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Submit: (verb, active)

October 27, 2013 6 comments

There’s been a flurry of posts lately spurred by Ferns’ post here, in which she notes a trend in behavior:

“Well, if the submissive doesn’t want to do it, then a good dominant will understand and not make them.”

And what I have seen is that the ‘it’ in that statement extends to *everything*.

And her response to this attitude is:

“That’s great kids, but *how is that submission?!*“

The answer is simple and unambiguous. That behavior is not submission. The OED says that to submit is “to surrender oneself to judgment, criticism, correction, a condition, treatment, etc; to consent to undergo or abide by a condition, etc.” The behavior Ferns describes does not fit the bill. I’m not questioning that person’s right to identify as submissive, because identity is an aggregate of actions and paradigms and ideas that are not always exemplified in every act and that’s fine. If a person identifies as submissive but never submits, it might be worth asking if s/he might mean another word (fetishist, bottom, masochist) much the way you’d question someone who identifies as a vegetarian but eats meat regularly, but that’s a separate issue. My point here is that Ferns is absolutely right to look at this behavior and assert that it is not an act of submission.

Kink in Exile followed this up with her own response, centered around the (also completely correct) statement that “anything short of respecting your partner’s boundaries is coercion at best.”

Here I’m going to start making assumptions. I think Ferns was referring to something like the dictionary definition of submitting quoted above, and that her annoyance stems from the idea that if a person agrees to do something, either in a specific instance or as part of a relationship dynamic, deciding not to do that thing is not, and should not be called submission. She has pointed out before that this is how one breaks a D/s dynamic. Does a submitting partner have the right to say “no” to any and everything under the sun? You bet. But a dominant person is going to be justifiably upset if her submissive is going to continually ignore the conditions of the relationship he’s agreed to. Spouse and I don’t have a power dynamic, but if I say I’ll drive him to pick up his car from the shop and then wake up in the morning and decide I’d rather sleep an extra half hour, he’s going to be pissed the hell off. I agreed to do a thing. He made plans based on the fact that he trusts me to keep my word. Taking these agreements lightly will be damaging to any relationship . Are there extenuating circumstances? Sure. The response in those cases, in or out of a D/s context, is “This thing came up, and I feel it is legitimately more important than our agreement/it is now impossible for me to do what I said. I’m sorry.”

Kink in Exile seems to be responding to the idea of a dominant partner making or forcing a submissive to do something, which would of course be unethical. Expecting your partner to do what he says he will is healthy, even requisite for a trusting relationship. forcing or coercing him if he doesn’t follow through is violating consent and destructive to a relationship.

So my final assumption here is that the two of them aren’t quite talking about the same thing, that there may still be some disagreement but to me their ideas look quite compatible.

Then MayMay declared that “dominants are rapists.” It is flat-out appalling. I’ve read every post on their blog, I’ve agreed with much of what they say, and this post has me stepping back and questioning all of it because it so fundamentally fails to respect human agency that I see it as incommensurate with everything they purport to stand for.

I am not saying this as a sometimes-dominant person. If someone wants to say I’m a rapist for acts of dominance, you know what? Fine. It’s wrong, and it feeds the terror I have every single time I take the initiating role in a social context, sexual or not, but ultimately I don’t care. The accuser is not one of my partners, and my partners are the only people whose evaluation of my behavior with them matters. It’s wrong, but identities carry social stigma, and we learn to live with them: Bisexuals are sluts. Polyamorous folks are sluts. Kinky people are mentally ill. Dominants are rapists. After a while you start to tune it out, realize that people just don’t know what words mean and most of the time it just isn’t worth the effort of correcting them.

This one is worth correcting. Saying “dominants are rapists” denies those of us who have chosen to submit to a dominant partner the right to call it a choice. Defining dominants as rapists, without exception, means calling their partners victims, without exception. Calling someone a victim or a survivor without asking whether they consider themselves victims removes a level of self-efficacy, denies them autonomy. I really believe–or did–that Maymay’s goal was to prevent assault. I don’t see that here. I see a writing that minimizes the trauma of those of us who have been sexually assaulted, tells us that we don’t get to decide which events in our lives were rape. You may note that I refer to events, behaviors: I am not a survivor or victim of sexual assault. I am a person who has been sexually assaulted. A victim is an object (in the grammatical sense). A person is a subject. For someone who so consistently purports to support people who identify as submissive, he seems to be missing the mark in a bad way.

MayMay’s language doesn’t give people in relationships with dominants that agency. They are victims. Specifically rape victims, whether they consented or not, whether their submission is expressed sexually or not. The idea that someone who chooses to be in a relationship with a dominant loses the ability to determine whether his or her own submission is consensual or not is insulting and dehumanizing to those people. It’s telling me what I can and can’t consent to, as if I were a small child.

I see, sort of, where this is coming from. It’s still appalling. The problem is, consent (as I’ve written about before) is agreement given freely. Desire does not have any bearing on consent. It is often an associated factor but is neither necessary nor sufficient for consent. Harm does not have any bearing on consent. It is an often inversely associated outcome, and lack of consent is sufficient but not necessary for an action to cause harm. Conflating any of these things is dangerous, especially given that desire is rarely simple. It’s common to want and not want something at the same time, for a variety of reasons. Wanting an outcome of an act (making a partner happy, having clean floors, or both) is a valid reason to do an act one in no way enjoys (scrubbing floors).

The thing about submission that I find so appealing is that it’s an active process. Every time someone chooses to submit, it’s an affirmation that s/he values the relationship. Building a relationship involving acts of submission with a dominant person does not diminish that value. It certainly doesn’t make the dominant partner a rapist.

**EDIT**
Replies on Twitter make it clear that maymay would prefer that I not engage them directly any further. I intend to respect that. Kink in Exile decided to leave the conversation in favor of privacy and tea, which sounds like the best idea ever right now. So what I’m going to do is this: if anyone chooses to comment on or ask about this issue on this blog or directly to my e-mail, I will respond. Outside of that–on Twitter, or anyone else’s blog, or what have you–I’m leaving it alone.

MC1R: a Cautionary Tale

October 22, 2013 Leave a comment

We had an unexpected guest lecturer yesterday. I like this professor, though I’m surprised he remembers my name: the last time we’d spoken was before I was even accepted into the program.

He lectures like Herodotus, turning off track at the slightest distraction, suddenly lit up by some memorable bit of trivia that his students all have to know right now.

I like him for a reason.

We were talking about malaria, chemoprophylaxis, doxycycline. He mentions that some people have an adverse reaction to doxycycline, asks what they are. I’m one of those people, so I answer: dizziness and nausea, redness and vertigo. Worse in the sun.

He beams at the class. “Do you all know who has the highest pain tolerance in the room?”

Huh. That’s an unexpected tangent. No one has an answer. He walks around the front of the room, shaking a finger at me.

Oh, fuck. How would he know that?

“Know how I know?”

I do not. I can’t see the rest of the class, danger of sitting in the front row. I know I haven’t let any bruises show on campus, haven’t had many lately. I’d have noticed if a professor attended a munch or a party. I’m out to a couple of friends but surely none of them would–

“She’s a redhead!”

Huh?

“The MC1R gene! Red hair and reduced sensitivity to pain!”

He’s way too excited about this.

“I bet you’re really hard to knock out, too. Did you all know redheads need more anesthesia?”

I’m sitting there with sweaty palms trying not to giggle hysterically.

Guess I should come with notice for sadists: Warning: ginger. May require excessive use of force.

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Monogamy is Normal

October 18, 2013 5 comments

Obviously, I know that nonmonogomy is not the norm. Then again, in terms of sexual and relationship paradigms, I’m nowhere close to normal (hell, the tagline to this blog is “sex after three standard deviations” for a reason). It’s not that monogamy lacks any appeal. The scripts are prewritten, it’s legally and socially sanctioned, and there’s a comparative simplicity to it. I wouldn’t be willing to do it: I’d be far too resentful of any partner who wanted me to give up the right to be attracted to, flirt with, fuck, or fall for anyone else (especially as only the second and third are under conscious control). But I will admit that trying to form and maintain multiple relationships can be stressful, difficult to make time for, emotionally risky, and a lot of work*.

When people have stress or problems, and are trying to figure out how to handle them, one of the things we do is look to role models. It’s a way of keeping ourselves from reinventing the wheel, repeating others’ mistakes, or investing a disproportionate amount of our resources on a solution that hasn’t been proven, at least anecdotally, to succeed. Role models give us hope.

There’s a serious dearth of role models for polyamorous relationships. There are lovely outspoken poly people like Franklin Veaux who provide a great deal of helpful information, but you have to go digging to find them. We don’t have public or historical figures or portrayals in media of polyamorous people just living normal lives and showing us how that works.

What’s worse, the models we do have for relationships are overwhelmingly and specifically anti-polyamory.

Many of the most famous stories in literature revolve around the threat outsiders pose to monogamous relationships. Helen’s marriage to Menelaus/affair with Paris is seen as so monstrous that nations go to war over it **(the fact that we call her Helen of Troy, not Helen of Sparta, suggests that we’ve collectively decided to side with Paris on that one) and don’t get me started on the disaster that comes out of Agamemnon stealing Achilles’ girl. Looking to philosophy, Aristophanes’ whole explanation of human sexuality in the Symposium hinges on the idea that the dyad or couple is the only possible desirable relationship configuration for either gay or straight people.

Then we have Tristan and Isolde, Guinevere and Lancelot–as with Helen, we root for the lover over the husband.

It’s the conflict that drives every shoujo anime I’ve seen–which girl will the protagonist choose? Twilight fans divided themselves into teams to root for either the vampire dude or the inexplicably hairless werewolf. I even have an erotic novel about a happily promiscuous woman who changes her entire personality and philosophy about relationships 3/4 of the way through the book because “love” and “monogamous fidelity” are apparently synonyms. Let me parse that: monogamous relationships are so ingrained that they infiltrate slutty porn***.

Then there’s music. How many songs about cheating do you know? How many love songs that hinge on the “one true love” premise? It’s especially important in music because so many people get twitterpated, thinking of a lover when a love song comes on the radio (or Pandora or what have you). When that association can’t match your relationship, when the very song that makes you want to send gushing text messages to someone is telling you that you can’t want anyone else, it’s hard not to internalize it on some level.

I’ve never seen polyamory portrayed favorably or normalized on television. The Poly in the Media blog tells me there’s a reality TV show called married and dating, but reality TV is typically about drama and dysfunction so I’m not holding my breath for it. In Lost Girl polyamory is literally the only sensible option: the protagonist is a succubus who needs to eat sexual energy to live, and can’t get enough from one person. So obviously she tries to be monogamous even against the advice of everyone not insane in the show because having multiple partners is what bad people do.

So that’s where nonmonogamy stands in terms of role models, as far as I know. The nonmonogamous paradigm is culturally invisible. This makes it easy to fall into traps of thinking about what could be a good relationship in dysfunctional ways. It’s normal, often automatic, to feel rejected when a partner would rather spend any given night with someone else. After all, when this happens in the movies it means the relationship is broken, right? Not having publicly visible role models to draw from means that we’re at risk of being drawn into the very paradigms we reject by choosing polyamory just by existing in a culture that makes monogamy the only norm. It makes it harder to have healthy nonmonogamous relationships. Not impossible, but hard. There is no way to reach a maintenance phase, if you will, a point at which behaviors that support one’s polyamory become automatic. There is a benefit to this: more conscious thought about decisions and behaviors in relationships prevents taking them for granted, encourages communication and evaluation. But it can also mean a huge pouring in of negative thoughts, of panic and paranoia, of desperately looking for the philosophy you know your paradigm is based on while every message around you insists that it isn’t true, can’t work. It’s enough to make most people feel a little crazy, at least on a bad day.

So if you wonder why poly people sometimes seem to never shut up about their special poly polyness****, it might help to remember that no matter how well grounded in reason and ethics we may try to be, we’re still very much social creatures. Even the introverts. Having reassurance that nonmonogamous paradigms aren’t crazy or hurtful is important, and we can’t get that passively the way monogamous folks can with their norms. We have to ask.

*I would argue that a monogamous relationship carries the same problems, but likely not to the same extent in most cases.

** all Odysseus’ fault.

*** It’s called My Prerogative, by Sasha White, and I am far less ashamed of reading smut than I am of even knowing what Twilight is.

****they really should, that shit gets annoying (says the sex blogger writing about nonmonogamy)

e[lust] #51

October 15, 2013 Leave a comment

potter Photo courtesy of Property of Potter

Welcome to e[lust] – The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at e[lust]. Want to be included in e[lust] #52? Start with the newly updated rules, come back November 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

 

7 (Random!) Suggestions for Dominant Types!

Pain Positive

i know what you are.

 

 

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

Golden Girl

Have You Met Larry

 

~ Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

*You really should consider adding your popular posts here too*

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!

Poetry

Shown
To Punt or Not To Punt, That is the Question

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

SexyLittleIdeas – Why PUA Is Like Feminism
Understanding When His Glass is Full
To Minxy Malone, Thanks For Everything
Biting the Bun
The List (is a waste of time)
Confronting Your Sense of Entitlement
What Do You Prefer: Cut or Uncut?
My Secret Relationship with Max
Quaint Little Categories
Erectile dysfunction isn’t a big deal

Erotic Fiction

Property Procured
The Delight of Leather
Christmas Eve Surprise
Granny’s Door
Lolita Twenty-Thirteen, Part Nine
Jessica
The Edge of the Park
Trust
The Blood Mage’s Sacrifice
The Spanking Paddle-Off
Used, Using, Endless

Erotic Non-Fiction

I Want You To
Love like a lotus
Bend to my will
Spanked
How you helped me to stray
Little Lightening Bolts v. Rayne’s Clit
Master’s Fuck Toy
Conflict
Tease For Two
Memories of Spunk
“It’s total perfection.”
Fucking a Girl with a Double Dildo

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

Insatiable Whore
Thoughts: Submissive Journals
Bondage vs. restraint
Dominant and Submissive “Fix”
Baring It All
Blow Job Submission – A spicy twist
Quickstart Guide
Struggling with sub drop

Sex News, Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

American Tantra is Full of Shit
Really, Riddick? Really?

Blogging

My nudity

Events

CatalystCon Part 1: Dildos, dildos, dildos

 


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Security

October 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I did have a chat with the security guard. I asked her for advice on getting fit, she asked me much the same about keeping thin. After a few minutes of talking diet and exercise I joked that between the two of us we’d make one whole healthy person.

There was possible flirting–she was overly complimentary of my hair and vest, and I think I saw her do a wedding ring check. She asked if she could friend me on Facebook and I gave her my name (she hasn’t, and I don’t expect her to).

Since my friend was interested in the whole situation, I let him know we’d chatted. He asked if I’d made a move.

Thing is, I’d never planned to. The fear of talking to this woman had nothing to do with rejection as a partner, but fear of attack if she realized attraction existed. (Also, general crippling anxiety. Let’s don’t forget that part.)

When I say I’m not slutty, people laugh. Maybe they’re right and I don’t understand the word. But I’m pretty discerning about partners. Attraction is not sufficient for me to want to ask someone out. I don’t feel the need to pursue everyone I’m attracted to, even if we spark well. It’s no different from being able to walk into a bakery and not eat lime pie and a brownie and a slice of red velvet cake. If I didn’t have the restraint to limit myself, it’d be irresponsible to play the game at all.

It seems that some folk think of polyamory that way though: as a justification for glutting oneself on relationships (or just sex). I see my nonmonogamy very differently. It’s knowing that when I go to the bakery I don’t have to get the lime pie every time just because someone else said so, but I don’t feel compelled to get one of everything and run laughing into the street with my hoard of sweets, either. A few stable relationships is a more desirable situation. And though I’m nonmonogamous, I can be happy when that few is just one. It isn’t about the number of partners or someone not being “enough” or anything else. It’s about having the right to choose.

Categories: Uncategorized

Quaint Little Categories

October 7, 2013 45 comments

Let’s play a game. I’m gonna erase everyone’s sexual orientation and kink identity for a second. Just for a minute. You’re not straight, you’re not gay, you’re not dominant, you’re not submissive. If you were at a party, you could look around and see lots of other people. You’d be attracted to some of them, probably barely register most, maybe see a few that actively repulse you. Your reaction could be based on physical attraction, demeanor, intellect, humor, political views, anything. Doesn’t matter. The point is, patterns emerge. Maybe all or most of the folks who catch your eye are male-bodied. If you female-identify, you’re likely to phrase this pattern as “I’m straight.” If you male-identify, you’ll say “I’m gay.”

Socially, it’s acceptable to rebuff advances by saying “sorry, I’m straight” or “actually, I’m gay.” And I agree with this. No one is obligated to be attracted to anyone else. Being able to say “no” is incredibly important.

But.

What if we imagine the same scenario again, only this time the person who’s attracted to you is of your preferred sex and/or gender. You’re still not interested. So you say “I’m flattered, but…” and what comes next? “I only date people of my own race”? “I’m just not attracted to people who are taller than me”? “I really can’t see myself with a disabled person”?

I’m guessing those all sound a little more uncomfortable. Definitely more polite to just say “no, thank you,” right?

I’m not going to start a rant about racism or sexism or perceived norms regarding what makes a person attractive. That’s not the point here. Let’s just go back to the party and take a look at the patterns again. (you can have your sexual identity back now, by the way. I’m done with it.) If you’re straight or gay you’ve already established that all (or almost all) of the people you’re attracted to are of a specific sex. There are probably other patterns, too: gregariousness, hair color, humor, height, weight, fashion, attitude, interests and competencies. If you’re kinky, you may look for specific behaviors that indicate a certain style of dominance or submission. This is not an attack. These patterns are not a bad thing. If anything, being aware of them shows that you know what you like. Go you!

What confuses me is that biological sex is somehow the one unimpeachable determinant of attraction for so many people. Somehow only liking men or only liking women is (1) normative and (2) treated as the sole basis for sexual identity. Imagine any other trait–let’s say hair color. If someone says “I only like redheads” she’s not a gingersexual, she’s a straight or gay or bisexual person with a fetish for redheads. Or we can pick on me for a moment: I hate having partners who are taller than I am. If I have to look up to meet someone’s eyes when we’re both standing together, I’m going to be irrationally annoyed to the point of distraction. Men, women, intersex, cis-, trans-, or genderfluid; doesn’t matter, there are people I’d be attracted to somewhere in all these groups. As long as they’re not too tall*. But if you ask my sexual orientation I’ll still say “bisexual**”

Same deal with D/s. When I say I switch, it’s almost never taken at face value. Sometimes I’m brushed off as a submissive with too much pride, which I at least understand: I am far more comfortable bottoming than topping in public scenes and most of my kinky social circle is male doms. Sometimes it’s statements that I was a “real brat” in an impact scene with zero D/s involved, or Fetmail from a submissive man reassuring me that I don’t have to pretend to be a switch to get male attention: there are men like him who love dominant women (Gee, thanks, stranger on the Internet. I never knew dominant females were in high demand. Guess I can quit this silly charade now).

I’m not trying to say everyone’s bisexual or a switch or that labels aren’t useful or any of that nonsense. Cisgendered heterosexual male dominant is a perfectly valid identity. The point is that when someone identifies that way, challenges to that identity are going to be pretty rare. Gender-not-quite-conforming bisexual female switch is just as valid. It would be nice to not have it challenged quite so often, especially in a theoretically pansexual open-to-all-orientations kink group.

 

*Even that’s not a total dealbreaker. The Fireman (whom I rarely see these days) is 6’2″. It drives me nuts, but not to the point that he isn’t worth playing with. I always pick really tall shoes when he’s going to be around, though.

**Not wholly accurate. Bisexual implies attraction to two binary sexes/genders, and I’m perfectly happy with anyone anywhere on the spectrum of either sex or gender. But it’s the word I’ve used since age fifteen, so I’m kind of attached.

Options

October 3, 2013 2 comments

Distractingly gorgeous security guard outside my building. Oh my.

I probably shouldn’t be texting constantly while walking to work, but this friend is only a few buildings away and I figure he may want to make an excuse to walk by.

Gorgeous male or female?

Oh, right. It’s a woman. I type a brief description–short, butch, close-cropped hair, world’s whitest teeth.

I’m too shy to talk to her. She’s been there the last three days but I’m more than usually on the prowl and I can’t even look at her without having all sorts of unwholesome thoughts.

My friend is baffled by this, both the shyness and that I haven’t been having all sorts of deviant sex with all sorts of lovely people. After all, I’m queer and poly and kinky, that should maximize my options, right?

Here’s the thing. I don’t have a much more active sex life than most of my friends who are in relationships. Way less than the swingers. Part of this is that I’m rather selective about partners. Part of it is that being poly limits one to poly accepting people, who are a pretty small percentage of the population. Being kinky means squicking out people unfamiliar with kink. Within the group of kinky folks, switches are sometimes seen as strange alien anomalies. Being very feminine in dress means being written off as probably straight by some lesbians. Being very masculine in things other than appearance means making a lot of straight men uncomfortable (or in one case, agreeing with a friend that having sex would ruin our bromance). Not being gender/sex-exclusive in partner selection means alienating straight and gay folks alike. Add extreme anxiety and you’ll find that options are very limited indeed.

In this case, outside my friendly neighborhood kink club, the shyness is straight-up fear. Sure, she’s a kind of butch female security guard, but odds are still quite good that she’s straight. Even if she does prefer women and I’m her type, many lesbians don’t go for bi women. Even if she’s okay with bi women, I’m married. That seems to be a nigh-universal deal breaker outside of very specific circles.

None of that is a good reason not to say a friendly hello or ask about the setup that she seems to be guarding (There are lights and soft boxes and cables everywhere. They’re going to film something, goodness knows what or when). The issue is that I can be overly blunt when attracted to people. It helps prevent anxiety over trying to interpret every little gesture and glance and phrase. I worry about saying something like “just so you know, I think you’re really beautiful,” and getting punched because this is the South and that’s not okay.

Then again, I’d better manage at least a “hello” tomorrow. Walking past someone like they don’t exist every day is not only awkward but rude.

Categories: Uncategorized