This is the first in a mini-series of posts where I explore the five love languages as they can relate to kink and BDSM. If you don’t know your main love language, take the quiz to find out! Most of us are a mix of several or all of them, but have one that comes out most strongly. The model is somewhat flawed (I think there are more than five languages – two additional ones of mine are co-creation and food, for example) but it’s a useful starting point for exploring how you like to give and receive love. I believe that a lot of problems with one person feeling unloved and unappreciated, in relationships where everyone is acting in good faith and doing their best, come down to a mismatch of love languages and not understanding each other’s.
Words of Affirmation
People whose primary love language is words of affirmation like to be told they’re loved. They like to be told explicitly, out loud and in detail that they are valued by their partner(s.) People who understand love via words of affirmation do not ascribe to the adage that words are meaningless and only actions count. Don’t get me wrong though – your actions still need to back up your words!
How to show love to a submissive whose primary language is words of affirmation
Many submissives will tell you that the words “good girl,” “good boy” or similar will just make them melt in their Dominant’s arms. If you have a submissive who will do anything for these nuggets of praise, you might just have a sub whose love language is words of affirmation. Offer them genuinely as often as you can.
You can take it a step further, too. Mix in other compliments and words of praise. This can range from “I’m so proud of you” when they accomplish something, to “you look so hot kneeling for me like that” during a scene. Compliments – on their achievements, talents, character and looks – should be given freely. Remember to make sure everything you tell them is genuine and heartfelt. A person who speaks this language can tell when you’re just parroting the lines with no feeling behind them.
A submissive who needs words of affirmation is likely to need regular reassurance, too. They might need to hear that you love them, that you value them, and that they’re not too much or too needy. If you’re in a non-monogamous dynamic, they’re likely to need verbal reassurance sometimes when you’re spending time with others. Tell them explicitly how much they mean to you.
Don’t underestimate the power of written words, too! If you live apart, a “good morning beautiful/handsome” text could brighten their whole day. If you live together, a naughty or affectionate IM while they’re at work will make them smile and keep them thinking of you.
Writing tasks were also made for these submissives! Have them write down fantasies, write in a daily journal, or write down mantras to increase their confidence in themselves or the relationship. You could even set “lines” as a punishment if they misbehave! As with any punishment or protocol, make sure you negotiate fully.
How to love a Dominant whose primary love language is words of affirmation
People tend to forget that Dominants have emotional needs too! Like anyone else, D-types also have ways that they prefer to give and receive love. So if your Dom is into words of affirmation, how can you make sure they feel loved and appreciated consistently?
A Dominant who is into words of affirmation might love to hear lots of verbal feedback during and after play. You don’t have to go overboard or fake it, but a well-timed “mmm, that feels so good” or “this is making me so hard/wet” is likely to go over well. After play, general words of appreciation (“I needed that so much, thank you”) or specific compliments (“the way you handle the whip is so sexy”) are likely to make them glow. Again: whatever words you give, it’s important that they are genuine! Only say things you mean!
It’s amazing how often submissives don’t realise this or forget it, but: COMPLIMENT YOUR DOM! I often say “hey, nice ass” when I see Mr CK walking around naked. (Words isn’t really his language, but it is mine.) Tell him that shirt really suits him. Tell her the way she looks in those boots makes you go weak at the knees. Make sure they know you really appreciate their skills as a… whatever it is they’re good at. Tell them you love their laugh, their random acts of kindness, their devotion to their family. Just pick something and tell them how great they are!
However confident and stoic they seem, Doms can also feel insecure, jealous or wobbly. Regardless of your relationship structure – but especially if you’re non-monogamous – check in with your Dom regularly to see how they’re doing. Be prepared to offer any verbal reassurances they need. Ask them what they need you to remind them of, or pick it up from contextual clues, and tell them that thing. Let them be vulnerable with you and meet that vulnerability with words of love and support.
If your D-type sets you a writing task, take it on promptly and joyfully. Do the best you can with it. In fact, you might even suggest this to them if they haven’t thought of it!
Additional tips that are good for anyone
Don’t be afraid to remind your partner of your confidence, faith and pride in them. As someone who speaks the words of affirmation language, if I have a big interview, presentation or important meeting coming up at work I love nothing more than hearing “good luck, I know you’ll rock it!” from my partners. And if something they aim for doesn’t pan out, be there to pick their spirits up with loving reassurance that it doesn’t mean anything about their ability and that things will go better next time.
Sexting was made for relationships between people who communicate their love in words. Share a filthy fantasy, a sexy dream you had, or spinning an elaborate scene together over text or IM are all great ways to feel more connected… and to gain delicious new ideas of things to try together.
If you live apart (or even if you don’t!) then consider love-letters. These could be emails or actual, old-fashioned pen-and-paper letters. However you do it, they’ll give you something to look back on and cherish for years to come.
Say “I love you.” Seriously. Say it often. No-one who speaks the “words of affirmation” language will get tired of hearing it.
Do you speak “Words of Affirmation” as your love language? How do you like to give and receive love in your kinky relationship?
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I was thrilled when Rosie Hodsdon reached out to volunteer to be an interview subject. I’ve known her through the UK kink scene for a while and she’s totally lovely as well as ridiculously smart. Here, we chat sex and relationships, academic porn research, and why the Digital Economy Bill sucks.
Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?
I am currently working towards my PhD at Northumbria University, looking at the regulation of online pornography in the UK and how this affects the people who produce it.
What made you want to get into porn research?
My research interests float around sexualities more broadly, and this stems from the failure that was my school’s sex education! I felt incredibly alienated from everything we were taught and had to find the information that I felt I needed out for myself, and was very lucky to be able to do this at a time when the internet made this a little easier! I knew that I never wanted people to feel as alienated as I did growing up, and wanted to be someone who helped others to learn about the range of sexualities out there in a safe and supportive way.
To me, porn forms just one part of that much wider sphere of things, and I have worked, or would love to work, on projects concerning kink, polyamory and sex work as well. [My work is] about dispelling misconceptions surrounding sexuality more broadly and wanting to work towards a society where these things are free from stigma and judgement.
What’s your background and how did you break into this work?
Almost by accident, really! I did my first degree in Anthropology and Sociology and I knew as soon as I started that I wanted to focus on sexualities research. Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I had a guest lecture on my Sociology of Gender and Sexuality module from Professor Clarissa Smith on extreme pornography, which I found fascinating. At the same time, the AVMS regulations had been passed, so pornography was at the forefront of my mind. However, the more I tried to read into academic research on the porn industry, the more I noticed that the voices of those who worked in the industry were rather absent, so when I got an email in my inbox asking for PhD proposals relating to law and sexuality, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
What’s the most challenging thing about your work?
There’s a few things that spring to mind, which all cover somewhat different aspects of what I do!
The first problem is somewhat inherent to academia, which is that I can’t ever really escape my work – I can’t go home at the end of a work day and forget about it, because it’s always going to be in my mind and if it’s in my mind, then I’m thinking on it and working!
The third is that the work itself can be pretty misunderstood and stigmatised. I’m very wary of saying so, because the stigma attached to this academic work really can’t be compared to the stigma attached to actually making porn, and I wouldn’t want to ignore that. But I have had a lot of judgement myself because of what I do, from strangers on the internet all the way to previous partners. Shout-out to my ex specifically, who told me that no one else would ever love me because of what I do. Look at me now, dickbag!
What about the most rewarding thing?
I get to meet some incredible people who are doing some fantastic work, both as producers and as activists. And sometimes I get to be considered amongst them as well! Feeling like I have the ability to change people’s viewpoints or give them a new perspective on things is both very powerful and very humbling, and I feel a huge responsibility with it, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
Who’s your favourite porn performer and why? What about your favourite production company?
I have to pick just one? I’m not going to play by these rules! [Spoken like a true polyamorist! – Amy] There are some amazing performers who represent the industry in such a positive way, both in the US and the UK.
Stoya was the first person I encountered who combined porn with activism, and I’ve appreciated her work ever since. I’m also a huge fan of Pandora/Blake, who works tirelessly to support sexual freedom. Jiz Lee has done some amazing work, and their book, Coming Out Like a Porn Star, has been hugely influential to me in its approach to centering performer voices.
As for my favourite company, it has to be Crash Pad Series! It’s radical, queer, kinky, feminist-grounded porn which focuses on a fair production process and has the inimitable Shine Louise Houston at its helm, also fighting for new approaches to sexuality in society more broadly. And it’s hot.
There’s been a lot in the news recently about the incoming age verification regulations to access online porn in the UK. What’s your take?
Where do I start!? The whole thing is a tangled mess of clusterfuck. I could spend hours ranting about this, so I’ll do what I can to condense why the entire thing is a terrible idea. It’s time for some bullet points.
The rationale behind the law is to “protect children”, and this is based on fundamentally flawed evidence. The study which forms the basis of the legislation, carried out by the NSPCC, has since been discredited by 37 academics for poor methods and conclusions which stretched far beyond the scope of the study. This is no basis for legislation.
Furthermore, what are we protecting children from? Of course no one should have to see porn without wanting to, but this does not just apply to children. There is no evidence which proves that children are harmed en masse by watching pornography. In studies which have explored young people’s motivations for viewing such material, the overwhelming theme is that pornography allows them to explore their sexuality and learn about sex in a way that they otherwise do not have access to. Pornography should not be a substitute for sex education, and this can only be solved with a drastic overhaul of the SRE curriculum. Porn should form a part of this, but so should issues of queer identity, pleasure and safe sex practices. All of these are currently very much lacking in the UK (and in most other places!).
The laws are also almost certainly going to have the least impact on young people, given that they are generally far more technologically literate than a lot of adults. Anyone, including young people, can just get around these restrictions through the use of a VPN. On a practical level, it won’t work.
So what will it do? For the consumer, it will place their private personal information in the hands of companies who are not required to enforce stringent protections of this data. As much as I would like to live in a world where people are not shamed for their sexual desires and preferences, this is not currently the case. We can see in countless examples how information about people’s non-normative sexual preferences has had major real-world consequences, such as losing their jobs or custody of their children. A database which stores information about what porn people watch? Hackers are going to have a field day.
Finally – given that this is where my research lies! – it’s going to decimate the porn industry. The financial impact is likely to be significant, particularly for smaller companies with more niche audiences, who are likely to struggle to implement AV systems from an economic standpoint. These are often the studios which produce explicitly ethical, feminist, queer, kink pornography so to lose these would make the industry even more homogeneous and less diverse. There’s also the emotional impact of the regulations to consider – people are fearing for their jobs and businesses. The government is telling people that their work is actively harmful for society. Their own sexualities are being delegitimised. And when you consider further that people with a significant background in porn may well find it harder to find “square” work due to the stigma attached to sex work more broadly, people are very worried about their future.
Ultimately, the AV laws are like trying to fill in the Gran Canyon with a bucket and spade. I’m going to actually be rather lazy here and take a quote from my own response from the BBFC consultation of which I am rather proud:
“Age verification seems to be merely an ineffective, unsubstantiated patch-up for a much wider social issue with regards to how we inform young people about sex and our wider sexual culture– including pornography. Young people are desperate for accurate, inclusive, informed sex education, which produces greater positive outcomes for their sexual, emotional and relationship wellbeing. Focusing on age verification serves to mask that problem rather than confront it, and may instead be detrimental to the development of sexual knowledge if not supported by compulsory and comprehensive sex education. This would be a much more effective use of government resources.”
They rest on fundamentally-flawed foundations of research and are likely to cause a significant amount of social harm.
What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?
People think that I sit around just watching porn all day. They’re not wrong, but I then have to write about it afterwards. People seem to find that part much less sexy.
What do you really wish everyone understood about pornography?
Ooh, this is a really interesting one! There’s a lot I could say here, so I’ll break it down into some more bullet points:
That (most) porn costs money to make, and all of it takes work. Pay for your damn porn. Or, at least, access it for free only directly from creators, not through any pirated means.
That porn performers (and producers) are human! There’s a narrative in anti-porn discourse which tends to paint performers particularly as being nothing more than vapid, blow-up fuckdolls, which not only removes their agency and autonomy, but also reduces them to their having sex. We live in an age now where it’s easier than ever to move past this image – we have performers doing some amazing activist work or simply engaging with their fans on social media, and the image that persists of people, particularly women, in porn as being either a mindless set of holes or an exploited victim, denies them their personhood,
That it’s not a public health danger. There is no research out there which proves that porn is inherently harmful, and while I would never want to belittle any individual issues that pornography has caused (because yes, people can have issues with it and people who do need appropriate support), it does not do this on a large scale.
That pornography can be massively positive. Emerging research is starting to show that porn isn’t just used by consumers to get off, though that’s part of it too. It’s a way to explore their sexuality and identity, a way to connect with others (if you’ve never shared the Lemon Stealing Whores introduction with your friends, I recommend it), an education resource, a method of stress relief, and much more.
Finally, that it’s okay not to like pornography! Whether that’s a particular type or the genre as a whole – as much as I’m positive about what pornography is, what it can do and who makes it, I don’t expect everyone to like it. All I want is for it to be respected as a form of labour and as a creative product, and for the freedom of others to be able to access it and make it should they choose to.
Who inspires you personally and professionally?
On a professional level, there are so many people I want to name here! First of all, I have to note the amazing things that my participants have shared with me over the course of my research, and their openness and trust with me is massively motivating.
Secondly, my PhD supervisory team – Chris Ashford, Tony Ward and Laura Graham – who continue to blow my mind and push me to succeed, even when I want to give up, and whose research has paved the way for someone like me to do something like this.
Thirdly, the tireless activism of Pandora/Blake and Myles Jackman. I’m so in awe of the both of them that even now, having met both multiple times, they still scare me slightly!
Fourth (and finally, for this part of the question), the awesome communities that my research has allowed me to become immersed in – academics, sex work activists, porn producers and creators – who are all doing such amazing things themselves!
On a personal level, I am very lucky to be surrounded by some incredible people. My partner, Lewis; my boyfriend, Willtom; and my girlfriend, Tiggy, have all provided me with invaluable support and happiness. They push me to keep going even when I just want to throw my thesis in a fire! (They’re also hella cute). I also have an amazing family, who have dealt with trying to explain my PhD topic to far too many people! I hate feeling like I’m “lucky” to have their support, because it should be a given. But I know that that’s not always the case and that I am grateful that they’ve not disowned me yet. And I can’t not also mention the lovely people of the Durham, Leeds and Reading kink scenes, who are unfailingly wonderful and who have also supported me along the way.
Who’s your favourite sex educator and why?
So much of my inspiration to enter sexualities education (in a sense) myself came from Scarleteen, so I’d like to say their entire website! Also, my entire Twitter feed has been improved since introducing Alix Fox into its mix. She combines some spectacular puns with activism and awareness work, and I’m always impressed by her willingness to reach out and continue learning from others. [We love Alex here at C&K! – Amy]
What’s something you used to believe – about sex, relationships or porn – that you don’t believe any more?
I feel like there’s a tendency to put romantic love on a pedestal, and as has probably been demonstrated in this interview, there are so many other forms of relationships that can be just as wonderful, supportive and fulfilling.
And just for fun because it is “Coffee & Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?
…I don’t. Unless *insert enema joke here*?
(Please don’t hate me!)
Thank you so much to Rosie for her time and for the awesome work she’s doing, which will undoubtedly benefit all of us – when porn and sex work are destigmatised, all of us gain greater sexual freedom. You can keep up with Rosie via her Twitter, and as ever if YOU are doing something awesome in the field of sex or relationships and would like to be featured on the blog, hit me up.
When I started out on this quest to publish a select few guest bloggers on my site (and pay them for it, of course!) part of my mission was to share the stories I cannot tell. The experiences I have not had. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited by this piece by Evelyn Archer. Here, we’re talking Sex After 40! I’m in my late 20s. The myths about sex stopping is one of the things I’m very afraid of about growing older. But here, Evelyn tells us that not only can sex after 40 be amazing – it might just be the best ever. She’s also sharing some wisdom she’s learned along the way. Over to her…
The Thirst of “Femmes d’un Certain Age” by Evelyn Archer
Some doctors call it “The Surge”. I call it “The Going Out of Business Sale”.
Here’s the truth: in my late 30s through mid-40s, I’d done without sex for a long time. In a long, otherwise happy marriage – between medication side effects, interpersonal issues and plain old fear – we’d been Not Having Sex for longer than I like to admit. I told myself that everyone gets to define these things for themselves (still true), but there was also another message that I was getting and internalizing without really realizing it. A woman over 40 with a sex drive is a joke. A grotesque joke. Either played for laughs or an object of scorn and pity – we’re Stifler’s Mom from American Pie, Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company (Google it, my sweet babies).
I had no model for what my sex life after 40 was “supposed” to look like. It was “supposed” to Go Away. In fact, cursory Googling revealed a stark, depressing story of “sexless marriages”, of couples living with resentment and disappointment, or at best as friendly roommates, co-owners in the Business of Our Life. A sexual life was something I used to have, someone I used to be, and it looked like I would have to find a way to live without it.
But through hard work in therapy and a bunch of other stuff we came together again.
And now we can’t stop boning each other. But as an essentially cishet (I mean, het-ish, but that’s another post) monogamous couple, in order to truly get back on track, we had to take our cues from outside the cishet community (which is unsurprisingly UNHELPFUL in terms of sex positive information). Instead we turned to queer folks and trans folks and polyamorous folks.
If my partner and I were struggling, for whatever reason, with penetrative P-in-V sex, why was this the “end of sex” for us? Would we say that what our queer friends, our trans pals did in bed wasn’t “really sex”? Of course not! That doesn’t even make sense! So why did it have to be that way for us? Once we stopped putting P-in-V sex at the center of our sex lives, once we stopped seeing “everything else” (oral and manual and toys and everything) as a “lead up to the main event” our entire sex lives transformed. All of a sudden, “fucking” was whatever we decided it was.
So we started fucking all the time.
We can’t seem to stop. He comes home early from work just for banging. We send dirty gifs to each other. We keep a Sex Toy Wish List on Lovehoney. And we haven’t seen our friends on a Saturday night in months because we’re so tired from banging all afternoon, all we can do is eat spaghetti and watch cartoons.
And it was from polyamorous folks writing about relationships and intimacy that we learned that we have to TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME. We have to find ways to talk about stuff we don’t want to talk about. How to sit in uncomfortable feelings like disappointment and jealousy, and still hold space for each other.
It never occurred to us to actually have a conversation about what we WANTED to do
specifically, only what we DIDN’T want to do. From the BDSM community that we learned that we can just talk out whatever is “on the table” for fucky stuff and instead of all that talking “ruining the moment” (or whatever) it leads to a more fun and satisfying play-time.
The power of just listening
But let me be clear: all these terrific queer, trans, poly sex positive folks (bloggers, Twitterers, Instagram folks) are not giving this information to US. Their work is not necessarily FOR us, it’s for themselves and for each other. But by shutting up, and by watching and listening closely, I learned a new way to look at and talk about sex. As these folks process and manage their own sex positive liberation, it shows me a different way of inhabiting my own sexuality, shows me ways to question and ways to talk. It’s not one person in particular, but this chorus of voices, and quietly immersing myself in what they have to say has utterly changed my marriage, my relationship to sex, and the way I see myself.
But still, my high levels of desire seemed to be out of sync with public opinion and popular culture. There’s still the Google-able stuff about The End of Sex, but dig a little deeper and there’s something called “The Surge”. The way I understand it (and I am a writer not a doctor, so do your own research!) is that here at the End of my Childbearing Years my body knows that each egg it releases could be its last. So it releases a surge of hormones telling me “YOU BETTER BANG EVERYTHING BECAUSE THIS COULD BE YOUR LAST CHANCE”. But there’s SO little information on this (and most of it anecdotal) it reminds me of how monstrous our culture sees Femmes d’un Certain Age whose sex drives are still strong. We’re still a joke, still grotesque. Still Mrs. Roper, still Stifler’s mom.
Dawn Sera and Tristan Taoromino have talked about it on their podcasts a couple of times, but there’s little in popular culture for me to look to. Even looking for women over forty in romance novels came up thin, even thinner if you want something a little hotter than “sweet” and “tender”.
So…where ARE we?
WHY is no one talking about this? Why is the only talk of women and
middle age and desire about our thinning hair, our drying and atrophying vaginas, our hormone therapy, our inevitable march to a dry and sexless grave?
Well, I’m not having it. I’ve decided to embrace my monstrousness (if indeed that’s what it is). And I’m leaving you with some resources that really helped me. (These may Old News to you Sex Positive Veterans, but they were news to me).
Tristan Taoromino’s podcast “Sex Out Loud” (available wherever fine podcasts are uploaded). She has more talk of kink and gender and queer politics so this was right up my alley.
Dawn Serra’s “Sex Gets Real” (available wherever fine podcasts are uploaded). She has a softer, more relationshippy slant. There’s also lots of good stuff about the intersection of fat positivity and sex positivity. (Be prepared to hear the word “yummy” a lot.
Oh Joy, Sex Toy is a web comic by husband and wife team Erika Moen and Matt Nolan. I went there just for sex toy reviews and what I got was SO much more. The illustrations are really sweet, with lots and lots of body diversity (which I don’t see everywhere).
Evelyn Archer is an author living in New England. You can find her books here and you can sign up for her super fun newsletter, “The Strange Files” here. She also writes erotic shorts as “Madeline Moon”. You can find them here, or here.
Affiliate links are contained within this post. All views are the author’s own.
I recently decided to run a pitch call for newer voices in sex writing – specifically, the criteria was anyone who has never been paid to write about sex/relationships before. I got a huge number of pitches and many of them were outstanding in quality. In the end, picking just one from the 70+ I got was too hard, so I picked a small number of my favourites and will be publishing them one at a time between now and Christmas. Today’s is from LittleWelshMinx. This one stood out to me because of its unique take on the role of song in self-care around dating. I also wanted to share this one first because it’s so timely given Aretha Franklin’s sad death last week.
Without further ado, over to LWM…
RESPECT: Find Out What It Means to Me
Today I’m talking about relationship rituals.
I have been dating now for 18 years. During that time, I have developed certain rituals for getting me through the tough times and for getting me through the really tough times. As my regular readers will know, I’m a big music fan. I often use music as a way of feeling, thinking, soothing myself, and finding the strength to face the pain, love, rejection, betrayal, and the unknown that is the world of relationships and dating.
My parents have handed down to me a very eclectic taste in music, and one of their favourite genres – and mine – is soul. In turn, soul music became one of the key elements of my own personal relationship soundtrack.
The deep, powerful voices would resonate through my room, vibrating through my heart, connecting me to singers from over 50 years ago, making me feel slightly less alone as their voices raised in celebration, desperation, and elation.
Of all of them, I loved Aretha Franklin’s Respect the best.
Here was a woman, not bowed in defeat, not crying in a corner but standing up for herself. Rather than giving up and walking away, the woman within the narrative of the song seems to be drawing a line, telling her partner the way it is, and demanding better treatment. You get the sense that she has taken some crap and just isn’t prepared to take any more.
Every time I was in a bad place, and had been neglected, ignored, abandoned, patronised, cheated on or dumped, I would turn to music, and inevitably, turn to Aretha.
Respect acted like a much-needed shake from a collective sisterhood, putting fire in my heart and stiffening my backbone. When I was looking for the strength to keep going, stand up for myself, or screw up enough resolve to look inside for the truth, for the reality of my situation, to face my unhappiness and find the strength to leave, her voice and words would give me courage, hope, and determination. She sang about not taking any shit back in the 1960s. I’d be damned if I’d take any shit 50 years later.
And so this women, with her words and raw power, would get me through.
She was there for me during the pain and shame when “D” made me go shopping with him for his girlfriend’s Christmas present, knowing I loved him, and the day after he slept with me for the first time.
She was there for me when “S” was playing mind games, gaslighting me before I knew gaslighting was a thing, when in my bewildered state I questioned my own sanity and morals.
She was there for me when “J” trailed off into oblivion.
She was there when “R” left me for another woman, three days after introducing me to his extended family, and three months after insisting I meet his son.
This song, among many others, has been a touchstone for me. An audio reminder of who I am, what I want, and what I will and will not tolerate in my own life and relationships.
The thing to remember is that we all go through tough times and we all get our hearts broken at some point or another. To survive it, you need to have things you can fall back on, and songs like Respect, that help to snap you out of the pain, make you laugh at yourself, and keep moving forward.
Whenever I find myself hurting, I find bittersweet comfort knowing I can turn to music for solace. More than just reminding me to be strong, Aretha has been a thread throughout my dating life. Whenever I listen to Respect in a moment of pain, I am forced to remember the previous moments, but also forced to remember the fact that I got through them, and survived, a little wiser, a little tougher, and a little stronger.
When I heard the news of her death, I stopped in my tracks. Later that night I wept. I wept for a woman I never met, because her song helped me to become the woman I am.
Thank you, Aretha.
Hello! I’m a 30-something girl from Wales, who likes classic literature, rugby, salsa, old Hollywood cinema, 40s/50s/60s fashion, and drinking gin and tonics. I blog about sex, from as many different view points, subjects, and angles as possible… academic, historical, geographical, scientific, technological, moral, personal, socioeconomic, political, emotional….
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Whew, it’s been a while since I had an advice question from a lovely reader. This one, I must confess, has been sitting in my inbox for a while. Thanks to the person who sent it in, both for the excellent question and for waiting so patiently for an answer.
NOTE: For those who don’t know, a “unicorn” is a person (usually a woman or AFAB person, though not always) who gets into some kind of relationship with an existing couple. So called because this type of person is almost as rare, precious and highly sought-after as the mythical horned horse. “Unicorn hunter” couples get a bad rep because so many of them approach this type of relationship from a fantasy-fulfillment perspective without due regard for the third person’s feelings, needs or, well, humanity.
Let’s dive in…
So my primary and I have suddenly and quite unexpectedly acquired a unicorn! We love them so much (we’ve been friends with them for years). So far we are all three having a delightful time. We are, as much as possible, using our polyamory skills to continue this state of affairs.
But I am nervous. Obviously being a unicorn is a terribly vulnerable position and so many unicorns end up really hurt. So: can you give me some tips from your own experience on making sure we keep our unicorn as gloriously happy and safe and secure as they deserve, while also making sure that we look after our own needs too? Because, my goodness, they deserve all that is good and wonderful.
Dear Nervous Unicorn Handler,
Okay, first of all, I LOVE this one. Not only because you say you are all having a wonderful time in your newfound triad, but because you are obviously as invested in your new partner’s happiness as you are in your own and your Primary’s. So, yay for you! You’re already way ahead of the curve here.
You’re also doing the right thing in realising that being a unicorn is a vulnerable position. Your unicorn has a certain level of advantage in that they’ve been your friend for a long time, but you and your Primary will still have tonnes of shared history, intimacy and knowledge that your unicorn has not been privy to.
I find myself wondering if you’ve talked to them explicitly about this? Even something as simple as “hey, we understand that being a unicorn can be a really vulnerable position, and we want you to know that we love and value you so much and are really invested in your happiness in this relationship.Please don’t be afraid to tell us what you need and let us know if something doesn’t work for you” can go a really long way. Then, obviously, follow through on that with actions such as listening actively, consulting them on things that affect them, and not getting upset with them for expressing needs or emotions.
Balancing multiple people’s needs is tricky in any relationship. It does, of course, become somewhat more difficult the more people are involved. However, there’s no reason you can’t keep all of you safe, secure and happy for a long time to come!
Communication, as ever, is key. It sounds like you’re well aware of that and all making efforts to communicate well. Keep doing that!
I also advise, in so far as it’s possible, each of you having one-on-one time with your third partner sometimes as well. Just as the two of you need alone time together in order for your relationship to flourish, your relationship with your unicorn and your partner’s relationship with them needs the same to a certain extent. But, of course, lots of lovely all-three time is also really important to schedule and prioritise.
Looking after your own needs is vital in any relationship. So, try to keep a good handle on where you’re at internally. Ask your partners to look out for themselves similarly. Have you considered a periodic check-in meeting for all three of you? This can be by Skype or phone if you live far apart, or around the kitchen table over coffee, or even snuggled up in bed together. It doesn’t have to be serious. It can just be, “how are we all doing? Anyone got any issues they want to raise?” Then if anything comes up, you talk about it. If it doesn’t, you carry on doing the snuggling/coffee drinking/kinky fuckery. Obviously, you can react to things as they arise. But don’t underestimate how useful it is to have a designated time to check in with everyone and focus on your three-way relationship.
Beyond this, the things that spring to mind seem obvious and I’m sure you’re doing them/not doing them already:
Don’t try to control/limit who your unicorn can date. Having a secondary relationship with them while being in a primary relationship with your existing partner is A-okay, but don’t try to make them be exclusive to you or make it difficult/impossible for them to date others.
Discuss, with your Primary AND all three of you together, what will happen if someone feels jealous or left out. “We’ll close down the relationship and kick the unicorn out” is not a valid answer to this.
Keep your promises and honour your commitments. Emergencies happen, of course, and a degree of flexibility is important. But your partner should feel that the two of you are reliable and will do what you say you’ll do.
Related to the above, don’t make promises you may not be able to keep.
Never, ever, for the love of all that is sexy and good in the world, throw your unicorn in the middle when you and your Primary have a disagreement.
Try not to set rules on who is supposed to feel what for whom. This is a recipe for disaster because the heart doesn’t obey rules. Expecting your new partner to feel exactly the same way about each of you, for example, is unrealistic at best and straight-up coercive at worst.
I just want to finish by saying this seems like a really positive, healthy relationship. I’m not getting any of the red flags I so often see in a couple+unicorn situation. You’re doing everything write, Letter Writer, and I wish you all the best for a long, loving and wonderful relationship.
For those of you who don’t know, I am in a relationship with a massive age gap. There is more than 20 (though less than 25) years between me and Mr CK. When we started our relationship, I was in my early 20s and he was in his late 40s.
Yet it works.
Inevitably, we get a lot of questions about our dynamic and how it works. So here, I am going to candidly answer as many of them as I can think of.
1. Everything here assumes minimum legal age of consent is met in all cases. 2. This is written from the perspective of a much older man dating a much younger woman, as that’s my experience, but most of this works for most genders. 3. TW for brief mention of DDlg kink (no details) and discussion of hypothetical death of a partner.
Okay, let’s dive in!
“Isn’t it really creepy for a much older man to be dating a much younger woman?”
My answer to this, surprisingly, isn’t “no”. My answer is “it depends”.
I don’t judge any couple based solely on the age gap between them. It’s if a much older guy exclusively or mostly dates extremely young women that my side-eye starts to creep in.
If I’m dating a guy 20+ years my senior, I don’t need to be the only exception but I really don’t want to be the rule. I want his dating history to be varied and filled with women of many different ages. If everyone he’s dated has been under 25, it tells me two things:
1. There’s probably some weird youth/inexperience fetishising going on.
2. He will probably be looking elsewhere before I’ve hit 30.
If he’s much older than me, I want to know that he sees me as a person, not an age. That he’d have dated me if I was 25 or 35 or 55, because he loves who I am. I’ve been with men with a “barely legal” thing, and I’ve been with men with virgin fetishes who want their women as young and inexperienced (they assume, but lol have you met me?) as possible, and I’ve been with men who saw me as a trophy to brag to their friends about (“yes, she’s only 19! Do I get Man Points for getting the teenager into bed!?”)
What do your family think?
They adore him, because he loves and respects me, treats me well and makes me happy. Thanks for asking.
If you’re thinking of entering this kind of relationship, this is something to consider. One or both families may well not approve. The older party’s family may view the younger partner as a “gold digger,” especially if there’s a significant wealth disparity involved. The younger party’s family might view the older partner as a creep or a pervert. (Mr CK says: “I mean, I am a pervert!”) Or they might just see that you’re happy and in love and that’s enough for them. You know your family best, and ultimately you know how much their opinion matters to you. Make your decisions accordingly.
What about kids?
We don’t have any and we don’t want any.
I appreciate this might be a concern for other people in or considering entering into a Massive Age Gap (hereafter M.A.G) relationship. Only you can make that decision for yourself. I decided long ago that I don’t want children and my goal was to find a partner who felt the same, which I have done. Their age is irrelevant – what matters is that we want the same things out of our life together.
That said, I have seen M.A.G relationships break up – breaking everyone’s hearts in the process – because the younger party wanted children and the older party felt they were too old/had already been there and done that/was no longer biologically able to have children. Anyone can change their minds, and you might think you don’t want kids now but then change your mind in 5 years and have a very difficult decision to make, but that can happen in any relationship. And you may well end up really happy with your decision several years down the line, which has been my experience.
Do you like older men because you have daddy issues?
Nope! I have a really loving, supportive relationship with my father. No issues there at all. I’ve never actually met a woman who likes older men whose preference was caused by “daddy issues”. What does that even mean!?
Is it a money thing?
No, he’s my life partner, not my sugar daddy. (Not that there’s anything wrong with sugar relationships between consenting parties, of course!)
I have my own money and no interest in getting my hands on his.
Is it a kink thing?
About 2% yes and 98% no.
It’s certainly not a DDlg thing, that’s a pretty hard limit for me. As a submissive, I gravitate towards partners who give off the kind of Dominant energy that I like. I do tend to more often find this in older men, it has to be said. But it’s less specifically an age thing and more a confidence and experience thing, I think.
Mostly, though, no. Speaking of which…
So why an older guy then?
Older guys, broadly speaking, have their shit together in a way I find much easier to be in a relationship with. They’ve made all the early relationship mistakes and so are less likely to bring them in to their connection with me. They know what they want, what their likes and dislikes and boundaries are, and they know how to communicate.
This is all a sweeping generalisation, of course – I’ve fucked more than my share of “18 year old boy in a 40+ man’s body”. But the qualities I like tend to manifest more in guys with a good 10 years or more on me.
Plus, not gonna lie, I just find a lot of older men fucking sexy.
Don’t you worry that he’ll die years before you and leave you alone?
Of course I do. I worry about that… not every day, but frequently.
The thing is, you never know what the future holds. He could be the exact same age as me, and get incurable cancer or get hit by a bus tomorrow. I, as the younger partner, could have those things happen to me any time too! But no-one ever says “don’t you worry your partner will die and leave you on your own?” to partners close in age.
We never know what’s ahead, but we cannot let the fear of what might happen one day stop us from accepting the love and joy that is offered to us now. If I do lose him someday, I will be broken-hearted and devastated. But I will also be thankful for every happy day we did share. Same as anyone who loses a partner they love.
I’mma insert a gratuitous Rent quote here, because I can and it seems pertinent:
“There’s only now, there’s only here. Give in to love, or live in fear”.
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I kind of love Valentine’s Day. I know it’s a manufactured commercial holiday, but at its heart it is a celebration of love – and I am in favour of there being more love and expressions of love in the world.
Flowers and chocolates might be more traditional, but I think that a sex toy they’ll really love is a super romantic gift for Valentine’s Day. Sex is a massive part of many loving romantic relationships, and we could all use more pleasure in our lives. Giving your partner the ideal sex toy is a great way to make them feel seen and loved and to show that you’re invested in their sexual fulfillment.
There is one huge, enormous caveats to this, namely:
ONLY DO THIS FOR ESTABLISHED SEXUAL PARTNERS. Don’t buy your office crush or that cutie who makes your coffee a sex toy. That’s creepy.
So how do you ensure your sexy gift lands right? Here’s some tips…
Most importantly, take note of their preferences, desires and fantasies.
Is your partner a girth lover? Do they really need intense clitoral stimulation to get off? Are they all about their cock, or super into anal play? Do they love dual stimulation, or do they prefer to focus on a single sensation at a time? You need to know these basic things about your lover’s body before you can successfully buy them a toy.
Aesthetic preferences matter here, too. For some people, something pink might go down brilliantly. Others hate the colour and want nothing to do with it. Case in point: I was already MEGA impressed when Mr CK bought me a Doxy for my birthday the first year we were together. The fact that it was purple, my favourite colour, just emphasised that he’d really been paying attention to my likes.
This stuff isn’t hard to pick up. You just need to be paying attention.
That’s THEIR preferences!
In order for this to be successful, you need to buy your partner a toy you think THEY will really love – which might not be the same thing as buying one that you really want to watch them use. There’s no use buying them a massive dildo if they’re all about clitoral stimulation, for example. However much you fantasise about watching them fuck themselves silly, the thing is just going to gather dust in a drawer if it doesn’t turn them on.
If you’re not sure: ask.
You can ask this overtly, if you want – “babe, I’d love to buy you a fabulous sex toy for Valentine’s Day. How does that sound? Anything you’ve particularly got your eye on?” But if you want it to be a surprise, you’ll have to do some subtler sleuthing. As part of a more general conversation about fantasies, desires and new things to try (you are having these conversations, right??) you can ask them if there’s any particular activities or toys they’d super love to try. If you ever visit sex shops together (do this, it’s a fab date activity) or browse products online together, see what they gravitate towards.
If you’re STILL not sure, let them choose!
Loads of stores, both brick-and-mortar and online, now offer gift vouchers to be redeemed on sexy purchases. Why not buy them a voucher for your local feminist sex shop and go together, or a Lovehoney voucher and spend a fun date evening browsing and choosing something together?
Pro tip: skip “gift bundles.”
Bundles of several toys together are tempting because they come with several items and seem really well priced. Unfortunately, they tend to be cheap because they tend to suck. It’s much better to buy one really good quality toy from a reputable retailer and with a decent warranty. “Gift bundles” are often full of jelly, phthalate-ridden crap with terrible motors that will break in five minutes. Give them a miss.
Need some inspiration? A few of my favourites to start you off…
My friends at Lovehoney have kindly offered a discount code on a few of my favourite items, including the Doxy Original in purple, the new and fabulous Doxy Number Three, the We-Vibe Tango, the Tantus Vamp Super Soft (in purple, of course!) and the Desire Butterfly hands-free vibrator. Check them out here and get 15% off!
Have a great Valentine’s Day. May you all be blessed with love and, if applicable, orgasms aplenty.
Affiliate links are contained in this post. Buying from my affiliates supports me and helps keep the blog going. All opinions my own, as always! Image courtesy of Pixabay.
I’ve had a LOT of threesomes. I love them. Due to my status of more-or-less-constantly-in-a-relationship-since-I-was-a-teenager, I’ve more often – not always, but often – been one of the members of the more established couple, rather than the third person coming in for playtime.
Playing with an existing couple can be really daunting, even if you’re really into them both. like to think that Mr CK and I are a good couple to threesome with. We’ve been told so, anyway! So I thought I’d set down some things that I believe a couple can do in order to treat the third party in their threesome well, and make sure they have a good time.
1. No Pressure
Pressure is a massive libido killer. It’s a really bad idea to go into a threesome or potential threesome with a very rigid idea of how you want it to go. This puts undue pressure on everyone, and especially on the third party, who may feel that they have (or actually have) less negotiating power than the couple.
Don’t rush things. Don’t invite a potential playmate over To Have A Threesome And Anything Else Is A Failure. Spend time getting to know what makes them tick, what they’re into, what they’re hoping to get out of the experience, what kind of ongoing dynamic they’re interested in with the two of you (if any), and how they communicate.
And for fuck’s sake, when things do progress to a sexy place, don’t make it a rush to get around all the “bases” as quickly as possible! Making out, touching, groping, hand stuff, oral sex, kink play… all of these things can be amazing. Yes, intercourse can be on the table, but it doesn’t have to be… and rushing to get there will just result in a bad time for everyone.
2. Have your own house in order first.
Nothing is more awkward than being in the middle of a couple having a fight… except being in bed with a couple having a fight.
Discuss your feelings. Talk about any insecurities or jealousies you have that might come up. Plan for how you’ll handle it if they do come up – in a way that is kind and compassionate to everyone, including the third person. “Well we can just kick her out if one of us gets jealous” is neither a solid plan nor an ethical way to treat a human being.
Don’t attempt to bring anyone else in to your relationship, whether for casual sex or something more, unless your relationship is solid first. Note I said solid, not perfect – perfection does not exist. It is monumentally unfair to bring a third party into a dynamic that is crumbling or dysfunctional. It is even more unfair to expect that this person, or sex with them, will somehow fix your relationship issues.
“Relationship broken, add more people” is a cliche because so many couples try to do it… and it never, ever ends well.
3. Approach sex as a collaboration, not a service from them to you.
If you want to have a threesome with a third party where the focus is really on the two of you in the couple, and their pleasure is less of a priority, consider hiring a sex worker. Your threesome partner, even if the sex is casual, is not a life-size sex toy! They’re a person with their own wants, needs, desires and feelings.
Sex is a collaboration, a dance. Everyone should give and receive pleasure and the goal should be mutual satisfaction for all parties – not just the couple. Your threesome buddy may not be a fully fledged member of your ongoing relationship, but they are a fully fledged member of whatever dynamic the three of you are creating together. Collaborate to have a sexy time. Don’t use them.
4. Consent first, consent last, consent in all things.
Check in early and often. If you’re not absolutely 1000% sure you have consent for something, ASK. “Ruining the mood” is a myth – a good time will never be ruined by checking on consent for something, but it can easily be ruined by overstepping someone’s boundaries.
And of course it should go without saying that no means no, and you should never push someone to do something if they don’t want to.
Mr CK and I received an email from someone we played with recently, thanking us for how good we were at consent and boundaries, and it is honestly one of the best compliments I have ever received.
5. Openly discuss safer sex.
This is absolutely vital. Ideally, this discussion should happen while clothes are still on, long before any sex happens, but it can happen in the moment if necessary. Everyone should disclose their testing status, their safer-sex protocols, the method(s) of birth control they’re using, and any other relevant information – an allergy to latex, for example.
This is as much your responsibility as a couple as it is the third party’s responsibility!
6. Have things you’re likely to need on hand.
Have a stash of condoms, lube, gloves and dams easily reachable. Think about, and discuss, what toys you’re likely to want and have them easily accessible too (and charged, if applicable)!
7. Have an aftercare plan.
Will your threesome buddy stay over, or would they prefer to go home afterwards? How will they get home safely? If they do stay, would they prefer to sleep with you both or in a separate bed? (I hereby promise that anyone who stays over at ours after sexy time will get pancakes and your favourite hot beverage in the morning. Just, you know, in case it tempts anyone…!)
Make sure there’s time afterwards to cuddle, debrief if necessary, and make sure everyone is okay and has everything they need. Offer, and ask for, reassurance and affection freely as needed. Check in with your sexy friend the next day to make sure all is well with them.
Aaaaand that’s it. Follow these tips and, while I can’t guarantee you’ll have an amazing threesome, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you’re treating your Special Guest Star with the respect, compassion and consideration they deserve.
Image is from Pixabay. It’s what came up when I searched “three” and it amused me so it stays. If you enjoyed this post, you can buy me a coffee to say thanks or become one of my sexy Patrons, and access some exciting bonus content!
Mr CK and I were lucky: we were only in a long-distance relationship for just under a year. We were also close enough to make seeing each other at weekends possible. As long-distance love goes, we definitely had it on the easier end of the spectrum. That said, there were times when it was really difficult, and the constant traveling was exhausting and expensive. Moving in together was a challenge in its own right, but neither of us missed the sight of Megabuses or train station terminals or the M1.
One of the challenges of living apart, especially in the early days, was maintaining a sexual connection when we couldn’t just fuck each other’s brains out whenenver we wanted. We’re not a 24/7 D/s couple, but in reality he’s usually the Dominant and I’m usually the submissive.
This post is part of my #KinkMonth series, inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s, where today’s prompt is all about maintaining D/s when you’re apart. Today I want to share with you a few of the tricks we used to keep our sexual connection sizzling and have kinky fun when we weren’t in the same place.
I love sexting. I love the anticipation when the other person is typing. Tap-tap-tapping out my fantasies, planting filth into their mind with my words. The delicious collaboration of building a sexy story together. The vulnerability, tempered with the distance created by this medium of communication. I especially love the way I can save the words, read them back as many times as I want and, let’s be real, wank to them furiously later.
We sexted at least once a week, and sometimes a lot more, in our first few months together.
Skype and phone sex is a bit like sexting, only more immediate, more visceral. You can hear the other person’s words, hear their voice catch when you say something that really gets them, hear them gasp as they touch themselves.
We fell in love through late-night calls and Skype calls and illicit phone sex. Later, when we were officially together, we used it to maintain our connection across the miles. Hearing his voice in my ear wasn’t as good as being able to reach out and touch him, of course. But it was a damn good substitute.
Orders and accountability
In the long-distance days, I’d often get orders from Mr as I was going about my day. He’d text me, next time you go to the bathroom, take a sexy picture or go and edge three times. I would report back, tell him I’d done my task, and hear what a good girl I was. Sometimes, I’d need to send him a picture as proof. Obeying his orders and having a sense of accountability, even from a distance, kept me both red-hot for him and feeling the submissive feels I craved.
Planning and negotiation
One of the things that was surprisingly effective in keeping our kinky connection going was using the time we were apart to plan and negotiate for future scenes. Talking limits, boundaries, ideas, possibilities and future plans for all the pervy sex we were going to have helped to build anticipation and excitement. So by the time we actually came to do the things, we were both amped up and raring to go. Efficient and sexy!
What do you do to keep the sexy, kinky fun going in your long-distance relationship?
Kinky item of the day: a long-range, app-controlled vibrator like the Je Joue Dua. Just hand the controls over to your lover via the app. Then they can have their way with you whether they’re right beside you or on the other side of the world.
Join the discussion on Twitter or sign up for the project yourself – it’s FREE and can be used any way you like. Today’s prompt is all about rules. Kayla and John simply ask:
Do you know what kind of rules you may want or need?
A note about this post: it doesn’t contain much in the way of practical tips. I will do one soon with some more concrete advice on setting positive and useful relationship rules. This one is more a primer on my personal philosophy on the concept of rules/agreements in romantic relationships.
What’s wrong with rules?
A lot of non-monogamous people are against rules in relationships. The thinking goes: if you need rules to keep your partner from hurting you, the relationship is already doomed. I kind of agree with that sentiment, in so far as it goes. But I think it presents an unhelpfully pessimistic view on the role of rules in adult relationships.
Mr CK and I have rules in our relationship. They include things like always using condoms with lovers outside of our dyad, STI testing every 3 months, not having sex with someone new until the other has met the person, and not engaging in ongoing (i.e. longer than a scene) D/s dynamics with other people.
The rules don’t exist to keep either of us in line or prevent us from running amok over each other’s feelings. If we were going to do that, no rules would stop us, in the same way that the “rules” of traditional monogamy won’t stop somebody who is determined to cheat.
We have them because they keep us, and our relationship, happy and healthy.
A better framework
Used properly, rules aren’t a tool to bash your partner over the head with or keep them in line against your will. Used properly, they’re are the walls you build – collaboratively – to contain the house of your relationship.
You can use the word “agreements,” if you prefer, but in this framework they amount to the same thing. They’re limits, boundaries or modes of behaviour that you both (/all) agree to operate within, for the good of the relationship and everyone involved. Good rules should bring a sense of safety and security, like the solid, stable walls of your home. They’re not a prison.
If the agreements of your relationship are feeling like a cage, a conversation with your partner is in order. If your partner is arbitrarily imposing new ones without due discussion and buy-in from you, that’s a major red flag. (Incidentally, you obviously shouldn’t do this to your partner either!) To go back to the shared house metaphor, you wouldn’t just decide to build an extension or divide your living room in half without consulting your partner, would you? (If you would, umm, your relationship operates very differently from mine so please explain to me how this works for you!)
Build your house – together
I was once invited to move in by a partner and metamour. The further into “how will this work?” discussions we got, the more I came to realise a troubling fact. Namely, that their concept was that I would have little to no say in the running of the house. From the colour we’d paint the bathroom to the guests who were and weren’t allowed in the house, I would have very minimal input – while paying half the mortgage, naturally. I realise now, looking back, how fitting a metaphor this was for our relationship. They made the rules and I got no say, both in our trio and in my dyadic relationship with him. We weren’t building the metaphoric (or literal) house together – I was a permanent guest in theirs. I was caged.
I share this anecdote just to illustrate how a framework of rules can be really badly misappropriated. Contrast this with Mr CK and me, who thoroughly negotiate every agreement we make as equals. We leave them all open to discussion of renegotiation at any time, and always consider them with the best possible outcome for everyone involved in mind. Saying all rules (/agreements/boundaries) are inherently bad is like saying walls or doors or windows or grey tiling are inherently bad. They’re not. They’re elements you can pick and choose for your house – your relationship – to make sure it’s designed exactly the way you want it.
Keeping the house clean
You don’t build a house, move in, and expect to never do any work on it again. That’d be ridiculous. You have to sweep, do the dishes, repaint the odd wall and occasionally rip a piece out completely and spend loads of time fixing it. Maintaining the ‘house’ of your relationship is exactly the same. You don’t set the rules once and then you’re done. No. You have to tinker, negotiate
Build your perfect relationship the way you’d build your perfect house, with walls – agreements – to keep you cozy inside. That way, you can prevent the leaking roof of drama, and always have a safe home to retreat to and invite your loved ones into.
Kinky item of the day:Nipple clamps, for squeezy, pinchy fun! I looove clamps so much, both on my nipples and labia. (Pro tip: leave them on for more than 5-10 minutes, and they hurt like hell when they come off!)
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