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

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

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

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

Who Counts as a Couple?

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

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

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

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

The Aggressive Gendering of Kink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But You Still Like Men, Right?”

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

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

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

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

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

Sapphic, Lesbian and WLW Sexuality for the Male Gaze

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

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

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

Expectations of Performativity

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

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

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

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

And that brings us to…

Are Women Less Threatening, or Are You Just Homophobic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So What Can We Do About It?

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

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

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

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

The Polyamory Community Has a Huge Slut-Shaming Problem

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When I started practicing consensual non-monogamy and polyamory, I expected to get hit with slut-shaming from monogamous friends, family, and wider society. And predictably, I did. (“So she’ll just open her legs for anyone like a 24-hour supermarket?” was one memorably horrible quote said by an old childhood friend about me.)

What I never expected, though, was to encounter slut-shaming from within the non-monogamous community. But this has happened to me multiple times over the 15 years or so I’ve been polyam, as well as to many of my friends and lovers. And I have come to realise what a significant and pervasive problem it actually is.

Before I dive in, I want to shout out the other polyamory writers, thinkers, and educators who have spoken on this issue, especially Leanne Yau of PolyPhilia, Mainely Mandy, Eldiandevil, and Ramona Quaxli. Their perspectives and insights are tremendously valuable and have informed, validated, and helped to shape my own.

What is slut-shaming?

Planned Parenthood defines slut-shaming as “accusing someone — usually girls and women — of being “too sexual,” and using that as an excuse to humiliate, bully, or harass them.”

Slut-shaming can take the form of calling someone derogatory and sexual names (such as “slut”, “whore”, or “slag.”) But it can also take forms such as:

  • Criticising a person for wearing sexualised or revealing clothing
  • Blaming the victim or saying they “asked for it” in cases of rape, sexual violence, revenge porn, sexual harrassment, and so on
  • Gossiping, making assumptions, or spreading rumours about someone’s sex life or sexual behaviour
  • Criticising or shaming a partner for their sexual history prior to your relationship (or during it, in the case of consensually non-monogamous relationships)
  • Acting entitled to someone’s body because of their actual or perceived sexual behaviour (e.g. “if she puts out for other guys why not me?”)
  • Accusing someone of being a “sex addict” for their level of desire, number of partners, kinks and fetishes, or other actual or perceived sexual behaviour

In short, it’s anything that is designed to put a person down or make them feel guilty or ashamed of the ways that they express their sexuality.

But how can there be slut-shaming in non-monogamy!?

When people enter the non-monogamous community, they often come in with certain expectations. One of those expectations is that it is going to be a free love utopia, apart from and unaffected by any of cisheteromononormative society’s hangups about sex. I mean, our unofficial community Bible is literally called The Ethical Slut. We’re all totally enlightened and sex-positive over here in non-mono-land, right?

If only.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: I’ve been guilty of perpetuating this, in the past, just as I have been a victim of it. But the polyamory and consensual non-monogamy (CNM) community has a huge, enormous, glaring, and under-addressed slut-shaming problem.

Let’s look at a few of the ways it manifests and why they’re problematic.

“It’s not all about the sex!”

Polyamory Weekly, which ran from 2005 until 2022, is by far the longest-running and best-known polyamory podcast. When I first started listening way back in around 2009, I didn’t think much of the goofy little tagline at the end of the show: “and remember, it’s not all about the sex!” On the rare occasions that I dip back into the PW back catalogue these days, I cringe a little every time I hear it.

The purpose of this section is not to call out PW specifically or exclusively. It’s a great resource. I’m glad it existed for 17 years and I’m glad its 600+ episodes live on for new polyamorous folks to find. But I do think this tagline is an example of a wider narrative within the polyamorous community.

I understand the purpose of phrases like this. Mainstream society aggressively sexualises non-monogamy and casts aspersions on our collective character as a result (itself a form of slut-shaming). In much the same way that LGBTQ+ identities had to fight to be seen as more than sexual fetishes, non-monogamists are now fighting a similar battle. But, in striving for this more nuanced recognition of our identities, we must be careful not to shame those for whom sex does play an important role in their non-monogamy.

Some people are non-monogamous, in part, to have more sex and to experience more sexual variety. As long as those people are honest with their lovers and taking reasonable steps to be safe and considerate partners? I do not think there’s a damn thing wrong with that.

Other versions of this trope include “just because I’m polyamorous doesn’t mean I’m a slut!” and “I might be polyamorous but I still have standards!”

“But amour means love”

The equally insidious sister to the above is something I see all the time in the polyamory groups, forums, and other online spaces: “it’s polyAMORY, not polyFUCKERY. The amour means love!” This one comes out when a person talks about having a lot of casual sex. However, it also comes out when a person is struggling with sexual difficulties, sexual incompatibility, or sexlessness in one of their relationships. Its purpose is clear: to slut-shame the individual because sex matters to them.

If you’ve ever uttered this sentence, you might not like what I’m going to say next: for many of us, sex is part of how we love. For some people, this is intimately connected to physical touch as a love language. Sex with someone you love can be tremendously bonding and connective, helping you to feel closer and more intimate – both emotionally and physically – with your partners. Sex can make you feel desired, allow you to express love and care through touch and the giving of pleasure, and give you an opportunity to be exploratory and playful together.

In addition, in a newer relationship, sex can help you to bond, deepen and strengthen your connection, and feel out whether you’re compatible for a long-term relationship.

In short, sex is allowed to be important to you. Leanne Yau says, “I can have sex without love, but I cannot have love without sex.” I’m not sure I’d go that far for myself, but I know I would really, really struggle in a sexless romantic relationship. It is only recently that I’ve stopped feeling shame around that fact.

So yes, sure, “polyamory” means “many/multiple loves.” But love can take many forms and, if sexual compatibility matters to you or if sex is an intrinsic part of how you express romantic love, that’s not only valid but super normal and common. Those “many/multiple loves,” by the way, can also include friends with benefits, comet partners, and other forms of connection that don’t look like traditional romantic relationships, if you like.

Phrases like “it’s polyAMORY, not polyFUCKERY” place non-sexual love as inherently higher, more pure, or more real than sexual love. And I think that’s bullshit.

“Sounds like you’re just a swinger.”

People outside the CNM community conflate swinging and polyamory all the time. However, while it’s certainly possible to be both, the crossover is probably significantly smaller than you think it is and they are quite different cultures. In fact, it has sadly been my experience that a lot of swingers do not like or trust polyamorous people very much, and that this feeling is very mutual. I believe this has less to do with any inherent differences or incompatibilities, and more to do with misconceptions, snap judgements, and in-group/out-group politics.

In many polyamorous spaces, there is a huge amount of policing of other people’s non-monogamies. This includes the oft-heard cry of “that’s not polyam, it sounds like you’re just a swinger!” in situations where casual sex, group sex, or promiscuity are involved.

I think it’s telling, in itself, that so many polyamorous people see “swinger” as an insult. What gives us the right to place one version of non-monogamy on a pedastal and look down on others? Sure, the mainstream hetero swinging community has its fair share of problems. However, so does the polyamorous one. When we set ourselves apart and cast judgement on swingers, all we are doing is perpetuating the same slut-shaming, sex-negative rhetoric that the mononormative world perpetuates against us. And that harms all of us.

As polyamorous people, most of us also have sex with multiple people. Do you think that cisheteronormative, mononormative, sex-negative society will spare us its judgement if the sex we have is for Twue Wuv Only while we loudly shun the swingers for their casual shenanigans? Because I promise you it won’t. But it would love for the different schools of consensual non-monogamy to get distracted tearing each other apart rather than banding together to tear down the sociocultural structures that harm us.

Whether you are polyamorous, a swinger, both, neither, or somewhere else entirely on the spectrum, I believe that all of us under the consensual non-monogamy umbrella should be allies and need to stick together. We’re on the same damn team.

The one penis policy

The infamous one penis policy, or OPP, is where a polyamorous cis man tells his (usually cis women) partners that they can date other people with vulvas, but nobody else with a penis. It’s highly problematic in a bunch of ways, from cissexism and trans erasure through to simply being a bad way to handle jealousy and insecurity. I’m going to write an entire piece about it soon.

Increasingly, I believe it is also tied to slut shaming.

At the root of the one penis policy, very often, is the belief that sex is only “real” when it involves a penis. Men who enact the OPP often believe (even if on an unconscious level) that there is something inherently bad or wrong about their female partners having a lot of sex or multiple sexual partners, but convince themselves that it only really counts if those sexual partners have a penis. This allows them to keep seeing those partners as “pure,” as long as they only have sex with fellow vulva-owners.

Many polyamorous men explicitly or implicitly devalue their female partners when or if they have sex with multiple penis-owning partners. You’d be amazed at how often, in online polyamorous spaces, I see variations on this theme: “my wife just had sex with her boyfriend for the first time and now I can’t help but see her as tainted.” Which is a pretty fucking rough deal for straight or bi+ polyamorous women.

This is by no means a comprehensive list

This piece is not intended to provide a comprehensive list of all the ways that slut-shaming shows up in polyamory and CNM. Like all systems of oppression, it is insidious and multi-faceted and not always easy to spot. It takes many forms and harms people in many different ways.

There is, however, one consistent truth that sits at the heart of this phenomenon:

It’s misogyny, isn’t it?

Purity culture is deeply and inherently tied to misogyny. Purity culture “encompasses the way society and popular culture reinforces the idea of sexual purity as a measure of a person’s worth” (John Loeppky for VeryWellMind) and is used to control, police, shame, and curtail women’s sexuality and sexual agency.

Just like mainstream purity culture, slut-shaming and sex-negativity within the polyamory and CNM communities are intimately tied to misogyny. A person of any gender can be slut-shamed. However, in reality, it is always going to mostly weaponised against, and have a far greater impact on, women, femmes, AFAB folks, and anyone socialised as female.

When we begin to unpack sex-negative and slut-shaming beliefs, misogyny – including internalised misogyny on the part of women and other marginalised genders – is almost inevitably at the core of it. To dismantle slut-shaming requires us to take a close and critical look at all the things our society and upbringing have told us about gender, sex, and sexuality, and to consider the ways in which those narratives are doing a disservice to ourselves, our loved ones, and our wider community.

Towards an expansive and inclusive version of CNM

None of this is to say that your polyamory or consensual non-monogamy must include casual sex, or must include sex at all. It is entirely possible to have no interest in sex whatsoever and to never slut-shame anyone else. I do believe, however, that everyone in these communities has a responsibility to intentionally cultivate a sex-positive attitude.

As a reminder, my working definition of sex positivity is as follows:

“Supporting the right of all consenting adults to have sex, or not, in whatever ways work best for them, free from stigma or shame.”

The point of sex-positivity isn’t that more sex is better. The point is that we all have a right to choose how much and what forms of sex we have, and that all consensual and freely made choices are of equal moral value.

We must recognise that the CNM world is not a sex-positive utopia, much as we might wish it was. The first step to addressing our sex-negativity and slut-shaming problem is to identify it, talk about it, call it out when we see it, and stop pretending it doesn’t exist or isn’t an issue.

We all carry toxic beliefs from our upbringing or our society, and it is our job to address and unlearn them. This is hard, long-term, potentially lifelong work. Fighting the tide of cultural norms isn’t easy, and I am not trying to downplay or simplify it. But, if we want to build truly radical and inclusive communities, it is absolutely necessary.

Finally, we must stop this in-fighting. Stop shaming and attacking our own. Whether we’re polyamorous or swingers or relationship anarchists, whether we’re asexual or demisexual or hypersexual, whether we have orgies every weekend or only have sex in committed romantic relationships, we must stop throwing each other under the bus for crumbs of respectability from a culture that seeks to judge and repress all of us in exactly the same ways.

Cisheteromononormative society shames us all enough. We like to think we’re better than to also do it to each other. And right now, we’re not.

But what if we could be? How radical and awesome would that be?

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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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Five Filthy Post-Covid Fantasies

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

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

The culmination of long-held sexual tension

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

A kiss with a stranger

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

A spanking party

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

A strip club

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

A swing resort

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

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

What post-Covid fantasies are you harbouring, friends?

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

Free Entry: Stop Making Women Your Product

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

The gendered pricing model

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

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

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

Wait, how is this fair?

Honestly, it isn’t.

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

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

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

What does “free entry” really cost?

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

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

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

The argument for equal pricing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Body is Not Dirty

As the world begins to open back up, my partner and I have been spending a little time delving back into the online swinging scene. It’s probably going to be a while yet before we feel safe meeting or hooking up with anyone in real life, but it feels good to even be able to consider it again after being isolated for so long. (#FuckYouCovid.)

As we browse pics and read profiles, I’ve noticed an upsetting trend. Of those individuals and couples who won’t even consider anyone with body hair (and that’s already a majority of swingers,) many are using language that explicitly or implicitly conflates body hair with dirtiness and being clean shaven everywhere with being hygienic.

Where did this idea come from? When did it become so normalised to equate body hair with being unclean? How are an enormous majority of ostensibly sex-positive grown ass adults so disgusted by something so natural?

Whenever I see statements like “we expect clean and shaven” or “hygiene matters so not interested in hairy people” or “no gross bushes,” I want to say this: my body is not dirty.

Body hair is one of the many arenas in which women’s and AFAB folks’ bodies have been turned into political battlegrounds. Whether I intended it as such or not, my choice not to remove my body hair is seen as a statement. Shaving or waxing everything off has become so normalised that the literal natural unaltered state of my body is automatically viewed as having a deeper meaning.

Sure, in a certain light it can be a useful way to wear my politics on my body. People who have a problem with women’s body hair will probably have a problem with a lot of things about me. But what if I just… like my body like this? What if I just find hair removal a time-sucking pain in the ass? What if I hate ingrown hairs and the inevitable itchy-as-fuck regrowth period? What if I just leave my body hair as it is because I, and my partners, find it kinda sexy?

I get that we all have our preferences, and that’s fine! Do what you want with your own body, and feel free to date people whose grooming habits align with your preferences. I certainly don’t want to have sex with anyone who is grossed out by an aspect of my body! But if you’re that disgusted and turned off by body hair, I challenge you to ask yourself why.

It’s not unhygienic and it’s not dirty. That’s a myth. Pubic hair actually helps to protect your sensitive genital tissue from infection and bacteria. The only time body hair is unhygienic is if you don’t wash it… and frankly, if you don’t wash regularly you’re going to be unhygienic regardless of whether you have hair or don’t.

Body hair is a natural thing that adult bodies have. Shaving everything off is a relatively recent cultural norm. It’s literally the result, as so many beauty norms are, of corporations convincing women there’s a problem with our bodies so they can sell us the “fix.”

I want people to stop talking about a normal feature of the human body like it’s something disgusting. I want people to stop equating hair removal with cleanliness. If you’re grossed out by it, then admit that that’s on you. Stop acting like “body hair = gross” is some unavoidable law of the world that you are powerless to question or examine. Keep your socially-imposed expectations off my genitals.

Because my body is not dirty.

Four Post-Pandemic Fears

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

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

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

So here’s what I’m afraid of.

Getting COVID

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

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

Not Knowing How to People Any More

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

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

Touch Remaining Taboo

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

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

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

My Communities Being Scapegoated

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

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

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

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

There is No Time Limit

I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.
– J.B. Priestley

I often receive questions from readers who are wondering if it is “too late” for them to have a particular experience or learn a particular thing. Whether they haven’t yet had sex in their 20s, or are thinking about branching out into consensual non-monogamy or exploring kink in their 40s, 50s or beyond, the implication is “is this just a thing for young people?”

Today I want to tell you that there is no time limit. You can have amazing sex at any age or stage of life, including if you’re a “late bloomer”. You can find love after the age of 35. Polyamory, swinging, kink, and all those other yummy things aren’t just for youngsters.

Honestly, sometimes it can be really good to have a bit of life experience behind you.

In many ways, I’m grateful that I discovered polyamory and kink at the ages of 18/19. The timing meant I had literally my entire adult life to explore and play in these spaces. However, what people often don’t understand is there were downsides, too.

Being a young woman and a newcomer to the scene when you’re still very young means you might as well walk around with a sign on your head saying “FRESH MEAT”. This is especially true if you are a submissive. I spent my first few years on the scene fending off unwanted aggressive advances from men old enough to be my father (or occasionally, grandfather).

I don’t regret those years for a second. They taught me a lot. Amidst a lot of crap, I had some incredible adventures and met some wonderful people. But would I trade it for where I am now? Not a chance. Being the hyper-desired young thing is kinda fun until it isn’t. Being a little older, a lot wiser, and having dispensed with enough of your fucks that you can tell creepers where to go? THAT’S where the really good stuff is.

So when people come to these spaces later and wonder if it’s too late for them, I want to tell them this: there is no too late.

We all have a finite amount of time on this planet. But as long as we’re still here, there’s no time limit on learning, exploring, adventuring, experiencing.

Tomorrow is always a new day. You can always wake up and decide that you want to do something differently, try something new, chase some new dream.

Sex, relationships, love, kink – they’re for everyone who wants them. You don’t have to have had your first sexual experience by 18, met your life partner by 25, married by 30, or discovered kink while you’re still young enough to attend the “under 35” munch.

Life doesn’t always follow a neat trajectory. We all come to things at different stages and for different reasons. Wherever you are in your journey and whatever your reasons, it’s valid and wonderful.

So come on in. There is no time limit. We’re waiting to welcome you.

The Quote Quest badge, for a post about how there is no time limit on sex, kink, etc.

This piece was inspired by this week’s Quote Quest, a new blogging meme from Little Switch Bitch. It’s also part of my #SexEdSeptember series.

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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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Unlearning Sex Negativity

I’ve been meaning to write this piece for a long time. So today for Smutathon seems like as good a time as any!

I need to start by admitting something that doesn’t make me look good. When I was much younger, I engaged uncritically in a lot of sex-negative behaviour. I held a very, very strong belief that people should only have sex in the context of Capital L Love. I kinda believed there was a moral superiority in the small number of people I’d had sex with and the fact that I insisted on a strong emotional bond before I would even consider it.

To be clear, I am not demisexual. Obviously some people are and this is a completely legitimate sexual identity. However, I experience sexual attraction and desire outside of emotionally committed relationships. I just had some very strange moral ideas about sexuality.

I would, in my late teens and early twenties, quite often find myself wanting to have sex with someone but insisting I couldn’t. It would be wrong because we weren’t In Love. Even when I started identifying openly as polyamorous, I was one of those insufferable “it’s not about SEX! It’s about LOVE!” people.

And now? Well, I swing occasionally. I love casual sex. I’ve had threesomes and foursomes and orgies. I’ve been to countless sex parties and facilitated a few. The number of people I’ve had sex with is… probably still not particularly impressive to some, but I stopped counting at thirty which is way above the national average.

So… what the fuck happened?

The short answer is that I learned.

The longer answer is that I took the time to step back and consider my position – really consider it – and couldn’t find any morally defensible reason for continuing to hold it. I also realised that I could be a whole lot happier if I actually allowed myself to have what my heart and body wanted, rather than holding on to some strange notion of sexual morality that didn’t actually stand up under scrutiny.

I have a fairly clear idea of where my ideas about sexuality came from. Though I wasn’t raised religious, I was brought up in an environment where long-term monogamy was held up as The Right Way and sexual promiscuity was shamed.

In addition, my first long term relationship was with an older guy who was very clear that he prized me for my perceived purity. Because I was totally sexually inexperienced when we met (because I was 14,) he expected me to somehow stay all innocence, naivety about sex, and wide-eyed-inexperience forever. He slut-shamed me for enjoying some of the sex we had together (I was supposed to be available on demand, but also seem appropriately reluctant about it – make of that whatever you like!) In turn, I slut-shamed myself and internalised the idea that I wasn’t supposed to enjoy sex. That being into it made me less appealing to the men I was having sex with.

To be clear, I don’t think my experience was anything particularly atypical. Girls in our culture are, more often than not, brought up under the weight of massive sexual shame. We live in a society that still stigmatises and even pathologises female desire and sexuality. Girls are taught it’s their job to say no to boys, to resist any whiff of sexual activity… but then somehow know exactly how to “please their man” once they’re in a socially-sanctioned relationship. It’s fucked up.

No-one who is brought up in this kind of environment can escape without internalising some of it. It’s almost impossible. Some of us fare better than others, of course, but we’re all swimming in this toxic sex-negativity. To escape from it takes a real effort.

It took me years to unlearn some of these toxic beliefs about sex, and to be honest that work is still not entirely done. I still occasionally have to catch myself when I find myself playing down my eagerness for sex or being tempted to lie when someone asks me how many people I’ve had sex with.

But the actual unlearning was a process. First, it required consciously acknowledging that actually, being promiscuous and engaging in casual sex was something I would enjoy. Then I had to reprogramme my brain not to judge myself, or others, for these types of behaviours. And that took a lot of reading, a lot of critical thought, a lot of listening and talking to others and questioning questioning questioning my beliefs at every step of the way.

Sex with love attached is great. And sex without love attached can also be great. Sex, in the context of a consensual and mutually pleasurable exchange between adults, is fucking awesome.

If you want to only have sex with the one person you’re married to for your entire life, I support that. If you want to have gangbangs with thirty strangers every weekend, I also support that. When we free ourselves from arbitrary sexual morality, we can look at the things that really matter (consent, agency, risk-aware practices, pleasure) and stop judging ourselves and each other so harshly for the consensual sex we engage in.

This post is part of Smutathon 2019. Please donate if you can and help us raise lots of money to support abortion access!

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