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Dysphoria

May 11th, 2012 by

I want to have a penis. There, I said it.

This is not a new coming-out. I’m not a trans man. I don’t want to take testosterone, I don’t want to transition, I don’t want to cut off my breasts or sew up my vulva. There is no news here about my self or my gender identity; I’m just telling you something you might not have known about how it manifests.

It goes through cycles, you see. I’ll spend a while enjoying acting femme and content to look and be treated like a woman; then a month or two will pass and I’ll find myself wanting to bind every day, feeling uncomfortable being called “ma’am,” and considering packing (although not doing it, because I don’t have a soft packer and who wants to deal with a boner all day in class).

The first few times I oscillated to one extreme or the other, it scared me. Unable to see past the way I felt at that moment, I was afraid that I’d been wrong all along: at one extreme, that I was just a girl who overthinks things, and at the other, that I was just a boy but couldn’t admit it. After two or three cycles I noticed the pattern and relaxed a little, trusting that the phases of strong feeling would pass and continuing to comfortably define myself by the variation itself.

And they do pass, back into my ground state of relative genderlessness and then eventually to the other extreme or even the same one again. But knowing that this will happen doesn’t make the experience of the peaks any less real. On the feminine side, it’s usually not a big deal; I’m socialized as a girl, I know how to do that and it matches the way that people expect to interact with me. The masculine side … is not so easy.

This hit home for me recently when I read Seth Fischer’s Notes From a Unicorn, an excellent and compelling essay about being bisexual in a world that doesn’t believe he exists. In it, he describes going through periods of trying to “just be straight” or “just be gay,” and towards the end details a particular bit of sex during one of the latter phases:

I moaned and screamed and made all the right noises … but I just couldn’t come. [I] was right on the edge. Right there. So I did what no one admits to their lovers they do but that everyone does: I closed my eyes and let my mind wander to other people. I [forced] myself to think about men, only men, men men men men men men, and then it slipped in there …. I thought, for a second, about Willow [and] I fucking erupted. I came so hard I was worried about getting enough air.

That moment, that slip, felt so familiar that my heart sank. How many times have I been trying to come, and trying to come, and flicking through my mental gallery of fantasies for the right thing to set me off, and then I hit the one where instead of rubbing my clit, like I’m actually doing, I’m running my fingers through someone’s hair as they suck my dick and it’s over in a second. I don’t feel guilty about this, or ashamed–I don’t think it’s wrong for me to want it. Instead, I feel helpless and sad. What I crave isn’t just something I don’t have; it’s something I can’t.

The worst it’s ever been was towards the end of a Skype call with Leon and Ali, after I think she’d already gotten off and he and I were still turned on and masturbating–watching each other and turning each other on, getting off on that–one of those delicious circles, except this time it wasn’t quite working for me. The sight of him stroking his hard cock made my clit swell and my pussy wet, but I was nowhere close to orgasm and not getting there. Eventually it hit me: the ache I was feeling wasn’t because I wanted to be playing with his cock (although I did). It was because I wanted to be playing with mine.

I wanted to be masturbating the way he was masturbating, sliding my hand along the length of a shaft instead of just pushing against my clit with my fingertips. The knowledge that it was impossible was suddenly so painful and so unsexy that I immediately gave it a hard shove out of my head, and found something generic and hot to think about to drag out the reluctant orgasm. He finished too, we said our good nights and signed off, and then I curled up on my bed and let the thoughts come back and felt like crying.

I talked to Ali about it over the next couple of days. While we don’t identify our genders the same way, we live near enough to each other in genderspace that my problem made a lot of sense to her, and she sympathized. Talking to Leon is harder. It’s not that I think he’d be repelled or disgusted; if I expected that from him, we wouldn’t be involved in the first place. He’s been receptive and patient, when I’ve brought it up as much as I dared. But while he accepts and respects my genderqueer identity, he is with the exception of his attraction to me a straight man, and let’s face it: while his conscious mind recognizes the difference between me and a woman, his unconscious libido probably doesn’t. But only because I have all the parts it expects.

I don’t fault him for that, because it’s not a choice. There’s a deep instinct which says “this one has breasts and a vulva and smells right, let’s have sex with her” and I hardly object to my body setting that off for him. On the contrary. What I’m afraid of is that if I had the body I want–or even if he completely understood how much I want it, how much the body doesn’t feel right–that I wouldn’t trigger that instinct any more. That for all his caring and respect on a conscious level, he could not still be instinctively sexually attracted to me. I am afraid that some day I will have to make a choice between having the body I want and the person I want to share it with, and there is no possible outcome of that situation which wouldn’t break my heart.

I am, of course, unlikely to ever have to make it; having a body that does feel right for me will probably not ever be an option. Even if you simplify the problem to “I want to have SRS” (which isn’t entirely correct), it’s still out of reach on a few levels. Money is the obvious one. I couldn’t afford it out of pocket, which might some day change but not so certainly or so soon that I’ll hold my breath for it. I don’t have health insurance. If I did have health insurance–and that I probably will, eventually–it might or might not cover transition-related expenses at all. If it did, if I got really lucky and got coverage which takes gender transition seriously, it still probably wouldn’t take me seriously, because like I said, I’m not a man and I don’t want the body of one.

Transsexual people have fought so hard for so long to carve out a path for themselves, through the jungle of medical culture and industry, to get what they need. I’m so glad, genuinely glad, that more and more people are now able to follow it. But their path is not my path. The ways for nonbinary people to get care are still few, and irregular, and hard to see. It’s difficult just to get on hormones outside of a binary transition. I can’t even imagine what it would take to convince the gatekeepers of care that it’s right for me to have a penis, without lying and claiming I’m a man (which is out of the question).

Even if I got past all of that–if, say, I was gifted the money for surgery and also found a skilled doctor willing to do it–what could I get? To the best of my knowledge, the creation of a penis which looks, acts, and feels like the ones some people are born with is beyond the limits of current medical technology. The closest we get is with one of two surgeries.

Phalloplasty is the construction of a penis from scratch, using skin from elsewhere on the body. A penis built by phalloplasty can look very much like a cis man’s penis, but can’t become erect without prosthesis and will be much less sensitive if it retains sensation at all. Complications, most often related to extending the urethra, are common.

Alternatively, in metoidioplasty, the clitoris (already enlarged by hormone therapy) is released from the pubic bone, allowing it to lengthen further, and has a shaft constructed from labial tissue. A penis built by metoidioplasty almost always retains sensation, and can of course become somewhat erect (since the clitoris already could), but at an average length of around two inches is not usually long or hard enough to allow for penetrative sex.

Those would be my choices, if I somehow found the money and the access to get surgery: I could have a penis that looks good (but I can’t have intercourse with) or a penis that feels good (but I can’t have intercourse with). The latter is more appealing, but neither is what I want–after going through the expense, the bureaucratic hassle, and the physical trial of the most appropriate surgery currently available, my body still wouldn’t be capable of what I want from it.

So I feel helpless. Not frustrated, not overwhelmed by a difficult obstacle or a long wait or an obscure path, but actually, literally helpless, because as far as I can see (and I’ve done a lot of looking) it is actually, literally impossible for me to get what I need. The helplessness exacerbates the hurt, like helplessness always does; when I let myself dwell I get sad and I stay there.

I try not to dwell. Logically, the unlikelihood of the resolution should ameliorate the fear (why be afraid of a situation that can’t happen?) but it doesn’t. I’m just afraid instead of how strongly I feel about it sometimes. Afraid of being rejected, of being misunderstood, of being ignored. Afraid, more than anything, of being right–about the depth of my need and the impossibility of my solution–and of having no choice but to live with it.

Impromptu D/s for Switches

February 20th, 2012 by

“I get the feeling the next time I see you is going to be markedly different from the last.”

“It’s possible. I do still hope we haven’t ruled out the other stuff, you know? I want you to take control sometimes. And I want you to fight me sometimes. And other times I want to tell you to kneel, and know even without looking that you’ve done it.”

“… you’re a little greedy, you know that?”

“Seems to be working out for me so far.”

 

I’ve been having a subby week. It’s interesting–it wasn’t very long ago that I was questioning what a submissive headspace felt like and whether it was even possible for me to get into it, and the last several days I’ve been slipping into one so readily that I don’t always notice. Sometimes deeply enough that it’s hard to imagine wanting to come back, even knowing intellectually that I will. (It has felt more controlled, though, and much less isolated, than the last time I wrote about subspace.)

Among the results of this situation (and, if I’m honest, the causes) is a telekink tool that Leon and I designed. It started out as a conversation about impromptu orders–how hot it is to be able to give or get an order in the middle of doing something else, and obey or see it obeyed without question. In a D/s fantasy, you can just do that and it works. In real life, pulling it off successfully requires a minimum of two things to be prearranged: consent and interest.

Establishing consent in advance is easy (knowing of course that it can be withdrawn when needed), but in a relationship where everyone switches and we’re not always in any role, establishing interest in advance is hard. Any other time we want to start something, we just ask, but this particular kink is one of the few situations where asking defeats the point. The whole fun of it is the pretense that obedience can always be assumed.

Enter the sigil. My original idea was to have something physical that could be worn in a variable way–the example was a ring, on one hand or the other–and agree that one way means “I am amenable to being given orders” and the other “Not right now, please.” In other words, if I’m minding my own business and Leon feels like making me do something for him, he glances over and checks the sigil; if the ring’s on my left hand, he gives the order, but if it’s on the right or absent, he assumes I’m not in the mood. This gives us the ability to do basic negotiation silently, without sacrificing spontaneity or the illusion of constant control.

Note that this is only basic negotiation! It works for us because we’ve already talked a lot about desires, preferences, and boundaries, so I know I can trust his judgment about what he might order me to do, and he trusts that if something’s wrong I’ll tell him. Even then, there’s room for error–if I accidentally leave the sigil set wrong, for example, or he makes an incorrect guess about what I’ll be okay with doing. We know this, and explicitly gave ourselves and each other permission to screw up a couple of times while we’re still experimenting. If that wouldn’t be safe and fun for you, I don’t recommend trying this. It’s also not a substitute for suggesting play when you actively want play; if I want to do a scene, I won’t just set the sigil and expect him to see it, I’ll ask.

So that idea was all well and good, except that most of the time we’re hundreds of miles apart and heaven knows that doesn’t stop us from wanting to play with D/s. We needed some way to get the same effect–a sigil I can set without alerting him and he can check without asking me–remotely. Ideally, it would be readily accessible inside the chat service we’re already using, show him how recently I set it, and reset itself after a while in case I forget to.

Long story short, that’s exactly what we now have. There’s a detailed explanation at the end of this post, but in less technical terms, I type a command into my chat program when I notice I’d be okay with getting random orders (or am not), and he types a command into his when he wants to know my last recorded preference. The program tells him how I’m feeling without telling me he asked, and the rest takes care of itself.

This has worked swimmingly. Every time he gives me an order when I wasn’t expecting one, I get a little rush–from the momentary surprise, the strength of his assertion of control, and the feeling that he can do whatever he wants with me. At the same time, I’m secure in the knowledge that we’re playing within our established boundaries, and that security–provided by the scaffold of nonverbal negotiation we’ve erected–does more than just dispense with a background obligation. A huge part of the reason I enjoy submitting to Leon in the first place is that he makes me feel safe. That means that negotiation in general and the sigil system in particular aren’t just practical necessities; by enhancing something that makes me feel submissive, they strengthen the D/s, and thus actively make for a better scene.

 

The technical details of our IRC sigil system are as follows:

I installed cron.pl and fakectcp.pl, both of which are available from scripts.irssi.org, in my irssi. I used fctcp to add a CTCP response to an agreed-upon fake request, and then modified that script so that it wouldn’t echo anything in my client when that specific request was made from his specific nick. (I’d rather have gone by hostmask, but given that he’s registered, runs irssi in screen on a remote VPS, and rarely renicks, it shouldn’t matter.) I set up three aliases which switch the response to that request between dommy/subby/neither and append a timestamp of when the alias was called, then set a cronjob to call the neutral alias at 6am (when I’m probably asleep and my mood is most likely to reset in real life).

The result: I hit the appropriate alias to change the sigil or just update the timestamp, he can send a CTCP request (which I assume he’s also aliased) to read the sigil without me knowing he’s doing it, and it reverts to neutral by itself if I don’t touch it for a day. We’ve debated a few other features (such as letting me add comments like “but I’m in public so keep it subtle,” letting him see when state changes, or making a way for him to query it other than CTCP) but for the moment are quite satisfied.

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.