Too Much Sometimes

He told me that I am selfish sometimes. He said I only think about my self- my own needs. He’s tired of always accomodating the things that I want.
I know this- It’s true. Because after a lifetime of ignoring my own inner voice, after growing up not trusting my gut when it tells me something is wrong, after years of tip toeing around, ignoring my own trauma and rage and sadness so I can be passive, so I can be pleasing– sometimes I go too far the other way. Because it feels so new and so good.
He told me that I read into things too much. I’m offended- I’m triggered- I’m annoyed- I’m angered at such little things. Sometimes it seems random to him. It seems inconsistent. He doesn’t understand why I pick on some things and not others. He doesn’t understand why there are days when nothing feels okay to me.
I know this- It’s true. He’s right. Because after a lifetime of ignoring violence, after years of my experiences weren’t
being constantly dismissed, after growing up thinking it was better to never be offended- that I should just swallow everything, even when it’s harmful- sometimes I go too far the other way. Because it feels so new and so good. This different way of living life feels hot in my bones. And I want to try it more and more.
He told me I talk about this shit too much. I’m constantly explaining
myself. I’m so often defending my perspective. I’m so frequently debating the issues. I just can’t let it go. The words keep falling from my mouth- uncontrollably releasing. My voice turns to yells. My blood boils pressured and hot when I try to hold it back now. I have so much more to say. I have so much more to tell you.
He’s right. Because after a lifetime of
staying quiet, after years of listening to what others had to say, after spending so much time not thinking my thought processes all the way through to the end- sometimes I go too far the other way. Because it feels so good and so new. This different way of standing- with my voice thrown out into the world while other people listen- it feels trembly in my throat. It feels life saving like rain after drought. And over time I crave the feeling more and more.

You will have to forgive me if I seem too much, too loud, too focused on myself, too immersed in my own perspective. I have never allowed myself this before: this satisfying congruency inside myself- the feeling of fitting two puzzle pieces together and knowing it is right.

These Thunderstorms

These thunderstorms that rage in spring are unappeasable…

I dream that something will make them stop-

could it be your touch that bends the course of the planet?

Will our voices spatter light across the sky?

Will our footsteps leave precious frost on the ground?

But no- my love for you is helpless-

like the thin warming tundra ice-

like the low gleaming plains surrounded by water.

I Never Thought I Could Love Another Woman

I never thought I could love another woman. Not in the real world. Not in a way that would make sense. Not in a way that wasn’t tragic. Not in a way that wasn’t someone else’s fetish. Not in a way that I could see or believe. The stories weren’t coherent. It didn’t seem possible.

There were straight stories and there were gay stories. Nothing outside of this or in between. The straight stories were the ones I grew up with. They were the ones I was expected to follow. It was assumed those were the stories I’d copy.

If I was gay it would be a big “coming out” and surprise. I would be welcomed by my family: but it would change my whole identity. Not just to my family, but to the rest of the world. I would become “the lesbian”.
Those were the options I saw. Princess in a Fairytale, or Lesbian Daughter. Neither felt right.

In high school girls started holding hands with their best friends. We noticed each other’s bodies get curvy. But over and over again we are told that it’s not the same: the boys are the ones we will change our lives for, give up our souls for, who penetrate our beings and leave us different forever. Girls stay on the sidelines, waiting until after the boyfriend leaves. Or hoping he won’t come. We comfort each other in between their betrayals.

Girls who lust for girls are not taken seriously. Even by themselves. I didn’t believe it at first, even when I thought about it deeply.

For two weeks when I was 17 I thought I was a lesbian. Suddenly I knew- it was a woman I wanted- it was the woman I would spend the rest of my life with. I told my mom I thought I might be a lesbian, and she laughed and sighed, thinking I was acting out and being dramatic to get attention. She didn’t believe it for a second: she had seen how silly and obsessive I had been about boys, since I was a little girl. What I was saying didn’t fit her stories of me.

Even when I grew up and started falling for girls (when I started letting myself fall)- in the back of my mind I knew. They were never actually an option. We remember love stories and I don’t see any where the girl is the one you can find happiness with.

There are only a few stories even a little like this and they follow narrow paths. They are mostly sad, riddled with violence, and all the girls are butch. The ones with femme girls like me are injected with sexualization- there is always a man’s gaze in the background, like an overseer, who has lent his woman out to another for his own titillation. So it was never actually about me- just the fantasy that for a moment I could represent.

I don’t want our love to be watched closely by a man from a distance. I don’t want our love to be at the whim of him. And I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to be left behind when a new man appears on the horizon, because that’s the only way you think love can be real. I don’t want our love to be spattered with blood and grief. I want there to be more stories. I want you to be a real possibility.

want

“want”

I want you to beat me
Push me harder
Don’t stop when I tell you I’m done
Don’t slow down when I start to cry
I want to feel desperate
I want to feel like I can’t escape
I want to forget who you are
I want to forget why I wanted this
I want to be numb
I want to be sore
I want to feel used, unwrapped, flattened, shaken,
ALIVE,
crying,
red,
SHOCKED.
I never learned to expose my insides out,
You have to tear my walls down for me,
Beat out the insecurity, the jealousy, the despair,
Remind me I am powerless to the world in the realest possible way.
Beat it out of me,
Until there is nothing left but the sensations of my body,
So deep in the realness of the moment it feels like I am dreaming,
Purified of experience.
Do it until I have only instinct left,
until I have no choice but to feel.

What does submission mean

What is submission

What does it mean to be a submissive? It is different for everyone. Here is what it means for me.

I feel these things when I sub: wholeness, satisfaction, soulfulness, contentment.

To sub is to relinquish control to someone you trust. It is to experience safety in the most vulnerable of ways. It is to put your life, your well being, your sanity, your own worth as a human into the hands of someone else and to come back more whole, more satisfied, and more safe in yourself. It is to give up power over my mind, body and spirit. It is to choose helplessness in a place of total trust and security. It is an exercise in letting go, in giving in, in feeling totally free despite restraints.

In the state of submission, the person I choose to give this to will use that power to push me, to pleasure me, to nurture me, to hurt in a way that makes me heal more completely. In their place of power they will choose to not kill me. They will choose to not destroy me. They will choose to not wound me. They will use it in a way that once I leave I will be more fulfilled, more centered, more integrated than I was before.

Submission is about empowerment. It is about choosing when, with whom, and it what context I am powerless.

To sub is to be used and protected: physically, sexually and emotionally. It is to serve another who wants to protect me in the ways I have asked them to.

To be a sub is about my sexuality. It is about surrendering my most intimate parts to another.

It is about pain. It is about pushing the limits of what sensations I can absorb and then release again.

It is about emotions- it is about fear- it is about disassociation- it is about regression- it about the present moment- it is about awareness.

To sub is to explore the depths of myself- it is about growth, it is about pleasure, it is about expansion.

To sub is to push myself: to expand the limits of my body and my mind. It is a spiritual journey, to prove to myself that I can stand by the darkest ravine- I can balance on my toes and teeter on the edge there. It is to show myself that I will survive being crushed, being beaten, being reduced to nothing: I will rise again every time transformed into something more powerful. It is to reaffirm to myself that I am tough, I am special, I am strong.

Make Your Kink Ethical (a summary)

Ethics of Kink:

This is a summary of the basic components that, in my perspective, make for ethical kink and BDSM practices. This is not meant to be comprehensive, especially in relation to the complexities of relationship development and negotiation. It is meant to be an overview, and a place to start.

Part 1: Consent and Communication

     Consent, consent, consent. It’s what kink is all about. This is of course the same as all sexual or physical interaction- but becomes especially interesting in the realm of BDSM where there is “boundary pushing” and “consensual non-consent” being played out in an eroticized manner.
     The basics of consent and communication are actually very simple: everything should be explicitly discussed and negotiated before hand, and where it makes sense to throughout the interaction. That being said, there does not have to be a step by step outline agreed to for every moment of every time you play, although there could be if that is what feels most comfortable to you. If you are comfortable leaving some parts of the interaction to organically and fluidly unfold, there should at the minimum have been a check in about this and the basic limits it would be okay to be spontaneous within. The things that are left more vague should be intentional, and not be left that way because anyone is too uncomfortable or insecure to bring it up.
Each other’s hard limits [what you are definitely not okay with doing] should be known, so that spontaneous moments don’t tread into severely negative territories.
     Safe words [for example “red” meaning that the play needs to immediately stop, and “yellow” meaning that you are getting close to that point] should be clearly defined. Anyone can use their safe word(s) at any time without interrogation, guilt tripping, or negative emotional or relational consequences. That means neither party should be afraid that stopping the play will mean that aspects of their emotional or relational attachments to their play partner(s) will change negatively.
     Agreements for play times or aspects of D/s relationships can be really detailed and specific, or more ambiguous. Neither is worse than the other, it’s just important that the agreements exist and have been discussed one way or the other in terms of where you want to be on the spectrum of limits and boundaries.

     Quick note on the word ‘negotiation’: The term negotiation, as in “relationship negotiation”, I think confuses some people. In this context a negotiation does not mean that each person makes concessions. It means that all people have found where their “enthusiastic happiness” overlaps and have agreed to play in those margins. The only exception to this is when a person is not “enthusiastically happy” about doing or trying something, but they are not negatively affected by it, do not feel obligated by sexual, emotional or physical blackmail, and they are “happily willing” to do it for their partner’s pleasure.

Part 2: Anti-Oppression and Identity Politics

     Sometimes, the power dynamics in BDSM mirror the oppressive power dynamics of our society. For example, a white Dom and a Black sub, or a male Dom and a female sub, or a butch Dom and a femme sub. These configurations are in no way inherently problematic. However, our sexual desires are not random: they are socially constructed, and influenced on a deep level by what we have been taught to eroticize by an oppressive culture. It is important for people to do anti-oppression work and deconstruct their sexual fantasies to help uncover their problematic roots. It doesn’t mean that it is problematic to play out those fantasies. But it requires work- anti-oppression work that everyone should be doing anyway.
     For example, if a straight man has Dominant tendencies and desires towards submissive women, it is important for him to begin the work of questioning, deconstructing, and unlearning his sexist attitudes and assumptions on an interpersonal and societal level before engaging in play. Dominance and submission should not be born out of beliefs of inherent inferiority and passivity, or inherent superiority and aggression. It should be about people’s intentional choices to take part in a mutually fulfilling kinky interaction. The realities of our culture do not disappear once we head into the bedroom or the dungeon. If the underlying social norms that influence our play is not recognized, it can become harmful very quickly.
     All this being said, if this deconstruction work is been done, BDSM can be a great vehicle for exploring and coping with oppression. If it is happening in the context of a healthy, anti-oppressive relationship, it can allow you to go to dark places, intimate place to explore your socialization.

Part 3: Motivations and Self Worth

     Another aspect of ethical BDSM are the motivations people have for participating in it. Some people with submissive tendencies have deeply internalized beliefs about themselves: that they are inherently worthless and deserve pain and punishment. BDSM becomes an excuse to act these deep seated negative beliefs out.
I believe that this is a very dangerous motivation for participating in BDSM.
     Similarly, people with Dominant tendencies who believe that they are inherently cruel or bad people are getting into very scary territory. I would recommend participating in individual therapy, or doing extensive self exploration and reflection before and while beginning to explore BDSM. Issues related to self worth and beliefs about self will likely come up. Both Doms and subs should be actively working towards cultivating the belief that they are important, worthy, valuable, and good. The choice to engage in BDSM should come from a place of self love, not self hate. Of course, self esteem is a tricky thing. I would not say “you have to have perfect self esteem in order to participate in ethical BDSM!”. Not everyone is able to have awesome self esteem all the time. However, it should at least be a continual project you are engaged in and aware of.

Part 4: Safety and Risk

People should be educated on the risks and rewards of different BDSM practices before they agree to them. Of course, when you are just starting out, there is always going to be an aspect of trial and error. However, I believe that people should engage in their communities and the educational resources available to make thoughtful decisions in their negotiations. There is so much information available: there are many books, tons of information online, websites and forums to ask questions in, and for those more economically privileged, workshops and conferences to attend.
     “Safe, sane and consensual” used to be the mantra of ethical kink. However, it has been pointed out that some people decide to consent to highly unsafe things, and that is okay and a matter of personal agency. Also, “sane” implies that people struggling with mental illness cannot engage in BDSM, and that is totally false and prejudiced.
     A more accurate mantra is “risk aware and consensual”. That is, it is important that people know all the potential risks, physical and mental, of everything they are agreeing to. I believe it is the responsibility of the more experienced partner to ensure their less experienced partner has the access to information that they require to make a fully informed, risk aware decision. However, it is also the responsibility of less experienced people to actively learn about and consider the pros and cons of different types of play.

Conclusion:

     Kink and BDSM are complex, multi-faceted, and can be incredibly satisfying and fulfilling. With the right partners, it can be a way to help us access our deepest resources for healing and self-understanding. However, this takes work, both emotional and cognitive. Considering the ethical implications of consent, communication, anti-oppression, identity, motivations, self worth, safety and risk in your play will help to get you started on a positive path.

The Problem With “Don’t Kink Shame!”

Feminist opinions on BDSM and kink practices tend to be divided into two camps. There are the radical feminists who believe that all BDSM is a manifestation of patriarchal abuse. They do not trust individual people to know for themselves what is abusive, and what is empowering. They argue that social conditioning means that you have to must view all choices and all behaviors through a socio-cultural lens. In this view, people don’t just have innate sexual desires- all of our urges are orchestrated by a backdrop of patriarchal conditioning that we either go along with, or resist against.

On the other side, there are liberal feminists who believe that individual choices and agency can occur unrelated to social conditioning. These are the folks that say BDSM and kink practices can be empowering because they really have nothing to do with patriarchy- some people are just kinky and individual folks should be able to decide for themselves what feels sexy and pleasurable to them.

Arguments between these two camps tend to go like this:
Radical feminist: People who do BDSM are either abusive predators or self-hating women with internalized misogyny. If you are turned on by BDSM then you are contributing to the perpetuation of rape culture and the normalization of intimate partner violence.
Liberal feminist: Don’t shame people’s individual sexual preferences! People have the right to explore their sexuality in whatever way works for them, as long as it’s consensual. BDSM has nothing to do with abuse or rape culture.

In the radical feminist argument, an individual’s sexuality cannot be disconnected from larger cultural frameworks like patriarchy, misogyny, and oppression. In the liberal feminist argument, an individual’s sexuality is a matter of personal agency that can be separated from the influence of social norms.

What if both of these perspectives are missing something?

What if both of these perspectives could be true simultaneously?

Liberal feminists argue that when people act out their kinks, they are engaging in an orchestrated fantasy. Kinky sex is not abuse. Impact play is not abuse. By definition, impact play (as an example) is about being turned on by hitting someone who wants you to hit them in a particular way, or being turned on when you are hit by someone who wants to hit you in a particular way. Like all BDSM, it is a form of ritualized, consensual, and mutually pleasurable power play.
The difference between BDSM and abuse is really simple when completely distilled down in this way. Abusers are getting off on enacting coercive or forced power and oppression onto a vulnerable person. Their goal is to harm and destroy and disempower. BDSM practitioners are not turned on at the thought of doing something against someones will, crossing a boundary, or playing with someone who is not consensually enjoying the play. What makes BDSM hot is that the person you are playing with is a competent, mature adult who you respect and has freely chosen to explore these more or less powerful parts of themselves with you. BDSM practitioners aren’t turned on by abuse- they are turned on by adults consensually engaging in an activity where they can safely explore power differentials.

As a BDSM practitioner, I completely agree with the above explanation of BDSM vs. abuse- but on a surface level. I think when you really start to critically analyze BDSM play, it becomes much more complicated than the explanation above lets on. Radical feminists have a point when it comes to BDSM- but I think they draw the wrong conclusions from that point.

It is equally as absurd to say “BDSM practitioners are abusers” as it is to say that “BDSM has nothing to do with a culture that sexualizes violence and abuse”. We don’t experience sexual desires in a vacuum. And we cannot separate our kinks from a culture where people are regularly sexually assaulted and physically abused. Humans are creatures that survive by conforming to our cultures, and our sexual identities develop by being tossed around in a tangled web of normalized imagery and belief systems. We learn, either overtly or covertly- what is okay and not okay to find erotic- and our sexuality develops around these parameters. We internalize what we are taught about sexuality, and manifest it one way or another.

Many people have been sexually or physically abused as children. If you weren’t, you probably know someone who was. At the very least, you heard the whispered stories of kids being used for terrible and sadistic purposes when you were growing up. These experiences and stories affect us. They seep deep down into our subconscious. Of course they influence how are sexual identity develops.

My key point is the fact that our oppressive cultures influence our sexualities does not make consensually exploring these aspects of our sexualities inherently wrong. I believe that we need trust each other to feel out for ourselves what sexual practices are empowering and exciting for us as individuals and with our partners. I also believe we have a duty to critically examine the sexual behaviors and beliefs of ourselves and others. If you interpret that “also” caveat as “kink shaming”, then you are immobilizing people from really reflecting on their motivations and intentions. If any time you deconstruct something you are accused of “shaming” that thing, there is no way to address issues of oppression and inequality ingrained in our actions. However, telling people that their consensually practiced turn-ons (where ever those turn-ons came from) are inherently evil, degrading, or oppressive is equally as problematic.

We need to hold both: we can know that our socialization influences what turns us on. We can do the hard work of considering how oppressive images and belief systems have defined our sexual desires. And we can also recognize that people need to be trusted to figure out what sexually fulfills them. It’s okay to find safe ways to explore our problematic socializations. It’s okay for people to privately and consensually engage with the things that get us hot- as long as we are simultaneously exploring where those things came from. It’s not about kink shaming OR saying that all BDSM is perfectly fine and without problematic aspects. It’s about finding ways to safely explore our deeply ingrained desires in the healthiest, least oppressive ways possible.

What I Have Survived

What have I survived.

Sexism.
Misogyny.
Rape culture.
Slut shaming.

Humiliation.
Self Hatred.
Victim Blaming.
Whorephobia.

Objectification.
Watching women I love get laughed at and talked shit about. For being women.
Harassment.
Biphobia.

Male privilege. Masculine normativity.
Having my needs needs trivialized.
Intrusive, inappropriate questions and comments.
Delegitimizing.
Judgement.

Being taught that men’s needs are most important. Being taught that nurturing men is most important. Being taught that I need to keep men happy and satisfied at the expense of my own needs.
Being put down.
Never feeling safe.
Feeling unsafe around my uncle, my dad, male friends, male partners, potential male partners, male acquaintances, male strangers.
Thinking I’m worthless.

Constantly second guessing motivations- both my own and those of men.
Lack of security. In my world. In others. In myself.
Constant anxiety and hyper vigilance: I could be betrayed or assaulted at any moment.
Cat calls. Yelling. Groping. Stalking.
Believing that I’m damaged.

Microaggressions. Every. Day.
Having pictures taken of me without my permission.
Always feeling scrutinized.
Feeling helpless.
Feeling hopeless.

Being judged by how passive, permissive, and sexually available I am.
Discouragement.
Exhaustion.
Being treated like I’m silly, stupid, and pathetic.

Watching women I love idolizing their oppressors.
Watching women I love bend over backwards for their oppressors.
Knowing that every woman in my community has been abused by men. More than once.
Knowing that predators are everywhere.

Contempt.
Disgust.
Hate.
Dehumanization.
Fear.