Archive for December, 2009
A little taste of what I discuss:
One of my basic tenets of gender is the deep belief that gender should not dictate one’s personality. Personality traits are made up of hobbies, interests, and activities; one of the classic ways we police gender in this culture is to require that men only do “manly things” and women do “womanly things,” and when a man does a womanly thing, we get all up in arms about it. Ask my sister’s boyfriend: he’s a cop, the man carries a gun for goodness’ sake, but when he started growing sunflowers, he got teased incessantly by his best friends and coworkers alike. Someone—anyone—is extra quick to criticize when one of the activities we like to do is outside of our gender assignment.
Yet it is more socially acceptable for a woman to cross over into seemingly masculine hobbies than for a man to cross into feminine ones (at least at the amateur level—men still dominate fields traditionally seen as “female” such as cooking, baking, and sewing at the professional level, but that is a slightly different topic). The advances that the various feminist movements have made in the last 100-plus years have made it more acceptable for a woman to get really obsessed with NASCAR racing, or World of Warcraft and video games, or pro-wrestling, or environmental engineering, or the stock market, or any of those other supposedly “masculine” interests and hobbies. She may be insulted for these interests, she may be called a dyke (equating her gender identity with sexuality), but she has support. She has other women who have gone through this, she has documents, she has a feminist history to call upon to tell herself—and others—that she can like these things and still be a “real” woman.
However, if a man wants to grow sunflowers or bake cupcakes or learn how to needlepoint or host fancy dinner parties or make greeting cards, there are consequences: the people around him, friends and strangers, will police his hobbies, words, and actions around things seen as “unmanly.”
Oops! Sorry about that, I am just now getting the winner chosen for the Crash Pad Series Giveaway.
Better luck next time, folks! Don’t forget, you can still go get your very own membership whenever you like … click on over to crashpadseries.com.
Welcome back from wherever you went for the holidays. If you’ve got a minute, read the holiday comments on the Crash Pad Series giveaway post, because they are full of details about what queers (especially) go through in dealing with our sometimes very un-understanding families. They’re comforting, actually, in knowing you’re not alone in dealing with some of the hardships of marginalization.
Thanks to the lovely judges over at e[lust], my post Reconciling the Identities of Feminist & Butch Top is featured this week in the top three.
I’m glad somebody stepped up to fill the shoes of the former Sugasm. This’ll keep me busy on this freezing cold New York pre-January afternoon.
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This Week’s Top Three Posts
- Interrogation - I looked up at him, feigning cluelessness. “I know you can understand me. So I ask you again. Where are the lenses?” Another strike. I crumpled into the bench.
- Reconciling the Identities of Feminist & Butch Top - There’s something supposedly anti-feminist about wanting to dominate. There’s something in the feminist rhetoric which says we are all equal especially in bed, so that means I-do-you-you-do-me….
- Fire and Ice – The rain comes down harder around us, the freezing drop pelting whatever skin lies exposed over the surface of the water.
- By the Twinkling Lights… - His lips found my nipples and I forgot about the cold. If a car were to drive by and the passengers were to look past the twinkling lights on the tree, they would have seen a naked woman’s rear end pressed against the glass wall..
Featured Post (Lilly’s Pick)
- Ronjazz: Late Night Rendezvous - Meet me in the parking lot at the post with the broken lamp. 10PM sharp! Do not be late! Stand facing the post, eyes closed. Wear a flimsy dress and heels – nothing else!
See also: Pleasurists #58 and #59 for all your sex toy review needs
All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!
In much of the workshops and trainings around sexuality and sexual expression that I have attended, we have often started with one basic concept: saying no.
For example, I have been part of a circle of pairs where the instruction was for the person on the outside of the circle to think of a place on their body that would really like to be massaged right now. Hands, feet, wrists, scalp, shoulders – wherever there might be some great tension released. And the instruction was to ask the person on the inside circle, politely, “would you please massage my ____.” The person on the inside was instructed to say “No.” They could say, “I’m sorry, not right now.” Or, “I really can’t, no.” Or to couch it in some other softer “no,” but the instruction was specifically to practice saying it – even if they actually wanted to give the massage! (There would be time for that, later.)
The point of that exercise is to practice saying no. To know that it’s okay to say no. To have permission to say no – to have instruction, even, to say no. It’s actually really hard! But it’s so, so important, especially when building trust, especially when deepening a relationship, especially when working to assert your own needs and desires, as I feel probably all of us struggle with, in some ways.
The idea behind this, in erotic work is without no, there is no YES. And the YES is what we’d like to get to. The delicious, hungry YES, which is so excited and juicy and ready for what’s coming.
Without the ability to say no, the yes is virtually meaningless. Without the reassurance of my partner or girlfriend or lover or wife or toy or submissive saying no to me every once in a while, how can I be sure that she really can say no? It feels good, to me, to hear someone create limits on something, because then I have a better idea of how far I can go. I hate to discover dealbreakers in the middle of something, that is not good.
That’s pretty explanatory, right? The no-gives-yes-value thing?
This happens in relationships, too, not just with sex. For example, my friend and her girlfriend were planning to do something, one of those big relationship things. The details are a bit unimportant, but it’s something her girlfriend had expressed skepticism about in the past, and my friend was really into it. At the last minute, her girlfriend decided no, actually, it isn’t something she wanted to do. Oops sorry! My friend was mad, for a while. We talked and talked and she was upset. After the dust cleared a little, though, my friend said she was really grateful to her girlfriend for being honest. She was really grateful that her girlfriend wouldn’t be the kind of person who would just go along with something her partner wanted, even if it wasn’t something that she truly wanted herself. How much worse would the resentment build up if she had gone and done it anyway, secretly knowing she didn’t want to! How much more tension and stress would their relationship be under! My friend’s girlfriend risked hurting my friend’s feelings, and risked the consequences of being honest, but also has a lot of trust and faith that they will be able to talk through things, to reach some sort of mutually appreciated conclusion. And my friend has said, many times, since, I value honesty over consistency any day.
They are closer, as a result. Telling the truth doesn’t have to mean being disappointing or disappointed, it doesn’t have to mean steps back in a relationship. I would rather be with someone who I could trust to tell me no when they felt no and tell me yes when they felt yes. And if she never tells me no, can I be sure she really can?
Audacia Ray has said that working in the sex industry taught her to say no. She’s also said, “‘No’ is a complete sentence!” (especially when she and I have talked about how overcommitted we are), which I find myself saying to myself in my head frequently. Lots of the productivity blogs talk about turning things down as a way to really take control over your own time and owning your own sovereignty. This is important in sex play and relationships, too.
I know lots of these concepts around “saying no” are taught in sexual assault, survivor, reclaiming sexuality, and power play workshops all over, but I want to reiterate where it comes from, because the next part is this: about saying yes.
As I have been writing about a bit lately, I have struggled with being a top and dominant in bed. Sometimes, upon expressing to my lover something that I’ve wanted to do, and after they say, excitedly, that they have always wanted to do that too, I still have trouble, I still doubt that it’s okay, I still hesitated.
It’s like what J. said, in a comment on the Reconciling the Identities of Butch Top and Feminist essay:
Recently, my partner and I have been experimenting with some new things in bed and I was constantly asking her if she was okay with what we were doing. I was so worried that I asked her several times in a row, not taking her first yes for what it was. She told me that if I’m going to trust when she says no, I also have to trust when she says yes.
Bingo. I love that explanation of this process – so succinct. Yes, exactly.
As the dominant, I think I can ask whether my submissive is okay with what we are doing (or going to do), even more than once, until I am satisfactorily convinced of her consent, but – BUT! – it is also my job to trust her answer, to believe her, and to let that be enough.
If she consents, and uses it against me later, that is, most likely, NOT MY FAULT and she is a jerk. (See Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast Episode #165 where a guy gives his boyfriend permission to fuck other guys, then gets completely pissed and refuses to see him again after he does. Not okay!)
If I have chosen to date this girl, then personally I do have some sort of assumption that her consent means that she knows herself, and she is able to gauge her own reactions, and has enough self-knowledge that she will know whether being in whatever situation we’re discussing will make her freak out or not.
I can, of course, check in with her during the scene (hopefully in ways that do not break the scene entirely – see The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book for more about that), but I also have to accept that if something was wrong she would tell me or communicate it to me somehow, and that it is not my job to be a mind reader. It is my job to ask when I notice something, it is her job to communicate with me actively.
This is one of those ways that BDSM is actually Relationship Communications 401, way beyond the basics. And this is why I personally have had a tough time playing with people who were not self-aware, people who were not impeccable communicators, and people who were not afraid to be honest and assert what they needed.
This stuff is really damn hard, I know. Sometimes I don’t even know what I want, let alone being able to articulate it. But if we can’t trust each other to say yes, and no, and mean it, then we can’t go farther, we can’t play with consent and force, we can’t establish deeper trust to be able to get to the darker, juicy stuff, like domination and submission outside the bedroom, and role play, and deep, late night conversations untangling some of our control issues. Ideally, a good relationship works to bring parts of you to light that weren’t quite visible before, and supports you as you work through them, and possibly enhance or change them – and I have found no better tool for that than the many varied practices of BDSM.
Midori’s Expert Guide to Sensual Bondage DVD is directed by Tristan Taormino and written & hosted by sex expert and author Midori, and I am familiar with both of them in general, so I knew I would probably enjoy it. When it arrived, though, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a video version of her Art of Japanese Bondage book – I don’t have a copy of it, but I’ve been eyeing it in Babeland for years. I was hoping the DVD would be elaborate, beautiful rope bondage, but it’s not.
In fact, it might be better.
One of the things that has kept me from doing more bondage is that it seems difficult, elaborate, and highly skilled – but that’s really only one kind of bondage, the fancy rope artistry kind. And though I have a few moves (see: Crab Tie), I often just don’t even practice what I know because I feel like it’s time consuming and will interrupt what we’re doing.
Kristen, though, I know, really likes bondage. Really likes to be tied up and tied down and restrained. While she does not love much pain, as a bottom, she really gets into that submissive mindspace when restrained and bound. She has often requested it more frequently and though it is frequent in our play, I could do it more often I’m sure. She has said that every time would not be too often, in fact. And though I often restrain her with my hands, holding her down or holding her wrists or ankles or under her knees, I could do more.
This video very much inspired me to do so.
And, it gave me a whole lot of ideas of things to use aside from elaborate rope ties – in fact, very little rope is used in this film. They use the Under Bed Restraint System (which I highly recommend, I got one for Kristen’s house that I still need to write up and it’s fantastic), wrist cuffs, ankle cuffs, belts, scarves, and some great snap hooks to hold it all together.
Midori’s introduction was pretty basic, had some great solid concepts and guidelines for bondage play, though nothing I wasn’t already familiar with. When she started demonstrating with some pretty purple scarves, I thought, damn, where do I get some like that?! (Lucky for me, I have some Liberator Silk Sashes just begging for Kristen’s return from her holiday family visit.)
I thought this video would be for beginners, but I don’t consider myself a beginner with bondage, and I got a lot out of it. It has four basic scenes: Midori’s introductory instruction, a hands-on demo with Midori, Adrianna Nicole, and Mark Davis, a scene with Adrianna and Mark, and a scene with Madison Young and Danny Wylde. Midori has some comments throughout the two scenes, but it’s fun to see some of the bondage ‘in action,’ which is a good way to get familiar with putting bondage on and taking it off during an actual scene.
I was kind of waiting to watch this video so Kristen and I could watch it together, but now I’m kind of glad I watched it on my own – the tricks will be more mine and less like I copied them from an instructional video. (Not that she won’t know that’s where I got ‘em, she reads my posts. Still, she won’t have the visual of seeing someone else do it first.)
There’s a particular moment in Adrianna and Mark’s scene where Adrianna has wrist and ankle cuffs on, and they are cuffed wrist-to-ankle with a double snap ring (like a two-sided caribiner). She is on her back in bed with her head near the edge, he is fucking her mouth with his cock while he’s got his fingers in her pussy. It was nice – I am looking forward to testing that out.
Now I’ve just got to add some double snap rings and wrist cuffs to my toy box. Perhaps I’ll use some of that Christmas money from Grandma and invest in a few of those.
Kristen, tied with the crab tie from Chanta Rose’s book Bondage for Sex.