Show Yourself to Me by Xan West

I don’t read a lot of erotica anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I like erotica okay. I’m going to be reviewing a couple erotic novels in the near future. I can masturbate to the written word. But for the most part, erotica usually feels like it’s missing something for me. I can get on Literotica and read some short stories, but they always seem to lack body, depth, characterization, and passion. With that deficit in mind I was thrilled when I started reading Xan West’s Show Yourself to Me.

Book cover for Show Yourself to MeShow Yourself to Me
is a book of queer kink erotica that goes above and beyond what I’ve been conditioned to expect from erotica. I agreed to review it because I’ve read some of West’s blog posts about writing diverse characters in erotic stories, so I expected inclusivity, but nothing could have prepared me for this book, because it is so damn good.

West’s characters are gritty and empowered – they fill up the page, and feel real on a visceral level. Over the course of just a few pages I can go from being introduced to a new character to feeling like I actually know them. I know this seems like a strange thing to say – after all, when you’re reading a novel it can take the span of the entire book for that level of characterization to occur – but West’s descriptions are rich, and they really give me a sense of what makes each character tick.

The scenes are beautiful, and many of the stories talk about BDSM as more than just play, addressing the transformative aspects of it as well. BDSM is a way that many people explore their limits and identities, work through trauma, and strive to become better, and West’s stories demonstrate this. The stories are sexy and engaging, and they don’t feel detached or clinical at all. They are dark (but not in a morbid way) and heavy, and I love that.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with light ‘n fluffy BDSM or tales that only focus on the outer sensations, but that just isn’t what Show Yourself to Me is. The stories are deep and the play is intense. Heavy sadism, rough body play, and edge play are regularly featured throughout the book.

West does the reader the courtesy of including a content guide section after the table of contents, so the reader has forewarning of which stories include potential triggers such as trauma, knife play, humiliation, or consensual nonconsent. If you find that certain types of play may trigger you or simply aren’t to your taste, I urge you to use the content guide. On the other hand, if you’re specifically in the mood to read about blood play, the content guide will tell you which stories are up your alley.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the diversity in writing. West’s writing introduces you to disabled, fat, and transgender people. There are people of color (PoC) in the stories, and they acknowledge some of the baggage that surrounds PoC and BDSM play. Part of what makes the characters feel so real is that acknowledgement of the different people who participate in BDSM: people of different ethnicities, people of a larger size, people with canes and scooters, people using neutral pronouns, people who embrace stone sexuality. Instead of being as vague as possible, West specifically mentions the things that make characters part of minority groups so you don’t automatically assume everyone is white, cis, able-bodied, and thin… and that is beautiful.

I also learned a lot about different areas of kink from this book. Until I read this book I had never been exposed to certain BDSM cultures and fetishes like leather, Daddy/boy, or rough body play. Reading about these subcultures and kinks was fascinating, and really gave me insight into the appeal of some things that I’d never considered before. If you like these things, then this book is definitely for you, but if you’ve never given them any thought and would like to then this book is a great place to start thinking.

My favorite stories were The Tender Sweet Young Thing (which you can read here!), Falling For Essex, How He Likes It, Facing the Dark (you can read Xan’s backstory for it here), and Ready. You can view the Table of Contents for Show Yourself to Me and read little excerpts from the stories in this post on Xan’s blog.

I highly recommend Show Yourself to Me for kinky queers that love the written word. You can get eBook or print copies from Go Deeper Press and you can buy the book on Amazon. You can read more thoughts from Xan West at

Book Description:

In Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica, Xan West introduces us to pretty boys and nervous boys, vulnerable tops and dominant sadists, good girls and fierce girls and scared little girls, mean Daddies and loving Daddies and Daddies that are terrifying in delicious ways.

Submissive queers go to alleys to suck cock, get bent over the bathroom sink by a handsome stranger, choose to face their fears, have their Daddy orchestrate a gang bang in the park, and get their dream gender-play scene—tied to a sling in an accessible dungeon.

Dominants find hope and take risks, fall hard and push edges, get fucked and devour the fear and tears that their sadist hearts desire.

Within these 24 stories, you will meet queers who build community together, who are careful about how they play with power, who care deeply about consent. You will meet trans and genderqueer folks who are hot for each other, who mentor each other, who do the kind of gender play that is only possible with other trans and genderqueer folks.

This is Show Yourself to Me. Get ready for a very wild ride.

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Here Kitty Kitty

I don’t review a lot of porn. I think lots of bloggers agree that porn reviews are harder to write than some toy reviews. Normally I just don’t even know where to start… but things are different with Here Kitty Kitty.

The first thing I noticed was that Kitty Stryker is my porn aesthetic; this became apparent when the film opened on her masturbating in a pink wig and tiara, and my certainty of it increased with every scene – a different hair color, different jewelry. Kitty ears, eyeliner, and sparkles. “Yes,” I thought to myself, “I want to be like Kitty when I grow up.”

Magic Wand Original, Pink Wig, Tiara, Cat Ear Headband all arranged in different squares in a picture reading "Kitty Stryker Starter Pack"

The first partnered scene is a strap-on scenario with April Flores. I watched, enraptured, as these two beauties did all kinds of sexy stuff. The communication and consent was great. “You’re so pretty, I just want to hurt you a little bit,” April whispered. “Can I choke you?” Yes. With an attitude like that, you can smack me around any day, April. Call me.

Here Kitty Kitty.Still006Hotter still was when Kitty asked, “Do you like circles more, or back and forth?” while playing with April’s clit. It’s such a simple thing, but it was great to see porn performers talking about what they liked! In lots of porn you don’t see much negotiation about what kind of stimulation the performers want. I liked this. It was great knowing that April was actually enjoying what was being done to her.

That’s something that I find that lots of queer porn brings to the table: genuine enjoyment. Sure, I could pull up Pornhub and find some guy ramming his dick into a quivering hole over and over again, but there’s no sense of connection in that. I have yet to see mainstream porn where the performers communicate beyond, “Harder, harder!” and, “Open that ass up for me.” Eventually it starts to feel kind of joyless.


I felt the okittycinnpposite of joyless during the next scene with Cinnamon Maxxine. Cinnamon wears a glove (yay, safe sex!) and expertly works Stryker over with their hand and a Hitachi. There are lots of scenes in Here Kitty Kitty where you envy Kitty’s role in the scene, but this is one of the best.  In this scene Kitty squirts, and it’s because Cinnamon clearly knows their way around a vagina.


MVI_5980.Still001Miss Quin is the thinnest participant in the film, and it’s always pleasing for me to see a person of size with someone smaller. If you’re fat, you probably understand how nerve-wracking it initially feels to be with a smaller partner, so it was great to see a size difference like this represented in pornography. Quin and Kitty exchange oral sex, use a wand vibe, and scissor. I was totally thrilled by the scissoring. I have never seen tribbing with a larger person involved – usually your standard tribbing participant in porn is a very thin woman with a specific type of vagina. This scene was a breath of fresh air.


MVI_9577.Still002The finale is described as a “boy/boy/girl” threesome between Kitty, Ruckus, and Kitty’s real-life partner Ned Would. The first half of the scene was very focused on Kitty, and I wondered if we’d ever get to see Ruckus and Ned fuck. The answer is yes. You do get to see that, and it is super hot. The highlights of the scene are Kitty’s creampie, Ned getting fucked by Ruckus, Ruckus jerking off two dicks with one hand (what sorcery is this?), and Ruckus cumming in Ned’s mouth.

Kitty mentioned that she thinks the bi male scene turned off the mainstream porn press, and she’s probably right, but that is a serious fucking travesty. This scene is amazing. Something that helped me enjoy it more was reading about how Kitty planned it out on Pinterest… because if Pinterest was made for anything other than making you feel like shit for being bad at crafts, then this is it.


Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 12.09.12 AM

I highly recommend Here Kitty Kitty for people looking for a little bit more body diversity in their porn, and for equal-opportunity fuckers who want to see people with vaginas with other people with vaginas, people with vaginas with people with penises, and people with penises with other people with penises. You can get it here for $30.00, and it is well worth the price tag! Alternatively you can enter this awesome giveaway for a download of the video, a signed copy of Hard Femme, and some limited-edition Ban This Sick Filth stickers – just hurry, it’s ending in a few days!

Thanks so much to TroubleFilms for sending me a copy of Here Kitty Kitty in exchange for an honest review!

The Impact of Mental Illness on my Sex Life

Lots of people have taken the time to start and contribute to the conversation about depression and sex. Crista and JoEllen are two big names in the realm of sex and depression. Crista founded #OrgasmQuest and received national attention for it, and JoEllen is writing a book called, “The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression & The Conversations We Aren’t Having”. Just last week they ran a panel at Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit called “The Monster Under The Bed: Starting the Conversation About Sex and Depression“. With that in mind, they’ve pretty extensively covered depression and sex a lot more adequately than I ever will.

Back in 2012 Epiphora wrote about losing two weeks of her sex life to Zoloft, a common prescription for anxiety and depression.

Girly Juice has written about her anxiety a few times, most notably some very good advice about anxiety and dating.

Lorax of Sex wrote about why they sometimes don’t write because of living with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and compulsive disorders.

Sarah wrote about stopping SSRIs how it has affected her life.

I have bipolar 2, generalized anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia, and I can pinpoint the ways that each of them has affected my relationship with my sex life.

I have been party to both major depressive episodes and bipolar depression. When I was majorly depressed, I usually had no interest in sex, because I had no interest in anything that didn’t involve sleeping or crying. With bipolar depression (which I’m medicated for), my desire for sex is almost nonexistent, and what I do sexually tends to reflect that. If I masturbate, I do it as quickly and as uncomplicatedly as possible, and it’s usually out of habit. This go around I haven’t masturbated in over a month and a half. I have so little interest in masturbation right now that I can’t even bring myself to do it. Mentally I am so unprepared for sex that when my husband tries to initiate it, I’ll have a go at participating to see if I fall into the mood, but usually the attempt comes to an abrupt halt because I start crying. When I’m having depressed sex my mind isn’t in it, and it makes me feel vulnerable and defective.

I find myself almost exclusively depressed as a bipolar person. My hypomanic phases are terribly infrequent, which is a shame because I’m convinced that my hypomania is how non-mentally-ill people feel all the time, other than the decreased need to sleep and mildly impaired judgment. I feel sexually motivated and powerful when I’m hypomanic. I masturbate with a wide range of tools when I’m hypomanic. I want to have sex with more edge play when I’m hypomanic. I thought polyamory was a good idea when I was hypomanic, only to find that I was too exhausted and had no interest in maintaining multiple relationships once I came down.

My anxiety disorder comes into play in sex, too. If I’m having a particularly anxious day, I’ll have a hard time focusing on sex. I’ll become unexpectedly and irrationally insecure, and worry about weird things, like how my orgasm face looks, or what if I say the wrong name. The latter worry is the strangest, because it’s not like I fantasize about other people during sex – it’s just a fear I’ve always had about having sex. I’ll be hyper-aware of my body size and too afraid of hurting my partner to really enjoy intercourse. On the whole, anxiety makes me entirely too tense to have sex. Some people fuck to unwind, but the very idea of fucking will just wind me up more.

My agoraphobia seems like a strange thing to include here, but it really does affect my sex life. Lately I’ve noticed that, even in a depressive state, I’m able to get aroused when I’m not staying in my own home. An unwillingness to leave the house and inability to go anywhere alone has made my world quite small. All of my stress, worries, and emotions live at home. It’s my escape from the horrors of the outside world, but since it’s where I am 24/7 it’s where I face all of my internal horrors. I don’t get much in the way of housework, hobbies, self-care, or even work-work done at home, and the tasks I’ve procrastinated on loom over me no matter what room I’m in. My home is the nexus of my stress. I am starting to think that I can’t fuck in the nexus of my stress… and frankly, I don’t know what to do about it.

I don’t know how much of my ruined sex drive is the result of my mental illnesses and how much can be attributed to the medications treating them, but I need the medication, so I can’t quit my pills just to salvage my sex life. I miss desiring sex. I miss the intimacy and joy of having sex with my partner. I miss the fun of using my toy collection and testing new products. I don’t have the money to see a therapist, so I’m left to sort it out on my own, and it’s not working. How can I get my sex life back on track?

Casual Ableism: The Conversation We Need to Have

(TW: ableist language, discussion of ableism)

There comes a time in every company’s lifespan where they make an advertising mistake. For SheVibe, that was recently, when they ran a sale with “Crazy Edna” as the mascot. This drew the ire of Mary, who made a series of tweets regarding the incident. I will only quote a select few here, so if you’d like to read them you’ll have to go through her old tweets.

This advertising campaign was in no way intended to be offensive – it’s a reference to Crazy Eddie, an electronics franchise founded in 1971 that popped up in the Northeastern United States. The problem is that Crazy Eddie’s name and slogan (“His prices are INSANE!”) were ableist. This post is somewhat long and discusses ableist language, including its historical context, common usage, role in marginalizing women and the mentally ill, and perspectives regarding the reclamation of the word. At the end I will further discuss the situation with SheVibe and what they did to rectify the situation. (more…)

Sex in Someone Else’s House

There is a very real possibility that my husband and I will be moving in with my parents soon. Not permanently, but probably for at least a year while we finish renovating our house so we can put it on the market, and while we look for a home down in their town.

In lots of ways, it’ll be great. It’ll be a cheap living situation while we’re still paying the bills associated with the home we currently own, my husband will have a better job in the area, and I’ll finally be near my family, which is really important to me. In other ways it is not stellar: I am worried about having sex in someone else’s house.

Photo of a key holeMake no mistake, I did the nasty when I lived with my parents. I masturbated (and usually had phone sex) every night when I lived at home. When my boyfriend (at the time) moved in, we had sex regularly. But I also lived on a different floor of the house and could hear people coming down the steps. The new house is only one floor, and although the room we’re going to occupy is on the other side of the house from my parents’ room, it doesn’t have a locking door.

Naturally, this means I’m going to have a talk with my mother about the importance of knocking, and in doing so I’m probably implying that I’m going to do the nasty in her house. It’s funny that I’m so open with them about my blog and the fact that I have sex, but when it comes to the admission that I would do it in their house I turn bright red and it’s the last conversation that I want to have. I can think of 20 things I’d rather do before I tell my parents that I want privacy so I can diddle myself (or my husband).

Why do I have this weird aversion to having sex in my parents’ home? Maybe it has to do with the fact that I didn’t grow up in this house, so I don’t have a room that was “my room,” where my privacy was respected. Maybe it’s because, as an adult, I feel more like a guest than a resident. Maybe it just has to do with the fact that most people think sex is shameful, and while my parents and I can joke about sex (or a lack thereof) all day long, that just feels very different from saying, “Hey, I’m probably going to bone someone in your house.”

I’m sure that for some of you there’s a thrill to it, like the taboo or the possibility of getting caught makes it hot. I say more power to you. I’m just not sure when I’m going to be able to muster the will to have sex in a house where my parents are just 30 feet away. How do you do it?

The Creep Factor

Ella Dawson’s post titled The Boner Backlash (subtitled: STOP TELLING ME YOU WOULD STILL FUCK ME) hit home with me in a very personal way, and I imagine that anyone who writes about sex can relate, particularly if they’re perceived as women.

People tend to get overly familiar when you write about sex, perform in sex, or work in the adult industry. To some degree this is fine, because many of us want to educate and are more than happy to discuss things to that end. There is a culture of sexual openness that I try to perpetuate as a sex blogger. I think we should be able to talk about sex openly, but there’s a big difference between discussing sex in a non-threatening way and telling someone you wanna stick your dick in them. There’s a difference between saying, “Tell me how that big dick feels when you slip it inside yourself,” and asking me how a particular dildo feels. There’s a difference between someone calling Tantus’ customer support line to learn more about how a particular toy works and calling customer support to nonconsensually talk dirty at the person on the other end of the line.

When a woman mentions sex in any way, creepy people (most often men – why is it always you, men?) lose their heads and assume that these women are welcoming all sexual discussion and advances.
As Ella says in her blog post:

Readers—male readers, let me be clear—often think they know exactly who I am after reading a few of my essays. They are usually wrong.

These men assume that they know us because we expose an intimate part of our lives, and they assume that they’re welcome to associate with us in overly familiar terms… terms that most of these guys (hopefully) know not to use on a first date, or even a third, yet they’ll tweet and e-mail us using those familiar terms without even knowing our names.

It’s like they think that by reading about our sexuality they’ve been transported into our bedrooms and we’re sitting around in lingerie, waiting. What they don’t realize is that if we’re sitting around in lingerie waiting for someone it is not them. They are STRANGERS to us. This overly familiar feeling is completely one-sided. If these men appeared in our bedrooms we would be terrified because they are uninvited strangers barging into our homes.

And don’t think that apologizing or claiming that you’re not a pervert when you try to barge into our home helps. After all, Ella’s reader that wrote to her assured her that he wasn’t a pervert:

“To put that all together, and also read about how much you enjoy sex without condoms physically-speaking, everything just points to what a wonderful, sexy, and confident woman you are. Honestly, I was just like “WOW, this girl is just so damn sexy..”, and I don’t mean it in a perverted way at all.”

Yes you do, you piece of shit. “WOW, this girl is just so damn sexy…” I really hate that this is supposed to be a compliment when it really just makes most of us feel pretty damn gross. I’ve heard this on Twitter, and I’ve heard it on Fetlife, and I’ve heard it OKCupid, and it really just makes me annoyed. Yes! I am sexy! And I don’t need some dude to tell me he thinks that. I don’t want to know when I’m desirable to some stranger, especially some cis man – sorry boys, but “Dick is abundant and low value.” Cis males are the key perpetrators of harassment like this and because of that I just have less tolerance for this shit from y’all.

I don’t need a stranger to tell me I’m sexy. I don’t need a stranger to make conversation with me just to get closer to me with the intention of getting in my pants. I don’t WANT those things! I’m so sick of a world where we pretend that men are doing women a service by getting all up in their grill and singing songs of how fuckable they are. It’s not a compliment – it’s an affront.


I’ve had people say they’d like to date and/or fuck me, and from certain people I have established relationships with it’s very flattering, but from the rest of you it’s a pesky buzzing noise like you’re some kind of fly circling my nethers. When in doubt use this handy rule of thumb: If I don’t start flirting with you, don’t try flirting with me.


Back to Ella’s letter from her “fan,” I also get this manipulative element from his message. Did you catch it? That sort of “I-have-low-self-esteem” thing, saying something like, “I don’t expect you to write back.” It’s like he’s trying to downplay the entitlement in his message. Trying to guilt-trip her into a response? As if the goal is for Ella to write back and say, “Of course I was going to write back since you sent me such a lovely letter! We’re soul mates after all, because you realize how wonderful I am!”


And it’s also just so awkward for everyone involved whenever a man tries to disguise his unwanted advances as hypotheticals: “if you did write back and one day we actually got to do ‘it’”. Do you know how this differs from the men that say, “When we fuck I’m going to do x, y, z to you?” It differs because the men who write in hypotheticals can shuffle backwards with their hands raised when we call them on their shit. “I was just saying if it ever happened! I didn’t mean it! It was hypothetical! I wasn’t being a creep!” Stop trying to cover it up. You were being a creep and we both know it.


There’s not a lot for me to say that Ella hasn’t already said in her own post, but let me just lay the bottom line out for you folks again: when we write about sex we are never doing it for you. We are not inviting you to tell us about your dick. We are not saying we will date or fuck you… we’re not even saying you’re a candidate! And the minute you approach us spewing this repulsive harassment that you’ve tried to disguise as a compliment, you’re permanently ruling yourself out as a candidate, because you are actively demonstrating that you feel entitled to us.
As Ella says:

I do not exist to arouse. Sometimes I write erotica, but that does not mean I am personally interested in your arousal. And I am a woman who writes about sex, but I am not a woman whose sexuality you are entitled to.