I’m Suffocating in This Closet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But it’s fantasy!” fans cry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t ban – educate

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

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

[Guest Post] “Body Knows Best” by AJ Power

When I put a call out for guest blogs, some stunning pieces came my way and there were a couple that made me cry. This essay by AJ Power is one of them. AJ tells her journey to becoming the woman she is with such strength and vulnerability that I am just absolutely blown away.

I had two contradictory reactions to this piece. The first was that I wanted to publish it because I couldn’t completely relate – as a cis woman who has benefited by entire life from cis privilege, I will never completely what a trans woman goes through. However, on a different level, I felt I did understand it. As a trauma survivor, my body has always known what I need, what I can handle and what I cannot, and if a situation is right or wrong. It was learning to listen to it that was the tricky bit. In that regard, at least, I related to AJ’s essay very deeply. I am absolutely thrilled to be able to share this beautiful piece with you all.

Amy x

A painting of a young woman looking at her face in the mirror. For a post by Alicia Power.It started with losing my virginity. You could argue for something earlier: myriad stomach issues through my childhood, anxiety attacks I couldn’t recognize as such (much less explain to my parents), or any number of little things I’d only later realize pointed to my being trans. But it’s one thing to dissect signs and symptoms with the benefit of hindsight, and another to get a blaring wake-up call on a chilly October night when you’re as excited as you’ve ever been.

Aubrey was a better person to ‘lose it’ with than I could have dreamed. Vastly too cool for me, sure, but I was not looking that particular gift horse in the mouth. My roommate was out partying, we were both happy, healthy, and sober, and I was about to fall head over heels. Everything was perfect. Except, well, for one horrifying cliché….

I couldn’t get it up.

No matter what I tried (and oh did I try) it was just not happening. I didn’t understand. Yes, I was nervous, and yes, on some level I believed that it happened to a lot of guys maybe even all guys at some point or other—but at that moment there was nothing but shame and betrayal. Aubrey actually handled everything great, but that didn’t stop me from sobbing in the shower the next morning, or from going to student health to try and dig up some reason, any physical reason that this was happening to me.

When my wife and I have sex now, I do think back to those days sometimes. Days when I thought I was a guy. When I thought that only penetrative sex was “real” sex. When I somehow drew a line between Real Dysphoria(TM) and how much I hated seeing myself in  the mirror. It feels like another life, like that was a different person, an unexpected and unwanted detour when somebody else was borrowing my body. But now that I have the steering wheel again, I’m not totally sure how to drive stick (pun intended). So much about me has changed, both physically and deeper than that. I have the same parts, but not the same.

Not really.

And I don’t quite know what this body wants.

When Aubrey and I finally did end up having intercourse I was elated. It took nearly a year, and I was at least a littl bit bothered by that, but we’d fallen in love in that time. We’d grown into each other, trusting, caring, knowing. She was the only person I’d ever told about my depression. About my high school prom, where I mostly thought about killing myself and felt better than I had in months. About how desperately lonely I could get.

I still had trouble performing sometimes. I figured it was an anxious sort of feedback loop—worrying about worrying and ending up just as nervous as I’d been the first time the issue had cropped up. But I’d made my peace with it, I thought. We were happy. Problem solved.

Lest I make this into a pity party, I love sex. Touching and being touched, desiring and being desired—it’s amazing and beautiful. The journey is fantastic. The destination, on the other hand….

It’s not that I can’t orgasm. Give me five minutes with my vibrator and, well. But no matter how well things seem to be going with another person, it remains out of reach. Sometimes I think it’s just that it’s so much easier to forget what body parts I actually have when it’s just me. When I can have the barrier of pajamas, panties, or pornography to keep that knowledge shunted off to the side of my conscious mind. As opposed to the unmistakable fact of skin or lips wrapping around me. The fact that there’s something to wrap around at all. Other times I wonder if, despite the intervening years, the hormones, and the anti anxiety medication, I’m just still too much in my own head when it comes to sex, and I need to learn to shut my brain off and enjoy the moment.

In most situations, the anxiety takes hold because I’m desperately afraid of disappointing someone or letting them down. But even when there’s little-to-no risk of that, it’s tough to reassure myself. Because no matter how anyone else feels, the one I so often let down is me.

I wanted to scream at myself to just shut up for once in my life. I had Lauren in my bed. Lauren, who I’d gotten involved with way too quickly after Aubrey. Way too quickly after Lauren’s last breakup too. I was having trouble performing again. We’d both been drinking a little—just enough to relax, at least in theory.

My body just wouldn’t listen to me. Again. I was so sick of it, and I just wanted both of us to have a good time. I told myself to focus on her before I gave any thought to myself. Her body. The way it moved. The way it felt. I tried to shut out everything that was complicated or difficult, or…me.

I didn’t give much thought to the fact that when I masturbated, or even when I had sex, I rarely (if ever) pictured myself in the scene. It was like I was so focused on the woman in front of me, that I was barely a presence, even in my own fantasies. That night, I tried to switch. To focus just on Lauren, and then to enjoy the moment as myself. I wasn’t over Aubrey, and I figured that that was why I was so disconnected from myself. But the truth was, part of it felt good and right, and part of it didn’t. That was the last time I ever had penetrative sex.

The strangest part of the dysphoria I still have is that I don’t hate my body. Even the things I wish were different, I don’t hate. They just don’t feel entirely like me. I know that mental health issues are a process, but I feel like I’m past a lot of hating myself too. I can feel happy, proud, beautiful in ways I never would have been able to a few years ago. There’s just this one part of me. This last question that’s more confusing than anything. What am I supposed to do with you?

It wasn’t long ago at all now that I was lying in a hotel bed on my wedding night, feeling like I’d just seen the face of god. My wife had just driven me completely out of my mind for what seemed like forever, and when she asked me if I’d climaxed, I had to say I didn’t know. I didn’t feel like I’d had that release, but how else to describe how it had felt? Was this another part of me changing? But for once, I didn’t think about it too hard.

The truth is, my body knows me. In every fantasy that I thought I wasn’t an actor in, in every time I got lost in the curves of someone else’s body when I had no love for my own, my body was trying to tell me something. That the need and want I was feeling weren’t just about loving women, but about being one. Like calling to like. The shape of me on the inside trying to find something that would fit around it and make it home.

There’s something magic in learning to feel like yourself, at home in your own person. I felt it when I bought my first dress. I felt it when I started liking the woman I saw in the mirror. And I felt it the first time I fell in love, and the last. It’s a soft sigh and an intake of breath, a sense of “Oh, so that’s how it can be.”

I always thought that when my body misbehaved it was because something was wrong (or that it was just being an asshole), but even with the things I have yet to figure out, I know it’s not about right and wrong, or a problem to be fixed.

It’s about the fact that I’m not finished yet. I still have more to do, to grow, to change.

And if my body has taught me anything, it’s that change is good.

AJ Power is a 28-year-old trans writer and editor. When not writing, she can usually be found watching movies in bed or reading…probably also in bed. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her wife. She tweets as @write_errant.

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

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

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

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

The short answer is no. The long answer is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men: Her Orgasm Is Not About Your Ego

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

Dear Well-Meaning Cishet Man,

This one’s for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Read Erotica (and You Should Too!)

Outside of very specific environments, it’s not “cool” to admit you read and enjoy erotica. E.L James might now be a household name, but people still occasionally try to convince me that they read Fifty Shades of Grey for the gripping plot.

A woman reading a book pictured from shoulders to hips. For a post about eroticaI think erotica gets a bad rap for several reasons. Firstly, it’s written and read by women more than men. Unfortunately, work by/about/aimed towards women still tends to be regarded as frivolous. (See: anything with a female protagonist risks being labelled “chick lit”). Similarly, content connected to sex is also still treated as something shameful, dirty, secretive, or something to be embarrassed about.

I also think this is a damn shame. A lot of erotica is absolutely wonderful. Masturbation is important, sex is important, arousal is important! Despite myths to the contrary, writing good smut is hard work and requires a lot of skill.

Read on to find out why I think sexy fiction is the most underrated genre and why we can all use it in our lives.

A safe way to explore your fantasies and limits

Reading about something is generally infinitely safer than doing it. Let’s say you have a kink or interest you can’t explore in reality for some reason, or aren’t ready to explore in reality yet. Reading about it can be a great way to scratch that itch. You can’t get hurt by reading about something, no-one else’s consent is required, it’s not cheating. (Dear God, if your partner thinks erotica – or porn, or masturbation – is cheating, break up with them like three years ago).

Reading about something and exploring if it turns you on in a masturbation setting is lower pressure than exploring with another person, especially if you’re not sure if it will work for you or not.

And in case you’re wondering: yes, it’s fine to get turned on by something in fiction that you wouldn’t want to act out in real life!

Introduces you to new kinks, roles, scenes and ideas

I was reading erotic fiction with dominance and submission themes long before I was practicing BDSM in real life. Erotica helped me to discover the types of scenarios that interested me, the names and words that turn me on… and also, the things that completely leave me cold. Reading woman-on-woman scenes was actually a huge part of coming to accept my own bisexuality.

Erotica can introduce you to kinks you never knew existed (ask me how I learned that orgasm control is a thing), make you feel less alone (ask me how I discovered that I wasn’t the only freak in the world who liked to pretend to be a naughty schoolgirl and get spanked), or even help you open up lines of communication about certain kinks with your partner (ask me how I let Mr CK know I have a medical examination fetish).

If you’re not sure what you’re into? Pick up a sexy compilation collection to give you lots of ground to explore.

It can make it quicker, easier or more enjoyable to achieve orgasm

The best way for me to get going pre-wank is to read some really good smut. It works better than visual porn and, usually, better than my imagination. Plus, taking the few minutes to find a filthy story that works for me is a good way to get into a sexy headspace. If I want a long, luxurious session, taking my time to immerse myself in an erotic book is glorious. If I’m more looking for a hot quickie with myself, then a favourite story and my Doxy will get me done in ten minutes or less.

It’s great to share with a partner

As I already mentioned, sharing the erotica you enjoy can be a great way to share what turns you on with your partner. Perhaps you can’t say out loud “I want you to bend me over and spank me while you call me a dirty little slut“. But you can point them to a story with these themes that really did it for you.

Reading erotica together, or aloud to each other, is also a mega sexy thing to do. A really hot D/s scene we did a while ago involved Mr CK reading out some erotica that I’d chosen, and instructing me on when I was and wasn’t allowed to touch myself (and, of course, come).

And sometimes, it has damn good plots!

I don’t, primarily, read smut for the story. But just occasionally an erotic novel will have a plot so good that the sexy bits are almost just a very enjoyable bonus. Cooper S Beckett’s A Life Less Monogamous and Approaching the Swingularity (the latter reviewed here) are two great examples.

Is erotica for me?

Yes! Regardless of your gender, orientation or particular kinks, there’s bound to be something in the wide world of erotic fiction that appeals to you. And if no-one has written the story you want to read? Well… why not give it a go?

So where can I find good smut?

For some of my personal top picks, check out the books linked in this post.

You can also visit Literotica, an amazing free resource where thousands of amateur writers have uploaded their stories for your masturbatory pleasure. There’s a lot of crap, of course, but some real gems in there too. You can search by category, keyword or tag.

You can also find some great quick reads on Amazon Kindle. These typically cost $1 to $5 each – and you can read loads of stuff for free with a subscription to Kindle Unlimited.

Finally, of course, read your favourite sex bloggers! My “erotica” and “Masturbation Monday” tags contain all my freely available work, and you can get a new story every single Tuesday by signing up as a Patron at any level. My friend Kayla runs Masturbation Monday, which is a treasure trove of filthy delights every week. Check out Exhibit A, The Other Livvy, Tits & Test Tubes, Hannah Lockhardt and Confess Hannah for great filth from my smutty friends.

Basically: smut is great. Go read some smut.

Heads up: there are a few affiliate links in this post! All opinions are, as ever, entirely my own. Image sourced via Pixabay.

5 Reasons You Need Sex Positive Friends

After I write this post, I’m going to be jumping in the shower and then loading the car and heading off to Manchester with Mr CK. There we will convene with 8 of my amazing sex-positive friends for my 28th birthday party. Unsurprisingly, then, when I was considering what to write today I started thinking about sex-positive friendships.

A group of grey kittens in a basket. For a post about sex positive friendsSince I joined the sex-positive and sex writing communities, first on Twitter and then in real life, I have met some of the most amazing people I have ever been privileged enough to call friends. So this is a little celebration of them all, and some thoughts on why you really need sex-positive friends in your life.

You don’t have to self-censor

I hate self censorship, and I do it a lot out of desire to not lose my day job or alienate my family. But sometimes you just want to say “I got fucked realllllllly good last night!” or “check out this awesome shot I took of my boobs!” When you have an awesome group of sex-positive friends, fear of oversharing is… if not entirely eliminated, at least substantially reduced. No-one’s going to say, “ew, I don’t want to hear about your sex life!” when you literally became friends with them through sharing your sex life on the internet.

You don’t have to explain yourself again and again and again

Sure, you’ll occasionally run across someone who doesn’t know the term you’re using, or someone else will use a term you’re not familiar with. And that’s absolutely fine! But the vast majority of the time, terms like polyamory, open relationship, bisexual, pansexual, genderqueer, BDSM, D/s relationship… can just roll off your tongue and no-one will look at you like you’ve grown an extra head.

You can also throw out phrases like, “so my boyfriend’s wife was saying that…” or “when my partner’s girlfriend came over…” without the constant double-take, the wait-what-did-you-just-say?

I don’t mind explaining myself occasionally, and I love dissecting the nuances of our different identities and what they mean and how they manifest for us. But doing polyamory/swinging/kink-1o1 again and again and fucking again is exhausting. With sex-positive friends who get it, you don’t have to do that.

Sex-positive friends will be your biggest cheerleaders

I’ve rarely come across a group of people so loving, so affirming and just so goddamn supportive as sex bloggers, sex writers and other sex-positive folks. These are the people who will retweet the shit out of that thing you wrote that you weren’t sure about, or respond with some variaton of YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL GODDESS when you share a nude, or celebrate with you when you hit a goal, big or small. We lift each other up when we’re down and we share the highs when we’re up.

Affection is free and easy, and so is consent

Something that sex-positive people understand is that the lines between what society considers appropriate vs. inappropriate between friends are almost entirely arbitrarily imposed. They get that everyone has their own unique boundaries and comfort levels, and that individual relationships get to decide what is and isn’t within their rules. The net result of this is that affection tends to be very free and easy – hugs and cuddles can be joyfully shared without it necessarily needing to mean anything bigger, and kisses and kink play and even occasionally sex can happen between friends without it having to make things weird.

It also means that consent is at the heart of all interactions. In these circles, I’ve also never felt pressured into anything I didn’t want to do. Basically, the deciding factor in whether or not to do something isn’t friends do X, lovers do Y, but simply: does everyone involved enthusiastically want to do X, Y and Z?

I don’t want to go all “hashtag-blessed” on you, but…

Basically, I believe this community has made me a better person. It has certainly immeasurably improved my life and made me a lot happier. I only hope I can give back some small measure of all that these amazing people have given to me.

#ManchBirthdayFest, here we come!

Me and My Fur: All About Body Hair

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

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

The pressure to be hairless begins early.

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

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

Realising I had a choice

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

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

Learning to love my hair

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

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

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

The impact on my sex life

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

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

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

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

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

Fear of judgement… and sometimes actual judgement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Femme identity and body hair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy and Exhibit A on… Group Sex!

One of the best things about being a creative person who is friends with other creative people is the opportunity to co-create! This is the third piece I’ve done with Exhibit A (we’ve also covered pegging and penis size!) and it was enormous fun to discuss group sex with him. The ever-so-slightly edited transcript of our Q&A/discussion is below. 

Buckle in and get some coffee for this one, folks – it’s over 4000 words long! (Are you surprised two of your favourite opinionated sex writers had a lot to say!?) Now without further ado, here we go… 

A bed with dim lighting and rumpled sheets. For a post on group sexEA: Right, let’s doooooo this. Where do you want to start?

CK: Yessss. I guess a good place to start is… why group sex? It’s clearly a thing we’re both very into. And I think it holds a lot of fascination for a lot of people. But what’s the appeal? What’s so great about it?

EA: Phew, that’s a huge topic to kick off with! I could write 10,000 words on that last question alone. Short answer though? It’s more. More of everything. More cocks and/or cunts, more arses and boobs, but also more sensation and emotion and connection and chemistry. More combinations of different people and different body parts. For those of us who self-identify as greedy, it’s a no-brainer!

CK: I love that. And I am definitely also in the camp of “greedy.”

EA: How about you? What would be your group sex ‘elevator pitch’?

CK: Hmm. I think it’s a lot about the possibilities it opens up for me. Like, there are things you just can’t do with only one other person, like certain sex configurations or especially certain kink dynamics/scenes. Two people offers a huge number of possibilities, but with three or more it’s pretty much infinite. Plus, honestly, I get to embrace the power of “both” – if I want both cock and cunt, I can have both. If I want to both Dom and sub, I can do both.

EA: Yes, and even when there are things you can do with just two of you (spit-roasting, for example, using cock and toy or toy/toy), it’s so much easier and more fluid with a third pair of hands.

CK: Absolutely! When you first experienced group sex, was it like you expected it to be in fantasy?

EA: Funnily enough, the first time I had what you’d call group sex (a threesome that I wrote about here), it features far less in my fantasies than it does now. So my expectations were…hmm, open-ended, I guess. I’d talked about it a lot in advance with the couple in question, but it was a completely new thing for all three of us, so I guess we kind of figured it out as we went along, rather than relying on set ideas about what might happen. Since then, threesomes and moresomes have ranged from entirely aligned to my fantasies, on the one hand, to wildly divergent on the other. But that’s sex in general, right?

CK: That makes sense. My first time was completely the opposite in a way – entirely unplanned, just happened in the spur of the moment). My early experiences tended to go like that, whereas now there is usually – not always, but usually – at least a bit of pre-planning that goes into it. And sometimes things come out as planned/fantasised about, sometimes they don’t.

EA: Where do you stand on pre-planning group sex? I can see arguments in favour and arguments against, but I’m aware that a) you have more experience in this department, and b) you guys have a more structured approach than we do in general to involving other people in your relationship (in whatever context), so I’m curious to get your perspective.

CK: I’m still torn about it, really, and it very much varies depending on circumstances. I do like the planning/scheming/idea-sharing (and, let’s be real, wild sexting) that comes in the lead-up to a planned session. However, I do feel like it can end up with everyone feeling undue pressure – like it’s going to be a big failure if it doesn’t come off or doesn’t come off in the right way? I tend to thing the pros of pre-planning outweigh the cons, in general, especially because you can easily discuss boundaries, limits, safer sex protocols and all those other important things while everyone’s still got their clothes on. But I have had spontaneous fun that was wonderful, too. The reality for me is most of it has to be somewhat planned – I live in a tiny town with no scene, live with my Primary partner but all my/our other lovers are at least a drive away, and so we have to make plans for people to visit/for us to visit them/to go to the club or a kink event.

EA: All that makes sense! Again, there’s a lot of overlap with general sex considerations – the bit about discussing boundaries, limits etc can apply to any sexual situation, especially one with a new partner. I can see that the importance of those discussions is elevated slightly by the fact that three (or more) people are involved – and that in a lot of cases you’re talking about an established couple inviting a new person into their bed.

CK: Yes, absolutely. A lot of it is general sex concerns, amplified because more people.

EA: The whole porn/erotica trope of something just happening, spontaneously and without any prior indication that you might all end up in bed together, sounds great…but I imagine is pretty rare. It takes a certain amount of boldness to say to someone (or to a couple) “heyyyy…shall we all fuck now?”, unless you’re pretty damn sure they might say yes!

CK: Hah! I have literally never had that happen. My spontaneous group sex has always either been “more than one person I’m already banging happens to be in the same place” or “we’re at a sex party and everyone is here for precisely this.”

EA: Actually, that leads nicely into a question we had from someone on Twitter…

CK: Ooh, go for it!

EA: “Assuming the “couple +third” paradigm, who typically initiates, the couple or the third, and how can folks manage the additional pressure of being approached by or approaching two people?”

CK: Based on my experience, it’s a lot more common for it to be the couple who initiates – like, couples looking for a third is so much of a thing that it’s become a stereotype (“unicorn hunting,” anyone?) But I have been approached, as part of a couple, by a third person wanting to play with both of us. A couple of times actually. It’s always surprising but awesome. Has that been your experience too?

EA: Yes, while you were typing I was thinking back through my experiences, and it’s pretty much always been the couple who’ve initiated things. Though it’s not necessarily one or the other! There’s been at least one occasion when I’ve discussed it separately with my partner and the third person, before my partner and I have then suggested moving things forward. As you said, there’s a lot of fun sexting to be had around group sex, and I suspect it’s not uncommon for two (or even all three) sides of the triangle to have independent, exploratory conversations about all fucking each other. And that’s great actually, because then you at least know you’re all on the same page before someone sticks their neck out and asks the question.

CK: With regards to the additional pressure thing, it’s definitely a concern. If I’m on the initiating-as-part-of-a-couple side, I try to make it very clear that whatever answer the other person gives is A-Okay and there’s never pressure from us to do anything they’re not comfortable with. But I’ve certainly had experiences where I’ve found it harder to say no to two people than I would to say no to one. Especially when I’ve been in their space. What I’ve also noticed is that the couple+third dynamic is VERY different to a couple+couple dynamic.

EA: See I’ve only ever done couple + third, or just general mass of bodies (SO good). We’re yet to play with another couple outside a sex party, so I’m interested to know what you think the main differences are.

CK: Mmmm, mass of bodies… ANYWAY. It feels easier to make the approach with another couple, for me, because there’s a sense of balance that isn’t often there with couple + third. But actually, despite the even number, I’ve found it harder to navigate a situation that makes everyone involved happy when there’s 4 people as opposed to 3. Maybe it’s just more people’s preferences at play all at once? We’ve had so many couples approach us where, essentially, the other husband wants a live lesbian sex show starring me and his wife, and just assumes my partner will be into that too. Which is… fine but not really what we’re after!

EA: That makes sense to me. You’re also talking about two relationships, with all the attendant emotions, history, kinks, interests, and – yes – jealousy that might be involved with them. Of course it would be more complicated.

CK: Yes! Which leads me nicely onto the often asked question of jealousy… does it come up? How do we handle it if it does?

EA: I’ve been lucky enough not to experience jealousy as an issue in the group sex I’ve had – any time I’ve been part of a/the couple, we’ve both been pretty clear in our minds about what the other person is into, what they want, and what might turn them off or trigger jealousy/trauma of some kind. I feel like we say this in every one of these chats, but that’s where good communication is SO important.

CK: Huh, interesting! I’ve never had it come up for me in a group sex situation either, though I have had a partner’s jealousy come up.

EA: Really? What happened and how did you deal with it – at the time and afterwards?

CK: I’m specifically thinking of a time very early on in our relationship where another guy, who I had been into for a while but this was the first time we’d played, asked if he could have penetrative sex with me. My partner had some jealous feelings come up and decided he couldn’t handle that at that moment. It was fine – we reassured him his boundaries mattered, we weren’t upset, and there were hugs, then we continued to do other things. And the next time we played with that guy, there was penetration and it was absolutely fine. We talked in private later, of course, about what he’d been feeling and what had caused it. But that was very early on and it hasn’t come up for either of us in a really long time. I think a big part of it is we’ve got good at checking in with each other during, even non-verbally, to make sure we’re still having a good time. Sometimes just a “hey, I’m here” squeeze of the hand can be all you need.

EA: YES! That’s a really good point! I can’t emphasise enough the importance of non-verbal communication during a group sex scenario, actually.

CK: Absolutely – when you know your partner really well, you can say SO much with just a look or a touch, and it can be so reassuring.

EA: Which makes absolute sense. You’d instinctively/unthinkingly offer that same reassurance in so many situations with your partner, especially one you have a close/longstanding relationship with. Of course you’d do the same thing during sex

CK: I see a lot of people asking if they should have a threesome/swing to please their partner when they don’t actually want to, and my answer is always an emphatic NOPE DO NOT DO THAT THING. Everyone has to be into the idea, otherwise it is almost guaranteed to go awry.

EA: Oh god, yes. Again, true of just about everything, but maybe even more true of something where you’re involving other people. Not fair on them and definitely not fair on yourself.

CK: Definitely. When I wrote my post about being a good couple to have a threesome with, I think the most important point I made was the “have your house in order first.” (link here). So I had an interesting question from a reader…

EA: Shoot.

CK: They ask: what if you’re in a group scenario but you don’t want to have sex with everyone in that group, or only do certain things? (The example they gave was, say, happy being spanked by anyone but don’t want to have genital contact with everyone?) Is that a thing you can navigate? And this also ties in to some thoughts I had about mixed orientations within group settings.

EA: Do you want to dig into those thoughts while I have a go at answering the main question?

CK: Sure! I mean, I’m in a mixed-orientation relationship. I’m bi while my partner is, for all intents and purposes, basically straight (a little bit flexible but that’s usually neither here nor there.) This is quite useful in group scenarios in a way, especially given the high percentage of bi/pan women within non-monogamy. But it’s also something to be careful with… we’ve had a situation with a queer woman and straight man, and both of them were trying to get their hands on me, which led to my partner feeling left out. But I’ve also played in group scenarios with straight or mainly-straight women, and it’s been fine. Sometimes there’s kissing/fondling/light play, sometimes nothing at all, depending on her comfort levels. But that could be a problem for some people if a priority for them in group sex was getting their needs for the-sex-that-their-primary-partner-isn’t-into met.

EA: Regarding your reader’s question, I don’t know that I can give a satisfying solution to this one! The more people you add to any scenario, the greater the level of social complexity – partly because there’s a heightened expectation that you’ll all just muck in. If a stranger approached you in a bar, no-one would expect you to have a conversation with them – if you’re at a cocktail party, where everyone knows someone, and that same stranger tries to engage you, it would seem far ruder just to ignore them. So in a group scenario I can see why that same pressure would be there! But…

CK: That’s a really good point, and I think it is quite dependent on the people involved and their social dynamics. I think it’s mainly important (again!) for everyone to be honest about where they’re at and what they’re trying to get out of the scene.

EA: You just have to be firm and clear about what you want. And look, this is a hard one to simplify, because a (larger) group scenario can be constructed in so many ways. Are you on your own or there with a partner? Are you at a sex club, a private party, or in a hotel room with a bunch of people you know? The answers to those questions will clearly determine how you approach the situation, and how much other people are already likely to know about your intentions. But the basic principles apply: no means no, only do what you’re comfortable doing, and no-one has a right to do anything to/with your body. The clearer you are with people about what kind of fun you’re up (and not up) for having, the less likely you are to run into any awkwardness.

CK: Yes! It all comes back to consent is the bottom line. And, again, I think it’s best if everyone can be really honest going in. “I’m up for anyone spanking me but please ask before you touch my genitals, as I may or may not be up for that” is a fine and useful thing to say.

EA: Ok, let’s spice things up a bit here. What’s your favourite kind of group sex scenario – and/or, what’s been your hottest group experience? Alternatively/additionally, what haven’t you done yet, but would really like to?

CK: Ah, my favourite question! My favourite scenario is a toss-up between “switch-in-the-middle” (usually a man who is more dominant than me and a woman who is more submissive than me) or “co-subbing to two or more people” where I pretty much get ganged up on and they do evil shit to me. The one I REALLY want and haven’t done yet is a gang-bang. Just endless cocks… factory-installed or silicone, I don’t care, just LOTS of them. I’m seriously considering a gang-bang for my 30th birthday in a couple of years if I haven’t done it by then.

EA: “My name’s Amy and I’m #greedy”

CK: I mean… yeah, accurate! Same questions to you?

EA: It’s funny, in theory my favourite is MMF with a guy who’s either bi or at least into some same-sex stuff going down (heh)…and when I’ve done that it’s generally been great…BUT I have to say I’ve probably enjoyed MFF threesomes even more in reality, because they’ve always involved awesome people (whereas the other guy in each of my MMF encounters has been a stranger to me, pretty much). That’s made it much easier to relax and let go of any remaining inhibitions, especially when the focus has been on my pleasure. Having two women suck your cock at the same time sounds (and is) great, but in a weird way it’s also a lot of pressure! It helps to know they’re both lovely.

CK: Hah! That makes sense. It does (often) help if there’s already some connection with the other people. What’s on your group sex bucket list? (Fuck-it list?)

EA: As for what’s at the top of my group sex fuck-it list… ha! Snap! A really hot, no-holds-barred (no-holes-barred?) night with another couple is right up there. Or an MMF threesome where I get fucked by the other guy too – or by a strap-on while I suck his cock. Y’know, little things like that.

CK: Yum on all counts! Any single hottest experience so far stand out for you?

EA: I’d say the threesome we had with a fellow Eroticon delegate after the Saturday social last year! It was sort-of planned, in the sense that she came back to ours when she had accommodation arranged elsewhere, but then it all unfolded really organically and spontaneously once we got here. Fucking her from behind while she went down on Liv was just…hnnnngh… You?

CK: One that really stands out for me is when my partner was dating his last secondary girlfriend and she came over one evening. He and I had discussed that we were up for it if she was, and apparently she’d said she was up for it if I was, and… it all just sort of happened. We went from cuddling to snogging to pinning her down and making her come with the Doxy (and then falling about laughing when she recovered from her orgasm and declared “I’M GETTING ONE.”) And it all just flowed from there.

EA: The chill-out time after a good threesome, when you’re all still high on the endorphins, is definitely one of the best things about them.

CK: Oh, so much! And the three- (or more-) way snuggles are just…. mmm. Yes. Have you ever had a group sex experience go badly that you’re willing to talk about?

EA: Happily both the short and the long answer is no – I’ve been very lucky in that sense. There have been times when group sex has been discussed (or hinted at) and it hasn’t panned out, but I’ve never been in a situation that’s got out of hand in a bad way…or just failed to deliver.

CK: That’s really good! (And probably not a very common experience, I imagine?)

EA: I was going to ask about the voyeuristic element of threesomes with your partner. Is that an active part of the appeal for you? If so, what is it that appeals to you about watching someone you’re in a relationship with fuck someone else?

CK: Funnily enough I was thinking about/discussing this with my partner this weekend. It’s definitely a big part of it for me. When I feel secure in a relationship I feel compersion quite strongly, so watching my partner having fun just fills me with joy in a way that isn’t even immediately sexual. But I am also a huge voyeur, so I guess the appeal is watching two or more people I’m wildly attracted to getting it on. (And knowing I get to join in too just makes it even better!)

EA: Yes, that last bit is definitely something I get too. The anticipation of watching things heat up between two people you really want to fuck…and knowing that at some point you’re going to, y’know, fuck them…is SO good.

CK: Oh yes! What do you think are some of the biggest myths around group sex that people tend to believe?

EA: There’s an odd but pervasive assumption that any threesome involving two cis men and a woman is just going to end up as a bro-tastic spit roast with as little physical or eye contact between the guys as possible. That’s not been my experience of MFM, and certainly there are a lot of self-identified straight men out there who are just as curious and experimental about M/M plat as our various cultural norms would have you believe straight women are about F/F.

CK: Oh, absolutely. In the swinging and non-monogamy communities there seems to be a really pervasive assumption that men are all straight and women are all bi, which is not the case at all!

EA: I think there’s also a belief that threesomes always have to be these big, high pressure ‘Events’ – that they’re somehow different to just regular ol’ sex. And sometimes that’s true! As this chat has made clear, there are considerations with group sex that don’t always apply to sex with just one partner. At the same time, though, there are downsides to putting ant kind of sexual activity on a pedestal – namely that it ends up looking really daunting to people who maybe aren’t that confident or experienced.

CK: I think it also sets people up for disappointment – if threesomes/group sex are held up as this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime thing that represent the pinnacle of sexual achievement, how can the reality ever match up to the hype?

EA: Yep. Threesomes can also feel really easy and natural, or like an extension of the fun and intimacy you have with an existing partner. They don’t have to be a huge deal, and they do sometimes evolve organically, without the need for endless discussion/negotiation beforehand, and without feeling like anything especially significant. Those experiences are 100% valid too, and they maybe get overlooked or downplayed a bit. Next question for you: any practical tips to make sure no-one feels left out during a threesome?

CK: The left out thing is really interesting because I’ve never actually experienced it either from myself or from a partner. I suppose the tips are obvious – make sure everyone in the situation is actually comfortable with everyone else, take turns to be the centre of attention (this can flow very organically!) and as much as possible, come up with configurations that all 3 (or more) can engage in at the same time. Final question from me before we wrap up: what advice would you give a person or couple before they experience group sex for the first time?

EA: I’d tell them to read our awesome Q&A! I dunno – preparing for any exciting/scary new thing is such an individual thing that I’d be loathe to give much super-generic advice. For every person who would benefit from talking through the whole scenario in advance with the two (or more) other parties, there’ll be someone else who needs it all to feel spontaneous and organic. Even saying ‘make sure you really want it before you do it’ feels a little disingenuous: I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely leapt feet-first into new sexual experiences before, without giving them much thought, and not regretted it – sometimes you need to suck it and see (so to speak) before you know whether a particular kink or activity is for you. I guess maybe I’d tell them to practice self-care (whatever that means for them), keep an open mind, and be clear about both their limits and their preferences. You can’t go far wrong doing those things!

CK: Hah! Yes. Our advice is “this entire post!” I’ve definitely leapt into things without being entirely sure or having much of a plan before, too – usually I’m a planner but occasionally spontaneity has been fun! Practicing self-care is a really good tip because that can encompass to many different things, so people can do whatever that means to them. The only other thing I would add is COMMUNICATE DURING! It can be quick, it can be nonverbal, it can even be sexy – but please just fucking communicate.

EA: Thanks, this has been really great! I didn’t think we’d have any shortage of things to say about group sex, and 4,000+ words later, it turns out I was right. Till next time!

On Weight, Rope and Grief for the Body I Wanted

CW: weight, weight loss, body shame, rope bondage, diet culture, food-and-diet-related abuse, bullying, abusive teachers. Please, if these topics are difficult for you, feel enormously free to skip this one.

Note: in this post when I use the word “fat” to talk about other people, I am using it as a neutral descriptive term. Using it about myself is… complicated. I am not at a place of being positive about it.

Note the Second: I DO want – solidarity, love, and encouragement that I can choose to change my body and still be feminist. I do NOT want – diet or exercise tips, urging to”find a different rigger” (more on that later), to be advised not to change my body, or to be told you find me hot unless we have already established a dynamic where that’s an okay thing.

My stomach and hips in black leggings and a purple shirt which I am lifting up. For a post on weight and rope.
Feat. my belly

I’ve only ever been “thin” twice in my life. The first time, I was fifteen and it was just the way my body was. I didn’t think I was thin at the time, of course – I thought I was huge, as most teenage girls do. But looking back, fifteen year old Amy had the body that twenty five year old Amy would have killed for. The second time was at University, when I was walking miles every day around a very hilly town and subsisting mainly off coffee, Pro Plus pills and cheap vodka.

For most of my life, my body has been what can best be described as “a few pounds over where I’d ideally like to be,” but I was rarely particularly motivated to do anything about it. I like food and (until I discovered solo, non-competitive running and tap dancing), I hated exercise. (For the value of “hated” that means “extremely deep-seated trauma as a result of horrifying abuse from fellow students and teachers, including being made to run around a track on a weak ankle until I nearly vomited.”)

I’ve been fat three times in my life. The first time was during Sixth Form, when young adulthood and increased freedom led me to eat all the things I was rarely allowed by my health-conscious parents. The second time was in 2015, after I dumped my abusive ex (more about him in a minute) and gained 4olb in six months because in my head, eating whatever I wanted was a fuck you to him. It took me two years to lose those 40lb. The third time?

Well, the third time is now.

Let me back up a minute and talk to you about my ex. He was fat when we met, and gained weight steadily over the first three years or so. Then he suddenly decided to lose it all, began to religiously count calories, and took up hardcore exercise. Unfortunately, these traits combined with an addictive/obsessive personality quickly let to what I can only describe as a raging eating-and-exercise disorder. It “worked,” in that he became thin and muscular, but the punishing regime made him miserable and with that misery, he treated me and his wife even worse than previously (which was pretty badly already, TBF.)

With these behaviours directed towards himself came greater food and exercise scrutiny directed at me. At one point, he was making me weigh myself in front of him in the morning when he slept over. Weighing less than me, a 5’4″ woman with no muscle to speak of, became a point of pride for him and a point of criticism to level at me, all at once. I once asked him why he slept with me if he didn’t like my weight, and he countered that he couldn’t afford to be picky because fat women were all he could “get”.

So when we broke up, of course I went a bit mad with freedom. I ate everything I wanted and sat on the couch as much as I wanted, with an “I DARE you to judge me” attitude. But the net result was that I gained over 40lb, as I mentioned above. Then I lost it all, with two years of calorie counting and step counting and punishing gym workouts.

Until a few months ago, when I started putting it all back on. At first it was a few pounds, then a few more, and now… now I’m almost back where I was at the end of 2015, less 5lb or so.

And I’m angry. I’m angry with my ex for putting me in the position of getting into this yo-yo cycle in the first place. I’m angry with the kids who bullied me and the teachers who abused me into such a fucked up relationship with exercise. I’m angry with myself for ruining all my hard work and getting back to where I started. I’m angry with myself that I am now even further from the body I wanted.

I’m angry that I can’t stand being hungry, because if I could just ignore the pangs then I could go on the starvation “shakes and meal bars” diet my colleague keeps trying to push on me every time this topic comes up. I’m angry at the marked difference in how I am treated in this body shape, even aware of the relatively huge amount of thin privilege I do still enjoy compared to many other folks.

But more than angry, I’m grieving. I’m grieving for the body I wanted that is now even further away than it was before. I’m grieving for the delicious meals and treats I can no longer enjoy without a painful twinge of guilt in my gut. I’m grieving for the people who used to find me attractive and now reject me and my partner because I’m a fat girl and that apparently tells them everything they need to know about us. I’m grieving for the privilege I enjoyed when I was thinner, the marked difference in everything from romantic interest to professional respect. And I’m grieving for the pretty clothes I can no longer wear, the things I can no longer do, the things I can’t even hope to do unless something changes.

An artistic drawing of a woman in a shibari chest harness. For a post on weight and rope.Rope is one of my passions. It has been for a long time. And rope is one of the things that is markedly harder for me – and for my partner, my Top and rigger – at this weight. Some of this is small things – ties that took two ropes now use three, positions I could hold when I was fitter and more flexible are now next to impossible.

We’ve been starting to explore suspension in workshop settings, and it’s wonderful and I love it. We want to explore further. Unfortunately, we discussed this at length and realised that there is no way we can safely do 1-to-1 suspension scenes at the current time. Due to physical limitations the details of which are not mine to share, if something went wrong and we had to cut the rope or get me down very quickly, there’s no way my partner could support my current weight. There would be a risk of serious injury to one or both of us.

We can still do things with a second person on hand, of course, but a lot of our best play happens in private and I would absolutely love to be able to be suspended in private. For those of you who haven’t visited us, we have a Victorian house with gorgeous high ceilings and we’ve been looking at putting a suspension hard point in one of them for exactly this purpose. But this dream will have to wait, possibly for a long time, until I can get my weight under control and back to the place I want it to be.

I am aware that “too heavy to suspend” isn’t really an objective thing. That’s not the issue here, exactly. The issue is that my current weight and my partner’s current legitimate physical limitations are not going to play nicely together – that’s no-one’s fault, but it is a reality.

I cannot express how much shame this fills me with. I feel that by letting myself get to this weight, I have failed not only myself but my partner as well. I can’t do the things I want to be able to do, and I can’t give him the things I want to be able to give him as his partner and his submissive.

And that is breaking my heart.

I have a hard road ahead of me to get my body back to where I want it to be. I want to be the particular number that has been sitting in my head for the last three years, the number that currently feels impossibly low and far away. But more than that, I want to be able to float blissfully in his ropes without anyone else needing to be around to “rescue” us if something goes wrong. I want to look in the mirror and like what I see again.

A few nights ago, my boyfriend looked at my naked body and called me beautiful. I couldn’t explain why I looked like I might cry. I hope this post goes some way to explaining it.

Heads up: this post wasn’t sponsored but I’m really spilling my guts here. If you felt inclined to buy me a coffee, I would super appreciate it.