[Toy Review] Fifty Shades Freed ‘Lavish Attention’ Vibrator

First, let’s address the elephant in the room.

I thought long and hard (stop snickering at the back!) about whether or not to request, or accept, any of Lovehoney’s new Fifty Shades Freed line of toys for review after attending their recent affiliate product showcase. In the end, I made a balanced decision that yes, I would review this line. Let me tell you why.

A close up of an elephant. For a review of the Fifty Shades Freed Lavish Attention vibrator.

To say I have issues with the Fifty Shades franchise is an understatement. I believe those books are not just poorly written and questionably researched portrayals of bad BDSM – I actually believe they’re really harmful. The way they’re written, and marketed, passes off stalking, psychological abuse, disregard for consent and even rape as romantic. Check out Jenny Trout’s series or my friend Christine’s blog if you would like to learn why more and more sex-positive feminists are speaking out against this series.

However. A terrible first introduction though it is, more and more people are finding BDSM and the kink and sex-positive communities via this franchise. They read the book or watch the film and get turned on by all the kinky sex. “I want to do that!” they think. Okay. So where do they go? Maybe they search online. If they’re lucky, they’ll find brilliant educational blogs. If they poke around for any length of time in the internet kinkosphere, they’ll probably land on Fetlife sooner or later. They might come to a munch. And they might go and buy a sex toy, possibly for the first time ever.

The seasoned kinksters among us may roll our eyes each February when the newest film brings the influx of “the Fifty Shades crowd” to our online spaces or our local munch. But if we do not welcome these people, we are doing them a great disservice. If we push them away or look down on them, we’re completely failing to live up to our purported values of inclusion, respect and community. Not only that, but pushing them away means they’re more likely to practice kink in unsafe and uninformed ways, imitating what they’ve read in that trilogy. If we welcome them in, they will have access to tremendous resources of knowledge, experience and education. I’ve seen plenty of people who came to kink via Fifty Shades grow into fantastic, skilled, responsible kinksters.

People who come to kink via less-than-ideal source material deserve resources and information. They deserve support, a loving community and the same access to education that every single one of us needed when we were new, regardless of our route into the community.

They also deserve safe and quality toys.

The way I see it, the majority of people who are likely to gravitate towards Fifty Shades branded toys will probably fall closer to the “new/inexperienced” end of the demographic spectrum. They may never have purchased a vibrator or dildo before in their life! They’ll probably be completely overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and variety of toys on offer. If Fifty Shades was their way in – or even if it wasn’t, but it’s still the main current cultural touchstone for “kinky sex” – they may well gravitate towards these branded toys. People feel comforted by the familiar.

This, in a nutshell, is why I am glad that Lovehoney have made this Fifty Shades Freed line in the way they have. Having seen most of the products in the flesh (um, as it were,) I feel happy to say they’re a body-safe, user-friendly and just flat out good quality line of toys. I’m glad that inexperienced folks, new to the world of sex toys, are going to get quality products and not some shitty jelly-rubber, phthalate-ridden piece of crap when they Google “Fifty Shades sex toys”. (And yes, this is the first link that comes up when you do that search. I checked.)

With that out of the way… what did I think of the actual toy?

The |Lovehoney Fifty Shades Freed Lavish Attention vibrator. A half moon shaped vibrator with a handle in a lovely plum colour;.The Lavish Attention vibrator is a dual clitoral and G-spot toy. Its shape is like a half moon on top of a handle. The internal part is nice and slim, with a circumference of about 4 inches at the widest part, and flexible. When this is inserted, the external part – which is more rigid – rests against the clitoris. Both vibrate. The Lavish Attention has 3 constant vibration speeds and 7 patterns. It’s USB rechargeable, waterproof, travel-lockable, and comes with a handy – and stylish – purple storage bag.

I loved using it. I wasn’t sure I would, as dual-stim toys often aren’t very effective for me, but I like to broaden my horizons and expand my preferences. Personally, I found the shape and size of the Lavish Attention perfect to comfortably stimulate both my G-spot and clitoris without much weird maneuvering required.

Unusually, I enjoyed the vibration patterns on this toy. I think having internal stimulation slightly changes how my clitoris responds to things, though I am still figuring out exactly how this works. There are some caveats – read on for those! – but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Lavish Attention to anyone looking for a good quality dual-stim toy.

My Ratings (all scores out of 5★)

Price: ★★★★
This toy retails at Lovehoney – currently the exclusive carrier! – for £54.99. This puts it squarely into the mid-price bracket, and in my opinion it’s reasonable value for the quality. I note that Lovehoney have a stellar returns policy.

Materials: ★★★★★
I can’t praise this enough. It’s premium quality matte silicone and feels absolutely gorgeous. It’s the kind of toy you just want to stroke again and again because it feels so lovely.

Appearance: ★★★★
One of the big plus points for the whole Freed range, for me, is how pretty they are. They’re all the same plum silicone with rose gold accents. The look is classy, sensual and sexy as fuck. If it didn’t have the Fifty Shades logo emblazoned upon it, it would be the perfect aesthetic for a sex toy in my opinion.

Ease of Use: ★★★
I generally find dual-stim vibes take some practice and some experimentation to find the best position to use them. This was no exception. I also found it slightly awkward to hold due to the positioning of the handle. It is nice and light, which is a big plus and particularly relevant for anyone who struggles to hold heavier toys due to disability or injury. My biggest gripe is that you can’t turn the speed and pattern settings down – if you want to get back to the previous setting, you have to cycle alllllll the way back through.

Ease of care & cleaning: ★★★★★
You can clean the Lavish Attention, as with any silicone toy, with a sterile body-safe wipe. These are available cheaply in bulk from medical suppliers. This toy is completely waterproof which means you can submerge it to clean. The internal piece can easily be covered with a condom, but it’s not so easy to use with a barrier externally.

Versatility: ★★★★
The Lavish Attention has 3 speeds and 7 patterns, making it nice and versatile whichever you prefer. One feature I would have liked would be the option to control the internal and external vibrations independently of each other. The shape makes it safe for anal use, and I imagine the external stimulator could feel really nice against the perineum during anal play if that’s your jam. It is fully waterproof, so safe for bathtime play.

Intensity:
★★★★
As ever, please remember I am the biggest Power Queen who ever Power Queened. The vibrations were more than adequate and got me off, but I would have liked one or two higher settings. Considering that my preferred power level is “Doxy on speed,” though, I might be an outlier here. The vibration quality is a little buzzy, but not numbingly so.

Overall Score: ★★★★
A very solid dual-stim toy which I enjoyed using. Not perfect, but perfect doesn’t exist anyway. I’ve marked it up for being body-safe, fully waterproof, gorgeous looking and relatively quiet. It lost a few points for the annoying lack of a “down” control.

I don’t recommend this toy to lovers of girth – it’s definitely slimline – or those who can’t stand their vibrations being even slightly buzzy. But if you’re looking for a good quality, mid-priced clitoral and G-spot toy from a trustworthy retailer, and don’t mind the Fifty Shades branding, I suggest giving Lavish Attention a try!

The good folks at Lovehoney sent me the Lavish Attention vibrator in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions which are, and will always be, entirely my own. Buying your sexy products through Lovehoney helps support me with a small commission and keep the blog going.

Elephant image is courtesy of Pixabay, a fab source of copyright-free images. Toy image belongs to Lovehoney and is reproduced here with their kind permission.

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.

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!]

Was this post helpful to you? The best way to say thanks is to become a sexy Patron or buy me a coffee!

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

How Not to Punish

If you’ve just now found the blog, you may not know that October is #KinkMonth! Go check out the hashtag, and also don’t forget you can get 15% off at Lovehoney until 15th October when you spend £50 or more.

I’m celebrating by writing posts inspired by the topics in Kayla Lords’ brilliant 30 Days of D/s project. Today’s prompt was all about punishment and discipline. Kayla and John ask:

A white male fist punching downwards onto a hard surface. For a post on how not to punish your submissive.

As a submissive, are you willing to allow a Dominant to discipline or punish you in your relationship? As a Dominant, are you willing to require discipline or give out punishment? What kinds of punishments can you imagine for bad behavior?

First, some disclaimers:

Note the First: When I talk about punishment here, I am talking about the type that is genuinely intended to correct or admonish someone for perceived or actual negative behaviour. I am NOT talking about “funishment,” wherein the idea of “punishment” is used as part of a game, roleplay or kinky scene. In other words, “funishment” isn’t intended to genuinely correct any behaviour.

Note the Second: I’m going to admit this straight up: I’m skittish about the idea of punishment. Yes, even in 24/7 D/s relationships. I lean very strongly towards the side of “adults are not children and punishment does not belong in a respectful relationship”. However, I also acknowledge that this is largely as a result of my baggage from non-consensual “punishment” dynamics in my past. I 1000% respect the right of other consenting adults to feel completely differently and to include punishment in their relationships.

Therefore, here’s a short list of things to be aware of if you do decide to include punishment in your D/s relationship. This is aimed at the D-types, but I would implore submissives to please also be on the look out for these things happening and seriously reevaluate if they do.

Don’t Punish in Anger

Please never, ever, ever punish somebody in anger. Even if you’ve agreed you can punish your submissive when they fuck up, when you’re angry in the immediate aftermath of the mistake is not the time to be dishing out punishment. Being angry opens you up to the risk of going too far, hurting someone (physically, mentally or emotionally) in a way they haven’t consented to, breaking consent and permanently destroying trust. Just don’t do it. Ever.

Don’t Punish for Real, Serious, Possibly-Relationship-Breaking Transgressions

I’ll probably catch some flack for this, but if your submissive has (for example) cheated on you or something equally serious, that’s not the time to start whaling on their ass. Even if spanking is something you’ve explicitly negotiated as a punishment. A fuck-up, mistake or betrayal that epic requires you to sit the fuck down as equal adults and have a very serious conversation about the state of your relationship and where to go from here.

Don’t Punish With Triggers

Triggers are things that evoke a serious and visceral negative emotion or “flashback” as a result of past trauma. They can take all kinds of forms and it’s your responsibility to be aware of these and avoid tripping over them as far as you can. Absolutely do not use them against your partner in punishment. For example, if your partner has an abandonment trigger, punishing them by not speaking to them is likely to be devastating. If they have childhood trauma from being spanked, throwing them over your knee and hitting them will cause real and genuine harm. Using triggers to punish someone is abuse.

How do YOU feel about punishment? Tell me in the comments or tweet me with your thoughts.

Kinky item of the day: I’m pretty anti-punishment in my relationship but I LOVE funishment, being bent over the bed or someone’s lap and thoroughly spanked. Therefore today’s item is one of my favourite tools and one of the easier impact play toys to use: a classic spanking paddle.

Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you shop with one, I may make a small commission. All opinions are and will always be my own.

Self Care for ‘Con-Goers

Mr CK and I are off to a kinky Convention for the weekend tomorrow, so it seemed like a good time to revisit this piece I wrote last year on taking care of yourself at a Con(vention/ference,) update it with some new things I’ve learned and share it with y’all.

A white cat with black patches on its face sleeping upside down in a patch of sunlight looking blissed out. For a post on con self-care
Kitty says: take a fucking nap!

‘Cons can be an intense time, as anyone who has been to one will know. All the fun things to see, do and learn, plus the late nights and the heady feeling of being among Your People can be quite a potent cocktail. (And that’s before you mix in a few actual cocktails, which many of us do partake of when at events.)

Things can also go from “Awesome” to “Burnout” really fast, and I’ve been doing this long enough now to learn a few tricks to come out the other side still physically and emotionally intact. Follow these seven easy steps for your best ‘Con ever.

1. Biology Comes First

Sleep. If you know you need six hours of sleep to not be a walking zombie, don’t try to get by on three. Take a freaking nap if you need to.

Eat. A lot of events provide food, so you really have no excuse – but even if food isn’t laid on there’s bound to be a lunch hour. Don’t forget to make time to have dinner between the day’s activities and the evening entertainments. Carry snack bars, nuts, fruit or chocolate in your bag for a quick pick-me-up. And for the love of all that is kinky, eat breakfast.

Hydrate. Beer doesn’t count. This is especially important in the hot weather we’ve been having lately!

Carry any medication you need or think you’re likely to need (more on this in point 5.) Find out who the First Aiders are and who to go to if you need urgent medical help. In an emergency, any passerby can run for help for you.

In short, take care of your body and your physical wellbeing first. The rest will follow.

2. You Don’t Have To Do Everything

You know how it’s better to leave a really awesome scene going, “wow, I would have loved to go further!” rather than, “holy shit, I went too far?”

‘Cons are the same.

You do not have to go to Every Single Session. Promise! You do not have to scene with every hot person you meet. If you’re there with a partner, you do not have to do every single scene idea you’ve ever come up with or try every single piece of kit the venue has to offer. You do not have to be the first to arrive and last to leave each day.

There’s always other events. There’s always next year.

By all means, immerse yourself and experience your event to the max… but know your limits and don’t try to push yourself beyond them in service of “Must Do Everything.”

3. Have Someone Looking Out For You… And Look Out For Them In Turn

If you’ve come with a partner, partners, friend or group of friends, you’re in luck here as you’ve got a ready made support person/network. Look out for each other. You don’t have to be glued to one another’s sides, but check in and say, ‘hey, how are you doing? How are you finding it all?’

If someone’s struggling, ask what they need. It may be a hug, a snack, a chat about what’s bothering them, a nap, or even just some quiet time. If you’re struggling, ask for what you need.

If you’re there alone, never fear! You’ll soon make friends and if you click with someone, don’t be afraid to ask if they’d like to agree to look out for each other and maybe check in later to see how you’re both doing.

If nothing else, make yourself known to an organiser or crew member as a nervous newbie and/or solo attendee. Any good event staff member will help you find your feet and look out for you as best they can.

4. Think About Your Boundaries Before You Come

You know how you shouldn’t renegotiate established boundaries mid-scene? The same is true mid-‘Con.

If you’re coming with a partner, discuss beforehand the kinds of play you might like to do together and anything you definitely DON’T want. Is play with other people on the cards or not? Under what parameters? Are you going to do everything together, or go to separate workshops and compare notes later? You don’t need to structure your weekend super rigidly, but even a basic game plan can help you feel prepared.

If you’re coming alone, think about what you might want to do and not do. What workshops interest you and which are a “FUCK NO?” Which are a “maybe, if I’m in the right headspace?” Do you want to play? With specific people? Are you open to casual play? Casual sex? Nudity? Hugs, physical touch?

And, crucially, stick to these boundaries. Don’t suddenly change your mind in the heat of a moment that you could very easily regret. Again, you can always push yourself further next time.

Honour your own limits the way I hope you’d honour anyone else’s.

5. Carry The Things You Need (Or Might Need)

Bottled water or sports drink? Healthy or sugary snacks? Medication? Simple painkillers in case of a headache? Notebook and pen for journalling? Cuddly toy or other comfort item? Favourite blanket?

Whatever it is, if you know you will need it or feel safer or more comfortable having it on hand… have it on hand! Or at least know where it is and how to instruct someone on where to find it.

6. Have An Aftercare Plan

‘Con drop is real, y’all. When you get back from a fantastic, physically and emotionally intense time, you’re likely to feel tired, drained and possibly even a bit fragile.

Just like you’d make aftercare provisions for a big scene, do the same thing for the ‘Con.

I always take the Monday following a weekend event off work – I know there’s no way I can be fully functional again so quickly and my job requires me to be on top of my game. I typically sleep late, take it easy and possibly do some nice or fun things for myself and my partner.

If you can, don’t be alone straight after the event. Try to be with a friend or partner who understands and with whom you can decompress and talk about your experiences. If you must be alone, reach out on FetLife or Twitter as it’s very likely others will be experiencing the same things.

Eat nice food, cuddle your partner/friend/pet/stuffed toy, have fun things on hand that you enjoy doing. Relax.

7. And finally… HAVE FUN.

Try not to worry – everyone’s at a ‘Con to have a great time and the organisers and crew should be on hand to help with any problems you may have.

Breathe, pace yourself, and ENJOY.

Go forth and be kinky, y’all.

Ask Amy #3: “Red Flags?”

Today’s question comes from a reader who reached out to me via Twitter. Her question is short and simple, and yet oh-so-complex to answer.

She asks:

“What are the red flags to look out for when starting a new relationship with a Dom or a sub?”

Four red flags blowing in the wind

I have many, many feelings about this question and all the possible ways to answer it. As I often do when I’m mulling over a topic, I took it to Mr CK for a male-and-mostly-Dom perspective (and also because he’s at least as smart as I am!)

His response, I think, was utterly brilliant: “don’t get into a relationship with a Dom or a sub. Get into a relationship with a person.”

What I love about this answer is that it cuts through all the possible answers I was thinking of giving, and straight to the heart of the issue: get to know somebody as a real, three-dimensional human being before you seriously consider them as your Dominant or submissive. Spend time – LOTS of time – talking, communicating and seeing how they interact with you and the world. A good D/s relationship is a place of profound trust and vulnerability on both sides, and these things cannot be rushed. A real-life D/s relationship is nothing like an endless kinky fantasy – first and foremost, it is a relationship.

My partner is so fucking smart, y’all.

As an aside, I really recommend you check out Loving BDSM Podcast, as they’ve got some great things to say about building trust and getting to know someone at the beginning of a relationship, as well as every other kinky topic you can image. I particularly recommend episodes 31 and 83 for this topic.

In terms of more specific and concrete red flags to look for, I have some thoughts there too! I’ve tried to keep these applicable to people on either side of the D/s slash, and relevant whether you’re meeting online or in meatspace. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I would view any of the following with some serious side-eye and a healthy portion of skepticism:

Demanding too much, too soon.

You wouldn’t give someone the keys to your house or ask them to marry you on a first date, would you? Therefore, you shouldn’t be giving or accepting a collar, issuing or receiving orders, or committing to any kind of serious ongoing protocol or dynamic before you fully know someone.

If a Dominant expects you to kneel and call them Master the first time you meet, RUN. If a submissive expects you to invite them to move in and run every aspect of their life when you’ve barely got past coffee… you know what I’m going to say.

Referring to themselves as a ‘Real’ or ‘True’ ANYTHING.

There is no such thing as a True Master, a Real Submissive, or a (*inserts tongue firmly into cheek*) Twue Dominate. Those of us who have been around the (spanking) block a few times call this One True Wayism. It’s frowned upon for good reason. People who think their way is the only way tend to be snobbish, elitist and derisive of others at best. At worst, they can be seriously dangerous – thinking you know everything, refusing to learn and refusing to be questioned is a recipe for disaster.

If you identify as a Dom, you’re a Dom. If you identify as a sub, congratulations – you’re a sub! There is no One True Way.

Using language like ‘if you were really [X] you’d do [Y.]’

‘If you were really a sub, you’d give me all your passwords and your bank account login!’ ‘If you were really a Dom, you’d take care of everything for me so I didn’t have to take any responsibility for my choices!’

Extreme examples, perhaps, but both examples I’ve encountered. If someone questions your identity or tries to use it against you in order to get you to comply with something you don’t want to do, run a fucking mile.

See above: no such thing as a ‘Real’ or ‘True’ anything. You don’t owe anyone proof of your subby or Domly Credentials.

Claiming to have no/very few limits.

EVERYONE has limits, folks. Absolutely everyone. Someone who claims not to have any (or to have “very few”) is woefully unprepared for what BDSM can actually entail. Even if you think you’re the most hardcore true subby who ever subbed, I promise there are things you would never consent to – and this is a good thing! Dominants have limits, too.

Repeat after me: EVERYONE. HAS. LIMITS. The sooner you learn what yours are and how to communicate them, the better your kinky fun is likely to be for all concerned.

Lying. This includes lies of omission.

The absolute foundational basis for any healthy relationship, kinky or vanilla, monogamous or polyamorous, is trust. Without trust, there is no relationship. Therefore, lying is arguably the biggest and reddest Big Red Flag out there. This includes big barefaced lies, of course, but it also includes lies of omission. “Forgetting” to tell you he’s got seven other submissives at home is a huge fucking deal and not something you should overlook.

The person who lies to you in the beginning will lie to you all the way along. Whatever your role, you’re a human being first and you deserve to be told the truth.

Breaking boundaries, including small ones.

Abusive people don’t start by trampling all over your boundaries in huge, glaring ways. If they did this on the first date, after all, they’ll never get as far as a second date. No – predators and abusers often ‘test the waters’ with a new victim to see how much they can get away with.

If they persist in using language towards you that you don’t like, touching you in a way you’re not comfortable with, or even subtly negging at you in small ways, YOU ARE NOT BEING TOO SENSITIVE. They are testing you. They will push bigger and bigger boundaries if you continue a relationship with them. And more often than not, you will find yourself in a full-on abusive situation.

What do you think, dear readers? Did I miss out any glaring red flags that our lovely friend should know about?

Do you want your question answering in a future Ask Amy column? Get in touch!

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Ask Amy #2: “First Visit to a Sex Shop”

I love today’s question because I remember being in this reader’s position not all that many years ago. Sex shops can feel intimidating when you’ve never been in one before. We’ve all been the nervous first-timer at some point.

A selection of my sex toy collection. For a post about visiting a sex shop for the first time“How do I behave at a sex shop!?”

“Hi Amy,
Hope you don’t think this is a stupid question! I’m a 35 year old mother of one living in London. I’m recently single after coming out of a 12 year marriage. My ex husband was super vanilla but now that I’m on my own I want to try using sex toys. I’ve heard that it’s much better to go to a shop rather than buy online so that you can see and feel the toys before choosing one, but my secret is I’ve never been in a sex shop before! I don’t know what to expect or how to behave. Can I ask questions? Will the staff think it’s really weird that I’m a mum in my mid 30s who hasn’t ever used a vibrator before? Any advice would be really helpful.”
– Nervous Newbie

Hey Nervous! What a great question. It’s not at all weird. Loads of people have never been to a sex shop and are nervous at the idea. Firstly, congratulations on deciding you want to explore your sexuality more after finding yourself single. That’s a great gift you can give yourself which will improve both your solo sex life and any partnered sex you might have in the future.

Visiting a sex shop really doesn’t need to be scary. Promise! There’s just a few things you need to know to make your visit as smooth and – yes – enjoyable as possible.

First, research and pick a reputable store. As you’re in London, I can’t recommend better than the utterly wonderful Sh! Women’s Store. There’s also Coco De Mer, which is a real treat to visit but extremely high-end – basically the Prada of sex shops, with price tags to match. Any woman-owned and run, independent sex shop is likely to be better than a mainstream chain store. It’s honestly worth traveling to get to a really good store and there are a few in the major cities throughout the country. (If you must go to a chain store, Simply Pleasure isn’t bad but sadly they sell a lot of toxic and porous toys in amongst the good stuff, so do your research first.)

What you’ll find at a good store is a friendly, welcoming and non-judgemental environment. The staff typically choose to work in these shops because they’re sex positive and passionate about sexual pleasure and health. I’ve never met a sex shop worker for whom it was “just a retail gig.” I absolutely promise you the staff won’t think you’re weird for having never bought toys before, so feel free to say “I’m new to toys and looking for something to start with.”

So, ask questions! Ask for advice! (Not “what’s your favourite?” which is not only invasive but also a redundant question as all bodies are different. Think more along the lines of, “what’s a good anal toy for a beginner?” “I like strong vibrations with variable patterns, what do you recommend?” “I’m looking for an insertable toy that’s not too rigid.”)

On that note: think about what you might like to get before you go in. Are you more interested in vaginal penetration, clitoral stimulation, or a mix? What about anal? Think about what you want to experiment with, what your body likes and doesn’t like, and – very important – how much you want to spend. If you can afford it, it’s worth spending a bit more to get a really good toy that’s well-made, body safe and from a reputable manufacturer.

Please read up on materials and get something that’s body-safe and non porous. Dangerous Lilly has a tonne of valuable advice on safe toys. It’s okay not to know exactly what you’re looking for (that’s partly why you ask for advice!) but having at least a general knowledge of how your pleasure works is a good starting point. (I think I need to do a whole post on picking out your first sex toy.)

Don’t be afraid to pick things up and play with them (in your hand, not your pants, obviously!) The vast majority of shops will have a sample of each toy out of the box so you can feel it, test the vibrations for strength, see how you like the materials against your skin etc. Play as much as you like. Take your time. A good retailer won’t hurry you.

As far as any other etiquette, it’s all super obvious. Don’t hit on the staff – they probably love the job but they’re also at work and no-one wants to field unwanted come-ons at work. Don’t ask the staff personal questions about their own sex life or toy use. Keep your clothes on. Don’t test anything out on your genitals. Don’t be weird or judgy about toys or sex acts that aren’t your thing. (Think, for example, “I don’t think what would do it for me,” rather than “ewwww, why would anyone do that?”) Honestly, it’s no more complicated than being respectful, polite and behaving in ways that are generally acceptable in a public space, albeit one where it’s totally okay – encouraged! – to have frank conversations about sexuality.

One final pro tip: if you’re nervous, try going at a time when it’s likely to be quieter. Mornings are typically quieter than afternoons/evenings, and weekdays are quieter than weekends. This way the staff are likely to have more time to devote to you and you won’t feel so self-conscious examining the toys in front of other shoppers.

Good luck and please check back for an upcoming post on some more specifics of choosing your first toy!

Dear readers! If you’d like me to answer your question, get in touch and I’ll tackle your issue on the blog – completely anonymously of course.

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