Legs under scrutiny: on submission, stillness & movement

‘I have shorts you can borrow’ my mum says.

Ugh. I hate shorts. Why can’t I wear capris, like I do for exercise, or these super cute flamingo pyjama shorts that I’ve wanted for ages (ok, the physio might have laughed at those).

The truth is, it’s probably not the shorts that are bothering me.

I get accused a lot, by some of my real life friends, of being super vain, by which they mean, ‘I saw you just walk past that shop window and check yourself out.’

Except, I’m not checking myself out. Or at least, not in the way they think I am. It’s true, that when passing a mirror, or a window, or any reflective surface, my reflex is to examine myself in it. But I’m not checking to see if I look good. What I’m looking for is threefold:

a) Do I feel passably attractive today?
b) Do I look fat?
c) Am I walking in a way that people will perceive as ‘normal’?

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know I’m not good at looking away, literally or metaphorically, from the things that upset me and/or make me anxious. You’ll know too, that I don’t like my body and that I believe my disability and my submissiveness are intrinsically linked. But what I don’t think I’ve touched on is that one of the things that fascinates me about submission is how often it’s associated with stillness.

And I’m both drawn in by that, and increasingly interested in inverting it.

I was thinking about it today, at the first serious hospital appointment I’ve attended to assess my hemiplegia in twenty years. As the physio explained how the two hour appointment would work – measuring my legs, testing my strength and dexterity, fitting sensors all over my lower half to track my movements – the same old issue was bothering me.

‘Do I have to see the stuff you’re capturing? I really don’t like video cameras.’

‘Not if you don’t want to. Most people find it interesting, though. Gait is very distinctive and lots of people recognise theirs on screen as soon as they see it.’

Yeah, I thought, that’s exactly what I’m worried about.

As it happened, it wasn’t that bad. It turns out you can walk up and down a room endless times and avoid eye contact with everyone present. It turns out that when you see footage that’s essentially just a series of computer-generated lines and dots for your legs, with a triangle for your pelvis and nothing above it at all, it’s not too hard to disassociate that with the body you’re uneasy living in. It turns out that you can live with the limp the way it  looks on screen, even if your left leg does swing through without bending, not unlike the foot in Mousetrap.

It turns out you can leave with a different perception of your disability than the one you went in with- limp not as bad as you thought, but left ankle strength only a 1 out of 5 – and also wondering why you’re not getting to the heart of the way that makes you feel in your fiction.

I wrote a story last year where the FMC shares my condition. In that story, she and her partner invite another man into their bedroom in order that she’ll understand that she’s desirable to men other than the one she’s with in spite of her disability. I’m thrilled it was published, and I’m proud of it, but it fails to engage with the reality of disability and kink as fully as I’d have liked.

Back to the question of being still. When I’m submitting, the act of submission has never been characterised by stillness. I’d freak out if a man wanted to find me waiting for him on my knees. I don’t really see the appeal of rope bondage. I like to be held down, but only if I can struggle against the restraint: I like sex to be rough, out of control, blurry: sufficiently chaotic that neither he nor I can focus on the way my body looks or moves, essentially. Because even kneeling, although it ostensibly means staying still, requires that you can move in a certain way, and I’d want to do it gracefully and independently, not have to lower myself down and haul myself back up by the nearest surface or available hand.

So yeah, I want to write about that, because although it makes me uneasy, anything which makes me uneasy also has the potential for power-dynamic and humiliation play, things which I’m always keen to explore further – and fiction, after all, is a safe space in which to do so. And I want to push it even more – because if I’d be risking humiliation if a guy asked me to drop to my knees, I’d be risking it even more if he asked me to pace the room back and forth while he watched.

I want to play with those ideas of movement and motionlessness in my stories. I want to confront the things that scare me about my disability and that I’d love to overcome through kink, and work them right in there. Keep reminding me. Ask if I’ve written about it yet. Suggest new ways I can approach it. And, if stillness is central to your kink, please consider leaving a comment explaining why it appeals to you. Because, like I said, it fascinates me.

 

For more Wicked Wednesday, click on the circle…

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Triangle

I still remember, 16 years on, how you calculate the missing side of a right-angled triangle: a2 + b2 = c2.

That information is useless to me.

What would I like to know instead? Well, how to groom my pubes into a neatly-trimmed triangle (my style of choice) would be a start. Although not a right-angled one, it’s true.

I am pro-hair, on both men and women. I’m pro-hair on myself. But I’m not pro the way it looks most of the time, and I certainly don’t feel positive about either my ability to style it the way I want, or to ask someone else to do just that.

Which, to be honest, worries me.

I am, on the surface, all body confidence and positivity. Naked in the changing rooms. Topless on the beach. Fucking with the lights on. But what I project? It’s sure as hell not being reflected back at me.

I believe, wholeheartedly, in two things. Firstly, that body positivity is important, even when it’s a struggle, and that it’s more important for me to come to terms with my body the way it is than to cave to society’s demands that I change it. I will, for example, only try to lose weight when I’m in a good and happy place, because I’m trying to like myself more, not less.

Secondly, that there is no shame in asking  questions when you don’t know or can’t do something. And I do a shit job of landscaping down there. I’d like to be smooth underneath. I’d like zero hair in the creases between my thighs and my pelvis. I already go to the beautician to have facial hair waxed, which, truth be told, should bother me a whole lot more for the lack of femininity it implies. But I don’t. I don’t go because I worry that beauticians never see clients with pubes as unkempt and wonkily-shaped as mine. I worry that they’ll judge. I worry that I won’t know what to ask for.

Because I don’t want a Hollywood, a Brazilian, a landing strip, or a postage stamp.

I just want a triangle.

So why the fuck can’t I say so?

Heads, shoulders, knees and jizz

My bedroom ceiling is low, and he’s short. Not ridiculously so – though you wouldn’t know it from the fuss he’s made about it – but short enough that when he stands on my bed and puts a hand in the air, he can touch it. Or brace himself against it – one hand on the plaster, the other jerking his cock.

I’m not into this. But I’m into sex, that’s who I am, so I’m pretending.

Earlier, he tried to get me off with his knee. Literally wedged it between my legs and rubbed it up and down. Apparently, someone let him whip them one and he’s fascinated by the fact I got flogged the week before, but his idea of playing rough? It’s just, well, rough.

I wrote the above in Hyacinth’s session at the weekend. I haven’t written about sex I’ve had for a long time now – thought I was done with it, in fact – but I’ve been thinking about this for a while, because I think it reflects badly on everybody involved.

When he didn’t text for ten days after our first date, despite telling me repeatedly that I gave ‘the best blow job he’d ever had,’ a friend said, ‘He’s intimidated by you, I reckon.’

I don’t really believe in intimidation in this sense – my view on it is very much in line with this – but equally, I can see that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. I’m loud, outspoken, not particularly elegant or ladylike, and not everyone wants me to blow them in my kitchen within seconds of walking through the door, right?

In truth, I went down on him because *I* was intimidated. He was the first guy I’d been on a date with for a while who I’d actually fancied, and he’d said by text that he wasn’t looking for anything serious, which was, y’know, fine, even if it wasn’t, really. So, we sat through a date where I felt distinctly more interested in him than he was in me, to the point where I was actually surprised when I said, at the end of the evening, ‘If you want to come back with me, you’d be welcome.’

So, I sucked him, and fucked him, and later that evening he came in my mouth, and then he vanished for 10 days, and then he came back, and I fucked him again, and then he texted me, incessantly, for days, telling me how horny he was, but bailed on actually meeting up.

When I called him out on that, it was indeed that I was ‘intimidating,’ he said, and I was furious, with him and with myself. Furious about the cutesy ‘Oh, I’m not intimidating, it’s just a front I put on,’ text I sent in return, rather than telling him the truth, which was that, actually, I went down on him for the same reason and – guess what – I’d never swallowed spunk before him. Furious that because he was relatively attractive and intelligent I’d marked him as ‘out of my league,’ before we’d even said hello, and had used sex to try and lure him in.

Furious that, after all that, I still fucked him one more time.

And furious that, on my lowest days, I still think this is the best it’s going to get.

 

 

Sex and stuff: what if aspirational meant something different?

I’m not blogging much at the moment, because I’m mainly focused on a novel. And, for the last few weeks, I’ve been working on pulling together a synopsis for that novel, not because it’s finished, but because an external deadline requires one. So, in short, I started thinking about how I’d market it, and was quickly reminded that, in the real world sex might sell stuff, but in fiction, stuff sells sex.

I could write yet again about FSoG here: about helicopters, fast cars and penthouse apartments. But I don’t want to. Instead, I want to talk about Maestra, which, truth be told, is not really that different.

Rags to riches is, if you believe in that kind of thing, one of only seven possible basic plots, so it makes sense that people are still writing about it. Things haven’t changed that much since Dickens was writing about it – being white, male and ablebodied, or, if you can’t be those things, marrying them – is still the smoothest route to an easy life, and therefore the key component of any HEA.

I don’t know if Maestra ends with an HEA. I hated it so much I didn’t get past the sample chapters. But what I can tell you, just from those sample chapters, and from the reviews I’ve read, is that the sex and stuff link is alive and well. There’s a lot of champagne, many yachts and women who are desperate to lose their regional accents in favour of something posher. There’s some graphically-written sex. There are not, thankfully, any ‘inner goddesses’ and there is liberal usage of the word ‘cunt.’

Nobody has any feelings.

In a Guardian piece, called, promisingly, Time to be grown up about female desire, Maestra’s author, LS Hilton, makes some valid points, like this one:

‘From Colette to Pauline Réage to Catherine Millet, the French appear to have no difficulty accepting that a woman can write about sex without being reduced to it.’

The problem is, in the book itself, while she may not reduce women to just sex, she does, according to the Guardian’s review of the book, reduce them nonetheless:

It’s shocking because the world it portrays feels so depressingly regressive. Men have money, power, yachts and hedge funds. Women are disposable accessories, frantic for material gain; they might use their wiles to outwit the men, or manipulate them to their own advantage, but the essential balance of power remains unchanged.

Being grown up about desire – male or female, to me, means divorcing it entirely from status and material goods. It means separating it from body type – because not only beautiful people have sex – from race, and from ability level. In the real world, while relationships and sex might sometimes be driven by the quest for material gain, I really believe that desire is the one thing that isn’t. I don’t believe, or at least I hope – that nobody gets wet or hard over the thought of a hedge fund.

And erotica, by which I mean the type that people reading this are likely to be writing, rather than the mainstream titles mentioned above, has the opportunity to change this. Already many of us are writing characters who aren’t model-like in their looks, physique and/or age range. Not many of us feel the need to make our characters outrageously wealthy. And I think we can take it further. 

As you may know, I’m doing a workshop on writing disability in erotica at Eroticon this Saturday, and this question of aspiration is really the one I want to tackle. We spend a lot of time in the erotica/sex-blogging community reminding people that sex is a valid and worthwhile thing to write about – that sex and body positivity stand to benefit everyone. We’re doing as much, if not more, than most other genres to challenge gender and other societal norms, which makes me very proud and kind of emotional. And I want disability to benefit from that willingness to go against the status quo, too. 

LS Hilton says her book isn’t ‘precisely a feminist polemic’ and that’s fine, but if she thinks she’s being grown up about desire, I’d disagree. She says:

I merely attempted to write about a modern female character who is unapologetic about desire and who feels no shame or conflict about its fulfilment.

I’m sorry, but don’t we all feel shame and conflict sometimes? Isn’t that what gives desire the complexity that makes it such a joy to write about? Especially since she goes on to play down desire/sex as the book’s main theme: ‘Besides, it’s not a “sex book”, it’s a thriller.’ 

I want to write “sex books”. I want to write about the way sex makes people feel – both the good and the bad. And more than anything, I want to write fiction that represents the way we actually live, rather than the way the rags to riches plot tells us we should want to. If you feel the same, please come along on Saturday.

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Self love: more than masturbation

Self love. It’s a euphemism, a way of skirting around something that isn’t talked about in polite society, which isn’t really the way I do things. If it’s not something most people would talk about in polite society – sex, masturbation, writing erotica in your spare time – you can pretty much guarantee I’ll be doing it.

I’ve been lucky, I think, when it comes to masturbation – no one has ever tried to make me feel guilty about it, and the shelf crammed with erotica on public display by my bed is just a grown-up update on the pile I hid under Mills & Boon novels as a teen, and which my mum kindly turned a blind eye to.

I’m with Girl on the Net on wanking, though – it’s not something I indulge in in a sensual, lingering manner. I know what works for me and everything about the way I do it, from the toys I use to the times of day I pick – just as I’m on the cusp of sleep, at night, or when I’m already late for work in the morning, conspires to mean that I’m all about an orgasm in under five minutes – often it barely feels like engaging with my body at all.

And I’m okay with that. Sex positivity often suggests, with the best of intentions, I think, that women should understand their bodies – I’m thinking the hand mirror between the legs trick that teenage girls are sometimes told to try in order to be able to identify what’s ‘down there,’ and the assumption that, once you understand your body, liking it will naturally follow. Which is a nice idea, but not necessarily the reality.

Partly, I think what I struggle with is the separation of body and mind. We talk a lot about women’s bodies, and increasingly we acknowledge their minds in so far as women’s desires and fantasies are more recognised now than ever before, but I still think the conversation about self-love in the sense of being mentally healthy and at ease with ourselves has a long way to go.

Luxuries and indulgent products for women are often marketed as being something for use when we escape from the myriad demands put on our time, often by the people who care about us and who we care about – I’m thinking partners, children. Loneliness isn’t something that’s acknowledged (and yes, I see that it’s not an ideal way to sell products!) – women are painted as always trying to grab ten minutes ‘for themselves’ rather than watching the hours stretching out in front of them, filling their time with as many activities as they can, in order to distract themselves from the fact that something feels like it’s missing. Because it can’t just be me, can it?

I’ve mastered masturbation. I understand my body. My mind, not so much. Which is why, for me, self love is as much about learning to sit alone in a cinema and enjoy the experience as it is about wanking.

On red lips & falling out of love with my body

Being brave with make up is an odd one. When I originally started thinking about this post, I was intending to say that it’s perverse how, the more at ease I am in my own skin, the more tame my make up. But it’s not perverse; it’s complicated.

In my teens my skin was greasy, but even then, I escaped lightly compared to many of my schoolmates. My mum bought me a few Rimmel bits when I was ten and the fashion for Body Shop parties meant that make up quickly became part of my daily routine. Foundation, mascara, lipstick – we were allowed to wear it at school in those days, too.

I never felt I mastered make up, and I never experimented with it that much, but I liked playing with it, and I was interested in it, in a way I never was with clothes. Glitter gels, iridescent powder shadow (thanks, Miss Selfridge!), stick on hearts. It was tacky, and joyful, as fuck.

In recent years, the frequency with which I’ve worn make up has dropped dramatically. I rarely wear any at work, and the contents of my day-to-day make up bag (listed below), is pricey, but play-it-safe in the extreme.

Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder
Benefit Roller Lash Mascara
Clarins Multibush
Tom Ford Lips & Boys Lipstick in Eric

It worries me that I’ve stopped wearing make up. Not necessarily because I think I ‘need’ it, although it does make me feel more confident, but because every day I get up too late to put any on, every day I go to work with wet hair and bare skin, I’m reminded of the following statement on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale:

‘I have lost interest in my appearance.’

The scale requires you to rank how much each statement applies to you between 0-3, and I’m never quite sure what to do with that one, because although I do wear less make up and spend less time getting ready, I still buy new clothes, I still read a couple of beauty bloggers, I still spend money on new products. And that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.

It’s bad because increasingly, I buy make up in the same way some people buy bags and shoes – because I’ve put on a stone and a half in four years, I’m uncomfortable in my body, I feel fat, and buying clothes is miserable. Make up always fits, but it’s also an excuse to not take a long, hard look at myself and the way I really feel about my body. It’s an excuse not to change.

But there’s a flip side, too. I already feel conspicuous, because of the disability, because of the weight – and so, for the first time in my life, I’m not afraid to choose cosmetics that will make me stand out. In the past couple of years, I’ve bought three *bright* red lip products – MAC Red, MAC Sweet Sakura and, this week, Lipstick Queen’s Seven Sins gloss in Anger. 

The name is not a coincidence. I am angry, mostly with myself. But on my lips, that anger is transformed into something vital, something kickass. One of the saddest conversations I had with a friend of mine – who is beautiful – was about lipstick.

‘I’d never wear red,’ she said. ‘I just want to blend in. I don’t want to be noticed.’

It’s her choice, obviously, but it’s not what I want for myself. I’m not convinced red lipstick suits me, or is flattering, but I also don’t care. I’ve been reading Ella Risbridger’s wonderful lipstick columns for The Pooland she talks often about liking shades of lipstick that might not suit her. And I think she’s right – it’s psychological, as much as anything else. It’s colour, in a world of beige.

Red is anger. It’s also love, passion, fire, heat. It’s brave and it’s unapologetic.

And right now, it’s what I need.

Dolphin

For Lent this year, I gave you up. It was Girl onthenet’s fault. She gave up her sex power tool, and I consigned you, my little AA powered clit stim, to the drawer for forty days and forty nights.

And I have to say, I didn’t really miss you, though I expected to. Staying in the guest room at a friend’s a week or two before Lent began I had a quiet, shuddering morning orgasm using my fingers only, something I hadn’t done for years and years. It made me remember that the sensations of a non-battery-driven climax are totally different – deeper, slower, more satisfying somehow.

Which is why you and I took a break. I committed not to no orgasms for that period, but to more – two a week, using only my fingers – and God, the reasons behind it were complicated. You were starting to scare me; I was worried I’d lost my ability to come in any reasonable timeframe without you, and that was why he couldn’t make me come either.

Of course, it wasn’t that simple, which was why I didn’t blog about that period right away. I didn’t miss you, because I didn’t miss coming – I was always too tired, too anxious, too indifferent. Me, the girl who used to always wank at least once a day, and often twice.

It was August that I realised something had changed. I was staying alone in a flat in the South of France and I was horny all the bloody time. I hadn’t felt like that for ages. I’d packed you and I ran down battery after battery that week. I felt triumphant, like I’d found myself again. My sex drive, which had been missing for months (presumably because of anxiety/depression) was finally back. And so, in black, airbrushed ink that smudged the first time I applied sun cream and had to be wiped straight off, I recreated something I’d last done at 20, when I was famed among uni friends for having a dolphin-shaped vibrator: I had sea creatures tattooed on my ankle.


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On the lasting effects of a proper crush

IMG_5483I blagged my way onto the sixth-form day trip to Calais when I was still in Year 11. The Calais trip, to be honest, was a bit of a joke. We ‘interviewed’ the mayor; every year the same questions – ‘Do you prefer the ferry or the tunnel?’ ‘Is tourism good for France?’ ‘What’s the hardest part of your job?’ – and then spent the rest of the day having lunch and hitting the hypermarkets. Not for booze. Too young for booze. 

In the full grip of an immense crush, France – even Calais – seemed magical to me. The object of my affections, Super Hot French Teacher, would load his basket full of brie, croissants and coffee, and it all seemed so grown-up, so sophisticated. I look back now and wonder what the bloody point was – good, authentic versions of those things can be bought easily in British supermarkets. But when *he* was buying them, France seemed the sexiest place in the world.

Fifteen years on, I can see that’s far from true. France is the country of dog shit everywhere, of supermarkets that close on Sundays, of endless meals of goats cheese salad if you’re a vegetarian (which fortunately I’m not). But it hasn’t lost that sparkle for me, that golden quality of having been sanctioned by someone I adored. I can find joy in the most mundane ways in which it differs from life in the UK.

Here are five random things I love about it:

1) Condom machines on every pharmacy – I’ll acknowledge that this is a weird one. After all, in the UK, many public toilets have condom machines. But there’s something about having them out there, in full view, and their often rusty, battered appearance, that I find super sexy. Sadly I’ve yet to ever have need to buy condoms from a machine, but this is definitely on my list of fantasies.

2) Wine – one of the most magical things about France is that if you order a glass of wine, a coffee and a Coke, the wine will almost always be second cheapest, sometimes even the cheapest. I associate France with daytime drinking, wine as a sign of doing things like a proper grown up and the promise that, one day, honestly, I will take wine tasting seriously. Just not this week.

3) Steak – I like steak all over the world, as far as I can tell, but there’s a particular kind, onglet, which you don’t find outside of France that often (or maybe I just don’t know what the English translation is), which is my absolute favourite. It’s a cheap cut which means it’s usually been cooked for a long time and it comes with gravy. And chips. Chips and gravy. Yum.

4) Openness about sex – underwear shops all over town, middle-aged couples kissing as they clink their glasses at lunchtime, topless women on the beach – sex, or symbols of sex feel like they’re all over the place here. Even the things that might piss me off in the UK, like billboard ads trading unashamedly on suggestions of women giving head, fail to bother me. They just make me want to give head.

5) Sea – again, there is sea in many places. I like it here though, for a few reasons. Firstly, because falling in love with the South of France has shown me that I’m in many ways free of the crush that started my love affair with the country in the first place. There are no links to him here, language aside. Secondly, because of the way the salt dries on my skin and in my hair – it reminds me of the feeling of come drying on my body – invisible to other people but undoubtedly there. And thirdly, because it’s scary sea – pebbles and jellyfish and occasional big waves – and I can handle my fear of all those things here now. By myself.

I’m not sure what the point of this piece is, exactly. Vaguely, in the back of my mind, it was about looking at the wider ramifications of crushes, which we dismiss so easily. I guess what I’m trying to say is that once upon a time, this was all filtered through my feelings for a man. And although the feelings for him have gone, my feelings for the place haven’t and they’ve been deepened by a new confidence, a new knowledge of myself and what I like. And that really does feel magical.

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My Biggest Fan

There’s been a post about talking to my dad about sex on my to-write list for a while, now. But, although I find it weirdly easy to talk to my dad about sex, it’s less easy for me to work out why. So bear with me.

What prompted this post today is, well, Father’s Day, obviously, but also this tweet by @Juniper3Glasgow, and her blog post about her dad, too.

My parents know I write erotica. They know I have a sex blog. My mum says: ‘Do you think one day you’ll write a different genre?’

My dad says: ‘I went for a drink with N the other night. I told him you’ve just had an erotic story published. He asked if he could read it?’

No. Not this time.

There are two problems with the story I’ve just had published. One is that it’s deeply personal. The other is that my bio has a link to my blog, and thus not only the details of my sex life, but also my Sinful Sunday pictures. They *definitely* don’t need to see those.

If I ever get something published that’s less personal, would I let my dad read it? I don’t know. It’s not the sex that I think he might judge, but at the moment he thinks everything I do is great, and he’s the fussiest audience I’ve ever met. Whether it’s film, TV or books, he prefers indie, European, generally pretty bleak stuff. Would my writing match up to the quality of what he’s used to reading? I doubt it.

But, there’s a benefit to that, too. If he thinks something is good, he’s always shared it, with little concern for age-appropriateness. He let me watch 9 1/2 weeks at age 15, and I, in turn, a year later, lent him my copy of Marie Darrieussecq’s Pig Tales, which is pretty filthy. Sex is not a topic that’s off limits. I’ve explained sex positivity to him, and the pull for me of writing erotica, which is best captured by Guy New York’s book Write ’till You’re Hard:

‘Sex is a natural way to look at self-discovery, and it’s one that is often overlooked or ignored. Mostly because we’re afraid of sex, and there’s a giant stigma against erotica as being a non-serious genre. Which is a load of shit. Sex and relationships are at the center of all our lives…’

My dad’s family shy away from physical affection and touch, as well as talking about feelings. He couldn’t really be more different. I grew up believing it was ok to ask for hugs when you wanted or needed them, that it was ok to cry (whether you’re male or female) and that men suffer from anxiety and fear too, and that doesn’t make them any less of a man. It was a good grounding for a feminist take on the world.

I have a box in the cupboard stuffed full of letters from my dad. He writes every couple of months, always on headed paper, only ever writing on one side, always asking more questions about my life than he tells me stuff about his own. We speak too, regularly, but there’s something about those letters. A lesson about writing, perhaps. That it’s worth it, that it matters, that it’s not a waste of time. Whatever genre you choose.

Falling out of (and back in) love with my tits

People who see my boobs now don’t believe I was once a 34C, but I was. Honest. At uni, looking back, I had these perfect, neat, perky breasts. I adored them, and I dressed to let the world know. I’d lost a lot of weight on my gap year, and I was a comfortable size 12, a true hourglass. I wish I’d known who I was fashion-wise at the time, because I wasted those couple of years on jeans and black scoop neck tops.

‘I can see your bra,’ my friends would chorus, endlessly, as I flaunted my cleavage day in, day out. Weirdly, my tits got more (negative) attention from women than they ever did (positive) attention from men.

‘I don’t care,’ I’d reply, but I did. I cared because I hated feeling criticised for the one part of my body I actually liked. I cared because I felt a bit slut-shamed, even before I’d ever heard the word. I cared because the girls criticising often had shorter skirts and more luck with guys than I did. I felt like I couldn’t pull off sexy, only cheap and unpolished. Rather than admit defeat, I kept it up, right through my wrap top and clingy jersey dress phase.

I couldn’t tell you exactly when my bra size started to creep up. I’d guess I was a DD at least by the end of uni, and the rest kind of came with the additional dress sizes. By the time I was an F cup, I wasn’t sure my tits were still sexy. I felt like the line of my cleavage had changed as I’d got older – everything felt lower and more spread out and although I still touched them with the casual affection I always had; sliding my fingers into the warm space between them, or tucking my folded arms around them and idly stroking them over my clothes when cold or daydreaming; they felt like what they essentially were: fat. After all, they contribute to the number I struggle with every time I step on the scales and whereas I’d once looked ok in backless dresses, I had enough flesh around my bra strap now that I didn’t like to catch sight of myself in the mirror and see the bulging fat that had seemed to appear one day out of the blue.

It was Sinful Sunday changed things. In the very first photo I posted, which was taken by a friend, I was kind of stunned by how much rounder they were than they looked to me from above. To me, they looked pointy, and I hated that: from the front, that wasn’t the case at all. I’ve mainly posted pictures of my tits since, because they don’t let me down like the other bits do: my tummy might look huge or my thighs flabby, but in seven out of ten shots, my tits will look okay.

But I still hadn’t quite come to accept how they were making clothes fit. Whether I tried on the size 14 or 16 in clothes shops meant for grown-ass, professional women, the necklines couldn’t accommodate my bust in a way that was appropriate for the workplace (where I still show a fair amount of cleavage) without the addition of a vest top underneath, which seemed to me to simply add more bulk to a body I felt was more than bulky enough.

I hadn’t shopped for clothes in Pepperberry for years – since before it was even called that, in fact. It was simply ‘the clothes range in Bravissimo’ when I last bought something there and I barely filled out a size 14 ‘Really curvy’ top. Last weekend, wanting my casual clothes to flaunt my tits again, but for them not actually to burst free, as they continually do from my favourite maxi dress, I tried again. I tried a dress I liked in the 14 and the 16 ‘Really Curvy’ and still it pulled at the back. Frustrated, I resigned myself to leaving without anything. But as I handed the dress back to the shop assistant, it occurred to me what might be wrong:

‘Am I a Really Curvy or a Super Curvy?’ I asked. The bust fit is determined by how proportionate your bust is to the rest of your figure and I’d always reckoned I had average-sized tits for a size 16 woman.

The shop assistant looked me up and down as I stood there, fully-clothed. ‘You’re what, a G or H cup?’ (Good guess work!) ‘Definitely a Super Curvy.’

My bust, it turns out, is not in proportion to the rest of my body. It’s bigger. I’m ok with that, but it’s taken me a while to get there. When I asked a friend for her verdict on the dress, she said ‘It certainly draws attention to your tits.’

Yep, and you’d better get used to it, cos that ain’t gonna change.