Antidepressants: My Longest Relationship

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I have depression. Apart from a brief period between 19 and 21 where I struggled along drug-free, I have been on antidepressants for my entire adult life.

A white woman's tattooed lower legs, wearing black high heels and black knickers around her ankles. By Hot Octopuss. For a post on antidepressants and sex.Today, I wanted to share a few true stories about how these drugs, which probably saved my life, have interacted with my sex life with occasionally hilarious, sometimes sad and frequently frustrating results.

That Time I Didn’t Have Sex for 9 Months

A pretty older woman with long flowing hair, wearing a patterned shirt. Sitting at a table with a mug in front of her, smiling into the camera. By Hot Octopuss, for a post on antidepressants and sex.My first go with antidepressants came when I was 18. I was in a horrible corporate job that was basically slowly ripping out my soul. My boyfriend was abusive (though I couldn’t name it as abuse at the time). I was trying to come to terms with my bisexuality. And most of my friends had gone off to university, leaving me isolated and lonely in my hometown. It was a bad time.

I went to see my GP, adamant I didn’t want medication. What did I want? Just someone to talk to, I think. To feel less alone. They told me I wasn’t sick enough for counselling, and sent me away with a prescription for Prozac.

Prozac and Amy, it turns out, are not friends. It took me from depressed to suicidal. It gave me horrible heartburn and killed my appetite such that I lost a stone in a few short weeks. And worst of all, it killed my sex drive. I couldn’t feel anything, I didn’t want anyone touching my body, and I was so sad and exhausted that evenings and weekends were for mindless TV, naps, and the kind of writing that only comes out of me when I’m trying to stay alive,  not for hot passionate sessions or dirty quickies in the kitchen.

During that time, my boyfriend raped me a handful of times, but I didn’t have consensual sex for about 9 months.

That Time I Discovered My Denial Kink

A male/female couple lying on a bed, face down, him on top of her nuzzling her face. By Hot Octopuss for a post about antidepressants and sex.I’ve already written about how I came to be on Citalopram at the age of 21 (be warned if you click the link, it’s not a pleasant story). A few weeks into that saga, my boyfriend (a different boyfriend to the one discussed above, this one even more abusive) and I were having sex. I was rubbing my clit while he finger-fucked me, a surefire way to get me off. And I just… couldn’t get there. It wasn’t happening. My vulva became sore, and then numb, as I kept chasing that elusive orgasm that just. would. not. come.

Loss of orgasm when on antidepressants is, it turns out, extremely common. So why didn’t my GP mention this to me when they gave me the prescription and we discussed possible side effects? Why didn’t the leaflet included with the pills, which I read religiously three times before popping the first one, say a single word about sexual side effects? Probably because our culture doesn’t regard women’s orgasms as important. And certainly not depressed women’s orgasms. So when I asked for help, my doctor essentially said, “trouble with orgasm is the price you pay for not being depressed”. Okay then.

I made it my mission to learn how to orgasm again while on the medication – which, in all other ways, really was helping me! I masturbated until I was too sore to carry on. My partner and I had sex in all kinds of different positions and configurations. Being poor and without access to good toys at the time, I tried with the vibrators I had. But they were too weak to get me anywhere. It took me a month before I finally reached orgasm again, after over an hour with a high-powered vibrator borrowed from my metamour.

During that month, I was pissed off – at myself, at my doctor, at the pills – and frustrated as all hell. But I was also… more turned on than I had ever been in my life. I soon realised that I kind of enjoyed the ache that came from having a really good sex or masturbation session but not reaching orgasm. I liked the submissive feelings I got when my partner came and I didn’t. When he laughed at my frustration during a particularly Dominant moment… woof. And when my orgasm finally reared its elusive head once more, it was the most explosive one I’d ever had.

I was relieved to have the option to orgasm again, of course. But I’d had a taste of something I liked. I started playing with edging and waiting before coming, both in my masturbation and during sex with my partner.

And that, friends, is how citalopram taught me I have an orgasm denial kink.

That Time I Started Coming Off My Medication

A woman's body from behind, wearing jeans and naked on the top half. She has long flowing hair. By Hot Octopuss, for a post about antidepressants and sex.Which brings me to a couple of months ago. Together with my doctor (a new one, who is amazing) I’m working on coming off citalopram. This is because, having been medicated since the age of 21, I don’t actually know what I’m like without it any more. And I want to find out.

The first two weeks on a half dose were hell. I was crying endlessly, arguing with my partner, barely sleeping, and pretty much oscillating between numbness and crushing, unbearable sadness. And, for that period and a little longer while my body adjusted, my sex drive went haywire.

Specifically: I was horny as hell every moment I wasn’t sobbing, but I at the same time I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone touching my genitals, including myself. It was disconcerting and strange to say the least. My body was all “yeah, lets go!” while my brain wasn’t having any of it.

And Now… What Next?

Mercifully, things have calmed down. I’m still on the journey towards coming off the antidepressants, currently on a half dose with a view to cutting down further in the next few weeks. But the effects on my sex life so far have been fascinating.

Firstly, I’m finding I can come more quickly and easily than I used to when I was on the full dose, especially while masturbating. Gentler toys or my fingers can get me off more often and more reliably. I still love my power tool vibrators, of course, but it’s not all about them now. I can have multiple orgasms more quickly, and more often. And I’m enjoying more than ever experimenting with different sensations, and trying out all kinds of new, different and interesting toys.

The Hot Octopuss company logo.

Heads up: this post was sponsored by the wonderful people at Hot Octopuss, who make fantastic and innovative sex toys for both penises and vulvas. Check out their stuff, particularly my personal favourite, the Queen Bee. Images are property of Hot Octopuss and not to be used without their express permission. A banner ad for sex toy company Hot Octopuss, who sponsored a post on sex and mental health

Massive Age Gap Relationships: FAQ

For those of you who don’t know, I am in a relationship with a massive age gap. There is more than 20 (though less than 25) years between me and Mr CK. When we started our relationship, I was in my early 20s and he was in his late 40s.

Yet it works.

A pair of hands making a heart shape against a sunset. For a post about age gap relationships.
Inevitably, we get a lot of questions about our dynamic and how it works. So here, I am going to candidly answer as many of them as I can think of.

Notes:
1.
Everything here assumes minimum legal age of consent is met in all cases.
2. This is written from the perspective of a much older man dating a much younger woman, as that’s my experience, but most of this works for most genders.
3. TW for brief mention of DDlg kink (no details) and discussion of hypothetical death of a partner.

Okay, let’s dive in!

“Isn’t it really creepy for a much older man to be dating a much younger woman?”

My answer to this, surprisingly, isn’t “no”. My answer is “it depends”.

I don’t judge any couple based solely on the age gap between them. It’s if a much older guy exclusively or mostly dates extremely young women that my side-eye starts to creep in.

If I’m dating a guy 20+ years my senior, I don’t need to be the only exception but I really don’t want to be the rule. I want his dating history to be varied and filled with women of many different ages. If everyone he’s dated has been under 25, it tells me two things:

1. There’s probably some weird youth/inexperience fetishising going on.
2. He will probably be looking elsewhere before I’ve hit 30.

If he’s much older than me, I want to know that he sees me as a person, not an age. That he’d have dated me if I was 25 or 35 or 55, because he loves who I am. I’ve been with men with a “barely legal” thing, and I’ve been with men with virgin fetishes who want their women as young and inexperienced (they assume, but lol have you met me?) as possible, and I’ve been with men who saw me as a trophy to brag to their friends about (“yes, she’s only 19! Do I get Man Points for getting the teenager into bed!?”)

What do your family think?

They adore him, because he loves and respects me, treats me well and makes me happy. Thanks for asking.

If you’re thinking of entering this kind of relationship, this is something to consider. One or both families may well not approve. The older party’s family may view the younger partner as a “gold digger,” especially if there’s a significant wealth disparity involved. The younger party’s family might view the older partner as a creep or a pervert. (Mr CK says: “I mean, I am a pervert!”) Or they might just see that you’re happy and in love and that’s enough for them. You know your family best, and ultimately you know how much their opinion matters to you. Make your decisions accordingly.

What about kids?

We don’t have any and we don’t want any.

I appreciate this might be a concern for other people in or considering entering into a Massive Age Gap (hereafter M.A.G) relationship. Only you can make that decision for yourself. I decided long ago that I don’t want children and my goal was to find a partner who felt the same, which I have done. Their age is irrelevant – what matters is that we want the same things out of our life together.

That said, I have seen M.A.G relationships break up – breaking everyone’s hearts in the process – because the younger party wanted children and the older party felt they were too old/had already been there and done that/was no longer biologically able to have children. Anyone can change their minds, and you might think you don’t want kids now but then change your mind in 5 years and have a very difficult decision to make, but that can happen in any relationship. And you may well end up really happy with your decision several years down the line, which has been my experience.

Do you like older men because you have daddy issues?

Nope! I have a really loving, supportive relationship with my father. No issues there at all. I’ve never actually met a woman who likes older men whose preference was caused by “daddy issues”. What does that even mean!?

Is it a money thing?

No, he’s my life partner, not my sugar daddy. (Not that there’s anything wrong with sugar relationships between consenting parties, of course!)

I have my own money and no interest in getting my hands on his.

Is it a kink thing?

About 2% yes and 98% no.

It’s certainly not a DDlg thing, that’s a pretty hard limit for me. As a submissive, I gravitate towards partners who give off the kind of Dominant energy that I like. I do tend to more often find this in older men, it has to be said. But it’s less specifically an age thing and more a confidence and experience thing, I think.

Mostly, though, no. Speaking of which…

So why an older guy then?

Older guys, broadly speaking, have their shit together in a way I find much easier to be in a relationship with. They’ve made all the early relationship mistakes and so are less likely to bring them in to their connection with me. They know what they want, what their likes and dislikes and boundaries are, and they know how to communicate.

This is all a sweeping generalisation, of course – I’ve fucked more than my share of “18 year old boy in a 40+ man’s body”. But the qualities I like tend to manifest more in guys with a good 10 years or more on me.

Plus, not gonna lie, I just find a lot of older men fucking sexy.

Don’t you worry that he’ll die years before you and leave you alone?

Of course I do. I worry about that… not every day, but frequently.

The thing is, you never know what the future holds. He could be the exact same age as me, and get incurable cancer or get hit by a bus tomorrow. I, as the younger partner, could have those things happen to me any time too! But no-one ever says “don’t you worry your partner will die and leave you on your own?” to partners close in age.

We never know what’s ahead, but we cannot let the fear of what might happen one day stop us from accepting the love and joy that is offered to us now. If I do lose him someday, I will be broken-hearted and devastated. But I will also be thankful for every happy day we did share. Same as anyone who loses a partner they love.

I’mma insert a gratuitous Rent quote here, because I can and it seems pertinent:

“There’s only now, there’s only here. Give in to love, or live in fear”.

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“Bring the Collar”: The True Story of a D/s Break-Up

I don’t want to write this post. I really don’t. I’ve been mulling it over all day and a huge part of me just wants to go, “oh fuck it” and write a generic “how to get over a break-up” listicle.

But I feel like that’d be a cop-out. Today’s 30 Days of D/s prompts is all about break-ups, and to be honest I’ve been inspired by Kayla’s amazing raw honesty in telling the story of her own D/s break-up a few years ago. So… here goes nothing, I guess.

A vase of dead roses. For a post about my D/s break-up

Realistically, I knew we were breaking up. Our relationship had disintegrated beyond repair now I’d finally, a good five years too late, begun to stand up for myself.

We were to meet in the park. Neutral ground. The stated aim: to have the make-or-break conversation. My true intention, though: to escape as quickly as possible with my head held high and my dignity intact.

All of this to say, dear readers: I knew it was over. It was overer than over. That relationship, like Marley, was dead as a doornail.

Still, it was three words on a text that broke me into pieces and tested my get the fuck out resolve to its limit.

“Bring the collar.”

Of course, I’d known he would want it back. That was in the contract. The Contract, to love and protect on his part. To love and obey on mine. Worth less, in the scheme of keeping us together, than the notepaper it was written on. But even so, this was the moment it sunk in. But Master is releasing me. He doesn’t want me any more.

My subby heart broke then. I’d thought I was as good as over it – mentally checked out of the relationship I was technically still in. I’d mourned the man I’d loved, come to accept he’d never been real and this monster who now stood in his place had been him all along. The guy who told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known, one perfect night in a student dorm room when I was nineteen, and the man who looked me in the eyes five years later and told me I was poison, were one and the same person.

But as his sub – his slave, he’d called me, though I was never entirely comfortable with the connotations of that word – I’d tried so hard to please. To obey, do everything he said, shut my mouth and look pretty and never take up more space than my little allotted corner. A toy isn’t supposed to complain when it’s tossed aside once playtime is over.

What I felt then, when I kissed the little silver lock of the collar one more time and handed it over to him while I tried not to cry, was that I’d failed. He’d thrown it at me plenty of times over the preceding weeks, while whatever was left of our love dripped down the drain. Bad sub. Not really submissive. Disobedient. If you’d just shut up and do as you were told, we’d be fine.

For years, I’d twisted myself until the core of my identity was being his. I wrote him a poem in the early days. In it, I said, “You are life. You are oxygen. You are everything.” My blood and breath. My heart and soul. More myself than I am.

What I know now, and wish I’d known then, is that I wasn’t the one who failed. I was just a young girl who got thrown into a lion’s den too complicated and fucked up to comprehend, and then spent years trying to tame the most vicious, dominant lion while he snapped and snarled at her heels.

He was the one who failed me. He promised too much, delivered too little, broke me down too hard. I gave love, and what I got in return was emotional devastation, over and over and fucking over.

In that moment, I saw him as he was. All my idealistic, teenage bullshit fell away and I saw a man who could never love me. In that moment, I took myself back. I gave him back his collar and I took back my agency, my power, my life.

You’re not my blood and breath. I am.

I belong to nobody. I am free. And I am happy.

 

No kinky item today. This is too raw to add anything to it. Today’s image, as ever, was provided for use under Creative Commons Licensing. I’ve used an image of dead roses because we exchanged roses as part of our collaring/vows ceremony. 

Sex Not Stigma: Using My Sexuality to Manage My Mental Health

Content note: this post discusses mental health struggles in detail and includes slurs and a brief reference to suicide.

Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay. Thousands of brave people have spoken out about their struggles with various mental health conditions. I shared a little bit of my story on Twitter too, if you’re interested. Short version: I live with depression and anxiety.

I use a whole litany of tools to manage my mental health. I take medication, I’m working with The Best Therapist Ever, and I’ve learned to effectively regulate my physical and mental energy levels. I’ve also consistently found sex, masturbation and kink to be really useful and positive items in this toolbox.

A black and white picture of a heterosexual-read couple, sitting together with the woman's head resting on the man's shoulder in an affectionate fashion. They both have dark hair and the man has a beard and tattoos. Pixture by Hot Octopuss and given for a sponsored post about Mental Health Week.

#SexNotStigma

It is ridiculous to me that today, in twenty-freaking-seventeen, that there is STILL such stigma around both mental illness and sex. They are two of the great taboos that plague our society.

As a woman, admitting that you like to have sex can be a radical – and dangerous – act.  Speaking up about a mental health struggles is risky and brave for anybody to do. Words like “crazy” and “psycho” are thrown around with abandon. People with mental health issues are routinely portrayed as dangerous. Services that actually help us are thin on the ground and getting cut left, right and centre. Being a woman who talks about sex and is also open about her mental health. Ohhh, boy…

I’ve had my promiscuity chalked up to my mental health conditions more times than I can count. (“Poor girl, she’s acting out sexually because she’s depressed” at best, or “crazy whore!” at worst.) Interestingly, the same has also been true in reverse (“you wouldn’t be so depressed if you’d stop sleeping around!”) But that’s not how this works! I’m a proud slut[1] AND I have a mental health condition. One did not cause the other and ceasing one[2] will not “cure” the other.

The #SexNotStigma campaign aims to break taboos when it comes to talking about sex, including that surrounding sex and mental health. This post is my attempt to add my voice to that vital conversation.

I wrote recently about how I don’t think “don’t play when you’re depressed” is useful or realistic advice, and today I want to expand on that and talk about why, far from being off-limits when I’m low, sexuality has probably helped save my life more than once.

Sex: intimacy, connection, love.

Some people want to be left alone and can’t bear to be touched when they’re depressed. My experience is usually the opposite. I want to be around the people I love and trust, to connect with them in deep and profound ways. Sex is one of the ways in which I connect with some of the important people in my life. Therefore, honestly, fucking my brains out (or at least fucking my sadness out for a while) is one of the best ways a partner can help me when I’m struggling.

Sex reminds me, viscerally and in the moment, that I am loved. For me, mental health wise, a really good fuck with someone I love is basically a cuddle on speed. Throw in a few dozen orgasms (yes, your girl over here is SUPER multi orgasmic) and you will see a marked improvement in the happiness of your Amy.

Sex helps me to focus on all the joyful things – pleasure, love, connection, vulnerability, sensation – in a world that’s fucked.

Sex literally reminds me that there’s so much to live for.

Masturbation: the ultimate self-love.

Self-loathing is a feature of my depression and an unwelcome visitor that likes to pop in from time to time. I’ve learned that the best way to combat it is to be excessively kind to myself – the way you’d be kind to a partner, friend or child who was in pain. Sometimes I take myself out for coffee and cake. Sometimes I give myself permission to stay in bed, read and nap – take a “mental health day,” if you will. And sometimes, I masturbate!

Aside from the obvious benefits of all the happy chemicals that are released at the point of orgasm, masturbation is a means of reminding myself that I am worthy and deserving of pleasure. And on the occasions when romantic rejection or the ending of a relationship triggers my depression, masturbation reminds me that my sexual (and loving!) relationship with myself is the first, last and most important one of my life.

Who needs that git who dumped me when you have cutting edge sex toys, am I right?

Kink: freedom in bondage.

Submitting to a safe partner can be really positive for me when I’m feeling low.

Kink, especially pain play, pulls me out of my head and into my body. It’s hard to be sad when all I can think about is the hand spanking my ass! It’s grounding. It makes all the noise in my head go quiet.

Submission makes me feel useful. When I feel worthless, a well-timed “good girl” can do wonders. To know that I am pleasing somebody else, that I am serving them, gives me a purpose. It reminds me that I have value.

Kink gives me permission to be vulnerable. Play gives me chance to cry if I need to, to scream if I want to, to get pent-up emotions out. It releases me from the responsibility of decision making, of caring for myself or anyone else, even if only for a short time. It gives me permission to just be.

Discovering new paths to pleasure

Mental illness can impact sexuality in many ways. In particular, feeling very low can make it difficult to get in the right headspace to enjoy sex or orgasm. Certain types of common antidepressants including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) can also cause erectile dysfunction and anorgasmia. When I first started taking citalopram – a common SSRI – I lost my ability to orgasm for a month.

Was it hell? Yes. Did it also teach me something valuable, namely that I kinda have an orgasm denial kink? Also yes. While this is something I prefer to be voluntary and not drug-induced, going through this experience taught me something really valuable about my fetishes. So there’s value in that.

Problems such as ED and anorgasmia suck (if you’ll pardon the pun) but they also force you to get creative. I finally broke through my month-long dry spell with a high powered vibrator. That’s how I learned that I love really intense vibration! If your cock isn’t getting hard in the way you want it to, you might discover other routes to sexual bliss that you’d never have previously considered or bothered to try.

Integrating the two

I’ve come to terms, over ten years of having a formally diagnosed mental health condition, that it’s not going away. It’s with me for life and I am better off learning how to manage it than hoping it will disappear. Just like a diabetic would take insulin every day, I take my antidepressants to keep me healthy. (Conceptualising my illness as being exactly comparable to a physical health issue – BECAUSE IT IS – has been surprisingly empowering.)

I’ve also grown into my sexuality in the last ten years. From a girl who was terrified to admit, even in a whisper, that she liked girls and might want to be spanked, I’ve grown into a woman who owns her desires and explores them unapologetically.

And, crucially, I’ve learned to integrate these two things. When my bisexual, kinky and non-monogamous identities ceased to be sources of shame, my mental health directly improved as a result. When my condition started to be properly managed, my sex life improved instantly. And when I learned to use my sexuality to enhance my mental health, I gained a tool that has saved my life.

[1] Yay, reclaiming slurs!
[2] Because you can totally choose to stop being mentally ill, right?

This post was kindly sponsored by the lovely folks at Hot Octopuss, a fantastic and innovative sex toy company who are committed to tackling taboos around sex. Check out their brilliant range of products, including the new Queen Bee, and their blog, where they talk sex, health and stigma. They’ve even offered a discount code for Coffee & Kink readers – use CK10 to get 10% off (and send a little bit of support my way.) All opinions are, and will always be, my own.

A banner ad for sex toy company Hot Octopuss, who sponsored a post on sex and mental health

Competitive Submission, or: A Journey Through Labels

For those just joining now, I’m celebrating #KinkMonth by writing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s project.

Day 3 is about labels. Today’s post is quite vulnerable and also heavily based on a stream of consciousness I splurged onto Fetlife last year. Kayla & John ask:

Beyond the basic title of Dominant or submissive, are there other titles you prefer or are interested in exploring? Are there any that turn you off or don’t seem like a good fit for you?

Some titles for Dominants may be Master, Sir, Daddy, Mistress, Lady, etc. Titles for submissives can be pet, babygirl, little one, boy, girl, etc.

A name badge style label with "submissive" crossed out and "Switch" next to it. For a post on competitive submission.

On Fetlife, you have to pick a “role” to list on your profile. There’s the usual Dominant, submissive, Master, Mistress, slave. Then there’s the slightly more specific babygirl/babyboy, Daddy, Mommy, pet, Primal. And then there’s the nondescript and vague Kinkster, Unsure, Evolving.

I’ve flip-flopped between labels over the years. For a very long time, I considered myself the most subby of the submissives. Topping was just not something I could ever see myself doing. So I listed my role as submissive.

Then, at twenty, I found myself pinning a willing submissive man to a bed and fucking him, telling him that he was Mine. And I liked it. Gradually, I explored my Dominant energy and realised I could get off on that rush of power, on reducing someone to a puddle of lust with just my hands and voice. I changed my label to Switch.

Then I realised that being young, hot and listed as a Switch brought out the worst of all kinds of men on Fetlife. The Doms were convinced their Domly dick was all I would ever need to shove myself firmly back into the box labelled “submissive”. The submissives wanted to crawl at my feet and serve me (for the value of “serve” which means “have me fulfill their every sexual fantasy”). I couldn’t be arsed with it. I switched to the vague Kinkster. Something about that nondescript label – possibly along with aging out of the coveted “18-24” age bracket – hugely diminished the number of unsolicited gunk in my inbox. But it didn’t feel like me.

In the midst of my relationship with my ex-Master, I switched (heh) back to submissive. I filled my profile with variations on, “I AM OWNED, LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE”. It worked, sort of, but it still only described a fraction of the rich and complex tapestry of the Amy.

Me and Mr CK switch with each other. This has been the case since the beginning, and will most continue to be the case for as long as our lives run in parallel. We both enjoy both sides of the slash (him more “D,” me more “). So I changed my role once again to Switch, and that was that.

And then… well. There’s no way to make myself look good here. I got competitive. Jealous. Scared.

My partner started dating someone, you see, who we’ll call The Doctor. She listed herself as 100% submissive. (Having been on the receiving end of her hand spanking my ass, I respectfully disagree with that label, but people have the right to self-identify.) It was this, more than the sex or the romance or anything else, that freaked me the fuck out. My headweasels took over and convinced me absolutely, in the space of a couple of weeks, that:

One: Identifying as a submissive, instead of a Switch, made this person inherently better at submitting than me purely on the basis that they never swapped roles.

Two: Therefore, my partner would prefer playing with her to playing with me.

Three: Therefore, my partner would use all his kinky/sexy/Dominant energy on her, leaving none left for me, start taking her to all our favourite kinky events instead of me, and collar her as his 24/7 submissive despite emphatically telling me he doesn’t want that dynamic with anybody.

Four: Therefore, my relationship would be over if I couldn’t show him beyond all doubt that I was at least as good a submissive, if not better, than this other person.

The thing is, this was all in my head. Neither of them did anything to indicate to me that there was any validity to these fears whatsoever. In desperation, not knowing what else to do to fight the battle against my own mind, I changed my status back to submissive. It took a very long and tearful conversation with my partner, in which all my fears fell out of my mouth and into his lap, for me to articulate what was really going on and say “I’m scared as fuck that you’ll leave me for someone else who’s more submissive than I am.”

That was when I learned that my Switchyness, and the Switching dynamic we share, is a feature, not a bug. It’s one of the things he loves about me. It was also when I began to internalise that:

One: Submission is not a contest.

Two: Being a Switch doesn’t make my submission, when I give it, less real or authentic or beautiful.

There’s a stigma against Switches in a lot of the kink world. Much like bisexuals, we’re told that we’re greedy, that we’re confused. That we need to get off the fence and make up our damn minds.

I tend to date either Top-leaning Switches, or exclusive Tops/Doms. It’s getting much better (thanks, in part, to fabulous partners who embrace ALL of me as I am!) but on some levels I still struggle with the insecurity whispering that, as a Switch, I’m a poor second choice and a Top/Dom would always choose a 100% submissive over me and like a 100% submissive more than me. I also worry, because Mr and I hang out at a lot of fem-sub/M-Dom events, that I’ll be judged poorly or thought less of due to being a Switch.

On the flip side, sometimes I feel like a fraud for identifying as Switch because my interests are so unbalanced. It’s really hard to put a number on it and it fluctuates. At the moment my desires are probably 90% sub/bottom and 10% Dom/Top. On the occasions when I do Top, I worry that my submissive partner is just going to say, “you’re shit at this, I’m gonna go do it with a real Dom.”

So where the fuck does that leave me?

Sadly, there isn’t a role option on Fetlife for “Basically submissive at heart but still gets a huge rush from Topping once in a while because I like the feeling of power and the reactions and the knowledge that I’m giving so much pleasure.”

So… yeah.

Switch.

Remember: a label is the beginning of a conversation, not the end.

Kinky item of the day: Collars by Kabunza. I’m not affiliated with this company in any way, but I could talk them up forever because 1) Aemilia Hawk is the most wonderful human being and I adore her. 2) their stuff is so beautiful it makes my heart sing. 3) their customer service is brilliant. 4) we should all support our friendly neighbourhood kinky businesses.

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The image featured in this post was sourced from Pixabay and edited by me. Please don’t steal my edit without express permission.

I Won’t Apologise For My Body Any More

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

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

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

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

I will not apologise for my weight.

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

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

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

I will not apologise for my scars.

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

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

I will not apologise for my body hair.

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

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

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

I will not apologise for my physical limitations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Price of Admission

Anastasia: And what do I get out of this?
Christian: Me.
– Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

It is no secret that I am not a fan of those books. I might eventually write more fully about why, but other writers have already done this so beautifully I’m not sure I have anything to add to that particular conversation. However, the above quote captures the essence of this topic perfectly. Hmm… maybe Ms James did have some insightful moments after all!

An admission ticket torn in half

When we’re children, we’re taught that no-one’s perfect. It’s a platitude, though a truism, perhaps to encourage us not to criticise others – or ourselves – too harshly. And because no-one is perfect, I firmly believe there is no such thing as a Perfect Relationship. There are amazing, incredible, wonderful relationships – and I count myself lucky to be in one of these. But perfect? With all our flaws, foibles, beautifully messy humanity and inevitable mistakes? No.

My relationship has imperfections. So does yours, I guarantee it.

We come, all of us, with our Price of Admission. These are the things about us that are imperfect, maybe even problematic, that someone must live with in order to be in a relationship with us. These are the things, be they big or small, that we don’t see eye-to-eye with our partner on. The things that, if you dwell on them, form the end of the sentence “the relationship would be PERFECT if only…

We all have to pay a price of admission to be in meaningful relationships with another human. Whether it’s as relatively benign as putting up with your husband’s snoring, or as troubling as knowing your friend has a serious drug/alcohol problem but being unable to intervene, every relationship has one – or more likely, several of varying degrees of significance. But here’s the thing about prices of admission. We get to choose whether to pay them or not.

One of the major problems in my relationship with my abusive ex was that he believed that no matter the price of admission, I would continue to pay it regardless. And for many years, I did. I was madly – and I mean that in the literal, not-quite-in-my-right-mind-when-he’s-around – in love with the man. As such I felt I had to do absolutely anything to keep the relationship. When the price of admission was putting up with lies and half-truths, I turned a blind eye. The times that the price of admission was him screaming at me for a tiny perceived infraction, I tried to harden myself to the yelling. When the price of admission was an uneven, enforced mono-poly dynamic, I pretended I didn’t want anyone else anyway.

And what did I get out of all of that?

Him.

Which was enough… except that it wasn’t. I convinced myself I was happy as long as I was with him, this person I idolised. But he didn’t meet my needs and he didn’t hear my voice. If I complained the price for the relationship was getting too steep, he might as well have laughed in my face and said, “but you’ll pay it, because the other choice is walking away and we both know you don’t have the balls to do that”. It was years before I finally decided the price had become undeniably too high.

In our final make/break conversation, with all the characteristic arrogance that believed I would never be the one to walk away, he laid out his Terms for continuing the relationship. And for the first time, I refused the offer. The price was too high and I wasn’t buying. It was no longer worth it.

The point of all of this is to say: you get to decide when the price of admission into any given relationship is too high.

However much you love this person, however much you think you absolutely need them no matter what, you do not have to accept the terms they are offering. You do not have to pay a price of admission that includes abuse of any kind, that includes being cheated upon or lied to, that includes a relationship structure that is unworkable for you, that includes sex acts you can’t or won’t consent to, that includes losing yourself or your self esteem, that includes fundamental differences in beliefs or values, that includes anything that makes the relationship unhappy or unhealthy for you.

You don’t have to.

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

“Pretty” is Not My Success: On Being a Swan

I grew up ugly. Well-meaning family would probably tell you otherwise, but by conventional Western 21st century societal standards of attractiveness, it is objectively true. I tried not to be, of course. In a rough English secondary school in the early 2000s, ‘ugly’ was just about the worst fate to which one could possibly succumb. But whatever I tried, it didn’t work. I would always be too fat, too frizzy haired, too hairy, too unfashionable, too this, not enough that, to be anything other than a perpetual joke.

A baby swan swimming along in some water. For a post about being an ugly duckling

The words people said to me for the first seventeen years of my life were so vicious and cruel that even now, I can barely bring myself to repeat them. I still feel the pain when I think back, like an old injury that still twinges from time to time.

Growing up, The Ugly Duckling was my favourite fairytale. I used to dream that one day, maybe I could wake up and be pretty. Then everyone would realise I’d been a swan all along! I very much painted this hypothetical scenario in my head as a kind of justice, perhaps even revenge. When I was pretty, they’d realise they were wrong about me. They’d see I had never deserved all the cruelty they threw at me.

I actually got my wish. Okay, it wasn’t quite so sudden, but sometime between seventeen and nineteen I got hot. It’s taboo for a woman to love herself at the best of times. Typing these physical attributes that I like about myself is surprisingly difficult, but here goes: I have a pretty face, hourglass figure and an ass to die for. I’m pretty fucking cute.

For a good couple of years after I finally escaped the constant bullying for being ugly, I would frequently comfort myself with the thought that I’d got the best possible revenge by becoming pretty.

Being pretty affords me certain privileges. Of that I am absolutely certain. It is well documented that people perceived to be “beautiful” are often treated better by society. It also comes with some downsides, which Emilie Autumn described better than I ever could.

But you know what? The Ugly Duckling is fundamentally a lie. Growing into my looks and becoming pretty wasn’t the thing that saved me. It sure as hell wasn’t what made me happy. And it ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN AS ALL EVERLOVING FUCK wasn’t what made me grow into the amazing, worthwhile human I am today.

We shouldn’t be reading a story to kids where the moral is “don’t be mean to someone who isn’t pretty because they might be pretty some day”. How about, “don’t be mean to someone who isn’t pretty because looks are 99.9% genetic and seriously how decorative they are is literally the least interesting and important of a million awesome things about them?

I’m a success despite the intense trauma I experienced as a child and young adult. I’m smart, I have a killer work-ethic, I put myself through two grueling degrees. I have a job I love that makes a real difference to people’s lives. I’m indulging my passions for writing and sex education and starting to build a name for myself in those worlds. I have amazing partners who love me. I generally strive to be kind and compassionate and make a positive difference in the world.

If I’d stayed ugly, I would still be absolutely everything else on this list.

My “fuck you” to the bullies wasn’t growing up to be hot. It was growing up to be a hundred awesome things that have absolutely no bearing on whether I’m hot or not, and that will make a positive imprint on the world long after my looks have faded.

Pretty is not my success. Beauty is not my justice. “Hot” is an accident of biology lining up at least somewhat with arbitrary societal standards. I didn’t not deserve the cruelty I received because I was a swan all along. I didn’t deserve it because I’m a goddamn person and people should not judge me on my decorative value.

So fuck that story for teaching me that I’d eventually become pretty and then it would all be okay.

Can we have a realistic version where the “Duckling” wakes up as a swan and then spends ten years in therapy to overcome the horrific lookist bullying he suffered in his formative years?

Or better yet, a version where the Duckling goes “oh fuck this shit, these people are petty bullies and pretty is only surface deep” and whether he becomes a swan or not is totally immaterial because he’s off curing cancer or flying to the moon or becoming a badass sex educator and saving the world with dildo reviews or some shit?

When Consensual Sex is Punished More Harshly than Rape [or: Smutathon – the Reason Why]

[This post comes with a HUGE trigger warning for sexual violence from intimate partners. Please feel free to skip this one or step away to care for yourself if you need to. It also carries a hefty dose of vulnerability and exposure of my personal traumas. Victim-blaming or doubt-casting comments will be deleted and the commenter permanently blocked. This is a one-strike-and-you’re-out deal.]

The Rape Crisis England and Wales logo for a post about Smutathon and rapeThe Backlash UK logo for a post about Smutathon and rape

I was sexually assaulted for the first time by a classmate when I was twelve. It was “only” breast and crotch grabbing through clothing, but I was deeply troubled by and ashamed of it. It was three years before I could even begin to find words for what had happened, let alone how it had made me feel.

More than one of my early relationships were sexually violent. By the time I was fifteen, I’d been coerced into sex acts I absolutely did not consent to and was not ready for by a much older boyfriend.

At nineteen, I pushed a man away seconds before he penetrated me – penetration that I had explicitly said, repeatedly, was not on the table that night. On the second date with the same guy (yes, there was a second date) he pushed me to drink and drink and drink, before telling me he wanted me so black-out pissed that I wouldn’t remember anything in the morning. Later, our previously sweet online chats took a turn for the dark as he described his violent, graphic fantasies of raping me (fantasies, he made very clear, that were not about CNC but about Actual Genuine Rape.

A year or two later, a boyfriend threw me out of the house for not acquiescing to sex. And on and on and on it goes. Sex became about obligation, pressure, coercion and survival. I became divorced from my own body, my own pleasure. They took me years to reclaim.

The point of all of this is to say that I didn’t understand until years later that sex under duress counts as rape or serious sexual assault, even if there was little or no physical force involved. I didn’t understand that as a minor, what happened to me at fifteen was statutory rape as well as sexual assault under coercion.

I didn’t seek any help until I finally got a counsellor, long after it was all over. I dimly understood that places like Rape Crisis existed, but I thought they were only for people who’d been raped at gunpoint or assaulted by strangers in dark alleys. “My boyfriend uses the threat of the roof over my head to make me have sex I don’t want, and my other boyfriend tried to rape me once and is weirdly obsessed with getting me drunk and telling me graphic fantasies of raping me” just didn’t seem serious enough, somehow, especially as I’d also had consensual sex with both of these men and others.

I wish I’d known then what I know now – that Rape Crisis would have listened with sympathy, love and support, given me resources to help me get out of those relationships, and told me that in no way in the world was it my fault.

That’s why #Smutathon2017 supports Rape Crisis.

In all but one case, I didn’t even report because I knew I’d be putting myself through hell for a less than 1% chance of justice. None of the men who assaulted or abused me have ever suffered consequences of any kind.

The same, alas, cannot be said for the not-insignificant number of people over the years who have been punished (legally, financially, employment-wise and more) for engaging in completely victimless fringe sexual practices with other consenting adults. From 1987’s Spanner Case (in which a group of gay men were prosecuted for participation in consensual sadomasochism) to the infamous ‘tiger porn’ debacle, to those who have been fired or had their kids taken away for participating in BDSM, sex work or pornography, sexual freedom is constantly under threat.

I cannot sit back and be okay with innocent, good people being prosecuted for consensual sex while only 0.6% of rapists ever see a day in jail.

And that is why #Smutathon2017 ALSO supports Backlash UK, an amazing organisation that defends freedom of sexual expression for consenting adults.

Please donate and support these two brilliant charities if you can. I hope none of you will ever need them – but if you do, they’ll be there for you.