[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.

[Guest Post] “Silly Rabbit, Toys are for Everyone!” by Velvet Divine

Velvet Divine (fae/faer) is back again with another fantastic guest post, this time about transition, sex toys, body image, and lots more good stuff. Don’t forget to follow faer on Twitter!

“Silly Rabbit, Toys are for Everyone!” by Velvet Divine

“Hey, I’m really flattered and hella down but it’s been a while since we talked and there’s been some new developments. I’ve been on HRT for a bit now and it’s started to affect my downstairs equipment so things don’t really work the same as before.”

“That’s fine, we can still have amazing BDSM sex without a dick or even any kind of penetration.”

“You’re absolutely right, I guess I’m just still getting used to the new situation and never really thought I’d be here, ya know?

– A snippet from a conversation I had recently with an old flame about being physically intimate again. 

I was born with a penis and although knowing I was trans femme and being out socially and professionally, for the most part, I was not able to begin the medical portion of my transition until around five months ago. I shan’t bore you with the minutia of the HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) process but want to focus on one aspect of my experience: the loss of libido and erectile dysfunction as a result of the low blood pressure from Spiro and the Estrogen.

It’s not a bad thing in any capacity, mind you, I was never particularly attached to my bio dildo, to begin with, but it’s different – for the entirety of my sexual history up until these past few months, it was largely the main event or performing a duet with various accoutrements. That’s not the case anymore.

Now, I find myself in the process of learning how to make sensuality, foreplay, and various accessories the headliners of the experience. This isn’t a problem in and of itself but I have noticed that it can get tricky trying to navigate expectations, both mine and others. I’m typically physically and sexually intimate with other femme-coded people and more often than not those people have vaginas and, in the case of my last few encounters, came from mostly if not exclusively being with cis men.

A few of these people I was intimate with prior to HRT and then during, which became an interesting exercise in shifting expectations and accommodating material realities. Those liaisons did not last but they were incredibly affirming and I could not have asked for more at the time. The ones that followed were less affirming and a bit more awkward. There was disappointment that my equipment did not perform to expectation and trepidation about trying toys for the first time. They weren’t bad experiences but they were not repeated.

Orgasms are different too, they’re not quite as jolting as they used to be and I no longer feel the mounting pressure to like climax like I did prior. They’re rad enough but they’re no longer the ritz. I could take them or leave them. And I leave them more often than not nowadays since penetration used to be my main vector for climax.

I’m sure you’re about to say, “Velvet, that’s a barrel of bananas if not a whole jungle. There are so many other forms of stimulation you could receive or do for yourself”. And you’d be correct, dear reader – but here’s the kicker:

I do not want other people touching me any more than they have to. Or more accurately, by the time the trust and foundation needed for me to feel safe being touched intimately, my Fraysexuality has usually kicked in and the liaison plateaus platonically. (Fraysexuality being on the ace spectrum and characterized by a loss of sexual attraction as a platonic relationship is established and cemented. Think of it as the opposite of Demisexuality.)

Despite the complexity and frustration of the present situation, I’m making a concerted effort to approach it as an opportunity to heal and better conceptualize the relationships I have with intimacy, both the one I provide myself and the one I get from others.

I do not like my body, never have, but for the first time, I don’t actively loath it. Sure, there’s hair in all the wrong places, I feel like I’m built like a titan from the eponymous anime, and I still cringe if I catch the wrong angle in the mirror. But I’m growing boobs. That hair is growing back slower and it’s more manageable. The hair on my head (the one I actually like) is the longest it’s ever been and when it cooperates – my curls are fuckin’ hot.

(Note on the breast development: for the first twenty-four years of my life I was pretty unaware that I had nipples. Now I’m entirely too aware and they’re sore more often than not. But, boobs. So I’m pretty damn stoked.)

Inhabiting this mortal coil usually feels like being stuffed in an iron maiden two sizes too small and trying to provide myself with intimacy feels just as unwelcoming. Self massages, oils, and most spicy toys don’t quite hit the mark but hugging squishmallows, breaking out a weighted blanket, and even taking those extra five or ten minutes to pop a hoodie in the dryer for a warm treat on a cold night, have been baby steps that I can stomach.

Getting intimacy from other people, however, has proven more Icarian than Herculean. Not the least of which by virtue of the fact that being some flavor of aro/ace (Aroflux and Fraysexual in my case), at least for myself, makes it extremely difficult to discern the exact kind of attraction I feel for certain people and harder still to know the way I would prefer to express or receive that attraction.

In the event you may not be aware, there are different forms of attraction besides the classic romantic and sexual. Aesthetic revolves around enjoying a person’s appearance or style, without any desire for more. Sensual refers to wanting to touch and be touched by that person, in as far as hugs, holding hands, kissing, cuddling, etc. Alterous attraction means the lovely limbo north of the platonic but not quite romantic, you’ll often hear it in reference to queerplatonic situations.

Some people I find incredibly and even frighteningly attractive, but the buck stops there. I’m just happy they exist and I can respectfully look at the insta feed. Others are a little trickier. They might have beautiful hands that I’d like to hold and kiss, maybe I want them to hold me and play with my hair while I get lost in their eyes (no, you’re thinking of specific people right now, don’t project onto me), and some I’d be cool with having them ride my face for an evening.

And once or even if the mode of attraction or vector of affection is identified, how the fuck do you make that known. I mentioned in previous pieces here that approaching femme-coded people as a trans femme, especially still looking as masc as I do, can be pretty frightening but there’s even less of a script for bringing up niche topics outside of those niche communities.

Amatonormativity has set such a draconian binary between platonic and romantic affection that even among LGBTQIA+ people it can be difficult to ask for intimacy or establish connections outside of this script imposed upon us. Thus, we may end up in situations that often don’t serve us or that are downright uncomfortable because we don’t know other ways to fill those needs.

You might settle for a romantic relationship even if you’re not interested in romance because it might be the most convenient way for you to get a nesting partner, co-parent, or a source of emotional closeness when a queerplatonic situation might better serve you. For me, I engage in a lot of casual sexual intimacy not necessarily because I want sex but because it’s the most socially acceptable and convenient way for me to get the sensual intimacy I need.

And sure, I could ask. I won’t, but I could.

Besides the fact that I would rather be dead than vulnerable, there’s this tremendous fear that opening that Pandora’s Jar would irrevocably change those friendships. 

Would they understand that my sensual attraction isn’t sexual and a testament to how safe I feel with them or would they be uncomfortable around me moving forward?

Would they reciprocate or be at least comfortable with my alterous attraction to them or just consider me the latest in a line of friends that ruined the connection by burdening them with my confession?

People are complicated. Try, if you have the spoons and the patience, but toys are always an option too.

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 show your support!

[Guest Post] Navigating Dissociation and Sex by Kara Bringewatt

Today’s guest post comes from a new-to-C&K writer, Kara Bringewatt (they/them.) Regular readers will know that shining a light on the intersection of sexuality and mental health is super important to me, so I am thrilled to be running this story on dissociation during sex. Grab a coffee, settle in, and enjoy!

Amy x

Navigating Dissociation and Sex by Kara Bringewatt

What is dissociation exactly? In short, it’s a way of coping by detaching from the body and from sensory experiences. This can feel like extreme numbness or a lack of connection to yourself, your body, your senses. It can feel like you’re watching a movie of your life or that everything’s being interacted with through a film or barrier. It may feel like you’re floating somewhere above your own head. Your voice might sound odd and distant and in extreme cases you might actually lose your bearings of where and who you are.

This is a natural reaction to experiences that turn on our fight-or-flight response. When we are in danger, not having to feel the panic can help us to manage our reality more easily. But when this is happening due to smaller, more mundane triggers, it can make life more difficult, particularly as it can make it difficult to communicate. 

Dissociation can happen due to sexual triggers that bring up past sexual trauma (which many of us have) or due to ongoing experiences of mental illness that includes symptoms of dissociation. These experiences are incredibly common. My belief is that we’ve normalized having really dissociated sex. Which isn’t just not as much fun (hello, diminished sense of touch when you’re trying to get off!) but can be really dangerous and become a retraumatizing scenario in and of itself. 

So what do we do exactly? Firstly, if you are dealing with dissociation, or think you may be experiencing dissociation, trying out professional mental health services of some sort is a really great first step. There are some really amazing therapists, psychologists, coaches, and sex therapists out there, and it can be really worth it if you can find someone who’s a great fit for you.

Having a professional who is knowledgeable around mental health and who can serve as a neutral party to speak honestly with and get validation from can be a game changer for many people. So can medication. Don’t skimp on getting the professional help that works for you. This is of course your choice, and there really are barriers out there. But I would be lying if I said that the therapy I’ve had and the medication I’m on haven’t helped significantly. 

So the next big piece of navigating dissociation and sex is being able to recognize when it’s happening. This can be really fucking hard if you’ve not practiced it. Paying attention to what’s going on for us emotionally and somatically in the moment can be tricky no matter what the situation, but dissociation poses a double challenge since part of the experience is extreme disconnection from our self and our environment.

On the plus side, we can use this to our advantage. Take time to notice what it feels like to be detached from your experiences. Next time you’re dissociated (or think you might be), intentionally “save” that sensation in your memory so you can start to notice when similar physical sensations occur. I know I’m dissociating when my vision gets a little blurry. I also notice myself staring off into space a lot, my breath gets really shallow, and I have trouble speaking. You might notice entirely different signs, but start learning them! Bonus points: if your partner suffers from dissociation, learn their “tells,” too!

Of course, the critical piece that almost all sex advice comes down to is this: communicate with your partners, including hookups and casual encounters. Speak to your partner about dissociation when you’re not having sex. Explain what it looks and feels like to you. Ask your partner what it looks and feels like to them. Check in regularly during sex. Pause and take two minutes to both just share what’s going on emotionally and physically in your bodies. This practice can build a LOT of awareness if you take the time to make yourself slow down and take those breaks. 

Establish verbal and nonverbal safe words and commit to using them if you are beyond a threshold of dissociation that you feel comfortable with. This may be any dissociation particularly if it’s related to a trigger or flashback. But you may also experience dissociation regularly and feel like it’s not gonna stop you from having sex. Great!

It can be useful to calibrate your current dissociation level using a 1-10 scale and then decide on what level of intensity requires stopping or pausing sex to reregulate a bit. For me, I check in with partners and let them know if I am at a 6, pause and regulate at a 7-8, and stop altogether if I’m at a 9. Your tolerance and dynamic with your partners may look different. And these numbers might skew lower for casual interactions. 

Find ways of regulating during, before, and after sex. Dissociation is just dysregulation at the end of the day. It is your body shifting into flight or fight mode rather than staying in a relaxed space. We must find ways to get ourselves back to that resting place and to grow our confidence in our ability to regulate for ourselves.

Some useful regulation practices might include sensory bathing, grounding exercises, and paced breathing. Also, definitely try using a dry brush and taking a shower (with some good smelling soap or essential oils!) This is a bit of a trial and error process, but learning the things that work for you is key to navigating these situations with more ease. Enlist partners in this exploration and make sure to communicate things that you do know to be helpful so that they can remind you if your dissociation is making your thinking a bit sluggish.

This takes practice and dedication so be gentle and compassionate with yourself. Self-care after the fact, too. Oftentimes I don’t even notice how dissociative I was until later when I “pop out of it”. It is very easy for me to ruminate on the issues this symptom is causing, and sometimes this leads into panic attacks or intense self-criticism manifesting in self-harming behaviors or urges. Be kind and understanding with yourself and with sexual partners when you don’t realize until after the fact that you’re dissociating. Self-care can help stabilize you and keep you from spiralling right back into dissociation or other intense emotional experiences. 

This all takes practice and time, and there’s many more discussions to have on these topics, but starting to have open conversations with yourself and your partners is a crucial step to handling dissociation and increasing our pleasure and communication in relationships.

About the Author

Kara (they/them) works in the interstitial spaces of identity, composition, spirituality, mental health, and somatic/sexual healing work. They are particularly fascinated and critically engaged in the desires and needs of trans* and disabled bodies, the impact of internalized shame around queer sexualities, and kink as a practice of liberation.They enjoy reading and writing endlessly, lingerie and tea on rainy nights, sharing exceptional food, and warming conversations.

[Guest Post] Aftercare for D-Types: Mental, Emotional and Physical by Kelvin Sparks

I recently put out a call for guest bloggers to write about aftercare in BDSM from the Dominant’s perspective. I published the first post earlier this week. Today’s, by Kelvin Sparks (he/him), is the second. Kelvin has written for C&K once before.

Amy x

Aftercare for D-Types: Mental, Emotional and Physical by Kelvin Sparks

Aftercare—the activities and/or attention given to a partner after sexual, BDSM, or kink experiences—is something widely discussed within kink communities. However, a lot of the discussion of aftercare focuses on aftercare for submissives, bottoms, and masochists (who I’ll collectively called s-types). This seems intuitive at first—they’re the person being acted upon, after all—but it’s important not to dismiss the importance of aftercare for dominants, tops, and sadists (who I’ll collectively call D-types).

Why Do D-types Need Aftercare?

Just as with aftercare for s-types, aftercare for D-types incorporates three kinds of well-being; mental, physical, and emotional. 

Leading a scene can take a huge amount of mental energy. While the power exchange within D/s scenes is mutual, it’s tops within a scene who have the greater responsibility when it comes to managing risk. Being a D-type in a scene involves practiced and involved skillsets—such as using impact toys with accuracy, assessing a bottom’s emotions during a scene, and assessing risk and safety both pre and mid-scene—and the attention, careful observation, planning, and empathy involved in topping and/or domming can easily lead to mental fatigue after a scene is concluded.

Depending on what kinds of play partners are engaging in, topping can also be physically exhausting or taxing. It can be easy to think of the physical impact of BDSM scenes being only pain and/or injury, and that this is something limited to s-types, when in reality that’s not the case at all. For one, dominants can be bottoms, but it’s also worth noting some forms of play can be physically taxing on tops as well as bottoms. As an easy example, for people new to strap-ons, topping during play can be physically exhausting, as it uses muscles that they may not have used much before.

Finally, aftercare is important for emotional wellbeing. “Drop” is a well known phenomenon in kink circles, referring to the period after a emotional/endorphin high during a scene. Sometimes specifically called sub-drop or top-drop depending on who it’s used to refer to, it can happen immediately after a scene, hours later, or even days later, and is characterised by intense negative feelings.

In dominants or tops, the emotions of drop can be intensified or informed by the cultural conversation around dominance and sadism. Feeling a sense of guilt at one’s actions and desires—even after risk-aware and consensual sex—isn’t uncommon, and these feelings can be intensified for marginalised D-types. In my own experience, the guilt I sometimes feel after SM play is impacted by the cultural perception of trans people and masculine queer people as sexually predatory. As another example, some of my sadistic Domme friends have expressed that their feelings of guilt after a scene are sometimes mixed with a sense of shame for their deviance from a lot of the gendered expectations around dominance. 

What Does Aftercare for D-types Look Like?

Aftercare for D-types is as varied as it is for those on the other side of the slash. Different scenes can feel intense in different ways and to different extents to different people, and what people enjoy and/or need as part of their aftercare can vary from person to person. Depending on your wants and needs, aftercare for you may look like administering first aid, having a snack and a drink, praising your partner(s) for what they did during a scene, watching a film together, having some alone time, or creating a “buffer zone”—a period of time spent with your partner/s doing something unrelated to BDSM.

I’d also like to emphasise debriefing as a kind of aftercare in itself. Once both partners are grounded, talking over what went well (and not so well) in a scene doesn’t just help when playing in future, but can alleviate the guilt that contributes to top-drop. Hearing that their partner loved being hit and why, for example, can work wonders in alleviating the guilt somebody may feel around enjoying hitting their partner. 

Aftercare Compatibility

If both sides of the slash need aftercare, and it’s just as important for D-types as it is for s-types, how do you navigate situations where these needs are in conflict? This is why aftercare is just important to bring up in negotiation as what players are looking for in the contents of a scene. If a submissive prefers to have alone time following a scene, but the dominant person they want to play with needs cuddles and affirmations, then it’s best if these things are worked out in the discussion stage. 

In some cases, conflicting needs when it comes to aftercare can be solved by delegating aftercare to a third party person, or by players compromising some of their wants so all players have their needs met. In other cases, vastly different needs when it comes to aftercare means players aren’t compatible, even if they’re otherwise agreed on what they want from a scene. It may suck finding out you’re not compatible with somebody you want to play with, but it’s far better finding out before you attempt to play together than after.

Kelvin Sparks logo

About the Author

Kelvin Sparks (he/him) is a bisexual trans man who writes about sex on the internet. You can find him at KelvinSparks.com, or at @Kelvinsparks_ on both Twitter and Instagram.

[Guest Post] Aftercare for D-Types: The Care and Feeding of Your Sadist by Bethany Baker

I recently put out a call for guest posts on aftercare in BDSM from the Dominant’s perspective. I received a few great pitches and ended up commissioning two. Today’s piece from Bethany Baker (she/her) is the first. The second will follow later this week. This is Bethany’s first piece for C&K.

Amy x

Aftercare for D-Types: The Care and Feeding of Your Sadist by Bethany Baker

Aftercare is vital in BDSM. The focus of aftercare tips is usually on submissive types, who have experienced very intense sensations in the scene and who may experience sub drop even days later.

I’m here to talk about aftercare for the person who took the dominant role in the scene. This applies to Dominants, Tops, sadists, and so on (D-types for short) including those who identify as switches.

What is sadism, really?

Sadism is one of the Ss in BDSM. There’s a perspective on sadism that I’ve found very helpful to understanding dominant/sadistic types, which I discovered through Carolyn Elliott’s book Existential Kink and which she attributes to Tani Thole and Leslie Rogers of the Light/Dark Insitute: “Sadism isn’t necessarily the desire to inflict pain; it’s the desire to inflict sensation, to make oneself felt.”

This insight is what fully unlocked my sadistic kink. It helps to explain why kink without pain is still so, well, kinky! And when the submissive type enjoys pain, that makes it an extra fun sensation to inflict.

So, as someone who loves to inflict intense sensations of various types, what kind of aftercare is most helpful?

Tell me how it felt

I want to know that I have been felt. Did you love it? Love to hate it? Was it exquisite torture?

The dominant person in a scene is usually doing a lot of reading-between-the-lines. Submissive types are often either non-verbal (due to subspace, literally being gagged, etc) or are contrary or facetious on purpose (such as in the case of bratting). Pre-negotiation of the scene and safe words create guardrails, but the dominant person in the scene still has to steer between those.

So while aftercare for a submissive (especially after intense scenes such as humiliation play or hard impact play) involves explicit confirmation of “I am affectionate towards you, I regard you positively,” this type of explicit confirmation can be important for the D-type as well. Messages like “I love what you did to me” and “I want to do more of that” are affirming and restorative. (Always be honest. More on constructive feedback below!)

This doesn’t have to be immediate. It’s natural for it to take a day or two (or longer) for a submissive type to collect their thoughts, and in my experience, being genuine is more important than being prompt. What might that look like in practice? My partner recently said to me about a scene where he was submissive, “I love being the subject of your creativity.

Angels sang. My heart is soaring, just remembering him saying that. That is the sort of thing that goes into my mental bank of quotes to pull out on bad days. That kind of genuine feedback easily refills my bank of motivation to take the reins in the next scene. Speaking of that bank…

Dom debt and the energy bank

I’d like to put forward the idea of “Dom debt” as a counterpart to sub drop.
While submissive are generally experiencing a lot of intense sensations, Dominants are making a lot of intense decisions. We’re expending emotional energy, especially if we’re affectionate Dominants closely reading a submissive. When a dom spends more energy than they have, that incurs “Dom debt”.

My Dom debt tends to feel like overwhelm, exhaustion, withdrawal. It’s a “I just don’t have it in me today” kind of feeling. So, what to do about it?

Research shows that a small blood sugar boost (think: a light snack, a piece of chocolate) can replenish the brain’s decision-making capabilities in the short-term. Other effective strategies are adequate sleep, exercise, and relaxation (think: yoga, meditation, hot bath.)

Interestingly, if a D-type can be impulsive in a scene, this can actually help alleviate decision fatigue. So, the better the members of the scene know each others’ boundaries, the more impulsive the D-type can be, and the less decision fatigue they incur. This is another reason that feedback is crucial!

Check in on how to give feedback

Affirmation is important, and so is constructive feedback. As a submissive resurfaces from subspace, it may be intuitive to share feedback with a D-type as it comes to mind. This might work well for some people, but not for everyone.

One way to care for a D-type is to check in with them on when and how to give your feedback. At the end of an intense scene, the D-type may be feeling sensitive themselves, or may be emotionally tired and have a harder time remembering or processing feedback. If that’s the case, try jotting that feedback down and then sharing it as you’re planning for the next scene. 

Mutual aftercare

Additionally, the aftercare that is good for S-types is often great for D-types too! The cuddling, checking in, gestures of affection — these are verbal and nonverbal ways to affirm the mutual positive regard in the relationship.

Curious for an inside peek at a dominant headspace in action? Check out The Art of a Bad Day, an erotic short that I wrote for Pride Month 2021.

In conclusion: want to give a dominant type a little extra love? Tell them how they made you feel, buy them sweets, confirm how to best share feedback, and most importantly… behave! 😉

About the author

Bethany Baker avatar for guest post on aftercare for Doms

Bethany Baker (she/her) writes erotic romance that blends the familiar and the fantastical, the erotic and the emotional, the silly and the sexy, into one downright tasty concoction. You can read her novels and short stories for free on bakecookieswritesmut.com because she’s just a little slutty like that, and feel free to reach out on Twitter @BakeSmut.

[Guest Post] How CBD Lube Changed My Sex Life When My Body Forgot How to Orgasm by Hattie Gladwell

Today’s guest post comes from Hattie Gladwell (she/her,) a freelance journalist whose work I have been reading and enjoying for a while. This is her first piece for C&K.

I loved this story because struggles with orgasm are so, so common, especially for cis women and other people with vulvas. The limited cultural narratives around sex can make us feel that we should all be having the most amazing sex, all the time and without ever talking about it.

Those same narratives push the idea that if we’re with the right partner, sex and orgasm will be easy and effortless, and that any use of additional tools (such as toys or lube) indicate failure. But as we can see from Hattie’s story, those things can be game changers in the best possible way.

Enjoy!

Amy x

How CBD Lube Changed My Sex Life When My Body Forgot How to Orgasm

I was in a sexless relationship for almost six years. It was difficult not just physically, but mentally, too. I wanted an intimate relationship, but sadly he wasn’t interested. Of course, I thought it was me. That something was wrong with me. I changed how I looked constantly to see if maybe he’d start loving me again, but the relationship had been dead for years. 

When we first got together, I was able to orgasm easily and quickly. Multiple times. Having an orgasm had never been a concern to me. I’d always had a good sex life before the relationship, and during the first year. But everything changed, and I don’t know why. 

When we finally broke up and I walked away from the stale relationship, I met somebody new quickly. My family and friends warned me that it was too early, that I needed to heal. But I had already done my healing over the last six months of the relationship—because I knew it was coming to an end. 

It was incredible to have sex with someone new. I mean, it was incredible just to have sex again. But, I couldn’t orgasm. It made me feel bad because I didn’t want my new partner to think it was him. My body just forgot what an orgasm felt like, and I couldn’t do it anymore. 

When I tried to get there, it was even more impossible, because I was putting myself under too much pressure. It wasn’t until I decided to “re-discover myself” alone, learning what I liked and didn’t like, and what made me tick, that finally, I came to climax again. 

I decided to show my partner what I liked, and it worked—but it still took me up to an hour to get there, and sometimes I couldn’t at all. It was frustrating and I felt resentment towards my ex because I felt like I had no control over my body.

I could only come during mutual masturbation. Never during sex. Which is annoying, because I want to reach orgasm when my partner does. It feels more intimate. It makes me feel closer. 

That’s where the CBD lube comes in. 

There are lots of CBD lubes out there, even though not that many people know about them. Of course, most people have heard about CBD and the common belief that it helps with chronic pain. But it can also help with sensitivity of the vulva, as it is absorbed through the tissues.

I was sceptical, but decided to try Dani Pepper’s “O” orgasm enhancer.

It comes in a bottle that looks just like regular, non-CBD lube, and is transparent. It’s made using organic and natural ingredients, and is water-based, meaning it’s okay to use with latex. 

I sat down with my partner and talked about using the lube, and he agreed. He was just as adamant about getting my orgasms back on track as I was. 

That night, we had sex. But before we did, we did what we usually do, and he tried to get me off. I decided to do it during mutual masturbation because I wanted my body to get used to the CBD lube in a way that I knew might just make me come. 

He put the lube on me, and within 15 minutes I started to feel more relaxed. I wasn’t worried about climaxing. I decided that it didn’t matter if I didn’t orgasm this time—I could always try again. 

But I did come. Quickly. Intensely. The most extraordinary orgasm I have ever had. 

It lasted for at least 10 seconds, and afterwards, my legs were shaking and I couldn’t speak through breathlessness. 

What I also loved is how calm I felt afterwards. I continued to feel this really relaxing sensation. Sex afterwards was amazing because, even though I can’t come through penetration still, it made us both feel accomplished. Knowing I’d “got there” meant there were no frustrated vibes after having sex—or masturbating for an hour. 

I always use the lube now; every time we have sex. It’s my go-to, and I of course have more than one bottle at a time so that I can keep myself stocked up. 

CBD lube, and specifically Dani Pepper’s orgasm enhancer, has been a game-changer for me. Not just because of the incredibly intense orgasms, but because it has brought me closer to my partner sexually. I feel like our sex life is way more intimate now, and I never feel like I’m missing out. And I won’t ever again.

About the Author

Hattie Gladwell is a journalist and editor from Sussex. She is passionate about raising awareness of mental health issues, and mainly writes about sex, relationships, parenting and mental illness.

Product recommendation is the writer’s own and is not an affiliate link.

[Guest Post] Erotic Fanfiction as Sexual Exploration by Kelvin Sparks

Today’s guest post comes from a new-to-C&K writer! I’ve followed Kelvin Sparks (he/him) on Twitter for some time and enjoyed many of his writings. I’m delighted to be publishing this essay on the history and appeal of sexually explicit fanfiction!

Amy x

Erotic Fanfiction as Sexual Exploration by Kelvin Sparks

When discussions of fanfiction reach the mainstream, one of the go-
to jabs is always to talk about erotic fanfiction as a punchline in itself.
Even when fanfiction has its defenders, they often try to distance ‘the
good stuff’ from explicit works within the genre. This is something I don’t
think is fair, not just because I think erotic work is unfairly maligned in
general, but because of the history of explicit fanfiction as a safe space
for people (particularly women and/or LGBTQ+ people) to explore sexual
ideas and fantasies.

A Short History of (Explicit) Fanfiction

Although people have been a) interested in building on existing
stories and characters and b) horny for pretty much the entirety of
human history, fanfiction as we know it currently is rooted in the sci-fi fan
culture of the 20th century.

While plenty of people talk about Star Trek as having the first fandom in the 60s, many of the activities associated with this early fandom activity were derivative of more general sci-fi fandom culture. For example, Star Trek fan magazines (or ‘fanzines’) weren’t something original or exclusive to the fandom, but were simply more specific versions of sci-fi fanzines, which printed amateur writing. The difference was that Star Trek fanzines, starting with 1967’s Spockanalia, contained and popularised derivative fanfiction rather than original work.

Star Trek was also influential on modern fandom in other ways. For
one, the term ‘slash’, used to refer to same gender (primarily male/male)
pairings within fanfiction, comes from ‘Kirk/Spock’. While not all explicit
fanfiction is slash fanfiction and not all slash fanfiction is explicit, the
reputation of K/S (as the pairing was also known) fans was often as
smut-peddlers. While it’s hard to know specific details about the early
history of smut fanfiction—first-hand sources are hard to come by—we
do know that by 1978, it was prevalent enough that the editors of Star
Trek
fanzine Fantasia discussed the “rift between the porn-haters and
the porn-lovers”.

Fanfiction—and specifically smutty fanfiction—became more visible
as internet use became more common. While internets had been used for fandom since pretty much their creation— bulletin boards and mailing
lists were promenant in the 80s—the creation of the world wide web and
more widespread internet usage in the 90s drove some of the most
prominent fandoms of the period, such as The X-Files and Xena.

For the most part, fanfiction was kept in private archives, although the creation of Fanfiction.net and LiveJournal in 1998 and 1999 respectfully changed this. Fanfiction.net banned NC-17 fanfiction in 2002, and while
Adultfanfiction.net initially filled the void, Archive of Our Own (created in
2007) has become one of the leading alternatives. While AO3 doesn’t
hold a monopoly on fandom— FanFiction.net is still under use, and other
sites like WattPad have thriving fanfiction communities—it is one of the
leading communities, especially when it comes to erotic fanfiction, which
is still banned on FanFiction.net and is less prevalent on WattPad due to
its younger demographic.

Why Do People Like Erotic Fanfiction?

The main reason that people enjoy erotic and explicit fanfiction is
pretty clear—people enjoy erotic media! The real question here is why
do people enjoy erotic fanfiction over other kinds of erotic work and art?

Written erotica in general provides a space that’s low risk while being
explicitly erotic. A fantasy or desire may feel unapproachable or anxiety
inducing in real life, but fiction allows us to play with these fantasies and
desires in a space that’s totally controllable. If you like the idea of
bondage, for example, reading erotica about bondage may feel easier
than actually attempting to act out these fantasies because a book can
be closed at any time.

Written erotica tends to have an easier time expressing emotional aspects of sex than visual erotica (which isn’t to say that either is better than the other, just that they are different mediums), and for people who experience a lot or most of their satisfaction from the emotional aspects of sex, written erotica can feel more satisfying.

Fanfiction erotica can heighten some of the characteristics that written erotica already has. Because fanfiction is derivative, the audience for it already has a familiarity with the characters involved, as well as some kind of emotional connection to them. I would also argue that the writing side of fanfiction has a heavy focus on emotional continuity. In order to write a character so that they’re recognisable as their canon self but distinct enough to fit into a new universe, a writer needs to have a good handle on their interiority, meaning that fanfiction often becomes a very character-focused and emotion-focused type of storytelling.

Both the derivative nature of fanfiction and the internal tropes of the
genre can make it feel even safer to explore erotic ideas than conventional erotic fiction. Fanfiction archives often display information about the content included in the piece of fiction. For example, with Archive Of Our Own, pieces of fanfiction are given clear warnings for content like character death or violence, and authors can choose to tag works with various bits of information about their content, such as (for example), ‘Threesome – F/M/M’, ‘Rimming’, or ‘Rope Bondage’. This kind of archive system not only lets readers know about what content they’re likely to see, but allows them to search for specific or particular themes or types of content.

The nature of romance or erotica centric fanfiction often means that readers know that their preferred pairing (or more than pairing) will end up together, but the appeal of reading fanfiction is to watch the journey unfold. This safety—as well as the community built into fanfiction as a genre—means that it can feel like a safe space to explore ideas, both as a reader and writer and not necessarily connected to erotic preferences and practices. Plenty of people I know within fandom discovered that they were queer and trans through fanfiction, sometimes discovering it was even a thing because of fic and sometimes having their first encounter with depictions of what it was like to be trans/queer in terms of internal emotion be fanfiction.

My Experience with Fanfiction

No blog post would be complete without some personal context or story! I’ve drifted in and out of fanfic circles over the years, sometimes having periods of time where I write a lot of fanfic all at once and at other times not writing it for months or years at a time.

During my teenage years, I was pretty active in fandom, and used it as a space to explore my sexuality. It wasn’t so much an exploration of queerness for me. I’d already come out as trans by the time I started
writing fic, and I didn’t discover I was bisexual because of fandom. But
fandom and fanfic did allow me to explore my sexuality in other ways.

While I was already devouring romance novels prior to discovering
fanfiction, fanfic gave me access to stories and fantasies about
people outside of the cisgender, heterosexual, vanilla relationships that
I found in my my local library’s romance section. I was able to read not only
about transmasculine characters written by other transmasculine
people, but about polyamory, about BDSM, and about fantasies I would
never have come across in other circumstances.

At the same time, the fact these ideas were explored through characters I already knew and cared about made it feel far more approachable than original work with the same themes would have. It also gave me a built in audience when it came to writing my own erotic fiction, exploring what kinds of kinks, scenarios, and emotions I found compelling.

Kelvin Sparks logo for guest post about erotic fanfiction

About the Author

Kelvin Sparks (he/him) is a bisexual trans man who writes about sex on the internet. You can find him at KelvinSparks.com, or at @Kelvinsparks_ on both Twitter and Instagram.

[Guest Post] Conversion Therapy Has Rebranded and It’s Just as Dangerous by Violet Grey

I’m delighted to be welcoming the lovely and talented Violet Grey (she/her) back to Coffee & Kink with another guest post. This one is really important and also really challenging.

If you’re a straight, cis person, please take the time to read and absorb this one. If you’re queer and/or a conversion therapy survivor, please take care of yourself if you decide to engage with this <3

Amy x

Conversion Therapy Has Rebranded and It’s Just as Dangerous

TW for conversion therapy, spiritual abuse, trauma and suicide

If you’ve seen the news recently, you’ll know banning conversion therapy is back in discussion. Despite promises by the UK government to ban it back in 2018, conversion therapy is sadly still legal, with no swift action being taken to criminalise the practice. In its lengthy history and the outpouring of horrific survivor accounts, it has undergone a rebranding in recent years, but it is just as dangerous as ever. 

Being a bi person of faith (Christianity and Quaker teachings) I know not all Christians support conversion therapy. In fact, most I know are vehemently against it. However, it is a large, systemic problem in the church that needs confronting. 

What is Conversion Therapy?

Conversion therapy (sometimes known as Cure or Reparative Therapy) is a pseudoscientific practice of “repairing” or “curing” an LGBTQ+ person (usually teenagers and young adults) to change their sexual orientation to heterosexual, or gender identity to cisgender. 

It is usually undertaken by religious communities (in this case, I’m talking about Christianity), but is also known to be done by a select few medical professionals. It stems from the belief that being anything other than heterosexual and cisgender is wrong, and therefore should be treated. 

Such “treatments” to “cure” or “repair” someone of their homosexuality, bisexuality (often referred to as SSA or “Same Sex Attraction” in these circles,) or trans identity have included, but not been limited to: 

  • Biblical “counselling“: a mixture of psychotherapy-style sessions with spiritual advice. It is not uncommon for the counsellors to have no qualifications in counselling and people will be asked to sign a waiver acknowledging this. 
  • Praying and scripture study: Also known as “pray the gay away,” or praying for God to help the person with their “struggle” of Same Sex Attraction, again often reinforcing self-loathing. 
  • Physical torture, including starvation and beating
  • Exorcism
  • Electroshock Therapy 
  • Forced sterilisation and surgeries 
  • Chemical castration: The use of anaphrodisiac drugs to reduce a person’s libido or sexual activity. While it can be used to treat certain cancers, this has been used on LGBTQ+ people to “reduce homosexual urges.”

The medical community has denounced conversion therapy as a dangerous pseudoscience (with incredibly high failure rates) that contributes to PTSD, depression, anxiety, and even suicide in those who undergo it. There are countless studies with findings all pointing to the same conclusion: conversion therapy doesn’t work, and you can’t “make” someone straight any more than you can “make” someone gay.

Being LGBTQ+ it is not a choice, it doesn’t disrupt the family dynamic, and it is not caused by childhood trauma. We just are who we are. 

Rebranding: Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner

Rebranding of conversion therapy has been happening in the last fifteen years or so, primarily since the legalisation of same-sex marriage across many parts of the world. Since then, in my experience with homophobic views, they have shifted from “being gay is a choice” to “God may have made you gay. It’s just the act of homosexuality that’s a sin” in order to come across as more accepting. 

This is just as bad. One: love (and sex) is not a sin. Two: it gaslights the person through spiritual abuse. Three: it leaves already vulnerable LGBTQ+ people with two choices: 

  • A lifetime of celibacy. So no masturbation, no same-sex relationship, no sex, no nothing. 
  • A heterosexual marriage with someone we might not even love. 

Either way the options are clear: a lifetime of misery, or a lifetime of misery. But hey, God loves you, right? 

Biblical “counselling” and prayer is being championed in the wake of this so-called progressive view, to “help” people who want this so-called help. However, this toxic doctrine has been internalised in not LGBTQ+ people, but the very people claiming to help them. 

These views usually echo in the various groups: 

  • Folks who like to Bible thump and control
  • Christians who still believe sexuality is a choice
  • Well-meaning Christians

Now, “well-meaning Christian” interlinked with homophobia does sound like an oxymoron, and it is. However, with such messages being preached from the pulpit or in a mistranslated Bible verse (there are 450 English translations of the Bible!) these views will either be all you know, or even be considered a liberal take – especially if you come from a conservative background.

Their view, from my experience, does not come from malice (though I don’t justify it at all.) They genuinely feel they are doing the right thing. They think they are helping, but conversion therapy doesn’t help and in fact, can and does still cause significant harm.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

For the well-meaning folks, who believe in “hating the sin and not the sinner,” I just want to say this: I’m not trying to attack you or limit your faith. But from a fellow Christian, and a queer one at that, this take is still hurting people and we need to acknowledge this. Then we can enact truly positive change.

Sadly, this doctrine of “tolerance but not really” further reinforces self-hatred in the name of love. It reinforces distress that shouldn’t be there in the first place, and is not justifiable with any of Jesus’ teachings. 

We are called to love our neighbour and consider the fruit we bear, but if the fruit we produce leads to trauma, self-loathing and even suicide, we can’t dig our heels in with, “But the Bible says…”. There is no Biblical justification for the torture we as a community have, and continue to, put LGBTQ+ people through.  Who are we as Christians to tear two adults in love away from each other and condemn them to a life of misery?

Breaking Up with Toxic Doctrine

The truth of the matter is that Leviticus, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians, and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah were about sexual violence and abuse of power. 

We are using the Bible as a weapon when it was never meant to be. The Bible is a rich, historical document full of context to be learned, as well as a religious text. Literalism is killing people and if we want to try to be more Christ-like, we need to focus on what Christ was about: love. 

Now, there is a shift towards churches becoming LGBTQ+ affirming and progressives, both clergy and parishioner, are leading the way through thorough research of doctrine. However, it goes without saying that there is backlash against this. So while we are making positive baby steps, we’ve still got a long way to go. 

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

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[Guest Post] Kink in Context by Quenby

It’s time for another guest post and I’m delighted to be bring you another piece from Quenby (they/them) who has written for me before and always has such great things to say. Today, they’re exploring the limits of “your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay.”

Remember: you can always chip in via the tip jar to help me keep commissioning awesome guest writers.

Amy x

Kink in Context by Quenby

“Your Kink Is Not My Kink, And That’s Okay.” This concept has become an article of faith within the kink community, a rallying cry of mutual acceptance. And I think the basic idea behind it – that we shouldn’t shame people simply because they have kinks we don’t – is sound. But it’s often used to shut down any criticism of people within the kink community. And that is a dangerous situation in any community, and particularly for marginalised people within that group.

Kink is a distinct subculture, with its own behavioural norms and distinct culture. But any subculture exists within the context of the wider culture it’s embedded in, so it os not isolated from the issues which affect the dominant culture[*]. So kinks are connected to mainstream culture, they often play with the idea of taboo (i.e. relating to social norms by violating them). And that means we need to think about how our kinks can reinforce the existing problems in our culture.

This isn’t exactly a new idea. There are countless pieces out there discussing whether you can be a submissive and a feminist (spoiler alert, yes you can). Last year the iconic Sinclair Sexsmith wrote about the issues of Master-slave dynamics in a world where racism and slavery are very real issues. 

Personally, it’s feminisation which hits the hardest. Seeing a cis man feminised as a way to humiliate him hits a little too close to home. At its worst, it feels like this reproduces trans trauma for the entertainment of people who will never actually have to live with this. Yet I know several people who worked out they were trans through this kink. And when it’s done by trans people to reclaim power over their trauma, it’s a very different situation.

This piece mostly deals with these questions in the abstract, so what does this look like in a practical sense? Let’s take a relatively simple example, I really love it when a partner refers to me as a filthy slut. Part of the reason that’s hot to me is the taboo, the way it degrades me for violating the social norm of “you shouldn’t be slutty”. But if you’re not careful, using this language in a kink context can normalise using it more broadly, and reinforce the slutshaming within our society.

There’s a conversation connected to this around reclaiming language (for example, The Ethical Slut reframes the word “slut” as something which isn’t inherently negative,) but a big part of this is how we behave outside of kink. I would never allow someone to call me a slut in a kink context if they also used it as a derogatory term in real life, and for me that’s an important distinction to make.

I don’t have all the solutions here. There aren’t simple answers of “this kink is wrong”, or “you have to engage in kink in this particular way”. How to engage with a culture without reproducing its harmful elements is a very complex question. But I’m pretty sure that the answer isn’t to simply ignore how kink can reinforce and normalise real social issues, or excuse the harm this can do to real people for fear of kink shaming. 

Perhaps all I can ask is for people to think about what they’re doing. To look at the kinks they engage with and consider how these relate to the real world – the privileges they possess within this context and the unintended consequences on people around them. It’s not easy. In the “filthy slut” example alone, I found so much to unpack from three simple syllables. Thinking about how this applies to the intricacy of different kinks is a daunting task. But these are questions we need to be asking.

Bias, privilege, and marginalisation are built into our society, as a part of that society each of us carries these problems within us. This is not done equally, some of us try to address internalised biases while others embrace them. But we are all, on some level, part of the problem. And we all need to be part of the solution.

[*] The mainstream culture which dominates society, not the culture of Doms

Quenby is a queer perfomer, writer, and activist. If you liked this post you can check out their blog, or follow them on FB and Twitter @QuenbyCreatives.

[Guest Post] Using Gender-Neutral Language Isn’t Enough

Today’s guest post comes from Shannon Burton (they/she) who I met through the Smutlancers community. They’re a brilliantly talented writer and I’m thrilled to be publishing them on C&K for the first time, talking about gender-neutral language and how to use it.

It’s important to note that though this article uses one specific example of problematic language as its jumping-off point, it’s not about attacking or critiquing an individual. This is stuff that virtually all cis people – including me! – could do better with. I learned a huge amount from this and I’m sure you will, too.

They’ve helpfully included some working definitions for those of you who are new to these concepts, so I’ll include those first and then we’ll dive into the article.

Amy x

Definitions

Cis/cisgender: when someone’s gender identity matches their assigned sex at birth

Trans/transgender: when someone’s gender identity is different than their assigned sex at birth

Genderqueer/nonbinary: when someone’s gender identity falls outside the categories of man and woman

Intersex: when someone’s sex characteristics such as chromosomes, hormones, gonads, or genitals don’t fit neatly into typical definitions of male or female sex. Being intersex does not determine a person’s gender identity.

Vulva-owner: person with a vulva (generally including the mons pubis, labia majora and minora, clitoris, and vaginal opening.) Being a vulva owner does not determine a person’s gender identity.

Penis-owner: person with a penis (generally including glans, shaft, and foreskin.) Being a penis owner does not determine a person’s gender identity.

Using Gender-Neutral Language Isn’t Enough by Shannon Burton

Sometimes, even our best intentions fall short.

Such was the situation in the very first lesson of Dr. Emily Morse’s “Sex and Communication” Masterclass.

“I want this class to include everyone,” the Sex With Emily podcast host begins promisingly. “So instead of hearing me say woman, I’m gonna say vulva-owner or vulva, and instead of man, I’m gonna say penis-owner or penis.”

Arrrrgggg!

This is a perfect example of trying to be inclusive of trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary people and falling short. Our bodies do not always indicate our gender. Yet, this statement still implies that women are vulva-owners and men are penis-owners. It also implies that being inclusive is just a matter of swapping out gendered words (woman, man) for neutral, body-based ones and then—hurray!—our work here is done.

But not every man has a penis, and not every woman has a vulva. While this body-centered language helps when giving sex advice and talking about bodies without assuming gender, this introduction unfortunately undoes its own intent.

Without that statement, the rest of the course is pretty gender inclusive. Dr. Morse uses body-centered language throughout the lessons (slipping up just once), so that vulva-owners and penis-owners of all genders can tune in to relevant information about themselves and/or their partners. That introduction, though, leaves viewers free to mentally substitute gendered terms when they hear the gender-neutral ones, maintaining the status quo that marginalizes trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary people.

What could Dr. Morse have done differently? What can those of us who are trying to be more inclusive in our work and day-to-day life do to be better at keeping up with and using terms correctly, especially when it feels like they’re constantly changing?

The first step is to get in our own heads about gender.

Decoupling Body from Gender

Body-centered language (like penis-owner and vulva-owner) is becoming more common in some contexts, and for good reason. In reproductive health settings, for example, it’s important to know whether someone has a uterus or testes. Asking whether someone is a woman, man, or other gender identity can’t tell you that, since there are men with uteruses, women with testes, nonbinary and genderqueer people with either, and intersex people of all gender identities.

In other contexts, however, body-centered language isn’t always necessary. For example, when discussing social issues that disproportionately affect different genders, it’s appropriate to use those gendered terms. (i.e. “Women tend to make less money than men for the same work,” “Men are more likely than women to develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol,” or “Trans people experience higher rates of sexual assault than cis women and men.”) Our socially-constructed gender identities are a major part of these social problems, so using those terms makes sense.

When it comes to talking about sex, things can get messy (no surprise there!) Sex is socially stigmatized, and people of different gender identities experience different pressures as a result. Meanwhile, sex educators and businesses aim to provide helpful advice and knowledge that often involves talking very specifically about people’s most intimate body parts. 

This requires ongoing work on our part to decouple bodies from gender in our own heads, while still considering how those things interact. That’s going to look different for everyone, but one place I like to start with cisgender friends is to ask a question you may have already asked yourself, seriously or not:

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and your body’s sex characteristics had changed?

In this thought exercise, you’d still be you… but your body hair, chest, hips, and genitals would be different, and perhaps your voice, too. If you currently have a penis and testicles, you might now have a vagina, uterus, and ovaries, and vice versa.

When I first explored this question with friends in high school, our answers predictably ranged from “freak out” to “find someone to go down on me.” Go ahead, have fun with the thought exercise yourself. Think of all the things you’d do with a different appearance and new sex organs. Then, really sit with it. What would happen if you woke up with the new body day after day, week after week? What if you’d have it for the rest of your life?

For most cisgender people, I think this would be very distressing. They’d know, to their core, that they are a “woman trapped in a man’s body,” or vice versa. The body would not feel like their own, and they might seek to change it with hormone therapy and/or surgery, if they had access to that and could afford it. They’d resent being treated as a gender not their own in day-to-day interactions, and told their gender identity is wrong when they correct people.

This is often the trans experience: one’s body does not reflect the gender one knows deeply to be true. (Please note, however, that despite this not all trans people desire hormone therapy or surgery.)

When you begin to understand how your gender identity is separate from the body you possess, you begin to understand why saying something like “instead of women I’ll say vulva-owners” is well-intentioned but still problematic. Not everyone who knows in their heart that they are a woman has a vulva.

What Sex Educators and Businesses Can Do

How could Dr. Emily Morse have done better? An improved introduction might look like this:

“I want this class to include everyone, so instead of giving advice based on gender, I’m going to focus on the parts of the body many of us use during sex. You’ll hear body-centered language like penis-owner and vulva-owner to help indicate which information is most relevant to you and your partners.”

Sex educators and sex-related business owners can learn about and use better language by consulting with gender-aware writers and editors for their content. They can also commit to further educating themselves by seeking out trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary authors, bloggers, podcasters, and educators. They can read, watch, and listen to what these people are sharing to build a better understanding of how different people experience gender.

Most importantly, they shouldn’t stop here. I am but one nonbinary person and this post is a very limited introduction to thinking about gender and language. Check out resources like this guide for writing about transgender people, which is constantly being updated, and the Trans Journalists Association style guide.

Our understanding of gender is constantly changing. The language and ideas I’ve used in this post may be problematic without me realizing it, or may be outdated just a year or two from now—and that’s okay. I trust my fellow trans, nonbinary, and genderqueer comrades to hold me accountable and offer better alternatives, and you should, too. Be okay with making mistakes.

There are way more unanswered questions about gender out there than answered ones, so doing better at being inclusive is a life-long learning journey. Accepting that is a huge first step to being part of a safer world for people of all gender identities, and it’s worth taking.

About the Author

Picture of Shannon Burton, guest blogger writing about gender-neutral language

Shannon (they/she) is a sex coach and content writer residing in New Orleans. You can find them at SexCoachShannon.com or on Twitter @SexCoachShannon.

Remember: you can help me pay more guest bloggers (and pay guest bloggers more!) by donating via the tip jar.