Strange Self-Care in a Time of Terror

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The day after the election, like many of you, I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t wash the previous night’s tear-streaked eyeliner off my face, or brush my teeth, or get dressed.

What I could do, and what I did do, was as follows: I put on some lipstick, watched YouTube videos and blowjob porn, and cried.

Self-care – or coping, because sometimes they are one and the same – is so unique from person to person. What’s comforting to you might be scary or weird to me, and vice versa. But with that caveat, here are some things I’ve been doing to take care of myself during what feels like a global depressive spell. I hope some of these suggestions help you, or at least inspire you to do what you can do for yourself.

img_5056Lipstick. If you ever see me wearing just lipstick and no other makeup, you’ll know I’m either feeling minimalistic in a French-starlet kind of way, or I’m depressed. It’s the easiest cosmetic to slick on when I barely have the emotional energy to look in a mirror. It doesn’t require the patience of liquid eyeliner, the precision of eyebrow pencil, the fastidiousness of foundation. It’s a simple, quick burst of color. It signals to my body and my brain that I am beginning my day, even if my pajamas and unbrushed hair say otherwise.

Mundane activities. If I can manage to get out of bed when depressed, I may be able to (slowly) work up to cleaning, doing laundry, or other boring day-to-day tasks. They are small and not terribly significant in the grand scheme of things, but they are something I can do, and it feels good to be able to do something when you’re depressed. My friend Sarah likes to bake, for similar reasons; she says doing something with her hands feels useful when depression makes it hard for her to move her body a lot. The other day I went to the mall with a friend because he needed to return a shirt he’d bought, and it was the sweetest banal respite. Sometimes going grocery shopping or stepping out for a coffee feels oddly affirming when I’m depressed. It’s okay to do small things when you can’t manage the big ones.

lBlowjob porn. I’m aware that this is unconventional, but that’s the point of this post, after all. While watching Heather Harmon porn in a weed-induced stupor the other day, I became aware that it was calming me down and comforting me. Part of that is simply that her porn is familiar to me; I know the rhythms and features of it, the noises I can expect from her husband Jim, the predictable cumshot at the end. And blowjobs are, historically, a calming activity for me. The love between Heather and Jim really comes through (no pun intended!) in their videos, and that helps, too. There is something so sweet and simple about a loving blowjob. When Heather does it, it is a gift without expectations of reciprocation. It is a pure expression of affection. In a world that feels cold and heartless, it can be nice to remember that there are still people who love each other that selflessly, somewhere; that there are still people who want to see their loved ones experience pleasure for pleasure’s sake.

Funny podcasts. I sing the praises of the McElroy brothers at any given opportunity. Their humor is goofy, fresh, and relentlessly kind. Whether I’m puzzling through advice questions with the brothers on MBMBaM, immersing myself in the fantasy world they’ve built in The Adventure Zone, or laughing til I cry at the weird creations of Monster Factory, I’m hardly thinking about my problems or worries when I’m mired in a McElroy show. It’s not hyperbole to say that these boys may have saved my life on many occasions.

3647718646_7d503c3a99_oMaking music. My songs are predominantly about romantic rejections and unrequited love – phenomena that feel huge when they’re happening to you, but pale in comparison to, say, the impending threat of a global economic collapse and the xenophobic mass ejection of immigrants. When the big things feel too scary to contemplate, it can help to whine about the small things for a while. And if perfectionism doesn’t make your anxiety worse, it can give you a concrete task to work on when the world’s issues feel unsolvable. I showed my friend Brent a song I wrote recently, and he – a seasoned songwriting teacher – gave me detailed notes about structure, syllables, melody and arrangement. Working toward perfection, even within the small world of a single song, felt fuelling when I would’ve otherwise been crushed by the weight of the global problems I cannot solve.

Scary media. Stephen King novels, American Horror Story, bad slasher films on Netflix – whatever works. There is some evidence that horror movies alleviate anxiety for some of us, and I’ve definitely experienced that. It’s comforting to feel that there is an actual, concrete reason for your fear, instead of just letting your nonspecific dread run rampant. And when the story resolves, some of your terror might, too. For similar reasons, my friend Sarah says reading erotica helps her anxiety. Don’t judge yourself for the seemingly strange self-care strategies you employ. If it works, it’s worth doing.

Marijuana. Some would say it’s not healthy to rely on substances to get you through tough times. I say that sometimes substances are the only things that can get you through and that may not be ideal but it’s still okay. Weed blurs my brain a little, forcing me to think one thought at a time instead of losing myself in worry. And it also reawakens my libido even at the unsexiest of times (more on that in a post coming out on Monday), enabling me to masturbate when I otherwise would’ve been too depressed to do so. Masturbation can be, for me, an important medicine, flooding my body with uplifting neurotransmitters and re-affirming my love for myself, so any impetus to do it more often is a good thing.

What are your unconventional self-care methods?

 

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5 Kinda-Sexy Things to Do When You Don’t Feel Sexy

C’mere, I’m gonna tell you a secret. It should be an obvious fact, but it’s still weirdly taboo and many people don’t accept it. Here’s the thing… There will be times in your life when your sex drive will wane. Even if you are typically a pretty libidinous person. And that does not necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with your body or your mind.

Granted, sometimes it does. As I’m sure you know, certain health conditions and life circumstances can contribute to a sag in passion. Sometimes it has to do with the expectations a partner places on you, or that you place on yourself. (Emily Nagoski has a lot to say about that in her book.) Sometimes your relationship structure doesn’t excite you, and that affects your lust levels. (In which case, I prescribe Esther Perel’s book and some soul-searching.)

But sometimes it just happens for no damn reason. And that’s okay too.

I’ve been singing “Where did my sex drive go?” for the past week. A week wouldn’t seem like a long time to go without desire or orgasms for some folks, but for me, it’s suspicious. I’m chalking it up to a combination of things: a confusing crush that’s occupying a lot of my heart-space, a recent disastrous encounter that left me feeling resistant to touch, and just general life-busyness. It’s all added up to me feeling pretty unsexy, and unmotivated to do much about it.

But there are things you can do to reactivate your appetite for the sensual, even if you’re still avoiding the sexual. I have some suggestions for you; they might make you want to have sex again, or they might not. But either way, they’ll be the gentle self-care you need at times like these, and they’ll help you get out of your head and into your body a little more. And that’s something we all need!

 

Moisturize and massage your body

Hey, the saucy definition of “touch yourself” isn’t the only definition!

Moisturization can be a meditative practice if you let it. Scoop up some coconut oil, cocoa butter, or other loveliness of choice, and start rubbing it into a part of your body that needs some love. Make it your goal to cover your whole body, slowly but surely.

You can make this a very focused, present practice by thinking about each body part as you moisturize it – what you like about that part of yourself, what achievements that body part is capable of, what it means to you. Or you can kind of zone out, by listening to some music during your self-massage and just letting your mind wander. Do what feels needed.

Meditation is proven to make you happier, and this is a low-pressure, easy way to do it. Self-massage also helps you get back in touch with your body, literally and figuratively. And hey, even if you don’t notice any of those benefits, at least you’ll have super soft skin by the time you’re done.

 

Exercise

It’s common wisdom that cardio can boost your libido, but of course, there are other reasons to do it.

For one thing, in the absence of sex or masturbation, you might be feeling antsy and full of stymied energy. While you could force yourself into not-fully-wanted sexual activity to help burn off that bounce, that might not be the best option for you right now. Exercise can help.

In cases where your flagging libido is related to depression, moving your body can also help by brightening your mood somewhat. It’s not a cure-all, but it might ease your sads a bit.

 

Make yourself look good

I sometimes view lipstick as a prescription for my lethargy. I make myself put it on when I’m sad, even when I don’t really feel like it, because it always lifts my spirits. Not a lot, but maybe enough that I can leave the house.

Sometimes a drop in sex drive can result from feeling undesirable. If that’s how you’re feeling, maybe some gussying-up is in order, to help restore some of your confidence.

Do whatever kind of appearance-finessing is most in line with your gender identity and/or sexual persona. That could be anything from lipstick and winged liner to moustache wax and a bowtie. See if you feel a little hotter once you’re done. And if not, that’s cool too.

 

Lose yourself in music

As Jim Carrey well knows, music can help us connect to our more primal selves. When I’m having a bad day or a bad week, few things work as well to shake off my misery as a night out dancing in a dark bar somewhere. It’s such a physically-focused activity that I really don’t have the energy (or even the desire) to think about whatever’s bugging me.

While dancing might help you for the same reasons I outlined when I talked about exercise above, even just listening to music can have therapeutic effects. If it’s music you love, the familiar comfort and joy of it can lift your mood. And some music is so sexy that it might get your hips grindin’ and your heart poundin’, and we all know where that can lead.

 

Use a vibrator non-sexually

My Magic Wand is the only sex toy in my collection that gets used regularly whether or not I’m feeling sexy. That’s because it can bring pleasure to just about any part of my body, not only the sexual ones. Sore muscles, blocked sinuses, even just the apathetic numbness I get when I’ve been sitting around too much – a strong wand vibrator can ease it all.

If you use a vibe on non-sexual body parts for a while and then decide you want to move it onto your genitals, you might find it more agreeable than using your hands to masturbate. Sex toys can give you some psychological distance from your sexuality that you might prefer if you’re feeling unsexy.

 

What do you do to rekindle a sex drive that’s stopped cold?

Help, It’s a Kinkmergency!: Make Your Own Self-Aftercare Kit

Here’s how you know I’m still relatively new to kink: I didn’t take aftercare seriously until very recently.

I viewed it largely the same way I view those safety presentations that flight attendants give before takeoff: this is something I should be aware of, but it probably won’t apply to my life.

See, I cried after the first time I had sex with a man, but for the most part, sex doesn’t unravel me. I think sex is less tied to emotions for me than it is for the average person, just judging by the questions I sometimes get when I tell friends about my sex life (e.g. “How can you have sex with someone you don’t have romantic feelings for?!” and “What?! You could ‘take or leave’ kissing? Really?!“).

But the thing is, kink is way more emotionally taxing than vanilla sex (at least in my experience), which is part of why aftercare is so important. When I’m just getting fucked or putting genitals in my mouth or whatever, I can roll over and fall asleep immediately afterwards, or start cracking jokes, or get up and leave. I can spend some time decompressing and debriefing, but I don’t need to. Shit’s different with kink.

My partners have normally been wonderful about aftercare. They gave it without me needing to ask for it or even use the word “aftercare.” But last week, I went into a play session feeling a bit psychologically off-kilter already (don’t do this!!), so the extended spanking and biting and slapping that typically would’ve been fine… wasn’t. I felt more shaken up than usual, to the point that I started crying and couldn’t even properly verbalize what my problem was. To make matters worse, my partner said something shame-y to me, and I don’t think he meant to, but I just couldn’t handle it at that moment.

So I did what you’re never supposed to do: I skipped aftercare. I put my clothes on and got the hell out of there, because I felt a strong need to distance myself from that person at that moment. It wasn’t the brightest decision I’ve ever made, but it felt necessary at that time.

The face of someone who needs aftercare.
The face of someone who needs aftercare.

I’m really lucky to have lots of clever and supportive folks following me on Twitter, so when I tweeted about my situation, I received lots of suggestions. Upon arriving home, I munched carrots and hummus while watching a cartoon show on Netflix, while still wearing my winter coat with the hood pulled up because I felt safer that way. After about an hour of sniffling and breathing and crunching and (eventually) giggling, I started to feel less horrible.

It got me thinking about how important it is to have self-care supplies on hand, incase of a kinkmergency like this. Sometimes your partner has to leave right away, and can’t give you the care you need after a scene; sometimes you have a conflict with a partner during sex that leaves you both wanting distance; hell, sometimes you might even do kink stuff by yourself that leaves you feeling vulnerable enough to need some aftercare. Here are some suggestions for items to have at the ready, just incase.

 

Calming media

In my recent time of need, I gravitated toward Mike Tyson Mysteries, because it’s bright, silly, and doesn’t require a whole lotta attention span. I think cartoons, in general, make for good aftercare viewing. Some of my kinky friends swear by Pixar movies or old episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy.

If you’re more inclined toward grown-up media, you could watch something you’ve seen a zillion times already. (SherlockThe OfficeDead Poets Society?) Depending on how you’re feeling, it could be something funny or lighthearted, or something sad enough to induce some cathartic crying. Either could be helpful.

In addition to things to watch, you should also have things to listen to, incase that’s more the mood you’re in. I recommend quiet, soothing music (e.g. Jeremy Messersmith’s “Paper Moon,” Jim Guthrie’s Indie Game soundtrack, the Peaceful Piano playlist on Spotify) or something you’ve listened to so many times that you practically have the whole thing memorized (for me: Jeremy Larson’s “They Reappear” and the self-titled Fleet Foxes album). You could even make yourself a playlist of specific songs that reliably calm you down, and sync it to your phone/MP3 player/tablet/cloud, so you’ll have it at your fingertips whenever you need it.

Depending on your disposition and tastes, it can also be really calming to listen to well-spoken folks reading poems, monologues and such. For example, here is Benedict Cumberbatch reciting poetryTom Hiddleston reading a Shakespearian sonnet, and John Krasinski performing The Gingerbread Man.

 

Warm and cuddly things

Some people get overheated when overwhelmed by kink-related feelings; obviously you should listen to your body and do what feels best. But most people I speak to about this topic seem to say that they feel cold and/or shivery and need additional warmth after emotionally intense play.

To combat this, you can keep on hand some blankets, sweaters, coats, scarves, shawls, hats, socks, slippers, and/or mittens. In emotionally fragile times, I especially like to wear things that remind me of someone I love: a shawl my grandmother knitted, a jacket a friend gave me, some mittens my mom bought me.

You can also get warm by making yourself (or having someone else make you) some tea or hot chocolate, or by drawing a nice hot bath, ideally with some good-smelling stuff in it.

If you have access to a friendly pet, cuddle it. If not, a stuffed animal is almost as good. You can also try cuddling with real-live people if there are any around, and if that appeals. (It’s okay if it doesn’t. Sometimes the comedown from kink involves wanting your distance from other humans for a little while.)

 

Tools of self-expression and self-reflection

This will differ a lot from person to person and even from moment to moment, but you may want a way to process what just happened to you and what you’re feeling. You can keep it simple and just talk out loud about your feelings (I love to do this while sitting in a bath), or you can get a bit more involved and write in a journal, paint a picture, make some music, etc.

For stream-of-consciousness writing that I may or may not want to see ever again, I love 750Words.com. Sometimes typing is easier than writing by hand, physically and maybe emotionally too, since you don’t have to focus quite so much on what you’re writing as you write it. A service like 750Words is also more secure than a physical journal, which might be important to you if you’re writing about sensitive topics and difficult feelings.

 

Aromatherapy

I like the smell of bath products from Lush, scented candles from Bath & Body Works, and lavender essential oil. Figure out what smells you like and keep ’em around if you can. You may want to put on a perfume that reminds you of a happy time in your life. (Bonus happy-hibernating-turtle points if you spray this into the front of a cowl or scarf and then pull it up over your nose.)

 

Grounding snacks and drinks

I’m finding that I really like cold, crunchy foods when I’m coming down from subspace or a sex-high. Fruits and veggies give me enough sensory stimulation to ease me back to earth, and they’re also full of nourishment and hydration, which are important when you’ve just endured something intense.

A friend of mine keeps ice cream around for aftercare purposes. Another friend likes to pick up donuts on the way to a sex-date so they’ll be available for consumption afterward. It might be useful to think in advance about your own food-related proclivities, so you can avoid foods that will make you feel anxious or gross and choose only the ones that’ll make you feel good and happy.

It’s also really important to re-hydrate after a kink scene, or any kind of sex. You lose a lot of fluids through sweating, coming, and (maybe) crying. Load up on water, tea, juice, sports drinks, or whatever other beverages your body is calling out for. (Alcohol’s probably not a great idea at this time, though.)

 

Kind words and feel-good memories

imageThis one’s a bit more abstract, but still important, I think. Start keeping a file or folder – whether digital or physical – that contains all the compliments you receive from friends, family, and even strangers. It’s so easy to forget the nice things people say about you, because they’re often outweighed by negative comments that stick in your head more easily.

If you’re having trouble coming up with material for this “compliment bank,” ask 10 of your closest pals what they think your 3 best qualities are.

You could also keep an ongoing jar of happy memories/good things, like Penny does, to leaf through when you need a pick-me-up. For aftercare purposes, it might be best if this is a physical object rather than just a digital list; the visceral quality of paper in your hands can help re-ground you.

 

What do you do when you need to provide your own aftercare? Or when you need to do self-care in general?

Monthly Faves: Happy Endings & Bubble Baths

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O is for October, and also for Orgasm, and Oooooh Yes, and Oh my god October was a sexy month. Here are some highlights…

 

Toys

• Honestly? I’ve been using my fingers a lot this month! I’ve often found they’re not stimulating enough to get me off on their own, but lately I’m thinking it’s mostly an issue of mental stimulation, not physical. I seem to get bored and distracted a lot more easily when I’m using fingers versus toys. But if I’m watching porn at the same time, often fingers are all it takes. Cool!

• The only two dildos in heavy rotation for me this month were the Eleven and G-Spoon. Dat A-spot action. Mmm, yes.

• Still mega infatuated with the Magic Wand Rechargeable. I find I rely on it more often when my life is particularly busy or stressful, because it gets me off easily and quickly.

 

Fantasy fodder

• Most of my fantasies this month were about getting fingerfucked to orgasm by handsome, vaguely dom-y gentlemen. It’s no coincidence that two of my favorite sexual encounters in the past few months also involved this act… but I wonder if it’s my fantasy because I did it, or if I did it because it’s my fantasy?!

• Amateur oral sex porn is my jam and gets mentioned here practically every month. Whoops. Usually I’m all about BJs but this month I was also diggin’ on some amateur cunnilingus scenes. Viz: extreme close-up, cute dude pleasin’ his lady, and (an old-school favorite!) porn stars teaching oral skillz.

• I recently revisited one of my favorite pieces of sex writing – Rachel Rabbit White’s essay on getting a “happy ending” massage – and it reignited my long-standing kink for sex as a service. I did a fair amount of research on Toronto-based “erotic masseurs,” even spending several hours reading testimonials on one practitioner’s website. As searingly hot as this notion is in my mind, I just don’t think I’ll ever have the guts to go through with it… (Or, let’s be real, the money. Sexy massages are expensive as fuck!)

 

Sexcetera

• I’ve been doing cam shows for horny patrons lately and it’s been fun! I thought I would feel skeezed out about masturbating on webcam for strangers, but actually it’s very affirming. I have my fair share of body insecurities, but it’s hard to hate your body when someone is actually paying you for the privilege of looking at it, all while jerking off and telling you how gorgeous you are. (Oh, horny men. The bad ones are awful, but the good ones are adorable.)

• The ever-charming Taylor J. Mace took some scantily-clad and naked photos of me for his porn company, Feisty Fox Films. He claims to be a photography novice, but damn, he made me look (and feel) fantastic! If you need a dose of body-love in your life, I heartily recommend enlisting someone clever to shoot photos of you in a flatteringly-lit room.

• By far, my best solo-sex experience of the month was when I drew myself a hot bath, crumbled half a Sunny Side and half a Brightside into the water, poured myself a big glass of white wine, turned out the bathroom lights, pointed my laptop at the tub with some fisting porn playing on it, climbed into the bath with my G-Spoon + Eleven + Tango, and went to town on myself for over two hours. Normally my baths do not even approach this level of luxury, but I had the house completely to myself for one elusive evening, so I decided to go all out. Damn, self-care feels so right and so necessary sometimes.

 

 

Femme stuff

• In mid-September I bought some men’s boxer-briefs because they come up higher on my torso and felt like the healthier choice while my tattoo healed. It took until October for me to realize how sexy I feel in them. They may not be “feminine” but I kinda want to wear them every day.

• I bought a vintage red leather jacket for a Halloween costume that never came to pass, but it’s okay because I look hot in it. (Why must autumn slip away so quickly?! I want it to be leather-jacket weather forever!)

MAC lipstick in “Matte Royal” is possibly the weirdest, most gothic lipstick I own. Maybe one day I will pluck up the courage to actually wear it out of the house…

 

What were your favorite things in October, my darlin’?

 

Monthly Favorites: Glass, Daddies, & Ganja

April was such a busy month, what with Feminist Porn Week and my semester at school coming to an end. I’m surprised I even had time to masturbate at all! (Okay, I’m not that surprised.) Here are some things I loved in my solo sexytimes this month…

Toys

• I finally got my hands on the new version of the We-Vibe Tango and it was everything I wanted it to be: almost identical to the old Tango but with a far less finicky battery/charger situation. Its exquisite vibrations rumbled my clit into a frenzy all month – and when I used it with the Dusk attachment, it was even able to induce hands-free orgasms! (More on that in a later post, I’d imagine…)

• I’ve been on a bit of a glass kick recently. This month I pulled out my Amethyst, which I got waaaay back in the day, and it got cozy with my G-spot plenty of times before the month was out. This dildo not only feels lovely but also looks great. I can’t resist blue glass!

• I’m still in love with my Fleshjack dildo. And duly impressed with my vagina for being able to handle it. You go, vagina!

Fantasy fodder

• Yep, still feelin’ Sherlock fanfiction. This month I enjoyed “At the Silken Altar” (Lestrade proving his gentlemanliness by letting Molly ride his face), “The School of the Seven Bells” (Sherlock and Molly and psychological bondage, oh my), and “Is He a Friend of Yours” (John roleplaying as Sherlock’s daddy). I also read some truly weird shit involving tentacles and alphas and omegas but I’m not sure how I feel about that yet…

• I saw this Heavenly Spire scene at one of the Feminist Porn Week screenings and it led to lots of fantasies about rough, anonymous gay male sex. Fuuuuck yesssss.

• (TW for weird age-play, incest, and dubious-consent stuff!) I’m thinking a lot about age-play lately, and specifically, Daddy/little-girl scenarios. Many of my orgasms this month were the result of fantasies involving phrases like, “Come on daddy’s cock now, sweetheart,” and “Is that your sweet spot, princess? Do you want daddy to touch it again?” This still feels very fucked up and guilt-infused for me, because of internalized kink-shaming and general weird feelings about my relationship with my actual dad, but I’m trying to be okay with it. Your fantasy life is just your fantasy life – can I get an amen?!

Et cetera

• This month was 4/20, the international weed holiday. I am by no means a pothead but I have dabbled in marijuana-aided masturbation from time to time. Normally I find it more weird than pleasurable, but sometimes you want weird, y’know? I gave it a couple more tries this month and it was definitely enjoyable, though I still feel it’s a bit overrated: I have friends who get hypersensitive when high, but I just tend to get spacey and hallucinatory.

• I tried to focus on self-seduction this month, because it was a stressful, busy time and I needed all the relaxation and pampering I could get. Scented candles, pink wine, and slow jams all helped me chillax for my self-love time. All I need now is satin sheets scattered with rose petals and maybe an on-call masseuse…

What were your faves this month?