“Bring the Collar”: The True Story of a D/s Break-Up

I don’t want to write this post. I really don’t. I’ve been mulling it over all day and a huge part of me just wants to go, “oh fuck it” and write a generic “how to get over a break-up” listicle.

But I feel like that’d be a cop-out. Today’s 30 Days of D/s prompts is all about break-ups, and to be honest I’ve been inspired by Kayla’s amazing raw honesty in telling the story of her own D/s break-up a few years ago. So… here goes nothing, I guess.

A vase of dead roses. For a post about my D/s break-up

Realistically, I knew we were breaking up. Our relationship had disintegrated beyond repair now I’d finally, a good five years too late, begun to stand up for myself.

We were to meet in the park. Neutral ground. The stated aim: to have the make-or-break conversation. My true intention, though: to escape as quickly as possible with my head held high and my dignity intact.

All of this to say, dear readers: I knew it was over. It was overer than over. That relationship, like Marley, was dead as a doornail.

Still, it was three words on a text that broke me into pieces and tested my get the fuck out resolve to its limit.

“Bring the collar.”

Of course, I’d known he would want it back. That was in the contract. The Contract, to love and protect on his part. To love and obey on mine. Worth less, in the scheme of keeping us together, than the notepaper it was written on. But even so, this was the moment it sunk in. But Master is releasing me. He doesn’t want me any more.

My subby heart broke then. I’d thought I was as good as over it – mentally checked out of the relationship I was technically still in. I’d mourned the man I’d loved, come to accept he’d never been real and this monster who now stood in his place had been him all along. The guy who told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known, one perfect night in a student dorm room when I was nineteen, and the man who looked me in the eyes five years later and told me I was poison, were one and the same person.

But as his sub – his slave, he’d called me, though I was never entirely comfortable with the connotations of that word – I’d tried so hard to please. To obey, do everything he said, shut my mouth and look pretty and never take up more space than my little allotted corner. A toy isn’t supposed to complain when it’s tossed aside once playtime is over.

What I felt then, when I kissed the little silver lock of the collar one more time and handed it over to him while I tried not to cry, was that I’d failed. He’d thrown it at me plenty of times over the preceding weeks, while whatever was left of our love dripped down the drain. Bad sub. Not really submissive. Disobedient. If you’d just shut up and do as you were told, we’d be fine.

For years, I’d twisted myself until the core of my identity was being his. I wrote him a poem in the early days. In it, I said, “You are life. You are oxygen. You are everything.” My blood and breath. My heart and soul. More myself than I am.

What I know now, and wish I’d known then, is that I wasn’t the one who failed. I was just a young girl who got thrown into a lion’s den too complicated and fucked up to comprehend, and then spent years trying to tame the most vicious, dominant lion while he snapped and snarled at her heels.

He was the one who failed me. He promised too much, delivered too little, broke me down too hard. I gave love, and what I got in return was emotional devastation, over and over and fucking over.

In that moment, I saw him as he was. All my idealistic, teenage bullshit fell away and I saw a man who could never love me. In that moment, I took myself back. I gave him back his collar and I took back my agency, my power, my life.

You’re not my blood and breath. I am.

I belong to nobody. I am free. And I am happy.


No kinky item today. This is too raw to add anything to it. Today’s image, as ever, was provided for use under Creative Commons Licensing. I’ve used an image of dead roses because we exchanged roses as part of our collaring/vows ceremony. 

Communication When Your Partner is Carrying Trauma

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

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

Anyhow, today, Kayla and John ask:

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

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

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

Be prepared to offer reassurance.

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

Be prepared to repeat yourself sometimes.

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

Say exactly what you mean.

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

Speak and behave calmly.

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

Don’t succumb to personal attacks.

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

Above all: ask.

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

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

The Price of Admission

Anastasia: And what do I get out of this?
Christian: Me.
– Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

It is no secret that I am not a fan of those books. I might eventually write more fully about why, but other writers have already done this so beautifully I’m not sure I have anything to add to that particular conversation. However, the above quote captures the essence of this topic perfectly. Hmm… maybe Ms James did have some insightful moments after all!

An admission ticket torn in half

When we’re children, we’re taught that no-one’s perfect. It’s a platitude, though a truism, perhaps to encourage us not to criticise others – or ourselves – too harshly. And because no-one is perfect, I firmly believe there is no such thing as a Perfect Relationship. There are amazing, incredible, wonderful relationships – and I count myself lucky to be in one of these. But perfect? With all our flaws, foibles, beautifully messy humanity and inevitable mistakes? No.

My relationship has imperfections. So does yours, I guarantee it.

We come, all of us, with our Price of Admission. These are the things about us that are imperfect, maybe even problematic, that someone must live with in order to be in a relationship with us. These are the things, be they big or small, that we don’t see eye-to-eye with our partner on. The things that, if you dwell on them, form the end of the sentence “the relationship would be PERFECT if only…

We all have to pay a price of admission to be in meaningful relationships with another human. Whether it’s as relatively benign as putting up with your husband’s snoring, or as troubling as knowing your friend has a serious drug/alcohol problem but being unable to intervene, every relationship has one – or more likely, several of varying degrees of significance. But here’s the thing about prices of admission. We get to choose whether to pay them or not.

One of the major problems in my relationship with my abusive ex was that he believed that no matter the price of admission, I would continue to pay it regardless. And for many years, I did. I was madly – and I mean that in the literal, not-quite-in-my-right-mind-when-he’s-around – in love with the man. As such I felt I had to do absolutely anything to keep the relationship. When the price of admission was putting up with lies and half-truths, I turned a blind eye. The times that the price of admission was him screaming at me for a tiny perceived infraction, I tried to harden myself to the yelling. When the price of admission was an uneven, enforced mono-poly dynamic, I pretended I didn’t want anyone else anyway.

And what did I get out of all of that?


Which was enough… except that it wasn’t. I convinced myself I was happy as long as I was with him, this person I idolised. But he didn’t meet my needs and he didn’t hear my voice. If I complained the price for the relationship was getting too steep, he might as well have laughed in my face and said, “but you’ll pay it, because the other choice is walking away and we both know you don’t have the balls to do that”. It was years before I finally decided the price had become undeniably too high.

In our final make/break conversation, with all the characteristic arrogance that believed I would never be the one to walk away, he laid out his Terms for continuing the relationship. And for the first time, I refused the offer. The price was too high and I wasn’t buying. It was no longer worth it.

The point of all of this is to say: you get to decide when the price of admission into any given relationship is too high.

However much you love this person, however much you think you absolutely need them no matter what, you do not have to accept the terms they are offering. You do not have to pay a price of admission that includes abuse of any kind, that includes being cheated upon or lied to, that includes a relationship structure that is unworkable for you, that includes sex acts you can’t or won’t consent to, that includes losing yourself or your self esteem, that includes fundamental differences in beliefs or values, that includes anything that makes the relationship unhappy or unhealthy for you.

You don’t have to.

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

“Pretty” is Not My Success: On Being a Swan

I grew up ugly. Well-meaning family would probably tell you otherwise, but by conventional Western 21st century societal standards of attractiveness, it is objectively true. I tried not to be, of course. In a rough English secondary school in the early 2000s, ‘ugly’ was just about the worst fate to which one could possibly succumb. But whatever I tried, it didn’t work. I would always be too fat, too frizzy haired, too hairy, too unfashionable, too this, not enough that, to be anything other than a perpetual joke.

A baby swan swimming along in some water. For a post about being an ugly duckling

The words people said to me for the first seventeen years of my life were so vicious and cruel that even now, I can barely bring myself to repeat them. I still feel the pain when I think back, like an old injury that still twinges from time to time.

Growing up, The Ugly Duckling was my favourite fairytale. I used to dream that one day, maybe I could wake up and be pretty. Then everyone would realise I’d been a swan all along! I very much painted this hypothetical scenario in my head as a kind of justice, perhaps even revenge. When I was pretty, they’d realise they were wrong about me. They’d see I had never deserved all the cruelty they threw at me.

I actually got my wish. Okay, it wasn’t quite so sudden, but sometime between seventeen and nineteen I got hot. It’s taboo for a woman to love herself at the best of times. Typing these physical attributes that I like about myself is surprisingly difficult, but here goes: I have a pretty face, hourglass figure and an ass to die for. I’m pretty fucking cute.

For a good couple of years after I finally escaped the constant bullying for being ugly, I would frequently comfort myself with the thought that I’d got the best possible revenge by becoming pretty.

Being pretty affords me certain privileges. Of that I am absolutely certain. It is well documented that people perceived to be “beautiful” are often treated better by society. It also comes with some downsides, which Emilie Autumn described better than I ever could.

But you know what? The Ugly Duckling is fundamentally a lie. Growing into my looks and becoming pretty wasn’t the thing that saved me. It sure as hell wasn’t what made me happy. And it ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN AS ALL EVERLOVING FUCK wasn’t what made me grow into the amazing, worthwhile human I am today.

We shouldn’t be reading a story to kids where the moral is “don’t be mean to someone who isn’t pretty because they might be pretty some day”. How about, “don’t be mean to someone who isn’t pretty because looks are 99.9% genetic and seriously how decorative they are is literally the least interesting and important of a million awesome things about them?

I’m a success despite the intense trauma I experienced as a child and young adult. I’m smart, I have a killer work-ethic, I put myself through two grueling degrees. I have a job I love that makes a real difference to people’s lives. I’m indulging my passions for writing and sex education and starting to build a name for myself in those worlds. I have amazing partners who love me. I generally strive to be kind and compassionate and make a positive difference in the world.

If I’d stayed ugly, I would still be absolutely everything else on this list.

My “fuck you” to the bullies wasn’t growing up to be hot. It was growing up to be a hundred awesome things that have absolutely no bearing on whether I’m hot or not, and that will make a positive imprint on the world long after my looks have faded.

Pretty is not my success. Beauty is not my justice. “Hot” is an accident of biology lining up at least somewhat with arbitrary societal standards. I didn’t not deserve the cruelty I received because I was a swan all along. I didn’t deserve it because I’m a goddamn person and people should not judge me on my decorative value.

So fuck that story for teaching me that I’d eventually become pretty and then it would all be okay.

Can we have a realistic version where the “Duckling” wakes up as a swan and then spends ten years in therapy to overcome the horrific lookist bullying he suffered in his formative years?

Or better yet, a version where the Duckling goes “oh fuck this shit, these people are petty bullies and pretty is only surface deep” and whether he becomes a swan or not is totally immaterial because he’s off curing cancer or flying to the moon or becoming a badass sex educator and saving the world with dildo reviews or some shit?

When Consensual Sex is Punished More Harshly than Rape [or: Smutathon – the Reason Why]

[This post comes with a HUGE trigger warning for sexual violence from intimate partners. Please feel free to skip this one or step away to care for yourself if you need to. It also carries a hefty dose of vulnerability and exposure of my personal traumas. Victim-blaming or doubt-casting comments will be deleted and the commenter permanently blocked. This is a one-strike-and-you’re-out deal.]

The Rape Crisis England and Wales logo for a post about Smutathon and rapeThe Backlash UK logo for a post about Smutathon and rape

I was sexually assaulted for the first time by a classmate when I was twelve. It was “only” breast and crotch grabbing through clothing, but I was deeply troubled by and ashamed of it. It was three years before I could even begin to find words for what had happened, let alone how it had made me feel.

More than one of my early relationships were sexually violent. By the time I was fifteen, I’d been coerced into sex acts I absolutely did not consent to and was not ready for by a much older boyfriend.

At nineteen, I pushed a man away seconds before he penetrated me – penetration that I had explicitly said, repeatedly, was not on the table that night. On the second date with the same guy (yes, there was a second date) he pushed me to drink and drink and drink, before telling me he wanted me so black-out pissed that I wouldn’t remember anything in the morning. Later, our previously sweet online chats took a turn for the dark as he described his violent, graphic fantasies of raping me (fantasies, he made very clear, that were not about CNC but about Actual Genuine Rape.

A year or two later, a boyfriend threw me out of the house for not acquiescing to sex. And on and on and on it goes. Sex became about obligation, pressure, coercion and survival. I became divorced from my own body, my own pleasure. They took me years to reclaim.

The point of all of this is to say that I didn’t understand until years later that sex under duress counts as rape or serious sexual assault, even if there was little or no physical force involved. I didn’t understand that as a minor, what happened to me at fifteen was statutory rape as well as sexual assault under coercion.

I didn’t seek any help until I finally got a counsellor, long after it was all over. I dimly understood that places like Rape Crisis existed, but I thought they were only for people who’d been raped at gunpoint or assaulted by strangers in dark alleys. “My boyfriend uses the threat of the roof over my head to make me have sex I don’t want, and my other boyfriend tried to rape me once and is weirdly obsessed with getting me drunk and telling me graphic fantasies of raping me” just didn’t seem serious enough, somehow, especially as I’d also had consensual sex with both of these men and others.

I wish I’d known then what I know now – that Rape Crisis would have listened with sympathy, love and support, given me resources to help me get out of those relationships, and told me that in no way in the world was it my fault.

That’s why #Smutathon2017 supports Rape Crisis.

In all but one case, I didn’t even report because I knew I’d be putting myself through hell for a less than 1% chance of justice. None of the men who assaulted or abused me have ever suffered consequences of any kind.

The same, alas, cannot be said for the not-insignificant number of people over the years who have been punished (legally, financially, employment-wise and more) for engaging in completely victimless fringe sexual practices with other consenting adults. From 1987’s Spanner Case (in which a group of gay men were prosecuted for participation in consensual sadomasochism) to the infamous ‘tiger porn’ debacle, to those who have been fired or had their kids taken away for participating in BDSM, sex work or pornography, sexual freedom is constantly under threat.

I cannot sit back and be okay with innocent, good people being prosecuted for consensual sex while only 0.6% of rapists ever see a day in jail.

And that is why #Smutathon2017 ALSO supports Backlash UK, an amazing organisation that defends freedom of sexual expression for consenting adults.

Please donate and support these two brilliant charities if you can. I hope none of you will ever need them – but if you do, they’ll be there for you.

What I Wish I’d Known When I Was Nineteen

Nineteen was a pivotal age for me – in a lot of ways, vastly more significant then eighteen. Among other milestones, it’s the year I started university, met my best friend, came out as bi and poly, went to my first BiCon, experienced my first group sex, and realised kink was ‘A Thing’ and not just me being a freak.

Last night, at a play party, I chatted with a young woman who is currently nineteen. She is also so incredibly brave, smart, self-aware, sensible and fearless that I am a little in awe of her. This started me thinking about what I wish I’d known at that age that I know now, in the hopes that it might help some other young person who stumbles across this site and is as lost and confused as teenage CK was.

So some notes to my younger self…

Everything you’re experiencing now is real. Everything will also change. Both of these things are okay.

I know you think this man is the love of your life, and right now that might be true. What you don’t know yet is that there is so much more love still waiting out there in the world for you; love vastly more rich and complex and beautiful than you can even imagine right now. What you want right now is real and valid. What you want in ten years will be different, I promise – and that will be real and valid too.

Your value is not in your innocence.

There are men out there who will trip over themselves to get a piece of you before too many people have had you. You’re beautiful, you’re very young, you’re somewhat naive and when they look at you, they see a certain wide-eyed innocence that they can’t resist. Run from these men. They will use you and spit you out when they’ve had all your ‘first times.’ (They lack imagination and don’t see that there is a whole lifetime of exploration to do!) They’ll call you a whore the moment you act less than virginal. They want innocent little girls because they can’t handle a fully grown woman who knows her worth well enough to demand that they treat her like a goddamn human being and not a trophy.

Equally, your value is not in your sexual availability.

You will get invited to a lot of parties. You may then stop getting invited when you don’t fuck the host or their friends. People will hit on you constantly. You will go on some dates with some guys you really, really like… and then never hear from them again if they reach for the condom on the first night and you say, ‘no, I want to move slower than that.’ You should say yes to the invitations you wholeheartedly WANT to say yes to, and no to the rest. The people who are worth your time, energy and affection will value you just the same. Your body does not need to be your ticket to acceptance and community.

Sex is morally neutral.

You’re not better than ‘other girls’ if you wait a while before having sex with someone. You’re not a prude, frigid or broken either! And you’re not cooler than ‘other girls’ if you have a lot of casual sex. You’re not a whore, damaged goods or broken either! The only sex you should be having is the sex you want to have, with partners who want to have it too. Whether this is a kinky orgy with twenty strangers every night of the week, or only with your husband once you’re married, or anything in between. I promise it’s okay and it says nothing either way about your morals or character.

Love is abundance, not sacrifice. Love should not hurt.

Right now, you may believe that the more it hurts, the more you love the person. Remember that night your new boyfriend stood you up and you came home, makeup all cried away, to tell your fiancé, “I know I really love him because of how much this hurts?” Love, generally, shouldn’t hurt. Of course it hurts when you argue, if something goes wrong, and that’s normal. But every day shouldn’t be pain and self sacrifice. Love should bring you vastly more joy than hurt. Love should expand your world, not shrink it. And speaking of which…

Nobody is worth changing yourself for. 

It’s a truism that the only constant in life is change. You will change, your partners will change, and relationships do change us in profound ways. But any changes you make should be on YOUR terms and because YOU want to make them. No-one who loves you will demand you change. Someone who values you will not make you contort yourself into a little box you don’t fit in. No-one who deserves you will belittle you or put you down for all the wondrous little things that make you you.

You have a right to walk away.

If someone treats you badly, you can leave. If someone makes you cry at least as much as much as they make you smile, you can put an end to it. When someone fucks with your head, you can choose to stop letting them in. If someone abuses you, you have the right – and you owe it to yourself – to tell them to take a running jump off a cliff and get the fuck out of there. You don’t need anyone’s permission to protect yourself from abuse and mistreatment.

Your body is normal.

If you come from clitoral stimulation only but penetration does nothing for you, you’re normal. If you love being fucked but oral sex doesn’t get you off, you’re normal. If you’re multi orgasmic you’re normal. If you’re anorgasmic, you’re normal (though, if you WANT to change this, there are resources!) If you squirt, you’re normal. If you don’t, you’re normal. Whatever you like and however your body works, it’s okay, I promise – meet yourself where you’re at, give yourself permission to experience ecstasy however it works for you, and accept that bodies, just like everything else, change. Your pleasure may look very different in ten years – and you’ll be normal then too!

And some bonus tips to finish:

  • Life is too short to buy shitty vibrators from Ann Summers.
  • The word ‘no’ is both a complete sentence and your best friend.
  • Get some goddamn lube. (Water based and body safe, please and thank you!)
  • Ask the cute girl out.
  • If someone kink-shames or body-shames you, DTMFA.
  • Getting older is nothing to be afraid of. The power and strength you will come into will blow your mind. 

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

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

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

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

Read the whole post here.