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Lacrimae

December 18th, 2013 by

Tonight will be intense. Tonight I will pull from him a fluid manifestation of his pain, but I am not going for blood. No, tonight, I will go for tears.

My voice is calm, my demeanor methodical, though my heart is pounding and my stomach is fluttering. This is unusual for me. Normally, I am unable to hold back my laughter during play, my joy uncontainable, my smiles so wide they hurt my face. Tonight, however, I am nervous; I have never intentionally made a partner cry before, but I am determined to do so now. I am wielding my “mean stick” as he calls it. Similar to a wooden night stick, it’s something like a cross between a cane and a paddle. Heavy and very, very cruel, it is one of my favorite toys.

My most favorite toy is lying on the bed, face down, naked except for his purple boxer briefs. Purple is my favorite color. He knows this, and that’s why wears them. This makes me smile. I aim right below the curve of his ass, above the line of the shorts.

Thwack.

He moans into the pillow, already in pain. “No warm up tonight?” he asks. Tonight is not about gentleness or slowly building pain. Tonight is about intensity. Tonight is about tears. “I am warming you up,” I say. “I could be hitting you so much harder.” I raise my arm above my head to demonstrate.

Thwack.

He twists and screams. “It hurts. IT HURTS.” I remain impassive, although I smile freely now, my endorphins overpowering my nervousness. I know it hurts. That’s the point.

Thwack.

My heart continues to race–no longer with agitation, but with excitement. My dominance is substantiated more as sensuality than sadism, and indeed I have never really considered myself much of a sadist. I do not think I am a very effective or skillful top. I do not think about ramping up the pain or whether something will sting or thud. I merely consider what I want, and then? I take it. And tonight, I am taking his tears.

Thwack.

“I. DON’T. LIKE. IT.”

Thwack.

“Hold still,” I tell him. He’s writhing around on the bed, and I’m having trouble aiming. I want to hit him repeatedly in the same place, to break through his body and tear the emotions from his soul and the tears from his eyes. But he won’t hold still. I move down his thighs. This hurts him more, and I know it.

Thwack.

“I want you to stop, I WANT YOU TO STOP,” he is sobbing. But it is dry sobbing. No tears yet. “That’s not the safe word,” I tell him. He moans: “I know.” I’m not stopping.

Thwack.

“It’s not about what you want,” I tell him. “I KNOW,” he cries.

Thwack.

My arm is getting tired, but I am resolute. No stopping. No stopping just yet.

Thwack.

“There are tears,” he sobs. “I’m crying for you, Boss.” I turn him over and see his face, red. For a moment, I think he’s messing with me–he is, by his own admission, “a bit of a brat.” But he’s not bratting me this time: I see a tear trickle down his cheek, a hard won spoil. The sight of it makes my heart do things I can only try to articulate, and I am awash with feelings which are raw and unfamiliar. They are, in a word, intense.

I gather him up in my arms, my brave, beautiful boy, broken by me, and hold him.

“Thank you,” he whispers.

We haven’t said our first “I love yous” to one another, but my heart is bursting with it. I do not think now is the time for those words, so I hold his face and make him look into my eyes, emoting as hard as I can. He senses my emotions and responds, quietly. “You’re very special to me, too.” His voice is ragged and my eyes prick. I wonder if I will cry, too, but I don’t. Tonight, the tears are his alone. I merely marvel at his beauty, his vulnerability, and my fortune that he is mine.

Dating and Dominants and Dominance and Dating

August 24th, 2013 by

I’ve been single for well over a year now, and dating has been proving to be an exceedingly difficult and troublesome task. Part of this is because I’m not quite sure what I want; an unusual experience for me. My relationship with Shadow was my first real long-term D/s relationship, and while, in many ways, it was wonderful and everything I had ever dreamed about, its amicable but ultimately heart-breaking cessure left me a little skittish about D/s.

Part of me longs for a D/s relationship again, but I also want a relationship that is based on romance, not rules. I want someone who does the things I like, the things I want them to do–but not because they have to. Because they love me.

One thing remains certain: I am an unabashed sexual top. My realization of this has make vanilla dating difficult and awkward. I don’t know how to tell the boy who flirts with me at the coffee shop “Look, you’re really cute, but I’m just not interested unless I can drag you home, tie you to my bed, and make you my fucktoy.”

I feel aimless. Purposeless. I dither about. I start up an OkCupid profile, and then shut it down the next day. I go on a date and then don’t follow-through. I go to a munch and flirt and don’t make any plans to play. I feel simultaneously kink-starved and burned out. I’m not sure what I want, but I am sure that I want something. I don’t know if I want a full blown D/s relationship, but there’s something holding me back from getting into a vanilla one.

I guess the real question I’ve been asking myself is: can I still be dominant if I am not with a submissive? If I am in a vanilla relationship, am I still dominant?

The reason why I want to be in a D/s relationship, to do D/s, is not only so I can actualize my own desires, but because I want someone who can accept me, all of me, including my deviant desires, my kinkiness, my dominance. I want someone who I can really be myself around, someone who will accept and love me, all of me. I worry that if I date a vanilla person, I will end up having to hide or minimize my dominance, that it will fade into the background of my life. After all the self-exploration I’ve done, having to do that feels like having to deny who I really am. But at the same time, I have to ask myself if I am willing to live a life devoid of love in order to stay true to myself? I’m uncertain how to proceed with this question, and, unanswered, it continues to gnaw at my heart and fester in my mind.

Guest Post: Staying In on Coming Out Day

October 11th, 2012 by

Last year I wrote my own post here for National Coming Out Day, on why it’s important to me to be out. This year I wrote on some social media sites about why I would like anyone who feels safe doing so to come out as whatever they can, even if it’s just “I’m an ally to people with marginalized identities.” Instead of repeating myself again here, I offered this space as an anonymous platform for a friend on the other side of the closet door.

 

National Coming Out Day makes me a little bit sad. Y’see, I’m not coming out.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to come out about — I’m queer, poly, and kinky. The typical narrative is that coming out is a joyous, amazing thing — the ability to live your life in a way that’s true to yourself and brings you the most happiness. But it’s not just that. Coming out can bring sadness. After all, the whole reason coming out is even a thing is because you’re coming out as being a part of some marginalized group. When’s the last time you heard someone come out as straight?

But fuck the haters, you say. Anyone who doesn’t love the real, true you isn’t worthy of your time, your attention, your thoughts. And hey, I even agree with you sometimes! When I meet new people, when I’m in a place that’s remotely safe for it, I will be openly myself. The problem isn’t those people, those anonymous others I didn’t know and don’t really care about. The problem is anyone I already do. My family has told me in as many words that they do not think polyamory or kinky sex are okay or normal. My extended family has told me the same thing about homosexuality, and I don’t know if they even believe in bisexuality.

It’s tempting to say “Screw them, too! PRIDE!”, but then I remember that I’m finally feeling like I can interact with my parents like a mature adult. Our relationship was rocky for years of my childhood, and now we can actually talk without getting angry at each other. That relationship, which increasingly has actual meaning to me, would probably be hugely damaged if I told them. The damage would be from their intolerance, but it would still come about via my choice. So I don’t come out, and every year that’s a choice I make again.

Similarly, I intend to be and stay employed/employable, with the option of going into professions where personal character matters more than most. I’m not sure where the lines are, but it’s safer to stay on one side — so I don’t holler this stuff at the internet, and I edit some conversations to make some relationships sound a bit more serial than they actually were. It’s the same for any other time I put on my public face — I choose a certain kind of effectiveness over truthfulness, and it’s still a bargain I choose to make.

For all this, I’m not in the closet either. All my friends know. People who randomly pass me on dates in my city know. People I meet at cons, on the internet, at my alma mater, they all know. I’ve achieved an awkward, imperfect, workable balance, wherein I’ve got enough space to live as myself but I’m not suffering from that openness. I wish I didn’t have to.

Galen

February 5th, 2012 by

Chaos and I were arguing with a friend a few months ago about whether it’s possible to submit to someone without their consent. The (vanilla) friend didn’t see it; it seemed to him that if you act submissive to someone who’s not dominating, you are at worst a bad lay. I disagree with him on both counts. Submitting without consent to dominate doesn’t necessarily make you a bad lay, but being a bad lay isn’t necessarily the worst thing that happens, either. Here’s a story, for the second round of Kitty Stryker’s second Safe/Ward Blog Carnival. Decide for yourself.

(TW: There is no nonconsensual touch nor specific trauma in this story, but there are references to self-harm.)

 

I say that Galen was my first kiss. It’s not precisely true, but his was the first one that meant something, the one that came at the end of the sort of intimate cuddly evening where you’d expect to find a good first kiss. Immediately exposing the depth of my self-doubt, I asked him bluntly why he was doing this. I don’t blame him, in retrospect, for not having a good answer; who asks that?

He was certainly a lot of other firsts, over the next year and change. First time I slipped my hands down someone else’s pants; first person I went down on. First time I penetrated someone else or made them come. Several firsts I wouldn’t recognize as BDSM until much later: tying him up with a belt or a ribbon, using knives as sensation toys, and leaving bite marks on him that could last for weeks (savoring the pride and the intimacy).

I still had about eight years to go before someone would teach me the term “D/s,” but in hindsight the signs of it were delicious. He was beautifully responsive, arching his back and parting his lips when I traced my fingertips over just the right spots. When I sat behind him he sank back into my arms, and would sigh if I leaned down to kiss his neck before unbuttoning his shirt. He was beautiful and sweet–still is–and probably one of the defining influences on my taste in submissives.

When we finished, more often than not, I would pull away from him, curl up in a ball, and cry.

Nobody since has made me feel quite as undesirable as Galen did. With him I was awkward and shy and hesitant, nothing resembling the powerful dominant I found in myself years later. When he didn’t reach out to touch me, never looked for the places he could slide his fingertips and make me moan like I had looked for his, I didn’t know any conclusion to draw except that he didn’t want me. That he tolerated my attention because he was getting off on it, but felt no desire to reciprocate. And why would he? I already had a lifetime of social conditioning telling me my body could not be sexy; this was just more evidence. But he was so sweet, so caring and giving in other ways, that every new time he left me untouched, fully dressed and aching with desire, I didn’t know what to do or to think and instead I just cried.

We never talked about why I was hurting. We almost did, once, but then he had to be out of town again for a while and one thing led to another and he ended up breaking it off (for unrelated reasons) before the conversation ever happened. We never talked about sex. I never said “Will you finger me while I do this?” or even “Touch me. Here,” which I suspect would have gone over famously. But I couldn’t presume then that anyone would want to touch me, and couldn’t bear to hear that rejection or see it in his face.

We didn’t talk about boundaries. He never said “I enjoy being penetrated, but don’t really want to penetrate you.” I never said “It scares me to use a knife on you, when not that long ago I was using one on myself.” Yeah, that was happening around that time too. (The picture you’re getting of how happy and stable I was those days is pretty accurate.) He’d seen the marks on my wrists, though, and when we tried playing with the knife I trembled, then crumpled, and he held me reassuringly. I think he understood, but the most I remember exchanging by way of words about it was “You trust me with this; I don’t.” I had no confidence in myself, and without confidence had no foundation for dominance.

And that’s the point: we never talked about D/s. He never said “I want to submit to you” and if he had I wouldn’t have known what that meant. I never chose to step into the complementary role; I just fell into the vacuum left behind by his passiveness. Accepting exchanged power, without ever feeling in control, is not dominating. I couldn’t give informed consent to D/s because I wasn’t informed, either about what he intended and wanted or about its alternatives. Remember that this wasn’t just my introduction to kinky sex; this was my introduction to sex. For all I knew, touching someone who never touched back was all I could get.

This is why I have a special hatred for the “ice queen” stereotype–the dominant who gets all the satisfaction she needs from touching others. I’m not that dom, never was and never will be, but I have played the part unwillingly for someone I wanted to please because neither of us knew how to articulate what we’d rather have. To this day I don’t know if that’s what he genuinely wanted from me, or if he wasn’t comfortable asking for something else, or if he’d been looking at femdom porn and thought that what it showed was just how this was supposed to go.

Some of the effects of that relationship are still with me. It got easier, later, when I started having egalitarian sex with someone else, and then again much later than that when I started learning and talking about BDSM. But I’m still afraid, always, that no matter how much a lover likes me as a person they’re only putting up with my body. That no assertive touch means no desire. That asking for what I want is imposing. It makes it hard to find confidence when I want to dominate, and after a scene in which I don’t get physical attention it makes me feel used and angry.

My experience with Galen is why it means so much to me to hear and see clearly that my partner finds me sexy. It’s also probably one of the reasons I’ve really enjoyed playing with someone who is, on the whole, more dominant than I am. When I’m bottoming to Leon, his desire is unambiguous. It might not be for sex–he might want to tie me up, flog me, or frankly just get me to comply for its own sake–but whatever he wants, he wants me, this whole physical human in front of him, and when his attention is focused on getting what he wants from me, I can’t forget that.

 

It was a long time before I started to see what Galen’s perspective on our history might be. He was more experienced than I was but not by much; I honestly don’t know how much he knew about what we were doing either. He wasn’t an adult preying on an innocent teenager, he was a slightly older teenager who had a hard time talking about sex, and who, like me, had never been taught that those conversations are necessary or how to have them. I don’t regret my relationship with him, even if parts of it were flawed and hurtful, and I no longer blame him for the fact that they were.

We’re still in touch, and have been close on and off. A few years ago, after a lot of maturing but still before I knew much about BDSM, we wound up fooling around a bit at his place. The day after, he told me he was still feeling sore from something new I’d tried, and described how it had felt as “about a four.” When pressed, he clarified that it hurt enough that he didn’t enjoy it, but he would do it for his dom. (A five would have been what I’d now call a hard limit.) I was incensed. I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t tell me at the time if it was that bad, and then expect me to intuit the scale he was using as if there were a standard I should already know. It hit all the same buttons that our silence had in the past, and I threw up my hands and gave up on the idea of trying to connect with him honestly.

About a year later, I told that story to a mutual friend, venting some frustration that the memory brought back. “I just wish he would tell me these things, instead of expecting me to read his mind!”

“It sounds like he was trying to,” she said.

That stopped me cold. She was right, of course. When we’d talked the next day, he was giving me exactly the kind of feedback I wanted–just later and in a different format than I expected. And I’d yelled at him for it. No wonder it was so hard for him to talk to me about sex!

The next time I saw Galen, I brought it up. “I don’t know if you even remember that,” I said, “but I’m sorry for getting mad about it. I know you were trying.”

“I don’t,” he admitted, “but thank you.” I knew from his smile that he meant it. Words may be hard, but at least there are some ways I know that I can read him.

 

We’re getting better at the talking part, too. I woke up recently from a hot dream, enjoying the memory of it as it faded. I grabbed my phone and sent Galen a text:

“So I definitely just had a dream in which I asked if you wanted to make out some time. And the dream was pretty sexy, so what the hell. *Do* you want to?”

The reply came the next day: “Sure :)”

Such a simple thing, but that’s all that needs to happen: ask and answer. Maybe we’re finally figuring out how to do this thing right.

It’s important to tell the stories of when communication and consent are difficult and complicated–we need something to replace the pattern in people’s minds which says that the only two sides of the consent line are “both partners magically get what they want” and “a stranger leaps out of the bushes.” By the same token, it’s important to tell the stories of when clear communication results in great consensual sex, to replace the patterns which say that talking about it is a turnoff, or that everyone’s supposed to have sex the same way.

On that note, consider this the prologue to a upcoming series of short posts about communication gone right. They will be true, explicit stories of sex and BDSM scenes, including the parts where we talk about what we want and don’t want and the parts where everything isn’t magically easy but we make it work. I’m calling them Consent Culture Sex Stories (or “consent porn” for short), and the first one should be up within a couple of weeks.

Lion Taming

January 13th, 2012 by

“Mine,” I declared calmly, clasping his hands against my hips. My pace as I rode him was slow but insistent, and I could feel the heat building up in the wet intersection between our bodies. He seemed patient, though—too patient for my taste. I moved his hands back above his head, pinning each of his wrists firmly against the pillow, and whispered to him,

“Show me how much you want it.”

He didn’t say a word. He just wrenched first one hand free and then the other, grabbing my right arm with them and twisting it behind my back. When I fell forward onto his chest, he breathed into my ear,

“Put your other arm behind your back. Do it now.”

I swallowed and complied. He squeezed my two wrists together in one strong hand and pushed his other one through my hair, holding my head down next to his.

“Mine now,” he told me. I nodded helplessly, and resumed grinding my hips down against him as he began to thrust up faster.

 

So. … I’ve been switching a lot.

More than I’d realized I wanted to, even. When I talked to Leon before my first visit to him and Ali, I warned him not to get his hopes up; I was curious about bottoming but couldn’t predict whether I’d ever be in the mood to try it while I was there. I knew that there are a few typically bottomy things that I like—being pinned, grabbed, and otherwise manhandled, for example—but had never been inclined to genuinely give up control during sex.

So imagine my surprise, my first night there, when Leon was fucking me from behind and I suddenly realized that the thing I wanted absolute most at that moment was for him to grab my wrists and pin them down. And I didn’t want to ask for it—I was in no way prepared to have a conversation about it right then—I just wanted him to do it, because he wanted to and he could. Lost for words, I moved my wrists a little closer together and stretched them out, hoping he’d notice. Leon, bless his perverted heart, grabbed them. I nodded hard, to be sure he knew he’d read me right, and for the rest of the suddenly-much-hotter minute or so that we lasted I was his.

When we flopped out afterwards, I felt happy and satisfied, but also confused. Where had that come from? We experimented over the rest of the trip, approaching the same headspace from different angles—trying to find another way into it. We already knew that we liked fighting for top, but I came to realize that most of the time we both wanted him to win. I was fighting back not to gain control over him, but to make him earn control over me.

I wasn’t just refusing to submit without being beaten down first; I couldn’t. There’s a lion in me, and it bristles and roars at the suggestion that I lie down as quietly as a lapcat. I could eventually be made to take orders, but I had to be chained up or handcuffed, and usually under immediate threat of pain. Anything else would be dishonest and emotionally uncomfortable, with the intense mental dissonance that comes from playing a role that doesn’t fit.

And yet … for that minute, the first night, I wasn’t fighting and didn’t want to be. That was the closest I’d ever come to really feeling submissive, and it didn’t feel dissonant at all. It was comfortable and sexy, even while leaving me shaken by how vulnerable I’d been. Part of it was the appeal of relaxing my guard, letting go of the tension that comes with responsibility for deciding what happens next. Much of the rest was the relief of trusting Leon with that responsibility, and the delight of having that trust repaid with pleasure. As much as I was enjoying fighting him in the meantime, I kept thinking about the moment when I actually let go, and wondering how to get to that place in my head again.

It took about two months.

“Want to play?” Leon asked me, towards the end of a lazy afternoon. Just the two of us were in the apartment.

“Maybe,” I teased. “Did you have something in mind?”

“Yes.” He smiled mischievously and repeated: “Want to play?” He waited while I thought through the part he wasn’t saying: I have an idea. I refuse to tell you what it is. I want to be in charge. I think you’ll like it, but you’ll have to trust me. Do you want it?

“Yes,” I said.

Curious, I sat back and watched as he looped a piece of chain in a tight figure eight around my wrists and padlocked it there. When he was finished, he tugged on the loose end, pulling my arms around easily.

“You’re compliant today,” he observed.

I didn’t realize the answer until I said it, and then it startled me. “I don’t feel like fighting.”

Leon pulled me around a little more, noticing that I was indeed happy to let him move my wrists wherever he wished. He regarded me thoughtfully.

“I think I like you compliant.”

He tied a piece of soft dark fabric around my eyes, careful not to tug on my eyebrow piercing. Unable to pay attention to anything I was seeing, I found myself pleasantly free of the obligation to do so. My face relaxed, and instead of trying to anticipate what was coming, I sat patiently and waited to find out.

“Kneel,” he said.

Leon and I both kink hard on having someone kneel to us. It’s an unambiguous symbol of a degree of control bordering on ownership; when someone kneels to me, I feel possessive in the best way, proud of the treasure who’s offering himself to me or eager to show her off. As a gesture of submission, it is almost always given voluntarily, as opposed to taken by force. The very idea of kneeling for someone else brings out the lion in me—I can be bound, I can be beaten, I can be threatened into staying where you put me, but all of those things will be over my passionate resistance. I don’t just kneel.

I knelt.

The lion in my head thrashed and roared in protest. It felt muted, distant. In the space it usually occupies, I just felt curious, secure, but tense with anticipation. Leon stood in front of me with a hand on my head—he didn’t break contact, I realized later, the entire time I was blindfolded. Even without being able to see his face, I knew he was thinking about making me go down on him. Even without being able to see mine, he knew it wasn’t the right moment. I was too quiet, too thoughtful … so instead, he asked me to tell him how I felt.

I felt incredibly exposed—I think the word I used was “raw.” Like anybody, I have my public face: the bright, extroverted, always-okay one that anyone who’s met me has seen; and then a more genuine, relaxed face which I wear in smaller groups, followed in ascending order of honesty by the intimate faces which only come out in private. And then this. My defenses were as far down as they come. I wasn’t hiding anything, nor deliberately presenting anything—just being. I was also thoroughly mindful of what was going on in my own head, so caught up in observing my own feelings and responses that it was hard to pay attention to anything outside of them. The only similar experience I’d had before was a particularly deep meditation session.

I rambled to him about all of that, noticing at the same time how soft my voice was and how hard my heart was beating. He said nothing, just listened, letting me draw myself out as I tried to explain with half-articulated fragments of metaphor. It took a lot of effort to form sentences, as well as to physically say them; each of those things required pulling myself a little bit out of the slow, comfortable quiet that had settled over my mind, and bridge the normally narrow gap between my brain and his. If I’d really needed to, I could have snapped out of it, but it would have been difficult and unpleasant. I didn’t want to. This was interesting, and I was curious about it, and having given Leon responsibility for looking out for me, I felt safe taking my time to explore.

Later, after he’d taken off the chain and the blindfold, it took a good half hour of cuddling and soft conversation before I felt ready to interact like a human again. Even then, I remained calm and quiet until after we’d gone out to meet Ali and carry on with our evening. I remember realizing that this is why my local dungeon warns its volunteers to wrap up scenes well before their shifts start; I wouldn’t have trusted myself with any serious responsibility right then either.

We talked a lot afterwards, as we always do, about what had made the scene work. The blindfold was a big part of it. As a communication junkie, I had always been nervous about losing a major source of information, but in practice found it a surprising relief. Lack of ability to see means lack of responsibility to watch, and knowing I had two sources of protection (Leon’s good judgment and a safeword), I was able to let go of that responsibility without fear. This realization made me curious about playing with a gag, which I’d previously had the same concern about. Sure enough, we tried it a few weeks later, and I loved it. In retrospect, my misunderstanding was simple: it’s not only about not being able to talk, but also about not needing to. Or more precisely, about trusting that everything will be okay, even if I can’t.

The only thing in that scene that I didn’t seek to repeat was how disconnected I’d felt. I barely interacted with Leon beyond talking with him; we didn’t have sex, or do any SM. It was just intense D/s, with light bondage and a lot of conversation. While those are enjoyable, it’s not usually all we want out of a scene—we play to connect, and this experience, while fascinating, was aggressively solitary. So having succeeded in finding my way back into what was to all appearances a genuinely submissive headspace, my question was no longer “How do I do this again?” but “How do I do this a little bit less?”

There’s no turning-point anecdote about finding the answer to that; suffice it to say that we continue to experiment. I still mostly bottom to him, and am finding it easier to quiet the lion when what I really want is to give up control. That’s happened often enough for Leon to remind me that he does still like it when I fight back, and would miss it if I didn’t any more. I’d do more than miss it; it was disconcerting when I noticed that the way I’ve most often played in the last few months is contrary to the way I describe my role preference. I still identify as a dominant, and lovely experiences with Leon, Ali, and others continue to remind me how much I enjoy dominating. I just seem to also enjoy submitting, at least to the one person who’s ever successfully brought out that side of me.

When I originally wrote about the lion, I was thinking of it as a style of submission, but that interpretation is too simplistic to encompass my actual experience. The lion is the part of me that fights back against domination, yes, but it’s also the part that dominates. It has no place in the role binary because the role binary has no place for it; that’s just another false dichotomy, trying and failing to represent the world with only two categories. The lion ignores them and roams freely in my mind, coming out in whatever I do: when I’m in control, its strength gives me confidence. When someone challenges me, I resist with its ferocity. And apparently, for someone I like and trust enough, it can retract its claws and be tame.

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.

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.

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. []