Pleasure as Resistance

Image of Magic Wand and Doxy that reads "These machines kill fascists"
Truth.

Almost three years ago, I sat in a conference room and heard the words “pleasure is your birthright” for the first time. I was in a daylong sexuality institute at an LGBTQ+ conference, surrounded by advocates, activists, and educators who were seamlessly weaving sexual freedom into social justice.

Those words stuck with me, both as someone who had had a lot of sex but little pleasure, and as a budding sex blogger (even though I didn’t know it at the time). I can’t find my notes from that talk anymore, but the overarching principles remain: we have a human right to feel pleasure. Our pleasure is radical. Our pleasure is revolutionary.

Since that conference three years ago, I learned something else: pleasure is not only radical and revolutionary. Pleasure is a tool of resistance.


For much of this calendar year, it’s been hard for me to access pleasure as readily as I had before. I don’t masturbate as much as I used to, and when I do, it’s often to relieve pressure building in my body, be it emotional or physical. It’s more out of obligation, habit, or routine than desire to feel pleasure; always quick and with the same vibrator. Underwear off, lift dress up, grab some lube, turn on the wand, come, grab some more lube, come again, wand off, clean up, underwear on, dress smoothed back down. Repeat only when needed, not wanted. It’s like my orgasms come straight from the directions on the back of a goddamn medicine bottle.

I’ve found all forms of pleasure harder to access recently, not just sexual pleasure. Blogging brings me pleasure, too, just like reading and exploring new places and sitting outside on a sunny day do. But any scroll through my archives comparing my blogging activity pre-January and post-January will tell you something’s up (and I’m not the only one).

In this era of Trump and his white supremacist, misogynist, queer-and-transphobic companions, pleasure feels far away, even inaccessible at times — and not just because my mental health is suffering. There’s an incredible amount of pressure in activist culture to keep going, going, going until you inevitably burn out (or worse). And going, going, going means there’s rarely any time for desperately needed relaxation or leisure or pleasure.

I firmly, wholeheartedly believe we must do all we can to resist and persist in this political moment. What we are dealing with isn’t new—the United States was founded on white supremacy. Systemic oppression of marginalized people is written into our history at every single turn. To think the Trump administration’s human rights violations are “out of the ordinary” given the violent, genocidal history of this country would be a mistake. This is a long-haul fight, and if we’re going to not only survive, but thrive, we must allow ourselves to practice self-care and see pleasure as resistance.


Since Trump’s inauguration, “resist” and “resistance” have become wildly common when talking about political dissent, and with them, the expectation that “to resist” means doing something actionable that takes a concrete step towards liberation — calling your representatives, attending and organizing protests, taking down fascists in the street. Whether or not you prioritize working within government channels as a path to liberation (I don’t), people’s methods of resistance come in many forms.

What I do see missing from the a large part of the resistance “movement” is an affirmation of sex and pleasure as a path to liberation. For marginalized people, pleasure is actionable. Pleasure is resistance. Pleasure is a concrete step towards liberation: our liberation.

Claiming our bodies as our own and allowing ourselves to seek and feel pleasure in the face of violence and oppression is radical. Pleasure flies in the face of our oppressors — it is a direct “fuck you” to the people who want us to stay silent, to stay (politically) submissive, to be broken down slowly day after day by the hatred and violence they direct our way.

As a queer femme, pleasure as resistance is especially poignant for me. Queer intimacy is revolutionary. Joyfully reveling in ourselves, each other, and our pleasure is revolutionary. We’re not “supposed to” talk about our pleasure, much less show it or take pride in its beauty. By claiming our pleasure as our own, we’re subverting norms and resisting with the very things we were taught to hate about ourselves.

For marginalized people, our pleasure shouts “I see your violence, but you do not get to take THIS from me. My pleasure is mine, and mine alone. I will revel in it, defying your crusade to strip me of any joy. I am in charge now.”

No matter the political landscape, we all deserve to feel joy, experience pleasure, and take time for ourselves — something I would obviously do well to remember, too. We are allowed to take comfort in our bodies, in each other, in our communities. Pleasure is our birthright.

For more on sex and sexuality under the Trump administration, check out “Advocating for Sex Toys in the Age of Trump”. For more on self-care, check out “Surviving the Election: Self-Care Methods that Don’t Require Access to Money”.

My Top Sex Toys

A few of my favorites. Read on for more!

It’s about time I wrote about my favorite toys! In the two and a half years I’ve been blogging, I’ve managed to build a fairly robust sex toy collection. (So robust, in fact, that I had to leave some behind in my recent move. Tragic, right?!) In that time, though, I’ve never written any kind of sex toy round-up post highlighting the stars of my collection. With Vibrant’s one-year birthday coming up, now seemed like the perfect time — what better way to celebrate one of my favorite feminist sex toy shops than by writing about my favorite picks from their store?

Vibrant is an ethical, feminist, education-focused sex toy retailer. They only sell body-safe sex toys, and they don’t categorize toys by gender (only by who is using them, “me” or “us”), which is an automatic win in my book! Through Vibrant’s business, they proudly help fund Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and have been incredibly supportive of my own abortion rights and sexual and reproductive health work. There are a plethora of reasons why I love Vibrant — their catalog of sex toys is just one among many!

Without further ado, here are my favorite toys from Vibrant’s shop:

The Die Cast is the most beautiful wand I own. There’s just no competition. With finishes in silver matte or sparkly black, white, purple, and red, there’s a Die Cast out there for everyone who loves high-powered wands. (Seriously, go look at the sparkles. They’re to die for!) Top its function off with the fact that Doxy is an incredibly ethical company and endlessly supportive of sex bloggers and educators, and you’ve got a top-notch toy. I adore my Die Cast and want to keep it on my coffee table for all to see! It’s just that pretty — and the orgasms are pretty damn great, too!

The Curve was one of the first body-safe dildos I owned, and it’s been a solid contender in my toybox since. It’s also one of the only non- dual-density dildos I own — if  you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I’m all about the squish. Single-density dildos are usually uncomfortable for me to use, but the Curve’s matte texture and flexible shape make it stand out as a great middle ground between the squishy and hard ends of the sex toy spectrum. One of my favorite parts about this toy is its teardrop-shaped base — it’s easy to hold onto and provides a quick way to tell if the Curve has shifted during use.

The Joque an excellent standard strap-on harness. It offers two size options, but the harness has double adjustable straps that create a great fit for a wide range of body sizes. Because it’s adjustable, my partner and I can both wear it without too much extra shuffling between uses, which has definitely come in handy! The Joque is also the most comfortable harness I’ve tried yet. It’s made from nylon, spandex, and soft mesh rather than leather, which means it’s much softer than many harnesses on the market. To top it all off, the Joque easy to clean — just throw it in the wash and you’ll be good to go!

Good Clean Love is, hands down, my favorite lube. I sing its praises whenever possible — I’ve recommended it to partners, friends, family members, sex shop customers, and blog readers. It was the first water-based, body-safe lube I ever used, and I haven’t looked back since! Unlike some other lubes, Good Clean Love isn’t runny at all. Instead, it’s surprisingly gel-like, but without being uncomfortably thick. When you apply it, it stays right where you put it — if you’re using Good Clean Love with sex toys, you can even turn your toy upside down without the lube sliding down the side.

The Nova isn’t one of my personal favorites, but my partner loves it, and it made the list because we’ve had a fantastic time using it together. My partner and I used the Nova often when we were long-distance, and it always helped us feel closer and more connected to one another. One of my favorite parts of the Nova is its app — I got pretty well acquainted with We-Vibe’s “We Connect” app to control my partner’s vibrations from afar, and I found it user-friendly, interactive, and aesthetically pleasing. (You can view screenshots of the app in my review of the Sync.)

Known among sex educators and bloggers as the holy grail of G-spot toys, the Pure Wand is a classic. It’s sleek, curved design is simple and revolutionary at the same time — it’s helped many a masturbator find their G-spot and even squirt for the first time. Because this toy has two differently sized bulbed ends, it’s great for folks who prefer smaller and medium-sized insertable toys alike, with room to grow for those who want to work up to the larger end. Because the Pure Wand is steel, it can be used with any kind of body-safe lube, unlike silicone toys.

The Rosa is perhaps the most surprising toy on this list. It’s no secret that I’m not typically a fan of direct, pinpoint clitoral stimulation or internal vibration — both of which the Rosa offers. However, the first time I used this toy, I was able to come in minutes. I was floored, but quickly realized my out-of-nowhere orgasm was a testament to the deep, rumbly vibrations L’Amourose is known for. I was thrilled to add the Rosa to my list of my favorites!

Sliquid Satin comes in at a very close second behind my top lube, Good Clean Love. To be honest, they’re almost tied. Because this lube is a bit runnier than other thicker, gel-like formulas, I run out of it more quickly, which just makes me want to buy it in bulk! After applying Sliquid Satin, it doesn’t even feel like I’m using lube — it jives with my body incredibly well and feels very much like my natural lubrication. I use Sliquid Satin for external and internal use and in solo and partnered play. It really is a great all-around option for daily use!

The Sync is technically billed as a “couples toy,” and it’s the only such toy I would recommend. It’s not without its drawbacks (which I detail in my full review), but overall, I think the Sync is the best couples toy on the market. However, if you don’t have a partner to use it with, fear not — the Sync is also a great option for hands-free solo play. As with the We-Vibe Nova, I was very pleased with the Sync’s app — in my opinion, it makes the toy. The Sync is also unique in that you can adjust its fit via two hinges on the toy’s surface, making it accessible to a wide range of bodies.

There you have it, folks! My first “top toys” list. Like something in Vibrant’s shop but don’t see it on my list? Feel free to comment below or email me if you’d like my opinion!

On September 30, take 30% off Vibrant’s birthday collection with code SURPRISE3!

This post was sponsored by Vibrant. As always, all writing and opinions are my own.

When A Company Fucks Up Beyond Belief: Screaming (N)O

Pictured: Me, annoyed at companies that keep fucking up. Seriously, aren’t y’all tired?

Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit is a safe haven for people working in the sex industry. No matter our level of anonymity – fully out, semi-open, or completely anonymous – we know we’re among friends. In private hotel rooms and conference session rooms alike, we feel empowered and safe to share details about ourselves with the understanding that that information will remain confidential. Many of us don’t use our full legal names on our name badges. Some of us wear lanyards that signal we can’t have our pictures taken. We all assume that confidentiality will extend to all areas of our presence and likeness at the conference.

This year, Screaming O broke that confidentiality.

Earlier today, Screaming O posted two videos of the “body safe” session at this year’s Sexual Freedom Summit to their YouTube, as well as sent press releases to various industry magazines and websites with links to the videos. The first video was a short, 2-minute promotional video featuring the session’s panelists. The second was an hour and a half long recording of the entire session – including the question and answer period at the end, which featured many attendees’ voices.

There are a lot of problems to dissect here. First, the panel was a garbage fire. Plain and simple. Ruby Goodnight wrote an excellent summary of it here.  Second, Screaming O used footage from the panel as PR content. Some attendees were aware that panelists had worked with Screaming O, but they were never listed as a “sponsor” of the session.

What’s more, it appears that the panelists had no knowledge of Screaming O’s press release, claims of sponsorship, or their intentions to release the full, unedited footage from the panel.

It’s obvious there are myriad concerns about the content of the panel itself, as well as how the panel is being used as official company PR, but the most disturbing thing about all of this is the gross ethical violation Screaming O committed when they recorded, uploaded, and shared content of the full session.

We were never alerted to the fact that Screaming O was recording the panel with the intent to publish it online later. All of this was done without our knowledge or consent. While this isn’t illegal in Virginia, it is wrong, and further, it violates Woodhull’s policy on filming workshops.

Screaming O’s decision to post a recording of the body safe panel is a MASSIVE consent and safety violation. Anonymity extends to people’s voices. People’s voices in the video are identifiable – some who spoke up, like myself, shared their names or their places of work, all under the guise of confidentiality. This was supposed to be a safer space among colleagues in the sexual freedom movement, specifically among people who care about sex toy safety, and Screaming O destroyed that.

Posting recordings without consent can endanger people’s personal safety, jobs and economic security, and families and children. Screaming O jeopardized these things for people all along the anonymity scale. Even for people who wore a lanyard signaling it was okay to be depicted in photos, that doesn’t mean it was okay for our voices to be recorded and shared without our consent. As mentioned in Woodhull’s statement on this issue, in order for Screaming O to ethically film and share recording of the panel, ALL panel attendees would have to be notified of the recording, sign a release form, and be willing to be captured on film and audio. None of this happened.

What Screaming O did is egregious. Their actions could have seriously endangered the people who spoke during the panel’s question and answer session, and they violated the consent of every single person in attendance. This behavior has no place in the sex toy industry and no place in a conference geared towards people invested in social justice and liberation.

An important note: Screaming O’s actions are in no way the fault of Woodhull or their Sexual Freedom Summit. They are tireless supporters of bloggers and other Summit attendees, and immediately released a statement condemning Screaming O’s behavior as soon as the recording was released. I still fully support Woodhull and look forward to attending the conference in the future.

4 Ways to Maintain Intimacy in a Long-Distance Relationship

Here, have a big mushy collage of me and my partner! (And yes, we are kissing a baby goat. I know, it’s almost too cute to handle.)

Picture this: it’s mid-January in Philadelphia. Four thousand queer activists are taking over the city for a national LGBTQ+ conference. By some stroke of luck (and some help from Tinder), two tender femmes meet and there’s an incredible, immediate spark between them. Okay, scratch that. It wasn’t a spark. It was more like the most magnificent fireworks show in the world.

The only problem? They lived 700 miles apart.

I haven’t talked about my relationship on my blog yet, but today is the day: if you haven’t guessed by now, those two tender femmes are me and my partner! We went into our first date expecting to keep things NSA sexually, but as soon as we met, we couldn’t deny our deep, magnetic connection. After spending most of the weekend together at the conference, we had to head home, with 700 miles and a handful of states between us, but not before agreeing that we would love to continue to get to know one another.

Over the next few weeks, we fell in love over FaceTime, during late night phone calls, and through tender, mushy texts about how neither of us had ever felt this way before. We had both been in serious relationships and loved other people before, but our blossoming love for each other was something new entirely; almost indescribable.

My partner and I live on the same coast and in the same time zone, and I’m lucky to be able to see them for at least one long weekend every month. I’m also lucky that we’re working on closing the gap between us, but for now, we’re still long-distance, and those 700 miles can feel very, very long at times. However, just because the miles are long doesn’t mean they’re impossible to conquer: it is completely possible to have a healthy, supportive, loving long-distance relationship!

Even when the distance is almost unbearable, my partner and I try our hardest to do things that will make us feel as close as possible from far away, and we’ve learned a lot about how to make that happen. Here are some of my favorite tips for maintaining intimacy in a long-distance relationship:

1. Do normal, everyday things together.

This sounds almost too simple, but it really helps! There are so many ways to do everyday activities together from afar: you can watch TV shows or movies together on Rabbit, have a dinner date via Skype, play virtual Scrabble or other phone or computer games, walk to your respective favorite coffee shops and enjoy a latte while chatting on the phone, or even do your dishes or laundry on FaceTime.

Being able to share these routine parts of your day with your long-distance partner as you would if you were together in person can do wonders for feeling close when you’re far away, and it’s extra helpful during difficult times. Being able to virtually “come home” to your partner through a FaceTime date or watching your favorite Shondaland show together can help things feel a bit more normal.

My partner and I have found a routine that works really well for us. We do things that integrate each other into our daily home life, and we usually watch an episode (or sometimes three) of Grey’s Anatomy on Rabbit together before we go to bed. Being able to finish my day by watching TV and seeing my partner’s face on the screen next to mine feels comforting and cozy, and is incredibly helpful when texts or Snapchats throughout the day don’t feel like enough.

2. Exchange care packages and small gifts with your partner.

Care packages don’t need to be ultra-elaborate, flashy, or expensive! There’s no pressure for this to be the biggest gift your partner has ever received – it just needs to be from your heart. (Love has brought out my mushy, corny side. Let’s just go with it.) Whether you send your partner your college sweatshirt for them to sleep in, a box of their favorite candy, a handwritten letter, or something new you bought just for them, it’s the thought that counts. If for any reason care packages aren’t an option, online gifts are great too – try sending your partner an e-card or virtual flowers to let them know you’re thinking of them.

My partner and I sent each other care packages earlier this year and they very obviously reflected our individual styles. Our packages were super different, but that’s what I loved about them! I sent a plain box full of comforting items like some of my favorite shirts, books, a vibrator, and some locally roasted coffee, and my partner sent a colorful, artsy box full of pictures of us, local honey and jam, and drawings and romantic notes. I love giving gifts even more than receiving them, and especially love finding small, sweet things that make me think of my partner. It’s always nice to have a little surprise for them during our long weekends together in addition to any care packages we may send between visits.

3. Use technology for good… AKA orgasms!

Not being able to be physically intimate with your partner can be a particularly frustrating part of long-distance relationships, but thankfully, as Apple says, there’s an app for that! A number of vibrators, such as We-Vibe’s toys like the Sync or the Nova, are app-controlled, meaning that your partner can control the vibrations of your toy from anywhere in the world. If you’re not into apps or can’t find any app-compatible toys that work for you, good ol’ sexting while you masturbate is always an option! Even without an app, asking your partner to take charge of your toy from afar (what vibration speed would you use on me? how would you move the toy against my body? how much pressure would you use? am I allowed to come?) can be really hot.

Sex is deeply important for me and my partner, and maintaining that closeness when we’re apart is a big part of our relationship. Not surprisingly, this is one area of my life where being a sex toy reviewer really has its perks! During a visit, my partner and I went through my entire sex toy collection and picked out ones we would like to use together, and I ended up sending my partner home with one of my favorite wands.

Some of the toys my partner and I use while we’re apart have apps and some don’t. For the ones that don’t, we stick to sexting and asking questions (like the ones above!). Either way, our long-distance sex is incredibly hot and always leaves me counting down the days until our next visit.

4. Keep something to look forward to on your calendar.

It always helps to have a “next thing” to count down to with your partner! This doesn’t have to be a visit if that’s not financially or geographically accessible. Maybe you and your partner plan a movie marathon date day on Rabbit once or twice a month, or pick up the same food from your favorite restaurant and enjoy a meal over Skype. Treat these hangouts like actual dates (because they are!) in additional to any daily talking you may do, even if it involves similar things. Being able to count down to something special with your partner feels great!

At the end of one visit, my partner and I always try to have our next visit planned. Even if we don’t have flights or other travel arrangements specifically hammered out, we have the dates set and a commitment to make it work. I’m not usually a “bigger picture” person, but it helps to try to get into that mindset when my partner and I are apart for longer than we’d like. No matter how hard the distance may get at times, our mushy, wonderful partnership makes it all worth it.

This post was sponsored. All writing and thoughts are my own.

When a Sex Blogger Goes Silent: Practicing Vulnerability in the Post-Inauguration Slump

I’ve been fairly quiet for a few weeks. Since Donald Trump’s inauguration weekend, to be exact. I haven’t written a proper essay or review in a month and a half, my Twitter engagements are down, and my Instagram feed is silent. I’ve felt completely unable to write anything: not even a witty tweet, much less a sharp, searing blog post. And that feeling is deeply painful.

The last time I had an unintentional hiatus like this was a year and a half ago, when I uprooted my entire life to move to a new state for a new job. It wasn’t an easy move at first, and for about six months, I barely kept my head above water. I didn’t have any motivation to write (and it also didn’t help that I hadn’t found my sex blogging niche yet). But this time is different. It’s not that I’m unmotivated. I just can’t write anything. I try, and try, and try again. I stare at the blank page, or rewrite the same sentence a dozen times, or brainstorm posts in my notebook until depression takes the pen from my hand.

I feel as if I’m trying to throw words one by one over some impenetrable barrier, hoping they’ll fall into place on the other side. It seems impossible. But I’m going to try again.

● ● ●

I wrote a political essay I’m proud of just one week before Trump’s inauguration. I thought it would open doors to write more about sexual politics, as well as my usual feminist critiques of companies and product reviews. And then… nothing. The inauguration affected me in ways I didn’t anticipate, especially because I had no shortage of creative energy post-election. Trump’s rise to power was horrifying, but not a complete shock (given that we live in a white supremacist country). Still, there was something about the inauguration versus the actual election that was more tangible, signaling the beginning of his campaign promises carried out.

Soon after the inauguration, I shared how I was feeling with close blogsquad friends. I told them I couldn’t write and felt like my work was meaningless in the grand scheme of things. They assured me that while my feelings were valid, this is exactly what Trump and his team of extremists want: to silence people and make us feel like our voices hold no weight. I knew they were right, but I just continued to stare at that blank page.

I’ve been searching for something to pull me out of this pit. A ladder, an outstretched hand, footholds on the walls – anything. I started to get scared. I am scared. But then, last week, I flew to the UK for Eroticon, a conference specifically designed for sex writers and bloggers… and I left actually wanting to write this post. I started writing down some thoughts in my iPhone notes, and they just kept coming.

● ● ●

Writing about not being able to write is challenging, to say the least. It feels incredibly vulnerable, and for a long time it was too uncomfortable to try. I’m a fiercely opinionated and outspoken feminist, activist, and writer. I’m supposed to be able to write, no matter what. But now, I’m trying to practice being vulnerable by telling myself – and all of you – it’s okay if I can’t always do that.

At Eroticon, I was reminded that it’s okay to say these things out loud. I feel inspired by speakers whose talks were rooted in vulnerability and encouraged by new friends who urged me to write this post after brainstorming together. I spent hours talking to UK residents about the future of sexual freedom and rights under a Trump administration and felt a renewed sense of urgency for this work after giving a talk on sex blogging as feminism and social justice. But most of all, I felt affirmed: both in the power of vulnerability and in the strength of our community.

Now, I’m back to brainstorming blog posts, article pitches, and potential blog travel and events. I do believe being outspoken about sexual freedom and rights is more important now than ever, and I’ll continue to do so boldly and unapologetically, but I’ll also be gentle with myself if that starts to feel difficult again.

If you’re emotionally struggling under the Trump administration, you are not alone. Please know you are loved and supported. If you need help, there are resources available to you: here are the websites for Trans Lifeline and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.