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!

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. 

No, You Cannot Get “Addicted” to a Vibrator

Anyone who has read my work for any length of time will know how I feel about the concept of “sex addiction” – in short, that it’s medically meaningless, so broadly applied as to be useless, and the sole criteria to diagnose someone seems to be “has sex more than the diagnoser or in ways that the diagnoser finds personally distasteful.” Read Dr David Ley’s amazing book for more information if this interests you.

Today, though, I want to talk about “sex addiction”‘s equally insidious little sister – “vibrator addiction.”

A close up of cocaine powder and a rolled up £10 note. For a post about being addicted to vibrators.

I have a variation of this conversation at least weekly, either online or occasionally in real life:

Them: “I want a good clitoral vibrator for me/for my female partner.”
Me: “Try the Doxy! It’s great because…” (*sends link*)
Them: “Oh no, that looks like something I/she could get addicted to!”
Me: *facedesks into next week*

I am here to clear up this myth once and for all, and also to have a central resource to point people to so I don’t have to have this argument on a weekly basis. S0:

You cannot get addicted to a vibrator.

Repeat after me: You. Cannot. Get. Addicted. To. A. Vibrator.

The fears here seem to fall broadly into three camps, so I am going to tackle each of them one at a time.

Fear the first: “I’ll break/stretch/loosen/desensitize my vulva if I use toys too much.”

Genitals are fucking cool, y’all. They do not “break” or “wear out” from overuse, and they are remarkable at bouncing back – for fuck’s sake, pushing an entire small human out of a vagina causes it more strain than even the most hardcore of sex toys!

I think this myth is closely associated with the (also false) narrative of a vagina becoming “loose” or “used up” if its owner has too much sex or has sex with too many different people. It fails to neglect the medical reality that the vagina is a muscle and muscles Do Not Work That Way.

You cannot break your vagina. You cannot stretch it out permanently in any kind of significant way. It won’t mold around a toy and become unable to enjoy anything else. It won’t break or become unable to have or enjoy sex in the future. Promise!

There is also no evidence whatsoever that prolonged or repeated usage of vibrators – even really high-powered ones like my beloved Doxy or the famed Hitachi – causes any long-term loss of sensation in the clitoris or vulva. At most, some people report feeling desensitized for a short while after a toy session – especially with buzzier toys – but these effects are really short-lived (typically minutes or hours) and cause no long-term damage or change in sensation whatsoever.

I’ve been using my Doxy for years – probably for ten orgasms a week for two and a half years, on average? – and other vibes long before that, and I still squirm at the slightest flick of my partner’s tongue over my clit. Vibes will not ruin the nerves or the sensation in your bits. I promise.

Tangential but related: I also see a lot of questions along the lines of “I used a toy and now my bits hurt, did I irreparably damage myself?” No, you probably used a toy made from a toxic material, or used a toy made from a material you’re for some reason sensitive to, or didn’t use enough lube, or didn’t warm yourself up enough, or it’s just your body’s response to a new stimulus that it’s not used to. (A bit like your muscles ache the next day if you do a new form of exercise!)

Fear the second: “But what if using a vibrator is the only way I can orgasm?”

I’m going to say something truly radical now.

If using a vibrator is the only or the most reliable way for you to achieve orgasm: USE THE FUCKING VIBRATOR, ENJOY YOUR ORGASMS, AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT.

Orgasms are great, and we should all be having as many of them in our lives as we wish to. There are countless ways to reach orgasm – from fucking, manual sex, oral sex, anal play, being punched in the butt (or is that last one just me?) And, of course, via the use of sex toys such as vibrators.

Here’s a secret: all these ways of reaching orgasm are equally wonderful, equally valid and equally real. ALL orgasms are wonderful as long as everyone involved in inducing them is consenting. That’s literally the only criteria.

I encourage everyone who wants to, to experiment with all different kinds of pleasure and see what works for them and what feels good. It’s also worth remembering that these things can, and probably will, change over time. I used to come reliably from clitoral fingering by a partner, but my clit got more sensitive as I got older and now this is a pretty rare feat. Conversely, I never used to have G-spot orgasms, but now I have them quickly, explosively and repeatedly. And my experience with using toys has been that it has broadened my experience of pleasure and the ways in which I am able to come.

However, no form of pleasure or orgasm is inherently any better than any other. Some vulva-owners spend their entire lives chasing the elusive vaginal-only orgasm, but the reality is that somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of vulvas simply don’t work that way. People often become deeply upset because they, or their partner, doesn’t reach orgasm from oral sex – even if they enjoy the sensation and the act itself. I think these beliefs are heavily tied in with the mistaken notion that we should be able to bring our partners to easy and explosive multiple orgasms with nothing but our hands/mouth/dick, and that anything else – whether it’s them masturbating themselves or using a toy or even just enjoying a session where orgasm isn’t necessarily the goal – is somehow lesser.

I am here to tell you that it’s not. If you come easily in fifty different ways, you’re beautiful and valid. If you only come with a vibrator or other toy or in some other super specific way, you’re equally beautiful and valid.

The overwhelming majority of the time, my answer to “Dear Amy, please help, the only way I can reliably orgasm is by doing this thing” is “….then do that thing.”

Fear the third: “Can toys become a replacement for partnered sex?”

The short answer is no. The long answer is this post in response to a worried reader who was afraid his girlfriend’s dildo would replace him.

A lot of people are afraid that they, or their partners, will find the stimulation they get from a toy to be so overwhelmingly amazing that they won’t have any need for partnered sex in the future.

Again, this is not only completely lacking in evidence, I’ve actually found the opposite is more often true. Exploring my sexuality through toys has increased my potential for erotic enjoyment and therefore improved the partnered sex I have. I am not the only person to have reported this kind of experience.

A toy, however much you love it, cannot be a substitute for a partner. Terms like “battery operated boyfriend” or “the perfect lover” to describe toys have a lot to answer for. Until a toy is sentient, there for me, makes me laugh, snuggles me at night, watches Netflix with me, takes me on adventures and brings me coffee, it is NOT a boyfriend/lover/partner – it’s an inanimate object, a tool through which to experience pleasure.

As I said to our friend who was jealous of his girlfriend’s favourite silicone dick:

Partnered sex is about so much more than just “does your body part satisfy my body part?” It’s about connection, about the feel and smell and warmth of a partner close to you, about the thud of body-on-body, about the rhythm and the dance and the responses between two (or more) people. Partnered sex is in-fucking-credible for so many reasons and a toy can’t fully replicate many of them. Pervocracy has a great article on some of the reasons people might love partnered sex.

So no. Your girlfriend isn’t going to dump you or stop having sex with you because she likes her vibrator more, and she’s not going to get so hooked on wanking with it that you never see her. (That stupid scene in Sex & the City also has a lot to answer for here!)

In short: “Vibrator Addiction” is a shaming tactic, and nothing more.

It shames people who struggle to achieve orgasm without a toy, people who don’t orgasm in socially sanctioned ways (i.e. by penetration with a penis,) people who need a lot of stimulation in order to come… and basically just adds to the stigma of vulva-owners masturbating and prioritising their pleasure.

It’s also sexist as fuck. If a cis man masturbates to porn two or three times a day, people will see him as a normal guy with a healthy sex drive. But if a woman or other person with a vulva uses a vibrator most days or every day, she may well face accusations of being addicted.

Addiction is a serious medical problem with causes major issues in the sufferer’s life and the lives of the people around them. No-one, to the best of my knowledge, has ever turned to crime, alienated their family and friends, lost their job or run themselves into debt because their Magic Wand just felt too good and gave them too many orgasms. Minimising the very real pain of addiction and co-opting it as a sex-shaming tactic is incredibly insensitive and harmful to anyone who has suffered from addiction or been affected by having a sufferer close to them.

So let’s stop with the “vibrators are addictive” bullshit and let people have orgasms in the ways that work for them, yes?

I Won’t Apologise For My Body Any More

Those of us who are socialised as women are taught to hate our bodies more or less from the day we’re born. If you think I’m wrong, consider that someone thought this onesie for a baby girl was a good idea. Consider that pretty much every Disney movie ever holds up “pretty” (for the value of “pretty” that equates to thin, white, young, able bodied and virginal) as the most important thing a girl can be. Consider that 40% of 10-and-11-year-old girls think they need to lose weight.

A black and white anonymous art nude. For a post entitled I Will Not Apologise for my Body Any More

Make no mistake: self-loathing and body hatred is heaped upon us from infancy. Is there any wonder that so many of us make it to adulthood with a totally fucked up relationship with food, exercise, our bodies and our looks?

This stuff is so completely internalised and normalised that for most of us, becoming aware of it and then beginning to undo it is probably going to be a lifelong journey. We cannot love ourselves and cast off all our worries overnight. What we can do, though? What we can do, though, is stop apologising.

I will not apologise for my weight.

Spoiler for those who haven’t met me: I don’t weigh 90lb. A year and a half ago, I weighed double that number. I’ve since lost ~30lb, but that’s not what matters. I was an awesome badass with many great qualities then, and I am an awesome badass with many great qualities now.

Humans come in many shapes and sizes, and the idea that skinnier is automatically better is a great pile of steaming bullshit.

“Sorry, I used to be thinner and I’m trying to get back there” will never again fall out of my mouth when I take my clothes off in front of a lover.

I will not apologise for my scars.

My scars are part of me. They tell a story, and the ending of that story is fuck you, I survived.

If you ask nicely, I might tell you the stories behind each one. If you ask really nicely, I might even let you touch them. But don’t tell me they’re ugly, don’t pity me, don’t tell me I’d be so much prettier if only my skin were unblemished. I’m scarred because I’ve lived. Deal with it.

I will not apologise for my body hair.

If I had a pound for every person who has told me body hair is disgusting… well, I could probably quit my job and just write about sex on the internet for the rest of my life. Real talk time: body hair is natural. The notion that one must remove it all in order to be beautiful is entirely socially constructed. The idea that women must be hairless originated with razor companies trying to branch out into new markets. It’s literally the epitome of “convince us there’s something wrong with us, then sell us the cure.”

Never again will I sheepishly ask a sexual partner if they’re willing to overlook my natural hair and fuck me anyway. Never again will I apologise when someone asks me to shave it off and I tell them no.

I’m fucking beautiful and if my natural body bothers you, well… that seems like a you problem.

I will not apologise for my physical limitations.

I’m not an exercise-bunny and I’m not particularly physically strong. I have come to accept these things about myself. My body does most of the things I want it to do, most of the time.

I’ll take walks with you, but if you want a chick to scale mountains with? I’m not your girl. I’ll jog for the bus if I have to, but if you want a partner in marathons? Not me.

Similarly, my body has certain needs now, including the ones it didn’t have when I was younger. I won’t apologise for needing to sleep and no longer being able to run on fumes. I won’t apologise for needing you to maybe not fuck me as deep as you possibly can. That shit hurts. I am entitled to not be in pain.

I will not apologise for the ways my body experiences pleasure.

I’ve probably apologised thousands of times to lovers for how hard it can be to get me off, or for the fact that my body doesn’t always perform pleasure in the most reliable and/or visually appealing and/or ego-stroking manner.

I’m not going to fake an orgasm when you ineptly go down on me for three minutes.  I’m not going to apologise when I still don’t come when you go down on me expertly for half an hour. I’ll tell you what I like and don’t like, and I’ll react in a way that feels authentic. But I’m not going to apologise if it doesn’t work in the way you think it should.

I’m done apologising for my body. My body carries me through the world and gives me – and the people who are lucky enough to share in it – astonishing pleasure. My body fucking rocks.

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.

Sex Educator Interview #3: Dawn Serra

The latest interview in this series comes from Dawn Serra, sex educator extraordinaire and host of the amazing Sex Gets Real podcast. I’ve reached out to Dawn for advice before, as have many other people, and I’ve always found her to be one of the most open-minded, affirming and compassionate educators around. I’m absolutely thrilled she agreed to take part and give us a little peek into her world.

The header image of the Sex Gets Real podcast by Dawn Serra

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

Officially, I’m a sex educator, sex podcaster, and a sex & relationship coach. But what those titles actually mean is I’ve dedicated myself to shame reduction, resilience building, emotional & sexual intelligence development, and helping people find words for things that feel scary or awkward. I’ve learned that what people really need is permission – permission to ask questions, permission to explore, permission to let go of stories that hurt them, and I try to do that every day by connecting the dots between the cultural stories and systems of oppression that keep us all trapped in pain and disconnection, and then giving people new tools and skills for moving in the direction they’d like to move.

What first made you want to be a sex educator and run a sex podcast?

I’ve always been the person my friends came to with sex questions and confessions, even in middle school and high school. Then, in my early 20’s, I started selling sex toys with one of those in-home party companies. While the company & products were problematic, it gave me a chance to talk with hundreds of women, one-on-one, about their deepest fears and shame.

It cracked me open in ways that surprised me, and I knew it was work I wanted to keep doing. It was fascinating to watch groups of women socially interacting with each other around sex. Many of them were loud and laughing, telling these wild stories about their sex life, very Sex and the City, but then behind closed doors with me would admit they’d never had an orgasm or didn’t know they were allowed to use a sex toy with a partner. Others would be quiet and shy during the group portion of the party, and then break down crying in private with me over their deep sense of shame, of being a disappointment to their partners. I started realizing just how many of us are performing what we think sex is supposed to be and look like without actually experiencing it in a way that made sense for us.
That was the beginning.

My podcast, Sex Gets Real, got started was because my friend, Dylan, and I heard some terrible advice about strap-on sex from a shock-jock Playboy type of podcast. We just could not let it go. We were angry at how wrong it was, and that people were actually listening. So, on a whim, we decided our voices were needed. A few days later, we recorded our first episode and now I’m nearing 200 episodes and 3 million downloads. Whoa.

How did you break into the industry and how does one ‘make it’ as a sex educator?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I still don’t have it all figured out.

But for me, it’s always been about relationship building in the industry and finding ways to promote and lift up other voices. I knew that if I helped everyone around me, they’d in turn want to help me win and celebrate. I started attending conferences like Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit, promoting all the speakers, and stepping outside my comfort zone a bit by introducing myself to folks I’d long been a fan of.
The podcast also was a huge help. Even in the very very beginning of the show, I found that if I asked nicely, told someone why I thought they were super awesome, that they’d almost always say yes to an interview. Having them share the show helped me grow organically, which built some buzz, too.
Now I coach sex educators and therapists around building an online presence, creating online summits and courses, and my number one piece of advice for getting noticed is always be yourself. It’s SO tempting to want to emulate, copy, parrot, and follow in the footsteps of other educators. But then people don’t really know who you are. Be bold around stating your vision for a new world, your beliefs of what’s holding us back, your story and why it matters. Learn about social justice and oppression and then find ways to be unapologetic around your values and ethics in those spheres. Apologize when you’re wrong or hurt someone (because you will), and always always always take feedback graciously.

That more than anything has helped me to show up and be known for the sex educator I am today. The money stuff I’m still trying to figure out because the bottom line is people don’t want to pay for sex education unless it’s built on shiny promises and magic bullet solutions. To offer something more real and honest means a lot of swimming against the current. It’s possible, but it takes some grit and determination. And never, ever feel bad if sex education is your side hustle while you have a day job that pays the bills. Some of the biggest names in the industry do the same thing.

What does “a day in the life of a sex educator” look like for you?

For me, a typical day is a whole lot of admin work around the podcast, projects I’m working on, managing client updates and emails. One a good day, I’ll have a chance to do one or two podcast interviews with ridiculously amazing people. I may have a client session or two for personal or business coaching. Loads of social media writing and planning. Nurturing my Explore More group on Facebook. And then making big plans for future workshops, summits, webinars, etc.

What’s the best thing about being a sex educator, in your opinion? The worst?

The best thing is seeing people have massive shifts – seeing their relief, seeing their eyes light up at the possibilities they never knew could be theirs, hearing their vulnerable stories and knowing they trust me enough to hold them so gently and tenderly. That feeds my heart and soul.

The worst is how sex education is treated in the world. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – they all ban ads and promoted posts from sex educators because they consider sex education the same as pornography. Google Ads won’t allow you to buy ad space for the same reason. Getting the word out can be so tough because so many people are so filled with shame and embarrassment they aren’t willing to share your posts, even if they love them, for fear of people seeing them consume the content and thinking something is wrong.

Also, people don’t realize just how badly they need support around sex, love, relationships, and their bodies, so they aren’t willing to pay for webinars and workshops unless they’ve reached a total place of crisis. I wish more people understood that the sooner we all start practicing and learning together, the less we ever have to be in crisis or deep shame. But the world isn’t quite ready for that shift. Until then, we hustle and we persist, even in the shadows.

What’s your favourite episode of the podcast and why?

You have no idea how much I agonized over this question. I decided to go with one of my more recent episodes, simply because I’m incredibly proud of it.

For episode 162, I interviewed law professor and author Carol Sanger. It was the first time I dedicated an entire episode (or more than a few moments) to the topic of abortion. Carol’s book is truly spectacular, and to honor the seven years she spent writing it, I asked listeners to send in their abortion stories. I received about a dozen submissions. Each and every one was raw, real, and deeply personal. I felt like I was holding some of the most precious stories on earth – stories many of these people had never told another living soul. I read some of them on that episode, and Carol and I held them together. It wasn’t a super popular episode because I think too many people are scared of or biased around abortion discussions, but I am so so proud of that work.

Tell us about a book that changed your life/perspective completely?

Bessel van der Kolk’s “The Body Keeps the Score.” As a trauma survivor with PTSD, it was the first time my body, my reactions to situations, my trauma actually made sense. I started understanding what was happening inside of my body, inside of my brain, and it felt like pure relief.

Until I read that book, I considered myself broken in a lot of ways, incapable of healing or moving beyond certain things. I carried tremendous shame around my triggers, especially as a sex educator since my PTSD tends to come up in sexualized situations with strangers.
The research, the techniques to move towards integrating and recovery gave me hope. That book also gave me new language that allowed me to not only create permission and space in my own trauma, but around the trauma of the people I work with.
It led me to Peter Levine’s work and Somatic Experiencing. It took me down a path of learning more about being trauma-informed. It made sense of so many of the things that seem to not make sense in the world.

I am forever grateful for that book and the shift it caused in me.

Who inspires you, professionally and personally?

Professionally, Meg John Barker. Their work is powerful. They turn a lot of cultural stories and myths upside down, and in a way that doesn’t feel super threatening. I’ve found that so much of what I thought to be true is actually not true at all thanks to them, so I keep a close eye on their work. It’s always radical and permission-granting. Kate McCombs, Karen BK Chan, and Megan Devine in their work on empathy and emotional intelligence. That has done wonders for my professional work, how I work with clients, and my personal relationships, as well.

Personally, I’m inspired by folks who are brave and fighting endlessly for justice. The more I learn about my own racism, transphobia, fatphobia, ableism, classism, the more I grow and can lift others up. People like Ijeomo Oluo, Kelly Diels, Monica Raye Simpson, Jes Baker, Feminista Jones, Audre Lorde, Conner Habib… I feel rich with the people who offer me tough questions and who challenge me. It’s my favorite place to be, even when it feels terrible.

Also, as sappy as it sounds, my husband. He is so ridiculously smart. He reads endlessly, he listens to brain-growing podcasts all the time, and he knows more about all the things than anyone I know.

If you were stuck on a desert island (sorry, sorry, I HAD to do a ‘desert island’ question) and could take one sexy book, one sex toy and one kink item, which would you pick and why?

For my sex toy, I’d bring a rechargeable Magic wand. We’ll just pretend the island has a source of power for charging it. It’s deliciously diverse: I use on myself, I use it on my husband, and we use it together for sex in all sorts of configurations and positions.

For my kink item, it would have to be rope. I was tempted to say a flogger, but we could fashion a flogger from rope because it’s versatile like that. Then I’d have rope for both the kinky stuff (I’m imagining being tied to a palm tree and fanned with palm leaves) and practical island living stuff. Ha!

One sexy book… I have to go with Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy (it’s a box set, so I’m counting it as one). The first time I read those books I was probably 19 or 20 years old, had never heard of kink or BDSM, and they terrified me. Absolutely terrified me. I couldn’t understand why I kept feeling aroused by these very very unusual (to me) activities. In fact, I couldn’t finish the 3rd book because it was too much. A decade later, I picked them up and had to laugh. By then, I’d dabbled in all sorts of kink, had a chance to exploring shifting identities, and met people into all the things in the book. Now, they’re a fun escape that’s sexy and hot and full of delicious ideas.

What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but don’t believe any more, and what changed your mind?

I used to believe men wanted sex more than women. I used to believe there were only two genders. I used to believe monogamy was the only way to do relationship. I used to believe fat bodies were rarely, if ever, desirable. I used to believe that love was enough. I used to be in soul mates and true love and fairy tales. I used to believe if you loved someone enough that sex would be automatic and natural, with no need for words or explaining myself or awkward moments. I used to believe you couldn’t come back from betrayal.

I’m sure there are hundreds of other things I used to believe, having grown up on Cosmo magazine and Sex and the City. What really changed my mind was listening to peoples stories and realizing that it’s not that every single person is broken or inadequate in some way – it’s that the system, the stories, the culture are fundamentally flawed.

Reading powerful books on racial justice, reproductive justice, and sexual autonomy helped give me words and new questions which led me on a journey to overturn and question nearly everything we’re taught. I have a talk called Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong. It’s not because any individual is wrong, it’s that everything we’ve all been taught is wrong.

What’s the one thing that you wish everyone in the world could understand about sex/relationships?

I wish more people realized that we’d all be a lot better off if we normalized a lifetime of learning and professional support BEFORE crisis struck in both sex and love.

I wish people knew just how much pain, shame, uncertainty, hesitation, anger, resentment, confusion, and regret they could shed if they worked with folks like sex educators, sex coaches, sex therapists, relationship coaches, relationship therapists, trauma counselors, sex workers, body workers, etc.

So many people spend months, years, or decades silently suffering, worrying, not sure what’s changing or why things are so tough, and if they only knew how much permission and relief they could find with the help of folks trained to do this. No one should have to wait until they’re in deep pain or betrayal to begin to do the work that could genuinely move things forward for them.

There are a lot of amazing people (and even more pretty terrible ones, so be particular, folks) doing incredible, affirming work in all of these rich areas. Even professionals need a safe space to process, to learn and grow, to grieve and mourn the things they’ve fucked up or gotten wrong, to gain a little perspective. So if professionals needs it (goodness knows I do), then everyone does.

If we could all celebrate asking for help and having places to turn to constantly ask new questions together, I suspect we’d have a world with a lot less shame and fear and so much more connection and pleasure.

What do you think is the most toxic myth that our society perpetuates about sex/relationships?

In my humble opinion, all myths that we have are built upon one myth that feeds them all. It’s the myth that tells us the answers we need are outside of ourselves.

We are a culture that teaches children to turn to others to tell them who they are. We are trained from the youngest of ages to accept labels from people who do not know us, from people who are not us, and we are a culture that thrives on conformity (while claiming to admire independence).
Because of that, we get trapped in stories that tell us to compare ourselves to others, to let outside forces dictate our identities and our worth, to tell us what a normal life or romance or happiness look like. It is a myth that says you are not the one with the answers. We don’t know how to trust our bodies, how to speak up for ourselves, how to advocate for our pleasure because we, our bodies, our lives, are foreign to us.
And yet…we are the only ones who live in our bodies, who think our thoughts, who feel these sensations, who experience these feelings. If we can begin learning how to listen to our bodies, how to trust those sensations and the wisdom we have about what’s best for us, how to sit in our feelings and ask ourselves questions about what we really want and feel, we’d find that we have tremendous power and sovereignty over our own lives.
Sex wouldn’t be about performing what we think sex should look like. It would be about intimately knowing our bodies and what brings us the most pleasure on our own terms without worrying if it looked like everyone else.
Love wouldn’t be about achieving a relationship status or adhering to external, superficial factors, but instead about connection and curiosity and knowing based on a deep trust of ourselves.

Entire industries would collapse, but wow what a world that would be.

What’s one question that you wish people would stop asking you?

I love that you asked this, and at the same time, it’s difficult to answer because my goal is always to create space to reduce shame so folks can ask the hard questions. By answering, do I, in turn, create an atmosphere where it’s no longer safe to ask this question? Possibly, yes.

To answer the question, though, I wish people would stop asking how to “make” their partner orgasm because they’ve decided, on their partner’s behalf, that their partner having an orgasm is somehow vital or a huge puzzle piece is missing from their partner’s pleasure experience.
Our cultural focus on orgasm is bananas, and it’s created tremendous pressure on everyone to be orgasming all the time in all the ways, and to feel terrible if they aren’t.
I love people getting curious about their own pleasure and their own bodies, finding new words and tools to advocate for their explorations, and demanding recognition of their pleasure especially if they’re in a marginalized body, so what I think causes a lot more harm than good is people who make their partner’s experiences a personal mission.
Too many people feel like their sexual success, or being good in bed, is tied up in “giving” their partners an orgasm. It’s not really about the partner (though many say that it is). It’s actually about their own stories and needing to feel successful in some way because their partner’s orgasm is tied to their own identity.
That’s not to vilify folks who ask this question, but to point out that the sexual stories we’re given tell us this is normal. That orgasm is the end-all-be-all, and so of course we should want to do whatever it takes to make someone we care about get there. But at what expense? Making them feel more broken or abnormal?
The bottom line is expectations suck when it comes to sex – whether the expectation is a hard penis or certain feelings or an orgasm. It’s the fastest way to turn off pleasure and create distance, because even if an expectation goes unspoken, it still gets communicated – loudly and clearly – to the person who isn’t orgasming that something about them isn’t good enough. And they are good enough.

Instead of worrying about orgasm as a goal, I always invite people to simply focus on maximizing pleasure and being present for each other. Curiosity, space, time, and fun are much more likely to give everyone the peak pleasure experience they’re hoping for, anyways. And yet… no matter how many times I offer this answer, people still ask this question. So I’ll continue repeating myself until we have a cultural shift that takes this pressure off us all.

And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink”: do you like coffee and how do you take it?

I love coffee. The floofy, fancy kind. A latte with caramel or an iced coffee with cream and lavender syrup. It’s a decadence that I treat myself to from time to time rather than a daily kick start.

Thanks again to Dawn for her time and amazing insights – and for being the amazing, fabulous educator she is. Coming up soon, we have educators including Cooper S Beckett, Dedeker Winston and Dirty Lola. Watch this space…
The image featured in this post is the header for Sex Gets Real the podcast. It is owned by Dawn and must not be copied or reproduced without her permission.