Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Things I Wish My Sex Ed Teacher Had Taught Me.

I had, by US standards, above-average sex education.  Oh sure, they showed us misleading slides of diseased genitals to try to terrify us out of sex. And sure, they told the girls that we should expect guys to pressure us into sex but that if we had "self-respect" we would always refuse.  And sure, they let the entire class yuck it up during a video on sexual harassment and didn't give a crap if we took it seriously.

(The class reaction to that video was actually a fascinating insight into the stereotypes we held, even as teenagers, on what kinds of harassment are serious and what kinds are sexy/funny/unthinkable.

Video: "Sexual harassment can be male on female,"
Class: [stern silence]
Video: "Female on male,"
Class: [snicker]
Video: "Male on male,"
Class: [laughter]
Video: "Or female on female."
Class: [roaring, pounding on desks, falling out of chairs])

But at least they taught us that contraception exists!  We even had another day where we learned that homosexuality and bisexuality exist.  For public education in the US, that's outstanding sex ed.  In retrospect, someone probably had to fight for that.

And yet it left me, not just lacking in advanced topics, but in the basic understanding of how sex even worked.  I mean, it wasn't until I started watching porn that I understood what an erection was, or that intercourse involved thrusting.  The sex-ed version was so sanitized it had left me honestly thinking men stuffed their soft dicks in women and just sorta stood around until they ejaculated.  This isn't a frivolous pornographic detail.  This is like taking driver's ed and still not knowing about the gas and brake pedals.

So here's some things I wish they'd taught in my sex ed class:
•"I know this is a pretty loaded subject, and a little nervous laughter is okay, but if you're laughing at someone, or if you're making disrespectful remarks, you're out and you can tell the principal what was so funny.  This classroom is not a place to hurt people."

•"Homosexuality and bisexuality don't just exist as some 'other' that you should dutifully tolerate.  Some of the people in this class are gay or bisexual. It may be you. You may or may not know it yet. And all that is okay."

•"Oh hey, you know who else exists? Transsexual, transgendered, and genderqueer people.  They exist too.  Let's make a note of that."

•"Some people want sex more and some people want it less.  These are both normal and okay.  There's nothing wrong with a girl who wants it more or a boy who wants it less."

•"It is not normal or okay to not want sex but to have someone have sex with you anyway.  Whether you're a boy or a girl, even if you didn't stop them from having sex with you, that is not how sex is supposed to go."

•"There's a big debate among adults whether we should teach you about contraception.  So I figure hey, this debate is about you, so you deserve to know about it.  I'm going to teach the controversy! We'll learn the arguments on both sides of this issue and discuss them in class. However, we can't very well have an intelligent discussion on contraception without everyone being on the same page about the basics, so let me give you a quick primer.  This is a condom..."

•"You know what else exists?  Abortion.  I'm not saying you should. I'm just saying that if you're fifteen and you're pregnant and you're not remotely ready to be a parent, you should know this is a thing you can do and have an idea of where to begin the process."

•"Here's a real rough outline of how sexual activity actually works.  It's not lasciviously detailed, but it'll give you the gist.  There's details in there like 'most penises like stroking with a bit of squeeze, but ask your partner to be sure.'  You're going to be doing this at some point in your lives, you ought to know what you're even trying to accomplish."  [I am aware how hilariously impossible this would be to get into a sex-ed curriculum anywhere in the US. I'm just dreaming now.]

•"You can't talk about sex without talking a little bit about love.  Here's some things you should know about love."

•"The most important thing about sex is that it's consensual.  The second most important thing is that it's safe.  Whether you have sex is not important at all."

If you ruled the world, what would you teach kids in sex ed?

Friday, February 24, 2012

A concise kink worksheet.

There's a lot of kink negotiation worksheets out there, and frankly, most of them are a mess.  500-item lists of "animal play (puppy) - rate interest from 1 to 10 or hard limit" and "animal play (pony) - rate interest..." can be interesting ways to learn just what possibilities are out there, but they don't necessarily help you narrow down what you want in a particular scene.

So I've made a kink worksheet that fits on one page.  It assumes you already have a general idea of what you're into, and only need some help condensing and communicating those ideas to your play partner.

(Google Docs PDF)

Notes on use:
•I don't really expect you to write on it; it's more of a jumping-off point for talking and thinking.  It's probably better to talk this over  with your partner than to hand it to them filled out, but, you know, whatever works for you.

•If you're new to kink, it's probably good to think about your answers well in advance of actually playing, when you have a clear head and time to put your thoughts together.

•"I don't know," "maybe," and "let's try it a little and see" are totally acceptable answers.  Don't feel like you have to have a super confident answer to everything.  Knowing that you're not super sure what you want is rarely a dealbreaker, but important for your partner to be aware of.

•It's really a pre-negotiation worksheet; the purpose of these questions to give your partner an idea of where you're coming from and what you're looking for before you work out exactly what's going to happen in your scene.  Once you know these things about each other, it's between the two of you to work out explicitly what you will and won't do in your scene.

Going from "so you don't want to roleplay, do want to use toys, and do want pain" to "so how about I throw you up against that wall and hit you on the ass with the paddle--we'll start slow and see just what you can take" is what happens next.  That's the fun part of negotiation and it can turn damn sexy.

•Clear, explicit scene negotiation is a cornerstone of consent culture in BDSM.  A lot of the recent talk has been about flushing out serial abusers, but equally important is making sure that well-intentioned people don't hurt each other through miscommunications or assumptions.  A cute little worksheet won't guarantee that but I hope it helps.

...Not-kinky people, I will write a totally not-just-kink sex post next.  I have not forgotten you!
...Why am I apologizing for being kinky?  This blog is called The Pervocracy.
...But nonetheless.  I don't intend to be all BDSM inside baseball, any more than I'm all gender or all politics.  I value diversity in my perversity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why I didn't just call the cops.

[MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING for the nitty-gritty of sexual assault and aftermath. This is not a happy post and it's not one I really wanted to write.  But it's one that a lot of people seem to need to read.]

There's been a lot of talk lately in my local BDSM scene about how to make the scene a safer place.  Which is an awesome thing, but it's depressing to see the pushback it's been getting.  (If I felt safe before, I wouldn't now, not knowing how many people around me like to play the "but if you don't do XYZ then you're to blame if you get raped!" game.)  And one part of that pushback is "hey, public safety isn't our job; if someone has a problem they should go to the police."

This isn't limited to the BDSM scene.  I've heard this elsewhere in discussions of sexual abuse.  Formally report or you have no right to complain.  Formally report or you're to blame for their next victim.  Formally report or it probably didn't even happen.

Like it's that easy.

So I'm going to explain in agonizing detail how I was assaulted by a guy in a BDSM scene, and why I didn't go to the cops.  And I hope this makes a difference to all the people who think "if someone assaults you call the cops" is the be-all-end-all of stopping sexual assault.

The guy was Benny, we'd been sleeping and playing together for a couple years, and he had been throwing up the flaggiest of red flags for a long time.  He'd already done things to me without my permission.  That's putting it lightly.  I mean that I'd said no (last paragraph) and he'd gone ahead and stuck his dick in me.  Which is... I guess it's rape right there?  But I didn't even register that.  At the time it just seemed like... a thing that happened.  I told him "no," he penetrated me anyway, I was like "whoa whoa whoa hey," more annoyed than scared, and in a second he stopped.  It seemed more like an awkward, uncomfortable misunderstanding.  Like someone giving you a noogie even though you're going "hey no."

Which is why I don't believe in giving people noogies if they don't want it, by the way. Sets a bad precedent.
REASON 1: Sometimes assault doesn't "feel like assault." A million movies and news reports had conditioned me to the idea that assault is big and loud and dramatic, that there's always blood and bruises and screaming.  The idea that something quiet and weird and awkward could be literally rape didn't occur to me.  And maybe you can argue that a guy shouldn't go to jail for something that didn't traumatize me, but that's only from my point of view.  From his point of view he had a woman saying "no" and he stuck his dick in her anyway. 
To say that's not rape because I didn't start screaming is like saying it's not theft if you snatch someone's purse and they say "oh well, these things happen, I suppose I can live without that purse."
What did bother me was the time he convinced me to let him come on my face, telling me it would be totally sexy and awesome and badass of me, and then as soon as he'd come he burst out in laughter at how ridiculous I looked with come all over my face like some stupid whore.

What did bother me was the time he fingered me, I had a blindfold on, and I didn't realize I was starting my period.  He stuffed my blood in my mouth and smeared it on my face without telling me what it was, then took the blindfold off, told me to look in the mirror, and cackled with glee at my predicament.

What did bother me was the increasing frequency with which he played the hold-down game.  The way this game worked was that we'd be lying in bed together and he'd roll over on top of me and not let me move.  He wouldn't do anything to me, just use his size (he had a full foot and 100 pounds on me) to hold me down until he decided to let me up.  Which could be a while.  I'd beg him, I'd try to hit him, I'd "no, seriously, it's not funny, seriously let me go" him, I'd even try reverse psychology and just go limp, and he'd just laugh and keep holding me down until he felt like giving my body back.
REASON 2: I blamed myself and expected to be blamed. So this isn't one of those cases where a nice guy turned into a monster out of the blue.  This is a case where I had a million red flags and I ignored or excused or "that's just his way"ed them.  Was this stupid of me?  HELL YES!  Is sexual assault a fair punishment for being stupid?  FUCK NO.  But because there had been those warning signs, I felt like I had it coming, felt like anyone I told would ask "why did you keep seeing him?" and I would have no answer, and felt like I had no right to report a crime that I had "contributed" to by not avoiding. 
I'd heard (and continue to hear, and future victims are hearing it right now) the same things said about a million rape victims before me.
And then eventually he crossed a line I couldn't forgive or ignore.  I was at his house, late at night, with only one purpose, the only reason I kept seeing him: filthy kinky sex.
REASON 3: Slut! There's a lot of shame in being a woman who goes to men's houses late at night with only one purpose.  Even without the red flags, that alone is enough to get a lot of people saying "well, what did she expect?" 
REASON 4: I said "yes." I did agree to have sex with Benny that night. And there's a huge number of people (some of them cops or jurors) who think that consent to sex is consent to anything, and you don't get to say no once you've said yes.  Or if you do it's only rape by some finicky feminist definition, only "gray rape," not in the same category as "rape-rape."
So he tied me up, spread-eagle to the four corners of the bed, saying he was going to finger me and get me off while I was tied.
REASON 5: Kinky shit.  So how do you explain this to a cop: "Yeah, I said he could tie me up naked, but not tie me up naked and hurt me!"  We're in a cultural atmosphere where most people think going to a guy's room is consent to anything he might do to you; what were my odds of explaining that letting him tie me up was not blanket consent? 
REASON 6: Kinky "crazy" shit. One of the more common stereotypes about women who do kink (especially who bottom in kink)--one I've had people say to my face when they didn't know I was kinky--is that we're "crazy."  Unpredictable, irrational, damaged goods, you know, "crazy."  And it's a widely accepted fact in the misogynist community that a "crazy" woman will make an accusation of rape for no good reason, just because she's so "crazy."  That's not shit I wanted to face.
REASON 7: The kinky shit community. The kink community talks big about consent, but they also talk big about not having "drama".  Calling the cops is the ultimate drama, and if I went back to the kink community after that, I'd very likely get the reputation of "holy shit, she didn't like a scene so she called the cops on her top!" 
That's kink-specific, this isn't: the kink community contains most of my friends and it's a major source of emotional support in my life.  Having a considerable proportion of my friends turn against me when I needed friends the most--that would not be an easy thing to get through.
REASON 8: Kinky shit exposure. If I pressed charges, inevitably everyone in my life would find out about it and the circumstances.  Which would be... not good.  Not good for my relationship with my family. Not good for my job.  Not good with my roommates.  Not good for a large chunk of my future.
Things weren't going well from the start.  I wasn't really into the sex and it was obvious; usually I get off easy and this time I was just tense and uncomfortable and kinda muttering "okay, this isn't working, maybe I should just... I mean maybe we could... can we take a break? Maybe?"
REASON 9: Mixed signals. "Did you actually say 'no' to him when you started feeling pain, Ms. Pervocracy?" "Er... I said maybe could we maybe take a break."
He did not take a break.  He tried to shove his entire fist into me.  I've been fisted and liked it, but this was dry and sudden and forceful.  It was his resentment for me not being a good fuck, for me not moaning and writhing and telling him how amazing he was, balled into a fist and shoved into my vagina.  It hurt.  Fuck it hurt.

I said "red" and he didn't stop.  I said "red, safeword, stop, ow" and he didn't stop.  Like when he was holding me down, this was going to end on his time.  He kept going and I kept saying "no, really, fucking red, fucking stop." I wasn't screaming or yelling--I was feeling weirdly calm, practical, a sense of "do what you need to do now, panic later"--but I was definitely not unclear.  Eventually he did stop.  I looked down to see if there was blood on his hands but I think there wasn't.

He stepped away, but left me tied up.  He went to the bathroom and started washing his hands.  I asked him to untie me.  He laughed and said "if you're tied up, you're at my mercy."

That's when I screamed.  I screamed "YOU FUCKING UNTIE ME RIGHT NOW WHAT ARE YOU DOING FUCK LET ME FUCKING GO FUUUUUCK" or words to that effect.  And then I screamed "I'M GOING TO SCREAM UNTIL THE NEIGHBORS HEAR" and he untied me.

And then... I didn't dash out of the house crying.  I didn't attack him.  I didn't grab my phone and call 911.  I got dressed and I talked to him.  Not even "what the fuck just happened?" talked to him.  I just said "hey, this sex thing isn't working out, you know."

He said "yeah, I know.  But we had a good run there. We'll stay friends."

And then I left.  Still not crying, still not acting "traumatized" whatever that looks like, still not calling the cops.
REASON 10: Aftermath. I think I had a brief chance there to be a Proper Rape Victim and I totally blew it.  If I'd gone right to the cops, right to the hospital, maybe I would have stood a chance of being taken seriously?  But I didn't.  I didn't even think of it as sexual assault at the time.  I wrote a blog post right afterwards in which it's clear that I'm angry and shaken up but in which I don't call it sexual assault. 
Going back after a space of time, and saying "no, wait, I realized it really was assault" fits the misogynist idea of the woman who "changes her mind" or "has regrets" just a little too perfectly. 
REASON 11: Doubt.  Was this bad enough to put someone in jail over?  I mean, jail, that's a really big deal.  That's gonna make him lose his job--and he had a good job!--and really ruin his life.  From when I started saying "no" to when he untied me was, I don't know, five minutes tops.  Can I justify ruining someone's entire life over something that only lasted five minutes?  To be honest, even now I can't give an unconflicted "yes" to that question.
REASON 12: Retribution.  Benny had a lot of friends.  I didn't know them well.  I'm sure most of them thought of Benny as the kind of guy who would never hurt anyone.  I'm sure they would take his side if some random girl made some random accusation against him.  What I'm not sure of is how far "taking his side" would go. Maybe they'd just quietly hate me.  Or maybe they'd come to my house at night.  I don't know.
So I went home. I wrote my little blog post. I went to sleep.  Went to work in the morning.  Sat a little funny the next couple days. Got angry or sad a few times. Life went on.
REASON 13: It's over.  I never saw Benny again.  As far as I was concerned, that chapter in my life was closed.  Reporting would mean reopening it, rubbing my nose back in the absolute worst parts of it for weeks or months.  It would mean extending the ordeal from "got assaulted" to "got assaulted, got interrogated about it, got a pelvic exam, got interrogated again, went to court, got interrogated again," and what would I have at the end?  At best, the very mixed (see Reason 11) satisfaction of punishing Benny.  Quite likely, nothing at all.  For that kind of risk-reward, I might as well just let it go. 
Some of the stuff I've listed above may sound kinda trivial, or kinda theoretical, kinda like I'm worrying too much what people will think.  But it's stuff that if I reported, I'd have to face all at once, all the time, for a long-ass time until my life was normal again.  If I didn't report, my life would be normal again right away.
Finally, I just want to say: These are reasons, not justifications. You might see some of these and think "but that's not right, actually that thing you're worried about wouldn't have happened" or "but this doesn't add up, you still should have reported!"  And fuck, you may be right.  But these are the things that went through my head during and after my sexual assault.  These are not reasons I shouldn't have reported the assault.  These are reasons I didn't.

Is there one big fix for all of this, one way to make sexual assault super easy and simple to report?  I dunno.  I doubt it.  Or if there is it's a big, massive, culture-changing fix.  I don't have time to get into it in this post.  I just wanted to answer the question "Why don't sexual assault victims just go to the cops?"

So yeah, there are a few reasons.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cosmocking: March '12!

Lavender cover!  Selena Gomez!  Her left leg is growing out of the side of her abdomen!  "Why guys love it when you bite your lip!" "Because it is a widely understood gesture indicating sexual interest in our culture" is probably not the answer!  "3 things he doesn't have to know!" Hm...

1. The plot of the epic thirty-two-part Final Fantasy VII fanfiction saga you plan to write!
2. This thing your friend he doesn't know told you about this other friend he doesn't know at a party he wasn't at!
3. Any dream that takes more than two sentences to describe, ever!

I sure hope it's stuff like that, because wow, these are things nobody ever has to know! "How to own any room you walk into!" ...Buy a house and never leave?
Letting him take the lead: It may seem a little retro, but the simple act of allowing your guy to forge a path for the two of you can do wonders for his ego and your relationship.  [...] So throw the guy a bone and let him grab your hand and guide you the next time you're walking down a crowded street.
"Retro" is the wrong word here.  May I suggest "dehumanizing" or "infantilizing" or a good ol'-fashioned "bullshit"? But what's really getting me here is the "throw him a bone" thing.  Like, yeah, we're totally all feminists and we understand equality now... but be a sweetie and let him degrade you a little sometimes!  I mean, sure you're as much of a capable adult as he is, but you don't have to rub his nose in it!

I'd be less Humorless Meaniepants about this if it said "sometimes it's nice if one of you lets the other take charge and lead."  It did not say that.
I am a nursing assistant and work with a hot male nurse. One day, he asked if I could help him clean up an empty room. But it turns out he just wanted to hook up, so we locked the door and started going at it.
So... your direct supervisor asked you to go to an empty room with him on false pretenses and then he locked the door?  ...Are you okay?  Do you need to talk?  Do you want me to call someone?

The worst part is that this is a part of a transparently fake "true confession" story, which means that someone made this up thinking it would be sexy, when they could have just as easily made up a story that didn't have terrifying implications.
The lip bite brings out his inner caveman. Why? It causes blood to rush to your lips, which plumps and reddens your pout. Both are signs of fertility, and when a guy sees them, it sets off his primitive instinct, since he's subconsciously looking for a mate with whom he can reproduce.
"Caveman" bullshit aside, this doesn't even work.  I've been biting my lips in the mirror for the last couple minutes, and unless I chomp down so hard it hurts, my lips look exactly the same afterwards.  My teeth aren't bees.

This isn't a difficult thing to test, Cosmo.
Men love when you beg them to finish.  In a sweet, sexy voice, say, "Please come, baby, please come."
Oh God, I used to do this.  I was dating a guy who took forever and when it stopped being fun-forever and started being ow-forever, I'd do this to try to make it end.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it just prolonged the "but I'm almost there!"  The whole situation was as sexy as a root canal.

Now I have a partner I can just say "I'm getting sore" to, and even though that doesn't sound sexy, it beats the hell out of "dirty" talk that really means "oh for the love of God why can't this be over already."

So that's just my personal associations with "please come, baby."  Maybe it's great for someone else.
Try this kinky trick: Color your nipples with a crazy-colored lipstick, like sparkly purple. Bonus points if it's yummy. He'll love the shocking, sexy change in scenery!
Man, I love Showgirls on so many levels, I think it's the unheralded companion piece to Starship Troopers... but absolutely nothing in that movie should ever be attempted by anyone.
"My guy and I will be at lunch and I'll say things like 'Yes, master,' and 'Whatever you say, sir.' He gets the hint that it's time to tell me what to do.  It's a huge turn-on, and the sex later is super passionate because of it. 
I don't disapprove of this quote at all.  I just want to slip the person who wrote it a few phone numbers.  It's okay!  You are not alone!  We have meetings Tuesdays and Sundays!
[Jewelry ad: an elaborate diamond and white-gold pendant, and two matching cocktail rings, lying on a wood surface.  Next to them, a note tied to one of the rings reads:] Girls' night out just got cancelled.
You ever get that feeling where you don't know exactly why something is wrong... you just know that it is?
"In the early stages, subtlety is key," says Nicholas Boothman, author of How to Make Someone Fall in Love With You in 90 Minutes or Less.  "It sounds old-fashioned, but guys want to feel like they have to chase you a bit."
You know, I'm not an easily embarrassed person.  I'll happily go up to the bookstore counter and ask if they have Anal Pleasure And Health, or Hand in The Bush: The Fine Art of Vaginal Fisting, or The Toybag Guide To Erotic Knifeplay, and anyone gives me a look I'll give them a look right back.  I know when I've got nothing to be ashamed of.

But if I bought a book called How to Make Someone Fall in Love With You in 90 Minutes or Less, I would ask for a brown paper bag.

Anyway, the problem with the whole "make him chase you" thing isn't just the passivity it imposes on women and the aggressiveness it requires of men.  It isn't just the risk for dangerous confusion between a woman playing hard to get and a woman trying to get away.  It's also how often I've tried to do this, tried to be super subtle about my attraction, tried to make a guy chase me... then looked behind and realized he wasn't following. I'd just plain run away from him.

Sex and love games are awesome.  But I prefer the kind where everyone knows they're playing.

Oh, and the three things he doesn't need to know? What you do when you're not with him, what skills you have, and what insecurities you have about your body.  Because if there's one thing your boyfriend doesn't need to know, it's that he's dating a person.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Valentine's Day Dilemma.

[Cosmocking is coming next!  They take a long time to write.  I'll have it up late today or sometime tomorrow.]

I have a dilemma every time I’m in a relationship when this day rolls around.

Part of me thinks: “This is a commercialized, manufactured holiday that celebrates oppressively inflexible gender roles, shames men who don't give the perfect gift and women who don't get the perfect gift, marginalizes queer people, marginalizes the shit of single people and people in closeted relationships, and ought to be completely unnecessary in a relationship where we express our love when and how we feel it rather than the way The Man tells us to. This holiday sucks and as someone who cares about conscious and intentional relationships, I should have no goddamn part of it.”

But a smaller yet deeper part of me feels sad about those words, because they're words that come from a sexual and romantic rebel, yes, but they're also words that come from a Perfect Girlfriend Who Never Wants Anything. (I have battled often with the Perfect Girlfriend Who Never Wants Anything inside me, desperately resisting her threats that I'm just one "can we go out somewhere nice tonight?" away from morphing into the High-Maintenance Girlfriend Who Wants Everything.)  That part of me wants to put my foot down and say “I know this is arbitrary, Rowdy*, but sometimes I need you to make small arbitrary gestures to prove you care about me even when I don't make sense.”

Also, Valentine's Day sometimes feels like a one-day hyper-concentration of the "you poor dear, guess he doesn't love you that much" messages I get from the mainstream culture over the facts that we're not monogamous and not planning to get married or have kids.  It's not that I even want any of those things, but the relentless message of "non-traditional relationships are no way to treat a lady!" still seeps through to my sad little insecure place sometimes.  Celebrating Valentine's Day like giant saps is a relatively safe, cheap way to soothe that little sad place.  Or maybe it's a way to say screw you, society, see how our non-traditional love can be totally sappy.

I don’t want diamonds and I don’t want to receive without giving, but I think exchanging goofy heart candies** for goofy reasons is an opportunity to say “You know what? Sometimes validating feelings is more important than always fighting the good fight.”

This year, we’ve agreed to exchange presents on the 16th. That way we get to take advantage of day-after sales and uncrowded restaurants and feel like we’re getting something over on The Man, while still satisfying my irrational need to occasionally be allowed to have an irrational need.

*Rowdy is actually really good about validating things like "I need you to be here for me and I can't coherently explain why." This post is about my own tangled insecurities, not about him trying to convince me not to want anything. If anything, I think he gets upset when my Perfect Girlfriend Who Never Wants Anything self-enforcement goes into overdrive.  
Captain Awkward has a great post here on related issues, on why we pressure ourselves into pretending we never need anything from our friends and lovers, and why good friends and lovers don't actually want us to do that.

**But not Conversation Hearts. They're great cultural touchstones for representing the holiday and all, but they taste like chalk.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Geek Social Fallacies of Sex.


With all apologies to the original, which all geeks should read...

I think geek sexuality is an awesome thing.  God knows it's the only sexuality I've ever known.  Geeks are tinkerers who constantly try to improve and innovate, and geeks are not bound by many mainstream social rules, and these two things combine to create some fucking hot sex.  Also for some semi-mysterious reason the overlap between "geek" and "kinkster" is, like, 90% of both groups.

But geeks also are prone to weird social thinking, some of it a reaction to the ungeeky mainstream, some of it their very own invention.  Here's some common misconceptions that can fuck up geek sex.

GSFS 1: People can voluntarily control their emotions about sex.
This manifests a couple different ways:
"We've agreed this is casual sex, so as long as we decide not to develop feelings, we won't."
"Sex is just a physical activity, so adding it to our dating/friendship won't change our relationship."
"My partner promised not to feel jealous because I'm not monogamous, but they're betraying me by feeling jealousy anyway!"  (Note that in this example both partners are apparently carriers of this fallacy.)

Pretending you can just decide whether you'll feel any emotions at all is a geek fallacy stemming from the idea that you should be able to optimize your own brain to not do anything unproductive or unintended.  But geeks ought to know better, because come on, you can't even get a computer to do that.  This stuff comes on you, it gets you by the heart and the gut, and it doesn't ask you "pardon me, I'm an emotion, are you okay with experiencing me?" first.

What you can and should voluntarily control is how you express your emotions.  It's okay to feel strong emotions; it's not okay to attack people or break promises and use "I was emotional" as an excuse.  This is when it's time to tell your partner "hey, we need to talk, I'm feeling an emotion!"  Solving the problem may involve changing your relationship boundaries, it may just involve talking it out, or it may mean you have to end the relationship.  But the solution is never "that is an incorrect emotion, please stop experiencing it."

GSFS 2: The weirder your sex, the more enlightened you are.
I've done a whole post on this, so go there if you want extended pontification.  The short of it is: geeks have a tendency to mistake "less mainstream" for "better," and to conclude that sex that least resembles the mainstream is both the sexiest and the most virtuous.  So polyamory gets seen as more enlightened than monogamy, kink gets seen as sexier than vanilla, and monogamous vanilla geeks get a big steaming pile of "I guess you're just not very open-minded."

I think polyamory and kink have great things to offer geeks of all sorts, but "having sex with multiple people" and "having ouchy sex" aren't those things.  Those are just neutral activities, things to do if you like and not if you don't.  The real takeaways are conscious and explicit communication.  That's what makes us cooler than the squares.

GSFS 3: Cool chicks don't worry about sexism.
This isn't exactly a sex thing but God does it plague some geek circles.  I know because I've been the cool chick.  I've played the "don't worry, I'm not like those other girls, I'm not into gossip and drama" card; I've played the "well, you have my permission to objectify me, because I take it as a compliment" card; I've even played the "that mean lady was such an uptight no-funster for having boundaries" card.

Those cards are the fuck out of my deck now.  And I've paid the social price for that.  There's definitely some people in my circles who've put me in their "uptight no-funster" mental box since then, or who deliberately bait me about "watch out, Holly, I'm going to patriarchally oppress you!" because ahahaha she's an angry little lady isn't that cute.

I don't blame a woman who sees this go on, decides she wants friends more than she wants to start fights about some abstract problem that doesn't seem to affect her personally, and starts telling her male friends not to worry, they can be sexist around her, she's cool.  The problem isn't her.  The problem is all the people who made it so much easier and more pleasant for her to be a "cool chick" than a woman who gives a damn how people think of her gender.

GSFS 4: Drama is always worse than the thing the drama is about.
I guess the xkcd comic has a little bit of this one.  Drama's never fun, but it beats the fuck out of suppressing real issues.  In my time in geek circles, I've seen reports of sexual harassment and even outright assault silenced with "well, I don't want to make drama" or "but whatever, that's just drama."  A woman in the group is a sexual predator? Gosh, I don't spread gossip.  A man needs to be disinvited from parties because he's repeatedly threatened people at them? No, kicking him out would make a scene, it would make drama.

In geek sexual communities, the illusion of smooth functioning and of everyone being bestest friends with everyone can supersede people's needs for comfort and safety.  A lot of this has to do with the "Ostracizers are Evil" non-sex GSF, but it gets worse when you add sex to the mix, because defensiveness about our non-traditional sexuality suppresses important issues even further.  Like, if you admit that people violate boundaries in BDSM circles, then you're admitting that BDSM isn't a perfect haven of consent and negotiation, and that's just going to play right into the mainstream idea that BDSM is abusive!  So we end up defending abusers to prove BDSM isn't abusive.

"Drama" is a trivializing word.  Let's try "conflict," instead.  "I don't want to treat him any differently just because he gets a little handsy with women, that would cause conflict."  It doesn't sound so superior and level-headed now, does it?

GSFS 5: Sex should be no big deal.
This is related to GSFS 1, but even nastier.  This is the idea that since sex is just a super simple physical act--you rub some bits together, it feels good, the end--that there shouldn't be anything complicated or difficult about sex.  That casual sex should be easy for everyone, that having multiple partners should be as simple as "it's like having a sexual partner, but more than one of them," that everyone who makes sex into a big complex issue is being dramatic (GSFS 4) or no-fun (GSFS 3) or narrow-minded (GSFS 2).

Sex is complicated as fuck, and if you think understanding sex is easy, you don't understand sex.  I've written 1300 posts on sex and I've already changed my mind about roughly half of them.  It amazes me that the same people who admit that games about rolling dice can hide deep complexity and meaning will go on and claim that sex is just some squishy bits coming together.  It's not.  Sex is two (or more) people interacting in a huge diversity of ways, and while it can be great, it's never simple.

I love geek sex.  I love the way we're endlessly willing to rethink and improve and break stereotypes about sex.  But we gotta stop buying into this crap.  We're geeks; we oughta be smarter than that.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A different kind of love.

Love songs don't work too well for Rowdy and me.  Romantic movies neither.  It's hard to pick out Valentine's cards.  All these things--pretty much any trapping of romance that contains more text than "you're awesome, I love you"--seem to define love very differently than we do.

There's so many things that get associated with "love" that aren't part of our experience of loving each other.

Exclusivity.  Both of us are sleeping with other people right now, he's dating other people, and there's not a damn thing wrong with that.  I've started to love the feeling of "coming home" to Rowdy after fooling around with someone else; it's a wonderful warm thing to be able to say "I like going off and having adventures, but your dick is where I hang my hat."


So it's weird to me to see "I'm all yours" and "you're my one, my only" used as expressions of just how sincere and true a love is.  They can certainly be definitions of a particular couple's love, but that doesn't make it lovier.  Exclusive love isn't deeper or more serious (or worse!) than open love, it's just different.

Permanence. Stuff ends.  And when stuff is a relationship, it really only ends in two ways--you break up or somebody dies.  Rowdy and I are in our twenties, we're not getting married, and we both have a bit of the "maybe I'll move to Alaska next" wanderlust in us.  We'd like to be long-term but realistically we're not forever.

And I'm okay with this.  I don't love to think about it, but I'm at peace with it.  Which is why stuff like "I'm yours forever" grates on me as a romantic sentiment.  No.  I'm not yours forever.  I'm with you now. Now matters too.  Let's treasure today, and accept tomorrow.

Ownership. I realize that "I'm yours" doesn't literally mean "I am your possession," but a lot of romance language does come weirdly close to that.  It weirds me out.  I'm starting to think this entire post is just me being painfully literal, but it's hard to think clearly if you don't think literally sometimes, and I don't like hearing that lovers "belong" to each other.  Rowdy's not mine, nor am I his--he has no authority over me and no rights to me.  We're just two people who enjoy being together.

I know there's not much room for nuance on a Conversation Heart, but I don't want to tell my lover "be mine."  I only want to tell him "be with me."

Obsession. Rowdy isn't my life.  I mean, how goddamn boring would that be?  Rowdy is just one wonderful part of my life.  Of course I could live without him; of course life would go on; of course we're not everything to each other.  And to me, that's not less meaningful but more.  One of the most romantic sentences I know is "I don't need you; I want you."

So without these things--without every part of "be my only one forever," what's left?  Funny thing is, there's a shitload of things left.

There's simple, raw affection.  Rowdy makes me happy and he makes me want to make him happy and whenever we're together we make a little Happiness Feedback Loop.  This is the main thing and it's why I say "love" at all.  Being with Rowdy just plain feels good.

There's trust.  Trust that means we show each other all our soft vulnerable parts--the bad stuff in our pasts, the screwed-up stuff in our heads, the things that make us cry and the things that turn us on--and we know we're safe when we do.  We know it's not going to be used against us or taken lightly.

There's loyalty.  When I was sick Rowdy came and comforted me.  When Rowdy moved I came and hauled boxes.  We've cried on each other's shoulders and we've gotten each other's backs.

And yeah, there's sexual chemistry. I don't think that defines our love but it sure makes it a whole lot more fun.

How is this different from being really good friends who are physically intimate?  Honestly, it isn't.  Which brings me to the last thing our love isn't:

Magic. There's nothing special about being in love.  It's only a matter of gradation away from being very close friends.  The feelings I have for Rowdy are different only in degree, not character, from the feelings I have for other people with whom I share affection, trust, and loyalty.  Being with my friends just plain feels good, too.

Love is wonderful, but love is not ineffable.  Love is powerful, but love is not mysterious.  Love is a rock in storms and an open meadow on sunny days, but love is not a bolt from the blue.  Love is just really really really really liking someone.  And that's enough.

Maybe our problem isn't that we think love is too magical.  Maybe our problem is that we don't realize how magical every human connection is.

...Wow, that was pretty Care Bears even for me.  But fuck it, I'll be Care Bears.  Caring about someone is fucking awesome.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guest Post: Top Tips for New Friends in the Scene.

[This is BDSM inside baseball.  If you're not a BDSMer or wannabe BDSMer, I'll have more of my usual tomorrow.]

[My friend Match_Stick wrote this for our local BDSM munch, and I think it's some solid advice. Text in brackets is my comments.

Also, my excuse for not writing a post this week is that Rowdy and I were in a hovercraft competition!  We had 48 hours to build a working remote-control hovercraft from scratch.  The post image is our results, hovering triumphantly.]

1. Get an email address without your real name in it. You will need it for invite lists and such.

2. Get a FetLife account, and put a picture up. No need for your face to be shown, but put something up. Something other than a shot of your genitals.

[You can use a headless shot of your body to avoid showing your face, but sometimes it's nicer to use a non-human picture that simply reflects one of your interests.   One of my friends is a bird, another one is a famous painting, another is a photo he took.  It gives you more character than the headless shot.  My suggestion is to use that for an avatar and then upload your headless-body shot as a secondary picture if you want to show off your stuff.]

3. Find local events such as munches and classes to go to.

4. Pick a name to be known by in person. If you have a common first name, you may want to use that. If you don’t, or want to be even more careful, pick another name. Remember, people might buy “Buddy” a beer, but no one wants to buy “Lord Domly Pants” a beer.

[There's an important deeper meaning in calling yourself "Buddy" rather than "Lord Domly Pants."  Which is that you're dealing with real people here, not with sexual fantasies.  If all goes well, you'll be able to act out some sexual fantasies with some of them, but you don't want to come off so narrowly focused on your fetishes that you don't treat people like individuals.  You want to project "hi, I'm a nice person" before you project "hi, I want you to lick strawberry Jell-O from between my toes."]

5. Practice introducing yourself. You will be doing it a lot.

[I have made so many friendships--including Match_Stick!--simply by walking up to people and saying "Hi, I'm Holly. I don't think we've met before."  Bluntness is my religion these days and it's paying off.]

6. Go to real life events. Everybody is shy sometimes. Go to events and introduce yourself. A lot.

7. Make friends, before you make play partners. They will help guide you.

[I strongly, strongly, strongly agree with socializing before playing, even if you get the opportunity to play right off the bat.  You'll have a much better first-play experience if you've gotten to know the people who are prancing around naked. Also, certain people who proposition newbies are sketchy, and going to munches is the best way to find out who.  Remember that women who prey on men, and submissives who prey on dominants, do exist.]

8. Don't touch people or stuff without permission. You will notice that people in the scene can be touchy and huggy. They know each other. If you get to know people you can probably get hugs too. If you want. People should not be touching you if you don't want them to.

[BDSM culture is stricter about touch than you're used to.  If someone is touching you without asking, they know, or should, that they're crossing the line.  On your part, remember that even a friendly touch on the arm can turn weird under BDSM social rules; even if it seems goofy, ask first.]

[Also: It's good to make an ally early on--preferably someone you know isn't attracted to you at all--that you know you're safe around and can go to if someone's pushing your boundaries.]

9. Guard your identity. Don’t give out your real name, phone number, or post pictures of your face without a good reason. Get a Google voice number to hand out instead. It also works with texting and you can block calls with Google Voice if you need to.

10. Meet new people in a public place or at a group event. Trade personal identity information later if you feel comfortable, and want to meet them privately.

[Rule 10 requires you to break rule 9, and I agree with this.  It's prudent not to share your personal information with the kinky "public"--everyone at the munch doesn't need to know where you work--but it's rude and creepy not to share it with your play partners.  Personally, I wouldn't go to someone's house alone or let them in mine unless I knew their "real life" identity.  There's some trust involved in this, yeah; but there's some trust involved in getting tied up and beaten.]

11. Learn what a safety call is and use it. At the very least tell a friend where and who you are meeting, and let the person you are meeting know you did this.

12. Read a lot! SM 101, Screw the Roses, Loving Dominant, Ethical Slut, etc.

13. If you are looking for a mentor, look at your peers. If you are a submissive, find an experienced submissive to mentor you.

[I.e., not a dominant!  Lots of dominants are lovely people who will give you great guidance, but they don't know what it's like being a submissive, and there's also a big risk of conflict of interest.  If you don't have an official mentor, at least have a close submissive friend.  Go to them with your "X wants to play with me, are they cool?" and "X wants to do Y with me and I feel Z about it, what do you think?" type questions.]

14. Ask questions. People are happy to help you learn.

15. Practice saying “No, thank you”. Be firm but polite. You may get many offers – much more than what you are used to in vanilla life.

[One big difference from vanilla culture: simply asking is almost never impolite.  Someone saying "would you like me to beat you?", even if it seems a little bit out of the blue, is not being creepy.  It's only creepy if they fail to take the first "no" for a clear and final answer. That's when you need to find your ally or a party host and tell them you need backup.]

16. If you are at an event, please say hi to the hosts. We love to meet new people, and we can introduce you to good people.

17. Ask for what you want, when you are ready. And don’t be afraid to ask for something simple and mild.

[This one is important!  You will see some people playing very "heavy" at play parties.  They are certainly the most eye-catching.  They are not the best at BDSM, or the realest, or anything like that.  "I want to get your drinks tonight" is just as legit a desire as "I want to be your slave."  "I want to spank you a little" is just as real as "I want to suspend you from the ceiling and beat you with a cane."]

18. Trust your gut. If something feels wrong, assume it is.

[A million times yes to this. Every time I've said to myself "aw, you're being unfair, just give them a chance," I've regretted it.  When it comes to your body and your safety, be unfair.]

Copyright 2011-2012 Match Stick, major contributions by kaminaru. Licensed under the Creative Commons Share Alike Attribution License. Please feel free to copy, improve, translate, and share. You don't need to ask permission first.

Feel free to tattoo it on your ass. If you do, please send me a picture!