[Guest Blog] The Thirst of “Femmes d’un Certain Age” by Evelyn Archer

When I started out on this quest to publish a select few guest bloggers on my site (and pay them for it, of course!) part of my mission was to share the stories I cannot tell. The experiences I have not had. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited by this piece by Evelyn Archer. Here, we’re talking Sex After 40! I’m in my late 20s. The myths about sex stopping is one of the things I’m very afraid of about growing older. But here, Evelyn tells us that not only can sex after 40 be amazing – it might just be the best ever. She’s also sharing some wisdom she’s learned along the way. Over to her…

Amy x

A 40th birthday cake, for a guest post on sex after 40 by Evelyn ArcherThe Thirst of “Femmes d’un Certain Age” by Evelyn Archer

Some doctors call it “The Surge”. I call it “The Going Out of Business Sale”.

Here’s the truth: in my late 30s through mid-40s, I’d done without sex for a long time. In a long, otherwise happy marriage – between medication side effects, interpersonal issues and plain old fear – we’d been Not Having Sex for longer than I like to admit. I told myself that everyone gets to define these things for themselves (still true), but there was also another message that I was getting and internalizing without really realizing it. A woman over 40 with a sex drive is a joke. A grotesque joke. Either played for laughs or an object of scorn and pity – we’re Stifler’s Mom from American Pie, Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company (Google it, my sweet babies).

I had no model for what my sex life after 40 was “supposed” to look like. It was “supposed” to Go Away. In fact, cursory Googling revealed a stark, depressing story of “sexless marriages”, of couples living with resentment and disappointment, or at best as friendly roommates, co-owners in the Business of Our Life. A sexual life was something I used to have, someone I used to be, and it looked like I would have to find a way to live without it.

But through hard work in therapy and a bunch of other stuff we came together again.

And now we can’t stop boning each other. But as an essentially cishet (I mean, het-ish, but that’s another post) monogamous couple, in order to truly get back on track, we had to take our cues from outside the cishet community (which is unsurprisingly UNHELPFUL in terms of sex positive information). Instead we turned to queer folks and trans folks and polyamorous folks.

If my partner and I were struggling, for whatever reason, with penetrative P-in-V sex, why was this the “end of sex” for us? Would we say that what our queer friends, our trans pals did in bed wasn’t “really sex”? Of course not! That doesn’t even make sense! So why did it have to be that way for us? Once we stopped putting P-in-V sex at the center of our sex lives, once we stopped seeing “everything else” (oral and manual and toys and everything) as a “lead up to the main event” our entire sex lives transformed. All of a sudden, “fucking” was whatever we decided it was.

So we started fucking all the time.

We can’t seem to stop. He comes home early from work just for banging. We send dirty gifs to each other. We keep a Sex Toy Wish List on Lovehoney. And we haven’t seen our friends on a Saturday night in months because we’re so tired from banging all afternoon, all we can do is eat spaghetti and watch cartoons.
And it was from polyamorous folks writing about relationships and intimacy that we learned that we have to TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME. We have to find ways to talk about stuff we don’t want to talk about. How to sit in uncomfortable feelings like disappointment and jealousy, and still hold space for each other.

It never occurred to us to actually have a conversation about what we WANTED to do
specifically, only what we DIDN’T want to do. From the BDSM community that we learned that we can just talk out whatever is “on the table” for fucky stuff and instead of all that talking “ruining the moment” (or whatever) it leads to a more fun and satisfying play-time.

The power of just listening

But let me be clear: all these terrific queer, trans, poly sex positive folks (bloggers, Twitterers, Instagram folks) are not giving this information to US. Their work is not necessarily FOR us, it’s for themselves and for each other. But by shutting up, and by watching and listening closely, I learned a new way to look at and talk about sex. As these folks process and manage their own sex positive liberation, it shows me a different way of inhabiting my own sexuality, shows me ways to question and ways to talk. It’s not one person in particular, but this chorus of voices, and quietly immersing myself in what they have to say has utterly changed my marriage, my relationship to sex, and the way I see myself.

But still, my high levels of desire seemed to be out of sync with public opinion and popular culture. There’s still the Google-able stuff about The End of Sex, but dig a little deeper and there’s something called “The Surge”. The way I understand it (and I am a writer not a doctor, so do your own research!) is that here at the End of my Childbearing Years my body knows that each egg it releases could be its last. So it releases a surge of hormones telling me “YOU BETTER BANG EVERYTHING BECAUSE THIS COULD BE YOUR LAST CHANCE”. But there’s SO little information on this (and most of it anecdotal) it reminds me of how monstrous our culture sees Femmes d’un Certain Age whose sex drives are still strong. We’re still a joke, still grotesque. Still Mrs. Roper, still Stifler’s mom.

Dawn Sera and Tristan Taoromino have talked about it on their podcasts a couple of times, but there’s little in popular culture for me to look to. Even looking for women over forty in romance novels came up thin, even thinner if you want something a little hotter than “sweet” and “tender”.

So…where ARE we?

WHY is no one talking about this? Why is the only talk of women and
middle age and desire about our thinning hair, our drying and atrophying vaginas, our hormone therapy, our inevitable march to a dry and sexless grave?

Well, I’m not having it. I’ve decided to embrace my monstrousness (if indeed that’s what it is). And I’m leaving you with some resources that really helped me. (These may Old News to you Sex Positive Veterans, but they were news to me).

Resources

  • Tristan Taoromino’s podcast “Sex Out Loud” (available wherever fine podcasts are uploaded). She has more talk of kink and gender and queer politics so this was right up my alley.
  • Dawn Serra’s “Sex Gets Real” (available wherever fine podcasts are uploaded). She has a softer, more relationshippy slant. There’s also lots of good stuff about the intersection of fat positivity and sex positivity. (Be prepared to hear the word “yummy” a lot.
  • Oh Joy, Sex Toy is a web comic by husband and wife team Erika Moen and Matt Nolan. I went there just for sex toy reviews and what I got was SO much more. The illustrations are really sweet, with lots and lots of body diversity (which I don’t see everywhere).
  • Come As You Are: the Surprising New Science that will Transform your Sex Life, by Emily Nagoski. The research here on how desire can work for some folks was a revelation to me. (Also Erika Moen does the illustrations!) Not so science-y that it’s dry, yet doesn’t read like a self-help manual. She is a scientist and a sex educator and this book is great.

Author photo of Evelyn ArcherEvelyn Archer is an author living in New England. You can find her books here and you can sign up for her super fun newsletter, “The Strange Files” here. She also writes erotic shorts as “Madeline Moon”. You can find them here, or here.

 

Affiliate links are contained within this post. All views are the author’s own.

Getting Fit Together… with Sex? Sexercise Fitness Review Part 1

Content note: this post contains discussion of fitness, exercise and weight loss. Please feel enormously free to skip this one if these topics are difficult for you.

Charlotte and Colin from Sexercise Fitness smilng at the camera in their underwear
Charlotte and Colin, the power couple team behind Sexercise Fitness.

Why (and how) I’m doing this

Those of you who have been reading my work for a while will know that I struggle with my weight, fitness and body-image. You’ll also know that I am tremendously busy. So when Charlotte, one half of the duo behind Sexercise Fitness, approached me to review their workout programme – which can be conveniently done at home, requires minimal equipment, and includes sexual applications for the various exercises(!)… well, how could I resist!?

I am not “dieting” while doing this programme, as food restriction tends to lead me to negative mental health and disordered eating places. I eat a pretty healthy diet anyway, and the only dietary change I’m making is trying to cut back a little on refined sugar. I’m also not sharing my weight numbers here as I don’t think that’s healthy for me or my readers. I’m focusing on feeling healthy and fit, not on numbers. I’ve just started the programme and will be sharing my thoughts today and at the end.

What is Sexercise Fitness?

Each week of the Sexercise Fitness programme consists of a series of strengthening exercises which can be done individually or together with a partner. They’re led by a trained and qualified Personal Trainer, and the videos are simple to follow along with. I found it easiest to play the video full-screen and do the exercises on the living room floor with my computer in front of me.

In the videos, Colin and Charlotte do separate exercises – but I decided to try them all, just for fun. They start off pretty gentle, making this programme suitable for beginners, and each workout is less than ten minutes long. Ongoing access means you can repeat things as often as you feel like you want to. Starting out at a base of very low physical fitness and muscle tone, I found the Week One exercises challenging but manageable.

As well as the exercise walkthrough videos, there are extra videos with little tips and tricks, and Charlotte and Colin share their experiences as they go through the programme. They’re adorable and funny together, and very real as they share their struggles and triumphs. At the end,  there are suggestions for sex acts and sexual positions based upon the exercises you learned that week.

Membership costs £24.97 for 1 year’s full access to everything – less than one month of typical gym membership or a single session with a personal trainer.

Who’s it for?

The “sexercises” demonstrated are based around a cis male and cis female body pairing. However, you can easily adapt them to fit your own relationship and genital configurations. The positions for penetration work just as well with a strap-on or for anal sex, and obviously anyone and everyone can enjoy oral sex if they want to! You could do the programme on your own, but you’ll probably get more out of it by doing it with a sexual partner.

It’s a fun and different approach to getting fit with a partner and what I’ve seen so far, I’m enjoying (even though I’m a touch sore.)

Check back in six weeks to see how I got on…

…and what happened when I roped Mr CK in!

Thank you to Sexercise Fitness for sponsoring me to attempt this challenge and tell you guys about it. All opinions, as ever, are my own. Remember to listen to your body, work within your own capabilities and limitations, and consult a doctor or healthcare professional if you’re in any doubt before starting an exercise programme.

I Don’t Particularly Care for Cunnilingus… And That’s Okay

Cunnilingus. Oral sex. Eating out. Pussy eating. Muff-diving. Whatever you call it, if we’re having sex I’m perfectly happy to skip it.

Yup. That’s right. I just don’t like cunnilingus that much most of the time.

A person licking an ice cream. For a post on cunnilingusI don’t hate it. It’s fine and I’m happy to engage in it occasionally if the person giving really enjoys doing it. Mr CK and I have even talked about experimenting with some positioning to help me enjoy it more, which we’ll probably do at some point soon. But the odds of cunnilingus bringing me to orgasm are… about one in three years, if recent experience is anything to go by. There are just much more reliable and fun ways to bring me to orgasm, that won’t stress me out along the way.

Why do I say stress me out along the way? There have been a number – a not-insignificant number – of occasions when worrying that I wasn’t responding to cunnilingus in the “right” way or enjoying it “enough” took me completely out of my head and probably, realistically, ruined any chance I had of getting real enjoyment from it.

Precisely WHY I don’t like it much is uncertain. My clit is both very sensitive and very picky – direct stimulation, on the glans rather than the hood, is usually so intense it’s painful. Also, it’s hard to get good enough control with a tongue to really stimulate the spot I like in a consistent manner for long enough to get me anywhere.

Fingers have much more dexterity and precision.

It’s not about someone’s skills…

If you’re going to hop into my comments or mentions and tell me I’d love cunnilingus if only you did it to me… save it. This isn’t about skill or lack thereof of my partners.

My partner is tremendously skilled at this particular act. How do I know? Because I’ve seen other women, who like it much more than I do, gush all over him when he does it to them. (Yes, that is as hot as it sounds).

Again: it’s not about skills. Someone could be the most skilled in the world at a particular act, and it isn’t going to suddenly transform my body into one that loves that act.

Going down doesn’t automatically make you a feminist…

I’ve ranted about this one before, but it amazes me how often people (read: cis men) believe they’re amazing feminists just because they enjoy performing oral sex on people with vulvas.

Being a feminist lover isn’t about bragging about how much you “just looooooove eating pussy!” Being a feminist lover is about listening to your partner, respecting their preferences, treating enthusiastic affirmative consent as a minimum standard, and taking your ego out of the bedroom as much as possible.

If your partner says she doesn’t like receiving cunnilingus that much? Believe her.

I’ll still go down on you though!

I love giving pleasure. If we’re having sex and oral is your jam, whatever anatomy you have, I’m MORE than happy to go down on you. I’ll love the hell out of it, too, because making someone squirm and moan is at least half the joy of sex for me.

Don’t feel bad that I probably don’t want you to “return the favour,” and don’t push me into accepting it just to assuage your sense of fairness. Use your dick, fingers or a toy on me instead, and I’ll have a great time.

Why is this controversial to say?

Unfortunately, we live in a society that has a lot of very narrow and very messed up ideas about sex. One of them? Everyone loves oral!

Some people with vulvas love receiving cunnilingus, some don’t. Some people with penises love receiving fellatio, some don’t. Just like everything else, people are individuals and have preferences!

So I’m saying it. I don’t really care for cunnilingus. If you really want to do it for your enjoyment, I’ll probably co-operate for a while. But if you’re trying to get me off? Just finger me really well instead, thanks!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider buying me a coffee to say thanks!

Plus-Size Lingerie and Body Love [A Review, of Sorts]

This post contains frank descriptions of body image issues and weight loss (no numbers) and discusses external and internalised fatphobia. Please look after yourselves and skip this one if this is likely to be difficult for you. This one is quite vulnerable for me – please be kind. Thank you.

A pretty curvy woman in the Rendezvous plus-size lingerie set from LovehoneyI am currently fatter than I have ever been in my life. And I am not, truth be told, okay with this.

To be honest, I feel bad even writing that. I don’t know if I am allowed to complain that I experience fatphobia at this size – where I never have before. Plenty of people who are bigger than me experience far worse. But there we are. These things exist on a spectrum. And many people, from men who might want to fuck me to service staff, treat me noticeably worse now than they did 50lb ago.

A pretty curvy woman in the Belle Amour plus-size lingerie bra set from LovehoneyEven though I’m frequently attracted to gorgeous babes of all sizes, fat and thin and everywhere in between, I really struggle with seeing my body like this. I have to be in a lot of photos at my day job, and I’ve often ended up going to the loos to have a sneaky cry after seeing a photo of myself. It’s probably fair to say I currently hate my body most of the time.

I’m on a long journey right now of getting back to the weight where I felt good about my body, while also trying to love it as it is on the way. Part of the problem is that a lot of my clothes, and especially a lot of the clothes I used to feel good in, don’t fit me at the moment. This includes all the gorgeous lingerie I’ve accrued in two years of sex blogging. (Small mercies, I can still get into the catsuit of joy, but just barely.)

So when my pals at Lovehoney announced they were launching two new lines of plus-size lingerie, I agreed to try it out. Still at a place of being reluctant to call myself “plus-size,” I nervously selected a couple of pieces and waited for them to arrive. They then sat on the sofa for several days, staring at me. Making me feel guilty for not trying them and scared to try them in equal measure. What if they looked awful? If they didn’t fit? If I ended up just hating my body even more?

Eventually I did try them, when I was alone in the house and there was no-one but me and the mirror to judge me. (Not that my sweethearts would ever negatively judge me, but internalised fatphobia is strong, y’all).

Meet Belle Amour & Rendezvous

Belle Amour and Rendezvous are Lovehoney’s two new lines of plus-size lingerie. Unlike their other offerings, these ranges are exclusive to Plus and cover sizes 18-28 (that’s UK sizes).

“Belle Amour” is a red-themed range (two of the sets also have black accents) which is bright, bold and sexy as hell. The two “Rendezvous” pieces are inspired by fetishwear and characterised by black fabrics, gold studded collar and belt, and fishnet lace. Woof.

The pieces I chose & my experience

I decided to go for one basque and one bra set, to get the best overall sense of the range. I chose the Rendezvous Studded Fishnet Basque and the Belle Amour Longline Bra Set.

When I first got lingerie from Lovehoney, I was really pleasantly surprised at the quality. Unlike what you get from a lot of sex shops and online retailers, this stuff is fantastically made and uses real high-quality materials. These pieces were no exception. The satin looks anything but cheap, and the lace is unbelievably soft.

I tried on the Rendezvous set first. I’m a big fan of fishnet and I love the floral pattern interspersed with the netting – it gives the set a gorgeous kinky/femme edge. The studded belt is my favourite part, though. I love how it accentuates the curve of my waist.

Sexy lingerie is not designed for comfort, so I won’t pretend it was the most comfy thing in the world. But the material is soft and non-scratchy enough that I could wear it for a few hours at an event without too much trouble.

I think this one is coming out at the next kink event we go to…

Next up was the Belle Amour set. I was initially less sure about this one. For starters, it shows off my stomach which isn’t a part of my body I am particularly fond of.

But the longer I wore it, the more I loved the shape it gives to my breasts and the way the garter belt hugs the curve of my hips. I also think the long line bra style, which hits just at the top of my waist, is a super flattering cut for me. The whole aesthetic is delightfully femme.

This is definitely the more comfortable of the two – again, I cannot overestimate how soft this lace is!

Now I just need to get me some wonderful stockings to complete the look…!

Some reactions:

I think it’s safe to say the reactions from my partners and sexy friends were overwhelmingly positive.

“Woof!” – anonymous friend

“*heart eyes emoji*” – other anonymous friend

“So ridiculously hot.” – the Artist

*Drags me into the bedroom for immediate sex* – Mr CK

A note on sizing

As ever, femme clothing sizing continues to be a mystery. Lovehoney’s plus-size lingerie comes in three sizes: 18/20, 22/24, and 26/28. However, each basque and bra has three rows of hooks-and-eyes and some stretch, making them adjustable to a reasonable degree.

Regardless of what size I’ve been at, I have always had disproportionately large boobs compared to the rest of my body. I don’t normally do bras so I haven’t had a measurement done in years. But at a guess I’m probably an E or F cup right now. This means I often have to go a size up in tops and anything with a built-in bra.

I requested these pieces in size 18/20. I’m wearing a 16 in most things at the moment, occasionally an 18 on top thanks to the aforementioned tits. However, on the tightest hook setting these pieces fitted like a dream. Even the cups were a perfect size and actually covered my nipples properly! All the straps are adjustable, from the bra straps to the pieces that attach the collar to the basque. The collar, though not adjustable, is stretchy enough that I can pull it over my head so it will fit the vast majority of neck sizes.

The knickers on both pieces were very, very slightly big on me but really nowhere near enough as to be problematic.

Care and Cleaning

Unfortunately, these pieces – as with most sexy lingerie – are hand-wash only. We actually do put them through the washing machine, in a net bag on the most gentle cycle and they’ve been absolutely fine, but your mileage may vary.

The Verdict

I love both of these sets, and these whole ranges! Interestingly, both my partners agreed that the red set was their favourite, but the black feels like more “me” when I wear them. Perhaps I’m just not very used to bright colours! Black feels much more comfortable, much more… safe?

More than anything, I want to emphasise how goddamn sexy I feel in these pieces. I cried when I’d finished trying them. The whole experience reminded me how it feels to love what I see in the mirror. That’s been… a while.

So what now?

Whatever size you are, if you’re struggling with how you see your body, I recommend getting something to wear that you feel absolutely gorgeous in. This might be lingerie or it might not – what makes us feel good is very personal.

This experience has not cured my body-image issues by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not sure that’s entirely possible. We live in a society that hates fat bodies, that encourages women to hate themselves, and that profits off insecurities and imperfections the media has convinced us we have.

But putting on this this gorgeous plus-size lingerie, taking photos and letting my lovers tell me how sexy I am, has reminded me that my body can still be hot and desirable and perfect, exactly as it is right now. And that has to be worth something.

Thanks to Lovehoney for providing me with these pieces to try. As ever, all opinions are my own. If you purchase through my affiliate links, you send a small commission my way at no extra cost to you. Professional product photos are property of Lovehoney and used with permission. Other images are mine – do not steal them.

Ask Amy #8 – “When a Man Can’t Reach Climax”

It’s been a while since we had an Ask Amy column, hasn’t it!? Remember you can always send me your questions using any of the usual ways to get in touch.

A man wearing blue jeans with his hands over his genital area, for a post about men struggling to reach climaxI replied to today’s lovely reader privately, but he kindly gave me permission to reproduce his question for the column as I suspect there are lots of people who could benefit from this advice. He asks:

Any ideas for a guy who can’t reach climax? I experience a loss of sensation due to my ongoing illness and the medication I have to take. Sometimes using a high-powered vibrator like my wife’s Doxy helps, but only occasionally. I still enjoy sex and try not to worry too much about orgasm, but you can understand this is very frustrating. Sometimes I just don’t want to bother. There’s so much information out there about premature ejaculation, but not much about loss of sensation or inability to climax for men.

This is such a great question, and one that is so rarely talked about. As you correctly identified, there’s tonnes of information for cis guys who orgasm too quickly, but very little for those who struggle to get there in the timeframe they’d like… or at all.

First, I’m going to give you the obvious but necessary advice. Try, if possible, to relax and not stress about it. For a lot of people, making orgasm the express goal of sex or masturbation stresses them out so much that it makes it even MORE difficult to get there. And remember, you can still have loads of sexy fun without orgasm and even without a hard penis.

Secondly, if you haven’t already, please talk to your doctor. I don’t know what medication you’re on, but anorgasmia and difficulty orgasming is a hugely common and problematic side effect of many medications, including common antidepressants such as SSRIs. (Ask me how I know!) Sadly, many medical professionals don’t take sexual side effects seriously. But sex is an important part of life for many people, doctors need to take these side effects seriously. There may not be another medical solution, depending on the specifics and what your condition is. But it’s an avenue worth exploring if you haven’t already.

Third, I’m going to make a couple of toy suggestions for you. You mentioned using the Doxy wand can sometimes bring you to orgasm. How are you using it? If you’re just pressing it against your cock, that’s awesome for a lot of men but you might also wish to try using an attachment. My partner absolutely loves the Hummer. The advantage of an attachment like this is that it transmits the vibrations all over the penis, rather than concentrating them in the one spot where the toy is sitting.

I also highly recommend you check out the Pulse III by Hot Octopuss. Unlike the Doxy, this “guybrator” is actually not a vibrator at all. It uses PulsePlate technology, an oscillating mechanism based on proven medical research. It’s the same medical technology that is used to help men with spinal cord injuries to ejaculate. It can be used on either a flaccid or erect penis. Tests have shown that it can induce orgasm even while the penis is flaccid! Of course, no toy is perfect for everyone, but given that this one was based on devices designed for those with little or no sensation, I think there’s a very real possibility it will be a great option for you.

Hot Octopuss have kindly offered a limited time discount code for Coffee & Kink readers. Use code PULSE15 at checkout between now and 18th October to get 15% off the Pulse Solo or Duo.

This sounds like a really frustrating situation for you. I really hope some of this advice is helpful. I also really hope that seeking further medical advice specifically around the sexual side effects of your medication gives you some answers.

Today’s advice column is kindly supported by Hot Octopuss. Using any of the affiliate links in this post to purchase toys sends a small commission my way and helps support my writing and sex education work.  

 

[Guest Post] “Body Knows Best” by AJ Power

When I put a call out for guest blogs, some stunning pieces came my way and there were a couple that made me cry. This essay by AJ Power is one of them. AJ tells her journey to becoming the woman she is with such strength and vulnerability that I am just absolutely blown away.

I had two contradictory reactions to this piece. The first was that I wanted to publish it because I couldn’t completely relate – as a cis woman who has benefited by entire life from cis privilege, I will never completely what a trans woman goes through. However, on a different level, I felt I did understand it. As a trauma survivor, my body has always known what I need, what I can handle and what I cannot, and if a situation is right or wrong. It was learning to listen to it that was the tricky bit. In that regard, at least, I related to AJ’s essay very deeply. I am absolutely thrilled to be able to share this beautiful piece with you all.

Amy x

A painting of a young woman looking at her face in the mirror. For a post by Alicia Power.It started with losing my virginity. You could argue for something earlier: myriad stomach issues through my childhood, anxiety attacks I couldn’t recognize as such (much less explain to my parents), or any number of little things I’d only later realize pointed to my being trans. But it’s one thing to dissect signs and symptoms with the benefit of hindsight, and another to get a blaring wake-up call on a chilly October night when you’re as excited as you’ve ever been.

Aubrey was a better person to ‘lose it’ with than I could have dreamed. Vastly too cool for me, sure, but I was not looking that particular gift horse in the mouth. My roommate was out partying, we were both happy, healthy, and sober, and I was about to fall head over heels. Everything was perfect. Except, well, for one horrifying cliché….

I couldn’t get it up.

No matter what I tried (and oh did I try) it was just not happening. I didn’t understand. Yes, I was nervous, and yes, on some level I believed that it happened to a lot of guys maybe even all guys at some point or other—but at that moment there was nothing but shame and betrayal. Aubrey actually handled everything great, but that didn’t stop me from sobbing in the shower the next morning, or from going to student health to try and dig up some reason, any physical reason that this was happening to me.

When my wife and I have sex now, I do think back to those days sometimes. Days when I thought I was a guy. When I thought that only penetrative sex was “real” sex. When I somehow drew a line between Real Dysphoria(TM) and how much I hated seeing myself in  the mirror. It feels like another life, like that was a different person, an unexpected and unwanted detour when somebody else was borrowing my body. But now that I have the steering wheel again, I’m not totally sure how to drive stick (pun intended). So much about me has changed, both physically and deeper than that. I have the same parts, but not the same.

Not really.

And I don’t quite know what this body wants.

When Aubrey and I finally did end up having intercourse I was elated. It took nearly a year, and I was at least a littl bit bothered by that, but we’d fallen in love in that time. We’d grown into each other, trusting, caring, knowing. She was the only person I’d ever told about my depression. About my high school prom, where I mostly thought about killing myself and felt better than I had in months. About how desperately lonely I could get.

I still had trouble performing sometimes. I figured it was an anxious sort of feedback loop—worrying about worrying and ending up just as nervous as I’d been the first time the issue had cropped up. But I’d made my peace with it, I thought. We were happy. Problem solved.

Lest I make this into a pity party, I love sex. Touching and being touched, desiring and being desired—it’s amazing and beautiful. The journey is fantastic. The destination, on the other hand….

It’s not that I can’t orgasm. Give me five minutes with my vibrator and, well. But no matter how well things seem to be going with another person, it remains out of reach. Sometimes I think it’s just that it’s so much easier to forget what body parts I actually have when it’s just me. When I can have the barrier of pajamas, panties, or pornography to keep that knowledge shunted off to the side of my conscious mind. As opposed to the unmistakable fact of skin or lips wrapping around me. The fact that there’s something to wrap around at all. Other times I wonder if, despite the intervening years, the hormones, and the anti anxiety medication, I’m just still too much in my own head when it comes to sex, and I need to learn to shut my brain off and enjoy the moment.

In most situations, the anxiety takes hold because I’m desperately afraid of disappointing someone or letting them down. But even when there’s little-to-no risk of that, it’s tough to reassure myself. Because no matter how anyone else feels, the one I so often let down is me.

I wanted to scream at myself to just shut up for once in my life. I had Lauren in my bed. Lauren, who I’d gotten involved with way too quickly after Aubrey. Way too quickly after Lauren’s last breakup too. I was having trouble performing again. We’d both been drinking a little—just enough to relax, at least in theory.

My body just wouldn’t listen to me. Again. I was so sick of it, and I just wanted both of us to have a good time. I told myself to focus on her before I gave any thought to myself. Her body. The way it moved. The way it felt. I tried to shut out everything that was complicated or difficult, or…me.

I didn’t give much thought to the fact that when I masturbated, or even when I had sex, I rarely (if ever) pictured myself in the scene. It was like I was so focused on the woman in front of me, that I was barely a presence, even in my own fantasies. That night, I tried to switch. To focus just on Lauren, and then to enjoy the moment as myself. I wasn’t over Aubrey, and I figured that that was why I was so disconnected from myself. But the truth was, part of it felt good and right, and part of it didn’t. That was the last time I ever had penetrative sex.

The strangest part of the dysphoria I still have is that I don’t hate my body. Even the things I wish were different, I don’t hate. They just don’t feel entirely like me. I know that mental health issues are a process, but I feel like I’m past a lot of hating myself too. I can feel happy, proud, beautiful in ways I never would have been able to a few years ago. There’s just this one part of me. This last question that’s more confusing than anything. What am I supposed to do with you?

It wasn’t long ago at all now that I was lying in a hotel bed on my wedding night, feeling like I’d just seen the face of god. My wife had just driven me completely out of my mind for what seemed like forever, and when she asked me if I’d climaxed, I had to say I didn’t know. I didn’t feel like I’d had that release, but how else to describe how it had felt? Was this another part of me changing? But for once, I didn’t think about it too hard.

The truth is, my body knows me. In every fantasy that I thought I wasn’t an actor in, in every time I got lost in the curves of someone else’s body when I had no love for my own, my body was trying to tell me something. That the need and want I was feeling weren’t just about loving women, but about being one. Like calling to like. The shape of me on the inside trying to find something that would fit around it and make it home.

There’s something magic in learning to feel like yourself, at home in your own person. I felt it when I bought my first dress. I felt it when I started liking the woman I saw in the mirror. And I felt it the first time I fell in love, and the last. It’s a soft sigh and an intake of breath, a sense of “Oh, so that’s how it can be.”

I always thought that when my body misbehaved it was because something was wrong (or that it was just being an asshole), but even with the things I have yet to figure out, I know it’s not about right and wrong, or a problem to be fixed.

It’s about the fact that I’m not finished yet. I still have more to do, to grow, to change.

And if my body has taught me anything, it’s that change is good.

AJ Power is a 28-year-old trans writer and editor. When not writing, she can usually be found watching movies in bed or reading…probably also in bed. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her wife. She tweets as @write_errant.

Men: Her Orgasm Is Not About Your Ego

This is my third post of #Smutathon2018: #SmutForChoice Edition. Please donate to our page for Abortion Support Network, and don’t forget to leave your email address or Twitter handle so we can enter you into the raffle to win some awesome sex toys!

Dear Well-Meaning Cishet Man,

This one’s for you.

You’re a good guy, right? You care about your sexual partner’s pleasure, and her orgasms. You even eat pussy! When DJ Khaled’s comments surfaced about “different rules” for men re. oral sex, you probably tweeted furiously “I’M A GUY AND I LOVE EATING PUSSY”.

A man and woman kissing. For a post about ego and sex.Well, okay. But slow down. I want you to read this with an open mind, and try not to feel attacked. That’s not my aim.

However, please – please – stop making your female partners’ orgasms about your ego! Let me explain.

When I started having partnered sex in my mid and late teens, my boyfriend compelled me to tell him I’d never had an orgasm before I met him. He’d decided this was the case.  Telling him it wasn’t seemed like it wouldn’t achieve anything but bruising his ego. He was very into the fantasy of me as the perfect innocent. So I went with it.

I think a lot of young women have similar experiences. Their (also young and often inexperienced) boyfriends want to feel like sex gods who introduce them to a world of pleasure they never knew existed before. They don’t want to hear “I’ve been having orgasms by myself for years”. This narrative is a big part of the Fifty Shades of Grey fantasy. Ana has not only never masturbated or had an orgasm. She’s never even thought a sexual thought until Christian “I-Don’t-Make-Love-I-Fuck-Hard” Grey deigns to deflower her.

How this played out for me was thus: he didn’t really know what I liked. I knew what I liked, but couldn’t tell him because then he’d known I’d – gasp – had sexual feelings and even touched myself before he showed up. So a long time was spent with him trying to get me off, and either getting pissed off that it took so long (when I got there at all) or me faking it because dude, it’s been two hours, my clit is rubbed raw. 

This is, of course, a sex education problem. We don’t teach young women that exploring their bodies is okay. We don’t teach boys that girls masturbate and hey, she might know a thing or two about her own body! Instead, we glorify this notion of “I’ve never felt anything like this before!” even when you’ve totally felt something like that before… a lot.

A big part of the problem, though, is that these attitudes don’t really change as we get older! I remember reading in a glossy magazine (it was probably Cosmo?) advice along the lines of “when he whips out a new move in bed, tell him you’ve never done that before, even though you totally did that with your ex”. (That’s how Cosmo speaks, right?) The point is that women are still supposed to coddle our male partners’ egos to the point of straight-up lying to them, in order to pretend they’re the only person who has ever unlocked our sexuality.

This also plays out in other ways. I hang out on the Sex Toys forum at Reddit and also similar groups on Fetlife, and time and again men will post: “looking for a sex toy for my partner, but it needs to not be too big or powerful. Don’t want it to replace me!” But what if that big dildo or power-tool vibrator could give their partner the best, most explosive orgasms of her life? I guess it doesn’t matter – what they’re thinking about is not her pleasure, but being upstaged.

Men: women’s sexuality does not exist to stroke your ego! If your partner has a rich and fulfilling erotic life with herself, and/or had a rich and fulfilling erotic life with other partners before you came along, this doesn’t imply anything about you! When she uses toys, she’s not replacing you!

If you want your partner to never have masturbated (or to pretend she’s never masturbated,) or if you want your partner to have never had good sex with anyone else until you came along, you are not being sex positive. You are not being a good lover. You’re making your partner’s sexuality a receptacle for your ego.

And this brings me on to the Great Pussy Eating Debate of 2018, and the problems I see with it. Obviously, what DJ Khaled said was gross, as are all the other ridiculous things straight men have said about going down on people with vulvas. However, a lot of the responses pissed me off too. A lot of men felt the need to weigh in on how THEY always go down on their partners. Which… might seem harmless but is actually indicative of a particularly insidious form of virtue signalling that often comes into play around (particularly heterosexual) sex.

Prioritising your partner’s pleasure isn’t something to brag about. It’s the bare fucking minimum.

The other place I see this kind of ego-tripping manifest is around the issue of whether or not a woman orgasms during a sexual encounter with a man – and how that orgasm happens, if indeed there is one.

Too often, I hear “I want to make her come from intercourse, no clitoral stimulation, what am I doing wrong?”.  What you’re doing wrong, my dude, is prioritising your fucking ego over her fucking orgasm. The vast majority of people with vulvas don’t experience orgasm from penetration alone. This is normal. What you need to do is realise you don’t actually have a problem that needs solving. Talk to your partner, and stimulate her fucking clit the way she likes.

Basically: sex is much better when you take your ego out of it. I promise.

Me and My Fur: All About Body Hair

I have all my natural body hair. The last time I shaved any part of my body was over three years ago.

A green razor on a brown surface. For a post about body hair

The pressure to be hairless begins early.

I first shaved my legs at the age of 11, because a girl at a sleepover told me that no boy would want me if I had hairy legs. I didn’t even like boys at the time! But somehow, even to an 11 year old who had privately decided she was either gay or asexual (not that I had the actual language for either concept then,) the notion of boys thinking I was ugly was impossible to shrug off. Less than a year later, my mum gave me an electric shaver and told me to keep my armpits free from hair at all times. She wasn’t trying to body-shame me – she is, after all, surrounded by the exact same toxic culture that I am. I think she just didn’t want me to get bullied any more than I already did.

I held out on shaving my pubic hair until I was 19. My boyfriend had been increasing the pressure for several years. After we went to an event where he saw naked women apart from me in the flesh for the first time, it became apparent it wasn’t an option to keep my hair any more. So I dutifully got rid of it and for the next five years, I pretty much kept my entire body smooth and hair-free. Whether I actually liked it that way didn’t really enter into the picture. It was just part of the package of having been assigned female, like periods and casual sexism.

Realising I had a choice

It was Mr CK who woke me up to the idea that I actually had a choice about my body hair. He has made it clear from the beginning of our relationship that he finds body hair beautiful and erotic (spot the boy who came of age in the era of 7os porn!) But he also emphasised that I had to do what felt right for ME, and that he had no more say over my personal grooming than the people who had pushed me into shaving in the first place.

So I tried going au naturel for a while. Just as an experiment, to see if I liked it. That was three years ago and I have not picked up a razor since. I credit my beloved for reminding me I did have a choice, but the choice I actually made was all mine.

Learning to love my hair

I love keeping my body hair for a number of reasons. The time and money it saves me is not insignificant. My skin is much happier since being free of razors and shaving balms and post-shave rash and ingrowing hairs. And I just fucking love how it looks. When I look at my naked body in the mirror, I love the look of my little patch of pubic hair over my cunt. When I wear my favourite sexy knickers, I like seeing the little wisps poking out. I love lifting my arms and seeing the shadow of my reddish-brown underarm hair. I love how soft and fuzzy my legs are.

If I’m honest, I also enjoy the implicit things it tells people about me. For better or worse, body hair on women is heavily coded “feminist” – because making a choice about how to groom our bodies cannot just be a choice, it has to be a political statement. Thwarting societal beauty norms feels like a simple way to wear my politics on my body.

I have to acknowledge I have a level of privilege here in that my leg hair, at least, is very fine and blonde (my pubic and underarm hair is much coarser, darker and more obvious). Would I feel different if my leg hair was thicker and darker? If I grew hair on other parts of my body? I don’t know. I suspect I might struggle if it was growing on my face, for example, but I cannot say with any certainty as this is not my experience.

The impact on my sex life

Having body hair has definitely impacted my sex life. Mr CK and I swing together, and a large number of swingers will not have anything to do with people who do not shave every inch of their bodies. Pubic hair, in particular, gets us rejected a lot. (Insert hi-fucking-larious joke about flossing during oral sex here).

It’s been less of an issue in my one-on-one sex life, surprisingly. I don’t actually play with new people by myself that often, to be honest, and when I do the barrier to entry is pretty fucking high. I remember when The Artist and I had first established that we wanted to date, asking them nervously how they felt about women with body hair. The giant smiley face emoji they replied with… well, that was the moment I let out a huge breath I hadn’t realised I had been holding. Until I asked, there was a sense of I really like this person… and I think they really like me too… but are they going to be disgusted by my body when I take my clothes off?

For this reason, I tend to disclose it to potential lovers before the clothes come off. I feel more relaxed if I know they’re cool with it rather than waiting for the reaction. I hate that I have to do this. I’d much rather it not be a big deal. I wish I didn’t have to feel like it was something I needed to disclose. But mentioning it to sex partners before we get to the sex feels preferable to how devastated I’d be if a lover said something disparaging about my body when we were already in a sexual situation.

And it’s a surprisingly good screening device, actually. Misogynists tend to self-select out of my dating pool pretty fast when they realise I’m hairy.  To be honest, pissing off sexist men is one of life’s simple pleasures for me. Having hair is an easy way to do that.

The thing I’ve actually found most helpful is sleeping with lovers who actively like body hair. I currently have four lovers who I know are extremely into it. The way they look at me when I take my clothes off,the way they run their fingers through my fur or bury their faces in it, reminds me that I can be beautiful and desirable like this. They’re not settling or putting up with it. They actually like it, and me!

Fear of judgement… and sometimes actual judgement

Sure, I’ve been judged for being hairy. I’ve had gaggles of girl whisper and point and take pictures on the Tube because I had the nerve to get my legs out in public in 30 degree heat. I’ve had disgusted, sidelong glances thrown at me in the gym locker room. When I was regularly nude modelling and dared to go on camera with body hair on display, my picture comments went from “beautiful!” to “nice body but please shave that fur”. (No longer wanting to put myself through things like this is one of the many reasons I quit modelling not long after I stopped shaving).

I’ve had couples cancel dates with me and Mr CK at the eleventh hour because they had assumed that of course I was going to shave, and then realised I actually wasn’t. I’ve had guys comment on my pictures on Fetlife, saying “if you were mine you’d shave!” (Good job I’m never going to be yours then, isn’t it, dickbag?) The implication is there that Mr CK is somehow less of a Dom for allowing his sub to go unshaven.

The fear of judgement used to go with me everywhere. Sometimes it still does. When we start messaging a new person or a new couple on the swinger dating sites we use, I worry they’re going to pull out the “ew, pubes are gross” schtick. When we go to new clubs and I run around naked or in lingerie, I’m bracing myself for the “you’d be so pretty if you’d shave!”

Every summer, I weigh up the choice between being unbearably overheated in my oven of an office, or the daily fear of being pulled into a manager’s office and told that my natural leg hair is unprofessional. I sit there quietly while a female colleague bemoans being a woman and having to shave your legs every day in summer. I do not shout “YOU HAVE A CHOICE YOU KNOW!” even though I want to. It’s a constant fucking balancing act between asserting my right to exist in the world with my natural body, and just being tired of it all.

I don’t think I’m good at responding to the judgement yet, when it happens. I usually just want to cry or shrivel up in shame. I’m trying to be better about not letting it get to me, but as someone who grew up bullied, brushing it off is really hard.

Amazingly, no-one has ever actually shamed me – to my face, anyway – in a sex club or kink event. But I’m waiting for it. I’m always waiting for it. Because at most events, I’m the only one – and I see the looks I sometimes get. I see the “ooh, hot girl, nice boobs… oh, never mind” eye-swoop over my body.

I know what you’re probably thinking. “If the judgement bothers you, just shave!” But if you’re thinking that you’ve missed the whole point of what I’m trying to say. The problem doesn’t lie with me. I’m not doing something hugely out there and subversive and wild just by having my body on display in its natural state. I should not have to change it. Nor should I have to constantly defend my choice not to change it.

I like my body like this. The world does not get a say.

Femme identity and body hair

My relationship to femininity has been fraught and complex over the years, but I now sit fairly happily with my femme identity. It’s been a healing way for me to play with my aesthetic and my presentation. To find ways that reflect who I am as both a woman and a queer person. However, for a while I wrestled with the question: can I be femme if I don’t remove my body hair?

Ultimately, I approached this from the same angle as the question about whether you can be femme without wearing, say, lipstick or high heels. There are many trappings that are culturally coded feminine, and femme is about reclaiming these things (which society has often deemed frivolous) and playing with them, making them our own. For me, femme is a way to pick and choose the pieces of feminine presentation I want to embody. A way to escape the rigid codes society enforces about “what a woman should do/be”. To say “in order to be femme you must do X, Y and Z” is just trading one kind of oppressively strict standard for another. Femme is about fun and happiness within your own skin, not following the rules.

For a while, I jokingly referred to myself as “#lazyfemme” for not shaving and for sometimes going out without makeup on. I stopped this, though, because I realised it’s actually playing into the patriarchy to continue coding myself (and by implication other women) who choose not to do these things as “lazy”. As I once furiously ranted online “I have worked sixty fucking hours this week, but sure, I’m LAZY because I’m not wearing lipstick.”

So yes. I am a happy #sparklefemme who chooses the aspects of feminine presentation that work for her, and has decided that shaving is not her thing.

So do I think women who shave are just pawns of the patriarchy?

No! I believe in the absolute right to bodily autonomy for everybody. That includes the choice to shave/wax/tattoo/pierce/adorn/decorate your body in whatever ways you like, or not.

What I wish is that it was a more free choice. I wish there wasn’t such immense societal pressure on women and AFAB people to present themselves in a certain way. That razor companies weren’t constantly trying to sell us the solution to a problem they’ve convinced us we have. That wider representations of beauty were common in our media.  I wish, to be honest, that shaving or not shaving wasn’t such a politically loaded and socially fraught choice.

And I wish we were not teaching little girls at 11 that the most important thing in the world is whether or not boys find their bodies aesthetically acceptable.

Oof – that was a long one with a lot of emotional energy behind it! If you enjoyed it, please consider buying me a virtual coffee!

On Weight, Rope and Grief for the Body I Wanted

CW: weight, weight loss, body shame, rope bondage, diet culture, food-and-diet-related abuse, bullying, abusive teachers. Please, if these topics are difficult for you, feel enormously free to skip this one.

Note: in this post when I use the word “fat” to talk about other people, I am using it as a neutral descriptive term. Using it about myself is… complicated. I am not at a place of being positive about it.

Note the Second: I DO want – solidarity, love, and encouragement that I can choose to change my body and still be feminist. I do NOT want – diet or exercise tips, urging to”find a different rigger” (more on that later), to be advised not to change my body, or to be told you find me hot unless we have already established a dynamic where that’s an okay thing.

My stomach and hips in black leggings and a purple shirt which I am lifting up. For a post on weight and rope.
Feat. my belly

I’ve only ever been “thin” twice in my life. The first time, I was fifteen and it was just the way my body was. I didn’t think I was thin at the time, of course – I thought I was huge, as most teenage girls do. But looking back, fifteen year old Amy had the body that twenty five year old Amy would have killed for. The second time was at University, when I was walking miles every day around a very hilly town and subsisting mainly off coffee, Pro Plus pills and cheap vodka.

For most of my life, my body has been what can best be described as “a few pounds over where I’d ideally like to be,” but I was rarely particularly motivated to do anything about it. I like food and (until I discovered solo, non-competitive running and tap dancing), I hated exercise. (For the value of “hated” that means “extremely deep-seated trauma as a result of horrifying abuse from fellow students and teachers, including being made to run around a track on a weak ankle until I nearly vomited.”)

I’ve been fat three times in my life. The first time was during Sixth Form, when young adulthood and increased freedom led me to eat all the things I was rarely allowed by my health-conscious parents. The second time was in 2015, after I dumped my abusive ex (more about him in a minute) and gained 4olb in six months because in my head, eating whatever I wanted was a fuck you to him. It took me two years to lose those 40lb. The third time?

Well, the third time is now.

Let me back up a minute and talk to you about my ex. He was fat when we met, and gained weight steadily over the first three years or so. Then he suddenly decided to lose it all, began to religiously count calories, and took up hardcore exercise. Unfortunately, these traits combined with an addictive/obsessive personality quickly let to what I can only describe as a raging eating-and-exercise disorder. It “worked,” in that he became thin and muscular, but the punishing regime made him miserable and with that misery, he treated me and his wife even worse than previously (which was pretty badly already, TBF.)

With these behaviours directed towards himself came greater food and exercise scrutiny directed at me. At one point, he was making me weigh myself in front of him in the morning when he slept over. Weighing less than me, a 5’4″ woman with no muscle to speak of, became a point of pride for him and a point of criticism to level at me, all at once. I once asked him why he slept with me if he didn’t like my weight, and he countered that he couldn’t afford to be picky because fat women were all he could “get”.

So when we broke up, of course I went a bit mad with freedom. I ate everything I wanted and sat on the couch as much as I wanted, with an “I DARE you to judge me” attitude. But the net result was that I gained over 40lb, as I mentioned above. Then I lost it all, with two years of calorie counting and step counting and punishing gym workouts.

Until a few months ago, when I started putting it all back on. At first it was a few pounds, then a few more, and now… now I’m almost back where I was at the end of 2015, less 5lb or so.

And I’m angry. I’m angry with my ex for putting me in the position of getting into this yo-yo cycle in the first place. I’m angry with the kids who bullied me and the teachers who abused me into such a fucked up relationship with exercise. I’m angry with myself for ruining all my hard work and getting back to where I started. I’m angry with myself that I am now even further from the body I wanted.

I’m angry that I can’t stand being hungry, because if I could just ignore the pangs then I could go on the starvation “shakes and meal bars” diet my colleague keeps trying to push on me every time this topic comes up. I’m angry at the marked difference in how I am treated in this body shape, even aware of the relatively huge amount of thin privilege I do still enjoy compared to many other folks.

But more than angry, I’m grieving. I’m grieving for the body I wanted that is now even further away than it was before. I’m grieving for the delicious meals and treats I can no longer enjoy without a painful twinge of guilt in my gut. I’m grieving for the people who used to find me attractive and now reject me and my partner because I’m a fat girl and that apparently tells them everything they need to know about us. I’m grieving for the privilege I enjoyed when I was thinner, the marked difference in everything from romantic interest to professional respect. And I’m grieving for the pretty clothes I can no longer wear, the things I can no longer do, the things I can’t even hope to do unless something changes.

An artistic drawing of a woman in a shibari chest harness. For a post on weight and rope.Rope is one of my passions. It has been for a long time. And rope is one of the things that is markedly harder for me – and for my partner, my Top and rigger – at this weight. Some of this is small things – ties that took two ropes now use three, positions I could hold when I was fitter and more flexible are now next to impossible.

We’ve been starting to explore suspension in workshop settings, and it’s wonderful and I love it. We want to explore further. Unfortunately, we discussed this at length and realised that there is no way we can safely do 1-to-1 suspension scenes at the current time. Due to physical limitations the details of which are not mine to share, if something went wrong and we had to cut the rope or get me down very quickly, there’s no way my partner could support my current weight. There would be a risk of serious injury to one or both of us.

We can still do things with a second person on hand, of course, but a lot of our best play happens in private and I would absolutely love to be able to be suspended in private. For those of you who haven’t visited us, we have a Victorian house with gorgeous high ceilings and we’ve been looking at putting a suspension hard point in one of them for exactly this purpose. But this dream will have to wait, possibly for a long time, until I can get my weight under control and back to the place I want it to be.

I am aware that “too heavy to suspend” isn’t really an objective thing. That’s not the issue here, exactly. The issue is that my current weight and my partner’s current legitimate physical limitations are not going to play nicely together – that’s no-one’s fault, but it is a reality.

I cannot express how much shame this fills me with. I feel that by letting myself get to this weight, I have failed not only myself but my partner as well. I can’t do the things I want to be able to do, and I can’t give him the things I want to be able to give him as his partner and his submissive.

And that is breaking my heart.

I have a hard road ahead of me to get my body back to where I want it to be. I want to be the particular number that has been sitting in my head for the last three years, the number that currently feels impossibly low and far away. But more than that, I want to be able to float blissfully in his ropes without anyone else needing to be around to “rescue” us if something goes wrong. I want to look in the mirror and like what I see again.

A few nights ago, my boyfriend looked at my naked body and called me beautiful. I couldn’t explain why I looked like I might cry. I hope this post goes some way to explaining it.

Heads up: this post wasn’t sponsored but I’m really spilling my guts here. If you felt inclined to buy me a coffee, I would super appreciate it. 

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