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?

On Men, Ren, and a Devastated Community


Question: “What man would you be most devastated to learn had secretly been a misogynist all along?”

Answer: My brother. My closest male friends. My favorite male podcasters. My favorite male musicians. Male theatre actors I’ve cried over and crushed on. The cast of Whose Line Is It Anyway.

A seemingly-progressive friend-with-benefits who talked the talk of sex-positivity and consensual kink. Oh wait, that happened already. A seemingly-progressive radio personality I once found charming. Oh wait, that happened already. A seemingly-progressive photographer who once shot pictures of me naked and having sex. Oh wait, that just happened.

In a world where men didn’t systematically hold far more power than women, where men’s abuse of women was as harshly stigmatized and fairly punished as it deserves to be, and where male hatred of women was not a widespread cultural problem, this question would be nothing more than a harmless hypothetical. But since we don’t live in that world, it’s a terrifying question to me. Every time another seemingly “good,” “safe” man is revealed to be toxic garbage, I can’t help but wonder: Who’s next? Who else will betray us? Who else will break our hearts?

The first night I remember meeting Ren Bostelaar in person, it was for a porn shoot for a feminist porn collective owned by some friends of mine. (They’ve since cut ties with him.) I remember, very clearly, that he asked me if I would be comfortable receiving some direction from him during the shoot – if, for example, he needed me to move a leg or turn my head so he could get a better shot. I was charmed that he asked this, and that he was (or seemed) so respectful, so conscientious a photographer. I said yes, of course that was okay. He didn’t give me any direction during the shoot after all, but that interaction stuck with me. He’s a good guy, I remember thinking.

Later, when he sent me the photos, I was delighted. He’d made me look great, and thereby, feel great. I told him so. “I’m so glad you like them!” he replied. Again, I thought: He’s a good guy.

Friends of mine liked him – progressive, feminist friends who I admired and whose opinions I trusted. Any time he was brought up in conversation, people spoke well of him. He’s a good guy. This is the thing about abusers, of all sorts: they are highly skilled at convincing people of their goodness. They are charming and persuasive. They know how to work a room, how to get people in their sway, and they do it amazingly well and often.

In the feminist and sex-positive communities I’ve been a part of, women rely heavily on other women’s testimonials about men in order to know which ones can and cannot be trusted. Men who are widely vetted as “good guys” usually attain that honor through consistently being good: supporting women, listening to us, calling out shitty dudes, speaking out in defense of feminism and women, and so on. It is understood that being a male ally is achievable only through consistent action, not just words. We watch carefully to see which men do what – and which men don’t do anything when they ought to do something. This information is always noted, assessed, and discussed in backchannels. It is a way we endeavor, as women, to keep ourselves and each other safe.

What’s devastating is that even men who’ve been widely vetted as “good,” like Ren, can turn out to be very much not so. Can turn out to have – in this case – leaked women’s private nude photos and personal information onto a “misogynistic cesspool of the internet.” We do all this careful screening and watching and weeding-out, and it can all be meaningless in the end, because people’s outward personas can look entirely different from the hate and rage swirling inside them.

This is why many women I know, myself included, have been tweeting/posting/saying lately that we feel we can’t trust men right now. Because even the men who seemed the most trustworthy can fail us. This is not unreasonable. If a panel of esteemed marine biologists told me a particular bay was safe to swim in, but then I saw someone get mauled by a shark in said bay, there’s no fuckin’ way I would set foot in that bay ever again, scientists be damned. This is not discrimination, unfair generalization, or unreasonable paranoia. This is pragmatism. This is self-protection. This is learning from experience.

I’m not saying there are no men I trust, or that I’ll never trust a man again, or that I believe all men to be inherently untrustworthy. I’m just saying, I and many other women in my community feel we need to be careful about men right now, and going forward. Even more careful than we had previously been about men, which was pretty damn careful.

Men: we do not need your loud proclamations of #NotAllMen, your privilege-blind demand that we consider all men innocent until proven otherwise, or your hindsight-20/20 insistence that you knew the creep was a creep before his creepiness went public. We need, instead, your support, your action, and your resolve. We need you to call out misogyny when you see it in your social spheres, to examine and unlearn your own misogyny when it comes up, and to listen to the concerns and frustrations of women.

To return to my shark metaphor: we don’t need you yelling at us about how the water’s fine. We need you lifeguarding, patrolling the water, and ready to take down a shark when the time comes.

We Deserve More Orgasms, Dammit

“How are you, Kate? What have you been up to lately?”

“I’m writing a magazine article about the orgasm gap and it is blowing my damn mind!!”

My friends are tired of hearing about it, I’m sure. There are more interesting things we could discuss, probably. But it’s an occupational hazard of journalism to become temporarily obsessed with whatever you’re currently covering. I’ve gone through these fixations before with other assignments: spanking, squirtingBenedict Cumberbatch. And though my focused fascination didn’t always last, I always learned something in the process that I took with me into my ensuing experiences, my work, my life.

One of my favorite editors sent me an email a couple months ago, saying two new books were coming out on female sexuality and I might want to review them for her magazine, or possibly write a feature on them. “Has women’s time finally cum?” she joked in the email. I agreed to write about the books, and she had them sent to my house.

The books, as it turned out, were Closer and Becoming Cliterate – two fabulous reads which assess the current state of sexual sociopolitics and women’s sexuality. They have a lot of commonalities – both mention the A-spot, to my great glee; both advocate masturbation and mindfulness as potential solutions to women’s sexual woes – but what struck me most was both books’ examinations of the orgasm gap.

Closer quotes a 2015 Cosmopolitan study which found that only 57% of women usually reach orgasm with a partner, while their partners climax 95% of the time. Becoming Cliterate adds that in first-time hookups, only 4% of women say they usually reach orgasm, versus 55% of men. Yes, folks: we’re well into the 21st century and these sad stats are still true. It’s been over 50 years since the supposed sexual revolution of the ’60s and women’s orgasms are still trailing men’s. This is unacceptable.

I told my mom about this assignment, and the books I was reading for it, during an Uber ride to a family gathering. (The driver was probably judging us pretty hard. Oh well.) “Do you think that’s true?” she said, of the orgasm gap. I paused and furrowed my brow. “It’s scientifically proven. Yeah, it’s true,” I replied. Then she clarified: “No, I mean, is it personally true, for you?”

While I declined to answer that question when my mom asked it – hey, kids and parents have gotta set boundaries somewhere – she did get me thinking about orgasm disparity in my own life. Like the authors of the books I’ve mentioned, I also have access to scientific data. Mine’s just self-made and a lot more specific: my sex spreadsheets!

In reviewing my orgasm stats from 2016, here’s what I know:
• I came during 58% of my sexual encounters; my partners, comparatively, came 76% of the time.
• I’m statistically likeliest to come with partners I’ve banged at least a few times. I had eight first-time encounters in 2016, only two of which resulted in orgasm for me. (What was the common element between those two orgasmic successes? In both cases, the sex took place in my own bed and involved toys – a relative rarity for me in first-time encounters.)
• Multiple orgasms, while rare for me, are possible – with partners I’m suuuuper comfortable around. (My only multiple-orgasm sessions in 2016 were with a boyfriend I’d banged 13 times already, and a fuckbuddy I’d known for over a year and fucked 15 times before.)

Both Closer and Becoming Cliterate quote studies which’ve found that women are likelier to reach orgasm in ongoing relationships (whether romantic or just friends-with-benefits-esque) than in casual or one-off encounters. I can’t speak for other women, but I know why this is true for me: when I don’t know someone as well, I’m often too nervous, anxious, and insecure to ask for what will get me off. I’m trying to play the role of a “cool girl,” which includes being undemanding about my own sexual needs and just rolling with whatever my partner wants to do.

In more established relationships, though, that nervous magic wears off and is replaced by magic of a different sort. With my longest-term fuckbuddy, for example, I have no qualms about requesting he focus his fingers on my A-spot for a while instead of fucking me with his dick, and I know he’s super vibrator-positive so I’ll gladly grab my Tango or even my big bulky Magic Wand during sex with him, certain he won’t judge me or feel displaced.

Even with him, though – even though he’s made me come over a dozen times, knows exactly how to do it, and has never once balked at anything I’ve asked him to do in service of my orgasm – I still get hung up about “taking too long.” I’ll gladly spend ten or twenty minutes blowing him, because I genuinely love doing it and I find his pleasure deeply fulfilling, but if he spends more than three minutes focusing on my pleasure, I start to get anxious. “Are you getting tired?” I’ll ask, breathless with guilty arousal. “Do you want to stop?”

To his immense credit, he always reacts like this is a silly question – lovingly, of course. Hell, even the very first time we banged, he reminded me, “You’re getting in your head. Just relax and enjoy.” I’ve heard these words, or similar ones, come out of his mouth so many times since then. He’s exceptionally good at calming me down and helping me remember that pleasure is as much my right as it is his. But it’s sad that this is a rare talent among men. It’s sad that I feel I have to ask for this reassurance, rather than just receiving it by default or not needing it at all.

According to both the books I’ve read on it, the orgasm gap exists primarily because our culture still overvalues penile pleasure and undervalues clitoral pleasure. Though the penis and clitoris are anatomically analogous, and though stimulation of the clitoris is as necessary for its owners’ orgasms as stimulation of the penis is for its’ owners orgasms, and though this has been widely known for decades, the clit still doesn’t get its due attention in far too many hetero encounters. Focused clit stimulation is still mostly relegated to “foreplay,” while intercourse remains the conceptual centerpiece of straight sex, even though most women don’t get off from it without “extra” clit stim. The feminist babes who spearheaded the sexual revolution in the ’60s must be so sad and angry that it’s 2017 and women still aren’t getting off as often as we ought to.

So many times, I have told a partner, “Making me come is difficult,” when what I meant was, “I know exactly what’s required for me to get off, but I’m scared you don’t care enough to learn how to make it happen, so I’m not even going to try to teach you.” I have often said, “Don’t worry about making me come, I’m fine,” when what I meant was, “I don’t feel entitled to pleasure, even though I believe you are.” I still often say, “It’s probably not going to happen tonight,” when what I mean is, “It could happen if you did what it takes to make it happen, but I’m too embarrassed to show you how to do that, or to ask you to work that hard for me.” Meanwhile, I’m still giving diligent blowjobs left and right, time and effort be damned. It’s inequitable and it’s unacceptable.

I recently hooked up with someone at a sex club whom I’d just met an hour before, and to my immense surprise, he made me come. This, as I’ve mentioned, almost never happens to me – it’s one of the key reasons I decided to eschew one-night stands in 2017. But on that particular night, I’d smoked a little weed, so my sensitivity was high and my inhibitions were low. My hookup also kept emphasizing how much he wanted to please me, which helped. Teaching him to fingerbang me properly felt fun and exciting, rather than intimidating like it usually does with new partners.

Mid-encounter, I realized – as I often do – that my orgasm would remain out of reach unless I brought a vibrator into the mix. So I stole a line Bex once recommended I use: “Do you wanna see me come?” No halfway-decent partner would ever say no to that. When I got the affirmative reply I wanted, I went and fetched a vibe from my locker – and when I pressed it to my clit while his fingers resumed their magic inside me, my orgasm transformed from elusive to impending. And then it happened, more quickly and easily than I even expected, my muscles wetly clenching around his hand. “Oh my god, I can’t believe you made me come,” I slurred as I floated back to earth.

The truth is, it’s not hard for me to come with new partners; it’s hard for me to feel brave enough to make sure I come. The actual mechanics of my orgasm are not difficult. If I can muster the courage to give a partner thirty seconds of verbal instruction, or even to grab their hand and show them what to do, they usually figure it out pretty quick. And what’s more, they’re usually thrilled to put the work in, rather than seeming inconvenienced. It’s partnered sex; we’re there for each other, not for ourselves. Most of the joy of fucking another human is their reactions, and knowing your own role in those reactions. I know this to be true from my own perspective, but it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that my partners feel that way, too.

As easy as it would be to blame sociocultural forces for denying me orgasms, ultimately I have the power to overcome those forces in my sexual interactions. It’s as simple as asking for what I want, or just stimulating my clit during sex myself without waiting for “permission” to do so. Men typically have no qualms about expecting that they will get off at some point during sex, and taking steps to make sure that it happens. I need to practice adopting that same attitude, in the same guiltless and casual way, so that I can start getting off more consistently. Because I fucking deserve that.

What are your experiences with the “orgasm gap”? Got any tips for getting over anxiety about expecting or deserving an orgasm?

Lube-Savvy Lovers and Slick Sexcapades

It’s 2011, I am at a sex shop buying lube for the first time with my first love, and I have no idea what I am even looking at. “Can I help you find anything?” asks the sweetheart of a sales associate. My boyfriend and I both jump at her approach; we’re nervous to even be inside a sex shop, let alone actually buy something. (Yes, kiddos, I am unabashedly sexual today, but in 2011, not so much.)

“Umm, we’re looking for a lube that’ll feel natural and won’t give me an infection,” I manage to squeak, through layers of debilitating shyness.

The shopkeep reaches for a bottle of Blossom Organics and hands it to me, rattling off a shpiel about its natural ingredients and vagina-friendly formulation. Then she leaves me and my boyf to peruse.

We test a little of this mysterious new substance on our hands, and exchange silent, confused glances. At last, my darling murmurs, “I like this one. It feels like your actual vag juices.” I blush, but this time it’s with glee; this soft-hearted moment between us is the most comfortable and least distressed I’ve felt since setting foot in the shop. Because I know that regardless of how much shame I might be feeling, none of it is coming from my boyfriend, and that is what really matters.

We walk up to the cash counter, bottle of lube in hand. “We’ll take this one,” I say, not quite proudly but getting there.

For years, I think of lube as a product for my comfort and pleasure alone, and therefore something I have to specifically request if I want it used. Boyfriends and hookups slide fingers, toys, and cocks into me at my behest, and lube must be applied at my behest too. One partner learns what my “Ouch, I need a little more lube” face looks like, and begins to take it upon himself – but aside from that one perceptive outlier, everyone I bang requires me to be assertive about my own lubrication needs.

I continue thinking of lube this way until, in the winter of 2016, my fave fuckbuddy becomes my fave fuckbuddy, and flips my whole concept of lube on its head with a single comment.

“I want your fingers inside me,” I purr contentedly as he strokes my clit, mid-makeouts, in my big cozy bed.

“You got it,” he replies. “Think you need any lube?”

“Nah, I’m good,” I say. It’s sometimes difficult for me to determine my juiciness level without physically checking, but based on the situation I’m in and the person I’m in it with, it seems likely that I’m soaked.

He kneels between my legs for leverage and pushes two thick fingers into me, finding my A-spot quickly and with ease. I’ve already floated halfway to the heavens when he pauses and says, “Actually, can we use some lube? I want a little more room to move around in here.”

I laugh, having never encountered this request before, and hand him a bottle of Slippery Stuff. The seconds stretch out languidly as I watch him squeeze it onto his fingers and spread it around, coating their full surface. It’s the first time I’ve ever thought of lube as sexy.

He slips his fingers back into me, and I immediately understand what he was talking about. It does feel like he has more room to move around. The slicker environment gives him more freedom for fine movements, fingers building speed in minuscule motions over the exact right spot. He is a manual maestro, a vaginal virtuoso. The sensation reminds me of how much more sensual your own skin feels in a hot bath: the damp granularity of arm hairs, the shiny squeak of wet legs tangling underwater.

I come so hard, I soak his fingers, rendering the lube superfluous. But it was the tool that got us there. The lube he asked for, and the fact that he asked for it.

I regard teaching straight men about lube as a public service I perform. It imbues my sluttiness with noble purpose. Sometimes I daydream that I school all the men of earth on the evils of glycerin and parabens, and in doing so, eradicate a broad percentage of vaginal infections worldwide.

I’ll never forget the crush who, upon getting me naked in his king-size hotel bed, pulled a bottle of lube from his suitcase and said, “It’s no Squillid, but…” Naturally, his mispronunciation of “Sliquid” made me laugh so hard I nearly fell off the bed. The lube he then handed me was chock full of glycerin and propylene glycol, so I passed it back to him and said, “I’m not putting this in my vagina, but I appreciate the gesture.” We spent longer on warm-up before delving into penetration, and it was fine. Perhaps he’s upgraded his lube of choice by now.

I’ll also never forget the night last summer when I told Bex my new boyfriend didn’t own any lube. “WHAT?!” Bex shouted. “We should bring him some! Like, right now!!” They were high, and were therefore perhaps more emphatic about this subject than they would be while sober, but not by much. I brought the boyf a bottle of Sliquid Sassy the next time I saw him, and he put it to good use immediately.

Another day, another night shift at the sex shop. I’m new to the retail scene and trying to soak up as much knowledge from my coworkers as possible. I know a lot about vibrators, dildos, butt plugs, floggers… but about selling these things? Not so much.

Keeping a wide berth so as not to freak out the customer, I listen in on my babely coworker giving a lube pitch. “These lubes are the best ones on the market,” he announces with the utmost confidence, and gestures sweepingly at the Sliquid section. “They’re hypoallergenic, organic, tasteless, and fragrance-free. This one is my favorite.” I watch with scarcely-concealed glee as he picks up the Organics Gel, my all-time fave, my right-hand man, my nightstand essential.

If I could go back in time and tell my 18-year-old self that one day she’d swoon over a dude because of his taste in lube, she’d probably laugh in my face. But it makes perfect sense. Caring about lube is caring about partners’ comfort, health, and pleasure. What could possibly be sexier than that?

 

This post was sponsored by the good folks at Lubezilla, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own!

5 Bruises I Loved and Lost

Heads up, babes: this post deals with bruising and other visible signs of (consensual) injury, as well as self-harm. If that’s tough subject matter for you, please feel free to skip this post!

 

“I’ve never spanked anyone before,” Dane mentions offhandedly as we’re hanging out before our porn shoot.

“Oh,” I say, and my stomach drops. “Um, that’s fine, it’s not too hard to learn. I trust you.” I take my Tantus Pelt paddle out of my bag and show her how it works: the momentum, the swing, the snap. It’s been a few weeks since a partner’s used this mean little thing on me and I’m excited to bend over for my hot new friend in front of a rolling video camera.

What I don’t say, and later wish I had: Start slow, and work your way up. Warm up the area with gentle smacks til it’s red and glowing, before you progress to harder wallops. Spread out the impacts, instead of focusing on one spot. Rhythm and consistency are good, but give me time to breathe. I think these things but don’t communicate them. I said I trust her, and I do.

The scene goes better than I ever hoped or expected, given how nervous I was when we began. She teases and spanks and fucks me over a wooden coffee table in the airy afternoon light. But that paddle. Oh, that paddle.

There is a point, somewhere during most spankings, when I cross the threshold between safe, tolerable pain and pain so intense it scares me a little. This threshold is the reason I can’t spank myself effectively: I’ll never leap across that line myself. I need someone to push me.

Dane is bossy and authoritative and mean, and gets me crying within minutes. The silicone paddle rains down relentlessly on my reddening ass. And then she picks a spot on my right cheek and just wails on it. One hit after another, til the pain is a white-hot emergency alert in my brain. I think, I can’t take much more of this. Then I think, No, really, this has to stop. And then a deeper, stronger voice in my head says: No. You can take it. You can take just a little more.

I do. And eventually it ends. I’m left with the best bruise I’ve ever had, a crimson emblem of what I faithfully endured. A blotchy splotch that proudly announces what a very, very good girl I am.

Dane cuddles me on the couch. Caitlin brings me a cupcake. I’m grinning, glowing, good.


Depression comes in waves, arcing over the shoreline of my mind so ominously that I usually see it coming from yards away. I can arrange my schedule so the worst of it will hit when I’m alone, sobbing in bed, shoulders shaking, self-worth crumbling in polite privacy. I mask these desperate spells from my friends whenever I can. But sometimes I can’t.

One night in July, I’m at a party with Bex, Georgia, and a few other friends. But it’s the saddest party I’ve ever been to – even sadder than the surprisingly jovial secular shiva we held when my grandmother died – because I can’t stop crying.

Depression tells you lots of lies, the most pervasive one being that you are unendingly sad, have always been, and will always be. It tells you the tears you cry are justified, because everything is terrible and life is pain. It tells you the glimmers of happiness you once knew have been extinguished and were illusory anyway. It wrings the light from your spirit. It takes everything from you, most crucially, your hope.

So as I cry in front of my friends and they attempt to comfort me, none of it really works. “We love you,” they say, and my depression-brain says, Yeah, but the people you WISH loved you still don’t love you. “You’re a good person,” they say, and depression whispers, Bullshit, you’re garbage, they’re just humoring you. “You’ll feel better in the morning,” they predict, and depression insists, You will never feel good again.

What I need, when I’m like this, is to cry very hard for a while and then to be jolted out of my sad, salty rut. I need a distraction, a shake-up, a gear-change. So when Georgia says, “Do you want me to hit you?” some part of me perks up because I know that has worked in the past and it might work again.

I bend over the end of the sofa like a good girl, and Georgia – armed with my KinkMachineWorks Lexan paddle – begins to knock the sadness out of me via my ass.

When I’m sad and I don’t want to be sad anymore, sometimes I think of the saddest thoughts I can possibly imagine, in an effort to push the sadness through my veins faster so I’ll be rid of it sooner. If I’m crying over a boy, for example, I might force myself to think, “He doesn’t love me, he’ll never love me, he doesn’t want me the way I want him and he never will, I’m not good enough for him, I’ll be alone forever, and it’s only going to get worse from here.” Crying harder speeds up the process so I can get on with my life sooner – and spanking can serve a similar function for me. The pain gives me a tangible reason to cry, so I cry harder, feel my feelings deeper, and move through them quicker.

“I love you, babe,” Bex says to me while Georgia spanks me. “You’re being such a good girl,” Georgia says between hits. One friend holds my hand; another strokes my hair. I keep my face planted in the sofa’s upholstery and I cry and cry and cry.

And when it’s all done, I feel a bit better. And I have some epic bruises to remind me that I helped myself by letting my friends help me.


One night by myself in my room, depression sneaks up on me. I didn’t see you come in, I tell it, and it hisses back, That’s because you’re a stupid, silly girl who doesn’t know anything. I can’t argue with that.

Sometimes my depression comes alongside a restlessness: I know I need to do something to alleviate the uncomfortable feelings in my body and brain, but it’s not immediately clear what. When I’m coping well, I get out my journal, cry in a hot bath, go see a friend, or curl up with snacks and an episode of Sherlock. When I’m coping less well, I think about hurting myself.

The jury is out – by which I mean, my therapist is unsure – whether my self-spanking counts as self-harm. I don’t really do it to punish myself, to feel more alive, or to enact suicidal ideations, all common reasons people self-harm. I think I do it because it distracts me from the “bad” thoughts and feelings in my head, and because I know spanking has historically alleviated my mental health symptoms. It’s a last-ditch effort to snap myself back to stability.

On this particular night, crying numbly in my desk chair, I just start smacking my thigh with the back of my hand because it feels like the right thing to do. I do it so hard, and for so long, that I worry I might break my hand. I switch hands, and do it some more. I keep going until I’m sufficiently bruised, and the dark whispers in my head have calmed.

The bruise I’m left with is a chaotic mass of speckles, and I instantly hate it. It’s ugly, but I know I wouldn’t think that if a partner had given it to me. Each time I catch sight of it, I’m reminded of how I failed myself, how I let myself down by coping poorly with the feelings that rain down on me. I try to forgive myself, but in the meantime, I wear boxers around the house instead of my usual bikini briefs, so I never have to see the evidence of what depression wrought on my body.


When I was younger, I thought I’d hate one-night stands because sex felt too intimate to share with a near-stranger. As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned so much: sex doesn’t have to be intimate, and there are other valid reasons to hate one-night stands (which I kinda do). But it turns out that for me, kink feels too intimate to share with a near-stranger. It feels like an infringement, a mild violation, an incongruent aberration.

One cold night in December, I go out for drinks with a passably smart-‘n’-sweet Tinder boy. Our hours-long conversation brings out the details of my life that usually emerge on dates like these: I’m a sex writer, I review sex toys, I write about my kinks, and those kinks include spanking.

When I invite him over to my place after drinks, he makes a logical leap that any reasonable person could make: I like spanking, therefore, I want him to spank me. During our lukewarm hookup, he lands a few hard smacks on my ass, and I make noises of delight – because, physically, this feels like something I’ve enjoyed before. Emotionally, less so. He is nobody to me. I don’t care if he wants to punish me, or thinks I’ve been bad, or wants to make me feel good, or wants to give me what I want. I give zero shits what he thinks of me, and therefore, with him, kink feels irrelevant.

In the morning, we chat a bit via text, and he asks, “Is your butt even in the least bit sore?” It’s a vanilla-dude question, designed to determine whether his untrained hand even made a dent in my seasoned-kinkster ass. I look in the mirror and there is, faintly, the outline of a handprint. Red finger shapes against my creamy white skin. I text him a picture, though I doubt he even cares.

The bruise is mild, and only lasts a few days. So I spend those days thinking about how gross it feels to be bruised by someone I barely know. One-night stands are okay if I can hop in the shower afterward and wash away their sweat, their spit, their cum. But a bruise stays, and remains both mine and theirs until it fades. I love bruises when they make me feel “owned” by someone I want to own me – but a random-ass stranger from Tinder does not own me and should not bruise me. I glower furiously at the handprint for days, wishing it had come from someone else’s hand.


My fave fuckbuddy is extremely vanilla, but he’s also what Dan Savage calls “GGG“: good, giving, and game. He doesn’t “get” the whole spanking thing, but he’ll still do it if I ask – often quite enthusiastically – and I love that about him.

One night in a New York hotel room, we can’t figure out how to open the bottles of apple-ginger cider we brought with us – and we’re high, which makes this quandary even harder. “Let’s go to the front desk and ask if they have a bottle opener,” I suggest, reasonably, to which my FWB replies: “Okay, but you have to do the talking, because I am way too high to talk to a stranger right now.”

We make a giggly pilgrimage to the front desk; the attendant there doesn’t have a bottle opener either. So it’s back to the drawing board (after a meandering journey through the hotel lobby, mezzanine, and basement, laughing maniacally like the stoned delinquents we are). Once we find our hotel room again, we scour it for any and all objects that might function as a bottle opener: a pair of tweezers, the edge of a countertop, a thick bedsheet crumpled in a palm.

Eventually, grasping at straws, my gentleman-friend opens the wardrobe in the corner and pops out the silver metal bar holding up the clothes-hangers. “Oh no, you broke it!” I chirp, my high-brain momentarily unable to process that he did this on purpose. He grins at me in that roguish way he has, and jokes, “Those were load-bearing hangers.” I collapse into ganja giggles on the bed.

The metal bar works. He’s able to push the gaping end of it against the ridged edge of a bottlecap until the cap pops clean off. He hands me the bottle and gets to work on opening one for himself. I sit cheerfully, sipping my cider, one leg dangling off the bed and one draped over his thigh. We clink our drinks together and sip in the comfortable silence of two people who like each other – two people who just simply, uncomplicatedly, happily like each other.

And then I pick up the hanger bar and start whacking myself on the thigh with it, because of course I do.

He laughs darkly in his throat, because he knows me and he knows what’s coming. “Oh, you kinksters and your pervertables,” he says out loud, or maybe just in my memory because that’s the sentiment I sensed from him in my periphery. I take another swig of my cider and put the silver bar in his hand. “You should hit me with this,” I say.

He does. The cool metal lands stripes of pain along my thigh, still hitched over his. His thwacks are more earnest than I’ve ever felt from him; I think he’s finally figured out that when I ask to be hit, I want to be hit. Stoned, tipsy, gettin’ beat, and sitting beside one of my favorite people, I can’t recall many moments as purely, perfectly happy as this one, right here.

a thigh bruise“I want you to give me a bruise,” I tell him, but he’s vanilla and probably needs a little more instruction, so I continue. “Pick a spot. Hit that one spot again and again, starting soft and building up til you’re wailing on it.” I wrap both my arms around the one of his that’s not holding our impromptu impact implement, and press my face into his shoulder. “I might scream, but it’s okay.”

He does exactly what I’ve asked him to do, just like he always does; it’s one of the reasons he’s my favorite FWB I’ve ever had. As the bar slices through the air and onto my thigh again and again, my man-friend mutters in my ear about the way jazz drummers hold their drumsticks. He’s playing me like an instrument. His tone of voice reminds me of a doctor who tells you a cheerful story about elephants or fairies to distract you while he sets your broken bone. I don’t want to be distracted from the pain being rhythmically administered to me, but I like the sound of his voice, the closeness of it, how completely and totally safe I feel with this man who is hurting me at my request.

There you go,” he says, and stops. “Look at that. Wow!”

I glance down at my thigh and see a thin streak of red, set in beautiful relief against the paleness of my skin. I’ve never seen my thigh look so gorgeous. In the days that follow, I keep hitching up my skirt to take a look, running my hand along the slightly raised mark, pressing the painful spot through my leggings on the subway to remind me that it’s there.

It makes me feel owned, and small, and safe, and happy. It fades, and I want it back. I want it to last forever, like a tattoo. But the nature of bruises is that they don’t last. Like the tumbling petals of a dying flower, they are perfect in their life and in their death. I am always sad to say goodbye to a bruise, and always happy to have had it at all.