Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kinky philosophy for vanilla sex.

Via tumblr happybdsm, which is awesome
[Oh jeez it's been too long. I don't even have a good excuse this time.  The dog ate my blogging schedule? Bad dog.]

For all the problems in the reality of kink, I love the ideals.  Kinksters may not practice perfect consent and communication (or, sometimes, any), but at least we know we're supposed to.  We talk about these things, we have classes and workshops on them, we even pass out little flyers about consent and communication.  I wish everyone did that.  I wish everyone, in this way, had sex the way kinksters do.

You can't avoid communication in kink, because the category of "kink" is too wide open for there to be any "default" script for play.  "Wanna hmm-hmm y'know? [meaningful eyebrow wiggle]" is just not ever going to convey "wanna tie me to a chair and verbally humiliate and lightly beat me?"  You've got to come out and say it, because there's just no other way your partner will have a clue what you're thinking.

You can't be fuzzy about consent in kink, because what you're doing would be literally torture if it weren't for consent.  You can't beat a person black and blue with a cane because they seem like they want you to.  You really have to reconsider your life choices if you start tying a person immobile because they didn't tell you to stop.  I mean, that doesn't make you a little insensitive or "bad at communicating," that makes you a few steps shy of being the goddamn Jigsaw killer.

Is either of these things really unique to kink?  I don't think so.  There's certainly a cultural "default" script for heterosexual vanilla intercourse, but is that the only sex you want to have your whole life?  And there's certainly more tolerance in society for "I kissed him so he should've known I wanted to have sex" than there is for "I kissed him so he should've known to handcuff my wrists to my ankles," but I'm not sure the first is any less absurd or dangerous.

Sex is a scene.  Even if there's not a bit of kink to it, if it's entirely gentle and egalitarian and "normal," it's a scene.  It's an intense manipulation of another person's body purely (or hopefully at least partly) for the purpose of pleasure.

So what are the rules for a scene?
-You have to negotiate, whether you find negotiation sexy in itself or not.
-You have to be honest with your partner what you're looking for, and expect them to be honest with you.
-You have to take safety precautions, and consciously accept the risks that exist even with precautions.
-You have to respect safewords. ("No," "stop," "wait," and such are safewords unless otherwise negotiated.)
-You have to be aware of your partner's responses and check in with them if things seem off.
-You have to be able to distinguish--and doublethink a little bit--between the fantasy that makes it hot and the reality that makes it ethical.

That's a lot of concepts but not necessarily a ton of work.  In an established relationship you can do it with one sentence sometimes.  Zero sentences if you have pre-negotiated understandings.  What really matters is the mindset--that sex is not a thing that just happens.  Sex is a thing you do, and it's worth doing deliberately.

As with most of my "Cliff's Super Confident Sounding Guide To Life" posts, this is something I'm still working on myself.  I'm guilty of asking for sex with "mmhm y'know" when I really had a lot more to say, and I wish I hadn't, but I still do it sometimes.  Learning to have sex deliberately is a process and not an easy one.  But the rewards (amazing orgasms, snugglywugglies, no "does he really like this" doubts, no "that coulda been better" regrets) are so worth it.  And kink has helped me tremendously on this journey.

I don't think the specific activities of kink are any use to vanilla people.  If you're not wired for this stuff then you're not wired for it.  But I think everyone, kinky or vanilla, should learn how to practice Risk Aware Consensual Fuckin'.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cosmocking: June '12!

Blue cover!  Pink!  I mean... er, you know what I mean, there's a picture!  "Where to Meet a Guy in June!" Thanks, Cosmo, for tracking the migration of the flocks of men as they enter their northern nesting grounds!  "When Your Period Makes You Cra-a-zy!" I hate the "ladies be crazy on their periods" meme because I get depressed during my period and I don't like having my efforts to act normal and responsible despite crushing sadness described as "cra-a-zy!"  "Wild Sex Stories! You'll Die When You Read What These 'Normal' Guys Wanted Once Their Pants Hit the Floor!" Ha ha, pervs, serves you right for trusting your sexual partner with your sexual desires!
Order a cheeseburger: There are times when you've just got to order a Quarter Pounder, and that's really attractive.  It shows a girl is laid-back.
I'm all for this!  Except that it's in the same magazine with pages and pages of tummy-firming tips and diet recipes and "eat this not that."  Apparently women are supposed to look to men like they're laid-back about their eating, but God, not actually be laid-back.   Also, have you ever been on a restrictive diet and then suddenly eaten a huge cheeseburger?  It's... well, it's not always glamorous what happens after that.
Experts we spoke to say that you should say no when he asks you to do something you won't enjoy more often than you say yes.
Wow, those must be some really fancy experts.  Somehow Cosmo manages to make a page-long "The One Time to Never Tell Him Yes" article out of "when you don't want to do a thing, tell your boyfriend you don't want to do it."  I mean, I totally agree, it's just... does it have to be justified in terms of love experts and secretly strengthening your bond?  You goddamn well don't want to do it. That's all you need.  You're a person and you get to choose things.
["8 Ways To Send Him Away Screaming"] Use baby talk... in public.  Guys love being verbally castrated in front of other guys--it brings out their feminine side. While you're at it, ask him to pick up some tampons and diet iced tea for you.
Guys.  Real talk.  If you identify as a man, then you're a man.  That's not something you can accidentally lose by doing the wrong thing.  It's not something someone else can take away.  It will not be revoked if you forget to man around like a manly man at all times.  Your manhood is safe.  Fuckin' relax.

Also, I have nothing but the highest respect for a cis guy with tampons in his bathroom.  That doesn't say to me that he's feminized.  It says he expects visitors with uteruses and he thinks things through.
Q. My guy and I have attended lots of weddings, and he won't dance. I know he's self-conscious, but how can I get him to loosen up? 
A. [after dumb "get him drunk" joke"] Many guys feel unmanly on the dance floor, so you'll need to start slow--literally.  Get him to slow-dance with you one night at home, where he won't worry about a crowd watching.  Put on music when you're making dinner one night. Then give him a lingering hug, start swaying, and tell him, "Hey look--you're dancing!"
This is like how you teach a toddler to swim.  Unfortunately, this is not how you teach an adult that it matters to you when they say "I don't want to do this."  Say the guy never dances at a wedding in his entire life--what then?  He's not telling you not to dance. He's not making a scene out of not-dancing.  Why not just let him be his undancing self?  Unfortunately, the secret theme of this month's Cosmo is "people don't get to make choices just because they choose to."
Q. How do I let a new guy who I'm seeing know up front that I am looking for a relationship without freaking him out? 
A. Well, if you say, "I'm looking for something serious" on the first date (or even the second), you'll probably never set eyes on him again, because even men who are looking for a committed relationship will think you're superclingy. [...] If you usually sleep with men after just one or two dates, stop.  [...] Generally men put you in the just-a-hookup category if you give it up early.
So... the way to tell a guy that I want a serious relationship with him and I want to sleep with him is to tell him exactly the opposite at every opportunity.  Boy, that's a solid foundation for a long-term relationship.  You know, once you're past the "I have to have her, she misrepresents herself like a lady" stage, eventually you're going to have to start having relationship negotiations in forward-language, and  isn't it sort of scary to commit to a relationship with no idea whether the two of you are capable of that?

And there's a deep sadness in the message, "You have to hide your true intentions from your date, because he'd be disgusted if he knew how needy and horny you really are on the inside.  Your pathetic human needs are secret shames to bury deeply."

...For some reason I can't stop reading that in the voice of Pinhead.
"My ex was really into having me wear his clothes in bed--button-downs, tee shirts, boxers, that kind of thing. But one evening, he rolled over and said he had always fantasized about me wearing his jockstrap.  Yeah, we didn't last much longer after that."
There's nothing wrong with breaking up with someone because you're uncomfortable with their fetishes.  But the smug, forgone-conclusion tone of this story (like all the other ones in this article--it's full of guys with harmless fetishes and girls going "ewww freeeak") makes me sad.  Like he should've known better than to even ask, because obviously no woman would wear a jockstrap for him.

I would.  I wear men's clothes pretty much exclusively these days, and although boxer-briefs are more my style, I'd totally wear a jockstrap in bed.  Women who are able and willing to indulge various fetishes, who have fetishes of our own, exist.  Telling guys that they're gross for ever asking anyone to play along with their fetishes isn't just cruel, it's flat-out wrong.

It also encourages guys to not ask at all.  If all women are sure to laugh you out of town if you ask "can I lick your armpit?" (another one in the article), and you don't want to live your whole life without ever tasting armpit, the only apparent solution is to pressure, trick, or outright force a woman to go along with it.

One of my core beliefs is that spreading the word that women sometimes do want sex is crucial to explaining why it's important to respect when women don't want sex.  If you think women always just tolerate sex, then forcing them to tolerate it doesn't seem like such a big deal.  And if you think women never really want to indulge fetishes, why would "no, I don't want to indulge your fetishes" slow you down?
[When you go skinny-dipping with a guy] "Forget" to bring a towel for him.  He'll just have to stay naked a little longer.
That'll be one awkward walk back to the parking lot.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Real consent.

tumblr user laceandcombatboots
EDIT: Okay, some people are linking to this with the wrong intentions. I need to clarify.  This is NOT NOT NOT saying that any time the word "yes" comes out of a person's mouth under any conditions, that counts as consent.  Consent that's ambivalent or reluctant or resigned isn't "not enthusiastic," it's not consent.  All I wanted to say with this post is that there are multiple ways consent can be valid--not that everything remotely consent-ish is valid.

 There are also multiple ways a "yes" can be not-consent, and until you know someone really well and have communicated with them really openly about their motivations and convinced them really thoroughly that everything will be 100% fine if they say "no"--you need to hold out for the "YES FUCK ME NOW" consent.

So if you're linking this post to prove a point about "but they said yes, so is it really rape?" ...Fuck off.

I'm starting to have a problem with the phrase "enthusiastic consent."  It's well-meant, certainly: it's supposed to connote consent where the person consenting really means it, as opposed to situations where someone says "yes" out of fear or obligation or confusion or some other crappy reason that isn't "actually wanting to have sex."  I'm all for that, obviously, but the phrase sucks.  The phrase implies that you have to be horny to consent to sex, that the only real consent is consent given when not just agreeing to sex but craving it.

The problem is that this doesn't respect the agency of the person consenting.  It ignores the ability of a sober adult to say "I don't want this with my crotch, but I'm agreeing to it with my brain."  It tells people "You say you're consenting, but I know better, you poor dear."  And that's pretty shitty.  As someone who consents to things most people would consider gross or unpleasant (I've heard way too many times a woman can't really want to be punched black and blue) I'm in no position to tell someone else their consent isn't real. If you're unsure if your partner wants it or is just going along with it, lack of enthusiasm definitely means you need to stop and clarify--but it doesn't mean they can't clarify "yes, actually I do want this."

Which is not to say "yes" is a magic word that always makes everything okay.  But what matters isn't "enthusiastic consent" but simply "real consent"--consent that's given freely and sincerely.  Consent that someone gives because they're afraid they'll be physically or emotionally attacked if they don't isn't real consent.  Consent that's given when someone is incapable of understanding what they're agreeing to (because they're drugged, or they're a child, or they're saying "yes" to a different thing than will actually be done to them) isn't real consent.  And obviously consent that's withdrawn or never given at all isn't real consent.

But here are some examples of consent that can be very real, yet not enthusiastic:

• Consent to sex in order to conceive a child.

• Consent to sex or play to make a partner happy.  This is a tricky one, because the line between "I wanted to make them happy" and "I was afraid to make them unhappy" can get messy.  But consent to "I don't think I'll get pleasure from this, but I still want to give pleasure" definitely can be real.

• Consent to sex work. Sex work can be coercive, but it's not inherently, and drawing that line at "sex work is coercive if the sex worker isn't horny" is absurd.

• Consent to sex or play for curiosity's sake, despite a lack of physical desire.

• Consent to sex in a D/s relationship where the submissive agrees to sex they don't want as sex, but do want as an act of submission.

Grown-ups can decide why they want to have sex, and judging those reasons and whether they're "enthusiastic" enough is, frankly, none of my damn business.  All that matters is that they get to decide.

Friday, May 11, 2012


I've mentioned a couple times that Rowdy and I, despite being together almost two years now, always ask for consent before sex.  I feel like sometimes that comes off a little pious, a little bit like this unsexy ritual we go through (or claim to go through) so we can achieve ISO 9000 Consent Compliance or something.

The truth is, though, that it's an incredibly simple and casual thing.  I mean, I ask "honey, do you want to go for a walk?" too; I don't just grab him by the arm and start dragging him down the street.  It's natural to ask someone before involving them in an activity.

We ask in different ways, too.

Sometimes we ask casual, and the answer is "well alright, sounds like a good time to me."
Sometimes we ask sexy, and the answer is "oohh God yes please now."
Sometimes we ask silly, and the answer is "yes, but without the ferret, okay?"
Sometimes we ask in whispers, and the answer is "...uh huh."
Sometimes we ask through kisses, and the answer is "mmmfffyesmmmfff"
Sometimes we ask pervy, and the answer is "yes Sir."

Sometimes we ask and the answer is "no."  Most of the time we're okay with that and cheerfully go on to other things.  Other times we're not okay with that and we feel unwanted or deprived or frustrated. But those feelings are still better than the way I'd feel if I realized I'd forced my beloved into something he didn't want.

I don't think I've ever made someone stop desiring me by asking.  I've only found out that they didn't desire me.  And holy shit, am I glad I did!  Whether as serious as keeping me from becoming a rapist or as bittersweet as turning sexual tension into "at least I know now," only good things have ever come from finding out someone doesn't desire me.

I've heard people say it's not sexy to ask.  I can't think of anything sexier than knowing my lover wants me.

I've heard people say it's not romantic to ask.  I can't think of anything less romantic than making your lover decide whether they're going to to yell "stop" at you or push you away or tolerate sex they didn't want.

I've heard people say "consent is sexy," but say it in that resigned sort of way, like "safety is sexy," that doesn't really mean it's boner sexy, just it's something they're sort of trying to promote.  I think they're doing it a goddamn disservice.

For me, consent isn't just sexy.  Consent is the only sexy thing.  My partner's desire, the fact that he wants me and wants this, is the only reason sex is better than masturbation.  I've got dildos, you know? I've got dildos in multiple sizes that vibrate and never go soft.  So my partner's body isn't a big deal to me.  The ego rush, the head rush, the racing heart and the throbbing crotch I get from sex all come from his enthusiastic participation--from the joy and the umf of knowing he wants me and the things he does because he wants me.

So fuck yeah Rowdy and I ask every time.  That's not a chore.  That's when I start getting wet.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fairly unfair.

Rowdy and I are not officially a mono/poly couple, but we're pretty close these days.  I've only had sex with other people a handful of times this year (so, uh, super monogamous) and no real dates, whereas he's seeing several other people on a regular basis.  More than once he's gone to a sex party while I've stayed home; many, many times he's been on a date with someone else while I've hung out with friends or watched DVDs.

This is awkward, because I used to disapprove of mono/poly relationships.  They struck me as unfair and kind of icky, especially when they were between a polyamorous man and a monogamous woman--"boys will be boys, stand by your man" has all kinds of really nasty sexist implications.  I always worry there's a coercive element, that the man is too jealous to let the woman spread her wings and have her own fun, or that the woman wants monogamy but is too powerless to negotiate for it.  ...And now it's my life.

But here's the choice I was faced with:

A) Run out and date people just to be dating them, so I could go "ha! I'm polyamorous too! our relationship is symmetrical!"  Crappy for me, double crappy for the people I'd be using just to keep my Poly Enlightenment Cred.


B) Embrace the asymmetry as something that, despite looking the same as some really shitty unfair situations, works for me.  I don't want other partners right now, I'm happy for my partner that he does, and that's good enough.

So screw fair.  I'll settle for happy.

Our favorite stupid joke to make before sex is "Dude!  I just had an idea how we can both get laid!"  And then we fistbump and go "score, bro!"

That's what being partners really means to me.  It's about beating the system, the ugly sexist system that tries to pit us against each other, and working together to build our own system.  Sometimes it's a messy and patched-together system, the way homebuilt things tend to be, and it takes constant tinkering, but it's custom-fit to us and our weird contradictory ways.  And when it works, god damn do I feel like I'm getting away with something.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Name change.

I'm changing my name!  Yep!  I shall henceforth be known as Cliff Pervocracy.

a) I'm still going primarily by "Holly" in real life, but I'll answer to "Cliff."
b) My pronoun is still "she."
c) No big deal if you call me "Holly" from time to time. I realize this is an abrupt change, that not everybody reads every post, and I won't be upset or anything.  I expect to be "Holly/Cliff" for a while and that's okay.

a) Anonymity.  "Holly Pervocracy" is too close to my real name (my real name is "Hailey Bervocracy") and I've had some privacy scares recently.  A new name will help maintain the division between my real life and my work/school/family life.

b) Gender, part 1: Holly is a rather unambiguously feminine name, and I am a rather ambiguously feminine person.  I'm more comfortable with a masculine/neutral name.

c) Gender, part 2: I'm curious if my treatment on the Internet will change what I appear male to the casual viewer.  I've heard a lot of stories about women being engaged in discussion when they posted as "X" but treated with condescension or cynicism when they posted as "LadyX," and I'm curious if I'll have experiences mirroring that.

d) Maybe it'll stop skeevy dudes from thinking this blog is a personal ad.  NO I DO NOT WISH TO SEE YOUR PENIS SIR NO THANK YOU.

e) I like the idea of a chosen name.  In my despotic utopian fantasies, everyone would have to change their name (or consciously and explicitly choose to keep their birth name) upon reaching adulthood.  (Or better yet, every ten years.  This would result in a lot of middle-schoolers named Rocketship Dinosaur McExplosion and that's awesome.)  It's such a big and important part of your identity, it seems odd to just go with whatever you were handed.

Especially with what you were handed as a baby, when your parents couldn't know the sort of person you'd grow up to be.  Certain names fit certain sorts of people, and it's hard to predict that fit from a newborn.  "Cliff" is a name that's tough but dorky, macho-outdoorsy until you remember it's short for "Clifford," and that seems to fit me far better than "Holly."

f) The big one: I want to.

I've been having issues with wanting things lately.  Something in my brain, part from my family and part from society and maybe part just me, tells me that simply wanting a thing isn't a good enough reason to do it.  It tells me that wanting is inherently selfish and unbecoming, that wants must always be placed below all other considerations.  I can do a thing because it's healthy, because it's feminist, because it makes other people happy, because it's educational.  I can't do it just because I want to.

(This has not made me a beautifully selfless and giving person.  More "neurotic and passive.")

Honoring our own desires is not something we're taught to do.  It's assumed that kids are balls of cheerfully self-indulgent id already, that all you have to be taught is how not to eat everything and hump everything and name yourself Rocketship.  The lesson on "actually, indulging yourself in safe and considerate ways is not just okay but necessary" never really comes.

So it's something I'm learning as an adult.  I'm learning that eating delicious things makes me healthier than diet-and-shameful-binge cycles.  I'm learning that asking for sex doesn't always get me laid but it has a much better track record than not asking for sex.  I'm learning that when I have the time and money I'm allowed to go out and do silly things.  (Did you know Boston has a trampoline park?!)  I'm learning that well-considered self-indulgence is not half as annoying or gross or immature as allowing yourself to turn into a big bitter ball of frustrated desires.

I've wanted for months to start using this new name, and my "Wanting Isn't Good Enough" brain kept digging up objections.  It'll be inconvenient for people!  It'll be confusing!  It'd be okay to change to a masculine name if you were trans but since you're not then you're not allowed! It's frivolous!  It's self-indulgent.

Damn skippy it's self-indulgent.  It brings me happiness and does nothing else for the world, and that's okay, because bringing me happiness is something real and important.

So call me Cliff.  It'll make me happy. :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cosmocking: May '12!

Man, I wish I could write more often. :(
But Cosmo's here, and Cosmocking stops for nothing!

Pink... um, tomato?... er, salmon? ...reddish cover!  Some sort of Kardashian!  Featureless black dress presumably pitched as "slimming" but coming off more like "black hole"!  It's the Sex Issue, although it doesn't have particularly more or different sex than any other issue!  "Feel Great Naked--9 Foods That Burn Fat While You Eat!"  I feel great naked just as fat as I am, thanks!  Also I don't think you will burn fat by eating unless maybe you're eating a lot of ice but I really don't recommend that!
The one word a majority of dudes wish you'd say more during sex: "Harder."
I used to have this problem.  When I was a teenager, I watched too much porn, and I got the idea that "harder" was this generic expression of enthusiasm.  So I'd be having sex and moaning "harder, ohhh, harder," until the poor guy was dripping sweat and crying "for God's sake I can't go any harder."  Took me a while to figure that one out.

Anyway, their poll says 45% wanted to hear "harder," so Cosmo could use a little help with the concept of "majority."  I guess they weren't sure delicate ladybrains could handle "plurality."

There's an article in here by Sandra Fluke about "Why Do Women Need to Speak Up About Birth Control?"  It's awesome and I'm not going to make fun of it.

...And shortly afterwards there's an article about how if your boyfriend is having a bad day you should ask him to open a jar of pickles for you.  Oh Cosmo.

I guess if I don't have a pickle jar around I can just come up and hug him and say "Hey, I know you're feeling sad right now, but your triceps are statistically likely to be slightly stronger than mine."  That'd cheer anyone up.
Make a Hottie Hit on You
[The steps to making a hottie hit on you:]
Rock bold earrings or a shirt with an eye-catching graphic
Do the Cosmo heel dangle
Give him sexy eyes... twice
This issue does have a theme, as it turns out, and it's not sex.  The theme is "the alternate universe where men are incapable of hearing women's voices."

...Wait, that's the theme of every issue.  Shit, they even made it explicit in the last one.  But the "don't meet guys, present yourself for them" thing is really bad here.  Bad to the point where they suggest standing in front of the bar's men's room, because all the guys walk there at some point, therefore you're sure to get picked up.

This isn't socializing advice.  This is product display advice.
How should semen taste and smell? 
Slightly sweet and a bit chlorine-ish.
I think Cosmo's just fucking with us now.
Is there a move I can do to get him extra hard? 
Grab the base of his penis and give it a few firm pumps while talking dirty to him.
Isn't this just the time-honored method of getting a guy regular hard?

And you know, there's nothing wrong with that.  Nobody's born knowing how to work a penis.  A lot of Cosmo readers are pretty young, and learning some basic "works for most people" sex tips might not be the worst thing for them.  (Kinda breaks my heart to think of them getting the "stand outside the bathroom and your Mr. Right will find you" advice, though.)  But why package it as ultra-super-duper-mega-kinky secret sex secrets?

Maybe if Cosmo could admit to their readers (and themselves) that a lot of what they do is actually basic sex ed, they could do it more responsibly than this.
If I don't want to kiss my BF right after he performs oral sex on me, what should I do? 
Kiss other parts of his body--his neck, lower stomach.
In The Terrible Universe Where People Ruin Everything By Talking: "I don't want to kiss on the mouth right now, 'kay? But I'll kiss you here... mm, and here..."

In The Cosmoverse: [turns head away from kiss] [turns head away from other kiss] [tries to kiss boyfriend's neck while he's trying to kiss her, bashes their faces together] [ends up holding boyfriend by the face to try to muscle away from him] [finger accidentally goes up his nose]

I will never understand people who think that talking isn't suave.  Shit, you should see the stuff that happens when you don't.
Why does he always tell me he loves me during sex? 
Chemicals released in his brain make him feel attached.
This is the saddest thing Cosmo has ever printed.

I mean, okay, technically it's correct, although it's also a valid answer to "why does he tell me he loves me during a long serious discussion?"  But I don't think Cosmo meant it like that.  I think they meant it like... God, Cosmo.  That's fucking terrible.
How can I get him to slow the pace when he's on top?
Press your hand against his butt to slow him down.
He's not a horse, Cosmo.