Doms or Subs: who works harder?

BDsM is largely about power exchanges.  Whether you’re into bondage, discipline, role play, impact play, service submission or any other facet of BDsM, chances are your play involves one party giving some or all of their power to the other party.  And a lot of work goes into making that power exchange happen successfully.  The question is: who does the work?

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I hear often that Dominants have the harder end of the deal in D/s relationships.  They have to plan and execute scenes.  They work hard to hone their skills and look after another person. All the submissive has to do is follow orders and enjoy the pleasure that comes with pain.  And with that, submissives cry out “we work hard too!”.  A submissive is tasked with looking after their top, obeying and following orders and being on the receiving end of some intense physical treatment.  Within the D/s dynamic, there is a kind of push-and-pull between work and pleasure.

 

So who does the work in a D/s relationship or scene?  The answer is far from simple.

 

Let’s start by looking at Dominants.  A Dominant’s role comes with a lot of responsibility.  Depending on the type of relationship they have, they may need to set tasks and rules for their submissive. This includes following up to make sure that these rules are being adhered to and dole out punishment as required.  Although the Dominant is being served, it is up to them to decide how they wish to be served and monitor the execution of that service.  They have to play an active role in training their submissive to do things just they way they want them.

 

Even if your D/s relationship exists only in the bedroom, the Top has to plan and execute the scene each time you play.  Creating a scene is no simple task, and requires a huge amount of thought into the mood that is to be created, the psychological journey the submissive will be taken on, the intensity of play and safety precautions.  Sunny Megatron has likened it to building a rollercoaster: you have to create the climbs, the turns and the dizzying drops. You have to craft an experience that has rhythm and plays with emotion and builds to a pinnacle before the ride ends.  In addition to that planning, the Dominant also has to carry out the scene, which can require a lot of concentration, control and physical skill.

 

There can be no doubt that the Dominant in any D/s dynamic works very hard to create and maintain the dynamic.  However, that doesn’t mean that the submissive party just lies back and enjoys the attention.  Being a submissive is difficult.  Again, the exact work a submissive does depends on the specific relationship.  If you’re a service submissive, then you have to do a lot of dirty work, such as cleaning house, cooking for your master or mistress, grooming them and presenting yourself in a particular way. But submission is a lot more than just blindly following orders.  Not only do you have to remember and execute the instructions your Dominant has given you, but a good service submissive will also be anticipating their needs.  Providing those small, special touches that make their day smoother and more pleasant. Service submission is both mentally and physically taxing.

 

When it comes to play, the submissive party hardly just “lies back and enjoys” what’s being done to them.  Any kind of pain play takes a physical and emotional toll.  You have to work to process the pain and use it before it will be pleasurable.  If you’re into bondage, you have to learn to be placed in uncomfortable positions sometimes, to be bound and gagged, to be caged even.  In addition to all that, you’re working to conquer your own fears, to trust in your Top and let yourself go.  That’s not easy to do, even when you know that you’re safe and being well cared for.

 

Obedience also takes practice and effort to master.  It’s very difficult to bite down on your inner voice and trust that what your Dominant asks of you is right.  It takes effort to learn to serve well and obediently, particularly if you are a strong-willed person outside of your dynamic. Submission takes a lot of work.

 

It seems apparent that both Dominant and submissive parties work hard in a D/s relationship.  Aside from the individual duties there is the collaborative work that they do together, negotiating limits, discussing needs and revisiting old rules and protocols.  D/s is a difficult dynamic to do successfully, and it takes a lot of work on either side of the slash.

 

If you’re not personally enticed by the idea of dominance and submission, you might be reading this and thinking “This all looks like so much work!  Why would anyone want to take on a relationship of that kind?”  And the simplest answer I can give is that for many, the work involved in a D/s relationship is worth it for the joy the relationship brings.  A Dominant might relish the planning and execution of a scene because doing so brings them a sense of happiness, because they enjoy playing with their submissive and revelling in that sense of control. Just like some people love building Lego models or writing short stories, a Dominant enjoys crafting scenes.  They’re willing to take on the responsibility of training a submissive because it makes them happy.  And a submissive might be honoured to serve their Dominant, even if it means a difficult training process or having to wrestle with their own inner voice a hundred times a day.  It’s worth it to make that person’s life easier and brighter. For many, service is calming and an act of love.  And taking a beating or having wax poured on your flesh or being tied up is a gateway to amazing pleasure. It’s worthwhile moving through that pain to experience the pleasure on the other side.

 

Dominance and submission each come with a unique set of responsibilities and duties.  As D/s relationships are tremendously varied, so too are the kinds of work that each individual person may have to do.  But I think it’s fair to say that neither party works harder than the other.  But like so many difficult things in life, if it’s something that you truly want, that you truly enjoy, the hard work is worth it.  Often, the work wont’ feel like work, or will be more manageable by virtue of the happiness it brings with it.

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OMG Yes: Putting Pleasure into Practice

I have a confession to make: I very rarely masturbate using my hands.  For a long time I felt ashamed at the idea of touching my vulva with my hands. I was self-conscious of the way my genitals looked and the thought of exploring them grossed me out.  Whenever I’d consider trying to masturbate with my fingers, my shame and fear of my own body stopped me.

When I finally began to work through the overwhelming shame I’d carried regarding my vulva, it felt important to me to show that part of my body some love and pleasure.  I wanted to have some skin-on-skin contact with that most intimate area and show myself how powerful and beautiful it could be.  I tried masturbating manually many, many times.  But it didn’t do much for me.  It was like trying to tickle myself.  If a partner touched me it felt wonderful, but the exact same touch with my own fingers was just…nothing.  I gave up trying to use my hands to bring myself to orgasm and instead resigned myself to enjoying toys.

Now, there’s nothing at all wrong with using toys to masturbate.  Finding pleasure in this way isn’t at all inferior to using your hands.  Every body is different and everyone enjoys different types of touch.  But I always felt a little bit sad that I wasn’t able to give myself that ecstatic touch with my own fingers.

A few months ago, I became aware of a website called OMG Yes, which is set up to teach people with vulvas how to find pleasure, masturbate and reach orgasm.  The OMG Yes team have done extensive research into the specific techniques and methods that are most successful to bring pleasure and orgasm to people with vulvas.  This research has been carefully condensed into a comprehensive tutorial system, which is available on the OMG Yes website.  I wrote to OMG Yes and they very kindly gave me special access to the site to learn, experiment and eventually review.

I eagerly logged on to the OMG Yes website ready to learn.  As a sex geek, I was very eager to check it out.  The research team collected data from over 2,000 participants to investigate the specific techniques that real people use to find pleasure.  It is the first research of it’s kind in the world.  It’s detailed, it’s unabashed and it’s very, very specific.

My first impression of the website was that it was very clean and easy to navigate.  The landing page offers a range of techniques for you to explore.  When you’ve chosen a technique, it walks you through precisely what the technique involves, how to perform the technique on yourself or your partner and some suggestions for how you can experiment with this technique to see if it works for your body.  Each page features a combination of written material, pictures and video interviews with actual people (not actors) discussing how they masturbate.  You can also select a range of different language options, which is fantastic.  I thought it was brilliant that the information was presented in so many different ways.  Everyone learns differently, and it was awesome to see that there was a mix of written and spoken lessons to appeal to a variety of users.  The variety of formats also helped me to really absorb the lessons, because I felt like I was able to look at each technique from different angles, and didn’t get bogged down in a lot of reading or zone out watching endless instructional videos.

The videos were something that I found deeply impressive. Each one features an interview with a real-life participant.  There is a huge range in age, body type and ethnic backgrounds which is beautiful to see.  The thing that floored me was how explicit each interview was.  These videos do not hold back, they do not skirt around the issue and they do not leave you questioning.  They are very specific, telling you exactly how to do each technique.  The subject of each video uses their own words to tell you exactly where to touch, for how long, what pressure to use and how to know if it’s working for you.  Each video shows the participant using the technique on their own body.  And then…you get to try it for yourself.

Each module has a practical component which absolutely blew my mind.  At the end of each module, you load a screen which shows the participant’s vulva, up close and personal.  You then use your finger on the screen to touch their genitals and practice the technique you’ve just learned.  The website responds to your touch and movement, giving you very specific feedback.  It will tell you to slow down, speed up, move a little to the left.  And it tells you when you’re doing well.  This part of the tutorial process was groundbreaking for me.  It’s one thing to read about these techniques or hear someone describe them, but to actually be able to use a real-time simulator to practice is incredible. At first it was a little bit disconcerting to be playing with a stranger’s virtual vulva, but after a while I relaxed and actually felt proud of myself every time I successfully performed each technique.

One thing that struck me as I worked through the different modules was that while each of the vulvas featured had the same parts, they all varied tremendously in colour, size, configuration, hairiness and detail.  All were different, all were beautiful.  It made me feel so validated to see such a spectrum of vulvas, and know that each one belonged to a real person who had contributed to this world-first study.  It made me feel less ashamed about the appearance of my own genitals, and more willing to touch and explore them.

When it came time to put the techniques I’d learned into practice on my own body, I was excited and open-minded.  I was prepared for it to be a bit of a journey, and didn’t expect that I’d instantly find pleasure.  After a few tries and a bit of experimentation, I had my first ever hands-on orgasm with my own fingers.  I felt so powerful and proud of myself.  I found that what worked best for me was taking the techniques I’d learned, trialling each one, seeing what felt good and then moving towards that pleasure.  I had to be adaptable and not get hung up on doing each technique precisely how I’d learned it on the simulator. Every body is different, and I needed to find what worked for me.  And once I did, it was amazing.

I was blown away by OMG Yes.  I think it’s an incredible tool that taught me so much about my own body and gave me some real, practical things to experiment with.  It took away so much shame I had around exploring my own genitals and replaced it with power, knowledge and agency over my own pleasure.

OMG Yes offers permanent access to the website with a one-off payment.  At present, it costs $49 to access the website.  This money goes towards the funding of further research into women’s pleasure, and additional lessons will be added based on the data collected.  If you’re feeling ashamed, or struggling with finding pleasure in your own body, OMG Yes could be an awesome resource for you.  This isn’t someone peddling a fix-it-all pill with a side helping of guilt.  This is a beautiful collection of stories and lessons based on real research.  OMG Yes offers information, guidance and power. There is no shame, no guilt and no embarrassment. Just frank, honest data and well-presented tutorials.

I’d heartily recommend OMG Yes for anyone who is interested in learning more about their vulva, anyone who wants to work towards healing shame or is feeling stuck around finding pleasure.  I think it’s perfect for sex geeks who want to find some new ways to enjoy their own body or explore with a partner. It’s a well-presented, deeply informative resource that will expand your knowledge about vulvas and how they work.

Product review: Rechargeable Randy Wand from Randy Fox

I love a good wand vibrator. Wands are a great all-purpose toy that can be used on a range of different body parts. They also tend to be quite powerful, which I enjoy.  So when Randy Fox sent me their Rechargeable Randy Wand to review, I was delighted.

The package arrived on my doorstep just a few days after our email exchange.  It was a discreet, white post box with no hint that it contained a sex toy.  Upon opening the box, I discovered the Randy Wand was not quite what I had expected.

Firstly, it was a lot smaller than I’d imagined.  When I think of wand vibrators, my mind instantly conjures up images of the Hitachi or Doxy wands, which are massive.  This wand was positively petite in comparison to those.  I like wand vibrators because they cover a wide surface area and give really diffuse vibration, rather than focusing on one spot.  I was dubious whether this wand was actually large enough to give that kind of wide-spread stimulation that wands are famous for. Upon trying the toy, I can conclude that it doesn’t really give that diffuse vibration quality, and is a lot more pinpointed than a traditional wand.

The second reason I was surprised was that the colour of the wand looks quite a bit different in person to what is pictured on the website.  The picture on the Randy Fox website is a bright orchid purple.  But the wand I received is more of a hot pink/magenta shade.  This isn’t a big deal to me, but if you’re fussy about the colour of your sex toys, you might be surprised by the difference between the picture on the website and the actual toy.

When I took the toy out of it’s wrapping, I sighed with delight.  The Randy Wand is covered in the soft, velvety silicone that I love.  It feels wonderful against the skin, glides easily with the application of lube and it’s body safe.  It’s the kind of silicone you usually see on luxury vibrators, but at a fraction of the price.

The design of the toy is quite different to other wand vibrators that I’ve tried.  Besides being smaller, the Randy Wand is a lot more flexible.  The handle curves down at an angle, so it’s really ergonomic and makes it very easy to direct the head of the toy where you want it. The buttons are high up on the handle, which means that you’re unlikely to inadvertently hit one during play.  The buttons are well positioned and are easy to press.  The curved portion of the toy is very bendy and flexes with even the slightest pressure.  On the one hand, this makes it a really good vibrator to use if you’re moving around a lot, because you won’t be painfully mashing the toy into your genitals as you thrust.  It moves with your body, making it a good partner to couples play.  On the other hand, it makes it very difficult to manage the toy if you like a lot of pressure on your genitals.  Whenever I’d try to apply a bit more pressure, the toy would bend, and move away from the spot I wanted to stimulate.  It was like trying to dial a telephone with a spaghetti noodle.  I ended up just cupping the head with my fingers and holding it to my clitoris without using the handle at all.

The vibration quality of this toy is on the buzzy side.  The vibrations don’t penetrate as deeply as I’d like, and my fingers tend to go numb after using this toy for an extended period.  I tend to associate wand vibrators with rumbly vibrations, so this was a bit of a disappointment.  What was more disappointing were the vibration patterns. The Randy Wand boasts 30 vibration modes.  Now, with most vibrators, the first three modes are Low, Medium and High and then there are a range of pulses and patterns.  The Randy Wand only has one vibration speed, and then the rest of the modes are patterns.  I tend not to use patterns, and it’s very frustrating to me to have only one speed to choose from.  I’d like to be able to nudge the vibrations up a notch when I’m getting close to orgasm.  Unfortunately with this toy, when I tried to do that I was presented with a smorgasbord of patterns, none of which were satisfying to me.  What was more frustrating was that to get back to the solid vibration setting, you have to cycle through all 30 modes with a single button.  The icing on the cake was that there are several modes that feature a period of solid vibration, followed by a sudden stop, then more solid vibration.  So I’d think “Finally, I’ve found the right setting”, and settle in to pleasure myself only to have the vibe shut off ten seconds later, and then buzz back to life.  It was infuriating.  I lost several orgasms that way because my clit was tricked into thinking I’d found the one solid setting, only to have the vibrations be cruelly taken away.  It was like the vibrator was taunting me.

On the plus side, it is a very quiet vibrator.  The noise level of this toy is very low which makes it great if you have roommates or are distracted by loud vibrations.

Overall I feel that the Rechargeable Randy Wand wasn’t a good fit for me.  If you prefer a lighter touch and enjoy vibration patterns then this might be a great toy for you.  However, I felt that the bendy handle made the toy difficult to control and the vibration patterns were unsatisfying to me.  If Randy Fox made a more rigid version with the traditional low/medium/high setting then I’d be all over it.  But for me, this wand wasn’t as magical as I’d hoped.

5 toys for BDsM play

Most sex toys can be used in a BDsM context, but there are some toys that work better for this purpose than others.  When I’m selecting a toy to be used in a scene, I like to look for ones that have unique features such as interesting textures, powerful motors or beautiful design.  In my book, the toys that are best suited for BDsM play are ones that can be used creatively, or which have an element that makes them intimidating in some way.

Aside from impact toys, restraints and bondage aids, there are so many toys out there that work well for BDsM play.  Here are my five favourites:

  1. Lovense Lush

The Lush is a wearable vibrator that is controlled remotely with a mobile phone app.  It’s great for D/s relationships where the submissive partner has a vagina.  The dominant partner can instruct their sub to wear the Lush while they’re out at dinner, or at the movies or just around the house.  They then have total control over the vibrator, being able to increase the vibrations with a touch of their finger.  This toy is whisper quiet and perfect for exhibitionists and those who enjoy public play.  The Lush isn’t suitable for anal play, but the Lovense Hush is a butt plug that works in exactly the same way.

2. Magic Wand

The Hitachi Magic Wand is one of the most iconic sex toys on the planet.  It’s extremely powerful and can be used on a range of genitals and body types. It’s gender neutral and rechargeable.  The long handle makes it ideal for using in bondage scenes to lash it to your partners thigh or torso for hands-free stimulation.  It’s ridiculously powerful so it’s great to use for forced orgasm or orgasm-denial play.  And the utilitarian design are perfect if you’re into medical play.

3. Fun Factory Bootie

Butt plugs are a mainstay of BDsM play.  They can be used as a form of humiliation, in preparation for more intense anal play or for public play.  A dominant may ask their submissive to wear a plug for a set amount of time as punishment or reward, and you can even rig a bondage harness to hold a plug in place.  I like the Bootie plug for BDsM scenes because it’s really easy to insert and it’s comfortable to wear for an extended period of time.  The elongated base nestles snugly between your cheeks, unlike plugs with round or square bases which put a lot of pressure around the anus.

4. Icicles glass wands

The Icicles range are ideal for temperature play. The glass can be heated up or cooled down to create unique sensations when they’re placed against the skin.  There are a huge range of sizes, colours and textures to choose from and they’re all pleasing to the eye.  They’re also a tiny bit intimidating because they’re glass, which is both rock-hard and has an element of danger to it.

5. Dix the Destroyer from Geeky Sex Toys

This behemoth of a dildo is inspired by Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy.  It is a medium-density silicone with incredible raised textures.  It is also one of the most intimidating toys I own.  I am yet to review Dix the Destroyer but it is a toy I love to play with.  It’s perfect for creating an element of dread and anticipation in a sub.  It’s harness compatible and great for size queens.  It is definitely a toy that requires a warm-up if you intend to use it for penetration.  It’s also fun to show to a sub before blindfolding them and penetrating with a smaller toy, allowing them to imagine that it’s this giant dildo that they’re playing with.  Dix is definitely a toy that plays with the mind, which is a huge part of what BDsM is all about.

 

Do you have any favourite toys for BDsM play?  Do you have any questions about using toys during scenes? If so, leave me a comment below.

Product review: Icicles no. 12 glass rose wand

The mental images that are conjured up by the term “BDsM” are usually quite dark.  Black leather, silken latex, whips and floggers of midnight suede.  But not all kinky things are dark and dangerous.  Some are sweet, pretty and delicate. And yet those items can pack just as much punch as the darkly erotic.

Glass toys are appealing to me from a kink perspective.  There’s an element of danger in using something we perceive as fragile inside our bodies, the fear that at any moment it could shatter and  hurt us.  The rock-hard texture is both tantalising and intimidating because we know that our flesh is going to have to yield to accommodate this rigid item.  And then there’s the temperature, the icy chill as the glass glides across the skin, quickly warming as we play.

With Oz Kink Fest just around the corner, September seemed like the perfect time to test out a kinky toy.  Passionate Jade were sweet enough to send me the Icicles No. 12 rose wand to test and review.

When I unwrapped the box I was delighted by how utterly pretty the No 12. is.  Shaped like a delicate pink rose, this massager is like a glass sculpture.  You could display it in your home and it would masquerade as a feminine ornament without anyone suspecting it’s more nefarious purpose.  The detail in the petals is beautiful, and it gives way to a slender shaft with several rounded bulges.

You might be a little concerned about the safety of a glass toy, especially as I mentioned shattering in an earlier paragraph. The beauty of glass is that it plays with our minds, challenging our fear of harm, when in actual fact toys of this kind are quite safe to play with.  These glass wands are made from Pyrex or Soda Glass (which is the same stuff your Nan’s casserole dish is crafted from) and are incredibly sturdy.  They can withstand a lot of force without breaking.  For bedroom play they are very safe and extremely unlikely to break.

The shape of this toy really lends itself to a variety of different kinds of play.  It’s great for stimulating the g-spot even though it’s completely straight.  The material is so glossy and smooth which makes for easy insertion and the bulges along the shaft gently massage the g-spot as you stroke. If you find direct pressure on the g-spot a tad intense, this might be a better choice for you, as it gently glides over that sensitive area rather than pounding at it.  I found the No. 12 so easy to manipulate and thrust because it’s a generous length and has a nice rounded base.  It fit easily into my hand and wasn’t awkward to thrust with.

The ridges created by the petals are lovely for external stimulation.  With the help of a little lube, the head can be gently stroked along the labia or massaged against the clitoris or perineum.  This is perfect if you know your genitals prefer pressure and friction rather than vibration. The hard surface feels amazing on the clitoris, and because the glass is seamless it glides over your skin without tugging or catching.

The flared base makes this toy safe for anal play.  I thought the idea of using a rose to play with my rosebud was kind of cheeky and cute.  Glass is compatible with all kinds of lube and the silky texture makes it ideal for butt play.  Just as the ridged tip felt great on my clit, it also created a really pleasurable sensation against my anus.  If you’re experienced with butt play and are looking to try something a little bit different and daring, I’d definitely recommend giving this toy a try. Again, the longer length of the shaft gives you plenty of room to hold and manipulate this toy.  I did find the super-straight design a little more awkward for anal play but in the right position it works perfectly.

The one downside to the No. 12 is that it’s slippery to hold onto.  Because the surface is so slick, if you’ve got lube on your hands or the toy it’s really hard to get a good grip on it.  It’s a good idea to have a towel nearby to remove any excess lube before you start thrusting to make sure that the toy isn’t going to skid out of your hand.

If you’re into BDsM this would be a great toy for you.  Not only does it look gorgeous but glass makes an ideal material for temperature play.  The wand can easily be warmed up with a heating pad or warm water or cooled down in the freezer for a unique sensation.  The contrast of the ultra feminine design with the rigid glass makes this toy both beautiful and intimidating, perfect for femme-domme scenes.  It also fits very nicely into a harness if you want to try pegging or strap-on play.

At $55, the Icicles No 12 is a bargain for a good-quality dildo.  It’s non-porous and body safe, waterproof and easy to clean.  If you’re interested in trying a glass toy this would be a great option as you could give it a shot without spending a lot of money.  It’s a great quality toy that will last for years with proper care.

I truly adore the Icicles No. 12.  It’s a versatile toy with a multitude of kinky uses.  The romantic design is both practical and gorgeous, and it’s a great choice if you want a dildo that doesn’t look overtly phallic.  It’s unyielding texture is such a contradiction of the delicate appearance and it’s perfect for playing with the mind as well as the body.

When did you know that you’re bisexual?

September is Bisexuality Visability Month.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my own bisexuality, particularly trying to pinpoint the moment at which I knew that I was bisexual.  My bisexuality didn’t come to me as a sudden epiphany.  I didn’t have a single “Oh my gosh, I’m queer” moment.  It was a series of creeping realisations, of building evidence and mounting instances that led me to accept and eventually be proud of my bisexuality.

Growing up I was always interested in boys.  I dated boys in high school, I had crushes on boy bands and put up posters of male celebrities in my room.  I had no doubt that I was attracted to boys.  That fact has never wavered in my mind.

I recall vividly one Saturday morning watching Video Hits before I got ready to do my paper route.  Pink’s “Most Girls” video clip came on, and I watched the entire thing with a hot blush creeping across my face.  I couldn’t tear my eyes from the screen as Pink did push-ups on her bedroom floor, licked her lips with her tongue piercing running along the rim of her mouth, and pulled a fishnet jumper over her head.  I remember the desire to touch her skin, to run my fingers over her biceps and be kissed by her frosted pink lips.  I was aroused in the same way that I felt aroused when I made out with my boyfriend or watched Leonardo DiCaprio unbutton his Hawaiian in Romeo and Juliet.

I walked my paper route that day feeling ashamed and confused.  I rolled those feelings around in my head, wondering three terrifying words “Am I Gay?”  Growing up in a small town in the early 2000’s, “Gay” wasn’t a label that was safe to wear.  I was already unpopular and suffering at the hands of bullies, and the thought of having something else to make me a target frightened me badly.

My confusion stemmed from the fact that at the time, I didn’t know that bisexuality was even a thing.  I thought a person could be either gay or straight.  And I knew that I was attracted to boys.  So how could I be gay?  I felt anxious at the idea that the label I’d applied to myself might not actually be the right one.  At a time in my life when I was already questioning my identity in so many ways, the idea that my sexuality might be different to my original conception of it was disorientating.

A few months later, that confusion bubbled up again when I developed a crush on a girl at my school.  I’d see her in the halls between classes, and the familiar push-and-pull of the crush would overcome me.  That desire to see them at any cost, to gather any morsel of information about that fascinating person, but the need to look away, to hide, to flee should they look my way.  She was something of a tomboy: she had short hair and wore pants rather than the pinafore that was the girl’s uniform. She rode a skateboard and most of her friends were boys.  I was drawn to her, definitely attracted and completely paralysed by that attraction.  I told myself that I was just a hormonal teenager, that her masculine energy had somehow tricked my heart into thinking that she was a dude, and therefore I was just very confused.  I forced myself to avoid her, to not think about her.  I even scrubbed a whole page out of my journal where I’d dared to write her name.  Eventually that crush died, but the memory of the confusion it created remains crisp.

This pattern of me crushing on various women, both real and celebrity continued for most of my teen years.  And all this time I continued dating boys.  Boys I was attracted to, some of whom I loved.  Still I beat down those feelings for women, ignoring them, telling myself it was “just hormones” “just a phase” or that I wanted to be like those women rather than wanting to be with them.

I don’t remember the moment when I learned what the word “bisexual” meant.  I do remember in high school that it was a kind of code for a girl who would make out with other girls at parties for attention. The idea was very much that it was a trendy label a girl could slap on to make herself seem daring and sexually open.  I never associated this label with myself at the time because I didn’t fit the stereotype that I’d been taught applied to bisexuality.

In college I shared a dorm with a girl who was openly bisexual.  I was in awe of her.  I marvelled at her photo albums, flicking through photographs of her with her formal date, both in purple sateen dresses; with her high school boyfriend holding hands and grinning.  Her dating history was evenly matched for men and women.  She invited me to a party where she hooked up with an attractive woman from the year above us.  As I watched them sitting on the floor, sharing a bowl of lollies and kissing I felt jealous.  It was in that moment that I realised that I wanted what she had: not the woman, but the ownership of her sexuality.  I’d gradually come to realise that I wasn’t straight, that bisexuality was my true label.  And I felt mad at myself for not being brave enough to own it.  At the time I was with a man I’d been with for four years, a man I intended to marry, and so it seemed futile to be vocal about my bisexuality because I’d never get to act upon it.

When my ten-year relationship concluded, I mended my shattered heart and let the dust settle before I felt ready to date again.  I signed up for online dating.  As I filled in my profile, I felt a shiver of exhilaration when I ticked the box next to “bisexual”.  I felt like I’d finally owned who I was, that I’d made it official in a way.  The idea of being free to invite women into my pool of dates was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

Over the years I’ve dated people of a mix of genders.  Dating women felt foreign to me because I’d never done it before, but also because I felt I didn’t have the same “script” to prepare me the way I had when I began dating men.  I had no idea who was supposed to make the first move, no idea how to tell if she was flirting with me, no idea how to have sex with a woman.  With men it was easy, because centuries of social etiquette told me how to behave and how to interpret their behaviour towards me.  But dating women was a whole new ball game.  An exciting, beautiful ball game that I was ecstatic to be playing.

As  time has passed, I’ve become more comfortable and then eventually proud to be bisexual, and I’ve come so far from the frightened, confused teenage girl who first questioned her sexuality on a Saturday morning paper route.

Safer sex and sex toys

Most sex ed lessons cover the topic of safer sex.  As teenagers a lot of us learned how to prevent pregnancy and avoid STI’s.  However, it’s rare that sex toys get a look-in during the safer sex talk.  This is a real worry, because many STIs can be passed along this way if you don’t take proper precautions.

Sex toys often get overlooked when we talk about safer sex because they’re not attached to our bodies.  They don’t excrete fluids and we don’t really think about their potential to pass along infections and diseases.  But the truth is that if you use sex toys with your partners you need to make sure that you’re using them safely, and taking the following things into consideration.

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Choose non-porous materials

Many materials used to make sex toys are porous, which means that they have tiny pores in the surface of the product.  Bodily fluids, bacteria and lube can live in these pores and breed.  Each time you play, you’re re-introducing that bacteria into your body.  And if you use the toy with a partner, you’re spreading that bacteria to them.  If you have multiple partners as you can easily spread an infection among all of your partners with one porous sex toy.  If one of your partners has an STI, then this could potentially pass the infection on to other people you’re sleeping with.  Even if everyone is healthy, then a porous toy can still harbour and spread bacteria which can cause yeast infections and irritation.

That’s why it’s so important to choose toys that are made of non-porous materials.  Silicone, glass and stainless steel are the gold star materials to look for.  Avoid toys made from jelly-plastic, cyberskin, PVC or rubber.  Be wary of toys that are made from wood or stone, as these may be porous unless they are sealed with a non-porous coating.

 

Clean your toys thoroughly after each use

Porous toys can never be thoroughly cleaned, because those tiny pores can easily trap bacteria.  But if you’ve selected a toy in a non-porous material then you can get it truly clean. And you should take the time to clean it completely each time you use it.

For dildos, butt plugs and other non-vibrating toys, wash them in the sink in hot water and a specialised toy cleaner.  To sterilize these toys, you can boil them in a pot on the stove for several minutes or even put them on the top shelf of your dishwasher.  If you share toys, or use toys for butt play, I definitely recommend sterilizing them after use.

If your toy has a motor then cleaning it can be a little bit more finicky.  Wash your toy in the sink with warm water, toy cleaner or a mild bleach solution. Wipe off any residue from cleaning products which may cause skin irritation.  Remember to dry your toy completely before storing it.

 

Wrap it up

Making sex toys safe is easy when you employ one of the oldest safer sex tools on the market: the condom.  Putting a condom over a porous toy will prevent fluids or bacteria coming into contact with the toy’s surface.  If you are sharing a toy with multiple partners, butting a fresh condom on your toy between partners will keep everyone’s fluids separate and avoid cross-contamination.

It’s also a great idea to slide a condom onto your toy if you’re planning to do a combination of anal and vaginal play in one session.  It’s vitally important to keep anything that has been in or on an anus far away from a vagina. Contamination between butt and vagina is one of the most common causes of UTI’s.  To stay safe, slip a condom onto your toy, do your butt play, then whip it off and dispose of it before you go anywhere near the front door.

 

Keep them separated

It can be nice to have separate toys for solo use, and toys that you use with your partner.  If you play with more than one person, ask each person to bring their own toys to the bedroom.  This may not always be feasible, particularly if you use toys during casual encounters or don’t have a lot of cash to splash on separate toys for everyone.  But if it works for your personal situation, having separate toy collections can help keep sex safer.

 

Don’t neglect your safer sex practices when using sex toys.  Toys often get overlooked when we discuss disease prevention and STI’s, but they can absolutely pose a threat if proper precautions aren’t taken.  Make sure that you choose toys carefully and clean them carefully after use.  And if in doubt, use a condom to keep yourself and all your partners safe from STI’s.