Guinea pigs and Pervocracy

Okay, so this is one of the times when I’m not writing because too much exciting stuff is happening. Like writing my thesis and looking for jobs and also getting way over my head with the kink scene. All of the awesome things! And I am making notes of posts I want to write, all about rape culture and relationships and life goals and fetish clubs and online dating and kink stereotypes… and then I spend all my free time sleeping in because otherwise I can’t function.

So until things calm down or I get better at handling six different sides to my personality, here is an amazing post from Pervocracy. It’s called “How can you be a feminist and do BDSM”, and effectively sums up most of what I feel on the matter, including the great comeback “it’s like asking how I can be a feminist and keep guinea pigs”. 

One of the things I really like is the way that post deals with all the problems that you do get within BDSM culture, pointing out that they’re all the same problems you get with sex, and with society in general. But higher risks mean the people who engage in such activities actually need to think about what they’re doing, how it feels and what the consequences may be, and that’s something that gets missed out far too often in vanilla, ‘normal’ interactions.

Anyway, go read the whole thing. I’ll be back when I’ve had some sleep.

Polyamory: the beginning of a hundred new exciting ways to screw up

So one of the problems with blogging is that sometimes there’s not much going on, so there’s nothing to write about, but then other times all sorts of exciting things are happening, so you’re way too busy to sit down and write something. This is particularly a problem if you’re like me, and a bit of a perfectionist, agonisingly conscious of writing  something vaguely interesting, while at the same time attempting to keep confidential details confidential, and not reveal too much. The results? I’ve been trying to think of a way to write this post since round about October, and failing miserably. Somehow the balance of ‘interesting to read’ and ‘being selective with information’ has been particularly hard with this. It may take a few attempts to get it right, so consider this take one. There will no doubt be a sequel.

I’ve managed to find myself in a polyamorous relationship, which is giving me countless opportunities to put what I’ve always thought in theory into practice. ((Classicist side-note: I have a real issue with the word ‘polyamory’. It’s half Latin, half Greek, and I hate words like that. The word also has a lot of history with people trying to define what ‘true polyamory’ looks like, which always sets off my bullshit detectors, but that’s the best description, so it’s the word I’m going to stick with.)) It’s been going on for over four months now, which is actually kinda significant, if not serious, especially in a university environment where a relationship that lasts more than eight weeks is considered long-term. And as this blog is about learning and exploration and basically just me throwing my thoughts into a void, it’s time to do some talking. I should also note that the title of this post is meant to be flippant, not negative. I don’t think poly relationships are any more likely to be screwed up than exclusive ones, only that now I get the chance to screw up in new ways, and that’s exciting and interesting in itself.

I’ve been in open relationships before, the kind where I was kinda seeing someone and they were also sleeping with other people. Sometimes I was sleeping with other people too, sometimes I wasn’t. This is different, because this time, I’m not the primary partner. My boyfriend (I am still getting comfortable calling him that) has been with his primary partner for something mad like ten years. They live together. She is and always will be his top priority. They’ve been poly for a couple of years, and are way better at all this than I am, and since meeting them, I’ve been introduced to the reality of a world I’d only ever seen through the distorting lens of the internet.

My past experience of open relationships hasn’t been all that positive. In retrospect, it was always pretty much an excuse to treat me like shit, intentionally or not. Salmacis, the girlfriend I met on the internet when I was fifteen, would state repeatedly that we were together, but made it clear that she was going to continue to sleep with at least a different girl every week, even though she knew that I was inexperienced and not seeing anyone else. (The one time I kissed another girl, she got intensely upset.) Alexander and I tried to be open for a year, but it pretty much turned into a competition as to who could go on more dates, thus proving that they cared the least. In the last year and half, the men I’ve  dated have all pretty much assumed that open means no commitment. If we’re not exclusive, that means there’s no real responsibility, and we can pretty much treat each other with as little respect as we choose.

This isn’t to say that I think any of these are bad people. I just think that they were bad relationships. Or at least, not the kind of relationships that I necessarily wanted at the time. I’ve tried to explain that, when I say I’d be happy to have a non-exclusive relationship with someone, that doesn’t necessarily mean without emotion. (If and when I want something utterly without emotion, I don’t call it a relationship, and even then, I have to at least like the person.)

So here is what I expect. If I have a partner, I expect them to be there for me when I’m stressed about work or when I’ve had a bad day or when one of my exes calls me to screw with my head. I have days when I come home and just want to cry, for whatever reason, and I expect my partner to be on the other end of a phone to comfort me. If we’re in the same city and it’s not massively inconvenient, there are times when I expect them to come to see me. I like to think that I would always try to do the same for them. And if things don’t go well and we have arguments and upset each other, I expect us to be able to talk about things and try to work out a solution, without resorting to the ‘well we’re not really dating so it doesn’t matter’ stance.

Being exclusive or non-exclusive doesn’t change any of that. The fact that my partner might be seeing other people should not give them a free pass to just ignore the parts of being in a relationship they don’t like. In an ideal world, I’d have a partner who loved and valued me and considered me their primary, with a relationship strong enough that we could see other people on the side, without either of us confusing ‘non-exclusive’ for ‘non-committed’.

Of course, what’s interesting about my current relationship is that I’m not the primary. My boyfriend has a long-term partner, and from what I’ve seen, that’s pretty much the dynamic they have. They love each other, and no amount of sex with other people is going to change that. As far as I’m concerned, I’m just an additional extra. But the strange thing is, I feel more secure in this relationship than I have in any other. The main restriction is time, followed by geography. He can’t drop everything to come to another city to see me when I have a difficult day, and the amount of time he can spend with me depends partly on her schedule. That said, he’ll make time to speak to me on the phone, to look after me if I’m upset, and to make sure I feel valued and special within the context of our relationship. When we have issues, we talk them through and work out compromises. And as for my side of it, while I know he has other people to look after him, I try to make sure he knows that I care too, from a hundred miles away. I don’t expect him to put me before her, but I know that, if there were a crisis, he’d make sure I was okay, and if my emotions aren’t the top priority, well, at least they are a priority.

In a strange way, I am being treated far better than when I was the primary in an ‘open relationship’ which was really just an excuse not to have a relationship at all. In some ways, I am being treated with more respect and understanding than in the one ‘real’ monogamous relationship I’ve had. And though it’s not going to last all that long and is very emphatically not ‘going anywhere’, I am very grateful to be experiencing something like this. It is still new and strange and I am learning a lot, and no doubt all my usual neuroses and insecurities are going to start crawling out of the woodwork before long. (They kinda already have, but I think I will save that for Polyamory Part II.) But as someone who has been told that I’m not secure and well-balanced enough to handle something like this, that I get too jealous and irrational, it’s beautifully refreshing to discover otherwise. I’m happy, I think, if temporarily, and that’s the strangest feeling of all.

((I am still trying to think of appropriate names for this couple. So far the best suggestion as been Cadmus and Harmonia, but I wonder if that’s a little dark….))

A lesson in ‘value’

Exams are over, and I am between hangovers. Let’s talk about sex.

Specifically, let’s talk about one particular night of sex, just before one particular hangover. Not even the sex, actually, but the night that preceded it. Or rather, one particularly conversation that night.

Confused? Okay, me too. Let’s start again. There have been parties, and drinking, and flirtation, and basically lots of fun all round. And so I find myself at one such gathering, getting slightly tipsy, and being seduced by someone I know to be a shameless womaniser. He is buying me drinks, and I am alternating between flirting coyly and being outrageously forward. It feels good to be able to relax like this again, and not have to worry about getting up early the next day to go to the library. The fact that this guy  has a bit of a ‘reputation’ just makes it more fun. I know what he’s like, and I know I can get what I want without too much trouble afterwards. He seems to have come to the same conclusion. Plus he is effortlessly charming. It’s all good.

At some stage in the evening, he is off getting drinks or talking to someone else or something, and one of his friends comes up to me. This is another guy I know quite well, someone I’d definitely consider a friend, but wouldn’t invite out for coffee. He sits down next to me, takes my hand, and says ‘Whatever your problems are, he’s not going to solve them’.

I laugh, nervously. I’m tispy, and not necessarily at my best for judging tone. I tell him I don’t have any problems, and lightly ask if it’s that obvious. He says ‘blindingly’. He goes on to tell me how this guy really isn’t all he makes out. I mutter something about being able to look after myself, really, and wander off to talk to someone else. There is dancing (I like dancing). I am bought tequila (I don’t like tequila, but I drink it anyway, for the head-rush). More flirtation with the charming womaniser. It is decided at this point that we will be going home together. I approve of this. It is, after all, what I came for.

At some point I wander outside to get some air. His friend is there again. Preemptively, I tell him that I appreciate his concern, but I’m not that innocent, really. He sighs, and takes  me by the shoulders, looks at me sadly, and tells me ‘you ought to value yourself more than this’.

Let me say that again. You ought to value yourself more than this. Because going home with someone who clearly isn’t relationship material isn’t valuing myself. In fact, it’s devaluing me. Sleeping with someone I want and who wants me would make me less valuable a person. Think about that for a moment. Think about all the bullshit and double-standards and sex negativity that goes into a statement like that, presumably intended as friendly advice. Think about the world in which we live, where something so downright insulting is considered not only acceptable, but a sign that someone apparently cares about you and wants to help.

Every time I think I’ve worked through my insecurities and shame about sex, something like this happens to remind me that to some people, people I know and trust and like, the fact that I want to sleep with someone who has no intention of dating me is a matter for concern. It’s something I need to be protected from, warned against, because I can’t possibly be making my own decisions. No girl would actually choose to go home with a guy like that.

I note, a little bitterly, that no one felt the need to warn him about me. I’m hardly relationship material either, and I have a reputation of my own, but sleeping with me is unlikely to devalue any man. At any rate, I went home with him all the same, and we had a lovely night together. Easy, casual, surprisingly fun sex, which ended on friendly terms. Exactly (and I mean exactly) what I was after.

So I’m happy. Disillusioned with the world, perhaps, or maybe just disappointed, but happy. Exams are over, and I am going to have fun. And much as I hate to admit it, I know that he really did mean well, and that if he knew how furious that comment would make me, he’d be shocked and upset. But damn it, can’t a girl get laid around here without the world judging her for devaluing herself?!

…No one answer that.

Mirrored perspectives: submission and control

I’ve been trying to write this post for a while now, and every time I start I look back over what I’ve written and delete it. Because I don’t know everything, and sometimes I screw up or get something wrong or simply don’t quite know how to handle a situation, and I wonder, should I write about it? Will people still listen to what I have to say if I don’t always speak with total authority?

I have to hope so, because there is so much I don’t know, so much I’m still working out. So here goes, draft 6, or possibly 7. 7 is meant to be lucky, right?

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my attitude towards submission. Shortly after writing that, I had the opportunity to see the same ideas from the other side. I didn’t write about it then, because I didn’t know what to say. In some ways I still don’t. But I’m going to try now and if anyone out there has any idea to throw a me, or if anyone’s been through something similar (any doms out there?), please, tell me what I’m missing.

There was a guy. A friend of mine, Gaius, who has quite similar attitudes to me when it comes to dating and sex: try to be honest, don’t deliberately hurt anyone, have as much fun as possible. He knew about BDSM in the same way that I think everyone vaguely does, all handcuffs and professional dominatrices like in films, who wear thigh-high leather boots and carry whips. Like most people, I don’t think he ever imagined what it might be like in real life with real people, and, again like most people, he didn’t see the connection between his image of BDSM and the kind of rough, slightly violent sex he was used to. One of the biggest misconceptions about BDSM, I’ve always thought, is the idea that you either like it or you don’t, everyone is either kinky or not kinky. Of course, like just about everything else, there’s a broad spectrum of activities that goes from a bit of mild biting and scratching to hanging upside-down by your ankles being branded with hot irons. Somewhere along that line, it stops being ‘normal sex’ and starts becoming ‘BDSM’. But I’ll be the first to admit I have no idea where the boundary is, and if I’m honest, I’m a little hazy about why we need a boundary in the first place.

I’m going off-topic. The point I was trying to make was that Gaius would certainly not have considered himself kinky, at least not in the BDSM sense. He knew that I’m a submissive who likes being dominated and hurt, but then, most of my friends know that – it’s not exactly a secret. And I think we must both have been in really weird moods that night, because we were cuddled on the bed, and he put pressure on my wrists, holding me down just slightly, and I thought, why the hell not, and told him to hurt me.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Probably bitten lips and scratch marks,  or maybe some mild spanking if he was feeling adventurous. What I got was a full-on scene. I was held down, choked, grabbed by the hair, forced to give head, demeaned, degraded and humiliated. If I disobeyed an order, he would hit me across the face. Hard, hard enough for me to have bruised cheekbones days later. There is, I’ve been told, a massive difference for a man between spanking a woman and hitting her face. One is playful sexual fun, the other is breaking a huge taboo about not hitting women. I understand this intellectually, and from my side it’s incredibly arousing to be hit like that, partly because of how violent it feels. I know that I really enjoyed it when he did it to me. More importantly though, I could feel that he really enjoyed it, that he was getting off on treating me like and object and hurting me to the point which, had it not been a thoroughly consensual sex scene, would probably have counted as assault.

I used my safeword once, as a test, to see if I could trust him. This is something I would always do with a new partner, because BDSM is entirely about trust and that’s a very quick way to determine if you need to stop things right now before it goes any further. He stopped instantly, we both asked if the other was okay and said assuredly that we both were. We started again. It got violent. Good violent. I reminded myself that I had to be in control, this was his first time with this kind of stuff and it was my responsibility as the more experienced partner to keep my head and make sure neither of us crossed any lines we were uncomfortable with. I knew that I knew where my limits were and I trusted him to respect them, but I wasn’t convinced he could say the same for himself, so that was partly my responsibility too, even if he wasn’t the one being pinned down and hurt.

Except at some point, it all got too intense for me to stay in control and I let go, the same way I would with a familiar partner. I put this down to Gaius, for all that he was a complete beginner, being really very good at dominating me. Almost too good. It got to the point where I was genuinely terrified. I don’t mean for a moment that I wanted to stop – I didn’t, and I would have used my safeword if I had. I like being terrified. Fear is arousing. I forgot, briefly, who I am in real life, who he was, and gave in to feeling like someone else’s toy. It was total, complete submission, and it felt wonderful.

When it was over, I was shaking and close to tears. This is normal for me. It’s therapeutic and, hard as it might be to understand, it feels good. Even if we hadn’t done anything even vaguely resembling sex, submission can sometimes feel similar to orgasm, and I was enjoying my own very unique type of afterglow. Except he was shaking too. I explained aftercare, and slowly we both drifted back to some form of reality, and that’s when I realised how freaked out he was.

Let me be clear, I am 99% sure that Gaius did not do anything he didn’t want to do that night. I don’t think I pressured him, nor do I think he regrets anything that he did. What I hadn’t considered (and this is where I slipped up pretty massively) is how it must feel for someone who thinks they’re ‘normal’ to suddenly realise they enjoy violently hurting other people, especially if that person is a woman. I’ve tried to explain to lots of novice-subs how it’s okay to want to be dominated and hurt, and how it doesn’t affect how you lead the rest of your life in any way. I’ve much less experience with the other side, explaining that it’s okay to get off on something which, to most people, looks a lot like abuse.

Hitting someone during a scene isn’t abuse, or assault, or anything of the kind. It’s a consensual sex act, and like everything else in consensual sex, it’s much better if both people are getting off on it. And just like I don’t really believe that submitting to a partner makes me weaker or lower status than them in reality, enjoying dominating someone else doesn’t mean you have an abusive or violent personality. I know that, because I’ve been doing this for nearly three years now, while reading a hell of a lot of BDSM literature. Someone completely new to the scene might be a little less clear. And that’s where I slipped up.

We’ve talked a lot since, and I think he’s okay with it. I hope he is. I would really really hate for someone who obviously gets off on this stuff to be discouraged because of too, much too fast. And I hope we get to try it again at some point because I think we both had a lot of fun. But it was a rather intense reminder to me that I don’t know everything, and that I am very capable of making mistakes, or at least not handling things to the best of my ability, and also that I am not the Sex Positivity Fairy, not all the time anyway, and I can’t make everything okay just by saying it is.

I think maybe we need a whole troop of Sex Positivity Fairies. Anyone want to sign up? I can make badges!

A guide to the not-just-one-night-stand

I promised a post on one-night-stands, so here it is. I’m curious to see whether this gets as many hits as the threesome post, since me talking personally about kinky sexual experiences I’ve had seems to be more popular than me talking abstractedly about vaguely feminist issues. Anyway, we shall see.

I am not as experienced with one-night-stands as I am with threesomes, and there is a very good reason for this. Alexander put it best, when he told me ‘anyone worth screwing is worth screwing twice’. Sex doesn’t have to be a one-off for it to stay casual, and if you’ve got good chemistry with someone and had a great time, there is no definite reason why you should stop there. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I wanted to start with why someone might want a one-night-stand in the first place. And by someone, I mean me, since I can’t speak for anyone else.

Sex can be hugely emotional, and intimate, and if it’s good, the sudden release of so many endorphins can be incredibly powerful. It’s intense, and intense emotion (if you count feeling happy from endorphins as emotion) can lead to a form of emotional connection. But it doesn’t have to. Some people are very good at separating sex and emotions. Some are not. I don’t buy into the view that ‘sex can never be fully detached from emotions’, but nor do I think that it’s always as purely physical as some people claim. Again, it depends on the person. It’s also not necessarily a gender divide. The narrative that men want sex while women want emotional intimacy is so generalising and out-dated, not to mention dismissive to female sexuality, that it’s not even worth commenting on. Maybe gender does play a part, or hormone levels, or cultural factors, but that’s not what’s important here. All that matters is that sex means different things for different people, and that’s okay.

So where do I fit in on this spectrum? I have, over the last six years, had a lot of casual sex. Some of it was with strangers I’d only met that night, some with friends after a few drinks, and one memorable time with the man I would end up spending two years with in a committed, long-term relationship. Of these encounters, only about three of them actually ended up being one-night-stands. Because Alexander has a point: if you’ve gone through the games and the flirtation, put aside the awkwardness of sex with a new partner and got to the point where you’re doing something deeply intimate with them, why not do it again? For me, sex makes me see a person in a different way. Even if I don’t want a relationship with them, the fact that we’ve been in bed together changes the way we act around one another. He touches my hand as he passes me a drink and I remember other places his hands have been. She gives me a hug goodbye and I’m struck by a sudden flashback at the smell of her hair. That doesn’t mean I desperately want to do them again (although I often do), but just that it’s hard to see someone in exactly the same way once you’ve had them naked in your bed.

Casual sex gets dismissed quite a lot in our society, especially when it’s women seeking it. It actually has some pretty major advantages if you have a ridiculously high sex drive (or even just a moderately high one), but for whatever reasons don’t want to be in a relationship. Or, of course, if you’re in an open relationship, but don’t want to get too deeply involved in other partners. Also, it’s fun and new and exciting, and you get to find out all sorts of interesting things about another person and possibly learn something about yourself too. I’ve done everything from walking up to a complete stranger in a bar and asking if they want to take me home, to spending two weeks talking to someone online about exactly what we were going to do to each other when we met. Right now, my preferences lie more towards the latter, because I have a very clear idea of what I want from a sexual partner, and it’s much easier to gauge whether that’s an option if you’ve had a decent conversation with them. But I won’t deny there’s an incredible thrill in taking a stranger back home, and knowing that you could be anyone to each other. That’s not a narrative we see very often, and that’s exactly what makes it so incredibly hot.

So why do I want casual sex right now? I’ve just got out of a serious relationship, and not only do I not feel emotionally ready for another one, I don’t want one. I like being able to flirt with anyone, and to decide at a moment’s notice whether I want to go home with someone. It’s fun and it works for me. But I am painfully aware that it doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve been the girl who swore blind she was okay with casual sex when she really wanted an exclusive relationship, and I’ve been one pretending to believe a partner who said the same. Both hurt, and neither are particularly healthy. So now I have rules. One of the great things about being so forward is that I don’t feel uncomfortable telling people in no uncertain terms what I want. (That is, ‘I want to be able to fuck you a few times but I don’t want a relationship’, rather than ‘I want you to handcuff me down and spank me’, although I’m working on the latter.) I don’t want someone who is looking for more, hoping a casual fling will become a serious relationship. And, just as importantly, I don’t want someone who’s up for the casual fling, but whose other partners aren’t.

This is a big problem when it comes to one-night-stands: a lot of the people who are also looking for what I’m looking for have other partners. And this is a good thing – I have other partners too. But when they don’t tell these people, when they lie and pretend to be exclusive, or else maintain an open relationship with someone who clearly wants monogamy, that is an issue. I’ve been the ‘other woman’, several times, as well as being the one being cheated on, and I like to think I’ve grown out of it. No, it’s not my responsibility to make sure someone else’s girlfriend stays faithful, to avoid any contact with their boyfriend in case he has a moment of weakness and jumps me. Not my relationship, not by problem. But on a purely selfish level, it makes me uncomfortable knowing that I’m doing something incredibly intimate with someone who can’t be honest with the people who are close to them, who is, intentionally or not, hurting those who trust them. If they’re like that with their serious partners, then how on earth can I trust them with me? How can I be sure that they will respect my boundaries in a sexual context, if they don’t respect their other partners’ in a relationship context?

This, sadly, narrows down the number potential casual partners quite significantly. And I guess for an actual one-night-stand, maybe it wouldn’t be an issue. But I know from experience that if I enjoy fucking someone once, I will want to do it again. (And again and again, until we either end up in a relationship or one of us gets bored.) I like sex too much to give it up with someone I find attractive just to stick to the ‘one night’ part. And for that, there needs to be trust, even if that trust only goes as far as ‘I trust you to make me feel amazing, be honest about your emotions, and not hurt anyone else by being with me’.

If we find each other attractive and you can promise me that, then I can guarantee we’ll have a lot of fun together. And if not, I wish you the best of luck with your other relationship(s), and I really hope you grow up enough to be able to deal with the drama that will almost definitely ensue. I’m here to offer advice if you need me.

Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson (kinda, not really though)

The play is over, which I am both relieved and very sad about. It went incredibly well, and was a lot of fun, and I am so very pleased I took the time out of my degree to really give it everything I had. And now it is over and normal life resumes. Hello normal life! How have you been? I missed you.

Somehow, over the course of the play, I have ended up in a position I never thought I’d have to face: I slept with a younger guy. This should not be a big deal, but I have always dated people significantly older than me. Electra: two years older. Salmacis: four years older. Alexander: three years older. A mad mad French girl who doesn’t have a pseudonym: five years older. And okay, Leander was my age, but that was an exception. I have never had much time for people younger than me, male or female, at least not as sexual partners. It just didn’t seem right.

Alas, one of the downsides to being  third-year at university (other than exams and actually having to work, of course) is that the supply of people older than you tends to fade away. And what’s replacing them? Bright-eyed, naive, innocent freshers. Oh dear god, I sound like Mrs Robinson.

Marcus is certainly not naive or innocent, though I suppose he does have rather bright eyes. He is, however, a teenager. Eighteen, to be precise. And this feels rather strange for a girl who prefers experienced partners because, well, less goes wrong that way. Plus it means I can learn new things, and I enjoy learning a lot. Teaching is all well and good, but learning means you can make sex even better, then go on and transfer these amazing new skills to another partner! How awesome is that?!

So why did I sleep with him? Aside from the fact that I find him hot and want to do him (always a good start), because I spent my teenaged years spouting the mantra that age doesn’t matter, it’s the people who count. Admittedly, this was just to reassure my concerned friends that I really was alright with all these exciting older people, but there’s truth to it too. People mature at different times, and age really isn’t everything. When I was fifteen, people my own age bored me, and I really did get on better with university students. And if Marcus feels the same as a first-year, who am I to question that?

Of course, I need to be careful. Dan Savage’s ‘campsite rule’ comes into play here: if you’re the older or more experienced partner, you must leave whoever you’re involved with in the same sexual, mental and emotional state than you found them, or preferably better. Even if he’s no blushing virgin (hah), I need to make an effort not to make assumptions, to be extra clear with communication, and maybe take certain things slow.

It’s the same technique I’d use on anyone who’d never done BDSM before. Just because I’m usually the submissive one who likes to be dominated and taken, doesn’t mean I don’t have a responsibility towards the other person, making sure they’re okay with how things are going. Safewords work both ways. I know from experience that sometimes it’s terrifying being in control of someone else, and there are times when you just want to stop the scene and go back to cuddling. So if I’m teaching a new partner how to top me, even if they’re the one fastening the handcuffs, it’s still my responsibility to make sure they’re okay with that, and to help them if they’re not. And that’s mostly how I feel now, with Marcus. I trust him to tell me what he wants and does not want, but it’s still my responsibility, as the (just slightly) older woman to check that nothing makes him feel uncomfortable. Because I know, again from experience, that sometimes it’s hard to to admit that everything might not be entirely okay if you’re trying to feel all confident and grown up.

And speaking of growing up, I have to do that too. I am just a little bit used to being the one who needs looking after in any kind of relationship, letting other people take care of me and being lazy with communication and boundaries, because I take it for granted that my partner will do the hard work for me. I’m not saying for a moment that Marcus needs looking after – I don’t think he does, not seriously, or else I wouldn’t trust myself with that responsibility. But I do need to look after myself, and remind myself of all the useful tips I give to first-timers. Now is a great opportunity to put what I keep going on about into practice. I hope so, anyway. We shall see how it goes.

Other things I plan to talk about in the near future:

* One-night-stands: why do it, and how?
* Online dating and all the fun it entails
* Rape culture: an update on my own experiences
* More on privilege (everyone’s favourite)
* Feminism in real life, aka why ‘I support women’s rights but I’m not a feminist’ is bullshit

Oh, and if anyone’s wondering, I was as sexually forward and open about what I wanted as I have always been, and you know what? It worked perfectly. Screw you, Atratinus, and everyone else who thinks that sexually assertive women are broken and damaged. We are awesome, and we are having much better sex than you are. So there.

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!