[Guest Post] Am I Ready to Have Sex? Questions to Ask Yourself by Tina Evans

“Am I ready to have sex?” It’s a question many of us have probably asked ourselves at one time or another, whether we came to sexuality in our teens, 20s, 30s, or later in life. You might have also wondered if you’re ready to have sex in a particular way or with a particular person.

These are very personal questions, and no-one can answer them for you. We all know that virginity is a social construct, but having sex for the first time (or the 1000th!) can still be a big deal for many of us. I know it was for me! There are, though, questions you can ask yourself to help you figure out whether you’re ready or not. That’s what this guest post by Tina Evans is all about.

Tina offers tips for folks of any age, gender, or orientation who are considering having sex for the first time. I hope you find them useful!

Amy x

Am I Ready to Have Sex? Questions to Ask Yourself by Tina Evans

So you think you’re ready for sex?

It’s natural to feel a mix of excitement and nerves. Whether you’re 18, 35, 73 or any age in between, the basics of preparation for sex are pretty similar. It’s all about respect, understanding, and care for both you and your partner. What really matters is that you feel ready and confident in your decision, without any external pressure, and that everything is consensual and respectful.

Whether you decide to explore your sexuality early or wait until later, your choice is completely valid. It’s important to honor your feelings and move at your own pace. Embracing your own timeline can lead to more meaningful and fulfilling experiences that truly match your values and readiness.

In this post, we will consider some of the different aspects of readiness for sex and invite you to ask yourself some important questions.

Emotional Readiness

Understanding Your Motivations

Reflecting on your motivations is crucial. Are you seeking to express love, explore pleasure, or deepen a connection, or are you feeling pressured by peers, media, or your partner? It’s important to ensure that your desire for sex comes from a place of genuine interest and readiness rather than external influences.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I doing this because I genuinely want to?
  • Am I trying to meet someone else’s expectations?
  • Am I trying to fit in with friends or societal norms?

Comfort with Your Body

Being comfortable with your body means accepting and understanding your physical self. This includes being familiar with your own anatomy, knowing what feels good for you (which you can learn about through self-touch), and being able to communicate this to your partner. It’s also about body confidence—feeling good about how you look and embracing your body as it is.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I know what I like and dislike sexually?
  • Am I comfortable being naked in front of someone else?
  • Do I feel positive about my body and its sensations?

Emotional Stability

Sex can trigger a range of emotions, from joy and excitement to vulnerability and anxiety. It’s important to be in a stable emotional state where you can handle these emotions. Emotional stability also means being able to process and discuss any feelings that arise afterward, whether they are positive or negative.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I generally emotionally balanced and secure?
  • Can I handle potential emotional ups and downs?
  • Am I prepared to discuss my feelings openly with my partner?

Maturity to Handle Consequences

Sex has potential emotional, physical, and relational consequences. Being mature enough to understand and deal with these consequences is key to readiness. This includes being prepared for the responsibilities of contraception, the risk of STIs, and the emotional impact of sexual intimacy.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I understand the potential risks involved in sex?
  • Am I prepared to take responsibility for contraception and STI prevention?
  • Can I handle the possible emotional outcomes?

Communication and Consent

Open Communication

Being able to discuss your feelings, desires, and boundaries openly and honestly with your partner is essential. Honest communication ensures mutual understanding and respect, and it helps build a foundation of trust. This means having conversations about what you’re comfortable with, what you’re curious about, and what your boundaries are.

Ask yourself:

  • Can I talk openly with my partner about sex?
  • Do we have mutual respect and understanding?
  • Are we comfortable discussing our boundaries and desires?

Understanding and Giving Consent

Consent must be clear, informed, enthusiastic, and ongoing. Both you and your partner should freely agree to the sexual activity without any coercion or pressure. Consent is about mutual agreement and respect for each other’s boundaries and comfort levels.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I fully understand what consent means?
  • Am I able to give and receive enthusiastic consent?
  • Do I respect my partner’s right to withdraw consent at any time?

Physical Readiness

Safer Sex Practices

Understanding and practicing safer sex is essential to protect yourself and your partner from STIs and unintended pregnancies. This might involve using condoms, using other barriers such as dental dams and gloves, discussing contraception options, and getting tested for STIs. It’s important to have this knowledge and to be prepared to implement it.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I know how to safely use condoms and other forms of contraception?
  • Have I discussed STI testing with my partner?
  • Am I committed to practicing safer sex every time?

Comfort with the Setting

The environment where you have sex should feel safe and comfortable. This helps reduce anxiety and create a positive experience. It should be a private space where you feel secure and relaxed, free from interruptions and distractions.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the location private and comfortable?
  • Do I feel safe and relaxed in this setting?
  • Have I made sure there will be no interruptions?

Personal Considerations

No Pressure

Your decision to have sex should be entirely your own, without any external pressure from partners, friends, or societal expectations. It’s important to make this choice based on your own readiness and desire, not because you feel you should or need to.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I making this decision for myself?
  • Do I feel pressured by anyone to have sex?
  • Am I confident in my own desire to have sex?

Positive Feelings

You should feel positive and excited about the prospect of having sex, rather than anxious or uncertain. It’s normal to feel a bit nervous, but the overall feeling should be one of anticipation and readiness.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I more excited than nervous about having sex?
  • Do I have positive feelings about the potential experience?
  • Is my excitement outweighing any anxiety?

Support System

Having a support system of trusted friends, family, or mentors can provide valuable guidance and reassurance. They can offer a safe space to discuss your feelings and any questions you might have, and they can help you navigate this new experience with confidence.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I have people I can talk to about my feelings and questions?
  • Can I rely on my support system for guidance and reassurance?
  • Do I feel supported in my decisions?

Am I Ready to Have Sex? Further Self-Reflection Questions

Here are some expanded questions for self-reflection to help determine if you are ready:

Why do I want to have sex?

Ensure your motivations are based on your own desires and readiness, not external pressures.

Do I feel pressured in any way?

Reflect on whether you’re feeling any pressure from your partner, peers, or societal norms.

Do I feel emotionally ready and stable?

Assess your emotional state and readiness to manage the potential emotional impact of sex.

Am I comfortable discussing sex, desires, and boundaries with my partner?

Ensure you can have open, honest conversations about your boundaries, desires, and consent.

Do I understand the importance of consent and safer sex?

Make sure you have a clear understanding of consent and the practices of safe sex.

Am I prepared for the possible emotional and physical consequences of sex?

Be ready to handle the potential emotional and physical outcomes of sexual activity.

Ultimately, “am I ready to have sex?” is a question only you can answer. Deciding when you’re ready for your first sexual experience is a deeply personal choice that involves introspection and self-awareness. It’s essential to feel confident and secure in your decision, ensuring that it aligns with your genuine desires and readiness.

This journey is unique for everyone, and there’s no right or wrong timeline. Embrace your individuality, prioritise your comfort and well-being, and respect your own pace. When the time feels right for you, approach the experience with an open heart and mind, fostering a positive and meaningful connection with your partner.

The act of experiencing sex for the first time can be as big a deal as you want it to be. For me, it was something I chose to get over and done with. I didn’t think about if I was ready, I didn’t prepare myself. And while I wouldn’t go back and change any of my life experiences, I would have liked to be more prepared emotionally.

About Tina:

I’m a cynical yet hopelessly hopeful romantic. I fell in love with reading as a child who wrote poetry as an angst filled teenager. As an adult, I’ve immersed myself in all genres of romance fiction but I enjoy the occasional biography and psychological thriller too. I currently write contemporary romance with a feminist edge, featuring relatable characters and situations. When I’m not writing, I can be found spoiling my fur family, trying to bake the perfect loaf of bread, or ignoring all my adult problems by losing myself in a good book.

[Toy Review] FirmTech Tech Ring

When you’re a sex writer, you occasionally send texts to your friends what would be objectively weird in any other context. I recently sent one to my dear friend SilverDom (who has kindly helped me with reviews before) that amounted to “hey, do you want to test a dick Fitbit for me?” Obviously he said yes, because who could resist such an offer? So with SD’s help, I’m pleased to be bringing you a review of the FirmTech “Tech Ring.”

What is a Tech Ring?

FirmTech’s Tech Ring was developed by Elliot Justin, MD, FACEP, an Emergency Medicine specialist, telemedicine expert and sex toy enthusiast. The Tech Ring is a cock ring with a difference: this high-tech device features various sensors which gather information about the wearer’s penis health. It then connects with an app on your smartphone, allowing you to review and interpret this data.

FirmTech Tech Ring on its charging stand

FirmTech Tech Ring smart cock ring

So yes: it’s like a fitness tracker… but for your penis. I will never stop getting joy from calling it the “dick Fitbit.”

The Tech Ring has a penoscrotal design, meaning that it it wraps around both the testicles and shaft of the penis. It provides light pressure on the urethra (which some people say makes their orgasms more intense.) With an incredible 8-10 hour battery life and comfort-focused design, it’s suitable to wear for several hours or even overnight. And, of course, you can also wear it during sex.

I thought it would be easiest to show you how the Tech Ring is designed to be worn. To that end, I took a picture with the assistance of my Valm Triple Density Silicone Dildo:

FirmTech Tech Ring cock ring wrapped around a bright orange and pink silicone dildo

The Tech Ring comes packaged in an attractive circular box. It’s not unlike the sort of packaging you’d expect a fancy smartwatch or piece of tech to come in. Inside, you’ll find the Tech Ring, its USB charger, an extra sleeve, a travel pouch, and an instruction manual.

The Tech Ring is not waterproof (though it is splashproof) and it is compatible with all water-based lubes. You can take the sensor out of the sleeve to clean it, but it’s really fiddly to get it back in and there’s also the risk of ripping the material so I wouldn’t recommend doing this any more often than you really need to.

Why Would You Need So Much Information About Your Penis and Erections?

Please note that I am not a doctor or any kind of medical professional. I am sharing the facts as I understand them based on the available data, but please do not take anything in this review as any kind of medical advice. If you have concerns about any aspect of your health (sexual or otherwise) or are not sure whether a product like the Tech Ring is right for you, consult your doctor.

According to FirmTech: “number of nocturnal erections a man[1] has during REM sleep is predictive of vascular health.” They also state that “There is a very strong link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease. Several studies have shown that if a man[1] has ED, he has a greater risk of having heart disease.”

Did you know that? Because I didn’t.

You’ll also be able to learn how various factors, such as medications, alcohol, recreational drug use, and exercise play a role in your erectile health. This can help you to make more informed decisions about your health and lifestyle.

In other words, understanding your erectile and penile health is one way into a broader understanding of other aspects of your health. Pretty cool. This product is also endorsed by various medical doctors and urologists, so I feel pretty confident in saying that it’s not just a gimmick and the science stands up to scrutiny.

Of course, if sex is important to you – as it is to most of us! – the Tech Ring can also give you a bunch of interesting information about your sex life and sexual wellness.

[1] I don’t love the gendered language here. Apparently it’s been used so as not to turn off older men from the product. I have a general policy against gendered language which is why I’ve used “penis owner”/”person with a penis” throughout this review.

How Does It Function as a Cock Ring?

On their most basic level, cock rings do one thing: they help to keep blood inside the shaft of the penis, allowing the penis-owner to maintain a firmer erection for longer. They can also be very pleasurable to wear. Many different iterations, including vibrating cock-rings and even remote control ones, are now available.

But how does the Tech Ring stack up as a cock ring?

The exterior of the Tech Ring is made of medical-grade elastomer. It’s unclear whether this material is porous – the information I could find online was conflicting – but it is body-safe for external use.

When I first published this review, I said that I couldn’t see why the product wasn’t silicone. However, I’ve since spoken again to a member of the team and it turns out there’s a great reason for this!

Silicone is too tight and inelastic a material to be worn for hours. That’s why, when you see ordinary cock rings for sale, the advice is typically to wear them for no more than 30 minutes. Silicone can also choke off the arterial flow into the penis, meaning that silicone rings should be put on when already erect. Trials were conducted with silicone but elastomer was found to be both far safer and more comfortable for overnight wear.

FirmTech Tech Ring smart cock ring

The material feels flimsy and gathers lint and dust something awful, meaning that it starts to look dull and dirty again moments after washing it. It also has a slightly gummy texture that I don’t find particularly pleasant. Unfortunately, elastomer just isn’t as durable as some materials and there is already an area on the back of my Tech Ring where it’s starting to degrade and split.

The FirmTech tech ring’s material is very stretchy and gives a light but noticeable pressure when worn. If you have a girthier penis, though, the Tech Ring may be too small for you. The site says that it will comfortably fit anyone “except above 95% in girth.” SD reported finding it too tight to wear for a long period of time.

If you want your Tech Ring tighter for sexual pleasure purposes, though, you can just use the loop or a twist to tighten it. Never do this for overnight or long-term wear.

This product is not primarily designed for pleasure, and it shows. And that’s fine – I would never advocate spending close to $300 on a simple cock-ring! But if you’re primarily looking for something to increase pleasure during sex, this isn’t it.

How’s the App Functionality?

The FirmTech app is free to download for Apple or Android. First you’ll need to set up an account. When you do this, the app asks for data such as your height, weight, and date of birth as well as whether you have certain health conditions, drink alcohol, or use recreational drugs. You can choose to skip these questions if you’d prefer.

Warning: if you input your weight and height, a BMI chart will pop up and tell you whether you’re “underweight”, “healthy,” “overweight”, or “obese.” I hate this. Not only because it can be really triggering to people who suffer with body image struggles or disordered eating (hello!) but also because BMI is a massively flawed system.

You can then do something called the “Sexual Health Inventory for Men” which consists of a few short questions and helps you to assess your erectile fitness and identify whether you have any current or potential erectile dysfunction issues. Then, once you start using the Tech Ring, you’ll get access to information such as a “firmness score”, your average number of nocturnal erections, and your total number of erections per week.

Screenshot from the FirmTech app

(Screenshot shared without any actual data for privacy.)

Once you’ve set up your account, it’s time to connect the toy. This should only take seconds. Simply turn on the toy by pressing the power button once and then select “pair” in the app.

SD reported some issues with getting the app to connect to the device. He says: “Once charged, I was initially unable to get the device to pair with my phone. The blue light came on to indicate it was ready to pair, but no connection was ever estabished. In the end, I had to delete and reinstall the app and everything worked as it should”. When I tried it on my end, it worked the first time.

The app is fast and responsive, and becomes more and more useful the more you use it. I also found it fairly straightforward and intuitive to use once I’d taken a few minutes to learn what all the different functions did.

Using the FirmTech Tech Ring During Sex

One of the main selling points of the FirmTech Tech Ring is that you can wear it during sexual activity, including partnered sex and masturbation. Before you begin, simply set your ring to record a “session” and then masturbate or have sex as you normally would.

Screenshot from the FirmTech app

You can then use this data to make comparisons and use it to inform your health decisions. If you experience firm nocturnal erections but struggle to stay hard during sex, for example, that indicates that the problem is likely psychological. A declining number of nocturnal erections, decreased firmness or decreased duration can all indicate potential health problems. (They don’t necessarily, though – so it’s important not to panic and to ask your doctor if you have concerns.)

The Tech Ring is small and unobtrusive enough to not get in the way during sex. In fact, if you’re wearing it correctly and it fits you properly, you’ll likely barely even notice you’re wearing it.

Verdict

Retailing for $275, the Tech Ring is a pretty expensive piece of kit. If you’re just looking for a cock ring, skip it and get something much (much) cheaper.

I don’t really think the Tech Ring is a sex toy, to be honest. I’m just categorising it in that way for ease of publishing this review in the absence of a better option. It’s actually really more of a wellness device or a health tracker.

As a sex toy, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. But as a health tracker, I actually think it’s pretty damn cool! As with any technology like this, you’d have to use it very regularly to enjoy its full benefits. But if you’re suffering from any kind of ED issues, want to keep track of your erectile health, or are just curious, it can offer you a wealth of data.

I’d love to see the next iteration drop the gendered language on the website and marketing materials. Also: this is an admittedly small gripe, but the print on the provided instruction flyer is tiny. I have near perfect eyesight and I still had to squint to read it.

Thanks to FirmTech for sponsoring this review and to SilverDom for helping out with the testing! All views are, as always, my own.

4 Anal Sex Myths You Should Stop Believing

Anal sex is probably one of the most misunderstood sex acts of all. It carries an allure for a lot of people, whether they want to be on the giving end or the receiving end or both. However, it also scares a lot of people. This is, in part, due to incorrect assumptions and beliefs. Anal sex myths can scare people off who might otherwise be interested in trying this type of play. They can also lead people to engage in dangerous behaviours or take unnecessary risks due to a lack of knowledge.

Here at C&K, we’re all about fact-based and non-stigmatising information. So let’s bust some anal sex myths, shall we?

Anal sex always hurts

This is perhaps one of the most harmful anal sex myths, and actually likely leads to more avoidable pain and injuries. After all, if you think anal is supposed to hurt you’ll be more likely to push through pain, which can be dangerous. In fact, though anal can be intense and some mild discomfort can be normal, pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong.

With proper lubrication, warm-up, enthusiastic consent, and communication with your partner, anal sex does not need to be – and should not be – painful. If something hurts it’s time to adjust, add more lube, or stop for now.

And by the way: those “numbing” or “desensitizing” lubes designed for anal sex? Avoid them at all costs. The ingredients in them can be harmful, they increase your risk of injury, and (frankly) if you have to numb your body to engage in a particular sex act, then you probably shouldn’t be doing that thing at all.

Anal sex isn’t pleasurable for the bottom

This particular myth always strikes me as really sad, particularly when I see questions from people who are trying to grit their teeth and force themselves into anal sex they don’t want to please their partner.

Anal sex isn’t pleasurable for everyone and, if you don’t enjoy it, then you shouldn’t do it! However, if you do want to, it can be just as pleasurable for the bottom (the person being penetrated) as for the top (the person doing the penetrating.) Think about it: if anal sex wasn’t pleasurable for the receptive partner, why would anal sex toys such as butt plugs and prostate massagers be so popular?

One of the reasons that anal sex can feel so pleasurable for cis men and other people assigned male at birth is due to the prostate. Approximately the size and shape of a walnut, this gland is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is responsible for producing some of the fluid in semen and, when stimulated, it is incredibly sensitive.

However, anal sex isn’t all about the prostate, and can be just as pleasurable for receptive partners who do not have one. There are still tonnes of highly sensitive nerve endings in and around the butt, which can feel incredible. And, of course, it is located close to the genitals. According to a 2022 study on (cis) women’s experiences of anal pleasure: “[the anus] contains a dense network of sensory nerves that participate with the genitals in the engorgement, muscular tension and contractions of sexual arousal and orgasm.”

Yes, it’s even possible for some people to have an orgasm from anal sex without any direct stimulation of the genitals! Aren’t bodies awesome?

Anal sex is only for gay men (or: all gay men have anal sex)

Wrong on both counts! Many of the most common anal sex myths centre on sexual orientation, from who engages in it to what it means about your sexuality if you do.

Firstly, anal sex is for anyone who wants to have it. We all have a butt, after all! Liking or not liking anal sex doesn’t imply a single thing about your sexuality. Your sexual orientation is about who you’re attracted to, not which acts you want to do.

Also, not all men who have sex with men (MSM) have anal sex. One 2011 survey of almost 25,000 gay and bisexual men in the US found that only 35% of respondents had had anal sex during their last sexual encounter. Some queer men do it regularly, some do it occasionally, and some never do it at all. All of this is completely normal and awesome.

You can’t get pregnant, so anal sex is safe sex

It’s true, of course, that a person cannot become pregnant from anal sex. This doesn’t mean, though, that anal is a risk-free form of sex.

In fact, when it comes to the transmission of STIs, unprotected anal sex is actually riskier than most other kinds of sexual activity including unprotected vaginal sex. However, it’s easy to mitigate this risk with a few basic precautions.

The best way to protect yourself and your partner(s) is to use a condom every time you have anal sex. If you choose to go barrier-free for anal – which I only recommend in the context of an ongoing relationship with someone you trust – make sure that both you and your partner(s) are having regular sexual health screenings.

You might also want to ask your healthcare provider if pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is suitable for you. PrEP is a daily medication for people at risk of exposure to HIV, whether through sex or through drug use. According to the CDC, it reduces the risk of contracting HIV through sex by about 99% when used as directed.

Have questions about anal sex? Not sure if something you’ve heard is accurate? Let me know and I’ll try to answer them in a future post.

FYI: this post was sponsored. All writing and views are, as always, entirely my own.

Sluttier in Theory: Swinging, Casual Sex and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Sexuality is Complicated

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

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

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

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

Sexual Health Fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vulnerability is Fucking Hard

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

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

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

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

So… What Now?

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

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

Open Advice from Me to Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breathe. You’re doing fine.

Amy x

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6 Things Not to Do If You Want to Have Anal Sex Successfully

I think I’ve said before that I have a complicated relationship with anal sex. I was pressured to engage in it at a young age, long before I was ready. As a result, I pretty much shut it down and made it a hard limit in subsequent relationships. I did eventually explore it again, and even discovered that I quite liked it!

Nowadays, anal is only an occasional part of my sex life. I have to be really in the mood, and my body and brain have to be cooperating at the same time. But when the stars align enough for me to want to do it, I typically really enjoy it. Apart from the obvious and huge factor of being with safe and respectful partners, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way that have improved my relationship with anal sex enormously.

I recently learned that “Anal August” is apparently a thing. So in recognition of that, here are six things to be aware of – and six mistakes not to make – if you want to have anal sex of any kind successfully. (Note: my definition of “successful” anal sex is anything that is consensual, pleasurable, and safe for all parties involved. Beyond that, you do you. We don’t do prescriptive around here.)

Don’t Skimp on the Lube

We all know that we need to use tonnes and tonnes of lube to have anal sex successfully, right? Well, you probably need even more lube than you think. No, add a bit more. No, more than that. Okay, now you’re good. If things don’t feel slippery wet, you’re probably not using enough. If anything is hurting, catching, or you can feel a lot of friction, you’re definitely not using enough.

It’s also a good idea to keep adding lube regularly, particularly if you’re using water-based as it will dry up after a while. I like silicone lube for anal sex because it’s so slippery and lasts ages (but remember it’s not a good idea to use silicone lube with silicone toys.)

A bonus tip: please never, ever use “numbing” or “desensitising” lube. Pain is your body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong. If you can’t feel it, you may not notice if you’re being harmed until it’s too late. Plus, anal sex is supposed to be pleasurable! If you’re numbing your body to get through it, please consider whether it’s something you are even truly desiring or consenting to. Seriously, these products should not exist and can get in the fucking bin.

Don’t Rush

Apart from lube, the number one key to enjoying anal play is to go slowly. This means not rushing into it before or unless you’re ready. It also means exploring one step at a time, with no pressure.

You probably won’t get an entire penis or dildo in your butt the first time you try anal sex. That’s totally normal. Even if you only get the tip of one finger inside, that’s a success as long as you had a good time. I say this all the time with kink, but it’s true for any kind of sex: it is always better to end a session thinking “I’d like to do more next time” than to end it thinking “fuck, I went too far.”

Don’t forget about exploring externally, too. Anal play isn’t all about penetration! There’s a reason rimming (oral sex performed on the anus) is so popular. That entire area is really sensitive and having it stroked, licked, or teased can feel really good. Even just running a lubed-up finger across the anal opening can provide an intensely erotic sensation.

Don’t Restrict Yourself to Hands and Dicks

Anal sex toys are often erroneously categorised as “for men.” This is problematic in a couple of ways. First, “sex toys for men” is usually used synonymously with “for people with dicks.” And by now we all know that not everyone with a penis is a man, don’t we? Aside from this, everyone has a butt! Some anal toys are designed specifically to stimulate the prostate. And it’s true that if you were assigned female at birth, you don’t have a prostate. However, no matter what type of genitals you have, the butt is packed with nerve endings and sensitive spots that feel really good when stimulated.

What I’m really saying is: get yourself some butt toys! They can be a great way to start out, explore anal play solo, or expand your repertoire with a partner.

If you’ve never done anal play before, start with a mini butt plug (I like Godemiche’s Plug B in small) and work your way up. After that, you can try a larger plug or a small slimline dildo. I like the Godemiche Peg for a beginner anal dildo or just as a great option for those who prefer smaller and slimmer toys. And if you’d like to fuck your partner anally but don’t have (or don’t want to use) a bio-cock, a good strap-on harness should be on your shopping list.

Don’t forget vibrating toys, too! Kiiroo’s Lumen (currently 30% off for Anal August) and B-Vibe’s rimming plugs are great choices.

Don’t Put Pressure on Yourself or Your Partner

Pressure, whether self-imposed or placed upon you by someone else, is one of the ultimate libido killers. It also erodes consent, since a person who is being pressured may not feel able to say yes or no to an activity freely.

If you’d like to have anal sex with your partner, raise it and see how they feel about it. They may say no, in which case you need to respect that. You might decide to explore on your own to scratch that itch, using anal toys such as butt plugs, dildos, or butt strokers. They might be enthusiastic and all for it. Or they might be open to it but nervous or hesitant. Wherever they are, meet them there with love and acceptance.

Treat yourself in the same way. You don’t need to feel any pressure to have anal sex for any reason. Some people feel pressured because a partner really wants to try anal, because they worry they will be seen as prudish or uptight if they don’t, or because they think it is a “standard” part of their sexual orientation (fun fact: according to a 2011 survey of men who have sex with men, less than 40% reported engaging in anal sex with their last sexual partner. Many never do it at all.)

For any kind of sexual exploration, a safe and pressure-free environment is vital as a base from which to explore.

Don’t Forget Sexual Health

Like all kinds of sex, anal sex carries a risk of passing on a sexually transmitted infection (STI.) Current data also indicates that it is a higher risk activity than vaginal, oral, toy, or hand sex. The best ways to keep yourself and your partner safe are to get tested regularly, negotiate your safer sex boundaries clearly, and use a condom for penetrative anal sex.

Don’t forget that rimming, like any other forms of oral sex, can carry an STI risk. Depending on your safer sex boundaries, you may wish to use a dam (or cut up condom) for rimming.

Hand sex is low risk for STI transmission, but it is still possible. Being diligent with hand washing, and using gloves if you like, can lower the risk further (and using gloves is essential if you have any open cuts on your hands.)

Anal sex with hands can also facilitate a transfer of bacteria even if you are both/all STI-negative. If you’re switching between anal and genital stimulation with hands, change gloves or wash your hands in between. Even a freshly washed butt can transmit bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections and other complications, particularly for people with vaginas.

For the same reasons, never go from anal to vaginal penetration with the same penis or dildo without having a thorough wash or sterilising the toy in between.

Don’t Stress If It’s Not For You

Like anything else, anal sex isn’t for everyone. You might reflect and decide that you have no interest in trying it, now or possibly ever. That’s cool! You might try it and realise you don’t like it. That’s fine, too! You’ve learned valuable information about yourself!

What do you wish you’d known before you tried to have anal sex?

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What You Need to Know About Sex Toys, Sexual Health, and STIs

Today’s post about sexual health, STIs, and sex toys was chosen by my supporters over on Patreon. If you want to support me and get some cool perks, head on over and join at any level. If you want to vote on future content for the blog, join at the $3 tier or above.

DISCLAIMER: please note that while this post draws on current scientific understanding of sexual health, I am NOT a medical professional and nothing in this post should be construed as medical advice or a substitute for such.

The first time I went to a sexual health clinic for an STI test, I was 19 and had been in a consensually non-monogamous relationship for about six months. When I awkwardly told the practitioner that I had sex with women as well as men (a reductive view of gender, of course, but my knowledge wasn’t anywhere near where it is today!) they cautioned me never to share toys with fellow vagina-owning partners.

Looking back, there were a couple of problems with this. First, “don’t share toys” is both unrealistic and unnecessary advice. The truth is more nuanced and less absolute than that. Second, why did they only offer this- albeit incorrect – advice when I said I was sleeping with women? People of all genders and in all types of relationship configurations use sex toys.

To that end, I thought it was time to bust some myths. So let’s look at the truth about STIs and sexual health when using toys, shall we?

You Can’t Transmit an STI via Sex Toys, Right!?

Sorry to break it to you, but you can. What you cannot do is get an STI spontaneously from using a sex toy alone. That’s impossible.

If a person who has a sexually transmitted infection (STI) uses a toy and then shares it with a non-infected partner, though, that person can contract the infection. This applies to STIs that spread via bodily fluids (such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluid) and those that spread via skin-to-skin contact. If you’re doing anal play, there’s an additional risk for infections that spread through fecal matter such as Hepatitis A, B, and C. It also applies to conditions such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) and yeast infections, by the way, though these aren’t STIs.

Most STIs cannot live for very long outside the body. However, this may still be longer than you think! One study showed that Human Papillomavirus (HPV) was still present on thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) sex toys 24 hours later after cleaning in 40% of cases. Other infections can last anything from minutes to hours or, rarely, days or weeks outside the body. This means that sharing a toy in quick succession is the highest risk activity. However, you’re still potentially at risk if you share an unsterilised toy even some time later.

An aside for the kinksters: if you are using toys that can break the skin (such as whips, floggers, and so on) then be aware that STIs can be transmitted through blood if you are using the toy on more than one person. Once a toy has blood on it, the most sensible thing is to consider it as belonging exclusively to that person. And if you play with rope, ropes that touch naked genitals or get sexual fluids on them should either be washed (if possible) or used exclusively on that person from then on.

Washing Your Toys is Not Enough

I feel like I bang on about this all the time, and especially in my sex toy workshops: washing a sex toy and sterilising it are not the same thing. Remember that HPV study I linked above? Those TPE toys had been washed! On silicone toys, HPV was present immediately after cleaning in 44% of cases. It was not present after 24 hours. This disparity may be due to the fact that TPE is porous and silicone is not.

Washing your toys after each use is a great thing to do, and I encourage it. This applies even if you’re the only person using them. Unclean toys can cause all kinds of problems for your body. However, washing your toy may not be enough to prevent STI transmission if you are sharing it.

The only way to be sure that a non-porous toy is STI-free is to sterilise it. This might include boiling, using a 10% bleach solution, or using a sterile medical wipe. I wrote an in-depth guide to cleaning and sterilising sex toys for Godemiche. Read it here.

One of the biggest problems with porous sex toys, and the reason I do not recommend them, is that they can never be fully sterilised. This means that they can harbour bacteria in the material itself. This is not just an STI transmission risk, but also incredibly unhygienic even if only one person is using the toy. If you must use a porous toy, always use a barrier such as a condom.

So What Can We Do to Stay Safe?

None of this is to say you shouldn’t share toys at all. If you know what you’re doing and take a few basic precautions, it’s actually one of the lower-risk forms of partnered sex. It’s also hot as fuck, obviously.

So what do you need to know in order to protect your own and others’ sexual health? If you’ve been reading my work for some time, you know what I’m going to say.

Go for an STI test regularly (between every 3 months and every year depending on how many partners you have.) Know your status. Talk openly about sexual health with each of your partners. Make agreements on what barriers you will and won’t use for each activity, including when using toys. Approach shared toy use like any other sexual activity. Negotiate it, do not assume it is 100% risk-free, and default to caution if you have any worries.

You can further reduce your risk by understanding how to fully sterilise your sex toys and choosing only non-porous materials (such as silicone, stainless steel, glass, and ABS plastic). Use barriers on shared toys if they are porous or if you have not negotiated that level of fluid exchange with the relevant partner(s.)

If you’re really cautious, it’s fine to just agree that each person will have their own toys for use on them exclusively. The downside of this, of course, is the expense. The most important thing is to educate yourself so that you can make the most sensible decisions for yourself and your partner(s.)

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Why I’m No Longer Using the Term “Fluid Bonding”

Today’s blog topic about why I’m rejecting the term “fluid bonding” was chosen by my patrons over on Patreon! If you’d like to support my work, you can do so for as little as $1 per month. Support at the $3 tier or above, and you’ll get to vote on future content too!

In the decade and a half I’ve been non-monogamous, I’ve had numerous conversations about so-called “fluid bonding.” I’ve negotiated the circumstances under which it is okay, not-okay, and maybe-okay to do it in various relationships. I have discussed the potential risks brought about by myself, my partners, or even my metamours choosing to fluid bond in certain relationships, and how those impacted might protect their sexual health. I’ve had literally hundreds of conversations involving this subject.

And I’m rejecting the term. When I talk about barriers, safer sex practices, and sexual health, I will no longer be using the term “fluid bonding.”

Here’s why.

“Fluid Bonding” is Vague

If you ask ten polyamorous people what “fluid bonding” means, most of them will probably tell you something like “having sex without barriers.” In practice, though, the term “fluid bonding” is far more specific in its widely accepted meaning than that. When most people say it, they are referring to the act of having penetrative penis-in-vagina (or, less commonly, penis-in-anus) sex without a condom.

Under this definition, I have only ever “fluid bonded” with two people in my entire life, including my current nesting partner. But that feels like a ridiculous, reductive, and wildly inaccurate assessment of how I have had sex over the years.

Notice I said most people use the term this way. Not all. And I’ve definitely seen instances where people thought they were on the same page about its meaning, leading to hurt and even feelings of violation and betrayal when it turned out they were not.

When we assume we all use a term in the same way, miscommunications are inevitable. Nowadays, if a partner or prospective partner tell me they’re “fluid bonded” with this or that person, or expresses a desire to fluid bond with me, I’m going to be asking far more questions rather than assuming I know what they mean.

“Fluid Bonding” Makes it Harder to Have Accurate Safer Sex Conversations

Here’s the reality: semen is one bodily fluid, but not the only one. And semen going into a vagina is just one way of sharing bodily fluids in a sexual relationship (and one way you can transmit an STI.)

If you’re having oral sex without a condom, dam, or other barrier, you are exhanging fluids. If you are touching your partner and then yourself with your hands (or touching more than one partner’s genitals in one session) without changing gloves or handwashing in between, you are exchanging fluids. Any kind of kink activity involving blood, such as needle play, is a fluid exchange risk. Hell, even saliva is a bodily fluid. So if we’re getting really technical about it, kissing is a form of fluid exchange (a low risk one, but some STIs can be transmitted in this way.) And that’s before we even get into the fact that for some STIs to spread, skin-to-skin contact is all you need.

I’m not telling you any of this to scare you. Quite the opposite, actually. STIs carry a heavy stigma but most of them are also easily avoidable, treatable, or manageable. I’m telling you this because having the correct information is how we can all make better choices to keep ourselves and our lovers safe and healthy. Regular testing, clear and specific negotiations about barrier use or lack thereof, and knowing the facts is how we do that.

I’ve also seen people, particularly non-monogamy newbies and those not clued up on sexual health, assume that if they are not “fluid bonded” (i.e. having unbarriered intercourse with a penis) with any of their partners, then they are free from any sexual health risk and can eschew testing. The reality is that anyone who is sexually active should be testing at least occasionally, if not regularly.

Continuing to use this term makes it harder to have accurate conversations about sexual health. It perpetuates the idea that penetrative sex with a penis is the only form of sex that carries a risk. This belief is simply inaccurate and frankly dangerous. It prevents people from being fully informed and protecting their sexual health accordingly.

“Fluid Bonding” is Heterocentric and Cissexist

Part of rejecting “fluid bonding” is tied to my broader and long-standing desire to completely decentre penetrative sex with a penis as some kind of pinnacle of sexual experience. Penis-in-vagina intercourse is one type of sex. It’s not “full” sex (look out for my rant on that subject, coming soon to a sex blog near you!) It’s not “real” sex. When we centre it above other activities in our discussions about sex, we are perpetuating cisheteronormativity.

When we talk about “fluid bonding”, we are assuming that one partner in the equation has a penis and the other has a vulva. This may or may not be true. Further, even if this does happen to be the combination of bodies we’re working with, penis-in-vagina (or anus) intercourse may or may not be a part of that couple’s sexual relationship.

This is heterocentric. It is also cissexist. In reality, relationships can include any combination of gender identities and genital types that you can think of. In reality, penetrative sex is a part of some sexual relationships but not all. And any sexual relationship likely involves at least some form of fluid exchange unless you’re covering your entire bodies in latex prior to sex and not kissing.

“Fluid Bonding” is Emotionally Loaded

If having unbarriered sex with your partners is emotionally meaningful to you, I’m not going to tell you it shouldn’t be. I also prefer to have unbarriered sex in situations where it feels safe and comfortable to do so! As I said, I’ve only had unbarriered penis-in-vagina sex with two people in my entire life. This should tell you that I do not, personally, consider it trivial.

However, I think we should be very, very careful about applying emotionally loaded terms to conversations about safer sex.

A relationship with Partner A isn’t less emotionally meaningful than a relationship with Partner B just because you use barriers with one partner and not the other. There are so many reasons you could make this choice. Perhaps one partner has much more casual sex outside of your relationship and using barriers makes you feel safer. Maybe you or one of your partners is trying to get pregnant in one relationship but not another. Perhaps one penis-owning person has had a vasectomy and another hasn’t. So many possible reasons, and none of them are “I love this person more than that person.”

With that said, some people do use so-called fluid bonding as a sign of emotional significance in a relationship. Again, I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t do this. The emotional weight you apply to sexual decisions is highly personal and up to you to negotiate with your partner(s.)

However, I believe the term “fluid bonding” automatically confers this emotional weight, whether or not the people in question believe in or experience it. That feeds into problematic (and often heteronormative and mononormative) assumptions about which sex acts do and don’t carry emotional significance.

Sex without a barrier is not inherently more connective (or “bonding”) than sex with one.

So What Am I Using Instead?

My overall goal in rejecting this term is to get far more accurate and specific in my conversations about sexual health. It might seem useful to have a shorthand but, as we’ve seen, that shorthand is so imprecise as to be functionally useless.

So instead, when negotiating sexual health, I’ll talk about what I am actually doing with whom. How many people am I having sex with? What barriers am I using or not using for which activities? How often and in which circumstances do I have casual sex, and what precautions am I taking when I do? How often do I and my partners test, and what were our most recent results? And so on.

Does it take longer? Sure. Is it a little clunkier? Yes. Can it feel more vulnerable, or even embarrassing, to get so specific? Yes. But it’s a hell of a lot more useful for everyone.

FYI: this post contains affiliate links.

So You Want to Find a Unicorn?

Spend ten seconds on any polyamory forum or Facebook group, and this question will come up. “We’ve decided to be polyamorous! He’s straight and I’m bi. How can we find a unicorn to join our relationship?” (The hapless couple might also refer to the unicorn as “a third” or, even worse, “a female.”)

The community, particularly people who have been doing this for a long time, have little patience for this phenomenon. Commenters may be fairly harsh towards the couple in question. And I get it! I too roll my eyes every time I see yet another iteration of this.

However, yelling at and berating people doesn’t help to educate them. It just turns them off and pushes them away. And it’s not as though any of us learned how to have healthy polyamorous relationships during sex ed. (Hell, most of us didn’t even learn anything useful about how to have healthy monogamous relationships!)

So I thought I’d address this issue in depth here. What is this “unicorn hunting” thing all about, why is it problematic, and what options do you have instead?

What is Unicorn Hunting, Anyway?

A “unicorn”, in polyamory[1], is a woman[2] who is willing to join a pre-existing couple to form a triad[1] relationship. It is usually understood that the relationship will be closed (i.e. no additional partners outside the triad) and that the unicorn will be expected to conform to an array of rules that the couple determined ahead of time with no input from her.

The reason this phenomenon is called “unicorn hunting” is that it’s typically so hard to find this person that she might as well be a mythological creature.

___

[1] In swinging, the term is sometimes used more broadly to refer to single women who are willing to play sexually with couples. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

[2] There is some debate in the community over whether there is any such thing as a male unicorn. Some believe there is, others believe that unicorn hunting is a strictly gendered phenomenon. I have seen a male unicorn be referred to as a “Pegasus” or a “Dragon”, but these terms don’t seem to have caught on very widely. In this post, I will sometimes use “she/her” pronouns to refer to unicorns as that is by far the most common iteration of this trope. However, the advice here applies no matter the genders of the couple or the incoming partner.

[3] Three-person romantic relationship, also sometimes called a “throuple.”

Who Am I Talking To Here?

First, let’s establish who I am not talking to in this post.

Did you have two partners, who then met and also happened to fall for each other? Or maybe you were one of two partners to a hinge person, then you also fell for your metamour. Perhaps you and your partner made a friend or started a casual sexual relationship with a lovely someone, and romantic feelings developed between all three of you. Or possibly you’re currently partnered and just open to the idea of a triad or another group relationship, if the right person comes along.

If any of these situations, or something like them, match yours then I am not talking to you. Your situation (or hypothetical situation) is what I’d call an organically formed triad. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with those!

If, however, you’re a couple who has recently (or not so recently) opened up your relationship and decided that what you really want is to find a unicorn – a bisexual woman to form a closed triad with you both, I’m talking to you. I’m going to be as kind as I can, but I’m also going to say some things you might not want to hear. I gently challenge you to make it to the end of the post with an open mind and consider whether you think I make any good points.

The purpose of this post is to educate and encourage you to think more critically about this dynamic. It is not to berate you, scold you, or push you away from the polyamorous community.

Why Do You Want This Specific Dynamic?

I have often asked couples trying to find a unicorn why they are looking for this set-up in particular. I have rarely received satisfactory answers. So before you go any further, if you’re trying to find a unicorn, please ask yourselves this question and really interrogate it. Why can’t you date separately, if polyamory is what you want? Why don’t you try swinging instead if casual sexual experiences together are your priority? What is it specifically about a closed, three-way relationship with a bisexual woman that appeals to you so much?

“It’s just what we want!” isn’t an answer, by the way.

Let’s address some of the common answers I see to this question, and my responses to them.

  • “My wife is bisexual and wants to try being with a woman.” Okay, this desire can be addressed either by swinging/casual sex or by her dating women separately.
  • “My husband says other women only, no men.” This is called a One Penis Policy (OPP) and has so many issues that I’m going to write another entire post about it. In the meantime, read this.
  • “If my partner is dating someone else separately, what am I getting out of it!?” I mean… seeing your partner happy? Supporting their joy, pleasure, and exploration? The opportunity to also date people separately yourself? Viewing non-monogamy simply through the lens of “what’s in it for me?” is unlikely to lead to happiness and can lead to seeing your partner’s other relationships as comodities for your consumption.
  • “I’d be too jealous if my partner were dating someone separately/my partner would be too jealous if I dated separately.” Oh my sweet summer child. Virtually every polyamory newbie ever has made this mistake, including me back in the day! Dating together is not a cure for jealousy, which can (and likely will) absolutely crop up in a triad or other group relationship. Also, jealousy is a normal human emotion to be felt, processed, communicated about, dealt with, or just sat with until it passes. It’s not the enemy.
  • “I don’t feel safe dating without my partner/my partner doesn’t feel safe dating without me.” You may need to do some work on regaining independence, which is absolutely possible from within a relationship. It is healthy to be able to do some things separately! There are also healthy ways to keep yourself physically, emotionally, and sexually safe while dating, but doing everything together at all times isn’t one of them.

Whatever your reasons for unicorn hunting, you are likely to find that there are better and healthier ways of addressing those needs and desires.

So What’s the Big Problem with Unicorn Hunting Anyway?

“That’s all well and good, Amy,” you might be saying, “but we’re determined to find a unicorn and we’re willing to wait if necessary! What’s wrong with what we want? Isn’t this community supposed to be open minded!?”

I hear you. It’s not nice to be told that what you’re looking for is a problem. However, the reason experienced polyamorous people are wary of unicorn hunting is that we’re all too aware of all the ways it can go wrong. Many of us have learned from very bitter personal experience, on one side or the other of this equation.

So let’s look at a few specific things that are problematic about unicorn hunting.

Unicorn Hunting Dehumanises Bi Women

Bisexual women are already aggressively and often non-consensually sexualised by society. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve mentioned being bi and someone has either said “that’s hot!” or asked if I’ll have a threesome with them and their partner.

Unicorn hunting reduces bi women to a highly sexualised monolith. The reality is that we fall all over the sexuality spectrum. Some of us are very sexual, some of us are demisexual, some of us are asexual. Some of us are into threesomes, group sex, and group dating, while others are not. And yes, plenty of us are actually monogamous!

What bisexual women are not, though, is sex toys designed to spice up the bedrooms of bored couples. The idealisation of the MFF closed triad directly stems from the male gaze, the hyper-sexualisation of bi women, and the trope that sapphic love and sex exists for male consumption.

I’m a highly sexual person. I love sex, and I love folks of multiple genders. I also love group sex, threesomes, moresomes, and all that goodness when they’re in the context of a trusted dynamic with people I like. What I DON’T love is the assumption that I am available to couples in general, or the feeling that my being bisexual and having a vagina are the only reasons someone is approaching me. I’m a person, not your “two hot bi babes” fantasy.

A Person Cannot “Join” an Existing Relationship

A triad isn’t a single relationship. A triad is actually four relationships: three dyads (A+B, A+C, B+C) and the relationship between all three people. Seven relationships, if you count the relationship each person has with themself. (Which you probably should, because self-care and a stable relationship with yourself are even more important in non-monogamy.)

So an additional person cannot meaningfully “join” an existing relationship. If you’re in a relationship or married, you and your partner/spouse have a dyadic relationship that you’ve been building for however many years. That relationship will continue, though it will undoubtedly be changed, when you date other people either together or separately.

In the context of a triad, you will each be creating a new dyadic relationship with your new partner. You’ll also be contending with shifts and changes in your dyadic relationship with one another. And, of course, you’ll be creating a brand new relationship between all three of you. See how that’s much harder than just fitting someone into a vaguely person-shaped box labelled “insert bi gal here”?

Viewing the incoming partner as an “addition” to your relationship will not lead anywhere good for any of you. Treating them as an add-on can leave incoming partners feeling like little more than accessories or human sex toys. Which leads me on to…

You Can’t Expect Someone to Feel Exactly the Same Way About Two People

All the successful triad relationships I know have a few things in common, and this is one of them: they allowed, and continue to allow, the individual relationships within the triad to develop, fluctuate, change, and grow at their own natural pace. People don’t fall in love with two people at the same rate, in the same way, at the same time. Human emotions simply don’t work like that. To be in a triad, you have to be comfortable with the fact that each dyadic relationship within it will look different.

Another question I see a lot in polyamorous forums is a variation of this: “Help! We formed a triad but now it seems like our girlfriend is connecting with my wife more than me!”

In an ethical, organically formed triad, this difference in connection needs to be okay. You might have challenging feelings about it, of course. That’s normal. You may need to seek reassurance and extra affection from one or both of your partners. You may even need to renegotiate some aspects of your relationship. In a unicorn situation, this disparity in levels of connection – which is incredibly normal – can be enough to get the newer partner ejected from the relationship.

In addition, an ethical triad allows for the possibility that one (or more) of the dyadic relationships may have conflict, deescalate, or even end… without any expectations that other dyadic connections need to end as a result. If you have a rule that says your partner must date you in order to date your spouse, this leaves them a spectacularly shitty choice if they just don’t feel that way about you or if your relationship is no longer working: fake a connection to you that they do not feel, or lose their relationship with your spouse, i.e. someone they love.

Do you see how unfair that is? Do you also see how it lays the groundwork for coercion, abuse, or even sexual violence? I don’t know about you, but I would be horrified if I realised someone was having sex with me that they didn’t want, just because they thought it was the price of admission to get access to my partner.

Unicorn Hunting Centres the Couple

Unicorn hunting typically centres the original couple, even without intending to, by putting their desires and needs front and centre. Often, they’ve made the rules before a third party has even entered the picture, giving her no say in their creation. This means that the unicorn is seen as an add-on to the couple’s relationship, rather than an equal partner.

The couple often expect – even tacitly – the new partner to prioritise their needs and wants above her own. They also tend to expect that, in the event of conflict, their relationship will be the one prioritised. This is often the case even when the couple pays lip service to their new partner being “totally equal.”

The result? Once again, the newer partner ends up feeling like an accessory rather than a human being.

Think about some of the ways you’d like your relationship to look if you did successfully find a unicorn, or the rules you’d want her to follow. Will you permit her to have dates, sex, and so on with one of you without the other present? If not, will you also be refraining from any one-to-one intimacy with each other? (The answer to this is often “no” and “no”. That is, by definition, not an equal set-up.) If things go swimmingly, will you want your unicorn to move into your home? Would you ever consider moving into hers, or buying a new place all together? Will you introduce her to your family and friends, bring her home for the holidays, or tell your work colleagues about her?

When you start checking your assumptions about how your dream triad relationship will go, you might find that there’s a lot of inequality baked in. That’s because unicorn hunting is almost always couple-centric. Relationships that spring from unicorn hunting involve three people, but tend to only benefit two of them.

Most Polyamorous People Don’t Want Closed Relationships

There are exceptions, of course. Polyfidelity is a thing and can be valid! But the vast majority of polyamorous people are polyamorous, at least in part, because it enables them to be open to new connections of all kinds that may come into their lives.

If you’re seeking a closed relationship with your hypothetical unicorn, I invite you to consider why that is. Most answers will fall into one of two categories.

“I/we would be too jealous if our girlfriend was with anyone else.” Again, jealousy is a real feeling and it can be overwhelming. However, if you want to be non-monogamous, you can’t simply avoid it by setting up rules and restrictions for your partners. At least not if you want happy and healthy relationships.

If you’re not ready to confront and handle jealousy when it arises, you’re not ready to be non-monogamous. It won’t always be easy. Sometimes it’ll utterly suck. But it is necessary if you want to live this life. It is spectacularly unfair to ask a polyamorous person to cut off their chances to enjoy other connections just because you are trying to avoid a difficult feeling.

“I am/we are worried about STIs.” I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t worry about sexual health. If you’re non-monogamous, it’s absolutely something with which you need to concern yourself. However, having a closed relationship is not the only way to protect your sexual health. Everyone in your polycule and wider sexual/romantic network should be getting regular STI tests, communicating openly about their barrier usage or lack thereof so that you can all make informed choices, and incorporating risk-aware practices.

Often, when I hear “we want a closed relationship because we don’t want STIs”, what’s at the root of it is actually just good old-fashioned slut-shaming. Did you know that consensually non-monogamous people actually have lower STI rates than supposedly-monogamous people who cheat (which is a huge percentage)? They are also more likely to use barriers and to practice regular testing. (Source: Dr Justin Lehmiller in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.)

Ultimately, you have to be okay with some risk of contracting an STI if you are going to be non-monogamous… or if you’re going to have sex at all. No prevention mechanism is bombproof. People lie, people cheat, and people make mistakes in the heat of the moment. You can mitigate the risk but you cannot entirely eliminate it.

If you want a closed relationship, stay monogamous or date other people for whom polyfidelity is their ideal choice. Don’t try to push people who would prefer an open dynamic into a closed one. Polyamory isn’t just monogamy with an additional person.

It’s Just Statistically Unlikely

Back in the days of Livejournal, Emanix wrote this article outlining some of the numbers involved in unicorn hunting. Not being a numbers person, I have no idea how mathematically sound this is, but the message is clear. Unicorn hunting is damn hard, with seeking couples outnumbering interested bi women by 100 to 1[4]. There’s a reason couples sometimes pop up complaining that they’ve been looking for a year, five years, ten years, and still haven’t found their “one.”

Remember: we call these people unicorns because it is so hard to find one that they might as well not exist!

[4] I pulled this number out of the air. I have no idea what the actual figures are but suffice to say that if you’re a couple trying to find a unicorn, the odds are hugely stacked against you from the beginning.

You’re Probably Not the Exception

“We’re not like that!” you might be saying. “We’ll be different! We’ll treat our unicorn like a queen!”

I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably not the exception. This is because the inequalities, objectification, and mistreatment that make unicorn hunting so problematic are baked into the very structure.

The assumptions, beliefs, and practices that underpin trying to find a unicorn come from a place that causes harm. The only way to unicorn hunt ethically is not to do it.

So What Can You Do Instead?

If you’ve got this far and you’re still with me, great! So you want to be non-monogamous and you want to be ethical about it. Amazing! So what now?

Luckily, there are loads of ways you can enjoy consensual non-monogamy without unicorn hunting. Here are just a few for you to consider.

If your priority is enjoying sexual variety and you want to do this together, try swinging. This enables you to enjoy different bodies, different kinks, and fun experiences together with other people who want the same. Many swingers do form friendships with their playmates, and sometimes these connections can turn romantic. Be clear about what you want and can offer upfront, look for others whose desires match, and you’ll minimise the chances of hurting someone.

If you want to build more romantic connections with other people, try dating separately. It might be more emotionally challenging, but it’s also tremendously rewarding. You’ll have far more luck finding dates, particularly with experienced and skilled polyamorous people. When you free yourselves and your prospective partners from restrictive expectations, you’ll allow things to flourish naturally. You’ll also most likely treat other people, each other, and yourselves better.

It’s also important to make sure you’re not using “dating separately” as a way to find a unicorn without seeming to be looking for one. Presenting yourself as available for solo dating, only to spring your partner on your unsuspecting date with a view to getting them together too, is not ethical.

Like the idea of both these relationship styles? Yes, you can be both polyamorous and a swinger! Plenty of people do both, or a mix of the two. There’s not even always a strict delineation. Polyam people can have casual sex, and swingers can have deep and romantic attachments. Non-monogamy is a spectrum and a world of options to choose from, not a set of rigid boxes into which you have to cram yourselves.

There’s even the possibility that you can have a triad relationship without falling prey to these pitfalls and hurting someone in the process. Plenty of people do. “No unicorn hunting” isn’t the same thing as “no triads.” But it won’t happen for you by going out with a laundry list of criteria and looking for a bi woman together. If it happens, it’ll happen organically while you are out there doing your non-monogamous thing.

And if it doesn’t happen? There are numerous other wonderful, fulfilling, and healthy ways to enjoy this thing we call non-monogamy.

Affiliate links appear within this post.

How to Write a Killer Swinger Dating Profile

Whether you’re just starting out in swinging, or have been around on the swinger sites for a while but are not having much luck, you might be wondering how to write the absolute best swinger dating profile you can.

For the purposes of this post I will assume you’re looking for play partners as a couple, but most of the advice works just as well for singles and polycules, triads and groups as well. Read on for a few tricks and tips to help you!

Be honest!

I can’t overstate the importance of honesty! It’s no use saying that you’re 6 feet tall if you’re actually 5’7″, pretending to have tonnes of experience when you’re actually brand new to the lifestyle, or – and yes, I’ve really seen this – pretending to be a couple when you’re actually a single person. Not only is it usually really obvious, lying will be an absolute deal-breaker for most people.

Being honest doesn’t mean you have to be self-deprecating. If you’re struggling to describe yourself in positive terms, try writing descriptions of each other to go on your profile. You’ll be amazed how many sexy things your partner will have to say about you!

And if you’re inexperienced, just say so. Most people won’t mind. Try something like this: “We’re just dipping a toe in right now, so please be gentle with us! We’d love to meet a sexy couple for fun, laughs and maybe a trip to a swingers’ club.”

Write in full sentences and check your spelling and grammar

No-one is expecting your swinger dating profile to be a literary masterpiece, but making an effort is important. Triple-check it for obvious typos and spelling errors before you hit “submit.” Break up your sentences with punctuation and use paragraph breaks to make your content easier to read. If you’re not skilled with words, ask a trusted friend to give your profile a once-over.

Don’t use your genitals as a profile picture

Swinger sites are about the only place in the internet dating world where I’m going to tell you that posting pictures of your genitals is okay. But don’t use them as your main profile picture, please! Put them in your gallery! And limit the number – my rule of thumb is that no more than 1 in 10 of your pictures should be a close-up of genitals.

Your main profile picture could be your faces (if you’re feeling brave,) a clothed body shot, a tasteful nude, or a picture of something that reflects your personalities.

Talk about what you can offer, not just what you want

Nothing is more of a turn-off than a profile from a couple who have clearly not thought beyond what they want us to do for them. By all means, state what you’re looking for, but remember to show what you can offer too.

Sex, whether in a long-term monogamous relationship or a swinging context or anything in between, should be a mutual exchange for the enjoyment and benefit of everyone involved. This means viewing your partners and potential partners as full human beings, not fantasy-fulfillment machines.

In practice, what this means is that posting your super lengthy, scripted scene idea to your profile is likely to scare a lot of people off. As is posting an absurdly specific description of your imaginary “third.” Instead, talk more broadly about the kinds of people you’re looking to meet, and give plenty of information on what you can offer.

Try this: “We’re ideally looking to meet other couples within 10 years of our ages or at a similar life stage. With us you’ll find an educated, friendly and kinky pair who are just as happy enjoying good wine and excellent conversation as getting down to some fun in the bedroom.”

Keep the judgemental comments to yourself

You’re allowed to like what you like. But shaming others for not conforming to your tastes makes you look like a jerk. I’m fully aware that some people won’t want to sleep with me because I have body hair and am carrying a few extra pounds, and I am at peace with that – but it’s still upsetting every time I see my body-type described as “disgusting” on a swinger dating profile. If someone isn’t for you, scrolling on by or replying to their approach with a polite “thanks, but not for us” is all that is required.

Similarly, you might not be into any kind of kink or BDSM – and that’s absolutely fine! – but describing other peoples’ kinks as “freaky shit” is rude.

Being responsible is sexy

When I’m browsing swinger dating profiles, those who mention their sexual health testing regime or that they always use barriers go straight to the top of the list!

Pro tip: don’t use “clean” to describe yourselves as being free from STIs. This language is stigmatising and STIs aren’t dirty! Try “we test every three months and last tested negative for everything on [date.] We use barriers for… [insert your protocols here.]”

If you do have an STI, such as herpes or HIV, it’s important to be upfront about this, too. Don’t be apologetic – there’s nothing wrong with living with one of these conditions! Just briefly mention it as a fact of your life and state how you manage it. I’d personally much rather have sex with someone who is (for example) HIV-positive and knows their status and can take the appropriate precautions than someone who hasn’t tested in a decade and insists they “just know” they’re negative.

Offer something of yourselves beyond the sexual

It’s great that you have an 8-inch penis or F-cup breasts, that you eat pussy like a champ or give the best blow jobs in your state… but that’s not everything! Most people in the swinging community want to meet human beings they can connect with (even if the connection is brief,) not walking sex machines.

So talk about what you’re into! You don’t have to get extremely deep and personal at this stage. Try something like “we love fine dining and would love someone to show us the best restaurants in town,” “our hobbies include board games, 80s B-movies, and salsa dancing,” or “he’s a gym-bunny and loves to run, she’s more likely to be found with her nose in a book!”

The key is to let your sparkling personalities show through!

This post was sponsored by Swingtowns, the world’s largest non-monogamous dating site. Join up now – it’s free! All opinions are, as always, my own.

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How Do I Clean My Sex Toys?

I’ve been meaning to write about how to clean your sex toys FOREVER. But, like many topics I keep meaning to get to, it kept slipping down my list. However, a lovely reader slid into my DMs this week with a question about this very topic. I’m taking it as a sign.

She writes…

Hi Amy,

I know that you should sterilise sex toys after use, and you can do this to silicone dildos and butt plugs (for example) by boiling them in hot water. I’ve bought a pan for dildo sterilising, but do I just… heat them up like I’m boiling potatoes? How do you boil sex toys to sterilise them, plus do you have any tips for storage to keep your toys clean between uses?

I love this question! I think, as a veteran sex geek, I’m making too many assumptions that people will know what I’m talking about when I say “boil your sex toys”. So thank you for reminding me I need to give more specific instructions to ensure my lovely readers are staying safe.

The short answer to your first question is yep. Just put the toys in a big pan of water, bring it to a rolling boil, and keep it bubbling away for 10 – 15 minutes. You can do this with any pure silicone or stainless steel toy, and also with high quality borosilicate (Pyrex) glass toys. Once you’re done, dump the water out, dry your toys thoroughly, and put them away.

Remember: you cannot boil-sterilise any toys with motors. So this method is great for dildos, butt plugs etc., but no good for vibrating toys.

When it comes to toys with motors, check the instructions from the manufacturer. If your toy is waterproof, wipe it down with a body-safe sterile wipe (I buy mine in bulk from a medical supplies store such as Medisave, one pack lasts months) to kill any bacteria, then dunk it in a bowl of warm water and very gentle soap. Wash, rinse it thoroughly, and you’re done. You can also follow this process for waterproof ABS (hard) plastic toys, which also cannot be boiled regardless of whether they have a motor or not.

The other option for waterproof toys with motors is to soak them in a 10% bleach solution (that is, 1 part bleach to 9 parts water) for a few minutes. Be sure to rinse REALLY thoroughly if you do this.

If your toy has a motor and is not waterproof, it’s a little trickier but you can still get it clean. Again, wipe it thoroughly with a medical wipe. Then clean it all over with a damp cloth dunked in clean warm water.

Remember, if your toy has any tricky grooves or ridges or nozzles, bacteria can gather here so take extra care to clean these areas really thoroughly.

As far as storing your toys between uses, there’s a couple of options:

  1. Just throw ’em all in a big bag or box (this is what I do, mostly). That thing about silicone toys melting together in storage? It’s 100% not true. Silicone doesn’t work that way! Check out Dangerous Lilly’s experiment to prove this myth false. If you do this, I recommend giving your toy a quick wipe down before you use it, just to get rid of any dust or lint that may have settled on it.
  2. Get some individual bags for them. Lovehoney do really cute drawstring sex toy bags, or you can probably buy similar from a craft store or online. I have a few of the Lovehoney ones and they keep my toys sparkling clean between uses! (Remember: a lot of higher end toys now come with their own bag or pouch).

STI transmission risk through toys is lower than for other types of sex. However, it still exists and you should take precautions accordingly. Other concerns if toys aren’t properly cleaned are thrush, yeast infections and similar complaints.

For the purposes of safer sex, I always recommend using a barrier if you’re going to share a toy with a non fluid-bonded partner[1] and that toy cannot be boil sterilised or properly washed. My personal policy is barriers on shared vaginal toys unless I am fluid bonded with that partner, and condoms on shared anal toys ALWAYS. It’s a bit less risky for penis toys because the outer skin of the penis isn’t technically a mucus membrane.

[1] I’m aware that fluid bonding is a controversial term (technically kissing is fluid bonding!). But for the purposes of this post, I’m using it to mean having manual, oral, penetrative or toy sex without a barrier.

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