I wore this in 2011 on my first date with the man who would become my first serious boyfriend. Aw, baby Kate.

I wore this in 2011 on my first date with the man who would become my first serious boyfriend. Aw, baby Kate.

Oh, first dates. Is there any situation more nervewracking, or more filled with potential?!

I get freaked out every time I go on a first date, even if it’s with someone I’m not especially excited about. I’ve been known to send panicked last-minute texts to friends while putting my outfit together: “What if he thinks I’m ugly or boring?!” “What if he’s a serial killer?!” “What if he wants to do [x sex act] and I’m bad at it?!”

However, once the jitters are sorted out and I’m on my way, I usually have a pretty good time. Whether a first date ends in passionate sex or a chaste cheek-kiss, whether it leads to something more or nothing whatsoever, it’s still an interesting opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and go on an adventure of sorts.

Here are my guiding principles for a successful first date. Of course, you could follow these to a T and still have a disastrously bad time… but at least if you do, it’ll be the other person’s fault and not yours!

1. Be on time. Lateness is the height of rudeness. A first date is like a sexy job interview: your aim should be to put your best foot forward and project the absolute best possible image of yourself. That means being polite and respectful, including in the way you manage your time. It’s good manners to be 5 to 10 minutes early for any appointment, but especially one as emotionally precarious as a first date. If you find yourself running late for any reason, notify your date ASAP, apologize, and keep them updated on your ETA. I know you’re not a jerk, so don’t act like one!

2. Dress well. Back in March, I wore a shirt with a hole in it on a first date. I’m not saying that’s why the relationship ended in bitterness and confusion, but I’m not not saying that, either. Look, I just think it’s a good omen to put effort into your appearance for a first date, both because it helps impress the other person and also because the spiffier you feel, the suaver you’ll behave. Your outfit should be setting-appropriate (probably don’t wear a church dress to a punk show, or a crop top to the symphony) and should make you feel badass and foxy. Bonus points if it includes at least one “conversation piece” (I like to wear my vulva ring on first dates, because, well, if someone’s not cool with that, there probably won’t be a second date).

What I wore on my "date" with Kidder.

What I wore on my “date” with Kidder.

3. Know what you want and be honest about it. Granted, not all first-date conversations meander to heavy topics like “What are you looking for?” or “Why did you decide to go on this date?” but if yours does, you should be prepared for that convo. If you’re only out for some casual fun, don’t tell your date you’re looking for something meaningful to pacify them; likewise, if you have your heart set on (eventual) commitment, don’t act like the Captain of Chill. It can be terrifying to frankly state what you want, but hey, dating is always a gamble. You’re far likelier to get what you crave if you’re able to ask for it. (And by the way: if you don’t know what you want at the moment, it’s okay to be honest about that, too.)

4. Have a solid pre-date ritual. This is crucial for me, as a person with anxiety. I need a Pavlovian get-pumped-up pre-date routine to banish anxiety and summon my best self. Mine involves loud, peppy music, lots of time spent on my makeup and hair, and texting with supportive friends. Get your prep on point and the rest of the evening will feel smoother for it.

5. Limit your substance intake. If you regularly partake of alcohol or drugs, I recommend you cool it on first dates. Even if your date matches you drink-for-drink, it probably won’t lead to good places: carrying on sharp conversations is harder when you’re blitzed, you don’t retain information as well, and you act different from how you normally would. If things get sexy, intoxicated consent is a fraught issue, especially with a new partner whose body and tastes you don’t know. Plus, if your date is someone from the internet or who you just don’t know very well, it’s safest to keep your wits about you, just incase. I know those soul-searching, three-beers-in conversations can be great fun – mulling over life’s big questions together while getting progressively flirtier – but maybe save those until you know this person a bit better, mmkay?

6. Pick a place where you can talk. In my experience, lots of folks get nervous about not seeming “cool” or “fun” enough to a new potential partner, so they’ll try to take you to some Mega-Awesome Thing like a stand-up comedy show or a drive-in movie theatre. It’s my staunch opinion that all first dates should be “let’s talk and get to know each other” dates. It’s best if this is a low-commitment situation like coffee or a drink – as opposed to a full meal, where you’re stuck in your seat for at least an hour even if the two of you end up hating each other. All my best first dates have involved going out for some kind of beverage together and talking for hours. If your conversation crackles and flows, that’s hugely useful information that you totally wouldn’t have found out if you’d met at a loud punk bar or arthouse cinema.

What I wore on a Tinder date in Minneapolis.

What I wore on a Tinder date in Minneapolis.

7. Be prepared for sex. Responsible adults know that dates might lead to sex and sex carries risks. If you’re going on dates without safer-sex supplies in your bag/pockets/car, what are you even doing?! In addition to condoms and whatnot, you should also prep your body and mind in whatever ways make you feel sex-ready – you don’t want to be in bed with your gorgeous new lover later tonight and find yourself unable to focus on anything but your prickly legs and musky junk.

8. …but don’t feel obligated to get sexy. There are all kinds of “rules” about sex on first dates. Some say it ruins a budding relationship; some say a sexless first date is a disastrous omen. The truth is, there are no set-in-stone timelines for how dates or relationships are “supposed” to go. If both people want to have sex and are emotionally and physically prepared to do so, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t – but there’s no rush, either. You do what feels right for you and don’t let anyone shame you. If your date is The Right Person, they’ll be on the same page as you about sex stuff – or they’ll be willing to get on the same page as you.

9. Ask them about them. My number-one complaint about most boys on Tinder is that they’re terrible conversationalists. Don’t be that guy. Be interested in your date, ask questions and then follow-up questions, and really listen to what they say. Strangers often seem boring until you discover what’s interesting about them. Give them the opportunity to show you that, by asking them about themselves. (This has the added effect of making you appear to be extremely charming and socially skilled. Yay!)

10. If it sucks, leave. Like Alana Massey says: “Stop wasting your time on bad first dates.” If someone is rude, or boring, or wants different things than you do, or you just don’t find them as attractive as you thought you would, you are not obligated to continue with the date. Be polite and respectful (if you can) when you duck out, but don’t let yourself be guilted into prolonging an encounter that’s absolutely not working for you. Those of us raised female (or Canadian) are especially prone to feigning enthusiasm for the sake of politeness, but you don’t have to do that. You deserve better than that.

What are your first-date commandments? What are some of the best and worst first dates you’ve been on?

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I was creepin’ through Gala Darling’s blog recently, as I do more often than I care to admit, when I rediscovered a post where she talked about her writing process and the motivation behind her lifelong writing habit. I thought I’d pilfer the questions and answer them on my blog, too. I’ve done something similar before, but that was almost two years ago, and the creative process is always shifting and changing – so here are some reflections on my #WriterLyfe!

What am I working on?

Post ideas for this blog are always swirling around in my head. Here are some concepts I’m ponderin’ lately: a part 2 to my blowjob lipsticks post, a meditation on how and why I started loving giving head all of a sudden this year, a detailed recount of the genesis of my friendship with Bex, and a series about the sexual proclivities of fictional characters.

I’m also always chipping away at the ever-growing backlog of toys I’m supposed to review. Currently my “to test out” basket contains a leather collar, five vibes, two semi-realistic dildos, and a butt plug. I find product reviews more labor- and time-intensive than the other kinds of writing I do, but I promise I will catch up eventually!

Outside of this blog, I have a couple writing deadlines coming up. A cool online feminist publication green-lit my pitch about dating feminist men, so I’m working on that. And I’ve recently been hired by an online sex shop to write some informational posts for their blog, so I’ve got those on the go. Bizzy bee!

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

A lot of sex blogs are either very sexy or very informational, and while I respect those approaches immensely, I don’t have much interest in (or talent at) writing about sex in either of those ways. My approach to sex writing – and to sex itself, actually – is goofy, relaxed, exploratory and fun. I write about whatever sexual topics are authentically capturing my attention at the moment, whether that’s threesome-planning, ethical fetishism, sexy fanfiction or dildo-based makeup looks. My favorite sex writing – the type of stuff you’d see on Nerve or in the portfolios of people like Grant Stoddard and Sinclair Sexsmith – combines sexiness with psychological insight, cultural critique, and the writer’s own flaws. That’s ultimately what I aspire to do with my work.

Though this is “technically” a sex blog, I’ve also never been married to the idea of writing exclusively about sex. I basically write about anything that informs my sexuality and/or is informed by it, which can range from fashion and beauty to relationships to mental health. I think I would get bored and feel trapped if I forced myself to only write about things that a sex blogger “should” write about, so I let myself branch out as much as I want and it’s kept me very happy.

I asked my Twitter followers what makes my writing different from that of other sex bloggers, and some of the words that came back to me were: “honest, relatable, self-deprecating, knows and trusts her audience, grounded, unafraid, funny.” Well, color me flattered!

Why do I write?

I’ve always, always written. I have messily-scrawled journals dating back to the mid-nineties, when I was but a wee little masturbator. My parents have both written professionally at various times in their careers, so it runs in my family, and they always encouraged me to document my life as I was growing up.

Being an anxious person prone to obsessiveness, I’ve always found writing a helpful tool in processing, managing, and deconstructing my feelings. If something’s upsetting me or confusing me, chances are excellent that writing through it will help. The extent to which I am sane and balanced (which, admittedly, often isn’t much) is made possible for me by daily writing.

There’s also a “chicken or the egg” element to my pursuit of the writing life: I’ve always been good at it, and received praise for it, which makes me want to do it more. (Or is it the other way around?) My English-class grades have been stellar my whole life and I’ve been told by many, many teachers that I shouldn’t squander this aptitude. So I don’t.

Finally: a lot of what I write, I write because I wish I’d been able to read something like it when I was younger. Most of my writerly heroes (like Gala Darling, Alexandra Franzen and Alana Massey) are my heroes not just because they’re excellent writers, but also because their writing woke me up in some way, taught me something about myself, encouraged greater bravery or positivity or adventure in me. There is always the hope with writing – especially when writing about something emotionally charged like sex – that your readers will come away improved or emboldened in some sense.

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How do I write?

As much as I would like to be one of those crack-of-dawn, early-start writers, I can’t: my dayjob starts at 6AM so I spend most of my mornings in a grey office uptown, doing customer service while listening to podcasts to pass the time. However, the best thing about this job is that my shifts end by noon, so that the entire remainder of the day stretches deliciously ahead of me. If I’m not too burned out after work, I’ll grab my laptop, notebook and headphones, and trot off to a nearby coffee shop. Cafés are my favorite place to write; the caffeine and commotion keep my creativity buzzing along, and I find it motivating to go somewhere with the explicit intention of getting work done there.

I work at home sometimes, too. I have a lap desk, a real desk, and a kitchen table with a beautiful view.

While I’m writing, I like to munch carrots and hummus, or a muffin, or edamame. I like to sip a soy latte, or genmaicha, or ginger ale. I have to be able to stare out a window aimlessly while I think, and maybe throw an occasional tantrum when the words are flowing thick and slow. I like to listen to non-distracting instrumental music while I write. Sometimes I wear lipstick. Sometimes I like to have a friend with me, working on their own stuff, so we can bounce ideas off each other. (“If I just say the word ‘mons,’ do you think people will know what I mean?” “Do Americans know who Jian Ghomeshi is?” “What are the sociopolitical implications of throat-fucking?!”)

For the past 5 years, I’ve done all my journalism and blogging on my beloved mid-2011 MacBook Pro (pictured in the photos above), but I just upgraded to a sleek new MacBook Air (ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you!). I write blog posts in WordPress, and everything else in Google Drive; both of these platforms auto-save everything constantly so I don’t have to worry about losing my work accidentally. If I get an idea while I’m out and about, I type it into my phone’s Notes app. When I’m working on a big piece of journalism, like a feature story with tons of interviews and web sources, I synthesize all that stuff in Evernote. All my analog journaling is done in large hardcover ruled Moleskine notebooks with Pilot Precise V7 pens (I am a writing-supplies snob!).

How do I get past writer’s block?

I’m obsessed with sexuality, kink, and relationships. Sometimes it feels like I literally never stop thinking about, talking about, and writing about those topics – except when I’m asleep! So, for me, coming up with ideas is just a matter of recording my weird thoughts and feelings as they show up, so I’ll have something to refer to later when I’m writing a post.

If I’m feeling uninspired, sometimes I’ll go out with a friend and catch up with them on what’s afoot in our respective sex lives. Talking through our issues and stories, and seeing what patterns and problems come up again and again, can kickstart my creativity into gear.

It’s also helpful to keep an eye on Twitter, Reddit, the news, and so on. Sex is inextricably hooked into culture at large, and viewing the events of the world through my sex-nerd lens often gives me ideas.

 

What’s your writing process like? What are your must-have tricks and tools? What do you write about when you’re not sure what to write about?

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Sometime in 1995. I’m a good girl. An exceptional, clever little girl. I know I am. I’m three years old and I’m reading aloud from the TV Guide to my mom. “Set in an apartment building in New York City, I Love Lucy centers on Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) and her singer/bandleader husband Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz), along with their best friends and landlords…”

“Okay, wait, wait,” my mom says, laughing. “You’re not really reading that. You just know Lucy ’cause we’ve watched it so many times.” She slides the small magazine from my hands, flips it to a page about some nature documentary or political drama, and hands it back to me.

I read it to her. Barely stumble on any words. And then look up at her with wide eyes, knowing (and awaiting) what’s coming.

“Oh my god,” she deadpans. “You can read now?” I nod. An addiction to educational CD-Roms will do that to a person. She gulps. “What a good, smart girl you are!” Yeah, mom. I know.

Winter 2010. I’m a good, smart, studious girl. I’m waiting for my 9AM high school philosophy class to start, and I’ve got my nose buried in some snappy, captivating tome – Alain de Botton, maybe, or Mary Roach.

My philosophy teacher walks in, toting his literature-stuffed messenger bag, thermos of cafeteria coffee, and signature charisma. “Good morning, plebes!” he crows. “Ready to talk about existential dread?!” He’s my favorite teacher, and I’ve had so many good ones. Nerdy, witty, and unflaggingly enthusiastic, he’s like if Adam Brody and Jimmy Fallon had a (breathtakingly handsome) lovechild.

My classmates continue to buzz and chatter like nothing has happened. While he waits for the slide projector to power up, he sidles over to me. “Hey, bookworm! I’ve noticed you share my love of the written word,” he comments, gesturing at the book I’m clutching. “What is it this time?”

I tell him. The details of my answer are inconsequential. I don’t remember what book I was reading, or what I said to him. What sticks with me is his reply. “Ohhh,” he coos, raising his eyebrows like I’ve just said the most fascinating thing in the world. “Good girl!”

I have no idea how to respond to this or what I am feeling – the hot burst of blood rushing to my cheeks, the flood of carnal butterflies migrating southward – so I just giggle and get back to my book. He strides to the front of the room and starts a lecture on Sisyphus. Or Sartre. Or something.

September 2015. I’m a good girl – usually. Good, polite, conscientious girls don’t sext when their friends are around. Unless, of course, their friends are cool with it. Mine are. I’m lucky.

“He said he wants to see how deep I can get him in my mouth,” I call out to the room at large. I’m in Bex‘s office on the air mattress serving as my bed this trip. Bex, Penny and Lilly are in the next room, watching TV or playing video games or… I don’t know, actually. I’m pretty absorbed in my phone. “What should I say?”

“‘Yes, sir, I promise I’ll do my best,'” Bex supplies. They’re way better at this than I am. I type the words into my phone unquestioningly and hit “send.”

I do that thing you do when you’re sexting with someone you really like and they’re a little slow to answer. I pick up my laptop, then my journal, then the pajamas I laid out to change into twenty minutes ago, but none of them holds my attention because right now I have zero brainpower for anything that isn’t the domly dude on the other side of that phone.

It buzzes. I lunge at it. “Good girl,” the illuminated screen tells me.

Before I even know what’s happening, I’ve screamed and thrown my phone halfway across the room.

“What?!” Bex cries, running in to see me. “What happened?” They look at my phone, lying face-down on their hardwood floor (both phone and floor thankfully unharmed).

“He good-girl’ed me,” I say, helplessly. I really don’t know why I threw my phone, or screamed, or had the breath knocked out of me. I’ve never responded that way to a sext before, not even a really, really dirty one. I’m stunned.

My friends make noises of sympathy that are hard to translate into written words. Hnnng. Unf. YESSSS. They understand. I feel less silly than I did in the moment when I thought I’d broken my phone, or Bex’s floor. But my body and mind still feel thoroughly unhinged, and when I awkwardly ask the group if it’d be okay if I jerked off, they don’t seem remotely surprised. They say yes, and I do, and it’s good.

October 2015. I’m a good girl, scribbling notes furiously while my psychology professor talks. My grade in this class has consistently surpassed all my other grades this semester. I tell myself it’s because the subject matter captures my attention more, or the late-afternoon class time works better for my sleepy brain. That’s not why, though. I’m doing well because my professor is appallingly attractive and gives me heart feelings and vag feelings and daddy-kink feelings. I’ve nicknamed him “Professor Hot Dad,” taken to calling him “PhD” as shorthand when I tell my friends about him, and they know it doesn’t stand for Doctor of Philosophy.

Today’s lecture is about developmental psychology, and I’m dying. “Some theorists say reinforcement and punishment are most of how we learn,” he explains, raking a hand through his sandy blonde hair and changing the slide. “Like, you know, ‘Be a good girl for daddy, princess, and maybe he’ll get you an ice cream cone.’ That kind of thing.”

I let out an involuntary sigh so loud that people turn to look at me. I grab my bag, get up, and leave the class for a minute, ostensibly to get a drink of water or use the bathroom. But instead of doing either of those things, I just stand outside the classroom, tweet, and try to breathe.

December 2015. I’m a good girl, waiting at Bex’s house all day for them to get home from work so we can drink wine, watch Magic Mike XXL and maybe spank each other on Periscope for funsies. But even good girls get bored sometimes when they’re cooped up inside. So maybe they send taunting texts to their domly fuckbuddies back home in Toronto.

Our digital flirting starts light, then gets heavier. And then he tells me to go get my toys and come for him. “Why should I?” I demand, full of sass and spunk.

“Because you’re a good little girl,” he replies. Um. Yup. Yes I am. I hunt for my Tango and Double Trouble in my suitcase and make excellent use of them, immediately, so I can tell him I did. He’ll be so proud.

February 2016. I’m a good girl, cheeks still glowing pink from a guiltily recent blowjob. We’re out for dinner at the brew pub and no one in this place can even tell what we were up to twenty minutes ago. Well, probably not, anyway.

Sipping a pint and nibbling my chicken club sandwich, I can’t get my eyes off my clever, handsome friend as he tells me funny stories, slips in and out of silly voices to make me laugh, gets all puffed up from the pleasure of sharing a jovial meal with someone who’s just blown you.

We’re talking about kinks. This is a frequent topic of conversation for us, two dyed-in-the-wool sex nerds, though we come at it from pretty disparate perspectives: I’m a burgeoning little kinkster, and he’s a self-described vanilla dude. “One of my exes used to call me ‘daddy,’ and liked me to call her ‘princess,'” he recounts, casually digging into his curry like he didn’t just drop a bomb on me.

I laugh a little too loud. “Well! I’m having feelings about you saying those words,” I tell him honestly, which I probably wouldn’t if I was just a little sober-er. “At least you didn’t say ‘good girl.’ Then we’d really be in trouble.”

He stares at me blankly. Vanilla people always do.

March 2016. I’m a good girl. I’m a good girl. That’s what my boyfriend keeps telling me as he roughly rubs his fingers in and out of me, scoring my A-spot with ecstatic stripes. “That’s your sweet spot, huh, babygirl? You’re getting so wet for daddy,” he murmurs against my thigh, speeding up his thrusts. “You gonna be a good girl and come for me?” I do. Immediately. What can I say – he’s got a way with words.

It takes me long minutes to catch my breath and slow my heart. He holds me while I recover from rapture. When I’m well enough to speak, I tell him, “Holy shit. You are really good at dirty talk.”

He shrugs. “Yeah. I’m pretty good at knowing what people want to hear.” And though I don’t say so, I’m crushed. Those words aren’t hot because I want to hear them; they’re hot because I thought he wanted to say them. I thought he was getting off on being my domineering daddy, same as I got off on being his good little girl.

We’re only together a couple more weeks after that, and one of the reasons is: I can’t trust someone who only tells me what I want to hear. I can’t go deep into my dark, taboo, intimate kink with someone who’s standing on the outside of it, performing the ritualistic rites without actually being part of the club. It’s a sharp, staggering betrayal that he thinks “good girl” is a character I’m playing, a mask I’m wearing. He doesn’t see me. He doesn’t see what I am.

Early April 2016. I’m a good girl, dutifully working on my last assignment of the semester, when I get a message from a domly pothead acquaintance who wants to take me to my first marijuana dispensary.

“I can’t,” I explain. “My deadline’s soon and I still have so much work to do. I can only go if I get a ton done tomorrow.”

“I’m sure you’re the highly responsible type,” he tells me. “Work really hard all day tomorrow. Let weed serve as a motivator. Agreed?”

He should not be allowed to talk to me this way when I have so much to do and need to focus. “Are you getting kinda dom-y with me right now?” I ask, and add a “haha” so I’ll seem cool and nonchalant, although I am utterly not.

“Just friendly advice,” he says. “Read into it whatever you’d like.”

I bite my pen and stare at his message for a few moments before answering. “Okay,” I say. “I’ll work extra hard tomorrow.”

“Good girl,” he says. Dammit. Now I have to actually get my work done so he can take me to the freaking dispensary.

Late April 2016. I am a good, brave, capable girl. That’s what Bex tells me, sitting in their car in the parking lot of a Minneapolis pizzeria where I’m about to go on a Tinder date with a total stranger. “You can totally do this,” they assure me. “It’ll be fine.”

I’m still anxious. What if Tinder Dude doesn’t find me attractive IRL? What if I don’t find him attractive? What if he’s boring and insufferable? What if he thinks I’m boring and insufferable? “What if he’s a serial killer?” I ask Bex, because that seems like a more reasonable concern than all of the smaller worries puncturing my resolve.

“He won’t be,” my best friend promises. “But just incase: I expect you to text me within 15 minutes, to tell me all’s well. If I don’t hear from you by 7:30, I’ll come back with a Double Trouble in each hand.”

I laugh. “Okay, dad,” I sneer, leaning in to hug them goodnight. “I’ll text you.”

“Good girl,” Bex says, and I get out of the car with renewed grit and mettle. Whatever happens, happens. I can do it because Bex said I could. I’ll be good and go on this goddamn Tinder date.

Later that night, when dude is inside me, I reach down to touch my clit to try to get myself off. “Oh, you’re touching your pussy for me, huh?” he jeers. “Good girl.” I laugh in his face, because I’m amazed that I feel absolutely nothing in response to his words. No rush of arousal, no dutiful call to action, no swell of pride. Maybe this particular loaded compliment – like sex in general – only stirs emotions in me when I’m emotionally invested.

This stranger from the internet who I’ll never see again after tonight? He’s nice, and fun enough to spend an evening with. But I don’t care about him enough to try to impress him. I don’t care if he thinks I’m a good girl.

May 2016. I’m a good, talented, gutsy girl. I mount the stairs onto the stage of the 519 ballroom. Me and my ukulele get a warm welcome from the boisterous Smut in the 6ix crowd. “I’m gonna play you a song I wrote when I was just coming into my identity as a submissive person,” I purr into the mic. “It’s called Good Girl, because, uh… that is a phrase that gives me a lot of feelings.”

I strum the opening Cminor7 chord and go into my sweet, kinky little waltz. “Tie me to the bedposts, kiss my wristbones, leave bruises on my arms,” I sing. “Do it really nice, though – gentle and slow. Don’t leave me lasting harm.” I can remember the mythical dream dom partner I vividly envisioned when I wrote those words – someone I knew hadn’t entered my life yet but was drifting around the periphery, waiting to arrive for me when I least expect it.

As I come to the last line of the song – “I’ll show you that I’m a good girl” – the room bursts into applause, and I glow from the attention. The act before me was a beautiful burlesque performer who shamelessly stripped on stage, and that image lingers in my mind and emboldens me. “Is it okay if I take off my skirt?” I ask the audience, and they holler their jubilant yeses.

I shimmy out of my pencil skirt til it falls to the floor, and I’m just wearing my figure-hugging gold lamé bodysuit. I have one terrifying moment of self-consciousness – does the lamé make my belly look fat? Are my thighs too pale? Is my cellulite showing? – before someone near the front shouts, “Good girl!

Everything’s okay. I grin. I play my second song.

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I have long been obsessed with totems: physical tokens which represent, and remind you of, a mental or emotional idea. I believe you can invoke magic, meaning, passion and purpose through the use of these small symbols. Magic, the way I see it, is a blend of attitude and action: when you’re reminded of your intentions all the time, they stay in the forefront of your mind, making it likelier that you’ll take small (and big) steps toward them every day.

A totem, the way I view it, can be any item that reminds you of something you want to feel or something you want to accomplish. Lately I’ve been enjoying the process of maintaining an altar of sorts: a collection of these totems, grouped together in one place, to remind me of what I’m trying to bring into my life.

My little mini-altar is a grey stone bowl that sits on my desk, perched atop a piano-shaped music box. It’s positioned to the left of my computer, so its presence looms lovingly over every moment of work I do at my desk. It’s filled with objects that keep me on-task and feeling good whenever I look at them.

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Central to my altar right now (it changes frequently) are two vulvas: a custom-made vulva ring I commissioned from CatStache Accessories, and a turquoise silicone vulva cast that was a gift from Colin at Hole Punch Toys. Obviously, sexuality is central to my work – especially the encouragement and validation of the sexuality of female-assigned-at-birth people – so these vulvas act as a daily reminder of the Power of the Pussy! Colin also gave me a cast of a butthole, so that’s in there too.

I bought a quartet of beautiful dice at a Long Island nerd shop last time I was there visiting Bex. They viscerally called to me when I saw them in their display case, even though I don’t play Dungeons and Dragons or do anything else that would necessitate me owning dice. I think I was drawn to their nerdy-fun energy: most of the people I’ve ever been attracted to are nerdy enough to participate in stuff like D&D with great enthusiasm. (Cough, the McElroy brotherscough.) The presence of these dice in my altar reminds me of the type of romantic and/or sexual partner I’m always trying to attract into my life, and they also remind me of how much I love nerds in general. Sex nerds are my ideal readers here; I connect so deeply with nerds’ extreme enthusiasm and obsessive love of their interests.

Last week I went out dancing at a bar with my friends Dan and Sarah, and drunkenly bought an expired vintage-looking condom from the vending machine in the bar bathroom. It’s in my altar now because it makes me laugh (“Do not use as a substitute for a condom,” the packaging dares you in a distinctly 1970s-looking font), but also because it reminds me of how absolutely crucial sex education is. There are people in the world who wouldn’t know how perilous it could be to use an expired, “for-novelty-use-only” condom, and that kind of gap in knowledge is part of what I’m working to eradicate with my sex education work!

When I had coffee with Kidder, my sex-positivity hero, he gave me a box of gifts, including a signed copy of his book, a new-in-the-box copy of a sexy card game he developed when I was but a youngin’, and a silver coin emblazoned with the “Sex is Fun” logo. That coin holds a place of honor in my altar, because it reminds me that my heroes are people too, and that maybe someday I’ll be somebody’s hero the way Kidder was for me.

Tucked into the top of my altar is a white index card folded into an origami heart. Periodically I like to write down my current hopes and wishes and do some kind of magic ceremony with the piece of paper to release my wish to the universe, whether that be burning it, shredding it, or just folding it into a meaningful heart. I don’t even remember what’s written inside this particular heart, but the sight of it makes me happy.

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I own lots and lots of crystals. Like a lot of magical items, I’m not 100% convinced of their ability to make magic in the ethereal sense of rearranging the universe and attracting specific things into our lives, but I do think they serve to remind you of what you’re trying to achieve, and that’s always a useful thing. Each crystal in my altar was chosen for a specific purpose; some of my favorites are my rose quartz wand (for encouraging self-love and compassion), a chunk of labradorite (for quelling anxiety and overwhelm), citrine (for prosperity and higher self-esteem), and amethyst (for increased creativity and intuition). Sometimes when I meditate about my hopes and dreams, I like to clutch a rose quartz heart in one hand and a carnelian heart in the other; those are the love and sex crystals, respectively, and it feels divinely right for me to combine their powers and use ’em together.

I own a lot of jewelry, some of which I keep in my altar because it holds specific meanings for me. I have a rose quartz point necklace, to (again) evoke self-love. (Never enough rose quartz!!) And I have three rings: an emerald and diamond ring given to me by my high school girlfriend (to remind me I’m capable of being loved deeply), a ring my late grandmother willed to me that features a panther with glowing jade eyes (to remind me of my inherent feminine power and bravery), and a blue topaz heart ring I bought myself (to increase my writerly powers). Sometimes I stack them all on my fingers when I leave the house, on days when I need cheerifying and emboldening.

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There are a few things my altar is missing, that I’d really like to find for it:

• A penis, or at least some kind of phallic symbol (other than the semi-phallic rose quartz wand up there). There’s a lot of vulva-energy in this spread and I wanna balance that out. A miniature dildo would be ideal!

• Something that reminds me of Bex. They’re my best friend, my romantic advisor and my favorite shoulder-angel. I want a little symbol that basically functions as a reminder to ask myself, “What would Bex do?”

• Something kink-related, like a tiny handcuffs charm or a heart-shaped lock. Kink is an important part of my sexuality and even my spirituality; it’s odd that it isn’t represented here.

• Maybe some specific mementos from happy past sexual experiences. A receipt from a drinks-date. A matchbook from an illicit hotel. A chocolate wrapper from a romantic weekend. I think these things are imbued with colossal positive energy and we can always use more of that!

Do you have any kind of altar-like space in your home? How about tokens that serve to remind you of what you want? What are they?

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When you’re known as a femme sex blogger, people constantly send you links to sexy femme things. Rhinestoned vibrators. Penis-shaped lipsticks. And – most intriguingly to me – leather pumps whose heels are butt plugs.

I’ve been mutual Twitter followers with the proprietor of Ainsley-T for a while, and earlier this year, they offered me a pair to review. My approach to sex toy reviewing lately is based more on what I think’ll be weird than what I think’ll be good, so of course, I said yes immediately. Not too long thereafter, a package arrived in the mail for me containing what is now, no doubt, the oddest pair of shoes I own. (And I say that as someone who owns heels with cartoon duelling snakes hand-painted on them.)

My Ainsley-T Plug Pumps are black, sexy, and powerful. The heel itself is glossy, while the shoe’s upper is a more matte calfskin. I requested a European size 39 for my U.S.-size-8 feet, and they fit well: not so loose as to slide off when I walk, and not so tight as to pinch.

Despite my other femme proclivities, I am not a “heels person.” Wearing heels for any length of time annoys the shit out of me. I can hobble around in my Sofft T-straps or padded Naturalizer pumps for a few hours if need be, but I’d rather not; stick me in some harness boots or leather flats and I’m a happy, comfy, ambulatory little princess. So I wasn’t expecting to like the Plug Pumps as actual shoes, and I don’t. The heels are perplexingly, fetishistically high – 5.9 inches, with a 1.8-inch platform – and walking on them makes me feel like I’m teetering on some very kinky stilts. I’m also not particularly a fan of the severe square toe – give me almond-toe or give me death!! – but I can see how others would be into that aesthetic.

So, since wearing these shoes on my feet isn’t an appealing option, obviously I shoved one in my ass.

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Let me be clear. I did not shove the whole shoe in my ass. That would be quite a feat (heyooo, see what I did there?!). But even taking the heel of this pump proved to be quite a challenge. Luckily, I’m a sex toy reviewer – I’m used to sticking strange things in my holes.

I started my testing session with the Plug Pumps by watching a porn scene in which a deliciously femmed-up Tina Horn dominates a pathetically trussed-up Danny Wylde. I chose this because I happened to have it stored on my phone and was feeling lazy, but it proved to be an ideal choice: Tina towers over Danny in high heels throughout the scene, allowing me to fantasize about mean, toppy femmes as I proceeded with my masturbatory adventure.

I began by trying the heel in my vagina. With no added lube or protection of any kind, I slid it in. You probably shouldn’t try this at home, kids. The Ainsley-T site specifically says, “We recommend the use of a condom if the footwear is to be used for anal or vaginal play,” because the heels are made of a lacquered ABS that’s presumably not as orifice-safe as, say, silicone or steel. My contact at Ainsley-T told me the finish isn’t porous, but that he wanted people to be able to use the shoe “without requiring excessive bravery.” So, wrap that shit up, friends.

The heel didn’t feel like much in my vag. I wouldn’t expect it to; it has a diameter of just 1.4″ and my vagina is on some next-level shit. But it was a good warm-up while I got myself turned on with porn and a vibe, and it gave me more confidence in my ability to stick the heel in my ass next.

I lubed the heel and went to slide it into my butt… which was more difficult than anticipated. You don’t fully appreciate ergonomic butt plugs until you’ve tried to insert a plug that has a fucking shoe attached to it. Each time I inserted or re-inserted it, it took me several tries to get the angle right – and once the heel did find its way inside me, holding and thrusting it by the vamp was awkward-bordering-on-impossible. Plus, the toe and platform rest right over my clit when the plug’s all the way inside me, making added clit stimulation difficult. Eventually I flipped the shoe around so the toe was closer to my tailbone than my clit – that gave me more room for vibes or fingers, and the shoe was easier to maneuver that way.

Now, keep in mind, this shoe wasn’t designed for masturbation. I get the feeling the target audience is dominant femmey types who want to fuck their subs’ asses and/or engage in general shoe worship, at least judging by the promotional images on the product page. But I told the Ainsley-T dude I’d review his shoes the same way I’d review any sex toy, so that’s what I’m doin’.

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My usual lying-flat-on-my-back position doesn’t work great for butt stuff, and even with my Jaz under my hips, the shoe was too awkwardly large to use the plug that way. For a while, I sat perched on the edge of my desk chair, knees bent high for better butt access, but that grew uncomfortable too. So I settled onto all fours, the shoe’s sole resting on my lower back while its heel was buried in my ass.

Grinding my clit against my Magic Wand in this position, everything actually started to feel pretty good. I made little mewls of pleasure while fantasizing about Tina Horn shoe-fucking me (or… shoe-Horn-ing me, if you will). The heel’s moderate diameter felt just right, and the narrower shaft below the plug’s swollen middle gave my butt muscles something pleasant to clench around. I began to think I might actually have an orgasm.

But then… the heel slid out of my ass. I squealed “Noooo!” and grabbed it up again, re-lubed, and re-inserted. This kept happening, though. I don’t know if a wider diameter would help or hinder this problem. In any case, like I said before, most people using this product will have another person’s foot/leg/body holding the shoe where it’s supposed to be, so I can’t fault the heel for repeatedly falling out of me.

I eventually MacGyvered a system where my face and arms were braced against my Liberator Wedge while the sole of the shoe was settled flat against my Jaz. This worked brilliantly for me, but, y’know, that’s a lot of expensive positioning equipment and you could probably replicate the effect with a plethora of firm pillows. With the shoe securely pressed against my Jaz, I was able to wriggle and gyrate against it while I buzzed my clit with the Magic Wand, and that gave me the sensation of actually being fucked. (It helped that the only time I’ve actually been fucked in the ass, I was in the same position, using the same vibe. Hellooo, fantasies about handsome gentleman fuckpal.)

Some minutes later, I had an orgasm, and it was loud and weird and good. But my hips tilted forward to make firmer contact with the Hitachi, and this allowed my pelvic muscle contractions to eject the heel from my ass at top speed. It was as if the shoe was crying, “Finally! I can go back to just being a shoe!”

As I lay there in a sweaty heap on top of my Liberators, a lube-drizzled pump beneath me and a vibrator tucked in the crook of my arm, I reflected on what a weird life sex toy reviewers lead. In no other line of work would anyone be expected to stick a piece of footwear in their butthole and then write about it in salient detail. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Thank you so much to Ainsley-T for sending me these gorgeous shoes, and for having a terrific sense of humor about me wanting to review them as a sex toy. It’s companies like this one that make toy reviewing such a fun endeavor, I tells ya.