Everything you need to know about jiggle balls

Everything you need to know about jiggle balls


Aka, the perfect way to take your sex to the next level, according to Fifty Shades Darker…

Ana and Christian Grey Fifty Shades of Grey try jiggle balls

Have you heard of jiggle balls? You have E. L. James to thank for that.

The exploits of Ana Steele and Christian Grey – her dominant, bondage-loving, on-and-off-again squillionaire boyfriend – in Fifty Shades of Grey brought ‘jiggle balls’ to the masses, so we asked Sophie Morgan, author of Diary of a Submissive, to try out one of the most-talked about sex toys of the moment – jiggle balls.

If you’ve seen the film Fifty Shades Darkerthen you know the scene we’re on about already. But if you haven’t… you’re in for a treat. Keep reading.

Jiggle balls

What are jiggle balls?

Small, round weights designed to strengthen your pelvic floor and the muscles of the vagina. Although they classify as a sex toy, they’re slightly different to the others on the market as, although they’ll enhance your orgasms in the long run, they’re ultimately designed to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. This, in turn, is said to intensify your orgasms.

Also referred too as kegel balls, toner balls and pleasure balls sometimes, they’re a simple and subtle way to tighten your vagina and make sex that bit more enjoyable.

How do you use jiggle balls?

Simple, really—buy online or in store, pop up your vagina, and go about your daily business. Yes, really. Whilst inserting jiggle balls into your vagina may feel funny at first—did we mention that, as per the name, they jiggle?–but you soon get used to it.

The logic behind using jiggle balls? Encouraging you to more actively use the clenching motions so essential to strengthening your pelvic floor without having to constantly think about it (your body instinctively holds the weights in for you without you having to consciously think about it).

Stronger muscles means stronger sensations down there, and using the balls just prior to sex has been found to increase not just sexual stimulation, but blood circulation and vaginal lubrication, too. Winner, winner.

YICOCO Jiggle Balls, £22.99, Amazon.com

Jiggle balls to buy

What are jiggle balls for?

As above, strengthening your pelvic floor helps in the sex department, but the benefits don’t stop there. Experts have found that having a strong pelvic floor is essential for maintaining continence, alleviating symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, and even reducing lower back pain. In short, it’s a really important group of muscles that shouldn’t be ignored.

What happened when one Marie Claire staffer tried jiggle balls…

‘The four beads that make up jiggle balls come in two different weights. You can either wear one alone or connect two together with a silicone string. They’re sturdy and surprisingly heavy, ranging in weight between 28g and 37g – and the movement as I rolled one on my hand was oddly reminiscent of an executive stress toy. Thankfully, it felt different once I was wearing it.’

‘I started slowly with the lighter 36mm set. Putting them in was straightforward, although it took a while walking round my flat before I felt ready to go out, partly because I was paranoid there was an audible thudding sound of the weights shifting within the balls as I moved and partly because I wanted to ensure I wasn’t walking like either a cowboy or a duck. In the end I felt reassured on both counts and headed out tentatively to meet a friend a short train ride away for coffee.’

What is wearing jiggle balls like?

‘Wearing them was surprisingly fun. The first thing to note is that while they cause a lovely flutter of sensation it’s not so intense you’re going to be doing a Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally in the queue for a cappuccino. Where they move around it stimulates your g-spot and apparently over time will help with improving muscle tone for your pelvic floor muscles, making for more intense orgasms..

Do jiggle balls work for strengthening your pelvic floor?

‘Obviously I can’t confirm that after a few hours’ use, but what I found interesting about wearing them out was how at points (mostly when I was sat at my laptop, or with my friend) I completely forgot I was wearing them at all, but at other points they were a noticeable diversion – on the train, and while I was trying to concentrate on an important phone call for work about a feature I’m doing.’

‘They did make me feel more sexually aware, although I’d hesitate to say aroused – a delayed commute in the heat just doesn’t do it for me. In the right mindset though that could change – and one thing I’ve realised is they needn’t be for solo shenanigans.’

Jiggle Balls

‘My boyfriend was definitely intrigued about me using them and sent a few texts while I was out asking how I was enjoying them. I have no exhibitionist tendencies whatsoever, but the idea of telling him I’m wearing them while we’re out and then having the anticipation build between us until we get home is something I’d like to try. In fact we’re off to the cinema at the weekend, so I might surprise him then. Perhaps Ana and Christian were onto something…’

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How to stay sane when you're living together but your opposite-hours jobs keep you apart

How to stay sane when you're living together but your opposite-hours jobs keep you apart


With a best-selling book, The Flatshare, based on her own life experiences, Beth O’Leary is here to tell you how to successfully navigate this relationship dilemma

the flatshare
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No matter how well you know somebody, you’ll get to know them better when you live with them. There’s just something about sharing a space that brings you closer. Your lives start to intertwine: your shoes sit in the same tangle by the door, your toothbrushes cross tails in the mug behind the taps, your elbows execute the same exact trick for opening the front door when the lock gets sticky.

But what if you never, ever saw your flatmate? Would your lives still intertwine like this?

This question fascinated me. It became the basis for my debut novel, The Flatshare, a story of two strangers who share a one-bed flat but who are never there at the same time because one flatmate works night shifts. The spark of the idea came when I had just moved in with my boyfriend. As a junior doctor, he was working long stretches of nights, and so I would go days and days without seeing him. One of us was always home, but we were never there at the same time. Sometimes I’d even see him driving past to work just as I walked up the hill from the train station at the end of the day.

I may not have seen him, but I still saw all those little clues that bring you closer to your flatmate. I knew how tired he was at the start of his shift by the number of coffee mugs sat by the sink, and I knew how late he was running by whether those mugs were washed or unwashed. I figured out what he’d managed to cobble together for his 9am dinner by what was missing from the fridge. If his trainers were sitting by the back door, I knew he’d be feeling cheerful because he’d had time for a quick run.

The Flatshare

Author Beth O’Leary (Photo Credit: Tom Medwell)

The phone signal at the hospital was bad, so even for the windows of time when we were both awake, it was hard to text each other. We started to find other ways to communicate: I’d leave him out a plateful of dinner for the next morning, he’d write me a note on his way out the door. Even though we were moving like ships in the night, our relationship was growing. Somehow, we were still getting to know one another better by living together.

Since The Flatshare published in hardback, I’ve heard so many joyous stories of other people who lived with – or loved – somebody living on opposite hours. In a bookshop in Ireland, I spoke to a man whose wife worked nights as a nurse when they first started seeing one another. They would meet for five minutes each day on the corner of the road as they crossed paths on their journeys to and from work.

Later, an old family friend told me of his years driving lorries at night, and how peculiar it was to be completely nocturnal when his family were living on regular hours. He remembered the quiet, the endless darkness, the camaraderie between night-time drivers. Most recently, my editor sent me a BBC documentary called Postcard from London in which Clive James and Victoria Wood discuss how they lived when they were younger. Like Tiffy and Leon in The Flatshare, they shared not just a flat but a bed. For Clive and Victoria, though, it was a scheme cooked up by a landlord. Neither of them was aware that someone else was sleeping in their bed when they weren’t there. Theirs is such a bizarre story – genuinely stranger than fiction.

Just a few weeks ago, my boyfriend worked his last ever night shift. Those days of deciphering his life from the leftovers are over, and I’m already a little nostalgic for them. At the time, I felt as if those night shifts were putting pause on our relationship – I was missing out on the chance to really live with my partner. But now I feel like those strange, quiet days were much more than just an inconvenience: they were part of our love story.

* The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (Quercus) is out now in paperback

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'Valentine’s Day is a cheesy nightmare but it forced me to get serious about love'

'Valentine’s Day is a cheesy nightmare but it forced me to get serious about love'


With a broken heart and a string of meaningless relationships behind her, writer Daisy Buchanan recalls one Valentine’s when Cupid was hiding in plain sight, well on Twitter actually…

Valentine's Day love
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Arguably, Valentine’s Day has the worst reputation of any occasion that can be marked with a greetings card. It has become the opposite of what it sets out to celebrate.

Firstly, no-one wins – even if you’re in a happy, secure committed relationship, you start to worry that you’re failing at love because your partner has not bought you a cuddly toy holding a heart. And if they have, it’s somehow worse – because how could they express their passion with something so naff and flammable? They don’t know you at all!

If you’re single, it’s a maddening reminder that the world thinks like your mum, or a tabloid newspaper when Dec was briefly Ant-less and would really prefer you to be part of a pair. If it’s a bad year, every poster in Smiths offering free heart-shaped Lindor with every purchase of the Daily Telegraph looks like the world’s most invasive sign, flashing “AND WHERE ARE MY GRANDCHILDREN???”

Yet, I love it. Because on 14 February 14, 2012, I realised I’d had enough. I looked around at the teddies, chocolates, carnations and bad lingerie, and thought, ‘This is what I want. Well, maybe not this exactly – but I’m tired of pretending that I’m too cool for romance. I’m sick of saying that I’ll keep it casual, acting as though my heart is unbreakable, and telling boys that I don’t mind if they don’t text me, or want to sleep with other people, or forget my birthday. I want true love – in all its naff, shiny, polyester splendour.’

Valentine's day love

Writer Daisy Buchanan (Photo Credit: Grace Plant)

At 26, I’d believed that I could give up yearning in the way that other people managed to give up cigarettes, or sugar. After having my heart broken – mangled – by a childhood friend, I threw myself into a series of meaningless relationships. I was having a soul-destroying affair with a much older man who pursued me enthusiastically and waited for me to fall for him before making it clear that his life was too complicated for me to play any real part in it. For every hour I spent with him, I must have spent thirty in pubs, squinting at texts and trying not to weep as I muttered ‘I mean, I knew what I was getting into.’ I don’t think this man ever actually said ‘I’m married to the sea’, yet that’s what I remember him telling me.

The trouble was that these relationships weren’t meaningless. They made me think that I wasn’t worth true love, time and attention. I was depressed. Yet deep down, a tiny spark of hope reminded me that I didn’t want to give up entirely. It was time to try for the real thing. Typically, Cupid had a stupid disguise. He was hiding in plain sight.

Valentine's day love

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Right before Valentine’s Day, I spotted something on Twitter that cheered me up and made me laugh. A company was offering a joke romantic ‘experience’ – ‘a romantic hotel stay, for three!’ The idea was a ridiculous gimmick, but the copy on the website made me hoot. It read like a Carry On film scripted by Vic and Bob. ‘FAQs: I once went to Aiya Napa with three chums in 1999. How will this experience differ?’ Without giving it much thought, I tweeted at the company ‘I fancy your writers!’ The writer in question made contact and slid into my DMs. Two weeks later, we had our first date. Three years later, we were married.

Our origin story might be silly, but I often think about the fact that he came into my life as soon as I decided to get serious about love – almost to the very second. At first, I thought he was too romantic. ‘He bought me a book I mentioned, he calls every night, he took me back to my flat in Brixton when I felt sick at the theatre, and then went all the way home to Walthamstow – is he not a bit intense?’ I complained to my sister Grace. ‘He sounds like the nicest person you have ever been out with. I think he’s The One,’ she replied. She was right. I had spent so long starving myself of romance that I didn’t know how to handle it when it arrived. Still, I learned to love it. It was worth waiting for.

This Valentine’s, I’ll be celebrating love, and hope – I doubt there will be any helium balloons, but I’m definitely holding out for a heart-shaped box of Lindor balls. More importantly, I’ll be focusing on how magical life can be when we allow ourselves to value our desires, to be vulnerable and to be open to love, in all its cheesy, terrifying, thrilling glory.

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Attachment theory is a thing – and it could save your relationship

Attachment theory is a thing – and it could save your relationship


Are you in a needy relationship? Or are you more of an ‘avoidant’? Charlotte Haigh explains attachment theory

needy relationship
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Be honest. How is the balance of power in your relationship right now? Is one of you always doing the chasing at the risk of turning it into a needy relationship, while the other is more self-assured and seems to require less from the partnership?

You may never have considered the way you attach yourself to others – described by psychologists as your ‘attachment style’ – but it’s probably about time you did, because it affects every aspect of our relationships, from the way we choose our partners to how our relationships work day-to–day, and even how they end. Knowing what your attachment style actually is, where it comes from and how it’s played out is critical to avoid slipping into cycles that repeat themselves for the rest of your life

Specifically, how your parents soothed you when you were a baby. According to Dr Amir Levine, psychiatrist and neuroscientist and author of Attached, early programming by your parents dictates your behaviour patterns in romantic adult partnerships.

Needy relationship? Blame your parents

If your parents panicked too much at the smallest thing when you were young, you will have got the message that the world was unsafe and you couldn’t cope. In adulthood, your brain is still likely to flood you with stress hormones at the slightest threat, giving you an anxious attachment style. If your parents left you to manage your own distress, you learned that you had to cope on your own. So, in adult relationships, you may switch off and detach when emotions get strong, leading you to have an avoidant attachment style where you fear intimacy. If you were lucky enough to have parents who soothed you without making you feel smothered, you’ll have a secure attachment style and be open to close relationships without feeling fearful.

But while your parents’ behaviour is the best predictor, your genes and previous relationships also play a part. A devastating heartbreak could tip a securely attached person into a more avoidant style, for instance. The key, says Andrew G Marshall, a relationship therapist who works with adult attachment styles, is being conscious about the things that have shaped you. ‘Many of us lean towards one of the attachment styles, but recognising this and developing a supportive relationship can ensure that a more secure pattern comes to the fore,’ he says. Here’s how to spot your style and work with it.

You know you’re an ‘avoidant’ if…

needy relationships

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  1. You can quickly switch off after a break-up
  2. Your independence is more important than a relationship
  3. You prefer not to share your inner feelings with a partner
  4. You feel uncomfortable when others depend on you
  5. You’re not always sure what you want in a relationship

The reason: Your parents left you to get on with it when you were in distress as a child. That might have been because of how their own parents raised them or because other issues stopped them being attentive, such as depression or the needs of another child. You therefore learned there was no point relying on others – in fact, starting to have feelings and depending on someone else feels very risky.

Your danger zone: Idealising ‘the one’. Whether it’s an ex or someone you’re yet to meet, if you’re avoidant you’re likely to think there’s a perfect person for you, which means you miss out on potentially great relationships.

The neuro-fix: ‘You may start off by feeling very excited by someone but, as you get closer, you suddenly have a gut feeling that you’re not right for each other,’ says Dr Levine. ‘In fact, the chances are that’s a deactivation strategy – your avoidant attachment system is kicking in and warning you that getting close to someone is dangerous. Try to take a step back and see this for what it is. If you thought they were great to start with, you’ve a lot to lose by pushing them away, so don’t make any rash decisions.’ You can change your negatively skewed brain chemistry by making daily gratitude lists, noting the ways your partner contributes positively to your life – or seeing the potential in someone you’re dating. Research from the University of Southern California has found that looking for things you appreciate can raise levels of feel-good dopamine and serotonin.

The behaviour fix: Say what you need. ‘If you want some time apart from your partner, simply telling them that is much more effective than just vanishing,’ says Marshall. ‘If they know that you need some space, they are less likely to panic, which means they won’t overstep your boundaries.’

You have a needy relationship style if…

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  1. You worry a partner will stop loving you
  2. You’re very sensitive to your partner’s moods
  3. You spend a lot of time thinking about relationships
  4. When you’re single, you feel incomplete
  5. You get attached to a new partner very quickly

The reason: Your parents may have been consistently anxious about everything – whether you were eating enough or overreacting when you fell over. As a result, you grew up feeling unsafe in the world, thinking you need the support of a significant other.

Your danger zone: Falling for an avoidant. ‘An avoidant may give strong signs initially before pulling away,’ says Marshall. ‘This will set off your fear response, but you’ll try to win them back, setting up a toxic cycle that can leave you more anxious.’ This pattern is a common one. Sound familiar?

The neuro-fix: Don’t be ashamed of seeming ‘needy’ because you want a serious relationship, says Dr Levine. ‘Lots of popular self-help approaches suggest happiness comes from within, but biologically we are meant to become attached to a significant other,’ he says. In research from the University of Virginia, MRI scans showed that when two people are in an intimate relationship, they regulate each other’s psychological and emotional well-being. Accept that it’s natural to want intimacy and be open about your needs. Playing it cool will only draw in avoidant partners, who think you’re up for a no-strings relationship and will back off when something more is on the table.

The behaviour fix: Give the dating apps a rest. ‘You find a lot of avoidants on dating sites and apps, partly because they’re more likely to be single and partly because internet dating suits their non-committal approach,’ says Marshall. ‘I prefer what I call the “bridging” approach, joining groups – such as a choir or meditation class – and saying “yes” to invitations you wouldn’t normally accept, so that you meet a wider network of people.’

You have a secure attachment style if…

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  1. You’re able to ask a partner for support
  2. You find it easy to show affection
  3. You believe there are plenty of people out there for you
  4. You’re comfortable depending on romantic partners
  5. When you look back on previous relationships, you’ve generally been satisfied

The reason: Your parents managed to give you just the right amount of attention most of the time. You didn’t feel smothered, but nor did you feel you had to look after yourself. So, you’ve grown up feeling confident that you can rely on a significant other, while not being overly dependent.

Your danger zone: Letting bad behaviour creep in. Dr Levine points out that while secure people are naturally better placed to have fulfilling relationships, they’re not immune to problems. If you’ve had a generally positive relationship history, you may let a partner’s bad behaviour go unnoticed until it starts to wear you down.

The neuro-fix: Understand your buffering effect. ‘In an experiment, researchers found that couples with one secure partner and one who was insecure (whether anxious or avoidant) functioned just as well as couples with two secure partners,’ says Dr Levine. ‘People with a secure style create a buffering effect, raising their insecure partner’s relationship satisfaction and functioning to their own level.’ A study from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania discovered that you can maintain this effect by comforting your partner if the relationship hits a bump, encouraging them without taking over, and boosting their self-esteem.

The behaviour fix: Be conscious of any negative behaviour that you are tolerating. ‘Secure people tend to forgive easily, as they are confident in relationships,’ says Marshall. This can be very positive, but sometimes means unhealthy patterns creep in if bad habits go unchecked – whether that’s allowing your date to go quiet on you or your partner to act up to get your attention. Keep communicating about anything that makes you unhappy or anxious.

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‘I’m marrying my fiancé even though it's 18 months since we last had sex’

‘I’m marrying my fiancé even though it's 18 months since we last had sex’


You might think sex is the bedrock of any healthy partnership but research suggests we’re officially Generation Sex Recessionistas. Rosie Mullender reports on the crisis in our bedrooms and meets a bride-to-be who believes relationships can thrive minus the sex. And it seems the experts agree

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Amy can’t really remember the last time she had sex with her fiancé, Ben. She just knows it was at least 18 months ago – and that, despite the lack of sexual intimacy, she’s looking forward to marrying him as much as ever. ‘I’ve been with Ben* for four years, and we’re getting married later this year,’ she says. ‘But even though we haven’t had sex for the past 18 months, I don’t have any doubts at all about marrying him, which a lot of people simply wouldn’t understand.

‘At first, we were like any other couple. But after those early days when, as the cliché goes, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other, things gradually slowed down. Neither of us has a particularly high libido – I identify as demisexual, which means I’m only attracted to people I get to know on an emotional level, which happens so rarely I’ve even wondered if I might be asexual.

‘My partner generally prefers other activities to sex, and with neither of us that bothered, once we’d bonded emotionally, we found ourselves feeling in the mood less and less often. It got to the stage where, every few months, we’d turn to each other and say, “We really should do it, shouldn’t we?” We’d make the effort, and the sex was always good – I cry with emotion, every time – but we’d inevitably let things slide again.’

Although a relationship with no sex at all isn’t the norm, we are – and this is not a drill – we’re in the middle of a global sex recession, with Millennials having less sex now than Gen Xers at the same age. In the US, a recent study found that almost almost one in four people had no sex at all in the past year, while fewer than half of British men and women have sex at least once a week. And although Millennials are spearheading discussions about consent, all demographics are suffering a sex slump. Everything from stress and social media, to our inability to leave our phones out of the bedroom, has been blamed for declining rates of sex. 

sex-free relationships

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Meanwhile, our growing understanding of a wider range of sexualities, such as asexuality and demisexuality, is making women like Amy question what we think of as ‘normal.’ More of us are happy to be ourselves, ignoring any pressures to conform, rather than looking over our shoulders at what everyone else is getting up to (or not) in the bedroom.

Whatever your orientation, most of us find that sex slows down after the initial, clothes-ripping excitement of a new relationship. But how do you maintain intimacy when you’re not getting it on as often? And, as Amy believes, is it really possible to have a close, loving relationship when sex is put to the back burner – permanently?

‘The answer to that question is: Yes, absolutely,’ says Ammanda Major, Head of Service Quality and Clinical Practice at Relate. ‘But we need to be mindful of how we’re defining the word sex – for some people, that might mean penetration of some sort, while for others it could be a wide range of intimate behaviours that help a couple to feel connected. It’s sensible to start with a fairly broad definition of what sex might be, because it means different things to different people.

‘What’s very important is to be as certain as you can be that you’re actually like-minded with your partner – that you’re not putting pressure on your partner to not have sex, or vice versa. It’s got to be a mutually agreed decision where both people feel it suits them and your relationship. Then, I think it’s perfectly possible to have a good relationship without sex.’

sex-free relationships

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If sex plays a central role in your relationships, it might sound unlikely that true intimacy can be achieved when it’s put aside for good. But intimacy, as well as sex, comes in many different forms. ‘It’s about your definition of intimacy,’ Ammanda explains. ‘For some people, it means that they’re able to be truly emotionally vulnerable with their partner. Being able to be vulnerable, being able to share, and being loving together, are all things that connect a couple.’

For Amy and Ben, intimacy is well and truly alive in their relationship, even without the intense bonding of sex. ‘I feel incredibly close to Ben emotionally – he’s a sensitive and understanding person who I trust implicitly,’ she explains. ‘We’re both incredibly tactile too, cuddling up on the sofa, and holding hands in bed while we sleep.

‘We regularly share passionate kisses – but while that might lead other couples to have sex, it doesn’t trigger anything more for us. I don’t have an urge to take things further, and don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, and I know Ben feels the same way.’

Even if your libidos are well-matched, checking in with your partner to make sure you’re both happy with the status quo is key to making a low-sex or even sex-free relationship work. ‘It’s about being curious, and asking, “Is this continuing to work for us? Are we still OK with this?” because when people stop talking to each other, that’s often where things start to go wrong,’ Ammanda explains. ‘If you feel you can’t really talk about it, or your discussions aren’t helping as much as you’d hoped, consider seeing a sex therapist. It could be that a sexual difficulty is causing relationship problems – or that a relationship problem is causing a sexual one.’

Amy and Ben have regular conversations to check their libidos are still compatible – usually while snuggling on the sofa. ‘We know it’s an unusual situation, so we have regular chats about the situation, asking, ‘Are you sure you’re still OK with this? Do we need to hit the bedroom?’ It does sometimes bother us – we love each other, and find each other attractive, so why don’t we want to sleep with each other? – but we’ve come to realise that if we didn’t know what other couples were up to, we wouldn’t think twice about it.

‘It’s not like we want to sleep with other people instead, we simply don’t feel that urge. But as long as we’re both happy, we don’t see that it has to be a problem.’

 * Names have been changed

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'Adult acne ruined my sex life and this is how I dealt with it'

'Adult acne ruined my sex life and this is how I dealt with it'


For years Becca Brown’s hormonal acne made her feel hideous, anxious and crippingly insecure, so the last thing she wanted to do was get naked with her boyfriend

‘You never want to have sex anymore,’ my boyfriend said as I pushed him away for the third night in a row. ‘Have I done something wrong?’

The truth was, I didn’t want to have sex because my acne was making me feel hideous, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud. I was ashamed of my bumpy, blemished skin and the last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to it. So, instead, I gave a convincing yawn and said, ‘No, I’m just tired’, before rolling over and pretending to fall asleep, while secretly crying into my pillow.

My boyfriend and I have been together for four years, and to begin with, we had a regular, healthy sex life; I felt comfortable with how I looked and confident that he was attracted to me. That was, until I got hormonal acne. As someone who’d always had clear skin, it came as a shock; I thought acne was something that happened to teenagers, not women in their twenties. I had no idea how to deal with the relentless fleet of spots spreading across my chin and jawline, and despite trying every diet and spending a small fortune on skincare, nothing I did could persuade them to retreat.

I felt completely out of control of my appearance, and so my self-esteem hit an all-time low. I was so worried about what people would think of my skin, that I began to actively avoid social situations; I routinely cancelled plans with friends, and called in sick at work. When I did have to face people, I’d talk to them from behind my hands or hair, desperately trying to hide the full extent of my spots. Before I knew it, I’d gone from a confident, outgoing person, to someone who struggled to leave the house on a daily basis.

acne ruining sex life

Inevitably, these insecurities became a problem within my relationship, too. I felt overwhelmingly self-conscious around my boyfriend, and despite his compliments and affection, I just couldn’t believe that he found me attractive. So, we went from having sex a couple of times a week, to less than once a month. And, on the rare occasion we did have sex, I’d spend the entire time worrying that he was secretly repulsed by my skin. What was once a fun and comfortable experience, now felt like an anxiety-inducing ordeal that I wanted to avoid at all costs.

It turns out, I’m not alone. According to a study by The Mental Health Foundation, how we feel about our appearance can have a significant impact on our sexual wellbeing. Research shows that body image concerns inflate levels of self consciousness, which can negatively impact our sexual experiences. Their survey found that in the past year, 20% of adults claim their sex life has been negatively affected by their body image, while 15% of adults claim their relationship has been affected.

Peter Saddington, a sex therapist at Relate, explains how acne, in particular, can create issues within a relationship. ‘When people feel insecure about their acne, they may avoid being physical with their partner, because they’re afraid of being judged,’ says Peter. ‘However, by actively withdrawing and isolating ourselves, we risk creating a gap and distance within our relationship, which can lead to tension and anxiety for both parties.’

This is something I experienced, as not only did acne affect my own self-esteem, my withdrawal from intimacy affected my boyfriend’s, too. Our relationship and sex life had been suffering for almost a year and he was feeling increasingly anxious about the distance that I was imposing between us. The night when he asked me if he’d done something wrong was the moment I realised something had to change. I knew that in order to save both of our sanities, I had to open up and be honest about how I was feeling.

acne ruining sex life

So I plucked up the courage to explain that acne had destroyed my confidence, and as a result, I was struggling with intimacy. It wasn’t easy, but I found that the more I talked, the more liberated and empowered I felt. (Of course, he was completely supportive, assuring me that he’d never even thought about my acne, let alone been bothered by it!) This conversation was the first in a long time where I felt in control of how people saw me, rather than my acne. It even encouraged me to open up to my friends and family, until little by little, I reclaimed my confidence.

 

I’ve now had hormonal acne for three years, and although my skin is more manageable (thanks to the wonders of veganism and all-natural skincare) I still have regular mild breakouts. Sometimes it bothers me, but I no longer let it dictate how I feel about myself, or let it drastically impact my life and relationship. Acne is a tough and exhausting battle, but I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learnt and the new confidence I’ve found. I’d even go as far to say that overcoming my insecurities is my proudest achievement, and has made me the self-assured person I am today. Because spots come and go (eventually!), but my self-worth? That’s skin deep.

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Single with benefits: the self-fulfilling power of not dating

Single with benefits: the self-fulfilling power of not dating


Forget the sad, pathetic tropes: being single is actually physically, economically and psychologically good for you according to the latest stats. So, with ‘smug-couple’ season well underway, we’re championing five key reasons to stay firmly unattached

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1. Single people are healthier

Worried all those Tinder dates are killing your liver? You’re probably right but there’s good news, too. New research from the American Time Use Survey suggests single people are actually more likely to live longer than their married and child-rearing peers. This could be because single people tend to be more active than married people. Research from the Journal of Marriage and Family shows unattached women tend to exercise for around five hours and 25 minutes a fortnight, compared to married women who work out for around four hours. Single people tend to have lower BMIs, too – research from the University of Basel in Switzerland and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany found single people weigh less than married people (around 2kg on average).

 2. …and wealthier

It’s easy to despair at your finances when you’re single – dating doesn’t exactly come cheap (on average, single people spend £21 a week more than people living as a couple). But there’s reason to celebrate, too: according to Debt.org, single people have less debt than married couples. Typically, 21 per cent of single people have credit-card debt compared to 27 per cent of married couples without children. And, when children are involved, the debt rises further still – worryingly, 36 per cent of married couples with children are in debt.

being single

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 3. You’re likely to be more resilient

Been ghosted by your Bumble date(s)? Then you’ll know all about resilience. American studies have found that there’s actually science behind it, too – military soldiers injured in service were less likely to have symptoms of PTSD when they were single, for example. Research indicates that single people are more successful at overcoming injury or illness, and are also less likely to have emotional or physical health problems, compared to those who are married or divorced. So does being single make you resilient? Or do resilient people just stay single longer? That’s anyone’s guess.

4. You’ll sleep better

No more noisy bed-mates, hurrah! A study from mattress company Amerisleep suggests single people are snoozing much better, for longer. Single people get around 7.13 hours a night, which is more than people in relationships, as well as those who are divorced or separated. Ready, set, starfish…

being single

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 5. …and you’re probably happier, too

A study of 1,000 single people and 3,000 married people determined that single people were more likely to report feeling their life has had growth, learning and development. This could be down to more solo time to work out who we are, and what we want, as well as doing things we actually enjoy, compared to married people. The latest research even indicates that unmarried, childless women are the happiest subgroup in the population. So that’s something.

Feeling a little perkier now? Thought so.

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What do the key trends in 2020 tell us about the future of dating?

What do the key trends in 2020 tell us about the future of dating?


We may be post-ghosting, but now there’s a whole new set of dating trends to navigate. From ‘being Kanye’d’ and zoning in on the zodiac, to ‘yellow carding’ dates by calling out BS, Olivia Foster reveals how the landscape is shifting

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We all know the stats: there’s currently more single people in the world than ever before. That means more people dating, more people logging on to apps, and more people trying to find love in the 21st century.

While 2019 bought us dogfishing (using someone else’s pup in your pictures to make you look cute) and orbiting (where an ex lurks around your Insta story views, but never actually talks to you), 2020 has it’s own set of game-changing trends to watch out for. Here’s how the dating landscape is shaping up…

Being Kanye’d

They’ve talked about their school, their friends, their art degree and spent 45 minutes reliving that time they went backpacking in Thailand and took mushrooms. But, as you nurse your third glass of wine, you realise they don’t seem to know anything about you. Why? Because you’ve been Kanye’d. According to research by Plenty of Fish, 45 per cent of us have endured a one-sided date – the kind where you could probably write up their CV from memory, but they’re not 100 per cent on your surname. Pay close attention to whether or not they’re truly interested in you, because if they’re only talking about themselves there’s only one question worth asking: ‘Can we get the bill?’

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 Star-lost lovers

‘See the thing is, it’s because I’m a Virgo,’ a man once said to me while trying to excuse the fact that he’d cancelled on two of our dates at short notice. Research suggests 58 per cent of millennials believe in astrology – and, yes, that does explain all of the mercury in retrograde memes you’ve seen – but how does this translate in the dating world? Well, with apps like Bumble now allowing you to filter your matches by star sign, it looks like we’re going to have to add, ‘It’s because you’re an Aries,’ to the list of possible rejections you’ll face. 

Digi-date detoxes

From Jenga speed-dating (yes, really), to chatting up that person you fancy in the gym, 84 per cent of people still say they’d prefer to meet people IRL than via a dating app. In 2020, we predict more daters will choose to tone down their tech in a bid to experience their own illusive ‘meet cute.’ The main problem? We’re all going to have to learn how to talk to people without our phones…

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Self-partnering

We can thank Emma Watson for this one, but 2020 will be the year more women become happy with their single status. Thankfully, we’re already working hard to remove the stigma surrounding those sans partner: research shows that single women without children are now the happiest subsection of society and a new survey by Mintel has revealed that 61 per cent of single women are happy to be flying solo. We can only hope that, over the next year, that number continues to grow.

Yellow carding

Have you ever experienced bad-dating etiquette and wish you’d said something? You’re not alone. In fact, 27 per cent of daters claim to have called someone out on their terrible Tinder form and, providing you do it in an adult, responsible way, this is one dating trend we’re absolutely championing in 2020. Because, ultimately, if more people talked about how bad dating habits affected them, we might be able to adopt better ones.

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MEET THE PUKKAS: Anna and Matt share 6 important tips for surviving Christmas as a couple

MEET THE PUKKAS: Anna and Matt share 6 important tips for surviving Christmas as a couple


Anna Whitehouse AKA Mother Pukka and husband Matt Farquharson share their advice…

meet the pukkas

Christmas is finally upon us, and for most of us that means hunkering down with family and loved ones. But there’s bad news, too – did you know Christmas precedes a massive spike in divorces? 8th January ‘AKA Divorce Day’ is the most common day to say, “I’m sorry but I really don’t like you any more”.  So here, after 10 yuletides together, is our best guess at how to stay sane.

Anna’s advice…

Enjoy a pyjama party. Sex in my childhood bedroom, with a collage of photos from my slightly promiscuous year abroad above the headboard, is not good sex. Even a flicker of thinking, ‘have we woken Grandma?’ is enough to have me reaching for a chastity belt. Instead, I embrace erotic tumbleweed for a few days and utilise the time for some kip. I’ve got a pair of pyjamas I slip into over the festive season that have bunnies all over them. They’re more effective than condoms.

Prepare wisely for snack attacks. Last Christmas I drank heavily to numb the sounds of Peppa Pig and the relentless chitchat. By 7pm I was rummaging around in my mother-in-law’s dried goods cupboard in search of salty maize snacks to soak up the booze. There were no suitable snacks which meant I ended up ploughing through three Ryvita crackers. My mouth felt like Astroturf. The next morning I woke to the sound of: “Did someone eat some of my Ryvitas?” The remorse was multi-layered and I suspect Matt knew there could only be one culprit who would dare dip into the holy Ryvita tin. This year, I’m bringing my own snacks to avoid arguments.

Go direct where possible. I’m half Dutch and my family say what we mean. In this, my attitude is different to Matt’s, as he prefers to fold his irritations up into a little well that he keeps near his solar plexus, only to be allowed out once everyone else is asleep. I think it’s important we both handle the festive disillusionment in our own way, giving time to how the other needs to do things. But there is one area where I find that directness is key (and appreciated): never underestimate the power of a cheeky bum-squeeze by the slow cooker.

Anna and Matt together

Matt’s advice…

Time out is essential. An Italian plumber once told me the Milanese have a phrase that translates as: “House guests are like fish. After three days they start to stink.” Over Christmas this literally becomes true as we lock ourselves in three-bed semis with a month’s worth of meats and more contained gasses than a trans-Atlantic flight. Anna’s folks live in the country and mine are now on the south coast, and much as we love them, we’ve come to realise that running away as a pair to yomp through the woods (or even just fetch milk from the shop) is key to a happy Christmas. It means 15 minutes of being yourselves, instead of one of you reverting to a childlike state while the other is on best ‘in-law behaviour’.

Smile emptily and bite your tongue. Some of my relatives have uncomfortable views on immigration, some of Anna’s are convinced that the moon landings never happened. But an Irish friend once told me that “politics has no place in a pub,” and the same is true for Christmas round your Nan’s. Unfortunately, I’m the least likely to accept this advice. So when I start twitching with self-righteous fury I try to remind myself that our nearest relatives know exactly what’s wrong with each other, and now’s not the time to bring it all up. Instead, I whisper my bewilderment to Anna once everyone else is asleep, because few things bond people as much as gossiping about someone else.

Swap booze for chocolate where possible. When I drink with friends, we drink quickly. But my mum has a glass of Pinot once a year and starts honking like a goose at its first rave. So if I drink at ‘friends pace’, there’s a chance my family (or worse still, Anna’s) might see my true uninhibited self while they sit in relative sobriety. I’ve been trying to hide my true self from Anna’s parents for 10 years, and Christmas is not the time to open up.  Fortunately, my mum also has a fridge door wedged with enough refined sugars to restart a failing heart, and Anna’s mum has a tray of Lindt balls on permanent display. Chocolate contains serotonin, an antidepressant and mood elevator, so I regularly steal these to keep my sprits up. This may not be a long-term strategy for life, but for this special time of the year, it feels entirely appropriate.

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Why do 'casual' relationships get so messy when you try to talk about what 'casual' means?

Why do 'casual' relationships get so messy when you try to talk about what 'casual' means?


Instagram’s cult illustrator Shelby Lorman and author of Awards For Good Boys reckons the no-labels dating scene has its pros, but warns don’t confuse ‘relationship status: unknown’ with stress-free sex…

Hello! I’m Shelby, a cartoonist and writer and I created @awardsforgoodboys – first on Instagram and now it’s a book (yes!) – to illustrate how quick we are to celebrate people, mostly men, for their ‘bravery’ in not being the outright worst. I like to question the rampant upholding of mediocrity, calling attention to how goodness is used as a shield, and exploring why we are reluctant to talk about the ways even the ‘good ones’ – ourselves included – still fail.

It would be easy to blame modern relationship problems on the gamification of dating via apps: the seeming ubiquitousness of fuckable options; the flattening of people into consumable entities made more apparent by lucrative brand advertisements; the fact that one swipe now separates your dream boyfriend from a Pop-Tart.

Still, that doesn’t explain why ‘casual’ relationships can become so messy when you try to talk about what ‘casual’ actually means; why one of the scariest questions to ask the person you’re dating is, ‘Can we check in about what we’re doing here?’

casual relationships

Shelby Lorman

I call these liminal relationships: relationships that exist in the in-between. Sometimes liminality is mutual. Sometimes it’s a romance that starts with a built-in expiration date. Sometimes one person isn’t ready for something serious but you hook up anyway, knowing eventually it’ll get more complicated than it already is. The liminal relationship is often sexy because of the precariousness of its shape. How long can we get away with not defining this before we tumble headfirst into the mess we’re making? Shall we try it and find out?

casual relationships

Some were delicious, dramatic messes. But others were a trap; traps I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, acknowledge. I nodded along when I was told, ‘it just wasn’t the right time’ to ‘label us’ (though they continued to date me), or, worse still, lazily slapped on a label that bore no resemblance to what we were actually doing; the liminal draped in ‘ethically non-monogamous’ clothing. In one such relationship, I was made to feel that my need for structure; my ‘need for a label’, was our problem — not the fact that we weren’t actually in an open relationship. When I tried, in vain, to explain that non-monogamous partnerships (like any) take work and planning, he was incredulous.

Upon reflection, I see so plainly what a grim equation it is: naming the casual would force them to be accountable, while definitively not-naming – releasing it from the liminal – would allow me to move on. By keeping the casual in linguistic/actual purgatory, he (I’m using this pronoun because it speaks to my experience, but this relationship fuckery applies to all genders) undermines the importance of clarifying the need-to-know things. For example, are you fucking other people? Is this a bedroom-only affair or should we see a movie? In refusing to delineate the edges of the casual, he makes it seem like anything you ask – anything – is not casual, which allows him to get away with everything he goddamn wants.

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To be clear, none of these communication failures have anything to do with a relationship’s label or lack thereof. It’s just that: communication failure. People who are effectively hearing each other can call, or not call, what they’re doing whatever they want, and never even tiptoe near the liminal. But I’m done with liminals. I’ve sworn off them forever, and I advise you to swear off them, too. This doesn’t mean ‘don’t casually date’. It means don’t casually date people who refuse to communicate about the casual. Don’t allow people to falsely equate wanting communication and clarity with being a bunny boiler.

* Awards For Good Boys – Tales of Dating, Double Standards And Doom by Shelby Lorman, £9.99 (Hutchinson) is on sale now

* All images: Shelby Lorman

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