Sex Educators You Should Know: The “Ersties” Podcast Crew

You guys might remember a few months back I introduced you to the wonderful Ersties Podcast, a smart, sassy and funny show about sex, kink, porn, the adult industry and more. Well today I am thrilled to bring you an interview with Lina Bembe, one of the team of badass women behind the podcast. 
But first, I wanted to tell you about a couple of my favourite recent episodes since I last introduced you to these amazing ladies.

Episode #7 is called “Self-Love, Sex and Magic” which brings together two of my favourite things – sex and magic! Sex is, really, its own particular kind of magic when you think about it, isn’t it? The team discuss sexuality as a form of women’s power, which has terrified men for centuries – so much so that in time gone by, women who dared to be openly sexual opened themselves up to accusations of witchcraft.

Favourite quotes:

“Witches are in many ways the original feminists… the original sluts.”
“We need to get our vulvas together… we need some vulva action!”

The other thing I loved about this episode is the team’s discussion about coming out to their families as working in the porn industry. I won’t spoil the stories for you, but you should go and hear them for yourselves.

Their special guest is Vanessa Cuccia of Chakrubs, the world’s first crystal sex toy company (which, yes, is 100% a thing I want in my life.)

Listen here.

The ladies also JUST released Episode #9 which is on my favourite sexuality topic of all – consent! They discuss consent in BDSM, how to talk about what you want in bed, and what consent looks like on a porn set.

If there’s one, single message I want my readers to take away from my work, it’s that consent is everything. Consent is the beginning, the end and everything in between. The Ersties team delve deep into this complex and nuanced subject with honesty and insight.

Personally, I particularly appreciated the discussion of being in a sex work situation such as making porn, and not really feeling like having sex… but making the decision to consent anyway, in order to get paid at the end of the day. It’s such an important point that there are other good reasons to consent apart from “I’m extremely horny right this second,” and that this doesn’t have to be a traumatising experience. The key, they seem to be arguing, is checking in with yourself and making an informed decision to say yes or no in any given situation.

Favourite quotes:

“Ohhh, now she has to put her fucking fingers in my pussy and I have to pretend to have an orgasm…!”
“Everyone who knows me knows that [my favourite safeword] is brocolli!”

A must-listen for anyone grappling with the nuances of sexual consent. Which is ALL of us, because this shit is complex.

Listen here.

Right, let’s get on with my interview with Lina, shall we?

Amy: What made you want to start the Ersties podcast?

Lina: Paulita, Pandora, Olivia & I were already a sort of gang. We used to hang out a lot, crack jokes, go out and get crazy, and talk about sex and feminism basically all the time. So it was kind of a natural thing to pour all these conversations and the things we are curious about into a podcast format. These days anyone with a smartphone or computer and WiFi access can build a platform and talk about whatever topic they want. In our case, we felt we were a fun crew with good chemistry and important things to discuss and explore, so we just got a mic and started recording!

Amy: Which other podcasters inspire you, and why?

Lina: Tristan Taormino for her extensive experience and educational approach, Ron Johnson’s journalistic work for The Butterfly Effect, Sadia & Monty from BBC’s No Country for Young Women because of their natural style and emphasis on black & brown communities. My personal favorite is Tina Horn from Why Are People into That?!, always fun, unapologetic, politically relevant and raising the voices of fellow sex workers.

Amy: Oh, god, Tristan Taormino is my heroine! So which show do you always listen to the day it comes out?

Lina: Why Are People into That?!, The Cuntcast, Sex Out Loud, Sex with Strangers, Guys We Fucked, The Second Circle, Asa Akira’s podcast for Pornhub, and hopefully the next season of No Country for Young Women!

Amy: Some new names for me there, I’ll check those out for sure. What is the core message you want to get out with the podcast? The one thing you’d like listeners to take away?

A cartoon image of the Ersties Podcast crew speaking to a live audience.Lina: That sex and sexuality are incredibly important for our lives and that it’s crucial to have more unbiased, shame-free conversations about them. We have all been raised and encouraged to see anything related to sex as shameful, dirty, not worth discussing, but the consequences of doing so go a long way into affecting our emotional well being and relationships to others. Thus we need to find ways of reclaiming our bodies and sexualities, and we need to find people we can feel relate to in our journey. We don’t always have the spaces to have shame-free, honest conversations about sex in our daily lives, so we wanted to offer a channel for it with our podcast.

Amy: Preach! So what is ethical porn? What sets ethical porn apart from regular, run-of-the-mill “tube site” porn?

Lina: Ethical porn has two main dimensions. The first dimension happens on the production side, where performers and crew have to be treated with respect regardless of their origins or identities, with professionalism and with attention to their personal boundaries. Where everything discussed in terms of sexual health issues, types of sex acts, remuneration (or skills/content trade agreement), identity, privacy protection and distribution channels is transparent, respectful and agreed by the production company, director, fellow performers and everyone involved in the project. It’s basically playing by the rules,  respecting everyone involved in the process, and making sure, as a producer that you put together a team who are able to work under these ethical standards and understand their importance in both the project and the wider industry.
The second dimension of ethical porn falls on the responsibility of the consumer, when they pay for the content they watch or access the content in the way the producer or performer wants them to. Sadly enough, it’s quite normal for people to watch porn for free and to assume that’s the normal way to go about it – whereas they’re happy to pay for platforms like Netflix or Spotify. The stigma surrounding porn and the proliferation of tube sites (who offer plenty of stolen content) obscures the very elemental fact that porn is also a form of work and that there’s people trying to make a living out of it. Not paying for porn only contributes to the stigma, shrinks the diversity of contents and throws indie producers and performers even more into precariousness. I’d really, really love for people to understand that consuming porn in unethical ways affects everyone.
Amy’s note: I am in love with the Ersties porn site! You can support ethical porn, get access to tonnes of great content, AND send a little kickback my way when you buy an Ersties porn subscription from as little as $11/month through my affiliate links.

Amy: Who would be your dream interview guest on the podcast, and why?

Lina: As a short-term goal, I’d love to have Munroe Bergdorf as a guest. Every single word she says speaks in such a strong way against stigma, and pushes for diversity and real change on so many fronts –  as racism, transphobia, whorephobia, misogyny and so on. I’d love to hear her views on porn and what sort of narratives could make this industry more inclusive and less discriminative!
As a long-term goal: Rihanna! To me, she’s the best global scale example of what it means to be a powerful creature and being unapologetic about owning your sexuality. Plus she likes porn!

Amy: What’s your favourite sex toy?

Lina: Wands of all kinds, and buttplugs. Please don’t make me choose just one!

Amy: Oh, god, yes I’m a wand girl too. Wands are life. Anyway, what’s one thing you really wish people outside of it understood about the adult industry?

Lina: That this is a job like any other. The only thing that sets porn aside from other industries is the traditional shame we culturally attach to everything related to sex and sexuality. That’s incredibly harmful for how we all see ourselves as sexual beings and how stigma and discrimination can go a long way into marginalization and even the death of those who choose porn as a career. It’s time to press fast-forward to 2018 and leave this centuries-old, harmful, puritanical nonsense behind!
***************
Amy again! Thank you so much to Lina and the Ersties crew for taking the time to tell us all about their work and industry. I’m so glad they’re having these conversations – we all need to talk more openly about sex, porn, consent, sexual ethics and all these deep, complex, nuanced topics. Only by talking about these things can we bust the stigma and all enjoy safer, happier, more fulfilling sex lives.
Remember to check out the podcast! If you like friendly, informal dialogue about all things sexy, led by super smart women, you’ll love this show.
This interview was kindly sponsored by The Ersties Podcast. All views, as ever, are my own.

Five Fun Ways to Use a Kinky Card Game

Have you ever played a kinky card game!? I hadn’t either, until recently – when the lovely folks at Pain Play: The Game introduced me to their prototype.

A laid out table with Pain Play the Game cardsPain Play is a simple game for lovers of impact play. There are 50 cards divided into 5 decks – 20 “hit cards” (i.e. the number of strokes you will receive, when the two are added together,) 10 “location cards” (where on the body you’ll receive the impact,) 10 “implement cards” (to determine the implement used,) and 10 “modifiers,” which can do anything from doubling or halving your strokes to allowing you to give them to somebody else. You literally draw a card from each deck and then do what the cards say. There are also spare cards, so that you can add your own ideas.

After a devious session of scheming with the creators of the game, I thought it would be fun to share some of the wonderful – and perhaps less obvious – ways of using this delightful little game.

A table laid out with a deck of Pain Play the Game cards
Just one possible permutation…

Obvious disclaimers apply

In the context of the game, as ever, full consent and negotiation is paramount. A safeword or any other withdrawal of consent ALWAYS supersedes the rules of the game. Whether in a group or one-on-one setting, no-one should ever be pressured to take part in anything they don’t want to.

Pro tip: you can remove cards from the deck without affecting the mechanic of the game. So if impact on a particular body part or with a particular implement is a limit (or if you just don’t own/have the skills to use any implement,) you can remove it.

Now let’s look at some ways to have fun with Pain Play: The Game.

1. As humiliation play

Is your masochist complaining about the cards they drew? Well, just tell them they did it to themselves!

I recently discovered I have intense feelings (good ones!) about phrases like “you brought this on yourself…” while a Top is doing deliciously mean things to me. Making your submissive pick the cards and then telling them that they’re just getting what they chose can be super fun for the discerning sadist.

2. As a way for newbie bottoms – and Tops – to explore

So you want to try impact play but you have no idea what implements you want to play with, where on your body you might enjoy it, or how hard? Or are you a nervous new Top, wanting to spank your eager submissive? Playing this game is a wonderful way to try things out – and, frankly, to get a feeling of permission to try things out. Afterwards, you can discuss which “rounds” were your favourite.

3. To get a kinky party going

You know that moment at the party when the snack table has been demolished and the introductions have happened and everyone’s like “so… do we just start playing or what!?” Being the first one out onto the play kit can be nerve-racking. Get a few friends together – or even everyone, if it’s a small party – and play a few rounds of Pain Play to start you off. Everyone will be into their kinky thing before you know it!

4. To start a scene with a new partner

You want to play with that hot person. They want to play with you. Awesome! But how do you actually get from the negotiation chat (you’ve done that, right? If not DO IT NOW) to actually getting a scene going? Well, a round or two of kinky cards can be a great way to transition from negotiation-space to play-space.

5. To demo different toys or techniques

Are you a sex and kink educator, workshop leader, purveyor of fine impact toys, or just the resident spanking guru in your friendship circle? How about using this game as a jumping off point for your next teaching session? Whether you’re showing off different skills to the audience on your own partner, or allowing willing volunteers to have a go at being on the receiving end themselves, structuring a workshop or demo around this game adds an element of fun and surprise!

Okay, Amy, you’ve sold me! How do I get a copy?

Pain Play: The Game is being funded through a Kickstarter project, and there’s only a little time left to get them to target! Mr CK and I have pledged £200 which will get us a copy with custom artwork to at our events and parties. But if you can’t afford that much, never fear! Every pledge of £15 or more gets you your own copy of this fabulously filthy little game, with the standard (gorgeous) art and everything you need to play. We should be supporting creativity and innovative projects by people within our community, so please do support if you can!

This post was kindly sponsored by the creators of Pain Play: The Game. Follow them on Twitter! As ever, all opinions are my own.

A Very Brief Look at Sex Toys in Popular Culture

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

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

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

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

Thankfully, things are starting to improve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Quick Steps to Choosing Your Perfect Lingerie

Everyone deserves to feel gorgeous, sexy and desirable. And one way to achieve this is through wearing beautiful lingerie. Long-time fans of the blog will know that, until a few months ago, I didn’t think lingerie – in the traditional sense – was for me. I’m a curvy girl with an hourglass shape, currently a bit on the chubby side, with large boobs. My go-to knickers were less “sex kitten” and more “shapeless”. But after being sent some beautiful pieces to review, I realised that lingerie is just as much for me as for anyone. I’ve learned to love wearing it, and feel amazing when I do.

A woman reclining on a bed wearing red lingerie and pearls. For a sponsored post for Baby Jane LIngerie.So here’s some top tips I’ve internalised that always help me to choose the perfect piece.

Know your measurements and aim for a perfect fit

If you wear bras, it’s really important to get properly fitted! Wearing something that fits you perfectly will make it look and feel so much better. For corsetry, you’ll need your waist measurement. Sizes vary between brands, of course, so don’t be afraid to go up or down from your usual size if you need to.

Also, all good stores will have a size chart. Pay attention to this, and if in doubt you can always email or phone customer services for help. They want to help you get the perfect piece! offer no-quibbles size swaps, and will even split sets if necessary to get you the perfect fit.

Shop for the occasion

That babydoll might be perfect for wowing your lover in the bedroom, but it won’t work so well under your business suit for secret everyday glamour. Consider where and when you’re going to wear the pieces you’re buying, and shop accordingly. You’ll shop differently if you’re looking for the perfect wedding lingerie than if you’re after a showstopper for a night out at the BDSM club.

And don’t be afraid to ask for advice! Whether online or in person, store staff will be delighted to assist.

Shop smart online

Shopping in person is great if possible, but brick-and-mortar stores aren’t available in all areas and may not carry all lines. I buy the vast majority of my lingerie online and have never had an issue.

Begin by simply browsing catalogues for inspiration. Of course, looking at a picture doesn’t tell you how something will look or feel on you, but knowing what you’re drawn to is a great start. Bookmark the pieces you like and come back to them later with fresh eyes before you make your choice. Reputable shops will also have a solid and transparent returns policy so if something doesn’t fit right or doesn’t quite work for you, you can swap it for something that will.

But don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone

Don’t discount trying something that you would never normally choose! Pick up something risque, daring or different, or even just try a colour that you wouldn’t usually go for. You might surprise yourself!

Try this fun game: ask your partner, friend or personal shopper to pick something out for you, and try it on – whatever it is. You never know what you might discover.

Seek a second opinion

Taking a partner or lover with you to a store, or browsing online catalogues together, can make for a wonderfully sexy shopping experience! I love trying on pieces that make me feel a million dollars and then showing them to my partner and watching his expression change. If you’re single, shopping with a trusted friend is also a fun option.

You could even consider a private shopping experience. Baby Jane Lingerie offer a personal shopping VIP experience where you have a staff member’s undivided attention as they help you find the perfect look for you in a no-pressure, body-positive environment.

This week: tweet or comment and tell me about your favourite lingerie!

The Baby Jane Lingerie logo for a sponsored postThis post was kindly sponsored by Baby Jane Lingerie, a new women-owned business who are committed to helping you find the perfect lingerie. Check out their extensive lines for all bodies and all occasions. All opinions, as ever, my own. Main post image is from Pixabay, logo is property of Baby Jane Lingerie.

[Podcast Review] The Ersties

A cartoon cover image from The Ersties podcastAnyone who knows me will know that I love podcasts. I drive a lot for my day job, so listening to podcasts (and the occasional audiobook) is how I entertain myself and make the most of my driving time. I have learned so much from the various shows I listen to, and I’m always looking for new ones. So I was thrilled when the lovely folks at The Ersties Podcast reached out to me and asked me to work together.

Ethical Porn and Fascinating Women

Ersties is an ethical, feminist porn site. They describe their work as a “…natural exhibition of our sexuality; all natural girls in all natural situations with no scripts, demands or expectations!” Run by women, they are committed to respectful treatment of their performers, fair payment and genuine passion in their scenes.

The Ersties podcast, hosting conversations about all aspects of sexuality, sex positivity and the adult industry, is an obvious progression of this ethos. The four co-hosts are Paulita Pappel, Lina Bembe, Olivia and Pandora. Each of them has extensive experience in various areas of the adult industry including performing, directing, producing, editing ad more. Each of the four women brings their unique lived experiences and voice to the show. The chemistry between the team is a huge part of what makes it all work so well. They’re friendly, funny and open. Really, it’s like sitting down for coffee with four of your best sex positive friends!

What it’s all about…

Most episodes contain a mix of general chat about their lives and adventures in the world of feminist porn, and discussion around a specific topic of the month. Occasionally, there are also listener questions. The second episode, for example, featured a fascinating discussion inspired by a reader question on sex positivity (or lack thereof) in the communities the presenters grew up in – they all live in Germany now, but come from a diverse mix of backgrounds.

A new episode comes out on the first Friday of each month. Topics covered so far include BDSM, polyamory, why you should pay for your porn, and censorship in the UK. The team obviously have a well-connected network of experts to call upon, and these voices add nicely to the conversations. I particularly enjoyed Censorship Part 1 (The Great British Firewall) where they interviewed “Obscenity Lawyer” extraordinaire, Myles Jackman, and the amazing Blake of Dreams of Spanking. I’m really excited to see what they come out with next and which other experts they talk to.

Give it a listen!

The world needs more open, honest conversations about sex. It also desperately needs more ethical, feminist porn. The Ersties Podcast team are doing their bit to address these needs and to further the conversation on sex positivity, porn literacy, sexual freedom, anti-censorship and more. I can’t wait to see what this fantastic team of women do next!

This post was kindly sponsored by The Ersties Podcast. All views are, and will always be, my own. If you sign up to a membership using my affiliate link, I will make a small commission – and you’ll be supporting ethical porn, which is so important in the age of free tube sites and censorship. You can listen to The Ersties podcast for free wherever you get your podcasts. Image is property of The Ersties Podcast.

Antidepressants: My Longest Relationship

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I have depression. Apart from a brief period between 19 and 21 where I struggled along drug-free, I have been on antidepressants for my entire adult life.

A white woman's tattooed lower legs, wearing black high heels and black knickers around her ankles. By Hot Octopuss. For a post on antidepressants and sex.Today, I wanted to share a few true stories about how these drugs, which probably saved my life, have interacted with my sex life with occasionally hilarious, sometimes sad and frequently frustrating results.

That Time I Didn’t Have Sex for 9 Months

A pretty older woman with long flowing hair, wearing a patterned shirt. Sitting at a table with a mug in front of her, smiling into the camera. By Hot Octopuss, for a post on antidepressants and sex.My first go with antidepressants came when I was 18. I was in a horrible corporate job that was basically slowly ripping out my soul. My boyfriend was abusive (though I couldn’t name it as abuse at the time). I was trying to come to terms with my bisexuality. And most of my friends had gone off to university, leaving me isolated and lonely in my hometown. It was a bad time.

I went to see my GP, adamant I didn’t want medication. What did I want? Just someone to talk to, I think. To feel less alone. They told me I wasn’t sick enough for counselling, and sent me away with a prescription for Prozac.

Prozac and Amy, it turns out, are not friends. It took me from depressed to suicidal. It gave me horrible heartburn and killed my appetite such that I lost a stone in a few short weeks. And worst of all, it killed my sex drive. I couldn’t feel anything, I didn’t want anyone touching my body, and I was so sad and exhausted that evenings and weekends were for mindless TV, naps, and the kind of writing that only comes out of me when I’m trying to stay alive,  not for hot passionate sessions or dirty quickies in the kitchen.

During that time, my boyfriend raped me a handful of times, but I didn’t have consensual sex for about 9 months.

That Time I Discovered My Denial Kink

A male/female couple lying on a bed, face down, him on top of her nuzzling her face. By Hot Octopuss for a post about antidepressants and sex.I’ve already written about how I came to be on Citalopram at the age of 21 (be warned if you click the link, it’s not a pleasant story). A few weeks into that saga, my boyfriend (a different boyfriend to the one discussed above, this one even more abusive) and I were having sex. I was rubbing my clit while he finger-fucked me, a surefire way to get me off. And I just… couldn’t get there. It wasn’t happening. My vulva became sore, and then numb, as I kept chasing that elusive orgasm that just. would. not. come.

Loss of orgasm when on antidepressants is, it turns out, extremely common. So why didn’t my GP mention this to me when they gave me the prescription and we discussed possible side effects? Why didn’t the leaflet included with the pills, which I read religiously three times before popping the first one, say a single word about sexual side effects? Probably because our culture doesn’t regard women’s orgasms as important. And certainly not depressed women’s orgasms. So when I asked for help, my doctor essentially said, “trouble with orgasm is the price you pay for not being depressed”. Okay then.

I made it my mission to learn how to orgasm again while on the medication – which, in all other ways, really was helping me! I masturbated until I was too sore to carry on. My partner and I had sex in all kinds of different positions and configurations. Being poor and without access to good toys at the time, I tried with the vibrators I had. But they were too weak to get me anywhere. It took me a month before I finally reached orgasm again, after over an hour with a high-powered vibrator borrowed from my metamour.

During that month, I was pissed off – at myself, at my doctor, at the pills – and frustrated as all hell. But I was also… more turned on than I had ever been in my life. I soon realised that I kind of enjoyed the ache that came from having a really good sex or masturbation session but not reaching orgasm. I liked the submissive feelings I got when my partner came and I didn’t. When he laughed at my frustration during a particularly Dominant moment… woof. And when my orgasm finally reared its elusive head once more, it was the most explosive one I’d ever had.

I was relieved to have the option to orgasm again, of course. But I’d had a taste of something I liked. I started playing with edging and waiting before coming, both in my masturbation and during sex with my partner.

And that, friends, is how citalopram taught me I have an orgasm denial kink.

That Time I Started Coming Off My Medication

A woman's body from behind, wearing jeans and naked on the top half. She has long flowing hair. By Hot Octopuss, for a post about antidepressants and sex.Which brings me to a couple of months ago. Together with my doctor (a new one, who is amazing) I’m working on coming off citalopram. This is because, having been medicated since the age of 21, I don’t actually know what I’m like without it any more. And I want to find out.

The first two weeks on a half dose were hell. I was crying endlessly, arguing with my partner, barely sleeping, and pretty much oscillating between numbness and crushing, unbearable sadness. And, for that period and a little longer while my body adjusted, my sex drive went haywire.

Specifically: I was horny as hell every moment I wasn’t sobbing, but I at the same time I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone touching my genitals, including myself. It was disconcerting and strange to say the least. My body was all “yeah, lets go!” while my brain wasn’t having any of it.

And Now… What Next?

Mercifully, things have calmed down. I’m still on the journey towards coming off the antidepressants, currently on a half dose with a view to cutting down further in the next few weeks. But the effects on my sex life so far have been fascinating.

Firstly, I’m finding I can come more quickly and easily than I used to when I was on the full dose, especially while masturbating. Gentler toys or my fingers can get me off more often and more reliably. I still love my power tool vibrators, of course, but it’s not all about them now. I can have multiple orgasms more quickly, and more often. And I’m enjoying more than ever experimenting with different sensations, and trying out all kinds of new, different and interesting toys.

The Hot Octopuss company logo.

Heads up: this post was sponsored by the wonderful people at Hot Octopuss, who make fantastic and innovative sex toys for both penises and vulvas. Check out their stuff, particularly my personal favourite, the Queen Bee. Images are property of Hot Octopuss and not to be used without their express permission. A banner ad for sex toy company Hot Octopuss, who sponsored a post on sex and mental health

[Toy Review] B.O.B. Pink Allure Wand

Anyone who knows me knows that I love wands. I’m pretty much obsessed with them. No other toys hit my sweet spots in quite the same way. So I was pretty excited when TooTimid offered me the Pink BOB Allure Wand vibrator to review.

I’ve got to be completely upfront and state that I hate this manufacturer name with a vengeance. BOB stands for Battery Operated Boyfriend and this just upsets me on a ridiculous number of levels. Say it with me now: toys are not replacements for partners! Sex toys and partners occupy completely different spaces and functions in one’s life!

The Pink BOB Allure Wand, a pink wand style vibrator.That said, how did the Allure Wand actually stack up?

My first impression of the Allure Wand when I took it out of the packaging is that it’s really, really light. Like, ridiculously so for its size. This is a really big plus point and means it might be a manageable wand for those who find the heavier models too cumbersome.

The Allure Wand is mains powered and the cord is a massive 9ft long. It’s about 12″ long and the classic shape first popularised by the legendary Hitachi. It boasts 20 different speeds and pattern settings.

In use, I found it… okay. Less intense than some wands – it certainly doesn’t match my beloved Doxy in power! – but I can get off with it quickly and reliably if I ramp it up to the top setting. The noise level is reasonable – wands are never going to be silent toys, but my partner couldn’t hear it through the floor the way he can with some toys! The vibrations have a nice rumble at the lower speeds. Turned up higher, they get a bit more buzzy, but I didn’t personally find them numbing or uncomfortable. I do have a higher tolerance for buzz than many people, though, so avoid this if you’re really into rumbles.

I did notice the head got a little warm after about 30 minutes of continuous use, so you might want to bear this in mind if you like to use your wands for long periods of time without a break.

I didn’t have to struggle to get off with this one! And for that, it is to be commended.

My Ratings (all scores out of 5★)

Price: ★★★★
The Allure Wand retails for $69.95 at TooTimid, which is about £50. This is a noticeably lower price point than many of the “big name” wands and thus makes it a decent option for those on a budget.

Materials: ★★★
The head is made of silicone, which is body-safe. It’s not the softest or smoothest in the world, but I don’t expect luxury at this price point. I have no significant complaints. The body is ABS plastic.

Appearance: ★★★
You all know how I feel about pink! (Spoiler: I’m kinda sick of it). The Allure Wand is actually slightly less obnoxiously pink in real life than it looks on the pictures. The real colour is slightly darker and less in-your-face. It’s still very pink, though, and I’m not here for that. Other than this, it’s a  classic wand shape.

Ease of Use: ★★★★
Again: this wand is ridiculously light for the size and level of power, which is one of the things I really love about it. It’s mains powered, so needs to be plugged in to use, but the 9ft cord makes this easy – even if your socket is on the other side of the bedroom, it’s got you covered.

It operates on a simple two-button interface. One button turns the toy on and off and changes the pattern, while the other adjusts the speed. It does have that annoying problem of SO MANY toys, wherein you can’t change down a speed or go back to the previous pattern without cycling allllll the way through. Seriously, when are manufacturers going to figure this out?

On the plus side, the buttons are intuitively placed, press easily, and make a nice satisfying “click”. The flexible neck is really annoying to me because I like to be able to press a toy hard against my vulva. But for others it might be a nice touch, as some “give” can enable more precise placement to the right spot.

Ease of care & cleaning: ★★★
The silicone head makes clean-up relatively easy, though I am always a bit wary when it comes to cleaning mains-powered toys as they can’t be submerged in water. It’s best to clean them with a sterile wipe – I like to use the ones you can buy in bulk from a medical supply store. There is a seam around the head which could trap bacteria, so be extra thorough when cleaning that area. For toys like this, I always advise popping a condom over it if you’re going to share with a non fluid-bonded partner.

Versatility: ★★★★★
There are so many settings! I love how you can use any of the patterns with any of the different speed settings, so the combinations are endless. It’s designed for clits, but would work very nicely for dicks too!

Intensity:
★★★★
I was pretty impressed on this score! A lot of cheaper wands are really lacking in the power department. Though it isn’t a match for some of the more high-end wands on the market, it’s got a really good level of power that will keep all but the most power-loving clits happy. I can get off with it reliably.

Overall Score: ★★★
I’m more impressed than I expected to be by this one! I was worried I’d be really disappointed given my high standards for wands and the price point, but I enjoyed using this one and my issues with it are relatively minor.

It didn’t rock my world and it probably won’t last as long as a higher end wand (the last one I had at this price point lasted about two years) but as far as I can tell, it’s a decent choice for a first wand or if you’re on a budget.

Thanks to the folks at TooTimid for commissioning this review! All views are, and will always be, my own. Image is property of TooTimid. 

How Sex Toys Improved My Relationship

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

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

More to Explore…

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

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

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

Reliable Orgasms

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

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

Speaking of less pressure…

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

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

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

Asking for what you want

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

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

Fun with gender

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

Sometimes it’s as simple as being seen and understood

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

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

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

Bringing Extra Sexy Into Your Life with Lingerie

A thin white female body in the Xenia Classic Set, minimalistic black lingerie with a mesh bra ans a bondage aesthetic.As regular readers of the blog will know, I’m a pretty recent lingerie convert. Being a shortish, curvy girl who does NOT in any way resemble a Victoria’s Secret model, and has a general aversion to things like frills and excessive lace, I’d kinda decided it wasn’t for me. I was convinced otherwise when I was gifted a beautiful piece to review and realised I looked, and felt, like an absolute babe in it.

Valentine’s Day is coming up – the time for bringing out those basques, those little slips of latex and lace, to seduce your lover. But apart from the obvious (“wear it to bed and fuck your partner’s brains out”), how can you use lingerie to add a little extra sizzle of sexiness to your life?

Wear it under your work clothes.

If, like me, you’re a “practical undies” type of person the majority of the time, try wearing something really naughty under your work clothes one day. No-one else will know, but you’ll have an extra bounce in your step all day as you feel the sumptuous fabrics against your skin.

Pro tip: do this the day of a big meeting or presentation. You’ll stand taller and speak more confidently because you’ll be feeling gorgeous. Who says “power dressing” can’t be sexy?

Go shopping with your partner.A thin white woman in the Xenia Boudoir Set, a black mesh babydoll with a strap bra.

Whether this is a trip to your local lingerie store, or sitting at the computer together and lusting over sexy pieces like Twisted Lingerie’s stunning bondage-themed collection, make shopping for lingerie (for one or both of you!) a fun date activity with your partner. Whether you buy anything or not is up to you, but trying pieces on – or just imagining your lover in that fabulous bra or babydoll – is bound to get some lusty feelings flowing.

Dress out of your comfort zone.

Stepping out of our comfort zones can be an empowering and enlightening experience. This includes how we dress and what we think of as our aesthetic. Case in point: I didn’t think fancy lacey lingerie was my thing at all… until I tried it.

If you’re on the more femme end of the spectrum, try wearing something masculine-of-centre for a change, and vice-versa. If you normally go for frills, try something with harder lines or a more minimalist style. Pick out a colour or a pattern or a style you’d never typically wear. You might be surprised at how babely you feel!

Wear it while you masturbate.

A thin white woman in the Xenia Goddess set, an elaborate black strap and mesh lingerie set.This might sound a bit goofy, but stick with me. Masturbation is sex with your longest and most enduring sexual partner: yourself. If you’d dress up for a night in with a partner, why not occasionally dress up for a night in with yourself (and your favourite vibrator, if that’s your jam)? Feeling attractive and hot, even if no-one else is going to see it, is one of the ways I tap into my erotic energy. Looking in the mirror and going “yes, I would” makes me want to, well… do all kinds of things to my sexy self.

Take a hot selfie…

…or ten. There’s nothing like a sexy selfie to make you feel like an absolute babe. You don’t have to share it with anyone (though you can, if you like! Send it to a partner or even upload it to your blog, Instagram, Tumblr or Fetlife if you’re feeling daring). But just the act of putting on some beautiful lingerie, playing with lighting and filters and angles to get the perfect shot and then admiring the pics, will remind you what a gorgeous creature you are.

Tweet me: how do you bring extra sexiness into your life with lingerie?

This post was generously sponsored by the lovely folks at Twisted Lingerie. They’re a small start-up and have some absolutely gorgeous pieces. (They’ve also sent me a review item from their collection, so look out for that in the coming days). You should buy from them because they have beautiful things and we should support women’s small businesses. All opinions are, and will always be, my own.

All images are property of Twisted Lingerie and reproduced here with their permission. Do not steal them.

Twisted Lingerie banner ad

Sex Not Stigma: Using My Sexuality to Manage My Mental Health

Content note: this post discusses mental health struggles in detail and includes slurs and a brief reference to suicide.

Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay. Thousands of brave people have spoken out about their struggles with various mental health conditions. I shared a little bit of my story on Twitter too, if you’re interested. Short version: I live with depression and anxiety.

I use a whole litany of tools to manage my mental health. I take medication, I’m working with The Best Therapist Ever, and I’ve learned to effectively regulate my physical and mental energy levels. I’ve also consistently found sex, masturbation and kink to be really useful and positive items in this toolbox.

A black and white picture of a heterosexual-read couple, sitting together with the woman's head resting on the man's shoulder in an affectionate fashion. They both have dark hair and the man has a beard and tattoos. Pixture by Hot Octopuss and given for a sponsored post about Mental Health Week.

#SexNotStigma

It is ridiculous to me that today, in twenty-freaking-seventeen, that there is STILL such stigma around both mental illness and sex. They are two of the great taboos that plague our society.

As a woman, admitting that you like to have sex can be a radical – and dangerous – act.  Speaking up about a mental health struggles is risky and brave for anybody to do. Words like “crazy” and “psycho” are thrown around with abandon. People with mental health issues are routinely portrayed as dangerous. Services that actually help us are thin on the ground and getting cut left, right and centre. Being a woman who talks about sex and is also open about her mental health. Ohhh, boy…

I’ve had my promiscuity chalked up to my mental health conditions more times than I can count. (“Poor girl, she’s acting out sexually because she’s depressed” at best, or “crazy whore!” at worst.) Interestingly, the same has also been true in reverse (“you wouldn’t be so depressed if you’d stop sleeping around!”) But that’s not how this works! I’m a proud slut[1] AND I have a mental health condition. One did not cause the other and ceasing one[2] will not “cure” the other.

The #SexNotStigma campaign aims to break taboos when it comes to talking about sex, including that surrounding sex and mental health. This post is my attempt to add my voice to that vital conversation.

I wrote recently about how I don’t think “don’t play when you’re depressed” is useful or realistic advice, and today I want to expand on that and talk about why, far from being off-limits when I’m low, sexuality has probably helped save my life more than once.

Sex: intimacy, connection, love.

Some people want to be left alone and can’t bear to be touched when they’re depressed. My experience is usually the opposite. I want to be around the people I love and trust, to connect with them in deep and profound ways. Sex is one of the ways in which I connect with some of the important people in my life. Therefore, honestly, fucking my brains out (or at least fucking my sadness out for a while) is one of the best ways a partner can help me when I’m struggling.

Sex reminds me, viscerally and in the moment, that I am loved. For me, mental health wise, a really good fuck with someone I love is basically a cuddle on speed. Throw in a few dozen orgasms (yes, your girl over here is SUPER multi orgasmic) and you will see a marked improvement in the happiness of your Amy.

Sex helps me to focus on all the joyful things – pleasure, love, connection, vulnerability, sensation – in a world that’s fucked.

Sex literally reminds me that there’s so much to live for.

Masturbation: the ultimate self-love.

Self-loathing is a feature of my depression and an unwelcome visitor that likes to pop in from time to time. I’ve learned that the best way to combat it is to be excessively kind to myself – the way you’d be kind to a partner, friend or child who was in pain. Sometimes I take myself out for coffee and cake. Sometimes I give myself permission to stay in bed, read and nap – take a “mental health day,” if you will. And sometimes, I masturbate!

Aside from the obvious benefits of all the happy chemicals that are released at the point of orgasm, masturbation is a means of reminding myself that I am worthy and deserving of pleasure. And on the occasions when romantic rejection or the ending of a relationship triggers my depression, masturbation reminds me that my sexual (and loving!) relationship with myself is the first, last and most important one of my life.

Who needs that git who dumped me when you have cutting edge sex toys, am I right?

Kink: freedom in bondage.

Submitting to a safe partner can be really positive for me when I’m feeling low.

Kink, especially pain play, pulls me out of my head and into my body. It’s hard to be sad when all I can think about is the hand spanking my ass! It’s grounding. It makes all the noise in my head go quiet.

Submission makes me feel useful. When I feel worthless, a well-timed “good girl” can do wonders. To know that I am pleasing somebody else, that I am serving them, gives me a purpose. It reminds me that I have value.

Kink gives me permission to be vulnerable. Play gives me chance to cry if I need to, to scream if I want to, to get pent-up emotions out. It releases me from the responsibility of decision making, of caring for myself or anyone else, even if only for a short time. It gives me permission to just be.

Discovering new paths to pleasure

Mental illness can impact sexuality in many ways. In particular, feeling very low can make it difficult to get in the right headspace to enjoy sex or orgasm. Certain types of common antidepressants including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) can also cause erectile dysfunction and anorgasmia. When I first started taking citalopram – a common SSRI – I lost my ability to orgasm for a month.

Was it hell? Yes. Did it also teach me something valuable, namely that I kinda have an orgasm denial kink? Also yes. While this is something I prefer to be voluntary and not drug-induced, going through this experience taught me something really valuable about my fetishes. So there’s value in that.

Problems such as ED and anorgasmia suck (if you’ll pardon the pun) but they also force you to get creative. I finally broke through my month-long dry spell with a high powered vibrator. That’s how I learned that I love really intense vibration! If your cock isn’t getting hard in the way you want it to, you might discover other routes to sexual bliss that you’d never have previously considered or bothered to try.

Integrating the two

I’ve come to terms, over ten years of having a formally diagnosed mental health condition, that it’s not going away. It’s with me for life and I am better off learning how to manage it than hoping it will disappear. Just like a diabetic would take insulin every day, I take my antidepressants to keep me healthy. (Conceptualising my illness as being exactly comparable to a physical health issue – BECAUSE IT IS – has been surprisingly empowering.)

I’ve also grown into my sexuality in the last ten years. From a girl who was terrified to admit, even in a whisper, that she liked girls and might want to be spanked, I’ve grown into a woman who owns her desires and explores them unapologetically.

And, crucially, I’ve learned to integrate these two things. When my bisexual, kinky and non-monogamous identities ceased to be sources of shame, my mental health directly improved as a result. When my condition started to be properly managed, my sex life improved instantly. And when I learned to use my sexuality to enhance my mental health, I gained a tool that has saved my life.

[1] Yay, reclaiming slurs!
[2] Because you can totally choose to stop being mentally ill, right?

This post was kindly sponsored by the lovely folks at Hot Octopuss, a fantastic and innovative sex toy company who are committed to tackling taboos around sex. Check out their brilliant range of products, including the new Queen Bee, and their blog, where they talk sex, health and stigma. They’ve even offered a discount code for Coffee & Kink readers – use CK10 to get 10% off (and send a little bit of support my way.) All opinions are, and will always be, my own.

A banner ad for sex toy company Hot Octopuss, who sponsored a post on sex and mental health