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Loudly and Happily Deviant (a post for National Coming Out Day)

October 11th, 2011 by

I’m kinky and agender, but you knew that.

I’m also queer and polyamorous. Specifically, I have a boyfriend and a girlfriend, who are also those things to each other. This situation is new (well, my addition to it is), and I’ve been meaning to write more about it ever since Rowdy posted a call for consent culture narratives on the Pervocracy. Coming from longtime friends to lovers to crushes to triad has been exciting and occasionally scary (especially those last two!), but every step of the way I have felt overwhelmingly respected and cared for. I trust them not because I think nothing will go wrong, but because I have seen how they handle it when things go wrong and it made me feel safe.

Fuck the rom-com bullshit, that’s the kind of love story that needs telling. Boy meets girl; boy and girl meet genderqueer; boy and girl and genderqueer communicate openly about desire and emotion, have a bunch of incredible sex, and then realize that they’re actually super into each other. They discuss time, touch, and talk–what they need, what they can offer–and use what they’ve learned to start building a relationship. And then, well, have a bunch more incredible sex. Bam. There’s my pitch. Think the studios will bite?

Me neither, and that’s why I need to post it. With all of our care and straightforwardness and outright joy, we are still the deviants. There are still people who think our relationship must be boring because we talk honestly about it, and others who think it’s sick just because there are three people in it (and that’s before I even get to the part about hitting each other with sticks). And as long as those people control the narrative, there will be others who would be so happy in a relationship like mine, but will be afraid to seek one out … if they even know they have that choice.

I will resist the urge to exhort everyone who has something to come out about to do so. I recognize the incredible privilege of knowing that I will still have a roof over my head, food to eat, as much of an income as I have anyway, and the continued respect of people that matter to me if the whole world knows that I’m poly, queer, genderqueer, and kinky. Not everyone has that privilege (so when I write more about my girlfriend and boyfriend, I’ll be using pseudonyms). But if you share that privilege with me, consider posting your own story in whatever corner of the internet you inhabit. Let’s be loudly and happily deviant–for all the ones who can’t.

In Memoriam

October 6th, 2011 by
I have three posts waiting impatiently for me to finish them, persistently gnawing at the back of my brain.  One is about gender and queerness.  Another is a post about dating, from the point of view of a disabled person.  And the third is another post about kink.  But they’ll have to wait a little longer.  I’m sure they won’t mind, because I’m going to write about someone who was queer as fuck, gender fabulous, kinky and sexy and fierce as anything—my friend Kash.
[A genderqueer caucasian person sitting in a wheelchair, smiles at the camera, while a snake winds around his neck and the ventilator attached to it.]

A genderqueer caucasian person sitting in a wheelchair, smiles at the camera, while a snake winds around his neck and the ventilator attached to it.

Kash was creative and open-minded and bossy.  Sometimes he was hard to get along with.  But I loved him anyways, because he was fun and intelligent.  Kash was the one who taught me how to do drag make-up. (Kash tried to teach me how to do my femme-drag make-up too, but failed on that account.  I’m just not that kind of femme.)  We used to dress to the nines and go to drag shows every Wednesday night, a couple of crips out on the town.  We both had red hair, then purple hair, then back to red.  He was the one who coaxed me out of my camera-shy shell.  He took some of my earliest fetish-y photos (in fact, he took the second picture of me at the bottom of Wheelchair Worship.)  He bought me my first PVC corset.  He was one of the first people I told about my forays into the world of kink—for which he gave me the nickname “Mistress.”  He started panels that I speak on that confront the often-taboo topic of disability and sexuality.  He wasn’t afraid to talk about that sort of thing, and he spoke about it with humor and grace.  He fought the system that tried so hard to keep people like him, people like me, down.
The last time I saw him, we talked about gender and sex and kink.  We talked about our health and the various projects we were working on.  He painted my nails and told me about a boy he liked.  He seemed to be doing better.We used to joke about which one of us would die first.  We’ve both got pretty sick senses of humor at times.  Well, buddy, looks like you beat me on this one.
[The same person as above sits in his powerchair, biting his lip. A rainbow flag sticker is prominent on the back of his chair.]

The same person as above sits in his powerchair, biting his lip. A rainbow flag sticker is prominent on the back of his chair.

You beat me on this one, and you beat a path in my heart that will never be tread by another.  I will never forget your sly smile or your fiery laugh or the way you used to call me “WOMAN” in that demanding, sarcastic way of yours.  I will keep fighting for access to health care, I will continue to educate others about disability and sex, and I will continue to be fierce and fabulous, the way you taught me.  (And no, no one will ever be able to do my make-up the way you did.)
[He sits on a purple bed, naked, except for a bracelet and his glasses. He is surrounded by luxurious-looking pillows and blankets. He has short, nearly-shaved hair, and his gaze is focused on the camera, his face blank with a suggestion of daring. His chest is censored, covered by a photoshopped purple bar, because this was his profile picture on facebook, and “according to the terms of service, no porn.”]

He sits on a purple bed, naked, except for a bracelet and his glasses. He is surrounded by luxurious-looking pillows and blankets. He has short, nearly-shaved hair, and his gaze is focused on the camera, his face blank with a suggestion of daring. His chest is censored, covered by a photoshopped purple bar, because this was his profile picture on facebook, and “according to the terms of service, no porn.”

Give Me the Lion

September 5th, 2011 by

What use have I for worms?
I am no gardener.
Where I could crush with the toe of my boot,
I’m reluctant to step.

For they are hard to see, down there,
competing to wriggle the lowest.
From the height of a human it’s hard to tell one from another.
So I wait,
and watch–kindly–so as not to interrupt
as they wriggle away in search of a thing that I’m not.

I do not need a worm.

Give me the lion.

Give me the lion with the orange mane,
the teeth, the sweeping tail,
quiet paws, and the unmistakable
curve of his spine.

No housecat he, declawed and docile,
content with long-dead food.
He tears his meat with me,
my lion.
‘Til I challenge him:
tossing scraps on the ground and watching his hackles rise.

We test one another.

If I do not stand over him–if I turn, and assume his obedience–
he may tear me to pieces
(and I will deserve it).
You must. Respect. The beast.

Therefore he tests
the still and wordless strength
in my gaze, and the tension I keep on the chain in my hand;
in return I test his will, and smile
when he finally lowers his head to obey me
and eats.

He wears my collar, but it doesn’t make him tame.
It just makes him mine.
Astride his ferocity I am ferocious:
marking his rippling hide,
or twisting a hand through the curls of his mane to hold him.
When I mount him, and ride,
I command the world.

So keep your worms, and give me the lion.
Give me the lion, a chair and whip,
and time,

and we shall roar.

The Cost of Devaluing Male Submission: One Token

August 9th, 2011 by

The BDSM blogosphere has been all aflutter lately about the devaluation of male submission. And it’s about fucking time. Because the kink scene treats male subs as if they are unwanted, uninvited guests, not recognizing the fact that they are real people with feelings of their own, that their dominant partners cherish them. Every time I see a Fetlife profile that reads “I’m not attracted to submissive men” (frequently, in my experience, on the profiles of female switches and occasionally other female dominants), my stomach clenches. They don’t seem to realize that such an attitude is linked to another problem in the scene: the tokenization of female dominants.

The public BDSM scene has a predilection towards the maledom femalesub dynamic. If you are female, you are presumed to be submissive unless stated otherwise, and if you are male, you are presumed to be dominant unless stated otherwise. (And if you are non-gender-normative, if you don’t fit in a nice little ticky-box, then the scene may accept you but not really know what to do with you.) As much as we would like to believe that the scene is a problem-free sexual utopia, it still suffers from many of the problems that mainstream society does. Straight male sexuality is prioritized, and thus straight male doms are the prevailing players in the scene. Straight male doms have no use for male subs, yet they still like female doms—they like us because we bring a certain energy to the scene and are fun to talk to and be around and because they hope that maybe we’ll co-top their girls with them and that they might be able to get into our pants.

So my sexuality is something that people in the scene can appreciate and sort of see the value in from afar. But the object of that sexuality is not accepted in the scene. While male subs are not seen as potential objects of desire, female doms are seen only as objects of desire. That’s how I feel sometimes as a femme dom in the public scene: they see me, but not my desires.

I feel like Geordi.

[Image: African-American man in a yellow Starfleet uniform, his eyes obscured by a “VISOR”, a piece of technology that allows him to see. Image source: Memory Alpha]

In Star Trek: the Next Generation, the character Geordi LaForge never got laid (this is where I out myself as a nerd, if the pseudonym and the lab coat and the giant boner for science weren’t already a dead giveaway). They had to have a character who was black and disabled, to show how progressive and inclusive they were. But they weren’t progressive enough to give him a sex life. Hollywood had this ridiculous idea about the primal, savage nature of black men, especially in relation to their sexuality. And so the closest poor Geordi ever gets to having a sexual relationship is with a holographic character, and even that is unconsummated–he gets blue-balled by his own fantasies, because oh no, if we show a black man in a sexual situation then the viewers will have to be reminded of the fact that he has a penis. We all know that there’s nothing scarier to mainstream 90′s American culture than a black man’s penis–the popularity of racist porn stemming from the eroticization of this fear belies it. (Not to mention the fact that Geordi falls right into the trope of “disabled characters don’t have a sexuality.”)  Geordi and I are both welcomed in our respective communities, as long as we keep our sexual desires silent—closeted—and to ourselves.

When I meet het male doms, I always try to make it abundantly clear to them from the beginning of our association that I am not a switch, I am not interested in playing, I am not interested in co-topping girls with them, I am not interested in anything beyond friendship with them.

And often, they continue to be friendly. And I like that because I am also friendly and I like to have friends, of all orientations. And I think to myself, “you know, we’re different, we get off on different things, but maybe he can appreciate me for who I am even though I’m not submissive and he knows we can’t have that type of interaction.”

“Maybe he can still respect me and the dynamic that I enjoy.” But then I hear language that refers to male submission as if it is something disgusting or shameful.

And that’s what bothers me.

A few months ago, maymay was referred to as “such a fucking weak-ass male submissive that he makes male submission look bad” by a dominant man who is well-known in the local community.

This writing has since been deleted. But the harmful words still ring in my ears. Maymay is not making male submissives look bad. The author is the one who is making male submissives look bad, because he is using the words “male submissive” as an insult. Would he have said “a fucking weak-ass gay”? I think not, at least, not in the San Francisco scene—such words have a clear underlying implication of homophobia. But somehow, using someone’s D/s status as a slur is acceptable.

While I don’t enjoy the maledom-femsub dynamic myself, I think it is a completely valid sexuality. I would never presume to tell someone otherwise. These het-male-doms who make up the mainstream of the subculture that we inhabit? I think they like me and respect me and think I’m hot, but I don’t know if they think my sexuality is valid.

And so I feel tokenized. It’s not fair to me, because where would I, a femme dom, be without my masculine sub? We are two sides of a coin. Today I am not beating my queer drum; today I am borrowing maymay’s drum: You cannot truly respect me without respecting my submissive as well. If you value me, you must value him.

There is a lot of male submissive-shaming in the public scene.  You’ll hear it all the time.  “Male subs are creepy,” “male subs spoil the atmosphere, so we don’t want to encourage them.” And while I have indeed encountered many male submissives who have acted in inappropriate ways, I have one question to ask: why do you suppose that male subs like maymay who do respect boundaries don’t feel welcome in the scene? It’s not because they are making male submission look bad, it’s because you are equating male submission with badness.

And by doing this, you are hurting me.

This is the reason I go to sleep alone every night. It’s not because there’s something wrong with me as a potential romantic/sexual partner. It’s because there’s no one for me to date. Because everyone’s been telling all the male submissives that they’re unwanted for so long that they won’t come out to play. So I’m sitting here in my kinky sandbox with my toys all by myself.

And it hurts.

If you respect me, if you respect my identity as a female dominant, then recognize that when you devalue male submission, you are devaluing the objects of my desire, and by doing so, you. are. hurting. me. too.

One of the Nineteen

August 2nd, 2011 by

I spent one morning in high school leading my best friend around on a leash. Nothing fancy–just a length of cheap satin ribbon, hand-sewn around his neck with a long tail left over. I walked him down the school hallways and into my classes, where he would hop onto the seat next to me (on all fours, space permitting) and sit quietly until it was time to move on. Other students stared, either sidelong or with unabashed disgust. We soaked it up delightedly. At lunchtime, I handed the leash off to his girlfriend, and she kept him for the rest of the day. It was everyday casual fun to us–a running joke in which he was our plaything.

Why did it take a decade after that before I considered I might be something called “dominant”?

In 2007, still more than a year before I met the person who taught me the term “D/s,” Bitchy Jones was asking:

If there are twenty submissive men for every dominant woman – where are the other 19 women?

19 out of every twenty dominant women aren’t happy or comfortable with femdom as an identity or a place to live. That’s a lot.

That’s 95%.

95% of dominant women aren’t comfortable in femdom.

I was one of Bitchy’s nineteen women. I had no image of dominance other than the PVC-encased dominatrix, which–while fun to look at–sure isn’t anything like me. Femdoms were supposed to be tall, skinny, and busty, projecting feminine desire while sneering down at their groveling submissives. From the first time I saw such an image, I could feel the ache of a craving for something in it, but it paled beside the strength of my knowledge that I could never be that woman. I’m not skinny. I’m not busty. I’m not feminine. I’m not even especially tall. I’m a fat agender person who keeps medium-sized boobs under loose, comfortable shirts, and if I’m honest I’m a total softie with the people I care about. “Kink,” in my understanding at the time, was something for pretty, sexy, confident people: nothing like me. “BDSM” was an abstract fantasy, something harsh and angry rather than something that real people around me were doing with their loved ones every day. In that twisted model of the world, not matching the classic femdom image didn’t just make me not a dominant. With no understanding of the breadth or depth of possibility, much less awareness of the conflation of terminology, I actually believed I was not kinky.

I got an instant message recently from a friend I haven’t seen for a few years. She asked how I was, and I told her (among other things) that I’d been exploring the BDSM scene. She asked me some probing questions, confessing that the idea of dominance intrigued her, so I shared some of what I’ve been learning. She had no idea that BDSM doesn’t have to be about pain, or that you can still be dominant when you’re the one receiving pleasure. She felt guilty for being turned on by the idea of calling a man degrading names … and was amazed when I told her that some men are turned on by that too. This is someone with whom I’ve spent many a late night talking about sex and relationships, but BDSM had never come up before. I didn’t know she was interested in dominance or humiliation. From the sound of it, she hadn’t either. My friend, all this time, had been one of Bitchy’s nineteen missing dominants too.

The Edukink teachers tell a story about a man who came to an introductory BDSM event, for his first time, at quite an advanced age.

“What kept you away so long?” they asked him.

“Well,” he said, “I always knew I was kinky, but I was married for a long time and I figured my wife wouldn’t be into it. Not long ago, though, my wife passed away …

… and then I read her diary.”

There was a pause, in the class where I heard this, and then a collective gasp.

Hearing that story secondhand breaks my heart. My own lived experience, though–my own, even so little, wasted time–makes me furious. I’m furious because of how long I believed I wasn’t even worthy of love or desire, much less cool enough for “kink.” I’m furious because, while I’m writing this, kids are killing themselves to escape oppression instead of celebrating love for whomever they love. I’m furious because shame and shameless fiction are being used every day to justify abuse, while sexuality without shame is censored. I’m furious because we have pulled a mask over our own collective face, a painted illusion of what is “perfect” and “normal,” and we are suffocating ourselves with it.

I’m furious because not conforming to a stereotype robbed me of my identity.

I am furious and achingly helpless, knowing that somewhere out there, right now, there is another shy fat perverted gender-atypical teenager being told over and over that they cannot be beautiful, sexual, or kinky, and I don’t know how to find them and convince them it’s not true. All I can do is write and hope they hear me.

Are you there? Listen:

There is no invisible line dividing you from the people who are allowed to have healthy, fulfilling, kinky sex lives. You don’t have to look like people in magazines. You don’t have to fit a prescribed role, gender or otherwise. You don’t have to be willing to fuck anyone, or limit yourself to fucking one person, or do either of those things but replacing “fuck” with “love.” You don’t have to be healthy or neurotypical. You don’t have to be between eighteen and thirty-five, or have any of the accepted mainstream fetishes, or make enough money to fill your closet and toybag with leather. Just the way you are right now, you already deserve to have healthy, respectful relationships, whether or not those relationships include BDSM or sex or love or none of those things. You deserve to explore what you want, to have clear and honest information available to you, and to express yourself safely. You deserve these things, not because I have invited you into my elitist kinky club, but because healthy, informed sexuality is for everyone.

And that fury I mentioned? That’s why I’m here. It’s why I’m writing down the story of my own exploration, even the parts where I’m vulnerable and afraid, and why I’m doing it somewhere publicly accessible. I may not be loud enough alone to be heard over the cacophony of messages informing us what we must be, but frankly, I do not know what else to do. Maybe, if I’m strong enough, I can at least make a counterpoint ring out a little more clearly.

Post-Transplant

July 30th, 2011 by

You know how when you’ve recently been in pain, the sudden absence of it feels better than if it had never been there? That’s how it felt to post Transplant. Letting go of my uncertainty brought a wave of relief I would never have gotten without questioning my gender in the first place. For the first time, my gender label was not just adequate-for-a-short-answer but actually right. It felt good–surprisingly good. After posting it, as promised, I updated my Diaspora and FetLife accounts with the new information, and then sat there looking at the “25GQ Dom” at the top of my profile and just grinned.

The biggest changes I’ve noticed in the weeks since then weren’t changes. They were ways things had always been which suddenly made a lot more sense. For example, people often refer to me with male pronouns or honorifics, especially online, and it’s never bothered me. On the contrary, I’ve usually been secretly pleased. What does bother me is when someone else corrects them–derailing the whole conversation just for the sake of planting a figurative “THIS ONE IS FEMALE” sticker on my face. The statement is that not only am I female, it’s that my femaleness is more important than what we’re talking about. I dislike everything about that, and it’s much clearer now why it gets so far under my skin.

On a related note, several people have politely asked me which pronouns I now prefer. The truth is that I’m not sure either, yet. If English had a widely accepted gender-neutral animate pronoun, I’d be all over that, but it doesn’t, so my options are gendered, plural, neologistic, or inanimate. Honestly, other than the last one, I don’t really care. I myself get to dodge the problem by using the first person, so pick whatever feels sensible to you and feel free to change it later. If I find I’m uncomfortable with your choice, I’ll let you know, but I won’t blame you for not being able to read my mind.

More problematic for me is the question of non-pro nouns. (Amateur nouns?) If I give up “female,” what does that mean for “girl”? “Woman”? What about “femdom”? Tentatively I’m avoiding them, to see if I feel the loss, and that last is particularly troubling. More than being an efficient descriptor of (in my case) anatomy and preferences, “femdom” as a label comes with some politics. It’s a one-word reminder that not all doms are male, and using it gives me the power to say “Look, I’m a femdom and I’m not a stereotype” to people who don’t yet realize that’s possible. That’s a power I’m reluctant to give up, even while I’m not certain it was rightfully mine in the first place. On the other hand, perhaps it’s just as valuable to do the same for “dom”–to be an example of something entirely unlike the stereotype, including but not only by not being male.

Setting aside vocabulary inquiries, I was surprised at how many of the responses to Transplant were along the lines of “This really got me thinking about myself,” or “I’ve been having similar thoughts.” It’s not just the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon; these were people I already knew, but neither of us had been aware the other was questioning their gender. When I settled on the term “agender” for myself, I felt like I was striking out alone in nearly empty territory (Google pulls up a few results from AVEN, but most of the rest are about a cross-platform scheduling tool). It turns out that I might have more neighbors here than I realized.

The conversation I was most nervous about having came a few days after publishing Transplant, when I got a chance to catch up with my mom (who lives in another time zone). I didn’t expect her to be upset, but I really had no idea what she would think. We didn’t have a lot of time to chat, but she told me she was proud of me both for being so thoughtful and for expressing it so well. Then she added (link mine),

“Not to switch focus, but you make me realize how un-introspective I am, mostly because I’m intellectually lazy and partly because I (and my generation perhaps) have never been comfortable stating — much less sharing — intimate issues. Understatement in my case. To me, you’re very brave, which must mean the same thing as very confident. A good thing.”

“Maybe,” I said. “You don’t see the part where I’m avoiding and ignoring it for ages before finally facing it down.”

“Nobody sees that part,” she pointed out. “That’s the beauty of having a skull.”

My mom is a smart lady.

Admittedly, I’ve had some uncomfortable realizations along with the relief. I’ve noticed for a long time that I can be a bit misogynistic, and that observation used to produce some cognitive dissonance. How could I not like women, if I am one and I don’t dislike myself? (Or, at the times in my life when I did dislike myself, that wasn’t why.) Now it makes–well, no, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s easier to understand, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. I don’t want to give myself an excuse for judging people prematurely. What’s going on, I think, is that there’s much about traditional femininity which I dislike (reasonable), and I’ve absorbed its tropes sufficiently to apply them as a template to women I don’t yet know well (not reasonable). I’m trying to catch myself on this consciously, now, so I can knock it the hell off.

Given how long I’ve been reading myself wrong, I was pleased to hear from maymay that Transplant “[is] also REALLY illuminating because it so perfectly matches how I read you, gender-wise. And it’s odd because that’s very rare. It’s NOT androgynous. It’s truly ‘not-a-gender.’ [...] I’ve actually mentally been trying to remember to use ‘she’ and ‘female’ with you for a while, and I thought that was odd for a while, but now I get why I was stumbling over it in my head for so long.”

This raises an interesting question. The way he’s contrasting them, to seem androgynous is to have both masculine and feminine aspects, whereas to seem agender is to have neither. So where does that put me in the eyes of people who are attracted to a gender? Have I just removed from my dating pool anyone who identifies as a straight man or gay woman (that is, someone attracted to women), bisexual (attracted to men and women1), or just attracted to gender itself? If I have, that’s an awfully small sliver of potential suitors I’ve got left. This is a point of genuine insecurity which I haven’t really resolved yet. Just like I need to be sexy including my fat, not in spite of it–as Chaos has written too about her disability–I need to be attractive including my (lack of) gender, not in spite of that either.

On the other hand, why would anyone’s attraction to me have changed? All I’m adopting is a new word; inside, I’ve felt the same or similar gender-wise as long as I can remember. When I was in high school, a group of peer educators once came around to one of my classes to give a presentation about sexuality and gender identity. They needed a volunteer for a demonstration, and one of the presenters (a friend of mine) called me out, knowing I’d be an interesting participant. He drew four lines on the board, each marked M at one end and F at the other. I was to pick a point on each line; one was for my physical sex, one for my gender identity, one for my gender presentation, and one for my sexuality. I put my first point solidly on the F end of the scale, and the rest muddled about in the middle wherever they belonged. If I did the same exercise today, ten years later, it would look almost exactly the same2.

I’ve never felt or been treated like someone who fits neatly in the “female” pigeonhole. What’s new is just the realization that it might mean something. I was lucky to be born in a little magic bubble of time and space3 where I grew up surrounded by the idea that boys and girls can be whatever they want, so I didn’t think much of it when I didn’t take to ballet and ponies very much. I remember that the notion of a “tomboy” appealed to me, but I wasn’t actually any good at sports or tree-climbing either, so I reluctantly had to discard it. When I was a little older, I considered whether I might be trans, but I didn’t feel like a boy, so at the time (still stuck on the binary) I assumed that was the end of it. The majority of my friends, after puberty or so, were always male. I wasn’t exactly “one of the guys,” but I wasn’t one of the girls they got crushes on and dated, either. Hurt by that, I figured I was just a faulty girl. It never occurred to me that I was a perfectly good something else.

Getting ready for bed the night Transplant was published, I stopped to take a look in the mirror and had a startling realization. Gendered standards don’t apply to me any more. I’m no longer supposed to look like women, because I’m not one. All I have to look like is me. The shape I already am. The only shape, minor variations aside, that I can be. I set my own standards now, and that power is incredibly liberating. For what might be the first time, when I looked in the mirror that night, I didn’t compare what I saw to anything else I’d ever seen. I just looked and accepted. That’s who I am. That’s all I need to be. All the confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety may’ve been worth it just for that.

  1. Some people use “bisexual” the way I use “pansexual.” I don’t know how common this is, and given that the word “pansexual” exists, I find it confusing. So when it’s not otherwise specified, I interpret “bisexual” to mean “both,” not “any.” (Besides, the “it applies to the whole spectrum between two points” argument doesn’t include me anyway.) []
  2. With the possible exception of the first solid F for physical sex. Since then I’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, which among other things means I have higher level of androgens (male hormones) than is typical for someone with two X chromosomes. So I actually am, arguably, a little more physically male than the average cis woman. []
  3. Berkeley, California, 1985 []

Doms Don’t Cry

July 18th, 2011 by

Mainstream femdom plays into the notion that female dominants are invulnerable to emotion, with images of cold ice-queens who endlessly berate their submissives, referring to them as worthless or pathetic.  I will never understand this.  Why bother owning something worthless?  If he’s so pathetic, why are you playing with him?

And then, of course, there’s withholding sex as a punishment.  This, too, I do not understand.  Why withhold sex?  I wouldn’t want to withhold sex.  I love sex.  Not that I don’t enjoy chastity play, but I prefer to think of it as putting my favorite toy away when I’m not using it.  Perhaps most femdoms are, in fact, ice-queens with no sex drive but who have an endless drive for inflicting cruelty and degradation.  But I suspect not.  I suspect more of them are like me.

I am a dominant woman.  I am not invulnerable to desire.  On the contrary, I am super-susceptible to desire.  My desire controls me.  My desire incites me to control others.  The key is not about not having power–but about taking that power away.  Not giving up control, but the loss of control caused by another.  I don’t want someone who is always submissive, without any input from another–I want my dominance to be the key that unlocks the feeling of surrender inside of them.  I don’t want someone who is worthless.  I don’t want someone pathetic. I want someone valuable.  I refuse to devalue submission, or the people that submit to me.  It’s not that I’m better than they are or that my desires are worth more.  It’s just that my  desires are…more important.

I am a dominant woman.  I’m not perfect.  I don’t think of myself as perfect.  I don’t think I am better than anyone else.  I don’t have super high self-esteem.  I do have healthy self-esteem, most of the time.  But above all, I hold myself in high esteem.

I’ve seen the term “slaveheart”–the idea that a slave is someone who has a heart that longs to be owned by another.  Slavehearts are often depicted as fragile and vulnerable.  But there is no counterpart for dominants, as though our feelings don’t matter, as if our hearts can’t get broken.  So I am proposing a corollary term for a dominant: a dominant spirit.  A spirit that yearns to possess and overthrow.  A spirit that is passionate and loving and fierce and tender.

As I walk this path, as I make this journey (although at times I loathe the trite comparison between BDSM exploration and a journey) I see the insecurities in my heart like cracks on the sidewalk.  Thus far, I have a much better idea of who I am and what I want than I did a few years ago.  For that, I am grateful.  But sometimes it makes me feel hopeless because what I want seems so unattainable.  The further I walk on this path, the more cracks I see in the pavement.

I am a dominant woman.  I am not invulnerable to desire.  I am not invulnerable to loneliness.  Or heartbreak.

Invisible Beautiful

July 6th, 2011 by

I’m a bit of a clotheshorse for someone on a thrift store budget. Just a few weeks ago, I found myself fretting about what to wear to a party—did I want to go more femme, or masculine? To follow the theme, or not? I got a sexy idea, put it together, tried it on … and frowned. It was exactly the outfit I’d intended, but the image in my head was nothing like the one in the mirror. My body type’s been roughly the same since puberty; why can’t I picture my own clothes on myself?

I am surrounded by examples of how skinny people can choose to look. They’re in magazines and advertisements, shop windows and clothing catalogues. Many of the brands they suggest I wear don’t offer anything in my size; when they do, many stores don’t sell them. And where they are sold, you certainly won’t see a mannequin shaped like me in the window. Plus-size models? Please. According to the LA Times, the average American woman is a size fourteen. From a Huffington Post interview:

At 5’9″ and a size 6, Katie Halchishick was deemed “plus sized” by the modeling industry and asked to “just shave two inches” off her bony hips.

For reference, this is me1. The skirt I’m wearing in that picture is a size twenty-two.

(Size numbering itself is a whole other can of worms, of course. It’s surreal to me that “plus sizes” begin at half my numerical size. Someone half my actual size would be tiny! A friend of mine who is that tiny has the complementary complaint: being labeled a “size 0” as if she were all but incorporeal.)

I’m not just angry about the dearth of sex-positive imagery because it makes clothes shopping a pain. We use our partners as status symbols in this society; if I am never depicted as desirable, I have no social value. That means not only that I’m ignored as a potential partner, but that the very idea that I might have one is a little gross. And of course, anyone who happens to genuinely like fat people is therefore a deviant. The Village Voice described Kevin N.’s experience growing up (emphasis mine):

Meanwhile, his “pretty” girlfriend was an all-state softball player—size 16, five feet nine inches tall, maybe 200 pounds—but could bench more than her scrawny boyfriend. A rumor spread that he was gay, which he didn’t bother to refute. Liking a fat girl was so much more of a preposterous scenario that he worried the truth would “make it snowball even more.”

Living with self-respect while surrounded by this bullshit requires constant attention and willpower. I’m lucky—I have good friends and lovers in my life who make it unambiguously clear how sexy they find my shape. And as much as the BDSM scene marginalizes those who don’t fit its favorite dynamics, it’s pretty size-positive; in a clothing-optional dungeon, there is neither the means nor the incentive to maintain the fiction that stick-thin, unblemished bodies are the norm. I feel confident in the dungeon, and that’s great. I need to, if I want to strut my deviant body proudly in a public space. But I still want something hot to wear while I do it, and then I’m struck once again by the frustrating lack of examples.

I know nobody looks like a mannequin. That’s what the dressing rooms are for. The difference is that I have to actively ignore what I’m seeing in order to imagine myself usefully close to accurately. That’s difficult, and tiring, and having to do it depresses me. If those mental gymnastics sound familiar, it might be because you’ve been listening to maymay.

As a sexually submissive guy myself, I look at a lot of BDSM porn, a lot of women bottoms, and I’ll change the genders around in my head. When I see a woman tied up, I think, “It’s okay, I’ll just imagine them as a guy, someone like me.” […]

And the more I looked at porn the more I realized I really wasn’t interested in seeing images of sexuality that aroused me, I was much more interested in seeing images of sexuality that reflected mine, so I could connect with them and see myself represented in that image and have a validation that I actually exist, that other people are like me there.

He reached it through sexuality, I through fashion, but the longing is the same: we both want to see people who are similar to ourselves portrayed as normal and desirable, and the images just aren’t there.

Neither of us is even holding the shortest end of the stick when it comes to having one’s attractiveness marginalized. Being female-assigned, I benefit from the trope of the curvy girl, and from the BBW and fat admirer communities. BHM appreciators exist, but in the mainstream, the assumption that fat men’s bodies are disgusting is so reliable that it can be used to sell advertising (if they’re acknowledged as objects of desire at all). Maymay’s gender/role identification is underrepresented at best and reviled at worst, but when you do find them in erotic images, most of the models are slender and pretty like him. People who are fat, male, and submissive are both kinds of invisible, no matter how sexy they really are.

I could go on, but a bunch of smart people have already done it for me. Professor Chaos wrote a post in this blog about the invisibility of disabled sexuality. For the 2006 film “A Girl Like Me,” filmmaker Kiri Davis interviewed young black women about their perceived standard of beauty, returning over and over to light skin and straight, fine hair. As the New York Times observed, even those who would reject that standard in favor of a “natural” look might not know how to maintain it—and then may have to endure unwanted rubbernecking and touching. Long, straight, shimmering locks are a mainstay of the beauty-magazine pages. When did you last see a shampoo ad feature someone with naturally kinky black hair?

Our shared concept of what a person looks like comes from the images we see around us—images which have already passed through the very narrow filters of the fashion and entertainment industries. This isn’t just dishonest, it’s dangerous. The link between unrealistic body image and adolescent eating disorders is so strong that the American Medical Association recently adopted policy to discourage digital alteration of advertising models. Such alteration is currently common practice, and its unambiguous message is that even the thinnest few percent of us aren’t thin enough.

When I mentally assembled my outfit for that party, I pictured it unthinkingly on my limited idea of that “normal” human—one who is white, able-bodied, female-assigned, and skinny. The difference between my real body and that image means that when I’m doing my damnedest to disprove the “fat people can’t be sexy” meme, to actively create a better example, I can still try on an outfit, look in the mirror, and for a moment before I catch myself, feel disappointed by what I see.

The day after I tried that outfit on, several hours before the party, I was telling a friend over coffee about my experience with mismatched self-image. We talked about fat-positivity, about frustrating invisibility, and about culture and desire and shame. Finally, she asked,

“… so what was the outfit, anyway?”

I told her: black jeans, a wifebeater, and black suspenders. She stared at me. “What?” I asked.

“Fizz, you have exactly the body type I would imagine that outfit on.”

“Wait, really?”

“Except for having boobs, I guess.”

We compared notes. The image in my head was tall and lanky. She was picturing a “big, working-class punk guy”—my type indeed, but for the boobs and the attitude. That take on it hadn’t occurred to me, but I trust my friend’s judgment; I wore it, chest bound, and packing a strapon. I went to the party, had a good time, and by the time the clothes came off again, it didn’t matter what they’d been; there was nothing to be ashamed of underneath them.

When the next party rolls around, I’ll be fretting once again about what to wear. I want the confidence boost, but I also need to be an example. I am fat. I am sexy. And I won’t let the world keep pretending I don’t exist.

  1. Photo by Myles Boisen. []

A Socratic Gadfly on Public Deviance

June 24th, 2011 by

A friend of mine popped up on IM recently with a news story. It described a man who was allowed to travel on a commercial airline wearing little more than women’s lingerie, despite the complaints of his fellow passengers. It’s notable in the context of another recent incident in which the same airline kicked someone off a flight for not complying with a request to pull up his sagging pants, but I was more interested in my friend’s response to the first passenger’s choice of dress. If my friend were generally oblivious to social deviance issues, I might have dismissed it, but “Robin” is genderqueer and kinky; I was pretty sure that we agreed on the fundamental principles here (and if we didn’t, I wanted to know about it). So I started needling. This is a technique I don’t often use, and I was pleased with the result, so I asked for permission to post the conversation. (It’s edited to remove noise and digressions, and change the names, but little else.) For more examples, see maymay on doing this at play parties, or Rick Garlikov on teaching third graders.

<robin> http://news.yahoo.com…us_saggy_pants_arrest_panties
<robin> US Airways had a black man arrested for wearing his pants too low (you know, it’s a very common style these days), but then a few days later allowed a white man wearing little more than panties to fly
<robin> fucking racist double standards
<robin> I feel kinda sorry for the people who had to sit next to the old man in drag on the plane…. I mean drag is one thing, but he was dressed like a really skanky ho
<robin> I think most people would feel uncomfortable sitting next to a biological female on a plane, if she was dressed like that
<robin> Although not as many people would probably speak up about it
<fizz> and would it be wrong for her to dress that way?
<robin> I think that you need to take other people in to consideration when you’re going to be packed like sardines on a plane with them for a flight
<fizz> sure. but what makes it not okay to dress a certain way?
<robin> Just our uptight society
<robin> Oh, and it gets cold on airplanes.  What the hell was he thinking?
<fizz> haha
<fizz> they have blankets
<fizz> and, okay, but society aside, you said *you* felt sorry for those people
<robin> I feel sorry for them, because they must have been uncomfortable
<fizz> ah.
<robin> He kind of comes across as a pervert.  I mean, people dress usually that way so that people will stare at them, ya know?
<fizz> what’s wrong with wanting to be stared at?
<fizz> (would you think a woman dressing the same way was a pervert?)
<robin> The thought would totally cross my mind
<fizz> okay. but why?
<fizz> what’s perverted about it?
<robin> You got me.  The people who keep staring are probably the bigger perverts
* fizz grins
<fizz> ’cause it’s weird or unnatural to stare at something unusual?
<robin> Well it depends on which part of him they were staring at ;)
<fizz> how are you using the word pervert? just for reference.
<robin> I think a pervert is somebody who’s sexual behavior makes other people uncomfortable, AND who gets off on that discomfort
<robin> I suppose it’s hard to tell if he was getting off on dressing that way, or if he was trying to make some kind of a point
<fizz> or, of course, just likes dressing that way. could be neither. :)
<robin> yeah
<robin> He definitely made people uncomfortable though, and should have seen that coming
<robin> I dunno what to think about it now
<robin> I mean he has a right to dress how he wants, and people should just get over it….
<robin> But at the same time, is forcing it upon people really the right way to handle it?
<fizz> well, as opposed to what?
<fizz> if I’m happier dressing in a nonconforming way, can I express that without “forcing” it on people?
<robin> Well you can go out to a club where it’s accepted, or walk around certain neighborhoods
<robin> But there are all kinds of people with a variety of belief systems in airports
<robin> I wouldn’t dress like that in an airport out of fear for my own safety.  He’s lucky that nobody tried to beat him up.
<fizz> heh, well, yeah. that’s a separate thing.
<fizz> what happens if you only exhibit nonmainstream behavior in places where it’s accepted, though?
<fizz> what effect does that have on the mainstream?
<robin> I suppose nothing would ever change
* fizz nods
<robin> Maybe I’m just not brave enough -_-
<fizz> nobody is *all* the time
<robin> I hope I’m braver some day

Wheelchair Worship

June 20th, 2011 by
Wheelchair Worship

Image: Close-up of legs and feet resting on a footrest and gray wheel of an electric wheelchair. Feet are clad in black patent-leather maryjanes with 4-inch heels, laced with ribbon.

 

When this picture was taken, I had barely begun adulthood and I thought my life was over.  I was twenty-one.  Many of my health conditions were undiagnosed or untreated.  I was sick.  I was tired.  I wanted to think of myself as strong, but I was just a kid who was lost and confused because my body was breaking.  I felt isolated from my friends, who couldn’t understand what I was going through.  I couldn’t take care of myself very well.  I was so tired that getting out of bed took a huge effort.  If I wanted to go somewhere farther than my apartment, I had to use a power chair.

I have never felt less sexy than when I was in my wheelchair.

My chair is not sexy.  It is upholstered in a color I can only describe as “medical gray,” a color that says “I have zero personality.”  It is a color that says “I am functional and not sexy, because why on earth would I need to be sexy?”  The plastic of the chair is red, but not a “fuck me” red.  It is not a red that evokes any sort of lust or hints at any secret desire.  It is a “we needed to make this a customizable, so you have a choice of red or blue, isn’t that nice” red.  The chair as a whole is bulky and not especially well-designed for comfort.  Form, I suspect, was not a factor in its design.  It is simple, but inelegant, minimalist only insofar as it has few features.  It is almost purely designed for the function of getting from point A to point B, and, truthfully, not very well even for that.

Disabled sexuality is virtually erased in our society.  People with disabilities are, at best, considered nonsexual, entirely lacking in sexual identity.  At worst, we are seen as perverts merely for having sexual desires.  And we are, above all, undesirable. The aesthetic of my power chair reflects this–why bother make something sexy when the person using it isn’t going to be having sex?

There is a difference between impairment and disability.  To borrow a definition from Stacey Milbern, “impairment is the reality of what your body is able to do, and disability is what society disallows your body to do because it has an impairment.”  I have a degenerative illness.  Whether I am in a wheelchair or not, my body is impaired.  Pain and fatigue are not perceivable by the naked eye.  But once I sit in my wheelchair, my disability becomes visible and I can no longer  “pass” for able-bodied.  When I sit in my wheelchair, the status of my disability does not change, but the way society views me does.  Suddenly I am an object of pity rather than desire.  When I roll down the street, people avert their eyes.

I don’t want people to see “past” my disability.  I want them to see me as a whole person, including my impairments.  I have fucked someone in my wheelchair.  (I have fucked a couple of someones in my wheelchair, actually, I mean, not to brag or anything.)  It was physically awkward and uncomfortable, and also? incredibly hot, because I was living out this idea, that my illness is a part of who I am, deserving of love, just like the rest of me.  I also tended to dress more provocatively when using my chair for a similar reason–I wanted to forcibly turn people’s eyes toward me, to demand from them the desire that I knew I deserved.

The photo at the beginning of this post is one of the oldest sexy pictures I have of myself.  I took it to make a point.  I wanted to confront people with their preconceptions about disability and desirability.  With this picture, I wanted to do what social norms prevented me from doing, to scream, “Look at me!  SEE me.  Recognize me as who I am, a sexual being!”

I no longer use my powerchair.  I still have it, but I am on a combination of medications that render it unnecessary, at least for the moment.  I do still use a manual wheelchair in certain circumstances.  I dream of the day when pushing my wheelchair is seen as a service, not a chore.  Some day sleek, sexy wheelchairs will be the norm.  Some day someone will worship my wheelchair, and me, in my wheelchair.  When that day comes, I will sit as in a throne, and I will be powerful and broken and beautiful and whole.

 

Broken, beautiful, and whole

Image: front-facing gray seat of a power wheelchair, a young woman stands behind it, resting her arms on the headrest, smiling