The Big Sis Guide…to surviving (TW)

When I was fourteen I was sexually assaulted.

It was not violent. I did not say no. I was wearing Winnie the Pooh flannel pyjamas. He was much older. I knew him. I trusted him. I told someone almost immediately. I never told the police.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that. I don’t want to talk about what happened to me. I want to talk about what came after, much after. I want to talk about how I am surviving and thriving in spite of what happened.

The first part of surviving was realising that there was something wrong. That what happened to me was not only bad but something that could not be brushed aside in my mind without it spilling over into my everyday life. Realising that crying randomly is not, and should not be, a way of life. Actually coming to terms with the fact that I was affected was the first and probably biggest step to feeling better.

The next was talking to friends and finding out that I was not alone in being sexually assaulted, in it happening when I was young, was comforting. I hate knowing that such horrific things have happened to people I love but it meant that for the first time I could talk about the details, how it affected me, how I couldn’t even tell how it had affected me. It’s so strange; sexuality is such a complicated issue, influenced by so many factors, that something devastating can totally change your attitude towards sex without you even realising it. If this occurs before you reach sexual maturity then the lines can be even more blurred. Knowing that others also struggle with where they begin and the scars end helped me to heal immensely.

As much as talking and sharing my experiences helped I also had to understand when I was engaging in self-destructive behaviour. I took the notion that hearing about what others had gone through too far and began to essentially OD on triggering material. I love Project Unbreakable and think it is incredibly powerful but there was a time when I would spend hours trawling through its photos, or reading through newspaper articles about child abuse in an almost deliberate attempt to hurt myself emotionally. Taking stock of my behaviour and drawing a link to how I was feeling meant that I could take an active approach to healing and stopping myself from doing anything that would prevent this.

One of the most important factors in surviving was becoming an active feminist. I would say I was a feminist for most of my life – always choosing to do history projects on strong female leaders, going through a random suffragette obsession when I was ten – but it has only been in the last few years that I’ve engaged in online feminism and regularly read websites like The F Word, Feministe and Feministing and have learned about how what happened to me fits within a larger narrative of rape culture and patriarchy. Even just learning the words, such as triggers, helped me understand what I was going through. In many ways the online feminist community saved me from losing it. This is why I can never understand why so much emphasis put on feminism’s “in-fighting” and Twitter spats because the movement has done so much for so many people. And I don’t just mean the usual right to vote, equal pay, etc. – though clearly important – I’m talking about the thousands of girls who found a space within the community to learn and to heal and to grow stronger. This is what feminism has done for me and this is how I’ve survived.

The Big Sis Guide…to a happy health hoo-ha

I’ve never had a dick but it does seem like those are a hell of a lot less hassle to manage than a vagina. Not only do we have to deal with periods which can feel like a messy, prolonged sucker punch to the groin, but our complex internal plumbing also means that that we’re more likely to have problems down there.

       These can include all sorts of delightful little surprises such as cystitis, or “honeymoon cystitis” as it’s sometimes called since it can rear its ugly, pissing-needles head when you have sex, especially for your first time (hence honeymoon). Wish someone told me before my first time; would have stopped me frantically looking up symptoms online, convincing myself that I had some sort of hideous STI. Seriously, how come I was scared straight about condoms but no one ever mentioned UTIs if they’re so bloody common? I also wish someone had told me that all I had to do was pee after sex to flush out all that bad bacteria out.[1] I’d totally watch a porno where crazy frenetic sex is followed by the girl casually slipping off to the bathroom to take a leak. Educational and sexy.

       My sex life has also led to multiple encounters with a delightful little pain in the pussy called thrush. Apparently the majority of women have thrush at some point in their lives so I guess I can’t be alone in having suffered its wrath. (Again, I’d have loved a heads up beforehand form someone.) Below are some prevention tactics I’ve tried over the years to reduce the amount of break outs I get over the years:

1.       Stockings are the way forward. Thrush is more likely to develop in warm, damp areas (oh yeaah!), meaning that 60 denier tights tend to keep that candida extra warm and cosy and more likely to breed. I find that stockings are a great way of keeping it breezy down there and feeling sexy, even when you’ve got a pessary shoved up your fanny.

2.       Lay off the bubble bath. As much as I love gorgeous smelling shower gel, it doesn’t do you any favours when you’re trying to keep thrush at bay. Perfumed soaps encourage thrush to grow so I’ve been using the unperfumed stuff for a while now. Doctors will suggest aqueous cream which you can get from any pharmacy and is super cheap but does feel rather medicinal. These days I prefer Simple shower gel as it actually lathers. You can also use certain oils in baths if you miss those (tea tree is particularly good) but I must admit, I do miss the bubbles.

3.    Choose your tampons wisely.  Most mainstream tampons and sanitary pads you find on the high street are full of chemicals (such as bleach to make them camera-ready white for all that blue liquid) that can irritate and dry you out, making thrush even more sore. I prefer using Boots’ range of natural cotton, chemical-free pads but would love to hear if anyone else has used any other chemical-free brands (or a mooncup. I’m tempted to try one of those.)

4.   Steer clear of flavoured lubes. As a general rule, I don’t think sex can ever get too wet, however, what I’m not a fan of is the sticky, sugary crap that fills your average Ann Summers. Sugar is like crack to thrush and strawberry/chocolate/guava (?) –flavoured lube is gonna cause a major break out. Sensilube is a great sugar-free, water-based (always a must) and which actually feels like you’re super wet instead of like you’ve squirted ice cream topping all over you and your partner.[2]

So there we are, my top tips for keeping your downstairs spick and span. These may not work for everyone, and I’m not saying that if you do have an intense love affair with your favourite banana-flavoured lube you’re guaranteed to develop thrush. What I’ve mentioned are known to trigger and exacerbate the problem, especially if you’re highly susceptible like me, but everyone’s different. Life as a card-carrying member of the vagina club can be hard, which makes the fact that we aren’t taught some basic maintenance even more annoying. So let’s all share our stories and learn from our collective pain and discharge.


[1][1] As opposed to the good, female-marketed yogurt bacteria that helps with bloating, digestion or whatever tv thinks is a woman’s main concern.

[2] Admittedly that does sound like fun, but not such a great idea if thrush could be on the cards.

The Big Sis Guide…to hair…down there

I can’t remember when I started to get body hair but I can remember that I knew I had to get rid of it. And I did, diligently, all throughout school. I experimented with body hair removal creams, covered my legs with tiny razor cuts and had my mum drop me off at my regular appointment at the waxers. I followed this routine until one summer’s day when I was meeting my friends for dinner and had run out of razors and removal cream. Being one of those rare occasions when it was actually hot and sunny in London I couldn’t wear tights so, summing up all the courage I had, I boldly went where I had not gone before and stepped out into the big wide world with hairy legs. Much to my surprise the world didn’t end and so began my journey embracing my body as it is.

I was happy and comfortable being hairy until I had sex which introduced me to the minefield of pubic hair maintenance. When I first told people that I lost virginity, and mentioned that the guy in question went down on me, the very first thing they asked was,

“Were you prepared?”

“Er, well I didn’t really expect it, but it was a nice surprise…”

“No, were you physically prepared, down there. You know

It took a couple of seconds for me to get that they were asking whether I had shaved or waxed my pussy. Upon hearing that I hadn’t they couldn’t stop laughing at how the guy had a “mouthful of muff”. You can bet I went home and grabbed a razor stat, because it was made perfectly clear to me that to be intimate with someone with my body in its natural state would be wrong and icky and unpleasant for any partner. Instead I had to subject myself to some sort of ritual preparation to make my body palatable and sexually acceptable.

But you know what I’ve learned? That’s complete and utter bullshit. Aside from an insanely itchy crotch I didn’t gain anything from trying to remove my pubic hair. It’s not more hygienic, even though we’re meant to feel more “fresh” without hair. In fact, you’re more likely to catch something if you do wax your pubes.

Also, we’re told that guys expect you to have a full Hollywood and that they’ll be disgusted and totally turned off if they see you with a hairy pussy. Not to mention hair down there apparently makes oral sex out of the question because how could you make him do that when you’re all hairy? Nothing in fact could be further from the truth. In my experience I have never met any guy who has mentioned my hair maintenance downstairs, or in fact anywhere on my body. If you’re at the stage where you’re both naked, turned on and on your way to Sexytown, I would find it hard to believe that anyone would slam the brakes on because of a bit of hair. In fact, it’s interesting to note that my initial insecurity about hair down there was because of my friends not because a guy said something in bed. If I ever were in a situation where a guy said he preferred me to be bush-free then I can only hope that I would have the sense and the confidence to calmly tell him that I’m comfortable with my body the way it is and do not wish to change it. And if he persisted I’d tell him to shove it.

And as for when someone goes down on you, I’ve been assured that it doesn’t make any major difference. Yeah, very rarely my boyf emerges from down below picking a hair from his mouth, and yeah when we started going out this used to mortify me, but with time I’ve become more comfortable with him and with my body and now can laugh it off. So many embarrassing things can happen during sex (fanny farts for one) so the odd stray hair isn’t going to be the end of the world.

Not to mention the fact that guys have hair too so it’s not like I’ve never had to pick a stray hair out after giving head. Okay, it might not grow actually on their dick but dudes have their own hedge down there, as well as hairy balls, so there are plenty of reasons to bitch about their downstairs grooming if we wanted to go there. But it’s not expected of guys as much as it is of girls ‘cause we’re meant to be hairless pure angelic creatures or something, rather than, y’know, women. This whole trend started with pornstar and their hairless bodies but, like many trends that started with porn, they don’t really have any relevance in sex that’s not devised and filmed for commercial purposes. Of course it makes sense to remove pubic hair if you need to film the sex up and close to get a good view; for two average joes having sex with no one watching? Less necessary.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to remove your pubes if that’s what you’re most comfortable with, I just don’t think anyone should feel pressured into it. I personally like little trim with nail scissors every now and again but that’s more to do with the fact that I find long pubes can get uncomfortable when I’m on my period[1]. What I’m trying to say is don’t feel like you have to be totally hairless down there to turn a guy on or because it’s expected. There are more important things in life to spend time on rather than waxing and shaving your privates. Anyway, life doesn’t get much better than being able to lie in bed, run your fingers through your fuzzy feline, look your partner square in the eye and say

Image


[1] I would say sorry for the TMI but I’m not sorry and, considering the rest of this post, c’mon!

The Big Sis Guide…to getting your feminist mojo back

(tw for mild references to rape culture)

So the reason why this week’s post is a little late is that I was left feeling a little blue following a very trying[1] conversation with friends about rape culture after I posted an article on Facebook. As strident a feminist as I am, I tend to stride pretty quietly. Having many many like-minded friends means that I don’t often discuss feminism with those who don’t feel the same way just ‘cause it’s easier and, well, I’m kinda deathly afraid of confrontation.

Therefore whenever I am faced with confrontation it gets me down. A lot. Personal politics have a habit of getting…personal, as one might imagine, and getting personal can hurt feelings and fracture relationship. It never seems like just an intellectual debate. Add the subject of rape and you’re in for a potentially hideous conversation full of victim-blaming and slut-shaming. Whilst you see plenty of that in the media, on the internet, etc., it can be really hard hearing such things from people you care about it whether it’s your friends, family or boyfriend.

However as I get older I’m realising that confronting people you care about with differing (and sometimes just plain wrong) opinions is an incredibly important part of relationships. How can I say that I have a real relationship with people if I’m not willing to show them the real me; to challenge them and allow myself to be challenged? So even if it is hard for me, as someone who prefers to blend into the background in real life, I have to give it a go as a proud feminist and as a human being.

But what do you do if you persevere despite an aversion to confrontation that leaves you feeling crap afterwards? I know that most people can deal with an argument fine but I just can’t. I end up feeling a strong sense of anxiety and become generally down, even if I am consciously aware that it’s a positive step for our relationship or in fact not actually a big deal. Therefore I’ve developed some coping mechanisms to help me with this. My usual cure for dealing with a shitty world is ODing on feminist media can leave me feeling hollow if that’s the very thing I’ve been attacked for. So here are a few things that help me along in the immediate aftermath:

1)      Find allies. I’m lucky enough to have a great feminist ally in my boyfriend who can be counted on to back me up in an argument or just generally be there to listen when I’m depressed about misogyny in the world. Identifying these people and spending time with them can calm you down if you’ve been riled. No intense discussion of feminist theory needed, just knowing that you have loved ones who actually do get it can be enough sometimes.

2)      Take a brief break from whoever you had the confrontation with. Not too long – the point isn’t to never speak to them again. Just long enough to calm down and for both sides to think things through a bit more so that the next time you do meet it’s not even in your head.

3)      Chill. Seriously, just taking a deep breath and chill for a bit. I have issues with anxiety and so have to do this often in life and it’s amazing how much it really does help.

4)      Enjoy great female artistry. Whatever your thing is – music, film, art, poetry – just indulge your passion. For me, something with an empowering but not overtly ultra-feminist message is ideal to avoid dragging thinking about what’s happened. A personal favourite is listening to Cold War by Janelle Monaé. She’s an incredible artist and this song expresses the loneliness and fight involved in combating racial and gender injustice. As an ethnic minority woman I find this song inspirational and, at times like these, necessary.

I’m trying to find my peace
I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me
And it hurt my heart
Lord have mercy ain’t it plain to see

It can be hard saying what needs to be said, especially when it’s to people you love, but it has to be done. And I have to believe that it will get better.

[1] And triggering, but that’s for another post.

The Big Sis Guide…to the Big O

Having covered the joys of masturbation in my last post I thought I’d go into a bit more detail about what those joys are, namely orgasms. This is because it was oh so hilariously pointed out to me by an avid reader (the boyf) that when I did finally experience the Big O, I…didn’t really know it.

I am well aware that makes me sound like an absolute idiot but it’s true. I don’t know about anyone else but a lifetime of being told that orgasms are this earth-shattering experience that makes you scream your head off in ecstasy, meant that in bed I just kept…waiting. Waiting for the big explosion. So much so in fact, that I never allowed myself to be in the moment to experience the little explosions that came trickling my way.

Alongside this unrealistic expectation was a healthy dose of fear. Fear of a new, strange physical experience that was trying to take over my body – not to mention fear of my orgasm not living up to my partner’s expectations. I was well aware of the porno stereotype of the girl violently coming, loud enough to drown out a jumbo jet. Not knowing what to expect from previous experience[1] I didn’t want to risk shocking or disappointing my partner with what I had to offer in the orgasm stakes. Am I taking too long? Is he getting bored? Why am I shaking like that? Am I meant to get that wet? Is that normal? Christ, I hope it’s normal.

All in all, my anxieties resulted in less than totally satisfying experiences because I was too scared to let go. So what great change led to better orgasms and a relaxed attitude in the bedroom? A mixture of two things:

  1. This fabulous lady is Betty Dodson and she saved my sex life. Seriously. I can’t remember what I googled but I’m so glad I found her because it was from her that I realised that orgasms come in all sizes, big and small and with their own little quirks. Also, she taught me that it’s especially silly to expect crazy intense orgasms when you’re a latecomer to the whole getting yourself off thing. I felt much better about myself and was able to chill out the next time my boyf and I did it.
  2. I, uh watched porn. Yeah that’s right, in all that time of frustration it had never occurred to me to give it a go. I had feminist reservations (for another post) and thought that wouldn’t work for me because it’s too cheesy and obvious. Turns out cheesy and obvious works. Works really well for me. The benefit of a visual aid meant that I didn’t have time to freak out or put the mental breaks on before I came hard. Hard enough for me to realise (with the help of la Dodson) what it was.

A couple more tries later showed me that a) I can have orgasms (which was becoming an increasing worry) and b) they can be less than earth-shattering but still clearly orgasms.

This in turn led to the realisation that the shaking and little “oh!s” I was experiencing in bed were in fact not the preamble to the Big O but just its little cousins. Once I figured that out I was able to have and enjoy orgasms during sex – both the little ones and the holy-shit-this-is-so-freaking-awesome ones.

Postscript

As important as learning to come was for me and how crucial it is to my sex life it is now, I also want people to know that it’s not everything. Lots of people, including me, have good, even great sex without having an orgasm. Clarisse Thorn is an amazing sex-positive feminist who writes a lot about BDSM (possibly also for another post) and she has written about her early struggle to come and her realisation that coming is not her favourite part of sex. I encourage anyone and everyone to check out her posts about this journey – far more intelligently written and insightful than I could ever be.

Anyway, my point is having an orgasm can feel incredible and learning how your body can be pleased is essential but don’t worry so much about it or whether it doesn’t live up to your expectations. It’s just so not worth it.


[1] Since I hadn’t learned how to masturbate effectively yet.

The Big Sis Guide…to being a wanker

Wanking, jerking off, spanking the monkey. The language used to describe guys’ solo sexploits is pretty hilarious, right? Weird, admittedly, but still pretty funny. And SO varied. Though it makes sense really when you consider how much its casually discussed, even just banter or taking the mick.

Now think about how many words there are for girls masturbating. Not a lot, huh? Fingering, I guess, though that seems far too descriptive and limiting. Flicking the bean? Urgh, no. just makes me think of the baked variety and that’s just not my kink (though all power to you if the saucy stuff gets you going.) So why are there fewer and less interesting terms for girls getting off? ‘Cause we never really talk about it. I mean, people know it happens but no one wants to talk about it. And if you do admit it of course then you’re some super-slut extraordinaire.[1]  

LIES, I tell you, LIES!

Image

(via sexisnottheenemy)

Masturbating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It’s feels amaaaaazing! No seriously, way better than what you’re thinking. If you do it right that is, and you’re only gonna figure what that means for you by trying it out. For example, the clit is insanely sensitive which means that rubbing it works pretty well for a lot of girls trying to get off. Others might find too much pressure there uncomfortable and might prefer fingering, or touching their breasts, neon pink dildos: whatever works.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and figure out what you like. Such an intense sensation can be kinda weird at first, almost scary even. It took me so long to figure out how to actually make myself come, several years in fact – a couple months after I starting having sex – which brings me onto my next point.

On top of being great solo fun, learning how to come is great for your sex life. Once you learn how to do it by yourself you’ll feel more comfortable coming with someone else helping you get there and you’ll be able to tell them what you like. Believe me. Even though my boyfriend had actually managed to make me come before I could, sex after I learned how was just on a totally different level. Assuming you’re not screwing a dickhead they’ll want you to have a great time in bed (if they don’t care then they really are a dickhead and you need to get rid asap). If you can make yourself come then you can explain what you like so that they can make you come too. It won’t make sex less special and you won’t seem like some pushy bitch. Knowing what you want and how to get it is sexy and, more importantly, means that you actually come rather than just lie there faking it.[2]

So indulge yourself. Think about what you wanna do to Robert Pattinson/Harry Styles/generic hot guy of your choosing, lock the door (mum walking in would be a major buzzkill) and go for it. Don’t be put off if you can’t get the hang of it at first. This is one of those things that really does get better with practice. So, um, start practising…


[1] My school had some insane rumours flying around about the least popular girls’ masturbatory habits – often involving atypical household items.

[2] Side note – don’t fake an orgasm in bed. Ever. There’s just no point screaming your lungs off when you’re actually bored or feeling awkward. You and your partner deserve better.

The Big Sis Guide…to not looking sexy

Okay I know that sounds weird. Everyone wants to look sexy and have someone think they’re hot – right? And that’s totally fair enough; attraction is crucial for a relationship and feeling desirable can do wonders for your confidence.

The problem is people tend to get obsessed with looking sexy so it stops being fun and frivolous and ends up ruling your life. People end up getting so caught up in how they look at every single friggin’ moment of the day that they refuse to go out unless they’re dressed to kill or let their partners see them without any slap. Sound familiar yet? I don’t know about you but I think that’s just really sad. Not just, like, pathetic but actually a real shame. If you can’t be real with someone you’re emotionally and physically intimate with then who can you be real with?

Okay, I know this sounds boring as shit and like I’m trying to get you to dress like a nun but I swear I’m not and I promise you’ll thank me in the long run. Not giving a shit about looking sexy makes you feel more confident, less anxious and leads to better sex.

Seriously.

Got your attention now? Great. The thing about being “sexy” is that it’s inherently all about how someone else sees you. All the stereotypical things that make a woman “sexy” – lingerie, make-up, fuck-me heels – are all about the visual, not about how people feel. And whilst I admit knowing that you turn someone on feels pretty great it’s never gonna feel that great if you can’t get that same feeling without them hard. Somehow being sexy has gotten confused with looking sexy.

This is where tabloid journalists get confused when they’re trying to lecture about innocent little girlies getting “sexualised”. What they don’t get is that it’s not about feeling sexual ‘cause people have been getting all hot and bothered in their teens for millennia; the problem is when you allow yourself to be turned into a sexual object. If you define yourself or your self-esteem by how other people think of you then you’re allowing yourself to become an object, not a sexual woman doing what she wants with her body.

I know you’re gonna say that you make yourself look sexy for yourself and that’s cool. Expressing your personality through how you look is one of life’s joys. We’ve all got little things that make us feel good[1]  but it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of a think about why it makes you feel good. Even more important, ask yourself if you can go without and still face yourself in the mirror. If not, then you’re hiding behind a mask of sexiness that isn’t you and you’re never going to feel truly confident until you’re comfortable without it. Once you do, life’s pretty frickin’ great.

And the sex becomes pretty frickin’ great too. If you’re full of anxieties, worried about whether your make-up’s perfect or how your tits look in that position then you seriously need to rethink your priorities. A mirror won’t show you the way to bountiful land of orgasms. Sex is best when you’re just in the moment with your partner, letting go. Furthermore, I’ve discovered[2] that if you don’t get bogged down in insecurities then you’ll come across more confident and sexy. Yep, that’s right, not trying to look sexy can often make you come across as this mature, confident, independent woman totally in control of herself.

So, in short,  the path to sexy nirvana is in fact not paved with expensive cosmetics and painful shoes but with doing whatever makes you most comfortable and happy with yourself. How awesome is that?



[1] Mine? Silky lingerie and patterned tights –little delicate bits and pieces that can make me feel pretty, even when accessorised with a runny nose and bleary eyes. Hot.

[2] Through extensive observation and interrogation of partners. I’m clearly a fun person.

The Big Sis Guide …to this blog

Hello. How do you do? I’m your big sis and welcome to my blog.

Okay, you got me, that’s not strictly true. I’m not anyone’s big sis (or even older sister) in real life. So why the name? I chose the name Big Sis because, despite having loved being the youngest when I was a kid I’ve found myself yearning for a little sister lately. I’m at that weird stage in my life where I’m in the strange adult world of work but I still get ID’ed at the pub. (I swear I’m descended from Hobbits.) Basically young enough that I vividly remember being a teenager but old enough that I want to give them advice. Not that I have any great wisdom or anything, but time and experience does give you some perspective and teaches you what’s important.

So, in order to fulfill my big sister fantasy I’ve created this blog to impart whatever nuggets of wisdom I might have about what definitely preoccupied my mind when I was in school – namely, sex and relationships – to the young and curious.

I don’t know about you but if your sex ed was mostly “wear a condom! STIs are everywhere!” then you probably have felt like you want some practical information on what sex is actually like and how to handle sex-related issues in relationships. Not to mention some indication that sex is actually, y’know, fun! Teachers tend to forget that don’t they? Though hearing about that from a teacher, or even an actual sister, might have been cringe. Hence the blog. With anonymous internet sisters we can be as honest with each other as we like without the ick factor of imagining your nearest and dearest getting hot and sweaty with her boyf.

Being one person I can only write about sex from my perspective which is as a woman who was born a woman who has only had sex with guys, though I am also attracted to women. Therefore I’m afraid this blog is going to only refer to heterosexual sex and relationships as I wouldn’t be able to comment on any other type of relationship.

Also, this blog is resolutely, unapologetically 100% feminist. I’m not planning to talk about feminism much but it’s definitely where I’m coming from and has shaped my views on sex and relationships (for the better.)

Okay, introductions over. Hope you’re still interested.

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