I’m Not Looking Forward to Christmas

“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.”
– Garrison Keillor

My feelings about Christmas have fluctuated over the years. Please bear in mind that I am an ex-Pagan who now identifies as an atheist. So I’m approaching Christmas through the lens of the cultural phenomenon rather than the religious observance.

When I was little, I was – like many children – fully into the magic and sparkle of Christmas. In my late teens and early 20s, it became a nuisance that dragged me away from university (where I was far happier than I had ever been anywhere else.) For five years, it was also the time that my then-partner fucked off out of the country for 2-4 weeks at a time (sometimes longer), leaving me behind and increasingly resentful.

Christmas and I have come to an uneasy truce over the last couple of years. There are aspects of it I enjoy very much (sparkly lights! My ridiculous garish rainbow tree! Mince pies and brandy sauce!) and elements I do not care for (obscene expressions of capitalism on speed, most Christmas music, the cold.)

For the last few years, Mr CK and I have made our own – appropriately offbeat – traditions. Fortunately, my family are very chill about the whole thing, so we avoid expectations that we MUST go home on Christmas Day. As long as we all get together at some point over the holidays, we’re all happy.

This year, though? This year I just can’t.

2020 has been a trash fire for so many people in so many ways. And, though we’re now on the home stretch at last thanks to the long-awaited vaccine, I can’t imagine that at least the first part of 2021 is going to be much different.

I don’t feel celebratory. Honestly, I just feel fucking tired. I’ll be happy to raise a glass on new year’s eve and wish 2020 farewell, even if nothing will immediately change. But Christmas just feels like an obligation. Like something false and forced that will inevitably just remind me of everything I haven’t been able to do this year.

I’m sharing this to let you know that however you feel about the upcoming holidays, it’s okay. Whether you’re excited to celebrate, dreading it, or just can’t bring yourself to care, it’s all valid. There’s an enormous amount of cultural and social importance placed on Christmas. That can all feel like a lot of pressure even during good times. Which this year emphatically is not.

To vaguely tie this back to sex (since this is ostensibly a sex blog,) I’ll consider it a win if this year’s Christmas celebrations in the C&K house amount to a good fuck and a week of sleep.

How are you feeling about Christmas this year, loves?

Quote Quest badge, for a post about not looking forward to Christmas 2020

This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new 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!

[Guest Blog] What Happens When You’re Both a Sex Worker and a Parent by Demeter Delune

One of the reasons I love publishing guest blogs is that it gives me a chance to share experiences that I can’t personally speak to. As someone who isn’t having children, I’ll never have first-hand experience of balancing sex positivity with parenting. That’s one reason I love this brilliant guest post by Demeter Delune (she/her) about her experiences of being both a sex worker and a parent.

Amy x

What Happens When You’re Both a Sex Worker and a Parent by Demeter Delune

When you think of sex work, what comes to mind for most people is escorting or full-service sex work. However, in today’s world, there are many iterations, including phone sex operator, online cam model, OnlyFans model, Professional Dominatrix (Pro-Domme), and more. Essentially, anything you can think of relating to sex, there’s likely a professional version of it available. But I doubt you think of parenting when you think of any of these things.

Society is notorious for separating women (and those read as women) and their work, regardless of what that job is. We’re expected to wear many hats all at once, but none as important as Mother. Oddly, once we become mothers, society at large believes that’s all we can do. So imagine the gall of a woman who decides not only will she be a mother, but also a sex worker.

There are struggles, just like with any other career, but for the most part, they’re not insurmountable.

What’s the Big Deal?

In most states and municipalities, trading sex for payment specifically is illegal. Even with legislation decriminalizing the use of certain drugs, sex work never seems to land in court in a positive manner. Sadly, even if it were decriminalized, the social stigma would likely remain.

When you’re a parent, you’ll find it makes things even more difficult. Not necessarily as far as actually parenting your children, but the ability to form social bonds with other parents. If you live in an area where sex work is illegal, it’s difficult to know who you can trust.

Even if the sex work you’re performing is legal, such as exotic dancing or stripping, there are still judgmental people who will deride you for your choice of career. People don’t seem capable of understanding that our jobs aren’t indicative of who we are in the rest of our lives.

Years ago, when I was a Professional Dominatrix, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by other sex workers, most of whom also had children. A small group of us became close and our children were able to play together without concern of being outed. Having this level of support when you’re a sex worker is vital to your mental health. But it isn’t always possible without living a lie.

When Your Life is a Lie

If you’re engaging in sex work and not part of a larger group of like-minded people, living a lie becomes the norm. Especially when you have children. The ever present feeling of danger, of what would happen if anyone were to find out what you do for a living, surrounding you is fierce. You’ll be concerned that if certain authorities find out your career, your children could be taken away from you.

Creating another job for yourself is often the only way around it. Other sex workers I know tell people they’re a life coach, a tutor, or a marketing professional. All these jobs can be done from home and are easily backed up with a website when people ask.

Can You Perform Sex Work and Be a Good Parent?

Is it possible to be a sex worker and also a good parent? Yes.

Just because a woman has a job in the sex industry doesn’t mean she’s a bad parent. Sex workers are business people who happen to sell sex or sexual services as a product. They’re adults selling sex to other consenting adults, and their job doesn’t make them bad people or morally suspect.

It can be argued that many sex workers make great mothers not in spite of the job, but because of it. This career provides schedule flexibility and much better hourly wages than many jobs, and the luxury of more quality time with their children. It can also allow people to escape abusive relationships by taking control of their own financial security.

For myself, being able to stay home with my toddler while earning a living is priceless. I don’t see clients in my home nor, of course, do I engage in any type of work-related behavior in my child’s presence. I’m married, so when my husband is home or when my child is out of the house for any reason, that’s when I work.

Sure, it’s difficult at times to create all the content I need for the week in such a short window of time, but I make it work. Just like anyone else who also works from home and cares for their child.

The Bottom Line

While certain types of sex work remains illegal in so many places, sadly this means we’ll have to continue to hide our true identities in order to fit in with societal expectations. We’ll be wrongfully judged if outed.

My hope is, one day, we’ll all be able to walk with our heads held high and proudly tell whomever asks, “Yes, I’m a sex worker. I provide well for my family, I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m a parent”, without fear of repercussion.

About the Author

Demeter Delune is a sex positive educator, trying to make the world a better place, one word at a time. She’s been a Professional Dominatrix for over 10 years, with a preference for Goddess worship and is also a Relationship/Sex Coach. She has bylines in a number of sex positive magazines. Check out her work on Medium and follow her everywhere.

Thanks again to Demeter for sharing her experiences. Please check out her other work and don’t forget that chipping in via the tip jar helps me keep hiring and paying guest bloggers.

Dear Kinkly, I’m Out [An Open Letter]

Yesterday morning, I posted on Twitter a screenshot of the email I sent to Kinkly asking them to remove my blog from their site and not include me on their “Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes” list again.

But I had more to say, so I thought I’d write an open letter.

Dear Kinkly,

This isn’t what I wanted to be writing today. I don’t enjoy using my blog in this way. All things considered, I’d much rather be writing hot smut or dildo reviews or literally fucking anything else.

However, I am in a privileged position in this situation. I am a cisgender person who is not directly harmed by transphobia. Therefore, I feel it is my responsibility to use my platform to make what difference I can.

Many people in the sex blogging community were dismayed to see what your “Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes” list, released last week, awarded prizes to bloggers who have perpetuated transphobic behaviour this year. I must stress here that we’re not talking about someone making a mistake in good faith. We’re talking about people who expressed support for a violently transphobic piece of writing. People who misgendered others deliberately. People who doubled down and attacked when asked to do better and stop hurting trans and non-binary people.

As a community, we gave you the benefit of the doubt when you published your list. We understand you can’t go through every single bit of social media interaction someone has ever had. That’s why the problem was brought to your attention calmly and politely.

We very much hoped that you would choose to do better. It wouldn’t even have been particularly difficult! All you needed to do was say “we’re really sorry, we didn’t know,” remove the bigoted people from your list, and make more of an effort to uplift marginalised voices in the future.

Instead, you chose to double down. The comments you posted on Twitter earlier this week cannot even really be described as a “non apology.” They weren’t even that. They amounted to “welp, not our problem.”

You could have chosen to own your mistake and support the most marginalised members of our community. Instead, you told us loudly and clearly that you don’t give a damn.

In a situation of injustice, you tried to remain neutral. In doing so, you sided with the oppressor.

I’m done, Kinkly. I’m out. I’ve already told you to remove my content from your platform and unless I see meaningful and substantive change, I will not consider supporting you again in any way – writing for you, sharing your content, engaging with you on social media, or allowing you to use any of my content on your site.

We spoke up, and you chose to ignore us. We asked you to do better, and instead you chose to turn away and continue to give bigotry a platform. At a certain point, all we can do is vote with our digital feet.

So that’s it. I’m out. I hope you will seriously consider the repercussions of your actions and the very real harm they have caused to trans and non-binary people, who are already marginalised in the rest of the world and deserve to find a safe space in our community. I hope you will reevaluate your approach to how you do your “Superheroes” list, should you continue to run it in the future. And I hope you’ll make some real, meaningful steps towards making amends. Might I suggest a genuine apology, removing the bigoted bloggers from your platform, and perhaps making a donation to a charity that supports trans people as a starting point?

I hope you’ll choose to do better, but I’m not holding my breath.

Amy

Want to cosign the letter? Just comment below to do so!

I Will Never Stop Speaking Out Against Injustice

Well, it has been a week, hasn’t it? At the time of writing, we’re less than 48 hours from the 2020 US Presidential election being called in favour of Joe Biden. The Orange Fascist who currently sits in the White House, unsurprisingly, is not conceding quietly. My home country, the UK, is back in our second four-week lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. And in the last two hours, I have witnessed some of the most shocking and violent transphobia on social media directed at my friends and members of my community. It’s a lot, and this is just the top of the iceberg. So let’s talk speaking out against injustice.

TW: I’m going to be talking about difficult subjects including anti-LGBTQ violence, sexism, transphobia, racism, police brutality, and the rise of the far right. Please take care of yourselves.

I am very aware that there are people who wish that people like me would shut up. They’ll call us SJWs, snowflakes, the loony left, and so on and so on. The thing you have to remember is this: they really, really want us to shut up. You know why? Because we terrify them.

Bigots and oppressors hang on to the status quo because it serves them. They either don’t care about the people they’re standing on to get to the position they’re in, or they’ve trained themselves not to see it. They hate us because we make them see it. We force them to confront it. People who benefit from injustice will do anything they can to hold onto the power and privilege it gives them.

All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing, as the famous quote goes.

That’s why it is vital that now, more than ever, we continue to speak up.

Joe Biden’s victory is a huge win for human rights and anti-fascism, but Trump’s defeat doesn’t mean the battle is won. There is still so much work to do, not just in America but all over the world. LGBTQ+ rights are still under attack in so many places. Institutional racism and the police brutality it enables continue to run rampant. Abortion rights are coming under fire. Here in the UK, our own brand of far-right nationalists are still gaining traction. And so on and so on and fucking so on.

We must keep going. Keep fighting. Keep speaking up and speaking out, raising our collective voices to say we will not tolerate this. Because one person might not be able to change anything on their own. But together? Together, we can change the fucking world.

I feel an obligation to speak out against injustice when I see it. And I don’t think this makes me a special or amazing or extraordinary person. I’m not, and I don’t want cookies or accolades or thanks. Frankly, it boggles my mind every single day that anyone can see the violence and oppression and bigotry going on in the world, and not want to do something to stop it. Such an astonishing lack of empathy or care for one’s fellow humans is just something I cannot grasp.

No matter how many people yell at me on social media, call me names, threaten me, launch hate campaigns against me. It’s happened before and I expect it’ll happen again. I can’t truthfully say it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t hurt, because it does matter and it does hurt. But to shut up and let them win? That would be like cutting out my soul.

I’m afraid I don’t know who to attribute these words to, as I’ve seen them floating around on social media for years (if you know who the originator is, please tell me so I can credit them!) But I think this sums it up beautifully:

Meme about snowflakes for a post about speaking out against injustice

Winter is coming. We will not be quiet. We will never stop speaking out against injustice – because enough snowflakes form an avalanche.

I want to leave you with this, from the incredible Grace Petrie:

But if there’s a fire in your heart
It only needs to be a candle
Every fire in the world
Started from one spark
So take the fire in all our hearts
We will be more than they can handle
Take my hand in here tonight
And we will light up all the dark

(Listen)

(Header image by Johnny Silvercloud, licensed through Shutterstock.)

[Guest Blog] “You’ll Never Pass as a Woman” by Velvet Divine

I’m absolutely delighted to be welcoming Velvet Divine (fae/faer) back to Coffee & Kink for the second time! You can check out Velvet’s last guest post for me and follow faer on Twitter!

This is your reminder that Coffee & Kink is and always has been a trans positive space. I’m cis and have a lot of learning to do, but I love my trans siblings and friends and am delighted to be able to uplift their voices on the blog!

Over to Velvet.

– Amy x

“You’ll Never Pass as a Woman” by Velvet Divine

“You’ll never pass as a woman.”

The last words my mother and I exchanged regarding my transition.

I came out to my mother and my aunt (and essentially the whole family, because no one in mine has a concept of “privileged information”) on New Year’s Eve, 2015 – subsequently ruining the holidays and turning the domicile into a Cold War simulation.

Some background:

I was raised in a Roman Catholic, Colombian household. Although our family subverted the usual patriarchal expectation with our generations of single mothers (and my situation specifically, being raised by my mom and my aunt,) we still retained a lot of heteronormative frameworks. My entire life I was told that I was a “man” and had outlined for me the behaviors that were expected of a “man”.

To be quite frank, I never internalized any of those messages and never identified with being a “man” or “masculine” in any capacity. They were just words and concepts tossed at me by virtue of the particular set of plumbing I was born with, but they never meant anything to me.

Fast-forward to much later. It wasn’t until I was exposed to actual LGTBQIA+ people and terminology that I learned that the issue was not my failure to live up to some nebulous, gendered expectation, but rather that those expectations were entirely immaterial to me. I began by exploring using “they/them” pronouns and more neutrally-coded terms for myself, distancing myself from my masculinity as much as I could. And it worked, for a time. (Note: this is by no means a censure or criticism of masculinity, simply my own experience with it and having it forced upon me).

After identifying as “anything but he/him”, for a few months, my thoughts shifted from “not a man”, to “maybe a woman”, to… yes. Absolutely a woman. Much like when I discovered I wasn’t heterosexual, my initial reaction was relief and joy – at the weight of doubt lifted and the prospect of being true to myself. However, that semblance of joy was, in both instances, quickly replaced by anxiety and frustration at the knowledge that I still lived in a heteronormative world and, whether it was randos on the street, the systems and powers that be, or religion, I would have to fight tooth-and-nail to simply be true to me.

For a year I kept my realisation secret from my family and workplaces, slowly coming out to close friends and my cousins (who are practically siblings,) as well as a few professors throughout the course of the year. Some folks gave me odd looks when they heard my name and pronouns, others had difficulty with the new pronouns, and others just dropped me. And while that hurt, no one had been abusive or malicious. I guess my mistake was expecting the threat to come from outside the gates rather than within.

The initial reaction when I came out to my immediate family was resigned silence. With the evening ruined, we all retired to our separate rooms. The next few days were fairly quiet and I mistook the silence to be one of processing instead of festering. What followed were six months of being dragged to various churches, an incompetent psychoanalyst (the type who claims that bi/pansexuality don’t exist and that people like me are just “promiscuous” or “greedy”), and debilitating dissociation. I wasn’t surprised by the pious or even the general assholes, but I felt beyond betrayed by the teachers and “philosophers”, who suddenly had nothing to say while my proverbial carcass was vivisected by the vultures of archaic values.

Throughout this process, my mother did her best to belittle and discount my identity – posing that I was a confused gay man, not trans, or that my sexuality was a phase.

I have to admit, there are few things in life that given me more pleasure than watching the color drain from her face as I explained to her that I was not confused and was quite clear on what and who I was attracted to, having tasted not only the rainbow but most, if not all, of the candy shop.

Mayhaps even more important than what I learned about myself throughout those six months, was what I learned about my family.

The sheer breadth and depth of their hypocrisy and cowardice.

Gossips and educators were conveniently silent, too cowed by tradition or my mother’s infamy to offer the slightest encouragement or reassurance. Alleged guardians who were far too married and enamored of the person they had in their heads, more than willing to sacrifice the flesh-and-bone individual to protect their fantasy. Child abusers, frauds, and narcissists are coddled, made excuses for, and prayed over but the queer kid wasn’t allowed the same clemency.

I wish I could tell you that we worked through it and had some appropriately cheesy Hallmark moment with accompanying music, but I won’t because we didn’t. I became the new Black Sheep, mostly because after what they put me through, I made it a point to fight fire with fire. If I had to endure LGBTQ+ bashing under the guise of religious expression, I quite happily delivered one of the appropriate biblical punishments for infidelity, violence, and fraud (to the point of telling an uncle that I’d bet money on their God being more fond of gays than cheaters) and eventually came out as an Atheist as well.

The best we have done is reach a point where the rest of them pretend it never happened. I assume they’re waiting for me to move out and be far away from them when I do begin the physical component of my transition – out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. They’ve learned better than to bring up homo-/transphobic nonsense in my presence. I am no longer invited to the vast majority of family gatherings and those that I do get invited to, I refuse.

If you want to help me to keep bringing important stories like this to the blog, please head over to the tip jar! Thanks again to Velvet for sharing this powerful story with us.

Pancakes

I love making people pancakes the morning after a night of filthy sex.

I don’t know quite when this tradition or this association started, but it’s now firmly entrenched in my mind that an overnight date should ideally end with a lazy, late-morning pancake breakfast.

Food is one of my love languages. I love the ritual of making a loved one a cake for their birthday (or, let’s be real, any other special occasion.) Adding flour and eggs and chocolate chips and infusing the whole thing with love. I love dashing around the kitchen whipping up a feast for a group of friends. God, I miss dinner parties. Years ago, I taught myself how to cook vegan (I wasn’t yet even vegetarian at the time) because a dear friend adopted strict veganism overnight and it seemed like a good way to show support.

And I love making pancakes the morning after the night before. Whether we’re grinning at each other across the kitchen table with filthy, hot memories still fresh in our minds, or balancing trays on our laps and trying not to spill syrup on the bed, there’s something delightfully intimate about eating breakfast together.

If I’ve let you stay over (or I’ve stayed over with you,) it means I trust you to see me at my most imperfect. It’s one thing to get dolled up and go out to a restaurant and then go home and fuck and slip out before we fall asleep. It’s another entirely to let you see me with bed hair, morning face, pre-coffee blearly eyes.

A lot of my sex is pretty casual, but I still care deeply about everyone I get naked with. Whether we’re long-term partners or friends who also fuck occasionally, I want you to know how loved and valued you are. Making breakfast is my little way of saying “I want to do all kinds of hot and dirty things with you. But I also want to hang out in our pyjamas and eat pancakes with you.”

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[Guest Blog] Kink: Not All Whips and Chains by Violet Grey

Ms. Grey is becoming a C&K regular at this point, and I couldn’t be happier about it. She always pitches me great ideas and writes fantastic, thought provoking pieces it’s a privilege to publish. Today, she’s here talking kink and why it’s not all whips and chains!

Amy x

Not All Whips and Chains by Violet Grey

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me!

This classic line from Rihanna’s hit song, S&M, encompasses a general flavour of sadomasochism. It’s a common perception that BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism) involve some form of pain or impact play. 

What comes to mind when you think of BDSM? Is it tying people up? Spanking? Paddles? Whips? Giving control to someone else, or being the one in control? 

All these kinks, and many more, are surprisingly common. But “kinky” esn’t mean the same to everyone – it depends on the person. In everyday life, as we’ve seen with books and films like Fifty Shades of Grey, BDSM is often misunderstood if not completely misrepresented. 

Two of the most common misconceptions are: 

  • BDSM, fundamentally, is abusive. 
  • As I heard one person say, “It’s just all hitting each other, isn’t it?”

Firstly, BDSM is not abusive as long as it’s done between consenting adults, limits and boundaries are respected, and they are playing safely and responsibly. While there are individuals who can and do use BDSM as a guise to abuse others, they are not representative of the majority of kinksters. Most of us just want to have good, safe fun. That being said, it is important to vet any potential partners properly and call out abuse when you see it in the community.

Secondly, no, BDSM is not “just hitting each other”. Any knowledgeable and safe sadomasochist will tell you that. If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this piece, it’s this: kink doesn’t have to be about pain. 

Kink without pain!?

This can be quite a shocking revelation to some folks, especially if all they’ve seen of BDSM is someone having a whip cracked against their arse. My first introductions to BDSM were through very two-dimensional Femdom scenes in crime dramas, usually involving heavy bondage and whips. Male submissives were often ridiculed, and sometimes BDSM as a whole was the butt of a joke. 

So when I was first exploring my kinks, it came as a surprise to learn that you can still be really kinky and not incorporate sadomasochism. I’ll be candid here: I’m no pain slut by any means. While I enjoy erotic spankings and rough sex as much as the next person, if you bring a tawse or thick cane near me, I’m running for the hills! 

So how can you navigate getting kinky without pain or impact play? It’s simple: the same as you usually do. Through negotiation and consent, safety protocols and risk assessment. You have your boundaries, and they can and should be respected. 

Painless kink? Let me count the ways!

So what kind of kinks can you have that aren’t necessarily about whips and chains and pain? Oh, so many! 

From someone whose kinks are mostly not pain-related, so to speak, let me list some of mine for you: 

  • Praise kink – A praise kink is where someone feels aroused or enjoys other positive feelings from being praised by a partner in a scene or during sex. A common example is “good girl/good boy”. Basically, if you call me a “good girl” I’m putty in your hands! 
  • Dominance and submission (D/s) – This dynamic forms the foundation for many BDSM and kink arrangements or fantasies. D/s play can incorporate pain and impact play if you want, but it doesn’t have to. Something as simple as doing the dishes or cuddling can be made kinky when you add a D/s twist. 
  • Blindfolds – Pretty self explanatory. Blindfolds can be made of soft material, like a scarf, satin mask, etc., or tougher materials like leather. My go-to blindfold is my silk sleep mask. 
  • Light bondage –  Light bondage can involve something as simple as a scarf, or you can use cuffs or basic Shibari (Japanese rope bonage) ties. As well as the super-hot element of restraining someone, many people find bondage relaxing. However, bondage – even light bondage – carries a risk factor. Always play safely and responsibly
  • Sensual domination – Sensual domination is my kinky happy place. I love it. This is domination that focuses on delighting the senses, rather than giving pain. It is domination that focuses solely on pleasure, and can involve implements like feathers, satin, bondage rope, massage oils, and candles to set the mood. It can even involve all of the above (which for me, it does!) Sensual domination can often be seen as a gateway for people experimenting or getting started in BDSM, but it’s a valid activity in itself that many experienced kinksters enjoy.

Though sometimes I crave the rough stuff, which I also adore, sensual or “soft” kink (as it’s sometimes called) is where I feel most in my element. 

 On that note… 

No shame in soft kink

Some of the more “hardcore” kinks are so-called due to carrying a great deal of risk. Needle and knife play, for instance, are by no means activities for beginners and require deal of studying, safety, and risk awareness to master. 

I’ve seen less “extreme” kinks, or those not involving pain, described as “diet kink.” Some even go as far as to kink-shame people for “not being kinky enough”. Obviously this is not ok.  It’s easy, when looking into BDSM, to internalise “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”. I should like hard spankings and floggers, or I should be able to do 24/7 Total Power Exchange if I want to be “really kinky”.

But the truth is, if you’ve got a kink, even if it’s just one? Congratulations! You’re kinky!

No two people are exactly the same. It can be easy to internalise (guilty as charged) feeling like you have to fit into a kinky box – and, of course, feeling you have to be into pain. For all the reasons I’ve discussed here, you don’t have to be and if you’re not, that’s ok. Your kinks are entirely unique to you. 

So go forth, experiment, and have fun! And as always, play safely and responsibly!

Violet Grey describes herself as “your 20-something lady who loves to write. I write erotic fiction, along with real-life sex stories, thoughts on sexuality, kink, BDSM, and generally whatever else is on my mind.” Check out her blog and give her a follow on Twitter!

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Anal Doesn’t Hurt at All… On The “Cool Girl” and Sexual Expectations

I’ve been rewatching all four seasons of Crazy Ex Girlfriend over the last couple of months.

Fair warning, this post contains spoilers for all four seasons of the show, so if you haven’t seen it yet then you might want to skip this one.

Early in season 1, main character Rebecca attends a yoga class taught by Valencia, her love interest Josh’s long-term girlfriend. Naturally, the class turns into a musical theatre style song-and-dance routine which exists entirely in Rebecca’s mind. In this case, the song is I’m So Good at Yoga, a Bollywood parody in which Valencia boasts about all the ways in which she’s better than Rebecca. (“I kiss my own pussy, can you do that?”)

It’s a pretty funny scene that will speak to anyone who has ever had an overactive imagination about all the ways in which other people are judging them. But since this is a sex blog, I want to talk about this one throwaway line I wasn’t able to get out of my head after my rewatch:

“Anal doesn’t hurt at all /
Most times I prefer it.”

Given this show’s razor-sharp, on-point social commentary on everything from mental illness to dysfunctional workplaces to parenting, there is simply no way that creator Rachel Bloom didn’t know exactly what she was doing with this line. And that’s what I love about it – it’s another example of this show’s ability to pack SO MUCH into just a few words.

For me, this is a statement on the idea of the “cool girl”. Remember that expression, we’ll come back to it in a minute.

Sexuality policing and the male gaze

In this scene, we see the extent to which Rebecca’s insecurities are focused on what people – especially men, and most especially Josh Chan – think of her. One of the main ways in which she conceptualises Valencia as “better” than her is Valencia’s seeming willingness to behave like a male sexual fantasy. (Which makes it all the more pleasing when – big spoiler incoming – Valencia both becomes a much nicer person and comes out as queer, settling down with a girlfriend, in later seasons).

Unfortunately, we live in a world where women are judged on how well they service the heterosexual male gaze. We’re taught to judge ourselves and each other on our looks from early childhood. It’s no accident that 78% of girls dislike their body by the age of 17 (including 40-60% of elementary school girls). (Source.)

As we get older, our sexuality is policed, too. Be available, but don’t be a slut. Service male desires, but don’t have your own. Be simultaneously a virgin and a whore. The expectations put on women and those perceived to be women are immense, contradictory, and devastating from a mental health perspective.

The “cool girl”

If you’re a women or perceived to be a woman, you might have been described as a “cool girl” (or wished to be one) at some point.

So what is the cool girl (CG)?

Simply put, she’s a cis heterosexual male fantasy who doesn’t actually exist. The CG is down for whatever most pleases the men around her. She eats burgers without worrying about her figure (but is still a size four, of course.) She’s “one of the boys”, but still wears high heels and a full face of makeup. She’s “sexually liberated”, but only in so far as it pleases men. Her sexuality is about their desires, not her own.

The thing is, going back to Crazy Ex Girlfriend for a second, is that when we get to know Valencia, it becomes apparent that she is so much more than just a CG. She’s pretty one dimensional and dislikeable in season 1, but we come to realise that that’s more due to Rebecca’s projection than her actual character. (Let’s be real, I’d probably also come across as a mega bitch if my partner’s ex reappeared in town after ten years with the express intention of breaking us up.)

But Rebecca is so insecure that she conteptualises Valencia as the CG – hot as hell, sexually adventurous, every man’s dream. But the viewer, and Rebecca, later get to see that Valencia is actually just as insecure and just as much a victim of the patriarchy. She has desires, needs, and vulnerabilities just like anyone else.

So about “preferring” anal…

For me, this particular line was entirely about Rebecca positioning Valencia as a cool girl who, naturally, would enjoy the same things cishetero men are supposed to enjoy. Naturally, the perfect CG would not only do anal, she’d prefer it.

Anal sex was a particular point of contention in my first sexual relationship. I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that my boyfriend was pretty obsessed with the idea (bearing in mind I was fifteen years old the first time it was brought up.) Much later, I reluctantly did it because I thought I was supposed to do it. Because the women he watched in porn did it, the women he read about in magazines did it, the other women he’d been sneakily flirting with said they would do it.

Authentic desire vs. mainstream pornification

I’m pro-porn, as long as it’s consensually produced and the performers remain in control and are compensated fairly for their labour. However, I also recognise that the mainstream porn industry has a lot to answer for, and one of those things is the fact that many teenage boys now think that pressuring their girlfriends for anal is normal.

Anal sex should be approached like any other consensual kink. If you’re into it, awesome – have fun. If you’re not, that’s totally cool too! I actually did come to enjoy it after those negative early experiences (much later and with a different partner). But that was only able to happen in a space of safety, care, and zero expectations.

I wish we could think of sex as a vast menu of potential options to choose from, rather than a space where certain acts are accepted. I have a lot of respect for Dan Savage and his work, but every time he says “oral comes as standard” it makes me cringe. There shouldn’t be any standards, beyond informed consent and mutual pleasure!

If we’re into anal sex, we should be able to express that and enjoy it free of shame or stigma. But it should be considered equally fine to say hey, anal actually does hurt and I actually don’t like it. When mainstream, male gazey porn is the first introduction many young people have to sexuality, especially when it’s not accompanied by comprehensive sex education, we end up in a place where young men come to expect a certain kind of “performance” from their sexual partners.

If you absolutely need a certain sex act in your life to be fulfilled, you’re within your rights to (and probably should) seek out partners who are also into that thing. (See: why I won’t date entirely vanilla people. There’s nothing wrong with vanilla sex and I enjoy it sometimes, but I need regular kink in my life to be happy and satisfied). But I really want to do away with the idea that any sex acts – penetration, oral, hand stuff, anal, kink – are expected or standard.

Sexual compatibility matters. But what that means will vary for every couple and every individual. Authentic expression of desire is what we should strive for, not matching some impossible male gaze standard.

Cool Girls don’t actually exist, and I love the way Valencia’s character arc slowly dismantles the idea one piece at a time.

I wasn’t expecting this piece about a throwaway one-liner in a TV show to run over 1300 words, but here we are! If you enjoyed this, you can always buy me a coffee to show your appreciation. Oh, and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter!

You Can Be Both Abused and Complicit in Abuse: A True Story

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
– Hans Christian Anderson

TW: this post is about abuse

One late afternoon in spring of 2015, I went to meet my then-metamour in a coffee shop. Talking to her was a last resort in a tangled, confusing mess of a situation that I couldn’t find my way out of. Our shared partner had become increasingly unstable, volatile, and verbally and emotionally violent towards me, and I had simply no idea what to do.

She called me her sister, and in some ways we were closer than close. We shared not just a partner but a coven, a plan for our little polycule’s future, and sometimes even a bed.

In other ways, though, there was always a wall between us that we could not scale. That wall was made of a lot of things. Of the fact that we both knew that, if push came to shove, he would choose her. I simply did not compare, as I was told frequently. Of the fact that I was a kind of human shield to her, someone who took the worst of his heat and terrifying temper away from her. Of the fact that I was afraid of her, because I knew she too could yell me into submission if I did anything she didn’t like.

Still, I turned to her because I thought she might be the one person who could get through to him. I’d seen how, sometimes, she was the only person in the world he’d listen to. So we sat across from each other, at a quiet corner table, and I quietly told her, in as few words as possible, that I’d realised I was in an abusive relationship with her husband.

I’ve never forgotten, and I doubt I ever will, the icy chill that ran through my body when she met my eyes, sipped her coffee, and asked calmly, “am I supposed to be surprised?”

That might have been the moment that I realised I was on my own. She was the final ace I had to play, the one person I thought might actually be able to help me. Instead, she told me that she’d known for years that he was abusive. She’d learned to live within it, she said, so I should too. I should be stronger, be better, be more loving. Remember everything he’d been through, his painful childhood and his fucked up family and all those girls who rejected him.

I didn’t have to be another source of pain for him. I didn’t have to be another brick in his wall of hatred and distrust of the entire world, especially women. Instead, I could help heal him. I could be one of the good ones. All I had to do was be quiet, be good, be better. Swallow my needs and my feelings and just smilingly let him be what he was.

That day, that conversation, was one more little step in my journey towards the inevitable end resolution of I cannot do this any more. Less than a week later, I left. Even as she counselled me to stay, what she inadvertently did was give me another of the series of little pushes I need to leave. Because I realised I had two choices: live within the system he’d built for me, or get out of it. It was never going to change.

No longer satisfied with just surviving day after day, I decided to get out.

Even after I’d left him, she struggled to retain access to me and piled on the pressure for me to stay. “How could you do this to us?” she asked me, even as we held each other and cried in her living room. “How could you choose someone else after all this time?”

What I wanted to say, and didn’t, was that it wasn’t about choosing someone else. It was about choosing sunlight and freedom and flowers over an oppressive cave where I could barely breathe and there were rocks just waiting to fall on my head. I didn’t say any of it. I just told her I was sorry, got out of that house as quickly as possible, and didn’t look back.

What I realise now is that she – my metamour, my friend, my sister – was both complicit and a victim. I do not doubt that he behaved abusively towards her, probably for most of their two plus decades together. I also see now that she behaved abusively towards me. She directly enabled him, counselled me with variations of if you could just be better he wouldn’t hurt you countless times, and did her fair share of yelling and threatening and intimidating me herself.

In the classic, endless, fucked up circle, the abused became the abuser. There’s a part of me that left because I didn’t want to end up an abuser, too. I do not forgive her, but I also hope that she will get away from him someday. I still feel guilty sometimes because I couldn’t save her. In the end, all I could do was save myself.

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How Lockdown has Impacted my Body Image

I’ve given up, friends – after seven months of this shit, I’m making a COVID times post. So yeah, let’s talk about this clusterfuck of a year as it pertains to body image.

TW: Body struggles, weight (no numbers), fitness, mental health, COVID-19 lockdown, calorie counting (no numbers)

Did any of us think, back in February and early March, that this pandemic was going to impact pretty much every aspect of our lives? Yet here we are. October, and still no end to any of this in sight.

A lot of things in my life have changed this year, most of them directly or tangentially COVID-influenced. And in a world where a lot of things are complicated right now, one of the things that is consistently complicated is my relationship with my body image.

Based on what I’ve read, I’m far from the only person struggling with this. I speak only for myself, but if any of this resonates with you, I want you to know you’re not alone.

The COVID weight gain

My relationship with my weight is a very uneven and complicated thing. I say this with the awareness that I possess rather a lot of thin privilege compared to many folks in larger bodies. Still, I’ve also noticed a drastic change in the way the world responds to me in this body, than the way it responded to me in the (far smaller) body I had in my early 20s.

Prior to COVID hitting, I’d lost a pretty significant amount of weight and was feeling great about it. I’ve put back on…. well, not all of it, but a significant amount. And I know this is Bad Feminist and Not Body Positive of me, but I’m not really okay with it.

The reasons are obvious. No longer walking miles every day across a sprawling University campus. No pole (more on that in a minute). Comfort eating and comfort drinking and honestly, probably just the sheer body-altering impacts of living under chronic stress and low-key terror for seven months.

Breaking up with monitoring

Prior to COVID, I spent c. 4 years dipping in and out of obsessive monitoring phases where I’d track my exercise, my food, my calories, forever chasing the damned green line that said my intake/output balance was “right” that day.

I’ve completely stopped that since lockdown began. I haven’t charged my fitness tracker in months (honestly I’m not even sure where it is at this point). I no longer weigh my food

Strangely, I’ve started to find my way back to a place of equilibrium. I came into lockdown monitoring and tracking and counting, which wasn’t good for me. That gave way to comfort-consuming whatever gave me a momentary break from the SHEER FUCKING HORROR of it all. Thing is, this wasn’t good for me either.

Cake tastes better when I eat it because I actually want it, rather than because I’ve barely slept in three days and a jolt of sugar might help me keep going. I like a G&T as much as the next person, but drinking alone night after night after night in front of a screen doesn’t make you miss your friends and your family and your fucking life any more. It just makes the loneliness worse when the inevitable crash sets in.

Through all this, I seem to have – almost accidentally – hit something approaching balance. I definitely eat more of the things I want than I did when I was counting and tracking everything. And I think that’s a good thing. But I also eat what I actually want and what my body is craving, rather than using sugar and alcohol as a coping strategy.

Goddess knows I am still far from fixing my broken relationship with food. I don’t want to imply for a second that I’ve hit some magical end point. To be honest, I suspect this will be a lifelong journey. All of us, especially women and AFAB people, live in a world that polices our bodies and our food constantly. Finding balance amidst all that? Well, it’s not just a battle you win once.

I’m trying to learn to be more gentle with myself over it all. To accept that I’ll have days when I deal with food guilt and start to slide back into my old obsessive ways. To accept that I’ll also have days where my depression tells me to just lie on the couch and eat my body weight in candy. Both are okay. Both are things I can learn to recognise and work with.

Finding ways to keep fit that feel good

When I found pole dancing in early 2019, I knew I’d finally found a means of exercise that was not only bearable, but brought me joy every time I did it. Of course, I haven’t been able to go dancing since early March (the studio only reopened a couple weeks ago, and my partner and I both feel it’s not sufficiently COVID-safe right now.)

In a world where I can’t do that, I kind of lost motivation to keep fit. It took me a while to even want to do anything else. I tried a few online workouts and didn’t really get on with any of them. The wrong level, absurdly punishing even when labelled as “for beginners”, or just accompanied by too much casual body-shaming commentary.

I was perhaps the last trying-to-keep-fit-on-the-internet person in the entire world to discover Yoga with Adriene. I’ve been working my way through her 30 day challenge for beginners. I’m certainly not going to become a “yoga fixes all things” devotee anytime soon, but I definitely feel physically stronger and mentally more grounded after doing sessions most days for the last few weeks.

What I like about Adriene is the way that she totally decouples the practice of yoga from being about changing your body. Her catchphrase/rallying cry is “find what feels good”. Even her “Yoga for Weight Loss,” which I will admit is how I first found her channel, isn’t really about weight loss.

I also stumbled across a Youtube video that convinced me of the joys of hula-hooping. I bought a hoop and have been doing 15 minutes a day in front of the TV. It’s silly and it’s playful and it’s easy to work up a sweat and feel awesome while my mind is focused on something else (in this case, reruns of Crazy Ex Girlfriend.)

All this to say that finding ways to keep fit in lockdown has been challenging, frustrating, but ultimately pretty rewarding.

Though I’ll still be much happier when I can hang upside down from a pole in just my underwear surrounded by badass women again.

Not having to get dressed up is a mixed blessing

Clothing and appearance and dressing up has always been a bit of a minefield for me. As your friendly resident #Sparklefemme, I love all things fancy and glittery and just that little bit extra. However, the combination of not having a body shape that mainstream fashion really understands, coupled with eclectic tastes and being basically broke until I was 26, means that shopping for clothes is… complex, at best.

Honestly, not having to think so much about what I’m going to wear every day has been freeing. I have pretty much worked in some combination of pyjamas, yoga pants, and oversized t-shirts every day since March, and I’m not sorry. Being able to prioritise comfort over dressing “acceptably” has been a blessing during an incredibly stressful time.

On the other hand, not having any real opportunity to get dressed up and sparkle has made me realise how much I miss it. Sure, I could don glitter at home, but it’s not worth the effort if it’s for no occasion. I’ve thought about wearing the catsuit on a Zoom call, but it just doesn’t feel joyful in the same way when it’s just me, my home office, and a grainy camera. I could put on a tight skirt, but where’s the fun if I can’t flirt with a stranger?

I like valuing my body and physicality as far more than a decoration… but sometimes I want to be fucking decorative, damnit! I’ve been kinda dealing with this by playing with nudes and taking more lingerie selfies.

One of the little but powerful self-care rituals I’ve cultivated in lockdown has been to start dying my hair again. For the last several years in jobs in which any non-natural colour was considered “unprofessional,” I’d often look in the mirror and long for my luscious purple locks of old. When I finally did it again, watching the gorgeous, vibrant colour emerge in all its glory as I blow-dried my hair, I felt like me again.

We have to find small joys and small ways to love ourselves in these times. It just happens that one of my small joys lives in a bottle of violet hair dye. I might not love my shape or my fitness level right now, but at least I can love this one little thing.

What I’m trying to say is… it’s complicated

It’s complicated and it’s many-faceted and it’s a work in progress. I have mostly come to terms, at this point, with the idea that it’s probably always going to be kind of complicated, and it’s always going to be a work in progress.

I can’t wake up one morning like “wahey, I love my body now!” If only it were that simple. Instead, it’s more likely to be a lifetime of steps forward and slips back, of progress and challenges, of days where it feels easy and days where it feels hard.

If lockdown taught me one thing about body image, it’s that body image isn’t static and it isn’t a one way journey.

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