Cat Logic

One of my cats has a terribly annoying habit. She will sit down just out of reach and wait for me or Spouse to move and pet her. Then she will walk away a few steps, flop down, and stare at us until we get up and go pet her again. This continues until (1) we stop following her, (2) we become frustrated by her manipulation and carry her back to wherever we want to be, or (3) she suddenly stops the game to tear around the apartment for no damn reason. Cats do that sometimes.

My theory is that she’s measuring our love for her in how far we’ll follow when she goes away.

Z is acting distant. Saying bitter things that suggest I only spend time with her in order to get to the Techie. Moving away from casual contact–if I touch her she suddenly needs to wash dishes or go outside to smoke. Last night she asked if she needed to leave the room so he and I could fuck, and left before we could answer. (She’s been in too much pain to join in, but still.)

She’s pushing me away, maybe him too. She’s said not to follow, that she’s insulted when it seems like we are babysitting her emotions. I respect that. But it seems a lot like cat logic. If we don’t follow, it means we don’t care. If we do, she keeps moving away. Dragging her back whether she wants it or not is not an option (for obvious reasons).

I’m handling this poorly. It’s hard for me to show compassion when I feel insulted. I spend time with her alone often, invite her to my place, suggest we go to shows. Z and I hang out, talk, cook, etc. without the Techie. The Techie and I only see each other around her. If he and I are alone together, it’s because she briefly left the room.

I do not spend my time on people I do not care about. I’ve told her this, and she’s seen it, but the idea remains that I’m just using her to be with him. It’s hard to handle because I do care. I’m not willing to just roll my eyes and walk away rather than try to resolve this. And I empathize: I’ve pushed people away and shut down because anxiety said it would hurt less than waiting for them to leave. It’s unspeakably difficult not to shut down now, because I don’t know how to handle this. I can’t help but think Z and the Techie would be more secure, happier, if I walked out the door right now and disappeared from their lives. It’s hard to believe either of them when they say that isn’t what they want.

So far I keep following. Keep talking. Will continue to invite her out and ask for her time because she’s important to me. I worry it isn’t enough, that she’s going to keep moving further, keep looking for the spot that’s just too far. I texted earlier:

this is an issue and it’s looking like a lot of that is on me. I’d like to talk it through if/when you’re up for it. Meantime if there’s anything you need, just say the word.

She hasn’t answered. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Folks, I’m really fucking bad at this. In case you hadn’t noticed.

[Update: conversation has cleared up issues. We had been using the same words to mean different things without realizing it. The Techie had separate conversations with each of us and didn’t relay what was said, we each assumed the content of those conversations had been relayed and were frustrated that the other wasn’t acting on information we didn’t have. And then it asploded. So…oops. Lesson #1: The Techie does not communicate. No assuming things. Double oops.]

Eggshells

We hurt each other.

Not consensually. Not for kink. Sometimes we just do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing. Maybe we have a fight. We know each other too well, emotions are high. We know better, but we feel hurt and want our partner to feel it, too. Words come out. When you know someone well enough, you know which scars never fully healed, how to rip them open again. Or maybe it’s an accident, a blithe comment that reveals a wound you didn’t know was there, or just forgot. It’s not just words. Actions, too: a flogger wraps. Embarrassing, painful. A cancelled date, an unexpected touch, something precious dropped and maybe broken.

We hurt each other.

Whatever the form, when you hurt a partner (or they hurt you), it is compounded by a sense of betrayal, if only momentarily. We trusted you. Maybe not completely, but we trusted you not to hurt us. So (at least) two things need to be addressed: the harm itself, and the aftershock. Confronting the person who hurts you can be hard. Being confronted can be hard. We have to do it if we want to repair damage, but it isn’t easy. Almost no one knows where to start.

If you’ve hurt someone:

Apologize. They may not accept it (and they don’t have to), but apologize. Mean it. If you don’t know what you’ve done to hurt them, find out as calmly as you can. “I’m sorry that you feel bad” is not an apology. It’s passive-aggressive. Apologize for the behavior, not its effect.

Remember that it’s not about you. If someone is telling you that you’ve hurt them, that isn’t an attack. Defensiveness is a refusal to address the issue. I presume you care about your partners. If you hurt them, focus on fixing the hurt rather than maintaining your ego or denying the hurt exists.

People aren’t heroes or villains. Doing something wrong does not mean you’re a horrible person. We all do it. We fuck up or lash out or just don’t know what the hell we’re doing sometimes. These are discrete behaviors. If you’ve hurt someone, it makes sense to feel bad. It’s not so helpful to decide this makes you a Bad Person who should be shunned forever for your unforgivable sin. Acting like that is asking the person you’ve hurt to take care of you, and avoids addressing the hurt.

If you’ve been hurt:

Articulate it as well as you can. A person can’t address an issue if they don’t know it exists or don’t understand it.

Do you know what you need? An apology, space, time, physical contact, reassurance, a commitment to address a certain behavior? Ask for it. If you don’t know what you need, say that. Ask for help finding a solution. Too many arguments move from “I’m sorry” to “that’s not good enough” without ever saying what would be good enough. And maybe nothing is, but if that’s the case it needs to be said.

It’s not about them. People aren’t heroes or villains. Calling someone a monster doesn’t address the hurt; it tells them you think it’s inevitable and irreparable that they’ll hurt you.

It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to not be able to deal with it right away. When emotions are high, productive conversation can be painful, almost impossible.

Often we hurt and are hurt at the same time. There’s triage. There are cycles. I hurt you, the way you handled it hurt me. It takes mindfulness, self-control, cooperation to keep that from building up and up and up. And we fuck up. We fail. It’s going to happen again. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

——————————————————–
Please note that none of this is particularly helpful when dealing with an abusive situation. Just situations where problems or arguments occur and could be more productive. Also, y’know, I’m not exactly good at all this. Could be completely wrong.

Let’s Talk About Sex

“Sex only lasts like two minutes on average.”

It’s an offhand comment we’ve all heard too many times. It isn’t true: more recent studies put the average duration of PIV intercourse between three and thirteen minutes[1]. But that’s hardly the biggest problem here.

Sex only lasts” is the phrase. Not PIV intercourse (which is what the study typically cited measured), but sex. Sex starts when a penis enters a vagina, and ends when it stops (usually after ejaculation).

Everything else just doesn’t count. Well, a couple of things count, with qualifiers. Most people agree that anal sex is sex. People are more divided about oral sex, but there’s a sizable base of support for it. But that’s it.

There are problems with this definition.

Stamina is emphasized over quality of experience.
There are two measurements that are all too often used as a stand-in for male sexual prowess: cock size (usually length) and staying power. These are treated as more important markers of how good a man is in bed than either (any) participants’ actual enjoyment of the act. When men focus their energy on increasing latency to ejaculation* at the expense of reading partners’ reactions (or–god forbid–talking to them) and doing the most enjoyable things they can with their bodies, it’s real likely to lead to mediocre sex. A Vine that hits all your buttons is sexier than a three hour documentary about architecture**.

*Could I make that sound less sexy?
**Unless you have an architecture fetish. In which case, enjoy your documentary

All else is foreplay.
Foreplay isn’t “real” sex. It’s a rite to be observed before getting to the main attraction: always an appetizer, never the main course. If your goal is to have sex, foreplay is going to be rushed. It’s something to hurry through to get to the main event. It always comes before the main event. When sex is separated into foreplay and sex instead of treated as an inclusive experience, a lot gets excluded. There’s a progression of events. First base, second, third–and going backwards or deviating from these steps is considered a bad thing. It’s patently ridiculous.

Baseball: a terrible metaphor for sex. xkcd gets it.

Sex requires a man.
PIV is sex. PIA is sex (according to most). But two or more people without penises can’t have “real” sex, right? Men who can’t get erections or who prefer not to insert them into orifices don’t have “real” sex. And this gets so twisted: those men are treated as less masculine. Relationships between women carry less social weight. Sex is a pretty widely accepted marker of intimacy, so those romantic partnerships that can’t or don’t include sex don’t really count. I hope it’s obvious that this is misogynistic, homophobic, ableist, and (as usual) erasive of asexuality.

Sex is over when the erection is gone.
This belief is why every queer girl has to hear “so what do you even do in bed?” over and over again. (It’s a rude question, by the way. Also it makes us sad for you and we think it’s proof you have the most boring sex ever.) The sex does not have to end just because the cock is done/needs a break. There are so many things even the straightest of straight couples can do after (or between) male orgasm. Oral sex. Manual sex. Kinky play. Making out–one should never underestimate the intensity of kissing. Hell, put a strap-on on the guy and keep going. It’s one thing to choose to end a sexual encounter with male orgasm (I often do, in fact), but there is no reason it should be the default.

tl;dr
Straight cisgendered people: sex is so much more than you say it is.

Who doesn’t love sources?

1 Corty, E. W. and Guardiani, J. M. (2008), Canadian and American Sex Therapists’ Perceptions of Normal and Abnormal Ejaculatory Latencies: How Long Should Intercourse Last?. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5: 1251–1256.

e [lust] #60

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Welcome to Elust #60

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 Elust. Want to be included in Elust #60? Start with the rules, come back August 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

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Shame Hurts

Of Cocks and Cunts: The Language of Erotica

#RealBodiesAreSexy

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I may never suck another cock, but I’m still

The sofa

 

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Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

My Aftercare
YKINMK but My Kink is Not YOUR Kink either
Nerds, Pervs, and Jeffrey Dahmer
Sex Is Simple. That’s Why It’s So Complicated
Cuckolding. The Step Child of BDSM?
What Is A Man’s Role At A CFNM?
Happily whipping Jesus
What are your views on the ethics of kink?
FetLife and The Single Gal
How Porn and BDSM Helped Me

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

Tall guys! You’re a bunch of sick perverts!
In Which I Fuck Up and My Uterus Saves Me
Why Is There So Much Shame?
Birds do it, Bees do it…
Little Lower Layer
Wooing, pursuing, romancing a dominant woman
Sexual Freedom. Why Do I Feel I Need to Hide.
Our Age Gap Shouldn’t Be Your Insecurity
Advanced kegel: stroking with only PC muscles
Impress your lover with these oral sex moves

Sex News,Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

The Hashtag Activism…It Burns It!
Sex Worker Etiquette
Rant Break: SCOTUS and Hobby Lobby Rage
Subs Need Classes Too!

Erotic Fiction

A Flight Attendants Secret
Relentless
Sit
Festival car park fun
Private Performance
And The Band Played On
Consequences Part One

Blogging

A warning for erotic writers and sex bloggers
Bloggy, Soggy, and Sexy

Erotic Non-Fiction

Don’t Ever Make Me Wait Again
Words

Poetry

Satan’s String – a Lusty Limerick

Writing About Writing

Writing Erotica for Trans Readers Pt 1
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Overprocessed

“You’re not saying anything.”

“I’m a sex toy that caters. I don’t figure I get much say.”

Z’s face goes slack. Anger, restraint. “Do you have any idea how insulting it is for you to say that to me?”

I do, and I regret it. “Defense mechanism.”

Too many words, too late at night. They both say they care. I deflect. There’s mention of romantic attachment. I acknowledge, question relevance. I don’t trust hierarchical relationship structures. The Techie doesn’t say anything. Z says she doesn’t know how else to practice poly. I’m trying not to shut down, failing. This can be a conversation, but not at six in the morning, not after four hours of this. I accept the term “dating,” if tentatively. There’s more to discuss.

Spouse is furious. He hates the Techie. He cries, threatens, manipulates, cries. The reaction surprises me. It’s too strong. I can’t manage empathy; I don’t understand. It hurts to comfort him while he attacks. It hurts that he sees self-defense as an attack. I’m frightened and shut down, curled into the closet messaging strangers for support. Wondering why I ever thought human interaction was worth the work.

Two days, more than twelve hours of difficult conversation. I dredged up ancient history with Spouse. I felt forced into it, but no less guilty. Still wondering whether human interaction is worth the work.

Today’s been stable. Work, meetings, listening to Nightvale radio. No difficult conversation. But stress hasn’t gone down. I’m not certain it will.

I do this to myself. Poor choices, I guess.

“Doesn’t it hurt?”

I’ve just mentioned wanting another tattoo to the girl I’m partnered with on this project. She’s surprised to hear I have any: they’re not large and easily covered. She doesn’t ask what design, or where, or what ink I already have. She doesn’t even ask why I like it. She asks what most people who have no body art do when talking to those who do: “Doesn’t it hurt?”

Well, yeah, it does a little.

So?

First of all, I’m a sexual masochist. I get off on pain. So I wouldn’t call the pain a drawback.

That’s hardly relevant though. The pain isn’t the reason I go for piercings and tattoos, but if I didn’t like pain it still wouldn’t be a reason not to get them. Pain is a side effect, usually fairly mild.

“But doesn’t it hurt?”

My partner plucks her eyebrows. She goes to the gym regularly. She’s lamented that a sunburn would be “so worth it, if I could just tan!” Pain for beauty is a transaction we widely accept. If someone believes the misery of yanking out eyebrows one by one every [however often one plucks eyebrows] for years on end is worth the result, surely they can understand that a single sitting followed by a brief recovery in exchange for a permanent desired modification is a better return on investment.

We do things that hurt. Not because we like the pain (though some of us do), but because we value what it brings us. Pain is a side effect.

“But doesn’t it hurt?” is a stupid question. Of course it hurts. If something breaks the skin and there’s zero pain you’re probably looking at some serious nerve damage. Anyone who asks already knows this. The question is really “what kind of person would endure pain for body art?” The question shows a certain idea about body modification: that it’s barbaric, disgusting. That (unlike a perfectly arched eyebrow), it has no value.

That’s actually okay. I don’t care if this girl, or my mother, or any number of other people think piercings and tattoos are worthless or shameful or otherwise problematic. That’s a conversation I’m willing to have. But “doesn’t it hurt?” can only be answered with a “yes,” and it’s in no way fair to use that yes as evidence against body modification as a practice. It really isn’t relevant.

Also, seriously? I beg folks to hit me with blunt objects until they can’t lift their arms anymore. I’m supposed to be scared of half a second with a piercing needle? Please.

Ars Corporeum

Z and I went shopping the other day. First for underwear, then thrifting for dresses. It’s the only clothes shopping I enjoy: rummaging through sale bins or racks of random things.

She was uncomfortable. I get that: mannequins and pictures of skinny, busty white women; saleswomen who talk about bras in terms of cleavage and adding cup sizes rather than comfort or durability. She tried on a few. Some looked great, but the mirror and the shop (and maybe me) made her miserable, so we left empty handed.

I asked if she was okay, she said “yes, except for hating myself.”

My partners don’t tend to fit societal standards of beauty. They aren’t tall or model-thin. They don’t have all-over muscle definition. Those attributes do nothing for me. Honestly, it might be a bit creepy if they did: my family has enough models and could-be models to put me off the look entirely. If I have a type, it’s people shorter than me, unconventional; pierced, tattooed, or scarred.

Z doesn’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model (complete with badly Photoshopped cleavage). She’s short. Her features are delicate, almost anime-like. Her skin is scarred, covered in tattoos (we both agree: not covered enough). She’s visibly muscular, not thin.

Spouse is close to my height. He wears his hair very long, nails painted, legs shaved. He favors women’s jeans and shoes, as gender-neutral as he can present. His gestures are exaggerated. Expressions, too: his mild disappointment looks like devastation, slight amusement like unmitigated glee.

The Techie is three inches shorter than me, but people somehow get the impression that he’s tall. His hands are wide and callused, his eyes too intense behind too-long lashes. There’s white in his beard, which he worries makes him look old, though he isn’t and it doesn’t. Ink suits him, though he seems too serious on first glance to be tattooed.

The Chef is strong. Her laugh is high and clear, her smile impish, infectious. She’s six inches shorter than I am, nearly a hundred pounds heavier. She’s strong. She can lift and toss me like a doll. Her bare hands hit with the force of a truck. I love the contrasts of her: breasts spilling over steel boning, black ink on brown skin, heavy blows marked by easy peals of laughter.

She’s beautiful. They all are, not in spite of these things but because of them. We have this idea that perfect skin is untextured, uniform in color (and all too often white), “unblemished” by scars, stretchmarks, wrinkles, freckles, moles, tattoos. But skin tells stories. Scars and ink are most obvious, images of discrete moments. Skin also speaks of habits in callouses, tan lines. Learning the lives that build the bodies we inhabit is a delight. Even knowing this, though, I’m careful to cover my scar, quick to lament my freckles and moles. We’re meant to come to each other as blank canvases, afraid marks left by others or by life will render us unpalatable to anyone new.

Bodies are palimpsest, painstaking to interpret, in places raw and fragile.  Built objects, sometimes showing our regrets and hurts, reflecting what we may not mean them to, not wholly in our control. It’s easy to see that as ugly, when it fails to match what we’re shown. It can make it hard to hear “you’re beautiful” when we only know one template for the word.