Archive for the ‘exile’ Category
I want to delete this blog.
Every time I think about it I burst into tears. I made a backup to protect myself, among other things, against overly enthusiastic future self. It’s not even “I want to delete this blog” it’s I want to walk away – it’s just too cyclical. I want to walk away because when I come back in 5 years – because as one brilliant woman just told me, “burnout doesn’t last forever” – we will still be having the same conversation about sexually submissive men, about rape and naming abusers, about BDSM as consumer culture. Think about it, the mainstream BDSM scene, as it stands today in North America, has had at least 20 years to address sexual abuse in its ranks. Clearly, it’s failed. You want me to believe it’s really gonna change this time? It won’t, they’ll still be arguing over if one should say the acronym SSC or RACK while molesting newbies at knife-point in the back corners of private parties.
It turns out that burnout is incredibly personal. It looks like “I did stuff that was hard and the payoff wasn’t that great and now I’m a little tired.” It feels like “I gave this thing everything I had, changed my life, and my hobbies, and the ways I walk through the world around it, and when I needed something to lean on everyone and everything disappeared.” That’s not true, depression is a lying bitch, we know that now don’t we? I am guessing burnout is too.
At least part of what’s happening is that I don’t see how this is a priority. BDSM just doesn’t matter when the best minds of my generation are dying or in jail. The food we eat is genetically modified and processed in ways that we don’t have any long term research on. Police violence is rampant. What were popular revolutions of the Arab Spring are giving way to Islamist reforms in the tradition of Iran. And you want me to care about anal fisting? Sure, as a personal thing, kinky sex is something I want in the privacy of my own home with someone I love, and I’m willing to go out of my way to find sexually compatible partners in that regard,* but to reform something you have to love it. You have to want to live in the world you build, you have to fight for your future self at least if not for your children’s children as that hippie song goes.
I don’t want to live in a world with a better BDSM community. I mean, yes, I want to live in a world with less rape, I want to live in a world where everyone has access to the sex they want with the people they love, I want to live in a world where who you sleep with and how you do so doesn’t impact your job prospects or your ability to get a spousal visa or custody of your children. But that’s not a better BDSM community, that’s a world that has obsolesced the BDSM community. And it’s a world in which I do not believe the BDSM community would survive because it needs the fear, and the isolationism to thrive. It needs its threats and its ways to enforce fucked up in-group norms.
So I want to delete this blog. What I am going to do instead is keep talking about the fact that the BDSM scene does not have a monopoly on kinky sex, and I’m going to figure out how to get backups of my tumblr blogs, and look into doing that with various other feeds that I follow. And I’m gonna figure out hosting just in case, because I think these things should be out there, and findable, so that I can be the last person who isn’t sure if their kink is out there cause c’mon, it’s the internet, “only one” doesn’t exist. And then I’m gonna go do things I’m scared of doing somewhere else.
*I don’t know if I believe that, I’m just not sure what else to say given, ya’know, my history. We’ll see.
Praise the Contrary and Its DefendersPraise rising up. Praise unlawful assembly.Praise the road of excess and the palace of wisdom.Praise glass houses. Praise the hand that cradles the stone.Praise refusal of obedience. Praise the young on Raamses Street.Praise Galileo. Praise acceleration.Praise bombshells and en masse.Praise sit-down strikes. Praise outside agitators.Praise Red Emma. Praise her pistol and praise her restraint.Praise living your life. Praise Joan of Arc.Praise wayward daughters. Praise their wayward sons.Praise the power of indulgence.Praise Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. Praise the nailand the printing press. Praise the First Amendment.Praise free verse. Praise yellow sunflowers.Praise red wheelbarrows and transcendental leanings.Praise illicit beauty. Praise the poets of Guantanamo.Praise the poets of Burma. Praise the noisy streets.Praise those who tear down walls and climb fences.Praise Letters from Prison. Praise those who say yes.Praise the bound notebook and what is within.Praise Legal Aid attorneys. Praise kitchen-table conspiracies.Praise insomnia. Praise our hunger. Praise dayswe are the bread. Praise farmers’ markets.Praise Al Gore and quantum physics.Praise Schrödinger and his cat. Praise jumping in.Praise talking snakes. Praise history & run-on sentences.Praise what are the odds? Praise purposeful wandering.Praise the best minds of any generation. Praise John Brown.Praise Newt Gingrich. Praise enough is enough.Praise Walt Whitman and the self. Praise the body’swild intelligence. Praise ACT UP and Vagina Monologues.Praise getting satisfaction. Praise Gertrude Stein.Praise cross-dressing. Praise untouchables,partisans and riffraff. Praise slackers. Praise thosewho talk back. Praise sympathy for the devil.Praise the oldest profession. Praise mothers of the disappeared.Praise mothers of the found. Praise mothers not yet mothers.Praise not looking away. Praise realists and Cubists.Praise prohibitionists & remorse. Praise hitting your headagainst the wall. Praise giving peace a chance.Praise Zionist conspiracies. Praise free elections.Praise Selma, Alabama and early voting. Praise mutiny.Praise backyard whiskey and those who cook with fire.Praise Priscilla the Monkey Girl. Praise her admirers.Praise Freud and Marx and Sinatra. Praise Earhardt.Praise those who remember what they are told to forget.Praise agnostics. Praise what we are not supposed to praise.Praise the electrical storm and the still small voice.Praise all the proverbs of hell. Praise thosewho see it coming. Praise those who do it anyway.Praise whatever happens next.(—Sue Swartz)
Something happens when I sit down to blog these days. Something unexpected that keeps me on the verge of that cool post I want to make about how lessons learned from the quantified self movement can inform orgasm control and chastity play but never with enough oomph to sit down and write it. Something that intensifies each time I have a conversation about the BDSM scene. I feel…empty. Maybe not empty, maybe illegible or unseen.
I think it looks like this:
- Kinky sex rocks, but the BDSM scene has caused enough fucked up things around me that it is toxic to me.
- Talking to people about these toxic things usually results in “but this scene I’m a part of is awesome unlike those other ones”
- I have heard this enough times that no instance of this is believable
- I try to explain either a) the disconnect between some of my core values and what the BDSM community brings to the table, or the many cases of abuse within the scene and hear something along the lines of “but what else is there.” “How else do you meet kinky people.” etc.
- I give up on shared meaning making around BDSM. (Translated for those outside the Bay Area as: I give up on finding common ground.)
- I feel invisible because the BDSM scene is protecting rapists why aren’t you outraged!
But you see, I am a child of the Internet. I know I am not alone. I am not alone in the sex I want, sure, yes, we know that, but much much more importantly, I am not alone in my discontent.
Last night I told a friend that many of my issues with the BDSM scene are basic Gen Y vs. Boomer issues – I don’t like positions of power or people in them. I don’t like secrets. I don’t like centralized information accessible only to the “right” people. The BDSM scene has insisted in subtle or obvious ways on all of these things, it is not a place where I can make my home.
The question is: let it burn itself down – move on, write that post about quantified self and then the other one about behavioral modification as learned from advertizing – or stay – swim upstream and convince the people in power that rape in the ranks has got to go?
I described the scene as “gross” today to a friend who described kink and poly as “my life.”
I feel like I am in a hostage situation: I want a sexually submissive partner who will give me agency over his orgasms, and let me beat him. The BDSM scene reports to have such people as members in ready supply. I want nothing to do with the BDSM scene. So I’m stuck between not getting the type of loving relationship that feels best for me and getting it through a mechanism I don’t want to be part of.
So, why gross? Why can’t I take the advice I’ve been given time and time again by people who “just don’t go to munches” or “just go fishing” find what I want and leave with it in tow?
I could, but fundamentally, the above is a threat – do it our way or live alone.
So I say gross for a number of reasons, I say gross because the insular nature of the scene is based on scare tactics “the sex you want is weird, it is wrong and strange therefore you can only get it here.” And I say gross because this sense of fear creates some pretty fucked up power dynamics, it causes people to cover up abuse because of what the outside world might think AND because they feel like they have nowhere else to go and it causes people to feel ashamed of the sex they want. It makes something as wonderful and precious as love feel like a scares resource. Maybe it is.
But you know, the real reason I think the scene is gross is far less political. I just don’t want to spend time with people I have nothing in common with except that we all like non-normative sex. I’m angry because intentionally or not exposure to the kink scene from, literally, my 18th birthday made me think for years that this was the only access to partners I’d ever get, and that sitting through one munch after another where some dude older than my father told me I was doing it wrong was the cost of entry.
I think it’s gross because presenting the public BDSM scene (munches, classes, events) as the only way to find sexually like minded partners sort of shovels 18 year olds through the doors…for what? By the way, would someone care to share the history of TNG groups as well as the resistance from within organizations such as TES and Black Rose to “allowing” younger members their own space?
I’m grossed out because the old dude who walks up to every 18 year old woman to enter the room and warn her about “dangers” is so ubiquitous in pretty much every kink community that just about anyone steeped in the scene knows exactly the dude I just described. If you agree that dude is gross why does he still exist? More importantly, what are the circumstances that made him that dude? He was jailbait too once.
And if the kink scene really is that dangerous, why would I want to join?
If the private party you go to every year is an amazing experience for you, go, by all means go!
I don’t want to take away your party, I just want us all to stop pretending that BDSM is a secret cabal because as long as we do that it will have a monopoly on the sex I want and as long as it has that monopoly I can’t come and go as a free agent.
Here is what I want: I want to have the sex I enjoy with the people I love without going to meetings, munches, and state-wide fairs about it. My lifestyle is going to work, and making bread, and traveling. Kink is not my life, but it’s a huge part of what I want in my intimate relationships. And you know, I would love to go to that party and enjoy it, but right now I’m too raw with all the shit I watched for years because I thought it was the only way.
Someday, when that party is just a party to me again I can meet you there. But right now this is what hurt looks like. I want to breakup with the scene, and I’ve internalized the message that if I break up with the scene no one will ever love me again, and that’s why I’m fighting so very hard.
Maybe that’s what healing looks like.
This morning I read Amber Dawn’s “To All the Butches I Loved Between 1995 and 2005: An Open Letter about Selling Sex, Selling Out, and Soldiering On” in Best Sex Writing 2012, and it reminded me of how much I loved early lesbian writing. I lusted after Pat Califia before he was Patrick, worshiped Gayle Rubin, and absorbed every image of butch/femme I could find before being crushed to learn that I came of age in the time of androgyny.
Before I had enough class awareness to note the disproportionate descriptions of blue collar jobs in my butch/femme reading materials, I simply assumed this is how all jobs were in the 50s. I was in lust with the challenge of the stone butch before I had the awareness of how much pain goes into molding flesh into stone – and just what kind of pain. Without theoretical underpinnings of gender and class analysis I simply loved the exaggeration of these roles and the implicit power play.
In college I lamented as first one, and then another, and then another of my hot butch acquaintances discovered the word “trans,” started talking about “T,” grew facial hair, and adopted more permanent solutions where tight sports bras used to be because I had no context in which to understand this shift. Without context, it just seemed like the people I found attractive were becoming…men. I was left with a choice of androgyny or masculinity.
It’s interesting to see the same material from a new perspective. Interesting also to relearn just how much I love gender roles – really old school, politically incorrect, 1950s gender roles, moreover. The catch, of course, is that I like them as a plaything. I like boy/girl games when I can be either the boy or the girl at whim, and abandon both ideas in quick succession. I like them even better when I can mix and match…high heels and red lipstick on a mission to get my male partner drunk and take advantage of him. I like gender roles for the costuming, the script, and the sheer lack of androgynous utility, but I’m fascinated by how much I didn’t see when first falling in love with the butch/femme image.
I knew, but chose to ignore, that butch, like male, was associated with dominance. I saw but didn’t see that butch always paired with femme. I didn’t know, had no context for knowing, what it means to focus attraction on femme and feminine, casting butch and masculine as provider, doer, protector. Butches probably have a leg up in the being desired department, as Hugo Schwyzer points out in “I Want You to Want Me,” the chapter directly following Amber Dawn’s work, “we shame women for wanting and we shame men for wanting to be wanted.” Never the less, both butch and femme play inflexible roles, ones that give me yet another reason to thank my lucky stars that I was born in the internet age, even if it is also the post AIDS, post free love, post poppers in back alleys age.
Fall In Love With An Activist
by Ana Catalina Paje
Fall in love with an activist because…
You could have the worst hair day of your life, he wouldn’t care…with his way of life, he’s had worse.
You won’t need to take her to a fancy restaurant, fine dining was never her thing…she would rather eat with her hands in the company of farmers.
You could shout at him all you want, he would just smile…he does it everyday..to assert for your rights.
She doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor. After all, she does understand class struggle.
You can be frank about him, in fact, he would like that very much.
Criticism and self-criticism are second nature to him. He always wants to improve himself.
She isn’t afraid to make the first move. Don’t worry she’s no bimbo.
It’s just that she believes in the equality of sexes. And she’s knows that women hold half the sky.
When you have a fight, it’s never all your fault. He knows that partly, he was to blame. Because he is a dialectical materialist.
She’s never boring. As long as social injustice and inequality exists, you won’t run out of things to talk about.
She’s very good at sharing her life with someone. Maybe it has something to do with their practice of collective living.
Being articulate is a skill he has come to master. And he will have no trouble telling you how much he loves you.
P.S. There’s a catch. You should know that you’re not the only person who owns his heart. You share it with the poor, the sick, the hungry, and the opressed.
P.P.S. By the time you fall for an activist, give it a week or so, you’ll be an activist yourself. Because if you love and understand her, you would know it’s the right thing to do.
I have sat with this post for weeks. I have sat with the personal exploration of how I intersect with my world and my community and what I want to do about that for far longer. I’ve had internal arguments about whether or not I am an activist, defended my fiscal conservatism and small government views to lovers, only to shy away from these same conversations, and to some extent intimate moments, with C because I couldn’t handle the expression of hetero-normative comfort in that moment; such a stark contrast to fighting to break the rules of an already taboo culture. It feels like I’m 16 again, wanting to belong with the queer punk kids but unwilling to shave my head, steal things, or break windows.
No one signs up for discovering that their world is far from being an easy and simplistic place full of basically just interactions.
Sometime last week I told maymay that I missed being able to go to a play party and not be struck by how white, how gender normative, how elitist it is. I missed being able to play without being keenly aware of who doesn’t get opportunities to play. I missed it being easy and I miss feeling included. Maymay told me it was ok to mourn those things and perhaps that’s what I’m doing now. It’s a beautiful sunny day, I’m co-working with a friend after early morning conference calls ate through my commute time, I’m settled back into SF after some hectic travel, and yet I’m…unsettled. And that’s the part I don’t understand. I thought I was upset by what the BDSM scene does to my partners, the way it casually degrades submissive men, maybe on my own behalf I was annoyed at the creepy old men…you know, the ones who wanted to add me, in the capacity of “sweet young thing,” to their submissive harem. I’ve been annoyed at the One True Way-ism for years, but so are half the people I know. This feels different, it’s felt different for a while, and I don’t think I quite put my finger on it before. My language changed. The BDSM Scene. From “our community” to “the BDSM scene.” This thing which has been so core to my self identity for so long feels alien. I wonder how others do it without experiencing that shift. How do Maggie Mayhem and Kitty Stryker do their work on exposing sexual assault in the kink community from a place within the community? I wonder not because I want to challenge them, but because I want to learn from them. Because, as maymay said it, and this rang painfully true; I am losing my cultural home. And that hurts.
It hurts to realize that your community doesn’t play well with others, but it hurts so so much more to realize what you thought was your community may not be. I wonder if now I get to find out what happens to all those kinky people who you don’t see at the munches?
I don’t know how to write this post because for all that I share there is so much I keep private. I write my joy and not my sorrow because my sorrow, well, it’s my own, not really a sharing thing. When I do write my anger I make it about others. And then I wonder why dominant women are having a circle jerk on the internet about the need for safe spaces for submissive men, and where all the submissive men are. Maybe it’s because sharing other people’s hurt is easier than fessing up to your own? I know it is for me. Much, much easier to realize that my partners are hurt by societal structures and personal prejudice that doesn’t leave room for sexually submissive men who are also strong and outspoken, than to fess up to just how frightening the concept of not having access to the type of sex I want is for me.
What’s more, standing up for someone else’s place in the world is automatically sacrosanct, fighting an uphill battle that saps your time and energy so that you can have sex the way you personally would like it…how do I even begin to justify that?
I feel like I am stirring the hornet’s nest…in 2008 I needed a physical shift and I was filled with glee at my move to California. I remember being overjoyed at the sunshine, the lack of snow, never having to dig the car out, being walking distance to Mr. S, the kinky parties every weekend and so on. Four years later and I’m cold, annoyed, and utterly disenchanted with the kink scene. As I’ve said before, my sexual identity should read as “geek.” I am hitting my head against the kink scene over and over again trying to figure out why I am not having a good time. Is it simply that I am no longer 18 and willing to play with male doms twice my age, no longer the “ideal type” the “hot bi babe” of purple unicorn fame? Is it that meeting people, forming strong bonds, making friends is exponentially harder after college? Or maybe it’s that the kink scene is far more cliquish than I’d expect. There is no unity here, just a game of I’m more oppressed than you…
That is not a progressive stance, it is in fact, by definition, a form of narrow-minded discrimination. This sort of cat fight for the status of most oppressed, coupled with underhanded whisper campaigns, underlies a large portion of San Francisco’s BDSM scene. It reminds me of an old joke…two Jews are stranded on a desert island, 20 years later, when rescuers come, they discover three synagogs on the island. They ask the shipwrecked men why the two of them built three synagogues and one of the men replies: “There’s the one I go to, the one Moshe goes to, and that one there neither of us will step foot in!” There is the party I go to, the party plus-size transgendered women of color go to, and the party neither of us would step foot in. We’re doing it wrong.
We are taking opportunities to narrow our circles rather than expand them. Whats more, each and every one of us lacks trust in our community. This kind of fend for yourself behavior comes out of bad experiences and lack of trust. When you feel safe in your environment and supported by your community you are in a position to open your circle and your mind to the needs of others. When you know that others will care for you you can freely care for others. We, clearly, aren’t there. So what’s different in the Bay Area? Why is the kinky mecca one of the most unwelcoming places to be kinky? And what does the frozen north east have going for it that we lack out here?
Maymay’s post We Are All Victims Even the Revolutionaries is one that I re-read perhaps more than any other blog post. Usually I read a post, absorb the information, and then only re-read it if I need a pull quote for something, but this post is, well, it’s comforting. It’s what I read when I am upset with the world I was given to remind myself that I am not alone in my anger or my sadness.
Those of you reading my twitter stream may be scratching your head at the sentiment of “[t]he problem with thinking about sexuality in a social justice framework is knowing how much harder it is going to be to get the sex you want.” I considered framing it another way but it wouldn’t fit in 140 characters: “if you take all the smart, gender-aware, submissive men who have thought critically about submission, society and the relationships they want to have, will they fit in a Manhattan one bedroom?”
I am being facetious, of course, and I am also being restless. I see Submissive Secrets like this or this and wonder who these people are, and what took them to a place of such frustration and sadness. And then I think about what it is I actually want compared to what I am expected to want and am amazed that I had found it at all, even if just in passing.
The problem with seeing sexuality through a social justice lens is watching societal pressures build up against the thing you want. It’s the fact that I see those Submissive Secrets posts not as examples of one-off unsatisfied individuals, but as windows into a systemic problem that makes it painfully difficult for the partner I want to exist in the world, and by coincidence strips me of easy access to the sex I want.
When I moved to San Francisco I spent a few months as a pro-domme. It was fun, but I just didn’t have the personality and business sense to make it financially viable. For many of the people I know the decision to do sex work and/or their feelings about sex work are deeply personal and polarizing. For me, it’s just a crazy thing I did in my early 20s because it seemed like fun. I took from it what I wanted, not least of which was rent money, and I don’t think too hard about what didn’t work.
I understand that this stance comes from a place of power – I’m white, female, conventionally attractive, well educated. I can discus the evolution of Baroque music and the evolution of vibrator technology with equal literacy. In short, I not only had an easy way into being a sex worker, I had plentiful options when I decided it wasn’t working. If I had the opportunity to become a pro-domme again today I wouldn’t go for it; it is hard emotional labor in an industry not known for being kind to its employees and I’m pretty sure I command a higher hourly rate at my day job. That said, I was sorry to leave the house I was working in. I was just starting to establish regular clients, I had explored a number of kinks I was previously to0 timid to try, and I had a really good relationship with the women I worked with most of whom I found to be interesting people and dedicated to improving their craft. I was also truly fascinated by the clients and their varied stories.
People frequently ask if I felt as though I was being topped from the bottom by my clients. My answer is, well, no. Frequently, I felt as though I was in a service industry not unlike a flight attendant or waitress because I was, in fact, in a service industry. Often, I felt as though I was bringing water to the desert. Occasionally, a client would break my heart with how much shame he would drag in and lay at my feet, and then I felt utterly unqualified to do anything and desperate to embrace his fantasy and make it ok and to dispel the fear of whoever told him this was wrong. I don’t know if I ever succeeded, given the size of the tips those men gave me, I suspect not. (People pay more, a lot more, for what they are ashamed of.)
So why am I adamantly apolitical about sex work? Well, in large part because I am a radical moderate in most things not concerned with child abuse (bad, duh) and free and fair elections (good and super exciting in the Congo right now). But also because I realize that while my experience was positive and no more oppressive than most jobs with a schedule and a boss, many people are exploited by the sex industry (and I don’t just mean trafficked sex workers here). Saying its all good or all bad is too simplistic and fails to acknowledge either the benefits or drawbacks.
I worry about the commodification of sexuality, but I also believe in a free market, and I realize that while sex work is used by some men (and women) to gain access to sex they otherwise can’t have, it is also a fee for service enterprise that may be utilized for convenience as easily as wish-fulfillment. Which is to say, sometimes you don’t want to be able to share your deepest darkest fantasies with your lover, sometimes you don’t need to or want to concern yourself with building a world where sex is openly embraced, sometimes you just want to pay someone to deliver a nice experience to your doorstep on your schedule. The fact that sexually submissive men do have to struggle to carve out a space for themselves and that sexually dominant women don’t get recognized as such unless they fit a leather clad dominatrix stereotype is a problem, I just don’t see how sex work is at the root of this problem. Maybe at most a symptom, but frankly the answer to bad speech is more speech and the answer, in my mind, to bad representation of female dominance is more and more diverse representations of female dominance.
You can’t be what you don’t see, I get that, but I guess if anything I am advocating for guerrilla acts of female dominance in blue jeans and crowd sourced images of such (hell, I’d pay to see that). Because while you can’t be what you don’t see, getting rid of what is out there does not inherently make space for what isn’t.
I’ve been thinking recently, about the last decade. About 2005 and 2006 to be precise. About the particular moment in time when I was fully ensconced in the BDSM community, when my sex life and my social life intertwined, when I was young enough to stay up till sunrise rather than wake up to it. Last week I had the opportunity to play with an old friend, someone I knew from that period of my life, and it was…different. Or rather, it was more similar to my past than I am now and this is a good thing.
I feel, and have felt over the last few months, as though I’m waking up. Maybe that sleepy feeling was the influence of grad school or being deeply entrenched in a relationship, and yes, it is most certainly a part of growing up. I am immensely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and the chances I’ve taken, but I am also tired. I want to go home, to dig my car out of the snow so I can drive it down familiar streets, rather than sit by a foreign poolside in 80* January weather. I want sex that is comfortably familiar, not in the way of a long term partner but in the way of a visiting fling with one of my first lovers – when on a recent trip to my home town he took me from “hello” to naked with easy practiced motions I recognized from my collage days.
I want deep but uncomplicated in that way that only happens when you’re 19, born and raised in the same city, rebelling against parents of similar values and belief systems.
I said my recent scene was more like my past than my present, but we both brought with us scars from the intervening years. This is not a bad thing; now I know enough to recognize how good I’ve got it.