The Fallen Woman

‘I push open the door and stumble through, tripping over my own feet and falling head first into the office.

Double crap – me and my two left feet! I am on my hands and knees in the doorway to Mr Grey’s office, and gentle hands are around me helping me stand. I am so embarrassed, damn my clumsiness. I have to steel myself to glance up. Holy cow – he’s so young.’

– E L James, Fifty Shades of Grey

I didn’t get that worked up when Ana fell at the start of FSoG. According to a friend, that was as it should be.

‘Bella is clumsy in Twilight. That’s the whole point.’

Maybe it is the whole point of Twilight. I don’t know. I haven’t read/seen it. What I do know, though, is that Ana’s clumsiness is completely fucking irrelevant to Fifty Shades.

I’m not sure that E L James thinks it is, however. I think E L James thinks it might be how Christian spots that Ana would make a good sub. After all, there’s lots about BDSM that confuses E L James – the fact that it’s not born out of a disturbed childhood, the fact that the love of a good woman can’t ‘cure’ somebody of it, and the way no fucking helicopter can make up for the fact that nowhere in the book does Ana suggest she might have submissive leanings.

Anyway. I wasn’t that bothered at the time because it was just a book. Not a book that had sold millions of copies. Not a book that had changed the landscape of erotica. Just a book. And then this happened:

He sank into an elegant crouch in front of me. Hit with all that exquisite masculinity at eye level, I could only stare. Stunned.

Then something shifted in the air between us.

As he stared back, he altered … as if a shield slid away from his eye, revealing a scorching force of will that sucked the air from my lungs. The intense magnetism he exuded grew in strength, becoming a near-tangible impression of vibrant and unrelenting power.

Reacting purely on instinct, I shifted backward. And sprawled flat on my ass.

– Sylvia Day, Bared to You

I’m a big believer in the power of chemistry. But I can honestly say I’ve never sprawled on my ass due to a guy’s ‘elegant crouch.’

I did a bit of Google research earlier this year, when I first started thinking about this. Surely, I reasoned, women falling must be an established trope in romantic literature. I couldn’t find anything. And then it occurred to me that maybe falling/injury is a modern update of this:

“MY DEAREST LIZZY,—

“I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones—therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me—and, excepting a sore throat and headache, there is not much the matter with me.—Yours, etc.”

“Well, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, “if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness—if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders.”

– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Romance relies on a weak heroine almost as much as it does an alpha hero. In the past, illness was enough to create a situation in which the hero and heroine are thrown together. These days, it’s harder to convince the average reader that a woman ‘needs’ a man, and so romance does everything in its power to recreate that situation of old. There are various approaches – the heroine can be pregnant, sick, young, poor or just plain clumsy. Because if she doesn’t need rescuing, the author is (ostensibly) breaking the pact they have with the reader.

I’m a cynic, but I was a sucker for Mills & Boon in the past. I loved these women who needed saving so much, I didn’t just read them; I made some shoddy attempts at writing them, too:

He knelt beside her and kissed her gently. She opened her eyes and gave him a sleepy smile. “Bedtime?” he asked.

She nodded, but made no attempt to move. He stood up and gathered her into his arms. She kicked off her stilettos and snuggled up against his chest. He handed her the warm mug, and headed for the stairs.

In their bedroom, he sat down on the edge of the bed and set about undressing her. He slid the straps of her satin dress down and placed her briefly on her feet so that she could step out of it. He unsnapped her suspender belt, removed her stockings and unclipped her bra. As he pulled her white cotton nightdress over her head, she gave a contented sigh, still half asleep. He pulled back the duvet and laid her down.

I think I excelled myself with that particular piece (in my defence, I was eighteen when I wrote it). The FMC has a minor case of being a bit tired, but it affects her so badly that she gets carried upstairs by the hero, undressed by him, and even ‘laid down.’ She couldn’t be more passive if she tried.

Looking back, it wasn’t the passivity that attracted me to writing these kind of women. It was the bodies that they’d need for these kind of scenes even to work. Women who get carried up to bed must naturally be willowy and feather-like. Not only that, I think I thought they were also easy women – if you could simply scoop a woman up and literally put her exactly where you wanted her to be, she wasn’t exactly going to cause you many other problems. And god, I wanted to be that kind of girl.

Luckily, I’ve grown out of that. A bit, anyway. But I’m still writing women who fall.

Falling is seriously grim. I know that not only from my own extensive experience, but also because I’m hyper-alert to other people falling. When I did the Moonwalk back in May, I witnessed a horrific one – an elderly lady tripped over a tree root and gained momentum as she attempted to right herself. Just as I thought she’d regained her balance, she went absolutely flying. And the smack of body hitting concrete, of other people’s gasps, they bring back every fall I’ve ever suffered. I hate seeing it almost as much as I hate doing it.

So we have to stop writing falls as though they’re romantic. They’re not. They’re painful, humiliating, scary. But those things can all be sexy. There’s one particular scene that’s stuck with me from Unfaithful with Richard Gere and Diane Lane, where she falls and we see the aftermath as a series of vignettes designed to foreshadow the risks and pain inherent in the affair she’s embarking on. She eases her tights away from an oozing graze. There’s a flashback to a boiling kettle hissing as she does. It’s all a bit predictable, perhaps, but it turned me on.

I’m fascinated by cuts, grazes, bruises. And not just the ones caused by kink, either. Watching skin knit back together, or blood bead, waiting to spill. The stickiness of it as it clots. The metallic, iron-rich taste of it. I completely accept that these things won’t work for everyone, though. They’re fairly dark, I guess.

Essentially I feel much the same about falling as I do about disability. We need to write it, to see it in the media, to acknowledge that it’s part of many people’s reality. It’s not kooky, or adorable, or cute. What it could be though, if we wrote it well, is really, really fucking hot.

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On what my home can (and can’t) tell you about me

In my house, I have the following things:

  • a Le Creuset 20cm teal-coloured cast iron saucepan
  • a hand-crocheted (not by me) throw on my sofa
  • bath oil that cost more than I’m willing to pay for a meal in a restaurant
  • a full set of wine glasses, champagne flutes and martini glasses
  • a Jamie Oliver wooden ‘plank’ for serving antipasti
  • a matching set of towels
  • a large, white ceramic jug for holding cut flowers (which I also have most of the time)
  • a set of plates that I use for ‘best’ (but that I eat off alone if they happen to be top of the pile in the cupboard)

According to Red magazine, the above list would put me well on the way to having the ‘8 Things Every Woman Over 30 Should Have In Her Home.’ And yet, instead of feeling like for once I meet the status quo, I wonder why the hell every woman over 30 would want a set of items that in no way differentiate her from every other woman on the planet.

The article above is actually a ‘grown up’ form of clickbait, I get that. I read Red fairly often, and I think, as women’s magazines go, it’s actually not bad. But god, that post above irritated me.

What you might take from my list above is that I’m undeniably middle class. You might also (correctly) assume that I enjoy cooking and entertaining people at home, and that I’m willing to spend a decent chunk of my disposable income on those things. It might tell you about my love of hot baths and buying myself flowers. What I don’t think it should say is anything about either my age or my gender.

Through my teens and much of my twenties, I didn’t feel like I ‘fitted in.’ To be fair, I didn’t make much of an effort to, but I did worry a lot about feeling on the outside of the things. As my thirty-first year draws to a close, I’m still anxious and I still often feel lonely, but the fear of fitting in is all but gone. Until my twenties, everyone I knew did things at pretty much the same age – learned to drive at seventeen, left school at eighteen, left uni at twenty-one/twenty-two. After uni, that all changed – some people went straight into their perfect career while others were in long-term relationships and thinking about marriage and babies long before myself and other friends wanted, or were in a position, to.

It’s for that reason, I think, that you see relatively few of these ‘What you should be/say/do/want/have achieved at 30’ posts. At that age, the majority of doors are still open to women, whether those doors lead to further education, marriage, babies or switching into a radically different field of work. We still have plenty of time to decide who we are, or who we want to be.

There are words in that article that bother me, too – display-worthy, show-off worthy, neutral – words that suggest you’d own these things for one of two reasons: either because you were trying to impress other people or because they’re inoffensive and go with everything. I’ll admit it, some items I do use for a form of showing off, but if I make you a casserole in my Le Creuset, or serve you on my best plates, what I’m trying to do is reflect what matters to me: food, comfort, nurturing. These things are my personal values and passions: they’re not a sign that I’m in any way a successful woman for my age.

The stuff in my home could tell you other stories too, things you wouldn’t know just from reading my list above. That one of the reasons why I’ve spent a lot on stuff for my home is that for a long time I hated my body, and shopping for homeware was preferable to shopping for clothes. That I prefer entertaining at home because my dining table only has four places and I don’t cope well with socialising in big groups.

It’s an uncomfortable idea for me, the idea that I should be aspiring to own a certain set of items that represent a certain set of values and interests. Not all women of thirty are ready for a committed relationship, or children (or want those things at all), so why would we all need the same eight items in our home? I have no issue with the magazine choosing to showcase homeware (although, let’s face it, lots of us in the UK don’t own our own places or still live with housemates), what I have an issue with is that if you don’t own these things, because you have different tastes, or interests, or ways of spending your cash, you’re somehow lagging behind those of us who do.

Because the closest the article comes to the truth, I think, is here: ‘A stylish addition to your sofa to mask any not-so-pretty stains that have appeared.’ At thirty, I don’t feel much closer to being a fully-fledged, sorted grown-up than I did at twenty-five. I might buy nice stuff for my kitchen, but it doesn’t mean I don’t fuck up, that I have a life plan, or that I even cope particularly well most days. Unless I tell you otherwise, it means I like buying nice stuff for my kitchen, that’s all.

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‘The Theory of Everything’ or ‘Writing Disability’

‘Yeah, she liked it. She thought maybe it glossed over his disease a bit, but yeah, good.’

So said a friend about a friend of hers who’d already seen The Theory of Everything, the film about Stephen Hawking and his first marriage, when I told her I was going to see it at the weekend.

And you know what? I thought it was bloody good.

I think you’d be hard pressed not to like it, if Rom Coms are your thing (although, admittedly, there’s not that much Com). Eddie Redmayne is amazing as Hawking, Felicity Jones is perhaps even better as his wife, and well, it’s set in Cambridge, and when is Cambridge not beautiful? Certainly not when a huge budget has clearly been spent on giving it extra soft lighting and sparkle.

But the motor neurone disease needs that soft lighting and sparkle, right? To make it watchable?

Well, no, I don’t think it does, actually. And that’s exactly where the film triumphs.

If it glosses over the grim reality of the disease, and certainly my friend’s friend was not the only one to think it does, it glosses only over the physical side, not the psychological. Personally, I’m ok with that. I don’t want this post to become a debate about whether the primary purpose of showing more disability in books, films and the media in general is to ensure people with disabilities are sufficiently represented in those areas or to educate the wider population (although I’m happy to discuss this in the comments), but I do know that I don’t think the representation of physical pain/distress tells us much. What it’s important to show is the psychological damage that disability causes – the shame, the frustration, the anger – and without a doubt, The Theory of Everything doesn’t hold back here. It’s in the inability to match finger to thumb (I’ve been there), the inability to eat unassisted, the gradual triumph of the flight of stairs over the able-bodied man.

I don’t have motor neurone disease, or anything remotely that severe. I’ve never been told that my disability will cut my life short. I’m not in permanent, irreversible decline. But I do know what it’s like to watch your body let you down – for years mine steadily overcame its own issues – I was told I might not walk, and then I did, my limp became less pronounced, my left hand ceased to want to ball into a fist at all times – and then all of a sudden, it didn’t. I had hip pain, knee pain – neither of which I’d had before – and I was back in the MRI scanner for the first time in eighteen years. A day at a craft fair bizarrely threw my hips so out of sync I could barely walk. I had frequent neck ache, back ache and indigestion – caused, the physio said, by the fact that my rib cage was likely twisted because my right side was pulling too hard when compensating for my left. But I care less that people understand the physical issues than that they understand how I feel – why I’m scared, why I’m angry, why I’m ashamed. If I’d started life able-bodied? Yeah, I can’t even imagine…

But this isn’t the first thing I’ve watched about Stephen Hawking, and I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s not that nice a guy. Sure, the film is based on his wife’s autobiography, and he left her for his nurse, so she was never going to paint him as a saint, but it’s such a relief to finally see something that shows you that someone can be hellish in spite of their disability, and that the physical difficulties just exacerbate the problems of excess pride, stubbornness and selfishness. I’m so, so tired of seeing disabled people described as role models, ‘inspirational,’ or worst of all ‘cute’ (yes, Channel 4, I’m looking at you) – they’re *people*, and as such they come with a full range of emotions, hopes, dreams, fears and faults.

It’s why, in a way, I think erotica is an interesting genre in which to write disability. i’ve touched briefly before on my belief that the best erotica delves into the psychology of its characters and I think the psychology of disability is fascinating – how do you develop sex positivity, body positivity, healthy relationships, when living in an ableist world that does its best to remind you, often, that you’re not *normal?* Too much focus, at the moment, is put on disability as difference, when really, it’s not – it’s often  just a magnifying glass on the physical insecurities that everyone suffers. As such, it deserves to be written not just for the sake of fair representation but because it highlights universal fears and concerns.

I have two concerns though, when it comes to writing disability, and the first is personal. I’m revising the first draft of my novel at the moment, and there’s no doubt the FMC is pretty much a carbon copy of me. I don’t regret that, because it’s important to me to see physical disability depicted in sex writing for all the reasons I’ve given above, and doubtless she’ll stay disabled right up the final draft, but ultimately I think as you mature as a writer you hope to move away from writing your own issues and insecurities, and I think this is an issue I’ll always be too close to to view it impartially. Nor do I think you have to have experienced disability to write it well. I have no issues with able-bodied people writing disability, provided they do their research properly, just as I hope that ‘cripping up’ (ugh) will never be widely seen as equivalent to ‘blacking up.’

My final concern, and my final point, for that matter, links back to disability as ‘cute.’ It’s not cute. It’s equally not sexy (which isn’t to say disabled people can’t be hot, just that that hotness is about the person, not their disability,) but judging by the way erotic romance is currently portraying mental health issues, you’d never know that. Take Sylvia Day’s Captivated by You as an example (and a longer post on this is coming soon.) The MMC (there’s no way I’m calling him the hero), Gideon Cross, has a history of being abused, and as such, some pretty severe MH problems. Can he be sexy nonetheless? Of course. Is he sexy because he’s ‘damaged?’ No, FFS.

Writing disability isn’t something that needs doing because it’s ‘cool.’ Physical disability and mental health issues aren’t having their fifteen minutes of fame, they’re the reality of the world we live in. We need to stop writing disability as a quirk that makes characters interesting and start writing interesting characters who also have a disability. And please, if you do, spare me the cute…

How to write a book review

I don’t review books often, so if I do, it’s pretty safe to say I either loved them or had a huge issue with them. More on books with which I’ve had huge issues in a couple of weeks.

So here’s the thing. Increasingly, I feel like reviewing erotica honestly and fairly is becoming harder and harder to do. Erotica is a relatively small genre. Many erotica authors follow each other on social networks and interact with each other regularly. Many of us who read erotica are privileged enough to be able to interact with our favourite authors too, something which I think would be harder with many other genres. In short, erotica authors have the potential to be one of the most supportive, friendly and inclusive groups of authors out there.

But. As a reader, just because I interact with an author, just because we get on, doesn’t mean I feel obliged to review their book, or their writing, in a way that doesn’t dare to mention anything negative at all. If I like their writing, it’s almost certainly because it’s nuanced, intelligent and hot. If it’s an anthology they’ve edited, I think it’s fair to say that I’ll find some of the stories hot, others well written but not my kink or fantasy, and a few which don’t do it for me either in terms of hotness or prose. If I *really* like two or three stories in an anthology, I think I’ve got a pretty good deal – after all, those are the stories I’ll revisit time and again, and how many books on your bookshelf, even those which you enjoyed a lot, do you really go back to multiple times? I guess what I’m saying is that, if you’re intelligent enough to write beautiful and nuanced prose, you’re intelligent enough to recognise that a positive review with a handful of ‘not quite my things’ is not a negative review of your work. Not everybody will love everything you’ve written and that’s fine – good reviewing, that says what does/doesn’t work for the reviewer will ultimately make sure your book reaches the audience it was intended for all along.

And so you won’t find me writing uncritical reviews. It’s not my style. When I blog, I expect people to come back to me and be honest about what they do/don’t like and when I edit, in RL, I expect my authors to listen to my opinions, take on board the bits they agree with and to challenge the rest. I’m not going to start writing super critical reviews, not least because I think to write a fair book review you have to finish the book in question and if I really hate something it’s unlikely I will.

But I don’t think it’s unfair, either, to admit that you recognise that something is well written, but that it doesn’t turn you on. I don’t think it’s wrong to say ‘Femdom is not my kink, so x story didn’t work for me but hey, it was superbly written, so if that’s your thing, you’ll love this!’ Nor, if you really don’t like something, is it wrong to write a constructive review saying so – you’d do it for a restaurant, so why not an erotica anthology?

In short, whether we’re friends or not, I (or anyone else) am not obliged to shower your writing with praise. I’m allowed to be objective. After all, it’s your book, not your baby.

Why I love sex blogging

Sunday just gone I went to a very cool memoir writing workshop with Brooke Magnanti. In retrospect, it was probably pretty obvious that a good number of the other participants would be sex writers, given what Brooke writes about, but somehow I completely failed to realise that in advance and was there as my real self, not as Charlie.

And obviously anything I write that’s remotely memoir-like is going to be based on the same kind of stuff I write about here, so that was pretty stupid. And yet, these kinds of events (Eroticon, anything held at Sh!, erotica workshops) are places where it feels pretty safe to operate under a pseudonym or  under my real name. I might be naive, I might yet be proved wrong, but nobody from the sex blogging community that I’ve met in real life has yet given me reason to feel uneasy. Very much the opposite, in fact. The Kristina Lloyd and Janine Ashbless book launch at Sh! a couple of weeks ago was a great example of that. Of the people there, I was already interacting with or reading nearly everybody. And people are just as nice, if not nicer, in real life.

Why am I writing about this now? Partly because this morning I kicked my nerves into touch and bought a ticket for Eroticon 2015. But also because I recently realised something pretty crucial about blogging. I think there are a fair few bloggers, mostly female, who, somewhere in the back of their mind, think they’d love to have a hugely successful lifestyle blog. Who you envy, I’m sure, depends on who you read: personally, I get little jealousy pangs when reading What Katie Does, A Cup of Jo and The Prosecco Diaries. I mean, I get jealousy pangs when I read Girlonthenet, too, but that’s different.

Lifestyle blogging looks like it comes with endless perks and freebies, in exchange for reviews. Stays in fancy hotels, nice restaurants, craft workshops, make up, overseas travel. I fucking love all that stuff. But you know what? There’s only so much of it to go round, and there are so, so many of these blogs, and it’s so competitive. Not to mention, as I discovered to my huge joy the other day, fake.

Sex blogging isn’t like that. It’s supportive, warm, understanding. Most people who read take the time to leave kind, thoughtful comments on blog posts. It feels like somewhere that I fit in. And I don’t feel like that very often in life.

Cosmopolitan? Provincial, more like…

It’s a mystery to me why, even though I’m always knackered, even though I often fall asleep midway through a wank and wake up an hour or so later with an erotica anthology on my face and my vibe buzzing against my thigh, there is always, *always* time for more Twitter before bed. Often, of course, it’s a waste of valuable sleep time, but from time to time I stumble upon something that makes me think that final scroll through my TL was worth it.

Last night was one such night. Ella Dawson and Eva Gantz were having a conversation about this post of Ella’s, and her surprise that it hadn’t garnered more of a reaction. I was surprised too, because it’s fucking fantastic. In fact, my guilt at piggybacking a post off it is somewhat offset by the knowledge that I’m now sharing it at a bit more of a reasonable hour. That said, she doesn’t need me to share it again: it’s certainly been noticed by the sex blogging/erotica community now. Yay! Go Ella!

It got me thinking about collaborations in the world of erotica, and whether they’re ever a good thing. A while back, I read Sylvia Day’s Afterburn and Aftershock (is it me or are they also two foul coloured spirits that you drink only when hammered in nightclubs?) The book was published by Mills & Boon, but in collaboration with Cosmo. The Cosmo collaboration is more than just their name on the cover, too. There’s some nice agony aunt (sorry, sexual psychotherapist) action at the back, as well as a bit of a Q&A with some big names in the sex writing scene (Zoe Margolis, Alissa Nutting, Cherry Healey…)  that’s framed as ‘Sex mistakes by the women who’ve made them.’ Which is a wonderfully sex positive slant to put on such advice as ‘I wish I’d known it’s ok to masturbate.’

For my sins, I quite like Sylvia Day’s writing. Sure, it’s undeniably trashy. Like E L James, she has pet turns of phrase and descriptions that she returns to time and again, which might not bother you that much for the first book, but which sure as hell do by the third. And yet, I romped through the first in the Crossfire series in a way that I just didn’t with FSoG. I think Afterburn and Aftershock are more problematic, at times: there’s a point at which the hero, having expressly been asked by the heroine to sleep elsewhere, crawls into her bed in the middle of the night, blatantly ignoring her wishes in a way that’s not domming, but just damn out of order.

But it’s Cosmo’s involvement that really riles me. Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen that last week I finally reached the end of my tether with both @Cosmopolitan and @Cosmopolitan_UK and unfollowed both on the basis it would make me happier. And you know what? It has. I don’t need yet another list post called ’24 things that are NOT vaginas, but really look like them’ and I certainly don’t need ‘9 reasons why he’s acting super distant.’

It’s sometimes hard, even as a sort-of sex blogger, to keep tabs on just how far behind the sex blogging community the real world’s attitudes to sex are. Sometimes, that can actually be a comfort: I have days when I really *am* vanilla, when I need to know that the whole world isn’t non-monogamous or kinking. But more often, it’s just a painful reminder of why hard copy erotica doesn’t sell, of why list posts rule the internet, and actually, why feminism still has so far to go.

When I was fourteen, my local newsagent used to ID girls buying Cosmo, like some kind of self-appointed moral guardian of the realm. It was, he claimed ‘too full of sex,’ to be suitable for teenagers. Perhaps back then, in the 90s, it really was groundbreaking, although I doubt it somehow. It just makes me so depressed that in 2014, the questions Cosmo is still asking and answering at the back of a chart bestseller are ‘Will I ever orgasm?’ ‘Am I weird because I like porn?’ and of course, not forgetting ‘his’ question: ‘I fantasise about having sex with a strap on. I fancy women, so I’m not gay, but am I abnormal?’

There’s one thing both guys and gals could do with learning from Cosmo: it’s never going to help you feel more normal.

Cock: isn’t it hilarious?

So this post has been saved on my phone for months now, under the provisional title ‘Hen nights.’ Which is unfair, really: I’ve been on *bad* hen nights, most memorably the one where the Maid of Honour told the bride not to book anywhere for dinner that cost more than £20 a head for dinner because she couldn’t afford it and then proceeded to sneak off during the daytime events and buy herself a Marc Jacobs handbag. But luckily, I’ve not been on any where everything – from the straws to the ice cubes to the shot glasses to the chocolates – has been in the shape of cock.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t hen nights like that out there though. How do I know? Because I’m the girl who ‘likes cock.’ Which means, at the height of wedding season, I’ve come back to my desk to find everything from a little wind-up plastic cock with feet to a crumpled party napkin containing three ‘chocolate’ (I use that term loosely) dicks, with little smiley faces, filled with mint ‘cream’ (geddit?). It’s almost as disappointing as when you’re a kid and you get home from a birthday party to discover that you accidentally sat on your slice of birthday cake in the car, and now it’s all squashed and unappetising.

I was reminded that I wanted to write this post earlier this evening, when I saw this:

I don’t think it’s true any longer to say that women are only allowed to talk about/look at/like cock when it’s presented in a comedy setting. I think it’s now ok to admit that, when you see a guy naked you fancy all of him – not just his arse, his legs or his broad shoulders, but his cock, too, whether it’s hard or not. Personally, I have a weakness for both hard and soft: I love when he’s rock solid before he even gets his jeans off and you can pull his boxers away and watch him spring free, swollen and ready for action, but I’m equally as fond of those moments after sex when he’s soft again, and his cock is damp and mollusc-like. Those moments when he thinks I’m not watching and he cups himself gently in his hand. I think his cock is beautiful.

For all their faults, men don’t seem to try to turn cunts into comedy props. Yes, stag nights are equally guilty of tasteless themes: men squeezed into their girlfriends’ dresses, men with a fake ball and chain around their ankle – but the ‘humour,’ although pretty bloody predictable and childish if you ask me, is not based on how hilarious the female anatomy is. You may well disagree, and feel free to in the comments, but I think we’ve moved on since the 90s and Men Behaving Badly ‘aren’t-tits-hilarious’ style humour.

I fear this post makes me sound like a spoilsport, now I’m nearing the end of it. That wasn’t my intention at all. The point I was trying to make, albeit badly, is that I hate hen night props for two reasons. Firstly, because I think it’s really, really important that we celebrate people’s bodies, whatever their shape and whatever their gender and I think selling plastic, disembodied body parts with little faces for laughs detracts from that, and secondly because I think it reduces women’s conversations about men, their bodies and sex to a superficial and often dishonest, level. I think we need to stop playing sex for laughs, essentially – at least until we can all agree that it’s a happy, healthy thing for adults, both male and female, to be doing.

 

PS I noticed when I was writing this that Horny Geekgirl has also written about cock this evening. You can find her post here.

Carrie Bradshaw knows good sex?

One Sunday morning last month, the day after my 30th birthday party, I curled up in front of the TV with some of my best friends, hungover and still in my PJs.

We ended up watching Sex and the City, as we usually do when the TV is just on as background distraction. After all, there’s always an episode showing on a Sky channel somewhere.

I’m not anti-SATC, or not anti the TV series at least. The films are a different matter. I came to them later than everyone else, as I usually do with anything that’s fashionable – the series ended in 2004 and I watched the entirety of all 6 seasons in bed in the early hours of the morning in May 2007, when I was revising for my finals. It was light, easy, fun – the exact opposite of studying for uni exams.

Earlier this year, I was approached by the Metro, who wanted to trial me to write sex-themed content for their website. They sent me a sample post title, to see if I could write to house style. My entire career has been focused around writing to house style, but I stalled and stalled until eventually I told them I couldn’t do it.

The title of the post they wanted? ’15 ways SATC improved our sex lives.’

I started brainstorming it. I got as far as ‘Introduced us to the Hitachi Magic Wand,’ and a couple of other points that I can no longer remember and seem to have deleted from my phone, and then I got stuck. I asked friends who are way bigger fans than me. I got a couple more suggestions, but nowhere near the required 15. When I thought about it the show was negative about anal, penis size and friends with benefits, amongst other things.

And then I rewatched an episode. Season 5, Episode 70, to be precise. I was still thinking about those 15 things.

One friend said ‘I don’t like Samantha. It’s offputting how she’s so obsessed with sex.’ Briefly, the sex blogger in me was riled. And then I realised she has a point. The best character in Sex and the City is Miranda: she’s intelligent, interesting and pretty well-rounded. Samantha is ‘the one who likes sex,’ and that allows the writers to be lazy. She’s rarely more complex than that.

Anyway, back to the episode. This is the one in which Miranda joins some kind of slimming club and meets a guy there and Samantha blows the UPS guy. I can’t remember what Carrie or Charlotte’s plot lines are (I rarely can). Carrie walks in on Samantha and the mailman and walks straight back out, horrified. That’s fair enough, I guess: if I walked in on a friend of mine blowing a stranger I’d probably be a little taken aback too. But the fall out, and the judgemental attitude she takes towards Samantha last until the end credits roll.

And then there’s Miranda. Who, having just had a baby, needs to lose weight. Obviously. (This put me in mind of the bit in the film where they have a go at her publicly for not waxing, and made me crosser still.) She meets a nice guy, who goes down on her, super enthusiastically. She comes. And … wait for it … he dares to try and kiss her afterwards without wiping his mouth first.

I’m sure that does squick some people. That’s fine. But wouldn’t a more balanced, a more *sex-positive* approach be to have Miranda discuss this with the girls and to have them give a variety of opinions rather than an overwhelming ‘Urgh. Keep some tissues by the bed!’ and the frankly *hilarious* line: ‘Miranda went out with an overeater and he overate her.’ Oh do fuck off, Carrie, you judgemental bitch.’

Interestingly, when I looked up SATC on Wikipedia, everything in the ‘Awards & Recognition’ section was to do with ‘the wonderful wardrobe from Sex and the City, which taught us that no flower is too big, no skirt too short and no shoe too expensive.’

The sex, meanwhile, comes under fire: ‘Sex and the City [was] specifically recognised for glamori[zing] sex while hardly mentioning its downsides, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.’

Those wouldn’t be the areas I’d choose to pick up on – it’s light entertainment, FFS – but does Carrie Bradshaw know good sex?

Well, if she does she’s having it offscreen.

List posts: are they *ever* sex positive?

Wow, I’ve been AWOL for a while, haven’t I? So much so, in fact, that the last post on my blog is still a topless picture of me, and while I’m very, very proud of that photo, it might be time to move on from it now…

Anyway. While I’ve been away, Exhibit A and Em at AnyGirlFriday wrote this response to this piece posted on the Metro website by a blogger called Hannah Gale. And mostly, it’s a very, very good response.

But I’ve read the comments on their post too, and a couple of people seemed to be suggesting that they’d got a little too personal in places; that the post at times became less critical of Hannah’s points, and more critical of Hannah herself. And it occurred to me that the problem with Hannah’s piece is probably only part Hannah: more likely, the real party at fault is the Metro.

Magazines/newspapers are notoriously bad for this kind of stuff – a brief look at the Metro’s blog page this morning yielded this:

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OK, bottom right is positive, I guess, and to be fair, the one cut off on the top right is about not slutshaming Magaluf Girl. 10 things all London women know about dating is pretty neutral. But I don’t think you could claim that this selection suggests that the Metro is in any way sex positive. And it’s not just them. A few days back, I caused a bit of a stir on Twitter by sharing this awful Cosmo post called. ‘18 Reasons Not to Give Him a Blowjob.’ Generally, my followers felt there was only one reason not to give a guy a blow job: because you didn’t want to. Stretching it out to 18 increasingly dubious points including one about not wanting to ruin your matte lipstick is unnecessary, patronising and, I think, a completely inaccurate representation of most women’s attitudes towards (oral) sex.

But Hannah’s piece, I think, suffers from the exact opposite problem: while Cosmo desperately tries to stretch a single point out to fill a whole column, Hannah’s entire post, based on some fairly crude calculations, is around the 500 word mark. How many words did Em and Exhibit A use to respond? Well, if you deduct Hannah’s words, which they reproduced, I think it’s around 3000.

The Metro will have asked Hannah to write around 20 points, and probably that 500 words is a limit they set, too. There’s no room within that for Hannah to be nuanced in the way that the response post is. It’s total clickbait, and the Metro *know* that. They probably gave her the title, too and I challenge anyone to put a positive spin on something called ‘The 21 unsexiest things about sex.’

Yes, she doesn’t have to write for them – but the opportunity to write somewhere where you know your writing will be seen, which you could potentially spin as a fairly good gig on your CV might well be difficult to turn down. I don’t think the blame lies with her essentially – I think it lies with the paper and with the list post format. It *is* possible to be nuanced and positive in under 500 words (I try to do just that in most of what I write here) but while we keep clicking on these pathetic posts, we’re not giving the media any reason to change. Seek out independent bloggers instead, and share stuff you like – it’s a much better use of your time than the Metro’s bullshit…

20 things all men should know about sex

I know, I know, I’m not Buzzfeed. But bear with me. Someone asked if I would guest write a post about 25 things all men should know about sex and I turned them down. Which, retrospectively, was probably an error. It was a good opportunity. But a) I don’t think list posts are generally that interesting and b) I wasn’t that keen on the ‘all men’ part, so instead I asked Twitter what answer they’d give to that question. Three bloggers (if you count Bangs & Whimpers as a unit) kindly offered to contribute their top 5 and here they are, along with mine.

Horny Geek Girl

While everything HGG has to say here is a great point, I’m particularly with her on point #3. Just because someone says yes to something on one occasion doesn’t mean they’d say yes tonight. Check in – regularly. And check out Horny Geek Girl if you like sex blogging, food porn, geekery or great tits. You’ll find her here and here.

1) Sex isn’t just about penetration. It’s not about getting us wet enough that you can ‘slip’ inside. Lots of ladies can’t come from penetration alone. Sex is about mutual pleasure. Which leads nicely to my next point.

2) Sex doesn’t have to stop just because YOU came. As I said before, it’s about mutual pleasure – ladies can multiple orgasm much more easily than you men, and for some even if they don’t come it’s still a pleasure. Communicate with your partner, is she enjoying it? Is she wanting more?

3) Just because a woman has shared her body with you doesn’t mean you now own it. I don’t care where your cock, hands, tongue etc. have been, my body is MINE. Yesterday, today and forever. I may choose to share it with you again, multiple times, or exclusively, this still doesn’t mean you own it. It is MINE.

4) Yes, women can enjoy sex, yes, we can enjoy multiple partners, yes, we can sleep with whoever we want whenever we want. No this doesn’t mean you can call us slut, slag, easy, tramp, etc. unless we ask you to. Mutual respect. If you get a high five for ‘banging’ the hot chick from the bar, I want one for fucking the hot guy from the gym.

5) Sex is messy. If you’re getting busy and there’s blood, please don’t freak out. This can mean we’re on our period but often it just means you were a bit enthusiastic and your nail scratched the delicate tissue and it’s bleeding a lot because when we’re aroused blood cause the area to ‘engorge’ and swell. A rinse with cool water usually fixes it. Freaking out over it makes things awkward. Please don’t freak.

Bangs & Whimpers

Bangs & Whimpers write lots of seriously hot little vignettes about their escapades on their Tumblr, which comes highly recommended. You can also find them on Twitter. Here are their top 5:

1) It isn’t a race
Sex shouldn’t be rushed. The quicker you thrust the less likely the person you’re fucking is going to relax. Yes, okay, thrusting quickly IS going to give someone an orgasm but you need to vary the pace, switch things around a little. Slow, long, deep strokes varied with quick ones. We’re not saying quickies aren’t great and don’t have their place – we are saying you have to have variation. Speed isn’t sexy. Sex should be viewed as a good meal with at least three courses – starter, main and dessert. Not a KFC or McDonalds.

2) Communicate
We aren’t saying talk all the goddamn way through with a running commentary. Or indulge in ridiculous clichéd sexy talk. Or even anywhere in between the two. Letting the person know what she’s doing is feeling good and you’re about to come is always useful. Generally encouragement on either side is great, although we said earlier it isn’t a race, cheering each other on is just lovely.

3) Make sure you’re clean
It sounds obvious but the woman you are about to fuck has probably a) shaved her legs b) trimmed her bush c) moisturised, buffed, trimmed and perfumed herself in anticipation of this moment. We aren’t saying you need to do exactly the same but decorum dictates your dong should be clean. We’re probably going to put it in our mouth so make sure it doesn’t smell like days old washing (yes, this did happen to one of us)

4) Saying you don’t wear condoms just isn’t cool.
There is no exception here. You just can’t be too careful. Even if your partner is on birth control you are both at risk of STIs etc. it sounds boring and oh yes it feels different and better without one – sorry sunshine – no bag no shag.

5) Oral sex is the gateway to an orgasm
Well, it is in our book anyway. So its worth spending a little time down ‘there’ even if its to get a small precursor of what is to come. Likewise, she will want to spend some time getting to know your cock, after all you’re going to put it inside her, right? And if you can make her come with your tongue you are in for a really good time. Hell, she might want to marry you!

Any Girl Friday

Em, aka Any Girl Friday, writes a beautifully fun, thoughtful and discursive blog. She was also good enough not only to contribute her top 5, but to expand on her thoughts here. You can find her on Twitter, too:

1) Wet, wet, wet. Nothing is worse than a guy thinking that a quick nipple flick and some half hearted neck nuzzling is enough to get the engine running. It’s not. Guys who rush straight in, fingers ready, like horny 14 year olds, need to know that we probably won’t appreciate the friction burns. Lube it up, suck your fingers first or get her to suck them before you start exploring.

2) A WOMAN IS MORE THAN JUST HER BOOBS. Sure, it feels awesome when you treat them to some time but other parts exist bro; don’t ignore her shoulders, collar bone, back, inner thighs, neck or stomach. Also, that area above the knicker line feels incredible when lightly kissed or if you run your fingertips across it.

3) Kissing – this is my number one bugbear. As teens, snogging for hours was the hobby of choice but as we’ve gotten older it seems to have fallen by the wayside. Now, a bit of kissing at the start is the most you can expect. Nothing is hotter than kissing combined with some heavy petting though so don’t rush past this step. Kiss her lots!

4) TEASE. Good foreplay and build up will do wonders for the get her wet situation. This includes oral, clit play, kissing, exploring each other’s bodies and spending the time it takes for her to be turned on.

5) Don’t buy into the media bullshit about women and sex. Our orgasm isn’t an elusive holy grail that is only possible on the third Tuesday of a leap year, so don’t believe for a second that leaving her hanging is acceptable. A women is entitled to sexual pleasure, to enjoy sex and to do what she wants in the bedroom without being judged or being held accountable to society’s warped standards of femininity.

And here are mine:

1) Trust is paramount, and not just in the bedroom. The sex, and the general mood, will be a hell of a lot better if you’re reliable, make cancelling on me a once in a blue moon exception rather than the rule, and are honest about stuff from the get-go, even if it might upset me. If you’re seeing multiple people, I deserve to know that – only then can I make an informed decision about whether I want to sleep with you or not.

2) Intimacy is best served as a sandwich – even if you’re absolutely amazing at making me feel like I have your full attention before the act: not checking your phone, asking interesting questions, lots of kissing and slow build up, it’s a waste if as soon as we’ve fucked you’re up and off the bed disposing of the condom and generally not letting me savour the moment. Cuddles aren’t obligatory: lying with me for a bit while I bask in the glow is.

3) Don’t forget to tell me that you think I’m beautiful/hot. I feel like this gets lost sometimes, especially when you’ve been fucking someone for a while, but it makes my day to hear you say it.

4) Don’t be afraid to suggest trying new stuff. Obviously, no means no, but if I say ‘maybe,’ or my current favourite, ‘No… Er, yes?’ it means I probably am up for trying what you’re proposing, I’m just nervous about it and might need some coaxing. Point #1 above should help with this.

5) It’s not all about my clit. I suspect this is a little bit my wildcard, and some (many?) women might disagree with me, but I’m not a huge fan of you rubbing my clit when you’re fucking me. It’s true that I probably won’t come from penetration alone – it’s happened a few times, but it’s the exception rather than the rule – but penetration is a pleasure in its own right and playing with my clit, whether it’s me or you doing it, just makes me feel like I’m trying to pat my head and rub my tummy all at the same time. I’d rather just focus on that wonderful sense of fullness, if it’s all the same to you…

So there we have it – 20 things all men should know about sex. If you disagree or think there are other key ones we’ve missed, feel free to add them in the comments.