Playing hard, and hard to get
Recently, I stumbled over a first – “you play with Maymay” (Read: you play hard.) Hard, too hard, hard enough, it’s a matter of context.
Two things stood out to me about this judgment, in this case “you play with Maymay, so…was that a light scene for you?”
1) The statement came from a man who graciously allowed me to hit his genitals with a rubber baton. (Read: light my fat Jewish ass. Maybe light as in “light cream” or “light chocolate pudding”)
2) My style and competency of play was being judged not in relation to my preferences but vis-a-vis my partner.
This is not the first time someone pointed to Maymay when evaluating my suitability as a partner, but it was the first time the statement came from someone I knew well and caught my attention. It was at first flattering, and later problematic. Later still, Maymay pointed me to this blog post which sums up his own experience:
So this weekend I didn’t feel respected when I was asked “How much were you really struggling in that take down scene?” I didn’t feel respected by the people who thought I was on the Power Bottoming panel because I like to limp for days after I play. I definitely didn’t feel respected by all the people who stopped me in the hallways and told me what an intense scene they saw me do (though, again, I did appreciate the kind words and enjoyed the obvious admiration and surprise—I don’t look like someone who likes to scream until my throat is hoarse, but I do).
On the other hand, I did feel respected when a fellow attendee approached me and asked for my opinions regarding TES’s web site (and others) because he had heard people mention my name in conversation about the topic. Likewise, I also felt respected when people came up to me privately after some of my presentations and told me that they thought I had made good points, that I articulated myself well, and that I exposed them to something new and provoked some new thought or insight inside of them.
Thanks to the transman who told Eileen and I that we had finally articulated his primary kink in our Sexual Teasing and Denial presentation. Thanks to the young woman who taught me the word cyberbalkanization in my Sex and Technology presentation. Thanks to the people who congratulated me on my bravery and willingness to get naked on the first night in front of more than thirty clothed people during the demo for the G and P Spot Stimulation presentation.
In other words, thanks for seeing underneath all the cuts and bruises and welts. Thanks for rejecting the rhetoric that to be worth a damn as a bottom you need to have a pain tolerance that rivals a super hero’s. That’s the kind of thing that makes most men think they need to be stoic and “strong” when they are in pain, which is stupid because the last thing a sadist wants to see when they’re hurting someone is a lack of painful reaction (duh).
I agree, yes, and yet this is problematic. I agree because there is so so much more than pain tolerance to bottoming skills and so much more than the willingness to dish it out to good topping. I agree because when I watch other people’s scenes I watch for error handling rather than for “gee, how much can they take.” More importantly, I agree because fuck I am tired of meeting people and being expected to befriend them on the basis of nothing more than shared fetish, so when Maymay speaks to feeling respected when people connect with him about his work, yeah, fuck yeah – this sounds like what I mean when I say “treat me like an engineer, not like a female.”
And yet, and this is BDSM blasphemy, I like experienced bottoms because they…are willing to take a certain amount of risk. I was gonna write “are less safety obsessed” but then I realized I’d get lynched so I thought better of it :-p In any case, what I mean is I like playing with people who realize that like most adventure sports sometimes kinky sex causes minor, temporary injuries. Having sustained minor temporary injuries from vanilla sex in the past, I don’t find this shocking, but the authoritative literature probably suggests I’m a horrible top and you should run far far away.
In any case, it isn’t about the pain tolerance, per se, but it is about a comfort level with and an understanding of one’s limits. Ultimately, there is no better or worse way to have kinky sex. If it turns you and your partner on, and no one ends up in hospital, good on you! Ok, fine, there are incompetent people in the world, but honestly, if you didn’t see them in the dungeon it’s cause this is the weekend they try downhill skiing for the first time in their lives with no training and they’re skipping the bunny slope. If you’re an adult with a passing love for your partner or at least a desire to not cause bodily harm to a total stranger, I expect you’ll do just fine.
Frankly, I’m starting to think that this system of rewarding people for how hard they play, discounting anyone who just wants the occasional spanking, and belaboring the idea that what we are doing is exceptionally dangerous rocket carpentry is some kind of secret plot to sell tickets to BDSM conferences.
So yeah, ok, I like playing with experienced people and heavier bottoms, because they let me “wing it” on their bodies a little more often. But more importantly, I like playing with people who have taken the time to build a strong relationship and foundation of experience with me because when I think about asking a lover if I could first beat him and later fuck him with a police baton…there’s really only one person* who would reasonably** agree to that, and even then I’m not so sure. (Guess I’ll find out in June…)
*Ok, there might be two, but any kind of penetrative sex would be very surprising and unlike us with one of them. I’ve known both for over 6 years.
**I’m sure others would agree, but without the personal context, without knowing my politics, and having some sense of how we play, it would just be masturbation material, not actual communication.