My Safety Philosophy: Why I Practice (C)RACK

I always listen to Loving BDSM Podcast the day it comes out (Fridays), usually on my way to work. They’re always insightful, frequently hilarious and often make me think.  Today’s episode was all about the different safety philosophies within the kink community. Kayla and John discussed why they personally practice SSC – Safe, Sane and Consensual. As always, they’ve got loads of great things to say and I highly recommend you take a listen.

A cracked wall with flowers growing out of it. For a post on safety philosophies in kink.As I was listening, I realised I’ve written about safety tips for kink, but I’ve never actually written about my own personal safety philosophy before.

In kink, the three safety philosophies you’ll mostly hear cited are:

SSC: Which states that everything we do must be Safe, Sane and Consensual.

RACK: Which urges us to practice Risk Aware Consensual Kink.

And PRICK: Which asks us to take Personal Responsibility (in) Informed Consensual Kink.

Each of these has their merits and I will never knock anyone else’s safety philosophy as long as it’s based around the cores of safety and informed consent. Personally, though, I practice RACK. Let me tell you why.

What is “safe” anyway?

Very little in life is completely safe. We take risks in our life every day. It would be absurd to think that sex or kink could be completely free from risk. I take a risk every time I use a sharp knife to chop vegetables. I take a risk every time I get in my car (driving, when you think about the size of the machine you’re in and the speeds at which it moves, is fucking terrifying). And I definitely take a risk every time I let someone spank me, string me up in ropes, or get into edgy and emotionally fraught places in my psyche. (Yes, not all risk is physical. Mental risk is just as real).

Risk Aware, for me, doesn’t just mean knowing the risks are there but taking active steps to reduce them. We know driving is dangerous, so we wear seatbelts, don’t drive drunk, and don’t text while we’re driving. And in kink, it’s exactly the same.

Being risk aware means letting a partner know about any physical issues I might have that could impact our play, and keeping an eye on them during. It means letting my partner know about a pinched nerve or pins and needles in my hands. It means, when I’m Topping, getting proper education on the acts I want to do to another human being and not playing beyond my competence level.

So: nothing we do is, or can be, completely safe. Even vanilla missionary position sex with the lights out carries some degree of risk. By being informed, we can meaningfully mitigate risks to the best of our ability.

Who gets to define “sanity”?

I, like approximately 1/4 of the adult population (conservative estimate,) suffer from a mental health problem. Does that mean I’m incapable of doing kink responsibly? No, absolutely not. As a person with mental health conditions, I find classifications of “sanity” to be intensely problematic.

As long as I’m aware of where my mental health is at, and can communicate that to a partner, it’s generally reasonably safe and completely healthy for me to play. Which… circles us back around to that risk aware piece, doesn’t it?

At best, sanity is nebulous and difficult to define. What feels “insane” to one person might be “average Saturday afternoon” for another.

My unease with PRICK

PRICK is a fine philosophy, in so far as it goes. But it makes me feel a vague uneasiness whenever I hear it, and today I finally put my finger on why.

I’ve been involved in various ways in anti-sexual-violence activism for 6+ years. The phrase “personal responsibility” has been thrown at me and so many of the survivors I know more times than we can count. In those instances, unfortunately, it is taken to the extreme of meaning that you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens to you.

This means that a generally good philosophy (“look out for yourself, take responsibility for your actions and the impact they have on yourself and others around you”) has been co-opted and twisted to mean “if someone harms you, it’s your fault”.

It’s not that I’ll never play with someone who practices PRICK, but I would need to make damn sure that their meaning is closer to “we are responsible for taking care of our own and each others’ safety and wellbeing to the best of our ability”. That’s what a good philosophy of personal responsibility would look like.

Sadly, I just know too many people who say “personal responsibility” when they mean “if you get raped, what were you wearing how much did you drink why were you out late how did you not know that guy was a rapist?????

It all comes back to consent

Whichever you practice, you’ll notice that the one thing all these philosophies have in common is consent. Consent is at the core of everything we do. However, it occurred to me today that there is one key ingredient which none of these philosophies explicitly address…

The missing piece

Kayla and John so often come back to the importance of communication in their discussions on Loving BDSM. I often find myself nodding along, and am in absolute agreement with them that effective communication is at the core of everything we do. You cannot have safe(r) kink and sex without communication. You cannot have a good relationship without communication! And I don’t think we can meaningfully discuss good philosophies of safety without also discussing the importance of strong communication.

Therefore I present to you my new philosophy, adapted from RACK, which you are all welcome to use if it speaks to you:

CRACK: Communicative (&) Risk Aware Consensual Kink.

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Image from Pixabay and used under Creative Commons licensing.

Top Sexting Tips

I’ve been doing a lot of sexting recently, and it’s pretty awesome. Being one of those ridiculous “surgically attached to my phone” millennials and also having a tendency to crush on attractive humans who live far away from me, it’s a pretty ideal way to keep sexual connections going – and spark new ones – amidst my busy life.

Close ups of two peoples hands as they type on their phones. For a post about sexting.

I think – based on feedback and the high rate of return customers (as it were) – that I am a pretty good sexter. This was not always the case. My second long-term boyfriend was the first person I sexted with, and back then I couldn’t muster much more than “*moan*” or “mmm”. Which, you know, are fine… but they’re not really enough.

So, based on a good amount of experience, trial and error, here are my top tips for good sexting.

1. Pay attention

This is actually probably the single biggest tip for sex in general, but it’s particularly important when someone’s words are all you have to go on. With sexting, there are no body-language or tone or breathing cues. So watch what they’re saying and now they’re responding.

Are you getting a lot of positive feedback? Are they virtual-moaning in response, telling you it’s making them wet/hard/distracted, adding their own bits to the sexy narrative you’re building together? If you’re getting one-word, vague or noncommittal responses, it’s probably a good time to pause and check in if this is working for them. They might need a change of direction for the chat, or it might be a bad time to sext entirely.

Pay. Attention.

2. Mirror their words back to them

What terms do they use? Are there particular phrases that come up again and again?

This is particularly relevant when it comes to things like what to call body parts. Real talk: I hate the word pussy. Fucking hate it. I refer to my genitals as my cunt or my vulva (or occasionally my “vag” or “foof” if I’m being silly). If I repeatedly use the words I like, and you keep coming back at me with the ones I hate, I’ll assume you’re either not paying attention (see point 1) or deliberately disregarding my preferences. Either way, it’s not a good look and won’t lead to happy sexty times.

This is also particularly relevant when it comes to kink dynamics. Many people have very strong associations with certain words, good or bad. If they describe themselves as a “filthy little slut,” that’s probably something they’d be into it if you said to them. Listen, and mirror their language and style of speech back to them… as well as demonstrating your own preferences and interests for them to mirror back to you!

3. Keep it simple

Sexting is not a good time for flowery prose. (For real, there is no good time for flowery prose in my opinion). Others’ mileage may vary, but if you’re sexting with me at least, don’t use 50 words where 5 will do.

“I’m gonna eat your cunt then fuck you until I’m satisfied” is much better than “I will stick my tongue into your sweet honeypot and devour your delicious nectar until your orgasms burst forth like flowers in bloom, and then I will probe the depths of your mysterious caverns with my semi-moist treat stick…”

(Unless you want your sexts to become an entry in #EuphOff, that is).

4. Don’t be afraid to explore new territory…

Text is a great and low-pressure, relatively low-risk way to test out new kinks and fantasies that you might not be sure about. This could be anything from mentioning an interest to a partner for the first time if you’d be too nervous to say it in person, to trying out a new honorific or a new form of humiliation play that you’re not 100% sure about.

5. …But move carefully and with consent. 

Don’t pull a sudden extreme turn in the conversation without your partner’s input and consent! If you want to try something new, introduce it gently. Try a phrase like one of these:

“I wonder how you’d react if I…”

“I kinda want to call you…”

“How do you feel about…?”

“I’ve been fantasising a lot about…”

Judge their reaction. Proceed accordingly. I’ve had loads of sexting conversations where someone has suggested something the other person isn’t into, and as long as you’re receptive to that, things can recover and carry on just fine.

Example:
I’d really like to tie you up.
“I’m not okay with full restraint, but you could pin me down.”
Ooh! My hands on your wrists…

6. Approach it as a collaboration, not a performance.

Actually, again, this is good “sex in general” advice. Sexting is all about building a hot, steamy scenario together with your partner(s). It’s not a monologue or a one-man show. It’s best to go in without a super specific idea of where you want the chat to go, and allow it to grow organically as you both have your input and follow the energy wherever it leads.

And those are my tips. What are your top guidelines for sexy sexting?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.

When You’re Exploring, Not Everything Will Work – and That’s Okay!

This one’s late! Sorry sorry sorry! I had a really bad mental health day yesterday. Trigger warning: this post talks about consensual non-consent including rape fantasy.

I’d like to thank Sarah Brynn Holliday for becoming my latest sexy patron. You should check out her blog, she does brilliant work. If YOU’D like to support my work here, please visit my Patreon and pledge at any level. Even $1 a month means so much and you’ll get access to occasional exclusive content and get your very own shout-out here (with a link to your blog or Twitter if you have them.)

A close up on a map, magnifying glass and compass. For a post on exploring kinks and when they don't work.

So, onto today’s topic which, credit where it’s due, was suggested by my sweetie The Artist when I messaged them going “heeeeeelp I’m not inspired”! Today’s prompt from 30 Days of D/s (it’s nearly over, y’all!) is all about exploring your kinks together with a partner, in particular things you haven’t tried but would like to.

I’ve tried a lot of kinky shit over the years. Like, a lot. I’m not gonna say “name a kinky thing and I’ve probably done it,” because some of you have truly devious imaginations. But I’ve been doing this stuff for well over a decade. I have a lot of experience. At the start of our relationship, The Artist asked me what I hadn’t done and might like to try. I was just like “oh shit what have I not done!?”

Inevitably, perhaps, I’ve done some things that I do not care to do again. When you’re exploring an area as broad as kink and sex, you won’t like everything you try. That’s okay! Trying something and not liking it isn’t a failure. It’s a valuable learning experience.

I’m pretty big into consensual non-consent, or CNC – also known as “rape fantasy”. This is a really, really common kink especially among (people socialised as) women. I am nowhere near qualified to start delving into the reasons for that. Anyhow, I’m into it, and I practice it carefully with safe partners and safewords. Up until last year, my biggest fantasy was a group CNC scene, where several partners would ambush and ravish me. Um, to be honest, this is still one of my biggest fantasies.

But you know what happened when we tried to make it a reality? It didn’t work. Some combination of the time of night, my tiredness level, the people involved and my sense of disorientation combined to make it too much. I safeworded out and then spent the next two hours crying and apologising. What was wrong with me? This was my fantasy, why hadn’t it worked for me?

The truth is there was nothing wrong with me. There was nothing wrong with my partners, either – everything they did was 100% consensual! It was what we thought we all wanted! None of us did anything wrong. The scene just didn’t work out. Sometimes scenes don’t work, and that’s okay. Sometimes you can be absolutely sure you’ll like something… and then in reality, you won’t. That is also ten million percent normal and fine!

There’s an anecdote in, I think, one of Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton’s books. I’ve just spent an hour searching for it and can’t find it, which is really annoying me! Anyway, it tells of a woman who has always fantasised about receiving caning… until she finds she reality too painful. This is because fantasy isn’t accurate, realistic information. Fantasy is there first for fun and titillation. Yes, it gives you an insight into things you might like to try, but liking it in fantasy doesn’t mean you’ll like it in reality. You might, you might not. You might like a modified version. Either way, that’s completely okay!

I still have group CNC fantasies, and I may or may not try to act them out again at some point. If I ever do, I’ll use the information I learned from what went wrong last time to modify the scene. If I don’t, it’s still okay for me to enjoy the fantasy! Not wanting to do something for real doesn’t mean you can’t fantasise about it! Even trying something and having it go wrong doesn’t have to be a barrier to continuing to enjoy your fantasies.

The key to exploring, I think, is to try not to attach too much to one particular outcome. This sounds ridiculously “zen,” and I appreciate it’s really difficult. But if you approach trying something new with the mindset of, “it might work, it might not, but we’ll learn something either way,” the pressure to have it be the best scene of your life lets up almost immediately.

Approach with an attitude of open exploration, communication and the goal of mutual pleasure and discovery. You might find your new favourite thing. You might also find out that some things are happier staying in your inner fantasy world – and that’s valuable too.

Kinky item of the day: Spreader bars! For me, there is very little sexier than being spread open and vulnerable in front of a Dominant lover. Especially if they’re also slapping my cunt and/or ripping an orgasm from me with the Doxy. Try this lovely adjustable bar from Sportsheets.

The image featured in this post was reproduced here under Creative Commons Licensing.

Five Tasks and Rituals that have Nothing to do with Sex

Quickie-post today, dear readers, because I am up to my face in PhD research proposals. Today’s prompt in 30 Days of D/s is about tasks and rituals: the little things you do to help you feel more submissive or more Dominant, to “bring you back to your mental, emotional and even physical D/s space.”

A pair of hands offering a steaming mug, in black and white. For a post on tasks and rituals.

These things can often be sexual. In my previous D/s relationship, my tasks included things like rolling a dice and edging that number of times. There were times when he instructed me to wear Ben-wa balls to work every day, or to go to the grocery store without panties every day for a week.

These sexual tasks are all well and good, but D/s isn’t always about sex. Sometimes you just want to feel Dominant or submissive without your genitals involved. Here’s a few ideas for tasks or rituals and have nothing to do with sex.

1. Text (/call/email/message) at a specific time each day

This is especially good if you’re long distance or don’t live together. Simply texting “good morning, Sir,” “goodnight, Pet” or some other variation on a daily touching-base can be surprisingly powerful.

2. Making their drink

I used to always make my ex-Master’s tea and then serve it to him in a specific way. Learning how your Dominant likes their drink and serving it to them is a lovely, affirming submissive action for the service-oriented among us.

3. Write a journal

Loads of Dominants task their submissives with journalling regularly. Whether this is open to your D-type to read or entirely personal is up to the two of you. It’s a great way to get to know yourself, explore your desires and experiences within the relationship, and check in with yourself to make sure you’re happy and functioning.

4. Eat or drink something specific

Massive disclaimer to maybe avoid this one if food is a trigger for you or you’re recovering from any kind of eating disorder. This could be something really simple like “drink 2 litres of water a day” or “eat a piece of fruit after dinner,” but it can be a nice way for a submissive to feel like they’re doing as they’re told and a Dominant to feel like they have a hand in their submissive’s health and wellbeing.

5. Repeat a mantra

You can do this to yourself in the mirror, to your partner, or even on your kinky social media if you like. Try something like, “I am beautiful and Sir loves me,” or “I am proudly owned by my Mistress”. Whatever works for you and your relationship!

I hope you find some inspiration here! What tasks and rituals do you use in your D/s relationship?

Kinky item of the day: remote-controlled vibes! Want to get your sub hot and bothered on the bus, gagging for it in the grocery store or worked up at work? These beauties have got you covered!

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

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Stop the Drop: 25 Things to Do When Subdrop Feels Overwhelming

Subdrop is real. As Kayla says in today’s 30 Days of D/s prompt, what goes up must come down. Subspace is a kind of high, fueled by adrenaline and endorphins and all kinds of happy-fuzzy brain chemicals.

Subdrop is what can happen when those chemicals wear off and reality sets back in. For some, it can be as soon as the subspace high has ended, while for others it can hit a day or even several days later. A lucky few may not experience it at all. Everyone is different. I most often drop somewhere between 12 and 24 hours after an intense play session, though it has been known to be quicker.

A close up of a person's torso wrapped in a blanket. For a post on subdrop

Drop looks different for everyone. You might feel sad or depressed. You might cry a lot. Some people report feeling really listless or now on energy/”spoons“. When you’re in the middle of it, it can be overwhelming and completely horrible.

Not everything on this list will work for everyone. Pick out just one or two that speak to you and try them. Here’s 25 things you can do to help when you’re dropping.

Amy’s Top 25 Subdrop Remedies

  1. Cuddle someone/something! Your partner, a friend, a stuffed toy, your pet.
  2. Make your favourite hot drink and sip it slowly, noticing how it tastes and letting the cup warm your hands.
  3. Eat some chocolate or whatever your favourite sweet treat is. Not enough to make you feel sick, just enough to give you those feel-good chemicals.
  4. Cook yourself a simple, healthy meal and enjoy eating it slowly. Something with protein and vegetables.
  5. Watch your favourite film or an episode of your favourite Netflix show. Something lighthearted is better.
  6. Write in your journal.
  7. Post to your blog, if you have one.
  8. Share how you’re feeling on your kinky social media of choice. Sympathy and virtual cuddles from friends who get it can be surprisingly cathartic.
  9. Listen to a comedy podcast or watch some stand-up. Laugh until your tummy hurts.
  10. Curl up under a cozy duvet with a good book or a magazine.
  11. Meditate. There are thousands of free guided meditations on Youtube, or try the Insight Timer app.
  12. Masturbate! Orgasm can perk you up no end.
  13. Go for a walk. Preferably somewhere out in nature, but to the shop at the end of the street and back will work in a pinch.
  14. Sit in your garden, if you have one, or a nearby park. Fresh air is important.
  15. Buy yourself something, if you can afford to. This could be as elaborate as that dress you’ve been lusting after for months, or as simple as a fancy coffee.
  16. Tidy up your room or work space. I always feel better and more clear-headed when my safe spaces are neat and tidy.
  17. Take a bath or shower. Spend as long as you like luxuriating in the hot water. Use your most decadent shower gel or that fancy bath bomb you’ve been saving.
  18. Play loud, upbeat music. Optional extras: sing along loudly, dance around your room for the length of a song or two.
  19. Call someone you miss. Your mum. A grandparent. Your best friend in another city. Just pick up the phone, say hi and catch up.
  20. Create something. Whatever your creative talent is, use it. Play your instrument, bake a cake, write a page of your novel, knit a few rows of your latest project.
  21. Take a nap. Even an hour of shut-eye will help recharge you a little.
  22. Exercise. Hit the gym, go for a run, or do some yoga. Moving your body releases tension and clears your mind.
  23. Get your hair cut or your nails done. No drastic changes! But a bit of pampering can really raise your mood and make you feel good about yourself.
  24. Just sit with the feeling. This is a mindfulness technique. Sit, feel, and think: I am feeling rotten right now because I am subdropping, but I know this feeling will soon pass and I will be okay.
  25. Do something for someone else. Whether it’s a chore that’s normally your partner’s but they’re super busy today, or getting shopping for an elderly neighbour, caring for others takes you out of your own head.

I hope some of these techniques are helpful to you, dear readers. How do you banish the dreaded drop when it hits?

Kinky item of the day: Bondage candles! Ever tried wax play? It’s one of my favourites and it doesn’t have to be painful – it can be really sensual. Please only buy candles designed for this purpose, as regular household candles can burn much hotter – especially if they have dyes or scents added. Remember to take fire safety precautions and start slowly if you’re new to wax play.

The above is an affiliate link. If you buy through it or any of my affiliates, it supports the blog. All opinions are and will always be my own.

The image featured in today’s post was offered for use via Creative Commons Licensing.

So You’ve Been Told You Have Sub-Frenzy?

Sub-frenzy is the topic of the day in my #KinkMonth 30 Days of D/s series, and goodness I have a lot of feelings about this one. (I have a lot of feelings about a lot of things. Had you noticed?)

A woman's upper body, wearing only a black fishnet sleeveless body-stocking. She is holding her hands up in front of her and they are cuffed together with black leather cuffs. For a post about sub-frenzy

Hey there, newbie. I’m going to write this piece to you as I wish someone had written it to me, when I started out in kink close to a decade ago. I want to tell you the things I wish I’d known.

So maybe someone has accused you of having “sub-frenzy?” Or maybe you’ve been cautioned by your new kinky friends that this “frenzy” is something to beware of and avoid?

What is sub-frenzy?

Kayla Lords defines sub-frenzy as  “a moment that happens for new submissives, or submissives in new relationships, where they get a little intense about their submission, sometimes to the detriment of their own safety.”

Sub-frenzy can manifest in a variety of ways, from being willing to play with anyone who offers to wanting to call your new boyfriend “Master” RIGHT NOW TODAY. But in a nutshell, it’s such a desperation to submit that common sense and self-preservation fly out of the window.

How will I know if I’m in sub-frenzy?

Are you a new submissive, or a submissive in a new relationship? (Particularly after a period of little or no play?)

Are you so desperate to submit that you’d probably kneel for a brick wall if it would just smack your ass and call you a naughty girl?

Have you played with, or are you tempted to play with, Dominants you barely know just to get the submissive itch scratched?

Have you given, or are you tempted to give, your submission to the next randomer who messages you on Fetlife?

Are you making, or are you tempted to make, decisions that may be detrimental to your health, safety or mental wellbeing out of desire to submit?

Do you feel like you might just GO MAD if you can’t submit to someone right now?

If you said yes to any of the above, you might be in sub-frenzy.

What is this ‘frenzy’ crap? Don’t good submissives want to submit all the time?

No.

Good submissives are not doormats. Real talk time: being so desperate to submit that you make poor decisions is not only really dangerous, it’s also really unattractive to good Dominants.

If you’re looking for a long-term D/s relationship, a good Dominant will want to take time to get to know you and build a relationship with you. Even if you’re only after casual play, desperation isn’t sexy.

Okay, I’ve realised I might be a bit frenzied. What now?

Stop. Pause. Breathe.

Are you breathing? Okay, good. Now, I’m going to ask you to do something that is going to seem really, really antithetic to what every fibre of your being is screaming to do.

Wait.

Seriously. Just stop and catch your breath and wait. The best way to let frenzy pass is to acknowledge it and consciously decide not to give in to it. Give yourself a time-limit, if you want. “I am not going to play with anyone knew until I have been going to munches for three months” works well, or “I am not going to let my next partner collar me until we have known each other for at least a year.” You know yourself and what kind of timescale is realistic. Very broadly, in my anecdotal experience, frenzy will probably pass in more than a month but less than a year.

Frenzy is normal and it passes. I promise. But in order to keep yourself safe, you need to practice discipline and patience.

How can I scratch the itch to submit in a safe way?

Join your local community. Please. Meet some people, get to know them, get a sense of who the safe players are. If you meet someone you’d like to play with, do so in a public place like a play party to begin with.

Watch some good BDSM porn. Write and read erotica. Fantasise. Wank furiously. Read everything you can about the lifestyle and learn, learn, learn. (Fifty Shades of Grey and the Gor novels do not count.)

How will I know when sub-frenzy has passed?

Your desire to submit, though still there, will be somewhat less visceral and immediate. You’ll be able to think through situations with a clearer head and make decisions with your own best interests at heart. You won’t want to fall to the feet of every vaguely Domly person you meet. You’ll know some of the red flags of a dangerous Dominant to look out for, and the signs of a good one.

Good luck. This too shall pass.

Kinky item of the day: A leash! I loooove leashes. Nothing makes me feel more submissive than being led around by my Domly one. Ours just came from a pet store. No need to spend a lot of money. [Remember: don’t be super obvious or you risk involving the store staff in your kink non-consensually!]

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

Ask Amy #4: “Can I get safe toys on a budget?”

It’s been a while since I’ve had a reader question, so I am super excited to dive into today’s. This one’s about one of my favourite topics: SEX TOYS!

Our lovely reader asks:

“Hi Amy. I was wondering, what do I need to know when looking for cheap, body-safe sex toys, especially here in the UK?”

A blue dildo and some condoms. For a post about body safe toys on a budget

I love this question so much. First, Letter Writer and everyone else, please know this: it is simply NOT TRUE that affordable body-safe toys don’t exist. This is a complete myth, and it’s a harmful fiction that leads people on a restricted budget to buy unsafe toys under the mistaken notion that they can’t get anything better within their price-range.

You absolutely can. You categorically, 1000% can. And what’s more, you deserve high-quality, safe stuff that you can enjoy without worrying about your health.

So, what to look out for?

Firstly, it’s all about materials.

Good: Silicone. ABS Plastic. Glass (of the borosilicate or “Pyrex” variety.) Stainless steel. Aluminium. Ceramic, as long as it’s treated with a non-toxic glaze. Wood, as long as it’s treated with a non-toxic glaze or sealant.

Bad: TPR. TPE. Rubber. PVC. “Cyberskin” etc. “Sil-a-Gel.” Latex. Anything with “jelly” in the name.

Generally, metal, ceramic and wood toys will be more expensive, while silicone, ABS and glass are easy to find on a budget.

The materials I’ve listed as “good” are perfect because they’re non-toxic (no phthalates or other harmful ingredients,) don’t off-gas or leech chemicals, and are non-porous so they won’t harbour bacteria as long as you wash them thoroughly between every use.

Those I’ve listed as “bad” are variable. Please avoid anything with “jelly” in the name like the plague – these almost certainly contain phthalates, as does PVC. That’s how they get that squishy texture. “Cyberskin” and anything else that is sold as “realistic,” if it’s not silicone, is also to be avoided. TPE/TPR (thermoplastic elastomer/rubber) don’t usually contain phthalates, but are porous as fuck and may be softened with other nasty chemicals. Same goes for latex, which is also a super common allergen and there’s some evidence that prolonged exposure can cause or exacerbate sensitivity. “Sil-a-gel” isn’t even a real thing and it certainly isn’t in any way the same as silicone.

[Note: The ONE exception I’ll make for PVC is the Doxy Original, which uses medical-grade (and therefore phthalate-free) PVC for the head. They claim it’s non-porous and I’m inclined to believe them as they’re such a great, transparent and ethical company – and also my Doxy is still good as new after 2 years – but I haven’t seen any hard scientific evidence. If you’re cautious and want a Doxy, either always use a non-latex condom, or buy the Die Cast, which has a silicone head.]

If you want to read up more on the specifics of these materials and why they’re toxic, I recommend Dangerous Lilly’s brilliant guide.

Also worth adding is that if you don’t know what it’s made of, avoid it, and remember that the sex toy industry is pretty much unregulated – so just because a company claims something is body-safe, doesn’t mean that it is.

It’s NOT all about brands

A lot of the toys you’ll hear recommended come from big-name brands in the business: Doxy. Lelo. Tantus. We-vibe. Hitachi (less so this one in the UK.) These brands and many more are popular for good reason (though Lelo are kinda… ugh, these days,) so if you do ever spot their products on a mega-sale, you’ll most likely be getting something good quality.

But you don’t need big brands or loads of cash for great quality toys!

Go own-brand

As with food, own-brand sex toys can be much cheaper but not compromise much on quality when compared to the big names.

Lovehoney and Bondara are two examples of companies who do some really solid own-brand stuff. Not everything in their lines are safe, unfortunately, but if you follow the materials guide above, you can’t go far wrong.

A quick note about retailers:

Tempting though it is, please please resist the urge to buy your toys from a retailer such as eBay or Amazon. There are loads of knock-offs around on all the major brand toys, some of them quite convincing, so there’s no way to know for sure if you’re getting a genuine product. Dangerous Lilly (she’s amazing!) has written more extensively on this.

I personally really advocate for Lovehoney, because their returns policy is stellar and they really care about their customers. Full disclosure: they are an affiliate partner of mine and if you buy through them with one of my links, I may make a small commission. However, my first concern is always my readers’ happiness and safety, I will never recommend an unsafe toy, and I only partner with companies I strongly believe in.

Some Concrete Suggestions

I thought I’d put together a list of options for various tastes that are body-safe, under £30, and easily available in the UK.

In the interests of full disclosure, Lovehoney links are affiliate links. Other links are not. If you buy from Lovehoney, whether one of the listed items or something else, use code COFFKINK10 to get 10% off your order.

Clitoral Vibrators:

G-spot Vibrators:

Rabbit Vibrators:

Dildos (silicone)

Dildos (other safe materials)

Anal toys:

This list is by no means exhaustive or even really scratching the surface. These are just a few of the categories of toys available and just a very small handful of the options out there. Go forth and get your sexy on, lovely Letter Writer, and I hope this was helpful to you and anyone else shopping for safe toys on a budget.

Remember: we all deserve pleasure, and we all deserve SAFE toys, no matter what our financial situation.

Love,
Amy xx

Remember: I’ll answer your question on the blog, too! Just email coffeeandkink69 (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll help if I can.

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

Keeping Your Sexy Going When Times Are Hard

We all go through difficult times in our lives. It’s part of being human. Today’s prompt from Kayla Lords’ 3o Days of D/s, which I’m working from for #KinkMonth, is all about maintaining kinky fuckery in a relationship when times are tough. She asks:

Does it surprise you that you might not maintain the same level of D/s during the stressful times? Do you think you know how you’ll handle your relationship when it does?

A white female-read person with long dark hair wearing a blue shirt. They have their hand to their forehead and a stressed expression on their face. For a post about sex in difficult times.

Now, I’m a person for whom sex is very important. I have (arguably, depending upon who you ask) an above-average drive and sex is a really important part of intimate relationships for me. This doesn’t change when times get stressful. It just means I have to be a bit more creative to make sure that I continue to prioritise sex in my life.

Here’s some things that have worked for me. Maybe they’ll help you, too, next time “life” gets in the way.

Make dates with your partner

If you have a partner or partners, schedule dates and stick to them. During this time, make a rule that you won’t answer your phones, check email or discuss the current stressful topic. Instead, whatever you enjoy doing together, do that: make some tasty food, order in, watch a film, take a walk, share a hot bath. Relax and practice being present with and grateful for each other. This is less about “scheduling time for sex” and more about carving out time for your relationship and making sure you stay connected to each other. Do this, and the sex should follow.

Make dates with yourself

Whether you have a partner or not, making time for yourself is important. Put “Me Time” in your Google calendar if you have to! A minimum of one four-hour block a week is ideal if you can do it. During this time, you should only do things that feel good to you: read a good book, watch your favourite TV show, surf the internet guilt-free, go for a run, cuddle your pet, write in your journal. Whatever feels good. During this time, give yourself permission to do things like watch porn, read erotica, fantasise and masturbate if you want to. Again, this isn’t about “scheduling time to jerk off” – it’s about freeing up time and space to focus on yourself and give yourself permission to feel good.

Explore erotic energy without penetration, or orgasm, necessarily being the goal

When was the last time you and your partner just had a heavy make-out session that didn’t necessarily lead to any kind of genital contact? What about the last time you shared a sexy shower, gave each other massages, or even just casually hung out naked because you could? Erotic, sexual and intimate energy can take many forms and we’re so accustomed, once we get into sexual relationships, to rushing straight into genital-focused sex with orgasm as the assumed end goal. When times are hard, it can be the ideal time to explore other types of touch, connection and intimacy. If your brain won’t switch off long enough to let you reach climax, or your cock isn’t getting hard when you want it to, this can be a beautiful way to maintain a sexual connection with your partner and yourself.

Biology comes first

This is so basic, but don’t underestimate the power of trying to sleep 8 hours per night, drink plenty of water, eat well, and get plenty of exercise and fresh air. These simple rituals of taking care of yourself can completely transform how you feel. None of us can have sizzling sex when we’re exhausted or malnourished.

Get a change of location for stressful subjects

I have been known to do it at times, but generally I really prefer not having conversations about difficult topics or current stresses in mine and Mr CK’s bedroom. This is because our room, for me, is a place for cuddles, restful sleep, and… sex. I understand being able to do this is a privilege and not everyone has that ability. For me, though, a change of location – ideally to a pub, coffee shop or even just taking a walk – for talking things through can help to keep the stress out of our sexy space. Even having difficult conversations in the living room instead of the bedroom can be useful.

Give yourself permission to NOT want sex

This might sound counter-intuitive, but it’s actually really, really important. Nothing will kill your libido faster than beating yourself up for the times when you DON’T want to have sex! It’s okay to not want to have sex sometimes, whether that’s due to tiredness or work stress or depression or the fact that you’d really rather just watch Netflix. Beating yourself up makes the very idea of sex into a stressful and painful topic. Giving yourself permission to not want sex sometimes also gives you permission for the times you do want it.

I hope some of these ideas will be useful to you the next time you’re having a difficult time but would like to keep getting your sexy on. You’ve got this. I believe in you.

Kinky item of the day: Gags! I adore gags. What about this large ball gag, which is silicone – meaning it’s non-porous and will stay hygienic for longer?

FYI, the above is an affiliate link. If you buy through it, I may make a small commission. This does not affect my opinions which are, and will always be, my own.

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

Tools to Help with Your Sexy Negotiation

 

If there’s one thing you should have learned about me if you’ve followed me on social media or read my blog for any amount of time, it’s that I am a geek about all things sex, kink and relationships. Like, seriously, I am always looking for new tools and hacks to make this stuff better and easier.

A yes/no checklist with a person's hand ticking the "yes" box. For a post on negotiation tools.

I’m celebrating #KinkMonth by writing articles inspired by Kayla Lords’ brilliant 30 Days of D/s project. Today’s prompt was all about negotiation! Kayla and John have this to say on the subject:

People read the word “negotiation” and imagine some sort of back and forth thing around a table in a formal way. It can be that, sure, but mostly it’s just the conversation you have to figure out what kind of D/s relationship you want for yourself. Submissives have the right to, and should, ask why a rule/task/ritual is being put in place and both sides should have the freedom to disagree, suggest other things, and make sure their needs are being met.

Negotiations aren’t a one time thing either. You’ll come back to this over and over again in your relationship. Will you have a contract? Do you need a checklist? What exactly does a negotiation sound like? 

So, in the spirit of this and my unending geekery, I thought I’d share with you my favourite tools for aiding with your kinky and sexy negotiations. You can adapt these for a new relationship, a changing relationship, or even exploring something new with the person you’ve been married to for twenty years. Tips and tools are there to serve you. Pick and choose the bits that work for you.

Tool #1: A really good Yes/No/Maybe checklist

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of these available for free on the internet. It’s essentially a huge list of different sexy and kinky activities. Uou go through and mark each activity as “YES I like that/want to do that,” “NO I don’t like that/want to do that,” or “MAYBE I would be open to trying that under specific circumstances”. You can either go through it together, or do them separately and then swap to compare. Either way it’s a brilliant tool to get discussion flowing, figure out what kinks you have in common, and maybe discover some brilliant new activities you didn’t know existed.

(Ask me how I learned what “figging” and “rimming” are.)

This one is ridiculously thorough and even includes a 0-5 scale for rating how into something you are.

Tool #2: Google Docs…

…Or any other browser-based shared editing system! This is a great way to share a checklist and compare answers easily. Maybe have a list with a column for each of your answers, side by side? You can even edit it as you explore and your limits evolve and change.

Tool #3: Pervocracy’s ‘Concise Kink Worksheet’

The Yes/No/Maybe list is wonderful, but it’s also LONG. When you’ve established you have some compatible kinks and are wanting to get down to playtime, this sheet suggests talking points and cuts straight to the core of the things you need to know in order to have a safe, sexy and satisfying play session.

Tool #4: Instant Messenger

Facebook, WhatsApp, Signal or even boring old text messaging. Is having those early negotiations face to face too hard? Do you find yourself getting tongue-tied trying to talk about the things you want to do? Don’t underestimate the power of getting the conversation moving in written form… even if you live together! You’ll have to move face to face eventually if you want to actually do the kinky fun. But there’s no shame at all in doing some of the preliminaries in writing. (It can actually be really useful to be able to refer back to what you both said later, too.)

Tool #5: The 30 Days of D/s project!

Kayla’s 30 days of prompts are brilliant for beginners to kink and D/s, to be sure. But they’re also useful for the more experienced among us to delve more deeply into our thoughts and feelings on all things kinky. I’ve been doing this stuff for *cough* years and I’m getting tonnes out of this project. You can use it as blog prompts, journal ideas, conversation points to bounce around with your partner, or even just things to quietly think about and maybe come back to later. It’s FREE too (unless you want all 30 days in one easy workbook, in which case it’s a stunningly good value $4.99.)

Bonus Tool #6 AND kinky item of the day: The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book (not affiliate links) are still among the best and most informative guides out there for people new to kink and looking to get started… or even as a refresher for those with a bit more experience!

If you enjoyed this post and would like to support me, please consider becoming a sexy Patron, buying me a virtual coffee, or shopping with my affiliates in the right hand sidebar.

CK & Exhibit A on… Dick Size

I did a discussion-based joint post on pegging with the awesome Exhibit A for his site a while back, and it was so much fun we decided to reconvene for another one. Inspired by our friend who wrote in about being insecure about his girlfriend’s toy usage, this time we’re talking everything to do with dicks, and specifically the size of them.

]Note: we use some cis-centric language here, referring to people with penises as men. This is due to the experience we’re writing from (EA is a cis man and I’m a cis woman who has fucked a lot of cis men) but we acknowledge this shortcoming. In no way did we mean to imply that women can’t have penises, men can’t have vulvas, or that these are the only two gender options.]

A half uncoiled tape measure on a red background. For a post on Dick Size with Exhibit A

Exhibit A lives in London, describes himself as an “urban fox,” and likes to “write stories and get naked (usually not at the same time.”)

Here’s what we had to say about dicks.

CK: So this conversation started because of a reader question I answered, where the person was jealous of/intimidated by his girlfriend’s sex toys, specifically because he feared her using toys meant his penis isn’t “big enough.”I approached it from a very much “you’re fine as you are, talk to your partner and work on your insecurities” angle but, as a vulva-owner, I don’t really get the penis insecurity thing. Especially because, for me at least, dick size is such a tiny factor when it comes to whether or not I want to have sex with someone! But I think you had some thoughts to add to this as a penis-owner?

EA: Well yes – when it comes to dick, I have lots of thoughts, some of which are about size. On this occasion, what I found interesting about your answer (especially in light of what you just said about your own preferences) was that you didn’t give the generic “hey, size doesn’t matter, your penis is definitely big enough so stop worrying” response that other, more mainstream sex columnists might have gone with. You sort of acknowledged in a tacit way that size is important to some people, and that it’s fine for that to be the case.

CK: Yeah, because I have no way of knowing what his girlfriend’s preference is. I did tell him that his dick is fine as it is and that all genitals are beautiful, because this is what I believe, but whether it’s actually “big enough” for HER personal preferences? That I can’t speak to because I’m not her.

EA: Yep, exactly that. I thought it was quite a nuanced way to handle the question, and the (sensitive) issue of dick size more generally. In his position, I think I’d find that perversely reassuring. It’s often helpful, when you have a nagging worry (whether it relates to your body, your job, your friendships, whatever) to have someone around who won’t sugarcoat things or BS you with stuff they think you want to hear. Makes it easier to say “ok, what am I actually going to do about it?” And when it comes to dick size – or more specifically to a gap between what one partner has and what one partner might (in an ideal world) want, there’s PLENTY you can do about it, of course.

CK: Yeah, that’s really true although one obviously has to be VERY careful with it because: self esteem is fragile. There’s absolutely loads you can do about it – including, ironically, toys!

EA: Yes! Toys are awesome for this and they’re awesome in their own right, which is kind of the point. It sounded like your correspondent was intimidated by them because he saw them as a penis replacement – as a way of his girlfriend getting something he couldn’t provide – rather than as something that could enrich their sex life in a more holistic sense.

CK: Yes, exactly – and I tried to tackle that as well by suggesting he try using toys in their sex together and possibly also in his solo sex life. So tell me: is it true, in your experience, that the majority of men are hung (heh) up on their dick size? And if so: why?

EA: I already heh’d earlier at your ‘dick size is such a tiny factor’ comment – apparently we’re all about the puns today.

CK: I am ALWAYS about the puns, especially if they involve cock.

EA: I don’t know that the majority of men are hung up on dick size, but I’d certainly say that for most guys it’s a consideration we’re aware of. Cultural considerations play a big role in that. Whether it’s Sex & the City, suggestive TV advertising, columns in women’s (and lads’) mags, dick size is very much seen as fair game for discussion, analysis, (occasionally cruel) humour, and fetishisation. As a guy, you absorb all that and of course it has an impact on the relationship you have with your own penis.

CK: Absolutely. And it seems to be an easy/lazy attack to throw at a guy.

EA: An attack, and vice versa – having a big dick is seen as something to be proud of, or to brag about. So of course we do, especially as teenagers and young men, whether we actually have one or not.

CK: I kinda think “you have a small dick” to a guy is the equivalent of “you’re fat” to a woman. Whether it’s actually true is irrelevant (and the body positive amongst us know that neither of these things are bad anyway!) but it’s an easy way to hit someone’s self esteem. With one exception, all the guys I’ve had PIV with have been on the bigger side. I don’t know why, because it’s not something I look for! Interestingly, the one who was on the smaller side had a really big complex about it, while all the others didn’t seem too fussed one way or the other.

EA: I spent years in the changing room at school trying to hide my lower half when I got (un)dressed, because I was convinced that a) I had a small dick, and b) people would laugh/take the piss out of it.

CK: That’s really sad but seems to be a really common experience. Can you talk about how your relationship with your dick has grown (hehe) or changed over the years?

EA: To form that insecurity at the age of 14/15, before I’d had sex, and before I’d even really been exposed to porn and the kind of content where dick size is openly discussed, invites an interesting discussion about where it comes from, I think. Both my dick and my relationship with it have grown since I was 15!

CK: Oh gosh yes! Do you think that insecurity came from the kind of harmful “banter” you were just talking about? Hearing other guys bragging?

EA: Perhaps. Perhaps I’d also absorbed cultural messaging without even realising it. There was also some residual insecurity, I think, from being the only circumcised boy in my swimming class at primary school, and having other boys openly stare/draw attention to that, in a negative way. But yes, over the years I’ve come to love my penis for what it is, and to stop worrying about what it’s not.

CK: Yes, cultural messaging is all around us for sure… a bit like the way really young girls are now super insecure about their bodies and thinking they need to diet.

EA: Some of the change was just growing up, I think. Some of it was reading about dick size – like, getting the facts, rather than just believing my mate in the lunch queue when he casually mentioned that 8 inches was average. And inevitably a lot of it was affirmation, love, and happy sexual experiences with/from sexual partners. In an ideal world, none of us would need external validation/affirmation to feel good about our bodies. In the world we live in, of course it tends to help!

CK: Absolutely! That’s one reason I wish we had more comprehensive and accurate sex ed. Such a simple way to make a lot of teenagers more secure about their bodies and stop them absorbing quite so much toxic false information. Apart from more good information, what else do you think would help guys feel more secure about their dick, whatever size it is?

EA: I’ll say this, actually – one additional thing guys have to deal with is the harmful trope that penises are ‘ugly’. If you’re already worried about size, the idea that it’s just making your dick even less attractive from an already low base is pretty depressing

CK: YES! I don’t believe so many people think genitals are ugly, they’re gorgeous – especially when they’re attached to a human I like.

EA: It really helped me when I started to have partners say things like “your dick is beautiful” or “I love the way your dick looks”, rather than just ascribing it a practical/functional value. Getting my head round the idea that women could (and do!) find penises aesthetically pleasing/attractive was a big (and happy) thing for me…again, pun absolutely intended.

CK: So people who have sex with people with dicks definitely have a role to play in this issue?

EA: They do, yes – though it’s important to qualify that by saying they’re not ultimately responsible for the body/penis image of men with dicks. As guys, that’s ultimately down to us.

CK: I think it’s everyone’s responsibility ultimately to work on their own insecurities/hang-ups, with the help of partners and loved ones for sure… but it has to come from within.

EA: But sure, the more external support/affirmation we get, the easier it becomes to ignore any negative messaging, whether that’s coming from within us or from the wider world.

CK: So what IS a guy to do if he’s smaller than his partner would ideally prefer, but they love each other and want to have great sex? And, conversely, if he’s bigger than average and this makes sex difficult? Because my first sexual partner was way above average size and that shit HURT when I was 16 and didn’t have access to lube or proper information.

EA: I was just about to bring it back round to that by saying that I have had relationships – casual and more serious – with women who have been open about their preference for larger dick than I’m packing.

CK: Ooh! And how does that work for you?

EA: Hmm, I actually found it quite easy to rationalise/deal with in the end. I think there are a few keys to overcoming it.. 1. It’s important to acknowledge that whether you’re talking appearance, personality, job, wealth, hobbies, or whatever, our real-life partners are never going to match up in every area with the ideal partner we might create in our head.

CK: That’s SUCH a good point for life in general.

EA: 2. Once you accept that, it becomes easier to kind of interrogate your insecurities. To ask yourself ‘well ok, would I be this bothered if she told me she typically went for really tall guys, just because I’m only average height?’ Or on the flip side, to remind yourself that you tend to eye up women with brown hair, but still fancy the pants off her ‘even though’ she’s blonde. 3. We are the sum of our physical features, our personality traits, our experiences…we can’t and shouldn’t reduce ourselves to one element of them. Obsessing over the fact that your girlfriend prefers hung guys means ignoring all the things she finds hot or attractive about you, and all the reasons why she fucks you, rather than Johnny Big Balls with the 9″ monster cock.

CK: So much yes to all of that.

EA: Also, by focusing solely on the disparity between the dick you have and the dick you imagine she wants, you’re making sex all about…well, all about dick. And that’s a pretty gross way to look at it. When I was in those relationships, it never crossed my mind that my partner wouldn’t enjoy sex with me, just because in a fantasy world where genies came flying out of lamps, she might add an inch or two to my cock.

CK: Also if your partner reduces you to just your dick size or any other physical attribute, they’re kinda… well, being a dick.

EA: She enjoyed sex with me because we had awesome chemistry, and similar kinks, and gave each other great oral, and loved to kiss for hours, and all those other awesome things. Reduce love or sex to any one element and you risk going down a very dangerous path, IMO. I focused on being the whole package (heh) for her in bed, knowing that actually, dick size expectations was one of the easier hurdles to overcome.

CK: That’s such a great approach to sex.

EA: Going back to toys, I would gleefully fuck the shit out of her with an 8-inch dildo while she sucked my cock, or tie her up and stretch her slowly with something thick, knowing that she’d find something equally awesome to do to/with me afterwards. It’s a lot harder to find ways around other problems someone might have with you. Or rather, other preferences someone might have.

CK: Absolutely. And therein you’ve captured perfectly why I advised our insecure friend to use toys with his girlfriend!

EA: I hope he took your advice! By the way, while there are definitely wrong ways to go about doing it, I actually have a lot of time for women who aren’t ashamed/afraid to declare a preference for larger dicks. If they do it in a sex-positive, happy way, rather than a sneering or mocking one, well, I think that takes a fair bit of balls and some good self-awareness/knowledge of their own bodies/preferences.

CK: Yes, that definitely makes sense. I also wish that women who stated we don’t really care/don’t prefer huge dicks would be taken at face value about our preferences!

EA: Women get so much shit for loving sex (or being greedy about it, or wanting to ‘fuck like men’) that to hear someone come out and say “fuck it, I love big dicks” is kinda hot. What you just said, though, that’s the irony of our collective male insecurity about dick size: w’ve cultivated it to the point where women who come out and say “I don’t actually care either way” or even “I prefer smaller/average dicks” – messages that should be music to our ears – simply aren’t believed! Moral of this story? Believe women when they talk about what they do/don’t want. It will be much easier for all concerned.

CK: Also good advice for life. to be honest. Believe people about their own preferences!

EA: Fuck yeah. And talk about those preferences with them! Don’t just assume that “I prefer this” means “it’s my #1 preference, it’s an absolute preference, it exists independently of any/all other preferences, and because you don’t conform to it, I can’t find anything else in you to love/fancy/desire.”

CK: Preach! (Example: my partner prefers naturally hairy women but ultimately having body hair is a small part of the whole package of what he’ll find attractive in a person.)

EA: We all have a preference set. They’re often fluid, nuanced, interdependent, and liable to shift as we experience new things. That’s part of the beauty of being human, and of having sex with other humans.

CK: So the thesis is basically: genitals are great. Dicks are hot. People have different preferences and we should listen to each other. And TOYS ARE GREAT ALWAYS.

EA: Nailed it.

Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed our second co-authored piece. Remember to check out EA’s blog and, if you like the work I’m doing here on Coffee & Kink, consider becoming a sexy patron.