How to Vet a Dom Before You Play

I meet a lot of new and curious submissives through this blog and events in my local kink community. The questions they ask me most often tend to centre around how to find a Dom. But finding someone is just the first step. It’s also essential to vet a Dom before you play with them. Vetting helps to ensure the person is who they say they are, and that they’re a safe person for you to play with, date, or give your submission to.

Here are five strategies you can use to help you vet a Dom before you get too invested in them.

Meet in a public place first

If you’re meeting someone in person for the first time (say, if you’ve met them online) then always have your first meeting in a public place like a bar, restaurant, or coffee shop. Even if you’ve met at an event such as a munch or rope workshop, having a date in a public place the first time you meet one-to-one is a good idea. This lets you get to know them as a person in a safe and low-pressure environment. It also ensures you can leave relatively easily if things go sideways.

If a prospective Dom balks at meeting in public, that’s a glaring red flag. At best, it might suggest they’re cheating on a spouse or otherwise not being upfront about themselves and their situation. At worst, it can indicate seriously bad intentions.

Ask around

If your prospective Dominant has been in the community for a while, others will know them and have an opinion on them. Try asking around some regulars in your local scene to see what they can tell you about this person. If in doubt, the organiser of a munch they attend regularly is a good place to start.

When vetting, it’s best to get a range of opinions if you can. One person’s view can be clouded either positively or negatively, but patterns of data are far more useful. Of course, if you hear anything really damning (such as that the person has a history of behaving abusively), pay very close attention to that.

Kinksters are used to people vetting each other and generally support it. Your local community leaders shouldn’t think it’s weird if you say “hey, I’m thinking of playing with X and I wondered if you have any insight on what they’re like as a person?”

Pay attention to small things

If you look closely, you can learn a lot about a person from the way they interact with you, others, and the world around them. Remember that a BDSM relationship is still a relationship first and foremost.

For example, do they generally speak to others with respect and courtesy? Or do they immediately assume they can be disrespectful to anyone who identifies as a submissive? If you go out for coffee or a meal, how do they treat the waitstaff? Do they have hobbies, interests, and friends that they can talk about? Do they ask for consent as a matter of course (for example, before touching or hugging you for the first time)?

Here’s a trick a friend taught me: set a small boundary early on. Do they respect and honour it? How a Dom responds to a clearly stated boundary tells you an enormous amount about them and how they’ll treat you if you continue in a relationship.

Introduce them to your friends

Friends can sometimes spot things that we can’t when we have a crush on someone (or are deep in sub frenzy). Introducing your potential Dom to some of your trusted friends early on can give you a new perspective on them. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends for their honest opinions and be prepared to listen to them!

I’ve had friends introduce me to their new partner or prospective partner and immediately felt like “eurgh, there’s something off about this guy”, even if I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what (I call this Getting The Vibes). Sometimes it’s more obvious, such as if the person insults or demeans my friend in front of me. Other times in this situation, I’ve thought “my friend seems so happy and relaxed around this person”.

Play at an event first

Not everyone likes kinky events or play parties, or has access to them due to finances or geography. But if this is an option for you, it can be a safer way to play with a new Dom for the first time. Reputable kinky play events usually have staff, such as organisers and Dungeon Monitors (DMs), who will keep an eye on what’s happening and step in if necessary. For example, many events have “house safewords” but in practice a DM will pay attention to anything that sounds like a withdrawal of consent. This means that, even if you’re in a vulnerable position such as being restrained, you’ll have someone looking out for you.

People can still fool you

Unfortunately, some people are good at seeming fine while hiding nefarious intentions. You might do everything you can to vet a Dom, and still end up getting hurt. If you do, I really don’t want you to feel as though any of this is your fault or you didn’t do enough. If a person chooses to harm you, the fault is always and exclusively theirs.

Vetting is a tool that helps to keep us safe. It’s far from perfect, but it’s still worth doing.

Do you have any ways you vet a Dom (or sub) that I haven’t discussed? Drop them in the comments if so!

5 Sexy New Year’s Resolutions I’m Making

Belated happy 2022, folks! I completely failed to mark the occasion, but 31 December 2021 was the fifth anniversary of Coffee & Kink. What started out as a little passion project ended up completely changing my life. So whether you’ve been here since the beginning or you’re just joining me now, thank you so much for reading.

With the beginning of the year comes new challenges, new adventures, and – yes – new year’s resolutions. I don’t really believe in the “typical” resolutions, because I think they’re mostly built on false premises and values I don’t subscribe to. 

What I do believe in, though, is taking any opportunity to focus on and improve our sex lives! Whether you’re planning to buy a vibrator for the first time, switch to eco-friendly sex toys (more on why this is one of mine in a minute!), or talk to your partner about trying BDSM, I hope you’ll take time for yourself and your pleasure this year. 

To that end, here are five sexy new year’s resolutions I’m making in 2022.

Become a More Conscious Consumer

Love Not War Koi eco friendly vibrator

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my impact on the planet. I stopped eating meat several years ago, but I’ve started incorporating more vegan foods into my diet, buying locally where possible, and generally trying to approach food in a more sustainable way. I don’t have periods at the moment (praise Mirena!) but, if I start having them again, I’ve promised myself that I’ll try reuseable menstrual cups instead of pads or tampons. Of course, no-one is perfect and it’s impossible to completely mitigate one’s environmental footprint, but if we all make small steps they really can make a big difference.

One way to become a more conscious consumer, and one that is often forgotten, is in the realm of sexuality. And one of the most fun ways to do that? Buy eco-friendly sex toys!

I recently tried the Koi vibrator from Love Not War. Love Not War vibrators are made using as few materials as possible, and are constructed from silicone and recycled aluminium. There is no single-use plastic and the small amount of plastic that is necessary is recycled within the factory. It arrives in eco-friendly, brown cardboard packaging, and even the little storage pouch for your toy is made from environmentally friendly bamboo fabric. Best of all? The electronics unit works with all the interchangeable heads, which you can buy separately. So you can try lots of different sensations without needing to buy a new battery unit for each one.

Love Not War Koi sustainable vibrator

Oh, and it’s a damn good vibrator, too. The Love Not War Koi is powerful, rumbly, and has a fabulous wide head for all-over vulva stimulation.

Other ways to make your sex life more environmentally friendly include switching to ethically-made lubricants with organic ingredients, buying lingerie made from sustainable and recycled fabrics, and avoiding products with tonnes of single-use plastic packaging. Buying glass, silicone, or stainless steel toys instead of hard plastic is another great option, as is choosing rechargeable toys rather than those powered by disposable batteries. Some manufacturers, such as Lovehoney, will also recycle old sex toys so they don’t end up in landfill.

Remember to Masturbate for Fun!

“So, what, you get paid to masturbate?” people say when I tell them I test and review sex toys for a living. And… yes, kind of, but not really. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I’m incredibly lucky that I get paid to try out some awesome and innovative sex toys. But it’s far more than just “being paid to masturbate”.

For every toy review that appears on this site, there are hours of testing, taking notes, and sometimes discussing the product with my partner. Then there’s writing it up, proofreading and editing, taking and editing photos, creating a header image, adding tags and categories, and then promoting the post on social media once it’s live.

I love my job, but it’s still my job. This year, I want to remember that self-pleasure is supposed to be about, well, pleasure. This means taking the time to masturbate just for fun, with the toys (or lack thereof) that I feel like using, without the pressure to write about it afterwards. 

Start Dating Again

This one might be a little trickier, what with that ongoing pandemic thing, but I’m an optimist and I’m going to do my best!

Many of you may remember that I went through a truly terrible break-up in late 2021. As a result, I decided to take a long break from dating anyone except my nesting partner. This was unquestionably the right decision, as I needed time to process and heal from what happened. But I’m starting to feel like dating again might be a good thing for me.

I’m trying to keep my resolutions for 2022 squarely in the realm of “things I can actually control”. So I’m not going to promise to go on 15 dates this year, or have a girlfriend by December (if only…). But I am going to get myself back on some dating apps, flirt with some pretty humans, and maybe ask someone out if they seem like a good fit.

Take More Sexy Selfies

My body image has been a little all over the place recently. Perhaps unsurprising in these ongoing Covid times. As a result, I haven’t been taking many sexy pics recently except when I need them for lingerie reviews. I always get a good reaction when I do take them and send them to a lover, play partner, or long distance crush… and honestly, even if I don’t send them to anyone, taking them and looking at them makes me feel hot and desirable.

2022 shall be the year of the nude selfie!

Try a New Kink

What will that new kink be? I don’t know yet! But I recently read Kate Sloan’s fabulous book, 101 Kinky Things Even You Can Do, and it’s given me more than a few ideas.

One of the things I love the most about sexuality is its infinite variety. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, I come across a new kink or fetish I’ve never even heard of. So maybe this year I’ll try something that’s been on my bucket list for years, or maybe I’ll end up trying a kink I don’t even know exists yet. The point is less about the specific act itself, and more about committing to a state of ongoing openness, curiosity, and adventure.

What’s on your 2022 sexy resolutions list, lovelies?

This post was sponsored by the good folks at Love Not War, an eco-conscious and sustainable toy company that also happens to make gorgeous, powerful vibrators in a range of interesting shapes and styles. All opinions are, as always, completely my own. Images are by Love Not War and used with permission.

Five Filthy Post-Covid Fantasies

This post was shamelessly inspired by Exhibit A’s 24 Hours posts.

Even though the pandemic isn’t over, many of us are starting to enjoy the perks of vaxxed life. That includes the ability to date, hook up, go to sexy events, and more. I’m currently taking a break from dating new people (for the reasons explained here) but that doesn’t mean I’m not fully embracing some recurring filthy fantasies. Here are five thoughts and fantasies that are occupying my sex brain at the moment.

The culmination of long-held sexual tension

How long have we been lusting after each other from afar at this point? Years? Sexual tension is delicious, but I fantasise about the moment we finally get to rip each other’s clothes off. A frantic fuck in a hotel room, the look on his face when he finally sees me naked for the first time in the flesh, the way my breath will catch when he pushes me against the wall and kisses me.

A kiss with a stranger

I don’t know their name, and I don’t want to. I want us to connect through looks and body-language, pressing close to each other on the dance-floor where it’s so loud we couldn’t really talk even if we wanted to. Our lips will meet in the dark and I’ll press just close enough to feel their cock through their jeans, to feel how much they want me. It won’t go any further, and it doesn’t need to. Just knowing they’ll be thinking about me when they get themself off later tonight is enough.

A spanking party

Spanking was my gateway drug, the first fetish I explored in my first sexual relationship, long before I had any real concept of what BDSM was or that it was a thing that millions of people are into. Though I’ve been to plenty of general BDSM events, I’ve never been to a specific spanking-themed party and I would love to. In this fantasy, I usually end up co-bottoming to a group of lovely, lightly sadistic Tops who want to be just the right level of horrible to me.

A strip club

I’ve wanted to go to a strip club for years (I actually tried to organise an outing to one a couple years ago for my birthday, but the one we were intending to go to closed down in the interim). I’ve received lap-dances a couple times in my life, in the context of private events, and both times the experience was incredibly hot. I’d love to experience it in the full strip club setting.

A swing resort

It’s long been a fantasy and ambition of mine to go to a swinging and nudist resort, and specifically to make it to the “Swingset Takes Desire” takeover in Cancun. This feels like a pipe-dream much of the time, because escaping to Mexico requires a high degree of logistical wrangling and is hella expensive, but someday we’ll make it happen.

I want to get naked in the sun, to run around in a space with others who understand my particular form of non-monogamous weirdness, flirt and dance and drink and fuck and just for a week, escape from the world into paradise.

What post-Covid fantasies are you harbouring, friends?

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

How to Find a Dom or Sub: Five Places to Meet People

Spend five minutes on Fetlife or r/BDSM or any other online kink space, and this question will inevitably crop up. “How do I find a Dom?” “How do I find a sub?” “Where do kinky people meet each other, anyway!?” So I thought it was past time for me to share a few ideas on how to find a Dom or sub to share kinky adventures with.

Looking for your kinky soulmate or just someone to have some fun times with? Perhaps you’ve tried all those “FIND KINKY GIRLS TONIGHT!” sites advertised at the top of Google and had no luck. Fortunately, we’re long past the days of posting a coded ad in the back of a newspaper.

Wherever you are on your journey, here are five great ways to meet kinky people that you may not have thought of.

How to Find a Dom or Sub: Five Places to Meet People

1. Fetlife

Fetlife, known affectionately as the Facebook of kink, is not exclusively a dating site. It’s a social networking site for kinky people. But I know many people who have met partners on there, and it is a fantastic hub of online kinky socialising.

Don’t just spam your personal ad or start cold messaging people, though. Take the time to create an engaging profile, participate in some group discussions, and contribute constructively to the platform.

Before you message someone, read their profile carefully. Do they clearly state they’re not looking? Move on. Remember that kinky people are people first, so approach them respectfully. Do not assume a dynamic where none exists, and do not get sexually explicit until consent has been established. Mentioning a shared interest is good. Immediately asking someone to spank you or be your Mistress is… not.

2. Munches

A munch is a social event for kinky people, usually held in a vanilla location such as a bar, pub, restaurant, coffee shop, or park. There are munches in most major cities and many smaller towns, too.

In the Covid times, many munch organisers took their events online, and some online munches are still running. These can be great if you live in a rural area or don’t have access to transport. But I really recommend getting out there in the real world if you can.

Don’t go to a munch with the intention of picking someone up on your first visit. Instead, chat to everyone and aim to make friends. If you hit it off with someone you fancy, great! If not, you’ll have started developing a network of kinky contacts and getting your face known in the community. You never know who could introduce you to the Dominant or submissive of your dreams (or at least the next person you’ll have fun tying up).

3. Mainstream dating sites

Yes, kinky people use Tinder and OKCupid, too!

If you’re using regular dating sites, consider putting something about your kink proclivities in your profile. (But don’t be gross about it. Even something as simple as “Dominant looking to connect with subs or switches” or “I’m looking for the D to my s” is good!)

Again, always read someone’s profile in full before messaging, and always be polite and respectful. As you browse, you might be surprised how many kinksters are on these sites for precisely the same reasons you are.

4. r/BDSMpersonals

Reddit can be so many things – a cesspit or an absolute goldmine of useful information and interesting people. I’ve heard mixed things about the r/BDSMpersonals subreddit, but people do claim to have met both short-term and long-term partners on there.

You can create a post sharing your location, gender, age, kink role, and a bit about what you’re looking for. A recent glance indicates that posts by women tend to get far more engagement than posts by men, but it’s worth a shot whatever your gender.

Remember that, as with any online meeting, be cautious and exercise good judgement. Never give out personally identifiable information until you’ve met in person and got to know each other, and always meet in a well-lit public place at least the first couple of times.

5. Hobbies or subcultures that are popular with kinksters

You know those stereotypes about kinksters and geeks, or kinksters and LARPers, or kinksters and Renaissance Faire enthusiasts? They’re all kinda true. (See also goths, polyam folks, and so on). Obviously not everyone you meet in these spaces will be kinky, and you should never assume. But the crossover is large.

While I do not advocate for getting into a hobby or subculture just to meet a potential partner, if any of them appeal to you for their own sake, they might have the pleasant side-effect of allowing you to meet fellow kinky people in a vanilla or vanilla-ish space.

A disclaimer and word of caution

Naturally, these are only suggestions and I can’t guarantee any of them will work for you. Sometimes, meeting people can be a strange mix of circumstances and right place/right time happenstance, so keep your eyes open and treat everyone you meet in the community as a potential friend.

Finally, please be aware of the dreaded frenzy. If you’re starting to feel like you just need to play with someone – anyone – then you might be in sub-frenzy or Dom-frenzy. If so, then this is a good time to pause and reevaluate before diving into anything.

Happy kinky dating!

This post uses affiliate links.

Five Good Rules for Polyamory (and Five Bad Ones)

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

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

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

Five Good Rules for Polyamory

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

“Practice safer sex”

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

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

“Tell the truth”

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

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

Rules about financial and legal responsibilities

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

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

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

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

Rules about public disclosure or lack thereof

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

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

“Allow relationships to be what they are”

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

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

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

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

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

And Five Unhealthy Rules

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

“Don’t fall in love”

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

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

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

Overly specific rules around physical intimacy

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

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

Veto rules

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

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

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

“We only date together”

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

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

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

Curfews and tight rules around time

This can appear under lots of different guises.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything I Know About Life, I Learned from Musical Theatre

Okay, yes, obviously exaggerated clickbait title is obvious. But I was thinking about this recently, so I thought it might be fun to write about.Anyone who knows me knows that I love musical theatre. I think it’s because it combines two of my favourite things: music and stories. And most of my favourite shows have that one line (or sometimes more than one) that sticks with me because it sums up something I know to be true or sometimes need to be reminded of.

So just for fun, here are nine of my favourite pieces of showtunes wisdom and the things I take from them.

“Forget regret, or life is yours to miss” (Rent)

(I know Rent is problematic, I love it anyway, don’t @ me)

Much of this show is about seizing the day and taking the love you can get now, because you know you don’t have forever. This one reminds me that life can be short, and that there’s no point living in past regrets. Because sometimes now is all we have.

“You change the world when you change your mind” (Kinky Boots)

We are all learning every day, or at least we should be. Sometimes, people might feel as though they can’t keep up with all the changes in society and politics and language. But none of us come to the table knowing everything.

The world doesn’t change in a day. But with every mind changed, we make progress. With every view reconsidered, we get closer to the world we want. Wisdom isn’t about knowing it all. Wisdom is about knowing when to change your mind.

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise” (Les Miserables)

I always think of this one as something that might be said to a hero just as he’s about to give up on his quest. It reminds me that there’s always another day and that even the worst pain doesn’t last forever.

“To seek revenge may lead to hell” (Sweeney Todd)

I wrote recently about why I still hate my abuser and won’t forgive him. I think anger can be a strong and powerful thing. But anger is not the same thing as revenge.

I do not wish to hurt him. My goal is not to cause him harm. In the end, exacting revenge (whatever that looked like) would do more damage to me than it would to him. My goal is to help myself, not to hurt him. Allowing myself to be angry does the former, while seeking revenge would succumb to the latter.

“I am the one thing in life I can control” (Hamilton)

I actually have a print featring this quote framed on the wall of my office. I’ve long known that I have control issues. It’s a safety mechanism and something I’m working on internally and with my therapist. But this serves as a reminder that I can’t actually control others or external situations – and that it is foolish and even harmful to try. All I can control is myself.

“I’m through accepting limits ’cause someone says they’re so” (Wicked)

Most of us have probably been told “you can’t do that” at some point. Any person who has reached the peak of achievement in their field will tell you that they’ve encountered naysayers along the way.

But you don’t have to accept other people’s limitations or allow them to put those limitations onto you. You get to define your own limits.

“Everybody’s playing the game but nobody’s rules are the same” (Chess)

We all approach situations and relationships with our own unique context made up of beliefs, preconceptions, past experiences, and goals. While two people might be superficially facing the same thing, it can look incredibly different. So if you feel as though you’re talking past someone else or can’t come to a place of understanding, consider whether you’re approaching things with a completely different set of rules.

“Nice is different than good” (Into the Woods)

So many of the people I’ve been harmed by in my life were nice people. My abuser was perhaps the nicest, at least to those outside his immediate sphere. He charmed strangers, gave great compliments, even flirted with service staff in a way that managed to be charismatic rather than creepy. He also spent years breaking down my sense of self and my grasp of reality.

So now, when someone tells me they’re “such a Nice Guy,” I think of him and I understand that being nice doesn’t necessarily mean they will treat me well.

“There’s a fine, fine line between love and a waste of time” (Avenue Q)

Yes, even a show that is essentially “Muppets, but wrong” can have the occasional pearls of wisdom. There’s a Fine Fine Line is a surprisingly poignant little song about knowing when to give up on someone even if it hurts.

I know I’ve had a tendency to hang on to relationships for far too long in the past. I felt as though as long as I loved the person, I couldn’t leave. Now I know that sometimes, the greatest act of love you can show to both yourself and the other person is to get out before things get much worse.

Do you have any favourite theatrical wisdom?

How Audio Erotica is Making Smut More Inclusive

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Do you prefer to read your smut or watch it? Some people love written erotica, others love visual porn, and many of us enjoy a mixture of the two. But now there’s a third option that’s making waves and taking the adult industry by storm: enter audio erotica

Here are a few of the ways that audio erotica is making smut more welcoming, more inclusive, and more enjoyable for everyone. 

More ways to consume

Many people find written or visual porn inaccessible for various reasons. For example, for people who are blind or visually impaired, traditional porn videos are likely to be somewhat or completely inaccessible. While many sites offering written smut, such as Literotica, can be used via a screen reader, that’s not necessarily a super sexy or appealing option. 

But audio erotica opens up a whole new avenue of smutty enjoyment. The best audio smut is narrated by skilled voice performers with sexy voices (which can, of course, mean different things to different people.) Because quality erotica is for everyone, regardless of ability and whether they choose to watch it, read it, or listen to it. 

Pleasure focused and sex positive 

Much of the audio porn currently on the market seems to have been created by women and with female pleasure in mind. Whenever I’ve engaged with audio porn I’ve found the stories to be pleasure focused, consent minded, and overall sex positive. They feature safe and mutually pleasurable sexual scenarios. And when stories do feature an element of coercion roleplay or consensual non-consent, it’s generally made clear that they are fantasy, not reality. 

So much mainstream porn is focused on male pleasure and the male gaze. But audio smut creators understand that women, non binary folks, and queer people want quality erotic content just as much as cis men do… and they’re giving it to us! 

I’ve also found that audio porn trends much less towards using dehumanising terminology and artificial categorisation. Mainstream porn sites often use terms that are problematic at best, and downright sexist, ageist, racist, or transphobic at worst. I haven’t seen the same issue in the audio smut world. 

More options for creative scenarios

Don’t get me wrong, porn makers and performers can get VERY creative! But ultimately, visual content will always be limited by what’s possible (and affordable) to pull off on screen. Audio porn, though, allows for almost anything that the writers and creators can dream up. So if immersing yourself in a futuristic, fantastical, or historical scenario sounds up your street, or you fantasise about sexual acts that are physically or biologically impossible, you can find all of those things and so much more. 

More surreptitious

You (probably) wouldn’t watch visual porn while on the Tube or walking to work, right? And while it’s possible to sneakily read written erotica via a Kindle or smartphone app, there’s always the danger of someone looking over your shoulder. 

Audio porn, though, can be completely discreet. Just choose your story, pop your headphones in, and no-one will be any the wiser. You could be listening to the morning news or a perfectly innocent podcast, for all they know! 

This is also particularly useful for those who live with family, have roommates or children at home, or even have a partner who gives them grief about consuming erotic content. (I’ll argue forever that porn and masturbation aren’t cheating, but I know that’s a losing battle with some people.) Audio smut allows you complete privacy. 

Can be more ethical

There’s a huge amount of fantastic feminist, queer, consensually-produced ethical porn out there. I enjoy visual porn, but at this point I prefer to access it either from production companies I trust or directly from the performers themselves. 

For the average consumer, though, the “tube” sites are still by far the most popular way to access traditional porn. And while these sites do contain some good and ethically produced content, they’re also rife with stolen clips and even non-consensual videos. 

If you’ve ever watched mainstream porn and wondered whether the performers are really consenting or being abused or coerced, you’re not alone. It’s a real and valid concern. Audio smut means you can relax in the knowledge that no-one has been harmed for your enjoyment. 

Allowing you to insert yourself into the fantasy

When it comes to visual porn, it’s often more about the scenario than the individual performers for me. I find a wide range of body types and genders attractive, after all. However, sometimes I find myself distracted because I want to insert myself into the fantasy being played out on the screen, but I can’t find scenarios I like with bodies that look like mine. But when all I’ve got to work with is a voice, I can envision the main characters looking however I want them to look. Instead of the pretty narrow standards set by mainstream porn, you’ve suddenly got a whole world of potential. 

Audio porn makes it easier to mentally put yourself into the scenario. Since the action all takes place in your ears and your mind, you can immerse yourself and place yourself into whichever role takes your fancy. Do you want to be the whip-wielding Domme, the helpless maiden, or a member of the couple exploring group sex for the first time? Now you can! 

Sofia Sins actually takes this premise a step further. When you choose the story you want to listen to, you can read a little bio for each of the main characters and decide whose perspective you want to hear. 

Do you listen to audio porn? Whether it’s your go-to or you’re just curious, I’d love to know what about it appeals to you. 

FYI: today’s post was sponsored by Sofia Sins, a new audio erotica platform from the folks behind Sofia Gray. You can enjoy a 3 day free trial to see if you like it. After that, a subscription is just $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year. All views, as always, are my own! 

What is Ethical Porn and How Can It Enhance Your Sex Life?

I love porn. 

People are often surprised when I say that. As an outspoken and unapologetic feminist, surely pornography would be against everything I stand for? Well, not exactly.

It’s true that the mainstream porn industry has a lot to answer for. Too often, the large “tube” sites profit from stolen content or non consensual content, including revenge porn and child abuse material. 

But there’s an alternative. If you’ve never explored ethical porn, you’re missing out on something that can be a wonderful addition to your sex life. 

Bellesa Plus ethical porn streaming platform

Today I’m spotlighting Bellesa Plus, a porn streaming platform that calls itself “The Netflix of Porn” and offers a “pay what you can” model costing from as little as $1 per month. The higher prices offer special perks, such as free sex toys and gift cards to the Bellesa Boutique (BBoutique), but the low entry point means you can enjoy more ethical adult content even if you’re on a budget. 

But What is Ethical Porn?

As with many of the things we consume, from food to media, people are becoming more and more concerned about the ethics behind their porn. Untangling exactly what constitutes ethical porn can be a minefield, especially given that the porn industry is still often defending its right to exist at all. 

Here are four things that I believe go into making porn ethical. 

Consent

This might seem like a bare minimum standard, but it’s missing from a shocking amount of mainstream porn. 100% of Bellesa’s content features consenting adults having consensual sex that has been consensually filmed. 

Performers have the opportunity to negotiate with their partner before filming starts, exploring their likes and dislikes. If a scene involves roleplay, performers will be briefed on their role in plenty of time to ensure they’re comfortable with it. 

And if, like me, you’re squicked by all the pseudo-incest (think: “step sister”) content that pops up on mainstream sites, you’ll be pleased to know Bellesa doesn’t do any of that. 

Chemistry and Connection

When I watch porn, I often gravitate towards amateur content because it feels so much more authentic. Whatever the specific acts that they’re engaging in, ultimately I want to watch people who truly like (or even love) each other, having hot sex that they’re genuinely enjoying. 

Many mainstream porn studios don’t give performers much choice who they work with. Bellesa pairs performers who truly have chemistry and actually want to have sex with each other. Because real connection and attraction makes for much hotter content and a much better working environment for the performers. 

Women as Subjects, Not Objects 

One of the things that will turn me off the fastest in any porn scene is seeing women being objectified. This is apparent in everything from the naming of scenes to the ways in which female pleasure is explored (or, often, ignored.) 

Ethical porn puts the pleasure of all participants front and center. In ethical porn, the women being depicted are full human beings with their own desires and erotic agency. In other words, subjects of pleasure, not objects to be acted upon. Bellesa porn is directed and produced by women, headed up by the inimitable Jacky St. James

A Safe and Respectful Working Environment

Making pornography is work, and performers deserve a safe working environment just as much as employees in any other industry. 

This can be as simple as prioritizing their comfort on set, such as making sure they’re well fed and hydrated. Sexual safety is important too, whether that’s ensuring plenty of lube is used or carrying out rigorous STI (and now also Covid-19) testing. And, of course, performers must retain the right to say no or to call “cut” on a scene for any reason. This goes back to consent. 

Performers should also be fairly compensated for the work they do. Making porn can be huge fun but it can also be physically and emotionally taxing at times. Performers are workers and deserve to be paid a fair rate. 

How Ethical Porn Can Enhance Your Sex Life 

Despite what naysayers might say about it, I believe that porn can be an extremely healthy and positive addition to your sex life, whether you’re single or partnered. When you make a point of consuming ethical porn, you can feel good about your viewing habits.

Here are three ways ethical porn can enhance your sex life. 

Get New Ideas

I recently experimented with a new kink activity with my partner. Why? Because I saw this specific act in a porn clip, thought it looked hot, and asked him if he’d be willing to try it with me.

Good porn has the potential to introduce you to new kinks, activities, and ways of having sex that you might never have thought of before. While you might not want to try everything you see, some things are sure to resonate. 

One of the things I love most about human sexuality is its infinite variety. Every single day, people are having sex in endlessly creative ways, many of which I’m sure I’ve never even thought of – and you probably haven’t, either! Ethical porn gives you a consensual window into other people’s bedrooms and allows you to draw inspiration from what you see. 

Enjoy Things You Can’t Do in Real Life

Perhaps there are things you fantasize about but can’t (or don’t want to) do in real life. For example, you might be a bisexual person in a monogamous relationship with a different-gender partner. Watching porn can allow you to express your attraction to same-gendered people without changing the relationship you have with your partner. 

Or maybe you have a particular fetish that your partner doesn’t share. If your relationship agreements don’t allow for getting that itch scratched with others, porn featuring your kink is another ethical and safe sexual outlet. 

It’s also valid to enjoy things in fantasy that you don’t want to do in real life. Let’s say you fantasize about gangbangs but consider the idea too risky to carry out in reality. Ethical porn is a wonderful way to enjoy your fantasies in a safe way that doesn’t carry any of the real-world risk that might come with realising them. 

Boost Your Desire

For many people, including me, arousal begets arousal. In other words, the more you masturbate, have sex, or consume erotic media, the more you’ll want to. The anti-porn crowd would say this is a bad thing, but I believe it can be just the opposite! After all, sexual pleasure is healthy and orgasms are good for us. Why not seek a little more of both in your life? 

So if you’re looking to get in the mood more often or more easily, pulling up your favourite steamy scene can help make that happen. Whether you watch alone or with a partner, the right porn can help to fire up your libido when it needs a little extra help. 

Want to Explore Ethical Porn?

If so, grab yourself a Bellesa Plus subscription. You’ll get access to top content from 50+ premium porn channels, unlimited 4K streaming, access to interactive sex education content, and unlimited access to over 600 erotic stories. You’ll also enjoy 24/7 support, discreet and secure billing, and an ad-free viewing experience. 

Best of all, you can get off to some of the hottest content you’ll find anywhere, and know that you’re supporting a company doing good in this industry. 

Bellesa Plus ethical porn logo

FYI: this post was sponsored by the good folks at Bellesa. All views, as ever, are my own. 

Four Fun Queer Quotes for Pride Month

Hey everyone, happy June! And more importantly, happy Pride Month! I wondered what I wanted to write about for the beginning of June. I considered delving into The Discourse about kink at Pride, or writing something about rainbow capitalism and corporate sponsorship and arms dealers pinkwashing their murder-corporations, but all those things have been said many times and much better than I could.

So instead I thought I’d bring you a little queer joy in the form of four of my favourite TV and movie quotes about being LGBTQ+ and tell you a bit about what they mean to me.

This post may contain plot spoilers, so proceed with caution if you haven’t seen any of these things yet.

“Any queer space is your space” – Oliver Grayson, The Bold Type

Oliver Grayson and Kat Edison at a queer party in The Bold Type

Kat Edison on Freeform’s The Bold Type is one of my favourite bisexual characters (and YES they actually say the word on the show!) Her ex-girlfriend, Adena, asks her not to attend a queer event because “some lesbians take issue when other people infiltrate their space.”

Adena eventually realises why this was shitty, biphobic behaviour and apologises. But in the meantime, Kat seeks advice from her gay colleague and friend Oliver, and this is what he tells her.

It’s a truly heartwarming moment of queer POC solidarity and it’s something I think all bi+ folks need to hear. We’re often erased from queer spaces, even by our own communities, and told we don’t belong because we’re “not queer enough” or can “pretend to be straight.”

This is for all my bi, pan, omni, ace, aro, trans, non-binary, and other pals who have ever been told Pride isn’t for you: any queer space is your space. Everyone’s favourite Gay Fashion Dad said so.

“Terrific. Let’s bring down the government.” – Steph Chambers, Pride

Steph in the movie Pride

Pride (2014) is one of my all-time favourite movies. It gives me hope and makes me cry all at the same time. It reminds me of all the things our queer elders fought for, struggled for, died for – and why it is so vital that we keep fighting.

Steph says this line in her typical sardonic, bordering-on-deadpan fashion just after the Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners group has been formed, and to me it sums up the spirit of the whole film. Pride is about two disenfranchised groups, queer people and striking miners in a poor village, joining forces to support one another and fight back against oppression. And in a world of more hate and division than ever, this is a message and an ethos we need to remember.

Pride is a protest. Pride has always been a protest. It isn’t about assimilating into respectable white middle-class cishet land. Pride is about being who we are unapologetically and without backing down, no matter what the government has to say about it.

“It’s not a phase, I’m not confused! Not indecisive, I don’t have the “gotta choose” blues!” – Darryl Whitefeather, Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Darryl Whitefeather "Gettin Bi" from Crazy Ex Girlfriend. For a post about queer quotes.

I know it’s got some problematic elements but CXG broke a lot of new ground. It handled a lot of difficult issues with the mix of humour and sensitivity that is so, so hard to get right.

And one of the things it did amazingly well? Representing not just bisexuality, but coming-out-later-in-life male bisexuality. Gettin’ Bi is Darryl’s coming out song, and it’s the “middle aged man dancing and singing to celebrate his sexuality” anthem I never knew I needed.

The song dispels many myths about bisexuality, including that we are inherently promiscuous (some of us are, some aren’t) or that we’re going through a phase and will eventually “pick a side.” It’s fun, it’s joyful, it’s charmingly awkward (this scene takes place in a workplace meeting) and it’s just delightful.

“Sexuality is fluid. Whether you’re gay or you’re straight or you’re bisexual, you just go with the flow.” – Shane McCutcheon, The L Word

Shane from The L Word, sexuality is fluid queer quote for Pride Month

A lot of things about The L Word have not aged well, sadly. Its treatment of trans character Max was deeply problematic, as was its erasure of bisexuality (and occasional outright biphobia) after season 1. I hear the new Generation Q has fixed many of these issues, but I haven’t watched it yet because I promised to watch it with my bestie and we haven’t seen each other in a year and a half because *gestures at the pandemic.*

But before The L Word went sideways into biphobia and occasional complete batshittery, it gave us some great moments including this wonderful quote from Shane.

I was 17 and just starting to peek out of the closet when I first saw this show. I didn’t really know if I was straight with a little idle curiosity, or gay while having inexplicably fallen for a man, or (*gasp*) actually bisexual. This line felt like permission to accept that my sexuality might change over time, and that it was okay and normal if it did.

What are your favourite queer joy quotes for Pride Month, loves?

Four Post-Pandemic Fears

Very slowly but surely, we’re starting to emerge from the pandemic. At time of writing, over 30 million people in the UK have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is amazing news and all the credit goes to the scientists who developed the vaccines and the amazing healthcare professionals who have been delivering it.

But now that “when all this is over” is starting to look like a real possibility rather than a distant dream, I find myself feeling… scared. Excited, yes. Hopeful, definitely. Relieved in the extreme. But, yes, also scared.

I wanted to share four of my big post-pandemic fears. If you share any of them, or have your own that I haven’t included here, know that you’re not alone. It’s easy to feel as though, among the unbridalled joy at the idea of getting our freedom back, you’re the only one feeling apprehensive. I promise you’re not.

So here’s what I’m afraid of.

Getting COVID

Yes, I’m still going to be nervous about getting COVID (or, worse, passing it to someone more vulnerable.) We know that the vaccines are highly effective but do not provide 100% immunity. Therefore it is still at least theoretically possible to contract the virus.

I know it’s unlikely and that this is largely irrational. The huge drop in infection rates has already proven that the vaccines work. But yeah, I’m still going to be afraid of contracting the virus for a while.

Not Knowing How to People Any More

Lengthy social isolation takes a toll, and it is going to take some time for us to relearn how to be around one another in physical space again. I find myself wondering if I’ll remember how to socialise in a way that doesn’t happen through a screen. If I’ll still know how to chat, how to read body-language, how to flirt.

I’ve got pretty good at being insular over the last year. I think many of us have had to, in order to get through this without losing our minds. But how hard is it going to be to unlearn that again, to become the social butterfly I used to be? I fear it might be very hard.

Touch Remaining Taboo

I’m a tactile person. I like to hug, snuggle, kiss, and share easy physical affection with my loved ones. I’m afraid that casual touch is going to remain taboo in the post-COVID world.

Will I be able to throw my arms around friends when I see them again? Will I be able to dance with strangers, kiss people I’ve just met, hold hands or cuddle casually? Are we ever going to get back to the point where “may I hug you?” is a simple request for consent, not something with potentially life-and-death consequences to consider.

I think it’s going to be some time before we stop flinching at the idea of a person not in our “bubble” getting too close. I just hope we can collectively move past it with time.

My Communities Being Scapegoated

I’m furious at the people who have held large kink events and swing gatherings during COVID. The recklessness, selfishness, and sheer stupidity takes my breath away.

But I’m also afraid that once the restrictions are over, non-monogamous communities are going to become scapegoats when surges in infections inevitably pop up again.

If people go to a regular nightclub, a gig, or the theatre and get infected, that’s unfortunate but ultimately no-one will be scandalised. If someone goes to a swing club or sex party and spreads the virus, though? That’s a fucking Daily Mail headline waiting to happen. Every attendee and community organiser will probably have this reality sitting in the backs of their minds for at least the next couple of years.

What are you afraid of when it comes to life after the pandemic? There are no easy answers to any of this, but at least we can be there for one another and remind ourselves that we are not alone.