[Book Review] Pain Play for Everyone by Luna Caruthers

Luna Carruthers has been running Submissive Guide, a large website of resources for anyone identifying as a kinky submissive, in 2009. I actually found the website way back in the early days of my kinky explorations in my late teens and very early twenties. It’s been years since I visited the site, so getting reacquainted with it while reading Pain Play for Everyone and writing this review was a fun trip down memory lane!

Pain Play for Everyone by Luna Carruthers book cover, featuring a pink background and picture of a paddle.

Pain Play for Everyone by Luna Carruthers is a quick read at 102 pages in length. But there’s a lot of useful information packed into this slim volume.

A book for receivers rather than givers

If you want to be the person dishing out the pain in a kinky scene, this book is not going to teach you the practicalities or necessary safety tips on how to do that. There are great resources available that teach you how to do that, and I encourage you to check them out.

Pain Play for Everyone is very much geared towards the submissive or receiving partner. I liked that about it. So much BDSM content is written by and for Dominants, possibly due to the assumption that us submissives just lie there and get stuff done to us.

But I’ve long held that bottoming well is a skill, and one that deserves to be taught – and celebrated – as much as Topping. Therefore, I’m glad to see a book written by a submissive, for submissives.

However, though it’s aimed at submissives and bottoms, I actually think Dominants and Tops should read it, too. The hallmark of a great Dominant is being able to understand and empathise with their submissive’s experience. By understanding how masochists experience and process pain, sadists can become better, more empathic, and safer players.

Accessible and easy-reading

Luna uses accessible language throughout the book, making it easy to read and absorb the information. She simplifies complex concepts and brings them into the realm of real-life kinky play situations.

The book is well-structured with clear headers for each section that make it easy to find what you’re looking for.

Practical tips

Luna shares a number of practical strategies for increasing pain management and pain processing ability during kink play. The strategies are clearly described, making them easy to try out and implement. They won’t all work for you, because everyone is different. But by trying a few different options, you’re likely to find something that is helpful for you.

Experience-informed and well-researched

Luna uses her own experiences throughout the book to help explain the points she makes. By sharing her real-life experiences, she brings the content out of the abstract and into the real.

Pain Play for Everyone seems solidly researched and delves into a little of the neuroscience, psychology, and physiology of pain processing.

I would have liked to see a bibliography or footnotes referencing sources for some of the more science-heavy bits. But that’s because I’m a massive dork and want to go and read more. There are a couple of links to relevant studies and book suggestions included, but I would have liked to see a much more extensive list of sources.

Who is it for?

I’d definitely have found this book useful when was a new submissive and just starting to explore pain play. Most of it was stuff I already knew, given with my well-over-a-decade-at-this-point of experience.

I still got something out of it, though. I particularly found the descriptions of the various types of pain – beyond thud and sting – to be useful. It also gave me a couple of new ways of thinking about processing intense sensation during a scene. But as a broad generalisation, it’s more likely to be useful to newer kinksters than experienced players.

If you’re new to submission or being on the receiving end of sadomasochistic activity, there will be something for you in this book. In particular, you might find it useful if you are looking for ways to increase your pain tolerance or play at a higher level of intensity.

Where to buy it

You can get a free signed copy of Pain Play for Everyone (along with a host of other cool benefits) when you join the Devoted tier on their Patreon page. The book is also available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle edition, along with Luna’s other releases.

I received a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. If you enjoy my work, please consider supporting the blog – and my caffeine habit – by buying me a coffee.

[Book Review] Sex and Social Media by Katrin Tiidenberg & Emily van der Nagel

I read a lot of academic books for my PhD, and I read a lot of popular sexuality books. I often find academic texts too dry, and general texts under-researched or poorly argued. So finding something that is an accessible read but with rigorous research and a clear methodology behind it is rare and welcome. Sex and Social Media by Katrin Tiidenberg and Emily van der Nagel is one such book.

The cover of Sex and Social Media by Katrin Tiidenberg and Emily van der Nagel

Sex and Social Media

In Sex and Social Media, which was published by Emerald Publishing on Friday, Tiidenberg and Van der Nagel do a deep-dive into the sexual subcultures of social media, examining how our hyper-online modern lives and our sexualities inform one another.

Sex and Social Media explores not just the what and the how, but the why as well. The two authors spent many, many hours interviewing participants and immersing themselves in online sexuality spaces (most notably r/Gonewild on Reddit and the dearly departed NSFW Tumblr.)

A sex-positive approach

Tiidenberg and Van der Nagel resist falling into the all-too-easy trap of handwringing about social media and public, digital sexuality. They eloquently deconstruct the “moral panic” phenomena that have plagued social media since its inception, and sexuality for much longer. Moral panics, they argue, are designed to cast certain people (most often women, young people, and minority groups) as “victims and/or perpetrators of deviant behaviour” (p.30). These panics deliberately play upon fear and other intense emotions as means of control:

“Sex panics are [therefore] always political, and often utilized in battles for moral, social, and political leverage.”
(p.32)

The authors conceptualize sexuality as a fundamentally positive thing. Thanks to this approach, they don’t skirt around the positive or potentially-positive impact of digital sexuality. Their approach is consistently open-minded and begins from the premise that there is nothing wrong or shameful about any form of consensual sexuality.

Tiidenberg and Van der Nagel present compelling evidence as to the benefits of online sexuality. Connection, pleasure, reduced loneliness, increased sexual confidence, increased body-positivity towards oneself and others, and a broadening of what is seen as “sexy” are just a few of them.

They also argue against the deplatforming of sex on many mainstream social media accounts, advocating instead for an opt-in/opt-out approach, where “NSFW” content is clearly marked so minors and adults who don’t want to see sexual material can avoid it.

Sex on social media is made up of more than strictly positive or negative experiences.”
(p.106)

Placing blame where it belongs

When Tiidenberg and Van der Nagel do examine the negative impacts (actual or feared) of the meeting of sexuality and social media, they do not victim blame. They approach issues like leaked nudes, doxxing, “cyberflashing” (unsolicited dick pics), and “gendered shame” (p.127) from the perspective that the wrong is not in the presence of sexuality, but in the absence of consent.

This book is a welcome change from the seemingly endless parade of “if girls don’t want people to leak their nudes, they shouldn’t take them.”

Refreshingly inclusive

Tiidenberg and Van der Nagel avoid making heteronormative, cisnormative, mononormative assumptions. They explicitly include LGBTQ people, and approach consensual non-monogamy and kinky sex practices from a value-neutral point of view. They also acknowledge the ways that our experiences of sexuality, both on and offline, are impacted by “raced, gendered, sexually oriented, classed, differently able-bodied” (p.167) axes of privilege and oppression.

Identity and Community

By far the most interesting chapters in this book, from my perspective, were those that dealt with identity creation and community building through sexuality on social media.

As a pseudonymous sex blogger, the Identities chapter puts words and concepts to long-held feelings. In particular, Van der Nagel and Tiidenberg believe that “compartmentalizing different aspects of the self” (p.124) – that is, showing a sexual self on one platform and a sanitised, family-friendly version on another – is not a form of lying or deception:

“Although a common story about social media doubts the authenticity and sincerity of people’s self-presentation because they present themselves differently on different platforms, none of our profiles are necessarily fake.”
(p. 116)

The Communities chapter examines the notion of online sexuality spaces as “communities” and what precisely it is that makes something a community. The authors argue that online communities are valid and real, and that online sexuality spaces (including anonymous or pseudonymous spaces) reduce shame, destigmatize many kinds of sex, and “challenge assumptions about who has or desires what kinds of sex” (p.146.)

Belonging to a sexual community is beneficial for people’s wellbeing and self-confidence, while also helping combat isolation.”
p. 137)

Final thoughts

If you’re interested in the intersection of sexuality and technology, you’ll enjoy Sex and Social Media. There’s a lot of information in its 170 pages, yet it’s an accessible and engaging read. The case studies and quotes from research participants are particularly interesting.

It’s notoriously hard to get approval and funding for sexuality based research, so it’s vital we support academics and writers who are out there doing this work.

Get your copy for £16.99 directly from the publisher, or ask your local independent bookstore to get it for you. (Fuck Amazon, amirite?)

If you found this review useful, please head over to my tip jar and buy me a coffee. Every tip helps me keep doing this work! You should also sign up to receive Coffee Date, my brand new fortnightly newsletter.

Five Books That Changed My (Sex) Life

You will be unsurprised to know that, as a writer, books hold an extremely important place in my life. There are many things I am grateful to my mother for (she’s a pretty awesome lady) but one of the biggest is instilling a love of books in me when I was very young. Through the toughest points in my life, I’ve turned to reading for information, for comfort, for that priceless feeling of not being alone.

But this is, after all, a sex blog. So today I want to tell you a little about five of the books that profoundly impacted my sex life.

A shelf of books
Image by me, feat. one of my many bookshelves.

Come As You Are – Emily Nagoski

I read this one on a flight to Italy. Goddess knows what the people around us thought, when I kept reading out interesting snippets to Mr CK!

Nagoski’s message is, in brief, that we are all normal and we are all fine exactly as we are. She explores concepts such as spontaneous vs responsive desire, and the congruence gap between reported mental desire and genital response. (If you haven’t watched her recent TED talk on this very thing, please do so, it’s fucking brilliant).

Come As You Are taught me how to stop worrying so much about being “normal”. It taught me how to stop saying “I should feel X,” and start saying “I feel Y, and that’s okay”. And perhaps most important, it approaches these concepts through actual, hard science that cannot be argued with. It’s a warmfuzzy affirmation of your deepest desires wrapped up in a blanketof irrefutable evidence, and it’s perfection.

“Even if you don’t yet feel that way, you are already sexually whole and healthy. The science says so. I can prove it.”

Get your copy now.

The New Topping Book & The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton & Janet Hardy

Okay, I’ve cheated here because these are actually two books. But I kind of conceptualise them as two halves of one whole, so they’re getting a shared entry.

These were the first two books I ever read about BDSM, when I was barely nineteen and only just coming to the realisation that I wasn’t the only person in the world who got aroused from being spanked and verbally degraded.

As a new submissive, I devoured The Bottoming Book. I absorbed all its lessons on how to get horrible things done to me by wonderful people in a safe and respectful way. I credit it, in large part, with quelling the rising sub-frenzy and preventing me from spiraling too quickly down a path I was ill-equipped to handle. Even now, I throw it at new and young submissives frequently. I’ve lost count of how many people have borrowed my copy.

I’ve actually read The Topping Book twice. Firstly, from a purely academic perspective – as a submissive, I wanted to understand the Dominant perspective better. It fascinated me, but I didn’t feel any pull to do those things. Much later, when I started exploring my switchy side, I read it again with a more practical application in mind.

These books are, even all these years after their initial release, still the best 101 guides on the market, bar none.

“We bottom in order to go to places within ourselves and with our partners that we cannot get to without a top. To explore these spaces, we need someone to push us over the edge in the right ways, and to keep us safe while we’re out there flying.”

rel=”nofollow”Get The New Topping Book.
Get The New Bottoming Book.

Trauma and Recovery – Dr Judith Herman

I debated long and hard about including this one. It is not actually a book about sex, kink or any of that good stuff. But actually, it had such a profound impact I couldn’t not include it.

I first approached this book, a dense academic text, at twenty-one and barely out of my first long term abusive relationship. I’ve since referred back to it countless times, especially over the last three years as I try to recover from the worst abusive dynamic of my life.

What this book taught me is that my response to the trauma I’ve suffered is normal. It reassured me that I’m *allowed* to struggle with PTSD even though I’m not a military veteran or childhood sexual abuse survivor. It spoke so profoundly to what was going on in my head, and in my life, that I was frequently reduced to sobbing reading it. I usually couldn’t read more than a few pages at a time. Through Dr Herman’s words, I learned that I could recover with time and the proper support… but that it was and is 100% okay to not be fully “there” yet.

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”

Get your copy.

Opening Up by Tristan Taormino

There are a lot of how-to books on polyamory on the market now. However, amidst all of them, Opening Up stands out to me as the most rational, sane, compassionate and balanced of them all.

What I love about this book, which I read when I was relearning how to do polyamory after escaping an abusive situation, was how many options Taormino presents the reader with. She doesn’t dictate, as so many how-to books do, that Relationship Anarchy and The Church Of No Rules is the only way to do things right. Instead, she treats relationships as a create-your-own-adventure story, and offers us a smorgasbord of possibilities to pick and choose from. Amidst all this, there are practical tips on time management, communication skills, jealousy busting, and more.

This book came into my life at the perfect time. What it taught me is that I do not have to live up to anyone else’s idea of The Perfect Poly Person, no matter how many books they’ve sold or how many events they’ve spoken at. Instead, all I need to do is collaborate with my partners to create something that works for us.

“Nonmonogamous folks are constantly engaged in their relationships: they negotiate and establish boundaries, respect them, test them, and, yes, even violate them. But the limits are not assumed or set by society; they are consciously chosen.”

The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti

Ah, virginity. Has there ever been a topic to provoke so much judgement and angst and stigma? A long time ago, the man who I first had PIV sex with (I don’t believe “losing one’s virginity” is a meaningful concept) made it clear that my value was in my “purity”. I was precious to him because no-one else had touched me, like an expensive work of art you keep behind a glass case lest anyone else get their dirty fingerprints on it. A while later, the second man I had PIV sex with berated me for not having “waited for him,” because – being the youngest woman he’d ever fucked – I represented the closest he’d ever come to “taking a girl’s virginity”. A right, he believed, that I had denied him by shagging someone else three years before I met him.

As a result of these experiences, I’ve dealt with a lot of shame around my level of sexual experience. I fuck a lot of people, and have a lot of casual sex, and 90% of the time I’m more experienced than my sexual partners regardless of their gender. This book showed me how the “cult of virginity” has been manufactured by the patriarchy in order to control women’s bodies, and by extension women’s lives. It showed me that virginity is a medically meaningless concept, and that the only value it has is that imbued by sex-negative, patriarchal, anti-woman culture.

Valenti’s book gave me the permission to go “yeah purity is a bullshit concept”. It helped me to fully embrace my sexual experiences, past and present, as part of the rich tapestry that make me who I am. As a feature, if you like, not a bug.

“The idea at play here is that of “morality.” When young women are taught about morality, there’s not often talk of compassion, kindness, courage, or integrity. There is, however, a lot of talk about hymens.”

Get your copy.

What books had a profound impact on YOUR sex lives, friends?

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[Book Review] “Buzz: The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy” by Hallie Lieberman

Image result for two and a half stars

I was beyond excited when I saw that there was a history book all about sex toys! Credit goes entirely to the fabulous Sarah Brynn Holliday (read her work, she’s great) for bringing this book to my attention. I still don’t really understand how there wasn’t any buzz (pun entirely intended and I’m not sorry) about it in the online sex positive sphere. It seems to have almost slipped under our collective radar, somehow.

I read this book on holiday over the course of a few days. My overwhelming impression was one of being, well… underwhelmed. I wanted to love it, and I felt it was full of promise, but the finished result didn’t quite hit the sweet spot. (Yes, that was another sex toy joke.)

Firstly, let’s talk about what I did love…

I found Buzz a really accessible read. The tone is lively and the pacing and structure good. The language is not overly academic, and the 15 chapters break the book nicely into bite-sized pieces.

I did learn some gems of fascinating information. Like, did you know that the first silicone dildos were designed and made by a disabled Caribbean immigrant, who was heavily involved in the disability rights movement and set out initially to make sex aids for disabled people? Because I sure didn’t. (His name was Gosnell Duncan and if you don’t want to read the entire book, you can find a brief outline of his story here.)

I also learned that the founders of Adam & Eve also created the abortion rights organisation that would become Marie Stopes International, that dildos were illegal in parts of the USA as recently as 2003 (!), and that the founder of Doc Johnson, Reuben Sturman, was a violent criminal and a tax-avoider and eventually died in prison. There was some genuinely fascinating and little-known history in this book, and for that it is to be applauded.

I’m glad Buzz exists. Sex-related history is so under-studied and stigmatised. But it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I hope it paves the way for much better and more complete works to come.

So where did Buzz fall short?

The first thing that really upset me about this book was that there is information in it that is simply untrue. “Nearly all sex toy companies today … make their toys from body-safe materials.” Uh. Do they? (No, unfortunately, they do not). And this goes beyond inaccurate – it’s actually dangerous.

Educators, writers and sex geeks like me know that the industry is still jam packed with horrible toxic toys that can do serious harm to our bodies. The average layperson, though, doesn’t know that. They might read this book and think they can go and pick anything up off a shelf at a sex store or from the internet and it will be self for their body. This simply isn’t true and is perpetuating really harmful misinformation.

Secondly, I felt the title misrepresented the book. It should really have been called “A History of the Sex Toy In America.” For a book that bills itself as a general history, it is painfully US-centric. The UK is mentioned maybe once or twice, and any other countries barely get a look-in at all. It’s frightening how often I want to remind some American writers that there is a world outside the USA.

Thirdly, it’s very cis-centric. Trans people are barely mentioned – and, upsettingly, completely excluded from a section about the Stonewall riots. Non-binary and genderqueer folks are completely absent. It’s all about “men and women” (and “penis = man, vulva = woman” in the main, at that).  Bisexual people are also largely absent, and bisexual men completely so.

Finally, this might be a petty complaint, but Buzz is also riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. I can excuse one or two typos, even in a published book, but Buzz contains so many it’s ridiculous. I’m really surprised it got past an editor.

The verdict:

Kinda like a buzzy vibrator: vaguely stimulating but quickly becomes annoying. A somewhat interesting book with a few shining sections, but disappointing when you look a bit deeper. Buzz probably would have made it to three or even three and a half stars for interesting history, but the trans erasure and the misinformation about toy safety really killed it for me. Two and a half out of five.

Buy your copy of Buzz from Amazon or your local bookstore. To support my work, become a Patreon supporter, buy me a coffee, or shop with my affiliates in the right hand sidebar. 

[Book Review] Approaching the Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett

★★★★★ – five stars

Yes, you read the title correctly. Swingularity. As not only a Cooper/Swingset fangirl but a devotee of all things puntastic, how could I resist?

This is actually Cooper’s second novel about swinging and follows directly on from his first, A Life Less Monogamous. I read them more or less back to back but, at the author’s request, I am reviewing the newer one first. Swingularity can also be read as a stand-alone, though I’m of the opinion you’ll get more from it if you read ALLM first. I’m going to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but a few plot/character points may need to be disclosed in order for it to make sense.

Approaching the Swingularity takes place during one week at Aphrodite’s Resort & Spa, a fictional swingers’ resort I’m informed carries “more than a passing resemblance” to Desire. It follows several couples, most notably newbie-ish swingers Ryan and Jen (the focus of A Life Less Monogamous) on their first trip. Joining them are scene veterans Bruce and Paige, and first-lesbian-couple-to-attend Alejandra and Crista. There’s also a storyline following the trip’s leader, Raymond, who struggles to play the jovial, sexy host while dealing with some intense personal pain.

The cover of Approaching the Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett
Swingularity
is definitely an erotic novel. It’s raunchy, it’s explicit and it’s hot as hell. Particular highlights, for me, were Ryan and Jen’s outdoor fuck in the middle of a summer storm, and Bruce and Paige’s very erotic “couple’s massage.” There’s more sexy fuckery (and some of it quite kinky!) than you can shake a flogger at. But it’s also a lot more than an erotic novel.

The author has thought the characters through and realised them beautifully. They all have foibles, flaws and the occasional fuck-up of epic proportions. I fancy the pants-he’s-probably-not-wearing off Bruce, but his actions when an old flame re-appears in his and Paige’s life had me shouting “you FUCKING IDIOT!”

The relationships, too, are beautiful and real – sometimes painfully so. The struggles within and between the couples are magnified in the intensity of the resort. Sometimes tensions stretch nearly to breaking point. But there’s also love and hope that shines off the page. I was genuinely rooting for the characters to work through their troubles and end up happier and healthier for them.

And crucially, more often than not, the sex serves the plot, not the other way around. Without giving too much away, there’s a scene where a hitherto-straight identified man explores his interest in sex with another man. The result is in turns sexy, uncomfortable and ultimately gut-wrenching.

It’s also deliciously inclusive. I mentioned to Cooper that this novel is – sadly, one could say – more inclusive than the real-life swinger communities I’ve encountered thus far. There are gay and lesbian characters and bi men,  not just the endless straight-men-and-bi-women-only trope that is all too common in the swinging world. Characters of colour feature, as well as at least one trans character. There are older characters, younger characters, fat and skinny, able bodied and disabled. And there are a huge variety of sexual proclivities, preferences and levels of experience. I wish, how I wish, that the real life swinging community where I live was more like this. I’d probably have more sex if it was.

I would be remiss, too, to not mention how funny this book is. There’s a particularly hilarious incident about half way through involving an obnoxious podcast host and a jellyfish. And, of course, the banter between the major characters kept me giggling throughout. I’ve long stood by this sentiment and Cooper seems to agree: sex is hilarious and we shouldn’t take it overly seriously most of the time.

In short: I laughed. I cried. I wanked. And now I’m telling you all to go out and buy this book so you can do the same.

Book cover image provided by Cooper S Beckett and reproduced with permission.

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. This does not impact my views in any way which are, and will always be, my own. If you enjoyed this post and want to see more of my work, please consider becoming a patron or buying me a coffee.

[Book Review] The Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory by Dedeker Winston

★★★★ – four stars

As a long-time listener of the Multiamory Podcast, I was seriously excited when Dedeker Winston (one third of the hosting team, along with her partner Jase and former partner Emily) announced she was writing a book. She and her co-hosts are funny, wise, insightful and down to Earth on the podcast, so I had high hopes for The Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory: Everything You Need to Know About Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy and Alternative Love  – a fresh take on the polyamory advice book genre, with women and female experience front and centre.

Author Dedeker Winston, a smiling white woman with long straight brown hair

The book is grouped into chapters, which are clustered into four sections: Polyamory 101, Pre Reqs, Mastering Non-Monogamy, and Out of the Classroom, Into the World. I read it cover to cover, but you could just as easily dip in and out, picking and choosing the sections that feel most relevant to you.

Polyamory 101 covers what polyamory is (and what it isn’t,) some of the different forms that ethical non monogamy can take, and an absolutely fascinating chapter on the socio-cultural and anthropological history of non-monogamy. Dedeker also talks us through some of the common objections to polyamory, from family and friends or from society at large, and possible ways to counter them.

Pre-Reqs deals with self-knowledge, really interrogating who you are, what you want and what makes you tick, as well as the skills required to live a happy and healthy non-monogamous life (it goes beyond just “communicate,” y’all!)

Mastering Non-Monogamy was the real meat of this book, for me. There’s the expected chapter on jealousy, a whole chapter on sex and the various issues surrounding it, advice on crafting positive and healthy relationship rules/agreements, and more.

Finally, Out of the Classroom, Into the World attemtps to take the theories discussed in previous chapters and apply them in real-world situations. Dedeker discusses poly dating, finding community, coming out of (or choosing to stay in!) the closet and how polyamory can intersect with a range of marginalised identities and liberation movements.

This book is not easy reading at times. Dedeker approaches difficult topics with a light touch and a healthy dose of humour, but there are parts that are unavoidably difficult reading. Though she doesn’t actually use the A-word, she candidly describes behaviour by a former partner that can only be labelled as abusive. It’s not all sunshine and light – she gives us the bad, the scary and the unshiny parts of polyamory as unflinchingly as she gives us the love and the joy. And she challenges us repeatedly to be brave, to be unfalteringly honest with ourselves and our loved ones, to do the hard work required to be stronger and better and more compassionate versions of ourselves.

What sets this book apart from the others I’ve read is that women are centred throughout. Dedeker shares her experience on the unique struggles of a polyamorous, queer, sex-positive woman and tackles those challenges head on, and encourages other women to battle outdated gender stereotypes, sex-negativity, slut shaming, rape culture and the myriad other issues that disproportionately affect women and those read as women in trying to live a non-monogamous life. But despite this female focus, the book is consistently inclusive – it makes no assumptions about age, sexuality, gender identity or relationship style. For this reason, I really think anyone interested in polyamory or consensual non-monogamy can find value in it.

Dedeker’s tone is (mostly) compassionate and non-judgemental. She shares her experiences and wisdom about what tends to work well and what doesn’t, but seems to intuitively understand that everyone’s experience is different and that different relationship styles will work for each person, couple or group.

Sadly, this book’s major downside is that it is unreservedly and unnecessarily critical of those who practice a model of hierarchical polyamory, with primary and secondary partners and with established rules. There are, of course, people who abuse this model and do it badly – but there are also plenty of people who do it in a stable, loving and ethical fashion. Not to mention all those who do Relationship Anarchy or egalitarian polyamory badly! The problem isn’t the structure but the people who use the structure to justify poor behaviour, and I am getting pretty damn sick of seeing my relationship model positioned as inherently problematic.

But if you can get past or ignore these passages, I still want to recommend this book overall because it really does have a tonne of great information in it. The guiding principles of self knowledge, strong communication, compassion, honesty, good boundaries and integrity can be applied in making any style of relationship a success.

Book cover image and author headshot courtesy of Dedeker Winston and Skyhorse Publishing, reproduced with permission.