So, about six months ago (maybe a little more) I got a book in the mail. Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers, and Magical Rebels on Summoning the Power to Resist. It’s a book of essays that touch on glamour magic, space claiming, and all sorts of good stuff.
The first essay in the book is by Cara Ellison, and it’s called “Unfuckable”.
 
It’s an essay about independence. It’s an essay about being so ferociously autonomous that you are utterly free and no-one can hurt you.
It’s… Okay, from my perspective as an insecure anxious-preoccupied attacher? The sheer glee of the author when she chants “I don’t. Fucking. Need you” is… deeply fucked up. It’s the chant of someone who is at the other extreme of insecure attachment. For whom relying on people, that vulnerability, is nothing but a trap.
 
It’s flip-side of my own trap, the one that says “If they need you, if you make yourself indispensable, they won’t abandon you”.
 
I was talking to my wife about this essay earlier today, and about how, thirteen or so years ago, I was very, very stuck in a sexual paradigm where EITHER (a) I could be touched, and could have moments of feeling worthy and loveable, but only within a context where I knew I was fundamentally worthless and disposable, OR (b) I could have something like intrinsic value, but only by being untouchable, only by allowing my own loneliness and skin-hunger to gnaw and gnaw and hollow me out on the inside.
 
In “Unfuckable”, the author visits the ruins of an old castle, the rumoured home of an ancient warrior queen who trained heroes and had no fucks to give about anything.
Her autonomy is legendary and, to the author’s delight, she finds a well – still brimming with clean, potable water, at the center of the former Great Hall. She could have outlasted a siege in there.
 
Thirteen years ago, I felt like I was under siege. I wasn’t safe in my own home. And I wasn’t safe outside of it. Thirteen years ago I was in my mid-twenties. I must have had “easy target” written on my forehead because the sexual harassment never let up, and the assaults – at home, at work, on the damn bus, you name it – were happening too frequently to just ignore and brush off.
When I separated from my then-husband, sold the marital home, and moved into a not-great-but-available one bedroom apartment, something changed.
I had a door of my own that I could lock.
Inside of a year later, someone told me that I had a “don’t fuck with me” bubble surrounding me at all times.
So I’m not knocking that independence, the “I don’t fucking need you” of being able to make rent without room-mates or live-in partners who had, up to that point, only ever been a bad idea. Sometimes that’s what we need to keep ourselves safe.
 
But, for me, it’s not sustainable, and it can feel desperately lonely. It can be desperately lonely.
 
A long time ago, I read a collection of essays called Fem(me): Feminists, Lesbians, and Bad Girls. One of my favourite authors has a piece in there called “On Being a Bisexual Femme”. That book was the first time I’d seen “femme” as a concept at all but it was almost entirely in the sense of “feminine monosexual lesbians who are attracted, specifically and exclusively, to masculine women”. So finding an essay that explicitly said that one could be femme and also be involved with dudes – which I was doing at the time – was such a relief.
I wanted femme.
I wanted it because it meant I could be a Real Queer™ without having to be something that I wasn’t – that being butch or masculine. And I wanted it because it meant I could have physical and sexual autonomy, could be the actual owner of my own damn body, without having to be masculine, too.
 
So. Femme.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, the author of the above-mentioned essay, has written a zillion things on being a multiple-gender-attracted femme survivor of sexual abuse. I get a lot out of those essays and poems, believe me.
And one thing that comes up over and over is the idea of being able to be sexually receptive is a way that is authentic (rather than performative) and… “successful” in the sense of “When I do receptive sex like this, I can and do experience it as fun, pleasurable, intimate, enjoyable, hot” and all those other good things.
 
This is something I want.
This is something I want, and I am part of the way there.
But I get in my own way a lot.
 
There was a time when I tried on the word “stone”, like Amber Dawn did. A femme top who didn’t let her lovers touch her sexually.
But that isn’t actually me.
I’m touch-hungry. I want to top my lovers with my whole body, not just the outsides of it.
I want to be fuckable.
 
Not in the sense of gross dudes rating someone’s “fuckability”, or of Hollywood actresses having the choice of being either Hellen Mirin / Judy Dench / Meryl Streep or of being unemployable after they’ve aged out of the narrow margins of “young, hot, fresh” sexual desirability.
But in the sense of being able to unhinge my jaw and swallow the world, of being able to open, and open, and open. I wrote a poem, ten years ago, called “Swallow” about eating out my girlfriend while she fucked me with her hands, and how “I do not feel invaded. I feel enormous”.
If you’ve ever read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods? I felt like Bilquis in her temple.
 
I mean “fuckable” in the sense of Ann Cvetkovitch saying, in An Archive of Feeling, “Femme sexuality is about voracious desire for-which no apologies are necessary”.
 
Like, I’d like to be the kind of woman who can, and does, have gushing, squirting, g-spot orgasms. Partly because I know I’ve got the capacity to do that[1]. Partly because I think it would just be kind of cool and fun? And partly because I keep hearing (from writers like Poplar Rose and Sophie Saint Thomas) that squirting is remarkably effective at unlocking trauma-based/trauma-related tensions and blockages in one’s hips and lower back where, oh hey, I’ve been having problems since right around that time, 13 years ago, when my body was under siege. (Look at that, why don’t you…)
 
And that means I need to find that internal sense of safety so that I can access it when I want to, rather than it being just sort of… a matter of luck and chance as to whether or not I can do a thing that I would really, really, really like to do.
 
I tried something a day or two ago.
I’m on my period, so I did this with a diva cup firmly in place, which is maybe relevant (or not). But I slid one of my fingers into my vagina. And, yeah, things felt… kind of out of place, but… see above re: diva cup.
What was… relevant, I guess, is that I realized I was holding my breath while I did it.
Like “holding my breath”, not in the sense of “doing stuff with my pelvic floor to build tension” or “intentionally doing low-risk solo breath play”, but in the sense of “Oh, shit. I forgot to breath. Again.”
I was holding my breath because I was “freezing” myself, just a little bit.
 
Like, I was making a decision to do something to my own body with my own body – like two parts of myself that are both connected to the same central nervous system, and the same damn brain. And my limbic system still said “Hey… Now might be a good time to maybe start shutting down, since horrible, painful death is probably immanent and there’s a slim chance you can avoid it – or at least avoid feeling it while it’s happening – if you shut down all systems and play dead”.
A rabbit trying not to be noticed by a predator that is part of itself.
 
Which… Just… Really???
Thanks. That’s just great.
 
It’s not that I was dissociating. Exactly. But something was definitely going on.
And I would like to figure out how to… how to get out of my own way. And how to do it, well… quickly.
Which is maybe not the best goal to have, I do realize.
But… I get that, very probably, this thing where “staying with the feeling” in sexually-receptive situations is probably going to be a thing that I have to make conscious decisions about for the rest of my life. Like, it’s probably not going to be automatic/reflexive. (This is more Leah stuff, tbh. About how “healing” doesn’t mean “you become like someone who was never hurt” it means “you learn how to navigate your own unique circumstances with radical love and self-compassion and as big a bag of workable tricks and tools and you can create and continue to add to”. Which: okay. I’m into it. Even if it’s frustrating sometimes).
So I’d like to know how to… get myself out of Anxiety Brain – and the kind of cascade of other crap around danger but also around unworthiness and around what I “should” be doing or be capable of receiving or what have you – quickly, but in ways that don’t dissipate any sexual excitement that I had, there-to-fore, managed to build up[2]. Or at least in ways that let me view that drop in excitement as an opportunity for Edging[3] rather than some horrible failure or, like, “Oh, great. How am I ever going to get back to where I was when I’m right back at the beginning again?”
 
I want to be able to invite my partners into my body. To enjoy my own strength and to be fed – like nourishing and delicious! – by those experiences. Because I know I can be. I want to laugh that deep, satisfied laugh again. I want to hit my high notes again. I want to roar again.
I want it back.
To that end, I’m re-reading Ecstasy Is Necessary and listening to the Afrosexology duo talk about “orgasmic living” and how to stop self-sabotaging when it comes to everything from creative self-care to one’s sexual needs and wants. Here’s hoping I pick some stuff up.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: Feeling graceful while doing back bends and other pole-dancing floor tricks. Fizzy bath bombs that stain the water rose-red and smell like fruity candy. A clean sink. Watching my partner being in her own pleasure. Deep conversations that make my brain fizz. Laughing freely from deep in my body. The semi-weightless cradling of resting in warm water. Moments of silence and the peace that comes with them.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Ha… because it happened once, embarrassingly, while I was working in art class. See also: Reasons why I knew I had to at least give this age play business a try. >.>
 
[2] Right now, I have a wonderful technique for stopping an anxiety spiral while it’s still small. And it’s great! The ratio breathing of “in-for-four, out-for-eight” (a) means I’m never holding my breath, but also (b) calms my fear-stuff right the heck down. It’s fantastic. BUT it calms everything down. Curious-and-excited happens in the same part of your brain (big surprise – Hi, Limbic System!) as Fearful-and-avoidant. And my brain is… funny… and doesn’t necessarily separate the two very well. (Sort of like when I realized that, when I’m experiencing an agitated motion – like when I’m stirring up the soap bubbles before doing the dishes – my Very Smart Brain decides that this means I should also be experiencing agitated emotions. I’m a genius, I swear).
 
[3] Where you build up to a very sexually excited, eager state, and then let things drop back to a more calm state, and then build things up a little farther, and let them drop back (but not quite as far), and then build yourself up again… and you get the idea.