Blog Dedication for @gazzaeuro: Naturism

This is a blog dedication to Gary Spence (@gazzaeuro) who became by 300th follower last month. 

Gary has requested a piece about naturism and naturists, a subject I know very little about. So like any good citizen of the internet I went googling. 

I found the British Naturism website through Gary’s Twitter bio, which was a helpful starting point. I considered writing about essential things to bring when going on a naturist event; suncream, insect repellent, clothes (incase a police officer asks you to dress), a copy of the Legal Guidance (downloadable from the BN website). I spent a while in the legal advice pages included in the website and enjoyed digging a little deeper about what the law says – a hobby of mine. I wondered if I could discuss this in my blog dedication. 

In the end I decided I wouldn’t offer any advice, this world is unknown to me, but I wanted to discuss how accessible and welcoming the British Naturism site felt to an outsider doing a bit of research.                                  

The British Naturism website gives a helpful guide to where you can go if you would like to explore naturism, and offers gentle encouragement about the benefits of going without clothes. There are event listings which range from exercise such as swimming and yoga to a silent disco. You can search by region to find something near you. There’s a surprising number of events all over the country. 

The sense of community and inclusion is palpable from the website. If I ever decided to become part of this scene I imagine I would be welcome. Feeling welcome in a community can determine your first experiences and perhaps how you continue to identify or find your people. 

I enjoyed my brief sojourn into naturism and if this is something you’re considering I would check out the British Naturism website for further guidance. 

Thank you for the inspiration Gary!

#sexysummerbookclub – June – You’re The Worst

This summer Coffee and Kink and I are running a Sexy Summer Book Club – a celebration of sex positive writing and a method of prompting pieces for our own work. The club is open to all writers who love a bit of smut – find out more here. 

Happy June everybody! 

This is my first short blog in response to Girl on the Net’s How A Bad Girl Fell in Love. I loved Girl on the Net’s second book (loved the first one too) and I’m spoiled for choice on what themes to write on. This came to me one evening before bed when it was too hot to do anything (or anyone). I tapped some barely passable sentences into my phone before I fell asleep. 

*

CK gave the prompt: How do you feel about “insults as affection?”

Its something in the book that occurs between Sarah and Mark; they tell each other to “fuck off” or call each other “dickhead”. I can relate to this. Its not something I do as often with partners, I prefer to be as straightforward with my affections as possible, but I can understand the impulse. 

Sometimes it feels good to pretend to keep someone at arms’ length and gently mock them rather than completely let your guard down and be sincere. It makes those sincere moments even more significant. 

However when I got the prompt from CK, I didn’t think of any of my romantic relationships, but rather the time I was submissive to a friend. 

sir and I would play with insults during scenes. He would use awful words and I would get such a kick out of the names he called me. The sentences he strung together to make me feel ashamed felt hot and it was a big part of our play together. We both enjoyed words. 

We were friends, rather than a couple, so we never made our affections public. We kept our arrangement a secret for over a year. When we would be at the pub with a group, we would pretend as if there was nothing beyond friendship between us. 

But he would slip into conversation a small insult; nothing as vile as our private phrases but a tiny nod to the moments we spent alone. Something innocuous – “you’re the worst”. 

He would look at me, and I would know by the way his eyes met mine that he was remembering our scenes. It made me feel hot and desired and guilty and furtive all at once. He was very good with his words. 

Twenty-Seventh Post: Written for Girl on the Net

The fabulous Girl on the Net published my fourth guest blog yesterday – Giving Up Mainstream Porn For Lent

I’ve always wanted to try this challenge and so I finally committed to cutting out mainstream porn for personal use this spring. 

I knew this would be a challenge – and that this would make a cool blog. I emailed GotN early on in and said I’m thinking of writing this, would she like to publish it for Easter weekend? She said yes; it is always a goddamn pleasure to write a piece for her. 

To find out how it went check out my post on Girl on the Net’s site. 

Twenty-Sixth Post: Getting Past Sexual Assault When You Write About Sex

Today is a good day. It’s a strong day for writing. For being comfortable in my own body. For feeling like I can get back to who I was, or evolve into something different. Stronger. 

I wrote a piece for inews.co.uk entitled: I’m A Sex Writer Who Was Sexually Assaulted. I was going to publish anonymously but after a conversation with my editor, who gave me the option to be anonymous or publish under my name, I decided to give my name to it. 

Writing that piece was tough, but ultimately important for me to come to terms with not just what happened, but how it affected my identity as a writer. 

I’m a sex writer. I love it. I love the community of it, the voice I’ve found from it. My unique perspective and the fact that others want to read my words. For months I felt like a fraud because after the assault I completely went off having sex, dating, all of it. I would struggle to pitch articles because my sense of self worth was so low. How could I convince an editor that I was a sex-positive voice and that I deserved to be paid for my opinions? I barely had any left.

I started writing in earnest again after Eroticon. If I was serious about being a sex writer, about getting published I had to keep going – or accept that outlet wasn’t available to me anymore. I made myself do it and things started to feel better. I started to feel better. 

When I told friends I was writing this article they looked at me like I’d lost my mind. But I’ve often been advised that I should write a letter to my attacker telling him how I feel – even if its to burn afterwards, just to get the feelings out. 

I’ve never wanted to do that, address him, give him any of my words. I appreciate that might be a tried and tested method but why would I spend any time doing something I love for someone I feel nothing for anymore? Writing is my strength. My choice.

Writing this article may have been the catharsis I needed. Not that it has definitively helped me to close that chapter of my life, but that it has punctuated the narrative. Writing is my display of strength; my ability to describe and analyse the things I’ve done and the world around me. I am at my strongest, my most eloquent when I’m writing about sex. That moment threatened my ability to write about sex and when I realised that was slipping away from me I felt more vulnerable than the moments I couldn’t re-engage with my sexuality. 

I hope that you read my article and see not a survivor of sexual assault, but a writer who is choosing to describe and analyse her world again, because it is the best decision I have made this year. 
Jenny x

Twenty-Fifth Post: The Ultimate Sex Bucket List

Content warning: this is a completely fluffy blog because the sun was shining this weekend and I had a great time hanging out with a friend I don’t get to see very often. 

How nice was the weather this weekend?! First sunshine I’ve got to properly enjoy this year – it was so goooooood!!
On Sunday, after spending Saturday at BiFest, my friend and I lay in the park after brunch. I found an article by Good To Know entitled The Ultimate Sex Bucket List: 50 Things To Try Before You Die so we got paper and pens and I read each item on the list for us to score. What else do sex-positive girl friends do when the sun is shining and you find a listicle like that?

The list was a selection of sex acts for, I would guess, straight vanilla ladies – which we are certainly not. We’ve had some adventures and, of course, I’ve written about some of mine. We aren’t shy about sex. This wasn’t an article for us; we aren’t the right audience. This blog is not a critique of the list. It was actually quite comprehensive and I liked the gentle advice of ‘if this isn’t for you, don’t do it but if you think you might like it, try it, its fabulous,’ that accompanied some items. No beef here, its not my place to call anyone out. 

Because aren’t the right audience for this piece some items felt extremely pedestrian. Items like ‘kiss a girl’ was met with pure sass and items like ‘be a sex slave for a night’ was completely dismissed with “pffft! Just a night?” 

Submissives, am I right?

It was enjoyable to be dismissive of the list while we were scoring, considering ourselves sexually adventurous women. It was safe to be a little judgemental and it felt nice. I liked doing that activity with someone who has a similar life view to me. There’s nothing worse than say, playing Never Ever Have I Ever and getting absolutely hammered because you’re the only kinky, group-sex-loving, queer person at the party who’s done it in public (more than once) and everyone is treating you as this huge Other person because your life experiences and goals are so far removed from theirs. There’s pleasure to be found in saying “I’ve had a threesome with a couple I’ve met on the internet” and getting a “yeah, me too” in response. Find your people. 

I scored 37 out of 50 – pretty respectable. Some things like ‘have sex on a washing machine’ or ‘sex on the beach’ I have no interest in ticking off. That’s not a straight or gay thing – my washing machine is under my kitchen counter and I don’t want sand in my labia. Ever. End of. 

It was great way to chat about the things we’d done and we discussed our own tailor made bucket lists. I considered what would make it onto the lesbian bucket list – things like fisting, scissoring and strap-ons would be there for sure. Or the kinky bucket list – fun things like establishing a safe word, trying spanking or that really pretty rope bondage stuff (kinbaku). 
For my own bucket list I’m not certain if there’s anything specific I want to accomplish. I’m into exploring other people’s kinks so I rarely set the agenda for what I want to experience. One thing we did discuss was stuff we have already done which we would like to do more of – that was fun. 

I really enjoyed reading Good To Know’s list with my friend. Its the little moments when you recognise your world view in others that makes you feel less alone, especially when you’re a queer sex writer. 

Check out Good To Know’s Ultimate Sex Bucket List here. What would make it onto your list?

Twenty-Fourth Post: London BiFest

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in Kingston attending BiFest, the sister event of BiCon. My friend, someone who identifies as bisexual, wanted to go so I went with her as an ally and interested-writer-type-person. Also Eroticon has increased my enthusiasm for conventions so I was keen to experience more workshops and break-out sessions on sexuality. 

A quick note on my own bisexual credentials. I wouldn’t identify as bisexual even though I enjoy sex with men and women. For me bisexuality is the attraction, and openness to a relationship with, men, women, people of all genders. I identify as lesbian, or queer, because my relationship goals are somewhat singular. I do enjoy the men, but as Doms or one night stands or fuckbuddies; I prefer the ladies for love and relationships. For more information, see anything I’ve ever contributed to a book – there’s a theme!

The sunshine was out in full force as we found the Quaker Centre in Kingston. Its a beautiful building, light and airy and there were spaces to sit out and enjoy one of the first warm days of this year. We attended the Coming Out workshop, facilitated by Hannah Bee, which was an excellent way to bring people with all levels of coming out confidence together to share happy and sad stories of coming out, best practices to come out and methods of self care when coming out. Hannah shared some great silent gestures which we could use when agreeing with others or wanted to make a point which followed on from the one just made. There was a wonderful atmosphere in the room and I think almost everyone felt empowered to contribute something to the discussion. 

Afterwards we attended the Non-Monogamy workshop, which had a huge audience. We were excited to see this one as my friend and I both identify as non-monogamous in different ways. For me the session wasn’t very helpful, so I decided to leave halfway through and sit in the quiet room. My friend stayed on and we met up afterwards to browse the stalls. 

We met Libby Baxter-Williams, who runs Biscuit, an online magazine for bisexual women. She was selling some gorgeous stickers and greetings cards so we stocked up on those. Then we looked at Jennifer Moore’s stall which was covered in beautiful button badges of all colours and messages. Some sassy like: ‘I’m bisexual, you’re the one that’s confused!’ and some very to the point such as: ‘Queer As Fuck’. There was lots of kinky identity badges too which was awesome. I bought a ‘Queer Girl’ badge in a teal colour. I met Jennifer later and we chatted about her badges. You can buy them online via her website and I heartily advise you to check them out because they are wonderful. 

There were also copies of Purple Prose on sale! I showed my friend the paragraph I had contributed to the book. She’s going to download it on her Kindle and devour it on her commute.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with Libby at the activism workshop for working class people. This was Libby’s first workshop as a facilitator and she shared that she was nervous. Also due to laptop difficulties she didn’t have the notes she had prepared on the session so she wasn’t happy with how things turned out. But I found it really enlightening to understand how class in the UK is structured and how this can affect engagement with events like these. We also discussed how to overcome some of these issues and I had not considered some of this before. I found it a really worthwhile session to attend. 

We skipped the singalong (I’ve lost my voice) and got gelato in the evening sun. Then we returned for the No Stupid Questions panel which addressed questions that had been anonymously submitted all day. Lots of great discussion about the changing nature of language, how to share resources and more thoughts about activism. Marcus shared the “activism ladder” which consists of:

You Should

We Could

I Can

I Will

I’ve written it upside down so you can read how its climbed. I loved thinking of it in this way, considering which rung I might be hanging out on most of the time and how to keep climbing. 

Night had fallen so we got a train back to London proper. My friend was really glad she went, as it was heartening to see so many bisexuals gathered together in the same space in all their diversity. I’m really glad I went to as the sessions gave me some great ideas to consider personally and some exciting topics for future pieces. 

The next BiCon is being held on Thursday 10th – Sunday 13th of August 2017 at Leeds Beckett University, Headingley, Leeds. 

You can find more details online here, or follow BiCon on twitter

Twenty-Third Post: Happy 250th Issue, Diva Magazine!

Diva celebrate 23 years in circulation this month, with their 250th issue featuring stories of how lesbian/bi visibility, culture and politics have evolved in that time. This moment in the magazine’s history inspires their readers and contributors to reflect on their own history. At least it did for me.

Heather Peace, regular columnist for the magazine, shared her coming out experiences which coincided with the release of Diva in 1994. She describes how the magazine helped her understand her to identify as gay, go to events, meet other people and how it made her feel more at home in her sexuality. Her article felt like she was part of something exciting, something new. When I began reading Diva Magazine it was long established, but the thrill of something new, being part of something beyond your surroundings, resonated with me. 

I started reading Diva Magazine when I moved to London at the age of 22. I had just met the woman of my dreams, had my first kiss and lost my lezzy L plates all in one night. It was a step I had been waiting to take for years. In the months after that night, I sought out (what I considered) the trappings of being a lesbian. I enjoyed looking a certain way, going to gay bars and lesbian book clubs. Reading more lesbian oriented material was one of those things, Diva at the forefront. 

I bought Diva for those moments when I wanted to take care of myself, to engage with lesbian and bisexual culture and feel connected to something. Every long train journey back to see my parents, every evening plan of a bubble bath and a glass of wine (read: glass of whiskey) I picked up a copy of Diva to soothe me. I loved the articles, the photoshoots and the diversity of bodies and looks. I saw myself there, I saw women I would want to date there. It didn’t alienate me like the copies of ‘straight women’ magazines I had read in my teen years, idly flipping through glossy pages of clothes I would look awful in, diets I would never attempt and sex tips I despaired at.

It became a regular purchase every month. A girlfriend once gave me a years subscription to Diva for my birthday and I have piles of back issues in my wardrobe that I can’t bear to throw out. These magazines are part of my literary archive, my coming out narrative, my connection outside of myself. 

Five years on, I don’t buy Diva every month and my subscription, like the relationship with the girl who gifted it to me, are long over. But it is something I like to pick up when I want to engage in selfcare or a treat to read. Before every long journey, when I’m clutching a coffee and browsing the shelves of the newsagents for something to flick through on the train, I’m looking for those distinctive block capitals first. 

Happy 250th issue Diva Magazine x