What Sexual Happiness Means to Me

This week is Sexual Happiness Week! I think that’s a sentiment we can all get behind, no? (If not, why are you reading this blog?) My pals at Lovehoney asked me in an email “what does sexual happiness mean to you?” and, of course, it got me thinking.

A cock ring, a bottle of lube, a mini wand vibrator, a pot of orgasm balm and a bath bomb, all from Lovehoney. For a post on Sexual Happiness week.
Being a sex blogger is pretty great when you get presents like this!

My initial reaction was to give my working definition of sex positivity: “supporting the right of all consenting adults to have sex, or not, in whatever ways work best for them, free from stigma or shame”.

And while I stand by that, I think sexual happiness is something a little different. So I started making a list of some of the things that make up “sexual happiness” for me. It’s different for everyone, so your mileage may vary. Why not tell me in the comments what YOUR definition of sexual happiness is?

1. Feeling in harmony with my body

My body and I have… an uneasy relationship. We haven’t always been friends and honestly, we sometimes still aren’t. Feeling good about my body is something I am mostly struggling to access right now, but in order to experience sexual happiness I do at least need to feel comfortable – neutral, if you will – about it.

I can’t have good sex if all I can think about is how much I hate my stomach and how my thighs are too big. But I can get to a happy place sexually if I can turn off all that noise and, if I cannot love how my body looks, at least appreciate it for the things it can do and the sensations it can feel.

2. Having partners I can really trust

You cannot have really good sex without trust. This is something I firmly believe. For me, trust is more complex than just “you’ll do what you say you’re going to do”. Trust means that I know you’ll show up for me if I need you, outside of a purely sexual space. It means I can be vulnerable with you and know that you will hold space for that and not use it to harm me. It means I can rely on you to show up and keep your commitments to me, not because I force you to but because you want to.

My bar for ongoing sexual partners is now much higher. We might or might not fall in Capital L Love with one another, but if I don’t trust you, we have nothing – not even a casual something.

3. A frequency that works

I’m a very highly sexual person much of the time (duh, you all think as you read my sex blog). This means that, much of the time, I’d like to be having quite a lot of sex. Much as I joke about liking my sex like I like my coffee (“hot and several times a day,”) my actual ideal frequency for sex tends to fall around the 4 – 5 times a week mark, a little more when I’m not busy. (LOL, as if there’s ever a time I’m not busy.)

But the key to sexual happiness for me is a frequency of sex that works with where my life is at that time, and works for the relationship I have with that partner. Right now I probably have sex with The Artist about once a month, but that’s… most of the times we see each other. Whereas with Mr CK, it probably averages out to once or twice a week – but we live together and see each other every day unless one of us is away, so we have days when we’re together but don’t have sex much more often. The key to happiness is a frequency that works for everyone.

4. Exploration and new experiences

At my heart, I am a curious creature with a lust for new experiences and plenty of adventure. Sexually, this can mean a lot of things. New partners, yes – sexual variety is one of the reasons I practice consensual non-monogamy. But also trying a new kink act, a new toy (my job as a sex writer blesses me with the ability to do this frequently!), a new position, or a new sex party or club all fall under the umbrella of “variety”.

Basically I want to try shit out. Being with a person for a long period of time and keeping a sexual spark alive comes quite easily to me, as long as there are plenty of adventures to be shared.

5. Plenty of attention given to my pleasure

I nearly wrote “orgasms!” for this one, but, well… I have an orgasm denial fetish. So I’ve amended it to needing a partner to give plenty of attention to my pleasure, in whatever way that looks. It might mean making sure I come, of course. But it might also include teasing me in the way I like, or spanking me in just the right way, or honestly just regularly checking in to make sure I’m having fun and getting what I want out of the scene. Nothing will turn me off faster than a partner who treats me like a sex toy. (Unless that’s a specific roleplay we’ve negotiated… in which case I’m getting something out of it too, so the point still stands).

Today’s post is brought to you by Lovehoney’s Sexual Happiness Week. Check out the great deals on offer. If you buy through any of my affiliate links, I make a small commission.

Masturbation Monday Guest Blog: Date Night by Mr CK

Today’s Masturbation Monday is a very special guest post written by none other than…

(drumroll please)

…Mr CK! Yes, that’s right, after nearly two years of blogging I have finally persuaded my sweetheart to write some smut for you all. And he’s produced a fantasy kinky scene that I’m sure you’ll all agree is simply delicious. This piece came without a title so I’ve called it “Date Night” because, well, I think this sounds like my perfect date.

A woman's bottom, legs and hands. She is wearing black leather cuffs. For "Masturbation Monday - Date Night" by Mr CK

Date Night by Mr CK

On arrival, he tells you to remove your shoes and coat and then go upstairs and into the bedroom. There’s no hint of malice in the tone of his voice, but it’s also clear that it would be best for you to be an obedient sub and do as he says. That’s confirmed when he says those words as you walk into the bedroom, him two paces behind you. “Good girl.”

The bedroom is warm. Lying on the bed are various items, which he gives you time to look at; to sink into your consciousness. A spreader bar. Various leather cuffs. Some rope and safety shears. Two floggers (one large, one small). A leather paddle. A glass dildo and a large, mains-powered wand — the type that gives very deep and rumbly vibrations. You suspect this isn’t going to be a simple cuddle session!

“Remove all of your clothes except your knickers.” Again, the tone leaves little room for disobedience. Somewhat shyly and a little bit nervously, but also full of that kitty curiosity that you know he loves so much, you strip whilst he watches you; admiring your body.

One hand under your chin, he leans in to kiss you on your lips, the other hand removing your hair-tie and then tracing a single finger from the back of your head, all the way down your spine to your knicker-line. With a smile, he reaches onto the bed and picks up a pair of cuffs.

“Yes — I’m going to restrain you. And then tease you. A lot. I’m not going to touch your cunt at all; at least, not until I think you’ve pleaded enough for me to do so and then I will tease it, spank it and, if you’re very lucky, even give you an orgasm.”

Cuffs go onto your wrists and then onto your ankles. He leads you around the other side of the bed and stands you looking into the full-length mirror, him standing behind you. You watch as he explores your body with his hands, tracing the lines of the inked serpents decorating your curves, a mixture of gentle caresses, light scritches, heavier scratches and a whole bunch of surprise pinches and small slaps that make you catch your breath. He doesn’t touch your cunt. At all.

He turns you around and pushes you onto the bed, face down, cuffs clasped behind your back. The exploration continues. He’s clearly enjoying it — enjoying you — if the noises of delight he’s making at your reactions are anything to go by. More of the mixed-sensation touching, with harder spanks on your bum and thighs, some much harder. You feel his breath on your back, the sensation of his mouth and tongue kissing and licking you. Random bites setting your skin ablaze. And then a pause.

He reaches for something else from the bed. You’re not sure what as he has grasped handfuls of your hair and buried your face in the bed as he did so. Something solid on your back. Cool. The paddle. He uses it on your butt. Once. Gauging your response and asking what kind of pain level that was at. Adjusting, he strikes you again.

“I’m going to give you 8 of these. You’re going to count them, one by one. If you lose count, we start again. Understood?”

You say yes. He hears the trepidation in your voice. “It’s okay — you are a brave girl and you can take this for me. I will look after you.”

The first three strikes were no harder then the test strikes. But only the first three. Gradually, they get harder. He knows your tricks. As you clench your buttocks and try to get away from the paddle, he pulls your head back with the hair he still grasps, forcing your back to arch, making you more vulnerable. The continued strikes are not too hard that you are out of your depth, but hard enough that you are glad there are only 8 of them. You don’t lose count. You feel he must be pleased with you!

“You’re such a good and brave girl!” A calming hand on your back, gentle kisses on your neck. “Turn over — let me kiss your lips.” More kisses and a big hug.

“Now, I’m not finished with you, yet. You’re nowhere near to pleading for me to touch your cunt, so there’s much more teasing to be done!”

To be continued…

Editor’s note 09/03/19: Oops! Mr CK sent me the *earlier* edit of this by mistake. It has now been updated to the final version.

Do we want part two? I think we do!

This piece is shared as part of Masturbation Monday, a meme owned and run by Kayla Lords. Click here to see what everyone else is getting off to this week!

Image from Pixabay.

Interview: Porn Researcher Rosie Hodsdon

I was thrilled when Rosie Hodsdon reached out to volunteer to be an interview subject. I’ve known her through the UK kink scene for a while and she’s totally lovely as well as ridiculously smart. Here, we chat sex and relationships, academic porn research, and why the Digital Economy Bill sucks. 

A picture of Rosie Hodsdon, a white woman in her 20s with shoulder length brown hair. She is wearing a blue jacket and smiling at the camera. There are flowers in the background.

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I am currently working towards my PhD at Northumbria University, looking at the regulation of online pornography in the UK and how this affects the people who produce it. 

What made you want to get into porn research?

My research interests float around sexualities more broadly, and this stems from the failure that was my school’s sex education! I felt incredibly alienated from everything we were taught and had to find the information that I felt I needed out for myself, and was very lucky to be able to do this at a time when the internet made this a little easier! I knew that I never wanted people to feel as alienated as I did growing up, and wanted to be someone who helped others to learn about the range of sexualities out there in a safe and supportive way.

To me, porn forms just one part of that much wider sphere of things, and I have worked, or would love to work, on projects concerning kink, polyamory and sex work as well. [My work is] about dispelling misconceptions surrounding sexuality more broadly and wanting to work towards a society where these things are free from stigma and judgement. 

What’s your background and how did you break into this work?

Almost by accident, really! I did my first degree in Anthropology and Sociology and I knew as soon as I started that I wanted to focus on sexualities research. Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I had a guest lecture on my Sociology of Gender and Sexuality module from Professor Clarissa Smith on extreme pornography, which I found fascinating. At the same time, the AVMS regulations had been passed, so pornography was at the forefront of my mind. However, the more I tried to read into academic research on the porn industry, the more I noticed that the voices of those who worked in the industry were rather absent, so when I got an email in my inbox asking for PhD proposals relating to law and sexuality, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. 

What’s the most challenging thing about your work?

There’s a few things that spring to mind, which all cover somewhat different aspects of what I do!

The first problem is somewhat inherent to academia, which is that I can’t ever really escape my work – I can’t go home at the end of a work day and forget about it, because it’s always going to be in my mind and if it’s in my mind, then I’m thinking on it and working!

The second is how frustrating it can be. There’s something very futile about trying to work for a better understanding of sexuality and sex work in a society where everything seems to be pushing back against it – everything from the Digital Economy Act to FOSTA/SESTA. Even in the few days that I’ve been working on this interview, Tumblr has announced its porn ban and Facebook has tightened their control over what language you can use.

The third is that the work itself can be pretty misunderstood and stigmatised. I’m very wary of saying so, because the stigma attached to this academic work really can’t be compared to the stigma attached to actually making porn, and I wouldn’t want to ignore that. But I have had a lot of judgement myself because of what I do, from strangers on the internet all the way to previous partners. Shout-out to my ex specifically, who told me that no one else would ever love me because of what I do. Look at me now, dickbag!

What about the most rewarding thing?

I get to meet some incredible people who are doing some fantastic work, both as producers and as activists. And sometimes I get to be considered amongst them as well! Feeling like I have the ability to change people’s viewpoints or give them a new perspective on things is both very powerful and very humbling, and I feel a huge responsibility with it, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. 

Who’s your favourite porn performer and why? What about your favourite production company? 

I have to pick just one? I’m not going to play by these rules! [Spoken like a true polyamorist! – Amy] There are some amazing performers who represent the industry in such a positive way, both in the US and the UK.

Stoya was the first person I encountered who combined porn with activism, and I’ve appreciated her work ever since. I’m also a huge fan of Pandora/Blake, who works tirelessly to support sexual freedom. Jiz Lee has done some amazing work, and their book, Coming Out Like a Porn Star, has been hugely influential to me in its approach to centering performer voices.

As for my favourite company, it has to be Crash Pad Series! It’s radical, queer, kinky, feminist-grounded porn which focuses on a fair production process and has the inimitable Shine Louise Houston at its helm, also fighting for new approaches to sexuality in society more broadly. And it’s hot. 

There’s been a lot in the news recently about the incoming age verification regulations to access online porn in the UK. What’s your take? 

Where do I start!? The whole thing is a tangled mess of clusterfuck. I could spend hours ranting about this, so I’ll do what I can to condense why the entire thing is a terrible idea. It’s time for some bullet points.

  • The rationale behind the law is to “protect children”, and this is based on fundamentally flawed evidence. The study which forms the basis of the legislation, carried out by the NSPCC, has since been discredited by 37 academics for poor methods and conclusions which stretched far beyond the scope of the study. This is no basis for legislation.
  • Furthermore, what are we protecting children from? Of course no one should have to see porn without wanting to, but this does not just apply to children. There is no evidence which proves that children are harmed en masse by watching pornography. In studies which have explored young people’s motivations for viewing such material, the overwhelming theme is that pornography allows them to explore their sexuality and learn about sex in a way that they otherwise do not have access to. Pornography should not be a substitute for sex education, and this can only be solved with a drastic overhaul of the SRE curriculum. Porn should form a part of this, but so should issues of queer identity, pleasure and safe sex practices. All of these are currently very much lacking in the UK (and in most other places!). 
  • The laws are also almost certainly going to have the least impact on young people, given that they are generally far more technologically literate than a lot of adults. Anyone, including young people, can just get around these restrictions through the use of a VPN.  On a practical level, it won’t work.
  • So what will it do? For the consumer, it will place their private personal information in the hands of companies who are not required to enforce stringent protections of this data. As much as I would like to live in a world where people are not shamed for their sexual desires and preferences, this is not currently the case. We can see in countless examples how information about people’s non-normative sexual preferences has had major real-world consequences, such as losing their jobs or custody of their children. A database which stores information about what porn people watch? Hackers are going to have a field day.
  • Finally – given that this is where my research lies! – it’s going to decimate the porn industry. The financial impact is likely to be significant, particularly for smaller companies with more niche audiences, who are likely to struggle to implement AV systems from an economic standpoint. These are often the studios which produce explicitly ethical, feminist, queer, kink pornography so to lose these would make the industry even more homogeneous and less diverse. There’s also the emotional impact of the regulations to consider – people are fearing for their jobs and businesses. The government is telling people that their work is actively harmful for society. Their own sexualities are being delegitimised. And when you consider further that people with a significant background in porn may well find it harder to find “square” work due to the stigma attached to sex work more broadly, people are very worried about their future. 

Ultimately, the AV laws are like trying to fill in the Gran Canyon with a bucket and spade. I’m going to actually be rather lazy here and take a quote from my own response from the BBFC consultation of which I am rather proud:

Age verification seems to be merely an ineffective, unsubstantiated patch-up for a much wider social issue with regards to how we inform young people about sex and our wider sexual culture– including pornography. Young people are desperate for accurate, inclusive, informed sex education, which produces greater positive outcomes for their sexual, emotional and relationship wellbeing. Focusing on age verification serves to mask that problem rather than confront it, and may instead be detrimental to the development of sexual knowledge if not supported by compulsory and comprehensive sex education. This would be a much more effective use of government resources.”

They rest on fundamentally-flawed foundations of research and are likely to cause a significant amount of social harm.

What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?

People think that I sit around just watching porn all day. They’re not wrong, but I then have to write about it afterwards. People seem to find that part much less sexy. 

What do you really wish everyone understood about pornography?

Ooh, this is a really interesting one! There’s a lot I could say here, so I’ll break it down into some more bullet points:

  • That (most) porn costs money to make, and all of it takes work. Pay for your damn porn. Or, at least, access it for free only directly from creators, not through any pirated means.
  • That porn performers (and producers) are human! There’s a narrative in anti-porn discourse which tends to paint performers particularly as being nothing more than vapid, blow-up fuckdolls, which not only removes their agency and autonomy, but also reduces them to their having sex. We live in an age now where it’s easier than ever to move past this image – we have performers doing some amazing activist work or simply engaging with their fans on social media, and the image that persists of people, particularly women, in porn as being either a mindless set of holes or an exploited victim, denies them their personhood,
  • That it’s not a public health danger. There is no research out there which proves that porn is inherently harmful, and while I would never want to belittle any individual issues that pornography has caused (because yes, people can have issues with it and people who do need appropriate support), it does not do this on a large scale.
  • That pornography can be massively positive. Emerging research is starting to show that porn isn’t just used by consumers to get off, though that’s part of it too. It’s a way to explore their sexuality and identity, a way to connect with others (if you’ve never shared the Lemon Stealing Whores introduction with your friends, I recommend it), an education resource, a method of stress relief, and much more. 
  • Finally, that it’s okay not to like pornography! Whether that’s a particular type or the genre as a whole – as much as I’m positive about what pornography is, what it can do and who makes it, I don’t expect everyone to like it. All I want is for it to be respected as a form of labour and as a creative product, and for the freedom of others to be able to access it and make it should they choose to. 

Who inspires you personally and professionally?

On a professional level, there are so many people I want to name here! First of all, I have to note the amazing things that my participants have shared with me over the course of my research, and their openness and trust with me is massively motivating.

Secondly, my PhD supervisory team – Chris Ashford, Tony Ward and Laura Graham – who continue to blow my mind and push me to succeed, even when I want to give up, and whose research has paved the way for someone like me to do something like this.

Thirdly, the tireless activism of Pandora/Blake and Myles Jackman. I’m so in awe of the both of them that even now, having met both multiple times, they still scare me slightly!

Fourth (and finally, for this part of the question), the awesome communities that my research has allowed me to become immersed in – academics, sex work activists, porn producers and creators – who are all doing such amazing things themselves!

On a personal level, I am very lucky to be surrounded by some incredible people. My partner, Lewis; my boyfriend, Willtom; and my girlfriend, Tiggy, have all provided me with invaluable support and happiness. They push me to keep going even when I just want to throw my thesis in a fire! (They’re also hella cute). I also have an amazing family, who have dealt with trying to explain my PhD topic to far too many people! I hate feeling like I’m “lucky” to have their support, because it should be a given. But I know that that’s not always the case and that I am grateful that they’ve not disowned me yet. And I can’t not also mention the lovely people of the Durham, Leeds and Reading kink scenes, who are unfailingly wonderful and who have also supported me along the way. 

Who’s your favourite sex educator and why?

So much of my inspiration to enter sexualities education (in a sense) myself came from Scarleteen, so I’d like to say their entire website! Also, my entire Twitter feed has been improved since introducing Alix Fox into its mix. She combines some spectacular puns with activism and awareness work, and I’m always impressed by her willingness to reach out and continue learning from others. [We love Alex here at C&K! – Amy]

What’s something you used to believe – about sex, relationships or porn – that you don’t believe any more?

I feel like there’s a tendency to put romantic love on a pedestal, and as has probably been demonstrated in this interview, there are so many other forms of relationships that can be just as wonderful, supportive and fulfilling.

And just for fun because it is “Coffee & Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

…I don’t. Unless *insert enema joke here*? 

(Please don’t hate me!)

Thank you so much to Rosie for her time and for the awesome work she’s doing, which will undoubtedly benefit all of us – when porn and sex work are destigmatised, all of us gain greater sexual freedom. You can keep up with Rosie via her Twitter, and as ever if YOU are doing something awesome in the field of sex or relationships and would like to be featured on the blog, hit me up.


Camming, Sex Journalism and More! with S. Nicole Lane

I’ve been chatting to some awesome folks lately, guys. I put a call out for interesting people doing awesome work around sexuality who would be willing to talk to me. And oh my you guys delivered! Today I’m chatting with journalist, artist, former sex workier and awesome advocate S. Nicole Lane. I’ve recently discovered her work and I am in love with her writing – check some of it out, I’m sure you’ll love it too.

A headshot of S Nicole Lane

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I have my hands in many projects. I’m a journalist based in Chicago where I cover a multitude of topics: the LGBTQ voice, women-owned businesses, health in relation to women and non-binary people, the healthcare system, visual art, and my favorite topic – sex.

I’m also a visual artist and create pieces made of latex, found objects, and video. Most of my work stems from my relationship to my body and imagining a queer future. The pieces are familiar but foreign, as they do not resemble in specific part of the body but hint at a commonality. My video work is very sexual, typically working with images and audio that I recorded during my time as a sex worker. Both my writing and visual practice are tied together in such a way that themes and symbols definitely cross over.

What made you want to start writing about sex?

I had a Xanga all through high school where I would embarrassingly describe my relationships and intimate moments. At sixteen, I knew nothing about sex or love. I was just a huge romantic who listened to way too much music. I wanted so badly to be Anais Nin, whose book I picked up my first year in High School. She changed my life. I would write religiously, every day. It became an obsession. I also publicized this blog for everyone to read it – I had nothing to hide and have always been a proud and confident person.

I stopped writing compulsively for about five years until I moved to Chicago where I was struggling with vaginismus—an involuntary muscle spasm that results in painful sex. After being frustrated that zero doctors could diagnose me and there was no easily accessible literature about it online, I decided to begin writing about it myself. My first piece was published on Bustle and my second on The Establishment which sparked my writing career in sexuality.

Before this, I was writing art exhibition reviews (I studied art, specifically photography) but the language was dry and repetitive. Writing about sex, kinks, so-called “taboos” allowed me to reach out to people who were struggling like I was during that time. Now I cover a range of sexual topics and celebrate kinksters around the globe. My beginnings as a angsty teenage nymphomaniac have transformed into a fruitful and very rewarding career.

You mentioned that you used to be a sex worker. Could you tell us a little about how that experience was for you and, if you’re comfortable doing so, why you decided to exit that line of work?

I was a cam girl for almost two years where I also created private videos and sold materials to men online. Camming is so exciting and I still miss it sometimes! I am also a trained dancer so for me, camming was just getting up and dancing for an invisible audience, while making money and losing a little bit of clothing along the way. Freelance writing comes with obstacles and some months. Before really getting into a regular work routine, I would find myself extremely worried about money. I was writing an article on camming for a publication and decided to give it a try.

At first, I was simply “researching” for the piece but soon, I was putting in a full six hours a day or night. Yes, camming is exciting, powerful, and feminist, but I did have my moments of exhuastion. It’s a full time job—viewers messaging you, sending you images, demanding attention. Moreover, moving your body, talking, and performing for hours is a type of tired that I had never experienced before. My body physical hurt after a session. But it was always my choice to turn off my camera, always my choice to shut down my site.

I also talked to my viewers about sexual health. I’d quiz them on topics like HPV or other STIs. I would talk to them realistically. No, I didn’t like deep throating. I wasn’t going to pretend for some extra money. Of course this lost me viewers, but my viewers who stayed were very dedicated. I miss them sometimes.

I decided to exit camming once my writing was more steady. At the end of the day, writing is what I wanted to be spending my time doing.

What is the most challenging thing about writing about writing about sex for a living?

It can be really fucked up! By that I mean that it can make you really horny while your partner is at work, or when they aren’t in the mood, and you’re simply consumed with thoughts of sex positions, dildos, and cunnilingus. Another challenge is coming up with new, exciting topics. I don’t want to write another piece that describes the same tips to giving the best blowjob. Of course, those articles helped the hell out of me when I was young. But I’m not personally rewarded by writing those (plus I think they can be done better). Moreover, many publications reject my pitches because they are too “niche” for their audience—specific kinks or fetishes are still stigmatized.

What about the most rewarding thing?

The most rewarding thing about writing in general is relaying information and connecting to such a vast group of people all over the world. My inbox is always filled with email of people wanting to talk to me about certain health concerns or thanking me for writing a piece.

On the topic of vaginismus, a serious sexual health concern, most doctors dismiss the patient’s pain. I had several doctors tell me it was “all in my head”. This morning I opened up my email to find that someone had written me saying that she felt all alone, secluded in her pain until she read my piece.

As for my more kink-oriented and sexy pieces, those are rewarding because I find joy in eradicating taboos and stereotypes, especially while living in America under our current administration. I couldn’t have asked for a better profession.

What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?

People always assume it’s just reduced to listicles describing the 10 best ways to achieve an orgasm. I research constantly, I read all of the time, and I put a lot of effort into every single one of my articles. I have to absorb information at a fast pace in order to accurately deliver a piece.

What’s something you’d really love to write on but haven’t yet?

I would really love to have a regular sex advice column for a platform. I feel like many of the sex advisors are very vanilla misogynists who don’t pay attention to non binary and trans people. So I would love to have a weekly column where I focus on all bodies.

What’s your dream byline?

Two years ago I said that once I’m published in Playboy, I’ll personally feel like I’ve made it in my writing career. Last year I wrote a piece on anal sex and now I write regularly for Playboy about art and occasional sex topics! Of course, I’m still not satisfied with my portfolio and hope get published on smaller platforms like Mel Magazine and Jezebel… and, eventually, The New York Times!

What’s your favourite piece that you’ve ever written and why?

Oh this is so hard! I love writing for Healthline, the editors are incredible and supportive. I did a huge piece where I talked to a collection of queer, trans, polyamorous, non binary, and heterosexual people and how sex can change in their decade in September. And then my favorite sex toy piece is on Broadly where I experimented with electro-play.

Who inspires you personally and professionally?

I look up to various writers, especially Abby Norman who wrote an incredible book called “Ask Me About My Uterus”. All of the brave people in the Healing From LEEP/LLETZ Facebook Group inspire me. The MedTruth community. I also look up to my close friends and partner for inspiration.

What essay, article or book about sex do you really wish you’d written?

In 2015, the Establishment published an incredible piece by Katie Tandy which left me slack jawed called “The Dirty Politics of Period Sex.” It’s a love letter to period sex and it’s incredible.

And just for fun because it is “Coffee and Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

This is funny because I was a five cup a day drinker my entire life. My mom always said, “Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like coffee or Nutella”. But after researching how coffee can affect me hormonally (acne, issues with my period), I decided to cut it out which resulted in the worst withdrawals I’ve ever experience. My acne didn’t improve and my period sort of returned, though not fully. I’ve been drinking tea for a year but recently—because I can’t resist the smell or comfort—have been cheating and having a cup of coffee every other day. And of course, I take it black.

Thanks to Nicole for her time! Check out her awesome writing and give her a follow on the Twitter and the Insta.

[Guest Blog] The Thirst of “Femmes d’un Certain Age” by Evelyn Archer

When I started out on this quest to publish a select few guest bloggers on my site (and pay them for it, of course!) part of my mission was to share the stories I cannot tell. The experiences I have not had. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited by this piece by Evelyn Archer. Here, we’re talking Sex After 40! I’m in my late 20s. The myths about sex stopping is one of the things I’m very afraid of about growing older. But here, Evelyn tells us that not only can sex after 40 be amazing – it might just be the best ever. She’s also sharing some wisdom she’s learned along the way. Over to her…

Amy x

A 40th birthday cake, for a guest post on sex after 40 by Evelyn ArcherThe Thirst of “Femmes d’un Certain Age” by Evelyn Archer

Some doctors call it “The Surge”. I call it “The Going Out of Business Sale”.

Here’s the truth: in my late 30s through mid-40s, I’d done without sex for a long time. In a long, otherwise happy marriage – between medication side effects, interpersonal issues and plain old fear – we’d been Not Having Sex for longer than I like to admit. I told myself that everyone gets to define these things for themselves (still true), but there was also another message that I was getting and internalizing without really realizing it. A woman over 40 with a sex drive is a joke. A grotesque joke. Either played for laughs or an object of scorn and pity – we’re Stifler’s Mom from American Pie, Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company (Google it, my sweet babies).

I had no model for what my sex life after 40 was “supposed” to look like. It was “supposed” to Go Away. In fact, cursory Googling revealed a stark, depressing story of “sexless marriages”, of couples living with resentment and disappointment, or at best as friendly roommates, co-owners in the Business of Our Life. A sexual life was something I used to have, someone I used to be, and it looked like I would have to find a way to live without it.

But through hard work in therapy and a bunch of other stuff we came together again.

And now we can’t stop boning each other. But as an essentially cishet (I mean, het-ish, but that’s another post) monogamous couple, in order to truly get back on track, we had to take our cues from outside the cishet community (which is unsurprisingly UNHELPFUL in terms of sex positive information). Instead we turned to queer folks and trans folks and polyamorous folks.

If my partner and I were struggling, for whatever reason, with penetrative P-in-V sex, why was this the “end of sex” for us? Would we say that what our queer friends, our trans pals did in bed wasn’t “really sex”? Of course not! That doesn’t even make sense! So why did it have to be that way for us? Once we stopped putting P-in-V sex at the center of our sex lives, once we stopped seeing “everything else” (oral and manual and toys and everything) as a “lead up to the main event” our entire sex lives transformed. All of a sudden, “fucking” was whatever we decided it was.

So we started fucking all the time.

We can’t seem to stop. He comes home early from work just for banging. We send dirty gifs to each other. We keep a Sex Toy Wish List on Lovehoney. And we haven’t seen our friends on a Saturday night in months because we’re so tired from banging all afternoon, all we can do is eat spaghetti and watch cartoons.
And it was from polyamorous folks writing about relationships and intimacy that we learned that we have to TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME. We have to find ways to talk about stuff we don’t want to talk about. How to sit in uncomfortable feelings like disappointment and jealousy, and still hold space for each other.

It never occurred to us to actually have a conversation about what we WANTED to do
specifically, only what we DIDN’T want to do. From the BDSM community that we learned that we can just talk out whatever is “on the table” for fucky stuff and instead of all that talking “ruining the moment” (or whatever) it leads to a more fun and satisfying play-time.

The power of just listening

But let me be clear: all these terrific queer, trans, poly sex positive folks (bloggers, Twitterers, Instagram folks) are not giving this information to US. Their work is not necessarily FOR us, it’s for themselves and for each other. But by shutting up, and by watching and listening closely, I learned a new way to look at and talk about sex. As these folks process and manage their own sex positive liberation, it shows me a different way of inhabiting my own sexuality, shows me ways to question and ways to talk. It’s not one person in particular, but this chorus of voices, and quietly immersing myself in what they have to say has utterly changed my marriage, my relationship to sex, and the way I see myself.

But still, my high levels of desire seemed to be out of sync with public opinion and popular culture. There’s still the Google-able stuff about The End of Sex, but dig a little deeper and there’s something called “The Surge”. The way I understand it (and I am a writer not a doctor, so do your own research!) is that here at the End of my Childbearing Years my body knows that each egg it releases could be its last. So it releases a surge of hormones telling me “YOU BETTER BANG EVERYTHING BECAUSE THIS COULD BE YOUR LAST CHANCE”. But there’s SO little information on this (and most of it anecdotal) it reminds me of how monstrous our culture sees Femmes d’un Certain Age whose sex drives are still strong. We’re still a joke, still grotesque. Still Mrs. Roper, still Stifler’s mom.

Dawn Sera and Tristan Taoromino have talked about it on their podcasts a couple of times, but there’s little in popular culture for me to look to. Even looking for women over forty in romance novels came up thin, even thinner if you want something a little hotter than “sweet” and “tender”.

So…where ARE we?

WHY is no one talking about this? Why is the only talk of women and
middle age and desire about our thinning hair, our drying and atrophying vaginas, our hormone therapy, our inevitable march to a dry and sexless grave?

Well, I’m not having it. I’ve decided to embrace my monstrousness (if indeed that’s what it is). And I’m leaving you with some resources that really helped me. (These may Old News to you Sex Positive Veterans, but they were news to me).

Resources

  • Tristan Taoromino’s podcast “Sex Out Loud” (available wherever fine podcasts are uploaded). She has more talk of kink and gender and queer politics so this was right up my alley.
  • Dawn Serra’s “Sex Gets Real” (available wherever fine podcasts are uploaded). She has a softer, more relationshippy slant. There’s also lots of good stuff about the intersection of fat positivity and sex positivity. (Be prepared to hear the word “yummy” a lot.
  • Oh Joy, Sex Toy is a web comic by husband and wife team Erika Moen and Matt Nolan. I went there just for sex toy reviews and what I got was SO much more. The illustrations are really sweet, with lots and lots of body diversity (which I don’t see everywhere).
  • Come As You Are: the Surprising New Science that will Transform your Sex Life, by Emily Nagoski. The research here on how desire can work for some folks was a revelation to me. (Also Erika Moen does the illustrations!) Not so science-y that it’s dry, yet doesn’t read like a self-help manual. She is a scientist and a sex educator and this book is great.

Author photo of Evelyn ArcherEvelyn Archer is an author living in New England. You can find her books here and you can sign up for her super fun newsletter, “The Strange Files” here. She also writes erotic shorts as “Madeline Moon”. You can find them here, or here.

 

Affiliate links are contained within this post. All views are the author’s own.

Great Reasons to Try Chastity Play

What do we mean by chastity play? Broadly speaking, it’s a form of kink play where the submissive abstains from orgasm – and sometimes from any form of sexual contact – for a period of time as determined by their Dominant. If you’re not currently in a relationship, you can also play with it by yourself, of course. This might or might not include the use of a physical chastity device such as a cock cage or chastity belt. It’s also sometimes referred to as orgasm denial, orgasm control, no-touch, and other variations.

A chastity device for a penis. For a post on chastity play.

So what are some great reasons to give it a go?

It’s a great way to enhance your submission/Dominance

Giving someone control over your sexual release is, in some ways, the ultimate surrender. Whether this involves handing over the keys to your chastity device to a “keyholder”[1] or simply pledging not to touch yourself until given permission, needing someone’s say-so to experience pleasure and orgasm is likely to make you feel submissive to that person really quickly! And for the Dominants amongst you, having someone’s release at your mercy is awesome. Hearing them beg for it is a hell of a power rush.

The eventual pleasure is so much better

When I’ve been denied for a period of time, the eventual orgasm is just so much stronger and more satisfying. A bit like that first bite of your favourite meal when you’re starving hungry, an orgasm after a period of chastity is like no other orgasm you’ll ever experience.

It keeps your mind on your service even as you do other things

Going about your day to day life and feeling your chastity device under your clothes or just remembering you’re not allowed to touch is a great way to feel connected to your Dominant and to your feelings of submission, even when you’re not actually playing.

It’s really fun for long-distance relationships

If you’re long distance, you might wish to implement a rule such as that the submissive is always in chastity when not with the Dominant. A less extreme but still fun version is only allowing your submissive to masturbate and orgasm when on the phone with you. Or you could play edging games on the phone, only to lock your poor submissive up again without release at the end. The possibilities are endless, and playing with chastity is a great way to feel close when you’re apart.

Pleasure can act as a motivator

Are you trying to train your submissive and instill desirable behaviours (or break problematic ones)? Chastity can be a great motivator! Perhaps they only get to touch themselves if they drank their 8 glasses of water today. Maybe you’ll only let them orgasm after they’ve got all their writing done. Or perhaps they get an extra day in the belt for every day they forget to eat breakfast. I’m a big proponent of using kink as a tool for self-improvement. Release-as-reward is one fun way to play with this.

Do you play with chastity? What do you love about it? Tweet me or comment below!

[1] A word of safety caution: ALWAYS keep a spare key where the wearer can access it if they need to. You never know when a medical emergency or similar may crop up.

 

[Kink Product Review] The Obsidian Neon Wand Intensity Kit

Electro play has been an interest of mine ever since I first encountered a restored violet wand at a fetish fair. (Have you seen them? They’re *gorgeous*. They’re also expensive as hell.) Mr CK and I have a friend who has an amazing electro set-up in his home dungeon (yes, we have the kind of friends who have home dungeons) which we love playing with when we get the opportunity to visit.

But until now, exploring electro-play at home has been difficult for us. In large part, this is because it’s such a pricey kink to get into if you want decent kit. A cheap knock-off neon wand set from Amazon was fine for a while, but we found ourselves craving something more. Enter the Obsidian Neon Wand Intensity Kit, which was very kindly sent by Stockroom for us to review.

A word of warning: do not, for the love of all that is holy and good in the world, buy a knock-off neon wand from Amazon or Aliexpress or the like. We were lucky that ours (which I bought when I was young and uneducated!) has stayed in one piece and been reasonably safe, but there are all kinds of horror stories such as this one from Ella Scandal: “...when I plugged it in and switched it on, the socket smoked, banged and flashed, then the upstairs electrics tripped out.” Please, please, please buy your electro-sex gear from a reputable sex toy/BDSM gear supplier.

Let’s go back a step: what is a neon wand?

The neon wand, a modern and cheaper alternative to the violet wand (a turn-of-the-century quack “medical” device) is a popular BDSM toy that discharges electricity across the surface of the skin, creating a sensation that can range from a gentle, warming tickle to a sharp, scratchy pain. I’m informed that the sensation is somewhat similar to getting tattooed, but having inkless skin (for now) I couldn’t testify as to the accuracy of this claim.

I don’t know enough about electrics to go into the detailed science of how it works (sorry!) but a neon wand is what’s known as a “solid state device” (no moving parts). This makes it durable and easy to move around without interruption to the flow of electricity. It also means that modern solid-state devices are likely to be more durable and last longer.

Essentially, a neon wand consists of the main wand handle, and various attachments called electrodes which are made of glass or conductive silicone. You plug your electrode into the wand, and then touch it to the body to transmit electricity across the skin. When switched on, the inside of the clear glass electrodes glows red or purple. How cool is that!? This video is a good visual if you want to see it in action (and hear the sound it makes!)

Why would anyone want to do that!?

There are lots of reasons people might enjoy electro play (sometimes called e-stim, electro-stim or electro-sex). For some, the sensation is relaxing or even meditative. Others are masochists and get off on the more painful end of the spectrum. For some people, these devices play into a medical kink. And for others again, i’s about conquering a fear or seeing how much they can take. The motivations are many and varied – as with most kinks. The only way to know why it makes a particular person tick is to ask them.

Let’s take a closer look at the Obsidian kit…

The Obsidian Neon Wand Intensity Kit is a bundle put together by the good folks at Stockroom (purveyors of kinky goodness extraordinaire) and it’s an electro play lover’s dream! It consists of the neon wand and two attachments – the Electro-Whip and the Flex Capacitor, both made from conductive silicone.

All of this comes attractively packaged in a handy leather zip-up case, branded with the Stockroom logo (yes, it’s real leather, I checked).

Be aware that this kit does NOT come with any glass attachments, so if you want those you’ll need to buy them separately – but they are all available from Stockroom at very reasonable prices. I particularly recommend the comb, the probe, or – for the romantics amongst you – the heart.The neon wand has an 8 foot power cable. A word of warning for my non-US readers: it is a US plug, so you’ll need an appropriate step-down converter to use it safely in your country. Thankfully, I already have one for purposes of using my Magic Wand! The user interface couldn’t be simpler: there’s a single dial control to control the power and intensity.

How did we get on?

When we get a new kink item to try that we’re not experienced with, we try it in a non-scene headspace. (We call it “lab time” because we’re dorks). So that’s what we did with the Neon Wand Obsidian Kit. Problem is, it’s very hard for me to stay in an analytical mode when I’m giggling and thrashing and squirming, which is what this toy had me doing within seconds.

I experience electro-play on a spectrum that ranges from tickle to sting. At the lower ends, it reminds me somewhat of the sensation of having a Wartenberg wheel drawn across my skin. On the higher settings, it’s a sharp and stingy pain. If you’re a thud lover and totally hate stingy sensations, neon wand play is unlikely to be for you.

I love the sensation of electricity, so I totally adored this product. I think we’ll be playing with it a lot more, and we’ll be investing in some extra electrodes to have even more fun with it.

Mr CK’s feedback on this product can best be described as “sadistic giggling”

Let’s meet our electrodes…

The Electro-Whip is actually a small flogger, with ten falls made of conductive silicone. You are not supposed to hit hard with it! Despite the name and design, this “whip” is more designed for dragging across the body, leaving a trail of sparks wherever it goes. You can strike with it gently, but again, think “stroke” rather than “whack”. If you want to hit someone hard, get out an ordinary flogger.

It’s a stingy fucker! The high number of contact points on the body all at once and their small surface area means this one delivers a lot of bite.

The Flex Capacitor is described by Stockroom as the most intense of all neon wand electrodes, and it’s an apt description! The two-pronged tip sends a powerful shock to wherever it touches. The Flex is best for short, sharp bursts of pain. I couldn’t stand this one on any but the lowest settings – it’s THAT intense.

Some quick safety notes

Electro play, done with the proper kit and a bit of common sense, is actually fairly low risk! But of course, like any BDSM activities, there are some risks and knowledge is your first and greatest line of defense. This is not an exhaustive list (I Am Not A Doctor!) and you must always do your research, but as a starting point here are some of the major safety points you need to be aware of:

  • Again, for the love of god, buy a genuine device from a reputable supplier!
  • Check your cords before play. If any of them are frayed or look damaged, do not use the device.
  • Store your device in a dry place and never, ever get it wet or use it in a damp environment such as a bathroom. Make sure your skin is completely dry before you begin playing. Come on guys, we all know water and electricity aren’t friends, don’t we!?
  • Check the voltage/ampage and make sure you are using an appropriate converter for your country’s outlets, if relevant.
  • Do not leave your device plugged in when you’re not using it.
  • Read the instruction manual and follow it.
  • Do not do electro play if you have a pacemaker. Always check before playing with a new partner. Do not assume your partner knows that pacemakers and electro play are a bad combination.
  • Do not do electro play if you have any kind of inbuilt/non-removable medical device in your body (such as, for example, an insulin pump). The electricity can damage your device, putting you at risk.
  • Do not do electro play if you have a heart defect.
  • Don’t do electro play if you experience seizures.
  • Do not do electro play if you are pregnant.
  • Do not hold the device on one spot on the body for more than a second or two. Keep it moving. This will greatly reduce the risk of burns or skin damage.
  • If you experience bad pain or any sensation that worries you, stop immediately.
  • Do not use the device on the face or head, especially near the eyes or mouth.
  • Start out at a low setting, build up slowly, and listen to your body.

Where on the body can you use it?

Most places are fine – I recommend starting out with fleshy areas such as the butt or upper thighs. Upper back, inner thighs, tops of arms and stomach are a little more intense for most people, but fun if you’re up for it. If you’re feeling brave, try the nipples, labia, shaft of the penis, or soles of the feet (go very, very carefully in these areas and start on a low setting.) Again, never use your electro play device near the head or face. You should also never insert it into the vagina, anus or mouth.

So do we recommend it?

Definitely! Though with the caveat that I think this is a kit for more advanced players, or those who know they like a little more intensity to their play. If you’re completely new and nervous about electro play, I’d suggest starting with the standard neon wand kit. The glass electrodes don’t pack quite such a punch as the Whip and Flex Capacitor.

But for electro afficionados looking for something a bit more, this kit is a great investment and will be a fabulous addition to your kitbag.

The Obsidian Neon Wand Intensity Kit retails for $188 (about £145).

Thank you to Stockroom for sending us this product to review. If you buy through one of my affiliate links, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions are, as ever, my own. All pictures are by me – do not steal them, thanks!

Positive Masculinity in Erotica (for International Men’s Day)

As a feminist, I’m in favour of many of the aims of International Men’s Day. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. There are tonnes of really important issues affecting men today – from lack of mental health support which leads to a much higher suicide rate for men, to male victims of rape or domestic violence going unacknowledged.

A man's body in a blue blazer and black tie. For an International Men's Day post on positive masculinity in erotica.

What I don’t believe, however, is that feminism – or women – are responsible for these issues. They’re a symptom of patriarchy, the fucked up system under which we all live, and which also harms men – in different ways to the ways it harms women, sure, but harm nontheless.

But plenty of better writers than me have already said all of these things much more eloquently than I have. And this is a sex blog, after all! So in celebration of International Men’s Day, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite examples of positive masculinity, as portrayed in erotica. Because Fifty Shades of Grey is all well and good[1], but Christian Grey is fundamentally a misogynist and a rapist – literally the embodiment of toxic masculinity in sexy-pants, richer-than-God, sold-100-million-copies packaging.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Bruce Shepherd – The ‘Swingularity’ series by Cooper S Beckett

Anyone who has read these books will be unsurprised to know I have a huge character-crush on Bruce. What I love about him is that he’s confident as hell (to the point of juuuust occasionally coming across a tad arrogant) but is actually a complete softie and quite vulnerable underneath it all. The sex is hot as hell (of course) but it’s the emotional depth of this novel that really gets me. Bruce’s struggle to let go of the past, his enduring love for Paige, and his desire to save everyone – even to his own detriment – combined with the older-man sexiness make him a romantic character I can’t resist.

“Are you still upset with me?” he asks after a long silence.
She turns, surprise on her face. “No, I’m…”
He waits.
“She’s inside me too, you know.”

[Disclaimer: the above is an affiliate link and if you decide to get this book, I would super appreciate you supporting me by buying from Shevibe!]

Neil Elwood – The Boss, Abigail Barnette

If you like billionaire-older-man romance, Neil Elwood is a much more positive antidote to Christian Grey. The romantic relationship between Neil and Sophie is built upon trust, mutual respect and actually getting to know one another, not upon fear and bullying-masquerading-as-dominance.  He’s not threatened by Sophie’s success in her career and explicitly doesn’t use his position to sexually manipulate her. And he’s willing to admit when he’s wrong. Oh, and crucially, there’s tonnes of explicit and enthusiastic consent.

He kissed me hard, his hand tangled in my long hair, and when we were both breathless he lifted his head to answer my question.
“Not now. I thought I’d lay you down on this sofa and bury my face in your cunt first. Unless you object…”

Johnathan – The Adventures of Sir & Babygirl, Kayla Lords

This is a really lovely, sweet-yet-sexy romance about a woman recovering from a broken heart and a Daddy Dom she meets through her blog. What I love about it is how respectfully Johnathan approaches Katie, and how he slowly gains her trust as their relationship develops. There’s a constant underlying thread of consent – even as simple as “don’t feel pressured to answer all the questions I ask you”. The biggest character trait I get from Johnathan is kindness, which is underrated but extremely powerful when combined with just the right amount of sexual dominance – and I am very very here for it.

“Look at me, girl!” Johnathan’s voice took on a feral tone. “I want you as a woman and as a submissive. I will not deny my nature any longer. I also won’t force you to accept something you don’t want. But I think you want this as much as I do. If you do, tell me. We’ll go slow, but just fucking tell me.”

See? Everyone who told you that women only like slathering rapey beasts was full of shit. Give me kind, respectful dominants who value consent and mutual pleasure any day. Who are your favourite male characters in erotica, and why?

[1] *Narrator voice* “Fifty Shades was not, in fact, all well and good at all.”

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

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

A block of grey paint samples in reference to Fifty Shades of GreyYes, I’ve read the first book, and enough of the second and third to get the gist. I’ve also read Cliff Pervocracy and Jenny Trout’s recaps (which are hilarious, by the way). Make no mistake: these books are horribly written and I did not find them erotic in the slightest. The sex depicted in them is either boringly vanilla, dubiously consensual (or straight up rapey), or both. The main characters are both awful people and the dialogue is about as sexy as a root canal. As a kinkster, I hate that people think this is what we’re about. As a writer, I think it’s a travesty that Ms James has made more money than anyone ever needs in a lifetime, while genuinely talented artists are underpaid and undervalued every day.

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

“But it’s fantasy!” fans cry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t blame Fifty Shades for my own experience in an abusive D/s relationship, of course. But I do partly blame growing up surrounded by the idea that if a man hurt me, my job was to heal him so he could love me properly in the end.

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

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

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

Don’t ban – educate

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

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

Plus-Size Lingerie and Body Love [A Review, of Sorts]

This post contains frank descriptions of body image issues and weight loss (no numbers) and discusses external and internalised fatphobia. Please look after yourselves and skip this one if this is likely to be difficult for you. This one is quite vulnerable for me – please be kind. Thank you.

A pretty curvy woman in the Rendezvous plus-size lingerie set from LovehoneyI am currently fatter than I have ever been in my life. And I am not, truth be told, okay with this.

To be honest, I feel bad even writing that. I don’t know if I am allowed to complain that I experience fatphobia at this size – where I never have before. Plenty of people who are bigger than me experience far worse. But there we are. These things exist on a spectrum. And many people, from men who might want to fuck me to service staff, treat me noticeably worse now than they did 50lb ago.

A pretty curvy woman in the Belle Amour plus-size lingerie bra set from LovehoneyEven though I’m frequently attracted to gorgeous babes of all sizes, fat and thin and everywhere in between, I really struggle with seeing my body like this. I have to be in a lot of photos at my day job, and I’ve often ended up going to the loos to have a sneaky cry after seeing a photo of myself. It’s probably fair to say I currently hate my body most of the time.

I’m on a long journey right now of getting back to the weight where I felt good about my body, while also trying to love it as it is on the way. Part of the problem is that a lot of my clothes, and especially a lot of the clothes I used to feel good in, don’t fit me at the moment. This includes all the gorgeous lingerie I’ve accrued in two years of sex blogging. (Small mercies, I can still get into the catsuit of joy, but just barely.)

So when my pals at Lovehoney announced they were launching two new lines of plus-size lingerie, I agreed to try it out. Still at a place of being reluctant to call myself “plus-size,” I nervously selected a couple of pieces and waited for them to arrive. They then sat on the sofa for several days, staring at me. Making me feel guilty for not trying them and scared to try them in equal measure. What if they looked awful? If they didn’t fit? If I ended up just hating my body even more?

Eventually I did try them, when I was alone in the house and there was no-one but me and the mirror to judge me. (Not that my sweethearts would ever negatively judge me, but internalised fatphobia is strong, y’all).

Meet Belle Amour & Rendezvous

Belle Amour and Rendezvous are Lovehoney’s two new lines of plus-size lingerie. Unlike their other offerings, these ranges are exclusive to Plus and cover sizes 18-28 (that’s UK sizes).

“Belle Amour” is a red-themed range (two of the sets also have black accents) which is bright, bold and sexy as hell. The two “Rendezvous” pieces are inspired by fetishwear and characterised by black fabrics, gold studded collar and belt, and fishnet lace. Woof.

The pieces I chose & my experience

I decided to go for one basque and one bra set, to get the best overall sense of the range. I chose the Rendezvous Studded Fishnet Basque and the Belle Amour Longline Bra Set.

When I first got lingerie from Lovehoney, I was really pleasantly surprised at the quality. Unlike what you get from a lot of sex shops and online retailers, this stuff is fantastically made and uses real high-quality materials. These pieces were no exception. The satin looks anything but cheap, and the lace is unbelievably soft.

I tried on the Rendezvous set first. I’m a big fan of fishnet and I love the floral pattern interspersed with the netting – it gives the set a gorgeous kinky/femme edge. The studded belt is my favourite part, though. I love how it accentuates the curve of my waist.

Sexy lingerie is not designed for comfort, so I won’t pretend it was the most comfy thing in the world. But the material is soft and non-scratchy enough that I could wear it for a few hours at an event without too much trouble.

I think this one is coming out at the next kink event we go to…

Next up was the Belle Amour set. I was initially less sure about this one. For starters, it shows off my stomach which isn’t a part of my body I am particularly fond of.

But the longer I wore it, the more I loved the shape it gives to my breasts and the way the garter belt hugs the curve of my hips. I also think the long line bra style, which hits just at the top of my waist, is a super flattering cut for me. The whole aesthetic is delightfully femme.

This is definitely the more comfortable of the two – again, I cannot overestimate how soft this lace is!

Now I just need to get me some wonderful stockings to complete the look…!

Some reactions:

I think it’s safe to say the reactions from my partners and sexy friends were overwhelmingly positive.

“Woof!” – anonymous friend

“*heart eyes emoji*” – other anonymous friend

“So ridiculously hot.” – the Artist

*Drags me into the bedroom for immediate sex* – Mr CK

A note on sizing

As ever, femme clothing sizing continues to be a mystery. Lovehoney’s plus-size lingerie comes in three sizes: 18/20, 22/24, and 26/28. However, each basque and bra has three rows of hooks-and-eyes and some stretch, making them adjustable to a reasonable degree.

Regardless of what size I’ve been at, I have always had disproportionately large boobs compared to the rest of my body. I don’t normally do bras so I haven’t had a measurement done in years. But at a guess I’m probably an E or F cup right now. This means I often have to go a size up in tops and anything with a built-in bra.

I requested these pieces in size 18/20. I’m wearing a 16 in most things at the moment, occasionally an 18 on top thanks to the aforementioned tits. However, on the tightest hook setting these pieces fitted like a dream. Even the cups were a perfect size and actually covered my nipples properly! All the straps are adjustable, from the bra straps to the pieces that attach the collar to the basque. The collar, though not adjustable, is stretchy enough that I can pull it over my head so it will fit the vast majority of neck sizes.

The knickers on both pieces were very, very slightly big on me but really nowhere near enough as to be problematic.

Care and Cleaning

Unfortunately, these pieces – as with most sexy lingerie – are hand-wash only. We actually do put them through the washing machine, in a net bag on the most gentle cycle and they’ve been absolutely fine, but your mileage may vary.

The Verdict

I love both of these sets, and these whole ranges! Interestingly, both my partners agreed that the red set was their favourite, but the black feels like more “me” when I wear them. Perhaps I’m just not very used to bright colours! Black feels much more comfortable, much more… safe?

More than anything, I want to emphasise how goddamn sexy I feel in these pieces. I cried when I’d finished trying them. The whole experience reminded me how it feels to love what I see in the mirror. That’s been… a while.

So what now?

Whatever size you are, if you’re struggling with how you see your body, I recommend getting something to wear that you feel absolutely gorgeous in. This might be lingerie or it might not – what makes us feel good is very personal.

This experience has not cured my body-image issues by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not sure that’s entirely possible. We live in a society that hates fat bodies, that encourages women to hate themselves, and that profits off insecurities and imperfections the media has convinced us we have.

But putting on this this gorgeous plus-size lingerie, taking photos and letting my lovers tell me how sexy I am, has reminded me that my body can still be hot and desirable and perfect, exactly as it is right now. And that has to be worth something.

Thanks to Lovehoney for providing me with these pieces to try. As ever, all opinions are my own. If you purchase through my affiliate links, you send a small commission my way at no extra cost to you. Professional product photos are property of Lovehoney and used with permission. Other images are mine – do not steal them.