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

27 February, 2009

To The Two-Year-Old of the Blogosphere

You know the one, who's harassing people trying to get shit done with the perpetual "Why? Why? Why?" After pondering some discussions over at Let Them Eat Pro-SM Feminist Safe Spaces, and Trin's examination of her own kink stuff, I present:

Why Dw3t-Hthr is submissive. (Insert little sparkly bits around this, or a nice scrolling banner, or whatever floats your pervy little boat.)

  1. My perfectionistic, protocol-happy, rigid, and unforgiving-of-error personality makes a sucktastic leader, and a spectacular enforcer/majordomo/chief minion.

  2. My wacked-out executive functions deal poorly with surprise, unanticipated situations, or anything for which I cannot bring to mind a previously evaluated protocol. In other words: I think very poorly under pressure.

  3. I am sensitive to social dynamics involving subtle power flows (largely for reasons of self-protection) and thus far more comfortable in a defined heirarchy (especially when compared to one of those groups that claims to have "consensus-based" decision-making and refuses to acknowledge the power differentials within the group because it's ideologically unacceptable to notice them).

  4. I reject on a gut level the social expectation that I am obliged to be compliant to other people's desires and ideologies, and operate in a system where my level of obligation is under my own control.

  5. Even if I have been partially socialised into an expectation of vulnerability and malleability (which has a fuck of a lot more to do with my mother's insanity than any particular patriarchy construct), my earliest fantasies that acknowledged that focused on connecting with a person who would find me and cherish me in defiance of that cultural expectation rather than treating me like a faceless automaton just like all the others.

  6. I take strongly after my father in base personality; I am sentimental, deeply emotional, a caretaker and nurturer, and drawn to being a support figure. (See also the umpty-leven posts I've written in the past bitching about the cultural degradation of support roles.)

  7. I am profoundly fascinated by the exploration of altered states of consciousness, ranging from meditative trance through to careful studies of the effects of alcohol on my cognition. Part of this is a control-freak awareness that the more cognizant I am of the various functionalities of my brain the more likely I am to be able to navigate situations safely; part of this is simply mental-sensation junkieness.

  8. I benefit strongly from situations in which my adequacy, success, and general worthiness as a human being not only are acknowledged, but extensively supported.

  9. I believe that people are best off operating from their strengths and core drives rather than displacing their selves into what sorts of power others think they ought to be pursuing.

  10. I am not dissociative enough to have a sexuality constructed separately from the entire rest of my being.

I don't expect that this will be good enough for some people, but that's not my fucking problem. I've answered your question.

26 February, 2009

Mother's going to make all of your nightmares come true

When I was a child, I knew that I had no privacy.

Not in the sense of constant surveillance or diary-reading (had I kept a diary). But I had nowhere to retreat to. My bedroom would be charged into, sometimes without knocking, to check on me, to see if I was behaving, to inspect me; once we moved to a house where my room had a lock, if I actually used the lock I would get screamed at. So I locked my door regularly, but ... only when nobody was around to notice, or when I could listen to hear if someone was coming. Sometimes I toggled the lock but did not close the door. My space was in regular danger of disruption. Even the insides of my head were subject to rearrangement at her whim.

One of my deepest expectations about interactions with others is that I do not have a safe retreat space. This deeply tainted my adolescent sexuality, though at least I had pre-pubescent sexuality that nobody interfered with because it's a cultural taboo to imagine that kids that age have sexualities.

(As I've developed a sense of boundaries, I've gotten touchier and touchier about people who want to co-opt my experiences and ignore my self in order to feed their own desires and narratives, which is one of the reasons Nine Deuce and her crowd's monstrous behaviour towards kinksters annoyed me so spectacularly.)

But I only ... just ... realised that I was set up.

That the positioning I have as pawn, as tool, as palimpsest for an agenda, that I fight against so damn hard, the stuff that feeds into my massive damage around privilege feminism, the stuff that leads to me thinking a lot about mechanisms of social control and how they show up, my generalised outrage at being rewritten ... was all carefully taught to me.

That maybe treating rape as normal came about because that was the lesson I was supposed to have learned.

20 February, 2009


When I was a very young child, probably around when my brother was a baby, I started accumulating dribs and drabs of information about pregnancy. Very little of it made sense, and very little of it stuck with me, but there's one thing I remember: the concept of amniocentesis terrified me.

It just seemed like a thing of horrors - sucking out someone's insides through a giant needle, what's not to be scared of here? - and somehow I picked up the notion that it was mandatory, that every pregnant woman had to do this. It never occurred to me that people had been having babies for a long, long time before this procedure was even invented, it was just presented as utterly normal, default, part of the medical procedure that goes with this thing.

It wasn't a shock when I realised that nobody was going to force me into this, sort of a gradual dawning of relief. And it gave me this edge of jadedness about the presentation of the pregnancy-as-pathology-requiring-treatment thing in common culture. And I read Suzette Elgin (author, among other things, of The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense) talking about concerns of women and the elderly as constantly medicalised, pathologised, turned into Graeco-Latin terminology, and took that away to chew on.

I am, for various reasons, prone to hypochondria; every pulled muscle in my abdomen at the moment is good for a moment or five of panic before I can kick the analytical self into recognising the sensation. But one of the things that being pregnant has done for me at a gut-deep certainty is make clear that this is a normal thing, not a pathology, not a medical crisis; I may be impaired in some ways from my ordinary functioning, but the process I am going through is a natural one, and not something that I need to panic over, get tested every-which-way, micromanage. I'm achieving a state of calm that has been implausible to me in the past, naming my little freakouts as little freakouts, looking up a few things to check on them, and then letting go and being in this straightforward process of development.

I'm asked at least once every three or four days if we know the baby's sex yet, and I don't know how to explain from inside my head to the world outside that we're not going to any special effort to find out in the first place. This child is my child, whatever the gonads are, and I don't need to build up expectations now to care for the life tucked away under my heart. I don't need to rummage and inspect to find these things out right now. If we find out along the way, we find out along the way, but there's no need to go to special effort.

I've cleared my medical history and concerns so that we have a baseline to know what may be cause for concern, I've got blood tests to do to make sure everything is in order. But I have not been stabbed in the guts with a giant needle, to suck out my insides.

I have a guppy occasionally bouncing off my innards, and last night my husband and I heard the heartbeat for the first time. There is nothing to fear here.

15 February, 2009

Actually, there was something I hadn't said

It was an odd beginning.

I had spent the day in screaming rage, pacing in frustration, gesticulating broadly, trying to work my way through the seething tangle of emotions that a dying relationship had mired me in. Eventually, exhausted, I flung myself down on the couch, and he asked me if I wanted a hug. I don't remember how I responded - probably with a grunt and shrug - and he got up, moved to the other end of the couch, and put his arms around me, pulling me gently to rest my head on his shoulder.

I sobbed.

When they got up to leave, he gathered me into another hug, holding on longer than friendship, just wanting me well and hale and whole again. As I stepped back, I thought about the feel of his body against mine, thought about long conversations swapping stories, discussions of religion, all the other things.

And, anxiously, with memories of a truly bad relationship that had started on the rebound to keep me sober, I started to flirt with him, a little, quietly, trying to feel out whether my reactions were attraction or not, exploring things quietly. When I got more serious, I made sure to get his partner's permission; she said, when I said I wanted to flirt some more, "Oh, please do. It might cheer him up."

He was mired in a complicated tangle of helpless depression; my early explorations had gone unnoticed entire. When I got more overt, I was not sure still if they were perceived; he can be hard to read at the best of times, and the wrenching low-affect of the consuming melancholia made sure the times were not the best.

One night, he kissed me, and we snuggled a while, and I crashed on his couch reasonably contented. When he brought me home the next day, after a reasonably pleasant gals'-day-out with his partner and some other friends, we talked about relationship histories, patterns, where we were coming from, what we were looking for. We agreed that a reasonably stable fling would be a nice thing for each of us, just something light and undemanding and friendly.

In the ensuing snogging, I dropped far enough submissive to be completely nonverbal. When he realised this, and realised that he did not have explicit consent for what he was inclined towards, he dragged me back out of that trance-state to ask.

I stumbled on words, and eventually found, "It probably would have been okay at the time, but I don't know about afterwards."

"Yeah, I thought that might be the case."

It was a thrilling, frightening experience, to go that deep with so little context; somewhere in the years we had known each other, in the comfort he had given me, in the stories we'd traded, we'd built a trust as well as a chemistry that let me simply drop into his arms. Perhaps if I'd thought about it at the time I'd have realised that the whole friends-with-benefits idea probably wasn't going to work out that way in the long-term.

We talked a great deal, working through things as up-front as we could. I talked about my assault experience and the flashbacks and traumas of that. We discussed limitations and agreements with our respective other partners, and spent several nights together, curled up skin-on-skin, hungry for flesh and holding, no matter how difficult, to our agreement to refrain from intercourse.

I asked, for when those agreements might be relaxed, that we not have sex without me having a whole night with him, to hold on, to take comfort in case the demons came for me - because the assault demons come strongest on first times with a new lover. In times of lust when I might have discarded that desire, he would murmur in my ear that he had promised me a night, and he would not go back on that; that was what I needed to be safe, and that was what I would have.

First declarations of love were made before we got to the fully vested 'benefits' part of the friends-with-benefits, an almost hissed triune, "I love you" followed with "What I tell you three times is true" that made him tilt his head back and close his eyes with the intensity of it.

When we got our night, he held me gently for a long time, feeling the fear rippling in me as the demons circled. I watched him, watched his eyes, full of love and concern and caretaking as he slowly tried to ease the fear, to let me relax, felt myself sliding into that altered state again, just a little, into a place where I could consciously choose to trust enough to work through the fear, unlock the chains of the trauma, and embrace. I saw the spark of joy in his eyes, dark and wild, when the fear left me, and we were able to be with each other without having to wrestle my old terrors.

Physicality was easy for us; so was that slip into that gentle cradled wild space that I so readily circled around with him, that twist into altered consciousness, mind suddenly expanded to fill an entire universe full of stars to match the hungry darklight I could see in him. We talked about kink, about sex, about relationships, about desire, about dreams and goals, about all these things, trying to find the place we could have in each other's lives.

One night, shaking with fear of rejection, I looked up at him and asked, softly enough to be bare more than a mumble, if he would be willing to have a d/s relationship with me.

It was a while later, when I was having one of my fits of anxiousness about having my sexuality and my preferences drive, shape, and command the form of the relationship, I asked him if he had ever considered anything like this before.

"It had never occurred to me."

13 February, 2009

The Enemy of the Good

One of the first parenting books I picked up, well before I was actually pregnant, was titled The Good-Enough Parent. I saw the title on the shelf of a used bookstore and grabbed it immediately, without my usual taking time to dither that occupies hours in used bookstores; it was obvious to me that I needed it.

Perfection is bad for me. Believing in it, looking for it, considering it a relevant factor for anything. I'm not nihilistic enough to look for perfection.


I used to be hung up on the perfect. It was clear that "perfect" was what I would have to be to avoid abuse from my mother, so I worked for it. And worked for it.

And I failed. Every damn time. Because "perfect" is unachievable; it is always possible to find something to critique. And every damn time my lack of perfection won me a screaming fit, some howling rage, or a casually poisonous comment that drove me to flee to the dubious safety of my room (where, if I locked the door and anyone noticed, I would be bellowed at some more, because my space existed to be barged into so its imperfections could be catalogued).

Caring about perfection is defining me in terms of utter, absolute failure, reframing me into a universe where, if I cannot be perfect, the least I can do is cease to be, as the nuisances of the flawed should not be inflicted on my betters.

This is why I don't trust theory as a basis for political action. Not just the fact that so many popular theories theorise that in an ideal world I would not exist (which is hard not to take personally) -- so many theories posit an ideal world. Either as a lost Eden, something to which we can only aspire, or as a goalstate, something to be laboring towards.

I can't deal with perfection.

I must focus my attention on what is good enough. I need to know the criteria for satisfaction, and look at what satisfies them; from there I can pick among options that meet the need to select one. It doesn't need to be the best, the ideal, the perfect -- it needs to be sufficient. With sufficiency, there is no need to keep digging, to find a way of improving and aspiring to the perfect -- things can rest, be still, unless there is a clear and obvious improvement to make.

I will not be a perfect mother. There are no perfect mothers; the surrounding culture demands perfection of its mothers and invades them, screaming, when they inevitably fail. I reject the siren song of perfection, the luminous Madonna and Child figurine that I am supposed to embody and will be judged upon when my example does not match up.

I will not be perfect. But I can be good enough.

11 February, 2009

The Shareef Don't Like It

There is a giant dwama ongoing in the blogworld again, mostly talking about BDSM. I've been dithering about whether I want to comment on it, whether I have anything new to say; I've chased down links, I've pulled up a stash of old posts to point people at, and so on.

And there's all kinds of stuff out there. About "women who allege to enjoy BDSM", say. Or how consent is bad, there's a brainbender for you. Women are responsible for the actions of patriarchal men, and don't you forget it, and eat your lima beans, there are children starving in far-away places. And people who disagree are 'little girls' who need to be chastised by the wiser among us, of course. Oh yes, charming calls for tops to kill themselves: "If exploring your “dark side” entails wanking to women being tortured, it might be best to leave it unexplored. Or kill yourself." Godwin's Law is, of course, satisfied. Or some other joyous things that Ren has catalogued for the world. But don't forget, none of this speaking out about those horrible people has any power to harm anyone anyway, so why are you upset in the first place? It's not paternalistic or anything to be Concerned about submissive women, you know.

Now, I don't expect to get any more response than I did the first time I responded to this nonsense, as one of the major players has explicitly stated that she's only "getting into it" with men who reply to her, and while she claims to be reading and considering, well, the level of response to me, to antiprincess, Cara, hexy, Subversive Submissive, all in threads where she was a participant until one of the above showed up, well, I guess we're not worthy of response. No, the problem is teh mens, not us poor deluded women, especially the submissive ones. So we don't actually get anything even resembling an acknowledgement. We're just defending our doms, after all. Or something. No, only the ones In Autoritah should be responding.

(Thanks to Ren and Trin for linking to most of these so I don't have to trawl through the cesspit myself. I find it interesting that Nine Deuce considers them worthy of responding to. Maybe it's that "You must be a man" thing striking again.)

... I could generate more links. But really, that's plenty depressing enough, and if you go read them you're in for some masochism. I'm linking to them primarily because I find holding these kinds of 'discussions' with gaps in the communication threads tends to lead to insidious results. Nobody can claim I'm taking them out of context or responding in bad faith; the context is all there in its hideous glory. And I'm not feeling like playing scared of trolls and assholes descending upon me because I had the temerity to speak up, no matter how out of place it might be for a woman and a submissive to say something.

What I find depressing about this - I mean, aside from the virulent hostility and Wrong Womaning and stuff like that - is the notion that all of this stuff is unexamined, that people don't write about it, think about it, that it's all just happy fluffy "Well it makes me happy!" There's the snarky, "How can you feel derided for being a submissive woman? in the middle of those threads deriding submissive women, and I think back to writing about the forms of power that someone of my sex, class, and background was socially obligated to and the persistent social degradation of support roles, which cannot but carry over into sexual support roles. About my experiences in an 'egalitarian' relationship that denied my kink, for that matter, and how much more oppressive that turned out to be than a relationship where I can be an equal partner, just as whole and present as myself as my liege.

ND claims to understand where "submissive women" are coming from with some fascinating strawmen about what that might be, to be "charitable" about the zoo exhibit's motivations. And uses terms like "M/f", one of those peculiar gender fetishes that kind of creeps me the hell out, suggesting that it's so hard to be accepted as sexual in this society so being in a situation where one can be "out of control" might be appealing, how submission is intrinsically derived from shame and all, and other suggestions that BDSM is just plain disordered, a coping mechanism that's only semi-functional at best.

I see people writing that kink is about humiliation and degradation and pain, nothing other than rape and abuse, snidely dismissing things as silly frivolous people who think they're 'empowered' by their sexual escapades, participating in the intrinsic treatment of women as inferior, just about being wild and other and transgressive. Some of them treat kink culture as a monolithic edifice in which if one specific act can be condemned the rest will fall apart. They talk about fantasy worlds, recapitulating experiences of abuse, the poor unenlightened and benighted submissives who need to be liberated, and similar things.

None of them have asked about pride. Or sensuality. There have been no investigations of the nature of power and gendered assumptions about it that I have seen. None have touched on anything that might reach the potential inspirational power of submission.

Nobody has really reached for actual power and taken it to bed with them.

In all this examining and exploration and demanding understanding of why submissives are the way we are, is there ...

... anything I can say that I haven't already said?