Posts Tagged ‘control’

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: I struggle with my feminist beliefs and my bedroom preferences  ... help!

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: I struggle with my feminist beliefs and my bedroom preferences … help!

April 18, 2014  |  advice  |  5 Comments

Dear Mr. Sexsmith,

I am a strong, opinionated, sometimes bossy, lesbian. I have a huge passion for the empowerment, education and advocacy of women. I volunteer as a sexual assault advocate and have been involved as a Planned Parenthood educator. I am very vocal about breaking the cycle of female oppression in our culture.

I feel a personal conflict, as I also identify as femme and am very much a bottom in the bedroom. I like to be dominated and controlled in sexual play and I very much get off on fantasies that boarder on roughness and non-consent. I guess my struggle lies in the dichotomy between my feminist beliefs and my bedroom preferences. I do not consider myself to be a weak or oppressed female, but in the bedroom I love to be controlled, punished and made to serve. Is there a way for the two to be harmonious? I fight for women to have power and to stand up for themselves. Can you help me sort this out?

Tara

I hear you.

I too have come up within the lesbian feminist movements (and in their wakes) with a strong passion for smashing the patriarchy and a vehement dedication to working on less pain for the various gender minorities in the world. And I too like to do dirty, “perverted,” un-politically correct things in my erotic life. I struggle with reconciling my own feminist beliefs with my desire for sadism and wanting to physically cause “pain,” and with my masculinity and dominance and the ways that both masculinity and dominance are seen as corrupted ways of having power in some feminist’s views. I was asked just this morning about my consumption of porn, and my candid talk about how porn is fun and can be useful and good and valuable, and how I reconcile that with feminism. And, oh yeah, I forget that’s a part of that feminist reconciliation process too.

And all of these took a long time, and were long processes.

I have had lots of judgment about sadism, masculinity, dominance, and porn in the past. Some of it was a reaction formation, at least in a minor way, I think. I had reactions and judgment both about other people’s visible execution of these things, and the tendencies in myself—my own desires. I struggled to reconcile those tendencies and how they went with my feminist commitments to gender liberation and my sensitivities to surviving abuse and being in a rape culture.

I think it absolutely is possible to reconcile, to sort this out.

Here’s some of the ideas that I kicked around—for years and years, with trusted friends, at kink conferences, with lovers. It was not an immediate process. It required adopting a new kind of feminism, I think—a BDSM- and kink-friendly feminism that is rooted in agency and consent, and that understands the difference between play and abuse.

Consider these things:

1. Bottoming, service, and surrendering control, comes from a place of great strength and power.

[Bottoming] is absolutely making yourself vulnerable. But vulnerability is not about weakness—it comes from a place of great strength.

People have the idea in their heads that bottoming is weak, but I think that is not true at all. Bottoming is incredibly powerful. Being able to know where your own boundaries are, hold yourself safe, be able to speak up for your own needs, ask for what you want, and negotiate trust with a person who is going to assist your body and self on a journey takes a lot of skill and sovereignty. People who do it well have an extensive amount of intelligence, self-worth, and self-knowledge.

It absolutely is making yourself vulnerable. But vulnerability is not about weakness—again, it comes from a place of great strength.

The notion that bottoming, receiving sensation, and submitting to someone else’s desires is weak comes from a twisted version of what those things really are, versions that show only the completely non-consensual and abusive sides of these experiences. But when done consensually, the gift that is bottoming to another is precious and strong. It’s amazing to serve someone else; we serve community, family, friends, and other valuable relationships all the time. We give our power or authority, or cede our control, away intentionally in order to empower others in a variety of contexts, and we can get great pleasure from doing so. And when we find someone worthy of our trust such that we will put our body into their hands for intense sensation, cathartic release, and the deep pleasure of being in the present moment with whatever is happening … how does that not come from a place of power?

The difference, in my opinion, between it coming from power and strength or from oppression comes down to some simple traditional feminist concepts.

2. Consent makes all the difference. All of it.

When done within a framework of consent, I believe it is possible for just about anything to be empowering.

I would guess that you do not have a fetish for a scenario where you are forced to serve against your will, when you were thrown around aggressively and had your body played with when you didn’t want it. Fuck no! But what you do want is within a safe, negotiated relationship, to be “forced” to serve, to play with giving over your will entirely.

Consent changes experiences completely. In the activist cultures around female oppression, we often talk about consent in a “no means no” way, and stress the value of enthusiastic consent and the “just because they didn’t say no doesn’t mean there was consent!”

But I think an incredibly important piece of examining the feminist concept of consent is also that YES MEANS YES, and that the consent itself is what makes the act possible or okay.

Let me give you an example: I like playing with Daddy/girl and Daddy/boy role play in my sex life. I know that is something kind of extreme to some people, and many people misinterpret it as incest fantasies, which it is and it isn’t (more on that another time). Sometimes I hear people say things like, “But what if you/I/someone crosses the line with an actual young person!”

But for me, that would not happen.

I do not have a fetish for sleeping with and playing roughly with people under eighteen. I have a fetish for sleeping with and playing roughly with adults who adopt a younger persona (usually temporarily) with enthusiastic consent. It’s not about actual incest or actual under-18 youths. No no no no no. It’s about adults tapping in to other parts of ourselves, to open up new experiences.

The consent is actually an essential part of that fetish.

And likewise, I would guess that for you, Tara, you do not have a fetish for a scenario where you are forced to serve against your will, when you were thrown around aggressively and had your body played with when you didn’t want it. Fuck no! But what you do want is within a safe, negotiated relationship, to be “forced” to serve, to play with giving over your will entirely, to be punished for doing something “wrong,” to be used for someone else’s pleasure.

There is a huge, huge difference between the actual thing and some sort of play consensual version of the thing.

3. BDSM—and being punished, controlled, and made to serve—are completely different from abuse and oppression.

And consent is a key piece of that, yes, but there are a lot of other specific, clear, and measurable differences, too.

Read the “BDSM is Not Abuse” list released by the Lesbian Sex Mafia, one of the oldest women’s BDSM groups in the country, based in New York City. I think it articulates things very well:

The Difference Between BDSM and Abuse

SM: An SM scene is a controlled situation.
ABUSE: Abuse is an out-of-control situation.

SM: Negotiation occurs before an SM scene to determine what will and will not happen in that scene.
ABUSE: One person determines what will happen.

SM: Knowledgeable consent is given to the scene by all parties.
ABUSE: No consent is asked for or given.

SM: The “bottom” has a safeword that allows them to stop the scene at any time should they need to for physical or emotional reasons.
ABUSE: The person being abused cannot stop what is happening.

SM: Everyone involved in an SM scene is concerned about the needs, desires and limits of others.
ABUSE: No concern is given to the needs, desires and limits of the abused person.

SM: The people in an SM scene are careful to be sure that they are not impaired by alcohol or drug use during the scene.
ABUSE: Alcohol or drugs are often used before an episode of abuse.

SM: After an SM scene, the people involved feel good.
ABUSE: After an episode of abuse, the people involved feel bad.

Souce: lesbiansexmafia.org

Because they are so different, I sometimes think the hyper-articulation of different language is important. It’s one of the reasons that people sometimes use the phrase “consensual non-consent” instead of “rape play,” for example.

The difference between BDSM and abuse goes back to consent, yes; but it goes back to all sorts of other things, too. Like trust, and skill, and agency.

4. Trust in your own agency. Trust in your own experience.

If you negotiate with a lover to get what you want, have an experience, and then everybody feels good after … as long as the experience is “doing no harm” in the world, then I say FUCKING GO FOR IT.

Have some play. Have some ecstasy. Have some screaming release. Have a big bold messy weird experience that maybe other people would judge but it just felt so goddamn good for your body and your mind and your emotions and everything sings a little brighter the next day.

You get to say what happens to your body. You get to have your own experience, and then decide if that was pleasurable or not, enjoyable or not, and whether you’d want to do it again, with this person or with a different person or in a new way or not at all. You get to have your experience of a non-ordinary thing and then, if you feel like fuck yes that was amazing! More more more please! then you can trust that that is real and true. Agency is trusting the answer that you come up with, authentically, when you ask yourself: Does it feel good or bad? Am I left with icky residue or release and joy? Do I feel closer to my play partner, or farther away?

Of course, not every BDSM scene is that easy to evaluate—but some of them just are. Start there. Start with the ones that are easy to tell. Start with trusting your own consent, and agency, and your own deepest experience of what you like or don’t like.

If it matters to you that other people do sometimes see these things you want as contradictory, seek out feminist kink communities. They do exist! This was a topic that came up in the Submissive Playground ecourse quite frequently, actually, and we had a lot of lively discussions about the feminist reconciliation process.

I actually have a dozen more notes about things to say around this process of reconciliation, but this is already more than 2,000 words, so I’m going to call it good for now. Feel free to ask more about specific things in the comments and I’ll do my best to reply!

I hope that gives you lots of places to start. If you’re still stuck, remember, I do one-on-one coaching sessions, and I would be very happy to help you with resources, experiments, ideas, support, or just talking in depth through this reconciliation process. Contact me for more information and pricing.

Got a question for Mr. Sexsmith? Ask it here!

Comment Zen …

Readers, do you relate to Tara’s question?

If you do, would you share your own story about your relationship to feminism and kink? Did you reconcile the two? What was the process like? Slow, fast, hard, simple? What kind of resources helped you on your journey? Books? Anything to recommend for others who are going through this? Do you have any recommendations for feminist kink Fetlife groups?

Leave your story anonymously if you like; your email address will not be published, and if you don’t want your usual “gravitar” picture of you to show up, just type “+sugarbutch” in your email address (like [email protected]) and I’ll know you want to be anonymous.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Cricket: Support

December 20, 2012  |  essays  |  1 Comment

Cricket; general reference points: I identify as a butch genderqueer boi and I’m a student at a liberal arts college.

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

I can be a very controlling person at times – I am drawn to “help” or “fix” people even when that isn’t something they really want or need, and I depend on the people close to me to be bluntly honest and call me out when I try to take on responsibilities that aren’t mine to take or treat people like projects I need to get an A on. As a result, I’ve learned that it’s a very bad idea for me to commit to a person who has very few other support systems in their life, because I will attempt to guide and support them in everything, which is stressful for me and generally both emotionally uncomfortable and enabling for them, because then they don’t have to look for other sources of support or work on self care, and the stress I feel in trying to give too much support mainly serves to put stress onto them.

When I first got involved in an open relationship, I thought the fact that I was dating multiple people who were themselves also with other people would keep me from being anyone’s “one and only” and attempting to intensely overmanage their life. It turns out that is absolutely not the case. Regardless of the number of people I’m with or the level of commitment I have to them, I need to watch myself and work to manage my controlling tendencies. Don’t expect a shifted relationship model to turn you into a new person or magically erase unwanted traits or habits you display in monogamous contexts. Being someone’s lover/partner/term of your choice is a conscious process of interaction. Assuming you know what’s best for your partners without communicating and evaluating your own thoughts is a bad idea, whether you’re with one person or a dozen.

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

Everyone I’ve been with has exercised the dynamic of openness in a different way. We each have different degrees of comfort with being sexually or romantically close to other people, an different activities we’re generally drawn to. A fear of imbalance has definitely been present at times. When I’m close to people other than my primary partner, I sometimes worry that she’ll be jealous – not that other people are close to me, but that opportunities haven’t arisen for her to do the same kinds of things with others. This goes both ways – she’s expressed some jealousy that I’ve found a Dom friend who’s a willing play partner, while I’m jealous of her warmth and social acumen, and her resulting ability to initiate casual kisses and cuddles with friends in a way I seldom have the nerve to suggest. We aren’t jealous out of a sense that we own or possess each other, but when one of us has a positive experience outside our relationship dyad that the other desires, we are jealous from our own lack of access to the experience.

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

I am intensely grateful for the lack of shame. I know I’m capable of having monogamous relationships – I was in one for over three years – but when in it I felt a deep sense of shame around my own sexual and romantic feelings. I was attracted to and had crushes on other people. Even though I didn’t have any particular need or even an intense desire to act on those feelings, I felt ashamed. The simple act of finding other people attractive made me feel like a failure in my relationship, perverse and unable to control my desires. In my current relationship, which started out relatively monogamous, I was extremely clear and upfront about the fact that I would be attracted to other people while in the relationship. I wouldn’t act on those feelings without some serious pre-negotiation, but I would still feel them. As a result, even when the open elements of my relationship are not directly in practice, I feel far more secure in myself because I know I will never be vilified for finding others attractive. Knowing that not only my feelings but even actions associated with them are permissible is beautifully freeing. It is so good to have affirmation that I can care about someone, even love them deeply, without pledging exclusivity, and that having feelings for others does nothing to lessen the romantic commitments I have already established.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Not seeing the relationships you practice or desire represented in the media can seriously mess with your head. It gives you a sense that you aren’t meant to exist, and that you will never find community and acceptance. Without a group of close and caring friends, many of whom also practice various forms of non-monogamy, my relationship would feel far less comfortable and possible. I am also deeply lucky in that my parents don’t have a problem with the way I run relationships. I’m not out as poly/open to all of my extended family, but being able to tell my mom how awful I’m feeling after a breakup with someone other than my primary partner without facing judgment for simply attempting to run multiple relationships is something I am hugely grateful for.

“Can I come? Please?”

July 7, 2009  |  dirty stories  |  5 Comments

Kristen gets off easily. When we were discussing it last night, she said there’s a point after we’ve been fucking for a bit where she can simply tighten and it happens, so after a while she can basically come on demand. I start murmuring, “do it again, come for me, do it now,” and she does, almost every time.

It’s a bit of a miracle to me, as someone who takes a while to gear up and get off, and as someone who dated someone pre-orgasmic for four years (four years! We weren’t even open, I didn’t make any single person (except me) come in four years, it was torture). I have written about how it’s hard for me to get off around here somewhere.

I love that she comes like that. It is one of the things I crave most about sex: being able to give someone else that feeling of orgasm, of momentary loss of control, of la petite mort. I love the power of that exchange, the way she wants it from me, the way I keep her poised on my fingers or tongue or cock. I have tried to keep track, but I always get distracted, or loose count, or can’t tell when one ends and the next begins, sometimes she just goes and goes. I have asked her to count, telling her I’ll let her out of the ropes after she gets to ten.

Lately, we have been playing more with the torture of waiting, with making her beg for it, with keeping her writhing but not touched until she can’t stand it. She has noticed has orgasms are stronger and bigger the longer she waits, so that made us implement something else new: to make her ask permission before she can come.

This is mostly because I can’t always tell when she gets close, can’t even always tell when she starts coming, sometimes it’s a cry of ecstasy not unlike being bitten hard or fucked well and I can’t tell if she’s close or expressive. So she has to ask.

She waits until she’s so, so close, as if she’s forgotten she has to ask, then forces out the word: “Please?”

“Please what?”

“Please can I?” Gasping.

“Please can you what?” I don’t let up with my fingers thrumming her clit, my cock shoving inside her. I know she’s on the verge.

“Please, can I come!”

“… No.”

Seems I need to remind her that she has to ask if I want it to be ongoing, though, which I think I do. It is easy for both of us to skip over the asking and go right to the coming. And sometimes having one or two orgasms seems to open her up, make her able to take more, deeper, harder. So sometimes perhaps it’s best to let her come a few times before starting to deny her more, to build up to a larger release.

We’ve added this element of asking permission into sex on various occasions in the last few months, but I think it’s worth continuing to explore. I don’t really know how it’ll work yet, but I love the power dynamic of it, love the extra element of control over her body and her orgasm that I get to play with having. Love how she gives that over to me. Love how I can feel like I can sculpt her rise and fall of energy and release – no, not yet, not yet, keep it building, just a little longer, you can hold it in, hold it back, wait, wait … now: let go. This is what I love about being a top, too, at its very best – being able to sculpt someone else’s experience of their body, sensation, release.

Last night, I wanted her to wait until I was coming, until I came, to let herself come, but I couldn’t quite say that, I wasn’t quite confident of my own ability to get off. I wish it was more consistent for me. I can never quite tell when or if it’s going to happen, I can’t seem to make it happen. The factors all seem variable: sometimes I feel disconnected from her and I come anyway, sometimes I feel totally connected and can’t. Sometimes I don’t expect it and it happens, sometimes I do expect it and it happens. Sometimes I don’t try and it surprises me. I came twice on Saturday, that’s rare, but somehow I had the angle, or the harness placement, or the mental turn-on, and it worked.

Someday, that’s what I want. To use her like that, to be oblivious to her pleasure until I get mine. To take what I need.

That feels extremely vulnerable, because it goes against what I’ve been taught – to be respectful and conscious and interactive in our sex lives. But consent in this kind of play can sometimes trump what is “supposed” to happen, and perhaps will move me into new realms, to explore new interactions, to move into new personal realms, weave knowledge into our bones. And oh my god the very idea makes me so incredibly hot.

There is so much to explore here, with her, I still feel we’ve barely scratched the surface. And I just want more, and more, and more.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, when we have sex,” she said last night. “I don’t know if it’ll be sweet and lovely, or some crazy tantric energy release shit, or if I’ll be your little girl, or if it’ll be dirty and kinky.”

We seem to be moving from one into another more and more fluidly these days, able to turn on a dime and make something that was full of dirty talk and name-calling and control and, occasionally, pain, into something sweet and sensual, or into some deep-breathing chakra release. We seem to have a little bit of all of it, all the time, and that is near perfection.

on playing with control

December 8, 2007  |  essays  |  1 Comment

I’m on my way to the airport back to New York City from Seattle; the trip has been fantastic. I may post a few more guest treats tomorrow, but expect some writings of mine soon. Meanwhile, here’s something from lily on control and kink.

when i began playing with control, it was the ideas of being bound and hurt i liked. these were surrounded by a swirl of pleasing associations~ ribbons, bites on my skin, an underground of beautiful ones whose abuses heightened each other’s allure. what i had was sometimes like this, other times wonderfully improvised. a boy was begging to be gagged, and the closest fabric at hand was a washcloth- regardless of the tools, the emotional aspects were powerful. yeah, at times neither i nor the other knew the first thing about where this was going. we laughed, and made things up.

in the beginning i was the shy, the taken one. i’d enjoy certain pain and bondage, and the accompanying lust in my partner/s. then, after telling another these stories, it became apparent they wanted to be the tied one. they asked half with words and half with posture, and i took a deep breath and began to take control. it took a great deal of focus- i’m quiet, mostly, and unused to controlling circumstances. but when you’re intimate with someone, you can read their skin and face and cries to learn how they react to you. when someone loses conscious control, they can no longer play the social, kindly deceptive games people engage in together. they’re utterly honest- this was part of the appeal of topping, along of course with the sensuality of observing and drawing out lust-

and the giving and receiving of control. at some point, while being played with, i began to understand submission. i talked to someone who conflated passivity with submission, but these are quite different. submission is an active process, or it begins as one- to give someone control of you, you have to first gather this self-control. you have to trust the situation, give yourself to someone, and then- i suppose its like using an opponent’s chi against him, but this isn’t competitive. someone touches you, and in a submissive headspace you draw out the touch, move with it- if i can use a physics analogy, its like constructive interference. you move towards a peak or a well together.

i experienced submission first, and then its converse. it also takes a great deal of control over yourself to top someone and not only this, you must be strong enough and… have enough capacity… to hold them while they’re vulnerable and hurt. holding someone while they cry, or while you hit them in the face and growl abuses, takes understanding as well. you must be responding to their headspace every moment, not your own lust. you can’t become carried away, because guiding someone near their edges is tricky. you must be very aware, and connected.

being brought to my limits, and bringing others, shows me things i take into the rest of my life. playing with control, whichever side you are on- opens you up, brings you strength and self-awareness. you find not just edges, but centers. you’re left sometimes strong and immense, feeling able enough to cradle the entire world like a baby; at other times fragile and needing to be held. either way, the aftermath is delicately intimate. sweetness is at the end of all things, especially the cruel ones.