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My strap makes me feel sexy and empowered – and that’s just wearing it, let alone using it with another person. What I share with you here, is a story of discovery, and learning how the strap can be much more than a toy, or an object attached to a body, or even a tool for fucking – it can send its wearer on a path toward healing their relationship between self and sexuality.

Desire outside of the cis-male imagination

I’m a white bisexual cis woman, who may also be non-binary (more on that later) who has complex PTSD, OCD and anxiety as a result of decades of physically, psychologically and sexually abusive relationships. I’ve also always loved fucking – all kinds of people, in all kinds of ways. Yet over the years, my queerness has been pushed aside – for either being too much, or not enough.

I’m a white bisexual cis woman, who may also be non-binary (more on that later) who has complex PTSD, OCD and anxiety as a result of decades of physically, psychologically and sexually abusive relationships. I’ve also always loved fucking – all kinds of people, in all kinds of ways. Yet over the years, my queerness has been pushed aside – for either being too much, or not enough.

I’ve always thought how delicious it must be to penetrate someone else, but never thought of it as possible for me, or even allowed.

Finding the perfect strap

While watching queer porn one evening, mid-way through watching an encounter between an exquisite femme fucking a sumptuous butch, I pressed pause – not to titillate myself further by observing their delicious bodies, but to appreciate for a second the femme’s perfectly fitting strap hardness which secured in place a smooth, purple, fairly girthy 6-inch dildo. I admired how confident she looked, and how beautifully the harness fitted against her skin – like a glove. I zoomed in and thought about how good it must feel against her, down there, as she penetrated her partner. I felt desire, a rush of blood to my clit, but also jealousy. I wanted to be her. Then it hit me – I could be her.

Looking in the mirror

The choice can be overwhelming, but I did manage to decide. And deciding was one of the best parts – at last I had chosen for myself what shape I wanted to be. When it arrived, I went straight to my bedroom and shut the door. I tore away the discreet packaging to reveal a hot pink box, about the size of a shoe box. I opened it to reveal a neatly folded leather strap harness with silver buckles at the side. In the middle was a hard leather triangle with a hole in the centre, through which the soft silicone curved purple dildo would slide, and sit against my body. I undressed, eager to get strapped in, and look at myself in the mirror.

This would be a new way of getting ready to fuck. Less shaving my legs, arms and pubic hair, no choosing of the perfect uncomfortable lacy lingerie, no lipstick, no expensive perfume. Or maybe I could have all these things, but differently. I stood in front of the mirror, moving around, watching the purple silicone dildo bob and twang with my movements. I contorted to see how the straps looked criss-crossing my butt. It was like being reborn – no longer did I have to be this or that shape, endure the relentless pressure of performing womanhood and a sexuality that was never mine. I was glad I’d tried it on by myself first – I think I’d have felt self-conscious struggling with the buckles and transforming in front of a partner. This intimate time with myself was important – I was able to take my time to feel comfortable – something so far away from what I was used to feeling about my sexuality.

Finding my new body

Perhaps what I’m describing is some kind of bodily euphoria – perhaps even gender euphoria. It’s well known that once we think we’ve come to grips with our sexuality, that we are brought face to face with the possibility that our gender is also more multifarious than heteronormativity would have us imagine. For me, the strap allows me to cast aside the limits of my body and my desire, as well as the limits others have imposed. I love the idea that our genitals can wander, always resisting the ties they’ve been given to a particular gender or orientation. The strap I had chosen was for me not to emulate flesh, it wasn’t representational, it was some other part altogether.

So what I’m saying is the strap is glorious, even before using it with a partner. But what became clear when I did use it with a partner is that its function is not to emulate cis hetero-sex, but to add to the glorious mixing up that sex can be – troubling our relationships with our genders and our sexuality. I’m still discovering, as much as I’m still healing, but what the strap has taught me is that I can be whatever shape I choose, both inside and outside of the bedroom. Traumatic memory is like water – it floods into everything, especially sex which can become highly triggering. But the strap has changed sex for me – it means I’ll be more likely to be there – not disassociated, being myself, rather than watching myself – present to myself, and therefore my partner too.

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"When did sex become such a serious thing, where a display of genuine happiness during intercourse is cause for discomfort or - perhaps worse - the ick?"

One of my close friends asked me recently what my favourite part of sex is. I knew what they were expecting, what a sexy lead of a film would say: the licking, the sucking, the way I seize up before cumming and then surrender myself. I answered quickly: ‘smiling, probably’. They tried to conceal a look of slight shock, lowering their brow as quickly as it had started to rise - the unwritten rule being that anything we say about sex to each other goes by unchallenged, because God forbid we seem judgemental about each others sex lives.

There are a lot of unwritten rules I’ve picked up on when it comes to sex; having it, talking about it, and writing about it. Maybe I’m breaking one by doubling down on my position here, rather than quickly shaking my head and saying ‘only joking! I love oral!’

A quick Google search of ‘smiling during sex’ returns a list of forums. Posts penned by anonymous users lament ‘I find it so weird when I’m smiled at during sex, how do I get her to stop?’, and ‘he asked me to smile more during sex - why????’

When did sex become such a serious thing, where a display of genuine happiness during intercourse is cause for discomfort or - perhaps worse - the ick? Despite knowing I’m not widely agreed with on this, it’s still true - the thing I enjoy most about sex is smiling. I wouldn’t have always said that, especially not with such conviction - and believe me I love all of the other parts, too - fingers sinking into flesh, limbs in all directions, bodies moving until they find their rhythm, the closeness and sweat, the noises of heavy, thick want - but not as much as I enjoy a moment of hungry eye contact, an inability to hide how good this moment is. Slowing for a second, and sharing a moment of comfort, ease, joy.

It took a long time for anyone to smile at me during sex, or for me to smile at them. It’s a transformative feeling, and I do think it’s the kind of thing that, once you lean into loving it, you can unlock and carry with you. I must be specific about the kind of smiling I’m talking about; I don’t mean a grin that flashes across somebodies face, signifying ‘I’m doing so fucking well right now, I bet you’re loving this’, but rather, lips parting, maybe showing some teeth, a dimple, accompanied by hands brushing against my temples, eyes that don’t break away from mine until they’ve communicated what I’m sure they’re trying to say: I love doing this so much, and I love doing it with you, and I love your pleasure so much I’m willing to wait for it.

"I used to think of (sex) as a job - where my role was to satisfy somebody else. I now know how wrong that is and how little I was enjoying sex because of it."

I only smile if I really want to. It’s more of a natural thing than something I actively focus on - if I’m totally relaxed, basking in the glow of spit, sweat and curious fingertips. So, when did all of this occur to me? There are two major occasions I can place: the first, when I’d bought a clit suction toy and came so hard I soaked through my sheets - the smile after that taught me just how radical self-pleasure can be - and during a bout of make up sex, where the anger and hurt subsided even if just for a moment, squashed by the power of being really fucking horny for each other, knowing exactly where to touch and what to whisper, cuming faster than you’re sure you ever did before.

Placing myself at the centre of sex - whether partnered or solo - ensures I get what I want. It allows me to totally connect, whether it’s with a vibration setting or another body, and be totally in that moment. Nothing else matters, everything else falls away and I’d have to be shaken to remember it exists.

Sex makes me happy, it makes me smile. I used to think of it as a job - where my role was to satisfy somebody else. I now know how wrong that is and how little I was enjoying sex because of it. Knowing that, knowing my body and learning the map of somebody else’s brings joy. The look of a smile, on my face or theirs, is priceless. I’ll never tire of it.

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"As I grow older, I stray further away from binaries and labels. My taste and sexual attraction widen year by year, and I find beauty in so many different types of people."

I’m a film photographer and creative director living and working on Gadigal Land, Sydney. I was born in Cambodia, where I lived for seven years before moving to St Lucia, Papua New Guinea. When I was 13 my family settled in New Zealand. I went to an all-boys boarding school, then studied fashion design in Auckland. As I got deeper into the course, I realised I loved making the images more than the clothes, which led me to take up photography full time. I learnt how to use a film camera in lockdown, and I guess it just picked up from there. I like hiking, swimming and anything to do by the ocean. Jumping off cliffs into the water, rock climbing, reading. I like to challenge myself mentally and physically so hiking and outdoor activities are my go-to.

To my memory, I learned about sex through older friends in primary school. They would talk about it, I would ask questions, and they would tell me. When I was younger, I was very rigid when it came to my sexuality. I thought I could only be into a certain kind of man. When I left high school, I realised I was drawn to so many different types of people. As I grow older, I stray further away from binaries and labels. My taste and sexual attraction widen year by year, and I find beauty in so many different types of people.  

"I enjoy capturing love and intimacy; it transcends sexuality."

When it comes to my work, I am much more than my sexuality. It does not dictate what I can or can't shoot. I have the ability to create a closeness and relationship with a subject, which allows them to feel a connection to the camera. That being said, being a predominantly gay man, I shoot other men through a gentle lens. My work is all about capturing the gentle, innocent, and playful sides we rarely see.

I capture women through a queer male gaze, and that comes through in an intimate and tender way. A lot of my work is shot through a voyeuristic lens, capturing something that feels private. I enjoy capturing love and intimacy as it transcends sexuality. When it comes to capturing the erotic, I just want people to be respectful of the subjects. My work can be suggestive, but that does not warrant inappropriate comments about the people in the imagery.  

My recent photographic book, 'I’m Going to Miss You,’ documents long and nostalgic summer days, shared with beautiful men. It explores brotherhood, sensuality, and the act of playing, for to play is to be vulnerable. It carries through themes from my earlier book ‘Come Back to Bed’. I don't think too much about my sexuality. To me, it is another facet of myself. I feel most connected when I am holding someone I care about in an intimate and sexual way. When it comes to sex, my greatest lesson is that there is no such thing as too much lube.

Rob lives and works on Gadigal Land, Sydney. His recent work can ‘I’m Going to Miss You’ can be found here.

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Meet Dip

You may have noticed that sex toys have had a bit of a glow-up over the last few years. There are so many toys out there that look like a work of art and feel like the most luxurious piece of technology you’ll ever own. If you’re a fan of this new wave of aesthetically pleasing sexual aids, then let me introduce you to one of the silkiest vibrators you’ll ever come across – Dip.

This soft, bean-shaped vibrator was created by Rosewell, an Australian sex care brand that wholeheartedly believes sex, intimacy, and connection are critical to a person’s wellbeing (which is, of course, completely accurate). As soon as you pull the Dip out of its minimalist dust bag, you’ll be glad to have it in your possession. Dip is made from medical-grade silicone and feels exceptionally smooth against the skin. It’s so smooth that it feels like the silicone has had velour injected into it to enhance the finish – but don’t worry, it hasn’t. Dip has a single button embedded into the silicone that lights up when the vibrator is switched on. This button activates the three vibration speeds and five vibration modes with unique patterns that massage the clitoris. 

For solo sex

A good way to introduce yourself to Dip, is to start with the three vibration speeds, the first of which is gentle and great if your clitoris is sensitive to strong vibrations. The second and third speeds offer powerful buzzing sensations. You’ll notice Dip is very quiet, so if you’re living in a sharehouse setting, this is the ideal toy for you. The modes begin with a lower, undulating pattern before moving to a series of pulsating patterns that range from quick and buzzy to slow and rumbly. These patterns are brilliant if you’ve begun to orgasm and want to elongate your climax. If you typically have to switch your vibrator off as soon as you climax due to clitorial sensitivity, with Dip, you can switch to a lighter mode and keep the vibrator in place. This is also great if you’re interested in exploring multiple orgasms. 

For partnered sex

It’s easy to incorporate the Dip into partnered play due to its smaller size and curved body. It sits comfortably between two bodies and is slim enough not to restrict anyone’s movement. Orgasm elongation and the opportunity for multiple orgasms are particularly exciting when you’re with a partner. If you’re with someone and can feel yourself building up to orgasm, but they’re not on the same level as you just yet, you can ride out that orgasm until they’re alongside you for an intense, shared climax. Dip can be used on many different erogenous zones the including the clitoris, labia, pernium, scrotum and penis, which also makes it a great couples toy.  Dip is also useful when you’re trying out new positions and may have trouble staying relaxed. Place the Dip on your clitoris while you’re experimenting with new sexual styles, and it’ll help you resist clenching and make exploration much more comfortable for you and the person you’re with.

Using Dip

Using Dip is very simple. You can switch it on by holding down the power button for 2 seconds, this deactivates the travel lock. Once the button has lit up and released a single vibration, press it again to turn the toy on. Place the textured underside of Dip anywhere you like. Change the speed and mode by pressing the button, and then hold it to turn off. You can use the smaller tip for more direct stimulation, or the broader underside for more generalised vibrations. Dip’s sturdy design also means you’re able to apply a lot of pressure. 

A quality, ethical choice 

Rosewell is a plastic-free brand. They also offer recycling so no toys end up in landfill. Roswell Founder, Alisha Williams, puts an enormous amount of effort into ensuring all Rosewell products are manufactured to the highest standards. Dip is a top tier toy at an affordable price. If you’re on the hunt for a new vibrator that feels amazing on your body, is incredible to look at, easy to use, and can give you a powerful orgasm without creating painful sensitivity, then let me point you in the direction of Dip. You won’t regret it. Dip is avalible is navy and stone and can be shopped below.

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Welcome to Enquire Within, our fortnightly newsletter exploring your sexual curiosities and confusions. Answering your questions is writer, journalist, podcaster, and person we trust, Madison Griffiths. This week, we're investigating all things Vorarephilia.

Question:

"I’ve recently developed a fantasy about being eaten. It’s come on totally unprompted and takes different forms. Sometimes I get shrunken down before being eaten. Sometimes I get eaten in one go by a whale. It’s never graphic or violent. I just really want to be consumed as a whole. What does this mean and where could this have come from?"

Answer:

This may be a tough thing to swallow, sweet reader… but I’m going to give you a lot to gobble up. It appears, according to my diagnosis and the copious amount of intriguing and—at times, a little perturbing—perusing I spent on various Internet deep-dives, that you are a vorer: an individual aroused by the idea of being swallowed whole. Like all fetishes, vore is multidimensional, complex and rich with possibilities. It appears, according to your description, that you might be more stirred by ‘soft vore’, the idea of being swallowed whole, as opposed to ‘hard vore’… which involves being chewed up, masticated, and having parts of you devoured. But, you’re not alone, and I’m going to invite you into the slobbery goodness of the vore community, the bread and butter of kink if you will. 

Vore is an established fetish that centres around the fantasy of being consumed. Often, the vorer is the ‘prey’, the individual intent on being gobbled up, and the predator can assume a variety of forms: be it human, mythical, or animal (like the whale you mentioned). Despite vore being relatively uncharted in the mainstream’s understanding of what kink is, there is often a considerable crossover between vore and the rich, fantasy world of furries, a misunderstood and oft taunted subgroup of kinksters who role-play as fluffy critters.

You ask where this could’ve come from, but vore as a concept… or even a cautionary tale, has sunk its teeth into folklore and popular culture for eons. For Lee, a vorer who spoke to VICE, reading Little Red Riding Hood as a wee lad terrified the hell out of him until it didn’t, his fear of a mendacious wolf donned in elderly clothes as it licked its lips eventually… exciting him. When he reached adolescence, there was comfort—serenity, even—in the idea of being gulped down by some congenial, large whale. Transfixed on the story of James Bartley, a sailor who claimed to have been swallowed whole by a sperm whale and who went on to describe the inside of the whale’s belly as something akin to “velvet walls”, Lee’s ears piqued. 

"Jonah and the Whale" from the Qur'an, found on Eka's Portal.

I’m not going to lie: the stigma surrounding vore is pretty hideous, with the most vanilla of society pairing it with the real-life act of cannibalism. But, if I were you, I’d take these boring suppositions with a pinch of salt, as vore thrives off fantasy, off invention, not the real-life need to consume another person. Many vorers use platforms such asEka’s Portal, a vore-centric website, to unearth their deepest, tastiest reveries through art, discussion and interactive stories. 

As for what this means, it’s impossible to pinpoint an origin story without getting all Freudian on you. But, people have tried. Max Plenke, a writer for Mic, sat down with three young men into vore and concluded that vore is an unassuming and safe way to feel sexually gratified without having to delve into what one’s sexuality, in actuality, might be. So, if a dude imagines being eaten by another big, burly dude, he can tip-toe around potentially being into men and instead just find solace and sexiness in the first premise: the being eaten part. He doesn’t have to choose a label, he can just… be. What is more concerning about this diagnosis, I think, is that we live in a world where an angsty teenager terrified of the reality of being into fellas can divert his fears, and find console in being gobbled up instead. Because… no homo. Just eat me, daddy. 

The more I discover about vore, the more it makes sense through the lens of BDSM and its ties to power-play. It’s not as outlandish as people are led to believe, especially given the stories that have permeated throughout our weird, little lives: ones that centre around a villain who wants to gobble up its prey: be it an evil sorceress or witch (think:HanselandGretel),a wolf intent on eating its hunt (think:Little Red Riding Hood), and—wink, wink—a giant whale (think:Jonah the Whale). The vorer is the sub in this, it seems: the impotent victim inescapably meeting its dominant match. But, swallowing aside, the mouth isn’t always totally meant to signal danger or dominance. We see, throughBeauty and the Beast, Sleeping BeautyandThe Princess and the Frog,that the mouth is a source of healing, fondness and redemption, regardless of species. 

If I were you, I’d step into the belly of the beast and find what pocket of vore gets you going. If that means reading James Bartley’s diary, the original sperm whale’s snack, or perusing through the pixelated archives of drawings of humungous My Little Pony ponies eating prey on Eka’s Portal, then go forth. Maybe even give your lover’s toes a little nibble and see how that feels. It’s time to put your finger in every pie of the world wide web. Piece of cake! 

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Welcome to Enquire Within, our fortnightly newsletter exploring your sexual curiosities and confusions. Answering your questions is writer, journalist, podcaster, and person we trust, Madison Griffiths.

Question:

"Super excited by this initiative! I’ll jump right in. I want to know about fisting. Is this something people really do? How did it become a thing? 

I’ve heard people talk about it, but I’m interested in how common it is. I thought about watching fisting porn but am too nervous it might scar me. Please investigate."

Answer:

You want to get to the bottom of fisting? That makes two of us, chook. As a horny adolescent who was equal parts terrified-and-curious when it came to having my insides explored, I always assumed fisting was as it sounds: a forceful, closed hand, postured as if ready to throw the fuck down, pushing its way into someone’s vagina. An excavation, if you will, reserved only for the most game, the most hardcore.

But fisting, which homes a moniker of names—including hand sex, all-finger fingering, hand-balling, vaginal punching (holy shit), fist fucking—doesn’t actually involve a closed hand. Imagine instead all of your fingers and thumb tucked into each other and grouped together for easier access, with the idea being: if one finger ain’t enough, why not try five? As one passionate fister I spoke to described, imagine making a shadow duck with your hand. And then, imagine fucking it. Hot.

So, off the bat, yes… this is something that people do. A lot of people, a lot of the time. From my investigation, good fisting practice involves allowing it to naturally progress during sexy times. Somebody I spoke to found herself trying it with her boyfriend while high on MDMA (we love a bit of powdered courage). As she was being fingered, in the grips of passion, she requested more fingers. And then more. Low and behold, once she asked how many fingers he was using, he said that he was fisting her. “I haven’t experienced it since,” she told me, but admitted that she freakin’ loved it.  

Your fear of being scarred by looking for fisting methods through the world-wide-web is completely understandable. Most of the porn floating around that explores fisting is hardcore, so—if you’re curious, but trepidatious—I’d avoid those channels for now. In fact, everybody I’ve spoken to didn’t start their fisting escapades by sitting down with their lover and deciding to embark on a full blown hand-ball. For fisting enthusiasts, the progression was natural and slow-going. “I’ve never planned it before the horny mood strikes,” one fister explained, outlining to me that the preemptive expectation to get a whole hand up ‘em is perhaps what makes people nervous, which—as they describe—“is not great for sticking big, wide things in your pussy.”

The misconceptions surrounding fisting are in no way unique to just… fisting. Like all things sex, the vagina is an elusive, misunderstood channel of pleasure, pain and prejudice. It’s almost as if we live in a sexist society, folks. One fister said that they’ve had particularly shit male partners assume that if ‘their fist is as big as a babies head, and giving birth makes you ‘loose’, you’re going to be loose if I fist you.’ Gross. And, for those worried, this is absolutely false. The vagina opens up when it wants to, and retreats again when it’s time. It’s not a gaping crevice. 

A non-binary fister I spoke to said that fisting allows them to explore their sexuality in a safe and horny way, given it involves fucking somebody outside of the confines of their penis. Not just this, the hand isn’t at all… penis-adjacent. It is an extension of the body able to offer, or provide, a sense of ‘fullness’, this particular sensation amplified largely by the fact that it can only really go down when the fistee is especially aroused.

What is really exciting about fisting, when plucked from the channels of hardcore, heteronormative porn, is that the hand is a completely genderless appendage. A non-binary fister I spoke to said that fisting allows them to explore their sexuality in a safe and horny way, given it involves fucking somebody outside of the confines of their penis. Not just this, the hand isn’t at all… penis-adjacent. It is an extension of the body able to offer, or provide, a sense of ‘fullness’, this particular sensation amplified largely by the fact that it can only really go down when the fistee is especially aroused.

Think of it this way: if you are somebody curious about fisting somebody else, imagine having them open themselves up to you so readily, so enthusiastically, that they can accommodate something as large as a whole hand. That’s pretty cool. To avoid it feeling clinical and invasive, fisting can be made even more alluring when you pair it with various organic sexual positions, including doggy. As much as the concept of fisting rather than the act itself seems to scare the living daylights out of a lot of us, sometimes—if you feel safe, secure and held—the concept of fisting alone is what makes it so sexy. “It’s a physical thing, and sociosexual thing,” one particular fistee describes. “It’s daring, which adds another dimension.” 

When I decided to investigate fisting, I did not anticipate that it would peak my interest. But, after my copious research, and thanks to the amount of generous queers who enlightened me, I’ve decided that it’s something I’m curious to try. As my loyal community of generous fistees—and fisters—have encouraged: be ready, be curious, be lubed up, and be horny. If that isn’t just a wonderful ethos to live by, I don’t know what is.

Fisting has no gender, no sexuality, and… minimal worries. Borrowing the advice of my loyal community of fistees and fisters, perhaps it's time to buy myself a bag of MDMA, belt Prince out on my speaker, and let my lover’s fingers do their thing. High-five.

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I came out as queer in my thirties, and even though I’d had queer sex before that point, I didn’t discover my relationship with my strap-on, or ‘strap’, until later. Let me tell you – that  relationship is something extraordinary. My strap makes me feel sexy and empowered – and that’s just wearing it, let alone using it with another person. What I share with you here, is a story of discovery, and learning how the strap can be much more than a toy, or an object attached to a body, or even a tool for fucking – it can send its wearer on a path toward healing their relationship between self and sexuality.

Desire outside of the cis-male imagination

I’m a white bisexual cis woman, who may also be non-binary (more on that later) who has complex PTSD, OCD and anxiety as a result of decades of physically, psychologically and sexually abusive relationships. I’ve also always loved fucking – all kinds of people, in all kinds of ways. Yet over the years, my queerness has been pushed aside – for either being too much, or not enough. It wasn’t until I discovered the strap that I discovered the expansive dimensions of my sexuality, and learnt what actually turns me on. Although I’ve always enjoyed penetration, sex, for me, has always meant performing for others, pleasing others – and ultimately, letting my body be the scene of heterosexual cis-male pleasure, and sadly, a site of abuse too. 

I’ve always thought how delicious it must be to penetrate someone else, but never thought of it as possible for me, or even allowed. Clearly I was wrong, but I didn’t feel how right it was to put on a strap until I felt safe and able to give space to my own desires. During my healing process through therapy, I felt my queerness expand multi-dimensionally, and at an extraordinary rate. I began to see being bisexual as the not only the fulfilment of my desire for people of all genders, but as a way of reclaiming my sexuality for myself, outside of anyone’s gaze. 

Finding the perfect strap

While watching queer porn one evening, mid-way through watching an encounter between an exquisite femme fucking a sumptuous butch, I pressed pause – not to titillate myself further by observing their delicious bodies, but to appreciate for a second the femme’s perfectly fitting strap hardness which secured in place a smooth, purple, fairly girthy 6-inch dildo. I admired how confident she looked, and how beautifully the harness fitted against her skin – like a glove. I zoomed in and thought about how good it must feel against her, down there, as she penetrated her partner. I felt desire, a rush of blood to my clit, but also jealousy. I wanted to be her. Then it hit me – I could be her. 

I opened Safari and felt a thrill as I typed in ‘buy strap on.’ I browsed websites and zoomed in on the pictures – wondering at the array of different harnesses – did I want pull-on strap-on briefs, a buckle-up leather one, or maybe a strapless-strap? I lingered on the different dildos – did I want something smooth and small sticking out of my harness, or something ridged, or curved? Which colour did I want? I didn’t want flesh, I wanted something else – I wanted to grow anewappendage never seen before on a human. Maybe gold, maybe sparkling? Then there was the lube. We know ‘the more the better’, but which?

Looking in the mirror

The choice can be overwhelming, but I did manage to decide. And deciding was one of the best parts – at last I had chosen for myself what shape I wanted to be. When it arrived, I went straight to my bedroom and shut the door. I tore away the discreet packaging to reveal a hot pink box, about the size of a shoe box. I opened it to reveal a neatly folded leather strap harness with silver buckles at the side. In the middle was a hard leather triangle with a hole in the centre, through which the soft silicone curved purple dildo would slide, and sit against my body. I undressed, eager to get strapped in, and look at myself in the mirror. 

This would be a new way of getting ready to fuck. Less shaving my legs, arms and pubic hair, no choosing of the perfect uncomfortable lacy lingerie, no lipstick, no expensive perfume. Or maybe I could have all these things, but differently. I stood in front of the mirror, moving around, watching the purple silicone dildo bob and twang with my movements. I contorted to see how the straps looked criss-crossing my butt. It was like being reborn – no longer did I have to be this or that shape, endure the relentless pressure of performing womanhood and a sexuality that was never mine. I was glad I’d tried it on by myself first – I think I’d have felt self-conscious struggling with the buckles and transforming in front of a partner. This intimate time with myself was important – I was able to take my time to feel comfortable – something so far away from what I was used to feeling about my sexuality. 

Once I started to grow into it, not only did I feel overcome with the urge to fuck, to top for the first time in the sack, but crucially, I felt soft power, as well as vulnerability. I felt dominance over my wounds and my shame, watching it fall away as I submitted to healing, to my own strap, and becoming whatever shape I please. The strap brought out my ‘top’ side, which is not simply about penetrating rather than being penetrated, but about reclaiming my desire and creating my own stories, my own adventures, of how and who I fuck from now on. 

Finding my new body

Perhaps what I’m describing is some kind of bodily euphoria – perhaps even gender euphoria. It’s well known that once we think we’ve come to grips with our sexuality, that we are brought face to face with the possibility that our gender is also more multifarious than heteronormativity would have us imagine. For me, the strap allows me to cast aside the limits of my body and my desire, as well as the limits others have imposed. I love the idea that our genitals can wander, always resisting the ties they’ve been given to a particular gender or orientation. The strap I had chosen was for me not to emulate flesh, it wasn’t representational, it was some other part altogether.

So what I’m saying is the strap is glorious, even before using it with a partner. But what became clear when I did use it with a partner is that its function is not to emulate cis hetero-sex, but to add to the glorious mixing up that sex can be – troubling our relationships with our genders and our sexuality. I’m still discovering, as much as I’m still healing, but what the strap has taught me is that I can be whatever shape I choose, both inside and outside of the bedroom. Traumatic memory is like water – it floods into everything, especially sex which can become highly triggering. But the strap has changed sex for me – it means I’ll be more likely to be there – not disassociated, being myself, rather than watching myself – present to myself, and therefore my partner too. 

The Dream of The Fisherman's Wife Preview

Welcome to Erotic Dreaming, a monthly column in which writer, editor, artist, and dreamer, Manisha Anjali, engages with our readers sex dreams.

The dream: "I’d like to know more about sex dreams. Last night I had sex with an octopus in my dream. It’s wasn’t a regular octopus it was like an alien creature with eight arms (I think), black, silky looking and made low growling sounds.

Kind of human, kind of octopus, very sexy. It wrapped is tentacles around me and was caressing my body. It’s probably the most aroused I’ve ever felt during a sex dream, so I’m curious to know more about the possible meaning behind it. I’m not into manga or anything water-creature, sex-related."

Answer: Tako to Ama, more widely known as The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife is a woodcut of the ukiyo-e, translated as ‘pictures of the floating world’, by Hokusai in 1814. The image is widely regarded as the first depiction of tentacle eroticism. It depicts a long-haired ama diver intertwined in sex acts with a pair of octopus ⸺ the larger, moon-eyed sea beast has entangled itself around the diver, performing cunnilingus on her, while the baby octopus offers some sweet mouth-to-mouth and nipple fondling. The sea woman rolls her eyes back in ecstasy, deep in dream in the secret pleasures of the mysterious sea. The text in the woodcut, translated by James Heaton and Toyoshima Mizuho, is an erotic dialogue between the diver and the pair of octopus:

LARGE OCTOPUS: My wish comes true at last, this day of days; finally I have you in my grasp! Your bobo is ripe and full, how wonderful! Superior to all others! To suck and suck and suck some more. After we do it masterfully, I’ll guide you to the Dragon Palace of the Sea God and envelop you. “Zuu sufu sufu chyu chyu chyu tsu
zuu fufufuuu…”

MAIDEN: You hateful octopus! Your sucking at the mouth of my womb makes me gasp for breath! Aah! yes… it’s…there!!! With the sucker, the sucker!! Inside, squiggle, squiggle, oooh! Oooh, good, oooh good! There, there! Theeeeere! Goood! Whew! Aah! Good, good, aaaaaaaaaah! Not yet! Until now it was I that men called an octopus! An octopus! Ooh! Whew! How are you able…!? Ooh! “yoyoyooh, saa…
hicha hicha gucha gucha, yuchyuu chyu guzu guzu suu suuu….”

LARGE OCTOPUS: All eight limbs to interwine with!! How do you like it this way? Ah, look! The inside has swollen, moistened by the warm waters of lust. “Nura nura
doku doku doku…”

MAIDEN: Yes, it tingles now; soon there will be no sensation at all left in my hips.
Ooooooh! Boundaries and borders gone! I’ve vanished….!!!!!!

SMALL OCTOPUS: After daddy finishes, I too want to rub and rub my suckers at the ridge of your furry place until you disappear and then I’ll suck some more. “chyu
chyu..”

What I love here is the title of the woodcut reveals to us that this encounter took place in the unconscious travels of the sea woman, and confirms, that sexual encounters with cephalopods in dreams are centuries old.


In dreams, we cross time and space to meet entities, and in some of these encounters, we are invited to expand our sense of reality. To experience intense, otherworldly arousal with an entity makes sense ⸺ human pleasure is one thing, but alien, supernatural sex is another.

Astral squids, tentacle monsters and extra-terrestrial octopus are known to pop up in dreams and mushroom trips. In some stories, we learn that each tentacle can transmit different thoughts and sensations to the receiver, ranging from evil and malice to pure love and pleasure. I have heard conspiracy theories about the alien origins of the octopus, involving cryopreserved octopus eggs attaching themselves to comets which crashed into the ocean millions of years ago. I appreciate what these stories spark in our earthly imaginations – a sense of wonder, adventure and curiosity for life out there. Deep space and deep ocean are both unknown, underexplored spaces, which in dreams can bring forth existential curiosity and confrontation with our shadows, which can manifest in the form of endlessly enigmatic and mesmerising creatures, such as the octopus.

This dream evokes liberation, freedom and pleasure sourced from unexpected encounters. Let go of existing conventions and standard measures of attraction as defined by society. The entity has initiated you into a realm where anything is possible. You are invited to expand your worldview and scope of human experience by undergoing an ego-death. Many people I speak to with similar visitations often go on to have recurring dreams with the same entity over several different nights ⸺ and thereafter, their perception of sexuality shifts. After these encounters, dreamers walk away with gifts of sexual liberation, be it no longer repressing desires for same-sex partners, or being attracted to partners they had not considered before.


Ultimately, we learn here that pleasure can be derived from unexpected, otherworldly
sources. But these entities, be they octopuses or aliens or demons, are a reflection of what already exists within you. Go out into the wilderness and revel in the sweet gifts of ego annihilation – just as the sea woman says in Tako to Ama – “Boundaries and borders gone! I’ve vanished….!!!!!!”

If you've had a dream you'd like Manisha to explore, email us at info@becuming.me.

Intimate Moments with Maya Irving Preview

"When we divert our sexual energy into the creative sphere and vice versa, a powerful dialogue of embodied knowing occurs."

I grew up on Wurundjeri country in the Eastern suburbs; Warrandyte and Ringwood areas. I had a delicious childhood spending lots of time outdoors, by the ocean, building forest cubby houses and playing lots of soccer. I am a visual artist based in Naarm out in Warrandyte where I am lucky enough to have a gorgeous home studio looking out onto the trees. I work with movement, intuition and colour to interrogate my inner and outer landscapes. I build my artworks with layers of free movement and mess-making to inspire playfulness and curiosity with the sensual self. 

Alongside my art practice, I work at Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre for a company called Living Music where I teach art on the weekends. Throughout the week, when I’m not in the studio, I work for an outdoor advertising agency called Apparition Media painting murals on city walls. I am slowly plodding my way through a Bachelor of Visual Arts and Teaching but find my art practice is constantly pulling me away from this realm. 

My first experience of sex had a profound effect on my relationship with my body and sexuality for many years. Between the years of eight and twelve, there were instances of infidelity in my parent's marriage. I wasn’t of the age to properly grasp what was going on, but to me, sex seemed like a dangerous weapon to devastate a family and a child’s sense of safety and certainty. I was repulsed by everything that resembled sex. I would close my eyes in movies when kissing scenes came on. I loudly hated every boy in my class and made multiple bets of one million dollars that I would never kiss a boy in my life. I was utterly closed off to exploring my own sexuality which is partly why it’s such a huge focal point in my life now. Luckily, I had an extremely tender and supportive first relationship which slowly gave me the safety to unfurl into a sexual being. 

Poeple who've most influenced my sexuality include Euphemia Russell. In 2020, I attended a workshop with Euphemia on Slow Pleasure. This inspired a complete upheaval and revival of my creative and sensual self. I embarked on a new body of work created in response to sensations of pleasure. This involved painting whilst masturbating, painting whilst receiving oral pleasure, painting directly after love-making and painting directly after experiencing a simple pleasure such as yoga, eating a chocolate-coated liquorice stick or breathing in three deep long breaths.

The experience enabled me to grasp my sexual energy, to turn it inwards and slowly outwards. To indulge in the powerful relationship between sexuality and creativity.  I am forever grateful to Euphemia for guiding me into my body, finding the safety and confidence to awaken my sexual/creative voice within, idle for too long. I also take inspiration from Frida Kahlo for being the powerful, resilient, playful, sexual and interrogative artist and human that she was. 

Initially, as I was discovering my sexuality, it was in relation to the other. I felt a lot of resistance to exploring my own body and relationship with the self. Over time, with some beautiful lovers, a great deal of therapy, and the painting process, my relationship with my body is a mostly shame-free explosion of playful delight! 

My sensual fire ignites when I sit quietly in bed with my morning coffee, when I pause on my run to inhale a deep long breath, when I listen to my favourite playlist eight times in one day, when I rub charcoal softly across a canvas, feeling my skin brush the empty surface. There is a tenderness within it that constantly grounds and brings me back into my body and breath. 

I spent a couple of years creating paintings of landscapes and figures, forever searching for that feeling of an exhale. I felt restricted in painting something of resemblance. When I began creating from a place of embodied knowing, sexuality naturally became the predominant theme of my works.

"Our sexual and creative energies are in bed with one another. I believe that they live and breathe the same entity."

Through my painting process, I have been able to access a deeper understanding of my sensual, playful, tender spirit and slowly build a resilient sense of worthiness. Through movement and intuitive mark-making, I find safety in which to interrogate the darker, woeful currents in my body. To acknowledge them, give them a voice and pull them through a reassuring stream to warmer waters. 

Painting has been my cocoon in which to authentically own and explore my sexuality. To communicate from a space of embodied knowing. To feel pleasure in its totality, knowing its boundaries and exploring it unrestrained, seeping throughout the everyday. I don’t always paint naked, and things are often the opposite of intuitive vitality. Sometimes I am rugged up from head to toe, staring blankly at my work, drinking way too many coffees, completely out of my body and suffering in my mind.

Our sexual and creative energies are in bed with one another. I believe that they live and breathe the same entity. To fall deeply into each space requires a great deal of vulnerability, curiosity and intention.  When we divert our sexual energy into the creative sphere and vice versa, a powerful dialogue of embodied knowing occurs. An unravelling of movement, sound, breath and exuberance. A heaving of impulse and intuition. When I paint after a love-making session with another or myself, my body caresses the canvas with an overflowing bounty of motion and form. Our bodies are the ultimate temple of pleasure and creativity. 

I feel most connected to my sexuality when I’m well rested, when I do yoga regularly, when I spend at least two days in the studio, when I take the time to self-pleasure without external stimulation, and when I hear others sharing stories of their own connection to sexuality. The greatest lesson I’ve learnt about sex is that your sexuality is never static. Forever adapting to its environment, new stimulations, lessons learnt and reflections in quiet time. Your sexuality consists of so much more than sex, it's alive and burning at every damn moment in time.

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Meet Belinda Wiley, a sex and relationship coach who specialises in helping people reignite sexual desire in their long-term relationships.

After having Belinda on my podcast a few weeks ago, I knew this would be the start of a special friendship. As we sat in the recording studio, cup of tea in hand, I instantly felt at ease in her presence. From the moment she sat down, I was in awe of her vulnerability and knowledge of all things sex and relationships. It felt like I had known her forever and that we could have stayed in that little room chatting away for hours longer. 

 

The reason I feel so interested in this particular topic is that I haven’t yet been able to crack the code on this in my own life. I wondered if it were even possible to sustain and grow such levels of intimacy.

 

What drew me to Belinda initially, apart from her radiance, magnetism and wisdom, was the work she does. After getting to know her a little fuller, I understand why there was such a pull. Belinda is the epitome of someone who practices what she preaches. She has more than 60 years of life experience under her belt, and what she teaches is reflected in her own life and marriage. 

 

She is living proof that deep connection over many years is possible. Having been married for nearly four decades, Belinda has helped hundreds of women and couples maintain and grow physical and emotional intimacy in their relationships. 

 

I sat down with Belinda to ask her about her life and work. 

What brought you do this work?

I married when I was 26 and had three children over six years. I was predominantly a stay-at-home Mum, and as the kids got older, I was involved in our family businesses. Our relationship started full of passion with lots of sex, but as I started raising small humans, creating over nine businesses, and building homes, our sex life seemed routine at best. We didn’t know how to talk kindly to each other about our frustrations, without it ending up in arguments and hurtful comments. I started avoiding having sex, although I felt a sense of responsibility. I felt the ‘dutiful wife’ feelings, living an amazing life provided for by our businesses.

From a young age, I was always searching for meaning in life. I had always been interested in personal growth, but even after studying and teaching yoga, I felt like something was missing. My sex life wasn’t getting any better, and I wanted to understand myself more fully. I suggested my husband and I see a counsellor. He didn’t want to; he said he was happy. So there I was thinking, “what is wrong with me?” Life carried on. We muddled through our sex life, having some ordinary sex, occasional amazing sex, but most of the time questioning, “is this really it?”   

It wasn’t until I discovered the teachings of Layla Martin that I realised I wanted to do something about how I was feeling. I did her course on women’s sexuality which was really empowering but also felt a little weird to be doing some of the practices, including self-pleasuring. Although it was unfamiliar at first, my body was responding. I became super curious about my sexual pleasure and what turned me on. I noticed the numbness in parts of my body and places I struggled to connect with, like my cervix and my nipples. It made sense to me that I would feel disconnected from these areas after three births.

I then decided to dive in and do a certification in Sex, Love and Relationships with Layla so I could start sharing the magic I had learnt within my own body. From there, I did an intensive Relationship Transformation training. This included looking at my own marriage and learning new ways to gain clarity and connection, and learning to communicate lovingly and honestly.

From there, my love for my sexual self grew. I started feeling alive and in my body, and my marriage shifted up a gear. There was a narrative change in our sex life, shifting from “how many orgasms can we have?” to “how much pleasure can we have together?”

How long have you been married, and what have been the keys to keeping physical and emotional intimacy alive between you and your husband?

We have been together for 42 years! My ‘three Cs of Intimacy’ have been vital in keeping our physical and emotional intimacy thriving all these years. I believe when you both prioritise your relationship, communicate with love and kindness and connect intimately regularly, this leads to deep erotic intimacy.   

Commitment to our relationship 

Having both feet in the relationship is vital. Appreciating and prioritising the relationship is healing for both partners. Of course, childhood wounds will appear in the relationship, but understanding that long-term happiness is possible through learning and growing together is so important.  

We’re often taught to be independent and to tell our partners what we each need by demanding it from them. In my experience, this doesn’t work. It inevitably creates chaos, distance, and lots of arguments. When a couple creaets a narrative shift and are both focused on, and willing to, meet each other's needs, a kind of bubble forms around both partners that starts to feel safe and loving. It calms both people’s nervous systems, and the relationship takes on a whole new look and feel. This is because the couple is prioritizing of the relationship rather than prioritising themselves.

By working actively on meeting your partner’s needs and being there for them, you get your own needs met. It is an ongoing practice, but this is what thriving relationships require. This is what I started practising with my husband, and it made so much sense to us both.

Communication 

Learning to genuinely listen to each other helps both partners feel heard. This includes speaking in a way that does not become moaning or blaming the other, otherwise, partners will switch off. Learning to use ‘I’ statements rather than pointing the finger with ‘you’ statements also goes a long way in helping a partner feel understood. Knowing what behaviours have been inherited from parents or caregivers and whether it serves the relationship or not can help create ways of communicating that make sense for the relationship. This is all an ongoing practice, and each relationship will be unique. 

Connection  

Concentrated time together is extremely important. This includes booking sex dates for at least two hours and committing to those on a regular basis. Remembering to be intimate in small manageable ways daily like hugs, smiles, small touches to each other’s bodies, kissing, texting, and checking-in chats all support better sex. Do your best to regularly communicate:

 

What we really want

What we may be afraid of

What we love about each other 

When done regularly, this is the perfect connection practice if a couple feels out of touch.  It’s amazingly easy to say “I’ve got work”, or “Sorry, shall we do it next week?”, and then that week easily becomes next month or never happens. This leaves room for resentment to breed, as communication has not been maintained regularly, and sex is the last thing on the couple's minds. 

How did you keep the intimacy alive whilst going through parenthood?

We have three adult children in their early to mid-30s now. In honesty, I’m not sure we did work on keeping the intimacy alive whilst parenting in our 20s through to mid-50s. I know we both felt guilty a lot of the time that we hadn’t had sex. We would say ”we probably should”, and then couldn’t understand why we didn’t do it more when we eventually did!

I do remember having moments in my 40s where I thought, “I don't think I can do this mother and wife thing anymore. It feels like I am giving out so much, and it feels way too hard”. Perimenopause and menopause kicked in with a blaze of glory. Hot flushes, weight gain, and hormonal fluctuations were just some of the symptoms I experienced. I remember trying bioidentical hormones and masses of vitamins, all at great expense. Finally, I came to terms with the fact that ageing is inevitable and should be embraced (which is not easy in the world we live in where youth is pedestalled). 

Battling through menopause really affected my body, and sex did not feel nearly as interesting or exciting with my husband.  We thought we must be getting bored with our usual sex routine. If I didn’t feel turned on, we would try porn. This felt stimulating to start with but then became boring as we were fantasising in our heads instead of being present in our bodies. To me, being fully present is way more erotic. Make your sexual experience your own by experimenting and being playfully curious! You might build orgasmic energy using the edging technique, introduce toys or whatever the fuck you like!

It wasn’t until I was in my late 50s that I became curious about my sexuality and what pleasure meant to me. I started educating myself on everything I could to get to know my body and understand the power of pleasure. I was 59 when I started my study to become a sex and relationship coach. Also, remember, sex and intimacy can be seasonal. We go through patches, months, quarters and seasons where we are just busy, and that’s ok. Keeping up communication and prioritising your relationship is key to a shared experience rather than feeling alone or guilty that sex is not a priority.

Who is your typical clientele, and what are the main reasons people come and see you?

My typical clientele is aged between 40 and 65, in predominantly heterosexual, monogamous relationships. Most are in long-term relationships. There are many reasons people come to see me, but some common concerns are:

– Women who, since having had children, haven't had much sexual drive and are concerned as it gets longer and longer between intimacy. There is usually still an attraction with their partners but are at a point where they want more intimacy. They often feel more like friends than lovers and that the spark has left the building;

– Fears around low sex drive from one of the partners and a feeling like something is wrong with them;

– Women who feel less adventurous or experience painful sex after traumatic births. They’re often fearful about urinary tract infections or feel an overall anxiousness about having any intimacy, which can be the root cause of the painful sex. They’re also often lost as to how to communicate this with their partners. 

– Men who haven’t had sex with their partners for a long time (sometimes many years), and don’t know how to bring it up without hurting their partner. 

What are some of the most underestimated requirements of a good sex life?

– Truly listening to your partner and not judging them for what sexual desires they might have;

– Remaining open to trying different ways of experiencing sexual pleasure;

– Taking yourself less seriously when it comes to sex;

– Being vulnerable with your partner;

– Learning to be present in your body.

You can find Belinda Wiley here: https://www.belindawiley.com/

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"Hello. I have a question about a dream I had recently. I’m a woman in my mid-thirties. I’ve been with my partner since I was 21. I’m not someone who is lovely sexual, or who usually has sexual dreams. So this dream I recently had has me shook.

I was in a palace, that looked like versailles. I was there with my partner. I’m not quite sure what we were doing. Sort of aimlessly walking around the place. As time went on, my partner slowly morphed into Marie Antionette; the Kirsten Dunst/Sofia Coppola version. It wasn’t a sudden change, it happened gradually throughout the dream.

My interaction with her became sexual. We were lying on a chaise in her parlour. I was being fanned with a feather while she went down on me. I woke up feeling shaken and randy. I’m unsure how to make sense of what happened. All I know if that I liked it and I’m now confused. "

Once, somebody I admired came to me in a dream. We were listening to Mazzy Star in a timber hut in the woods, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. It was very Lynchian ⸺ shadowy and disorienting, with a cool soundtrack. So naturally, something felt off. I asked, who are you? The man’s face changed into a face I had never seen before. Sheepishly, he confessed, I took the face of somebody you knew so that you would love me. He said he lives in the dream realm and that he has been trapped here for thousands of years. He confirmed that it is a fact, that people do live in the dream realm, interacting with dreamers, putting on immersive performances, regularly taking on the faces of people we know for their own amusement.  We talked for one thousand years, about life and death and the ways that beings move through dimensions to experience one another. My eyes filled with tears, and I told the stranger that I could love him. We might have lived happily ever after in that Lynchian dimension, but I was to wake in this reality, having obtained new perceptions of time, performance and transmutations.

In folk stories, mythology and fairy tales, transformations, be they metamorphosis or outright shapeshifting, occur by way of divine intervention, magic, demonic possession, or innate ability. Since the birth of storytelling, gods, animals and humans have been changing form for seduction, deception, escape from danger, punishment and reward.

When I read this dream, I am reminded of gods and semi-divine beings who shapeshift to seduce humans. The Ichchadhari naags and naagins of Hindu mythology are cobras who after one hundred years of atonement, are blessed with the ability to transform into any living creature. In popular culture, naagins of this genus take the form of attractive women to seduce and kill men.  Some of the most explicit transmutations are found in Greek mythology, the most famous example being Zeus, who deceives and rapes mortals by changing into a satyr, a bull, an ant, a swan and even rain made of gold. Male selkies, of the seal folk mythology of Scotland, are known to change into irresistible men, who seduce lonely wives of fishermen who wait for their lovers to return from sea.  And there are of course, all the frogs who metamorphose into handsome princes once kissed by the princess.

'Lida and the Swan' by Fernando Botero. Image by Jesse Hunniford for MONA.

When our familiar lover changes into someone else, we may wake and ask ourselves, will I love my lover if they had another face? Will I love them as another, if they had another face?

Let’s have a closer look at the symbolism in the dream. The palace in Versailles, the parlour,  being fanned with a feather while engaging in a sexual act and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette are all symbols of aristocracy, wealth and class. Marie Antoinette represents extravagance, haute couture and fine art. The fact that the partner gradually changes into Marie Antoinette allows the dreamer to be eased into opulence. When the familiar changes form in a dream, it signifies that this reality already exists within you ⸺ the pleasure you desire is already present ⸺ at least on the quantum level.

Ask yourself, in what ways can I increase my sense of enjoyment in the material world? What forms of escape from the mundane can be realistically actioned? This can be as simple as performing the dream with your partner ⸺ take turns fanning each other, feed each other grapes, immerse yourselves in physical pleasure, forget about the real world for a moment. To enjoy as Marie Antoinette did ⸺ without guilt.

However, the Marie Antoinette figure does come with caution. Her excesses, amongst other things, made her unpopular. She was beheaded during the French Revolution. And with the recent death of a monarch, society is once again considering the abolition of the ruling class. But there are gifts that can be borrowed from Marie Antoinette that can enhance the life of the dreamer.

I would not perceive a dream like this to signify being unfaithful or even having the wandering eye. It reads to me like there is a delight to be had in the earthy realm ⸺ within reason, and with care.

Or perhaps, we could draw from the wisdoms delivered by the shapeshifting man in my Lynchian dream – that perhaps, this Marie Antoinette is a dream-world inhabitant who took the face of someone you knew, so that you could love her. Perhaps she is, like our selkies and naagins, a semi-divine being  who regularly changes form to seduce dreamers. However you choose to interpret this encounter, my advice is to think about it while on a romantic holiday, or devouring an extra piece of cake, or immersing oneself in a rose petal bath ⸺ however it may be that you define indulgence.

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After spending the last year studying full-time online, ingesting and sharing far too much content from the interweb, I started to feel a decline in my sex drive.

As we know, libido can be affected by a number of different biological, psychological, and social factors including hormone imbalances, relationship dynamics, stress, pandemics, the list goes on.

This abrupt halt in my sexy tracks of course could have manifested from any, or all, of the above, but my intuition felt strongly that my newfound technology addiction was the root cause of this poignant pause.

Now, before I launch into smack-talking my beloved laptop and phone, allow me to express a moment of gratitude for all the nourishing ways they have feed my sex life. Without them, I couldn’t access my favourite apps such as Dipsea (chíc audio porn for women), MyFlo (period tracker, with sexy tips), and Spotify (sexy tunes and endless educational podcasts on sexuality and pleasure). I couldn't access my online studies, there would be no more erotic films by Erica Lust and I could no longer log into my Beducated account to perfect my Lingham massage skills. These electronic objects have watered and fed my initially small sex garden into a pleasure-filled and expansive jungle.

In saying that, lately I have found myself waking up from many a technology trance (a little more than I’d care to admit). I’ve noticed myself spending more time on my phone and laptop than ever before. I speak of boundaries often, yet with this relationship, they have become seriously lazy. We’re together just before I close my eyes at night, they basically sleep on top of me and their sweet blue light is the first visual of the day. 

I had convinced myself that this year would be the sexiest of my life. Studying sex full-time, I was under the impression that I would be magnetising ecstatic lovers and travelling to the cosmos on the daily through wild cervical orgasms. Yet, much to my dismay (and like the Tui ad), it’s been an elongated moment of ‘Yeah, right’.

I’ve been in learning mode, business building mode, podcast mode, work mode. And one thing I know to be true about my sexual desire, is that it requires me to slow down. Do less mind stuff to get more into my body. And in my technology trace, I have forgotten to do enough of this. 

So I turned to my friend and neuroscientist Sam Dodd, asking if he could shed some light on my ponderings, this is what he had to say:

"Sexual drive and libido can be increased in anyone and technology will help elucidate how."

“Whilst it’s well known that chronic stress isn’t good for us, we may not realise the toll it takes on our libido. Because the body interprets ongoing stress as life-threatening, it naturally prioritises survival over reproduction or pleasure. In today’s world, many people are simply worn out as a result of balancing jobs, marriage, our unprecedented times, or caring for ageing parents and young children.

Neurotransmitters are responsible for regulating aspects of mood, cognition, and behaviour including sexual motivation and reward seeking. Excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and glutamate stimulate sexual desire and arousal. Inhibitory neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin facilitate sexual reward and satiety. Decreased libido can be the result of reduced excitatory activity or increased inhibitory activity. 

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, concerns are being raised as to how this affects libido. While this field of research is new, undoubtedly technology negatively impacts human behaviours and physiology in a way that downstream affects sexual drive and desire.

Sleep is essential to every process in the body, affecting our physical and mental functioning the next day, our ability to fight disease and develop immunity, and our metabolism and chronic disease risk. Sleep is truly interdisciplinary because it touches every aspect of health.

One thing we know for certain is that technology interferes with our sleep. More so than any other colour, blue light messes with your body's ability to prepare for sleep because it blocks a hormone called melatonin that makes you sleepy. On top of this, the content we choose to engage with in a technological context can make us feel stimulated or stressed. This also results in production of hormones such as adrenalin, which prevents us from getting quality sleep.

Sleep is the platform on which healthy levels of neurotransmitters and hormones are regulated. Disrupting this, as technology does, immediately imbalances our neurochemistry and unfortunately libido is impacted immediately and directly.

Technology undoubtedly has upsides and impacts everyone in different ways. Many people form positive relationships with technology and social media, using it as a tool for healthy social interaction and learning. For some people it introduces a level of stress and anxiety, for others these emotional responses become chronic and debilitating. Permanently elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol is incredibly damaging to the body and the mind. Unsurprisingly this alters the balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters, which directly regulate sexual function and desire. As mentioned above, being in ‘fight or flight’ mode leads to a prioritisation of survival functions in the body and sexual drive and the pursuit of pleasure can become entirely abolished.

As the field of science becomes more and more conscious of this issue, more evidence will be unearthed on the extent of this issue and the mechanisms underlying it. Unfortunately more ways in which technology can negatively impact libido will come to the fore. However, technology can be used in countless ways and although it may be causing issues now, it may be used in the future to help reverse many of these deficits. The brain is malleable and adaptable and levels of chemicals in the brain can be restored and positively modulated. Sexual drive and libido can be increased in anyone and technology will help elucidate how.”

"I’m ok with having sexual lulls...I can’t be expected to sexually thrive 24/7."

So, in conclusion, my intuition was right. Technology most definitely affects our sexual desire. I felt inspired by my newfound learnings so I put it to the test. This labour weekend I took myself into nature for two days without any reception. No Instagram to scroll, no emails to respond to, just me, a friend, some edibles, and the wild west coast. And it worked. I came back renewed and quite honestly, a little hornier than before. 

I’m ok with having sexual lulls. I’ve lived it before and I’ll live it again. But the more I get to know myself, the more I understand my body's wise and seasonal nature. I can’t be expected to sexually thrive 24/7. This is an illusion. It’s ok to go through celibate, sexless patches. It's ok to use your sexual energy to create and build instead of sharing it with others. It’s ok to lose yourself in work and life from time to time and then find your way back home. 

But If I’m keen to feel more desire, and perhaps magnetise some of that post-sex-school summer lovin’, I best be chilling out on my screen time and spending a little more time getting naked, dancing, and swimming in waterfalls. 

That’s all from me. Stay safe, stay sexy, 

Stacey O