[Interview] Kayla Lords, Smutlancer Extraordinaire and Editor-in-Chief of The Big Fling

I used to joke that I would know I’d “made it” as a writer when I had a column. Well now I have one! (Though I’m not sure I actually feel I’ve “made it” after all.) My wonderful friend Kayla is now Editor in Chief of The Big Fling, “a community of writers using sex positivity and good info to fight toxic masculinity in dating, hookups, and relationships”. I pitched and was commissioned to write an article on polyamory earlier this year. Shortly after that, Kayla approached me and asked me to write a monthly column all about consensual non-monogamy in its many forms. I was only too happy to say “hell yes!” So when I started my most recent interview series, I was thrilled to chat to Kayla once again about her work at TBF and beyond.

A picture of Kayla Lords cuddling a big teddy bear

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

While I’ve been a sex blogger since 2012 and a kinky podcaster since 2015, I’ve worked with adult brands and companies for the past several years as well. These days I’m also the editor in chief of The Big Fling which means my job is content! In the beginning I wrote content, and now we’re able to invite writers to pitch their ideas and contribute to the website. My job is to work with writers, look over their pitches, ask questions and give feedback when appropriate, and publish good sex-positive writing.

So what’s this Big Fling all about and how did you come to be involved?

When I was approached about working with The Big Fling, they had big dreams. For years, they’ve been a site where (primarily) cishet guys go to learn about dating apps, phone chat lines, and chat sites for hookups. But an opportunity was being missed in the process — to help the people who visit the site have better, healthier experiences.

Not everyone wants to be in a long-term relationship, but the toxicity of interactions that some guys have is scary, and born from not enough good sex education. The Big Fling decided it wasn’t enough to point them in the direction of where to find a date or hookup, but to teach people how to do it all in a better, more sex-positive way. They reached out to me and asked me to write for them. Over several weeks, they began to share their larger vision with me, of becoming a community of writers, and I was excited to help them execute the plan.

How is The Big Fling different from other adult-oriented sites out there?

Having written for many different relationship, dating, and sexuality sites over the years, what I find to be different about The Big Fling is that we know we’re talking to guys who might only be thinking of the sex they want to have… but we do it in a way that speaks to them where they’re at and says, “You’re smart enough to know better, and here’s what you need to know to be better.”

We don’t assume our readers all want to get married or have long-term relationships, but we don’t assume they’re being led around by their penis (or other sexual organs) either. So instead of the “typical” cishet-oriented site that only shows mostly naked women or assumes they’re all out to hit-it-and-quit-it, we talk to them like we’d talk to our friends. We also never assume we know the sexuality, tastes, desires, or identity of anyone who lands on our site.  

What would you say is the main ethos of the site?

We want to combat toxic masculinity in the world of dating, sex, and relationships by letting the average cishet male reader know that their desires are okay, their feelings are okay, and that there’s another way to exist in the world beyond what society taught them. We know we can’t fix toxic masculinity on our own, but we can do our small part to build a more sex-positive world.

I love that! If authors want to get involved with writing for you, how do they do so?

Pitch me, but read over the guidelines first. As a writer, I know how hard it is to pitch, and not a lot of sites tell you what they want which is frustrating. Hopefully I’m the least intimidating editor you’ll ever meet, but I also expect writers to read and follow the guidelines given. So do that, then pitch

I can vouch for you being the kindest and least intimidating editor! So you’ve published loads of great writers, but who would be your dream guest contributor, if money was no object?

For me, I don’t have a guest contributor. My dream, if money was no object, would be to publish as many great writers as possible and to accept every good idea that I receive. That’s the dream. I want to put out as much interesting, high quality sex-positive content as possible, to publish more writers, and to reach as many readers as possible.

What’s one thing you really wish people would STOP asking you?

I get two questions that I’d love to never hear again:

1) “How do you do it all?” I hate this partly because I’m well aware of what I’m NOT doing, so when someone asks how I do it all, my anxiety spikes as my brain imagines everything I should be doing. Plus, I love what I do (okay, maybe not the tedious parts of my work, but I love most of what I do), and so it’s not a burden or strain to work a little longer or give up my free time to work on my blogs or do freelance work. But I do have to be careful not to overwork or I’ll make myself sick or trigger my mental illnesses (I have generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and bipolar disorder — that’s about as fun as you might imagine, especially when deadlines loom).

2) “How do I have a relationship like the one you have with John Brownstone?” I really don’t mind the question. It’s seeing the look in people’s eyes when I give the answer (their eyes tend to glaze over). We met online and connected from the beginning, but it wasn’t love or lust at first sight. I fought my feelings for him every step of the way, refusing to believe that I deserved him. So when I say take the time to develop trust between you and be willing to say difficult things, I mean that.

Without those two factors, I couldn’t have let go of most of my baggage to be with him. I had to be willing to do as much work as he was willing to do. Our love and respect are mutual, and we fought our own individual battles to be together. A lot of people want quick and easy, and in my experience, quick and easy rarely work. The things that matter take time and patience. So the answer to that question tends to be boring, not at all romantic, and generally unsatisfying to the person who asks…

Oh, fuck. I think the next question on my list is sort of a variation on “how do you do it all?” You do so many things – between Loving BDSM, Smutlancer, your personal website and now Big Fling! What’s your key time management strategy?

Two things: prioritizing my goals, which has always been a struggle because everything feels important all the time, and time blocking (sometimes called calendar blocking). Every single thing in my day (including taking a shower and going to bed) has a slot in my calendar. I block out the time I need to do my day job and be a responsible member of my home, and whatever’s left, I block out for blogging and other projects — with time left for mindless scrolling through social media and other things that don’t count as “work.”

If you could impart one piece of wisdom about sex to everyone in the world, what would it be?

There is no right kind of sex to have, but you’ll never have the right kind of sex for YOU if you aren’t willing to talk about it with your partner. Both partners have to be willing to communicate, and you might have to be the one to speak up first, but the best sex happens when you’ve talked about what you want, what you don’t want, what you’ll do, and what you won’t do. 

Who’s your favourite sex toy manufacturer and why?

It’s always hard to pick just one, but for overall marketing inclusivity and quality of product, I’d say Hot Octopuss. Everything I or my partner, John Brownstone, have tried has been amazing. Really great people work for the company — watch them online, read their blog post, or talk to them in person, and you know they really care about what they do. 

Oh, I love them too! What’s something you used to believe about sex or relationships that you don’t believe any more?

I think I used to believe that only certain people had great sex or relationships. I didn’t know who those certain people were, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t one of them. As the years go by, I continue to learn more and more about what I like and don’t like and what kind of sex and relationships I need and don’t need.

And there is no “type” who gets to have great sex or a solid relationship. Like anything else, it takes hard work and communication, but regardless of our size, age, gender, sexuality, skin color, we are all capable of having whatever kind of sex or relationship we want. It might not be easy (it most definitely isn’t) but if you’re able to find the right person/people, it can be worth it. But part of it begins and ends with embracing who you are as an individual — what you like and what you don’t like, what you need, and what you want. 

And just for fun because it is “Coffee and Kink” – what’s your usual order at Starbucks?

My usual order is a Venti Iced Coffee with four stevia and extra heavy whipping cream — it’s how I get my coffee fix and stick to a Keto diet/lifestyle.

The Big Fling logo for an interview with Kayla Lords

Thanks to Kayla for giving her time to impart her amazing and hard-earned wisdom to us all! Check out all her various projects and give her a follow on Twitter!

Interview: Porn Researcher Rosie Hodsdon

I was thrilled when Rosie Hodsdon reached out to volunteer to be an interview subject. I’ve known her through the UK kink scene for a while and she’s totally lovely as well as ridiculously smart. Here, we chat sex and relationships, academic porn research, and why the Digital Economy Bill sucks. 

A picture of Rosie Hodsdon, a white woman in her 20s with shoulder length brown hair. She is wearing a blue jacket and smiling at the camera. There are flowers in the background.

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I am currently working towards my PhD at Northumbria University, looking at the regulation of online pornography in the UK and how this affects the people who produce it. 

What made you want to get into porn research?

My research interests float around sexualities more broadly, and this stems from the failure that was my school’s sex education! I felt incredibly alienated from everything we were taught and had to find the information that I felt I needed out for myself, and was very lucky to be able to do this at a time when the internet made this a little easier! I knew that I never wanted people to feel as alienated as I did growing up, and wanted to be someone who helped others to learn about the range of sexualities out there in a safe and supportive way.

To me, porn forms just one part of that much wider sphere of things, and I have worked, or would love to work, on projects concerning kink, polyamory and sex work as well. [My work is] about dispelling misconceptions surrounding sexuality more broadly and wanting to work towards a society where these things are free from stigma and judgement. 

What’s your background and how did you break into this work?

Almost by accident, really! I did my first degree in Anthropology and Sociology and I knew as soon as I started that I wanted to focus on sexualities research. Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I had a guest lecture on my Sociology of Gender and Sexuality module from Professor Clarissa Smith on extreme pornography, which I found fascinating. At the same time, the AVMS regulations had been passed, so pornography was at the forefront of my mind. However, the more I tried to read into academic research on the porn industry, the more I noticed that the voices of those who worked in the industry were rather absent, so when I got an email in my inbox asking for PhD proposals relating to law and sexuality, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. 

What’s the most challenging thing about your work?

There’s a few things that spring to mind, which all cover somewhat different aspects of what I do!

The first problem is somewhat inherent to academia, which is that I can’t ever really escape my work – I can’t go home at the end of a work day and forget about it, because it’s always going to be in my mind and if it’s in my mind, then I’m thinking on it and working!

The second is how frustrating it can be. There’s something very futile about trying to work for a better understanding of sexuality and sex work in a society where everything seems to be pushing back against it – everything from the Digital Economy Act to FOSTA/SESTA. Even in the few days that I’ve been working on this interview, Tumblr has announced its porn ban and Facebook has tightened their control over what language you can use.

The third is that the work itself can be pretty misunderstood and stigmatised. I’m very wary of saying so, because the stigma attached to this academic work really can’t be compared to the stigma attached to actually making porn, and I wouldn’t want to ignore that. But I have had a lot of judgement myself because of what I do, from strangers on the internet all the way to previous partners. Shout-out to my ex specifically, who told me that no one else would ever love me because of what I do. Look at me now, dickbag!

What about the most rewarding thing?

I get to meet some incredible people who are doing some fantastic work, both as producers and as activists. And sometimes I get to be considered amongst them as well! Feeling like I have the ability to change people’s viewpoints or give them a new perspective on things is both very powerful and very humbling, and I feel a huge responsibility with it, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. 

Who’s your favourite porn performer and why? What about your favourite production company? 

I have to pick just one? I’m not going to play by these rules! [Spoken like a true polyamorist! – Amy] There are some amazing performers who represent the industry in such a positive way, both in the US and the UK.

Stoya was the first person I encountered who combined porn with activism, and I’ve appreciated her work ever since. I’m also a huge fan of Pandora/Blake, who works tirelessly to support sexual freedom. Jiz Lee has done some amazing work, and their book, Coming Out Like a Porn Star, has been hugely influential to me in its approach to centering performer voices.

As for my favourite company, it has to be Crash Pad Series! It’s radical, queer, kinky, feminist-grounded porn which focuses on a fair production process and has the inimitable Shine Louise Houston at its helm, also fighting for new approaches to sexuality in society more broadly. And it’s hot. 

There’s been a lot in the news recently about the incoming age verification regulations to access online porn in the UK. What’s your take? 

Where do I start!? The whole thing is a tangled mess of clusterfuck. I could spend hours ranting about this, so I’ll do what I can to condense why the entire thing is a terrible idea. It’s time for some bullet points.

  • The rationale behind the law is to “protect children”, and this is based on fundamentally flawed evidence. The study which forms the basis of the legislation, carried out by the NSPCC, has since been discredited by 37 academics for poor methods and conclusions which stretched far beyond the scope of the study. This is no basis for legislation.
  • Furthermore, what are we protecting children from? Of course no one should have to see porn without wanting to, but this does not just apply to children. There is no evidence which proves that children are harmed en masse by watching pornography. In studies which have explored young people’s motivations for viewing such material, the overwhelming theme is that pornography allows them to explore their sexuality and learn about sex in a way that they otherwise do not have access to. Pornography should not be a substitute for sex education, and this can only be solved with a drastic overhaul of the SRE curriculum. Porn should form a part of this, but so should issues of queer identity, pleasure and safe sex practices. All of these are currently very much lacking in the UK (and in most other places!). 
  • The laws are also almost certainly going to have the least impact on young people, given that they are generally far more technologically literate than a lot of adults. Anyone, including young people, can just get around these restrictions through the use of a VPN.  On a practical level, it won’t work.
  • So what will it do? For the consumer, it will place their private personal information in the hands of companies who are not required to enforce stringent protections of this data. As much as I would like to live in a world where people are not shamed for their sexual desires and preferences, this is not currently the case. We can see in countless examples how information about people’s non-normative sexual preferences has had major real-world consequences, such as losing their jobs or custody of their children. A database which stores information about what porn people watch? Hackers are going to have a field day.
  • Finally – given that this is where my research lies! – it’s going to decimate the porn industry. The financial impact is likely to be significant, particularly for smaller companies with more niche audiences, who are likely to struggle to implement AV systems from an economic standpoint. These are often the studios which produce explicitly ethical, feminist, queer, kink pornography so to lose these would make the industry even more homogeneous and less diverse. There’s also the emotional impact of the regulations to consider – people are fearing for their jobs and businesses. The government is telling people that their work is actively harmful for society. Their own sexualities are being delegitimised. And when you consider further that people with a significant background in porn may well find it harder to find “square” work due to the stigma attached to sex work more broadly, people are very worried about their future. 

Ultimately, the AV laws are like trying to fill in the Gran Canyon with a bucket and spade. I’m going to actually be rather lazy here and take a quote from my own response from the BBFC consultation of which I am rather proud:

Age verification seems to be merely an ineffective, unsubstantiated patch-up for a much wider social issue with regards to how we inform young people about sex and our wider sexual culture– including pornography. Young people are desperate for accurate, inclusive, informed sex education, which produces greater positive outcomes for their sexual, emotional and relationship wellbeing. Focusing on age verification serves to mask that problem rather than confront it, and may instead be detrimental to the development of sexual knowledge if not supported by compulsory and comprehensive sex education. This would be a much more effective use of government resources.”

They rest on fundamentally-flawed foundations of research and are likely to cause a significant amount of social harm.

What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?

People think that I sit around just watching porn all day. They’re not wrong, but I then have to write about it afterwards. People seem to find that part much less sexy. 

What do you really wish everyone understood about pornography?

Ooh, this is a really interesting one! There’s a lot I could say here, so I’ll break it down into some more bullet points:

  • That (most) porn costs money to make, and all of it takes work. Pay for your damn porn. Or, at least, access it for free only directly from creators, not through any pirated means.
  • That porn performers (and producers) are human! There’s a narrative in anti-porn discourse which tends to paint performers particularly as being nothing more than vapid, blow-up fuckdolls, which not only removes their agency and autonomy, but also reduces them to their having sex. We live in an age now where it’s easier than ever to move past this image – we have performers doing some amazing activist work or simply engaging with their fans on social media, and the image that persists of people, particularly women, in porn as being either a mindless set of holes or an exploited victim, denies them their personhood,
  • That it’s not a public health danger. There is no research out there which proves that porn is inherently harmful, and while I would never want to belittle any individual issues that pornography has caused (because yes, people can have issues with it and people who do need appropriate support), it does not do this on a large scale.
  • That pornography can be massively positive. Emerging research is starting to show that porn isn’t just used by consumers to get off, though that’s part of it too. It’s a way to explore their sexuality and identity, a way to connect with others (if you’ve never shared the Lemon Stealing Whores introduction with your friends, I recommend it), an education resource, a method of stress relief, and much more. 
  • Finally, that it’s okay not to like pornography! Whether that’s a particular type or the genre as a whole – as much as I’m positive about what pornography is, what it can do and who makes it, I don’t expect everyone to like it. All I want is for it to be respected as a form of labour and as a creative product, and for the freedom of others to be able to access it and make it should they choose to. 

Who inspires you personally and professionally?

On a professional level, there are so many people I want to name here! First of all, I have to note the amazing things that my participants have shared with me over the course of my research, and their openness and trust with me is massively motivating.

Secondly, my PhD supervisory team – Chris Ashford, Tony Ward and Laura Graham – who continue to blow my mind and push me to succeed, even when I want to give up, and whose research has paved the way for someone like me to do something like this.

Thirdly, the tireless activism of Pandora/Blake and Myles Jackman. I’m so in awe of the both of them that even now, having met both multiple times, they still scare me slightly!

Fourth (and finally, for this part of the question), the awesome communities that my research has allowed me to become immersed in – academics, sex work activists, porn producers and creators – who are all doing such amazing things themselves!

On a personal level, I am very lucky to be surrounded by some incredible people. My partner, Lewis; my boyfriend, Willtom; and my girlfriend, Tiggy, have all provided me with invaluable support and happiness. They push me to keep going even when I just want to throw my thesis in a fire! (They’re also hella cute). I also have an amazing family, who have dealt with trying to explain my PhD topic to far too many people! I hate feeling like I’m “lucky” to have their support, because it should be a given. But I know that that’s not always the case and that I am grateful that they’ve not disowned me yet. And I can’t not also mention the lovely people of the Durham, Leeds and Reading kink scenes, who are unfailingly wonderful and who have also supported me along the way. 

Who’s your favourite sex educator and why?

So much of my inspiration to enter sexualities education (in a sense) myself came from Scarleteen, so I’d like to say their entire website! Also, my entire Twitter feed has been improved since introducing Alix Fox into its mix. She combines some spectacular puns with activism and awareness work, and I’m always impressed by her willingness to reach out and continue learning from others. [We love Alex here at C&K! – Amy]

What’s something you used to believe – about sex, relationships or porn – that you don’t believe any more?

I feel like there’s a tendency to put romantic love on a pedestal, and as has probably been demonstrated in this interview, there are so many other forms of relationships that can be just as wonderful, supportive and fulfilling.

And just for fun because it is “Coffee & Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

…I don’t. Unless *insert enema joke here*? 

(Please don’t hate me!)

Thank you so much to Rosie for her time and for the awesome work she’s doing, which will undoubtedly benefit all of us – when porn and sex work are destigmatised, all of us gain greater sexual freedom. You can keep up with Rosie via her Twitter, and as ever if YOU are doing something awesome in the field of sex or relationships and would like to be featured on the blog, hit me up.


Interview: Gabrielle Alexa Noel

Today I’m delighted to be interviewing the amazing Gabrielle Alexa Noel, a sex writer and journalist who has written some of the best stuff on bisexuality, feminism, race and consent that I’ve read in years. She’s an absolute force to be reckoned with in the sex writing world, and I’m so grateful to her for giving up her time to answer some questions for us! – Amy x

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I’m a writer who primarily focuses on sex and bisexuality. I also host events on sex education and other sexuality topics and make videos on feminist topics!

What made you want to start writing about sex? What’s your background and how did you break in to the industry?

I didn’t set out to write about sex but when I started unlearning certain misconceptions about bisexuality and female sexuality, I was able to heal a shame that I hadn’t realized I was carrying. When we stigmatize sex and sexuality, we stigmatize biology, we stigmatize identities. I wanted to destigmatize those topics.

I started off as an intern at Galore. After almost a year, I left to start freelancing. I pitched myself at different publications and committed myself to doing research on sex/sexuality. And now I write for a number of sex positive publications.

What is the most challenging thing about writing about sex for a living?

I guess the stigma — just writing about it has made people suggest that I had an unstable childhood. Specifically when I talk about sexual assault, I face a lot of digital harassment. People don’t see digital harassment as real or problematic so I try to highlight it on my platform. It’s not just people calling someone “ugly”, it’s people telling me I deserve to be raped or that I am a disrespect to all rape victims. It can be damaging.

What about the most rewarding thing?

So many people tell me that my writing has helped them unlearn myths about themselves. That’s my favorite part! I want to be the person I wish I’d had access to growing up.

What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?

I guess people think that talking about sex/sexuality is largely about getting attention. First of all, everyone looks for and receives attention, women are just the ones who are primarily shamed for it. And also, I don’t care who is looking at me as a sexual being. I’m more concerned about destigmatizing sexuality for people assigned female at birth.

You’ve written a lot of amazing and intense things about topics such as race, queerness, consent and sexual assault. Why do you think it’s important that such things get talked about?

These topics are important because there are so many misconceptions! I run into so much biphobia because bisexuality is an identity people don’t understand. Women are also policed and stigmatized for our sexuality. Sex negativity, then, becomes a tool for social control. And of course, when you consider the way people of color are hypersexualized and fetishized, you can see the importance of discussing race in terms of sexuality.

What’s something you’d really love to write on but haven’t yet?

I want to write about my favorite TV shows SO BADLY but nobody ever commissions me for those pieces! People love for writers to talk about their marginalization but it’d be cool to just talk about Bob’s Burgers.

What’s your dream byline?

The New Yorker maybe? Playboy? This answer changes weekly! I want new bylines wherever I can connect with people I can help.

What’s your favourite piece that you’ve ever written and why?

These are hard questions! I just wrote about how internalized biphobia ruined my first Tinder date and it was published on the Tinder website. So many people have reached out to say that it was an important read for them. But most importantly, it was a healing experience for me. Some of my best writing often is. Before that, I wrote about coming out to my family for Hello Giggles, and that was also was both difficult and soothing. But I always have a soft spot for my Elle piece about being bisexual because that was essentially how I came out to a lot of my peers.

Who inspires you personally and professionally?

For some people this is a weird list. I love Erica Lust’s committment to feminist porn and revamping the porn industry. I love people like Ericka Hart and Rachel Cargle, who are speaking on topics of race and sexuality. I love Shan Boodram’s work in sex education. I love Lindy West. I just love people who are doing work in intersectional feminism on some level.

Who’s your favourite sex educator and why?

I love all sex educators, oh my god! Haha. Again, I love Shan Boodram, but I’m also digging Eva from What’s My Body Doing, Stevie Boebi, my friend Elyse from SX Noir, and Cameron from Sex Ed in Color.

What’s something you used to believe about sex relationships that you don’t believe any more?

I stopped believing that the only “real” kind of sex is penetration. Most women don’t even orgasm from penetration and people of all gender identities/sexualities have sex in a variety of ways. I classify sex now in terms of sexual pleasure. And I include masturbation, or solo sex, in that definition.

And just for fun because it is “Coffee and Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

Of course I like coffee! It’s part of the whole writer shtick. I like it light and sweet.

Thank you so much again to Gabrielle for her time. Check out her work and follow her on the Twitter!

Camming, Sex Journalism and More! with S. Nicole Lane

I’ve been chatting to some awesome folks lately, guys. I put a call out for interesting people doing awesome work around sexuality who would be willing to talk to me. And oh my you guys delivered! Today I’m chatting with journalist, artist, former sex workier and awesome advocate S. Nicole Lane. I’ve recently discovered her work and I am in love with her writing – check some of it out, I’m sure you’ll love it too.

A headshot of S Nicole Lane

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I have my hands in many projects. I’m a journalist based in Chicago where I cover a multitude of topics: the LGBTQ voice, women-owned businesses, health in relation to women and non-binary people, the healthcare system, visual art, and my favorite topic – sex.

I’m also a visual artist and create pieces made of latex, found objects, and video. Most of my work stems from my relationship to my body and imagining a queer future. The pieces are familiar but foreign, as they do not resemble in specific part of the body but hint at a commonality. My video work is very sexual, typically working with images and audio that I recorded during my time as a sex worker. Both my writing and visual practice are tied together in such a way that themes and symbols definitely cross over.

What made you want to start writing about sex?

I had a Xanga all through high school where I would embarrassingly describe my relationships and intimate moments. At sixteen, I knew nothing about sex or love. I was just a huge romantic who listened to way too much music. I wanted so badly to be Anais Nin, whose book I picked up my first year in High School. She changed my life. I would write religiously, every day. It became an obsession. I also publicized this blog for everyone to read it – I had nothing to hide and have always been a proud and confident person.

I stopped writing compulsively for about five years until I moved to Chicago where I was struggling with vaginismus—an involuntary muscle spasm that results in painful sex. After being frustrated that zero doctors could diagnose me and there was no easily accessible literature about it online, I decided to begin writing about it myself. My first piece was published on Bustle and my second on The Establishment which sparked my writing career in sexuality.

Before this, I was writing art exhibition reviews (I studied art, specifically photography) but the language was dry and repetitive. Writing about sex, kinks, so-called “taboos” allowed me to reach out to people who were struggling like I was during that time. Now I cover a range of sexual topics and celebrate kinksters around the globe. My beginnings as a angsty teenage nymphomaniac have transformed into a fruitful and very rewarding career.

You mentioned that you used to be a sex worker. Could you tell us a little about how that experience was for you and, if you’re comfortable doing so, why you decided to exit that line of work?

I was a cam girl for almost two years where I also created private videos and sold materials to men online. Camming is so exciting and I still miss it sometimes! I am also a trained dancer so for me, camming was just getting up and dancing for an invisible audience, while making money and losing a little bit of clothing along the way. Freelance writing comes with obstacles and some months. Before really getting into a regular work routine, I would find myself extremely worried about money. I was writing an article on camming for a publication and decided to give it a try.

At first, I was simply “researching” for the piece but soon, I was putting in a full six hours a day or night. Yes, camming is exciting, powerful, and feminist, but I did have my moments of exhuastion. It’s a full time job—viewers messaging you, sending you images, demanding attention. Moreover, moving your body, talking, and performing for hours is a type of tired that I had never experienced before. My body physical hurt after a session. But it was always my choice to turn off my camera, always my choice to shut down my site.

I also talked to my viewers about sexual health. I’d quiz them on topics like HPV or other STIs. I would talk to them realistically. No, I didn’t like deep throating. I wasn’t going to pretend for some extra money. Of course this lost me viewers, but my viewers who stayed were very dedicated. I miss them sometimes.

I decided to exit camming once my writing was more steady. At the end of the day, writing is what I wanted to be spending my time doing.

What is the most challenging thing about writing about writing about sex for a living?

It can be really fucked up! By that I mean that it can make you really horny while your partner is at work, or when they aren’t in the mood, and you’re simply consumed with thoughts of sex positions, dildos, and cunnilingus. Another challenge is coming up with new, exciting topics. I don’t want to write another piece that describes the same tips to giving the best blowjob. Of course, those articles helped the hell out of me when I was young. But I’m not personally rewarded by writing those (plus I think they can be done better). Moreover, many publications reject my pitches because they are too “niche” for their audience—specific kinks or fetishes are still stigmatized.

What about the most rewarding thing?

The most rewarding thing about writing in general is relaying information and connecting to such a vast group of people all over the world. My inbox is always filled with email of people wanting to talk to me about certain health concerns or thanking me for writing a piece.

On the topic of vaginismus, a serious sexual health concern, most doctors dismiss the patient’s pain. I had several doctors tell me it was “all in my head”. This morning I opened up my email to find that someone had written me saying that she felt all alone, secluded in her pain until she read my piece.

As for my more kink-oriented and sexy pieces, those are rewarding because I find joy in eradicating taboos and stereotypes, especially while living in America under our current administration. I couldn’t have asked for a better profession.

What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?

People always assume it’s just reduced to listicles describing the 10 best ways to achieve an orgasm. I research constantly, I read all of the time, and I put a lot of effort into every single one of my articles. I have to absorb information at a fast pace in order to accurately deliver a piece.

What’s something you’d really love to write on but haven’t yet?

I would really love to have a regular sex advice column for a platform. I feel like many of the sex advisors are very vanilla misogynists who don’t pay attention to non binary and trans people. So I would love to have a weekly column where I focus on all bodies.

What’s your dream byline?

Two years ago I said that once I’m published in Playboy, I’ll personally feel like I’ve made it in my writing career. Last year I wrote a piece on anal sex and now I write regularly for Playboy about art and occasional sex topics! Of course, I’m still not satisfied with my portfolio and hope get published on smaller platforms like Mel Magazine and Jezebel… and, eventually, The New York Times!

What’s your favourite piece that you’ve ever written and why?

Oh this is so hard! I love writing for Healthline, the editors are incredible and supportive. I did a huge piece where I talked to a collection of queer, trans, polyamorous, non binary, and heterosexual people and how sex can change in their decade in September. And then my favorite sex toy piece is on Broadly where I experimented with electro-play.

Who inspires you personally and professionally?

I look up to various writers, especially Abby Norman who wrote an incredible book called “Ask Me About My Uterus”. All of the brave people in the Healing From LEEP/LLETZ Facebook Group inspire me. The MedTruth community. I also look up to my close friends and partner for inspiration.

What essay, article or book about sex do you really wish you’d written?

In 2015, the Establishment published an incredible piece by Katie Tandy which left me slack jawed called “The Dirty Politics of Period Sex.” It’s a love letter to period sex and it’s incredible.

And just for fun because it is “Coffee and Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

This is funny because I was a five cup a day drinker my entire life. My mom always said, “Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like coffee or Nutella”. But after researching how coffee can affect me hormonally (acne, issues with my period), I decided to cut it out which resulted in the worst withdrawals I’ve ever experience. My acne didn’t improve and my period sort of returned, though not fully. I’ve been drinking tea for a year but recently—because I can’t resist the smell or comfort—have been cheating and having a cup of coffee every other day. And of course, I take it black.

Thanks to Nicole for her time! Check out her awesome writing and give her a follow on the Twitter and the Insta.

Interview: Ellen of The Sunsette Erotica App

Everyone who knows my work will know that I LOVE erotica. I think we should all read – and write – more of it. So when Ellen, creator of the new erotica app The Sunsette, got in touch with me, I just had to interview her for the blog.

I hope you enjoy – and, of course, I hope you all get the app when it comes out. Here’s my interview with Ellen.

The logo of The Sunsette erotica app

Tell us a bit about you and the work you do?

I work and live in Portland ME. I’m a certified functional medicine coach and also work for a local publisher in Portland in addition to my work building Sunsette. At Sunsette I run the “front end”, while my boyfriend, who has a business degree, runs the “back end”. We are also working with several partners across web development and design to bring the project to fruition.

What made you want to set up an erotica app?

We saw a few things that caught our attention in this space: the general lack of high-quality erotica in mobile app form, the changing public preferences with respect to content that is empowering rather than demeaning, and our own research that suggested that many people are seeking new forms of adult entertainment.

How is your product different from other erotica platforms on the market?

Erotica apps currently available on the app stores are either aesthetically unpleasant or feature demeaning and even violent content.  Further, we gamify it bit by delivering stories at sunset Sunday-Wednesday each week with a countdown feature that builds anticipation. This, in addition to a shorter 10-15 minute read time on average, right-sizes the reading experience to the duration people generally view pornography (which we view ourselves as an alternative to) as opposed to the longer form literature out there where people have to skip around to find the good bits. Finally, our curation is really what sets us apart. We’re featuring the best work of the best authors out there, carefully selected for diverse plotlines, categories, even kinkiness levels!

Tell us a bit more about the development process for the app?

We needed to make sure we were building features that people actually want, so we did a number of targeted surveys to gather as much data as possible. The survey responses we get are invaluable, and the app itself has gone through (and will continue to go through) multiple iterations as the feedback continues to come in. Potential users can still take this survey.

If authors want to get involved with writing for you, how can they do so?

Authors can submit here.

Who’s your favourite erotica author and why?

Different authors have different strengths – that’s the benefit of working with a talented group like our Sunsette Authors. We have a high bar for quality writing, so if an author is approved it means we’ve read a lot of their writing and have a lot of respect for their work. They become part of the family.

Do you write erotic fiction yourself, or just enjoy reading it?

I’m a pretty big reader in general, so I stick to my lane! It helps me see our product from the user (reader) perspective really well. That said, I do have a publishing background so I’ve learned to look at writing with more of a critical eye as not only a copyeditor but a curator of broader themes across stories.

When and where will the app be available? How much will  it cost?

The app will be available to download from both the Apple and Google Play app stores for a monthly subscription of $3.99. We’re hoping to launch in December, pending App Store approval. Our up-to-date news on that front will be posted on our website, where you can subscribe to our newsletter and get an alert once we go live.

Do you think reading and enjoying erotica is still stigmatised? If so, why?

It appears to have become less so over time, at least in America, but at the same time people still want privacy – especially when you’re talking about erotica versus romance (the latter being a bit less spicy). An app on a mobile phone is a nice way to package this content discreetly, because there is no physical book laying about, no web page lurking behind your browser window when you’re making a presentation at work. Overall, it’s amazing to see how the culture towards sex has shifted in a progressive direction in the midst of the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon and the #MeToo movement, and we’re really excited to play a part in that.

Who inspires you personally and professionally?

Besides our creative and talented authors, I’d add Bill & Melinda Gates, Sarah Robb O’Hagan, Ellen Degeneres, Sam Harris,  Elon Musk, Brene Brown… And some of our favorites in sex tech are the people at Dame Products, MindBodyGreen, Unbound and OMGYes. Lots of people doing really great things for the world in different ways both within and outside of sex tech.

What’s something you used to believe about sex or relationships that you don’t believe any more?

I grew up with a fairly open mind, and that hasn’t changed much. As I’ve gotten older and interacted with mainstream online porn more, I think that feelings of guilt during or after viewing have bothered me increasingly – and at the same time I’ve grown a bit desensitized to it, which also bothers me when I consider it. So that growing awareness has reinforced my interest in creating an alternative for people, something that engages imaginations more and ultimately is more arousing for many people. That’s why our tagline at Sunsette is “No Guilt. Just Pleasure.” and I think that sums it up pretty well. I’m happy to say Sunsette has really hit that spot for me, so to speak, and I hope others out there will agree once we launch.

And just for fun because it is Coffee & Kink – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

I love coffee! I take it with cream and a few drops of maple syrup. You didn’t ask for my kink, but while I’m at it… well, download the app and you’ll get all kinds of good examples!

Thanks so much to Ellen for kindly agreeing to be interviewed. Check out The Sunsette for all the latest news.

Sex Educators You Should Know: The “Ersties” Podcast Crew

You guys might remember a few months back I introduced you to the wonderful Ersties Podcast, a smart, sassy and funny show about sex, kink, porn, the adult industry and more. Well today I am thrilled to bring you an interview with Lina Bembe, one of the team of badass women behind the podcast. 
But first, I wanted to tell you about a couple of my favourite recent episodes since I last introduced you to these amazing ladies.

Episode #7 is called “Self-Love, Sex and Magic” which brings together two of my favourite things – sex and magic! Sex is, really, its own particular kind of magic when you think about it, isn’t it? The team discuss sexuality as a form of women’s power, which has terrified men for centuries – so much so that in time gone by, women who dared to be openly sexual opened themselves up to accusations of witchcraft.

Favourite quotes:

“Witches are in many ways the original feminists… the original sluts.”
“We need to get our vulvas together… we need some vulva action!”

The other thing I loved about this episode is the team’s discussion about coming out to their families as working in the porn industry. I won’t spoil the stories for you, but you should go and hear them for yourselves.

Their special guest is Vanessa Cuccia of Chakrubs, the world’s first crystal sex toy company (which, yes, is 100% a thing I want in my life.)

Listen here.

The ladies also JUST released Episode #9 which is on my favourite sexuality topic of all – consent! They discuss consent in BDSM, how to talk about what you want in bed, and what consent looks like on a porn set.

If there’s one, single message I want my readers to take away from my work, it’s that consent is everything. Consent is the beginning, the end and everything in between. The Ersties team delve deep into this complex and nuanced subject with honesty and insight.

Personally, I particularly appreciated the discussion of being in a sex work situation such as making porn, and not really feeling like having sex… but making the decision to consent anyway, in order to get paid at the end of the day. It’s such an important point that there are other good reasons to consent apart from “I’m extremely horny right this second,” and that this doesn’t have to be a traumatising experience. The key, they seem to be arguing, is checking in with yourself and making an informed decision to say yes or no in any given situation.

Favourite quotes:

“Ohhh, now she has to put her fucking fingers in my pussy and I have to pretend to have an orgasm…!”
“Everyone who knows me knows that [my favourite safeword] is brocolli!”

A must-listen for anyone grappling with the nuances of sexual consent. Which is ALL of us, because this shit is complex.

Listen here.

Right, let’s get on with my interview with Lina, shall we?

Amy: What made you want to start the Ersties podcast?

Lina: Paulita, Pandora, Olivia & I were already a sort of gang. We used to hang out a lot, crack jokes, go out and get crazy, and talk about sex and feminism basically all the time. So it was kind of a natural thing to pour all these conversations and the things we are curious about into a podcast format. These days anyone with a smartphone or computer and WiFi access can build a platform and talk about whatever topic they want. In our case, we felt we were a fun crew with good chemistry and important things to discuss and explore, so we just got a mic and started recording!

Amy: Which other podcasters inspire you, and why?

Lina: Tristan Taormino for her extensive experience and educational approach, Ron Johnson’s journalistic work for The Butterfly Effect, Sadia & Monty from BBC’s No Country for Young Women because of their natural style and emphasis on black & brown communities. My personal favorite is Tina Horn from Why Are People into That?!, always fun, unapologetic, politically relevant and raising the voices of fellow sex workers.

Amy: Oh, god, Tristan Taormino is my heroine! So which show do you always listen to the day it comes out?

Lina: Why Are People into That?!, The Cuntcast, Sex Out Loud, Sex with Strangers, Guys We Fucked, The Second Circle, Asa Akira’s podcast for Pornhub, and hopefully the next season of No Country for Young Women!

Amy: Some new names for me there, I’ll check those out for sure. What is the core message you want to get out with the podcast? The one thing you’d like listeners to take away?

A cartoon image of the Ersties Podcast crew speaking to a live audience.Lina: That sex and sexuality are incredibly important for our lives and that it’s crucial to have more unbiased, shame-free conversations about them. We have all been raised and encouraged to see anything related to sex as shameful, dirty, not worth discussing, but the consequences of doing so go a long way into affecting our emotional well being and relationships to others. Thus we need to find ways of reclaiming our bodies and sexualities, and we need to find people we can feel relate to in our journey. We don’t always have the spaces to have shame-free, honest conversations about sex in our daily lives, so we wanted to offer a channel for it with our podcast.

Amy: Preach! So what is ethical porn? What sets ethical porn apart from regular, run-of-the-mill “tube site” porn?

Lina: Ethical porn has two main dimensions. The first dimension happens on the production side, where performers and crew have to be treated with respect regardless of their origins or identities, with professionalism and with attention to their personal boundaries. Where everything discussed in terms of sexual health issues, types of sex acts, remuneration (or skills/content trade agreement), identity, privacy protection and distribution channels is transparent, respectful and agreed by the production company, director, fellow performers and everyone involved in the project. It’s basically playing by the rules,  respecting everyone involved in the process, and making sure, as a producer that you put together a team who are able to work under these ethical standards and understand their importance in both the project and the wider industry.
The second dimension of ethical porn falls on the responsibility of the consumer, when they pay for the content they watch or access the content in the way the producer or performer wants them to. Sadly enough, it’s quite normal for people to watch porn for free and to assume that’s the normal way to go about it – whereas they’re happy to pay for platforms like Netflix or Spotify. The stigma surrounding porn and the proliferation of tube sites (who offer plenty of stolen content) obscures the very elemental fact that porn is also a form of work and that there’s people trying to make a living out of it. Not paying for porn only contributes to the stigma, shrinks the diversity of contents and throws indie producers and performers even more into precariousness. I’d really, really love for people to understand that consuming porn in unethical ways affects everyone.
Amy’s note: I am in love with the Ersties porn site! You can support ethical porn, get access to tonnes of great content, AND send a little kickback my way when you buy an Ersties porn subscription from as little as $11/month through my affiliate links.

Amy: Who would be your dream interview guest on the podcast, and why?

Lina: As a short-term goal, I’d love to have Munroe Bergdorf as a guest. Every single word she says speaks in such a strong way against stigma, and pushes for diversity and real change on so many fronts –  as racism, transphobia, whorephobia, misogyny and so on. I’d love to hear her views on porn and what sort of narratives could make this industry more inclusive and less discriminative!
As a long-term goal: Rihanna! To me, she’s the best global scale example of what it means to be a powerful creature and being unapologetic about owning your sexuality. Plus she likes porn!

Amy: What’s your favourite sex toy?

Lina: Wands of all kinds, and buttplugs. Please don’t make me choose just one!

Amy: Oh, god, yes I’m a wand girl too. Wands are life. Anyway, what’s one thing you really wish people outside of it understood about the adult industry?

Lina: That this is a job like any other. The only thing that sets porn aside from other industries is the traditional shame we culturally attach to everything related to sex and sexuality. That’s incredibly harmful for how we all see ourselves as sexual beings and how stigma and discrimination can go a long way into marginalization and even the death of those who choose porn as a career. It’s time to press fast-forward to 2018 and leave this centuries-old, harmful, puritanical nonsense behind!
***************
Amy again! Thank you so much to Lina and the Ersties crew for taking the time to tell us all about their work and industry. I’m so glad they’re having these conversations – we all need to talk more openly about sex, porn, consent, sexual ethics and all these deep, complex, nuanced topics. Only by talking about these things can we bust the stigma and all enjoy safer, happier, more fulfilling sex lives.
Remember to check out the podcast! If you like friendly, informal dialogue about all things sexy, led by super smart women, you’ll love this show.
This interview was kindly sponsored by The Ersties Podcast. All views, as ever, are my own.

Sex Educator Interview #6: Dr Liz Powell

Today’s interview is with Dr Liz Powell, who co-hosts Life on the Swingset the podcast as well as doing tonnes of other awesome work. Let’s dive in to what she had to say…

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I’m Dr. Liz from sexpositivepsych.com. I’m a sex educator, speaker, co-host of the Life on the Swingset podcast, and regular guest on several other podcasts as part of my mission to help people have more meaningful, pleasurable relationships in life and work, as well as the bedroom. I’m also a coach and licensed psychologist (CA 27871)  that works with thruples, couples, and singles to help folks be more of who they really are and communicate more effectively with their partners. Because being confident in who you are is the gateway to great relationships and great sex – and great sex can change the world.

Can you tell us (in brief) your “sex educator origin story?”

I’ve been out as queer since I was 17, had my first non-monogamous relationship at 17 (dating quad), and have been involved in kink since I was in college. I was always the person my friends came to for questions about sex or to take them shopping at the adult store. Once I was getting ready to leave the Army in 2015, I decided to transition to full time work with my favorite populations – sexual and gender minorities (SGM) – and issues – sexual problems, relationship issues, trauma. I then started presenting at different conferences and from there went into teaching at venues like sex shops and the Armory here in San Francisco. I love the work I do and I feel really lucky that I get to devote my time to topics I’m passionate about!

What came first: sex education or psychotherapy? How do they inform each other?

I’ve wanted to be a therapist since middle school because I loved figuring out how people work and helping people grow and heal and thrive, so I guess in some ways the therapy part came first. However, I did my first informal sex education work in college when I was president of my school Gay Straight Alliance, long before I ever saw any therapy clients, so maybe it’s that therapy was first in my heart, but education was first in practice. Regardless, I love them both and I think they go hand in hand really nicely.

Why do you think it’s so important for psychs and other medical professionals to be sex positive, and how would you like to see the medical community change in this regard?

In graduate school, the entirety of my training in sexuality was a one weekend class. 10 hours. That’s it. When I worked in multidisciplinary teams in the Army as a psychologist, I saw first hand how little education in sexuality and non-mainstream relationship/sexual practices most medical professionals have. In the field of therapy, most therapists never ask their clients about sex, even though most psychiatric conditions impact a person’s sex life. Medical professionals have often balked at the STI testing I request from them, and some of them haven’t had current information about STIs at all. When we, as those holding a position of power in a provider-client relationship, don’t address sex, we reinforce that sex is shameful and not welcome in our room. We prevent our clients and patients from sharing important information with us that is impacting their lives in deep ways.

I think most professionals shy away from sex because they’re worried that a client will view questions about sex as a come on or something inappropriate, but research shows again and again that our clients follow our lead when determining what they can and cannot talk about. If you bring your own shame or judgments about sexuality into your practice, you are harming your clients and patients.

For instance, I recently saw a Facebook post by a psychologist I knew in the Army outright stating that they would never approve someone’s request for gender confirmation surgery because they think trans people are mentally ill. The American Psychological Association has clearly stated that the research indicates that gender dysphoria is a medical concern, not a mental illness, and that the harm is in denying treatment, but this person, because of his own judgments, is comfortable publicly stating his intention to shame and harm any trans clients he works with.

Without sex positivity in our practices, we violate the first principle of almost every code of ethics in our fields – that we do no harm, and maximize benefit. We as providers must unpack our own issues so that we can serve those who entrust us with their well being.

What’s the best thing about being a sex educator, in your opinion? The worst?

I’ll start with the worst because I like to end on high notes. The worst part of being a sex educator, for me, has been how hard you have to hustle to just start getting paid. I did a panel last year with Dirty Lola of sexedagogo.com and Rebecca Hiles, The Frisky Fairy, of friskyfairy.com, called Sex Positive and Poor where we all talked about how broke most sex educators are. Most of my friends who do sex education for their main income are constantly worried about paying their bills. Being a therapist helps with this some, as I can make a decent income from individual client sessions, but building up a private practice is slow and I went into a lot of credit card debt to get my business going. It looks way more glamorous on the outside than it feels on the inside.

The best part of being a sex educator, at least in my experience, is the amazing community of people I get to be a part of. I’ve got people in my life who I can send a message to about the crazy sex I had and they’re there to cheer me on. Or I can message them to talk about the grief I’ve been working through about my lover who died. The folks I’m lucky to call friends are some of the most kind, loving, smart, perverted, funny people I’ve ever met and I am thankful every day to have them in my life.

What’s your favourite project that you’ve done/been involved with?

My favorite is one I’m currently working on! Cooper Beckett, one of my Life on the Swingset co-hosts, and I are writing a book called Building Open Relationships. It’s a practical, hands on, nuts and bolts guide for how to actually DO non-monogamy. There are so many great theory-based resources out there (More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy), but both he and I felt like some of the nitty gritty was missing. We’re creating worksheets, conversation starters, checklists, all kinds of nerdy goodness to help people learn from our mistakes and success.

Tell us about a book that completely changed your life/perspective?

I think this would have to be something by Brené Brown, probably Daring Greatly. Something most folks don’t know about therapists in general, and me in particular, is that we can seem super open and vulnerable, but most of us (or especially me) often suck at being really vulnerable. It’s like I’ve got this great facade of openness that keeps folks outside of the REAL walls. In the last couple of years, I’ve been working really hard on moving past perfectionism and self-judgment and developing my skills at vulnerability and honesty. It’s been a really really REALLY hard journey, but I feel like a much better human, leader, therapist, educator, friend, and partner because of it.

What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but don’t believe any more, and what changed your mind?

I used to believe that you could use rules in a relationship in a way that could be healthy. Before I go further, I want to clarify that I’ll be using the terms Boundaries, Agreements, and Rules the way they are defined in More Than Two – boundaries are about myself, agreements are renegotiable by any involved party, rules affect parties that do not have renegotiation power.

Back when I first did some non-monogamy, I almost always had rules with my partners about what I would “allow” them to do with others or what I was “allowed” to do. Many of these rules involved sex acts, time spent together, or levels of emotional involvement. I think that most of the time these rules came from a place of feeling afraid or insecure and wanting to create an external structure to prevent those feelings from happening. What changed this for me was lots of failing in relationships to live up to rules I had agreed to or failing of partners to live up to rules they had agreed to. I also think that reading More Than Two and their clear ethically rooted explanations about rules made it really clear why using rules wasn’t within my values.

What’s the one thing that you wish everyone in the world could understand about sex/relationships?  

There is no “right” way to do anything in the sex or relationship realm, only ways that work better or worse for you and those you’re doing it with. Trying to do things by someone else’s rules or standards will only make you miserable. You have to do things the way that fits for you.

What do you think is the most toxic myth that our society perpetuates about sex/relationships?

There are so many! I think the most toxic myth is that there’s one right way to do things, and you know you’ve found it when your relationship lasts until death. By that standard, I recently had the perfect relationship – we never fought, we were smitten with each other, and after dating for 10 days he died. We lived out ’til death do us part thanks to his sudden, unexpected heart attack. We need to find the success and lessons in relationships that don’t end in death (and those that do) and stop saying a relationship “failed” because it ended or because it was different.

What’s the best sex advice anyone ever gave you?

Never fake it, tell them what to do to help you actually cum.

What’s one question that you wish people would stop asking you?

“Are you analyzing me right now?” As soon as folks find out I’m a therapist, I get this one or its companion “Oh, well I’m not going to talk anymore.” People think they’re being funny, but really, this is just silly. 1) Analyzing folks takes work and you’re not paying me. If you want to shell out some money then I’ll be happy to tell you about yourself, but otherwise, unless it’s flagrant, I’m just trying to be a regular human in the world. 2) Your discomfort around a therapist says WAY MORE than anything else that would’ve come out of your mouth. 3) These are probably the least original things you could say to a therapist. They tell me you’re paranoid, boring, and prone to subtle attempts at manipulation. So if you don’t want me to know things about you, don’t say these things.

And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink”: do you like coffee and how do you take it?

I’m generally more into tea, but I do like coffee on occasion, generally either sweet and light or a nice blended butter coffee (I know, I know, super hipster).

Thanks so much to Dr Liz for her time and expertise. Don’t forget to check out Life on the Swingset podcast and her business, Sex Positive Psych.

Sex Educator Interview #5: Cooper S Beckett

You may have heard of this little project started by Jenny Guerin and myself, the Sexy Summer Book Club. It’s an online read-along where we share questions, invite discussion and encourage people to use the books as jumping off points for their own writings.

The cover of Approaching the Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett

August’s book is Approaching The Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett, which I actually reviewed a while back. Very fittingly, therefore, today’s interview is with Cooper himself. Without further ado, let’s hear what the sexy-voiced podcaster, author and progressive swinger extraordinaire had to tell us.

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I write sexy books, and books about sex, which are sometimes the same thing, sometimes not. I’m also a coach and educator about sex positivity, safer sex, and focus on non-monogamy. I’ve been host of Life on the Swingset, The Swinging & Polyamory Podcast for the last 7 years, and we’re about to record our 300th episode! My goal is always to get people to think about their conceptions of their sexuality and how that relates to their partner(s) and the world, and take the opportunity to color outside the lines a bit, and learn about themselves.

What first made you want to write and podcast about sex and non-monogamy?

Hubris. I’d been swinging for a grand total of like 10 months and I thought, “You know what, I understand this pretty well, I should teach other people about it!” I corralled Dylan Thomas into co-hosting and the podcast was born. The writing has a little more sense behind it, but still not much. Before opening up I was a writer and indie filmmaker, so once I opened up and found the time to get back into it, writing about this all was a natural progression.
 

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a podcaster, sex educator and published author? How does one ‘make it’ in this field? 

 
If anyone tells you they’re “making it” in podcasting they’re the incredibly rare and lucky breed. Honestly, podcasters don’t really make it. It’s all about reach, isn’t it? So podcasting is a vehicle for reach. The more I podcast, the larger my audience, the more opportunity to share my speaking gigs and educating and books with the world. But podcasting itself…it’s nice if it pays for itself. I guess that’s when you know you’ve made it, when the podcast isn’t as valuable as a drain in your bank account.


What does “a day in the life of You” look like? 

 I sleep way later than I should before I go to my (still unfortunately necessary) day job. In my free time I try to focus on projects and writing, while balancing with time with my lovely partner & binary star Ophilia Tesla, and still finding time to keep up on current media like Doctor Who and Legend of Zelda. 


What’s the best thing about being a sex educator, in your opinion? The worst?

The best thing about being a sex educator is the same as the best thing about being any type of educator, that moment when you see the person you’re talking to “gets it” and something changes in them. Since sex is such a major part of people’s lives, and the things I teach have the possibility of changing them fundamentally, it can be a really amazing moment. The downside is that sex is really really looked down upon as something worth educating yourself about. So there’s tremendous stigma surrounding it.

Which of your 3 books is your favourite, and why? Also what’s your favourite episode of the podcast, and why?

Approaching the Swingularity is my favorite, maybe because it’s the newest, but I also think it’s my best work. It allowed me to go deepest into my passions and take characters to new and unexpected places. Also to be really mean to them, cuz that’s kinda my thing. My favorite episode of the podcast was our 200th episode where we were lucky enough to get Dan Savage on as our guest. That was a real feeling of having “made it” – so I guess that also answers a bit of the question above!
 

Will there be a third book in the “Swingularity” series? 

There will, and at the moment it’s a shorter book like A Life Less Monogamous and will follow Jenn and Ryan’s early issues with true polyamory. The working title is Polywogs. But, for the moment, I’ve become distracted with a supernatural series featuring a pansexual poly woman named Osgood as the lead.

Which of your characters do you most identify with and why?

Depends on the day. All my characters are ultimately me, even if their personality isn’t. I split up my traits among them and give them my hangups. Ryan is probably the most ME, but in Swingularity, I’d have to say between Crista and Raymond for the most intense identification.

Who inspires you, professionally and personally?

Tristan Taoramino and Dan Savage are my two big favorite sex educators. I love his acerbic wit, and I aspire to the variety and depth of the work Tristan produces. For fiction my big inspiration is Stephen King, because nobody does character as well as him. I also adore the work of Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury. 

If you were stuck on a desert island (sorry, sorry, I HAD to do a ‘desert island’ question) and could take three toys and one sexy book, what would you pick and why? 

Hmmm. If I’m by myself, a Tenga Egg, the nJoy Pure Wand, and can I bring a bottle of lube instead of a third toy? I feel like the heat would make lube essential. If I’m with someone else, definitely the nJoy Eleven. A sexy book….so many options.

What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but are glad you don’t believe any more?

That sex equals PIV/PIA (Penis in Vagina/Penis in Anus) penetration. And if I didn’t have that I wasn’t having sex. It’s tremendously pressuring, especially in group sex situations. Making everything sexual, including heavy making out, sex means that I no longer feel pressure to take things to an obvious conclusion, and can simply enjoy the smorgasbord of sexy in front of me.

What’s the best sex advice you ever got? 

 
It’s okay for sex to be silly. It always looks so dramatic and intense in movies. My best sex involves conversations, mistakes, and laughter.


What do you think is the most toxic myth that our society perpetuates about sex/relationships?

 

That there’s a right way to do it. That gives us all complexes that we’re not doing it right, and we stress out and make foolish decisions because of it.

What’s one question that you wish people would stop asking you? 

“You REALLY use condoms for blowjobs?” Yes I do. I’m happy to keep talking about it, though, until oral barriers are a thing.

And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink”: Do you like coffee and, if so, how do you take it?

Oh god. My Starbucks coffee order is insane and will make people throw up from sweetness. I do a Venti double shot with 5 total shots of espresso and vanilla and caramel syrup. Otherwise, I don’t much go in for coffee.
Thanks Cooper for your time and always-fabulous insights, as well as the sexy books. Next up in a day or two is one of the cohosts of Life on the Swingset, Dr Liz… stay tuned for that!
The image featured in this post is the cover of Approaching the Swingularity and is the property of Cooper S Beckett.

Sex Educator Interview #4 – Kayla Lords

The latest in the Sex Educator Interviews series comes from the gorgeous and VERY talented Kayla Lords. I discovered Kayla’s Loving BDSM podcast about a year ago, which she co-hosts with her fiance and Daddy Dom John Brownstone, and I was hooked. I met Kayla in person at Eroticon this March and was delighted to find that she’s as funny, insightful, friendly and talkative in person as she is on the show. I feel privileged to feature her on here and even more privileged to call her a friend.

The Loving BDSM podcast logo, a purple heart surrounded by 2 floggers. For an interview with Kayla Lords

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I’m a sex blogger, podcaster, freelance writer, erotic author, and baby girl submissive in a D/s relationship. I enjoy creating content – audio or text – that involves sex, but specifically BDSM and D/s relationships. I enjoy the sexy side of things and write both erotic fiction and non-fiction, but when it comes to helping other people, I prefer to talk about the realities of D/s relationships and how to navigate a busy life (as a parent, partner, and basically normal human being) and still get the “kinky fuckery” you want. My goal isn’t to tell someone the right way (because there is no right way beyond communication and consent) to live a D/s and kinky life, but to help them figure out what “right” is for them in a healthy, realistic way.

What first made you want to write about sex?

I blogged in the vanilla world (anything not sex/kink related is “vanilla” to me, I don’t use it as a pejorative term) under my real name for about a year as I went through a divorce. It was nice to write and connect to people, but when I realized that I had sexual thoughts and fantasies I wanted to share, I realized I *didn’t* want my mother to read them. I’d already learned that blogging can be healing and cathartic, and I had a lot of sexual repression to deal with – I didn’t have an orgasm until I was 32. Writing was a way to finally get some of the sexual fantasies and questions out of my head and maybe connect to other people who’d understand where I was coming from. It helped that while I was blogging in the vanilla world, I discovered sex blogs and became a lurker. Starting my own sex blog allowed me to join the conversation under a pseudonym without worrying about outing myself as kinky.

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a professional sex writer? How does one ‘make it’ in this field?

My journey in the professional sex writing world began first with my blog which I started in 2012. It’s what taught me that people really are interested in reading what I (and many others) have to say about sex and relationships. In 2014, I quit my long-time desk job to become a freelance writer in the vanilla world but for every business-related article I wrote, I wished I was writing something about BDSM, kink, or D/s. In 2015, I decided that I would branch out and find places to write for under the “Kayla Lords” name. I sent out a completely not-professional email to Kinkly.com asking about writing opportunities – I didn’t pitch ideas. I didn’t offer any writing samples. I think I just asked, “Do you need writers?” But they were kind and willing to pull the necessary information out of me. From there, I caught the bug. If one place liked my ideas and writing style and would pay me, surely there would be other sites. And there were. As of 2017, fully half my income is from writing about sex – some as a contributor for websites, some comes from my websites, and I also pick up adult business clients who need a blogger or ghostwriter. One “makes” it as a writer by writing – often, consistently, and even when you’re not sure it’s good enough. You make it as a paid writer by seeking out sites that say they’re looking for writers and starting the conversation. Not everyone will pick up your ideas or offer compensation, but some will.

What does “a day in the life of You” look like?

I crave routine and the life of a freelance, self-employed person is anything but routine, especially since I have so many projects going at once. In a perfect world, I’m at my laptop after coffee, breakfast, and getting the kids started for their day. I’ve learned to work on my own blog and personal projects first so they actually get done. Then I spend the rest of the day working on client or contributor work – vanilla or sexual. I keep a running to-do list of whatever I need to get done in a given week. If the week is especially busy, I’ll map out my to-do list by the day so I know exactly what has to be written and submitted by the end of that work day. Doing this allows me to meet my deadlines without worrying I’ll disappoint an editor or a client. In between, I may need to record a podcast (for Loving BDSM) or take a call (I do a weekly session on iRadio in Ireland as their “sexpert” – a word I don’t love) or run errands. I’ve learned to be a little bit more flexible with my routine so I take breaks for coffee, the gym, or appointments – as long as I get that day’s work done before I go to bed, I’m happy. And yes, this means sometimes I’m writing at midnight when I need to wake up at 6 the next morning.

What’s the best thing about being a sex writer, in your opinion? The worst?

The best thing about being a sex writer is that I’m writing about sex! I never think I know it all so I don’t write in black and white terms of this or that options. When I’m given the freedom – because of a pitch that was accepted or because it’s my own personal writing – to write what I believe is relevant and important to my readers, it’s an amazing feeling.

There’s no real “worst” in sex writing because the things that can be awful – unsolicited hate, random dick pics because since I write about sex clearly I want to have All The Sex with All The People, and people who think my topic is trash, sinful, or whatever – that all rolls off my back. The hate some people receive is rare for me (thank goodness, and I know exactly how lucky I am). But I also believe so firmly in what I write and share that someone getting upset because they don’t agree is their problem, not mine. Now, to be clear, there are annoyances and anxieties that are a part of my sex writing life but none of them rise to the level of being hated. I’m so happy that I get to write about what I love and get paid for it that the rest doesn’t touch me the same way it does in my vanilla writing. Because in the vanilla writing world, I can list all the things I hate – which is probably why I’m looking forward to the day when the vanilla writing is no longer a necessary part of my income – which is my 2018 goal.

What’s your favourite piece you’ve ever written, fiction and non-fiction?

That’s a harder question than I thought it might be. I tend to write a thing, mean it desperately, and then let it go out into the world without a backward glance. It’ll touch readers or it won’t, I just need it to be genuine, earnest, and well-written. But the writing that comes from a place deep inside me – meaning it’s something I’ve felt, and I’m letting other people know it’s okay to feel and how it affected me – those tend to stick with me. I have two that were meant for the readers but were also reminders to myself:

Both came as a result of my own feelings and things that other submissive were sharing with me, so they were deeply personal pieces.

Who inspires you, professionally and personally?

I tend to be inspired both professional and personally at the same time because my professional life IS personal to me. In the sex blogging world, Molly Moore and Girl on the Net are my spirit animals and I fangirl all over them (in my head, where they can’t see) on a regular basis. When I see them doing something amazing, I don’t want to copy them but I do want to emulate them so I can create my own version of what I admire about them. Of course, they’ve also (inadvertently, without knowing it) taught me to be proud of my own accomplishments and not to be afraid to go my own way if it feels right and it works for me.

In my regular life, my mom inspires me. She went from nothing to extremely successful by working for someone else and is now looking to start over with her own business. She taught me that it’s possible to reach the “impossible” goals, to make a good life for yourself and your family no matter how hard life seems, and to never give up. She also taught me that hard work and an honest effort gets you further in life than anything else.

If you were stuck on a desert island (sorry, sorry, I HAD to do a ‘desert island’ question) and could take one sex toy, one kinky item, and one sexy book, what would you pick and why?

Assuming I had electricity, I’m bringing my Hitachi (aka Original Magic Wand) – no questions asked. My kinky item would be a flogger. And no sexy book, but I’ll bring my laptop so I can write. And this all assumes John Brownstone is with me, and if not, HE’S my kinky item. 😉

What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but don’t believe any more, and what changed your mind?

I used to believe that sex wasn’t that important and that any relationship can be fixed. I stayed in a 12 year relationship (married for nine of them) because I thought those two things were true. I now understand that sex isn’t the MOST important part of a relationship, but for me, it’s a necessary part, and that some relationships are better off over than forcing yourself to stay. That the right person for you will fight just as hard to make a relationship work as you will – and sometimes harder. That they’ve got your back in good times and in bad, not just when it suits their needs. And if I can’t have what I believe is important in a relationship and the other person isn’t willing to work side by side with me to make it a good thing for both of us, I don’t want or need them.

What’s the best sex advice you ever got?

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten actual sex advice – not until I started following other sex bloggers and writers and paying attention to their views. Even then, what might be considered “advice” was something I already agreed with. The best advice, if it can be called that, was actually a complaint from an ex-lover right after my divorce. He and I hooked up, and while the sex was UH-MAZ-ING, I never orgasmed. This was before my first one at age 32 that I mentioned before. He wasn’t interested in helping me figure out why or what I needed to do to come. When he broke it off with me he said, “You never come, and it’s kind of a turn off.” I think, thanks to my overly competitive nature and my overwhelming desire to be considered a “good girl” and not always in a kinky way, I thought of that as a challenge. He and I never got back together, although I thought I wanted us to. But I did take on the task of figuring out how to come and why I couldn’t – and without that, I probably wouldn’t be writing about sex and kink today. So he was an ass but he also gave me a push I didn’t know I needed.

What do you think is the most toxic myth that our society perpetuates about sex/relationships?

That there’s only right way to do any of it. M/F, gay or lesbian, D/s, poly you name a way to have sex or relationship, and each type will have “rules” about what makes it right. Some are societal across the board and some are specific to that type of interaction (like D/s). So we all think there’s one right way to fuck or be with someone and when that One True Way is no good for us, we think WE’RE the problem instead of the arbitrary rule. My world shifted the moment I realized that everything about sex and relationships exists on a spectrum so there is no one right way to do any of it.

What’s one question that you wish people would stop asking you?

“Are you really submissive?” It makes me laugh, and I can always tell they haven’t followed me for very long OR don’t know anything about BDSM and D/s. They hear/read my opinionated views and see me take charge in some way (like over my career) and it doesn’t fit their stereotype of what submission means so they question whether I really am or not. I don’t get offended by the question and I don’t let it bother me – I try to laugh it off more than anything – but I’d love if people stopped wondering, lol.

And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink”: how do you take your coffee? (Since I know that, like me, it is your love language!)

As much as I gush over coffee, I’m the type who likes a little coffee with her cream, and I have to use alternative milks or non-dairy creamers to keep my tummy happy. My favorite (my “American” is going to show here) is iced coffee with caramel flavor and extra cream or almond milk. But hot coffee with extra vanilla creamer and a dash of cinnamon is a good way to wake up, too. My go-to Starbucks order is a Venti Caramel Iced Coffee with Extra Almond Milk and my go-to Dunkin Donuts (do y’all have that?) order is a Medium Iced Dark Roast with Mocha Swirl and Almond Milk.

Thank you so much to Kayla for sharing her time and insights with us all (and for being so kind to me when I fangirled all over her at Eroticon earlier this year.) Check out her work! More interviews coming soon…

The image featured in this post is the logo for Loving BDSM podcast and belongs to Kayla Lords. It was reproduced here with her kind permission.

Sex Educator Interview #3: Dawn Serra

The latest interview in this series comes from Dawn Serra, sex educator extraordinaire and host of the amazing Sex Gets Real podcast. I’ve reached out to Dawn for advice before, as have many other people, and I’ve always found her to be one of the most open-minded, affirming and compassionate educators around. I’m absolutely thrilled she agreed to take part and give us a little peek into her world.

The header image of the Sex Gets Real podcast by Dawn Serra

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

Officially, I’m a sex educator, sex podcaster, and a sex & relationship coach. But what those titles actually mean is I’ve dedicated myself to shame reduction, resilience building, emotional & sexual intelligence development, and helping people find words for things that feel scary or awkward. I’ve learned that what people really need is permission – permission to ask questions, permission to explore, permission to let go of stories that hurt them, and I try to do that every day by connecting the dots between the cultural stories and systems of oppression that keep us all trapped in pain and disconnection, and then giving people new tools and skills for moving in the direction they’d like to move.

What first made you want to be a sex educator and run a sex podcast?

I’ve always been the person my friends came to with sex questions and confessions, even in middle school and high school. Then, in my early 20’s, I started selling sex toys with one of those in-home party companies. While the company & products were problematic, it gave me a chance to talk with hundreds of women, one-on-one, about their deepest fears and shame.

It cracked me open in ways that surprised me, and I knew it was work I wanted to keep doing. It was fascinating to watch groups of women socially interacting with each other around sex. Many of them were loud and laughing, telling these wild stories about their sex life, very Sex and the City, but then behind closed doors with me would admit they’d never had an orgasm or didn’t know they were allowed to use a sex toy with a partner. Others would be quiet and shy during the group portion of the party, and then break down crying in private with me over their deep sense of shame, of being a disappointment to their partners. I started realizing just how many of us are performing what we think sex is supposed to be and look like without actually experiencing it in a way that made sense for us.
That was the beginning.

My podcast, Sex Gets Real, got started was because my friend, Dylan, and I heard some terrible advice about strap-on sex from a shock-jock Playboy type of podcast. We just could not let it go. We were angry at how wrong it was, and that people were actually listening. So, on a whim, we decided our voices were needed. A few days later, we recorded our first episode and now I’m nearing 200 episodes and 3 million downloads. Whoa.

How did you break into the industry and how does one ‘make it’ as a sex educator?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I still don’t have it all figured out.

But for me, it’s always been about relationship building in the industry and finding ways to promote and lift up other voices. I knew that if I helped everyone around me, they’d in turn want to help me win and celebrate. I started attending conferences like Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit, promoting all the speakers, and stepping outside my comfort zone a bit by introducing myself to folks I’d long been a fan of.
The podcast also was a huge help. Even in the very very beginning of the show, I found that if I asked nicely, told someone why I thought they were super awesome, that they’d almost always say yes to an interview. Having them share the show helped me grow organically, which built some buzz, too.
Now I coach sex educators and therapists around building an online presence, creating online summits and courses, and my number one piece of advice for getting noticed is always be yourself. It’s SO tempting to want to emulate, copy, parrot, and follow in the footsteps of other educators. But then people don’t really know who you are. Be bold around stating your vision for a new world, your beliefs of what’s holding us back, your story and why it matters. Learn about social justice and oppression and then find ways to be unapologetic around your values and ethics in those spheres. Apologize when you’re wrong or hurt someone (because you will), and always always always take feedback graciously.

That more than anything has helped me to show up and be known for the sex educator I am today. The money stuff I’m still trying to figure out because the bottom line is people don’t want to pay for sex education unless it’s built on shiny promises and magic bullet solutions. To offer something more real and honest means a lot of swimming against the current. It’s possible, but it takes some grit and determination. And never, ever feel bad if sex education is your side hustle while you have a day job that pays the bills. Some of the biggest names in the industry do the same thing.

What does “a day in the life of a sex educator” look like for you?

For me, a typical day is a whole lot of admin work around the podcast, projects I’m working on, managing client updates and emails. One a good day, I’ll have a chance to do one or two podcast interviews with ridiculously amazing people. I may have a client session or two for personal or business coaching. Loads of social media writing and planning. Nurturing my Explore More group on Facebook. And then making big plans for future workshops, summits, webinars, etc.

What’s the best thing about being a sex educator, in your opinion? The worst?

The best thing is seeing people have massive shifts – seeing their relief, seeing their eyes light up at the possibilities they never knew could be theirs, hearing their vulnerable stories and knowing they trust me enough to hold them so gently and tenderly. That feeds my heart and soul.

The worst is how sex education is treated in the world. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – they all ban ads and promoted posts from sex educators because they consider sex education the same as pornography. Google Ads won’t allow you to buy ad space for the same reason. Getting the word out can be so tough because so many people are so filled with shame and embarrassment they aren’t willing to share your posts, even if they love them, for fear of people seeing them consume the content and thinking something is wrong.

Also, people don’t realize just how badly they need support around sex, love, relationships, and their bodies, so they aren’t willing to pay for webinars and workshops unless they’ve reached a total place of crisis. I wish more people understood that the sooner we all start practicing and learning together, the less we ever have to be in crisis or deep shame. But the world isn’t quite ready for that shift. Until then, we hustle and we persist, even in the shadows.

What’s your favourite episode of the podcast and why?

You have no idea how much I agonized over this question. I decided to go with one of my more recent episodes, simply because I’m incredibly proud of it.

For episode 162, I interviewed law professor and author Carol Sanger. It was the first time I dedicated an entire episode (or more than a few moments) to the topic of abortion. Carol’s book is truly spectacular, and to honor the seven years she spent writing it, I asked listeners to send in their abortion stories. I received about a dozen submissions. Each and every one was raw, real, and deeply personal. I felt like I was holding some of the most precious stories on earth – stories many of these people had never told another living soul. I read some of them on that episode, and Carol and I held them together. It wasn’t a super popular episode because I think too many people are scared of or biased around abortion discussions, but I am so so proud of that work.

Tell us about a book that changed your life/perspective completely?

Bessel van der Kolk’s “The Body Keeps the Score.” As a trauma survivor with PTSD, it was the first time my body, my reactions to situations, my trauma actually made sense. I started understanding what was happening inside of my body, inside of my brain, and it felt like pure relief.

Until I read that book, I considered myself broken in a lot of ways, incapable of healing or moving beyond certain things. I carried tremendous shame around my triggers, especially as a sex educator since my PTSD tends to come up in sexualized situations with strangers.
The research, the techniques to move towards integrating and recovery gave me hope. That book also gave me new language that allowed me to not only create permission and space in my own trauma, but around the trauma of the people I work with.
It led me to Peter Levine’s work and Somatic Experiencing. It took me down a path of learning more about being trauma-informed. It made sense of so many of the things that seem to not make sense in the world.

I am forever grateful for that book and the shift it caused in me.

Who inspires you, professionally and personally?

Professionally, Meg John Barker. Their work is powerful. They turn a lot of cultural stories and myths upside down, and in a way that doesn’t feel super threatening. I’ve found that so much of what I thought to be true is actually not true at all thanks to them, so I keep a close eye on their work. It’s always radical and permission-granting. Kate McCombs, Karen BK Chan, and Megan Devine in their work on empathy and emotional intelligence. That has done wonders for my professional work, how I work with clients, and my personal relationships, as well.

Personally, I’m inspired by folks who are brave and fighting endlessly for justice. The more I learn about my own racism, transphobia, fatphobia, ableism, classism, the more I grow and can lift others up. People like Ijeomo Oluo, Kelly Diels, Monica Raye Simpson, Jes Baker, Feminista Jones, Audre Lorde, Conner Habib… I feel rich with the people who offer me tough questions and who challenge me. It’s my favorite place to be, even when it feels terrible.

Also, as sappy as it sounds, my husband. He is so ridiculously smart. He reads endlessly, he listens to brain-growing podcasts all the time, and he knows more about all the things than anyone I know.

If you were stuck on a desert island (sorry, sorry, I HAD to do a ‘desert island’ question) and could take one sexy book, one sex toy and one kink item, which would you pick and why?

For my sex toy, I’d bring a rechargeable Magic wand. We’ll just pretend the island has a source of power for charging it. It’s deliciously diverse: I use on myself, I use it on my husband, and we use it together for sex in all sorts of configurations and positions.

For my kink item, it would have to be rope. I was tempted to say a flogger, but we could fashion a flogger from rope because it’s versatile like that. Then I’d have rope for both the kinky stuff (I’m imagining being tied to a palm tree and fanned with palm leaves) and practical island living stuff. Ha!

One sexy book… I have to go with Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy (it’s a box set, so I’m counting it as one). The first time I read those books I was probably 19 or 20 years old, had never heard of kink or BDSM, and they terrified me. Absolutely terrified me. I couldn’t understand why I kept feeling aroused by these very very unusual (to me) activities. In fact, I couldn’t finish the 3rd book because it was too much. A decade later, I picked them up and had to laugh. By then, I’d dabbled in all sorts of kink, had a chance to exploring shifting identities, and met people into all the things in the book. Now, they’re a fun escape that’s sexy and hot and full of delicious ideas.

What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but don’t believe any more, and what changed your mind?

I used to believe men wanted sex more than women. I used to believe there were only two genders. I used to believe monogamy was the only way to do relationship. I used to believe fat bodies were rarely, if ever, desirable. I used to believe that love was enough. I used to be in soul mates and true love and fairy tales. I used to believe if you loved someone enough that sex would be automatic and natural, with no need for words or explaining myself or awkward moments. I used to believe you couldn’t come back from betrayal.

I’m sure there are hundreds of other things I used to believe, having grown up on Cosmo magazine and Sex and the City. What really changed my mind was listening to peoples stories and realizing that it’s not that every single person is broken or inadequate in some way – it’s that the system, the stories, the culture are fundamentally flawed.

Reading powerful books on racial justice, reproductive justice, and sexual autonomy helped give me words and new questions which led me on a journey to overturn and question nearly everything we’re taught. I have a talk called Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong. It’s not because any individual is wrong, it’s that everything we’ve all been taught is wrong.

What’s the one thing that you wish everyone in the world could understand about sex/relationships?

I wish more people realized that we’d all be a lot better off if we normalized a lifetime of learning and professional support BEFORE crisis struck in both sex and love.

I wish people knew just how much pain, shame, uncertainty, hesitation, anger, resentment, confusion, and regret they could shed if they worked with folks like sex educators, sex coaches, sex therapists, relationship coaches, relationship therapists, trauma counselors, sex workers, body workers, etc.

So many people spend months, years, or decades silently suffering, worrying, not sure what’s changing or why things are so tough, and if they only knew how much permission and relief they could find with the help of folks trained to do this. No one should have to wait until they’re in deep pain or betrayal to begin to do the work that could genuinely move things forward for them.

There are a lot of amazing people (and even more pretty terrible ones, so be particular, folks) doing incredible, affirming work in all of these rich areas. Even professionals need a safe space to process, to learn and grow, to grieve and mourn the things they’ve fucked up or gotten wrong, to gain a little perspective. So if professionals needs it (goodness knows I do), then everyone does.

If we could all celebrate asking for help and having places to turn to constantly ask new questions together, I suspect we’d have a world with a lot less shame and fear and so much more connection and pleasure.

What do you think is the most toxic myth that our society perpetuates about sex/relationships?

In my humble opinion, all myths that we have are built upon one myth that feeds them all. It’s the myth that tells us the answers we need are outside of ourselves.

We are a culture that teaches children to turn to others to tell them who they are. We are trained from the youngest of ages to accept labels from people who do not know us, from people who are not us, and we are a culture that thrives on conformity (while claiming to admire independence).
Because of that, we get trapped in stories that tell us to compare ourselves to others, to let outside forces dictate our identities and our worth, to tell us what a normal life or romance or happiness look like. It is a myth that says you are not the one with the answers. We don’t know how to trust our bodies, how to speak up for ourselves, how to advocate for our pleasure because we, our bodies, our lives, are foreign to us.
And yet…we are the only ones who live in our bodies, who think our thoughts, who feel these sensations, who experience these feelings. If we can begin learning how to listen to our bodies, how to trust those sensations and the wisdom we have about what’s best for us, how to sit in our feelings and ask ourselves questions about what we really want and feel, we’d find that we have tremendous power and sovereignty over our own lives.
Sex wouldn’t be about performing what we think sex should look like. It would be about intimately knowing our bodies and what brings us the most pleasure on our own terms without worrying if it looked like everyone else.
Love wouldn’t be about achieving a relationship status or adhering to external, superficial factors, but instead about connection and curiosity and knowing based on a deep trust of ourselves.

Entire industries would collapse, but wow what a world that would be.

What’s one question that you wish people would stop asking you?

I love that you asked this, and at the same time, it’s difficult to answer because my goal is always to create space to reduce shame so folks can ask the hard questions. By answering, do I, in turn, create an atmosphere where it’s no longer safe to ask this question? Possibly, yes.

To answer the question, though, I wish people would stop asking how to “make” their partner orgasm because they’ve decided, on their partner’s behalf, that their partner having an orgasm is somehow vital or a huge puzzle piece is missing from their partner’s pleasure experience.
Our cultural focus on orgasm is bananas, and it’s created tremendous pressure on everyone to be orgasming all the time in all the ways, and to feel terrible if they aren’t.
I love people getting curious about their own pleasure and their own bodies, finding new words and tools to advocate for their explorations, and demanding recognition of their pleasure especially if they’re in a marginalized body, so what I think causes a lot more harm than good is people who make their partner’s experiences a personal mission.
Too many people feel like their sexual success, or being good in bed, is tied up in “giving” their partners an orgasm. It’s not really about the partner (though many say that it is). It’s actually about their own stories and needing to feel successful in some way because their partner’s orgasm is tied to their own identity.
That’s not to vilify folks who ask this question, but to point out that the sexual stories we’re given tell us this is normal. That orgasm is the end-all-be-all, and so of course we should want to do whatever it takes to make someone we care about get there. But at what expense? Making them feel more broken or abnormal?
The bottom line is expectations suck when it comes to sex – whether the expectation is a hard penis or certain feelings or an orgasm. It’s the fastest way to turn off pleasure and create distance, because even if an expectation goes unspoken, it still gets communicated – loudly and clearly – to the person who isn’t orgasming that something about them isn’t good enough. And they are good enough.

Instead of worrying about orgasm as a goal, I always invite people to simply focus on maximizing pleasure and being present for each other. Curiosity, space, time, and fun are much more likely to give everyone the peak pleasure experience they’re hoping for, anyways. And yet… no matter how many times I offer this answer, people still ask this question. So I’ll continue repeating myself until we have a cultural shift that takes this pressure off us all.

And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink”: do you like coffee and how do you take it?

I love coffee. The floofy, fancy kind. A latte with caramel or an iced coffee with cream and lavender syrup. It’s a decadence that I treat myself to from time to time rather than a daily kick start.

Thanks again to Dawn for her time and amazing insights – and for being the amazing, fabulous educator she is. Coming up soon, we have educators including Cooper S Beckett, Dedeker Winston and Dirty Lola. Watch this space…
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