On Taking Men’s Money

Wednesday night, I get on a Skype call with a man who’s paid me for my time tonight. A few minutes in, he confesses, “I looked at your tweets earlier to see what kind of mood you were in, and I saw you’re not too pleased with men today, so I was worried.”

I laugh out loud. “Oh, no. Those tweets were about men who weren’t paying me to put up with them. That’s completely different,” I tell him, and I mean it.

See, the thing is, cis men are frequently exhausting. They’re not socialized to notice and take care of others’ feelings in the way that folks raised as women are, and what results is – not in all men, but in most of them, from my experience – a habitual trampling on others’ emotional boundaries, talking too much and not listening enough, prioritizing their own opinions and experiences over others’, and lacking appropriate empathy for others’ struggles. These qualities often exist even in men I would otherwise consider good people, so even my deep, fond friendships with cis men usually take more out of me than my connections to women, femmes, and anyone who was raised as female.

There’s been a lot of discourse around “emotional labor” these past few years, and it’s well-known that men tend to demand more of it and be comparatively unskilled at providing it in return. I’ve seen this over and over again: on Tinder dates with dudes who monologued at me about their career ambitions without asking me one thing about myself; in long conversations with male friends who unpacked their latest romantic drama until providing support exhausted me so much that I had to leave early; even while fielding endless questions from male customers while working retail (who usually didn’t end up buying anything, mind you). I’m sometimes willing to put in this type of work – that’s what intimate connections require, after all – but only for certain people, only some of the time, and ideally in exchange for something in return.

That “something in return” might be reciprocal friendship and support. It might be a favor done for me, like bringing me coffee, helping me with web design, or (in the case of some of my tiresome Tinder dates and loquacious FWBs) giving me a killer orgasm. Or it might be money. And that’s fine.

In her essay “The Monetized Man,” culture writer Alana Massey explains that she’s titled her checking account “Male Tears” because so much of her income comes from writing about “how the unrestrained, unaccountable emotional lives of men wreak havoc on women.” In a similar spirit, I have never really felt guilty about accepting money from men, because I regard it as reparations of a sort. They still earn substantially more than women and are taken more seriously in professional environments. Why shouldn’t I accept money from the men who want to give it to me, as a way of levelling the playing field so my life more closely resembles what it would look like in a gender-egalitarian world? (This is also why you should give your money to people of color, queers and trans folks, disabled folks, and other marginalized people when and if you can.)

Every day, I receive at least a handful of DMs on Twitter and Instagram from men I don’t know. Most of them lack any creativity or charm whatsoever: “Hey,” they might say, or, “Hi sexy lady.” On a tip from my friend Bex, I’ve started replying to these messages thusly: “What can I help you with?”

This immediately sets a tone for our conversation. I am not willing to idly small-talk with random men, especially those who lack even the basic courtesy to introduce themselves or explain why they are messaging me. What with my blog, podcast, freelance writing, and two “dayjobs,” plus a social life, I literally do not have the time to engage in the banal banter these men are hoping for – unless they pay me.

Sometimes – not often, but sometimes – these interactions parlay into an actual financial transaction. They might buy nudes, a cam show, or a few minutes of sexting. Some of these guys have even become regular customers of mine, paying for my media or services every few weeks. The “sex work” column of my finance spreadsheet makes up 7% of my total income this year: not a lot, but nothing to sneeze at, certainly.

What’s better, still, is the men who reach out to me already knowing full well that money will be exchanged if we are to interact. These classy customers do not attempt to haggle my prices down, wrangle free nudes out of me, or waste my time with endless chatter; they just want my PayPal address and a list of upcoming evenings when I might be available to chat. Bless their hearts.

When I publicly express my opinion that Random Men of the Internet should pay me if they want to interact with me, I’m often met with accusations that I make men pay for everything in my life and that I’m a spoiled, entitled princess. While I am definitely a princess, the rest of it is false: I always insist on paying my fair share on dates, I’m not conventionally attractive enough to get offered free drinks at bars the way some women do, and at this point my living expenses are all covered by money I earn by working for it.

I don’t believe these men should pay me just because I exist and I’m great (although I am), but because what they are asking me for is labor and labor deserves payment. Titillating random men, supporting them emotionally, entertaining them – these forms of emotional labor are skilled, valuable labor, worthy of compensation.

Come Learn About Vulvas and Vaginas From Me!

Illustration of the internal clitoris from Dr. Laurie Mintz’s book Becoming Cliterate.

I’ve always loved teaching. A perpetual teacher’s pet, I used to help out other students in elementary school when they had questions about math curriculum, English texts, or the inner workings of the vagina (#SexNerdLyfe!). In high school, I was a “peer tutor” for a grade-10 history class and a grade-11 improv class, dutifully taking attendance, handing out worksheets, and answering kids’ questions. After I graduated, I coached my school’s improv team for a year, running scene drills and giving notes and cheering for those kids when they performed in improv competitions; the time I spent with that team is still, to this day, one of the proudest achievements of my life.

In recent years, I’ve befriended tons of sex educators – like my friends Bex, Taylor, and Sarah, to name a few – and started to think, “Hey, maybe I could do that too!” Whenever I see a pal wax poetic about blowjobs or kink or Tinder in front of a crowd, it stirs some itchy envy in me. The owner of local sex shop The Nookie, Veronica, kept asking me every time I saw her if I planned on pitching a workshop soon, and my answer was always the same: “I can’t think of any specific topic I know enough about to teach a workshop on!”

That all changed one day on a bus ride home from Hamilton. I’d spent the morning eating breakfast with my friend Suz at a diner, encouraging her to pitch some workshops and helping her brainstorm some ideas. As I sat squeezed into a window seat on a Go bus, staring out at the galloping highway, I suddenly had an idea for a workshop I could teach. And it was a good one.

See, I’m known, in my sex blogger circle, for spreading info on little-known erogenous zones. I’m all about the A-spot, the external G-spot, and the clitoral shaft, to name but a few. Beyond just enjoying stimulation of these spots myself, I also think it’s important we talk about zones like this, so that people don’t feel broken if their enjoyment doesn’t hinge on “typical” things like the G-spot or the tip of the clitoris. Plus, sex isn’t much fun without variety, and learning about different spots can help you achieve that!

I’d long considered teaching a workshop on the A-spot alone, but I wasn’t sure there was enough material there for a full hour-long or 90-minute session. So when it suddenly occurred to me to talk about not only the A-spot but also all the other little-discussed vulvovaginal hotspots, I knew I had my workshop pitch at long last.

I spent the rest of that bus ride frantically making notes, planning and structuring my workshop-to-be. I found that I am bursting with information about these spots, and so excited to share it with curious sex nerds!

So, without further ado: if you’re in Toronto, or can get here, you should come to the debut of my new workshop, Vagic Tricks: Hidden Hotspots of the Vulva and Vagina! It’s happening at The Nookie on Wednesday, November 29th at 8PM. You can buy your ticket online for $25. I hope to see you there, and I can’t wait to teach you what I know!

Monthly Faves: Geeks & Tweed

I feel like my mental health picked up a bit this month after being somewhat abysmal since my breakup in August, so that’s been nice! A new job and a new crush are reinvigorating me. Here are some of the sexy things I enjoyed in October…

Sex toys

• I like the new Je Joue bullet more than I was expecting to! It has this great motor that’s rumbly in a different way than I’m used to; it’s hard to describe. I’ll write a full review eventually. When I want a pinpoint clit vibe, lately I’ve been alternating between my Tangos, my ScreamingO Vooom, and this li’l purple bullet. They all have a different quality of vibration, so it’s a good mix!

• I’m also enjoying the Satisfyer Pro Penguin lately. Satisfyer sent me most of their range earlier this year, and to be real with you, my clit is not discerning enough to have a preference between the three (!) Satisfyers I own – but this little pink one wins my heart based on ergonomics and aesthetics alone. The suction-y sensation makes a particularly great pairing with cunnilingus porn!

Fantasy fodder

• There’s a porn company called “Fuck the Geek” which has given a title to a genre of porn I’ve long enjoyed: unreasonably hot woman bangs incongruously schlubby dude. I would imagine the guys who watch this like it because it’s a form of wish fulfilment, much like sitcoms where a Kevin James-lookin’ motherfucker is married to a Leah Remini-lookin’ stunner. But for me, the appeal of these scenes is the dude’s utter incredulity. He can’t believe he’s lucky enough to be getting sucked/fucked by a classically porny starlet – and he and his boner respond with suitable enthusiasm!

• Been thinking a lot about salt-and-pepper daddy doms in tweed jackets (what else is new, right). If a dude looks like a professor from a dramatic teen movie set at a New England boarding school, I probably have a crush on him, and he should really consider spanking me with a wooden ruler. I’m just sayin’.

• This mom-and-son roleplay/blowjob video absolutely fucking delighted me. Mrs. Mischief has such a sense of humor about the whole scene. Plus, she’s a total babe and a dick wiz – I don’t normally eroticize mom/son dynamics very much but this one noticeably turned me on while also making me giggle and applaud.

Sexcetera

• Some of my work elsewhere this month: I wrote about toxic sex toys (including ones containing CHLORINE!) for Glamour. I reported on the orgasm gap for Herizons. I offered some Halloween sexy roleplay suggestions over at Ignite. I wrote some smutty Brooklyn Nine-Nine fanfiction. I discussed ways to introduce a sex toy into your relationship for Peepshow. I talked with Inspirational Songstress about my music, my favorite place to write, and my confidence journey. I guested on What’s My Body Doing? to talk dominance and submission with the ever-adorable Eva.

• Orgasm stats: as of time of writing on the 30th, I’d had 30 orgasms this month, making it an unusually libidinous month for me and bringing my total for the year up to 279 so far. 300 is within reach!! #nerd

Femme stuff

• Autumn always reignites my fondness for dark lipsticks. Lately I’ve been swooning over Sephora cream lip stain in Blackberry Sorbet, MAC lipstick in Fashion Revival, and (the cream of the #SpookyFemme crop) MAC Retro Matte liquid lipstick in Caviar.

• I bought a black crop top at H&M for about $8 and it’s perfect: simple, flattering, easy, and versatile. It pairs well with leggings, skirts, shorts, and even just underwear when I’m loungin’ around the house. I love how it offsets any necklace I wear (including my hot pink internal clit).

• The scents I can’t get enough of this month: Memoirs of a Trespasser by Imaginary Authors is comforting, yet adventurous, like a rugged explorer recounting his journeys to his wife in their cozy house upon his return home. Sir by D.S. & Durga is over-the-top stately masculinity, like I’m snuggled up in the aforementioned fantasy daddy dom’s tweed blazer, sipping whiskey by a roaring fire. Rachel Syme says Cuir by Mona di Orio is the perfume Rosa Diaz would wear, and I am inclined to agree: it’s leathery and fierce and doesn’t care what you think.

Little things

Smoking a joint in the bath while wearing a sheet mask (truly peak #StonerFemme). Big cheap breakfasts at my local diner, where they don’t mind if I sit for hours sipping coffee and writing about kink. The word “yikes.” Being kinky Powerpuff girls with Eva. Spotify algorithms. Improv crushes (fucking always). Merciless to-do lists on pink paper. My dad buying me sushi. Playing sad blowjob songs for Anais on her piano. Attending my high school reunion. My new part-time job at a luxe sex shop! When I told my FWB I kinda wanted to call him Daddy and he reacted with utter nonchalance. Puppy kisses. Sharing pizza, wine, and a huge cookie with Suz in her beautiful apartment. Laura Antoniou’s kinky murder-mystery The Killer Wore Leather. Feeling abundant. Giant donuts at my fave café. Crying with laughter at Catch23. Afternoon naps in my sunny bedroom.

Freelance Friday: Pitching & Procrastinating

Q. What are the basics of pitching stories?

A. A pitch is the written equivalent of an audition. It’s you demonstrating not only that you have a great idea for a story, but also that you’re the right person to execute it, at this particular time, for this particular publication.

Pitching was one of the things that intimidated me most when I started journalism school, because it seemed like a code I had to crack. I felt that if I didn’t know the language of pitching, I’d never be able to “make it” as a writer, even if my skills were otherwise solid. This is somewhat true – actors who suck at auditioning don’t book many gigs, even if they’re fabulous once you get ’em on stage or on camera, you know? – but pitching isn’t as difficult as I once believed it was.

Here’s the basic formula. Look up the editor you want to pitch to (I usually sleuth out “sex & relationships” editors, since that’s my niche, but it depends on the piece and the publication) in the outlet’s masthead. (Or, alternatively, reach out to a writer friend who’s worked with that publication before and ask if they’d mind sharing their editor’s contact info.) Check to see if the pub has specific parameters for pitching, and read those carefully. If not, write “PITCH:” in the subject line of your email, followed by a brief headline/title for your idea.

Address the editor by name, if at all possible. Write a quick introduction like, “I’m writing because I have an idea for a story I think would be right up your alley.” Explain your story idea in 2-3 paragraphs. Lay out the main points you’ll make, and how you’ll support them – including anyone you plan to interview for the story. Connect your story to the publication’s particular audience – make it easy for the editor to understand why your story is a good fit for them, specifically. If you can, tie the story to a “news hook” that makes it current (e.g. “I want to write about fisting because International Fisting Day is coming up”). Specify what type of piece you’re hoping to write (news brief? personal essay? longform feature?) and what you estimate the word count might be (although an editor might just tell you the word count they want).

Some publications want you to have already done lots of research by the time you get to the pitching stage, while some are content if you just indicate what research you intend to do if your pitch is accepted. However, it never hurts to do at least a little research in advance, to prove you have access to sources and an understanding of the subject matter. You could, for example, dig up some statistics that prove your central point, interview someone who attended an event you’re reporting on, or reference some other writing that’s been done on the topic you’re tackling (so long as you explain why your story will be different!).

In your last paragraph, give a little context about yourself: explain who you are, what you do, what your credentials are (including a few past publications, if applicable), and why you’re the person to write this story. (Do you have firsthand experience with the subject matter? Are you well-connected with relevant sources? Are you an expert on the subject?) Finish with a nice conclusion (as per advice from Alana Massey, I like “If you’re interested in moving forward with this, let me know your thoughts in terms of angle, deadline, rate, and word count”) and a polite and professional sign-off. (I always include my portfolio URL under my name so editors can check out the rest of my work if they are so inclined.)

While you’re bound to get rejected a fair bit, good pitch skills can take you a long way. Once you get a pitch accepted, it’s just a matter of proving you can actually follow through on researching and writing the piece you’ve pitched!

Q. How do you avoid procrastination? What keeps you so highly motivated?

A. I’m often asked how I manage to crank out 2 to 3 posts a week so consistently. I think the answer is: a blend of caffeine, mental illness, organization, and love.

Let me explain what I mean by each component of that recipe. Love is easy: I have a deep, unending zeal for writing – and writing about sex in particular – that is the core fuel of what I do. Other factors in my life (like the aforementioned mental illness) sometimes obscure my passion for periods of time, but it’s always there, waiting to be rediscovered. If I ever find myself resenting my blog workload or just not feeling as thrilled about it as I normally would be, I know I’m burned out and need to refuel my creative engine. Often I can do that by just taking a few days off from writing (if possible), reading the work of writers I admire (in my genre or not), and then pursuing whatever topics genuinely tug at my curious heart at the time. (Erotic massages? Sex work law? Gloryholes?)

Mental illness is a tricky one. It’s my go-to jokey answer when anyone asks me how I stay so productive – “I’m mentally ill!” I’ll quip with a grin – and that’s an oversimplification but it’s also true. I have bipolar type 2 and my bouts of hypomania are often accompanied by boundless fascination with particular topics or people, more frequent strokes of brilliance, and more energy with which to transform those idea-flashes into fleshed-out pieces. My mental illnesses are a burden but they’re also my superpower. Many times, when Depressed Me was too foggy and forlorn to write a blog post, I’ve said a silent prayer of gratitude for Hypomanic Me and her hours of tireless work: I can often publish a blog post I wrote while manic to fill time while I’m too depressed to write.

That’s where organization comes in: I rely on infrastructure I’ve set up to keep my blog running smoothly, even in times of emotional turmoil. I use the Editorial Calendar plugin to keep all my posts visually organized and scheduled. When I receive a new toy to review, I create a draft of my forthcoming review and add to it whenever I have a relevant thought. When I think of a great idea for a blog post, I make a draft for it and make detailed notes so I can write it later. I work in advance on my regular features, like my Monthly Faves and link round-ups, a little at a time, so the work rarely piles up too much. I keep lists in Evernote and my phone’s Notes app of posts I’d like to write, so I’m never stuck for ideas. Basically, I put in a little work here and there to steadily reduce all the writing-related stressors I can, to make space for myself to actually write.

And when all of that fails me? There’s always caffeine. I get my ass to a coffee shop, order something tall and peppy, sit down with my laptop, and wait for the artificial energy to hit.

Got questions about freelance writing, blogging, or any of my other sexy-scribe activities? Email them to me, or comment below, and I’ll try to tackle ’em here!

The Cream of the (Riding) Crop: Which Toys I Brought When I Moved

Helping me pack for my move at the start of September, an old and dear friend was horrified when she saw the contents of my sex toys box. “That’s way too many,” she swore. “You can definitely pare that down.”

My eyes bulged. “Have you seen my entire sex toy collection?” I asked. “This is like 20 percent of it!” She saw my point. She dropped the issue. But I still saw her judgmentally eying that box from time to time.

She was right – I was bringing too many sex toys – but, to be fair, I was also right: when you’ve been a sex toy reviewer for five and a half years, you amass a big enough collection that someone else’s “way too many” becomes your “only a few.” While heavy enough to elicit a weakling’s grunt from my mouth every time I lifted it, that box marked “sex stuff” had been filled using logic and moderation. I’d avoided redundancy. “Do you really need two wand vibes?!” my friend asked incredulously, and I rolled my eyes because of course I did: one was rechargeable while the other was plug-in, one was rumblier while the other was buzzier, one was relatively lightweight while the other was heavy and ornate. I did not make these decisions lightly!

Here, then, is more-or-less the full list of toys I carted along with me to my new apartment, leaving the rest behind in boxes and bags at my parents’ house to be collected at a much later date…

Vibrators

I’m picky when it comes to vibes. They’ve gotta be rumbly, ergonomic, shaped suitably for my clit’s preferences, and minimally annoying to charge and use.

My “starting lineup” is an array of vibes I use frequently, that are up to the task of both turning me on and getting me off. I brought them all with me: my two We-Vibe Tangos, my Magic Wand Rechargeable and Doxy Die Cast, my Eroscillator 2 Top Deluxe, my ScreamingO Vooom, my Zumio, and my Swan Wand. These all fulfill different needs I have depending on my mood: some are pinpoint and some are broad, some come out guns a-blazin’ while some have subtler speeds, some are graceless power tools while some are precise implements of pleasure. Each one is an essential part of my collection.

Next, I added some vibes I’m only sometimes in the mood for. These cravings arise infrequently, but when they do, they must be heeded. These include the Satisfyer, Mona Wave, We-Vibe Nova, Stronic Eins, and Form 2.

Finally, I threw in a few vibes from my “to review” pile, since I need to have those on hand for Work Reasons and not just Wank Reasons. And that was that for my assortment of vibrators.

Dildos

This section of my collection was even easier to pare down, because my internal spots are less mercurial than my clit. They know what they like. A dildo is either a “yes,” a “meh,” or a “dear god no.” I brought along only the essentials from the “yes” pile.

Topping my list of must-haves were the Fucking Sculptures Double Trouble, Njoy Eleven, Standard Glass S-Curve, NobEssence Seduction, and Njoy Pure Wand. (You’ll notice that most of my faves are S-shaped and all are made of firm materials. I have a type!) Next I added other dils I occasionally crave, like the Tantus Tsunami, Vixen Mustang + LeoMaverick, Jopen Comet Wand, Fucking Sculptures Pussywillow and G-Spoon, and Godemiche Ambit.

Once again, this may seem like a lot, but each toy fulfills a different purpose and mood. And to be real with you, the S-Curve is the one I’ve used most since moving. I would’ve been okay if I’d just brought that one, but, well, I’m a dildo glutton.

Butt Stuff

I’m not much of an anal-play connoisseur, so there were only a few toys I wanted in my arse-enal: the Tantus Ryder and the Njoy Pure Plugs (sizes medium, large, and 2.0). There were a couple of to-be-reviewed plugs in the pile as well: the We-Vibe Ditto and the brand-new Hole Punch Butnik.

Lube

For my water-based needs, I packed a massive bottle of Sliquid Sassy and a smaller bottle of BabeLube Natural. For silicone-based, I threw in a few sample vials of Uberlube. And to round out my mélange, I brought one of my two containers of The Butters. I rarely use lube these days except with partners, so this’ll be plenty.

Kink Toys

Ah, now here’s where the decisions got hard again! I have soooo many kink toys – particularly impact implements – and wanted to only bring the best of the best.

First and easiest to decide upon were my under-the-bed restraints and the leather cuffs I use with them. Installing these on my bed was one of the first things I did when I got to my new place. (“Aww, that’s so cute!” my new and, notably, kinky roommate retorted when she saw the cuffs dangling from my bedframe.)

The next-most important thing was a blindfold; I use these all the time in various kinky scenarios, to help with sexual anxiety, and when I’m taking naps! Mine is a basic soft pink one I got years ago from god knows where.

For all my other bondage needs, I packed my Unicorn Collaborators Double Duty cuffs (I own one pair in black and one in seafoam green), Aslan Leather collars (one in pink and one in black), Stockroom chest harness, and Oddo Leather ballgag.

Impact toys were harder to decide on; I only brought my absolute favorites. Those included my Weal & Breech purpleheart paddle, Bad Ass Designs wooden truncheon, Miss Morgane pink suede flogger, Creative Kink aluminum cane and pink torquemada, KinkMachineWorks Billiard Banger and Lexan paddle, stone crop from Leather & Latte, and wooden cutting board from a Roman cooking shop. Those are the ones I actually love and use all the time, and/or like showing off when I have people over. Vital considerations!

Miscellaneous

I initially left both my blowjob mirror and pink leather harness at home, but ended up deciding I needed them, so now they’re with me in my new place.

I brought my enema in case of butt stuff, and my clit pump because it helps with arousal and is just a cool sensation that I can’t replicate with any of my other toys.

Finally, I toted along my Liberator Jaz, which lives under my bed except when I need to use it as either a sexual positioning aid or a makeshift laptop stand for Netflix marathons in bed.

This post was written in conjunction with other bloggers who moved around the same time as me: check out Sarah’s post hereWhat toys would you bring with you if you had resolved to only take the best of the best?