Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Search term.

I was going through my site analytics the other day, looking at my traffic and the search terms that bring people to the blog--both to give me an idea of what content works for readers, and to amuse myself with the fact that I get searches for "i am a 30 year old female and whatever deorderant i use its not helping what can i use"and"woman anus poo blog."

One search term stood out to me; someone had searched on it thirty-one different times.

"rowdy loves holly pervocracy."

All of the searches were from one person, in rapid succession, using different search engines. One person who lived in the same town as me. And one person who had done this on purpose, knowing I check my search terms, to send me a message. A message written in Google and Yahoo, Bing and Ask.

Rowdy had sent me a love note through the Internet.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bowling therapy.

You know what I really want to do with "Men's Rights activists," "pick-up artists," anti-feminists, "men are from Mars women are from Venus" theorists, straight-up misogynists, and other varieties of people who hate or just fundamentally misunderstand women?

I want to take them bowling.

I suck at bowling, but that's not the point; the point is to drink terrible beer and shoot the shit, cheer each other on strikes and take the piss out of each other on gutterballs, and just generally do something that's fun and sociable and low-pressure. Bowling's just a way to give the evening some structure. We could play pool or go fishing or whatever. Some recreational activity that keeps you mildly busy but gives you plenty of time to talk.

I'd invite some female friends, too, but not to launch a feminist assault on these guys. (And certainly not to date them; not only do I respect my friends more than that, I don't want this to be reduced to a pickup opportunity.) Just to talk about our lives, to joke around, and to interact with each other and the guys the way people interact on a casual night out.

Why? I'm going to answer with a confession I hope doesn't cause strife in my relationships: sometimes I get jealous of Sprite when she's not around. Not like "SHE MUST DIE" jealous, but "I worry she resents me or something" jealous. And then I spend time with her in person, and it absolutely melts away when I realize what a warm and kind person she is when she's actually there. It's only the theoretical Sprite I'm jealous of, the Sprite that I construct in my head from circumstantial evidence; the actual present Sprite is awesome.

I think women-hating types have this same problem with women--the imaginary woman in their head is strange and cruel, and they don't have enough real women to compare her to. (Some of them are burned-out divorcees, but many more seem to have never had a significant relationship with a woman.) I'm convinced a lot of these guys have no female friends and not that many male friends, so their view of humanity is largely interpretations based on media characters, glancing observations of strangers, and the limited interactions of work or school. They've developed this giant hate-on for the theoretical woman and all the evil she theoretically would do. And then they get together and tell each other about their theoretical women, and the meta-theoretical woman, a truly fearsome critter, is born.

And the only antidote for all this is real women. Not real women as dates--in some ways that just cements the concept of "woman" as a Martian with a pussy attached--but just as people. I want these guys to go bowling with women and hear about our preferences in cheap pitcher beers, our minor annoyances, our quirky interests. I want them to tell us their daily problems and funny stories and watch as we react in a sympathetic and entirely human way. I want them to get to know women who are doctors and women who work at Starbucks, women who are self-identified sluts and women who are celibate, women who are kinda annoying and women who are completely adorable.

I want them to learn that spending time with a woman isn't a laborious prerequisite to fucking her, but a pleasant thing in itself, a way to feel more alive and connected to the world.

Funny thing is, not only would this shake some of the asshole out of those guys, it'd probably get them laid. I believe that you can't really have a girlfriend until you know how to be friends with a woman, and learning how to hang out and just chill with women is excellent practice for all the hanging out/chilling that a relationship entails. Getting these dudes laid would definitely be a side effect and not a goal--I hold the radical feminist opinion that you should treat women like people even if this doesn't get you laid--but if they learn that treating women like humans leads to happy penis feelings, so much the better.

In the end, it's not argument that wins people over to your side. It's showing them the essential humanity and ordinariness of the people they were trying to hate. I have no way to make the Woman-Haters-And-Women Bowling League really happen, but it's a beautiful dream for me.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Prove it.

When I was 9 or so, I was on the schoolbus with a female friend when an older boy came and sat next to us. "You're not really girls," he said. "You look like boys to me. You look just like boys." He wasn't joking around. He was accusatory.

"We're girls!" we said, confused and slightly hurt.

"Oh yeah?" he said. "Prove it. You know how." He glanced at our crotches.

We went back and forth a few times with "But you know we're girls!" and "Nope. Only one way to prove it." My friend, embarrassed and flustered, flashed him her labia. I didn't, but I also didn't stop her or tell anyone. He went away.

It scares me how much of people's adult lives are spent reenacting this same scene. Simply identifying myself as a woman doesn't ever seem to make me woman enough. If I don't look woman and act woman and talk woman, I might accidentally be a man, and that would be terrible.

This is what the intellectual-feminism types call "performing gender." It's when you put on makeup not because you like to wear makeup, not even because you think the makeup makes you look attractive, but because you don't want to look like a man.

And at its heart, it's subject to a horrible circularity of argument. If a woman has visible facial hair, saying "she doesn't look like a woman" ought to be a blatant oxymoron--you're looking at a woman right now, so I'd say that's what a woman looks like! For a woman to change her appearance for the sole purpose of looking "more like a woman" ought to be as silly as dressing your dog up as a dog.

This is an equal-opportunity form of sexism, too--how many times a day are men implored to act like "real men"? With the implication being that if they screw it up, they'll be... fake men? Women? Gay? Probably gay. From how they dress to how they walk, the desire to not be gay dictates way too much of the social behaviors of millions of guys who weren't even attracted to men in the first place.

(Digression: I think this constant pressure to broadcast "I'M A STRAIGHT MAN REALLY I AM" is responsible for, among many other things, street harassment. Most guys who hoot at women in the street aren't doing it because they think it'll make the woman drop to her knees in adoration and arousal; they're doing it to prove to their buddies--or themselves--that they're a straight manly man.)

Never mind "this is what a feminist looks like"--now I want a t-shirt that says "this is what a woman looks like."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gloves are Great!

[Guest post by Match_Stick]

I love being sexual with lots of people. I love play parties with lots of people experiencing lots of pleasure. But I'm a safer slut. I want to experience the maximum pleasure with minimum risk. One of the risks I worry about is STI transmission from body fluids on hands. (1)

I want to share one of my favorite tools for safer sex – gloves. Latex or nitrile gloves are wonderful. They make play safer and simpler which for me means my play can be sluttier.

•I can slip a glove on, play, dispose of the glove and repeat with the next partner, without getting out of bed. This is important for a slut like me.
*Gloves work really well for certain kinds of sex. They reduce the chance of cutting or abrading tender skin with fingernails. They also don't absorb lube which means the genitals stay slicker longer.
•For those of us who associate gloves with hot sex putting them on is a part of foreplay. If I'm tied down and my partner puts on gloves and squirts lube into their hands, my dick gets hard with anticipation.
•I don’t have to worry about anything getting into any small cuts or abrasions on my own hands. (2)
•Fast cleanup means I get to stay and cuddle for aftercare without feeling like I need to immediately get up and wash my hands.
•I can slide my fingers into my partner’s ass, and then switch gloves if I want to finger their vagina. More holes – more fun. Urinary tract infection – less fun.
•Play parties are often held in places without easy access to washing sinks.
•They help you remember where your hands have been. At a recent party I was at I saw someone lend a hand to help balance a lady who was trying to gingerly step over a pile of naked people. Unfortunately the offered hand was covered in body fluids. Oops. Embarrassing.

I want to see more people use gloves in the scene, especially at parties. Risk awareness and risk management get more complicated with more people. But more people are more fun for a slut. I feel gloves are more important as more people are involved. If you go to parties or host parties I'd like you to consider the following:

•Make sure there are gloves available in every playroom at parties. Bring some to share!
•If possible make hand washing facilities available with plenty of soap and hand towels. If there are no sinks near the play area sanitary wipes or sanitizing hand gel are good options.
•Before using latex gloves make sure your partner doesn't have a latex allergy. The nitrile gloves these days are very good and even come in black to match your sexy outfit.
•Never tried using gloves? Go ahead and bust that cherry!
•If you don't want to or can't play with gloves please make an extra effort to wash your hands afterwards. Especially before you switch partners or head to the buffet for a post-play snack.

Keep it slutty and safer! Gloves are a great way to do it!

(1) The author doesn’t know of any studies that quantify risks, but there are several studies that suggest this is a possible infection method, most of them about women who have sex with women (WSW). For example:

“sexual practices involving digital-vaginal or digital-anal contact … such practices present a plausible means for STD transmission, presumably by transfer of infected cervicovaginal secretions” - Sexual Practices, Risk Perception and Knowledge Of Sexually Transmitted Disease Risk Among Lesbian and Bisexual Women

“indicates the need for methods to effectively prevent HPV transmission, such as the use of gloves, plastic barriers and condoms. The isolation of HPV from sexual fomites and from fingers of patients with genital warts adds to the idea that this virus can be sexually transmitted between women.” - Genital and oral human papillomavirus infection in a patient from the group of women who have sex with women

(2) It is commonly accepted in the medical profession that open cuts and abrasions make it easy to contract an infection. Many people have small cuts and abrasions, such as hangnails, on their hands and don’t even know it.

(3) Thanks to all my wonderful proofreaders!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"I don't know."

I've talked a lot before about the need for communication in BDSM and in relationships in general, but for the longest time I had trouble doing it honestly. Because the advice is usually "ask for what you want," but I didn't always know what I wanted, and I felt like that rendered me unable to communicate. It's one thing to say "I like thuddy impact especially on my shoulders and upper back and I'll be cooperative but not submissive in my role"; but if all you can put together is that you think you'd like kinky stuff and to be on the bottom and for it to be sexy and you don't really know exactly what that means, what do you say?

The answer is "I think I'd like kinky stuff and to be on the bottom and for it to be sexy, but I don't really know exactly what that means." It's okay. Better than bluffing like you're experienced, better than mumbling into your hands--simply say what you're thinking even when it isn't totally clear and coherent. That's what really helps a partner work with you.

(In kink, talking about how you'd like to feel--"I'd like to be a little afraid," "I'd like to feel totally under your control," "I only want the physical sensations,"--can also help. It's not a replacement for explicit negotiation, because different things scare different people, but it starts the "well, what makes you afraid?" conversation.)

This goes for relationship stuff too. When someone says "Where do you think this relationship has going?" there's no need to try and make up something that sounds sensitive (or to cannonball out the window, do a shoulder roll, and run down the street screaming). If you haven't thought about it, "you know, I haven't given that enough thought yet, but I do love/like you a lot" is the answer that can start an honest conversation.

I know this sounds incredibly obvious, but it took me a long time to learn how to say "I don't know" gracefully and while still providing as much information as I do know. Communication doesn't mean saying the right things. It means saying what you're really thinking.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The pussy supply.

An open letter to the dudebros, brodudes, and I Tappa Kegga brothers of the world.

Dudes. Bros. You are facing a crisis of bromongous proportions. At a moment in history when you might have unprecedented access to that most valued commodity of the Bromantic Era--willing, accessible, uncomplicated poontang--your own brother bros are shooting you in the foot.

It works like this: you throw a party, with lots of booze and annoying music and you invite lots of ladies. Ladies whom you hope will be eager to get in bed with you and total freaks in the sack. That would be the optimal party, right? Tons and tons of uninhibited women who dress and act sexy, like sex, are good at sex, and don't think it means you have to get married or be all weird in the morning or anything.

And then the foot-shooting. It comes in two forms. The first is slut-shaming. When guys talk bad about women for sleeping with a lot of guys, they're signing away their chance of sleeping with those women themselves--and your chance as well. When a woman is laughed at or insulted for being a "slut," there's a very good chance she'll respond by having less casual sex, even if she likes the sex itself. Other women see this happening and don't let themselves have any casual sex in the first place. And when that happens, dudebros, everyone loses.

The second is rape. Some frathouses and other guy-thrown parties have such bad reputations that the "she should have known better" victim-blaming comes into play for any woman who even goes there. Imagine how many women aren't showing at up at all because of this. Imagine how many of the women who do show up won't go upstairs with you because of this.

And then again, imagine a party house where sexually free women were welcomed with open arms, where women were respected and felt safe, and where they were safe. Imagine how many sluts would show up to their parties, and how much sluttier they might get.

I appeal to you, dudebros, to think not of women's rights--that can be such an abstract concept--but of your own pussy supply. What you and your bros are doing right now is scaring all the pussy away. If you like pussy so much, treat pussy owners nicely, and you just might get a whole lot more of it.

Holly Pervocracy

P.S. No guarantees. Sometimes you act like a decent human being and don't get laid. Your odds are better, but still, it happens. The only solace I can offer is that at least you were a decent human being. That's something, y'know?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Male victims.

Here's an issue that's been raised a couple times in the last few days: how does the feminist approach to combating domestic and sexual violence deal with male victims of violence?

I'm going to admit straight up, this is not going to be one of those posts where I have a strong opinion and defend it tooth and nail. I simply don't have the knowledge. Every side of this debate presents different statistics and evidence, and my personal experience (from ambulance and ER work) is heavily skewed toward female victims--partly because there's more of them, but also possibly because male victims report less often or because they're less likely to discuss it with a female stranger. So instead of getting into a persuasive essay, I just want to name some of the factors in play here:

This is absolutely a problem.
I hope nobody here would deny that men are victimized sexually and by their intimate partners, by both men and women, and it's not rare. While I've seen more female victims in my work, I've certainly seen plenty of men.

And male victims are in a uniquely tough spot. The establishment tends to make a joke out of them, question their masculinity, suspect them of being the aggressor when their abuser is female, and generally not be a big help. The feminist movement far too often takes a "sorry, not my department" attitude. And the most visible members of the men's movement are too busy yelling "BITCHES CUNTS WHORES" in their mothers' basements.

There aren't a lot of well-publicized, legitimate entities offering male victims advocacy and support, and that is unfair and, plainly, sucks.

Unfortunately, this is also a favorite argument of sexists.
"Men get victimized too" is true and troubling, but part of the reason many feminists are uncomfortable discussing it is that they've had the following argument five thousand times:

Fran Feminist: "One of the biggest difficulties for women escaping abuse is when they no longer have any support from friends and family by the time they're able to leave."
Frida Feminist: "Absolutely, overcoming systematic social isolation can be..."
Fran Feminist: "That's terrible, but we're talking about..."

After a few of these, it just gets your hackles up. It's rare that these Scotts know about, much less support, any actual programs for male survivors; they just want to take over the conversation and make it all about debating the point that some women do some evil things, and using basic algebra, this cancels to "women are evil."

Unfortunately, the frequency of this kind of argument tends to leave feminists guarded and suspicious when Alex Actual Trauma Survivor shows up to the conversation. Thanks to Scott's fine work, Alex has to extensively prove he's not one of those guys before any productive discussion at all can occur.

More women than men are victims of sexual and domestic violence.
Because of underreporting on both sides, all statistics can be questioned, but I think it's pretty clear that this isn't a 50-50 thing. Acting like the world is currently 50-50 (and therefore, all protections and resources available to women are injustices against men) is a tactic of Scott Sexist--we're coming out of a very recent history of women being explicitly second-class citizens, and we're still socially in a pretty iffy spot right now.

Sexism works against men as well (see below), but not as often and not as reliably. A woman who beats her boyfriend may be given loopholes because of sexist preconceptions, but it doesn't give the woman a motive to do so, whereas sexism does give men motives to attack women. I mentioned above that violence against women gets more attention, and this isn't for purely political reasons--it's also because there's more violence against women.

Violence against men deserves more attention than it currently gets, but violence against women does as well.

Sexism is still a factor here.
Male victims of sexual and domestic violence don't live in some wacky backwards world where women are the dominant class and men are oppressed. Nor do they stand as proof that oppression is a myth and all abuse is just random violence between individuals.

Instead, they're victims of different stereotypes that turn out to be just as destructive. Instead of "a woman doesn't always have the right to refuse sex," they run up against "a man would never want to refuse sex." Instead of "women always make wacky accusations, don't believe her," they get "women aren't aggressive enough to hurt men, don't believe him." Instead of "it's okay for your husband to control you," they get "you're not a real man anyway if you let your wife control you."

The effects may be just as soul-crushing, but the mechanisms are different. Male and female victims, in the social/political context, go through different things, and for this reason can't always be lumped together.

So those are my thoughts, inconclusive as they are, on "what about the male victims?" I'm not comfortable with dismissing it as mere derailment, but I'm also not comfortable allowing it to derail. And ultimately, in that we can come to see men as vulnerable and women as self-responsible adults, it could become a shining example of how Feminism Can Help Men Too. I don't think it is now, because of the aforementioned "not my department" attitude. But it could be.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SurveyFail makes the WSJ.

[Three people sent this to me. I'm here to serve...]

In 2009, there was an event known in online fan circles as SurveyFail. Complete details are collected here, but the basics of it are that researchers Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam conducted an online survey of fandom members that was incredibly shoddy in its construction and application. The complete survey can be found here and contains awesome questions like:

54. If you write m/m slash, how do you study male physiology in order to write more convincing stories? (Check as many as apply.)
I don't write m/m slash.
I use ideas from other slash stories.
I ask gay men for information.
I research details on the internet.
I watch gay porn for insight.
I'm a man, and can use my own experiences.

If you're thinking that's missing a few obvious possibilities, making a lot of assumptions, "steering" the survey responder toward certain stereotypes of the shallow young "gay men are so sparkly!" fangirl who's never had real sex, and generally a very unprofessional way to conduct psychology research, you're not alone.

Much of the concern stemmed from the fact that Ogas and Gaddam had explicitly stated that the purpose of their survey was to "prove" cognitive differences between men and women concerning romance and sexuality, and made delightfully quadruple-clueless comments like the following:

Well, slash is kind of the female equivalent of the straight male interest in transsexuals. That is, the opposite of what culture would predict. So it probably reflects a more direct subcortical effect.

Ogas and Gaddam claimed to be endorsed by Boston University, but BU actually had no affiliation with them and they had never cleared their research with BU's or any other university's institutional review board for human subjects. They also did not disclose to subjects that their answers would be published in a for-profit, non-peer-reviewed book (and now also a shit-ton of likewise non-peer-reviewed popular press articles), did not screen for underage subjects, and generally did not do anything to screen or randomize survey respondents. They were every bit as "scientific" in their conduction of the survey as a quiz on Facebook asking you which Ninja Turtle you are.

Less so, because at least the Facebook survey probably doesn't start with the assumption that all women are gonna be Rafael.

And worst of all, even after they were widely criticized for all this (and their survey can be assumed to have been fucked with eight ways to Sunday, although they discarded any critical answers as "sabotage"), they went ahead and published anyway!. Check the tags for, as the kids say these days, "lulz."

Now they're publicizing their "research" in the popular press as if everything was dandy and actual science had been accomplished. Which brings us to today's fisk:

The Online World of Female Desire
For women indulging their curiosity, Internet erotica is less about flesh than about finding Mr. Right.
Wow! Who knew that Science™ would confirm all the stereotypes we already had? Quick, now do expensive shoes or bad driving!

The female cortex contains a highly developed system for finding and scrutinizing a prospective partner—a system that might be dubbed the Miss Marple Detective Agency.
Science™! "And if you pull away the upper layers of the somatosensory cortex, you'll find the Miss Marple Detective Agency. Only in women, though. Men keep football scores there."

Also, I'm not convinced I use the same, um, brain structure when reading Internet porn as when seeking an actual partner. I know damn well that in real life Jack Sparrow wouldn't even smell good.

Using similar investigative skills, the female brain evaluates all available evidence regarding a potential mate's social, emotional and physical qualities to make an all-important decision: Is he Mr. Right or Mr. Wrong? Only if Miss Marple gives her stamp of approval do physical arousal and psychological arousal harmoniously unite in the female brain.
Dear God, how do I masturbate? I can't clear that shit with Miss Marple every night just to get my rocks off.

Female arousal is arousal. Sometimes it's based on all available social/blardy blah evidence. Sometimes it's based on a nice pair of forearms or a few nasty words whispered in my ear or the length of time since I last got laid. Sometimes it happens to me at random when I'm driving or in public and it's really inconvenient.

And for the love of God would these people please stop saying "the female brain" as if it was this exotic novelty and "females" were a recently discovered species? I have... er, I am a female brain and I don't appreciate this "intrepid explorers with pith helmets bring light to this unknown region" attitude toward my entire subjective existence.

This unconscious evaluation is the source of "feminine intuition." Though the female brain carefully processes many stimuli simultaneously, it is experienced only as a general feeling of favorability or suspicion toward a potential partner. This feminine intuition is designed to solve a woman's unique challenge of determining whether a man is committed, kind and capable of protecting a family.
Actually, I'm usually quite aware of some of the stimuli that lead to the "hottie, lets-be-friends, or creeper" determination. How could I not be? Is my brain supposed to erase things like "this one smiled at me in a friendly way, and that one gave me the bug-eye and 'accidentally' touched my butt"? It's really not that subtle. I may have been accidentally issued a male brain, because I seem to be sentient.

Female erotica demonstrates how the detective agency operates—and how it differs from the much simpler male brain.
Whoops, sorry, I forgot. Nobody is sentient.

Whereas two-minute video clips are the most popular form of contemporary erotica for men, the most popular form for women remains the romance novel, an artifact that takes many hours to digest.
I'm not much of a romance novel aficionado, but I'm fairly sure you don't masturbate the entire time. (Maybe a little on pages 213-215.) It's not a substitute for porn; it fulfills a different need.

There's also the issue of gaze. Very few two-minute video clips show the things a heterosexual woman might want to see, in terms of attractive men with their bodies emphasized giving respectful pleasure to women. And very few romance novels describe the heroine's heaving bosoms in the detail a heterosexual male reader might be interested in. You can argue about whether this is an effect of gendered preferences or not, but there's no doubt it's a cause.

I'm really sorry, non-heterosexual people, but you don't seem to exist. Do you ever?

All romance novels, whether written by the likes of Jane Austen, Nora Roberts or Stephenie Meyer, employ a narrative formula that follows the gradual elucidation of the hero's inner character, leading to an emotional epiphany between hero and heroine. On this journey, the heroine—and the reader—investigates the character of the hero.
Sure, sure (although frankly, you could read your Jane Austen a little more carefully), but you don't wank to it. It's entertaining because it's a novel, not because I'm imaginary-dating Mr. Darcy and need to know him inside and out before we may consummate our imaginary-love.

Fan fiction also reveals another fundamental difference between male and female sexuality. Men almost always consume pornography alone. But in the fan-fiction community, the online discussion of a story is as important as the story itself. This reflects one of the primary investigative techniques of Miss Marple: soliciting information from other detectives.
Oh, come on, ew. Fandom Wankers aren't literally masturbating together.

I'm not much of a fangirl these days, but I did my time in the Pit of Voles, and the point of discussing a story is... nngh, discussing the story! It's like developing any work of fiction, it's not a matter of collaboratively evaluating Harry Potter as a potential boyfriend. In any intelligent fan group, there's a lot more "this seems out of character" and "whoops, grammar fail" than there is "HARRY IS SO SENSITIVE AND CARING *hearts, stars, flowers*."

Do men and boys participate less in this kind of collaborative story-building? It seems that is the case, and that might be worth investigating. But that would mean investigating, not drawing a priori conclusions that this is all about sex and all about hardwiring.

Some female readers might be thinking, "This doesn't describe me at all!" And, in fact, somewhere between a quarter and a third of the visitors to the major pornography sites are women. Our data suggest that these women probably have a higher sex drive than other women and that they are more socially aggressive and more comfortable taking risks.
"Our research describes all women except the ones it doesn't describe! All women are alike, except the ones that are different!"

For most women, however, Miss Marple is the master sleuth. Her fact-finding mission must be completed before mind and body are united in sexual harmony.
Sure, sure, for harmony and stuff. But that doesn't mean I can't get off.

It's old news, every bit of it, wearing slightly new clothes and a shiny gloss of Science™. Men are from "I just stick my dick in a warm thing" Mars, women are from "I must feel nurtured in every cell of my complex fickle being" Venus, and none of this has any relation to anything that happens on Earth.

Edit: Whoa. I missed the forest for the trees here. The forest is: THEY SET OUT TO PROVE THAT WOMEN LIKE ROMANCE STORIES BY STUDYING WOMEN WHO LIKE ROMANCE STORIES. There was literally no way this "study" could have produced different results.

Using a self-reported shoddy online survey distributed only to left-handed women, I could prove that women are all left-handed.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Anatomy of a Scene.

Rowdy and I are at a play party. We start flirting, playing around, him pulling my hair, pinching my breasts, shoving me up against the wall and kissing me. He tells me to go get the flogger.

We sit on the couch and talk before doing anything. Our negotiation is brief, because we know each other well and have played before. I tell him I want a flogging; he asks if he can punch me too, and I enthusiastically agree. He asks if he can spank me, and I say I'm not really into that. If we were new to each other, we'd clarify more--he already knows that I can't take heavy pain and prefer to be hit on the back and shoulders more than the butt, that I like it when play gets sexual, and that I love being bitten.

We go to a St. Andrew's cross in the playspace, a seven-foot-tall wooden "X" shape with metal loops to attach ropes or cuffs. I undress. Rowdy takes two coils of rope out of his bag and ties a knot around each of my wrists, then ties them up to the cross. I end up facing away from him, into the cross, my arms stretched high over my head and outward in each direction. It's a longish process and to be honest I'm a bit fidgety, even distracted, looking around at my surroundings, passively holding my wrists for his convenience but not emotionally taken up into the scene yet.

Midway through tying me he uses the ropes to hold my wrists over my head and kisses me, and that helps, though.

Then I'm tied, and he starts out with just his hands, running up and down the length of my body, warming me up, waking me up to the feeling in my skin. It's sweet and sensual and gentle, and at the same time just a little frightening, knowing he's priming me to fully feel what comes next.

What comes next is the flogger. The first time it lands on me it's soft, just a dusting, soft flexible leather gently stroking down my back. The next time is not quite as soft. Soon the flogger is landing hard and fast on my shoulders, my back, my ass and thighs. It's not truly painful--I'm not much into heavy pain--but it's a constant pounding, a warm slap into my muscles each time the tails land on my skin.

And then--WHAM--I'm in subspace. It's that strangely detached place I go when I'm high or heavily drunk, when I'm under hypnosis, and during intense sex; I'm aware of everything that's going on and can think about it lucidly, but my reactions are not lucid and there's a powerful sense of otherness to the experience, a folding in on myself, a shift to an emotional parallel universe. I'm nearly limp in the ropes, and aware of my limpness, but unable or unwilling to compose my body. I can sort of babble out words with great effort, but without that effort I just moan. For reasons I can't possibly explain, it's wonderful.

The character of the blows changes in my mind, then. I'm no longer experiencing them physically but as a lulling sensation, a periodic thump at my brain, a feeling at once sustaining and intruding upon my trance. Now and then one stings a little too much and I can feel that on my skin, but the ones that are just right, and that's most of them, are not blows at all. They're words, pulses, thoughts, something abstract. They're feelings.

At some point I guess Rowdy puts down the flogger. He comes up close behind me, his whole front against my back, kisses me, and punches me. I have a great back for punching, broad and strong, with big meaty muscles over my shoulderblades. Perfect for catching a fist with a lovely thump. These impacts hit me harder than the flogging, physically and emotionally, and I grunt with each one, almost roaring. It is not a sound of surrender. It is a sound, despite my hands still tied over my head and my body obediently receiving the blows, of fighting. I'm roaring and Rowdy is roaring back, growling at me as his fists pound into my back.

There just aren't words for some things. It's... good. Let's go with good.

But too soon my back starts getting bruised and the punching can't go on forever without crossing the line into real pain. So Rowdy comes in close again, sets his teeth on my back, and bites down hard and holds. It hurts, and it's wonderful, and it's the first thing that edges completely over the line into sexual pleasure, and I'm about to come just from having my back bitten. It feels like my back is coming.

On the second bite he rubs my pussy while he bites me, and then I come the regular way.

Finally I say--babble--that I've had enough. My face is slumped forward into the rough wood of the St. Andrew's cross. Rowdy runs his hands up and down my body, then his nails just barely graze me and I gasp, and he kisses me and unties me. I'm half-aware and giddy as he helps me down.

We lie down on a mattress and cuddle for a long while afterwards. At first I'm just flying, maybe even more so than while we were playing. His body feels warm and wonderful against mine. Then again, everything feels warm and wonderful. I am deeply, deeply inside myself mentally, and yet I'm acutely sensitive to every touch and every word. It's a long and delightfully gradual process to come back to Earth, to where I can walk and talk and do stuff and pretend to be a normal person.

So when I say half-jokingly that "my boyfriend hits me," this is what I mean. It's a carefully constrained and constructed process, far more complicated inside and out than just hitting, and the end result is nothing like just hitting.

The end result is the complete bliss of mind and body.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Getting into BDSM Part 3: Safety.

[Repost; original post was eaten in Blogger crash.]

BDSM is not, in itself, super mega dangerous. It's like any contact sport--there's always a risk of an accident, so it's good to be prepared, but the risk isn't so high that you should be afraid to try it. And BDSM people are no different than any group of people--most will never harm you unless in a freak accident, a few will harm you through incompetence or pigheadedness, and a very small minority will harm you on purpose.

All this applies to tops and Doms as well as bottoms and subs; you may be at less physical risk, but bad things can still happen. And all this applies to emotional harm as well as physical; if someone makes you cry in the bad way and doesn't try to comfort you, that's "harm" just as much as if they bruised your face.

That said, there are some precautions that will help keep you and your partners safer:

Trust your instincts.
This is the most important thing. If a person seems to have nothing wrong with them that you can put your finger on, but they just give you the willies, the skeevies, and/or the heebie-jeebies--DO NOT PLAY WITH THEM. If a particular activity, invitation, or group of people makes you more nervous than it really ought to--stay away. That crawly feeling on your spine and that sinking feeling in your stomach are the best safety aides you have. They are not wrong. They are not silly. You should not "give that person/activity a chance." Do not doubt your gut.

Don't be afraid to be a picky, stuck-up, arbitrary jerk. "No" requires no explanation and no debate. Play with someone because you want to, not because you can't come up with a good reason not to. If someone asks you "why not?" after a "no," that's a big ol' warning sign in itself.

Don't play in private with strangers.
I'll play with strangers--well, with new friends, at least--in a party with lots of my older friends around. But if I'm on unfamiliar turf, or one-on-one, I need to know someone as a friend before we play. It takes a certain amount of trust, and exactly how much is up to your own judgement, but it's an amount of trust that has to build up with time and getting to know them. If you don't know someone at all, but they're offering some kind of super exciting play or they make you feel super extra submissive/dominant--play with witnesses around or wait 'til you know them better. Better yet, get to know other people who know them as well and get some outside opinions.

In particular, be extra careful about letting someone restrict your movement. Cutting off the option to leave a scene is a serious thing, even with super nice people who seem super serious about your well-being. Don't do it until you feel damn sure that there's no reason you could possibly need to leave.

When playing with someone in private for the first time, it can be a good idea to let a friend know exactly where you'll be and who you'll be with. And more importantly, it can be a good idea to let your partner know that your friend knows.

You don't "have to" do anything.
There's a widely mocked phenomenon in BDSM called the "One True Way" (or "twoo,"if you're being even snarkier.) These are people who have decided that a real Dom or sub does it like this, and if you don't do that, you're not real and just a poser and totally lame and probably not even kinky. These people suck. Mostly they suck because they're just annoying, but sometimes they're outright dangerous.

If someone tells you that you have to play with them, that you have to play a certain way, or that you really ought to have them as a mentor (or God forbid, master) to be a real kinkster or to be accepted in the group--run don't walk. Consent to things because you want to do those things specifically, not because anyone or anything challenged your authenticity or competence, or in any other way made you feel obligated.

Don't play under the influence.
Of anything. If you're a top, you'll be less able to control yourself and judge how your bottom is handling it; if you're a bottom, you'll be less aware of when you're getting hurt. And either way you'll have less judgement as to when something is just a bad idea.

Be knowledgeable about the specific play you engage in.
I don't have the space or expertise to go into detail here, but know that every kind of play, from punching to using complex electrical apparatus, has its own technical rules that you need to learn from someone who knows their shit. This is why I'm a big believer in BDSM communities; I can't tell you on the Internet how to do fire play or suspension bondage or even flogging safely and effectively. These are skills that you have to pick up the old-fashioned way. Take a class, go to a party and watch an experienced person at work, and better yet ask an experienced person if they can teach you. Reading about something or watching a video isn't as good as learning in person, but it's still preferable to just picking up a toy and guessing.

Also, if you're a top, know what it's like on the bottom. Don't flog people without knowing what a flogger feels like; don't stick needles in people without knowing how a needle feels.

Negotiate before a scene what both partners want and do not want to happen, and continue communicating in the scene. The less you've played with someone, the more you need to make an effort to do this. If you're on the bottom, let your partner know how you're doing and what you want and need and don't be shy. Don't let fear of "topping from the bottom" scare you into tolerating play that's not working for you

If you're on top, repeatedly check in with your partner as to whether they're enjoying themselves or starting to tire out or feel unpleasant pain. Dominance doesn't mean being psychic, and it certainly doesn't mean "you'll take what I choose to dish out"--it means that if you order your sub to tell you how they're feeling and how well they're tolerating a particular type of play, they damn well better tell you, huh?

Plan for disasters.
Taking a basic first-aid course, and having a basic first-aid kit around, are always good ideas. (Not even for BDSM. For life.) Any time you put someone in bondage, have a plan for how you could release them in a hurry, whether that means having shears on hand to cut rope or a quick-release link on a chain. Don't tie someone up in such a way that they'd choke or tear any body parts off if they fainted or lost their balance. (That's why I think this [NWS picture!] is a terrible idea.) Remember that a person who faints in bondage must be brought down--if they stay upright they won't get blood to their head and may not wake up.

Remember that the top could suffer some kind of emergency, and don't put the bottom in a situation where they'd be trapped if that happened. This doesn't mean you can't play with bondage one-on-one, but it does mean that the bondage should be "insecure" enough, or a phone close enough, that they could wiggle their way to the phone if they really had to.

Regular safer sex rules still apply.
Duh, right? However much latex you'd use with this person normally, that's how much to use in a BDSM context. Remember that blood is a high-risk body fluid too, and that touching genitals in a not-exactly-sexual way can still get fluids on your hands.

Use a safeword.
I put this way down the list, because I think it gets presented as the be-all end-all of safety sometimes, and it's not. It's no substitute for knowledge, preparation, and trust. Personally, I prefer to agree that "stop" still means "stop" unless we have specifically negotiated a consensual nonconsent scene. But I also have a safeword in place, just in case I have an immediate need to say "STOP" in a totally unambiguous not-even-joking sort of way. That word, as I've said before, is the emergency brake, no questions asked. Whether you're the top or bottom, you don't continue one second after the use of a safeword and you don't even think about whether they "should" have used it. You just stop dead, undo any bondage, hug and comfort the person or leave them the hell alone as they wish, and wait for things to cool down before figuring out what went wrong and whether to go on.

This is deliberately general rather than technical, so I know I missed stuff, but as with all the BDSM education posts, I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cosmocking: June '11! Part Two!

I'm finishing this!

There's an article on "Dirty Talk That Drives Men Wild," and with 78 examples, it has more hilarity than I can type. I'll try to pick some of the best ones. They seem to fall into general categories:

The Icky
"She said, 'That orgasm was so intense, my eyes rolled so far back into my head that I could see my insides!"
"A girl once said to me, 'it's like you're scraping the back of my brain!"

The Loutish
"We were joking around, and I was trying to impress her. She rolled her eyes and said, 'Okay, okay. You're hilarious and charming. Now take off your pants."
"The alarm clock sounded, and she hit the snooze button. Then she rolled on top of me and said, 'We've got nine minutes. Let's do this.'"
"She cooked me dinner, and it was delicious. Then she leaned over and whispered in my ear, 'For dessert, you're going to eat my cake.'"

The Martian
"'Okay, now bend me over and say ahhhh!'"
"Out of nowhere, she straddled me, beat her chest, and made the Tarzan call."

Special Award: The Sexiest McMuffins Ever
"She made me breakfast in the morning. She said 'Good morning, babe' and gave me two egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwiches. I had a boner from here to Africa."

The vibrator article is actually pretty straightforward. It doesn't say much more than "here are some upscale vibrators that don't look like cartoon penises. Try putting them on your hoo-ha."

Now we're up to "The Weird Trait Guys Look For in a Date," featuring some of the most long-stretch amateur "evolutionary psychology" that I've ever seen.
That trait?
"Finding a mate to pass along your DNA is a primal human impulse," [...] "A man naturally responds to those biological urges by moving forward with a woman who will potentially be able to raise his children, even if he doesn't want kids soon--or ever."
Yep, the number one thing guys want in a date is that you'd be the perfect mommy! Not for purposes of actually having kids, though. For purposes of being more femaler.

I will never understand why the supposed biological urge to have perfect babies is imagined into every aspect of psychology except wanting babies. If it's so in control of your sexual preferences that you're measuring waist-hip ratios for peak fertility or whatever, what kind of wacky loophole makes us capable of feeling indifference or repulsion--or most importantly, the ability to consciously think about it and decide how we feel--toward the idea of actual reproduction?

I think the answer is twofold. Part of it is that we're so damn over-smart as a species that we're able to make conscious choices that go against our survival urges. This is why dieting is possible, or for that matter working at a non-food-gathering job. And part of it is that most people have a powerful biological urge to have sex, and an urge to nurture babies once the've happened, but since less intelligent animals don't understand that sex leads to babies, a psychological drive specifically to create babies never really came about. In terms of drives, your "wiring" (ugh, but bear with me) seems to be to have sex and then deal with whatever results, not to intentionally make babies.

But you know what? Now I'm making random guesses based on personal observations and generalizations, not on any archaeological, anthropological, or genetic evidence whatsoever. So take that "I think" at the beginning of the previous paragraph and set it in VERY LARGE TYPE, and never ever publish what I just said as any kind of "science."

"It's fundamental to infant survival that a mother be able to react calmly and think on her feet in a crisis situation." [...] Back in prehistoric times she would need to have the wherewithal to grab the kids and run from a predator--becoming hysterical would quite literally be the kiss of death. And it's just as important today: showing you can stay levelheaded when minor things go wrong proves to him that you're a strong, capable woman he can trust with the kiddies.
Or it just proves to him that you're a strong, capable woman. The entire article is like this; they name a positive characteristic as something that guys like, then say that it would also be a positive characteristic in a mother, and that's why guys like it. I'm not sure if I can put a name to this logic; it's just... dopey. It's an unnecessary, unsupported extra step.

And it's a particular extra step that works beautifully to suggest that women are only good for popping out babies, and when it looks like they're doing other things that might be admirable, those things are secretly also about babies.

So? That thing all guys secretly want at 9 p.m.? A head massage. Huh. I mean, head massages are nice and all, but the specificity... I dunno, I don't make this stuff up.

Q: My boyfriend always wants to go down on me, but I just don't get off that way. How can I let him know when he heads south that there are plenty of other things I would rather have him do?
A: The best way to cut your guy off at the pass without losing the moment is to tell him, "Wait, I've been thinking about you ____-ing me all day."

I know I said this before, but: That isn't sex advice. That's survival tactics. That's the kind of thing you say to Buffalo Bill--"wait, don't put me in the Woman Pit, I've just gotten so hot for you, baby." The only reason to desperately distract your partner with sex instead of saying "no" is that you're afraid something bad would happen if you said "no."

Now, obviously I'm not talking about some strident "NO MEANS NO, STOP NOW!" (although that is your right at any time). I'm talking about "Honey, I'm not that into getting oral sex. It's just the funny way my body works. But I would seriously get off on it if you would ____ me." Is that so hard? This is your boyfriend. You're allowed to talk to him. And if you can't--if he'd start doing it anyway or he'd throw a hissy fit--that's one suck-ass boyfriend you got there.

Of course, Cosmo then winds around to:
But since it sounds as though this is something your boyfriend really wants to do, why not give exploring it another shot?
Because Cosmo doesn't understand "no" either. I mean, I get that this isn't like a life-or-death situation, that it's more of a "not my thing" than a "I can't possibly stand it," and so it might be okay to do it occasionally to retest how she feels or as a favor to the boyfriend, but... the lady said no, Cosmo. She has tried it, and she's saying no. Come on and listen already.

It's important that "no means no" isn't just about rape. For two reasons:
1) Bodily autonomy isn't all-or-nothing. Something doesn't have to be the worst thing in the world for you to be allowed to say you don't want it and to have that respected. I don't curl up and die if someone tickles my armpits--it won't cause me pain or make me cry or anything--but I find it unpleasant, and since the only point of doing this stuff in the first place is to be pleasant, I have the right to ask that people not touch my armpits.

2) This leaves a giant loophole for "that wasn't rape, it was just... sex she wasn't into!" that can only be closed if every "no" is a real "no." If a "no" pertaining to the treatment of one's own body can be overruled or ignored because it's not a serious big-deal "no," that leaves way too much room for "well, I would have stopped if she'd said, like, NO, but she only sorta said she didn't wanna."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cosmocking: June '11! Part One!

It's COSMO TIME! Very sunny yellow cover! Cameron Diaz! Showing more side-boob than I've got front-boob! Her, um, I'm gonna go with "garment," is a light blue snakeskin-print sleeveless--in fact entire-side-less--thing that's baffling me why anyone would possibly design such a thing for a human to wear! Oh well, fashion never was my thing! "Cameron Diaz: Why No Man Can Tame This Babe!" SERIOUSLY COSMO IT IS TWO THOUSAND FUCKING ELEVEN AND WE STILL SPEAK IN TERMS OF BEING "TAMED" BY A MAN SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK?! "What Men Want Most At 9 p.m.!" I think that might vary depending how 8 p.m. went! "4 Fab New Vibrators!" Holy shit, Cosmo actually said vibrators! Is this progress?! I bet it's not!

Q: I confided in my mom when my guy was being an ass, and now she's not a fan of him. How can I help her get over it?
A: First of all, give her misgivings some thought. Any chance Mom could be right? No? Then change her mind by flooding her head with positive input.

This isn't necessarily terrible advice--if you have a very judgmental mother and a very nice boyfriend it might be just right--but I can't be the only one getting a creepy vibe from it. The line between "don't bias people against him" and "cover for him" can be... thin. If your mom is an important confidant in your life, feeling like you have to tell her that everything is absolutely peachy all the time is a bad, bad sign.

[Cameron Diaz:] "Marriage hasn't been important to me, because I believe we are with who we're supposed to be with when we're supposed to be with them. If I try to lock something down, I'm missing out on all the possibilities of what it could be."
Poorly thought-out Hollywood woo-woo determinism aside, good for her. She's sticking to her beliefs and she's aiming for a happy relationship rather than an "official" one. And yet this was the quote, apparently, that Cosmo decided to headline as "no man can tame this babe."

I could rant here, but I don't even know if that would be funny.

Oh what the hell.

"Taming," seriously, Cosmo, what the fuck? A woman isn't an animal. Marriage isn't ownership and it sure as hell shouldn't be taking control. And it's not just wrong but gross to suggest that a woman who doesn't want to get married is "untamed," like she's a goddamn feral dog or something. What the fucking hell, does it mean that she'll never learn to sit on command or use the litterbox? I can't be "tamed" either, and not because I'm wild or sexy or wink-wink implications of slutty, it's because I'm in control of my own damn life and if I get married I'll be in control of my own damn life. You want to know why no man can tame this babe, Cosmo? BECAUSE SHE'S A HUMAN BEING AND YOU DON'T TAME HUMAN BEINGS.

This all started when I was hired for the job of a lifetime, bartending at a resort halfway around the world. On the first day, after being shown my teeny-tiny shared dorm room, my uptight manager laid down the law. I wasn't allowed to set foot anywhere beyond the ballroom of the resort, and if I was spotted socializing with guests on or off the clock, I'd be fired.
You say "job of a lifetime," I say "human rights violation." You're not allowed to leave your workplace and you're not allowed to socialize with any non-coworkers? That's not a dream job, that's just shy of human trafficking.

(This leads into a mostly uninteresting story about how she slept with a guest and a manager caught her "out of bounds" in the wrong part of the resort and she got in big trouble. I'm endlessly saddened that her response was "tee hee, my bad," and not "I'm unionizing this fucking place.")

There's nothing as sexy as hearing a woman boost herself up, even if she's just saying something as unsexy sounding as "I just owned that parallel-parking job!"
Whoa. Dudes, is this true? I may just be the sexist woman on the planet.

Whoa. Feedback loop.

Usually, all you have to do is stroke a guy here, lick him there, and bam, he's showing off his O-face. A no-brainer.
Wow. Cosmo just made me feel really, really inadequate.

I don't think the idea here is "we think dudes all premature ejaculate," though; I think it's more of a "we think male sexuality is so simple it's a joke." Dudes, right? You touch the hard part and you get the wet part, end of story; meanwhile, women are like complex delicate fuckin' snowflake flowers.

But the latest research shows that a specific method of slow, tantalizing, drawn-out foreplay releases three key hormones in a man's brain--testosterone, dopamine, and oxytocin--that, when amassed together, ultimately trigger an even longer, more electrifying finale.
Aw heck, that's nothing. My foreplay causes guys to release glutamate, GABA, acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin and N-acetylaspartylglutamic acid. I'm just that good.

Record your voice on your cell the next time you have a solo session. Then send the audio file to him in the middle of the day with just this text: "Want to hear me do this tonight?"
Last time I tried to text Rowdy, I accidentally sent it to my dad. The message was innocuous, so fortunately it was no big deal.

So I'm not saying that you shouldn't do this, just that if you do, make sure you don't hit "most recent contact" without looking.

As you're eating dinner together, say something X-rated, like "See how I'm devouring this piece of meat? That's how I'm going to devour you."
That's not X-rated. That's terrifying.

(This particular comment is 500% funnier to those of my readers who have seen how I eat steak kabobs. Grrrr...)

"She looked me up and down and asked, 'So, why are your clothes still on?'"
Man, no fair. When these presumably-fictional Cosmo dudes' girlfriends do this, it's so sexy they go and tell a magazine about it. When I do this, all I ever get is "because I just got home, jeez, at least let me go to the bathroom first!"

Remember when Cosmockings were one-parters? Yeah, those days are long behind us. Imagine a "tickle his balls with your eyebrows" tied to the traintracks right now, as its only hope of rescue, "put your nipples on his feet," dangles from a cliff, because this is... to be continued...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Answering Slutwalk FAQs.

In reading the reaction to the Slutwalk blog posts and news coverage, I feel like there might be a little bit of a message gap in the Slutwalk movement. I'm going to try to bridge that here by addressing some of the most common objections and misunderstandings that seemed to come up.

What is the message of Slutwalk?

In other words, if you see someone looking or acting like oh my god such a slut, you let her go on her merry way. You have no more right to abuse, mock, harass, or assault her than you do any other person. And if a slut is abused or assaulted, she did not want it and did not deserve it, and the people victimizing her are every bit as guilty as if they did it to a non-slut.

Isn't being a slut a bad thing?
Nope! If we understand "slut" to mean "someone (usually a woman) who dresses sexy, acts sexual, and/or has a lot of sex," there's absolutely no harm done. "Slut" only became an insult because our culture is completely screwed up about sex, so instead of dealing with it head-on, we assigned it such a tremendous emotional load that instead of saying "Slut is bad because X," we could just say "SLUT!" and have people feel bad from that alone, no logical rationale required.

Having sex without freely given consent, sex that involves dishonesty or manipulation, sex that spreads diseases or causes unwanted pregnancies--these are bad things. But none of them is inherent to being a "slut." A slut who does their slutting safely, honestly, and consensually is enjoying and sharing pleasure and joy.

Are you encouraging women to act like sluts?
Nope! We're just saying it's an acceptable option.

Lots of people at the Slutwalk were dressed very modestly, and I personally know that some of them were monogamous or celibate. Absolutely nobody was telling these people that they needed to be sluttier to fit in. Slutwalk is not an event to recruit sluts, but to defend sluts.

But isn't it safer for women to dress modestly?
Yeah. That's the problem.

Actually, there aren't any statistics on clothing and sexual assault, but there doesn't seem to be much connection. Sexual assault isn't a matter of "she aroused me so much I just couldn't stand it;" it's an act of deliberate violence. The majority of assaults are committed by people who already know the victims. Often the assaults take place at home. Speaking anecdotally from three years of experience as an EMT and an ER worker, most of the sexual assault victims I've seen were wearing jeans, sweatpants, pajamas, even hijab. (Or little footie pajamas with Elmo on them.)

However, women who are perceived as sluts are more subject to catcalling, harassment, and social shunning as they go about their lives. They're also more likely to be blamed and less likely to be protected or get justice if they're assaulted. These are real risks, but they're risks that suck and we want to get rid of them, because there's nothing wrong with being a slut.

So if you don't want to be harassed for sluttiness, why not just put on some pants already?
Two reasons:
1. The problem is on the harassers' end, not ours. Our sluttiness harms no one and ought to be our right.

2. What if we did? It would go one of two ways. Either some women would still be in short skirts and they'd have even bigger targets painted on their backs, or all women would start wearing pants... and then the harassment would focus on women whose pants were deemed too tight, or too colorful, or too low-cut, or whatever. In a crowd of prudes, people would still go after whoever seemed "sluttiest" relatively--you can see this happening in schools with uniform codes, where the slightest variation in girls' shoes or the way they wear their uniform sweater can make the difference between "cool" and "nerd"... and "slut."

Without attacking the root cause--people thinking that sluttiness is bad and that it's okay to harass sluts and ignore violence against them--no change that the "sluts" themselves make can ever be enough.

Aren't you just putting on skimpy clothes for attention?
What, you want protestors not to try and get attention? "Oh, don't mind us, we're just having an eensy little protest over here, we'll be very quiet."

We're drawing attention to our cause, not just to our bodies, and if you're capable of listening to the words a skimpily-dressed woman says (you can do it, little buddy!), this will rapidly become clear.

A lot of the Slutwalk women are fat and ugly, haw haw!
Obviously this isn't a "question," and anyone saying this has a few years to go before they're worthy of any response beyond "ssshhh, grownups are talking."

The frustrating thing about this response is that it's not a response; it's just a random, lazy attempt to make people feel bad. The only reasons to do this are:

1. You're such an emotional child that you think making someone feel bad means you "beat" them at some sort of "game," and you just want to be the biggest winner possible!
2. You think that it is okay to harass sluts or that people who assault sluts should go free, but you can't support this logically and/or you don't have the courage to spell it out, so you just lash out with a generic insult.

If you have any other questions/objections (either that you have or that you've heard), post them in the comments; I'll add interesting ones to the post.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Slutwalk after-action report.

The Slutwalk was fun. Bigger than I'd expected--there had to be at least a couple hundred thousand folks there--and full of energy and anger and yet joy.

It's funny to think, the impact of the actual walk wasn't so much; we probably got seen by a few hundred people tops. The real impact, if there is one, comes when the photos get out in the news and on the Internet.

Here's a couple of the signs I saw there:

Mine: I'm a slut - I love consensual sex

Jesus ⟨3 Sluts

You got 99 problems and all of them are MISOGYNY

Love does not divide, it multiplies

I can have scalable, high-fidelity, multi-core love if I want to (this guy was awesome)

I hope the message isn't too diluted. A lot of people not involved seemed to be taking it as "HEY WE'RE SLUTS WAAARGH," rather than getting all the nuances of "Someone being a slut does not excuse shaming, harassment, or sexual assault." Was that a lot of nuances? Apparently it is.

That is, big letters now:

There was a "Pimp Walk." Five or six loud assholes. I don't think they were exactly anti-slut or pro-rape (maybe I give them too much credit), they were just there to make the rhetorical equivalent of fart noises. "You say women deserve safety no matter how they dress? Well, we say *FRRRTT* hahaha sluts hahaha *FRRRTTT* bro-five!" Something about that well-thought-out.

It was impressive, and wonderful, and strengthening to see just how many people turned out and how passionate they were. There's a lot of people on our side here and I think there's getting to be more. If all this got us one more, it was worth it.

On the walk and subway ride over, I hid my sign very carefully. Got catcalled twice anyway.

Friday, May 6, 2011


Tomorrow, at noon, a group of protestors will be walking around Boston Commons (starting from the bandstand near Emerson) to protest rape, rape culture, and slut-shaming. I'll be with them.

The event is called the Boston Slutwalk and it was inspired by a similar event in Toronto, which was in turn inspired by a police officer declaring that women could avoid rape by avoiding dressing like "sluts."

Of course, it's not about that officer, who's long since apologized and all that. It's about all the people who agree with him. All the people who think that rape is terrible and no one deserves it, but wearing that on the street at night is kinda risky, doncha think? And all the people who make those people even a little bit right.

It's about the hideous conflation, made by the "good guys" and "bad guys" alike, of people who like sex with people who invite rape. (Hint: the first group is most of the world and the second group is fuckin' nobody.)

Come dressed as a slut: which is to say, in a short skirt and tank top, or in jeans and a t-shirt, or in business casual, or in short-shorts and a muscle tee, or in a big comfy jacket and sweatpants...

I'll be there with a sign saying "I'm a slut: I love CONSENSUAL sex!" Come join me if you're in Boston and free tomorrow, it'll be fun, meaningful, and prove a really important goddamn point--there's nothing wrong with being a slut, and there shouldn't be anything dangerous about it either.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Naming, shaming, and victim blaming.

[Because this issue has already been addressed elsewhere, all names in the following story have been replaced with names from Saturday morning cartoons. DO NOT discuss details of the original issue in comments on this post. DO NOT name the group or event or use the legal names, scene names, or usernames of anyone involved.]

There's been a problem recently in a BDSM group I belong to, the Thundercats, with a particular member, Captain Planet, inappropriately touching or creepily hitting on people at Thundercats meetings and events. This had been ongoing for more than a year, had scared me and other people away from attending certain Thundercats meetings, and several people had talked to Captain Planet with the only result being that after several talking-tos he would switch targets. The Thundercats has had a couple other creeper incidents, but he was one of the most persistent, although relatively less severe--he was more inclined to creepily stroke women's hair or backs than to go for the "swimsuit area."

Then a couple days ago I heard that he had been creeping on my friend April O'Neil to the point of triggering PTSD symptoms, and I just snapped. We'd talked before in the Thundercats about having trouble with "some people" violating "some boundaries" and it always just ended in the conclusion that tsk, tsk, that was very naughty of "some people." I was fucking sick of this culture of silence, of sheltering someone just for being "one of ours" and of throwing women to the wolves of "personal responsibility" if they were too intimidated to confront him or too new to know who to watch out for.

In short, I was sick of worrying myself too damn much about his feelings.

So I posted basically what I wrote above to the Thundercats website, only with his (scene) name and a lot more details on specific incidents. It was a rehash of a lot of the "some people" posts, but I went ahead and said "no, not 'some people.' THIS DUDE."

A lot of people, Thundercats and bystanders, were very supportive of this. Three other women came forward to say they had also had problems with Captain Planet. And Captain Planet himself came on, took it with relatively good grace considering that I was pointedly not gentle in my writing, fessed up and promised to change his behavior. I have to say I'm impressed by that, hope he stands by it, and it makes me feel that I might have actually accomplished something.

But then something weird happened. Even though the person accused had already confessed and apologized, third parties took it on themselves to explain why I, and the other women complaining, were in the wrong. I got a mountain of hostile comments and emails. These fell into three broad categories:

1. "Are we supposed to take the word of a woman?"
There wasn't a ton of this, but I got a few. Funny thing was, Captain Planet had already confessed. (God only knows where things would have gone if he'd denied it.) But I still got people speculating that I was making things up, that I was blowing innocent casual touch out of proportion, and that perhaps people should watch out for me since clearly I'm the sort of person who's dangerously prone to going around accusing men of... um, things they did and admit to doing.

2. "Whatever happend to personal responsibility? For you, I mean. Not him."
Quite a bit of this. People noted that he'd picked on women who didn't seem "strong-willed," which is not entirely true anyway--I'm a noted marshmallow rollover, but some of the other women complaining were pretty tough. Or they said that we were just responsible for setting our own boundaries and dealing with our own problems. But the problem here is threefold:

a. If I'm having to exert a strong will, there's already a problem. Not having to defend myself is vastly preferable to getting good at self-defense.
b. Some women are, because of past events or simply by nature, "weak-willed." They still don't deserve to be creeped on.
c. By making this all about the women, Captain Planet and his actions kind of... disappear. He becomes this weird force of nature, like a pressured fluid naturally rupturing weak spots, instead of a person making choices. That isn't the case. He's much more able to control himself than anyone else is able to control him.

3. "Okay, that's bad, but how dare you talk about it."
This was a really, REALLY depressingly common opinion. I was accused a bizillion times on the thread and in private emails of acting "childish," because apparently an adult shuts up and takes it. I was also told that because the accusations weren't "that bad," weren't sexual assault or anything, I shouldn't be making them.

Note that I and other people had talked to Captain Planet in private previously, and it hadn't worked. Here are some other justifications for naming names:

a. Not everyone can be assumed to be "in the loop." New people or people not in the rumor mill deserve to know who to watch out for.
b. People who thought it was just their own problem with Captain Planet are helped by knowing it's not just them.
c. If you don't have the right to violate people's boundaries, you sure as hell don't have the right to violate them in private. We avoid "outing" because being outed as kinky could hurt you even though it isn't a bad thing. Being outed as creepy doesn't meet the "isn't a bad thing" criterion.
d. All I did was say what had happened and what I thought of it. If people want to do this with my actions ("She sat in a chair and talked to some people. I was pretty okay with this."), they're welcome to.
e. As consequences for bad behavior go, simply having people know about it is a pretty mild and natural one.
f. People who are tempted to violate boundaries should have something to be afraid of. Being politely talked to in private isn't very scary. Hopefully, being publicly shamed is.

So for everyone saying that victim-blaming doesn't happen, that it isn't that bad, or that the victims deserved to be blamed (whoa), there's my little story about what happens when a woman speaks out about a relatively minor and non-criminal issue.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


It seems like there's a lot of criticism out there of "feminism" as a label. Often the criticism isn't of any of the actual beliefs of a particular feminist, but simply of the fact that they're identifying as a feminist. Frankly I think it's a bit silly to get too much into the label--would it help if I called myself an oogyboogykajoogyist and changed none of my beliefs?--but I wanted to take a moment to defend it from two of the most common criticisms.

Because I'm not an "equalist," a "humanist," a "supporter of equal rights for both genders, but don't label me," or a "I'm not a feminist, but." I'm a feminist.

1. The "fem" in feminism.
Some people seem weirdly offended that feminism would dare to refer to women, instead of being about men and women absolutely equally. Feminism is about gender and sexual equality, feminism certainly addresses masculinity, but yes, feminism is mostly about women and women's issues. Suck it up, deal, and go ask the gay rights people what they've done for straight people today, or something. (Actually, they got "sodomy" laws that also applied to straight people repealed, so there's that.)

Here are some statistics on why dealing with women's issues is still relevant:
-For full-time, year-round workers in the United States, the average woman earned 77 cents for every dollar the average man earned. [US census data.] (Yes, this is partly because women work in different careers than men. That's the problem.)

-1 out of every 6 American women will experience a rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. [National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.] (And for that matter, 1 out of every 33 American men wil experience a rape or attempted rape in his lifetime. That's not a counterargument, it's a second problem that feminism is facing more directly than any other movement.)

-Men are 1.2 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than women... but 4.8 times more likely to be perpetrators. [US Department of Justice and FBI statistics.]

-Right now 17 out of 100 Senators are women. 72 out of 435 Representatives are women. 28 of the Fortune 1000 companies have women as CEOs. [CNN Money.]

-Women's cultural contributions are continually ghettoized, trivialized, minimized, and generally treated like "whatever, chick stuff," while our bodies are put on display as objects completely divorced from our personhood. Men's cultural contributions form the vast majority of the "mainstream." [I have a television.]

Understand, these aren't just complaints. These aren't things that I expect to slap on the table and say "so you better be nice to me" or "so I'm a saint just for living through this" or "so go fix this, people." But these are the reasons the "fem" in feminism is relevant and necessary. They're the reasons to keep doing the work of feminism in the big and small ways that I can, if it means donating to women's shelters and rape crisis centers, if it means supporting girls' education and career planning, if it means advocating for victims of violence at my workplace, if it means educating people about gender and sexuality. Declaring these things is not the end of feminism--it's the beginning.

And no, feminism isn't a movement for female superiority or rulership. That's a misreading of the name as facile as thinking that Libertarians are fetishists of the Statue of Liberty.

2. The association with fringe radical feminists.
Yes, some outrageous things have been said in the name of feminism in the last forty years. Andrea Dworkin said all sex is rape, doncha know! Well...

A) Andrea Dworkin actually never said that. In fact, a lot of "radical feminist goes too far" quotes are urban legends.

B) Some of these supposedly "radical" quotes kinda have a point. A recent criticism of one of my posts on feminism, for instance, linked to an article about Stanford University reducing its burden of proof in sexual assault cases. This was, I guess, supposed to prove that Feminism Has Just Gone Too Far, but my only reaction was "well... good." Stanford isn't a government agency and doesn't have the force of law, so this isn't a Constitutional issue, and this brings them in line with national guidelines and helps combat the ongoing huge fucking mess that is sexual assault on college campuses. If this is feminism gone too far, I'm all for it.

(The implicit harm, of course, is that this will further our Huge National Epidemic of False Rape Accusations. God I'm so fucking sick of that bullshit. You know what? I'm sick of playing along and going "yeah, false accusations are terrible, I really feel for any man caught in that evil female trap, blardy blah." You know what I really think? I think these dudes know damn well that false rape accusations are rare and almost always lead to acquittal, and they're not actually worried about being randomly accused. It's just a way to shame, discredit, silence, and punish women who've been sexually assaulted.)

C) So what. So there are things really said by certain feminists that I really don't agree with. That's a reason for me to criticize them, either as "that's not really feminist" or "yeah, I guess that's feminist, but it's just wrong." Besides, it's a big, relatively old movement with a lot of members and subsections and internal disagreements. It'd be weirder if we were in lockstep.

Think of it this way:
Do you believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and in the salvation of human souls through Christ?
Then you're a Christian.
But wait! Some people call themselves Christians and commit horrible acts of discrimination, selfishness, and even violence! People have been murdered by Christians!

Is your response:
i. "Well, those were some suck-ass Christians. I hope to be a better one, myself."
ii. "Oh shit! I better stop calling myself a Christian!"

I believe in the equal status, rights, and safety of all genders and sexualities, and for this reason, I am a feminist.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Getting into BDSM Part 2: Your First Play Party.

I went to a party last night. Hung out with Rowdy and Sprite and a whole lot of nice folks we know, naked wrestled with another woman for a bit, hung out some more, Rowdy flogged and fisted me, hung out some more. Good times. So I figured I'd do another education-y post to follow up on "How to Get Into BDSM", about how to attend a play party.

This should be Part 2.
I don't think a play party is a good first entry into BDSM. It's important to get to know people as people before getting all up in their nasty sexy-hitty business. It gives you a better perspective on BDSM as a particularly vigorous hobby activity rather than an exotic unreal fantasy, and it gives you a better chance of having people at the party who will give you some companionship and guidance. Seeing your friend Sally beat up her husband Bob is a totally different--and in my opinion, much healthier--experience than seeing some dominatrix lady beat up some submissive dude.

Whether you're entering BDSM alone or as a couple (or group), I'd really recommend going to a few munches, classes, or social events and putting in some mingle time before going to a play party.

How to find a party.
This totally varies depending on your local scene. Some places have relatively public playspaces that actually advertise their locations and schedules (for example, the CSPC in Seattle), and that's the easiest. Other places aren't that organized, but they have parties posted under "events" on FetLife, visible to any FetLife members.

But in other places, whether because it's a smaller or more conservative community or because the local law enforcement has given kinksters a hard time (as in Massachusetts, sadly), things are a little more hush-hush. It's like buying weed, I guess; it's not exactly hard to do, but you can't look it up in the Yellow Pages. You gotta know a guy who knows a guy. Parties are hosted in private homes or other Undisclosed Locations and you have to be invited. The only way to do this is to get to know people in the scene, and it can take time, depending on your luck and social skills. (Yes, being conventionally attractive helps a little, but you can look like anything if you can put people at ease and give them the impression that you'll be chill and not creepy at a party.) This requires a little bit of social finesse, but when you consider the preponderance of Warcraft players, Ren Faire folk, and software engineers in the BDSM community, not that much really.

Five things to have before you go to a party:
1. The fee. Most parties require a small donation to the host. Find out beforehand how much and who to give it to, and in what form--some hosts prefer to receive it by PayPal, some want cash, and a few venues can even take credit cards. (Very few; if you don't know, assume cash.) This donation is just to cover use of the venue, equipment, and snacks; you're not paying for play and you're certainly not paying for sex.

2. A sexy but comfortable outfit. Elaborate fetishwear isn't necessary in most scenes (nightclub fetish nights tend to be dressier than play parties), but it's nice to dress up a little. A little black dress, a tight black t-shirt and well-fitted jeans, or your "night-on-the-town" shirt and a nice skirt or slacks will do fine most places.

3. Any toys you'd like to play with, and the necessary safer-sex supplies for any kind of sex you'd like to have. (Even if you bareback your partner at home, a lot of venues want you to use condoms/gloves/dental dams when you're there anyway.) You may not to get to use these if you're coming solo, but if you do, you'll be glad you weren't empty-handed.

Although some venues provide safer-sex supplies, it's a good idea to bring your own anyway just in case. It's also nice to bring a towel, small sheet, or even "puppy pad" or Chux if you're planning on sitting around naked or doing anything that might let off a few fluids. Your gracious host should not have to deal with your crotch-juice on their furniture.

4. Sobriety. Don't show up to a party drunk or high (and definitely don't get drunk or high while you're there). It's not safe to play under the influence and it's not socially acceptable to hang around a party smashed off your ass.

5. Managed expectations.
-You will get to socialize with lots of kinksters in a much more fun, relaxed, and flirty atmosphere than a munch.
-You will get to watch play. Probably some very cool and fascinating (and hot) play.
-There will be a bowl of M&Ms.
-If you came with a partner, you almost certainly will get the opportunity to play with each other. It may be a bit of a shuffle to get a good spot in the "dungeon" space if things are crowded, but it's usually not that hard. Ask a host if you're confused. Don't start whupping on each other in purely social space; no one wants a scene blocking the punchbowl or making a lot of noise and fuss on the chill-out couch.
-If you came alone, it's possible you'll find someone to play with. It's a toss-up. Depends on your social skills, depends on the crowd (some parties have a lot of pick-up play, some tend toward more prearranged scenes), depends on the whims of Fate. And depends whether you want to. If you're not comfortable playing, or if you get offers but they don't make you comfortable or aren't what you're looking for, it's perfectly okay to come to a party, socialize, watch some scenes, and go home.
-If you came alone, it's unlikely you'll get laid. As at any party, it could happen. But play parties are not orgies--a lot of people don't include sex in their play at all, or at least not casually. Some venues don't allow nudity or penetration. And even if you're surrounded by casual-fuckers in a sex-happy environment, I can't say if you'll get laid. Don't stake your enjoyment of the night on it. And certainly don't come to a party with the main intention of getting laid; not only will you likely be disappointed, but you'll miss out on enjoying everything else you could be experiencing at the party. Plus you'll be widely perceived as a total creeper.

The etiquette at play parties is largely about consent. Someone being a kinkster, being at a party, or being identified as a sub/slave/bottom/slut/dom/etc. does not give you permission to do anything to them. Ask before you touch--any touch, not just sexy touch--and negotiate before you roleplay. Sometimes a scene may look like a free-for-all with a lot of people joining in, but this may be prearranged or the people may all know each other in a way you don't. Wait to be specifically invited.

The same rules apply to you. Anyone telling you that you "have" to call them by some exalted title or do something (even something innocuous like grabbing them a soda) for them is full of crap--you have the choice whether you'd like to do that or not. (Likewise anyone who wants to call you by some exalted title or do something for you.) Anyone touching you without asking is being rude, and anyone touching you sexually without asking is a fucking creep and you're within your rights to tell them to fuck off and immediately tell the host what they're doing.

Most parties will have quite a lot of people expressing non-heterosexual, non-cissexual, non-monogamous, generally non-inside-the-box sexuality in various ways. Be cool about it.

Ditto when you run into people practicing non-"glamorous" fetishes. There may be animal players, age players, people in diapers, people doing various forms of intentionally goofy-looking humiliation play, middle-aged men in somewhat unbecoming latex ballerina costumes. You don't have to be turned on by it to be cool about it.

Don't provide color commentary on scenes within earshot of the participants. It's okay to watch public-space scenes, and it's usually okay to have quiet conversation in the same room, but don't get distractingly loud and don't make any helpful "whoa, I think I can see her cervix" comments on the scenes.

Don't touch people's toys without their permission. Their toys may have been carefully cleaned, or recently made extremely unclean, or carry special emotional significance, or just be none of your damn beeswax.

As with munches, You Don't Talk About Fight Club. Talking about where a party is, who hosts it, who was there, what happened there--all ways to get other people in all kinds of unpleasant trouble.

Put a towel or sheet between your naked butt and the furniture. If not for the furniture's sake, then for your butt's.

Chill out and have fun.
The operative word in "play party" is party. No matter how well the night goes for you, between 75 and 100% of your time will be spent hanging out and socializing with kinky folks. Enjoy it, learn from it, and just relax in it. Don't expect to get all your fantasies fulfilled your first time out and don't spend the party stressing about how "much" you're going to "get." Grab another handful of M&M's, find a comfy spot on the couch, watch that gorgeous suspension scene they're setting up, and ask the ballerina man what he thinks of this weather we've been having.