Things That Matter More to Me Than Looks

I won’t pretend that looks are completely unimportant to me in a relationship. There does need to be a level of physical attraction – I need to be physically into my partners and have them be physically into me. But looks only get you so far and they’re so much less important than a great many other things.

I have met people I was physically attracted to, only to have that attraction greatly diminish or completely switch off due to some other trait in the person. At least a couple of crushes have been snuffed out when the hot person turned out to be an asshole.

So here are a few things that are ultimately way more important than looks.

Kindness

When it comes to dating someone or having them as a close person in my life, this is probably the single most important attribute they can possess. If someone isn’t kind, I’m unlikely to want to get close to them.

Even if I’m not immediately physically attracted to someone, kindness is one of the most reliable indicators that attraction could grow.

Things in Common

Obviously, no two people have everything in common. And separate interests and activities can be healthy in a relationship. But if we don’t have enough in common that we can share at least some hobbies and enjoy doing some things together, that’s unlikely to be a good fit for anything more than a very casual fling.

Matching Goals for the Relationship

I’ve been in relationships before where we wanted wildly different things out of it, and this is its own special kind of hell. While some things are open for negotiation, our core hopes and goals for the relationship should match. If one person wants a very serious, entangled relationship and the other wants friendship with casual sex, that’s likely to lead to resentment and frustration on both sides.

Compatible Kinks

Sex is important! If I’m going to have a romantic relationship with someone, chances are that sex and kink are going to be a part of it. That means that compatible kinks matter.

Again, no two people will have 100% crossover. Kinks and preferences are far too unique and nuanced for that. But there needs to be a pretty significant overlap for things to work.

I’m primarily a submissive, so while I enjoy dating switches, dating someone who wanted to bottom a lot of the time wouldn’t work for me. Likewise, dating someone whose main kink is my hard limit is unlikely to end well for either of us.

Similar Politics

Some people believe you can have very different or even opposite politics and still have a relationship. I do not believe that. I need someone whose politics are broadly aligned with mine if we’re going to be partners, lovers, or even close friends.

We don’t need to agree on everything. I think nuanced discussion and learning things from each other can be a wonderful part of a trusting relationship. But realistically, no-one who is right of centre is ever going to be a good match for me. We need to be on the same page about the important stuff.

What matters more to you than looks? Let me know in the comments.

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I wrote this piece as part of Quote Quest, a 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!

4 New Years Resolutions Not to Make for 2021

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Make it a good one.”
– Brad Paisley

Well, friends, here we are! 2020 is finally over, and not a moment too soon. This is my first post of 2021, and so I thought it would be good to look at the popular-but-divisive topic of new years resolutions.

I’m generally not a big fan of “resolutions” – they’ve always felt like a lot of pressure, very “all-or-nothing.” Not to mention that January is the most depressing month of the year.

With that said, I do like taking the time during the new year period to look back over the last year, take stock of where I am and how I’m doing, and commit or recommit to my goals. My new year present to myself was an Ink and Volt Goal Planner and a bunch of fun, colourful stickers to use in it, and I spent a fun and satisfying few hours working out how to get where I want to go this year.

Whether you love resolutions or hate them, here are four that I think you absolutely SHOULDN’T make this year.

Go on a diet

Diets, of the type that start on January 1 and have weight loss as their driving goal, are unlikely to succeed. That’s because they tend to be punishing, starvation-based, and unsustainable. They’re also based on forcing our bodies to conform to an ideal that is patriarchal, oppressive, and not even possible for most people.

If you want to lose weight, I’m not going to tell you not to. Our relationships with our bodies are very personal, and only you know what’s right for you. But whether you want to gain, lose, maintain, or ignore the number on the scale entirely, focus on eating foods that make you feel good and moving your body in a way that feels nourishing and joyful.

Just don’t go on a new years diet. Please.

Get a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner

The reason I think “get into a relationship” is a new years resolution to avoid is this: it’s not entirely within your control. Naturally, you can do things that make it more likely you’ll meet your dream person or people (more on that in a minute.) But so many factors – whether the people you fancy are available, whether they fancy you back, whether your wants and needs are compatible – aren’t within your direct control. Not to mention, you know, the ongoing pandemic that is making dating challenging at best.

If you want to date more, or meet more new people, set that as your goal instead! These are perfectly fine goals that are actually within your control. You can get on the dating apps, dust off that old OKCupid profile, join a group or club for one of your interests (maybe virtually right now…) or ask your friends to facilitate introductions to any of their friends they think you’d hit it off with.

But resolutions like “by December 31, 2021, I will have a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner” is a recipe for pressure, frustration, and resentment. None of which actually lead to conducive dating.

Be more positive

There is little I find more eye-rollingly infuriating than toxic positivity, except possibly toxic positivity that comes from a place of unexamined privilege (and is presented in easily-digestible, pseudo-motivational quotes attached to pretty pictures on Instagram.)

I’m not saying we should all be relentlessly negative, of course. That doesn’t help or serve anyone. But I’m a big proponent of the power of appropriate and well-placed negativity.

2020 pretty much sucked. Not entirely, of course. Some good things – some great things – happened. But when there’s a pandemic raging, your government is killing people with their actions or inactions, you’ve lost your job, you can’t see your family and friends, and your mental health is tanking… well, the last thing I want to hear in that instance is “positive thinking is the cure to all your woes!” No it isn’t. The cure for our woes would be a competent government, mass vaccination, adequate and accessible mental health care, and necessities provided for everyone. (I’ll write a whole post on this soon.)

Instead of making resolutions like “be more positive”, what would happen if you decided to honour all your emotions this year? Feel both your sadness and your joy. Allow anger in and sit with it. There’s no such thing as a bad emotion – what matters is how we act on them. Sometimes, negativity is appropriate. Sometimes it’s okay to say “yeah everything is pretty much shit right now.”

Say yes

This is another of those pseudo-deep life advice things: say yes to everything! Embrace opportunity! It sounds great, except… it isn’t.

I’ve gone through phases of saying yes to pretty much everything people asked of me, both the fun and the not-so-fun. You know what happened? I ended up burned out and pissed off.

Saying yes to blowing off work to spend the day in bed with your partner might be great, or it might lead to serious professional repercussions. Saying yes to a spontaneous trip might be a fun adventure, or it might spell disaster for your finances. And saying yes to dessert when you don’t really want it might lead to you enjoying a tasty slice of cake, or it might end up with a sugar crash that leaves you feeling like crap.

Instead, consider your decisions carefully. Say yes when you really want to say yes and when it’s a good decision for you. Otherwise? Learn how to say no more often and more freely.

“No” doesn’t mean you’re closed off to opportunity, a bad friend or partner or employee, or not spontaneous enough. “No” means that you prioritise yourself, know where your boundaries are, and hold them without apology. And I think that’s far more beautiful and beneficial than agreeing to everything until you feel completely out of control.

Are you making or breaking up with resolutions this year?

Let me know why you love resolutions or why you hate them – and any that you’re determined to never make again!

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This piece was written for Quote Quest, a 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!

Five of the Best Virtual Date Ideas

I resisted writing this post for some time, because it felt too close to the whole “moving our entire lives online during COVID” theme I was trying to avoid. However, there are many reasons beyond lockdown restrictions and public health fears why people might need – or even want – to go on digital dates. Long-distance relationships, limited funds, and illness are just a few of the ones I can think of.

So I wanted to share five of my best virtual date ideas with you guys today. I hope you find something here to inspire you. And, of course, you’re always welcome to share your own in the comments.

Movie night

You can use an app like Watch Party to share a virtual movie night, but it’s just as easy to sync up and hit “play” on your Netflix or DVD player at the same time… or even both watch the same movie as it’s being shown on TV.

You can video, voice or text-chat while you watch, if you wish, or just call each other afterwards and talk about the movie.

Get some popcorn and dim the lights for the full cinematic experience!

Looking for movie recs? Check out my friend Livvy’s blog, Sex Love and Videotape, for some inspiration!

Virtual museum tour

Did you know that museums all over the world have virtual tours of their galleries and exhibitions available online? Meet online to explore a virtual museum and video or voice-chat while you wander around.

The Albertina in Vienna, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the London’s Natural History Museum are just some of the world-renowned museums offering online tours right now.

Night at the theatre

Prior to the last few months, many of us could only access live theatre if we could get to a major city and afford the exhorbitant ticket prices (or get to one of the handful of cinemas that showed live-streamed versions.) Since March, however, tonnes of productions have gone online.

Pick a show, sync up, and hit play. Bonuses of the virtual theatre: you can wear your pyjamas if you want to, your bed is probably comfier than an actual theatre seat, and the drinks are cheaper!

Timeout‘s theatre sections have listings that refresh every couple of days!

Cheese and wine party

If you’re feeling fancy, why not share an online cheese and wine tasting? Get some interesting cheeses on your next trip to the supermarket (or order them online.) Pick up a bottle of wine (or two.) Enjoy them and compare notes on your favourites while you video-chat.

To take it up a notch, dress in your most over-the-top fabulous outfits.

Hot virtual sex date

Of course I wouldn’t be me without saying that some hot online sex is one of the best virtual date ideas of all!

Set aside the time to completely focus on each other, and get lost in some deliciously hot phone sex, sexting, or cyber-sex. An app-controlled sex toy can put your pleasure in your partner’s hands, no matter where in the world they are.

This post contains affiliate links. All views, as always, are my own. If you haven’t signed up for Coffee Date, my biweekly newsletter, yet – what are you waiting for!?

How to Write a Killer Swinger Dating Profile

Whether you’re just starting out in swinging, or have been around on the swinger sites for a while but are not having much luck, you might be wondering how to write the absolute best swinger dating profile you can.

For the purposes of this post I will assume you’re looking for play partners as a couple, but most of the advice works just as well for singles and polycules, triads and groups as well. Read on for a few tricks and tips to help you!

Be honest!

I can’t overstate the importance of honesty! It’s no use saying that you’re 6 feet tall if you’re actually 5’7″, pretending to have tonnes of experience when you’re actually brand new to the lifestyle, or – and yes, I’ve really seen this – pretending to be a couple when you’re actually a single person. Not only is it usually really obvious, lying will be an absolute deal-breaker for most people.

Being honest doesn’t mean you have to be self-deprecating. If you’re struggling to describe yourself in positive terms, try writing descriptions of each other to go on your profile. You’ll be amazed how many sexy things your partner will have to say about you!

And if you’re inexperienced, just say so. Most people won’t mind. Try something like this: “We’re just dipping a toe in right now, so please be gentle with us! We’d love to meet a sexy couple for fun, laughs and maybe a trip to a swingers’ club.”

Write in full sentences and check your spelling and grammar

No-one is expecting your swinger dating profile to be a literary masterpiece, but making an effort is important. Triple-check it for obvious typos and spelling errors before you hit “submit.” Break up your sentences with punctuation and use paragraph breaks to make your content easier to read. If you’re not skilled with words, ask a trusted friend to give your profile a once-over.

Don’t use your genitals as a profile picture

Swinger sites are about the only place in the internet dating world where I’m going to tell you that posting pictures of your genitals is okay. But don’t use them as your main profile picture, please! Put them in your gallery! And limit the number – my rule of thumb is that no more than 1 in 10 of your pictures should be a close-up of genitals.

Your main profile picture could be your faces (if you’re feeling brave,) a clothed body shot, a tasteful nude, or a picture of something that reflects your personalities.

Talk about what you can offer, not just what you want

Nothing is more of a turn-off than a profile from a couple who have clearly not thought beyond what they want us to do for them. By all means, state what you’re looking for, but remember to show what you can offer too.

Sex, whether in a long-term monogamous relationship or a swinging context or anything in between, should be a mutual exchange for the enjoyment and benefit of everyone involved. This means viewing your partners and potential partners as full human beings, not fantasy-fulfillment machines.

In practice, what this means is that posting your super lengthy, scripted scene idea to your profile is likely to scare a lot of people off. As is posting an absurdly specific description of your imaginary “third.” Instead, talk more broadly about the kinds of people you’re looking to meet, and give plenty of information on what you can offer.

Try this: “We’re ideally looking to meet other couples within 10 years of our ages or at a similar life stage. With us you’ll find an educated, friendly and kinky pair who are just as happy enjoying good wine and excellent conversation as getting down to some fun in the bedroom.”

Keep the judgemental comments to yourself

You’re allowed to like what you like. But shaming others for not conforming to your tastes makes you look like a jerk. I’m fully aware that some people won’t want to sleep with me because I have body hair and am carrying a few extra pounds, and I am at peace with that – but it’s still upsetting every time I see my body-type described as “disgusting” on a swinger dating profile. If someone isn’t for you, scrolling on by or replying to their approach with a polite “thanks, but not for us” is all that is required.

Similarly, you might not be into any kind of kink or BDSM – and that’s absolutely fine! – but describing other peoples’ kinks as “freaky shit” is rude.

Being responsible is sexy

When I’m browsing swinger dating profiles, those who mention their sexual health testing regime or that they always use barriers go straight to the top of the list!

Pro tip: don’t use “clean” to describe yourselves as being free from STIs. This language is stigmatising and STIs aren’t dirty! Try “we test every three months and last tested negative for everything on [date.] We use barriers for… [insert your protocols here.]”

If you do have an STI, such as herpes or HIV, it’s important to be upfront about this, too. Don’t be apologetic – there’s nothing wrong with living with one of these conditions! Just briefly mention it as a fact of your life and state how you manage it. I’d personally much rather have sex with someone who is (for example) HIV-positive and knows their status and can take the appropriate precautions than someone who hasn’t tested in a decade and insists they “just know” they’re negative.

Offer something of yourselves beyond the sexual

It’s great that you have an 8-inch penis or F-cup breasts, that you eat pussy like a champ or give the best blow jobs in your state… but that’s not everything! Most people in the swinging community want to meet human beings they can connect with (even if the connection is brief,) not walking sex machines.

So talk about what you’re into! You don’t have to get extremely deep and personal at this stage. Try something like “we love fine dining and would love someone to show us the best restaurants in town,” “our hobbies include board games, 80s B-movies, and salsa dancing,” or “he’s a gym-bunny and loves to run, she’s more likely to be found with her nose in a book!”

The key is to let your sparkling personalities show through!

This post was sponsored by Swingtowns, the world’s largest non-monogamous dating site. Join up now – it’s free! All opinions are, as always, my own.

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[Guest Post] “RESPECT: Find Out What It Means to Me” by LittleWelshMinx

I recently decided to run a pitch call for newer voices in sex writing – specifically, the criteria was anyone who has never been paid to write about sex/relationships before. I got a huge number of pitches and many of them were outstanding in quality. In the end, picking just one from the 70+ I got was too hard, so I picked a small number of my favourites and will be publishing them one at a time between now and Christmas. Today’s is from LittleWelshMinx. This one stood out to me because of its unique take on the role of song in self-care around dating. I also wanted to share this one first because the reference to RESPECT is so timely given Aretha Franklin’s sad death last week. 

Without further ado, over to LWM…

“RESPECT: Find Out What It Means to Me”

Today I’m talking about relationship rituals.

I have been dating now for 18 years. During that time, I have developed certain rituals for getting me through the tough times and for getting me through the really tough times. As my regular readers will know, I’m a big music fan. I often use music as a way of feeling, thinking, soothing myself, and finding the strength to face the pain, love, rejection, betrayal, and the unknown that is the world of relationships and dating.

My parents have handed down to me a very eclectic taste in music, and one of their favourite genres – and mine – is soul. In turn, soul music became one of the key elements of my own personal relationship soundtrack.

The deep, powerful voices would resonate through my room, vibrating through my heart, connecting me to singers from over 50 years ago, making me feel slightly less alone as their voices raised in celebration, desperation, and elation.

Of all of them, I loved Aretha Franklin’s Respect the best.

Here was a woman, not bowed in defeat, not crying in a corner but standing up for herself. Rather than giving up and walking away, the woman within the narrative of the song seems to be drawing a line, telling her partner the way it is, and demanding better treatment. You get the sense that she has taken some crap and just isn’t prepared to take any more.

Every time I was in a bad place, and had been neglected, ignored, abandoned, patronised, cheated on or dumped, I would turn to music, and inevitably, turn to Aretha.

Respect acted like a much-needed shake from a collective sisterhood, putting fire in my heart and stiffening my backbone. When I was looking for the strength to keep going, stand up for myself, or screw up enough resolve to look inside for the truth, for the reality of my situation, to face my unhappiness and find the strength to leave, her voice and words would give me courage, hope, and determination. She sang about not taking any shit back in the 1960s. I’d be damned if I’d take any shit 50 years later.

And so this women, with her words and raw power, would get me through.

She was there for me during the pain and shame when “D” made me go shopping with him for his girlfriend’s Christmas present, knowing I loved him, and the day after he slept with me for the first time.

She was there for me when “S” was playing mind games, gaslighting me before I knew gaslighting was a thing, when in my bewildered state I questioned my own sanity and morals.

She was there for me when “J” trailed off into oblivion.

She was there when “R” left me for another woman, three days after introducing me to his extended family, and three months after insisting I meet his son.

This song, among many others, has been a touchstone for me. An audio reminder of who I am, what I want, and what I will and will not tolerate in my own life and relationships.

The thing to remember is that we all go through tough times and we all get our hearts broken at some point or another. To survive it, you need to have things you can fall back on, and songs like Respect, that help to snap you out of the pain, make you laugh at yourself, and keep moving forward.

Whenever I find myself hurting, I find bittersweet comfort knowing I can turn to music for solace. More than just reminding me to be strong, Aretha has been a thread throughout my dating life. Whenever I listen to Respect in a moment of pain, I am forced to remember the previous moments, but also forced to remember the fact that I got through them, and survived, a little wiser, a little tougher, and a little stronger.

When I heard the news of her death, I stopped in my tracks. Later that night I wept. I wept for a woman I never met, because her song helped me to become the woman I am.

Thank you, Aretha.

xxx

Little Welsh Minx in a masquerade mask.About LittleWelshMinx

Hello! I’m a 30-something girl from Wales, who likes classic literature, rugby, salsa, old Hollywood cinema, 40s/50s/60s fashion, and drinking gin and tonics. I blog about sex, from as many different view points, subjects, and angles as possible… academic, historical, geographical, scientific, technological, moral, personal, socioeconomic, political, emotional….

Sex – it’s not just a noun or a verb.

Me and My Fur: All About Body Hair

I have all my natural body hair. The last time I shaved any part of my body was over three years ago.

A green razor on a brown surface. For a post about body hair

The pressure to be hairless begins early.

I first shaved my legs at the age of 11, because a girl at a sleepover told me that no boy would want me if I had hairy legs. I didn’t even like boys at the time! But somehow, even to an 11 year old who had privately decided she was either gay or asexual (not that I had the actual language for either concept then,) the notion of boys thinking I was ugly was impossible to shrug off. Less than a year later, my mum gave me an electric shaver and told me to keep my armpits free from hair at all times. She wasn’t trying to body-shame me – she is, after all, surrounded by the exact same toxic culture that I am. I think she just didn’t want me to get bullied any more than I already did.

I held out on shaving my pubic hair until I was 19. My boyfriend had been increasing the pressure for several years. After we went to an event where he saw naked women apart from me in the flesh for the first time, it became apparent it wasn’t an option to keep my hair any more. So I dutifully got rid of it and for the next five years, I pretty much kept my entire body smooth and hair-free. Whether I actually liked it that way didn’t really enter into the picture. It was just part of the package of having been assigned female, like periods and casual sexism.

Realising I had a choice

It was Mr CK who woke me up to the idea that I actually had a choice about my body hair. He has made it clear from the beginning of our relationship that he finds body hair beautiful and erotic (spot the boy who came of age in the era of 7os porn!) But he also emphasised that I had to do what felt right for ME, and that he had no more say over my personal grooming than the people who had pushed me into shaving in the first place.

So I tried going au naturel for a while. Just as an experiment, to see if I liked it. That was three years ago and I have not picked up a razor since. I credit my beloved for reminding me I did have a choice, but the choice I actually made was all mine.

Learning to love my hair

I love keeping my body hair for a number of reasons. The time and money it saves me is not insignificant. My skin is much happier since being free of razors and shaving balms and post-shave rash and ingrowing hairs. And I just fucking love how it looks. When I look at my naked body in the mirror, I love the look of my little patch of pubic hair over my cunt. When I wear my favourite sexy knickers, I like seeing the little wisps poking out. I love lifting my arms and seeing the shadow of my reddish-brown underarm hair. I love how soft and fuzzy my legs are.

If I’m honest, I also enjoy the implicit things it tells people about me. For better or worse, body hair on women is heavily coded “feminist” – because making a choice about how to groom our bodies cannot just be a choice, it has to be a political statement. Thwarting societal beauty norms feels like a simple way to wear my politics on my body.

I have to acknowledge I have a level of privilege here in that my leg hair, at least, is very fine and blonde (my pubic and underarm hair is much coarser, darker and more obvious). Would I feel different if my leg hair was thicker and darker? If I grew hair on other parts of my body? I don’t know. I suspect I might struggle if it was growing on my face, for example, but I cannot say with any certainty as this is not my experience.

The impact on my sex life

Having body hair has definitely impacted my sex life. Mr CK and I swing together, and a large number of swingers will not have anything to do with people who do not shave every inch of their bodies. Pubic hair, in particular, gets us rejected a lot. (Insert hi-fucking-larious joke about flossing during oral sex here).

It’s been less of an issue in my one-on-one sex life, surprisingly. I don’t actually play with new people by myself that often, to be honest, and when I do the barrier to entry is pretty fucking high. I remember when The Artist and I had first established that we wanted to date, asking them nervously how they felt about women with body hair. The giant smiley face emoji they replied with… well, that was the moment I let out a huge breath I hadn’t realised I had been holding. Until I asked, there was a sense of I really like this person… and I think they really like me too… but are they going to be disgusted by my body when I take my clothes off?

For this reason, I tend to disclose it to potential lovers before the clothes come off. I feel more relaxed if I know they’re cool with it rather than waiting for the reaction. I hate that I have to do this. I’d much rather it not be a big deal. I wish I didn’t have to feel like it was something I needed to disclose. But mentioning it to sex partners before we get to the sex feels preferable to how devastated I’d be if a lover said something disparaging about my body when we were already in a sexual situation.

And it’s a surprisingly good screening device, actually. Misogynists tend to self-select out of my dating pool pretty fast when they realise I’m hairy.  To be honest, pissing off sexist men is one of life’s simple pleasures for me. Having hair is an easy way to do that.

The thing I’ve actually found most helpful is sleeping with lovers who actively like body hair. I currently have four lovers who I know are extremely into it. The way they look at me when I take my clothes off,the way they run their fingers through my fur or bury their faces in it, reminds me that I can be beautiful and desirable like this. They’re not settling or putting up with it. They actually like it, and me!

Fear of judgement… and sometimes actual judgement

Sure, I’ve been judged for being hairy. I’ve had gaggles of girl whisper and point and take pictures on the Tube because I had the nerve to get my legs out in public in 30 degree heat. I’ve had disgusted, sidelong glances thrown at me in the gym locker room. When I was regularly nude modelling and dared to go on camera with body hair on display, my picture comments went from “beautiful!” to “nice body but please shave that fur”. (No longer wanting to put myself through things like this is one of the many reasons I quit modelling not long after I stopped shaving).

I’ve had couples cancel dates with me and Mr CK at the eleventh hour because they had assumed that of course I was going to shave, and then realised I actually wasn’t. I’ve had guys comment on my pictures on Fetlife, saying “if you were mine you’d shave!” (Good job I’m never going to be yours then, isn’t it, dickbag?) The implication is there that Mr CK is somehow less of a Dom for allowing his sub to go unshaven.

The fear of judgement used to go with me everywhere. Sometimes it still does. When we start messaging a new person or a new couple on the swinger dating sites we use, I worry they’re going to pull out the “ew, pubes are gross” schtick. When we go to new clubs and I run around naked or in lingerie, I’m bracing myself for the “you’d be so pretty if you’d shave!”

Every summer, I weigh up the choice between being unbearably overheated in my oven of an office, or the daily fear of being pulled into a manager’s office and told that my natural leg hair is unprofessional. I sit there quietly while a female colleague bemoans being a woman and having to shave your legs every day in summer. I do not shout “YOU HAVE A CHOICE YOU KNOW!” even though I want to. It’s a constant fucking balancing act between asserting my right to exist in the world with my natural body, and just being tired of it all.

I don’t think I’m good at responding to the judgement yet, when it happens. I usually just want to cry or shrivel up in shame. I’m trying to be better about not letting it get to me, but as someone who grew up bullied, brushing it off is really hard.

Amazingly, no-one has ever actually shamed me – to my face, anyway – in a sex club or kink event. But I’m waiting for it. I’m always waiting for it. Because at most events, I’m the only one – and I see the looks I sometimes get. I see the “ooh, hot girl, nice boobs… oh, never mind” eye-swoop over my body.

I know what you’re probably thinking. “If the judgement bothers you, just shave!” But if you’re thinking that you’ve missed the whole point of what I’m trying to say. The problem doesn’t lie with me. I’m not doing something hugely out there and subversive and wild just by having my body on display in its natural state. I should not have to change it. Nor should I have to constantly defend my choice not to change it.

I like my body like this. The world does not get a say.

Femme identity and body hair

My relationship to femininity has been fraught and complex over the years, but I now sit fairly happily with my femme identity. It’s been a healing way for me to play with my aesthetic and my presentation. To find ways that reflect who I am as both a woman and a queer person. However, for a while I wrestled with the question: can I be femme if I don’t remove my body hair?

Ultimately, I approached this from the same angle as the question about whether you can be femme without wearing, say, lipstick or high heels. There are many trappings that are culturally coded feminine, and femme is about reclaiming these things (which society has often deemed frivolous) and playing with them, making them our own. For me, femme is a way to pick and choose the pieces of feminine presentation I want to embody. A way to escape the rigid codes society enforces about “what a woman should do/be”. To say “in order to be femme you must do X, Y and Z” is just trading one kind of oppressively strict standard for another. Femme is about fun and happiness within your own skin, not following the rules.

For a while, I jokingly referred to myself as “#lazyfemme” for not shaving and for sometimes going out without makeup on. I stopped this, though, because I realised it’s actually playing into the patriarchy to continue coding myself (and by implication other women) who choose not to do these things as “lazy”. As I once furiously ranted online “I have worked sixty fucking hours this week, but sure, I’m LAZY because I’m not wearing lipstick.”

So yes. I am a happy #sparklefemme who chooses the aspects of feminine presentation that work for her, and has decided that shaving is not her thing.

So do I think women who shave are just pawns of the patriarchy?

No! I believe in the absolute right to bodily autonomy for everybody. That includes the choice to shave/wax/tattoo/pierce/adorn/decorate your body in whatever ways you like, or not.

What I wish is that it was a more free choice. I wish there wasn’t such immense societal pressure on women and AFAB people to present themselves in a certain way. That razor companies weren’t constantly trying to sell us the solution to a problem they’ve convinced us we have. That wider representations of beauty were common in our media.  I wish, to be honest, that shaving or not shaving wasn’t such a politically loaded and socially fraught choice.

And I wish we were not teaching little girls at 11 that the most important thing in the world is whether or not boys find their bodies aesthetically acceptable.

Oof – that was a long one with a lot of emotional energy behind it! If you enjoyed it, please consider buying me a virtual coffee!

Ask Amy #7: “Respectful Flirting for Queer Women”

Today’s advice question comes from one of my wonderful Patreon supporters, who has been very patient in waiting for me to get to it. I’ve also, I must admit, been sitting on this one a bit because knowing how to answer it was tricky.

The reader in question is a woman, in case that wasn’t clear from context. Let’s go…

Two women drinking coffee at an outside table. Only their arms are visible. For a post on flirting as a queer woman.“Hey Amy,

I like girls but am very nervous about flirting, in part because they’re so cute my brain melts, and in part because I want to be polite and respectful.

What are your tips on approaching cute humans in public places (cafes, bookshops, etc.) in a respectful way, to tell them their shirt is nerdy and cool, and to maybe indicate I want to start flirting with them?”

Oof. My dear reader, if I knew the definitive answer to this one, I’d date a lot more girls. But I will do my best, writing from the perspective of a woman who likes women and is maybe open to being flirted with by them.

A cool thing I learned about flirting a long time ago, which has always served me well, is to consider treating it as an end in and of itself. Flirting is a joyful activity as long as both parties are fully on board with it, and it does not necessarily need to lead to sex/a date/a relationship in order to be “successful”. This mindset will both help to guard you against crushing disappointment if that cutie you’re chatting to turns out to not be interested in taking things further, and helps to prevent you coming across as “creepy” or having an “agenda”.

To approach or not to approach?

When it comes to deciding whether to approach someone in public, it’s important to look for visual clues as to whether they may be open to being approached or not. If they’ve got headphones in, for example, or are hiding away in a corner behind a book or laptop, they’re probably either super busy or wanting to be left alone. Body language and general demeanor are important too. Does she look sad, stressed out, pissed off? That person is unlikely to be in the mood to chat. But someone who seems chilled out, happy or content is more likely to be open to meeting new people.

What to say?

A good way to approach someone and gauge if they’re interested in chatting to you is to offer an opener that they can either pick up and run with, or answer quickly then get back to whatever they were doing.

“I love your shirt! Where did you get it?” is a great one, especially if they’re wearing something that reflects a shared interest. You can also substitute “shirt” for bag, item of jewellery, shoes, cute notebook, etc. etc. Anything that clearly reflects an interest or personality trait. The key is to be genuine in your compliment. That way, if she’s not interested she can say thanks and you’ll have made someone smile. If she is open to more conversation, you’ve got a perfect first thing to talk about.

“Oh, I love [Author Name]” is also a good one if, say, you’re browsing the bookstore and see a cutie checking out one of your favourites.

Then, if she seems open and receptive, you can maybe tell her your name and ask hers, and see if you can get a conversation going. Ask if she wants to sit with you, or if she’s up for company at her table or would prefer to be alone. If you’re scared of backing her into a situation where she feels unable to say no, try the ball-in-her-court approach: “I’ve got to go meet my friend, but I’m [Name] on Facebook if you fancy looking me up. I’d love to get coffee and geek out over [shared interest] with you sometime”.

The “is she even into girls?” problem

Of course, you can’t usually tell by looking at someone if they’re queer or interested in your gender. There’s no easy way around this unless they “flag” in some way. Many people prefer not to be openly queer until they know they’re in a safe space to do so. This is particularly true in small or conservative communities.

There’s not a super easy way around it. Often, you’ll find out if someone is queer or available in the course of conversation and getting to know them. But one way to show that you’re a safe person to be open around is to flag queer in public, however subtly or overtly you’re comfortable with. This also makes it more likely that other queer folks who think you’re cute will approach YOU! Consider a rainbow bracelet, a “queer” or F/F symbol pin badge, a bi pride necklace, a risque phone case, or an LGBTQ/sex-positive tee.

Other ways to meet people

It’s probably also a really good idea, if you don’t already, to try to join some activities where people like you will congregate. Is there a feminist book club, a queer women’s social, an LGBTQ+ film group, a board game geeks’ night, anywhere near where you live? Go along and make friends, not with the specific intent of getting a date, but with the intent of meeting other people who share your interests and making friends. One of these people could be the next love of your life! Or they could invite you to a party, where one of their friends will turn out to be the cutie your heart desires.

In these environments, you’ve got a huge advantage over just meeting people in public. Everyone is, presumably, there to socialise and meet others to a certain extent. Not to mention you’ve got a ready-made thing to talk about! If you’re nervous, “I’m new, how long have you been coming?” is a fine opening gambit.

Most importantly: give yourself credit

Meeting people is hard. Saying hi to someone in public is even harder. This is all amplified by a thousand when you’re a queer person trying to get by in a heterocentric world. So if you say hi to someone cute, congratulate yourself! Maybe you’ll get knocked back, maybe you’ll make a friend, maybe you’ll get a date. The result isn’t the only point. The point is you put yourself out there. Confidence, coupled with a healthy respect for other people’s boundaries and comfort, is sexy as hell. So go you!

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Ask Amy #6: “The Care and Feeding of Your Unicorn”

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Whew, it’s been a while since I had an advice question from a lovely reader. This one, I must confess, has been sitting in my inbox for a while. Thanks to the person who sent it in, both for the excellent question and for waiting so patiently for an answer.

An artistic drawing of a sitting unicornNOTE: For those who don’t know, a “unicorn” is a person (usually a woman or AFAB person, though not always) who gets into some kind of relationship with an existing couple. So called because this type of person is almost as rare, precious and highly sought-after as the mythical horned horse. “Unicorn hunter” couples get a bad rep because so many of them approach this type of relationship from a fantasy-fulfillment perspective without due regard for the third person’s feelings, needs or, well, humanity.

Let’s dive in…

Hey Amy,

So my primary and I have suddenly and quite unexpectedly acquired a unicorn! We love them so much (we’ve been friends with them for years). So far we are all three having a delightful time. We are, as much as possible, using our polyamory skills to continue this state of affairs.

But I am nervous. Obviously being a unicorn is a terribly vulnerable position and so many unicorns end up really hurt. So: can you give me some tips from your own experience on making sure we keep our unicorn as gloriously happy and safe and secure as they deserve, while also making sure that we look after our own needs too? Because, my goodness, they deserve all that is good and wonderful.

Dear Nervous Unicorn Handler,

Okay, first of all, I LOVE this one. Not only because you say you are all having a wonderful time in your newfound triad, but because you are obviously as invested in your new partner’s happiness as you are in your own and your Primary’s. So, yay for you! You’re already way ahead of the curve here.

You’re also doing the right thing in realising that being a unicorn is a vulnerable position. Your unicorn has a certain level of advantage in that they’ve been your friend for a long time, but you and your Primary will still have tonnes of shared history, intimacy and knowledge that your unicorn has not been privy to.

I find myself wondering if you’ve talked to them explicitly about this? Even something as simple as “hey, we understand that being a unicorn can be a really vulnerable position, and we want you to know that we love and value you so much and are really invested in your happiness in this relationship. Please don’t be afraid to tell us what you need and let us know if something doesn’t work for you” can go a really long way. Then, obviously, follow through on that with actions such as listening actively, consulting them on things that affect them, and not getting upset with them for expressing needs or emotions.

Balancing multiple people’s needs is tricky in any relationship. It does, of course, become somewhat more difficult the more people are involved. However, there’s no reason you can’t keep all of you safe, secure and happy for a long time to come!

Communication, as ever, is key. It sounds like you’re well aware of that and all making efforts to communicate well. Keep doing that!

I also advise, in so far as it’s possible, each of you having one-on-one time with your third partner sometimes as well. Just as the two of you need alone time together in order for your relationship to flourish, your relationship with your unicorn and your partner’s relationship with them needs the same to a certain extent. But, of course, lots of lovely all-three time is also really important to schedule and prioritise.

Looking after your own needs is vital in any relationship. So, try to keep a good handle on where you’re at internally. Ask your partners to look out for themselves similarly. Have you considered a periodic check-in meeting for all three of you? This can be by Skype or phone if you live far apart, or around the kitchen table over coffee, or even snuggled up in bed together. It doesn’t have to be serious. It can just be, “how are we all doing? Anyone got any issues they want to raise?”  Then if anything comes up, you talk about it. If it doesn’t, you carry on doing the snuggling/coffee drinking/kinky fuckery. Obviously, you can react to things as they arise. But don’t underestimate how useful it is to have a designated time to check in with everyone and focus on your three-way relationship.

Beyond this, the things that spring to mind seem obvious and I’m sure you’re doing them/not doing them already:

  • Don’t try to control/limit who your unicorn can date. Having a secondary relationship with them while being in a primary relationship with your existing partner is A-okay, but don’t try to make them be exclusive to you or make it difficult/impossible for them to date others.
  • Discuss, with your Primary AND all three of you together, what will happen if someone feels jealous or left out. “We’ll close down the relationship and kick the unicorn out” is not a valid answer to this.
  • Keep your promises and honour your commitments. Emergencies happen, of course, and a degree of flexibility is important. But your partner should feel that the two of you are reliable and will do what you say you’ll do.
  • Related to the above, don’t make promises you may not be able to keep.
  • Never, ever, for the love of all that is sexy and good in the world, throw your unicorn in the middle when you and your Primary have a disagreement.
  • Try not to set rules on who is supposed to feel what for whom. This is a recipe for disaster because the heart doesn’t obey rules. Expecting your new partner to feel exactly the same way about each of you, for example, is unrealistic at best and straight-up coercive at worst.

I just want to finish by saying this seems like a really positive, healthy relationship. I’m not getting any of the red flags I so often see in a couple+unicorn situation. You’re doing everything write, Letter Writer, and I wish you all the best for a long, loving and wonderful relationship.

Again, please submit your questions to me for an anonymous answer on the blog. Patreon supporters get priority!

I’m Not Going to Steal Your Boyfriend (For the Girlfriends of My Casual Lovers)

Hey, you? Nervous girlfriend/wife/partner of the guy who just caught my eye? This one’s for you.

I’m not going to steal your boyfriend. Promise.

A fence with padlocks with love messages fastened to it. For a post called "I'm Not Going to Steal Your Boyfriend"I know I’m cute and I know it can be really threatening to see someone else interested in your partner. I’ve been in the position you’re in now countless times, and I am absolutely sure I will be in it again. Social programming and insecurities and all of those things are real and they can be really hard to overcome, even if you ideologically want to.

But what I want you to know is this: I have absolute respect for your place in his life and I would never, ever want to jeopardise that in a million years.

I might flirt with him, because I am a flirt and I often do it for the joy of it without wanting things to go any further. Flirting is fun and makes all parties feel good if it’s done properly. But if that’s not okay in your relationship, I will back off immediately. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. I don’t want to make you feel sidelined or pushed out!

If you’re in the type of relationship where these kind of things are okay, I might want to kiss him. Fuck him. Go on dates with him. Fall in love with him, even. But I would never do these things without consideration and care for you.

You see, I know you come first with him. That is the way it is and that is the way it should be. Furthermore, I don’t WANT to come first with him! I have my own Number One, my own person I come home to and sleep with at night and share my life with, and I am happy in that relationship.

I want him to prioritise you above me. Of course I want him to make time and space for me for as long as that’s good for us, but I never want to step into that top spot. That is yours. I want you to feel that your place is safe, because as far as I’m concerned, it is.

I’m not going to steal him. Even if he offered me that option, I would turn it down. But he won’t, because he loves you. I see it in the way he looks at you, the way he talks about you. And I revel in seeing and feeling that love between you. It is beautiful. Why would I ever, even for a second, want to break up something so beautiful?

We’re on the same side. I’m not competing with you, and I promise, you don’t need to compete with me. I’m not out to steal your boyfriend. I just want to love him alongside you for a while.

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The Price of Admission

Anastasia: And what do I get out of this?
Christian: Me.
– Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

It is no secret that I am not a fan of those books. Other writers have already written about this so beautifully I’m not sure I have much more to add to that particular conversation. However, the above quote captures the essence of this topic perfectly. Hmm… maybe Ms James did have some insightful moments after all!

When we’re children, we’re taught that no-one’s perfect. It’s a platitude, though a truism, perhaps to encourage us not to criticise others – or ourselves – too harshly. And because no-one is perfect, I firmly believe there is no such thing as a Perfect Relationship. There are amazing, incredible, wonderful relationships – and I count myself lucky to be in one of these. But perfect? With all our flaws, foibles, beautifully messy humanity and inevitable mistakes? No.

My relationship has imperfections. So does yours, I guarantee it.

We come, all of us, with our Price of Admission. These are the things about us that are imperfect, maybe even problematic, that someone must live with in order to be in a relationship with us. These are the things, be they big or small, that we don’t see eye-to-eye with our partner on. The things that, if you dwell on them, form the end of the sentence “the relationship would be PERFECT if only…

We all have to pay a price of admission to be in meaningful relationships with another human. Whether it’s as relatively benign as putting up with your husband’s snoring, or as troubling as knowing your friend has a serious drug/alcohol problem but being unable to intervene, every relationship has one – or more likely, several of varying degrees of significance. But here’s the thing about prices of admission. We get to choose whether to pay them or not.

One of the major problems in my relationship with my abusive ex was that he believed that no matter the price of admission, I would continue to pay it regardless. And for many years, I did. I was madly – and I mean that in the literal, not-quite-in-my-right-mind-when-he’s-around – in love with the man. As such I felt I had to do absolutely anything to keep the relationship. When the price of admission was putting up with lies and half-truths, I turned a blind eye. The times that the price of admission was him screaming at me for a tiny perceived infraction, I tried to harden myself to the yelling. When the price of admission was an uneven, enforced mono-poly dynamic, I pretended I didn’t want anyone else anyway.

And what did I get out of all of that?

Him.

Which was enough… except that it wasn’t. I convinced myself I was happy as long as I was with him, this person I idolised. But he didn’t meet my needs and he didn’t hear my voice. If I complained the price for the relationship was getting too steep, he might as well have laughed in my face and said, “but you’ll pay it, because the other choice is walking away and we both know you don’t have the balls to do that”. It was years before I finally decided the price had become undeniably too high.

In our final make/break conversation, with all the characteristic arrogance that believed I would never be the one to walk away, he laid out his Terms for continuing the relationship. And for the first time, I refused the offer. The price was too high and I wasn’t buying. It was no longer worth it.

The point of all of this is to say: you get to decide when the price of admission into any given relationship is too high.

However much you love this person, however much you think you absolutely need them no matter what, you do not have to accept the terms they are offering. You do not have to pay a price of admission that includes abuse of any kind, that includes being cheated upon or lied to, that includes a relationship structure that is unworkable for you, that includes sex acts you can’t or won’t consent to, that includes losing yourself or your self esteem, that includes fundamental differences in beliefs or values, that includes anything that makes the relationship unhappy or unhealthy for you.

You don’t have to.

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