Saturday, December 14, 2013

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey! Chapter 11!

It's a double post day!  Because I decided to, that's why!  And because nothing happens in either chapter, so really it's like getting zero chapters for the price of two!

(And because I really want to do more original writing, and I'm hoping getting more FSoG out of the way will motivate me to do that.)

I hope you like fakey, blatantly illegal legal documents, because most of this chapter is one of them!  In its entirety!  Right down to the signature page and appendices!  Because EROTICA!

Content warnings for this chapter: A legal document that somehow still manages to incorporate emotional and physical abuse and total disregard for consent.  Also forced exercise.

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey! Chapter 10!

Nothing interesting happens in this chapter, but I made a really good joke in Chapter 11, and we won't get to that if I don't post this.

Content warnings for this chapter: Emotional abuse (which is almost continuous in this chapter), child/adolescent sexual abuse.  You know, light fluffy romance stuff.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey! Chapter 8!

When we left off, Dirk HardPec was raging out at Ana because she admitted to him that she was a virgin. I remind you that this is our romantic hero who is supposed to be the epitome of the sexually appealing man.
Content warnings for this chapter: graphic sex, general abusive dickheaddery. I tell some icky personal stories, one of which involves coerced ickiness and both of which involve blood.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 7!

When we last saw our intrepid heroes, they were entering Hack BlowFist's playroom, and she was playing "I'm too innocent to know anything about sex ever" while he was playing "I'm too domly to make any accommodations for that."
Content warnings for this chapter: disordered eating, plus coercion and emotional abuse all the hell over the place.  (And detailed BDSM talk, but I feel weird "warning" for that, lumping one of the happiest parts of my life in with all those terrible things.  Also, you're on a blog called "The Pervocracy" that has "BDSM" at the top of every page.  ...Anyway, there's detailed BDSM talk in here.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 6!

When we last left our intrepid heroes, he was committing sexual assault in an elevator, and her inner goddess was doing a samba about it.

Content warnings for this chapter: Stalking and emotional abuse, mostly.  The rape themes are still hanging around, too.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 5!

When we last left Fifty Shades of Grey, a man had found a woman by tracing her cellphone and now was taking her unconscious body up to his hotel room.  Which would be fine, if this were a spy thriller.  Unfortunately, it's a BDSM romance.

Content warnings for this chapter: sexual assault, a LOT.  Plus stalking and general "you might not want to read this while eating" grossness.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Sexcalator.

By the time I was out of my early twenties, I'd done some fairly hardcore BDSM.  I'd been beaten, whipped, cut, bound, shocked, peed on, done most of the above naked in front of strangers, and frequently during sex.  Which raises the question--where do you go from there?  When you're so young, and you've already had such intense experiences, what's left?

Cuddling on the couch, for one.  Or having slow sleepy sex at the end of the day.  Or--not to make this sound like "but then I discovered that sweet gentle love was the most daring of all!"--getting beaten some more, not necessarily in a harder or more shocking way than before.

One of the many, many unspoken assumptions out there about sex is that it's an escalating process.  Think about how kids talk about it when they're starting to experiment--how far did you go?  Did you get to second base?  Third?  Did you go all the way?  It implies a system where oral sex is more sex than a handjob, and should be an experience you have later.

(This ended up being rather hurtful for me when I gave a guy a handjob before ever having a real kiss, and went through quite a bit of "does that mean I'm too dirty and corrupt for anyone to kiss now?" internal strife before discovering that kissing was still available to me and quite nice.)

The assumption doesn't really go away when you grow up.  It just adds on the idea that you have to stop at an appropriate point on the escalator, or you'll end up on a slippery slope.  ...Which sounds like an awesome waterslide to me.  But the point is supposed to be that if you go "past" penis-in-vagina intercourse by too much, you'll have gone "too far" and you might never return.

Then the inclined planes metaphor turns into a drug metaphor, and you get the idea that "overdosing" on sexuality will make you build up a tolerance, and then "normal" sex won't get you high any more.  You'll have to start fucking donkeys or something just to feel anything.  (I think this has some kind of folkloric connection to the frat-boy myth that vaginas are single-use and will always be the size of the largest object that ever penetrated them.) If your sex tolerance gets too high, you'll keep doing more and more depraved things, until kinky has given way to outright evil, your life falls apart completely, and you become a sex addict and maybe a sexual predator.

There's all kinds of micro-fuckups built into this macro-fuckup paradigm.  Like how sex with people of the same gender, people of a different race, trans people, or people with certain disabilities gets moved to the "more depraved" side of the escalator.  Or how activities people didn't consent to are counted as moving them up the escalator; or someone's position on the escalator is used as an excuse to ignore their consent.  Or, of course, how all this is much more intensely and dangerously enforced against women than men.

Or how something's position on the escalator, rather than its potential to harm, is used as a benchmark of "obscenity."  Or how relationships are expected to escalate, and failure to gradually ramp up the escalator to a certain point ("spicy," which is just a couple steps above center) is taken as failure of the relationship.  Or how even individual sex acts are supposed to have their own escalation, and after you've started groping you're not ever supposed to go back to just kissing.

Or how child molestation and rape are sometimes described as the end of the escalator, like they're what happens when kinkiness goes "too far." and oh my god fuck everything about that.  Or how PIV intercourse is positioned at the exact center, the gold standard which no man should fall short of and no woman should exceed.

Or how lost you can get saying "we shouldn't consider X dirtier than Y," when you ought to be setting the entire idea of sex-as-escalation on fire.

(So it's a baseball game, an escalator, a waterslide, a drug, gold, and it's on fire.  Work with me here.  Take some Claritin if you can't handle analogy.)

In the end, sex is like... it's not really like anything.  Freed from analogies and paradigms and fixed linear progression, sex can get amorphous.  There's no order to do things in, no right or wrong (consensual) things to do, no guarantee of how it will or won't change you, no idea how it does or doesn't correlate with romantic attachment, no guide to what will come next.  It's not even entirely clear what sex is.  Sex could be freakin' anything if the people doing it want it to be.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 4!

I have to head down to New Jersey for another round of family drama, so you get a new chapter of FSoG!

When we last saw our intrepid heroes, Ana was falling down because clumsiness is the Designated Harmless Romantic Heroine Flaw, and Buff HardBack was using catching her as an excuse to paw and stare at her because he is gross.

Also, this is the beginning of the part of the book where we're going to want warnings going in, because hoo boy.  CONTENT WARNINGS FOR THIS CHAPTER: Stalking, rape threats, sexual assault, abuse of drunk people.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 3!

First, a (somewhat last-minute) ANNOUNCEMENT:

I will be speaking on "How To Have Sex On Purpose" at the University of Pittsburgh Rainbow Alliance this Thursday (Sept. 26)!  Members of the public are welcome; the event will be at 8:45 PM in the Kurtzman room on the main floor of the William Pitt union, on the corner of Fifth Ave and Bigelow Blvd (4200 Fifth Ave).  If I have any Pittsburgh readers... come say hi!

We continue with FSoG where we left off--with Splint ChestHair acting like an insufferably self-satisfied stalker, and Ana acting like she needs Giles to run in and yell "she's under some sort of thought control spell!"

This is probably the last chapter of the book that does not require a major trigger warning.  (It does feature stalking and general creepiness, but nowhere near as bad as it's about to get.)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cosmocking: September '13!

Pink cover!  Nina Dobrev!  Which is odd because the main interview/profile (which is almost always the person on the cover) is with Rebel Wilson!  I guess they didn't think Rebel Wilson was cover material because she's clearly too fat to be glamorous!  "Mind Blowing Sex Moves You've Never Tried Before!" God, I hope they really are, because that means they'll be hilarious! I can't work with Cosmo when they just do shit like "amazing newly-discovered sex secret: touch his penis!"
During sex, she asked me if I would say "Parsons," which is where she went to college.  I thought it was weird, but because I was drunk, I went with it. Then she asked me to say "Park the car in the Harvard Yard"--she said my Boston accent turned her on!  So I continued to say random sentences for her.
The sex must've been pretty damn good, because most Bostonians will flip you off if you start "PAAHHHK THE CAHHHH"ing at them.

(Then again, I'm a hypocrite, because I still think it's funny to make Rowdy say "roof" and "bag." Not in bed though.  Although I did once sleep with a different guy from the Upper Midwest and he said "ooh jeez, ooh jeez, OOOH JEEZ" the whole time.  This has nothing to do with Cosmo. I just really wanted to tell that story.)
Take some sexy fabric with you when you two travel together, and use it to make a normal hotel look like a love motel.
Sexy... fabric?  If this were about sexy sheets, I'd sort of get that. But it's not sheets.  You just bring some, like, red satin with you and tack it up to the headboard. Okay.

Man, and some people think condoms interrupt the spontaneity of sex.  I hope they end up with partners who want to stop to reupholster the room first.
Fifty Shades of Grey has made its mark abroad: Light BDSM is the most popular sex trend in the world right now.
I'm writing in extreme detail what I think of Fifty Shades of Grey, so I won't get into that here.  But god, I hate that phrase "light BDSM."  Or "light bondage."  Places like Cosmo always use it to mean "acceptable BDSM that is for normal people and not weird degenerate freaks."  I'm not sure what makes it that way.

Mostly it seems to involve keeping yourself pure by staying ignorant of good technique or safety measures.  Negotiating and then tying someone up with hemp rope and two-column ties and safety shears is heavy freaky BDSM; surprising your partner by tying them up with a slipknot in a silk scarf is--by Cosmo standards--light BDSM.
Q: Sex with my boyfriend has become meh. How can I talk to him about improving it 
A: Having a serious conversation can be overkill. Take action instead.
Yeah, because if you talked about this, it would be a challenge you had to work on together!  But this way, it's something he can be oblivious to while you bust your ass trying to "spice things up"!  Of course, there is the slight drawback that if there's an actual reason your sex life has changed, you're never going to know it; you'll just grow gradually more resentful that he isn't responding to your efforts.  But that's a small price to pay for not having to take the massive, drastic step of communicating with your partner.
Q: I was having sex with a guy I've been hooking up with, and he said to me, "I don't want you doing this with anyone else."  Is he asking me to be exclusive?

Yes. Yes, that is what those words mean.

Although he's not offering to be exclusive himself, so unless you have a well-negotiated intentionally asymmetrical relationship, and I can absolutely guarantee you do not, he's being kind of a double-standardy asshole.
Q: My fiancĂ© is sensitive to my needs and always makes sure I have an orgasm. But sometimes, I wish he would just push me down and have his way with me. He was like this once, after we went out and had a few drinks, and it was amazing. How do I get him to do that again 
A: Uh, was that the only time the two of your ever got drunk together?  Because it sounds like getting drunk together worked pretty well. Whether you're drinking or not, I'd recommend going out wearing a hot dress or skirt and whispering to him at some point that you're not wearing any underwear. It'll build up his anticipation until it explodes back home.  You can also, you know, tell him what you want.
So, basically you should try and entice him to attack you, as men are compelled to do to women in sexy clothing who are drunk.  Gahhh.

I do like that Cosmo finally raises the possibility of communicating, though. Maybe they should have put that before the "drive his animal side so wild that he'll want to hurt you and have no idea you're actually enjoying it!"
the Footsie Roll: Place the condom securely on the tip with your hands, then lean back and balance on your forearms. Place your feet on either side of his penis, and gently roll the condom down with your big toes.
This is going to go down really, really differently depending on how he feels about feet. You might want to check on that first.
 [on women's dating profile pictures] The World Traveler: On a camel, on the top of a mountain, on a beach, on a boat... I admire the adventurous spirit, but will I ever be able to keep up with her?  Is she ever at home?  What's she running away from--him?
Women who take vacations: clearly fleeing a dark past.  You heard it here first, folks.
 [a Zales jewelry ad] All of the carats. None of the calories.
Diamonds: a low calorie food! Winner of this year's Technical Truth in Advertising award.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 2!

[Apparently this is how I procrastinate Cosmocking now. Darnit. It is coming, I swear.]

We continue where we left off: with a heroine defined by awkward babbling and a hero defined by being Dracula.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 1!

Alright, I should have done this years ago, but since the meme is still not dead, I think it's not too late.

I'm reading Fifty Shades of Grey.  I'm going to write this as I read it, rather than finishing and going to the end, so you're getting my first reaction here.  I'm also going to put this all behind pagebreaks, so I can go on as long as I like and not shit up my main blog with glorified Twilight fanwank.

Let's begin. God have mercy on our souls.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Not So Different.

The first time I touched a penis, I was amazed: it's just skin!  It didn't feel all that different from the skin anywhere else on his body.  I'd been expecting... I don't know what I was expecting. Something exotic, something totally new and different and dirty and scary and strange.  Like maybe it would feel like a squid, or be electrified, or cause the world to tastefully fade to a view of fluttering curtains.

Because it was a sex thing, and everything I had learned in life up to that point had primed me with the idea that sex things are nothing like ordinary thing things.  Sex ed was always set apart from ordinary life skills teaching.  Sex movies were special secret movies I wasn't supposed to see.  Sex wasn't just a taboo; it was a mystery, an esoteric alternate dimension where people became their animalistic sex-selves.

But there I was, touching a penis, and it turned out to be completely continuous with the rest of his body.  It was just a part of him.  And the sex we had was just a part of life.  A fun part, sure--sometimes a magnificently, transcendently pleasurable part--but it did not take place in a different universe nor did it make us into different people.  The me who fucked until I was sweat-slick and screaming was the very same me who got up the next day and made my bed and went to class.  The line between "sex" and "life" had been a lie.

Sometimes people say "sex is a part of life" to mean "sex isn't a big deal."  I don't agree with that.  I think sex is a big deal--but only a big deal.  Not a magical mystical none-of-the-normal-rules-apply deal.

Which is to say: the normal rules do apply.  Everything you learned from Mister Rogers about how you treat other people--that's how you treat other people when you're fucking them, too.  It's simple stuff, mostly, and you don't need some Sex Expert to dispense Sex Wisdom to know it: Be honest. Ask permission before touching things that aren't yours. Be safe.  Don't bully or make fun of people.  Don't  throw tantrums when you don't get everything you want.  Keep your promises.  Use your words.  Brush your teeth.

Really, this is the whole foundation of my sexual ethics.  It's not Betty Dodson and it's not Susie Bright.  It's Fred McFeely Rogers.

"Is it okay to cheat on my partner if they won't have sex with me?"  Keep your promises.
"Are people who've had too much sex icky bad people?"  Don't bully or make fun of people.
"Is it okay to have sex with someone who's asleep, if they've had sex with me before?" Ask permission before touching things that aren't yours.
"What should I do if I want an open relationship?" Use your words.

I don't want to make this sound oversimplified--there are lots of questions where it's not immediately clear which option is "being honest" versus "throwing a tantrum", or what exactly constitutes a "promise"--but it's simple at the core of it.  Everything you know about how to be a decent person still applies when sex is involved.  You don't need to figure out (or more often, not figure out, but excuse your behavior by claiming they exist) special different Sex Rules for everything.  Sex isn't a special case in ethics. It's just a case.

The other night, a friend and I kidnapped a man. We blindfolded him and threw him in the back of a car and drove in circles to disorient him (or possibly because I forgot that you can't turn left at the end of White Street), marched him around in public and treated him as our captive, tackled him when he tried to escape, then took him home and interrogated him.  (Then we fed him cake.)

This wasn't okay because the guy was kinky, or because we were.  It wasn't okay because we didn't really hurt him.  It wasn't okay because it was fun and sexy and you can let your morals slip a little for funsexiness.  It wasn't okay because we followed some obscure set of specifically kinky rules for how to do this in a correct kinky way.  It was okay because we used our words, got permission, and kept our promises.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cosmocking: August '13!

I know I start too many posts with excuses, so I'll just say: major family crisis which is still ongoing and will probably end badly.  (Oh god, I hate speaking in vague-ese.  Basically what I mean is my grandmother had a heart attack and is having major health and psychological crises on a daily basis, which I'm being repeatedly sucked into.)  Also I have various mental hangups about posting on this blog which are matched only by my mental hangups about not posting on it.  I'm working on those.

Anyway. Cosmocking is very overdue, so, without further ado...

Blue cover!  They didn't tag this "the HOT issue," because Cosmo is getting all serious these days, but they haven't totally lost touch with their roots because they still snuck in a "SUPERHOT!" on the cover.  Demi Lovato!  I feel so old when I have no idea who the cover people are!  "Best. Sex. Ever. 42 New Tips!" The tips turn out to be things like talking dirty and using a blindfold and there's nothing wrong with that but wow that is some chutzpah calling them new! "The Real Reason He Never Texted!"  Generally I assume it's because he missed the message or procrastinated answering it and if I remind him he'll get in touch!  Because if it's anything else then I'd say I dodged a bullet!
FAIL: A U.N. report suggest we eat more bugs in order to fight world hunger. Blech.
Because I am a pedant (and I've eaten a few bugs in my day), I found the report they're talking about. It goes into depth about all the different ways people eat insects right now: caterpillars are popular in central Africa, crickets and beetles are snacks in Thailand, witchetty grub is a traditional food in Australia, ant larvae are a delicacy in Mexico... the question the UN is posing isn't "what if people ate insects?" but "why doesn't everyone eat insects?"

The answer, is, in part: because Westerners think it's icky and suppress insect-based culinary traditions, even when doing so leads to widespread malnutrition (PDF link).  Turns out that going "ewww FAIL" at important protein sources is not, in fact, sound global food policy.
Sexy vs. Skanky
For all that Cosmo is supposed to be totally feminist now, you guys, they still have this section, and they still use it to say "women wearing revealing clothing - sexy; women wearing incrementally more revealing clothing - skanky."

See, if guys see part of your breasts, they'll want to have sex with you, and that's great; but if guys see a slightly larger part of your breasts, they'll think you want to have sex with them, and that's terrible.
So You Want To Be A Princess: Grown, professional women are sporting glass slippers, spending thousands on a Cinderella wedding, and holding out for Prince Charming. What the frock is going on?
This is a really weird trend piece.  It's almost up to New York Times levels of "taking a trend that basically no one is involved in, acting like it's sweeping the country, than judging all the people who are supposedly involved."  I'm just going to give you some amazing quotes from this piece and let them stand on their own merits here.
The professional princess doesn't claw her way up the ladder. She ascends through the ranks by employing kindness, courtesy, and charm, leaving everyone with whom she has worked sinking her praises. 
Driving around in her pink car, texting on her pink iPhone, and still planning her Little Mermaid wedding, she waits for the man who will open doors for her, buy her flowers every day, and know her favorite song--"not because he has to but because he wants to." 
"It's a form of insanity," Orenstein says. "Why can't they emulate queens?" 
Not having to be in charge is the point of princess culture, adds Rebecca Hains, Ph.D, author of Confronting Cinderella. "These women are saying they want it all but in a way that doesn't involve the work and does involve the sparkle and glamour. [...] Women are being joyously duped."
Their definitions of what a princess is have become intensely personal. 
For her at least, being a princess is not about being self-absorbed, materialistic, or rescued by a man. "I know it's silly," she says. "But there was such female bonding and empowerment out there. The women weren't like, 'Hey, move, you're in my way.' They were like 'Hey, I like your tutu."
At least it's not "hookup culture."

...Okay, five bucks to anyone who finds me a trend piece on "princess hookup culture."
"Our life feels like it's turned into one errand after another, so we've started assigning sex acts to errands. His going down on me equals grocery store, so now I love our trips to Whole Foods."
"Hey, honey, want to [eyebrow waggle] take the paint cans to the hazardous waste center?"
Q: Sometimes my boyfriend takes too long to finish, and I'm lying there, uncomfortable, wondering, "How much longer?" Is there anything I can do to help him get there faster?
A: Yes! But let's start with the basics: A survey of sex therapists in The Journal of Sex Medicine found that intercourse lasting from 7 to 13 minutes is the most desirable.
Well, that's great to know, but a survey of me in the journal of my vagina came up with different results, so maybe having sex for the objectively correct amount of time shouldn't be the goal here?
[How to talk to your boyfriend when he's unemployed]: It's best to put the emphasis on you. Say, "I just don't get why you're not trying harder to get a job--you're so talented! What's going on?" Complimenting him instead of insulting him will help him open up. See what we did there?
...You told him that he's deciding to be unemployed and demanded an explanation for why he made that decision?  Yeah, I see what you did there.
Q: A guy asked me out to see a movie. He picked me up, so I offered to pay for the movie tickets, saying it was like reimbursing him for gas money. I didn't think he would let me, but he did. Shouldn't he have tried to pay?A: He shouldn't have tried to pay for the tickets--he should have insisted on paying for them.
Okay, seriously?  I am so fucking sick of people who think "they should have known I meant the exact opposite of what I said" is acceptable adult communication.  If you say you're going to pay for the tickets, and you are after all a grown woman with money of her own, then the reasonable assumption a person would make is that you're going to pay for the tickets.

In LARPing (shit... this post is revealing I've both eaten bugs and LARPed, god I'm a sexy beast), when someone holds their hand up with their fingers crossed, it means they're speaking out of character.  It's a safety hatch for unambiguously saying "no, I literally mean this," so that if you say "hold up, I twisted my ankle," it's clear that you the player are hurt, not merely playing a character who's hurt.

Cosmo relationships need an "out of character" gesture, is what I'm saying.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cosmocking: July '13!

Pinkish cover!  Kelly Osbourne!  Apparently Cosmo feels that tracheas and neck muscles are really unbecoming, this is the zillionth cover in a row where they've Photoshopped all the features off someone's neck!  (Look at the pendant. It's in the center of her chest. Now try to find the center of her throat.)  "Are you too self-obsessed"?  Take a quiz where you answer questions about yourself to find this out about yourself!
Because I have to report a lot of quotes from guys for our stories, one of the first things I did on the job [as a Cosmo writer] was put together a huge e-mail list of every guy I've ever known.  Then I started bombarding their in-boxes with totally TMI questions. ("Happy Monday! What's your favorite sex position?")
Every guy she's ever known?  Gah!  I'm guessing "how important are personal boundaries to you?" wasn't one of the questions.

Also, I just went through my address list for all the men, and a distressing number of them were either relatives or people I have a purely professional relationship with.  If I tried mass e-mailing all the male names, I'd probably end up sending "When do you think is 'too soon' for anal sex?" to my dentist.
"I love bringing guys to my summerhouse to have sex on the lake in this small kayak. The smooth rock of the boat adds unexpected movement, so every feeling is like a shock of pleasure."
I don't think Cosmo knows what a kayak is.

This is a kayak.  Now, granted, I'm sure the ideal Cosmo woman is far smaller and more flexible than I am, but still, I don't see any way that's going to work.

Anyway, I know kayak sex can't be done, because I looked for pictures of it, and I couldn't find any.   If there isn't a picture of a sex act on the Internet, it is physically impossible.
Recently, I jokingly asked my boyfriend which of my friends he'd want to hook up with if he and I weren't together. It took some convincing for him to answer, but he eventually said my best friend. I know I pushed him to answer, but now I'm worried he actually wants to hook up with her, and I'm a little resentful of my friend. Am I being a little too paranoid?
Oh for God's sake.

The troubling thing here is that Cosmo fakes all their "reader-submitted" content, so someone sat down and wrote this, and what they chose to write is the most groaningly misogynistic "women are clingy and fickle and everything they say is secretly a trap" stereotype imaginable.  Yeah, you can argue it's just this one character, nobody said all women are like that, but... this is one step away from "Dear Cosmo, I become unreasonable when I'm on my period and sometimes I deny guys sex just to amuse myself. Also I cry when I break a nail. Please advise."
[When you're traveling alone] Before you even up your hotel-room door, glance over your shoulder to make sure no one sees you enter alone--you want as few people as possible knowing you're there by yourself. If there's someone in the hallway, keep walking and loop back in a few.
And if the other person's room is at the end of the hallway you walk down, that's going to get really awkward.  Maybe she could just walk in and yell "HI HONEY I'M BACK, HOW WAS YOUR KRAV MAGA AND WEIGHTLIFTING AND TARGET SHOOTING CLASS?"  That seems like a much more convenient way to keep up the charade that women shouldn't be out of the house any time they aren't under the protection of a big strong man.
[On a travel first aid kit, because remember, the outside world is scaaaary]: Nine lifesavers. Zero chance of you in a foreign pharmacy, trying to pronounce "diarrhea" in Spanish.
"Diarrhea" in Spanish is "diarrea."

Words that this issue of Cosmo uses:
-Guyeters (guy dieters)
-Friendvy (friend envy)
-Mombomb (being compared to a man's mom)
-Sexercise (*sigh*)
-Breakup-fast (breaking up with someone via carefully arranged breakfast cereal letters)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The meanings of BDSM.

One of the tough parts about discussing BDSM in a feminist context is that everyone seems to have a different idea of what BDSM means.  (The literal answer, of course, is Bondage, Disciplominance, Sadimission, and Masochism.)  What does it mean, what dynamic is really playing out, when you do BDSM?

Does topping a person mean that you're pleasuring them, or testing their limits?  Does choosing to bottom mean that you're choosing to endure harm, or that you're merely asking someone to do things you enjoy?  Does dominating someone mean that you're using them, or that you're taking care of them?  Does submitting mean that you're naturally fit to follow rather than lead, or that you have either potential but choose to follow?

The answer to all those questions is "yes."

A lot of debates about BDSM get stuck because people assume they know the meaning of a physical action.  The simplest, and most frustrating, problem is when someone interprets "hitting" to always mean "attacking with anger and intent to harm," therefore BDSM is about anger and is harmful, QED.  But there are subtler assumptions that crop up in better-informed discussions, sometimes even inside the community.  If you're talking about forced feminization, and one person thinks that means "making someone feminine to make them lesser," and the other thinks it means "helping someone explore femininity in a kinky way," they can talk right past each other for hours.

When I say people have different ideas about what BDSM means, this isn't just about intention or emotion or philosophy.  Sometimes it's quite visible when you watch BDSM actually happen. The same activities, that we describe with the same words, can be done in very different ways that completely change the meanings.

Take rope bondage.  People can use bondage to restrain someone while they do other play, or simply tie them up and let them experience it for a while and then untie them.  It can be drippingly sexual and involve fucking in bondage, or it can be done fully clothed and nonsexually.  (Not that "naked" and "sexual" necessarily go together.  Sometimes nudity in bondage is about freedom of motion, or keeping clothing from tangling up with the rope, or feeling the rope on your skin.  Or just having an excuse to be naked.)  It can be so painful it's a form of sadism, or so comforting the bottom nearly falls asleep.  It can keep a person from moving at all, or be purely decorative ropework that they can walk around in.  It can be rough, brutal, and hastily improvised, or it can be a painstakingly crafted art form.

So when we talk about bondage, we're not talking about a unified mood, intention, or effect. We're talking about an umbrella with a gigantic amount of human variation underneath it.  And we need to acknowledge that.  I'm not saying you can't generalize anything about BDSM, but... it's a lot less than you think.  So when people ask questions like "is BDSM oppressive?", the answer isn't "no" and it isn't "yes."  The answer is "it shouldn't be and it doesn't have to be."

This has a fun side.  It's not all about sexism and abuse.  It's also a tremendously powerful tool to use in play.  Understanding how to control the mood and meaning of a scene opens up a world of glorious possibilities. You can bring your negotiation from "I want to tie you up" to "I want to tie you up sexy" or "I want to tie you up mean" or "I want to tie you up artsy." (actual phrasing not recommended)  You can agree to tie someone up sexy and tease and them with not-quite-sexual bondage before turning it sexy.  You can develop the meaning of a scene in sync with your partner, something you experience together, and the cool part is, you get to decide what that meaning is.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cosmocking: June '13!

I don't know how long I can keep doing this.  I thought Cosmo would be Cosmo forever, but now I'm afraid/hopeful it might not be.  They have a new editor-in-chief, Joanna Coles, who is slowly and subtly steering Cosmo towards growing the fuck up.

It's not drastic--which I actually approve of; if it turned into Ms. Magazine overnight they'd just lose their audience--but changes are happening.  Each issue has just a little more political and feminist content and just a little less "30 Reasons Your Vagina Is Doing Everything Wrong."  This month's issue has profiles of a woman teaching teenage girls to program, a woman campaigning for better equal-pay laws and enforcement, a female soldier who was wounded in Afghanistan and talks about why she still believes women should be on the front lines... this is not the Cosmo I know.

The magazine is still mostly fluff, and the misogyny and general weirdness are far from gone.  So I've got enough to write about this month.  But if this keeps up, I don't know.  I might have to switch to Maxim or something.  Which might not be all bad; I've mined the well of Cosmo pretty deep at this point, and could use some freshness.  Besides, making fun of Cosmo always has a little tinge of "dammit feminine women, stop oppressing yourselves!" to it; Maximocking (preliminary working title) would be addressing the intersection of masculinity and misogyny.

But for now... Cosmocking's not dead yet!

Purple color!  Sofia Vergara!  I don't know who she is, but to be fair, the only TV shows I watch are Mythbusters and Doctor Who, so I am not a very good arbiter of pop culture notability!  Um... None of these headlines are entertainingly ridiculous!  You see why I'm having problems here! 

Ah, there's the Cosmo I know and... know.  The left-hand image is "sexy," and the right-hand is of course "skanky."  And it's a stunning contrast until you apply the slightest common sense: do you think Heidi Montag suntans in that position?  She just hangs out that way all day?  Or was she shifting position or getting up and the photographer took a picture at the exact moment that looks like she's doing a porn pose?  If anyone's skanky here, it's that photographer.
Have Drunk Sex Sober!
Beats the reverse, I guess.  The idea here is that you can have all the fun of drinking, but without the actual alcohol, by just acting uninhibited and a little bit confused.  Oh, and you should have a red lightbulb.  Red light is a lot like being drunk.
Fall into that bleary-eyed, no-words-needed kind of hookup that's the touchstone of drunk sex. Because you'll be in a slightly dreamy state, the next morning will feel almost the same: Did that really happen... or did I imagine it?
Kudos to Cosmo for not encouraging people to do this via actual alcohol, but I've never said to myself "that was pretty good sex, but dammit, I just remember it too well."
Recently, an anonymous NYC guy put up 600 fliers with the hashtag #ThisIsHowYouWinHerBack all over the city to try to get his ex back.  His efforts, alas, didn't work, but he's just the latest in a slew of men who are trying to dispel their growing rep as wimpy beta boys by posting love declarations online. "We're seeing some young men use big, look-at-me-antics to publicly take back their status as dominators."
Oh my God that guy's poor ex.  I mean, a couple points to the guy for not putting her name or picture out there, but all points immediately subtracted forever because being surrounded by hundreds of public "I won't let you go" messages from your ex is still horrifying no matter how memey-clever they are.

They're right, though, this is a very dominating gesture.  And that's not a good thing.  That's not "taking back" some God-given right he has as a man.  It's putting someone in a submissive position who most likely did not want to and definitely did not agree to be in that position.
[When there's lube on your hands after sex,] use the excess lube to grease each other up. Rub it on his chest and your breasts, since those areas are less likely to come into contact with the fancy linens you scored for 50 percent off at
1. Ew.  I mean, nothing against people who like it messy, but if you're just trying to be neat and tidy, this is... not neat and tidy.
2. Oh man, I want to see someone try this with silicone lube.
3. Really depends on position what parts of you touch the sheets.
4. Smooth product placement there, champ.  Barely noticed it.
[How to tell if a male friend wants to date you:] Tell him all about other guys you're dating, and see how he reacts.  Or ask about one of his good friends as though you're interested.  If he gets annoyed or defensive, there's a chance he may have feelings for you.
Cosmo doesn't describe how you transition the conversation from "I'm dating a ton of dudes these days... by the way, is Steve single?" to "oh, never mind, I was just making things up to upset you, want to go out?"  That seems like the difficult part.
Could You Fall for a Guy Wearing Clogs?
See? The new, more political Cosmo is all about tackling the tough issues.

[ETA: The video linked in comments on this post, and the ensuing discussion, deal with sexual harassment and assault.]

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cosmocking: May '13!

It's that time again!  Blue-green cover!  Rachel Bilson!  I have no idea who that is!  "Stuff You Think He Wants In Bed... But Really Doesn't!"  Shit, look at that grammar, I think Cosmo's headline machine is jamming up!  They better unclog it quick or they'll have "847 Ways Sex To Man Your Man Sex Man" all over the floor!

There's an actually-quite-good article in this issue about "My First Year as a Woman," by Laura Jane Grace writing about her transition.  Cosmo doesn't at all acknowledge that horrible article from a couple months ago where they were making fun of a blatantly-fictional trans woman, but maybe this is a quiet apology?  More likely, it was written way in advance and no one at Cosmo even realizes the connection.
Testosterone, one of the hormones that regulates sexual desire, is always higher in the beginning of a relationship for both men and women [...] But as the novelty wears off, less testosterone is produced, and sex with that person seems a little less interesting.
I was going to make fun of this, but it turns out that it's true; barring supplementation or something, people's testosterone always does get lower as a relationship goes on.  Because testosterone decreases with age.
Excessive masturbation will tax a man's libido and make it so he doesn't have a lot of mojo left for you.
In other news from 1829, graham crackers will prevent impure thoughts, as will corn flakes, and taking them along with pure living and cold baths can help you avoid the scourge of self-abuse and consequent blindness.
Unless he's blowing off work to get his fix, it's not something that requires therapy, but it does warrant a discussion.  "Let him know that you can feel the power of his erection when he hasn't ejaculated in a day or two," says Kerner. "That should give him the hint."
Yeah, I don't think you're going to be able to fool him on this one.  I'm pretty sure he can feel the power of his erection himself.
My Boobs Lost Their Power 
[Author has breasts. She discusses this.] A huge part of what I appreciated about having breasts was how much men appreciated me having them. As much as dating can suck, the one consistently fun part was the reaction I got when I took of my top. It was like being in Cirque du Soleil without doing any work. 
[Author enters a long-term relationship.] I wasn't prepared for the scene that occurred two months into our cohabitation. Him: Getting ready for work. Me: Also getting ready, but in jeans, topless as I searched for my bra. I thought this was a pretty hottish look, but when I walked into the bedroom, he looked me in the eyes and asked where his socks were. It's a strange feeling, as a woman, to feel air against your breasts and be talking about laundry. That's when I realized my favorite party trick was no longer new at this party. 
My rack and I entered a mourning phase. We missed even the goofy adolescent attention that we used to get from him--the honk-honks and the Tune in Tokyos that he'd dole out with a dopey grin.
Oh man, I remember when I could freeze a guy mid-sentence and make him turn all goggle-eyed just by showing my boobs.  It was from about January to March of 2002.  After that, my boyfriend still liked my breasts just fine, but no longer made anime nosebleed faces when I got them out.  And everyone I got naked with after that had been in other sexual relationships and thus also gotten over their "anime nosebleed" stage, generally at some point in high school.

Which I was grateful for, because when it's morning and we're getting dressed and we have to go to work and all, I don't really want to be the Cirque du Soleil.  I'm very glad I get to decide which times are Sexy Times, instead of getting dragged into it every time I shower or change my clothes.

Then again, clearly I have a lot of philosophical differences from this author, because I have never once felt a twinge of wistful nostalgia for having my breasts honked.
7 Moves You Think He Wants In Bed -- But He Really Doesn't 
2. Strongly hint that you're in the mood, then play hard to get and make him work at seducing you
That's actually a good point, except for the part where every other issue of Cosmo lovingly teaches women how to do exactly that.

Also, the reasoning they give for this isn't "because he can't tell with 100% certainty the difference between 'hard to get' and 'actually not wanting it,' and refusing to clarify this is not just annoying, it erodes the meaningfulness of consent in your relationship."

No, it's "Just what a guy wants when he gets home from work: more work."  Because "The Chase is a game for those who've just met."  (And then the author gives the example of how he dated a vegan girl so he ate vegan food to have sex with her, and that's some serious work.  He ate cheeseburgers afterwards though, wink nudge!)  And, of course, "we worked hard to catch you in the first place, so let's just enjoy the fruits of our labor."

Oh yeah, that's what women are into: feeling like particularly large fish.
So here's the thing: Guys don't require fancy moves or costumes to get turned on. We're simple creatures with simple needs.
"We're simple creatures with simple needs, and that's why you need to subscribe to an entire magazine about how to find us; how to dress, make up, and present yourself to please us; how to perform a large variety of numbered sex acts upon us; which sex acts you must never perform; and why you're screwing up all your relationships with us.  Because we are so simple!"
Cosmo Sexicon: Whipdar 
whip-dar, n., A woman's astute ability to sense just how whippable a guy really is.  
Does anyone really want to "whip" their boyfriend?  (Certainly some people want to whip their boyfriend, and hey, that's just fine if he's into it.)  I mean, when I watch TV shows with Rowdy, it's because I think we both enjoy them and we're bonding over them.  If I found out he felt "whipped" into it and actually hated the shows, I'd be crushed.

Then again, I live in a universe where people of different genders can enjoy the same activities.
If you simply tell him you're not going to have an orgasm, what he may hear is: "I'm not enjoying this at all. You are less than a man."
Well, tough, because that's not what I said.  I am not responsible for things people decide to imagine I said.

Cosmo's advice, however, is that if you're not going to come you should try and make him come, because that'll get it over with, and boy, there's nothing more sexy and intimate than getting it over with.
I get excited when my crush Likes my pictures on Instagram. But he Likes a lot of other girls' pictures as well. We seem to have a good connection in person. Can Liking my photos mean something more?
If it simplifies your life any, person, I don't Like this at all.

Friday, April 12, 2013

"How can you be a feminist and do BDSM?"

[I'm back!  I know, another really long unannounced hiatus.  I have a good excuse this time.  I had to move sort of unexpectedly and under less than ideal conditions.  I still don't know what I want to say about it, except that this wasn't about Rowdy; Rowdy continues to be awesome.  Anyway.  I'm in a good place now and I have time/energy to write again.]

Journal Of Secrets

I don't think I've ever really answered the title question, even though it's the most obvious thing that comes up when you identify yourself as a feminist who's also into BDSM.  How does this work for me?  Isn't it a big ol' conflict to be for equality and respect for all genders and then give a thumbs-up to men leading women around on leashes and hitting them with whips?

My usual flippant answer--which also happens to be my most  emotionally honest--is that it's like asking how I can be a feminist and keep guinea pigs.  What do my hobbies have to do with anything?  Kink is just a fun activity that involves a different part of my personality.

A deeper answer is that it's pleasurable for everyone involved.  The things I think of as feministically troubling are things that harm someone.  Job and school discrimination harm women economically.  Sexism harms women emotionally.  Violence harms women physically and emotionally.  Receiving pain in BDSM makes me feel strong, makes me feel desired, makes me feel present in the moment, makes me feel alive.  (Also, makes me feel extraordinarily horny and kinda high.)  I know that's not proof that it's good for me or for women, but... it's a significant piece of evidence.  I put up with misogynist environments sometimes because they're the path of least resistance for my personal goals; BDSM requires absolutely no "putting up with."  Good kink experiences are personal goals in themselves.

I also find a lot of the arguments against kink, like the ones in this much-mocked article and many of the ones that pop up in feminist contexts like this random post, to be deeply... god, I'm sick of the word "problematic."  Fuckin' weasel word that can mean anything from "got some facts wrong" to "basically a Nazi."  I find these arguments to be misguided and annoying and sometimes demeaning in exactly the ways feminists are supposed to oppose.

For one thing, a whole lot of those arguments could apply to plain ol' sex.  It can be used as a weapon of, and an excuse for, horrific abuse?  People are sometimes unintentionally harmed doing it?  It's horrible when done nonconsensually?  There are some really awful people who are into it?  A lot of the narratives around it are sexist, hetero/cisnormative, body-policing, and glamorize unsafe and questionably consensual activities?  The industries that sell media and services related to it are often nightmarishly exploitative?  I don't want to deny or minimize the fact that all these things happen in BDSM.  I just don't think it's any worse in kink than in sex.

Actually, I'll go a little further than that.  While "kink is always consensual!" is facile white-washing, on average kinksters are more aware than the general population of what consent is and why it matters.  We talk about it a lot more, and we (at least try to) socially normalize the idea of negotiating it.  We acknowledge that different relationships have different rules and roles, and that gender does not determine them.  We freely admit that lots of people simply aren't wired for what we do, or for specific ways of doing it.  We have concepts like "Risk Aware Consensual Kink" and "Your Kink Is Not My Kink, But Your Kink Is OK."  Again, I won't pretend we all apply these concepts all the time, but... the fact that we even hold these as ideals puts us a little bit ahead of society at large.

I also think a lot of "BDSM is sexist" arguments wouldn't long survive an encounter with a female dominant or a male submissive.  Female dominance is not about women dressing up in leather for men to admire.  It is an actual kink that women can have.  If you see a woman getting her rocks off by having a man service her, and you think "clearly she's only doing that to please him," you're desexualizing her and disregarding her desires.  Although you're still a step ahead of the people who don't even acknowledge that female dominance is a thing at all.

Of course, if we got into the fact that same-sex, nonbinary, and nonsexual kink exist, we'd be here all day.  (I've heard arguments that queer kink is still sexist because people are enacting male and female roles, but... if you see someone who isn't a man being dominant and you think "clearly she's being the man here," I think the problem is on your end.)  And I don't even know what would happen if we let some of these critics know about switching.

Finally, there's the question of whether feminism has any business saving women from themselves.  Because there's a really bad track record here.  At various times, various branches of feminism have swooped in to "save" femme women, married women, women who stay home with their kids, women who do sex work, cis women who welcome trans women into women's spaces--and it has always been a disaster.  It's forced women to defend their dignity and even their safety from the people who are supposed to be advocating for them.  I'm not saying any of these groups are the same as submissive women, obviously, only that "you say you want this... you poor thing" hasn't historically worked out well for feminism.

How can I be a feminist and do BDSM?  Because I trust women to know their own desires.  Because BDSM does not stand apart from the world at large, and if we have to live in this world anyway, we might as well do what we love.  Because I love and respect my body, my mind, and my potential as a human being--and all three are going "hell yeah, I totally want this."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cosmocking: April '13!

Yellow cover!  Kim Kardashian!  I don't know what's going on with her... lower garment!  I think Cosmo's stylists are getting pretty desperate to make the 35,000-year-old concept of "wearing clothes" seem fresh and new every month!  Go ahead and trace a line from the center of Kim's cleavage to the center of her neck and explain what kind of skeletal structure that implies!  Also please note that her arms are different lengths!

(I think what's going on here is that they've Photoshopped away all creases and features on her neck, which makes the side of her neck look like the front.  And they posed her with both arms behind her so that her chest would stick out, but then her right arm looked wrong or wasn't visible, so they pasted on a replacement arm.  Which would explain the surreal way her hand is interacting with her thighs.)
"I loved reading 'Can Sex Make You Skinnier?'  The next time I had an intense carb craving, I marched right into my bedroom and pounced on my sleeping, unsuspecting boyfriend.  I'm thankful for my new weapon in battling bulge, and my boyfriend is too!  Thanks, Cosmo!"  --Sarah A., Nashville, Tenn.
I'm not, like, an expert in forensic writing analysis or anything, but I think Cosmo's letters page is fake.  Just a hunch here.

Also I would prefer to not eroticize "pouncing" on "unsuspecting" people, but if I point out every time Cosmo does that, we'll be here all day.
Four tiny bottles, each with a secret code name, sit on a shiny table in front of Kim Kardashian, awaiting inspection.  Inside the vial are versions of her latest fragrance, Glam, which is being tweaked to appeal to Japanese consumers. [...] She waves each test strip in front of her perfect, pert nose.  Opulence is too heavy for Asian tastes, she proclaims.  Sequins? Too soft.  "I don't even smell Glitzy any more," she says, before settling on her choice: Geisha Garden.
Kim Kardashian, cross-cultural marketing genius.
Within hookup culture on college campuses, dating is one of the most radical, nonconformist things you can do.
Oh, for fuck's sake.  Yes, young people have casual sex.  No, the entire population between ages 16 and 26 is not subsumed into this boogeyman "hookup culture" where they're all like "what is this Earth thing you call 'love'?"  I would really like the media to get over this particular obsession already and move on to telling us that eating caramel leads to Satanism, or something.
Because our ancestors spoke with their bodies rather than language, we learn more from gestures than words when first meeting someone.  If he's facing you directly, you have his full attention.
I don't think we needed to invoke grunting cavemen to explain the concept of "people look at things they're interested in."

...I would also like to explain to Cosmo that all language is produced by the body.
Make him feel like a piece of meat: "It's a huge turn-on to hear a woman objectify me," 30-year-old Christopher says.  "It seems simple, but it's so powerful."  Take his words to heart and don't be afraid to tell your guy everything you like about his body or what he does that drives you crazy.  He'll be obsessed.
That's not what objectification means.  That's not making him feel like a piece of meat.  That's just sexual compliments.  Yeah, sure, it's easy to say "I don't know what those ladies are complaining about, you can objectify me anytime" if you think it means your girlfriend tells you you have sexy abs.

Objectification is focusing on a person's usefulness to you with total disregard for their desires.  In the context of compliments, it's not saying "You turn me on."  It's saying "You turn me on, and whether you want to turn me on is utterly irrelevant."

Saying "nice ass" to a person who's deliberately wiggling their ass at you is a compliment; saying "nice ass" to a person who's just walking by is objectification.  "I want to sleep with her" is expressing desire;  "I'd hit it" is objectification.  "You're sexy" is nice to say on a date because it's a compliment; "you're sexy" is hideously undermining to say at a business meeting because it's objectification.
Q: My guy constantly asks me for cash to pay the bills.  He's going through a rough time and I don't mind helping out, but how can I stop this from being a regular thing? 
A: The fact that he's asking you for financial help--a tough thing for many guys to do--is a sign that he trusts you.

He Said He Wasn't Ready For Kids [...]  One month, I realized I'd forgotten to take my birth control pill... for five days.  I asked Matt if he thought this was a sign.  "I don't think it's time yet," he said.  Three months later, the same thing happened.
Oh shit, I already used my "this will not end well" image.

(In seriousness, sabotaging birth control is a horrible thing to do, both to your partner and your potential child.  It's really not a cutesy-wootsey "tee hee, whoopsy daisy, hint hint" thing to do.  It's pretty highly correlated with domestic violence.)
The Man-Child Meter  
[selected items from a big boring list of stuff like "he's a man-child if he only eats pizza" and "he's a real man if he has nice wineglasses"]
Man-Child: Invites you over to watch a movie, then texts you to pick up a six-pack on the way 
Getting There: Attempts to go down on you (he's trying!) 
Yep, He's A Man: Reaches for a condom before you have to ask
1. What's wrong with asking someone to bring beer?  I guess it's a little demanding, but "hey, honey, I'm out of beer over here, you want to bring some with you?" is really not that out of line if you like to have a beer with your movie.

2. How do you "attempt" to go down on a person?  Was he licking her knee?
"No, sweetie, not there."
"Okay, how about here?  Is this your clitoris now?"
"Sweetie, that's my elbow."

3. I guess this does rank higher than "just going ahead and having unprotected sex unless you stop him," but... significantly lower than "actually discussing protection before 0.4 seconds prior to intercourse."

Many things in my life are about control and domination, but eating should be a submissive experience, where you let down your guard and enjoy the ride.  I don't have much patience for people who are self-conscious about the act of eating, and it irritates me when someone denies themselves the pleasure of a bloody hunk of steak or a pungent French cheese because of some outdated nonsense about what's appropriate or attractive.  Stop worrying about how your breath's going to smell, whether there's beurre blanc on your face, or whether ordering the braised pork belly will make you look fat. [...] It's all about the enjoyment of the moment and the company and the food.  And if you can be yourself slurping spicy peanut noodles in front of another person, you may have a keeper.

This issue has an article by Anthony Bourdain!  What the heck is he doing here?  Anyway, it's awesome.  And not just because he writes with actual voice instead of "frenemy's va-jay-jay sexcapades" Cosmo-diction.  It's awesome because this is the only article in this magazine full of anatomically detailed sex talk that is actually about pleasure.

A Cosmo writer could have written "have fun eating, because men like it when you're not self-conscious, and it'll totally improve your mood!"  But it took an outside voice to say "have fun eating, because food is awesome."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bottom skills.

So much "how to BDSM" material is really "how to top."  Which is understandable, up to a point.  The top performs most of the obvious physical parts of the scene--they're the one who has to know how to tie a knot or swing a flogger.  The top is likely to also be dominant, which means that they're going to be the one in charge of planning the scene and directing it.  And the top is also expected to take more responsibility for a scene, because bottoms might be immobilized (or go off into la-la land) and need their tops to watch out for their safety.

There's also a certain bias in BDSM-land toward thinking tops and dominants should be the authorities and their experiences should be prioritized, because... well, partly because they're more often men.  And partly because they're in charge in their scenes/relationships so it's only logical that they be in charge everywhere, even though it's not like the community agreed to submit to them.  So the majority of kink community leaders, authors, and teachers are tops.

As a result of these factors, you can come away from a lot of kink books or conferences thinking that bottoming is... standing there.  (For advanced bottoming, you might kneel or lie down.)  It seems like a purely receptive thing.  Like a beanbag could do it, if you could teach a beanbag to moan and occasionally offer to get people drinks.

This is not the case.  Bottoming well, in a way that creates a great experience for yourself and your top, requires effort and skill.  We are not canvases for the art of BDSM; we are artists too.  Here's some of the things I've learned (or am learning, or need to learn) about being on the bottom:

• Know your desires.
If you don't know what you like, you're not likely to get it.  I've talked about this so much on the blog, I don't want to belabor the point.  Just... have some idea of why you're bottoming in a BDSM scene instead of back at home knitting.  (Knitting fetishists please disregard.)  (That is not entirely a joke.)  Or if you don't, at least be aware that you don't know, and able to say "I'm experimenting right now and finding out what appeals to me."

• Speak up for yourself.
When I first started playing, I had the idea in my head--maybe not in words, but definitely in feelings--that the best bottoms were the ones who were least demanding.  That for me to be an excellent bottom, I should take as much pain as I could stand and allow my top to do whatever they wanted.  I certainly noticed that I enjoyed some activities more than others, but I felt like asking for the ones I wanted would be rude or "topping from the bottom" or selfish or something.  So I just felt happy when I got things I liked, felt sad or annoyed when I got things I didn't, and never gave any external indication of either.

Eventually I burned myself out on the stoicism thing.  I could only suppress my specific desires and limited pain tolerance for so long.  So I became a really grouchy, persnickety bottom.  No, I don't like that.  Don't like that either.  Yellow.  Yellow to that too.  Maybe we should just take a break.  It was frustrating, but it was actually progress--being able to say what I didn't like without being able to say what I liked wasn't very fun, but it beat the heck out of not being able to say either.  My tops were stuck playing "Marco Polo" with my desires, but at least they weren't unwittingly hurting me.

And then--embarrassingly recently--I realized that asking for what you like isn't presumptuous or un-bottomly, it's something that a good top actually wants you to do.  Depending on the sort of scene you're doing, they might not give you everything you like (or they might make you earn it), but they still need to know.  Otherwise they don't know which parts are punishment and which are reward for you, and they're not in control of the experience they're creating for you.

• Look out for your safety.
This is a responsibility tops and bottoms share.  It's more the top's, because they have more control and because they're going to be at fault if the bottom gets hurt, but it's an important bottom skill to be able to help the top keep you safe.  This means knowing and sharing the limitations of your body and your mind, it means using your safewords when you need to, and it means double-checking the top when they do something potentially unsafe.  Your top should notice on their own if they're cutting off your circulation or positioning you in a way that would be disastrous if you fell, but even good tops can miss things, and it's a good idea to also do your own safety checks.

(If you're way off in subspace you may not be able, and then it really is the top's responsibility alone.  But it's a good thing to do if you can.)

• Play along.
This isn't a simple directive but a whole set of skills that depend on how you play.  This is the physical, immediate side of bottoming, and it's a whole lot more than standing there.  It's positioning yourself to assist with an elaborate rope tie.  It's being able to absorb blows.  It's knowing when to push back, when to yield, and when to stand firm.  This really depends on what specific kinks you do, and it's mostly stuff you have to learn "on the job."  And it is things you have to learn.  "Standing there" looks like a no-brainer, but standing in a way that makes it easy for your top to do their job and supports you when you go wibbly and looks good and feels good?  Takes a little bit of brain.

• Give good feedback.
In two ways.  There's the practical feedback, the "oh yeah just like that," the "wow, I'm really just melting away into the wall here," and the "okay, that was the bad ow."  And there's the feedback that tops appreciate and get off on, the... well, actually, the first two sentences above are pretty good examples of that too.  I'm not talking about playing it up and putting on a performance, but a lot of tops really like hearing how much impact they're having on you.  Giving them that, especially if they've asked for it, is good bottoming.

• Know how to cook what you eat.
I don't think this is a requirement for everyone (well, nothing here is required, we're all different and all learning, please don't take this post as a list of "things bottoms must do"), but it's something I value for myself.  I like to know how to perform all the skills that I enjoy having done to me.  I hardly ever top, but I know how to tie a rope harness and where to aim a flogger.  Having this knowledge helps me communicate better with my top, know what I can do to make their job easier, understand and process the sensations I'm receiving, and it gives me a whole lot of appreciation for how much energy my top is putting into the scene.

• Process the experience.
This is the internal work of bottoming, and I don't know what I'm going to write in this section, because it's... magic or neurology or something.  Also a lot of deep breathing.  This is where you take in pain, discomfort, fear, and/or humiliation, and you turn them into something wonderful for yourself.  And very often it is an effort.  It can take focus and intention to turn a spanking from "my butt hurts, ow, my butt hurts again" to "my butt hurts in a way that is giving me the most amazing pleasure."  Or when it isn't pleasure, "my butt hurts and I am strong and I am taking it."  It's almost a kind of meditation.

Everything else on this page is about bottoming.  It's all the logistics around bottoming.  But this part?  This is bottoming.  This is why you aren't home knitting.  And there's nothing easy or passive about it.

•Give aftercare.
Tops drop too.  Tops (at least a lot of them) also get into an altered state when they're playing and they can also come down hard.  So tops might need cuddling and talking after scenes, or they might need to drink water and stretch out and cool off, or they might want to mellow out and enjoy the lingering buzz.  It's good bottoming to be attentive to their aftercare needs as well as your own, and to check up on them a bit after the scene.

Just standing there? Bottoming in BDSM is goddamn hard work, and it deserves to be talked about.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How To Have Sex On Purpose.

Captain Awkward. Or Sue.  I might have gotten my notes switched.

I had an amazing time in Chicago this weekend.   Everyone at the University of Chicago was absolutely wonderful to me, and the talk went great; the room was packed, the audience was great, and besides my little monologue, we had a really good discussion about negotiating sex and relationships.  And then I got to go to the Field Museum and meet Captain Awkward (the blogger) and Sue (the dinosaur).  It was so ridiculously awesome that I'm all out of eloquence and just going "so ridiculously awesome, you guys!"

This is a (rough) transcript of the talk I gave.  It's on a separate page because it's quite a bit longer than my usual posts.  And that's saying something.