Tidying my bedroom this afternoon I came across the laundry bag I term my “dressing up box”. It’s full of ideas and dreams that don’t go in the weekday underwear drawer.
The kids were at the park with the au pairs… so I had a little dressing up time. Not quite the adventures of Mr Benn or even what Sid and Rebecca had in mind while I was raising my kids, but all the same, a very relaxing break from reality.
No motorbikes available, but having had this week’s Top of the Pops on earlier, a little bit of Heart and Cher and all the other leather clad ladies that filled my young teen experience with ideas of what “sexy” might mean, the lovely Mr Hunt was persuaded to help me play.
One day I’ll have time and space to try something a little more adventurous than yet another cleavage shot… but in the meantime…
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein
Life is like mountain biking. It is not just that you have to find your balance, but that the terrain keeps changing, making that balance point change.
Maybe mountain biking whilst juggling. Through the Alps. As part of a team.
And trying to do so with grace.
Sometimes suddenly finding yourself on a flat piece of terrain with empty hands can throw you off balance as much as the steepest paths.
I am good in a crisis. Where there is a problem to throw myself into, I do exactly that, feeling the relief of being able to legitimately prioritise that one thing above others. But finding a balance on my own, in my own space is harder. What do I want to prioritize? There are things I love, things that are productive, things I take pride in, and the chances are these things do not align very often.
Parenting versus sex life is a classic example. We chose to have three children, but we didn’t know until after I was pregnant the final time that the first two were identified as autistic and the chances child three was also going to have extra needs were therefore quite high. This places many additional demands on our time, on our individual self images and on the bond of our relationship.
As part of their autism, child two seeks physical comfort from skin on skin contact, not unlike a baby, for four or more hours each day. But other things have to be accomplished, so undoubtedly this eats into time one would rationally expect to spend with your significant other. When children are small, this time is expected and you balance it out against your whole lifetime together, but when your child is twelve and still needing this amount of “quality time” it feels like you are being dragged out of balance.
I love my children but I also love my husband, love what we create together as a partnership.
Recognising the forces acting on you and how much control you have over them is important, because you can make corrections that match the severity and significance of the forces acting on you.
Making sure we check in on each other, making sure we make time and space whilst acknowledging this is not going to be in the evening, is not going to necessarily be in bed together on a lie in morning, is not going to be in a traditional expected time and place, is vital.
We create time and space on Thursday mornings. Book time into work calendars with coded messages. Take photos in the garden when there is a child already in our bed or on the sofa. Play fast and hard when we can and be gentle with each other when one needs it, even the other doesn’t. Because this isn’t him playing me, or me playing him, but is the result of something we could never have imagined.
Letting it take us down isn’t an option.
I love my blog, love hanging out with others who don’t think my more sex positive parenting and lifestyle is weird, because it certainly doesn’t fit in with any local real-life communities I operate in. But I cannot prioritise this even though I love it.
I love to take photos. Once I had time to craft stories, whereas now all I seem to have time to do is spill my guts out to be picked over. I am learning how to be a good ally, which will be a necessary skill when raising non binary children through their teens into adulthood.
I have to be very careful with my blog and with the tools I use- my computers, my phone and photos. I am a specialist working with children and the world is not kind to kinky people operating in children’s spaces, even when there is no hint of impropriety. Social Care has no time to be kind to parents who have active sex lives if their children have struggled with harmful sexualised behaviours, as mine did as a result of assault by a carer (another joy of raising children with disabilities is it increases their risk of being the victim of crime). Therefore, I have plenty of reasons to not be here. But writing, even if it is not the fiction I love, and reading the work of others, is vital to my balance.
Things change. The pushes and pulls on us now will be different in the future. My need to be here may change. One day, my child may not need to be held like a baby for hours every evening and I may be able to watch adult themed tv, read blogs when I want.
As life changes, we change. Trying to stay the same will pull us over as surely as the worse stretch of bumpy terrain. Grieving the sex life we don’t have is as important as taking joy in moments of service snuck into plain sight.
The thing is, it’s my balance and I must work at all the aspects, whether blogging or working or parenting, to keep everything functional for me. And that supports the balance the lovely Mr Hunt and I create together. And that keeps the balance in place for my children.
My balance doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but it is still the only part of this juggling band of Alpine mountain bikers I can actually control.
This week had a wonderful gift in the middle, when I found that my photo from last week had been chosen as one of the five winning images of the week for the 500th Sinful Sunday. I am immensely grateful for this safe space where I have had the opportunity to explore my self image through photos.
The winners tweet on Thursday as a bright high point in an otherwise long week…one I’m very grateful for as it means work is going well and my new carer team for my children is settling in. It’s also tricky because this week of the year marks the anniversary of a bereavement that I mark, not by the date but by a certain tv landmark. I came home from hospital, having delivered my third child, without them, and curled up in bed while Children in Need played. When I was a child this always felt like a very positive, entertaining evening, as much a of marker of the season as Halloween. Now, I have three children who use services that are supported by the charity and will forever associate the evening with the ache of empty arms.
This weekend I’ve ripped the house apart cleaning, for me, a, sign of being unsettled. This evening I’ve followed it up with an evening of self care- a nice steak, some repetitive tele and a warm blanket to snuggle in.
Thank you for giving me a place where I could see people like me, enjoying sharing their lives.
See sexy not just as a representation of beautifully arranged mainstream body parts, although undoubtedly there are many of those here, but as acts or ideas or bodies that are real and perfect in their imperfection.
For giving me the confidence to post my first pictures and the encouragement to play around and post more.
My day job is supporting families who are fire fighting all the time due to their circumstances. I do this because for a long time it is where we were. Functioning, but not thriving. It feels good to be able support families through difficult times, knowing we have come through them by luck, privilege and a lot of Duct tape.
Part of our survival was about carving out space for myself and the lovely Mr Hunt as individuals and a couple as well as working parents and carers. There was tons of advice and training, most of which felt hugely trite at the time, but contained tiny fragments of useable information that helped.
We needed to identify our sunshine, find our freedom and land on a few flowers.
My sunshine is being able to trust.
I have PDA, pathological demand avoidance, which is a type of autism that I have to manage constantly or I will cease to purposefully function. Any demand, however nicely or gently phrased, or a passive demand from washing up beside the sink waiting to be washed- or a blog deadline just sitting there- creates anxiety which has to be managed and rationalised. People with PDA are perceived as control freaks because to control the demands means to control everything, to plan for and manage several versions of every aspect of every action every day. This is exhausting.
Conversely, the relaxation coming from complete trust and complete submission to the lovely Mr Hunt is amazing. I can let go of all the strings I so frantically grasp at through the day. There is only one instruction, to follow, and I have chosen to do that.
By building moments of trust into every day, I can have precious moments of rest.
My freedom is to read.
Opening a book and joining someone else’s world is an amazing escape. I can be male or female or neither. Any sexual orientation. Any age in any age. Good books give me experience of feelings I have never felt myself, or the vocabulary to explain something I knew but couldn’t say. Less well written books give me the chance to question and shape how I would have felt or reacted as a certain character. To put ideas into practice.
I probably read for two to three hours a day. I read rather than watching television or movies because I find it far more immersive. I clock through everything from classics and translations of myths and legends to speedy romances which I like to think of as the soap operas of the book world. I do read biographies and histories and studies, but fiction is my freedom.
My flowers are specific favourite practices that centre me and bring me calm. I don’t land on my flowers everyday, or even every week because we both have to be in tune and have time, but that makes them more precious.
I think it’s probably six weeks since I last had a quiet moment in rope. A couple of weeks since we set up to take some photos. 10 days since we set up a specific scene.
But we will make time.
My flowers regenerate me. Empty out residual stress. Add highlights to the picture of my life.
We went years when the children were little and struggling without ever having flowers in our life and the layers and layers of stress caused by the lack of sunshine and flowers in our life took their toll.
I am very lucky that none of these things are reliant on being able to go out and mix with others beyond my household. I remember the pits of despair I felt when I was alone and had no appropriate coping mechanisms. Like many people with PDA, I turned to very inappropriate forms of release including self harm, both deliberate and neglectful. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be trapped in that situation this year.
When I work with families, I will remember this quote. When you are barely surviving, making time for flowers, sunshine and freedom seem so completely trivial and distant to your experience that it can make you feel angry when people try to steer you to search for your time and space, but in the end they are vital to your wellbeing, and a parent’s wellbeing is vital to supporting and developing as a thriving family.
I apologise now… this really is TL:DR but I have failed to edit it successfully due to time and passion. Gendered expectations are just such a hot topic in myhome that I struggled to cut it down. Really, read the opening two paragraphs and the last one…unless you’re a glutton for punishment, which I suppose if your reading a BDSM blog meme, you might be!
If, like I do, you reject the idea of gender as a binary concept determined by the genitals and reproductive organs you are born with then there is very little left to unpick with this quote.
The characteristics that make someone dominant or submissive are not pre-coded to a body shape, type or gender. However, society teaches us that certain body shapes, types and genders should behave in certain ways and if you don’t fully understand yourself it might be easy to fall into those patterns.
There is a massive assumption that society is male dominated. There are many ways this is structurally reinforced, but it is not necessarily enforcing something that was a naturally occurring because of inherent skills or superiority.
I grew up in a very heteronormative environment. In an engineering industrial town like mine you might expect a culture of dominant masculinity, but in fact society outside the workplace was broadly matriarchal. If you ever saw the 1980s sitcom “Bread”, although stereotypical, the strong female matriarch was broadly representative of many of the families I grew up alongside. The male role models in the local society were in no way weak, as the quote may imply, but women ran the families.
One of the ways the idea of male dominated society become the norm, as the originator of this quote implies is by implying this pattern of behaviours is universal, but towns like my home town, fishing communities on the east coast of the UK and countless other societies around the world prove this wrong. They are erased and discounted.
The same things can be said the way men and women are expected to behave- the characteristics and physical qualities they are supposed to aspire to. Some things you can control or attempt to control, but lots of features are completely random. Those who don’t fit are erased or ignored or made fun of.
There have always been fashionable ways of being male or female. Heels, wigs, make up, modes of speech and behaviours have been perceived as the height of masculinity at some points and femininity at others.
When I was young, my friendship group had a top ten model of masculine features our future husbands would have. We were very egalitarian, in that we had two models, one for physical guys and one for nerdy types. When I look back and think about our ideas, we never once discussed different ideas for relationship dynamics or different sexualities. We assumed we knew everything and created our own feedback loop based or our limited experiences.
This quote has the same trend towards confirmation bias. When we surround ourselves with people who confirm our ideas or live in a narrowly defined society it can be hard to break out of that model.
Over the last few years, after having children, I have been considering gender as a way of understanding myself and as a thing that defines them. I have realised that the ideas I absorbed as a child were placing unrealistic demands on me, and as someone who has a demand avoidant presentation of autism, I needed to address this to reduce my underlying anxiety. I had ideas about who I should be, what I should achieve and how I should relate to people that were based only on the reproductive organs I was born with. I didn’t want that for my children.
I currently employ a young man, the 15th man I’ve employed to work in my home. He does what lots of people might consider to be “women’s work”, helping with cleaning, domestic organisation, shopping, the school run and throughout all of this, being a role model for my children, who because of their autism need more support than we can manage with two pairs of hands.
Employing men started as a very conscious choice to provide role models for my sons, but this project very quickly derailed. The first male we employed was not lovely and is in prison for what he did to my children. Then my children found enough vocabulary to let us know, that despite being penis owners, we had made faulty assumptions. They are not boys.
Our home has evolved into a very gender neutral zone. You don’t achieve this by ignoring gender but by challenging the assumptions that are made based on gender. We employ men because I don’t want those assumptions about “women’s work” to influence my children. I want them to learn to clean, learn to cook, learn to code, learn to take joy in sport, regardless of how they identify on the gender spectrum. Their natural male role model, The lovely Mr Hunt, is busy as the main breadwinner, but having extra hands allows me to go to work as well, and the children are not really aware of how much our income is reliant on Mr Hunt. Equally working from home allows him to be very present and part of the child care daily routine. Having another person to support me through the household chores keeps the balance.
I want my daughter to be strong and successful and to be surrounded by people who don’t judge based on either her genitals or her presentation, and she is a very girly girl. Right now, she’s too young to really understand the politics of sexuality, but not too young to know already assumptions are made about her based on her gender. Wanting your daughter to grow up to be a strong woman with endless possibilities is not really a radical form for parenting.
My older two children are my role models. They are not scared of their autism, but more than that, they refuse to get into a box just because it would be easier to meet society’s expectations than to challenge them. And meeting the world head on like that takes bravery. They have rejected a binary gender model and identify in different ways as non binary. Much as this brings many challenges, they have released themselves from a whole host of assumptions that may otherwise be made.
From their modelling, I have realised just how much of my presentation was masking to fit an identity I had been given, rather than one I genuinely felt. They have changed me and freed me to be open to who I am rather than trying to live in an identity that didn’t ever feel like home.
Whilst I was completely reconciled to my submissive needs, I could not match these to who I was in a physical sense. Yes the quote is about masculine and feminine but I felt my physical presentation matched masculine ideas more than feminine ones. Learning to love who I am without the overlay of gendered assumptions removes a lot of the anxiety about where I didn’t fit. Some of those things are behavioural, but some are physical. I can do nothing to change my 6ft height or my size 10 feet, did nothing to choose them, but struggled to balance that with the model of female I was shown. I especially struggled with how this was supposed to fit in to a model of submissive femininity.
Reading stories of men with a wide range of masculine attributes who were submissive really helped me become more confident and comfortable. There were more of these available in the mainstream than stories of tall, strong women or AFAB people. The more stories I found that either had a thread of Femdom, or had men kneeling for femme presenting male partners, the more secure I felt. I still don’t find stories out there that have AFAB people or women who are ex rugby players or bouncers kneeling for anyone. Not least for petit, delicately feminine ladies, like my wonderfully toppy friend. And for the time being, there are some (but not nearly enough romances or queer erotica) that include non binary characters in any capacity.
Enjoying femme presenting people with sexually dominant characteristics is not limited to men. Being a femme presenting dominant is not penis envy, but a secure identity in its own right. Having the confidence and space to be that person though is an expression of feminism, but not as it is expressed in this quote as misandry but as a true equality that doesn’t need to be gendered to be affirmed. We erase successful female leaders by describing their leadership qualities as masculine, erasing their femininity and making it as assumption that penis born people will more naturally have these attributes and that these women are anomalous. We repeat and teach our children these things through structural and confirmation bias, making it harder to break out of a repeating pattern of thought.
We damage people by splitting characteristics whether emotional, behavioural or physical into gendered boxes with limited choices. Society would be better served if we lost the gendering of characteristics completely.
A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with the lovely Mr Hunt about our previous experiences. Probably seventeen years later than others might have had it, but it just hasn’t ever been important. I knew he’d been engaged before, and I knew about one or two other girlfriends. At no point did I assume I knew the whole story, nor did I share everything from my life story.
Nineteen or twenty mistakes…I haven’t made that many, and yes, I know Joan Rivers said this tongue in cheek. Should it be different for girls?
When I was a teenager and trying to set rules for myself I heard or came up with “never do anything you regret: never regret anything you do,” and I rolled these thoughts around for a while. I came to conclusion that I should trust my gut, if something doesn’t feel right in the moment I shouldn’t do it. On the other hand, if I made the best judgement at the time, I shouldn’t second guess myself later with the benefit of hindsight. So, if I had sex with someone I never perceived it as a mistake.
As a parent, my approach with my children is consistent across their genders. Part of this is possibly because I don’t feel attached to a gender label and can’t really see why gender should make a difference to how you approach self-esteem or health. I am concerned about the same things: that they respect themselves and potential future partners and that they make choices to protect themselves and others as a sign of that respect. Pretty much that is it. I have no illusion that they will love every person they sleep with or that they be completely ready before they start making those choices. It is my job to help them information gather now, while they are young, so they know what respect for themselves and partners might look like.
Identifying as non binary, there is little expectation on my older two children. Are they expected to behave as men because they are penis owners? I hope they are free to make their own path without having to negotiate gendered expectation.
When I was their age, I absorbed a whole lot of expectation and shame around sex I do not want for my children. The concept of “what good girls do” and how this was different from boys and men were allowed to do was evident from the first Mills and Boon I devoured at about age nine. Bond slept with every girl in the films, and their only purpose was to meet with a sticky end, just to show bad girls always ended up in trouble. Good girls presented themselves a certain way, did certain things and most important was the list of things they didn’t do.
Apparently, I was a good girl.
Except I wasn’t. Not really a girl. Not particularly good.
I had a very active imagination and fairly active friends. Before I had any action at all, I had been voyeur to friends’ sexual experiences many times. I think we thought this was a safety thing, that we had sex on sleepovers in rooms filled with our friends as though they weren’t there. Or rather, others had sex. I listened. Jealous.
Then my friends orchestrated an experience for me… lined me up with an appropriate gentleman at an event with drinks and suddenly I was topless in the woods.
The sky didn’t fall in.
And I liked it.
And the next time.
Fuck I felt powerful. Wanted.
I collected experiences wherever I could.
But I also absorbed other rules. Boys didn’t like girls who pretended a one-night stand (or a one-hour stand) was anything other than that. I resolved to be the best one night stand they could have. I didn’t cling. I went home. I didn’t call. And if asked, I left a random number. If men could do that, then I could also. Well, when with guys. I didn’t do that with girls… it felt wrong. I was just as guilty of the double standard, treating people differently by gender.
I have no regrets. They were not mistakes. I might not do the same things again, but I went with the best information I had at the time and had fun without worrying if they liked me, or if I was any good, because I had taken control and had chosen to walk away. When friends or acquaintances were involved, I framed it as a shared moment with no ongoing significance.
The ultimate moment of power was to finally hook up with my mid teen crush at a sleep over party when I was in my twenties, and then carry on at breakfast the next morning as though nothing extraordinary had happened.
I might be autistic and shit at reading responses, but I know I surprised him. And doing that is a more powerful memory than the sex. In fact the act had little to do with sex and was all about power.
This person didn’t make nineteen or twenty mistakes. Or have nineteen or twenty sexual partners. I actually don’t know how many people I shared sexual experiences with before monogamy hit (sort of), but twenty isn’t close.
See. The sky still hasn’t fallen in.
I didn’t respect myself all the time in the way I would like to instil in my children, but I didn’t disrespect myself. I protected myself in a poor way, protecting my fragile emotions by denying the opportunity for any connections to be made beyond they physical and immediate. I would hope my children have better self esteem. I would hope my children didn’t make their choices based on what society would have them be. If they want hook ups, that should be their choice because it’s what they want, not because they are trying to be something for someone else’s comfort. I hope they are gentle with themselves if something doesn’t go to plan.
I had a hell of a lot of fun.
Between the experiences of the lovely Mr Hunt and me, there is an order of magnitude.
We have a new au pair to help us care for the kids. Which is great.
Having carers in, although completely necessary to allow the children to experience some independence, comes with the sacrifice of privacy. They have keys and come and go as necessary and although, because of the children’s vulnerability, they live in an adjoining flat, it still changes they dynamic of the whole house.
Not leaving your bedroom except when fully dressed.
We are very fortunate to have the support and to maintain some private spaces. I have a friend with physical support needs who due to Covid has agency rather than personally sourced carers and has twice been put to bed at 6pm. She has become so embarrassed at having strangers in her room, judging her, that she has thrown away her vibrator rather than have it discovered.
He is lovely. Nice tattoos and a dirty French accent. Very patient.
One the last day before the au pair arrived, I revelled in a little housework. Because I could. Because it makes Mr Hunt smile when I serve morning coffee in his office, safe in the knowledge he never has his camera on.
I’ve found lots of prompts recently here and elsewhere lead me to write about me…and that isn’t really why or where I started when I opened my blog. I enjoy writing fiction. Life isn’t all peaches and cream for anyone this year, but I can honestly say there have been at least two worse years in the past decade and that every year is a bit of a slog.
For this prompt I could write about the family court judge we met at a friend’s house who after we’d chatted to for an hour said “How are you still together? I mean, most families under your strain end in divorce…99% of them.”
I could write about the sappy tune played at our wedding about become captain and first mate on our journey through life and our kids becoming the crew- that we planned to be together for a long haul and that the planning put us in good stead for very rocky seas.
But fuck all that. I wanted to write fiction.
And this is sort of fiction.
Storms have blown away all our blossom but still we stand.
I heard your key scrape at the lock and the clanking of the barrels before the stamping of feet on the mat. I had the mug under the hot water before you even reached the kitchen.
“Hey, you!” Knackered, your bag falls to the floor and I bite my lip to avoid the usual nag about leaving it where it falls. It’s been a long day.
Your hands slink around my waist as I dredge the teabag from the mug, fingers night cold where they sneak under my sweater. I let my head fall back on your shoulder.
“How’s mum?” I don’t really think there is an answer.
“Quiet. Your sister had been over and changed the bed.”
I acknowledge with a hum, but I can’t dwell on any of it. You know and drags me back against your chest. Familiar. Safe.
“Kids are down. Flic’s kindle is in your office and I had to bump the router off again to make sure they weren’t sneaking back on. They’re snoring now.” Your turn to hum an answer.
Your beard is soft against my cheek and I rub against it like a cat. So certain and calm. I want to climb onto your lap and be stroked and held and for everything to be ok. Instead, I pour the milk into the tea and absorb love through the tiny circles of thumb against belly.
I want taking out of my head. And you know me well enough to know it.
The clock ticks heavily marking seconds. The central heating fires up with a roar then drops away again. Our breathing synchronises.
You warm to me and the slightly humid post cooking air. Your hand lifts my sweater higher and I cool without getting cold.
One finger runs under the wire of my bra. Just rubs in small movements that highlight the roughness of your skin. Focuses my attention.
I let the day fall away.
That finger ticks over my skin. Hypnotic.
“Hands on the counter,” you say and your words move my body. I arch against you. Your hands stop dead.
The clock ticks on. I force myself to relax. You won’t be rushed.
I breathe with you.
Your fingers again traces patterns, follow the smooth snail trails of stretch marks across my skin. Brush through coarse curls on a downwards quest.
On another night I might squirm beneath your touch and you would respond by demanding your will, trapping me with your body and demanding with your words.
On yet another, you might peel down my jeans and spank my arse, the sound crisp and sharp bouncing off angles and surfaces. The coldness of marble beneath my fingers in contrast with the fiery bruises under yours.
Memorably, I remember the nights we fuck over the high backed kitchen chairs, the hard wood digging into my belly as I strain to balance on tiptoe, palms flat on the seat, desperately trying to hold still enough to avoid the groaning scrape of chair on tile. Forcing my head up to watch our blurry bodies reflected on condensation coated windows.
I wonder if the images are shared between us because you are hard against me now. I want to spread and soften. To welcome you. To be consumed by you.
I couldn’t do anything else, rooted to the floor. Eyes closed, I follow you around the room. The splash of water as you wash your hands. The friction of the junk drawer as it opens brings a sudden ache. Emptiness. The rustle as you search for lube is deliberate. Signposting. My throat tightens and the roof of my mouth aches with want.
My body screams for you to fuck me. My mouth stays closed.
Taps to the inside of my feet have me spreading my legs. You rush nothing. The slow pull of my belt before it loosens. Chill air hits exposed skin as my jeans fall to my knees. The dry fingered swipe is a tease. As though I didn’t know my ass was yours.
Patient fingers. I want this, don’t get me wrong, but I hate it at the same time. Hate that you haven’t asked. Hate the anticipation in my thighs. Hate myself for the wetness dampening my thighs as you spread me wider. The knife sharp anticipation.
I want this with a thirst that dries my mouth. A bone deep ache.
Two fingers. The slurp of the lube reminds me the bottle will need replacing soon, but that thought is chased away by the pressure and the screams that build silently.
Fuck me. I’m not some delicate flower. I want the sting. The consuming of me into that single focus. Your dick in me now. I want you to break and do as I demand.
Fuck me now.
Knees locked against the cupboard door, arms braced, you slide home and my thoughts burn to dust.
Just the thrust and withdraw.
Breaths loud against my ear.
Fingers bruisingly tight against my hips.
I want to hang here forever.
Want you to finish.
Want to be used.
Don’t let me come.
We tumble over the edge, you first in a helpless staccato that pins me to the counter, then me.
Then me. The day washed away in a tide of emotions and sensations.
You stay close, spunk leaking down my thighs, your face sweaty against my cheek. Stay in a bubble of our heartbeats till the ticking clock intrudes. We right our clothes. Wash our hands. Drink our lukewarm tea.