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.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

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.

An uneasy relationship with my blanket fort

I love my bed. I don’t iron my bedlinen, instead I use jersey cotton, which feels just like your comfiest T-shirt, in Summer, and flannel in Winter. Both create a snuggly, inviting heaven. I have the perfect number of pillows, books all over the place, and I sleep naked. I know how to make my bed somewhere I want to be.

And for the most part, I do want to be there. I go to bed too late, but I don’t struggle with insomnia once I’m in. I hit snooze again and again in the mornings. I lie in at weekends and I’ll take a two hour journey home in the early hours if it means I can sleep under my own duvet.

But depression and anxiety have made my relationship with it a little more complex. There’s lots of great writing out there about the impact of depression and associated medication on sex – Jilly Boyd and The Shingle Beach are both worth reading on the subject – and I’m not sure I can add anything else useful to the discussion, even if the Fluoxetine has undoubtedly diminished both my desire for and my ability to orgasm.

What I can tell you is that, when your bed becomes the place you retreat from the world, a place where you go when you’re at your absolute lowest, it makes it harder to also keep it somewhere you want to make yourself come. The blanket fort is a curse as much as it is a blessing – yes, I can go to bed at 20:40 on a weeknight and the softness of the sheets and the sheer relief at not having to face another minute of the day will make me feel better, but that comfort is short-lived. By 1 a.m. I’m invariably awake again. My body thinks it’s morning and the anxiety cranks back up as I lie there in damp sheets and try desperately to find a cool spot with my feet and to persuade my mind – still too sleepy and distracted to focus on anything useful like reading – to drift back off. It takes at least an hour, and when the alarm goes off in the morning, I’m no more rested than when I went to bed, despite having laid there for pretty much twelve hours.

The first time I was diagnosed with depression I read Sally Brampton’s Shoot the Damn Dog, which I would highly recommend to anyone suffering with mental health issues. I seem to remember her talking about spending her lowest points not in bed, but sitting on the bedroom floor, in the gap between bed and wardrobe. That makes sense to me: it smacks of lack of self care, for one thing (I’ve been known to come home from work, sit on the sofa in my coat and stare at a blank TV screen as the night plunges the room into darkness; on other occasions I cried hysterically while supporting myself against a doorframe. I wrote this, loosely inspired by that time.) But also, it captures the rapidness with which depression can side swipe you and the need to reduce the world to the smallest possible area when it does, in order to be able to breathe. If I get as far as my bed when I feel that shit, in some ways I’m doing well. But it doesn’t feel that way when I get up for work the following morning having spent nearly all my free time horizontal. At that point it feels like a failure.

Disabled characters: who do I really write them for?

A few months ago, I tweeted about the huge disparity in follower numbers between the @EverydaySexism and @EverydayAbleism Twitter accounts. And somebody random came back to me and said something like ‘Well, there are lots more women than there are disabled people.’

I accept that that’s true to an extent, but probably less so than you imagine. Factor in all the people with invisible disabilities, who tend to get ignored, and I bet the number shoots right up. Plus, it’s a pretty fucking limited view of who can care about these issues, isn’t it? Only women give a damn about sexism and only disabled people fight against ableism. And yeah, sometimes it feels like that. Which is a good enough reason, in my book, to pepper my erotica with my own experiences of disability. So that other people, able-bodied or otherwise, get it. That they see the challenges, the unexpected triggers, the psychological battles. I’d like to say ‘so they see that disability can be hot,’ but if I’m being totally honest, I often don’t care whether readers think what I write is hot or not – I just desperately want to share my own experiences.

I’m currently writing a short story featuring a disabled female character, with the intention of submitting it to an anthology. The character in question is freaked out by a physical challenge that would seem relatively insignificant to anyone able-bodied, but it’s a big deal to her. In this particular case, she overcomes her fear, but I don’t want that to be the narrative of every story about disability that I write. It’s just not realistic. But my biggest problem with this story is that she overcomes the fear with the help of a man, she doesn’t manage it all by herself. And in today’s climate of sex-positive, strong women, that feels like a failing.

The pressure I feel to write strong women, a pressure that causes writer’s block like nothing else, is equally applicable to characters with disabilities. In the story I’ve just had published in the For Book’s Sake anthology Tongue in Cheek, the (able-bodied) FMC cries during sex:

He’s losing me, and he knows it. Neither of us can gain enough purchase here on the cushions for him to up the tempo of his thrusts and re-centre me in the moment. So he takes me upstairs, and we fuck like we’re fucking, not kissing, and I give up the pretence completely and start to cry.

Until recently, I’d have found it hard to write a disabled character who cried during sex and not feel like I was perpetuating myths about disabled people being weak. But the truth is, if we write disabled people who are all happy and cool about their disabilities, who’ve dealt with all their issues, and are basically disabled only in a physical sense, we’re doing people who identify as disabled a massive disservice. I think the able-bodied world is often guilty of holding up as role models disabled people who’ve achieved way more than the majority of us could ever hope to – Paralympic athletes for example. While I find what they do hugely impressive, I can’t relate. Partly, it’s about finding it easier to relate to people whose condition is very similar to my own and whose strengths are similar too (Conservative MP Robert Halfon, for example, who mouths off about anything he feels strongly about). But it’s also about feeling immense pressure to be above average – I’ve done it in some areas of my life, and it frustrates me hugely that my body prevents me achieving what I’d like to physically. I want to write erotica that shows it’s ok to be weak, to be scared, to be angry. Because I think those are universal emotions – felt by able-bodied people as much as disabled people, men as much as women.

But universal though the emotions I’m writing may be, the writer’s block on the novel continues. Weak, scared and angry might be ok in a 3k short, but they’re pretty relentless in a full length piece. When I posted an extract on here, I got detailed feedback from several people who I like and whose opinion I trust. One pointed out that the female lead was clearly me, and that that was a risk – no one expects to get 100% positive feedback on a novel and I’d have to be prepared for readers to potentially criticise or dislike a character who is a barely veiled version of myself. And because she’s a barely veiled version of me, she spends the majority of the novel beating herself up. I’m not always sure I like her: how can I possibly expect readers to?

Perhaps readers won’t like her, but if the novel does get published, it should be a pretty good sign that some, at least, do. All my hang-ups when it comes to writing are not caused by other people’s opinions. They’re caused by my own. *I* worry that to turn to a man for support when I’m scared makes me weak. *I* worry that a heroine with a disability that she hasn’t fully come to terms with can never be sexy.

I write to make disability less scary. I write to reduce the stigma that surrounds it. I write to show that you can be disabled and still be sexy.

But right now, it’s not readers I’m trying to convince. It’s myself.

‘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…

For me

When I write about anxiety or depression, I always feel like I must surely have said everything there is to say. Or that if I haven’t, someone else surely has. I don’t ever feel like that when I write about sex. Anyway, for various reasons people have reminded me that I write primarily for me, so even if I have said it before, I’m going to say it again.

As a teen I was emotionally self-indulgent. I was often unhappy, and even more often in floods of tears, but the latter especially felt cathartic. I could come home from a really shitty PE lesson, throw myself on my bed, turn my supercool CD player up loud (it had space for three discs, and rotated them automatically as each album finished) and cry until I felt, well, cried out. There was nothing lonely about the emotions I felt as a teenager: I knew I could cry for as long as I liked, but at the end there would always be hugs from my parents, or intelligent conversation, or dinner on the table. That stability was pretty much all I needed from life.

Looking back, my life has been scattered with depressive episodes. I was first diagnosed at 26, but I’d now blame depression and/or anxiety for my failure to start work on my third year dissertation until a fortnight before it had to be handed in, the endless run ins with my A-Level French teacher, my reluctance to learn to drive, the fact I still can’t ride a bike …

I could go on.

Anyway. In the last year or so, it’s been the anxiety that’s plagued me much more than the depression. Panic attacks have become increasingly frequent, and now that sense that I can’t breathe, the hairs on my arms standing on end, the air around me getting colder and colder, the pins and needles … well, I recognise them for what they are, which takes away some of their power.

Plus, anxiety is so much worse than depression, right? Depression is just, well, sadness. And I can handle sadness (not heartbreak though, that’s different.) Sadness can be fixed with chocolate and wine and hot baths and long walks and time alone. Sadness is like a prompt to take better care of yourself: to eat properly, to get some fresh air, some more sleep.

I almost embrace sadness. I need that reminder to take better care of myself: for some reason it doesn’t come that naturally. When I think about it as an abstract concept, I think about rain on the skylights, about being tucked up in bed, about having an excuse to read all day.

Maybe that is sadness. It’s certainly not depression. Depression is what came back about three weeks ago now. I often do my weekly food shop before therapy, but the supermarket shuts at eight, which leaves me with half an hour to kill before my session. Ironically, in recent weeks the therapist has been explaining to me that lateness is often attributed to not wanting to have the time to think about what you’re going to, about forcing yourself to panic about the journey, rather than the destination.

So I park up (depression definitely has an effect on parallel parking, too – my definition of ‘parallel’ has become more and more loose) and I sit in the car. And I tweet, or I read or I reply to emails. Or I used to. Now, I sit and I feel this crashing sense of despair that things will always be this shit, so what’s the point? What’s the point of anti-depressants or therapy, when life isn’t going to improve? Why won’t everything just stop? Why can’t I just go to bed and stay there?

In that sense, depression scares me much more than anxiety. Anxiety might stop me going to Eroticon, but it doesn’t stop me going to work. Depression gives me a massive case of the fuck-its, and the fuck-its are dangerous. I cry a lot in therapy, which makes the therapist nicer to me than she used to be (plus, we’ve moved to a warmer room – one with red chenille armchairs and an embroidered wall hanging) and I ball Kleenex after Kleenex in my fist. I’m a mess of snot and tears and mascara, and I’m not me.

People don’t understand why depression is tiring, but that’s why. It’s tiring not only because everything seems so pointless, but also because I’m in constant battle with myself. I’m not this person who doesn’t have any determination to achieve stuff: I have a good degree, a good job, some fucking self-respect, for god’s sake. And my ability to give a fuck about any of that stuff has totally gone. Except it hasn’t. I still do give a fuck about it and so I beat myself up: I’m doing a shit job at work, I’m not socialising enough, I’m a lazy cunt. And the more I think and act on those feelings the closer I circle to burn out.

One of the statements on the Anxiety and Depression scale is ‘I can enjoy a good book or radio or TV programme.’ Already my ability to watch TV calmly is shot at: I jump between TV screen, laptop and phone and I piece The Apprentice together bit by bit after the credits have rolled. So far, my ability to focus on reading remains, and with it, my ability to write. Those two matter, and so, apologies if you found this indulgent, but I needed to do it. For me.

PS I’m a bit loathe to recommend good reading on this issue, but if you’re looking for something that goes into the issues in more detail, I found Sally Brampton’s Shoot the Damn Dog to be an excellent read.

Charlie x

Shoop Shoop

Sometimes, conversations on Twitter rumble on in the background for so long, I forget what the original point was. This was one such conversation and I had to actually go back and retrace it to its roots. Turns out I started it. Colin Firth: would he be good in bed?

Most of Twitter said no. ‘He’d take it *way* too seriously, ‘ seemed to be the most common concern. And from there it spiralled into a conversation about what makes us assume a man will be good in bed. Dancing appeared on the list, as did ‘quiet confidence.’ But kissing? Kissing came up again and again and again.

I make no secret of the fact that that’s a long held belief of mine. Potential partners have lived and died (not literally) by their kiss.

Way back when I was seventeen or so, there was a guy in a nightclub. He may well not have been attractive, but the Smirnoff Ice  had been flowing and when he approached me on the dance floor it didn’t take much to persuade me to snog him.

‘Who was that guy?’ one friend asked, as we stumbled home. ‘He looked like he’d fallen from the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.’

Harsh.

But fuck me, he could kiss.

I think he was only the second guy I’d ever kissed, in fact. He was the first to show me that good kissing (and ok, ok, a well-placed thigh between my legs) can make me wet faster than anything else. Kissing makes me want to both rush headlong into full on sex and delay full on sex for as long as possible so that we can just keep on kissing.

Cher had it wrong, sadly. You can’t tell if he loves you so from his kiss – like it or not, that is in the way he acts. God knows good kissers can make you feel like it’s love, though: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said to friends, ‘But how can he kiss like that and not *mean it?*’

With sex, I think if you asked me to rank positions by preference, I could do it pretty easily. Missionary, WoT, Doggy. If you asked me to list my preferences regarding kissing, I’d struggle. Those butterfly-soft kisses all over my face when his cock is deep inside me? The ones that are so punishing they bruise? The first one of the evening, when, for a few moments at least, I get to stop worrying about when I’ll next see him and just get to enjoy it?

How on earth could you ever choose between any of those?

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.

Wicked Wednesday: First Time

The stories of my first times are scattered round the internet. Girlonthenet has the story of my actual first time. My first real wake up call to kink is this post. First kiss is here.

That leaves two, by my reckoning.

‘Write about your “other virginity”‘ suggested someone on Twitter who’s not usually so coy. Anal, I presume she means.

I could. In truth, I’m a little surprised that I never have written about it. I’m not ashamed of having done it, nor of the fact that I like it, much to the surprise of some of my RL friends, who have only ever had bad experiences of anal. The secret to good anal is quite possibly doing it with a guy who is a) not anti being on the receiving end of it and b) knows his way round a bottle of lube, although I didn’t know that either of those things was the case when he first said ‘I really want to fuck your arse.’

But with anal, although I was undeniably nervous that it would hurt, I liked the fact that it felt like something he was entirely in control of. I can understand why that’s the very aspect of it that might terrify some people, but I like it when the responsibility for something physical is taken entirely out of my hands.

So let’s talk about something where it’s not.

I don’t think about my hard limits all that often anymore, but for a long time, oral, both given and received, was my hardest of limits.

Giving head is a skill, undoubtedly. I still think I’m really shit at it. I still worry about grazing him with my teeth, about gagging, about the fact that I can’t make him come that way.

But I used to think you gave oral in order to get oral.

When did that change? The first time he fucked my mouth so hard that my face was a liquified mess of tears, mascara, saliva and pre-come.

It felt like more of a milestone than anal.