Posts Tagged ‘boundaries’

To All the Tops Who Are Afraid to Make a Move

To All the Tops Who Are Afraid to Make a Move

February 25, 2014  |  essays  |  12 Comments

One of my biggest challenges as a top—and as a feminist dominant, and as someone who is well versed in and vehemently requires agency and consent in my sexytime play—is making assertions of what I want. This is especially hard if I’m meeting or playing with somebody new. I want to be bold, domineering (in good ways), bossy (also in good ways), sexy—toppy. I want to demand and take and get just a little more rough than expected.

But: I won’t do that, until I have consent. Until I have a very, very clear green light that my advances—my dominance, my toppy-ness—is wanted and desired.

Nothing wrong with that, right? I want to do dirty things with the people I date and play with, and I want them to want me to do those things, otherwise I don’t want those things. In fact, one could argue (and I do) that my wanting to do those things is contingent upon them wanting me to do them. I won’t get it up for somebody who doesn’t want me.

But see, sometimes because I am not making big bold moves, or acting with brassy ballsy swagger, people think I am not flirting with them, or don’t like them, or aren’t interested, or am “not that dominant.”

(Well, in terms of that last one, they can suck it—I believe in consensual dominance, and I don’t believe doms (or anybody) has a right to go around spewing their swagger on anybody they come across. I take up my space, you take up yours. Unless we’re in a explicit power dynamic, I don’t assume that I get to be dominant with you. I guess that’s called boundaries.)

But those other things … that depends. Sometimes I really, really, really, like somebody, and I want to do things with them to them for them, but I am not getting a clear green light, so I do nothing.

And this can be crippling! This can mean that a perfectly good top wrings their hands and wonders, wonders, wonders, whether or not they should make a move, but that the other person is simultaneously thinking, I thought they were a top? Aren’t they going to do something?

That sucks, right? Here’s a few ideas.

1. Make it clear you are (kinda sorta completely) inclined to topping

Talk about it. Bring it up. “I tend to like to be in charge in bed.” Talk about topping and bottoming. Talk about the kind of things you like to do. Do you like rough sex? Extensive amounts of bondage? Strap-on sex nine times out of ten? Always being the one who orders at a restaurant? Opening doors? Holding someone down while they struggle?

And … ask them what they like. Talk about it. Get their Fetlife fetish list from their own expressive mouth. Ask again. Ask about specific things. Be fascinated by their answers. Listen closely.

This might be elementary for you, but I find that just about everybody doesn’t talk or communicate about their own desires enough. ‘Cause here’s the thing: They change constantly. Most of us don’t want the same thing all day every day. So it is a constant practice to be in the moment, figure out what we want, and communicate it clearly.

2. Make it clear you are waiting for a green light

Or, explicitly ask for a green light. Many people who are inclined to bottoming or submission, or, often, those who would be into going out with a top, are frequently waiting for the top to make the move. Perhaps they think that the way they’re batting their eyelashes, or the way they shined their leathers, or the way they are rubbing their thighs together, is so fucking obvious that of course you know they want you. But still, you are waiting for that green light.

So tell them that.

“I would so love to kiss you, but I’m waiting for the right sign / you to ask me / the perfect moment.” “I know I said I’m a top, but the only way I get all … toppy with somebody is if I am clear they want me to. Are you into that?” “I have this thing about consent—it’s super important to me. So I tend to wait until I get a really really clear green light to make any sorts of moves. But after I get the green light … ”

(Then do that sexy-ass sly top grin you practice in the mirror. Come on, I know you do.)

And then, pay attention to their reaction.

So if you growl, “I really want to throw you down, right now,” and their eyes get all huge and they start thinking about all the grass stains they’ll get, and they say, “Uhhh…” you will know that is not consent. But when they take a step closer to you and say, “I have a really good mattress at my house,” you’ll know they are at least interested.

I hesitate to talk about how consent can be expressed non-verbally, through physical communication, though I do believe that it can be. It’s just harder to pinpoint and talk about, and much easier to misconstrue, miscommunicate, or mistake. For the sake of nervousness or fear or making big bold topping moves, it is always, always safer to get enthusiastic verbal consent specifically.

Regardless of how much explicit consent they give you, always be paying attention for hesitation in their body language or speech. That probably means it’s time to back up, and slow down, and check in.

This can be used when escalating all sorts of play, by the way, not just the first kiss. It could be useful for that moment when you want to get your strap-on out, or when you want to put them in spread eagle bondage, or when you want to hold them down and rough them up, or when you want to ask them—tell them, demand them—to go into the bathroom and take their panties off and give them to you. Sometimes you just don’t know if it’s the right time to do something new, or to escalate, and you don’t know if you have their consent for it. So ask. Make it clear what you’re looking for, so they can give it to you (or not). They just might not know that’s what you’re waiting for.

Sometimes, when I start getting the feeling that it’s time to move in for a kiss or to escalate physical touch with somebody, I make a move kinda like I’m about to do the thing I want to do, but then I catch myself, and say, “Oh, sorry—I really want to kiss you / put my hands on your stockings / grab your belt / take you down right now. That okay?” (Sometimes I say this in a sexy growly voice near their neck or ear while I decidedly do not touch or kiss them because I don’t know if that’s okay—yet.)

And I wait. For their reaction, response, and enthusiastic consent made clear.

3. Still afraid you’re being an asshole?

Here’s the thing: Asking somebody for something, or asserting a decision or a preference, is not being an asshole. You’re not being an asshole when you say, “I’d love to take you out. How about we meet at this great cafe I love on Sunday for brunch?” You’re not being an asshole when you’re on a wandering-around-the-park date and you say, “I’d love a coffee. Want to duck into this coffee shop for a bit?” You’re not being an asshole when you point at a shady spot under a tree and say, “Let’s go sit there.” You’re not being an asshole when you get back to your place and they are on your couch all sexy and biting their lips and you say, “I can’t wait to play with you.”

You absolutely are being an asshole when you don’t honor their response to your suggestion or offer or preference.

If you say, “Let’s go to this great steakhouse!” And they say, “I’m a vegetarian …” When you say, “Great! Meet you there at 7,” you are being an asshole.

Wah waaaaah. Sad trombone. Don’t do that.

But making the offer? Not an asshole. Suggesting a change in place? Great! Shows your flexibility and thoughtfulness. Requesting a date at a particular place? Not too much (until, you know, they tell you otherwise).

Sometimes, being assertive and suggesting things is a relief to the other person. We often defer to each other (especially people we like), saying, “Whatever is fine!” And we mean it! But when someone drives the social decisions, it can be very useful. What’s not useful (have I made this clear yet?), and is firmly in asshole territory, is overriding what someone else expresses they want or don’t want.

So make suggestions. Request—and get—the green light, so you can be confident that your glorious toppy-ness is fully desired and wanted.

PS: I hope this is clear, but just in case it isn’t: This has absolutely nothing to do with getting someone to do what they don’t want to do. Fuck that. This has to do with communicating enthusiastic consent. Okay, clear? Cool.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Molly: Boundaries & A Reassurance List

December 13, 2012  |  essays  |  No Comments

Molly Malone, www.naughtymollymalone.com & naughty_molly

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

In the two years that I have had open relationships, my greatest insight has been around *yawn* boundaries. What they are, how they work, what they look like, feel like, what purpose they serve, and so on.

When I first observed open relationships, and started reading up on polyamory, I found that this word ‘boundaries’ was bandied about, and given a kind of importance, that looking back, I just didn’t understand. If I’m honest, I never really got it. Once I began to embark on opening up my own relationship, I would talk about my boundaries and other people’s boundaries, as if I had significant understanding of what that meant. I didn’t have a clue.

I truly wish I did. I wish I hadn’t assumed that I should know. I thought they were somehow supposed to just protect me, and other people, like a shield, just by saying they were there, and promising to respect other people’s. I kind of knew I probably didn’t have that quite right. In reality, I must’ve known that there are no such words in our language that have a special magic ability to protect people, like a spell. But I was too embarrassed to ask, and for a long time, being ignorant didn’t have any adverse effects, so I didn’t think it could be that important. So I never really questioned it, until, of course, everything was in a big messy tangled pile and I thought ‘Oh dear, how did I get here?’

I tried so hard to be the fixer. I felt a massive weight of responsibility for a sticky situation. I denied the people I cared about the responsibility to deal with their stuff by intentionally taking it on. And I did this in my home. My home was the base for a polymess. That was when I had a bolt out of the blue, when my very first boundary came to me, and I knew, that whatever was happening, and however sad I was for all of us involved, it was no longer going to be worked out in my home. That I needed my own safe space to escape to when it all got too much. That it wasn’t my responsibility to create a space for us to all work this out, and that it was ok to stop it. That very moment, I clearly and calmly expressed that boundary, and who knew, from that point on, we didn’t use my home any more for our meetings/arguments/counselling etc.

Since then, I have discovered a few boundaries’, and managed to employ them with varying degrees of success. It’s all a bit of a learning minefield, and you just don’t know about the lesson until it blows up under foot. It’s still a word I have to remind myself the meaning of. And when I discover a new one, or spend time thinking about what other boundaries I have, I often wonder if this thing I have invented really exists, until one is crossed, and I feel like my land has been trespassed. Yup, they really exist. I now know what they are (although they metastasise often), what they feel like when they are working, and when they’re not.

What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

I feel like I haven’t had the ‘proper’ test yet; the person who I was with before I discovered polyamory, I am still with now. We are engaged to be married. This man and I began our relationship under the presumed and customary norms and traditions – one of those of course being “I will not, to the best of my ability, fuck anyone else, or fall in love with anyone else, whilst we are together”. And although we both were already questioning this norm when we met each other, we had not yet gone the whole hog and decided to open up our relationship. That came a year later.

Since then, although there has been a healthy dose of sex and play outside of the relationship, only I have formed a loving, meaningful connection with someone else (and the amazing new-love sex that comes with it). He is yet to fall in love with someone else, and I am yet to know if that will be hard for me or not.

That’s not to say things haven’t been hard.

For me, there have been two areas of difficulty. The first has been negotiating the new relationship. In this instance, the person I wanted a relationship with was in a relationship with my friend, formed under the same conditions as my primary relationship – with all the presumed wisdom of monogamy. The new relationship was formed slowly, over a twelve month period, and was done, for want of a better phrase, by the book. As our new relationship blossomed, their pre-existing relationship crumbled. Their relationship has since ended.

Traversing the many challenges that brought was exhausting and most definitely hard. Initially I tried to fix everything, to take responsibility for their relationship and the problems they were facing as a couple. All the while taking on guilt and shame. It was, and still sometimes is, very difficult to learn how to distinguish between what was my responsibility, and what wasn’t. Being able and willing to hold my friend, in her pain, whilst not taking on guilt or resentment, was exceptionally hard.

Subsequently, having the courage of my convictions can feel hard. I sometimes feel like I have to defend myself, my choices and my actions. When this situation is viewed from a normative context, it looks like this: You fancied your mates girlfriend, they broke up, and you started going out with your mate’s bird… some friend you are! So I think what is hard about this is not having a group of supportive peers. Choosing an ‘alternative’ relationship paradigm sometimes feels isolating because of that. It can be hard to ask for support from friends and family, when first you have to have that conversation. There is fear and vulnerability mixed up in there somewhere – that I won’t be heard, that my feelings will be discounted or invalidated by my peers because I’m being ‘greedy’ choosing more than one lover, that the inevitable question will be “But what about your friend? And what about your fiancé? Aren’t you hurting them?” And I will have to answer “Yes, sometimes they feel hurt, or sad, or jealous. But I’m ok with that, and their pain is not my responsibility, and we talk about this stuff, we have procedures in place to help us through those bits” and it all just sounds like lefty liberalism that is doomed for failure. It’ll be met with the same suspicious eye-roll that my mother gave me when I was a rebellious youth, with that “don’t come crying to me when it all blows up in your face” tone of voice.

A different challenge has been realising, for the first time, that falling in love when you are polyamorous, feels just the same as falling in love when you are monogamous. For some reason I was under the impression that with all these new fancy words, and emotional maturity, and books, that if I fell in love with someone else, I would be somehow immune to all the stupid, crazy, indulgent, ecstatic loonyness that falling in love traditionally inspires.

How foolish of me! It has been quite difficult to come to terms with the fact that I have responsibility to my other relationship. And as great and exciting as new love energy is, and as positive as its effects can be on pre-existing relationships, it is not an excuse, or get out card, for suddenly dropping all your commitments, to your relationship, or anything else for that matter (job, exercise-class, pet, house) and spending every waking minute talking to/fucking/staring at your new love. That’s been hard. We have overcome that by implementing quite a structured framework for seeing each other. We see each other once a week and we see each other somewhere mutual (not in my home, not in hers).

I also spent some time with my fiancé creating a Reassurance List, which is a list of things which I can do to reassure him when he needs it, and vice versa (like taking a bath together, doing some gardening, solving a household DIY problem together etc).

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

Back even before we opened our relationship to others, both my fiancé and I felt that one person could not possibly be all things, to one person, at all times. For me, one of the best things about being able to form meaningful connections with more than one person is just that! I get to explore connections with people without the limit or restriction or fear of developing ‘feelings’ for them. We are multifaceted creatures, different people bring out different sides to our personalities, and we have diverse and changeable requirements. It feels logical, like it makes sense, it enables me to explore the dimensions of myself in a way that I couldn’t with one closed relationship. I remember, way back in adolescence, peers debating over which stage of a relationship was better; the crazy new-love with all its uncertainty and excitement, or the comforting long-haul with it’s predictability and reassurance? I remember thinking, shit! Do I have to choose? I like them both! And the answer was no, I don’t have to choose.

I would also say that the extraordinary level of self-development, of turning yourself inside out, examining the contents, and putting it all back together, is an invaluable process of embarking on non-monogamy. But also, the sex. I have always been attracted to boys and girls. I like having heteronormative sex, with a boy, with his penis in my vagina, but I also like having girlie lesbian sex, I also enjoy genderless sex, and gender reversed sex, I like submissive sex, and dominant sex, and switchy sex. I like having sex with my cock, I like sex with men who identify as gay, I like sex with myself, I like group sex. My fiancé is a heterosexual, cis gendered male. Thus he cannot fulfil all my sexual wants and needs. Although it’s a bit of a carnal and sexually obsessed answer, that’s probably the best thing about our open relationship. Not having to choose or value one type of sex over another and stick with it for life.

On Running Away and Boundaries

March 16, 2011  |  journal entries  |  No Comments

Just one more thing, then I’ve got to get focused on some other work today.

Hugo Schwyzer has a post up today called Why Men Run When They Lack the Words to Stay, and it resonated with me with some of the recent complications in my relationship with Kristen and with my emotional landscape history in general.

Give it a quick read, then come back and read my comments on it, which I’ll try to keep to a few.

For the record, Schwyzer divides this into men and women, and generally I think what he’s saying is true, but it may not be true for individuals, and it may not be neatly applicable to a butch/femme relationship—meaning the butch might not have the same experience as the man, in this scenario. And there are parts that he describes that apply to me, parts that apply to Kristen, parts that apply to neither of us. Still, I think it’s relevant in examining some of the over-arching things we get taught that run along the gender divides, and interesting to think about these dynamics in any relationship, regardless of gender.

I have certainly “submarined” a lot in my past. I think that mostly comes from having a history of abuse, though, not a history of me not being able to articulate my emotions and being overwhelmed by my partner’s, though there is a piece of that too. And even though I am a poet, and highly emotional, I haven’t always been able to verbalize what was going on for me, especially not in the moment it was happening. I’ve been working on that a lot in recent years.

I also really like the breakdown of iron vs copper, of using those words to talk about certain styles of boundaries (or lack thereof). Though I’ve done a lot of work on this too recently, I do tend to get overwhelmed by my surroundings, and sometimes I cope with that by running away or shutting down. And Kristen has some aspects of being copper too, especially in taking things personally. It’s interesting to think about those tendencies as a boundary issue.

I do take issue with Schwyzer’s work on occasion, especially around men, masculinity, and pornography, but I find much of his work fantastic and I encourage you to subscribe to and read his blog if you don’t already. Lots of food for thought.

Protected: Kristen’s Homework

December 14, 2009  |  journal entries  |  Enter your password to view comments.

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