The Love Stories That Weren’t

I don’t believe in “The One”. I’m a hopeless romantic, yes, but I’m also something of a realist. The mere fact that there are nearly seven billion people on this planet makes it absurd to me to think that there is exactly one person designed for everyone to love. I mean…

“It’s just mathematically unlikely that at a university in Perth
I happened to stumble upon the one girl on Earth
Specifically designed for me!”

– Tim Minchin, “If I Didn’t Have You

Aside from the sheer numerical absurdity of the idea, my own experience shows that “The One” just isn’t a meaningful concept. I’ve loved a number of people in my life. Not all of them were healthy for me – some were pretty terrible – but the love I felt? That was real. And it isn’t retroactively less real because I don’t love them any more.

I say that Mr CK is the love of my life, and that’s true. But that doesn’t mean he’s the only person I’ve ever loved or could ever love. It doesn’t mean I think we were somehow predestined to find each other and be together. It means that in this chaotic world, we did find each other and he’s the person I have chosen to spend my life with – to walk hand-in-hand with along the path of life, hopefully until one of us runs out of heartbeats.

Don’t you think the idea of choice, of choosing each other again and again every day, week, month and year, is more romantic that a notion of some pre-determined fate? I do.

I’m also very aware that, for all the people I’ve loved or been in relationship with in my life, there are others which could have happened, and didn’t for whatever reason. So this is for the almosts, the maybes, the “right person, wrong time”s. The love stories that weren’t.

There was the one who was my first “what if…?” We were seventeen and I was already in a relationship. I didn’t have any kind of language for non-monogamous feelings, so I thought I was bad and wrong because I couldn’t stop thinking about someone while in a relationship with someone else. I don’t think he ever realised his crush on me was reciprocated. We’re friends to this day and he was one of the first people I ever came out to as bisexual.

There was the one who was significantly more fundamentally-monogamous than I am. We knew it had no long-term potential, but we were powerfully drawn to each other anyway. He and I danced around each other, kissing and pseudo-dating and doing kinky play and pretending it was all very casual, for the better part of two years. At one point, we were talking on the phone almost every night. He used to call me Kitten. I used to say “I love you” after he’d hung up.

There was the one I got on a train and traveled six hours, on little more than a whim, to meet. This woman who looked like a 1950s pin-up model and kissed me with lips that tasted of green tea. I was recently out of my first same-sex relationship and exercising the age-old wisdom that the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. She was curious, and her husband graciously gave her a one-night pass with me. I just wish I’d known the pass was only for one night.

Then there was the one with whom the chemistry was so intense and so immediate that I felt the zing from across the room. Though ultimately it amounted to little more than a single very hot scene, it’s a memory I cherish.

There was the one who I shared just one incredible date with. I remember looking at him across the table of my favourite Thai restaurant, wishing I could pour the moment into the empty wine bottle, cork it and keep it forever. I never did learn why he ghosted me afterwards. That one hurt for a long time.

I don’t like the concept of “the one who got away”. It has too many weird implications for me – and, again, is too tied into this notion of There Can Be Only One Real Ultimate Love. I prefer to think about it in the sense of how much possibility there is in the world. None of us, even the most polyamorous, could ever possibly explore every single possible love that might theoretically be out there in the world for us.

But isn’t that abundance of possibility just wonderful?

WWAD? (What Would Amy Do?)

I’ll be honest with you, dear readers. I’m having a really hard time with a lot of things right now. This is for a variety of reasons, not least that my body image is at its lowest level ever (even lower than when I wrote this,) my day job is…. challenging, and I’m currently working through intense childhood trauma as well as the abuse from my ex with my therapist. Basically, I don’t like the person I am at the moment. I’m a sluggish, grumpy, emotionally unavailable shell of myself.

And one of the things I’m finding particularly hard right now is polyamory. Jealousy is biting me hard. Compersion has fucked off somewhere and ghosted me. And I’m forgetting everything I supposedly know about how to handle this shit.

I don’t want to be like this.

In my “real” life (air quotes because this world feels more real to me than my day-to-day life), I have a different persona. Another person I have to be. Let’s call her… Sarah. Sarah is significantly less cool than Amy. She works in an office instead of writing about her vagina on the internet, she wears comfy sweaters and jeans instead of corsets and lingerie, and she plays the role of a straight, monogamous “good girl” in a play called “Small Conservative Town And Judgemental Job”. She’s the person I was for most of the twenty six years of life before I started this blog, found “Amy,” and learned how to be the person I always wanted to be.

Sarah is also many of the traumatised, fucked up, broken pieces of me.

Something that frustrates me is how often I forget how to do the things that I advise other people on all the time. I know how to handle a jealousy flare-up. I know how to own my own shit. And I know how to talk to my partner about a problem without it escalating into a fight. People come to me for advice on this stuff. I run classes on it. And write a fucking column on it! I. Know. This. Shit.

Or at least Amy does.

But Sarah finds it so very hard to tap into this knowledge when I am neck deep in brutal insecurities, non-existent self-esteem and the sense that all I want is for these feelings to STOP.

Sometimes, when I’m struggling with a situation and so deep in panic that I don’t know what to do, I try to ask myself a question: What Would Amy Do? That is, I try to step outside of the immediacy and the pain of the situation, and think: if a reader came to me with this question, what would I tell her to do? What would my advice be? Usually, when I look at it like that, the way forward is much clearer (if still equally difficult to enact in practice.)

So what would Amy do? She’d probably start by apologising to her partner for being an insufferable shit and get her ass back to therapy.

Hey, maybe buy me a coffee to help me keep paying for books and vibrators therapy.

Bad at Making Friends?

KATNISS: Yeah, but I’m not very good at making friends.
CINNA: We’ll see.

– The Hunger Games

In every single job I’ve ever had, and a number of out-of-work hobby things too (especially when I was younger,) I’ve been very much on the periphery of any social things going on. I’m one of those people who generally gets along with almost everyone, at a surface level, but I’ve never really had a proper Work Friend. Not in the true sense. I don’t really get invited to happy hour or Work Nights Out or whatever it is people who work in offices do when they socialise with each other. (Which, okay, I don’t really care any more – reality is I probably wouldn’t go anyway).

I was thinking about this today, and in particular about the way in which members of my work teams over the years have been (or at least seemed) super close to each other in a way they have never been to me.

My immediate thought was “I’m just bad at making friends”. Then, upon interrogating this a bit more, I realised this cannot logically be true. Because I actually have tonnes of friends. They just exist in a completely different section of my life.

When you compartmentalise your life to the extent that I do, it becomes very, very hard to build meaningful connections in spheres where you cannot be fully yourself. I cannot let my guard down or allow myself to be vulnerable when I know there are so many things about me – things that are real and huge and significant – about which I simply cannot be open. Things like this blog. Like what really went on at that party I went to on Saturday. Things like that I feel a bit off today because the polyam jealousy is biting me hard.

There’s a reason that basically every single person I have a meaningful and intimate friendship with these days is either a sex blogger, kinky, queer, non-monogamous, or some combination thereof. (My definition of “meaningful and intimate friendship” here is someone I’d invite to my wedding without hesitation, someone I’d feel okay calling up in tears if something terrible happened, someone I’d travel significant distance to spend time with). And that reason is simply that I can be fully myself around those people. My queer, kinky, slutty, polyam, sex-writing self.

I’d love to be fully, openly, aggressively out in every facet of my life. But, for a large number of good and valid reasons, that simply isn’t possible. Therefore, compartmentalising is the option that makes the most sense and brings me the most peace and happiness.

But I’m not bad at making friends. I’m just bad at forcing myself into a box in which I do not fit.

Mr CK recently pointed out that if I found myself at a kink event without him by my side, I could bounce up to the nearest group of pervs and make friends, no problem. Same at a polyam social. Thing is, he’s right. But there, I can be the version of me I view as fun and interesting and sparkly. I can connect with people in a way that is meaningful to me – through a shared love of the taboo, the transgressive, the usually hidden. In that space, I don’t have to think “they’d hate me if they knew my secret,” because I know they share the same secret.

The people I spend time with in other compartments of my life are fine, often wonderful people. But they’re not my people. And that’s A-okay with me.

Did you enjoy this post? Maybe consider buying me a coffee to help me stay caffeinated and doing the putting-words-into-sentences thing.

I’m Suffocating in This Closet!

I’m going to break an unwritten rule – one that I set for myself when I started blogging. I’m going to talk about something that happened at my Day Job.

Now, I love a lot of things about my day job. I work with nice people at an organisation whose mission I care about. I am paid fairly and generally treated respectfully. But Day Job and this life, the life I live when I’m writing this blog, are separate. There is DayName, and there is Amy Norton, and never the two shall meet. I never even tweet as Amy while on work time, though my office is chill about reasonable personal phone and social media use. I am that careful.

At work I am quiet. I keep my head down and I don’t say much. I am friendly, of course, but in that enigmatic way where no-one really knows an awful lot about me. The superficial stuff, sure, but nothing real.

Today my co-worker said they’d watched the new Louis Theroux documentary about polyamory. (Though they called it “polygamy”.) My ears pricked up and I listened to the ensuing conversation, though added nothing to it myself except that it is forbidden to be legally married to more than one person in the vast majority of the world and therefore it was not really “polygamy” in the true sense. Sadly, the ensuing conversation was dripping with judgement. Words like “gross” and “freaky” abounded. Vomiting noises were made at the idea of group sex. I believe somebody even made a comment along the lines of “there’s something really wrong with you if you can’t be satisfied with one person.”

What I felt, in that moment, was shame. I felt that wave of doubt that comes from hearing that something is wrong with me. You’d think by now I would be good at batting away shaming comments about how I choose to love, but every one still hurts.

Of course, no-one knew they were talking about me. No-one knew that the quiet girl across the desk from them is going to see her secondary partner after work tonight, or that she had a threesome with her partner and an amazing woman they both adore at the weekend, or that the thought of the sex party she’s going to in a couple of weeks is getting her though as much as her incessant supply of coffee.

I guess what I’m saying is… be careful in your judgement. When you throw around blanket condemnation of something you do not understand, there might be someone across the desk from you who now feels a little less safe to be themselves, a little more sure they’ll never come out. If my self-protective closet had physical walls, they’d have grown an extra few inches thick today.

Would they have reacted differently if they’d known they were talking about the lifestyle of someone who sat four feet away? Am I actually causing more harm than good by choosing to stay in the closet? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. Would it humanise the concept if I’d said “hey, actually I’m polyam and it’s really not all that freaky! We go on ice-cream dates and have sex and do laundry and walk the dog and argue about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher, just like you!“? Should I have put myself out there, taken the personal risk in the name of sex positivity and fighting the good fight? Maybe. But I didn’t. I felt shame, and I said nothing. I felt judged, and I did not feel able to defend myself because they didn’t know it was me they were judging.  And I felt like a failure to the cause for not speaking up. This is what the closet does to you.

Not being out is a choice I make to protect myself from (at best) intrusive questions and weird judgements, and (at worst) from ridicule, loss of professional respect and possibly risking my job. Today I burrowed a little deeper into my closet.

Did you enjoy this or do you just want to help me get through this week? Buy me a coffee! Oh, and please – no advice. Thank you. 

I Tried to Make Him Hit Me.

This was written as part of Smutathon 2018: #SmutForChoice edition. I’m sorry it’s not very sexy, but it’s sex-adjacent and it needed writing. If you’d like to support abortion access, please click below and donate – you can also win sex toys!

The one thing he never did was hit me.

He screamed at me, including in the middle of the night, including where my flatmates could hear, including when I had no idea what I’d done. He controlled so many facets of my life, and not in ways I’d consented to as part of a kinky dynamic. Guilting and ignoring your partner because they went for an innocent coffee with a friend who happens to be of a different gender is not fun D/s. He monitored my weight and shamed me if I gained a few pounds. I was pushed on to medication. He would even punch, kick and throw objects in front of me, just so I was in no doubt how scared he wanted me. It goes on.

I have a secret confession: I tried, a handful of times, to make him hit me. On these occasions, when he shouted at me, I didn’t cower – I sassed back, very occasionally even yelled back. I called him out on his bullshit. I even, on one particular occasion, told him “you’re abusive”. That was the time I most thought he was going to throw a punch at me.

See, I wanted permission to leave. I wanted something that would tell me unequivocally, this is bad and you can get out. The part of me that still loved him would, I thought, quiet down if he actually raised a hand to me. The part that was sure he was the best I’d ever do would snap out of the stupid trance he’d got me in. I realise now that it probably wouldn’t – I’d probably have justified it and convinced myself that I deserved it and stuck around anyway, the stupid subservient fucking lapdog that I was.

Just fucking hit me, I thought, and then I can leave and I won’t be the bad guy. Because if I left, I knew he’d demonise me. I couldn’t love him as he was. I couldn’t be good enough to make him happy. I’d be the girl who couldn’t handle it.

We teach women and girls that they should leave if a partner physically hurts them. But we don’t speak enough about emotional and mental and psychological abuse. Too often, the message women get is try harder, try harder, try harder! Love him into not abusing you! We romanticise control as being “protective”.  We play off screaming as “it’s only because he cares”. This starts in childhood, when we tell little girls he’s mean to you because he likes you, and it continues and continues and continues and the next thing you know you’re in your 20s and sobbing on some guy’s floor because he yelled at you again and you’re terrified of him but also you just love him so much you’re sure you’ll die if you leave. THEN they have the fucking nerve to say “at least he didn’t hit you.”

He never crossed that line, and in his eyes that made him not-abusive. In mine, it just meant I had to wait for the abuse to get bad enough before I was “allowed” to leave. That took a long fucking time. Learning earlier that physical violence wasn’t the only form of cruelty I should Not Tolerate might have made all the difference.

Parents, teachers, adults: we must teach our girls that they do not have to tolerate cruelty of any kind. That they don’t have to tolerate the mental torture until he finally snaps and hits them. Please let’s do better for the next generation of girls.

I Had My First Smear Test and…. It Was a Complete Non-Event

I am in my late twenties. In my country, people with cervixes are offered cervical smear tests (often called “Pap Tests” in the USA) every three years from the time they turn 25. These tests detect abnormal cells on the cervix and act as an early screening for cervical cancer or warning signs thereof. Until this week, I’d never had one, despite being several years overdue.

Two medical swabs face down on a surface. For a post on cervical smear tests.

The reasons for this are varied, but there are two main ones. The first is practical: I moved house a lot prior to moving in with Mr CK (11 times in 9 years by my count) and as such had to register with a lot of different doctors in different cities. I’m not sure one of the letters inviting me to book in for a smear even found its way to me until I was at least 27. The second reason is that I was scared. I had a horrible experience when I got my IUD put in about 3 years ago – pain that rendered me entirely unable to function for three days and very much struggling for over two weeks. Therefore, understandably, the idea of anything going near my cervix elicited a strong and visceral NOPE reaction from me. So I just kept putting it off.

What eventually pushed me into going for one was a person in my extended poly/swing network having something flag up on their screening. I realised that by not knowing my status, I am not only putting myself at risk (and there is some history of cancer striking young in my family) but also putting my lovers at risk. And I couldn’t do that. I made the appointment.

On the morning of, I asked Twitter how much pain I should expect. Answers ranged from “none” to “maybe a bit but it’s over quickly” to “you probably wanna book the day off work”. (It was a little late for that, of course). I popped a couple of ibuprofen, just to be sure. Had I not been driving, I might have gone straight for the codeine, which my doctor gave me for the severe pain when my IUD acts up.

So what happened?

I went in and the lovely nurse introduced herself and asked if I was happy to have a student nurse present for the test. I said I’d rather not as it was my first time, and they were both fine about that. She asked about my STI testing history. I said we test every three months and had in fact been the week before. She asked if I knew about HPV, and I said yes.

I went behind the curtain, took my knickers and jeans off, and got comfortable on the bed thing. (I’ve never understood the point of a privacy curtain when they’re literally about to look at your insides, but there you go). The nurse explained that she would open my vagina with a speculum and do a quick swab of my cervix. She said I might feel some pressure, but it shouldn’t hurt.

Having one’s vagina opened with a plastic speculum is never comfortable. (Unless you’re into that sort of thing. Which I actually am when it’s with a sexual partner in a roleplay scenario. But dear god, fun medical play is a MILLION MILES from an actual medical exam). I winced a bit but remembered to breathe. I braced myself for severe pain.

“There you go, we’re done”. And the nurse was removing the speculum from my vagina and taking off her gloves.

“What, that’s it?” I could hardly believe it.

“Yep!”

Wow, I thought. That really was nothing.

The whole thing took less than five minutes. I felt no pain and only the mildest discomfort. A tiny price to pay indeed for knowing my status, protecting myself and my sexual partners, and possibly avoiding cervical cancer in the future.

So why am I telling you this non-story?

Honestly, I was fully expecting to have to tell you a horror story involving immense pain, shitty judgemental clinic staff, an unplanned day off work or all three. But none of this happened.

So instead I thought I’d share this story in the hopes that, if you’re afraid of getting your cervical smear, this will put you at ease. The staff should be kind and understanding. You shouldn’t feel any pain – even if your cervix is extremely sensitive and grumpy, as mine is.

Please – if you have a cervix, get your test. It takes five minutes, it doesn’t hurt, and it’s a tiny thing that could potentially save your life. Just go. I’m now kicking myself that I didn’t go three years ago!

If this post was helpful to you, please consider buying me a coffee to say thanks!

Image from Pixabay.

Why I Read Erotica (and You Should Too!)

Outside of very specific environments, it’s not “cool” to admit you read and enjoy erotica. E.L James might now be a household name, but people still occasionally try to convince me that they read Fifty Shades of Grey for the gripping plot.

A woman reading a book pictured from shoulders to hips. For a post about eroticaI think erotica gets a bad rap for several reasons. Firstly, it’s written and read by women more than men. Unfortunately, work by/about/aimed towards women still tends to be regarded as frivolous. (See: anything with a female protagonist risks being labelled “chick lit”). Similarly, content connected to sex is also still treated as something shameful, dirty, secretive, or something to be embarrassed about.

I also think this is a damn shame. A lot of erotica is absolutely wonderful. Masturbation is important, sex is important, arousal is important! Despite myths to the contrary, writing good smut is hard work and requires a lot of skill.

Read on to find out why I think sexy fiction is the most underrated genre and why we can all use it in our lives.

A safe way to explore your fantasies and limits

Reading about something is generally infinitely safer than doing it. Let’s say you have a kink or interest you can’t explore in reality for some reason, or aren’t ready to explore in reality yet. Reading about it can be a great way to scratch that itch. You can’t get hurt by reading about something, no-one else’s consent is required, it’s not cheating. (Dear God, if your partner thinks erotica – or porn, or masturbation – is cheating, break up with them like three years ago).

Reading about something and exploring if it turns you on in a masturbation setting is lower pressure than exploring with another person, especially if you’re not sure if it will work for you or not.

And in case you’re wondering: yes, it’s fine to get turned on by something in fiction that you wouldn’t want to act out in real life!

Introduces you to new kinks, roles, scenes and ideas

I was reading erotic fiction with dominance and submission themes long before I was practicing BDSM in real life. Erotica helped me to discover the types of scenarios that interested me, the names and words that turn me on… and also, the things that completely leave me cold. Reading woman-on-woman scenes was actually a huge part of coming to accept my own bisexuality.

Erotica can introduce you to kinks you never knew existed (ask me how I learned that orgasm control is a thing), make you feel less alone (ask me how I discovered that I wasn’t the only freak in the world who liked to pretend to be a naughty schoolgirl and get spanked), or even help you open up lines of communication about certain kinks with your partner (ask me how I let Mr CK know I have a medical examination fetish).

If you’re not sure what you’re into? Pick up a sexy compilation collection to give you lots of ground to explore.

It can make it quicker, easier or more enjoyable to achieve orgasm

The best way for me to get going pre-wank is to read some really good smut. It works better than visual porn and, usually, better than my imagination. Plus, taking the few minutes to find a filthy story that works for me is a good way to get into a sexy headspace. If I want a long, luxurious session, taking my time to immerse myself in an erotic book is glorious. If I’m more looking for a hot quickie with myself, then a favourite story and my Doxy will get me done in ten minutes or less.

It’s great to share with a partner

As I already mentioned, sharing the erotica you enjoy can be a great way to share what turns you on with your partner. Perhaps you can’t say out loud “I want you to bend me over and spank me while you call me a dirty little slut“. But you can point them to a story with these themes that really did it for you.

Reading erotica together, or aloud to each other, is also a mega sexy thing to do. A really hot D/s scene we did a while ago involved Mr CK reading out some erotica that I’d chosen, and instructing me on when I was and wasn’t allowed to touch myself (and, of course, come).

And sometimes, it has damn good plots!

I don’t, primarily, read smut for the story. But just occasionally an erotic novel will have a plot so good that the sexy bits are almost just a very enjoyable bonus. Cooper S Beckett’s A Life Less Monogamous and Approaching the Swingularity (the latter reviewed here) are two great examples.

Is erotica for me?

Yes! Regardless of your gender, orientation or particular kinks, there’s bound to be something in the wide world of erotic fiction that appeals to you. And if no-one has written the story you want to read? Well… why not give it a go?

So where can I find good smut?

For some of my personal top picks, check out the books linked in this post.

You can also visit Literotica, an amazing free resource where thousands of amateur writers have uploaded their stories for your masturbatory pleasure. There’s a lot of crap, of course, but some real gems in there too. You can search by category, keyword or tag.

You can also find some great quick reads on Amazon Kindle. These typically cost $1 to $5 each – and you can read loads of stuff for free with a subscription to Kindle Unlimited.

Finally, of course, read your favourite sex bloggers! My “erotica” and “Masturbation Monday” tags contain all my freely available work, and you can get a new story every single Tuesday by signing up as a Patron at any level. My friend Kayla runs Masturbation Monday, which is a treasure trove of filthy delights every week. Check out Exhibit A, The Other Livvy, Tits & Test Tubes, Hannah Lockhardt and Confess Hannah for great filth from my smutty friends.

Basically: smut is great. Go read some smut.

Heads up: there are a few affiliate links in this post! All opinions are, as ever, entirely my own. Image sourced via Pixabay.

5 Reasons You Need Sex Positive Friends

After I write this post, I’m going to be jumping in the shower and then loading the car and heading off to Manchester with Mr CK. There we will convene with 8 of my amazing sex-positive friends for my 28th birthday party. Unsurprisingly, then, when I was considering what to write today I started thinking about sex-positive friendships.

A group of grey kittens in a basket. For a post about sex positive friendsSince I joined the sex-positive and sex writing communities, first on Twitter and then in real life, I have met some of the most amazing people I have ever been privileged enough to call friends. So this is a little celebration of them all, and some thoughts on why you really need sex-positive friends in your life.

You don’t have to self-censor

I hate self censorship, and I do it a lot out of desire to not lose my day job or alienate my family. But sometimes you just want to say “I got fucked realllllllly good last night!” or “check out this awesome shot I took of my boobs!” When you have an awesome group of sex-positive friends, fear of oversharing is… if not entirely eliminated, at least substantially reduced. No-one’s going to say, “ew, I don’t want to hear about your sex life!” when you literally became friends with them through sharing your sex life on the internet.

You don’t have to explain yourself again and again and again

Sure, you’ll occasionally run across someone who doesn’t know the term you’re using, or someone else will use a term you’re not familiar with. And that’s absolutely fine! But the vast majority of the time, terms like polyamory, open relationship, bisexual, pansexual, genderqueer, BDSM, D/s relationship… can just roll off your tongue and no-one will look at you like you’ve grown an extra head.

You can also throw out phrases like, “so my boyfriend’s wife was saying that…” or “when my partner’s girlfriend came over…” without the constant double-take, the wait-what-did-you-just-say?

I don’t mind explaining myself occasionally, and I love dissecting the nuances of our different identities and what they mean and how they manifest for us. But doing polyamory/swinging/kink-1o1 again and again and fucking again is exhausting. With sex-positive friends who get it, you don’t have to do that.

Sex-positive friends will be your biggest cheerleaders

I’ve rarely come across a group of people so loving, so affirming and just so goddamn supportive as sex bloggers, sex writers and other sex-positive folks. These are the people who will retweet the shit out of that thing you wrote that you weren’t sure about, or respond with some variaton of YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL GODDESS when you share a nude, or celebrate with you when you hit a goal, big or small. We lift each other up when we’re down and we share the highs when we’re up.

Affection is free and easy, and so is consent

Something that sex-positive people understand is that the lines between what society considers appropriate vs. inappropriate between friends are almost entirely arbitrarily imposed. They get that everyone has their own unique boundaries and comfort levels, and that individual relationships get to decide what is and isn’t within their rules. The net result of this is that affection tends to be very free and easy – hugs and cuddles can be joyfully shared without it necessarily needing to mean anything bigger, and kisses and kink play and even occasionally sex can happen between friends without it having to make things weird.

It also means that consent is at the heart of all interactions. In these circles, I’ve also never felt pressured into anything I didn’t want to do. Basically, the deciding factor in whether or not to do something isn’t friends do X, lovers do Y, but simply: does everyone involved enthusiastically want to do X, Y and Z?

I don’t want to go all “hashtag-blessed” on you, but…

Basically, I believe this community has made me a better person. It has certainly immeasurably improved my life and made me a lot happier. I only hope I can give back some small measure of all that these amazing people have given to me.

#ManchBirthdayFest, here we come!

Me and My Fur: All About Body Hair

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

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

The pressure to be hairless begins early.

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

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

Realising I had a choice

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

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

Learning to love my hair

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

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

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

The impact on my sex life

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

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

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

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

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

Fear of judgement… and sometimes actual judgement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Femme identity and body hair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Scene Went Wrong, What Now? – A Guide to Getting Back on Track

A "support me on Patreon" buttonIf my writing is helpful and/or enjoyable to you, please consider supporting me on Patreon to help me keep doing this work!

Sometimes, play sessions or scenes will go wrong. Mishaps, mistakes, and even the occasional genuine crisis can happen to all of us. It’s an unfortunate fact of this thing we call kink, sex or play, and we would all do well to learn better how to handle it when they do. Anyone who has been playing for any length of time and tells you they’ve never had a scene go wrong is either astoundingly lucky or lying.

A woman turned away from the camera looking upset. For a post about scenes going wrongI’ve had three scenes go wrong in relatively quick succession (a period of about 3 weeks). The first time, the equipment we were using at the club malfunctioned and dropped me. Thanks to Mr CK’s quick reflexes, we were both shaken but there were no injuries. The second time, there was somebody else at the party who I hadn’t expected to see, and who makes me feel profoundly unsafe. I tried to play in the main party space anyway, thinking I shouldn’t let him ruin my good time, but unfortunately I badly misjudged my own mental state. The third time, I let my head convince me that a situation that was actually most likely completely safe wasn’t.

To be clear, none of these was a disaster (though the first could have resulted in much more serious consequences than it did). Even so, they were all unpleasant and left both of us rattled. The after-effects could be felt for the next few days, both individually and in our interactions together. Luckily, we managed to have a spectacular play session a few days ago and I feel much better about it all as a result.

So let’s look at some techniques to get things back on the rails after something goes wrong.

In the immediate aftermath

I’m assuming that, at this point, you’ve moved away from the play area to somewhere safe if possible, and that anyone who is injured has received appropriate medical attention. I am also assuming good faith from all parties and that there were no malicious intentions or consent violations.

First of all, both/all players involved are likely to be shaken up. This is a really good time to be very kind and gentle to both yourself and each other. Sit somewhere comfy. Drink a glass of water, cup of hot tea or other comforting beverage. Maybe have a snack to get your blood sugar back up. Have a massive fucking cuddle, if you’re in the kind of relationship where you cuddle.

Don’t beat yourself up. If the problem was because of a mistake you made, you can and should apologise, but one genuine apology is much better than self-flagellation. This should go without saying, but if there was fault on the other person’s side, don’t be mean to them about it! You can absolutely say what you perceive happened and what you wish they’d done differently, but don’t harp on it more than is necessary and try to gracefully accept an apology, if one is offered. Again: be kind. This is a great time to reaffirm that you still love/like/fancy the pants off each other.

Don’t feel the need to discuss what happened in depth there and then if you don’t want to. You can, if you’re both up for it, but it’s often better to focus on caring for yourselves and each other initially. The debrief is often more productive if it comes an hour or two later, or even the next day.

Later that day/the next day

Check in with the other person. Ask them how they’re doing and be prepared to offer what comfort or support you can. Be honest about how you’re doing and ask for their support in return.

This can be a great time to have the debrief conversation: you’re over the initial shock/upset, but still close enough to the incident to analyse it effectively. Discuss what went wrong, your respective headspaces (and physical states, if relevant) at the time, the factors that contributed, and what controls you’ll put in place to try to mitigate the risk of a similar incident next time. This is also a good time to discuss what you need in the aftermath: do you need some cuddle time, verbal reassurance, some hot sex? Or just some alone time to process? Ask for it! If you can, give your partner what they ask for.

When it comes to processing, if you’re struggling with difficult feelings following the experience, this is a great time to consult a kink-friendly therapist, reach out to other kinky friends, or write in your journal.

It’s also worth remembering that you might experience sub-drop or Dom-drop. Even though you didn’t finish your scene, when something goes wrong you’re yanked out of your headspace very quickly and abruptly, which can actually be worse. Check out my list of self-care tips to try if drop, depression or anxiety hits.

Try to view a scene gone wrong as a learning experience. It doesn’t need to spell disaster for your relationship, your future as a kinkster, or even necessarily your night/day/week!

Next time you play

Re-acclimating to your partner and your play together after a scene gone wrong can be a challenge. It’s a good idea, before you next play, to touch base with regards to where you’re both at emotionally and physically following your incident. It can also be wise to negotiate your next scene or two very explicitly in advance, especially if miscommunication or misunderstanding contributed to the problem. This also applies in very long term relationships where you know each other incredibly well. It’s not a failure to spell things out upfront if relying on your knowledge of each other and nonverbal cues doesn’t feel safe right now.

Sometimes, verbally affirming consent can be really reassuring the next time you play, too. Our first really good scene after the string of issues started with Mr CK asking me to very explicitly state my consent to what we were going to do.

You can also ease back in slowly! You don’t have to go straight to a 10 on the intensity scale if a 4 feels more comfortable right now. Even if you were hanging upside down from the rafters when something went awry, you can dial it back to a gentle spanking next time you play. The only thing that matters is that you play at a level that’s comfortable for you both. A less intense scene isn’t a failed scene. The only criteria for success is that you are both safe, gave free and enthusiastic consent, and had fun.

Final thoughts

There are basically three main things I want you to take away from this post. When a scene goes wrong, remember:

  1. Practice kindness, patience and forgiveness. To yourself as well as to your partner.
  2. It happens to everyone sometimes and does not mean you failed as a kinkster, Dom, sub or partner.
  3. You CAN move past it, learn from it, and use the experience to strengthen both your skills and your relationship.

And if you’re reading this because you went Googling in a panic after your scene went wrong? You’ve got this. I believe in you. It’s okay.