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

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

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

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

Who Counts as a Couple?

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

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

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

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

The Aggressive Gendering of Kink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But You Still Like Men, Right?”

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

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

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

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

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

Sapphic, Lesbian and WLW Sexuality for the Male Gaze

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

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

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

Expectations of Performativity

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

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

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

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

And that brings us to…

Are Women Less Threatening, or Are You Just Homophobic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So What Can We Do About It?

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

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

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

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

Sluttier in Theory: Swinging, Casual Sex and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Sexuality is Complicated

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

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

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

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

Sexual Health Fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vulnerability is Fucking Hard

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

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

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

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

So… What Now?

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

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

Open Advice from Me to Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breathe. You’re doing fine.

Amy x

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Your First Kink Party: What to Expect

I’ve been going to kink parties (also known as play parties) for well over a decade and have learned a few things in my time. I’ve also organised or been a member of the crew for some parties. Whenever I’m crewing, I get emails from nervous attendees who are coming to a kink party for the first time. They want to know the rules, what to expect, and how to behave.

And I completely understand this. Being in a new type of space, in a community with its own norms and history, can be daunting. So that’s why I thought I’d put together a quick guide to what you need to know before you go to your first kink party.

You Will See All Kinds of People

Kinksters are a diverse bunch. You’ll meet people of different genders, ages, sexualities, races, body types, and abilities.

We don’t all look like supermodels (or like the characters in that scene in Eyes Wide Shut) and a reputable event will never ask you to provide pictures beforehand or accept/reject you based on your looks or any demographic factors. (The one exception here is that some events limit the numbers of single men who can attend each time, but this is more common in the swing lifestyle than in kink.)

So relax: whoever you are, you’ll fit in and be welcome. Be kind, friendly, and inclusive to everyone you meet, and you can’t go far wrong.

You Will See All Kinds of Play

Different BDSM parties have different rules about what is allowed. If in doubt, you should always ask. Some events allow genital nudity and sexual contact, others don’t (this is often a venue restriction or licensing issue.) Some allow physically or psychologically edgy play such as needle play, fire play, or consensual non-consent, while others do not. You might see activities such as rope bondage, impact play, sensation play, Dominant/submissive dynamics, service, and so on.

If you are attending an event for a specific dynamic (for example, Dominant women and submissive men) then playing in a different dynamic may not be appropriate for that event. In general, though, you should expect to see people playing in a range of different configurations.

If you’re not comfortable seeing a particular type of play, it is your responsibility to remove yourself from the space where it is happening. It’s always okay to quietly and respectfully leave a space. It’s never okay to make derogatory comments or kink-shame others.

You Don’t Have to Do Anything You Don’t Want To

Whether you attend alone, with friends, or with a partner or partners, there is never any obligation to play at a kink party. Good parties do not place any expectations on attendees about the kinds of activities they get up to. If you want to just sit and watch scenes from a respectful distance, that’s fine. If you want to chat to people in the bar, chill out in the hot tub, or dance the night away on the dancefloor, that’s great too! And if you do want to play, it’s totally up to you whether you approach other attendees for possible scenes (or accept any invitations that come your way) or just play with the person/people you came with.

You might be asked to play, or to participate in other activities (such as being touched, watching a scene, receiving a service, having a drink, or playing a game.) It’s always okay to say “no thank you” and, if anyone pressures you, speak to a Dungeon Monitor (DM), other member of staff, or the organiser. Reputable play parties have a zero tolerance policy to any kind of boundary pushing or harrassment.

You Might Not Get to Do Everything You Want to Do

Conversely, you may go into a kink party with a specific idea of how you want it to go, and you might not get to do everything you want to do.

Paying for entry to a party does not guarantee you play, or a specific kind of play. If you’ve attended with a partner, you can make plans together but these might need to change on the fly for any number of reasons. And if you’re attending alone, you might meet someone to play with… or you might not. I’ve been on the kink scene for 14 years and I don’t play at every event I attend. This is incredibly normal.

It’s important to go in with realistic expectations. Being too rigid in your hopes for the night is a recipe for disappointment.

Some Basic Etiquette Will Go Far

As I’ve already said, each kink event has its own rules, quirks, and norms. Always ask about specific rules for the party you’re attending. However, there are some consistent points of community etiquette that you should learn and observe at any event you go to. These include:

  • Never touch a person or their equipment without permission.
  • No means no, but anything other than a clear and unambiguous “yes” ALSO means no.
  • Do not assume a dynamic where none exists (for example, by giving orders to a submissive or using honorifis for a Dominant without clear negotiation and consent.) Treat everyone as an equal and with respect, regardless of role.
  • Never interrupt a scene in progress. A scene includes set-up and aftercare. If you see something that worries you from a safety or consent perspective, speak to a DM or the organiser. Always be aware that, even if something looks scary, there is likely a lot of background context that you cannot see.
  • If you’re watching scenes in progress, keep a respectful distance and be quiet. If you want to chat, move to the social space. Staying out of the way is also for your safety – no-one wants to take the backswing of a flogger to the face.
  • Do not take any photographs or recordings without permission. Many events will insist that you leave your phone and any other devices in your locker or car. This is for everyone’s privacy and safety.
  • Embrace the philosophy of YKINMKBYKIOK: “Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is okay.”

Soak Up Opportunities to Learn

Some kink parties take place as part of a kinky conference or other educational event. Others offer newbie orientations, workshops, or talks on specific aspects of kink during the course of the night. If any of these opportunities exist, make the most of them. Hearing experts talk about what they do best is one of the most effective ways to learn and grow as a kinkster.

You can also learn from events in a more informal manner. For example, as you get chatting to people in the bar you’ll have a chance to ask more experienced players about their experiences. And if you see someone doing an activity or playing with a toy that looks interesting? Ask them about it! (Wait until they’ve finished their scene and any takedown and aftercare, of course.)

Kinksters, by and large, are nerds. We are geeky and passionate about the things we do. If you politely and respectfully approach someone to ask them about a particular activity or implement, most will be only too happy to talk to you about it.

Don’t forget to thank them for sharing their time and expertise… or offer to buy them a drink to say thanks!

It’s Best Not to Make Assumptions

If kink is one thing, it is endlessly surprising. As a community, we pride ourselves on being diverse and open-minded. Even so, we’re still humans living in the world, so sometimes unchecked assumptions can creep in. Just this weekend, I was at an event with a male-presenting friend. People assumed not only that we were a couple but that I was his submissive, based on nothing but our outward appearances. Conversely, I’ve attended events with girlfriends in the past and consistently been read as “just friends.”

In general, try to avoid making assumptions about people’s relationships, sexuality, kink roles, or interests based on how they look. There are more things in heaven, earth, and kink than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

This post was sponsored by KinkFest, the UK’s premier educational kinky conference which is taking place in Birmingham this September. All writing and views are, as always, my own. You can learn more about KinkFest and get tickets here.

Five Filthy Post-Covid Fantasies

This post was shamelessly inspired by Exhibit A’s 24 Hours posts.

Even though the pandemic isn’t over, many of us are starting to enjoy the perks of vaxxed life. That includes the ability to date, hook up, go to sexy events, and more. I’m currently taking a break from dating new people (for the reasons explained here) but that doesn’t mean I’m not fully embracing some recurring filthy fantasies. Here are five thoughts and fantasies that are occupying my sex brain at the moment.

The culmination of long-held sexual tension

How long have we been lusting after each other from afar at this point? Years? Sexual tension is delicious, but I fantasise about the moment we finally get to rip each other’s clothes off. A frantic fuck in a hotel room, the look on his face when he finally sees me naked for the first time in the flesh, the way my breath will catch when he pushes me against the wall and kisses me.

A kiss with a stranger

I don’t know their name, and I don’t want to. I want us to connect through looks and body-language, pressing close to each other on the dance-floor where it’s so loud we couldn’t really talk even if we wanted to. Our lips will meet in the dark and I’ll press just close enough to feel their cock through their jeans, to feel how much they want me. It won’t go any further, and it doesn’t need to. Just knowing they’ll be thinking about me when they get themself off later tonight is enough.

A spanking party

Spanking was my gateway drug, the first fetish I explored in my first sexual relationship, long before I had any real concept of what BDSM was or that it was a thing that millions of people are into. Though I’ve been to plenty of general BDSM events, I’ve never been to a specific spanking-themed party and I would love to. In this fantasy, I usually end up co-bottoming to a group of lovely, lightly sadistic Tops who want to be just the right level of horrible to me.

A strip club

I’ve wanted to go to a strip club for years (I actually tried to organise an outing to one a couple years ago for my birthday, but the one we were intending to go to closed down in the interim). I’ve received lap-dances a couple times in my life, in the context of private events, and both times the experience was incredibly hot. I’d love to experience it in the full strip club setting.

A swing resort

It’s long been a fantasy and ambition of mine to go to a swinging and nudist resort, and specifically to make it to the “Swingset Takes Desire” takeover in Cancun. This feels like a pipe-dream much of the time, because escaping to Mexico requires a high degree of logistical wrangling and is hella expensive, but someday we’ll make it happen.

I want to get naked in the sun, to run around in a space with others who understand my particular form of non-monogamous weirdness, flirt and dance and drink and fuck and just for a week, escape from the world into paradise.

What post-Covid fantasies are you harbouring, friends?

This post was written as part of Smutathon 2021! You can check out all our work and learn more about the challenge on the Smutathon website. Please consider donating to this year’s charities, Gendered Intelligence and Trans Lifeline.

Free Entry: Stop Making Women Your Product

You know that saying, “if you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer, you are the product?” While this was originally applied to the likes of Facebook and other “free” platforms that make money by harvesting and selling data, I’ve realised it also applies to parts of the swinging and kink scenes. And I do not like it.

The gendered pricing model

Gendered pricing models are sadly extremely common in the swinging world in particular. One club I won’t name charges £35 per visit for a (cis male/female) couple, £50 for a single man, and £5 for a single woman.

For these purposes, a lesbian couple would be considered two single women and a gay male couple would be… well, a gay male couple would probably be discouraged from attending at all, to be honest, but if they did they’d be charged as two single men.

Again, this isn’t unusual. This is the norm. Some venues charge single men even more, £100 or more for a single visit. Others don’t charge single women at all, and might even add other incentives – such as free drinks – to tempt them in.

Wait, how is this fair?

Honestly, it isn’t.

If these venues want to ensure something of a gender balance, there are other ways to do that. Limiting the number of tickets for single men is one common strategy (again, remember these places are extremely cisheteronormative.)

But I don’t believe gendered pricing is the way to do it. For one thing, it creates a situation where only cis m/f couples are considered “real” couples, as I mentioned above. For another, it makes many events financially challenging or completely inaccessible for the single men on these scenes, most of whom are perfectly decent, respectful guys who just want to have some fun with other consenting adults.

But do you know what else it does? It turns women into a product.

What does “free entry” really cost?

Why are swingers’ clubs (and some kink venues) so desperate to get women in? It’s not because they care so much about being safe places for exploration of female sexuality. No – it’s because we act as bait for the higher-paying men and couples.

I’ve seen more than one situation where a man (or sometimes a couple) has paid a high entry price and now feels “owed” something – a conversation, attention, a blowjob, a shag. And who suffers for this entitlement? The women it’s enacted upon. This entitlement can lead to pressure, coercion, or even sexual assault. Suddenly, that “free entry” can come at a very steep cost indeed.

Some men feel as though they are being disenfranchised and discriminated against by having to pay high entry fees, while women get in for free or a nominal cost. What they don’t realise is how frightening it can be when you understand that you’re the product at least as much as you are the customer.

The argument for equal pricing

There are several really positive things I think would happen if we abolished gendered pricing models across these events:

  • They would become far more welcoming to trans folks, non-binary people, and queer couples.
  • It would largely get rid of the problem of some men thinking “well I paid £100 to be here so now I’m owed something.”
  • It would stop the problem of pricing out decent men based on the (extraordinarily classist and completely untrue) belief that the “right kind” of man for these spaces is a man who can afford a very expensive cover charge.
  • And… more single women would probably attend.

That last one might sound counterintuitive, but stick with me. I mostly go to events with my partner, and I enjoy doing so. But if I was going to attend events alone, I would be far more inclined to attend events that use an egalitarian, non-gendered pricing model.

Why? Because non-gendered, per-person pricing doesn’t make me feel like a product. Because I want to interact with other adults as an equal, not a commodity they feel entitled to by virtue of their entry fee.

If you’re a woman or read as a woman, have you ever felt uncomfortable when a man buys you a drink and then seems to expect something in return? This is like that only worse. If a man has paid to enter the space and I haven’t, I’m automatically in a weaker position. It creates a sense of obligation. Because even though I’m a feminist and I know that I never owe a man a goddamn thing just because he buys me a drink (or pays for entry to a club), the patriarchal programming we’re all exposed to runs extremely deep.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years on the swing scene, it’s that free isn’t free. I’d much rather shell out £20 to get into an event than free entry and then be treated as part of the package that men are paying for with their higher entry fee.

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Four Post-Pandemic Fears

Very slowly but surely, we’re starting to emerge from the pandemic. At time of writing, over 30 million people in the UK have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is amazing news and all the credit goes to the scientists who developed the vaccines and the amazing healthcare professionals who have been delivering it.

But now that “when all this is over” is starting to look like a real possibility rather than a distant dream, I find myself feeling… scared. Excited, yes. Hopeful, definitely. Relieved in the extreme. But, yes, also scared.

I wanted to share four of my big post-pandemic fears. If you share any of them, or have your own that I haven’t included here, know that you’re not alone. It’s easy to feel as though, among the unbridalled joy at the idea of getting our freedom back, you’re the only one feeling apprehensive. I promise you’re not.

So here’s what I’m afraid of.

Getting COVID

Yes, I’m still going to be nervous about getting COVID (or, worse, passing it to someone more vulnerable.) We know that the vaccines are highly effective but do not provide 100% immunity. Therefore it is still at least theoretically possible to contract the virus.

I know it’s unlikely and that this is largely irrational. The huge drop in infection rates has already proven that the vaccines work. But yeah, I’m still going to be afraid of contracting the virus for a while.

Not Knowing How to People Any More

Lengthy social isolation takes a toll, and it is going to take some time for us to relearn how to be around one another in physical space again. I find myself wondering if I’ll remember how to socialise in a way that doesn’t happen through a screen. If I’ll still know how to chat, how to read body-language, how to flirt.

I’ve got pretty good at being insular over the last year. I think many of us have had to, in order to get through this without losing our minds. But how hard is it going to be to unlearn that again, to become the social butterfly I used to be? I fear it might be very hard.

Touch Remaining Taboo

I’m a tactile person. I like to hug, snuggle, kiss, and share easy physical affection with my loved ones. I’m afraid that casual touch is going to remain taboo in the post-COVID world.

Will I be able to throw my arms around friends when I see them again? Will I be able to dance with strangers, kiss people I’ve just met, hold hands or cuddle casually? Are we ever going to get back to the point where “may I hug you?” is a simple request for consent, not something with potentially life-and-death consequences to consider.

I think it’s going to be some time before we stop flinching at the idea of a person not in our “bubble” getting too close. I just hope we can collectively move past it with time.

My Communities Being Scapegoated

I’m furious at the people who have held large kink events and swing gatherings during COVID. The recklessness, selfishness, and sheer stupidity takes my breath away.

But I’m also afraid that once the restrictions are over, non-monogamous communities are going to become scapegoats when surges in infections inevitably pop up again.

If people go to a regular nightclub, a gig, or the theatre and get infected, that’s unfortunate but ultimately no-one will be scandalised. If someone goes to a swing club or sex party and spreads the virus, though? That’s a fucking Daily Mail headline waiting to happen. Every attendee and community organiser will probably have this reality sitting in the backs of their minds for at least the next couple of years.

What are you afraid of when it comes to life after the pandemic? There are no easy answers to any of this, but at least we can be there for one another and remind ourselves that we are not alone.

I Need Noise!

Say something – do it soon, it’s too quiet in this room
I need noise, I need the buzz of a sub
Need the crack of a whip, need some blood in the cut

– K Flay

Something I’ve heard multiple times throughout the pandemic is the assumption that introverts will be fine. After all, we like staying inside and keeping things low-key and not interacting with anyone… right?

Well, as it turns out, not really.

I’m an introvert and I am decidedly not fine at all. Yes, I value my own space. Yes, I sometimes prefer to stay in as opposed to going out (sometimes.) And yes, I’ll often choose spaces that are a little quieter and a little less crowded. But the keywords in all of this are sometimes and often.

No-one, not even the most introverted introvert, is supposed to live like this for a year or more.

For me, once the initial tidal wave of panic and fear passed sometime in late March last year, the not-okayness has been a slowly rising fog. Some days it’s denser than others. Sometimes I almost think it’s almost cleared, then I’ll realise I can’t see a metre in front of my face. And one of the things that is driving me absolutely crazy is the relentless fucking quietness of everything.

As I recently told my friends, “I want to go clubbing. I don’t even really like clubbing any more, but I want to go.” I want to go to a packed London bar, the kind of place where you have to fight your way through a crowd just to get a drink. I want to dance shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, make eye contact with a girl I’ll never dare approach, accept a drink thrust at me by a guy I’ll never fuck.

I want to be the first on the dancefloor at a sex club, shamelessly pulling my dress off over my head to reveal something extraordinarily black and tiny and lacy underneath. To take a spin around the pole before I’ve drunk enough to render it a bad idea. To blow a kiss to that cute couple and wonder if it’s their first time when they blush. I want to hear the music punctuated by whip cracks and squeals of blissful pain and moans of pleasure.

I want the kind of place where you have to shout to be heard. Where the music thumps so loud and heavy that I can feel it rising through the floor and throbbing in my legs, my stomach, my cunt. I want somewhere I can be anonymous, one of a crowd. Somewhere I can get out of my head. Somewhere that’s such an overwhelming assault on the senses that I couldn’t think clearly even if I wanted to.

It’s too fucking quiet and I can hardly stand it any more. I need noise. I need the kind of noise that silences what’s in my head. Now. Please.

So please check in with your introvert-identified friends as much as you do with the extroverts. Please don’t assume we’re fine. And please don’t make the jokes about how we’ve been training for this our whole lives – we’ve heard them all and they’re not funny anymore, if they ever were.

Who wants to go somewhere BUSY and LOUD when all this is over?

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Today’s post was inspired by Quote Quest, a meme by the lovely LSB. Click the logo to see what everyone else is writing about this week! And if you enjoyed this post, please buy me a coffee?

[Quote Quest] Sex-Positive Spaces and Fragile Freedom

“Raise a glass to freedom,
Something they can never take away.”

– Lin-Manuel Miranda (“The Story of Tonight” from Hamilton)

Despite everything I’ve achieved with this site and the work I do surrounding it, I don’t get to be quite so outspokenly sex-positive as I am on here out in my daily life.

I do what I can, of course. I’m unapologetically feminist and openly queer, and will call out shitty behaviour when it’s safe to do so. But there’s a level of inhibition that doesn’t exist in the same way when I’m Amy Norton, Sex Blogger and Sex Positive Badass Extraordinaire.

I miss sex-positive spaces

For obvious reasons (no, I’m still not saying that particular C-word on my blog,) I haven’t been in any physical sex-positives spaces in months. No dungeons, play parties, orgies, wild nights, or sleepy morning threesomes. I haven’t even seen my boyfriend in close to six months.

I miss the filthy sex, of course. I miss the naked bodies and the kisses and the fucking and the “ooh, whose hand is that!?” But more than that, I miss the cuddles. The flashes of a grin from across a bed, the catch of the eyes with my partner that means “our life is fucking awesome.”

I miss the safety most of all. The freedom. The ability to be completely and wholly myself, unapologetic and raw and real. A place where my queerness will be celebrated, not looked upon with suspicion. A place where being a kinky queer feminist submissive polyamorous slut is a beautiful thing, not a threat to fragile male egos or straight people’s marriages or the fabric of society itself.

So no, I don’t think it’s frivolous to be said that I haven’t been able to attend an orgy or a dungeon in months. Because what I’m really missing is something we all want: acceptance. Community. Connection.

Sexual freedom is fragile

Those of us who do work in this space have always known that, of course. There will always be far-right campaigners and religious fundamentalists and conversative politicians trying to take away the rights of consenting adults to do their thing.

Now more than ever, we cannot afford to take our sex-positive spaces for granted. We cannot take the freedom we have for granted. Losing access to those spaces for the last few months for public health reasons has thrown a new light on just how important – how essential – they are.

Our sex-positive spaces – our kink clubs, private parties, swinger socials, munches – give us the freedom to be ourselves. They give us a place where no-one thinks who we are and how we love is wrong. And that? That is worth fighting for.

I am glad I didn’t know that the play event I went to in March, where Mr CK and I played next to a gorgeous couple I’ve crushed on for ages, would be the last one for who-knew-how-long. I’m glad I have that memory of one last normal, kinky, filthy Sunday afternoon before everything went to shit.

I just hope we can have more of that soon.

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This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch, and this week’s quote was submitted by Yours Truly. Click the button to see who else was inspired by it! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!