What Sexual Happiness Means to Me

This week is Sexual Happiness Week! I think that’s a sentiment we can all get behind, no? (If not, why are you reading this blog?) My pals at Lovehoney asked me in an email “what does sexual happiness mean to you?” and, of course, it got me thinking.

A cock ring, a bottle of lube, a mini wand vibrator, a pot of orgasm balm and a bath bomb, all from Lovehoney. For a post on Sexual Happiness week.
Being a sex blogger is pretty great when you get presents like this!

My initial reaction was to give my working definition of sex positivity: “supporting the right of all consenting adults to have sex, or not, in whatever ways work best for them, free from stigma or shame”.

And while I stand by that, I think sexual happiness is something a little different. So I started making a list of some of the things that make up “sexual happiness” for me. It’s different for everyone, so your mileage may vary. Why not tell me in the comments what YOUR definition of sexual happiness is?

1. Feeling in harmony with my body

My body and I have… an uneasy relationship. We haven’t always been friends and honestly, we sometimes still aren’t. Feeling good about my body is something I am mostly struggling to access right now, but in order to experience sexual happiness I do at least need to feel comfortable – neutral, if you will – about it.

I can’t have good sex if all I can think about is how much I hate my stomach and how my thighs are too big. But I can get to a happy place sexually if I can turn off all that noise and, if I cannot love how my body looks, at least appreciate it for the things it can do and the sensations it can feel.

2. Having partners I can really trust

You cannot have really good sex without trust. This is something I firmly believe. For me, trust is more complex than just “you’ll do what you say you’re going to do”. Trust means that I know you’ll show up for me if I need you, outside of a purely sexual space. It means I can be vulnerable with you and know that you will hold space for that and not use it to harm me. It means I can rely on you to show up and keep your commitments to me, not because I force you to but because you want to.

My bar for ongoing sexual partners is now much higher. We might or might not fall in Capital L Love with one another, but if I don’t trust you, we have nothing – not even a casual something.

3. A frequency that works

I’m a very highly sexual person much of the time (duh, you all think as you read my sex blog). This means that, much of the time, I’d like to be having quite a lot of sex. Much as I joke about liking my sex like I like my coffee (“hot and several times a day,”) my actual ideal frequency for sex tends to fall around the 4 – 5 times a week mark, a little more when I’m not busy. (LOL, as if there’s ever a time I’m not busy.)

But the key to sexual happiness for me is a frequency of sex that works with where my life is at that time, and works for the relationship I have with that partner. Right now I probably have sex with The Artist about once a month, but that’s… most of the times we see each other. Whereas with Mr CK, it probably averages out to once or twice a week – but we live together and see each other every day unless one of us is away, so we have days when we’re together but don’t have sex much more often. The key to happiness is a frequency that works for everyone.

4. Exploration and new experiences

At my heart, I am a curious creature with a lust for new experiences and plenty of adventure. Sexually, this can mean a lot of things. New partners, yes – sexual variety is one of the reasons I practice consensual non-monogamy. But also trying a new kink act, a new toy (my job as a sex writer blesses me with the ability to do this frequently!), a new position, or a new sex party or club all fall under the umbrella of “variety”.

Basically I want to try shit out. Being with a person for a long period of time and keeping a sexual spark alive comes quite easily to me, as long as there are plenty of adventures to be shared.

5. Plenty of attention given to my pleasure

I nearly wrote “orgasms!” for this one, but, well… I have an orgasm denial fetish. So I’ve amended it to needing a partner to give plenty of attention to my pleasure, in whatever way that looks. It might mean making sure I come, of course. But it might also include teasing me in the way I like, or spanking me in just the right way, or honestly just regularly checking in to make sure I’m having fun and getting what I want out of the scene. Nothing will turn me off faster than a partner who treats me like a sex toy. (Unless that’s a specific roleplay we’ve negotiated… in which case I’m getting something out of it too, so the point still stands).

Today’s post is brought to you by Lovehoney’s Sexual Happiness Week. Check out the great deals on offer. If you buy through any of my affiliate links, I make a small commission.

WWAD? (What Would Amy Do?)

I’ll be honest with you, dear readers. I’m having a really hard time with a lot of things right now. This is for a variety of reasons, not least that my body image is at its lowest level ever (even lower than when I wrote this,) my day job is…. challenging, and I’m currently working through intense childhood trauma as well as the abuse from my ex with my therapist. Basically, I don’t like the person I am at the moment. I’m a sluggish, grumpy, emotionally unavailable shell of myself.

A woman's face with her hand partially covering her mouth. The picture looks cracked. For a post called What Would Amy Do?

And one of the things I’m finding particularly hard right now is polyamory. Jealousy is biting me hard. Compersion has fucked off somewhere and ghosted me. And I’m forgetting everything I supposedly know about how to handle this shit.

I don’t want to be like this.

In my “real” life (air quotes because this world feels more real to me than my day-to-day life), I have a different persona. Another person I have to be. Let’s call her… Sarah. Sarah is significantly less cool than Amy. She works in an office instead of writing about her vagina on the internet, she wears comfy sweaters and jeans instead of corsets and lingerie, and she plays the role of a straight, monogamous “good girl” in a play called “Small Conservative Town And Judgemental Job”. She’s the person I was for most of the twenty six years of life before I started this blog, found “Amy,” and learned how to be the person I always wanted to be.

Sarah is also many of the traumatised, fucked up, broken pieces of me.

Something that frustrates me is how often I forget how to do the things that I advise other people on all the time. I know how to handle a jealousy flare-up. I know how to own my own shit. And I know how to talk to my partner about a problem without it escalating into a fight. People come to me for advice on this stuff. I run classes on it. And write a fucking column on it! I. Know. This. Shit.

Or at least Amy does.

But Sarah finds it so very hard to tap into this knowledge when I am neck deep in brutal insecurities, non-existent self-esteem and the sense that all I want is for these feelings to STOP.

Sometimes, when I’m struggling with a situation and so deep in panic that I don’t know what to do, I try to ask myself a question: What Would Amy Do? That is, I try to step outside of the immediacy and the pain of the situation, and think: if a reader came to me with this question, what would I tell her to do? What would my advice be? Usually, when I look at it like that, the way forward is much clearer (if still equally difficult to enact in practice.)

So what would Amy do? She’d probably start by apologising to her partner for being an insufferable shit and get her ass back to therapy.

Hey, maybe buy me a coffee to help me keep paying for books and vibrators therapy.

Sexting is a Real Sexual Relationship

A computer surrounded by mobile phones and with a red bra discarded over it. For a post on sexting.

When I was seventeen and we had not long moved in together, I caught my then-boyfriend sexting online with a random woman he’d met on the internet. We were, at the time, in a monogamous arrangement – and to say I was livid doesn’t cover it. I absolutely considered it to be cheating. (This is to say nothing of the fact that they’d been planning to meet and have sex, and only didn’t because I found out before that happened.) But the point is that I considered the online sexual relationship – in and of itself – to be a sexual relationship, and therefore a violation of the boundaries of a monogamous relationship. Of course, every relationship is different and if both parties agree a little digital flirtation is okay, more power to them. But there are certain things that are assumed to be off-limits in a monogamous commitment, unless very explicitly negotiated otherwise.

I stand by my assessment (of those activities as cheating) to this day, some decade and change later. This is because I completely believe that sexting, cyber-sexing and other forms of exchanging sexually explicit content online is a form of sexual relationship. It might not involve physically being in the same room or rubbing genitals together, but it is sex nonetheless.

My relationship with Mr CK began primarily online, as we lived 100 miles from each other. As we tried to work out what we felt for each other and what it meant, we texted day after day and sexted, cyber-sexed and exchanged filthy pictures and videos by night, until we reached the point that we simply had to see each other in person. But by the time we took it “real life,” not only were we already in love but we already had a pretty decent understanding of each others’ likes, dislikes, kinks and curiosities. Such is the power of digital sexuality.

“It’s only online!” I hear this all the time. I hear it from people in ostensibly monogamous relationships who have been caught having illicit cyber-sex behind their partner’s back. I’ve heard it from people who are trying to convince themselves they’re not really into that person they have been swapping naughty messages with every day for weeks. I even said it myself, when I was trying to deny the fact that I was fast falling in both love and lust with the man who blew up my phone with sexy texts multiple times a day.

We live in a digital world. There’s no getting away from it. Whether you’re keeping in touch with your long-distance sweetie via naughty Skype chats, booking private shows with your favourite cam models on Chaturbate, or using sites such as freesextingsites.com to find sexy chat partners, the vast majority of us have engaged with our sexuality online in some form or another. I would venture to suggest that the vast majority of adults around my age have nude pictures – their own or someone else’s – lurking on their phones.

Personally, I think sexting and cyber-sex are brilliant. Many of us have partners who live a good distance away from us – a different city or a different country – which makes regular in-person sex impossible. Online sexting is an amazing way to keep the spark alive in those relationships.

But it has benefits for those of us with more local partners too – even partners we live with. Have you ever received a steamy sext from your partner in the middle of the day, and then just wanted to go home and rip their clothes off their body for the rest of the day? Exactly. And if you’re very busy, or one of you has an illness or injury that is making a physical sexual relationship difficult or impossible, a virtual one can be just as satisfying.

Crucially, I think we need to move away from viewing sexting or cyber-sexing as less “real” sex. There are infinite ways to have sex, and as sex positive people we’re trying desperately to move away from the narrative that sex only “counts” if a penis goes into a vagina. I propose that we also move away from the idea that virtual expressions of sexuality are less valid, less real, or count less than in-person encounters. Let’s stop devaluing sexting and embrace it as one of the infinite possible ways to express delicious, hot, consensual human sexuality.

FYI: this post was sponsored. All views are, and will always be, my own.

Bad at Making Friends?

KATNISS: Yeah, but I’m not very good at making friends.
CINNA: We’ll see.

– The Hunger Games

A group of people putting their hands in a circle. For a post about making friends.

In every single job I’ve ever had, and a number of out-of-work hobby things too (especially when I was younger,) I’ve been very much on the periphery of any social things going on. I’m one of those people who generally gets along with almost everyone, at a surface level, but I’ve never really had a proper Work Friend. Not in the true sense. I don’t really get invited to happy hour or Work Nights Out or whatever it is people who work in offices do when they socialise with each other. (Which, okay, I don’t really care any more – reality is I probably wouldn’t go anyway).

I was thinking about this today, and in particular about the way in which members of my work teams over the years have been (or at least seemed) super close to each other in a way they have never been to me.

My immediate thought was “I’m just bad at making friends”. Then, upon interrogating this a bit more, I realised this cannot logically be true. Because I actually have tonnes of friends. They just exist in a completely different section of my life.

When you compartmentalise your life to the extent that I do, it becomes very, very hard to build meaningful connections in spheres where you cannot be fully yourself. I cannot let my guard down or allow myself to be vulnerable when I know there are so many things about me – things that are real and huge and significant – about which I simply cannot be open. Things like this blog. Like what really went on at that party I went to on Saturday. Things like that I feel a bit off today because the polyam jealousy is biting me hard.

There’s a reason that basically every single person I have a meaningful and intimate friendship with these days is either a sex blogger, kinky, queer, non-monogamous, or some combination thereof. (My definition of “meaningful and intimate friendship” here is someone I’d invite to my wedding without hesitation, someone I’d feel okay calling up in tears if something terrible happened, someone I’d travel significant distance to spend time with). And that reason is simply that I can be fully myself around those people. My queer, kinky, slutty, polyam, sex-writing self.

I’d love to be fully, openly, aggressively out in every facet of my life. But, for a large number of good and valid reasons, that simply isn’t possible. Therefore, compartmentalising is the option that makes the most sense and brings me the most peace and happiness.

But I’m not bad at making friends. I’m just bad at forcing myself into a box in which I do not fit.

Mr CK recently pointed out that if I found myself at a kink event without him by my side, I could bounce up to the nearest group of pervs and make friends, no problem. Same at a polyam social. Thing is, he’s right. But there, I can be the version of me I view as fun and interesting and sparkly. I can connect with people in a way that is meaningful to me – through a shared love of the taboo, the transgressive, the usually hidden. In that space, I don’t have to think “they’d hate me if they knew my secret,” because I know they share the same secret.

The people I spend time with in other compartments of my life are fine, often wonderful people. But they’re not my people. And that’s A-okay with me.

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I’m Suffocating in This Closet!

I’m going to break an unwritten rule – one that I set for myself when I started blogging. I’m going to talk about something that happened at my Day Job.

An open closet
Not pictured: me so deep in this closet I’m in fucking Narnia

Now, I love a lot of things about my day job. I work with nice people at an organisation whose mission I care about. I am paid fairly and generally treated respectfully. But Day Job and this life, the life I live when I’m writing this blog, are separate. There is DayName, and there is Amy Norton, and never the two shall meet. I never even tweet as Amy while on work time, though my office is chill about reasonable personal phone and social media use. I am that careful.

At work I am quiet. I keep my head down and I don’t say much. I am friendly, of course, but in that enigmatic way where no-one really knows an awful lot about me. The superficial stuff, sure, but nothing real.

Today my co-worker said they’d watched the new Louis Theroux documentary about polyamory. (Though they called it “polygamy”.) My ears pricked up and I listened to the ensuing conversation, though added nothing to it myself except that it is forbidden to be legally married to more than one person in the vast majority of the world and therefore it was not really “polygamy” in the true sense. Sadly, the ensuing conversation was dripping with judgement. Words like “gross” and “freaky” abounded. Vomiting noises were made at the idea of group sex. I believe somebody even made a comment along the lines of “there’s something really wrong with you if you can’t be satisfied with one person.”

What I felt, in that moment, was shame. I felt that wave of doubt that comes from hearing that something is wrong with me. You’d think by now I would be good at batting away shaming comments about how I choose to love, but every one still hurts.

Of course, no-one knew they were talking about me. No-one knew that the quiet girl across the desk from them is going to see her secondary partner after work tonight, or that she had a threesome with her partner and an amazing woman they both adore at the weekend, or that the thought of the sex party she’s going to in a couple of weeks is getting her though as much as her incessant supply of coffee.

I guess what I’m saying is… be careful in your judgement. When you throw around blanket condemnation of something you do not understand, there might be someone across the desk from you who now feels a little less safe to be themselves, a little more sure they’ll never come out. If my self-protective closets were physical walls, they’d have grown an extra few inches wide today.

Would they have reacted differently if they’d known they were talking about the lifestyle of someone who sat four feet away? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. Would it humanise the concept if I’d said “hey, actually I’m polyam and it’s really not all that freaky! We go on ice-cream dates and have sex and do laundry and walk the dog and argue about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher, just like you!“? Should I have put myself out there, taken the personal risk in the name of sex positivity and fighting the good fight? Maybe. But I didn’t. I felt shame, and I said nothing. I felt judged, and I did not feel able to defend myself because they didn’t know it was me they were judging.  And I felt like a failure to the cause for not speaking up.

Not being out is a choice I make to protect myself from (at best) intrusive questions and weird judgements, and (at worst) from ridicule, loss of professional respect and possibly risking my job. Today I burrowed a little deeper into my closet.

Did you enjoy this or do you just want to help me get through this week? Buy me a coffee! Oh, and please – no advice. Thank you. 

I Don’t Particularly Care for Cunnilingus… And That’s Okay

Cunnilingus. Oral sex. Eating out. Pussy eating. Muff-diving. Whatever you call it, if we’re having sex I’m perfectly happy to skip it.

Yup. That’s right. I just don’t like cunnilingus that much most of the time.

A person licking an ice cream. For a post on cunnilingusI don’t hate it. It’s fine and I’m happy to engage in it occasionally if the person giving really enjoys doing it. Mr CK and I have even talked about experimenting with some positioning to help me enjoy it more, which we’ll probably do at some point soon. But the odds of cunnilingus bringing me to orgasm are… about one in three years, if recent experience is anything to go by. There are just much more reliable and fun ways to bring me to orgasm, that won’t stress me out along the way.

Why do I say stress me out along the way? There have been a number – a not-insignificant number – of occasions when worrying that I wasn’t responding to cunnilingus in the “right” way or enjoying it “enough” took me completely out of my head and probably, realistically, ruined any chance I had of getting real enjoyment from it.

Precisely WHY I don’t like it much is uncertain. My clit is both very sensitive and very picky – direct stimulation, on the glans rather than the hood, is usually so intense it’s painful. Also, it’s hard to get good enough control with a tongue to really stimulate the spot I like in a consistent manner for long enough to get me anywhere.

Fingers have much more dexterity and precision.

It’s not about someone’s skills…

If you’re going to hop into my comments or mentions and tell me I’d love cunnilingus if only you did it to me… save it. This isn’t about skill or lack thereof of my partners.

My partner is tremendously skilled at this particular act. How do I know? Because I’ve seen other women, who like it much more than I do, gush all over him when he does it to them. (Yes, that is as hot as it sounds).

Again: it’s not about skills. Someone could be the most skilled in the world at a particular act, and it isn’t going to suddenly transform my body into one that loves that act.

Going down doesn’t automatically make you a feminist…

I’ve ranted about this one before, but it amazes me how often people (read: cis men) believe they’re amazing feminists just because they enjoy performing oral sex on people with vulvas.

Being a feminist lover isn’t about bragging about how much you “just looooooove eating pussy!” Being a feminist lover is about listening to your partner, respecting their preferences, treating enthusiastic affirmative consent as a minimum standard, and taking your ego out of the bedroom as much as possible.

If your partner says she doesn’t like receiving cunnilingus that much? Believe her.

I’ll still go down on you though!

I love giving pleasure. If we’re having sex and oral is your jam, whatever anatomy you have, I’m MORE than happy to go down on you. I’ll love the hell out of it, too, because making someone squirm and moan is at least half the joy of sex for me.

Don’t feel bad that I probably don’t want you to “return the favour,” and don’t push me into accepting it just to assuage your sense of fairness. Use your dick, fingers or a toy on me instead, and I’ll have a great time.

Why is this controversial to say?

Unfortunately, we live in a society that has a lot of very narrow and very messed up ideas about sex. One of them? Everyone loves oral!

Some people with vulvas love receiving cunnilingus, some don’t. Some people with penises love receiving fellatio, some don’t. Just like everything else, people are individuals and have preferences!

So I’m saying it. I don’t really care for cunnilingus. If you really want to do it for your enjoyment, I’ll probably co-operate for a while. But if you’re trying to get me off? Just finger me really well instead, thanks!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider buying me a coffee to say thanks!

Men: Her Orgasm Is Not About Your Ego

This is my third post of #Smutathon2018: #SmutForChoice Edition. Please donate to our page for Abortion Support Network, and don’t forget to leave your email address or Twitter handle so we can enter you into the raffle to win some awesome sex toys!

Dear Well-Meaning Cishet Man,

This one’s for you.

You’re a good guy, right? You care about your sexual partner’s pleasure, and her orgasms. You even eat pussy! When DJ Khaled’s comments surfaced about “different rules” for men re. oral sex, you probably tweeted furiously “I’M A GUY AND I LOVE EATING PUSSY”.

A man and woman kissing. For a post about ego and sex.Well, okay. But slow down. I want you to read this with an open mind, and try not to feel attacked. That’s not my aim.

However, please – please – stop making your female partners’ orgasms about your ego! Let me explain.

When I started having partnered sex in my mid and late teens, my boyfriend compelled me to tell him I’d never had an orgasm before I met him. He’d decided this was the case.  Telling him it wasn’t seemed like it wouldn’t achieve anything but bruising his ego. He was very into the fantasy of me as the perfect innocent. So I went with it.

I think a lot of young women have similar experiences. Their (also young and often inexperienced) boyfriends want to feel like sex gods who introduce them to a world of pleasure they never knew existed before. They don’t want to hear “I’ve been having orgasms by myself for years”. This narrative is a big part of the Fifty Shades of Grey fantasy. Ana has not only never masturbated or had an orgasm. She’s never even thought a sexual thought until Christian “I-Don’t-Make-Love-I-Fuck-Hard” Grey deigns to deflower her.

How this played out for me was thus: he didn’t really know what I liked. I knew what I liked, but couldn’t tell him because then he’d known I’d – gasp – had sexual feelings and even touched myself before he showed up. So a long time was spent with him trying to get me off, and either getting pissed off that it took so long (when I got there at all) or me faking it because dude, it’s been two hours, my clit is rubbed raw. 

This is, of course, a sex education problem. We don’t teach young women that exploring their bodies is okay. We don’t teach boys that girls masturbate and hey, she might know a thing or two about her own body! Instead, we glorify this notion of “I’ve never felt anything like this before!” even when you’ve totally felt something like that before… a lot.

A big part of the problem, though, is that these attitudes don’t really change as we get older! I remember reading in a glossy magazine (it was probably Cosmo?) advice along the lines of “when he whips out a new move in bed, tell him you’ve never done that before, even though you totally did that with your ex”. (That’s how Cosmo speaks, right?) The point is that women are still supposed to coddle our male partners’ egos to the point of straight-up lying to them, in order to pretend they’re the only person who has ever unlocked our sexuality.

This also plays out in other ways. I hang out on the Sex Toys forum at Reddit and also similar groups on Fetlife, and time and again men will post: “looking for a sex toy for my partner, but it needs to not be too big or powerful. Don’t want it to replace me!” But what if that big dildo or power-tool vibrator could give their partner the best, most explosive orgasms of her life? I guess it doesn’t matter – what they’re thinking about is not her pleasure, but being upstaged.

Men: women’s sexuality does not exist to stroke your ego! If your partner has a rich and fulfilling erotic life with herself, and/or had a rich and fulfilling erotic life with other partners before you came along, this doesn’t imply anything about you! When she uses toys, she’s not replacing you!

If you want your partner to never have masturbated (or to pretend she’s never masturbated,) or if you want your partner to have never had good sex with anyone else until you came along, you are not being sex positive. You are not being a good lover. You’re making your partner’s sexuality a receptacle for your ego.

And this brings me on to the Great Pussy Eating Debate of 2018, and the problems I see with it. Obviously, what DJ Khaled said was gross, as are all the other ridiculous things straight men have said about going down on people with vulvas. However, a lot of the responses pissed me off too. A lot of men felt the need to weigh in on how THEY always go down on their partners. Which… might seem harmless but is actually indicative of a particularly insidious form of virtue signalling that often comes into play around (particularly heterosexual) sex.

Prioritising your partner’s pleasure isn’t something to brag about. It’s the bare fucking minimum.

The other place I see this kind of ego-tripping manifest is around the issue of whether or not a woman orgasms during a sexual encounter with a man – and how that orgasm happens, if indeed there is one.

Too often, I hear “I want to make her come from intercourse, no clitoral stimulation, what am I doing wrong?”.  What you’re doing wrong, my dude, is prioritising your fucking ego over her fucking orgasm. The vast majority of people with vulvas don’t experience orgasm from penetration alone. This is normal. What you need to do is realise you don’t actually have a problem that needs solving. Talk to your partner, and stimulate her fucking clit the way she likes.

Basically: sex is much better when you take your ego out of it. I promise.

I Tried to Make Him Hit Me.

This was written as part of Smutathon 2018: #SmutForChoice edition. I’m sorry it’s not very sexy, but it’s sex-adjacent and it needed writing. If you’d like to support abortion access, please click below and donate – you can also win sex toys!

A giant male hand holding a female figure crushing her. For a post called I Tried To Make Him Hit Me.The one thing he never did was hit me.

He screamed at me, including in the middle of the night, including where my flatmates could hear, including when I had no idea what I’d done. He controlled so many facets of my life, and not in ways I’d consented to as part of a kinky dynamic. Guilting and ignoring your partner because they went for an innocent coffee with a friend who happens to be of a different gender is not fun D/s. He monitored my weight and shamed me if I gained a few pounds. I was pushed on to medication. He would even punch, kick and throw objects in front of me, just so I was in no doubt how scared he wanted me. It goes on.

I have a secret confession: I tried, a handful of times, to make him hit me. On these occasions, when he shouted at me, I didn’t cower – I sassed back, very occasionally even yelled back. I called him out on his bullshit. I even, on one particular occasion, told him “you’re abusive”. That was the time I most thought he was going to throw a punch at me.

I wanted permission to leave. I wanted something that would tell me unequivocally, this is bad and you can get out. The part of me that still loved him would, I thought, quiet down if he actually raised a hand to me. The part that was sure he was the best I’d ever do would snap out of the stupid trance he’d got me in. I realise now that it probably wouldn’t – I’d probably have justified it and convinced myself that I deserved it and stuck around anyway, the subservient fucking lapdog that I was.

Just fucking hit me, I thought, and then I can leave and I won’t be the bad guy. Because if I left, I knew he’d demonise me. I couldn’t love him as he was. I couldn’t be good enough to make him happy. I’d be the girl who couldn’t handle it.

We teach women and girls that they should leave if a partner physically hurts them. But we don’t speak enough about emotional and mental and psychological abuse. Too often, the message women get is try harder, try harder, try harder! Love him into not abusing you! We romanticise control as being “protective”.  We play off screaming as “it’s only because he cares”. This starts in childhood, when we tell little girls he’s mean to you because he likes you, and it continues and continues and continues and the next thing you know you’re in your 20s and sobbing on some guy’s floor because he yelled at you again and you just love him so much you’re sure you’ll die if you leave. THEN they have the fucking nerve to say “at least he didn’t hit you.”

He never crossed that line, and in his eyes that made him not-abusive. In mine, it just meant I had to wait for the abuse to get bad enough before I was “allowed” to leave. That took a long fucking time. Learning earlier that physical violence wasn’t the only form of cruelty I should Not Tolerate might have made all the difference.

Parents, teachers, adults: we must teach our girls that they do not have to tolerate cruelty of any kind. That they don’t have to tolerate the mental torture until he finally snaps and hits them. Please let’s do better for the next generation of girls.

I Had My First Smear Test and…. It Was a Complete Non-Event

I am in my late twenties. In my country, people with cervixes are offered cervical smear tests (often called “Pap Tests” in the USA) every three years from the time they turn 25. These tests detect abnormal cells on the cervix and act as an early screening for cervical cancer or warning signs thereof. Until this week, I’d never had one, despite being several years overdue.

Two medical swabs face down on a surface. For a post on cervical smear tests.

The reasons for this are varied, but there are two main ones. The first is practical: I moved house a lot prior to moving in with Mr CK (11 times in 9 years by my count) and as such had to register with a lot of different doctors in different cities. I’m not sure one of the letters inviting me to book in for a smear even found its way to me until I was at least 27. The second reason is that I was scared. I had a horrible experience when I got my IUD put in about 3 years ago – pain that rendered me entirely unable to function for three days and very much struggling for over two weeks. Therefore, understandably, the idea of anything going near my cervix elicited a strong and visceral NOPE reaction from me. So I just kept putting it off.

What eventually pushed me into going for one was a person in my extended poly/swing network having something flag up on their screening. I realised that by not knowing my status, I am not only putting myself at risk (and there is some history of cancer striking young in my family) but also putting my lovers at risk. And I couldn’t do that. I made the appointment.

On the morning of, I asked Twitter how much pain I should expect. Answers ranged from “none” to “maybe a bit but it’s over quickly” to “you probably wanna book the day off work”. (It was a little late for that, of course). I popped a couple of ibuprofen, just to be sure. Had I not been driving, I might have gone straight for the codeine, which my doctor gave me for the severe pain when my IUD acts up.

So what happened?

I went in and the lovely nurse introduced herself and asked if I was happy to have a student nurse present for the test. I said I’d rather not as it was my first time, and they were both fine about that. She asked about my STI testing history. I said we test every three months and had in fact been the week before. She asked if I knew about HPV, and I said yes.

I went behind the curtain, took my knickers and jeans off, and got comfortable on the bed thing. (I’ve never understood the point of a privacy curtain when they’re literally about to look at your insides, but there you go). The nurse explained that she would open my vagina with a speculum and do a quick swab of my cervix. She said I might feel some pressure, but it shouldn’t hurt.

Having one’s vagina opened with a plastic speculum is never comfortable. (Unless you’re into that sort of thing. Which I actually am when it’s with a sexual partner in a roleplay scenario. But dear god, fun medical play is a MILLION MILES from an actual medical exam). I winced a bit but remembered to breathe. I braced myself for severe pain.

“There you go, we’re done”. And the nurse was removing the speculum from my vagina and taking off her gloves.

“What, that’s it?” I could hardly believe it.

“Yep!”

Wow, I thought. That really was nothing.

The whole thing took less than five minutes. I felt no pain and only the mildest discomfort. A tiny price to pay indeed for knowing my status, protecting myself and my sexual partners, and possibly avoiding cervical cancer in the future.

So why am I telling you this non-story?

Honestly, I was fully expecting to have to tell you a horror story involving immense pain, shitty judgemental clinic staff, an unplanned day off work or all three. But none of this happened.

So instead I thought I’d share this story in the hopes that, if you’re afraid of getting your cervical smear, this will put you at ease. The staff should be kind and understanding. You shouldn’t feel any pain – even if your cervix is extremely sensitive and grumpy, as mine is.

Please – if you have a cervix, get your test. It takes five minutes, it doesn’t hurt, and it’s a tiny thing that could potentially save your life. Just go. I’m now kicking myself that I didn’t go three years ago!

If this post was helpful to you, please consider buying me a coffee to say thanks!

Image from Pixabay.

5 Reasons You Need Sex Positive Friends

After I write this post, I’m going to be jumping in the shower and then loading the car and heading off to Manchester with Mr CK. There we will convene with 8 of my amazing sex-positive friends for my 28th birthday party. Unsurprisingly, then, when I was considering what to write today I started thinking about sex-positive friendships.

A group of grey kittens in a basket. For a post about sex positive friendsSince I joined the sex-positive and sex writing communities, first on Twitter and then in real life, I have met some of the most amazing people I have ever been privileged enough to call friends. So this is a little celebration of them all, and some thoughts on why you really need sex-positive friends in your life.

You don’t have to self-censor

I hate self censorship, and I do it a lot out of desire to not lose my day job or alienate my family. But sometimes you just want to say “I got fucked realllllllly good last night!” or “check out this awesome shot I took of my boobs!” When you have an awesome group of sex-positive friends, fear of oversharing is… if not entirely eliminated, at least substantially reduced. No-one’s going to say, “ew, I don’t want to hear about your sex life!” when you literally became friends with them through sharing your sex life on the internet.

You don’t have to explain yourself again and again and again

Sure, you’ll occasionally run across someone who doesn’t know the term you’re using, or someone else will use a term you’re not familiar with. And that’s absolutely fine! But the vast majority of the time, terms like polyamory, open relationship, bisexual, pansexual, genderqueer, BDSM, D/s relationship… can just roll off your tongue and no-one will look at you like you’ve grown an extra head.

You can also throw out phrases like, “so my boyfriend’s wife was saying that…” or “when my partner’s girlfriend came over…” without the constant double-take, the wait-what-did-you-just-say?

I don’t mind explaining myself occasionally, and I love dissecting the nuances of our different identities and what they mean and how they manifest for us. But doing polyamory/swinging/kink-1o1 again and again and fucking again is exhausting. With sex-positive friends who get it, you don’t have to do that.

Sex-positive friends will be your biggest cheerleaders

I’ve rarely come across a group of people so loving, so affirming and just so goddamn supportive as sex bloggers, sex writers and other sex-positive folks. These are the people who will retweet the shit out of that thing you wrote that you weren’t sure about, or respond with some variaton of YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL GODDESS when you share a nude, or celebrate with you when you hit a goal, big or small. We lift each other up when we’re down and we share the highs when we’re up.

Affection is free and easy, and so is consent

Something that sex-positive people understand is that the lines between what society considers appropriate vs. inappropriate between friends are almost entirely arbitrarily imposed. They get that everyone has their own unique boundaries and comfort levels, and that individual relationships get to decide what is and isn’t within their rules. The net result of this is that affection tends to be very free and easy – hugs and cuddles can be joyfully shared without it necessarily needing to mean anything bigger, and kisses and kink play and even occasionally sex can happen between friends without it having to make things weird.

It also means that consent is at the heart of all interactions. In these circles, I’ve also never felt pressured into anything I didn’t want to do. Basically, the deciding factor in whether or not to do something isn’t friends do X, lovers do Y, but simply: does everyone involved enthusiastically want to do X, Y and Z?

I don’t want to go all “hashtag-blessed” on you, but…

Basically, I believe this community has made me a better person. It has certainly immeasurably improved my life and made me a lot happier. I only hope I can give back some small measure of all that these amazing people have given to me.

#ManchBirthdayFest, here we come!