Category Archives: Sex & Relationships

Review: Show Yourself to Me

show yourself to me by xan west coverI can honestly say that I’ve never read an erotica collection like this before. To me, this book is to other pieces of BDSM erotica as the full, messy, grown-up experience of BDSM play and practice is to the overblown kinky erotica fairytales I read at thirteen in the early days of the Internet, about ravishment as romance and mysterious silent doms who could somehow know everything about their submissives without asking and effortlessly make them fly. As Annabeth Leong writes in the book’s introduction, “[Show Yourself to Me] is about knowing that BDSM really can make you fly, but remembering how sore your muscles may be afterward from the effort of pumping your wings.”

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The Kinky Side of Twine

I was first introduced to Twine games only last year, when I sat down to review Merritt Kopas’s Consensual Torture Simulator. While this is that review, I’ve also in the long time between playing that game and getting a chance to write this come upon several other games in the fairly specific genre of kinky interactive fiction. Interactive fiction games, generally written using a platform called Twine, fall into a niche that seems to appeal especially to queer audiences and others exploring “alternative” modes of sexuality through writing games. This is a genre that plenty of us nerdy queers are hungry for, but it takes a moment to get used to the conventions of Twine and understand what you’re doing, exactly, when you play a Twine game.

On the plus side, Twine games are typically under $5 and easy to play on any computer. They’re also (or at least seem, from a consumer point-of-view) fairly simple to create in a technical sense, which makes them accessible to those looking to tell a story outside the mainstream without a ton of resources to do so. If you’re looking for more on Twine in general, Kopas has curated a book on the subject, Videogames for Humans. The basic idea, though, is that the game itself is a series of screens with text, hyperlinks, and sometimes images. Like a choose your own adventure novel, you follow the often-branching path the author has created for you by clicking on the links and seeing where the creator’s imagination takes you. Here, I’m particularly interested in how game creators are helping their readers to engage with kink through the medium.

[talk of NSFW content behind the cut]

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Seeking Resources on Healing from Emotional Abuse

I recently had a revelation that hit me pretty hard, in the process of doing some really good productive poly stuff and learning how to evaluate my relationships at face value (rather than wondering if I’m somehow “failing” in comparison to my metamours). I realized that I have some hangups I’ve never really fully formed in my conscious mind about the concept of “love” in a romantic relationship, and they come in part from a relationship about four years ago that I, at least, experienced as emotionally abusive.
Now that I’m starting to fully grasp what’s going on in my brain here, I’m craving some kind of support, but also not sure what that looks like. Therapy is one option I might pursue, but I also would love some peer support around this, and it’s murky because the fact is that my experience was not black and white. I don’t think my former partner will ever see her actions as abusive or manipulative, and when I think of them as such I sometimes feel guilty. What I perceived as using against me my need to emphasize that “I love you” isn’t a conditional thing that goes away when there’s a fight, she may have experienced as just not saying those words when she wasn’t feeling them.
There’s a lot of stuff like that that could easily go two ways, but I feel a need to talk it out with others who might have insights on healing from emotional trauma, because I do think that either way there’s a healing process I haven’t exactly completed by just letting time pass. I’m doing better, but I would like to develop stronger skills around self-esteem, and viewing the “love” words as less emotionally loaded — more like a gift or a neutral emotion that people can express than a tool or a weapon. Does anyone happen to have resources that might be helpful, or some sort of support group information (that would be appropriate for someone who hasn’t experienced physical or sexual abuse)? Alternatively, if this just resonates with you and you’d like to talk 1-on-1, let me know how I can get in touch. Thanks in advance!

A Polyamory Pro Finally Deals with the Jealousy Monster for Valentine’s Day

Eventually, this was bound to happen. For years, I’ve been explaining to folks that I don’t experience jealousy, and have been met with a fair dose of reasonable skepticism. I completely understand that jealousy is natural and normal, even for non-monogamous folks, I would explain. But I just don’t feel it. Mild envy, sure, but jealousy? Well, I’m not quite sure that what I recently experienced does qualify as jealousy, but I think envy would be accurate, and given the unusual strength of the feelings I dealt with in a single weekend—despite the fact that my metamour is one of the most awesome people in my life and part of my circle of close friends—I thought it might be helpful to others if I wrote a little bit about what I experienced and the strategies I’m using to address the possibility of these feelings cropping up again. And yes, I’m scheduling this post for Valentine’s Day, because practical communication and addressing challenges in relationships is romantic, dammit.

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Review: The Submissive Playground

For a change from all the book reviews in the Sex & Relationships section here at Queer & Now, I decided last year that I wanted to find more of a sexual experience to review for you lovely readers, something that’s offered regularly and available for you to try yourselves. Since most kink events don’t welcome press coverage, I had to do some digging, but I eventually stumbled upon something called the Submissive Playground, facilitated by writer and educator Sinclair Sexsmith. Having worked with Sinclair previously at a queer erotic bodywork workshop, I thought this would be an awesome opportunity, and so I participated in the Playground for an eight-week course in the summer of 2014.  If this review interests you, the course is running again right now, but stay tuned to the website for the next round, and in the meantime dominant folks have a couple of weeks left to register for Mastering Dominance, a half-day online workshop from Sinclair that takes place on February 22nd. If it’s anything like my experience in the Submissive Playground, I’d highly recommend it!

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Review: The Big Book of Submission

Released this summer from Cleis Press and edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, one of my favorites, it admittedly took me a while to read and review The Big Book of Submission. Why? Well, it’s not really a book made for reading all in one sitting. With a mishmash of genders, D/s dynamics, and points of view, these 69 stories are perhaps best for grabbing on the go one at a time, skipping those that hit your triggers and flipping through for the stories that hit your own submissive buttons.

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I’m Doing a Thing! Submissive Playground Starting Soon

banner reading Submissive Playground: Your Subby Summer School Starts in July...Come Play With Us!So I’ve been reviewing sexuality and erotica books for a while now, and I’m also looking into opportunities to review toys. But to be perfectly honest, books and toys aren’t where my most amazing sexuality and relationship-related experiences come from, and the same is probably true for you. To add to this part of the site, I’ve been wanting to write about sexuality and relationship experiences: things I can review that are interactive, interesting, and available for you to find out there when you’re looking to go a little deeper in your sexuality and relationship exploration.

The good news is that just such an experience showed up in my inbox recently, and so I’m excited to announce that I’ll be reviewing friend and fellow educator Sinclair Sexsmith’s Submissive Playground, an 8-week e-course that stars in July. Here’s how Sinclair describes the course:

Submissive Playground is an online course with five live calls, eight weeks of creative, sexy explorations, and four learning modules—Bondage, Discipline, Service, and Masochism—all with the goal to take your submission deeper. And, you’ll get to explore it in community, making friends with other s-types through the course, and learning from each other. The entire course is online, and done within your own levels of comfort. Registration is open at www.submissiveplayground.com.

If you’d like to participate alongside me, registration is still open until June 30th (that’s this coming Monday), and there’s a sliding scale that includes a package as low as $150 for the eight weeks. I look forward to letting you know what this new-to-me journey is like!

Sex Positive Activism is Dead; Long Live the Sex & Relationships Section!

This is just an FYI for folks who notice that there’s suddenly a flood of posts on this blog dated before this blog technically existed. No, we haven’t been invaded by Time Lords (I wish). I’ve made the decision to shut down Sex Positive Activism, a blog I maintained from 2010 to 2013, in the process of creating this blog, Queer & Now.

Why? Initially, Sex Positive Activism was a distinction that made sense from Radically Queer, my main blog. I wanted to blog about activisty stuff only, and I needed a pseudonym to blog about sexuality topics. Well, in the interim, I got older, and stopped caring who knows what I think about sexuality topics. I also got the idea for this blog, which kept brewing and brewing with not enough time to actually create it.

Now that this blog is a real, live place where I can write about a variety of topics from everyday life to pop culture to geekery, it makes sense to put my musings about sex and relationships right here. And it makes sense to put my sex-focused activism-type posts over on Radically Queer. For simplicity, I’ve moved the entire Sex Positive Activism archive to this blog, and put it in the Sex & Relationships category. Some of the posts are activist-y, or not that much about sex, but it made sense for an archival move. If you’re curious, feel free to poke around the archives, and look forward to more posts on the topic right here in the future!

If you came here from Sex Positive Activism, pull up a chair and add this blog to your RSS feed reader. It’s good to have you around!

Review: The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Sex Toys

I was delighted to find The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Sex Toys in my mailbox from Cleis Press. This slim volume, edited by Violet Blue, promised to be a quick and fun read, and toys are quickly becoming an important part of the sex postive activist’s arsenal as more advocates focus on the importance of toy safety and finding sexual pleasure through technology. But does this book deliver on quality information?

Yes, more or less. Blue provides a range of information on toy options as well as safety information, communication advice, and ideas for newbies. This guide is firmly aimed at the beginner straight couple, though. Folks who live in urban areas and are comfortable talking about sex out loud can get any of the toy-specific information for free from their friendly local sex shop employee, or with a little research from reputable blogs. The communication advice is solid, but nothing particularly unique. This book would be best for folks who want to “spice it up” with a partner and prefer to get all the information in one place, in written form, where they can read it in private.

Though it’s not indicated in the title or any introductory clarification, this book is specifically for straight couples. Some of the advice could apply to queer folks, but that’s not the audience. The language pretty much ignores trans people in terms of pronoun use, and there’s no helpful information about toys trans people might especially enjoy or about how some people consider “toys” part of their body (for example, in a section on dildos Blue notes that you can give a “mock blowjob”).

Finally, I would have appreciated a little more information about specific toy recommendations for specific physical concerns or about what different people may prefer. A lot of the language is general, and while there are caveats such as “most people like,” the book could use even more information about specific sensation preferences and how they relate to toys. For example, folks who prefer very powerful, concentrated stimulation often enjoy the hitachi, but those who are looking for deep but less intensely focused buzz might prefer one of the higher end models that do a more “rumbly” pattern, like the Lelo.

Overall, a good resource for the target market, but regular readers of this blog who are already well versed in sexuality topics may want to give this one a pass.

This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.

Can Kinky Play and Fantasies Be a Healthy Place to Play Out Identity-Based Fears?

Earlier this year, I attended a workshop on extreme play and playing with fear. The audience was entirely queer, and when we were were asked to list some fantasy scenarios in the realm of the class, participants eventually moved beyond more general fantasies such as rape, torture, and playing with phobias and into fantasies involving homophobia, transphobia, bashing, and rape scenes with a specific queer-shaming component.

Perhaps this is surprising in a room full of mostly healthy, sex-positive, self-actualized queers, but I actually find it to be a fairly predictable direction for fantasies to go. When relieved of the need to be okay with something actually happening, it seems fairly normal for fantasies to tend towards the taboo, and perhaps especially towards the directly personal taboo. After all, those of us who are marginalized in some way spend much of our days dealing with people being jerks about our identities or simply exercising privilege, explaining our identities to others, setting boundaries, commiserating with similarly-identified friends, etc. For many of us, one or more identities are constantly on our minds, whether that’s our preference or not, and we spend a lot of time policing what’s okay with reference to our identities. We may also spend a lot of time being policed by those in and out of our identity group–“are you just going to let that slide?” “You need to spend more time on activism!” “Before you have sex, be sure to negotiate language around your body, or they’ll walk right over you.”

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