Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Addition...

to my Blogroll. Go check out this new blog about disability and feminism. Very interesting people talking much more coherently than me about disability rights, feminism, and the intersectionality between them.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Happy Coming Out Day (yesterday) and Indigenous Peoples' Day (today)!

I just learned today that my father was there when the Wampanoag originally suggested that Columbus Day should be changed to a day celebrating the world's indigenous cultures, when he was an undergrad. Very cool.

Also, although I'm very out on this blog already, I'm queer and kinky and if there happens to be anyone out there reading who is curious or unsure about either of those things I would be perfectly happy having that conversation.

And now, a coming out story that I wrote for Coming Out Day last year:

So I kinda feel like "coming out" is much more ambiguous and less easily defined for bi-/pan-sexual/queer people than it is for those who identify as lesbian/gay, but here's my best attempt:

When I was younger I was very unclear about my sexuality. I grew up in a very open-minded town and knew plenty of gay and straight couples in the community, but bisexuality wasn't something that was ever really addressed anywhere. While I knew people who had had relationships with both men and women they were generally described as either "becoming" or "realizing that they were" gay after having had straight relationships.

By the time I was in middle school it was pretty clear that I was attracted to
both women and men, not one or the other. I joined the gay-straight alliance and attended the meetings religiously. When I was 14 I kissed a girl at an event sponsored by the GSA. The next day I was approached by another girl in my grade (also a GSA member) and told how disgusting my behavior was. By the end of the day the information had spread throughout the school and I was officially labeled as "the gay girl" (even though I'm not really 'gay' exactly). My school was in a in a fairly conservative small town and this was before it was "hot" for girls to be bi- (which is a whole different issue), so it didn't really go over very well.

Thankfully, I soon transferred to a much more progressive school and most of my experiences since then have been much more positive (although people still assume that I am gay or straight based on who I am with at any given time).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

On Being "Crazy"

As an addendum to my last post, I'm really sick of reading/ hearing "well, I don't think of insane or crazy being ableist words and I (or my friend, parent, whatever) have clinical depression." This isn't a topic I've discussed openly much, if ever, so bear with me.

Depression has its own stigma, people who are depressed are thought of as weak, they should "just get over it and be happy," or are told its "just a case of the blues." I don't want to suggest that depression isn't a real disease or minimize it in any way, but it's not the kind of mental illness that people are referring to when they use the word "crazy."

Crazy is something altogether different. Crazy is delusion, psychosis, mania, schizophrenia. Insanity, in the depths of society's psyche, is jabbering in tongues rocking back and forth in a padded room. It can't be trusted. It is the serial killer, the mother who kills her children, the man who laughs while committing the most vile crimes - this is what "crazy" conjures up in the minds of the general public.

This terror, this nightmare looming in the dark places of our collective consciousness is harmful. Incredibly so. It means that people who are not neurotypical are stuck with the paradoxical choice of lying or being mistrusted. Perhaps more importantly, it makes us less likely to seek help when it is needed. It took me years to admit, even to myself, that my brain was fundamentally different than most. Because I didn't want to be crazy.

I still don't. I'm terrified of the psychotic break that I am 30 - 50% more likely than others to have, even though I know that it would probably be manageable if it were to happen. I don't generally share the fact of my mental illness with others, even with those I am close to. Admitting who I am is risking ever being trusted or taken seriously again. The reason for this is "crazy."

Ableism at Feministing


My biggest issue: the use of non-neurotypical status to discredit or dismiss the voices, opinions, and experiences of commenters in other marginalized groups (sex workers, kinksters, trans folk, etc) is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.

I don't know why I even bother to keep reading Feministing, but I just can't seem to help myself. Must be the masochism, or the crazy, or both.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Music is Fundamental

I would first like to apologize for not posting anything in over a month. I tend to have trouble with time. I have some ideas in the works, nothing fantastic so far but we'll see how it goes.

For now though, this was just too neat not to share:

It's the pentatonic scale, made up of five notes rather than the seven of the more common diatonic scale. It may not seem that impressive to someone who doesn't have much experience with music, but I know from experience that people generally don't learn music that quickly.

Also, as a fun side note, when I was younger I used to make up music and sing it to myself. I never wrote it out, just sang - composing as I went and forgetting it almost immediately. The vast majority of that music was in the pentatonic scale, not intentionally, but just because it sounded right.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


So this is very strange and entirely out of character, especially since I don't even watch reality TV, but the person in question is an old friend. If you are reading this before noon tomorrow (June 24) please go vote for my friend Vicki, who is trying to make it onto the next season of RuPaul's Drag Race.

He is a brilliant dancer and a wonderful person and has been passionate about drag for as long as I've known him. He actually worked to create a school sponsored drag show in high school ten years ago, which was really fairly revolutionary at the time.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Week Late...

My condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of Dr. Tiller.  I have little to say on the topic, except to fervently hope that the federal government recognizes this act of domestic terrorism for what it is and acts accordingly.

In other (happier) news, the President has proclaimed June "LGBT Pride Month."  This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and same-sex marriage has officially been legalized in six states - Rhode Island is now the only New England holdout against marriage equality.  

Still, I'm not thrilled.  Personally, and perhaps this is superficial, I would really like to see a "Q" at the end of that LGBT.  I wouldn't be opposed to an "I" or an "A" either, although I can see how it begins to be unwieldy.  Queer, though, I think is important; it leaves room for ambiguity.

Monday, June 1, 2009


So after that horrible Roller Coaster thread, Feministing seems to be full of reasonable, positive discussions of kink and BDSM.  Considering the way that every other discussion over there has gone, I'm impressed.

I sure hope this trend continues.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More from Feministing

I like this, although I'm not entirely sure why she posted it under "Sexual Assault" rather than "Sex."  Simple, straightforward, and not a bad analogy.  I wonder how long it will take for the comment thread to devolve into viciousness and chaos.  Unfortunately, I'm almost 100% sure that's what is going to happen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Free Stuff!!

Apparently sextoys.com is having a sex toy giveaway contest.  Since a girl can never have too many toys, and I am a poor college student, I figured I'd give it a go.  Making my wish list was surprisingly difficult, but I think I came up with a good selection.  Many of the items are things that I can't afford/ wouldn't necessarily spend my own money on but would love to have.

So here's my wish list, loosely grouped by category:


LILY and ELISE, both by Lelo.  I'm always drawn to Lelo toys when I go to the sex shop; they look and feel beautiful.  They are, however, a little outside of my budget, so this seems like a great opportunity to try and get my hands on a few.

A Waterproof Remote Control Vibrating Egg with a 15 foot range.  Do I really need to explain why this would be fun?  I've been wanting a discreet remote toy for quite a while now, this certainly seems to fit the bill.

Silicone Triple Orgasm Cockring with dual vibes for umm... all around fun.  My $8 mystery-jelly cockring managed to half melt somehow and this seems like a nice upgrade.

Explicitly Kinky:

Locking Wrist and Ankle Cuffs.  I tend to really enjoy rope, but cuffs are great way to restrain someone (generally me) quickly and securely.  Plus, I just don't have any decent ones at the moment.

A Leather Hog Tie, to go with the cuffs of course.

A Wide Tip Riding Crop, because I couldn't possibly get $1000 worth of sex toys without getting anything for hitting (and Giant has been eyeing crops pretty consistently for a while now).

The Little Devil Electric Toy, my reward for making it through an entire semester of electrical physics labs without inappropriately shocking myself (or anyone else).

Dildos, Plugs, and Balls:

I've been lusting after a glass dildo for quite a while, and the Berman Basics Ruby looks like it will do nicely.  I'm seriously interested in the temperature range glass provides, and they are so beautiful.

A Feeldoe Stout.  I've been curious about these "strapless strap-ons" since I first saw one several years ago.  

The Tiger by Fun Factory (in black).  I don't really know what to say about this other than that it is lovely and huge.  5.5" circumference = 1.75' diameter = awesome!  It is sure to satisfy the most intense of penetration cravings and is also fairly intimidating to look at (a serious bonus as far as partnered play goes).

The Tantus Silicone Ripple plug (small - in purple).  Can you tell that I really like silicone?  It's hygienic, easy to sterilize, and the texture and feel is fantastic.

Fun Factory Smart Balls - I've been wanting some for a while.  After all, why wouldn't I want to exercise my pelvic muscles?

And with all those new toys, I'll need something to put them in.  The last item on my wish list is a Lockable Vibrator Case (black), bringing me up to a grand total of $999.15.

Go check out the contest.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Closets and Such

So, as part of their violence against women prevention/awareness week my college showed The Price of Pleasure a couple weeks ago.  The presentation was put on by the Women's Studies Advisory Committee, which is essentially code for my advisor who runs the Women's Studies program (I am a math major now, but I used to be a women's studies major and I did not change advisors).  There was a brief discussion (about 45 minutes to an hour) following the film.  I went into it expecting to be at least slightly annoyed, but I wasn't quite prepared for how angry and uncomfortable I became.

The thing is, most of my current social circle is fairly kink-friendly; I generally don't have to deal with any sort of real anti-kink attitudes in real life (online is a different story).  As a result I just wasn't prepared for people's reactions to the content of the film, particularly the more explicitly BDSM imagery.  The film in no way addresses the differences between consensually negotiated BDSM and actual violence/degradation, in fact it tends to conflate the two.  Essentially, in addition to being fairly explicitly anti-porn the film has a strong unstated anti-kink message as well.  

So I just sat there watching these people, some of whom I know fairly well and otherwise like, recoil in horror, shaking their heads in disgust as I silently fumed in the corner.  Fundamentally, it wasn't actually the disgust or the horror that really bothered me, I can at least somewhat understand that, it was the obvious sense of moral superiority that accompanied it; the room was filled with an overwhelming sense of distain.  My few attempts at addressing this were either ignored or treated with thinly veiled contempt.

I don't really know what to say about the experience.  It was extremely unpleasant, of course, but that wasn't really the worst part.  I left that discussion feeling ashamed, slightly dirty.  Some part of me really wishes that I had been brave enough to say what I was really thinking.  I wanted to stand up and point out that as wonderful as all their theory was this was my real life they were talking about.  I wanted to scream.  I wanted to tell them that it wasn't porn, it was ideas like theirs that had seeped into my unconscious to warp and poison my sexuality.  I wanted to tell them how hard I had to fight to find myself again.  Most of all I wanted to point out exactly how dangerous their words could be.

But I didn't.  I didn't say much of anything once it became obvious that they wouldn't listen.  I chose self-preservation over truth, and while I know that choice was the right one, I still couldn't help feeling slightly bad about it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I had forgotten what it feels like to sit in a room full of people and watch them recoil in disgust at a sexuality that looks like mine.  The implication that I am disgusting and broken by patriarchy stings much more in real life, particularly when it comes from people I otherwise like and respect.

More on that later.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Relationship Blues

Lately, Giant and I have been having this problem.  Basically, I'm just not really feeling like I'm getting enough out of our sex/play.  We are both very busy and we live with an older couple who are not incredibly kink friendly, so part of it is just a lack of available time and space.  

I feel a bit like I'm being unreasonable, but I can't help it.  The thing is, he generally just has an easier time of it than I do for several reasons.  He's much better at masturbating than I am; I mean, it's a more satisfying activity for him than it is for me.  It's not that I can't, or that I don't orgasm, it's just that the orgasms I have from masturbating usually just aren't as good as they are with a partner.

He also tends to be more satisfied with vanilla sex than I am, which is unfortunate because it tends to be easier to arrange.  It's much simpler to find time (and space) for a plain old quickie than it is to break out the rope and whatever else (plus, vanilla tends to be a bit quieter).  

I get all of that, I really do.  The logical part of my brain completely understands that it's mostly a matter of convenience.  But there's this other completely irrational part of me that feels fundamentally hurt by the situation as it stands right now.  I feel unloved, neglected; I feel like he doesn't care that I'm not happy.  Which is ridiculous, he does care and I know that - but I can't help feeling like he doesn't.

This all came to a head tonight.  The housemates are out of town for tonight only, by the time we get home tomorrow they will most likely be back.  So I had really hoped that we would get to have some real serious fun time to make up for the recent lack, and we did fool around a little earlier.  He went up to bed about ten minutes before me, but the light was still on as I headed upstairs.  When I got there he put away the computer, turned off the light and promptly rolled over to sleep.

And I just started to cry.  I couldn't help it, I had too much energy built up inside me with nowhere to go.  I felt like I was going to explode, like I was about to burst out of my skin.  So I cried, and then we talked.  He asked what he could do to make me feel more like he cares about me, we brainstormed some ideas.  I guess we'll see how it goes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Facebook Silliness

This would probably piss me off if it wasn't so completely ridiculous.  As it is, it mostly just makes me laugh.

"It teaches them that the only way they can be powerful is by merging with their all-powerful, god-like dom."  

Ha, ha, ha... All-powerful?  God-like?!  I love Giant to death, but no one who has ever met him would possibly define him as all-powerful or god-like.  Quiet, shy, kind - sure, but god-like is just silly.  Actually, most people tend to think I'm the dom (not quite sure what that means, but I suspect it says more about them than us).

I feel like I should have something significant to say, but it really is just to silly to take seriously.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I'm back.  Not racing or flying or overflowing with inspiration, but not dragging myself through thick mud just to function either.  

It's a beautiful spring day and I'm perfectly content just to be.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Examining Desire (Part 3) - A Conversation

I have been carrying on this conversation privately with Becstar for most of the past week.  I'm really happy with the way it has turned out, so here is a (only slightly abridged) reprint of the dialogue.

Bec: "I wonder why if gender is not relevant in the BDSM community why so many more women put themselves into submissive positions than men? I've probably asked that before but it just doesn't make sense to me at all."

Me: "Well, I think there's a difference between how I'm defining BDSM and submission and what you mean by the terms.  If you mean the sort of default roles that people can fall into when the don't really think about things, then I probably agree with a lot of what you have to say.  Most of that stuff is totally messed up and a lot of women do take on negative roles to please men, but that's not what I (or Trinity or most of the other people I know) mean by BDSM.  

When I say BDSM I mean something general, but also fairly specific.  BDSM generally stands for bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism and masochism (yeah, I know there's an extra D & S), particularly as these things relate to sexuality.  The most important parts of BDSM as a mode of sexuality are consent and safety.  We know that what we are doing can be dangerous, that if we are not careful someone could be seriously emotionally or physically harmed.  Most people who practice BDSM have thought more about sexual negotiation and consent than probably the majority of vanilla people.  

So the point of all this is that if we're talking about the not explicitly negotiated and consensual social type of submission then you are probably right, it is gendered.  And it s definitely problematic.  But that really isn't what most people mean by BDSM.  BDSM as a sexual subculture has strong roots in the gay male "leather" community, and is also common among lesbians.  There are transgender and cissexual people who practice BDSM, and also lots of people of all genders and sexual orientations who "switch," taking on both dominant and submissive roles.  There are also lots of straight or bi male submissives.  The only place where patriarchal conditioning can really be seen rearing it's ugly head is in the lower numbers of straight or bi female dominants.  Oh, and there are plenty of people who do BDSM as "tops" or "bottoms" without dominance or submission being part of the interaction."

Bec: "I've never really heard a good explanation as to the difference between top/dom or bottom/sub. Could you explain it a bit more?
I'm sure there are aspects of BDSM which aren't gendered but when it comes to heterosexual partnerships I have to wonder. The lack of dominant females I think says a lot and should be discussed more than it is (it tends to always be passed over along the lines of "well, plenty of men are sub too" without explaining then why there is such a high number of dominant men).

Only vaguely related as well but I always read of people using the orgasm as a justification of their behaviour. Given that adrenaline produced in a negative way (eg. rape) can also cause (female) orgasms I don't think the fact that it gets someone of is a seriously lacking explanation. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Also, I gave you my version of what BDSM is - what's yours?"

Me: "As far as the top/dom bottom/sub thing goes, I guess I would say that most doms top but not all tops dom, does that make any sense at all?  Not all BDSM incorporates domination/submission aspects.  There are some people who are just masochists, but definitely not submissive, who just play with pain on a fairly equal footing with those who are dishing it out.  There are also people who only submit, with little or no pain involved.  I guess subbing involves more submission - willingly, actively submitting - than bottoming does.  It's also sort of a personal distinction for the people involved.  For me, I pretty much always bottom (I will switch, but only very rarely, it's not really my thing), but I only sometimes submit.  It's sort of an issue of mindset.  I'm not really sure that I'm helping to clarify anything.

I thought I tried to tell you how I define BDSM in my last email, but maybe I didn't do the best job.  It's a blanket term that means lots of different things to different people.  For me, and most other people who practice it, the most important aspect is the explicit focus on safety, negotiation and consent.  Without that, regardless of the particular activity involved, I wouldn't call it BDSM and I might call it abuse.

As for the whole "it gets me off so it must be okay" thing, I don't really go for that.  I think it's okay because it's consensual, no one is being harmed, and for a lot of people (myself included) it can be a very positive and affirming experience.  Personally, I feel so much better, more grounded and sure of myself, since I started finally accepting how I really felt and acting on it. 

In regards to the whole, "if it's hetero, it's gendered" bit I'm not really sure what to say other than that for me, and a lot of other people, it's really not.  And there are a whole lot of hetero relationships where the partners switch, so neither one is in the dominant role all the time.  There definitely are dominant women (Trinity doesn't like it when people imply that she doesn't exist), just less, which I suspect has a lot to do with the fact that women are socialized to be "nice" and "gentle," which can be sort of counter to the dominant role."

Bec: "I know it seems to be thought that I am conflating BDSM with abuse but what about experiences like this from a BDSM porn site which supposedly is tighter than most about consent issues? Of course there's the issue of whether kink.com is representative of 'true' BDSM, which I can't answer. I also don't mean that as a porn reference point but how when I think of BDSM I think that in a power exchange surely consent is hard to regulate and not always heeded. I also have compared it to videos/blogs I've seen which pretty much say that all women want to be dominated by men.

To be honest the difference between subbing and bottoming makes little to no sense to me. How is it possible to be the one who is being "topped" without giving over any power? How is power given over when being submissive? Are the acts difference and that's how I don't know how power can be exchanged or not exchanged when the same acts are being played out.
Have you come across people who do consider themselves into BDSM but don't pay as much attention to safety, consent and negotiation? When people have preconceived notions that women are supposed to be submissive how does this allow for true negotiation and ultimately the safety of the woman involved?
I'll admit that as a response to my aforementioned experience with "BDSM" or "abuse" or whatever you want to call it that I wanted to be dominant simply because I wanted my agency back and I wanted revenge. In fact, I still do to an extent. I don't think it matters what sex it is being played out upon I don't see how it stops being degrading to the submissive. How does it? I just deal with maledom/femsub because it seems more prevalent in ways I find problematic.

Also people in those blogs keep saying that all of this type of stuff as been written on extensively and yet it doesn't seem to be all that accessible for those not already involved in it. Do you know where any of these illusive writings are?"

Me: "Look, I'm not saying that BDSM relationships are never abusive, that would be silly and wrong.  There is the possibility of abuse in all kinds of relationship and BDSM is no exception.  I'm just saying that BDSM isn't inherently any more abusive than any other type of relationship.  In fact, since there is such a focus on consent there might even be slightly less opportunity for abuse (although when it does occur it can be terrible because of the type of trust involved).

As far as the kink.com thing goes, I don't tend to think that any porn is really indicative of anybody's real sexuality (even if teenagers with no other education do model things on it). Mostly I'm just annoyed with that line of thought because to me the two things don't really seem related. If someone wants to talk about porn that's fine and if they want to talk about kink that's fine too, but when they act like both are really the same topic I mostly just end up confused. It's like if I was drawing conclusions about people's actual vanilla relationships based on diamond commercials or something (that's not the best analogy, romantic comedies maybe?). Why would anyone assume that a fantasy-based commercial product would be in any way indicative of somebody's real life? Especially since the primary porn fantasy isn't even really BDSM it's that other creepy nonconsensual d/s thing.

In terms of the "preconceived notions about women" thing, I don't really know because I wouldn't date anyone (kinky or otherwise) who thought that my submission was based on anything other than submission. Luckily I haven't really run into all that many people that hold that sort of view about much of anything, although this is probably due primarily to location.

As for "how it stops being degrading to the submissive" I don't really know what to say other than that it shouldn't start that way so there should be nothing to stop.  I do it because I enjoy it, if it felt bad or degrading I wouldn't want to do it.  Read this post I just put up, maybe that will help.  

Can you really not see how the same action can mean different things depending on the context?  That seems really strange to me.  I mean, isn't that often the fundamental difference between sex and rape.  The exact same actions can be ecstasy or torture depending on whether they are wanted or not.

For at least some writings about it all check the archives of Trinity's pro-sm feminist site.  There's a lot of discussion and links about most of the issues we've talked about plus some others.  There are also quite a few books written by people in the community that you could fine online or at a decent woman-owned sex shop."

Bec: "Okay, the fact that both BDSM and vanilla relationships can be abusive makes sense, as does the porn not reflecting reality (although I do believe that mainstream porn leads to violence in vanilla relationships but that's a whole other issue).
I really cannot see the difference between the same act just because the context is different. I think one reason for this is that the people I have been talking to about it on feministing seem really not to care where the actions are coming from. To use my own past I don't see why the person who did those things to me can move onto a submissive woman and have those behaviours legitimized despite the fact that he didn't really give a crap whether he had consent or not. The same goes for arguments for men within BDSM who want to rape women but know its wrong and so do it with consent. I don't see why not only acting out but actually desiring a behaviour which is so dehumanising can come from a healthy place. I don't see why consent can suddenly transform a horrible act into a good one when every other aspect remains the same.
I'll search through the archives of that blog and see if there's anything else that I find that I just don't get."

Bec: "Reading through the latest posts at your blog and from Letters from Gehenna is quite a strange experience. I was also ashamed about my sexuality despite the fact it was "vanilla" and that combined, I think, with my own sexual abuse when I was much younger led me to not be able to say no (and have actually said yes and pretended to take it when I actually hated every minute). I still can't to an extent and have to tell the boyfriend not to touch me when I feel that its going to be particularly bad. I'm not quite sure where it all fits given that I turned to "making love" in order that I wouldn't be hurt again but it only turned out that anything but the softest, most unselfish, most vanilla (think missionary only and no oral) type sex still completely freaked me out and i would end up saying yes again. Does it show sexual abuse can cement the ideas we already held about sex, of what we already desired? Definitely something to think about."

Me: "I'm really sorry you can relate so much to those posts.  It's not a pleasant place to be.  I know Dw3t-Hthr and I both chose to use our experiences for learning and growth, I hope you can do the same.

'To use my own past I don't see why the person who did those things to me can move onto a submissive woman and have those behaviours legitmised despite the fact that he didn't really give a crap whether he had consent or not.'

I see what you're saying but I don't think it would be likely to ever work out that way.  What you've described doesn't sound like what submissive women want anymore than it was what you wanted.  When you're dealing with things like BDSM, respecting consent and boundaries becomes even more important, not less.  So someone who doesn't listen to the word "no" or respect their partner's limits probably isn't going to find a submissive woman who thinks he's a great catch.  If he didn't care about your limits he won't care about hers either.

As far as the context thing goes, I'm not sure how to explain it except to give you examples.  It seems really obvious to me that something wanted is different than something unwanted.  How about accidental vs. planned pregnancy - all other aspects being equal, are they the same experience for the woman involved?  Context is fundamental to our experiences of the world."

Bec: "I guess in regards to the legitimisation I figured that a sub woman would be more likely to say yes to the things he did to me without consent and so legitimise it in his own mind. I don't think it came out of a place of hatred but more of "this is what all women want and what I want". I wonder if he would be more capable to sticking to limits if he at least he got to be dominant some of the time...but then, like I said, it's probably to close to me still for me to be able to look at it properly.
In regards to context I think I get it on the side of the person it's happening to (pregnant woman or submissive) but not on the side of the person who is doing it (the dominant). I don't see why on that side consent makes any difference if ultimately you still want the act, consent or no."

Me: "Ah, okay.  I think that maybe the assumption that someone who is dominant would "still want the act, consent or no" is flawed.  Context works both ways; I mean, would you rather hang out with someone who's engaging and into the same things you are or someone who seemed blatantly preoccupied or bored every time you're together?

For most people, even if they don't want a serious relationship, sex is relational.  It's not just about the mechanics, it's also about human interaction.  And for most decent human beings, the difference between someone who's obviously turned on and enjoying them-self and someone who desperately wants it to stop is pretty obvious.

Plus generally speaking more people (of both sexes) have strong submissive desires than dominant ones.  There are a lot of people who only started domming because their partner was submissive and wanted it.  In my relationship, for example my partner isn't kinky so much as he is experimental and a reaction junkie.  I came into the relationship as being submissive (and a little bit of a masochist), but he really just had more of an open to trying things attitude.  It just didn't take very long for him to figure out which type of thing would get the best response and focus more on that.  He doesn't have some sort of nebulous desire to tie women up and hit them regardless of context.  He does it to me because of the obviously positive reaction that results; I'm noticeably "better" in bed when we're being kinky because I'm way more into it and therefore more fun to be with."

Bec: "I guess I don't think the difference between someone who wants it and someone who doesn't as all that huge of a gap, especially as I've stopped/never started enjoying myself and had my partner not notice/care and continue. I think part of it is that the look of pleasure and look of pain can seem awfully similar. In regards to dominant men I think my line of reasoning goes something like this: he desires to hurt women and see women in pain therefore acts that out in the bedroom and doesn't really care if he's *actually* hurting her (emotioanlly or physcially) because ultimately he's getting to play out his desire and see said woman in pain.
In terms of  people who kind of fell into being dominant I can understand that more than someone who actually wants to hurt another person because I can see how context would make a huge difference. I just can't see how context would make a difference to someone who actually desired to hurt someone.

And if this question is too personal at all feel free to ignore it, but how does one be submissive without being masochistic? Is it more about say being ordered to do something rather than being hit? The only other thing I can think of is humiliation which I see as fairly masochistic as well."

Me: "Hmm, well I've also had the experience of someone not noticing/caring whether I was into it or not (although he wasn't kinky).  But generally speaking, in that type of situation the person in question doesn't necessarily enjoy seeing people in pain, they're just self-centered and oblivious or an asshole.  If it's the first talking to the should solve the situation, if it's the second it will obvious when the don't respond well to talking (at which point you should probably find a new partner).  I realize that being able to comfortably verbalize about it can be a challenge, I've struggled with it a lot myself.  

Most people who are dominant, as opposed to abusive (not that there's no overlap, but it's a fairly small one), don't actually want to cause real harm to their partners, even if they do want to hurt them.  I know the difference might not seem too obvious, but there is one.  To harm is to cause lasting damage; hurt, on the other hand, is fleeting and does not cause any real damage.  I think most doms have spent a considerable amount of time obsessively thinking about how to reconcile their fantasies with the fact that they don't want to leave anyone broken.  Even at the more selfish end of things, if you really like hurting people it makes sense to do it as consensually as possible because you're much more likely to be asked to repeat the performance than if you completely disregard the other person's feelings.

As far as being submissive but not masochistic, I'm maybe not the best person to ask (I'm definitely not the right person to ask about humiliation, it's totally not my kink).  I'm not really into intense pain, but I do like at least some.  That being said, I have done (and do) plenty of things that could qualify as submissive without masochism so I'll try.

This may or may not have been obvious based on other things I've written, but I really like being tied up.  The feeling of rope on my skin just totally does it for me.  The conventional stereotype is that he would tie me up and then hit me or be rough (which I do also like), but I've definitely had some pretty fun experiences where he will tie me up (and occasionally blindfold me) and then be nice to me.  Really nice - hours of soft, slow gentle caresses nice.  Plus, a lot of submissives are very service oriented - not just following orders, but proactively finding ways to be helpful.  For example, I'm a math major and tutor.  We've definitely turned homework help into foreplay on more than one occasion."

Bec: "'don't actually want to cause real harm to their partners, even if they do want to hurt them'

That actually makes sense to me. I guess I always associated dominant's desires to be rough with actually wanting to harm the person which is why I had such problems with it. The being service-orientated also makes sense. And one of my absolute-all-time-favourite things is being caressed so I can definitely understand that, even if I'm not into ropes.
Thanks for answering all my questions :) While I'm still personally squicked out by the thought of being submissive (way too many flashbacks involved in all of that) and think I can kind of understand why others want to be (and how it can be healthy for them). I think I'll still lurk around in the various blogs though for the time being because while I don't have any more of the "obvious" questions I'm still interested in the other ins and outs of it. In fact, if anything, in a bizarre way all of this made me realise exactly how unhealthy (for me) my own "submissive" type fantasies were in the past and that it definitely was more harmful than helpful given my headspace. Its also cleared up a bit more what kind of headspace I will have to get to if the boyfriend continues to experiment with switching, and the fact that it probably isn't going to happen for quite a while yet (if ever, if the links between being handled like that and my abuse persist)."

Me: "I'm glad I could help.  Thanks for taking the time to really listen and think things through, a lot of people don't.  I hope everything goes well for you in your relationship in the future.  If you ever have anymore questions feel free to ask."

Bec: "I know it may not be the norm but I think there are people out there who do want to know but after coming after those who use questions as a form of attack can never really get an answer. I don't even think a person needs to be into BDSM to for a discussion of it to really enlighten a conversation on sexuality as a whole. Like for instance the fact that I think I would be okay saying absolutely no way to the boyfriend wanting me to be submissive because I learnt that it definitely would not be healthy for me."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Journey to the Underworld

The recent conversations I've been having at feministing, along with some thinking I've been doing on my own, have brought up some stuff I usually don't like to talk about.  Some truths are hard to face head on, I guess; it can be easier to leave the demons lurking below the surface.  The thing is, though, that sometimes they reach out and grab at you when you're not paying attention.

For as long as I can remember I've known that I was different.  I would volunteer to be tied up in childhood games, at night when I went to sleep I would cocoon myself tightly in the blankets until I could hardly move.  I remember playing some sort of damsel in distress game with the girl who lived across the street and failing miserably to grasp the concept.  We had been kidnapped (or something) by the "Bad Guy" and were now being held captive.  I remember my thoughts being something along the lines of an eager, "so is he going to do something horrible with us?" to which the response was, "no the prince will rescue us first"  (my reaction to the revelation that we didn't want to be captives was to suggest we just escape ourselves instead of waiting around to be rescued).  

For nearly as long as I can remember being different I can remember knowing that this difference was Bad and Wrong.  I knew this so surely that I tried to squash the difference, and I hated myself when I couldn't.  It would squeeze its way out, filling my mind with thoughts that disgusted and excited me all at once.  And the fact that they excited me disgusted me even more.  

This fusion of budding sexuality, shame, and guilt surged within me for several years before sucking me into the nightmare that, looking back, seems like a logical result of my painful insecurity and self-loathing.

I was sixteen, at a new high school, horribly shy and alone.  "Hook a loop of fear-paralysation into a mind frantically denying its need to surrender, bait a touch-starved, curious adolescent with affection from a pretty older boy, and watch a psyche fragment into a perfect rape victim and a panicked, impotent observer. Respectful and loving submission was unavailable, unthinkable, unallowable, so all I had was deer-in-the-headlights capitulation, where my sexual drives and my terror and his unceasing pressure conspired to shove me into a closet in my head."   I froze - couldn't speak, couldn't move.  I think he was oblivious rather than malicious, but maybe that's just what I tell myself in order to retain some shred of sanity.  I have never forgiven myself for my inability to respond, or for what came after.  At the end, when I could speak again, the only words that came were the ones he wanted to hear, not the agonized scream that lived deep inside me for years before I finally let it out.  After all, he was nice enough about it, he just never noticed I was gone.

A good girl, a normal girl, would have said no or pushed him away, it would have been rape.  But I didn't, because I couldn't, so it was just sex.  Because really, if there wasn't something wrong with me, if I wasn't such a terribly sick freak, it never would have happened.  And so I stayed.  For five years.  

It wasn't all bad, but most of it was.  And it got worse as time passed, became explicitly rape.  I learned how to say no, and how to push back.  One day, four years later, the wall just snapped.  I threw him halfway across the room.  I never let him touch me again, even though it was a few more months before I left without ever looking back.  I learned how to fight for myself.  And somehow, by learning how to articulate and defend what I did not want, I managed to come to terms with what I did.  

So don't (anyone, ever) tell me that my submission is like abuse or my partner is an abuser.  Don't be surprised if I bare my teeth when you suggest that I can't make that distinction.  I've been to that hell, I shed my humanity to the gate-keepers along the way.  And then I came back. 

With me I brought back clarity of vision.  Believe me when I say I can see the difference.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Open Letter to Feminist Bloggers

Please stop comparing my sexuality to porn.  No really, just stop.  Every time is see something that looks like "female submission is based on a patriarchal mindset, the majority of porn, for example..." I stop caring what you have to say.  It's not like you're even talking about kinky or BDSM porn most of the time.  Now, I have mixed feelings about most porn, maybe I would even agree with some of the things that you have to say about it, but there is one thing that I am certain of.  Mainstream pornography is in no way related to my submissive desires and vice versa.  Porn is not an example of the pervasiveness of BDSM in mainstream culture and my submission is in no way influenced by the face that most porn shows women as sex objects for men.  

Now that we've gotten over that little hurdle, please stop generalizing your experiences.  I'm sorry you dated that asshole, I really am.  Just because you had a shitty boyfriend who told you that what he wanted was "kinky" when really he was just an asshole does not mean that all female submissives actually just don't realize that we are in shitty relationships.  In the same way that I don't submit because porn told me to, I also don't submit because I think that boys should be the boss in bed (doesn't really explain why I also submit to women, does it?) or because men will like it if I am submissive.  I wasn't coerced by my boyfriend to act out his misogynistic fantasies, it was my idea.  

While it may be true that it is socially acceptable to play with furry handcuffs or get spanked by your boyfriend trust me when I say that what I'm into is not.  It's not just normal gender roles acted out on an extreme scale either.  Odds are I might agree with your opinion of why gender roles suck.  I tend to think they do - particularly when they are just taken for granted, unexamined so to speak.  That's probably why I tend to get pissed off when you ask me to examine how my desires relate to traditional gender roles and patriarchy.  I have, they don't.  Part of growing up thinking that there is something horribly wrong with you is trying to figure out why you're so messed up.  

Maybe now that we've gotten all those assumptions out of the way we might be able to have some sort of meaningful discussion.  I sincerely hope we can.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Examining Desire (Part 2) - On Losing Myself

I said “I want to lose myself in you, in this.”  Is that what frightens people?  Because I wish it didn’t.  I wish there weren’t people out there who are afraid of that desire, protective in a way that I do not need.  I think that they are afraid that the loss is a bad thing, or that I won’t be able to find myself again.  Maybe the problem is in the language.

What do I mean when I say I want to lose myself?  I think this is the crux of the issue.  I mean I want to lose the neurotic perfectionism that hounds me.  I want to lose my fear that I am not enough, I want to lose the painful memories that live at the edges of every moment.  I want to “shuffle off this mortal coil,” but only temporarily.  But is that really losing “myself?”  When I have cast off all the external trappings of my daily life, what is left?  

All those things that make me who I am -  my brilliance, my insecurity, my past, my hopes and fears for the future - when they are gone what is left?  Only here and now and what is happening in this moment.  I wish I could find the words to explain how this feels, but I don’t.  Maybe language is too much a part of this external self, too closely tied to what I want to let go.  Maybe that is why it is hard from me to put it into words.  The closest I can come is this: I do not want to lose myself because I am running or hiding from something.  And I am not lost forever, I will always come back.  But when I am there, when I am gone I am also coming home.  I lose myself so I can find myself.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Paint by Numbers

I was helping a friend with Calculus homework the other day, and she said something that I thought was really neat; it explains perfectly why I love math.  μ has a degree in art is is going back to school to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics).  The conversation went like this:

μ: "To me, math is is this horribly grueling painful thing, but once in a while I will finally understand some part of it well enough that I can just see what is supposed to happen.  Then it's like painting."

Me: "To me it's always like painting."

μ: "I know."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Addendum to "The Problem As I See It"

Sorry if I was over generalizing before, it's just really frustrating to me the way that real life can get lost in discussions of social theory.

On this thread at feministing, Jadelyn says: "It's funny, because I *tried* that navel-gazing back when I was realizing what some of my sexual desires were and, at the same time, growing into my feminism. Yeah, that was an ugly mind-fuck to work through."

Yeah, this is the real issue for me. I mean, I think that curiosity and social critiques are fine and all, but when you're at that stage - when you're young and unsure about your desires - if the message that you get is that your sexuality is incompatible with or harmful to feminism, well it's not a fun (or safe) place to be.

Maybe my experience is completely abnormal because I grew up in a very feminist town and area, but it was such a struggle for me to be okay with my sexuality. I tried for years to just act normal in the hopes that if I tried hard enough at it I just might change. I didn't. But I did end up in a really horrible abusive vanilla relationship and I think that part of the reason that happened, and a large part of the reason I had so much trouble leaving, was that I struggled so much with being submissive.

I think that to a certain extent I had internalized the idea that my desires justified the way that I was treated, I mean I wanted to be dominated, right? And everyone knows that's weird and dirty and certainly not feminist or self-respecting. If I had had a feminist community saying, "no, these two things can be compatible, you can have and act on those desires and still deserve to be respected as a human being" my life would have been much simpler.

So, I'm not saying don't critique, but just be careful of the ways in which you frame your questions and the messages that you send.