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My business is generally pleasurable.

Photo on 12-22-15 at 9.51 AM #3 My face whenever someone asks me this stupid fucking question.

Here’s another pet peeve of my email inbox: when a man (because it’s almost always a man) asks me if he should continue seeing this woman he’s been dating who just told him she has herpes. Sometimes the question is data-based, about what transmission statistics are real. Sometimes the question is esoteric, about whether or not he truly knew this woman in the first place. And sometimes it’s the classic entitled bullshit I face on Twitter all the time: I’m not a jerk for dumping someone who poses a risk to my health, right? Why on Earth would I knowingly choose to put myself in danger like that? Is she worth it?

I don’t know, man. Does your dick get hard around her? Is she nice?

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This post makes some excellent point. Go read it.

Vision Passion Action

This post was written by Danielle Landry. She teaches Mad People’s History as part-time instructor with the School of Disability Studies.

A drawing of a road side stand with the words "psychiatric help 5 cents" on top. Inside the stand there is a person with a blue text box. The bottom of the stand reads "The corporation is in"Ok, let’s talk.

Let’s talk about how those two new workplace scenario commercials only reinforce the idea that it’s unsafe to talk about mental health to your boss or co-workers, instead of establishing that employers in Ontario actually have a duty to accommodate disabled workers, including those with psychiatric disabilities.

Let’s stop positioning disabled people as charity cases through a-nickel-for-every-text campaigns.

Let’s talk about the erosion of our social systems through corporate greed.

Let’s ask why Bell hasn’t instituted any programs to support its low-income customers, such as if they need a reprieve from paying their bills during a hospital stay.

Let’s talk about why it’s not okay that we have to rely on corporate sponsorship to sustain our mental health system. Let’s ask if corporate influence serves to…

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So, many years ago, fairly early on in my relationship with my now-wife, when I was trying to figure out if what I was feeling for her was Capital-L Love, I realized something about myself:
Most of my experiences of loving someone else have been deeply tied to the fear that they were going to leave. Insecure-Anxious Attachment Bonds R Us apparently goes deeper than I had thought. My Ghost was my first love relationship where I wasn’t afraid of losing my partner.
Which is not actually a true statement. Because I was afraid of losing her, quite frequently, and wrestled a LOT with fears around not being a good enough domme to keep her service-side happy, not being confident enough (in any arena) to earn her loyalty, not being secure enough, or compersion-y enough, to avoid trying her patience on the polyamoury front. All sorts of stuff.
But I was also fairly confident, on some level, that she would keep coming back.
Because she did keep coming back.
It was a pattern that kept repeating itself, and every time it did, it chipped away at that deep-seated fear, until one day I wasn’t afraid anymore. Not in the generalized fear-of-abandonment way, at any rate.
 
Great, right?
Totally!
 
Except that being free of that particular fear meant that I ran smack into another one, one that I hadn’t expected to even exist, let alone be something I’d have to contend with:
I was suddenly afraid (yep) that, if I wasn’t afraid of losing my partner, there wouldn’t be anything left of the Feelings I was feeling for her. I was shudderingly (and irrationally) terrified that my feelings of love for my partner would evaporate if I wasn’t coding them through the lens of “fear of loss”, and wondering if, were I to stop fearing being without her, would I then just not caer if she never contacted me again? If I wasn’t afraid that she would never come back, would I do the WORK of maintaining the relationship? Would I make phone calls and emails and dates and invitations if I wasn’t afraid of Never Seeing Her Again? And if I relaxed around that stuff… well, if I wasn’t doing it, who would?
Which kind of makes those layered fears into a bit of an Ouroboros, since underneath the fear-of-loss-of-fear is the fear/assumption that I’m the only member of a given diad who is going to put in the maintenance hours on that relationship. Which… is weird, and maybe foolish, and definitely not kind to my partners… and also an accurate representation of most (not all, thank the gods, but most) of my friendships and romances between the ages of ten and thirty, so… maybe not actually strange that I was feeling it.
 
All that being said, when I realized what I was dealing with, I let it go.
I let it go.
With Ghost, I let go of the feeling that I should be a shuddering ball of anxiety every time she went to see her other partner.
That didn’t mean that, as she accumulated more sweethearts, I didn’t routinely go through the same song-and-dance of actual (if unfounded) fear that I would be replaced or pushed to the side-lines. I totally did. But I stopped forcing myself to feel like crap when I didn’t actually feel that way.
 
So, Go Me. I overcame a Thing.
 
You can sense the “But…” lingering, can’t you?
 
Yeah.
 
In a twist that will surprise none of you, I find myself with my (relatively) new partner, going through the same silliness all over again. Tying myself up in knots over the suspicion (mostly my jerk brain talking through its usual scripts) that said partner might not care about me as much as: (a) she says she does / (b) her other partners / (c) I care about her / (d) pick something, I’m sure I’ve worried about it… and then, when faced with the (repeated, from numerous sources, human and otherwise) suggestion that I actually trust my partner (what a concept), running into the fear that, if I do that, if I stop freaking out about whether or not she cares about me… that I won’t care if she stops contacting me or, worse, that I won’t care if she disappears for a while, and then comes back to me.
It’s the same thing all over again. Even though I figured out I loved her ages ago, back before we started dating, when I caught myself thinking “I want you to be happy and safe”, and then realized what that meant. Even knowing what loving her actually feels like, I’m still goddamn dealing with this nonsense about how “Love feels like fear of abandonment. That’s how you know you’re in love”.
 
It’s fucking stupid, is what it is, and it irritates the heck out of me that this is an issue even when I know what love-without-that-fear feels like and can recognize it. But at least I caught it quickly (ish) this time. Here’s hoping that I can build on this knowledge in the new year as I try to stop my “scarcity thinking” on multiple fronts.
 
Wish me luck!
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

So I read this thing, and also this thing, on the internet.
Relevant quotations (respectively):

I have noticed something important: they often can give, but they can’t receive. They can reach beyond their walls, but their walls don’t let anything in.

I bought into the bullshit that my value was only worth what I could do for other people.

 
Take those words. Couple them with this passage from Cuntext’s Hurt People Hurt People:

Last relationship’s shit fucking this one up good, and most of the time, we don’t get to compost it and we don’t get to take that rich soil and grow something better next time.

 
…And you are going to get an idea of what this post is about.
 
Twenty-five years ago. Twenty-five fucking years ago, that’s a quarter of a century, people! Twenty-five years ago, my brother – in the way of elelven-year-olds looking to find out where their power lies – gave voice to my most deeply and dearly held fear, the metanarrative that has been shaping my life for waaaaaaaaaaaay too damn long.
 

They only like you ‘cause you give them stuff.

 
I believed him.
I believed it.
 
I still believe it.
 
And I have no idea how much having those words said out loud by someone other than me, as though it was obvious to everyone and not just some horrible suspicion I held, made it true – or truer – to my ears, my mind, my heart… But it’s something I’ve been dealing with ever since.
 
It’s more than a bit of a piss-off, I don’t mind telling you.
Because this stuff goes deep and it takes for fucking ever to get through.
 

Linear time is a coercive lie of the white colonial patriarchy and it is fucking all of us up. Growth happens in circles and so does healing. We come back to the same hurt over and over, we come back to the same patterns over and over, and this is not failure, just life.

 
I know that my jerkbrain tells me stories – you know the ones (maybe your jerkbrain tells you the same ones) about how the people who say they love you don’t really love you, how you’re unloveable, unwantable.
And my jerkbrain is reeeeeeeeeeeally good at spotting the signs that it’s right, finding the proof, noticing the patterns that back it up, but completely missing the ones that contradict those stories.
 
I’m getting better at catching it, but I’m a long way from “fixed”, and I fall down my own rabbit holes a lot. Like weekly. Sometimes I can pull myself out of it without letting it show, or without saying anything more than “Brain weasels. I’m dealing with it” and then just dealing with it… And sometimes I need a lot of help.
 
It occurred to me, today, that I’m thinking of my partners – on some level – as though they’re stray cats. They’ll come around as long as I keep feeding them, as long as I don’t try to get too close, too fast, or start expecting them to turn up.
They couldn’t possibly want me because there’s something good about me that they actually like. Oh, no.
 

So I think it is really important […] to acknowledge how hard it can be to receive. Because receiving a gift is risking closeness. […] Each time someone gives you the gift of any kindness—acknowledge the gift, breathe and take it in like a long drink of water. Drink it way, way into your roots like a tree that has lived through a drought. Because it has.

 
I keep a file of text messages from people who love me, saying kind things to me. I keep it so that I can read them when my heart hurts, when I can’t physically remember the last time someone said “I miss you” or “you’re beautiful”. I can open up that file and find examples with fucking date-stamps on them. They’re not wishful thinking. They’re right there.
They help.

Given that “feeling nervous and uncertain” is called “having cold feet”, I doubt that I’m particularly unusual in this, but:
I get super-phsyical reactions to emotional stuff.
Like: My feet are a barometer for my sense of security. If I can feel it, know it in my bones, that I’m safe, loved, wanted, that I have Enough… I am warm-warm-warm, pumping heat out from the core of me, right down to the tips of my usually clammy toes.
When I feel the opposite, though, when I feel afraid, like I’m on perpetual probation, like if I put a foot wrong I’ll be abandoned, swiftly and unceremoniously dumped – whether that’s literal (getting kicked out of my home, getting fired, having one or both of my partners end their relationships with me) or something closer to getting ghosted, reaching for support and finding out that I had fair-weather friends only – my feet, and often my legs up to almost my knees, turn to ice. I’ve given myself frostbite (once) while in a heated building. Yes, there were extenuating circumstances (I have some nerve compression in my back that effects my toes, and the day this happened, it was -51C outside my ground-floor apartment… even if the thermostat said 22C indoors, it didn’t change the fact that my floating floor had been installed over a parking lot without much in between the two), but still. Frostbite?? That was weird, folks. O.O
 
Unsurprisingly, I’m far more used to feeling cold, but in the past… 8-12 months, let’s say, I’ve started really paying attention to it, and noticing how my temperature relates to how I’m feeling. Being warm and being loved, being wanted, safe, secure, and cared for… those are all the same feeling in my body. (Seriously. All that “Fear freezes, Love thaws” stuff from Frozen? Bang. On).
I’m trying to sort out how the connection works. Like, if I’m feeling horrible, if my brain weasels are screaming and they won’t shut up, will making myself hot, good food and wrapping myself in a blanket help? (You’d think but… beyond adressing the basic “Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay” stuff? It doesn’t actually do anything. Hm). Can I figure out a way to push heat frommy core into my feet and toes and, if I can do this, is there a corresponding possitive change in how I’m doing emotionally?
 
Part of what has me thinking about this is the recent piece over at Cuntext, where the author writes:

We do not exist without our bodies, we do not exist without our bodies, we do not exist without our bodies. Mind and spirit and body are all parts of each other; body and spirit and mind are the same; same space, same person. Even after all the self-love work in the world, all the cum and sweat and mirror-work, the good loving friendships, and only following aesthetic blogs that feature fat babes, femme babes, dark-skinned babes, disabled babes, trans babes, and learning that not wanting touch or sex or romance is okay, even after all that self-love work, there is still so much in this world that tells us our desire is wrong and so are our bodies.
And so we are crazy. Many of us[3].

And also partially because, honestly, I’m tired of sitting on this nail[1] and, frankly, I spent this morning PMSing[2] like fuck and, consequently, dealing with the same damn Brain Weasels that have plagued me for 20+ years. And I’m really fucking tired of it. That and I don’t want my fears to fuck up my relationships (again) (any more).
 
I’m tired of “having cold feet”.
 
My wife got me a copy of Girl Sex 101 the other day, and I’ve been devouring it,trying to figure out (at 36) (with two partners) how to fucking flirt without either (a) actually getting pushy or being too demanding or putting pressure on my partners to do stuff if they don’t wanna, OR (b) feeling like that’s what I’m doing. (Femme problems…)
 
I spent the afternoon giving myself a tarot reading on the question of “What Do I Need” while, at the same time, reaching out for emotional support to a partner who hasn’t seen much of my insecure side (though I would guess she’s seen more of it than I tell myself I’ve shown her, so…) and spending a shockingly agonizing hour Just Breathing through the waves of fear that she might have ghosted on me when I asked for emotional support[4].
 
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha has a poem, that is more like an essay, that is a chapter/piece in her memoire Dirty River: “The Opening”. But what if there is nothing more precious than a femme with her legs open?
I am tired of expecting the kick or the curse when (if) I open my legs/hand/heart/arms and ask for something. I’m tired of expecting that, and I’m also tired of projecting that (presumed) impending, casual cruelty onto people who aren’t actually going to hurt me.
 
I gotta tell you, it is a weird fucking feeling to be holding, in one hand, the faaaaaaaaaairly confident certainty that you already know the (affirmative) answer to “Do you still love me” and, holding in the other hand, the really, really deep need to hear her say so out loud, while, down between your frozen feet, are the twin fears of “What if I’m wrong? What if she doesn’t answer me at all?” and “What if, by asking that question at all, you are just being emotionally manipulative? What if you drive her away because you’re too much like her mother/asking too much by asking at all/being passive-agressive, and it triggers the shit out of her?”
I mean, how messed up is that?
 
And yet? Me.
Eugh.
 
But I asked for what I needed.
And I got it.
I got it.
O.O
 
My feet aren’t exactly toasty right now. But I’m doing a lot better than I was.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Yeah, I read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, the other day. that phrase is basically shorthand for “You are going to keep repeating your patterns and making the same mistake until you are actually sick and tired of it and decide to take some steps to change how you deal with stuff.
 
[2] My period’s never been massively regular (except for about a year or two in my very early 20s), but when I get super klutzy/uncoordinated (more than usual) and have a LOT of difficulty getting on top of the shame-rage-grief-fear spiral that lives in my head? It’s a good indicator that I’m about to start bleeding.
 
[3] And also this (relevant…):

Linear time is a coercive lie of the white colonial patriarchy and it is fucking all of us up. Growth happens in circles and so does healing. We come back to the same hurt over and over, we come back to the same patterns over and over, and this is not failure, just life.

 
[4] She hadn’t. And I knew the answer already, anyway. But sometimes I need to her it out loud, just to confirm that I’m not just kidding myself, and given where my head was at, it was not an easy hour.

So, about four months ago, maybe five, my wife formally came out as sex-positive asexual. The way she describes this is “It’s like… I love food, it tastes great, eating is wonderful, sharing a meal is fantastic… But I never get hungry”. Basically, any time she’s inclined to pursue sexual interaction with someone, it’s because she’s made an intellectual/emotional decision of “Oh, hey, don’t mind if I do,” rather than because her body is sending her physical cues that translate in her unconscious brain as “Maybe this would be a good idea now”.
It’s a good analogy. One that I’m planning on stretching all out of shape over the course of the coming post.
Yeah. In the going-on-six years that I’ve been with the woman who is now my wife? I’ve generally been the “good partner”, meaning that I’ve tended to be the one who didn’t need constant reassurance, or late-night crisis counseling, or otherwise demand that she be On Call for emotional and psychological support 24/7. For good or for ill (oh, for ill…), I’ve put a lot of store in my “status” as The Good Girlfriend, the one who was NEVER Too Demanding, or High Maintenance, or Neurotic, or whatever. The one who could, more or less, process her own crap most of the time.
And, right now, that is emphatically not the case.
Blogging, as they say, is cheaper than therapy. I did a tarot reading, almost a month ago, that basically said “Honey, get out of your own way”. So I’m going to blog about this, and talk a little bit about where my head is at, and how I’m getting in my own way.
Here goes.

So. If my lovely wife describes herself as “never getting hungry”, I’ve personally felt like I’ve spent the last couple of years, well, starving. Hungry to the point that I’ve forgotten what “normal hunger” feels like and don’t even notice it until I’m shaking and having trouble staying upright.
Recently, I’ve come to learn that:

A) What I thought were pleas for food (“food”) so loud and obvious and desperate that they were laughably pathetic in their naked neediness, were actually so subtle – or so easy to lose in the generalized “all smoulder all the time” signal that I’m apparently constantly putting out (really?) – that my non-Ace partner couldn’t spot them either.

B) All the things that made it difficult for my wife to cook (“cook”) with me? Those are still factors. She still has constant joint pain. I still have constant back problems. Our respective ideal sleep schedules don’t overlaps as much as we’d like. She still has as many partners as fingers and we all have a claim to some of her time, energy and attention. That hasn’t changed (much), it’s just that now I know there was a root cause underneath all of those factors that played a larger role than I ever knew.

C) I’ve buried my need to eat under so much shame and guilt (“I shouldn’t be this hungry, she’s not hungry, what’s wrong with me?”, “Stop pestering her for food, she obviously doesn’t want to cook, just wait ‘til she’s at work so you can eat crackers without her having to see you doing it”) that I seem to have developed some kind of an eating disorder where being offered food, sure, fills me with longing… but it also fills me with aversion and the distinct impression that I probably won’t be able to digest that, no matter how much I want to eat it.
…Which, I think, probably stretches the “hungry” metaphor to the breaking point. Moving on.

When my wife got shop space outside of the house and was able to Quit Her Day Job (more or less) and work for herself full-time, I had high hopes that my over-worked, exhausted beloved would suddenly have the extra time and extra energy to come back to me and be my sexual partner again.
And she did.
Maybe not in the way I was expecting. I wasn’t particularly expecting a “Honey! I know what’s up with me! I never wanted you sexually in the first place! But also I still love you and do want a sexual relationship with you, even though I’m not wired to feel sexual desire!” (I’m paraphrasing, although not by much)[1].
Cue a solid MONTH of trying to find a way of talking about this that didn’t send me into a complete tail spin. (This is where the “never feel hungry, but enjoy food” analogy came from).
What I’m saying is that she did come back to me, sexually. She started making advances. She started flirting with me a lot more. She was trying, and still is.
But I was running smack into a wall of rage and resentment that I hadn’t even known was there. Telling myself that she didn’t really want me[2], couldn’t really want me, so why was she faking it for my benefit? Telling myself that, if she’s faking it for my benefit, and I’m faking it for her benefit (so she feels like a good partner, so she’s not wasting her efforts), why the fuck are we even bothering? Why can’t we just fall asleep in each other’s arms like we’ve been doing for years? Why can’t I be left with my loneliness and sadness which, while they suck, are at least things I know how to fucking deal with??
Note For Readers: I do not actually want to be left with my loneliness and sadness. They suck, and they are not improving with time.

It’s easy to get angry. It’s SO easy to think things like “Why do you even care? It’s not like it’s any skin off your back if we NEVER FUCK AGAIN!” So easy to think “Oh, sure, after years of NOTHING, years of broadening my definition of “sex” to the point that I could claim “two minutes of making out, in a four-month period” as a reason to believe we were still sexually involved, NOW you expect me to turn on a dime, rebuild all of the desire that I fucking squashed out of existence, and act like none of it ever happened?”
Maybe she was expecting a dam to burst, too.
I know I was.

She says she misses me.
I know I miss her, too.
My Feeeeeeeeeeeelings situation is affecting our relationship – because the last thing someone who’s devoting most of their spoons to pain management wants is to have to play counselor to someone else at the same time, but also because the amount of ruminating I’m doing means that I’m distracted and miserable half the time we’re in the same room – and it’s affecting my relationship with my out-of-town partner, too (because she can’t, by her own admission, be the only “place” where my sexual needs get met. That’s way too much pressure to put on someone who only sees you for two days in a given month).

Every message I’m getting (like “message from the universe”, ‘cause I’m Woo like that, but also straight up “message via actual words out of someone’s mouth”) is all Baby, Just Say Yes! and I’m still balking like woah. My wife says “Be selfish, it’s okay.” She and my girlfriend have both noticed that kissing me tends to drag on and on and not get any farther than that and… I sort of know what that’s about. But that doesn’t tell me how to move forward. How to move myself forward.
For whatever reason, I’ve convinced myself that I’m always going to want my partners more than they want me, and I’ve been watching for “back off” and “that’s enough” cues to the exclusion of the ones that say “come closer” and “I want more”. Thing is, I’m doing that around myself, too, and I’m learning that the way I talk myself back into my body isn’t helping, because it involves a lot of “calm the fuck down”, a lot of clamping down on whatever I’m feeling and quashing the good stuff as well as the stuff I don’t want to be feeling. (Like that thing that Brené Brown says about how you can’t just numb the “bad stuff”, you numb out everything).

My wife says “Why not come to sex with goals of what you want to get out of it?”
And, big surprise, I’m drawing a HUGE blank on that one. The only “goal” I ever learned, around sex, was “everybody (in theory) gets an orgasm” and that’s… not actually reasonable under the circumstances. So, to take a page from Captain Awkward (I read a lot of Captain Awkward), let’s see what kind of goals I can set wherein the accomplishing of those goals is something I can actually control:

A) Suggest one thing that I would like to try – “Could you touch me like [xyz]”, “Can I do [xyz] by [abc]?” “Put your hand [here]?”

B) Use my words to express a particular need – “I need to stay warm while we do this”, “I would like you to do the thing that you mentioned wanting to do, but I need you to do it specifically like [lmnop]”

C) Try a thing that you suspect might feel good, regardless of what your brain weasels are telling you. (It’s okay to stop if it’s not as fun as you thought it would be).

These are things I can try. These are goals I can accomplish. Even though it’s scary as fuck. Even though the starving part of me is insisting “You can put up with things not being exactly what you want, if it means getting something into your system”, even though the entitled, angry part of me is demanding “Why do I still have to do the hard things??” These are still things that I can try to do, can make a point of doing.

Wish me luck.

Cheers,
Ms Syren.

[1] She says she sometimes wishes she’d never told me, because I’ve got such a hang-up about it. I’ll get to that bit in a minute, though.

[2] Which is, in fact, the opposite of what she was saying in both word and deed, but conveniently (“conveniently”) was exactly what my Jerk Brain has been telling me for the past 25+ years. Funny thing, that.

Hi, folks!
 
So, today, I’m taking part in a blog tour promoting a new erotica anthology – Show Yourself to Me – from author Xan West (You can find the whole tour at this link, yesterday’s stop can be found here, and tomorrows – which involves a time-difference – can be found here. The tour itself includes a number of reviews, but you can also find – and add – reviews at Good Reads and Amazon). I jumped at the chance to read a slew of stories from an author I respect and admire, as well as the opportunity to ask some writerly questions about the nuts, bolts, and decisions involved in writing an anthology like this.
 

Show Yourself To Me - Cover Art Close-up of a hand, holding a chain-leash, thumb brushing the lips of the person on the other end of the leash.

Show Yourself To Me – Cover Art
Close-up of a hand, holding a chain-leash, thumb brushing the lips of the person on the other end of the leash.


 
Before we get to the interview, here’s the blurb about the book itself:
 

In Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica, Xan West introduces us to pretty boys and nervous boys, vulnerable tops and dominant sadists, good girls and fierce girls and scared little girls, mean Daddies and loving Daddies and Daddies that are terrifying in delicious ways.
 
Submissive queers go to alleys to suck cock, get bent over the bathroom sink by a handsome stranger, choose to face their fears, have their Daddy orchestrate a gang bang in the park, and get their dream gender-play scene—tied to a sling in an accessible dungeon.
 
Dominants find hope and take risks, fall hard and push edges, get fucked and devour the fear and tears that their sadist hearts desire.
 
Within these 24 stories, you will meet queers who build community together, who are careful about how they play with power, who care deeply about consent. You will meet trans and genderqueer folks who are hot for each other, who mentor each other, who do the kind of gender play that is only possible with other trans and genderqueer folks.
 
This is
Show Yourself to Me. Get ready for a very wild ride.

 

And now, on with the interview! :-D
 
 
~*~
 
1) Show Yourself to Me opens with a story that, fundamentally, is about belonging. Can you talk to me about that, and why you chose to open your anthology with this piece?
 
“Missing Daddy” sets the mood of the book in so many ways, and belonging is absolutely one of them. For me, as a queer writer who centers my fantasies and desires in my work, belonging is such a central aspect of that, of my queerness, of my kink, of my politic. Being connected, not just in the context of a romantic couple apart from the world, but being in the world, belonging to community and family, belonging to self, as well as being claimed and claiming in the context of D/s. They balance and match each other, all those belongings. Especially for a story that begins by speaking openly about abuse in the context of kink, and the legacy of that in kink life and community, it is so important to center this story of longing and nostalgia in a deep memory of belonging and care in the context of BDSM. This story wants the reader to hold all of that reality in queer kink life: abuse of power and also care with power, legacies of abuse that last long beyond abusive relationships, and legacies of leather that feel whole and beautiful that also come with us, belonging to self, giving self to a partner, belonging in community and family.
 
 
2) Pieces like “My Pretty Boy”, “The Tender, Sweet, Young Thing”, and “How He Likes It” touch on how it can be easier to accept cruelty than gentleness. Can you talk about that for a bit?
 
I’ve had a lifetime of experiencing sensory input in ways that didn’t match how people thought I should be experiencing it, how it was “supposed” to feel. It took me a long time to come to terms with and accept that reality, which has shaped so much of my daily life, especially play and sex. The simple truth is that people are different, and they experience sensations differently. Something that is intolerable for me might be pleasurable or neutral for you. Kink really helped me hold that reality, because although there were cultural expectations about how people would experience sensations, I kept finding, as a top, that the folks I played with would experience them so very differently from each other.
 
This theme in my work, of light touch and gentleness feeling close to or actually intolerable, where sharp, firm or intense touch, and pain in particular, feel welcome and desired, is my attempt to center and validate an experience that is so rarely acknowledged, even in kink life. It is an experience that often resonates for stone-identified folks, and that is definitely part of my motivation as well, to write stories where stone folks can see themselves reflected without judgment or pathologization, as those stories are incredibly rare.
 
It’s also a layered thing, one that gives opportunities for internal struggle within a scene, and pathways for sadism. In “My Pretty Boy,” they consensually play with the fact that Rickie hates gentleness. This created a wonderful way to shift perspective on what cruelty and sadism can look like, and illustrate that sometimes gentleness can be very cruel indeed.
 
 
3) This is a collection of your erotic writing, some of-which is forthcoming (I think… like the excerpt from Shocking Violet), and some of-which has been published elsewhere. A lot of them run to what I think of, accurately or not, as “standard anthology length”, but some are longer and some are much, much shorter (“This Boy”). I’m wondering how many of these pieces were written for specific calls (“Facing the Dark” seems like a likely example), how many just turned up in your head demanding to be written down, how many were born out of personal explorations or writing practice? (Yes, this is essentially a “where do you get your ideas” question).
 
You got it right, close to half of these stories were written for specific calls (including some of the shorter ones, for flash fiction collections). For a number of years, writing to a specific market was part of what drove my writing process. “Facing the Dark” was written because an editor asked me to write something for a gay fireman anthology. “Missing Daddy” was for a bear call, “Ready” for a gay motorcycle collection, “Falling for Essex” for a college boys call, “My Will” for a gay time travel anthology. “Please” was written as an exercise in writing to a tight editorial preference—for Violet Blue’s Best Women’s Erotica series. “The Tale of Jan and Tam” was written for a fairy tale retellings call.
 
When I’m contemplating writing for a call, or am solicited by an editor for a specific kind of story, I sit with it for a while, do some research if needed, see what wants to stick. I often go through a few ideas before I land on one that works for the call and feels doable to me. I’m especially looking for a spark, a beginning, a strong voice, or a moment in the story that I find so compelling I feel like I need to write it. My notebooks are filled with potential ideas like this, and there are some I will bring out years later, and try to write them.
 
The other times, I often find a spark in something else. “The Tender Sweet Young Thing” was sparked by a conversation I had at a regular queer gathering I go to. “Compersion” was sparked partly by a class I went to on the subject, that felt like it completely left out so much of my own experiences of compersion. “Nervous Boy” was written in response to a craigslist ad I saw, and answered, though I never got a response. I’ve also written fantasies and dreams that kept returning demanding to be told. I’ve written pieces for lovers, and potential lovers. I’ve written stories in response to scenes I’ve watched.
 
Often, it’s a mesh of things that drive my writing; the spark or the voice or the lines that come into my mind are just the beginning. There are often experiences and ideas I want to capture, and things I want to talk about in my stories. I’m fairly unabashed about having certain agendas in my work.
 
 
4) I know you make a point of showcase a lot of different bodies in your erotica – your characters don’t default to “able-bodied and thin”, for example, and you make sure your readers know it. With that in mind, when a character ends up being white or fat, fem/me or cis or disabled (or whatever cluster of identities a given character may have), how much of those intersecting privileges and oppressions are just “how the character showed up in my head” versus how much of it is an active decision on your part as an author about the kind of story you want to tell?
 
Much of the time, not defaulting takes conscious work. Sometimes I catch myself not having defined some aspects of a character’s identity and there I am, stuck in my usual defaults. I usually am stuck by the things I haven’t defined, a little ways in, not knowing where to go. Conscious work gets me unstuck, and a lot of the time that is at least partly about establishing specificities of identity.
 
Some aspects of a character’s identity will come to me with the character’s voice or the situation or the conflict I’m imagining at the beginning of the process. Sometimes those choices are driven by the way I puzzle out what I can bring to a specific call, how I can imagine bringing these people together.
 
One of the things that has become very clear to me is how much the specificities of identity of my characters are often shaped by my own identities and needs. When I think about the specifics of the queer genders that appear in this collection, it is clear that I’ve mostly been writing stories about my own gender experiences, or about genders that I have fantasized about being. Over the past 15 years of writing erotica, the body of work from which I drew the stories for this collection does not include the diversity of genders of the people in my life and my communities. Instead, my deep hunger for putting myself into a genre where I have mostly been erased or misrepresented has driven many of my choices about the genders of my characters. As a whole collection, those choices contribute to a deep erasure that mirrors the ways trans misogyny and misogyny often operate in queer communities. For me, this recognition is even more reason to work more on consciously considering the identities of my characters.
 
When I was pulling stories together for the collection, from the body of my existing work, one of the things I worked on was more clearly marking the identities of the characters, so that they weren’t just clear to me, but were clear to the reader. So the reader also was less likely to go to defaults while reading. I needed to do this much more with my earlier work than with my later work.
 
A few years ago I began a project of deliberately centering disabled characters in my work, one that coincided with my decision to live more deeply into my own disabilities. I wanted my creative work to hold the same intentions as my personal work, so they could feed each other. I have found writing these stories to be so powerful in my own life. Many of them are included in this collection; they are the ones written in the third person.
 
 
5) On a related note, you tell stories from a lot of different perspectives – both from story to story and sometimes within a single piece. Can you talk about the factors that determine whose PoV you’re writing from, which stories are going to involve “head hopping” versus which ones stay with a single narrator? I’m thinking, in particular, of stories like “My Precious Whore” where you’re dealing with some fairly heavy edges (for the characters but also for, um, me as a reader…) but also of “The Tender, Sweet, Young Thing” where the narration is bouncing between half a dozen heads. Can you talk a little bit about that?
 
Most of my early work was in the first person, though I played with that some by having POV characters sometimes imagine that they knew the perspective of other people (like in “Nervous Boy”). My recent work has been in third person. It was a conscious choice to shift that way, because I found it unblocked me. Until I tried third person, I kept hitting up against a wall, couldn’t figure out how to more clearly mark characters as disabled.
 
When I chose to shift my work, I embraced head hopping, something that is often frowned upon in erotica circles. I wanted to explore multiple interior experiences, see where that got me. In “The Tender Sweet Young Thing”, I wanted to stick with three perspectives—to stay inside the heads of the three queers that were central to plotting the fantasy scene, because they each were deeply invested in creating this scene from a different place. Dax, from a fantasy ze had held since childhood, Mikey partly as a gift of love and recognition for Dax, and partly for her own self, and Téo, who recognized a gender he wanted to play with. The story shifts from one to the other as the dynamics shift between the characters, that’s how it flowed out, so by the time you get to the actual scene, you hopefully have a stake in each of them getting what they need from it, and from each other.
 
With first person, often a voice comes to me as a story sparks. Point of view is one of the first things that solidifies in the story. In “My Precious Whore”, I was working on a few things in that story:
1. I was working to illuminate the edges inherent in playing with misogyny and whorephobia, to take the reader deep enough to really be able to see how deeply dangerous this kind of play is.
2. I was trying to illustrate how a structure of D/s and consciously chosen power play can create a container for this sort of intense and risky psychological edge play, make it possible to do it.
3. I wanted to capture something specific about orgasm control, how it can work in humiliation play scenes, how helplessness from forced orgasms can be particularly intense and beautiful.
4. I wanted to write a story that explored possessive top desire that wasn’t feral (which I’d mostly been writing), but went to colder places, wielded power differently, grappled with the edges of misogyny and deep psychological play.
5. I was attempting to illuminate the ways being the top in a scene centered on humiliation, objectification, and play with oppression can be incredibly edgy for the top and how the top can need support from the bottom.
 
Some of those things would be a good match for the bottom’s point of view, especially #3. (I want to write another story from a bottom’s point of view that can get me there more deeply.) #1 and #2 could work from either point of view. But for #4 and #5 I needed the top’s perspective to get me there.
 
I put that story in a drawer for a while after I wrote it. It felt too volatile to put out into the world, and too personally edgy. That’s how it has often worked for me with the stories that go deep into play with misogyny. (“Strong” is another example.) I was concerned about the damage they might do in the world, and worried about the ways they could be misinterpreted. This version of “My Precious Whore” illuminates top vulnerability much more than earlier versions, and it showcases the support of the bottom. Telling it from the top’s perspective really helps it get there, helps the reader touch those things.
 
 
6) In “The Ballad of Tam and Jan” (and I love that Carter Hall turns up in more than one story, by the way), you talk about transformative experiences for tops. In it, and also stories like “My Pretty Boy”, you talk about tops needing to remember and honour their own needs. There’s this pervasive (or maybe it’s just me?) thing where sadistic, and even just toppy, desires are framed as not okay – like it’s totally fine to want to be anonymously skull-fucked by a truck-load of random people, but wanting to turn someone into “just a hole” (to pick a theme that ran through a lot of your stories), to dehumanize them, is less okay. Wanting to beat someone to a pulp because it feels good to hit defenseless people is, well, monstrous. I find in a lot of Kink 101 stuff, the top is framed as facilitating the bottom’s experience, with the bottom being “really in charge” and the top being a provider in a lot of ways. Can you talk about that stuff in the context of the needs and vulnerabilities of tops?
 
The fear of top desires and needs that you describe is one of the most frustrating aspects of kink culture for me. I’ve written several essays about it. It’s a big problem, and can make navigating play so much harder for everyone, so much less likely to be mutual. This image of the top as facilitating the bottom’s experience and having no needs of their own is a huge contributing factor to ableism in kink communities. It’s been a challenge for me, personally, to find play partners that are up for considering and honoring my needs as a top, especially my needs for support around pushing my own edges.
 
My work, and in particular the stories in this book, are invested in creating different images of tops, different narratives about what tops need and desire, what bottoms do to support tops, what play that is mutual and honors the needs and desires of all parties can be like. Stories help create culture, and this book is one of the ways I’m trying to shift the way we think about top desires, top needs, and top vulnerabilities.
 
These stories openly celebrate sadistic and dominant desire, and that aspect of them alone is likely to make people uncomfortable. I’ve had stories rejected (with rather intense judgmental language) for openly describing sadistic desire. Once I had an editor suggest that I edit the story so that the dominant was not so clearly getting off on making the submissive cry during sex, because that felt inherently non-consensual. The editor suggested that I change the story so that the dominant was doing it to facilitate the experience the submissive needed.
 
In these stories, I am attempting to carve out room for the beauty and heat of unapologetically sadistic desire, and it is partly to meet my own needs. I need a kink culture that honors sadists who have their own desires, that supports tops to be vulnerable, that asks bottoms to support tops in play, that honors that everyone has needs. Not just because I’m human, but particularly as a disabled top.
 
 
7) Tell me something you love about this collection and want everybody to know.
 
I’ve talked about writing stories that center disabled and sick characters, how that was my project over the last few years. These stories often include disabled and chronically ill fat trans and genderqueer characters playing with each other, in community with each other, creating accessible spaces together. I’ve never read stories like that before, which is one of the reasons I needed to write them.
 
What I haven’t talked about is how impossible it has been to place these stories in anthologies. I’ve been aching to share these stories with the world, but have had no luck getting them published. I finally decided that I had to try to sell them as a group with my other work, in a collection like this, in order to get them printed.
 
Before I could seriously tackle that project, Go Deeper Press approached me to request a manuscript. They love these stories in particular, which makes me incredibly glad. And now these stories are out in the world, and I am so thrilled that people get to read them! I love that my first collection shows some of my oldest work, next to the new directions I’ve been going in as a writer.
 
 
Thank you, Xan. :-)
 
 
~*~
 
 
You can pick up a copy of Show Yourself to Me from Go Deeper Press (print or digital), or as a e-book from Amazon.
 
You can find Xan’s thoughts about the praxis of sex, kink, queerness, power, and writing at xanwest.wordpress.com.

Just… Call Me Becky?

So, I popped over to Kink of the Week today, and what should the topic turn out to be?
Bums.
So I decided to talk about bums.
Because, to my continual (for some reason) surprise, I am a bit of an Ass Lady.
I say “surprise” because (a) I’m deeply ambivalent about my own butt, and also (b) I’m not butt-oriented in general… and yet… Honestly? Three girlfriends in? I’m noticing a pattern. ‘Cause every one of them has (a) had a great ass, but also (b) had said great ass totally captivate me on many an occasion.
Goodness.
Just amazing.
You know “callipygian”? “Having a shapely behind”? It’s that. All of my lady-loves have had these gorgeous, curvy, meaty rear-ends that I just want to get my hands on and my face into.
Who knew?
Not me, apparently.
I mean, gods know I have A Type, even if I don’t always date to it.
And yet: bodacious asses.
Can’t complain.
 

I’m just gonna leave this here.
 

Ending Violence Against Native Women
From the Roots Up

<3 Midori

passtheherpes

I have genital and oral herpes—and I swear it saved my life. It sounds weird, I know, but it’s true.

I contracted herpes as an undergrad at Berkeley in the mid 80s. My boyfriend had a cold sore on his lips after the first sunny day of skiing. Since childhood he would get the same little blister after the first day on the slopes, so he didn’t think much of it. Both of us ignorant of the potential transmissions to genital areas, he went gloriously down on me.

If I hadn’t contracted herpes in college, I think I would have engaged in a lot of stupid, unsafe sex. I’d likely have contracted far more serious sexual transmitted conditions. Let’s be serious, I’d be… Dead.A week or so later my entire vulva erupted in horribly painful oozing sores. The nurse practitioner at the university health clinic coldly declared the diagnosis and…

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