Reading For Pleasure – Autobiography Of An Orgasm

Autobiography of an Orgasm by Betsy BlankenbakerI feel like I am only just starting to understand pleasure. I’ve spent most of my life focused on pain and seeking relief. I don’t think pleasure is the opposite of pain, I think they are inextricably connected. The opposite of pain is numbness, a dulling of sensation rather than an alternate feeling. 

My adventures in pain relief and my ever-turbulent relationship with my body have led me to start thinking differently and appreciating pleasure in a different way.  

This is why I was interested to hear Betsy Blankenbaker talk to Sarah Starrs about her orgasm research, and why I immediately brought and read her book Autobiography of an Orgasm.

I didn’t think I would ever write about anything of a sexual nature on this blog, in a book maybe, where there are words enough for context. However, this post isn’t really about sex (sorry!) it is about an incredible book by an amazing woman. A book that has changed the way I think about orgasm, which has already had a huge impact on me and my pursuit of pleasure, and I think Betsy’s story is one we all need to hear. Add it to your Christmas list – I’m considering sending a copy to every woman I know!   

Autobiography of an Orgasm made my mind open and my eyes widen. There is so much mystery around the female body, even after years of pelvic pain I think I am pretty clued up on my basic gynaecology, but turns out I still have a lot to learn. It turned me on, but it isn’t a purely titillating read, it is sexy and spiritual, and also healing.

Betsy’s first book is a memoir – and one that will resonate with women everywhere. You don’t need to have experimented with jade eggs or be interested in trying OM (orgasmic meditation) to relate to this book (but it is fascinating to hear about these things!). You will feel a connection through the experiences that have touched so many of us – abuse, abortion, affairs, to name a few – that have consciously or unconsciously stopped us treating ourselves physically and emotionally with the love and pleasure we deserve, well it turns out our orgasms can heal all that. That is good news – I really couldn’t have hoped for a better cure.

And we need to be talking about this without shame or deflective humour (I’m obviously guilty of using both, but I am British and still learning!). I’m looking forward to reading more on the subject and hearing the stories of other women in her follow up book Autobiographies of Our Orgasms: Volume 1.

What I really loved is that Betsy articulates something I have been thinking about (without realising it) for years – that orgasms are not just the climax, that the first touch can be orgasmic and that it is a feeling we can carry with us outside of the bedroom, in our every day lives. 

I don’t want to say too much and spoil the book for you – I just want you to know that you should definitely read it!


Using Creativity To Get Under The Skin Of Obsession – A Collection of Collage Poetry

Repapering The Yellow Wallpaper by Cassy Fry

I met someone very insightful recently and she told me that I use art to heal myself. It wasn’t a huge revelation for me. I’ve always written, created and escaped into imaginative worlds to help me understand, process and delight in life.

I have my share of emotional baggage, quirks and issues, but usually any work I create inspired by them stays private. Mostly because they are more about the process than the finished piece, but also, because the thought of sharing the more personal stuff I create is just too scary. 

My latest collection of collage poetry certainly felt very personal, in terms of the process and theme. For my FOCI article about OCD and The Yellow Wallpaper, I redacted and repapered the whole of the short story, to explore themes of obsession and skin. I don’t have OCD, but I have compulsively picked my skin for most of my life – it is pretty much under control now, but the impulse is still there. You can read the full article here.

Covering and uncovering every page of the story became both obsession and therapy. I created layers of imperfections, the kind that would tempt me to pick.

This work feels different to my other projects, quite literally as this project is more tactile than my other black out work, but also because I was using the technique to explore the story and get under the skin of the text, seeing what was underneath by repapering it.

With 50 Shaded Poems, I was looking to create something beautiful, but I already knew there was beauty (albeit the gothic kind) in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s words, and I was picking at it. While I wasn’t looking for it, the grotesque patterns made their own kind of beauty.

The full collection – Repapering The Yellow Wallpaper – is now available for my Patreon supporters to download. You can get access to it, as well as a PDF of my book 50 Shaded Poems by pledging $1+ a month. I use the support pledged to cover my basic costs and to invest in creative projects like this one. 

One of the collage poems is now available to buy as a print in my Etsy shop and some have been published here.

Gig Review: Slaves at Portsmouth Pyramids


Three punk rockin’ bands, an ever-expanding mosh pit and a man-sized manta-ray… just another night out in Southsea? Not quite. Slaves had come to town.

Slaves are a break-through band that I can actually get excited about, their album – Are You Satisfied? is one of my favourites of 2015 (and was also nominated for the Mercury Prize – always a delight to see some punk on the shortlist). I have been told that they are in their element as a live band, and having missed them on several occasions in Kent, I snapped up tickets for their south coast night.

The Spring Kings warmed things up with some catchy punk pop tunes, then the limbs and sweat started to fly to Wonk Unit, who I found particularly entertaining – it helped that they tackled social issues close to my heart, such as the unfortunate souls that are unable to grasp how to use public transport. (Sort it out manspreaders!)

Then Slaves came on. Each punching drumbeat and an aggressive avalanche of guitar noises ramped up the energy (the sweat and the testosterone) in the room. The punk duo have an appealing stage presence – a combination of boyish charm and a passion for playing. Slaves are a fun live band, but also raw, real and relevant.

Bouncing about to tracks like Cheer Up London, Sockets and Where’s Your Car Debbie? was great, but other numbers, like Despair and Traffic and Live Like An Animal, have a different edge. With an anger that sits on the right side of the bitterness fence, they are still tunes that get you moving, but while giving you a bit of a kick up the arse with some compassionate straight-talking. 

Actually, they were quite inspiring, although that seems like the wrong phrase, it feels more appropriate to say they are proper good lads. 

Also someone in the audience really did dress up as a manta-ray, an outfit held together with duct tape (suitably punk DIY) and there was a spontaneous chorus of the Pompey Chimes (oh I love you people of Portsmouth).  

It was such a good night that I don’t mind that it nearly wiped me out and I am still recovering over a week later (in latest health news, apparently my body needs a week off after attending a gig) and I can even forgive the lads for coming on to the Venga Boys and getting that damn song stuck in my head all week. After all, we do like to party.

50 Shaded Poems – My Blackout Poetry Book Is Out Now!

50 Shaded Poems by Cassy Fry

This week has been super exciting! Earlier this year I made 50 poems from Fifty Shades Of Grey, then I crowdfunded it into a book – 50 Shaded Poems. All the rewards have now been shipped and have started arriving at their new homes – check out snaps from my Kickstarter backers on the #50ShadedPoems hashtag. I’ve been feeling unwell so it has been a delight to see my creations go out into the world! It is a wonderful feeling to finally share something tangible. 

This means you can now buy my book! *insert the happy dance of the poets here, then cue the shameless self-promotion*

How to get your hands on my book (IRL or virtually)…

You can order the paperback (£8.99) or e-book (£2.99 incl VAT) via Blurb.

There is also a PDF version available to my supporters on Patreon – along with exclusive access to my creative work, a discount for my shop and parcels of poetic postcards. If you like what I do, please check it out –  I’m a patron of other creators and I love the platform

I’ve also got a few 50 Shaded Poems prints and postcards available to buy from my Etsy shop

About the book…

I have already written about the project when I was kickstarting the book (if you missed it you can read it here) so this is more of a ‘here is where you can find my book’ kind of post.

I probably should’ve penned something more sales savvy along the lines of ‘here is why my book will change your life!’. That is quite unlikely, but it is rather lovely and it does transform Fifty Shades Of Grey into something entirely different. So far, it has been described so far as “cheeky and clever” and “an absolute work of art”. I am very happy with that. 

But to entice you even further, I’ll close with a few of the poems… 

Dance Review: Digital Tattoo

Digital Tattoo_1_Photography by Eleanor Kelly

Can you imagine wearing your web presence on your flesh? Having Facebook photographs and Google searches imprinted on you for all to see? What if your body was confronted by the permanence of your online data? 

Choreographer Katie Dale-Everett uses the theme of digital identity in her latest work – Digital Tattoo. It is an intimate dance and film projection piece – the ideal media combination for exploring our physical and virtual selves. Anyone who has any sort of web presence or social media profile should see this.

If you are new to contemporary dance, this would be a great place to start. The familiarity of the digital influences in the movement and music are reassuring and engaging. There is a delightful use of typing, swiping and touchscreen-zooming motions in the choreography, and the tones and notification notes used in the music are auditory digital signifiers as well as an ambient, yet dynamic soundtrack for the piece.

Composed by Tom Sayers (whose other work notably includes sound design for Slumdog Millionaire and music editing for the chillingly beautiful Les Revenants/The Returned), the opening music could actually be my ideal blogging soundtrack. 

There were lots of things I loved about this performance – the projection of a relationship which created a narrative in my mind, glimpses of a wild night out, the use of data and the right to be forgotten, the scrutiny of a reflection where the audience is the mirror and the closeness of the performers. The proximity of the dancers to the audience gave it a real intimacy, at times it felt quietly uncomfortable, verging on voyeuristic yet still as compelling as scrolling through photos of your ex’s new love interest on Facebook.  

The two dancers were wonderful to watch. Eirini Apostolatou is a particularly charming performer, her shifting emotions and facial expressions were a delight. 

Often when I watch contemporary dance, I just look at the dancers, the beautiful movements and take it as is, without analysing the meaning or thinking about themes. I find spending too long trying to understand something as it is happening makes it less enjoyable than just experiencing it. On other occasions the theme dominates so much that the dance is almost coincidental. I think this piece got the balance just about right by combining the closeness of the dance with the projected images and Google searches, which were part of both the interpretation and the creative choreography.

The use of projection in this piece, particularly on the body was beautiful. I loved it aesthetically, but it also made me reflect on how I wear my own digital identity.

I am both an incredibly open and private person – I over-share but I am hard to get close to. My online presence has empowered me and has helped me see myself through the eyes of others (in a good way), but for now I am in control of it. There could be a time when that changes, if some weird blogger mishap turns into a viral scandal, if I make enemies who share things about me I don’t want aired in public, if trolls target me or if I make some amazingly high profile fuck up.

If you make a mistake online, you don’t have to look someone in the eye as you do it. The immediate embarrassment may be less, and you might get away with it. It might be drowned out in other information, you could delete that tweet before anyone takes a screenshot, but then again some things might pop up like an unwanted ad when your boss is looking over your shoulder. 

Don’t fear your digital tattoo though, we all have regrets, just make sure you know how to wear them… with the grace of dancer. 

Digital Tattoo_3_Photography by Eleanor Kelly

Digital Tattoo is supported by Arts Council England, Otherplace Productions, South East Dance and Richer Sounds.

The very beautiful photography is by Eleanor Kelly

I was gifted a complimentary ticket for this event – read my disclaimer for more info about my review ethics!

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