set rules on who is supposed to feel what for whom. This is a recipe for disaster because the heart doesn’t obey rules. Expecting your new partner to feel exactly the same way about each of you, for example, is unrealistic at best and straight-up coercive at worst.

I just want to finish by saying this seems like a really positive, healthy relationship. I’m not getting any of the red flags I so often see in a couple+unicorn situation. You’re doing everything write, Letter Writer, and I wish you all the best for a long, loving and wonderful relationship.

Again, please submit your questions to me for an anonymous answer on the blog. Patreon supporters get priority!

How to Buy Your Lover a Sex Toy for Valentine’s Day

I kind of love Valentine’s Day. I know it’s a manufactured commercial holiday, but at its heart it is a celebration of love – and I am in favour of there being more love and expressions of love in the world.

Two red roses and three boxes wrapped in white gift paper. For a post about buying sex toys for Valentine's Day.

Flowers and chocolates might be more traditional, but I think that a sex toy they’ll really love is a super romantic gift for Valentine’s Day. Sex is a massive part of many loving romantic relationships, and we could all use more pleasure in our lives. Giving your partner the ideal sex toy is a great way to make them feel seen and loved and to show that you’re invested in their sexual fulfillment.

There is one huge, enormous caveats to this, namely:

ONLY DO THIS FOR ESTABLISHED SEXUAL PARTNERS. Don’t buy your office crush or that cutie who makes your coffee a sex toy. That’s creepy.

So how do you ensure your sexy gift lands right? Here’s some tips…

Most importantly, take note of their preferences, desires and fantasies.

Is your partner a girth lover? Do they really need intense clitoral stimulation to get off? Are they all about their cock, or super into anal play? Do they love dual stimulation, or do they prefer to focus on a single sensation at a time? You need to know these basic things about your lover’s body before you can successfully buy them a toy.

Aesthetic preferences matter here, too. For some people, something pink might go down brilliantly. Others hate the colour and want nothing to do with it. Case in point: I was already MEGA impressed when Mr CK bought me a Doxy for my birthday the first year we were together. The fact that it was purple, my favourite colour, just emphasised that he’d really been paying attention to my likes.

This stuff isn’t hard to pick up. You just need to be paying attention.

That’s THEIR preferences!

In order for this to be successful, you need to buy your partner a toy you think THEY will really love – which might not be the same thing as buying one that you really want to watch them use. There’s no use buying them a massive dildo if they’re all about clitoral stimulation, for example. However much you fantasise about watching them fuck themselves silly, the thing is just going to gather dust in a drawer if it doesn’t turn them on.

If you’re not sure: ask.

You can ask this overtly, if you want – “babe, I’d love to buy you a fabulous sex toy for Valentine’s Day. How does that sound? Anything you’ve particularly got your eye on?” But if you want it to be a surprise, you’ll have to do some subtler sleuthing. As part of a more general conversation about fantasies, desires and new things to try (you are having these conversations, right??) you can ask them if there’s any particular activities or toys they’d super love to try. If you ever visit sex shops together (do this, it’s a fab date activity) or browse products online together, see what they gravitate towards.

If you’re STILL not sure, let them choose!

Loads of stores, both brick-and-mortar and online, now offer gift vouchers to be redeemed on sexy purchases. Why not buy them a voucher for your local feminist sex shop and go together, or a Lovehoney voucher and spend a fun date evening browsing and choosing something together?

Pro tip: skip “gift bundles.”

Bundles of several toys together are tempting because they come with several items and seem really well priced. Unfortunately, they tend to be cheap because they tend to suck. It’s much better to buy one really good quality toy from a reputable retailer and with a decent warranty. “Gift bundles” are often full of jelly, phthalate-ridden crap with terrible motors that will break in five minutes. Give them a miss.

Need some inspiration? A few of my favourites to start you off…

My friends at Lovehoney have kindly offered a discount code on a few of my favourite items, including the Doxy Original in purple, the new and fabulous Doxy Number Three, the We-Vibe Tango, the Tantus Vamp Super Soft (in purple, of course!) and the Desire Butterfly hands-free vibrator. Check them out here and get 15% off!

Have a great Valentine’s Day. May you all be blessed with love and, if applicable, orgasms aplenty.

Affiliate links are contained in this post. Buying from my affiliates supports me and helps keep the blog going. All opinions my own, as always! Image courtesy of Pixabay. 

How to Be a Good Couple to Threesome With

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

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

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

1. No Pressure

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

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

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

2. Have your own house in order first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Openly discuss safer sex.

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

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

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

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

7. Have an aftercare plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, we’re talking consent. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Consent is unsexy and ruins the mood.”

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

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

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

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

No no no no no no no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second: FUCKING ASK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communication When Your Partner is Carrying Trauma

It’s #KinkMonth! I’m celebrating by writing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ fabulous 30 Days of D/s project. #KinkMonth is brought to you by Lovehoney, who are currently offering 2-for-£15 on gorgeous sexy stockings, as well as lots of other exciting sales.

Today, we’re discussing my second favourite c-word. No, not CUNT (that’s my first favourite.) It’s COMMUNICATION. Communication, the experts will have you believe, is the key to life, the universe and everything. (Or was that 42? I forget.)

Anyhow, today, Kayla and John ask:

What is your communication style? What happens when you try to communicate your thoughts or needs?

I can be hard to communicate with. This is a thing I know about myself. I do consider myself to be overall a good communicator, but these skills have been hard won and it hasn’t been smooth sailing. Sometimes I jump to the worst possible conclusion in a single leap, sometimes I find it hard to believe what my partner is saying to me even as they’re spelling it out in plain English, sometimes I look for the hidden meaning behind their words when there isn’t one.

This is all because I am still carrying trauma from past abusive relationships. Of course, it is my responsibility to deal with this stuff, which I am doing with the help of a therapist. However, there’s definitely a role for my partners to play. So here are a few things I’ve learned are helpful in communicating with me. Everyone is different, but if your partner is carrying trauma, here are some communication hacks I’ve found to be helpful.

Be prepared to offer reassurance.

Your partner might need to hear that you’re not mad at them, or that the discussion at hand – even if it’s a conflict – doesn’t mean the end of your relationship. They might need to hear that you still love them, that you value them, that they’re a good person, that everything is okay. Ask them what reassurance is meaningful to them. This is especially important if their love language is “words of affirmation.”

Be prepared to repeat yourself sometimes.

These things might not go in the first time. Or even if they do, they might need repeating the next time a conflict or important discussion arises. When someone is traumatised through abuse, the trauma is drilled into them over weeks, months or years – they’re hit with it again and again. You cannot expect to say something once and have it overwrite a trauma-driven narrative immediately.

Say exactly what you mean.

This isn’t the time for coded messages, hidden meanings or vagueness. Be clear, be xplicit, and don’t play head games where they have to “work out” what’s going on.

Speak and behave calmly.

Don’t shout. Try not to raise your voice. Watch your body-language and make sure it’s not intimidating. Clenching your fists, hitting or throwing objects, or even standing over someone who is sitting or lying down can all feel really threatening.

Don’t succumb to personal attacks.

“I felt upset when I came home late and had to do the dishes, despite you being at home all day” is a statement of what happened and your feelings about it. This is a great place from which to start a conversation! “You’re so lazy” (/stupid/inconsiderate/etc.) is a personal attack. You shouldn’t do this to anyone, but doing it to a person with relational trauma can be triggering and can seriously erode trust.

Above all: ask.

Ask your partner how they want to be communicated with! Ask them what makes them feel safe and heard, and what makes them shut down. And most importantly: listen to the answer and behave accordingly.

Kinky item of the day: This lovely blindfold, which is currently on sale. Sensory deprivation can be sexy as fuck!

On the Same Team? Some Thoughts on Conflict.

It’s #KinkMonth, so I’m celebrating by writing a post a day inspired by the prompts in Kayla Lords’ brilliant 30 Days of D/s, a completely free project that invites you to consider all different angles of kinky relationships. Today’s prompt is all about one of my least favourite things in the world (ranked below “cheating” but definitely above “instant coffee” on the Things Amy Hates scale): conflict.

How do you handle conflict now? How do you imagine handling it in D/s? What do you think you’ll need to do differently in a D/s relationship?

I’m a very conflict averse person. Very very. Having someone angry with me is often really frightening to me and falling out with a loved one can be devastating. Unfortunately, conflict is a necessary part of human relationships – whether romantic or platonic, vanilla or kinky, conflict will rear its ugly head sooner or later.

I’ve learned a lot of things about conflict management over the years, in particular the truism that the ideal goal isn’t to have no conflict, but to process conflict in a healthy and positive way to move towards a resolution.

Today, though, I want to tell you about the one thing that I believe is at the heart of whether conflict resolution ultimately succeeds or fails. Namely:

Are you ultimately on the same side?

I don’t mean “do you agree right now?” because clearly you don’t or the conflict wouldn’t exist. What I mean is, in the grand scheme of things, in the bigger picture, are you on the same team? Do you want the same thing? Are you both seeking, in good faith, a mutually beneficial outcome?

If not, you’re fucked. If yes, you might have a good chance at resolving things and moving forward positively.

Mr CK and I had some pretty major conflicts when we first began living together, as it was – unsurprisingly – a period of major upheaval for both of us and for our relationship. Similarly, we had some doozies as we worked through how we would go about opening our relationship. Apart from a fucking incredible therapist, there’s one thing more than anything else that I believe got us through those tough times:

The knowledge and repeated assertions that we wanted the same thing, were on the same team, were merely seeking the same result from different angles – not after diametrically opposed outcomes that could never be reconciled.

I’ve been in relationships where what we wanted was ultimately completely incompatible. The conflicts were endless and circular because we could never come to a place of resolution… because that resolution didn’t exist. There are some conflicts where the desired outcomes are so completely mutually exclusive that there is just no way for both parties to get what they want. It’s really sad when it happens. But it’s better to realise it than to spend the next however many years of your life locked in a never-ending battle to be right.

This isn’t about small annoyances. This isn’t about the fact that he’s perpetually late while you’re very punctual, or the fact that she always leaves the kitchen cupboards open and it drives you crazy. (Unless those things are legitimate dealbreakers for you, in which case, Godspeed.) What I’m talking about here is big picture incompatibilities, those things that you argue about over and over and over and you never come to a resolution because making both of you happy is impossible.

Take this question, which I’ve seen in various permutations in a million advice columns over the years:

“He’s desperate for us to have a baby now. I don’t know if I want children ever, and even if I do, I’m too focused on my career to want to think about it for at least ten years. How do we both get what we want?”

Answer: you can’t. You literally can’t. You can’t at once have a baby and not have one for ten years or possibly ever. The possibilities here are that one of you drastically changes your desires or perspective (possible but unlikely,) one of you is perpetually dissatisfied, unhappy and possibly resentful (possible but not desirable,) you have this circular argument several times a year into forever (likely, but also not desirable,) or you break up.

Replace this question with literally any massive incompatibility (“she wants to open our relationship but I’m staunchly monogamous,” “they insist I convert to their religion if we’re going to be together, but I’m a happy atheist,” “he’s a right-winger with neo-Nazi sympathies, and I’m a feminist,”) and the answer is the same. If there is a way for two people with such opposing core values or needs to be together happily… well, I don’t know what it is.

Contrast these with something like this: “we’re really frustrating each other because we’re having to adjust to each other’s way of living. But we both really want a happy, harmonious household where we both feel at home.” Or “we both definitely want an open relationship, but we keep getting smacked in the face with insecurities and fears we didn’t know we had.”

The specifics will be different in each case, of course. But what it boils down to, for me, is whether or not you’re ultimately, when push comes to shove, on the same side. Because your partner should be your teammate, not your enemy, even in situations of conflict.

Kinky item of the day: Under-bed restraints, which are currently 30% off at Lovehoney. Perfect for that classic “spread-eagle” position – and, since they fasten only with velcro, they’re quick release and great for beginners.

Note: this post was not sponsored. An affiliate link is included above and if you buy from it, I may make a small commission. Opinions are, and will always be, my own.

 

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.

Ask Amy #3: “Red Flags?”

Today’s question comes from a reader who reached out to me via Twitter. Her question is short and simple, and yet oh-so-complex to answer.

She asks:

“What are the red flags to look out for when starting a new relationship with a Dom or a sub?”

Four red flags blowing in the wind

I have many, many feelings about this question and all the possible ways to answer it. As I often do when I’m mulling over a topic, I took it to Mr CK for a male-and-mostly-Dom perspective (and also because he’s at least as smart as I am!)

His response, I think, was utterly brilliant: “don’t get into a relationship with a Dom or a sub. Get into a relationship with a person.”

What I love about this answer is that it cuts through all the possible answers I was thinking of giving, and straight to the heart of the issue: get to know somebody as a real, three-dimensional human being before you seriously consider them as your Dominant or submissive. Spend time – LOTS of time – talking, communicating and seeing how they interact with you and the world. A good D/s relationship is a place of profound trust and vulnerability on both sides, and these things cannot be rushed. A real-life D/s relationship is nothing like an endless kinky fantasy – first and foremost, it is a relationship.

My partner is so fucking smart, y’all.

As an aside, I really recommend you check out Loving BDSM Podcast, as they’ve got some great things to say about building trust and getting to know someone at the beginning of a relationship, as well as every other kinky topic you can image. I particularly recommend episodes 31 and 83 for this topic.

In terms of more specific and concrete red flags to look for, I have some thoughts there too! I’ve tried to keep these applicable to people on either side of the D/s slash, and relevant whether you’re meeting online or in meatspace. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I would view any of the following with some serious side-eye and a healthy portion of skepticism:

Demanding too much, too soon.

You wouldn’t give someone the keys to your house or ask them to marry you on a first date, would you? Therefore, you shouldn’t be giving or accepting a collar, issuing or receiving orders, or committing to any kind of serious ongoing protocol or dynamic before you fully know someone.

If a Dominant expects you to kneel and call them Master the first time you meet, RUN. If a submissive expects you to invite them to move in and run every aspect of their life when you’ve barely got past coffee… you know what I’m going to say.

Referring to themselves as a ‘Real’ or ‘True’ ANYTHING.

There is no such thing as a True Master, a Real Submissive, or a (*inserts tongue firmly into cheek*) Twue Dominate. Those of us who have been around the (spanking) block a few times call this One True Wayism. It’s frowned upon for good reason. People who think their way is the only way tend to be snobbish, elitist and derisive of others at best. At worst, they can be seriously dangerous – thinking you know everything, refusing to learn and refusing to be questioned is a recipe for disaster.

If you identify as a Dom, you’re a Dom. If you identify as a sub, congratulations – you’re a sub! There is no One True Way.

Using language like ‘if you were really [X] you’d do [Y.]’

‘If you were really a sub, you’d give me all your passwords and your bank account login!’ ‘If you were really a Dom, you’d take care of everything for me so I didn’t have to take any responsibility for my choices!’

Extreme examples, perhaps, but both examples I’ve encountered. If someone questions your identity or tries to use it against you in order to get you to comply with something you don’t want to do, run a fucking mile.

See above: no such thing as a ‘Real’ or ‘True’ anything. You don’t owe anyone proof of your subby or Domly Credentials.

Claiming to have no/very few limits.

EVERYONE has limits, folks. Absolutely everyone. Someone who claims not to have any (or to have “very few”) is woefully unprepared for what BDSM can actually entail. Even if you think you’re the most hardcore true subby who ever subbed, I promise there are things you would never consent to – and this is a good thing! Dominants have limits, too.

Repeat after me: EVERYONE. HAS. LIMITS. The sooner you learn what yours are and how to communicate them, the better your kinky fun is likely to be for all concerned.

Lying. This includes lies of omission.

The absolute foundational basis for any healthy relationship, kinky or vanilla, monogamous or polyamorous, is trust. Without trust, there is no relationship. Therefore, lying is arguably the biggest and reddest Big Red Flag out there. This includes big barefaced lies, of course, but it also includes lies of omission. “Forgetting” to tell you he’s got seven other submissives at home is a huge fucking deal and not something you should overlook.

The person who lies to you in the beginning will lie to you all the way along. Whatever your role, you’re a human being first and you deserve to be told the truth.

Breaking boundaries, including small ones.

Abusive people don’t start by trampling all over your boundaries in huge, glaring ways. If they did this on the first date, after all, they’ll never get as far as a second date. No – predators and abusers often ‘test the waters’ with a new victim to see how much they can get away with.

If they persist in using language towards you that you don’t like, touching you in a way you’re not comfortable with, or even subtly negging at you in small ways, YOU ARE NOT BEING TOO SENSITIVE. They are testing you. They will push bigger and bigger boundaries if you continue a relationship with them. And more often than not, you will find yourself in a full-on abusive situation.

What do you think, dear readers? Did I miss out any glaring red flags that our lovely friend should know about?

Do you want your question answering in a future Ask Amy column? Get in touch!

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