Submission and the art of letting go

The last post was kinda bitchy, and I apologise for that. I was feeling quite hurt and uncomfortable about the whole thing, and that really came across. So while the point still stands (slut-shaming is wrong, and we should try to call people out on it, even if they’re our friends), the bitchiness was unnecessary. It also wasn’t particularly positive, and while I’m not necessarily what you’d called a ‘positive person’ (usually used to mean one of those blonde chirpy girls you get in sit-coms), this is a broadly positive space. So here’s some sex-positivity.

I talked a while ago about how I discovered BDSM and the impact it’s made on my sex life. What I’d like to do now is go into slightly more detail about one particular aspect of that: being a sub. Let me just say that I love the word sub. Mistress Matisse, professional dominatrix who used to keep a really awesome blog about BDSM, hates the word. She says it sounds like a type of sandwich. I think it’s a smooth, sexy abbreviation of submissive, and can be used as a noun and a verb, as well as just an adjective. You’re such a good little sub, or Do you want to sub for me tonight, sweetheart? Mmm, sexy.

But anyway, moving on. I am a feminist, a self-defined, card-carrying feminist. But I like to be dominated. More specifically, I like to be dominated by men. I guess I’m a bit of a switch by nature, and I’ve played around with topping girls for fun, but what really gets me off is being pinned down and fucked by a man while I struggled and try to throw him off. And that’s not a picture that immediately fits with how feminism is usually portrayed.

I think I’ve made it clear by this point on this blog that I consider consent to be paramount. I’ve had experiences where consent was dubious, or overridden and ignored completely, and they were some of the least fun experiences of my life. I also don’t go in for the somewhat Biblical idea that women are naturally submissive, and that our husbands need to dominate us and put us in our place. Down that road lies rape, emotional abuse, and all those creepy organisations you find in the southern states of America where girls are taught that their feelings and desires are secondary to whatever man is most important in their life. The ideal of the perfect submissive woman is a damaging one, and impacts women in all areas of life, be it in the bedroom where their protests are ignored, or the office where they are passed over for promotion in favour of a ‘stronger’ man. Women are not weak, but the concept of submission is so fiercely tied to that of weakness that they sometimes seem impossible to separate.

And yet here I am, a devoted feminist who likes to be dominated during sex. I am hardly alone – my discovery of the feminist blogosphere taught me that fairly early on. And in my head, I have no trouble separating how I feel in everyday life and what I want in bed. As far as I’m concerned, as long as it’s with consenting adults, anyone can do whatever they want when it comes to sex, and I hope they enjoy it. But that realisation took a couple of years to get to, so while I don’t feel like I owe anyone any kind of apology for my sexual preferences, I am offering an explanation to whoever would like one.

I am not a masochist, not really. I don’t like pain – I don’t enjoy it, I endure it. In fact, I don’t like submitting for someone. Tell me to kneel and I’ll glare at you defiantly, tell me to stay still and I’ll thrash around just to spite you. I need to be forced. I need to be thrown to the floor, yanked up by the hair and spanked until it hurts so much I give in. If I actually enjoyed the pain, that wouldn’t work. I won’t stay still unless I’m held down, and even then I’ll struggle. Why? Because for me, there’s something incredibly erotically charged in the moment when I realise that I’m powerless. I’m twisting my arms, trying to push up and throw him off me, but of course I can’t, and that realisation gets me off like you wouldn’t believe. I enjoy discovering that I’m physically weaker than the man dominating me, which is probably why it doesn’t work quite as well with girls where we’re more equally matched. And only then, when I’ve fought and and worked out that I have no chance of winning, can I properly let go.

That feeling is unbelievable. To relax completely, to stop thinking about anything and just let someone else take full control, it’s overwhelming. I’ve read other feminists talk about how women are socialised from an early age into pleasing others and putting aside our own pleasure, and maybe there’s a little bit of that in what I feel when I let go and just let somebody else handle it all for a change. If I come (and I often do), it’s not of my own choosing. Nor is it my responsibility when and how he comes. It’s only when I stop thinking entirely that I realise how much of the time I usually spend worrying. And for an hour or so, if I’m lucky, I can give all that up.

Afterwards, there is aftercare. This is something that I didn’t know about until Alexander, but now I couldn’t do without it. I curl up in a ball and make quiet mewing noises, while the guy who was holding me by the throat minutes before holds me close and tells me how lovely I am, and that everything is going to be okay now. Aftercare is as much a part of the BDSM scene as the sex itself. It’s the part that allows me to slowly slip back into reality. Because that’s the whole point of a scene, it’s not real. That’s why it’s called a scene. I wouldn’t go so far as call it role-play exactly, because I’m still me when I’m subbing for someone. I’m still a feminist who believes that women don’t have to be submissive and that men do not have the right to dominate anyone. But the submitting I do during sex isn’t real submitting, because I know that afterwards there will be cuddles and hair-stroking, that I will be looked after, and that I can end it any time I want.

I guess what I’m trying to get across that is in my mind I can separate real life from what happens during a scene, and the bridge between those two things is the aftercare. Which is useful, because that feeling of letting go entirely is beautifully therapeutic. I’ll often be considerably calmer for a few days following a session involving some kind of power-play. Which isn’t to say that I like it all the time. I don’t, and if I have too much of it I start to feel distanced and crave slow and sensuous vanilla sex. But it is something I like and, to be honest, something I think I probably need if I want to stay emotionally healthy. All the stress and anxiety that comes from thinking all the time and worrying if everything is okay can be hard to cope with, and subbing for someone provides an outlet for all that to drain away.

It also results in absolutely mind-blowing orgasms, which is definitely a bonus.

So, that’s my take on it. I am very interested to hear other people’s thoughts on what they feel during BDSM encounters, if they have experience of that and want to talk about it. Because I know that there are about as many different ways to have sex as there are different people, and this is no exception. But I hope that explains how I can square submission with progressive activism and not feel torn in two. I mean, sometimes I’m into that, but you know what I mean.

Happy New Year everyone!

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My friends would never slut-shame – oh wait…

I am in Switzerland, having spent a manic but wonderful week in Rome (so much classics!), followed by a blissful few days with Alexander. Before I begin, let me wish anyone reading this a belated merry Christmas, and (more importantly to me, since I’m Jewish), a very happy Chanukah, plus general festive merriment all round, of the secular variety. Basically, I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday.

Now, onto the sexy stuff. Firstly, there has been an update about My sex positive little sister. Before I flew off to Rome, Camilla not only asked if she could borrow some condoms (though I sincerely hope she won’t be giving them back!), but asked for my advice on getting the pill. I told her which ones I’d been on, and what to definitely avoid (microgynon in particularly *shudders*), and she says the whole experience went well for her. I also told her that you can get the morning-after-pill for free if you go to Boots, which she said she didn’t know, and that it was useful information. So  it’s all good! I can’t stop her getting hurt as she starts to navigate the stormy waters of first-times, but I feel much better knowing that at least she’ll be safe. And hopefully more confident now that she’s better at talking about it.

That was the good news part of this post. The bad news is a conversation I had recently with a girl who is actually very close friend, that managed to hit all the feminist bingo squares when it comes to slut-shaming. Let me be clear, Daphne and I have been friends since we were twelve, first at school and now at university. She had one serious long-term relationship, and while it didn’t end badly exactly, there were a lot of unresolved feelings and issues. I know she hasn’t felt as strongly for anyone since, and seems to flit fairly quickly from one crush to the next, which is a perfectly valid approach, if it works for you. I’m not sure that it does work for Daphne, however, as she never actually goes after what (or rather, who) she wants, but waits for them to come to her, while ‘playing it cool’. (She would probably agree with Atratinus’ view of my methods for getting laid.) The result is that she often seems conflicted as to whether she is after an actual relationship or just casual sex, and so doesn’t tend to achieve either. And I think this is upsetting her, because while we don’t talk about this stuff in detail very often, she does give off the impression of being frustrated and unsatisfied, and implies that each new crush will remedy that for her.

Maybe I’m completely wrong and she’s actually totally fine, and I should stop projecting and just mind my own business. I am cool with that. Or rather, I would have been, if it hadn’t been for what happened with my friend Myrrhine. Myrrhine is like, the opposite of Daphne. She has almost the same approach to sex as I do, and has done everything from ongoing threesomes to sleeping with a teacher (I don’t advise it, and nor does she), and is flirtatious and seductive to boot. She is also pretty damn hot. Not that Daphne isn’t – she is – just Myrrhine dresses to emphasise her figure, wearing incredible bras, short skirts and high heels. However, like Daphne, I think she is also kinda looking for more of a relationship, and had a particular crush on the same cute thesp boy (Caelius) that I tried to take home for a threesome. Sadly, we were both unsuccessful, and I think Myrrhine was a little cut up about it, especially because she is a theatre person too and sees him around often. We all know how that can be tough.

Now, Daphne doesn’t really know Myrrhine, but if you hang out at the theatre enough, you sort of come to vaguely know everyone. And there was a party one night, and we all got drunk in the bar and there was crazy dancing and singing around the piano and all that jazz. I was there with Leander, and so were Daphne and Myrrhine (and also Caelius, which may have had something to do with it, since Caelius and Daphne are friends – are you following?). Myrrhine was wearing a tight low-cut top, a short skirt, high-heeled boots, and thigh-high stockings. She looked awesome. She shyly admitted that she’d run out of tights and hadn’t had a chance to do laundry, so had to wear the stockings instead. I don’t know if that was true, but regardless, it was a good look. And Caelius was drunk and was dancing with her, and she was flirting outrageously with him and everyone else, and I don’t think anyone went home with anyone else, but it was a good night.

A week later, I’m having coffee with Daphne, and Myrrhine comes up in conversation. I mention how she’s been feeling a bit insecure, so it’ll be good for her to be in the play that I’m directing. I do not like that girl, says Daphne. I ask why not. I just think she’s ridiculous. The way she dresses, the way she simpers after men. It’s pathetic. Did you see those outrageous stockings she was wearing the other night? I say I think the stockings looked awesome, and besides, Myrrhine can wear whatever she likes. I mean, of course she’s allowed to, I guess. I just refuse to feel sorry for her when she’s totally asking for it. What guy is going to take her seriously when she dresses like a slut, and acts like she’s anyone’s?

Now, I admit, by this point I was getting slightly heated. But I held back from saying something I’d regret about how Daphne was just bitter and/or envious – never a good way to try to make a point – and attempted to be rational. I pointed out that Myrrhine just has a different attitude to these things, an attitude which I tend to agree with, and that the fact that things with her and Caelius didn’t work out was hardly a reason to condemn her to a single life until she changed her ways. I said that subtlety is one way to go about things, but it’s perfectly fine to be clear and direct about what you want, if that’s what you prefer. It just comes across as desperate, Daphne countered. I can’t imagine why any guy would want to go out with a girl like her. I know I wouldn’t go near her. Half an hour later, when discussing a different girl, Daphne came out with: And why does everyone think she’s so fit? She’s typically just dyed her hair blonde and everyone’s started giving her attention. Plus it doesn’t even suit her, she’s too pale.

I am not about to comment on whether this random girl who I do not even know looks good with her blonde hair, but as far as I’m concerned, if she likes the way it looks, good on her. Daphne’s attitude, however, I find worrying. I don’t want to dwell on what’s making her say this, or make any assumptions about her being bitter or frustrated at her own situation, because that’s not my place. What I do know is that this girl is usually sweet and lovely, with what I thought was a healthy attitude towards sex, and has never shown any signs of that ‘girlish bitchiness’ that romcoms would have us believe lurks beneath the surface of every woman. And yet she is happy to condemn a girl who’s pretty much a stranger to her, on account of her short skirt and stockings. According to Daphne, Myrrhine doesn’t deserve to be in a happy relationship with anyone, because she acts like too much of a slut. And by ‘slut’, I think she just means a girl who enjoys lots of sex with lots of different people.

Where is that idea coming from? It’s not so far off from the ‘she was asking for it’ rape apologia that we’re all so used to hearing. I have to wonder what Daphne’s response would be if, heaven forbid, Myrrhine was raped or assaulted. And I can’t help feeling that maybe, at the heart of it, Daphne feels threatened by Myrrhine, with her confidence and flirtatious outspokenness. Which is ridiculous, because there’s no single way to get what you want, whether it’s a one-night-stand or a serious relationship, and Daphne could always choose to be more forward if that’s what she wanted. But she doesn’t, and I respect her for that, although her utter disgust for girls who choose a different approach makes me wonder if that respect can ever be mutual.

I hope Daphne finds what she wants, and ends up in the happy, secure relationship I think she is after. I hope Myrrhine works out whatever it is she is looking for, and gets that too. Most importantly, I hope they both have lots and lots of incredible sex. And in the meantime, I’m wondering what on earth I can do to change Daphne’s mind, how I can possibly make her see that dressing in a sexy way, whether it’s for yourself or anyone else, is a valid choice, and that it’s okay to ask someone out directly if you find them hot. Maybe if she could accept that, she’d finally allow one of her crushes to see that she actually likes him.

At any rate, I hope Myrrhine keeps wearing stockings, because they are fucking hot.

Dipping my toes in the murky waters of privilege

So far on this blog, I haven’t talked much about privilege, or rather Privilege, with its capital letter. You know, that boring tedious thing that those boring tedious (not to mention sexually frustrated) feminists keep harping on about. And that’s because I’m still working out how to handle the privilege issue, and what the best way to talk about it without alienating just about everyone is. So this isn’t really an entry about privilege, but rather an account of exactly what happened on Friday night, which just happens to involve a striking if mundane example of male privilege.

If you’ve been reading this blog semi-regularly, you might have read On being sexually ‘responsible’ and what that actually means. The story of that one is that the condom split, I went to get the morning-after-pill, and it was all awesome and I’m not pregnant and isn’t it great that such medication is freely available in the UK. It’s all good. Except on Friday, it happened again. Well, not quite the same thing, but basically massive condom fail. Was it Leander’s fault? Personally, I’m inclined to say yes. I mean, he didn’t do anything wrong. He used it exactly how you were taught in year 9 sex ed classes (again, if you’re British or went to a British school). Opening it carefully, putting it on before any penetration occurred, and all that jazz. But somewhere along the way it broke or came off or something, and because of the logistics of sex, I’m really not in a position to notice these things. I thought – and I still think – that it’s the penetrating-partner’s responsibility to check that the condom is fine, and not to get too swept up to allow something like that to happen.  Leander said that he was doing everything he could and it really wasn’t his fault, that sometimes these things just happen. I don’t know. I am definitely wary about using those condoms again.

But whose fault it may have been isn’t the issue. The issue is that immediately afterwards, I was a little freaked out. Definitely irritated. And what was Leander’s response? To make an inane joke about it, and say ‘It’s fine, you can go to the pharmacy tomorrow’.

And I spun around at him in anger. Do you think it’s that simple? The magic off-switch in pill form, that miraculously makes everything okay? A quick-fix and then it’s like it never happened? I’ve been quite good about not getting angry recently, and keeping my emotions under control, but I was furious. Don’t you get what taking the pill is actually like? He looked blankly at me. First there’s the anxiety. Until I’m in the pharmacy, swallowing it down with water, my brain will be convincing my body that it’s already pregnant. And then I take it and I feel instantly sick. Whether it’s the medication or just adrenaline, it makes me feel nauseous. Then the after-effects. It’s like taking twenty-one doses of the regular pill at once. Headaches and mood swings and more nausea. Plus it fucks up your menstrual cycle completely, so you have no idea where you are, meaning that it’s impossible to know for sure without taking a pregnancy test (it’s only 70% effective anyway), and don’t even get me started on what that feels like. I will spend the next two weeks at least convinced I am pregnant, feeling sick and emotional with constant low-level anxiety, while you just go on utterly oblivious, feeling all smug and superior because you ‘did the right thing’ by driving me to the pharmacy.

I may have added that it was his fault I was in this mess (even though that’s debatable). And there may have been a lot more swearing. But I calmed down enough to look at him, and I asked if he got it now. And he just stared at me. He said he hadn’t known any of that. He had never stopped to think what taking a massive dose of hormones might actually feel like, the toll it’s likely to take even on a young and healthy body. No one had ever taught him any of this, but that’s not much of an excuse, because anyone who knows anything about hormones and biology should be able to work out that this stuff is not pleasant. Oh, it’s truly fantastic that it exists and it’s a hundred thousand times better than having to get an abortion. But it’s hardly nice. I knew that, even before I took it for the first time. (For the record, I have taken it five times over four years, which might sound like a lot, until you consider how much sex I’ve had in those four years, and then it sounds like a miracle.)

The point is (and this is what really made me angry), Leander had never had to think about this stuff. For him it really was that simple: condom fails, take girl to pharmacy, girl does not get pregnant. End of. And that in itself is, to me, a striking example of privilege. It’s not that he meant to upset me. He didn’t mean to belittle the experience or make it sound like my emotions and well-being didn’t matter, but that’s how it came across because he’d never had to stop and think before, so what was blatantly obvious to me needed step-by-step explaining for him.

I’m not angry anymore. We talked it through, he took me to the pharmacy, and it’s all good. (Though of course, I won’t know for sure for another couple of weeks, but if, heaven forbid, it turns out to not be all good, I’ll be writing up that experience on here too.) While I still think he should have been more careful at the time, I understand how difficult these things are, and if I still resent him from not having to worry about this the way I do, I know that’s not his fault. Also, he’s promised to buy me a slice of cheesecake every time I get anxious in the next two weeks, and I really do love cheesecake.

But I still think this is a good example of how someone can be totally well-meaning and rationally completely onboard with feminist issues and the concept of privilege, and still make these kinds of mistakes in practice. Because it wasn’t enough for Leander to know that he has privilege (he does) and to try to check it (he does that too) – there are still occasions where he slips up and genuinely doesn’t realise he has until it’s explained to him. Does that make him a bad person? Not at all, because when I did explain it, he listened and accepted what I was saying. The problem is when well-meaning people can’t accept that they may have made some mistake and get defensive about it, because they think I’m accusing them of being a terrible person, and don’t I know that they fully support women’s rights (or LGBT rights or racial equality, or whatever it is), and would never say or do anything to hurt anyone?

And the truth is, I do know that, but that’s not a bulletproof defence against ever saying something sexist or offensive, and if they’re not going to listen to me when I try to explain why what they’ve said is wrong, how are they ever going to learn?

Leander is way ahead of almost every man I’ve ever met, but he’s still learning. I know I am too.

Fuck, I really hope I’m not pregnant.

If I’m making you uncomfortable now, you probably can’t handle what I’ve got in mind later

Okay, so I sort of abandoned this blog for two weeks or so. I didn’t mean to! But I was doing another show (a one-woman-play written and acted in by a very close friend of mine, which was utterly brilliant), and then it was the end of term and I had to finish my dissertation, and then I found out that my application to direct a play next term had been accepted, so I immediately had to finish writing the script and start holding auditions and trying to get funding for that (which, by the way, we still don’t have). All in all, it has been an extremely manic few weeks, and I haven’t really had a chance to sit down with my laptop and write. Oh, and speaking of my laptop, I spilt tea on it a week ago, and it now kernel panics a couple of times a day, which means I am constantly losing work. (It just did it again now.) But despite all that, I have feminist sex positive things to say (and then that gender post to write). So here goes.

The threesome I had in mind, that I mentioned a while ago, did not happen. And I am pleased that it didn’t happen, because the cute thesp guy (who has assumed the pseudonym Caelius) was clearly confused and uncertain about a lot of stuff, so that when we talked and he gave me a polite but firm ‘no thank you’, I knew that it was probably for the best. He is still lovely and a great friend, and I’m pleased that we even got to the point of considering it. But that’s not the point of this post.

The point is, my method of asking someone out, whether it’s for coffee or a romantic dinner or a night of passionate casual sex, is notably direct and forward. There are ‘games’ that women are meant to play when it comes to this, that you see in ever sit-com or drama or romantic comedy. The ‘playing hard to get’. The ‘do you think he likes me?’. The ‘I can’t do that or I’ll look like a slut!’. One of my friends has a formula: she’ll fall for a guy, go out for coffee with him, then refuse to talk or contact him in any way, because ‘then he’ll just think I’m desperate! Besides, I don’t think he likes me in that way’. The result? She gets a lot of coffee-dates with nice men, who she rarely sees again, because she never contacts them, and even if they contact her first, she’ll play it so unbelievably cool that it looks like she has no interest in them whatsoever.

If that works for her, then fine, but it sure as hell doesn’t work for me. My first words ever to Alexander were: ‘Hi, I’m Electra’s crazy ex-girlfriend, and I’m quite tipsy and having a really rough night, so if you wanted to take advantage of me I totally wouldn’t say no’. (As it happens, he politely refused this offer, and it wasn’t til a week later that we ended up in bed.) My standard pick-up-line if I’m in a bar and have been dancing with a girl I like is usually ‘I think you’re gorgeous, and I would really love to take you home’. And one of the reasons Leander and I get on so well is that when we ended up cuddled on a sofa after a truly exhausting day, even though we didn’t know each other that well, we had the following exchange:

Him: I’m sorry if this sounds really inappropriate, but are you and I going to end up having sex at some point in the next few days?
Me: Yes.
Him: Cool.

So you see, my methods are not exactly subtle. And while it certainly doesn’t work every time (I propositioned Caelius with similar directness), and I’m not saying it’s right for everyone, it tends to suit me well. I don’t have to play games of pretending I don’t like someone when I do, of mentally censoring myself so I don’t appear too promiscuous, of trying to send secret signs with body language rather than simply saying ‘I think you’re awesome and incredibly hot’. If you add to that the fact that I talk about my sexual opinions and experiences as openly in real life as I do on this blog, this gives me a certain reputation. And I don’t mind that, because while I would never want anyone to feel awkward or pressured because of what I say, I don’t want to waste my time trying to sooth people who would be ‘scared off’ by me and my attitudes towards sexuality. Which is why the following story pisses me off so much.

I was in the theatre bar (where, it seems, I spend the vast majority of my evenings – G&Ts for £2.20!), and Caelius was there, as was his friend Atratinus, who I have also flirted with a bit. Atratinus has a reputation in the theatre for being (and I hate this term) a ‘man-whore’. This is probably because he appears shirtless in almost every play he has ever been in (and he does look great without a shirt), because no one actually knows anyone who has actually slept with him. Not that this means anything, or even that it would be a bad thing if it did, but over the years I have got the impression from him that he likes to pretend he’s a lot more experienced than he actually is, because he likes the attention. Again, just my opinion, and certainly not a bad thing. But we’re in the bar together, and somehow we end up talking, and I say something mildly flirtatious (because that’s what I do), and he laughs and tells me he knows what happened with Caelius. And I shrug and smile and say it was his loss, and that’s the end of it.

Except then Atrantinus tells me I’m too forward. That I scare guys off. That I throw my sexuality around to the point where everyone thinks I’ll sleep with anyone and have no standards, and of course no guy wants a girl like that. That I’d have had more luck if I’d been subtle. That Caelius doesn’t like forward girls. In short, that if I wasn’t such a slut, I’d have a better chance.

Granted, he didn’t actually say the last part. But it was heavily implied. And it made me furious. Because okay, we were both a bit drunk and we’ve never got on hugely well, but that attitude is one I contend with every day, and genuinely upsets me, even now. As women, we are taught that all men want sex with all women all the time, and that they never want to commit. Using that logic, any guy would be thrilled to have a woman come up to him and offer him no-strings-attached sex. Except when that does happen (and it does – I do it), there’s suddenly this implication that there must be something horribly wrong with this woman. She must be damaged, or desperate, otherwise she wouldn’t be offering something that she’s supposed to hold back until the last possible moment. And why would anyone ever want to sleep with a woman like that?

I don’t mind that Caelius turned me down. In fact, as I said at the beginning, I’m pleased he did. I’d much rather that than if he’d put himself in a position where he was uncomfortable. But I mind that anyone could think I was wrong to ask. I mind that there are still people who feel that I need to play those ridiculous games to be taken seriously, that I am less desirable because I am clear and honest about what I want. Surely any girl who has the confidence to ask directly for sex is more likely to be confident while actually having sex, which leads to more enjoyment for both partners? Or maybe not. Maybe guys like Atratinus  don’t want a girl who knows what she likes in bed, because they’re scared about not being able to live up to it. Maybe they want coy virginal girls (or girls who act coy and virginal) because it’s less threatening, and a girl who is too shy to proposition a guy will be too shy to tell him that he’s not meeting her needs, so he can go on believing he’s fantastic.

I’m sorry, this probably comes across as bitter. And it’s not Atratinus’ fault that what he said hit me so hard. It’s a struggle I face every day as a sexually confident woman, as more and more people tell me that I’d just get along so much better if I hid this side of my personality and pretended, at least initially, that sex means nothing to me. But being honest about my preferences and desires has improved both my sex life and general well-being exponentially, and I’m not going to stop just because some people are scared off by it. Because I really do believe that more honesty means better sex all round, for everyone, and that’s something that’s worth the occasional insulting put-down.