Archive for the ‘headspace’ Category
There’s something personal I’ve been trying to post about that I’ve actually not yet figured out how to talk about. Instead I’m gonna talk about something even more personal because it kept me up last night. I’m gonna talk about suicide. Don’t panic, I’m fine.
When Aaron Swartz died I cried for days. I didn’t know him personally, though I’m all but certain everyone reading this has touched his work, and there was a sort of 2-degree social separation. I cried for Aaron, yes, but I also cried for what my social circle, and to some degree my generation, had lost: one of the most brilliant minds we’d had. More than that I cried because suicide scares me. In fact, the whole experience of depression makes me panic; I remember October, each and every October, when I lived on the East Coast and before Seasonal Affective Disorder was a thing people treated, was a frantic time of doing everything I wanted to do before the following March because next would come November with its crying fits and paralyzing fear. Despite having broken this time-bound ritual, I’ve given up exercise plans because I associate my lowest adult weight with my worst years, and I watch for the creeping signs of depression with a level of vigilance most people reserve for late-night muggers. But suicide scares me…differently.
I consider suicide to be a fundamental personal choice tied into bodily autonomy, and at the same time I consider it to be a collective failing. As much as I tell myself that depression is a lying bitch and no one is at fault, I keep coming back to how did we as a community leave one of our own so alone? Not one, also this one.
Suicide, and it’s more genteel cousin “end of life decisions,” typically reserved for ending a terminal illness early, are things I’ve been aware of since childhood both in familial and social context. It was such a ubiquitous occurrence that after the 9-11 attacks, at least one person I know thought the heightened police presence had to do with “another MIT kid jumping off a roof.” I remember not being at all moved by that possibility. That should scare you, it does me.
I don’t think suicide began to scare me until after college, until I realized the depression and alone-ness that’s tied into it. And that’s also when it became both a personal choice (again, not mine) and a communal failing. Because depression is a lying bitch, and because our inability or unwillingness to see eachother’s pain gives credence to those lies. And so I’m wondering (actually stayed up last night wondering) how do we find ways to support people we love, or people we care about, or hell people who just happen to be in the same spaces we’re in, without concern-trolling. How do we acknowledge other people’s pain without making them explain themselves to us? How do we maintain a presence while allowing space?
On the flip side, how do we ask for support? If you’ve never had an illness that goes on not for weeks but for months maybe it’s hard to picture just how carefully you start curating your asks in a vein hope to not burn out your support structure. How do we build more supports, and more security around those supports? And how do you let go of your own past failing as part of a community that let one of its own slip through the cracks? How do I?
At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha, a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause.
I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business, I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for, a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to became a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. “I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.” Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world — prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own closest comrades I would live my beautiful ideal.
- Emma Goldman, Living My Life, 1931
What is incredible here is not only Emma Goldman’s insistence on living her beautiful ideal, but the fact that she has these ideals despite an incredibly abusive childhood, chronic illness, and what is by all accounts a traumatic life.
There was some chatter on my twitter feeds this week about Radicalism vs. Community and if both are possible together. Intuitively, I’d say no unless you redefine your radicalism around community building. I’d say this because I work very hard to build and nourish communities around myself and I know just how much bridge building and compromise goes into that. By contrast, I’d say radicalism is pushing forward your ideals despite anyone else’s opposition and/or personal hardship. I think community building and radicalism are two faces of the same coin, which is to say, both are absolutely necessary to achieving the whole of the world I want to live in, but they can never be one and the same. You can’t even see both at the same time.
It’s a little strange really, because radicalism is so prized*, and because I hear flak for all things mundane when I brush up against radical circles, to realize I have consciously and intentionally chosen something else. And there are some communities that are no longer worth building, but there are others where I can’t be the force of destruction because I want to be here to rebuild once the dust settles. Which is curious because historically, the people I’ve loved, the people I’ve allowed most intimately into my life, are people who bring me closer to some truer, better, part of myself. So it’s curious, perhaps, when these people are radicals.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a bit recently about the origins of the blog, and about the different ways people find to live their ideals. 2013 has proven itself to be a year of change, I’m curious to see what comes next.
*If you don’t prize radicalism consider this: we needed the Boston Tea Party, we needed Suffragettes and hunger strikes, we needed the labor movement and the Letter from a Birmingham Jail. All of these things were radical, and all of them shaped the world we take for granted now.
I’m sitting in a hotel room getting ready to do something I don’t want to. As I get ready to quite literally smile and nod through discomfort I’m finding this to be a surprisingly good opportunity to reflect on what consent feels like. It does not feel like this. I know because my stomach is tight, my shoulders are tense, I’m comforting myself with how long until it’s over not how long until it begins.
But I’m getting ready to do something I consented to. I had a choice, I consented. Consent has shades of grey. The space between “no. stop.” and “don’t stop” is not binary and I think we forget that too often.
So what does consent feel like? First, what does the grey space look like? Typically, when I’m in that grey space, when I’m doing something I’ve consented to but don’t want to do, it is because of something else. When I was younger it was sometimes because I didn’t know how to say “no” politely. Now, when I’m more concerned with my comfort than politeness in these situations, I still do things I would rather not to keep from hurting a partner’s feelings for example, or to avoid an argument. When my sex drive took a nose dive in a long term relationship a few years ago, my gynecologist told me to start having sex slowly and see if I get turned on 10-15 minutes into the sex. This was actually great, and fairly common, advice.
There’s a temptation in these grey spaces to assign blame, except you can’t. What we actually have is a social problem. We tell women – and if you’re in the BDSM scene, submissive people – that it is their obligation to express and defend their limits without considering the complexity of this problem.
Maybe you’re confused now, or indignant? “Well if she says yes how am I supposed to know she didn’t want it?” Or “personal responsibility!” Don’t worry, we’re all being screwed by this together. We tell men, and tops, to ask permission (sometimes we don’t even tell them that much, but I’ll be optimistic) but we don’t fully explain the ways in which consent can be coerced or altered here either.
The thing I find startling, the thing that really fucking needs to change, is that most women I know (and submissive identified people I’ve spoken with, again if you’re reading from a BDSM perspective) have a well developed palette of experiences in this grey space. We *know* that there are different motivations behind our yeses and some of these are “I don’t want to have a fight with you” or “submission is a fetish for not saying no” or whatever else. And I don’t begrudge the recipients of my complicated yeses, but I am a little pissed off that we don’t have these conversations, especially that we don’t have these conversations when we talk about the importance of consent.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here, and say that we don’t have to get it 100% right 100% of the time. Frankly, communication is hard, people’s motivations are tricky and I think coming to a complete standstill over “we’ll never get consent 100% right so lets either stop having sex or stop trying to get it right” is a complete derail. Humans don’t do perfect, stop using that as an excuse to not do *better*. Be honest, do you really have nooooo way to tell if he/she/they want it, or are you just being lazy and taking advantage of a complex problem when it suits you? Do you really think that working toward building consent together is a slap in the face to personal responsibility? Or do you maybe have some personal responsibility in here too? And don’t go the other way on me here, don’t go all 2nd wave feminist and tell me my consent doesn’t exist cause society is busted.
The bottom line is that I’ve both offered complicated yeses and I have blindly accepted them. I’ve been oblivious to “yes” that means “maybe” and I’ve intentionally pushed “maybe” to “yes.” (I think I’ve never pushed an outright “no” anywhere, if I have, I’m sorry, let’s talk…if you’d like to). I’ve been pushed into faulty yeses that I only realized we’re problematic in hindsight (20:20) and I’ve had genuine yeses deferred by partners who were too kind to put me in the former situation (something I’ve found frustrating in the moment but have always been grateful for in the long run.)
I guess all I’m saying is that consent is not a binary state and while “no means no” is a good start, perhaps it’s time to take a look at some complications.
So what does consent feel like? What does it feel like when your tooth simply doesn’t hurt? This one for me is defined by calmness and ease of movement. It’s not arousal, arousal is actually a distinct different thing, consent has something in common with being present.
Complicated yeses come from some exterior need – I’m worried about an argument, your feelings, etiquette – I know what worried feels like. By comparison, memories of consent feel like, well, like a simple statement of fact.
I keep wanting to point to something more than the absents of physiological signs of distress, or something more specific, but that’s really all I have. What does consent feel like to you?
I was having this conversation with a friend on Friday, let’s say I have 100 marbles, or maybe jelly beans, doesn’t matter. On any given day it takes about 70 of these marble jelly beans to take care of myself. Some days are really easy, it might only take 50 jelly beans. Other days, or times in my life it takes much more…when I was depressed it took maybe 160 jelly beans to get through a day, but I still only had 100. Obviously, I made it through depression (I’m actually incredibly grateful for that.) I made it through because other people, people who loved me or people who cared about building community, gave me some of theirs so I’d have the 160 I needed. And that’s what happens with my spare jelly beans too – they go to people who need them for whatever reason. Sometimes these people need extra jelly beans because they are depressed, but sometimes we just all put some jelly beans in a common pot cause community happens like that.
Jelly beans have a transitive property, and sometimes trading jelly beans is intimacy building in and of itself. For example, I need 70 jelly beans to have a good day, but if I spend some of my jelly beans to take care of you and you in turn spend some of your jelly beans to take care of me, it balances. If I spend more jelly beans on taking care of you than I get replenished from interacting with you, I’ll eventually burn out. If you give me more jelly beans than you get from me, you might burn out. And there’s a sorta tricky piece where sometimes if you give me more jelly beans than I want it actually costs me jelly beans to handle and store your surplus gift.
Can trading jelly beans produce more jelly beans in that process? I think so.
But there is a concept sometimes summed up as Ani l’dodi v dodi li – I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. For me, there is something incredibly intimate about the agreement to take care of each other, I feel supported enough to be safe dipping into my jelly beans. It’s pretty cool. So, when I say I don’t mind doing something because you do it for me, I’m not saying “let’s keep score,” I’m saying “I feel safe.”
And a little history…
2011 was a really terrible year. A partner and I broke up around Christmas of 2010 and then spent 6 months trying to make it work before calling it off over the summer. I was depressed, trying to finish my MA, just not doing well. One evening, in 2011, I called my aunt’s house…more like aunt twice removed, but whatever. She was out of town and her mother answered the phone. Now, I’d met the mother once before when having missed a bus in Ashkelon I ended up in Beersheba for the night and need a place to stay. I didn’t know her well and had never spoken to her really – well I try to say a polite thank-you-I’ll-call-back-later but she launches into her own story of how she had dated someone and the plans and the hopes she’d had with him, and then it ended, and she was devastated, but she met someone else and built things she hadn’t ever imagined. And you know what, it made me feel better. It was maybe the first time in 6 months of breakup that I thought beyond the things I was losing. She died a few weeks later, and I never got to thank her for the perspective.
There have been so many times since when I’ve been startled by the realization that if the person I was dating and I hadn’t broken up, I would have never reconnected with that sorta shy but always busy kid I’d played with in 2008, would have never gotten back into blogging, wouldn’t have realized that the lack of visible submissive men isn’t a just me problem, or gotten loud about shit that’s fucked up in the BDSM scene. Hell, I wouldn’t have worked half as hard to build my own tribe or felt like staying in California was a choice I had made for myself. I would have been happy, the person I was with was a good person and I wish him only the absolute best, but I wouldn’t have been my authentic self.
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)
Oh hey, it’s been a while since I updated and I was missing this space. It’s been an interesting couple of weeks much of which I spent on the East Coast getting snowed on. Currently on my mind:
The nature of privacy, still. The first time I used a proxy server was not for privacy, but for utility. I was living in a country that censored a good deal of western media and everyone used them to, basically, access cat videos on youtube. I don’t think it occurred to me that I was circumventing a government at the time, I just really wanted my cat video, so, proxy it was. Recently I’ve been thinking about my internet traffic in more privacy centered terms, and, while it’s convinced me that Tor is freaking awesome and should be a thing that happens in the world (and while I might use it more to normalize its use) I’m still thinking about all the various ways people get fingerprinted. Do you email the same people over and over? Do you visit the same venue or type of venue? Do you purchase a specific category of things online frequently? Bonus points if it’s something unique like vintage coins previously owned by US senators. Did you use Tor to log into Google and then search for something? Did you carefully not log into Google or Facebook but then searched for bars that have pinball machines in a specific town? Anyway, I guess all I’m saying is that it’s a hard freaking problem and I keep feeling like I’m plugging holes in a sinking ship. I definitely want to keep plugging those holes, but I sorta want to aim for dry land as well.
Life in general. 2013 started off sort of strange and it might be sorta finding its theme. I’m not sure I like this theme, so I am reframing it as getting grounded in the things I want, the things I need, and the things I need to break free of. Mostly this is a moment of shifting my vision from “next month” to “next 6-9 months.” Right now, this looks a lot like: “OMG!Panic!” “Wait, no, doesn’t matter right now, check back in a month.” Which is to say, conscious competence. I feel really grounded and happy with a…well not a clear direction actually but a clear sense of what I want isn’t direction it’s openness, but then whenever something comes up I have to remind myself that no, really, it’s not a big deal/it fits like *this*.
Connectedness. I got to spend time with some awesome people while I was out east. Some of them I’ve known for close to a decade, others were new to me, but important to people I cared for. It was nice in that sense to see that mirror of my past and to unpack some of that mythology. One of those new-to-me people found every point of tension in my body, poked hard enough to leave bruises (but also to break the muscles out of their habitual strain) and then got angry in that way only energy workers who found the tension you’re hiding get – “Let it go. That thing you think you can’t have, you can have it now fucking let it go!” It was…educational.
Oh, and then I got some of that thing I thought I couldn’t have. It didn’t come from where I thought it would (ah, yes, the universe has a sense of humor!) but it was nice to be reminded of the fact that it is in the world and I can access it. And it was even sweeter to know that it is still a thing I can offer to others.
So now I am thinking about holding space and bearing witness. About the role that healing of all sorts has played in the sex I’ve had (and want to have in the future). About how sometimes the most earth shattering thing you can do is facilitate the thing that feels inaccessible…and much as I savor doing that for others, apparently I needed that done for me.
Ok, this may be strange to post on Valentine’s day. I’m not super into the holiday so it seems ok to me. (Don’t worry, I said nice things to my lovers just to keep my bases covered and all :-p)
Anyway, I’ve spent a bunch of time recently thinking about what I wanted in a partner. Do I want something long term at this point or do I want to focus on other things and enjoy both the sweetness and the distance of my current partners? Do I want a career type or a stay at home husband type? Should I make a list? Should I follow my aunt’s advice of you know he’s the one when he is nothing like your list and you love him and don’t care – if so, should I stop dating immediately as I’ve already found the one (more than)? Am I poly? If both of the people I love dearly dumped me tomorrow would I chose a poly relationship again?
In all this questioning one thing is clear: I want a partner who is submissive.
I don’t think there is anything else that is as clear cut as that in my thinking about what is important to me in a long term partner. And frankly, if I were to have a one night stand at all it would pretty much have to be with someone who comes over to kiss my feet and allow me to beat him, or not at all.
Maybe this is unsurprising (this is a dominant woman blog after all) but the certainty of this, the finality of it, is inconvenient. When my best friend and I talked about dating each other it came down to if he is not submissive, and he is not, then we have to be poly, and he was not. And the sex we had was quite good…but topping is my refresh button. If I don’t get to do it ever, we’re gonna start seeing some hiccups.
And those moments when you’re upset with your partner so you have to think about the things that they do that melt you…those are almost always bottomy things. Or they are submissive things. Sometimes they are silly things like how fucking wet I was after the first time I beat him and him sitting on the floor next to me at just the perfect height afterward so close to my crotch – and I never told him cause his girlfriend was there and I wasn’t sure what was allowed. Or they are the sweet things or even the totally gross things like holding a tissue so my now ex could blow his nose while tied to a Saint Andrews cross.
And then, perhaps I should unpack it more, cause there are many ways of being submissive. About half of it is in the sex for me, and in the orgasm control which is 1) Important(tm) and 2) only partially about sex. And some of it is in sweet little texts that tell me what chores have been done, and in his willingness to call me ma’am. And there my actual ability to unpack goes to hell because there is something more intuitive in submission that I can’t actually put on a list. It’s that moment when he naturally sits down at my feet not because I asked him to. Or it’s in his body language and how he flirts – he gets smaller, more cute around me rather than bigger as is often the norm. It’s a fuck-ton of codified signals that I grok but can’t describe, and those are important too.
So anyway, I guess I was trying to think through why I’m so adamant about dating people who are submissive, but honestly, it shouldn’t be surprising just how big a deal this is, though it is, at times, inconvenient.
After my last post, Stillness and Fantasy, I resolved to spend more time doing things that were pleasurable to me: fantasizing, exercising, making time to masturbate not at bed time when I was too tired. The whole point was to try to find that spot inside of me that can get over just how fucking much I hate the BDSM scene enough to enjoy the sex I want with the people I love behind closed doors.
It was very clear to me from the get go that this couldn’t be about sex with other people…you see, sex with other people was *a thing.* I wanted it too much with one partner and felt like I had a quota to meet and if he was half an hour late I’d miss my deadline. With another partner I wasn’t interested at all and any of my attempts to talk myself into being interested were met with either uncertainty or so much expectation (are you fixed yet?) that it just wasn’t gonna work. Besides, sex with other people was hard, sex alone felt awesome – why not start with your strong points?
So I tried to do better with things that made me feel good in and around my body and pretty much let other people fend for themselves. It worked great. Well, it worked great for me in that my sex drive is back, my yoga practice is back, and my hair looks amazing! It also worked in that I am entertaining fantasies without connecting them back to the BDSM scene which is what had been happening for me for a while. But, um, I sure am entertaining a lot of fantasies…
Like how I imagine his tongue wrapped around the toe of the new boots I just bought today. Or maybe the one about texting him on my way back from work and telling him he can masturbate until I get home (and of course he hasn’t been allowed to so he’ll be more than happy to take the chance). In that one I come in and find him on the bed – he blushes even though I’m not the least bit surprised as I hang my blazer over the back of a chair and walk up to him slowly. He pauses, not sure if he should go on or if this special treat was time-bounded by my commute. I’d solve this problem for him by lightly trapping his wrists and pulling them over his head, pinning his hands to the wall while I traced patterns on his body with my other hand…
Or maybe there’s the actual shiny for which I named this post: this penis plug which Ruffled Sheets so kindly reviewed. I’ve never played with urethral sounds and one of the things I’d like to do is play in ways that are new to me…I want to be in an exploratory space – I miss the slow newness of it. What I really want to do is play with chastity devices that have a urethral sound built in, but this looks like a good place to start. Want. The. Shiny.
I am looking for a way to recapture something I lost when I decided to step away from the BDSM scene. It’s not something inherently related to kink, certainly not something community based, and yet it seems to have slipped away over the last few months. I didn’t realize this until I was listening to the Sex Nerd Sandra podcast over the weekend, listening to Jaiya talk about somatic experience, and slipped into that space in my own head. I slowed down, my voice changed, everything about the world was momentarily more lushes – and then, half an hour later, it was gone. Lost to some rush or minor frustration.
This sensuality is what’s missing from my world right now and from the way I approach sex. I feel…tired. Rough around the edges maybe. Mourning the loss of cultural home, sitting with the less than easy access to the sex I want, balancing my desires with my values…all of these stand in opposition to the sexual archetype I associate most closely with myself. That archetype is healing to others yes, but that healing can only come from a place of personal comfort and joy.
This morning I had some extra time and found myself entertaining a fantasy. In this fantasy I have a some sort of raw artsy suspended coffee table which can be easily unhooked to create a suspension rig for bondage which is equally unfinished in it’s artistic elements borrowing heavily from an industrial aesthetic. (As an aside, this is something I’ve wanted for a long time and the ability to make this sort of architectural/design decision is part of what I look for in my living spaces.) Anyway, back to fantasy…in this fantasy, one of my partners is visiting and for some reason we hadn’t seen each other in a long time – I know this because he hasn’t seen this piece of interior decorating before and because we are cautious with each-others bodies.
I ask him if he’d like to see something cool. He agrees, and I remove the coffee table piece of the design to reveal just the bondage use of the device (it has some sort of pulley thing too btw). Now he is very clearly excited, and hopeful, but too shy to ask for a hands-on demo – naturally I offer. And then, in my fantasy, I would tie him up very simply, maybe just a basic hip and chest harness that ties into the pulley system, but I do this slowly, easily…we’re relaxed, he’s patient and I’m confident and we take our times feeling each line of rope align with his skin. And as he gets suspended a couple feet above my living room floor I just caress him. There is nothing scary, violent, or dominant here – just gentle fingers tangled through hair/tracing collarbones and torso, reminders to breath and relax into the tension of ropes. And that’s it, then I imagine we’d have dinner and catch up on what we have done with our lives. And there is no rush, no pressure to get it right or make it happen – just curiosity and comfort.
I want more stillness in my life.
It’s almost noon and I am sitting on my bedroom windowsill holding the phone in one hand tracing the shadow of my candle holder with the other. And he is fighting through slivers of sleep to find the words to tell me what I want to know: what he did, in what order, with what, why. And as he’s telling this to me, I realize I know these words. I know these words not because I’ve heard them before but because I know them in my gut. I know them to be true. And so I stop him to try and say as much. The relief in his voice breaks my heart. Paradoxically I feel safer, more secure in our trust of one another. Blind faith, no matter how romantic, is fragile, and I needed to hear those words again until they cemented themselves into my understanding. There is something there that sounds to me like “help me know how to love you” and he did just that.