Sex Educators You Should Know: The “Ersties” Podcast Crew

You guys might remember a few months back I introduced you to the wonderful Ersties Podcast, a smart, sassy and funny show about sex, kink, porn, the adult industry and more. Well today I am thrilled to bring you an interview with Lina Bembe, one of the team of badass women behind the podcast. 
But first, I wanted to tell you about a couple of my favourite recent episodes since I last introduced you to these amazing ladies.

Episode #7 is called “Self-Love, Sex and Magic” which brings together two of my favourite things – sex and magic! Sex is, really, its own particular kind of magic when you think about it, isn’t it? The team discuss sexuality as a form of women’s power, which has terrified men for centuries – so much so that in time gone by, women who dared to be openly sexual opened themselves up to accusations of witchcraft.

Favourite quotes:

“Witches are in many ways the original feminists… the original sluts.”
“We need to get our vulvas together… we need some vulva action!”

The other thing I loved about this episode is the team’s discussion about coming out to their families as working in the porn industry. I won’t spoil the stories for you, but you should go and hear them for yourselves.

Their special guest is Vanessa Cuccia of Chakrubs, the world’s first crystal sex toy company (which, yes, is 100% a thing I want in my life.)

Listen here.

The ladies also JUST released Episode #9 which is on my favourite sexuality topic of all – consent! They discuss consent in BDSM, how to talk about what you want in bed, and what consent looks like on a porn set.

If there’s one, single message I want my readers to take away from my work, it’s that consent is everything. Consent is the beginning, the end and everything in between. The Ersties team delve deep into this complex and nuanced subject with honesty and insight.

Personally, I particularly appreciated the discussion of being in a sex work situation such as making porn, and not really feeling like having sex… but making the decision to consent anyway, in order to get paid at the end of the day. It’s such an important point that there are other good reasons to consent apart from “I’m extremely horny right this second,” and that this doesn’t have to be a traumatising experience. The key, they seem to be arguing, is checking in with yourself and making an informed decision to say yes or no in any given situation.

Favourite quotes:

“Ohhh, now she has to put her fucking fingers in my pussy and I have to pretend to have an orgasm…!”
“Everyone who knows me knows that [my favourite safeword] is brocolli!”

A must-listen for anyone grappling with the nuances of sexual consent. Which is ALL of us, because this shit is complex.

Listen here.

Right, let’s get on with my interview with Lina, shall we?

Amy: What made you want to start the Ersties podcast?

Lina: Paulita, Pandora, Olivia & I were already a sort of gang. We used to hang out a lot, crack jokes, go out and get crazy, and talk about sex and feminism basically all the time. So it was kind of a natural thing to pour all these conversations and the things we are curious about into a podcast format. These days anyone with a smartphone or computer and WiFi access can build a platform and talk about whatever topic they want. In our case, we felt we were a fun crew with good chemistry and important things to discuss and explore, so we just got a mic and started recording!

Amy: Which other podcasters inspire you, and why?

Lina: Tristan Taormino for her extensive experience and educational approach, Ron Johnson’s journalistic work for The Butterfly Effect, Sadia & Monty from BBC’s No Country for Young Women because of their natural style and emphasis on black & brown communities. My personal favorite is Tina Horn from Why Are People into That?!, always fun, unapologetic, politically relevant and raising the voices of fellow sex workers.

Amy: Oh, god, Tristan Taormino is my heroine! So which show do you always listen to the day it comes out?

Lina: Why Are People into That?!, The Cuntcast, Sex Out Loud, Sex with Strangers, Guys We Fucked, The Second Circle, Asa Akira’s podcast for Pornhub, and hopefully the next season of No Country for Young Women!

Amy: Some new names for me there, I’ll check those out for sure. What is the core message you want to get out with the podcast? The one thing you’d like listeners to take away?

A cartoon image of the Ersties Podcast crew speaking to a live audience.Lina: That sex and sexuality are incredibly important for our lives and that it’s crucial to have more unbiased, shame-free conversations about them. We have all been raised and encouraged to see anything related to sex as shameful, dirty, not worth discussing, but the consequences of doing so go a long way into affecting our emotional well being and relationships to others. Thus we need to find ways of reclaiming our bodies and sexualities, and we need to find people we can feel relate to in our journey. We don’t always have the spaces to have shame-free, honest conversations about sex in our daily lives, so we wanted to offer a channel for it with our podcast.

Amy: Preach! So what is ethical porn? What sets ethical porn apart from regular, run-of-the-mill “tube site” porn?

Lina: Ethical porn has two main dimensions. The first dimension happens on the production side, where performers and crew have to be treated with respect regardless of their origins or identities, with professionalism and with attention to their personal boundaries. Where everything discussed in terms of sexual health issues, types of sex acts, remuneration (or skills/content trade agreement), identity, privacy protection and distribution channels is transparent, respectful and agreed by the production company, director, fellow performers and everyone involved in the project. It’s basically playing by the rules,  respecting everyone involved in the process, and making sure, as a producer that you put together a team who are able to work under these ethical standards and understand their importance in both the project and the wider industry.
The second dimension of ethical porn falls on the responsibility of the consumer, when they pay for the content they watch or access the content in the way the producer or performer wants them to. Sadly enough, it’s quite normal for people to watch porn for free and to assume that’s the normal way to go about it – whereas they’re happy to pay for platforms like Netflix or Spotify. The stigma surrounding porn and the proliferation of tube sites (who offer plenty of stolen content) obscures the very elemental fact that porn is also a form of work and that there’s people trying to make a living out of it. Not paying for porn only contributes to the stigma, shrinks the diversity of contents and throws indie producers and performers even more into precariousness. I’d really, really love for people to understand that consuming porn in unethical ways affects everyone.
Amy’s note: I am in love with the Ersties porn site! You can support ethical porn, get access to tonnes of great content, AND send a little kickback my way when you buy an Ersties porn subscription from as little as $11/month through my affiliate links.

Amy: Who would be your dream interview guest on the podcast, and why?

Lina: As a short-term goal, I’d love to have Munroe Bergdorf as a guest. Every single word she says speaks in such a strong way against stigma, and pushes for diversity and real change on so many fronts –  as racism, transphobia, whorephobia, misogyny and so on. I’d love to hear her views on porn and what sort of narratives could make this industry more inclusive and less discriminative!
As a long-term goal: Rihanna! To me, she’s the best global scale example of what it means to be a powerful creature and being unapologetic about owning your sexuality. Plus she likes porn!

Amy: What’s your favourite sex toy?

Lina: Wands of all kinds, and buttplugs. Please don’t make me choose just one!

Amy: Oh, god, yes I’m a wand girl too. Wands are life. Anyway, what’s one thing you really wish people outside of it understood about the adult industry?

Lina: That this is a job like any other. The only thing that sets porn aside from other industries is the traditional shame we culturally attach to everything related to sex and sexuality. That’s incredibly harmful for how we all see ourselves as sexual beings and how stigma and discrimination can go a long way into marginalization and even the death of those who choose porn as a career. It’s time to press fast-forward to 2018 and leave this centuries-old, harmful, puritanical nonsense behind!
***************
Amy again! Thank you so much to Lina and the Ersties crew for taking the time to tell us all about their work and industry. I’m so glad they’re having these conversations – we all need to talk more openly about sex, porn, consent, sexual ethics and all these deep, complex, nuanced topics. Only by talking about these things can we bust the stigma and all enjoy safer, happier, more fulfilling sex lives.
Remember to check out the podcast! If you like friendly, informal dialogue about all things sexy, led by super smart women, you’ll love this show.
This interview was kindly sponsored by The Ersties Podcast. All views, as ever, are my own.

[Podcast Review] The Ersties

A cartoon cover image from The Ersties podcastAnyone who knows me will know that I love podcasts. I drive a lot for my day job, so listening to podcasts (and the occasional audiobook) is how I entertain myself and make the most of my driving time. I have learned so much from the various shows I listen to, and I’m always looking for new ones. So I was thrilled when the lovely folks at The Ersties Podcast reached out to me and asked me to work together.

Ethical Porn and Fascinating Women

Ersties is an ethical, feminist porn site. They describe their work as a “…natural exhibition of our sexuality; all natural girls in all natural situations with no scripts, demands or expectations!” Run by women, they are committed to respectful treatment of their performers, fair payment and genuine passion in their scenes.

The Ersties podcast, hosting conversations about all aspects of sexuality, sex positivity and the adult industry, is an obvious progression of this ethos. The four co-hosts are Paulita Pappel, Lina Bembe, Olivia and Pandora. Each of them has extensive experience in various areas of the adult industry including performing, directing, producing, editing ad more. Each of the four women brings their unique lived experiences and voice to the show. The chemistry between the team is a huge part of what makes it all work so well. They’re friendly, funny and open. Really, it’s like sitting down for coffee with four of your best sex positive friends!

What it’s all about…

Most episodes contain a mix of general chat about their lives and adventures in the world of feminist porn, and discussion around a specific topic of the month. Occasionally, there are also listener questions. The second episode, for example, featured a fascinating discussion inspired by a reader question on sex positivity (or lack thereof) in the communities the presenters grew up in – they all live in Germany now, but come from a diverse mix of backgrounds.

A new episode comes out on the first Friday of each month. Topics covered so far include BDSM, polyamory, why you should pay for your porn, and censorship in the UK. The team obviously have a well-connected network of experts to call upon, and these voices add nicely to the conversations. I particularly enjoyed Censorship Part 1 (The Great British Firewall) where they interviewed “Obscenity Lawyer” extraordinaire, Myles Jackman, and the amazing Blake of Dreams of Spanking. I’m really excited to see what they come out with next and which other experts they talk to.

Give it a listen!

The world needs more open, honest conversations about sex. It also desperately needs more ethical, feminist porn. The Ersties Podcast team are doing their bit to address these needs and to further the conversation on sex positivity, porn literacy, sexual freedom, anti-censorship and more. I can’t wait to see what this fantastic team of women do next!

This post was kindly sponsored by The Ersties Podcast. All views are, and will always be, my own. If you sign up to a membership using my affiliate link, I will make a small commission – and you’ll be supporting ethical porn, which is so important in the age of free tube sites and censorship. You can listen to The Ersties podcast for free wherever you get your podcasts. Image is property of The Ersties Podcast.

Ten Things I Learned at Eroticon

It’s over for another year! Eroticon, the event that changed my life last year (which I drunkenly told Girl on the Net on Saturday night) has been and gone yet again, and WHAT a time it was!

My body in a very sexy PVC catsuit, from Eroticon 2018[Pictured: The Catsuit of Joy.]

1. I’ve been undervaluing myself, financially.

I went to two sessions on making money from blogging, one from Kayla Lords and one from The Sarahs (Sarah Bryn Holliday and Sarah-Jane). Through these amazing sessions and chats with other bloggers I admire, I realised that I’ve been undervaluing my work and not charging enough for what I do. I’m resolving to change this and ask for what I’m worth from now on!

2. Age Verification under the DEB doesn’t apply to written content.

I attended a brilliant session on legal tips for sex bloggers from lawyer Neil Brown. Much of this, unsurprisingly, was focused on the Digital Economy Bill, which may or may not take effect later this year if the government gets its act together and works out what the fuck’s going on with it. Though, of course, throwing the whole thing out would be better!

Turns out at age verification, should it be implemented, will not apply to purely text-based sites. This will be a relief for a lot of us. However, the rules around images will still affect loads of bloggers, and this bill is still utterly horrifying and we should be doing everything in our collective power to get it overturned.

3. Turns out there are circumstances under which loud, crowded bars are fun for me.

And those circumstances involve “three or more sex bloggers” and “copious amounts of wine.”

4. I can say no when I need to and it’s okay.

Being the lucky girl I am, I had two offers of kisses from utterly delightful people whom I would be honoured to make out with. I declined on the basis of having not negotiated spontaneous ‘Con make-outs with Mr CK (note to self: negotiate that next year!!!) The same with a lovely offer to spank a gorgeous arse. On all occasions, everyone was 100% fine with my boundaries and lovely interactions continued!

I wish the same could be said for random dudes in bars who seem to think that a sexy outfit is an invitation to circle back around every 15 minutes or so and try their luck again. Speaking of which…

5. I look DAMN fine in a catsuit

Have you ever walked through a bar full of unsuspecting vanillas in a PVC catsuit, leather ears and high boots? If you haven’t, I recommend it. The glance, followed by the double-take and the head turn, is quite something.

Thank you to all the Eroticon babes who were so complimentary of my slightly OTT but utterly fabulous outfit choice.

6. Podcasting is a blast 

I got to record an episode of Loving BDSM with Kayla and JB, and it was an absolute blast! I had SO MUCH FUN and we laughed so much. And yes, we had coffee while we were doing it.

7. How to give responsible sex advice.

This was the title of a brilliant session I attended run by Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock, the powerhouse duo behind Enjoy Sex (How When and If You Want To) and their fantastic sex education website.

In this session I learned about self-care when giving advice, about setting boundaries around advice giving, about how to advise someone when the asker is being a dick, and about knowing the limitations of your own expertise and “credentials” (not that such things meaningfully exist in this field). It was SO good and I feel much more confident in my own advice-giving, both on and off this website, as a result.

8. Even the most awesome and accomplished people sometimes feel insecure.

Hearing bloggers and writers and creators I really admire, those who inspire me every day, talk about their own struggles with imposter syndrome and not feeling good enough was weirdly comforting. We’re all a little insecure in our own way. We all occasionally feel like we don’t know what we’re doing. But actually, our work has tremendous value and each of us brings amazing and unique perspectives to the table. Our brains are lying to us. We’re brilliant.

9. I am enough.

Being at Eroticon, and especially hanging out with the of ridiculously awesome people I spent a lot of time with, makes me feel profoundly accepted in a way I’ve rarely experienced anywhere else. It’s okay that I’ve been having a bad mental health time. It’s okay that I haven’t achieved all of my goals yet. I am accepted and I am enough.

10. Your words can change the world

Finishing, as I did last year, with some words of wisdom from Girl on the Net.

Let’s change the world together, babes.

If you’re a reader who would like to support me in continuing to attend events like Eroticon, please consider becoming a Patron, buying me a coffee, or shopping with my affiliates in the right hand sidebar.

If you’re a company who would like to hire me, please email coffeeandkink69 (at) gmail (dot) com and we’ll talk.

2017 “Top 5” Roundup

Apart from my 1 Year Anniversary post on New Years’ Eve (which is written and ready to go,) this will probably be my last post of 2017. In that vein, I wanted to end the year with a roundup post of sorts, some Top 5s from the year.

I hope you are all having a wonderful festive season and I can’t wait to keep the conversation about all things sex and kink going with you in 2018.

A fluffy tabby cat playing with a gold bauble handing from a Christmas tree. For a post about Top 5s of 2017.

Top 5 New Sex Toys

#1Doxy Number 3, simply one of the most perfect things to ever have graced my bits.
#2We-Vibe Tango, the only bullet I will ever need.
#3Satisfyer Pro 2 Next Generation, the toy that made me like suction toys.
#4Come Hither Rabbit, the only rabbit vibrator I’ve ever enjoyed.
#5The Ruby Glow, a revelation in ride-on fun.

Top 5 Sex Blogging Inspirations

#1Kayla Lords
#2Girl on the Net
#3Molly Moore
#4Kate Sloan
#5Emmeline Peaches

Top 5 Awesome Events

#1Eroticon 2017, the one that started it all.
#2 – Autumn CM/nf, where I get to be naked and ogle pretty men in suits.
#3Lube & a Laptop, a fun summer social with other sexy writers and creators.
#4 – BiCon 2017, where I got to teach my workshop on “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex Toys” for the first time.
#5 – Sex Blogger Christmas, a super fun (and boozy) event hosted by the wonderful EA and Livvy.

Top 5 Books About Sex

#1Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
#2How a Bad Girl Fell in Love by Girl on the Net
#3Approaching the Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett
#4Enjoy Sex (How, When and IF You Want To) by Meg-John Barker & Justin Hancock
#5The Myth of Sex Addiction by Dr David Ley

Top 5 Podcasts

#1Loving BDSM, where Kayla and John bring their unique brand of humour, opinions and adorableness to speaking and educating on all aspects of the BDSM lifestyle. #CricketCrew4Lyf
#2The Dildorks, “dorky discourse on sex, dating and masturbating,” with the wonderful Kate Sloan and Bex Caputo.
#3The Guilty Feminist, which makes me cry with laughter and feel better about all the times my life choices don’t fully match my highest feminist ideals.
#4Polyamory Weekly, a very long-standing favourite about all aspects of unconventional love.
#5Life on the Swingset, the swinging and polyamory podcast.

Top 5 Blog Posts

#1The Tyranny of No Rules: In Defense of Polyamorous Heirarchy
#2I’m Looking for Baggage that Goes with Mine
#3“Pretty” is Not My Success – On Being a Swan
#4#SexNotStigma: Using My Sexuality to Manage my Mental Health
#5“Bring the Collar” – The True Story of a D/s Breakup

Top 5 Accomplishments

#1 – Winning the New Voices Award from Molly’s annual list of the best sex bloggers.
#2 – Placing as one of Kinkly’s Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes.
#3 – Starting to earn Actual Money from writing about sex.
#4 – Organising Smutathon 2017 and raising £2,000 for Backlash and Rape Crisis.
#5 – Doing #KinkMonth/3o Days of Ds and writing a post every single day for the month of October.

Top 5 Goals for 2018

#1 – Start a PhD programme.
#2 – Cut down to 4 days a week on my day job and make up the additional income from writing.
#3 – Place in the Top 50 of the Kinkly Sex Blogging Superheroes list.
#4 – Have a piece of erotic fiction published, either in an anthology or as a stand-alone.
#5 – Finish my sexy novella set at a BDSM convention.

So there you have it, friends! What were your Top 5s of 2017?

Affiliate links are used within this post. All opinions my own. Image is courtesy of Pixabay.

Sex Educator Interview #6: Dr Liz Powell

Today’s interview is with Dr Liz Powell, who co-hosts Life on the Swingset the podcast as well as doing tonnes of other awesome work. Let’s dive in to what she had to say…

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

I’m Dr. Liz from sexpositivepsych.com. I’m a sex educator, speaker, co-host of the Life on the Swingset podcast, and regular guest on several other podcasts as part of my mission to help people have more meaningful, pleasurable relationships in life and work, as well as the bedroom. I’m also a coach and licensed psychologist (CA 27871)  that works with thruples, couples, and singles to help folks be more of who they really are and communicate more effectively with their partners. Because being confident in who you are is the gateway to great relationships and great sex – and great sex can change the world.

Can you tell us (in brief) your “sex educator origin story?”

I’ve been out as queer since I was 17, had my first non-monogamous relationship at 17 (dating quad), and have been involved in kink since I was in college. I was always the person my friends came to for questions about sex or to take them shopping at the adult store. Once I was getting ready to leave the Army in 2015, I decided to transition to full time work with my favorite populations – sexual and gender minorities (SGM) – and issues – sexual problems, relationship issues, trauma. I then started presenting at different conferences and from there went into teaching at venues like sex shops and the Armory here in San Francisco. I love the work I do and I feel really lucky that I get to devote my time to topics I’m passionate about!

What came first: sex education or psychotherapy? How do they inform each other?

I’ve wanted to be a therapist since middle school because I loved figuring out how people work and helping people grow and heal and thrive, so I guess in some ways the therapy part came first. However, I did my first informal sex education work in college when I was president of my school Gay Straight Alliance, long before I ever saw any therapy clients, so maybe it’s that therapy was first in my heart, but education was first in practice. Regardless, I love them both and I think they go hand in hand really nicely.

Why do you think it’s so important for psychs and other medical professionals to be sex positive, and how would you like to see the medical community change in this regard?

In graduate school, the entirety of my training in sexuality was a one weekend class. 10 hours. That’s it. When I worked in multidisciplinary teams in the Army as a psychologist, I saw first hand how little education in sexuality and non-mainstream relationship/sexual practices most medical professionals have. In the field of therapy, most therapists never ask their clients about sex, even though most psychiatric conditions impact a person’s sex life. Medical professionals have often balked at the STI testing I request from them, and some of them haven’t had current information about STIs at all. When we, as those holding a position of power in a provider-client relationship, don’t address sex, we reinforce that sex is shameful and not welcome in our room. We prevent our clients and patients from sharing important information with us that is impacting their lives in deep ways.

I think most professionals shy away from sex because they’re worried that a client will view questions about sex as a come on or something inappropriate, but research shows again and again that our clients follow our lead when determining what they can and cannot talk about. If you bring your own shame or judgments about sexuality into your practice, you are harming your clients and patients.

For instance, I recently saw a Facebook post by a psychologist I knew in the Army outright stating that they would never approve someone’s request for gender confirmation surgery because they think trans people are mentally ill. The American Psychological Association has clearly stated that the research indicates that gender dysphoria is a medical concern, not a mental illness, and that the harm is in denying treatment, but this person, because of his own judgments, is comfortable publicly stating his intention to shame and harm any trans clients he works with.

Without sex positivity in our practices, we violate the first principle of almost every code of ethics in our fields – that we do no harm, and maximize benefit. We as providers must unpack our own issues so that we can serve those who entrust us with their well being.

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

I’ll start with the worst because I like to end on high notes. The worst part of being a sex educator, for me, has been how hard you have to hustle to just start getting paid. I did a panel last year with Dirty Lola of sexedagogo.com and Rebecca Hiles, The Frisky Fairy, of friskyfairy.com, called Sex Positive and Poor where we all talked about how broke most sex educators are. Most of my friends who do sex education for their main income are constantly worried about paying their bills. Being a therapist helps with this some, as I can make a decent income from individual client sessions, but building up a private practice is slow and I went into a lot of credit card debt to get my business going. It looks way more glamorous on the outside than it feels on the inside.

The best part of being a sex educator, at least in my experience, is the amazing community of people I get to be a part of. I’ve got people in my life who I can send a message to about the crazy sex I had and they’re there to cheer me on. Or I can message them to talk about the grief I’ve been working through about my lover who died. The folks I’m lucky to call friends are some of the most kind, loving, smart, perverted, funny people I’ve ever met and I am thankful every day to have them in my life.

What’s your favourite project that you’ve done/been involved with?

My favorite is one I’m currently working on! Cooper Beckett, one of my Life on the Swingset co-hosts, and I are writing a book called Building Open Relationships. It’s a practical, hands on, nuts and bolts guide for how to actually DO non-monogamy. There are so many great theory-based resources out there (More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy), but both he and I felt like some of the nitty gritty was missing. We’re creating worksheets, conversation starters, checklists, all kinds of nerdy goodness to help people learn from our mistakes and success.

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

I think this would have to be something by Brené Brown, probably Daring Greatly. Something most folks don’t know about therapists in general, and me in particular, is that we can seem super open and vulnerable, but most of us (or especially me) often suck at being really vulnerable. It’s like I’ve got this great facade of openness that keeps folks outside of the REAL walls. In the last couple of years, I’ve been working really hard on moving past perfectionism and self-judgment and developing my skills at vulnerability and honesty. It’s been a really really REALLY hard journey, but I feel like a much better human, leader, therapist, educator, friend, and partner because of it.

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 that you could use rules in a relationship in a way that could be healthy. Before I go further, I want to clarify that I’ll be using the terms Boundaries, Agreements, and Rules the way they are defined in More Than Two – boundaries are about myself, agreements are renegotiable by any involved party, rules affect parties that do not have renegotiation power.

Back when I first did some non-monogamy, I almost always had rules with my partners about what I would “allow” them to do with others or what I was “allowed” to do. Many of these rules involved sex acts, time spent together, or levels of emotional involvement. I think that most of the time these rules came from a place of feeling afraid or insecure and wanting to create an external structure to prevent those feelings from happening. What changed this for me was lots of failing in relationships to live up to rules I had agreed to or failing of partners to live up to rules they had agreed to. I also think that reading More Than Two and their clear ethically rooted explanations about rules made it really clear why using rules wasn’t within my values.

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

There is no “right” way to do anything in the sex or relationship realm, only ways that work better or worse for you and those you’re doing it with. Trying to do things by someone else’s rules or standards will only make you miserable. You have to do things the way that fits for you.

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

There are so many! I think the most toxic myth is that there’s one right way to do things, and you know you’ve found it when your relationship lasts until death. By that standard, I recently had the perfect relationship – we never fought, we were smitten with each other, and after dating for 10 days he died. We lived out ’til death do us part thanks to his sudden, unexpected heart attack. We need to find the success and lessons in relationships that don’t end in death (and those that do) and stop saying a relationship “failed” because it ended or because it was different.

What’s the best sex advice anyone ever gave you?

Never fake it, tell them what to do to help you actually cum.

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

“Are you analyzing me right now?” As soon as folks find out I’m a therapist, I get this one or its companion “Oh, well I’m not going to talk anymore.” People think they’re being funny, but really, this is just silly. 1) Analyzing folks takes work and you’re not paying me. If you want to shell out some money then I’ll be happy to tell you about yourself, but otherwise, unless it’s flagrant, I’m just trying to be a regular human in the world. 2) Your discomfort around a therapist says WAY MORE than anything else that would’ve come out of your mouth. 3) These are probably the least original things you could say to a therapist. They tell me you’re paranoid, boring, and prone to subtle attempts at manipulation. So if you don’t want me to know things about you, don’t say these things.

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

I’m generally more into tea, but I do like coffee on occasion, generally either sweet and light or a nice blended butter coffee (I know, I know, super hipster).

Thanks so much to Dr Liz for her time and expertise. Don’t forget to check out Life on the Swingset podcast and her business, Sex Positive Psych.

Sex Educator Interview #5: Cooper S Beckett

You may have heard of this little project started by Jenny Guerin and myself, the Sexy Summer Book Club. It’s an online read-along where we share questions, invite discussion and encourage people to use the books as jumping off points for their own writings.

The cover of Approaching the Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett

August’s book is Approaching The Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett, which I actually reviewed a while back. Very fittingly, therefore, today’s interview is with Cooper himself. Without further ado, let’s hear what the sexy-voiced podcaster, author and progressive swinger extraordinaire had to tell us.

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

I write sexy books, and books about sex, which are sometimes the same thing, sometimes not. I’m also a coach and educator about sex positivity, safer sex, and focus on non-monogamy. I’ve been host of Life on the Swingset, The Swinging & Polyamory Podcast for the last 7 years, and we’re about to record our 300th episode! My goal is always to get people to think about their conceptions of their sexuality and how that relates to their partner(s) and the world, and take the opportunity to color outside the lines a bit, and learn about themselves.

What first made you want to write and podcast about sex and non-monogamy?

Hubris. I’d been swinging for a grand total of like 10 months and I thought, “You know what, I understand this pretty well, I should teach other people about it!” I corralled Dylan Thomas into co-hosting and the podcast was born. The writing has a little more sense behind it, but still not much. Before opening up I was a writer and indie filmmaker, so once I opened up and found the time to get back into it, writing about this all was a natural progression.
 

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a podcaster, sex educator and published author? How does one ‘make it’ in this field? 

 
If anyone tells you they’re “making it” in podcasting they’re the incredibly rare and lucky breed. Honestly, podcasters don’t really make it. It’s all about reach, isn’t it? So podcasting is a vehicle for reach. The more I podcast, the larger my audience, the more opportunity to share my speaking gigs and educating and books with the world. But podcasting itself…it’s nice if it pays for itself. I guess that’s when you know you’ve made it, when the podcast isn’t as valuable as a drain in your bank account.


What does “a day in the life of You” look like? 

 I sleep way later than I should before I go to my (still unfortunately necessary) day job. In my free time I try to focus on projects and writing, while balancing with time with my lovely partner & binary star Ophilia Tesla, and still finding time to keep up on current media like Doctor Who and Legend of Zelda. 


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

The best thing about being a sex educator is the same as the best thing about being any type of educator, that moment when you see the person you’re talking to “gets it” and something changes in them. Since sex is such a major part of people’s lives, and the things I teach have the possibility of changing them fundamentally, it can be a really amazing moment. The downside is that sex is really really looked down upon as something worth educating yourself about. So there’s tremendous stigma surrounding it.

Which of your 3 books is your favourite, and why? Also what’s your favourite episode of the podcast, and why?

Approaching the Swingularity is my favorite, maybe because it’s the newest, but I also think it’s my best work. It allowed me to go deepest into my passions and take characters to new and unexpected places. Also to be really mean to them, cuz that’s kinda my thing. My favorite episode of the podcast was our 200th episode where we were lucky enough to get Dan Savage on as our guest. That was a real feeling of having “made it” – so I guess that also answers a bit of the question above!
 

Will there be a third book in the “Swingularity” series? 

There will, and at the moment it’s a shorter book like A Life Less Monogamous and will follow Jenn and Ryan’s early issues with true polyamory. The working title is Polywogs. But, for the moment, I’ve become distracted with a supernatural series featuring a pansexual poly woman named Osgood as the lead.

Which of your characters do you most identify with and why?

Depends on the day. All my characters are ultimately me, even if their personality isn’t. I split up my traits among them and give them my hangups. Ryan is probably the most ME, but in Swingularity, I’d have to say between Crista and Raymond for the most intense identification.

Who inspires you, professionally and personally?

Tristan Taoramino and Dan Savage are my two big favorite sex educators. I love his acerbic wit, and I aspire to the variety and depth of the work Tristan produces. For fiction my big inspiration is Stephen King, because nobody does character as well as him. I also adore the work of Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury. 

If you were stuck on a desert island (sorry, sorry, I HAD to do a ‘desert island’ question) and could take three toys and one sexy book, what would you pick and why? 

Hmmm. If I’m by myself, a Tenga Egg, the nJoy Pure Wand, and can I bring a bottle of lube instead of a third toy? I feel like the heat would make lube essential. If I’m with someone else, definitely the nJoy Eleven. A sexy book….so many options.

What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but are glad you don’t believe any more?

That sex equals PIV/PIA (Penis in Vagina/Penis in Anus) penetration. And if I didn’t have that I wasn’t having sex. It’s tremendously pressuring, especially in group sex situations. Making everything sexual, including heavy making out, sex means that I no longer feel pressure to take things to an obvious conclusion, and can simply enjoy the smorgasbord of sexy in front of me.

What’s the best sex advice you ever got? 

 
It’s okay for sex to be silly. It always looks so dramatic and intense in movies. My best sex involves conversations, mistakes, and laughter.


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

 

That there’s a right way to do it. That gives us all complexes that we’re not doing it right, and we stress out and make foolish decisions because of it.

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

“You REALLY use condoms for blowjobs?” Yes I do. I’m happy to keep talking about it, though, until oral barriers are a thing.

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

Oh god. My Starbucks coffee order is insane and will make people throw up from sweetness. I do a Venti double shot with 5 total shots of espresso and vanilla and caramel syrup. Otherwise, I don’t much go in for coffee.
Thanks Cooper for your time and always-fabulous insights, as well as the sexy books. Next up in a day or two is one of the cohosts of Life on the Swingset, Dr Liz… stay tuned for that!
The image featured in this post is the cover of Approaching the Swingularity and is the property of Cooper S Beckett.

Sex Educator Interview #4 – Kayla Lords

The latest in the Sex Educator Interviews series comes from the gorgeous and VERY talented Kayla Lords. I discovered Kayla’s Loving BDSM podcast about a year ago, which she co-hosts with her fiance and Daddy Dom John Brownstone, and I was hooked. I met Kayla in person at Eroticon this March and was delighted to find that she’s as funny, insightful, friendly and talkative in person as she is on the show. I feel privileged to feature her on here and even more privileged to call her a friend.

The Loving BDSM podcast logo, a purple heart surrounded by 2 floggers. For an interview with Kayla Lords

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

I’m a sex blogger, podcaster, freelance writer, erotic author, and baby girl submissive in a D/s relationship. I enjoy creating content – audio or text – that involves sex, but specifically BDSM and D/s relationships. I enjoy the sexy side of things and write both erotic fiction and non-fiction, but when it comes to helping other people, I prefer to talk about the realities of D/s relationships and how to navigate a busy life (as a parent, partner, and basically normal human being) and still get the “kinky fuckery” you want. My goal isn’t to tell someone the right way (because there is no right way beyond communication and consent) to live a D/s and kinky life, but to help them figure out what “right” is for them in a healthy, realistic way.

What first made you want to write about sex?

I blogged in the vanilla world (anything not sex/kink related is “vanilla” to me, I don’t use it as a pejorative term) under my real name for about a year as I went through a divorce. It was nice to write and connect to people, but when I realized that I had sexual thoughts and fantasies I wanted to share, I realized I *didn’t* want my mother to read them. I’d already learned that blogging can be healing and cathartic, and I had a lot of sexual repression to deal with – I didn’t have an orgasm until I was 32. Writing was a way to finally get some of the sexual fantasies and questions out of my head and maybe connect to other people who’d understand where I was coming from. It helped that while I was blogging in the vanilla world, I discovered sex blogs and became a lurker. Starting my own sex blog allowed me to join the conversation under a pseudonym without worrying about outing myself as kinky.

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a professional sex writer? How does one ‘make it’ in this field?

My journey in the professional sex writing world began first with my blog which I started in 2012. It’s what taught me that people really are interested in reading what I (and many others) have to say about sex and relationships. In 2014, I quit my long-time desk job to become a freelance writer in the vanilla world but for every business-related article I wrote, I wished I was writing something about BDSM, kink, or D/s. In 2015, I decided that I would branch out and find places to write for under the “Kayla Lords” name. I sent out a completely not-professional email to Kinkly.com asking about writing opportunities – I didn’t pitch ideas. I didn’t offer any writing samples. I think I just asked, “Do you need writers?” But they were kind and willing to pull the necessary information out of me. From there, I caught the bug. If one place liked my ideas and writing style and would pay me, surely there would be other sites. And there were. As of 2017, fully half my income is from writing about sex – some as a contributor for websites, some comes from my websites, and I also pick up adult business clients who need a blogger or ghostwriter. One “makes” it as a writer by writing – often, consistently, and even when you’re not sure it’s good enough. You make it as a paid writer by seeking out sites that say they’re looking for writers and starting the conversation. Not everyone will pick up your ideas or offer compensation, but some will.

What does “a day in the life of You” look like?

I crave routine and the life of a freelance, self-employed person is anything but routine, especially since I have so many projects going at once. In a perfect world, I’m at my laptop after coffee, breakfast, and getting the kids started for their day. I’ve learned to work on my own blog and personal projects first so they actually get done. Then I spend the rest of the day working on client or contributor work – vanilla or sexual. I keep a running to-do list of whatever I need to get done in a given week. If the week is especially busy, I’ll map out my to-do list by the day so I know exactly what has to be written and submitted by the end of that work day. Doing this allows me to meet my deadlines without worrying I’ll disappoint an editor or a client. In between, I may need to record a podcast (for Loving BDSM) or take a call (I do a weekly session on iRadio in Ireland as their “sexpert” – a word I don’t love) or run errands. I’ve learned to be a little bit more flexible with my routine so I take breaks for coffee, the gym, or appointments – as long as I get that day’s work done before I go to bed, I’m happy. And yes, this means sometimes I’m writing at midnight when I need to wake up at 6 the next morning.

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

The best thing about being a sex writer is that I’m writing about sex! I never think I know it all so I don’t write in black and white terms of this or that options. When I’m given the freedom – because of a pitch that was accepted or because it’s my own personal writing – to write what I believe is relevant and important to my readers, it’s an amazing feeling.

There’s no real “worst” in sex writing because the things that can be awful – unsolicited hate, random dick pics because since I write about sex clearly I want to have All The Sex with All The People, and people who think my topic is trash, sinful, or whatever – that all rolls off my back. The hate some people receive is rare for me (thank goodness, and I know exactly how lucky I am). But I also believe so firmly in what I write and share that someone getting upset because they don’t agree is their problem, not mine. Now, to be clear, there are annoyances and anxieties that are a part of my sex writing life but none of them rise to the level of being hated. I’m so happy that I get to write about what I love and get paid for it that the rest doesn’t touch me the same way it does in my vanilla writing. Because in the vanilla writing world, I can list all the things I hate – which is probably why I’m looking forward to the day when the vanilla writing is no longer a necessary part of my income – which is my 2018 goal.

What’s your favourite piece you’ve ever written, fiction and non-fiction?

That’s a harder question than I thought it might be. I tend to write a thing, mean it desperately, and then let it go out into the world without a backward glance. It’ll touch readers or it won’t, I just need it to be genuine, earnest, and well-written. But the writing that comes from a place deep inside me – meaning it’s something I’ve felt, and I’m letting other people know it’s okay to feel and how it affected me – those tend to stick with me. I have two that were meant for the readers but were also reminders to myself:

Both came as a result of my own feelings and things that other submissive were sharing with me, so they were deeply personal pieces.

Who inspires you, professionally and personally?

I tend to be inspired both professional and personally at the same time because my professional life IS personal to me. In the sex blogging world, Molly Moore and Girl on the Net are my spirit animals and I fangirl all over them (in my head, where they can’t see) on a regular basis. When I see them doing something amazing, I don’t want to copy them but I do want to emulate them so I can create my own version of what I admire about them. Of course, they’ve also (inadvertently, without knowing it) taught me to be proud of my own accomplishments and not to be afraid to go my own way if it feels right and it works for me.

In my regular life, my mom inspires me. She went from nothing to extremely successful by working for someone else and is now looking to start over with her own business. She taught me that it’s possible to reach the “impossible” goals, to make a good life for yourself and your family no matter how hard life seems, and to never give up. She also taught me that hard work and an honest effort gets you further in life than anything else.

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

Assuming I had electricity, I’m bringing my Hitachi (aka Original Magic Wand) – no questions asked. My kinky item would be a flogger. And no sexy book, but I’ll bring my laptop so I can write. And this all assumes John Brownstone is with me, and if not, HE’S my kinky item. 😉

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 that sex wasn’t that important and that any relationship can be fixed. I stayed in a 12 year relationship (married for nine of them) because I thought those two things were true. I now understand that sex isn’t the MOST important part of a relationship, but for me, it’s a necessary part, and that some relationships are better off over than forcing yourself to stay. That the right person for you will fight just as hard to make a relationship work as you will – and sometimes harder. That they’ve got your back in good times and in bad, not just when it suits their needs. And if I can’t have what I believe is important in a relationship and the other person isn’t willing to work side by side with me to make it a good thing for both of us, I don’t want or need them.

What’s the best sex advice you ever got?

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten actual sex advice – not until I started following other sex bloggers and writers and paying attention to their views. Even then, what might be considered “advice” was something I already agreed with. The best advice, if it can be called that, was actually a complaint from an ex-lover right after my divorce. He and I hooked up, and while the sex was UH-MAZ-ING, I never orgasmed. This was before my first one at age 32 that I mentioned before. He wasn’t interested in helping me figure out why or what I needed to do to come. When he broke it off with me he said, “You never come, and it’s kind of a turn off.” I think, thanks to my overly competitive nature and my overwhelming desire to be considered a “good girl” and not always in a kinky way, I thought of that as a challenge. He and I never got back together, although I thought I wanted us to. But I did take on the task of figuring out how to come and why I couldn’t – and without that, I probably wouldn’t be writing about sex and kink today. So he was an ass but he also gave me a push I didn’t know I needed.

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

That there’s only right way to do any of it. M/F, gay or lesbian, D/s, poly you name a way to have sex or relationship, and each type will have “rules” about what makes it right. Some are societal across the board and some are specific to that type of interaction (like D/s). So we all think there’s one right way to fuck or be with someone and when that One True Way is no good for us, we think WE’RE the problem instead of the arbitrary rule. My world shifted the moment I realized that everything about sex and relationships exists on a spectrum so there is no one right way to do any of it.

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

“Are you really submissive?” It makes me laugh, and I can always tell they haven’t followed me for very long OR don’t know anything about BDSM and D/s. They hear/read my opinionated views and see me take charge in some way (like over my career) and it doesn’t fit their stereotype of what submission means so they question whether I really am or not. I don’t get offended by the question and I don’t let it bother me – I try to laugh it off more than anything – but I’d love if people stopped wondering, lol.

And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink”: how do you take your coffee? (Since I know that, like me, it is your love language!)

As much as I gush over coffee, I’m the type who likes a little coffee with her cream, and I have to use alternative milks or non-dairy creamers to keep my tummy happy. My favorite (my “American” is going to show here) is iced coffee with caramel flavor and extra cream or almond milk. But hot coffee with extra vanilla creamer and a dash of cinnamon is a good way to wake up, too. My go-to Starbucks order is a Venti Caramel Iced Coffee with Extra Almond Milk and my go-to Dunkin Donuts (do y’all have that?) order is a Medium Iced Dark Roast with Mocha Swirl and Almond Milk.

Thank you so much to Kayla for sharing her time and insights with us all (and for being so kind to me when I fangirled all over her at Eroticon earlier this year.) Check out her work! More interviews coming soon…

The image featured in this post is the logo for Loving BDSM podcast and belongs to Kayla Lords. It was reproduced here with her kind permission.

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.

Sex Educator Interviews #1: Kate Sloan

Over the next few weeks, I’m hoping to share a series of interviews with some of the sex educators and writers I admire who have been kind enough to agree to let me interview them.

First up is the lovely and extremely talented Kate Sloan, blogger, journalist and one half of the hi-fucking-larious The Dildorks podcast.  

 A picture of Kate Sloan, a white woman with long, wavy dark hair. She has her hands on the side of her head and her mouth open in a 'surprised' expression. She is wearing a blue jacket, blue gloves and a rainbow striped knitted hat.

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

Sure! My name’s Kate Sloan and I’m a sex blogger, sex journalist, and sex podcaster. (A whole lotta sex things!) I blog 2-3 times a week over at Girly Juice about sex, kink, relationships, style, and mental health. I write for various other outlets about those topics too (most recently: Glamour, Teen Vogue, and Kinkly). I’m also a producer and co-host of a show called The Dildorks; it’s a weekly podcast for sex nerds that I do with my best friend Bex.

What first made you want to write about sex?

I’ve honestly been fascinated by sex for as long as I can remember – to the point that I’ve had therapists think it’s weird and ask me “Why?!” I can remember writing erotica from about age 9, and researching sex and masturbation from my earliest days on the internet. I’ve just always found it an intriguing topic, socioculturally and psychologically. Sex is so much of what drives us and makes us tick as humans!

When I started Girly Juice, a lot of people asked me why I had chosen to focus my blog on sex – and my honest answer is that I couldn’t think of anything else I’d truly be able to write about forever. Now I’m more than five years into writing the blog and I’m nowhere near running out of ideas. Sex is endlessly interesting to me!

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a professional sex writer? How does one ‘make it’ in this field?

I went to journalism school, but that’s definitely not a necessary step for writers. I was fortunate in that my school, Ryerson University, was super supportive of my sex-journalism ambitions. My entrance essay, for example, was about a Grant Stoddard piece on massage-parlor handjobs and my final project was about kink and mental health. Yay for permissive institutions!

I started my blog 6 months before beginning that program, and then my 4 years at Ryerson honed my writing skills and also taught me how to do things like pitch stories, research properly, and do interviews. Throughout my time there, I pitched a lot and wrote about sex for various publications, mostly Canadian ones like Herizons magazine and the Plaid Zebra. Around the time I graduated last year, my career really started to take off, with my blog getting more attention and my pitches getting accepted at bigger outlets.

The reason I say J-school isn’t a vital step is that success in writing is really more about your skill, your portfolio, and your connections, in my experience. If you build up a great body of work, learn how to write good pitches, and can submit well-written copy on time, that’ll take you a long way, even if you have no academic credentials in the field.

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

Right now I have a part-time “dayjob” doing social media for a marketing company in the adult industry, and I do that work first thing in the morning because it’s time-sensitive. I get up at 8AM and spend about 2-3 hours in bed writing tweets about porn, phone sex, and cam shows. It’s pretty rad.

At that point, I get dressed and put makeup on. (I like to feel cute when I write; it improves the end result, I think.) I head out to a local café with my laptop, grab coffee and a muffin, and settle into a window seat. Writing at coffee shops helps focus me, because I’ve gone there with the specific intention of getting work done (plus I live with a rock band, so sometimes it’s too loud to write at my house!). I’ll work on whatever creative stuff needs to get done that day: writing or outlining a blog post, editing a podcast episode, putting together a pitch.

After a couple hours at the café, I come home and have lunch, usually while listening to a goofy McElroy brothers podcast. After lunch, I get a bit more dayjob work done, and/or work on administrative tasks (I find my capacity for creativity fades in the afternoon) like answering emails, scheduling tweets, and planning my editorial calendar. If I’m working on a journalistic piece, sometimes I do phone interviews with sources in the afternoon.

In the evening, I typically read articles online, catch up on my fave TV shows (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl, and The Bold Type!), smoke weed and/or jerk off, ‘cause I’m classy like that. Sometimes I go see my boyfriend or a friend, or go to an improv show.

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

The best thing is that I get to write about what authentically fascinates me. I get to chase that exciting feeling of “WHAT?!” and “OMG!” and “HOW THE FUCK?!” all the damn time. I pitch stories on whatever sexual phenomena are capturing my attention at any given moment, and I blog about whatever the hell I want, even sometimes stuff that isn’t strictly related to sex. My work honestly thrills me every day, even when I secretly wish I could be sleeping instead of writing. Few people get to be as excited by their work as I am!

The worst thing is that people don’t always take you seriously. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to explain to people that my blog is actually a serious endeavor and a major source of income for me, rather than just an embarrassing dalliance I’m doing while I look for better work. However, for every person I meet who’s judgmental of what I do, I meet at least five people who think it’s awesome, so whatever. Fuck the h8erz.

What’s your favourite piece you’ve ever written?

Yikes, hard question! I’m proud of a lot of my print work and fancy research-heavy journalism, but I think the piece of mine I honestly love most is a blog post called “You’re Vanilla. I’m Not. But I Love You.” It was sort of the culmination of an enormously difficult unrequited love I endured, and how that got tangled up with kink and depression and self-worth. Writing is often cathartic for me, but I think that piece, especially, helped me get over that intense love by processing all these moments and details I hadn’t talked much about or known what to do with. I think sometimes organizing your thoughts into a cohesive narrative can help you understand them better, and thereby understand yourself better.

Who inspires you, professionally and personally?

Some of my favorite writers, sex-focused and otherwise: Alana Massey, Rachel Rabbit White, Caitlin Moran, Allison Moon, Tina Horn, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Jillian Keenan, Katie Forsythe, Brandon Taylor, Rachel Syme, Helena Fitzgerald, Alexandra Franzen, Gala Darling, Epiphora, Esmé Wang, Sean Michaels, Clementine Morrigan, and C. Brian Smith. Woof, that’s a lot!

Other people who inspire me: my mom. My best friend, Bex. My other blogger friends (the incredibly brave Lilly, of Dangerous Lilly, and Sarah, of Formidable Femme, come to mind immediately). Revolutionary kink educators like Mollena Williams and Princess Kali. The ladies of The Blogcademy. Musical theatre composers Stephen Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown. My friend Brent “Brentalfloss” Black, a fellow creative weirdo. Artists whose music has changed my life, like Regina Spektor, Nellie McKay, Nathan Stocker and (gulp) Nick Jonas. All the ex-partners who have made me into the specific sexual eccentric I am today.

If you were stuck on a desert island (sorry, sorry, I HAD to do a ‘desert island’ question) and could take one vibrating toy, one dildo, one anal toy, and one miscellaneous sexy item of your choice, what would your picks be?

Vibrator: the We-Vibe Tango. Can’t live without it. (Does this island have outlets?)

Dildo: the Fucking Sculptures Double Trouble, with which I would like to be buried someday.

Anal toy: the medium Njoy Pure Plug, simply the most perfect plug that has ever graced my butt.

Miscellaneous sexy item: my Lexan paddle from the now-defunct KinkMachineWorks. I love being spanked (and occasionally spanking people) and this is probably my favorite tool for the job.

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

(Content warning for fatphobia and toxic thoughts about weight, y’all.) I used to think a chubby, not-conventionally-attractive-lookin’ lady like me was unloveable, or undeserving of good sex, or incapable of attracting people.

That is bullshit. I cannot overstate how much that is utter bullshit. True story: in 2014, I worked hard and lost a fair amount of weight, because I fundamentally believed I would not be able to find love (or good sex) unless I did that. And I literally had NO SEX and went on NO DATES while I was at that weight, because frankly I wasn’t confident at all and wasn’t pursuing people. It wasn’t until I gained back all the weight, and then some, that people started being openly interested in me again. Since then, my sex life has been absolutely hoppin’, and that has nothing to do with weight and everything to do with confidence and self-love.

What’s the best sex advice you ever got?

My grandmother – a very wise woman – used to tell me all the time, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” I don’t think she ever expressed this in a sexual context, but it’s fantastic sex advice nonetheless. As a meek, anxious submissive, I’ve wasted a lot of time silently hoping someone would do [x thing] to me, instead of just asking for [x thing]. It’s silly. If someone likes you and likes having sex with you, they’d probably also like making your fantasy come true, so you might as well ask!

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

Gosh, there’s so many! One that particularly bugs me is the idea that women are fundamentally different from men – an alien species, a foreign entity. There’s so much discourse out there along the lines of “What do women like?” and “How do you get a woman to ___?” and it’s all based on the dangerous myth that women are a monolith who all respond identically to stimulus, like a horde of robots. We’re just people, who each have unique desires and preferences and motivations, like people do!

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

“So do you just, like, get paid to masturbate?”

I review sex toys on my blog, but toy-testing is honestly about 2% of the work I put into running my biz. I’m not gonna lie, my line of work is pretty sweet, but no, I do not “get paid to masturbate”! (Well, except when people pay me for cam shows, but even then, a lot of what I’m getting paid for is emotional labor, not my own pleasure.)

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

Love it! My fave is an Americano with soy milk, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Or a hazelnut soy latte. Or, in summer, an iced peppermint latte. Or just inject caffeine directly into my veins; that’s fine too.

Thank you so much to Kate for taking the time to speak to me! Don’t forget to check out her work. Upcoming interviews include Cooper S Beckett and Kayla Lords, so watch this space…

Kate kindly provided the featured picture for this post. She owns the copyright and this picture must not be reproduced or copied without her express permission.