Tag Archive: Harvest

So, yesterday was Queering Power 2016.
It was, surprisingly, an easier day that QP usually is. Which isn’t to say it didn’t have its hard bits.
One of the workshops was on trauma-survival and kink and I was expecting that to be pretty hard. It… wasn’t. I mean, I had my knitting out and was basically listening with half an ear. I have to work at it to remember what people said in the small groups we broke into to talk about stuff. The main thing I remember about it was (a) getting colder and colder and colder during the workshop itself, and (b) This:
Apparently there’s a thing called “hyperarrousal”, which is a thing that happens (or can happen) when you’re Triggered. Hyperarrousal isn’t the same as “hypervigilance”, and it includes a whole bunch of things like a distorted sense of the passage of time, anxiety, irritability, & fatigue (among lots of others). It’s been described as a “chronic state of fight/flight/freeze”. (Particularly interesting to me is that decreased body temperature is – apparently – associated with PTSD. I’m cold ALL THE TIME – like, up to and including shivering in a hot room, under blankets – when I’m freaking out about something).
The things you learn.
The first workshop I went to was a Facilitated Discussion (we *love* those faciliated discussions in this crowd) about chronic illness – physical stuff or mental health stuff or both – and dominance. I talked a little bit about how (a) I have physical pain that doesn’t go away + a brain that tells me horrible, bullshit stories (that are so easy to believe), but that (b) my Owned Property is dealing with the same stuff, but several orders of magnitude worse than I’ve got it. In that situation, how much of this relationship, where she’s “supposed” to be taking care of me is really going to be like that? And what does that mean?
And, when the link between anxiety and vulnerability came up (again and again and again),the words I put around it were (paraphrasing here):

I’m not supposed to want. And I’m not supposed to need[1]. But, as someone’s owner, I am supposed to want. Actively and openly[2]. So what do I do here? The story I tell myself is that how this is Supposed To Go is that I pretend to want/demand only those things that my Person already wants to give/provide[3]. So when I have something I actually want, something that doesn’t fit the script I’m (secretly) assuming my Person is (secretly) following… It’s terrifying. Asking means admitting that I can’t just do it on my own. Because if I could thrive without X, or could provide X to myself without anyone’s help, I would already be doing it. Asking feels like danger. Like “this is me, putting my chips down, and asking”. And I feel so fucking powerless.

Which was hard, but good, to say out loud.
By the end of that workshop, I was having my usual reaction to having let myself be “seen”, which is equal parts “I need a hug”, “I need a good cry”, and “I need to remove myself from mixed company before I hit somebody non-consensually”. I don’t know if that’s a vulnerability hangover, or what, but there it is.
But the part of the day that was the hardest for me was the opening plenary.
The current Ms Leather Toronto, who ran the plenery, included an exercise that was done by a couple of volunteers… They could have been me and Ghost, but they weren’t. In spite of Ghost nudging me in the shoulder and trying to convince me to give it a go.
I didn’t want to.
The exercise was that the members of a given D/s dyad would take turns saying:
“I see the beauty of your [dominance/submission] in your [action/characteristic/etc]” + asking if the other person could accept that their beauty was seen and acknowledged. (Each person does this five times, and then they switch).
I did not want to do this. Not with an audience, and not with my wife. Not right then.
I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to come up with five things, off the top of my head, and that my inability to do so would reflect badly on me (because I’m clearly not focusing on the good things that my Person brings to our dynamic) and also on her (because what does it MEAN if your owner can’t praise you for specifics??)
I was afraid that, if I could come up with five things in-which I could see Ghost beauty as a submissive, that I would pick the wrong things. That I would spot her beauuty in the ways that I spot it, but that I would totally miss some aspect of her submission that is super-central to her identity and that she needs to have recognized and valued. I was afraid that I would screw it up and/or let her down like that.
And I was afraid of – and overtly hostile towards – having to hear Good Things about myself. The point was that I would have been supposed to accept those things, those “I see your beauty as a dominant in [XYZ]” and… I wasn’t sure that I could. In fact, right at that moment, I was absolutely certain that I couldn’t. That I’d have reacted (or at least wanted to react) with a snarling “Stay away from me!” if someone had tried to show me that much praise.
It’s… telling.
I’m not sure what my shame was, right then, but letting someone be gentle with you, letting yourself absorb that kindness… it means taking off your armour. And I deeply, deeply didn’t want to be unguarded.
Telling, indeed.
Someone once said to me that she found it hard to hear me tell her that she’s easy to love.
I think I understand a little bit better now what that was about.
Ms Syren.
[1] Which is very likely The Patriarchy talking in my head, but is also something that I have huge, vast, awful amounts of shame around. Wanting means I’m Too Demanding, Too Much, Too Pushy. Needing means I’m a burden. Asking, unless I’m considerably more than 90% sure the answer will be Yes, is basically putting social pressure on someone else to do what I want them to do which, in some cases, equates to assault inside my head.
[2] My much-neglected-of-late Cultivating Entitlement tag is all about my struggles with this.
[3] As if a 24/7 d/s personal relationship was supposed to play out like a paid, time-bound session with a pro-domme wherein all feminization is “forced”, and where one is “punished” with exactly the thing that will get one off. My brain is weird.

Harvest was (ye gods) a god month ago at this point. It was awesome, as is typically the case.
One of the things that made it awesome, though, was that I finally Played With Other People because I wanted to rather than because they were my Harvest Buddy or it was their first time attending and I wanted to make sure the New Chick got some play eary on, or whatever[1].
It was fantastic. For me, at least, though both of the delightful gals I got to fool around with were interested in doing so again, so: YAY! 😀
I titled this post “upping my game” because, until now (or, well, a month ago), I’ve generally not had the best results when playing with people other than my Main Squeeze. I’m not sure how much of the reason for that has been due to “Playing for the Wrong Reasons” versus “Trying Really Hard Not to Open Up Energetically” versus “Playing With People Whose Kinks Don’t Line Up with Mine Very Well”… but all three of those reasons are involved. I routinely describe myself as “the most mono poly person I know”, so being willing and able(!) to approach gorgeous[2], sweet, fun, thinky, pervy, poly, chicks who are into the same stuff I’m into is kind of a big step for me.
The fact that they both said yes(!!!) and enjoyed what we got up to together(!!!) is just a mile and a half of icing on the cake[3].
So, yeah.
I took a step, and it worked out really well.
Hurrah for everything. 😀
Ms Syren.
[1] Yes, actually, I’m aware of how condescending that is. One more reason not to do it? Definitely. But I also do want to make sure the New People get to try something out, so if someone asks me: Why the hell not, right?
[2] Did I mention Gorgeous? Yay for big, towering femmes. 😀
[3] BTW: The ASL word for “sadist” is “evil-mean”. Apparently this is remarkably accurate. I got called “evil” and “mean” a lot. By people who were grinning at me when they said it. Life is good. 😀

I was at Unholy Harvest over the weekend. As usual, the largest leather-dyke event on the continent was awesome. I sang at the opening cabaret (“Fly Me To the Moon”) in a beaded Barbarella dress (harness? I’m not sure how much fabric you need for it to qualify as a dress) that I’d spent the past week sewing. I ran a foot-fetish workshop that was as much an ideas-sharing discussion as a chalk-and-talk “lecture”, took in two discussions on leather identity and one on navigating the pitfalls and boundaries of being a kinky health-care and/or mental-health-care service provider (who may run into both colleagues AND clients at parties or other community events). I missed out on a D/s and Mental Health discussion; a workshop on sex with trans women[1]; and watching my lovely wife teach a big chunk of her community how to repair minor issues with their gear (think popped grommets and un-stuck soles) and give a dozen eager people speedy stitchers of their own. I stretched my sadistic, poly wings a little and played with a couple of people whom I’ve been interested in for ages but was only able to ask (have the gumption to ask) to play with me this year. (It went well. It sounds like they’d both be game for playing again, so YAY! :-D) I saw Jacqueline and Andrea break down in tears when they were gifted leather by Everybody at the closing ceremonies.
It was a good weekend. A weekend where we – not just me, but *so many of us* – disclosed our vulnerabilities (past traumas, current pain, deep-seated insecurities and fears about what it is or isn’t okay for us to be) and walked out again feeling heard and less alone.
That’s a big deal.
Let me be clear on this – none of this, that I know of, was Ordeal Ritual (although those came up during the Health Care SPs Circle, and someone came and talked to me about That Stuff a little later on. I suggested a book – not an ordeal-focused book, but The Twelve Wild Swans: A Journey to the Realm of Magic, Healing, and Action by Starhawk and Hillary Valentine – as something that might be useful for crafting some rituals she’s been working on).
But it’s still a Going Through with the arms of your community around you, and that matters.
Which, in a sloppy, abrupt way, does segue into what I want to blog about today.
One of the workshops I went to was about Leather Phamilies – it was facilitated by a couple of people who are creating an anthology about such things, and who were looking for further perspectives on the subject.
Some of the things that came up in the discussion (when we were trying to come up with a working definition of “Leather” before we went on to “Leather Phamily/Family”; but also much later in the car, on the way home, when the same question came up) were as follows:
Leather as a culture – with regional variations, a common value system[2], rites of passage (collarings and uncollarings, the gifting of leather, the earning of club colours), and even “traditional dress”.
Leather as a community that hangs out and/or interacts beyond the party circuit or the bedroom[3]; a community that is primarily queer or queer-focused
Leather as a grass-roots social safety net (Mama’s Family is one example, but there are also examples of social housing for trauma survivors, and less formal situations like: I moved cities and suddenly lost my job, and this community of people who I didn’t even really know yet stepped up and filled my fridge, helped me find new work, renegotiated my rent, held me while I cried, did concrete things that literally kept me going)
Leather as a (working) classed identity[4]
Leather as a community that is very centered on knowledge-transfer
And, perhaps weirdly, that’s the one I want to talk about right now.
Because I never thought of it like that. I just assumed that everyone was a huge nerd when it came to kink. But, on the way home in the car, one of the gals – who used to run a club that primarily catered to the pansexual bdsm scene – said that the leather dykes are all about workshops and education in a way that the pansexual bdsm crown… isn’t.
And, having since heard a quotation from that Robert J Rubel book (see [3]) siting the dual origins of the broadest iteration of North American kinkdom, I can’t help thinking that this makes a lot of sense.
We have in our queer, leather community a history and, I think, a mythology about knowledge transfer.
Weird? Maybe.
But think about it.
Pre-internet, you actually did have to know someone who knew someone to find out when the events were or where they were happening, or even to be allowed in the door. There was no fetlife. There were no youtube tutorials to teach you (oh, for example) how to do a brand safely. There was word of mouth and, if you were lucky, a newsletter on paper that you might be able to sign up for if you found out it existed. By that token, we have a real history of teaching each other in a hands-on, in-person fashion.
But we also have a mythology – and I mean this in the anthropology/religious-studies sense of the word where “mythology” means “our deepest truths; the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, where we came from, and how to live and fit in the world” – about kinky, erotic apprenticeship. Think Mr. Benson or The Marketplace series for example, but also think about the stories and protocols of the Old Guard, of learning to top by bottoming and doing your first topping scene under the supervision of your master.
Hands-on thinky-types who learn by doing as much as by checking out the theory?
I hadn’t thought of it that way – or at least I hadn’t thought that we were unique in that way. Maybe that’s a better way of putting it.
Anyway. Those are some thoughts (or some more thoughts) on leather as a culture.
Ms Syren.
[1] I regret missing this. Apparently it was EPIC. It took seven years for such a workshop to be offered (and, yes, it was taught be a couple of trans chicks), but it was really, really popular when it was. I think this bodes well. 😀
[2] If I were to take a guess? Honesty, loyalty, pleasure (!!!), honour, kindness (and/or compassion?), respect, joy, endurance (meaning both “I can take it” and “I can make/fix something so that it doesn’t fall apart”), really good food (maybe that’s just the dykes?), trust, flexibility/willingness to stretch and grow (physically but also in terms of skills, experiences, and understanding), knowledge + expertise & thinky-thinking (possibly also just the dykes?), connection(!), DIY and/or self-sufficiency, and got-your-back-itude (support for community / helping when called and stepping up without being asked).
[3] Robert J Rubel (author of Master/slave Relations, fyi) offered a distinction between what he called “leather” and “not leather” (but which I’ve also heard described as “leather community” and “bdsm community”) that was based on history and origin – “leather”, by his definition, grew out of gay veterans communities and motorcycle clubs in post-WW2 United States (1945-ish to 1960-ish); while “bdsm / not-leather” grew out of the swing community (of the 1960s but also much earlier than that).
[4] Which, itself, does tie into the queerness and the motorcycle clubs in our history. Both of those populations have historically been working class and/or poor, have done primarily service-industry jobs, have been sexworkers (men and women), have been able to afford the cost of a motorcycle but not a car, have been working through multiple levels of trauma and/or marginalization and needed capital-C Community to help with that, have joined the army for financial reasons, have been Kicked Out and making a buck in the bars shining boots and hoping to hook up with someone at the end of the night for a place to sleep, have appreciated donated, second-hand, durable clothing like, say, leather jackets or boots or chaps.

So I got the news the other day that one of my workshop proposals has been accepted for this year’s Unholy Harvest.
I will be presenting Soles, Toes, and Heels: An Erotic Introduction to Feet and Shoes.
As implied by the title, this is definitely a 101 workshop. I’ll be talking a little bit about foot and shoe fetishism plus what Midori refers to as “foot hedonism”, as well as what I think of as “the axes of desire” (masculine/feminine, feet/shoes, active/receptive… and how “top” and “bottom” run counter to their more typically assumed dynamics in a lot of foot play). Following that, I’ll be getting into the basics of various types of foot-play (the bare-bones basics of foot-massage, polish, great places to put your tongue, how to go down on a shoe, mixing feet and food, and safe ways to fuck with your feet.
Things I won’t be covering (in this workshop) include bastinado and other foot-focused forms of S/M.
I have to admit I’m excited about doing this. Partly because, duh, I’m into feet, but also because this workshop (I think) has the potential to be offered in more spaces than Unholy Harvest and for audiences that aren’t limited to queer chicks. (Not that the other ones necessarily were, but… this feels more broad-spectrum, I think).
Anyway. That’s my big news. 🙂
See you in October (I’ll be doing a take-off on Barbarella for my costume. How ’bout you?)
Ms Syren.

So, when I first conceived the Greater Granola Blog Project, I had expected to wind up writing “H is for Harvest” and doing a post on what-all went on at Unholy Harvest 2012. To that end, I’m dropping a Very Short Synopsis here for your reading pleasure. The longer H-prompt will be coming to you in a few hours. Stay tuned. 🙂

Harvest was awesome (big shock). I dressed up as the Prom Queen of Harvest High and sang opera (the Flower Duet from Lakme) with The Lesbian Gym Teacher. I won the “best legs” competition (and was really happy to see “legs” and “back” be up for the “best of” prize because, y’know, not everyone is hella endowed in the tits department, as a for-instance, and it was nice to see other body parts getting recognized). Ghost and I did our first-ever branding scene. I played with people other than my own girlfriend (not something I do very often, so it’s kind of a big deal for me). Ghost, along with a heap of other faboo dyke bootblacks (organized, iirc, by Tarna – YAY!), raised a heap of cash to help keep Unholy Harvest running. “Femme-ily” got mentioned during the closing ceremonies as “What Harvest Means to Me” – which I love. I pretty much cried when I heard it, because Yeah. I got some new lingerie at the gear-swap AND flirted with a cute redhead at the post-clean-up brunch. AndGhost proposed to me on the drive home, when we stopped by the side of Highway Seven to admire the Northern Lights (which I’d never seen before).
So, yeah. Short version is: Harvest 2012 was FUCKING AMAZING and I’m seriously looking forward to 2013. 😀


Ms S.

E is for Erotica

Hey folks!

So I’ll be heading to Unholy Harvest this year (first time outside of my own city, no less) and am excited about a number of things – singing (zomg I haven’t performed an opera piece in something close to a decade!) at the Talent Show, attending the Flow workshop, seeing the Extended Leather Phamily for Thanksgiving Dinner, and reading some of my porn at the open mic.

It’s that last one with-which I’m concerned today.

I write erotica. I used to write erotica all the damn time – to the point where I was actually worried that I wasn’t able to write anything else, or that maybe I was defaulting to sex scenes because they were becoming a habit rather than because it was something I actually wanted/needed to put on paper right then.
These days, it comes far less often.
Because I’d like to get it back.

I wrote a piece – “Wolf and Scarlet” – to submit to an anthology. I didn’t get in (which is not actually horrible – it still means that a writer whom I respect a lot actually read my stuff, and that’s kind of a big deal for me), but I’m really proud of it. I’m looking forward to reading it aloud to my community, though I’m going to have to make sure it doesn’t take more than eight minutes to read which… seeing as it takes about twenty minutes to read (I just checked) is not likely to work out.
Cripes. 3500 words, or so… If I can read 175 words-aloud in one minute… I basically need a story that’s about 1200 words long.

I’m not sure how I’m going to fix that…

Back to the drawing board with me!

Ms Syren.