Where Can You Get Custom BDSM Collars, Toys, and Other Handmade Kink Gear?

When you first start out in kink and BDSM, you might be thinking about building up a toybag. Perhaps you’ve been exploring for a while and you’re ready to upgrade your basic kit for something a bit fancier. Perhaps you’re in a new relationship or have a special occasion coming up and want to treat yourself or your partner to something special. Custom BDSM collars, outfits, toys, and other handmade kink gear can be amazing, one-of-a-kind additions to your collection.

To be absolutely clear: you don’t need expensive custom gear to be kinky. We’ve all met those individuals who think that a toybag worth thousands of dollars makes them a truer kinkster but who doesn’t know how to actually use any of that stuff safely. Kink isn’t about the toys you own. You can do amazing things with your bodies, with your imaginations, with pervertables, and with some basic items from a beginners’ bondage kit or your local sex shop.

But if you want to add some artisan or custom kink pieces to your collection, here are five places you can go to find them.

Go to a Fetish Market

I love a fetish market (though my bank balance does not!) Fetish markets or kink markets are in-person events where vendors can come to network, meet customers, and sell their wares.

Some happen at regular intervals, such as the monthly Birmingham Bizarre Bazaar/BBB in the UK and the annual Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. Others are pop-up or one off events. You’ll also find kink and fetish sections in the vendors’ area at some Pride festivals.

The beauty of fetish markets is that you can see and handle items before you buy them. You may even be able to try things – try that collar on, swing those custom floggers against your arm to see how they feel – before you commit. And, since most kinky crafters and makers are hugely passionate about what they do, you’ll benefit from their knowledge and advice to help you choose the perfect thing for you.

Etsy (Maybe?)

The Etsy adult content guidelines have made the news over the last couple weeks as the popular crafters’ and makers’ marketplace has clamped down on pornography, sex toys, and other sexual content. At the time of writing, the guidelines explicitly state that kink and BDSM products ARE still permitted:

Etsy allows the sale of non-insertable and non-penetrable adult toys and sexual accessories, as long as they meet our requirements for sale on Etsy. This includes items such as restraints, handcuffs, nipple clamps, body harnesses, sex furniture, and BDSM accessories.

Permitted adult toys and sexual accessories may not be shown in use or worn by human models in listing or review photos. Consider using a mannequin or flat lay photography instead.

Etsy content guidelines as of 11/07/2024

So this is good news for those who buy or sell handmade and custom kink gear. It may change, of course, so keep an eye on it. For now, though, there are thousands of beautiful kinky pieces from custom BDSM collars, cuffs and harnesses to wax play kits, floggers, whips, clamps and much more for sale on Etsy.

A couple of my personal favourites are Kandles by Kitten for the best wax play candles you’ll ever try, and Freebound Studio for all-vegan collars, cuffs and more.

Commission a Maker Directly

If you find a particular artist or maker you like but they don’t have quite what you’re looking for, ask if you can commission them to make you something unique. Others in your local kink community will probably also have recommendations for their favourite makers. A commission allows you to choose everything from the colours and materials to the sizing.

Again, kinky makers and crafters tend to get into this field because they love it. So if you ask them to help you create something, you’re sure to end up with a unique and beautiful piece you’ll love.

Make Your Own

Not everyone can or wants to get into making their own stuff, of course. This isn’t an easy or quick solution. Many kinky makers have spent years honing their crafts to get as good as they are. But if you’re passionate about making things, have the time, and are willing to drop money on the equipment you’ll need, making your own is one way to guarantee you get something truly bespoke.

Of course, if you already have a crafty talent – such as leatherworking or wood-turning – it should be easy to turn your skills to kinkier projects.

Check Out the Spicerack

Spicerack is a new platform that is basically Etsy for adults! This sex-positive online marketplace allows makers to sell products from sex toys and BDSM gear to lingerie, accessories, art, novelties, sexual wellness products and more. It’s an absolute treasure-trove of

For example, The Kinky Peach sells made-to-order and custom BDSM collars in delightfully whimsical and playful designs. LVX offers custom floggers in a range of handle wood and leather colour options. And I am absolutely lusting over Lulexy’s gorgeous leather pieces and Naughty Pawsies’ colourful vegan leather.

Whatever your kinky heart desires, there’s probably someone on Spicerack selling it… or someone you can commission to make it for you!

Affiliate links appear in this post. All views, as always, are mine.

Why Do People Like Tentacle Dildos?

When my blog took off and I started getting comments and questions from readers regularly, common queries and “FAQs” began popping up. Some of them I expected, others surprised me. Over the last seven and a half years, a request I’ve received again and again is for recommendations for fantasy toys. Monster toys, alien toys, tentacle dildos, and so on.

I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t really my kink. I don’t have any issue with it, of course – all consensual and risk-aware expressions of adult sexuality are good with me! – but I can’t say I ever entirely got it.

Nevertheless, clearly this kink strikes a chord with a lot of my readers and a lot of people generally. So, when the good folks at Nothosaur approached me and asked if they could sponsor a post, I thought I’d do a delve into this popular fetish.

So what is it exactly about tentacle dildos that makes them so popular?

How Common Are Tentacle Fantasies?

Tentacles for a post on why people like tentacle dildos
Image: Nothosaur

Justin Lehmiller, PhD, writing for Psychology Today, says “it’s rare, but some people fantasize about being sexually dominated by creatures with tentacles.”

Far be it for me to question the fantastic Dr Lehmiller, but I want to ask… is it rare? Okay, tentacle fantasies are probably less common than (say) fantasies of being spanked or tied up, but the fact that there’s an enormous and booming industry around tentacle-themed erotic content and toys tells me it’s actually at least somewhat common.

As with most sex-related things, reliable statistics are notoriously hard to find. So in terms of how common this fetish is, I don’t really know. But I feel safe in saying that if you do have this kink, you’re in very good company… and probably more company than you think.

By the way: just to bust a common misconception, having tentacle fantasies or enjoying tentacle dildos does not imply that a person is in any way interested in bestiality or sexually abusing animals.

So Why Do People Like Tentacle Dildos?

Nothosaur tentacle dildos
Image: Nothosaur

Whenever people ask, “why are people into that?” about a particular kink. I want to turn the question around. To me, the most interesting question isn’t “why do people like that?” The most interesting question is why do you, specifically, like that?

You might not know why a particular kink or fetish appeals to you, of course. And that’s okay. We don’t have to analyse where our fetishes come from to enjoy them.

With that said, let’s look at a few of the reasons that people might enjoy tentacle dildos.

Enacting a Fantasy

As we’ve already mentioned, fantasies involving tentacles are pretty common.

Some fantasies are easier to bring to life – for example, through roleplay scenes – than others. For those that are more based in the fantastical, toys can be an amazing way to help them feel more real.

The Allure of the Taboo

Sexual fantasies are often based in the taboo – things that feel edgy, transgressive, or even wrong, things that push up against social norms and ideas of what types of sex are “okay” to have, to want, to fantasise about.

Dr Lehmiller writes, “The entire concept of a sexual “taboo” is inherently arbitrary because what is considered taboo in one time, context, or culture may be considered perfectly normal in another.” In most places and contexts, despite how common they are, I think it’s fair to say that tentacle fantasies would be considered taboo. This, in itself, could explain part of their allure.

Shape and Texture

Tentacle toys tend to be wider at the bottom and narrower at the top. They are usually at least somewhat flexible, and often feature a lot of intense texturing. Designs with lots of little “suckers”, for example, are common. There are variations, of course, but this is the general theme.

And what do these features have in common? They can all make a toy feel really, really good.

Tapered toys with at least some flex are great for targeted stimulation of the G-spot or prostate. Toys that are narrower at the tip are often easier and more comfortable to insert. And texturing offers additional stimulation possibilities both internally and externally.

Versatility

One of the most fun things about fantasy sex toys is that there are virtually no hard and fast rules. If it can be molded out of silicone or another appropriate material, it can probably be made. So no matter the shape, size, colour, or texture you’re looking for, you’re likely to be able to find a toy that fits the bill.

And if the toy you envision isn’t available? Many fantasy toy makers will be happy to work with you to create it for you.

Size and Length Preferences

For some reason, the crossover between the “fantasy toys” market and the “very large toys” market seems to be significant. The shape and design of tentacle dildos lends itself very well to large toys, particularly those that prioritise length.

On the flip side, the slimline design of many tentacle toys is great for those who prefer narrower toys over girthier ones.

Non-Phallic Appearance

Many people of all genders and sexual orientations enjoy penetration (vaginal, anal, or both.) But for all sorts of reasons, not everyone enjoys or feels comfortable being penetrated by something that looks like a penis.

This is one of the reasons that abstract sex toys are so popular, from beautiful glass and metal designs to silicone in a dizzying array of textures and colours. It’s also one of the appeals of fantasy toys. Want to fuck yourself with something that looks like a unicorn horn, a plant, an ice-cream cone, or – yes – a tentacle? Fantasy toys have got you covered.

Choosing the Right Tentacle Toy for You

With so many tentacle toys out there, how can you decide which one to choose? You might find that a particular toy calls to you when you see it. If not, here are a few factors you can use to help you decide:

  • Colours and aesthetics. Yes, this matters! Choose a toy that will be a joy to look at and use.
  • Size. Do you want a large toy or a smaller one? Does girth or length matter more to you?
  • Texture. Would you prefer a smoother toy, or one with a lot of texture? Heavily textured toys tend to feel more intense.
  • Flexibility and firmness. Do you want a firm and rigid toy, or a softer and more flexible one? Firmer toys are more intense, while more flexible ones are gentler and can be more comfortable for beginners.
  • Vaginal or anal use (or both?) If you’re going to use your toy anally, it must have a large flared base.

Nothosaur: One Stop Shop for Tentacle Dildos and Other Fantasy Sex Toys

Nothosaur carries a large range of tentacle dildos and other fantasy dildos as well as plugs, grinders, eggs, and more. I’m currently completely obsessed with the gorgeous rainbow range for Pride Month! Whether you’re a fantasy toys aficionado or just exploring tentacle toys for the first time, check them out.

And look out for my review of one of their products, also coming soon!

This post was sponsored. All views and writing are, as always, my own.

Polyamory Breakup Tips: How to Support Your Partner Through a Breakup with Someone Else [Polyamory Conversation Cards #15]

I have thought more about breakups in the last one hundred and four days at the time of writing (but who’s counting?) than I ever thought either possible or desirable. I’m not even close to ready to write about the particular and brutal ways that my own heart has been torn out this year, and I’m not sure when I will be, but at least I can use this experience to bring you some hopefully-useful polyamory breakup tips.

In case you missed it, this post is part of a series inspired by Odder Being’s Polyamory Conversation Cards. Once a week or as often as I can, I’ll pull a card at random and write a piece of content based on it. There will likely be some essays, advice pieces, personal experiences, rants, and more! You can read the whole series at the dedicated tag. And if you want to support my work and get occasional bonus content, head on over to my Patreon.

This week’s card asks:

“How can your partner(s) best support you when you’re facing challenges in your other relationships or have a broken heart?”

I’m not going to give you my best “how to get over a breakup” tips, mostly because I don’t fucking know y’all, I wouldn’t still be crying every day if I knew that. So instead, we’ll look at another unique polyamory breakup problem: how to support your partner when someone else has broken their heart.

Ask What They Need

This is always my first tip when people ask me how to support their partner through a breakup or any other traumatic life event. People are different and need different things. Some people want lots of company and distraction when they’re heartbroken. Others prefer to be given plenty of their own space to turn inwards and process. So ask your partner what they need and what will be most helpful to them.

Of course, they may not know, and you need to make room for that. But even if they don’t know now, the simple act of asking shows that you care. It shows that you will be there for them as and when they do know what they need.

With that said, read on for some general tips that I’ve found tend to work well.

Take Care of the Practical Things

For the first four or five days after my most recent breakup, I could do almost nothing but lie on the sofa and cry. Mr C&K took care of practical things around our home, picking up the slack where I couldn’t and cooking for me so that I’d at least have a chance at eating something healthy.

Taking care of practical things can be a godsend for someone who is heartbroken. In the midst of grief, even small daily tasks can feel insurmountable. So feed them, take care of household chores, pick up the kids from school or walk the dog. By taking these things off their plate, you give them time and space to do the grieving they need to do.

Distract Them

Grief and heartbreak need to be processed. However, no-one can do this 24 hours a day until they feel better. Sometimes, it’s important just to get back out into the world and think about other things.

Providing distractions can be a great way to cheer someone up, pull them out of the fog, and show them that they’re still an awesome and complete human without the person who broke their heart. Take them out if they’re up for it. Watch fun movies or TV shows with them, play a game, do a project, or just talk about something else.

Let Them Feel Their Feelings

When someone you love is hurting, it can be tempting to want to make them feel better by any means necessary. This comes from a good place, but it can end up doing more harm than good. If you’re not careful, your partner may end up feeling pressured to hide their true feelings or to “get over it” more quickly than is realistic for them.

Hold space for their feelings. Do not diminish those feelings, try to “logic” your partner out of feeling them, or tell them that they shouldn’t feel a particular way. Instead validate, empathise, and let them know that whatever they feel is okay.

Don’t Expect it to be Quick or Easy

Breakups, particularly bad and traumatic breakups, are a form of grief. This pain does not, for most of us, pass quickly or easily. It can take weeks, months, or even years for someone to completely get over the ending of a relationship.

That’s not to say they’ll be totally non-functional for all that time. Most people won’t be. I went back to work a few days after my recent breakup, because I had to.

Sometimes, they might think they’re fine. They might even be fine for hours, days, weeks at a time. Then something will remind them of the breakup and they’ll be slammed by a wave of grief again. Be there for them when this happens. Be patient, and be prepared to reassure them that this experience is normal.

Resist the Temptation to Step Into the Ex Partner’s Place

When your partner is experiencing loss, it’s natural to want to fill that void. In a polyamorous situation, remaining partners often make the mistake of trying to step into the ex partner’s place or fill their shoes (either in a self-serving way, in an attempt to comfort the grieving partner, or both.)

Resist this temptation with all your might.

Nurture and grow your own relationship with your partner, and allow it to be what it is. This may or may not include changing some aspects of it in response to the breakup, either temporarily or permanently. But do not try to be or to replace someone else. It will backfire badly on both of you if you do.

Seek Support for Yourself, If You Need It

There are two important angles to consider here.

Firstly, caring for someone else – even (or especially) someone you love immensely – can be draining. It’s important to also take care of your own needs and seek support so that you don’t burn out.

The Circle of Grief can be useful here: support in, dump out. In other words, extend support to people who are closer to the current crisis than you (in this case, that’s your partner who got their heart broken.) Vent to, complain to, and seek support from people who are further away from it than you (in this case, that’s likely other friends or family, possibly other partners, and maybe a therapist.)

If you were practicing kitchen table polyamory or were otherwise close to your now ex-metamour, you might also be experiencing your own feelings of loss and grief. I’ve lost friendships and sexual relationships with metamours when one of us broke up with our mutual partner, and that loss is real and painful. If this sounds familiar, don’t forget to tend to yourself too.

Do you have any useful polyamory breakup tips for us? Any amazing ways your partner(s) have supported you when someone else broke your heart?

[Guest Post] Am I Ready to Have Sex? Questions to Ask Yourself by Tina Evans

“Am I ready to have sex?” It’s a question many of us have probably asked ourselves at one time or another, whether we came to sexuality in our teens, 20s, 30s, or later in life. You might have also wondered if you’re ready to have sex in a particular way or with a particular person.

These are very personal questions, and no-one can answer them for you. We all know that virginity is a social construct, but having sex for the first time (or the 1000th!) can still be a big deal for many of us. I know it was for me! There are, though, questions you can ask yourself to help you figure out whether you’re ready or not. That’s what this guest post by Tina Evans is all about.

Tina offers tips for folks of any age, gender, or orientation who are considering having sex for the first time. I hope you find them useful!

Amy x

Am I Ready to Have Sex? Questions to Ask Yourself by Tina Evans

So you think you’re ready for sex?

It’s natural to feel a mix of excitement and nerves. Whether you’re 18, 35, 73 or any age in between, the basics of preparation for sex are pretty similar. It’s all about respect, understanding, and care for both you and your partner. What really matters is that you feel ready and confident in your decision, without any external pressure, and that everything is consensual and respectful.

Whether you decide to explore your sexuality early or wait until later, your choice is completely valid. It’s important to honor your feelings and move at your own pace. Embracing your own timeline can lead to more meaningful and fulfilling experiences that truly match your values and readiness.

In this post, we will consider some of the different aspects of readiness for sex and invite you to ask yourself some important questions.

Emotional Readiness

Understanding Your Motivations

Reflecting on your motivations is crucial. Are you seeking to express love, explore pleasure, or deepen a connection, or are you feeling pressured by peers, media, or your partner? It’s important to ensure that your desire for sex comes from a place of genuine interest and readiness rather than external influences.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I doing this because I genuinely want to?
  • Am I trying to meet someone else’s expectations?
  • Am I trying to fit in with friends or societal norms?

Comfort with Your Body

Being comfortable with your body means accepting and understanding your physical self. This includes being familiar with your own anatomy, knowing what feels good for you (which you can learn about through self-touch), and being able to communicate this to your partner. It’s also about body confidence—feeling good about how you look and embracing your body as it is.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I know what I like and dislike sexually?
  • Am I comfortable being naked in front of someone else?
  • Do I feel positive about my body and its sensations?

Emotional Stability

Sex can trigger a range of emotions, from joy and excitement to vulnerability and anxiety. It’s important to be in a stable emotional state where you can handle these emotions. Emotional stability also means being able to process and discuss any feelings that arise afterward, whether they are positive or negative.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I generally emotionally balanced and secure?
  • Can I handle potential emotional ups and downs?
  • Am I prepared to discuss my feelings openly with my partner?

Maturity to Handle Consequences

Sex has potential emotional, physical, and relational consequences. Being mature enough to understand and deal with these consequences is key to readiness. This includes being prepared for the responsibilities of contraception, the risk of STIs, and the emotional impact of sexual intimacy.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I understand the potential risks involved in sex?
  • Am I prepared to take responsibility for contraception and STI prevention?
  • Can I handle the possible emotional outcomes?

Communication and Consent

Open Communication

Being able to discuss your feelings, desires, and boundaries openly and honestly with your partner is essential. Honest communication ensures mutual understanding and respect, and it helps build a foundation of trust. This means having conversations about what you’re comfortable with, what you’re curious about, and what your boundaries are.

Ask yourself:

  • Can I talk openly with my partner about sex?
  • Do we have mutual respect and understanding?
  • Are we comfortable discussing our boundaries and desires?

Understanding and Giving Consent

Consent must be clear, informed, enthusiastic, and ongoing. Both you and your partner should freely agree to the sexual activity without any coercion or pressure. Consent is about mutual agreement and respect for each other’s boundaries and comfort levels.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I fully understand what consent means?
  • Am I able to give and receive enthusiastic consent?
  • Do I respect my partner’s right to withdraw consent at any time?

Physical Readiness

Safer Sex Practices

Understanding and practicing safer sex is essential to protect yourself and your partner from STIs and unintended pregnancies. This might involve using condoms, using other barriers such as dental dams and gloves, discussing contraception options, and getting tested for STIs. It’s important to have this knowledge and to be prepared to implement it.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I know how to safely use condoms and other forms of contraception?
  • Have I discussed STI testing with my partner?
  • Am I committed to practicing safer sex every time?

Comfort with the Setting

The environment where you have sex should feel safe and comfortable. This helps reduce anxiety and create a positive experience. It should be a private space where you feel secure and relaxed, free from interruptions and distractions.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the location private and comfortable?
  • Do I feel safe and relaxed in this setting?
  • Have I made sure there will be no interruptions?

Personal Considerations

No Pressure

Your decision to have sex should be entirely your own, without any external pressure from partners, friends, or societal expectations. It’s important to make this choice based on your own readiness and desire, not because you feel you should or need to.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I making this decision for myself?
  • Do I feel pressured by anyone to have sex?
  • Am I confident in my own desire to have sex?

Positive Feelings

You should feel positive and excited about the prospect of having sex, rather than anxious or uncertain. It’s normal to feel a bit nervous, but the overall feeling should be one of anticipation and readiness.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I more excited than nervous about having sex?
  • Do I have positive feelings about the potential experience?
  • Is my excitement outweighing any anxiety?

Support System

Having a support system of trusted friends, family, or mentors can provide valuable guidance and reassurance. They can offer a safe space to discuss your feelings and any questions you might have, and they can help you navigate this new experience with confidence.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I have people I can talk to about my feelings and questions?
  • Can I rely on my support system for guidance and reassurance?
  • Do I feel supported in my decisions?

Am I Ready to Have Sex? Further Self-Reflection Questions

Here are some expanded questions for self-reflection to help determine if you are ready:

Why do I want to have sex?

Ensure your motivations are based on your own desires and readiness, not external pressures.

Do I feel pressured in any way?

Reflect on whether you’re feeling any pressure from your partner, peers, or societal norms.

Do I feel emotionally ready and stable?

Assess your emotional state and readiness to manage the potential emotional impact of sex.

Am I comfortable discussing sex, desires, and boundaries with my partner?

Ensure you can have open, honest conversations about your boundaries, desires, and consent.

Do I understand the importance of consent and safer sex?

Make sure you have a clear understanding of consent and the practices of safe sex.

Am I prepared for the possible emotional and physical consequences of sex?

Be ready to handle the potential emotional and physical outcomes of sexual activity.

Ultimately, “am I ready to have sex?” is a question only you can answer. Deciding when you’re ready for your first sexual experience is a deeply personal choice that involves introspection and self-awareness. It’s essential to feel confident and secure in your decision, ensuring that it aligns with your genuine desires and readiness.

This journey is unique for everyone, and there’s no right or wrong timeline. Embrace your individuality, prioritise your comfort and well-being, and respect your own pace. When the time feels right for you, approach the experience with an open heart and mind, fostering a positive and meaningful connection with your partner.

The act of experiencing sex for the first time can be as big a deal as you want it to be. For me, it was something I chose to get over and done with. I didn’t think about if I was ready, I didn’t prepare myself. And while I wouldn’t go back and change any of my life experiences, I would have liked to be more prepared emotionally.

About Tina:

I’m a cynical yet hopelessly hopeful romantic. I fell in love with reading as a child who wrote poetry as an angst filled teenager. As an adult, I’ve immersed myself in all genres of romance fiction but I enjoy the occasional biography and psychological thriller too. I currently write contemporary romance with a feminist edge, featuring relatable characters and situations. When I’m not writing, I can be found spoiling my fur family, trying to bake the perfect loaf of bread, or ignoring all my adult problems by losing myself in a good book.

Nesting Relationship Agreement That Work: Six Questions to Ask Yourselves [Polyamory Conversation Cards #13]

Not everyone who is polyamorous wants a nesting relationship – one where you live together with your partner or partners. Some people prefer solo polyamory, or being their own primary partner. Others are highly introverted and prefer to live alone for this reason. Some live a nomadic lifestyle, travel a lot, or prefer to be able to change their living situation regularly.

For many of us, though, living with one or more partners is our current reality or a desired future state.

In case you missed it, this post is part of a series inspired by Odder Being’s Polyamory Conversation Cards. Once a week or as often as I can, I’ll pull a card at random and write a piece of content based on it. There will likely be some essays, advice pieces, personal experiences, rants, and more! You can read the whole series at the dedicated tag. And if you want to support my work and get occasional bonus content, head on over to my Patreon.

This week’s card asks:

“Is it important for you to share (or keep sharing) your home with one or multiple partners?”

So let’s talk about nesting relationships and the agreements that govern them. Here are six questions you and your partner(s) should be asking yourselves and each other, whether you’re thinking about moving in together, transitioning from monogamy to polyamory while in a nested relationship, or revising your agreements.

A quick reminder on terminology, as we are going to be talking about agreements, boundaries, and rules in this post.

Boundaries pertain to yourself and the things that belong to you, such as your body, mind, time, and possessions. An example of a boundary is “I will use barriers during sex to protect my sexual health.”

Agreements are made by, and followed by, both or all parties in a relationship, household, or other group. They should enhance the relationship, providing safety, stability or structure without being overly restrictive or onerous. One example is, “we will keep each other in the loop when we take on a new sexual or romantic partner.”

Rules are imposed on people from the outside and involve compelling or forbidding them to do certain things. Rules are generally seen as controlling and frowned upon by the polyamorous community. An example of a rule is “you’re not allowed to have sex without a condom with anyone but me.”

What are your individual and collective needs around shared vs. private space?

When I moved in with my nesting partner years ago, one of my requirements before agreeing to the move was that I would have my own office space. This was essential for me, but may not be for you. On the other hand, maybe you’d like your own bedroom? A shared living space where you can have your friends over for D&D night? A room where you can close the door and play video games in peace?

Negotiating your needs and wants around shared and private space is essential when you’re navigating nesting relationship agreements.

Under society’s monogamous paradigm, when a couple moves in together the assumption is usually that they will share a bedroom and bed. This works for many couples, but not others! I know many polyamorous couples or groups who live together in a setup where everyone has their own bedroom. They may bed-hop or stay over in each other’s rooms, occasionally or regularly, but everyone has a space that is ultimately their own.

If you prefer to sleep separately some or all of the time, or if you generally want to sleep together but also need your own room to retreat to, that’s something you will need to work out as you create your nesting agreements. (By the way: it’s also fine to have your own bedrooms if you’re monogamous!)

Will other partners be able to visit us at home, and under what circumstances?

Some people practice a strictly parallel form of polyamory in which metamours never meet or interact. This is a completely valid way to be polyamorous, but it can present challenges when one dyad is nesting together.

If you practice parallel polyam, one or both of you dislikes your metamour(s) for some reason, or you are just someone who dislikes hosting people in your space, this might mean that other partners cannot visit you at home.

In some circumstances, this will be totally navigable. Perhaps your non-nesting partners can host at their places. Maybe one of you travels a lot for work and the other can have their other sweeties over during those times. Perhaps you have the money to get a hotel room for regular date nights. Perhaps your other partners are long distance and you only see each other very occasionally. In other circumstances, though, it can present a major issue. These restrictions can even prevent non-nesting relationships from growing, developing, and thriving if they are not carefully managed. If this is your situation, employing creative solutions is called for.

You may decide that not being able to host other partners in a shared home is a dealbreaker for you. Conversely, you may decide that having your metamours in your living space is a dealbreaker. Both are valid choices but, if you and your nesting partner or potential nesting partner aren’t on the same page about this, it might be a sign that living together isn’t right for you.

If you do agree that it’s okay to host people at home, do you need any agreements around that? Are there any limitations, requests, or boundaries that will make it more comfortable for everyone involved? For example:

  • “Please give me a heads-up if your other partner is coming over so I’m not surprised by an unexpected guest”
  • “Please keep the noise down after 10pm as I have to get up early for work”
  • “We generally won’t have other people over on Thursdays as that’s our date night”
  • “Until our new partners have met our children, we’ll only invite them over after bedtime or when the kids are out”

Do we need any agreements or rules around use of beds, certain spaces, and so on?

I wrote about polyamory bed rules recently, and I touched on a common agreement that many nested polyamorous couples make: no other partners in our bed/bedroom. If you and your nesting partner have agreed that having other partners over at home is okay, then do you need to make any further agreements or provisions around use of beds or particular spaces? This will depend on a few factors, from emotional needs to the practicalities of available spaces.

I’ve seen all kinds of different variations on this theme – everything from “whoever has someone over gets the main bed, and the other nesting partner decamps to the guest room” to “other partners only in the guest room, never in our room.” If you each have your own rooms, this becomes somewhat simpler because each person can host in their own room and bed. If not, you will need to work out what feels most viable for everyone in your household as well as other partners.

Factors such as disability (does someone need close access to a bathroom? Can someone not manage stairs?) can also play a role in making these agreements, as can concerns relating to children, pets, sleep needs, work schedules, and so on.

Is there scope for other partners to live with us in the future? If so, under what circumstances?

This can be a difficult one, and people have strong feelings on both sides. Perhaps you feel as though all your relationships should have at least the potential for nesting down the line. On the other hand, perhaps you are perfectly happy to live with one person and never want to open up that possibility with any other partner.

Living preferences are deeply personal, so I won’t tell you that any one way is better than any other. What is important, though, is to ensure that you and your nesting partner are on a similar page. If one of you wants to keep nesting exclusive but the other wants the possibility of a big happy polyamorous family under one roof, this is a recipe for big problems down the line.

If living with other partners is potentially on the table, what circumstances would make that possible? Perhaps the relationship with the incoming partner would need to have been stable and healthy for several years. Perhaps this is only a possibility once your children have grown up and moved out. Presumably the metamours, as well as the partners, would need to have a strong and stable connection with one another.

Whatever you decide, it’s important to be honest with other partners. Don’t tell someone (or allow them to believe) that nesting is a possibility if it is not. Likewise, if you are looking for other potential future nesting partners, don’t downplay or obfuscate this desire to seem cool or “chill.” If you’re open to nesting after five years, don’t imply that it could happen in two.

It’s also important to remember that people’s wants, needs, and views can change. Perhaps you both genuinely feel that you never want to live with anyone else right now. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel the same way forever. You might, of course, but you also might not.

Talking about and accepting the possibility of changed minds – because relationships and connections can change us profoundly, and in ways we may not understand until we’re in them – can help to alleviate pain down the line. That’s not to say it will be easy if one of you changes your mind or wants to significantly overhaul your nesting agreements. But understanding that the possibility exists can reduce or eliminate a sense of betrayal if it does happen, opening up the door for more productive communication and problem solving.

What will happen to our relationship if one or both of us decides we no longer wish to be nesting partners?

Denesting means transitioning a nesting relationship to one where you don’t live together, but continuing the relationship in some form. Denesting is very rare in monogamy. It’s relatively uncommon in polyamory too, but I have seen it done and I have seen it work well. Polyamory makes it more possible, because continuing a romantic and/or relationship after denesting does not preclude the possibility of either or both of you finding other nesting partners down the road.

If you’re excited about moving in together, exploring polyamory, or making some other significant change to your nesting relationship, “what happens if it doesn’t work out?” is probably the last thing you want to think about. But it is really, really important to consider and to talk about.

Does your relationship have the potential to continue in a different format if you decide to denest? Does the reason behind the denesting matter? (For example, some people might feel that they could denest relatively happily if their partner received an amazing job opportunity in a different city, but not if their partner decided they’d prefer to nest with another lover instead.)

What discussions, agreements, and boundaries might be needed if you did choose to denest? How might your relationship look if nesting was no longer a part of it?

Of course, none of this is set in stone or constitutes a binding commitment. You might think you’ll feel one way, but feel completely differently – for better or worse – in reality. But having the conversations and imagining the possibilities can save you heartache and pain down the road.

How will we share finances, chores, and other responsibilities (e.g. childcare and pets?)

This isn’t really a polyamory question, of course, but it is a vital nesting relationship question. If you’re not on at least roughly the same page about these things, it’s a sign you are not ready to live together or not compatible as nesting partners.

How will finances work? (I wrote a long essay about polyamory and money recently.) Who will be responsible for which chores and tasks? How will care for children, pets, and other dependents work? How will you navigate it if one of you is much messier than the other?

It’s been said that the vast majority of domestic issues in relationships are actually roommate issues. I think there’s a lot of truth to this idea. Before you can work out how (or if) you can live together polyamorously, you need to work out how (or if) you can live together, period.

What agreements do you have in your nesting relationship? Any pearls of wisdom to share?

Everything The L Word: Generation Q Got Wrong About Polyamory

I just finished my rewatch of The L Word: Generation Q. This follow-up from the hit series from the early-mid 2000s catches up with fan faves Bette (Jennifer Beals), Alice (Leisha Hailey), and Shane (Katherine Moennig) 10 years later as well as bringing in a host of new gay, queer and trans characters.

From here on out there will be spoilers for all three seasons of the series, so stop reading now if you want to avoid those!

It’s safe to say that, in many ways, Generation Q tries to fix some of the things that The L Word got wrong. Notably, there is significantly improved representation of Alice’s bisexuality (and bisexuality in general), much better trans representation (Shane’s apology to Max for “the way we were back then” reads to me as an apology from the producers to the entire trans community), and the addition of non-binary characters as well as butch women characters.

One thing it still manages to get horrendously wrong, though, is its representation of consensual non-monogamy and polyamory. The most notable polyamory storyline features Alice, her girlfriend of two years Nat, and Nat’s ex-wife Gigi, but I also have things to say about Shane and non-monogamy.

Back in 2018, I wrote about all the things You Me Her got wrong about polyamory (spoiler: a lot.) Let’s give The L Word: Generation Q the same treatment, shall we?

Most polyamory isn’t triads…

This is the eternal problem of polyamory in fiction: most writers seem to think that the default configuration for polyamory is a triad (or, to use a cringeworthily terrible word I wish would die already, “throuple.”) That is, three people in a relationship all together. In the vast majority of cases, this is the only representation we get.

The reality is that triads are fairly rare. Stable, healthy, functional triads are even rarer. It’s a really difficult dynamic to both find and sustain, with a very high failure rate, and is just not representative of how most people do polyamory.

The only slight saving grace here is that it’s three women rather than the “one man, two women” configuration we usually see.

…and even when it is, they don’t typically start from drunk threesomes…

I wouldn’t have had a problem with the threesome story if it had been handled differently. The show could have done something interesting with Alice, Nat and Gigi having the threesome and then having to deal with the resulting awkwardness and emotional fallout. Things happen, particularly when unresolved feelings and a lot of tequila are involved. And frankly it’s a fucking hot scene.

But for an alcohol-fuelled spontaneous threesome to transition to a full-on triad in the space of, seemingly, about two days is flat-out ridiculous.

…and even when they do, they don’t typically involve two ex-wives

Look, I understand that the point of this storyline was to show that Nat and Gigi aren’t over each other and that Nat genuinely loves Alice while also genuinely loving Gigi. But the bungled triad storyline was the worst possible way to do it. Anyone with a modicum of polyamory experience would have been screaming watching this.

Poor Alice never stood a chance in this situation. Pro tip: if you’re going to try polyamory, a triad is hard mode. If you’re going to try a triad anyway, doing it with your (or your partner’s) ex is the worst possible way to go about it.

Why does Nat give Alice false hope with a promise of monogamy?

After the triad falls apart, Nat turns up at Alice’s show recording to win her back and promises that she wants to love and be with “just her.” But they’ve barely reconciled when she’s coming out as polyamorous, and has apparently been thinking she might be polyam for a long time.

So why, then, did she make a promise she knew she might not be able to keep? This just seems exceptionally and needlessly cruel to Alice.

Does Alice have to be so judgy?

Alice has been subjected to a fair amount of bigotry and prejudice on the show, not least a lot of biphobia (including from her friends.) She’s also a fan favourite, and perhaps the character I personally relate to the most. So it was really, really disappointing to see this exchange:

Nat: “Monogamy isn’t for everyone.”
Alice: “It’s for most people. Except the bad ones.”

I can accept that Alice can’t handle polyamory in her own relationship. That’s fair – like monogamy, it’s not for everyone. But it makes me really sad to see her being so harsh and judgemental about it. When Nat goes and cries in the bathroom after this exchange, my heart broke for her.

When did Nat and Alice discuss… literally anything?

In a pretty tender and emotional scene, Nat comes out as polyamorous to a horrified Alice. Next thing we know, she’s coming back from her first overnight sex date. I hate that the show totally skipped over everything that comes in between these two points – the hours of talking, negotiating, processing, discussing agreements and boundaries and more.

Obviously we couldn’t see all of this, because the show only has so much time. But one or two scenes is, surely, not too much to ask for. Instead, it gives the impression that the opening up journey is a quick hop, skip and jump from “I think I’m polyamorous” to “overnight dates.”

How the fuck has Shane never heard of ENM?

After Shane inevitably cheats on her girlfriend Tess (played by the gorgeous and fabulous Jamie Clayton of Sense8 fame) and they’re trying to work things out, Tess asks Shane if she wants to do ethical non-monogamy (ENM.) Shane, the player and womanizer extraordinaire who also lives in a huge liberal city and has been part of the LGBTQ community for decades, has apparently… never heard of this concept.

It’s even implied at one point that Shane and her ex-wife Quiara had some kind of non-monogamous relationship when Quiara says something like “you and I have never done things the conventional way.” Yet later on, Shane’s somehow never even considered this possibility. It makes absolutely no sense.

And one thing the show got right: the heartbreak of incompatibility

I hate how it got there, but I actually think having Alice and Nat break up over their incompatible views on monogamy was a good and powerful storyline. Because in those situations, where one of you wants monogamy and the other doesn’t, breaking up is often inevitable and usually the best choice (even though it utterly sucks.)

Credit where credit is due, this was a far better choice than either Alice reluctantly going along with polyamory or Nat reluctantly going along with monogamy.

But seriously, when are we going to get better polyamorous representation on TV? When are writers and producers going to start actually, you know, talking to polyamorous people?

Is there anything that The L Word: Generation Q got wrong about polyamory that I’ve missed? Anything you think it got right?

Five Ways I’m Trying to Increase Sustainability in My Femme Style

My identity and presentation as a femme is tremendously important to me. Femme is not just a way of dressing, but a way of sharing who I am with the world. It’s an inherently queer identity and my femme style is a way of living in and embodying my queerness every day.

However, like many of us in recent years, I’ve also been thinking more about my impact on the planet and ways to increase sustainability in my life. So let’s talk about five ways I’m trying to express my femme joy in a more sustainable way.

Acknowledgement and disclaimer: Before I dive in, I want to acknowledge that to a certain extent many sustainability practices (including those I have listed here) require privileges that many people do not have access to, including money and time. It is also not ultimately possible for individuals to save the planet – this must come from corporations and governments. This list is not a prescription or a set of instructions, and you know best what is possible for your life. This is simply what works for me. I’m also far from perfect and frequently fail to live up to the high standards I set for myself. No ethical consumption under capitalism, etc.

Breaking Up with Fast Fashion

Fast fashion – brands that churn out massive quantities of ultra-cheap, throwaway clothing – is a huge contributor to damaging the planet. It also exploits workers and harms animals. For all these reasons, whenever I have a reasonable choice, I’m determined to no longer buy new items from fast fashion brands.

If you buy fast fashion because it is accessible to you, in terms of pricing or available sizes, please don’t feel bad even for a second. That’s not what this section is about. What I’m talking about here is the companies and culture that encourage unnecessary impulse buys, large “hauls” of things that will be worn once or twice (or never worn), and fashions that change overnight.

Buying (and Selling/Donating) Second Hand

I love getting new clothes and shoes, but I actually very rarely buy anything apart from underwear brand new any more. My town has a large number of charity and second-hand shops, and I often find nice pieces at bargain prices there. I also spend far too much time browsing the Vinted app and watch-listing things, a small fraction of which I’ll eventually buy. My favourite recent finds include a fabulous leather jacket and some Lucy & Yak rainbow dungarees.

I just had a major clear-out of clothes I no longer wear. I’m going to sell on a few bits, and the rest I’ll either pass on to friends or donate to charity. That way, they’re not either languishing in the back of my wardrobe or creating more waste, and can instead be worn and enjoyed by someone else.

Of course, second-hand clothing isn’t totally without its issues (delivery emissions when you buy or sell online being the obvious one), but it’s one way to reduce clothing waste and reduce purchases of new items.

Buying More Versatile Styles

I love clothes, shoes, and accessories I can wear multiple ways. For that reason, I’ve started looking for more versatile items when I shop. One of my favourite dresses at the moment is a simple one that I can dress down with leggings and a cardigan, make playful with fun tights and stompy boots, or dress way up with a petticoat, a waist belt and heels for a night out.

For me, part of the fun of femme style is creating different looks by mixing and matching the same items in different ways.

I also recently got this gorgeous green multiway dress from IDENTITY LINGERIE, a “slow fashion” brand that follows zero-waste practices. It’s wearable in so many different ways that it feels a bit like a new dress every time I put it on. The multiway bridesmaid dress trend has been popular for bridal parties for some time, but I think they’re a great choice for anyone looking to get more mileage out of one garment.

Buying Recycled and Upcycled Materials

Materials is a really complicated one when it comes to clothing, and there are no easy answers here. It’s also very, very hard to totally avoid unsustainable manmade fibres such as polyester, nylon, and viscose. Some natural materials, such as cotton and bamboo, also present issues. The more sustainable alternatives can be expensive and hard to find, not to mention the confusion of wading through the muddy and often conflicting information out there.

One thing I’ve started trying to do, though, is look for more recycled and upcycled materials. This is a great way to support the “rescue” of materials that would otherwise end up in landfill.

For example, I recently reviewed a range of polyurethane (PU) leather accessories. PU is, in itself, pretty terrible environmentally. However, that particular brand uses entirely from recycled materials that would otherwise have created waste. I’ve also tried some gorgeous eco-friendly lingerie pieces over the years, some of which are amongst the most worn in my collection.

Switching to Eco-Friendly Bathing & Beauty Products

Glitter is, of course, a staple of my personal femme style. But the wrong glitter products can also be hugely harmful to the environment. For that reason, you will only ever find eco-friendly biodegradable glitter in my makeup bag.

I’ve tried to switch to more eco-friendly bathing and beauty products recently, too, including shampoo bars, mineral sunscreen, and products made without palm oil. This is in addition to my policy of not buying anything that was tested on animals.

What are your favourite eco-friendly and sustainable femme essentials, friends?

How to Respond When Your Partner Discloses Jealousy or Insecurity [Polyamory Conversation Cards #12]

There’s a vast amount of information out there about how to deal with your own jealousy or insecurity in a polyamorous relationship (I’ve even added to it myself!) What we see much less of, though, is information on how to handle it when a partner discloses feelings of jealousy, envy, insecurity, or other difficult emotions.

In case you missed it, this post is part of a series inspired by Odder Being’s Polyamory Conversation Cards. Once a week or as often as I can, I’ll pull a card at random and write a piece of content based on it. There will likely be some essays, advice pieces, personal experiences, rants, and more! You can read the whole series at the dedicated tag. And if you want to support my work and get occasional bonus content, head on over to my Patreon.

This week’s card asks:

“How would you like your partner(s) to respond when you’re voicing a fear, insecurity or concern?”

Everyone’s answer to this will be slightly different. As always, the best way to learn about how to support your partner(s) specifically is to ask them. With that said, I have identified some common themes that usually help when someone is feeling jealousy, insecurity, envy, or similar emotions.

Be Kind

If you take nothing else away from this piece, I hope you’ll remember this. It’s difficult to express vulnerable feelings such as jealousy or insecurity to a partner and, if you meet your partner’s vulnerability with hostility, impatience or derision, they will likely never open up to you in this way again.

Try to meet them with gentleness, compassion, and grace. How would you want someone to respond to you when you were at your most raw? Do that.

Validate Their Feelings and Resist the Temptation to Downplay Them

When a partner is feeling jealous, envious, or insecure, the first instinct for many people is to try to make that feeling go away as quickly as possible. This can often look like downplaying, invalidating, or rationalising away very real emotions. Despite good intentions, this can come across as dismissive and leave a person feeling unseen, unheard, and misunderstood.

Never tell a person they “shouldn’t” be feeling a particular way, and do not try to logic them out of their emotions. Feelings are not rational, and causing someone to feel bad or guilty for their emotional response is never productive. Resist the urge to jump into “fix it” mode, too. That’s often not what a person feeling jealousy or insecurity needs, at least not right away.

Instead, listen and validate. Paraphrase your partner’s words back to them: “what I’m hearing you say is that you’re feeling…[fill in the blank].” Tell them that you understand, that you’re listening, and that their feelings are real and matter to you.

Not sure how to respond? “I’m sorry you’re feeling that way. That sounds painful. I’m here for you” is rarely a bad place to start.

Offer Verbal Reassurance

Most of us want to hear that our partners love us, value us, find us desirable, and so on. Though the “love languages” system is deeply flawed, I’ve also found it a useful starting point in talking about how we give and receive love in relationships. I’m very much a words of affirmation person, for example, so verbal reassurance matters to me a lot when I’m feeling insecure.

It’s important to understand what your partner is feeling insecure about so that you can offer them appropriate reassurance accordingly. They might need to hear that you love them, that you still find them sexy, that you’re committed to your relationship and not going anywhere, or even that you’re not upset with them for some real or imagined infraction. (Things can get a bit meta at this stage. I often find I end up needing a second layer of reassurance: that my partner isn’t mad at me for feeling insecure or asking for reassurance in the first place!)

What’s even more important, though, is that your words of reassurance are backed up by actions. It’s no use saying all the right things if your actions say something else entirely. Never say things you don’t wholeheartedly mean, and never make promises you can’t or won’t keep.

Offer Touch and Comfort, If Possible

This may not be possible if you’re long distance or not physically together. But if possible, most people find a hug, a cuddle, or some other kind of physical contact from a partner to be comforting in times of emotional pain or distress.

This isn’t universal, of course. Some people don’t like being touched when they’re processing difficult feelings. Always ask your partner first and respect their answer. “Would you like a hug?” or “I’d like to hold your hand, would that be okay?” are useful phrases.

If they’re not up for being touched, other physically comforting or grounding things – getting under a blanket, holding and sipping a warm drink, stroking a pet, playing with a fidget toy – can be helpful for some people.

Process with Them… or Just Sit with the Feelings

Some people like to process their feelings of jealousy or insecurity out loud, talking through what they are thinking and feeling and why. For others, it’s more productive to simply sit in the uncomfortable feeling until it passes through and over them. Your partner will know best which is true for them. (And it might be a bit of both, or contextual depending on other factors.)

Either way, you can support them. If they need to process out loud, you can have a conversation or just listen to them talk. If they prefer to sit with the feelings instead, you can offer to be with them in that space or give them some alone time to work it through.

Change Your Behaviour if Appropriate

There will be many circumstances where you haven’t done anything wrong and your partner is simply having an emotional reaction to something that’s well within the parameters of your relationship. In these cases, comfort, support, and time to process may be all that’s needed.

In other circumstances, though, you may find it’s actually appropriate to change your behaviour in some way.

Huge, enormous, giant caveat here: changing your behaviour should not negatively impact a third party or another relationship. Cutting off, curtailing, restricting, or backburnering another relationship is deeply cruel to the other person/people involved and never a good response to jealousy or insecurity.

So what can changing your behaviour in response to jealousy or insecurity look like in a polyamorous dynamic? Here are a few examples:

  • Setting aside intentional, quality time to spend with a partner who is feeling neglected or sidelined
  • Agreeing to put your phone away so you’re not distracted when you are spending time with your partner
  • Offering more of something your partner feels is missing in your connection (physical touch, verbal expressions of love, sweet gestures, etc.)
  • Stepping up more with regard to shared responsibilities (children, housework, etc.)
  • Limiting the amount that you share/gush about your other sweetie(s) in the presence of a partner who is feeling insecure
  • Shifting to a more parallel style of polyamory, at least temporarily
  • Being more forthcoming in sharing important information with your partner
  • Taking more time to check in emotionally with your partner before or after potentially jealousy-inducing events (e.g. dates with new people)

Offer Only Things You Are Happy to Give

I have adopted this as a personal policy in relationships and it’s served me very well: I only make offers I’m wholeheartedly happy to carry out if the person takes me up on it. To offer things you don’t actually want to give is a trap and will only lead to hurt and resentment down the line. (Low-stakes but real example: If I offer you a ride home, I’m not going to feel annoyed about having to go half an hour out of my way if you accept. I only offered the ride because I was genuinely happy to give it.)

When we love someone and that person is feeling pain or distress, it is natural that we want to stop that pain. However, this can sometimes lead to making offers or promises that are not genuine. This might look like “I’ll cancel my date tomorrow night” or “I’ll always be home by 10pm so you don’t have to be alone at night.”

As I’ve mentioned above, curtailing other relationships is never a wise thing to offer or do in response to jealousy or insecurity in a polyamorous dynamic. Neither is heavily restricting your own freedom or other aspects of your life. However, it’s totally possible to make changes or implement strategies to help your partner feel better without doing these things. I outlined some options for this in the last section, but you should feel entirely free to get creative with it and strategise together. As with all things in relationships, it’s deeply personal.

Ask your partner what they would like from you, with the understanding that you’re not obligated to give it if you don’t feel able to do so with a full heart. Make offers and suggestions, too, but make sure they come from a genuine place.

Check Back In Later

When a partner has expressed difficult feelings, it’s a good idea to check back in later and see how they are doing. This might mean asking them how they’re feeling a few days after the initial conversation or reaction and asking if there is anything else they need from you.

It might also mean checking in the next time an event happens that’s similar to the one that triggered the jealousy or insecurity. For example, if your partner felt jealous when you went out on a date with a new person, you might do an emotional check-in or provide some additional reassurance before the next time you go on a first date. You might also plan a way to reconnect and decompress together after the date.

How do you like your partners to respond when you express feelings like jealousy or insecurity? Have you found any amazing strategies that help you to overcome or manage it together?

How to Choose the Best Sex Doll for You

Sex dolls seem to be growing in popularity all the time, with more and more manufacturers and retailers popping up offering them in a huge variety of styles, shapes, sizes, and designs.

The stigma against sex dolls also seems to be slowly reducing as more people come to understand that sex toys are for everyone and that owning one (or several, or many) doesn’t say anything negative about a person’s character, desirability, sexual prowess, or gender.

But with so many options now available, where do you start when shopping for a sex doll? What are the best sex dolls and how can you choose the best sex doll for you? If you’ve never bought one before, it can be confusing and overwhelming to say the least.

Here are six things to consider when you’re thinking about buying your first sex doll.

Sex doll by PPUNSON lying on its side

Get clear on why you want a sex doll

People buy sex dolls for all kinds of reasons, and they’re all equally valid. From trying out new sexual techniques to building sexual confidence to experimenting with group sex fantasies without the emotional risk, your reasons for buying a sex doll will be completely personal.

Are you looking to fulfil a particular and specific fantasy, or just seeking a general-use toy? Will your partner, if you have one, be using the doll as well or is it just for you? What is it, specifically, about the concept and the reality of sex dolls that appeals to you?

Once you understand why you want to get a sex doll, you’ll be able to start formulating a clearer idea of what type is most likely to work for you.

Think about what traits you find attractive

Sex dolls are not designed to be replacements for human partners. However, if there are particular traits you find attractive (such as large breasts, an hourglass figure, or a muscular chest) then you will probably be able to find a doll that boasts those features.

Some sex dolls are designed to be fairly realistic in their appearance. Others, however, often have exaggerated versions of human features. This means it’s vital to keep in mind that, while sex dolls are simply sex toys and completely harmless to use, it’s important not to compare your human partners’ bodies to them.

When you fantasise about using a sex doll, what’s in your mind?

Presumably you have fantasised about using a sex doll at least occasionally to get to the point where you are considering buying one. When you have those fantasies, what type of doll do you imagine? Try to hone in on the specifics as much as you can.

What shape and size is the sex doll you think about? What type of features does it have? How are you using it, and how might its design impact that use? Once you can picture your ideal sex doll, you can start shopping for something that fits the bill.

Consider size

Sex doll with penis by PPUNSON

Sex dolls come in various shapes and sizes, from “life size” dolls roughly the size of an average human through to miniature versions and those only encompassing a small portion of the body (torso dolls or butt/genitals dolls, for example.)

When you’re choosing the best sex dolls for you, don’t forget about the practicalities. That life-size doll might be super sexy, but is it really going to fit in your tiny studio apartment? Where will you hide it when the family comes to visit? If you are going to be travelling with your sex doll, you might likewise want to choose a smaller one.

On the other hand, full size dolls can offer a more realistic experience in use. If that’s important to you, you might decide that finding the extra storage space is worth it. There’s no right or wrong here, but think it through before you hit the purchase button.

Understand sex doll materials and care considerations

Sex dolls can be made out of several different materials, but thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) and silicone are by far the most common.

Silicone dolls tend to be more expensive than TPE dolls, but are also likely to last longer because silicone is a non-porous material. With good care and cleaning, TPE dolls can last for a good while. However, you’ll need to keep an eye on the material (watch for discolouration, dark spots, or bad smells) and avoid sharing them for safety and hygiene reasons. Using a condom can also help your sex doll to last longer.

You can use water-based lube with any sex doll material, but should avoid using silicone lube with a silicone doll as this can cause a chemical reaction that may damage the material.

What’s your budget?

Sex dolls are available at a wide array of price points, from tens of dollars up to thousands of dollars. Prices vary according to size, material, manufacturer, complexity of design, customization options, and more. So when you start shopping for a sex doll, have a budget in mind.

If you’re prepared to drop the money for it, you can have a sex doll customized in virtually any way you like. If you’re on a budget on the other hand, you may be surprised at how many affordable options are out there for you to choose from.

Thanks to PPUNSON for sponsoring this post. All writing and views are, as always, mine. Images by PPUNSON.

5 Things You Should Disclose Upfront in Polyamorous Dating [Polyamory Conversation Cards #11]

Dating is hard. Who amongst us hasn’t spent hours swiping and swiping on dating apps or felt like we’ve wasted evenings of our lives at speed dating parties full of people we have nothing in common with? Polyamorous dating is even harder. Polyamorous people have a small dating pool to begin with, and it becomes smaller still when you factor in all the various ways that even two (or more) polyam people can be incompatible.

When I’m trying to date, I prefer to filter out unsuitable matches quickly. After all, no matter how hot someone is, if we’re wildly incompatible there’s no point in trying to take things further. Part of this process is knowing what you need to disclose (and ask) early on in dating a new person.

In case you missed it, this post is part of a series inspired by Odder Being’s Polyamory Conversation Cards. Once a week or as often as I can, I’ll pull a card at random and write a piece of content based on it. There will likely be some essays, advice pieces, personal experiences, rants, and more! You can read the whole series at the dedicated tag. And if you want to support my work and get occasional bonus content, head on over to my Patreon.

This week’s card asks:

“What do new partners need to know upfront about what’s (im)possible given your existing relationships?”

Here are five things I think you really need to disclose upfront in polyamorous dating.

1. That you’re polyamorous (and what relationships you’re currently in, if any)

No shit, right?

Well, a surprising number of polyamorous people seem to be completely cool with the idea of not disclosing that they’re polyamorous until they are one, three, or even more dates into a connection with a new person. This is absolutely, utterly, unequivocally not cool.

I believe that, as a general rule, polyamorous people should only date other polyamorous people. While there are occasional (very occasional) examples of mono/poly relationships that work, these are few and far between and most people who attempt this type of dynamic end up completely miserable. However, if you’re going to insist on trying to date monogamous people, at the very least you need to disclose your polyamorous status upfront. It’s not okay to bait-and-switch someone.

Put it in your dating profile. When you connect with someone, make sure they’ve actually read and understood that you’re polyamorous. And be ready to talk about what polyamory means to you, how you practice it, and any relationships you’re currently in

2. What style of polyamory you practice

People do polyamory in lots of different ways, and not all of them are compatible. If you practice relationship anarchy, hierarchical polyamorous people won’t be a good fit for you. If you’re in a closely knit kitchen table polycule and hate not being able to have all your partners in one room, someone who prefers a strictly parallel style is unlikely to be a good match.

There’s nuance here, of course, and you should be ready to talk with a potential match about the particulars of your situation. But you should at least have a one-line elevator speech that sums up your polyamorous style and philosophy.

For example, I might say “I have a nesting partner and practice non-hierarchical polyamory. I prefer kitchen-table or garden-party polyamory but I’m also open to parallel if that’s what people need.”

3. Any rules or restrictions that will apply to your relationship

I’ve written recently about why I don’t think restrictive rules are a good idea in polyamory. But lots of people still have them and, if this is you, you really need to disclose them as quickly as possible.

If your new partner won’t be allowed to (for example) engage in certain sex acts, express or receive expressions of love with you, spend the night with you, or ever spend holidays and special occasions with you, they deserve to know these things upfront.

Someone can’t meaningfully consent to a relationship if it comes with a host of limits and restrictions they weren’t aware of.

4. Veto arrangements (including screening, tacit, or indirect vetos)

A veto arrangement is where one partner – usually a spouse, nesting partner, or “primary” – has the power to unilaterally demand their partner end an outside relationship. I’ve written about the problems with veto multiple times and I now believe it is an inherently abusive thing. However, again, some couples still insist on it. If this is you, you must disclose it upfront to potential partners.

This includes other forms of veto power beyond the explicit, by the way.

Does your partner have a “screening veto” (i.e. can they veto a relationship when it’s in its fledgling stages but not once it’s established?) People you’re dating deserve to know that they have to pass an external party’s test before they can be in a relationship with you.

What would you do if a particular partner suddenly issued you with a “leave them or I’m leaving you” ultimatum? If the answer is anything other than “break up with the person who issued the ultimatum” then… that person has tacit veto power. Your other partners and potential partners should know this. They should know that, even if you don’t call it veto power, they are ultimately disposable in service of your relationship with someone else.

5. What type of relationship you’re looking for

Are you looking for a nesting partner? Someone to marry and/or have children with? A serious but non-nesting/non-escalator relationship? A one night stand, casual fuck-buddy, or friend with benefits?

One of the great things about polyamory is that we can feel out relationships as they evolve and allow them to be what they are. However, most of us also have at least some idea of what we’re looking for and what we’re absolutely not looking for.

Unfortunately, a lot of people lie about or obfuscate what they’re looking for on early dates. They pretend to be open to a serious relationship because they think it’ll make them look bad if they say they just want casual sex. Conversely, they might think it makes them look uncool and not “chill” to admit they want something serious, so they downplay it. This kind of thing just makes it harder to connect with people who want the same thing as you.

If you’re truly open to any kind of structure and just want to explore connections and see how things go? You can say that. But don’t say it if it’s not true. You’ll just waste your own time and theirs.

What do you always tell potential dates upfront in your polyamorous dating life? What do you wish dates would tell you?