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What Happens When You Go for an STI Test

Yesterday I went for my quarterly sexual health check-up. This is an important part of my life as a non-monogamous person and it’s now a really normal, routine, “no-big-deal” thing. But that wasn’t always the case! When I went for my first STI check-up at age 19, I was shaking like the proverbial leaf and had no idea what to expect.

Several medical sample tubes, for a post on STI testing

So let’s answer some common questions, shall we? Please bear in mind that my experiences are entirely based in the UK, so if you live in a different country your experience may vary somewhat.

Where do I even go for a test?

There are sexual health clinics or “GUM” (genito-urinary medicine) clinics at most major hospitals and at some smaller practices too. Just Google “sexual health test + [your town]”.

Some clinics have “walk in” times where you just turn up and wait to be seen. Bear in mind these tend to be VERY busy – I arrived 15 minutes before the clinic time officially started for my test, and still waited about an hour. Get there early, bring a book, and don’t expect to be seen in five minutes. Alternatively, some clinics have bookable appointments, where you ring up and book like any other medical appointment. Again, these services are very busy and in-demand so you might need to wait a couple of weeks to be seen. If you have symptoms, explain this at the clinic or on the phone and you may be seen sooner.

Do I have to pay?

Nope! In the UK, all sexual health services including testing and contraception are free of charge. Praise the NHS.

If I’m under 16, will they tell my parents?

No! As long as you’re over 13, you’re entitled to the same medical confidentiality as anyone. If your provider feels that there is a serious risk to your safety going on, such as sexual abuse, they may need to tell someone in order to keep you safe, but according to NHS guidelines “the risk would need to be serious and this would usually be discussed with you first”.

Also, if you’re under 18, get off my blog. This is not the space for you. Get yourself to Scarleteen.

Do I have to answer questions about my sex life?

Your provider will ask questions about your sexual practices so they can make sure they’re giving you all the tests and advice you need. You don’t HAVE to answer anything you don’t want to, of course, but it’s important to be as honest and thorough as you possibly can to make sure you get the best care. Everything you say is in strict confidence. Questions may include:

  • When was your most recent sexual encounter?
  • What is the sex of that partner? (They may assume opposite binary sex unless you tell them otherwise. It’s bad practice but heteronormativity is strong).
  • Is that partner your regular/only partner?
  • Have you ever injected drugs or knowingly had sex with someone who injects drugs?
  • Do you have reason to believe you might have come into contact with HIV?
  • Have you been raped or sexually assaulted? (If you indicate yes, they’ll ask if you need any support or resources).
  • Have you ever paid for, or been paid for, sex?
  • Have you had sex with someone born outside of the UK?
  • When was your last sexual health screening?
  • Are you pregnant or do you think you might be pregnant?

Once you’ve gone through these preliminary questions, it’s time for your test.

How is a test carried out?

There are slight variations depending on the clinic but here’s how it normally goes:

For folks with a vulva, you’ll swab the inside of your vagina and possibly provide a urine sample.

For folks with a penis, you’ll provide a urine sample and may also swab just inside your urethra.

If you engage in receptive anal sex, you will swab just inside your anus.

If you engage in oral sex, the health care provider will swab the back of your throat.

Unfortunately, anal and oral swabs are not always offered as a matter of course. You may need to prompt your provider for these. I strongly advise you do so, as infections can grow in these areas of the body without being present in the genitals.

The provider will then do a blood test to check for blood-borne STIs such as HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis. (You can get a vaccination against Hepatitis B and if you haven’t had the vaccine, I recommend you ask your provider for it. This is most commonly offered to men who have sex with men, or women who have sex with bisexual men, but I really believe everyone should get it if possible).

You do the vaginal and rectal swabs yourself in private, either behind a curtain in the consulting room or in the bathroom. Your provider will give clear instructions on correct insertion of the swabs. There is not usually a need for a genital examination unless you have any symptoms such as genital warts, a rash or pain.

Does the test hurt?

Not really. Throat, anal and vaginal swabs aren’t exactly comfortable but shouldn’t be painful either, and they only take a couple of seconds. Some men do find the urethral swab slightly painful but, again, you only need to go very slightly inside and it only takes a few seconds.

Some people (hi, I’m one of them) find blood tests make them feel a bit sick and lightheaded. If this is you, tell your provider and they’ll let you lie down and should check on you at every stage. The actual test feels like a brief quick scratch, nothing more.

Will my provider judge me for the things I tell them?

They really shouldn’t. I’ve been getting STI tests regularly for 10 years and only a couple of times encountered a judgemental provider. And yes, I always tell them I’m a polyamorous swinger and exactly how many partners I’ve had since my last test.

Your provider’s job is to help ensure your health and safety, not to judge you. If you feel that they are overly judgemental or they make inappropriate comments about the things you tell them, you should report this to the hospital or practice.

Again: this is really rare. Most sexual health professionals are absolutely lovely. Comments I’ve had on explaining my lifestyle range from “sounds like you have lots of fun!” to “it’s great to see you’re being responsible and taking care of everyone’s sexual health”.

Even the judgy comments were hardly “you’re a filthy slut and you’re going to hell”. They were more along the lines of, “you need to be aware that you’re at high risk for STIs and unwanted pregnancy” (“no I’m not, because I take precautions and know the facts”, I did not say but wanted to).

How and when will I get my results?

Many clinics operate a “no news is good news” policy, meaning that if you don’t hear from them within two weeks you can assume everything is fine. But they should also give you a card or phone number with details on how to check your results if you want to be sure. I always recommend you phone, as it is rare but possible for a clinic to lose your samples. This happened to my partner once, and they didn’t call to let him know he needed to be re-screened until after the two week window had passed.

Other clinics may text or email you (usually something simple like “your tests or all fine”) or, less commonly, ring you to let you know you’re in the clear.

What if I do have something?

If you do have an infection, they will ring you to let you know. Then you’ll make an appointment to go back to the clinic and make a plan for treatment. For most of the common STIs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, treatment is a simple course of antibiotics.

For more serious STIs it’s more complicated (if you have HIV, for example, you’ll be on medication for the rest of your life – but you can still live a totally normal, long and fulfilling life). STIs are not a death sentence. They are not a source of shame. They’re things that humans sometimes contract in the course of doing normal human activities like having sex – and it’s much better to know so that you can get the most effective treatment quickly.

Bear in mind that HSV (herpes) and HPV (human papillomavirus) are EXTREMELY common – most of us are carrying one, the other or both and may never even know it! – and are not picked up on standard screenings unless you have symptoms such as warts. HPV can also be picked up on cervical screenings, so if you have a vagina make sure you go for your smear tests.

But STI testing is just for sluts!

Nope! Everyone, and I mean everyone, should be getting tests. Stigma like this, that people who go for tests are inherently slutty (and that being slutty is bad) contribute to the misinformation and fear-mongering that are already far too ubiquitous in our culture.

How often should I get a screening? 

That really depends.

My partner and I go every three months because we are non-monogamous and quite promiscuous. Three months is also about the longest incubation period for any of the known STIs, so this schedule means that if we do contract something we are unlikely to have it for long without finding out.

If you’re a swinger, polyamorous or have a lot of casual sex, I really recommend the three-monthly schedule. At an absolute, absolute minimum, please try to go every six months.

Even if you’re in a monogamous relationship, it’s wise to test every now and then if there’s ANY possibility that either of you has had sex outside of your relationship at any point. Unfortunately, cheating is rife and many people have caught STIs this way and not known they had them for months or years.

Whatever your relationship style, I recommend a test before every new sexual partner where possible.

Anything else I need to know?

Many clinics offer free condoms and, less commonly, dams (for oral sex on vulvas). Don’t be afraid to ask for supplies or take them if they’re offered to you. Using barriers is the best way to protect yourself and your partners from STIs.

When did you last get tested? If it’s been a while, go and book one in!

Eroticon 2019: Virtual Meet & Greet

I can hardly believe it’s almost Eroticon time again! This will be my third year going to this amazing conference and I’m so excited. Let’s dive in to another Meet & Greet, shall we?

NAME (and Twitter if you have one)

Amy Norton (CoffeeAndKink on Twitter)

Tell us 3 things you are most looking forward to at Eroticon 2019

  1. Bringing Mr CK along for the first time and getting to introduce him to so many of my sex blogging friends.
  2. Presenting my first workshop! (Once I’ve actually got around to writing it).
  3. All the new things I’m sure to learn over the weekend. I never come away from Eroticon without a head full of new information and new ideas.

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.

You’ve Been Written by The Vocal Few. Because it’s a gorgeous love-song and is sort of about writing, too.

I write everything down that I like
and you’ve been written into the songs of my life,
and I like the songs that we write…

The pages filled, recording wars and victories that we’ve been given,
like altars built, preserving all our history, yes we’ve been written
in the melodies you gave to me.”

What is your favorite item or book you’ve purchased so far this year?

Jillian Keenan’s Sex With Shakespeare. “Extraordinary” doesn’t even cover it. (Yes, I will be writing a proper review soon). But seriously. Read this book.

You can have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what is it? Sushi? Scotch Tape?

Self-esteem, since lack of it is the thing that most often holds me back.

What is your favourite quote from a movie?

“Can you see what we’ve done here, by coming together all of us? We made history!” – Pride (2014

What is your word suggestion to next years Eroticon anthology?

Memory

Complete the sentence:

I feel… as though 2019 is the year I will crack myself open, break apart into tiny pieces and eventually put myself back together again.

Can’t wait to see you all there!

[Toy Review] Satisfyer Partner Multifun

Ladies, gentlemen, gentlequeers, non-binary babes and all those in between… behold the worst designed sex toy I have ever had the displeasure of reviewing.

I hate being mean about toys. I really do. I always try to find something positive to say. But here, I just… I just can’t.

Basic Details

The Satisfyer Multifun, a pink u-shaped vibrator
Anyone else hate this fucking colour? Yeah, me too.

Partner is a subsection of Satisfyer, a company famed for awesome toys like the Satisfyer Pro 2 Next Generation and the Satisfyer Pro Plus Vibration. That’s why I was so surprised that this offering is such an absolute mess.

The Multifun is a U-shaped toy with two prongs that come almost together at the top. There are two very slight variations – the Multifun 1 is blue and the Multifun 2 is pink, and the ends of the prongs curve in very slightly different ways on each. Again, the difference is tiny.

It contains three motors, one in each of the prongs (which are operated together with a single button) and one in the base (operated separately with a second button). The toy is about 5 inches long in total, 3.5″ being the prongs and 1.5″ the base.

This toy is waterproof and USB rechargeable.

Safe isn’t enough.

The Satisfyer Multifun, a pink u-shaped vibrator
Okay, it’s body-safe, but I don’t want that to be the best thing about a toy!

When I ranted to Mr CK about how terrible this toy is, he pointed out that it’s at least a slight improvement on the terrible jelly cock ring I didn’t really review, in that it is body-safe. And yes, it is. It’s coated entirely in smooth silicone, which is phthalate free, non-porous and non-toxic.

But, as I explained to him, at this point I don’t see “body safe” as enough. I see it as a bare fucking minimum. At this point in my career, “this toy is body safe” is up there with “this food didn’t give me food poisoning.” It’s not a glowing recommendation, it’s a basic expectation.

So yes. This toy is body-safe. Can I say anything else positive about it? I’m honestly really struggling.

In Use

The Satisfyer Multifun, a pink u-shaped vibrator, hanging on a purple suction cup dildo stuck to a wall.
Feat. our shower wall and the Blush Ruse Jammy silicone dildo.

On the back of the box, the good folks at Satisfyer have helpfully included diagrams of different ways to use this toy on both a vulva and a penis. Being the dutiful and diligent toy testers that we are, we tried all of them (except the “hang it off your balls” one, because even Mr CK’s tolerance for doing weird shit to his genitals in the name of journalism has its limits).

They were all… equally terrible? Similarly nonsensical?

Pinching it around my clit was mildly painful for the two seconds it stayed on, and then merely annoying as it kept slipping off. Trying to stick it inside me made absolutely no sense whatsoever as it’s entirely the wrong shape to get anywhere near my G-spot, never mind provide pleasurable sensation. Trying to get it to hang off my nipple like a nipple clamp was merely hilarious (and a complete failure). Hanging it around Mr CK’s cock in various configurations produced no greater reaction than “well… that’s kind of in the way”. Even using it as a straightforward clitoral vibrator didn’t work, because the vibrations were so weak and buzzy that I literally Did Not Feel Anything.

I literally described the vibration quality of this toy to a fellow blogger friend as “akin to a single bee buzzing away on my clit. Not even a hive of bees. Just one.”

Other things I hate

The sound. Good God. This thing doesn’t just buzz, it WHINES.

The buttons. They’re small, fiddly and hard to press.

The ridiculously gendered marketing – “for men, women and couples”. (Ah yes, the three genders?) Seriously though, there are so many better ways to market that your product is suitable for different types of bodies. The diagrams of possible ways to use it with different genital configurations is more than enough. And EVERYTHING can be a toy for couples if you use it with a partner. And as if this wasn’t bad enough, it comes in two colours – baby blue (Multifun 1) and pastel pink (Multifun 2). You know, in case you don’t know which one is for you, they’ve colour coded them for you!

In conclusion…

I hate this toy. I hate it with a burning passion that surprises me. I have never hated a sex toy this much (no, not even the stupid jelly cockring/headlamp, because at least we KNEW that was going to be terrible, and that didn’t have a nearly $50 price tag).

I implore you, do not buy this toy. Your bits deserve better. For a pinpoint clitoral vibrator, get the Blush Nocturnal. For a decent vibrating cock ring, get the Hot Octopuss Atom. For a great toy to wear during penetrative sex, get the WeVibe Sync.

Satisfyer: I still love you. But you dropped the ball on this one. For God’s sake, do better, and test your products on actual humans before you mass produce them.

Thank you to Satisfyer for sending me this product to review. If for some reason you still want to try it, it retails for $49.95. This toy sucked but their other products are great! Affiliate links are used within this post.


Interview: Porn Researcher Rosie Hodsdon

I was thrilled when Rosie Hodsdon reached out to volunteer to be an interview subject. I’ve known her through the UK kink scene for a while and she’s totally lovely as well as ridiculously smart. Here, we chat sex and relationships, academic porn research, and why the Digital Economy Bill sucks. 

A picture of Rosie Hodsdon, a white woman in her 20s with shoulder length brown hair. She is wearing a blue jacket and smiling at the camera. There are flowers in the background.

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

I am currently working towards my PhD at Northumbria University, looking at the regulation of online pornography in the UK and how this affects the people who produce it. 

What made you want to get into porn research?

My research interests float around sexualities more broadly, and this stems from the failure that was my school’s sex education! I felt incredibly alienated from everything we were taught and had to find the information that I felt I needed out for myself, and was very lucky to be able to do this at a time when the internet made this a little easier! I knew that I never wanted people to feel as alienated as I did growing up, and wanted to be someone who helped others to learn about the range of sexualities out there in a safe and supportive way.

To me, porn forms just one part of that much wider sphere of things, and I have worked, or would love to work, on projects concerning kink, polyamory and sex work as well. [My work is] about dispelling misconceptions surrounding sexuality more broadly and wanting to work towards a society where these things are free from stigma and judgement. 

What’s your background and how did you break into this work?

Almost by accident, really! I did my first degree in Anthropology and Sociology and I knew as soon as I started that I wanted to focus on sexualities research. Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I had a guest lecture on my Sociology of Gender and Sexuality module from Professor Clarissa Smith on extreme pornography, which I found fascinating. At the same time, the AVMS regulations had been passed, so pornography was at the forefront of my mind. However, the more I tried to read into academic research on the porn industry, the more I noticed that the voices of those who worked in the industry were rather absent, so when I got an email in my inbox asking for PhD proposals relating to law and sexuality, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. 

What’s the most challenging thing about your work?

There’s a few things that spring to mind, which all cover somewhat different aspects of what I do!

The first problem is somewhat inherent to academia, which is that I can’t ever really escape my work – I can’t go home at the end of a work day and forget about it, because it’s always going to be in my mind and if it’s in my mind, then I’m thinking on it and working!

The second is how frustrating it can be. There’s something very futile about trying to work for a better understanding of sexuality and sex work in a society where everything seems to be pushing back against it – everything from the Digital Economy Act to FOSTA/SESTA. Even in the few days that I’ve been working on this interview, Tumblr has announced its porn ban and Facebook has tightened their control over what language you can use.

The third is that the work itself can be pretty misunderstood and stigmatised. I’m very wary of saying so, because the stigma attached to this academic work really can’t be compared to the stigma attached to actually making porn, and I wouldn’t want to ignore that. But I have had a lot of judgement myself because of what I do, from strangers on the internet all the way to previous partners. Shout-out to my ex specifically, who told me that no one else would ever love me because of what I do. Look at me now, dickbag!

What about the most rewarding thing?

I get to meet some incredible people who are doing some fantastic work, both as producers and as activists. And sometimes I get to be considered amongst them as well! Feeling like I have the ability to change people’s viewpoints or give them a new perspective on things is both very powerful and very humbling, and I feel a huge responsibility with it, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. 

Who’s your favourite porn performer and why? What about your favourite production company? 

I have to pick just one? I’m not going to play by these rules! [Spoken like a true polyamorist! – Amy] There are some amazing performers who represent the industry in such a positive way, both in the US and the UK.

Stoya was the first person I encountered who combined porn with activism, and I’ve appreciated her work ever since. I’m also a huge fan of Pandora/Blake, who works tirelessly to support sexual freedom. Jiz Lee has done some amazing work, and their book, Coming Out Like a Porn Star, has been hugely influential to me in its approach to centering performer voices.

As for my favourite company, it has to be Crash Pad Series! It’s radical, queer, kinky, feminist-grounded porn which focuses on a fair production process and has the inimitable Shine Louise Houston at its helm, also fighting for new approaches to sexuality in society more broadly. And it’s hot. 

There’s been a lot in the news recently about the incoming age verification regulations to access online porn in the UK. What’s your take? 

Where do I start!? The whole thing is a tangled mess of clusterfuck. I could spend hours ranting about this, so I’ll do what I can to condense why the entire thing is a terrible idea. It’s time for some bullet points.

  • The rationale behind the law is to “protect children”, and this is based on fundamentally flawed evidence. The study which forms the basis of the legislation, carried out by the NSPCC, has since been discredited by 37 academics for poor methods and conclusions which stretched far beyond the scope of the study. This is no basis for legislation.
  • Furthermore, what are we protecting children from? Of course no one should have to see porn without wanting to, but this does not just apply to children. There is no evidence which proves that children are harmed en masse by watching pornography. In studies which have explored young people’s motivations for viewing such material, the overwhelming theme is that pornography allows them to explore their sexuality and learn about sex in a way that they otherwise do not have access to. Pornography should not be a substitute for sex education, and this can only be solved with a drastic overhaul of the SRE curriculum. Porn should form a part of this, but so should issues of queer identity, pleasure and safe sex practices. All of these are currently very much lacking in the UK (and in most other places!). 
  • The laws are also almost certainly going to have the least impact on young people, given that they are generally far more technologically literate than a lot of adults. Anyone, including young people, can just get around these restrictions through the use of a VPN.  On a practical level, it won’t work.
  • So what will it do? For the consumer, it will place their private personal information in the hands of companies who are not required to enforce stringent protections of this data. As much as I would like to live in a world where people are not shamed for their sexual desires and preferences, this is not currently the case. We can see in countless examples how information about people’s non-normative sexual preferences has had major real-world consequences, such as losing their jobs or custody of their children. A database which stores information about what porn people watch? Hackers are going to have a field day.
  • Finally – given that this is where my research lies! – it’s going to decimate the porn industry. The financial impact is likely to be significant, particularly for smaller companies with more niche audiences, who are likely to struggle to implement AV systems from an economic standpoint. These are often the studios which produce explicitly ethical, feminist, queer, kink pornography so to lose these would make the industry even more homogeneous and less diverse. There’s also the emotional impact of the regulations to consider – people are fearing for their jobs and businesses. The government is telling people that their work is actively harmful for society. Their own sexualities are being delegitimised. And when you consider further that people with a significant background in porn may well find it harder to find “square” work due to the stigma attached to sex work more broadly, people are very worried about their future. 

Ultimately, the AV laws are like trying to fill in the Gran Canyon with a bucket and spade. I’m going to actually be rather lazy here and take a quote from my own response from the BBFC consultation of which I am rather proud:

Age verification seems to be merely an ineffective, unsubstantiated patch-up for a much wider social issue with regards to how we inform young people about sex and our wider sexual culture– including pornography. Young people are desperate for accurate, inclusive, informed sex education, which produces greater positive outcomes for their sexual, emotional and relationship wellbeing. Focusing on age verification serves to mask that problem rather than confront it, and may instead be detrimental to the development of sexual knowledge if not supported by compulsory and comprehensive sex education. This would be a much more effective use of government resources.”

They rest on fundamentally-flawed foundations of research and are likely to cause a significant amount of social harm.

What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?

People think that I sit around just watching porn all day. They’re not wrong, but I then have to write about it afterwards. People seem to find that part much less sexy. 

What do you really wish everyone understood about pornography?

Ooh, this is a really interesting one! There’s a lot I could say here, so I’ll break it down into some more bullet points:

  • That (most) porn costs money to make, and all of it takes work. Pay for your damn porn. Or, at least, access it for free only directly from creators, not through any pirated means.
  • That porn performers (and producers) are human! There’s a narrative in anti-porn discourse which tends to paint performers particularly as being nothing more than vapid, blow-up fuckdolls, which not only removes their agency and autonomy, but also reduces them to their having sex. We live in an age now where it’s easier than ever to move past this image – we have performers doing some amazing activist work or simply engaging with their fans on social media, and the image that persists of people, particularly women, in porn as being either a mindless set of holes or an exploited victim, denies them their personhood,
  • That it’s not a public health danger. There is no research out there which proves that porn is inherently harmful, and while I would never want to belittle any individual issues that pornography has caused (because yes, people can have issues with it and people who do need appropriate support), it does not do this on a large scale.
  • That pornography can be massively positive. Emerging research is starting to show that porn isn’t just used by consumers to get off, though that’s part of it too. It’s a way to explore their sexuality and identity, a way to connect with others (if you’ve never shared the Lemon Stealing Whores introduction with your friends, I recommend it), an education resource, a method of stress relief, and much more. 
  • Finally, that it’s okay not to like pornography! Whether that’s a particular type or the genre as a whole – as much as I’m positive about what pornography is, what it can do and who makes it, I don’t expect everyone to like it. All I want is for it to be respected as a form of labour and as a creative product, and for the freedom of others to be able to access it and make it should they choose to. 

Who inspires you personally and professionally?

On a professional level, there are so many people I want to name here! First of all, I have to note the amazing things that my participants have shared with me over the course of my research, and their openness and trust with me is massively motivating.

Secondly, my PhD supervisory team – Chris Ashford, Tony Ward and Laura Graham – who continue to blow my mind and push me to succeed, even when I want to give up, and whose research has paved the way for someone like me to do something like this.

Thirdly, the tireless activism of Pandora/Blake and Myles Jackman. I’m so in awe of the both of them that even now, having met both multiple times, they still scare me slightly!

Fourth (and finally, for this part of the question), the awesome communities that my research has allowed me to become immersed in – academics, sex work activists, porn producers and creators – who are all doing such amazing things themselves!

On a personal level, I am very lucky to be surrounded by some incredible people. My partner, Lewis; my boyfriend, Willtom; and my girlfriend, Tiggy, have all provided me with invaluable support and happiness. They push me to keep going even when I just want to throw my thesis in a fire! (They’re also hella cute). I also have an amazing family, who have dealt with trying to explain my PhD topic to far too many people! I hate feeling like I’m “lucky” to have their support, because it should be a given. But I know that that’s not always the case and that I am grateful that they’ve not disowned me yet. And I can’t not also mention the lovely people of the Durham, Leeds and Reading kink scenes, who are unfailingly wonderful and who have also supported me along the way. 

Who’s your favourite sex educator and why?

So much of my inspiration to enter sexualities education (in a sense) myself came from Scarleteen, so I’d like to say their entire website! Also, my entire Twitter feed has been improved since introducing Alix Fox into its mix. She combines some spectacular puns with activism and awareness work, and I’m always impressed by her willingness to reach out and continue learning from others. [We love Alex here at C&K! – Amy]

What’s something you used to believe – about sex, relationships or porn – that you don’t believe any more?

I feel like there’s a tendency to put romantic love on a pedestal, and as has probably been demonstrated in this interview, there are so many other forms of relationships that can be just as wonderful, supportive and fulfilling.

And just for fun because it is “Coffee & Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

…I don’t. Unless *insert enema joke here*? 

(Please don’t hate me!)

Thank you so much to Rosie for her time and for the awesome work she’s doing, which will undoubtedly benefit all of us – when porn and sex work are destigmatised, all of us gain greater sexual freedom. You can keep up with Rosie via her Twitter, and as ever if YOU are doing something awesome in the field of sex or relationships and would like to be featured on the blog, hit me up.


[Toy Review] Lovehoney Desire Remote Control Knicker Vibrator

One of the requests I receive most often is for remote, “vibrating panties” style vibrators. I’m not sure what it is about this idea that’s so popular. Perhaps it’s the covert, playing-in-public naughtiness of it? Problem is, most of them are rubbish. I bought my first pair when I was 18, tried them once and never used them again – the design was poor and the vibrations weak.

So I am really pleased to report that, finally, I’ve found an Actually Effective vibrating underwear style toy, in the form of Lovehoney’s Desire Remote Control Knicker Vibrator.

What’s the buzz?

Don’t you just love this colour?

I’m really into the Desire range as a whole. The sleek black-and-purple designs, smooth body-safe silicone and decent motors make them really solid choices for beginners and toy aficionados alike.

This toy is actually three separate pieces: the vibrator itself, the remote control, and the knickers to use it with. The vibrator is 4″ long, saddle-shaped and made of smooth, rigid silicone, with a single button on the top and a nub on the underside which rests against the clitoris when worn.

The remote control is small and egg shaped, and also silicone-coated. Worth noting is that while the main toy is rechargeable, the remote control takes a single CR2032 battery (included). The main vibrator is waterproof, but the remote is only splash proof so take care not to get it wet.

Silky smooth lace and a pretty and practical tie-side design.

Including the knickers with this toy is a really nice touch. They’re made of soft black lace and tie at the sides with dark grey ribbons. Because they’re tie-up, they are super adjustable. I wear a UK size 16 and there was tonnes of room left over once I’d tied them on snugly – I reckon they’d fit up to at least a size 20 or 22, easily. The knickers have a little pouch in the gusset where you slip the vibrator to keep it in place.

All of this comes in a stylish and convenient black case, and the toy has a travel lock so you don’t need to worry about it switching on in transit.

The remote control range on this toy is about 8 metres, assuming a clear line of sight.

Power, settings and functionality

The Desire Knicker Vibrator has a whopping 12 speeds. Of course, being the ridiculous power-queen that I am, I simply put it on the highest setting and left it there. The higher settings have a decent level of power, though they’re not as rumbly as I would ideally like. The top level did bring me to orgasm, but I would have liked a setting or two higher. Of course, more powerful toys = more powerful motors, which = more expensive end product, so it’s a trade-off.

I hate patterns. Did I mention that? I fucking hate patterns. I don’t like them and I don’t use them. However, if you’re a pattern fan, then this toy has plenty of variety to offer you, as shown in the handy patterns diagram provided on the Lovehoney product site and in the instruction booklet.

The best thing about this toy’s design is the shape, which sits comfortably along the curve of the vulva. The bump on the end is ideal for brushing against the clit and providing some gentle friction.

Controls-wise, the toy itself has one button which you can use to cycle through the settings without using the remote control. However, you cannot turn the power level up or down on the toy itself. The remote has three buttons: power up, power down, and the centre button which changes the pattern as well as switching the toy on and off. Worth noting is that you need to switch the toy on using the main button on the body of the vibe before it will work with the remote control. Just hold the button down until it lights up.

So can you actually use it in public?

My verdict here is… maybe.

I don’t entirely agree with the description of this product as “whisper-quiet.” It’s far from the loudest toy I’ve encountered, but it does have a distinct buzz. That said, last year we took our play partner out wearing another Desire product under her clothes (the Butterfly, if you’re curious) which we surreptitiously switched on and off during dinner and no-one was any the wiser. So it’s entirely possible that this toy is also discreet enough once masked by layers of clothing and the ambient noise of public spaces.

What I like about the design of the knickers with the little pouch is that they keep the toy in place pretty well, including while walking around.

So do I recommend it?

That depends on what you’re looking for, really.

If you’re after a vibe to simply masturbate with in the usual way to get you off, this is probably not your best choice. I’d recommend going for the bullet or for the pebble clitoral vibe instead.

However, if you’re after a knicker vibe/”vibrating panties” style experience, or something to hand your lover the control to as you go about your day, this is a great option for you.

A sexy present for Valentine’s Day, perhaps?

The Desire Knicker Vibrator retails at £74.99.

Thanks to Lovehoney for sending me the Desire Knicker Vibrator to review. Links in this post are affiliate links and if you use them, I make a small commission. All photos are by me except the pattern diagram, which is property of Lovehoney.


Interview: Francesca from The Pleasure Garden

You all surely know by now that I absolutely love feminist, inclusive sex shops? That’s why I was so pleased to partner with The Pleasure Garden, a UK based online company selling only body-safe pleasure products. I’ve reviewed products for them (and have more in the pipeline!) and I’m in their affiliate programme (so, full disclosure, if you make a purchase through one of my links I make a small commission.) Today I’m really pleased to introduce you to Francesca, the brains behind and owner of The Pleasure Garden.

Amy x

A banner for The Pleasure Garden shop for an interview with FrancescaTell us a little bit about you and the work you do? 

My name is Francesca (she/her) and I own and operate The Pleasure Garden – a UK based inclusive sex shop. Its been up and running for about a year now and it has been an exciting ride so far!
At the moment it’s a one man band, so I do almost everything on the site including fulfilling orders, copywriting, social media and managing the website. It can be a lot! I love to work with talented specialists, who make some amazing contributions to things like design and providing expert knowledge, when I get the chance!

What made you want to start an online sex shop?

For a long time I had been interested in starting my own business but I never found the right idea or inspiration. Then I started to read the fabulous Oh Joy Sex Toy which in turn introduced my to a load of other sex blogs as well as the world of ethical feminist sex toy retail. I felt that I had spotted a gap in the UK market for this type of shop.
At this point I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue in my current career. When I discussed my options with a friend they told me that I just lit up when I started talking about the shop and nothing else seemed to inspire that kind of passion! So I worked for a year to build the site, identify the products I wanted to stock and do all the other things that you need to do to start a business (talk to me about business bank accounts. I dare you!) I did all this while working full time before taking the plunge and pressing go with the shop.
The long term plan is to open a bricks and mortar store as well (or maybe a few!) so keep your eyes peeled for future developments!

How would you describe the ethos and values of The Pleasure Garden?

The number one priority of The Pleasure Garden is to be inclusive. For me this touches on being inclusive of all gender identities and sexualities, but in particular relates to disability. In the UK approximately 1 in 11 people have some form of disability. Yet disabled people are consistently excluded from almost everything to do with sex. In emphasising inclusivity I hope to provide a space which is as accessible as possible and provides the expertise to help anyone find a sex toy that will work for them. This is as opposed to making something specialist – which in the end just others and separates people.
The core values of the business are also centred around pleasure – it is right there in the name! I think so many people seek out sex toys because they are struggling to find pleasure in an act which society says should knock your socks off every time, whilst also being a source of shame and embarrassment. I want to provide people with opportunities to explore pleasure. This underpins everything – from my choice of products and my stance on stocking only body safe toys, to customer service and promoting the work of excellent sex educators.

What was/is the most challenging thing about setting up your shop or running it? 

Oh, where to start! Before I started the shop I had never worked in retail, run a business or designed a website. So I had a very steep learning curve. It has been an amazing experience and I am adding skills every day. But it is definitely a process and sometimes it can get overwhelming. It is frustrating when I can’t seem to get the vision of something I have in my head to work in reality because I just don’t have the right set of skills. I am getting better at knowing when to call on outside help! Striking the right balance between the social mission of the business and the actual business part is also a challenge. There are so many things I want to do – but it also needs to keep the lights on!

What about the most rewarding thing? 

Getting to spend every day doing something that I love is pretty awesome! I really enjoy being challenged and learning new things, so launching a sex shop has been a blast. I learn about new things all the time – from the impact of diabetes on erectile dysfunction and how silicone dildos are made, to the ins and outs of Google analytics and financial software.

What’s the best selling toy in your shop? Why do you think that is? 

One of the most popular products I sell is actually the SpareParts Joque Harness. It is a really high quality harness which is pretty beloved by a lot of reviewers, but there aren’t a huge number of places stocking it in the UK. So I jumped at the chance to get it in the shop and it has deservedly done really well.

What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work? 

That is a tricky question! I actually think I am super lucky. I’m surrounded by a lot or really awesome friends and family members who really get what I am trying to do (including my mum, who has on occasion been pulled in to package and post things for me when I have been in a bind!) I think the one slightly annoying thing is the repeated asking of, “So have you tried out everything you sell?” I know people are just trying to be funny, but it gets old!

Who inspires you personally and professionally? 

Professionally I tend to draw inspiration from anyone who has the bottle to take a risk and start something for themselves. It is a lot of hard work, and knowing that other people have made it work gives me hope! There are also some amazing people who are doing epic work in the world of disability and sexuality, such as Tuppy Owens who founded the Outsiders Club, and Gill Leno, a sex educator who works with young people with learning disabilities.

Who’s your favourite sex educator and why? 

There are loads of amazing sex educators out there that I really admire but probably the two at the top are –
Erika Moen and Matt Nolan who create Oh Joy Sex Toy. OJST was my first intro to sex blogging and it really opened my eyes. I absolutely love they way they include a massive range of body types including disabilities, different genders and different sexualities in the comics.
Also, Emily Nagoski – I think Come As You Are should be handed to everyone at age 18! Her work is exceptional, empathetic and engaging.

What’s something you used to believe – about sex, sex toys or relationships – that you don’t believe any more? 

What a great question! I used to believe that I may never find sex satisfying and that that was okay. When my first sexual experiences really didn’t match up with the messages I had from the media and (what amounted to) sex education at school, I just thought that maybe sex would just not be that great for me. It took some time learning about myself, a few sex toys and finding how to communicate (seriously, everyone should read Come as You Are) to find as much pleasure in sex and intimacy as I do now.

And just for fun because it is “Coffee and Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

Hah! I don’t drink coffee… or tea… or hot chocolate. The only hot beverage I enjoy is a hot Ribena (at it has to be brand name – no ASDA own brand rubbish!)
Thanks so much to Francesca for taking the time to speak to us. Check out The Pleasure Garden – we need to be supporting women-owned, feminist businesses! Banner image is property of The Pleasure Garden and used with permission. 

[Guest Blog] Sex & Physical Disability by Alannah Murray

Part of the point of this “new voices in sex writing” pitch call that I put out months ago was to lift up and amplify marginalised voices. You may remember an incredible piece by my metamour Pippin a few months ago – well, I think this piece by Alannah Murray, also about sex and physical disability, is a perfect follow-on to that. I’m so proud to be publishing it and sharing it with you all today. Check out Alannah’s site and follow her on the Twitter!

Without further ado, over to Alannah…

Amsterdam lit up at night. For a post on sex and disability by Alannah Murray

Sex and Physical Disability by Alannah Murray

Hey everyone! I’m one of the incredibly grateful people chosen to guest blog for
Coffee and Kink! My name is Alannah. I’m 22, from Ireland, and I’m a postgraduate
researcher working towards a MA Research degree. I developed an auto-immune disease as a child which has blessed me with a slick power assisted wheelchair. You should see it on a dance floor!

Because of my physical disability, I see the world a little bit different than most (and I don’t just mean everyone being taller than me!) I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the fashion industry and advertising, and how advertising affects public perception of disability. I’ve been a vocal advocate of disabled people for the past few years, but I was also a college student for four years – a time where you go out, make all your mistakes, and then venture out into the world. My generation also witnessed the birth of apps like Tinder and Bumble.

So, today I want to tell you all about my experience of being a young physically disabled
person, the funny ways able-bodied people have affected my experience of sex and my body, and what I hope to see for the future of the emerging sexual liberation movement.

The misconceptions around physical disability and sex range from mundane to hilarious.

You find the latter a lot in online dating. Like most people my age, I decided to give Tinder a go when it first got popular. I made sure to use plenty of pictures of myself where my wheelchair was visible, and I had wheelchair puns in my bio. Let it be known now that I adore my body for what it is, and I’ve learned how best to use it. It’s surprising how many people on Tinder have a curiosity about having sex with a disabled person. I’ve had multiple people ask me if they can have sex with me IN my wheelchair which to me just sounds like a logistical nightmare – and looking to get injured. Someone else asked if they could turn my wheelchair into a sex swing; I wanted to let him try purely based on me wondering if it could be done. Others made cruder comments about what an ideal height I was at in my wheelchair, asking me if I was “still functional”. That is a sure-fire way to make sure I will not be having sex with you, ever.

My point is, my experience of disability has been fetishised when it comes to online dating; and yet, in wider society, disabled people aren’t seen as sexual beings. Take disabled bathrooms. I know people have sex in them, regularly. I see you sneaking out together, you aren’t slick. BUT, people would never expect to see a disabled person in that situation. I think if I left that bathroom with someone else in tow people would assume that I just needed a hand in there, that whoever I was with was “incredible for doing what you do”.

Little would they know it would be ME they were doing. It would be the perfect ruse, really. You also never find condom machines in disabled bathrooms. So, able bodied people appropriate disabled spaces to express their own sexuality but don’t expect disabled people to do the same. Society has sanitised and infantilised disabled people so much that people don’t know how to handle it when they express themselves sexually. When they put themselves in those spaces, when they demand to be equals in sexuality with able-bodied peers.

Part of embracing my body is learning every inch of it.

I grew up never seeing my body in magazines or on a runway. I grew up hating how parts of my body jutted out more than others. I hated all the evidence of medical procedures strewn across my body that you’d never see in editorials. It was always someone else’s body, whether it was a doctor or a physiotherapist, or even my parents. I never felt like I was in control of it. So, as I got older and I started working to tune in to my body, I decided it was time to invest in it. It was time to enjoy it and treat it kindly after all it had been put through. That meant doing what any responsible body owner would do when they want to treat themselves; I went sex toy shopping.

Sex toy shopping was… an interesting experience initially.

I didn’t really know what I was looking for, and I was embarrassed. I was 18 at the time I think when I wandered in to my first shop. It was a haven of lace and I think I fell in love with every bra set in there. The toys were down the back, and normally in these situations a staff member would come over and ask you what you’re looking for or something like that. My experience was a little different. The staff were looking between themselves, as if to debate whether to approach me. It was more like trying to figure out how you were gonna lure an escaped pet into the house. Eventually one came over and asked if there was anything they could do, but they were obviously uncertain; maybe even uncomfortable.

I ended up buying a small bullet vibrator which absolutely wasn’t gonna do anything for me, but I was so eager to leave that I just bought it and proverbially ran. I tried to not let it sully my experience because I think it’s important to be in tune with every part of your body and what it needs. It was a long time before I tried shopping in person again though, and my life has been a lot of online trial and error. Plus, shopping online isn’t ideal because I still live with my parents and they love opening my  post. I normally dread when I need to upgrade; thankfully I’m sorted for the moment.

It’s not just toy shopping that can be daunting either.

Trying on lingerie is quite hit and miss for wheelchair users like myself. A lot of dressing rooms aren’t equipped for disabled patrons, whether it be sizes or grab rails. The amount of times I’ve just had to try and ignore gaps in curtains or having my chair poking out of a dressing cubicle is unbelievable. I’ve learned not to be shy over the years, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with having a compromised shopping experience because people don’t expect variety in their dressing rooms. However, it’s not all bad!

Retailers seem to be catching up in terms of access; albeit in small doses. In larger retailers
you normally get one singular accessible dressing room… Heaven forbid there’s more
than one disabled person in your shop at any given time, right? Customer service has also
gotten vastly better in terms of lingerie shopping. My favourite experience is lingerie
powerhouse Victoria’s Secret. They recently open a 3-floor store in Dublin and let me tell
you, I’m convinced it is heaven on earth! The staff are incredibly professional and thoughtful, and it reminds me that attitudes towards disability and sexuality are changing. With more brands like Aerie lingerie using disabled models and disability being featured more within modelling through the likes of Aaron Philip and Jillian Mercado, disabled people are becoming more visible; but people’s attitudes still need to change, especially when it comes to sex.

Which brings me to my next point – What my trip to Amsterdam taught me about people’s attitudes towards sex.

I went to Amsterdam last year with one of my best friends. I was having a tough time in
college, she was getting divorced, it seemed like the perfect way to get both our minds off it. There are a lot of reasons people go to Amsterdam. Mine were more culture based – there were lots of museums and stuff I wanted to see – but that didn’t mean we weren’t going to also sample some of the more NSFW culture points.

Funnily enough when we were lost trying to find our hotel we ended up in the red-light district by accident. I think it’s a great testament for how normalised sex work is in Amsterdam, nobody was really paying attention apart from some stag parties. People were completely unbothered. Why would they be, I suppose. I for one found my friends reaction hilarious – she wanted to walk a little quicker because that wasn’t something she’d been around before. Traditional family and everything.

After two days in Amsterdam we decided our last night would be our ‘party night’ where we would go to a café and ramble down to see what trouble we could get into in the Red-Light District. It was surprisingly picturesque, and the neon really added to it. The paths were accessible too which made navigating around a little easier. However, that was where the access stopped. For those who were “window shopping” as I heard people referring to it, there was a step down into the rooms and they were quite tiny. So, if you were in Amsterdam with a physical disability looking for a good time, you were out of luck.

It was the same with the clubs. Some of them were up multiple stairs, or down multiple stairs. There was one that had steps at the front and the security said they were more than willing to help carry me in. I didn’t because of the financial barrier (it was 45 Euros for 8 shows if I remember correctly, and I was just completely smash broke). I just didn’t understand the logic of being inaccessible. This was one of the biggest draws Amsterdam had for tourism, and it was almost completely off limits to an entire demographic of people. It also wasn’t my wider experience of Amsterdam – everywhere else had been great and most places only had one step in, with some friendly local or random passerby more than happy to help you navigate it. It occurred to me that it was as much of a social barrier as it was an architectural one. They weren’t designed to be accessible because obviously it wasn’t expected that disabled people would be occupying those spaces. It wasn’t for them, essentially.

As a 22-year-old queer person who is also disabled, watching the sexual liberation movement take off has been a double-edged sword.

While I am obviously ecstatic to see more people be open about the need for representation and consent, I wish there was more of an emphasis on access for disabled people. I want to be able to access spaces that will allow me to be my most open self, where I can go and be myself without worrying I’m taking up too much space in my wheelchair. When we have diversity panels discussing sex, I want to see more disabled people present to discuss what sexual liberation means for them. It is important that we stop disassociating disabled people from conversations about sex; we have sex, and these spaces are ours too.

We could benefit from disability being seen clearly in lingerie advertising, not in a fetishising way but in an empowering way; acknowledge that disabled people want to, and have a right to, be sexy. Advertising and advocates alike need to catch up and recognize that diversity comes in all shapes, sizes and abilities. Sexual education needs to be more diverse to include disability, and it needs to be accessible to EVERYONE.

Viva la sexuality!

If you’re interested in keeping up with me, my twitter account is @Wheelie_Healthy and you can check out my (frequently inactive) blog. You can also follow our insta (@Wheelie_Happy) where you’ll find my previous work and my contact details if you want to get in touch for anything!

Interview: Gabrielle Alexa Noel

Today I’m delighted to be interviewing the amazing Gabrielle Alexa Noel, a sex writer and journalist who has written some of the best stuff on bisexuality, feminism, race and consent that I’ve read in years. She’s an absolute force to be reckoned with in the sex writing world, and I’m so grateful to her for giving up her time to answer some questions for us! – Amy x

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

I’m a writer who primarily focuses on sex and bisexuality. I also host events on sex education and other sexuality topics and make videos on feminist topics!

What made you want to start writing about sex? What’s your background and how did you break in to the industry?

I didn’t set out to write about sex but when I started unlearning certain misconceptions about bisexuality and female sexuality, I was able to heal a shame that I hadn’t realized I was carrying. When we stigmatize sex and sexuality, we stigmatize biology, we stigmatize identities. I wanted to destigmatize those topics.

I started off as an intern at Galore. After almost a year, I left to start freelancing. I pitched myself at different publications and committed myself to doing research on sex/sexuality. And now I write for a number of sex positive publications.

What is the most challenging thing about writing about sex for a living?

I guess the stigma — just writing about it has made people suggest that I had an unstable childhood. Specifically when I talk about sexual assault, I face a lot of digital harassment. People don’t see digital harassment as real or problematic so I try to highlight it on my platform. It’s not just people calling someone “ugly”, it’s people telling me I deserve to be raped or that I am a disrespect to all rape victims. It can be damaging.

What about the most rewarding thing?

So many people tell me that my writing has helped them unlearn myths about themselves. That’s my favorite part! I want to be the person I wish I’d had access to growing up.

What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?

I guess people think that talking about sex/sexuality is largely about getting attention. First of all, everyone looks for and receives attention, women are just the ones who are primarily shamed for it. And also, I don’t care who is looking at me as a sexual being. I’m more concerned about destigmatizing sexuality for people assigned female at birth.

You’ve written a lot of amazing and intense things about topics such as race, queerness, consent and sexual assault. Why do you think it’s important that such things get talked about?

These topics are important because there are so many misconceptions! I run into so much biphobia because bisexuality is an identity people don’t understand. Women are also policed and stigmatized for our sexuality. Sex negativity, then, becomes a tool for social control. And of course, when you consider the way people of color are hypersexualized and fetishized, you can see the importance of discussing race in terms of sexuality.

What’s something you’d really love to write on but haven’t yet?

I want to write about my favorite TV shows SO BADLY but nobody ever commissions me for those pieces! People love for writers to talk about their marginalization but it’d be cool to just talk about Bob’s Burgers.

What’s your dream byline?

The New Yorker maybe? Playboy? This answer changes weekly! I want new bylines wherever I can connect with people I can help.

What’s your favourite piece that you’ve ever written and why?

These are hard questions! I just wrote about how internalized biphobia ruined my first Tinder date and it was published on the Tinder website. So many people have reached out to say that it was an important read for them. But most importantly, it was a healing experience for me. Some of my best writing often is. Before that, I wrote about coming out to my family for Hello Giggles, and that was also was both difficult and soothing. But I always have a soft spot for my Elle piece about being bisexual because that was essentially how I came out to a lot of my peers.

Who inspires you personally and professionally?

For some people this is a weird list. I love Erica Lust’s committment to feminist porn and revamping the porn industry. I love people like Ericka Hart and Rachel Cargle, who are speaking on topics of race and sexuality. I love Shan Boodram’s work in sex education. I love Lindy West. I just love people who are doing work in intersectional feminism on some level.

Who’s your favourite sex educator and why?

I love all sex educators, oh my god! Haha. Again, I love Shan Boodram, but I’m also digging Eva from What’s My Body Doing, Stevie Boebi, my friend Elyse from SX Noir, and Cameron from Sex Ed in Color.

What’s something you used to believe about sex relationships that you don’t believe any more?

I stopped believing that the only “real” kind of sex is penetration. Most women don’t even orgasm from penetration and people of all gender identities/sexualities have sex in a variety of ways. I classify sex now in terms of sexual pleasure. And I include masturbation, or solo sex, in that definition.

And just for fun because it is “Coffee and Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

Of course I like coffee! It’s part of the whole writer shtick. I like it light and sweet.

Thank you so much again to Gabrielle for her time. Check out her work and follow her on the Twitter!

Fuck You, 2018 (A Surprisingly Positive Year-End Wrap Up)

A lot of things sucked about 2018. A lot. Two people in our lives passed away far too young.  Politics continues to be a fucking farce. It was generally a bit of a trash-fire.

But there were good things this year. Small good things sometimes, true, but good things nonetheless. So, in time-honoured fashion, here’s a top three round-up before we say goodbye to this hellscape of a year.

3 awesome new sex toys

  1. Blush Exposed Nocturnal Bullet. This little $32 powerhouse was probably the biggest surprise in this year’s reviewing. It’s small, powerful as hell, rumbly, has controls that actually make sense, and is ridiculously affordable. Now we just need a UK retailer to start stocking them.
  2. Womanizer Premium. At the other end of the spectrum, this was the most expensive toy I tried this year. Simply, nothing else quite mimics the sensations this thing produces. And the cool extras such as the Smart Silence feature really pushed it into the “worth the price” bracket for me.
  3. Sola Cue. A surprisingly strong and rumbly mid-priced vibe that I just keep coming back to again and again. A great in-between when a bullet is too pinpoint but a wand is too broad.

3 proudest achievements

  1. Making spot 6 on Molly’s Daily Kiss’ Top 100 Sex Blogs list. Holy fuck.
  2. Making just over £5000 from my blog this year.
  3. Raising £1100 for Abortion Support through Smutathon 2018: #SmutForChoice edition.

3 favourite blog posts

  1. On Weight, Rope, and Grief for the Body I Wanted. This was probably the most painful thing I wrote this year, talking about being fat and not being okay with it and being unable to engage in some of the kinky things I want to do as a result.
  2. Me and My Fur: All About Body Hair. A love letter to my body hair, a tale of learning to love it, and a rant about the negative reactions it gets from society, all in one.
  3. Love Letters to People I’ll Never Fuck. A collection of mini love-letters for Valentine’s Day, celebrating non-romantic love – to my best friend, my metamour, the longest-standing friend I’m still in contact with, my childhood best friend who moved to Australia when we were 13, and a straight girl with whom I was once in unrequited love/a very emotionally complex friendship.

3 favourite publications elsewhere

  1. The Ethics of Age-Gap Relationships for Girl On The Net. Drawn heavily from my own experience in a relationship with a 20+ year age-gap, I discuss the ethical concerns to take into account if you want to date someone substantially older or younger than yourself.
  2. Sex Robots: The Next Frontier of Sexual Pleasure, or Damaging Rape Simulators? for Sex Tech Guide. I’ve been wanting to explore the topic of sex robots forever, and getting to dive deep into the consent implications of AI now and in the future was fascinating.
  3. Sex Blogging Saved My Soul for Hot Octopuss. A personal story of how this blog, and by extension this community, gave me hope and removed so much of my personal shame around sexuality.

3 favourite events

  1. Eroticon 2018, of course. This event changes my life a little bit for the better each year.
  2. My accidental-sex-party for my birthday.
  3. (Not a sexy event, but) my sibling’s wonderful wedding.

3 amazing books

  1. The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti. If you want to know what I mean when I say “virginity is a social construct invented to oppress women and girls,” read this book.
  2. Vibrator Nation by Lynn Comela. A fabulous history of feminist sex toy shops and how they did so much for the business and politics of sexual pleasure in America and beyond.
  3. Playing Well With Others by Mollena Williams-Haas and Lee Harrington. The book I wish I’d had when I was entering the kink scene a decade or so ago!

3 superstar humans (apart from my two romantic partners!)

  1. Kayla Lords of Loving BDSM, The Smutlancer and more. I never stop learning from this amazing woman (and her equally wonderful husband!) In particular, she’s done so much for me personally with regards to advising me as I launch my Smutlancing career and try to go full time as a professional writer.
  2. Quinn Rhodes of On Queer Street. Yes, you’ve probably gathered by now that we’re play-partners, but beyond and separately from that, in this remarkable woman I have found a true friend and a creative kindred spirit.
  3. My metamour Pippin. I’ve not always had the best experience with metamours, but they welcomed me with open arms into The Artist’s life and continue to be a wonderful friend. They introduced me to the concept of “radical cosiness” and being a part of this polycule continues to be one of the most profoundly healing experiences of my life.

3 goals for 2019

  1. Make £10,000 from my blog and associated Smutlancing activities this year.
  2. Significantly advance my vanilla writing work and income from this.
  3. Finish my damn novella.

And that’s it, folks. Everyone with me now: fuck you, 2018, you relentless garbage-fire of a year.

Thank God It’s Over.

Camming, Sex Journalism and More! with S. Nicole Lane

I’ve been chatting to some awesome folks lately, guys. I put a call out for interesting people doing awesome work around sexuality who would be willing to talk to me. And oh my you guys delivered! Today I’m chatting with journalist, artist, former sex workier and awesome advocate S. Nicole Lane. I’ve recently discovered her work and I am in love with her writing – check some of it out, I’m sure you’ll love it too.

A headshot of S Nicole Lane

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

I have my hands in many projects. I’m a journalist based in Chicago where I cover a multitude of topics: the LGBTQ voice, women-owned businesses, health in relation to women and non-binary people, the healthcare system, visual art, and my favorite topic – sex.

I’m also a visual artist and create pieces made of latex, found objects, and video. Most of my work stems from my relationship to my body and imagining a queer future. The pieces are familiar but foreign, as they do not resemble in specific part of the body but hint at a commonality. My video work is very sexual, typically working with images and audio that I recorded during my time as a sex worker. Both my writing and visual practice are tied together in such a way that themes and symbols definitely cross over.

What made you want to start writing about sex?

I had a Xanga all through high school where I would embarrassingly describe my relationships and intimate moments. At sixteen, I knew nothing about sex or love. I was just a huge romantic who listened to way too much music. I wanted so badly to be Anais Nin, whose book I picked up my first year in High School. She changed my life. I would write religiously, every day. It became an obsession. I also publicized this blog for everyone to read it – I had nothing to hide and have always been a proud and confident person.

I stopped writing compulsively for about five years until I moved to Chicago where I was struggling with vaginismus—an involuntary muscle spasm that results in painful sex. After being frustrated that zero doctors could diagnose me and there was no easily accessible literature about it online, I decided to begin writing about it myself. My first piece was published on Bustle and my second on The Establishment which sparked my writing career in sexuality.

Before this, I was writing art exhibition reviews (I studied art, specifically photography) but the language was dry and repetitive. Writing about sex, kinks, so-called “taboos” allowed me to reach out to people who were struggling like I was during that time. Now I cover a range of sexual topics and celebrate kinksters around the globe. My beginnings as a angsty teenage nymphomaniac have transformed into a fruitful and very rewarding career.

You mentioned that you used to be a sex worker. Could you tell us a little about how that experience was for you and, if you’re comfortable doing so, why you decided to exit that line of work?

I was a cam girl for almost two years where I also created private videos and sold materials to men online. Camming is so exciting and I still miss it sometimes! I am also a trained dancer so for me, camming was just getting up and dancing for an invisible audience, while making money and losing a little bit of clothing along the way. Freelance writing comes with obstacles and some months. Before really getting into a regular work routine, I would find myself extremely worried about money. I was writing an article on camming for a publication and decided to give it a try.

At first, I was simply “researching” for the piece but soon, I was putting in a full six hours a day or night. Yes, camming is exciting, powerful, and feminist, but I did have my moments of exhuastion. It’s a full time job—viewers messaging you, sending you images, demanding attention. Moreover, moving your body, talking, and performing for hours is a type of tired that I had never experienced before. My body physical hurt after a session. But it was always my choice to turn off my camera, always my choice to shut down my site.

I also talked to my viewers about sexual health. I’d quiz them on topics like HPV or other STIs. I would talk to them realistically. No, I didn’t like deep throating. I wasn’t going to pretend for some extra money. Of course this lost me viewers, but my viewers who stayed were very dedicated. I miss them sometimes.

I decided to exit camming once my writing was more steady. At the end of the day, writing is what I wanted to be spending my time doing.

What is the most challenging thing about writing about writing about sex for a living?

It can be really fucked up! By that I mean that it can make you really horny while your partner is at work, or when they aren’t in the mood, and you’re simply consumed with thoughts of sex positions, dildos, and cunnilingus. Another challenge is coming up with new, exciting topics. I don’t want to write another piece that describes the same tips to giving the best blowjob. Of course, those articles helped the hell out of me when I was young. But I’m not personally rewarded by writing those (plus I think they can be done better). Moreover, many publications reject my pitches because they are too “niche” for their audience—specific kinks or fetishes are still stigmatized.

What about the most rewarding thing?

The most rewarding thing about writing in general is relaying information and connecting to such a vast group of people all over the world. My inbox is always filled with email of people wanting to talk to me about certain health concerns or thanking me for writing a piece.

On the topic of vaginismus, a serious sexual health concern, most doctors dismiss the patient’s pain. I had several doctors tell me it was “all in my head”. This morning I opened up my email to find that someone had written me saying that she felt all alone, secluded in her pain until she read my piece.

As for my more kink-oriented and sexy pieces, those are rewarding because I find joy in eradicating taboos and stereotypes, especially while living in America under our current administration. I couldn’t have asked for a better profession.

What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?

People always assume it’s just reduced to listicles describing the 10 best ways to achieve an orgasm. I research constantly, I read all of the time, and I put a lot of effort into every single one of my articles. I have to absorb information at a fast pace in order to accurately deliver a piece.

What’s something you’d really love to write on but haven’t yet?

I would really love to have a regular sex advice column for a platform. I feel like many of the sex advisors are very vanilla misogynists who don’t pay attention to non binary and trans people. So I would love to have a weekly column where I focus on all bodies.

What’s your dream byline?

Two years ago I said that once I’m published in Playboy, I’ll personally feel like I’ve made it in my writing career. Last year I wrote a piece on anal sex and now I write regularly for Playboy about art and occasional sex topics! Of course, I’m still not satisfied with my portfolio and hope get published on smaller platforms like Mel Magazine and Jezebel… and, eventually, The New York Times!

What’s your favourite piece that you’ve ever written and why?

Oh this is so hard! I love writing for Healthline, the editors are incredible and supportive. I did a huge piece where I talked to a collection of queer, trans, polyamorous, non binary, and heterosexual people and how sex can change in their decade in September. And then my favorite sex toy piece is on Broadly where I experimented with electro-play.

Who inspires you personally and professionally?

I look up to various writers, especially Abby Norman who wrote an incredible book called “Ask Me About My Uterus”. All of the brave people in the Healing From LEEP/LLETZ Facebook Group inspire me. The MedTruth community. I also look up to my close friends and partner for inspiration.

What essay, article or book about sex do you really wish you’d written?

In 2015, the Establishment published an incredible piece by Katie Tandy which left me slack jawed called “The Dirty Politics of Period Sex.” It’s a love letter to period sex and it’s incredible.

And just for fun because it is “Coffee and Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

This is funny because I was a five cup a day drinker my entire life. My mom always said, “Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like coffee or Nutella”. But after researching how coffee can affect me hormonally (acne, issues with my period), I decided to cut it out which resulted in the worst withdrawals I’ve ever experience. My acne didn’t improve and my period sort of returned, though not fully. I’ve been drinking tea for a year but recently—because I can’t resist the smell or comfort—have been cheating and having a cup of coffee every other day. And of course, I take it black.

Thanks to Nicole for her time! Check out her awesome writing and give her a follow on the Twitter and the Insta.