So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

27 January, 2008

Not your usual BDSM and abuse story

[ Posted here and at Let Them Eat Pro-SM Feminist Safe Spaces ]

I have this friend.

When I met her, she was in a marriage with a lot of partially hidden problems; those problems started coming out more blatantly as things started to fall out, through the separation, through the divorce: the extensive emotional abuse, the 'I got over my situational depression just fine, you should just cheer up out of your clinical depression and stop being such a whiner', the waving his penis in her face to demand oral sex. When they separated, he resented any suggestion that he take responsibility for her, because hey, they were broken up, that gets him out of any obligation to his wife, even though divorce paperwork wasn't even being negotiated yet, even though he wound up shacking up with "a hot redhead" and blowing vast amounts of recreational money while his wife was struggling to make rent in part because he insisted on moving to an area of the country with rampant unemployment where, furthermore, she's miserable.

I helped talk this friend through the breakup and the divorce, pointed out things that she was missing like, "Your asshat ex is really treating you very badly" and "You are being taken advantage of here". Supported her through a bad time and helped her out of the abusive situation.

And one might think that would be the end of it.

Of course, like many people who have been in abusive situations, she has done a lot of thinking about how she got into that place, what patterns there were in her life, and how she needs to change to not go there again. Which includes talking that over with a variety of her friends to try to pick things out.

And at some point, one of the people she was talking about her relationship history with, asshat ex and before, said, "You know what you sound like to me?" And said she sounded like someone who was wired up like a submissive, but who hadn't the experience or knowledge to figure out how to deal with that without turning into a doormat, and who had had partners who were willing to take advantage of that set of psychological hooks.

So she came to me, as the out submissive she knew, to talk to about this. And we talked. And after a bit of thinking, she took this fellow up on his offer to give her a grounding in managing her own submissiveness to see if she felt better for it. I got tapped, sort of, as her spotter, as someone she could talk to about the experience of being a sub, as someone to give her advice and resources, as someone who would understand things.

I watched her flower.

The joy she took in the early parts of that relationship was amazing. The way she took to the discipline of the d/s and the focus it provided her got her stable and secure in a way I had never seen her. He took care of her in quiet, straightforward ways; she commented more than once, in stunned tones, that she did things with him that the asshat ex had tried to coax and berate out of her for years.

Even the difficult times -- and there have been more than a few of those -- she has tackled with dedication and devotion, with the support of the commitments she's made and the simple not wanting to disappoint him. She's given up smoking, she's learning to draw boundaries to keep her family from taking as much advantage of her as they have in the past, she looks at the terror of having all of her emotional issues in relationships coming up faster and hitting harder than they have in the past and says, "This time, I'm going to work through this shit."

And she has patterns to work through and break, and is utterly frustrated by them at times, and is working on building up the capacity to choose, to act freely rather than constrained by fears and phobias and the scars of past damage. She talks at times about feeling like she's in a cage with the door open, and is trying to work up the guts to escape so she can be with him.

And so when I see people going on about the abuses of BDSM, I find myself thinking of her, and the way she's been building herself away from being readily abuseable by dealing with someone who respects who she is and how she responds.

(This post was written with her permission, her dom's okay, and her pre-posting approval.)

23 January, 2008

Under the Surface

So among the many, many places I lurk is a mailing list for Slavic reconstructionism -- people who are interested in reviving/recreating/whathaveyouing the polytheistic religions of the Slavic peoples.

I only lurk there because it's not the path I'm called to, and because many of the people there come across as assuming that it should be the path I'm called to because of the blood of generations before me -- or, if not that one, one of the other potentially legitimated-by-heritage paganisms that I can claim by chasing lines of ancestors back to pre-Christian times.

Recently, someone came up with a word-phrase -- in Russian -- for this family of religions. And raised it as a possible thing to use more broadly than in their own personal use. And this went around a little bit, debating the usefulness of more ethnically-specific phrases and whether or not other people might object.

And someone in there made a comment about how maybe some people would prefer something in their own language, say, the Poles, and wonder if that speaker knew about the attempt by the Tsar to obliterate Polish language and culture in the late 1800s. I can't say that it read as aware to me, but maybe it was a thrown bone to mention the Poles as people who might maybe want a word for their thing that wasn't in Russian.

What awareness lurks under the surface? What blood descended from subversives who loved their home and their language enough to risk being murdered for preserving it lurks under my surface?

The past is another country, which sometimes invades this one with old bitterness and old wounds.

16 January, 2008

Not Quite Strangers

When I got to the shrink's office yesterday I encountered a round-shouldered old woman effortfully climbing the last few stairs before the elevator, hunched over her cane. I recognised her as one of the other regular Tuesday clients in that suite of offices, who in warmer weather had worn a brilliantly coloured Guatemalan jacket.

She was breathing heavily in the elevator; I asked her if she was doing all right, as I can't imagine the snow and ice on the ground have made her life easy of late. She murmured something about it being slippery, and I nodded. I held the elevator doors for her, so she had no need to rush, and opened the door to the waiting room as well. She asked me the time, and we parted ways.

When I was leaving, she was sitting on the bottom of the steps. Maybe wating to catch her breath before venturing out again. Maybe waiting for her ride. I don't know. I wished her well.

We parted again, still almost strangers.

10 January, 2008

Tremulous and Tender

When I was in college, one of my friends had a thing for tormented, mysterious dramatic fellows with cloaks and masks. Epic Phantom of the Opera fanfic sort of 'thing'.

I never loved the Phantom.

But I had a massive thing for the music of the night.

I can't remember when I first heard the musical; I have memories of listening to it going back and forth to the shrink in junior high school, but that's the closest I have to something that dated it. Call me twelve, that's probably close enough.

It caught me, caught my attention. The rest of the plotline of ALW's Phantom fell completely by the wayside in its incoherent jumble of spectacle; I was captivated by the music of the night, this first portrait of compelling, beautiful dominance. It spoke of "cold, unfeeling light", which was one of those deep secret associations in my child mind that I would not speak of, because I was supposed to find the light warm and welcoming, and I never had; that touch of familiarity made the siren song of the Phantom's music grasping for control, for compulsion, for beauty that much the more real and personal to me.

Perhaps like Christine in the storyline, I was too caught in the music to be aware of the savagery that fed the Phantom, but it was the music I always wanted more than the man, the music that was the perfect master. The music that needed that one point of perfect inspiration, the idealised Christine, the one who was willing and able to open to the music, fill herself up, and pour it out again. The music was always my master, I its dedicated worshipper, filled with it, shaped to it, spilling it out again with my own voice.

The music of the night, in concept -- not in the form given in the musical, but as its own angel -- was my first Master. The one that trained me most in service, in being owned, in being the cherished slave of power, alive as never before with a resonance that shook my ribs and drove my breath deeper, richer, more powerful.

There is a story here about why I no longer partner with musicians which I will leave implicit.

08 January, 2008

Without The Balls To Post This In Context

One of these days I'll see a discussion about how horrible it is that young women today don't identify as feminists that I don't want to quote the last paragraph of Hanisch's "The Personal is Political" at.

That day is not today.

06 January, 2008

The Crazy One

I'm oddly contemplative after coming back from the crazed winterperiod visitation with the bloodkin and in-laws. Which included a few hours with my mother.

The thing that I constantly run aground on now that I have some distance, some rationality, some capacity for independence, is how much I feel that dealing with her turns me into The Crazy One.

She's so ordinary, so nice, so making my favorite holiday meal when she knows I'm coming to visit and setting it out with cookies. There's this part of me that responds to that, that ... aches ... with wanting to believe in it, to treat her like an ordinary mother I could have mother-daughter conversations with. That buys the illusion, wonders if there's something wrong with me for being on edge, tense, waiting to jump the wrong way, locking up and freezing when I see her doodled note not even written to me about grandchildren, not cutting the ordinary amount of slack for a preference forgotten, that sort of thing. That wonders if I'm The Crazy One, the one with the irrational, unreasoned, unfounded responses.

And then there are the edges, the things that catch the bits of the illusion and make the mask start to fray at the edges. The slick comment like glare ice that I seem to be doing well (when I have said that I've been wrestling with illness), leaving me wishing I'd put on less brave face when I left the in-laws. The little suggestive "I could go somewhere with that, but I am nice, I will refrain" comment to a self-aware remark on my part. The persistent memory of old chafing wounds, some of them scabbed over by this point, constantly niggled at by new edits to past stories, new discussions, new places I find myself suddenly up in arms because a new force has come over the hill at a previously unfortified border.

I despair of explaining why the militia is riding in my mind.

02 January, 2008

Protecting the World with One's Body

AJ wrote this excellent thing about Benazir Bhutto and living belief in the bone.

(Which was drawn to my immediate attention by a post on which the first comment was, more or less, "Well, financial shenanigans! Nyeah!" which wins my first Missing the Fucking Point award for the New Year.)

Gnothi Seauton

I don't like to write about problems publically, especially when I'm dealing with them; there's this fundamental awkwardness to that sort of exposure that feels almost like a betrayal of good faith in actually solving things.

Which means when I want to write about some things I get stuck.

So instead I write on something not entirely unrelated.

I've done a lot of thinking about my kink stuff. Starting reasonably young, sorting out what turned me on, what I responded to emotionally, with fantasies, with finding snippets of things here and there, with just trying to piece together and track down the internal narrative that was sex to me.

I eventually got old enough to be vaguely familiar with the trappings of BDSM, which mostly came off as a lot of SM leavened with B, which was less than ideally useful for someone into BDS. (Tangent: on the way somewhere recently I saw a car with the license plate 'DSNOW'. I really hope my original parsing of it isn't accurate to the intended meaning.) Which meant I never felt particularly interested in the whole 'scene' thing, as it didn't seem to be offering me anything that scratched that impulse in me.

I toyed with bits and pieces of the stuff that did work for me and the relationships I had, and explored rather a lot more with a partner who exposed me to rather more of the breadth of potential of human sexuality than I had been able to imagine before. (Which has mostly made me fairly mellow about lots of it, as far as I can tell.) I learned what I could and couldn't handle, refined some comprehension of my interests, and generally sorted a lot of things out.

I realised that the relationship I'd had that didn't have some level of d/s overtones was the one that was abusive, which was an interestingly illuminating thing. I chased down my understandings of power into other parts of my life, such as my hatred of running things (preferring to be the heavy for a competent leader) and my refusal to let an incompetent leader stand. I (for a project related to my religious studies) wound up making a playlist of music that evoked the concept 'Sex' for me, and, after it was done, realised that every single one of them had a clear power dynamic twining through it.

Some of my working through how my head works around kink was trying to disentangle causes that fed into bad experiences (like how my tendency to freeze up when assimilating data is the flipside of subspace) and some of it is related to intense introspectiveness and some of it was just 'That worked, how do I get more of that?' And some of it is painfully, intensely personal, like the stuff that hooks directly into my earliest sex fantasies, some of it is just stuff to know and use appropriately, and some of it is hilariously particular (like which bit of use-of-restraint turns me on the most). All of this stuff is stuff I've chewed on, often directly when figuring out how it fits together with kink (though I occasionally come up with something new, like today's realisation that my comfort and trust levels in relationships ping to my comprehension of my partner's motivations and psychology probably derives from mentally managing my mother).

I've got libraries of this stuff filed in my head under a complicated duodecimal filing system that only the brain gnomes understand, but it's all there, neatly shelved. Occasionally generating footnotes, annotations, the odd new volume accreting out of wisps of knowledge rolled about like a katamari.

Connecting this up with anyone else, finding a shared language ... is hard.