It was kinda supposed to be a mellow and easygoing thing. I was a little into service state, not terribly into headspace but full of concern and the need to unwind some of the tension that was so intense that it was making him spasm at irregular intervals.
I'm good at reducing his tension.
(And a damn good thing, too, because he's such a stressbucket.)
And it was working out well, very soothing, the gentle treatment letting the tension run out, very satisfying sex if not the sort of thing that goes to the mindblowing orgasm direction.
And then he stretched.
His arms went up over his head, reaching towards the corners of the bed, the muscles of his upper arms showing definition with the effort of the motion, sloping up from the breadth of his shoulders. He had twisted his head to one side to loosen his neck, exposing the curve of shoulder to a loose halo of curls. It was a perfect pose, made the more so by its artlessness, by the simplicity of the stretch.
I did more than stare, just watching with hungry intensity, the perfect angle of the limbs, the flow of muscle, the expanse of chest, the exposed throat, the loose hair, the blissfully accepting face in profile with its faint half-smile.
My actual first thought was, "You... are a rope short of bondage porn."
He turned back to me, looking up, looking at the way I was responding, and said, "My, that's a predatory look."
"... you ... have no idea."
He teased me with an "Are you going to take advantage of me when I'm vulnerable?" and I bit back response after response, the urge to try to pin down those arms even though I know he's strong enough to throw me off, to not let the need to take care of the fragility be overwhelmed by that utterly captivating moment.
"You have no idea."
It was work after that, work to keep being gentle, knowing that I had an intent and that I would follow through on it no matter how much that image of a stretched-out body opened up under me in perfect beauty kept coming back to mind.
Still keeps coming back to mind, days later.
I told him that that was a visual that I would be keeping, and he looked amused, but perhaps not understanding, not knowing what it was that I saw.
They say women don't look.
They have even less idea than he does.
He can see me seeing.
26 June, 2008
It was kinda supposed to be a mellow and easygoing thing. I was a little into service state, not terribly into headspace but full of concern and the need to unwind some of the tension that was so intense that it was making him spasm at irregular intervals.
24 June, 2008
Noli Irritare Leones writes about monogamy, marriage, and the lack of the impending decline and fall of civilisation. (The basic point of which I am greatly in agreement with, that people keeping commitments is a good thing, and that not making them or running out on them is much more a threat to the universe as we know it than people not promising sexual exclusivity ....) It's a good post; go have a look at it.
It reminded me, though, of one of those things that I see crop up consistently.
Whenever I see acceptance of multiple relationships come up, especially the concept of legalising polygamy, someone pops up with "If that's possible, then all the wealthy and powerful men will have all the women and there will be none for ordinary guys like me."
This argument blows my mind, and I want to take it apart a little.
First of all, there's the thread of Figleaf's "no-sex class" analysis in there -- that women will trade their sex for money/power access, rather than desiring their own sexual relationships. If "all the women" are being collected by those elites, "all the women" are going to be spending a lot of time cuddled up with their vibrators.
(I actually have a vibrator ... somewhere. I prefer real penises.)
And that comes with the presumption that the only form of polygamy that's likely to exist is polygyny, that women like me don't exist. (I obviously find this problematic. And at least for a while I knew more women who considered themselves orientationally nonmonogamous than I knew men.) That these women who have one zillionth of their movie star or bazillionaire will be satisfied with that and not have any other relationships of their own -- that such women will automatically be unavailable to other men, because women are the Monogamous Class.
And, also, the failure to actually follow through on the assumption that women are the Monogamous Class, and might therefore insist on having relationships with men who are willing to be monogamous. Which will raise a bunch of those ordinary guys a bit higher on the list than the gazillionaire movie star playboys who already have a woman for each day of the week and two for Sundays. Apparently the lure of having a fraction of Mr. Uberpowerful is more important than the Monogamous Class values that might require exclusivity.
And then there's the idea that these wealthy, powerful guys actually want to collect women. I hear this from people who claim to be monogamously oriented, not interested in more than one relationship -- but apparently that trait corresponds with "ordinary joe" status, and the elites by whatever standard will claim enough of these plentiful monogamous-but-doesn't-care-if-you-are women to cause a shortage. A girlfriend to match each car, perhaps. Quantity over quality. Pokemon partnership, gotta catch 'em all.
Not to mention that mostly movie stars date other movie stars, to the perpetual delight of the tabloids. The Beautiful People mostly hang with other Beautiful People; even if I'd accept an offer from Golden-Boy Heartthrob if I got one, he's never going to make me an offer, because I'm some random housewife living in a swamp in Massachusetts, I don't have a fairy godmother to Calgon-take-me-away to a place where I'd meet the guy, and I have no illusions about this sort of thing. I hang out with nerds. That means that the people I might hook up with are probably going to be ... nerds. Fortunately, I'm pretty much exclusively attracted to geeky boys with nice shoulders, which means that "nerds" is a better stalking ground than "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" for my actual preferences (which also don't come into this scenario, notice that?).
And really, we're already in a world where the elites can have all the women they want, and in fact do ... to the perpetual delight of the tabloids.
And sure, there are people -- of all sexes -- who like a lot of reasonably casual liasons. But one of the traits of that is that one isn't marrying them, and thus they're not "off the market", if one wants to go all transactional like that. Once one gets into more serious relationships, one starts hitting limited resources -- even if one has infinite money, infinite desirability, and infinite sexual stamina, one has limited time. Women are people; if a person is settling into some sort of serious relationship, that will include some level of support. I'm sure there are a few women who'll trade a quick poke once a month for a nice allowance and the opportunity to go to the ball and meet Prince, but I can't imagine that is a major grouping. Even a ridiculously low-maintenance wife will need a certain amount of time, and if she doesn't get it and the gold-diggy stereotype is being played, she's not gonna stay married -- she's gonna play for the severance package and see what she can get in a divorce.
I know people who have sustainable relationships with a day a month where they might see their partners -- and the thing is, those people aren't considering those relationships marriages, primary-level, or whatever your word is. They're secondary relationships, dating, satellite, more peripheral, fun on the side, whatever you want. The majority of the actual poly people I know aren't terribly interested in marrying more than one person; a fair few aren't big on marriage at all. Which also cuts into the odds of monopolisation; if a huge number of the people doing multiple relationships are doing so at the "something mostly on the side" level, then even if the whole population suddenly goes polyish overnight because multiple marriage is available, the majority of people seem likely to be only having one marriage in the first place.
All these women are presumed to be really after the wealth and power and willing to trade sex to get it. And this isn't just the "I can't get a date" crowd -- I've heard this from people who are apparently happily married, and I can't help but wonder if they really apply this to their wives and presume that they'd be abandoned if "something better" came along, if only it were possible for more than one person to be the wife of Superstar.
20 June, 2008
Have taken antidepressant medication. Doing a very slow, conservative ramp-up because I'm a little anxious about the whole thing. (She said, using her powers of mild understatement.)
My brain has not exploded.
Further bulletins as events warrant.
17 June, 2008
Four boys, probably high school aged, with a black sketchbook just like the ones that I had for my art class in high school. They passed it around, drawing graffiti-style lettering in the book.
One took the book, slid down the side of the car to sit on the floor, bumping my foot. "Sorry," he said, and "No worries," I replied.
He took the fuschia marker and started to sketch out letters with perfect grace, each line with ease and fluidity, fading from thick to sparse with each stroke. He worked quickly and deliberately, swapping from pink to black, and I could not figure out what he was saying.
"Aw," he said, "that looks like shit. Whose black is this?"
It belonged to the one sitting across from me.
"Do yourself a favor, man, get a new one." He took the pen, stepped on the end, shook it a few times, and then scribbled on a scrap of paper. Satisfied, he handed it back to its owner. "Smooth."
He had perfect sketching hands.
We got off at the same stop, before I could figure out how to say it.
He was sitting on the trolley across from me, talking with his wife, his bare smooth-muscled arms clearly visible, as he was wearing a sleeveless shirt.
He had amazingly beautiful skin. It looked perfectly smooth, unblemished, shading through all kinds of dark rich colour along the contours of his arms and into the knobblier darkness of his wrinkled knuckles.
And I couldn't think of a way to tell him. Not that wouldn't come off as some creepy race-fetish thing, even aside from the horrible awkwardness of trying to compliment a perfect stranger, especially on something so socially strange.
He got off the stop before mine, leaning heavily on his cane.
What a world it might be, if people knew how beautiful they were. If it were possible to tell them about beauties easily, without awkwardness, without sounding like a freak.
16 June, 2008
There's been a lot of conversations happening recently about marriage and the meaning thereof. Some of which have been irritating handwringing about the death of "traditional marriage" (check out those scare quotes), some of which have been notably happier (I have some friends getting married in California tomorrow).
And people rant and rail about religious marriage and civil marriage and who owns marriage.
Here's the deep dark secret:
If you read this, you own marriage. (Even if you don't read this, you own marriage.) You're entitled to the concept. It's yours to grant and receive, without requiring an intermediary. It's a basic, human thing: that people will form partnerships, unify families, set up house together, and do so in the context of the awareness and connection with their communities. That's what marriage is.
If you're living somewhere with a legal system deriving from English law, you're living somewhere where ordinary people owned marriage unquestionedly until about 1200. Right around then, organised religion decided it wanted in on a good thing, possibly for reasons of regulation of sexual morality, possibly because peasants were beginning to hold property and thus actually be interesting to people with authority. And even given that, the exclusive control of the Church over marriage in England began in 1753 and ended in 1837. (Credit for this trivia goes to someone's summary of the situation, drawn in part from the book 1215 - The Year of Magna Carta by Danziger & Gillingham.)
Here in Massachusetts, those well-known godless liberal atheists the Puritans wrote the local ordinances explicitly declaring marriage a secular matter because their God was not to be polluted with something so ... worldly.
Goodridge vs. the Department of Public Health noted this:
We begin by considering the nature of civil marriage itself. Simply put, the government creates civil marriage. In Massachusetts, civil marriage is, and since pre-Colonial days has been, precisely what its name implies: a wholly secular institution.
As did Nancy S. Taylor, preaching from the United Church of Christ:
If it had been up to our Puritan forebears, however, we wouldn't be here today. We wouldn't be having this conversation. Puritan clergy wanted nothing to do with marriage and, indeed, it wasn't until nearly a century after the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, that anyone in the colonies was married with benefit of clergy. Puritan pastor John Robinson described marriage as "a civil thing" in part because it had to with such profane matters as property and inheritance, but more importantly, because there was, in his estimation, no biblical precedent for the church's involvement in it.
There's an interesting thing to be had a little later on in that sermon, now:
Our forebears felt it was important to populate this new land with "hands to tame the wilderness." Yet, they disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church that the sole or highest purpose of marriage was procreation. Roman Catholics hung their bishops' mitres on God's orders that the first humans "be fruitful and multiply". (Gen. 1.28) In the colonies, on the other hand, our forebears hung their Pilgrim hats on God's observation that, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him." (Gen. 2.18)
Now maybe it's that I'm a damn Yankee down in the blood and bone, with the much-diluted blood of Puritans running in my veins and my ancestors rolling in their graves to look at the likes of me, but I'm so very down with that. The essence of marriage is partnership.
I wrote about that a while ago, though not in so many words.
Partnership is the heart of marriage, the communion of shared creative power. And while a lot of marriages include that creative power to make children, that's not its essential thing.
The thing that the partners to a marriage are creating, first and foremost, is their lives.
And people can form that kind of partnership without marriage, without standing up in front of their communities and saying, "We are together, we are doing this work together," and accepting what comes of that. I've got an uncle down the Cape who's been with his partner longer than I've been alive, without what gets called the benefit of marriage.
But the act of saying it with witnesses is marriage: an act of community, acknowledgement, and declaration that there is a social tie between the private place thus formed and the rest of the world.
Back to Goodridge:
In a real sense, there are three partners to every civil marriage: two willing spouses and an approving State.
The "approving State" in civil marriage is the stand-in for the community, substituting for making that public declaration by whatever other local standards might exist. The community is always the third partner.
This is why so many people would accept "civil unions" and not tolerate "marriage" of same-sex couples -- because "civil unions" are not the thing that the community owns and has to fess up to. That's why the word matters.
In my religious beliefs, a marriage is a contract between families, not a matter of theological concern. Brehon law recognised ten degrees of marriage, depending on what was appropriate to the situation of the people involved. I think about these things a lot, not just because of the need to construct contracts around relationships in various forms.
But right now, I say to G and D, mazel tov and may you have joy in each other. And the same to George Takei and Brad Altman. And to all the people who will be celebrating their creative bonds to each each other in the eyes of their communities and the State of California.
15 June, 2008
12 June, 2008
So, someone on the polyamory community livejournal posted a question: is it possible for a sub to have two masters?
To which, along the line in the comments, someone replied that it just couldn't work out, because somewhere along the line one of them might find their mastery called into question by not having "full control".
I told my liege about this and, after a little rambling about theory of control and mastery, he demanded, "Redefine local space-time to have a decreased permeability constant!"
Which ... probably tells you everything you need to know, but I'll keep talking anyway.
I'm pretty sure the person I was responding to was operating in some sort of A Twoo Mastah Has This Level Of Control paradigm, and defining "full control" as something that doesn't include the laws of physics, certain practical considerations, or limitations on interest or scope of control.
And I'm the sort of space alien pedant who, well. Permeability constant.
But here in the real world, and setting aside any poly issues: My liege does not have scope of control over my job, my practice of my religion, or the organisation of my bookshelves. His sexual control is limited by reasonable practical considerations about pregnancy and other health concerns. His scope of control doesn't extend into a lot of standard-fetishy control tricks because they don't interest him. All of these preclude any definition of "full control" that I would find sensible.
And then there's the limitations on "full control" that do things like preclude following through on an impulse to have noisy kinky rough sex on some friends' front porch because that would be rude. Or the limitations on "full control" orbiting around the fact that he's basically back in school full-time at the moment and time that might under other circumstances be spent on kink is currently being devoured by problem sets. Or ....
And then there's stuff like "My scoliosis means I can't hold that bondage position without dislocating my left arm, actually" or "Having a flashback now, need breathing space" or just negotiated limits around Actually, That's Not My Kink, Thanks. Still not "full control".
And then we get into the fact that I have another relationship, with my husband. Who is also a kinkster, though our sex life together is pretty much vanilla. Which adds other bits of lack of "full control" around not potentially causing harm to that relationship. The poly issues that might come up if my husband and I were kinkier together are minimal, because there's already a basic structure of respecting relevant space. And my husband and I have conversations sometimes about the fact that I'm in a full-time power exchange relationship with someone else, and how little that actually matters to our relationship.
And somewhere along the line I may have children, and one of the things my liege made clear early in our relationship, before we were even negotiating the power stuff, was that he would consider it immoral to interfere with my care of my hypothetical children.
I am pretty sure that I could not manage to sustain two relationships with the level of power flow that I get up to with my liege. But that's just a quirk of my me, not something more profound than that -- and nobody would wind up with "full control" no matter what.
Or, quoting my liege again:
Good control models are more about chaos management and direction and pushing the limits of what's capable with that rather than absolute rulings.
He is not less my master because our power dynamic is rooted in the real world; I would hold him far more so. I can serve without the constant caveat of needing to correct for reality.
11 June, 2008
Oh look, it's another discussion of how to examine one's sexual desires. To which one party has responded with raising the question of what the problem is with examining and analysing this stuff, anyway.
So here's the thing:
No amount of "examination" will make any form of sexuality ideologically correct.
Sexuality does not have an ideology.
As people said in various places in this blowup, a penis in a vagina is a penis in a vagina; it's sex, it's normal/natural/biologically common/whatever, it doesn't have an ideology. The meaning is something that people create, attach, ascribe.
I've been chewing for a while about the occasional "just because a woman chooses that does not mean it's a feminist choice" thing that crops up, and have come to the conclusion that the concept of 'a feminist choice' is meaningless. And, in fact, that the notion that there are 'feminist choices' and 'non-feminist choices' is one of the major factors that drove me the fuck out of feminism.
It is possible to tune one's level of analysis to make every possible choice wrong, when "examining one's choices". It's easy. It is certainly, given my socialisation and upbringing, the level of analysis that I will automatically gravitate towards: it is so easy to slide to whatever level of analysis will frame me as defective.
I mean, I've written a couple of times before about the white knight who was sure that I needed to be rescued from the horrible fate of having the love and support of some wonderful men. There's a level of analysis there, that looks at the socially known patterns of multiple relationships and finds a lot of abusiveness there, that knows about problems with women with low self-esteem being likely to get into bad situations, and so on; there's not enough "examination" to notice the paternalism or listen to the actual perspective of the other people involved, but that's par for the course. And saying, "Examine more!" won't make a difference; it's all fully examined, even if the analysis is obviously defective when viewed by people outside the system.
But what's the system?
Take this one, for something that isn't obviously some man telling a woman "UR DOIN IT RONG":
I'm a housewife.
This is one of those things that gets a lot of handwringing "examine that!" responses. Lack of financial independence, check. Short resume in the event that Horrible Things Happen and I need to be supporting myself, check. In this situation in part because of being a dropout and thus in the ranks of the undereducated-for-modern-employment, check. Buying into patriarchal norms of appropriate womanhood, che--
Well then. I've written before about how the norms of "appropriate womanhood" where I grew up had a lot more to do with getting into the boardroom, the tenured faculty, and the White House than housewifery. And how attempting to conform to that standard despite my poor suitability for those roles was, shall we say, rough on me. So there's a little more examining to throw into the pot. And when I examine that far, I wonder if maybe Doing What The Pat Says Not To Do Reflexively is maybe another Controlled By The Pat thing, like a teenaged rebel who hasn't thought this through.
And then the little self-analysis mode goes into maybe being lazy and too entitled to go work outside the house, which I can stew in for months at a time if I'm not careful. Never mind that my time supporting myself left me feeling used and abused and actively unclean at times, not to mention the number it did on my mental health. And I examine a little more and find the bit where the work done at home is not socially marked as actual work (unless one does it in someone else's home, in which it's work only fit for poor women), and for that matter the creative work that I do is not socially respected as real work (see also, "But what's your real job?" directed, at some point, at just about every writer in the universe). And examining down another layer, well, that's all just an excuse, isn't it?
And if I keep examining, I wind up at "That's all just an excuse to justify doing what you want. Doing what you want is being a selfish bitch by definition, you selfish bitch." No matter what I examine, I wind up there. Protestant work ethic, a thread in there, and examining that one which runs so deep goes straight back at "selfish bitch", even when I am ideologically committed to an abundant universe.
There are no "win" choices. I choose this place to give myself time to pursue my callings -- my religious work, my creative work, eventually my mothering work -- and support my family in non-financial ways, not only because I have the option to choose it but because I am ill-suited to many other choices. Someone else may choose the same thing because of ideology of some sort, which I may or may not personally approve of or consider adequately enlightened or whatever.
But the choice has no opinion on the matter. It's not representative of an ideology; it is, at most, an emerging result of the interaction with ideology and reality. And the same ideology will lead to different choices when running into different bits of reality, and different ideologies will produce indistinguishable choices in various circumstances.
So back to sex.
Where the things that produce arousal come from is one of those deep mysteries. There's evidence that sometimes, they come from traumas, imprinting, juxtapositions that made an impression of the mind, sometimes they have biochemical origin points in part, and that sometimes they just come from somewhere and fucked if we know. Thinking about where they came from can be an interesting thought exercise, but I've found that the only intellectually honest answer I can present for some of them is agnoticism: I don't know, and I don't believe it's knowable.
"Why don't I just lie here anyway? Why don't I climb out? Why don't I just go zootlewurdle. Does it matter? Even if it does matter, does it matter that it matters?
Zootlewurdle, zootlewurdle, zootlewurdle...."
-- Marvin the Paranoid Android, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio broadcast, episode eleven, by Douglas N. Adams
Examining sexuality in the light of ideology seems to me to consistently come up with pernicious results. Mostly because it's generally framed not as "What sex do I want to have?" but "What sex should I want to have?"
When asking the question "What sex do I want to have?" all this stuff reasonably goes into the pot -- what is actually desired, what is acceptable to one's sensibilities to act upon, and so on. And this is quiet, personal stuff that has to do with one's own consent and desire to consent, one's recognition of the differences between fantasy and reality, and is only the business of anyone else if they're expected to participate. At which point they get to decide if that particular thing is sex they want to have for whatever reason they choose to do -- which may or may not include ideology at all, and they don't have to say why.
"What sex should I want?" goes into all kinds of ugly directions pretty much immediately -- slut-shaming kicks in on any female desire for sex at all, internalised homophobia chews up anyone with queer attractions and spits them out, anyone remotely pervy winds up wrestling with the possibility that they're some kind of monster, huge swaths of fantasy sexuality get shrinkwrapped and sanitised for your protection in the name of Practice Safer Wanking, and shame and guilt over sexuality are the rule, not the exception. It engages the prurient parts of ideologies, the invasive attention that expects someone's political to be everyone's personal, the creepy social stalker that wants to grope inside people's underwear before letting them get married.
Swapping from the default sex-negative culture's ideological perspective on acceptable sex to a different ideological perspective on acceptable sex doesn't fix the problem. It doesn't even change the problem. It just comes up with a new way of examining sexuality in order to determine who's having the wrong sex. To which the answer is, unsurprisingly: usually women, usually the people who aren't having mainstream sex for reasons of number, gender, or activity, usually the people whose sexuality is unacceptable to the dominant paradigm already. And the fact that these new ideologies pretty much paint the same people as unacceptable as the things they're supposedly critiquing ... goes unexamined.
But the examination, the taking apart of desire in the name of ideology, it mostly just makes people ashamed. It doesn't go anywhere rewarding; it ponders the unknowable until people get disgusted with themselves or their desires, or blow it off as useless, and if they blow it off as useless they get told that they're shallow, not thinking things through, saying "Whatever gets me off is okay."
I got asked the other day whether 'my feminist beliefs' had problems with me being submissive.
I just ... was too tired to get into how angry I get at that question.
(Added: A link to another instance of a post I linked up there somewhere, because there's conversation happening there.)
07 June, 2008
This is sort of half-assedly in reponse to SnowdropExplodes's comment on this post at Figleaf's. Which was too incoherent to post as a comment. And probably more explicit than my run of the mill post, but hey, it happens.
This keys heavily into a theme that I've heard mentioned by submissives, especially women submissives, about the key source of pleasure (I've been told several times by subs that their preferred form of sex is fellatio, because "there's no direct pleasure for me; it's all about him").
I only like oral sex -- giving or receiving -- in a d/s context. I have occasionally poked at this a bit to try to figure out why this is, and I got nothing; the only clear notion I have is something about service sexuality, but that doesn't really explain why I don't fancy being the recipient either.
The thing I find most interesting, personally, about service sexuality stuff is the way it functions for me as very intense foreplay. The intense awareness focused on my partner's reactions ramps me up in a way that only active teasing can do otherwise; it frequently parses as a form of teasing.
"You're teasing me."
"You're still teasing me..."
"We both know what you want. You don't really want me to take the edge off, do you?"
I have a penetration fetish, in that sort of semi-technical sense; I am as a general rule not satisfied by sexual activity that does not include (typically PIV) penetration at some point, no matter how many orgasms I have (though I have done some experimentation to discover other potential means of achieving satisfaction). I find orgasms that come about from other activities notably more satisfying when they come immediately following penetration than when they come before, even if the same actions are taken. And so on.
In a d/s context as a submissive, I frequently wind up framing penetrative sex as a reward for service, sexual and otherwise. I certainly do non-sexual service stuff (and had a running joke for a long time that the anti-BDSM ideologues probably would be confused by the amount of carpentry involved in my kink), but if one removes the completeness-of-relationship-arc stuff that I talked about my linked post there, there's this core thread of sexualisation. Not in a transactional "If I do this, I will get kinky sex out of it", but a link forged between the task and the satisfaction-reward. And sometimes this is straightforward -- the "my assistance with this carpentry task cuts down the time required to complete it from three hours to an hour fifteen" sorts of things make for a lot more time to contemplate kinky sex -- and other times it's a lot more abstract. But still present.
And I can get into some interesting headspaces with sequences of service tasks, especially if some of them are sexual, that don't wind up including my personal reset button. Because that thread of sexualisation is there, and because some of our favorite things to set me to doing are sexual, it's a constant, complicated flow of foreplay. Sometimes the feelings are quiescent for a bit, and that tends to dull them out over time, but they can be let go for a while and then re-invoked with a new task, a reminder, a bit more active teasing, extending this foreplay over the course of days.
(Tangentially: When I frame it like this, I can understand orgasm control kink as potentially doing something similar when dealing with someone who's orgasm-oriented in the way that I'm penetration-oriented.)
It's something to do when there isn't time to fuck ....
05 June, 2008
So apparently some folks have declared it female desire week, for women to express their lustiness or what have you. I'm ... a little bit at a loss, honestly.
Sometimes I feel this tremendous gap between myself and the surrounding culture, in which it's expected that one will feel desire for celebrities, passers-by of appropriate aesthetic qualities, or what have you.
I mean, if I were going to pick The Universe's Most Aesthetically Appealing Celebrity, my current vote would be Keith Hamilton Cobb, and not just because his voice is even more beautiful than he is. But, y'know, I don't want one. I wouldn't know what to do with one. Wall hanging, perhaps, but that isn't what people are talking about when they talk about desire, attraction, whatever.
Desire, for me, isn't something that comes that easily. There are things that hit my sense of aesthetics -- one of Figleaf's recent posts includes a bit of the curve of the hip that I'm quite fond of -- but it's all terribly abstract to me. There's no bite to it, no desire, it's all very intellectual-awareness, very unconnected to anything that goes anywhere. Yes, that's pretty. "Pretty" doesn't connect all that much to "desire".
When I think desire, I think ... I'm going to quote something Trinity wrote a year or so ago now:
It made it very difficult for me to enjoy sexual fantasy and sexual play with other people. Because for me, a huge part of the appeal of SM is the excess. The idea that too much sensation may be painful, but that only feeds an intense loop of pleasure that increases and increases, until I feel capable of devouring the world. And the person beneath me becomes a great consuming wild creature, able to take anything, transmute anything, beg for more, opening and opening, endlessly devouring in a different way.
And that sort of energy is a kind of destruction and consumption. It's a sacred kind, the consuming fire of the Destroyer . that fire runs through me when I'm high from topping. Frightening, sacred fire that seeks to devour to bring rebirth and joy.
I'm thinking in that kind of direction. Not in those terms precisely, because of not doing significant SM, but definitely in the consuming fire kind of feeling. And to get to desire, to get that raw intense redness, I need more than pretty. Pretty is nice to look at; pretty is not worth enveloping, devouring, wrapping up in myself, swallowing. (Look at me still being switchy!) I'm not interested in assimilating mere pretty, but I'll hang it up somewhere I can look at it.
I do watch pretty at times. This week at my tai chi class I spent a while when I was sidelined to rub down my knee watching one of my classmates do the advanced form, partly to see what the movements might look like should I study far enough to learn that, partly in appreciation of the motion, partly because he has some of the prettiest hands I've ever seen (hands are one of the things that I like). But later, I was watching the female student in the following karate class because of the feel and flavor of her movements, and I'm straight enough to not have any potential of the frisson that might somewhere derive from pretty maleness. And more often than not, when I'm taking a few minutes to rub down one of my bum joints, I'm watching my liege in that class, and I damn well know when I'm watching with desire involved. (This week I'd have far rather been watching him, honestly, given my overall state of lustiness, but he was on the far side of the room and obscured by other people, and I prefer to keep my ogling at least vaguely subtle.)
(Hah. And what does my music start playing right now but "Tall Dark Handsome Stranger", by Heart:
I had a tall dark handsome stranger
I've had the devil in disguise
I've been attracted to the danger
But I was never satisfied
And I know what I like and I like what I see in your eyes
You're so beautiful
I'm amused by the appropriateness.)
And I can think about things I like to look at, body-bits I particularly appreciate; I've written about that now and again. The curve of the hip. Beautiful hands. The area around the throat and collarbone, and the shoulder. Longer hair than is 'normal' for mainstream masculinity. Eyes, gods, I love beautiful eyes. Distinctive noses. The ruffleable soft fur on forearms. I like the build that gets called 'athletic'; I like stocky and broad-shouldered too. I don't care for a heavily muscled look. I'm so well-known for my fondness for engineers that a friend of mine, upon meeting one of my exes at a party, sent me an email that concluded by asking me if he was one. (I told her you were a thwarted weatherman, m'dear.) My taste seems to run sufficiently to sarcastic, arrogant, if-I-ran-things types that an acquaintance who's fond of astrology reacted to anything I quoted from one of my partners with, "Was that the Leo?" I like creative, and it's not coincidental that most of my partners have been met in a gaming situation of some sort (the major exception I met in a writing discussion forum, and has since taken up RPGs); I like musicians so much that I've decided it's probably a bad idea for me to actually get involved with them. I can fuck someone who doesn't smell good, as in go through the physical motions, but I'm not going to make that sort of mistake again; one of my standard "I'm finding you particularly appealing at the moment" mumblings is "you smell good". I appreciate skill on display, especially smooth and graceful motion. I appreciate a clever mind, someone who can understand my jokes and pick up on my somewhat tangential idiom, someone I can talk to about the stuff in my head, which is wide-ranging, frequently esoteric, and needs the support to flesh out.
All of that stuff goes into desire. And so much of it is so personal and individual that it's weird to imagine writing about in a useful or interesting way. I can't share the narratives of desire for celebrities; I can get aesthetics and occasionally to the point of "I wonder what he's actually like", but I can't smell them, let alone know if they're actually interesting enough to want. I can't frame desire in purely aesthetic terms; when I talk desire, I'm talking hunger, that passionate, frightening, swallowing-up kind of feeling.
And I've always been a picky eater.
04 June, 2008
While I’m here, can I ask: why are there next to no “sexy” images of men on sex positive* sites, or sites focusing on porn for women etc?
A post to which I reponded:
Well, my 'sex-positive for lack of a better term' blog doesn't have photos of hot men on it because I respect my partners' privacy and anonymity in that forum.
And anyway, it's not their blog.
Belledame of Fetch Me My Axe has written about being a sex-positive lesbian and a short sidebar on slash writing; Caroline at Uncool talks about her use of imagery. When I think about people who are posting images of men (and sometimes women) they find sexy just on my blogroll, I immediately think of E for Eclectic (whose second post from the top as of this writing is titled 'The Beauty of Men'), Natalia Antonova, Aishwarya at Kaleidoglide. There are others, too; that's just a quick sample.
But that's neither here nor there.
I just went and looked at my "beauty" tag. And in there among the anti-poly sizeism post or the one about the gorgeousness of correct taxonomy and recognising the beautiful humanity of a stranger and the politicality of hair and beauty vs. brains and body image stuff I find things like me writing about male beauty and my problems with the mainstream conceptualisations thereof or my recent post about beauty and power dynamic and lust and some theology using male beauty as the central image.
Just to focus on what I know, which is what I've written.
And I think there's something actually insidious about the notion that a sex-positive blog is necessarily a sex blog is necessarily a porn or erotica blog, at all. That the whole thing about being sex-pos is about working to titillate, arouse, or engage sexually with one's audience. Perhaps, that it's all about the 'hawtt titjobbe bisexee suckfuckers', that sex-positive asexuals do not exist.
The sex blog I've been reading longest is Sexeteria, which currently features a herbaceous porn header: the unclothed genitalia of a tulip. (Actually, looking at it again, it's not a tulip, but I don't know what it is, and I can sidetrack myself for hours trying to figure it out to properly improve my one-liner. Thus, moving right along ....)
This is a sex-positive blog.
Note the lack of sexy images of men or women. Not because of any political impulse, but because I'm not interested in sexy images of either, for the most part, and I respect the privacy of the people I do fancy ogling at length.
Note, also, the lack of explicit writing, scene reports, tales of sexual prowess, and similar things. Not because of any political impulse, but because my private sex life is none of your damn business, my assorted readership and stray explorers who got here by Googling "pixie sex" or "nine letter relationship word status" (good luck with your crossword puzzle, whoever you are!). This is not a sex blog.
It is a sex-positive blog. It's here because I'm writing about my personal sexuality, BDSM, the difficulties and damages and risks inflicted by a surrounding culture that is frankly defective about matters sexual. Because I want to write about learning about sexuality and how to have healthily constructed sexual experience. Because I'm concerned about the marginalisation of various people's sexualities, including my own. Because I write about divine ecstasy.
And, you know, I've occasionally considered writing a post about porn, because it's one of those going subjects in the sex-pos blogworld, but I'm not up for writing a post about something I've never seen, participated in, or had any particular interest in. I might write something someday about written stuff I've found hot, or visual stuff I've found hot -- I may have mentioned my reactions to Tigana in passing -- but that's not a particularly compelling subject to me either.
Asserting my claim on my own sexuality is a compelling subject for me, because it's something that I have been wrestling with for twenty years or so, because there are forces that make it very necessary work to do, people who think I should avoid things I find sexually satisfying for political reasons, moral reasons, social reasons. Doing the work to make the world safe for me as a polyamorous kinkster, and as part of that same work to try to make the world safe for all the other people with their varying sexualities and lacks thereof because we are all people, is what makes this a sex-positive blog.
If one is mistaking "sex-positive" for "providing wanking material", one will miss a lot of the work that a lot of people are doing. The internet may be for porn, but this blog isn't.
On a related note, I appear to have missed the fourth carnival of sexual freedom and autonomy just like I missed the third, but just because I don't have anything in it doesn't mean that I don't think people shouldn't go read it if they're so inclined.
03 June, 2008
The reconstructionist paganisms have some hard problems; which problems they have of course depend significantly on the culture-of-origin, but the entire problem of reconstruction is not a simple one.
The core problem is the same across the reconstructions: it is the problem of building a coherent, consistent, and sustainable religion based upon the incomplete and varyingly interpreted surviving information which is adequately adapted to the cultural changes that have happened since that religious structure was supplanted. The specific problems for each one can be rooted in what sort of information is available, where the assumptions of the cultures are clashing, how much effort an individual practitioner has to go to to find something that is functional for them, and so on.
As an Egyptian recon-leaning pagan, I'm dealing with an origin culture which was urban, heavily agricultural, isolationist (except when it wasn't), ethnically mixed, smug, theocratic, intensely heirarchical (to the point that only one person was technically capable of performing the full rituals to the gods), very local, nationalistic, and collective. I somehow have to make this work in a context of my own urban, post-industrial, isolationist (except when it's not), ethnically mixed, smug, nominally secular, socially egalitarian with submerged privilege heirarchies, global, nationalistic but to a different nation, individualist culture; I have to figure out which of those values and traits are essential to the religion and which are reasonable adaptations to the intervening couple thousand years of history.
There is a straightforward historical model of priesthood in Egypt: these are the servants in the house of the god, granted the power to act for the king (the sole official god-servant). For the majority, it was a part-time job taking a quarter of the year. It was not associated with personal piety; while there were certainly pious priests, there were also those who considered it a happy sinecure that provided food and respect to their families. The temples effectively owned a great deal of land, and the circulation of the agricultural products of that land into the community was a major portion of the local (and national) economy; the influence of the temples helped to support a variety of artisans, in addition to their roles as repositories of knowledge, medical skill, and similar things.
There was no pastoral service. The responsibility was first to the care of the gods; care of the people was a distant secondary concern. Ordinary people were not even permitted into the temples, though there were occasional individuals allowed in for particular festivals. The ordinary people's religion was held in the streets, in their homes, on the outskirts of the temple grounds, at small shrines given the intermittent attention of a priest or tucked into niches along the walls. Sometimes there were rooms in which people could hear a priest speaking through a statue, or the god would give oracles in procession; other times, dream interpreters and beggars with skills at divining the future were granted a corner of the outer temple grounds.
This is obviously not a workable model in the modern world, and not just because of the shortage of prophetic beggars. (This does not stop people from trying.)
We don't run our economy through the temples, or anything remotely like it. We don't have centralised or centralisable worship. Moderns expect some kind of access to the counselling and support of their clerics. The work of sorting out what is a sensical practice and what isn't is not a simple one, nor even approaching complete, especially if one doesn't want to participate in the organised denominations (which give all impression of guarding their research and developments and resenting outsiders using it). We have no populations large enough to have city-wide festivals, nor much in the way of localised groups that will do things like finding the local city celebrations and marking them.
... which is all background stuff to what I'm trying to talk about.
WordK wrote about the problem of discerning a call to the ministry recently, particularly in a context in which men are axiomatically defined as having one and women are axiomatically defined as not having one.
And I'm sitting in a space where "discerning a call to the ministry" means needing to define the entire concept. A different puzzle, but still, discernment is a big word.
There are no temples that need servants; those are worn stone, and tourists and archaeologists peer into the holy of holies without caring that it was forbidden space. There is no king to deputise the priests, even if the temples were full of people. And those temples are in another land, in any case. The old priesthood is defunct and unrevivable; the people who might care are scattered, not a nation.
There is a great need for scholars, people with vision, people who will dig through the knowledge and research and build something live of it. Something accessible to scholars and people who want an ordinary life with the ability to honor their gods and everything between. Something that respects the people who feel the need to do the work of religion and the people who have other work. And maybe that thing will, eventually, have priests, in the ancient sense, but I don't think that's likely; I think the time of priests is done, the kingship they represent long passed. And I know that there are people who disagree with me, and name their leaders 'king' and their deputies priests, who even travel to Egypt to hold coronations, and ...
... some years ago, I was told that to be a whole person I needed something that I couldn't find in this religion, and where to find it. And there is a vital thing there, decentralised, creative, energetic, and I wonder if, to have a whole religion, I need this syncretism, whether the one suggests the other.
... or I dig into the transition from Temple to Diaspora, in the hope of finding some admittedly utterly ironic understanding of what changes that wreaks on a system.
I am no temple servant, by common ways of looking at things. I am a scholar and a theologian and someone people have turned to in time of crisis for support and wisdom. I minister, haphazardly, running on faith alone. And my faith in myself is ... not one of my dominant traits, shall I say.
What is discernment? What is the call? How can this stuff be sorted out into something plausible and workable and real, not just the playacting of scholars and people who put blind trust in the words of scholars?
And the persistent whine of the godbothered, too: Why me?
And then I go back to working on it.
01 June, 2008
It's an interesting time in my head right now.
I've always described myself as a switchy sub, for all that the switchiness is a rare thing most of the time, and not something that has surfaced to meaningful levels since my liege and I started the formalisation process on our relationship.
At least not before recent events.
Right now ... submission is not easy for me. I am healed enough that I can choose to go there, but there's always that little bit that's pulled back enough to make it a necessary choice, not the comfortable settling of known and trusted space. I have to decide to let go, actively, consciously, and it's always a shallow thing; it's as though all those impulses, usually strong, are heavily muted at their best, and it will probably take some time to clear away the baffles between us and that part of me, time and work.
Which means that the stuff that's usually drowned out by the strength of that response is ... much, much stronger, much more present. And there's so much energising of power in our relationship that it's very easy for those flows to get going.
In the time between when I wrote "Vacancy" and when I posted it, there was one evening of talking through things, trying to express things, working through the scope and nature of the problem, doing our best to reconnect. And I found myself with one arm wrapped around his shoulders, the other holding his head against my chest, and the rich dark redness of the emotion: Mine. (No matter that I was hurt and badly so; mine. Mine, mine, mine.)
And as we stretched out together to talk and touch more, I ran my fingertips along his neck and throat, sometimes with just a touch of scraping the skin with the nails, and his eyelids fluttered, just a little, in the way I knew from the other side. And I grinned that hungry predator-grin (mine!) and said, "I switched so hard I took you with me."
It doesn't usually happen that way, he told me. The sensation was different. The emotions were different. It wasn't clear where the boundaries were between us.
It's like that, I say.
I couldn't have done submissive that night; I can choose it now. And at the same time, he can lean his head back on my couch and show this long perfect beautiful distracting line of throat from chin to collarbones and ...
And it worked out, the other day, spending a while nibbling along those perfect lines, up the delicious bit from shoulder to behind the ear, mutually and reciprocally (and I took a little bruising from it, and I don't think he took any), and there's something there that I need, space where we can each do the rich red predator chewing on each other, I think, need that to be okay to get to where I can get the rest of it back.
And maybe some other things too. Don't know if I need them. But it's a sweet slick beautiful thing, that gorgeous curve of a neck, and it makes me hungry.