- Favorite BDSM related book(fiction or non-fiction)
Non-fiction: I’ll always have a soft spot for Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns, even though my copy was culled when we downsized the library to move after college. SM 101 met the same fate, but I’m very glad to have had it available as a beginner. These days I read a lot of BDSM related blogs, but don’t really feel the need to acquire more books on the subject.
Fiction: I don’t read much erotic fiction, BDSM or otherwise. It tends to disappoint. Seduce Me by Dahlia Schweitzer has several great erotic short stories. Some are kinky, some vanilla. She describes desire well, and reactions. There’s one story that I find intolerably creepy, but the rest are all more than good enough to make up for it. Bonus: it includes both straight and lesbian stories, and both seem to come naturally to the writer.
What do you think is important in keeping a BDSM relationship healthy? How does it differ from a vanilla relationship?
I don’t think it’s different per se. Vanilla relationships are just running Windows, and kinky ones run Linux. We’re more customizable at the cost of ease of use.
That probably needs unpacking. So, the relationship paradigm that we’re meant to understand as ideal based on media is all kinds of messed up. It’s something we’re shown from such a young age (think classic Disney movies and many fairy tales). It persists everywhere romance is to be seen in the mainstream, from Cosmo to Nicholas Sparks’ novels every TV drama ever. Some commonalities to this paradigm are: everyone has One True Love, communication is unnecessary or gauche at best, men are always the sexual/romantic aggressors, it’s more useful to learn what women (or men) want generally than to ask what your partner specifically wants. It’s pre-packed with really unhelpful features and failsafes intended to stop you from accidentally crashing your system, but they do work for many people. The system says hitting is always bad, monogamy is always good, &c., and you never have to discuss when, how, or why hitting is okay or what exactly constitutes cheating now that you’re poly. To be clear, I’m not criticizing people who prefer default settings no matter how much I personally hate those settings. They’re functional.
If you’re into kink, you’ve got the advantage of having already rejected this paradigm on some level. Those of us who watched Sleeping Beauty and thought Princess Aurora was a useless moron and that there were worse thing for Prince Philip than being chained up by a pretty (if green) sorceress weren’t exactly primed to accept passive femininity. Most kinky folk understand that communication is absolutely vital, even if we’re not all stellar at actually communicating. But there are risks, extra precautions.The high degree of overlap between the kink and polyamorous communities means that many kinky people also need to think more about jealousy and issues affecting multiple relationships, partners’ relationships, &c. A healthy BDSM relationship can look like abuse. An abusive relationship can hide behind BDSM. You can set criteria for a scene or a relationship and not realize that it’s been interpreted a certain way or doesn’t cover a certain situation. You have nothing to fall back on when things go wrong but your own relationship skills. If those are sub-par, if you’re prone to tantrums and need to win every argument (we’re talking about me here, sadly) then it’s going to be a lot harder.
Since you first developed an interest in kink, have your interests/perspectives changed? How so?
God, I don’t know. I was fifteen. I’ve learned a lot, and surely still have a lot to learn, but how much of that is kink related, how much is just growing up?
I’ve gotten over the obsessive need to prove myself. I still love pushing boundaries–my own and others’–but I’m willing to say “stop, not fun anymore” instead of biting my lip and forcing myself to get through something just to prove I can. On a related note, I’ve stopped believing that more kinky meant better kinky. I used to feel like I was being too vanilla if I didn’t try or like basically any kink activity. So even though intricate bondage bores the hell out of me, I did it. A lot. ‘Cause that’s what badass BDSM types do. (I know. Shut up.
I’ve stopped assuming that being a masochist required being submissive. I like pain. I am bossy and demand it. The more I talk about this with submissive friends, the more I realize our experiences of the same scene are completely different. I am okay with this.
I’m getting better at saying “no” and standing behind it when I’m not in the mood for something I sometimes like. I’m better at
What qualities do you look for in a partner?
I don’t really go out looking for partners. When there’s a rapport, when flirting comes easy and is reciprocated, when a person isn’t put off by my forwardness, my brain goes “look, potential partner. Go fix your hair.” My favorite people are the ones that make me feel predatory. If I steal more than a couple of glances, or orbit a conversation looking for a way to join, I’ve likely found someone interesting and am entering Socially Awkward Shark mode. See, I’m not really good at wordplay or sensual conversation or normal flirting. So I’ll up and say things like “I’m sorry, your cleavage is really amazing. I just want to bury my face it it.” (Yes, this has worked. More than once.)
There’s not a single “type” of person that gets me into Socially Awkward Shark mode, but there are some common factors. A little shyness is appreciated–it’s easy to get the attention and conversation of an extrovert, but an introvert has to really want to talk to you to approach. Almost everyone I’m attracted to is a nerd, but that’s partly because those are 90% of the people I meet socially. I hang out in gaming shops and the sci-fi sections of bookstores, as well as at BDSM events, which are full of nerds. Shared interests–cooking, nutrition, science, books, philosophy–help a lot. A sense of responsibility is appreciated–members of the BDSM club who join in to help out when the play space is moving or step up when needed to organize an event or something get a lot of extra points. Anything that’s conducive to forming a rapport is a bonus towards potential play or relationship.
As for physical type, I’m not very picky. Without regard for gender, I’m drawn to people shorter than me, gingers always preferred. Any striking feature–unusually green eyes, extremely black skin, scars–will grab my attention. I care more about how people move than how they look. Graceful movement and good posture (neither of these are features I can claim) are far more attractive than body type to me. I’ve never met a fencer I didn’t fancy. It’s the wrists. Finally, I hunt by smell. Oppressive perfume or cologne, the smell of smoke and especially marijuana are complete deal breakers. If I can’t comfortably breathe near a person, I’ll avoid being near them.
How open are you about your kinks?
It’s binary. I am completely open with:
- people I meet via the BDSM community
- a very few very close friends
- my therapist and my gynecologist. If it ever seems relevant, other medical professionals will be included.
- strangers on the Internet who don’t know who I really am (hi, y’all!)
I and completely closeted with:
- family (my sister could become an exception to this, maybe)
- any potential or past employers or employees (let’s be professional here.)
- any potential or past academic connections (ditto)
- anyone with whom I volunteer. Double extra careful when I’m working at the women’s shelter.
- those acquaintances or friends for whom it is either irrelevant (because our association is e.g. limited to gaming, not personal) or who would most likely disapprove (the deeply religious or conservative)
- strangers I meet in person. It’s personal.
In an ideal world kink would be something I could mention if it came up, but wouldn’t have to make a big deal out of. I’ve tried to do this in reference to bisexuality in the past: I’m not shy about telling stories that start with “my ex-girlfriend. . .” if it relates to conversation, and I refuse to let it be an issue (I respond to shock with “yes, I like women and men. Anyway. . .” but female bisexuality is a minority generally accepted, if misunderstood, by the mainstream. Non-monogamy and kink really can’t be mentioned to most people without conjuring images of cheating and abuse. In an ideal world I’d have the mental fortitude and patience to work through that with people, to educate and advocate &c, but kink is not my whole life. If I did that I would never have time to do anything else.