Latest Entries »

One of the reasons I originally wanted polyamoury was that I wanted the chance to get better at Doing Relationships faster. I thought – and was probably super mistaken – that if I were involved in multiple relationships at once, I would get to practice Having Relationships with lots of people, and therefore work out some/most of the “bugs” more quickly. I think I was approaching romantic partnerships sort of as if they were like writing novels. To hear my writer friends tell it, when it comes to novel-writing, you don’t learn how to write A book (and then you know how to write books forever more), you learn how to write THIS book, and you have to learn it all over again with the next one, and the one after that.
And, yeah, you learn how to Do a given relationship and it will not be the same way you do a different given relationship. I kind of love the metaphor of romances (or sex) being improv music, in that you’re co-creating something that does have some rules and expectations built in for functionality, but beyond that is up to everyone involved to create something together.
But also I feel like a bit of a jerk for having thought of relationships with actual people as “practice” for later relationships down the line in any way.
 
None the less. That’s not how things actually worked out, and I’ve spent almost all of the last nearly-ten years being in relationships with one person at a time.
Consequently, most of what I’ve learned “about polyamoury” isn’t actually about maintaining more than one romance at a time. Most of it is about me and how I do relationships, what I need in and from relationships. A lot of it is boundaries stuff.
 

Screenshot from Labyrinth. Wide-eyed protagonist Sarah realizing (and stating) that the Goblin King has no power over her.

Screenshot from Labyrinth.
Wide-eyed protagonist Sarah realizing (and stating) that the Goblin King has no power over her.


 
For example. I (very recently, maybe even embarrassingly recently) realized that… that it’s not on me to “make do” with whatever relationship another person is inclined to give me. I’m not talking about “using my words” here. I’m talking about leaving if someone isn’t offering me the kind of relationship I want to have.
TBH, this discovery kind of blows.
I mean, I’m not saying that it’s good to think that it’s on me to modify my wants and needs so that I can be theoretically (uh… >.>) happy having a low-entwinement, low-time-commitment relationship with someone when what I actually want is something significantly more emotionally intimate and time-intensive or, for that matter, happy having a high emotional-intensity, heavily entwined relationship with someone who can’t offer me mutual care or whose personal coping mechanisms press my buttons in all the wrong ways.
I’m just saying that recognizing that I have the power to walk away from romances – or potential romances – that aren’t giving me what I want… It kind of leaves me feeling complicit in my own loneliness.
Which is bizarre, and probably has a lot to do with a scarcity-based understanding of the world.
It’s like, on some level, I’m thinking “Gosh. If only I’d settled for being taken advantage of, or having constant anxiety spikes and deep unhappiness, at least I’d be Really Polyamourous (TM) because I’d have more than one partner at a time…”
What on earth, right?
Right.
But it’s still a thing that I’m grappling with.
Anyway. Other things I’ve learned:
 
I have a pretty small dance card. This isn’t particularly surprising. Ten years ago, I wasn’t particularly expecting to have more than two heavily-entwined partners and maybe a friend or three who I did occasional scenes with was wasn’t emotionally entangled with more than I would be in a non-sexual relationship. So the bit where juggling two romances at a time feels… just about right? I mean, sure, it might be because I’ve never had more than two relationships at a time, and those relationships generally take a lot of energy because I tend to go deep or go home. But two seems… nice. More than that might be too hard to handle. (Granted, I only have one right now, so… we’ll see what the future holds, I guess?)
 
I am CRAP at casual flings. I seriously wish I wasn’t. I wish I could – and am trying to figure out how to do the Boundaries to – do casual hookups and low-attachment sexual encounters. I wish I could be playful about sex without getting my heart caught up in it. Right now, sex is kind of fraught for a whole heap of reasons, and needing to “make sure” that I’m hooking up with someone who will do right by me – or otherwise constantly be doing the dance of retracing my own boundaries with myself– just adds to that stress. I’m not saying that there’s a line-up or anything, but I would like sex to be fun. I’d like to be able, in the hypothetical situation where this kind of proposition even happens, to say Yes to the friend-of-a-friend who I met at a party or a community dance, to have a short 5-10 minute negotiation rather than having to spend a week of each others’ time hashing out the specific details of where hands and mouths can and can’t go, before we even end up in the same room again.
 
I am way better at spotting other people Meta-Narratives and Self-Defeating Stories than I am at spotting my own: As is obvious to anyone who talks to me for, like, five minutes at a stretch, I have a maybe-not-so-great tendency to hand out unsolicited advice. (I’m trying to keep a better lid on that, FYI). Humans love narratives. These big, multi-layered, complex patterns made up of other, simpler patterns. We use them to tell us how the world works and how we fit into it. And, as individuals, a lot of us – particularly when we’re trauma babes and abuse survivors – have narratives we rely on to explain Why Someone Does That in a way that lets us treat “That” as normal, forgivable, understandable behaviour, rather than abuse. It’s so much easier to catch on to other people’s Stories. The things that come up over and over again. I had a girlfriend, once, whose Story was that “everyone leaves me in the end”. In all the times I decided to actively counter that narrative by Not Leaving, I never once asked myself whether my decision to be perpetually available to her, to upset her self-defeating narrative, happened to have anything to do with maybe reinforcing one of my own.
I finally (good grief, after a decade plus…) figured out that my OWN self-defeating narrative is one that says:
“If I center my own wants and needs instead of those of [other person], I will be letting [other person] down, and they will LEAVE ME to die, frozen and alone in the snow”.
It wasn’t polyamoury that helped me realize this. Not by a long shot. (And it probably had more to do with various personal growth projects and getting some life-coaching than with striving for anything in the realm of relationship anarchy). But being able to see my own narrative playing out on multiple fronts, and (eventually) being able to ask myself “Hey, Ms Syren, what story of YOURS is having the play-button hit because [other person] is playing out one of their own?”, has definitely been part of why I was able to recognize it as, ha… “fast” as I have.
 
I don’t have to “drive off a cliff” but can (and must) meet people where they’re at. What I said about getting some life-coaching? Some on-going therapy? Up until about a year ago, I had (and still have – though I’m trying to get a handle on it for Many Reasons) a bad tendency to respond to “Hey, would you like to go on a date?” with “Sure, I’d love that” and then follow it up by “modeling” the kind of relationship I wanted to have with said person by… being reliably (and, um, endlessly) available, getting in touch regularly, pitching plans for us to spend time together on a frequent (but hopefully appropriate) schedule, opening up emotionally and being brave when it comes to talking about what I want/like/need, etc… even though said individual may not have asked for, or expressed interest in, any of those things. I wrote about this more extensively here, but basically this Thing that I was (and still am) doing can both (a) open me up to being very easily, and very badly, taken advantage of, but also (b) can put my date in an uncomfortable position of basically fending off my overwhelming attentions.
I need to try and meet people where they’re at. Sometimes this means waiting to see how often
 
So. Here I am. Ten years in, and still very-much getting the hang of things.
I’m trying to teach myself to be open to the possibility that The Unexpected might not be a total disaster. Trying to teach myself that it’s not on me (not my responsibility, but also not my right) to manage – or micro-manage – other people’s relationships. Trying to figure myself out enough that I can say what I want, and what I need, without freaking the fuck out that “I will keep my own boundaries in mind” doesn’t feel like a dangerous deal-breaker, and without falling apart when someone else says “that’s not something I’m up for” either.
 
The road goes ever on (as the saying goes).
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.

So. I signed up to take part in (meaning receive videos from) this year’s Explore More Summit.
I’m feeling equal parts excited/anticipatory and… prepared to be disappointed?
 

An oval. Around it are arrayed the words "Thought", "Behaviour", and "Outcome",with arrows leading from one to the next in an endless loop.

An oval. Around it are arrayed the words “Thought”, “Behaviour”, and “Outcome”,with arrows leading from one to the next in an endless loop.


 
I’m feeling “prepared to be disappointed” because the last/first time I signed up for this (Free, I should mention, so I’m not out anything but time – and that’s pretty flexible right now) series of discussions, I found that there seemed to be a significant amount of centering or assuming… something that looked a lot like heterosexuality even when it wasn’t necessarily so (a lot of stumbles around what “sex” looks like, what the gender of a woman’s partner is likely to be, and what kind of genitals she and said partner(s) are likely to have). I felt this to the degree that I actually wrote to the (turned out to be queer) organizer to complain about how othered I felt, even as a cis woman who periodically dates people whose genders don’t overlap (er… much) with my own[1].
So, in spite of the glorious array of queers who are signed up to present at this year’s summit, I’m prepared for the possibility that those same assumptions will be present.
 
THAT BEING SAID…
 
I’m also excited and looking forward to this. I like me a good workshop series. I like having ideas to poke and prod at. I like a “facilitated discussion” as much as the next Harvister, and there’s bound to be a lot of food for thought going on here.
Seriously. There are so many talks about “messiness”. About uncertainty and navigating trauma in sexual (and maybe non-sexual?) situations, about desire, self-compassion and pleasure, along with discussions around dominance, sex magic, femme-daddying[2], “writing towards pleasure”, sexual creativity, and other stuff that is really relevant to my interests.
 
Speakers I’m particularly looking forward to include:
Cristien Storm
Alok
Sage Hayes
Cavanaugh Quick
Alayna Fender
Imran Siddiquee
Rafaella & Dalychia
Steve Haines
Lorena Olvera-Moreno
Karen B.K. Chan
Fran Tirado
Barbara Carrellas
Joy Harden Bradford
Vivienne McMaster
Sinclair Sexsmith
Mia Little
AND
Leonore Tjia
 
Which is, I think, slightly more than half of the presenters.
I think it’ll be good. 🙂
And I think it’ll be good for me to do a bit of a write-up about (or jumping off from) each of the talks I take in. So that’s the plan.
It all starts tomorrow! 😀
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Dear Queers: I love us. Please feel free to center your queerness in all things and in all ways. We get to be our whole selves, no matter who we’re dating.
 
[2] Not me, but… probably related.

Sex Geek

Written Tuesday, April 17 in situ

(CN: murder, police)

***

I decided, on a whim, to come and write at Glad Day Bookshop. It’s smoky in here, like they burned a grilled cheese sandwich or something moments before I arrived. The gaymers are here, as usual for a Tuesday evening. The whole back section is full, with knots of enthusiastic men gathered around each tabletop game. They span a range of races, ages, body shapes. The mid-level hum of their voices is punctuated by occasional peals of laughter and shouts of victory.

As I walked here from Wellesley subway station, I couldn’t help but notice the shabbiness of the area. The Ho’s Team barbershop windows are papered over, lending an urgency to the bright mural on the building next to it, a jumble of gay slogans and symbols. Above the Pizza Pizza on the corner, a Pride flag and…

View original post 1,545 more words

This is a Femme Slam

Just passing this along.

Sian Torrington

I was asked to be a part of a panel called ‘Femme Velocity’ at CIty Gallery, Wellington, on Saturday  6th April 2013. I was so excited, because I thought I was being asked to speak on a queer panel exploring femme identity. I quickly realised this was not the case, that ‘femme’ was being used in another way. Below is my speech… queer revolution with love and compassion

friends XImage

 

I am Sian Torrington, a proud, out queer femme artist pirate. I usually love talking about my art, but today, I need to talk about Femme. Femme is a gender identity, and a sexual identity, and it’s my identity. It’s not just a cool word. Words are important. We live in a colonised country, and we know the importance of words. We know about what it means to take something from another culture without asking what it means or…

View original post 1,665 more words

Sassafras Lowrey

Growing up in urban Ontario, with queer aunties looking out for me, this wasn’t my experience. But it is relevant. I write myself down too, for much the same reasons. Go take a look.

Older Queer Voices: The Intimacy of Survival

We Know How to Do This

by Sassafras Lowrey

I cut my teeth on a survival based activism. Grew up on campaign losses, learned organizing from small town queers who ran from skinheads and protested by making love in the back yards of klansmen. I was raised up by queers who made family without hospital visitation, who found children without adoption, and built homes without leases in our chosen names.

Now in my 30s I came of age at the tail end of a generation of LGBTQ people who had no legal recognition or protection, who couldn’t come out to our neighbors, or on TV. We didn’t have google or tumblr at our fingertips, or  cell phones linking us together. I grew up in semi-rural America, amongst the kind of people who elected Donald Trump. These are the kind of people who also kicked me out of their homes and…

View original post 2,005 more words

Helpful Hints.

Captain Awkward

So, you said something racist. Or, someone told you that you said something racist.

Or, someone you really like & admire said or did something racist, or is getting told on for saying something racist.

And now you feel uncomfortable. You feel guilty, maybe, or ashamed. Whatever it is, it’s weird and you don’t like it.

What I need you to do when this happens is stop, drop, and be quiet for a minute. You are not Racism Columbo, your job is not to interrogate the situation for whether it is actually, “objectively” racist. Your job is not to find the motive, to drill down to whether it was intended to be racist. Your job is not to revert to High School Debate Club mode and split hairs looking for plausible deniability. Your job is not to defend your fave from the racist stuff they said!

Your first job…

View original post 626 more words

Why am I still so bad at this?
That’s one of the questions that hit me when I realized I’m a few short months away from my personal ten-year polyversary.
Ten years ago, I definitely had a daydream about what my polyamourous life would look like after ten years of practicing and – also on the very pressing to-do list at that time – getting myself some on-going therapy. And, yeah, I imagined having significant romantic attachment bonds[1] with, oh, roughly two people, neither of whom lived with me and neither of whom were dating each other, but both of whom had other partners. I imagined me and my hypothetical beloveds giving each other a lot of our time, energy and attention. At the time, I probably would have talked about this by saying “I have two primary partners”. At this point, I’m aware that hierarchical language like this has multiple meanings, that it can be used to talk about degrees of entwinement and (often-related) availability, but it can also be a flag for how much consideration and care a given partner is “allowed” to expect or rely on in a given polycule (which… often seems to relate to some sort of seniority thing?[2]). What I mean when I use it is something like “Primary Partner vs Friend-with-Benefits” and it means “someone who (mutually and in an agreed-upon way) refers to me as their partner/girlfriend/wife/sweetie rather than their friend/pal/It’s Complicated/FwB”. Ten years ago, it was a way of referring to how much time, energy, and attention I was giving to my partners. These days (and quite recently at that) it’s become a little more nuanced, but I’ll get to that in Part Three.
 
Where I’m going with this is that, ten years ago, along with all that other stuff, what I imagined was that I wouldn’t be so scared all the time. I wouldn’t police myself so much. I wouldn’t HURT so much.
 
And, to some extent, that has turned out to be true. I can hook up at a play party and do a scene with someone I’ve been ever-so-slightly crushing on for years. I can having make-out dates and play dates with friends-with-various-types-of-benefits. I can hang out with a metamour, or send my wife off on an overnight with one of her partners, and feel comfortable and happy rather than tense, irritable, anxious, and threatened.
Which is all great!
But I’m also anxious, in general, and tend to spin on the things that did, or could, Go Wrong, so maybe it’s not surprising that I still feel Very Bad At This.
 
The thing is, I’m not sure what it would take for me to feel like I was otherwise.
I think about the theoretical still-unfilled spaces on my non-monogamous dance card, the ones that must be there because otherwise I wouldn’t keep getting crushes on people (right…?), and how worried I am about what will happen to my current relationship – the one with the woman who is ready and willing to wait patiently for me to get back from The Land of NRE when those other beloved people come along – if I fall deeply for someone else again.
I think about how confident I was, eventually, in my current relationship, how much I believed I’d licked the insecurities that had me spinning in anxiety and fear of abandonment for the first couple of years with my now-wife, thinking that I’d figured out how to navigate the fear that gets labeled as jealousy. Thinking that I’d Fixed Myself without understanding that a big part of that was being in a relationship with someone who cared about my well-being, treated me kindly, showed up reliably… but also not understanding that, in a situation where the person I was with wasn’t doing those things – was unreliable, cruel, careless or thoughtless when it came to how they treated me – not only would those insecurities (understandably) surface again BUT that if they did, it didn’t necessarily represent a flaw in me or a problem in myself that I needed to fix.
 
I think “why am I still so bad at this” relates to some sort of dearly held but false belief that If I were good at this, none of my relationships would fall apart, or otherwise deviate from what I wanted them to be, because I’d magically be able to discern who would love me, and behave lovingly towards me in ways I could discern, For Ever vs who would get bored of me in a couple of months, think I was too much, or have unrealistic expectations of selflessness from zir partners, and just… equally magically… not fall for people in the latter group.
Because that’s realistic…
 
One of my Brene Brown books – I have so many at this point – offers this little fill-in-the-blank thing as one way of sorting out where your Shame Stuff lives.
“I’ll be worthy of love and belonging when I ____________”.
The blank is supposed to get filled in with stuff like “lose ten pounds” or “get that promotion” or some other specific theoretically achievable, but always moveable, goal. Mine looks like:

I’ll be worthy of love and belonging when I no-longer need them.

 
So maybe it’s not surprising that, when I read and re-read Polyamoury101 books (or comic strips, or podcasts or-or-or), I have a hard time not interpreting them as saying that Good Polyamourous People don’t actually get anything from each other, or even want anything from each other, because Good Polyamourous People are capable of meeting 100% of their attachment needs without actually attaching to anyone.
That isn’t necessarily what they’re saying (I certainly HOPE it’s not what they’re actually saying), but it’s easy for me to read that into the text (or wevs) because I’ve got this unhelpful core belief around how I’m not supposed to want or need things, not supposed to burden other people by Having Expectations of anything what-so-ever.
 
It’s dumb. And I’m not sure how to fix it. But I think that’s where a lot of my “why am I still so bad at this” feelings are coming from.
Anyway. Onwards.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Though, ten years ago, I’d never heard the term “attachment bond” – among many, many other terms – let alone what it meant or why it mattered.
 
[2] Which… I can sort of get behind, to be honest. Like, I’ve had to remind myself on a number of occasions not to update my will to include someone I’d been dating for less than a year, no matter how much I cared about that person, because I had zero way of knowing whether or not they would for sure be in my life two years down the road. The problems start (well… “start”) cropping up when those more-recent partners have also been around for YEARS but are still being told that they can only ever expect to be treated like a new and untested fling.
 
[3] Which means I need to make a bunch of art about this, basically. Time to write more poetry. 🙂

Late last year, Laurie Penny wrote an article about having been polyamourous for almost a decade. A friend of mine linked to in the other day and I was shocked, in a way, to realize that so have I.
This June. June 5th, to be exact. My personal polyversary.
And this has me thinking about a few things.
First: Why June Fifth?
And Second: Why am I still so bad at this?
With a third, follow-up question of: Okay, but what have I actually learned on this adventure so far?
 
Naturally, I decided to write about it and, equally naturally, I decided to write about these super-personal, more-than-a-little-vulnerable topics in a very public way by broadcasting my thoughts to the internet. LJ-generation for the win, I guess?
 
So.
“Why June Fifth”, which, if nothing else, is simpler or maybe just more topical given #metoo and #timesup.
June fifth because that was the day I asked my then-husband for an open marriage (in a letter, because I was terrified), and he said no. Very nearly walked out before I got home, without telling me the marriage was over.
It’s the official – not in the legal sense, just in the “what we told the relatives” sense – reason for why we got divorced.
 
And I guess, right this second, I want to talk about my divorce – or the breakdown of my first marriage, or something along those lines – before I get into the other stuff about polyamoury, because the reasons behind “Why am I still so bad at this” are pretty tangled up with – among other things – how that first marriage went down.
 
I married a guy who told me, on our third date or so, that he though people who wanted to get abortions should have to get approval from some sort of governing body.
You know, like back in the bad old days that are absolutely not very long gone at all.
I was so sure that he was just clueless. After all, I’d been clueless, right? I’d been pro-life back in grade eight, why would a dude in his late 20s be any more capable of empathy than I’d been before I hit puberty? I was sure, in my “I’m TAing women’s studies for the first time” way, that this progressive dude would smarten up if I could just tell him why that line of thinking was bullshit, y’know, using the exact right words.
 
I married a guy who sexually assaulted me in his parents’ basement, and many times there-after, because I didn’t believe him the first time he told me who he was. (Uh. “I went through with the marriage because I didn’t believe him the first time”. Not “he sexually assaulted me because I didn’t believe him the first time”. To be clear). I was so sure that he was just clueless, that he would smarten up if I could just tell him that I wanted him to stop [touching me like that], y’know, using the exact right words.
 
I married that guy because I was in love with him, but also because I had already passed the age where my mother – who bless her probably-didn’t-mean-to-be-cruel heart, had once told me she was astonished that I thought I’d ever get married[1] – had married my dad, and also because I hadn’t had enough dating experience to know that NRE is a thing and it follows certain patterns like “the wanting to fuck constantly” lets up at least a little bit at the three month mark, or “you will probably have your first significant fight around 9-10 months in”, or “You might want to hold off on making any legal or (theoretically) permanent decisions until after the 2-year mark, because that’s how long the merging/infatuation/NRE stage can last, if things are going really well”… and so thought that this relationship, which had managed to make it past the three-month mark (the point at which my very few previous relationships had both fallen apart), was The One.
 
I married a guy who turned out to be controlling, isolating, petulant, and periodically sexually violent. A guy who not-so-subtly threatened to sabotage our method of birth control. A guy who treated the suggestion that he actually participate in the raising of his own hypothetical children as a demand that he “babysit all the time” and who told me that, if I didn’t let him get me pregnant, that he’d have to conclude that his marriage to me had been a waste of time.
 
Ten years later, I still don’t know how much of that was him being an abuser versus how much of that was him being a run-of-the-mill straight, cis, white guy from a slightly-wealthier-than-my-own (cis, white, comfortably middle class) background who due to those intersections, had never had to consider other people’s wants or needs as anything but an inconvenience to be worked around or a favour to be magnanimously granted (or not). And I don’t know how much of it was me, either.
Sometimes I wonder how he felt, when the woman who had been so visibly, actively in love with him got distant and silent and turned in on herself, if he was just as bad at talking about the growing gulf between us as I was. Sometimes I wonder if he noticed. Sometimes I wonder why the ever-loving fuck I give a shit. But I do.
 
That’s why I keep talking about it. Because it’s really easy to bury myself in “What if it was me?” or “Was it really that bad?” and I have to keep my head above water.
 
The stories I tell about my divorce aren’t always the same. Sometimes I say “he left me”, which he did. Sometimes I say “we decided to end our marriage because it wasn’t doing either of us any good”, which is true, we did. And sometimes I say that left my husband.
I didn’t leave my husband.
I wasn’t even able to consider leaving my husband until I landed a more-than-minimum-wage temp-job and was able to get out of the part-time retail situation that meant I was economically dependent on my him. The thought of losing the only person who, here-to-fore, had loved me[2] enough to stick around, was utterly terrifying when my whole head was basically one big ball of shame, fear-of-abandonment, self-loathing, and scarcity. I’m not even the one who walked out the door.
What I mean is that I asked for what I wanted and needed and, for once, instead of waiting for him to “get it” and become the husband I wished he had been, I stuck by what I wanted and needed, even though the price was watching him walk away.
 
He walked away on June fifth, ten years ago this year. It took me a week to start getting angry and start naming myself for what I am.
 
 
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] I think I was in about grade six. It was the very early 1990s. Like, early enough that the RCMP was still keeping tabs on suspected-to-be-gay public servants in case they became a matter of national security. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure my mom already knew that her oldest daughter was a homo, and was probably trying to suggest that there were other options available and that marriage was not the be-all-end-all of womanly life. However, being a little kid – and one who was getting pretty hurt, pretty daily, by her peers – what I heard was that my own mother was astonished that I thought anyone would ever love me. Marrying someone as some kind of a “Ha! So there!” to a third party is… not a good reason to get married. But I can’t deny that it’s wound up in that mix somewhere.
 
[2] Even if how he went about loving me was pretty shitty.

Tops, Bottoms, and Boundaries

So, Heather tweeted:

 
And I thought… It’s been way too long since I actually wrote something for Syrens, so let’s use this as a bit of a jumping off point and see where we go.
 
So. What tells me that a possible scene-partner knows and is able to communicate their boundaries, even when things get intense…
I think the first part of this is actually to ask “How likely are things to get intense?” because the vast majority of what might be called pick-up play (hooking up with someone and negotiating a scene while at a party, rather than beforehand) that I do isn’t exactly “play”. It’s more like the scene version of running a “sensation station” at a kinky exploration event. Meaning that I’m “topping” in the sense that I’m “doing the doing” but not in the sense that I’m “running the fuck”.
In these situations, “intense” in the opposite of what I’m going for and I’m working/interacting with someone who hasn’t done The Thing (usually The Thing is play-piercing, but sometimes it’s other stuff) before so I’m working from the understanding that (a) they want to try The Thing, but (b) they don’t actually know if they like it, or how their body/mind/body-mind are going to react to it. It means we go super slowly, keep everything light, and front-load a lot of information in both directions. I ask questions about what experiences they have with related sensations (kink-wise –> stingy sensations) and with related experiences (e.g.: medical –> booster shots and blood tests and so-on; body-art –> tattoos, piercings) and about how they tend to respond to those situations/experiences (like whether they get light-headed, how/if they tend to scar, etc). And I offer information (and/or answer questions) about why I’m suggesting starting with thus-and-such gauge of needle or thus-and-such location on their body, stuff like that. There are a LOT of check-ins, way more than I would do in a play-scene, a lot of “Now I’m going to do X, are you ready?”, as opposed to a “fun scene” where the kind of a heads-up I give is more like “Mwahaha, what shall I inflict up on you next… Ooooo! How about THIS one?” when changing toys.
 
Which, I guess, is a good place to start talking about the “fun scenes” that I do get up to.
 
I’ve been pretty lucky in that, when I do pick-up play that is A Scene Where I Have Fun Too rather than, like, Providing An Experience Through My Emotional and Physical Labour (<– Note: I do volunteer to do these things and I do get stuff out of them, this is just marking the difference for me between one type of scene and another), it's been with people who are generally more experienced kinksters than me.
You know that Grand Olde (Mythologized) Leather Tradition where you learn how to top from other tops?
I learned how to top by listening to my bottoms.
 
Related Tangent: I realized a few years back – after I'd had a couple of pretty unsatisfying impact-play scenes (don't get me wrong: spanking and caning are tonnes of fun, but these ones in particular didn't work out) with people I'd only just met, that I needed to change up how I went about negotiating – or even just suggesting – scenes.
There were things I was still yet to figure out (I will get to that in a minute, as those things are really RECENT discoveries), but I realized that I needed to (a) play with people I actually find attractive[1] and (b) play with people who are into the same things I'm into, rather than… service-topping whoever happened to come along.
So I tend to ask people what they like to get up to, and what specifically they'd like to do with me (provided the “with me” part has already been established as something they’d like), and then pick stuff from what they suggest.
It’s… There’s stuff in here that points to “Tops get to want things, too” and my own difficulties recognizing and owning – acknowledging and naming-out-loud – my own desires. Xan West has some stuff on sadistic desire and sadists’ consent that pertain to this, and Betty Martin’s wheel of consent has, more recently, been a major eye-opener for me with regards to how I tend to hide what I want to take[2] (link goes to a half-hour video) as a top, a sadist, a dominant, or even just as a fairly vanilla[3] lover, under the guise of what I’m willing to give.
I can go on at length (and have) about how I feel like my own wanting – wanting-to-do and wanting-to-take – are monstrous and unforgivable. I get that this isn’t really true, but it’s a hard one to navigate[4] and it means that I’m being dishonest when I hide my “I want” (to pull your hair, dig my nails into your thighs, fuck your mouth with my fingers, slap your face, go down on you, carve words into you, sink my teeth into you, leave my marks on you) behind my “I’m game to do what you’ve already said you want”.
It’s cowardly[6].
 
But anyway.
I learned to top by listening to my bottoms, by topping people who were old hat at this and were looking for a new play-partner, rather than a new physical experience[7]. Maybe some of those have involved them Providing An Experience Through Their Emotional and Physical Labour for me, although I kind of hope not. Maybe that’s had an effect on what I look and listen for when it comes to sorting out whether or not someone else is Good Enough At Boundaries to be someone I can play with safely. Some of those things are:
 
* If I’m with someone who I haven’t met before, are they going slowly? Are they looking for a conversation before they look for a scene. E.G.: The woman who is now my wife originally approached me with an invitation to get together to talk about maybe doing a scene, which suggested a solid sense of self-preservation. This can also look like chatting me up between workshops if we’ve met at an event.
 
* Do they talk pretty directly and specifically about what they like and want? I, myself, am hella bad at this – see above. But if we’re BOTH hella bad at this, it is (a) just not going to function at all, but also (b) going to annoy the heck out of me because I can’t Do The Doing if I don’t know where The Doing is invited to go.
 
* Do they talk about “Where can I touch you and what do you call it?” (to use an S. Bear Bergman phrase). Do they talk about what they’re not okay with? Do they talk about what “yellow” looks/acts like in terms of body language if spoken language isn’t an option (because things are intense, because they’re gagged, because they’re non-verbal, because we’re in a loud-ass dungeon and my hearing is kind of fucked). Do they know what “yellow” looks/acts like, when it’s them?
 
*Something it occurs to me I should maybe be on the look-out for, when it comes to people I’ve know for a while, but which I don’t think I’ve been doing (at least not in any kind of intentional way): Have I seen/heard them cross their own boundaries before? Like… “I am so tired but said I’d do xyz social thing, so I have to“. Have I seen/heard them do this frequently or consistently, or is it something that seems pretty rare?
 
Anyway, so hey.
A thing I’m finding as I’ve been writing this is that I look for people who are better at recognizing and articulating their boundaries than I personally am.
I’m not sure what to make of that. I mean, on the one hand, I’m basically administering tests that I couldn’t, myself, pass. On the other, if I’m that bad at acknowledging that I want specific things, let alone asking for them, and have a tendency to… keep going with things, or allow things, or put up with things, or whatever that aren’t actually things I’m enjoying, it’s probably better that I stick to topping (rather than bottoming), and that I stick to topping people who are GOOD at recognizing and naming what they want and need, as well as what they don’t.
Anyway.
Not sure what to do with all that, but there you have it.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] I have a lot of Feeeeelings about this, just because it feels SO shallow to say out loud, but there it is. My sadism and my dominance aren’t separate from my sexuality and my desirousness.
 
[2] “Take” meaning, in this context, what I want to do (consensually) because it gives ME pleasure, as opposed to what I’m willing to do (joyfully, excitedly) because someone else has already told me it will give THEM pleasure. (This from watching Betty Martin’s videos on the subject).
 
[3] For a given value of “vanilla” that includes spanking, biting, hair-pulling, and digging my nails in… >.>
 
[4] It makes me wonder if the folks who are bottoming for me are looking for flags around “does this person know their own boundaries and can they articulate them when things are getting intense?[5]”, or it they’re only (understandably – you need to put your own oxygen mask on first) looking for flags around “Will this person recognize and respect MY boundaries?”
 
[5] Which, P.S.: It took me a loooooooooong time to understand that I was allowed to have boundaries as a top. That my purpose as a top wasn’t just to Provide A Community Service, sure, but also that in a given scene with a given partner, that I was allowed to set the pace so that I got the warm-up I need in order to enjoy the scene and not end up exhausted. I’m still getting the hang of how that functions in a D/s situation, as the habits and feelings around that have been built over a much longer period of time.
 
[6] It’s also a convenient Domme Cheat Code, though, because it makes the other person be all sorts of vulnerable with you. But… still cowardly.
 
[7] Not that I necessarily understood it that way in real time. When I told my wife I was writing this, and that her wanting to meet me and have a conversation before deciding whether or not to do a scene with each other had been a Green Flag for me, she said “Well, yeah. You’re a human being”. Which… In the eight years we’ve been together? It never once occurred to me that she asked me out on our first “proto-date” (or… something…) because she wanted to get to know me. I thought that happened later. O.O

Andrea writes about earned leather and its history and mythology. As a religious studies geek with a focus on new religious movements, what she says about building traditions in the here and now, and recognizing that just because your Mythic History is *made up* that doesn’t make it wrong or invalid… that applies to more than just Leather culture. I see it among witches and pagans and not-nearly-so-reconstructionist heathens who build ritual and story in ways that let their faiths serve the needs of their communities today, rather than those that might (or might not) have served in some thousands-years-gone Matriarchy or iron-age Viking settlement. I love what she says about making deep meaning, and how its such a part of our culture (particularly, I think, the D/s part, though the S/M part is no slouch, what with ordeal rituals and the meaning and connection that are built into and born out of them). On a way more personal note – which I’ll have to expand on if/when I take Andrea’s advice and write this stuff down where people can find it – I’m beyond grateful to have been part of this. ❤

Sex Geek

my cover The cover I was given at An Unholy Harvest’s tenth anniversary, October 2017.

Ten years ago, I wrote about the concept of earned leather. I just re-read my post and felt a wave of… nostalgia? A lot has happened in that decade, and to revisit my perspectives from 2007 feels a bit like having tea with an old friend I haven’t seen in a long time.

My thoughts on the idea of earned leather have deepened since then, and so have my experiences. So here are some fresh musings on that tradition. And after I talk about history for a while, I’ll tell you the story of how I was recently given a very special hat.

Myth and meaning-making

Our propensity to mythologize, as Leatherfolk, is remarkable. We elevate each other to statuses that may or may not be deserved, or recognized outside our own small circles. We write…

View original post 4,367 more words