4 Anal Sex Myths You Should Stop Believing

Anal sex is probably one of the most misunderstood sex acts of all. It carries an allure for a lot of people, whether they want to be on the giving end or the receiving end or both. However, it also scares a lot of people. This is, in part, due to incorrect assumptions and beliefs. Anal sex myths can scare people off who might otherwise be interested in trying this type of play. They can also lead people to engage in dangerous behaviours or take unnecessary risks due to a lack of knowledge.

Here at C&K, we’re all about fact-based and non-stigmatising information. So let’s bust some anal sex myths, shall we?

Anal sex always hurts

This is perhaps one of the most harmful anal sex myths, and actually likely leads to more avoidable pain and injuries. After all, if you think anal is supposed to hurt you’ll be more likely to push through pain, which can be dangerous. In fact, though anal can be intense and some mild discomfort can be normal, pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong.

With proper lubrication, warm-up, enthusiastic consent, and communication with your partner, anal sex does not need to be – and should not be – painful. If something hurts it’s time to adjust, add more lube, or stop for now.

And by the way: those “numbing” or “desensitizing” lubes designed for anal sex? Avoid them at all costs. The ingredients in them can be harmful, they increase your risk of injury, and (frankly) if you have to numb your body to engage in a particular sex act, then you probably shouldn’t be doing that thing at all.

Anal sex isn’t pleasurable for the bottom

This particular myth always strikes me as really sad, particularly when I see questions from people who are trying to grit their teeth and force themselves into anal sex they don’t want to please their partner.

Anal sex isn’t pleasurable for everyone and, if you don’t enjoy it, then you shouldn’t do it! However, if you do want to, it can be just as pleasurable for the bottom (the person being penetrated) as for the top (the person doing the penetrating.) Think about it: if anal sex wasn’t pleasurable for the receptive partner, why would anal sex toys such as butt plugs and prostate massagers be so popular?

One of the reasons that anal sex can feel so pleasurable for cis men and other people assigned male at birth is due to the prostate. Approximately the size and shape of a walnut, this gland is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is responsible for producing some of the fluid in semen and, when stimulated, it is incredibly sensitive.

However, anal sex isn’t all about the prostate, and can be just as pleasurable for receptive partners who do not have one. There are still tonnes of highly sensitive nerve endings in and around the butt, which can feel incredible. And, of course, it is located close to the genitals. According to a 2022 study on (cis) women’s experiences of anal pleasure: “[the anus] contains a dense network of sensory nerves that participate with the genitals in the engorgement, muscular tension and contractions of sexual arousal and orgasm.”

Yes, it’s even possible for some people to have an orgasm from anal sex without any direct stimulation of the genitals! Aren’t bodies awesome?

Anal sex is only for gay men (or: all gay men have anal sex)

Wrong on both counts! Many of the most common anal sex myths centre on sexual orientation, from who engages in it to what it means about your sexuality if you do.

Firstly, anal sex is for anyone who wants to have it. We all have a butt, after all! Liking or not liking anal sex doesn’t imply a single thing about your sexuality. Your sexual orientation is about who you’re attracted to, not which acts you want to do.

Also, not all men who have sex with men (MSM) have anal sex. One 2011 survey of almost 25,000 gay and bisexual men in the US found that only 35% of respondents had had anal sex during their last sexual encounter. Some queer men do it regularly, some do it occasionally, and some never do it at all. All of this is completely normal and awesome.

You can’t get pregnant, so anal sex is safe sex

It’s true, of course, that a person cannot become pregnant from anal sex. This doesn’t mean, though, that anal is a risk-free form of sex.

In fact, when it comes to the transmission of STIs, unprotected anal sex is actually riskier than most other kinds of sexual activity including unprotected vaginal sex. However, it’s easy to mitigate this risk with a few basic precautions.

The best way to protect yourself and your partner(s) is to use a condom every time you have anal sex. If you choose to go barrier-free for anal – which I only recommend in the context of an ongoing relationship with someone you trust – make sure that both you and your partner(s) are having regular sexual health screenings.

You might also want to ask your healthcare provider if pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is suitable for you. PrEP is a daily medication for people at risk of exposure to HIV, whether through sex or through drug use. According to the CDC, it reduces the risk of contracting HIV through sex by about 99% when used as directed.

Have questions about anal sex? Not sure if something you’ve heard is accurate? Let me know and I’ll try to answer them in a future post.

FYI: this post was sponsored. All writing and views are, as always, entirely my own.

What Does Inclusive Sex Toy Design for the LGBTQ+ Community Look Like?

I believe, and have believed since the first day I started working in this industry, that sex toys are for everyone. Unfortunately, sex toy design and marketing often fail to live up to this ideal. Toy retailers are often unintentionally exclusionary at best, and outright offensive at worst.

But what does it actually look like to create and market inclusive sex toys? Today I want to look at this question specifically through the lens of LGBTQ+ experiences.

No Toy Will Suit Everyone

There are so many reasons I cringe when I see phrases like “best ever sex toy for women!” and “orgasm guaranteed!” in sex toy marketing copy. The main one, though, is that sex – and bodies – simply do not work that way. We’re all different. Our bodies, minds, and relationships have diverse needs. This means that it is absolutely impossible to create a toy that will work for everyone or to guarantee that a product will work for any particular individual.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few different ways that sex toy design can become more inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community. Hint: I love colourful Pride-themed things as much as anyone, but this issue is much more complicated than just slapping a rainbow on something during the month of June.

This post is by no means meant to be exhaustive, but includes some considerations for sex toy designers and makers who want to be LGBTQ+ inclusive to think about.

Design for Diverse Bodies and Preferences

LGBTQ+ people’s bodies can look and function in a whole myriad of different ways, and inclusive sex toy design accounts for this beautiful variety.

Arosum has recently released two new products, the G-Snuggle and the LushVibe, that are specifically crafted for people with tighter or narrower vaginal canals. This might include trans women who have undergone gender confirmation surgery, some intersex people, and cis women, trans men and AFAB non-binary people who suffer from conditions such as vaginismus. These toys feature a slim design with a unique hooked tip shaped like a bean sprout that applies gentle pressure to the vaginal walls.

To be honest, even as a cis woman who simply prefers slimmer toys for penetration most of the time, I think I’d enjoy these products. It’s really nice to see companies breaking the “bigger is always better” narrative when it comes to toys. (The LushVibe, by the way, is also suitable for anal use.)

Toys that are useable when flaccid are also popular amongst some trans women and non-binary people who take estrogen, which can affect erections. I’m eternally disappointed that one of the best toys in this category, the Hot Octopuss Pulse, is marketed with the cringeworthily-gendered term “Guybrator.” Wand vibrators are another great gender-neutral option, because high-powered vibration feels awesome for most genitals.

Highly versatile toys, in general, are wonderful and there should be more of them.

Sex Toys and Gender

Sex toys can play a role in gender affirmation, too. Simply de-gendering your toys entirely is a step in the right direction and can help you to avoid inadvertently causing gender dysphoria.

There are even toys specifically designed with gender affirmation in mind. For example, there are strokers designed specifically for trans men and transmasculine people who have experienced bottom growth due to taking testosterone. And pack-and-plays allow wearers to both pack (create the look and feel of having a penis) and have sex with the same cock.

Toy Kits for Couples

Something that’s tremendously popular in the sex toy industry is bundles or kits for couples. These typically include two toys, one for each person. Sometimes the two products will link up or work together in some way (such as through an app. Isn’t technology marvellous?)

But these bundles are, with very few exceptions that you really have to go looking for, incredibly cisheteronormative in their marketing and design. I’d love to see LGBTQ+ toy manufacturers designing sets and kits for couples with the same genitals… and for couples with different genitals but without the “his & hers” marketing.

Be Aware of Other Intersections

Privilege and oppression exists as a huge and complex system of intersecting identities. This means that, when designing products with the LGBTQ+ community in mind, it’s important to consider other intersections of identity and experience as well.

For example, the sex toy industry has a huge and ongoing racism problem. “Historically, “flesh” dildos and vibrators were the color of Caucasian skin,” writes Hallie Lieberman. This is still a common occurrence and, when toys are available in other skin colours, companies often market them using problematic or even outright racist language. In the same article Shani Hart, CEO of the Hart’s Desires boutique in the D.C. area, calls out the “racist and derogatory” packaging and marketing copy that still appears far too often in this industry.

Disability inclusion matters, too, and it’s important to remember that disability doesn’t look just one way. Disabled writer, advocate, and sex worker Ruby Rousson writes in this article that “Nearly every toy I’ve come across has not been designed with accessibility in mind. Whilst we’re slowly getting there, we’re not there yet.” Size, weight, shape, button size and placement, positioning, care and cleaning, and noise are just some of the factors you’ll need to consider when it comes to disability-friendly sex toy design. Even then, you should probably avoid claiming that your toy is “good for disabled people” without specifying what that actually means.

The Words and Images You Use Matter

Okay, this is a sex toy marketing issue rather than a sex toy design issue, but it’s all intricately connected. Think about the language and images you’re using when you market your toys. Are you using a lot of images of cisgender, heterosexual-presenting people and couples? If so, your LGBTQ+ audience is unlikely to see itself represented and will probably feel excluded by your marketing.

Are you using gendered language? If so, that should be the first thing to go. For example, not everyone with a vulva is a woman and not all women have vulvas, so marketing a clitoral vibrator as a “toy for women” is exclusionary and alienating.

Think about language around sexual orientation and gender identity, too. I advocate against categorising toys by sexuality because, well, inanimate objects don’t have sexual orientations. You might think it’s inclusive to categorise a strap-on, for example, as “for lesbians.” But people of a huge array of sexualities, genders, and relationship configurations can and do use these toys.

If In Doubt, Ask

Remember that, when designing and marketing products for the LGBTQ+ community, you should actually ask us for feedback! Even if you and your team are part of the community, you probably don’t have every single identity under the LGBTQ+ umbrella represented and your experience won’t be someone else’s experience. Always seek the direct input of the individuals and communities you’re looking to serve.

Thanks to Arosum for sponsoring this post. Check out their range of products designed with LGBTQ+ people in mind! All writing and views are, as always, my own.

Sapphic, Lesbian and WLW Erasure in Polyamory, Kink, and Other Alternative Sexuality Communities

Today’s post topic was chosen by my supporters over on Patreon. Join today to vote on the direction of future blog content and get other fun perks too!

Those of us who are active in alternative relationship and sexuality communities such as polyamory, consensual non-monogamy, and kink like to believe that we’re operating in a utopia. We so want to think that our little bubble is apart and separate from the rest of the world, unaffected by society’s ills. It’s a seductive narrative, but it is a lie. Today I want to talk about one of the most pervasive and insidious issues I experience as a sapphic, non-monogamous, kinky femme in these communities.

A quick note on terminology: I can’t write about this topic without acknowledging the ways in which the the anti-transgender hate movement has co-opted the concept of “lesbian erasure.” Anti-trans activists often erroniously claim that to accept trans women as women is to erase or undermine lesbian identities and that cis lesbians routinely experience pressure to transition to male. I absolutely and unequivocally reject these ideas. Trans women are women. Trans sapphics are our sisters and are just as much a part of the community as their cis counterparts.

With that said, I want to talk about the systemic erasure and devaluing of sapphic, lesbian, and women-loving-women (WLW) identities and relationships within polyamory, consensual non-monogamy, kink, and other adjacent communities.

Who Counts as a Couple?

Let’s start with the obvious: many non-monogamous spaces, particularly those geared around casual sex and swinging, are simply not set up in a way that allows for any configuration of people that isn’t “one man and one woman in a relationship” or “a single cisgender person.” The most obvious example of this is gendered pricing. This has tonnes of its own problems anyway and completely falls apart when you account for anyone who isn’t straight, cis, and in a relationship that appears monogamous from the outside.

Many lifestyle events, clubs, and parties would class my girlfriend and I as two single women if we attended together. (Whereas, of course, if I attended with a male partner they’d class us as a couple.) Two women could be literally married to each other, and this would still be the case. Because in the eyes of those spaces, a “couple” is a man and a woman.

“But you’ll get in cheaper if they count you as two single women!”. Yeah, this isn’t the gotcha you think it is in this situation. I’d much, much rather pay the same rate as any other couple rather than have my relationship minimised, othered, and erased on account of our genders.

It’s often more insidious than these fairly blatant forms of discrimination, too. When people talk about “couples” in non-monogamous spaces, they will often casually refer to “the man” and “the lady” (or, worse, “girl”) as if that is the only configuration for a couple to take. If I refer to a partner without gendering them, most people will assume I am talking about a man. I really don’t believe this is malicious in 99% of cases. At worst, I think it is privilege-blind and clueless. But that doesn’t make it any more right or any less hurtful.

The Aggressive Gendering of Kink

I love the BDSM community in so many ways. I’ve been finding my home, my place, and my people within it for the best part of 15 years. But the longer I stick around, the more I see that the kink community still has a fairly pervasive gender-norms problem that we still need to address.

Absent very explicit context to the contrary, people will still broadly assume that men are Dominant, that women are submissive, and that kinky and D/s relationships will look broadly heteronormative. And sure, Femdom exists. But all my Dominant women friends have countless stories of men treating them as little more than fetish dispensers, expecting them to service those men’s needs and follow precise directions while pretending to be in charge and without regard for their own needs and desires.

There is very, very little representation of kinky sapphic relationships of any description in our media, our online spaces, our educational materials, or our event leadership demographics. Why is that? Because it sure as hell isn’t “because kinky sapphics don’t exist.”

I suspect it’s for a few reasons. First, a lack of imagination that assumes all kinky relationships must play out a sexy version of 1950s gender roles. Second, because cisheterosexism still means that – even in alternative spaces – men are more likely to hold positions of leadership and influence. And third, because certain parts of the community can be pretty damn unwelcoming and unsafe for queer people and especially for queer women.

More than once, when I’ve played with other women in public kink spaces, we’ve been interrupted by men either trying to give unsolicited advice or trying to insert themselves into our scene. On one memorable occasion, I was topping for an impact play scene with a friend (who, in her words, was “having a perfectly lovely time”). Out of nowhere, a man I’d never met came over and tried to physically grab my flogger out of my hands.

Because I was a woman, I was assumed to be incompetent. Because we were two women playing together, we were assumed to need a man. Our happy little play bubble was totally ruined by some random dude’s ego and entitlement.

This isn’t an isolated incident, either. Virtually every queer woman I know who plays in mixed kink spaces with other women has a similar story. Is there any wonder we’ve started making more and more of our own spaces?

To be fair, this does seem to be slowly getting better. But there’s some way still to go.

“But You Still Like Men, Right?”

When I mention my girlfriend to people who know I’m non-monogamous (or can reasonably make that assumption, such as at a lifestyle party or social), one of the first I’ve been asked on numerous occasions is whether or not I also date or fuck men.

My friend Violet calls this the “are you heteronormative enough for my comfort zone?” question. Which… no. No I am not. #toogayforyourcomfortzone.

My usual response to this, until now, has been to say yes but emphasise that it’s fairly rare for me to fancy a man enough to want to do anything about it. In the future, though, I think I might change my response. “Why do you ask?” or “well I’m not sleeping with you if that’s what you’re really asking” are currently strong contenders.

I want people who ask me this question to ask themselves why it’s the first place their mind goes on learning that I’m sapphic. After all, if a woman mentions a boyfriend or husband, almost no-one is going to ask her “but you still date women too, right?” Ultimately, what they’re asking is whether I am still sexually available to men – a thing that patriarchy both demands of women and villifies us for.

There’s a strong connection between all of this and the commodification of sapphic sexuality in service of the male gaze.

Sapphic, Lesbian and WLW Sexuality for the Male Gaze

People often believe that there is no sapphic, lesbian and WLW erasure issue in these communities because there are so many bisexual, pansexual and queer women in them. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s quite that simple. In reality, my experience – and the experience of many sapphic friends I’ve spoken to about this – is often not so much one of acceptance but of fetishisation, followed by devaluing when we refuse to conform to a safe, male-gazey idea of what our sexuality should be.

I’m reminded of the man at a polyamorous speed dating event about a year ago who aggressively quizzed me about what my former metamour-with-benefits and I got up to in the bedroom, and was then clearly bored and put out when I refused to engage. In the 16 years or so I’ve been out, I really thought we’d moved past men asking sapphics “but what do y’all do in bed anyway!?”. Apparently we have not.

I’m also reminded of the man who hit on me and my girlfriend in a gay bar on Pride weekend. Because apparently what two sapphics in love desperately needed in that moment was his dick. I have literally dozens of other examples like this that I can pull out with very little thought.

Expectations of Performativity

In sexualised spaces, people continually expect queer and bi+ women to perform their sexuality in a way that appeals to the male gaze. Two different male exes of mine became extremely upset or angry when my girlfriends were either not their physical type or not willing to sleep with them. This made me feel like my sexuality, my relationships, were only valid as long as they provided benefits to men. Which, of course, is a classic way that society devalues and commodifies WLW relationships.

One of these partners literally asked me what was “even the point” of me being queer if I didn’t perform it in a way that fulfilled his lesbian porn fantasy. Other male partners and male metamours over the years have tried to demand titillating details, photos, or even the right to “watch.” I’ve been hit on by so many men who want me to play with their wives. This is inevitably not because she wants a sapphic experience, but because he wants her to perform one for him.

Patriarchal entitlement to women’s bodies persists, even when we are tell you we are far more interested in each other than we are in you.

Unicorn hunting is another extremely common variation on this theme. In those dynamics, the original male/female couple will often pull a bait-and-switch tactic in which they use the woman to lure other queer women in, then spring the boyfriend or husband on the unsuspecting “unicorn” as a package deal. I hope I don’t have to tell you how grossly unethical this is. That’s why I now run from prospective female dates at the first signs that they’re going to expect me to be sexually available to their male partners.

And that brings us to…

Are Women Less Threatening, or Are You Just Homophobic?

This particular trope is so common within non-monogamy that it’s now a cliché. A cisgender man and woman open up their relationship. The man then tells his partner he’ll allow her to date other women, but no men. (In practice, what this means is “no-one else with a penis“, which is also transphobic.) The reason? Women are just less threatening. They don’t make him feel emasculated or threatened in the way that a man (or penis-haver) would.

The subtext? His wife could never leave him for another woman. She could never like having sex with another woman more than she does with him. She could never gain more fulfillment from a sapphic relationship than from a straight one. A man could steal her away, but a woman couldn’t. So his place in her life is safe. Right?

This comes from a place of believing that relationships between women are less real, less valid, and less important than hetero-appearing relationships. In other words it’s straight up, common-or-garden, fucking boring homophobia.

These men, by the way, are often the same men who expect their wives’ sapphic relationships to offer them something in terms of sexual access or live-action lesbian porn on tap then get very upset if they don’t.

But of course, lesbian, sapphic and WLW relationships are just as deep, meaningful, and sexually satisfying as hetero ones. Hell, for many of us they’re often more so. If you believe your wife can’t possibly glean as much happiness or fulfillment from a relationship with a woman, you might be in for a very rude awakening. If you see another man as a threat but not a woman, all this tells me is that you believe men are inherently superior and hetero relationships are inherently more desirable or important.

The fact that this practice and way of thinking is so common tells me, in itself, that there’s still a lot of homophobia towards lesbian, sapphic and queer women within non-monogamy.

So What Can We Do About It?

I try to make these blog posts something more than just rants. So if we accept that sapphic, lesbian and WLW erasure are huge problems in these communities, what can we do about it?

Here are a few of my ideas for how we, as a community, can start combatting this issue within our spaces:

  • Stop all gendered pricing for events, now. If you want to limit numbers of single men, fine. You can sell only a certain number of tickets or vet them carefully or both. But pricing according to gender, and defining “couple” as meaning a man and a woman, is homophobic, cissexist, and exclusionary.
  • Vote with your feet and your wallet. Attend events that are inclusive and avoid those that are not.
  • Stop asking queer women whether we also sleep with men. Some of us do, some of us don’t. Either way, it is solidly none of your goddamn business unless we’re going to sleep with you. And unless we make it very clear, you should probably assume we’re not.
  • Stop asking queer women for details of our sex lives. This includes asking if you can “watch,” asking for pictures or details, or treating us as lesbian porn fantasies.
  • If you’re a man with a queer female partner, ensure that you are giving your wife or partner’s sapphic relationships equal weight to your own.
  • Do not assume that hetero-presenting relationships or marriages are “primary,” more important, or take precedent over queer ones in non-monogamous networks.
  • Push back against unicorn hunting and one penis policies wherever you see them. Let people know that they are fetishising, homophobic, transphobic, and all-round gross.
  • Use non-gendered terms when talking about kink roles such as Top, bottom, Dominant, submissive, and so on. Do not assume that all Dominants are men, that all submissives are women, or that all kinky relationships are heteronormative.
  • Uplift and support queer women as educators, speakers, organisers, and community leaders.

Of course, fixing this kind of stuff takes more than just a few steps. Sapphic, lesbian and WLW erasure is deeply ingrained and pervasive. Undoing it will require a massive cultural shift both within our little subcultures and in wider society. It won’t happen overnight, of course. But I do believe we can get there.

Sluttier in Theory: Swinging, Casual Sex and Me

I have recently been dipping a cautious toe back into some swinging spaces, albeit almost exclusively very queer ones. These adventures have brought up some thoughts and realisations about the ways that I operate in sexual spaces that I’ve been thinking about a lot. So, because blogging is cheaper than therapy, let’s talk about them shall we?

I’m not sure I was ever really a swinger, to be entirely honest. Years ago, I wrote about things I disliked about the mainstream (read: hetero) swing community, from the weird prevalence of sexual racism to the casual kink-shaming. And I don’t think I’m really a swinger now, either. Or at least, claiming that label feels disingenuous when the last time I did anything more than hand sex with a stranger was literally years ago.

I’m a polyamorous and consensually non-monogamous person who also enjoys some casual sex with lovely people every now and then. (Exactly where the dividing line between “swinger” and “whatever the fuck I am” lies, I am truly not sure.)

Thing is, I’d really like to be sluttier than I am. In theory, at least, I’m a huge Ethical Slut. I love flirting, giving and receiving sexual attention and interest. I love making connections, making plans, making out, that slow but certain escalation when it becomes apparent that yes, this thing is ON. And I love sex. I’m a high sexual desire person (it’s not a drive!), and in an ideal world I’d be having sex several times a week at least. Yes, I’m a horny fucker.

So why do I find it so fucking hard to actually make that leap and do the things in a more casual context?

I’m envious of people who can just dive in. People who can pull a stranger or leap into the centre of an orgy without thinking too hard about it. I wish that could be me. So why don’t I and why isn’t it? Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to untangle.

My Sexuality is Complicated

Being very sapphic certainly complicates things. The overwhelming majority of people in swing and casual sex spaces are cis man/cis woman couples, most of whom – as is typical in that community – do things exclusively together. This is tricky when I don’t fancy very many men, though.

I’m not going to fuck a guy I don’t fancy just so I can play with his partner, and I’m not going to tolerate hands wandering after I’ve set boundaries about who can and cannot touch me and where. Realistically, I’m also not going to fuck a woman for a man’s enjoyment. Performative queerness does nothing for me. Less than nothing – it’s an active turn-off.

So where does this leave me? Probably limited to playing one-on-one with other women, playing with very trusted friends, playing with couples where the guy will happily accept “I’ll fuck your wife with you but I’m not going to fuck you”, or waiting for the cases where I am attracted enough to both/all parties to also fuck the guy(s.) The last two scenarios on this list? Well, they’re rare. In practice, my sexuality limits who will be interested in me and how I can play simply because I don’t typically offer much for the guys.

Hitting on women is hard, too, for a simple reason: I don’t want to make other women feel the way that creepy men make me feel. (Yes, there’s a whole other post in this, too.) More than once I’ve noticed an attractive woman at a party and then totally failed to even talk to her. I always kick myself afterwards, of course, but I haven’t figured out a way to overcome this one yet.

Sexual Health Fears

There’s also the sexual health angle. I got an STI about a year ago (ironically, during a particularly non-slutty phase) and it really rattled me. Though it was dealt with, I have no desire to ever repeat that experience. I feel like I’d be absolutely furious with myself if I inadvertently contracted something and then passed it on to one or both of my partners.

I preach open communication about sexual health constantly, but in reality it can be really hard to be the person saying “hey when were you last tested?” when no-one else in the room has raised it.

The reality is that, if we are going to be sexually active, there is a risk of STIs. This is even true in monogamy, because people can cheat and people can have symptomless infections for years without knowing it if they’re not testing regularly. There is no way to be a sexually active human and totally eliminate this risk. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care. If anything, it gives us a greater responsibility to take the reasonable steps we can to mitigate the risk to ourselves and our sexual partners.

In some ways, this is probably the easiest issue on this list to solve. This one can probably be solved with practice and giving fewer fucks about seeming like a buzzkill for being the person to open the conversation.

“I Shouldn’t Be Doing This”: Internalised Shame

On a less practical and more cerebral level, I think I’m probably still dealing with some internalised shame around casual sex. Like so many of us, I grew up in an intensely sex-negative society and “slut” was one of the worst things someone could call you. (I got called it for having sex with my one boyfriend of well over a year when I was sixteen, but that’s another topic for another day.)

“But Amy, you’ve been polyamorous your entire adult life!” I can hear some long-time readers saying. And yes, I have. However – and this is also going to be the topic of another post soon – the polyamorous community has a massive slut-shaming problem.

Hang out in polyamorous spaces long enough and you’ll often hear phrases like “it’s polyAMORY, not polyFUCKERY” to deride casual sex. You’ll also hear derisive language used towards swingers (and anyone sluttier than the name-caller approves of), as well as assertions that casual sex “ISN’T REALLY POLY.” Mainely Mandy did a fantastic video on this subject. It’s over an hour long but I really urge you to watch it all if you can. Mandy is insightful, engaging, hilarious, and just so right about this topic.

I suspect there’s still some internal work – and probably work with my therapist – to be done on unpacking this shame. I find it so easy to celebrate others getting all the hot sex they want with all the partners they want, as long as it’s ethical and consensual. I’m not sure why I am finding it so hard to extend that to myself. But I do know that once in a while, I get hit with this overwhelming feeling of “I shouldn’t be doing this”. And that’s a mood-killer if ever there was one.

Vulnerability is Fucking Hard

Finally, there’s also the fear of making myself vulnerable. I know not everyone will agree with me here but to me at least, there’s an inherent level of vulnerability to sex (or at least to good sex.) If I stay completely detached, there’s just no point. I’m not going to enjoy it and will probably end up feeling used rather than fulfilled.

But as the title of this section says: vulnerability is fucking hard. Vulnerability, in my experience, often leads to pain.

Of course, on the flip side, vulnerability can also lead to some trancendently wonderful experiences. Vulnerability has brought me beautiful relationships, deeper communication and intimacy with my partners, hot sex, leg-shaking orgasms, the kind of memories that still get me wet when I recall them years later.

But it’s really, really hard to be truly vulnerable and it does not come easily to abuse survivors in particular.

So… What Now?

I don’t really know, to be honest. Maybe I need to just be brave and take bigger leaps into the things I want before overthinking gets in the way and stops me. Or maybe some things do need to remain “in theory.”

I sent a draft of this post up to this point to my girlfriend, having no idea how to finish it. Because she’s brilliant, she made this suggestion: “Imagine someone has written that post and sent it to you asking for your advice.” A lightbulb went on instantly. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do. The conclusion of this piece will take the form of an open advice letter from me to me.

Open Advice from Me to Me

Hey Amy. This sounds legitimately complicated and like there are numerous different factors at play.

First I want to validate something for you: this stuff is complex. I’ll also let you into a secret: it’s complex for almost everyone! Those people you see at parties, who seem to be having all the casual sex all the time without a care in the world? That’s probably not their reality. Behind the scenes they are likely thinking things over, considering their boundaries and desires, perhaps discussing things with their partners. They probably have many of the same insecurities as you, and plenty of their own unique struggles too. So first, please don’t think you’re alone or weird for feeling conflicted about this. You’re not. What you see at parties is, in all likelihood, the smallest tip of the iceberg.

Next I want to tell you that your sexuality is perfect as it is. We live in a deeply, aggressively heteronormative world and it can be hard when you fall outside of that. You never, ever have to have sex that you don’t want to have. If you want to have sex but only with a certain gender or genders? Awesome! If you’re open to other genders but only occasionally, sporadically, or circumstantially? Great! If some types of sex appeal to you but not others? Excellent self-knowledge, well done.

I would advise simply being very upfront with potential playmates about who you are, what you want, and what you can offer.

Will this mean some people aren’t right for you? Yes, absolutely. And that’s okay! No-one is everybody’s cup of tea, and having incompatible needs with some people doesn’t mean that your needs are wrong (or that theirs are.) If someone isn’t into what you’re offering, you can wish each other well and move on to more fitting connections. If someone deliberately breaches boundaries you’ve set or oversteps your consent? Get up and leave. You deserve better.

I hear your frustration that suitable connections seem to be relatively few and far between, possibly due to your low interest in men. But a small number of great connections is vastly preferable to a lot of bad ones. You seem to be doing this already, but continuing to prioritise explicitly queer and queer-positive spaces is much more likely to get you the kinds of experiences you want.

Your sexual health concerns are also valid and understandable. They particularly make sense with the context that you’ve had an STI in the past and do not want to repeat the experience. Sexual health is a sensible thing to be concerned with. Most STIs are not a big deal – they are treatable, curable, or manageable. However, some can have a significant or even life-changing impact, and antibiotic-resistant strains of certain infections are a growing concern in the medical community. Even easily curable STIs are, unfortunately, still heavily stigmatised.

I know you know this, but you are not being a buzzkill for raising this topic. If someone rejects you or gets annoyed with you for discussing it, they’re not right for you. By having this conversation before hooking up, you’re being a responsible partner and caring for both your own and your partners’ sexual health.

One possible way to become more comfortable with this conversation might be to have it in advance where possible. Are you chatting to people online prior to meeting them? If so, raise the topic during your pre-party flirtations. Are there online spaces, such as forums or Discord servers, where party or event attendees hang out? If so, why not get a sexual health discussion thread going in those spaces? This takes the “in the moment” pressure off. It also normalises the conversation and allows you to get a feel for people whose risk tolerance aligns with yours.

As a general rule, sexual health practices should default to the boundaries of the most cautious person. If you want to use a barrier, for example, then your prospective partners can either use that barrier or decide not to hook up with you under those conditions. What they cannot – or should not – do is try to talk you out of your boundaries. Trying to change your mind about sexual health protocols is a major red flag, and one you should not ignore.

Internalised shame and fears around vulnerability are, unfortunately, harder to overcome. You’re right that we live in an intensely sex-negative society. It also sounds like you have some personal experience of people weaponising sexual shame against you. Shame is complex, multi-faceted, and unpacking it can be an ongoing (even lifelong) process.

Next time they arise, I invite you to sit with those feelings of shame and ask yourself what they are telling you. Then hold those ideas up to your values and beliefs about the world. Do they align? And if not, where did they come from?

For example, perhaps you realise that your feeling of shame is telling you “people who respect themselves only have sex in committed relationships.” Do you really believe that is true? Presumably not, since you accept and embrace the fact that casual sex can be a positive and joyful thing (and that sexual behaviour is not correlated with self-respect.) Okay, so where did that belief come from? Perhaps it was your parents, your peers, school, the media, or the religion you were raised in. By unpacking the things shame is telling you, you can take more control over which of those beliefs you internalise and which you choose to consciously reject.

On your fear of vulnerability, I want you to know that it makes perfect sense. Existing as a woman or femme in this patriarchal society is hard, and doubly so for survivors of abuse. When vulnerability has been used against you or resulted in pain in the past, it can be incredibly difficult to let yourself go there again.

This fear is your body and brain’s way of keeping you safe. Try to remember that when you’re feeling frustrated with yourself. All those positive things you identified that allowing yourself to be vulnerable has brought to you? What do they all have in common? They all had to happen from a place of safety. This likely meant coming to vulnerability in your own time, not forcing it from yourself. If getting to that baseline of safety takes you longer than it takes other people, or takes you longer in some circumstances than others, then that’s okay.

One vital thing I want to invite you to do is just to listen to yourself. Your body is deeply wise and intuitive. Try to tune into what it’s telling you in any given situation. Try to learn what your personal “yes, more, this” feels like, as well as your personal “no” or “ick” or “I’m not sure about this.” What does safety feel like? What does it feel like when you truly, deeply want something?

Learning to follow those intuitive clues will teach you to trust yourself. It will also help you to come into a deeper understanding of what you really want and don’t want, both in the big-picture sense and in any given moment. In time, you’ll learn how to move towards your “yes” and away from your “no” more authentically.

Finally: remember that there’s no right or wrong here, and you’re not in competition with anyone. You are not less of a non-monogamous or sex-positive person if you’re slower to warm up and get comfortable with being sexual. It’s okay to be a “yes” on one occasion and a “no” on another. It’s okay to be choosy, to be selective, to make sure any given situation is right for you.

It is okay to explore, try things out, surprise yourself. To like things you weren’t sure you would, and do dislike things you were sure would do it for you. And it’s okay if some things need to remain “in theory,” for now or forever.

Breathe. You’re doing fine.

Amy x

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Naming My Sexuality: What is Sapphic?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the words I use to describe my sexuality.

I have identified as bisexual since I was 17, and known I had attractions to folks of more than one gender since much earlier than that. I later realised that I could also consider myself pansexual, since I’m pretty sure I have the capacity to be attracted to people of any and all genders (and none.)

Even so, I’ve always liked the term “bisexual”, and continue to identify with it for a number of reasons:

  1. It feels extremely important to claim a label that is so often dismissed as “not really queer” or “queer lite”, despite being the third letter in LGBTQ+.
  2. It’s an easy shorthand that most people outside of the LGBTQ+ community have at least some understanding of.
  3. Claiming an expansive definition of bisexuality (“attraction to two or more genders”) is important in pushing back against the false narrative that bisexuals only fancy cis people or that bisexuality is a trans-exclusionary sexuality.

Even so, taken on its own, I haven’t found this term entirely satisfactory and I’ve played around with a few different ones. And the term I keep finding myself drawn to again and again is “sapphic.”

So What is Sapphic, Exactly?

Sapphic is a term “relating to sexual attraction or activity between women” (Oxford Languages.) As a sexual orientation or identity, the LGBTQIA+ Wiki defines sapphic as referring “to a woman or woman-aligned person of any sexual orientation who is attracted to other women and/or women-aligned individuals.”

Fun fact: the term “sapphic” derives from the name of Sappho, an Archaic Greek poet who lived circa 630-570 BCE and whose work described erotic desire and romantic love between women. The word “lesbian” comes from Lesbos, the island where Sappho lived.

Why Identify as Sapphic?

As I said, I’ve played around with a lot of labels over the years and particularly over the last few months. Though I’m definitely somewhere on the bi spectrum, I’m also definitely not a Kinsey 3. I’m probably somewhere between a 4 and a 5 – that is, much more frequently attracted to people with similar gender identities and presentations to mine (i.e. women, femmes, and women-aligned folks) than to those with very different identities and presentations (i.e. men, male-aligned, and masc-of-centre folks.)

In truth, if I told you ten people I fancy right now, at least nine of them would be women, femmes, or women-aligned. The men I love, fancy, hook up with, and date are wonderful… but they’re also the exceptions rather than the rule.

Sapphic is an umbrella term. It can encompass people who identify as lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer, and in various other ways. What I love the most about this particular label is that it doesn’t necessarily mean exclusive attraction to women (in the way that the term “lesbian” does). It does, however, centre that attraction.

As a woman and as a femme, most of the world would conceive my sexuality primarily in relation to men. Specifically, the assumption is that I will be exclusively or primarily attracted to them and that, even when I am not, my interest in other women will be performed in a way that centres men. In fact, one of the most common biphobic tropes is that bi+ women’s sexuality primarily exists for the titillation and enjoyment of men. (See “can I watch?” and “that’s hot” and “so if you’re bi, can we have a threesome?”)

I’m assumed to be “straight really” or just dabbling in queerness for funsies because my nesting partner happens to be male. I recently told a man who was trying to pick me up that I was “wayyyyyy towards the gay end of bisexual” and somehow, all he gleaned from that revelation was “so I still have a chance?” (Reader, he did not.) Even – perhaps especially – when you’re loudly and proudly queer, heteronormativity can seem very very pervasive sometimes.

So yes. I think “sapphic bisexual” is the most succinct and accurate way to sum up my sexuality right now.

Choosing a term to describe my sexuality that specifically places my love for and attraction to women at its heart feels like a small act of reclamation and celebration for my queerness. Every time I think about referring to myself in this way it makes me smile. I think that means I am on the right lines.

So what is sapphic? Right now for me at least, it’s pride and it’s joy and it’s queer as fuck.

Four Fun Queer Quotes for Pride Month

Hey everyone, happy June! And more importantly, happy Pride Month! I wondered what I wanted to write about for the beginning of June. I considered delving into The Discourse about kink at Pride, or writing something about rainbow capitalism and corporate sponsorship and arms dealers pinkwashing their murder-corporations, but all those things have been said many times and much better than I could.

So instead I thought I’d bring you a little queer joy in the form of four of my favourite TV and movie quotes about being LGBTQ+ and tell you a bit about what they mean to me.

This post may contain plot spoilers, so proceed with caution if you haven’t seen any of these things yet.

“Any queer space is your space” – Oliver Grayson, The Bold Type

Oliver Grayson and Kat Edison at a queer party in The Bold Type

Kat Edison on Freeform’s The Bold Type is one of my favourite bisexual characters (and YES they actually say the word on the show!) Her ex-girlfriend, Adena, asks her not to attend a queer event because “some lesbians take issue when other people infiltrate their space.”

Adena eventually realises why this was shitty, biphobic behaviour and apologises. But in the meantime, Kat seeks advice from her gay colleague and friend Oliver, and this is what he tells her.

It’s a truly heartwarming moment of queer POC solidarity and it’s something I think all bi+ folks need to hear. We’re often erased from queer spaces, even by our own communities, and told we don’t belong because we’re “not queer enough” or can “pretend to be straight.”

This is for all my bi, pan, omni, ace, aro, trans, non-binary, and other pals who have ever been told Pride isn’t for you: any queer space is your space. Everyone’s favourite Gay Fashion Dad said so.

“Terrific. Let’s bring down the government.” – Steph Chambers, Pride

Steph in the movie Pride

Pride (2014) is one of my all-time favourite movies. It gives me hope and makes me cry all at the same time. It reminds me of all the things our queer elders fought for, struggled for, died for – and why it is so vital that we keep fighting.

Steph says this line in her typical sardonic, bordering-on-deadpan fashion just after the Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners group has been formed, and to me it sums up the spirit of the whole film. Pride is about two disenfranchised groups, queer people and striking miners in a poor village, joining forces to support one another and fight back against oppression. And in a world of more hate and division than ever, this is a message and an ethos we need to remember.

Pride is a protest. Pride has always been a protest. It isn’t about assimilating into respectable white middle-class cishet land. Pride is about being who we are unapologetically and without backing down, no matter what the government has to say about it.

“It’s not a phase, I’m not confused! Not indecisive, I don’t have the “gotta choose” blues!” – Darryl Whitefeather, Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Darryl Whitefeather "Gettin Bi" from Crazy Ex Girlfriend. For a post about queer quotes.

I know it’s got some problematic elements but CXG broke a lot of new ground. It handled a lot of difficult issues with the mix of humour and sensitivity that is so, so hard to get right.

And one of the things it did amazingly well? Representing not just bisexuality, but coming-out-later-in-life male bisexuality. Gettin’ Bi is Darryl’s coming out song, and it’s the “middle aged man dancing and singing to celebrate his sexuality” anthem I never knew I needed.

The song dispels many myths about bisexuality, including that we are inherently promiscuous (some of us are, some aren’t) or that we’re going through a phase and will eventually “pick a side.” It’s fun, it’s joyful, it’s charmingly awkward (this scene takes place in a workplace meeting) and it’s just delightful.

“Sexuality is fluid. Whether you’re gay or you’re straight or you’re bisexual, you just go with the flow.” – Shane McCutcheon, The L Word

Shane from The L Word, sexuality is fluid queer quote for Pride Month

A lot of things about The L Word have not aged well, sadly. Its treatment of trans character Max was deeply problematic, as was its erasure of bisexuality (and occasional outright biphobia) after season 1. I hear the new Generation Q has fixed many of these issues, but I haven’t watched it yet because I promised to watch it with my bestie and we haven’t seen each other in a year and a half because *gestures at the pandemic.*

But before The L Word went sideways into biphobia and occasional complete batshittery, it gave us some great moments including this wonderful quote from Shane.

I was 17 and just starting to peek out of the closet when I first saw this show. I didn’t really know if I was straight with a little idle curiosity, or gay while having inexplicably fallen for a man, or (*gasp*) actually bisexual. This line felt like permission to accept that my sexuality might change over time, and that it was okay and normal if it did.

What are your favourite queer joy quotes for Pride Month, loves?

[Guest Post] Erotic Fanfiction as Sexual Exploration by Kelvin Sparks

Today’s guest post comes from a new-to-C&K writer! I’ve followed Kelvin Sparks (he/him) on Twitter for some time and enjoyed many of his writings. I’m delighted to be publishing this essay on the history and appeal of sexually explicit fanfiction!

Amy x

Erotic Fanfiction as Sexual Exploration by Kelvin Sparks

When discussions of fanfiction reach the mainstream, one of the go-
to jabs is always to talk about erotic fanfiction as a punchline in itself.
Even when fanfiction has its defenders, they often try to distance ‘the
good stuff’ from explicit works within the genre. This is something I don’t
think is fair, not just because I think erotic work is unfairly maligned in
general, but because of the history of explicit fanfiction as a safe space
for people (particularly women and/or LGBTQ+ people) to explore sexual
ideas and fantasies.

A Short History of (Explicit) Fanfiction

Although people have been a) interested in building on existing
stories and characters and b) horny for pretty much the entirety of
human history, fanfiction as we know it currently is rooted in the sci-fi fan
culture of the 20th century.

While plenty of people talk about Star Trek as having the first fandom in the 60s, many of the activities associated with this early fandom activity were derivative of more general sci-fi fandom culture. For example, Star Trek fan magazines (or ‘fanzines’) weren’t something original or exclusive to the fandom, but were simply more specific versions of sci-fi fanzines, which printed amateur writing. The difference was that Star Trek fanzines, starting with 1967’s Spockanalia, contained and popularised derivative fanfiction rather than original work.

Star Trek was also influential on modern fandom in other ways. For
one, the term ‘slash’, used to refer to same gender (primarily male/male)
pairings within fanfiction, comes from ‘Kirk/Spock’. While not all explicit
fanfiction is slash fanfiction and not all slash fanfiction is explicit, the
reputation of K/S (as the pairing was also known) fans was often as
smut-peddlers. While it’s hard to know specific details about the early
history of smut fanfiction—first-hand sources are hard to come by—we
do know that by 1978, it was prevalent enough that the editors of Star
Trek
fanzine Fantasia discussed the “rift between the porn-haters and
the porn-lovers”.

Fanfiction—and specifically smutty fanfiction—became more visible
as internet use became more common. While internets had been used for fandom since pretty much their creation— bulletin boards and mailing
lists were promenant in the 80s—the creation of the world wide web and
more widespread internet usage in the 90s drove some of the most
prominent fandoms of the period, such as The X-Files and Xena.

For the most part, fanfiction was kept in private archives, although the creation of Fanfiction.net and LiveJournal in 1998 and 1999 respectfully changed this. Fanfiction.net banned NC-17 fanfiction in 2002, and while
Adultfanfiction.net initially filled the void, Archive of Our Own (created in
2007) has become one of the leading alternatives. While AO3 doesn’t
hold a monopoly on fandom— FanFiction.net is still under use, and other
sites like WattPad have thriving fanfiction communities—it is one of the
leading communities, especially when it comes to erotic fanfiction, which
is still banned on FanFiction.net and is less prevalent on WattPad due to
its younger demographic.

Why Do People Like Erotic Fanfiction?

The main reason that people enjoy erotic and explicit fanfiction is
pretty clear—people enjoy erotic media! The real question here is why
do people enjoy erotic fanfiction over other kinds of erotic work and art?

Written erotica in general provides a space that’s low risk while being
explicitly erotic. A fantasy or desire may feel unapproachable or anxiety
inducing in real life, but fiction allows us to play with these fantasies and
desires in a space that’s totally controllable. If you like the idea of
bondage, for example, reading erotica about bondage may feel easier
than actually attempting to act out these fantasies because a book can
be closed at any time.

Written erotica tends to have an easier time expressing emotional aspects of sex than visual erotica (which isn’t to say that either is better than the other, just that they are different mediums), and for people who experience a lot or most of their satisfaction from the emotional aspects of sex, written erotica can feel more satisfying.

Fanfiction erotica can heighten some of the characteristics that written erotica already has. Because fanfiction is derivative, the audience for it already has a familiarity with the characters involved, as well as some kind of emotional connection to them. I would also argue that the writing side of fanfiction has a heavy focus on emotional continuity. In order to write a character so that they’re recognisable as their canon self but distinct enough to fit into a new universe, a writer needs to have a good handle on their interiority, meaning that fanfiction often becomes a very character-focused and emotion-focused type of storytelling.

Both the derivative nature of fanfiction and the internal tropes of the
genre can make it feel even safer to explore erotic ideas than conventional erotic fiction. Fanfiction archives often display information about the content included in the piece of fiction. For example, with Archive Of Our Own, pieces of fanfiction are given clear warnings for content like character death or violence, and authors can choose to tag works with various bits of information about their content, such as (for example), ‘Threesome – F/M/M’, ‘Rimming’, or ‘Rope Bondage’. This kind of archive system not only lets readers know about what content they’re likely to see, but allows them to search for specific or particular themes or types of content.

The nature of romance or erotica centric fanfiction often means that readers know that their preferred pairing (or more than pairing) will end up together, but the appeal of reading fanfiction is to watch the journey unfold. This safety—as well as the community built into fanfiction as a genre—means that it can feel like a safe space to explore ideas, both as a reader and writer and not necessarily connected to erotic preferences and practices. Plenty of people I know within fandom discovered that they were queer and trans through fanfiction, sometimes discovering it was even a thing because of fic and sometimes having their first encounter with depictions of what it was like to be trans/queer in terms of internal emotion be fanfiction.

My Experience with Fanfiction

No blog post would be complete without some personal context or story! I’ve drifted in and out of fanfic circles over the years, sometimes having periods of time where I write a lot of fanfic all at once and at other times not writing it for months or years at a time.

During my teenage years, I was pretty active in fandom, and used it as a space to explore my sexuality. It wasn’t so much an exploration of queerness for me. I’d already come out as trans by the time I started
writing fic, and I didn’t discover I was bisexual because of fandom. But
fandom and fanfic did allow me to explore my sexuality in other ways.

While I was already devouring romance novels prior to discovering
fanfiction, fanfic gave me access to stories and fantasies about
people outside of the cisgender, heterosexual, vanilla relationships that
I found in my my local library’s romance section. I was able to read not only
about transmasculine characters written by other transmasculine
people, but about polyamory, about BDSM, and about fantasies I would
never have come across in other circumstances.

At the same time, the fact these ideas were explored through characters I already knew and cared about made it feel far more approachable than original work with the same themes would have. It also gave me a built in audience when it came to writing my own erotic fiction, exploring what kinds of kinks, scenarios, and emotions I found compelling.

Kelvin Sparks logo for guest post about erotic fanfiction

About the Author

Kelvin Sparks (he/him) is a bisexual trans man who writes about sex on the internet. You can find him at KelvinSparks.com, or at @Kelvinsparks_ on both Twitter and Instagram.

[Guest Post] Conversion Therapy Has Rebranded and It’s Just as Dangerous by Violet Grey

I’m delighted to be welcoming the lovely and talented Violet Grey (she/her) back to Coffee & Kink with another guest post. This one is really important and also really challenging.

If you’re a straight, cis person, please take the time to read and absorb this one. If you’re queer and/or a conversion therapy survivor, please take care of yourself if you decide to engage with this <3

Amy x

Conversion Therapy Has Rebranded and It’s Just as Dangerous

TW for conversion therapy, spiritual abuse, trauma and suicide

If you’ve seen the news recently, you’ll know banning conversion therapy is back in discussion. Despite promises by the UK government to ban it back in 2018, conversion therapy is sadly still legal, with no swift action being taken to criminalise the practice. In its lengthy history and the outpouring of horrific survivor accounts, it has undergone a rebranding in recent years, but it is just as dangerous as ever. 

Being a bi person of faith (Christianity and Quaker teachings) I know not all Christians support conversion therapy. In fact, most I know are vehemently against it. However, it is a large, systemic problem in the church that needs confronting. 

What is Conversion Therapy?

Conversion therapy (sometimes known as Cure or Reparative Therapy) is a pseudoscientific practice of “repairing” or “curing” an LGBTQ+ person (usually teenagers and young adults) to change their sexual orientation to heterosexual, or gender identity to cisgender. 

It is usually undertaken by religious communities (in this case, I’m talking about Christianity), but is also known to be done by a select few medical professionals. It stems from the belief that being anything other than heterosexual and cisgender is wrong, and therefore should be treated. 

Such “treatments” to “cure” or “repair” someone of their homosexuality, bisexuality (often referred to as SSA or “Same Sex Attraction” in these circles,) or trans identity have included, but not been limited to: 

  • Biblical “counselling“: a mixture of psychotherapy-style sessions with spiritual advice. It is not uncommon for the counsellors to have no qualifications in counselling and people will be asked to sign a waiver acknowledging this. 
  • Praying and scripture study: Also known as “pray the gay away,” or praying for God to help the person with their “struggle” of Same Sex Attraction, again often reinforcing self-loathing. 
  • Physical torture, including starvation and beating
  • Exorcism
  • Electroshock Therapy 
  • Forced sterilisation and surgeries 
  • Chemical castration: The use of anaphrodisiac drugs to reduce a person’s libido or sexual activity. While it can be used to treat certain cancers, this has been used on LGBTQ+ people to “reduce homosexual urges.”

The medical community has denounced conversion therapy as a dangerous pseudoscience (with incredibly high failure rates) that contributes to PTSD, depression, anxiety, and even suicide in those who undergo it. There are countless studies with findings all pointing to the same conclusion: conversion therapy doesn’t work, and you can’t “make” someone straight any more than you can “make” someone gay.

Being LGBTQ+ it is not a choice, it doesn’t disrupt the family dynamic, and it is not caused by childhood trauma. We just are who we are. 

Rebranding: Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner

Rebranding of conversion therapy has been happening in the last fifteen years or so, primarily since the legalisation of same-sex marriage across many parts of the world. Since then, in my experience with homophobic views, they have shifted from “being gay is a choice” to “God may have made you gay. It’s just the act of homosexuality that’s a sin” in order to come across as more accepting. 

This is just as bad. One: love (and sex) is not a sin. Two: it gaslights the person through spiritual abuse. Three: it leaves already vulnerable LGBTQ+ people with two choices: 

  • A lifetime of celibacy. So no masturbation, no same-sex relationship, no sex, no nothing. 
  • A heterosexual marriage with someone we might not even love. 

Either way the options are clear: a lifetime of misery, or a lifetime of misery. But hey, God loves you, right? 

Biblical “counselling” and prayer is being championed in the wake of this so-called progressive view, to “help” people who want this so-called help. However, this toxic doctrine has been internalised in not LGBTQ+ people, but the very people claiming to help them. 

These views usually echo in the various groups: 

  • Folks who like to Bible thump and control
  • Christians who still believe sexuality is a choice
  • Well-meaning Christians

Now, “well-meaning Christian” interlinked with homophobia does sound like an oxymoron, and it is. However, with such messages being preached from the pulpit or in a mistranslated Bible verse (there are 450 English translations of the Bible!) these views will either be all you know, or even be considered a liberal take – especially if you come from a conservative background.

Their view, from my experience, does not come from malice (though I don’t justify it at all.) They genuinely feel they are doing the right thing. They think they are helping, but conversion therapy doesn’t help and in fact, can and does still cause significant harm.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

For the well-meaning folks, who believe in “hating the sin and not the sinner,” I just want to say this: I’m not trying to attack you or limit your faith. But from a fellow Christian, and a queer one at that, this take is still hurting people and we need to acknowledge this. Then we can enact truly positive change.

Sadly, this doctrine of “tolerance but not really” further reinforces self-hatred in the name of love. It reinforces distress that shouldn’t be there in the first place, and is not justifiable with any of Jesus’ teachings. 

We are called to love our neighbour and consider the fruit we bear, but if the fruit we produce leads to trauma, self-loathing and even suicide, we can’t dig our heels in with, “But the Bible says…”. There is no Biblical justification for the torture we as a community have, and continue to, put LGBTQ+ people through.  Who are we as Christians to tear two adults in love away from each other and condemn them to a life of misery?

Breaking Up with Toxic Doctrine

The truth of the matter is that Leviticus, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians, and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah were about sexual violence and abuse of power. 

We are using the Bible as a weapon when it was never meant to be. The Bible is a rich, historical document full of context to be learned, as well as a religious text. Literalism is killing people and if we want to try to be more Christ-like, we need to focus on what Christ was about: love. 

Now, there is a shift towards churches becoming LGBTQ+ affirming and progressives, both clergy and parishioner, are leading the way through thorough research of doctrine. However, it goes without saying that there is backlash against this. So while we are making positive baby steps, we’ve still got a long way to go. 

Violet Grey describes herself as “your 20-something lady who loves to write. I write erotic fiction, along with real-life sex stories, thoughts on sexuality, kink, BDSM, and generally whatever else is on my mind.” Check out her blog and give her a follow on Twitter!

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[Guest Post] Kink in Context by Quenby

It’s time for another guest post and I’m delighted to be bring you another piece from Quenby (they/them) who has written for me before and always has such great things to say. Today, they’re exploring the limits of “your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay.”

Remember: you can always chip in via the tip jar to help me keep commissioning awesome guest writers.

Amy x

Kink in Context by Quenby

“Your Kink Is Not My Kink, And That’s Okay.” This concept has become an article of faith within the kink community, a rallying cry of mutual acceptance. And I think the basic idea behind it – that we shouldn’t shame people simply because they have kinks we don’t – is sound. But it’s often used to shut down any criticism of people within the kink community. And that is a dangerous situation in any community, and particularly for marginalised people within that group.

Kink is a distinct subculture, with its own behavioural norms and distinct culture. But any subculture exists within the context of the wider culture it’s embedded in, so it os not isolated from the issues which affect the dominant culture[*]. So kinks are connected to mainstream culture, they often play with the idea of taboo (i.e. relating to social norms by violating them). And that means we need to think about how our kinks can reinforce the existing problems in our culture.

This isn’t exactly a new idea. There are countless pieces out there discussing whether you can be a submissive and a feminist (spoiler alert, yes you can). Last year the iconic Sinclair Sexsmith wrote about the issues of Master-slave dynamics in a world where racism and slavery are very real issues. 

Personally, it’s feminisation which hits the hardest. Seeing a cis man feminised as a way to humiliate him hits a little too close to home. At its worst, it feels like this reproduces trans trauma for the entertainment of people who will never actually have to live with this. Yet I know several people who worked out they were trans through this kink. And when it’s done by trans people to reclaim power over their trauma, it’s a very different situation.

This piece mostly deals with these questions in the abstract, so what does this look like in a practical sense? Let’s take a relatively simple example, I really love it when a partner refers to me as a filthy slut. Part of the reason that’s hot to me is the taboo, the way it degrades me for violating the social norm of “you shouldn’t be slutty”. But if you’re not careful, using this language in a kink context can normalise using it more broadly, and reinforce the slutshaming within our society.

There’s a conversation connected to this around reclaiming language (for example, The Ethical Slut reframes the word “slut” as something which isn’t inherently negative,) but a big part of this is how we behave outside of kink. I would never allow someone to call me a slut in a kink context if they also used it as a derogatory term in real life, and for me that’s an important distinction to make.

I don’t have all the solutions here. There aren’t simple answers of “this kink is wrong”, or “you have to engage in kink in this particular way”. How to engage with a culture without reproducing its harmful elements is a very complex question. But I’m pretty sure that the answer isn’t to simply ignore how kink can reinforce and normalise real social issues, or excuse the harm this can do to real people for fear of kink shaming. 

Perhaps all I can ask is for people to think about what they’re doing. To look at the kinks they engage with and consider how these relate to the real world – the privileges they possess within this context and the unintended consequences on people around them. It’s not easy. In the “filthy slut” example alone, I found so much to unpack from three simple syllables. Thinking about how this applies to the intricacy of different kinks is a daunting task. But these are questions we need to be asking.

Bias, privilege, and marginalisation are built into our society, as a part of that society each of us carries these problems within us. This is not done equally, some of us try to address internalised biases while others embrace them. But we are all, on some level, part of the problem. And we all need to be part of the solution.

[*] The mainstream culture which dominates society, not the culture of Doms

Quenby is a queer perfomer, writer, and activist. If you liked this post you can check out their blog, or follow them on FB and Twitter @QuenbyCreatives.

Dear Kinkly, I’m Out [An Open Letter]

Yesterday morning, I posted on Twitter a screenshot of the email I sent to Kinkly asking them to remove my blog from their site and not include me on their “Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes” list again.

But I had more to say, so I thought I’d write an open letter.

Dear Kinkly,

This isn’t what I wanted to be writing today. I don’t enjoy using my blog in this way. All things considered, I’d much rather be writing hot smut or dildo reviews or literally fucking anything else.

However, I am in a privileged position in this situation. I am a cisgender person who is not directly harmed by transphobia. Therefore, I feel it is my responsibility to use my platform to make what difference I can.

Many people in the sex blogging community were dismayed to see what your “Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes” list, released last week, awarded prizes to bloggers who have perpetuated transphobic behaviour this year. I must stress here that we’re not talking about someone making a mistake in good faith. We’re talking about people who expressed support for a violently transphobic piece of writing. People who misgendered others deliberately. People who doubled down and attacked when asked to do better and stop hurting trans and non-binary people.

As a community, we gave you the benefit of the doubt when you published your list. We understand you can’t go through every single bit of social media interaction someone has ever had. That’s why the problem was brought to your attention calmly and politely.

We very much hoped that you would choose to do better. It wouldn’t even have been particularly difficult! All you needed to do was say “we’re really sorry, we didn’t know,” remove the bigoted people from your list, and make more of an effort to uplift marginalised voices in the future.

Instead, you chose to double down. The comments you posted on Twitter earlier this week cannot even really be described as a “non apology.” They weren’t even that. They amounted to “welp, not our problem.”

You could have chosen to own your mistake and support the most marginalised members of our community. Instead, you told us loudly and clearly that you don’t give a damn.

In a situation of injustice, you tried to remain neutral. In doing so, you sided with the oppressor.

I’m done, Kinkly. I’m out. I’ve already told you to remove my content from your platform and unless I see meaningful and substantive change, I will not consider supporting you again in any way – writing for you, sharing your content, engaging with you on social media, or allowing you to use any of my content on your site.

We spoke up, and you chose to ignore us. We asked you to do better, and instead you chose to turn away and continue to give bigotry a platform. At a certain point, all we can do is vote with our digital feet.

So that’s it. I’m out. I hope you will seriously consider the repercussions of your actions and the very real harm they have caused to trans and non-binary people, who are already marginalised in the rest of the world and deserve to find a safe space in our community. I hope you will reevaluate your approach to how you do your “Superheroes” list, should you continue to run it in the future. And I hope you’ll make some real, meaningful steps towards making amends. Might I suggest a genuine apology, removing the bigoted bloggers from your platform, and perhaps making a donation to a charity that supports trans people as a starting point?

I hope you’ll choose to do better, but I’m not holding my breath.

Amy

Want to cosign the letter? Just comment below to do so!