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I love Crash Pad Series because their porn is obviously made for the non-male gaze, unlike all mainstream porn – but it lacks the frustrating clichés that tend to show up in “female-friendly” porn.

Crash Pad’s founder and director, Shine Louise Houston, understands that just because women may not always like the rough-and-tumble, penetration-focused template of mainstream porn, that doesn’t mean we want our porn to depict only soft, “romantic,” gentle sex. We like rough and kinky sex too – we just want it to be geared toward our gaze.

Crash Pad’s porn is also racially diverse, sexually varied, and features folks from all the way across the gender spectrum. Basically, if you’re tired of mainstream porn’s boring template, by-men-for-men pandering, and racist tropes, you’ll probably dig Crash Pad.

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This month I was allowed to review episode 196, which is based on a super interesting premise. Arabelle Raphael and Daisy Ducati are tired and overworked sex workers who have recently spent so much time catering to their clients’ fantasies that they haven’t had much time for the kind of sex they like.

Daisy is wearing the cutest pink sequinned halter dress, while Arabelle’s decked out in leopard print. Their friendship seems very genuine: there’s lots of giggling and finishing each other’s sentences. Arabelle complains about all the cis straight dudes she’s been boning lately, and whines adorably, “I wanna fuck something pretty.” Which, of course, leads to Arabelle and Daisy playfully starting to make out.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 10.30.43 PMThe ensuing scene is so much fun, and so unstructured, which is one of the things I love most about Crash Pad scenes. It always seems like the performers are just doing whatever the hell they want, instead of following some pre-ordained schedule of events like so many mainstream scenes do (kissing, BJ, 15 seconds of cunnilingus, then fucking in 3 different positions). Both performers alternate between finger-fucking each other, going down on each other, 69ing, using a goddamn leopard-print Hitachi on each other (!!), sitting on each other’s face, and so on. And they seem to do it in whatever order they feel like, for however long they feel like.

Although this clip is femme-on-femme like most mainstream lesbian scenes, it doesn’t feel like those at all. The performers are clearly actually attracted to each other, obviously have experience fucking other women and know how to do it properly, and they do acts that actually get them off (vocally and repeatedly!) instead of trying to make their scene appealing to a straight male eye.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 10.38.31 PMThe one mainstream-girl/girl trope that appears here is super-long fingernails, but Arabelle actually refers to hers and makes sure that she’s not hurting Daisy when she fingers her. This is such a nice touch! I am always terrified of the talons that women subject each other to in so many lesbian scenes.

As per usual for Crash Pad, this scene is shot beautifully. The cinematographic style captures the action without being distracting.

Some highlights for me: Arabelle telling Daisy, pre-cunnilingus, “This is gonna fuck up all your makeup.” Daisy going “Yesyesyesyesyesyes!” as she’s about to come. The aforementioned customized Hitachi. Daisy’s curly red pigtails. Arabelle’s backseam tattoos. The performers telling each other, “Treat yourself!” and “This is better than a spa day!” while they lie in the afterglow.

Episode 196 is damn cute and I think it could entertain and arouse anyone who’s a femme, a sex worker, or both. It’s incredible to see folks on screen who actually represent you and the sex you enjoy having, and that is something Crash Pad Series does exceptionally well.

Want to go back? Read the previous chapter or the first chapter.

As if Grey hasn’t been enough of a nightmare already, chapter 4 begins with Christian having a nightmare.

I’m smothered in sweat, with the stench of stale beer, cigarettes, and poverty in my nostrils and a lingering dread of drunken violence.

Christian has some fucked-up classist notions, of which this sentence is just one example. “The stench of poverty”? Earlier in the book, he also remarked to himself that both Ana and Kate looked privileged and spoiled. It seems that Rich Boy was unaware of how ironic it is for him to feel that way about anyone. He’s got issues around money, to say the least.

After he wakes from his poverty nightmare, he ruminates on how he kinda regrets rejecting Ana. He mentions that his psychiatrist is on vacation in England, which makes me wonder if this entire disastrous relationship could’ve been avoided, had Christian been able to talk with a mental health professional about his predatory tendencies before acting on them with Ana.

He hears someone talking about Jane Austen on the radio and it gives him the idea to send bookworm Ana his first-edition copy of Tess of the d’Urbervilles. The way he talks about it, though, it seems less like a romantic gesture and more like a contemptuous act to prove to Ana that he’s not as vapid as she seemed to think.

Christian goes to work at his company, where one of his assistants asks him about “the Darfur project” (what does Grey Enterprises Holdings even do?).

“Would you like milk [in your espresso], sir?” Andrea asks. Good girl. I give her a smile. “Not today.” I do like to keep them guessing how I take my coffee.

Yes, this seems like a good use of your work time, Christian: guesspresso games. I can see why you’ve become so successful in your field, whatever it is.

Christian calls up the private investigator who did the background check on Ana before, and asks him to find out when her last exam is. Increasingly, Christian is doing things that would cause me to call the cops on him if he did them to me IRL. He has zero chill.

We see him interact with his “number two” and a couple of female assistants, and he’s categorically an asshole to all of them.

He chooses a quote from Tess of the D’Urbervilles to inscribe on the notecard he’s sending Ana along with the books. The quote is essentially a warning telling her to stay away from him, or at least guard against him. I wish she would listen, but I know she won’t. Sigh…

 

As chapter 5 begins, Christian gets a phone call from his brother, Elliot, who says, “Dude, I need to get out of Seattle this weekend. This chick is all over my junk and I’ve got to get away.” Don’t you love when middle-aged British ladies try to write like twenty-something American jocks and fail spectacularly?

Elliot sleeps most of the way to Portland. Poor fucker must be fried. Working and fucking: that’s Elliot’s raison d’etre.

Do you pay any attention to your own life, Christian? Literally all you do is work and fuck, too. (And hike, apparently.)

After a day of bro’ing out – mountain biking and watching a Mariners game – Christian and Elliot are hanging out at the Heathman hotel when Ana calls from a bar. She’s drunk… because she’s an adult and can decide to drink if she wants to.

Anxiety blooms in my gut. She’s a young woman, drunk, somewhere in Portland. She’s not safe.

This guy knows that bars in Portland (hell, bars everywhere) are filled with drunk young adults, right? That’s kind of how bars work.

“What’s the problem?” Elliot calls over from the sofa.
“I’ve just been drunk-dialed.” I peer at him and his mouth drops open in surprise.
“You?”
“Yep.” I press the callback button, trying to contain my temper and my anxiety.

When Christian shows up at the bar to “save” Ana from her own drunkenness, he spots her being accosted by her friend, José. This is one of the only instances (maybe the only instance?) in the book where Christian seems to understand the importance of informed, enthusiastic, level-headed consent. He can comprehend that Ana is incapacitated and José is taking advantage of her and advancing on her in a way she doesn’t want. Why can’t Christian apply this understanding to his own behavior?

I seem to remember that in the movie, this altercation involved Grey punching José. In the book, he just says, “I think the lady said no,” and José backs off. It’s unusual for Book Christian to be a better dude than Movie Christian; this is one of the few times that’s the case.

Then José says “Dios mío,” which is essentially his catchphrase, because E.L. James doesn’t know how to write non-white characters without being shitty about it.

I grab her hair and hold it out of the way as she continues to throw up everything she’s had this evening. It’s with some annoyance that I note she doesn’t appear to have eaten.

Oh god, I love that Christian apparently a) studies Ana’s vomit closely here and b) can diagnose her recent eating and drinking habits from reading her vomit like tea leaves. Amazing.

“It’s about knowing your limits, Anastasia. I mean, I’m all for pushing limits, but really this is beyond the pale. Do you make a habit of this kind of behavior?” Perhaps she has a problem with alcohol. The thought is worrying, and I consider whether I should call my mother for a referral to a detox clinic.

Are you fuuuuucking serious. She goes overboard on one night of drinking and you automatically assume she’s an alcoholic who needs to go to rehab? Without even knowing her?! Aaaargghhh, Christian. (Also, for the record, this is literally Ana’s first time being drunk. Of course she didn’t know her limits yet.)

Let me take Miss Drunk Bookworm home, but for some reason she seems reluctant to go.

Could it be because she’s drunk, has just learned that awful men will try to take advantage of her when she’s drunk, barely knows you and has no reason to trust you? Could those possibly be the reasons she’s hesitant to go back to your hotel with you, Christian?

I know I should take her home, but it’s a long drive to Vancouver, and I don’t know if she’ll be sick again. I don’t relish the idea of my Audi reeking of vomit. The smell emanating from her clothes is already noticeable.

It is a mystery to me how anyone reading this book could possibly think Christian cares about Ana, let alone loves her.

After Grey undresses Ana (!) and puts her to bed at his hotel, he contacts his private investigator again to find out whether Ana’s friend José has a police record. I feel conflicted about this. One dude with problematic ideas about consent is trying to keep another dude with problematic ideas about consent from enacting those ideas…

Then he emails his driver, Taylor, with a detailed list of clothing items he wants Taylor to buy for Ana: blue jeans (size 4), pretty blue blouse (size 4), black Converse (size 7), socks (size 7), underwear (size small), and bra (“estimate 34C”). I know this is supposed to seem sweet, but it’s just creepy.

I text Elliot. “Ana is with me. If you’re still with Kate, tell her.”
He texts by return. “Will do. Hope you get laid. You soooo need it. ;)”
His response makes me snort. I so do, Elliot. I so do.

I know he’s not going to attack Ana while she’s sleeping, but… I still wish I was there and could tell her to get the fuck out of this dude’s hotel room.

Stay tuned for the next chapter; I think it’s the one where Christian non-consensually bites Ana’s toast. Riveting stuff, people!

 

Cafés are my number-one favorite workspace. I brainstorm blog post ideas while walking from place to place, take photos at home, edit and fine-tune wherever I can, but the bulk of my actual writing takes place in the windows of coffee shops, over caffé americanos and blueberry muffins.

It’s not that I can’t work at home – it’s that I don’t. There are too many distractions, too many avenues for procrastination. I find it difficult to muster up motivation to write when I’m surrounded by entertaining electronic devices, talkative family members, and my inviting bed. Cafés offer me a zen-like retreat from this world of interruptions and temptations. When I go to a coffee shop to write, I know I have to actually write, because that is the express purpose of the outing. So I do.

I’m not alone in this habit. Writers and coffeehouses have been culturally linked since the days of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and even earlier. Most of my writer friends, especially those who freelance from home, turn to cafés as a workspace at least some of the time, citing the distraction-free zone and ample caffeine access as the attractions that keep them coming back.

A study out of the University of Chicago put forth one possible explanation for cafés’ effect on productivity: the noise. Apparently there is a just-right level of ambient noise which encourages creativity without impeding focus. Inspired by this phenomenon, some smart folks started Coffitivity, a web app that helps you re-create that bustling café environment in your own home. It’s lovely – but, as I’ve said, my preference for coffee-shop writing has less to do with the noise and more with the environment itself.

As you can imagine, public places aren’t ideal for writing dildo reviews and sex stories. You never know when someone might peer over your shoulder and be scandalized by what they see. (I once wrote an entire article about Cumbersmut while some 12-year-old boys argued about girls at the next table over. Yikes.) I certainly don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, so I work as discreetly as I can. Here are some tips for other sex bloggers in the same boat…

Choose your seat wisely. I usually sit at the window because a) the view is nice and b) there’s enough distance between the row of window seats and the other seating areas that probably no one will have a good view of what I’m working on. You can also sit with your back to the window or wall, if your café has some chairs oriented that way. No one’ll have a clear angle on your computer screen unless they’re specifically trying to look at it.

Do the super-X-rated work at home. Maybe you watch that porn DVD in your bedroom, take detailed notes, and then cart your laptop to a café to write the actual review. Maybe you write your dildo review at the coffee shop but leave the photo editing for later, so the other patrons won’t get an eyeful of silicone cock.

Turn your screen brightness down. I do this if I need to momentarily have something explicit on my screen – like if I’ve forgotten how many ridges there are on the vibrator I’m reviewing and I need to glance at a reference image to count ’em. It’s very hard to see the contents of a dim laptop screen unless you’re face-to-face with it, so it’s less risky this way.

Have a list of everything you need to get done, and stick to it. When I’m away from the ongoing to-do list I keep on my desk, I often lose focus and drift off-task. I’m way more productive at cafés if I have a few specific things I need to get done – write post X, email person Y, research article Z, etc. I make a list for the day in my phone’s Notes app or just write on a post-it note that I stick to my laptop. Failing to plan is planning to fail!

Have a fake answer prepared in case of nosy questions. True, if a barista or café lurker asks you what you’re working on, you could just tell them, “A sex blog.” There’s no shame in that. But I find that this answer always invites further questions that I don’t want to answer. If I’m there to work, I want to work, not explain to some inquisitive stranger why a woman would want to write about sex on the internet. So if anyone asks me what I’m working on, I usually just say, “A school assignment.” If they probe further, I’ll tell them it’s something complex-sounding, like a paper on existentialism or 19th-century literature. That usually shuts the convo down pretty quick, so I can get back to writing about vibrators and ass-fucking.

Keep a “vanilla window” open. You know, like you used to do when you were 14 and your parents could walk in on you watching porn at any moment. Keep a tab open to Google or a news website or whatever, so that if your aunt, your boss, or a six-year-old child happens to stroll into the café, you can just switch to that tab until you’re safe again.

Bring headphones. I do this even when the work I’m doing will probably not involve audio, because you never know. Sometimes you’ll be researching a post and the information you need is only available in video format. Sometimes your porn review notes are messy and you need to refresh your memory about what exactly that porn star yelled during her orgasm. Sometimes someone tweets you a link to a song they think you need to hear, and you decide you do indeed need to hear it.

Be really nice to the café employees. They let you hang out for hours working on your blog, and they also keep you caffeinated, those sweethearts. Treat them well!

Do you ever blog from cafés? What are your best tips?

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When I give sex advice to youngins, one of the things I always tell them is, “You might think you know what you like and what you want, but once you actually start having sex, that might change completely.”

I say this because it’s a lesson I’ve learned countless times in my journey from virgin to pervert: don’t knock anything until you try it.

A particularly salient example of this is my attitude toward realistic dildos. When I was 15, 16, even 18, and the only sex I’d had was of the lesbian variety, I scoffed at cock-like dongs. I thought of penises as a necessary evil in hetero sex, a means to an end, an accessory to the main event. I got off most easily from a tongue on my clit, and figured that I’d just have to suffer through the other components of straight fucking. And part of me believed that all women felt that way. So who would ever need or want a realistic dildo?

Wow, how my opinion changed. Sometime around my 19th birthday, penis-in-vagina sex entered my sexual repertoire. And while there was definitely a learning curve, once my partner and I had figured out each other’s bodies, our PIV sex became fucking stellar. I still couldn’t (and can’t) get off from penetration alone, but it hardly mattered to me. I began to crave cock, just as I’d thought I never would.

All this to say: the Tantus Uncut #1 is the kind of dildo I would have hated at age 17, but that I absolutely love now.

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The first time I put the Uncut #1 in my vag, I noticed that it felt a bit like my beloved Mustang – i.e. soft, squishy, but firm enough to please my G-spot. I’m not the only one who’s made this comparison. Tantus’ flexible dual-density O2 silicone pairs beautifully with the big juicy head on the Uncut #1, making for a dildo that feels real enough to indulge my PIV fantasies while also still feeling, y’know, like a great dildo.

Once, after a long wank sesh with the Uncut, I slid it out of me and fondled it, and I was amazed at how real it felt when it was all warm and wet. The skin-like texture and fleshy squish of this dildo make it one of the best nonporous realistic options on the market, right up there with the VixSkin line.

Dimensions-wise, the Uncut #1 is a bit strange. Its 1.75″ girth is perfect, but it has an insertable length of 7.45″, which is… excessive. Luckily, you don’t have to use the whole length (I never do, because I physically can’t), and those extra inches will be a blessing if you use this dildo for strap-on play, since harnesses shorten dildos’ useable length.

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The shaft of the Uncut #1 features lots of veiny texture. I have to use more lube than usual for it to be comfortable, but then, I’m not much of a texture fan. Occasionally I get that “vaginal rugburn” feeling once the lube dries down a little, but usually at that point I’m halfway to orgasm and the pain mingles with pleasure so I just feel properly fucked rather than sore.

I don’t find that the Uncut targets any particular spots inside me. Its coronal ridge slides over my G-spot deliciously with every thrust, and it’s long enough that I get a little A-spot stimulation if I shove it in as deep as it’ll go, but neither spot gets a lot of stimulation from this toy. It’s more of an all-over sensation for my vagina – which still feels pretty excellent.

Overall I’m dazzled by what an excellent realistic dildo Tantus has created with the Uncut #1. I initially wanted it for the novelty factor – foreskins, yay! – so I didn’t expect it to be this terrific. High five, Tantus!

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Now, here’s some exciting news… I am giving away an Uncut #1 to one lucky reader!

The lovely folks at Tantus gifted me two Uncuts, identical except for their color, and I decided to keep the mocha one – so the cocoa one is up for grabs! See the Rafflecopter widget below for deets on how you can enter.

Just so you know: this was a sample piece, so it won’t come in plastic packaging. (But don’t be alarmed: it hasn’t been used, obviously.) This giveaway is also only open to readers age 18+ from Canada and the U.S. Sorry, international friends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to go back? Read the previous chapter or the first chapter.

Yes, it’s time. Let’s read some more of Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian. Alright… Deep breath… Let’s go.

One of my fave things about Fifty Shades is E.L. James’ awkward attempts to set it in the U.S. despite having very little practical knowledge of her settings. Her characters consistently talk like Brits, in a way that’s glaring to any North American reader, and it’s hilarious. (Example: in this chapter, Ana says, “I’ve never left mainland USA.” Okay then.) James’ geographic ineptitude also shows up in her descriptions of locations. Chapter 3 starts out with Christian going on a jog in Portland, and he’s careful to explain that he jogs “down Southwest Salmon Street toward the Willamette River.” It reads a bit like a tourist brochure.

After his scenic jog along the Willamette, Christian returns to his hotel to get ready for his photoshoot with Ana et al. for Kate’s newspaper article.

Breakfast has been delivered and I’m famished. It’s not a feeling I tolerate – ever.

I vaguely remember from the first book (of which I admittedly only read half) that Christian has issues with food, presumably dating back to his time as the submissive of an abusive older woman. I’m intrigued to read more about this in Grey.

My hair is wet from my shower, but I don’t give a shit. One glance at the louche fucker in the mirror and I exit to follow Taylor to the elevator.

Uh. Couple things. A) I had to look up the word “louche.” Can’t say I’ve ever heard that one before. It means “disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way,” which, yeah, that’s totally Christian. And B) WHAT A DOUCHE. (Which rhymes with louche, incidentally.) He thinks soooo highly of himself. It’s annoying as a character quality, but it also doesn’t ring true. Wouldn’t someone in his psychological position be more insecure than this? I’m no psychology expert, but… somehow I doubt E.L. James is one, either.

As the photoshoot begins, Grey gets introduced to Ana’s photographer friend José, and this interaction devolves into another one of Christian’s masculinity competitions for Ana’s affections. (At Drunk Feminist Films, we shouted “Broformance!” and took a drink every time this happened. We got hammered.)

Christian observes that Ana’s friend Kate is more active, engaged, and bossy than Ana, which apparently indicates that Ana is “a natural submissive.” Right, ’cause how someone acts at a weird publicity event with a bunch of strangers is a clear sign of how they like to have sex. Brilliant logic, Christian.

He asks her on a coffee date, and they hold hands on the way to the café. One of the most jarring things about the Fifty Shades movie, for me, was how quickly the characters ramped up to intimate physical contact – me and a gaggle of sex bloggers yelled at the screen when Christian started stroking Ana’s face on their first date, for example. I had forgotten that this weird forwardness happens in the books as well.

Ana tells him she wants tea with the bag on the side (?! what is the point of this?) and then Christian orders it for her, calling it “bag-out tea,” which made me laugh really hard and I’m not entirely sure why. He also orders her a muffin even though she explicitly tells him she doesn’t want anything to eat. More of Christian’s food issues here, plus one of the first instances of Christian directly ignoring one of Ana’s requests, which will be a recurring theme in this book.

I watch her dunk the teabag in the teapot. It’s an elaborate and messy spectacle. She fishes it out almost immediately and places the used teabag on her saucer. My mouth is twitching with my amusement. As she tells me she likes her tea weak and black, for a moment I think she’s describing what she likes in a man.

…What? …This whole passage is so fucking weird. I can’t even. What?!?

They chat over their coffee and tea for a bit, and Christian continues to refer to their budding relationship as a “deal” in his internal monologue, like this is a merger and not a date. Cool, yeah, your cold and businesslike approach to romance is really charming and not at all off-putting.

Their conversation is supposed to feel like flirty banter, I think, but E.L. James is the worst, so it reads like two British robots playing 20 Questions.

And it’s with great pleasure and a smirk that I remind her that she’s interviewed me already. “I can recollect some quite probing questions.” Yes. You asked me if I was gay.

I swear they have referenced that particular “misstep” at least four times so far. As if asking someone if he’s gay is the most horrible, embarrassing thing in the world. I am unsure what decade Christian thinks he’s living in.

“Do you always wear jeans?” I ask. “Mostly,” she says, and it’s two strikes against her: incurable romantic who only wears jeans… I like my women in skirts. I like them accessible.

KEEP YOUR JEANS ON, ANA.

Her body is pressed against mine, and the feel of her breasts and her heat through my shirt is arousing. She has a fresh, wholesome fragrance that reminds me of my grandfather’s apple orchard.

Is this supposed to be sexy?!

This is, by the way, the incongruous face-touching incident that I mentioned earlier. Ana almost walks out in front of a speeding cyclist, because she’s Such A Klutz!, and Christian saves her life or whatever, so now their bodies are touching. Yawn.

He almost kisses her, but then decides against it because Ana “wants hearts and flowers and [he doesn’t] do that shit.” He tells her to steer clear of him because he’s not a good match for her, and then immediately afterward, he says, “Breathe, Anastasia, breathe.” How arrogant is this fucker that he thinks his rejection caused her to stop breathing and start panicking?!

She disappears into the building, leaving in her wake a trace of regret, the memory of her beautiful blue eyes, and the scent of an apple orchard in the fall.

And so ends chapter 3, leaving in its wake a trace of louche douche, the memory of awkward face-touching, and the scent of bag-out tea.