A Dom Ignored My Safeword. Now What?

No, the title of this post isn’t something that has happened to me recently, so please don’t worry! But it’s something I see shockingly frequently, from Fetlife to Reddit’s r/BDSM and many other places on the internet. “My Dom ignored my safeword. What do I do now?”

I hate how common this question is, and I wanted to address it.

For anyone who doesn’t know, a safeword is an agreed-upon word that clearly and unambiguously means “stop immediately”. They’re often employed in kink and BDSM situations, particularly those where words like “no” and “stop” not being taken at face value is part of the game.

“Red” is a common safeword (with the accompanying “orange”/”amber” meaning pause and check in). But your safeword can be whatever you want it to be. My first one was “canary”.

A safeword is an absolute. You should never play without one, no matter how long you’ve been together, and you should never, ever ignore one. Oh, and by the way? If you haven’t explicitly agreed otherwise, “no” and “stop” are the ultimate safewords in every context.

First: no, you’re not overreacting

When a Dom has ignored your safeword, you might feel a range of different emotions. You might feel angry, sad, betrayed, frightened, numb, or something else entirely. When a Dom ignored my safeword in a scene years ago, I felt scared first, sad second, and angry much later. Your experience might look very different.

Whatever you feel, and whether the harm is physical or psychological or both, your feelings are valid. You are not overreacting.

Seek support if you need it

Do you need to talk to a kinky friend or another partner, see your therapist, or yell into the void of an anonymous online forum? You get to seek support, whatever that looks like for you.

If the consent violation occured in a public or semi-public location such as a dungeon, sex club, munch, or even a private kink party, consider telling an organiser, team member, or dungeon monitor. They should make sure you’re okay and help get you the support you need in the moment. They may also remove the perpetrator from the space and perhaps even issue a (temporary or permanent) ban.

You might also have been physically harmed. If you have been physically injured or been sexually assaulted in a way that leaves you vulnerable to an STI or an unwanted pregnancy, please seek medical attention immediately.

You don’t have to confront them (though you can)

Your only job is to take care of yourself. You don’t have to confront the person who ignored your safeword and call them out on it. But if you want to, you’re also within your rights to do so.

If telling them that what they did was fucked up and not okay, have at it. If you’d rather stay far away from them, you get to do that, too.

You don’t have to decide immediately if you’ll ever play with them again

If you ask me if I think you should give a Dom a second chance after they violate your safeword, I will always say absolutely not. I can forgive a lot of things, but this is such a complete and total annihilation of trust that I would never let that person near me ever again.

But your mileage may vary. If you feel conflicted, you don’t have to decide straight away. You get to take all the time you need and you’re allowed

Also: you’re not obligated to give them a second chance, no matter how apologetic and contrite they seem. Don’t let them guilt you into it if you don’t want to.

Their reputation is not your concern

Choosing whether to speak out publicly in the community about your experience is a very personal decision. There are good arguments on both sides and ultimately, the best choice is the one that’s right for you.

Either way, remember that their reputation is not your problem. You do not have to keep silent to protect them. You also do not have to make excuses for them or downplay what happened if you do choose to share.

Sadly, when someone speaks up and says “this Dom ignored my safeword”, some people will accuse them of exaggerating or instigating a witch-hunt. You’re not. Keep speaking your truth if you want to.

Don’t blame yourself

You might be tempted to blame yourself. You might be wondering if you didn’t say your safeword loudly or forcefully enough[1], if you should have put up more of a physical fight when the Dom continued, or if you just safeworded when it wasn’t “necessary.”

Sometimes, the D-type in question will seek to blame you, too. One common tactic amongst abusive Doms is to say something like “I knew you could take more”, “I know what you need better than you do”, or “I told you I played hard so you should have known what to expect”.

No. All of this is bullshit. The only person to blame for ignoring your safeword is the person who did it, and there is never any excuse. Kink is about consent and without ongoing, active consent, it is abuse. You get to safeword at any point for any reason and have that respected.

If you take nothing else away from this piece, please take this: it is not your fault.


[1] I want to acknowledge that there might be rare incidents where a Dom genuinely does not hear a safeword. This might happen in a loud environment like a play club. But in those circumstances, they will be mortified and apologetic and go out of their way to take care of you the moment they realise what has happened. It is also the Dom’s responsibility to ensure consent is ongoing in those environments, whether through clear non-verbal safe signals, regular check-ins, or even just choosing to play somewhere a little quieter.

If you find my work valuable, you can support the site by buying me a coffee to say thanks!

Feelings Aren’t Emotional Manipulation

I’m a very emotional person. I cry a lot. A short and incomplete list of things I’ve cried about semi-recently include: someone with a gorgeous voice singing at my friend’s birthday Zoom party, a Cats Protection ad about a rescued kitty finding his forever home, a pitch (that I wasn’t even all that attached to) getting rejected, a near-stranger’s story of surviving abuse, and the mushy ending of my favourite TV show. My emotional nature means I’ve been accused more than once of emotional manipulation.

I’m a cryer. It’s how I process feelings, both good and bad. Fundamentally, I’m a very emotional person.

My ex hated it when I cried. Which was unfortunate, because he was very good at making me cry. I don’t know if he expected me to be an emotionless robot or if he just didn’t like to be confronted with the consequences of his behaviour. But if he yelled at me and I got upset, he’d just yell at me more. If he called me a horrible name and I cried, he’d call me something even worse. When I tried to express how he was hurting me, he’d tell me I was being manipulative.

This isn’t an isolated experience. It’s not even unusual. Spend any time in the hellholes of places like Reddit Relationships, Quora, or Facebook groups dedicated to relationship advice, and you’ll see it:

“She cried in front of me and now I feel manipulated!”
“I was upset and he said that I was manipulating him.”
“She started crying and now I feel guilty!”

“Why do women turn on the tears to manipulate men?”

This is also an incredibly gendered phenomenon. In 99%+ of the examples I’ve seen, the person being accused of being “manipulative” is a woman or someone read as a woman. It’s also usually in the context of their (usually male) partner having done or said something that a reasonable person is likely to be upset by.

But here’s the thing: having feelings and expressing them isn’t manipulation.

Some people are generally more emotional than others. Some keep their feelings under wraps while others wear their hearts on their sleeves. But to dismiss someone’s genuine emotional response as a trick or a ploy is incredibly cruel.

Is my partner manipulating me with their emotions?

If your first response to your partner or loved one’s distress is “but what if they’re manipulating me?”, you have a big problem. You either don’t trust this person at all, or you have little to no regard for how your behaviour makes them feel. Either way, you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship with them.

If someone is upset about something you did, you should at least consider that maybe you did a shitty thing. If you’ve upset someone, your first response shouldn’t be “how dare you be upset about what I did/said?”. Doing this can be part of a tactic known as DARVO: deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender. It’s a particularly insidious and dangerous form of gaslighting.

This won’t be true in absolutely all cases, of course, and sometimes it will be a grey area. It’s possible to acknowledge that you made the right decision for yourself AND acknowledge that it’s reasonable for the other person to be upset about it. You might or might not have the ability or capacity to support them through those feelings, but don’t write them off as nothing but a calculated emotional manipulation tactic.

Is it possible to use feelings in a manipulative way? Yes, absolutely. But simply having them and expressing them, even strongly, isn’t manipulation.

Am I manipulating my partner?

As one very smart person on a Reddit thread about this topic said: “manipulation is about intent.” If you fabricate or exaggerate an emotional reaction to persuade someone to do what you want, you might be being manipulative. If, on the other hand, you’re just expressing what you feel, that’s not a manipulation tactic. That’s part of being a person.

Dismissing someone’s feelings can be a form of emotional abuse or emotional manipulation. So if your partner routinely tells you that your genuine feelings are manipulative, that’s a huge red flag.

Your feelings are real and valid and you’re allowed to feel them. People who love you will make it safe for you to express your emotions, including the difficult ones. You’re not manipulating anyone by feeling sad, angry, disappointed, frustrated, or any other emotion.

What to do if you’re being emotionally abused

Again: emotional dismissal can be a part of emotional abuse. This form of abuse can be extremely hard to spot and even harder to extricate yourself from.

If you feel unhappy or unsafe in your relationship – including emotionally unsafe – you are always within your rights to leave at any time for any reason. Please consider telling a friend, family member, or other trusted person. They can help you get to safety or start making a plan to leave the relationship.

Resources

If you’re a woman in the UK, you can call Refuge on 0808 2000 247. Men in the UK can call the Respect Men’s Advice Line on 0808 8010327, and LGBTQ+ people can use Galop’s helpline on 0800 999 5428.

If you’re in the US, no matter your gender you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 799 SAFE (7233).

For those in other countries, there’s a large list of resources here.

You Need to Listen to Survivors. Now More Than Ever.

TW: this post is about sexual assault, harrassment, and violence against women.

This has been a hard week to be on social media as a survivor of sexual violence. I was tempted to step away from the internet entirely but, well, I can’t really do that thanks to my job.

So I stayed. And I read the stories. And I sent love and solidarity to my fellow survivors all over the world, even as I felt increasingly hopeless and increasingly retraumatised.

I was 12 years old the first time a boy grabbed my breasts without my consent. I was 13 or 14 the first time I can remember having something obscene yelled at me in the street. The first time I felt creeped out by an adult man’s behaviour? I was 9. The first time a boyfriend pressured me into a sex act I wasn’t comfortable with? I was 15.

None of this is unusual. In fact, it’s heartbreakingly common. It’s practically ubiquitous.

All the stories that are pouring out on social media right now, in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard? If you’re not a survivor, I want you to listen to those.

If you’re not a person who experiences misogyny, I want you to sit with this and listen to it. Not because we think you’re to blame for the actions of all men. The point isn’t that all men are perpetrators, or even that only men are perpetrators. Obviously that’s not the case. The point is that virtually all women – probably every single woman you know – has been on the receiving end at some point or another.

Maybe someone walked a little too close to us as we walked home at night, or maybe someone yelled something disgusting from a passing car. Maybe we were raped or assaulted by a man we trusted. Perhaps we convinced ourselves it wasn’t really assault, it wasn’t really harrassment, it doesn’t really count. Perhaps we didn’t report because we felt like no-one would believe us, no-one would care, it wasn’t really that bad.

Or maybe we did report, and maybe we were gaslighted into believing we imagined it. Maybe we were told not to make a fuss, not to ruin his reputation, not to go out at night or wear that dress or have that second drink if we don’t want our bodies to become public property.

Many of us were children the first time this happened.

If you don’t experience misogyny and you’re not a survivor, I need you to hear this. We don’t need self-congratulatory posts about how you’re such a good guy and feel ashamed to be male because of what others of your gender have done. We don’t need to hear “I would never do that.” Instead, we need you to listen to us. To ask how you can help. To talk to your fucking friends and to stop asking that one creepy, gropey, rapey guy to your parties. We need you to step in and stop being a bystander.

I want to stop hearing about how people don’t think they’re part of the problem, and start seeing them be part of the solution.

But first I want you to listen.

And I want you to believe us.

Five Lessons I’ve Learned About Reclaiming Pleasure After Sexual Violence

Pleasure is complicated at the best of times. And reclaiming pleasure after you’ve experienced sexual violence can be an absolute minefield.

The first, last, and most important thing I want you to take away is this: your journey is your own. There is no correct way and there is no set path. To that end, this is not a how-to guide. It’s just a set of lessons I’ve learned that helpd me. Maybe they’ll help you, too, or maybe you’ll find something completely different that works for you. It’s all good either way.

Trigger warning for abuse, trauma, and sexual violence

Reclaiming pleasure after trauma is not a linear journey

It’s not a straight line. You won’t just get better and better each day until suddenly, you’ll find that you’re fully healed. At least, I don’t know any survivors whose experience has been this way.

You’ll have good days and bad days. Sometimes you might feel like you take two steps forward and one back. All of this is normal. It’s complicated, multi-faceted, and messy. You don’t need to berate yourself because it’s harder today than it was yesterday.

Be where you are today. Wherever that is, it’s okay.

A healthy sexual relationship with oneself can be immensely healing

“Sex” doesn’t have to involve another person unless you want it to. In fact, masturbation can be a really important part of healing from sexual violence and trauma.

Masturbation and solo sex is something you do entirely for yourself. You don’t have to perform or worry about pleasing someone else. You don’t even need to involve your genitals at all, if you don’t want to.

Self-touch is a wonderful way to get to know ourselves, to be kind and loving and gentle with ourselves. Pay attention to your body and what feels good. Do you just want to run your hands over your skin for now? Perfect, do that. Does using a wand vibrator through your clothes help you access pleasure in a way that feels safe? Amazing.

Your healing is for you. You don’t owe it to anyone else

I hear a lot from survivors who are anxious to recover or “get over” their experiences because they want to be able to give their partner a certain kind of sex. Sometimes this pressure comes from the partner. Other times, the partner is completely supportive and this pressure is internalised.

What I want to say to these survivors is this: your healing is for you.

Yes, it’s wonderful to be able to share awesome sex with your partner(s). But ultimately, it has to be for yourself first. No-one has the right to access to your body. Not even if you’ve been married for fifty years. You can’t heal for somebody else, and you don’t owe your partner(s) a certain kind of recovery.

There is no one correct version of healthy sexuality

Pleasure is many different things, and a healthy relationship with your sexuality means something different to everyone.

There’s a sadly very common narrative that says that promiscuity after trauma is by definition a sign of dysfunction, damage, or lack of healing. For me, it was the opposite. Having lots of hot, filthy, consensual sex with lots of different people has been tremendously healing, validating, uplifting, and a massive part of reclaiming pleasure and my relationship with my body after the abuse I went through.

Find what works for you. Monogamy or polyamory or singledom. Vanilla or kink. Masturbation or partnered sex. All the sex, or none of the sex. It’s all valid and there is no script.

Some things might never go back to the way they were

This was perhaps the hardest thing to learn when I started healing from my abuse experience and reclaiming pleasure and sexuality.

Abuse changes us. It has a deep, profound, and lasting impact. I know that the things I’ve experienced will, in some ways, be with me forever. I’ll never go back to the way I was before – not completely.

But that’s okay. Nothing stays the same forever, and every experience we have shapes and molds us. So no, I’ll never be the person I was before. But I can grow into someone else – informed by my experience, but not defined by it.

If you need crisis support after sexual violence, please contact RAINN in the USA and Rape Crisis in the UK.

The #SexEdSeptember logo, for a post about reclaiming pleasure after sexual violence

This post is part of my #SexEdSeptember series. If you find my work useful, you can help me keep doing this by buying me a coffee! This post contains affiliate links.

[Quote Quest] You Need to Have Power Before You Can Give it Away

“Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”
Oscar Wilde

TW: abuse, abuse of power, shitty Doms

I’ve always found the term “power exchange” – to describe a Dominant/submissive dynamic, relationship, or scene – fascinating. It’s not called a power over or a power from, but an exchange. I think there’s a reason for that. And I think that reason is as this title says: you need to have power before you can give it away.

Have you ever noticed how toxic and abusive Dominants (particularly cishet male Doms) try to get into relationships with the most powerless people they can find? Dominants who are insecure in their own masculinity and their own power chase submissives who are extremely young, extremely inexperienced and new to the scene, and whom they can groom into a relationship under the guise of “that’s what dominance is.”

It’s no surprise that those relationships tend to end up with, at best, a wildly uneven level of dependency. Often, they end up horrifyingly abusive.

Is it really consensual dominance if you take control over someone who has so little power, relative to you, that they can’t meaningfully push back or say no or leave? I don’t think it is. Are they truly giving power consensually if they can’t take it back? I believe not.

My first Dom was intimidated by me the moment I gained any real power. When we met, I was meek and quiet and obedient and so very, very young. A few years in, when I went to University and met my people and found my voice. He told me that he didn’t know what to do with me any more. “You don’t need me any longer,” he said. What he meant was, you can live without me now. And he didn’t like that.

Later, he told me that he couldn’t be my Dom any more because he was worried I was smarter than him. Because I was suddenly confident and outspoken. And what I realised is that he didn’t want to consensually dominate someone who was consensually subservient for fun. He wanted to domineer over someone who he could conceptualise as genuinely lesser.

Power is complicated and multi-faceted. You can have more power than someone along one axis, and less power along another. It’s not always an easy thing to quantify. That’s especially true when Dominant and submissive kink dynamics come into play.

But if you’re seeking out someone who doesn’t know any better due to age or inexperience, who won’t question you, who won’t leave because they need you or feel like nothing without you… ask yourself why.

If you feel threatened by someone who is a little older, has a modicum of experience, or is as smart or as successful or as confident as you (or perhaps even more so,) you need to interrogate that. Why do you need to feel like your partner is beneath you? Isn’t it more satisfying for someone who has a secure sense of their personal power to choose to give it away to you as their Dominant?

And if someone is chasing you who clearly has a hugely disproportionate level of power over you, ask questions. Do they fetishise your youth or your newness or your inexperience or your naïvety or the sense of security they get from feeling like they’re just kinda better than you? Do you feel the urge to put them on a pedastal or to do everything they say, even if it doesn’t feel right, because they say they know better?

Don’t give power over you to someone who doesn’t view your personal power as a beautiful thing that you alone own.

Learn yourself first. Explore with people who will make space for you to be curious, to try things out, to not know. Not with someone who treats you like an untouched lump of clay they can mold to their specifications.

Because you can only consensually give away your power, for a scene or a weekend or a few years or a lifetime, if you have that power to begin with.

Quote Quest badge for a post about power exchange in BDSM

I wrote this piece for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see the other contributions or to take part. And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

[Quote Quest] I Wrote My Way Out

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
– Sylvia Plath

TW: mentions of trauma (no details), self-harm, alcohol, and psychiatric medication

Writing is how I heal. It always has been.

The truth is I don’t remember the point that I started making up stories in my head. I am sure it was before I knew how to write them down. It was before they taught me how to survive.

Without going into too much detail (I’m not ready to do that here, I don’t entirely know I ever will be) I experienced quite a lot of trauma quite early on in life. And at some point in the middle of it all, I realised that writing it all down helped me to survive.

I journalled obsessively from the ages of 12 to 17. Pages and pages, night after night, juvenile rambling that I am quite sure would make me cringe now. The pages soaked up my pain. The more hurt and angry I felt, the faster my pen flew across the paper. Sometimes a tear would smudge the ink, other times I’d get cramp in my hand from gripping the pen so tightly.

Some time around fourteen, I realised I was going to be a writer. I started writing things and sending them off to publishers and entering them in competitions. I never got anywhere, of course. My creations weren’t ready to for the wider world, and it would be a long time before they were. I wrote a novel, then another.

The summer that I was fifteen, I got it into my head to write a bastardised mash-up of autobiography and fiction in an attempt to make some sort of sense of what I was going through. 150,000 words poured from my fingertips in three weeks. I couldn’t escape the near-daily hell I was living in because, y’know, I was fifteen. Since I couldn’t run, I wrote my way out instead.

I did a degree in Creative Writing. And then another one. I got better, but I still didn’t get published. I wrote a blog, built up a decent following, then shut it down because it was full of stuff about my abuser.

For some reason, I decided I wanted to write about sex. I started this blog. I was twenty six the first time I got paid for words I had written. But long before this blog or any of my writing was a source of income, it was a source of survival. A place of safety. The one way I could make sense of this fucked up world.

And even now, on the days when I am drowning in self-doubt and fear for my future, I know that writing is the one thing I will always have. The one thing I know I am good at. When I want to scream and rage about the fucking ugliness and unfairness of the world right now, I can type and type and type until I feel calm again. On the days when my depression feels so bleak I feel like I will never get off the sofa again, finding the right combination of words still brings me a glimmer of joy and hope.

Sometimes, I feel like my trauma is a slow-acting poison that will destroy me from the inside out if I don’t occasionally exorcise some of it from my bloodstream. Writing is that exorcism, that bloodletting, that antidote sucking the venom out of me. It has saved me so, so many times.

Long before I started reaching for alcohol or razor blades or psychoactive medication to help me survive, I reached for words.

So when people ask me why I write, I tell them I couldn’t not write. That it is my oxygen. That I couldn’t live without it.

(By the way, if you don’t know where the title of this post comes from, go and educate yourself immediately.)

Quote Quest badge, for a post called "I Wrote My Way Out" about writing as therapy

This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

Masturbation Monday: Why People in Relationships Should Still Masturbate

One of the most enduring myths about masturbation, and one of the ones that I most wish would die, is the idea that people in relationships don’t – or shouldn’t – masturbate.

Seriously, this is such an enormous crock of bullshit.

I’m here to tell you that masturbation is healthy, natural and good for you – whether you’re partnered or single. Let’s look at some really good reasons to engage in some self-love regardless of your relationship status.

Your only lifelong sexual relationship will be with yourself

Relationships come and go. Even if you’re with one person monogamously for your entire life, there will be times when that person can’t or doesn’t want to engage in sex. For most of us, we’ll go through periods of being in relationships and periods of being single throughout our lives. But whoever else is or isn’t in our lives (and beds,) our longest and most enduring sexual relationship will always be with ourselves.

Masturbation is how we build a positive sexual relationship with ourselves. It gives us the tools to satisfy ourselves sexually without the need for anyone else. It contributes to positive sexual self-esteem, increased pleasure, and better mood. Masturbation is awesome!

Masturbation can improve your partnered sex

There’s nothing sexier than a partner who knows exactly what they like and asks for it. And you know what masturbation does? Teaches you what you like!

Exploring your own body gives you the tools to tell – or show – your partner how you like to be touched. And this isn’t a one-and-done thing, either! Remember that our bodies change throughout our lifetimes for many reasons, and that can include our sexual desires changing. Masturbation helps to keep your knowledge of your own body sharp. It also reduces fear of change in your body, because you already know how to roll with it and adapt to meet your body where it’s at.

It can take the pressure off – for both of you

Relying on one other person to meet all of your sexual needs can be a LOT of pressure for both of you. If you’re in a monogamous relationship, exploring with other people is off the table – but exploring with yourself absolutely shouldn’t be.

If having sex with your partner is the only way to get your sexual needs met, that creates an environment that is more likely to lead to coercion or pressure – even if unintentionally. But if you have a rich sexual relationship with yourself, if you’re feeling the need to get off but your partner isn’t up for sex, you can masturbate and take care of business without any pressure or resentment.

Masturbating doesn’t mean your partner is “failing” or that your sex life is bad

Something I often hear is “why does my partner need to masturbate? They have me!” This is compounded by disparaging jokes about people who masturbate after sex, about sad lonely people who masturbate because they can’t get a partner, or about people jerking off to porn when their partner is in bed because their sex life has died.

In more than 15 years of being sexually active, I’ve realised that the amount I masturbate has almost nothing to do with the amount (or, frankly, the quality) of partnered sex I’m having. Some people even report that they masturbate more when they’re having tonnes of yummy partnered sex. Orgasms beget orgasms, after all!

Your partner masturbating probably has nothing to do with you or the quality of your sex life together! Because…

Masturbation can fulfill a different need to partnered sex

Even during times when I’m having tonnes of partnered sex, I still feel the urge to masturbate. This is because it fulfills a completely different set of needs. Partnered sex is about the connection, the dynamic, the interplay between me and my partner(s) as much as it is about the physical sensations. Masturbation can be about anything from exploring new sensations in a completely pressure-free and private way, to simply getting off as quickly as possible so I can go to sleep.

Partnered sex is about both (or all) of us. Masturbation is just about me. Call it “me time,” call it “self care,” but keeping things that are just for ourselves is so important.

The bottom line is that masturbation and partnered sex are different activities and they meet different needs. I love and desire both for completely different reasons.

Your body belongs to you

A relationship is a mutual and consensual exchange between two (or more) people. It does not imply ownership over the other person, their body or their sexuality. (Unless that’s your kink – but even then you know it’s a game really, don’t you?)

Whatever your relationship status, your body is yours and you don’t need anyone’s permission to enjoy or explore it. If your partner thinks masturbation is a form of cheating, that’s a red flag for controlling behaviour and you should consider leaving. The person who tries to control your sexual relationship with yourself is likely to exhibit abusive behaviours in other areas of life.

(Again: I’m not talking about kink dynamics here – I have an orgasm control kink, after all! But the point of a kink is that it’s for fun and you have the ability to opt out of playing the game if you want to.)

No-one owns your body but you. No-one else gets to control what you can and can’t do with it.

If you have a vulva and are new to masturbation, I really recommend Jenny Block’s book The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex.

The Masturbation Monday logo


Masturbation Monday is a meme created and run by Kayla Lords. Click the logo to see what everyone else is getting off to this week! If you enjoyed this piece, please consider buying me a coffee to show your appreciation.

Yes, I Have a Problem with Fifty Shades… But It’s Not What You Think

It’s actually more accurate to say I have several problems with Fifty Shades of Grey, the infamous erotic trilogy (plus rewrites-with-the-pronouns-flipped) about the kinky-ish love between naive college student Anastasia Steele and young handsome billionaire  Christian Grey.

Yes, I’ve read the first book, and enough of the second and third to get the gist. I’ve also read Cliff Pervocracy and Jenny Trout’s recaps (which are hilarious, by the way). Make no mistake: these books are horribly written and I did not find them erotic in the slightest. The sex depicted in them is either boringly vanilla, dubiously consensual (or straight up rapey), or both. The main characters are both awful people and the dialogue is about as sexy as a root canal.

As a kinkster, I hate that people think this is what we’re about. As a person with ethics, I hate that it’s basically Twilight fanfiction (reading and writing fanfic for fun is just fine, but making money off it is called “stealing someone else’s intellectual property”). And as a writer, I think it’s a travesty that Ms James has made more money than anyone ever needs in a lifetime, while genuinely talented artists are underpaid and undervalued every day.

So yes. I have issues with this book. But they’re not that it’s an unrealistic kinky romance between a virginal college student and a vampire billionaire.

“But it’s fantasy!” fans cry.

And yes. It is. Look, I’ll be the last person to tell you that you can’t have your fantasies, even your problematic ones. Fantasy is not reality and fantasy exists to enable us to escape from the real world for a while. And nowhere is that more true than in sexual fantasy.

A huge part of the reason that erotica and porn should only be accessed by adults is that adults, typically, understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Jaime Mortimer wrote a really good post on this recently.

I’m not going to infantilise everyone who reads Fifty Shades or any other problematic book and tell you that it’s going to turn you into a rapist or make you leave your husband for an emotionally stunted billionare (or a vampire in a Volvo). I read plenty of erotic fiction and plenty of it has themes that would be super problematic if they were real – doctor/patient scenarios, professor/student scenarios, consensual-non-consent roleplay, voyeurism and exhibitionism, public sex and more are just some of the themes I’ve enjoyed in my sexy fiction.

Guess what? Fantasy. And again: adults, overall, have the capability to understand the difference between fantasy and reality.

So enjoy Fifty Shades, if it’s your thing, as a fantasy about a naive young woman being seduced by an dude with more money than God and pants that hang from his hips (yes, this is an actual line in the book). Enjoy the light BDSM, the sexy  helicopter rides, the grumpy, brooding, damaged male lead if you want to. I’ll be the last person to judge you for enjoying some silly escapism or some improbable erotica if that’s what gets you off.

My problem with Fifty Shades is actually in the social and cultural narrative surrounding Fifty Shades.

Because this is not a great love story. This is not something to which young women should aspire! And the problem is that it’s being sold that way.

There is tonnes of erotica (and straight romantic fiction) out there that relies on problematic tropes and scenarios that are hot in fiction but would be a terrible idea in reality. That’s fine. Again: fantasy is cool, y’all!

But none of that has the marketing power behind it that Fifty Shades does. Ms James and her publishing team have made their collective fortunes not on selling Fifty Shades as fluffy erotic fantasy, but on selling Fifty Shades as a style of relationship to which we should all aspire.

And that is what is dangerous about this book. Not the fantasy it depicts, but the marketing power that sells that fantasy as genuinely aspirational. Because make no mistake, the relationship between Christian and Ana is very often abusive.

How many young women do you think have watched this movie, and decided that if this is romance, my boyfriend must only be super jealous and controlling because he loves me? Or, Ana loves Christian out of abusing her, so if only I behaved better my husband would stop hitting me? Maybe not in quite so literal terms, but make no mistake – these messages are out there, and victims of abuse are listening and absorbing.

You might think this is hyperbole, but it’s not. This is the kind of power that massive marketing budgets, ingrained cultural narratives about love, and a total lack of sensible sex-and-relationships education has.

I don’t blame Fifty Shades for my own experience in an abusive D/s relationship, of course. But I do partly blame growing up surrounded by the idea that if a man hurt me, my job was to heal him so he could love me properly in the end. Fifty Shades didn’t come out until I was 21. It wasn’t the first example of “he hurts you because he loves you” and it won’t be the last. But it might be the most culturally pervasive example of this particularly damaging trope.

Fifty Shades is far from the only story to suffer from this phenomenon

We have always built collective cultural narratives around these deeply problematic stories. I am reasonably confident in saying I doubt that Shakespeare intended Romeo & Juliet to be considered the greatest love story of all time. If you read it as a love story and analyse it for more than three seconds, it’s a ridiculous play. If you reread it as a satire about “love at first sight” and teenage stupidity, though, it becomes utterly brilliant. (While we’re at it, Wuthering Heights isn’t a great love story either. And Christian Grey bears a passing resemblence to Heathcliff in a variety of ways.)

Despite being for children, even Disney movies sell us some pretty horrible messages about relationships. Think about it: marriage is the ultimate goal for any girl. Once a man chooses you, you’ll live happily ever after.  Cinderella tells us to be good and subservient and pretty until a man rescues us; The Little Mermaid tells us that what we have to say is the least valuable thing about us; Sleeping Beauty suggests that kissing a sleeping stranger is totes a sensible and romantic thing to do… and so it goes on. We’re drip-fed these messages from earliest childhood, so is it really any wonder that so many of us grow up with totally screwed up ideas about what relationships are actually supposed to look like?

Don’t ban – educate

In closing: I don’t support the banning of Fifty Shades or other problematic stories. Fantasy is important and something we should all be able to have access to. Instead, we need a greater cultural understanding and greater education around separating fantasy from reality, and understanding what healthy relationships actually are.

I’d be much happier with the thousands and thousands of twenty-something women enjoying Fifty Shades as sexy, escapist fantasy if they weren’t already surrounded by a culture that teaches them if he hits you, it’s your job to be better so he can heal from his fucked up past.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider buying me a coffee.

“Bring the Collar:” The True Story of a D/s Break-Up

I don’t want to write this post. I really don’t. I’ve been mulling it over all day and a huge part of me just wants to go, “oh fuck it” and write a generic “how to get over a break-up” listicle.

But I feel like that’d be a cop-out. Today’s 30 Days of D/s prompts is all about break-ups, and to be honest I’ve been inspired by Kayla’s amazing raw honesty in telling the story of her own D/s break-up a few years ago. So… here goes nothing, I guess.

15.05.2015

Realistically, I knew we were breaking up. Our relationship had disintegrated beyond repair now I’d finally, a good five years too late, begun to stand up for myself.

We were to meet in the park. Neutral ground. The stated aim: to have the make-or-break conversation. My true intention, though: to escape as quickly as possible with my head held high and my dignity intact.

All of this to say, dear readers: I knew it was over. It was overer than over. That relationship, like Marley, was dead as a doornail.

Still, it was three words on a text that broke me into pieces and tested my get the fuck out resolve to its limit.

“Bring the collar.”

Of course, I’d known he would want it back. That was in the contract. The Contract, to love and protect on his part. To love and obey on mine. Worth less, in the scheme of keeping us together, than the notepaper it was written on. But even so, this was the moment it sunk in. Master is releasing me. He doesn’t want me any more.

My subby heart broke then. I’d thought I was as good as over it – mentally checked out of the relationship I was technically still in. I’d mourned the man I’d loved, come to accept he’d never been real and this monster who now stood in his place had been him all along. The guy who told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known, one perfect night in a student dorm room when I was nineteen, and the man who looked me in the eyes five years later and told me I was poison, were one and the same person.

But as his sub – his slave, he’d called me, though I was never entirely comfortable with the connotations of that word – I’d tried so hard to please. To obey, do everything he said, shut my mouth and look pretty and never take up more space than my little allotted corner. A toy isn’t supposed to complain when it’s tossed aside once playtime is over.

What I felt then, when I kissed the little silver lock of the collar one more time and handed it over to him while I tried not to cry, was that I’d failed. He’d thrown it at me plenty of times over the preceding weeks, while whatever was left of our love dripped down the drain. Bad sub. Not really submissive. Disobedient. If you’d just shut up and do as you were told, we’d be fine.

For years, I’d twisted myself until the core of my identity was being his. I wrote him a poem in the early days. In it, I said, “You are life. You are oxygen. You are everything.” My blood and breath. My heart and soul. More myself than I am.

What I know now, and wish I’d known then, is that I wasn’t the one who failed. I was just a young girl who got thrown into a lion’s den too complicated and fucked up to comprehend, and then spent years trying to tame the most vicious, dominant lion while he snapped and snarled at her heels.

He was the one who failed me. He promised too much, delivered too little, broke me down too hard. I gave love, and what I got in return was emotional devastation, over and over and fucking over.

In that moment, I saw him as he was. All my idealistic, teenage bullshit fell away and I saw a man who could never love me. In that moment, I took myself back. I gave him back his collar but I took back my agency, my power, my life.

You’re not my blood and breath. I am.

I belong to nobody. I am free. And I am happy.

No kinky item today. This is too raw to add anything to it. If you want to help with my ongoing therapy bills, just hit the buy me a coffee button!

Communication When Your Partner is Carrying Trauma

It’s #KinkMonth, brought to you by Lovehoney! I’m celebrating by writing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ fabulous 30 Days of D/s project.

Today, we’re discussing my second favourite c-word. No, not cunt (that’s my first favourite!) It’s COMMUNICATION. Communication, the experts will have you believe, is the key to life, the universe and everything. (Or was that 42? I forget.)

Anyhow, today, Kayla and John ask:

What is your communication style? What happens when you try to communicate your thoughts or needs?

I can be hard to communicate with. This is a thing I know about myself. I do consider myself to be overall a good communicator, but these skills have been hard won and it hasn’t been smooth sailing. Sometimes I jump to the worst possible conclusion in a single leap, sometimes I find it hard to believe what my partner is saying to me even as they’re spelling it out in plain English, sometimes I look for the hidden meaning behind their words when there isn’t one.

This is all because I am still carrying trauma from past abusive relationships. Of course, it is my responsibility to deal with this stuff, which I am doing with the help of a therapist. However, there’s definitely a role for my partners to play. So here are a few things I’ve learned are helpful in communicating with me. Everyone is different, but if your partner is carrying trauma, here are some communication hacks I’ve found to be helpful.

Be prepared to offer reassurance.

Your partner might need to hear that you’re not mad at them, or that the discussion at hand – even if it’s a conflict – doesn’t mean the end of your relationship. They might need to hear that you still love them, that you value them, that they’re a good person, that everything is okay. Ask them what reassurance is meaningful to them. This is especially important if their love language is “words of affirmation.”

Be prepared to repeat yourself sometimes.

These things might not go in the first time. Or even if they do, they might need repeating the next time a conflict or important discussion arises. When someone is traumatised through abuse, the trauma is drilled into them over weeks, months or years – they’re hit with it again and again. You cannot expect to say something once and have it overwrite a trauma-driven narrative immediately.

Say exactly what you mean.

This isn’t the time for coded messages, hidden meanings or vagueness. Be clear, be xplicit, and don’t play head games where they have to “work out” what’s going on.

Speak and behave calmly.

Don’t shout. Try not to raise your voice. Watch your body-language and make sure it’s not intimidating. Clenching your fists, hitting or throwing objects, or even standing over someone who is sitting or lying down can all feel really threatening.

Don’t succumb to personal attacks.

“I felt upset when I came home late and had to do the dishes, despite you being at home all day” is a statement of what happened and your feelings about it. This is a great place from which to start a conversation! “You’re so lazy” (/stupid/inconsiderate/etc.) is a personal attack. You shouldn’t do this to anyone, but doing it to a person with relational trauma can be triggering and can seriously erode trust.

Above all: ask.

Ask your partner how they want to be communicated with! Ask them what makes them feel safe and heard, and what makes them shut down. And most importantly: listen to the answer and behave accordingly.

Kinky item of the day: This basic blindfold, which is currently on sale. Sensory deprivation can be sexy as fuck!

This post contains affiliate links. All views are, as always, my own.