i enjoy developing friendships with people who, like me, are highly sexual and open to the possibility of us having sex - whether once, semi-regularly, or regularly. One of the advantages of being in an open nonmonogamous relationship1 is not having to worry about sexual play with non-partners inherently endangering one's existing intimate/romantic relationships2.

What about the issue of sex hurting, or even destroying, the friendship between the people involved? Well, something that nonmonogamy has taught me is to be more open to letting interpersonal relationships "find their own level". Having detached the concept of "having sex with someone" from "being in an intimate/romantic relationship with someone", a universe of possibilities becomes apparent, possibilities which mononormative society tends to claim either don't exist, or aren't workable/sustainable. My lived experience is that this isn't necessarily the case. i have friends with whom i have had sex, and it hasn't altered the friendship one whit; it's just another good time we've had together. We might have sex again in the future, or we might not; either way, it's fine.

So it will come as no surprise that, increasingly, i'm seeking friendships with other nonmonogamous people who are open to sex with friends - because if there is sexual attraction, it doesn't have to be kept under wraps, or denied, thus creating a death-spiral of unresolved tension. Instead, it can be explored. If it works out, great; sexual play becomes just another thing that friends do together, like sharing a meal. If it doesn't work out, that's okay too. But what if one person is sexually attracted to the other, but the reverse isn't the case? That's also okay, at least for me; if i was sexually attracted to a friend, but the feeling wasn't mutual, i would accept it (with some disappointment!) and enjoy the friendship for what it is. And in the reverse situation, i would hope that the other person would take the same approach. Yes, it's possible that this issue might prove to be insurmountable obstacle, and cause the friendship to end. Yet friendships can end for all sorts of reasons; and of my friendships that are no longer extant, issues related to sex have only rarely been the cause.

i want to be friends with people i can relax with, people i can be myself with. i feel far more relaxed when i'm naked, and so want friends that don't mind me being naked around them. Similarly, i feel far more relaxed when issues of sexual attraction have to be avoided, or can be talked about but not acted upon. So i want to be friends with people with whom i can let the friendship "find its own level" - and if that level includes sex, that's a wonderful bonus. :-)

1. As distinct from closed nonmonogamous relationships, e.g. polyfidelity.

2. i say "inherently" because there are certainly situations where such play can, and does, negatively impact on one's intimate/romantic relationships. For example: having sex with someone in a way that breaks the safer-sex agreements one has with one's partners. In some relationships that might be something that can be apologised for and worked through; in others it might be a deal breaker. But either way, the issue isn't that someone has played with someone else, full stop; the issue is the specific person one has played with.

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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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2013-08-29 15:17
Now, she was unburdened.

Her socially acceptable façade: gone, unneeded. Her true self on display: flesh available for use.

Nothing but flesh fulfilling its function. Flesh providing the ground for pleasure, by both presence and absence. "Therefore, that which exists is used to create benefit. That which is empty is used to create functionality."

A body consumed by ecstasy, all other thought burned away. Pain, pleasure, painful pleasure, pleasurable pain - now distinct, now intermingling, all serving to intensify the ecstasy, to take the body to that place where it needed to stop yet needed more yet needed rest yet needed all this to never end ....

She could hear those around her talking, yelling. "Use that fucking slut!" "Yeah, get your hand in that asshole." "Why is that mouth empty? Someone bring a hard cock here, force it down its throat." Her ass throbbed eagerly in response; her cunt let down more of its milk, soaking her inner thighs once again. Her breasts were still pulsing from where they had been bitten hard, again and again. She could feel her ass glowing red, from the spankings.

She didn't how long this had been going on. It might have only been an hour. It might have been several. Not that it mattered. What mattered was that she was fulfilling her function - to be fuckmeat for others' pleasure and satisfaction. That she derived such pleasure and satisfaction from doing so was ongoing proof that this is what she was ultimately meant to be doing.

She was free.

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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.


2013-07-31 18:42
There's a video clip currently doing the rounds called "Porn Sex vs Real Sex: The Differences Explained With Food". When i first watched it, i felt uneasy, but couldn't put my finger on why. i've now thought about it some more, and can identify a few issues:

  • It doesn't define what 'porn' is. This is a highly complex issue, to be sure, but it has significant implications in this specific context. To wit: It seems to be using 'porn' as shorthand for "professionally produced audiovisual sexually explicit material specifically aimed at heterosexual demographics". But:

    • There are increasing amounts of sexually explicit material that aren't professionally produced, e.g. the material often described as 'amateur' or 'homemade';

    • There are increasing amounts of written sexually explicit material; and

    • There are increasing amounts of non-heterosexual, non-cisgendered sexually explicit material available, both amateur and professional.

    This video clip essentially erases all this, and discusses 'porn' as a homogeneous entity.

  • It's cisnormative, implying that 'womanhood' and/or 'femaleness' necessarily involves having a cunt. How might this feel to trans women who don't have a cunt (and who might not be able to get surgery to construct one1), or to trans men who have a cunt and wish they didn't?

  • It's heteronormative, implying that there there is "too much" same-gender sexual interaction in porn, compared to such interaction in the general population. What message is conveyed to same-gender attracted people by reinforcing that we're in a minority; that same-gender sexual behaviour isn't statistically 'average'; that "too much" such behaviour is depicted in porn?

The whole thing reminds me of the "real women have curves" slogan. Although the intent of the slogan is to try to counter the representations of 'desirable' women's bodies in the media - which often involve pre-publication processing to make the depicted women look thinner than they actually are - in order to counter negative impacts on womens' body image, it fundamentally still involves body-policing. That is: it involves making an assertion about which body shapes should be respected and which aren't.

When i was at uni, i knew a couple of women, biological sisters, who were both ardent feminists and who were also both stick-thin - not due to ongoing dieting or regular exercise, but just because that's how their bodies were. They noted with frustration how they got subjected to comments like "You need a sammich!", quite rightly noting that such attitudes, even if favourable to women who "have curves", still involved making assertions about what a woman 'should' look like.

Similarly, the very title "Porn Sex vs Real Sex" is making assertions about what constitutes 'real' sex (not to mention assertions about what constitutes 'porn') via the use of statistics, an approach that is fundamentally hostile to acceptance (let alone celebration of) human sexual diversity. If two people film themselves engaged in consensual urine play, and then post it online, is it 'porn' that doesn't depict 'real sex' because it's something that most people don't do? And this issue arises for any consensual sexual activity that is a statistical outlier.

It seems to me that, rather than making claims about what constitutes 'real' sex - which can very easily dovetail into societal ideas about what's 'normal' - in opposition to the diversity of human sexuality, a different approach could be taken. We could, for example, be saying:
Porn shows lots of different things. Human sexuality comes in many different forms. But just because it's in porn, doesn't mean you're obliged to do it yourself! Neither does it mean you can cajole or force someone else into doing something they don't want to do just because 'It's done in porn!' Sexual interaction should involve people together negotiating sexual activity to engage in, based on respect for boundaries and the informed consent of all involved.

Think of porn like a recipe book: Not everyone is going to like every recipe in every recipe book, and people shouldn't be forced to eat the result of a recipe just because it appears in a cookbook. :-)
Surely this would be a better approach than using statistics to make some sexual activities more 'normal' and 'real' than others?

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1. e.g. someone such as myself.


2013-07-07 18:17
Nowadays i don't actively identify as 'queer'. If someone calls me 'queer', i'm usually fine with it; but otherwise, i tend to avoid using it to describe myself.

My first encounters with the word 'queer' in a positive sense were of people seeking to reclaim it as an umbrella term for all non-heterosexual identities1,2. This seemed to me to be a potentially useful approach to alliance-building - emphasising commonalities rather than differences, all the better to challenge het-supremacy - and so i happily started applying it to myself, alongside 'bisexual'.

Of late, however, i've come to the conclusion that 'queer' is becoming so broad as to be effectively useless.

Firstly, i recently learned that in New Zealand, 'queer' doesn't just refer to non-heterosexuality, but non-cisgender genders as well. In this usage, one could be heterosexual but transgender, and thus 'queer'. This differs from the usages i've encountered here in Australia, where 'queer' on its own - i.e. outside of constructs like 'genderqueer' - is taken to be a statement about sexual orientation/preference, not gender. That is: in an Australian context, if i labelled myself 'queer', i would expect people to understand that to mean i'm non-heterosexual in some way, without any implication about my gender. If i were to do so in a Kiwi context, however, it could mean i'm "heterosexual but non-cis" or "non-heterosexual but cis". To me, there's enough of an issue with people believing that 'trans' is a sexual identity3 as it is without a term that actively tries to elide the distinctions between sexual orientation/preference and gender.

Secondly, as i note in this tweet, "[a] difficulty with umbrella terms is that they often evolve to become synonymous with the group under the umbrella with the most #privilege." In my experience, a number of people use 'queer' as a synonym for 'homosexual'. So i've witnessed situations in which women gripe about a guy coming on to them "even though I've said I'm queer" - a usage of 'queer' which conflicts with the (in my experience, common) usage of 'queer' to mean 'non-heterosexual', i.e. to mean not only lesbians and gay men, but those who are bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual etc. as well.

Thirdly, though, and most critically, people seem to increasingly be using 'queer' to mean something along the lines of "differing from at least one societal norm". In this usage, one can, for example, be 'queer' by virtue of being disabled, even though one might be heterosexual and cisgender.

"But by that logic," i've said, "everyone is queer."
"Yes!" has been the happy reply, "Exactly!"

i assume what's being attempted here is a demonstration that, because we're all queer in some sense, society simply needs to stop being unpleasant to certain people on the basis that they differ from the (statistical or asserted) norm; instead, society should simply start happily proclaiming "Viva la difference!"

Uh huh.

i feel systematic privilege, discrimination and oppression can't be ended merely by presenting a sufficiently succinct and clever argument. To believe otherwise is to assume that it occurs primarily due to innocent ignorance, and that there is little to no material benefit for anyone involved. To me, this is manifestly not the case.

Moreover, by collapsing into a single term the wide variety of forms that privilege, discrimination and oppression can take, it becomes more difficult to witness the fact that one can be benefiting from one system of power differentials whilst at the same time being hindered and/or harmed by another. For example, having disabilities - CFS, major depression, fibromyalgia, OCD - doesn't give me some right to downplay my thin privilege on the basis that "Hey, i suffer from discrimination too!" And this is without taking into consideration the "umbrella term effect" i described above.

Still, this is the direction a number of people are taking the word 'queer' - to in practice make it synonymous with 'human'. In which case, calling myself 'queer' doesn't convey much information to anyone other than those who thought i was some form of AI.

i interact with people from multiple continents and nations on a daily basis. The variation in intended meanings of the word 'queer' now feels to me to be too great for me to want to actively use it to describe myself. No label is perfect, of course; but i feel there are many more precise labels to apply to myself than 'queer'.

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1. ETA, 2013.07.29: Cf. this piece on the word 'queer', by Yasmin Nair; i have been heavily influenced by the early-90s usages of the word 'queer' she describes therein.

2. i recently read an exchange where someone attempted to 'educate' someone else that the word 'queer' was offensive, apparently unaware that there are many thousands - if not millions! - of people who publicly proudly use the word to describe themselves.

3. So that, for example, i have on several occasions encountered forms where i have to specify whether i'm 'heterosexual', 'homosexual', 'bisexual' or 'transsexual'. :-/

Issue 5 of @ArielleLoren's Corset magazine is out, with an article written by me: "Group Masturbation: a trans woman's perspective".
It seems to me that, broadly speaking, there are two main approaches to 'flirting'.

The first - which i'll call "type 1" - is flirting-as-an-end. In this approach, it's assumed that the flirter isn't actually interested in sexual and/or romantic interaction with the flirtee. Also, in my experience, there's typically an enjoyment of ongoing ambiguity about what is actually being suggested by the flirter.

The second - which i'll call "type 2" - is flirting-with-intent. In this approach, it's assumed that the flirter is trying to "sound out" the possibility of sexual and/or romantic interaction with the flirtee, possibly in an ongoing way. Ambiguities are expected to be gradually resolved, in the direction of either "yes, there's mutual interest", or "no, the feeling isn't mutual", as the process continues.

If both the flirter and the flirtee are both coming from the same perspective about flirting, there's probably not an issue. Type 1s have some fun, and type 2s are able to get involved in sexual and/or romantic interactions, or move on.

When type 1s flirt with type 2s, however, problems can arise. Say a 1 starts flirting with a 2. The 1 is assuming that the 2 "knows" that it's just a bit of fun. The 2 is assuming that the 1 is perhaps actually interested in them. So the 2 might then respond in a way inviting a more direct expression of interest from the 1. But the 1 isn't going to be any more direct, because for them, such a removal of ambiguity removes the point of flirting. Unless the 2 simply asks directly, "Are you sexually and/or romantically interested in me?", the exchange could go on for a while, with the 1 continuing to have fun, but the 2 wondering "Am I simply being toyed with here? What's this person playing at? Are they enjoying stringing me along?" And if the 2 in question is someone that's been prank-flirted1 with in the past, they're more likely to feel hurt when they discover that the 1 was "just having a bit of fun". Such hurt might not have been the 1's intent, but the hurt could be inflicted nonetheless.

i'm not sure there's any resolution to this problem, or at least no easy one; the only suggestion i have is for both types to be aware of the existence of the other type, and keep that in mind when initiating and/or responding to flirting.

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1. As i've blogged about previously, "prank-flirting" is where person A flirts with person B with the explicit intent of mocking them. "Hey, I'm interested in you! HAHAHA no of course I'm not - who would be attracted to you, your dork / nerd / geek??" i myself have been prank-flirted with on a number of occasions.
Issue 4 of @ArielleLoren's "Corset" magazine is out, with an article by written by me: "Owned: One polyamorist's relationship with BDSM".
i have several areas of interest about which i feel passionate. Two of those are, on the one hand, sexuality and relationships; and on the other, the politics of power and privilege.

Would that the twain would meet!

A while back Tiara pointed me to a thought-provoking piece entitled "Sex positivity is a sham". It's a critique of which voices and representations often get privileged in sex-positive communities, and it's something that made a lot of sense to me, despite the fact that i myself am someone who, amongst other things, benefits from white and middle-class privilege (the latter more in terms of social/cultural capital than in terms of income).

In my experience, sex-positive communities often have inclusive attitudes; diversity is not only tolerated, but welcomed. Yet i've also noticed an apparent reticence to discuss issues of sociopolitical power and privilege. (Although of course, there's no shortage of discussion about power in the context of kink dynamics.) So here are some questions:

What characteristics - such as ethnicity, class, looks etc. - do influential people in the sex-positive movement have and/or share?

Who benefits when the sex-positive movement doesn't discuss how the politics of sociocultural power and privilege might influence certain people's willingness or ability to participate? Who doesn't?

How can we make sure that the sex-positive movement is inclusive not only in a superficial sense, but in a deep sense? Are those of us with privilege in certain areas willing to recognise and acknowledge that, as part of a process to create more space within the movement for people from communities that have been, and often still are, marginalised?

What sort of sex-positive movement do we want?
Although i have a profile on AdultMatchMaker, i rarely get any bites. Particularly not since i updated my profile to state that i tend to prefer to converse with people a bit in order to determine whether or not i'm sexually attracted to them.

Some have suggested that part of the reason for this - apart from the fact that i'm a dual-gendered transgenderqueer1 :-) - might be because i'm not part of a couple. i do, of course, note in my profile that i have three partners, with whom i'm in open, honest, polyamorous relationships; and there's no issue with me playing with other people without any of them being involved. Many couples, however, prefer to play with other couples, so unless someone is willing to make the extra effort to ask whether one or more of my partners would be willing to play alongside me, i'm not an option.

However, it recently occurred me that this might very well be a good thing. In my experience, couples that don't want to play separately often - but of course not always! - have underlying unresolved issues around insecurity, jealousy and envy. i first started swinging in 2000, and have been in poly relationships since 2003; during that time, i've had to work through a lot of my own difficulties around those issues, often only with much effort. Consequently, i now deeply wish to avoid getting myself embroiled in others' relationship dramas, or becoming the effective cause of such dramas. i've done the hard work - now it's time for me to just enjoy the fruits of my labours. :-)

1. Something i've learnt since transitioning is that when people say they're looking to play with women, they often actually mean they're looking to play with pussy. Oh for the day when people feel comfortable saying so directly rather than using "[cis] woman" as a circumlocution!
i've written a guest post on Dee's blog about my experience of 'topspace' (similar to what some call 'domspace').
'Fluidity' is in. "I'm gender-fluid." "Sexuality is fluid".

It's great that people who feel fluidity in their identities are increasingly recognising and proclaiming that fact. Problems arise, however, once we move beyond an individual describing their own gender identities and/or sexual identities, and start talking about 'gender-fluidity' and/or 'sexual-fluidity' more generally.

One disturbing trend i've noticed is for some people to use 'gender-fluid' as an attempted shorthand for "anyone who doesn't fit the gender dichotomy". Er, no. Don't do that. i'm dual-gendered - i'm both a woman and a man - and thus i don't fit within the gender dichotomy - i'm not just "female" or "male". But my gender is nevertheless a stable one. i don't "move between" being "more female" or "more male"; i'm both female and male, all the time, simultaneously. Further, not only is my gender stable, it's been stable since the early 2000s, when i first realised i was trans. "Ah, but!" someone might say, "before you realised you were trans, your gender was different!" No. My gender identity was different, but my underlying gender was as it is now; transition for me involved a recognition of what my gender actually is and was, rather than what others were expecting it to be.

i feel a significant part of the problem here is the conflation of 'gender' with 'gender identity' and 'sexuality' with 'sexual identity'. Identities can change without the underlying referents changing. For example: for many years i identified as bisexual; in more recent years i identified as polysexual; and i now identify as pansexual. Yet the types of people i'm attracted to has basically not changed during that time. What has changed is which word i think best describes my attraction preferences, based on not only my own understanding of what a given word means, but other people's apparent understandings and usages of that word. One reason i resisted identifying as 'pansexual' for a long time was because, in my experience, it tended to be used as an identity by kinksters - including heterosexual kinksters. More recently, however, i've observed it used much more frequently by people who can be attracted to a person regardless of that person's gender; and since i now identify as a kinkster myself, any associations it has with kink are no longer problematic for me. Thus, even though i've never let a person's gender be an obstacle to me being attracted to them, pansexual is my current preferred way of describing that.

So a person's gender identity or sexual identity might be fluid even when their underlying gender or sexuality is not; and part of the reason for this is that individual and social ideas about particular gender identities and/or sexual identities can be fluid. This leads me to another issue i frequently encounter in discussions involving the concept of 'fluidity': the conflation of the idea that a given person's gender/sexuality and/or gender/sexual identity might be fluid with the idea that sociocultural concepts of gender/sexuality might be fluid.

i would hope that no serious contemporary scholar of gender and/or sexuality not driven by fundamentalist religious beliefs seriously thinks that sociocultural concepts of gender and/or sexuality aren't fluid; and assuming that to be the case, i find statements like "[the sociocultural concept of] gender is fluid" to be relatively trivial. But the phrase in square brackets is, in my experience, rarely stated explicitly; and so the simple statement "Gender is fluid" can be taken to mean:

  • "The sociocultural concept of gender is fluid."

  • "Individual and/or sociocultural ideas about a particular gender identity are fluid."

  • "Any given person's sense of gender identity is fluid."

  • "Any given person's sense of gender is fluid."

Consequently, i would like to suggest that people be conscious of these multiple possible layers of meaning, and rather than throwing around currently-sexy simplistic phrases such as "sexuality is fluid", instead make more of an effort to be clear about which layer(s) they are making claims about, such that such claims can then be addressed accordingly.

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i've written a guest post on Curvaceous Dee's blog about the kink dynamic that's developed in our relationship, "Lease-to-own".
Imagine this: You want to take someone you've met recently out to dinner. So, you just decide on a restaurant you like and take them there without discussing it with them, right?

i would hope not. i would hope that you'd ask them about their food preferences first, and also check whether or not they have any particular food allergies they need to take into consideration; and i'd also hope that you'd be open to discussing with them what sort of environments they do and don't feel comfortable in. To me, taking such an approach would greatly increase the likelihood that your evening together is an enjoyable one for both of you, and correspondingly reduce the likelihood of various degrees of unpleasantness.

Assuming all this is reasonable, i now ask: Why don't we take the same approach to the possibility of having sex with someone?

i feel that - to say the least - it's unhelpful that Western sociocultural scripts discourage us from talking about our sexual likes and dislikes prior to having sex with them. Instead, the accepted scripts suggest that the 'right' person - and, like the Highlander, there can be only one - will inherently know the 'right' things to do, and not to do. If they have to ask, there's something wrong with them. And more generally, there's the idea that there is The Technique which "just works" with all cis women, all cis men, all trans women, all trans men, or all non-binary people1. Indeed, in the context of these scripts, one has to hope there is such a Technique, because otherwise you'd have to treat potential sexual partners as individuals, and communicate with them about sex. Quelle horreur!

If you're not worried about the possibility of giving someone else a particularly unpleasant sexual experience, by all means, avoid talking to them about their sexual likes and dislikes. Otherwise, i encourage you to do so. :-)

1. In contrast, there's radicalyffe's "How to Make Love to a Trans… no, ANY Person".


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