How Meta-Communication Can Make You a Great Flirt (Even If You’re Shy)

For years, I said, “I’m a bad flirt!” when what I really meant was, “I’m too shy to flirt!”

Then I got better at it, but I still said, “I’m a bad flirt!” when what I really meant was, “My flirting style is dorky and non-traditional, but still charming!”

Nowadays, though, I’ve learned more about flirting and the various ways it can be done – and I finally recognize that my approach to flirting is both valid and effective. My eyes widened when I first encountered the term “meta-communication” – i.e. communicating about communicating – with regards to flirting, because that is totally what I do. It has worked for me, whether I was engaging in monogamous or polyamorous dating, and I think it can work for you too!

Here are some of my favorite tips for flirting via meta-communication…

Acknowledge your flirting as such. This is effective for the same reason that it works well to use the word “date” when you ask someone on a date: it makes your intentions crystal-clear, sets your flirtee’s anxieties and uncertainties at ease, and – when done well – makes you come across as a smooth, bold, fearless flirt.

Examples:
“Is this a good time to flirt with you?”
“I’m really enjoying flirting with you; maybe we could do this more later?”
“Sorry, I get really flirty when I’m [tipsy/happy/super into someone].”
“Can I try out a ridiculous pick-up line on you?”
[cartoonishly over-the-top eyelash-batting, smouldering glances, etc.]

Acknowledge how you’re feeling. Flirting is so often portrayed as a performance, where you have to be an actor or a puppeteer – but it can be even more delicious to let your flirtee see what’s behind the curtain. You come across as more human and real when you cop to your emotional processes – and this also helps build rapport and trust, because your flirtee knows if you own up to your feelings, you’re likely to also tell the truth about other things later on.

Examples:
“I get really nervous around you ’cause you’re so cute!”
“If I wasn’t so shy, I’d make a dirty joke about what you just said, but…”
“I really wanna flirt with you, but I’m not sure I’m getting that vibe from you, so I’ll back off.”
“If I wasn’t so [tired/anxious/busy], I’d be flirting so hard with you right now… Maybe next time?”
“Sorry if I seem unfocused; I just can’t stop thinking about how good-lookin’ you are!”

Propose a hypothetical. This is a low-pressure way to gauge your flirtee’s reaction to things you want to do or say, or just to you in general. You’re giving the other person space to turn you down if they want to – but also giving them space to respond positively if that’s how they’re feeling.

Examples:
“What would you say if I told you you look super handsome in that suit?”
“What would you do if I said I wanted to kiss you right now?”
“I wouldn’t be mad if you gave me your phone number… In fact, I might even be thrilled!”
“If someone wanted to flirt with you but was really shy, what would be the best way for them to do that?”

Give them an opportunity to take things further. Consent is just as important in flirting as it is in sex, and you want to give your flirtee the same freedom to express or revoke consent that you’d give them if the two of you were bangin’. Much like the first-kiss technique advocated in the movie Hitch (“Go 90% of the way, then let her come to you“), this type of flirting clearly expresses your interest in the other person but leaves them room to decide how far they want to take things.

Examples:
“There are a lot of saucy things I want to say to you right now, but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate…”
“If I have another drink, I’ll probably get reeeal flirty with you… Think I should?”
“Let me know if you’d ever want to go out on a date sometime; I’d love that!”
“I bet you’re an excellent kisser. Maybe I’ll find out someday; who knows?”
“I have to go [talk to another friend/do something else], but come find me later if you want to be shamelessly flirted with some more!”

Here’s what’s important to keep in mind with all of these suggestions: flirting is very dependent on context, environment, and preexisting rapport. A lot of these lines won’t work if you just bust ’em out unprompted. But if you already have a good connection with someone, they seem potentially into you, and you want to express your interest in them without overwhelming them, some good meta-communicative flirting can be just the ticket!

Extra resources for flirting keeners:
• Reid Mihalko and Cathy Vartuli on being a better flirt, how to flirt when you’re shy, “the innuendo game,” and building rapport.
• Reid Mihalko talking about flirting on a swingers’ podcast.
• The School of Life on why, when, and how to flirt.
• Bex on being a flirting fetishist.
• Social anthropologist and “flirtologist” Jean Smith on the science of flirting.

Heads up: this post was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own.

10 Fun Ways to Indirectly Stimulate the Clit

You know that OkCupid question that’s like, “How much communication is ideal during sex?” and two of the answers are “A lot!” and “Just enough to get things right”? This question always throws me for a loop, because for me, “enough to get things right” is often “a lot.”

My clit, you see, is a diva, a snob, a picky toddler throwing a tantrum. It requires things to be just so. If you were to count up the words I’ve expended on instructing sexual partners over my lifetime, I’m sure at least half of them would be clit-focused. “Higher, please.” “A little softer.” “Can you go slower?” “Here, let me move your hand…”

The problem is that my clit is exquisitely sensitive – too sensitive, some might say, though I’m usually quite happy with its sensitivity level. But many of the cis men I bang, being accustomed (one can assume) to their own less-sensitive sexual response, go straight for my exposed clit like it’s a button they can mash until they win the game. They mean well, but they lack the nuanced know-how to please my delicate clit without overwhelming it. And I know I’m not the only one this is happening to: I’ve commiserated with many vulva-having friends about men whose clit-stim techniques are more painful than pleasurable.

Here, then, are some methods of indirect clit stimulation. Try them on your partner(s), or yourself, if a super-sensitive clit is part of your sex life. As with any new sexual exploration, be sure to communicate, check in, and adjust your touch according to its recipient’s wishes. And for the love of god, don’t skimp on the lube.

Dry-humping. Unf. Is there another sexual act so underrated as this one? I looove the process of getting turned on together by grinding body parts against other body parts while kissing, groping, and giggling. This endeavor is the sort of thing that often falls by the wayside as relationships become more established, but if I had my way, dry-humping would be a part of my sexual repertoire forevermore.

While makeouts and other fun things are happening, you can tease a partner’s clit by grinding your thigh, hip, or boner against it, while naked or clothed. Some people can even come from this friction alone. If spanking’s on the menu, the over-the-knee position is fantastic for indirect clit stim: your sub can writhe against your lap while you spank them, making them the filling of a delicious pain/pleasure sandwich. *sexually frustrated sigh*

Rub it through the hood. This has been my standard, go-to, failsafe masturbation technique for over a decade, so it seemed almost too obvious to include – and yet, many men I’ve been with have found this notion confusing, so I’m including it just incase.

The clitoral hood functions much like the foreskin of an intact penis: it serves to protect the underlying structure, keep it moist, and assist in frictionless pleasure. Like rubbing the foreskin up and down over the head of the penis, rubbing the clitoral hood over/around the clit stimulates all those yummy nerve endings without being as overwhelming as direct touch would be.

I like to have little circles rubbed on my clit hood; some people like up-and-down or side-to-side motions, or some combination thereof. Some people have a particular side of their clit that likes to be touched more than the other. Experiment, communicate, and see what works.

Squeeze the outer labia together. Using two or more fingers, do what Reid Mihalko calls “the Vulcan”: sandwich the clit between the two outer labia. From there, you can apply gentle pressure, squeeze your fingers together, roll ’em around, and so on.

This stimulates the head and shaft of the clitoris indirectly, and also puts pressure on the clitoral legs, an oft-ignored portion of the internal clitoris. This can be a fantastic warm-up/foreplay technique before you move on to more direct forms of stimulation, or it can be a delight all on its own.

Rub the mound. The pubic mound is the fleshy part above the clit. Rubbing this area – especially the spot toward the bottom of it, where it dips and starts to turn into the clitoral hood – can be a great way to stimulate the clit super indirectly. I like mine rubbed in big, firm circles with the flat of a partner’s palm, maybe while the heel of their hand is digging into my external G-spot. This makes a lovely warm-up for more intense stimulation.

Squeeze the inner labia together. You would think this wouldn’t feel all that different from doing the same with the outer labia, as mentioned above, but it can feel much more intense and targeted. Gently squeeze-‘n’-roll the shaft and head of the clit between the inner lips. Vary the pressure and location of your touch. See if you can feel the legs and bulbs of the internal clitoris under the skin.

Rub the vulval vestibule. The vestibule is the part of the vulva in between the clit and the vaginal opening. I just think of mine as the underside of my clitoral shaft. Know how blowjob guides always say that the underside of the shaft is the most sensitive part of a dick? Yeah, that’s true for many clitorides as well.

Very important: because this area is extremely sensitive for many folks, I would recommend using a lot of lube and a very light touch. I like mine stroked in a gentle, slow, up-and-down motion. Also make absolutely sure your hands are clean before attempting this, because the urethra is in this area and you do not want to get bacteria in there.

Jack it off. This technique can be affirming for folks who have vulvas and don’t identify as female, so I’m told. As for me, I just like it because I like clitoral shaft stimulation. Gently hold the shaft of the clit between your thumb and forefinger (this is easier to do when the clit is already aroused and engorged) and move the labia and hood up and down over it like a little foreskin on a little penis. Keep in mind that you probably don’t need to use as much pressure as you’d use on a penis, though, as always, check in with your partner if you’re not sure.

I’ve had some partners manage to jerk off my clit between two knuckles while they also had two other fingers inside me at the same time… but that takes some next-level coordination and dexterity. Practice and maybe one day you’ll get there!

Palm it. Lay your whole hand flat over the entire vulva. You can experiment with placement as per your person’s preferences, but I usually like the heel of the hand to rest just above my clit. Deep pressure in circular or up-and-down motions feels really good here; I find the warmth and weight of a partner’s hand on my junk both sexy and comforting.

Depending on the placement and size of your hand, you may also be able to penetrate the vagina with a few fingers while you do this, resulting in some great blended stimulation and maybe even a blended orgasm.

Vibrate it through clothes. This is my go-to recommendation whenever I talk to someone who owns a Magic Wand (or another super-powered vibe) and finds it uncomfortably strong. Each layer of clothing adds a little insulation between the vibrations and the nerve endings of the clit. If I’m wearing jeans or underwear with a defined seam up the centre of the crotch, applying vibration to that seam can feel direct and focused without overwhelming me with sensation. Plus, hey, there’s something satisfyingly lazy about not even having to disrobe to get off.

Vibrate beside it. If you place a decently strong vibrator on the pubic mound, vaginal opening, or one outer labia, the vibrations will stimulate the clit indirectly while also rumbling the parts of the internal clit that reside under whatever part you’re vibrating. It’s a delicious way to build arousal and engorgement in the area, and to tease a partner before giving them what they really crave.

Have you been with (or been) a person with a super-sensitive clit before? What are your favorite methods of indirect clit stim?

How to Deal With Pre-Date Nervousness

Oh, I can just picture it now. It’s almost every first date I’ve ever been on. My anxiety swells. My heart pounds. I obsess about my outfit, hair, and makeup – like I’m trying to dress as a “cool girl” for Halloween. I debate whether to text my date upon leaving the house; maybe a “See you soon!” text isn’t chill enough, but maybe radio silence is too cold. So many choices!

As I walk up to the bar, my mind races. What if we start talking and he mentions that he thinks feminism is a waste of time? What if he only wants to “find some easy pussy” or “grab local slags here” and doesn’t actually find me interesting at all? What if – horror of horrors – he thinks Adam Sandler is funny?!

The thing is, while my anxiety disorder runs me through the wringer before every date, it doesn’t have to. The dates themselves are never as bad as I worry they will be – and this whole nervous rigamarole could be avoided, or at least mitigated, if I had a great pre-date ritual solidly in place. Here are 10 of my best tips for shaking your jitters before you walk out the door to meet a new potential beau!

Have some go-to date outfits on hand. This just makes everything so much easier. Prepare a “uniform” of sorts (or a few different ones) that you can grab in a hurry when getting ready for a date, so you won’t have to waste precious mental energy on outfit composition. Oh, the geeky sartorial bliss of it!

This ensemble should have a silhouette that flatters your shape and makes you feel babely as hell, and maybe one or two “conversation pieces” – unusual garments or accessories that a date is sure to ask about. (“Oh, this old thing? I bought this from a loud, flirty man on a beach in Gozo just before we leapt into the Mediterranean sea…!”)

If you want to get extra nerdy about it, you can have different date uniforms for different types of dates. For example, I’ll often wear a low-cut dress and a cardigan if I’m going on a fancy dinner date, or a tank top tucked into a skirt if we’re just ducking into a dive bar. If you show up at your date feeling hot and neither overdressed nor underdressed, you’ll have won half the battle already!

Listen to great music. So basic, yet so effective. I have a Spotify playlist of all my favorite pump-up tunes – mostly a lot of up-tempo pop and hiphop – and it helps ease me into a foxy, energetic brainspace. I love to shimmy into my panties and stockings to a sexy Drake jam, bop around doing my eyeshadow while One Direction croon at me, and fluff up my hair while Frank Sinatra sings compliments in my ear. Ah, what a dream.

Prep your bod. Whatever body-prep makes you feel attractive, desirable, and ready for sex (if that’s a potential item on your to-do list for the evening), do that. For me, this would involve showering, shaving, and moisturizing. When I’m all clean, smooth, and soft, I feel practically unconquerable.

Breathe. “Fear is just excitement without the breath,” according to psychotherapist Fritz Perls. I don’t know how much of this is hippie-dippie psychosomatic silliness versus an actual effective treatment (and, let’s be real, sometimes they are one and the same), but I find breathing deeply helps circulate my anxious energy all around my body and thereby diffuse it. Shallow, fast breaths are a classic sign of anxiety; you can trick yourself into calming down by elongating and deepening your breath. Oxygenate your body and brain!

Load up on conversation-starters. My conversational skills drastically improved when I went to journalism school, and I’m convinced it was partly because I had to read the news so often at that time, so I had plenty to talk about! Still to this day, before a date, I’ll take a look at trending stories before heading out the door (if I haven’t already encountered them that day on Twitter or in podcasts I listen to), so that if my date’s discussion skills leave something to be desired, I can pull out a fascinating new topic at a moment’s notice.

You can also glance at their online-dating profile again (if that’s where you met them) and mentally note a few points to ask them about. (“I see you went to school for English lit; how does that help you in your current job?” “You said you like The Office, but what did you think of the finale?” “Is that dog in your profile picture yours?!”)

Tell a friend what you’re up to. Before leaving on a date, I like to text the following info to a friend: my suitor’s full name (if I know it), phone number, any other relevant info I know about them (what they do, where they live, and so on), where and when I am meeting them, and what time I anticipate I’ll be home. I’ve been lucky enough that a date has never made me feel unsafe, but it certainly helps my anxiety if I know I have safety measures in place. And if the date’s not dangerous but just boring or awful, you can have your friend call you and fake an emergency you need to go attend to immediately.

Channelling my inner pinup girl.

Choose an alter-ego. This is not to say you should be inauthentic on your date, of course – but pretending you’re someone else can help you play up the best parts of your personality while banishing the parts that hold you back.

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m Amanda Palmer, Zooey Deschanel, or Rosa Diaz. How would they get ready for a date? How would they walk into a room? How would they greet a person they found attractive? Usually I hold my “character” in mind for the first little while, just until I get settled, and then I cast ’em off and let the real me shine through, unencumbered by anxiety.

Remind yourself what a catch you are. Glance at your most smokin’ selfies. Look through compliments people have given you in the past (I keep a file of mine!). Think about the best dates/makeouts/sex you’ve had, and remember that you are, at least partially, what made those experiences so fantastic!

This kind of mental reflection – whether you do it in a journal, out loud to a friend, or just in your head – can also help you get some perspective. This probably isn’t the last or most important date you’ll ever go on. If it doesn’t go well, it isn’t the end of the world. There are so many more people out there, and so many more experiences you’re gonna have. Go into every date with the attitude that it’ll be a fun adventure, and anything else that comes of it will just be a bonus.

Admit to your nervousness! This can be super charming and disarming in some contexts. If you and your date exchange some texts before meeting up, maybe tell them you’re a bit nervous because you find them so cute. Or, after you’ve showed up and talked for a few minutes, you could mention, “I get so nervous about first dates!” Good people will often try to reassure you when you make admissions like this – and at the very least, you’ve just backhandedly confessed that you find them attractive. Everyone wants to feel attractive. See – nervousness can be a plus!

What are your favorite tricks for mitigating pre-date jitters?

 

This post was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own!

My Issues With Intercourse and How I Solve ‘Em

I’ve never had so many impassioned debates about intercourse as I did while I was writing a column on it for This magazine last year. And I’m a sex nerd, so, y’know, my life is almost always brimming with debates about intercourse. But for those few weeks, they were particularly densely packed.

See, the argument of my article was that millennials aren’t that into intercourse anymore. The reasons, I wrote, were manifold: pregnancy and STI concerns, performance anxieties, and less-than-ideal sexual stimulation, to name a few. I’d pitched this angle because it jelled with my own experience: I felt increasingly lukewarm about PIV (penis-in-vagina sex), and my male partners around that time seemed similarly ambivalent. As my fuckbuddy once put it, “PIV is on the menu, sure – but it’s a big menu.”

But lots of people argued with me when I explained what I was writing. Some men insisted they’d rather fuck than get sucked off. Some women explained they don’t feel entirely fulfilled by a sexual encounter if a peen doesn’t broach their vag. For every two friends who agreed with my thesis, there would be one who staunchly did not. That’s fine – humans’ sexual tastes are gloriously varied! – but it did get me thinking about why I’m not that keen on PIV. I had written about why millennials, more broadly, might not be that into it, but I hadn’t spent much time pondering why I, specifically, didn’t enjoy it anymore.

In subsequent contemplation, I’ve come up with five main issues I have with PIV. Here are those issues, along with the various workarounds I implement for them…

My vulva ring by Catstache Accessories!

Issue #1: Clit Stim

If you’re interested in sex and don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably heard that folks with vulvas typically need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm. The stats vary, depending on which study you look at, but it’s generally estimated that somewhere between two-thirds and nine-tenths of us need clit stim if an orgasm is gonna happen. And guess what? PIV’s not great at providing that.

My usual solution here is to use a vibrator on my clit while I get fucked. My faves for this purpose are the We-Vibe Tango, Eroscillator, and Magic Wand Rechargeable. Those first two are slim enough to fit well between bodies, making them ideal for PIV; the Magic Wand, on the other hand, is huge, but can be accommodated in certain positions.

Of course, this workaround requires that I’m fucking someone who I know is vibrator-positive, which, unfortunately, some people are not. My dalliances with those folks never last very long, for obvious reasons. Some partners (*cough* this guy) even seem to find it hot when I use vibes with them, and that makes them even lovelier in my eyes.

Some people prefer “couples’ vibes” – vibrators specifically made for usage during sex – for their hands-free ease. The We-Vibe Sync is the best one in this category, bar none. I like my Sync a lot, but for the most part, I prefer having the freedom to manipulate my vibe as needed with my own hand, because my clit is a picky snob.

There are other, non-vibrator-dependent ways to get clit stim during PIV: you can rub it with your hand, have your partner do so, or choose a position where their body rubs against yours in a way that works for you.

You could also just get your clit stim at other times during the sex session, and relax into PIV knowing it’s not gonna knock your clit’s socks off and that’s okay. That sounds defeatist, maybe, but it doesn’t have to be: I love PIV when I’ve already had an orgasm, for example, because that’s when my G-spot is the most sensitive. I don’t even feel like I need clit stim at that point, because I’ve already gotten off and the G-spot stim feels so amazing.

My friend Bex also taught me that sometimes, having your clit ignored during PIV can be hot as part of a kink dynamic, if, for example, a partner is “using” you for their own pleasure or deviously denying you an orgasm.

Issue #2: Stamina and Time

Getting off takes time. There is some evidence that this is truer for folks with vulvas than for folks with penises, though some people claim this science is sexist claptrap. In any case, I certainly don’t come in thirty seconds. And while a partner might happily stroke my clit or fuck me with a toy for ten or twenty minutes, it’s usually more strenuous for them to fuck me with their dick for that long. Depending on the position, PIV can be a physical exertion, not to mention, sometimes a partner comes before I do, and then we have to stop. Right?

Well, not exactly. If a partner comes but I haven’t yet, we can (and often do) take a quick break and then get back into the sexy stuff. They may not be able to keep fucking me so soon after coming, but they can certainly get me off with toys, their hands, and/or their mouth – or they can just hold me and say filthy things in my ear while I get myself off.

I actually prefer to get off before intercourse, though – both because it makes my internal spots more sensitive, as I mentioned earlier, and because it takes the pressure off me to come while getting fucked. There’s a scene in The L Word where Alice bemoans lesbians’ “You do me, then I do you” sexual style; she says straight people have it easier because you both get off from the same act, at the same time. But that hasn’t been my experience with hetero sex at all. Not only is it tricky to sync up your orgasms, but it’s also hard for your partner to focus on pleasing you properly if they’re coming at the same time, and vice versa. I like to continue getting fucked really hard, and in precise ways, during and after my orgasm, and my beau can’t pull that off if they’re in the throes along with me!

If I’m specifically hankerin’ to come all over a cock, usually I’ll have a partner get me suuuuper riled up before the actual penetration begins. If I’m at an 8 when he starts fucking me, but he’s only at a 3, it’s likelier he’ll last long enough to get me off and keep fucking me for a few minutes afterward. Ahh, bliss!

Diagram via Wikipedia Commons.

Issue #3: Specific Spots

Stimulation of my anterior fornix, or A-spot, is the thing that makes me come (in combination with consistent clit stim). I wish I’d known this from the beginning of my PIV adventures, so I would’ve been able to tell partners how to get me off, or would’ve at least felt less “broken” when PIV didn’t immediately send me into orgasmic ecstasy.

Because the A-spot is situated pretty deep inside the vagina, I’m likeliest to reach orgasm during PIV if the dick involved is in the 6–7″ length range. (Longer than that would just be overkill: doable, but not needed.) It also helps if the dick’s girth is average or slightly slimmer than average, because thick cocks have a hard time gettin’ up in there.

In my experience, when most dudes fuck a vag, by default they fuck it however feels good for them, or they vaguely aim for the G-spot. That’s fine, but I get better results if I specifically tell partners I like to be fucked really deep. Even better if I let them find the spot with their fingers first, so they know exactly what to aim for.

My FWB has gotten me off with fingers and toys countless times, so he knows my A-spot like the back of his hand, so to speak. We don’t partake of PIV all that often, but when we do, I always notice him carefully shifting and angling and pressing and exploring until he finds the right spot with his dick. Honestly, that attention to detail makes me swoon – and makes me come. There is something so hot about knowing that someone not only wants to get you off but is using their brain and body in clever tandem to make it happen.

If PIV has always felt kinda “meh” for you, but you know that you like certain types of penetration, it might be worth figuring out how to replicate your preferred penetration techniques during PIV. Back when I was more into G-spot stimulation, for example, I used to love doggie-style sex for how it directly targeted that spot. I also find that pillows or a Liberator Jaz under my hips help enormously with angling a dick how I want it.

Issue #4: Penetration-centrism

Last summer I dated a boy who was amazing in bed, kinky, adventurous, and could make me come in a variety of ways, without making me feel guilty or weird about any of it. It’s surprising how rare this combination of qualities is.

However, a few weeks into our blowjob-heavy and cunnilingus-soaked tryst, we were sexting, and he remarked, “I still haven’t really been inside you yet…”

His fingers had been inside me. His tongue had been inside me. His dick had been in my mouth. But no, it had not been inside my vagina. I didn’t really care, and until that text, I thought he didn’t much care, either.

While I can’t tell you exactly what he meant or what he was thinking, I have seen a penetration-centric paradigm in many of my male partners. There is a sense that sex isn’t really sex unless a cock enters a vag. A stat in the book Becoming Cliterate exemplifies this perfectly: apparently two-thirds of women consider it sex when someone goes down on them, but only one-third of men consider it sex when they go down on someone. Fuck that noise! Oral sex is sex! And so are a lot of other non-penetrative sex acts.

I believe fiercely in the “campsite rule,” i.e. the idea that you should leave your romantic and sexual partners better than you found them. One of the ways I try to do this is by teaching straight cis men that intercourse isn’t actually the centre of the goddamn universe. If it’s vitally important to them, then fine, I’m happy to do it, but I need them to know that it’s not vitally important to me. Depending on my mood, I can be perfectly sated by a sex session that consists solely of oral sex, fingerbanging, and/or playing with toys. Hell, sometimes a terrific spanking feels like a complete sexual encounter in and of itself.

Enthusiastic and intentional statements of desire are a great way to establish this attitude. “I can’t wait to suck your cock until you come in my mouth tonight,” I might text, or, “I’m charging my Magic Wand right now and I want two of your thick fingers inside me later,” denoting a sexual encounter that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, none of which necessarily involve PIV.

Issue #5: My Face

I have so much anxiety about how my face looks during sex. I don’t entirely know why. Partners have told me on multiple occasions that I look cute/hot/beautiful while they’re bangin’ me, that I have nothing to worry about, and that they find me sexy as hell. But somehow, it still hasn’t entirely sunk in. Maybe it never will.

Sometimes I deal with this by getting fucked in positions where I’m facing away from my partner – but these aren’t ideal because I have a hard time coming if I’m on my knees or standing up, and it’s tricky to fit a vibe between my clit and the mattress when I’m face-down. To my chagrin for both anxiety reasons and kink reasons, good ol’ missionary is still my most orgasmic PIV position.

I often end up covering my face while getting fucked in missionary; I’ll sling an arm over my eyes, nuzzle sideways into a pillow, or pull my partner down closer to me so they can’t look me right in the fuckin’ face. All of these strategies help somewhat. But what helps a lot is a blindfold. It’s a juvenile solution that evokes toddlers who think you can’t see them if they can’t see you, but hey, it works for me. Something about being blindfolded helps me feel more relaxed about how my face looks, even as it’s twisting into a pre-orgasmic grimace.

I’ll never forget the time my FWB was fucking me in a hotel room and I was suddenly overcome with face-related anxiety. “I need a blindfold,” I said, helplessly. “That’s kind of weird, but okay,” he replied with kindness in his voice – and without missing a beat, he stripped the pillowcase off a nearby pillow, draped it over my eyes, and kept fucking me. And all was well with the world.

 

What are your best tips ‘n’ tricks for making PIV more enjoyable? Do you agree with me that millennials seem less enthused about it, on average, than previous generations?

50 Things To Do When You’re Single on Valentine’s Day

It’s taken me a long time to get here, but I think, at this point in my life, I actually find Valentine’s Day more fun when I’m single than when I’m dating someone.

See, when you’re in a relationship, the dreaded V-Day can feel like an obligation. But when you’re single, it’s an invitation. An invitation to step up your self-love and look for the potential fun in the day. Here are 50 suggestions for how to do that…

Take yourself out for dinner at your favorite restaurant. Make a reservation if you want; you’ll probably need one. Solo dinners out are a scary thing to do on any ol’ day, let alone one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, but this is exactly the kind of self-love challenge Valentine’s is perfect for. Bring a book to read or your journal to write in, order your favorite dish, and revel in your own company!

Alternatively, order your favorite takeout and eat it someplace cozy. Your best friend’s living room. A blanket fort constructed in your own bed. A secret hideout you happen to know about on your local university’s campus. All of these are excellent places to eat delicious food, alone or with a friend.

Re-read your favorite book from when you were a teenager. The twists and turns of a familiar plot are so comforting in their predictability. And you may get a visceral glimpse at that idealistic kid you used to be, and how you can be more like them now.

Go out with your single friends. A bar, a movie, a party, an impromptu scavenger hunt… It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you’re with people who make you laugh and feel like you belong.

Do a witchy love ceremony, whatever that happens to mean to you. For me, it’d probably involve meditating in a pink bubble bath while clutching pieces of rose quartz, slithering into a pink negligée, slicking on some red lipstick, and yawping some loving affirmations at my beautiful reflection in the mirror. What kind of romantic magic feels most needed and nourishing to you now?

Soak in warm water, whether that means your bathtub or a local heated pool or a friend’s hot tub. Pondersome soaks relax the body and allow the mind to wander. Bonus points if you pull an Oprah and accessorize your bath with scented candles, a glass of wine, a bath pillow, or whatever other little luxuries bliss you out.

Masturbate elaborately. Use as many toys as you want. Make as much noise as you reasonably and pleasurably can. Do all the things you can to yourself that you wish partners would do to you.

Choose a quality you miss about one of your exes and figure out how to embody that quality yourself. I often wish I was as funny as some of my exes; I could work on that by upping my comedy podcast intake and learning a few good jokes to tell! If you admired well-read exes, check a few new books out of the library. If you miss an ex’s kind, supportive heart, look for ways to support and help a friend today. You get the picture.

Write a love letter to a future partner. I love any mental exercise that helps me focus on what I want without making me feel bad about not having it yet, and this is one such exercise. Tell your future lover all the places you want to take them, the stories you can’t wait to tell them, the things they should know if they plan to love you. Let yourself get excited by the knowledge that there are so many hot, interesting people out there with tons of love to give, and some of them will give it to you.

Try something drastically different with your look. Sometimes a new makeup technique, clothing silhouette, hair color, or tattoo can be just the thing to remind you of what a babe you are.

Take a nap while cuddling something – a pet, a stuffed animal, a friend who consents to cuddles. Hell, I’ve even cuddled my Magic Wand before. A mid-day nap is such a lovely gift to give yourself.

Do an at-home spa routine. Yes, even if you are not normally the type of person who does stuff like this. You can give yourself a manicure (with clear nail polish, if you insist), slather on a face mask, soak and pumice your poor neglected feet, or just moisturize your entire body. Anything that makes you feel nourished and cute.

Journal about your feelings. Valentine’s Day is a perfect day to check in with yourself about your attitudes, beliefs, and hopes around relationships and sex. Sit somewhere cozy with your journal and pen (or a writing-centric web app, if you prefer), and ask yourself: how are you feeling about being single? What would you like your next relationship to be like? What do you need to work on or do differently to make that possible? What have you learned from your past relationships? How important is sex to you? What kind of sex do you wish you were having? Dig deep and follow the feelings that come up. Afterward, you’ll feel better and clearer.

Watch your favorite rom-coms. My recommendations: Hysteria (vibrators! science! a flustered Hugh Dancy!), Just My Luck (so stupid, and yet, Chris Pine is charming in it), High Fidelity (John Cusack’s snobbish mopeyness is counterbalanced by Jack Black’s silliness and it’s wonderful). Bonus points if you yell at the TV every time something sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. happens, or if you devise an (alcohol-optional) drinking game to go along with the movie.

Watch dramatic romantic tragedies. Okay, comedies are great, but sometimes you just need to have a cathartic cry. Try The NotebookTitanicThe Great Gatsby, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Settle in with a box of tissues and some comforting snacks and get ready to weep.

Invite some friends over and take turns dramatically reading dating-themed articles aloud. Cosmo and Glamour are excellent source material for this activity. Sometimes mocking the silliness of dating can make you feel better about your singlehood.

Do a Tinder experiment. Look, I’m not saying the people browsing Tinder on Valentine’s Day will be the cream of the crop, but that’s not the point. Change your profile or your approach, for science, and see what happens. Some examples: Change your first photo to a picture of you winking and see if it affects the messages you get. Instantly delete any messages that don’t specifically reference your profile, and only respond to the ones that do. Put a line in your bio that asks matches to tell you the funniest joke they’ve recently heard.

Write or read fanfiction about your favorite pairing. Yes, even if you’ve never delved into fanfic before. It’s fun! It’s also a way to get into a romantic headspace without stressing yourself out about your own romantic situation. If you’re not sure where to start, look up some of your favorite movies, books, or TV shows on Archive of Our Own and see what’s out there.

Finally get rid of your ex’s stuff. You know, those old T-shirts they left behind, stuffed animals they gave you, framed pictures of the two of you together, and so on. Only keep these things if they actually “spark joy“; otherwise, donate ’em or toss ’em. You’ll feel better without that psychic clutter clouding up your space and your brain.

Get extremely high. If intoxicants are your jam, that is. Choose something that’ll perk you up rather than drag you down (so, if weed is your substance of choice, probably a sativa strain). Then do whatever High-You wants to do: eat delicious snacks, lie in bed watching that show you love and have seen six times already, masturbate furiously, or just ponder the universe.

Visit a sex shop and pick something out, even if it’s just a small thing like a bottle of good lube, an erotic novel, or a pair of nipple clamps. Be pleasant to the salespeople; they are probably overwhelmed by desperate, haggard customers making last-minute purchases, and you being sweet and reasonable could brighten their busy day!

Listen to your favorite music. Really get into it. Maybe wail along to Elliott Smith by candlelight, or have a dance party with your dog to the dulcet tones of Walk the Moon. Listening to music is a visceral, often joyful experience, and is actually good for your brain, so this is a good thing to do any day of the year but especially on a day when you need a lift!

Try on clothes that make you feel babely as hell. You can go to the mall to do this, or shop your own closet, or peruse a friend’s wardrobe (with their permission, obviously!). It’s amazing how much good lingerie/shapely dresses/sharp-lookin’ blazers can tune up your self-image sometimes.

Engage in a platonic sexual activity, if you have a friend you’d like to do this with who would enthusiastically consent to such things. I have been known to spank and be spanked by my friends, cuddle and kiss ’em, and sometimes even masturbate side-by-side. It’s a way to find some intimacy and sensual pleasure even when the societally sanctioned avenues for those things (i.e. romantic relationships) are not immediately available to you.

Go to a local cultural event, like a gallery show, a theatrical production, or a stand-up comedy night. Bring a friend, if you like.

Hire a sex worker, if you can afford to. This could be a really lovely treat to give yourself today.

Contact someone who might be lonely today – your widowed aunt, your recently-dumped friend, or anyone else you know who’s going through a tough time. Chat with them and try to inject a little cheer into their day.

Dress up and take selfies. I am particularly partial to pink-and-red outfits on Valentine’s Day. They make me feel romantic and adorable. Bonus points for plentiful heart-shaped accessories!

Make yourself an elaborate, nutritious, comforting meal. It feels good to put effort into taking care of yourself and then feel that effort reflected back at you in the form of increased energy and overall well-being. Some of my favorite meals to cook for myself include risotto, steamed broccoli, and pasta salad.

Work toward one of your goals you’ve been putting off. Write some of that book proposal you’ve been meaning to get to, set up that Etsy store you’ve been hoping to start, research that city you’ve been wanting to move to… When you put time into what you want to achieve, you feel so good and accomplished, and that feeling is a great gift to give yourself on this day.

Re-read your old journals/blog entries/emails, etc. This can be a charming way to spend some time with your younger self. And when you reflect on how you used to be, it can make you feel grateful for how far you’ve come.

Tidy and reorganize your space – your whole house, or just the room you spend the most time in, depending on how much ambition and freedom you have! – so it contains fewer things that stress you out and more things that make you smile.

Go to the movies. If being alone in public at a certified “date activity” makes you anxious, a movie theatre is one of the better options you could choose, because you’ll be swathed in darkness so few people (if any) will even notice you’re by yourself. Ideally, pick a movie that appeals to your inner quirkiness so deeply that you probably couldn’t even drag a date along if you tried. Revel in the weirdness of your own tastes!

Write love letters to your friends, whether publicly on social media, or privately via email, or even in the form of a literal (snail-mail) letter. Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a celebration of love, right? So celebrate the love in your life.

Tell someone you admire that you admire them. Email that indie musician who fills your earbuds with glee on the regs, leave a comment on a blog that lights you up, compliment that bookstore employee who knows everything about everything whenever you ask them for help. Spread some love and happiness around!

Clean your selfie mirror. (Idea via Durga Polashi.) Selfies are an expression of, and sometimes a boon for, our self-love and self-acceptance. You owe it to yourself to have a squeaky-clean mirror that helps you capture yourself in all your glory!

Imagine what your heroes would do if they were single on Valentine’s Day, and then carry a little of their flair and panache into your day as well. I suspect Jane Lane would order a pizza and watch bad TV with her bestie, Alex Franzen would hole up with a mug of tea and write sexy fiction all day, Rosa Diaz would drink whiskey at a biker bar and make out with a scruffy leather-clad stranger, and Sara Quin would obsessively write and re-write a quirky new song until it was both catchy and devastating. What would your heroes do?

Donate money to a cause you believe in, like you’re giving a Valentine’s Day gift but your “valentine” is good nonprofits doing good work. Some recommendations that are especially important in our current political climate: the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. (More options here and here.)

Declutter your digital systems, as a favor to yourself. Go through your hard drive, Google Drive, or Dropbox, and delete some shit you don’t need. Run a virus scan and/or a defrag. Organize files into folders. Ahhh. Doesn’t that feel better?

Give yourself a long, slow genital massage without the expectation of orgasm. Think of it as an experiment in pleasure and mindfulness. (Coconut oil and natural oil-based lubes are great for this!)

Teach yourself a new skill with the help of the internet. Few things make me feel more accomplished than learning to do something new! Think of some things you’ve always wished you knew how to do – leather boot care, page layouts in InDesign, spelling in sign language? – and get thee to Google, stat.

Get clear about your “hard yeses and hard nos” for future partners. It’s good to have a list like this to refer to when you’re in the throes of infatuation with someone new, to make sure your beau is actually aligned with what you want and need. My hard-yes list says, “Feminist, makes me laugh, thinks I’m funny, at least as smart as me, libido and kinks roughly equivalent to mine, vocally enthusiastic and optimistic, creative in some way(s), socially competent, loves and supports my blog/writing.” My hard-no list says, “Doesn’t believe in oppression/privilege/racism, etc., noticeably not as smart as me, humorless, low or no libido, negative/jugmental/pessimistic, anger issues, wants only monogamy now/ever, toxically masculine, staunchly religious.” What would yours look like?

Go on a mini creative retreat. This can be as simple as turning off your phone, closing your social media tabs, and choosing to focus on one beloved creative project for an entire afternoon – or it can be as elaborate as booking an Airbnb in another town for a few days to work on your passion in an unfamiliar environment. What a blissful gift to give yourself!

Spend an hour or two in a bookstore or library. Preferably one with ample seating, and which lets you bring in your hot beverage of choice to sip while you peruse and read. I can imagine few things cozier than an afternoon at Indigo or Glad Day, flipping through glorious tomes over coffee.

Cull your social media lists. Unfollow the people whose tweets add no value to your life, and unfriend the people who make you feel stressed out or indifferent. Life is too short and too precious to fill it (even just digitally) with people who add no brightness to your days, or actively sap your emotional reserves.

Put together a file of the best compliments you’ve ever received. I’ve done this for years, in various forms: I have a “flattery” folder in my Gmail account, a list of meticulously copied-down compliments in a notebook, and sometimes I document my best compliments in tweets or Tumblr posts. It’s a fantastic favor to do for yourself, because on days when your mood and self-worth are frighteningly low, you can refer to your compliment file and remind yourself (even just theoretically) of your value. If you need help building up your collection o’ compliments, ask your ten closest friends and family members what they think your three best qualities are (and then tell them theirs!).

Bedazzle or jazz up something you use regularly. Plaster your journal in sparkly stickers, put some cute pictures on your fridge, give your desk a new paint job, etc. You deserve beauty and comfort in your life!

Stay offline. Unhappiness often stems from comparing your insides to other people’s outsides (to paraphrase Anne Lamott), and social media facilitates this bad habit all the damn time. Valentine’s Day is a day when we’re particularly susceptible to envying other people’s situations, so maybe avoid the internet (or just social media) today, to the extent that you can. While I don’t begrudge anyone who finds comfort and joy in their online life (I certainly do!), sometimes taking an internet break can be affirming and recalibrating.

Use your body in ways you normally don’t. Yoga, stretching, sports, swimming, walking, running, hula-hooping, dancing, having an orgasm in a ridiculous athletic position… Challenge your body and see what it can do.

Give yourself permission to do nothing, if you want to. You are inherently valuable and loveable, regardless of what you do or don’t do on Valentine’s Day or any other day. Don’t forget that, babe.

 

How are you spending Valentine’s? Tell me all about it in the comments!