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What it’s like to have your book translated into 8 languages

I’ve been promising to do this for ages, and I’ve finally got round to it. For those of you who are interested in such things, this is what it’s like to have your book translated into other languages. Sadly, it involves no globe-trotting on my part.


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Guest Post: Losing Consciousness –

Here I am at the wonderful Rebecca Lowrie’s blog, writing about how easy it is to stop engaging with your partner (particularly if you’re prone to checking your phone mid-shag).

Guest Post: Losing Consciousness –

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Are your sex toys safe?

A body-safe Lelo vibrator | How safe are your sex toys?

A body-safe Lelo vibrator

*spits out Lambrini* What? Is this blog becoming the Daily Mail or something? 

Sorry. I didn’t mean to alarm you there. It’s just that I want to talk about phthalates and I didn’t think it would make the most appealing blog title ever.


Well, no. I always think that, if you’re going to give something a name, you may as well follow at least some of the basic laws of prononciation. 

Quite. But I suspect that one of the reasons we’re not talking about phthalates (I’m going for thay-lates but I’m really not sure) is because it’s such an ungainly word. And they’re pretty nasty things.


Go on then. Tell me what I’ve got to be worried about this time. 

Phthalates are chemicals that are added to plastics for flexibility, durability and colour retention. They contain synthetic xenoestrogens, which behave like natural oestrogen. For this reason, they’re hormone-disruptors in both men and women.

In large quantities, their use is banned in the UK and US; but smaller concentrations are still allowed. Despite this ban, there’s considerable evidence that they’re entering our bodies, and being stored in them. A study by the US Center for Disease Control found phthalates in most people’s urine that they tested.

The effects of phthalates are myriad. They have been shown to increase asthma and allergies, but their most notable effect is in disrupting normal hormonal cycles. This leads to increased incidence of breast cancer, infertility in both men and women, endometriosis, miscarriage, premature birth…the list goes on.

And the really great news is that we’re willingly putting these chemicals inside our vaginas.



Yup. You know all those cute, jelly-plastic sex toys (like the ubiquitous Rabbits)? They get their soft, wobbly finish from phthalates.

What makes this an especially bad idea? Well, electrical contacts may heat them, which makes the phthalates escape more effectively; and your vagina (and rectum, by the way) is a mucous membrane, which means that it’s more absorbent than your external skin. You know the story about Stevie Nicks and how she ingested cocaine, yes?


Sigh. So I have to throw out my very best friend, Mr Rabbit?

(I’m going to gloss over the fact you’ve anthropomorphised your vibrator for now. But don’t think I didn’t notice).

It’s probably a good idea. Even if you’re not concerned about your own health, there’s evidence that phthalates can affect the fertility of your future children, too.

The good news is that there’s an increasing number of safe alternatives. They’re rarely at bargain-basement prices, but, really, you only ever need one vibrator and a decent one will be a friend of years.

Unlike your Mr Rabbit, who’s often all talk.


What brands should I look out for?

Look out for toys that are made from silicone or say ‘phthalate-free’ or ‘body safe’ on the packaging.

I love Lelo, who create really well-made, stylish toys that have a long charge and a good level of buzz. Fun Factory do some great, creative products. I also recently tested Smile Makers, who are the cheeky chappies of the sex toy world.

Jo Divine is a lovely online store that only stocks phthalate-free toys.


Are there any other precautions I should take? 

Definitely, without a doubt, throw out any toy that’s scratched, cracked or broken, because this will encourage the phthalates to leach out (and let’s not get started on the bacteria that scratches can harbour).

Also, pay especial attention to toys and devices that you keep in your body for extended periods of time – such as butt plugs and vaginal weights. Although I’m not sure that vaginal weights are a very good idea anyway, but that’s another story.

While we’re at it, there are plenty of nasties (including phthalates and parabens) in lubricants too. I personally always recommend Yes lubes, because they’re full of natural ingredients (and their oil-based lube is so luscious that I use it on my dry elbows).

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Who needs contraception?

How in god's name do babies KNOW when you're trying to get jiggy? | Betty HerbertThis week marked our (I-can’t-believe-I’m-old-enough-to-have-been-married-for) 14th wedding anniversary.

I looked it up to see if I was due any sort of an exciting gift. Apparently it’s ivory this year (we shamefully ignored last year’s conservation-grade suggestion of fur, too).  I can’t help but feel that these lists were composed in less ethically-conscious times.

In any case, we both knew what we wanted for our gift this year: you know what I’m talking about. Frankly, it doesn’t happen all that often at the moment, not for lack of enthusiasm on our part (well, okay, for a bit of a lack of enthusiasm on our part), but because of the tiny, humanoid contraceptive device that sleeps across the landing.

I swear to god, that boy has got detectors fitted somewhere. The second they register any physical contact between us, he wakes up. This is a child who routinely sleeps through the night; and yet H only has to look at me the wrong way, and he’s suddenly roaring for our attention.

How on earth does he know? We don’t get the chance to reach the bit where it might be noisy. Is this some evolutionary device to prevent any competition from younger siblings (in which case: don’t worry Bert; we’ve got that more than covered)?

However it works, we outfoxed him. I mean, it’s entirely possible that his little alarm bells were going off all the way up the hill at nursery, but we weren’t there to hear them this time.  Which made a rather delicious change.

Happy anniversary, H.

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52 Seductions out now in the US!

It’s been a long wait, but US residents can finally buy 52 Seductions without finding weird work-arounds.

To celebrate, I’ve revamped, and added an introductory guide for American readers.

Do take a look. And tell all your friends. (I fear my English embarrassment about self-promotion won’t quite rub in the States).

The 52 Seductions - now available in the US

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Viagra and the mythical man-unicorn

Viara and the myth of the man-unicorn | Betty HerbertSo, Viagra is now off-patent. Yes, it’s been a full fifteen years since Richard and Judy sent that middle-aged couple off to a hotel room with a packet of little blue pills and the chance to discuss the results on live TV. Hard to believe, isn’t it? (I may as well surrender to the double-entendres early.)

Since then, erections have changed for good. We’ve long lived with the myth of the perma-hard man, eternally baying for sex in a desperate effort to quell his raging stiffy. Viagra practically made that an obligation. Suddenly, erections became public property. There was simply no excuse not to have one anymore.

Clearly, Viagra has been a godsend for many men (and their partners) who have faced years of frustration at their insubordinate members. But it’s not a panacea. Plenty of people can’t use it (those with heart conditions, for example), plenty of people won’t benefit from it (including those whose erections have been lost due to prostate surgery) and plenty more don’t have access to it.

The wider issue is that we rarely speak the truth about erections. They’re fragile things, easily affected by emotional and physical states like tiredness or depression. Most men will experience an elusive erection at some point in their life (and not just because of ‘brewer’s droop’, that re-machoing of threatened manhood) – it’s normal, and yet we commonly portray it as a crisis. The ever-erect man is as elusive as his mythical cousin, the unicorn.

We need to stop talking about erections as the be-all and end-all of sex. They are not the only locus of male sensation; and they are not the only way that women can receive pleasure. The sole purpose of sex is not to create and spend an erection – that’s just a bizarre impression that we get at school. We can let go of it as adults. We have better imaginations than that.

That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with seeking treatment if it’s a long-term problem (not least because it can point to a range of underlying illnesses). It’s just that I think we should acknowledge that men have bodily insecurities too. While women get fed up with seeing thin, airbrushed beauties everywhere in the media, men can rightly feel aggrieved that they are expected to have access to an endless stream of tumescence, while an absentee erection is generally a sign of weakness or failure.

Sexual feeling resides in our whole bodies – and our minds. A lost erection doesn’t have to be the end of sex: it can instead be a chance to break up the in-out monotony, and to escape from the bizarre race-to-orgasm that happens so often in the bedroom. Forget Slow Food – this is Slow Sex: exploratory, appreciative, deliberate. It’s a chance to open up a dialogue about pleasure, sharing fantasies, learning about touch and reigniting our senses. As this article suggests, unreliable erections can make us better lovers.

And that’s all of us, not just those of us with a penis.


I’d love to hear your experiences of sex without erections, so I’ve changed the comments settings on my blog so you can post anonymously.  

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The US cover to The 52 Seductions!

Lovely, isn’t it? Released later this year.

The 52 Seductions US Cover

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