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So. Queering Power 2014 happened last weekend almost a month ago, and Ghost, Kitty, and I were asked to facilitate a discussion about overlapping power exchanges in full-time and ownership dynamics. Here’s the description:
Long term, full-time Power Exchange is never simple, but it becomes exponentially more complicated when you add polyamoury to the mix. How do you hold someone firmly while allowing them enough leash to hold power in another person’s life? What authority does someone have over you when they are your owner’s owner? How do you balance the requirements of submission and dominance at the same time? In what sense is someone your subordinate, and in what sense are they your equal, when they’re in service to your servant… but not to you? Open and overlapping full-time power exchanges stretch far beyond occasional extra-dynamic playdates or the running of a staff of submissives by a single dominant. Regardless of whether you’re in charge, in service, or in the middle, please join us for a discussion of the difficulties and delights of overlapping 24/7 power dynamics.
 
Basically this was very much like the Poly and Power salons that I host chez moi periodically, but a bit more specific in focus, both in terms of topic and in terms of how heavily it was facilitated.
Usually, with Poly and Power, the discussion just kind of ambles where it will, and I keep a couple of question-prompts in my back pocket in case things lag or get tangled in the weeds. In this case, we came prepared with a series of open-ended questions meant to get people thinking and talking.
 
Now, granted, the folks who turn up for Queering Power are basically a bunch of nerdy keeners in fetish gear. (Uh… I’ll be in my bunk)… Where was I? Right. They’re basically a facilitator’s dream group: They talk, they listen, and they build on what others in the group are saying. Basically, my job as facilitator was really easy. ;-)
 
One of the participants – possibly because he’s a school teacher, but also possibly because he may have been instructed to do so by his Person – took notes. Posssibly I should have done this, too, since it’s now almost a month after the fact, and I’m trying to remember what everybody said.
The main gyst of what came up, though, could – I think – be boiled down to some fairly basic Poly Principals, possibly with a D/s twist on them:
 
(A) Remember your Place. This is an important one, and I don’t mean it in the sense of “bottom of the ladder” hierarchies where the person who owns someone else’s owner gets to poly-veto All The Things and the person who is owned by the ownee just has to suck it up and take the crumbs. I mean it in the sense of things like… Remembering that I am Ghost’s boss, but not Kitty’s boss (therefore, just as I don’t get to boss Kitty around[1], I also have to remember that her Personal Growth is not my Personal Project). OR Remembering that, just because your Dominant is someone else’s Submissive doesn’t mean that you have to, or get to, serve (or answer to) two Keepers. OR Remembering that being In The Middle sometimes requires a lot of triage, but that everything still needs to Get Done.
 
This feeds directly into (B) Use your words. But also use your ears. I’ve got a friend who, at his day-job, recently acquired some Minions. And, as he is familiar with KinkyLand, we’ve had a couple of conversations about management and about the responsibilities that one has to the people over-which one holds power. One of the major ones – and one that I fall down on a lot is making sure that your People have enough direction to keep them busy, but also to keep them interested and engaged and developing. It’s the counter-balance to all those job-descriptions that require you to be a self-starter or good at working independently, rather than being the kind of person who either needs someone standing over their shoulder going “Have you finished that project yet? How ’bout now?” in order to actually get anything finished, or else who can finished Assigned Task X just fine, but won’t independently go looking for Task Y on their own.
This is Polyamoury’s “Communicate, Communicate, Communicate” blended with the multi-tasking long game of the Master, the attentive, multi-layered listening of the Servant.
S-types need to listen for instructions, sure, and not just the kind that are phrased as a formal request/expectation (see: Self-starting), but they also need to be careful not to volunteer, unasked, on tasks that they know they’ll resent doing, but feel like they “should” do without having been asked for them. On a similar note, presuming to clean the leather of your master’s master might wind you up with a sharp talking-to along the lines of “That is not your privilege!” rather than a “Thanks for taking that task off my hands” from your boss.
D-types need to offer instructions, sure, but we need to determine those instructions based on both our goals (for ourselves, our dynamics, our People, and our to-do-lists) and on the needs, spoken or unspoken, of our People. I can want to instruct my Servant to whip me up a new pair of leather sandals this evening, but that doesn’t mean I get to ignore things like (a) paid cobblery work that needs to get done, (b) pain flare-ups, and (c) social/emotional responsibilities to her own servant and any other partners who are in the mix. Sometimes Using Your Words is going to feel less like Issuing Decrees and more like parenting an easily-distracted kindergartener[2], but you (in theory) figure out how to make it work.
People in the Middle need to be aware of what they can/should deligate to their own servant(s) – and how frequently they can do that before said s-type(s) start feeling like they’re primarily serving a master-not-their-own – versus what needs to be done by them-specifically in order to continue providing the service (the relationship) they offered to their d-type. A big balancing act, to be sure.
No matter what position(s) we play in a given overlap, we all need to remember to talk about it when we’re swamped with Fill-In-The-Blank and need some help or some slack on This or That responsibility/task.
 
This, in turn, feeds into (C) Be generous with your heart. This means… assume the best of the people in your constelationships. Nobody’s in competition. Nobody is trying to gain control of All The Time, Energy and Attention (even if your Jerk Brain is saying that they are[3]). Sometimes creative solutions (like sleeping three to a bed once a week so that the ownee’s ownee can make everybody coffee in the morning) will be necessary to keep things running smoothly for everyone involved. Something unexpected relationship twists (an owner’s owner becoming – formally or informally – a mentor/teacher to their ownee’s property; a switch in which member of a given diad is Holding the Power) will happen, and the ripples from those changes will also need to be navigated by everyone else involved in the overlaps.
 
So there you have it.
Some thoughts on “D/s Cubed” and what I learned while discussing the specifics of overlapping 24/7 and O/p power dynamics at Queering Power 2014.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] …Ish. I use the analogy of “auntie/neice” to describe the kind of authority (or “authority) I have where Kitty is concerned. I’m only Tthe Boss Of Her when GHost (her “mom” in this analogy) is out of the house.
 
[2] Even when you don’t have a Mommie/girl relationship there are still going to be days where you have to say “Okay, no more TV, it’s time to Tidy Up” or “I thought I told you to Clean Your Room” or whatever.
 
[3] Just me? Okay.

Taking a bit of a different tack today. So far, this year, I’ve managed to talk about Poly or D/s during my GGBP posts. Today, howver, I’m looking at safer sex.
Specifically, and having just done this myself, I’m reminding folks to check the expiry dates on your safer sex supplies. I had a whole bunch roll past their use-by dates recently. My hook-up kit (which, admitedly, doesn’t get a tonne of use) is re-stocked with stuff that’s not going to expire until 2016 or later. I feel a whole lot better.
 
As a side note: You don’t actually have to throw away expired condoms. You can use them on personal-use-only toys – you might want to do this if your toys are porous or otherwise tricky to clean, or to protect your silicone toys if you prefer silicone lube. Just… don’t get them mixed up with the stuff that’s still within its use period.
 
Look. It’s not the end of the world to use expired latex (and non-latex) barriers during sex – way better to use them than to use nothing. But the risk of having your barrier fail – tear, break, lose flexibility, lose potency (if we’re talking about spermicidally-lubed stuff) etc – gets higher the further past the expiration date something gets. So, if you’ve got the option of using, er, fresher materials… do so.
 
On a related note: Yeah, you can generally pick up free roll-on condoms in any CHC bathroom or Q/T community info fair. But if you’re wondering where to find affordable insertable condoms and oral dams – both of which can be a tad on the prohibitavely expensive side, expecially when you’re broke – turn to agencies like Planned Parenthood Ottawa and the ACO who give them away for free as part of their respective mandates.
NOTE: If you’re looking for fisting kits – which tend to contain nitril gloves rather than latex ones – I know that the AIDS Committee of Toronto supplies them, but I don’t know if anyone in Ottawa does. (Commenters? Want to throw some information out here?)
 
Anyway. That’s your PSA for the day.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

syrens:

Reblogging this because it’s an excellent (and funny!) discussion of gender expectations for (cis, at least) women. Why should you never, ever, ever get a tattoo? Possibly because it involves claiming your body as your own and doing with it what you want.

Originally posted on The Ugly Volvo:

I’m not super pro-tattoo or anti-tattoo.  I’ve debated getting one in the past but never that seriously.  But my mother is vehemently anti-tattoo.  Listed below are the reasons my mother has always given me for why I shouldn’t get a tattoo.

And I understand that she’s from a different generation.  And I love my mother very much.  She’s a really wonderful person and I’m not saying none of them is a legitimate reason, but I’m saying that after having a child, I find it really hard to take any of them seriously.

And so in case you were headed out to the tattoo parlor as we speak, here are:

10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER, EVER GET A TATTOO ACCORDING TO MY MOTHER (but having a baby is fine)

1.  “A Tattoo is Forever”

Yes, a tattoo is forever.  Totally forever!  Except that a tattoo can, if needed, be erased with a laser.

 *Some of you read that and immediately thought, "I am so exhausted, please I need a laser that can temporarily erase a three year-old," but sorry, that is not a thing that exists.  
No…

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syrens:

There’s a big part of me that grocks the cultural connection between “pretty” and “feminine” and, even knowing the messed up ways that my culture defines “feminine” in very narrow ways that include things like whiteness, I still read things like this post – which I quite like, to be clear – and feel… ambivalent. Because while, no, “pretty” shouldn’t be a mandatory priority for us. But that little part of me sees it and makes a connection with the way we – as a culture, and as various feminist sub-cultures – tend to treat feminity as something that shouldn’t be valued, that valuing it puts you on the wrong team, makes you shallow, makes you unfeminIST, makes you a “typical girl”, or whatever. And, yeah, a lot of that is probably my Jerk Brain talking and rehashing all the femme-phobic crap dished out by my culture and various sub-cultures. None the less it comes up. And, none the less, I still think this is worth reblogging. Go have a read. :-)

Originally posted on The Belle Jar:

“I’m not trying to be self-deprecating,” I say, “I just don’t get it. I’m younger. I’m not pretty. I –”

He laughs, a deep laugh that sounds like it came from deep inside him, and touches his lips to my temple.

“Don’t pretend,” I say breathily. “You know I’m not. I’m not ugly, but I am certainly not pretty.”

“Fine. You’re not pretty. So?” He kisses my cheek. “I like how you look. You’re deadly smart. You’re brave. And even though you found out about Marcus …” His voice softens. “You aren’t giving me that look. Like I’m a kicked puppy or something.”

“Well,” I say. “You’re not.”

- Veronica Roth, Divergent

These might be some of the most revolutionary sentences ever to be written in a young adult novel. In fact, they’re pretty incredible no matter what the genre. These words may not look like much, but trust…

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syrens:

Again and again and again.

Originally posted on The Belle Jar:

On February 10th, Anne Marie Roy, president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, was sent screenshots of a chat that had taken place earlier in the month between two student federation board members and several other students who are either elected to or participate in various faculty associations. The chat had taken place during the student federation elections, and all five men involved were members of a campaign opposing Roy’s (Roy has been president of the student federation since May 2013, and was re-elected this month). The conversation was about Roy, and the portion she was given contained graphic sexual descriptions about what the men wanted to do to her, including a rape joke that could, potentially, be taken as a rape threat.

Below are the screenshots. The participants are as follows:

Bart Tremblay: a non-elected student involved with the association for the Arts faculty

Alexandre Giroux:…

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EVERYBODY!
The current government of Canada is conducting a public consultation on “prostitution-related offences” in Canada RIGHT NOW. (February 17th – March 17th). You can answer their questions here.
 
I strongly encourage folks to go and comment. If you’re stuck for how to talk about this, POWER has isssued a call to action that includes information that can help you fill out the online consult’s questionaire. I’ve also posted my own answers listed below. I admit, I’m not thrilled with my own answer to Question 4 (see footnote for further thoughts), but they’re a place to start.
 
Please answer the public consultation questions and, beyond that, please spread the word. It’s really iportant that sex workers’ voices are heard on this front, but also the voices of sex workers’ allies and ANYONE who centers harm reduction, personal agency, and the legal empowerment of the many marginalized populations whose members are over-represented in this industry, particularly in its most dangerous and (oh, hey, look) marginalized quarters.
 
PLEASE SPEAK UP!
 
 

Consultation Questions (with answers)

 
1. Do you think that purchasing sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
 
Comment: Absolutely not. Sexual interaction between consenting adults is never criminal. The state has no business interfering with these interactions.
 
 
2. Do you think that selling sexual services by an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
 
Comment: Absolutely not. The choice to sell one’s own sexual services harms no-one and helps many. Criminalizing the decision of those who make that choice is infantilizing and shaming and absolutely uncalled for.
 
 
3. If you support allowing the sale or purchase of sexual services, what limitations should there be, if any, on where or how this can be conducted? Please explain.
 
Comment: There should be no limits placed on or around the sale and/or purchase of sexual services by consenting adults. See above.
 
 
4. Do you think that it should be a criminal offence for a person to benefit economically from the prostitution of an adult? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
 
Comment: No, I don’t think it should be a criminal offence to benefit economically from an adult third party’s sale of their own sexual services. Numerous individuals and businesses already benefit significantly in this way: landlords, the children and spouses of sexworkers, retail establishments, hotels, baby-sitters, music teachers, post-secondary institutions, dry-cleaners, banks, small farmers, phone companies… The same people who benefit economically from an adult third party’s sale of their time, skills, and labour in any other industry. Section 212 (1) of the Criminal Code, that which deals with Procuring, can still be applied, though I would prefer it if it were extended to industries such as child-care, construction, and agriculture, where human trafficking is rampant[1].
 
 
5. Are there any other comments you wish to offer to inform the Government’s response to the Bedford decision?
 
Comment: I am grateful for the Bedford Decision, and that the highest court in Canada has recognized that the anti-sexwork laws are unconstitutional. While I would prefer that the government of Canada refrained from having any official standpoint on sexwork within our borders (similar to Canada’s official lack-of-stance on reproductive medical procedures) as I think it’s wrong for a government to attempt to control what consenting adults do with our own bodies, alone or otherwise, I realize that this may not be considered an option by the current government. As such, as a second possibility, I strongly suggest adopting the New Zealand Model, which ALL available research indicates is far, FAR more effective with regards to harm reduction (which is the point of all of this) than the “Nordic” or “Swedish” Model. I also urge this government, and any that follow, to listen to sex workers in all areas of the industry – rather than “moralists” or alarmists – when it comes to the regulation of their own business, and no-one else knows it like they do.
 
 
6. Are you are writing on behalf of an organization? If so, please identify the organization and your title or role:
 
Comment: No. I am writing on behalf of myself.
 
 
Thank you,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Look. Strictly speaking, I’d rather we didn’t have a “procurement” law like this on the books, as it’s too specifically entwined with bawdy houses and it’s too easy to twist into something that looks like the above-mentioned Swedish/Nordic Model which disempowers, endangers, and infantilizes anyone working in the sex industry, or to turn it on its ear so that it can be used like the Avails Law has been used in the past to criminalize the families and associates of sexworkers.
I would much rather see human trafficking dealt with via additions to Section 362(1) (False Pretense), and Sections 279 (kidnapping of an adult) and 280-283 (kidnapping of a child/minor).

syrens:

This may be relevant to the interests of some people reading this.

Originally posted on Voices of Venus:

On a tangentially-related-to- this-post note, trans women (and other trans folks) reading this may wish to take a look at the submission guidelines for THEM (literary journal of trans writing).

From their website:

THEM accepts poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, experimental writing, and pretty much anything. THEM is especially excited by writing that is particular, writing that doesn’t appeal to “being trans*” as if it were one, complete narrative. We are not just trans*. Race, class, ability, size, and sexuality constitute and distribute the oppression of trans* folks. [...]
Feel free to write outside convention: our bodies don’t always pass, neither does our writing. Surprise us.


Do go and have a look.


TTFN,
A.

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So February 10th marked four years in Dynamic for me and my wife/property.
We win! :-D
 
Given the title of this post, maybe I should point out that this doesn’t mark four years in collar (that’ll be May 7th, 2015), and we don’t actually have a contract, per se. The gyst of it is: “Ghost takes care of Ms Syren. And Vice Versa.” And we just sort of take it from there.
Regardless, she signed on for another 40 years, which sounds pretty good to me. :-D
 
So… other than going “Squee!” about the whole situation, why am I bringing this up? (Okay, I admit it, it was mostly about the Squee). My question is: what do you do with a dynamic like this? How do you deepen it? It still feels… weird? Presumptuous? To be thinking “How do I want to focus my property’s development this year?” but I’m still doing it. It’s still my responsibility to do it.
I look at people who’ve been in dynamic for twenty and thirty years, and I have no idea what that looks like from the inside. Do you just keep claiming more and more of your territory? I keep reaching for the metaphor of cultivation – rather than that of, say, teaching someone new tricks. Where do we go from here?
 
It would be so easy to finish right here, to say “I guess we’ll find out” as if that were some kind of a Really Profound Statement. And it’s not like we won’t find out, over time, as our dynamic continues to develop. But I’d like to have some kind of a concrete plan for what direction to take.
As it stands, I find myself casting around for a focus-point. Like, “This is the direction we’re going to work on this year”. Given how things are going already, I’m guessing that this is going to be a year of “spiritual stuff” (for lack of a more appropriate catch-all). And part of that’s me, because that’s where I want to focus my energies so, hey, why not focus hers there, too? But that’s not all of it. Where do we go from here? I guess we’ll find out. ;-)

So I spent most of last week at the Rainbow Health Ontario conference (which, this year, took place in Toronto). And it was a really good conference. I talk about one particular workshop here, but I may talk up other parts of it as well, later on.
That being said, since I’m trying to focus on Polyamoury in half of these GGBP posts, I’m actually going to swing the topic away from the conference and towards something else. See, going to a conference for work? Also meant going to Toronto without my wife. She spent the week with two of her other partners, and I… went off to “Gay Hogwarts” (as one deligate put it) with a suitcase full of office-appropriate clothing and safer sex supplies. Y’know, just in case. I also went with these words, from my wife, echoing in my ears: “You should totally flirt with her. She’s really cute! And she’s kinky!”
I didn’t (I don’t think), but the point is, the option was there.
Thence “Condonance”, a word that, with a bit of a squint, means “permission”.
 
My wife says that she wants me to have some fun, to experience the part of poly where I’m not the one “sitting at home” while my partner is out with her other Person(s). She’s been saying this for years, but it’s only in the past six months or so that I’ve even started to do anything beyond really casual[1] flirting.
Baby steps, right?
 
And that – that permission, that option to express, and even just to have, desire for people beyond the one[2] with-whom I’m Involved – is why I wanted polyamoury in the first place. I know there are buckets of people who are brilliantly happy with their respective one-and-onlies, and who can experience extra-relationship desire without succumbing to crushing guilt about it. But I’m not one of them.
A friend once gave me the difference between “secret” and “private”, and it’s an important distinction. In my last monogamous relationship, there was no distinction. Anything that I kept for myself was Keeping Secrets. So I opted for a relationship style that had Open Honest Communication[3] built into its bedrock, and personal autonomy and agency were totally A Thing.
 
And, here I am, five or six years into this experiment, and I’m starting to look at the whole idea of play-dates and more-than-just-friends-dates as… possible. Enjoyable. Maybe even desireable nd worth seaking out. Hm. Look at that. :-)
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] If, by “casual” we mean “with people who cannot possibly mistake this for me actually angling for a date”.
 
[2] Since we’re comparing this to monogamy.
 
[3] The real kind, not the kind where everyone speaks in very calm, clear, factual voices and uses “I statements” to ensure that nobody can ever actually say “YOU are hurting me by doing X” and all problems are really “the problem is that you are voicing a problem” rather than “the problem is X type of harm”.

Okay, maybe this is a really bizarre title for a GGBP post, but work with me here. The other night (more than a week ago, now), I went to a dinner that included a number of people in what I think of as my extended poly family. I made the dessert.
 
It’s funny.
 
Maybe in a more conventially-structured family, I’d look at this kind of an evening as “getting together with friends”. But some of those friends are my wife’s other partners, which makes them more than friends. Some of them are related by leather ties rather than ties of “blood or alliance” (as we like to say in Anthropology Kinship Diagrams). Some are both.
 
In these small, fringe communities (the queers, the perverts) we are fairly used to (re-)building family from scratch, and – because our communities tend to be small – we frequently wind up being “exes in law” or whatever with just about everybody we know. Throw polyamoury and the amicable disolution/redefinition of power dynamics (like when someone goes from being So-and-So’s owner to being hir mentor, for example) into the mix, and you wind up with these intersecting familial-relationships that can make a community look like the cosmic web.
 
And the thing is, this isn’t all that unusual. Any small community – think tiny farming towns, for example – winds up with most families linked to most other families through marriage or cousins or what-have-you. It’s just that, when those interconnections are based around The Fucking (kinky stuff, power-exchanges, sex parties, multiple sweeties… you know, all those things that an up-bringing in Patriarchy doesn’t really prepare you for) rather than around weddings and grandkids[1], it’s like we forget that there was ever a map at all.
 
But it’s there.
 
I have a friend who loves Miss Manners and Emily Post. She loves etiquette books because they basically boil down to answering the question “What do I say if my son brings his gay trans leather-daddy home for the holidays” with “You say: It’s a pleasure to meet you”.
 
We don’t have to come up with a script from scratch. We just have to addapt what’s already there.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Although those could argueably be grouped under The Fucking as well…