4 New Years Resolutions Not to Make for 2021

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Make it a good one.”
– Brad Paisley

Well, friends, here we are! 2020 is finally over, and not a moment too soon. This is my first post of 2021, and so I thought it would be good to look at the popular-but-divisive topic of new years resolutions.

I’m generally not a big fan of “resolutions” – they’ve always felt like a lot of pressure, very “all-or-nothing.” Not to mention that January is the most depressing month of the year.

With that said, I do like taking the time during the new year period to look back over the last year, take stock of where I am and how I’m doing, and commit or recommit to my goals. My new year present to myself was an Ink and Volt Goal Planner and a bunch of fun, colourful stickers to use in it, and I spent a fun and satisfying few hours working out how to get where I want to go this year.

Whether you love resolutions or hate them, here are four that I think you absolutely SHOULDN’T make this year.

Go on a diet

Diets, of the type that start on January 1 and have weight loss as their driving goal, are unlikely to succeed. That’s because they tend to be punishing, starvation-based, and unsustainable. They’re also based on forcing our bodies to conform to an ideal that is patriarchal, oppressive, and not even possible for most people.

If you want to lose weight, I’m not going to tell you not to. Our relationships with our bodies are very personal, and only you know what’s right for you. But whether you want to gain, lose, maintain, or ignore the number on the scale entirely, focus on eating foods that make you feel good and moving your body in a way that feels nourishing and joyful.

Just don’t go on a new years diet. Please.

Get a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner

The reason I think “get into a relationship” is a new years resolution to avoid is this: it’s not entirely within your control. Naturally, you can do things that make it more likely you’ll meet your dream person or people (more on that in a minute.) But so many factors – whether the people you fancy are available, whether they fancy you back, whether your wants and needs are compatible – aren’t within your direct control. Not to mention, you know, the ongoing pandemic that is making dating challenging at best.

If you want to date more, or meet more new people, set that as your goal instead! These are perfectly fine goals that are actually within your control. You can get on the dating apps, dust off that old OKCupid profile, join a group or club for one of your interests (maybe virtually right now…) or ask your friends to facilitate introductions to any of their friends they think you’d hit it off with.

But resolutions like “by December 31, 2021, I will have a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner” is a recipe for pressure, frustration, and resentment. None of which actually lead to conducive dating.

Be more positive

There is little I find more eye-rollingly infuriating than toxic positivity, except possibly toxic positivity that comes from a place of unexamined privilege (and is presented in easily-digestible, pseudo-motivational quotes attached to pretty pictures on Instagram.)

I’m not saying we should all be relentlessly negative, of course. That doesn’t help or serve anyone. But I’m a big proponent of the power of appropriate and well-placed negativity.

2020 pretty much sucked. Not entirely, of course. Some good things – some great things – happened. But when there’s a pandemic raging, your government is killing people with their actions or inactions, you’ve lost your job, you can’t see your family and friends, and your mental health is tanking… well, the last thing I want to hear in that instance is “positive thinking is the cure to all your woes!” No it isn’t. The cure for our woes would be a competent government, mass vaccination, adequate and accessible mental health care, and necessities provided for everyone. (I’ll write a whole post on this soon.)

Instead of making resolutions like “be more positive”, what would happen if you decided to honour all your emotions this year? Feel both your sadness and your joy. Allow anger in and sit with it. There’s no such thing as a bad emotion – what matters is how we act on them. Sometimes, negativity is appropriate. Sometimes it’s okay to say “yeah everything is pretty much shit right now.”

Say yes

This is another of those pseudo-deep life advice things: say yes to everything! Embrace opportunity! It sounds great, except… it isn’t.

I’ve gone through phases of saying yes to pretty much everything people asked of me, both the fun and the not-so-fun. You know what happened? I ended up burned out and pissed off.

Saying yes to blowing off work to spend the day in bed with your partner might be great, or it might lead to serious professional repercussions. Saying yes to a spontaneous trip might be a fun adventure, or it might spell disaster for your finances. And saying yes to dessert when you don’t really want it might lead to you enjoying a tasty slice of cake, or it might end up with a sugar crash that leaves you feeling like crap.

Instead, consider your decisions carefully. Say yes when you really want to say yes and when it’s a good decision for you. Otherwise? Learn how to say no more often and more freely.

“No” doesn’t mean you’re closed off to opportunity, a bad friend or partner or employee, or not spontaneous enough. “No” means that you prioritise yourself, know where your boundaries are, and hold them without apology. And I think that’s far more beautiful and beneficial than agreeing to everything until you feel completely out of control.

Are you making or breaking up with resolutions this year?

Let me know why you love resolutions or why you hate them – and any that you’re determined to never make again!

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This piece was written for Quote Quest, a weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

How to Be a Sex Writer

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
– Stephen King

Hey gang! Have you seen that I’m sharing Black Friday sex toy deals over on Twitter today? Follow the hashtag to get some bargains on some of my absolute favourite brands and products.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in to today’s post. I’ve had a lot of people ask me this. “Amy, how can I do what you do?” “How can I get paid to overshare on the internet?” “How can I get companies to send me products to review?”

So today I thought I’d share my tips on exactly that.

A Very Incomplete Guide to How to Be a Sex Writer

First, disclaimer: there’s no way this can be comprehensive. There are as many different ways into this strange but wonderful career as there are people doing it.

With that said, here are a few things to know if you want to be a sex writer.

First, you need to be able to write

Sounds obvious, right? But a lot of people think that, because we’re in the adult niche, sex writers don’t need to be good writers. Sorry, but you do. Stray typos are one thing, but mistakes all over the place make your writing look sloppy.

Good writers are those who are always learning and improving. In short, you become a writer by writing. So practice and practice and practice. But don’t think quality doesn’t matter just because you’re talking about sex. It does.

Pro tip: if you struggle with spelling or grammar, Grammarly Premium is a good investment.

You need to know a thing or two about sex

Again: obvious, no?

But seriously, so many people don’t realise just how much there is to know about sex. This leads to them thinking it’s an easy or frivolous topic, and putting out content that is anywhere from cringeworthy to downright dangerous.

You do not need to know everything! None of us know everything! But if your knowledge of sexuality doesn’t extend much past “tab A in slot B,” you might want to study up before you attempt to be a sex writer.

You need to be willing to be surprised

If there is one thing about sexuality that will always be true, it’s this: the world is infinitely varied. Part of being a good sex writer is about being able to stay open-minded, stay curious, and always be willing to be surprised.

I thought I was pretty well-versed in sexuality, including niche kinks of various stripes, when I started this blog. Turns out I’d barely scratched the surface. I still haven’t. That’s part of what makes this field so fascinating.

Study some good resources

I’m gonna shout out The Smutlancers here! Kayla and Molly have created an incredible resource for anyone who wants to create content about sex and get paid to do it. The website and podcast are a goldmine of totally free information, and you can also join the Patreon community for just a few dollars per month.

You should also read other sex blogs (which you’re presumably doing, since you’re here.) Check out my blogroll in the right hand sidebar for some of my top recommendations. Your goal isn’t to copy anyone or write like anyone else, but to see how the pros do it and learn from their vast wealth of knowledge.

Naturally, you should also read books, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, and otherwise consume content in the sexuality space. This is how you keep your knowledge fresh, come up with content ideas, and learn how to be a good and responsible creator.

Don’t expect to make money straight away

I never went into sex writing to make money. I went into it because I find sexuality fascinating and I had things to say. The fact that I did make money and that it has become a significant part of my career? That’s a wonderful bonus that has changed my life in so many ways.

Thanks, I think, to the expression “sex sells,” people often grossly underestimate how hard making money as a sexuality writer actually is. I didn’t make a penny from my blog for the first four months. After that, it was just a few pounds here and there. It took close to a year before my hosting and other blogging expenses were covered – in other words, before the blog started paying for itself.

My first commission paid me a tenner. I spent a good deal of time underselling myself. I’d been doing this work for pushing a year and a half the first time I got paid what I would consider “market rate” for an article.

Go into sex writing because you genuinely love it. If you keep working hard and you’re good at what you do, the money will come. But don’t expect to be rolling in cash overnight – that’s not how this works.

Put yourself out there

It’s easy to think and dream about being a writer. But if you want to actually do it, you’re going to need to take a deep breath and put yourself out there at some point.

Hit “publish” on your first blog post and promote it on social media. Send that pitch to that publication you’d like to write for. Approach that company you love and ask if they’d consider letting you become a reviewer.

Taking that leap is terrifying the first few times you do it (honestly, I’m close to 4 years into this endeavour and I STILL get the butterflies when I pitch new publications.) But it’s the only way you can take your sex writing goals from dream to reality.

By the way… I could be your first commission!

Looking for your first sex writing byline? Pitch me your ideas! I pay a small fee, and I’m generally un-scary. I also LOVE working with new writers and giving them their first paid commission. So hit me up (email in the guidelines) if you’re ready to dive in.

This post was written as part of Quote Quest! Check out what everyone else wrote about this week.

How to Maintain Balance When Everything is On Fire

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
– Albert Einstein

Balance, however you define it, is important. But it’s also really hard when everything feels overwhelming. And oh my goodness, everything does feel overwhelming right now, doesn’t it?

As of right now, the UK is in what has been not-so-affectionately dubbed “Lockdown 2.0”. After completely failing to take care of my health in any reasonable way during Lockdown The First, I’m trying really hard to maintain balance and a modicum of self-care practice this time.

To that end, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite tips for staying balanced and grounded when things are hard everything is on fucking fire.

Rest

I put this first on the list because it’s by far the one I’m worst at. It can be so, so hard to switch off, unplug, and decide to do nothing for a while. But rest is absolutely vital. Without it, your health will suffer and you’ll hit burnout before you know it.

Here’s a hack that works for me: put time for yourself in your calendar, like a date you’d make with someone else, and stick to it. Then use that time to binge that Netflix show you’ve been saving, read for pleasure, take a bubble bath, or just take a nap/go to bed early.

Rest isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Eat something

When did you last eat? If it’s been more than a few hours or if you feel hungry right now, go and eat something! I recommend something with complex carbs and protein, rather than something that will give you a sugar high and then make you crash an hour later. But hey, if a sugary treat is what sounds good right now, have at it!

The trick is to listen to your body. It knows what it needs.

Move your body

I don’t mean “go out for a ten mile run” (though if that’s what makes you feel balanced and centered, knock yourself out.) Just move your body in whatever way feels good. That might look like hitting the gym and working up a sweat, or it might look like practicing some gentle yoga, or it might look like dancing to some music in your bedroom, or it might look like just doing a few stretches without even getting out of bed.

When I’m feeling sad or stressed out, I find getting on my yoga mat or having a play with my hula-hoop really helps me to regain and maintain balance.

Say no

If you’re feeling stressed, stretched, and overwhelmed, it might be because there are too many demands on your time and energy right now. Practice saying no.

If a client wants you to take on some extra work last minute? Sorry, no. Yet another Zoom happy hour? Pass if you don’t feel like it. Colleague wants you to pick up their shift? No can do!

If it doesn’t serve you or make you happy and it can possibly be avoided, just say no. Saying no firmly but politely doesn’t make you a jerk, it makes you a person with good boundaries.

Masturbate

I had to throw this one in the mix – this is supposed to be a sex blog, after all! Seriously though, masturbation is amazing. It not only feels good, it has so many benefits for your physical and mental health. Need to get out of your head and into your body for a while? Grab some porn or erotica and your favourite vibrator/stroker/hand, and give yourself some love.

Ask for help

The idea that we are all supposed to be self-reliant is so, so toxic. You know what’s a sign of strength? Asking for help when you need it. So if you’re struggling, reach out to someone. Talk to your partner or a friend, call a helpline like Samaritans, make an appointment with your doctor or therapist. Whatever it is you need to help you ground and maintain balance, you can ask for it.

You don’t have to do this alone.

You’ve got this.

It’s going to be okay.

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This piece was written for Quote Quest, a weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

Fun and Sexy Ways to Celebrate Halloween at Home

Like so many other things, Halloween is going to look a little different this year. There won’t be any big parties, club nights, or trips to the dungeon. But there are still lots of ways you can celebrate! Since this is a sex blog, let’s look at a few fun and sexy ways you can have a fabulous Halloween at home.

Create some spooky sexy content

Whether you’re a porn performer, a cam model, or just enjoy getting a bit exhibitionistic online for the fun of it, why not create some Halloween-themed sexy content at home?

How much you want to lean into this is up to you. You could do your usual thing but swap out your regular outfits of choice for some witchy black latex, or you could get really creative and build a whole scene around a spooky scenario. Erotica writers could write some seasonal smut.

Fun fact: In researching this article, I discovered that the keyphrase “halloween porn” gets Google searched 170,000 per month on average. So what I’m saying is that there’s a market for this.

Dress up with your partner

Doing Halloween at home with your lover(s) this year? Spice (or spook) things up with some thematically-appropriate bedroom fancy dress.

Lovehoney have a fun array of inexpensive sexy costumes. I’m pairing the Fierce leather-look body with this wig for a witchy look.

My body in lingerie. For a post about celebrating Halloween at home.

Whether you look devilish in red or let your inner Catwoman out to play, you can tap into the Halloween spirit without ever leaving your bedroom.

Have a hot virtual party

Got a few trusted friends or playmates you’d be partying with if it was safe to do so? You can still get into the Halloween spirit with a fun online party. Get dressed up and show your outfits off to each other on cam, make some suitably ghoulish cocktails/mocktails, and maybe even have a costume contest.

Do something that scares you just a little bit

Have you got a kink you’ve always wanted to try, but been too nervous to actually go for it? The spirit of Halloween is all about playing with fear. So if you’re up for it and you want to, take the opportunity to try that thing that scares you just a little bit.

Naturally, the same rules for trying a new kink apply here. Communicate lots, do it sober, put every viable safety precaution in place, have a safeword, and only try edgy things with someone you feel completely safe with.

Have a virtual horror movie date

Virtual dates have come into their own more than ever before this year. If you’re not physically with your partner or have recently started dating someone new, you could have a virtual Halloween horror movie date.

(Or, you know, any other kind of movie. I hate horror, I’m just trying to keep this post on theme.)

You might not be able to snuggle up and hold their hand at the scary bits, but at least you can keep each other company wherever you are in the world. Looking for some inspiration? Check out this list of the sexiest horror movies.

How are you doing Halloween at home?

I’d love to hear any fun ideas you have to celebrate this year!

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Sex Tips for Bad Depression Days

Hi, I’m Amy and I have depression. (Plus anxiety, PTSD, and a whole fun laundry list of Brain Stuff! But today we’re focusing on depression).

My depression and I have learned to live with each other over the years. It’s not exactly a good relationship, but we’ve reached an uneasy truce of sorts. One of the biggest challenges for me has been navigating the impact of depression on my sexuality.

To that end, here are some of the things I’ve learned about sex on bad depression days. Take the ones that work for you, discard the rest. We’re all different, and what works for me might not work for you.

It’s okay to not have sex

I feel like this should-be-obvious-but-isn’t point is often missed out of conversations about sex and depression. If you just can’t right now, that’s okay! You’re no less of a partner or a sex-positive person if you sometimes can’t or don’t want to have sex at all.

If you don’t feel like it? Give yourself a break and let your libido return in its own time.

But you’re also allowed to want sex!

There’s a school of thought (that I hate) that says it’s not okay to have sex ith a depressed person. Well if that was the case, I wouldn’t have gotten laid at all since… March?

If you want to have sex, even while you’re depressed, that’s okay! As long as you have capacity to consent, there’s no reason not to go ahead and enjoy having sex if you want to.

One of the worst things past partners have done when I’ve been depressed is decline sex (that they otherwise would have wanted) to “protect me from myself”. A depressed person is still a grown-ass adult capable of making choices, and doesn’t need to be protected from their own desire for sex.

See sex as self care

If you’d like to have sex and think it would make you feel better, why not conceptualise it as being in the same category as drinking a glass of water, going for a walk, or meditating? That is, as an act of self-care.

I find this particularly useful when it comes to masturbation. If I push through the fog and get myself to masturbate, an orgasm will invariably make me feel better… or at least help me sleep (which will make me feel better).

Have low-energy sex

For many people, including me, one of the primary symptoms of depression is debilitating exhaustion. When I’m in that space, four-hour marathon fuck sessions in all kinds of creative positions are just not going to happen.

But lying back while my partner fucks me? Crawling over their lap for a spanking? Pushing a wand vibrator against my junk (possibly through clothing) and just leaving it there until I come? That I can do!

Use the physical to take you out of your head

Lots of people find intense workouts or adrenaline-fuelled challenges comforting when they’re depressed. This is because focusing on something very physical can take your focus away from the dark places your brain is going to.

For me, that intense physical experience is sex and/or kink. If I have highly physical sex, it allows me to focus on something else besides the hell my brain is dragging me through. Whether it’s the thud of body-on-body or the slap of a heavy flogger across my butt, physical sensations take me out of my depression spiral and ground me in the moment.

Honour where your body is at

Sometimes, depression can mess with physical arousal. In other words, the brain might be willing, but the body has other ideas. For people with penises, this might result in difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. People with vulvas might struggle with a lack of natural lubrication.

The best way to have great sex on bad depression days is to honour where your body is and meet it there. That means staying curious, staying adaptable, and trying not to get frustrated or cast blame.

If you can, see it as an opportunity for learning and experimentation. If you want to have sex but your penis just isn’t getting hard today, why not pleasure your partner with your hand, your mouth, or a toy? And if genital stimulation is difficult right now, you could trade massages, experiment with kink, or just hold your partner and whisper filth in their ear while they jerk off.

Use the tools that help

Sex toys are amazing any time, but they really come into their own for me on bad depression days. If a partner’s bio-dick isn’t getting hard (or they don’t feel like using it), they can use a dildo on me. If I’m not up for penetration, clitoral vibes can provide tonnes of pleasure.

Then of course there’s probably my favourite depression-sex tool of all time: lube! When I’m sad, I can be mentally turned on but my body might not have the physical response to match. Tonnes of lube keeps things painless and fun.

So there you have it – my sex-and-depression tips. I’d love to know if any of these work for you, or if you have any favourite strategies I’ve not thought of!

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This post is part of my #SexEdSeptember series. If you find my work useful, you can help me keep doing this by buying me a coffee! This post contains affiliate links.

There is No Time Limit

I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.
– J.B. Priestley

I often receive questions from readers who are wondering if it is “too late” for them to have a particular experience or learn a particular thing. Whether they haven’t yet had sex in their 20s, or are thinking about branching out into consensual non-monogamy or exploring kink in their 40s, 50s or beyond, the implication is “is this just a thing for young people?”

Today I want to tell you that there is no time limit. You can have amazing sex at any age or stage of life, including if you’re a “late bloomer”. You can find love after the age of 35. Polyamory, swinging, kink, and all those other yummy things aren’t just for youngsters.

Honestly, sometimes it can be really good to have a bit of life experience behind you.

In many ways, I’m grateful that I discovered polyamory and kink at the ages of 18/19. The timing meant I had literally my entire adult life to explore and play in these spaces. However, what people often don’t understand is there were downsides, too.

Being a young woman and a newcomer to the scene when you’re still very young means you might as well walk around with a sign on your head saying “FRESH MEAT”. This is especially true if you are a submissive. I spent my first few years on the scene fending off unwanted aggressive advances from men old enough to be my father (or occasionally, grandfather).

I don’t regret those years for a second. They taught me a lot. Amidst a lot of crap, I had some incredible adventures and met some wonderful people. But would I trade it for where I am now? Not a chance. Being the hyper-desired young thing is kinda fun until it isn’t. Being a little older, a lot wiser, and having dispensed with enough of your fucks that you can tell creepers where to go? THAT’S where the really good stuff is.

So when people come to these spaces later and wonder if it’s too late for them, I want to tell them this: there is no too late.

We all have a finite amount of time on this planet. But as long as we’re still here, there’s no time limit on learning, exploring, adventuring, experiencing.

Tomorrow is always a new day. You can always wake up and decide that you want to do something differently, try something new, chase some new dream.

Sex, relationships, love, kink – they’re for everyone who wants them. You don’t have to have had your first sexual experience by 18, met your life partner by 25, married by 30, or discovered kink while you’re still young enough to attend the “under 35” munch.

Life doesn’t always follow a neat trajectory. We all come to things at different stages and for different reasons. Wherever you are in your journey and whatever your reasons, it’s valid and wonderful.

So come on in. There is no time limit. We’re waiting to welcome you.

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This piece was inspired by this week’s Quote Quest, a new blogging meme from Little Switch Bitch. It’s also part of my #SexEdSeptember series.

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What to Do if Medication is Messing with Your Pleasure

Unfortunately, sexual side effects are incredibly common with numerous types of medication. Antidepressants including SSRIs and MOAIs, blood pressure medications, and certain hormonal meds are just some of the commonly prescribed drugs that can affect sexual function.

The impact can include loss of arousal, erectile issues, pain during sex, and anorgasmia. Obviously, not everyone who takes medication experiences these issues and not everyone will experience them to the same extent. But they are super common.

Please note that I am not a medical professional, so I have kept my advice here in the realm of sex and relationship advice, not medical advice.

With that disclaimer out of the way, what can you do if medication is messing with your sexual pleasure?

Talk to your doctor

You shouldn’t have to choose between medication that helps you, and a happy and pleasurable sex life. You should be able to have both! If you’re suffering from sexual side effects, talk to your doctor.

A good doctor will work with you to find a medication solution that helps you without damaging your sex life. If your doctor dismisses you or doesn’t think sexual pleasure is important, fire that doctor and get a new one if you possibly can.

Sex matters to many of us. It’s a quality of life issue. You deserve to get medical support and be taken seriously.

Expand your definition of sex

If you can’t or don’t want to change your medication, you can get creative to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling sex life. Are you defining sex as just one thing? Too many people still think “sex” refers only to penis-in-vagina or penis-in-anus penetration.

If you’re not able to do those things right now, or finding them less pleasurable, expanding your definition of sex can open up a new world of fun. What if sex didn’t have to involve penetration? What if sex didn’t have to involve orgasm?

You might also find that taking the pressure off, by focusing on things other than penetration or orgasm or whatever you’re struggling with, will actually make it easier for those things to happen. Pressure and stress are huge desire-killers.

Experiment with toys

For example, if you have a penis and are struggling with erectile issues, why not try a toy like the Hot Octopuss Pulse? This innovative toy is designed to work equally well on a flaccid or hard penis.

If you’re struggling with loss of sensation or reduced sensation, a very powerful vibrator can help. When I suffered from anorgasmia due to antidepressants, it was a wand vibrator that finally broke through the block.

If erection struggles are at play but you want to do penetrative sex with your partner, it’s completely okay to use a strap-on! This can give you the sensation of fucking without the pressure and stress of wondering whether your body will cooperate.

Communicate

I know too many people who have struggled through sex that was not pleasurable, or was even painful, because they didn’t want to let their partner down.

However, a partner who loves and respects you will want to understand your experience and support you. Talk to them about where you’re at and how you’re feeling.

You deserve great sex, and great (partnered) sex is a collaborative process. So be honest with your partner and share your experience. If you want their help, ask for it. If you just want their patience and understanding while you adjust, ask for that too.

Fight self-blame and shame

There’s no shame in what you’re going through right now. Sexual problems are still hugely stigmatised and, unfortunately, so are certain types of medication (such as antidepressants). However, please try to avoid getting into a shame cycle or blaming yourself.

If you’re struggling with shame, reach out to others who have had similar experiences, ask your partner for reassurance and support, or talk to a therapist.

You have nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about!

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This post is part of my #SexEdSeptember series. If you find my work useful, you can help me keep doing this by buying me a coffee! This post contains affiliate links.

How to Actively Unlearn Toxic Beliefs About Sex

“So many things to unlearn…”
– The Other Me

Our beliefs and ideas about sex, relationships, love, and life don’t happen in a vacuum. We are, all of us, steeped in a culture that is sex-negative, sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, and body-negative. Unless you grew up with parents who had unusually radical ideas, most of us reach adulthood with at least some baggage to unpack, some toxic beliefs to unlearn.

But how do you do it?

I believe unlearning is an active process. None of us can grow, change, and learn to do better without, well, doing. Sitting back and waiting for enlightenment never helped anyone, and it certainly never made any progress towards dismantling the broken system.

So you want to actively unlearn some of the toxic beliefs that are holding you back? Great! Buckle in and let’s go.

Be prepared to be uncomfortable

Unlearning is hard sometimes. If you expect it to be simple and comfortable, you’re not going to be able to engage fully with the process.

Accept it’s going to be uncomfortable. Acknowledge that, and welcome it if you can. Just like a little bit of muscular soreness after hitting the gym means you’re getting stronger, a little bit of mental discomfort means you’re expanding your worldview and opening yourself up to new ideas.

Interrogate why you think something

Why do you believe what you believe? Okay, interrogate that. Drill deeper. “I just do” isn’t a good enough reason. “It’s just a feeling” doesn’t count.

If you hold beliefs that you think might be toxic or not serving you any longer, ask yourself why you hold them. You might find that they’re what you were taught at home or in church or at school, but that they don’t represent your beliefs any more.

You’re allowed to change your views. In fact, as you unlearn the toxic thing you were taught, you probably will.

Confession time: when I was in my late teens and very early 20s, I was anti sex work. Not really in an active way, I just kinda passively believed it was by definition harmful to women. As I got older and started consuming more sex-positive media, I started to question this belief. I realised that I held it because I’d been told that sex work was inherently unfeminist, and as a baby proto-feminist I hadn’t thought to interrogate that any further.

When I held those beliefs up to the light and really looked at them, the logic fell apart. When I started listening to sex workers’ voices and reading more about the subject, I realised those views were actually out of sync with my feminism and my politics. So I changed them.

Don’t be (too) ashamed of what you thought before

As you learn and grow, you’ll inevitably at some point find yourself feeling ashamed. Perhaps you used to have a toxic or bigoted view that you don’t hold any more. Perhaps you are just suddenly very aware of how much you didn’t know.

Here’s the thing, though: none of us come into this world knowing this stuff. Our opinions, views, and politics develop over our lifetimes. That’s a good thing!

So if you’re a little bit ashamed of what you used to think or believe, that can be a useful tool for growth. But don’t let yourself swim in it. That isn’t good for you or for anyone else.

Remember: when you know better, you can do better. Growth and moving forward is the goal.

Have nuanced discussions with friends who have different experiences

I am not, of course, suggesting you put yourself in the path of people who wish you harm. Queer folks don’t owe it to homophobes to patiently educate them. Trans people don’t have to debate cis bigots to earn their humanity. And so on. But if you’re trying to interrogate your views about sex (or anything else), spending time with people whose experiences differ from yours can be surprisingly eye-opening.

One of the things I treasure about my friendship with Christine of Light in Grey Places is that we come from very different backgrounds and had/have wildly different experiences of sex and relationships. Yet we’ve always been able to have respectful discussions that have, I think, led both of us to learn some things from the other.

We also found we had way more in common than not – yes, we come at it from different angles, but ultimately we both value consent, agency, and equality.

Take the time to have nuanced discussions with friends you feel safe discussing these issues with. It’s one of the many reasons why sex-positive friends are such a gift.

Expand the media you consume

Expanding the things you read, watch, listen to, and consume is one of the best ways to expose yourself to more views and experiences. Start listening to sex-positive podcasts, add queer stories to your Netflix queue and to-be-read pile. Flood your social media feeds with the kinds of educators you want to learn from. Soak up their words and read the resources they share.

Expanding the media you consume can include porn and erotica if you’re into those things, too. Do you always watch porn with thin, white bodies? If so, try searching out a greater diversity of performers. Do you exclusively consume erotica featuring young, cis, able-bodied characters? If so, why not challenge yourself to check out content written by and for queer folks, trans folks, older folks, disabled folks? Simply expanding your horizons of what you consider “sexy” is a great step to take.

As you unlearn your toxic beliefs about sex, relationships, bodies, and more, you’ll probably find that you naturally start gravitating to a more diverse range of media.

Step away from environments that reinforce the problematic narratives

This isn’t always possible or easy, of course, and I don’t want to diminish the very real struggles – and dangers – that can come with separating yourself from toxic environments.

But if it’s safe and possible to do so, can you step away from spaces that reinforce the toxic beliefs you’re trying to shed? Can you see your bigoted family members less often, find a more open-minded church to attend, stop hanging out with that one friend who makes “edgy” jokes that are actually just offensive?

It’s hard to unlearn beliefs that are being reinforced every step of the way by people desperate to hold you back from learning and doing better.

But with a little effort and intention, we can all start to unlearn the toxic things we were taught.

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Today’s post is my submission for this week’s Quote Quest, a weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the logo to see what everyone else is writing about this week. This post is ALSO part of my #SexEdSeptember series! Want to support my work? You can do that by sharing this post, signing up for my newsletter, or buying me a coffee!

What is Consent? 10 Fundamentals Everyone Needs to Understand

Most of us think we know what consent is. But when you start to look at it more closely, the “what is consent?” question becomes murkier and far more complex.

Today I want to share ten basic but essential fundamentals that I wish everybody understood.

Content note: this one contains discussion of sexual violence and a reference to murder.

It’s not just about sex

Consent is vital when it comes to sex, of course. But if we only apply consent to sex, we’re missing out a whole bunch of really vital steps.

Instead, I’d like us to conceptualise consent as something we apply in all areas of our lives. If your child doesn’t want to hug or kiss a relative, don’t make them. When your partner tells you they HATE being tickled, don’t take it as a challenge. If your friend has decided to quit alcohol, don’t push them to drink. And so on and so on.

If we normalise respecting people’s choices and autonomy in all areas of life, it becomes easier to normalise informed consent as a minimum standard for sex.

It’s contextual

Consent to something in one context doesn’t imply consent to it in another. I might love my partner casually grabbing my ass in the kitchen while we’re cooking dinner. It doesn’t mean I want them to do it when I’m on a work call!

Never assume that consent in Context A implies consent in Context B. Always ask if you’re not sure.

It’s not transferable

Consent is inherently person-specific. In other words, consenting to something with one person doesn’t mean you’ll agree to it with someone else. This one should really be self-evident. Unfortunately, in a world where prior consensual sexual activity with someone else is still widely used to discredit survivors of sexual violence, it still needs reiterating.

It’s reversible

Consent is not meaningful if it cannot be revoked. In other words, all parties must be able to stop the activity at any point. That might mean ending an interaction, changing up the activity, or even walking away from a relationship entirely.

I don’t care if you’re the most Twue Real D/s Couple that ever existed. Consent is never, ever, ever irreversible. If it can’t be revoked, you don’t have a relationship, you have a hostage situation.

It must be informed

Consent without all pertinent information isn’t really consent.

Years ago, a friend of mine agreed to engage in a knife play scene with a Dominant who said they had years of experience. My friend found out later that the person had lied – they had hardly any experience at all. This rendered the consent she’d given meaningless, because it was given under false pretences.

In other words, lying or deliberately omitting information in order to obtain someone’s consent makes it meaningless.

It’s specific

Consent to Activity A doesn’t imply consent to Activity B. If I’ve consented to kiss you, that doesn’t mean you can stick your hand down my pants without asking. If I say you can tie me up, that doesn’t mean you also get to spank me unless I say you can. And so on.

Never assume that someone is up for something based on their having consented to something different. If there’s any doubt, ask or check in.

It’s about much more than just “not saying no”

Sadly, I still hear “but she/he/they didn’t say no” as a defence when consent has been violated. Here’s the thing: consent is about much more than just the absence of a “no”.

Is the other person actively engaged in what you’re doing together? Are they responding positively? If not, pause and check in. If they shrug, say something non-committal, or otherwise seem uncomfortable, stop.

It’s everyone’s responsibility

As I wrote about in this week’s Coffee Date, sex education is too often based on a “boys push, girls say no” model. But this is a gross over-simplification of what consent is and how it works.

Bottom line? It’s everyone’s responsibility. Never make assumptions about what someone might be “up for” based on their gender or any other characteristic.

It has limits

As a general rule, I’m a proponent of allowing informed, consenting adults to make the best decisions for themselves. However, this principle has its limits. Following the murder of Grace Millane, the UK outlawed use of the so-called “rough sex defence” in murder trials.

Here’s a great article from my friend Franki Cookney on why the rough sex defence is an antithesis to what consensual kink is all about. The bottom line? Fun, consensual kink play doesn’t cause serious harm. People cannot consent to GBH or death.

You’ll mess it up sometimes

This is the hardest one to swallow, and yet the most essential. We are, all of us, human and imperfect. I’ve made consent mistakes in the past, and I’m sure you have too.

Here’s the thing: making a mistake or fucking up in good faith doesn’t make you a garbage person. It makes you human. Apologise, change your behaviour, and learn from the incident so you don’t cause the same harm again.

What we can do is to do our best in all circumstances. This way, when we make a mistake it’s likely to be relatively minor, rather than an enormous violation that will cause someone else untold damage.

Consent is complicated!

What do you wish someone had taught you about consent?

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This post is part of my Sex Ed September series, where I’ll be sharing educational content all month long. If you find my work valuable, buying me a coffee help keeps the lights on at C&K HQ.

6 Important Things to Consider When You Choose Your First Sex Toy

If there’s one question I wish people would stop asking me, it’s “what’s the best sex toy?” I understand the reasoning behind this question, of course. When someone’s trying to choose their first sex toy, the options can be overwhelming.

Problem is, it’s the wrong question. Because the best sex toy for me won’t be the best toy for you!

To that end, here’s a quick guide to some of the important factors you should consider when you go toy shopping.

Choosing Your First Sex Toy

Buying a sex toy for the first time can be thrilling and nervewracking in equal measure. If you’ve never bought one before, how do you know if you’ll like something or not?

Unfortunately, there are no foolproof ways. But asking yourself these questions will help.

What kind of stimulation do you like?

Even if you’ve never used a toy before, you might have some idea of what kinds of stimulation you enjoy during partnered or solo sex.

Do you like intense clitoral stimulation? If so, a wand might do it for you. Do you like your sensations very pinpoint, very broad, or somewhere in between? Do you like deep penetration or shallow? Are you into length, girth, or both? And so on.

Use what you already know about your body to guide your choice.

What body part(s) do you want to use it on?

Most toys are designed with specific body parts in mind, but many can also be repurposed and used in different ways. Still, knowing which part(s) you’d like to stimulate will help you make a good choice.

Are you looking for internal (vaginal) stimulation, clitoral, or both? At the same time or separately? Do you want something to use on your penis? How do you feel about anal play? And so on.

If you’re not sure, choose a versatile toy. Many vibrators can be used both internally and externally. Dildos with a flared base are anal-safe as well as vaginal-safe.

What kind of play will it be used for?

I think you all know by now how I feel about the concept of “sex toys for couples”. (There’s no such thing! Anything is a couples’ toy if you use it with your partner!)

However, the kind of play you’ll use your toys for will have some bearing on what you choose. I absolutely love my wands. But I rarely use them during penetrative sex, because they’re just so hefty and it’s hard to fit them between bodies. If I want clitoral stimulation during vaginal or anal sex, I’m more likely to reach for my favourite bullet.

You might choose something different if you’re after a toy for solo play versus something to use with your partner. Again, you might not – but bear this in mind.

A selection of drawings of sex toys, for a post on choosing your first sex toy
Original artwork for Coffee & Kink by Charlotte Willcox

Where and when will you be using it?

Do you have children or roommates at home who you’re worried about disturbing? Does your house have thin walls? Discretion matters a great deal to some people, and not at all to others. Consider your living situation and privacy needs when you select a toy.

Do you like to masturbate in the bath or shower? If so, choose a waterproof toy. Will you be wanting to take your toy with you when you travel? In that case, something smaller or portable is a good bet. Do you regularly play in places like sex clubs where there might not be easy access to a power outlet? If so, rechargeable or battery powered is probably better than mains-powered.

What’s your budget?

This is the first question I ask people when they ask me for a sex toy recommendation, because toys vary wildly in price.

Fortunately, you can get good quality toys on a budget. So don’t let anyone tell you that you have to settle for unsafe crap if you can’t afford to drop three figures on a sex toy! This is simply not true and there are loads of manufacturers making awesome products that won’t break the bank.

Have a maximum budget, or at least a range, in mind before you go shopping.

Do aesthetics matter to you?

Some people have strong aesthetic preferences for their toys. For example, some are super turned on by a hyper-realistic dildo, while others find it offputting. Some like their toys in bright, vibrant colours. Some hate pink. Cuteness is appealing to some and cringy to others. And so on.

Do you have strong feelings on how you’d like your toy to look? You might not, and that’s okay! But if you do, pay attention to what you feel drawn to.

What next?

It’s literally impossible to recommend someone a sex toy without knowing quite a lot about their needs and preferences. The best advice I can give you is to do your research, read reviews, and get to know your body.

Then experiment and have fun!

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This post is part of my Sex Ed September series, where I’ll be sharing educational content all month long. Post contains affiliate links. All views, as always, are my own. If you find my work valuable, buying me a coffee help keeps the lights on at C&K HQ.