Category Archives: Kinky Stuff

Peculiar Personal Performance

“The problem with playing at the club is that I can’t fuck you.”

His breathing is ragged. He speaks in a quiet growl that makes me want to growl back. I grind my hips against his. The tension has us wound impossibly tight. We’re playing hard, even for me. I’ll have bruises for a month, mottled garters around both thighs. My legs are shaking from the effort of staying upright while they swell and I don’t care. I don’t want it to stop.

I know this moment. It’s still violent, always violent, but the topology has changed. We’re so still, after all my twisting and writhing under his blows. He’s feeling along my edges but my surface isn’t orientable. If he wants inside he’ll have to break me. I almost want him to.

The problem with playing at the club is that I can’t fuck you.

Yes, it’s a problem. It wasn’t a problem until he said it; I was giddy with tension before but now it’s insistent, focused. If we were at his place he’d be fucking me now. He’d be pinning me down with a hand on my throat. He’d be telling me how much I want him with that smug look that I can’t even call arrogant even though he’s wrong; I want him so much more. And I’d be arrogant, too, if he teased, sure that he wouldn’t hold back for long.

But we’re not there. This tension has nowhere to go and now that he’s said it it’s the only thing in my mind.

He rakes his fingers across bruised skin, covers my mouth with his when I gasp. This isn’t kissing. I’m being consumed, voice and lips and skin and anything-you-want disappearing into him.

He puts a hand on my cheek, looks me in the eye. “I want to make you come.”

“God yes.” I’m surprised, later, that I didn’t hesitate at all. I’m not an exhibitionist, not really. Orgasm is intimate. It belongs to me, to my partner. It’s ours. I’m greedy for it and jealous of it and no I don’t care who’s watching, not really, but it isn’t for them and I’m not going to share.

I’m on the edge from kissing and from pain. He isn’t gentle. He shoves his fingers into me, rough and hard and perfect. His eyes stay focused on mine. I’m trying not to scream, not to draw attention. Trying to draw this out, if I can.

He whispers. “Come for me.” I turn my head, sink my teeth into the back of my forearm to keep from crying out. I nearly lose my balance. Too many nerves firing all at once in overwhelming contradiction of pain and yes and ohGod.

He pulls my arm away when I regain my footing. “I want to see your face when you come. I want to hear you scream. Can you do that for me?” I nod. I can’t answer aloud. He’s good with his hands, or good with me. I’m moaning again in seconds, low and soft at first, but rising fast. My hand flies up to cover my mouth. I remember not to before it gets there. He smiles. “Not yet.”

Fuck. Hell. Fuck. I exhale slowly. Refocus. Not on the pressure of his fingers inside me, or–oh God. Refocus. Math? I’ve gone past math. Words. Three syllables, beginning with P. Palimpsest. Petrichor. Priory. Pleiades. Please. Please. “Please.”

He shakes his head. He’s hoping I can’t hold back. He’s arrogant enough to think he can make me come when I’m trying not to. I’m contrary enough, proud enough, to refuse. But God, I’m close. Palmetto. Pinniped. Piranha. Predator. Like him, predatory, eyes on mine with all the smug fierceness of a cat staring down cornered prey. “Oh, fuck, please–” Refocus. Preamble. Portentious. Predicament. No, that’s four. Persistent. Pretentious. P– P– P–. I can’t think anymore, can’t see straight, can’t remember enough words to pull away from sensation. “Please.” If he says no, I still have the emergency brakes. I can control this. It may not be worth it. Employ that tactic and I may not be able to orgasm at all for days.

I don’t have to decide. He’s nodding, that smug grin still playing across his face. “Come for me.”

I don’t close my eyes. Don’t look away. Try not to think of how ridiculous my face must look, how ragged my breathing, whether I need to be quieter. His expression has turned gentle. He straightens to pull me into his arms and I let him. In these heels I can rest my chin on the top of his head, but somehow I feel small. Almost dazed. He whispers “thank you” and I smile.

The problem with playing at the club isn’t such a problem, not really.

What is “Normal,” Anyway?

So, you may have noticed that I’m a bit of a deviant. And by “a bit of a deviant” I mean the tagline of this blog is “sex at three standard deviations” for a reason. It’s mostly a joke. I picked three because I deviate from societal norms regarding sex in three major ways (kink, nonmonogamy, bisexuality), and threw in standard deviations on a whim/because I’m a bit of a nerd.

Figure 1: What the hell is this doing in a sex blog?
Figure 1: What the hell is this doing in a sex blog?

It still might be true, though. If you look at the normal distribution, you’ll see it’s divided into sections. If µ in the middle there is your mean, µ +/- one standard deviation is mathematically normal. If we were talking about men’s height in the US, average is about 5’10”, and a standard deviation is about 2.75″, so 68.27% of men will be between about 5’7.25″ and 6’0.75″. That’s our normal range. Between the first and second standard deviation, men who are 5’4.5″ to 5’7.25″ are likely to be considered short, while their analogues on the other side at 6’0.75″ to 6’3.5″ are tall. 95.45% of people should fall within this range. At 3 standard deviations, you’re down to 5’1.75″ or up to 6’6.25″. Only about 1/4 of a percent of men are going to be outside that range. It’s unlikely to pass without comment.

Behavior’s a bit trickier. You can’t treat a sexual identity and behaviors as just one thing, so say we take a persons kinks and preferences and plot each of them according to what proportion of the population shares them. Kissing is going to be well within the norm. Being waterboarded is going to be well outside of it. Sexual proclivities that 2.7 or fewer out of an average sample of 1000 people share are at three standard deviations.

bellcurve2
Figure 2: Placement of points does not represent the result of any research survey. Just threw ’em in at a guess for illustrative purposes.

That’s not to say a more common preference is better, or that a very uncommon one is an excuse for someone to crow about how kinky they are. It is freakish, sure, but only in the sense that it’s unusual. Value judgments based solely on how common a preference is are frankly just boring.

So what does it mean, to have a kink or preference further from the norm?

It can mean stigma.

Visibility helps with this: prevalence of LGBT persons in America varies by survey, but rests pretty firmly at or beyond 2 standard deviations (a recent Gallup poll puts the national average at 3.5%). There’s still rampant homophobia, but acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships is more common than not and trending upwards (more Gallup). Having an unusual kink or multiple partners still comes with the risk of social consequences if discovered. Normalizing a kink in terms of stigma needn’t mean convincing more people to enjoy it, just convincing them that it exists and folks who engage in it can be otherwise normal.

It can be harder to find partners who share your interests.

Again, some of this has been circumvented. We find each other. We have gay bars and clubs for those interested in same sex partners, BDSM groups for kinky folks, swingers clubs and poly meetups for swingers and poly folks respectively. We have the dark corners of the Internet. Still, less common means lower odds of meeting someone who shares whatever you’re looking for (and with whom you’re also compatible generally. That’s still important, obviously). Looking for a smart, nerdy straight or bi male to make out with? They are legion. Higher total number means higher number of potentially compatible ones. Yay! Looking for a smart, nerdy queer person who’s into waterboarding? Call me; I’m thisclose to giving up.

No partner is going to share every one of your preferences. There are too many possible variables, it’s just not going to happen. We prioritize, seek out the things without which we can’t feel satisfied with or properly connected to a partner.

It means thinking a little differently.

Being queer or poly or kinky means rejecting societal norms, to some degree. It can’t be done automatically, because the script isn’t provided for us. We have to think about it, challenge it, build our own systems and articulate our own ideas. We don’t always do the best construction, what with the lack of established blueprints and all, but we do what we can.

So what is normal anyway?

Normal is within 1 SD of the average. Normal is cisgendered and cissexual. It’s heterosexual. It’s vanilla. It’s monogamous. Normal is not better (though a certain subset of them certainly seem to think they are). Normal is not worse. Those of us who fall outside the norms aren’t anointed innovators and bringers of truth to the regular folks. It just means we’re different. Most of the time, I think I’m okay with that.

Pain

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.)

“Just for tonight”

We’re mouth to mouth, skin to skin. We’re sweating, tangled, writhing. I want to throw him on his back, fuck him, flay him alive, I don’t even know. There’s so much need in these nerves, not enough of him to fill it. I’m teetering on the edge of something primal, only hanging on to reason because we are so close to fucking already and he’s not wearing a condom yet.

He bites. I claw. Fuck. “Sorry,” I mumble. I make fists, dig nails into my own palms. I will be calm. I will behave. This kiss doesn’t break, only cracks around the edges. I can’t breathe. I don’t care. He’s almost docile. No; wrong word. He meets my energy, matches it, but tonight he doesn’t overpower me. I’m frightened, giddy, vicious. I want more. My teeth find his throat and he moans. I feel it in my mouth, that sound. He’s let his head fall back, vulnerable. I know it won’t last, hate that it won’t last. I want to tear him apart in this moment. I want to keep it–keep him–like some snarling beast standing over its kill.

My nails drag down his chest, too hard. “Fuck! Sorry. Maybe we need to–” I was going to say stop. He’s not a masochist, not a bottom, not submissive. My body doesn’t care. I want to hurt him, and I’m close to the edge.

“You really want to scratch me, huh.”

“Yes. Sorry.”

“Tell you what. Just for tonight, go ahead. As hard as you want, wherever. Just don’t draw blood or leave marks I can’t cover at work.”

I don’t need to be told twice. I have to hold back. My nails are longer than usual; I could easily make him bleed. I claw long, red lines over his back, his chest, his inner thighs. The last makes him gasp and shake and I pull back. “Sorry!”

“Trust me, that was a good noise.” I do trust him, or maybe I don’t care. I watch his face as I dig my nails in again. I want to slap him, to make him look at me. I want more than I can have, certainly more than he agreed to and I don’t dare ask for it; more would still be not enough. I keep scratching. I claw him while we fuck, make his hips jerk with unexpected pain. It’s more than I can handle: I’m all body no mind and I have to hold his hands in mine to keep from hurting him too much when I come. He’s looking at me. He wasn’t before but now he looks up at me with something like worship and it makes me want him all over again.

I call him beautiful. He is, the fierce attention of his face, my marks on his skin. He laughs, and I dig my nails in deep to turn it into another gasp. “You’re beautiful,” I say it again.

He turns away. “Sure, for a fat–”

“No.” He looks up–I never say no. I kiss him. It’s long and slow and almost sweet this time. “I mean it.”

Afterwards–still skin to skin, still coated in sweat–I run my fingers over his skin. “You’re pretty marked up.” I don’t mean it to sound like an apology, but it does.

“I’m impressed. I could feel you wanting to go harder. That took restraint.”

“You said no blood. Sorry, I was–”

“You’re sorry I’m impressed? I’m not saying this is going to be a usual thing, but damn. Don’t be sorry.”

I am sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t shred him in that moment when he was so in awe, so thoroughly mine. I’m sorry it couldn’t last, didn’t last. I’m sorry–and inexplicably certain–that it won’t happen again. He’s back in control. But just for tonight, it was almost enough.

Talk to me

“I want to do like a predicament scene with clothespins.”

“I have clothespins.”

“Yeah?”

“A few hundred of them.”

“Want to get your toybag?”

“Absofuckinglutely.”

“Wait, did we just negotiate?”

“Not yet. Who’s topping?”

“Uh, me. Remind me about your limits? No knives, and..?”

“Don’t fuck with my head, don’t hit my feet. No knives.”

We fumble briefly, decide to lay out a grappling mat. It takes only a minute to turn a vague idea of clothespin predicament into a plan. Four lines of pegs attached to a cross, me on tiptoe with arms stretched wide.

“So you move, you rip them off.” She’s grinning hugely.

“It will be a tense 43 seconds.” I move a lot.

“43 seconds? C’mon, you can do better than that.” She hits me before I can answer. Just slapping, bare handed. I relax into it, waiting for heavy pain. She throws a punch, hard enough to make me wobble. Two pegs snap off my hip, and I giggle.

“What happened to 43 seconds?”

“Getting bored?”

“This standing thing isn’t working for me, you’re too tall.”

“Okay.” I spin to face her, clothespins snapping all at once. She’s closer than I thought, holding a wide stance with her face an inch from my chest. “Oh! Hi!”

She looks up. “Hi. You watch pro wrestling right?” She grabs me under the arm and by the back of the knee, half-tosses half-drops me across the mat. “That’s some WCW shit right there.”

“William Carlos Williams?”

She pauses. I’m balanced on clawed hands and one knee. She’s dragging my body up by the other leg, hauling it up above my head. “What?”

The poet. WCW. You know, ‘so much depends-‘”

“‘On a red wheel barrow–‘ yeah. The hell is wrong with you, girl?”

“How long you got?”

“Until you start screaming.” She slams me down with a thump to the shoulder blade. I see Spouse hand her a wooden spoon. She applies it fast and hard to my inner thighs. I’m sweating, which makes it sting worse. I do scream. Well, yell. “Ow!” and “fuck!” and “fucking ow!”

“Aww, does it hurt?”

“Fucking stinging fucking goddamn fucking spoon! I hate that thing.”

“Guess you should go to your cave.” She starts hitting again, improbably loud slaps that have me punching the mat.

“What are you on about?”

“Your cave.” Slap. “Find your power animal.” Slap. “You know.”

“It’s a goddamn penguin!” We’re both giggling hard.

“Okay okay, be serious. I forget, have we tried this before?” She grabs my chest and lifts. She has tried if before. Attempt to induce a spasm in one of the pectoral nerves, I think. “Yeah. It doesn’t work.”

She frowns. “TMJ?”

“Nope, sorry. I mean you can try.” She applies pressure, and I take a moment to pop my jaw.

“Nothing?”

“Actually feels better now, thanks.”

“No problem.” She punches me in the chest, hard. It’s unexpected. I make a sound when I exhale. “What was that? He-?”

“No, just–hur” she punches again, forces air out.

“Definitely an “H”. Hmm. Hell? Hi? Henry?” We’re back to slapping, apparently. I start laughing, a hand over my mouth doing nothing to hold it in. “What?”

“I’m Henry the eighth, I am…” There is no excuse for singing Herman’s Hermits (hell, I shouldn’t be allowed to sing at all) but I’m committed. At least through the end of the chorus. I can’t remember the rest.

“Oh my fucking God. Turn over. I don’t even want to look at you.” She’s laughing. I hear her rummaging in my bag, focus on my balance rather than looking over. Too much weight on my left knee, pins and needles ascending on that side. She waits while I flex.

There’s no talking after that. She’s found everything that stings and she’s using them hard. I glance up: we have an audience, no one else is playing. Fuck it. I scream. Cuss. Shout. Shriek. Pain turns into energy, needs an outlet. I’m punching the mats in rhythmless staccato, balancing on the fingertips of my left hand while the right slams into the ground.

She stops, hands resting on my thighs. “You good?”

“Yup.”

“‘Yup’? Then what was all that noise about?” A two handed slap, with all her weight behind it. Ow. “Just having a tantrum?”

I giggle. “Hysterics. You know how it is with women; we just have fits over nothing.”

“Ugh, I know.” She pauses, as though she has more to say. Laughs instead. She drags me to my knees, prods everywhere she’s hit. “You’re really warm.” She leans across me to pick up the Sandman. Copper rolls over my skin.

“Fuck!”

“What?”

“It’s cold!”

“It’s cold.” I want to bite her smirk right off. “You don’t like the cold?”

“I am a lizard and I’m going to die!”

The whole room laughs at that one. She laughs loudest. “So go to your cave!”

“It’s cold there too!”

We’re both breathless with laughing. I can’t meet her eyes without making it worse.

“Okay, we good? We done?”

“We good.” I grab her in a bear hug. “Thanks. I needed that.”

“Bet you did, girl.” She helps me clean and pick up–unusual, that.

I’ve had quiet scenes. Play where the loudest sound is a quick breath or a clink of glass. They’re pleasant, calming. Nothing like this. Two people come together not in silent understanding that may or may not be all imagined, but in conversation. We’re raucous and vulgar and laugh too much. We have fun.

Some folks hold back. Don’t joke; it’s disrespectful. Don’t scream; it’s weak. Don’t speak; it’s not the time.

To hell with that. I’m not here to skate the surface of you, I’m here to dive in. Let all those words and sounds and all the rest of it break the surface.

Talk to me.

On Female Dominance. (by a switch)

This was going to be a comment on Ferns‘ recent post about the barriers young dominant women experience in coming into their sexuality, but it got out of hand and turned into a whole gender thing so it’s here now. All the disclaimers: floating around seemingly at random in terms of sexual identity as I do (switch/poly/queer/oy vey), dominance is a thing that I may experience very differently than most women who identify as dominant. I suspect there’s still enough overlap that I can talk about it, but maybe not. Anyway. Her early experience is undoubtedly a common one:

From my perspective as a young woman out in the world, I was never free to exercise any sexual initiative in the way I wanted. So I stifled it.

What I mean by that is that in NO environment was I safe or encouraged to behave in the way I wanted (predatory, aggressive, running the fuck) with men.

Why?

Because men COULD NOT FOLLOW.

As soon as I showed the slightest interest in any man, I was put on the defensive by THEIR aggressive behaviour and there was no way to manage that except to step back and become the gatekeeper.

I can’t even imagine how frustrating this would be. Obviously it’s happened; I’ve made advances and the response has been off-putting and over the top. It’s like when you go to scratch a dog behind the ears and he just can’t handle the excitement, he’s sure you’re best friends now and he wants to lick your face and knock you down with his crazy whip-tail and really all you can do is try to calm him down before you fall over. It’s not all that surprising. Heterosexual men are under overwhelming social pressure to be the aggressor in relationships, even if that’s not their personal preference. It definitely adds to the difficulty so many women have in being the aggressive/assertive partner. A lot of our perceptions about aggression and assertiveness are tied up in the idea of masculinity, which is going to make the process of forming an F/m relationship subversive to some degree. Some folks like being subversive, some find it frustrating that it has to be, but ultimately, it goes against the grain. It’s just harder.

For the most part, I was lucky. With a very few exceptions, I don’t date traditionally masculine men. Some are genderfluid, Most are queer to some degree, one was completely asexual*, and a couple were deeply, oppressively religious. Most of the rest of my partners have been women.  They’ve generally been perfectly happy to let me be a mean, egotistical maniac outspoken, aggressive, and downright bossy. (Well, minus the bossy part when dating a D-type.) Whatever power dynamic formed in each of those relationships formed independently over time to match what worked for us. I really can’t stress enough that I have been lucky as hell in this regard.

I started dating at fifteen. By eighteen I was consistently the more assertive partner in every relationship and the initiator of every one night stand. I didn’t think of it in D/s terms at the time, not because BDSM was unfamiliar but because the mix-n-match of behaviors I indulged didn’t properly fit D/s roles as I understood them. Hell, I still don’t know how to describe a relationship with a terribly conflicted Catholic man that consisted almost entirely of theological debate and ordering him to hurt me. Dominant masochist and evil temptress? Who knows. The point is, even though I had the freedom to be as aggressive as I liked most of the time within a relationship, doing so openly was still incredibly challenging.

There’s a social perception that comes with assertiveness, and it is decidedly masculine. I’m not remotely butch. I can dress the part, and have on occasion, but my default look is long curls and high heels. One of my many objections to cold weather is that it prevents me wearing skirts. But because I’m aggressive–because I reach for the check first, because I make the first move, because in some subtle way it’s typically assumed that I’m going to at least voice if not make joint decisions in a relationship–I’m called the “guy” or the “man” of the relationship. This started way back in undergrad, when I was dating a very butch but rather meek young woman. Over and over friends would laugh that “Nic is so the boy, it’s so cute!” (which pissed us both the hell off because no, actually, we were both women; there is no “boy” in a lesbian relationship**). It continues today with Spouse: a good chunk of our social group have taken to calling him my wife and I frequently have to correct people who assume ours is an F/m relationship. The former we don’t mind. Spouse is genderqueer and mostly indifferent to which gendered nouns and pronouns people use to refer to him. The latter is more problematic. One domme assumed that Spouse was submissive to me because he came to a party in high heels–that is, clearly I had feminized him, and feminine=submissive. One of the reasons he wears heels is to annoy me: I like being taller than he is. It’s ridiculous, and especially hard to understand given that in 90% of my public scenes, I bottom, and in all but one of his public scenes, he’s topped. But he’s not masculine. Must be submissive, right?

It is problematic that emasculation is synonymous with weakness. It is problematic that empowerment is in conflict with traditional femininity (apparently there’s not an accepted word. I looked.) This discourages women from being assertive, aggressive, or dominant: those of us who embrace female identity are told that we can’t keep it if we want to be dominant. For some, that’s a barrier that can be overcome. I have changed Spouse’s car battery in bright red stilettos while threatening the poor Southern gentleman who said “let me just get that for you, darlin’.” My automatic response to anyone who says “you can’t…” is to immediately and with complete disregard for personal safety or social consequences do exactly the thing I “can’t” do. For others, I imagine it’s just tiring. Simply expressing oneself authentically shouldn’t be a constant struggle, but norms being what they are, it is. For some women, the frustration of expressing dominance may just not be worth it, especially for those women who don’t know that there’s a kink community out there and that many men are dissatisfied with the power dynamics assigned to traditional gender roles.

It’s not just that men are raised and expected to behave this way, it’s that this behavior is synonymous with masculinity. If women are going to be comfortable with dominance, assertiveness, aggression, we need at minimum social acceptance to be these things without being denied femininity.

*Yeah. Ask me how well that worked.

**By which I mean: when referring to a relationship between two female-identifying persons who are not interested in queering their gender, it is inappropriate for an outsider to declare one of them the “boy/man/guy/dude/&c. It’s homophobic to force homosexual relationships to fit a heterosexual paradigm. If someone in a lesbian relationship identifies as a boy (or really anything else. Tiger. Shark. Martian. Level 13 doppelganger rogue) that’s great, no problem. Well, unless you go the doppelganger route: I’m not giving you a pass on the level adjustment, sorry.

Submit: (verb, active)

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.

Quaint Little Categories

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.

Scream

I want to make her scream.

I’ve only known her a few hours, the length of a brutal scene and a conversation broken into pieces across this party. I know how we got here. It’s easy to point to the moment attraction is affirmed, the phrase that drew a sudden sense of of intimacy. Still, that first kiss is as thrilling and surreal as all first kisses are. I know how we got here, but it hardly seems to matter.

I’m gentle at first, kissing softly, sliding fingers over her back lightly enough to catch on the texture of her skin. Both of us are marked: she has a welt for every bruise of mine, burning under my fingertips. I’m trying to be careful, to move slowly. I don’t know her body, whether she can balance pain on top of pain or if she needs this time to recover. She makes a sound like a dove and arches her whole body into me when my fingernails brush the length of a weal across her side. I want to claw her open. I want to turn her soft noises to shrieks and her shy caresses to thrashing limbs. I force my hands to relax. I whisper in her ear (I don’t remember what, only that it made her shiver and try to pull my hips against her). I’m holding back a laugh, teasing her with my teeth, grinding hard against her thigh.

It doesn’t last long, the gentleness. My mouth wants all of her, from lips to skin to sinews. My fingers curl around the shape of bones. We are ill-balanced on this unfamiliar couch. I half-fall, land with one knee on cold tile and the other between her thighs. She’s talking, asking where she should move, filling the air with apologies I don’t want to hear. I scramble up, climb her with lips and teeth and too-clumsy hands. I bite her collarbone hard, harder, until she gasps.

“Stop. Saying. Sorry.” I don’t lift my teeth from her skin. The words come out half-growl, half-lisp. I sound ridiculous. She nods anyway, biting her lip, eyes cast down. There’s a low laugh behind me. Her boyfriend (dominant. Master. Something. I don’t care.) leans over in his creaking chair. His voice is too low for words to carry. The Techie’s answer is just as quiet, just as distracting. I try to push them out of my head.

She makes it easy to refocus. I slide my teeth over her breast, my hand up her thigh. When I look up, her eyes are closed and she’s still biting her lip. “Okay?” I ask. She nods. “Can I..?” I move my fingers farther up her leg, watching her face. “‘Course you can,” says her boyfriend from behind me. Annoyance flares up. I have to close my eyes and exhale slowly before speaking. “I am not asking you.” I tap her on the collarbone with the knuckles of my left hand. “I’m asking you.” For a moment I think she’s gone somewhere past words. I’m starting to sit back, pulling away from her when her eyes flutter open. “Yes. Please.”

I can’t help grinning. I’m being rough with her, watch her face to see how she responds. I’m trying to hold back. I worry even holding back might be too much. Frankly, I’m surprised she can lie on her back at all tonight. “If I’m hurting you, or this is too intense, tell me, yeah?” She mumbles something, too quiet to hear. “Sorry?” “I said I want too intense.” She buries her face in her hands.

I wondered if she would still pull me closer if she knew what I was thinking, that I wanted to crumble her to bits between my hands and eat the pieces. I held her down, fucked her with my fingers while her hands clenched and unclenched on either side of my hips.
She’s so quiet underneath me. All I hear is the faintest ragged breathing, whisper-soft moans. I want to make her scream.

We’ve twisted. I don’t know when it happened and I don’t care. I’m underneath her, my cunt pressed against the muscle of her thigh. We’re kissing, teeth clattering. She moans into my mouth and I drink it in. I’m not so quiet as she is. I come screaming, eyes locked on hers. After that it’s a blur. I heard the Techie and her boyfriend talking at one point, gasped at them to be quiet or go away. We exhausted ourselves and came back for more for I don’t know how long. She said it was after dawn, when she got home.

We exchanged numbers. Been texting, most days. It’s been a while. I feel hesitant, shy. It’s not the sort of encounter one can leave with any expectations, but we rather get along.

She’s heading back to town this weekend, for another party. I am unexpectedly, delightfully giddy.

Consent: What is it, anyway?

People talk about consent as though it’s complicated. Sure, no means no, but does yes always mean yes? What if she said “yes” but doesn’t seem into it? What if he says “no” but really wants it? What if she says “yes” based on psychological issues without informing her partner about those issues? When does “Do you want to make cookies?” mean “let’s fuck?” What happens when one or more parties regret or just don’t enjoy whatever they’ve agreed to? All of a sudden everyone who wants to be conscientious about getting laid is either a lawyer, or afraid of lawyers.

I see posts like this one about being terrified of overstepping bounds or not being what one’s partner desires*. Or a tweet asking what consent feels like**. They make me wonder how much baggage the word has picked up, and why we seem so willing to let our partners’ consent be the sole factor in our decision to do sexy sexy things with/to/for them.

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Can we stop it already? Consent is a very simple concept. I’m just going to go with the OED’s primary definition: “Voluntary agreement to or acquiescence in what another proposes or desires; compliance, concurrence, permission.” That’s it, folks. Consent is permission without coercion. If you ask your partner, “hey, can you start the laundry?” and he says “sure,” that’s consent. If I growl “I want to bite your collarbone,” a “God, yes,” is consent. If he shifts to an open posture that gives access to his collarbone and/or draws my face towards it, that’s probably consent. Nonverbal communication can be clear and unmistakable***, but if (like me) you’re paranoid or terrible at reading it, adding a “may I?” and waiting for some form of verbal “yes/mhmm/please” or a clear nod can guarantee that you’ve got consent. If the answer to “I want to bite your collarbone” is “be careful not to leave marks,” you have provisional consent: biting yes, bite marks no. If the answer is “no,” well, that can be disappointing, but aren’t you glad you said something instead of diving in and chomping on someone who didn’t want it?

There are situations people seem to find genuinely confusing. They can be confusing, not because consent is hard but because there are other factors one ought to consider other than simply getting one’s partner’s permission.

A person can consent without having desire. This is no fun. If I say “let’s fuck” and my partner says “meh, okay, I’ve got nothing better to do,” that’s consent. It’s not enthusiastic by any means, but consent requires only acquiescence, not desire. Now, if I know my partner isn’t in the mood and is just acquiescing, that’s a hell of a turn-off. So I can try to create a sexy mood, or change my mind about initiating things****. What I can’t do (if I’m fair and rational) is accuse my partner of lying about consent. That’s not my call.

Conversely, a person can have desire without consenting. People can lust after each other, harbor crushes, flirt, or fall in love and still not consent to doing all the things they both fantasize about. Maybe one or both of them is in a monogamous relationship (cheating is wrong, folks). Maybe their religion says no sex before marriage. Maybe one of them wants casual sex and the other wants a relationship–if two people attach very different meanings to an act, it can break a friendship. Maybe it just seems like a bad idea to one person or the other. Doesn’t matter. The point is, no means no even if the person saying no desperately wants to say yes.

A person can consent when he or she should not. Yup. People screw up, and it’s allowed. If someone in a monogamous relationship decides to cheat, that person is consenting to do things he should not even though he knows better. If a person is sexually traumatized or self-medicating self esteem issues with sex, that person is consenting to do so even though it is not a good idea from a mental health standpoint*****. That said, a competent adult has a responsibility to provide partners with relevant information before diving into the fun stuff. Two people are capable of consenting to having an affair, but if the non monogamously attached party doesn’t know about the boyfriend/wife/significant other, he’s acting on incomplete information. Now, I realize things come up that we wouldn’t anticipate and it’s no one’s fault. A good rule of thumb? If you feel like you should bring it up, if you know a partner would want to know about your [insert relationship status, mental or physical health issue, or other here], speak up.

The common objection is that talking about sex ruins the moment. Asking for consent, clarifying desire, these detract from the moments we see in too many movies where people all just magically know exactly what their partners want. It’s bullshit. You know what ruins the moment? Having a man say “let’s bake cookies,” and then hover expectantly without saying what he actually wants while you try to give him tips to improve his oatmeal-raisin related skills******.If you can’t talk about sex, you can’t practice good consent. Anyway, dirty talk is hot. There’s no reason getting consent can’t be sexy as hell.

The thing is, getting your partner’s consent is necessary, but it is not sufficient. One’s own consent matters, too, and if you don’t feel secure in your partner’s desire or mental state or relationship status, you don’t have to consent. That’s right, you can decide not to go through with an act based on any criteria from the logical to the paranoid, even if you have desire and your partner consents. Is it fun? No. Is it hard? You bet. But it sure as hell beats telling your partners that you don’t respect their ability to make adult decisions.

*This paranoia is completely legitimate and I do the same thing all the fucking time. People should care about their partners’ experience as well as their own. My point here isn’t that you shouldn’t worry about your partners’ secret wants, desires, thoughts, or anything else. It’s that those things are not consent.

**Consent feels like having agency and responsibility for one’s actions, and clearly communicating one’s decision to engage in the activity/ies consented to.

***I expect some disagreement on this point. I’d like to refer again to the definition of consent here: “Voluntary agreement to or acquiescence in what another proposes or desires; compliance, concurrence, permission.” There are non-verbal cues that unmistakably show agreement. Nods mean “yes.” Moving in close and tilting your face to avoid nose-bumping means “yes” to kissing. This is important in part because the converse is also true: shaking one’s head means “no.” Turning away or putting a hand up to block a kiss means “no” to kissing. I’m sure many people’s gut reaction to this is going to be “but sometimes body language is ambiguous!” Yeah. Sometimes it is. I’m referring to specific, universal nonverbal signs of invitation and agreement. Not all body language can be interpreted to replace verbal communication. Body language should never be interpreted to override verbal communication. If there’s ever any doubt, ask! “May I..?” “Do you want..?”

****Or have unenthusiastic sex, I guess, but why?

*****we’re talking about competent adults here. Mental illness of a severity to prevent the ability to consent at all negates this. But if a person can hold a job, feed and clothe himself, and be otherwise vaguely responsible for his own life, he can own his own sexual decisions as well.

******True story. And yeah, we had sex. I lectured him about using his words first, though.