This month, we asked one of our favorite couples to document their experience with our Orion over-the-door handcuffs, Bit bar gag, and Tether bondage tape. In this photo series, they capture some of their coziest moments and share with us their journey to relearning pleasure.
Most changes come with both joys and challenges. For us, transitioning as a couple was no exception; though, admittedly, the joys often came after long periods of introspection, shared reflection, and unlearning. As trans people, we initially struggled to navigate our shifting relationships to our bodies, sexualities, desires, and pleasures. Not only did these shifts seriously affect how we conceptualized ourselves as sexual beings, but they also existed in a world where we felt like we could not find any narratives, let alone healthy sexual ones, to which we could relate as a couple.
Yet, these models were immediately challenged when we transitioned a few years into our relationship. As a survivor of sexual violence and the target of fetishization due to her Asian identity, Alex had to seriously confront the deeply ingrained and alarmingly skewed ideas of what it meant to be a sexual partner to others (namely cis men.) She had long decentered her own pleasure and internalized the expectation that she be subservient to her sexual partners. Conversely, River had to reconcile how they had internalized the expectation for them to be always dominant, always the masculine sexual partner, as someone fetishized instead for their then-perceived hypermasculine Latinx identity. Talking about sex in nuanced, vulnerable, and intimate ways is already difficult enough without also having to process the ways in which sex can be(come) a source of extreme anxiety and/or trauma. When we first met, we were two young, naive boys doing their best to care for each other and prioritize each other’s sexual healing and pleasure, despite not having access to healthy sex education (in our classrooms or elsewhere.) In our bedrooms then, we had to create our own queer sex education. In our innocently curious questions and even sweeter yeses, we began to learn how to develop our own (hopefully healthier) models of possibility for ourselves and each other.
There was something especially powerful about sex toys that facilitated the exchange of power and control between us in contained (yet, of course, sexy) ways. That negotiation brought us closer than ever before: Asking each other what brings us pleasure, how, and why, negotiating roles and boundaries, and talking through expectations has meant that we explicitly practice consent with each other. This ritual in safety, trust, and pleasure is intimate and sacred to us. Using the Unbound restraints, for example, and giving over our trust to each other, allows us to let go and say to each other, “I trust you with my vulnerability.”Conversations within both our own social circles and mainstream media about the ways trans people differently navigate sex were scarce, so we had to take matters into our own hands. Refusing to disconnect from each other in the newness of our transitions, we (re)turned to play. In the past, sex toys had added many different layers of excitement to our sexual dynamic, so we leaned into that familiar joy. In our new explorations, they were the perfect way to stay connected in the midst of so many changes—some physical, most really internal.
Figuring out how we want to exist in the world is no easy feat. Doing so together, of course, means figuring out how we want to embody and share our sexuality and sensuality in ways that feel affirming. With vulnerability, we have learned to love each other even more deeply by never shying away from sex play. Rarely are trans people reaffirmed that sexual intimacy can be intentionally contained, especially in the beginning of our transitions, yet still remain playful. We must remember sex play can be so very healing. As for us, we are still learning to navigate the intersections between our gender identities and our sexualities, but that process no longer feels daunting. It is simply bringing us closer to bodily agency, gender euphoria, and next-level sexual pleasure.