The Bill Gates Condom Competition

Yes, it’s a real thing. Back in March 2013, Bill and Melinda Gates put up a $100,000 prize for an improved condom design as part of th Grand Challenges in Global Health programme. It’s one of the Grand Challenges Explorations Round 11 topics and here’s a link directly to its web page, if you think you have a great design.

The logic of it is ‘the lack of perceived incentive for consistent use’ – the benefits of not contracting STIs are offset by issues such as decrease in stimulation and the need to engage in awkward messing around with a small latex balloon just before sex (though there are answers to that such as incorporating into sex play…). The challenge is, therefore, to create a condom that could enhance pleasure and is easier to use.

One design that’s already won praise is the origami condom, which is already manufactured by a small company in California and is made of silicone rather than latex (with a one-way valve to stop semen leaking out).

However, one guy’s design for a condom applicator is likely to win only a niche following, probably mostly among dommes with male submissives who need a sharp reminder of their domme’s superiority. You can see the explanation of its use and the applicator in action on a video on Trendhunter – it’s tagged ‘Prophylactic projectiles‘, which may give you some idea of how it works.

Twerking and slutdrops

One of the things we try to do is keep an ear to the ground for new trends and terms that emerge in relation to sex. Nothing happens for a while and then we hear about two in the space of a couple of days. You probably already know this but…

‘Twerking’ just hit the headlines because Miley Cyrus twerked someone or other in her performance for the MTV Video Music Awards, and thus in front of a large TV audience. And it got a lot of complaints about unwarranted raunchiness, and ‘not in front of the children’ type comments. You can read more about all this at the BBC website. Part of the issue was to do with her wearing a flesh coloured costume that suggested nudity (though apart from the color it’s relatively conservative) but if you want to see the twerk, there’s a 39-second clip on Youtube where the twerk comes at 18 seconds in. It’s basically bending forward and waggling your ass, but for maximum effect a woman stands with her back to a guy and bends forward to grind her ass into his groin.

It doesn’t actually look like a very committed and positive twerk, just a hint of one. But if you really want to know the detail of how it’s done, there are instructional videos including this one on Youtube. We can see the attraction of it – but we’re just left wondering whether, since it’s billed as a ‘club dance move’, many people do it in clubs – and indeed whether if you went to a gay club you’d see guy-on-guy twerks. If anyone knows, we’d be interested to know.

And is the name just random, or is there any proper etymology there?

[Edited to add: on 28 August we discovered that twerking, along with terms such as ‘omnishambles’ and ‘selfie’, has made it into the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary. The term seems to have been around in hip-hop culture for around 20 years though only became visible in the cultural mainstream in the last year – which probably means it’s been a known as a club dance move in your local nightclub for a bit longer than that. More on this from your all-seeing cultural authority, the BBC.]

Now for the slutdrop. This is a twerk (optional) followed by a squat, and if it’s done right – that is, with the woman standing in front of a man and facing away from him, the result is that most of her spine makes contact with his groin. It’s probably been around as a solo dance move for quite a few years (and maybe starting in places like strip clubs?) and there are some Youtube clips now that are a couple of years old. But in the UK it was popularised by a TV programme called ‘Geordie Shore’ . Here’s their explanation/demonstration.

And no, we’re far too staid to do this kind of thing ourselves. Though if anyone want to come over and give us a live demo…

A 1950s household fetish?

For some reason the ‘1950s household fetish’ has been turning up on my radar recently. I don’t know whether it’s becoming more popular, or more people who are into it have been looking at my blogs, or what – but there it is. A fetish for the kinds of styles, culture and domestic and sexual relationships of the 1950s.

People who are into this often go deep into it. They furnish their house in a 1950s style and banish any devices (except possibly their PC) that wouldn’t have been available at that time. Books, magazines and newspapers of the time might be on display.

They dress the part, with full skirts and polka dots, elaborate hairdos and time spent baking things in the kitchen – that’s the women, of course, because the men would wear suits, waistcoats and ties, and smoke a pipe. They may listen to radio broadcasts of that time or watch 1950s TV programmes (for which they would, these days, need internet-ready TV or a DVD player, so technological compromises have to be made).

I can see the attraction. It was a period shortly after one of the most destructive wars humanity had ever waged, and many adults were simply relieved that it was over and they could get on with their lives. It was a period of fast economic growth, the beginning of a consumerist boom, and in the UK, a period in which government had responded to social need by creating the beginnings of the welfare state in order to make people more secure – free health care at the point of need, for example.

But it was also still an era of ‘traditional’ relations between dominant men and subservient women, with strongly defined roles and responsibilities. For many people this both echoes and reinforces the dom/sub roles of BDSM.

It’s an obvious point, but it’s a selective re-invention of the 1950s we’re talking about here. It’s based on middle- or upper-class homes, people who have comfortable lifestyles. We’re not talking about dingy 1950s council flats or the ‘prefabs’, temporary shed-like structures built to house those returning from war or who had lost their homes in wartime bombing raids. We’re not talking about couples where the role of the woman in the home excluded her husband, who spent most of his leisure time in the local pub. And we’re not talking about the era of food rationing, introduced in 1939 at the veginning of the war and not fully lifted until 1954.

Nor are we talking about the kind of society in which women could divorce their husbands for adultery only if it was proved (for example with a private detective and a photograph) or for reasons of drunkenness, insanity or desertion. The law was only changed and made more equal-handed in 1969.

Other negative aspects: the contraceptive pill hadn’t been invented, though the ‘upside’ of this was that a fairly sophisticated set of ‘petting’ activities were well-known so that sex that didn’t need contraception – handjobs, blowjobs and other forms of rubbing and mutual stimulation such as frottage using a range of materials – were widely practiced (and appreciated).

There was also widespread homophobia: the Wolfenden Report in the UK, which recommended a limited decriminalisation of homosexual acts, was published in 1957 and laws not enacted for another decade.

And in political terms, remember the Suez Crisis, the Korean War, the Hungarian Revolution and MAD – Mutual Assured Destruction in the event of a nuclear war? Yes, all in the 1950s and matters of worldwide anxiety at that time.

As best I can gather, those who follow what they think of as a 1950s lifestyle play with the idea of it to a large degree. In some cases it’s based on the fantasy that the husband goes off to work and has an affair with his secretary while the housewife entertains the milkman (remember them?) in the marital bed. I others, the household is female led and female-dominant, with the roles fully or partly reversed. In these latter households, sissification appears to be a strong theme as well.

Contemporary aspects BDSM such as highly technological toys are likely to play little part. Tease, bondage and spanking may be more common, even though the John Willie and Irving Klaw styles of heavier bondage were known in the sexual underground of the day. Oh, and rubber might play a part – rubber underwear was widely sold in the 1950s, ostensibly as an aid to weight loss because it encouraged perspiration. Though how people used it was of course up to them. This was the subject of some ribald comedy routines of the times.

For whose who engage in it, I suspect the value of the 1950s has something to do with the sense of retreat from troubling aspects of postmodern society (which I guess me might all want from time to time) and encapsulation in a more positive worldview. It might also be to do with a more rigid set of standards, values and expectations that some people may find comparatively easy to live inside. And there are aspects of 1950s fashion, design and style that remain alluring, from rocket fins on cars to stockings on women (yes, I know some men look good in stockings too, but it was a sexist era).

Don’t knock it. Just imagine for a second that in 2050, a ‘twenty naughty’ fetish might exist in which all the things we regard as troubling today – for example neoliberalism, economic recession, a struggle for non-discrimination and LGBT rights – is fetishised as being a comforting retreat from whatever world people are living in then…

 

Some sources for you:

A short, Christian-based account of the 1950s household fetish

The URGE (Ultimate Resource Guide to Explorations) page on the subject

The LPSG discussion group on 1950s household fetish

A Pinterest board on 1950s household fetish

 

 

 

 

Voodoo Fetish free until 28 July

Voodoo Fetish cover pictureVoodoo Fetish, the second book in my Vodou Trilogy, is free on Amazon until 28 July: it’s available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. The first book, Ridden, details Eloise’s brush with the lwa and Baron Cimitiėre in which she’s used as an instrument of supernatural healing. Her powers are only released, though, when she has bdsm sex in which she can use her pain to channel away another person’s illness. This novella isn’t free, so to read the backstory you’ll need to pay a nominal two dollars and some cents. Voodoo Fetish details her life back in London. You’d think London is a long way from vodou – but the vodou diaspora is present these days in many large cities. She’s called upon by the lwa to carry out a healing ceremony for the daughter of a work colleague. Among other things this involves supernatural sex, discussions with crows and a dead witch, sex with a pagan couple she meets who are recruited to her healing project, a relationship with a houngan (male priest) who comes from the slightly different New Orleans tradition of vodou, a bass guitar with interesting properties, and discussion of the Navier-Stokes equations of fluid dynamics. There will be a third novella in due course, which explains how the various people she’s healed are connected together and what the longer-term project of the lwa was. And, yes, bdsm and sex will be involved. However, for now you can read the second novella, Voodoo Fetish, for free. Go to it. Enjoy.

Shiny new covers

Because I’ve been busy on other projects recently I missed the news that Xcite won a prize: ETO Best Erotic Book Brand 2013.

Vampire's New Plaything - revised coverETO is Erotic Trade Only, an annual convention in the UK for all erotic trades that also puts out a magazine, has a blog, and so forth. They award prizes at their annual event and the complete list of winners is here.

Some of the sex toys that won prizes, incidentally, were things I had to Google in order to work out what they were and what they do. Some days I just feel like a dinosaur who doesn’t know anything any more. Maybe a session with a Revo 2 would pep me up… Yes, it won a prize. As did Lovehoney, which is where that link leads. And when I searched the internet for it, I was initially puzzled because there’s also a car tyre of the same name. But I digress.

Tricks for Kicks - revised cover The reason I knew Xcite had won the prize was because they’ve been redesigning the covers of their books to include a spiffy little thing that on a real book cover would be a sticker announcing the prize.

But they’ve also redesigned some of the covers completely, and I think they’ve done an excellent job on them. I’m guessing here but I think other titles of mine (and of Velvet Tripp’s) will probably be getting the same treatment in the near future. As and when I spot new covers I’ll announce them.

First Day at Work - revised cover So my First Day at Work and Vampire’s New Plaything short stories, and the Tricks For Kicks collection that has my story ‘Filthy White Dress’ in it, all now look like the pics in this post (the other links to these stories that are around this blog that show the old covers also still work, of course).

And if you go over to the ‘Our Publications’ page, you’ll find links to Amazon Uk and a bunch of other places where you can also find these titles.

Just thought you might like to know all that. And… Buy our books!

Emerald in the magazine

Emerald sat on the park bench staring at the magazine.

It had been left by the previous occupants of the bench, two student-looking guys wearing T-shirts that seemed to advertise heavy metal bands. The cover didn’t appeal to her, but she’d been curious.

The photo had resurfaced. It was on page 35, the lower half, as part of an advert.

It was evidently being used as the cover image of a book. No. 1 bestseller! the billboard announced. Sex, Scandal and Sadism in the Swinging Sixties. The title was in a script that was harder to read – she hadn’t brought the right glasses – but had been positioned strategically to cover her nipples.

The ad evoked a rush of memories, emotions, reactions. They didn’t come in any particular sequence or order. They didn’t tell a story. They were just elements in her life, no join-the-dots connectedness to them.

The picture came from 1965. She’d been 21 at the time.

The original showed her hands tied behind her back; ropes around her upper arms and breasts; knees and ankles tied together. It was technically a hogtie because a rope ran from her ankles to the small of her back, pulling her feet behind her. But she’d been lying on her side. Nude, of course – Jon always preferred to shoot her nude. But the shot was taken from a low angle, with her looking back – or up, from her perspective – at the camera. Her face and tits had been in the foreground, with the rope around the tits.

He’d used a Hasselblad. State of the art for the period. All of her body was in focus, including her toes, visible behind her head. NASA had used Hasselblad cameras on the first Apollo missions.

The shoot had been in colour. Jon spent a lot of time messing with a red light in front of her, and a blue light – an ordinary bedside light with a silk scarf thrown over it – behind her. But the finished product, half-page in a pulp magazine, had been in black and white.

The mags had started to decline in popularity in the late sixties, and some of them had turned to explicit photos rather than artwork to reverse the trend. She couldn’t remember the title. It was in the weird menace, murder, horror and sexploitation end of the market.

Was Jon even alive, still? She hadn’t seen him since the mid-seventies. God knew who held the rights to the picture now. She’d been paid five pounds for the shoot, which in those days was a week’s wage packet for a lot of women.

He’d gagged her with a piece of cloth ripped from her kaftan mini-dress. The kaftan had cost seventeen shillings and sixpence from a shop in the Kings Road, this being in the days before decimalisation when shilling and pence were still in use. She’d insisted on being refunded the cost in addition to the five pounds.

After the shoot she’d walked home naked under her raincoat.

The pic was one of a set. He’d shot maybe three dozen and come up with five he really liked. The others were of her from a low angle, full-frontal; from above, looking down as he stood over her with this shadow falling across her thighs; close-up of face and breasts; and one shot from by her knees, showing exposed buttocks, arms behind her, ropework.

This was all done in the days before Japanese bondage became popular. No kinbaku, no shibari. Not many people had heard of John Willie. There was no aesthetic of jute and hemp: it was all damsel-in-distress and white cotton rope, the kind used for window sash cords. You could buy it in any street-corner ironmongers.

Every parade of shops had an ironmonger in those days. Everyone needed coal scuttles, dustbins, nails, washing lines, rope…

In the picture she was crying. The tears were real. The terror was real. The bastard wanted her to look terrified. He’d told her about a serial murderer who tied his victims up exactly that way, and carved messages to the police on the skin of his victims. Then he’d thrown a cut-throat razor onto the floor next to her. That feeling of the story being a wind-up, but at the same time having an emotional effect because she was vulnerable, stayed with her a long time.

The razor had been cropped from the cover picture she was looking at.

They’d had sex when he’d finished the camerawork. He’d untied her ankles and knees, rolled her onto her back, on a blanket, and spread her legs. Her weight pressing on her wrists had made every thrust excruciating. But the fact she was still tied meant the pain didn’t matter. The fact she was still crying because of the murder story and the razor didn’t matter. Sex after a photoshoot was ritualistic, a way of bringing the whole encounter to a form of closure. The sex was a way of grounding the emotions generated in the session, like his cock was a fizzing bolt of lightening and she was the channel for it to reach the earth.

About six months after the shoot, she’d bumped into Jon again. Gone back to his place to see the magazine. She couldn’t remember the story the pictures were supposed to illustrate, though it wasn’t the one Jon had told her during the session. Then they’d had sex. It was the last time they’d had sex because by then, she had a boyfriend. After sex with Jon she’d gone home, still feeling horny, and persuaded her boyfriend to have sex with her as well. She’d given him a blowjob – ‘giving head’, they called it back then. In those days giving head was something rare and special, maybe just something you did for thirty seconds as part of foreplay. It wasn’t the normal, natural part of sex it seemed to have become now.

The shoot had been in the garage of Jon’s house. It had a cold concrete floor and despite the blanket under her when they had sex, small pieces of grit dug into her shoulder blades and buttocks. She barely noticed them at the time, but they left a rash of tiny purple bruises that took several days to fade.

It wasn’t the first time she’d been tied up. Wasn’t the last time either. The sense of helplessness always got to her, though not always as intensely as the photoshoot had done. Being taken captive had been a fantasy from a young age. French arthouse films had confirmed it wasn’t just her being weird, but a deeper part of the female psyche. The tricky part had been finding partners whose sadistic and dominant tendencies she could trust. Partners who do the things she fantasised about, but without the gruesome consequences.

The shoot had been part of a chaotic time of her life. In the sixties she’d been a wild child. It wasn’t easy being wild, you had to work at it. Not because of the drugs – she’d been a secretary in music company at the time and they’d always had a bowl of coke on the table in the meeting room and ready-rolled joints in a drawer of the reception desk. Emerald doubted anyone would believe those stories now. The company didn’t start cleaning up its office until 1967, after the Rolling Stones arrests. No, the hardest parts of being wild were the four-day parties in the country and the condition of the various squats she and many of her friends lived in.

She’d been 21 in 1965. She was 68 now. The years between then and now had seen her married, bringing up two children, divorced, remarried, bereaved. She’d had two affairs – or was it three? – and spent several years going to swingers’ clubs with her second husband. She’d enjoyed bondage sex, but the last time that had happened was going on three decades ago.

The picture was a moment in time, not a summary of a life. It was a paid photoshoot to illustrate a story she couldn’t remember, maybe hadn’t even read the whole of; it was Jon’s conception, inspiration and staging. It was a five-minute wank for unknown thousands of men who’d now be the same age as her. And yet there was a sense in which, even at this distance in time, it defined something essential about who she was.

She wondered what had happened to the other pictures from the shoot, and whether she’d ever see them again.

Unhurriedly and with the trace of a smile on her face, Emerald put the magazine in her shopping bag. She stood, smoothed the front of her raincoat in a reflex movement, and walked slowly out of the park.

***

You may see a longer version of this story in a collection at some point in the future…

Sex, Art and Aromatherapy for free (until 9 June)

Sex Art and Arometherapy alternative coverXcite tell me Sex, Art, and Aromatherapy will be free on iTunes Bookstore between 27th May – 9th June.

It’s a short story – one of my gentler pieces of erotica, and about 6000 words – about a woman who’s already experienced in BDSM and fetish, but she falls into conversation with an older man in an art gallery, who also seems experienced in that world. He tells her stories about how, in his youth, BDSM was simply one part of a wider and more spiritual quest. She sets off on a journey with him to discover some enlightenment.

Quick sample:

The label says the picture is called ‘Untitled No. 41 (1989)’, by Joshua Cesario.

Ruby consults her mobile phone. The display should tell her the time, but it’s blank. The battery’s died.

A few other people are in the gallery. One is an older man, sitting on the leatherette bench in the middle of the space. He’s looking at the same picture.

‘Excuse me,’ she whispers. ‘What’s the time?’

He looks at his watch, casually. ‘A couple of minutes after three. Are you in a hurry?’

She’s not. Though she was planning on buying some shoes and chocolate on the way home.

‘You’ve been looking at the picture for a while,’ the man observes. ‘Do you know much about it?’

‘Why? Are you the artist?’

He chuckles. ‘Much as I’d like to, I don’t paint. I’m an aromatherapist.’ Figures: for the first time, Ruby notices a faint scent of rosewater in the air. ‘But I did know him, for a time. I first met him at a party. This was maybe twenty years ago.’

‘Oh?’ Ruby’s interested, but not yet hooked.

‘You’ve no doubt worked out that despite being abstract, the picture’s about sex. Specifically, about sex and bondage. It was… How shall I put this? It was that kind of party. Fetishistic. Orgiastic.’

Ruby does a mental doubletake, remembering that this fifty-something man with greying hair must have been young once. The kind of things she’s done, while fresh and interesting to her when she experienced them, have been done before…

‘I remember he’d tied up a young lady – she was a lady actually, though I don’t recall her exact title – and there was a certain amount of sex involved along with the painting. But that’s another story. This painting, I remember him explaining the details in a drunken conversation. It was a memorial to a particular woman he’d been having an affair with, to their idea of love.’

Of course the large canvas was about sex. Otherwise, why the pile of clothes in one corner and the shoes at the end of what, presumably, is a naked body? And what picture isn’t about sex, anyway, in some coded form? But the story coded into this picture suddenly captures her imagination and she wants to know more.

This link to iTunes should take you to the US iTunes store directly. If you need another store, just search for author ‘Fulani’ and title ‘Sex, Art and Aromatherapy’.

Sex Art & Aromatherapy coverDepending on which store you’re viewing you’ll either see the cover image at the head of this post or the one on the ‘Our Publications’ page (also see left) – when it first went onto iTunes they weren’t keen on covers depicting bondage.

So have fun. For free, until 9th June.