[Guest Post] Being a Submissive with ADHD by Redridingbrat

While I don’t have an actual diagnosis of ADHD, I’ve long felt that it’s something I very likely have at least to some degree. Whenever I see any ADHD content, from medical information to memes, I find myself going “yep, it me”. So I wasn’t altogether surprised when I also found this piece from my friend Redridingbrat (she/her) deeply relatable.

I feel very strongly that kink is for all consenting adults who want to engage in it. Many of the images we see online and in the media are reductive, exclusionary, and harmful. That’s why it’s so important to me to represent a diversity of experiences on this blog. To that end, I’m thrilled to bring you this piece from RRB on ADHD and submission.

As always, you can help me to pay more lovely guest writers by chipping in via the tip jar.

Amy x

Being a Submissive with ADHD by Redridingbrat

What comes to mind when you think of the perfect submissive?

Perhaps it is someone who is entirely focused on their Dominant, able to follow the rules and pre-emptively do whatever their Dominant might desire.

How does this change when you have ADHD?

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a medical condition that affects the way a person thinks and acts. This often presents as someone being inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive – three things that can often clash with the pop culture view of submission. As a submissive with ADHD, I have had to work with my Dominant to make sure that my submission isn’t adversely affected by my ADHD.

One of the ways inattention in ADHD can affect a D/s dynamic is forgetfulness. Forgetting rules, forgetting tasks, forgetting where things have been placed… not something that is in the picture-perfect view of a “sub”! Thankfully, this is something this can be easily accommodated. Having the rules written up and displayed somewhere is a straightforward way of not relying on the memory. Having things placed in see through or open containers lets you quickly see where they are. A long-term solution is to have your Dominant help you create habits, so you do not need to remember a thing.

Another annoying symptom of ADHD is being prone to distraction. Sitting in a corner with no stimulation is my personal idea of hell. It isn’t just me who can suffer as a result of this, though; losing interest in an activity halfway through a scene can very quickly make a Dominant feel like they failed at a scene, and make the submissive then feel guilty for not being able to concentrate. This does not have an easy fix but there are things that help. Doing shorter activities can do wonders, as this gives less chances for the brain to wander off. Sensory deprivation can also help as it can force the submissive to focus on their other senses. The biggest things that can help are open communication and being self-aware. By letting your Dominant know when you are having a bad day focusing, you can reassure each other that neither is at fault when focus issues arise.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, another symptom of ADHD is hyperfocus; getting so consumed by a task that everything else is ignored. When a task is interrupted by something else, it can be extremely hard to bring yourself out of the task and into the new thing, regardless of how urgent it may be. In extreme cases, this can lead to ignoring the need to drink or use the toilet for hours on end. One thing my Dominant has found to help with this is simply asking “when will this be done?”, helping me to verbalise what done looks like as well as giving me a subconscious queue to start bringing myself out of the task. Having a set routine and structure also helps with this as it ensures that my body becomes accustomed to performing certain activities at certain time, with an external check (my Dominant) making sure it is adhered to.

Another symptom of ADHD that is often overlooked is internal motivation. I can often sit in “standby mode”, endlessly scrolling social media whilst given tasks go unfulfilled. Part of this is that a larger task can be overwhelming if not broken down into smaller steps, making it physically uncomfortable to get started. Something that can really help prevent situations like this is breaking a large task down into multiple smaller parts, while also being clear about what signifies completion of each part. For example, “make yourself presentable for me” can be broken down into: “Go shower, style your hair into a high ponytail, put on a full face of makeup with red lipstick, and wear the red underwear. I want these tasks to be complete by 5pm”. Rewards-based dynamics are also excellent for those who require the internal motivation to be turned external. Extra orgasms for doing a large task? Yes please!

Whilst I have spoken at length about the challenges of having ADHD, it does come with a number of positives too. Those of us with ADHD often excel when in “crisis mode”, meaning we can be very good if something goes wrong in a scene. ADHD folks are also creative in our problem solving, making us the perfect people to do puzzle-based tasks or mend broken toys. And ADHD people can also be more adventurous, making us the perfect partner for trying new activities in the bedroom.

ADHD can make submission hard. It breaks many of the pre-conceived notions of what a “good submissive” looks like. Someone who is forgetful, distractable, and hard to self-motivate is not the “ideal” that is written about in popular literature. However, there are things that can help overcome the barriers that may come up in a D/s dynamic. The main thing to remember is that D/s is not one size fits all. You can customise and change how your relationship looks. You are not a failure if it does not look like the glamorised novels. Anyone can be a submissive. All you need to do is identify as one and find someone who adores you and your style.

Redridingbrat is a switchy brat who loves nothing more than to engage her submissive side. Her main experiences involve rope, D/s and discussions surrounding disability within the kink community.

[Guest Post] Giving Thanks for Sex by Ness Cooper

It’s the season of giving thanks and being grateful! That’s also the theme of today’s guest post by sex and relationships consultant and writer, Ness Cooper (she/her). This one gave me lots to think about and I hope it will for you, too.

Amy x

Giving Thanks for Sex by Ness Cooper

In a sweaty mess, he rolled over and as he looked into my eyes and kissed me, he uttered two words that shocked me: “Thank you”.

Mentally mumbling in my head and set-back from the intimate headspace we were just in, I didn’t know how to respond. Part of me wanted to say that I don’t accept thanks for sex. It was the first time anyone had said thank you to me after sex, and I really didn’t know how to take it.

Part of me wanted to have a go at him for being silly because really, he shouldn’t have to say thanks for something we were both enjoying mutually. But upon reflection, I realised how rare it had been over my sexual and romantic life, that someone had ever thanked me for intimacy. And it made me realise how rare it was to be thanked for doing anything in my past relationships, from thoughtful plans to romantic tasks, and even gift-giving.

Had I just gotten used to bad relationships? The answer probably is yes, as those matches haven’t lasted, and obviously there were good reasons for them to end.

To make things even more interesting, I have been teaching couples to say thank you to each other for over 10 years, including after sex as part of aftercare. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that one day someone would actually say it to me, but I found myself in that very situation.

Saying thank you whilst sharing vulnerability can be hard to process as we’re both in a vulnerable state post-sex. It can feel natural to be on your guard when things happen that you’re not used to. But thanking someone post-romp generally isn’t an expression that has hidden intentions or anything to worry about, it’s someone being vulnerable with you and thanking you for being vulnerable with them.

Thinking about it more, I realised that I had always been led to believe certain things around sex were just expected, whilst a lot of the time teaching people that we shouldn’t expect sex a certain way. I think:

  1. I had always been taught that sex is something we should do but not talk about.
  2. That there’s a certain standard to sex and even when reached we don’t get praise for it – just like many other roles in society that are expected, sadly.
  3. That we sometimes feel we should be “British” and be ashamed of receiving things from others or sharing vulnerability in any form.
  4. If it’s good, you’re lucky, and you should be grateful.

These are the main factors I was led to believe from my upbringing and poor sex and relationship education. And even though I fight against these things regularly when teaching sex and relationship education, I hadn’t really been faced with them in my day-to-day life until I was thanked for sex.

Yet, we should be thanking each other for having a good time together. As long as that time is enjoyable and consensual, the context of the intimacy shouldn’t matter. If it was important to you, and the other person or people showed you things that had meaning to you then, then saying “thank you” to them could mean so much to them even if it’s a casual encounter.

I’ve seen people challenge thanking intimacy in the past as it can make it feel like a transaction. Even over the many years, I have engaged in sex work, being thanked by clients for services is rare. We’ve partly come to expect sex, no matter what format it is offered, free, paid, or a mutual exchange. And from that expectation of just thinking we have a right for it like many other things, we have forgotten to say thank you and apricate that vulnerability someone has to others or share with us.

It’s also worth noting that it’s not just paid services and gifts we should thank people for, but we should thank people more often for other ways in which they influence our lives positively. It may sound a bit like Charles Dickens here, but when did money have to exchange hands for us to be thankful for something?

I may have gotten used to people I dated acting a certain way, and when someone changed that dating script I had been so used to, it made me realise that I didn’t have to keep following the same routine. It can be really hard to change dating patterns, even when we want them to change, and this can also make it harder for us to accept those changes when they do happen. I now know from my own experience that accepting and being able to go-with-the-flow during these changes can take time. Making sure you make room for them in your life for the things you have wanted and needed deep down can make a big difference to your sexual wellbeing.

So I end this article of reflection by giving thanks to that person who taught me that yes, you really can say “thank you” when sex is involved.

Ness Cooper is a Sexologist who works as a Sex and Relationship Coach and writer at The Sex Consultant www.thesexconsultant.com. She also writes sex toy reviews at www.nymphomaniacness.com

Empty Spaces

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I recently ended my relationship with the person I referred to as The Artist. As with the ending of any long-term relationship, the reasons were complex and I won’t be going into them here. Please respect my/our privacy and don’t ask me to spill details, because I won’t. Please don’t make assumptions or demonise them, even under the guise of being supportive.

When you end a relationship, especially a long-term relationship, it inevitably leaves empty spaces behind. People think that us polyamorous folks can just brush off a breakup. “You have other partners, right? So what’s the big deal?” they ask. To that, I want to say this: if you lose a dear friend, do you just shrug it off because you still have other friends? Of course you don’t.

Yes, I’m in the fortunate position of not being alone. Yes, Mr CK has been an absolute fucking rockstar in all this, supporting me through making an incredibly difficult decision and caring for me through my heartbreak. But you know what? I broke up with someone I loved. It still hurt like absolute fuck.

When you love an artist, you inevitably accumulate a collection of their work over the years. The choker-definitely-not-a-collar they made for me is still hanging on the back of my office door as I write this, wondering what the hell to do with it now. There are empty picture hooks on my wall where the paintings they did for me used to hang. I took them down and packed them away because looking at them was a visceral reminder of the loss and grief in the immediate aftermath. Memories shoved into a closed drawer, maybe to be revisited someday when the pain is less immediate. Empty spaces, a fitting metaphor for the total obliteration of everything we had.

After I finished taking the paintings down, I automatically picked up my phone and scrolled through messages, my fingers tingling with unsaid words. That little green bubble by their name showing they’re online, and the do-it-don’t-do-it battle not to send the message. I still love you. I’m sorry. I wish I’d had any other choice. Typing and untyping, writing and deleting, imagining them seeing the little dot-dot-dot next to my name, all the things we both said and didn’t say and probably should have said and definitely shouldn’t.

I have had a tendency, in the past, to jump from one serious relationship directly into another. Though this hasn’t always gone badly (Mr CK and I hooked up very soon after I left my abuser, after all,), I don’t think it is a healthy pattern overall. The result is that I end up basing my worth and my sense of self on my romantic relationships.

That’s why, in the wake of this most recent breakup, I decided to take a long break from dating new people. I don’t know yet quite how long this break will last or what it will look like. At the moment, I’m tentatively considering getting back on the dating apps after the new year. But right now, even thinking about it is exhausting. The idea of sitting across the table from a stranger and trying to figure out if there is any chance of us fitting together, the idea of having to disclose that I’m a survivor and have a history of mental illness and oh by the way I have a sex blog, fills me with dread.

So I’m hitting the pause button.

As a polyamorous ethical slut, there’s sometimes an internalised sense that I should always be dating new people or at least open to dating new people. Isn’t closing myself off to new connections just a holdover from monogamous culture? Well, no.

I need to get to know these empty spaces inside me that I have filled or attempted to fill with one relationship after another after another since I was fourteen.

I’m still a polyamorous person. Just having the one serious partner (as well as a couple of casual or not-sure-yet-it’s-early-days connections) doesn’t negate that part of my identity. Just like being bi isn’t dependent on the gender of my partners, being polyam isn’t dependent on the number of them there are.

I’m just doing things differently this time. Instead of trying to fill the empty spaces with another new relationship that is probably not a great fit in the long run, I’m filling them with other things that nourish me. With hobbies and friends, with self-work and self-compassion, with therapy and writing and fitness and literally anything else.

I’m lucky to be able to do this from the position of having a secure, stable nesting relationship as a base, and I am immeasurably grateful to Mr CK for providing that base. But the ending of any relationship still leaves empty spaces behind, and I am both excited and terrified to explore those spaces and see what I want to fill them with next.

I’ll think about dating again when doing so fills me with excitement.

This post was written as part of Smutathon 2021! You can check out all our work and learn more about the challenge on the Smutathon website. Please consider donating to this year’s charities, Gendered Intelligence and Trans Lifeline.

[Guest Post] My Sexless Pregnancy by K. Maira

One of the reasons I opened up Coffee & Kink to guest writers was to share experiences that I’ve never had or can’t/won’t ever have. From the trans experience as an erotic writer to fetishes I don’t share to aromantic identity and much more, my guest writers have generously shared their stories and made C&K a more vibrant and expansive place to discuss all the nuances of sexuality. Today’s guest writer is K. Maira, a pseudonymous writer who is sharing her experience of a sexless pregnancy and the solo sex life she cultivated.

As a lifelong childfree person, I’ll never experience the unique intersection of sexuality, pregnancy, and parenthood, so I am delighted to be sharing this fascinating and intimate piece with you all.

Amy x

My Sexless Pregnancy (Unless You Count with Myself!) by K. Maira

Sex during pregnancy is usually taken as a given. After all, if you’re pregnant you must have a partner, right? Well, not for me. While most people worry about sex hurting the baby in some way, I was thinking about all the orgasms I was missing out on. My baby’s father disappeared when I found out I was pregnant. But then again it was a one night stand, so I can’t say I was all that surprised. I was, however, very horny. And I wasn’t exactly on the dating scene with my ever-growing belly.

I had to give myself all my own orgasms and I’m so happy I did. It led me on a journey to sexual self discovery. I realized things about myself I would have never known otherwise. Only having yourself to make the magic happen for so long opens up a whole new perspective on sex. I’ll walk you through the journey of my masturbation-only pregnancy, trimester by trimester.

First Trimester

The first trimester is famously known for being three months of hell. The morning sickness and fatigue alone could put you on the ground. With no horndog of a partner breathing down my neck, I was able to completely relish in the woes of those first few months. I felt just fine looking like shit, my breath smelling of vomit and passing out before 5pm. No pressure to look and smell nice there.

On the rare occasion that urge did strike me, my fingers could just walk their way down my pants and enjoy. Nope, I wasn’t shaved, but my fingers didn’t care. I was able to fully enjoy my orgasm in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise. And I could do it on my time. There was no waiting for the guy to get out of work, or for him to drive over to my house. There were only orgasms on demand.

Second Trimester

Oh, the second trimester… it’s so much different than the first. It’s this one where the body feels an almost constant need for sex. I struggled with this for a while, craving what a man would give me that my toys could not. But never underestimate the power of porn. It’s the porn that got me through this trimester.

Being on a strictly porn diet taught me a lot about myself, and the sexual interests I didn’t know I had. I found myself watching a lot of lesbian porn and bi mmf porn. And oh, did it make me cum over and over again! I came harder than I had ever cum from watching those kinkier videos. I know these weren’t pregnancy cravings, because I still crave them and they still get me off.

Third Trimester

Sex in the third trimester gets a bit more complicated. I knew this – I had been pregnant before and had tons of sex during my past pregnancies. That big belly gets in the way, your feet are swollen and there’s constant pressure down there. While I used to solve this problem by opting for anal most of the time, again, it wasn’t an option for this pregnancy.

This is when I learned other ways of masturbatung could get me off. This is where the grinding came in. Grinding pillows, the arm of the couch, grinding whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I’d never done it before then, but I’m so glad I discovered it!

I’ve added it to my current masturbation routine even though my pregnancy ended over seven months ago. You read that correctly – I’m quickly approaching 18 months with no sex, unless you count with myself. And it doesn’t bother me, because those nine months of solely masturbating has taught me how to better enjoy my own body.

Go Ahead and Enjoy Yourself

Here’s my advice: if you find yourself in a sexless position, go ahead and enjoy yourself. Experiment with new things and try a variety of porn. What you find yourself liking may surprise you. It’s possible to have a sexually fulfilling relationship with yourself! Have some fun and when you do enter into a new sexual relationship, you just may start having better sex.

I was a very sexually active woman prior to this last pregnancy, and was already leaning towards the kinkier side of the spectrum. During the last 18 months I’ve moved even closer to it. When I do decide I want to start having sex again, I know my sex life will be better than it ever was, because I’ve discovered new things about my sexual interests and about my own body.

Thank you so much to K. for contributing this fantastic post! You can pitch your own story here or chip in a few £ to the tip jar, which I use to pay my guest writers.

Five Good Rules for Polyamory (and Five Bad Ones)

Rules are a divisive subject in the polyamory community. Some people require dozens of rules to feel safe in their relationships, while others feel that any and all rules for polyamory are toxic.

I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m pro-rules as long as they serve a specific purpose and are there for a good reason (papering over someone’s insecurities so they don’t have to work on them is not a good reason).

But what rules should you have and which ones cause more harm than good?

Five Good Rules for Polyamory

Your mileage will vary, of course. There are no absolutes in something as nuanced and endlessly complex as human relationships. But here are five rules that I personally consider healthy and useful in polyamorous relationships, and that might be helpful for you to think about.

“Practice safer sex”

What this looks like will vary for each individual, couple, or network. Some people might simply decide to use barriers with all partners. Others might agree to fluid bond with one partner while using barriers with everyone else. Sometimes, a closed group will agree to get tested and be fluid bonded all together and then use barriers with any external partners.

There’s no one right way but it’s essential to agree on safer sex rules with all your partners, and then stick to them. Making decisions that potentially impact other people’s health and safety without consulting them is never okay.

“Tell the truth”

What separates polyamory from cheating? Honesty and consent. And those things can only exist if you tell the truth. Lies – big or small, blatant or by omission – chip away at trust. And without a high level of trust, you can’t even have a functional monogamous relationship, never mind a polyamorous one.

By the way: if you agree to always tell the truth in your relationships, you need to be prepared to hear the truth, too. This means listening without jumping to conclusions or flying off the handle. Even the most honest partner will begin to hide things if it doesn’t feel safe to be honest with you.

Rules about financial and legal responsibilities

Again, what this looks like will differ depending on your relationship structure and needs. For some, this means no significant financial entanglements outside of the nesting or spousal relationship. For others, this means ensuring all the bills are paid and then having complete financial autonomy after that.

If you share a home with one partner, you might have rules around your shared home. “We live together and don’t want to live with anyone else” is a common one.

Consider legal commitments such as marriage, too. Remember that if you’re married or in a civil partnership (or long-term cohabiting in some jurisdictions), your partner’s finances are de facto tied up with yours. You need to have ground rules and understandings accordingly.

Finally, this may include rules around pregnancy and child-rearing. While you cannot legislate for fluke occurences and genuine accidents (and should be prepared to deal with them if they arise), “do everything you can not to get pregnant/get someone else pregnant” is a reasonable and sensible rule.

Rules about public disclosure or lack thereof

Some people are completely out and open about their polyamorous lives. Others are not, and this can be for very good reason. From losing family and friends who disapprove, through to job losses and even child custody problems, being outed against your will can be a very big deal.

If this is an issue for you, consider making ground rules to protect your privacy. This might include who you tell about your relationships, whether you can be pictured or “tagged” on social media, and whether public displays of affection are okay for you.

“Allow relationships to be what they are”

Trying to force relationships into a specific model never works. Trying to legislate for exactly what form all future relationships will take is a bit like planning your wedding to someone you haven’t even met yet. It makes no sense.

Don’t try to force something casual to become a serious relationship. Likewise, don’t try to shove something emotionally meaningful and intense into the “it’s just sex” box. And please, as we’ll discuss below, do not try to force someone to feel the same way about both you and your partner.

Allowing relationships to be what they are also extends to metamour relationships. Perhaps you have a strong preference for kitchen table polyamory. That’s fine, and a great thing to aim for! But requiring that your partners and metamours must all be friends, get along, or even be comfortable with things like bed sharing or sexual interaction is coercive.

If people feel that they have to extend (physical or emotional) intimacy to others in order to continue to access intimacy with their partner, the possibility of true consent is eroded.

Let the relationships in your network be what they are. All of them.

And Five Unhealthy Rules

On the flip side, here are five rules that I believe are likely to be unhealthy, harmful, or at least manifest in damaging ways even if the intention is good.

“Don’t fall in love”

You cannot legislate emotions – your own or anyone else’s. Many couples begin their journey into opening up by saying “sex with others is okay, but no falling in love.”

And maybe neither of you will ever fall in love with someone else! Maybe you’re truly sexually open and emotionally monogamous. That’s completely valid. But making rules against feelings, rather than actions, leads to repression, lies, and resentment as soon as anyone feels the “forbidden” emotion.

This is sort of the reverse of “allow relationships to be what they are”.

Overly specific rules around physical intimacy

Those long relationship contracts about precisely who can touch which body part on whom and under which circumstances? They’re exhausting, untenable over the long term, and tend to leave people feeling disenfranchised and pissed off. I remember reading them and thinking “I’m never going to remember all of this”, which led to me pulling back from intimacy entirely for a long time out of fear of breaking a rule.

A few broad guidelines are useful, and even a couple of specific no-go areas might be okay, but tread very carefully. In general, the only people who should be making rules about physical and sexual interactions are the people actually having those interactions.

Veto rules

A veto is a rule whereby one member of a couple can unilaterally order their partner to end an outside relationship and expect that they will do it. Veto is toxic for so many reasons: it creates an unhealthy power dynamic, it puts the veto-issuer into a parental role, and it infantilises grown ass adults. It also tends to hurt everyone it impacts, including the person issuing the veto (if you force me to break my own and someone I love’s hearts, we’re not going to be in a good place).

Slightly less pernicious but still far from ideal is the “screening veto”. This is when the primary partner gets to give or withhold permission for their partner to date a specific third party, but cannot later end the relationship once permission has been given.

Screening vetos are slightly less destructive, but they still serve to create an unhealthy permission-based model and infantilise the person who has to ask their partner for permission.

“We only date together”

Don’t do this. Please don’t do this! If you and your partner meet someone you’re both into and who is into both of you, then amazing. Have fun! But going in looking for someone who will date both of you leads to toxicity and frustration.

Trying to make someone be into both of you in the same way at the same time is a recipe for failure. Human hearts just don’t work that way. Almost no single polyam people will date couples with this rule, because it’s a surefire way to getting discarded with a broken heart.

Oh, and if you’re a male/female couple looking for a bisexual woman to “complete your triad”? It is called a unicorn for a reason.

Curfews and tight rules around time

This can appear under lots of different guises.

“You can go out, but you have to be home by midnight.”
“You can see your other partner in the week, but weekends are for us!”
“I always need you to be here when I get back from work.”

The purpose of these rules is usually to ensure that needs get met. But you can get your needs met without being so rigid, at least in a good relationship! If your partner wants to spend time with you and keep their commitments to you, they will. If they don’t, no amount of rules legislating that they can only go out on dates every third Wednesday will help you.

Instead of making rigid rules, talk about needs. Do you need to spend an evening of quality time with your partner uninterrupted at least once per week? Ask for that. Do you collectively need to ensure that the kids are picked up from school or that your shared car is available when it’s time to go to work? Then discuss logistics and negotiate accordingly.

Don’t issue adults with curfews and don’t claim ownership over someone else’s time.

What rules of engagement do you and your partner(s) have in your polyamorous relationship? How do they work for you?

By the way: if you enjoy my writings and essays, buying me a coffee is an easy way to say thanks and help keep the site going!

I’m Hotter in My 30s (or: Why I’m So Over Men who Fetishise Youth)

When I was much younger, I used to often feel that my youth was the most important and appealing thing I could bring to a relationship. That’s because the men I dated largely treated me as if it was. At 19, I started sleeping with older men – much older. Even today, I tend to date older men pretty often.

But something in my approach has changed dramatically over the last decade plus. And now I’m in my 30s, I’m so, so done with men (it’s always been men in my experience) who fetishise youth. Men whose dream women is 18 or 19, maybe very early 20s. When I think back to the way some of my past older partners reacted to my age, the way they’d treat me like meat or potential bragging rights when I walked into a sex positive space, it makes my skin crawl.

But what’s wrong with dating younger?

Nothing, inherently, assuming all parties involved are consenting adults. But your motivation and way of thinking about your (actual or hypothetical) much younger partner really matters.

It’s one thing to fall in love with someone much younger than you, if you genuinely connect and have things in common. It’s another entirely to consider age itself to be a selling point. At this point in my life, if I see a man exclusively chasing very young women, I consider that a serious red flag. What is it about women his own age that he can’t handle?

We live in a youth-obsessed world

In a world where a 37 year old female actor is considered “too old” for a romantic role, in a world where women are encouraged to use anti-aging products in our fucking twenties, in a world where a man in his 30s on a dating site will tell a women of 26 that she’s too old for him, we cannot deny that we live in a youth-obsessed world.

There’s an immense power to saying “fuck it” to this. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I certainly haven’t got it completely down, and I definitely Had Some Feelings when I turned 30.

But I’ve also realised that I’m way hotter, more desirable, and more of a catch as a partner in my 30s than I ever was in my teens and early 20s. And I fully expect the same to be true into my 40s and beyond. Here’s why.

I know who I am now

I know exactly why a certain type of older man likes very young women. It’s because they feel that they can mold those women, shape them into their idea of feminine perfection. And when I was that naive teenager and 20-something, I let men (one in particular, but not just him) do that to me.

But you know what’s awesome? Someone who knows who they are. There’s a tremendous confidence in being able to say “this is me, take it or leave it”, and knowing that if they choose the latter, they’re the one missing out.

This extends to knowing my body, too. Men like some of my exes, men who want women as close to virgins (a social construct, by the way) as possible, are missing out. The purity-obsessives I’ve slept with wanted to bring all the ideas, call all the shots, introduce me to all the things I’d never done before. They never considered how awesome it might be to have sex with someone who could bring her own ideas, introduce them to some things too, or tell them exactly how to get her off.

I can say no now

I was never very good at saying no in my younger years. Whether it was going along with sex I didn’t want, smiling and swallowing my disappointment when a guy let me down again, or wearing shoes I couldn’t walk in just because he thought they were sexy.

But when you don’t feel like you can say no, your yes is meaningless. The older I get, the more I embrace the power of “no”. And to paraphrase something one of my partners said recently, if they can trust me to say no when I mean no, they know that my yes is genuine and heartfelt.

And enthusiastic, wholehearted consent is sexy to any right thinking person.

I’m no longer relying on something fleeting

Here’s the biggest headfuck about dating a man who fetishised my youth: I knew that I was worth less and less to him with every passing year. None of us can get younger. None of us can magically become nineteen again.

But now I’m in my 30s, I feel as though I’m relying on other things to attract and keep partners and lovers. Personality, intelligence, kindness and compassion. (I would say wit, but I’m not funny – I know my limitations!)

And those things don’t fade with each year that passes. Focusing on things I can cultivate, rather than something that will disappear no matter how hard I try to hang onto it, has been profoundly freeing.

I expect more now

Self-esteem and valuing of yourself is extremely sexy. (And if you think it’s not and prefer partners with low self-esteem, well, that sounds like a significant You Problem). I’m less easily impressed and hold my relationships to a much higher standard.

As I explained it to my metamour recently, there was a time that I was always the youngest and maddest of any polycule I was a part of. This meant I inevitably got cast in the role of the flit-in, flit-out Manic Pixie who would let the older men I dated vicariously re-experience their own youth.

But I’m saner and tireder and I expect more from relationships now. I’m done being some dude’s midlife crisis. I’d rather be his equal, whether we have an age-gap or not.

A note to younger women

None of this is intended in any way to disparage young women in their late teens and early 20s. I am not, as someone rather charmingly put it on Fetlife recently, simply jealous because my “older pussy” is less desirable to men.

If anything, what I want younger women to take from this is a message of hope and empowerment. I have all the love for you, because I was you a few short years ago. And I don’t want you to give these years of your life to an older dude whose main reason for being with you is your age, not because you’re amazing (even though you are).

If you take nothing else from this post, take this: men who fetishise you for your youth are deeply creepy and should be avoided. You deserve someone who knows you get more and more awesome with every passing year.

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Free Entry: Stop Making Women Your Product

You know that saying, “if you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer, you are the product?” While this was originally applied to the likes of Facebook and other “free” platforms that make money by harvesting and selling data, I’ve realised it also applies to parts of the swinging and kink scenes. And I do not like it.

The gendered pricing model

Gendered pricing models are sadly extremely common in the swinging world in particular. One club I won’t name charges £35 per visit for a (cis male/female) couple, £50 for a single man, and £5 for a single woman.

For these purposes, a lesbian couple would be considered two single women and a gay male couple would be… well, a gay male couple would probably be discouraged from attending at all, to be honest, but if they did they’d be charged as two single men.

Again, this isn’t unusual. This is the norm. Some venues charge single men even more, £100 or more for a single visit. Others don’t charge single women at all, and might even add other incentives – such as free drinks – to tempt them in.

Wait, how is this fair?

Honestly, it isn’t.

If these venues want to ensure something of a gender balance, there are other ways to do that. Limiting the number of tickets for single men is one common strategy (again, remember these places are extremely cisheteronormative.)

But I don’t believe gendered pricing is the way to do it. For one thing, it creates a situation where only cis m/f couples are considered “real” couples, as I mentioned above. For another, it makes many events financially challenging or completely inaccessible for the single men on these scenes, most of whom are perfectly decent, respectful guys who just want to have some fun with other consenting adults.

But do you know what else it does? It turns women into a product.

What does “free entry” really cost?

Why are swingers’ clubs (and some kink venues) so desperate to get women in? It’s not because they care so much about being safe places for exploration of female sexuality. No – it’s because we act as bait for the higher-paying men and couples.

I’ve seen more than one situation where a man (or sometimes a couple) has paid a high entry price and now feels “owed” something – a conversation, attention, a blowjob, a shag. And who suffers for this entitlement? The women it’s enacted upon. This entitlement can lead to pressure, coercion, or even sexual assault. Suddenly, that “free entry” can come at a very steep cost indeed.

Some men feel as though they are being disenfranchised and discriminated against by having to pay high entry fees, while women get in for free or a nominal cost. What they don’t realise is how frightening it can be when you understand that you’re the product at least as much as you are the customer.

The argument for equal pricing

There are several really positive things I think would happen if we abolished gendered pricing models across these events:

  • They would become far more welcoming to trans folks, non-binary people, and queer couples.
  • It would largely get rid of the problem of some men thinking “well I paid £100 to be here so now I’m owed something.”
  • It would stop the problem of pricing out decent men based on the (extraordinarily classist and completely untrue) belief that the “right kind” of man for these spaces is a man who can afford a very expensive cover charge.
  • And… more single women would probably attend.

That last one might sound counterintuitive, but stick with me. I mostly go to events with my partner, and I enjoy doing so. But if I was going to attend events alone, I would be far more inclined to attend events that use an egalitarian, non-gendered pricing model.

Why? Because non-gendered, per-person pricing doesn’t make me feel like a product. Because I want to interact with other adults as an equal, not a commodity they feel entitled to by virtue of their entry fee.

If you’re a woman or read as a woman, have you ever felt uncomfortable when a man buys you a drink and then seems to expect something in return? This is like that only worse. If a man has paid to enter the space and I haven’t, I’m automatically in a weaker position. It creates a sense of obligation. Because even though I’m a feminist and I know that I never owe a man a goddamn thing just because he buys me a drink (or pays for entry to a club), the patriarchal programming we’re all exposed to runs extremely deep.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years on the swing scene, it’s that free isn’t free. I’d much rather shell out £20 to get into an event than free entry and then be treated as part of the package that men are paying for with their higher entry fee.

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Sometimes It’s Okay to Hate Your Ex

In the queer, polyamorous, and kink communities, we like to eschew many cis-hetero-mononormative relationship tropes. One of those is the idea that you must hate your ex.

I think letting go of this trope is a good thing. Relationships end for many reasons, most of them nothing to do with one party being a garbage human. Our communities and friendship circles and dating pools within these subcultures are small, so if we go out of our way to avoid our exes, we might end up not going to a lot of things.

But sometimes I think it’s okay to hate your ex. Sometimes I think it can even be a source of power and healing.

I don’t hate you because you’re my ex, I hate you because you abused me

At this point in my life, I’ve had quite a lot of relationships varying in seriousness from “very casual” to “genuinely thought I’d marry him”. That means I’ve amassed quite a few exes.

I don’t hate, or even dislike, the vast majority of my exes. There are those I remember fondly as a beautiful presence in my life that lasted a limited time. There are those I think of wistfully once in a while, allowing myself to think of what might have been in another life. Some I can happily wave or chat to when we bump into each other at the occasional event. Others I really don’t think of much at all any more.

But that ex? Him I hate. Viscerally and deeply and with a power that sometimes frightens me. Not because he’s my ex, but because he abused me. Because I sometimes still have nightmares. Because I had to wade through so much pain and spend so much money on therapy to escape him psychologically long after I escaped physically.

I don’t hate him because he’s my ex. I hate him because he abused me. (I’m reliably informed he hates me, too. That’s fine – his feelings have no impact on my life whatsoever at this point.)

Anger and hate aren’t always toxic

Toxic positivity would have us believe that “negative” emotions are always bad and to be avoided. I don’t believe that’s true at all. Yes, anger and hate can hurt us and eat away at us. But they can also be sources of incredible power.

My friend Sarah wrote this incredible post about not forgiving their abuser. I return to it again and again when I need a reminder that yet another well-meaning “forgive him for YOUR sake, hun!!!” is not good advice for me. I return to it when I need reminding that:

“Survivors never need to forgive our abusers. We don’t need to accept any apology, no matter what others think about its strength or veracity. We don’t need to be thankful or grateful or appreciative. We can be as angry and disgusted and unforgiving as we want to be.”

Sarah Brynn Holliday

I don’t forgive my abuser, either. I’ve tried. I have cried and yelled at the sky and punched pillows and been through years of therapy and burned everything he ever gave me. But I do not forgive him. If anything, the older I get, the less I forgive him.

But that anger gives me strength. It helps me to keep myself safe, to ensure that I will never again ignore the parade of bright fluttering red flags I ignored to be with him. It allows me to support other survivors, to speak out against intimate partner abuse in all its forms.

You’re allowed to hate people who hurt you

Whether they abused you or cheated on you or emotionally neglected you or something else entirely, please hear this loud and clear: you are allowed to feel anger, resentment, and even hate towards people who hurt you.

Being friends with your exes can be great in some contexts. But it’s not mandatory and sometimes it would do more harm than good to even attempt. Don’t feel obligated to listen to the people who tell you that forgiveness is the only way. It isn’t.

You are allowed to feel indifferent. You are allowed to be cordial but distant. And it’s okay to hate your ex if they caused you harm.

Will I ever stop hating my abuser? I don’t know, but I know I will always hate what he did to me.

Feelings Aren’t Emotional Manipulation

I’m a very emotional person. I cry a lot. A short and incomplete list of things I’ve cried about semi-recently include: someone with a gorgeous voice singing at my friend’s birthday Zoom party, a Cats Protection ad about a rescued kitty finding his forever home, a pitch (that I wasn’t even all that attached to) getting rejected, a near-stranger’s story of surviving abuse, and the mushy ending of my favourite TV show. My emotional nature means I’ve been accused more than once of emotional manipulation.

I’m a cryer. It’s how I process feelings, both good and bad. Fundamentally, I’m a very emotional person.

My ex hated it when I cried. Which was unfortunate, because he was very good at making me cry. I don’t know if he expected me to be an emotionless robot or if he just didn’t like to be confronted with the consequences of his behaviour. But if he yelled at me and I got upset, he’d just yell at me more. If he called me a horrible name and I cried, he’d call me something even worse. When I tried to express how he was hurting me, he’d tell me I was being manipulative.

This isn’t an isolated experience. It’s not even unusual. Spend any time in the hellholes of places like Reddit Relationships, Quora, or Facebook groups dedicated to relationship advice, and you’ll see it:

“She cried in front of me and now I feel manipulated!”
“I was upset and he said that I was manipulating him.”
“She started crying and now I feel guilty!”

“Why do women turn on the tears to manipulate men?”

This is also an incredibly gendered phenomenon. In 99%+ of the examples I’ve seen, the person being accused of being “manipulative” is a woman or someone read as a woman. It’s also usually in the context of their (usually male) partner having done or said something that a reasonable person is likely to be upset by.

But here’s the thing: having feelings and expressing them isn’t manipulation.

Some people are generally more emotional than others. Some keep their feelings under wraps while others wear their hearts on their sleeves. But to dismiss someone’s genuine emotional response as a trick or a ploy is incredibly cruel.

Is my partner manipulating me with their emotions?

If your first response to your partner or loved one’s distress is “but what if they’re manipulating me?”, you have a big problem. You either don’t trust this person at all, or you have little to no regard for how your behaviour makes them feel. Either way, you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship with them.

If someone is upset about something you did, you should at least consider that maybe you did a shitty thing. If you’ve upset someone, your first response shouldn’t be “how dare you be upset about what I did/said?”. Doing this can be part of a tactic known as DARVO: deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender. It’s a particularly insidious and dangerous form of gaslighting.

This won’t be true in absolutely all cases, of course, and sometimes it will be a grey area. It’s possible to acknowledge that you made the right decision for yourself AND acknowledge that it’s reasonable for the other person to be upset about it. You might or might not have the ability or capacity to support them through those feelings, but don’t write them off as nothing but a calculated emotional manipulation tactic.

Is it possible to use feelings in a manipulative way? Yes, absolutely. But simply having them and expressing them, even strongly, isn’t manipulation.

Am I manipulating my partner?

As one very smart person on a Reddit thread about this topic said: “manipulation is about intent.” If you fabricate or exaggerate an emotional reaction to persuade someone to do what you want, you might be being manipulative. If, on the other hand, you’re just expressing what you feel, that’s not a manipulation tactic. That’s part of being a person.

Dismissing someone’s feelings can be a form of emotional abuse or emotional manipulation. So if your partner routinely tells you that your genuine feelings are manipulative, that’s a huge red flag.

Your feelings are real and valid and you’re allowed to feel them. People who love you will make it safe for you to express your emotions, including the difficult ones. You’re not manipulating anyone by feeling sad, angry, disappointed, frustrated, or any other emotion.

What to do if you’re being emotionally abused

Again: emotional dismissal can be a part of emotional abuse. This form of abuse can be extremely hard to spot and even harder to extricate yourself from.

If you feel unhappy or unsafe in your relationship – including emotionally unsafe – you are always within your rights to leave at any time for any reason. Please consider telling a friend, family member, or other trusted person. They can help you get to safety or start making a plan to leave the relationship.

Resources

If you’re a woman in the UK, you can call Refuge on 0808 2000 247. Men in the UK can call the Respect Men’s Advice Line on 0808 8010327, and LGBTQ+ people can use Galop’s helpline on 0800 999 5428.

If you’re in the US, no matter your gender you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 799 SAFE (7233).

For those in other countries, there’s a large list of resources here.

On Suttard, Fundamental Incompatibilities, and Happy Ever After

This post contains spoilers for all five seasons of The Bold Type! Stop reading now if you don’t want to be spoilered.

Like many fans of Freeform’s The Bold Type, which just finished its fifth and final season, I was rooting for a happy outcome for Sutton Brady-Hunter and Richard Hunter (known collectively by the fandom as “Suttard.”) They’re the best straight couple on the show by far, from their Bluetooth vibrator sex date to their incredible Paris reunion in the season 2 finale.

At the end of season 4, the newly married couple have a blow-out argument when Sutton realises she doesn’t want to have children, causing Richard – who longs to be a dad – to leave her and then (at the beginning of season 5) begin divorce proceedings.

Over the course of the final season, Sutton destroys her wedding dress, throws a “divorce party,” starts therapy, and quits drinking in an attempt to get over Richard. Then they meet up to swap divorce papers, predictably fall into bed with each other, and Richard realises how much he loves her and that he doesn’t want a life without her, even if it means giving up his dream of having children.

So far, so romantic? But…

Fundamental incompatibilities

No two people will ever be perfectly aligned on every issue or desire. That’s impossible because we’re all multifaceted, nuanced, and complex creatures. But there are, I believe, a few fundamentals. Things you need to agree on (or at least be genuinely, wholeheartedly happy to compromise on) in order to have a functional relationship.

Having children is one of those things. (Others might include getting married or not, being monogamous or not, and possibly even political affiliation.)

Some things are just deal breakers. Some things should be deal-breakers. Because in reality, much as we want to believe that love conquers all, it doesn’t. Love doesn’t conquer wanting different things in uncompromisable situations. You can’t have half a child. You can’t be half married. Love, however real and powerful, doesn’t make these incompatibilities go away or create the potential for a compromise where there is none.

Fairytale endings: fantasy vs. reality

I’m glad the writers chose to end The Bold Type the way they did. Ultimately, this show is escapist fantasy – a Sex & the City for millennials with little grounding in the real world. Suttard fans were crushed when the couple split up and were rooting for them to get back together and somehow find a way through their conflicting desires.

The writers gave us what we wanted. Find me a single fan who didn’t let out a collective “awwww” at this moment:

GIF of Richard Hunter and Sutton Brady (Suttard)

But it really is just fantasy. In reality, fairytale endings like this don’t happen. Or if they do, they cause intense resentment and bigger problems down the line.

I admit that I struggle to relate to Richard, personally. As someone who decided early on that I will be childfree for life, I find it very difficult to imagine wanting to have children more than wanting to be with the person I love. (And my god, these two really do love each other – Meghann Fahy and Sam Page have incredible on-screen chemistry!)

But many people do feel like that, and it’s valid and real. Many people want to be a parent more than anything, even if it means they can’t be with the person they thought was their forever person. And those people can’t just switch that off the way Richard seems to in this too-neat-to-be-real happy ever after.

Happy endings don’t exist

A much younger, more naive version of me thought that I’d find a happy ending someday. When I left my abuser and fell in love with Mr CK, I wondered if I’d found it – if everything would be plain sailing from here.

What I can tell you now, years later, is that no. I hadn’t found a happy ending. Not because this relationship isn’t wonderful. It was then and it is now. But because happy endings of the fairytale kind don’t exist.

Real relationships require constant communication, ongoing compromise, and recalibration as you both grow and change. You can decide to be together, to commit, to go all-in, but that doesn’t take away from the very real work required to make love work long term.

Love is messy, love is nuanced, love is the best thing in the world. But it is not magical. It does not remove all obstacles or effortlessly sweep them aside. And some obstacles are too big to overcome.

So I’ll enjoy the Suttard happy ending for what it is: escapist fantasy wrapping up five seasons of escapist fantasy. But I’m glad it’s not real. Because as much as I want someone to love me for the rest of my life, I would never want them to give up their greatest dream to be with me.

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