Loyal, Honest, Faithful

April 4, 2014 10 comments

 

“Gotta set boundaries in life.
I’ve contemplated this whole poly/nonmonogamy thing that I’ve lived for so long.
It was a nice phase
but at the end of the day
I’m a nice girl
I’m loyal, honest, and faithful
When a man has my heart, I don’t want to look at anyone else
And I don’t give it away lightly or often.”

We aren’t close. We went out a few times, had a few scenes at parties, never really kept in touch in between. Not close enough that seeing her post this on Facebook should have led to such a strong sense of betrayal.

After all, we weren’t in a relationship. Her decision to focus on monogamy doesn’t affect me.

But her phrasing does.

“It was a nice phase.”

Nonmonogamy is not a valid long-term relationship paradigm.

It’s okay for people who aren’t looking for serious relationships. It’s sowing wild oats, having fun, but it can’t build anything real.

So many people seem to think this: that seeing and sleeping with multiple people is fine, but only until you pick one to settle down with. There’s a monogamous end-game, a belief that multiple partnerships automatically mean less.

It’s an idea that sets lovers in competition with each other for the chance to cement a relationship.

It means treating partners with less care, because no matter what we say, they’ll think the relationship can’t be important, emotionally involved, or built on real connections. It means we’re more likely to get hurt, when they decide to settle down with someone else. It means they won’t expect to have to let us down gently, will be surprised and unprepared by our reactions. To them, it’s no big deal. Be cool, it was just a thing.

If you do view nonmonogamy as a phase, or as a style not commensurate with forming ties, be up front about it. Be compassionate, if one or more partners you aren’t emotionally involved in falls for you. Don’t string anyone along, don’t lie, and don’t laugh when they offer you their hearts. It’s okay to turn it down, it’s always okay to turn them down, but gently, gently.

“I’m a nice girl.”

“Nice” girls are monogamous. Nonmonogamy is perverse, hedonistic, wanton, or cruel.

If they think nonmonogamous partners aren’t nice, what must they think of those of us who choose nonmonogamy and reaffirm that choice year after year? If we’re othered, diminished, perceived as lacking in moral capacity, how well do we expect to be treated?

I don’t trust people who say “I’m a nice person.” It’s such an easy defense to fall back on, when bad behavior is called out. They can’t deny the behavior, so they twist: “I’m not the sort of person who does that sort of thing!” They may not be malicious, but they lack the self-reflection and empathy required to score highly on the recently developed Nic’s Niceness Scale.

If you think nonmonogamous people aren’t nice, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We deserve better from our partners, and you don’t want us anyway.

“I’m loyal”

Nonmonogamous people are disloyal.

A person can have multiple loyalties. Most do. Partners, family, friends, communities to which they belong, communities with whom they’re allied. Loyalty need not be exclusionary, and indeed, exclusionary loyalty often reflects a moral judgment on the excluded party. Think divorced parents: the ones that demand exclusionary loyalty want their kids to pick sides. Those who ask for loyalty that can be inclusive do not. It’s a less self-centered, more positive, less jealous way of thinking.

Anyone who doesn’t believe it’s necessary to be loyal to–that is, supportive of–all of their partners has no business forming partnerships in the first place.

If you think nonmonogamous people are disloyal, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We deserve better than someone who will rescind loyalty once they find the “right” partner, and you don’t want us anyway.

“I’m honest”

Nonmonogamous people are dishonest.

I have trust issues. They’ve been validated, over and over again. I’ve been told Odysseus-level lies about relationships, seen promises broken and cowardly silences maintained. And every time a lie about partners has come up and I’ve gotten any kind of explanation for it, it’s been the same: “I thought you/she/they would leave if you/she/they knew about each other.” It’s because people assume that exclusivity is desired that they feel the need to hide the lack of it at all. It’s not okay, this assumption. It’s all kinds of insulting to those of us who truly don’t desire exclusivity. We’ve said we’re poly, we’ve said what that means, and you choose to believe–what? That it’s a lie? A trick? A trap? A self-delusion? Why would a person want to be in a relationship with someone they believed was lying about their entire relationship paradigm? The point of this, though, is that the lies aren’t caused by polyamorous ideas. They’re caused by monogamous ideas incompatible with polyamory. It’s a blood transfusion being rejected; the ideas are toxic in polyamorous context*.

If you think nonmonogamous people are dishonest, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We deserve partners who will respect us and interact with us as individuals, and you don’t want us anyway.

“I’m faithful”

Nonmonogamous people are unfaithful.

This overlaps strongly with loyalty, but I’m addressing it separately anyway. Let’s talk about what being faithful actually means. It means constant, steadfast allegiance or affection. It means devotion, religious or human. It means dutiful and true to its object. Faithfulness does include exclusivity to one’s partner if that’s what a couple agrees to. Dutiful and true, to whatever agreement the relationship is based on. For those of us who are not monogamous, faithful means something else. It means steadfast affection, approaching our partners within a caring framework, and maintaining the ethical duties we all have to our partners. Those duties just don’t happen to include sexual or romantic exclusivity.

If you think nonmonogamous people are unfaithful, don’t date us. Don’t sleep with us. We don’t want the stress and misery that come with your misconceptions about our relationships, and you don’t want us anyway.

“When a man has my heart, I don’t want to look at anyone else. I don’t give it away lightly or often.”

Nonmonogamous people give their love lightly, often.

Love does not work that way. Our hearts are fragile. Poly people may share ours with more than one person at a time, that’s all. It’s still thrilling and frightening and terrible to fall in love**. Heartbreak still hits hard, and still makes us cautious of getting close to another person again. When someone has my heart, it doesn’t mean I forget or stop caring about others. It means that this person, no matter what, will be a priority. It means I will take time and effort to make them a part of my life as long as they want to have a place there. It means I will not take their presence for granted, will always be grateful for the moments they choose to share.

If you think nonmonogamous people feel love differently, or less, please think again. We may not fall in love with every partner. We may not fall in love with you. But we might. We deserve not to be treated as objects, even if we aren’t in love. You deserve not to be treated as an object, even if you aren’t in love.

 

* Note that I said in a polyamorous context. The ideas work fine in their own system–your blood for the most part is safe and healthy in your own body. The transfusion of those ideas to a system with which it is incompatible is what causes harm here. I’m not calling monogamy a disease or unnatural or toxic, I am saying that a simple incompatibility exists between some of its core precepts and the healthy practice of nonmonogamy.

**I do not have a healthy relationship with this process. Your mileage may vary.

DISCLAIMER

I don’t speak for all the poly people. Some folks probably think I’m wrong to varying degrees. That’s cool. Best to have a conversation about it before starting a relationship though, yeah?

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The Quest to Prove Bisexuals Exist…

March 27, 2014 7 comments

…is bullshit.

Oh, sorry, do I need to provide more detail? This charming NYT piece about validating the existence of bisexuality with science is so full of rage-inducing fallacies that it was almost a week before I could make myself finish reading it.

I’m a fan of science, okay? I’m a behavioral researcher. Studies are important. They can give us a huge amount of information on a given topic, from the effects of sugary drink consumption on preschoolers to the behavioral and experiential correlates of sexuality. Granted, I don’t have access to the original article and it’s entirely possible that the NYT is just reporting science very badly. However, the abstract alone suggests that the research is based on problematic assumptions, as does the abstract of a later, related paper by some of the same authors. (By the way, if any of y’all has access to those, I’d like to read them in detail.)

So studies are useful. Bisexuality is under-researched. That doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to use a study to prove or disprove a person’s identity. See, bisexuality is having sexual attraction to persons of both the same and other genders. (It’s a little more complicated and for some it includes non-binary-identifying persons and for others it doesn’t and yeah, there are other sources of variability, but basically that’s the gist.) We don’t have a valid and reliable method with which to measure something as variable and nebulous as “attraction”.

Because I have access to it and it’s getting ever so much attention, I’m going to pull a few quotes from the article and tear them apart with my teeth. (Advantage of writing on the Internet: I don’t have to handle this like a professional. Angry Nic engaged.)

The A.I.B.[American Institute of Bisexuality], [Sylla] added, has moved on to more nuanced questions: “Can we see differences in the brains of bisexual people using f.M.R.I. technology? How many bisexual people are there — regardless of how they identify — and what range of relationships and life experiences do they have? And how can we help non-bi people understand and better accept bi people?”

There are exactly as many bisexual people as people who self-identify as bisexual (meaning, identify as such to ourselves. We might not tell you. We’re really unlikely to tell you if you insist on approaching us with a “sure, you say you’re bi, but…” attitude as seen above). How can we help non-bi folks accept us? Maybe start by not second guessing us every single time we tell you we’re real. Just for a start. Maybe try not giving people the idea that our statements and feelings and actions don’t count unless you can corroborate them with an MRI. I understand that bisexuals are an underserved group who can benefit from targeted research. I advocate for it. That research can’t benefit anyone if the targeting mechanism is biphobic. And it is. Looking for a physiological marker of sexuality might possibly be useful. I have issues with it (we’ll get into them later), but fine. I get what they’re going for. However, taking the existence of gay and straight people as given and running a study to establish the existence of bi people only in relation to those groups requires directly holding up the validity of heterosexual and homosexual self-identification as a usable measure. If self-identification is valid measurement of sexuality, it’s valid for all of us, not just the ones the researcher is comfortable with. This isn’t just a point of existential rage: using different measurement tools for different values of the same variable is not a reliable research methodology. If you run a food study that asks people if they eat healthy “never” “always” or “sometimes”, you’re treating all of those values the same way. If the choices are “never” “always” and “fill out this 37 page 3-day food recall and present a blood sample so we can corroborate your statements with your serum cholesterol”, you’re going to get a very different response set. Suddenly there’s added burden on one value. Suddenly one group is being subjected to greater rigor and implied distrust and greater invasion into their lives. It’s not equitable.  Seeing how arousal patterns differ among differently-identifying groups can certainly be illuminating (it isn’t usually, but maybe it can be. Later, I promise). Unless you choose to introduce bias by inconsistent treatment of your identifying groups, of course. Then it’ll tell you a lot less.

Bisexual activists told me that much of what gay and lesbian people believe about bisexuality is wrong and is skewed by a self-reinforcing problem: because of biphobia, many bisexuals don’t come out. But until more bisexuals come out, the stereotypes and misinformation at the heart of biphobia won’t be seriously challenged.

Uh, yeah. Or we could stop perpetrating them in media. Jane’s character in Coupling identifies as bisexual, but because she isn’t turned on by what we’re told is a close-up of female genitalia in a porn mag, her identity is “disproved”. (By this logic I am asexual: I have never once been turned on by live action visual pornography.) I don’t watch Sex and the City, but apparently there’s an episode in which Carrie dates a bi man and all the stereotypes come out. Captain Jack Harkness is delightfully pansexual for much of Dr. Who and Torchwood, but the portrayal settles to completely homosexual for Miracle Day. The protagonist of Lost Girl is bi, but she is literally addicted to sex, which perpetrates stereotypes unpleasantly. The possibility that Shepard could be bisexual or homosexual in the Mass Effect games freaked people the hell out. When we come out, these are the models people hold us up to. These are how people understand us no matter what we say. No amount of people coming out bi are going to change perceptions until the rest of everyone is willing to start listening. It’s ridiculous to suggest it. After all, racial, ethnic, and some religious minorities don’t have a choice about whether to “come out;” they are recognizable on sight. If visibility were sufficient to erase bigotry, racism wouldn’t exist.

According to the 2013 Pew Research Survey of L.G.B.T.-identified Americans, bisexuals are less likely than gays and lesbians “to view their sexual orientation as important to their overall identity.” That feeds into a belief among some gays and lesbians that bisexuals are essentially fence-sitters who can pass for straight for decades at a time and aren’t especially invested in the L.G.B.T. community.

Uh, okay. Or we don’t have a community that integrates our identity like gay and lesbian folks do. Have you ever heard of a bi bar? No. We go to gay bars and only act on gay attractions, or straight bars and pretty much act on straight attraction. Crossing territory lines in either setting leads to ostracization. Bisexuals are essentially expected by both gay and straight communities to practice a very careful and culturally competent mimesis in their respective settings. It’s less important to overall identity because the gay and straight communities we belong to are at best allies, and rarely that. Orientation is something we have to drag out and explain to every straight or gay partner and it’s exhausting and damn right some of us don’t want the stress of letting it be a defining aspect of our identities. It’s notable that there is general acceptance of bisexuality and fluid sexuality in the kink community, at least here. The community is still vastly heteronormative, but the pressure to conform does not seem to be present.

To test male arousal, Rieger and Savin-Williams use a pupil-dilation tracker instead of a genital monitor. The degree of pupil dilation has been found to correspond to self-reported sexual attraction and orientation.

[ . . .]

“Your pupils actually tell me that you’re more bi than gay.”

That was news to me. I felt a sudden kinship with the self-described bisexual men in Bailey’s original 2005 study, who must have been surprised to learn that they had their sexual orientation all wrong. I could imagine a potentially awkward scenario the next time someone asked me if I was into men or women. “Well, now, that depends on whether you believe the sex researchers at Northwestern or Cornell,” I might have to say.

No. No, and fuck you, and no. You don’t need a pupil dilation machine. Just answer a quick question. There’s an underwear model smiling at you. When you read that sentence, are you picturing a sculpted young man, a woman with curves in all the right places, a delightful room full of people of varying genders and sexes. . . excuse me, I’m having a distracting thought at the moment. Who do you picture? How does it make you feel? What do you like? You know better than your pupils. Are you straight? Gay? Bi? Pan? Asexual? Demisexual? Something else entirely? That’s cool. Whatever you feel about it, you’re probably right. Physical arousal is confusing, I get it. People misattribute their own arousal based on physiological response. Fear, disgust, exertion, certain kinds of pain, fever, and more can all mimic symptoms of arousal, if you will. It’s a biofeedback thing. Say I’m lightheaded, flushed, hypersalivating a little bit. Simultaneously, the friend I’m talking to laughs. It makes me happy: I like to see her laugh. Is that arousal? Nah, I’m just hungry and enjoying a friend’s company. But if I tell myself it’s arousal based on those cues, I’m going to start acting as I would if I were attracted. Trying to verify the response. I do the same thing with anxiety: Oh hell, breathing hard, elevated heart rate, I just saw a [whatever]. Fuck, I’m scared of whatever. Panic! Except I’m not scared of the whatever. Maybe I just took the stairs too fast or am on some new meds. It’s isolated. The whatever isn’t scary generally, this is just a thing that happened. It’s a bad idea to attribute a whole personal attribute to it.

He never had “emotionless sex,” he said, and the sex of the person he was interested in was less important than his romantic and intellectual connection to them. Still, he didn’t see himself as bisexual. “I really didn’t think about my sexual identity back then,” he told me.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this from bi folks (and demisexual and asexuals): Sex doesn’t matter. Gender doesn’t matter. I don’t care what’s in a person’s pants; it’s the person that turns me on. A physiological measure of arousal isn’t going to pick up this kind of attraction in a laboratory setting because the attraction won’t form naturally. When people watch porn, do they focus on sexual characteristics? It’s a serious question. I don’t much go for visual porn. If a person doesn’t get turned on in a lab, but they get the feels in authentic attraction situations, surely the latter is a more valuable point of data, right?

As out gay men and lesbians, after all, we’re supposed to be sure — we’re supposed to be “born this way.” It’s a politically important position (one that’s helping us achieve marriage equality and other rights), but it leaves little space for out gay men to muddy the waters with talk of Kinsey 4s and 5s.

I hate this so hard. I don’t even want to talk about it. Thanks, gay rights movement, for systematically and consciously erasing bisexuals from conversations about equal rights for sexual minorities because we unnerve and confuse everyone else! It undermines gay rights too, by the way. Still don’t want to talk about it. Some other time.

Szymanski told me about two female friends of theirs who only dated men until meeting each other late in life. “They’re pretty militant about their lesbianism now,” Szymanski said, “but I’ll ask them, ‘Did you have really great sex with guys?’ They nod. ‘Did you have orgasms?’ They nod. ‘Could you still have them?’ They nod. But they insist that they’re lesbians, because, I think, they’re convinced it’s in their best interest to identify that way.”

“Another case of bisexual invisibility,” Sylla said.

“Yes, and it’s strange to me,” Szymanski added. “Because wouldn’t their behavior suggest something different? Wouldn’t it suggest that they’re actually, you know, bisexual?”

“I’m not biphobic/racist/sexist/whatever but isn’t it interesting that..?” No. go to hell.

You know what? These guys might be right. It’s possible they’re not mischaracterizing these women in the slightest. Maybe their conclusion that the women in question are bisexual is correct.

On the other hand, maybe not. Sexuality isn’t that simple. Was the sex with men “great”? That does probably indicate that at some point these women’s sexuality included males. Sexuality can change over time. This doesn’t invalidate it. Do the orgasms mean anything about sexuality? Good lord, no. It’s entirely possible to orgasm from sexual activity with someone one isn’t attracted to. Ever close your eyes and fantasize that someone else is doing the sex things with you? Yeah. That works pretty well. Or if that idea makes you uncomfortable, how about masturbation? That’s not narcissistic self-directed lust (for me anyway); the sexy feels come from the person/people I’m fantasizing about. Or orgasms may not be linked to sexual pleasure at all. Some folks will have a quick de-stress wank without attaching it to fantasy or emotional/romantic sexual arousal. Think of it kind of like the difference between working out a kink in your back so you can get back to whatever with some relief from pain, and receiving a sensual massage. Same physiological release, completely different context. Only one is sexual. Some people have had an orgasm while being sexually assaulted. That does not mean they were attracted to the assailant, or secretly liked it, or any other horrible traumatic implication. It means that a specific stimulus led to a specific reaction, which is not the all-defining criterion for sexuality. Wanting and liking aren’t the same thing. Erasing consent and cognition and very real mental blocks from being valid components of sexuality oversimplifies us. Really, it needs to stop.

The article is awful. We don’t need a scientific quest to prove bisexuals exist. We’re sick of having to goddamn prove we exist. Sick of it. Know what I did the other day? I fucked a cisgender male and a genderfluid person who typically uses female pronouns. I don’t do this because I’m confused or going through a phase or just catering to male fantasy, either. I do it because I’m attracted to them both, because we all want to, and because the sex is amazing. This is not a new or unique experience. Bi folks have been around a long damn time, lusting after and playing with individuals of various sex and gender combinations and generally not giving a damn about your fucking categories when we do so. These attractions exist. If a measurement tool can’t pick them up, it doesn’t mean we’re not really bi. It means the tool isn’t valid. Self-report and genital arousal measures only have a correlation coefficient of 0.66 for men, 0.26 for women. That’s from a meta-analysis of 132 studies. Only ten of them did physiological response have a correlation of over 0.75 with self-reported identity for men. Only one for women. That means 121 of 132 studies used a measurement that failed to find agreement between physiological response and identity at least 1/4 of the time. That’s really bad.

Know how we know we exist? We are sexually attracted to more than one sex and/or gender. That’s it. It ain’t hard.

We don’t have to act on it to prove we’re really bi–there are bi virgins and bi folks who choose celibacy and they’re no more confused about their sexuality than virgins and celibates who are straight or gay.

We don’t have to have an even split, either in experience or attraction, nor do the two need to match. I pure-bodily-lust after more female-bodied persons than male-bodied ones, but have had significantly more sexual experiences with males. Y’know, ’cause most folks are straight so reciprocation of attraction is a lot more likely there. Easier to approach, more likely to receive positive response.

We don’t have to exhibit a genital response. I don’t get immediately physiologically turned on by the sight of an attractive body. Not even if it’s nude, and moving sexually, and belongs to a partner. The body can be dealing with a number of stimuli at once and not feel like providing altered bloodflow and breathing and lubrication. My appreciation of and desire for that person and that body aren’t dependent on a physiological response at any given moment. Anyone who does use such a response as the sole basis for attraction, I’m a bit inclined to worry about. But that type of decision making is what such a study implies.

The science is fundamentally flawed. Because sexuality is not simple physiological response. Because wanting and liking are not the same thing. Because we are whole, complex, rational beings whose sexualities are based not only on pure physiological manifestations of lust but also on cognitive factors. If you call a bi-identifying person gay or straight because his pupils dilate at images of one sex but not the other (non binary options not included, I assume), you remove his ability to self-identify. You tell him it’s invalid to ask that man whose voice makes him weak in the knees to go for a coffee. Get over yourself, dude; you’re not bi. We had you tested.

More than that, though, it’s about consent. In conflating liking and wanting in this way, the piece diminishes the importance of consent. Arousal tells you what you want. What you like. Who you are. You’re not gay if you don’t respond in just such a way to just such a stimulus. Fuck that. I don’t care how the body responds; the body doesn’t get the final vote. Bodily response and identity may match up most of the time, but they don’t have to. Certainly a correlation between the two isn’t necessary to prove one’s existence.

The premise on which the NYT article and (as far as I have access) the research on which it is based are flawed. They’re biphobic. Oppressive. Reinforce stereotypes. It’s about time we stopped allowing cultural perpetration of the myths that keep us invisible. Behavioral researchers: I expect better. I expect cultural competence, an effort to reduce disparity, valid methods, measures and meanings. For shame.

Omne Trium Perfectum

March 23, 2014 38 comments

She’s fucking me hard. Every thrust forces my face down on his cock, further than I think I can handle. With every thrust he tightens his grip on my hair. I’m choking. My throat tries to scream but there’s no air to scream with and his cock is gagging me. She’s fucking me hard and I can’t breathe and he’s groaning softly underneath me and it’s all too much, exquisitely too much. I pull my face away from him, struggle up to my hands gasping for air. “Sorry,” I mumble, and he laughs. “You think you have something to be sorry for?” His fingers fill my mouth before I can answer, not that I could have answered anyway.

Her lips are soft. She’s gentler than I’m used to. I’m trying not to smother her, resisting the temptation to make her struggle and writhe underneath me. Gentle is new, different, but then so is she, so is all of this and I’m mesmerized. All this softness can’t do more than tease but God, she doesn’t know that and for once I don’t want to say anything. Her eyes are closed. She looks focused. If she enjoys this half as much as I do then I don’t want her to change a thing. The mattress shifts a moment before I feel his hand on my hip. Her jaw slips open a fraction. Her tongue is suddenly insistent, her whimpers muffled by my cunt. Then he’s fucking her and her mouth presses into me harder. He sinks his teeth into my side, sends a shock through me from his mouth to hers. There are sounds, maybe even words coming from my throat but I don’t much care. She moans, her fingernails digging into my thighs, and it sends me over the edge.

I’m lying on top of her. She kisses slow and soft and earnest. I’m hungry for her, impatient. My teeth find her lips, her jaw, her throat. I don’t bite, just graze and drag my teeth across her. I glance up when my mouth reaches her breast. “Biting okay?” “Yes.” I bite her, not hard, not hard enough for the guttural sound in her throat and the sudden arch of her back. His fingers slide into me before I can pause to see what he’s done to her. He fucks both of us with his fingers while we writhe into each other. Her hand finds mine, brings it to her throat. I tighten my fingers, feel her shiver under the pressure. Her face changes, turns serene, almost vulnerable. I let go of her throat, feel her first shuddering gasp before I run my fingertips across her cheekbones, lips, and chin. We’re both breathing hard. I don’t know if I want to kiss her or keep watching her face. She meets my eyes. “Tell me when you’re close.” I nod. I’m already there, holding back because I want to feel this tension a moment longer. Now I realize she’s holding back for me, I want to draw it out further. I want to see her struggle against it. It doesn’t last long; I want to see her come. I say “just about now,” and within a moment I’m screaming and shivering. Her own shivering and moans follow. I kiss her, if you can call it kissing to devour the sounds she makes like this.

I straddle his face. She straddles his hips. At first she’s punching me, light blows to the scapula while we start to move. Then her hands are on my shoulders, pulling me to lean back. She bites my neck, slides one hand around my chest to pinch at a nipple. He bites down on my clit and I can’t think at all; I’m all spine and pain and too much pleasure. He bites harder, too hard. I’m shrieking in pain, twisting and pulling my body away which only makes it worse. This is too much, far too much. There’s a plea to make him stop just behind the next scream. I’m sure of it. I have no time to say it between one orgasm and the next.

We collapse. We had to, eventually. It’s been a long night, from dinner to hot tub to a long talk about the three of us, about how it’s going to work. Whether it can work at all. We don’t know, but the chemistry’s there and we do want to try. If the sex is any indicator, it’s worth trying.

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e[lust] #56

March 16, 2014 Leave a comment

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For the best

March 9, 2014 Leave a comment

“I never lost interest. You were the one who disappeared for months without a word.”

“Yeah, I know. It was probably for the best though.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, if I’d been distracted all the time–not that you’re a bad distraction–I’d never have been able to patch things up with Z.”

I see. I don’t have anything to say to that. I’m bruised from calf to shoulder, constellations of tiny black marks shining over my hips. My fingers probe them absently. I want to feel this as pain but I don’t; the beating went on too long and all I can feel now is a dull ache.

It was probably for the best.

I wonder if this is the first honest thing he’s said to me. I wonder why I’m not angry. I wonder if he has any idea what he just said.

He lied for so long. He may not even know how many lies he told, if it’s as automatic as it seems. He stopped talking for so long. He wasn’t here to see the panic, how easily I was reduced to hyperventilation and fear, how every word, every glance is chased by distorted shadows of ulterior motive. It was probably for the best for him. Not for me.

It takes a moment to parse how I feel. Pythons uncurl from defensive knots in my gut. Nausea, and a frightening sense of vulnerability. Except I’m not; for now, anyway, there’s nothing to fear. He’s just let me know he doesn’t care. He looks at me and I don’t know what he sees but it’s not human. I can be discarded, and he’ll sleep well. I can hold that close. It will keep me from doing anything stupid. For the first time in a long time, I can relax.

I don’t say anything. I unfold to rest in a long sprawl with my head on his shoulder. Nothing’s changed. I’m still unhappy, still care too much, still thinking thinking thinking as though it will do any good. But I’ve remembered how to move under my own power rather than succumbing to the whirlpool of his, and that’s something.

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Nice Shoes

March 8, 2014 Leave a comment

This woman fascinates me.

Let’s just call her Z. We’ve been spending a lot of time together. It’s a little awkward: she’s still seeing and living with the Techie, so I find myself trying to steer around my own emotional context when he becomes the topic of conversation. The night of awful conversation and confrontation seems to have knocked down a lot of barriers to completely frank conversation, so shy and awkward as we are, we’re still communicating more than I manage with most people. It’s kind of awesome. She’s super awesome.

I’m pretty damn attracted to her.

We played a bit, before all the nonsense went down in December. She and the Techie co-topped me one night, and we played around with clothespin zippers at a party. She made it clear her interest in doing toppy things at me wasn’t sexual. So we hang out, dye each other’s hair, bake, rearrange the house, talk too late. On Valentine’s day I brought her chocolate and the world’s most awkward card and we spent the evening alphabetizing erotic magnetic poetry. The last week or two, I’ve been over there late–I spent the night last Wednesday, and was there until almost 0300 this Monday. This meant seeing the Techie, which (damn it) is actually not awkward or unpleasant at all.

She’s gotten flirtatious. I figured this was a sign of her being more comfortable around me, not actual attraction, but I enjoy it anyway. I texted about having brownies in bed, joked that if I joined a monastery but could still have this kind of unabashed hedonism in the bedroom, that’d actually be kind of okay.

Z: “Or you could come over here…(this is my less than subtle attempt at seduction)” … “I even have a nun costume!”

Me: “yes you do. You have been quite clear previously about not having sexual interest in me. So this is my confused face.”

Z: “People change, and attractions. The more I get to know you, the more intimate the non sexual relationship becomes, the physical attraction has always been there, but the sexual attraction is new.”

Me: “…processing error…” [I’m so eloquent]

Z: ” >_> I uh…I’m…dammit.
That is…
I mean…
Nice shoes, wanna fuck?”

The thing is, I do. I probably shouldn’t, but I do. Because she makes me smile. Because she’s covered in ink (I can’t resist body art). Because she’s beyond resilient and I am completely in awe of her. Because anyone who can enjoy standing in front of a refrigerator alphabetizing magnets with me for over an hour is definitely my type.

I probably shouldn’t. Because she’s having continuing issues with the Techie, and while I’m not remotely interested in monogamy, I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to form a new relationship if an existing one is thoroughly problematic. Because she lives with him, and I’m a little paranoid that if we were involved he might either become awkward and distant again or overly keen. Because I’m anxious and afraid.

We revisited the conversation, decided to put it on hold until her relationship with the Techie is more stable. It’s the right idea, but still frustrating and unnerving.

So of course we’re going to a play party tomorrow. We’ll hash out what I ought to bring in case we want to scene (now that I’ve organized all the toys). The plan is that I’ll likely spend the night in their spare room again.

Apparently I am very fond of subjecting myself to massive amounts of temptation.

Pain

February 28, 2014 12 comments

I had to vent. I’m friends with maledoms. A few of them. Lately their wives and girlfriends have been showing a lot of jealousy. They’ve made new rules, baiting remarks; I’ve made reassurances that ought to be unnecessary. “I just don’t see why they think I’m a threat. They do understand that their partners stay with them for a reason, right?”

“They’ve seen you play. They think that because you like more pain than they do, that you’re better at kink.”

That’s wrong. The conclusion is wrong: more masochistic does not mean better at kink. Want better at kink? Be awesome at knowing and communicating what you want and how to do it safely and well, from either side of the slash. That’s how you do better at kink. Which kinks you like and in what doses are all personal preference. There should be no value attached.

The underlying assumption is wrong. I like heavier impact than most, but there’s no reason to assume that means more pain.

Pain is not a simple response to stimulus. If you line up a dozen masochists in front of tennis ball launchers, hit them all with the same force over the same muscle, they will not rate the pain the same. Do this to the same masochist in different contexts, different moods, after exercise or after rest, s/he will not rate the pain the same.*

Part of this is the subjectivity of pain scales. Ask someone to rate their pain on a scale of 0-10, and two things happen: people exaggerate because they want to be taken seriously, and you realize that 10 (“the worst pain you can imagine”) varies a lot from person to person. I’ve experienced a lot of pain. Look at Hyperbole and a Half’s pain scale. A correctly administered injection usually just grazes over a 1. Having my cervix forcibly dilated was about an 8. Having part of my lip torn off by a dog bite was a 9 or 10. A long, heavy impact scene might hit a 6-6.5. Most don’t. Someone who’s never experienced higher thresholds of pain probably can’t imagine it. If my 6.5 is the most they’ve ever felt, they’ll call that a 10. This is perfectly legitimate; pain scales do not use objective units of measurement.

Beyond the subjectivity of the measurement, we also need to consider the subjectivity of our responses. A punch in a scene feels “ooh yes ow,” I lean into it, want more. An unexpected slap on the shoulder will be “ow! What’s wrong with you that hurt!” Less impact, leads to more of what a non-masochist would call pain. This can be true for a non-masochist in other ways as well. Exercise hurts, but the context convinces us that it’s a good pain, a type of reward. Getting a piercing or tattoo is also somewhat painful, but most of us sit quietly through that even though we’d cuss up a storm if we stepped on a roofing tack. This is in part because reward contexts extend dopamine signals to unrewarded stimuli. If pain is giving us something we want, it makes brain go happy place (I am good at science talk, right?).

We masochists know pain isn’t just one sensation. I said needles were barely a 1, right? But I hate-hate-hate needles. They freak me out. Needle play is “oh hell no” unless I can get a permanent piercing out of it because needles make Nic go to an on-edge and unhappy place. But if someone wants to whale on me with a steel pipe? Yes, please!

Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, pain is an interpretation. The stimulus provides sensation, but you interpret that off-site to decide whether it tickles or stings or hurts; whether to cuss or giggle or moan. The same physical sensation feels very different if we want it, if our muscles are tense, if it reminds us of past trauma. This video does a good job of explaining the process.

So even if the king of crazy town were correct in thinking higher pain tolerance=more better at kink, the stimuli that cause pain are not the things that hurt. Your body is, and your nerves. Stimulus response is variable. This without even discussing nerve damage and sensitivity from a physiological standpoint–you wouldn’t call someone with CIPA the best-ever masochist because nothing hurts them, right? They’re not taking more pain. They’re taking zero pain.

I’m a masochist. The sensations I seek out do genuinely hurt. But it’s not just pain I’m after. It’s what that pain comes with. It’s the dopamine surge, it’s the exquisite ability to come out of my own head, it’s the connection to another person and the way we have to open up to each other. Pain is a route to this, and to the bruises (which I love). People who think it’s important to experience the most pain without concern for what that pain does for them seem to be rather missing the point.

*Oh my goodness. Please? I can do this for science?

(More about pain here. I love so many lines from this page.)

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