It’s been a while since I’ve fielded your sex questions, so I asked Ashley Cobb, sex-pert, writer and “your favorite friend in filth,” to help me answer a few of your steamiest. We touched on toys, surprising and underestimated desires, why some people like choking/being choked during sex and more for this week’s Girl Boner Radio episode.
Stream it on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, Spotify or below! Or read on for a lightly edited transcript.
“Sex Toys, Kinks and Choking Qs with Ashley Cobb”
a Girl Boner Radio transcript
Ashley: I tried it and it was, something that, it was like a one time thing. Like, okay, I tried it so I can say I did it. I don’t particularly need to do it again type of thing… The wonderful thing I like about sex is you get to try different things to figure out what your thing is.
[acoustic, encouraging music]
Ashley Cobb has called herself “your favorite friend in filth.” Which is a far cry from the kind of friend she was in her youth – partly, she said, because she grew up in a traditionally religious household.
Ashley: …so I really didn’t discover sex and pleasure and all those things till I was an adult. Even though growing up I would sneak and watch Real Sex on HBO, and I was always curious.
Real Sex is a sexually explicit documentary series from the 1990s. Episodes featured things like Betty Dodson’s female masturbation workshop, a husband and wife stripping couple, and the making of realistic sex toys inspired by quote, “porn stars’ parts.” (I’m sure you can guess which parts.)
Ashley hid away to watch the docu-series, but she didn’t discuss it with her friends.
Ashley: I wasn’t one of those people who, you know, always talked about sex growing up, the person answering their friends questions. That wasn’t me. It was quite the opposite.
Ashley now spends a lot of time doing just that – fielding sex questions from not only friends, but her many followers on social media. She said that shift started when she turned 30.
Ashley: I was on this journey of self discovery and curiosity. So I was like, all right, let me see what this is about.
Prior to that, she was just “going through the motions,” as far as sex goes. And when her 30th birthday rolled around, she thought a lot about that.
Ashley: I was like, I have things I wanna try, so let me start living my life and doing them. So that’s kind of what happened.
Since then, Ashley’s sex life and career path have completely changed.
Today, her website, Sex with Ashley, shows an image of her smiling and clutching a vibrator that looks like a microphone — one you’ll hear about here shortly. Text beside the photo reads, “I’m Ashley…the millennial microphone for Black women seeking ultimate pleasure and sexual liberation.” She’s also a sex columnist, media personality, and HIV activist known for giving practical, no-nonsense sex advice. Which is exactly why I reached out to her.
We haven’t fielded listener questions in a while here, so I asked Ashley to join me to explore a few.
[encouraging, acoustic music]
August: The first one is about toys and the listener wrote this: I tried a vibrate her once and didn’t like it at all. The vibration was way too much, I think, and just felt strange. I like the sensation of being filled up and would like more options than just my hand or partner. Do you have any suggestions for other toys?
Ashley: I do! So what I have found is that people who don’t like vibrators should try a suction toy.
Ashley recommended one that uses suction and pulsations instead of vibration, like a Womanizer or Satisfyer toy.
Ashley: With the suction toys. It’s like an air suction, so it sucks. The air flow it pulsates over the opening, so it creates like a vacuum over the clitoris. The air kind of moves around. So suction toys tend to work good.
I don’t like suction toys cause they’re not as intense as I need them to be. But I know people who don’t like vibrators and they work.
And the Womanizer Inside Out toy can fill a vulva owner up at the same time. In addition to that suction part, for the clit, it has a longer, smooth part that you can use for G-spot bliss. The toy has a shape that’s similar to rabbit-style vibrators – which Ashley also recommends, with a caveat.
Ashley: If you’re looking for something that fills you up, there’s a lot of rabbits that can do that job.
However, all rabbits are not created equal. What I have found is a lot of rabbits are not anatomically correct, meaning one, if you’re using the insertion part, that vibrates the little rabbit ears typically is not going to be in the location that you need it to be, to use it at the same.
I found like one or two rabbits that actually you can use simultaneously,
but most of them, if you’re using the, the deal though part, the rabbit part’s gonna be probably near your belly button or something. It’s not going be on the clitoris.
I often wonder, you know, cause the rabbit’s been around, it got popular with Sex in the City in what ’94, ’95?
August: Uh huh.
Ashley: And I wondered all these years why some people have tried to change it. It’s still the same, the same shape, but yeah.
August: Yeah. And you’re so right and we all have such different anatomy, like where certain parts are, right? So you might get a rabbit that reaches your belly button and then you try another one and maybe it gets to the right spot. But it’s easy to think that, Oh, it’s supposed to work because how do we know, Right? If we’ve not experienced it?
Ashley: Right. That’s the thing with sex toys too. Sex toys, people think, Oh, I tried just one. It didn’t work.
She said that finding your ideal sex toy is like trying to find your perfect shoe.
Ashley: Or the right shade of lipstick. You have to try a few until you get the one that looks best on you. You have to keep trying sex toys until you find one that works.
She is so right about that. I also recommend non-vibrating dildos, if you like the sensation of being filled up, without the buzz.
I chose the next question to discuss with Ashley because she recently wrote about her personal experience with it in an article called “Here’s Why You Like Being Choked During Sex.” Here’s the question:
August: My girlfriend wants me to choke her during sex, and I’m having trouble feeling comfortable with that. I want her to feel good and do what she enjoys and feel simultaneously torn.
I grew up around a lot of violence, so maybe that’s part of it. I know that this is different. I don’t know. Maybe I need to understand it better.
I think this probably is a common curiosity for folks who have never experienced choking or maybe they’re not interested in it.
And I loved your article for XO Necole, because you talked about your own experience and also some really important tips. So what would you tell this listener about the desire, first of all, why do people enjoy the choking during sex?
Ashley: Some people like, it’s an adrenaline rush, right?
Endorphins flow when you go from restricted breathing to normal airflow. Some people also like the hint of perceived danger or feeling dominated in that way. You might also get turned on because it feels taboo, a little “naughty.” Careful breath play is even considered a mindfulness practice by some.
But you need to be extremely careful. Choking during sex should never cause suffering or harm. I can’t stress that enough. Improper choking can lead to brain damage or death. So safety is as important as clear, enthusiastic consent.
Ashley: Now, I tried it and it was, something that, it was like a one time thing. Like, okay, I tried it so I can say I did it. I don’t particularly need to do it again, type of thing. It wasn’t my thing.
The wonderful thing I like about sex is you get to try different things to figure out what your thing is. You don’t really know what your thing is if you don’t try different things.
I have friends who love it. It just helps them to have greater orgasms. It creates all of this orgasm energy.
[music: “Sexy Nights”]
If you’re curious about choking and want to safely try it, Ashley suggested this:
Ashley: Communicate with your partner. Make sure you guys have, I was gonna say a safe word, but if you’re choking someone, they might not be able to talk. So like a safe hand signal.
You want to go alongside their collarbone here with like a U-type of shape between your thumb and your pointer finger and press that alongside of their bottom of their chin. You don’t wanna do their voice box because you can damage that and we don’t wanna do that.
When you’re choosing your safe signals, she said, make sure you’re clear about gestures for more pressure, less pressure, and stop. You can also look for videos online. Just make sure they’re from a qualified educator versus watching a porn scene.
Ashley: There’s also YouTube videos on how to choke properly so you can kind of see it. Some people sometimes have classes that might be a little harder to find than using the internet.
August: Yeah, visual can be really helpful, especially if you’re a visual learner, but I think with sex in general, that can be really, really helpful.
But what if you’re like the listener who wrote in. You’re in a relationship and only one partner wants to try it?
August: When I was thinking about this person’s discomfort with doing the actual choking, first of all, I respect if this person is having some sort of trauma activation around it, I think seeking professional support around that is important. But sometimes it’s just our partner or partners are just not as interested in a certain thing, and that’s okay.
So do you recommend taking turns, maybe there’s something with a pillow, you know, just like gently in one area adding some pressure, or maybe the girlfriend chokes herself a little bit — ways to step in. What do you think about that?
If you don’t feel comfortable, I don’t recommend people do things they don’t feel comfortable doing, right? Everything that’s done in the bedroom, both people should feel safe and something they both should want to try.
But if, let’s say you try choking and it’s just not your thing but it’s her thing, there’s other ways that she can still get that need met. There’s sex workers like Dommes and people who you can hire to get your little choking fantasy out and then go home. So there’s other ways you can do it if you’re open to it.
Two years ago, Ashley hired a dom as a birthday gift to herself. In her XO Necole article, she wrote:
“Choking had been something I wanted to try for years but was apprehensive about because I didn’t want to die.” Side note – valid.
She went on, “The sex expert in me knows that when done properly choking can be both enjoyable and safe, but the human in me computes choking with harm.”
Plus, if she was being honest, Ashley wrote, she did not trust any of her past partners enough to try it. “What if they get overzealous and kill me by mistake?” she wrote. “…death by choking by way of sex was not going to be the reason [she] checked out of here.”
Thankfully, Ashley’s experience with a pro worked out well.
[sensual, bright music: “Wrapped Up in You”]
Ashley: It was a very positive experience. I rented a hotel cause I didn’t want them to come to my house. We were at the same hotel, but he had different rooms.
So when I went to his room, he had props and things for the session out. We sat down, we talked, like a normal conversation – just to get comfortable, you know? He asked me things about my life and we talked about his life and how he got into the business and stuff like that. Then he kind of went over the different things he had.
So if there’s something I didn’t wanna do, it was like, ah, I’m gonna pass on that. And so he didn’t bring that out and I liked that.
People feel like even though you hire a dom, you’re not in control—and you are, right? You control everything that happens to you. Everything that’s going on, you are still in control. I liked that. And whenever we got to the part where he was choking it, he just didn’t grab my neck, right?
He let me know, Okay, is it okay if I put my hand around your neck and I gave him permission. Is it okay if I squeeze tighter? And then if I wasn’t, like, Okay. squeeze lighter… Stuff like that. I was totally in control of the whole situation and that made it that much better.
August: Mm, I love hearing that. It’s beautiful.
[acoustic, encouraging music]
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[acoustic, encouraging music]
The last question I pulled for Ashley and me to discuss ties into kinks and desires in general:
What sexual act are you most surprised that a lot of couples are into? On the flip side, is there something that you thought more couples would be into but they aren’t?
Hmmm… I honestly don’t think any desires surprise me these days. There are kinks that I didn’t realize existed before delving into this work — like bodily function fetishes. There’s a fart fetish, for example, also known as eproctophilia.” That falls into a broader fetish category involving arousal from smells and odors: olfactophilia.
I don’t know how common those are, but I can almost promise that if you have a sexual desire or fantasy, others have it, too. Because these things aren’t spoken about openly, though, it’s easy to think you’re one of the very few. Regardless, acting on any sexual desire that doesn’t harm anyone is a-okay.
When Ashley heard that listener question, her thoughts drifted…back.
Ashley: So I have found that pegging is on the rise. There are a lot of couples who are into pegging. They’re not openly saying, Oh, I, “I’m pegging my husband,” or “I’m pegging my boyfriend.” But it’s a thing that’s happening a lot now.
One study from this year showed that about 16% of adults in the U.S. have tried pegging at least once. In case you’re not familiar, it often involves one person wearing a strapped-on dildo and entering a partner’s rear. Speaking of dildos…
Ashley: One that I thought more people would be into is using sex toys. There are a lot of people, a lot of couples, who don’t incorporate sex toys into their everyday bedroom play. They’re just like, “Oh, I don’t really need one,” or “my husband says we don’t really need that.”
A lot of men, have a lot of ego attached to their penis. And so they feel as though, they are supposed to be the only thing that gets you pleasure. And so when you want to use something else, they kind of slightly get offended. I found this to be true even with my gay male friends. They’re like, I don’t really, I don’t really need to use a toy. I think it’s just a man thing.
This is 2022. I figured that we’d have come around, but there’s a lot of couples who still don’t use sex toys regularly.
August: Ah, I am so with you on the take on that. It’s interesting because it seems like men so often they get this idea that it’s a replacement for them.
Ashley: And it’s not!
August: No, it’s an accessory. It’s something you add. Right?
If people try them and they don’t enjoy them, that’s fine. But it’s important to ask ourselves why we are resistant. Do you think? Is that a good question to ask?
Ashley: I think that’s a good question because I’ve even had women say, “Oh, I don’t need all that.”
Or they’ll say, “Oh, I tried one toy and it didn’t do anything for me.” So you tried one toy and threw it all away.
If we applied that logic to anything else in my life, we probably wouldn’t be dating or got married or tried new foods. Cause you know, there’s a lot of things that we tried, didn’t like it, but we kept going back, tight?
I also think that when people say that, I just think they haven’t found the right toy for them typically.
Because once you do find the right toy?
Ashley: Life changing.
August: Do you have a favorite toy yourself?
Ashley: I’m a wand girl, so I like wands. I have wands and various shapes, and different sizes.
August: Would you describe what that is? I have one here. And it’s such a unique, like if you think of a rabbit vibrator, if that’s what you think of as a sex toy, it looks completely different.
Ashley: So wand looks like handheld microphones. That’s the best way to describe it. And they come in different size. You have like mini ones, microphones, size ones, you have extra large ones. I have them in all sizes. I have their original one where you plug into a wall. I have one like that, but I like wands because wands are very intense and they get the job done.
So if you’re someone who likes vibration, wands are probably your best bet and probably a good thing for you to try. If you’re someone like the first person who asked the question, don’t really, like a lot of intensity, wands is gonna be too much. Even on their, their low, setting it’s gonna be a little too much.
August: Yeah. Yeah. You wanna look for one of those whisper, quiet or even trying a, a vibrating toy without the vibrator turned on at first. Yeah,
Ashley: That’s a good idea.
August: I like a rabbit vibrator. I do have one that I like that the vibrator is, I don’t know what it is about it, but it does feel too intense to me.
And so sometimes if you are really warmed up mm-hmm. and ease into the vibration. Like, I like a lot of vibration when, like if I have a headache, I want a lot of vibration.
Ashley: I have never tried masturbating during a headache. Never.
August: That’s probably common. But I actually did it once because I had this headache, I had received a toy to like try. And I was like, maybe that’ll help. And ever since I call that my headache vibrator.
Ashley: I never tried it cuz when I have a headache I just like go sleep and lay down. So from your experience, works?
August: It does. Yeah, it works for me. I’m not always in the mood to even do that. You know, I have to be, It’s like if I have a headache, but otherwise I’m feeling pretty good.
August: Then I would be much more likely to grab it. I think it’s totally valid to be like, I just feel crappy. I, I wanna rest or whatever. Um, but it, I find that orgasm really relaxes me. So if I’m feeling like tense and headachey. Then Yeah, it really does help. I do get those endorphins, they talk about that bring the pain down somewhat. Yeah, for sure.
Ashley: Okay, cool. I’m gonna try that. I’m gonna see how it goes.
[acoustic, encouraging music]
Ashley: I use toys during sex because like I said before, it is in addition to, it’s an add-ons accessory, right? I think they make six better. I don’t use them all the time, but I use them often. Cause you know, two. They help you to spice it up. Once you get to, to the routine with someone, you’re kind of doing the, you know, the same thing pretty much.
You might do something different, but for the most part it’s gonna be the same thing. So toys and props help you to add some spice and some differentiation to it.
August: So true. And I feel like even sometimes the experiences, maybe you try a toy with someone and it doesn’t go well, or it turns out to be hilarious.
I think that’s also fun. Just it is, don’t you think? Just to try it out and have this adventure.
Ashley: Yeah. I have a stick swing here at my house, it’s a detachable kind… And I remember. I got it, and I tried last year with one of my partners and just trying to figure out how to get it on the door and sit down so I don’t fall. It was a whole thing, so it was definitely a good time just trying to create the memory.
August: Yes. I love it so much.
So you do so many wonderful things. I love your online content that you share. You’re a wonderful writer. You answer folks’ questions. You do a lot of advocacy and work in the HIV space…a lot of really important work. What do you find most fulfilling in your profession?
Ashley: I love answering questions about sex on Instagram. And I used to have a sex column and I love doing that because people write in and they’re looking for real answers and I feel like I’m helping someone.
I get all types of questions from all types of people. I feel like by me answering them, I’m helping someone to like save or improve their sex life. So, yeah.
August: Yeah. And it shows that you are passionate about that. And folks learn from questions even if they don’t relate to the scenario.
Ashley: Correct. A lot of people won’t ask a question cuz they feel, ah, I don’t know, maybe this question is dumb, or I don’t know.
So when they see someone else ask a similar question, they too can get an answer and they realize that one, oh, okay. So it’s not just me, there’s other people with this same dilemma. So yeah.
August: Yes. It’s never just you. I love that. You help people feel less alone. It’s really big.
[acoustic chord riff]
To learn more from Ashley Cobb, check out her 30 Day Sex Challenge at sexwithashley.com or at the direct link in the show notes. It’s a digital download that gives you a month’s worth of kinky activities you can do with a partner to spice up your sex life.
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