[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.

[Guest Post] Happy Never After by Velvet Divine

Velvet Divine (fae/faer) is becoming something of a C&K regular at this point! I’m delighted to welcome faer back again with this wonderful person piece about being on the aromantic spectrum. Don’t forget to follow Velvet on Twitter!

Happy Never After by Velvet Divine

It’s fitting that I compose this piece as Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week comes to a close.

Let’s start from the top – my name is Velvet Alicia Lilith-Victoria Azshara Divine. I am trans-femme, non-binary, Sapphic, and – most recently discovered – aroflux.

Aroflux falls under the aromantic spectrum and is described as fluctuating between points of aromanticism (not experiencing romantic attraction) and alloromanticism (experiencing romantic attraction.)

I describe my particular experience as an inability to distinguish between romantic and strong platonic affection. I love my partners in the same manner that I do my closest friends, the only real difference comes in the manner that those affections are expressed and reciprocated.

This can also make something as simple as a crush or casual interest wildly frustrating as I’m never sure if I want to friend-up or bone-down, much less where the other party stands! Furthermore, it’s quite a hurdle to forming any semblance of a relationship or consistent companionship, at least on any level north of the platonic.

Alloromantic folks are (understandably) reticent about getting involved with someone on the aro spectrum and for those that I have been involved with, it was always understood to be an ephemeral arrangement, lasting just until the fire faded or they found an alloromantic partner.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve embraced being aroflux as easily and even enthusiastically as I have being non-binary, but that would be a fib of the highest order.

Most days I resent the realization.

As someone who has a voracious craving for physical intimacy and relies on sexual intimacy to find validation despite vicious gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia, it’s a cruel joke to only find those things in incredibly niche circumstances.

In no way do I want to imply that physical or sexual intimacy is necessary for a whole and fulfilling life or relationship, but these are aspects of intimacy that are important to me. Moreover, by niche circumstances, I refer to the already small dating pool as a trans femme Sapphic being further shrunken by those willing to engage in the necessary level of communication and understanding to navigate the caveats of my being aroflux.

Ironically enough, I’ve been essentially navigating the hookup and casual sex scenes as an aroflux person, just without the label. My various trysts and liaisons were short-term or consented to end at a set point – whether I felt I had too much going on to try to establish a relationship or the other party found a partner more suitable. At points, I even thought it was simply a matter of working through my baggage and trauma before I would be able to connect with someone on that level.

As my therapy progressed and under the copious amount of self-reflection required to cope with the current pandemic, I had the opportunity to do a lot of self-reflection and evaluation of what it is that I truly want out of an interpersonal relationship. This is when I began to realize just how little difference there was in my interactions and expressions of affection between my intimate partners and my close platonic friends. Often, the difference was only a matter of physical or sexual intimacy.

There’s an incredible beauty to the way I approach relationships and I’m endlessly bemused by the fae-like, casual contracts I have with certain connections regarding the comfortable ways we can exchange affection and the term limits that dictate until when that mode of affection may continue. But now and then I feel almost cheated.

I have a lot of trauma surrounding attachment and abandonment, to the point that I will frequently check in with people I’m close to just to ensure that my company is still desired in some capacity. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve expressed some version of the sentiment, “I don’t care in what capacity, I just want to be a part of your journey”. Up until recently, I had always held out hope for that fairytale type romance, whether that came in the form of one partner or many – the type of love my mother has told me my entire life does not exist and that society all too often tries to tell me that I’m not worthy of.

Now, by some caprice of fate, the door to a classic happily-ever-after is closed to me. 

I know that romantic love is far from the end-all-be-all, and maybe my current frustrations stem from a place of internalized arophobia and conditioned amatonormativity, but I find that I no longer have any clear picture or idea of what a possible physically intimate relationship would look like for me. A dear friend of mine recently asked me what the ideal scenario would look like for me and I said that the most plausible scenarios would be some kind of non-monogamous situation or some kind of queerplatonic arrangement with another allosexual aromantic person in a similar position. 

I could carry on as I have and see for how long this revolving door method is sustainable, but I’m tired of having to get close to people who will not be staying or being a placeholder until a better alternative appears. I could come to terms with the fact that what I want is unattainable and that it’d be better in the long run for me to get used to filling those needs with toys or vicariously through ethical and worker-owned media, but I can’t imagine either filling the gnawing void. Maybe nothing ever will. Which would track for me.

None of this to say that I don’t receive an overwhelming amount of love and support from my friends, I do, and I’m beyond grateful for it. However, there are things that my platonic friends cannot do for me, one of them being to commiserate with me on this topic. As far as I know, none of my friends are aro, and the few aros that I have met are aro-ace. So while there’s plenty of solidarity and support to be had around being aspec in an allo world, I don’t have anyone to relate to my specific situation.

I’m allowing myself the time and space to mourn the model and vision I had for myself as far as relationships go, even deleting my dating apps and taking myself off the proverbial goblin market while I work through some issues that continue to impact my interpersonal relations.

I hope that with time, I’ll learn to like and appreciate being aroflux for what it is. But until then I’m choosing to give myself grace for once and let the process play out.

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] Is All Sex Transactional? By Anaene Achinu

Today’s guest post comes from Anaene Achinu (she/her) who has written for Coffee & Kink once before. I’m thrilled to be hosting her words here again! Today she’s talking about transactional sex and the ways in which it can be problematic.

Amy x

Is All Sex Transactional? The Danger of Implied Terms in Sex

Very few things in life come ex gratia. Our basic needs – food, clothes and shelter – nearly always come at a price, regardless of the century, geographical location or culture you live in.

The world laughs at those who think life is a fruit tree, waiting to be plucked without a fee. The blurrier the transaction, the harder it is to get the best from it. This is why we have contracts, verbal agreements, implied terms and conditions, and so on.

When we fulfil our end of a bargain, we act in good faith, an interesting combination of hope and entitlement because, despite our finest attempts, the other party can still back out at the last minute.

Heterosexual sex is quite the phenomenon. Here we have two people, a man and a woman, in a position where they are to “consummate” their attraction to each other. However, in my experience, the bedroom tends to be more of a negotiation room. We are not inches away from the finish line, no, this is the climax.

Regardless of the physical stimulation experienced by both parties, society has never really considered sex to be anything more than an inconvenience for women, even when they proclaim otherwise. Pornography often teaches us that sex is a performance, a place where sex is acted upon a woman, a mere object and recipient to the erect pleasure of a man.

Even the LGBTQ section, especially lesbian content, is targeted for men; a virtual enactment of their fantasies. It is no wonder women, even the most libidinous, rarely have the luxury of seeing it from an uncomplicatedly carnal point of view. There is an imbalance somewhere.

The politics of sex shows us that sex is rarely solely about penetration. It is viewed as a prize awarded to the man for his efforts, his swaying and wooing and spending. In the case where a woman pursues it, it is empowering, flipping the script, asserting sexual autonomy, maybe even just an itch to scratch. Even when it is the other way around, the fact remains that sex is often viewed as trade-by-barter, a physical expression of a social, financial and at times emotional exchange.

I grew up with strong religious convictions, praying to the biblical God to wipe me clean, to rid me of my sex dreams, to aid me in my pursuit of sexual purity until marriage. And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for a childhood acquaintance five years ago.

Suddenly, the concept of lust, a sin I was told to flee from, felt like a cruel joke, something only a wicked person would say. I did not go all the way with him, because my virginity was a badge of honor back then, but I had tasted the forbidden fruit.

Of course, this was not a purely sexual arrangement. He had to wine me, dine me. Text me every other minute. Send a meme. Compliment me, unprovoked. Give and take. He gave me his time, his ideas, his encouragement. I gave him my body. And although pleasurable to the both of us, it was clear who was the one in control. No malice, no dark undertone intended.

When you receive, be it gifts or sex or something else entirely, without stating your desires before, during or even after, you will lick the crumbs and say thank you. It was not a coincidence that as soon as we started making out regularly, the other perks evaporated. No more movie nights, no more open mics. The compliments still came, but mostly as a result of the acts I performed, or my reception of his skills.

Is that a bad thing?

It could be.

Financial, emotional, or social vulnerability can disrupt the germination of a mutually beneficial relationship. He pays for all of the meals, you love him more than you love yourself. Your biological clock is ticking. You have too much at stake. Exploitation sets in. It can be subtle or it can be overpowering, but it is bound to happen.

For a long time, I assumed that by acting in good faith, by holding up your end of the deal, the other party would do their own share of the work, and we would all live happily ever after. Oh, the joys of naive intelligence, where you are incapable of seeing past the logic of “doing the right thing”.

Then I met him. A man in a long-distance marriage who thought I was remarkable, who couldn’t get enough of me. The relationship had been blurry from the start, arising from a mentor/mentee relationship to surface level parental-style guidance, culminating in an expression of latent sexual feelings for a young, fresh girl with a sharp mouth not saddled down by marriage and children and a competitive career.

To an extent, we were kindred spirits. I was who he would have been if he had not given in to the conventions of a nuclear family. I was unattached, no obligations, no raison d’etre other than to simply be. He was an embodiment of rags to riches, a walking parable of the looming fear of tasting all too familiar poverty once again.

He worked hard, although he was looking for ways to work smart. Meeting him in that hotel room was an act of curiosity, digging into what it really means when sex is a weapon of mass destruction. Bottom power. And it worked, when I did not demand much. The potency dwindled when I started asking for things outright. Suddenly, our text messages were filled with excuses.

But that’s not all. As I demanded more, he demanded I earned it by risking my safety, proposing all sorts of adventures, looking for adrenaline.

The ultimate was when he asked me to come to his family home, posing as an employee. It baffled me, the audacity. What can one say? Tit for tat. I will acknowledge that at the time, I was unemployed, flat out broke, financially vulnerable, all known to him. Yet, he had every intention to make me work for it, to the detriment of my personhood.

At first, I left the affair wounded. Had I been in love with him, or wanted something more from him besides the clandestine meetings or intellectual sparrings, perhaps one could have questioned my lucidity. But the terms and conditions were implied.

I present to you my youth, my freedom, my body. You buy the meals, the experiences, the gadgets. The obvious disparity in age, class and pedigree. You pay in part and in full. However, the other party in this contract showed that he was not in it for the long haul, so I dissolved the contract.

We live in a world where no matter the role you play, as a woman you take the heat for it. You owe it to yourself to be explicit in your wants and needs, to take control of whatever capacity you can, regardless of the nature of the sexual relationship.

Most women learn this with time and age. But we must document these things. Archiving our experiences will prevent a lot of unnecessary trauma in the future. It is an honor to discuss this, however morally questionable to some. I continuously look forward to the possibilities, of a life where women are confident, where they have less to lose, and ultimately, where the scale is balanced.

Anaene Achinu is a New York based writer.

[Guest Post] How I Accidentally Brought Out the Kink in My Vanilla Partner by Erato Feistein

Today’s guest post is from a new-to-C&K writer, Erato Feistein (she/her.) I love this piece because I’ve always dated other already-kinky people, so a story about introducing kink to a previously-vanilla partner is quite a different story! What I love about this piece is that it didn’t require the relationship to get to crisis point before kink was introduced to “save” it, and no-one cheated or did anything shitty. It’s a lovely example of how communication, honesty, and vulnerability can take a relationship from great to amazing.

I’ll hand you over to Erato. And if you want to write for me, check out the pitch guidelines.

Amy x

How I Accidentally Brought Out the Kink in My Vanilla Partner by Erato Feistein

Whenever I begin exploring sex with a new person, I am always nervous to go all-out with my desires. I wonder if my partner will be able to accept my sexual desires. I be perceived as “freaky” or “sex-crazed”? How do I introduce my kinks to them and will they receive them with an open mind? 

Kink shaming is very real, especially in countries where sex education is not valued. As a child in Eastern Europe, my only conversation about sex included my aunt demonstrating how to properly put on a condom using a desk reading lamp. I had never heard girls or women openly talk about sexual pleasure until I was in my 20s. A friend of mine, left wanting more from her partner, asked me “Will he always be this vanilla? When does it get spicy?” 

It takes a level of trust to confide your sexy secrets to your new partner. Sometimes, your kinks don’t match up with theirs. It can be hard to find romantic partners who share our ideas of great sex. But chances are, your partner(s) are aching to please you. It’s just a matter of open communication. 

When I started dating my current boyfriend a year ago, we didn’t talk about our sex life. I had accepted our conventional coitus and didn’t bring up anything that could be considered a “deviation” from it. He seemed to be enjoying it, so I didn’t want to disappoint him by voicing that I needed more. I didn’t bring it up for a couple of months, until I decided to weave in some kink references into our conversations to see what kind of reaction I would get out of him. 

Almost as a joke, I suggested that we take the BDSM test as an informal reference point for our preferences. While my results were a colourful mix of masochist, rope bunny, experimentalist and switch, his results came out as mostly vanilla. 

As we are in a monogamous relationship, finding sexual pleasure elsewhere was out of the question. So we sat down to have the anticipated conversation about how we can both be sexually satisfied, without overstepping each other’s boundaries. This got us talking about our desires, fantasies, and favorites in sex. To my pleasant surprise, he was really interested in the things that turned me on, even if those included rope play, for example – something he had never tried before. We talked over the things we would never do (hard limits) and set up clear parameters for the things we were willing to try together. 

Honestly, I was not expecting this conversation to go so smoothly and for him to be so open to exploring new things for us to try. So far so good. But was he actually willing to do those things, or was he just fascinated by the variety of kinks and fetishes that exist? Well, let’s just say that the next time we had sex he tied up my wrists and ankles with my satin scarves and even choked me a little bit! The next time, he poured hot candle wax on me. I would say it was significantly less vanilla than our usual sex play. 

I recognized my partner’s efforts to adhere to my sexual desires and that in itself was a huge turn-on. Since he was actively trying to understand my wants and needs, I made sure to check in with him and ask him if it was something enjoyable for him, too. I worried if he was going too far out of his comfort zone to please me without finding pleasure for himself. Many of the things we were trying out were brand new to him. 

When I asked how he felt about the kinks we had incorporated, he told me he was actually surprised how much he liked it! 

In our daily lives, I am certainly the more dominant one – very outspoken and sometimes a bit controlling. As he tends to be more laid-back and reserved in his day-to-day, he said exploring dominance and kink in our sex life has been refreshing for him. It is a space where he can safely delve into another version of himself. Being dominated and degraded tends to have the same effect for me – I can release the need to control the situation and allow myself to be vulnerable under someone else’s authority. In a way, this power shift teaches both of us about the spectrum of our emotions and characters. 

So it turns out, my partner is not so vanilla after all. We just needed some open communication to build that level trust in our relationship to experiment sexually. Our conversations and ventures into kink have opened up a whole new world of ideas in our relationship. We have both found new things that turn us on and work for us. 

While I realize this is certainly not the case for every sexual partnership, educating each other and talking openly about our wants and needs in sex opened up my partner to the world of kink, which has definitely been a positive shift in both our sex life and our relationship. 

About the Author

Author pic for Erato Feistein

Erato Feistein is a freelance writer, photographer and digital marketer in the daytime. At night, she comes alive with the desire to share her erotic tales with the world. While she is new to the field of sex writing, she hopes to share her personal experiences with other open-minded people and, in turn, both teach and learn a thing or two about kink and sex. Outside of her daily digital life, she loves to climb cliffs (preferably with rope), experiment in the kitchen, and go on long, romantic walks on the beach with her dog, Ella.

[Guest Post] How I Found My Femininity Through Inflation by Astra Ebonwing

I commissioned this piece way back in November, and I’m so excited to be sharing it with you as the first guest post of 2021. When Astra (she/her) pitched me this idea, I was immediately excited because it represented an opportunity to learn about a kink with which I’m almost entirely unfamiliar.

But this piece is much more than just a story about an unusual kink. It’s also a powerfully personal tale of transition, growing into an identity, and falling in love with femininity.

This is quite a long one, but so fascinating. I invite you to grab a mug of something and savour it.

As always, if you want to help me keep bringing awesome guest bloggers to you, supporting via the tip jar is the best way to do that!

Amy x

How I Found My Femininity Through Inflation by Astra Ebonwing

Transition is a Frightening Experience

I remember the day I got my first prescription for estrogen and spironolactone, the two main drugs used to transition from male to female. My doctor was in a flurry, writing medical notes that were complete bullshit.

“Your heart rate is too high and you need spironolactone to calm it. And then, an application of estrogen will ensure it does not drop too low,” she said to me as she was writing. “Yes, I’m making all of this up so your insurance doesn’t reject the request.”

When I told her my insurance actually did cover the drugs, she was flabbergasted. Very few types of insurance cover transition willingly. In 2007, there were even less options than there are today. She corrected the notes, still worried, but one hour later I walked out of the pharmacy with pills in hand. I was triumphant, but I knew I was about to follow a path of hardship. I’d have to be in public in women’s clothing. I had to master makeup, something I still struggled with at the time. I also had to walk through “the in-between,” that period of time where you look like a weird blob that doesn’t quite match to male or female clothes. The time when you wonder, “Do I look good enough to sit in the women’s bathroom and not scare the hell out of someone?”

I drove home with all of these thoughts in my head, took my first dose, and then grabbed the balloons out from under my bed. I stuck them in my bra, shoved my pillow under my clothing to puff up my stomach, and I snuggled up on my couch and turned on the TV.

In a flash, I went from a thin man to a maternal, very pregnant woman. I cherished my stomach, oversized breasts, and hips. I no longer felt frightened or scared. Every concern in my mind stopped.

This was me. This was who I was.

I closed my eyes and cried. I knew I had found the Goddess within myself. I used to fear my balloons and out-of-proportion self as much as I loved them. I felt like an outsider who had this weird passion of being in a very specific body that I didn’t think others would understand. I was scared someone would find out and that it would ruin my professional career.

But in that moment, I finally accepted myself. The look no longer felt like I was doing something dirty. I realized during that quiet time in my apartment that I was actually about to experience my own kink.

Parts of me were actually about to inflate – and inflate they did.

What IS Inflation Kink?

Look, I get that we’re not the largest or most well-known group of kinksters, so I thought I’d better include a section of explanation so everyone is on the same page with what this kink is and what it is not. We have, unfortunately, a lot of unique terms.

Inflation kink, otherwise known as expansion, is a sexual desire focused on the concept of “inflating” or growing parts of your body in some way. Expansion is an umbrella term for our kink, as it splits down into specific “shapes” of change in the body. “Full Body” is when a character becomes completely round like a balloon, “Hyper Hourglass” is an expansion of just the hips and breasts, “Hyper Preg” focuses on breasts and belly, “SSBBW” is short for “super-sized big beautiful woman” and you can easily guess what that is, “Weight Gain” focuses on literal weight gain, and finally, “Inflatables” are folks who want to be changed into big pool toys that are also, of course, inflated with air or a gas.

The growth always has a macguffin that works as a trigger for the scene. It could be as simple as a potion, a curse, or a piece of candy, or as complicated as a special machine or magical statue. At this point we introduce the medium, or the way the character is being changed. We can either grow naturally, where our bodies are just generating fat deposits like any normal growth, or be “inflated” (there’s the origin of the name) with gas, liquid, slime, etc. Different folks have different preferences for mediums. One may love the concept of a character floating in the air from taking too much helium, while another may enjoy the weight of water.

Scenes can be solo, where a participant chooses to change their own body, or between an inflator/inflatee, where one person causes the change and the other accepts it. This is the part that most kinky people will begin to understand: the power dynamics between inflator and inflatee. Inflator usually takes on the role of the Dominant, while the inflatee is usually the submissive. It doesn’t always work like that, of course, but that’s the most common dynamic.

Instead of restraints, like ropes or bondage equipment, we are our own restraint. By changing our bodies, we usually don’t move so well. Characters might get stuck in doors, rip out of clothing, squish into rooms that are simply too small, or the addition of gas or liquid in our limbs might keep us from bending. Of course, bondage can easily be added to our kink, so people are stuck not just due to the inflation, but also restrained by rope, cuffs, or other bondage equipment. While we can deal with pain in the kink, it’s usually overlooked and replaced by intense pleasure through change. Instead, many of us focus on internal pressure. 

Everyone has a limit to how much they can be filled, and the character will feel that pressure rising and rising. The symbolism here is obvious: it’s a visual and internal orgasm. The timing of the final rush is usually centered on where the character finds their limit. Here we have two branching choices: stay safe in which the character orgasms and stops their growth, or pop where the character orgasms and “explodes” simultaneously. Many inflationist characters simply reform in some way, back down to their original size, and are ready to ride again.

Many of our pieces feature otherworldly elements, from fantasy to sci-fi. Very rarely are we grounded in reality: Our kink simply can’t function without the suspension of disbelief.

Practicing our kink in real life is done through various pieces of prop work, which we call rigs. Injecting fluid or gas into your body via any means is extremely dangerous, and therefore many of us stay away from that. Instead, the rig is created with multiple pieces of clothing layered together with a balloon or inflatable underneath. Some folks have the money to go further, using transgender silicone skin tops or bottoms so it looks like a person is actually inflating and can be nude. Otherwise, we’re clothed or use props that match skin tone.

Inflation is Based in Nature and Instinct

There are a lot of transgender inflationists. And I mean a LOT. In helping run SizeCon, the only adult convention dedicated to our niche kink, I was surrounded by more transgender women than I ever had been in my life.

Yet is any of that surprising? Our kink is based in change and transition. Inflation can be about the end state, sure, but so many of our stories and thoughts focus on the process. The tightness of the clothing as it strains around the person, seams popping, characters falling on their rears due to their inflation – all of that is visual change.

We, as transgender people, change. This kink is in many way a reflection of what many of us experience in our lives. And you may have noticed a lot of my recollections focus on feminine physical assets over male-coded assets. This is what I believe the core of my kink comes from. It is, in many ways, the celebration of femininity or maternity. Our puberty and our hormones change our bodies, grow our breasts, add that soft layer of fat to cushion us for a future of maybe producing a child.

It was wild for me to watch my chest grow, feel my skin get softer, and squeeze my growing rear into my skinny jeans. It was everything I had practiced in my kink for years and years, and it was legitimately happening to me.

Inflation kinksters love all shapes and sizes. Your body, no matter the form it takes, is beautiful. I remember that feeling of societal pressure to be that “perfect woman,” as so many transgender women feel, but I was able to apply my kink to dilute that poison. I was happy with how I looked, be it a large pregnant woman or a small, pencil-ish nerd. I had the power to tell society to screw off because that was not what I wanted. This supermodel image was, and still is, not my desire.

For Love, Cuddles, and Science

When I returned to the inflation kink in the hellish year of 2020, the community had changed. Originally, when I admitted to other artists and writers that I was transgender, traffic to my stuff super slowed down. Back in the early 2000s, our kink was like 90-95% male. Upon returning to our community last year, the split had severely changed. We are now closer to 60% male and 40% female, and we are immersed between the LGBTQIA+ and Furry communities. We went from “I don’t understand a transgender experience” to “Psh, welcome to the club.”

Body positivity had flourished while I was gone. It made perfect sense for us. We’re bouncy, a little hyperactive, and ready to squish into someone. Size only mattered if the word was “bigger.” We also finally united with the Giant and Tiny (think Lilliputian) kinks, forming the new “size community.”

The people whom I have met and worked with this year have astounded me. Their artistry and understanding of proportion and perspective is deep. One of my artist friends told me, “You can’t do inflation unless you understand our basic proportions.” He’s right. You need to know the basics before you can take them to extremes.

My friends are doctors, lawyers, retail workers, white-collar professionals like myself, cooks, game designers, research scientists, psychologists… So many of us just spout amazing knowledge of our basic biology. The community even has a scientific inside joke: the infamous Square Cube Law. The larger your volume, the more difficult you are to cool. Elephants actually have this problem: they are so large that their internal temperature can dangerously rise. This is why they blow water out of their trunks onto their bodies frequently, or roll in dirt. So, if you applied that to a giantess or an inflationist… well it can’t work. We damn this scientific law with laughter. Our community loves our knowledge of ourselves.

The personas we emulate are at the core of who we are. Care-free, loving individuals who love to squish or be squish hugged by our friends. Our characters hold devious smiles and throw their worries and cares to the wind. We love to change.

I know I loved my change. My emotions emerged, my depression subsided, and I am stuffed full of creativity. I joke that I’m “pregnant with ideas, I just gotta figure out birth.” Even that is an embrace of my internal feminine self. I never would have said that years ago. I would have been scared out of my mind to even admit that I felt like I was female.

Inflation showed me that I can love myself and be proud of my body. I don’t have to feel like I’m doing something wrong or bad, like I was trained to feel. My wife noticed it, actually. She always tells me, “You stand up straighter when you look bigger than 9 months. Your stance shifts. You’re confident.” She’s right. I finally do feel confident.

Throughout all of this, one thing stayed the same: our passion for feminine curves. I specifically never mentioned that back in 2006, when our community was male-dominated, a lot of the artists weren’t frightened of things like male pregnancy, or a man inflating and gaining feminine-coded traits like prominent breasts or soft skin. They were ready back then, just as they are now, to embrace that femininity within all of us.

We just have to be willing to listen to it.

About the Author

Astra Ebonwing is a professional writer, game designer, and video game producer. Her fiction work has been published in major video games such as Batman: Arkham City, F.E.A.R. Online, EVE Online, and others. She is honored to have contributed to iconic characters such as Wonder Woman and Superman. In the kink space, she is an inflation model and writer, with a new kink-based tabletop RPG debuting in 2021 called Wicked Wonders. When not inflating or playing a game, she can be found hugging cats, performing her duties as a Wiccan priestess, or joining live action role playing games throughout the United States. Follow her on Twitter and DeviantArt.

[Guest Post] 5 Questions to Ask Before You Open Your Marriage by Minda Lane

I’m thrilled to have another new-to-C&K writer for you today! Minda Lane (she/her) is telling us about what she learned when she first explored consensual non monogamy, and 5 questions you should consider asking yourself before you open your marriage. I found Minda’s story profoundly relatable. I hope it resonates with you, too – whether you’re polyam, monogamous, or somewhere in the middle.

5 Questions to Ask Before You Open Your Marriage by Minda Lane

The prospect of opening a monogamous marriage is, for many people, titillating. If you’re like I was, the potential is so thrilling you might not be thinking with your—ahem—brain. 

Before my husband, Jack, and I opened up, I thought about it privately for months. Marriage and family life had begun to feel too predictable. I started to feel desperate for a break from the routine, from the known. I wanted to feel young and vibrant like I once had, before I started storing Kleenexes in my shirtsleeves and worrying about things like health savings accounts and whether my kid was having too much screen time. 

When I brought up opening our marriage, the conversation went better than I hoped. We quickly ordered every related book we could find: Dating in Captivity by Esther Perel, The Ethical Slut by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton, and various others. But the information was too hypothetical. I needed to dip my toe in the pool before I could relate to what I was reading. 

We decided to go for it. Never mind wading in—sexting, playing with others nearby, or a soft swap (where no penetrative sex occurs.) Jack and I did a cannonball, dating independently, with condom use as our only hard and fast requirement. 

I’ll summarize our experience for you: it didn’t go well.    

To save you the trouble we went through, I’ve prepared a list of questions to consider before you try to open your marriage.

Do you still want to be with your partner?

Plenty of people have an affair because they lack the self-awareness, skill, or courage to tell their partner that they want out of the relationship. There are also plenty of people that seek to have an open relationship for the same reasons. 

You might think you’re sparing their feelings by avoiding the truth, or maybe you want to open your marriage to preserve your options because you’re not sure. Whatever your motives, it’s best to be forthcoming. Tell your partner how you’re feeling. Set them free. You’ll save time, spare yourselves a lot of drama, and maybe even preserve your friendship.

Are you and your partner mutually interested in opening?

It’s not uncommon for couples to disagree about opening up, or about the what’s “allowed” under their new agreements. Perhaps one partner wants to be able to have sex with other people but the other is only comfortable with light flirting or trading photos.

In this instance there are four potential outcomes, and two of them will be determined by the partner that wants more: they can either give up on their desire, or cheat. Or you can break up.

The only way forward together is to continue to talk and work at it. Reading and discussing the material or working with a therapist who is experienced with consensually nonmonogamous relationships are useful ways to ensure the conversation stays positive and productive. If there isn’t full agreement around the new arrangement, trying to open your marriage is going to cause a lot more problems than it can fix.

Have you done your own personal work? 

I had no idea until I started dating again that I had an insecure anxious attachment style, which I learned about in the book Attached, by Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A. Insecure anxious attachment is characterized by preoccupation with a love interest, insecurity, need for reassurance, and sometimes consuming worry.

You can imagine the problems that ensue from this dynamic, which I repeated over and over until I finally figured it out. If I’d had this awareness earlier, not to mention processing early childhood trauma to a greater extent, I would have saved myself and Jack a lot of heartache. 

Do you and your partner communicate well?

I always thought Jack and I had great communication. I talked a lot and he listened. What I didn’t realize is that he had a more passive style. His cues were more subtle. Instead of telling me outright something hurt his feelings, he showed it in a facial expression, or by withdrawing.

The first time I hit it off with a lover, I didn’t want to acknowledge that I sensed Jack was struggling with it, because it would have meant slowing down, and I didn’t want to spoil my fun. He did his best to endure the hard feelings and give me space, but it was costly to us both. We couldn’t address the issues that remained unnamed.  

What I know now is: unless you are willing to tell the compassionate truth and give grace to your partner as they share their desires and experience, it will be very difficult to proceed with the kind of transparency needed to prevent issues from cropping up later. 

Practice saying the hard truths before you open your marriage for real (I want you to touch me this way, sometimes I fantasize about so and so, I am afraid that…) and make space for one another’s experience. Consensual nonmonogamy has great potential to nourish your primary or anchor relationship and learning to communicate with more empathy and clarity is one way it can do that. 

Are you in it for the long haul?

Relationships, like people, change over time. New lovers or partners will likely come and go, and when they do, it can cause ripples in the original partnership. But it would be a mistake to reorient your existing relationship for an affair that may fizzle inside of three months. I learned this the hard way—Jack and I had considerable struggles over a connection I shared with a lover. When that relationship ended I was left with a sinking feeling of “what for?”

Ideally, when the inevitable waves of New Relationship Energy, fear, and envy come, you can ride the waves together, knowing that difficult emotions can exist without requiring action. Jealousy, frustration, sadness, grief… consensual nonmonogamy is likely to trigger a host of feelings between you. In those times you have to lean into the love, tenderness, humor, passion, and friendship that drew you together in the first place. Honor one another, be true to yourself, and remember that lust is fickle, but love is enduring.

About the author

Minda Lane is a freelance writer based in Seattle who has recently completed a memoir relating her experience of nonmonogamy. Follow her on Instagram @monogamishbook or @mynameisminda.

If you enjoyed this piece, supporting the blog via the Tip Jar helps me keep bringing in awesome guest writers to share their wisdom with you all!

[Guest Blog] Gay Yearning: A Transatlantic Journey by Anaene Achinu

Today’s incredible guest post is by Anaene (she/her), a new contributor to Coffee & Kink. I’m so honoured to be sharing her brilliant and important story with you all.

Amy x

Gay Yearning: A Transatlantic Journey by Anaene Achinu

Queerness is expensive in Nigeria. 

If you can afford it, you wear it quietly. Your sexuality winds up as gossip fodder, playful but on the verge of vicious. A rumor that floats around in the air. And it will remain so, as long as you are not too loud about it. The more money you have, the louder you can be. Simple economics. Unfortunately, most people cannot afford this luxury good of self expression. They have their own class of options, but here are the three main ones; repression, activism, or visa. Perform heterosexuality, fight for your basic human rights to the point of near death, or fly away, far away, far, far, away. 

Your choice. 

My coming out is a complex yet simple affair. Western media has not addressed my own process, except maybe Hulu Original’s Shrill, where Fran, a queer Nigerian American, is out to her parents, but not fully accepted. Although pleasing to the sight, it is not my or many others reality. This is not their responsibility, because this is a nice start, but what can we say? I have friends who are out on the Internet, out to their friends, but not to their nuclear family. We certainly are not there yet. Some of us are too busy trying to survive the many isms that plague us; sexism, racism, tribalism. Oh, don’t forget poverty [ism]. Haha. 

But enough of the “woe is me.” Let me tell you the story of a woman who discovered the softness of women in three different continents. 

Our journey starts in Nigeria, in the heat of repression. High school was a breeding ground for the exploration of raging hormones and budding sexual identities, but my nose was mostly too buried in the Word of God to notice that perhaps my affinity towards certain girls at school was more than fondness, but crushes. Infatuation. It was easy to not dig deep, because I am unfortunately also attracted to men; the ensuing heartbreak took up most of my time. I had a tendency to magnify any slight attraction someone of the opposite sex would feel towards me. It was a combination of the usual glorified validation a teenager lends to “Mars”, and “fitting in”; wishfully believing that you are more conventional than your unidentifiable but present yearnings for something more yet familiar. 

This pattern followed me to England, where I slowly allowed myself to dream outside of hetero conventions, thanks to my very straight best friend, who accepted me for who I was before I even had a clue. She was the one that made me realize that perhaps I was not interested in marriage or child-breeding, but I was interested in a companionship similar to ours; soft, simple and beautiful. It took some time for me to realize I could have this outside the walls of friendship; slowly, my world expanded, and the yearning became more defined. A poignant example of this happened during a house party, where, from afar, I fell in love with a masculine woman. I followed her with my eyes all night, weirdly excited, until I discovered with pure disappointment that this was a mere cis man. 

What a shame. What a shame.

(Un)fortunately, I was unable to physically explore this side of me, but I made up for it in Nigeria. Not in numbers, but in quality. Though I never fell in love with these women, I fell in love with femininity. I was finally becoming, whatever that means. The softness, the generosity, the similarities and differences. The security, even in the dizzying madness of discovery. 

I entered the Nigerian workforce with few to no illusions. My colleagues could “manage” my UK-contracted atheism, but not my sexuality. I was not ready for the possible fetishization, ostracism, or even the gradual reduction of financial opportunity. It was not worth it. I carefully picked those I could disclose myself to, because it is very hard to keep your truth to yourself, especially in the honeymoon stage of it, when you are post-Eureka but it is not well worn yet. 

Thankfully, I found solace in the nightlife scene, where body grinding was non-discriminate. However, I did not have what it took to fully step up to a woman, to ask her to dance, to initiate anything. I once fell in love with a girl with golden braids. I danced with men throughout the night, but I could not get her out of my mind. I told her she was beautiful. She thanked me, hugged me. We exchanged social media. Then, I found out she had a boyfriend. 

Shrugs. 

Now here I am, in America, still coming out. I come out on dating apps, where I meet interesting women. I am still wary of work colleagues knowing my sexuality, but those I tell do not bat an eyelid. I am not deceived by the illusion though; the homophobia is still palpable. I was once subjected to listening to a horrible homophobic conversation between two people who clearly had nothing better to say on a train. It was so triggering. No one was a direct target in that exchange, thank goodness, but it was a stark reminder that rainbow colors on advertisements, magazine spreads, etc. do not mean full acceptance; it is still paraphernalia. Maybe one can feel more comfortable when it is normal, not “celebrated”. I mean, it should be celebrated. But maybe in a “this is normal” way, not a “we are still fighting for the right to breathe in front of our parents” way. 

That’s a conversation for another time. 

I have had moments where I wanted to come out fully, like Lena Waithe did on Master of None. But my mother is not Angela Bassett. My grandmother’s hearing, unlike hers, is very sharp and Catholic. And although this partial freedom can be uncomfortable, although I yearn for more, I am content with what I have.

Anaene Achinu is a New York based writer.

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

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

Amy x

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

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

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

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

What’s the Big Deal?

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

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

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

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

When Your Life is a Lie

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

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

Can You Perform Sex Work and Be a Good Parent?

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

Over to Velvet.

– Amy x

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

“You’ll never pass as a woman.”

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

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

Some background:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sheer breadth and depth of their hypocrisy and cowardice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy x

Not All Whips and Chains by Violet Grey

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

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

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

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

Two of the most common misconceptions are: 

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

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

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

Kink without pain!?

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

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

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

Painless kink? Let me count the ways!

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

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

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

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

 On that note… 

No shame in soft kink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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