[Guest Post] Is All Sex Transactional? By Anaene Achinu

Today’s guest post comes from Anaene Achinu (she/her) who has written for Coffee & Kink once before. I’m thrilled to be hosting her words here again! Today she’s talking about transactional sex and the ways in which it can be problematic.

Amy x

Is All Sex Transactional? The Danger of Implied Terms in Sex

Very few things in life come ex gratia. Our basic needs – food, clothes and shelter – nearly always come at a price, regardless of the century, geographical location or culture you live in.

The world laughs at those who think life is a fruit tree, waiting to be plucked without a fee. The blurrier the transaction, the harder it is to get the best from it. This is why we have contracts, verbal agreements, implied terms and conditions, and so on.

When we fulfil our end of a bargain, we act in good faith, an interesting combination of hope and entitlement because, despite our finest attempts, the other party can still back out at the last minute.

Heterosexual sex is quite the phenomenon. Here we have two people, a man and a woman, in a position where they are to “consummate” their attraction to each other. However, in my experience, the bedroom tends to be more of a negotiation room. We are not inches away from the finish line, no, this is the climax.

Regardless of the physical stimulation experienced by both parties, society has never really considered sex to be anything more than an inconvenience for women, even when they proclaim otherwise. Pornography often teaches us that sex is a performance, a place where sex is acted upon a woman, a mere object and recipient to the erect pleasure of a man.

Even the LGBTQ section, especially lesbian content, is targeted for men; a virtual enactment of their fantasies. It is no wonder women, even the most libidinous, rarely have the luxury of seeing it from an uncomplicatedly carnal point of view. There is an imbalance somewhere.

The politics of sex shows us that sex is rarely solely about penetration. It is viewed as a prize awarded to the man for his efforts, his swaying and wooing and spending. In the case where a woman pursues it, it is empowering, flipping the script, asserting sexual autonomy, maybe even just an itch to scratch. Even when it is the other way around, the fact remains that sex is often viewed as trade-by-barter, a physical expression of a social, financial and at times emotional exchange.

I grew up with strong religious convictions, praying to the biblical God to wipe me clean, to rid me of my sex dreams, to aid me in my pursuit of sexual purity until marriage. And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for a childhood acquaintance five years ago.

Suddenly, the concept of lust, a sin I was told to flee from, felt like a cruel joke, something only a wicked person would say. I did not go all the way with him, because my virginity was a badge of honor back then, but I had tasted the forbidden fruit.

Of course, this was not a purely sexual arrangement. He had to wine me, dine me. Text me every other minute. Send a meme. Compliment me, unprovoked. Give and take. He gave me his time, his ideas, his encouragement. I gave him my body. And although pleasurable to the both of us, it was clear who was the one in control. No malice, no dark undertone intended.

When you receive, be it gifts or sex or something else entirely, without stating your desires before, during or even after, you will lick the crumbs and say thank you. It was not a coincidence that as soon as we started making out regularly, the other perks evaporated. No more movie nights, no more open mics. The compliments still came, but mostly as a result of the acts I performed, or my reception of his skills.

Is that a bad thing?

It could be.

Financial, emotional, or social vulnerability can disrupt the germination of a mutually beneficial relationship. He pays for all of the meals, you love him more than you love yourself. Your biological clock is ticking. You have too much at stake. Exploitation sets in. It can be subtle or it can be overpowering, but it is bound to happen.

For a long time, I assumed that by acting in good faith, by holding up your end of the deal, the other party would do their own share of the work, and we would all live happily ever after. Oh, the joys of naive intelligence, where you are incapable of seeing past the logic of “doing the right thing”.

Then I met him. A man in a long-distance marriage who thought I was remarkable, who couldn’t get enough of me. The relationship had been blurry from the start, arising from a mentor/mentee relationship to surface level parental-style guidance, culminating in an expression of latent sexual feelings for a young, fresh girl with a sharp mouth not saddled down by marriage and children and a competitive career.

To an extent, we were kindred spirits. I was who he would have been if he had not given in to the conventions of a nuclear family. I was unattached, no obligations, no raison d’etre other than to simply be. He was an embodiment of rags to riches, a walking parable of the looming fear of tasting all too familiar poverty once again.

He worked hard, although he was looking for ways to work smart. Meeting him in that hotel room was an act of curiosity, digging into what it really means when sex is a weapon of mass destruction. Bottom power. And it worked, when I did not demand much. The potency dwindled when I started asking for things outright. Suddenly, our text messages were filled with excuses.

But that’s not all. As I demanded more, he demanded I earned it by risking my safety, proposing all sorts of adventures, looking for adrenaline.

The ultimate was when he asked me to come to his family home, posing as an employee. It baffled me, the audacity. What can one say? Tit for tat. I will acknowledge that at the time, I was unemployed, flat out broke, financially vulnerable, all known to him. Yet, he had every intention to make me work for it, to the detriment of my personhood.

At first, I left the affair wounded. Had I been in love with him, or wanted something more from him besides the clandestine meetings or intellectual sparrings, perhaps one could have questioned my lucidity. But the terms and conditions were implied.

I present to you my youth, my freedom, my body. You buy the meals, the experiences, the gadgets. The obvious disparity in age, class and pedigree. You pay in part and in full. However, the other party in this contract showed that he was not in it for the long haul, so I dissolved the contract.

We live in a world where no matter the role you play, as a woman you take the heat for it. You owe it to yourself to be explicit in your wants and needs, to take control of whatever capacity you can, regardless of the nature of the sexual relationship.

Most women learn this with time and age. But we must document these things. Archiving our experiences will prevent a lot of unnecessary trauma in the future. It is an honor to discuss this, however morally questionable to some. I continuously look forward to the possibilities, of a life where women are confident, where they have less to lose, and ultimately, where the scale is balanced.

Anaene Achinu is a New York based writer.

[Book Review] “Position of the Week” from Lovehoney

Happy Friday, friends! And welcome to day 4 of #12DaysofLovehoney, where I am bringing you a new product review every single day. Check out the whole series. Today we’ve got something a bit different. Instead of a toy, we’re looking at the Position of the Week book from Lovehoney.

What is Position of the Week?

Position of the Week is a book of 52 sex positions (the idea being that there’s one for each day of the week – “52 positions for a year of pleasure,” as the cover says.) It’s a pocket-sized hardback book.

Position of the Week book

Each double-page spread includes a silhouette-style drawing of a couple having sex in the given position on the left page. The right page gives the position number, name, and a brief description.

Who is it for?

I have to be upfront: this book is very, very heterosexual.

Every position is designed with a cisgender male/female couple having penetrative (penis-in-vagina) sex in mind. The illustrations even feature a woman drawn in pink and a man drawn in blue. There’s also a lot of gendered language throughout (“he does X, she does Y”, “girl power”, and so on.)

Seriously, it’s so freaking straight.

Pages from the Position of the Week book

Now, a lot of the positions in this book would actually work for different body and genital configurations. Many of the positions would work just as well for two vulva owners using a strap-on, or for anal sex with any configuration of bodies.

So queer and trans folks absolutely could use it. But the language and the whole aesthetic is so cishetero that it’s likely to feel alienating. I feel pretty put off by it and I’m a cis woman in a relationship with a cis man (though I am not straight.)

So yeah. This is a book for cishetero couples who have p-in-v sex. Let’s go with that.

Consent disclaimer = yay!

On the 3rd page, after the welcome but before the positions start, you get a little consent disclaimer. This states that you should talk before trying something new, that everything must be 100% consensual, and that you should stop if anything hurts or is uncomfortable.

It’s pretty much Consent 101 summed up in 33 words. But you know what? I’m here for it. Because fundamentally, this book isn’t for people like me – sex nerds who engage in non-traditional relationships and have long and nuanced conversations about sexuality out of academic as well as personal interest. This book is for people who are likely newer to sexual experimentation – many of whom might understand that consent is important, but not have a sophisticated understanding of exactly what that means or how to talk about it.

Basically, what Lovehoney have done with this little one-pager helps to normalise and demystify consent conversations. And I’m very here for that.

So what about the actual positions?

A lot of them are pretty good! We have some obvious-but-decent choices (doggy style, sit-down sex, spooning) and some creative interpretations on classics like reverse cowgirl and standing sex.

Others were definitely created for the athletically-inclined. No. 30 (“the Can-Can”) requires the vulva-owning partner to be able to get their foot on their partner’s shoulder while standing. That is… simply not going to be possible for a huge number of bodies, including mine!

Pages from the Position of the Week book

Positions like the “Standing Thrust” and “Up Against It” require the penetrating partner to be able to support most or all of their partner’s weight while thrusting. Again: just not going to happen. And I’m going to go ahead and call No. 47 (“the Raunchy Rider”) physiologically impossible for 99% of people.

Pages from the Position of the Week book

This book clearly assumes that women are tiny, petite, and flexible, while men are muscular and strong. If that’s not you, it can lead to some pretty negative body feelings.

On the plus side, a number of the position descriptions reference clitoral stimulation, which the vast majority of people with vulvas need in order to get off. So that’s something.

So do I recommend it?

Meh.

If you’re cis, heterosexual, skinny/strong, and athletic, you’ll probably get something from it. Otherwise, you might find a few interesting position ideas but largely be left thinking “…yaeah but my body doesn’t work that way.”

Position of the Week retails for £6.99 from Lovehoney. A fun stocking-stuffer if you’re within the very specific demographic it caters to! Otherwise, don’t bother.

Thanks to Lovehoney for sending me this product to review! Views are, as always, my own. Affiliate links appear in this and all toy review posts. Want to support the blog? Signing up to my newsletter and buying me a coffee are great ways to do that!

Five Things I, a Swinger, Hate About the Swinging Scene

I consider myself a swinger, in that I’m in a committed Primary, living-together-as-married relationship wherein we have sex with other people outside of our relationship together. (We’re also polyamorous and form independent romantic/sexual relationships with other people – yes it is possible to be both, but that’s a topic for another day.)

There are a lot of things I love about swinging – the opportunity to play with all different people with all different kinds of bodies, the voyeuristic fun of watching my partner playing with someone else, the exhibitionist joy of being watched, getting to indulge in different kinks and fetishes, the fact that swing clubs are more accessible to me in a variety of ways than ‘normal’ nightclubs ever were, the social aspect of meeting lots of new and interesting people, and much more.

But the longer I spend in the swinging scene, the more problems I see with it too – and that saddens me. Mr CK and me don’t intend to stop swinging any time soon, but we’ve certainly become choosier and choosier about the kinds of behaviour we’re willing to accept and the kind of venues and events we feel comfortable frequenting. So here are five things I see all too often in the swing scene which I do not love.

The racism.

I’m white. Mr CK is white. However, we’ve made a policy of blocking and not engaging in anyone who has any variation on “white people only!!” or “no blacks or Asians” on their swinger profile. (We are not looking for ally cookies here. This is basic fucking human decency, not some awesome selfless act of deigning to not fuck racists.) Our block list is ENORMOUS from this alone. Swinging has always been, and sadly still is, largely the realm of upper-Middle class white people. Unfortunately, huge swathes of this group seem to think it’s entirely reasonable to make a snap judgement on every single potential partner of certain races. It’s not “just a preference,” people. It’s racist.

The body shaming.

I keep my body hair fully natural and have done for a good couple of years at this point. My partners love it but, much more importantly, I love it. However, the number of people whose profile includes a line along the lines of “we’re clean shaven everywhere and expect the same” is astonishing. And it’s not just body hair – fat people, disabled people, men shorter than 6ft, men without big muscles, and non-gargantuan penises also get hate piled on them from people screaming “just a preference!!!!” all over their profiles. We block those people too. Are you surprised our pool is diminishing every time we log on?

The heteronormativity.

Holy shit, the heteronormativity! The assumption is that if you’re a swinger, you’re a cis person married to another cis person of the opposite binary gender. People who break this mold are few and far between, and often treated as some kind of exotic curiosity. Similarly, it’s often expected that women will play with other women, but only if their bisexuality is performed in a way that’s centred around men’s visual enjoyment. And as for the men? It’s still taboo at best to be a bisexual man in the mainstream swinging scene – some clubs even go as far as banning man-on-man action (we won’t go to those clubs.)

The vanilla-normativity.

At our first swing night, we asked about kink rules. The club owner, who knew us from fetish events we’d attended in the same venue, was hesitant. “Um, well, I guess light kink is probably okay. But don’t scare my regulars.” So, spanking? Floor-work bondage? Nope and nope. Turns out “light kink” translated to “sex that is maybe a tiny bit rougher than missionary-with-the-lights-out.” Okay then. When we did engage in a bit of rope play in a semi-private room at the same club, we gathered a crowd of sweet-but-clueless gawkers who thought they’d never seen anything quite so weird in their lives before. Obviously not everyone has to be kinky, and I understand vanilla swingers might not want blood being drawn in their nice clean clubs or bullwhips flying everywhere, but being treated like a sideshow because we like something a little different gets wearing really fast.

The toxic masculinity.

My above point about male bisexuality being taboo is relevant here – many of the men I meet through the swing scene are not just straight but aggressively straight – the idea of even being in proximity with another penis is terrifying and some couples even go as far as to say they won’t play with a man who has ever had sexual contact with another man. Bisexuality isn’t catching, y’all! But it’s more than just this. Comments about being/only wanting “a real man” abound. Aggressive hatred piled on men who cross-dress or otherwise don’t live up to masculine stereotypes. Excessive boasting about penis size and/or sexual prowess (honestly, I don’t care if you have a 12″ dick and love “eating pussy” (ew) if you can’t hold a conversation.) Borderline-rapey comments about “just knowing” what women want. It’s all there and it’s all gross.

Sometimes it makes us despair and makes us want to withdraw from the whole game for a while. But just occasionally, we do meet awesome, genuine people who are on the same wavelength as us, and then it feels more worth it. But the mainstream swinging scene still has a lot of growing up to do.

I want to keep slutting it around with lots of lovely sexy people and share these experiences with my partner, but we want something a bit… more body-positive. Queerer. Kinkier. Different. Even if it takes longer to meet our people and build our sexy little community.

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