Five Meaningful Things To Do for World AIDS Day

December 1st is World AIDS Day. The AIDS epidemic, at its height in the 1980s and early 1990s, is still in many ways ongoing and has claimed over 35 million lives in the last ~40 years. Check out this fact sheet to learn more.

A red ribbon for a post on World AIDS Day

From the World AIDS Day website:

[World AIDS Day is] an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

Many of us, especially LGBTQ+ people, feel helpless in the face of something this huge. It scares the shit out of lots of us – and it should. AIDS was and is one of the most destructive pandemics in human history. But there is hope, too. UNAIDS have a hugely ambitious treatment plan which, if it works, will see 90% of HIV-positive people knowing their status, 90% of these on antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of these with a viral load declared “undetectable” – all by 2020.

So today I wanted to share some small but meaningful things you can do to make a difference this World AIDS Day.

1. Donate if you can

Donate to a charity that’s doing important work in the areas of HIV and AIDS. I suggest amfAR who are pioneering research into a cure, Terrence Higgins Trust who campaign and provide services connected to HIV and sexual health, or the National AIDs Trust who fight for change and champion the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.

2. Get a test and know your status

When was your last full sexual health screening? Go book one in now! If you’re sexually active, you really should be getting a test every six months at a minimum – and more often if you have multiple partners, practice unprotected sex, or regularly have anal sex. I’m fairly slutty and I have a full screening every 3 months. Knowing your status is the best way to protect yourself and your partners.

3. Smash the stigma and share factual information

See people talking shit about people with HIV, AIDS or STIs? Tired of false information? Engage in some stigma-smashing by challenging them to rethink their views and sharing some facts. People living with HIV are not dirty, sluts, immoral or stupid. HIV cannot be transmitted except via infected blood or sexual fluids (or to infants via breast milk). It cannot be passed on through kissing, skin-to-skin contact, sharing food or drinks, water fountains, toilet seats, mosquitoes, saliva, sweat, or modern blood transfusions. This handy guide is useful to share.

4. Stock up on sexual health supplies

As many people as possible practicing safer sex is one of our greatest weapons against HIV/AIDS. Make sure you’re well-stocked with condoms, dams and gloves, as appropriate to the types of sex you have. If you can’t afford to buy supplies, ask your doctor or sexual health provider where you can access them for free. Remember to check your condoms and dams before using to make sure they’re still in date!

Pro tip: Gay bars/clubs and sexuality-focused events often give out safer sex supplies as freebies. If you go to any of these, don’t be scared to claim some for yourself! I used to go out to gay bars so often I don’t think I paid for condoms until I was 24.

5. Wear your red ribbon

The red ribbon is the internationally-recognised symbol of HIV/AIDS awareness and advocacy. Here’s a useful list of where to get them in the UK. If you can afford to, you can also buy a brooch version and support NAT’s work.

What are you doing to support World AIDS Day and show solidarity with people affected by HIV all over the world?

Image from Pixabay. Contains an affiliate link.

It IS [Mostly] All About the Sex

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

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

A pair f black lace panties lying on the floor next to two condom packets, one torn open. For a post about people saying BDSM is not about sex

I do it because it gets me off.

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

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

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

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

What’s wrong with sex anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heads up: this post contains an affiliate link.

The image featured in this post was offered for use via Creative Commons Licensing.

Toxic: Ingredients to Avoid In Your Lube

There are a lot – a LOT – of sexual lubricants available on the market today. Go into any sex shop and you’re likely to see rows upon rows of them. How do you even begin to know which to choose?

An old fashioned corked bottle filled with blue liquid and labelled with a skull and crossbones and the word "poison." For a post on toxic ingredients in lube

A lot of it is down to personal preference, compatibility with your particular body, and dependent upon what toys, condoms etc. you’re going to be using it with. I can’t tell you the perfect lube for you. What I can do, though, is point out some toxic ingredients commonly found in commercial sexual lubricants (as well as toy cleaning solutions, if those are a thing you use) which we would all be well advised to avoid.

1. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate

What it is: Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth (ether) sulphate (SLES) are additives found in everything from household cleaning products to cosmetics. They’re what creates that foamy/lathery appearance and also used for their cleaning properties.

Why it’s toxic:
SLS is a skin irritant. SLES is somewhat less irritating (which is why it’s the one you’ll more commonly see in personal care products) but it’s no less toxic. It also cannot be metabolised by the liver. Like many chemicals, these are absorbed into the body from skin application and both can cause damage to the skin, hair follicles, eyes and even the liver. In the body SLS can mimic the function of Oestrogen, possibly contributing to a range of hormonal problems from PMS to lowered fertility to increased risk of breast cancer.

2. Parabens

What they are: Parabens (butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben) are preservatives. They are commonly used to prevent bacteria growth in cosmetics and other products.

Why they’re toxic: Like SLS and SLES, they’re xenoestrogens – meaning they mimic oestrogen in the body. Oestrogen disruption has been linked to breast cancer and other reproductive issues and in a 2004 study, parabens were found in malignant tumours.  What’s more, there’s some evidence that they can be stored in the body and have an accumulative effect over time.

3. Phthalates

What they are: Pthalates are a common ingredient in cosmetics, lubes and many soft plastic or ‘jelly’ sex toys. They’re used to increase flexibility, durability and longevity in plastics. In lube and other cosmetics they can be used as binding agents or softeners.

Why they’re toxic:
Research suggests that prolonged exposure to pthalates can alter the cycles of reproductive hormones with effects including delaying or suppressing ovulation. Studies have also linked them, variously, to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, diabetes, neurodevelopmental issues and male fertility issues. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classes DEHP, a common phthalate, as a possible carcinogen. Some people have even experienced chemical burns when using products containing pthalates on their genital areas.

4. Glycerin/Glycerol

What it is: A colourless liquid found in all natural plant and animal fats, although it can also be produced synthetically. You’ll find it in lots of lubes because it is a humectant, which just means it attracts moisture to the area where it’s applied. It has a slightly sweet taste so is likely to appear in a lot of flavoured lubes in particular, but it pops up all over the place.

Why it’s toxic:
Sugars and sugar derivatives simply do not belong in your vagina. Glycerin can increase the presence of candida, and this in turn can lead to yeast infections. Best avoided, particularly if you’re prone to them.

5. Parfum/Perfume/Fragrance

What it is: It’s what makes certain products smell nice. Beyond that? We haven’t a clue – under UK law at least, “parfum” or “fragrance” is a catch-all. It could mean any combination of hundreds of different potential ingredients which do not have to be listed separately.

Why it’s toxic: If you don’t know what it is or what it’s actually made up of, then I strongly recommend not putting it in your body.

6. Any numbing agent

What it is: Typically found in lubricants designed for anal sex, ingredients like benzocaine or lidocaine are basically anaesthetic agents. They’re used to partially, or even completely, numb the area they’re applied to.

Why it’s toxic: Do I really need to spell this out? If you need a fucking anaesthetic to have sex, then THIS IS SEX YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE HAVING. These products are sold on the strength of the idea that the receiving partner (particularly a female receiving partner) doesn’t actually want to be penetrated, and that anal sex is inevitably going to be painful and unpleasant.

There may be some discomfort with anal at first – that’s normal and why going slow and using plenty of (body-safe, non-toxic, no-freaky-ingredients) lube is vital IF it’s something both parties are enthusiastically into the idea of doing. (If you’re not: don’t do it. If your partner isn’t: don’t pressure them to do it!) Even more dangerously, pain is your body’s way of signalling that something is wrong. If you can’t feel it, you won’t know if sensitive tissues are being torn. Real damage can be done this way, which at best will be uncomfortable for a few days and at worst can be a serious medical emergency. JUST SAY NO TO A NUMB BUM.

To sum up:

You read the label when choosing foods, right? Please, please do the same when choosing lube, toy cleaner and even condoms (those “delay his climax” condoms, for example? They probably contain numbing agents.)

There are really good, safe, body-friendly products out there made by amazing ethical companies. They’re worth looking for.  Ask for recommendations from those in the know, do your research, and above all READ THE LABEL.

My top pick for lube, always and forever, will be Sliquid.

I started this blog, in part, to realise my passion for informed, honest, transparent and freely available sex education for everyone. If the information here was valuable to you, please consider buying me a virtual coffee or even becoming a sexy patron. Thank you!