Amy and Exhibit A on… Group Sex!

One of the best things about being a creative person who is friends with other creative people is the opportunity to co-create! This is the third piece I’ve done with Exhibit A (we’ve also covered pegging and penis size!) and it was enormous fun to discuss group sex with him. The ever-so-slightly edited transcript of our Q&A/discussion is below. 

Buckle in and get some coffee for this one, folks – it’s over 4000 words long! (Are you surprised two of your favourite opinionated sex writers had a lot to say!?) Now without further ado, here we go… 

A bed with dim lighting and rumpled sheets. For a post on group sexEA: Right, let’s doooooo this. Where do you want to start?

CK: Yessss. I guess a good place to start is… why group sex? It’s clearly a thing we’re both very into. And I think it holds a lot of fascination for a lot of people. But what’s the appeal? What’s so great about it?

EA: Phew, that’s a huge topic to kick off with! I could write 10,000 words on that last question alone. Short answer though? It’s more. More of everything. More cocks and/or cunts, more arses and boobs, but also more sensation and emotion and connection and chemistry. More combinations of different people and different body parts. For those of us who self-identify as greedy, it’s a no-brainer!

CK: I love that. And I am definitely also in the camp of “greedy.”

EA: How about you? What would be your group sex ‘elevator pitch’?

CK: Hmm. I think it’s a lot about the possibilities it opens up for me. Like, there are things you just can’t do with only one other person, like certain sex configurations or especially certain kink dynamics/scenes. Two people offers a huge number of possibilities, but with three or more it’s pretty much infinite. Plus, honestly, I get to embrace the power of “both” – if I want both cock and cunt, I can have both. If I want to both Dom and sub, I can do both.

EA: Yes, and even when there are things you can do with just two of you (spit-roasting, for example, using cock and toy or toy/toy), it’s so much easier and more fluid with a third pair of hands.

CK: Absolutely! When you first experienced group sex, was it like you expected it to be in fantasy?

EA: Funnily enough, the first time I had what you’d call group sex (a threesome that I wrote about here), it features far less in my fantasies than it does now. So my expectations were…hmm, open-ended, I guess. I’d talked about it a lot in advance with the couple in question, but it was a completely new thing for all three of us, so I guess we kind of figured it out as we went along, rather than relying on set ideas about what might happen. Since then, threesomes and moresomes have ranged from entirely aligned to my fantasies, on the one hand, to wildly divergent on the other. But that’s sex in general, right?

CK: That makes sense. My first time was completely the opposite in a way – entirely unplanned, just happened in the spur of the moment). My early experiences tended to go like that, whereas now there is usually – not always, but usually – at least a bit of pre-planning that goes into it. And sometimes things come out as planned/fantasised about, sometimes they don’t.

EA: Where do you stand on pre-planning group sex? I can see arguments in favour and arguments against, but I’m aware that a) you have more experience in this department, and b) you guys have a more structured approach than we do in general to involving other people in your relationship (in whatever context), so I’m curious to get your perspective.

CK: I’m still torn about it, really, and it very much varies depending on circumstances. I do like the planning/scheming/idea-sharing (and, let’s be real, wild sexting) that comes in the lead-up to a planned session. However, I do feel like it can end up with everyone feeling undue pressure – like it’s going to be a big failure if it doesn’t come off or doesn’t come off in the right way? I tend to thing the pros of pre-planning outweigh the cons, in general, especially because you can easily discuss boundaries, limits, safer sex protocols and all those other important things while everyone’s still got their clothes on. But I have had spontaneous fun that was wonderful, too. The reality for me is most of it has to be somewhat planned – I live in a tiny town with no scene, live with my Primary partner but all my/our other lovers are at least a drive away, and so we have to make plans for people to visit/for us to visit them/to go to the club or a kink event.

EA: All that makes sense! Again, there’s a lot of overlap with general sex considerations – the bit about discussing boundaries, limits etc can apply to any sexual situation, especially one with a new partner. I can see that the importance of those discussions is elevated slightly by the fact that three (or more) people are involved – and that in a lot of cases you’re talking about an established couple inviting a new person into their bed.

CK: Yes, absolutely. A lot of it is general sex concerns, amplified because more people.

EA: The whole porn/erotica trope of something just happening, spontaneously and without any prior indication that you might all end up in bed together, sounds great…but I imagine is pretty rare. It takes a certain amount of boldness to say to someone (or to a couple) “heyyyy…shall we all fuck now?”, unless you’re pretty damn sure they might say yes!

CK: Hah! I have literally never had that happen. My spontaneous group sex has always either been “more than one person I’m already banging happens to be in the same place” or “we’re at a sex party and everyone is here for precisely this.”

EA: Actually, that leads nicely into a question we had from someone on Twitter…

CK: Ooh, go for it!

EA: “Assuming the “couple +third” paradigm, who typically initiates, the couple or the third, and how can folks manage the additional pressure of being approached by or approaching two people?”

CK: Based on my experience, it’s a lot more common for it to be the couple who initiates – like, couples looking for a third is so much of a thing that it’s become a stereotype (“unicorn hunting,” anyone?) But I have been approached, as part of a couple, by a third person wanting to play with both of us. A couple of times actually. It’s always surprising but awesome. Has that been your experience too?

EA: Yes, while you were typing I was thinking back through my experiences, and it’s pretty much always been the couple who’ve initiated things. Though it’s not necessarily one or the other! There’s been at least one occasion when I’ve discussed it separately with my partner and the third person, before my partner and I have then suggested moving things forward. As you said, there’s a lot of fun sexting to be had around group sex, and I suspect it’s not uncommon for two (or even all three) sides of the triangle to have independent, exploratory conversations about all fucking each other. And that’s great actually, because then you at least know you’re all on the same page before someone sticks their neck out and asks the question.

CK: With regards to the additional pressure thing, it’s definitely a concern. If I’m on the initiating-as-part-of-a-couple side, I try to make it very clear that whatever answer the other person gives is A-Okay and there’s never pressure from us to do anything they’re not comfortable with. But I’ve certainly had experiences where I’ve found it harder to say no to two people than I would to say no to one. Especially when I’ve been in their space. What I’ve also noticed is that the couple+third dynamic is VERY different to a couple+couple dynamic.

EA: See I’ve only ever done couple + third, or just general mass of bodies (SO good). We’re yet to play with another couple outside a sex party, so I’m interested to know what you think the main differences are.

CK: Mmmm, mass of bodies… ANYWAY. It feels easier to make the approach with another couple, for me, because there’s a sense of balance that isn’t often there with couple + third. But actually, despite the even number, I’ve found it harder to navigate a situation that makes everyone involved happy when there’s 4 people as opposed to 3. Maybe it’s just more people’s preferences at play all at once? We’ve had so many couples approach us where, essentially, the other husband wants a live lesbian sex show starring me and his wife, and just assumes my partner will be into that too. Which is… fine but not really what we’re after!

EA: That makes sense to me. You’re also talking about two relationships, with all the attendant emotions, history, kinks, interests, and – yes – jealousy that might be involved with them. Of course it would be more complicated.

CK: Yes! Which leads me nicely onto the often asked question of jealousy… does it come up? How do we handle it if it does?

EA: I’ve been lucky enough not to experience jealousy as an issue in the group sex I’ve had – any time I’ve been part of a/the couple, we’ve both been pretty clear in our minds about what the other person is into, what they want, and what might turn them off or trigger jealousy/trauma of some kind. I feel like we say this in every one of these chats, but that’s where good communication is SO important.

CK: Huh, interesting! I’ve never had it come up for me in a group sex situation either, though I have had a partner’s jealousy come up.

EA: Really? What happened and how did you deal with it – at the time and afterwards?

CK: I’m specifically thinking of a time very early on in our relationship where another guy, who I had been into for a while but this was the first time we’d played, asked if he could have penetrative sex with me. My partner had some jealous feelings come up and decided he couldn’t handle that at that moment. It was fine – we reassured him his boundaries mattered, we weren’t upset, and there were hugs, then we continued to do other things. And the next time we played with that guy, there was penetration and it was absolutely fine. We talked in private later, of course, about what he’d been feeling and what had caused it. But that was very early on and it hasn’t come up for either of us in a really long time. I think a big part of it is we’ve got good at checking in with each other during, even non-verbally, to make sure we’re still having a good time. Sometimes just a “hey, I’m here” squeeze of the hand can be all you need.

EA: YES! That’s a really good point! I can’t emphasise enough the importance of non-verbal communication during a group sex scenario, actually.

CK: Absolutely – when you know your partner really well, you can say SO much with just a look or a touch, and it can be so reassuring.

EA: Which makes absolute sense. You’d instinctively/unthinkingly offer that same reassurance in so many situations with your partner, especially one you have a close/longstanding relationship with. Of course you’d do the same thing during sex

CK: I see a lot of people asking if they should have a threesome/swing to please their partner when they don’t actually want to, and my answer is always an emphatic NOPE DO NOT DO THAT THING. Everyone has to be into the idea, otherwise it is almost guaranteed to go awry.

EA: Oh god, yes. Again, true of just about everything, but maybe even more true of something where you’re involving other people. Not fair on them and definitely not fair on yourself.

CK: Definitely. When I wrote my post about being a good couple to have a threesome with, I think the most important point I made was the “have your house in order first.” (link here). So I had an interesting question from a reader…

EA: Shoot.

CK: They ask: what if you’re in a group scenario but you don’t want to have sex with everyone in that group, or only do certain things? (The example they gave was, say, happy being spanked by anyone but don’t want to have genital contact with everyone?) Is that a thing you can navigate? And this also ties in to some thoughts I had about mixed orientations within group settings.

EA: Do you want to dig into those thoughts while I have a go at answering the main question?

CK: Sure! I mean, I’m in a mixed-orientation relationship. I’m bi while my partner is, for all intents and purposes, basically straight (a little bit flexible but that’s usually neither here nor there.) This is quite useful in group scenarios in a way, especially given the high percentage of bi/pan women within non-monogamy. But it’s also something to be careful with… we’ve had a situation with a queer woman and straight man, and both of them were trying to get their hands on me, which led to my partner feeling left out. But I’ve also played in group scenarios with straight or mainly-straight women, and it’s been fine. Sometimes there’s kissing/fondling/light play, sometimes nothing at all, depending on her comfort levels. But that could be a problem for some people if a priority for them in group sex was getting their needs for the-sex-that-their-primary-partner-isn’t-into met.

EA: Regarding your reader’s question, I don’t know that I can give a satisfying solution to this one! The more people you add to any scenario, the greater the level of social complexity – partly because there’s a heightened expectation that you’ll all just muck in. If a stranger approached you in a bar, no-one would expect you to have a conversation with them – if you’re at a cocktail party, where everyone knows someone, and that same stranger tries to engage you, it would seem far ruder just to ignore them. So in a group scenario I can see why that same pressure would be there! But…

CK: That’s a really good point, and I think it is quite dependent on the people involved and their social dynamics. I think it’s mainly important (again!) for everyone to be honest about where they’re at and what they’re trying to get out of the scene.

EA: You just have to be firm and clear about what you want. And look, this is a hard one to simplify, because a (larger) group scenario can be constructed in so many ways. Are you on your own or there with a partner? Are you at a sex club, a private party, or in a hotel room with a bunch of people you know? The answers to those questions will clearly determine how you approach the situation, and how much other people are already likely to know about your intentions. But the basic principles apply: no means no, only do what you’re comfortable doing, and no-one has a right to do anything to/with your body. The clearer you are with people about what kind of fun you’re up (and not up) for having, the less likely you are to run into any awkwardness.

CK: Yes! It all comes back to consent is the bottom line. And, again, I think it’s best if everyone can be really honest going in. “I’m up for anyone spanking me but please ask before you touch my genitals, as I may or may not be up for that” is a fine and useful thing to say.

EA: Ok, let’s spice things up a bit here. What’s your favourite kind of group sex scenario – and/or, what’s been your hottest group experience? Alternatively/additionally, what haven’t you done yet, but would really like to?

CK: Ah, my favourite question! My favourite scenario is a toss-up between “switch-in-the-middle” (usually a man who is more dominant than me and a woman who is more submissive than me) or “co-subbing to two or more people” where I pretty much get ganged up on and they do evil shit to me. The one I REALLY want and haven’t done yet is a gang-bang. Just endless cocks… factory-installed or silicone, I don’t care, just LOTS of them. I’m seriously considering a gang-bang for my 30th birthday in a couple of years if I haven’t done it by then.

EA: “My name’s Amy and I’m #greedy”

CK: I mean… yeah, accurate! Same questions to you?

EA: It’s funny, in theory my favourite is MMF with a guy who’s either bi or at least into some same-sex stuff going down (heh)…and when I’ve done that it’s generally been great…BUT I have to say I’ve probably enjoyed MFF threesomes even more in reality, because they’ve always involved awesome people (whereas the other guy in each of my MMF encounters has been a stranger to me, pretty much). That’s made it much easier to relax and let go of any remaining inhibitions, especially when the focus has been on my pleasure. Having two women suck your cock at the same time sounds (and is) great, but in a weird way it’s also a lot of pressure! It helps to know they’re both lovely.

CK: Hah! That makes sense. It does (often) help if there’s already some connection with the other people. What’s on your group sex bucket list? (Fuck-it list?)

EA: As for what’s at the top of my group sex fuck-it list… ha! Snap! A really hot, no-holds-barred (no-holes-barred?) night with another couple is right up there. Or an MMF threesome where I get fucked by the other guy too – or by a strap-on while I suck his cock. Y’know, little things like that.

CK: Yum on all counts! Any single hottest experience so far stand out for you?

EA: I’d say the threesome we had with a fellow Eroticon delegate after the Saturday social last year! It was sort-of planned, in the sense that she came back to ours when she had accommodation arranged elsewhere, but then it all unfolded really organically and spontaneously once we got here. Fucking her from behind while she went down on Liv was just…hnnnngh… You?

CK: One that really stands out for me is when my partner was dating his last secondary girlfriend and she came over one evening. He and I had discussed that we were up for it if she was, and apparently she’d said she was up for it if I was, and… it all just sort of happened. We went from cuddling to snogging to pinning her down and making her come with the Doxy (and then falling about laughing when she recovered from her orgasm and declared “I’M GETTING ONE.”) And it all just flowed from there.

EA: The chill-out time after a good threesome, when you’re all still high on the endorphins, is definitely one of the best things about them.

CK: Oh, so much! And the three- (or more-) way snuggles are just…. mmm. Yes. Have you ever had a group sex experience go badly that you’re willing to talk about?

EA: Happily both the short and the long answer is no – I’ve been very lucky in that sense. There have been times when group sex has been discussed (or hinted at) and it hasn’t panned out, but I’ve never been in a situation that’s got out of hand in a bad way…or just failed to deliver.

CK: That’s really good! (And probably not a very common experience, I imagine?)

EA: I was going to ask about the voyeuristic element of threesomes with your partner. Is that an active part of the appeal for you? If so, what is it that appeals to you about watching someone you’re in a relationship with fuck someone else?

CK: Funnily enough I was thinking about/discussing this with my partner this weekend. It’s definitely a big part of it for me. When I feel secure in a relationship I feel compersion quite strongly, so watching my partner having fun just fills me with joy in a way that isn’t even immediately sexual. But I am also a huge voyeur, so I guess the appeal is watching two or more people I’m wildly attracted to getting it on. (And knowing I get to join in too just makes it even better!)

EA: Yes, that last bit is definitely something I get too. The anticipation of watching things heat up between two people you really want to fuck…and knowing that at some point you’re going to, y’know, fuck them…is SO good.

CK: Oh yes! What do you think are some of the biggest myths around group sex that people tend to believe?

EA: There’s an odd but pervasive assumption that any threesome involving two cis men and a woman is just going to end up as a bro-tastic spit roast with as little physical or eye contact between the guys as possible. That’s not been my experience of MFM, and certainly there are a lot of self-identified straight men out there who are just as curious and experimental about M/M plat as our various cultural norms would have you believe straight women are about F/F.

CK: Oh, absolutely. In the swinging and non-monogamy communities there seems to be a really pervasive assumption that men are all straight and women are all bi, which is not the case at all!

EA: I think there’s also a belief that threesomes always have to be these big, high pressure ‘Events’ – that they’re somehow different to just regular ol’ sex. And sometimes that’s true! As this chat has made clear, there are considerations with group sex that don’t always apply to sex with just one partner. At the same time, though, there are downsides to putting ant kind of sexual activity on a pedestal – namely that it ends up looking really daunting to people who maybe aren’t that confident or experienced.

CK: I think it also sets people up for disappointment – if threesomes/group sex are held up as this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime thing that represent the pinnacle of sexual achievement, how can the reality ever match up to the hype?

EA: Yep. Threesomes can also feel really easy and natural, or like an extension of the fun and intimacy you have with an existing partner. They don’t have to be a huge deal, and they do sometimes evolve organically, without the need for endless discussion/negotiation beforehand, and without feeling like anything especially significant. Those experiences are 100% valid too, and they maybe get overlooked or downplayed a bit. Next question for you: any practical tips to make sure no-one feels left out during a threesome?

CK: The left out thing is really interesting because I’ve never actually experienced it either from myself or from a partner. I suppose the tips are obvious – make sure everyone in the situation is actually comfortable with everyone else, take turns to be the centre of attention (this can flow very organically!) and as much as possible, come up with configurations that all 3 (or more) can engage in at the same time. Final question from me before we wrap up: what advice would you give a person or couple before they experience group sex for the first time?

EA: I’d tell them to read our awesome Q&A! I dunno – preparing for any exciting/scary new thing is such an individual thing that I’d be loathe to give much super-generic advice. For every person who would benefit from talking through the whole scenario in advance with the two (or more) other parties, there’ll be someone else who needs it all to feel spontaneous and organic. Even saying ‘make sure you really want it before you do it’ feels a little disingenuous: I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely leapt feet-first into new sexual experiences before, without giving them much thought, and not regretted it – sometimes you need to suck it and see (so to speak) before you know whether a particular kink or activity is for you. I guess maybe I’d tell them to practice self-care (whatever that means for them), keep an open mind, and be clear about both their limits and their preferences. You can’t go far wrong doing those things!

CK: Hah! Yes. Our advice is “this entire post!” I’ve definitely leapt into things without being entirely sure or having much of a plan before, too – usually I’m a planner but occasionally spontaneity has been fun! Practicing self-care is a really good tip because that can encompass to many different things, so people can do whatever that means to them. The only other thing I would add is COMMUNICATE DURING! It can be quick, it can be nonverbal, it can even be sexy – but please just fucking communicate.

EA: Thanks, this has been really great! I didn’t think we’d have any shortage of things to say about group sex, and 4,000+ words later, it turns out I was right. Till next time!

Eroticon 2018: Meet ‘n’ Greet

Hard to believe it’s been about a year since I first did one of these! I’m even more excited for Eroticon this year now I know what an amazing, affirming, and occasionally life-changing experience it can be.

So, without further ado, here’s my virtual getting-to-know-you…

NAME (and Twitter if you have one)

You can call me Amy. (I’ll also answer to CK or Coffee&Kink). CoffeeAndKink on Twitter.

What are you most looking forward to about Eroticon 2018?

The people. There are so many people I’m looking forward to seeing again (some of whom I haven’t seen since last year) and I’m always excited to make new friends!

We are creating a play list of songs for the Friday Night Meet and Greet. Nominate one song that you would like us to add to the play list and tell us why you picked that song

All Over Me by Lindsey Harper, because to me it’s just the most perfect love song.

What’s the first career you dreamed of having as a kid?

Something involving horses. Sometimes I wanted to run a riding school, sometimes I wanted to set up a rescue sanctuary, and sometimes I wanted to be a competitive eventer.

Weirdest place you’ve ever gotten up to mischief (define ‘mischief’ however you like…)

I fucked in a bluebell wood that one time…

Tell us two truths and a lie about yourself?

In no particular order:
– At time of writing, I have had sex with a total of 30 people.
– Despite the obsession/addiction I’m known for, I didn’t actually like coffee until I was 22.
– I got up to Grade 8 in piano when I was a teenager.

 

Complete the sentence: I want…

…unlimited time, a wealthy patron and to never get sick. With all these in place, I might have time to do at least a fair percentage of the writing I want to do.

See you at Eroticon!

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 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.