Lab Coats & Lingerie » personal Apparently adorable, but secretly brilliant. Fri, 16 Mar 2012 08:42:37 +0000 en hourly 1 Courage Fri, 16 Mar 2012 07:17:28 +0000 Professor Chaos Trigger warning: needles

The first time I ever stuck a needle into myself was four years ago. I was twenty-two. I was terrified. I had just been diagnosed with yet another enigmatic, difficult to treat medical condition, and I had been prescribed a medication that required a subcutaneous (or sub-Q) injection, a shot into the layer of fat under the skin. After a long and tedious diagnostic process, I was looking forward to feeling better, but I was still petrified by the idea of that first needle stick.

I felt completely unprepared to administer it. No one wanted to show me how to properly do the damn thing. I knew there wasn’t a huge risk associated with subcutaneous injections–as far as methods of administering medications go, they’re pretty benign, apart from the sharp pointy bit going in your skin.
Needles and photo by the TooBadMice

Needles and photo by the TooBadMice

Last summer I had two of my friends put ten needles into my back and lace them up with ribbon.  I didn’t particularly enjoy it–I’m not much of a masochist–but it didn’t bother me that much either. It was painful, but not terribly. It was emotionally uncomfortable, but no more so than many of the medical procedures I have endured. It was a little weird, a little scary. But that’s okay. As someone whose body has endured quite a bit in the name of medical science, I feel the need to balance that out by making art with my body.What I enjoy about artistic BDSM like decorative needle play is the chance to make a point. Putting needles in my back and lacing them up with ribbon is aesthetically pleasing and emotionally unsettling; when onlookers squirm with discomfort, I ask them: Why is this more upsetting to mainstream society than labioplasty? Or high heels? Or any other way people torture their bodies in the name of beauty?

But I digress–back to medical needles.  My specialist couldn’t show me how to do the injection because of insurance reasons. My general practitioner didn’t want to do it because she felt uncomfortable dealing with specialty medications. The pharmacist wouldn’t show me how to do it because that wasn’t his job. I felt like of all of these people, all of whom were supposed to be on my team, no one was willing to go to bat for me.  None of this did anything to assuage my fears. While I was used to getting needle sticks–frequent blood draws will do that to you–I still wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of them, or the sharp pain that went with.

My specialist was the one who finally caved and extended me some kindness, the one to show me how to do it. She was very reassuring and willing to accommodate my uncertainty. First we practiced with some saline solution. I think I did it on an orange before I gave it to myself. She showed me how to uncap the bottle and disinfect it with alcohol. She showed me how to unshield the needle and draw up the liquid. She told me to hold it at a 45º angle to my skin. And then she told me it was my turn to do it.The moment of truth.

And I don’t remember it. I know I gave it to myself on the left side of my belly button and that it burned and was red afterwards, but it often burns and is red afterwards. The terrifying event itself–the poke in the skin, the push of the plunger–I have no memory of. I have given myself the same injection every night (more or less) since then. The memory of that first time has been blurred, washed away by a long and steady, day-by-day, stream of the same action.

I don’t remember the injection itself, but I do remember what happened afterwards with astonishing clarity. I remember being in the car on the way home with my mom. I remember the intersection we stopped at, because that’s when I started to panic. My heart raced and my breath came so fast and shallow that I wondered if I was having an allergic reaction to the medication. The hard part was over, and yet I was still terrified. That first needle stick that had scared me so much wasn’t such a big deal; what it represented was. It meant a big change in my life. I felt scared and alone and overwhelmed with uncertainty of what my life was going to be like in the future. I felt weak and not at all brave.Needles have become mundane to me. Over one thousand injections later, the stick is still as painful as the first time. I barely notice it. It doesn’t phase me. It’s not because I am brave or tough or special. It’s because, if anything, I am normal. I’m human. The only super power I possess isn’t very super at all, but normal human resilience.

Soon, I will have to face another medical fear of mine. I’ll be getting a peripheral intravenous central catheter (PICC) line, a semi-permanent IV line that will start at an opening in my arm to snake through my veins into a major blood vessel and finally rest in my heart. This will be a contributing source of fluids and nutrition for me for the next two months, as my gastrointestinal tract can no longer do its job. There will be machines and bags of nondescript stuff that doesn’t intuitively seem very nutritious. There will be a hole in my body, and so there will be dressings to be changed and care to be taken not to infect the line, as line infections cause death in 15% of patients receiving this kind of nutrition. A bigger deal than a self-inflicted needle prick, to be sure, but you’d think with all I’ve been through, I could handle it. But I’m not that resilient. That statistic rings in my ears and hammers in my chest–I have a very real fear of central lines, because they end in your heart, and I need that thing to work, goddamnit. It’s one of the few parts of me that does these days.

People tell me “you’ve been through bad stuff before, you’ll be okay” and I want to hit them. I might be okay, eventually, I will probably be okay, eventually, but right now I am exceedinglynot okay. I’m suddenly transported back to that intersection in the car with my mom. I’m that twenty-two year old girl, feeling scared and overwhelmed and unready for a big life change. I feel weak and powerless and needy–all the things I hate feeling.

If courage is the ability to choose to face your fears, then strength is the quality of simply being able to ignore them. I don’t think of myself as being a particularly courageous or strong person. I’m just a person.  A person who gets terrified of what the future holds and who tries to calm her fears and handle things as best as she can, but who still melts down and cries and gets unnecessarily angry at people.  A person who writes emotional blog posts to try and process all the overwhelming things that are happening to her.“How do you keep going with all you have to live with?” People sometimes ask.

I always respond: “You keep going because there’s nothing else to do.”

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Heartbreak Dog Fri, 10 Feb 2012 03:38:34 +0000 Professor Chaos “Is there anything I can do for you?”  These are the words my boy, Shadow, says to me, his eyes filled with concern and love.  I don’t know how to answer him.  I am filled with so many conflicting emotions that I am paralyzed.  I don’t know how to tell him that no, there is nothing he can do.  There is nothing anyone can do.

A few months ago, it was on its way out, but I didn’t realize that at the time.  I should’ve seen the warning signs–long nights at work, not wanting to communicate with me, lack of affection.  And now, it’s just gone.  About three weeks ago, my confidence just took off, leaving me feeling bereft and lost, with a sad heart full of insecurities and taking much of my dominance with it.

I’ve been through a lot over the past month, but I feel like I should be able to handle it.  I know I’m too hard on myself, but that knowledge just makes me feel more critical of myself.

My dominance is such a big part of who I am.  I feel as if I’ve lost myself.  This sort of thing has happened before, and I know I will get through it, and I know I’ll find myself again.  But right now I feel lost.  I lack the confidence to assert myself over my submissive, who wants so badly to serve me.  This, in turn just makes me feel worse about myself.  I’m not sure how to break this cycle.

I hate pity.  This is both because of my proud nature and as a sometimes-wheelchair-user who has had too many people talk down to me.  Some people conflate pity and sympathy, but they’re not the same.  They are similar, but there is a distinct line between them.  That line is respect.  Pity is felt for an inferior, sympathy is felt for an equal.

Respect is also important in the context of D/s.  When I don’t feel like people respect me, I have no interest in dominating them, and any interactions we have in that context make me feel, at best, under-appreciated or misunderstood, and at worst, used.  When I lose my confidence, it is so hard for me to accept service, because it seems as if it is given from pity.

One of the things I have been trying to do over the past few years is to be more open with my emotions, which is difficult for me.  It’s easier to just keep people at arm’s length or shut them out.  But I recognize that even if it’s difficult, it’s a worthwhile venture to do so, so I’m trying to open up.

Letting people love me is difficult for me.  I’ll tell you why.  My friend E loves big dogs. But there are some breeds of large dogs that don’t live very long, due to health problems associated with their size, and E calls them “heartbreak dogs.”

It’s hard for me to let people love me because my life is variable and unpredictable.  I spent much of yesterday curled in a ball in bed, my abdomen hurting, having taken as many painkillers as I am allowed, wondering if I would have to go to the emergency room.  I couldn’t do the things I said I would do. I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do.  I’ve broken so many plans, called off so many things, that I feel like I’ll never stop playing catch up.  This leaves me with a huge amount of guilt. I know it’s not my fault, but, things pile up.  Never underestimate my ability to feel guilty over what I can’t control.

All of this has been building inside of me and I’m getting so overwhelmed by the things I can’t control that I don’t even want to control the things I can.  I don’t want to let Shadow serve me because he had to spend so much time taking care of me while I was sick and I don’t feel like service is something I deserve. It just feels like pity. I’m sure everyone is all just sick of it by now.  I know I am.

People tell me I’m strong, but I just don’t see that in myself anymore.  When I look in the mirror, the only thing I see is a heartbreak dog. ]]> 1
Galen Sun, 05 Feb 2012 19:19:39 +0000 Fizz 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.

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Questioning Thu, 02 Feb 2012 09:28:08 +0000 Professor Chaos I have recently jumped back into the wonderful world of dating. I have to educate people in my personal life, which is incredibly emotionally exhausting.  Not only does it require me to be immediately vulnerable to them, but there’s nothing that makes me feel less sexy than talking about my health.  What invariably ends up happening is that I just decide to not have a social life, because it’s too much work.I had this idea of making a pamphlet–”So You Want To Date a Chronically Ill Person.”  Whenever somebody asks me out, I’ll hand it to them.  It’ll save us both a lot of time and energy–which, for me, is extremely important, as time and energy are my most limited resources.Few people are more outspoken than I am in defending the rights of people with disabilities to have an equal place in sexual or romantic relationships and in society as a whole, yet I can’t seem to finish my “Guide to Going Out with Gimps.”  It’s too hard for me while I’m struggling with my own feelings of inadequacy about being a worthwhile romantic partner.

I feel like such a fucking hypocrite. I feel needy, reduced to a mess of insecurity, brought down by my own internalized ableism.

I want to write up my guide.  Maybe, at some point, I’ll be able to.  But right now, the only things that come to mind are questions, the questions I want to ask someone when they start to fall in love with me.

Will you still love me?

Will you still love me when I am hunched over the toilet, throwing up for the fourteenth time because my stomach has decided it doesn’t want to work that day?

Will you still think I’m clever when I can’t speak because my brain has experienced an electric storm, ripping me away from consciousness?

Will you still consider me brave when I am curled in a ball in bed and crying from the pain because there are tiny rocks building up in my ureters, damming the flow from my kidneys?

Will you still think I’m beautiful when I’m in the hospital, in a gown that hides my curves but reveals my shame?

Will you be okay with the fact that you will almost certainly outlive me?

Will you be okay with the fact that we may never be able to have children together?

Will you be strong enough to hold me up when I cannot hold myself anymore?

Will you be patient enough to come with me to doctor’s appointments, to listen to me ranting about my health insurance, to help me deal with the inevitable mishaps with the pharmacy?

Will you be brave enough to face the inevitability of my situation and to let me grieve?  Will you be able to comfort me without platitudes, without empty words of a hope that doesn’t exist?

Can you accept the fact that I will always have to put my health first?

Can you learn to live with uncertainty?  Can you learn to live to see the beauty in the moment?

Can you still love me even though I am broken?  Further than this, can you learn to think beyond positive and negative judgments, can you accept that is part of who I am, and love that person as a whole?

Will you still love me?

Can you?

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Lion Taming Sat, 14 Jan 2012 03:00:19 +0000 Fizz “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.

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Fighting Fire with Love Mon, 21 Nov 2011 08:43:11 +0000 Fizz Ali and I turned left, into a park on the urban college campus, and heard shouts coming from behind us. About a block down, there was a dense cluster of people with a handful of signs waving over the top. I didn’t get a long look, but words like “BEWARE” and “EVILUTION” jumped out at me. It wasn’t clear whether the fundamentalists were mostly yelling at the liberal college students or vice versa; one counterprotest sign, held between two of the others, said “STOP NOISE POLLUTION” with arrows pointing to each side.

We looked at each other.

“Want to go make out in front of them?” Ali asked.

I checked the time. “Yes,” I said, “but the tour’s about to start. Let’s see if they’re still here afterwards?”

She acquiesced, and we spent a couple of hours learning about one of the schools I might transfer to in the fall. When we got back, the signs were gone, and the crowd had thinned out. Just in case they were still packing up, we walked past where the group had been, swinging our arms together cheerfully as we’d been doing all afternoon.

Sure enough, a man hurried over to us. “Girls!” he called out. “Did you already receive a gospel tract today?”

We looked at each other, grinned, and shrugged. She grabbed my face and pulled it down to hers, and I wrapped my arms around her as we kissed passionately.

“Jesus Christ can forgive all your sins,” the man insisted.

Ali pulled away and looked at him. “Jesus loves me, and he loves you too,” she said with a smile. Before he could reply, I leaned down to kiss her again.

The man was undeterred, repeating his message with barely an altered word, then turned to me. “Jesus loves you–” he began.

“–not as much as I love my girlfriend,” I decided aloud, then gave her one last happy smooch. She slipped her hand back into mine as we walked away. “That’s my girl,” I murmured, and squeezed it. Ali beamed and leaned her head on my shoulder.

On the bus ride home, at my request, she told me about her personal history with faith–one which is necessarily interwoven with her coming out story. (It’s not mine to tell, but suffice it to say that it’s not the stereotypical tragic drama you might be imagining when I say “faith” and “coming out” in the same sentence.) I wanted to hear it because it’s part of someone who’s important to me, but I asked at that moment because of her response to the man who offered us the tracts. She wasn’t angry, nor defensive, nor interested in engaging on his terms. Her response to his distaste was acceptance–calmly fighting fire with love–and I was so damn proud of her for that.

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Corpus Wed, 19 Oct 2011 18:47:21 +0000 Professor Chaos Today is Love Your Body day.

I feel like a fraud talking about loving my body today–I don’t particularly love it.  You see, my body and I have a complicated relationship.

Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my hospital, in the midst of an extremely boring, 4-hour long medical test.  This sort of thing is routine for me.  Monday, I had another doctor’s appointment.  And I have more next week.  On a daily basis, I find myself in a lot of physical pain.  It’s hard not to turn that physical pain into emotional pain.

My body is high maintenance.  Good health is something most people my age take for granted.  I envy them.  I am constantly reminded that my body doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.   Even on the good days, I have to remember to take all my many medications and schedule doctors appointments.

Sometimes I can love my body.  Even if I can’t forget its malfunctions, I can forgive them, and focus on the ways it can function, and revel in its beauty.

But it’s hard to love your body when it feels like it doesn’t love you.

There is a societal model of illness that is damaging.  When we think sick, we think cancer.  We think fighting.  We think this is something that has to be overcome, a war that must be fought and won, because losing would mean death.  When the illness is a part of your own body for so long, who is the enemy?  I cannot fight my body–that’s a war that I cannot win, the collateral damage would be too high.  Instead, I fight the voices I hear from society that tell me that healthy is beautiful, echoed by my own internal demons who whisper that if healthy is beautiful, I will always be ugly.

So today–Love Your Body Day–the day I am supposed to love and appreciate my body, I instead find myself feeling frustrated and resentful towards it.  I will try and put aside my resentment and remind myself something I wrote the other night.  Physical pleasure is deeply important to me.  I find it empowering to take pleasure in my body when it often causes me so much pain and I take pleasure in the pleasure others take from my body.  Here is what I wrote:

My body is broken. My body is beautiful. My body is perfect. No matter how badly it functions, no matter how much, at times, I hate the way it looks, no matter how much pain it causes me, after a night like tonight, after I’ve given myself countless orgasms, I can say, with certainty–my body is absolutely fucking perfect.
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In Memoriam Thu, 06 Oct 2011 08:16:47 +0000 Professor Chaos I have three posts waiting impatiently for me to finish them, persistently gnawing at the back of my brain.  One is about gender and queerness.  Another is a post about dating, from the point of view of a disabled person.  And the third is another post about kink.  But they’ll have to wait a little longer.  I’m sure they won’t mind, because I’m going to write about someone who was queer as fuck, gender fabulous, kinky and sexy and fierce as anything—my friend Kash.
[A genderqueer caucasian person sitting in a wheelchair, smiles at the camera, while a snake winds around his neck and the ventilator attached to it.]

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

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

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

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

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

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The Cost of Devaluing Male Submission: One Token Tue, 09 Aug 2011 07:57:20 +0000 Professor Chaos 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.

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Post-Transplant Sun, 31 Jul 2011 00:54:38 +0000 Fizz You know how when you’ve recently been in pain, the sudden absence of it feels better than if it had never been there? That’s how it felt to post Transplant. Letting go of my uncertainty brought a wave of relief I would never have gotten without questioning my gender in the first place. For the first time, my gender label was not just adequate-for-a-short-answer but actually right. It felt good–surprisingly good. After posting it, as promised, I updated my Diaspora and FetLife accounts with the new information, and then sat there looking at the “25GQ Dom” at the top of my profile and just grinned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My mom is a smart lady.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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