Category: kink


 
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”.
Right?
 
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.
BUT
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
 
 
TTFN,
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. If you’ve read this blog at all – even just the sub-heading on the banner – you know that I’m kinky. I know I’m kinky. What’s funny is that I sometimes forget just how integral to my sexuality – and possibly my well-being? – my sadism is.
Some of that, probably, is just (“just”) intense body-engagement. I refer to myself as a “teeth and nails sadist” so the more intense involvement of hands and jaws and muscles in general is probably relevant just in-and-of itself. (You’d think I’d be into climbing or something, but…?)
But, in the context of removing/deconstructing my own mental blocks around sexual engagement, it’s dawning on me that there’s more going on here.
 
I’ve been listening to a podcast wherein Cleo Dubois mentions – almost in passing, about halfway through – that BDSM is about “being in our bodies”.
And… no shit.
But also… when I thought about it? I realized that I tend to translate this in my own head as “BDSM is about masochists being in their bodies”. That it’s about rooting your willing victim in their bodies through pain and breath and intensity and fear. That BDSM is, y’know, fun as heck. But it’s not about me being in my body, as the top.
It’s an internalized variation on the trope of “The top does, the bottom feels”, if you will.
 
But here I am, doing this whole Project to practice being in my body, experiencing pleasurable things, and leaning into my own sexuality, and I’m starting to think about embodied sadism.
 
It’s not the first time I’ve thought about this. But I think it’s the first time I’ve thought about it this directly. Usually, when I think about my own breath, my own body-stuff, in the context of sadism, it’s being done along the lines of “How do I keep my energy up?” and “How do I avoid letting my partner down?” rather than a question of how sadism brings me into my own body and enlivens me.
What I said, above, about “just” intense body-engagement? There’s no “just” about it.
I know I’ve been kind of weirded out by how I get (the thing that might be called “top space”, but I sort of hope not) when I’m engaging in sadism. I get to a point where I’m entirely up in my head. Like, my body is doing things – some of which I’m in charge of, like placing needles or aiming a cane; and some of which I’m not, like my cunt running like a faucet – but the “I Am” of myself is very disconnected from all of it. I’m in the control booth behind my eyes, and everything else is… present but unattached.
It’s fucking weird, and I feel really ambivalent about it.
 
And, to be fair, it’s been a couple of years since I experienced my sadism like this. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a regular occurrence during the time (uh… 11 years?) I’ve been a practicing kinkster. And I don’t know how much of that is floaty-dreamy “time has no meaning” stuff (definitely some of it) vs how much of it is some kind of dissociation.
 
So! Embodied sadism.
What am I even talking about here?
 
I had the good fortune, a couple of years ago, to access a couple of months of free life coaching that, among other things, brought up the reality that a lot of my bodily awareness, at the time, was centered on monitoring for, and compensating for, physical pain[1]. My awareness of sensation is broader now, but in sexual situations, that’s frequently still where my awareness goes. Are my arms burning? Am I getting nerve compression through my elbows or wrists? Is my back about to spasm? Can I stay on my feet long enough to get this scene to a point where I can wind it down? Are my hands getting shaky? Can my shoulder keep this up for much longer?
And, yeah. There’s a whole lot of stuff built into that about whose needs and desires are centered in kink play more broadly, and whether or not I’m comfortable claiming and centering my own wants, needs, experiences, and desires in sexual (or non-sexual) contexts[2].
 
But what I mean by embodied sadism is… a bit like that?
It’s brining my awareness to what feels good, physically/sexually, when engaging in sadism.
It’s recognizing how alive and awake I feel when I’ve been biting someone. Or that when I’m sexually excited, I tend to growl, bite, and dig my nails in. It’s acknowledging the part of me that wants to slurp up someone else’s blood and drool it into their mouth – even when I can’t actually do so, and recognizing where that desire sits in my actual body. (Uh… lower jaw + somewhere between my sternum and my clavicle… I think?) It’s noticing which parts of my body clench – fist, stomach, cunt – when my partner tells me she’s turned on thinking about doing XYZ with me, and recognizing that reaction as a positive, welcome thing rather than something to tone down or keep hidden.
 
I know that sadism – when I’m actually doing it, rather than “facilitating an experience” at a tasting station or similar, where I tend to keep a lid on that part of things – is heavily connected to my sexuality. So maybe, by engaging with my sadism in this embodied way, I can help create and/or reinforce the neural pathways that let me engage with sexual pleasure as well?
Worth a shot!
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: The way she yelps when I bite her, and the way it makes me grin. How strong I feel when I dig my fingers into someone’s thighs. The taste of smoked salmon. The way clit wakes up when she tells me she’s fantasizing about me. The way she moans, when I play with her clit, the way it makes my stomach clench and my breath race to hear it.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Heather, the life coach, actually designed some practices for me that had me bringing my awareness to various parts of my body specifically to notice and acknowledge things that felt nice – a little bit like my Notice Pleasure journaling practice (see above), but combined with a broader spectrum and some mindfulness techniques. I still use those practices on days when I’m particularly stuck in my stuff, and they still help bring me back into my body and my sense of power. So.
Official plug: Give her a try, if you’re looking for a life coach in Ottawa. She was very helpful and patient, and made sure I kept Doing The Thing even when we had to go in baby steps. Recommended.
 
[2] Spoiler: Still not. But, y’know. Working on it.

Tops, Bottoms, and Boundaries

So, Heather tweeted:

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

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! 😀
 
 
~*~
 
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.
 

Hi, folks!
So it’s catch-up week at KotW, and the most recent prompt has been corsets. Consequently, I’ll be talking a bit about them in this post.
 
Look. I love how a corset – an underbust, a plastic-boned bodice, even tight-lacing – looks. I recently did a portrature sitting where I deisilpunked it up as an alternate-earth WASP in her leather & pvc dress uniform. (I wore my Unholy Harvest dogtags, for those keeping track). Wish I had a photo to show you, ’cause I swear I felt like Amanda Fucking Palmer in that getup. 🙂
I love the way a nipped-in waist – whether through actual hardware or just through wearing a fitted top – can accestuate my already-fairly-hourglass figure and play up my awesome shoulders and hips. I love the feel of the fitted, structured fabric. I love the way my hips and ribs feel moving against it.
But.
I kind of loathe the sore back that comes with wearing boned articles of clothing. Sorry folks. My fetwear is more likley to be a sarong and some gladiator sandals, even if the aesthetics of giant high heels + heaps-o-boning totally turn my crank.
Alas.
I am, occasionally, a practical girl.
 
That said, I do have a tonne of the things – mostly the plastic-boned kind that you can get on ebay for $9.99 – that I use primarily for modeling jobs (see above re: portraiture class, for example). Because they’re not understood, these days, as “underwear” (sexwear is a different story, mind you), and because our contemporary clothing tends not to be particularly structured (even a lot of business-formal-style “blouses” are actually knits these days), the boning and obvious shaping of a corset (or similar item) tends to lend an element of instant formality to a given outfit while also playing (however inacurately) with anacronistic themes. They’re a useful thing to have in a work-wardrobe when your job involves bringing fantasy to life – or at least depictions of same. Case in point:
 
Pixie x1
 
 
So those are my thoughts on corsets.
&hnbsp;
Kink of the Week
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

Hey folks.
So someone tossed up a beautiful piece of piercing performance on twitter today, and it reminded me of the thrill of threading sharp objects through other people’s bodies. The kind of rush you get – or at least that I get – from doing that is a bit of a trip. I need to be careful about shaking hands. It makes my stomach lurch the way too much rich food, too fast, will make my stomach lurch (advice I need to take: Remember to pace yourself as a top – get your breath back under you before you drive that next spike in…). But the payoff, when your Person goes Under, when her breath deepens and her body turns liquid-boneless in your arms… Guh.
I want it.
I want more.
 
To that end, I’m just going to drop these three little videos (neither by me in any way, shape, or form) here for future reference. None of them are how-to videos, I don’t think. But they’re worth a look, none the less.
 

 

 

 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

So this week’s Kink of the Week Prompt is Begging. I’m kind of uncomfortable with begging, at least in the hyperbolic, incessant-until-they-get-what-they’re-asking-for sense of the word. I feel an unpleasant mix of put-upon and embarrassed, like I should probably give in and do whatever-it-is just to shut them up.
And yet… There’s something about “please”, about “let me?”, about that vulnerable voicing of want and hunger combined with the holding back, with not just taking… Now, that I love.
I fantasize about that stuff. About being the kind of top who doesn’t just listen with her skin, but with her ears, who makes sure this, or this, or this is wanted; about hearing please gasped breathless and half-involuntary by someone yearning for my hands, my mouth, all over her lit-up body; that makes me shiver all over, that makes my breath go shallow and my blood race.
But, too, there’s something about hearing it coming from someone who’s buried her face in my neck, who’s risking the terror of letting her own hunger show, hesitant and hopeful as the brush of fingertips along my lower back, breath whispering over my skin. There’s such a delicious power in that, in the inviting and the allowing, when it works, when trust is the right way to go. And I want that, too.
I want it all.
 
Kink of the Week
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

Kink of the Week – Belts (#KotW)

Rightio.
So “belts” is the topic for this half of February’s KotW challenge.
While I appreciate a good hobble belt as a way of flagging (and also hanging stuff upon one’s person), I don’t tend to reach for a belt when I want to give someone a taste of leather.
Part of that is just…. I don’t wear them.
I mean, my wife/property wears them, and I suppose I could take off her belt and smack her with it, but… Meh? I just don’t wanna.
Like I’ve said before, I’m a crops and quirts kind of gal. Single Tails are wonderful things, yes, and I’d love to take another workshop on how to use them. But, by and large, I’m not into long-range toys. I like to make things up close and personal. 😉
So that’s where I stand on belts.
 
Kink of the Week
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.