Rape is Not About Attractiveness

TW: this post discusses rape and sexual violence. If you’re a survivor, please feel enormously free to step away and care for yourself. If you’re not a survivor, please try to read this one to the end.

This isn’t the post I wanted to write today, but yet again I found myself falling down the hellish rabbit hole of rape apologism on social media today.

I’m used to this. It’s just part of being a woman who talks about sexuality, sexual violence and feminism in a public space. I hate it, it makes me angry and sometimes it makes me cry. But I consider these issues too important to not speak up. Sometimes, though, the reality of talking about sexual violence on the internet straight up retraumatises me. Today was one of those days.

“You’re too ugly to rape”

This is a summary of what was said to me on social media today.

What upset me wasn’t the insult. Aside from the fact that this person doesn’t actually know what I look like, because I don’t show my face on Twitter, I don’t much care if random men think I’m hot or not.

What bothered me was the deeper implication, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard it.

Circa 2014, I inadvertantly started a civil war in my local kink scene by speaking out about sexual violence. (No regrets, would do again, the resident rapists all told on themselves, etc.) But at the time, I wrote something about how I’d experienced several sexual assaults of various kinds in my life. Someone wrote in response, “LOL, she thinks she’s hot enough to have been assaulted “multiple times.””

The idea that only “hot” people get sexually assaulted, or that speaking out about sexual assault is some kind of statement on one’s own attractiveness, is profoundly fucked up and shockingly common.

“I wish people wanted me so much they couldn’t control themselves”

This has been said to me a number of times by men over the years, including but not limited to former romantic partners.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the implication here is that sexual assault is a privilege. The implication is that being wanted enough to be sexually violated is something to be grateful for. Something to be flattered by.

Like, sure, one in four women (very conservative estimate) are sexually assaulted or raped in their lifetime… but they should just shut up and be grateful because some guy really really wishes someone he’s attracted to and wants to fuck anyway would throw him down and have their way with him.

Rape isn’t about attractiveness

How likely someone is to experience sexual violence isn’t even remotely correlated with their level of attractiveness (insofar as attractiveness is even a meaningful or measurable thing, given that it’s so absurdly subjective.)

Rapists don’t rape because they’re attracted to their victims. Physical attraction to another person isn’t a button that turns a decent human being into a monster. Everyone is capable of controlling what they do sexually, even when they’re super turned on and super attracted to someone. Most of us know this.

It’s not a fucking brag when I say I’ve been sexually assaulted multiple times in my life. It’s not a “hey look I’m so hot everyone wants to fuck me!” If I speak up about the worst and most deep-seated traumas of my life and your reaction is “lol she thinks she’s all that” then that shows something deeply and profoundly wrong in your understanding of how sexual violence works.

Rape isn’t even about sex

Rape is a crime of power. It’s not about the perpetrator being so overwhelmingly aroused, so overcome with lust, that they couldn’t help themselves. It’s not about sex at all.

To be raped isn’t to feel wanted and desired. It’s not some fucking ravishment fantasy out of a shitty romance novel where the hero you were totally gonna fuck anyway rips your bodice and has hot passionate sex with you. To be raped is to feel violated in the most fundamental way. To feel as though your body is no longer your own.

To still occasionally have nightmares thirteen years later.

Because rape isn’t sex. Rape is violence. And it needs to stop.

I’m accepting tips that allow me to keep giving time and energy to this incredibly exhausting work. But even more than that, I’d love it if anyone who could afford it made a small donation to Rape Crisis.

Fellow Cis People: We Really Need to Talk About Transphobia in the Sex Positive Community

“And the love we have for each other
Will defeat the hate we suffer.
You’re my sisters, brothers, and all that’s in between”

– Grace Petrie, Pride

This isn’t going to be a fun post to write and it probably won’t be a fun one to read either. But it needs to be written. Fellow cis people, we really, really need to talk about transphobia in sex positive spaces. (I’m talking particularly about sex blogging here, but this applies to kink, swing and many queer spaces, as well.)

First, what this isn’t

This isn’t a personal attack on anyone. If you read it in that way, I suggest you take a breath and then reexamine your own behaviour and reaction. This is about much more than one person. This is about a huge, systemic and entrenched issue.

This isn’t being written for kudos, attention, or ally cookies. I’m not speaking up because I want to be seen as some awesome ally. I’m speaking up because it’s the right goddamn thing to do.

This isn’t a lecture. This is about me too, because none of us are perfect at this. We all fuck up from time to time, and we could all be doing better. This is a call-in, a plea to do your part.

This is not a new issue

Transphobia is not a new issue, and neither is transphobia in sex-positive spaces. Trans and non-binary people have been speaking out about this stuff for years. So why now? I am speaking out now because issues have come to light in recent weeks which have really thrown up the horrible, ugly undercurrent of transphobia that has been running through the sex positive world.

This is fucking heartbreaking. I love this community and I wanted – naively, perhaps – to believe we were better than this.

Fundamentally, my voice isn’t the one you should be listening to here. I’m writing this in order to use the platform – and substantial privilege – I have to hopefully do some good. But what I really want you to do is go and read the pieces by the trans and NB folks who have directly experienced harm.

Things to read before we go any further

Quenby (a fantastic writer who guest blogged for me recently) wrote this important piece about the pattern of transphobia in sex blogging. In it, they point out the exhausting cycle wherein someone does something transphobic, gets politely corrected or called out, and then proceeds to either double down or make it all about them and their hurt feelings.

“I don’t think that sex bloggers hate trans people, I don’t think you wish we didn’t exist. But I don’t think you care. I don’t think you care enough to put in the basic effort to not repeatedly hurt us. I don’t think you care enough to stand in solidarity with us when it’s inconvenient (and it is never going to be easy). And in the current climate of rising transphobia, that means you are complicit in our dehumanisation.” – Quenby

This week, a hideous, violent and transphobic blog post emerged, written by the husband of a popular blogger. A number of bloggers wrote comments essentially co-signing or endoring the vitriolic transphobia. I’m not going to link to the original post, because bigotry doesn’t deserve the clicks. But Mx Nillin wrote an important call-out thread and I encourage you to read it.

Nillin also wrote a post talking about this hateful piece, the response to it and, in connection, the problem of discrimination within the Smut Marathon competition. (One of the recent discussions around transphobia in sex blogging started because of a piece of criticism which described a trans character as “confusing.”)

Fact is that there is simply nothing fair or ethical about a competition organized, and at least partially judged, by ignorance. There just isn’t. It throws the whole thing into disrepute and makes for results tainted with toxicity, prejudice, and discrimination.” – Mx Nillin

Finally, my dear friend Quinn published this brilliant piece just today on not having to be nice to people who misgender hir. One of the things that is constantly thrown at trans people who call out transphobia is that they should just be nicer. Well, if you harm someone – and misgendering, deadnaming and making thoughtless transphobic comments is harm, even if you didn’t intend it that way – they’re not obligated to be nice about it. And your support of trans people should not hinge on whether or not any one particular trans person is “nice enough” to you.

“I don’t have to be nice to people who misgender me. But if you genuinely want to apologise and ask ‘how can I do better?‘ I would love to help educate you on how to be more inclusive of trans folks. I’m still learning how to be inclusive, and I’m still fucking up. I know I’m going to make mistakes and have to apologise for being a dick, and I’m hoping when I do fuck up other people will help educate me.” – Quinn Rhodes

We need to do better.

This is not good enough, guys. The world is fucking hard enough for trans and NB people as it is right now. Sex positive spaces ought to be better than this, and yet we’re not. Why is that? Why is this shit still happening?

It’s been heartbreaking to watch things unfold these last few weeks and especially this week, and seeing the vitriol and hate that has come out of a community I used to regard as safe and loving.

As cis people, we have a tonne of privilege here. We’ve probably never feared violence just for going to the bathroom. Most of us have never had to make the choice between our safety when we’re out in public, and presenting in a way that alleviates the pain of dysphoria. We don’t have to fight every goddamn day to be called by the correct name, referred to by the correct pronoun, to just be allowed to exist and live in fucking peace. And it is our responsibility to use our privilege in whatever way we can to make the world safer for our trans siblings.

So what can we do?

Firstly, listen to trans people. The posts I’ve linked above are a great start but there are so many incredible trans writers, thinkers and activists out there. Listen to them. Give the mic to them. Compensate them fairly for their time and effort. Remember it is not their job to educate you, and show appreciation for the time and energy they give to do so. Amplify trans voices – share their posts, retweet their work, hire them to write for your site or speak at your event.

Next, speak out against transphobia. If you hear someone misgender or deadname a trans person, correct them. If you hear transphobic vitriol, do not be a bystander. Say something. Speak up. Make your voice heard. Sitting silently and thinking someone is wrong doesn’t make anything better. So it’s time to get loud, get angry, and let the world know that we will not sit idly by and let transphobia slide.

And when you fuck up (which you will, because we’re all learning and unlearning all the time)? Apologise without centering yourself. Apologise for what you did or said. No “I’m sorry if you were offended” half-ass non-apologies. No “but I didn’t mean it.” Fucking apologise and own your behaviour. Quinn’s post has some great words on how to make a meaningful apology that counts. And recognise that an apology doesn’t erase harm, and that intention does not equal impact.

The best thing you can do, when called out on perpetuating transphobia (or any other form of oppression) is to apologise, thank the person for bringing the issue to your attention, and do better in future. The worst things you can do are dig your heels in, insist they’re wrong to be hurt, centre yourself, or double down on the offensive thing you said.

A callout is a gift

You don’t want to perpetuate harm, right? If you do, get off my blog and, to quote the wonderful Danny M. Lavery (another trans writer you should know,) “profoundly reconsider the orientation of your heart.”

Assuming you do not wish to cause harm, recognise that a call-out – or, as many prefer to think of it, a call-in – is an invitation. It is a gift that enables you to do better, to not cause the same harm in the future. Someone who calls you out – or in – almost certainly isn’t doing it to hurt you. In fact, they’ve probably done so knowing that you’re likely to get defensive, turn on them, or double down on your offensive behaviour – because that’s what people so often do when they’re called out.

They’re giving you the gift of information that enables you to become a better version of yourself. Treasure that.

Silence is complicity

All that is needed for evil to triumph, so the saying goes, is for good people to do nothing. Staying quiet in the face of violence is complicity. Not taking sides, in a situation of injustice, means you have chosen the side of the perpetrator.

We can all do better. We all need to do better. Please allow this situation to be a wake-up call, and let’s fucking do better.

The trans pride flag, for a post about transphobia in sex positive spaces

If you’d like to support trans people right now, please support the Gender Reveal Survival Fund which is supporting trans folks who are in need of urgent financial assistance.

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

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

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

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

“But it’s fantasy!” fans cry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t ban – educate

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

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

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Group Sex Does Not Ruin You For 1-on-1 Sex

Believe it or not, this post title has been in my ideas list for ages… and then Exhibit A said almost exactly the same thing about group sex in one of his Smutathon posts! So this forms my final post of the day (probably, unless this is quicker than I think it’s going to be and I end up rattling off a sixth one). If you still want to donate to our fundraiser for Abortion Support Network, you’ve got time!

I get asked this question surprisingly often. “Doesn’t group sex mean you can’t be satisfied with one on one sex any more?”

The short answer is no. The long answer is…

Things, and people, don’t work that way. Are you no longer able to enjoy a simple but delicious meal simply because you occasionally go to fine dining restaurants? Are you unable to appreciate quiet drinks with friends because you’ve also experienced wild, dancing-on-tables nights on the town?

No. Because people don’t work that way. Sex is exactly the same. The idea that things always have to get more and more and more extreme in order to keep a person satisfied once they’ve had a taste of the “exotic” just doesn’t stack up. Sex isn’t a drug – you don’t need a bigger hit every time to get the same high.

I love group sex. Love it love it love it. The tangle of bodies, all the hands and mouths and cocks and cunts and… oops, sorry, got a little carried away there. Point is that it’s brilliant. No matter how many times I do it, and how often and in what combinations, it’s still fucking amazing. I honestly don’t see that ever changing.

But you know what? One on one sex works exactly the same way! We might have had nine-person orgies (that was a great birthday party) and group spanking parties and kinky threesomes and wild nights with other couples… but none of that takes away from the simple, perfect loveliness of my partner’s lips on mine and his cock inside me. Enjoying four or six or eight hands on me doesn’t mean I can’t still delight and find bliss in the same two hands that have known and loved me for years.

It’s the same with kink. I have done some wild kinky shit in my life, and loved every second of it. But it doesn’t mean every session needs to be wilder and more extreme than the last! Despite what some scaremongers would have you believe, spanking is not a slippery slope to being strung up from the ceiling on meat hooks. (Hook suspension exists, don’t google it if you’re squeamish, #YKINMKBYKIOK!) The intense stuff I’ve done has been brilliant and I’m sure it will continue to be brilliant. But it doesn’t mean I’m always seeking harder, crazier, more. A light spanking can still thrill the hell out of me exactly as much as it did the first time I experimented with it. A good old vanilla-ish shag with my partner is still super satisfying, too!

Sex is not a drug. You cannot “ruin” yourself for one-on-one sex by having group sex. Liking kink is not a sign that your desires are getting out of control or that you’ll end up doing something dangerous to get your rocks off. Enjoy what you enjoy, and don’t stress – you’re not going to lose control.

Men: Her Orgasm Is Not About Your Ego

This is my third post of #Smutathon2018: #SmutForChoice Edition. Please donate to our page for Abortion Support Network, and don’t forget to leave your email address or Twitter handle so we can enter you into the raffle to win some awesome sex toys!

Dear Well-Meaning Cishet Man,

This one’s for you.

You’re a good guy, right? You care about your sexual partner’s pleasure, and her orgasms. You even eat pussy! When DJ Khaled’s comments surfaced about “different rules” for men re. oral sex, you probably tweeted furiously “I’M A GUY AND I LOVE EATING PUSSY”.

Well, okay. But slow down. I want you to read this with an open mind, and try not to feel attacked. That’s not my aim.

However, please – please – stop making your female partners’ orgasms about your ego! Let me explain.

When I started having partnered sex in my mid and late teens, my boyfriend compelled me to tell him I’d never had an orgasm before I met him. He’d decided this was the case.  Telling him it wasn’t seemed like it wouldn’t achieve anything but bruising his ego. He was very into the fantasy of me as the perfect innocent. So I went with it.

I think a lot of young women have similar experiences. Their (also young and often inexperienced) boyfriends want to feel like sex gods who introduce them to a world of pleasure they never knew existed before. They don’t want to hear “I’ve been having orgasms by myself for years”. This narrative is a big part of the Fifty Shades of Grey fantasy. Ana has not only never masturbated or had an orgasm. She’s never even thought a sexual thought until Christian “I-Don’t-Make-Love-I-Fuck-Hard” Grey deigns to deflower her.

How this played out for me was thus: he didn’t really know what I liked. I knew what I liked, but couldn’t tell him because then he’d known I’d – gasp – had sexual feelings and even touched myself before he showed up. So a long time was spent with him trying to get me off, and either getting pissed off that it took so long (when I got there at all) or me faking it because dude, it’s been two hours, my clit is rubbed raw. 

This is, of course, a sex education problem. We don’t teach young women that exploring their bodies is okay. We don’t teach boys that girls masturbate and hey, she might know a thing or two about her own body! Instead, we glorify this notion of “I’ve never felt anything like this before!” even when you’ve totally felt something like that before… a lot.

A big part of the problem, though, is that these attitudes don’t really change as we get older! I remember reading in a glossy magazine (it was probably Cosmo?) advice along the lines of “when he whips out a new move in bed, tell him you’ve never done that before, even though you totally did that with your ex”. (That’s how Cosmo speaks, right?) The point is that women are still supposed to coddle our male partners’ egos to the point of straight-up lying to them, in order to pretend they’re the only person who has ever unlocked our sexuality.

This also plays out in other ways. I hang out on the Sex Toys forum at Reddit and also similar groups on Fetlife, and time and again men will post: “looking for a sex toy for my partner, but it needs to not be too big or powerful. Don’t want it to replace me!” But what if that big dildo or power-tool vibrator could give their partner the best, most explosive orgasms of her life? I guess it doesn’t matter – what they’re thinking about is not her pleasure, but being upstaged.

Men: women’s sexuality does not exist to stroke your ego! If your partner has a rich and fulfilling erotic life with herself, and/or had a rich and fulfilling erotic life with other partners before you came along, this doesn’t imply anything about you! When she uses toys, she’s not replacing you!

If you want your partner to never have masturbated (or to pretend she’s never masturbated,) or if you want your partner to have never had good sex with anyone else until you came along, you are not being sex positive. You are not being a good lover. You’re making your partner’s sexuality a receptacle for your ego.

And this brings me on to the Great Pussy Eating Debate of 2018, and the problems I see with it. Obviously, what DJ Khaled said was gross, as are all the other ridiculous things straight men have said about going down on people with vulvas. However, a lot of the responses pissed me off too. A lot of men felt the need to weigh in on how THEY always go down on their partners. Which… might seem harmless but is actually indicative of a particularly insidious form of virtue signalling that often comes into play around (particularly heterosexual) sex.

Prioritising your partner’s pleasure isn’t something to brag about. It’s the bare fucking minimum.

The other place I see this kind of ego-tripping manifest is around the issue of whether or not a woman orgasms during a sexual encounter with a man – and how that orgasm happens, if indeed there is one.

Too often, I hear “I want to make her come from intercourse, no clitoral stimulation, what am I doing wrong?”.  What you’re doing wrong, my dude, is prioritising your fucking ego over her fucking orgasm. The vast majority of people with vulvas don’t experience orgasm from penetration alone. This is normal. What you need to do is realise you don’t actually have a problem that needs solving. Talk to your partner, and stimulate her fucking clit the way she likes.

Basically: sex is much better when you take your ego out of it. I promise.

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.

No, You Cannot Get “Addicted” to a Vibrator

Anyone who has read my work for any length of time will know how I feel about the concept of “sex addiction” – in short, that it’s medically meaningless, so broadly applied as to be useless, and the sole criteria to diagnose someone seems to be “has sex more than the diagnoser or in ways that the diagnoser finds personally distasteful.” Read Dr David Ley’s amazing book for more information if this interests you. Today, though, I want to talk about “sex addiction”‘s equally insidious little sister – the idea that you can get addicted to a vibrator.

I have a variation of this conversation at least weekly, either online or occasionally in real life:

Them: “I want a good clitoral vibrator for me/for my female partner.”
Me: “Try the Doxy! It’s great because…” (*sends link*)
Them: “Oh no, that looks like something I/she could get addicted to!”
Me: *facedesks into next week*

I am here to clear up this myth once and for all, and also to have a central resource to point people to so I don’t have to have this argument on a weekly basis. So:

You cannot get addicted to a vibrator.

Repeat after me: You. Cannot. Get. Addicted. To. A. Vibrator.

The fears here seem to fall broadly into three camps, so I am going to tackle each of them one at a time.

Fear the first: “I’ll break/stretch/loosen/desensitize my vulva if I use toys too much.”

Genitals are fucking cool, y’all. They do not “break” or “wear out” from overuse, and they are remarkable at bouncing back – for fuck’s sake, pushing an entire small human out of a vagina causes it more strain than even the most hardcore of sex toys!

I think this myth is closely associated with the (also false) narrative of a vagina becoming “loose” or “used up” if its owner has too much sex or has sex with too many different people. It fails to neglect the medical reality that the vagina is a muscle and muscles Do Not Work That Way.

You cannot break your vagina. You cannot stretch it out permanently in any kind of significant way. It won’t mold around a toy and become unable to enjoy anything else. It won’t break, get addicted to one single type of stimulation or become unable to have or enjoy sex in the future. Promise!

There is also no evidence whatsoever that prolonged or repeated usage of vibrators – even really high-powered ones like my beloved Doxy or the famed Magic Wand – causes any long-term loss of sensation in the clitoris or vulva. At most, some people report feeling desensitized for a short while after a toy session – especially with buzzier toys – but these effects are really short-lived (typically minutes or hours) and cause no long-term damage or change in sensation whatsoever.

I’ve been using my Doxy for years – probably for ten orgasms a week for two and a half years, on average? – and other vibes long before that, and I still squirm at the slightest flick of my partner’s tongue over my clit. Vibes will not ruin the nerves or the sensation in your bits. I promise. Just because I really love it and use it a lot doesn’t mean I am “addicted.”

Tangential but related: I also see a lot of questions along the lines of “I used a toy and now my bits hurt, did I irreparably damage myself?” No, you probably used a toy made from a toxic material, or used a toy made from a material you’re for some reason sensitive to, or didn’t use enough lube, or didn’t warm yourself up enough, or it’s just your body’s response to a new stimulus that it’s not used to. (A bit like your muscles ache the next day if you do a new form of exercise!)

Fear the second: “But what if using a vibrator is the only way I can orgasm?”

I’m going to say something truly radical now.

If using a vibrator is the only or the most reliable way for you to achieve orgasm, follow these steps:

  1. Use the fucking vibrator
  2. Enjoy your orgasms
  3. Don’t worry about it

Orgasms are great, and we should all be having as many of them in our lives as we wish to. There are countless ways to reach orgasm – from fucking, manual sex, oral sex, anal play, being punched in the butt (or is that last one just me?) And, of course, via the use of sex toys such as vibrators.

Here’s a secret: all these ways of reaching orgasm are equally wonderful, equally valid and equally real. ALL orgasms are wonderful as long as everyone involved in inducing them is consenting. That’s literally the only criteria.

I encourage everyone who wants to, to experiment with all different kinds of pleasure and see what works for them and what feels good. It’s also worth remembering that these things can, and probably will, change over time. I used to come reliably from clitoral fingering by a partner, but my clit got more sensitive as I got older and now this is a pretty rare feat. Conversely, I never used to have G-spot orgasms, but now I have them quickly, explosively and repeatedly. And my experience with using toys has been that it has broadened my experience of pleasure and the ways in which I am able to come.

However, no form of pleasure or orgasm is inherently any better than any other. Some vulva-owners spend their entire lives chasing the elusive vaginal-only orgasm, but the reality is that somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of vulvas simply don’t work that way. People often become deeply upset because they, or their partner, doesn’t reach orgasm from oral sex – even if they enjoy the sensation and the act itself. I think these beliefs are heavily tied in with the mistaken notion that we should be able to bring our partners to easy and explosive multiple orgasms with nothing but our hands/mouth/dick, and that anything else – whether it’s them masturbating themselves or using a toy or even just enjoying a session where orgasm isn’t necessarily the goal – is somehow lesser.

I am here to tell you that it’s not. If you come easily in fifty different ways, you’re beautiful and valid. If you only come with a vibrator or other toy or in some other super specific way, you’re equally beautiful and valid.

The overwhelming majority of the time, my answer to “Dear Amy, please help, the only way I can reliably orgasm is by doing this thing” is “….then do that thing.”

Fear the third: “Can toys become a replacement for partnered sex?”

The short answer is no. The long answer is this post in response to a worried reader who was afraid his girlfriend’s dildo would replace him.

A lot of people are afraid that they, or their partners, will find the stimulation they get from a toy to be so overwhelmingly amazing that they won’t have any need for partnered sex in the future.

Again, this is not only completely lacking in evidence, I’ve actually found the opposite is more often true. Exploring my sexuality through toys has increased my potential for erotic enjoyment and therefore improved the partnered sex I have. I am not the only person to have reported this kind of experience.

A toy, however much you love it, cannot be a substitute for a partner. Terms like “battery operated boyfriend” or “the perfect lover” to describe toys have a lot to answer for. Until a toy is sentient, there for me, makes me laugh, snuggles me at night, watches Netflix with me, takes me on adventures and brings me coffee, it is NOT a boyfriend/lover/partner – it’s an inanimate object, a tool through which to experience pleasure.

As I said to our friend who was jealous of his girlfriend’s favourite silicone dick:

Partnered sex is about so much more than just “does your body part satisfy my body part?” It’s about connection, about the feel and smell and warmth of a partner close to you, about the thud of body-on-body, about the rhythm and the dance and the responses between two (or more) people. Partnered sex is in-fucking-credible for so many reasons and a toy can’t fully replicate many of them. Pervocracy has a great article on some of the reasons people might love partnered sex.

So no. Your girlfriend isn’t going to dump you or stop having sex with you because she likes her vibrator more, and she’s not going to get so hooked on wanking with it that you never see her. (That stupid scene in Sex & the City also has a lot to answer for here!)

In short: “Vibrator Addiction” is a shaming tactic, and nothing more.

It shames people who struggle to achieve orgasm without a toy, people who don’t orgasm in socially sanctioned ways (i.e. by penetration with a penis,) people who need a lot of stimulation in order to come… and basically just adds to the stigma of vulva-owners masturbating and prioritising their pleasure.

It’s also sexist as fuck. If a cis man masturbates to porn two or three times a day, people will see him as a normal guy with a healthy sex drive. But if a woman or other person with a vulva uses a vibrator most days or every day, she may well face accusations of being addicted.

Also: let’s not minimise the reality of addiction.

Addiction is a serious medical problem with causes major issues in the sufferer’s life and the lives of the people around them. No-one, to the best of my knowledge, has ever turned to crime, alienated their family and friends, lost their job or run themselves into debt because their Magic Wand just felt too good and gave them too many orgasms.

Minimising the very real pain of addiction and co-opting it as a sex-shaming tactic is incredibly insensitive and harmful to anyone who has suffered from addiction or been affected by having a sufferer close to them.

So let’s stop with the “vibrators are addictive” bullshit and let people have orgasms in the ways that work for them, yes?

It IS [Mostly] All About the Sex

For today’s #KinkMonth post, it’s all about SEX! As you’ll have gathered (unless this is your first visit, in which case – welcome!) I’m doing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s. Today, Kayla asks:

Have you ever considered D/s without a sexual component? Would you be interested in something like it? How important is sex to your current or future D/s relationship?

So when it comes to me and kink, there is one fundamental thing you need to understand:

I do it because it gets me off.

For some reason, it seems to be a thing to deny that BDSM is mostly, or entirely, about sex. And for some people, this is probably true. But, if I’m completely honest, I’m a bit sick of it.

For me, kink and BDSM are, and always have been, overwhelmingly about sex. Yes, they’re means of connecting with people I love. They’re sometimes spiritual. But for fuck’s sake, the vast majority of the time, I do this stuff because it makes my cunt wet and gets me off.

People have tried to divorce BDSM entirely from sex. I am willing to entertain that there are some people – folks at the far end of the Ace spectrum, for example – for whom this is the case. But at its core, I do believe it’s fundamentally a sexual or sex-adjacent practice 99% of the time.

I don’t fuck everyone I scene with, but I do get turned on during pretty much any good kink interaction. It’s part of my pre-negotiation with new partners: “you don’t have to do anything about it, but you need to be okay with the fact that if we have a good scene, I WILL be aroused.”

What’s wrong with sex anyway?

We live in a world where it’s pretty hard to admit that something we do is mainly or entirely about sex. Sex is not seen as a good enough reason to do something – there has to be a higher purpose, a better reason.

Confession I’m seriously not proud of time: pre-20, I was really judgy about people who have casual sex. “I only have sex when I’m in LOVE,” I proclaimed loudly, as if it made me better than other people. Thankfully, I 1) grew the fuck up and stopped being a judgemental bitch, 2) learned the awesomeness that is good casual sex.

A lot of polyamorous people – and yes, I used to be one of them, much to my embarrassment – go around saying “it’s about LOVE, not SEX!” This often goes hand in hand with, “we’re not SWINGERS!” The problem with this is that it implies being a swinger is a bad thing, that love is inherently superior to sex, and it neglects the fact that sex is a hugely important part of romantic love for a lot of us. In this way, people who are ostensibly part of the sex-positive community fall into sex-negative and sex-shaming patterns.

It’s easy to do and I sympathise with it. We’re taught, more or less from birth, that sex is bad. Dirty. Gross. That sex is only “when mummy and daddy love each other very much and want to have a baby.” A huge part of sex-positivity and the sex-posi movement, in my view, is about unlearning these toxic narratives and trying to do better.

Real talk: I don’t have an IUD to control my period (though that’s a nice side effect.) I have it for birth control.

For evidence of pervasive anti-sex sentiment, see also: “I use birth control for reasons that have nothing to do with sex, like controlling my painful periods.” Again, for a lot of people with uteruses (uteri?), this is entirely true and it’s completely valid.

However, lots of us DO use birth control for sex, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Saying that it should be freely available BECAUSE it has uses that aren’t sexual is really problematic. It should be freely available because it’s a normal part of healthcare, and lots of people like sex while also liking not being pregnant.

Let’s all just admit that some things ARE about sex

My challenge to you, and to myself: next time you find yourself wanting to defend a part of your life or identity with “it’s not about sex!” …Stop. Think about it. And resist the temptation to jump to this defense. Because sometimes, it is about sex. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from the great Oscar Wilde: “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”

Kinky item of the day: Condoms! If you engage in penetrative sex or share toys in non fluid-bonded relationships, you need condoms to keep things sexy and safe. Buy 2 packs for 20% off.

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The C Word: All The Wrong Things I Was Ever Taught About Consent

Are you celebratiing #KinkMonth? If not, you totally should be! Why not treat yourself to something exciting?

I’m celebrating by taking part in Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s programme and writing posts inspired by the prompts. Today… oh boy. It’s the big one. Simultaneously one of my favourite topics, and one that feels too massive to actively delve into.

Today, we’re talking consent

Look, I can’t have my say on consent in one post. I just can’t. I’ll probably write a book on it one day (or at least a collection of essays,) but today I have to tell you something meaningful about one of the biggest and thorniest topics out there, in 1,000 words or less.

Something I learned recently: prior to finding sex-positivity, everything I was ever taught about consent is wrong. Everything you were ever taught about it is probably wrong, too.

Let’s go ahead and delve into some of the wrongness.

“Only men need to seek consent. Women don’t need to ask because men are always up for sex.”

If there is one myth that I think could fix so many of the world’s problems around sex if it would just have the decency to die in a fucking fire already, it’s this one.

Newsflash: sometimes, women want sex. Sometimes, men don’t want sex – tonight or this week or with this person or ever. Sometimes women want sex more than men[1] or at different times than men. And everyone needs to seek consent before and while engaging in any kind of sexual activity. (Incidentally, there are more than two genders and not all sex is heterosexual, so there’s that. Consent rules apply the same.)

[1] Source: literally every single male-shaped person I’ve ever dated having a lower sex drive than me, whether only slightly lower or a whole lot lower.

“Consent is unsexy and ruins the mood.”

Fuck this one! Fuck it backwards and upside down with a cactus, seriously.

Consent doesn’t have to be unsexy, awkward or scary. It doesn’t have to be a big sit-down discussion with yes/no/maybe lists (though these are awesome,) contracts and lawyers, for fuck’s sake. It can be straightforward: “I’d really like to kiss you, would you be into that?” “What kind of sex are you into tonight?” It can be playful: “Hey baby, wanna spank my ass?” It can be sexy: “God, I want to fuck you so bad. Do you want my cock?”

And you know what? Even if it IS awkward, even if you DO perceive active consent as unsexy… it’s still fucking vital. Get over it.

“If she says “no” or pushes you away, it might really mean “yes.””

No no no no no no no.

If someone says no or pushes you away, unless it’s part of a very clearly negotiated game (in which instance, you have a safeword, right!?)… no means fucking no.

Playing hard to get is bullshit. Even if you think someone might be doing it (because societal stigma is strong, especially when it comes to women being enthusiastic about sex,) the correct response is to stop what you’re doing and have a conversation with your partner about what’s going on and what you both want and don’t want. The correct response is never to just go ahead and have the sex.

No means no. Pushing you away means no. Freezing means no. Hemming and hawing without giving an enthusiastic “yes” means no. Making excuses means no. “I have a headache” means no. “We really shouldn’t” means no. Say it with me now: anything that isn’t clear and unambiguous consent means no.

“If I don’t ask, they’ll have sex with me! But if I ask, they might say no.”

If you ask and they say no, they were either never going to have sex with you in the first place and would have told you to stop when you got close to a boundary, or they would have endured an experience they weren’t really consenting to, possibly out of fear of the repercussions of saying no.

Is it worth risking maybe raping someone because you’re afraid that asking gives them permission to maybe say no?

(If your answer to the above question is “yes,” fuck off from my blog, ask yourself some serious questions, get therapy and don’t go near another human until you sort your shit out.)

“It’s really hard to know if someone’s consenting or not!”

First: no, it isn’t. Most people’s body language when they’re into an encounter is actually quite clear, and VERY different from the aforementioned “going along with it because you might really hurt me if I say no.”

Second: FUCKING ASK.

Third: if you’re still not sure, it’s your responsibility to not do the thing until you are sure.

See also: this song. [Song is “For the Guys” by Rachel Lark, who is a fucking badass genius. Lyrics include “if you’re not sure that it’s not rape, don’t do it!“]

Tell me in the comments or on Twitter: what lies were you told about consent?

Kinky item of the day is one from my “maybe someday when I have a shedload of money” wishlist: a proper custom-fit chastity belt. (Not an affiliate link and I have no connection to the company.)

Heads up: this post affiliate links. If you enjoy my work please consider buying me a coffee to say thanks!

I Won’t Apologise For My Body Any More

Those of us who are socialised as women are taught to hate our bodies more or less from the day we’re born. If you think I’m wrong, consider that someone thought this onesie for a baby girl was a good idea. Consider that pretty much every Disney movie ever holds up “pretty” (for the value of “pretty” that equates to thin, white, young, able bodied and virginal) as the most important thing a girl can be. Consider that 40% of 10-and-11-year-old girls think they need to lose weight.

Make no mistake: self-loathing and body hatred is heaped upon us from infancy. Is there any wonder that so many of us make it to adulthood with a totally fucked up relationship with food, exercise, our bodies and our looks?

This stuff is so completely internalised and normalised that for most of us, becoming aware of it and then beginning to undo it is probably going to be a lifelong journey. We cannot love ourselves and cast off all our worries overnight. What we can do, though? What we can do, though, is stop apologising.

I will not apologise for my weight.

Spoiler for those who haven’t met me: I don’t weigh 90lb. A year and a half ago, I weighed double that number. I’ve since lost ~30lb, but that’s not what matters. I was an awesome badass with many great qualities then, and I am an awesome badass with many great qualities now.

Humans come in many shapes and sizes, and the idea that skinnier is automatically better is a great pile of steaming bullshit.

“Sorry, I used to be thinner and I’m trying to get back there” will never again fall out of my mouth when I take my clothes off in front of a lover.

I will not apologise for my scars.

My scars are part of me. They tell a story, and the ending of that story is fuck you, I survived.

If you ask nicely, I might tell you the stories behind each one. If you ask really nicely, I might even let you touch them. But don’t tell me they’re ugly, don’t pity me, don’t tell me I’d be so much prettier if only my skin were unblemished. I’m scarred because I’ve lived. Deal with it.

I will not apologise for my body hair.

If I had a pound for every person who has told me body hair is disgusting… well, I could probably quit my job and just write about sex on the internet for the rest of my life. Real talk time: body hair is natural. The notion that one must remove it all in order to be beautiful is entirely socially constructed. The idea that women must be hairless originated with razor companies trying to branch out into new markets. It’s literally the epitome of “convince us there’s something wrong with us, then sell us the cure.”

Never again will I sheepishly ask a sexual partner if they’re willing to overlook my natural hair and fuck me anyway. Never again will I apologise when someone asks me to shave it off and I tell them no.

I’m fucking beautiful and if my natural body bothers you, well… that seems like a you problem.

I will not apologise for my physical limitations.

I’m not an exercise-bunny and I’m not particularly physically strong. I have come to accept these things about myself. My body does most of the things I want it to do, most of the time.

I’ll take walks with you, but if you want a chick to scale mountains with? I’m not your girl. I’ll jog for the bus if I have to, but if you want a partner in marathons? Not me.

Similarly, my body has certain needs now, including the ones it didn’t have when I was younger. I won’t apologise for needing to sleep and no longer being able to run on fumes. I won’t apologise for needing you to maybe not fuck me as deep as you possibly can. That shit hurts. I am allowed to prioritise my own pleasure. I am entitled to not be in pain.

I will not apologise for the ways my body experiences pleasure.

I’ve probably apologised thousands of times to lovers for how hard it can be to get me off, or for the fact that my body doesn’t always perform pleasure in the most reliable and/or visually appealing and/or ego-stroking manner.

I’m not going to fake an orgasm when you ineptly go down on me for three minutes.  I’m not going to apologise when I still don’t come when you go down on me expertly for half an hour. I’ll tell you what I like and don’t like, and I’ll react in a way that feels authentic. But I’m not going to apologise if it doesn’t work in the way you think it should.

I’m done apologising for my body. My body carries me through the world and gives me – and the people who are lucky enough to share in it – astonishing pleasure. My body fucking rocks.

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