2013-09-08 20:05
i love marks on human flesh. Growing up, i enjoyed bruises and scars on my own skin; i didn't deliberately create such marks, but nevertheless liked them when they came about as a result of accidents, such as falling off a bike / motorbike.

For several years, i self-harmed by cutting my wrist and upper arm. A common meme claims that people do this for attention, but that certainly wasn't the case for me; i was primarily doing it to release some of the intense emotion i was experiencing. It was a way of expressing my anger and frustration without physically harming others. And although it wasn't driven by a desire to create permanent marks, i certainly wasn't complaining about the scars that resulted.

In the last year or so, i have begun identifying as a sadist. Part of that involves taking pleasure in physically hurting those who actively want me to do so. Not only do i enjoy inflicting physical pain in such situations, but i also hope to produce marks on my play partner as a result. The marks might be produced by biting; by a whip, such as a riding crop; by a sharp, such as a knife; by spanking, using my hand or a paddle; or by something else besides. Ideally i make such marks in a location where they would be visible even when my play partner is clothed, and last several days. Of course, this is sometimes not possible, for various reasons: the force required to make such marks might be too much for my play partner (either in general, or for a given play session); attitudes of family, friends or work colleagues might mean that such marks can only be made in low-visibility places on the body; my play partner might simply not want to be marked at all. But the desire to leave marks is still there in any case.

So, why do i have such a desire? i'm not entirely sure. Some of it is certainly that they're reminders of passion and lust, on the part of both myself and my play partner. i enjoy rough, animalistic sex - when my health-condition-limited body lets me! - and deep bruising can result from me biting someone's breasts or ass in the heat of the moment. But i also enjoy the idea of whipping someone until they noticeably welt, in a context where i am completely cool-headed. The scene that begins at roughly 69m45s in the 1975 movie version of The Story of O has always appealed to me; i get turned on by the look on actor Corinne Cléry's face as she abandons herself to the joy of giving someone a literal whipping. It's a look that suggests an inner joy i can identify with. But that's only about the joys of inflicting physical pain on someone. It doesn't speak to why i enjoy consensually inflicting pain that results in marks. Perhaps they serve as a reminder of the joy i experienced when inflicting such pain? Yet that doesn't explain why i enjoy inflicting pain in the first place. That's something i need to ponder on some more.

Whatever the psychological reasons, i love leaving marks on others, and am most glad that there are people who actively want me to leave my marks on them. :-)

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In my experience, one of the indicators of a potentially dangerous top is hostility toward the availability and use of safewords.

The main argument i typically observe used against safewords is that 'true' submissives 'shouldn't' require them. Supposedly, a 'true'/'real' submissive "has no limits", and will automatically and immediately 'prove' this by trusting a top utterly and without reservation.

There's not merely potential for abuse of power here; many people have direct or indirect experiences of such power actually being abused. The argument tries to convince bottoms that they are a 'failure' if they have boundaries, and want those boundaries respected (or at least not pushed without explicit permission). To me, this is manifestly ridiculous. People have all sorts of boundaries for all sorts of reasons, and unilaterally invalidating them is surely a recipe for significant psychological damage - even before taking into consideration the other physical, emotional and/or psychological damage that someone might accept being inflicted upon them in order to 'prove' that they're a 'real' submissive.

A second argument against safewords that i more recently observed is that the presence of safewords supposedly create a 'moral hazard'. At the time of writing, Wikipedia defines a 'moral hazard' as "a tendency to be more willing to take a risk, knowing that the potential costs or burdens of taking such risk will be borne, in whole or in part, by others". Insofar as i understand the logic of this, the idea is that the availability of a safeword will cause the top to go further than they otherwise would, because they're constrained solely by whether or not the bottom has safeworded; and this is particularly problematic given that many subs try to avoid safewording for as long as possible, for a variety of reasons1. Supposedly, without a safeword, the top is obliged to bear full responsibility for ensuring that things don't go too far and end up causing unwanted physical, emotional and/or psychological damage to the bottom. Consequently, the top will ensure that they don't go too far.

There are a few problems with this:

  • First and foremost, the issues re. abuse of power, as described above.

  • Secondly, it assumes the top is effectively a mind-reader, or exquisitely sensitive to what the bottom is feeling. It is highly unlikely that this is the case in early stages of a top/bottom relationship, and not necessarily inevitable even after the top and bottom have played together on many occasions. Even then, there are many other factors that can confound the top's ability to accurately 'read' what's going on for the bottom: the emotional, psychological and physical states of both the top and bottom, the environment in which play is taking place (visibility, noise etc.), interruptions, and so on.

  • Thirdly, it can actually serve to reduce the possibilities of both top and bottom getting their needs met, for reasons i'll elaborate on below.

Note that i'm not prescribing that a safeword is always necessary and/or appropriate; i'm simply arguing against the notion that, in a general sense, safewords shouldn't be available and/or used.

Which brings me to why, as a domme, i love the availability and use of safewords in play.

i've recently started identifying as a sadist, acknowledging that i can, and do, derive pleasure from others' pain. But there's a critical constraint on this: i don't derive such pleasure unless i know the person on whom i'm inflicting pain actively and fundamentally desires to have that pain inflicted upon them. So if a bottom says to me, "Please, go as hard as you want, until I safeword", that's very liberating for me: i can abandon myself to my sadism, and to a certain extent set aside that part of my mind which is constantly fretting about my play partner's needs and desires and feelings. i say "to a certain extent" because i don't rely purely on hearing the safeword in order to stop or restrain myself; i know from experience that there is a part of my mind that is monitoring the bottom's responses and 'vibes', and that can (and does) reassert restraint prior to safewording, should that appear necessary. Additionally, my preference is to have a two-stage safeword system, with one word used by the bottom to convey "I need for you to stop doing that particular thing, but I'm happy for the scene overall to continue", and the other to mean "I need the scene itself to stop immediately"2.

It's important to note that, in the preceding, i referred to the bottom actively requesting that i keep going until they feel they've reached a limit/boundary, which they then signal via a safeword. There are at least a few different reasons the bottom might do this: not only a desire to make the top happy, but also because, for example, they get turned on by the idea of being pushed to their limits, or by the idea of trying to learn if they can extend their current limits. In any case, the availability of safewords can facilitate any or all of this, by the possibility of making clear the point at which things go "too far".

Having said all that, it's also true that the mere availability of safewords doesn't guarantee risk-free play3. Whilst writing this post, Dee brought my attention to Stabbity's post "Safewords: they're just words", which discusses this issue. However, although i generally agree with the post overall, i have issues with (my understanding of) a couple of points. Firstly:
some people get nonverbal when they get into subspace, and may not be capable of any kind of safeword or signal. To be clear, that's neither better nor worse than being able to safeword no matter what’s going on, but it's a good thing to tell your top ahead of time.
The problem here is: what if you, as a bottom, don't yet know that you are unable to signal/safeword in certain situations? And it's not necessarily possible to learn this purely via self-analysis; sometimes one doesn't realise it can happen until the moment it's happening. i have, on several occasions, inadvertently hit (metaphorically speaking) an emotional / psychological sore spot that the person i was playing with didn't themselves know about. Not everyone has (or can have) perfect self-knowledge prior to going in to a play session.

I'm not knocking "red" as a convenient shorthand for "something is badly wrong and I need the scene to end right now this instant", but in general saying what you mean is clearer than using a code word.
i feel there's a false dichotomy being set up here, as though one either solely uses the safeword or explains specifically what's wrong. Whereas to me, a safeword can be used to immediately stop what's currently problematic and gives them a chance to compose themselves a bit and get their head together - after which they can elaborate to the top on what was going wrong.

In any case, what all the above suggests to me is that, at the very least, tops and bottoms should, prior to play, try to ensure that they have something of a shared understanding about safewords as a concept. That is: what assumptions/expectations do they both have regarding their use and/or non-use, and the effects their availability / non-availability might have on all parties' responsibilities? There's probably not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach to safewords, and recognising this might help to avoid, or at least minimise, some safeword-related problems.

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1. For example: desire to please and/or not disappoint the top; life experiences which have taught the bottom that quiet compliance regardless of personal cost is 'appropriate' or 'proper' (an issue affecting many women); a sense that safewording represents personal 'failure'.

2. An oft-used version of this is 'traffic lights', with the safeword for the first stage being 'yellow' or 'orange', and the safeword for the second being 'red'.

3. Indeed, for some people, the notion of risk-free bdsm/kink play is an active turnoff.

Issue 4 of @ArielleLoren's "Corset" magazine is out, with an article by written by me: "Owned: One polyamorist's relationship with BDSM".


2011-06-20 21:17
i've written a new guest post for Dee's blog: on kink relationships vs. One-Twoo-Wayism.
i've written a guest post on Dee's blog about my experience of 'topspace' (similar to what some call 'domspace').
i've written a guest post on Curvaceous Dee's blog about the kink dynamic that's developed in our relationship, "Lease-to-own".
i've debated whether to write this entry; enough angst has arisen from this topic as it is. In the end, though, i decided that my LJ is place where i should be able to vent, and to make clear exactly where i stand on various things.

Over the last couple of days, i've been involved in an online debate over the use of the word 'vanilla' to mean "a person not into bdsm". Yes, i've written about my feelings on this before. And [ profile] not_in_denial recently wrote a defence of the term. i understand where people such as [ profile] not_in_denial are coming from.

But i, personally, still find the term offensive.

And although - please note carefully! - i have no problem with other people accepting it as a label for themselves, and i will use that word to describe them if that's what they want, i would ask that people not use the word to describe me.

i feel that that word still carries too many connotations of 'plain', 'boring' or 'pedestrian' - not so much in the bdsm community but in the wider community - for me to be happy with it. It's like the word 'hacker' - even though, in the FOSS community, it's generally used with the meanings described in the previous link, the mass media so often uses it to mean "people who breaks into computer systems illegally" that i don't use it for myself, because it's way too easy for people to draw the wrong conclusion from it, and i really don't want to have to be explaining what i really mean all the time. (Although admittedly, i wouldn't be upset if someone used the word 'hacker', in the first sense, to describe me.)

i also think that the fact that bdsm people seem to so often need to explain what they really mean when they use the word 'vanilla' - that they're using it purely descriptively, that it's not intended as an insult - perhaps indicates just how widely and easily the term is taken to have an insulting and/or condescending meaning.

The reason i'm bringing this up yet again is that i am unhappy about some things that happened during the debate i mentioned above. i was not the one that flagged issues around the word; but i did make a joke about how i'm clearly 'vanilla' since i'm only "a queer poly transgendered swinging witch for whom sexuality is a central part of hir spirituality . . . . ;-)" And i thought that would be the end of it. But a couple of people decided to basically tell me that i should just get over my dislike of the term and learn to love it, because it's a useful descriptive term, and also because it's supposedly not saying anything more than "this is just another flavour of sexuality" (and thus apparently not value-laden in the way that i believe it to be).

Now the above makes it clear that i have my own opinion regarding the use of the word 'vanilla' to describe me, and bizarrely enough, i think i'm entitled to my feelings, that it's not anyone's place to tell me how i 'should' feel about it. i also think that it's reasonable of me to ask people, if they respect me and care at all about my feelings, to use and not use certain words to describe me. Then, too, i understand that 'vanilla' is indeed a convenient shorthand to indicate the fact that i'm not into bdsm - but on the whole, i would prefer another term to be used as shorthand ('non-bdsm', perhaps). Finally, i take umbrage at any notion that being concerned about the labels people use to describe me shows that i'm immature: labels can often imply attitudes, and attitudes can have unpleasant real-world effects (heterosexuals who use the word 'fag' to describe gays are often willing to indulge in not only verbal, but physical abuse, against gays). True, labels can often be 'reclaimed' (which i guess bdsmers who use the word 'vanilla' descriptively are contributing towards), but that takes a certain amount of strength, time and effort, and not all of us are willing and/or capable of making that effort for every label applied to us. So i feel that it's not totally outrageous of me to refuse to take on a term whose negative connotations are still widespread.

Several years ago, my then-partner and i started getting into the Black Lace series of novels, which were basically marketed as "women-oriented erotica". At first, we were thrilled to find books that matched our taste in sexually-explicit writing. But over time, we discovered that more and more of the series had a bdsm-theme - which neither of us were into - until it got to the point where we gave up on finding non-bdsm themed books entirely. Maybe Black Lace were publishing them; but if so, bookstores weren't interested in stocking them.

i've discussed my troubled relationship with bdsm here before. But today i realised just how much of an effect bdsm-related issues are having on me.

Basically, i've let myself feel marginalised by the preponderance of bdsm-based identities, behaviours and discussions in non-heteronormative communities. And i've let myself feel that my sexuality is worthless because it's not based on bdsm. For me, the feeling is similar to the one i experience when heterosexuals assume that i'm heterosexual (and therefore, of course, appreciative of remarks denigrating queers), or when men assume that i'm a cisgendered male (and therefore, of course, appreciative of remarks denigrating women).

The end result has been a fading of my libido as my sexuality curls up into an ever-tightening ball in a corner.

So i need to work on reclaiming my sexuality as something worthwhile, even though it's lacking the components that (apparently) most members of non-heteronormative communities find attractive at the moment. i need to learn to find value in those aspects of my sexuality that many others don't: aspects such as my love of public sex, loud sex and anal sex. And i know i'm not the only person in Australia's non-heteronormative communities to have these sexual interests. In the words of Hillel: "If I am not for me, who will be? If I am for myself alone, who am I? And if not now, when?" [ Pirkei Avoth 1:14 ]


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