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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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!

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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Loving Someone You’ve Loved Forever

“We had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”
– Louis de Bernieres (from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin)

I won’t knock New Relationship Energy for a second. It’s fun and it’s wonderful. Who doesn’t love that part at the beginning of a new relationship, where you’re feeling each other out, learning each other’s bodies and minds, figuring out how you fit?

But for me, the best things in a relationship have always come with time. Things like learning how to move around each other in the kitchen as we make a meal together. Knowing exactly what treat to bring back from the store to make the other’s day a bit brighter. Hearing I love you in words like “drive safely” and “you need to rest“. A whole shared language of jokes, memories, experiences, trips, fights and resolutions, fucks, films, friends, and so much more.

And sex with someone I’ve loved forever? For me, that’s where the really good stuff is. When there’s no pressure to be perfect. No worries about what if we don’t fit, what if it doesn’t work, what if what if what if

No fear I won’t be good enough, because they’ve already seen me at my worst and they still love me. Knowing that if I don’t come, they won’t think my body is too finicky or complicated. Knowing that if a body makes an unsexy noise, we’ll laugh it off and carry on. Being 100% certain that if I say no, they’ll respect it and still love me. Not being scared to take my clothes off, because I know they find me hot, stretch marks and body hair and all.

All other things being equal, I’d far rather have sex with someone whose body I know. Someone who knows mine. The creativity that comes with keeping the lust and the spark alive over years. Morning sex when we’re still half asleep, afternoon sex when we’re both working from home, giggly sex when we’re just on the right side of tipsy, sex club sex when we’re getting off on showing off.

I’ve never understood people who think long-term relationships are boring, that forever love is unexciting, or that sex with someone you’ve loved for years has to be less passionate.

So yes, casual sex is fun and NRE is wonderful. Give me the breathless excitement of fucking someone for the first time. Give me the heart-skipping moment when one of us finally moves to kiss the other. Bring it on – I love that stuff. The ability to enjoy that stuff over and over, without hurting anyone, is part of why I’m polyamorous.

But more than that? Far more than that, give me waking up next to someone I’ve loved for years. Bodies that can keep rediscovering each other every time we come together, again and again and again for years. Give me the two puzzle pieces that know they fit together.

Give me roots that have grown together underground. In the face of all that, the pretty blossom is just decoration.

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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!

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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The Me Who Never Met You

TW: abuse, suicidal ideation (in the past, am safe now)

There is a version of me who never met you.

In another life, I am whole. In another version of the story, the ending is different. Somewhere in that parallel universe, I am different.

In that life, I do not jump at nothing. I don’t have walls six feet thick around my heart. I don’t have nightmares about the goofy, charming smile I fell in love with, the smile that hides the monster that terrifies me. The monster I cannot tame with pleasing and placating and fucking and offering myself up as a sacrifice, even though I’ve tried.

In that life, I have not spent thousands of pounds on therapy just to stay alive. I have not been medicated and hysterical and within an inch of slashing my wrists alone in a random hotel room because of all the times you convinced me I was nothing.

The me that never met you might have had a chance to be alone for a while. That girl could have spent the best years of her youth travelling and learning and fucking and fucking up and spending all that energy on literally fucking anything else but trying in vain to meet your impossible standards.

The me who never met you might have kept more of her softness. Gentleness might have still come naturally to her, rather than being something unfamiliar and alien she had to relearn piece by piece. She might not have had to forge steel psychic armour just to survive.

There is a version of me who never met you. I wish I had been able to know her.

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[Quote Quest] Feelings Can’t Be Ignored

“But feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem.”
– Anne Frank

TW: bullying and homophobic violence

When you try to deny how you feel, those feelings will swallow you whole. If you try to pretend to be someone you’re not, something you’re not, eventually the mask will crack. It always does.

I didn’t want to be queer when I was young.

I grew up in the shadow of the last years of Section 28, and went to a school where homophobic bullying was par for the course. The kids would bully anyone they suspected was queer. If you actually came out, they’d beat the shit out of you. Is there any wonder I didn’t want to be queer?

So I pushed those feelings down. Repressed them and repressed them until I’d buried them somewhere deep in the darkest corners of self-loathing that I only rarely peeked at.

But the thing about those parts of you that you repress? They come out eventually. They always do.

Feelings can’t be ignored.

For years, I’d catch my eyes lingering a little too long on girls I liked. That stunning girl in the year above. My female music teacher. Random women on TV. When my friends and I flicked through magazines and talked about which of the boys we fancied, I always found my eyes drawn to the girls instead.

I realised I couldn’t lie to myself any more when my then-boyfriend told me point blank, “I think you’re bisexual”. And I realised that I was. For all his faults, I have to credit him with this: he supported my bi identity from the beginning.

And then I had to work through all that self-hatred I’d cultivated through years and years of repressed desire. Because you don’t just flick a switch and go from “I can never show this part of myself to anyone” to “woo-hoo, queer pride, gonna go smooch some girls!” in three seconds. It takes time.

It took falling in love for me to fully be okay with my queerness. When I was with her, everything felt right. How could something so perfect possibly be wrong? Of all the things she taught me, perhaps the most important was how to be proud.

Because feelings can’t be ignored. Identities can’t be silenced.

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I wrote this piece for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else is writing about this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

Being Believed Changes Everything

Trigger warning: abuse and survivors not being believed

I logged into Fetlife this morning for the first time in a few days, to find a message from someone I haven’t seen in years. I regarded this person as a friend and I think I even had a little crush on them! But I met them through a community I was brought into by my abusive ex. A community I left behind when I walked away from that relationship. I cut every tie I had with everyone who was connected with him, because I had to.

I won’t go into detail about what my friend said to me in their message, but there was an underlying theme that immediately leapt out at me. That theme was I believe you. Lots of us believe you. We see him for what he really is.

It made me cry, because being believed isn’t something survivors get to experience very often.

Being believed changes everything

This is actually, coincidentally, the second instance recently of someone reaching out to me with a message that amounts to “hey, I believe you”.

When you’re a survivor of any kind of abuse, being doubted and disbelieved is something that comes with the territory. You speak out, and people question you, interrogate your story, or outright accuse you of lying. It’s painful, and it sucks. Maybe you keep speaking out and harden yourself to the world’s hostility, or maybe you shut up, retreat, keep quiet, watch your abuser continuing to have power and influence.

Imagine how different the world would look if we believed survivors as a matter of course. Imagine how much more effectively we could tackle the problem of abuse if our first reaction to it wasn’t to brand survivors as crazy, as delusional, as liars, as attention seekers.

If you do one thing for a survivor, believe them

You can’t rescue them, nor should you try. Inserting yourself into the narrative as a saviour does more harm than good. You can’t push them towards a specific path, like pressing charges. You can’t make the pain or the trauma or the fucking heartwrenching, eviscerating reality of what they experienced go away.

But what you can do is believe them.

The times in the last few years that someone has reached out a literal or virtual hand to me and said, “I believe you”? Those meant everything. They broke through the fog of doubt and guilt, the occasional intrusive thoughts that still pop into my head, saying but what if it was you all along? What if you were just too crazy, too broken, not good enough for him to love you properly?

Because being believed changes the game.

This one is for my fellow survivors. I love you and I believe you.

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[Quote Quest] Love is Many Things

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself- and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.”

Love is many things.

Yes, sometimes love is red roses and grand gestures. But more often than not, it’s the quieter things that speak so much louder.

Fingers reaching for yours as you walk side by side. A hand on the small of your back as you wait in line at the supermarket, or resting on your knee as you watch TV.

Sometimes love is, “I love you”. But other times, it’s let me know you got home okay. It’s you’re exhausted, why don’t I pick up takeout on the way home? It’s I set the coffee pot up for you.

Love is the silly trinket they saw and couldn’t not get for you, because it spoke to some inside joke. It’s the meme in your inbox that they knew would make you laugh.

Sometimes, love is the person you’re fucking. Other times, it’s the best friend who peeled you off the floor when you were at your absolute worst and loved you unwaveringly anyway. Sometimes it’s a person who will hold you with strong arms until you feel safe again. But other times, it’s a gently purring cat who somehow knows exactly when you need a cuddle.

Sometimes, it’s I just met you but you’ve completely commandeered my thoughts. Then again, sometimes it’s also I’ll wait patiently for two years for you to fully let me in, because I know how badly you’ve been hurt before.

Love can be lavish dinners on special occasions, but it can also be homemade pancakes the morning after a night of filthy sex… or the morning after you’ve handed in your Masters thesis and all you want to do is fuse with the sofa and never move again.

Love is having your back and fighting by your side when someone has wronged you. But it’s also calling you out on your shit, because they love you and they know you’re better than this. It’s respecting your boundaries, and communicating theirs. It’s saying what they mean, so you don’t have to play guessing games.

Love is letting you feel your feelings. It’s allowing you to be where you are, without trying to fix you. It’s listening with curiosity and empathy, letting you define your own experience. Letting you sit in a space of uncertainty, not knowing, figuring things out.

Love is many things.

Love is not all you need, but it’s a damn good start.

The Quote Quest badge, for a post called Love is Many Things

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] “Open to Trans Girls?” by Velvet Divine

I put out a call for guest blog pitches at the end of July and oh my, you folks delivered! I received some brilliant ideas and would have loved to accept them all. I’m absolutely thrilled to be sharing today’s fantastic piece by a new-to-me writer, Velvet Divine (fae/faer.) You can follow faer on Twitter!

To me, this post really highlights the experience of trans folks and the misconceptions and bigotry that too many cis people still hold. We have a long way to go. I hope that by uplifting trans voices in this space, I can make a very small difference.

– Amy x

Open to Trans Girls?

“Velvet Divine. Fae/Faer. Non-binary. Trans femme. Pan. Aro. Poly. Domme. Targaryen. Actress. Writer. Artist. Vegetarian. Trash fire. Nerd. Gaymer. Goth. For the Horde.” (My dating app bio.)

Due to living in a fairly small, Conservative town and working with clinically vulnerable populations, I am not yet out in my everyday life. I’m sure my identity as a non-binary trans person would compromise not only my employment but also maybe my safety. So, my main method of connecting with people for ventures north of the platonic is via online dating apps.

“Are you open to trans gals?”

Six little monosyllabic words, typed with practiced trepidation or tired resignation, depending on the day. More often than not, this is my first message to women I connect with on dating apps (specifically, cisgender women). Sometimes, it’s the third or the fifth message, following an initial volley of back-and-forth compliments. But it’s always something I feel the need to clarify as soon as possible. Part of it is in the spirit of transparency (pun intended). I like to get it out in the open in the event that it’s any kind of a deal-breaker. But the other part is a visceral fear of coming across as predatory.

Bigoted people have long been pushing a narrative that trans women and trans femme people are predatory, using their transition to gain access to vulnerable women and female spaces in order to sexually harass or assault women. A lot of us have, unfortunately, internalized a lot of this transmisogyny. When you combine that with my hyperawareness of how masculine I still present, you get a knot of anxiety at being perceived as the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. 

I had my first taste of this in college, soon after breaking my egg (trans lingo for “coming out” or realizing one is trans). I began attending the LGBT+ Center’s Women’s Group. The second of the two sessions I attended consisted of the facilitators addressing “concerns” that some were there for the wrong reasons. Cue all eyes on me. I was the only trans feminine person and, more importantly, I did not look the part yet.

They went around the circle, asking everyone to share why they were in the group and what they hoped to gain from it. I don’t recall my answer verbatim, but it was something along the lines of wanting to connect with other LGBTQ+ women and femme-aligned folks. I looked around for some measure of commiseration or solidarity, but met only silence and a crowded room of women who wouldn’t look me in the eye.

So I never went back to the group. After a few times, the facilitators stopped asking me when I would come back whenever we ran into one another. Maybe the others thought that I was there trying to pick up a date and took my lack of feminine clothing and makeup as admission to this perceived grift. Maybe I just projected my own insecurities and completely misinterpreted the situation. Regardless, that pit in my stomach never left me. I continue to feel the need to question whether or not I am intruding upon a space that isn’t for me, or offering my company to someone who is merely tolerating it.

I ask women who match with me if they’re cool with or open to trans girls and they’ll reassure me, many vociferously and graciously, with “trans women are women” or “I love ALL girls”. Others will make a crack about how it’d be silly if they weren’t, considering it’s plastered all over my profile and hard to miss.

I will continue to ask them if they’re comfortable. I will ask them when we plan a date and I explain that I will not be dolled up because I’ll be coming from work or getting a ride from a relative. I’ll ask them again if the subject of sex comes up and we discuss desires and boundaries. I’ll ask them again during the act itself.

“I am Non-binary and trans-feminine. At the current moment, I am unable to access HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) due to my housing and economic situation. I’m on the chubby side and I still have my bio dildo. If any of those are an issue, feel free to exit stage left.”

That’s what my usual “disclaimer” looks like on my profiles. I add these because, again, I want to lay my cards on the table. Because I’m afraid that otherwise, people will feel misled somehow. Logically, I don’t imagine that these disclaimers are anything but obvious. I’m thick and, even if cis women thought I was just butch, the mention of being trans and the bio dildo euphemism would make it clear. (I used to use the expression “fleshy strap-on” but that kept going over people’s heads). But you’d be surprised. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that cis Sapphics also often feel like they need to “disclose” that they’re on the thicker side up-front. Solidarity, sisters.

Even among the LGBTQIA+ community, there is a staggering amount of ignorance regarding the trans experience on the part of cisgender folks. I’ve had many people mix up trans women and trans men. Most recently, I had a woman ghost me after I corrected her misconception by reiterating the fact that I have a “bio dildo” and explaining the euphemism. Some of my favorites, though, are the ones who think that being trans is like a Magical Girl transformation and that by shouting that I’m trans into the ether, a la Greyskull, I will immediately undergo years of HRT and surgeries. I wish that were the case.

Though these hiccups are more common than I’d like, I’m grateful that they tend to come from places of ignorance and misunderstanding rather than malice. I’ve been using these apps for years and can count on one hand the number of times that women have been intentionally rude or hateful towards me (men are a whole other story). Women are always a treasure to connect with. Even people for whom the bio dildo and transition were deal breakers have generally been perfectly respectful about it.

I want to thank Velvet again for sharing faer insights in this fantastic post. I pay all my guest writers and would like to increase the rate, hire more amazing writers, or both. If you want to see more new voices on C&K, head to the Tip Jar to support the blog.