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Hello! It’s been a long while since I last posted something for my Notice Pleasure project but it is, in fact, still happening. Welcome back!

So. Some stuff that came up for me recently:

  • The importance of having back-up plans – these the “substitute” in my alliterative, alphabetical titling practice
  • The idea that it’s actually okay to give up when something’s isn’t working how you wanted it to

In my last post under this tag, I talked about having the responsibility to (a) not assume what my partner wants from/of/with me, and (b) communicate what I actually want/need in the moment rather than… defaulting(?) to pushing through something that was uncomfortable just because it wasn’t dangerous. And this sort of relates to that, as well as to the permission slip I granted to myself about three years ago.

I have a habit of pushing through stuff that’s uncomfortable in order to not inconvenience or disappoint the other people who are involved in whatever-it-is… but also to… not disappoint myself?

  • Voicing that my hips are sore and I’ll need to stop/rest soon, but downplaying how sore they are or exactly how close to the line between “my hips hurt all the time, I can keep going” and “No, I seriously need to sit/lie down immediately” I likely am.
  • Trying to work around muscle cramps or emotional distress because I really want to try XYZ activity, or stay present for the whole group ritual, even though the physical/emotional discomfort is making that really difficult and I’m not getting as much out of the activity or the ritual or whatever because of this other thing I’m going through.
  • Pushing through pain or fatigue or whatever because I want to get to a particular “finish line”. Yes, sometimes that’s “If I keep doing this for a little longer, my partner might get off”. But sometimes it “If I keep doing this for a little longer, I can say I rode my bicycle the whole way home rather than getting off and walking the last three blocks”.

Which is to say: Sure, some of this is “I don’t want to disappoint someone else” but a LOT of it is “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take / coffee is for closers / Quitters never win”.

And, yeah, I recognize that the language I’m using there is the kind of stuff that shows up in the kind of motivational speaking that’s basically just capitalist apologetics. But I’m also kind of coming at it from the perspective of someone who has always had trouble with momentum and finishing things and who, frankly, uses long-form blogging as an accountability buddy (thanks everyone!) to make myself keep taking concrete, measurable steps towards any given goal.

It’s very, very easy to give up. Especially when you’re a white, middle-class, cis woman who mostly had Gay Rights by the time she figured out they applied to her. That Banksy quote – “Learn how to rest, not how to quit” – applies here pretty heavily.

I’ve known for years – thanks mostly to Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and the late Corey Alexander – that people take rest breaks during sex. That this is normal and enjoyable and makes sex a lot more fun. But embracing it as a thing that I can do – a thing that I’m “allowed” to do – has been a lot harder. And, just like the option of taking a rest break has been difficult to embrace, it’s also been hard to accept, and encourage, things like “changing position just because my leg is cramping” or whatever.

But there’s a point where I go from “let’s see if this irons itself out” to “everything is terrible and I hate this and am miserable” and… there’s not a lot of room between those two points. Which means that, particularly in contexts where I’m trying something new that’s supposed to be fun, it’s worth it to – yes, sure, challenge myself, BUT – get comfortable with stopping a thing before I hit “everything sucks”.

If I keep things on “easy mode”, stick to the bike paths, pre-plan spots where it will be easy and comfortable to get off the bike and rest for 10 minutes, or where it will be more comfortable to walk my bike than try to keep pedaling… I’m more likely to enjoy going for bike rides, and I’m more likely to build up the strength and endurance that will get me to the point that pedaling up that hill, or breezing right by that rest stop… feel fine. Maybe even good.

And, like… in a sexual context, the goal isn’t like “faster, stronger, etc” the way it might be with biking or weight training or whatever. But there’s definitely a carry-over there. So, for example, I got to spend Beltane with a partner in a fancy rented chalet the woods north of Ottawa. Which was wonderful (tehre was a sauna!) but which was also the woods north of Ottawa during the last weekend of April: Meaning that it was bucketing down rain and not very far above freezing for most of the time we were there.

I think a lot of what made that weekend as great as it was boiled down to our having made some back-up plans for how to accomplish x, y, or z ritual intention if our plans for how, or even where, to conduct the ritual… weren’t working. We can’t do a burnt offering in the fire pit or the outdoor wood stove, because it’s 3C and pouring rain. But we can burn things in the firebox of the wood-burning sauna, and then hang out in front of the gas fireplace and light some candles. We can’t make waffles Florentine for Beltane breakfast because I left a couple of necessary tools at home, but we can do poached eggs and goat cheese and steamed spinach on back-up crumpets.

I have – as I’ve surely said before – a terrible habit of treating “X didn’t work the way I wanted it to” as “I have FAILED at X”. And just… WOW is it easier (not easy, but easy-ER) to not feel like a total failure when you build a back-up into your plans.

Like: If I don’t have to tools/time to make waffles, I can still make pancakes using the waffle batter.

Like: I want to do this yab-yum kind of eye-gazing, grinding, sex thing but if my hips and knees can’t handle it, this alternative position will still get our hearts lined up in a way that will help us energetically accomplish what I’m going for.

Like: Can you bring your ankle cuffs so that we have an extra option, just in case the rope tie that I practiced on myself turns out to be massively uncomfortable for your feet.

So what’s my take-away here?

Building in room for adaptive devices, back-up positions, rest breaks, and alternatives makes it easier to experiment and try new things in a sexual (or non-sexual) context, because I am less likely to put a bucket of pressure on myself to have The Thing work perfectly[2] the first time I/we try it out.

Which, itself, makes experimenting more fun and less emotionally fraught, which means (I think) I’m more likely to experiment, take little risks, and see what happens.

Which, on the whole, I think is a good way to go.

Notice Pleasure: The smell of crab apple blossoms on the hot, sunny, Saturday breeze. Her head pillowed on my shoulder. Making out. Doing a guided meditation and just letting my hands wander over my body as they’re inclined rather than trying to keep them still. First ice cream cone of the season. Heat and sunshine after two weeks of cold and rain. Floating in a hot tub and having the heat and weightlessness take the pressure off my hips for the first time in 48 hours. The smell of her neck. Relaxing into the coast of a down-hill stretch, no work and all speed. The way their bodies fit into my arms differently but both just right.


Ms Syren.

[1] For real. I may not be able to do much with the kind of stripper pole I have in terms of dancing – I’m probably about 60-70 pounds heavier than it can handle, and I’m definitely eight inches (or more) taller than the users it’s actually built for – but it’s great for things like getting up out of a lunge, stepping over a big suitcase, or other things where balance and/or weight distribution are a factor in how well I can do them.

[2] For a given value of “perfectly”, I know. But I’m also a giant perfectionist, so “perfectly” is pretty reliably going to be defined as “unreasonably high expectations for sexual pleasure emotional connection, and a lack of physical pain”. Which: That might be something I talk more about in a different post, but who know.

Kept Women

So I came to the conclusion, last year – after canceling a number of holds that arrived for pick-up during very cold or very icy weather – that I probably should just put all my library hold requests on pause between mid-December and, like, early April. Which has given me a wonderful excuse to pick up, page through, and finish reading a slew of books on my shelves that I’ve been putting off reading (sometimes for years) because they didn’t have a deadline/return-date attached to them. I recently finished reading Jia Qing Wilson-Yang’s Small Beauty – which is, among other things, a really lovely story about ancestors – as well as Patty Krawec’s Becoming Kin: And Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future, a non-fiction work which does what it says on the tin. I’m about halfway through Alicia Elliott’s A Mind Spread Out on the Ground and John Beckett’s Paganism In Depth: A Polytheist Approach, as well but, this being a blog about gender, sexuality, and kink, I thought it relevant to chat a little about some of the books on D/s that I’ve finally been cracking open and starting to work through.

Basically, a friend of mine asked me to take a good look over her latest book manuscript, and it got me thinking about, well, a lot of things. Things like “Why is it so easy for me to be a Mommy, even though – ten years in – I’m still feeling clueless about how to be an Owner??” Things like “What is the difference – in mindset, in behaviour – between being The Boss and being The Owner in the kink sense of the words?”

Part of the answer, at least to the first question, is that being “Mommy” means letting myself indulge in all the nurturing, smothering, touchy-feely, know-it-all stuff that comes very easily to me and that I needed an outlet for, and which – at least when it comes to stuff like making cookies and reading aloud – are things I find enjoyable and that reliably help me feel connected to my sweeties. They’re also – in some ways more than others, sure – things that are mostly easy for other people to like about me. Like, they may not appreciate the unsolicited advice, no kidding, but my tendency to offer a listening ear, make a casserole, or give really great hugs (when asked for)… tend to be appreciated. They fall in line with “gendering correctly” as a lady person in ways that being sadistic or demanding don’t.

The word for a demanding woman is “nag”. The word for a demanding woman who reliably gets what she wants is “spoiled rotten” and, sometimes, “kept” – none of which really imply being the boss of anybody.

I remember when I first came across the concept of Femme as a queer/ed femininity that was overtly sexual and sexually autonomous in ways that I had only understood were possible for masculine people before. I (still) need to figure out how to be Lola – the woman who gets what she wants, and expresses her wants in the absolute confidence that they’ll be honoured, but who is the “keeper” rather than the kept.

A cropped section of a 1958 poster for the soundtrack to the movie "Damn Yankees", featuring an illustration of a woman with very short, red hair, wearing a lace trimmed, halter-neck bustier and earrings. She appears against a deep orange background next to the words "What Lola Wants, Lola Gets!" in black all-caps text.
Orange rose - A dark orange-red rose in full bloom, surround by green foliage. Photo by Sabina Bajracharya, via Wiki Free Images.

Orange rose – A dark orange-red rose in full bloom, surround by green foliage. Photo by Sabina Bajracharya, via Wiki Free Images.

So it’s October. Samhain is coming. And I’ve started listening to Pavani Moray’s podcast, Bespoken Bones (also linked in my Blogs And Pods list, on the right).

It’s a podcast about (1) sexuality, sexual healing, and sexual pleasure, but also (2) ancestors, transgenerational(?) sexual mores, and practices like ancestor veneration. I find this just an absolutely fascinating combination for a bunch of reasons. So I thought I’d just use this as a jumping off point and talk about this stuff for a little bit.

First thing, you may have seen on my instagram a few days ago that I posted a cover shot of Jane Meredith’ and Gede Parma’s book, Magic of the Iron Pentacle: Reclaiming Sex, Pride, Self, Power, and Passion. In the post, I mentioned that I wasn’t too deep into it yet. What I didn’t say was that the reason I wasn’t too deep into it yet was that I got part-way through the first chapter, the Sex chapter, and just started balking.

And I was balking, for the most part, at Jane Meredith’s essay about birth as part of sex.

And, like, yes, part of that was that there was some biological reductionism going on there which, particularly in a book with at least one queer author, I found more than a little disappointing, but I want to try and unpack what else was bugging me about that chapter.

So, to begin: My understanding, such as it is, of the Iron Pentacle, is that the whole point of having those specific five things as its elements is that they are things that are often demonized (literally or not) by Christianity, and as such by cultural-Christianity, particularly when it comes to marginalized people who are expected to feel shame around their own existence in the world for their (our) “failure” to be Real Human Beings (cis, het, abled, neurotypical, white, men).

And, I mean, I do realize that I’ve spent a long time conflating Feri – the magico-religious tradition where the Iron Pentacle comes from – with the Radical Faries, who are a queer new-age-ish, contemporary-pagan-ish, secular-spiritual-ish bunch of loosely-affiliated counter-cultural groups that reject homonormativity and the idea that gay people are Just Like Everybody Else (Everybody Else meaning straight, monogamously-married, would-be parents).

Like, yes there’s definitely overlap between those communities.

But also my long-time assumption that Feri came from the Radical Fairies is (a) maaaaaybe not actually the case, but also (b) kind of colouring my expectations for what I’ll find in a book on the Iron Pentacle.

Secondly: I’m a cis lady. More specifically, I’m a cis, white, middle-class-raised, university-educated lady. Which means I spent the first 28 years of my life under the expectation that, between the age of 20 and 30, I would get pregnant and give vaginal birth, ideally 2-3 times, and that if I failed to do this I was somehow both failing to Gender Correctly and letting a bunch of people down whose own identities, for some reason, were heavily invested in my reproductive capacity.

At twenty-eight, I came the conclusion that (a) I didn’t actually want to have kids, (b) my bisexuality was way gayer than I’d initially thought, and (c) I would be better off in non-monogamous relationships. So I got the heck divorced and started dating other polyamourous women and, while this didn’t mean I got to stop being vigilant about avoiding pregnancy, my various girlfriends and other partners have never seen my intentionally-child-free status as some kind of a deliberate afront to their own life goals or gender identities. Thank all the gods.

What I’m saying is that, while having my own sexual desires (let alone acting on them) was, for a long time, something that I was taught to keep my mouth shut about and to sort of go along to get along, if you will, my early belief that I did want to birth babies and raise children was always treated by others as a part of myself that I should embrace, and it was my rejection of that belief, when I realized that it wasn’t true, that was “radical” or “subversive” or otherwise pushing outside of what Gayle Rubin calls the Charmed Circle of Acceptable Human Sexuality.

Seriously. Dating women, and being fairly loud about it, is probably the main reason I’m not getting any questions from random co-workers and/or relatives about “So… why don’t you have kids yet??” because being a big homo also puts me outside of that Charmed Circle AND, up until very, very recently, would have meant that any children I did want to have would have been forbidden to me by the state due to lesbianism making one an unfit mother.

So, for all of these reasons, I was surprised and frankly put off by seeing “Let’s reclaim birth-giving as part of sexuality!”

And yet.

My culture tends to go really hard on the idea of separating “mother” and “whore” or – to put it more broadly – “virtuous woman who genders properly” and “unvirtuous woman who breaks femininity through her unladylike behaviour”.

All that ways that Black and Indigenous women are hypersexualized by white people, have their sexual consent ignored, have their children stolen from them in a million directly and indirectly lethal ways, have their motherhood disregarded or else treated as pathological or even parasitic. All the ways that poor women are characterized as slutty, how deliberate sexuality is cast as “low class”, how the lives of sexworkers of every gender, are treated as utterly disposable, how women with a history of sexwork, or sexual voraciouness, are often fired, or won’t be hired, how they lose class mobility and economic security if their sexuality is seen as not belonging to one specific male individual. How sexworkers have their kids taken away. How little girls are held responsible, and characterized as sluts, when grown adults rape them. How a million, zillion “sex after parenthood” books have to address the “but I’m a mom, I’m not supposed to want that…” element of getting your (monogamous, vanilla, hetero-married) sex life back once there are kids sleeping down the hall. The way that birth is sanitized in pop culture, having all the (vast, vast) sweating, bleeding, shitting, bodily messiness of it airbrushed right on out.

So it’s not entirely weird that one might want to write, or build into one’s spiritual practice, a reminder that “birth is part of sex”.

And it’s not weird that “Sex”, when defined as (among other things) the Creative Power of the Universe, would include the actual creation of other lives.

But it still felt really weird to run into this so directly.


Sliding back to Bespoken Bones for a bit, and the way that sacred sexuality can be related to ancestor veneration.

So, this is kind of two things.

Like, we have our ancestors of biology – the literal human, and otherwise evolutionary, lineages that resulted in our respective living human bodies. The story that Starhawk tells, in Earth Path about The Oldest Ancestors, and they way they shared breath, green to red to green, and the way we still do that with out plant-kingdom cousins every time we, ourselves, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in. The way I wonder how my pre-Christian, and even just pre-Reformation (pre-machanized worldview) folk-Christianity-practicing, ancestors related to and with the other lives around them. The way my wife told me that she could smell the earth on my maternal grandfather – not in the sense of literal dirt, but in the sense that my mom’s dad, even after he stopped farming in his mid-60s, spent his whole life in a relationship with the ground under his feet. The way I can see my ancestors faces in my own reflection and in the ways people paint and draw me in their art classes.

That I wouldn’t be here if not for these specific chains of birth and sex and birth and sex and birth that have resulted in me, that continue to result in my nibblings and second generation cousins.

But there’s also our ancestors of spirit, to use (iirc) Lee Harrington’s term. What Katheryn Payne is talking about, in her Brazen Femme essay, “Whores and Bitches Who Sleep With Women”, when she asks “Do you know your lineage?”

The queer femmes who came before me and gave me words for what I am. The leather dykes and the femme dyke sex workers who kept a space for me to step into when so much of the rest of feminism was trying really hard to make us disappear. The second wave feminist, lesbian goddess worshippers whose writing – so much of it published right around when I was born – I found in my local public library and read over and over again in my teens. The poets, almost all of them queer as hell, who taught me how to be a poet. The kinky spirit workers and ordeal facilitators whose work introduced me to the whole realm of sacred sexuality that exists beyond the chalice and the blade.

Ancestors who I trace through communities of sexual affinity as much as I trace them through anything else.

So these are two ways that sex and ancestry are related to each other.


And then I listen to Lee Harrington’s interview with Pavani on this podcast, and he talks about making explicitly sexual offerings, on a regular basis, to spirits and deities who have traditionally watched over queer people or who have been called to in queer ritual and queer mysteries.

And I wonder if my own lady of sexual sovereignty would enjoy something like that (and then I get an immediate answer of Yes flashing through the back of my head, more than once, so… apparently I have something to add to my practices).

And then I wonder about my lady of queerness – who for Reasons that I’ll get to in a second – would also want something like this. And then I think about the ways that I recognize her as sensual, and recognize some of my interactions with her as sexual or sexually charged, but haven’t tended to think of her as explicitly a Goddess of Sex, even though she is both a goddess of queer desire AND a goddess of birth (and aiding in birth), which kind of does bring me back to that whole Iron Pentacle situation again. Oh, hai.

So that’s something to think about.


To take things (maybe?) a step farther:

Back in… late August, iirc, I got to take an online workshop with Lee Harrington about sex magic. One of the things that came up, however briefly, in the discussion was the possibility of using sex magic specifically as a battery for destructive magic. For letting go, for releasing (hahaha…) people or events or emotional/physical/somatic Stuff. Storm Faerywolf describes the point of orgasm as the moment when we enter into constant dance of creation-and-destruction-and-creation[1], so I can see how that would work.

And I think about this, and about the ways that sexual trauma can be intergenerational whether or not incest is a thing in your particular family.

I think about how, after a particular relative died, my grandmother felt at liberty to tell my mom The Family Secret (in-so-far as it was a secret, which apparently, not so much). And my mom told me.

And I thought: That explains a LOT.

I think about how, years and years and YEARS later, the ritual I did using sex magic to “puncture my tank” in order to free up space for a better relationship to my own sexuality unexpectedly, wound up including me making a heartfelt phone call, if you want to call it that, to my maternal great-grandmother (who at least knew me in life) and to her mother, my great-great-grandmother, and telling them:

This shouldn’t have happened to you. I’m glad I’m alive, and that I’m the person I am, and that I have you as ancestors, even though it means I also have a rapist as an ancestor, but that doesn’t make your rape your fault, it doesn’t mean you deserved it. And it doesn’t mean you deserved to have your mother-daughter relationships fucked up all the way down our whole family line. None of us deserved that, and that includes you. That shouldn’t have happened to you, and I’m sorry it did.

I really hope they heard me.

And I really hope they believe me.


… So.

Not exactly sex magic. But a ritual that involved it, and also involved talking to my biological ancestors. So… they can be combined. Apparently.

And then.

And then I take this a step farther. A step farther in a different direction, maybe, but still a step farther. And I think about age play. How being a Mommy, in the D/s sense, is having a net-positive effect on my own attachment Issues when my relationship with my Actual Mom was pretty fraught for about 3/4 of my life-to-date and has only recently started feeling comfortable after decades of feeling anything but. How, too, being in this explicitly sexual – and spiritually-sexual – relationship with someone who calls me “Mommy” is also potentially a path towards understanding and better-relating-to my Fetch, which is to say the part of my soul who is my inner child, my sexual self, and my shadow (all the parts of me I reject or keep hidden) all wrapped up in one gangly, adolescent-looking being.

Not entirely sure about that last bit, but… it feels relevant. It feels likely.

So I’m going with it.



Obviously this is all rambling Things And Stuff. But it was on my mind, and I wanted to talk about it. Maybe I’ll talk about it more later on.

But, for the moment, thank you for listening.



Ms Syren.


[1] Now I’m thinking of Neil Gaiman’s Endless, and how Destruction went off to build stuff, saying that every act of creation is also an act of destruction.

So this tweet crossed my feed, and I got to thinking about it. Because I am kinky, and I do pick-up play (at least occasionally), and I’ve sometimes had partners who I wasn’t “dating”, and… clearly I’m using the term “partner” to describe this, so… Here we go, I guess.
Part of my own answer basically hearkens back to a whole tweet-thread I did – I dunno, a couple of months back? – about being allosexual and alloromantic and what that means for me in relation to a question someone tossed up going “Okay, but… isn’t it supposed to ‘take a while’ to decide whether you want to be in a relationship with someone? What else is dating for?” (Or something to that effect – it was long enough ago that I’m not going to scroll through 8-12 weeks of random twitter yammering to find it).
Basically, I was explaining that, even by the standards of someone Allo, my heart tends to move pretty fast, and the development of emotional attachment (e.g.: romantic feelings) can be sped up(?), for reasons I don’t entirely understand but that probably have to do with oxytocin or something, by physical stuff like kissing or hugs or sex.
Which, in the context of Thista’s tweet, above, is basically a long-winded way of saying “I don’t really do Friends With Benefits”. I tend to wind up wanting – and wanting in some pretty unhealthy, self-destructive ways – Long Term Relationships with anyone I have casual sex, or an intense and transcendent kink scene, with more than once. Sometimes once is all it takes. It’s part of why I’ll top a friend at a kink party but try not to arrange topping the same friend more than, say, twice a year, in the interests of keeping the Feelings from turning up uninvited.
So. I think part of how I define “partner” is “Am I getting together with this person on a basis that is not only regular (I’ll beat you up again, next Harvest), but that is also fairly frequent (let’s have a weekly standing date where we do Power Dynamic Stuff over Zoom), and where the context of these get-togethers is mutually acknowledged and agreed upon.
At least that’s the theory.
Like, goodness knows I’ve been in situations where what we’ve agreed upon out loud is “We are friends, who are having a “with benefits” fling, and seeing how it goes!” but what’s being going on inside my head, and possibly theirs, has been… something other than that.
Or we’ve both been using the word “partner” to describe each other, but when I say it, I mean “Someone I’m in a romantic relationship with, that I hope will be permanent” and, when they say it, they mean “Literally anyone I’ve stuck at least one finger in, on more than one occasion”.
In my case – if the examples I just gave aren’t a total indicator – when I say “Partner” I mean “Someone I am romantically involved with, with some mutual expectation and desire for it to be an on-going thing, wherein we have both agreed that that’s what’s going on”.
Which… seems pretty straight forward?
So, okay. This brings us to the question of where the lines are between “a romantic partner and a play partner, FWB, close friend, etc”?
I mean, a friend-with-benefits is… not going to stay that way for long. I’m either going to wind myself up into a mess of attachment anxiety and break off the “with benefits” part for the sake of (a) my own sanity and, hopefully also (b) the continuation of the friendship part OR we’re going to end up dating because the Feelings are mutual. (…Reader, I married her).
A close friend is basically someone with-whom I have an attachment bond but no romantic or sexual relationship. Although given that every time I level up in emotional intimacy with my Close Friends, I reliably go through a period or wanting to date and/or make-out-with them. So it’s not to say that I don’t ever have romantic or sexual attraction to people who fall under the heading of “close friend” but, as I’ve said to one such person, “You have a room in my heart. It has a single bed, and it’s going to stay that way, but you have a room in my heart”.
With all that in mind, and recognizing that “friends with benefits” is generally an uncomfortable position for me to occupy, while a “close friend” periodically comes with a side-order of uninvited pining, AND romantic desires can be increased by significant sexual kinky interactions, especially ones where I’m feeling vulnerable… What, then, constitutes a play partner, when it comes to my own personal definitions?
I’m kinky. I don’t identify as a swinger. So let’s get this out of the way first: When I say “play” I’m specifically talking about BDSM, and I’m specifically talking about BDSM where I top in a… stone-adjacent(?) kind of way, and where I don’t do stuff to anybody else’s genitals, even when I’m doing stuff to, say, their nipples.
By virtue of the word “partner” and my own definition there-of, above, I would say that a play-partner is someone I do kinky things with on an ongoing basis.
Because of all the things I mentioned about how (quickly) I attach to people, a play-partner is also someone who I do kinky things with on only an occasional and time-bound basis. “Oh, hey, we did that scene at that event. Yes, I’m up for coming over and doing something similar again”… but, no, I don’t want to do it more than once every six months or so, or I’m likely to start wanting more than what’s being offered, or start thinking I want more than I actually do, or can handle if I were to receive it.
So that’s my answer.
Partner = Romantic dating + sex + (pretty much always) kinky stuff
Play-Partner = Kinky stuff + actively avoiding romantic dating & sex
Ms Syren.
[1] This is embarrassing (or at least was until I figured out why it was happening), but at least it settles down after a couple of weeks once I’m used to the new normal.

Lit tea light candles against a dark background

Lit tea light candles against a dark background

I got some bad news yesterday.
It’s sort of the way of the internet that sometimes we miss things, or find things, totally by chance.
I found out, totally by chance – because a fellow kinky queer author had posted a screen-shot of someone else’s twitter post to instagram, of all things – that another fellow kinky queer author has died.
Corey Alexander – a writer that you may know as blogger TGStoneButch or under the pen name Xan West – was found dead in their apartment, apparently due to complications related to diabetes.
There’s been a go-fund-me to cover their funeral expenses (information here) which I think has been fully funded and, as such, has been paused (rather than taken down – possibly because there may be further, unexpected expenses to cover. Not sure).
For folks who want to make in-memorium donations, there’s a list in the works and I’ll update this post once it becomes available.
In the interim, and while the above go-fund-me is paused, I’ve been told that donations to trans lifeline, in Corey’s name, would be welcome.
Donating to a disability justice org of your choice would also be a way to honour their memory, as would just… offering some cash to help another disabled or chronically ill trans person cover their medical expenses (hit up #TransCrowdFund and/or #DisabilityCrowdFund on twitter to help someone out directly).
If you are a fan of their work and have questions about their author-estate, there is an FAQ here. Needless to say, there are other things taking priority right now, so please be considerate and be patient.
Shira Glassman has opened a virtual room in-which to sit shivah (link goes to information, not to the zoom-room itself).
There will be a virtual Minchah and Kaddish for them (link goes to information) this Friday, August 21, at 4:30pm EDT, to-which all are welcome.
So, y’know, I know what I’m doing this Friday, as it turns out.
There is a virtual guest-book where you can post brief messages and memories of Corey (and if you are like me and “only” knew them online, that still counts).
This is what I wrote.

I didn’t know Corey particularly well, but we’d been aware of each other for years. Shop talk on twitter and comments on each other’s blog posts, that kind of thing. Their writing on the vulnerability of dominance and the violent desires of sadism, as well as their work to challenge the fantasy image of dominants, tops, and sadists as inscrutable, consistently confident, and without needs or fears, has both helped me find words to put around my own experiences, and pushed me in terms of my own writing. I’m so sorry they’ve died. They remain an inspiration and I’ll miss their thoughtful presence in my life.

It was a short message, and I guess I want to elaborate a little bit.
I would feel very presumptuous calling Corey my friend. We didn’t know each other like that. But friendly acquaintance, peer and colleague? Yes. For years. I was part of the blog hop they did to promote their book, Show Yourself To Me. Their writing has influenced and informed my own.
Like I said, they gave me language and a way of talking about how embodying and existing within my own insatiable, violent desire is a vulnerable position to occupy. They helped me notice the ways that, oh, gosh, how do I name this… “dom-normativity”? Subcultural social expectations of Dominant Behaviour? …how That Stuff maps onto heteronormativity and expectations around what it means to be (conventionally) masculine which, in turn, helped me dig further into what it means for me, as a Femme, to cultivate and nurture my (sense of consensual) entitlement as a Domme and the reasons why my dominance-as-practice sometimes fails to resonate with, or mirror, the ways dominance is conventionally portrayed (in, say, BDSM porn or in people’s workshop-presenter bios)[1].
Weirdly – or maybe not so weirdly, synergy being what it is – their writing about being Butch (like the writing of other leather butches, as it turns out) has given me ways to articulate elements and aspects of my own Femme identity, leather and otherwise, about being “all mouth” and yet having my teeth clamped shut, about the ways that feminine appetite is coded as monstrous and how that affects me (and expectations directed at me) as a dominant, sadistic woman who is both emphatically queer and somewhat “conventional” in the outward presentation of my (Middle-Aged, Nice White Lady) femininity[2].
I’m sorry they’ve died. Far too young. They were kind and thoughtful in my interactions with them. I liked their brain and what they had to say. I think what they had to say was important.
What can we do but continue to explore this stuff, continue to name it and bring it to the foreground? What can we do but pick up their Work and carry it on?

For Corey Alexander[3]
Cicadas howling
their brief lives
in summer heat
A visceral response
to a death not theirs
but mine
to mourn
It would be presumptuous
to call you friend
or back from the dead
demand my old colleague
come to my candle
be present
in the recounting of the stories
you wrote
But you’re in every word

See you at their memorial,
Ms Syren.
[1] I guarantee you there are going to be more posts on that one, as it is a long and on-going trip.
[2] My day-to-day dress, on those occasions when I leave the house, looks more and more like Gothabilly Lite or Office Witch, than the leopard print and mini skirts of what I think of as “Classic Femme” or the lingerie-as-outerwear and oil-slick lipstick of my early 20s.
[3] This is a chunk of a drafted glosa (on Liza Rankow’s “Femme Poem 1”) I wrote, yesterday, in the wake of learning of their death.

So, I’m most of the way through Sacred Power, Holy Surrender (Ed. Raven Kaldera), and I thought I’d post some thoughts.
As a kinky witch who does power exchange, magico-religious sex, and – on occasion – gets to do the doing a religious ritual involving body modification[1], this book is very much in line with my interests. Raven’s one of the few folks I know of – the others being Lee Harrington and Thista Minai – who’s putting books out on this subject, so I was happy to have the chance to read it. I was also fairly unsurprised to find pieces from Lee’s “Sacred Kink” book included here.
So. Let’s jump right in:
As much as I love finding books that reflect my own experiences back at me, in a niche market like this, I’m unlikely to find something that matches me to such a degree that I Feel Seen while reading the majority of it. Which is fine, and to be expected. Reading this particular book is, instead, serving as a jumping off point for sorting through my own wants interests, and blank spots when it comes to the intertwining of kinky sex, D/s, religion and spirituality.
One of the things that comes up in this book, and others like it, is the question of “Do you want to make your sex more religious? Or do you want to make your religion more sexual?” Or, in the case of Why Not Both?… which contexts are better suited to which approaches?
Years ago, when I read Dark Moon Rising (likewise Raven Kaldera’s work), I found it was mostly, if not entirely, geared towards the “making your religion more sexual” end of that dial. And I find that now, as then, I seem to fall at the other end of things, wanting to make my sex that much more religious.
I was chatting about this with my wife/Horse/voluntary-property a while back, and her take on it basically boiled down to “Just because you geek out about both religion and bdsm doesn’t mean you have to combine the two”.
And she’s not wrong.
However as both someone who geeks out about both of these subject and someone whose more profound and fulfilling kinky experiences have been ones where I’ve actively cultivated ritual (head)space and/or a mix of emotional-physical and energetic/spiritual connections between myself and the people with-whom I’m engaging? This is kind of my jam, and I’d like to do/have more of it.
To that end, I find myself asking: “In what ways can I, or do I, make my sex (and my power exchange dynamics) more religious?”
Some of it… isn’t religious, per se. It’s energy play. Striving to deepen the effect I have on my scene-partner by actively pouring my energy through the vessel of her body. Sometimes this is through breath, sometimes this is through song, sometimes it’s through the palms of my hands. Seeing a given partner react to that energy – an arched back, a return to earth, a shudder, a high note – is gratifiying, for sure, but it’s also reassuring because it’s confirmation that I’m Actually Doing Something, that I can potentially Actually Do Something, cause an effect through energetic direction, in other contexts (like, say, spellcraft). But it’s also a really lovely way of topping people, and claiming them, that isn’t going to damage their bodies and that, when it’s Actually Doing Something, leaves me feeling more deeply connected to my People.
(This is where I get all Religious Studies 101 on you and enthusiastically point out that “Religion” comes frm “re-ligio” or “to re-link”. Religious ritual is all about fostering and strengthening connections between people and their communities, deities, and environments! Isn’t that so fucking cool???[3])
Tied to this, while technically being a different situation, is something I’m increasingly understanding through a vaguely-Feri-informed lens. The ideas of “Fetch” and “Godself” as aspects of myself that aren’t the part that speaks in sentences and thinks it knows everything about everything. I do things to reach out to those aspects of myself. (Realistially a lot fewer things than I personally think I should, but that’s a whole other essay for most likely a different blog). And one of those ways is through sex and s/m. The aspect of myself that I describe as “Godself” is what [a friend of mine] describes as Your Personal Union of Opposites: All of your “good” (easy to like, valued by society, etc) bits and all of your “bad” (uncomfortable, difficult, overwhelming, hard-to-fit) bits.
My godself is basically a nurturing predator. So maybe it’s not surprising that she comes out most easily and most readily during intimate, violent S/M interactions.
There’s a passage in one of the last essays in the book that says “Let our work be our offering” and, while I’m not sure that my own experiences on this front are what I would think of as an offering, per se, they are very much a means of communing with, embodying, or allowing-out-to-play my personal aspect of the All That Is.
Which is pretty great, and I’m glad I get to do it.
But that isn’t necessarily how my D/s becomes more religious, or even more mindful.
And, when I say I want my power dynamics to be more “religious”… I think that’s what I mean. More thoughtful. More deliberate. More imbued with intetion in both the literal and magical senses of the word.
In terms of the book, itself, I found a lot of the writing contributed by folks speaking the the s-side of the slash to be really thoughtful. Meditations on the spiritual nature of surrender, for the most part. A lot of the writing contributed by people speaking from the D-side was… Look, I’m not sure if it was “less thoughtful” so much as it was just… You know that thing? The thing where [“the top ‘facilitates an experience’ for the bottom” A lot of the essays in this book kind of lean into that space, albeit through a spiritual lens, and talk a lot about being some variation on the theme of a “spiritual guide” for their s-types.
And, I mean, sure. Nothing wrong with that. And gods know I do it too:
I was overjoyed when my Horse came to me asking for resources to help her deal with the fact that a deity had gotten in touch. That my weirdo-DIY polytheism had something to offer her. Similarly, when my Little Girl and I first started chatting and getting to know each other, a significant thing that we talked about was ordeal work and how it fits into her particular (also polytheist) religious path and her work with/for her patron goddess.
As I mentioned, above, I’ve occasionally had the honour of doing ritual cuttings or brandings for people explicitely within the context of their respective faiths.
This is all very meaningful for, and important to, me.
It’s also very much within the realm of me as a top (or a domme) facilitating, or at least encouraging, the religious and spiritual explorations of various people who are bottoming for, or submitting to, me (two very different things, particularly in this context).
While there were one or two essays where a D-type wrote about their direct spiritual experiences, it seemed like a lot of the D-types were writing from the perspective of someone who acts as a spiritual guide for their s-types. Even in situations where the D-types felt called to be their Best Selves through their D/s relationships or the faith their respective s-types put in them, that was mostly treated as something self-arising, or brought about via the gods or the universe, rather than through the idea that an s-type could be a spiritual guide for their D-type.
Folks, I am here to tell you explicitely that s-types can provide spiritual guidance and religious education to their D-types. You can think of it as a type of service, if you want to, but you don’t have to. Knowing the small rituals my Horse does to honour and acknowledge her Other Lady, and talking about Good Witching together. Talking shop for an hour or two with my Little Girl over Skype. These are interactions that I learn from. I hope I can bring as much to both of them.
So that was a thing.
Related to said thing is this: There were a number of essays in the book that talked about the s-type Seeing The Divine in their D-type. Like, quite explicitely and deliberately. And I found that to be largely, if not completely, lacking going the other way.
Which, like… fuck right off?
We’re talking about spiritual BDSM here, people. How many literal gods have sacrificed themselves, suffered and died, for the benefit of others? How many have gone into the depths to learn and grow and return?
Like, come on. Don’t tell me you can’t see the divine in someone’s submission, someone’s willing offering of pain and fear, someone’s receptivity, someone’s bending and shaping of themselves to your will.
“Holy Surrender” was part of the title, but I would have liked to see more acknowledgement of that in the writing included in the book.
I gnash my teeth and get on with things, right?
Okay. Returning to the idea of my “Best Self”.
Maybe there’s a key there. To be more aware of how my Best Self – my Godself – comes out in my D/s dynamics, to ask “How is my controlling-and-caring Best Self best-manifested through this context?”
A question which, in itself, has me concerned about how much the idea of “best-manifested” is tied to “being a guide for someone else”.
So let me chew on that for a bit.
Late in the book, there’s an essay called “The Yin Yang and The Tree” which talks about two different ways a spiritual D/s dynamic can function, two sort of underlying structures that they tend to take. The “yin yang” is one where the energy moves cyclically. This is the kind of structure that deepens your connections with and to each other really directly and that makes me think of a really good S/M scene in terms of one person feeding into the other person who feeds back to the one, in this lovely, spiralling loop of mutual fulfillment, and it’s great.
I like those.
But when I think of a D/s dynamic where “bringing my best self to the game” doesn’t – or doesn’t ONLY – mean being a “gods-mother”, if you will, to my Little Girl, or guiding my Horse towards doing The Work set to her by her Other Lady, but means being supported by my People when I do my own Work… I kind of wonder if the “Tree” structure might, at least occasionally, be beneficial.
Another pair of structures that I’ve seen Raven, specifically, talk about are the “care-giver” and (vs?) the “rock star” styles of dominance.
A dominant who likes to exert a lot of control might skew towards “care-giver” in dominance style (but so might someone who’s inclined towards a yin-yang style of power structure, so… these aren’t either/or and they don’t map directly onto each other), picking out, or approving, their Person’s daily attire, specifiying which eggs to boil, and handing out expectations about how much time one’s s-type is to spend, per day or per week or what-ever, doing meditation, physical exercise, or specific household chores.
Whereas someone who leans towards a “rock star” style of dominance might prefer their s-types to be more proactive – “See a task and do it” – towards how household maintenance is done, specifically with any eye to being able to leave that stuff to The Minions and get one with their own tasks without having to micro-manage their s-type’s self-care or what does and doesn’t get made for dinner. Someone who leans towards a “rock star” style of dominance might find themselves also leaning towards a “tree” structure in their power exchanges.
I mean, realistically, people are going to be a mix of both styles and are going to find both “tree” and “yin yang” structures beneficial in different contexts. But having these different styles and structures laid out as options and starting points can be a big help.
They’ve certainly given me ways of thinking about, and articulating, How I Want Things To Go, and for getting an idea of where tripping-points are cropping up in my various Dynamics.
So what does it mean?
What does bringing my Best Self, my most powerful/empowered Self, to my D/s Dynamics, actually mean?
I had a lovely conversation with my Little Girl the other day about what “deepening our dynamic” might potentially include, and I find myself mulling over her thoughts on the subject and wondering how they relate to this question I’ve posed to myself.
My Most Empowered Self is unapologetically sensual, is playful and joyful, and is at least a little self-centered / self-absorbed.
In the context of D/s dynamics, this means that my Most Empowered Self is unapologetic about directing her s-types to do things specifically for her pleasure. Anything from “make me tea” to “rub my feet” to “wear thus-and-such-a-thing because I like how it looks on you, specifically” to “accept my ministrations because I want to brush your hair or enjoy your skin”.
It can potentially look like asking my s-types to learn things (a recipe, a piece of music) or do things (cook me a romantic meal with flowers and candles and the whole shebang, do the errand-running that would facilitate my ability to make a particular thing for myself), or dedicate time for things (shared dance lessons or regular opera outings or scheduled at-home spa days) that feed and support my sensual self.
My Most Empowered Self is… artistic and generative, I think is how I would put it. “Creative”. I remember, long ago now, when I first received the gift of an s-type’s Service and was trying to trick my brain into not feeling like A Horrible Person just because someone else (reader, I married her) was voluntarily doing my dishes for me, I made a deal with myself that I would use the time her Service was giving me to do creative work.
With the idea of the Tree Structure in mind, could I go back to this?
Because as much as I (and my sensual self, tbh) enjoy watching my People do labour on my behalf while I lounge around, sipping tea and reading novels, I kind of do need to ask “Is this a good use of this time that I’ve been gifted?” Even taking into account the whole thing where my worth is (also) not determined by my Productivity. I mean, I could spend my leisure time knitting or blogging instead of looking at internet memes, amirite? So that’s something to consider, even if my “work” is my hobbies as opposed to a personal betterment project, can I use the time I’ve been gifted to do more of it?
My Most Empowered Self is confident and a little entitled. She expects to get what she wants – because experience has shown that this will be the case – and so has an easy (or easier) time expressing her desires through both words and actions.
When my desires are prioritized and my requests followed-through-on in a timely and consistent manner, I am able to cultivate that entitlement and exert more control (while managing my expectations and being aware of my People’s capacity and availability) in my s-types’ lives because I see that control being accepted and responded-to in positive and encouraging ways.
Bringing my Most Empowered Self to my D/s dynamics means Being Explicite about my expectations and about the consequences of not meeting them.
(Which I haaaaaaate because it means Saying Something when I’m disappointed, or laying out specifics when I’m afraid the response to my Specifics is going to be defensive or rejecting or some other thing that is definitely not a gracious and grateful acceptance of my Will… but here we are).
I still have two more essays to read in Sacred Power, Holy Surrender. So there’s a little left yet, and I may come back to discussing it here, in case something else comes up.
But, for now, this is where I’m at and what I’ve been able to chew on as a result of reading this book.
Ms Syren.
[1] I’m not priestessing in these situations. The role is a lot more like “handmaidening”: Making sure things happen in the right order so that the person talking to, or doing for, a deity can focus on that.
[2] If you know of anyone else? LET ME KNOW! I want Moar Books – theory and practice books, in particular – written at this particular interesection of the kinky, pagan, and queer venn diagram. Subject me to your faves in the comments, svp.
[3] It is definitely so fucking cool.

Oh, yeah. We’re doing the word-play.
So. A very, very long time ago, I had a voice teacher tell me that, when I bowed in this graceless, perfunctory manner, the message I was sending to my audience was that I felt entitled to their applause, and that it was on me to draw out that bow so that the audience could understand that I appreciated their appreciation.
Which: The reason I had been doing basically a curt nod rather than a real bow was because I hated myself and felt unworthy of that appreciation. I was intensely uncomfortable accepting praise, and I thought that by sort of rushing through that mandatory bit of the performance process, I wasn’t “taking more than I was due”.
Which I suspect my voice teacher knew.
Which is, I think, why she hit me with “You are being a jerk when you do that” because trying to convince me that I was any good at all was 100% a losing battle at that point (and, hey, it’s an uphill slog 25 years later, so here we are). Telling me I had a responsibility to the people I was interacting with to Do The Thing got me to actually Do The Thing when telling me I was worthy wasn’t getting anywhere.
Which… perhaps you can already guess where this is going, but we’re going to go there anyway.
I mentioned recently that I’ve been doing practice exercises with someone in preparation for her seeing clients as an IPSA member. One of those exercises was a body-check-in meditation that centered on actively seeking out what felt good.
This is something I’ve done before, as a self-check-in, while I was doing life coaching. Every day, several times a day, I had to bring my awareness to parts of my body that I either ignored or only paid attention to when I was scanning for pain or problems. And I had to notice what felt good in those parts of my body. There was a lot of noticing how the wind felt brushing around my bare shins, for example.
While that wasn’t always easy to do, it was self-guided and I could kind of take as long as I needed to or stop if/when things got heavy-feeling with no harm, no foul, involved.
In this more recent case, though, the body-check-in was guided and, when I started feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and shame-flooded (and getting a lot of pressure in my throat, which is Interesting for reasons that I’ll get into shortly), I stuck with it.
For reasons.
So let me talk about that for a minute.
The first reason is that – when we were doing the debrief, I warned her that I was going to sound like The Courage To Heal – “feeling uncomfortable is not the same as being in danger”, and I made the decision to basically lean into it and see if I could get myself through and out of my weirdo shame/overwhelm/anxiety situation while continuing with the exercise.
Which… didn’t work very well, but here we are.
The other reason, however, was that I didn’t feel justified is calling “Yellow” and asking for a slow-down or a break.
I knew that if I said “Hang on, I need to stop for a second” or similar, that she would have stopped.
I knew that I was uncomfortable. But I also knew I wasn’t actually in danger. So I didn’t feel “justified” in “demanding” a moment to come back to myself.
I didn’t want to interrupt.
I didn’t want to make a “big deal” out of something that I knew was… not actually dangerous, just uncomfortable.
I didn’t want to be a burden.
Which kind of brings me to how this experience relates to my long-ago voice teacher telling me to smarten up.
A LOT of my exploration/navigation of sex stuff is about giving myself permission to do things, feel things, experience things. A LOT of it is about learning how to believe I’m lovable enough to deserve/”deserve” pleasure, time, eroticism, fantasy, permission.
But there’s another side to it which is that, when I make the decision to “not be a burden” to a partner, I’m assuming that this other autonomous adult with-whom I’m interacting:
(A) Would be irritated by my changing my mind, needing to take a minute, interrupting their flow, or whatever
(B) Would prefer that I hide my actual experience in order to perform something gratifying but not necessarily true for them
And there are absolutely reasons why I make these assumptions, unconsciously or not. I’ve 100% had partners, parents, and other attachment-relations make it explicitly clear that they want to hear that I’m on board with what they want to do, whether or not that’s actually the truth.
But continuing to make those assumptions in situations where that’s not likely to still be the case means I’m… kind of operating in bad faith?
This isn’t a case of me expecting, or wanting, a partner to read my mind.
In point of fact, I’m counting on them not being able to read my mind because, if they knew “something was wrong”, I’d be upsetting them.
But… you guys, there’s a whole world of questions coming up around this like:
“Why are you assuming that You Wanting A Break would upset your partner?”
“Even if it does… why does that mean you can’t call for a pause. They’re grown ups. They can handle Stop and No”.
Betty Martin has those videos about the different quadrants of the Wheel of Consent, which I find really helpful in terms of explaining the different ways that we (can) consent to administer or accept touch. In the video on “Allowing“, she talks about how “allowing” doesn’t mean you have no limits, or that you’re not allowed to have any limits. It means you ask how the other person wants to touch you and then you get to negotiate around that. But that to do that effectively requires you to know what your limits are, to check in with yourself, and to say something when things start feeling chancy. You have to know-in-your-bones that you can – that you have permission to, and safety to, but also that you have the capability to, the agency to, the self-trust to – say No.
Allowing is not the same thing as enduring.
(I mean, yes, sure, in a BDSM context, sometimes “allowing” also involves “enduring”, but that’s a fairly specific context and I’m talking from the perspective of someone who is neither submissive nor a masochist, so that context isn’t one I’m likely to be in).
So. What does all this mean?
When I wrote my most recent permission slip, I said that “I have permission, and also a duty, to say what I want”.
Maybe if I remind myself that I have a responsibility to the people I’m interacting with to Do The Thing – to recognize when I’m rubbing up against and edge and call for a slow-down, to say “Okay, you want to touch me in X way. Under Y circumstances, or with Z provisions, I would legitimately enjoy you doing that” – that will actually get me to Do The Thing even under circumstances where overwhelm, anxiety, and shame-spiraling are getting in the way of me Doing The Thing for my own benefit.
Notice Pleasure: My fingers in her mouth. Snuggles on the couch. My hand on her collar. Coffee with milk and sugar. Early morning back rubs. The squeeze of her legs around my chest.

A dark grey yoga mat, with a cork block, grey-and-white bolster pillow, and folded white blanket stacked at one end

A dark grey yoga mat, with a cork block, grey-and-white bolster pillow, and folded white blanket stacked at one end

Okay. So… practice makes perfect, right? Or at least practice makes easier.
This whole post technically could have been put under “S” in the sense of “S is for Scheduling”, but TBH I’ve already written the “R” post and I’d like to get that up sooner, rather than later. So I decided I’d talk about this under “Q” and I’m hoping you just go with me on it.
Basically, I have had a LOT of resistance, over the years, to the idea of Scheduled Sex. Slightly for the usual reason of “But it’s not spontaaaaaaaaaaaaaaneous!!!” and somewhat more because I just… I spend a lot of time camped out on the Planes Of Desolation, sort of preemptively disappointed about a thing not actually happening, and the fewer opportunities I give myself – the logic goes – to end up in that place, the better. (More on that, probably, in a second). But mostly I’ve been resistant to the idea of Scheduled Sex because I have tended to react to it with: “But that’s makes sex, which I want to want, which I want to enjoy, it makes is another ‘chore’, it makes it work“.
So. The “This becomes a chore” thing and the “preemptive disappointment” thing are both pretty linked up, and I’m going to try to talk about that for a minute.
Quite a while ago – like… probably late in 2016? – when I was getting some life-coaching around both coming back to my body and getting it through my head that my sexually desiring my partners did not, in and of itself, make me a terrible monster, my coach gave me an assignment. Which was to ask my partner (which-ever partner I saw in person next, because YAY poly-aware practitioners) to do a specific thing to me that would feel physically pleasurable.
At this point, I don’t remember if it was supposed to be something specifically sexual, but certainly physically pleasurable. And, frankly, this is me. I’m either going to turn into a sleepy bunny or I’m going to get turned on, if someone is doing something physically pleasurable to me. So, like… 50/50 it was going to happen regardless.
Anyway. I did my assignment. And it felt like a BIG emotional risk. Even though my partner was like “Yeah, I’ll totally do that!” and was quite enthusiastic about it. It still felt like a HUGE ask, I was scared to say it out loud, the whole thing. But the hardest part, it turned out, was getting through the hour or two between making my request and actually receiving The Thing. It was so hard to hold onto hope. To not just get bogged down in “Oh, never mind, let’s not bother”. Which, itself, is kind of equal parts “I don’t want to be a burden” AND “I’m afraid of being rejected (and I’m so SURE that I’m going to be rejected that) I should just let my person off the hook”.
My partners are grown-ups with autonomy, and like… maybe I should give them the opportunity to make those decisions themselves? Even if those decisions do end up confirming my particular fears on occasion, I can’t just go around presuming to decide that for them, right?
(Okay, yes, easier said than done, but this is still a thing).
So one element of “Scheduling Sex turns sex into One More Thing on the To-Do List” is that, if I know I’m asking for Sex Stuff to happen, then I need to keep myself in a state of vulnerability (Why, yes, I am still reading a LOT of Brene Brown, why do you ask?) which, all by itself, is exhausting. Hope and curiosity are vulnerable states. They’re positive states. But they’re vulnerable. And – much like confidence – they are like muscles that you need to engage if you don’t want them to atrophy. Which sort of ties into the “quantity” aspect of the subject-line for this post. More on that in a bit.
Another element of the idea of Scheduled Sex Being Work is just that, if this is something that’s on the calendar, then it’s, like, it’s something I have to psyche myself up for, and I need to Find My Turn-On, and be ready to do all the things, and… there’s a LOT in here, for me, that’s (STILL – ye gods) looking as sex as a kind of a scripted thing. Like I have to be READY to do heavy breathing and make noise and know in advance what I want and be able to see all the pieces on the board – which… trust-falling with a partner, much like trust-falling with the universe, means letting them do their thing rather than trying to preemptively account for all of the possible things they might do. Sex is not a chess match, no matter what Broadway musicals have to say about it.
Anyway. Fast-forward to some time last year, when I wash chatting with a partner about long distance relationships. She commented that LDRs are basically the ultimate in Schedule Sex and I made a joke that turned out to be kind of an Aha Moment.
I said that, if schedule sex was like making a commitment to go to a yoga class once a week, then long-distance visits are like going to an ashram.
Which ended up being a really helpful way to think about it.
Back when I was going to regular yoga classes, they were “work” – in that they involved remembering to get my gear together and get out the door on time, and then pushing my body a little while I was there – but they were “work” that I looked forward to. They were something I wanted to do and that I got excited about. AND the actual yoga was something that I got better at as I went along. Like, don’t get me wrong, I’m still dreadful at Downward Dog, but my arms are stronger now, and at least I know it’s okay to bend my knees. Or just do Child’s Pose instead, if my shoulder aren’t up to it that day.
Which is kind of what I’m getting at with the “Quality and Quantity” title.
Like, I know this series is kind of all over the place and the posts tend to reflect how I’m feeling on a given day, as much as they reflect where I’m at on this particular quest (see what I did thar?) and – bonus thing I realize (or re-realized?) all of yesterday – how well I’m treating my own body, at any given time, too[1].
But like I said. Hope and curiosity – and playfulness, too – are like muscles and you have to work them to build them up if you want to be able to do anything with them for long periods of time.
Like with Downward Dog, when I first started doing yoga, I would leave the studio and feel like a wet noodle for then next day and a half. Now I can do 30-second poses (which tend to incorporate a lot of yoga poses AND tend, in my case, to involve putting a lot of weight on my arms) for an hour and a half and then just get on with my life.
I can ask a partner to do a thing now and, while four years ago I would have just been like “I should just give up” (and I do still get those feelings, don’t get me wrong), it’s a lot easier to do the asking, it’s a lot easier accept it without going into some sort of Terrible Shame Spiral for having asked, if a given partner’s not into it or changes their mind later on.
I’m finding that it’s easier to go to yoga (and “go to yoga”) every week, if I stick to it and keep going, even if my muscles are aching a little.


Notice Pleasure: Her hip under my tongue. Sleeping in as long as I want, cocooned in soft, warm blankets. Kisses. Back rubs. Shared showers. Her hands in my hair. Playing “May I / Will You” long distance. Brushing my fingertips over my arms, my legs. Dancing.

Ms Syren.
[1] Seriously. I have some messed up habits, that include getting really mad at myself when I need things (and, yeah, I get where this is coming from. Some really mean part of my brain is yelling at me to stop needing things – like food and water type things – because “People Who Need Things get thrown away like garbage, so if I need thing, I must be garbage and/or am in danger of being thrown away, and do we want that?? No?? Then stop needing things!” Because I am clearly a genius. But – wow, you’ll never guess! – if I actually access what I need (a sandwich, a glass of water, a foot rub from a partner), I have a much easier time being in my skin and noticing pleasurable things. So that’s a thing.

So someone I know is doing practice exercises with partners and friends in order to prepare for eventually getting her first case as a surrogate partner therapist. As such, she did a “sexual history interview” with me a little while back.
And, let me tell you, that kind of a thing makes you say stuff in plain speech that you may have been avoiding when you try to be your own therapist.
So, hey! Guess what came up?
So a question she asked me, in the context of being with my partners, was “Can you imagine what it would be like to just enjoy the sensations you’re experiencing when your partners touch you?” and the answer, pretty starkly, was:

I have difficulty imagining a [sexual] situation where allowing myself to just be in the experience would not involve my letting someone down, or my failing a partner in some way.

This is the short version, right?
The long version is that, when I’m with a partner, I can end up in a head space where I’m telling myself that – unless the partner in question is telling me in words that she is doing Whatever (kissing me, snuggling me, enjoying the feel of my skin, whatever it happens to be) specifically because she thinks I’m sexy or is feeling turned on or some other specific statement that tips me off that “For me [the partner in question], this is a Sex Thing right now” – it’s up to me to intuit whether or not “this is a sex thing” because Just Asking (like a normal person) would involve putting pressure on said partner to turn this cuddly or affectionate interaction into a “sex thing” when maybe that’s not what she wanted.
This goes back a long way, and it’s not remotely helpful.
It’s just One More Thing where my late-arrival to How One Does Boundaries, and my deep suspicion that I don’t “deserve” good feelings/sensations/experiences, is showing up again.
A while back, I got to take a free “Find Your Sexual Voice” webinar, during-which I asked a question about the above, and – to my surprise, since I was far from the only person putting questions in the chat box – the facilitator jumped on it with “Okay, LISTEN” and proceeded to tell me about how this was all tied up with assumptions around “I’m not allowed to change my mind” and “I have to (telepathically) make decisions for other people” (See? Boundaries! Or lack there-of) and – this is the bit that hit me really hard – “I’m a burden” (See? “deserving” stuff, again).
I have a bad habit (deeply rooted unhealthy coping mechanism) (trauma thing) of both believing, and consistently reinforcing my belief, that the act of wanting/needing something (anything) makes me intrinsically unworthy of accessing that thing.
Doesn’t really matter what it is.
It can be sexual touch with a partner. It can be gentle affection. It can be washing my actual body so that my skin and scalp don’t feel gross. It can be movement. It can be rest. It can be something as basic as eating a food because I’m hungry.
I consistently get ANGRY at myself for wanting/needing… you know… to have my basic, normal, human survival needs …met? At all?
And the more I deny this stuff to myself, the angrier at myself I get for still persisting in needing them. Like… If it isn’t coming, shouldn’t I just be able to learn to get along without them?
Because, obviously, that’s how any of this works.

A dark hallway lit by a pink neon question mark, superimposed with the words "why am I like this?"

A dark hallway lit by a pink neon question mark, superimposed with the words “why am I like this?”

See. She also led me through a body-check-in meditation – one that lines up really directly with the whole “notice pleasure” theme of this particular little prompt series. And I found it very hard to accept deliberately pleasurable touch, even from just myself. I spent a large part of the meditation trying to calm myself down. Rather than trying to find the ways that I could touch my arms, my back, my sternum, my face, my feet, that felt good, I was actually trying to work through shame and overwhelm and flaring anxiety, telling myself I was “safe, good, here” and struggling to stay present.
And there’s absolutely stuff in there about “worthiness”.
The thing is, only a day or two later, I climbed into the shower with one of my partners, and we did lovely mutual maintenance for each other, washing each other’s hair and soaping each other’s backs. She went over my legs and feet with body scrub.
It felt really good, in and of itself.
But what I found, after the fact, was that it was noticeably easier for me to like being in my skin, and to be kind to my own body. I could notice the feel of my cotton t-shirt on my skin and enjoy it, rather than see it only as a way to, for example, avoid getting cold.
This is a reminder.
This is a reminder that it’s easier for me to give myself kindness when I’m already receiving it. That – much like sex – it’s easier for me to notice, seek out, ask for, and allow myself to receive/accept pleasant sensual/sensory experiences, to believe it’s okay for me to both want and to enjoy those experiences, if I believe I already have permission to do so.
Much earlier in this series – a little over a year ago – I wrote myself a permission slip. I want to write myself another one:

I hereby grant myself permission to receive and enjoy sexual, sensual, caring, and nurturing touch. From myself. From my partners. From my friends. I give myself permission to have the experience I’m having and to say something out loud if I want that experience to change. I have permission to change my mind. I have permission to take the time I need to figure out what kind of touch I want from a given person (including myself) at a given time, and I have permission (and a duty) to say out loud what I want.
Granted this day, April 19th, 2020, by my own holy, worthy self.

Notice Pleasure: Soft cotton on my skin. Foot massages. Warm sunlight on my tummy. Cozy snuggles in bed. Hot baths taking the weight of my body. Her gasping breath. Passing energy back and forth between us. Her smile. Her hands in my hair.

So, as-you-know-bob, I’ve been working on reconnecting with my sexuality for the better part of the past year.
That work is ongoing, and feels like it’s going well. There’s been a LOT of chakra-related energy work going on, which I continue to find very effective. I’ve recently been (re?-)introduced to the link between my second chakra (desires, boundaries, connections, exchanges, etc) and my fifth chakra (voice, truth, communication… and a lot of other Suit Of Air stuff, as it happens).
I’ve also – very recently – started working on another second chakra Thing, which is money.
Seriously, folks, this is even harder to talk about than sex stuff, which I at least have experience talking about after running this blog for approaching a decade.
I’m reading a bunch of “psychology of wealth” books and I’m telling you they are a mixed bag and, to one extent or another, they’ve all pushed my buttons, rubbed me the wrong way, or made my skin crawl.
Which is, tbh, as much a desperate disclaimer and/or a plea to readers not to Get Mad At Me for wanting not to be broke all the time anymore, as it is a statement of fact about how I’m reacting to what I’m reading and/or a telling look at what a lot of my “money mindset blocks” are built around.
But something that I’m noticing is that a lot of the stuff – the mental/emotional blocks and tendencies towards self-sabotage – that gets talked about, across this small sample of a board I’ve got going on, when it comes to money stuff are things that also turn up in books and blogs and self-help-videos about sexual empowerment AND about relationship/attachment trauma.
And that is something that I find fascinating, surprising-but-also-not-surprising-at-all, and pretty useful and relevant in terms of how I go about doing this work.
These connections – the stuff around shame and worthiness/unworthiness, the stuff around learning unhelpful coping mechanisms in childhood, the stuff around trust and fear – remind me of the various things I’ve heard fellow sexworkers say (and read them write) about the kinds of relationships they have with money. Stuff like this piece by Kitty Stryker or articles in $pread Magazine about calculating your rates, or about how “Everyone asks about my relationship with men, nobody asks about my relationship with money”. My own experiences earning a lot of cash in a short number of hours doing various kinds of fetish work, and the GLEE and freedom I felt doing so.
I can’t help seeing the connections between, say the way temp work and retail work consistently involve being undervalued (under-paid, but also treated as disposable and intentionally kept on limited and unpredictable hours) and the low self-worth that comes with it[1] versus the feelings of confidence, joy, self-worth, and personal power that come with making $120 for letting someone lick my shoes or spend half an hour as my footstool, or earning my rent by spending a few hours allowing someone the privilege of filming themselves giving me a make-believe gyno exam.
My Notice Pleasure Project, as well as very nearly ALL of the therapy and life-coaching I’ve had, is SO MUCH about learning how to have good boundaries, how to voice my desires, how to allow my Self and my desires to take up space (rather than making myself smaller and smaller, more and more invisible in the hopes that a starvation diet will start to feel like enough), how to say No to what doesn’t feed me, or doesn’t feed me enough, so that I can make room for the great, big, enthusiastic YES that comes for that which DOES feed me, fill me, fulfill me.
I felt ashamed of my sexual desires when my partners seemed to be avoiding and rejecting me.
I felt ashamed of my emotional and relational needs when the people I was involved with were emotionally unavailable or unwilling/unable to offer me mutuality in our relationships.
I don’t feel shame in sexually desiring my partners when my partners share and reflect that desire.
I don’t feel shame around asking for companionship and emotional intimacy when my partners are emotionally available to, and supportive of, me.
So it makes sense that I also feel ashamed of wanting better-than-poverty wages, of wanting my work, my time, and my considerable skills to be valued and well-compensated, when my clients and employers are actively trying to underpay and undervalue me. (See also: this whole cartoon from Eat The Rich Comic).
It makes sense that I wouldn’t feel shame about wanting my time, work, and skills to be valued and well-compensated when they’re already being valued and well-compensated.
Two and a half years ago, the Ask a Feelings-Witch column at GUTS Magazine received a letter from someone asking how to heal the mental disconnect they had between “wealth” (actual cash money) and “abundance” (friendship, skill-sets, sharing).
It was me. I wrote that letter.
I wrote that letter dripping with disgust and self-loathing.
When I read the response, back when it was first published, it took me a couple of tries to even be able to read it all the way through.
Fast-forward to now and, while I now have to remind myself that when someone who is (as of about six months after that article went up) a professional therapist – and as such, even with offering sliding scale rates, is still making more money per hour than I’ve personally been paid anywhere outside of sexwork – says “It is okay to want, wish for, hope for, and like money. I’m not sure I feel like there is an ethical justification for holding onto fistfulls of it[…]”, they are speaking from the position of easily making 2-5 times as much as you have ever made in a given year, and so means something different when they say “fist-fulls” than when you say it. They probably DON’T mean “It’s okay to want money, just not as much as I’m making” OR “You, Ms Syren, do not deserve nice things” …even though that’s often how I hear it.
Anyway. I’m going to re-read that answer, now that I’m in a headspace that’s more able to even consider this stuff, see if I can get more use of it, and see if there are any points of commonality with it and this second chakra stuff about boundaries and self-worth that I’m chewing on right now.
Ms Syren.
[1] When I switched from part-time retail to “full-time” temp work (full-time multi-month minimum-wage contracts, but with weeks of unemployment between contracts), the part of my contract that said “You have to submit your time sheet by X day or you won’t be paid on the next week’s payday”… I literally thought they meant they just wouldn’t pay me – like at all – for that week’s work.
That was how high my expectation of abuse was by that point[2]. And I literally just sighed, thought “Fine, whatever”, and signed the papers.
I’m happy (and relieved) to report that I haven’t felt that worthless in more than a decade. But, ye gods, what a pit that’s been to climb out of. O.O
[2] I was, at that point, in an abusive home relationship too, which was part of it, but still.