[Guest Post] Anorgasmia and The Pursuit of Pleasure by Alessandra Fraissinet

It’s been quite a while since we had a guest post, hasn’t it? I’m happy to be welcoming Alessandra Fraissinet (they/she), a queer, sex-positive relationship, sex and health educator (RSH), talking about anorgasmia, the orgasm gap, and orgasm difficulties. This has come at a pretty perfect time, especially given that I wrote recently about my own struggles with orgasm and vow to never “fake it” again.

The Pursuit of Pleasure by Alessandra Fraissinet

TW: mention of depression and sexual violence

Part of my job as a sex educator is to encourage people of all genders and sexualities to follow their pleasure. To have sex because it feels good, to release expectations, to be playful, and to move away from the idea of sex as a performance. Under heteronormativity, in particular, sex can be viewed as something you do with a particular aim and, specifically, something that must lead to orgasm.

Now, there are a few things to know about orgasms:

First, orgasms are an involuntary response to a mechanical stimulus, pretty much like a sneeze. That means you or your partner(s) can facilitate the reaction by creating a set of ideal circumstances (trust, relaxation, appropriate stimulation), but that technically no one can make you orgasm except for your own body.

And just as there are a few things you can do to facilitate orgasm, some things can also make it hard to reach. Relaxation, adequate stimulation, good pelvic floor health, safety and trust all contribute to creating an ideal environment for orgasms. On the other hand, physical and psychological factors like depression, anxiety, certain medications, stress, and sexual trauma can prevent you from having orgasms either occasionally or all the time.

People with vulvas, especially cis women who have sex with cishet men, are known to have it harder: this is a well-documented phenomenon known as the orgasm gap. When discussing the orgasm gap, people most often place emphasis on poor communication between partners, male selfishness, and a lack of appropriate pleasure education.

Regardless of sex, gender or sexual orientation, orgasms can be difficult to achieve. This can result in significant pressure during partnered sex especially. Unlearning the idea of sex as a performance, and embracing it as an experience, requires us to release our expectations of a specific outcome and allow pleasure to take whatever form comes naturally in a given moment. This is challenging, especially if – like me – you live with anorgasmia: the extreme difficulty or inability to orgasm.

Anorgasmia can be primary (when you have never had an orgasm) or secondary (when you used to be able to orgasm). It can depend on a variety of different factors: excessive worrying around sexual “performance”, depression and other mood disorders, chronic pain, sexual trauma, hormonal changes, gynaecological surgery, and other health conditions can all cause anorgasmia.

Being a Sex Educator with Anorgasmia

So here I am, embodying the contradiction of being a sex educator who is not only unable to orgasm, but is also consistently failing to address what is “wrong” with their body. Here I am telling people they need to stop obsessing over orgasms and start enjoying sex for pleasure and connection… when I can rarely practice what I preach.

And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t enjoy sex for the sake of pleasure and connection because I do. Because I don’t cum, pleasure and connection pretty much constitute the whole deal to me. But to be completely honest, most of the time, I am immensely frustrated with my body. I feel betrayed. And I feel like my body has failed me.

I can’t seem to recall my first orgasms – or even whether I have ever actually experienced one. My first experiences with sex were turbulent, to put it mildly. But even now, when I am having super hot sex, when I am really turned on, and when I am having sex with someone who I trust and who cares about me, I cannot ever bring myself to climax. No matter the amount of adequate stimulation I am receiving. No matter how many sex toys I’m aiding myself with.

I always come super close to it, and then… I wish I could say it’s like a deer in headlights that simply stops and goes away, never to be seen again. But the reality is that the pleasure becomes unbearable at this point, and I ask my partner to stop (or I stop if I am masturbating).

Reactions are mixed. Some people (you guessed it, mostly cis men) don’t say a word, and I am not even sure they notice. Some seem puzzled and thrown off or ask me questions. I then explain what happens to my body. While there is a general understanding, most people seem very surprised by it.

Talking About It

Telling partners about my anorgasmia can be even more frustrating than having the condition itself. Attempting to articulate what happens to my body while I’m experiencing intense pleasure without ever being able to follow through puts me right in front of the issue I’ve consistently been trying to avoid (which is another perfect example of “do as I say, not as I do”). And the reason why I avoid the issue is that actively trying to overcome it seems way too overwhelming.

There’s something terrifying about realising that you are indeed in charge of your own pleasure. Your partners can aid and facilitate it but cannot create it from scratch and give it to you. If you want to experience it, you must show up for yourself. That can mean a few different things: communicating with your partner openly and honestly and asking for what you want, making time and being intentional about solo sex, or going to therapy and facing uncomfortable truths. Sometimes all three, and more, together.

For years, I’ve refused to address my anorgasmia in the name of pleasure. Because sex feels good no matter what. Because I can still feel close to my partner. And because I firmly reject all sorts of expectations around sex. Wanting more doesn’t make me a hypocrite, though. If you take away one thing from this post, let it be this: you can embrace orgasm-less pleasure while being curious and trying to overcome your limitations. I deserve powerful, earth-shattering orgasms, and so do you.

“You deserve pleasure” has become a popular catchphrase in sex-positive communities, and rightfully so. But to internalise this message is difficult. And if you’ve been struggling with depression, low self-esteem or sexual trauma, taking charge of your own pleasure can feel overwhelming and out of
reach. There’s no quick fix and no magic wand, but there is important work to do.

If you would like to support me in bringing more amazing guest writers to the site, the best way to do that is by becoming a supporter on Patreon. You can also chip in by buying me a virtual coffee!

How Wand Vibrators Helped Me Reclaim My Sexuality When Antidepressants Killed It

I’ve been on antidepressants for the majority of my adult life, in three separate stints (having come off them most recently earlier this year). I’m very pro medication for those who need it which, at the times I was taking it, I absolutely did. I’m not exaggerating when I say that those meds saved my life on more than one occasion.

Wand vibrators - Honey Wand from Honey Play Box
Honey Wand by Honey Play Box

But like any medications, antidepressants often have side effects, which can range in severity from mildly annoying to seriously debilitating. One of the worst side effects I experienced on two out of the three antidepressants I tried was a significant change to my sexuality. This manifested in different ways on each drug.

On Fluoxetine (Prozac), I pretty much lost my sex drive entirely for months. Anything that had been pleasurable just felt like… nothing. This wasn’t limited to sex, either – I also lost my appetite and all ability to derive pleasure from food. On Citalopram, I lost my ability to orgasm while my body adjusted to the meds. While this did have some pleasant results (particularly discovering that I have an orgasm denial kink), it was also upsetting and frustrating. Feeling like I had no control over my body and like I’d lost one of my greatest sources of pleasure was so damaging that I seriously considered coming off the meds that were otherwise helping with my depression.

Trying Sex Toys

The first time antidepressants killed my sex life, I was so thoroughly miserable (both from the depression and from the side effects of the meds) that I wasn’t even interested in reclaiming it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have sex or masturbate for about nine months at one stage. In hindsight, this probably made things even worse, because my sexuality has always been one of the key ways that I access pleasure and joy. At that time, I didn’t own any sex toys, and any touch from either myself or my partner left me cold.

The second time was a different matter, though. This time, the antidepressants actually took the edge off the worst of the sadness and hopelessness, and I still wanted sex. I just couldn’t orgasm, either with my partner or by myself. Though orgasm is not necessarily the goal of sex, this quickly became frustrating and then enraging. I felt like my body was betraying me. Like I had to choose between having a properly functioning brain and a satisfying sex life.

The turning point came when my then-partner pulled out a wand vibrator after about a month of this issue. That thing finally broke through the orgasm block. And, once that dam broke, it became easier and easier to get there again. I invested in a wand for myself pretty quickly after that, and it became my go-to toy.

Breaking Through the Depression-Haze

Even now, when I’m not currently on any psychiatric medication (though I accept I might be again in the future), I’m most likely to reach for my wand vibes when I’m in the middle of a bad depression funk. Contrary to popular belief, it’s still possible to feel horny at the same time as being depressed. Sad people need pleasure and orgasms, too! There have also been times when I haven’t felt horny, but I knew intellectually that an orgasm would make me feel better.

Sometimes, when I’m very very depressed, I feel as though there’s a kind of fog around me. The fog keeps me at least partly disconnected from everything and everyone around me. At its worst, it creates a sense of being somewhat outside and detached from my own body. In this state, many types of touch that would normally be pleasurable struggle to penetrate the fog. When that happens, I need intense stimulation and lots of it. It’s times like this that I might crave certain BDSM activities even more than usual. It’s also times like this when knock-your-socks-off powerful wand vibes are a Godsend.

The thing with my favourite wand vibes is that ultimately, they can wrench an orgasm from my body with very little active input from me. This has a lot of fun potential (forced orgasm scenes anyone?) It’s also extremely useful during periods of significant depression. If I want to orgasm at my own or a partner’s hand, or with a lower powered toy, it can be fun but often requires significant effort, mentally if not physically. With a powerful enough wand, I basically just put it in the right spot and wait for the orgasm to happen. In this way, I can access pleasure and the positive physical and mental health benefits of orgasm even when I feel so low I don’t want to leave my bed.

Sexual Pleasure Matters

When someone is dealing with severe health issues, either physical or mental, it’s often tempting to see sexual pleasure as trivial. Certainly when I spoke to my doctor about the side effects of my various medications, they dismissed my concerns. Did I want to be able to orgasm or did I want to not be sad? Because I couldn’t have both.

Except I actually could, and I needed and deserved to have both.

If you’re struggling with pleasure or orgasm due to health issues and medication, I want you to hear this: sexual pleasure matters! It’s not trivial and it’s not unimportant. If it’s important to you, then it matters. And you deserve to have what you need to feel sexually satisfied – whether that’s a change of medication, a super powerful vibrator, or just to change up what you’re doing.

Thanks to Honey Play Box for sponsoring this post. All views and experiences are my own!

Sex Tips for Bad Depression Days

Hi, I’m Amy and I have depression. (Plus anxiety, PTSD, and a whole fun laundry list of Brain Stuff! But today we’re focusing on depression).

My depression and I have learned to live with each other over the years. It’s not exactly a good relationship, but we’ve reached an uneasy truce of sorts. One of the biggest challenges for me has been navigating the impact of depression on my sexuality.

To that end, here are some of the things I’ve learned about sex on bad depression days. Take the ones that work for you, discard the rest. We’re all different, and what works for me might not work for you.

It’s okay to not have sex

I feel like this should-be-obvious-but-isn’t point is often missed out of conversations about sex and depression. If you just can’t right now, that’s okay! You’re no less of a partner or a sex-positive person if you sometimes can’t or don’t want to have sex at all.

If you don’t feel like it? Give yourself a break and let your libido return in its own time.

But you’re also allowed to want sex!

There’s a school of thought (that I hate) that says it’s not okay to have sex with a depressed person. Well if that was the case, I wouldn’t have gotten laid at all since… March?

If you want to have sex, even while you’re depressed, that’s okay! As long as you have capacity to consent, there’s no reason not to go ahead and enjoy having sex if you want to.

One of the worst things past partners have done when I’ve been depressed is decline sex (that they otherwise would have wanted) to “protect me from myself”. A depressed person is still a grown-ass adult capable of making choices, and doesn’t need to be protected from their own desire for sex.

See sex as self care

If you’d like to have sex and think it would make you feel better, why not conceptualise it as being in the same category as drinking a glass of water, going for a walk, or meditating? That is, as an act of self-care.

I find this particularly useful when it comes to masturbation. If I push through the fog and get myself to masturbate, an orgasm will invariably make me feel better… or at least help me sleep (which will make me feel better).

Have low-energy sex

For many people, including me, one of the primary symptoms of depression is debilitating exhaustion. When I’m in that space, four-hour marathon fuck sessions in all kinds of creative positions are just not going to happen.

But lying back while my partner fucks me? Crawling over their lap for a spanking? Pushing a wand vibrator against my junk (possibly through clothing) and just leaving it there until I come? That I can do!

Use the physical to take you out of your head

Lots of people find intense workouts or adrenaline-fuelled challenges comforting when they’re depressed. This is because focusing on something very physical can take your focus away from the dark places your brain is going to.

For me, that intense physical experience is sex and/or kink. If I have highly physical sex, it allows me to focus on something else besides the hell my brain is dragging me through. Whether it’s the thud of body-on-body or the slap of a heavy flogger across my butt, physical sensations take me out of my depression spiral and ground me in the moment.

Honour where your body is at

Sometimes, depression can mess with physical arousal. In other words, the brain might be willing, but the body has other ideas. For people with penises, this might result in difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. People with vulvas might struggle with a lack of natural lubrication.

The best way to have great sex on bad depression days is to honour where your body is and meet it there. That means staying curious, staying adaptable, and trying not to get frustrated or cast blame.

If you can, see it as an opportunity for learning and experimentation. If you want to have sex but your penis just isn’t getting hard today, why not pleasure your partner with your hand, your mouth, or a toy? And if genital stimulation is difficult right now, you could trade massages, experiment with kink, or just hold your partner and whisper filth in their ear while they jerk off.

Use the tools that help

Sex toys are amazing any time, but they really come into their own for me on bad depression days. If a partner’s bio-dick isn’t getting hard (or they don’t feel like using it), they can use a dildo on me. If I’m not up for penetration, clitoral vibes can provide tonnes of pleasure.

Then of course there’s probably my favourite depression-sex tool of all time: lube! When I’m sad, I can be mentally turned on but my body might not have the physical response to match. Tonnes of lube keeps things painless and fun.

So there you have it – my sex-and-depression tips. I’d love to know if any of these work for you, or if you have any favourite strategies I’ve not thought of!

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Masturbation Monday: Discovering My Denial Kink

Eventually, my Masturbation Monday pieces will probably move back into the realm of erotic fiction. But for now I’m not really feeling it so much. While thinking what to write this morning, I realised – I can’t believe I’ve never written the origin story of my main, ultimate, One Kink To Rule Them. So let’s talk about how I learned I have an orgasm control/denial kink.

Content warning: this one talks about mental health and makes brief mention of abuse in a relationship

An unfortunate side effect…

SSRIs can be brilliant. They can also be the fucking devil. For me, they were both. I was 21 and in my final year of university when my mental health took an extreme downturn, almost entirely – I realise now – as a result of being with a seriously abusive partner.

After a couple of weeks on citalopram, it actually did help. Somewhat. It mellowed out my extreme anxiety and took the edge off the worst of my depression. But it also had another effect: it made it impossible for me to orgasm.

I didn’t own any sex toys at that point, and always masturbated with my fingers. I first realised that something was wrong during a solo session where, whatever I did, I simply could not get myself over the edge. The same thing happened when I had sex with my then-partner. Things that usually worked just… didn’t. It was like there was a thick blanket between my cunt and anything that touched it, dulling sensation and making things that had previously been reliable orgasm triggers just feel… sort of nice.

Discovering denial…

I eventually broke through this orgasm block with a high-powered vibrator, and things got better after that. (Temporary anorgasmia is, it turns out, a known side effect. And I’m sure that part of the problem was psychological – worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to come is hardly conducive to great orgasms.)

But the weird thing was that, on some level, I kind of enjoyed it.

I didn’t enjoy not having the choice. I didn’t enjoy the fact that my body seemed to be betraying me. But the lack of orgasms itself? Yeah, I realised a few times that I was definitely getting a kick out of that. The frustration was, in and of itself, powerfully erotic. Finding myself constantly horny, almost always thinking about sex on some level, getting soaking wet so damn easily. The way that I’d still be aroused and unsatisfied after a sex session, and have to stop myself from squirming too much as my Dom slept peacefully next to me. Feeling my clit twitching, demanding attention that I knew wouldn’t be satisfying.

I vividly remember the first time I reached a hard edge. I was rubbing my clit harder and harder, feeling the wave of orgasm rising, sure that this was the time I’d be able to get myself over the edge. But it just… hit a certain level and then stopped. There was no peak, no satisfying spasms or clenching, no relief or release. I did it again and then again, trying in vain to push myself over the edge. I had to stop eventually because the overstimulation was starting to hurt. But that awakened something in me right then. Something that has played, to a greater or lesser extent, into the overwhelming majority of the sexual fantasies I’ve had in the years since then.

After breaking through the SSRI-induced orgasm issue, I mentioned this to my then-partner and asked if we could play with it. We did. I’m not ready to write about sex things I did with him in a positive way – honestly I’m not sure I ever will be – but suffice to say that getting to explore this kink was one of the few good things that came out of that time.

How did you discover your favourite kink?

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Masturbation Monday: Masturbating When Depressed

I know I’m depressed when I start masturbating not out of horniness, but out of a desire to just feel something. I know I’m really depressed when I stop masturbating completely.

Heads up: this one talks about severe depression and briefly mentions suicidal ideation. I also discuss needle play in a kink context. Please take care of yourselves.

The reasons for the former are perhaps self-explanatory. When you’re depressed, you can feel adrift, listless and lost. Finding a way to simply become grounded in your body again can be tremendously helpful. Orgasm releases endorphines and dopamine, the body’s natural “happy” chemicals. That’s why you sometimes feel spacey and euphoric after really good sex.

As both a writer and a person with a laundry list of mental health issues, I spend a lot of my life in my head. And my head isn’t always a calm and happy place to be. This means that the opportunity to get out of my head and into my body is precious. Masturbation can be a way to give that to myself.

Even if I don’t really want to masturbate, I sometimes make myself because I know it will help. It’s a bit like making yourself drink a glass of water when you’re feeling crappy. You don’t wanna, exactly, but you know it’ll make you feel better so you do it. And usually it does help, at least for a short while.

The latter, though, is harder to both explain and deal with.

When I’m in my deepest, darkest pit of depression – the kind where I either cry for days or lie on the sofa doing nothing while I seriously contemplate killing myself – I sort of lose the ability to properly feel anything physical. I’ll know intellectually that I am, for example, hungry or thirsty or needing to pee or that my left arm has gone to sleep. But I don’t really feel it, at least not in the usual way. It’s like all sensation is masked under a thick layer of cotton wool or a heavy fog. The best way I can describe it is that my sadness is so dense that it sits around my body like a physical barrier.

It’s at this point in depression that my sexuality completely vanishes. It’s at this stage where I’ll recoil if a lover touches me, and beg my partners not to talk about anything sexy. “I can’t bear it,” I wrote to one of my lovers the last time I was this sort of depressed. “Can we just forget I even have genitals for a bit?”

It’s at times like this that I neglect this blog and my social media accounts and seriously consider just shutting it all down because I’ll never ever want to have sex again anyway , right?

I think there’s another element to it, too. Depression, for many sufferers, is intimately bound up with feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing. This is definitely the case for me. When I’m in the grips of it, I feel on a deep level that I’m somehow bad, broken, not worthy. And of course that drives a feeling that I don’t deserve pleasure, so why would I have sex or masturbate?

I’ve tried, in the past, to use kink to pull myself out of this headspace. The results have been mixed. Partners are often, very understandably, reluctant to do things like hit me when my ability to consent may be compromised by my mental state. This is especially true when I’m in the aforementioned self-loathing spiral. On at least one occasion, a Dominant partner has realised that I’m asking them to hurt me not out of kinky desire, but out of a feeling that I need to be punished for some fundamental flaw in me… and, rightfully, refused to play under those circumstances.

On another occasion a few years ago, I invited Fondlebeast over when I was in the depths of this kind of depression. I asked him to do play piercing (sometimes called needle play) on me. The express reason I asked for this was “I want to feel something so I know I’m still alive”. And you know what? It actually did help.

As an educator I don’t necessarily advocate for this approach. But in that instance and in that time, it was what I needed and it worked. There was also a very specific relational context at play. I’ve known Fondlebeast for well over a decade and we’ve played together dozens if not hundreds of times.

To bring this back around to masturbation, though, I really don’t have any easy conclusions or solutions. When the fog of depression is this dense, I don’t think the “just make yourself masturbate because you know it’ll help” would be effective. Chances are I wouldn’t physically be able to reach orgasm or probably even feel much pleasure anyway.

Sometimes mental illness just fucking sucks and all we can do is sit in the suckyness, waiting for it to pass. One of the most useful coping strategies I’ve found is to remember that it is always temporary. The fog always does lift. My sex drive always does come back. Eventually, I feel wanting of and deserving of pleasure again.

Something else I’ve found helpful is to think of my sex drive as the canary in the coal mine of my mental health. Under this schema, losing all desire is a warning light to heed, rather than a symptom to manage away.

How do you handle masturbation and sex when you’re depressed, lovelies?

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Masturbation Monday: 5 Great Reasons to Wank

I’m trying to embrace the spirit of Masturbation Monday as being for both smutty stories (things that make you want to masturbate) and essays about masturbation. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about good reasons to wank – besides the obvious “because I’m horny” – and have realised they are surprisingly diverse. So here’s five great reasons to masturbate today!

To help you fall asleep

I masturbate before bed probably five or six nights out of seven, on average. If my brain is feeling restless or my body won’t quite shut down but I need to get some sleep, a quick wank is an ideal way to help me doze off. Canadian sexuality therapist Judith Golden explains that ” because blood pressure is lowered and relaxation is increased through the release of endorphins, masturbation is a good sleeping pill.” (Source here.)

For pain relief

Back before I got an IUD, I used to suffer from absolutely debilitating menstrual cramps. They could render me virtually bedridden, unable to go about my normal tasks. Over the years, I learned that orgasm was one of the few things that really helped.

One study from the University of Münster in Germany found that 60% of their participants experienced reduced migraine symptoms as a result of engaging in sexual activity. Stefan Evers, MD, believes that this could also have to do with the endorphins released at the point of orgasm. (Source here.)

There’s much more research to be done, of course, but so far the findings seem to agree that orgasm can have a positive impact on pain levels.

To pick you up if you’re feeling down

I always joke (darkly) that I know I’m depressed if I’m masturbating more often to help me feel alive… and really depressed if I just don’t want to wank at all. Seriously, though, despite outdated nonsense about too much masturbation being bad for our emotional wellbeing, masturbation can be great as a tool for managing mental health. It’s a great self care technique, a way to show yourself some love and affection, and I’ve found that the post-wank haze breaks through the depressive fog like little else.

Phychologist Jennifer Rhodes, PsyD, suggests that “masturbation helps to release dopamine and oxytocin, the feel-good chemicals, which would help with symptoms of anxiety or depression.” (Source: here.)

To turn your partner on or to explore a different kind of sexual intimacy

Let’s get a little sexier, shall we? For many people, masturbating in front of their partner or watching their partner wank is sexy as hell. Masturbating for your partner can help to arouse them and get them in the mood for sexy time with you, as well as giving them vital information about how you’d like to be touched.

Don’t forget that masturbating together doesn’t have to lead to sexual contact with the other person or to intercourse. Masturbating side by side, or masturbating while your partner holds you, kisses you, or talks dirty to you, is sex in and of itself – and it can be amazing! Whether one of you isn’t in the mood but is happy to help the other get off, one or both of you isn’t up for sex for physical or mental health reasons, or you’re just feeling like a relaxed session of getting yourselves off, shared masturbation is consistently underrated. Try it!

To learn more about your body

It’s a sex education cliche, but it’s also true that it’s much harder to show a partner how to please you sexually if you don’t know how to please yourself. Masturbation is a brilliant way to explore your own body, your arousal and responses and desires, in a safe and low-pressure way. Whether you’re not having partnered sex yet (or don’t want to ever!) or have been having regular sex for decades, there are endless new things we can learn about ourselves. This is especially true because our bodies change as we age.

Jenny Block writes that “masturbating allows you to stay in touch with your body – how it feels, how it likes to be touched, what brings you pleasure. Your body is yours. It’s your place, your home, your pleasure. It is your right and honour to enjoy it. Sharing it can be a wonderful thing. But if we don’t masturbate, we risk becoming someone else’s vision of ourselves and not remaining true to our desires.” (Source: Block, The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex, p. 85.)

Have you found great reasons to wank beyond the obvious one? Tweet me or share in the comments!

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[Guest Post] Anxiety and Sex: How Panic Attacks During Sex Led to Me Getting the Help I Needed by Ruby Bell

I knew I wanted Ruby Bell to guest blog for me the moment I read one of her several brilliant posts for Girl on the Net. Thankfully, she agreed and pitched me this fabulous piece. You know that, here at C&K HQ, we’re all about the filthiest, sexiest smut… but we’re ALSO all about talking frankly about mental health and all the other complications of life. I’ll hand you over to Ruby, who is going to tell us all about panic attacks and sex. – Amy x

My partner has me against the wall. He has me blindfolded and he’s using a very powerful vibrator on my clitoris. These are some of my absolute favourite things… so why am I moments away from having a full-on panic attack? 

Living with anxiety isn’t easy, but it is something we all know a lot more about these days. It’s brilliant that people are talking more about mental health, and most of us are feeling a little less intimidated about sharing our true thoughts and feelings with those we love. Despite all of this progress, it doesn’t make having panic attacks any easier for those of us who struggle with them, and having panic attacks during sex is a part of anxiety not many people talk about. It’s certainly not something I ever expected to have to deal with. 

So, let’s talk about some of the science behind the madness of our minds. The release of oxytocin during sex magnifies emotions as well as promoting trust and empathy with your partner. This suggests that it can encourage a release of feelings that may have nothing to do with what is actually going on in that moment. Maybe you’ve had an argument with your mum recently. Maybe you’ve had a fucking awful week at work or maybe your mental health has just generally been suffering lately. Now you’re in this safe place with the person you trust the most, and all of these things are coming out. It’s quite common for some people to cry during sex, and this can easily go from a few tears to a panic attack if you suffer with anxiety or depression as well. 

The first time I had a panic attack during sex was only the second or third panic attack I’d ever had, which meant I hadn’t yet learnt how to spot the signs of an attack rising or how to calm myself down and prevent it from getting any worse. I barely even knew what a panic attack was! This ended up with me having a pretty out of control, I-can’t-breathe, sobbing-my-heart-out kind of panic attack in front of my (still pretty new at the time) partner… who is standing there enjoying edging me, watching me writhe and squirm with a thick hard cock as he does. 

Fortunately, he dealt with the situation even better than I ever could have asked for. He turned the vibrator off, he removed my blindfold, and when I replaced it with my hands to try and hide my embarrassment he pulled me close to him and held me against his chest. He asked if he had done anything wrong. I sobbed that he hadn’t, that I was enjoying it and I didn’t know why this was happening which actually panicked me even more. He told me it was fine, he told me to breathe and he walked me around the house reminding me to keep breathing. At the time, I thought it was strange and a little comical that two semi-turned-on people were walking around the house together, completely naked for no apparent reason as my face dripped with tears and mascara and my chest heaved with heavy, struggling breaths. I know now that the walking helped to ground me. It helped distract from the panic as well as allowing me to feel close to and loved by my partner. 

I’m lucky – now that I have worked on my mental health and my panic attacks in particular, if one does start to rise in me I know how to calm myself down and can reign it in before the main symptoms begin around 90% of the time. But having panic attacks during sex did two wonderful things for me – although I didn’t know there was anything wonderful about it at the time of course.

First of all, it changed the dynamic of my relationship completely. Up until the point of that first attack, my partner and I were still holding back things during sex and I was being careful not to come across as overly emotional or ‘crazy.’ Looking back, it was probably the reason that first attack manifested itself – I hadn’t been honest with my partner about the feelings I was having in our relationship and I was hiding who I really was, which is never a good thing. This attack led to me and my partner connecting emotionally on a whole new level that we never had before. I learned that my partner was not just the tough guy exterior that came across. Showing my own vulnerability and opening up to him allowed him to do the same with me, and this led to us having a much stronger relationship in the long run. I now know I can talk to my partner if I’m feeling anxious, depressed, panicked or anything else. I can tell him if I don’t even know what’s causing those feelings and we can deal with it together.

The second thing that first attack during sex did for me was make it clear I did have a problem that needed to be addressed. Up until that point I had struggled with my mental health for years without ever really facing it. I had several extremely unhealthy coping mechanisms which were in fact making things worse, and having my partner walk me around and remind me to breathe led me to learning how to deal with these feelings effectively. From that experience, I learned coping techniques that I still use today. Having that outburst in front of another person meant I had to face what was going on. It meant someone else could see that actually I wasn’t okay, I wasn’t coping. This led to me getting the help and support I so badly needed, as well as working on my communication regarding my mental health overall. 

I hope that anyone else dealing with panic attacks during sex – or at any other time – takes it as a sign that they need to deal with the emotions causing these attacks. Listen to the fact that your body has felt comfortable enough to open up fully in front of the person you are making love with. I think we all need to listen more to what our bodies and emotions are telling us. And perhaps if we take the time to stop and listen to ourselves, then there is a good chance things won’t ever need to get as far as a panic attack.

Ruby Bell writes erotica and is passionate about sharing her filthy sexual experiences and fantasies. Her sex-positive writing also includes mental health, self-care, and educational pieces. She wants to spread both arousal and information! She’s a sucker for BDSM, chubby women and growing her own herbs and spices.  

Ruby is a brilliantly smutty writer who has shared her work on Girl On The Net’s amazing blog a number of times over the past few years. You can check out some of her work here (warning – very NSFW) and keep yourself up to date on what she’s doing at @absolutely_ruby on Twitter, where you’ll find upcoming articles, occasional audio porn, and whatever else pops into her head. Ruby is also currently working on her first novel with hopes of publishing next year. 

Keeping Your Sexy Going When Times Are Hard

We all go through hard times in our lives. It’s part of being human. Today’s prompt from Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s, which I’m working from for #KinkMonth, is all about maintaining kinky fuckery in a relationship when times are tough. She asks:

Does it surprise you that you might not maintain the same level of D/s during the stressful times? Do you think you know how you’ll handle your relationship when it does?

Now, I’m a person for whom sex is very important. I have (arguably, depending upon who you ask) an above-average drive and sex is a really important part of intimate relationships for me. This doesn’t change when times get stressful. It just means I have to be a bit more creative to make sure that I continue to prioritise sex in my life.

Here’s some things that have worked for me. Maybe they’ll help you, too, next time “life” gets in the way.

Make dates with your partner

If you have a partner or partners, schedule dates and stick to them. During this time, make a rule that you won’t answer your phones, check email or discuss the current stressful topic. Instead, whatever you enjoy doing together, do that: make some tasty food, order in, watch a film, take a walk, share a hot bath. Relax and practice being present with and grateful for each other. This is less about “scheduling time for sex” and more about carving out time for your relationship and making sure you stay connected to each other. Do this, and the sex should follow.

Make dates with yourself

Whether you have a partner or not, making time for yourself is important. Put “Me Time” in your Google calendar if you have to! A minimum of one four-hour block a week is ideal if you can do it. During this time, you should only do things that feel good to you: read a good book, watch your favourite TV show, surf the internet guilt-free, go for a run, cuddle your pet, write in your journal. Whatever feels good. During this time, give yourself permission to do things like watch porn, read erotica, fantasise and masturbate if you want to. Again, this isn’t about “scheduling time to jerk off” – it’s about freeing up time and space to focus on yourself and give yourself permission to feel good.

Explore erotic energy without penetration, or orgasm, necessarily being the goal

When was the last time you and your partner just had a heavy make-out session that didn’t necessarily lead to any kind of genital contact? What about the last time you shared a sexy shower, gave each other massages, or even just casually hung out naked because you could? Erotic, sexual and intimate energy can take many forms and we’re so accustomed, once we get into sexual relationships, to rushing straight into genital-focused sex with orgasm as the assumed end goal. When times are hard, it can be the ideal time to explore other types of touch, connection and intimacy. If your brain won’t switch off long enough to let you reach climax, or your cock isn’t getting hard when you want it to, this can be a beautiful way to maintain a sexual connection with your partner and yourself.

Biology comes first

This is so basic, but don’t underestimate the power of trying to sleep 8 hours per night, drink plenty of water, eat well, and get plenty of exercise and fresh air. These simple rituals of taking care of yourself can completely transform how you feel. None of us can have sizzling sex when we’re exhausted or malnourished.

Get a change of location for stressful subjects

I have been known to do it at times, but generally I really prefer not having conversations about difficult topics or current stresses in mine and Mr CK’s bedroom. This is because our room, for me, is a place for cuddles, restful sleep, and… sex. I understand being able to do this is a privilege and not everyone has that ability. For me, though, a change of location – ideally to a pub, coffee shop or even just taking a walk – for talking things through can help to keep the stress out of our sexy space. Even having hard conversations in the living room instead of the bedroom can be useful.

Give yourself permission to NOT want sex

This might sound counter-intuitive, but it’s actually really, really important. Nothing will kill your libido faster than beating yourself up for the times when you DON’T want to have sex! It’s okay to not want to have sex sometimes, whether that’s due to tiredness or work stress or depression or the fact that you’d really rather just watch Netflix. Beating yourself up makes the very idea of sex into a stressful and painful topic. Giving yourself permission to not want sex sometimes also gives you permission for the times you do want it.

I hope some of these ideas will be useful to you the next time you’re having a hard time but would like to keep getting your sexy on. You’ve got this. I believe in you.

Kinky item of the day: Gags! I adore gags. What about this large ball gag, which is silicone – meaning it’s non-porous and will stay hygienic for longer?

FYI, this post contains affiliate links. If you buy through it, I may make a small commission. This does not affect my opinions which are, and will always be, my own.

Sex Not Stigma: Using My Sexuality to Manage My Mental Health

Content note: this post discusses mental health struggles in detail and includes slurs and a brief reference to suicide.

Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay. Thousands of brave people have spoken out about their struggles with various mental health conditions. I shared a little bit of my story on Twitter too, if you’re interested. Short version: I live with depression and anxiety.

I use a whole litany of tools to manage my mental health. I take medication, I’m working with The Best Therapist Ever, and I’ve learned to effectively regulate my physical and mental energy levels. I’ve also consistently found sex, masturbation and kink to be really useful and positive items in this toolbox.

#SexNotStigma

It is ridiculous to me that today, in twenty-freaking-seventeen, that there is STILL such stigma around both mental illness and sex. They are two of the great taboos that plague our society.

As a woman, admitting that you like to have sex can be a radical – and dangerous – act.  Speaking up about a mental health struggles is risky and brave for anybody to do. Words like “crazy” and “psycho” are thrown around with abandon. People with mental health issues are routinely portrayed as dangerous. Services that actually help us are thin on the ground and getting cut left, right and centre. Being a woman who talks about sex and is also open about her mental health. Ohhh, boy…

I’ve had my promiscuity chalked up to my mental health conditions more times than I can count. (“Poor girl, she’s acting out sexually because she’s depressed” at best, or “crazy whore!” at worst.) Interestingly, the same has also been true in reverse (“you wouldn’t be so depressed if you’d stop sleeping around!”) But that’s not how this works! I’m a proud slut[1] AND I have a mental health condition. One did not cause the other and ceasing one[2] will not “cure” the other.

The #SexNotStigma campaign aims to break taboos when it comes to talking about sex, including that surrounding sex and mental health. This post is my attempt to add my voice to that vital conversation.

I wrote recently about how I don’t think “don’t play when you’re depressed” is useful or realistic advice, and today I want to expand on that and talk about why, far from being off-limits when I’m low, sexuality has probably helped save my life more than once.

Sex: intimacy, connection, love.

Some people want to be left alone and can’t bear to be touched when they’re depressed. My experience is usually the opposite. I want to be around the people I love and trust, to connect with them in deep and profound ways. Sex is one of the ways in which I connect with some of the important people in my life. Therefore, honestly, fucking my brains out (or at least fucking my sadness out for a while) is one of the best ways a partner can help me when I’m struggling.

Sex reminds me, viscerally and in the moment, that I am loved. For me, mental health wise, a really good fuck with someone I love is basically a cuddle on speed. Throw in a few dozen orgasms (yes, your girl over here is SUPER multi orgasmic) and you will see a marked improvement in the happiness of your Amy.

Sex helps me to focus on all the joyful things – pleasure, love, connection, vulnerability, sensation – in a world that’s fucked.

Sex literally reminds me that there’s so much to live for.

Masturbation: the ultimate self-love.

Self-loathing is a feature of my depression and an unwelcome visitor that likes to pop in from time to time. I’ve learned that the best way to combat it is to be excessively kind to myself – the way you’d be kind to a partner, friend or child who was in pain. Sometimes I take myself out for coffee and cake. Sometimes I give myself permission to stay in bed, read and nap – take a “mental health day,” if you will. And sometimes, I masturbate!

Aside from the obvious benefits of all the happy chemicals that are released at the point of orgasm, masturbation is a means of reminding myself that I am worthy and deserving of pleasure. And on the occasions when romantic rejection or the ending of a relationship triggers my depression, masturbation reminds me that my sexual (and loving!) relationship with myself is the first, last and most important one of my life.

Who needs that git who dumped me when you have cutting edge sex toys, am I right?

Kink: freedom in bondage.

Submitting to a safe partner can be really positive for me when I’m feeling low.

Kink, especially pain play, pulls me out of my head and into my body. It’s hard to be sad when all I can think about is the hand spanking my ass! It’s grounding. It makes all the noise in my head go quiet.

Submission makes me feel useful. When I feel worthless, a well-timed “good girl” can do wonders. To know that I am pleasing somebody else, that I am serving them, gives me a purpose. It reminds me that I have value.

Kink gives me permission to be vulnerable. Play gives me chance to cry if I need to, to scream if I want to, to get pent-up emotions out. It releases me from the responsibility of decision making, of caring for myself or anyone else, even if only for a short time. It gives me permission to just be.

Discovering new paths to pleasure.

Mental illness can impact sexuality in many ways. In particular, feeling very low can make it difficult to get in the right headspace to enjoy sex or orgasm. Certain types of common antidepressants including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) can also cause erectile dysfunction and anorgasmia. When I first started taking citalopram – a common SSRI – I lost my ability to orgasm for a month.

Was it hell? Yes. Did it also teach me something valuable, namely that I kinda have an orgasm denial kink? Also yes. While this is something I prefer to be voluntary and not drug-induced, going through this experience taught me something really valuable about my fetishes. So there’s value in that.

Problems such as ED and anorgasmia suck (if you’ll pardon the pun) but they also force you to get creative. I finally broke through my month-long dry spell with a high powered vibrator. That’s how I learned that I love really intense vibration! If your cock isn’t getting hard in the way you want it to, you might discover other routes to sexual bliss that you’d never have previously considered or bothered to try.

Integrating the two.

I’ve come to terms, over ten years of having a formally diagnosed mental health condition, that it’s not going away. It’s with me for life and I am better off learning how to manage it than hoping it will disappear. Just like a diabetic would take insulin every day, I take my antidepressants to keep me healthy. (Conceptualising my illness as being exactly comparable to a physical health issue – BECAUSE IT IS – has been surprisingly empowering.)

I’ve also grown into my sexuality in the last ten years. From a girl who was terrified to admit, even in a whisper, that she liked girls and might want to be spanked, I’ve grown into a woman who owns her desires and explores them unapologetically.

And, crucially, I’ve learned to integrate these two things. When my bisexual, kinky and non-monogamous identities ceased to be sources of shame, my mental health directly improved as a result. When my condition started to be properly managed, my sex life improved instantly. And when I learned to use my sexuality to enhance my mental health, I gained a tool that has saved my life.

[1] Yay, reclaiming slurs!
[2] Because you can totally choose to stop being mentally ill, right?

This post was kindly sponsored by the lovely folks at Hot Octopuss, a fantastic and innovative sex toy company who are committed to tackling taboos around sex. Check out their brilliant range of products and their blog, where they talk sex, health and stigma.

A banner ad for sex toy company Hot Octopuss, who sponsored a post on sex and mental health

It’s Okay to Play When You’re Depressed

It’s #KinkMonth! I’m celebrating by writing a post each day inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s prompts. A week in and I can say that it’s been a brilliant and enlightening experience – I’m already thinking about things I hadn’t considered, or hadn’t considered in a long time, and looking at approaching them from different angles. Like something I deal with all the time: playing when you’re depressed.

Today’s prompt is all about negative emotions:

How do you handle negative emotions like anger, jealousy, and fear now? How do you expect that to be different in D/s?

If you’ve been doing kink for any length of time, you’ve probably heard “don’t play when you’re depressed,” “don’t play when your mental illness is flaring up,” or some variation thereof. While the sentiment kind of makes sense, I don’t think this is useful or even realistic advice. Let me tell you why.

For some of us, managing our mental health is a daily reality.

Statistics state that 1 in 4 adults will suffer from a mental health condition during their life. For some of us, these conditions are permanent. I have depression and anxiety which, well-managed though they are, aren’t going away.

It’s actually really ableist to imply that someone who is suffering from a mental health condition can’t engage in kink, BDSM or sex. Why should only neurotypical people be able to enjoy kink? Why should mentally ill people only be able to partake in it on especially good days?

For some people, playing can actually help when they’re depressed.

Sometimes, when I’m bone-numblingly depressed, a good hard fucking or a nice cathartic spanking – the kind that makes me cry – can really help to lift my mood. It could be the rush of endorphins. It could be the feeling of being wanted. Maybe it’s the sheer release that comes from being pulled out of my head and into my body. I don’t know. Maybe it’s all of them in some combination. All I know is that sex and kink (including masturbation) can be really wonderful tools in managing my mental health.

Only you know your own limits.

Having said all this, there might be times where your mental health is in a place where playing really isn’t wise for you, but you’re the only person who can make that decision! You know your mind, your body and your condition, if you have one, the best. You know what types of scenes will work for you and what is likely to trigger you or be mentally unsafe, as well as if there’s a point where you can no longer meaningfully consent. No-one else knows these things as well as you do.

“Don’t play when you’re depressed” is vague and subjective to the point of meaninglessness. Different people’s definitions of “play” (as well as their definitions of what constitutes a good or bad mental health day) vary wildly.

Instead: cultivate self-knowledge and communication.

Learn your triggers, your tipping points and your safe limits. Look out for your partner’s best interests and expect them to look out for yours. Communicate, communicate and communicate some more!

Be excellent to yourself and to each other.

Kinky product of the day: A classic Wartenberg Pinwheel, which is great for sensation play and less scary than it looks! (It doesn’t break the skin. Promise.)

The above is an affiliate link and if you buy through it, I may make a small commission.