A walk in the park 

“If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice it is knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.”
                                                Matthew Fox

I’ve said it before and I’ll doubtless say it again, but the best thing about this blog is the friends I’ve made as a result of it. I love how many people want to whip off their clothes for a virtual stranger! But those who do are always good company with interesting views and people I can chat easily to and learn from. And it was no different when I rocked up to Richmond station to meet @lovelustlondon at 8.30 on a Saturday morning. 

What followed was 12k of walking and four hours of chat with a few photo stops along the way. Oh, and a few near misses with dog walkers and runners! In no other part of my life would I be walking around a park with someone I’ve only known for a couple of hours talking about relationships, dating, kinks, vulnerabilities, cock size, inverted nipples, big bellies. And concerns looking good enough for sex parties. That last one was me not him. “Well, you’ve just seen me naked and I go to them.” “But you look great!” “And loads of people who look at your photos think you look great too!”. 

Just another example of this community helps each other realise that what you might see as imperfection is what other people see as beautiful. I was very happy to find the above quote; it fits so perfectly with both this photograph and our conversations. And talking of beauty, how amazing does he look here?! 

Sinful Sunday

Orgasms are not worth the worry! 

“Don’t stop touching yourself,” he says as he fucks me from behind, feeling that I’m about to come and probably wondering why I’ve stopped. I’ve stopped because I’ve felt myself about to come, thought that I am and that very thought has stolen the orgasm from me.

I’m really bad at orgasming with partners. Actually, not bad – I am purposely playing devil’s advocate using that word! – but I am really slow. And I hate that. And so I overthink it, I worry about it and I chase the orgasms. And chasing them makes it less likely to happen, or rather it’ll take even more time to happen. And I really shouldn’t worry about it; I know my orgasm isn’t a prize I have to deliver, for myself or my partners. But knowing I shouldn’t worry doesn’t mean I don’t and it doesn’t mean that I can stop myself occasionally thinking that I am in some way inferior because I don’t orgasm quickly or over and over when I am with partners. It’s easy to be influenced by things you read and to judge yourself against them even when you know you shouldn’t.

I can also be cripplingly insecure about sex with partners, which probably sounds unlikely to anyone who knows me in real life or who reads this blog and has picked up on my sometimes annoyingly optimistic outlook and exuberant lust for life! I was once told by a colleague that I was too confident and didn’t consider other people when going after what I want (yeah, jog on Mr with your fragile ego!). But when it comes to going after what I want in the bedroom I can be the complete opposite. It can take me weeks of thinking about something before asking. I put my suggestions in text messages rather than asking face-to-face and will then worry until I get a reply and if I don’t get a reply at all I will tie myself in knots. I crave reassurance and feedback in my sex life even more than I do in other parts of my life, and I crave feedback a lot about everything!!

But this isn’t a sex negative post. Insecurity and over-thinking may scupper me on speed when it comes to orgasming with partners but we do have great sex.  I don’t just think my partners and I have great sex, I love the sex we have, with or without an orgasm. And there almost always orgasms! Happily, in the last five years or so I would say I have only had one selfish lover (“I’ve realised I am not really interested in your pleasure” – seriously!) and if I reflect on all of my partners over the last 23 years I would struggle to name many had no interest in my orgasm. But in partnered sex I am trying to teach myself to not see my orgasm or the speed of its arrival as a goal or an indication of success or failure.

But sex with myself? Well that’s a whole different kettle of fish. I am an awesome wanker! With none of the worries of speed or performance or having to build myself up to asking for what I want, I’ll happily play away, trying new things – sometimes for hours, sometimes for seconds. Way back in my early twenties a friend who was worrying about her orgasms asked me how quickly I come. ‘I timed myself once and it was under 30 seconds,’ I replied. ‘WHY?’ she asked. ‘Just for the fun of it and because I wondered.” On a train a couple of months ago I decided to get myself off to a super-hot film a lover had sent me. ‘Tell me when you’re starting,’ he messaged a couple of minutes after I told him my plan. ‘Oh, I am done. I am eating cake now,’ went my reply. 

Sometimes it’s not about speed. I may decide to have a ‘freelancer’s lie down’ as Jedi Hamster so divinely calls it and I’ll wobble back to my desk an hour and four or five orgasms later and with new knowledge about my body. I’ll amuse myself by sitting up in bed pretending to read a book while I watch the builder on the scaffolding and my We Vibe does its thing beneath the covers. I’ll sit at my desk and relieve the boredom of doing finances by nestling a bullet vibe up against a butt plug. And I’m very good at pretending I am asleep and keeping everything deathly still beneath my blanket on long haul flights.  The tapping technique is best under the blanket for anyone wanting to embark on a mile high self-love in. Minimal movement!

So when I saw Tabitha’s #30dayorgasmfun challenge I thought ‘Wahey, this is going to be great. I’m going to own this’. I didn’t! In fact I failed almost immediately. Day one I was hungover and not in the mood. Day two it was nearly midnight when I got in from a work do and thought ‘oh God, I have to have an orgasm’. Day three, four, five… and I was quickly making myself come in the morning, thinking ‘I should get this over and done with in case the day runs away with me…’ Within the space of a few days all the joy and fun of wanking was replaced with the ‘I need to get this done’ thinking that sometimes invades my thoughts when I am with partners was stopping me coming. I was putting myself under pressure and the whole exercise was making me unhappy. By having a goal, a ‘task’ that needed to be ticked off, my orgasms were becoming a source of stress. Which is the exact opposite of what Tabitha intended with the whole exercise, which was about orgasms being part of good mental health. And it was also the opposite of what I usually get from sex with myself.

I have purposely been using term ‘sex with myself’ in this post rather than only saying wanking or masturbation. Obviously it is wanking, but since having a mini meltdown when I realised the ‘challenge’ wasn’t working for me I have thought a lot about my orgasms, by myself and with partners, and alongside that my sex life more generally. I have partners who are important to me, but I definitely identify as single in terms of how my relationships influence my life and decision-making. I don’t have a lot of sex with partners (although I do have regular sex and know I am much more fortunate having partners who are close to me when some friends are in long distance relationships, so I’m not complaining!) so when I think about my sex life I’ve realised I should include time on my own in the overall picture. And in thinking about my sex life as a whole thing I have realised I am more than happy with my orgasm count, variety and intensity. The only time orgasms make me unhappy is when I worry about being too slow to have them.

And I’ve also realised that when I reflect on what I enjoy about sex with partners my orgasm is actually one of the least important things. Brilliant, of course, and definitely very pleasurable, but sex with partners brings pleasure to me in far more important ways than my own orgasm. I am not a sex multitasker and I would so much rather concentrate on the feeling of his cock when he’s fucking me rather than on furiously rubbing my own clit, trying to rush an orgasm. This is absolutely not me deprioritising orgasms with a partner and I’m pretty sure the men in my life will still be pretty keen to keep them coming, excuse the pun. But I’m definitely going remove some of the stress I put on myself by worrying less about making them happen and spending more time appreciating what I can’t do on my own. I can give myself wobbly legged amazing orgasms, but I can’t bite my own tits, pull my own hair, hold myself down, scratch my own back or spank my own arse! Those things won’t drive an orgasm as quickly as direct clitoral stimulation but they’re definitely one of the most awesome things about being with someone else. The joy of partners is the feel and taste of cock, the smell and weight of their body, watching the expressions on their face. And at the risk of making it goal-centred on their orgasm instead of mine, I bloody love spunk! Seeing it, feeling it, tasting it. All those things matter to me more than an orgasm when I’m fucking someone. 

So what happened when I ditched Tabitha’s #30dayorgasmfun? Well, I went back to business as usual, which meant some days I worked for 12 hours and was happy as Larry, some days I lazed around, more interested in books than sex, I had lots of indulgent freelancer lie downs, and I had glorious orgasms with a partner. But I stopped putting a daily target on it. I am pretty sure that if my orgasms were added up they’d total the ‘one a day for 30 days’ target but I was so much happier when I wasn’t counting. And although I said above that I failed at Tabitha’s task, I don’t actually think I did because it made me think about my orgasms and the part they play in the overall fulfilling picture of my sex life in a considered way for perhaps the first time ever. And it made me promise myself I wouldn’t worry so much!

Monkey Business

I tweeted yesterday about an online shopping fail. I thought I’d ordered five; five bunches arrived. “Do a monkey business Sinful Sunday and cover yourself in bananas,” messaged Jedi Hamster. OK…

Sinful Sunday

Always Coming Second

March 2016 and the early days of a new partnership. We’re talking around the headlines of each other’s lives; comfortable enough to talk about the bigger picture but not yet talking about the finer details.

“So, he is your primary partner then?”

It was phrased as a question but his assumption that the answer would be yes meant he delivered it like a statement of fact.

“No!”

I could tell from the look on his face that he was taken back by the force with which I’d answered. “I don’t have a primary partner,” I added. At that point his look of surprise turned to confusion: “How can you not have a primary partner?” For him, married with children, it was quite clear that our fledgling relationship was a secondary partnership. That I would be coming to things with the perspective of not having a primary partner momentarily destabilised his notion of what we might become. “I don’t want a primary partner,” I clarified, keen to allay any unspoken questions or concerns he might have of the ‘well if he’s not your primary partner are you expecting me to become that?’ kind. But he couldn’t really understand that I didn’t want a primary partner, or rather how I could be happy being a secondary partner when I didn’t have my own primary partnership. As I tried to answer his questions I realised I didn’t really know all the answers myself. Not because I thought that what made me happy was wrong, just because I’d never really thought about why it worked for me. I started this post about two hours later.

My mind has wandered to it every so often since then, but I have never felt compelled to finish it. In truth, I didn’t think I ever would. I occasionally reference partners in written posts and on these pages you’ll find photos of them, of me taken by them, of us, or even of their wives taken by them, but I’ve never written about how my relationships work and never felt the need to. While I hadn’t really expected to publish this post, thinking it through over time helped me process my views, why I respond in the way I do to some things and how I want to label my relationships so they make sense to everyone involved and help me articulate my expectations. Earlier this year, I was answering some questions @19syllables had and I heard myself say “I have a half written post on this. It’s got a great title!” “Oh, write it! I would love to read it,” she replied. Then this Twitter chat happened last week. And so I find myself putting a structure to various musings.

I guess my starting point should be why I don’t want a primary partner. Happily, I don’t have any horror stories that influences this, just a very average roll call of mid-teen obsessions through to lovely late-teen and early twenties boyfriends. Then in my mid-twenties I moved in with a boyfriend. He was brilliant, we were in love and we’re still in touch. But I felt trapped and I felt lonely. I rarely, if ever, feel lonely when I’m alone, but it’s amazing how lonely it is to be with someone when it’s not a situation that suits you. Where some people find security and warmth in a shared home I found claustrophobia. I wanted to travel, he wanted marriage and babies young. I detest routine and our habit of going to the supermarket every Monday actually made me miserable. To this day I cannot bear to be in a supermarket with a partner. I rounded the corner of an aisle in my local Sainsbury’s a couple of years ago and spotted a guy I occasionally fucked and I actually backed away. Seriously! Not because we’d fallen out or I looked rough but because the idea of wandering round a supermarket with a partner rang such Pavlovian Bell of misery!

Was my response to my relationship with Nik because we weren’t right for each other or was it because fulltime relationships genuinely don’t suit me? I don’t know for sure. Maybe there is someone out there with whom I’d happily blend my life, but nothing about the thought of it appeals to me. In my early thirties I made efforts with traditional online dating, not yet admitting to myself even that I didn’t want what all my friends were embracing. The truth is the idea of shared diaries, family events, planning holidays together – all sources of joy and security to many people – make my shoulders go up. Finally accepting that a more flexible and (as far as is possible when you’re an adult and running a business!) commitment-free life is one that best suits me was a great relief.

For a while what that did leave was a life with little or no sex. There was lag time between me ceasing the joyless task of trying to meet ‘the one’ and the point at which I realised I could have relationships that worked for me. I know I’m not interested in casual sex or informal ‘friends with benefits’ arrangements that only mean occasional sex. I want the benefits of a regular partner or partners. I want to learn about someone’s body and they to learn about mine. I want the connection to improve over time as we get to know each other and to have the confidence to suggest and try new things, which I don’t think I would have with casual partners. I like the relaxed intimacy that comes with knowing someone well. I want partners who understand my insecurities and know how and when to reassure me. For a while I assumed all that security was also tied in with a larger commitment to a ‘proper’ relationship and that I couldn’t have one without the other. Not wanting commitment or casual sex meant I just checked out of the dating game altogether for a while.

Then in 2012 a colleague pointed me to OK Cupid and a whole lot changed. I’ve learnt so much about myself and what my expectations are in the years since. One of the most significant is my shifting notion of what constitutes a relationship and becoming comfortable with referring to what I have with partners as relationships. It’s really only in the last year or two that I’ve stopped saying I don’t want a ‘proper’ relationship. And it was a conscious decision to stop saying that. Something not being ‘proper’ suggests that it isn’t important or that I have no expectations. I want to engineer what makes me happy by being more vocal about my expectations, believing I can find people to meet that and that I am worthy of having them met. And I decided I no longer wanted to undermine what I have with people who are important to me by suggesting they are not ‘proper’ just because they’re not fulltime or traditional.

Why would I suggest that what I have with someone who has been in my life for more than three years, introduced me to this community and has at times listened patiently while I work through my ‘theories of me’ isn’t proper? Why would I downplay the man who I’d only see once a month when he taught me so much about my body and what I enjoy and with whom I started to see some of my partnerships through a structure of polyamory? He met me within days of meeting another woman. He spoke immediately of his desire for a long term committed relationship, saying he could see that developing with either of us. I definitely didn’t want that; she did. “Would I still like to invest in our romance by being his secondary partner?” he asked. Aside from thinking the use of the word romance was charming, this was new label for me. That was my first experience of someone developing a more committed relationship while still ensuring I knew I mattered. With him I discovered that I love to hear about partners’ more significant relationships. I also started to recognise that I only feel vulnerable in my relationships if there’s a not a plan of some sort in the diary. He and I would periodically get our diaries out, look ahead a couple of months and get a couple of week nights and a weekend day in the diary. I don’t like planning more than a couple of months ahead but I also need to know that there is time that will be mine. If I have that then my equilibrium is pretty sound; I’m not someone who needs daily contact or any of the support structures you can expect in a fulltime relationship.

Over time I’ve come up with my own label for how I describe what I look for and that’s ‘partner light’. I can’t really type that without giggling since a friend quipped “well as long as you’re happy with your relationships sounding like an incontinence pad, I guess that makes sense!” but to me it’s the most simple way I’ve found to describe the balance of what I’m looking for. More than friends with benefits, less than fulltime committed partner. And to bring this back to @coffeeandkink’s original tweet, that is why I thrive on being a second.

Over the last five years I’ve had five partners who in some way were or are significant. Of them only one didn’t have a primary partnership when I met them. I have always felt more secure in the partnerships where there were wives, partners or in one case a cohabiting parenting partnership, which meant there were or are people and things that must be prioritised over me. Their need to fit me round the structure of family life or their primary relationship means there is an imperative to plan well, which makes me happy. I find deep reassurance in knowing they have chosen to place me alongside much bigger things in their life while never needing to worry that they will one day want more from me than I am prepared or able to give. In fact, my interest in one partner fell off a cliff when it turned out he was getting divorced.

And as for the partner who wasn’t in a committed partnership when I met him in 2013? Well, most people in the blogging community don’t need an introduction to what’s happening in his life! Happily, I’d say I don’t really recognise how we are now compared to before. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I don’t recognise myself in that partnership? I don’t know. But I do know I feel more secure in what we have now. How much time I have with him hasn’t really changed. In fact, as much as I may need reminding of this if I’m being grumpy, I probably see more of him now. Or certainly more in terms of quality time and plans made in advance which keep me happy. I never worried with him about needing to give more than I could but I frequently had a self-destructive degree of insecurity about thinking there were women more exciting or better or hotter than me. As his life has changed over the last two years and I’ve recognised my desire to keep him in my life, my confidence in articulating what I want or what I am worrying about has grown. I no longer pretend I am comfortable with winging it, I make sure we have plans instead. And the upshot is rather than feeling diminished or threatened by such a significant change in his life I actually feel more secure; I more clearly understand that I am valued when time is made for me and what we have continues to exist and evolve alongside something that is so magnificent and so much bigger than us.

I don’t really care how partners label me. They can call me a second or a partner or a lover. The label doesn’t matter to me as much as knowing I am valued and seeing my place in a structure. For me, having the commitment of partners who choose to see me regularly and build me into their lives without there being any expectation of a deeper commitment or more formal blending of lives is where I feel at my best.

It’s almost like I’m hardwired to always come second!

Rose Bush

One of my favourite things about Easter is all the yellow. Such a happy colour. When I walked into my Dad’s house yesterday and saw these roses in the hallway I had no doubt I’d use them in a photo. I already knew yellow roses were a symbol of friendship as I bought a yellow rose bush for a good friend’s 40th birthday a couple of years ago, but looking at a site about flowers earlier I also discovered that in many Eastern cultures yellow represents joy, wisdom and power. Friendship and joy, wisdom and power. Perfect!  

Sinful Sunday

Joy

It will be of no surprise to any of you who read this blog regularly that I love a bit of outdoor nudity! It’s such a happy joyful thing. It was the awesome Molly Moore who introduced me to that joy. Sure, I had swiftly slipped out of my clothes in a park in Berlin and one in South London for a couple of al fresco photos before my day out with Molly in summer 2015, but I had never relished the feeling of being naked in nature. That day as I sank into a bath not of bubbles in my shiny white bathroom, but of grime and bugs under the dappled light of a canopy of leaves, I truly relaxed. Staring up at the bright July sunlight dancing and twinkling through the thick green leaves was as absorbing as looking at a night sky when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Later when I was preparing to post the first photo from that day I discovered the Japanese expression shin-rin yoku. Shin-rin yoku translates as forest bathing. It’s a practice that promotes the calming and restorative benefits of spending time in forests and participating in activities that keep you in touch with nature. Oh how I thoroughly endorse that practice! Two of those photos are now framed in my bathroom and they make me smile every time I hop in the shower. The white lie I tell visitors (because everyone asks about them!) who don’t know about this blog trips easily off my tongue now: “Oh, my friend belongs to a photography club and her monthly prompt was nudes and she wanted to do something a bit different.”

Since that day nearly two years ago I have had many more days out naked under the trees and it never gets less joyful. And even more than being the subject I love wielding my camera and being a catalyst for others’ forest bathing experiences. Some of my favourite photos from days out with friends will never make my blog as they compromise people’s anonymity, but are the ones where faces are free of frown lines but crumpled with laughter.

Tabitha with her arms aloft and her face tipped up to the sun, laughing like a sun goddess in her element; Chiaroscuro flicking two fingers at me and roaring into the camera as I laugh at him trying to climb a tree naked (updated on his instruction to include the shot of him telling me to fuck off!); Maria with an almost beatific smile on her face as I photograph her in a cemetery that nature is reclaiming; Haiku and I giggling like out of control school girls as we reach the other side of the bridge and both look over our shoulders at Jedi Hamster. Whatever personal reasons people have for taking part in Exposing 40 I love that they have so much fun doing it.

And of course there’s the faintly ridiculous. A dog and a fox crashing mine and Maria’s peaceful spot with their vicious-sounding fight. Exhibit A telling me to ‘get back down, I haven’t taken it yet’ during this shoot, not knowing that from my position prone across the path I could see someone walking towards me; small talk with walkers asking about some ruins as we grin and silently will them to move on so we can get our kit off again! Oh yes. Getting naked in nature really is the most uplifting freeing fun thing to do.

Here are a few of my favourite photos from those days out, including two completely new ones from recent shoots with Maria and Honey.

Wicked Wednesday... a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked

Summer came calling…

The Dandelion’s pallid tube
Astonishes the Grass,
And Winter instantly becomes
An infinite Alas —

The tube uplifts a signal Bud
And then a shouting Flower, —
The Proclamation of the Suns
That sepulture is o’er.

Emily Dickinson

How glorious is it when you feel the sun on your naked skin for the first time after the long cold dark months? Today I snoozed, leafed through the papers and played with dandelions. It’s still only spring, but today it felt like summer came calling to remind us what joy there is to come…

IMG_2754

Sinful Sunday