[Guest Blog] Sex & Physical Disability by Alannah Murray

Part of the point of this “new voices in sex writing” pitch call that I put out months ago was to lift up and amplify marginalised voices. You may remember an incredible piece by my metamour Pippin a few months ago – well, I think this piece by Alannah Murray, also about sex and physical disability, is a perfect follow-on to that. I’m so proud to be publishing it and sharing it with you all today. Check out Alannah’s site and follow her on the Twitter!

Without further ado, over to Alannah…

Amsterdam lit up at night. For a post on sex and disability by Alannah Murray

Sex and Physical Disability by Alannah Murray

Hey everyone! I’m one of the incredibly grateful people chosen to guest blog for
Coffee and Kink! My name is Alannah. I’m 22, from Ireland, and I’m a postgraduate
researcher working towards a MA Research degree. I developed an auto-immune disease as a child which has blessed me with a slick power assisted wheelchair. You should see it on a dance floor!

Because of my physical disability, I see the world a little bit different than most (and I don’t just mean everyone being taller than me!) I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the fashion industry and advertising, and how advertising affects public perception of disability. I’ve been a vocal advocate of disabled people for the past few years, but I was also a college student for four years – a time where you go out, make all your mistakes, and then venture out into the world. My generation also witnessed the birth of apps like Tinder and Bumble.

So, today I want to tell you all about my experience of being a young physically disabled
person, the funny ways able-bodied people have affected my experience of sex and my body, and what I hope to see for the future of the emerging sexual liberation movement.

The misconceptions around physical disability and sex range from mundane to hilarious.

You find the latter a lot in online dating. Like most people my age, I decided to give Tinder a go when it first got popular. I made sure to use plenty of pictures of myself where my wheelchair was visible, and I had wheelchair puns in my bio. Let it be known now that I adore my body for what it is, and I’ve learned how best to use it. It’s surprising how many people on Tinder have a curiosity about having sex with a disabled person. I’ve had multiple people ask me if they can have sex with me IN my wheelchair which to me just sounds like a logistical nightmare – and looking to get injured. Someone else asked if they could turn my wheelchair into a sex swing; I wanted to let him try purely based on me wondering if it could be done. Others made cruder comments about what an ideal height I was at in my wheelchair, asking me if I was “still functional”. That is a sure-fire way to make sure I will not be having sex with you, ever.

My point is, my experience of disability has been fetishised when it comes to online dating; and yet, in wider society, disabled people aren’t seen as sexual beings. Take disabled bathrooms. I know people have sex in them, regularly. I see you sneaking out together, you aren’t slick. BUT, people would never expect to see a disabled person in that situation. I think if I left that bathroom with someone else in tow people would assume that I just needed a hand in there, that whoever I was with was “incredible for doing what you do”.

Little would they know it would be ME they were doing. It would be the perfect ruse, really. You also never find condom machines in disabled bathrooms. So, able bodied people appropriate disabled spaces to express their own sexuality but don’t expect disabled people to do the same. Society has sanitised and infantilised disabled people so much that people don’t know how to handle it when they express themselves sexually. When they put themselves in those spaces, when they demand to be equals in sexuality with able-bodied peers.

Part of embracing my body is learning every inch of it.

I grew up never seeing my body in magazines or on a runway. I grew up hating how parts of my body jutted out more than others. I hated all the evidence of medical procedures strewn across my body that you’d never see in editorials. It was always someone else’s body, whether it was a doctor or a physiotherapist, or even my parents. I never felt like I was in control of it. So, as I got older and I started working to tune in to my body, I decided it was time to invest in it. It was time to enjoy it and treat it kindly after all it had been put through. That meant doing what any responsible body owner would do when they want to treat themselves; I went sex toy shopping.

Sex toy shopping was… an interesting experience initially.

I didn’t really know what I was looking for, and I was embarrassed. I was 18 at the time I think when I wandered in to my first shop. It was a haven of lace and I think I fell in love with every bra set in there. The toys were down the back, and normally in these situations a staff member would come over and ask you what you’re looking for or something like that. My experience was a little different. The staff were looking between themselves, as if to debate whether to approach me. It was more like trying to figure out how you were gonna lure an escaped pet into the house. Eventually one came over and asked if there was anything they could do, but they were obviously uncertain; maybe even uncomfortable.

I ended up buying a small bullet vibrator which absolutely wasn’t gonna do anything for me, but I was so eager to leave that I just bought it and proverbially ran. I tried to not let it sully my experience because I think it’s important to be in tune with every part of your body and what it needs. It was a long time before I tried shopping in person again though, and my life has been a lot of online trial and error. Plus, shopping online isn’t ideal because I still live with my parents and they love opening my  post. I normally dread when I need to upgrade; thankfully I’m sorted for the moment.

It’s not just toy shopping that can be daunting either.

Trying on lingerie is quite hit and miss for wheelchair users like myself. A lot of dressing rooms aren’t equipped for disabled patrons, whether it be sizes or grab rails. The amount of times I’ve just had to try and ignore gaps in curtains or having my chair poking out of a dressing cubicle is unbelievable. I’ve learned not to be shy over the years, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with having a compromised shopping experience because people don’t expect variety in their dressing rooms. However, it’s not all bad!

Retailers seem to be catching up in terms of access; albeit in small doses. In larger retailers
you normally get one singular accessible dressing room… Heaven forbid there’s more
than one disabled person in your shop at any given time, right? Customer service has also
gotten vastly better in terms of lingerie shopping. My favourite experience is lingerie
powerhouse Victoria’s Secret. They recently open a 3-floor store in Dublin and let me tell
you, I’m convinced it is heaven on earth! The staff are incredibly professional and thoughtful, and it reminds me that attitudes towards disability and sexuality are changing. With more brands like Aerie lingerie using disabled models and disability being featured more within modelling through the likes of Aaron Philip and Jillian Mercado, disabled people are becoming more visible; but people’s attitudes still need to change, especially when it comes to sex.

Which brings me to my next point – What my trip to Amsterdam taught me about people’s attitudes towards sex.

I went to Amsterdam last year with one of my best friends. I was having a tough time in
college, she was getting divorced, it seemed like the perfect way to get both our minds off it. There are a lot of reasons people go to Amsterdam. Mine were more culture based – there were lots of museums and stuff I wanted to see – but that didn’t mean we weren’t going to also sample some of the more NSFW culture points.

Funnily enough when we were lost trying to find our hotel we ended up in the red-light district by accident. I think it’s a great testament for how normalised sex work is in Amsterdam, nobody was really paying attention apart from some stag parties. People were completely unbothered. Why would they be, I suppose. I for one found my friends reaction hilarious – she wanted to walk a little quicker because that wasn’t something she’d been around before. Traditional family and everything.

After two days in Amsterdam we decided our last night would be our ‘party night’ where we would go to a café and ramble down to see what trouble we could get into in the Red-Light District. It was surprisingly picturesque, and the neon really added to it. The paths were accessible too which made navigating around a little easier. However, that was where the access stopped. For those who were “window shopping” as I heard people referring to it, there was a step down into the rooms and they were quite tiny. So, if you were in Amsterdam with a physical disability looking for a good time, you were out of luck.

It was the same with the clubs. Some of them were up multiple stairs, or down multiple stairs. There was one that had steps at the front and the security said they were more than willing to help carry me in. I didn’t because of the financial barrier (it was 45 Euros for 8 shows if I remember correctly, and I was just completely smash broke). I just didn’t understand the logic of being inaccessible. This was one of the biggest draws Amsterdam had for tourism, and it was almost completely off limits to an entire demographic of people. It also wasn’t my wider experience of Amsterdam – everywhere else had been great and most places only had one step in, with some friendly local or random passerby more than happy to help you navigate it. It occurred to me that it was as much of a social barrier as it was an architectural one. They weren’t designed to be accessible because obviously it wasn’t expected that disabled people would be occupying those spaces. It wasn’t for them, essentially.

As a 22-year-old queer person who is also disabled, watching the sexual liberation movement take off has been a double-edged sword.

While I am obviously ecstatic to see more people be open about the need for representation and consent, I wish there was more of an emphasis on access for disabled people. I want to be able to access spaces that will allow me to be my most open self, where I can go and be myself without worrying I’m taking up too much space in my wheelchair. When we have diversity panels discussing sex, I want to see more disabled people present to discuss what sexual liberation means for them. It is important that we stop disassociating disabled people from conversations about sex; we have sex, and these spaces are ours too.

We could benefit from disability being seen clearly in lingerie advertising, not in a fetishising way but in an empowering way; acknowledge that disabled people want to, and have a right to, be sexy. Advertising and advocates alike need to catch up and recognize that diversity comes in all shapes, sizes and abilities. Sexual education needs to be more diverse to include disability, and it needs to be accessible to EVERYONE.

Viva la sexuality!

If you’re interested in keeping up with me, my twitter account is @Wheelie_Healthy and you can check out my (frequently inactive) blog. You can also follow our insta (@Wheelie_Happy) where you’ll find my previous work and my contact details if you want to get in touch for anything!

Camming, Sex Journalism and More! with S. Nicole Lane

I’ve been chatting to some awesome folks lately, guys. I put a call out for interesting people doing awesome work around sexuality who would be willing to talk to me. And oh my you guys delivered! Today I’m chatting with journalist, artist, former sex workier and awesome advocate S. Nicole Lane. I’ve recently discovered her work and I am in love with her writing – check some of it out, I’m sure you’ll love it too.

A headshot of S Nicole Lane

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I have my hands in many projects. I’m a journalist based in Chicago where I cover a multitude of topics: the LGBTQ voice, women-owned businesses, health in relation to women and non-binary people, the healthcare system, visual art, and my favorite topic – sex.

I’m also a visual artist and create pieces made of latex, found objects, and video. Most of my work stems from my relationship to my body and imagining a queer future. The pieces are familiar but foreign, as they do not resemble in specific part of the body but hint at a commonality. My video work is very sexual, typically working with images and audio that I recorded during my time as a sex worker. Both my writing and visual practice are tied together in such a way that themes and symbols definitely cross over.

What made you want to start writing about sex?

I had a Xanga all through high school where I would embarrassingly describe my relationships and intimate moments. At sixteen, I knew nothing about sex or love. I was just a huge romantic who listened to way too much music. I wanted so badly to be Anais Nin, whose book I picked up my first year in High School. She changed my life. I would write religiously, every day. It became an obsession. I also publicized this blog for everyone to read it – I had nothing to hide and have always been a proud and confident person.

I stopped writing compulsively for about five years until I moved to Chicago where I was struggling with vaginismus—an involuntary muscle spasm that results in painful sex. After being frustrated that zero doctors could diagnose me and there was no easily accessible literature about it online, I decided to begin writing about it myself. My first piece was published on Bustle and my second on The Establishment which sparked my writing career in sexuality.

Before this, I was writing art exhibition reviews (I studied art, specifically photography) but the language was dry and repetitive. Writing about sex, kinks, so-called “taboos” allowed me to reach out to people who were struggling like I was during that time. Now I cover a range of sexual topics and celebrate kinksters around the globe. My beginnings as a angsty teenage nymphomaniac have transformed into a fruitful and very rewarding career.

You mentioned that you used to be a sex worker. Could you tell us a little about how that experience was for you and, if you’re comfortable doing so, why you decided to exit that line of work?

I was a cam girl for almost two years where I also created private videos and sold materials to men online. Camming is so exciting and I still miss it sometimes! I am also a trained dancer so for me, camming was just getting up and dancing for an invisible audience, while making money and losing a little bit of clothing along the way. Freelance writing comes with obstacles and some months. Before really getting into a regular work routine, I would find myself extremely worried about money. I was writing an article on camming for a publication and decided to give it a try.

At first, I was simply “researching” for the piece but soon, I was putting in a full six hours a day or night. Yes, camming is exciting, powerful, and feminist, but I did have my moments of exhuastion. It’s a full time job—viewers messaging you, sending you images, demanding attention. Moreover, moving your body, talking, and performing for hours is a type of tired that I had never experienced before. My body physical hurt after a session. But it was always my choice to turn off my camera, always my choice to shut down my site.

I also talked to my viewers about sexual health. I’d quiz them on topics like HPV or other STIs. I would talk to them realistically. No, I didn’t like deep throating. I wasn’t going to pretend for some extra money. Of course this lost me viewers, but my viewers who stayed were very dedicated. I miss them sometimes.

I decided to exit camming once my writing was more steady. At the end of the day, writing is what I wanted to be spending my time doing.

What is the most challenging thing about writing about writing about sex for a living?

It can be really fucked up! By that I mean that it can make you really horny while your partner is at work, or when they aren’t in the mood, and you’re simply consumed with thoughts of sex positions, dildos, and cunnilingus. Another challenge is coming up with new, exciting topics. I don’t want to write another piece that describes the same tips to giving the best blowjob. Of course, those articles helped the hell out of me when I was young. But I’m not personally rewarded by writing those (plus I think they can be done better). Moreover, many publications reject my pitches because they are too “niche” for their audience—specific kinks or fetishes are still stigmatized.

What about the most rewarding thing?

The most rewarding thing about writing in general is relaying information and connecting to such a vast group of people all over the world. My inbox is always filled with email of people wanting to talk to me about certain health concerns or thanking me for writing a piece.

On the topic of vaginismus, a serious sexual health concern, most doctors dismiss the patient’s pain. I had several doctors tell me it was “all in my head”. This morning I opened up my email to find that someone had written me saying that she felt all alone, secluded in her pain until she read my piece.

As for my more kink-oriented and sexy pieces, those are rewarding because I find joy in eradicating taboos and stereotypes, especially while living in America under our current administration. I couldn’t have asked for a better profession.

What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?

People always assume it’s just reduced to listicles describing the 10 best ways to achieve an orgasm. I research constantly, I read all of the time, and I put a lot of effort into every single one of my articles. I have to absorb information at a fast pace in order to accurately deliver a piece.

What’s something you’d really love to write on but haven’t yet?

I would really love to have a regular sex advice column for a platform. I feel like many of the sex advisors are very vanilla misogynists who don’t pay attention to non binary and trans people. So I would love to have a weekly column where I focus on all bodies.

What’s your dream byline?

Two years ago I said that once I’m published in Playboy, I’ll personally feel like I’ve made it in my writing career. Last year I wrote a piece on anal sex and now I write regularly for Playboy about art and occasional sex topics! Of course, I’m still not satisfied with my portfolio and hope get published on smaller platforms like Mel Magazine and Jezebel… and, eventually, The New York Times!

What’s your favourite piece that you’ve ever written and why?

Oh this is so hard! I love writing for Healthline, the editors are incredible and supportive. I did a huge piece where I talked to a collection of queer, trans, polyamorous, non binary, and heterosexual people and how sex can change in their decade in September. And then my favorite sex toy piece is on Broadly where I experimented with electro-play.

Who inspires you personally and professionally?

I look up to various writers, especially Abby Norman who wrote an incredible book called “Ask Me About My Uterus”. All of the brave people in the Healing From LEEP/LLETZ Facebook Group inspire me. The MedTruth community. I also look up to my close friends and partner for inspiration.

What essay, article or book about sex do you really wish you’d written?

In 2015, the Establishment published an incredible piece by Katie Tandy which left me slack jawed called “The Dirty Politics of Period Sex.” It’s a love letter to period sex and it’s incredible.

And just for fun because it is “Coffee and Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

This is funny because I was a five cup a day drinker my entire life. My mom always said, “Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like coffee or Nutella”. But after researching how coffee can affect me hormonally (acne, issues with my period), I decided to cut it out which resulted in the worst withdrawals I’ve ever experience. My acne didn’t improve and my period sort of returned, though not fully. I’ve been drinking tea for a year but recently—because I can’t resist the smell or comfort—have been cheating and having a cup of coffee every other day. And of course, I take it black.

Thanks to Nicole for her time! Check out her awesome writing and give her a follow on the Twitter and the Insta.

[Guest Blog] The Thirst of “Femmes d’un Certain Age” by Evelyn Archer

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…

Amy x

A 40th birthday cake, for a guest post on sex after 40 by Evelyn ArcherThe 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).

Resources

  • 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).
  • Come As You Are: the Surprising New Science that will Transform your Sex Life, by Emily Nagoski. The research here on how desire can work for some folks was a revelation to me. (Also Erika Moen does the illustrations!) Not so science-y that it’s dry, yet doesn’t read like a self-help manual. She is a scientist and a sex educator and this book is great.

Author photo of Evelyn ArcherEvelyn 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.

 

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I Don’t Particularly Care for Cunnilingus… And That’s Okay

Cunnilingus. Oral sex. Eating out. Pussy eating. Muff-diving. Whatever you call it, if we’re having sex I’m perfectly happy to skip it.

Yup. That’s right. I just don’t like cunnilingus that much most of the time.

A person licking an ice cream. For a post on cunnilingusI don’t hate it. It’s fine and I’m happy to engage in it occasionally if the person giving really enjoys doing it. Mr CK and I have even talked about experimenting with some positioning to help me enjoy it more, which we’ll probably do at some point soon. But the odds of cunnilingus bringing me to orgasm are… about one in three years, if recent experience is anything to go by. There are just much more reliable and fun ways to bring me to orgasm, that won’t stress me out along the way.

Why do I say stress me out along the way? There have been a number – a not-insignificant number – of occasions when worrying that I wasn’t responding to cunnilingus in the “right” way or enjoying it “enough” took me completely out of my head and probably, realistically, ruined any chance I had of getting real enjoyment from it.

Precisely WHY I don’t like it much is uncertain. My clit is both very sensitive and very picky – direct stimulation, on the glans rather than the hood, is usually so intense it’s painful. Also, it’s hard to get good enough control with a tongue to really stimulate the spot I like in a consistent manner for long enough to get me anywhere.

Fingers have much more dexterity and precision.

It’s not about someone’s skills…

If you’re going to hop into my comments or mentions and tell me I’d love cunnilingus if only you did it to me… save it. This isn’t about skill or lack thereof of my partners.

My partner is tremendously skilled at this particular act. How do I know? Because I’ve seen other women, who like it much more than I do, gush all over him when he does it to them. (Yes, that is as hot as it sounds).

Again: it’s not about skills. Someone could be the most skilled in the world at a particular act, and it isn’t going to suddenly transform my body into one that loves that act.

Going down doesn’t automatically make you a feminist…

I’ve ranted about this one before, but it amazes me how often people (read: cis men) believe they’re amazing feminists just because they enjoy performing oral sex on people with vulvas.

Being a feminist lover isn’t about bragging about how much you “just looooooove eating pussy!” Being a feminist lover is about listening to your partner, respecting their preferences, treating enthusiastic affirmative consent as a minimum standard, and taking your ego out of the bedroom as much as possible.

If your partner says she doesn’t like receiving cunnilingus that much? Believe her.

I’ll still go down on you though!

I love giving pleasure. If we’re having sex and oral is your jam, whatever anatomy you have, I’m MORE than happy to go down on you. I’ll love the hell out of it, too, because making someone squirm and moan is at least half the joy of sex for me.

Don’t feel bad that I probably don’t want you to “return the favour,” and don’t push me into accepting it just to assuage your sense of fairness. Use your dick, fingers or a toy on me instead, and I’ll have a great time.

Why is this controversial to say?

Unfortunately, we live in a society that has a lot of very narrow and very messed up ideas about sex. One of them? Everyone loves oral!

Some people with vulvas love receiving cunnilingus, some don’t. Some people with penises love receiving fellatio, some don’t. Just like everything else, people are individuals and have preferences!

So I’m saying it. I don’t really care for cunnilingus. If you really want to do it for your enjoyment, I’ll probably co-operate for a while. But if you’re trying to get me off? Just finger me really well instead, thanks!

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

[Guest Post] “Body Knows Best” by AJ Power

When I put a call out for guest blogs, some stunning pieces came my way and there were a couple that made me cry. This essay by AJ Power is one of them. AJ tells her journey to becoming the woman she is with such strength and vulnerability that I am just absolutely blown away.

I had two contradictory reactions to this piece. The first was that I wanted to publish it because I couldn’t completely relate – as a cis woman who has benefited by entire life from cis privilege, I will never completely what a trans woman goes through. However, on a different level, I felt I did understand it. As a trauma survivor, my body has always known what I need, what I can handle and what I cannot, and if a situation is right or wrong. It was learning to listen to it that was the tricky bit. In that regard, at least, I related to AJ’s essay very deeply. I am absolutely thrilled to be able to share this beautiful piece with you all.

Amy x

A painting of a young woman looking at her face in the mirror. For a post by Alicia Power.It started with losing my virginity. You could argue for something earlier: myriad stomach issues through my childhood, anxiety attacks I couldn’t recognize as such (much less explain to my parents), or any number of little things I’d only later realize pointed to my being trans. But it’s one thing to dissect signs and symptoms with the benefit of hindsight, and another to get a blaring wake-up call on a chilly October night when you’re as excited as you’ve ever been.

Aubrey was a better person to ‘lose it’ with than I could have dreamed. Vastly too cool for me, sure, but I was not looking that particular gift horse in the mouth. My roommate was out partying, we were both happy, healthy, and sober, and I was about to fall head over heels. Everything was perfect. Except, well, for one horrifying cliché….

I couldn’t get it up.

No matter what I tried (and oh did I try) it was just not happening. I didn’t understand. Yes, I was nervous, and yes, on some level I believed that it happened to a lot of guys maybe even all guys at some point or other—but at that moment there was nothing but shame and betrayal. Aubrey actually handled everything great, but that didn’t stop me from sobbing in the shower the next morning, or from going to student health to try and dig up some reason, any physical reason that this was happening to me.

When my wife and I have sex now, I do think back to those days sometimes. Days when I thought I was a guy. When I thought that only penetrative sex was “real” sex. When I somehow drew a line between Real Dysphoria(TM) and how much I hated seeing myself in  the mirror. It feels like another life, like that was a different person, an unexpected and unwanted detour when somebody else was borrowing my body. But now that I have the steering wheel again, I’m not totally sure how to drive stick (pun intended). So much about me has changed, both physically and deeper than that. I have the same parts, but not the same.

Not really.

And I don’t quite know what this body wants.

When Aubrey and I finally did end up having intercourse I was elated. It took nearly a year, and I was at least a littl bit bothered by that, but we’d fallen in love in that time. We’d grown into each other, trusting, caring, knowing. She was the only person I’d ever told about my depression. About my high school prom, where I mostly thought about killing myself and felt better than I had in months. About how desperately lonely I could get.

I still had trouble performing sometimes. I figured it was an anxious sort of feedback loop—worrying about worrying and ending up just as nervous as I’d been the first time the issue had cropped up. But I’d made my peace with it, I thought. We were happy. Problem solved.

Lest I make this into a pity party, I love sex. Touching and being touched, desiring and being desired—it’s amazing and beautiful. The journey is fantastic. The destination, on the other hand….

It’s not that I can’t orgasm. Give me five minutes with my vibrator and, well. But no matter how well things seem to be going with another person, it remains out of reach. Sometimes I think it’s just that it’s so much easier to forget what body parts I actually have when it’s just me. When I can have the barrier of pajamas, panties, or pornography to keep that knowledge shunted off to the side of my conscious mind. As opposed to the unmistakable fact of skin or lips wrapping around me. The fact that there’s something to wrap around at all. Other times I wonder if, despite the intervening years, the hormones, and the anti anxiety medication, I’m just still too much in my own head when it comes to sex, and I need to learn to shut my brain off and enjoy the moment.

In most situations, the anxiety takes hold because I’m desperately afraid of disappointing someone or letting them down. But even when there’s little-to-no risk of that, it’s tough to reassure myself. Because no matter how anyone else feels, the one I so often let down is me.

I wanted to scream at myself to just shut up for once in my life. I had Lauren in my bed. Lauren, who I’d gotten involved with way too quickly after Aubrey. Way too quickly after Lauren’s last breakup too. I was having trouble performing again. We’d both been drinking a little—just enough to relax, at least in theory.

My body just wouldn’t listen to me. Again. I was so sick of it, and I just wanted both of us to have a good time. I told myself to focus on her before I gave any thought to myself. Her body. The way it moved. The way it felt. I tried to shut out everything that was complicated or difficult, or…me.

I didn’t give much thought to the fact that when I masturbated, or even when I had sex, I rarely (if ever) pictured myself in the scene. It was like I was so focused on the woman in front of me, that I was barely a presence, even in my own fantasies. That night, I tried to switch. To focus just on Lauren, and then to enjoy the moment as myself. I wasn’t over Aubrey, and I figured that that was why I was so disconnected from myself. But the truth was, part of it felt good and right, and part of it didn’t. That was the last time I ever had penetrative sex.

The strangest part of the dysphoria I still have is that I don’t hate my body. Even the things I wish were different, I don’t hate. They just don’t feel entirely like me. I know that mental health issues are a process, but I feel like I’m past a lot of hating myself too. I can feel happy, proud, beautiful in ways I never would have been able to a few years ago. There’s just this one part of me. This last question that’s more confusing than anything. What am I supposed to do with you?

It wasn’t long ago at all now that I was lying in a hotel bed on my wedding night, feeling like I’d just seen the face of god. My wife had just driven me completely out of my mind for what seemed like forever, and when she asked me if I’d climaxed, I had to say I didn’t know. I didn’t feel like I’d had that release, but how else to describe how it had felt? Was this another part of me changing? But for once, I didn’t think about it too hard.

The truth is, my body knows me. In every fantasy that I thought I wasn’t an actor in, in every time I got lost in the curves of someone else’s body when I had no love for my own, my body was trying to tell me something. That the need and want I was feeling weren’t just about loving women, but about being one. Like calling to like. The shape of me on the inside trying to find something that would fit around it and make it home.

There’s something magic in learning to feel like yourself, at home in your own person. I felt it when I bought my first dress. I felt it when I started liking the woman I saw in the mirror. And I felt it the first time I fell in love, and the last. It’s a soft sigh and an intake of breath, a sense of “Oh, so that’s how it can be.”

I always thought that when my body misbehaved it was because something was wrong (or that it was just being an asshole), but even with the things I have yet to figure out, I know it’s not about right and wrong, or a problem to be fixed.

It’s about the fact that I’m not finished yet. I still have more to do, to grow, to change.

And if my body has taught me anything, it’s that change is good.

AJ Power is a 28-year-old trans writer and editor. When not writing, she can usually be found watching movies in bed or reading…probably also in bed. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her wife. She tweets as @write_errant.

[Kink Product Review] Lovehoney Take Control Bondage Kit

I often groan at the idea – and the reality – of sex toy kits. Too often, they’re lots of cheap and bad quality things shoved together in a pretty box and sold for a premium. If pressed for an opinion, I’ll nearly always tell my readers to forego a kit and spend a bit more on just one or two quality items. However, I try to keep an open mind, and occasionally something surprises me. The Take Control Bondage Kit from Lovehoney pleasantly surprised me.

Through the eyes of a beginner…

I’m practically a kinky veteran at this point. I’ve been practicing BDSM for about a decade and have accrued a sizeable collection of toys – expensive leather floggers, my fabulous vegan leather collar, the gorgeous hand-made whip I gave Mr CK last Christmas, our electro-play kit, and more. So beginner kits are not something I would ever normally buy for myself. Therefore, I am trying to step back in time ten years or so and view this kit through the eyes of someone who is just starting out in their kinky explorations.

Inviting and Fun Packaging…

The Take Control Bondage Kit comes in one simple box, with all the products clearly displayed on the front so you know exactly what to expect. The packaging is bright and fun, which I suspect is a deliberate choice to make it non-intimidating to the new and nervous.

There’s a LOT of information on the box, too. I really like the way that there’s a brief description on how to use each item on the back, and also that they pay attention to safety and consent! The box reminds you to use safewords, never leave a bound person alone, and have a non-verbal safe signal if someone is gagged. In this regard, I’m really impressed. It’s pretty 101 stuff, but safety/consent 101 is exactly the information that the target market for this kit needs. A+ for that.

The unboxing…

I wasn’t delighted with the way the box was packed – everything was just sort of piled in, each item wrapped in a cellophane wrapper. It would have been nicer to have an inner tray with slots for everything. Some little storage bags for the items would also be a welcome addition. Assuming you don’t want to throw everything back in the box when you’re done playing, it’s not an ideal storage solution.

With that said, I was immediately pretty impressed with what was inside. Some (many) beginner BDSM kits are filled with things that are dubiously even safe, let alone of good quality.

Let’s take a look at what’s inside, shall we? Just for fun, I’ve included a fun tip or an idea to try with each item.

1: Blindfold

This blindfold is super comfy. It’s nice and thick and padded, and I couldn’t see a thing when it was on. The band is stretchy, too, so it should fit most people comfortably.

Pro kink tip: blindfold your partner and stroke different things across their body – a silk scarf, a piece of velvet, the tails of your flogger – and make them guess what each item is.

2. Nipple suckers

I really liked these! They’re a great gentle introduction to nipple play, and perfect if you want some sensation but without the pain of clamps or clothes pegs. I have pretty small nipples on fairly large breasts, and I found these stayed in place very nicely once I’d suctioned them onto my chest.

If you flick or hit them too hard, they will fly off, but they can withstand some gentle playing and wiggling.

Pro kink tip: tell your partner to fetch you something from another room with these on. They’ll have to move carefully… they’ll be spanked if one falls off!

3. Ball gag

Full disclosure: I hate ball gags. I fucking hate them. They make my jaw hurt, they make my face contort into an expression that no-one could possibly find attractive, they make me drool, and I can’t kiss my partner when I’m wearing one. I. Hate. Them.

With that said, this is a good one if you like that sort of thing. The holes make it breathable, and being silicone it’s non-porous which makes it hygienic. The holes do make it somewhat of a pain to clean, so take extra care when you’re cleaning it. Warm water and gentle soap is the best way to go here.

I also like how adjustable this gag is. With 9 buckle holes, it will fit most people comfortably.

Pro kink tip: make your submissive try to repeat words back to you (try phrases like “I’m a dirty little slut”) while gagged.

4. Flogger

This is a stingy little bastard! Don’t let the small size fool you, it can pack a wallop. The falls are made of thin rubber, which delivers a vicious sting when you put some force behind it. If pain isn’t your thing, you can drag it sensually across the skin for a gentle tickle. I would have liked the handle to have a bit more width and weight to it.

Pro kink tip: Try – gently – flogging the vulva or penis if your partner is up for it. Remember to clean your flogger thoroughly afterwards.

5. Wrist and ankle cuffs

These were the weakest part of the kit by far, for me. They’re quite thin and made of nylon, with no padding, which means they chafe if you put any pressure on them at all. They’re fine for exploring the feeling of being restrained, but if you’re into rough play and would be wanting to pull against them, they’re not a good option for that.

Try restraint with these, by all means, to see if you like it. But then ditch them and get some proper cuffs. And I hope it goes without saying that you should never, EVER suspend from wrist or ankle cuffs. These are not designed to take any real weight.

Pro kink tip: Restrain your partner then make them watch you masturbate in front of them.

6. Under-bed restraints

These are great, except for the tiny detail that they don’t fit on our bed! We have a Super King bed (which is the best thing ever, seriously. I always tell Mr CK that my relationship with him and the bed is polyamorous in itself.) Turns out these restraints fit up to King Size. So they’ll be fine for the vast majority of people, but if you have a ridiculous bed like us, they may not fit.

That said, they’re still a great addition to the kit. They’re strong, durable, and easy to set up… and tuck out of sight when you’re done, if you want to. The little clips mean you can easily add different cuffs to them, so when you ditch the rubbish cuffs in this set and get some better ones, you can still use them with this restraint system.

Pro kink tip: when your partner is restrained, run a cube of ice along their body… or drip candle wax onto their skin (read up on how to do wax play safely first, of course!)

7. Silicone suction-cup dildo

Do my eyes deceive me, or… no, it’s actually a body-safe dildo in a BDSM kit! With an insertable length of 6 inches and a diameter of 1.5″, it’s perfect for vaginal play. It’s possibly a bit ambitious for first-time anal sex or pegging, but most people could easily work up to it with a bit of time and warm-up.

The slight curve makes this dildo feel delicious for G-spot or prostate stimulation, and the silicone is super soft and silky. The suction cup is also a nice addition and makes this toy more versatile.

It’s even got a convenient hollow in the base where you can slip the bullet vibe that comes with this kit to turn your dildo into a G-spot vibrator!

Remember to use water-based lube with your silicone dildo for the best experience.

Pro kink tip: tease your lover’s entrance with just the tip of the dildo. If they want it inside, they have to thrust on to it!

8. Strap-on harness

This is actually the same harness that I bought as part of a pegging kit a few years ago. I’ve used it many, many times to top for both vaginal and anal penetration, and it’s still my favourite harness. It’s comfortable, the dildo stays in place well during thrusting, and the rings are interchangeable so you can use it with any dildo with a flared base.

Pro kink tip: If you have a vulva, put on a wearable vibrator before you put on your harness, so that you get some clitoral pleasure while you fuck your partner.

9. Wired bullet vibrator

This was the biggest surprise in the kit for me. I was fully expecting it to be awful. While it’s not the strongest vibrator in the world, it’s not a bad little bullet for the size. I was able to orgasm with it quickly and easily. It has a number of patterns as well as steady vibration speeds.

I didn’t love the wire element, but you cannot expect to get a wireless bullet for this price-point. It’s long enough for one partner to comfortably have control of the remote while the other holds the vibrator against their genitals.

Pro kink tip: switch it off just when your lover is on the edge of orgasm. Make them beg for release.

Other things to note

  • The bullet takes 2x AAA batteries, not included.
  • There is no real leather in this kit, making it entirely vegan-friendly.

Overall Verdict: do I recommend it?

On the whole, a very solid kit for the price. I wouldn’t recommend it to folks more experienced in kink and BDSM, but for those of you who are new and looking to explore different sensations and types of power-play, this kit is a great starting point.

The Take Control kit retails for £79.99 ($109.99 US) which is a reasonable price for the quality and variety. As you get more into your kink and discover what you like, I’d encourage you to drop more money on single items if you can – a quality, handcrafted whip or flogger will last you a lifetime, perhaps, or some really high quality natural fibre rope? But to get you started? Look no further.

Thanks to Lovehoney for sending me the Take Control Bondage Kit in exchange for an honest review. If you choose to purchase this or anything else from Lovehoney, please buy through my affiliate links – it supports the blog at no extra cost to you!

 

[Guest Post] “Everything I Know About Sex, I Learned from Dan Savage” by Ari Potter

Today’s post is a continuation of my sharing awesome pieces by new voices to sex writing! When I put out my call for pitches I was overwhelmed with the response and the extraordinary quality of so many of the ideas. What I loved about this piece was Ari’s honesty around the trials and tribulations of getting past the problematic ideas around sex that come from a conservative upbringing, and the way she’s told it with a straightforward and humorous tone. Definitely a writer we need to see more of! 

Heads up: this post uses the p-word that is sometimes used to refer to sex workers. It is used in the context of quoting something that was said many years ago, and not in a derogatory way by either the author or myself.

Now, over to Ari…

Amy x

“Everything I Know About Sex, I Learned from Dan Savage”

I am in bed with a recent partner. We are taking a pause to hydrate and I’m supposed to be
thinking about how I want to be fucked: this DJ takes requests. Our conversation turns to sex and childhood and, with a delicious situational irony, it transpires that we have both shaken off prudish attitudes conferred by quasi-religious upbringings. My own were inherited from relatively liberal Bengali parents. It’s not that sex was wrong, per se, but the constraints under which it could be enjoyed were strictly limited: within marriage, to one person, of the opposite sex to you, for life.

Of course, they never sat me down to convey this diktat. Indeed, the sex talk that I got from
my parents was clinical and secondhand. When watching a subtitled Les Miserables aged eight or nine, I asked my parents what a ‘prostitute’ was. They told me to look it up, which led me to asking what this ‘sex’ thing was that you could be paid for. Again, they delegated their responsibility to a book, and a Dorling Kindersley encyclopaedia with an illustrated cross section of two torsos missionarily-connected provided me with a scientifically functional but practically useless understanding.

Over the years, no more is said about the matter, but it becomes understood from their general reticence about me hanging out with boys that All Boys Want Is Sex and Sex Outside Of Marriage Is Very Bad. There’s more than a pinch of It’s Especially Bad For Girls! too, but they reassure me that’s not because they think that, but more because everyone else will.

Predictably, they learn through my adolescence that ‘you can read anything but you can’t do anything’ is a recipe for parental disaster. I have decided to ignore much of their advice on anything, considering everything from ‘don’t drink’ to ‘get home by 4pm’ under the same broad category of “too strict and reasonable to ignore”. So when the first peers start copping off with each other, I join them. Yet, unlike with the other rules that I have wholesale dismissed, the one about sex has some sticking power in my mind. Aged 15, it’s not that I think my parents are wrong, it’s that I think they don’t understand that it’s OK for me to sleep with my first boyfriend, because we’re in love and will one day marry. Obviously. (Editor’s note – I laughed so hard at this because I had EXACTLY the same train of thought at nearly the same age. Spoiler: reader, I did not marry him.)

The gradual dismantling of these archaic views on sex were a demonstration of hypocritical insistence on conservatism – constantly making exceptions to exempt your own behaviour while trying to maintain an increasingly unsustainable dogma. When I sleep with my next boyfriend (I’m 17 or thereabouts now), it’s okay… as long as you’re in love. After that it becomes fine if you’re in a relationship. Which is amended to add the exception of ‘and on holiday’ (?!) and then finally disappears entirely by the time I’m 21 and in theory, a fully fledged adult. Oh, with the now hilarious exception of ‘I don’t let people go down on me because I’m holding something back for The One’. (Ingenious spin for ‘I don’t have the patience to let inexperienced partners practise on me!’)

My parents don’t realise how far they have own-goaled. By my mid twenties, armed with the view that safe, consensual sex that doesn’t harm anyone is to be celebrated and recently out of a long term relationship, I am keen to make up for lost time. What becomes clear to me is that my introspection doesn’t match my enthusiasm. While I want to explore my desires, the conservative hang ups from my past leave me too ashamed or bewildered to interrogate what I want. The result is a peculiar mix of willingness to try things that means I go along with others’ kinks without knowing my own.

It leads me to question how much I enjoy sexual experiences on a purely physical level. A
public, group encounter with a masked man at a party was certainly anecdote-worthy, but
was it hot? Being decorated in various constellations of latex and rope makes me smile to
recall, but out of context feels faintly ridiculous. Pegging makes me feel as though I am able to confidently take a lead, but does it turn me on? More importantly: does it matter?

Dan Savage’s sex podcast describes a good lover as someone who’s GGG: good, giving
and game. And, rightly, the model assumes reciprocity. Yet, I find that my conditioning
around sex and shame leaves me unable to be frank with willing partners. I don’t want to
only be a participant in someone else’s fantasies without indulging my own, but they are
buried and when one surfaces I second-guess how much it is mine.

‘So what do you want me to do?’ asks my bedfellow, again. Good question.

Ari Potter is a Bengali-British writer who’s particulary interested in gender, mental health and cultural identity. She’s previously appeared in gal-dem, Orlando and Litro. By day, she works for a health and social care charity, and, separately, has recently launched her own campaign on consent and sex education. 

Sex Educators You Should Know: The “Ersties” Podcast Crew

You guys might remember a few months back I introduced you to the wonderful Ersties Podcast, a smart, sassy and funny show about sex, kink, porn, the adult industry and more. Well today I am thrilled to bring you an interview with Lina Bembe, one of the team of badass women behind the podcast. 
But first, I wanted to tell you about a couple of my favourite recent episodes since I last introduced you to these amazing ladies.

Episode #7 is called “Self-Love, Sex and Magic” which brings together two of my favourite things – sex and magic! Sex is, really, its own particular kind of magic when you think about it, isn’t it? The team discuss sexuality as a form of women’s power, which has terrified men for centuries – so much so that in time gone by, women who dared to be openly sexual opened themselves up to accusations of witchcraft.

Favourite quotes:

“Witches are in many ways the original feminists… the original sluts.”
“We need to get our vulvas together… we need some vulva action!”

The other thing I loved about this episode is the team’s discussion about coming out to their families as working in the porn industry. I won’t spoil the stories for you, but you should go and hear them for yourselves.

Their special guest is Vanessa Cuccia of Chakrubs, the world’s first crystal sex toy company (which, yes, is 100% a thing I want in my life.)

Listen here.

The ladies also JUST released Episode #9 which is on my favourite sexuality topic of all – consent! They discuss consent in BDSM, how to talk about what you want in bed, and what consent looks like on a porn set.

If there’s one, single message I want my readers to take away from my work, it’s that consent is everything. Consent is the beginning, the end and everything in between. The Ersties team delve deep into this complex and nuanced subject with honesty and insight.

Personally, I particularly appreciated the discussion of being in a sex work situation such as making porn, and not really feeling like having sex… but making the decision to consent anyway, in order to get paid at the end of the day. It’s such an important point that there are other good reasons to consent apart from “I’m extremely horny right this second,” and that this doesn’t have to be a traumatising experience. The key, they seem to be arguing, is checking in with yourself and making an informed decision to say yes or no in any given situation.

Favourite quotes:

“Ohhh, now she has to put her fucking fingers in my pussy and I have to pretend to have an orgasm…!”
“Everyone who knows me knows that [my favourite safeword] is brocolli!”

A must-listen for anyone grappling with the nuances of sexual consent. Which is ALL of us, because this shit is complex.

Listen here.

Right, let’s get on with my interview with Lina, shall we?

Amy: What made you want to start the Ersties podcast?

Lina: Paulita, Pandora, Olivia & I were already a sort of gang. We used to hang out a lot, crack jokes, go out and get crazy, and talk about sex and feminism basically all the time. So it was kind of a natural thing to pour all these conversations and the things we are curious about into a podcast format. These days anyone with a smartphone or computer and WiFi access can build a platform and talk about whatever topic they want. In our case, we felt we were a fun crew with good chemistry and important things to discuss and explore, so we just got a mic and started recording!

Amy: Which other podcasters inspire you, and why?

Lina: Tristan Taormino for her extensive experience and educational approach, Ron Johnson’s journalistic work for The Butterfly Effect, Sadia & Monty from BBC’s No Country for Young Women because of their natural style and emphasis on black & brown communities. My personal favorite is Tina Horn from Why Are People into That?!, always fun, unapologetic, politically relevant and raising the voices of fellow sex workers.

Amy: Oh, god, Tristan Taormino is my heroine! So which show do you always listen to the day it comes out?

Lina: Why Are People into That?!, The Cuntcast, Sex Out Loud, Sex with Strangers, Guys We Fucked, The Second Circle, Asa Akira’s podcast for Pornhub, and hopefully the next season of No Country for Young Women!

Amy: Some new names for me there, I’ll check those out for sure. What is the core message you want to get out with the podcast? The one thing you’d like listeners to take away?

A cartoon image of the Ersties Podcast crew speaking to a live audience.Lina: That sex and sexuality are incredibly important for our lives and that it’s crucial to have more unbiased, shame-free conversations about them. We have all been raised and encouraged to see anything related to sex as shameful, dirty, not worth discussing, but the consequences of doing so go a long way into affecting our emotional well being and relationships to others. Thus we need to find ways of reclaiming our bodies and sexualities, and we need to find people we can feel relate to in our journey. We don’t always have the spaces to have shame-free, honest conversations about sex in our daily lives, so we wanted to offer a channel for it with our podcast.

Amy: Preach! So what is ethical porn? What sets ethical porn apart from regular, run-of-the-mill “tube site” porn?

Lina: Ethical porn has two main dimensions. The first dimension happens on the production side, where performers and crew have to be treated with respect regardless of their origins or identities, with professionalism and with attention to their personal boundaries. Where everything discussed in terms of sexual health issues, types of sex acts, remuneration (or skills/content trade agreement), identity, privacy protection and distribution channels is transparent, respectful and agreed by the production company, director, fellow performers and everyone involved in the project. It’s basically playing by the rules,  respecting everyone involved in the process, and making sure, as a producer that you put together a team who are able to work under these ethical standards and understand their importance in both the project and the wider industry.
The second dimension of ethical porn falls on the responsibility of the consumer, when they pay for the content they watch or access the content in the way the producer or performer wants them to. Sadly enough, it’s quite normal for people to watch porn for free and to assume that’s the normal way to go about it – whereas they’re happy to pay for platforms like Netflix or Spotify. The stigma surrounding porn and the proliferation of tube sites (who offer plenty of stolen content) obscures the very elemental fact that porn is also a form of work and that there’s people trying to make a living out of it. Not paying for porn only contributes to the stigma, shrinks the diversity of contents and throws indie producers and performers even more into precariousness. I’d really, really love for people to understand that consuming porn in unethical ways affects everyone.
Amy’s note: I am in love with the Ersties porn site! You can support ethical porn, get access to tonnes of great content, AND send a little kickback my way when you buy an Ersties porn subscription from as little as $11/month through my affiliate links.

Amy: Who would be your dream interview guest on the podcast, and why?

Lina: As a short-term goal, I’d love to have Munroe Bergdorf as a guest. Every single word she says speaks in such a strong way against stigma, and pushes for diversity and real change on so many fronts –  as racism, transphobia, whorephobia, misogyny and so on. I’d love to hear her views on porn and what sort of narratives could make this industry more inclusive and less discriminative!
As a long-term goal: Rihanna! To me, she’s the best global scale example of what it means to be a powerful creature and being unapologetic about owning your sexuality. Plus she likes porn!

Amy: What’s your favourite sex toy?

Lina: Wands of all kinds, and buttplugs. Please don’t make me choose just one!

Amy: Oh, god, yes I’m a wand girl too. Wands are life. Anyway, what’s one thing you really wish people outside of it understood about the adult industry?

Lina: That this is a job like any other. The only thing that sets porn aside from other industries is the traditional shame we culturally attach to everything related to sex and sexuality. That’s incredibly harmful for how we all see ourselves as sexual beings and how stigma and discrimination can go a long way into marginalization and even the death of those who choose porn as a career. It’s time to press fast-forward to 2018 and leave this centuries-old, harmful, puritanical nonsense behind!
***************
Amy again! Thank you so much to Lina and the Ersties crew for taking the time to tell us all about their work and industry. I’m so glad they’re having these conversations – we all need to talk more openly about sex, porn, consent, sexual ethics and all these deep, complex, nuanced topics. Only by talking about these things can we bust the stigma and all enjoy safer, happier, more fulfilling sex lives.
Remember to check out the podcast! If you like friendly, informal dialogue about all things sexy, led by super smart women, you’ll love this show.
This interview was kindly sponsored by The Ersties Podcast. All views, as ever, are my own.

[Guest Post] “Liberating Myself from the Confines of Sex and Love Addiction” by Taylor Morley

This post is the second installment in my “new voices in sex writing” project. This was actually the first pitched piece that I read, and it went straight into the YES pile, on the grounds that it made me cry.

Taylor’s story is extremely powerful and I think will resonate with lots of us who have had our perfectly normal and healthy sexuality and/or romantic life pathologised. I have long been in the “sex addiction is not a thing” camp, and if you want to learn more about this from an expert’s point of view, I suggest you check out Dr David Ley’s fantastic book, “The Myth of Sex Addiction.”

Now over to Taylor… 

A spilled glass of red wine with the word "love" spelled out in the spill. For a post on sex and love addiction

“Liberating Myself from the Confines of Sex and Love Addiction”

“Maybe she abuses sex as a means to cope like her dad abused alcohol,” my psychology
classmate said, as she tapped her leg against the barstool, waiting impatiently for her
second beer.

“No,” the next one said, as she hung up with her boyfriend for the third time in 15
minutes. “It sounds like she has borderline tendencies. Like, she’s not actually borderline,
she just has the borderline-like tendency to act out sexually and lose herself in each and
every partner.”

My friend inhaled as if she was about to speak. Finally, an ally coming to my defense, I
thought naively. “I think Taylor just picks the wrong men and she lets sex negatively
impact her life. She’s definitely an addict.” Then, she changed the subject to talk about
her last failed casual hookup.

I had been the subject of many armchair psychology sessions such as this one. In these
scenarios, my body served as the blank screen onto which people projected their greatest
sexual anxieties, judgments, and fears. I would often sit quietly, as I did that night,
listening to people talk around me as they attempted to diagnose and explain me away. I
suspect that it was easier for them to categorize me and squeeze me into neat little
pathological boxes than to listen to my lived experience. If I were the only broken toy in
need of repair, then no one else would have to engage in any self-examination.

At that point, I had been in recovery for over 3 years, after my therapist and psychiatrist had agreed on a diagnosis of sex and love addiction at age 21.

But I had been a part of this process, as well. The tricky thing about sex and love addiction is that you have the opportunity to diagnose yourself. You can even do it online with a vague questionnaire. In reality, this ludicrous practice opens up far too much space for people who have been shamed sexually to convince themselves that they are, in fact, damaged. When you are raised in a society that defines ‘healthy sex’ in such a narrow fashion – heterosexual, procreative, monogamous sex with cis bodies and few partners – there is far too much room for everyone else to fall into the cracks. Down I fell.

It hadn’t always been this way.

With no basis for self-love, body positivity, or confidence
in my youth, I had somehow managed to build and sustain it on my own for a few
beautiful years. As I look back on it now in adulthood, I realize how magical and unique
that was. When I was 18, I wrote in my diary that sex was “exhilarating and life
affirming.” I basked in my own glow. I noted the way my freckles curved around the
right side of my back, and named my legs as my favorite body part. I wrote with
excitement about my last sexual encounter, reveling in the limitless feeling of orgasm.

While my friends pined for monogamous relationships, I preferred casual dynamics that
spoke to my need for exploration and freedom. But that kind of authenticity and self-
assuredness had no place in a world that refused to see me as a sexually autonomous
being, especially as a young woman. My wings would have to be clipped before I
reached the sun.

In those same years before the diagnosis, I was harassed and stalked both on and offline,
slut-shamed relentlessly by friends and classmates, sexually assaulted, and victimized by
image-based abuse (also known as revenge porn) on more than one occasion. The last
encounter with image-based abuse destroyed my budding career and all of my future
ambitions when the photos were sent to current and former employers and coworkers.
These events sent me tumbling down the rabbit hole of self-loathing, which had been the
goal all along. Once I had convinced myself that sex was negatively impacting my career
and relationships, I surrendered to the label of sex and love addict.

I went through the 12 steps, making amends to friends and loved ones, apologizing for “acting out” and allowing my quest for sex to overrule my life.

I examined past traumas, attended women-only meetings as often as possible, and took the program seriously. But as the years drudged on, questions and doubts loomed in the back of my mind. Why were straight and bisexual women overrepresented in all of these recovery meetings? Why were men defined as sex addicts, while women were always identified as sex and love addicts? If the scientific community had never legitimized this addiction, why were we so convinced that these diagnoses were correct? How could doctors even diagnose someone with a condition that did not exist in the DSM? These questions were left unanswered in meeting rooms, and they were always met with pushback and anger, as if I had pulled the rug out from underneath us all.

The underlying, bare bones message from clinicians and fellow addicts were the same:
“We see that you enjoy sex, but you don’t seem to feel an adequate level of remorse or
self-disgust about it.” The brazenness and the confidence, the casual nature of my
relationships – these were the attitudes and behaviors that needed to be fixed, or
eliminated entirely. While other people in the program insisted that recovery would bring
freedom from shame, I could not taste the independence. Instead, this so-called
‘recovery’ was a pillow held firmly over my face, suffocating me with shame. Every
subsequent sexual experience was an exercise in self-flagellation. Whenever I looked at a
man and felt a mere twinge of lust, or yearned for a casual encounter, I berated myself
internally for falling back into toxic behaviors and ran off to a meeting with my head
hung low.

When society grows tired of policing women’s sexual activity, they teach us to
police ourselves, and I was monitoring my own behavior so closely, no one else had to
weigh in. It was a dull, colorless existence, and it only served to exacerbate the
depression that was already simmering underneath.

If authenticity was my goal – and it was – I would have to liberate myself.

The first step was to exit the program and leave the sex and love addict identity behind. I sought out a sex therapist that had worked with other defectors from the program, and over the past few years, he has helped me re-learn how to have pleasurable, exhilarating, life-affirming sex without the existence of shame. It is a process that has yet to reach its
conclusion, but for the first time in over a decade, I have no interest in contorting myself
to fit into a tiny box in order to be more palatable or acceptable to society. My healthy
relationship with sex will not be explained away, or pathologized. You will just have to
sit there quietly, and listen to my lived experience.

Taylor Morley is an activist, writer, and advocate who writes and speaks on topics ranging from sexual liberation, to anti-imperialism and human rights issues. She does marketing and development for non-profit organizations in Los Angeles, where she resides with her Dorothy Parker books and her vinyl collection.

[Guest Post] “RESPECT: Find Out What It Means to Me” by LittleWelshMinx

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

A shelf of records in a store, for a guest blog on Aretha Franklin and RESPECTToday 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.

xxx

Little Welsh Minx in a masquerade mask.About LittleWelshMinx

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….

Sex – it’s not just a noun or a verb.