Roget and me – a love story

When I was in the 8th grade, I took a creative writing class. For some reason, I felt like it was perfectly alright to submit stories that were a little mature beyond my years. In fact, they were soft-core smut.

As 13-year-old girls go, my libido was somewhere between Tina Belcher and Traci Lords. I wanted to make it with a guy so bad, it was downright painful. So I guess it’s not surprising that it came out in the form of steamy romance. I knew better than to make it TOO explicit, so I turned to my trusty Roget’s Thesaurus to find some fancier words for dirty, dirty sex stuff.

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“Libidinous”

I definitely remember using the phrase “libidinous impulses” to describe two people locked in a cell together getting it on. This was a common theme in my pre-teen brain. Prior to the creative writing class, I had written down a fantasy for a boy I had a crush on. I folded the paper into an origami balloon and gave it to him. The fantasy was about being kidnapped by Satanists and thrown into a cell with a guy, and then forced to have sex and breed. I don’t think I had ever really thought through what the Satanists wanted us to breed for. I seriously doubt I had imagined that they would do anything bad to the children, but I mean, what amounts to proxy rape isn’t much better.

Clearly, being held captive and forced to have sex were appealing to me. Sex was forbidden, and being subjected to it would give me permission. If it wasn’t my choice, I couldn’t get in trouble for it. In reality, I now know this isn’t true. People who are forced into sex get blamed for it all the time. But that is the path my erotic mind drew for me.

But while I was looking for better words for sex, I discovered something even better. Roget’s classic reference work did something amazing. It broke down the concepts behind the English language and organized them. I didn’t understand all the words. But I loved the organizational structure.

The compulsion to account for all things under the sun, to generate taxonomies and classifications by which we can understand our world in a holistic way, is a deeply human one. It can never truly be complete, but that has never stopped us. Humanity and nature both display a tendency towards fractal specification. The more closely one looks, the more complexity and nuance one finds.

Within the world of unconventional sex, the desire to categorize and organize continues to inform our actions. In fact, I feel like classification is itself a form of control. So it’s not surprising that people who enjoy control as part of their sexual and/or sensual lives would gravitate towards Byzantine organizational structures.

And yet, we can never encompass everything in our system. There will always be something new that we didn’t think of before. Roget had a noble mission, but ultimately, it is futile.

But it did give me some great new words for sex.

Belonging, Identity and Personal Boundaries

Sigmund Freud theorized that the more similar two groups of people are, the more intensely they will fight over the minor details that differentiate them. He called this the Narcissism of Small Differences, and it speaks to our need for belonging and identity. If, for instance, I identify as “scene”, and someone else identifies as “emo”, it might be difficult for someone outside of our subcultures to tell us apart. Inside these subcultures, however, the differences are likely to be major bones of contention, and the subtle nuances will make for endless debate and discussion.

Kink is, of course, no exception, and within kink there are multitudes of fetishes, dynamics, and identities. Arguing about who is or is not kinky, who is or is not submissive or dominant, or what specific kinks say about a person has been a favored pastime for decades.

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Whose kinks are the darkest? The world may never know.

It’s understandable. We all want to belong, and this is one of the ways we establish membership in a group. Even though sexual minorities have argued for decades that we do not choose our orientation, there is still plenty of contention about who is gay, what does bisexuality mean, and what gender identity has to do with all of it. As being gay becomes more socially acceptable, how do individuals navigate the intersections of this identity and other forms of oppression? Can one “belong” to a gay community when the privilege enjoyed by some members differs so greatly from that of others? Marriage equality is now considered a fundamentally positive thing – it’s better to have rights than not to have them – but many people would argue that it does not necessarily help LGBT folks who are poor, who have no health insurance to share with a spouse, who are incarcerated, and so on.

Where this becomes pernicious is when we appoint ourselves the police of other people’s identities. There are cases of blatant dishonesty – individuals who seek clandestine sex with people of the same gender, but insist that they are straight, for instance. This is usually due to being closeted, or unable to accept one’s own desires. I meet many people who want to explore kink, but cannot bring themselves to see themselves as one of “those people”. Stigma, negativity and shame continue to be an obstacle. It is not helpful for any of us to chastise someone in this position, though it is perfectly reasonable for us to object to their characterizations of us, and offer information to the contrary.

But when someone is brand new to the world of sexual diversity, and genuinely unsure of their identity, it is not helpful to try to tell them what they want or who they are. “You’re a babygirl” or “you act like a Dom” are almost always self-serving wish fulfillment. I can’t even begin to count the number of times “not a real sub” gets used to pressure individuals into doing things they are uncomfortable with.

It may be tempting to use labels like “real Dom” to differentiate honest, trustworthy and consensual players from predatory and unsafe individuals. But I don’t think this is actually that helpful. It acts as a salve to reassure Dominants that they are not bad people, which is certainly a feeling many wrestle with. However, it isn’t a Dominant’s “realness” that differentiates them, but their integrity, empathy, and concern for the well-being of others. It’s their behavior that matters. If someone calls themselves Dominant, and does shitty things, then they are a shitty Dom, not a fake one. And although we must not fall into the trap of thinking we can save or fix people, if a shitty Dom wants to do better, they can learn to do better.

When someone says that they “want to explore” BDSM, the most helpful thing is to give them information. If you have experience, share that with them. Tell them about your identity, and how you knew what it was. Let them ask questions, and give them thoughtful answers.

Shooting down newbies who get out of line is one of the most popular ways of demonstrating group identity, but while we are always beset with jerks and trolls who say rude things to try to get attention, constantly reacting in this way can be detrimental. If someone asserts an opinion or idea that is blatantly inaccurate or unrealistic – “I have no experience but I know that I’m a total sub with no limits” – the best course of action is to offer a more informed option. If they refuse to listen, leave it be. But don’t tear into them and call them a troll. This will just alienate someone who may very well be sincere but misinformed.

If you are yourself a newbie, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to ask questions. Seek out information, and more importantly, seek out individuals who can fill in any gaps. Don’t take everything people say at face value. Develop a healthy skepticism. Once you find someone who seems knowledgeable and willing to share that knowledge, take full advantage and ask them every question you may have.

Above all, we must avoid the temptation to define other people’s identities. It may seem like a fun game for the uninitiated, but their identity is not up to anyone else. It is theirs alone.

Hatewatching 50 Shades of Grey

 

I’ve known for quite some time that 50 Shades of Grey was garbage, but I wanted to see for myself. I don’t have the patience to wade through a doorstop of poorly written erotica, so I opted to watch the film instead. But I didn’t have to do it alone. I had help!

That’s right, my submissive partner graciously agreed to let me take out any frustration on his cute little ass. We’ve done bondage and a movie before, and I would be glad to watch any number of kink-related movies this way and report on the results.

I had been made aware of the not just inaccurate but deeply irresponsible nature of the story, mainly through the excellent Twitter account “50 Shades is Abuse.” So I wasn’t really surprised at the blatantly nonconsensual and predatory behavior depicted. However, the sheer volume of clumsy, ham-fisted attempts to depict real-world BDSM – attempts that mostly failed – did exceed my expectations. Continue reading

Fears and Fetishes, Part 1

My relationship with the horror genre has been a complicated one. I experience anxiety, which can make horror unpleasant. And my mother made me watch Nightmare on Elm Street when I was very little, which I also did not enjoy. As I got older, and got in treatment for my anxiety, I began to develop some curiosity. I’d heard about some interesting theories of horror, and was perhaps wondering if I might be able to experience a thrill the way so many other people do.

In high school, I played Doom II on my “multimedia” PC, so called because it had speakers and 25 mhz of processing power. For some reason, I found it more exciting to play in my bra and panties with the lights off.

Years later, I discovered that reading Snopes articles on more macabre subjects gave me a pleasant thrill. I started exploring things like serial killers and roller coaster accidents. As a former sociologist, I can try to claim an academic interest in crime, but that’s maybe 70 percent of it. I have a prurient interest in the dark and disturbing, but only if it’s real, or presented as if it were real.

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Is it a horror movie, or bondage porn?

I still have some curiosity about the fictional horror genre, but I still haven’t watched much. There are millions and millions of people who do, though. Mainstream society seems to have difficulty understanding the appeal of horror. Why do people enjoy being frightened? What is the appeal of dread, violence, and gore? Continue reading

Domination is not Love

Domination can certainly be loving, but it is not love.

Domination is also not magic. It is not therapy. It is not a cure for the ills of mankind.

When we fall in love, what we fall in love with the most is how it makes us feel about ourselves. The heady cocktail of dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, quite literally like being on drugs, gives us a boost of self-love and confidence that is difficult to match. It feels like success, like finding the missing piece, like winning. It’s our body’s way of telling us that to bond with another person is like finding the mother lode. With good reason – forming social bonds promotes survival. There is safety in numbers, especially for our young. A single primate raising ¬†young alone is incredibly vulnerable. Two is better. But to really thrive, a larger group is your best bet.

Our survival is not so dependent on social bonds, but it still makes a difference. People who lack fruitful relationships are more likely to suffer from depression, more likely to become physically ill, have less economic security, and on average, die sooner. It doesn’t have to be a romantic partner, but those chemical bonds that make us want to be together help to increase the longevity.

So, what happens when we don’t feel nurtured? When the people closest to us let us down or mistreat us? When we experience trauma that makes it difficult to trust?

Many of us carry around the pain, emptiness, anger and longing of having been hurt and betrayed. If we have been abandoned, or abused, or neglected, it leaves a hole in our hearts. It leaves us feeling unlovable, inadequate, and inferior.

As a woman who was abandoned by my father and raised by a young, insecure mother, I know this pain. Not as keenly as others, I’m sure. But growing up, all I wanted was romantic love. I wanted the attention of a man to make me feel wanted. It didn’t help that I was socially awkward and a know-it-all. I was lonely, and although I did have friends, and liked them very much, I wanted sexual and romantic love very badly.

What I did not realize at the time was that even a genuine, heartfelt, passionate love could not fill my needs. No one could fix my self-esteem, my fear of abandonment, or my intense emotions. No one could heal the emptiness and pain left by my past.

At the same time, ever since I was very young, I knew I had an interest in bondage. My fetishes, combined with my insecurities, made me feel that to be dominated would certainly give me what I needed. Domination would make me feel wanted, needed and secure. I would be taken, the neediness swept away, and my sexual desires fulfilled.

Having been in the kink community for a long time, I have seen many relationships form and dissolve. I have dated and/or played with many potential partners. And time and time again, I see individuals who wish to rush into Dominant and submissive relationships. Just as with vanilla relationships, moving too quickly often goes hand in hand with emotional neediness and low self-esteem.

The first step in any healthy relationship is being okay with yourself. New relationship energy might make us feel temporarily invincible, but inevitably, this feeling wears off, and then we are left with whatever emotional issues we had in the beginning. Even in non-monogamy, this is a recipe for tumultuous, short-lived relationships, and a lot of heartache.

I know that all of this is much easier said than done. It doesn’t have to be a complete personal transformation, though. Small steps toward healing and self-care can make a big difference. Facing down and grappling with the source of our emotional distress can be hard, but it’s well worth the trouble.

Taking care of yourself and liking yourself doesn’t mean you won’t want the same things. You probably won’t stop having whatever fetishes and sexual desires you had before. But you will have a better chance of finding the happy relationship you desire.